Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/363

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SOME OF THE SERVANTS ABSCOND—INTERPRETERS.

that I might one day be obliged to live on Bushman diet, I partook eagerly of every root, bulb, berry, &c., that grew wild about the country, but always (with the exception of the above instance) took the precaution first to ascertain from the natives its properties. I derived benefit from this plan; for, when ordinary food failed me, I could at all events contrive to exist for a time on this rude fare.

On returning one day to the camp from a fatiguing hunt, I found that all my Damaras had absconded. I was astonished and vexed beyond measure, for the greater part had been long in my employ, and had proved themselves very faithful. One of them had, only the day previously, been telling me that, unless I drove him forcibly away, he would never abandon me, but would share my fortune, whether good or bad. I soon discovered that Timbo had caused the defection. I had appointed him head man of the servants; but he being dark-complexioned, the Damaras did not like to be ruled by one so much resembling themselves.

In the first burst of anger I declared I would do without them, and that I would punish them severely on my return. A moment's reflection, however, convinced me that, both for my own sake, and by way of example for the remainder of the men, it was necessary, if possible, to bring them back to their duty. Eyebrecht was accordingly dispatched on this errand. After several days' absence he returned with the runaways, and as they looked penitent, I thought it best to pass the offense quietly over, and say nothing.

At Twass, the head-quarters of Lambert, Amral's eldest son—a chief of even greater importance than his father—I was joined by Piet, the Griqua, who was to accompany me to the Lake in the capacity of interpreter. He knew the Bechuana language tolerably well, and, as a matter of course, spoke Dutch fluently. Onesimus also knew a smattering of this last tongue, and was perfect in the Damara and Namaqua. Louis was pretty well versed in Portuguese and the