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Journey to the Bechuana Country.--Interview with Bushmen.
Their agility in chasing the Game.-Berands the Griqua Chief. -Bushmen's mode of destroying Lions.—Arrival at the Kuruman Station.—Improvements introduced by the Missionaries.Superstition of the Bechuanas.
Intelligent and humane Conduct of the Chief Mahuri.
In company with Mr. and Mrs. Melvill, who proposed travelling with me to Kuruman or Lattakoo, I left Griqua Town on the 6th of September. The country between Griqua Town and Kuruman is extremely flat, and presents very few objects to relieve the eye of the traveller. On the following day my attention was arrested by the appearance of three natives at our waggons. They were slender in their persons, extremely well made, of a light copper colour; their stature was above the middle size, and they were neatly dressed in leather pantaloons and jackets, which were made to fit tight to their shape, and showed their symmetrical forms to advantage. Their jackets had each a collar, with two buttons; they wore hats, which had been obtained from the colony; and their pantaloons were kept tight by straps which passed under the soles of their shoes. On their approach to the waggons, they entered into conversation with Mr. Melvill. After talking a few minutes together, they began to move about. I could not, at the time, say what it was in their appearance which interested me, but my attention was completely riveted by their air and manner. While I was waiting, with some degree of impatience, for the return of Mr. Melvill to the waggons, to give me information respecting the strangers, I saw them lie down upon the ground; or, more properly speaking, I observed that they had changed their posture from a standing to a reclining one; for the change was made in such a manner, that, although I was looking at them all the time, I could scarcely say that I saw the manner in which the change was made. When they lay down and rose up, it was with so much agility, that their movements appeared as easy as if they had been beings that scarcely touched the earth. After puzzling myself for some time to find out to what nation they belonged, I was very much surprised when informed by Mr. Melvill that they were three Bushmen. I had remarked a great improvement in the appearance of the Bushmen as I receded from the borders of the colony; but I had not before met with any of that nation, not residing at the missionary stations, exhibiting so very interesting an appearance as our present visitors. On further inquiry, I found that they considered themselves as under the protection of Waterboer, chief of Griqua Town; that they had the charge of that chief's cattle; and that they had a considerable herd which was their own property. Brought up from their infancy to depend upon the chase, the Bushmen must acquire, from their manner of life and habit of body, an agility in their movements surprising to strangers on first visiting them.
I met with nothing, during my visit into the interior, separate from the great objects I had in undertaking it, wl delighted me more than the sight of the Bushmen chasing the game. When the country has suffered from long drought, the game generally collect on the sides of the rivers in great numbers. The herds, particularly, of springbucks are often so large in such circumstances, that, when pursued, they frequently impede each other in their flight. Wherever those large herds are to be found, the traveller is sure to meet with Bushmen, provided there be nothing in his appearance, or in that of his party, to intimidate them, and prevent their approach ; and he may, occasionally, observe them pursuing the game with a speed surpassing the fleetness of the beautiful animals of which they are in chase. On such occasions, I have seen them approach the herd, lodge their poisoned arrows, leave the chase to solicit tobacco from us in our waggons, and again, darting off at a tangent like an arrow, overtake the frightened herd, and secure the wounded deer.
During the course of the afternoon we reached Daniel's Kuyl, the place at which Berands, one of the Griqua chiefs, then resided. Berands is a very shrewd and respectable-looking old man. His name frequently occurs, in connexion with the Griqua missions, in the communications of Mr. Anderson to the London Missionary Society; and those of my readers who are acquainted with the journals of my esteemed fellowtraveller, will recollect his name from the interesting description given by Mr. Campbell of the peaceful meeting of this chief with Africaner, after they had been for many years engaged in bitter hostilities against each other. Complimenting Berands on his humanity, on observing a kraal of Bushmen which was under his protection, he remarked, with a significant look, and with a shrug of his shoulders, “ If you never do a more meritorious action than that which you are pleased to ascribe to my humanity, I fear you will have a poor chance of getting to heaven, if you have nothing to depend upon but your good works.” The reasons that he assigned for protecting the Bushman kraal were, that they kept the country clear of lions.
From the description given me of the manner in which the Bushmen, in that part of the country, kill lions, it appears
appears that they destroy that formidable animal much more quietly and expeditiously than even the marksman of the country can dispatch him by fire-arms. In the contests of the Bushmen with the lions, the reader must not expect any thing like the prolonged struggle and noble daring which he may have elsewhere read of, or seen described in the first volume of this work, by the landdrost Sterreberg. After firing hundreds of shots, it is not necessary for the Bushman, in his own defence, to doff his kaross, and pierce the heart of his noble antagonist with an assagai or spear. He goes more quietly and safely to work. To account for the superior success of the Bushmen in those desperate affrays, we must begin our narrative by giving some account of the habits of the lion. The lion, which in many points of his character resembles the dog, differs from him in this, that his hearing is not so acute, and he is not, for that reason, easily awaked. When a lion is asleep, particularly after he has gorged himself with his prey, you may walk round about him without disturbing him; and he has this property, that, if he is awaked by any thing striking or falling upon him, he loses all presence of mind, and instantly flies off, if he is not confined, in the direction in which he happens to be lying at the time.
The wolf and the tiger generally retire to the caverns and the ravines of the mountains, but the lion is most usually found in the open plain, and in the neighbour. hood of the flocks of antelopes which invariably seek the open country, and which manifest a kind of instinctive aversion to places in which their powerful adversary may spring upon them suddenly and unexpectedly. It has been remarked of the lion, by the Bushmen, that he generally kills and devours his prey in the morning at sunrise, or at sunset. On this account, when they intend to kill lions, they generally notice where the spring-bucks are grazing at the rising of the sun ; and by observing, at the same time, if they appear frightened and run off, they conclude that they have been attacked by the lion. Marking accurately the spot where the alarm took place, about eleven o'clock in the day, when the sun is powerful, and the enemy they seek is supposed to be fast asleep, they carefully examine the ground, and, finding him in a state of unguarded security, they lodge a poisoned arrow in his breast. The moment the lion is thus struck, he springs from his lair, and bounds off as helpless as the stricken deer. The work is done ; the arrow of death has pierced his heart, without even breaking the slumbers of the lioness
have been lying beside him; and the Bushman knows where, in the course of a few hours, or 'even less time, he will find him dead, or in the agonies of death *.
* One of the keepers at Exeter Change was lately killed by a lion, from his ignorance of this peculiarity. On going into the cage of the lion and awakening him, the animal, not seeing any way of escape, instantly killed the man, whom, probably, under other circumstances, he would have caressed.