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Through the Brazilian Wilderness by Theodore Roosevelt

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Etext prepared by John Bickers and Dagny

By Theodore Roosevelt

Etext prepared by Dagny, dagnypg@yahoo.com
and John Bickers, jbickers@ihug.co.nz





This is an account of a zoo-geographic reconnaissance through the
Brazilian hinterland.

The official and proper title of the expedition is that given it
by the Brazilian Government: Expedicao Scientifica Roosevelt-
Rondon. When I started from the United States, it was to make an
expedition, primarily concerned with mammalogy and ornithology,
for the American Museum of Natural History of New York. This was
undertaken under the auspices of Messrs. Osborn and Chapman,
acting on behalf of the Museum. In the body of this work I
describe how the scope of the expedition was enlarged, and how it
was given a geographic as well as a zoological character, in
consequence of the kind proposal of the Brazilian Secretary of
State for Foreign Affairs, General Lauro Muller. In its altered
and enlarged form the expedition was rendered possible only by the
generous assistance of the Brazilian Government. Throughout the
body of the work will be found reference after reference to my
colleagues and companions of the expedition, whose services to
science I have endeavored to set forth, and for whom I shall
always feel the most cordial friendship and regard.

September 1, 1914



One day in 1908, when my presidential term was coming to a close,
Father Zahm, a priest whom I knew, came in to call on me. Father Zahm
and I had been cronies for some time, because we were both of us fond
of Dante and of history and of science--I had always commended to
theologians his book, "Evolution and Dogma." He was an Ohio boy, and
his early schooling had been obtained in old-time American fashion in
a little log school; where, by the way, one of the other boys was
Januarius Aloysius MacGahan, afterward the famous war correspondent
and friend of Skobeloff. Father Zahm told me that MacGahan even at
that time added an utter fearlessness to chivalric tenderness for the
weak, and was the defender of any small boy who was oppressed by a
larger one. Later Father Zahm was at Notre Dame University, in
Indiana, with Maurice Egan, whom, when I was President, I appointed
minister to Denmark.

On the occasion in question Father Zahm had just returned from a trip
across the Andes and down the Amazon, and came in to propose that
after I left the presidency he and I should go up the Paraguay into
the interior of South America. At the time I wished to go to Africa,
and so the subject was dropped; but from time to time afterward we
talked it over. Five years later, in the spring of 1913, I accepted
invitations conveyed through the governments of Argentina and Brazil
to address certain learned bodies in these countries. Then it occurred
to me that, instead of making the conventional tourist trip purely by
sea round South America, after I had finished my lectures I would come
north through the middle of the continent into the valley of the
Amazon; and I decided to write Father Zahm and tell him my intentions.
Before doing so, however, I desired to see the authorities of the
American Museum of Natural History, in New York City, to find out
whether they cared to have me take a couple of naturalists with me
into Brazil and make a collecting trip for the museum.

Accordingly, I wrote to Frank Chapman, the curator of ornithology of
the museum, and accepted his invitation to lunch at the museum one day
early in June. At the lunch, in addition to various naturalists, to my
astonishment I also found Father Zahm; and as soon as I saw him I told
him I was now intending to make the South American trip. It appeared
that he had made up his mind that he would take it himself, and had
actually come on to see Mr. Chapman to find out if the latter could
recommend a naturalist to go with him; and he at once said he would
accompany me. Chapman was pleased when he found out that we intended
to go up the Paraguay and across into the valley of the Amazon,
because much of the ground over which we were to pass had not been
covered by collectors. He saw Henry Fairfield Osborn, the president of
the museum, who wrote me that the museum would be pleased to send
under me a couple of naturalists, whom, with my approval, Chapman
would choose.

The men whom Chapman recommended were Messrs. George K. Cherrie and
Leo E. Miller. I gladly accepted both. The former was to attend
chiefly to the ornithology and the latter to the mammalogy of the
expedition; but each was to help out the other. No two better men for
such a trip could have been found. Both were veterans of the tropical
American forests. Miller was a young man, born in Indiana, an
enthusiastic with good literary as well as scientific training. He was
at the time in the Guiana forests, and joined us at Barbados. Cherrie
was an older man, born in Iowa, but now a farmer in Vermont. He had a
wife and six children. Mrs. Cherrie had accompanied him during two or
three years of their early married life in his collecting trips along
the Orinoco. Their second child was born when they were in camp a
couple of hundred miles from any white man or woman. One night a few
weeks later they were obliged to leave a camping-place, where they had
intended to spend the night, because the baby was fretful, and its
cries attracted a jaguar, which prowled nearer and nearer in the
twilight until they thought it safest once more to put out into the
open river and seek a new resting-place. Cherrie had spent about
twenty-two years collecting in the American tropics. Like most of the
field-naturalists I have met, he was an unusually efficient and
fearless man; and willy-nilly he had been forced at times to vary his
career by taking part in insurrections. Twice he had been behind the
bars in consequence, on one occasion spending three months in a prison
of a certain South American state, expecting each day to be taken out
and shot. In another state he had, as an interlude to his
ornithological pursuits, followed the career of a gun-runner, acting
as such off and on for two and a half years. The particular
revolutionary chief whose fortunes he was following finally came into
power, and Cherrie immortalized his name by naming a new species of
ant-thrush after him--a delightful touch, in its practical combination
of those not normally kindred pursuits, ornithology and gun-running.

In Anthony Fiala, a former arctic explorer, we found an excellent man
for assembling equipment and taking charge of its handling and
shipment. In addition to his four years in the arctic regions, Fiala
had served in the New York Squadron in Porto Rico during the Spanish
War, and through his service in the squadron had been brought into
contact with his little Tennessee wife. She came down with her four
children to say good-by to him when the steamer left. My secretary,
Mr. Frank Harper, went with us. Jacob Sigg, who had served three years
in the United States Army, and was both a hospital nurse and a cook,
as well as having a natural taste for adventure, went as the personal
attendant of Father Zahm. In southern Brazil my son Kermit joined me.
He had been bridge building, and a couple of months previously, while
on top of a long steel span, something went wrong with the derrick, he
and the steel span coming down together on the rocky bed beneath. He
escaped with two broken ribs, two teeth knocked out, and a knee
partially dislocated, but was practically all right again when he
started with us.

In its composition ours was a typical American expedition. Kermit and
I were of the old Revolutionary stock, and in our veins ran about
every strain of blood that there was on this side of the water during
colonial times. Cherrie's father was born in Ireland, and his mother
in Scotland; they came here when very young, and his father served
throughout the Civil War in an Iowa cavalry regiment. His wife was of
old Revolutionary stock. Father Zahm's father was an Alsacian
immigrant, and his mother was partly of Irish and partly of old
American stock, a descendant of a niece of General Braddock. Miller's
father came from Germany, and his mother from France. Fiala's father
and mother were both from Bohemia, being Czechs, and his father had
served four years in the Civil War in the Union Army--his Tennessee
wife was of old Revolutionary stock. Harper was born in England, and
Sigg in Switzerland. We were as varied in religious creed as in ethnic
origin. Father Zahm and Miller were Catholics, Kermit and Harper
Episcopalians, Cherrie a Presbyterian, Fiala a Baptist, Sigg a
Lutheran, while I belonged to the Dutch Reformed Church.

For arms the naturalists took 16-bore shotguns, one of Cherrie's
having a rifle barrel underneath. The firearms for the rest of the
party were supplied by Kermit and myself, including my Springfield
rifle, Kermit's two Winchesters, a 405 and 30-40, the Fox 12-gauge
shotgun, and another 16-gauge gun, and a couple of revolvers, a Colt
and a Smith & Wesson. We took from New York a couple of canvas canoes,
tents, mosquito-bars, plenty of cheesecloth, including nets for the
hats, and both light cots and hammocks. We took ropes and pulleys
which proved invaluable on our canoe trip. Each equipped himself with
the clothing he fancied. Mine consisted of khaki, such as I wore in
Africa, with a couple of United States Army flannel shirts and a
couple of silk shirts, one pair of hob-nailed shoes with leggings, and
one pair of laced leather boots coming nearly to the knee. Both the
naturalists told me that it was well to have either the boots or
leggings as a protection against snake-bites, and I also had gauntlets
because of the mosquitoes and sand-flies. We intended where possible
to live on what we could get from time to time in the country, but we
took some United States Army emergency rations, and also ninety cans,
each containing a day's provisions for five men, made up by Fiala.

The trip I proposed to take can be understood only if there is a
slight knowledge of South American topography. The great mountain
chain of the Andes extends down the entire length of the western
coast, so close to the Pacific Ocean that no rivers of any importance
enter it. The rivers of South America drain into the Atlantic.
Southernmost South America, including over half of the territory of
the Argentine Republic, consists chiefly of a cool, open plains
country. Northward of this country, and eastward of the Andes, lies
the great bulk of the South American continent, which is included in
the tropical and the subtropical regions. Most of this territory is
Brazilian. Aside from certain relatively small stretches drained by
coast rivers, this immense region of tropical and subtropical America
east of the Andes is drained by the three great river systems of the
Plate, the Amazon, and the Orinoco. At their headwaters the Amazon and
the Orinoco systems are actually connected by a sluggish natural
canal. The headwaters of the northern affluents of the Paraguay and
the southern affluents of the Amazon are sundered by a stretch of high
land, which toward the east broadens out into the central plateau of
Brazil. Geologically this is a very ancient region, having appeared
above the waters before the dawning of the age of reptiles, or,
indeed, of any true land vertebrates on the globe. This plateau is a
region partly of healthy, rather dry and sandy, open prairie, partly
of forest. The great and low-lying basin of the Paraguay, which
borders it on the south, is one of the largest, and the still greater
basin of the Amazon, which borders it on the north, is the very
largest of all the river basins of the earth.

In these basins, but especially in the basin of the Amazon, and thence
in most places northward to the Caribbean Sea, lie the most extensive
stretches of tropical forest to be found anywhere. The forests of
tropical West Africa, and of portions of the Farther-Indian region,
are the only ones that can be compared with them. Much difficulty has
been experienced in exploring these forests, because under the
torrential rains and steaming heat the rank growth of vegetation
becomes almost impenetrable, and the streams difficult of navigation;
while white men suffer much from the terrible insect scourges and the
deadly diseases which modern science has discovered to be due very
largely to insect bites. The fauna and flora, however, are of great
interest. The American Museum was particularly anxious to obtain
collections from the divide between the headwaters of the Paraguay and
the Amazon, and from the southern affluents of the Amazon. Our purpose
was to ascend the Paraguay as nearly as possible to the head of
navigation, thence cross to the sources of one of the affluents of the
Amazon, and if possible descend it in canoes built on the spot. The
Paraguay is regularly navigated as high as boats can go. The starting-
point for our trip was to be Asuncion, in the state of Paraguay.

My exact plan of operations was necessarily a little indefinite, but
on reaching Rio de Janeiro the minister of foreign affairs, Mr. Lauro
Muller, who had been kind enough to take great personal interest in my
trip, informed me that he had arranged that on the headwaters of the
Paraguay, at the town of Caceres, I would be met by a Brazilian Army
colonel, himself chiefly Indian by blood, Colonel Rondon. Colonel
Rondon has been for a quarter of a century the foremost explorer of
the Brazilian hinterland. He was at the time in Manaos, but his
lieutenants were in Caceres and had been notified that we were coming.

More important still, Mr. Lauro Muller--who is not only an efficient
public servant but a man of wide cultivation, with a quality about him
that reminded me of John Hay--offered to help me make my trip of much
more consequence than I had originally intended. He has taken a keen
interest in the exploration and development of the interior of Brazil,
and he believed that my expedition could be used as a means toward
spreading abroad a more general knowledge of the country. He told me
that he would co-operate with me in every way if I cared to undertake
the leadership of a serious expedition into the unexplored portion of
western Matto Grosso, and to attempt the descent of a river which
flowed nobody knew whither, but which the best-informed men believed
would prove to be a very big river, utterly unknown to geographers. I
eagerly and gladly accepted, for I felt that with such help the trip
could be made of much scientific value, and that a substantial
addition could be made to the geographical knowledge of one of the
least-known parts of South America. Accordingly, it was arranged that
Colonel Rondon and some assistants and scientists should meet me at or
below Corumba, and that we should attempt the descent of the river, of
which they had already come across the headwaters.

I had to travel through Brazil, Uruguay, the Argentine, and Chile for
six weeks to fulfil my speaking engagements. Fiala, Cherrie, Miller,
and Sigg left me at Rio, continuing to Buenos Aires in the boat in
which we had all come down from New York. From Buenos Aires they went
up the Paraguay to Corumba, where they awaited me. The two naturalists
went first, to do all the collecting that was possible; Fiala and Sigg
travelled more leisurely, with the heavy baggage.

Before I followed them I witnessed an incident worthy of note from the
standpoint of a naturalist, and of possible importance to us because
of the trip we were about to take. South America, even more than
Australia and Africa, and almost as much as India, is a country of
poisonous snakes. As in India, although not to the same degree, these
snakes are responsible for a very serious mortality among human
beings. One of the most interesting evidences of the modern advance in
Brazil is the establishment near Sao Paulo of an institution
especially for the study of these poisonous snakes, so as to secure
antidotes to the poison and to develop enemies to the snakes
themselves. We wished to take into the interior with us some bottles
of the anti-venom serum, for on such an expedition there is always a
certain danger from snakes. On one of his trips Cherrie had lost a
native follower by snake-bite. The man was bitten while out alone in
the forest, and, although he reached camp, the poison was already
working in him, so that he could give no intelligible account of what
had occurred, and he died in a short time.

Poisonous snakes are of several different families, but the most
poisonous ones, those which are dangerous to man, belong to the two
great families of the colubrine snakes and the vipers. Most of the
colubrine snakes are entirely harmless, and are the common snakes that
we meet everywhere. But some of them, the cobras for instance, develop
into what are on the whole perhaps the most formidable of all snakes.
The only poisonous colubrine snakes in the New World are the ring-
snakes, the coral-snakes of the genus elaps, which are found from the
extreme southern United States southward to the Argentine. These
coral-snakes are not vicious and have small teeth which cannot
penetrate even ordinary clothing. They are only dangerous if actually
trodden on by some one with bare feet or if seized in the hand. There
are harmless snakes very like them in color which are sometimes kept
as pets; but it behooves every man who keeps such a pet or who handles
such a snake to be very sure as to the genus to which it belongs.

The great bulk of the poisonous snakes of America, including all the
really dangerous ones, belong to a division of the widely spread
family of vipers which is known as the pit-vipers. In South America
these include two distinct subfamilies or genera--whether they are
called families, subfamilies, or genera would depend, I suppose,
largely upon the varying personal views of the individual describer on
the subject of herpetological nomenclature. One genus includes the
rattlesnakes, of which the big Brazilian species is as dangerous as
those of the southern United States. But the large majority of the
species and individuals of dangerous snakes in tropical America are
included in the genus lachecis. These are active, vicious, aggressive
snakes without rattles. They are exceedingly poisonous. Some of them
grow to a very large size, being indeed among the largest poisonous
snakes in the world--their only rivals in this respect being the
diamond rattlesnake of Florida, one of the African mambas, and the
Indian hamadryad, or snake-eating cobra. The fer-de-lance, so dreaded
in Martinique, and the equally dangerous bushmaster of Guiana are
included in this genus. A dozen species are known in Brazil, the
biggest one being identical with the Guiana bushmaster, and the most
common one, the jararaca, being identical, or practically identical
with the fer-de-lance. The snakes of this genus, like the rattlesnakes
and the Old World vipers and puff-adders, possess long poison-fangs
which strike through clothes or any other human garment except stout
leather. Moreover, they are very aggressive, more so than any other
snakes in the world, except possibly some of the cobras. As, in
addition, they are numerous, they are a source of really frightful
danger to scantily clad men who work in the fields and forests, or who
for any reason are abroad at night.

The poison of venomous serpents is not in the least uniform in its
quality. On the contrary, the natural forces--to use a term which is
vague, but which is as exact as our present-day knowledge permits--
that have developed in so many different families of snakes these
poisoned fangs have worked in two or three totally different fashions.
Unlike the vipers, the colubrine poisonous snakes have small fangs,
and their poison, though on the whole even more deadly, has entirely
different effects, and owes its deadliness to entirely different
qualities. Even within the same family there are wide differences. In
the jararaca an extraordinary quantity of yellow venom is spurted from
the long poison-fangs. This poison is secreted in large glands which,
among vipers, give the head its peculiar ace-of-spades shape. The
rattlesnake yields a much smaller quantity of white venom, but,
quantity for quantity, this white venom is more deadly. It is the
great quantity of venom injected by the long fangs of the jararaca,
the bushmaster, and their fellows that renders their bite so generally
fatal. Moreover, even between these two allied genera of pit-vipers,
the differences in the action of the poison are sufficiently marked to
be easily recognizable, and to render the most effective anti-venomous
serum for each slightly different from the other. However, they are
near enough alike to make this difference, in practice, of
comparatively small consequence. In practice the same serum can be
used to neutralize the effect of either, and, as will be seen later
on, the snake that is immune to one kind of venom is also immune to
the other.

But the effect of the venom of the poisonous colubrine snakes is
totally different from, although to the full as deadly as, the effect
of the poison of the rattlesnake or jararaca. The serum that is an
antidote as regards the colubrines. The animal that is immune to the
bite of one may not be immune to the bite of the other. The bite of a
cobra or other colubrine poisonous snake is more painful in its
immediate effects than is the bite of one of the big vipers. The
victim suffers more. There is a greater effect on the nerve-centres,
but less swelling of the wound itself, and, whereas the blood of the
rattlesnake's victim coagulates, the blood of the victim of an elapine
snake--that is, of one of the only poisonous American colubrines--
becomes watery and incapable of coagulation.

Snakes are highly specialized in every way, including their prey. Some
live exclusively on warm-blooded animals, on mammals, or birds. Some
live exclusively on batrachians, others only on lizards, a few only on
insects. A very few species live exclusively on other snakes. These
include one very formidable venomous snake, the Indian hamadryad, or
giant cobra, and several non-poisonous snakes. In Africa I killed a
small cobra which contained within it a snake but a few inches shorter
than itself; but, as far as I could find out, snakes were not the
habitual diet of the African cobras.

The poisonous snakes use their venom to kill their victims, and also
to kill any possible foe which they think menaces them. Some of them
are good-tempered, and only fight if injured or seriously alarmed.
Others are excessively irritable, and on rare occasions will even
attack of their own accord when entirely unprovoked and unthreatened.

On reaching Sao Paulo on our southward journey from Rio to Montevideo,
we drove out to the "Instituto Serumtherapico," designed for the study
of the effects of the venom of poisonous Brazilian snakes. Its
director is Doctor Vital Brazil, who has performed a most
extraordinary work and whose experiments and investigations are not
only of the utmost value to Brazil but will ultimately be recognized
as of the utmost value for humanity at large. I know of no institution
of similar kind anywhere. It has a fine modern building, with all the
best appliances, in which experiments are carried on with all kinds of
serpents, living and dead, with the object of discovering all the
properties of their several kinds of venom, and of developing various
anti-venom serums which nullify the effects of the different venoms.
Every effort is made to teach the people at large by practical
demonstration in the open field the lessons thus learned in the
laboratory. One notable result has been the diminution in the
mortality from snake-bites in the province of Sao Paulo.

In connection with his institute, and right by the laboratory, the
doctor has a large serpentarium, in which quantities of the common
poisonous and non-poisonous snakes are kept, and some of the rarer
ones. He has devoted considerable time to the effort to find out if
there are any natural enemies of the poisonous snakes of his country,
and he has discovered that the most formidable enemy of the many
dangerous Brazilian snakes is a non-poisonous, entirely harmless,
rather uncommon Brazilian snake, the mussurama. Of all the interesting
things the doctor showed us, by far the most interesting was the
opportunity of witnessing for ourselves the action of the mussurama
toward a dangerous snake.

The doctor first showed us specimens of the various important snakes,
poisonous and non-poisonous, in alcohol. Then he showed us
preparations of the different kinds of venom and of the different
anti-venom serums, presenting us with some of the latter for our use
on the journey. He has been able to produce two distinct kinds of
anti-venom serum, one to neutralize the virulent poison of the
rattlesnake's bite, the other to neutralize the poison of the
different snakes of the lachecis genus. These poisons are somewhat
different and moreover there appear to be some differences between the
poisons of the different species of lachecis; in some cases the poison
is nearly colorless, and in others, as in that of the jararaca, whose
poison I saw, it is yellow.

But the vital difference is that between all these poisons of the pit-
vipers and the poisons of the colubrine snakes, such as the cobra and
the coral-snake. As yet the doctor has not been able to develop an
anti-venom serum which will neutralize the poison of these colubrine
snakes. Practically this is a matter of little consequence in Brazil,
for the Brazilian coral-snakes are dangerous only when mishandled by
some one whose bare skin is exposed to the bite. The numerous
accidents and fatalities continually occurring in Brazil are almost
always to be laid to the account of the several species of lachecis
and the single species of rattlesnake.

Finally, the doctor took us into his lecture-room to show us how he
conducted his experiments. The various snakes were in boxes, on one
side of the room, under the care of a skilful and impassive assistant,
who handled them with the cool and fearless caution of the doctor
himself. The poisonous ones were taken out by means of a long-handled
steel hook. All that is necessary to do is to insert this under the
snake and lift him off the ground. He is not only unable to escape,
but he is unable to strike, for he cannot strike unless coiled so as
to give himself support and leverage. The table on which the snakes
are laid is fairly large and smooth, differing in no way from an
ordinary table.

There were a number of us in the room, including two or three
photographers. The doctor first put on the table a non-poisonous but
very vicious and truculent colubrine snake. It struck right and left
at us. Then the doctor picked it up, opened its mouth, and showed that
it had no fangs, and handed it to me. I also opened its mouth and
examined its teeth, and then put it down, whereupon, its temper having
been much ruffled, it struck violently at me two or three times. In
its action and temper this snake was quite as vicious as the most
irritable poisonous snakes. Yet it is entirely harmless. One of the
innumerable mysteries of nature which are at present absolutely
insoluble is why some snakes should be so vicious and others
absolutely placid and good-tempered.

After removing the vicious harmless snake, the doctor warned us to get
away from the table, and his attendant put on it, in succession, a
very big lachecis--of the kind called bushmaster--and a big
rattlesnake. Each coiled menacingly, a formidable brute ready to
attack anything that approached. Then the attendant adroitly dropped
his iron crook on the neck of each in succession, seized it right
behind the head, and held it toward the doctor. The snake's mouth was
in each case wide open, and the great fangs erect and very evident. It
would not have been possible to have held an African ring-necked cobra
in such fashion, because the ring-neck would have ejected its venom
through the fangs into the eyes of the onlookers. There was no danger
in this case, and the doctor inserted a shallow glass saucer into the
mouth of the snake behind the fangs, permitted it to eject its poison,
and then himself squeezed out the remaining poison from the poison-
bags through the fangs. From the big lachecis came a large quantity of
yellow venom, a liquid which speedily crystallized into a number of
minute crystals. The rattlesnake yielded a much less quantity of white
venom, which the doctor assured us was far more active than the yellow
lachecis venom. Then each snake was returned to its box unharmed.

After this the doctor took out of a box and presented to me a fine,
handsome, nearly black snake, an individual of the species called the
mussurama. This is in my eyes perhaps the most interesting serpent in
the world. It is a big snake, four or five feet long, sometimes even
longer, nearly black, lighter below, with a friendly, placid temper.
It lives exclusively on other snakes, and is completely immune to the
poison of the lachecis and rattlesnake groups, which contain all the
really dangerous snakes of America. Doctor Brazil told me that he had
conducted many experiments with this interesting snake. It is not very
common, and prefers wet places in which to live. It lays eggs, and the
female remains coiled above the eggs, the object being apparently not
to warm them, but to prevent too great evaporation. It will not eat
when moulting, nor in cold weather. Otherwise it will eat a small
snake every five or six days, or a big one every fortnight.

There is the widest difference, both among poisonous and non-poisonous
snakes, not alone in nervousness and irascibility but also in ability
to accustom themselves to out-of-the-way surroundings. Many species of
non-poisonous snakes which are entirely harmless, to man or to any
other animal except their small prey, are nevertheless very vicious
and truculent, striking right and left and biting freely on the
smallest provocation--this is the case with the species of which the
doctor had previously placed a specimen on the table. Moreover, many
snakes, some entirely harmless and some vicious ones, are so nervous
and uneasy that it is with the greatest difficulty they can be induced
to eat in captivity, and the slightest disturbance or interference
will prevent their eating. There are other snakes, however, of which
the mussurama is perhaps the best example, which are very good
captives, and at the same time very fearless, showing a complete
indifference not only to being observed but to being handled when they
are feeding.

There is in the United States a beautiful and attractive snake, the
king-snake, with much the same habits as the mussurama. It is friendly
toward mankind, and not poisonous, so that it can be handled freely.
It feeds on other serpents, and will kill a rattlesnake as big as
itself, being immune to the rattlesnake venom. Mr. Ditmars, of the
Bronx Zoo, has made many interesting experiments with these king-
snakes. I have had them in my own possession. They are good-natured
and can generally be handled with impunity, but I have known them to
bite, whereas Doctor Brazil informed me that it was almost impossible
to make the mussurama bite a man. The king-snake will feed greedily on
other snakes in the presence of man--I knew of one case where it
partly swallowed another snake while both were in a small boy's
pocket. It is immune to viper poison but it is not immune to colubrine
poison. A couple of years ago I was informed of a case where one of
these king-snakes was put into an enclosure with an Indian snake-
eating cobra or hamadryad of about the same size. It killed the cobra
but made no effort to swallow it, and very soon showed the effects of
the cobra poison. I believe it afterward died, but unfortunately I
have mislaid my notes and cannot now remember the details of the

Doctor Brazil informed me that the mussurama, like the king-snake, was
not immune to the colubrine poison. A mussurama in his possession,
which had with impunity killed and eaten several rattlesnakes and
representatives of the lachecis genus, also killed and ate a venomous
coral-snake, but shortly afterward itself died from the effects of the
poison. It is one of the many puzzles of nature that these American
serpents which kill poisonous serpents should only have grown immune
to the poison of the most dangerous American poisonous serpents, the
pit-vipers, and should not have become immune to the poison of the
coral-snakes which are commonly distributed throughout their range.
Yet, judging by the one instance mentioned by Doctor Brazil, they
attack and master these coral-snakes, although the conflict in the end
results in their death. It would be interesting to find out whether
this attack was exceptional, that is, whether the mussurama has or has
not as a species learned to avoid the coral-snake. If it was not
exceptional, then not only is the instance highly curious in itself,
but it would also go far to explain the failure of the mussurama to
become plentiful.

For the benefit of those who are not acquainted with the subject, I
may mention that the poison of a poisonous snake is not dangerous to
its own species unless injected in very large doses, about ten times
what would normally be injected by a bite; but that it is deadly to
all other snakes, poisonous or non-poisonous, save as regards the very
few species which themselves eat poisonous snakes. The Indian
hamadryad, or giant cobra, is exclusively a snake-eater. It evidently
draws a sharp distinction between poisonous and non-poisonous snakes,
for Mr. Ditmars has recorded that two individuals in the Bronx Zoo
which are habitually fed on harmless snakes, and attack them eagerly,
refused to attack a copperhead which was thrown into their cage, being
evidently afraid of this pit-viper. It would be interesting to find
out if the hamadryad is afraid to prey on all pit-vipers, and also
whether it will prey on its small relative, the true cobra--for it may
well be that, even if not immune to the viper poison, it is immune to
the poison of its close ally, the smaller cobra.

All these and many other questions would be speedily settled by Doctor
Brazil if he were given the opportunity to test them. It must be
remembered, moreover, that not only have his researches been of
absorbing value from the standpoint of pure science but that they also
have a real utilitarian worth. He is now collecting and breeding the
mussurama. The favorite prey of the mussurama is the most common and
therefore the most dangerous poisonous snake of Brazil, the jararaca,
which is known in Martinique as the fer-de-lance. In Martinique and
elsewhere this snake is such an object of terror as to be at times a
genuine scourge. Surely it would be worth while for the authorities of
Martinique to import specimens of the mussurama to that island. The
mortality from snake-bite in British India is very great. Surely it
would be well worth while for the able Indian Government to copy
Brazil and create such an institute as that over which Doctor Vital
Brazil is the curator.

At first sight it seems extraordinary that poisonous serpents, so
dreaded by and so irresistible to most animals, should be so utterly
helpless before the few creatures that prey on them. But the
explanation is easy. Any highly specialized creature, the higher its
specialization, is apt to be proportionately helpless when once its
peculiar specialized traits are effectively nullified by an opponent.
This is eminently the case with the most dangerous poisonous snakes.
In them a highly peculiar specialization has been carried to the
highest point. They rely for attack and defence purely on their
poison-fangs. All other means and methods of attack and defence have
atrophied. They neither crush nor tear with their teeth nor constrict
with their bodies. The poison-fangs are slender and delicate, and,
save for the poison, the wound inflicted is of a trivial character. In
consequence they are helpless in the presence of any animal which the
poison does not affect. There are several mammals immune to snake-
bite, including various species of hedgehog, pig, and mongoose--the
other mammals which kill them do so by pouncing on them unawares or by
avoiding their stroke through sheer quickness of movement; and
probably this is the case with most snake-eating birds. The mongoose
is very quick, but in some cases at least--I have mentioned one in the
"African Game Trails"--it permits itself to be bitten by poisonous
snakes, treating the bite with utter indifference. There should be
extensive experiments made to determine if there are species of
mongoose immune to both cobra and viper poison. Hedgehogs, as
determined by actual experiments, pay no heed at all to viper poison
even when bitten on such tender places as the tongue and lips and eat
the snake as if it were a radish. Even among animals which are not
immune to the poison different species are very differently affected
by the different kinds of snake poisons. Not only are some species
more resistant than others to all poisons, but there is a wide
variation in the amount of immunity each displays to any given venom.
One species will be quickly killed by the poison from one species of
snake, and be fairly resistant to the poison of another; whereas in
another species the conditions may be directly reversed.

The mussurama which Doctor Brazil handed me was a fine specimen,
perhaps four and a half feet long. I lifted the smooth, lithe bulk in
my hands, and then let it twist its coils so that it rested at ease in
my arms; it glided to and fro, on its own length, with the sinuous
grace of its kind, and showed not the slightest trace of either
nervousness or bad temper. Meanwhile the doctor bade his attendant put
on the table a big jararaca, or fer-de-lance, which was accordingly
done. The jararaca was about three feet and a half, or perhaps nearly
four feet long--that is, it was about nine inches shorter than the
mussurama. The latter, which I continued to hold in my arms, behaved
with friendly and impassive indifference, moving easily to and fro
through my hands, and once or twice hiding its head between the sleeve
and the body of my coat. The doctor was not quite sure how the
mussurama would behave, for it had recently eaten a small snake, and
unless hungry it pays no attention whatever to venomous snakes, even
when they attack and bite it. However, it fortunately proved still to
have a good appetite.

The jararaca was alert and vicious. It partly coiled itself on the
table, threatening the bystanders. I put the big black serpent down on
the table four or five feet from the enemy and headed in its
direction. As soon as I let go with my hands it glided toward where
the threatening, formidable-looking lance-head lay stretched in a half
coil. The mussurama displayed not the slightest sign of excitement.
Apparently it trusted little to its eyes, for it began to run its head
along the body of the jararaca, darting out its flickering tongue to
feel just where it was, as it nosed its way up toward the head of its
antagonist. So placid were its actions that I did not at first suppose
that it meant to attack, for there was not the slightest exhibition of
anger or excitement.

It was the jararaca that began the fight. It showed no fear whatever
of its foe, but its irritable temper was aroused by the proximity and
actions of the other, and like a flash it drew back its head and
struck, burying its fangs in the forward part of the mussurama's body.
Immediately the latter struck in return, and the counter-attack was so
instantaneous that it was difficult to see just what had happened.
There was tremendous writhing and struggling on the part of the
jararaca; and then, leaning over the knot into which the two serpents
were twisted, I saw that the mussurama had seized the jararaca by the
lower jaw, putting its own head completely into the wide-gaping mouth
of the poisonous snake. The long fangs were just above the top of the
mussurama's head; and it appeared, as well as I could see, that they
were once again driven into the mussurama; but without the slightest
effect. Then the fangs were curved back in the jaw, a fact which I
particularly noted, and all effort at the offensive was abandoned by
the poisonous snake.

Meanwhile the mussurama was chewing hard, and gradually shifted its
grip, little by little, until it got the top of the head of the
jararaca in its mouth, the lower jaw of the jararaca being spread out
to one side. The venomous serpent was helpless; the fearsome master of
the wild life of the forest, the deadly foe of humankind, was itself
held in the grip of death. Its cold, baleful serpent's eyes shone, as
evil as ever. But it was dying. In vain it writhed and struggled.
Nothing availed it.

Once or twice the mussurama took a turn round the middle of the body
of its opponent, but it did not seem to press hard, and apparently
used its coils chiefly in order to get a better grip so as to crush
the head of its antagonist, or to hold the latter in place. This
crushing was done by its teeth; and the repeated bites were made with
such effort that the muscles stood out on the mussurama's neck. Then
it took two coils round the neck of the jararaca and proceeded
deliberately to try to break the backbone of its opponent by twisting
the head round. With this purpose it twisted its own head and neck
round so that the lighter-colored surface was uppermost; and indeed at
one time it looked as if it had made almost a complete single spiral
revolution of its own body. It never for a moment relaxed its grip
except to shift slightly the jaws.

In a few minutes the jararaca was dead, its head crushed in, although
the body continued to move convulsively. When satisfied that its
opponent was dead, the mussurama began to try to get the head in its
mouth. This was a process of some difficulty on account of the angle
at which the lower jaw of the jararaca stuck out. But finally the head
was taken completely inside and then swallowed. After this, the
mussurama proceeded deliberately, but with unbroken speed, to devour
its opponent by the simple process of crawling outside it, the body
and tail of the jararaca writhing and struggling until the last.
During the early portion of the meal, the mussurama put a stop to this
writhing and struggling by resting its own body on that of its prey;
but toward the last the part of the body that remained outside was
left free to wriggle as it wished.

Not only was the mussurama totally indifferent to our presence, but it
was totally indifferent to being handled while the meal was going on.
Several times I replaced the combatants in the middle of the table
when they had writhed to the edge, and finally, when the photographers
found that they could not get good pictures, I held the mussurama up
against a white background with the partially swallowed snake in its
mouth; and the feast went on uninterruptedly. I never saw cooler or
more utterly unconcerned conduct; and the ease and certainty with
which the terrible poisonous snake was mastered gave me the heartiest
respect and liking for the easy-going, good-natured, and exceedingly
efficient serpent which I had been holding in my arms.

Our trip was not intended as a hunting-trip but as a scientific
expedition. Before starting on the trip itself, while travelling in
the Argentine, I received certain pieces of first-hand information
concerning the natural history of the jaguar, and of the cougar, or
puma, which are worth recording. The facts about the jaguar are not
new in the sense of casting new light on its character, although they
are interesting; but the facts about the behavior of the puma in one
district of Patagonia are of great interest, because they give an
entirely new side of its life-history.

There was travelling with me at the time Doctor Francisco P. Moreno,
of Buenos Aires. Doctor Moreno is at the present day a member of the
National Board of Education of the Argentine, a man who has worked in
every way for the benefit of his country, perhaps especially for the
benefit of the children, so that when he was first introduced to me it
was as the "Jacob Riis of the Argentine"--for they know my deep and
affectionate intimacy with Jacob Riis. He is also an eminent man of
science, who has done admirable work as a geologist and a geographer.
At one period, in connection with his duties as a boundary
commissioner on the survey between Chile and the Argentine, he worked
for years in Patagonia. It was he who made the extraordinary discovery
in a Patagonian cave of the still fresh fragments of skin and other
remains of the mylodon, the aberrant horse known as the onohipidium,
the huge South American tiger, and the macrauchenia, all of them
extinct animals. This discovery showed that some of the strange
representatives of the giant South American Pleistocene fauna had
lasted down to within a comparatively few thousand years, down to the
time when man, substantially as the Spaniards found him, flourished on
the continent. Incidentally the discovery tended to show that this
fauna had lasted much later in South America than was the case with
the corresponding faunas in other parts of the world; and therefore it
tended to disprove the claims advanced by Doctor Ameghino for the
extreme age, geologically, of this fauna, and for the extreme
antiquity of man on the American continent.

One day Doctor Moreno handed me a copy of The Outlook containing my
account of a cougar-hunt in Arizona, saying that he noticed that I had
very little faith in cougars attacking men, although I had explicitly
stated that such attacks sometimes occurred. I told him, Yes, that I
had found that the cougar was practically harmless to man, the
undoubtedly authentic instances of attacks on men being so exceptional
that they could in practice be wholly disregarded. Thereupon Doctor
Moreno showed me a scar on his face, and told me that he had himself
been attacked and badly mauled by a puma which was undoubtedly trying
to prey on him; that is, which had started on a career as a man-eater.
This was to me most interesting. I had often met men who knew other
men who had seen other men who said that they had been attacked by
pumas, but this was the first time that I had ever come across a man
who had himself been attacked. Doctor Moreno, as I have said, is not
only an eminent citizen, but an eminent scientific man, and his
account of what occurred is unquestionably a scientifically accurate
statement of the facts. I give it exactly as the doctor told it;
paraphrasing a letter he sent me, and including one or two answers to
questions I put to him. The doctor, by the way, stated to me that he
had known Mr. Hudson, the author of the "Naturalist on the Plata," and
that the latter knew nothing whatever of pumas from personal
experience and had accepted as facts utterly wild fables.

Undoubtedly, said the doctor, the puma in South America, like the puma
in North America, is, as a general rule, a cowardly animal which not
only never attacks man, but rarely makes any efficient defence when
attacked. The Indian and white hunters have no fear of it in most
parts of the country, and its harmlessness to man is proverbial. But
there is one particular spot in southern Patagonia where cougars, to
the doctor's own personal knowledge, have for years been dangerous
foes of man. This curious local change in habits, by the way, is
nothing unprecedented as regards wild animals. In portions of its
range, as I am informed by Mr. Lord Smith, the Asiatic tiger can
hardly be forced to fight man, and never preys on him, while
throughout most of its range it is a most dangerous beast, and often
turns man-eater. So there are waters in which sharks are habitual man-
eaters, and others where they never touch men; and there are rivers
and lakes where crocodiles or caymans are very dangerous, and others
where they are practically harmless--I have myself seen this in

In March, 1877, Doctor Moreno with a party of men working on the
boundary commission, and with a number of Patagonian horse-Indians,
was encamped for some weeks beside Lake Viedma, which had not before
been visited by white men for a century, and which was rarely visited
even by Indians. One morning, just before sunrise, he left his camp by
the south shore of the lake, to make a topographical sketch of the
lake. He was unarmed, but carried a prismatic compass in a leather
case with a strap. It was cold, and he wrapped his poncho of guanaco-
hide round his neck and head. He had walked a few hundred yards, when
a puma, a female, sprang on him from behind and knocked him down. As
she sprang on him she tried to seize his head with one paw, striking
him on the shoulder with the other. She lacerated his mouth and also
his back, but tumbled over with him, and in the scuffle they separated
before she could bite him. He sprang to his feet, and, as he said, was
forced to think quickly. She had recovered herself, and sat on her
haunches like a cat, looking at him, and then crouched to spring
again; whereupon he whipped off his poncho, and as she sprang at him
he opened it, and at the same moment hit her head with the prismatic
compass in its case which he held by the strap. She struck the poncho
and was evidently puzzled by it, for, turning, she slunk off to one
side, under a bush, and then proceeded to try to get round behind him.
He faced her, keeping his eyes upon her, and backed off. She followed
him for three or four hundred yards. At least twice she came up to
attack him, but each time he opened his poncho and yelled, and at the
last moment she shrank back. She continually, however, tried, by
taking advantage of cover, to sneak up to one side, or behind, to
attack him. Finally, when he got near camp, she abandoned the pursuit
and went into a small patch of bushes. He raised the alarm; an Indian
rode up and set fire to the bushes from the windward side. When the
cougar broke from the bushes, the Indian rode after her, and threw his
bolas, which twisted around her hind legs; and while she was
struggling to free herself, he brained her with his second bolas. The
doctor's injuries were rather painful, but not serious.

Twenty-one years later, in April, 1898, he was camped on the same
lake, but on the north shore, at the foot of a basaltic cliff. He was
in company with four soldiers, with whom he had travelled from the
Strait of Magellan. In the night he was aroused by the shriek of a man
and the barking of his dogs. As the men sprang up from where they were
lying asleep they saw a large puma run off out of the firelight into
the darkness. It had sprung on a soldier named Marcelino Huquen while
he was asleep, and had tried to carry him off. Fortunately, the man
was so wrapped up in his blanket, as the night was cold, that he was
not injured. The puma was never found or killed.

About the same time a surveyor of Doctor Moreno's party, a Swede named
Arneberg, was attacked in similar fashion. The doctor was not with him
at the time. Mr. Arneberg was asleep in the forest near Lake San
Martin. The cougar both bit and clawed him, and tore his mouth,
breaking out three teeth. The man was rescued; but this puma also

The doctor stated that in this particular locality the Indians, who
elsewhere paid no heed whatever to the puma, never let their women go
out after wood for fuel unless two or three were together. This was
because on several occasions women who had gone out alone were killed
by pumas. Evidently in this one locality the habit of at least
occasional man-eating has become chronic with a species which
elsewhere is the most cowardly, and to man the least dangerous, of all
the big cats.

These observations of Doctor Moreno have a peculiar value, because, as
far as I know, they are the first trustworthy accounts of a cougar's
having attacked man save under circumstances so exceptional as to make
the attack signify little more than the similar exceptional instances
of attack by various other species of wild animals that are not
normally dangerous to man.

The jaguar, however, has long been known not only to be a dangerous
foe when itself attacked, but also now and then to become a man-eater.
Therefore the instances of such attacks furnished me are of merely
corroborative value.

In the excellent zoological gardens at Buenos Aires the curator,
Doctor Onelli, a naturalist of note, showed us a big male jaguar which
had been trapped in the Chaco, where it had already begun a career as
a man-eater, having killed three persons. They were killed, and two of
them were eaten; the animal was trapped, in consequence of the alarm
excited by the death of his third victim. This jaguar was very savage;
whereas a young jaguar, which was in a cage with a young tiger, was
playful and friendly, as was also the case with the young tiger. On my
trip to visit La Plata Museum I was accompanied by Captain Vicente
Montes, of the Argentine Navy, an accomplished officer of scientific
attainments. He had at one time been engaged on a survey of the
boundary between the Argentine and Parana and Brazil. They had a
quantity of dried beef in camp. On several occasions a jaguar came
into camp after this dried beef. Finally they succeeded in protecting
it so that he could not reach it. The result, however, was disastrous.
On the next occasion that he visited camp, at midnight, he seized a
man. Everybody was asleep at the time, and the jaguar came in so
noiselessly as to elude the vigilance of the dogs. As he seized the
man, the latter gave one yell, but the next moment was killed, the
jaguar driving his fangs through the man's skull into the brain. There
was a scene of uproar and confusion, and the jaguar was forced to drop
his prey and flee into the woods. Next morning they followed him with
the dogs, and finally killed him. He was a large male, in first-class
condition. The only features of note about these two incidents was
that in each case the man-eater was a powerful animal in the prime of
life; whereas it frequently happens that the jaguars that turn man-
eaters are old animals, and have become too inactive or too feeble to
catch their ordinary prey.

During the two months before starting from Asuncion, in Paraguay, for
our journey into the interior, I was kept so busy that I had scant
time to think of natural history. But in a strange land a man who
cares for wild birds and wild beasts always sees and hears something
that is new to him and interests him. In the dense tropical woods near
Rio Janeiro I heard in late October--springtime, near the southern
tropic--the songs of many birds that I could not identify. But the
most beautiful music was from a shy woodland thrush, sombre-colored,
which lived near the ground in the thick timber, but sang high among
the branches. At a great distance we could hear the ringing, musical,
bell-like note, long-drawn and of piercing sweetness, which occurs at
intervals in the song; at first I thought this was the song, but when
it was possible to approach the singer I found that these far-sounding
notes were scattered through a continuous song of great melody. I
never listened to one that impressed me more. In different places in
Argentina I heard and saw the Argentine mocking-bird, which is not
very unlike our own, and is also a delightful and remarkable singer.
But I never heard the wonderful white-banded mocking-bird, which is
said by Hudson, who knew well the birds of both South America and
Europe, to be the song-king of them all.

Most of the birds I thus noticed while hurriedly passing through the
country were, of course, the conspicuous ones. The spurred lapwings,
big, tame, boldly marked plover, were everywhere; they were very noisy
and active and both inquisitive and daring, and they have a very
curious dance custom. No man need look for them. They will look for
him, and when they find him they will fairly yell the discovery to the
universe. In the marshes of the lower Parana I saw flocks of scarlet-
headed blackbirds on the tops of the reeds; the females are as
strikingly colored as the males, and their jet-black bodies and
brilliant red heads make it impossible for them to escape observation
among their natural surroundings. On the plains to the west I saw
flocks of the beautiful rose-breasted starlings; unlike the red-headed
blackbirds, which seemed fairly to court attention, these starlings
sought to escape observation by crouching on the ground so that their
red breasts were hidden. There were yellow-shouldered blackbirds in
wet places, and cow-buntings abounded.

But the most conspicuous birds I saw were members of the family of
tyrant flycatchers, of which our own king-bird is the most familiar
example. This family is very numerously represented in Argentina, both
in species and individuals. Some of the species are so striking, both
in color and habits, and in one case also in shape, as to attract the
attention of even the unobservant. The least conspicuous, and
nevertheless very conspicuous, among those that I saw was the
bientevido, which is brown above, yellow beneath, with a boldly marked
black and white head, and a yellow crest. It is very noisy, is common
in the neighborhood of houses, and builds a big domed nest. It is
really a big, heavy kingbird, fiercer and more powerful than any
northern kingbird. I saw them assail not only the big but the small
hawks with fearlessness, driving them in headlong flight. They not
only capture insects, but pounce on mice, small frogs, lizards, and
little snakes, rob birds' nests of the fledgling young, and catch
tadpoles and even small fish.

Two of the tyrants which I observed are like two with which I grew
fairly familiar in Texas. The scissor-tail is common throughout the
open country, and the long tail feathers, which seem at times to
hamper its flight, attract attention whether the bird is in flight or
perched on a tree. It has a habit of occasionally soaring into the air
and descending in loops and spirals. The scarlet tyrant I saw in the
orchards and gardens. The male is a fascinating little bird, coal-
black above, while his crested head and the body beneath are brilliant
scarlet. He utters his rapid, low-voiced musical trill in the air,
rising with fluttering wings to a height of a hundred feet, hovering
while he sings, and then falling back to earth. The color of the bird
and the character of his performance attract the attention of every
observer, bird, beast, or man, within reach of vision.

The red-backed tyrant is utterly unlike any of his kind in the United
States, and until I looked him up in Sclater and Hudson's ornithology
I never dreamed that he belonged to this family. He--for only the male
is so brightly colored--is coal-black with a dull-red back. I saw
these birds on December 1 near Barilloche, out on the bare Patagonian
plains. They behaved like pipits or longspurs, running actively over
the ground in the same manner and showing the same restlessness and
the same kind of flight. But whereas pipits are inconspicuous, the
red-backs at once attracted attention by the contrast between their
bold coloring and the grayish or yellowish tones of the ground along
which they ran. The silver-bill tyrant, however, is much more
conspicuous; I saw it in the same neighborhood as the red-back and
also in many other places. The male is jet-black, with white bill and
wings. He runs about on the ground like a pipit, but also frequently
perches on some bush to go through a strange flight-song performance.
He perches motionless, bolt upright, and even then his black coloring
advertises him for a quarter of a mile round about. But every few
minutes he springs up into the air to the height of twenty or thirty
feet, the white wings flashing in contrast to the black body, screams
and gyrates, and then instantly returns to his former post and resumes
his erect pose of waiting. It is hard to imagine a more conspicuous
bird than the silver-bill; but the next and last tyrant flycatcher of
which I shall speak possesses on the whole the most advertising
coloration of any small bird I have ever seen in the open country, and
moreover this advertising coloration exists in both sexes and
throughout the year. It is a brilliant white, all over, except the
long wing-quills and the ends of the tail-feathers, which are black.
The first one I saw, at a very long distance, I thought must be an
albino. It perches on the top of a bush or tree watching for its prey,
and it shines in the sun like a silver mirror. Every hawk, cat, or man
must see it; no one can help seeing it.

These common Argentine birds, most of them of the open country, and
all of them with a strikingly advertising coloration, are interesting
because of their beauty and their habits. They are also interesting
because they offer such illuminating examples of the truth that many
of the most common and successful birds not merely lack a concealing
coloration, but possess a coloration which is in the highest degree
revealing. The coloration and the habits of most of these birds are
such that every hawk or other foe that can see at all must have its
attention attracted to them. Evidently in their cases neither the
coloration nor any habit of concealment based on the coloration is a
survival factor, and this although they live in a land teeming with
bird-eating hawks. Among the higher vertebrates there are many known
factors which have influence, some in one set of cases, some in
another set of cases, in the development and preservation of species.
Courage, intelligence, adaptability, prowess, bodily vigor, speed,
alertness, ability to hide, ability to build structures which will
protect the young while they are helpless, fecundity--all, and many
more like them, have their several places; and behind all these
visible causes there are at work other and often more potent causes of
which as yet science can say nothing. Some species owe much to a given
attribute which may be wholly lacking in influence on other species;
and every one of the attributes above enumerated is a survival factor
in some species, while in others it has no survival value whatever,
and in yet others, although of benefit, it is not of sufficient
benefit to offset the benefit conferred on foes or rivals by totally
different attributes. Intelligence, for instance, is of course a
survival factor; but to-day there exist multitudes of animals with
very little intelligence which have persisted through immense periods
of geologic time either unchanged or else without any change in the
direction of increased intelligence; and during their species-life
they have witnessed the death of countless other species of far
greater intelligence but in other ways less adapted to succeed in the
environmental complex. The same statement can be made of all the many,
many other known factors in development, from fecundity to concealing
coloration; and behind them lie forces as to which we veil our
ignorance by the use of high-sounding nomenclature--as when we use
such a convenient but far from satisfactory term as orthogenesis.


On the afternoon of December 9 we left the attractive and picturesque
city of Asuncion to ascend the Paraguay. With generous courtesy the
Paraguayan Government had put at my disposal the gunboat-yacht of the
President himself, a most comfortable river steamer, and so the
opening days of our trip were pleasant in every way. The food was
good, our quarters were clean, we slept well, below or on deck,
usually without our mosquito-nettings, and in daytime the deck was
pleasant under the awnings. It was hot, of course, but we were dressed
suitably in our exploring and hunting clothes and did not mind the
heat. The river was low, for there had been dry weather for some weeks
--judging from the vague and contradictory information I received
there is much elasticity to the terms wet season and dry season at
this part of the Paraguay. Under the brilliant sky we steamed steadily
up the mighty river; the sunset was glorious as we leaned on the port
railing; and after nightfall the moon, nearly full and hanging high in
the heavens, turned the water to shimmering radiance. On the mud-flats
and sandbars, and among the green rushes of the bays and inlets, were
stately water-fowl; crimson flamingoes and rosy spoonbills, dark-
colored ibis and white storks with black wings. Darters, with
snakelike necks and pointed bills, perched in the trees on the brink
of the river. Snowy egrets flapped across the marshes. Caymans were
common, and differed from the crocodiles we had seen in Africa in two
points: they were not alarmed by the report of a rifle when fired at,
and they lay with the head raised instead of stretched along the sand.

For three days, as we steamed northward toward the Tropic of
Capricorn, and then passed it, we were within the Republic of
Paraguay. On our right, to the east, there was a fairly well-settled
country, where bananas and oranges were cultivated and other crops of
hot countries raised. On the banks we passed an occasional small town,
or saw a ranch-house close to the river's brink, or stopped for wood
at some little settlement. Across the river to the west lay the level,
swampy, fertile wastes known as the Chaco, still given over either to
the wild Indians or to cattle-ranching on a gigantic scale. The broad
river ran in curves between mud-banks where terraces marked successive
periods of flood. A belt of forest stood on each bank, but it was only
a couple of hundred yards wide. Back of it was the open country; on
the Chaco side this was a vast plain of grass, dotted with tall,
graceful palms. In places the belt of forest vanished and the palm-
dotted prairie came to the river's edge. The Chaco is an ideal cattle
country, and not really unhealthy. It will be covered with ranches at
a not distant day. But mosquitoes and many other winged insect pests
swarm over it. Cherrie and Miller had spent a week there collecting
mammals and birds prior to my arrival at Asuncion. They were veterans
of the tropics, hardened to the insect plagues of Guiana and the
Orinoco. But they reported that never had they been so tortured as in
the Chaco. The sand-flies crawled through the meshes in the mosquito-
nets, and forbade them to sleep; if in their sleep a knee touched the
net the mosquitoes fell on it so that it looked as if riddled by
birdshot; and the nights were a torment, although they had done well
in their work, collecting some two hundred and fifty specimens of
birds and mammals.

Nevertheless for some as yet inscrutable reason the river served as a
barrier to certain insects which are menaces to the cattlemen. With me
on the gunboat was an old Western friend, Tex Rickard, of the
Panhandle and Alaska and various places in between. He now has a large
tract of land and some thirty-five thousand head of cattle in the
Chaco, opposite Concepcion, at which city he was to stop. He told me
that horses did not do well in the Chaco but that cattle throve, and
that while ticks swarmed on the east bank of the great river, they
would not live on the west bank. Again and again he had crossed herds
of cattle which were covered with the loathsome bloodsuckers; and in a
couple of months every tick would be dead. The worst animal foes of
man, indeed the only dangerous foes, are insects; and this is
especially true in the tropics. Fortunately, exactly as certain
differences too minute for us as yet to explain render some insects
deadly to man or domestic animals, while closely allied forms are
harmless, so, for other reasons, which also we are not as yet able to
fathom, these insects are for the most part strictly limited by
geographical and other considerations. The war against what Sir Harry
Johnston calls the really material devil, the devil of evil wild
nature in the tropics, has been waged with marked success only during
the last two decades. The men, in the United States, in England,
France, Germany, Italy--the men like Doctor Cruz in Rio Janeiro and
Doctor Vital Brazil in Sao Paulo--who work experimentally within and
without the laboratory in their warfare against the disease and death
bearing insects and microbes, are the true leaders in the fight to
make the tropics the home of civilized man.

Late on the evening of the second day of our trip, just before
midnight, we reached Concepcion. On this day, when we stopped for wood
or to get provisions--at picturesque places, where the women from
rough mud and thatched cabins were washing clothes in the river, or
where ragged horsemen stood gazing at us from the bank, or where dark,
well-dressed ranchmen stood in front of red-roofed houses--we caught
many fish. They belonged to one of the most formidable genera of fish
in the world, the piranha or cannibal fish, the fish that eats men
when it can get the chance. Farther north there are species of small
piranha that go in schools. At this point on the Paraguay the piranha
do not seem to go in regular schools, but they swarm in all the waters
and attain a length of eighteen inches or over. They are the most
ferocious fish in the world. Even the most formidable fish, the sharks
or the barracudas, usually attack things smaller than themselves. But
the piranhas habitually attack things much larger than themselves.
They will snap a finger off a hand incautiously trailed in the water;
they mutilate swimmers--in every river town in Paraguay there are men
who have been thus mutilated; they will rend and devour alive any
wounded man or beast; for blood in the water excites them to madness.
They will tear wounded wild fowl to pieces; and bite off the tails of
big fish as they grow exhausted when fighting after being hooked.
Miller, before I reached Asuncion, had been badly bitten by one. Those
that we caught sometimes bit through the hooks, or the double strands
of copper wire that served as leaders, and got away. Those that we
hauled on deck lived for many minutes. Most predatory fish are long
and slim, like the alligator-gar and pickerel. But the piranha is a
short, deep-bodied fish, with a blunt face and a heavily undershot or
projecting lower jaw which gapes widely. The razor-edged teeth are
wedge-shaped like a shark's, and the jaw muscles possess great power.
The rabid, furious snaps drive the teeth through flesh and bone. The
head with its short muzzle, staring malignant eyes, and gaping,
cruelly armed jaws, is the embodiment of evil ferocity; and the
actions of the fish exactly match its looks. I never witnessed an
exhibition of such impotent, savage fury as was shown by the piranhas
as they flapped on deck. When fresh from the water and thrown on the
boards they uttered an extraordinary squealing sound. As they flapped
about they bit with vicious eagerness at whatever presented itself.
One of them flapped into a cloth and seized it with a bulldog grip.
Another grasped one of its fellows; another snapped at a piece of
wood, and left the teeth-marks deep therein. They are the pests of the
waters, and it is necessary to be exceedingly cautious about either
swimming or wading where they are found. If cattle are driven into, or
of their own accord enter, the water, they are commonly not molested;
but if by chance some unusually big or ferocious specimen of these
fearsome fishes does bite an animal--taking off part of an ear, or
perhaps of a teat from the udder of a cow--the blood brings up every
member of the ravenous throng which is anywhere near, and unless the
attacked animal can immediately make its escape from the water it is
devoured alive. Here on the Paraguay the natives hold them in much
respect, whereas the caymans are not feared at all. The only redeeming
feature about them is that they are themselves fairly good to eat,
although with too many bones.

At daybreak of the third day, finding we were still moored off
Concepcion, we were rowed ashore and strolled off through the streets
of the quaint, picturesque old town; a town which, like Asuncion, was
founded by the conquistadores three-quarters of a century before our
own English and Dutch forefathers landed in what is now the United
States. The Jesuits then took practically complete possession of what
is now Paraguay, controlling and Christianizing the Indians, and
raising their flourishing missions to a pitch of prosperity they never
elsewhere achieved. They were expelled by the civil authorities
(backed by the other representatives of ecclesiastical authority) some
fifty years before Spanish South America became independent. But they
had already made the language of the Indians, Guarany, a culture-
tongue, reducing it to writing, and printing religious books in it.
Guarany is one of the most wide-spread of the Indian tongues, being
originally found in various closely allied forms not only in Paraguay
but in Uruguay and over the major part of Brazil. It remains here and
there, as a lingua general at least, and doubtless in cases as an
original tongue, among the wild tribes. In most of Brazil, as around
Para and around Sao Paulo, it has left its traces in place-names, but
has been completely superseded as a language by Portuguese. In
Paraguay it still exists side by side with Spanish as the common
language of the lower people and as a familiar tongue among the upper
classes. The blood of the people is mixed, their language dual; the
lower classes are chiefly of Indian blood but with a white admixture;
while the upper classes are predominantly white, with a strong
infusion of Indian. There is no other case quite parallel to this in
the annals of European colonization, although the Goanese in India
have a native tongue and a Portuguese creed, while in several of the
Spanish-American states the Indian blood is dominant and the majority
of the population speak an Indian tongue, perhaps itself, as with the
Quichuas, once a culture-tongue of the archaic type. Whether in
Paraguay one tongue will ultimately drive out the other, and, if so,
which will be the victor, it is yet too early to prophesy. The English
missionaries and the Bible Society have recently published parts of
the Scriptures in Guarany and in Asuncion a daily paper is published
with the text in parallel columns, Spanish and Guarany--just as in
Oklahoma there is a similar paper published in English and in the
tongue which the extraordinary Cherokee chief Sequoia, a veritable
Cadmus, made a literary language.

The Guarany-speaking Paraguayan is a Christian, and as much an
inheritor of our common culture as most of the peasant populations of
Europe. He has no kinship with the wild Indian, who hates and fears
him. The Indian of the Chaco, a pure savage, a bow-bearing savage,
will never come east of the Paraguay, and the Paraguayan is only
beginning to venture into the western interior, away from the banks of
the river--under the lead of pioneer settlers like Rickard, whom, by
the way, the wild Indians thoroughly trust, and for whom they work
eagerly and faithfully. There is a great development ahead for
Paraguay, as soon as they can definitely shake off the revolutionary
habit and establish an orderly permanence of government. The people
are a fine people; the strains of blood--white and Indian--are good.

We walked up the streets of Concepcion, and interestedly looked at
everything of interest: at the one-story houses, their windows covered
with gratings of fretted ironwork, and their occasional open doors
giving us glimpses into cool inner courtyards, with trees and flowers;
at the two-wheel carts, drawn by mules or oxen; at an occasional
rider, with spurs on his bare feet, and his big toes thrust into the
small stirrup-rings; at the little stores, and the warehouses for
matte and hides. Then we came to a pleasant little inn, kept by a
Frenchman and his wife, of old Spanish style, with its patio, or inner
court, but as neat as an inn in Normandy or Brittany. We were sitting
at coffee, around a little table, when in came the colonel of the
garrison--for Concepcion is the second city in Paraguay. He told me
that they had prepared a reception for me! I was in my rough hunting-
clothes, but there was nothing to do but to accompany my kind hosts
and trust to their good nature to pardon my shortcomings in the matter
of dress. The colonel drove me about in a smart open carriage, with
two good horses and a liveried driver. It was a much more fashionable
turnout than would be seen in any of our cities save the largest, and
even in them probably not in the service of a public official. In all
the South American countries there is more pomp and ceremony in
connection with public functions than with us, and at these functions
the liveried servants, often with knee-breeches and powdered hair, are
like those seen at similar European functions; there is not the
democratic simplicity which better suits our own habits of life and
ways of thought. But the South Americans often surpass us, not merely
in pomp and ceremony but in what is of real importance, courtesy; in
civility and courtesy we can well afford to take lessons from them.

We first visited the barracks, saw the troops in the setting-up
exercises, and inspected the arms, the artillery, the equipment. There
was a German lieutenant with the Paraguayan officers; one of several
German officers who are now engaged in helping the Paraguayans with
their army. The equipments and arms were in good condition; the
enlisted men evidently offered fine material; and the officers were
doing hard work. It is worth while for anti-militarists to ponder the
fact that in every South American country where a really efficient
army is developed, the increase in military efficiency goes hand in
hand with a decrease in lawlessness and disorder, and a growing
reluctance to settle internal disagreements by violence. They are
introducing universal military service in Paraguay; the officers, many
of whom have studied abroad, are growing to feel an increased esprit
de corps, an increased pride in the army, and therefore a desire to
see the army made the servant of the nation as a whole and not the
tool of any faction or individual. If these feelings grow strong
enough they will be powerful factors in giving Paraguay what she most
needs, freedom from revolutionary disturbance and therefore the chance
to achieve the material prosperity without which as a basis there can
be no advance in other and even more important matters.

Then I was driven to the City Hall, accompanied by the intendente, or
mayor, a German long settled in the country and one of the leading men
of the city. There was a breakfast. When I had to speak I impressed
into my service as interpreter a young Paraguayan who was a graduate
of the University of Pennsylvania. He was able to render into Spanish
my ideas--on such subjects as orderly liberty and the far-reaching
mischief done by the revolutionary habit--with clearness and vigor,
because he thoroughly understood not only how I felt but also the
American way of looking at such things. My hosts were hospitality
itself, and I enjoyed the unexpected greeting.

We steamed on up the river. Now and then we passed another boat--a
steamer, or, to my surprise, perhaps a barkentine or schooner. The
Paraguay is a highway of traffic. Once we passed a big beef-canning
factory. Ranches stood on either bank a few leagues apart, and we
stopped at wood-yards on the west bank. Indians worked around them. At
one such yard the Indians were evidently part of the regular force.
Their squaws were with them, cooking at queer open-air ovens. One
small child had as pets a parrot and a young coati--a kind of long-
nosed raccoon. Loading wood, the Indians stood in a line, tossing the
logs from one to the other. These Indians wore clothes.

On this day we got into the tropics. Even in the heat of the day the
deck was pleasant under the awnings; the sun rose and set in crimson
splendor; and the nights, with the moon at the full, were wonderful.
At night Orion blazed overhead; and the Southern Cross hung in the
star-brilliant heavens behind us. But after the moon rose the
constellations paled; and clear in her light the tree-clad banks stood
on either hand as we steamed steadily against the swirling current of
the great river.

At noon on the twelfth we were at the Brazilian boundary. On this day
we here and there came on low, conical hills close to the river. In
places the palm groves broke through the belts of deciduous trees and
stretched for a mile or so right along the river's bank. At times we
passed cattle on the banks or sand-bars, followed by their herders; or
a handsome ranch-house, under a cluster of shady trees, some bearing a
wealth of red and some a wealth of yellow blossoms; or we saw a horse-
corral among the trees close to the brink, with the horses in it and a
barefooted man in shirt and trousers leaning against the fence; or a
herd of cattle among the palms; or a big tannery or factory or a
little native hamlet came in sight. We stopped at one tannery. The
owner was a Spaniard, the manager an "Oriental," as he called himself,
a Uruguayan, of German parentage. The peons, or workers, who lived in
a long line of wooden cabins back of the main building, were mostly
Paraguayans, with a few Brazilians, and a dozen German and Argentine
foremen. There were also some wild Indians, who were camped in the
usual squalid fashion of Indians who are hangers-on round the white
man but have not yet adopted his ways. Most of the men were at work
cutting wood for the tannery. The women and children were in camp.
Some individuals of both sexes were naked to the waist. One little
girl had a young ostrich as a pet.

Water-fowl were plentiful. We saw large flocks of wild muscovy ducks.
Our tame birds come from this wild species and its absurd misnaming
dates back to the period when the turkey and guinea-pig were misnamed
in similar fashion--our European forefathers taking a large and hazy
view of geography, and including Turkey, Guinea, India, and Muscovy as
places which, in their capacity of being outlandish, could be
comprehensively used as including America. The muscovy ducks were very
good eating. Darters and cormorants swarmed. They waddled on the sand-
bars in big flocks and crowded the trees by the water's edge.
Beautiful snow-white egrets also lit in the trees, often well back
from the river. A full-foliaged tree of vivid green, its round surface
crowded with these birds, as if it had suddenly blossomed with huge
white flowers, is a sight worth seeing. Here and there on the sand-
bars we saw huge jabiru storks, and once a flock of white wood-ibis
among the trees on the bank.

On the Brazilian boundary we met a shallow river steamer carrying
Colonel Candido Mariano da Silva Rondon and several other Brazilian
members of the expedition. Colonel Rondon immediately showed that he
was all, and more than all, that could be desired. It was evident that
he knew his business thoroughly, and it was equally evident that he
would be a pleasant companion. He was a classmate of Mr. Lauro Muller
at the Brazilian Military Academy. He is of almost pure Indian blood,
and is a Positivist--the Positivists are a really strong body in
Brazil, as they are in France and indeed in Chile. The colonel's seven
children have all been formally made members of the Positivist Church
in Rio Janeiro. Brazil possesses the same complete liberty in matters
religious, spiritual, and intellectual as we, for our great good
fortune, do in the United States, and my Brazilian companions included
Catholics and equally sincere men who described themselves as "libres
penseurs." Colonel Rondon has spent the last twenty-four years in
exploring the western highlands of Brazil, pioneering the way for
telegraph-lines and railroads. During that time he has travelled some
fourteen thousand miles, on territory most of which had not previously
been traversed by civilized man, and has built three thousand miles of
telegraph. He has an exceptional knowledge of the Indian tribes and
has always zealously endeavored to serve them and indeed to serve the
cause of humanity wherever and whenever he was able. Thanks mainly to
his efforts, four of the wild tribes of the region he has explored
have begun to tread the road of civilization. They have taken the
first steps toward becoming Christians. It may seem strange that among
the first-fruits of the efforts of a Positivist should be the
conversion of those he seeks to benefit to Christianity. But in South
America Christianity is at least as much a status as a theology. It
represents the indispensable first step upward from savagery. In the
wilder and poorer districts men are divided into the two great classes
of "Christians" and "Indians." When an Indian becomes a Christian he
is accepted into and becomes wholly absorbed or partly assimilated by
the crude and simple neighboring civilization, and then he moves up or
down like any one else among his fellows.

Among Colonel Rondon's companions were Captain Amilcar de Magalhaes,
Lieutenant Joao Lyra, Lieutenant Joaquin de Mello Filho, and Doctor
Euzebio de Oliveira, a geologist.

The steamers halted; Colonel Rondon and several of his officers, spick
and span in their white uniforms, came aboard; and in the afternoon I
visited him on his steamer to talk over our plans. When these had been
fully discussed and agreed on we took tea. I happened to mention that
one of our naturalists, Miller, had been bitten by a piranha, and the
man-eating fish at once became the subject of conversation. Curiously
enough, one of the Brazilian taxidermists had also just been severely
bitten by a piranha. My new companions had story after story to tell
of them. Only three weeks previously a twelve-year-old boy who had
gone in swimming near Corumba was attacked, and literally devoured
alive by them. Colonel Rondon during his exploring trips had met with
more than one unpleasant experience in connection with them. He had
lost one of his toes by the bite of a piranha. He was about to bathe
and had chosen a shallow pool at the edge of the river, which he
carefully inspected until he was satisfied that none of the man-eating
fish were in it; yet as soon as he put his foot into the water one of
them attacked him and bit off a toe. On another occasion while wading
across a narrow stream one of his party was attacked; the fish bit him
on the thighs and buttocks, and when he put down his hands tore them
also; he was near the bank and by a rush reached it and swung himself
out of the water by means of an overhanging limb of a tree; but he was
terribly injured, and it took him six months before his wounds healed
and he recovered. An extraordinary incident occurred on another trip.
The party were without food and very hungry. On reaching a stream they
dynamited it, and waded in to seize the stunned fish as they floated
on the surface. One man, Lieutenant Pyrineus, having his hands full,
tried to hold one fish by putting its head into his mouth; it was a
piranha and seemingly stunned, but in a moment it recovered and bit a
big section out of his tongue. Such a hemorrhage followed that his
life was saved with the utmost difficulty. On another occasion a
member of the party was off by himself on a mule. The mule came into
camp alone. Following his track back they came to a ford, where in the
water they found the skeleton of the dead man, his clothes uninjured
but every particle of flesh stripped from his bones. Whether he had
drowned, and the fishes had then eaten his body, or whether they had
killed him it was impossible to say. They had not hurt the clothes,
getting in under them, which made it seem likely that there had been
no struggle. These man-eating fish are a veritable scourge in the
waters they frequent. But it must not be understood by this that the
piranhas--or, for the matter of that, the New-World caymans and
crocodiles--ever become such dreaded foes of man as for instance the
man-eating crocodiles of Africa. Accidents occur, and there are
certain places where swimming and bathing are dangerous; but in most
places the people swim freely, although they are usually careful to
find spots they believe safe or else to keep together and make a
splashing in the water.

During his trips Colonel Rondon had met with various experiences with
wild creatures. The Paraguayan caymans are not ordinarily dangerous to
man; but they do sometimes become man-eaters and should be destroyed
whenever the opportunity offers. The huge caymans and crocodiles of
the Amazon are far more dangerous, and the colonel knew of repeated
instances where men, women and children had become their victims. Once
while dynamiting a stream for fish for his starving party he partially
stunned a giant anaconda, which he killed as it crept slowly off. He
said that it was of a size that no other anaconda he had ever seen
even approached, and that in his opinion such a brute if hungry would
readily attack a full-grown man. Twice smaller anacondas had attacked
his dogs; one was carried under water--for the anaconda is a water-
loving serpent--but he rescued it. One of his men was bitten by a
jararaca; he killed the venomous snake, but was not discovered and
brought back to camp until it was too late to save his life. The puma
Colonel Rondon had found to be as cowardly as I have always found it,
but the jaguar was a formidable beast, which occasionally turned man-
eater, and often charged savagely when brought to bay. He had known a
hunter to be killed by a jaguar he was following in thick grass cover.

All such enemies, however, he regarded as utterly trivial compared to
the real dangers of the wilderness--the torment and menace of attacks
by the swarming insects, by mosquitoes and the even more intolerable
tiny gnats, by the ticks, and by the vicious poisonous ants which
occasionally cause villages and even whole districts to be deserted by
human beings. These insects, and the fevers they cause, and dysentery
and starvation and wearing hardship and accidents in rapids are what
the pioneer explorers have to fear. The conversation was to me most
interesting. The colonel spoke French about to the extent I did; but
of course he and the others preferred Portuguese; and then Kermit was
the interpreter.

In the evening, soon after moonrise, we stopped for wood at the little
Brazilian town of Porto Martinho. There are about twelve hundred
inhabitants. Some of the buildings were of stone; a large private
house with a castellated tower was of stone; there were shops, and a
post-office, stores, a restaurant and billiard-hall, and warehouses
for matte, of which much is grown in the region roundabout. Most of
the houses were low, with overhanging, sloping caves; and there were
gardens with high walls, inside of which trees rose, many of them
fragrant. We wandered through the wide, dusty streets, and along the
narrow sidewalks. It was a hot, still evening; the smell of the
tropics was on the heavy December air. Through the open doors and
windows we caught dim glimpses of the half-clad inmates of the poorer
houses; women and young girls sat outside their thresholds in the
moonlight. All whom we met were most friendly: the captain of the
little Brazilian garrison; the intendente, a local trader; another
trader and ranchman, a Uruguayan, who had just received his newspaper
containing my speech in Montevideo, and who, as I gathered from what I
understood of his rather voluble Spanish, was much impressed by my
views on democracy, honesty, liberty, and order (rather well-worn
topics); and a Catalan who spoke French, and who was accompanied by
his pretty daughter, a dear little girl of eight or ten, who said with
much pride that she spoke three languages--Brazilian, Spanish, and
Catalan! Her father expressed strongly his desire for a church and for
a school in the little city.

When at last the wood was aboard we resumed our journey. The river was
like glass. In the white moonlight the palms on the edge of the banks
stood mirrored in the still water. We sat forward and as we rounded
the curves the long silver reaches of the great stream stretched ahead
of us, and the ghostly outlines of hills rose in the distance. Here
and there prairie fires burned, and the red glow warred with the
moon's radiance.

Next morning was overcast. Occasionally we passed a wood-yard, or
factory, or cabin, now on the eastern, the Brazilian, now on the
western, the Paraguayan, bank. The Paraguay was known to men of
European birth, bore soldiers and priests and merchants as they sailed
and rowed up and down the current of its stream, and beheld little
towns and forts rise on its banks, long before the Mississippi had
become the white man's highway. Now, along its upper course, the
settlements are much like those on the Mississippi at the end of the
first quarter of the last century; and in the not distant future it
will witness a burst of growth and prosperity much like that which the
Mississippi saw when the old men of today were very young.

In the early forenoon we stopped at a little Paraguayan hamlet,
nestling in the green growth under a group of low hills by the river-
brink. On one of these hills stood a picturesque old stone fort, known
as Fort Bourbon in the Spanish, the colonial, days. Now the Paraguayan
flag floats over it, and it is garrisoned by a handful of Paraguayan
soldiers. Here Father Zahm baptized two children, the youngest of a
large family of fair-skinned, light-haired small people, whose father
was a Paraguayan and the mother an "Oriental," or Uruguayan. No priest
had visited the village for three years, and the children were
respectively one and two years of age. The sponsors included the local
commandante and a married couple from Austria. In answer to what was
supposed to be the perfunctory question whether they were Catholics,
the parents returned the unexpected answer that they were not. Further
questioning elicited the fact that the father called himself a "free-
thinking Catholic," and the mother said she was a "Protestant
Catholic," her mother having been a Protestant, the daughter of an
immigrant from Normandy. However, it appeared that the older children
had been baptized by the Bishop of Asuncion, so Father Zahm at the
earnest request of the parents proceeded with the ceremony. They were
good people; and, although they wished liberty to think exactly as
they individually pleased, they also wished to be connected and to
have their children connected with some church, by preference the
church of the majority of their people. A very short experience of
communities where there is no church ought to convince the most
heterodox of the absolute need of a church. I earnestly wish that
there could be such an increase in the personnel and equipment of the
Catholic Church in South America as to permit the establishment of one
good and earnest priest in every village or little community in the
far interior. Nor is there any inconsistency between this wish and the
further wish that there could be a marked extension and development of
the native Protestant churches, such as I saw established here and
there in Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina, and of the Y. M. C.
Associations. The bulk of these good people who profess religion will
continue to be Catholics, but the spiritual needs of a more or less
considerable minority will best be met by the establishment of
Protestant churches, or in places even of a Positivist Church or
Ethical Culture Society. Not only is the establishment of such
churches a good thing for the body politic as a whole, but a good
thing for the Catholic Church itself; for their presence is a constant
spur to activity and clean and honorable conduct, and a constant
reflection on sloth and moral laxity. The government in each of these
commonwealths is doing everything possible to further the cause of
education, and the tendency is to treat education as peculiarly a
function of government and to make it, where the government acts, non-
sectarian, obligatory, and free--a cardinal doctrine of our own great
democracy, to which we are committed by every principle of sound
Americanism. There must be absolute religious liberty, for tyranny and
intolerance are as abhorrent in matters intellectual and spiritual as
in matters political and material; and more and more we must all
realize that conduct is of infinitely greater importance than dogma.
But no democracy can afford to overlook the vital importance of the
ethical and spiritual, the truly religious, element in life; and in
practice the average good man grows clearly to understand this, and to
express the need in concrete form by saying that no community can make
much headway if it does not contain both a church and a school.

We took breakfast--the eleven-o'clock Brazilian breakfast--on Colonel
Rondon's boat. Caymans were becoming more plentiful. The ugly brutes
lay on the sand-flats and mud-banks like logs, always with the head
raised, sometimes with the jaws open. They are often dangerous to
domestic animals, and are always destructive to fish, and it is good
to shoot them. I killed half a dozen, and missed nearly as many more--
a throbbing boat does not improve one's aim. We passed forests of
palms that extended for leagues, and vast marshy meadows, where
storks, herons, and ibis were gathered, with flocks of cormorants and
darters on the sand-bars, and stilts, skimmers, and clouds of
beautiful swaying terns in the foreground. About noon we passed the
highest point which the old Spanish conquistadores and explorers,
Irala and Ayolas, had reached in the course of their marvellous
journeys in the first half of the sixteenth century--at a time when
there was not a settlement in what is now the United States, and when
hardly a single English sea captain had ventured so much as to cross
the Atlantic.

By the following day the country on the east bank had become a vast
marshy plain dotted here and there by tree-clad patches of higher
land. The morning was rainy; a contrast to the fine weather we had
hitherto encountered. We passed wood-yards and cattle-ranches. At one
of the latter the owner, an Argentine of Irish parentage, who still
spoke English with the accent of the land of his parents' nativity,
remarked that this was the first time the American flag had been seen
on the upper Paraguay; for our gunboat carried it at the masthead.
Early in the afternoon, having reached the part where both banks of
the river were Brazilian territory, we came to the old colonial
Portuguese fort of Coimbra. It stands where two steep hills rise, one
on either side of the river, and it guards the water-gorge between
them. It was captured by the Paraguayans in the war of nearly half a
century ago. Some modern guns have been mounted, and there is a
garrison of Brazilian troops. The white fort is perched on the
hillside, where it clings and rises, terrace above terrace, with
bastion and parapet and crenellated wall. At the foot of the hill, on
the riverine plain, stretches the old-time village with its roofs of
palm. In the village dwell several hundred souls, almost entirely the
officers and soldiers and their families. There is one long street.
The one-story, daub-and-wattle houses have low eaves and steep sloping
roofs of palm-leaves or of split palm-trunks. Under one or two old but
small trees there are rude benches; and for a part of the length of
the street there is a rough stone sidewalk. A little graveyard, some
of the tombs very old, stands at one end. As we passed down the street
the wives and the swarming children of the garrison were at the doors
and windows; there were women and girls with skins as fair as any in
the northland, and others that were predominantly negro. Most were of
intervening shades. All this was paralleled among the men; and the
fusion of the colors was going on steadily.

Around the village black vultures were gathered. Not long before
reaching it we passed some rounded green trees, their tops covered
with the showy wood-ibis; at the same time we saw behind them, farther
inland, other trees crowded with the more delicate forms of the
shining white egrets.

The river now widened so that in places it looked like a long lake; it
wound in every direction through the endless marshy plain, whose
surface was broken here and there by low mountains. The splendor of
the sunset I never saw surpassed. We were steaming east toward clouds
of storm. The river ran, a broad highway of molten gold, into the
flaming sky; the far-off mountains loomed purple across the marshes;
belts of rich green, the river banks stood out on either side against
the rose-hues of the rippling water; in front, as we forged steadily
onward, hung the tropic night, dim and vast.

On December 15 we reached Corumba. For three or four miles before it
is reached the west bank, on which it stands, becomes high rocky
ground, falling away into cliffs. The country roundabout was evidently
well peopled. We saw gauchos, cattle-herders--the equivalent of our
own cowboys--riding along the bank. Women were washing clothes, and
their naked children bathing, on the shore; we were told that caymans
and piranhas rarely ventured near a place where so much was going on,
and that accidents generally occurred in ponds or lonely stretches of
the river. Several steamers came out to meet us, and accompanied us
for a dozen miles, with bands playing and the passengers cheering,
just as if we were nearing some town on the Hudson.

Corumba is on a steep hillside, with wide, roughly paved streets, some
of them lined with beautiful trees that bear scarlet flowers, and with
well-built houses, most of them of one story, some of two or three
stories. We were greeted with a reception by the municipal council,
and were given a state dinner. The hotel, kept by an Italian, was as
comfortable as possible--stone floors, high ceilings, big windows and
doors, a cool, open courtyard, and a shower-bath. Of course Corumba is
still a frontier town. The vehicles ox-carts and mule-carts; there are
no carriages; and oxen as well as mules are used for riding. The water
comes from a big central well; around it the water-carts gather, and
their contents are then peddled around at the different houses. The
families showed the mixture of races characteristic of Brazil; one
mother, after the children had been photographed in their ordinary
costume, begged that we return and take them in their Sunday clothes,
which was accordingly done. In a year the railway from Rio will reach
Corumba; and then this city, and the country roundabout, will see much

At this point we rejoined the rest of the party, and very glad we were
to see them. Cherrie and Miller had already collected some eight
hundred specimens of mammals and birds.


The morning after our arrival at Corumba I asked Colonel Rondon to
inspect our outfit; for his experience of what is necessary in
tropical travelling has been gained through a quarter of a century of
arduous exploration in the wilderness. It was Fiala who had assembled
our food-tents, cooking-utensils, and supplies of all kinds, and he
and Sigg, during their stay in Corumba, had been putting everything in
shape for our start. Colonel Rondon at the end of his inspection said
he had nothing whatever to suggest; that it was extraordinary that
Fiala, without personal knowledge of the tropics, could have gathered
the things most necessary, with the minimum of bulk and maximum of

Miller had made a special study of the piranhas, which swarmed at one
of the camps he and Cherrie had made in the Chaco. So numerous were
they that the members of the party had to be exceedingly careful in
dipping up water. Miller did not find that they were cannibals toward
their own kind; they were "cannibals" only in the sense of eating the
flesh of men. When dead piranhas, and even when mortally injured
piranhas, with the blood flowing, were thrown among the ravenous
living, they were left unmolested. Moreover, it was Miller's
experience, the direct contrary of which we had been told, that
splashing and a commotion in the water attracted the piranhas, whereas
they rarely attacked anything that was motionless unless it was
bloody. Dead birds and mammals, thrown whole and unskinned into the
water were permitted to float off unmolested, whereas the skinned
carcass of a good-sized monkey was at once seized, pulled under the
water, and completely devoured by the blood-crazy fish. A man who had
dropped something of value waded in after it to above the knees, but
went very slowly and quietly, avoiding every possibility of
disturbance, and not venturing to put his hands into the water. But
nobody could bathe, and even the slightest disturbance in the water,
such as that made by scrubbing the hands vigorously with soap,
immediately attracted the attention of the savage little creatures,
who darted to the place, evidently hoping to find some animal in
difficulties. Once, while Miller and some Indians were attempting to
launch a boat, and were making a great commotion in the water, a
piranha attacked a naked Indian who belonged to the party and
mutilated him as he struggled and splashed, waist-deep in the stream.
Men not making a splashing and struggling are rarely attacked; but if
one is attacked by any chance, the blood in the water maddens the
piranhas, and they assail the man with frightful ferocity.

At Corumba the weather was hot. In the patio of the comfortable little
hotel we heard the cicadas; but I did not hear the extraordinary
screaming whistle of the locomotive cicada, which I had heard in the
gardens of the house in which I stayed at Asuncion. This was as
remarkable a sound as any animal sound to which I have listened,
except only the batrachian-like wailing of the tree hyrax in East
Africa; and like the East African mammal this South American insect
has a voice, or rather utters a sound which, so far as it resembles
any other animal sound, at the beginning remotely suggests batrachian
affinities. The locomotive-whistle part of the utterance, however,
resembles nothing so much as a small steam siren; when first heard it
seems impossible that it can be produced by an insect.

On December 17 Colonel Rondon and several members of our party started
on a shallow river steamer for the ranch of Senhor de Barros, "Las
Palmeiras," on the Rio Taquary. We went down the Paraguay for a few
miles, and then up the Taquary. It was a beautiful trip. The shallow
river--we were aground several times--wound through a vast, marshy
plain, with occasional spots of higher land on which trees grew. There
were many water-birds. Darters swarmed. But the conspicuous and
attractive bird was the stately jabiru stork. Flocks of these storks
whitened the marshes and lined the river banks. They were not shy, for
such big birds; before flying they had to run a few paces and then
launch themselves on the air. Once, at noon, a couple soared round
overhead in wide rings, rising higher and higher. On another occasion,
late in the day, a flock passed by, gleaming white with black points
in the long afternoon lights, and with them were spoonbills, showing
rosy amid their snowy companions. Caymans, always called jacares,
swarmed; and we killed scores of the noxious creatures. They were
singularly indifferent to our approach and to the sound of the shots.
Sometimes they ran into the water erect on their legs, looking like
miniatures of the monsters of the prime. One showed by its behavior
how little an ordinary shot pains or affects these dull-nerved, cold-
blooded creatures. As it lay on a sand-bank, it was hit with a long 22
bullet. It slid into the water but found itself in the midst of a
school of fish. It at once forgot everything except its greedy
appetite, and began catching the fish. It seized fish after fish,
holding its head above water as soon as its jaws had closed on a fish;
and a second bullet killed it. Some of the crocodiles when shot
performed most extraordinary antics. Our weapons, by the way, were
good, except Miller's shotgun. The outfit furnished by the American
Museum was excellent--except in guns and cartridges; this gun was so
bad that Miller had to use Fiala's gun or else my Fox 12-bore.

In the late afternoon we secured a more interesting creature than the
jacares. Kermit had charge of two hounds which we owed to the courtesy
of one of our Argentine friends. They were biggish, nondescript
animals, obviously good fighters, and they speedily developed the
utmost affection for all the members of the expedition, but especially
for Kermit, who took care of them. One we named "Shenzi," the name
given the wild bush natives by the Swahili, the semi-civilized African
porters. He was good-natured, rough, and stupid--hence his name. The
other was called by a native name, "Trigueiro." The chance now came to
try them. We were steaming between long stretches of coarse grass,
about three feet high, when we spied from the deck a black object,
very conspicuous against the vivid green. It was a giant ant-eater, or
tamandua bandeira, one of the most extraordinary creatures of the
latter-day world. It is about the size of a rather small black bear.
It has a very long, narrow, toothless snout, with a tongue it can
project a couple of feet; it is covered with coarse, black hair, save
for a couple of white stripes; it has a long, bushy tail and very
powerful claws on its fore feet. It walks on the sides of its fore
feet with these claws curved in under the foot. The claws are used in
digging out ant-hills; but the beast has courage, and in a grapple is
a rather unpleasant enemy, in spite of its toothless mouth, for it can
strike a formidable blow with these claws. It sometimes hugs a foe,
gripping him tight; but its ordinary method of defending itself is to
strike with its long, stout, curved claws, which, driven by its
muscular forearm, can rip open man or beast. Several of our companions
had had dogs killed by these ant-eaters; and we came across one man
with a very ugly scar down his back, where he had been hit by one,
which charged him when he came up to kill it at close quarters.

As soon as we saw the giant tamandua we pushed off in a rowboat, and
landed only a couple of hundred yards distant from our clumsy quarry.
The tamandua throughout most of its habitat rarely leaves the forest,
and it is a helpless animal in the open plain. The two dogs ran ahead,
followed by Colonel Rondon and Kermit, with me behind carrying the
rifle. In a minute or two the hounds overtook the cantering, shuffling
creature, and promptly began a fight with it; the combatants were so
mixed up that I had to wait another minute or so before I could fire
without risk of hitting a dog. We carried our prize back to the bank
and hoisted it aboard the steamer. The sun was just about to set,
behind dim mountains, many miles distant across the marsh.

Soon afterward we reached one of the outstations of the huge ranch we
were about to visit, and hauled up alongside the bank for the night.
There was a landing-place, and sheds and corrals. Several of the peons
or gauchos had come to meet us. After dark they kindled fires, and sat
beside them singing songs in a strange minor key and strumming
guitars. The red firelight flickered over their wild figures as they
squatted away from the blaze, where the light and the shadow met. It
was still and hot. There were mosquitoes, of course, and other insects
of all kinds swarmed round every light; but the steamboat was
comfortable, and we passed a pleasant night.

At sunrise we were off for the "fazenda," the ranch of M. de Barros.
The baggage went in an ox-cart--which had to make two trips, so that
all of my belongings reached the ranch a day later than I did. We rode
small, tough ranch horses. The distance was some twenty miles. The
whole country was marsh, varied by stretches of higher ground; and,
although these stretches rose only three or four feet above the marsh,
they were covered with thick jungle, largely palmetto scrub, or else
with open palm forest. For three or four miles we splashed through the
marsh, now and then crossing boggy pools where the little horses
labored hard not to mire down. Our dusky guide was clad in a shirt,
trousers, and fringed leather apron, and wore spurs on his bare feet;
he had a rope for a bridle, and two or three toes of each foot were
thrust into little iron stirrups.

The pools in the marsh were drying. They were filled with fish, most
of them dead or dying; and the birds had gathered to the banquet. The
most notable dinner guests were the great jabiru storks; the stately
creatures dotted the marsh. But ibis and herons abounded; the former
uttered queer, querulous cries when they discovered our presence. The
spurred lapwings were as noisy as they always are. The ibis and plover
did not pay any heed to the fish; but the black carrion vultures
feasted on them in the mud; and in the pools that were not dry small
alligators, the jacare-tinga, were feasting also. In many places the
stench from the dead fish was unpleasant.

Then for miles we rode through a beautiful open forest of tall,
slender caranda palms, with other trees scattered among them. Green
parakeets with black heads chattered as they flew; noisy green and red
parrots climbed among the palms; and huge macaws, some entirely blue,
others almost entirely red, screamed loudly as they perched in the
trees or took wing at our approach. If one was wounded its cries kept
its companions circling around overhead. The naturalists found the
bird fauna totally different from that which they had been collecting
in the hill country near Corumba, seventy or eighty miles distant; and
birds swarmed, both species and individuals. South America has the
most extensive and most varied avifauna of all the continents. On the
other hand, its mammalian fauna, although very interesting, is rather
poor in number of species and individuals and in the size of the
beasts. It possesses more mammals that are unique and distinctive in
type than does any other continent save Australia; and they are of
higher and much more varied types than in Australia. But there is
nothing approaching the majesty, beauty, and swarming mass of the
great mammalian life of Africa and, in a less degree, of tropical
Asia; indeed, it does not even approach the similar mammalian life of
North America and northern Eurasia, poor though this is compared with
the seething vitality of tropical life in the Old World. During a
geologically recent period, a period extending into that which saw man
spread over the world in substantially the physical and cultural stage
of many existing savages, South America possessed a varied and
striking fauna of enormous beasts--sabre-tooth tigers, huge lions,
mastodons, horses of many kinds, camel-like pachyderms, giant ground-
sloths, mylodons the size of the rhinoceros, and many, many other
strange and wonderful creatures. From some cause, concerning the
nature of which we cannot at present even hazard a guess, this vast
and giant fauna vanished completely, the tremendous catastrophe (the
duration of which is unknown) not being consummated until within a few
thousand or a few score thousand years. When the white man reached
South America he found the same weak and impoverished mammalian fauna
that exists practically unchanged to-day. Elsewhere civilized man has
been even more destructive than his very destructive uncivilized
brothers of the magnificent mammalian life of the wilderness; for ages
he has been rooting out the higher forms of beast life in Europe,
Asia, and North Africa; and in our own day he has repeated the feat,
on a very large scale, in the rest of Africa and in North America. But
in South America, although he is in places responsible for the wanton
slaughter of the most interesting and the largest, or the most
beautiful, birds, his advent has meant a positive enrichment of the
wild mammalian fauna. None of the native grass-eating mammals, the
graminivores, approach in size and beauty the herds of wild or half-
wild cattle and horses, or so add to the interest of the landscape.
There is every reason why the good people of South America should
waken, as we of North America, very late in the day, are beginning to
waken, and as the peoples of northern Europe--not southern Europe--
have already partially wakened, to the duty of preserving from
impoverishment and extinction the wild life which is an asset of such
interest and value in our several lands; but the case against
civilized man in this matter is gruesomely heavy anyhow, when the
plain truth is told, and it is harmed by exaggeration.

After five or six hours' travelling through this country of marsh and
of palm forest we reached the ranch for which we were heading. In the
neighborhood stood giant fig-trees, singly or in groups, with dense,
dark green foliage. Ponds, overgrown with water-plants, lay about; wet
meadow, and drier pastureland, open or dotted with palms and varied
with tree jungle, stretched for many miles on every hand. There are
some thirty thousand head of cattle on the ranch, besides herds of
horses and droves of swine, and a few flocks of sheep and goats. The
home buildings of the ranch stood in a quadrangle, surrounded by a
fence or low stockade. One end of the quadrangle was formed by the
ranch-house itself, one story high, with whitewashed walls and red-
tiled roof. Inside, the rooms were bare, with clean, whitewashed walls
and palm-trunk rafters. There were solid wooden shutters on the
unglazed windows. We slept in hammocks or on cots, and we feasted
royally on delicious native Brazilian dishes. On another side of the
quadrangle stood another long, low white building with a red-tiled
roof; this held the kitchen and the living-rooms of the upper-grade
peons, the headmen, the cook, and jaguar-hunters, with their families:
dark-skinned men, their wives showing varied strains of white, Indian,
and negro blood. The children tumbled merrily in the dust, and were
fondly tended by their mothers. Opposite the kitchen stood a row of
buildings, some whitewashed daub and wattle, with tin roofs, others of
erect palm-logs with palm-leaf thatch. These were the saddle-room,
storehouse, chicken-house, and stable. The chicken-house was allotted
to Kermit and Miller for the preparation of the specimens; and there
they worked industriously. With a big skin, like that of the giant
ant-eater, they had to squat on the ground; while the ducklings and
wee chickens scuffled not only round the skin but all over it,
grabbing the shreds and scraps of meat and catching flies. The fourth
end of the quadrangle was formed by a corral and a big wooden
scaffolding on which hung hides and strips of drying meat.
Extraordinary to relate, there were no mosquitoes at the ranch; why I
cannot say, as they ought to swarm in these vast "pantanals," or
swamps. Therefore, in spite of the heat, it was very pleasant. Near by
stood other buildings: sheds, and thatched huts of palm-logs in which
the ordinary peons lived, and big corrals. In the quadrangle were
flamboyant trees, with their masses of brilliant red flowers and
delicately cut, vivid-green foliage. Noisy oven-birds haunted these
trees. In a high palm in the garden a family of green parakeets had
taken up their abode and were preparing to build nests. They chattered
incessantly both when they flew and when they sat or crawled among the
branches. Ibis and plover, crying and wailing, passed immediately
overhead. Jacanas frequented the ponds near by; the peons, with a
familiarity which to us seems sacrilegious, but to them was entirely
inoffensive and matter of course, called them "the Jesus Christ
birds," because they walked on the water. There was a wealth of
strange bird life in the neighborhood. There were large papyrus-
marshes, the papyrus not being a fifth, perhaps not a tenth, as high
as in Africa. In these swamps were many blackbirds. Some uttered notes
that reminded me of our own redwings. Others, with crimson heads and
necks and thighs, fairly blazed; often a dozen sat together on a
swaying papyrus-stem which their weight bent over. There were all
kinds of extraordinary bird's-nests in the trees. There is still need
for the work of the collector in South America. But I believe that
already, so far as birds are concerned, there is infinitely more need
for the work of the careful observer, who to the power of appreciation
and observation adds the power of vivid, truthful, and interesting
narration--which means, as scientists no less than historians should
note, that training in the writing of good English is indispensable to
any learned man who expects to make his learning count for what it
ought to count in the effect on his fellow men. The outdoor
naturalist, the faunal naturalist, who devotes himself primarily to a
study of the habits and of the life-histories of birds, beasts, fish,
and reptiles, and who can portray truthfully and vividly what he has
seen, could do work of more usefulness than any mere collector, in
this upper Paraguay country. The work of the collector is
indispensable; but it is only a small part of the work that ought to
be done; and after collecting has reached a certain point the work of
the field observer with the gift for recording what he has seen
becomes of far more importance.

The long days spent riding through the swamp, the "pantanal," were
pleasant and interesting. Several times we saw the tamandua bandeira,
the giant ant-bear. Kermit shot one, because the naturalists eagerly
wished for a second specimen; afterward we were relieved of all
necessity to molest the strange, out-of-date creatures. It was a
surprise to us to find them habitually frequenting the open marsh.
They were always on muddy ground, and in the papyrus-swamp we found
them in several inches of water. The stomach is thick-walled, like a
gizzard; the stomachs of those we shot contained adult and larval
ants, chiefly termites, together with plenty of black mould and
fragments of leaves, both green and dry. Doubtless the earth and the
vegetable matter had merely been taken incidentally, adhering to the
viscid tongue when it was thrust into the ant masses. Out in the open
marsh the tamandua could neither avoid observation, nor fight
effectively, nor make good its escape by flight. It was curious to see
one lumbering off at a rocking canter, the big bushy tail held aloft.
One, while fighting the dogs, suddenly threw itself on its back,
evidently hoping to grasp a dog with its paws; and it now and then
reared, in order to strike at its assailants. In one patch of thick
jungle we saw a black howler monkey sitting motionless in a tree top.
We also saw the swamp-deer, about the size of our blacktail. It is a
real swamp animal, for we found it often in the papyrus-swamps, and
out in the open marsh, knee-deep in the water, among the aquatic

The tough little horses bore us well through the marsh. Often in
crossing bayous and ponds the water rose almost to their backs; but
they splashed and waded and if necessary swam through. The dogs were a
wild-looking set. Some were of distinctly wolfish appearance. These,

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