Part 2 out of 4
however, overtook him in an instant, and were about to seize him when a
young Indian woman interposed between them and their victim. This girl
was the chiefs daughter, and respect for her rank induced them to
hesitate for a moment; but in another instant the Portuguese captain was
surrounded. In the scuffle that ensued his musket exploded, but
fortunately wounded no one. Instantly the horrified savages fled in all
directions leaving Carreo alone!
"The captain was quick-witted. He knew that among hundreds of savages it
was madness to attempt either to fight or fly, and the happy effect of
the musket explosion induced him to adopt another course of action. He
drew himself up proudly to his full height, and beckoned the savages to
return. This they did, casting many glances of fear at the dreaded
musket. Going up to one who, from his bearing and ornaments, seemed to be
a chief, Carreo laid his musket on the sand, and, stepping over it so
that he left it behind him, held out his hand frankly to the chief. The
savage looked at him in surprise, and suffered the captain to take his
hand and pat it; after which he began to examine the stranger's dress
with much curiosity. Seeing that their chief was friendly to the white
man, the other savages hurried him to the campfire, where he soon
stripped off his wet clothes and ate the food which they put before him.
Thus Diego Carreo was spared.
"Next day, the Indians lined the beach and collected the stores of the
wrecked vessel. While thus employed, Carreo shot a gull with his musket;
which so astonished the natives that they regarded him with fear and
respect amounting almost to veneration. A considerable quantity of powder
and shot was saved from the wreck, so that the captain was enabled to
keep his ascendency over the ignorant natives; and at length he became a
man of great importance in the tribe, and married the daughter of the
chief. He went by the name of _Caramuru_,--'The man of fire.' This man
founded the city of Bahia.
"The coasts of Brazil began soon after this to be settled in various
places by the Portuguese; who, however, were much annoyed by the
Spaniards, who claimed a share in the rich prize. The Dutch and English
also formed settlements; but the Portuguese still retained possession of
the country, and continued to prosper. Meanwhile Diego Caramuru, 'the man
of fire,' had a son who in course of time became a prosperous settler;
and as his sons grew up he trained them to become cultivators of the soil
and traders in the valuable products of the New World. He took a piece of
ground, far removed from the spot where his father had been cast ashore,
and a short distance in the interior of the country. Here the eldest sons
of the family dwelt, laboured, and died, for many generations.
"In the year 1808 Portugal was invaded by Napoleon Buonaparte, and the
sovereign of that kingdom, John VI., fled to Brazil, accompanied by his
court and a large body of emigrants. The king was warmly received by the
Brazilians, and immediately set about improving the condition of the
country. He threw open its ports to all nations; freed the land from all
marks of colonial dependence; established newspapers; made the press
free, and did everything to promote education and industry. But although
much was done, the good was greatly hindered, especially in the inland
districts, by the vice, ignorance, and stupidity of many of the Roman
Catholic priests, who totally neglected their duties,--which, indeed,
they were incompetent to perform,--and in many instances, were no better
than miscreants in disguise, teaching the people vice instead of virtue.
"Foremost among the priests who opposed advancement was a descendant of
the 'man of fire,' Padre Caramuru dwelt for some years with an English
merchant in the capital of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro. The padre was not an
immoral man, but he was a fiery bigot, and fiercely opposed everything
that tended to advance the education of the people. This he did, firmly
believing that education was dangerous to the lower orders. His church
taught him, too, that the Bible was a dangerous book; and whenever a copy
fell into his hands he immediately destroyed it. During the disturbances
that took place after the time of King John's departure for Portugal, and
just before Brazil became an independent state under his son, the Emperor
Don Pedro I., Padre Caramuru lost a beloved and only brother. He was
quite a youth, and had joined the army only a few months previously, at
the desire of his elder brother the padre, who was so overwhelmed by the
blow that he ceased to take an active part in church or political affairs
and buried himself in a retired part of his native valley. Here he sought
relief and comfort in the study of the beauties of Nature by which he was
surrounded, but found none. Then he turned his mind to the doctrines of
his church, and took pleasure in verifying them from the Bible. But as he
proceeded he found, to his great surprise, that these doctrines were,
many of them, not to be found there; nay, further, that some of them were
absolutely contradicted by the word of God.
"Padre Caramuru had been in the habit of commanding his people not to
listen to the Bible when any one offered to read it; but in the Bible
itself he found these words, 'Search the Scriptures.' He had been in the
habit of praying to the Virgin Mary, and begging her to intercede with
God for him; but in the Bible he found these words: 'There is one
mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.' These things
perplexed him much. But while he was thus searching, as it were, for
silver, the ignorant padre found gold! He found that he did not require
to _work_ for salvation, but to _ask_ for it. He discovered that the
atonement had been made once for all by Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God;
and he read with a thrilling heart these words: 'God so loved the world,
that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him
should not perish, but have everlasting life.'
"Long and earnestly did the padre ponder these words and pray over them;
and gradually the Holy Spirit enlightened his mind, and he saw how
hateful that system was which could forbid or discourage the reading of
the blessed word of God. He soon resolved to forsake the priesthood. But
when he had done so, he knew not what to turn his hand to. He had no one
like-minded to consult with, and he felt that it was wrong to eat the
bread of idleness. Being thus uncertain what to do, he resolved in the
meantime to carry goods into the interior of the country, and offer them
for sale. The land round his dwelling and his own gun would supply him
with food; and for the rest, he would spend his time in the study of the
Bible, and seek for more light and direction from God.
"Such," continued the hermit, "is a slight sketch of the history of my
country and of myself."
"Yourself?" exclaimed Martin.
"Yes. I am the Padre Caramuru, or rather I _was_. I am Padre no longer,
but Senhor Carlos Caramuru, a merchant. Yet I know not what to do. When I
look round upon my country, and see how they know not the precious word
of God, my heart burns in me, and I sometimes think that it is my duty to
go forth and preach."
"No doubt ye are right," said Barney. "I've always bin of opinion that
when a man feels very strong in his heart on any partic'lar subject, it's
a sure sign that the Almighty intends him to have something more to do
with that subject than other men who don't feel about it at all."
The hermit remained silent for a few minutes. "I think you are right,
friend," he said; "but I am very ignorant yet. I have no one to explain
difficulties to me; and I fear to go about preaching, lest I should
preach what is not true. I will study yet for a time, and pray. After
that, perhaps, I may go forth."
"But you have told us nothing yet about the trade of the country," said
Martin, "or its size, or anything of that sort."
"I will soon tell you of that when I have lighted another cigar. This one
does not draw well. Have you got a full pipe still, my friend?"
"All right, Mr. Carrymooroo," replied Barney, knocking out the ashes.
"I'll jist load wance more, and then,--fire away."
In a few minutes the big cigar and short pipe were in full play, and the
"This country is very large and very rich, but it is not well worked. The
people are lazy, many of them, and have not much enterprise. Much is
done, no doubt; but very much more _might_ be done.
"The empire of Brazil occupies nearly one-half of the whole continent of
South America. It is 2600 miles long, and 2500 miles broad; which, as you
know perhaps, is a little larger than all Europe. The surface of the
country is beautiful and varied. The hilly regions are very wild,
although none of the mountains are very high, and the woods are
magnificent; but a great part of the land consists of vast grassy plains,
which are called llanos, or campos, or silvas. The campos along the banks
of the River Amazon are equal to six times the size of France; and there
is one great plain which lies between the Sierra Ibiapaba and the River
Tocantins which is 600 miles long by 400 miles broad. There are very few
lakes in Brazil, and only one worth speaking of--the Lagoa dos
Platos--which is 150 miles long. But our rivers are the finest in the
whole world, being so long, and wide, and deep, and free from falls, that
they afford splendid communication with the interior of the land. But,
alas! there are few ships on these rivers yet, very few. The rivers in
the north part of Brazil are so numerous and interlaced that they are
much like the veins in the human body; and the great River Amazon and a
few of its chief tributaries resemble the arteries.
"Then as to our produce," continued the hermit, "who can tell it all? We
export sugar, and coffee, and cotton, and gold, silver, lead, zinc,
quicksilver, and amethysts, and we have diamond mines--"
"Di'mond mines!" echoed Barney; "och but I would like for to see them.
Sure they would sparkle most beautiful. Are they far off, Mr.
"Yes, very far off. Then we export dye-woods, and cabinet-woods, and
drugs, and gums, and hides,--a great many hides, for the campos are full
of wild cattle, and men hunt them on horseback, and catch them with a
long rope called the _lasso_."
"How I should like to have a gallop over these great plains,"
"Then we have," continued the hermit, "rice, tapioca, cocoa, maize,
wheat, mandioca, beans, bananas, pepper, cinnamon, oranges, figs, ginger,
pineapples, yams, lemons, mangoes, and many other fruits and vegetables.
The mandioca you have eaten in the shape of farina. It is very good food;
one acre gives as much nutriment as six acres of wheat.
"Of the trees you have seen something. There are thousands of kinds, and
most magnificent. Some of them are more than thirty feet round about.
There are two hundred different kinds of palms, and so thick stand the
giant trees in many places, with creeping plants growing between, that it
is not possible for man to cut his way through the forests in some parts.
Language cannot describe the grandeur and glory of the Brazilian forests.
"We have numbers of wild horses, and hogs, and goats; and in the woods
are tiger-cats, jaguars, tapirs, hyenas, sloths, porcupines, and--but you
have seen many things already. If you live you will see more. I need not
tell you of these things; very soon I will show you some.
"The population of my country consists of the descendants of Portuguese
settlers, native Indians, and Negroes. Of the latter, some are free, some
slaves. The Indians go about nearly naked. Most of them are in a savage
state: they paint their skins, and wear gaudy ornaments. The religion of
the country is Roman Catholic, but all religions are tolerated; and I
have much hope for the future of Brazil, in spite of the priests."
"And do ye git much out o' the di'mond mines?" inquired Barney, whose
mind was running on this subject.
"O yes, a great deal. Every year many are got, and Government gets
one-fifth of the value of all the gold and diamonds found in the country.
One diamond was found a short time ago which was worth £40,000."
"Ye don't say so!" exclaimed Barney in great surprise, as he blew an
immense cloud of smoke from his lips. "Now, that's extror'nary. Why don't
everybody go to the mines and dig up their fortin at wance?"
"Because men cannot _eat_ diamonds," replied the hermit gravely.
"Troth, I niver thought o' that; ye're right."
Martin laughed heartily as he lay in his hammock and watched his friend's
expression while pondering this weighty subject.
"Moreover," resumed the hermit, "you will be surprised to hear that
diamond and gold finding is not the most profitable employment in
"The man who cultivates the ground is better off than anybody. It is a
fact, a very great fact, a fact that you should get firmly fixed in your
memory--that in less than _two years_ the exports of sugar and coffee
amounted to more than the value of all the diamonds found in _eighty_
years. Yes, that is true. But the people of Brazil are not well off. They
have everything that is necessary to make a great nation; but we are not
a great nation, far from it." The hermit sighed deeply as he ceased
speaking, and fell into an abstracted frame of mind.
"It's a great country intirely," said Barney, knocking the ashes out of
his pipe, and placing that much-loved implement carefully in his pocket;
"a great country, but there's a tremendous big screw loose somewhere."
"It seems curious to me," said Martin, in a ruminating tone of voice,
"that people should not get on better in a country in which there is
everything that man can desire to make him rich and happy. I wonder what
it wants; perhaps it's too hot, and the people want energy of character."
"Want energy!" shouted the hermit, leaping from his seat, and regarding
his guests for a few moments with a stern expression of countenance;
then, stretching forth his hand, he continued, in an excited tone:
"Brazil does not want energy; it has only one want,--it wants the Bible!
When a country is sunk down in superstition and ignorance and moral
depravity, so that the people know not right from wrong, there is only
one cure for her,--the Bible. Religion here is a mockery and a shame;
such as, if it were better known, would make the heathen laugh in scorn.
The priests are a curse to the land, not a blessing. Perhaps they are
better in other lands,--I know not; but well I know they are many of
them false and wicked here. No truth is taught to the people,--no Bible
is read in their ears; religion is not taught,--even morality is not
taught; men follow the devices and desires of their own hearts, and
there is no voice raised to say, 'You are doing wrong.' My country is
sunk very low; and she cannot hope to rise, for the word of her Maker is
not in her hand. True, there are a few, a very few Bibles in the great
cities; but that is all: that cannot save her hundreds of towns and
villages. Thousands of her people are slaves in body,--all, all are
slaves in soul; and yet you ask me what she wants. Ha! she wants
_truth_,--she wants to be purged of falsehood. She has bones and
muscles, and arteries and veins,--everything to make a strong and
healthy nation; but she wants blood,--she has no vital stream; yes,
Brazil, my country, wants the Bible!"
A HUNTING EXPEDITION, IN WHICH ARE SEEN STONES THAT CAN RUN, AND COWS
THAT REQUIRE NO FOOD--BESIDES A DESPERATE ENCOUNTER WITH A JAGUAR, AND
OTHER STRANGE THINGS
For many weeks Martin Rattler and his friend Barney O'Flannagan continued
to dwell with the hermit in his forest-home, enjoying his entertaining
and instructive discourse, and joining with him in the hunting
expeditions which he undertook for the purpose of procuring fresh food
for his table. In these rambles they made constant discoveries of
something new and surprising, both in reference to the vegetables and
animals of that extraordinary region of the earth. They also had many
adventures,--some amusing and some terrible,--which we cannot enlarge on
here, for they would fill ten volumes such as this, were they to be all
recorded in detail.
One day the hermit roused them earlier than usual and told them to get
ready, as he intended to go a considerable distance that day, and he
wished to reach a particular spot before the heat of noon. So Martin and
Barney despatched breakfast in as short a time as possible, and the
hermit read them a chapter out of his large and well-thumbed Bible, after
which they equipped themselves for the chase.
When Martin and his friend escaped from the pirates and landed on the
coast of Brazil, they were clothed in sailor-like costume, namely, white
duck trousers, coloured flannel shirts, blue jackets, round straw hats,
and strong shoes. This costume was not very suitable for the warm climate
in which they now found themselves, so their hospitable friend the hermit
gave them two loose light cotton coats or jackets, of a blue colour, and
broad brimmed straw hats similar to his own. He also gave them two
curious garments called _ponchos_. The poncho serves the purpose of cloak
and blanket. It is simply a square dark-coloured blanket with a hole in
the middle of it, through which the head is thrust in rainy weather, and
the garment hangs down all round. At night the poncho is useful as a
covering. The hermit wore a loose open hunting coat, and underneath it a
girdle, in which was a long sharp knife and a brace of pistols. His
trousers were of blue-striped cotton. He usually carried a
double-barrelled gun over his shoulder, and a powder-horn and bullet-bag
were slung round his neck. Barney now procured from this hospitable man a
supply of powder and shot for his large brass-mounted cavalry pistol. The
hermit also made him a present of a long hunting-knife; and he gave one
of a smaller size to Martin. As Martin had no weapon, the hermit
manufactured for him a stout bow and quiver full of arrows; with which,
after some practice, he became reasonably expert.
Thus armed they sallied forth, and, following the foot-path that
conducted from the door of the hut to the brow of the hill opposite, they
were soon buried in the shades of the great forest. On this particular
morning Barney observed that the hermit carried with him a stout spear,
which he was not usually in the habit of doing. Being of an inquisitive
disposition, he inquired the reason of his taking it.
"I expect to find a jaguar to-day," answered the hermit. "I saw him
yesterday go down into the small valley in which my cows grow. I will
show you my cows soon, Martin."
The hermit stopped short suddenly as he spoke, and pointed to a large
bird, about fifty yards in advance of them. It seemed to bear a
particular ill-will to a round rough stone which it pecked most
energetically. After a few minutes the bird ceased its attacks and flew
off; whereupon the rough stone opened itself out, and, running quickly
away, burrowed into a little hole and disappeared!
"That is an armadillo," remarked the hermit, continuing to lead the way
through the woods; "it is covered with a coat of mail, as you see; and
when enemies come it rolls itself up like a ball and lies like a hard
stone till they go away. But it has four little legs, and with them it
burrows so quickly that we cannot dig it up, and must smoke it out of
its hole,--which I do often, because it is very good to eat, as you very
While they continued thus to walk through the woods conversing, Martin
and Barney were again interested and amused by the immense number of
brilliant parrots and toucans which swooped about, chattering from tree
to tree, in large flocks. Sometimes thirty or forty of the latter would
come screaming through the woods and settle upon the dark-green foliage
of a coffee-tree; the effect of which was to give the tree the appearance
of having been suddenly loaded with ripe golden fruit. Then the birds
would catch sight of the travellers and fly screaming away, leaving the
tree dark-green and fruitless as before. The little green parrots were
the most outrageously noisy things that ever lived. Not content with
screaming when they flew, they continued to shriek, apparently with
delight, while they devoured the seeds of the gorgeous sun-flowers: and
more than once Martin was prompted to scatter a handful of stones among
them, as a hint to be less noisy; but this only made them worse,--like a
bad baby, which, the more you tell it to be quiet, sets to work the more
earnestly to increase and add to the vigour of its roaring. So Martin
wisely let the parrots alone. They also startled, in passing through
swampy places, several large blue herons, and long-legged cranes; and on
many of the trees they observed the curious hanging nests of a bird,
which the hermit told them was the large oriole. These nests hung in long
strings from the tops of the palm-trees, and the birds were very actively
employed moving about and chattering round their swinging villages: on
seeing which Martin could not help remarking that it would astonish the
colony not a little, if the top house were to give way and let all the
mansions below come tumbling to the ground!
They were disappointed, however, in not seeing monkeys gambolling among
the trees, as they had expected.
"Ah! my friends," said the hermit, "travellers in my country are very
often disappointed. They come here expecting to see everything all at
once; but although there are jaguars, and serpents, and bears, and
monkeys, plenty of them, as your ears can tell you, these creatures keep
out of the sight of man as much as possible. They won't come out of the
woods and show themselves to please travellers! You have been very lucky
since you arrived. Many travellers go about for months together and do
not see half so much as you."
"That's thrue," observed Barney, with his head a little on one side, and
his eyes cast up in a sort of meditative frown, as if he were engaged in
subjecting the hermit's remarks to a process of severe philosophical
contemplation; "but I would be very well plazed av the wild bastes would
show themselves now and then, for--"
Martin Rattler burst into a loud laugh, for Barney's upward glance of
contemplation was suddenly transformed into a gaze of intense
astonishment, as he beheld the blue countenance of a large red monkey
staring down upon him from amid the branches of an overhanging tree. The
monkey's face expressed, if possible, greater surprise than that of the
Irishman, and its mouth was partially open and thrust forward in a sort
of threatening and inquiring manner. There seemed to be some bond of
sympathy between the monkey and the man, for while _its_ mouth opened
_his_ mouth opened too.
"A-a-a-a-a--ah!" exclaimed the monkey.
A facetious smile overspread Barney's face--"Och! be all manes; the same
to you, kindly," said he, taking off his hat and making a low bow.
The civility did not seem to be appreciated, however; for the monkey put
on a most indignant frown and displayed a terrific double-row of long
brilliant teeth and red gums, while it uttered a shriek of passion,
twisted its long tail round a branch, and hurled itself, with a motion
more like that of a bird than a beast, into the midst of the tree and
disappeared, leaving Martin and Barney and the hermit each with a very
broad grin on his countenance.
The hunters now arrived at an open space where there were several large
umbrageous trees, and as it was approaching mid-day they resolved to rest
here for a couple of hours. Birds and insects were gradually becoming
more and more silent, and soon afterwards the only sounds that broke upon
their ears were the curious metallic notes of the urupongas, or
bell-birds; which were so like to the rapid beating of a smith's hammer
on an anvil, that it was with the greatest difficulty Barney was
restrained from going off by himself in search of the "smiddy." Indeed he
began to suspect that the worthy hermit was deceiving him, and was only
fully convinced at last when he saw one of the birds. It was pure white,
about the size of a thrush, and had a curious horn or fleshy tubercle
upon its head.
Having rested and refreshed themselves, they resumed their journey a
short time before the noisy inhabitants of the woods recommenced their
active afternoon operations.
"Hallo! what's that?" cried Barney, starting back and drawing his pistol,
while Martin hastily fitted an arrow to his bow.
Not ten paces in front of them a frightful monster ran across their path,
which seemed so hideous to Martin that his mind instantly reverted to the
fable of St. George and the Dragon, and he almost expected to see fire
issuing from its mouth. It was a huge lizard, with a body about three
feet long, covered with bright scales. It had a long, thick tail. Its
head was clumsy and misshapen, and altogether its aspect was very
horrible. Before either Martin or Barney could fire, the hermit dropped
his gun and spear, sprang quickly forward, caught the animal by the tail,
and, putting forth his great strength to the utmost, swung it round his
head and dashed its brains out against a tree.
Barney and Martin could only stare with amazement.
"This we call an iguana," said the hermit, as he piled a number of heavy
stones on the carcase to preserve it from other animals. "It is very good
to eat,--as good as chicken. This is not a very big one; they are
sometimes five feet long, but almost quite harmless,--not venomous at
all; and the only means he has to defend himself is the tail, which is
very powerful, and gives a tremendously hard blow; but, as you see, if
you catch him quick he can do nothing."
"It's all very well for you, or even Barney here, to talk of catching him
by the tail," said Martin, smiling; "but it would have puzzled me to
swing that fellow round my head."
"Arrah! ye're right, boy; I doubt if I could have done it mesilf,"
"No fear," said the hermit, patting Martin's broad shoulders as he passed
him and led the way; "you will be strong enough for that very soon,--as
strong as me in a year or two."
They now proceeded down into a somewhat dark and closely wooded valley,
through which meandered a small rivulet. Here they had some difficulty in
forcing their way through the dense underwood and broad leaves, most of
which seemed very strange to Martin and his comrade, being so gigantic.
There were also many kinds of ferns, which sometimes arched over their
heads and completely shut out the view, while some of them crept up the
trees like climbing-plants. Emerging from this, they came upon a more
open space, in the midst of which grew a number of majestic trees.
"There are my cows!" said the hermit, pausing as he spoke, and pointing
towards a group of tall straight-stemmed trees that were the noblest in
appearance they had yet seen. "Good cows they are," he continued, going
up to one and making a notch in the bark with his axe: "they need no
feeding or looking after, yet, as you see, they are always ready to give
While he spoke, a thick white liquid flowed from the notch in the bark
into a cocoa-nut drinking-cup, which the hermit always carried at his
girdle. In a few minutes he presented his visitors with a draught of what
they declared was most excellent cream.
The masseranduba, or milk-tree, as it is called, is indeed one of the
most wonderful of all the extraordinary trees in the forests of Brazil,
and is one among many instances of the bountiful manner in which God
provides for the wants of His creatures. No doubt this might with equal
truth be said of all the gifts that a beneficent Creator bestows upon
mankind; but when, as in the case of this milk-tree, the provision for
our wants comes in a singular and striking manner, it seems fitting and
appropriate that we should specially acknowledge the gift as coming from
the hand of Him who giveth us all things liberally to enjoy.
The milk-tree rises with a straight stem to an enormous height, and the
fruit, about the size of a small apple, is full of rich and juicy pulp,
and is very good. The timber, also, is hard, fine-grained, and
durable,--particularly adapted for such works as are exposed to the
weather. But its most remarkable peculiarity is the rich vegetable milk
which flows in abundance from it when the bark is cut. This milk is so
like to that of the cow in taste, that it can scarcely be distinguished
from it, having only a very slight peculiarity of flavour, which is
rather agreeable than otherwise. In tea and coffee it has the same effect
as rich cream, and, indeed, is so thick that it requires to be diluted
with water before being used. This milk is also employed as glue. It
hardens when exposed to the air, and becomes very tough and slightly
elastic, and is said to be quite as good and useful as ordinary glue.
Having partaken of as much milk as they desired, they continued their
journey a little further, when they came to a spur of the sierra, or
mountain range, that cuts through that part of the country. Here the
ground became more rugged, but still densely covered with wood, and rocks
lay piled about in many places, forming several dark and gloomy caverns.
The hermit now unslung his gun and advanced to the foot of a cliff, near
the further end of which there were several caves, the mouths of which
were partially closed with long ferns and masses of luxuriant vegetation.
"Now we must be prepared," said the hermit, feeling the point of his
spear. "I think there is a jaguar here. I saw him yesterday, and I am
quite sure he will not go away till he tries to do some mischief. He
little knows that there is nothing here to hurt but me." The hermit
chuckled as he said this, and resting his gun against the cliff near the
entrance to the first cave, which was a small one, he passed on to the
next. Holding the spear in his left hand, he threw a stone violently into
the cavern. Barney and Martin listened and gazed in silent expectation;
but they only heard the hollow sound of the falling stone as it dashed
against the sides of the cave; then all was still.
"Och, then, he's off," cried Barney.
"Hush," said Martin; "don't speak till he has tried the other cave."
Without taking notice of their remarks, the hermit repeated the
experiment at the mouths of two caverns further on, with the like result.
"Maybe the spalpeen's hidin' in the little cave where ye laid down yer
gun," suggested Barney, going towards the place as he spoke. "Och, then,
come here, friend; sure it must be the mouth of a mine, for there's two
o' the beautifulest di'monds I iver--"
Barney's speech was cut short by a low peculiar sound, that seemed like
the muttering of far-distant thunder. At the same moment the hermit
pulled him violently back, and, placing himself in a firm attitude full
in front of the cavern, held the point of the spear advanced before him.
"Martin," he whispered, "shoot an arrow straight into that hole,--quick!"
Martin obeyed, and the arrow whizzed through the aperture. Instantly
there issued from it a savage and tremendous roar, so awful that it
seemed as if the very mountain were bellowing and that the cavern were
its mouth. But not a muscle of the hermit's figure moved. He stood like a
bronze statue,--his head thrown back and his chest advanced, with one
foot planted firmly before him and the spear pointing towards the cave.
It seemed strange to Martin that a man should face what appeared to him
unknown danger so boldly and calmly; but he did not consider that the
hermit knew exactly the amount of danger before him. He knew precisely
the manner in which it would assail him, and he knew just what was
necessary to be done in order to avert it; and in the strength of that
knowledge he stood unmoved, with a slight smile upon his tightly
Scarcely had the roar ceased when it was repeated with tenfold
fierceness; the bushes and fern leaves shook violently, and an enormous
and beautifully spotted jaguar shot through the air as if it had been
discharged from a cannon's mouth. The hermit's eye wavered not; he bent
forward a hair's-breadth; the glittering spear-point touched the animal's
breast, pierced through it, and came out at its side below the ribs. But
the force of the bound was too great for the strength of the weapon: the
handle snapped in twain, and the transfixed jaguar struck down the hermit
and fell writhing upon him!
In the excitement of the moment Barney drew his pistol from his belt and
snapped it at the animal. It was well for the hermit at that moment that
Barney had forgotten to prime his weapon; for, although he aimed at the
jaguar's skull, there is no doubt whatever that he would have blown out
the hermit's brains. Before he could make a second attempt, Martin sprang
towards the gun which leaned against the cliff, and, running quickly up,
he placed the muzzle close to the jaguar's ear and lodged a bullet in its
brain. All this was done in a few seconds, and the hermit regained his
legs just as the animal fell dead. Fortunately he was not hurt, having
adroitly avoided the sharp claws of his enemy.
"Arrah! Mister Hermit," said Barney, wiping the perspiration from his
forehead, "it's yersilf that was well-nigh done for this time, an' no
mistake. Did iver I see sich a spring! an' ye stud the charge jist like a
stone wall,--niver moved a fut!"
"Are you not hurt?" inquired Martin, somewhat anxiously; "your face is
all covered with blood."
"Yes, boy, but it is the blood of the jaguar; thanks to you for your
quick hand, I am not hurt at all."
The hermit washed his face in the neighbouring brook, and then proceeded
to skin the jaguar, the carcase being worthless. After which they
retraced their steps through the woods as quickly as possible, for the
day was now far spent, and the twilight, as we have before remarked, is
so short in tropical latitudes that travellers require to make sure of
reaching the end of the day's journey towards evening, unless they choose
to risk losing their way, and spending the night in the forest.
They picked up the iguana in passing; and, on reaching the spot where the
armadillo had burrowed, the hermit paused and kindled a small fire over
the hole, by means of his flint, steel, and tinder-box. He thus contrived
to render the creature's habitation so uncomfortable that it rushed
hurriedly out; then, observing that its enemies were waiting, it doubled
its head and tail together, and became the image of a rough stone.
"Poor thing," said Martin, as the hermit killed it, "that reminds me of
the ostrich of the desert, which, I'm told, when it is chased over the
plains by men on horseback, and finds that it cannot escape, thrusts its
head into a bush, and fancies, no doubt, that it cannot be seen, although
its great body is visible a mile off!"
"Martin," said Barney, "this arth is full o' quare craturs intirely."
"That's true, Barney; and not the least 'quare' among them is an
Irishman, a particular friend of mine."
"Hould yer tongue, ye spalpeen, or I'll put yer head in the wather!"
"I wish ye would, Barney, for it is terribly hot and mosquito-bitten, and
you couldn't have suggested anything more delightful. But here we are
once more at our forest home; and now for a magnificent cup of coffee and
"Not to mintion," added Barney, "a juicy steak of Igu Anny, an' a tender
chop o' Army Dillo."
MARTIN AND BARNEY CONTINUE THEIR TRAVELS, AND SEE STRANGE
THINGS--AMONG OTHERS, THEY SEE LIVING JEWELS--THEY GO TO SEE A
FESTA--THEY FIGHT AND RUN AWAY
Martin Rattler and Barney O'Flannagan soon after this began to entertain
a desire to travel further into the interior of Brazil, and behold with
their own eyes the wonders of which they had heard so much from their
kind and hospitable friend the hermit. Martin was especially anxious to
see the great river Amazon, about which he entertained the most romantic
ideas,--as well he might, for there is not such another river in the
world for size, and for the many curious things connected with its waters
and its banks. Barney, too, was smitten with an intense desire to visit
the diamond mines, which he fancied must be the most brilliant and
beautiful sight in the whole world; and when Martin asked him what sort
of place he expected to see, he used to say that he "pictur'd in his mind
a great many deep and lofty caverns, windin' in an' out an' round about,
with the sides and the floors and the ceilin's all of a blaze with
glittering di'monds, an' top'zes, an' purls, an' what not; with Naiggurs
be the dozen picking them up in handfuls. An' sure," he would add, "if we
was wance there, we could fill our pockets in no time, an' then, hooray
for ould Ireland! an' live like Imperors for ivermore."
"But you forget, Barney, the account the hermit has given us of the
mines. He evidently does not think that much is to be made of them."
"Och! niver mind the hermit. There's always good luck attends Barney
O'Flanngan; an' sure if nobody wint for fear they would git nothing, all
the di'monds that iver came out o' the mines would be lyin' there still;
an' didn't he tell us there was wan got only a short time since, worth I
don't know how many thousand pounds? Arrah! if I don't go to the mines
an' git one the size o' me head, I'll let ye rig me out with a long tail
an' set me adrift in the woods for a blue-faced monkey."
It so happened that this was the time when the hermit was in the habit of
setting out on one of his trading trips; and when Martin told him of the
desire that he and Barney entertained to visit the interior, he told them
that he would be happy to take them along with him, provided they would
act the part of muleteers. To this they readily agreed, being only too
glad of an opportunity of making some return to their friend, who refused
to accept any payment for his hospitality, although Barney earnestly
begged of him to accept of his watch, which was the only object of value
he was possessed of,--and that wasn't worth much, being made of
pinch-beck, and utterly incapable of going! Moreover, he relieved their
minds, by telling them that they would easily obtain employment as
canoe-men on the Amazon, for men were very difficult to be got on that
river to man the boats; and if they could stand the heat, and were
willing to work like Indians, they might travel as far as they pleased.
To which Martin replied, in his ignorance, that he thought he could stand
anything; and Barney roundly asserted that, having been burnt to a cinder
long ago in the "East Injies," it was impossible to overdo him any more.
Under these circumstances, therefore, they started three weeks later to
visit a populous town about twenty miles off, from which they set out on
their travels, with a string of heavily laden mules, crossed the low
countries or campos lying near to the sea, and began to ascend the
sierras that divide this portion of Brazil from the country which is
watered by the innumerable rivers that flow into the mighty Amazon.
The cavalcade consisted of ten mules, each with two goodly sized bales of
merchandise on its back. They were driven and attended to by Negroes,
whose costume consisted of a light cotton shirt with short sleeves, and a
pair of loose cotton drawers reaching down to the knee. With the
exception of a straw hat this was all they wore. Martin, and Barney, and
the hermit each bestrode a mule, with a small bale slung on either side;
over the front of which their legs dangled comfortably. They had ponchos
with them, strapped to the mules' backs, and each carried a clumsy
umbrella to shield him from the fierce rays of the sun; but our two
adventurers soon became so hardened and used to the climate, that they
dispensed with the umbrellas altogether.
The sierra, or mountain range, over which they passed was about thirty
miles in extent, being in some places quite level and open, but in others
somewhat rugged and covered with large but thinly scattered trees, the
most common of which had fine dark-green glossy leaves, with spikes of
bright yellow flowers terminating the branchlets. There were also many
peculiar shrubs and flowering plants, of a sort that the travellers had
never seen the like of in their native land.
"How I wish," said Martin with a sigh, as he rode along beside his friend
Barney, "that I knew something of botany."
Barney opened his eyes in surprise. "Arrah! it's too much of a
philosopher ye are already, lad. What good would it do ye to know all the
hard names that men have given to the flowers? Sure I wance wint after
the doctor o' a ship, to carry his box for him when he wint on what he
called botanical excursions; and the poor cratur used to be pokin' his
nose for iver down at the ground, an' peerin' through his green
spectacles at miserable bits o' plants, an' niver seemin' to enjoy
anything; when all the time _I_ was lookin' far fornint me, an' all
around me, an' up at the sky, seem' ivery beautiful thing, and snifterin'
up the sweet smells, an' in fact enjoyin' the whole univarse--an my pipe
to boot--like an intelligent cratur." Barney looked round as he spoke,
with a bland, self-satisfied expression of countenance, as if he felt
that he had given a lucid definition of the very highest style of
philosophy, and proved that he, Barney O'Flannagan, was possessed of the
same in no common degree.
"Well, Barney," rejoined Martin, "since you give me credit for being a
philosopher, I must continue to talk philosophically. Your botanical
friend took a _microscopic_ view of nature, while you took a _telescopic_
view of it. Each view is good, but both views are better; and I can't
help wishing that I were more of a philosopher than I am, especially in
reference to botany."
"Humph!" ejaculated Barney, who seemed not quite to understand his young
friend, "yer observations are remarkably thrue, and do ye great credit,
for yer years. Ah! Mr. Hermit, good luck to ye! I'm glad to see that
ye've got some consideration for man and baste. I'm quite ready for my
victuals, and so's my mule; aren't you, avic?"
Barney's latter remark was addressed to his patient charger, from whose
back he sprang as he spoke, and slackened its girths.
It was now approaching mid-day, and the hermit had pitched upon a large
tree as a fitting spot for rest and refreshment. Water had been brought
up the mountain in a huge calabash; but they did not require to use it,
as they found a quantity in the hollow stump of a tree. There were
several frogs swimming about in this miniature lake; but it was found to
be fresh and clear and good notwithstanding.
Towards evening they passed a string of mules going towards the town
which they had just left. They were driven by Negroes, most of whom were
slaves, and nearly quite naked. A Brazilian merchant, wearing a
picturesque broad-brimmed, high-crowned straw-hat, a poncho, and brown
leather boots armed at the heels with large sharp spurs, rode at the
head, and gave the strangers a surly nod of his head as they passed. Soon
after, they descended into the plain, and came to a halt at a sort of
roadside public-house, where there was no sleeping accommodation, but
where they found an open shed in which travellers placed their goods, and
slung their hammocks, and attended to themselves. At the venda, close
beside it, they purchased a large bag of farina, being short of that
necessary article of food, and then set to work to prepare supper in the
open air; while the merry Negroes, who seemed to enjoy life most
thoroughly, laughed and sang as they removed the bales from the mules'
backs and cooked their simple fare.
Barney's cooking propensities now came into full play; and, with the
variety of fruits and vegetables which the country afforded, he exercised
his ingenuity, and produced several dishes of so savoury a nature that
the hermit was compelled to open his eyes in amazement, and smack his
lips with satisfaction, being quite unable to express his sentiments in
words. While thus busily and agreeably employed, they were told by the
owner of the venda that a festa was being celebrated at a village about a
league distant from where they stood.
"I should like to see it above all things," said Martin eagerly; "could
we not go?"
The hermit frowned. "Yes, we can go, but it will be to behold
folly. Perhaps it will be a good lesson, from which much may be
learned. We will go."
"It's not a step that I'll budge till I've finished me pipe," said
Barney, pulling away at that bosom friend with unexampled energy. "To
smoke," he continued, winking gently with one eye, "is the first law of
nature; jist give me ten minutes more, an' _I'm_ your man for anything,"
Being a fine evening, they proceeded on foot. In about an hour after
setting out they approached the village, which lay in a beautiful valley
below them. Sounds of mirth and music rose like a distant murmur on the
air, and mingled with the songs of birds and insects. Then the sun went
down, and in a few minutes it grew dark, while the brilliant fire-flies
began their nocturnal gambols. Suddenly a bright flame burst over the
village, and a flight of magnificent rockets shot up into the sky, and
burst in a hundred bright and variously-coloured stars, which paled for a
few seconds the lights of nature. But they vanished in a moment, and the
clear stars shed abroad their undying lustre,--seeming, in their quiet,
unfading beauty, a gentle satire on the short-lived and gairish
productions of man.
"Mighty purty, no doubt," exclaimed Barney. "Is this the Imperor's
"No," replied the hermit, shaking his head; "that is the way in which the
false priests amuse the people. The poor Indian and the Negro, and,
indeed, the ignorant Brazilian, thinks it very grand; and the priests let
them think it is pleasing to the God of heaven. Ah! here comes an old
Negro; we will ask him."
Several country people, in varied and picturesque costumes, hurried past
the travellers towards the village; and as they came to a foot-path that
joined the road, an old Negro approached them. Saluting him in the
Portuguese language, the hermit said, "Friend, why do they let off
"For Dios" (for God), answered the old man, looking and pointing upwards
with grave solemnity. Without vouchsafing another word, he hurried away.
"So they think," said the hermit, "and so they are taught by the priests.
Music, noise, and fire-works please these ignorant people; and so the
priests, who are mostly as ignorant as the people, tell them it is a good
part of religious ceremony."
Presently a band of young girls came laughing and singing along the road.
They were dressed in pure white, their rich black tresses being uncovered
and ornamented with flowers, and what appeared to be bright jewels.
"Hallo!" exclaimed Martin, gazing after them; "what splendid jewels!
surely these must be the daughters of very rich people."
"Och, but they've been at the di'mond mines for certain! Did iver ye sae
The girls did indeed seem to blaze with jewels, which not only sparkled
in their hair, but fringed their white robes, and were worked round the
edges of their slippers; so that a positive light shone around their
persons, and fell upon the path like a halo, giving them more the
appearance of lovely supernatural beings than the daughters of earth.
"These jewels," said the hermit, "were never polished by the hands of
men. They are fire-flies."
"Fire-flies!" exclaimed Martin and Barney simultaneously.
"Yes, they are living fire-flies. The girls very often catch them and tie
them up in little bits of gauze, and put them, as you see, on their
dresses and in their hair. To my mind they seem more beautiful far than
diamonds. Sometimes the Indians, when they travel at night, fix
fire-flies to their feet, and so have good lamps to their path."
While Barney was expressing his surprise at this information, in very
racy language, they entered the village; and, mingling with the throng of
holiday-keepers, followed the stream towards the grand square.
The church, which seemed to be a centre of attraction, and was
brilliantly illuminated, was a neat wooden building with two towers. The
streets of the village were broad and straggling; and so luxuriant was
the vegetation, and so lazy the nature of the inhabitants, that it seemed
as if the whole place were overgrown with gigantic weeds. Shrubs and
creeping-plants grew in the neglected gardens, climbed over the palings,
and straggled about the streets. Plants grew on the tops of the houses,
ferns peeped out under the eaves; and, in short, on looking at it one had
the feeling that ere long the whole place, people and all, must be
smothered in superabundant vegetation!
The houses were all painted white or yellow, with the doors and windows
bright green,--just like grown-up toys; and sounds of revelry, with now
and then the noise of disputation, issued from many of them.
It is impossible to describe minutely the appearance of the motley crowd
through which our adventurers elbowed their way, gazing curiously on the
strange scene, which seemed to them more like a dream than reality, after
their long sojourn in the solitudes of the forest. Processions headed by
long-robed priests with flambeaux and crucifixes; young girls in light
costumes and long white cotton shawls, selling sweet cakes of mandioca
flour, and bonbons; swarthy Brazilians, some in white jackets, loose
cotton drawers, and straw hats, others in brown leather boots and
ponchos; Negroes in short white drawers and shirts, besides many without
any clothing above their waists; Indians from the interior,
copper-coloured, and some of them, fine-looking men, having only a strip
of cloth about their loins;--such were the strange crew whose loud voices
added to the whiz of rockets, squibs, crackers, guns, and musical
instruments, created a deafening noise.
In the midst of the village there was a tree of such enormous size that
it quite took our travellers by surprise. It was a wild fig-tree, capable
of sheltering a thousand persons under its shadow! Here a spirited
fandango was going on, and they stood for some time watching the
movements of the performers. Growing tired of this, they wandered about
until they came to a less crowded part of the village, and entered a
pleasant grove of trees skirting the road by which they had arrived.
While sauntering here, enjoying the cool night breeze and delicious
perfume of flowers, a woman uttered a piercing shriek near to them. It
was instantly followed by loud voices in altercation. Ever ready to fly
to the help of womankind, and, generally, to assist in a "row," Barney
darted through the bushes, and came upon the scene of action just in time
to see the white skirt of a female's dress disappear down an avenue, and
to behold two Brazilians savagely writhing in mortal strife. At the
moment he came up, one of the combatants had overcome the other, and a
fierce smile of triumph crossed his swarthy countenance as he raised his
"Och, ye murtherer! would ye attimpt that same?" cried Barney, catching
the man by the wrist and hurling him on his back. The other sprang up on
being thus unexpectedly freed, and darted away, while the thwarted man
uttered a yell of disappointment and sprang like a tiger at Barney's
throat. A blow, however, from the Irishman's fist, quietly delivered, and
straight between the eyes, stretched the Brazilian on the ground. At the
same moment a party of men, attracted by the cries, burst through the
bushes and surrounded the successful champion. Seeing their countryman
apparently dead upon the ground, they rushed upon Barney in a body; but
the first who came within reach was floored in an instant, and the others
were checked in their career by the sudden appearance of the hermit and
Martin Rattler. The noise of many voices, as of people hastening towards
them, was heard at the same time.
"We have no time to lose, do as I bid you," whispered the hermit.
Whirling a heavy stick round his head the hermit shouted the single word
"Charge!" and dashed forward.
Barney and Martin obeyed. Three Brazilians went down like ninepins; the
rest turned and fled precipitately.
"Now, run for life!" cried the hermit, setting the example. Barney
hesitated to follow what he deemed a cowardly flight, but the yells of
the natives returning in strong force decided the question. He and Martin
took to their heels with right good will, and in a few minutes the three
friends were far on the road which led to their night bivouac; while the
villagers, finding pursuit hopeless, returned to the village, and
continued the wild orgies of their festa.
COGITATIONS AND CANOEING ON THE AMAZON--BARNEY'S EXPLOIT WITH AN
ALLIGATOR--STUBBORN FACTS--REMARKABLE MODE OF SLEEPING
It is pleasant, when the sun is bright, and the trees are green, and when
flowering shrubs and sweet-smelling tropical trees scent the balmy
atmosphere at eventide, to lie extended at full length in a canoe, and
drop easily, silently, yet quickly, down the current of a noble river,
under the grateful shadow of overhanging foliage; and to look lazily up
at the bright blue sky which appears in broken patches among the verdant
leaves; or down at the river in which that bright sky and those green
leaves are reflected; or aside at the mud-banks where greedy vultures are
searching for prey, and lazy alligators are basking in the sun; and to
listen, the while, to the innumerable cries and notes of monkeys,
toucans, parrots, orioles, bemtevi or fly-catchers, white-winged and blue
chatterers, and all the myriads of birds and beasts that cause the
forests of Brazil, above all other forests in the world probably, to
resound with the gleeful songs of animated nature!
It is pleasant to be thus situated, especially when a cool breeze blows
the mosquitoes and other insects off the water, and relieves you for a
time from their incessant attacks. Martin Rattler found it pleasant, as
he thus lay on his back with his diminutive pet marmoset monkey seated on
his breast quietly picking the kernel out of a nut. And Barney
O'Flannagan found it pleasant, as he lay extended in the bow of the canoe
with his head leaning over the edge gazing abstractedly at his own
reflected visage, while his hands trailed through the cool water, and his
young dog--a shaggy indescribable beast with a bluff nose and a bushy
tail--watched him intently, as a mother might watch an only child in a
dangerous situation. And the old sun-dried, and storm-battered, and
time-shrivelled mulatto trader, in those canoe they were embarked and
whose servants they had become, found it pleasant, as he sat there
perched in his little montaria, like an exceedingly ancient and overgrown
monkey, guiding it safely down the waters of the great river of the
Some months have passed since we last parted from our daring adventurers.
During that period they had crossed an immense tract of country, and
reached the head waters of one of the many streams that carry the surplus
moisture of central Brazil into the Amazon. Here they found an old
trader, a free mulatto, whose crew of Indians had deserted him,--a common
thing in that country,--and who gladly accepted their services, agreeing
to pay them a small wage. And here they sorrowfully, and with many
expressions of good-will, parted from their kind friend and entertainer
the hermit. His last gift to Martin was the wonderfully small marmoset
monkey before mentioned; and his parting souvenir to Barney was the
bluff-nosed dog that watched over him with maternal care, and loved him
next to itself;--as well it might; for if everybody had been of the same
spirit as Barney O'Flannagan, the Act for the prevention of cruelty to
animals would never have been passed in Britain.
It was a peculiar and remarkable and altogether extraordinary monkey,
that tiny marmoset. There was a sort of romance connected with it, too;
for it had been the mother of an indescribably small infant-monkey,
which was killed at the time of its mother's capture. It drank coffee,
too, like--like a Frenchman; and would by no means retire to rest at
night until it had had its usual allowance. Then it would fold its
delicate little hands on its bosom, and close its eyes with an
expression of solemn grief, as if, having had its last earthly wish
gratified, it now resigned itself to--sleep. Martin loved it deeply, but
his love was unrequited; for, strange to say, that small monkey lavished
all its affection on Barney's shaggy dog. And the dog knew it, and was
evidently proud of it, and made no objection whatever to the monkey
sitting on his back, or his head, or his nose, or doing, in fact,
whatever it chose whenever it pleased. When in the canoe, the marmoset
played with Grampus, as the dog was named; and when on shore it
invariably travelled on his back.
Martin used to lie in the canoe half asleep and watch the little face of
the marmoset, until, by some unaccountable mental process, he came to
think of Aunt Dorothy Grumbit. Often did poor Martin dream of his dear
old aunt, while sleeping under the shelter of these strange-leaved
tropical trees and surrounded by the wild sounds of that distant land,
until he dreamed himself back again in the old village. Then he would
rush to the well-known school, and find all the boys there except Bob
Croaker, who he felt certain must be away drowning the white kitten; and
off he would go and catch him, sure enough, in the very act, and would
give him the old thrashing over again, with all the additional vigour
acquired during his rambles abroad thrown into it. Then he would run home
in eager haste, and find old Mrs. Grumbit hard at the one thousand nine
hundred and ninety-ninth pair of worsted socks; and fat Mr. Arthur
Jollyboy sitting opposite to her, dressed in the old lady's bed-curtain
chintz and high-crowned cap, with the white kitten in his arms and his
spectacles on his chin, watching the process with intense interest, and
cautioning her not to forget the "hitch" by any means; whereupon the
kitten would fly up in his face, and Mr. Jollyboy would dash through the
window with a loud howl, and Mrs. Grumbit's face would turn blue; and,
uncoiling an enormous tail, she would bound shrieking after him in among
the trees and disappear! Martin usually wakened at this point, and found
the marmoset gazing in his face with an expression of sorrowful
solemnity, and the old sun-dried trader staring vacantly before him as he
steered his light craft down the broad stream of the Tocantins.
The trader could speak little more English than sufficed to enable him to
say "yes" and "no"; Barney could speak about as much Portuguese as
enabled him to say "no" and "yes"; while Martin, by means of a slight
smattering of that language, which he had picked up by ear during the
last few months, mixed now and then with a word or two of Latin, and
helped out by a clever use of the language of signs, succeeded in
becoming the link of communication between the two.
For many weeks they continued to descend the river; paddling
energetically when the stream was sluggish, and resting comfortably when
the stream was strong, and sometimes dragging their canoe over rocks and
sand-banks to avoid rapids--passing many villages and plantations of the
natives by the way--till at last they swept out upon the bosom of the
great Amazon River.
The very first thing they saw upon entering it was an enormous alligator,
fully eighteen feet long, sound asleep on a mud-bank.
"Och! put ashore, ye Naygur," cried Barney, seizing his pistol and rising
up in the bow of the canoe. The old man complied quickly, for his spirit
was high and easily roused.
"Look out now, Martin, an' hould back the dog for fear he wakes him up,"
said Barney, in a hoarse whisper, as he stepped ashore and hastened
stealthily towards the sleeping monster; catching up a handful of gravel
as he went, and ramming it down the barrel of his pistol. It was a
wonderful pistol that--an Irish one by birth, and absolutely incapable of
bursting, else assuredly it would have gone, as its owner said, to
"smithereens" long ago.
Barney was not a good stalker. The alligator awoke and made for the water
as fast as it could waddle. The Irishman rushed forward close up, as it
plunged into the river, and discharged the compound of lead and stones
right against the back of its head. He might as well have fired at the
boiler of a steam-engine. The entire body of an alligator--back and
belly, head and tail--is so completely covered with thick hard scales,
that shot has no effect on it; and even a bullet cannot pierce its coat
of mail, except in one or two vulnerable places. Nevertheless the shot
had been fired so close to it that the animal was stunned, and rolled
over on its back in the water. Seeing this, the old trader rushed in up
to his chin, and caught it by the tail; but at the same moment the
monster recovered, and, turning round, displayed its terrific rows of
teeth. The old man uttered a dreadful roar, and struggled to the land as
fast as he could; while the alligator, equally frightened, no doubt, gave
a magnificent flourish and splash with its tail, and dived to the bottom
of the river.
The travellers returned disgusted to their canoe, and resumed their
journey up the Amazon in silence.
The vulnerable places about an alligator are the soft parts under the
throat and the joints of the legs. This is well known to the jaguar, its
mortal foe, which attacks it on land, and fastening on these soft parts,
soon succeeds in killing it; but should the alligator get the jaguar into
its powerful jaws or catch it in the water, it is certain to come off the
The Amazon, at its mouth, is more like a wide lake or arm of the sea than
a river. Mention has been already made of this noble stream in the
Hermit's Story; but it is worthy of more particular notice, for truly the
Amazon is in many respects a wonderful river. It is the largest, though
not quite the longest, in the world. Taking its rise among the rocky
solitudes of the great mountain range of the Andes, it flows through
nearly four thousand miles of the continent in an easterly direction,
trending northward towards its mouth, and entering the Atlantic Ocean on
the northern coast of South America, directly under the Equator. In its
course it receives the waters of nearly all the great rivers of central
South America, and thousands of smaller tributaries; so that when it
reaches the ocean its volume of water is enormous. Some idea may be
formed of its majestic size, from the fact that one of its
tributaries--the Rio Negro--is fifteen hundred miles long, and varying in
breadth; being a mile wide not far from its mouth, while higher up it
spreads out in some places into sheets of ten miles in width. The
Madeira, another tributary, is also a river of the largest size. The
Amazon is divided into two branches at its mouth by the island of Marajo,
the larger branch being ninety-six miles in width. About two thousand
miles from its mouth it is upwards of a mile wide. So great is the force
of this flood of water, that it flows into the sea unmixed for nearly two
hundred miles. The tide affects the river to a distance of about four
hundred miles inland; and it is navigable from the sea for a distance of
three thousand miles inland.
On the north bank of the Amazon there are ranges of low hills, partly
bare and partly covered with thickets. These hills vary from three
hundred to a thousand feet high, and extend about two hundred miles
inland. Beyond them the shores of the river are low and flat for more
than two thousand miles, till the spurs of the Andes are reached.
During the rainy season the Amazon overflows all its banks, like the
Nile, for many hundreds of miles; during which season, as Martin Rattler
truly remarked, the natives may be appropriately called aquatic animals.
Towns and villages, and plantations belonging to Brazilians, foreign
settlers, and half-civilized Indians, occur at intervals throughout the
whole course of the river; and a little trade in dye-woods, India-rubber,
medicinal drugs, Brazil nuts, coffee, &c., is done; but nothing to what
might and ought to be, and perhaps would be, were this splendid country
in the hands of an enterprising people. But the Amazonians are lazy, and
the greater part of the resources of one of the richest countries in the
world is totally neglected.
"Arrah!" said Barney, scratching his head and wrinkling his forehead
intensely, as all that we have just written, and a great deal more, was
told to him by a Scotch settler whom he found superintending a cattle
estate and a saw-mill on the banks of the Amazon--"Faix, then, I'm jist
as wise now as before ye begun to spake. I've no head for fagures
whatsumdiver; an' to tell me that the strame is ninety-six miles long and
three thousand miles broad at the mouth, and sich like calcerlations, is
o' no manner o' use, and jist goes in at wan ear an' out at the tother."
Whereupon the Scotch settler smiled and said, "Well, then, if ye can
remember that the Amazon is longer than all Europe is broad; that it
opens up to the ocean not less than ten thousand miles of the interior
of Brazil; and that, _comparatively_ speaking, no use is made of it
whatever, ye'll remember enough to think about with profit for some
time to come."
And Barney did think about it, and ponder it, and revolve it in his mind,
for many days after, while he worked with Martin and the old trader at
the paddles of their montaria. They found the work of canoeing easier
than had been anticipated; for during the summer months the wind blows
steadily up the river, and they were enabled to hoist their mat-sail, and
bowl along before it against the stream.
Hotels and inns there were none; for Brazil does not boast of many such
conveniences, except in the chief towns; so they were obliged, in
travelling, to make use of an empty hut or shed, when they chanced to
stop at a village, and to cook their own victuals. More frequently,
however, they preferred to encamp in the woods--slinging their hammocks
between the stems of the trees, and making a fire sometimes, to frighten
away the jaguars, which, although seldom seen, were often heard at
night. They met large canoes and montarias occasionally coming down the
stream, and saw them hauled up on shore, while their owners were cooking
their breakfast in the woods; and once they came upon a solitary old
Indian in a very curious position. They had entered a small stream in
order to procure a few turtles' eggs, of which there were many in that
place buried in the sand-banks. On turning a point where the stream was
narrow and overhung with bushes and trees, they beheld a canoe tied to
the stem of a tree, and a hammock slung between two branches overhanging
the water. In this an old Indian lay extended, quite naked and fast
asleep! The old fellow had grown weary with paddling his little canoe;
and, finding the thicket along the river's banks so impenetrable that he
could not land, he slung his hammock over the water, and thus quietly
took his siesta. A flock of paroquets were screaming like little green
demons just above him, and several alligators gave him a passing glance
as they floundered heavily in the water below; but the red man cared not
for such trifles. Almost involuntarily Martin began to hum the popular
"Hushy ba, baby, on the tree top;
When the wind blows the cradle will rock."
"Arrah, if he was only two foot lower, its thirty pair o' long teeth
would be stuck into his flank in wan minute, or I'm no prophet," said
Barney, with a broad grin.
"Suppose we give him a touch with the paddle in passing,"
At this moment Barney started up, shaded his eyes with his hand, and,
after gazing for a few seconds at some object ahead of the canoe, he gave
utterance to an exclamation of mingled surprise and consternation.
THE GREAT ANACONDA'S DINNER--BARNEY GETS A FRIGHT--TURTLES' EGGS, OMELETS
AND ALLIGATORS' TAILS--SENHOR ANTONIO'S PLANTATION--PREPARATIONS FOR A
The object which called forth the cry from our Irish friend, as related
in the last chapter, was neither more nor less than a serpent of
dimensions more enormous than Barney had ever before conceived of. It was
upwards of sixteen feet long, and nearly as thick as a man's body; but
about the neck it was three times that size. This serpent was not,
indeed, of the largest size. In South America they grow to nearly forty
feet in length. But it was fabulously gigantic in the eyes of our
adventurers, who had never seen a serpent of any kind before.
"Oh!" cried Martin, eagerly, "that must be an anaconda. Is it not?" he
inquired, turning to the old trader.
"Yees; it dead," was the short reply.
"So it is!" cried Martin, who, on a nearer approach, observed that the
brute's body was cut in two just below the swelling at the neck.
"Now, did ye iver," cried Barney with increased surprise, "see a sarpint
with a cow's horns growin' out at its mouth? Put ashore, old boy; we must
have a Vestigation o' this remarkable cratur."
The canoe was soon aground, and in another minute the three travellers
busily engaged in turning over the carcass of the huge reptile, which
they found, to the amazement of Martin and Barney, had actually
swallowed an ox whole, with the exception of the horns, which protruded
from its mouth!
After much questioning, in bad Portuguese, broken English, and remarkable
signs, Martin succeeded in drawing from the old trader the information
that anacondas of a large size are often in the habit of thus bolting
horses and oxen at a mouthful.
There is not the slightest exaggeration in this fact. Readers who are
inclined to disbelieve it may refer to the works of Wallace and Gardner
on Brazil,--authorities which cannot be doubted.
The reptile commences by patiently watching until an unfortunate animal
strays near to where it is lying, when it darts upon it, encircles it in
its massive coils, and crushes it to death in an instant. Then it
squeezes the body and broken bones into a shapeless mass; after which it
licks the carcass all over, and covers it with a thick coating of saliva.
Having thus prepared its mouthful, the andaconda begins at the tail and
gradually engulfs its victim, while its elastic jaws, and throat, and
stomach are distended sufficiently to let it in; after which it lies in a
torpid state for many weeks, till the morsel is digested, when it is
ready for another meal. A horse goes down entire, but a cow sticks at the
horns, which the anaconda cannot swallow. They are allowed to protrude
from its mouth until they decay and drop off.
They were at a loss at first to account for the creature being killed;
but the old trader suggested that it had been found in a torpid state,
and slain by the Indian whom they had seen a short time ago enjoying his
siesta among the trees.
Having cut it open, in order to convince themselves beyond a doubt that
it had swallowed an entire ox, Martin and the old trader re-embarked in
the canoe, and Barney was on the point of joining them when the bushes
close beside him were slightly stirred. Looking quickly round, he beheld
the head and the glittering eyes of another anaconda, apparently as large
as the dead one, ready to dart upon him,--at least so he fancied; but he
did not wait to give it a chance. He fled instantly, and sprang towards
the boat, which he nearly upset as he leaped into it, and pushed out into
the stream. On reaching the middle of the river they looked back, but the
anaconda was gone.
Soon after this they came to a long sandbank, where the old trader said
they should find as many turtles' eggs as they wished for, although to
Barney and Martin there seemed to be nothing on the bank at all. The
fresh-water turtle of the Amazon, of which there are various species, is
one of the most useful of reptiles. Its flesh supplies abundance of good
food; and the eggs, besides being eaten, afford an excellent oil. The
largest species grow to the length of three feet, and have a flattish
oval shell of a dark colour, and quite smooth. Turtles lay their eggs
about the beginning of September, when the sand-banks begin to be
uncovered. They scrape deep holes for them, and cover them carefully
over, beating down the sand quite flat, and walking across the place
several times, for the purpose of concealment. The eggs are then left to
be hatched by the heat of the sun. But, alas for the poor turtles! men
are too clever for them. The eggs are collected by the natives in
thousands, and, when oil is to be made of them, they are thrown into a
canoe, smashed and mixed up together, and left to stand, when the oil
rises to the top, and is skimmed off and boiled. It keeps well, and is
used both for lamps and cooking. Very few of the millions of eggs that
are annually laid arrive at maturity.
When the young turtles issue forth and run to the water, there are many
enemies watching for them. Great alligators open their jaws and swallow
them by hundreds; jaguars come out of the forests and feed upon them;
eagles and buzzards and wood ibises are there, too, to claim their share
of the feast; and, if they are fortunate enough to escape all these,
there are many large and ravenous fishes ready to seize them in the
stream. It seems a marvel that any escape at all.
In a few minutes the old trader scraped up about a hundred eggs, to the
immense satisfaction of Martin and Barney. Then he took a bow and arrow
from the bottom of the montaria and shot a large turtle in the water,
while his companions kindled a fire, intending to dine. Only the nose of
the turtle was visible above water; but the old man was so expert in the
use of the bow, that he succeeded in transfixing the soft part of the
animal's neck with an arrow, although that part was under water. It was a
large turtle, and very fat and heavy, so that it was with difficulty the
trader lifted it upon his old shoulders and bore it in triumph to the
spot where his companions were busily engaged with their cooking
operations. Turtles are frequently shot with the arrow by the natives;
they are also taken in great numbers with the hook and the net.
Dinner was soon ready. Barney concocted an immense and savoury omelet,
and the old trader cooked an excellent turtle-steak, while Martin
prepared a junk of jaguar meat, which he roasted, being curious to taste
it, as he had been told that the Indians like it very much. It was pretty
good, but not equal to the turtle-eggs. The shell of the egg is leathery,
and the yolk only is eaten. The Indians sometimes cat them raw, mixed
with farina. Cakes of farina, and excellent coffee, concluded their
repast; and Barney declared he had never had such a satisfactory "blow
out" in his life; a sentiment with which Martin entirely agreed, and the
old trader--if one might judge from the expression of his black
For many weeks our adventurers continued to ascend the Amazon, sometimes
sailing before the wind; at other times, when it fell calm, pushing the
montaria up the current by means of long poles, or advancing more easily
with the paddles. Occasionally they halted for a day at the residence of
a wealthy cacao planter, in order to sell him some merchandise; for which
purpose the canoe was unloaded, and the bales were opened out for his
inspection. Most of these planters were Brazilians, a few were Yankee
adventurers, and one or two were Scotch and English; but nearly all had
married Brazilian ladies, who, with their daughters, proved good
customers to the old trader. Some of these ladies were extremely "purty
craturs," as Barney expressed it; but most of them were totally
uneducated and very ignorant,--not knowing half so much as a child of
seven or eight years old in more favoured lands. They were very fond of
fine dresses and ornaments, of which considerable supplies were sent to
them from Europe and the United States, in exchange for the valuable
produce of their country. But, although their dresses were fine and
themselves elegant, their houses were generally very poor affairs--made
of wood and thatched with broad leaves; and it was no uncommon thing to
see a lady, who seemed from her gay dress to be fitted for a
drawing-room, seated on an earthen floor. But there were all sorts of
extremes in this strange land; for at the next place they came to,
perhaps, they found a population of Negroes and Indians, and most of the
grown-up people were half naked, while all the children were entirely so.
At one plantation, where they resolved to spend a few days, the owner had
a pond which was much frequented by alligators. These he was in the habit
of hunting periodically, for the sake of their fat, which he converted
into oil. At the time of their arrival, he was on the eve of starting on
a hunting expedition to the lake, which was about eight miles distant; so
Barney and Martin determined to go and "see the fun," as the latter said.
"Martin, lad," remarked Barney, as they followed the Negro slave who had
been sent by Senhor Antonio, the planter, to conduct them to the lake,
while he remained behind for an hour or two to examine the bales of the
old trader; "this is the quarest country, I believe, that iver was made;
what with bastes, and varmints, and riptiles, and traes, and bushes, and
rivers, it bates all creation."
"Certainly it does, Barney; and it is a pity there are so few people in
it who know how to make use of the things that are scattered all around
them. I'm inclined to think the hermit was right when he said that they
wanted the Bible. They are too far sunk in laziness and idleness to be
raised up by anything else. Just look," continued Martin, glancing round,
"what a wonderful place this is! It seems as if all the birds and curious
trees in Brazil had congregated here to meet us."
"So't does," said Barney, stopping to gaze on the scene through which
they were passing, with an expression of perplexity on his face, as if he
found the sight rather too much even for _his_ comprehension. Besides the
parrots and scarlet and yellow macaws, and other strange-looking birds
which we have elsewhere mentioned, there were long-tailed light-coloured
cuckoos flying about from tree to tree, not calling like the cuckoo of
Europe at all, but giving forth a sound like the creaking of a rusty
hinge; there were hawks and buzzards of many different kinds, and
red-breasted orioles in the bushes, and black vultures flying overhead,
and Muscovy ducks sweeping past with whizzing wings, and flocks of the
great wood-ibis sailing in the air on noiseless pinions, and hundreds of
other birds that it would require an ornithologist to name; and myriads
of insects,--especially ants and spiders, great and small,--that no
entomologist could chronicle in a lifetime; all these were heard and seen
at once; while of the animals that were heard, but not so often seen,
there were black and spotted jaguars, and pacas, and cotias, and
armadillos, and deer, and many others, that would take _pages_ to
enumerate and whole books to describe. But the noise was the great point.
That was the thing that took Martin and Barney quite aback, although it
was by no means new to them; but they could not get used to it. And no
wonder! Ten thousand paroquets shrieking passionately, like a hundred
knife-grinders at work, is no joke; especially when their melodies are
mingled with the discordant cries of herons, and bitterns, and cranes,
and the ceaseless buzz and hum of insects, like the bagpipe's drone, and
the dismal croaking of boat-bills and frogs,--one kind of which latter,
by the way, doesn't croak at all, but _whistles_, ay, better than many a
bird! The universal hubbub is tremendous! I tell you, reader, that you
_don't_ understand it, and you _can't_ understand it; and if, after I had
used the utmost excess of exaggerated language to convey a correct
impression of the reality, you were to imagine that you really _did_
understand it, you would be very lamentably mistaken--that's all!
Nevertheless, you must not run away with the idea that the whole empire
of Brazil is like this. There are dark thick solitudes in these vast
forests, which are solemn and silent enough at times; and there are wide
grassy campos, and great sandy plains, where such sounds are absent. Yet
there are also thousands of such spots as I have just described, where
all nature, in earth, air, and water, is instinct with noisy animal life.
After two hours' walk, Martin and his companion reached the lake, and
here active preparations were making for the alligator hunt.
"Is that the only place ye have to spind the night in, Sambo?" said
Barney to their conductor, as he pointed to a wooden shed near which some
fifteen or twenty Negro slaves were overhauling the fishing tackle.
"Yis, massa," answered the black, showing his white teeth; "dat is de
bottle of dis great city." Sambo could speak a little English, having
wrought for several years on the coffee plantation of a Yankee settler.
He was a bit of a wag, too, much to the indignation of his grave master,
the Senhor Antonio, who abhorred jesting.
"Ye're too cliver, avic," said Barney, with a patronizing smile; "take
care ye don't use up yer intellect too fast. It hurts the constitution in
"I say, Barney," cried Martin, who had gone ahead of his companions,
"come here, man, and just look at this pond. It's literally crammed full
"Musha, but there's more alligators than wather, I belave!"
The pond was indeed swarming with these ferocious reptiles, which were
constantly thrusting their ugly snouts above the surface and then
disappearing with a flourish of their powerful tails. During the rainy
season this lake was much larger, and afforded ample room for its
inhabitants; but at the height of the dry season, which it was at this
time, there was little water, and it was much overstocked. When
alligators are thus put upon short allowance of water, they frequently
bury themselves in the wet mud, and lie dormant for a long time, while
the water continues to retire and leaves them buried. But when the first
shower of the rainy season falls, they burst open their tomb and drag
their dry bodies to the lake or river on whose margin they went to sleep.
An hour or two later the Senhor Antonio arrived; but as it was getting
dark, nothing could be done until the following morning; so they slung
their hammocks under the wooden shed on the margin of the lake, and, in
order to save themselves as much as possible from the bites of the
tormenting mosquitoes, went to sleep with their heads tied up in their
handkerchiefs, and their hands thrust into their breeches pockets! The
occasional splash and snort of contending alligators, about twenty yards
off, varied the monotony of the hours of darkness, while the frogs and
cranes and jaguars sang their lullaby.
AN ALLIGATOR HUNT--REMARKABLE EXPLOSIONS--THE RAINY SEASON USHERED IN BY
AN AWFUL RESURRECTION
At sunrise an expressive shout in Portuguese set the black slaves on
their feet; and, after a hasty breakfast of alligator-tail and farina,
they commenced operations. Alligator-tail is by no means bad food, and
after the first mouthful,--taken with hesitation and swallowed with
difficulty,--Martin and Barney both pronounced it "capital." Sambo, who
had cooked the delicate morsel, and stood watching them, smacked his lips
and added, "Fuss rate."
All being now ready for the hunt, a number of Negroes entered the
water, which was nowhere very deep, with long poles in their hands.
This appeared to Martin and Barney a very reckless and dangerous thing
to do, as no doubt it was. Nevertheless accidents, they were told, very
Sambo, who was the overseer of the party, was the first to dash up to the
middle in the water. "Hi," exclaimed that dingy individual, making a
torrent of remarks in Portuguese, while he darted his long pole hither
and thither; then, observing that Martin and Barney were gazing at him
open mouthed, he shouted, "Look out, boys! here Jim comes! Take care, ole
feller, or he jump right down you' throat! hi-i-i!"
As he spoke, a large alligator, having been rudely stirred up from his
muddy bed, floundered on the surface of the lake and Sambo instantly
gave it a thump over the back and a blow under the ribs; which had the
effect of driving it in the direction of the shore. Here a number of
Negroes were ready for him; and the moment he came within reach, a coil
of rope with a noose on the end of it, called a lasso, was adroitly
thrown over the reptile's head: ten or twelve men then hauled the lasso
and dragged it ashore amid shouts of triumph. This alligator was twenty
feet long, with an enormous misshapen head and fearful rows of teeth
that were terrible to behold. The monster did not submit to be captured,
however, without a struggle; and the Negroes grew wild with excitement
as they yelled and leaped madly about seeking to avoid its dangerous
jaws and the blows of its powerful tail. After some trouble, a second
lasso was thrown over the tail, which was thus somewhat restrained in
its movements; and Sambo, approaching cautiously with an axe, cut a deep
gash just at the root of that formidable appendage, which rendered it
harmless. "Hi-i," shouted Sambo in triumph, as he sprang towards the
animal's head, and inflicted a similar gash in the neck; "dare, you
quite finish, ole feller."
"Musha but that's thrue!" ejaculated Barney, who stood staring at the
whole proceeding like one in a trance. "Did ye iver git a bite, Sambo?"
Barney received no answer, for his sable friend was already up to his
waist in the water with five or six of his brethren, who were flourishing
their long poles and driving the snorting alligators towards the shore,
where their comrades, with lassos and harpoons, awaited them. Sometimes
they harpooned the alligators, and then, fastening lassos to their heads
and tails, or to a hind leg, dragged them ashore; at other times they
threw the lasso over their heads at once, without taking the trouble to
harpoon them. It was a terrible and a wonderful sight to witness the
Negroes in the very midst of a shoal of these creatures, any one of which
could have taken a man into his jaws quite easily,--whence, once between
these long saw-like rows of teeth, no man could have escaped to tell how
sharp they were. The creatures were so numerous that it was impossible to
thrust a pole into the mud without stirring up one of them; but they were
so terrified at the sudden attack and the shouts of the Negroes, that
they thought only of escape.
Suddenly there arose a great cry. One of the lassos had snapt, and the
alligator was floundering back into the water, when Sambo rushed in up to
the arm-pits, and caught the end of the rope. At the same moment two
alligators made at the Negro with open jaws. It is probable that the
animals went in his direction by mere accident, and would have brushed
past him in blind haste; but to Martin and Barney it seemed as if the
poor man's fate were sealed, and they uttered a loud shout of horror as
they bounded simultaneously into the water, not knowing what to do, but
being unable to restrain the impulse to spring to Sambo's aid.
Fortunately, however, one of the other Negroes was near Sambo. He sprang
forward, and dealt the alligators two tremendous blows with his pole on
their snouts, right and left, which turned them off. Then other Negroes
came up, laid hold of Sambo, who would not let go his hold and was being
dragged into deep water, caught the end of the rope, and in ten minutes
hauled their victim to the shore, when it was quickly despatched in the
By this time about a dozen alligators, varying from ten to twenty feet in
length, had been captured; and Barney at length became so bold that he
requested to be allowed to try his hand at throwing the lasso, the
dexterous use of which by the Negroes had filled him with admiration. A
loud burst of laughter greeted this proposal, and Sambo showed a set of
teeth that might have made even the alligators envious, as he handed the
Irishman a coil of line.
"Now don't miss, Barney," cried Martin, laughing heartily, as his comrade
advanced to the edge of the lake and watched his opportunity. "Mind, your
credit as an expert hunter is at stake."
The Senhor Antonio stood close behind the Irishman, with his arms folded
and a sarcastic smile on his countenance.
"Don't send it down him's throat," yelled Sambo. "Hi-i; dat's de vay to
swing urn round. Stir um up, boys!--poke um up, villains, hi!"
The Negroes in the water obeyed with frantic glee, and the terrified
monsters surged about in all directions, so that Barney found it almost
impossible to fix his attention on any particular individual. At length
he made up his mind, whirled the coil round his head, discharged the
noose, caught the Senhor Antonio round the neck, and jerked him violently
to the ground!
There was a simultaneous pause of horror among the slaves; but it was too
much for their risible faculties to withstand; with one accord they
rushed howling into the water to conceal their laughter, and began to
stir up and belabour the alligators with their poles, until the surface
of the lake was a sheet of foam.
Meanwhile the Senhor Antonio sprang to his feet and began to bluster
considerably in Portuguese; but poor Barney seemed awfully crest-fallen,
arid the deep concern which wrinkled his face, and the genuine regret
that sounded in the tones of his voice, at length soothed the indignant
Brazilian, who frowned gravely, and waving his hand, as if to signify
that Barney had his forgiveness, he stalked up to the shed, lighted a
cigarito, and lay down in his hammock.
"Well!" said Martin, in an under-tone, "you did it that time, Barney.
I verily thought the old fellow was hanged. He became quite livid in
"Och! bad luck to the lasso, say I. May I niver more see the swate groves
o' Killarney if iver I meddle with wan again."
"Hi-i; you is fuss rate," said Sambo, as he and his comrades returned and
busied themselves in cutting up the dead alligators. "You beat de Niggers
all to not'ing. Not any of dis yere chiles eber lasso Sen'or Antonio yet;
It was some time before the Negroes could effectually subdue their
merriment, but at length they succeeded, and applied themselves
vigorously to the work of cutting out the fat. The alligators were all
cut open,--a work of no small difficulty, owing to the hard scales
which covered them as with coats of mail; then the fat, which
accumulates in large quantities about the intestines, was cut out and
made up into packets in the skins of the smaller ones, which were taken
off for this purpose.
These packets were afterwards carried to the Senhor's dwelling, and the
fat melted down into oil, which served for burning in lamps quite as well
as train oil. The flesh of a smaller species of alligator, some of which
were also taken, is considered excellent food; and, while the Negroes
were engaged in their work, Barney made himself useful by kindling a
large fire and preparing a savoury dish for "all hands," plentifully
seasoned with salt and pepper, with which condiments the country is well
supplied, and of which the people are exceedingly fond.
There was also caught in this lake a large species of fish called
pirarucu, which, strangely enough, found it possible to exist in spite of
alligators. They were splendid creatures, from five to six feet long, and
covered with large scales more than an inch in diameter, which were
beautifully marked and spotted with red. These fish were most delicately
flavoured, and Barney exerted his talents to the utmost in order to do
them justice. Martin also did his best to prove himself a willing and
efficient assistant, and cleaned and washed the pirarucu steaks and the
junks of alligator-tail to admiration. In short, the exertions of the two
strangers in this way quite won the hearts of the Negroes, and after
dinner the Senhor Antonio had quite recovered his good humour.
While staying at this place Martin had an opportunity of seeing a great
variety of the curious fish with which the Amazon is stocked. These are
so numerous that sometimes, when sailing up stream with a fair wind, they
were seen leaping all round the canoe in shoals, so that it was only
necessary to strike the water with the paddles in order to kill a few.
The peixe boi, or cow-fish, is one of the most curious of the inhabitants
of the Amazon. It is about six feet long, and no less than five feet in
circumference at its thickest part. It is a perfectly smooth, and what we
may call _dumpy_ fish, of a leaden colour, with a semi-circular flat
tail, and a large mouth with thick fleshy lips resembling those of a cow.
There are stiff bristles on the lips, and a few scattered hairs over the
body. It has two fins just behind the head; and below these, in the
females, there are two breasts, from which good white milk flows when
pressure is applied. The cow-fish feeds on grass at the borders of rivers
and lakes; and when suckling its young it carries it in its fins or
flippers, and clasps the little one to its breast, just as a mother
clasps her baby! It is harpooned and taken for the sake of its fat, from
which oil is made. The flesh is also very good, resembling beef in
quality, and it was much relished by Martin and Barney, who frequently
dined on beef-steaks cut from this remarkable cow-fish.
There was also another fish which surprised our adventurers not a little
the first time they met with it. One evening Senhor Antonio had ordered
a net to be thrown into the river, being desirous of procuring a few
fresh fish for the use of his establishment. The Indians and Negroes
soon after commenced dragging, and in a few minutes afterwards the sandy
bank of the river was strewn with an immense variety of small fish,
among which were a few of a larger kind. Martin and Barney became
excited as they saw them leaping and spluttering about, and ran in
amongst them to assist in gathering them into baskets. But scarcely had
the latter advanced a few steps when there was a loud report, as if a
pistol had gone off under his feet.
"Hallo!" exclaimed the Irishman, leaping two feet into the air. On his
reaching the ground again, a similar explosion occurred, and Barney
dashed aside, overturning Martin in his haste. Martin's heel caught on a
stone, and he fell flat on the ground, when instantly there was a report
as if he had fallen upon and burst an inflated paper bag. The natives
laughed loud and long, while the unfortunate couple sprang up the bank,
half inclined to think that an earthquake was about to take place. The
cause of their fright was then pointed out. It was a species of small
fish which has the power of inflating the fore part of its body into a
complete ball, and which, when stamped upon, explodes with a loud noise.
There were great numbers of these scattered among the other fish, and
also large quantities of a little fish armed with long spines, which
inflict a serious wound when trodden upon.
At this place adventures on a small scale crowded upon our travellers
so thickly that Martin began to look upon sudden surprises as a
necessary of life, and Barney said that "if it wint on any longer he
feared his eye-brows would get fixed near the top of his head, and
niver more come down,"
One evening, soon after their departure from the residence of Senhor
Antonio, the old trader was sitting steering in the stern of his canoe,
which was running up before a pretty stiff breeze. Martin was lying on
his back, as was his wont in such easy circumstances, amusing himself
with Marmoset; and Barney was reclining in the bow talking solemnly to
Grampus; when suddenly the wind ceased, and it became a dead calm. The
current was so strong that they could scarcely paddle against it, so they
resolved to go no further that night, and ran the canoe ashore on a low
point of mud, intending to encamp under the trees, no human habitation
being near them. The mud bank was hard and dry, and cracked with the
heat; for it was now the end of the dry season, and the river had long
since retired from it.
"Not a very comfortable place, Barney," said Martin, looking round, as he
threw down one of the bales which he had just carried up from the canoe.
"Hallo! there's a hut, I declare. Come, that's a comfort anyhow."
As he spoke Martin pointed to one of the solitary and rudely constructed
huts or sheds which the natives of the banks of the Amazon sometimes
erect during the dry season, and forsake when the river overflows its
banks. The hut was a very old one, and had evidently been inundated, for
the floor was a mass of dry, solid mud, and the palm-leaf roof was much
damaged. However, it was better than nothing, so they slung their
hammocks under it, kindled a fire, and prepared supper. While they were
busy discussing this meal, a few dark and ominous clouds gathered in the
sky, and the old trader, glancing uneasily about him, gave them to
understand that he feared the rainy season was going to begin.
"Well then," said Barney, lighting his pipe and stretching himself at
full length in his hammock, with a leg swinging to and fro over one side
and his head leaning over the other, as was his wont when he felt
particularly comfortable in mind and body; "Well then, avic, let it
begin. If we're sure to have it anyhow, the sooner it begins the better,
to my thinkin'."
"I don't know that," said Martin, who was seated on a large stone beside
the fire sipping a can of coffee, which he shared equally with Marmoset.
The monkey sat on his shoulder gazing anxiously into his face, with an
expression that seemed as if the creature were mentally exclaiming, "Now
me, now you; now me, now you," during the whole process. "It would be
better, I think, if we were in a more sheltered position before it
begins. Ha! there it comes though, in earnest."
A smart shower began to fall as he spoke, and, percolating through the
old roof, descended rather copiously on the mud floor. In a few minutes
there was a heaving of the ground under their feet!
"Ochone!" cried Barney, taking his pipe out of his mouth and looking down
with a disturbed expression, "there's an arthquake, I do belave."
For a few seconds there was a dead silence.
"Nonsense," whispered Martin uneasily.
"It's dramin' I must have been," sighed Barney, resuming his pipe.
Again the ground heaved and cracked, and Martin and the old trader had
just time to spring to their feet when the mud floor of the hut burst
upwards and a huge dried-up-looking alligator crawled forth, as if from
the bowels of the earth! It glanced up at Barney; opened its tremendous
jaws, and made as if it would run at the terrified old trader; then,
observing the doorway, it waddled out, and, trundling down the bank,
plunged into the river and disappeared.
Barney could find no words to express his feelings, but continued to gaze
with an unbelieving expression down into the hole out of which the
monster had come, and in which it had buried itself many weeks before,
when the whole country was covered with soft mud. At that time it had
probably regarded the shelter of the inundated hut as of some advantage,
and had lain down to repose. The water retiring had left it there buried,
and--as we have already mentioned in reference to alligators--when the
first shower of the rainy season fell it was led by instinct to burst its
earthy prison, and seek its native element.
Before Barney or his companions could recover from their surprise, they
had other and more urgent matters to think about. The dark clouds burst
overhead, and the rain descended like a continued water-spout,--not in
drops but in heavy sheets and masses; the roof of the hut gave way in
several places, driving them into a corner for shelter; the river began
to rise rapidly, soon flooding the hut; and, when darkness overspread the
land, they found themselves drenched to the skin and suspended in their
hammocks over a running stream of water!
This event brought about an entire change in the aspect of nature, and
was the cause of a sad and momentous era in the adventures of Martin
Rattler and his companion.
THE CAPO--INTERRUPTIONS--GRAMPUS AND MARMOSET--CANOEING IN THE WOODS--A
NIGHT ON A FLOATING ISLAND
There is a peculiar and very striking feature in the character of the
great Amazon, which affects the distinctive appearance of that river and
materially alters the manners and customs of those who dwell beside it.
This peculiarity is the periodical overflow of its low banks; and the
part thus overflowed is called the _Gapo_. It extends from a little above
the town of San-tarem up to the confines of Peru, a distance of about
seventeen hundred miles; and varies in width from one to twenty miles: so
that the country when inundated assumes in many places the appearance of
an extensive lake with forest trees growing out of the water; and
travellers may proceed many hundreds of miles in their canoes without
once entering the main stream of the river. At this time the natives
become almost aquatic animals. Several tribes of Indians inhabit the
Gapo; such as the Purupurus, Muras; and others. They build small movable
huts on the sandy shores during the dry season, and on rafts in the wet
They subsist on turtle, cow-fish, and the other fish with which the river
abounds, and live almost entirely in their canoes; while at night they
frequently sling their hammocks between the branches of trees and sleep
suspended over the deep water.
Some of the animals found in the Gapo are peculiar to it, being attracted
by the fruit-trees which are found growing only there. The Indians assert
that every tree that grows in the Gapo is distinct from all those that
grow in other districts; and when we consider that these trees are
submerged for six months every year, till they are tall enough to rise
above the highest water-level, we may well believe their constitution is
somewhat different from those that are reared on ordinary ground. The
Indians are wonderfully expert in finding their way among the trackless
mazes of the Gapo, being guided by the broken twigs and scraped bark that
indicate the route followed by previous travellers.
Owing to this sudden commencement of the rainy season, the old trader
resolved to return to a small village and there spend several months.
Martin and Barney were much annoyed at this; for the former was impatient
to penetrate further into the interior, and the latter had firmly made up
his mind to visit the diamond mines, about which he entertained the most
extravagant notions. He did not, indeed, know in the least how to get to
these mines, nor even in which direction they lay; but he had a strong
impression that as long as he continued travelling he was approaching
gradually nearer to them, and he had no doubt whatever that he would get
to them at last. It was, therefore, with no small degree of impatience
that they awaited the pleasure of their sable master, who explained to
them that when the waters reached their height he would proceed.
Everything comes to an end, even a long story. After many weeks had
passed slowly by, their sojourn in this village came to an end too. It
was a dull place, very dull, and they had nothing to do; and the few
poor people who lived there seemed to have very little or nothing to do.
We will, therefore, pass it over, and resume our narrative at the point
when the old trader announced to Barney that the flood was at its height
and they would now continue their journey. They embarked once more in
their old canoe with their goods and chattels, not forgetting Marmoset
and Grampus, whose friendship during their inactive life had become more
close than ever. This friendship was evidenced chiefly by the
matter-of-course way in which Grampus permitted the monkey to mount his
back and ride about the village and through the woods, where dry places
could be found, as long as she pleased. Marmoset was fonder of riding
than walking, so that Grampus had enough to do; but he did not put
himself much about. He trotted, walked, galloped, and lay down, when,
and where, and as often as he chose, without any reference to the small
monkey; and Marmoset held on through thick and thin, and nibbled nuts or
whatever else it picked up, utterly regardless of where it was going to
or the pace at which it went. It was sharp, though, that small monkey,
sharp as a needle, and had its little black eyes glancing on all sides;
so that when Grampus dashed through underwood, and the branches
threatened to sweep it off, it ducked its head; or, lying flat down,
shut its eyes and held on with all its teeth and four hands like a
limpet to a rock. Marmoset was not careful as to her attitude on
dog-back. She sat with her face to the front or rear, just as her fancy
or convenience dictated.
After leaving the village they travelled for many days and nights through
the Gapo. Although afloat on the waters of the Amazon, they never entered
the main river after the first few days, but wound their way, in a
creeping, serpentine sort of fashion, through small streams and lakes and
swamps, from which the light was partially excluded by the thick foliage
of the forest. It was a strange scene that illimitable watery waste, and
aroused new sensations in the breasts of our travellers. As Barney said,
it made him "feel quite solemn-like and eerie to travel through the woods
The canoe was forced under branches and among dense bushes, till they got
into a part where the trees were loftier and a deep gloom prevailed. Here
the lowest branches were on a level with the surface of the water, and
many of them were putting forth beautiful flowers. On one occasion they
came to a grove of small palms, which were so deep in the water that the
leaves were only a few feet above the surface. Indeed they were so low
that one of them caught Martin's straw-hat and swept it overboard.
"Hallo! stop!" cried Martin, interrupting the silence so suddenly
that Grampus sprang up with a growl, under the impression that game
was in view; and Marmoset scampered off behind a packing-box with an
"What's wrong, lad?" inquired Barney.
"Back water, quick! my hat's overboard, and there's an alligator going to
snap it up. Look alive, man!"
In a few seconds the canoe was backed and the straw-hat rescued from its
"It's an ill wind that blows nae guid, as the Scotch say," remarked
Barney, rising in the canoe and reaching towards something among the
overhanging branches. "Here's wan o' them trees that old black-face calls
a maraja, with some splendid bunches o' fruit on it. Hould yer hat,
Martin; there's more nor enough for supper anyhow,"
As he spoke a rustling in the leaves told that monkeys were watching us,
and Marmoset kept peeping up as if she half expected they might be
relations. But the moment the travellers caught sight of them they
bounded away screaming.
Having gathered as much fruit as they required, they continued their
voyage, and presently emerged into the pleasant sunshine in a large
grassy lake, which was filled with lilies and beautiful water-plants,
little yellow bladder-worts, with several other plants of which they knew
not the names; especially one with a thick swollen stalk, curious leaves,
and bright blue flowers. This lake was soon passed, and they again
entered into the gloomy forest, and paddled among the lofty trunks of the
trees, which rose like massive columns out of the deep water. There was
enough of animal life there, however, to amuse and interest them. The
constant plash of falling fruit showed that birds were feeding overhead.
Sometimes a flock of parrots or bright blue chatterers swept from tree to
tree, or atrogon swooped at a falling bunch of fruit and caught it ere it
reached the water; while ungainly toucans plumped clumsily down upon the
branches, and sat, in striking contrast, beside the lovely pompadours,
with their claret-coloured plumage and delicate white wings.
Vieing with these birds in splendour were several large bright-yellow
flowers of the creeping-plants, which twined round the trees. Some of
these plants had white, spotted, and purple blossoms; and there was one
splendid species, called by the natives the flor de Santa Anna--the
flower of St. Ann--which emitted a delightful odour and was four inches
Having traversed this part of the wood, they once more emerged upon the
main stream of the Amazon. It was covered with water-fowl. Large logs of
trees and numerous floating islands of grass were sailing down; and on
these sat hundreds of white gulls, demurely and comfortably voyaging to
the ocean; for the sea would be their final resting-place if they sat on
these logs and islands until they descended several hundreds of miles of
the great river.
"I wish," said Martin, after a long silence, during which the travellers
had been gazing on the watery waste as they paddled up stream--"I wish
that we could fall in with solid land, where we might have something
cooked. I'm desperately hungry now; but I don't see a spot of earth large
enough for a mosquito to rest his foot on."
"We'll jist have to take to farhina and wather," remarked Barney, laying
down his paddle and proceeding leisurely to light his pipe. "It's a
blissin' we've got baccy, any how. Tis mesilf that could niver git on
"I wish you joy of it, Barney. It may fill your mouth, but it can't stop
"Och, boy, it's little ye know! Sure it stops the cravin's o' hunger, and
kapes yer stumick from callin' out for iver, till ye fall in with
somethin' to ate."
"It does not seem to stop the mouth then, Barney, for you call out for
grub oftener than I do; and then you say that you couldn't get on without
it; so you're a slave to it, old boy. I wouldn't be a slave to anything
if I could help it."
"Martin, lad, ye're gittin' deep. Take care now, or ye'll be in
mettlefeesics soon. I say, ould black-face,"--Barney was not on ceremony
with the old trader,--"is there no land in thim parts at all?"
"No, not dis night,"
"Och, then, we'll have to git up a tree and try to cook somethin' there;
for I'm not goin' to work on flour and wather. Hallo! hould on! There's
an island, or the portrait o' wan! Port your helm, Naygur! hard aport!
The old man heard, but, as usual, paid no attention to the Irishman's
remarks; and the canoe would have passed straight on, had not Barney used
his bow-paddle so energetically that he managed to steer her, as he
expressed it, by the nose, and ran her against a mass of floating logs
which had caught firmly in a thicket, and were so covered with grass and
broken twigs as to have very much the appearance of a real island. Here
they landed, so to speak, kindled a small fire, made some coffee, roasted
a few fish, baked several cakes, and were soon as happy and comfortable
as hungry and wearied men usually are when they obtain rest and food.
"This is what I call jolly," remarked Barney.
"What's jolly?" inquired Martin.
"Why _this_, to be sure,--grub to begin with, and a smoke and a
convanient snooze in prospect,"
The hopes which Barney cherished, however, were destined to be blighted,
at least in part. To the victuals he did ample justice; the pipe was
delightful, and in good working order; but when they lay down to repose,
they were attacked by swarms of stinging ants, which the heat of the fire
had driven out of the old logs. These and mosquitoes effectually banished
sleep from their eye-lids, and caused them to reflect very seriously, and
to state to each other more than once very impressively, that, with all
their beauties and wonders, tropical lands had their disadvantages, and
there was no place like the "ould country," after all.
THE SAD AND MOMENTOUS ERA REFERRED TO AT THE CLOSE OF THE CHAPTER
PRECEDING THE LAST
One sultry evening, many weeks after our travellers had passed the
uncomfortable night on the floating island in the Gapo, they came to a
place where the banks of the river rose boldly up in rugged rocks and
hemmed in the waters of the Amazon, which were by this time somewhat
abated. Here they put ashore, intending to kindle their fire and encamp
for the night, having been up and hard at work since daybreak.
The evening was calm and beautiful, and the troublesome insects not so
numerous as usual,--probably owing to the nature of the ground. One or
two monkeys showed themselves for a moment, as if to enquire who was
there, and then ran away screaming; a porcupine also crossed their
path, and several small bright snakes, of a harmless species, glided
over the rocks, and sought refuge among the small bushes; but beyond
these there were few of the sights and sounds that were wont to greet
them in the forest.