CHAP. t.] THE KUISIP RIVER. 1t
sweeps everything before it. The bed was very broad, and hardly definable; there were marks here and there like the bottom of driedup pools, where the ground has been made into a paste and afterwards cracked by the drought. Bushes (Dabby bushes I have always heard them called) not unlike fennel, but from eight to twelve feet high, grew plentifully; a prickly gourd, the 'Nara,* with long runners, covered numerous sand-hillocks ; and lastly, high shifting sand dunes, on either side, completed the scene. We were so much out of condition, that the depth of the sand and the heat of the sun (at least, what we then thought was heat) gave us a good tiring, and we were heartily glad when Sand Fountain and its watering-place came in sight. My imagination had pictured, from its name, a bubbling streamlet ; but in reality t was a hole, six inches across, of green stagnant water. It was perfectly execrable to taste, as many years had elepsed since the Kuisip last ran, and the water which drains from its damp sand to the hollow here had become almost putrid, and highly saline. However, it was drinkable, and I was satisfied that with plenty of digging enough could be obtained to water my mules. Some years ago, when the trader lived here, the water was copious and very good, but all these sort of wells are very uncertain, even more so than the flow of the river on which they depend. We came back much as we went, and bought five ostrich eggs that were brought to us, giving seven sticks of tobacco for the lot ; but this was a piece of extravagance, five being the proper price. Cavendish tobacco is that which has been nearly always bartered here; it is, as most smokers know, in sticks, each stick weighing about an ounce, and worth a penny. I had taken only a hundredweight with me; but five hundredweight would not have proved at all too much. We took the captain and an ill-looking Hottentot, who appeared to be a relation of his, on board, as the two were inseparable ; and we employed ourselves in picking bush tics from our persons, for the bushes swarmed with them.
During the night a gun was heard on shore, and a fire was lighted, which proved to be made by the Missionary, Mr. Barn, and Stewartson, who had been a cattle-trader, but had lately lost everything, so that he, his wife, and children, could not afford to return to Cape Town, but lived at the same station with Mr. Barn. We had sent the letter at midday; they received it about nightfall, and had ridden down on
* The comma before the N means that the letter is preceded by a Hottentot click,