Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon
Part 2 out of 6
"Come along," said Benito, so as to get his sister out of her
embarrassment; "if we walk on we shall not talk so much."
"One moment, brother," she said. "You have seen how ready I am to
obey you. You wished to oblige Manoel and me to forget each other, so
as not to spoil your walk. Very well; and now I am going to ask a
sacrifice from you so that you shall not spoil mine. Whether it
pleases you or not, Benito, you must promise me to forget----"
"That you are a sportsman!"
"What! you forbid me to----"
"I forbid you to fire at any of these charming birds--any of the
parrots, caciques, or curucus which are flying about so happily among
the trees! And the same interdiction with regard to the smaller game
with which we shall have to do to-day. If any ounce, jaguar, or such
thing comes too near, well----"
"But----" said Benito.
"If not, I will take Manoel's arm, and we shall save or lose
ourselves, and you will be obliged to run after us."
"Would you not like me to refuse, eh?" asked Benito, looking at
"I think I should!" replied the young man.
"Well then--no!" said Benito; "I do not refuse; I will obey and annoy
you. Come on!"
And so the four, followed by the black, struck under the splendid
trees, whose thick foliage prevented the sun's rays from every
reaching the soil.
There is nothing more magnificent than this part of the right bank of
the Amazon. There, in such picturesque confusion, so many different
trees shoot up that it is possible to count more than a hundred
different species in a square mile. A forester could easily see that
no woodman had been there with his hatchet or ax, for the effects of
a clearing are visible for many centuries afterward. If the new trees
are even a hundred years old, the general aspect still differs from
what it was originally, for the lianas and other parasitic plants
alter, and signs remain which no native can misunderstand.
The happy group moved then into the tall herbage, across the thickets
and under the bushes, chatting and laughing. In front, when the
brambles were too thick, the negro, felling-sword in hand, cleared
the way, and put thousands of birds to flight.
Minha was right to intercede for the little winged world which flew
about in the higher foliage, for the finest representations of
tropical ornithology were there to be seen--green parrots and
clamorous parakeets, which seemed to be the natural fruit of these
gigantic trees; humming-birds in all their varieties, light-blue and
ruby red; _"tisauras"_ with long scissors-like tails, looking like
detached flowers which the wind blew from branch to branch;
blackbirds, with orange plumage bound with brown; golden[-edged
beccaficos; and _"sabias,"_ black as crows; all united in a deafening
concert of shrieks and whistles. The long beak of the toucan stood
out against the golden clusters of the _"quiriris,"_ and the
treepeckers or woodpeckers of Brazil wagged their little heads,
speckled all over with their purple spots. It was truly a scene of
But all were silent and went into hiding when above the tops of the
trees there grated like a rusty weathercock the _"alma de gato"_ or
"soul of the cat," a kind of light fawn-colored sparrow-hawk. If he
proudly hooted, displaying in the air the long white plumes of his
tail, he in his turn meekly took to flight when in the loftier
heights there appeared the _"gaviao,"_ the large white-headed eagle,
the terror of the whole winged population of these woods.
Minha made Manoel admire the natural wonders which could not be found
in their simplicity in the more civilized provinces of the east. He
listened to her more with his eyes than his ears, for the cries and
the songs of these thousands of birds were every now and then so
penetrating that he was not able to hear what she said. The noisy
laughter of Lina was alone sufficiently shrill to ring out with its
joyous note above every kind of clucking, chirping, hooting,
whistling, and cooing.
At the end of an hour they had scarcely gone a mile. As they left the
river the trees assumed another aspect, and the animal life was no
longer met with near the ground, but at from sixty to eighty feet
above, where troops of monkeys chased each other along the higher
branches. Here and there a few cones of the solar rays shot down into
the underwood. In fact, in these tropical forests light does not seem
to be necessary for their existence. The air is enough for the
vegetable growth, whether it be large or small, tree or plant, and
all the heat required for the development of their sap is derived not
from the surrounding atmosphere, but from the bosom of the soil
itself, where it is stored up as in an enormous stove.
And on the bromelias, grass plantains, orchids, cacti, and in short
all the parasites which formed a little forest beneath the large one,
many marvelous insects were they tempted to pluck as though they had
been genuine blossoms--nestors with blue wings like shimmering
watered silk, leilu butterflies reflexed with gold and striped with
fringes of green, agrippina moths, ten inches long, with leaves for
wings, maribunda bees, like living emeralds set in sockets of gold,
and legions of lampyrons or pyrophorus coleopters, valagumas with
breastplates of bronze, and green elytrŠ, with yellow light pouring
from their eyes, who, when the night comes, illuminate the forest
with their many-colored scintillations.
"What wonders!" repeated the enthusiastic girl.
"You are at home, Minha, or at least you say so," said Benito, "and
that is the way you talk of your riches!"
"Sneer away, little brother!" replied Minha; "such beautiful things
are only lent to us; is it not so, Manoel? They come from the hand of
the Almighty and belong to the world!"
"Let Benito laugh on, Minha," said Manoel. "He hides it very well,
but he is a poet himself when his time comes, and he admires as much
as we do all these beauties of nature. Only when his gun is on his
arm, good-by to poetry!"
"Then be a poet now," replied the girl.
"I am a poet," said Benito. "O! Nature-enchanting, etc."
We may confess, however, that in forbidding him to use his gun Minha
had imposed on him a genuine privation. There was no lack of game in
the woods, and several magnificent opportunities he had declined with
In some of the less wooded parts, in places where the breaks were
tolerably spacious, they saw several pairs of ostriches, of the
species known as _"naudus,"_ from for to five feet high, accompanied
by their inseparable _"seriemas,"_ a sort of turkey, infinitely
better from an edible point of view than the huge birds they escort.
"See what that wretched promise costs me," sighed Benito, as, at a
gesture from his sister, he replaced under his arm the gun which had
instinctively gone up to his shoulder.
"We ought to respect the seriemas," said Manoel, "for they are great
destroyers of the snakes."
"Just as we ought to respect the snakes," replied Benito, "because
they eat the noxious insects, and just as we ought the insects
because they live on smaller insects more offensive still. At that
rate we ought to respect everything."
But the instinct of the young sportsman was about to be put to a
still more rigorous trial. The woods became of a sudden full of game.
Swift stags and graceful roebucks scampered off beneath the bushes,
and a well-aimed bullet would assuredly have stopped them. Here and
there turkeys showed themselves with their milk and coffee-colored
plumage; and peccaries, a sort of wild pig highly appreciated by
lovers of venison, and agouties, which are the hares and rabbits of
Central America; and tatous belonging to the order of edentates, with
their scaly shells of patterns of mosaic.
And truly Benito showed more than virtue, and even genuine heroism,
when he came across some tapirs, called "antas" in Brazil,
diminutives of the elephant, already nearly undiscoverable on the
banks of the Upper Amazon and its tributaries, pachyderms so dear to
the hunters for their rarity, so appreciated by the gourmands for
their meat, superior far to beef, and above all for the protuberance
on the nape of the neck, which is a morsel fit for a king.
His gun almost burned his fingers, but faithful to his promise he
kept it quiet.
But yet--and he cautioned his sister about this--the gun would go off
in spite of him, and probably register a master-stroke in sporting
annals, if within range there should come a _"tamandoa assa,"_ a kind
of large and very curious ant-eater.
Happily the big ant-eater did not show himself, neither did any
panthers, leopards, jaguars, guepars, or cougars, called
indifferently ounces in South America, and to whom it is not
advisable to get too near.
"After all," said Benito, who stopped for an instant, "to walk is
very well, but to walk without an object----"
"Without an object!" replied his sister; "but our object is to see,
to admire, to visit for the last time these forests of Central
America, which we shall not find again in Para, and to bid them a
"Ah! an idea!"
It was Lina who spoke.
"An idea of Lina's can be no other than a silly one," said Benito,
shaking his head.
"It is unkind, brother," said Minha, "to make fun of Lina when she
has been thinking how to give our walk the object which you have just
regretted it lacks."
"Besides, Mr. Benito, I am sure my idea will please you," replied the
"Well, what is it?" asked Minha.
"You see that liana?"
And Lina pointed to a liana of the _"cipos"_ kind, twisted round a
gigantic sensitive mimosa, whose leaves, light as feathers, shut up
at the least disturbance.
"Well?" said Benito.
"I proposed," replied Minha, "that we try to follow that liana to its
"It is an idea, and it is an object!" observed Benito, "to follow
this liana, no matter what may be the obstacles, thickets, underwood,
rocks, brooks, torrents, to let nothing stop us, not even----"
"Certainly, you are right, brother!" said Minha; "Lina is a trifle
"Come on, then!" replied her brother; "you say that Lina is absurd so
as to say that Benito is absurd to approve of it!"
"Well, both of you are absurd, if that will amuse you," returned
Minha. "Let us follow the liana!"
"You are not afraid?" said Manoel.
"Still objections!" shouted Benito.
"Ah, Manoel! you would not speak like that if you were already on
your way and Minha was waiting for you at the end."
"I am silent," replied Manoel; "I have no more to say. I obey. Let us
follow the liana!"
And off they went as happy as children home for their holidays.
This vegetable might take them far if they determined to follow it to
its extremity, like the thread of Ariadne, as far almost as that
which the heiress of Minos used to lead her from the labyrinth, and
perhaps entangle them more deeply.
It was in fact a creeper of the salses family, one of the cipos known
under the name of the red _"japicanga,"_ whose length sometimes
measures several miles. But, after all, they could leave it when they
The cipo passed from one tree to another without breaking its
continuity, sometimes twisting round the trunks, sometimes garlanding
the branches, here jumping form a dragon-tree to a rosewood, then
from a gigantic chestnut, the _"Bertholletia excelsa,"_ to some of
the wine palms, _"baccabas,"_ whose branches have been appropriately
compared by Agassiz to long sticks of coral flecked with green. Here
round _"tucumas,"_ or ficuses, capriciously twisted like centenarian
olive-trees, and of which Brazil had fifty-four varieties; here round
the kinds of euphorbias, which produce caoutchouc, _"gualtes,"_ noble
palm-trees, with slender, graceful, and glossy stems; and
cacao-trees, which shoot up of their own accord on the banks of the
Amazon and its tributaries, having different melastomas, some with
red flowers and others ornamented with panicles of whitish berries.
But the halts! the shouts of cheating! when the happy company thought
they had lost their guiding thread! For it was necessary to go back
and disentangle it from the knot of parasitic plants.
"There it is!" said Lina, "I see it!"
"You are wrong," replied Minha; "that is not it, that is a liana of
"No, Lina is right!" said Benito.
"No, Lina is wrong!" Manoel would naturally return.
Hence highly serious, long-continued discussions, in which no one
would give in.
Then the black on one side and Benito on the other would rush at the
trees and clamber up to the branches encircled by the cipo so as to
arrive at the true direction.
Now nothing was assuredly less easy in that jumble of knots, among
which twisted the liana in the middle of bromelias, _"karatas,"_
armed with their sharp prickles, orchids with rosy flowers and violet
lips the size of gloves, and oncidiums more tangled than a skein of
worsted between a kitten's paws.
And then when the liana ran down again to the ground the difficulty
of picking it out under the mass of lycopods, large-leaved
heliconias, rosy-tasseled calliandras, rhipsalas encircling it like
the thread on an electric reel, between the knots of the large white
ipomas, under the fleshy stems of the vanilla, and in the midst of
the shoots and branchlets of the grenadilla and the vine.
And when the cipo was found again what shouts of joy, and how they
resumed the walk for an instant interrupted!
For an hour the young people had already been advancing, and nothing
had happened to warn them that they were approaching the end.
They shook the liana with vigor, but it would not give, and the birds
flew away in hundreds, and the monkeys fled from tree to tree, so as
to point out the way.
If a thicket barred the road the felling-sword cut a deep gap, and
the group passed in. If it was a high rock, carpeted with verdure,
over which the liana twisted like a serpent, they climbed it and
A large break now appeared. There, in the more open air, which is as
necessary to it as the light of the sun, the tree of the tropics,
_par excellence,_ which, according to Humboldt, "accompanies man in
the infancy of his civilization," the great provider of the
inhabitant of the torrid zones, a banana-tree, was standing alone.
The long festoon of the liana curled round its higher branches,
moving away to the other side of the clearing, and disappeared again
into the forest.
"Shall we stop soon?" asked Manoel.
"No; a thousand times no!" cried Benito, "not without having reached
the end of it!"
"Perhaps," observed Minha, "it will soon be time to think of
"Oh, dearest mistress, let us go on again!" replied Lina.
"On forever!" added Benito.
And they plunged more deeply into the forest, which, becoming
clearer, allowed them to advance more easily.
Besides, the cipo bore away to the north, and toward the river. It
became less inconvenient to follow, seeing that they approached the
right bank, and it would be easy to get back afterward.
A quarter of an hour later they all stopped at the foot of a ravine
in front of a small tributary of the Amazon. But a bridge of lianas,
made of _"bejucos,"_ twined together by their interlacing branches,
crossed the stream. The cipo, dividing into two strings, served for a
handrail, and passed from one bank to the other.
Benito, all the time in front, had already stepped on the swinging
floor of this vegetable bridge.
Manoel wished to keep his sister back.
"Stay--stay, Minha!" he said, "Benito may go further if he likes, but
let us remain here."
"No! Come on, come on, dear mistress!" said Lina. "Don't be afraid,
the liana is getting thinner; we shall get the better of it, and find
out its end!"
And, without hesitation, the young mulatto boldly ventured toward
"What children they are!" replied Minha. "Come along, Manoel, we must
And they all cleared the bridge, which swayed above the ravine like a
swing, and plunged again beneath the mighty trees.
But they had not proceeded for ten minutes along the interminable
cipo, in the direction of the river, when they stopped, and this time
not without cause.
"Have we got to the end of the liana?" asked Minha.
"No," replied Benito; "but we had better advance with care. Look!"
and Benito pointed to the cipo which, lost in the branches of a high
ficus, was agitated by violent shakings.
"What causes that?" asked Manoel.
"Perhaps some animal that we had better approach with a little
And Benito, cocking his gun, motioned them to let him go on a bit,
and stepped about ten paces to the front.
Manoel, the two girls, and the black remained motionless where they
Suddenly Benito raised a shout, and they saw him rush toward a tree;
they all ran as well.
Sight the most unforeseen, and little adapted to gratify the eyes!
A man, hanging by the neck, struggled at the end of the liana, which,
supple as a cord, had formed into a slipknot, and the shakings came
from the jerks into which he still agitated it in the last
convulsions of his agony!
Benito threw himself on the unfortunate fellow, and with a cut of his
hunting-knife severed the cipo.
The man slipped on to the ground. Manoel leaned over him, to try and
recall him to life, if it was not too late.
"Poor man!" murmured Minha.
"Mr. Manoel! Mr. Manoel! cried Lina. "He breathes again! His heart
beats; you must save him."
"True," said Manoel, "but I think it was about time that we came up."
He was about thirty years old, a white, clothed badly enough, much
emaciated, and he seemed to have suffered a good deal.
At his feet were an empty flask, thrown on the ground, and a cup and
ball in palm wood, of which the ball, made of the head of a tortoise,
was tied on with a fiber.
"To hang himself! to hang himself!" repeated Lina, "and young still!
What could have driven him to do such a thing?"
But the attempts of Manoel had not been long in bringing the luckless
wight to life again, and he opened his eyes and gave an "ahem!" so
vigorous and unexpected that Lina, frightened, replied to his cry
"Who are you, my friend?" Benito asked him.
"An ex-hanger-on, as far as I see."
"But your name?"
"Wait a minute and I will recall myself," said he, passing his hand
over his forehead. "I am known as Fragoso, at your service; and I am
still able to curl and cut your hair, to shave you, and to make you
comfortable according to all the rules of my art. I am a barber, so
to speak more truly, the most desperate of Figaros."
"And what made you think of----"
"What would you have, my gallant sir?" replied Fragoso, with a smile;
"a moment of despair, which I would have duly regretted had the
regrets been in another world! But eight hundred leagues of country
to traverse, and not a coin in my pouch, was not very comforting! I
had lost courage obviously."
To conclude, Fragoso had a good and pleasing figure, and as he
recovered it was evident that he was of a lively disposition. He was
one of those wandering barbers who travel on the banks of the Upper
Amazon, going from village to village, and putting the resources of
their art at the service of negroes, negresses, Indians and Indian
women, who appreciate them very much.
But poor Fragoso, abandoned and miserable, having eaten nothing for
forty hours, astray in the forest, had for an instant lost his head,
and we know the rest.
"My friend," said Benito to him, "you will go back with us to the
fazenda of Iquitos?"
"With pleasure," replied Fragoso; "you cut me down and I belong to
you. I must somehow be dependent."
"Well, dear mistress, don't you think we did well to continue our
walk?" asked Lina.
"That I do," returned the girl.
"Never mind," said Benito; "I never thought that we should finish by
finding a man at the end of the cipo."
"And, above all, a barber in difficulties, and on the road to hang
himself!" replied Fragoso.
"The poor fellow, who was now wide awake, was told about what had
passed. He warmly thanked Lina for the good idea she had had of
following the liana, and they all started on the road to the fazenda,
where Fragoso was received in a way that gave him neither wish nor
want to try his wretched task again.
THE HALF-MILE square of forest was cleared. With the carpenters
remained the task of arranging in the form of a raft the many
venerable trees which were lying on the strand.
And an easy task it was. Under the direction of Joam Garral the
Indians displayed their incomparable ingenuity. In everything
connected with house-building or ship-building these natives are, it
must be admitted, astonishing workmen. They have only an ax and a
saw, and they work on woods so hard that the edge of their tools gets
absolutely jagged; yet they square up trunks, shape beams out of
enormous stems, and get out of them joists and planking without the
aid of any machinery whatever, and, endowed with prodigious natural
ability, do all these things easily with their skilled and patient
The trees had not been launched into the Amazon to begin with; Joam
Garral was accustomed to proceed in a different way. The whole mass
of trunks was symmetrically arranged on a flat part of the bank,
which he had already leveled up at the junction of the Nanay with the
There it was that the jangada was to be built; thence it was that the
Amazon was to float it when the time came for it to start for its
And here an explanatory note is necessary in regard to the geography
of this immense body of water, and more especially as relating to a
singular phenomenon which the riverside inhabitants describe from
The two rivers which are, perhaps, more extensive than the great
artery of Brazil, the Nile and the Missouri-Mississippi, flow one
from south to north across the African continent, the other from
north to south through North America. They cross districts of many
different latitudes, and consequently of many different climates.
The Amazon, on the contrary, is entirely comprised--at least it is
from the point where it turns to the east, on the frontiers of
Ecuador and Peru--between the second and fourth parallels of south
latitude. Hence this immense river system is under the same climatic
conditions during the whole of its course.
In these parts there are two distinct seasons during which rain
falls. In the north of Brazil the rainy season is in September; in
the south it occurs in March. Consequently the right-hand tributaries
and the left-hand tributaries bring down their floods at half-yearly
intervals, and hence the level of the Amazon, after reaching its
maximum in June, gradually falls until October.
This Joam Garral knew by experience, and he intended to profit by the
phenomenon to launch the jangada, after having built it in comfort on
the river bank. In fact, between the mean and the higher level the
height of the Amazon could vary as much as forty feet, and between
the mean and the lower level as much as thirty feet. A difference of
seventy feet like this gave the fazender all he required.
The building was commenced without delay. Along the huge bank the
trunks were got into place according to their sizes and floating
power, which of course had to be taken into account, as among these
thick and heavy woods there were many whose specific gravity was but
little below that of water.
The first layer was entirely composed of trunks laid side by side. A
little interval had to be left between them, and they were bound
together by transverse beams, which assured the solidity of the
whole. _"Piašaba"_ ropes strapped them together as firmly as any
chain cables could have done. This material, which consists of the
ramicles of a certain palm-tree growing very abundantly on the river
banks, is in universal use in the district. Piašaba floats, resists
immersion, and is cheaply made--very good reasons for causing it to
be valuable, and making it even an article of commerce with the Old
Above this double row of trunks and beams were disposed the joists
and planks which formed the floor of the jangada, and rose about
thirty inches above the load water-line. The bulk was enormous, as we
must confess when it is considered that the raft measured a thousand
feet long and sixty broad, and thus had a superificies of sixty
thousand square feet. They were, in fact, about to commit a whole
forest to the Amazon.
The work of building was conducted under the immediate direction of
Joam Garral. But when that part was finished the question of
arrangement was submitted to the discussion of all, including even
the gallant Fragoso.
Just a word as to what he was doing in his new situation at the
The barber had never been so happy as since the day when he had been
received by the hospitable family. Joam Garral had offered to take
him to Para, on the road to which he was when the liana, according to
his account, had seized him by the neck and brought him up with a
round turn. Fragoso had accepted the offer, thanked him from the
bottom of his heart, and ever since had sought to make himself useful
in a thousand ways. He was a very intelligent fellow--what one might
call a "double right-hander"--that is to say, he could do everything,
and could do everything well. As merry as Lina, always singing, and
always ready with some good-natured joke, he was not long in being
liked by all.
But it was with the young mulatto that he claimed to have contracted
the heaviest obligation.
"A famous idea that of yours, Miss Lina," he was constantly saying,
"to play at 'following the liana!' It is a capital game even if you
do not always find a poor chap of a barber at the end!"
"Quite a chance, Mr. Fragoso," would laughingly reply Lina; "I assure
you, you owe me nothing!"
"What! nothing! I owe you my life, and I want it prolonged for a
hundred years, and that my recollection of the fact may endure even
longer! You see, it is not my trade to be hanged! If I tried my hand
at it, it was through necessity. But, on consideration, I would
rather die of hunger, and before quite going off I should try a
little pasturage with the brutes! As for this liana, it is a lien
between us, and so you will see!"
The conversation generally took a joking turn, but at the bottom
Fragoso was very grateful to the mulatto for having taken the
initiative in his rescue, and Lina was not insensible to the
attentions of the brave fellow, who was as straightforward, frank,
and good-looking as she was. Their friendship gave rise to many a
pleasant, "Ah, ah!" on the part of Benito, old Cybele, and others.
To return to the Jangada. After some discussion it was decided, as
the voyage was to be of some months' duration, to make it as complete
and comfortable as possible. The Garral family, comprising the
father, mother, daughter, Benito, Manoel, and the servants, Cybele
and Lina, were to live in a separate house. In addition to these,
there were to go forty Indians, forty blacks, Fragoso, and the pilot
who was to take charge of the navigation of the raft.
Though the crew was large, it was not more than sufficient for the
service on board. To work the jangada along the windings of the river
and between the hundreds of islands and islets which lay in its
course required fully as many as were taken, for if the current
furnished the motive power, it had nothing to do with the steering,
and the hundred and sixty arms were no more than were necessary to
work the long boathooks by which the giant raft was to be kept in
In the first place, then, in the hinder part of the jangada they
built the master's house. It was arranged to contain several bedrooms
and a large dining-hall. One of the rooms was destined for Joam and
his wife, another for Lina and Cybele near those of their mistresses,
and a third room for Benito and Manoel. Minha had a room away from
the others, which was not by any means the least comfortably
This, the principal house, was carefully made of weather-boarding,
saturated with boiling resin, and thus rendered water-tight
throughout. It was capitally lighted with windows on all sides. In
front, the entrance-door gave immediate access to the common room. A
light veranda, resting on slender bamboos, protected the exterior
from the direct action of the solar rays. The whole was painted a
light-ocher color, which reflected the heat instead of absorbing it,
and kept down the temperature of the interior.
But when the heavy work, so to speak, had been completed, Minha
"Father, now your care has inclosed and covered us, you must allow us
to arrange our dwelling to please ourselves. The outside belongs to
you, the inside to us. Mother and I would like it to be as though our
house at the fazenda went with us on the journey, so as to make you
fancy that we had never left Iquitos!"
"Do just as you like, Minha," replied Joam Garral, smiling in the sad
way he often did.
"That will be nice!"
"I leave everything to your good taste."
"And that will do us honor, father. It ought to, for the sake of the
splendid country we are going through--which is yours, by the way,
and into which you are to enter after so many years' absence."
"Yes, Minha; yes," replied Joam. "It is rather as if we were
returning from exile--voluntary exile! Do your best; I approve
beforehand of what you do."
On Minha and Lina, to whom were added of their own free will Manoel
on the one side and Fragoso on the other, devolved the care of
decorating the inside of the house. With some imagination and a
little artistic feeling the result was highly satisfactory.
The best furniture of the fazenda naturally found its place within,
as after arriving in Para they could easily return it by one of the
_igariteos_. Tables, bamboo easy-chairs, cane sofas, carved wood
shelves, everything that constituted the charming furniture of the
tropics, was disposed with taste about the floating home. No one is
likely to imagine that the walls remained bare. The boards were
hidden beneath hangings of most agreeable variety. These hangings
were made of valuable bark, that of the _"tuturis,"_ which is raised
up in large folds like the brocades and damasks and softest and
richest materials of our modern looms. On the floors of the rooms
were jaguar skins, with wonderful spots, and thick monkey furs of
exquisite fleeciness. Light curtains of the russet silk, produced by
the _"sumauma,"_ hung from the windows. The beds, enveloped in
mosquito curtains, had their pillows, mattresses, and bolsters filled
with that fresh and elastic substance which in the Upper Amazon is
yielded by the bombax.
Throughout on the shelves and side-tables were little odds and ends,
brought from Rio Janeiro or Belem, those most precious to Minha being
such as had come from Manoel. What could be more pleasing in her eyes
than the knickknacks given by a loving hand which spoke to her
without saying anything?
In a few days the interior was completed, and it looked just like the
interior of the fazenda. A stationary house under a lovely clump of
trees on the borders of some beautiful river! Until it descended
between the banks of the larger stream it would not be out of keeping
with the picturesque landscape which stretched away on each side of
We may add that the exterior of the house was no less charming than
In fact, on the outside the young fellows had given free scope to
their taste and imagination.
From the basement to the roof it was literally covered with foliage.
A confused mass of orchids, bromelias, and climbing plants, all in
flower, rooted in boxes of excellent soil hidden beneath masses of
verdure. The trunk of some ficus or mimosa was never covered by a
more startlingly tropical attire. What whimsical climbers--ruby red
and golden yellow, with variegated clusters and tangled twigs--turned
over the brackets, under the ridges, on the rafters of the roof, and
across the lintels of the doors! They had brought them wholesale from
the woods in the neighborhood of the fazenda. A huge liana bound all
the parasites together; several times it made the round of the house,
clinging on to every angle, encircling every projection, forking,
uniting, it everywhere threw out its irregular branchlets, and
allowed not a bit of the house to be seen beneath its enormous
clusters of bloom.
As a delicate piece of attention, the author of which can be easily
recognized, the end of the cipo spread out before the very window of
the young mulatto, as though a long arm was forever holding a bouquet
of fresh flowers across the blind.
To sum up, it was as charming as could be; and as Yaquita, her
daughter, and Lina were content, we need say no more about it.
"It would not take much to make us plant trees on the jangada," said
"Oh, trees!" ejaculated Minha.
"Why not?" replied Manoel. "Transported on to this solid platform,
with some good soil, I am sure they would do well, and we would have
no change of climate to fear for them, as the Amazon flows all the
time along the same parallel."
"Besides," said Benito, "every day islets of verdure, torn from the
banks, go drifting down the river. Do they not pass along with their
trees, bushes, thickets, rocks, and fields, to lose themselves in the
Atlantic eight hundred leagues away? Why, then, should we not
transform our raft into a floating garden?"
"Would you like a forest, miss?" said Fragoso, who stopped at
"Yes, a forest!" cried the young mulatto; "a forest with its birds
and its monkeys----"
"Its snakes, its jaguars!" continued Benito.
"Its Indians, its nomadic tribes," added Manoel, "and even its
"But where are you going to, Fragoso?" said Minha, seeing the active
barber making a rush at the bank.
"To look after the forest!" replied Fragoso.
"Useless, my friend," answered the smiling Minha. "Manoel has given
me a nosegay and I am quite content. It is true," she added, pointing
to the house hidden beneath the flowers, "that he has hidden our
house in his betrothal bouquet!"
THE EVENING OF THE FIFTH OF JUNE
WHILE THE master's house was being constructed, Joam Garral was also
busied in the arrangement of the out-buildings, comprising the
kitchen, and offices in which provisions of all kinds were intended
to be stored.
In the first place, there was an important stock of the roots of that
little tree, some six or ten feet in height, which yields the manioc,
and which form the principal food of the inhabitants of these
inter-tropical countries. The root, very much like a long black
radish, grows in clumps like potatoes. If it is not poisonous in
Africa, it is certain that in South America it contains a more
noxious juice, which it is necessary to previously get rid of by
pressure. When this result is obtained, the root is reduced to flour,
and is then used in many ways, even in the form of tapioca, according
to the fancy of the natives.
On board the jangada there was a huge pile of this useful product
destined for general consumption.
As for preserved meats, not forgetting a whole flock of sheep, kept
in a special stable built in the front, they consisted principally of
a quantity of the _"presunto"_ hams of the district, which are of
first-class quality; but the guns of the young fellows and of some of
the Indians were reckoned on for additional supplies, excellent
hunters as they were, to whom there was likely to be no lack of game
on the islands and in the forests bordering on the stream. The river
was expected to furnish its daily quota; prawns, which ought rather
to be called crawfish; _"tambagus,"_ the finest fish in the district,
of a flavor superior to that of salmon, to which it is often
compared; _"pirarucus"_ with red scales, as large as sturgeons, which
when salted are used in great quantities throughout Brazil;
_"candirus,"_ awkward to capture, but good to eat; _"piranhas,"_ or
devil-fish, striped with red bands, and thirty inches long; turtles
large and small, which are counted by millions, and form so large a
part of the food of the natives; some of every one of these things it
was hoped would figure in turn on the tables of the master and his
And so each day shooting and fishing were to be regularly indulged
For beverages they had a good store of the best that country
produced; _"caysuma"_ or _"machachera,"_ from the Upper and Lower
Amazon, an agreeable liquor of slightly acidulated taste, which is
distilled from the boiled root of the sweet manioc; _"beiju,"_ from
Brazil, a sort of national brandy, the _"chica"_ of Peru; the
_mazato"_ of the Ucayali, extracted from the boiled fruits of the
banana-tree, pressed and fermented; _"guarana,"_ a kind of paste made
from the double almond of the _"paulliniasorbilis,"_ a genuine tablet
of chocolate so far as its color goes, which is reduced to a fine
powder, and with the addition of water yields an excellent drink.
And this was not all. There is in these countries a species of dark
violet wine, which is got from the juice of the palm, and the
aromatic flavor of this _"assais"_ is greatly appreciated by the
Brazilans, and of it there were on board a respectable number of
frasques (each holding a little more than half a gallon), which would
probably be emptied before they arrived at Para.
The special cellar of the jangada did honor to Benito, who had been
appointed its commander-in-chief. Several hundred bottles of sherry,
port, and letubal recalled names dear to the earlier conquerors of
South America. In addition, the young butler had stored away certain
demijohns, holding half a dozen gallons each, of excellent _"tafia,"_
a sugared brandy a trifle more pronounced in taste than the national
As far as tobacco was concerned, there was none of that coarse kind
which usually contents the natives of the Amazonian basin. It all
came direct from Villa Bella da Imperatriz--or, in other words, fro
the district in which is grown the best tobacco in Central America.
The principal habitation, with its annexes--kitchen, offices, and
cellars--was placed in the rear--or, let us say, stern of the
craft--and formed a part reserved for the Garral family and their
In the center the huts for the Indians and the blacks had been
erected. The staff were thus placed under the same conditions as at
the fazenda of Iquitos, and would always be able to work under the
direction of the pilot.
To house the crew a good many huts were required, and these gave to
the jangada the appearance of a small village got adrift, and, to
tell the truth, it was a better built and better peopled village than
many of those on the Upper Amazon.
For the Indians Joam Garral had designed regular cabins--huts without
walls, with only light poles supporting the roof of foliage. The air
circulated freely throughout these open constructions and swung the
hammock suspended in the interior, and the natives, among whom were
three or four complete families, with women and children, were lodged
as if they were on shore.
The blacks here found their customary sheds. They differed from the
cabins by being closed in on their four faces, of which only one gave
access to the interior. The Indians, accustomed to live in the open
air, free and untrammeled, were not able to accustom themselves to
the imprisonment of the _ajoupas,_ which agreed better with the life
of the blacks.
In the bow regular warehouses had arisen, containing the goods which
Joam Garral was carrying to Belem at the same time as the products of
There, in vast storerooms, under the direction of Benito, the rich
cargo had been placed with as much order as if it had been carefully
stowed away in a ship's hold.
In the first place, seven thousand arrobas of caoutchouc, each of
about thirty pounds, composed the most precious part of the cargo,
for every pound of it was worth from three to four francs. The
jangada also took fifty hundredweight of sarsaparilla, a smilax which
forms an important branch of foreign trade throughout the Amazon
districts, and is getting rarer and rarer along the banks of the
river, so that the natives are very careful to spare the stems when
they gather them. Tonquin bans, known in Brazil under the name of
_"cumarus,"_ and used in the manufacture of certain essential oils;
sassafras, from which is extracted a precious balsam for wounds;
bales of dyeing plants, cases of several gums, and a quantity of
precious woods, completed a well-adapted cargo for lucrative and easy
sale in the provinces of Para.
Some may feel astonished that the number of Indians and negroes
embarked were only sufficient to work the raft, and that a larger
number were not taken in case of an attack by the riverside Indians.
Such would have been useless. The natives of Central America are not
to be feared in the least, and the times are quite changed since it
was necessary to provide against their aggressions. The Indians along
the river belong to peaceable tribes, and the fiercest of them have
retired before the advancing civilization, and drawn further and
further away from the river and its tributaries. Negro deserters,
escaped from the penal colonies of Brazil, England, Holland, or
France, are alone to be feared. But there are only a small number of
these fugitives, they only move in isolated groups across the
savannahs or the woods, and the jangada was, in a measure, secured
from any attack on the parts of the backwoodsmen.
On the other hand, there were a number of settlements on the
river--towns, villages, and missions. The immense stream no longer
traverses a desert, but a basin which is being colonized day by day.
Danger was not taken into consideration. There were no precautions
To conclude our description of the jangada, we have only to speak of
one or two erections of different kinds which gave it a very
In the bow was the cabin of the pilot--we say in the bow, and not at
the stern, where the helmsman is generally found. In navigating under
such circumstances a rudder is of no use. Long oars have no effect on
a raft of such dimensions, even when worked with a hundred sturdy
arms. It was from the sides, by means of long boathooks or props
thrust against the bed of the stream, that the jangada was kept in
the current, and had its direction altered when going astray. By this
means they could range alongside either bank, if they wished for any
reason to come to a halt. Three or four ubas, and two pirogues, with
the necessary rigging, were carried on board, and afforded easy
communications with the banks. The pilot had to look after the
channels of the river, the deviations of the current, the eddies
which it was necessary to avoid, the creeks or bays which afforded
favorable anchorage, and to do this he had to be in the bow.
If the pilot was the material director of this immense machine--for
can we not justly call it so?--another personage was its spiritual
director; this was Padre Passanha, who had charge of the mission at
A religious family, like that of Joam Garral's, had availed
themselves enthusiastically of this occasion of taking him with them.
Padre Passanha, then aged seventy, was a man of great worth, full of
evangelical fervor, charitable and good, and in countries where the
representatives of religion are not always examples of the virtues,
he stood out as the accomplished type of those great missionaries who
have done so much for civilization in the interior of the most savage
regions of the world.
For fifty years Padre Passanha had lived at Iquitos, in the mission
of which he was the chief. He was loved by all, and worthily so. The
Garral family held him in great esteem; it was he who had married the
daughter of Farmer MagalhaŰs to the clerk who had been received at
the fazenda. He had known the children from birth; he had baptized
them, educated them, and hoped to give each of them the nuptial
The age of the padre did not allow of his exercising his important
ministry any longer. The horn of retreat for him had sounded; he was
about to be replaced at Iquitos by a younger missionary, and he was
preparing to return to Para, to end his days in one of those convents
which are reserved for the old servants of God.
What better occasion could offer than that of descending the river
with the family which was as his own? They had proposed it to him,
and he had accepted, and when arrived at Belem he was to marry the
young couple, Minha and Manoel.
But if Padre Passanha during the course of the voyage was to take his
meals with the family, Joam Garral desired to build for him a
dwelling apart, and heaven knows what care Yaquita and her daughter
took to make him comfortable! Assuredly the good old priest had never
been so lodged in his modest parsonage!
The parsonage was not enough for Padre Passanha; he ought to have a
The chapel then was built in the center of the jangada, and a little
bell surmounted it.
It was small enough, undoubtedly, and it could not hold the whole of
the crew, but it was richly decorated, and if Joam Garral found his
own house on the raft, Padre Passanha had no cause to regret the
poverty-stricken church of Iquitos.
Such was the wonderful structure which was going down the Amazon. It
was then on the bank waiting till the flood came to carry it away.
From the observation and calculation of the rising it would seem as
though there was not much longer to wait.
All was ready to date, the 5th of June.
The pilot arrived the evening before. He was a man about fifty, well
up in his profession, but rather fond of drink. Such as he was, Joam
Garral in large matters at different times had employed him to take
his rafts to belem, and he had never had cause to repent it.
It is as well to add that Araujo--that was his name--never saw better
than when he had imbibed a few glasses of tafia; and he never did any
work at all without a certain demijohn of that liquor, to which he
paid frequent court.
The rise of the flood had clearly manifested itself for several days.
From minute to minute the level of the river rose, and during the
twenty-four hours which preceded the maximum the waters covered the
bank on which the raft rested, but did not lift the raft.
As soon as the movement was assured, and there could be no error as
to the height to which the flood would rise, all those interested in
the undertaking were seized with no little excitement. For if through
some inexplicable cause the waters of the Amazon did not rise
sufficiently to flood the jangada, it would all have to be built over
again. But as the fall of the river would be very rapid it would take
long months before similar conditions recurred.
On the 5th of June, toward the evening, the future passengers of the
jangada were collected on a plateau which was about a hundred feet
above the bank, and waited for the hour with an anxiety quite
There were Yaquita, her daughter, Manoel Valdez, Padre Passanha,
Benito, Lina, Fragoso, Cybele, and some of the servants, Indian or
negro, of the fazenda.
Fragoso could not keep himself still; he went and he came, he ran
down the bank and ran up the plateau, he noted the points of the
river gauge, and shouted "Hurrah!" as the water crept up.
"It will swim, it will swim!" he shouted. "the raft which is to take
us to Belem! It will float if all the cataracts of the sky have to
open to flood the Amazon!"
Joam Garral was on the raft with the pilot and some of the crew. It
was for him to take all the necessary measures at the critical
moment. The jangada was moored to the bank with solid cables, so that
it could not be carried away by the current when it floated off.
Quite a tribe from one hundred and fifty to two hundred Indians,
without counting the population of the village, had come to assist at
the interesting spectacle.
They were all keenly on the watch, and silence reigned over the
Toward five o'clock in the evening the water had reached a level
higher than that of the night before--by more than a foot--and the
bank had already entirely disappeared beneath the liquid covering.
A certain groaning arose among the planks of the enormous structure,
but there was still wanting a few inches before it was quite lifted
and detached from the ground.
For an hour the groanings increased. The joists grated on all sides.
A struggle was going on in which little by little the trunks were
being dragged from their sandy bed.
Toward half-past six cries of joy arose. The jangada floated at last,
and the current took it toward the middle of the river, but, in
obedience to the cables, it quietly took up its position near the
bank at the moment that Padre Passanha gave it his blessing, as if it
were a vessel launched into the sea whose destinies are in the hands
of the Most High!
FROM IQUITOS TO PEVAS
ON THE 6th of June, the very next day, Joam Garral and his people
bade good-by to the superintendent and the Indians and negroes who
were to stay behind at the fazenda. At six o'clock in the morning the
jangada received all its passengers, or rather inhabitants, and each
of them took possession of his cabin, or perhaps we had better say
The moment of departure had come. Araujo, the pilot, got into his
place at the bow, and the crew, armed with their long poles, went to
their proper quarters.
Joam Garral, assisted by Benito and Manoel, superintended the
At the command of the pilot the ropes were eased off, and the poles
applied to the bank so as to give the jangada a start. The current
was not long in seizing it, and coasting the left bank, the islands
of Iquitos and Parianta were passed on the right.
The voyage had commenced--where would it finish? In Para, at Belem,
eight hundred leagues from this little Peruvian village, if nothing
happened to modify the route. How would it finish? That was the
secret of the future.
The weather was magnificent. A pleasant _"pampero"_ tempered the
ardor of the sun--one of those winds which in June or July come from
off the Cordilleras, many hundred leagues away, after having swept
across the huge plain of the Sacramento. Had the raft been provided
with masts and sails she would have felt the effects of the breeze,
and her speed would have been greater; but owing to the sinuosities
of the river and its abrupt changes, which they were bound to follow,
they had had to renounce such assistance.
In a flat district like that through which the Amazon flows, which is
almost a boundless plain, the gradient of the river bed is scarcely
perceptible. It has been calculated that between Tabatinga on the
Brazilian frontier, and the source of this huge body of water, the
difference of level does not exceed a decimeter in each league. There
is no other river in the world whose inclination is so slight.
It follows from this that the average speed of the current cannot be
estimated at more than two leagues in twenty-four hours, and
sometimes, while the droughts are on, it is even less. However,
during the period of the floods it has been known to increase to
between thirty and forty kilometers.
Happily, it was under these latter conditions that the jangada was to
proceed; but, cumbrous in its movements, it could not keep up to the
speed of the current which ran past it. There are also to be taken
into account the stoppages occasioned by the bends in the river, the
numerous islands which had to be rounded, the shoals which had to be
avoided, and the hours of halting, which were necessarily lost when
the night was too dark to advance securely, so that we cannot allow
more than twenty-five kilometers for each twenty-four hours.
In addition, the surface of the water is far from being completely
clear. Trees still green, vegetable remains, islets of plants
constantly torn from the banks, formed quite a flotilla of fragments
carried on by the currents, and were so many obstacles to speedy
The mouth of the Nanay was soon passed, and lost to sight behind a
point on the left bank, which, with its carpet of russet grasses
tinted by the sun, formed a ruddy relief to the green forests on the
The jangada took the center of the stream between the numerous
picturesque islands, of which there are a dozen between Iquitos and
Araujo, who did not forget to clear his vision and his memory by an
occasional application to his demijohn, maneuvered very ably when
passing through this archipelago. At his word of command fifty poles
from each side of the raft were raised in the air, and struck the
water with an automatic movement very curious to behold.
While this was going on, Yaquita, aided by Lina and Cybele, was
getting everything in order, and the Indian cooks were preparing the
As for the two young fellows and Minha, they were walking up and down
in company with Padre Passanha, and from time to time the lady
stopped and watered the plants which were placed about the base of
"Well, padre," said Benito, "do you know a more agreeable way of
"No, my dear boy," replied the padre; "it is truly traveling with all
"And without any fatigue," added Manoel; "we might do hundreds of
thousands of miles in this way."
"And," said Minha, "you do not repent having taken passage with us?
Does it not seem to you as if we were afloat on an island drifted
quietly away from the bed of the river with its prairies and its
"Only?" repeated the padre.
"Only we have made the island with our own hands; it belongs to us,
and I prefer it to all the islands of the Amazon. I have a right to
be proud of it."
"Yes, my daughter; and I absolve you from your pride. Besides, I am
not allowed to scold you in the presence of Manoel!"
"But, on the other hand," replied she, gayly, "you should teach
Manoel to scold me when I deserve it. He is a great deal too
indulgent to my little self."
"Well, then, dear Minha," said Manoel, "I shall profit by that
permission to remind you----"
"That you were very busy in the library at the fazenda, and that you
promised to make me very learned about everything connected with the
Upper Amazon. We know very little about it in Para, and here we have
been passing several islands and you have not even told me their
"What is the good of that?" said she.
"Yes; what is the good of it?" repeated Benito. "What can be the use
of remembering the hundreds of names in the 'Tupi' dialect with which
these islands are dressed out? It is enough to know them. The
Americans are much more practical with their Mississippi islands;
they number then----"
"As they number the avenues and streets of their towns," replied
Manoel. "Frankly, I don't care much for that numerical system; it
conveys nothing to the imagination--Sixty-fourth Island or
Sixty-fifth Island, any more than Sixth Street or Third Avenue. Don't
you agree with me, Minha?"
"Yes, Manoel; though I am of somewhat the same way of thinking as my
brother. But even if we do not know their names, the islands of our
great river are truly splendid! See how they rest under the shadows
of those gigantic palm-trees with their drooping leaves! And the
girdle of reeds which encircles them through which a pirogue can with
difficulty make its way! And the mangrove trees, whose fantastic
roots buttress them to the bank like the claws of some gigantic crab!
Yes, the islands are beautiful, but, beautiful as they are, they
cannot equal the one we have made our own!"
"My little Minha is enthusiastic to-day," said the padre.
"Ah, padre! I am so happy to see everybody happy around em!"
At this moment the voice of Yaquita was heard calling Minha into the
The young girl smilingly ran off.
"You will have an amiable companion," said the padre. "All the joy of
the house goes away with you, my friend."
"Brave little sister!" said Benito, "we shall miss her greatly, and
the padre is right. However, if you do not marry her, Manoel--there
is still time--she will stay with us."
"She will stay with you, Benito," replied Manoel. "Believe me, I have
a presentiment that we shall all be reunited!"
The first day passed capitally; breakfast, dinner, siesta, walks, all
took place as if Joam Garral and his people were still in the
comfortable fazenda of Iquitos.
During these twenty-four hours the mouths of the rivers Bacali,
Chochio, Pucalppa, on the left of the stream, and those of the rivers
Itinicari, Maniti, Moyoc, Tucuya, and the islands of this name on the
right, were passed without accident. The night, lighted by the moon,
allowed them to save a halt, and the giant raft glided peacefully on
along the surface of the Amazon.
On the morrow, the 7th of June, the jangada breasted the banks of the
village of Pucalppa, named also New Oran. Old Oran, situated fifteen
leagues down stream on the same left bank of the river, is almost
abandoned for the new settlement, whose population consists of
Indians belonging to the Mayoruna and Orejone tribes. Nothing can be
more picturesque than this village with its ruddy-colored banks, its
unfinished church, its cottages, whose chimneys are hidden amid the
palms, and its two or three ubas half-stranded on the shore.
During the whole of the 7th of June the jangada continued to follow
the left bank of the river, passing several unknown tributaries of no
importance. For a moment there was a chance of her grounding on the
easterly shore of the island of Sinicure; but the pilot, well served
by the crew, warded off the danger and remained in the flow of the
In the evening they arrived alongside a narrow island, called Napo
Island, from the name of the river which here comes in from the
north-northwest, and mingles its waters with those of the Amazon
through a mouth about eight hundred yards across, after having
watered the territories of the Coto and Orejone Indians.
It was on the morning of the 7th of June that the jangada was abreast
the little island of Mango, which causes the Napo to split into two
streams before falling into the Amazon.
Several years later a French traveler, Paul Marcoy, went out to
examine the color of the waters of this tributary, which has been
graphically compared to the cloudy greenish opal of absinthe. At the
same time he corrected some of the measurements of La Condamine. But
then the mouth of the Napo was sensibly increased by the floods and
it was with a good deal of rapidity that its current, coming from the
eastern slopes of Cotopaxi, hurried fiercely to mingle itself with
the tawny waters of the Amazon.
A few Indians had wandered to the mouth of this river. They were
robust in build, of tall stature, with shaggy hair, and had their
noses pierced with a rod of palm, and the lobes of their ears
lengthened to their shoulders by the weight of heavy rings of
precious wood. Some women were with them. None of them showed any
intention of coming on board. It is asserted that these natives are
cannibals; but if that is true--and it is said of many of the
riverine tribes--there must have been more evidence for the
cannibalism than we get to-day.
Some hours later the village of Bella Vista, situated on a somewhat
lower bank, appeared, with its cluster of magnificent trees, towering
above a few huts roofed with straw, over which there drooped the
large leaves of some medium-sized banana-trees, like the waters
overflowing from a tazza.
Then the pilot, so as to follow a better current, which turned off
from the bank, directed the raft toward the right side of the river,
which he had not yet approached. The maneuver was not accomplished
without certain difficulties, which were successfully overcome after
a good many resorts to the demijohn.
This allowed them to notice in passing some of those numerous lagoons
with black waters, which are distributed along the course of the
Amazon, and which often have no communication with the river. One of
these, bearing the name of the Lagoon of Oran, is of fair size, and
receives the water by a large strait. In the middle of the stream are
scattered several islands and two or three islets curiously grouped;
and on the opposite bank Benito recognized the site of the ancient
Oran, of which they could only see a few uncertain traces.
During two days the jangada traveled sometimes under the left bank,
sometimes under the right, according to the condition of the current,
without giving the least sign of grounding.
The passengers had already become used to this new life. Joam Garral,
leaving to his son everything that referred to the commercial side of
the expedition, kept himself principally to his room, thinking and
writing. What he was writing about he told to nobody, not even
Yaquita, and it seemed to have already assumed the importance of a
Benito, all observation, chatted with the pilot and acted as manager.
Yaquita, her daughter, and Manoel, nearly always formed a group
apart, discussing their future projects just as they had walked and
done in the park of the fazenda. The life was, in fact, the same. Not
quite, perhaps, to Benito, who had not yet found occasion to
participate in the pleasures of the chase. If, however, the forests
of Iquitos failed him with their wild beasts, agoutis, peccaries, and
cabiais, the birds flew in flocks from the banks of the river and
fearlessly perched on the jangada. When they were of such quality as
to figure fairly on the table, Benito shot them; and, in the interest
of all, his sister raised no objection; but if he came across any
gray or yellow herons, or red or white ibises, which haunt the sides,
he spared them through love for Minha. One single species of grebe,
which is uneatable, found no grace in the eyes of the young merchant;
this was the _"caiarara,"_ as quick to dive as to swim or fly; a bird
with a disagreeable cry, but whose down bears a high price in the
different markets of the Amazonian basin.
At length, after having passed the village of Omaguas and the mouth
of the Ambiacu, the jangada arrived at Pevas on the evening of the
11th of June, and was moored to the bank.
As it was to remain here for some hours before nightfall, Benito
disembarked, taking with him the ever-ready Fragoso, and the two
sportsmen started off to beat the thickets in the environs of the
little place. An agouti and a cabiai, not to mention a dozen
partridges, enriched the larder after this fortunate excursion. At
Pevas, where there is a population of two hundred and sixty
inhabitants, Benito would perhaps have done some trade with the lay
brothers of the mission, who are at the same time wholesale
merchants, but these had just sent away some bales of sarsaparilla
and arrobas of caoutchouc toward the Lower Amazon, and their stores
The jangada departed at daybreak, and passed the little archipelago
of the Iatio and Cochiquinas islands, after having left the village
of the latter name on the right. Several mouths of smaller unnamed
affluents showed themselves on the right of the river through the
spaces between the islands.
Many natives, with shaved heads, tattooed cheeks and foreheads,
carrying plates of metal in the lobes of their ears, noses, and lower
lips, appeared for an instant on the shore. They were armed with
arrows and blow tubes, but made no use of them, and did not even
attempt to communicate with the jangada.
FROM PEVAS TO THE FRONTIER
DURING THE FEW days which followed nothing occurred worthy of note.
The nights were so fine that the long raft went on its way with the
stream without even a halt. The two picturesque banks of the river
seemed to change like the panoramas of the theaters which unroll from
one wing to another. By a kind of optical illusion it appeared as
though the raft was motionless between two moving pathways.
Benito had no shooting on the banks, for no halt was made, but game
was very advantageously replaced by the results of the fishing.
A great variety of excellent fish were taken--_"pacos," "surubis,"
"gamitanas,"_ of exquisite flavor, and several of those large rays
called _"duridaris,"_ with rose-colored stomachs and black backs
armed with highly poisonous darts. There were also collected by
thousands those _"candirus,"_ a kind of small silurus, of which many
are microscopic, and which so frequently make a pincushion of the
calves of the bather when he imprudently ventures into their haunts.
The rich waters of the Amazon were also frequented by many other
aquatic animals, which escorted the jangada through its waves for
whole hours together.
There were the gigantic _"pria-rucus,"_ ten and twelve feet long,
cuirassed with large scales with scarlet borders, whose flesh was not
much appreciated by the natives. Neither did they care to capture
many of the graceful dolphins which played about in hundreds,
striking with their tails the planks of the raft, gamboling at the
bow and stern, and making the water alive with colored reflections
and spurts of spray, which the refracted light converted into so many
On the 16th of June the jangada, after fortunately clearing several
shallows in approaching the banks, arrived near the large island of
San Pablo, and the following evening she stopped at the village of
Moromoros, which is situated on the left side of the Amazon.
Twenty-four hours afterward, passing the mouths of the Atacoari or
Cocha--or rather the _"furo,"_ or canal, which communicates with the
lake of Cabello-Cocha on the right bank--she put in at the rising
ground of the mission of Cocha. This was the country of the Marahua
Indians, whose long floating hair, and mouths opening in the middle
of a kind of fan made of the spines of palm-trees, six inches long,
give them a cat-like look--their endeavor being, according to Paul
Marcoy, to resemble the tiger, whose boldness, strength, and cunning
they admire above everything. Several women came with these Marahuas,
smoking cigars, but holding the lighted ends in their teeth. All of
them, like the king of the Amazonian forests, go about almost naked.
The mission of Cocha was then in charge of a Franciscan monk, who was
anxious to visit Padre Passanha.
Joam Garral received him with a warm welcome, and offered him a seat
at the dinner-table.
On that day was given a dinner which did honor to the Indian cook.
The traditional soup of fragrant herbs; cake, so often made to
replace bread in Brazil, composed of the flour of the manioc
thoroughly impregnated with the gravy of meat and tomato yelly;
poultry with rice, swimming in a sharp sauce made of vinegar and
_"malagueta;"_ a dish of spiced herbs, and cold cake sprinkled with
cinnamon, formed enough to tempt a poor monk reduced to the ordinary
meager fare of his parish. They tried all they could to detain him,
and Yaquita and her daughter did their utmost in persuasion. But the
Franciscan had to visit on that evening an Indian who was lying ill
at Cocha, and he heartily thanked the hospitable family and departed,
not without taking a few presents, which would be well received by
the neophytes of the mission.
For two days Araujo was very busy. The bed of the river gradually
enlarged, but the islands became more numerous, and the current,
embarrassed by these obstacles, increased in strength. Great care was
necessary in passing between the islands of Cabello-Cocha, Tarapote,
and Cacao. Many stoppages had to be made, and occasionally they were
obliged to pole off the jangada, which now and then threatened to run
aground. Every one assisted in the work, and it was under these
difficult circumstances that, on the evening of the 20th of June,
they found themselves at Nuestra-Senora-di-Loreto.
Loreto is the last Peruvian town situated on the left bank of the
river before arriving at the Brazilian frontier. It is only a little
village, composed of about twenty houses, grouped on a slightly
undulating bank, formed of ocherous earth and clay.
It was in 1770 that this mission was founded by the Jesuit
missionaries. The Ticuma Indians, who inhabit the territories on the
north of the river, are natives with ruddy skins, bushy hair, and
striped designs on their faces, making them look like the lacquer on
a Chinese table. Both men and women are simply clothed, with cotton
bands bound round their things and stomachs. They are now not more
than two hundred in number, and on the banks of the Atacoari are
found the last traces of a nation which was formerly so powerful
under its famous chiefs.
At Loreto there also live a few Peruvian soldiers and two or three
Portuguese merchants, trading in cotton stuffs, salt fish, and
Benito went ashore, to buy, if possible, a few bales of this smilax,
which is always so much in demand in the markets of the Amazon. Joam
Garral, occupied all the time in the work which gave him not a
moment's rest, did not stir. Yaquita, her daughter, and Manoel also
remained on board. The mosquitoes of Loreto have a deserved
reputation for driving away such visitors as do not care to leave
much of their blood with the redoubtable diptera.
Manoel had a few appropriate words to say about these insects, and
they were not of a nature to encourage an inclination to brave their
"They say that all the new species which infest the banks of the
Amazon collect at the village of Loreto. I believe it, but do not
wish to confirm it. There, Minha, you can take your choice between
the gray mosquito, the hairy mosquito, the white-clawed mosquito, the
dwarf mosquito, the trumpeter, the little fifer, the urtiquis, the
harlequin, the big black, and the red of the woods; or rather they
make take their choice of you for a little repast, and you will come
back hardly recognizable! I fancy these bloodthirsty diptera guard
the Brazilian frontier considerably better than the poverty-stricken
soldiers we see on the bank."
"But if everything is of use in nature," asked Minha, "what is the
use of mosquitoes?"
"They minister to the happiness of entomologists," replied Manoel;
"and I should be much embarrassed to find a better explanation."
What Manoel had said of the Loreto mosquitoes was only too true. When
Benito had finished his business and returned on board, his face and
hands were tattooed with thousands of red points, without counting
some chigoes, which, in spite of the leather of his boots, had
introduced themselves beneath his toes.
"Let us set off this very instant," said Benito, "or these wretched
insects will invade us, and the jangada will become uninhabitable!"
"And we shall take them into Para," said Manoel, "where there are
already quite enough for its own needs."
And so, in order not to pass even the night near the banks, the
jangada pushed off into the stream.
On leaving Loreto the Amazon turns slightly toward the southwest,
between the islands of Arava, Cuyari, and Urucutea. The jangada then
glided along the black waters of the Cajaru, as they mingled with the
white stream of the Amazon. After having passed this tributary on the
left, it peacefully arrived during the evening of the 23d of June
alongside the large island of Jahuma.
The setting of the sun on a clear horizon, free from all haze,
announced one of those beautiful tropical nights which are unknown in
the temperate zones. A light breeze freshened the air; the moon arose
in the constellated depths of the sky, and for several hours took the
place of the twilight which is absent from these latitudes. But even
during this period the stars shone with unequaled purity. The immense
plain seemed to stretch into the infinite like a sea, and at the
extremity of the axis, which measures more than two hundred thousand
millions of leagues, there appeared on the north the single diamond
of the pole star, on the south the four brilliants of the Southern
The trees on the left bank and on the island of Jahuma stood up in
sharp black outline. There were recognizable in the undecided
_silhouettes_ the trunks, or rather columns, of _"copahus,"_ which
spread out in umbrellas, groups of _"sandis,"_ from which is
extracted the thick and sugared milk, intoxicating as wine itself,
and _"vignaticos"_ eighty feet high, whose summits shake at the
passage of the lightest currents of air. "What a magnificent sermon
are these forests of the Amazon!" has been justly said. Yes; and we
might add, "What a magnificent hymn there is in the nights of the
The birds were giving forth their last evening notes--_"bentivis,"_
who hang their nests on the bank-side reeds; _"niambus,"_ a kind of
partridge, whose song is composed of four notes, in perfect accord;
_"kamichis,"_ with their plaintive melody; kingfishers, whose call
responds like a signal to the last cry of their congeners;
_"canindes,"_ with their sonorous trumpets; and red macaws, who fold
their wings in the foliage of the _"jaquetibas,"_ when night comes on
to dim their glowing colors.
On the jangada every one was at his post, in the attitude of repose.
The pilot alone, standing in the bow, showed his tall stature,
scarcely defined in the earlier shadows. The watch, with his long
pole on his shoulder, reminded one of an encampment of Tartar
horsemen. The Brazilian flag hung from the top of the staff in the
bow, and the breeze was scarcely strong enough to lift the bunting.
At eight o'clock the three first tinklings of the Angelus escaped
from the bell of the little chapel. The three tinklings of the second
and third verses sounded in their turn, and the salutation was
completed in the series of more rapid strokes of the little bell.
However, the family after this July day remained sitting under the
veranda to breathe the fresh air from the open.
It had been so each evening, and while Joam Garral, always silent,
was contented to listen, the young people gayly chatted away till
"Ah! our splendid river! our magnificent Amazon!" exclaimed the young
girl, whose enthusiasm for the immense stream never failed.
"Unequaled river, in very truth," said Manoel; "and I do not
understand all its sublime beauties. We are going down it, however,
like Orellana and La Condamine did so many centuries ago, and I am
not at all surprised at their marvelous descriptions."
"A little fabulous," replied Benito.
"Now, brother," said Minha seriously, "say no evil of our Amazon."
"To remind you that it has its legends, my sister, is to say no ill
"Yes, that is true; and it has some marvelous ones," replied Minha.
"What legends?" asked Manoel. "I dare avow that they have not yet
found their way into Para--or rather that, for my part, I am not
acquainted with them."
"What, then do you learn in the Belem colleges?" laughingly asked
"I begin to perceive that they teach us nothing," replied Manoel.
"What, sir!" replied Minha, with a pleasant seriousness, "you do not
know, among other fables, that an enormous reptile called the
_'minhocao,'_ sometimes visits the Amazon, and that the waters of the
river rise or fall according as this serpent plunges in or quites
them, so gigantic is he?"
"But have you ever seen t his phenomenal minhocao?"
"Alas, no!" replied Lina.
"What a pity!" Fragoso thought it proper to add.
"And the 'Mae d'Aqua,'" continued the girl--"that proud and
redoubtable woman whose look fascinates and drages beneath the waters
of the river the imprudent ones who gaze a her."
"Oh, as for the 'Mae d'Aqua,' she exists!" cried the na´ve Lina;
"they say that she still walks on the banks, but disappears like a
water sprite as soon as you approach her."
"Very well, Lina," said Benito; "the first time you see her just let
"So that she may seize you and take you to the bottom of the river?
Never, Mr. Benito!"
"She believes it!" shouted Minha.
"There are people who believe in the trunk of Manaos," said Fragoso,
always ready to intervene on behalf of Lina.
"The 'trunk of Manaos'?" asked Manoel. "What about the trunk of
"Mr. Manoel," answered Fragoso, with comic gravity, "it appears that
there is--or rather formerly was--a trunk of _'turuma,'_ which every
year at the same time descended the Rio Negro, stopping several days
at Manaos, and going on into Para, halting at every port, where the
natives ornamented it with little flags. Arrived at Belem, it came to
a halt, turned back on its road, remounted the Amazon to the Rio
Negro, and returned to the forest from which it had mysteriously
started. One day somebody tried to drag it ashore, but the river rose
in anger, and the attempt had to be given up. And on another occasion
the captain of a ship harpooned it and tried to tow it along. This
time again the river, in anger, broke off the robes, and the trunk
"What became of it?" asked the mulatto.
"It appears that on its last voyage, Miss Lina," replied Fragoso, "it
mistook the way, and instead of going up the Negro it continued in
the Amazon, and it has never been seen again."
"Oh, if we could only meet it!" said Lina.
"If we meet it," answered Benito, "we will put you on it! It will
take you back to the mysterious forest, and you will likewise pass
into the state of a legendary mind!"
"And why not?" asked the mulatto.
"So much for your legends," said Manoel; "and I think your river is
worthy of them. But it has also its histories, which are worth
something more. I know one, and if I were not afraid of grieving
you--for it is a very sad one--I would relate it."
"Oh! tell it, by all means, Mr. Manoel," exclaimed Lina; "I like
stories which make you cry!"
"What, do you cry, :ina?" said Benito.
"Yes, Mr. Benito; but I cry when laughing."
"Oh, well! let is uave it, Manoel!"
"It is the history of a Frenchwoman whose sorrows rendered these
banks memorable in the eighteenth century."
"We are listening," said Minha.
"Here goes, then," said Manoel. "In 1741, at the time of the
expedition of the two Frenchmen, Bouguer and La Condamine, who were
sent to measure a terrestrial degree on the equator, they were
accompanied by a very distinguished astronomer, Godin des Odonais.
Godin des Odonais set out then, but he did not set out alone, for the
New World; he took with him his young wife, his children, his
father-in-law, and his brother-in-law. The travelers arrived at Quito
in good health. There commenced a series of misfortunes for Madame
Odonais; in a few months she lost some of her children. When Godin
des Odonais had completed his work, toward the end of the year 1759,
he left Quito and started for Cayenne. Once arrived in this town he
wanted his family to come to him, but war had been declared, and he
was obliged to ask the Portuguese government for permission for a
free passage for Madame Odonais and her people. What do you think?
Many years passed before the permission could be given. In 1765 Godin
des Odonais, maddened by the delay, resolved to ascend the Amazon in
search of his wife at Quito; but at the moment of his departure a
sudden illness stopped him, and he could not carry out his intention.
However, his application had not been useless, and Madame des Odonais
learned at last that the king of Portugal had given the necessary
permission, and prepared to embark and descend the river to her
husband. At the same time an escort was ordered to be ready in the
missions of the Upper Amazon. Madame des Odonais was a woman of great
courage, as you will see presently; she never hesitated, and
notwithstanding the dangers of such a voyage across the continent,
"It was her duty to her husband, Manoel," said Yaquita, "and I would
have done the same."
"Madame des Odonais," continued Manoel, "came to Rio Bamba, at the
south of Quito, bringing her brother-in-law, her children, and a
French doctor. Their endeavor was to reach the missions on the
Brazilian frontier, where they hoped to find a ship and the escort.
The voyage at first was favorable; it was made down the tributaries
of the Amazon in a canoe. The difficulties, however, gradually
increased with the dangers and fatigues of a country decimated by the
smallpox. Of several guides who offered their services, the most part
disappeared after a few days; one of them, the last who remained
faithful to the travlers, was drowned in the Bobonasa, in endeavoring
to help the French doctor. At length the canoe, damaged by rocks and
floating trees, became useless. It was therefore necessary to get on
shore, and there at the edge of the impenetrable forest they built a
few huts of foliage. The doctor offered to go on in front with a
negro who had never wished to leave Madame des Odonais. The two went
off; they waited for them several days, but in vain. They never
"In the meantime the victuals were getting exhausted. The forsaken
ones in vain endeavored to descend the Bobonasa on a raft. They had
to again take to the forest, and make their way on foot through the
almost impenetrable undergrowth. The fatigues were too much for the
poor folks! They died off one by one in spite of the cares of the
noble Frenchwoman. At the end of a few days children, relations, and
servants, were all dead!"
"What an unfortunate woman!" said Lina.
"Madame des Odonais alone remained," continued Manoel. "There she
was, at a thousand leagues from the ocean which she was trying to
reach! It was no longer a mother who continued her journey toward the
river--the mother had lost her shildren; she had buried them with her
own hands! It was a wife who wished to see her husband once again!
She traveled night and day, and at length regained the Bobonasa. She
was there received by some kind-hearted Indians, who took her to the
missions, where the escort was waiting. But she arrived alone, and
behind her the stages of the route were marked with graves! Madame
des Odonais reached Loreto, where we were a few days back. From this
Peruvian village she descended the Amazon, as we are doing at this
moment, and at length she rejoined her husband after a separation of
"Poor lady!" said Minha.
"Above all, poor mother!" answered Yaquita.
At this moment Araujo, the pilot, came aft and said:
"Joam Garral, we are off the Ronde Island. We are passing the
"The frontier!" replied Joam.
And rising, he went to the side of the jangada, and looked long and
earnestly at the Ronde Island, with the waves breaking up against it.
Then his hand sought his forehead, as if to rid himself of some
"The frontier!" murmured he, bowing his head by an involuntary
But an instant after his head was raised, and his expression was that
of a man resolved to do his duty to the last.
FRAGOSO AT WORK
"BRAZA" (burning embers) is a word found in the Spanish language as
far back as the twelfth century. It has been used to make the word
"brazil," as descriptive of certain woods which yield a reddish dye.
From this has come the name "Brazil," given to that vast district of
South America which is crossed by the equator, and in which these
products are so frequently met with. In very early days these woods
were the object of considerable trade. Although correctly called
_"ibirapitunga,"_ from the place of production, the name of
_"brazil"_ stuck to them, and it has become that of the country,
which seems like an immense heap of embers lighted by the rays of the
Brazil was from the first occupied by the Portuguese. About the
commencement of the sixteenth century, Alvarez Cabral, the pilot,
took possession of it, and although France and Holland partially
established themselves there, it has remained Portuguese, and
possesses all the qualities which distinguish that gallant little
nation. It is to-day the largest state of South America, and has at
its head the intelligent artist-king Dom Pedro.
"What is your privilege in the tribe?" asked Montaigne of an Indian
whom he met at Havre.
"The privilege of marching first to battle!" innocently answered the
War, we know, was for a long time the surest and most rapid vehicle
of civilization. The Brazilians did what this Indian did: they
fought, they defended their conquests, they enlarged them, and we see
them marching in the first rank of the civilizing advance.
It was in 1824, sixteen years after the foundation of the
Portugo-Brazilian Empire, that Brazil proclaimed its independence by
the voice of Don Juan, whom the French armies had chased from
It remained only to define the frontier between the new empire and
that of its neighbor, Peru. This was no easy matter.
If Brazil wished to extend to the Rio Napo in the west, Peru
attempted to reach eight degrees further, as far as the Lake of Ega.
But in the meantime Brazil had to interfere to hinder the kidnaping
of the Indians from the Amazon, a practice which was engaged in much
to the profit of the Hispano-Brazilian missions. There was no better
method of checking this trade than that of fortifying the Island of
the Ronde, a little above Tabatinga, and there establishing a post.
This afforded the solution, and from that time the frontier of the
two countries passed through the middle of this island.
Above, the river is Peruvian, and is called the Mara˝on, as has been
said. Below, it is Brazilian, and takes the name of the Amazon.
It was on the evening of the 25th of June that the jangada stopped
before Tabatinga, the first Brazilian town situated on the left bank,
at the entrance of the river of which it bears the name, and
bleonging to the parish of St. Paul, established on the right a
little further down stream.
Joam Garral had decided to pass thirty-six hours here, so as to give
a little rest to the crew. They would not start, therefore, until the
morning of the 27th.
On this occasion Yaquita and her children, less likely, perhaps, than
at Iquitos to be fed upon by the native mosquitoes, had announced
their intention of going on ashore and visiting the town.
The population of Tabatinga is estimated at four hundred, nearly all
Indians, comprising, no doubt, many of those wandering families who
are never settled at particular spots on the banks of the Amazon or
its smaller tributaries.
The post at the island of the Ronde has been abandoned for some
years, and transferred to Tabatinga. It can thus be called a garrison
town, but the garrison is only composed of nine soldiers, nearly all
Indians, and a sergeant, who is the actual commandant of the place.
A bank about thirty feet high, in which are cut the steps of a not
very solid staircase, forms here the curtain of the esplanade which
carries the pigmy fort. The house of the commandant consists of a
couple of huts placed in a square, and the soldiers occupy an oblong
building a hundred feet away, at the foot of a large tree.
The collection of cabins exactly resembles all the villages and
hamlets which are scattered along the banks of the river, although in
them a flagstaff carrying the Brazilian colors does not rise above a
sentry-box, forever destitute of its sentinel, nor are four small
mortars present to cannonade on an emergency any vessel which does
not come in when ordered.
As for the village properly so called, it is situated below, at the
base of the plateau. A road, which is but a ravine shaded by ficuses
and miritis, leads to it in a few minutes. There, on a half-cracked
hill of clay, stand a dozen houses, covered with the leaves of the
_"boiassu"_ palm placed round a central space.
All this is not very curious, but the environs of Tabatinga are
charming, particularly at the mouth of the Javary, which is of
sufficient extent to contain the Archipelago of the Aramasa Islands.
Hereabouts are grouped many fine trees, and among them a large number
of the palms, whose supple fibers are used in the fabrication of
hammocks and fishing-nets, and are the cause of some trade. To
conclude, the place is one of the most picturesque on the Upper
Tabatinga is destined to become before long a station of some
importance, and will no doubt rapidly develop, for there will stop
the Brazilian steamers which ascend the river, and the Peruvian
steamers which descend it. There they will tranship passengers and
cargoes. It does not require much for an English or American village
to become in a few years the center of considerable commerce.
The river is very beautiful along this part of its course. The
influence of ordinary tides is not perceptible at Tabatinga, which is
more than six hundred leagues from the Atlantic. But it is not so
with the _"pororoca,"_ that species of eddy which for three days in
the height of the syzygies raises the waters of the Amazon, and turns
them back at the rate of seventeen kilometers per hour. They say that
the effects of this bore are felt up to the Brazilian frontier.
On the morrow, the 26th of June, the Garral family prepared to go off
and visit the village. Though Joam, Benito, and Manoel had already
set foot in a Brazilian town, it was otherwise with Yaquita and her
daughter; for them it was, so to speak, a taking possession. It is
conceivable, therefore, that Yaquita and Minha should attach some
importance to the event.
If, on his part, Fragoso, in his capacity of wandering barber, had
already run through the different provinces of South America, Lina,
like her young mistress, had never been on Brazilian soil.
But before leaving the jangada Fragoso had sought Joam Garral, and
had the following conversation with him.
"Mr. Garral," said he, "from the day when you received me at the
fazenda of Iquitos, lodged, clothed, fed--in a word, took me in so
hospitably--I have owed you----"
"You owe me absolutely nothing, my friend," answered Joam, "so do not
"Oh, do not be alarmed!" exclaimed Fragoso, "I am not going to pay it
off! Let me add, that you took me on board the jangada and gave me
the means of descending the river. But here we are, on the soil of
Brazil, which, according to all probability, I ought never to have
seen again. Without that liana----"
"It is to Lina, and to Lina alone, that you should tender your
thanks," said Joam.
"I know," said Fragoso, "and I will never forget what I owe here, any
more than what I owe you."
"They tell me, Fragoso," continued Joam, "that you are going to say
good-by, and intend to remain at Tabatinga."
"By no means, Mr. Garral, since you have allowed me to accompany you
to Belem, where I hope at the least to be able to resume my old
"Well, if that is your intention--what were you going to ask me?"
"I was going to ask if you saw any inconvenience in my working at my
profession on our route. There is no necessity for my hand to rust;
and, besides, a few handfuls of reis would not be so bad at the
bottom of my pocket, more particularly if I had earned them. You
know, Mr. Garral, that a barber who is also a hairdresser--and I
hardly like to say a doctor, out of respect to Mr. Manoel--always
finds customers in these Upper Amazon villages."
"Particularly among the Brazilians," answered Joam. "As for the
"I beg pardon," replied Fragoso, "particularly among the natives. Ah!
although there is no beard to trim--for nature has been very stingy
toward them in that way--there are always some heads of hair to be
dressed in the latest fashion. They are very fond of it, these
savages, both the men and the women! I shall not be installed ten
minutes in the square at Tabatinga, with my cup and ball in hand--the
cup and ball I have brought on board, and which I can manage with
pretty pleasantly--before a circle of braves and squaws will have
formed around me. They will struggle for my favors. I could remain
here for a month, and the whole tribe of the Ticunas would come to me
to have their hair looked after! They won't hesitate to make the
acquaintance of 'curling tongs'--that is what they will call me--if I
revisit the walls of Tabatinga! I have already had two tries here,
and my scissors and comb have done marvels! It does not do to return
too often on the same track. The Indian ladies don't have their hair
curled every day, like the beauties of our Brazilian cities. No; when
it is done, it is done for year, and during the twelvemonth they will
take every care not to endanger the edifice which I have raised--with
what talent I dare not say. Now it is nearly a year since I was at
Tabatinga; I go to find my monuments in ruin! And if it is not
objectionable to you, Mr. Garral, I would render myself again worthy
of the reputation which I have acquired in these parts, the question
of reis, and not that of conceit, being, you understand, the
"Go on, then, friend, " replied Joam Garral laughingly; "but be
quick! we can only remain a day at Tabatinga, and we shall start
to-morrow at dawn."
"I will not lose a minute," answered Fragoso--"just time to take the
tools of my profession, and I am off."
"Off you go, Fragoso," said Joam, "and may the reis rain into your
"Yes, and that is a proper sort of rain, and there can never be too
much of it for your obedient servant."
And so saying Fragoso rapidly moved away.
A moment afterward the family, with the exception of Joam, went
ashore. The jangada was able to approach near enough to the bank for
the landing to take place without much trouble. A staircase, in a
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