13. HESITATION, ccxnr. vtts,
back again ; besides, it was cold, and he would die there ; so it was agreed that Chik should go back with me to Barmen. I was very glad of this arrangement, as 1 wanted to obtain fuller information from him than I possessed. I wished to make a small vocabulary of the language of the Ovampo, and learn something more than I could observe of their manners and customs ; but here in Ovampoland Chik would scarcely answer a single question. He constantly replied, "You must not ask these things ; Nangoro will think that you want to take away his life." And he became quite sulky if he was pressed. Indeed, I have no conception to this day whether or no the Ovampo have any religion, for Chik was frightened and angry if the subject of death was alluded to.
My articles of exchange were now reduced to a few handfuls of beads ; and I could not stay longer in the country. A man can no more travel without things of exchange here than he can without money in England. I therefore insisted upon being allowed to leave Ondonga, where my cattle were dying by inches, and where I was eating up my food, and could afford to stay no longer ; and I begged hard for a guide to take me on to the river, or to some place where I should find pasturage and game.
June 13th.-Nangoro sent me word " that day I might buy and sell ; that the next day I must come and take leave of him ; and the day after that I must go back to Damaraland."
Now came the question what was to be done. The river was four long days ahead. It was a goal to reach, and in itself probably well worth visiting. Its commercial importance might be great, as it appears to offer a high road into the very centre of Africa, through countries which, if as healthy as Ovampo or Damaraland, leave nothing to be desired on that score. It was precisely the most interesting point of my whole journey. Ought then a visit to it to be abandoned because Nangoro would not let us go? Or ought we to push on for it at all hazards ? On the other hand, the river was well known to, and frequented by, traders from Benguela; there would therefore be no difficulty in fully exploring it from that side, and probably infinitely more could be learnt by inquiries properly made at Mossamedes than anything that I could report from having seen it with my own eyes during so cursory a visit as I proposed. Now, as to the risk I should run by temporising with Nangoro until I had obtained permission to go there. My oxen would entirely knock up, and probably die; and then