Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/458

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a step farther, pretending that a fine form, perfect in all its parts, can not contain a crooked or an imperfect mind." Judging the mind of a Bechuana by such a rule, it would not be pronounced deficient in talent. Nor is it. But, though the Bechuanas are a very superior race of men, they frequently conceal cunning and duplicity under an open and dignified exterior. Any act, no matter how disgraceful, if attended with success, will make them perfectly happy. "The Bechuana character is frank and sociable, which, however, does not appear to rise from benevolence of disposition, so much as from a degree of etiquette, and habits arising from relationship and docility." Like most barbarians, their political wisdom consists in duplicity and petty cunning, and their ordinary wars are merely predatory incursions upon weaker neighbors for the purpose of carrying off cattle with as little exposure as possible of their own lives.

They are exceedingly vindictive and revengeful; but if the injured party be propitiated with gifts, and the enemy acknowledge the error of his doings, apparent cordiality and unanimity generally succeed to the most inveterate hatred.

From the king to the slave, theft is a prevailing vice with the Bechuanas, and, from what I have seen of them, I am confident that the wealthiest and the most exalted among them would not hesitate to steal the shirt off one's back, could he effect it without being compromised. Their pilfering habits know no bounds, and they carry on the game with much dexterity. When grouped about our camp-fires I have known them to abstract the tools with which we have been working; nay, indeed, the very knives and forks from our plates. Once they actually took the meat out of the pot as it was boiling on the fire, substituting a stone! They will place their feet over any small article lying on the ground, burying it in the sand with their toes, and, if unable to carry it away at the time, they return to fetch it at a more convenient period.