130 OVAMPO BELLES. [CHAP. V11.
for an Englishman to do so. The sway of fashion is quite as strong among the negroes as among the whites ; and my position was that of a traveller in Europe, who had nothing to pay his hotel bill with but a box full of cowries and Damara sandals. I would have given anything for ten pounds' worth of the right sort of beads ; half of that value would have made a really good present to Nangoro, and franked me into the good graces of all his people. As it was lie was rather sulky, for it is considered a kind of insult to an African chief to visit him, and make use of his country without commencing acquaintance by sending a tribute. He insisted upon my giving him a cow which I, or rather John Allen, had with me, besides the ox I had presented him with; and as there was no help for it, the cow went. We then had a short conversation ; he looked at our guns and made us shoot with them, chatted a little, and then left us, saying that we were free to buy and sell with his people as much as we liked. Immediately crowds of the Ovampo, who had been gathering during the interview, poured down upon us, laughing and talking, but taking the greatest care not to touch our things, or to annoy us in any way. They were a merry set, and all of them dressed, or rather ornamented, very tidily. They wore a great quantity of beads and rings, but scarcely anything else except a kind of cartouche box, in which they kept a tuft of hair for painting and powdering themselves. The ladies were buxom lasses, having all the appearance of being good drudges. Their hair was worn short in front, but spread out behind into a broad fan. They were decidedly nice-looking; their faces were open and merry, but they had rather coarse features, and shone all over with butter and red pigment. They seemed to be of amazingly affectionate dispositions, for they always stood in groups with their arms round each other's necks like Canova's graces. They hummed sentimental airs all day long, swaying themselves about to the tune, and completely ruined the peace of mind of my too susceptible attendants. I began to buy corn and beans from them ; the women brought small baskets full, often only a handful each, and were paid in beads. I had brought a bar of iron, half an inch thick, and four feet long, that procured me one hundred pounds of corn at once. Timboo was the most successful bargainer ; lie sat in the middle among the beads, and twenty or thirty corn-selling damsels crowded about him. He was in his glory, chaffing and chattering in a most original aptois all the day long, for he had picked up a few Ovampo words, and many of the Ovampo knew a little of Damara,