Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/429

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421
POLICY AND POWER OF LECHOLÈTÉBÈ.

vility he might have shown to strangers in former times,much can not be said in favor of his hospitality at the present day. During my whole stay at the Lake, I never received from him so much as a handful of corn or a cup of milk. On the contrary, he, while we ourselves were almost starving, was in the habit of begging food daily from me.

If any thing takes his fancy—no matter what, it may be the shirt you wear—he has no scruple in asking you for it at once. Upon your refusal, he will, perhaps, leave you for a time, but is sure to return and renew his request with the greatest pertinacity, never ceasing his solicitations till, by his vexatious importunity, he has succeeded in getting the object of his desire—a line of policy the success of which he seems fully to understand.

The arrival of several wagons at the Lake at the same time puts him in the highest glee. On these occasions he never fails to make his rounds, craving bread from one, sugar from another, coffee from a third, meat from a fourth, and so on.

The traders, however, know how to take advantage of this weakness in his character, and often make him pay dearly for such articles as may captivate his fancy; for instance, I have known a man to get a good-sized bull-elephant tusk for three common copper drinking-cups![1]

Lecholètébè possesses great power over his people, when he chooses to exercise it; but I am inclined to think their subjection is attributable more to superstition and the force of custom than to any real regard for his person. Generally speaking, he is not of a cruel disposition; but that he holds human life in very light estimation, the following incident, which came under my own immediate notice, serves to show.

  1. When the lake was first discovered, a man told me that he obtained, in exchange for a musket, twelve hundred pounds of ivory, worth, at the least, £240 sterling!