Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/330

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practice prevailed of leaving old and disabled people to perish far away from the dwellings of men. A slight fence was raised round the "living-dead," and a small supply of water was placed at his side, when he was abandoned to his fate. Mr. Moffat, during his wanderings in Namaqua-land, saw one of these wretches (a woman), and on inquiring the cause of her being thus deserted, she replied, "I am old, you see, and no longer able to serve them (referring to her grown-up children). When they kill game, I am too feeble to help in carrying home the flesh; I am incapable of gathering wood to make fire; and I can not carry their children on my back, as I used to do."

The Namaquas may be said to be long-lived, for individuals have been known to reach the advanced age of ninety, and even one hundred years. This is the more remarkable, when the very wretched life they lead is taken into consideration.

The Namaquas have a singular custom both among themselves and with regard to strangers, which consists in the adoption of a "father" and a "mother." This practice is so widely observed, that few who come in contact with the several tribes are able to avoid it. Almost every European trader, indeed, possesses in each village which he is in the habit of frequenting either a so-called "father" or "mother." But the custom is a most inconvenient one, to the traveler at least, for he may be pretty sure that, as soon as this near degree of consanguinity is established between himself and a Namaqua, he will be asked for a horse or an ox, or it may be for the very coat upon his back, which, as in duty bound, he is expected to hand over to "papa" or "mamma," as the case may be. The poor son, it is true, has also the privilege of demanding any thing that may captivate his fancy; but since a native is usually more forward and importunate than a European, the bargain, as a rule, is generally a losing one to the latter.