Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon
Part 3 out of 6
miserable state, cut in the cliff, allowed the visitors to arrive on
the crest of the plateau.
Yaquita and her party were received by the commandant of the fort, a
poor fellow who, however, knew the laws of hospitality, and offered
them some breakfast in his cottage. Here and there passed and
repassed several soldiers on guard, while on the threshold of the
barrack appeared a few children, with their mothers of Ticuna blood,
affording very poor specimens of the mixed race.
In place of accepting the breakfast of the sergeant, Yaquita invited
the commandant and his wife to come and have theirs on board the
The commandant did not wait for a second invitation, and an
appointment was made for eleven o'clock. In the meantime Yaquita, her
daughter, and the young mulatto, accompanied by Manoel, went for a
walk in the neighborhood, leaving Benito to settle with the
commandant about the tolls--he being chief of the custom-house as
well as of the military establishment.
That done, Benito, as was his wont, strolled off with his gun into
the adjoining woods. On this occasion Manoel had declined to
accompany him. Fragoso had left the jangada, but instead of mounting
to the fort he had made for the village, crossing the ravine which
led off from the right on the level of the bank. He reckoned more on
the native custom of Tabatinga than on that of the garrison.
Doubtless the soldiers' wives would not have wished better than to
have been put under his hands, but the husbands scarcely cared to
part with a few reis for the sake of gratifying the whims of their
Among the natives it was quite the reverse. Husbands and wives, the
jolly barber knew them well, and he knew they would give him a better
Behold, then, Fragoso on the road, coming up the shady lane beneath
the ficuses, and arriving in the central square of Tabatinga!
As soon as he set foot in the place the famous barber was signaled,
recognized, surrounded. Fragoso had no big box, nor drum, nor cornet
to attract the attention of his clients--not even a carriage of
shining copper, with resplendent lamps and ornamented glass panels,
nor a huge parasol, no anything whatever to impress the public, as
they generally have at fairs. No; but Fragoso had his cup and ball,
and how that cup and ball were manipulated between his fingers! With
what address did he receive the turtle's head, which did for the
ball, on the pointed end of the stick! With what grace did he make
the ball describe some learned curve of which mathematicians have not
yet calculated the value--even those who have determined the wondrous
curve of "the dog who follows his master!"
Every native was there--men, women, the old and the young, in their
nearly primitive costume, looking on with all their eyes, listening
with all their ears. The smiling entertainer, half in Portuguese,
half in Ticunian, favored them with his customary oration in a tone
of the most rollicking good humor. What he said was what is said by
all the charlatans who place their services at the public disposal,
whether they be Spanish Figaros or French perruqiers. At the bottom
the same self-possession, the same knowledge of human weakness, the
same description of threadbare witticisms, the same amusing
dexterity, and, on the part of the natives, the same wide-mouth
astonishment, the same curiosity, the same credulity as the simple
folk of the civilized world.
It followed, then, that ten minutes later the public were completely
won, and crowded round Fragoso, who was installed in a _"loja"_ of
the place, a sort of serving-bar to the inn.
The _loja_ belonged to a Brazilian settled at Tabatinga. There, for a
few vatems, which are the sols of the country, and worth about twenty
reis, or half a dozen centimes each, the natives could get drinks of
the crudest, and particularly assai, a liquor half-sold, half-liquid,
made of the fruit of the palm-tree, and drunk from a _"coui"_ or
half-calabash in general use in this district of the Amazon.
And then men and women, with equal eagerness, took their places on
the barber's stool. The scissors of Fragoso had little to do, for it
was not a question of cutting these wealthy heads of hair, nearly all
remarkable for their softness and their quality, but the use to which
he could put his comb and the tongs, which were kept warming in the
corner in a brasier.
And then the encouragements of the artist to the crowd!
"Look here! look here!" said he; "how will that do, my friends--if
you don't sleep on the top of it! There you are, for a twelvemonth!
and these are the latest novelties from Belem and Rio de Janeiro! The
queen's maids of honor are not more cleverly decked out; and observe,
I am not stingy with the pomade!"
No, he was not stingy with it. True, it was only a little grease,
with which he had mixed some of the juices of a few flowers, but he
plaster it on like cement!
And as to the names of the capillary edifices--for the monuments
reared by the hands of Fragoso were of every order of
architecture--buckles, rings, clubs, tresses, crimpings, rolls,
corkscrews, curls, everything found there a place. Nothing false; no
towers, no chignons, no shams! These head were not enfeebled by
cuttings nor thinned by fallings-off, but were forests in all their
native virginity! Fragoso, however, was not above adding a few
natural flowers, to or three long fish-bones, and some fine bone or
copper ornaments, which were brought him b the dandies of the
district. Assuredly, the exquisites of the Directory would have
envied the arrangement of these high-art coiffures, three and four
stories high, and the great Leonard himself would have bowed before
his transatlantic rival.
And then the vatems, the handfuls of reis--the only coins for which
the natives of the Amazon exchange their goods--which rained into the
pocket of Fragoso, and which he collected with evident satisfaction.
But assuredly night would come before he could satisfy the demands of
the customers, who were so constantly renewed. It was not only the
population of Tabatinga which crowded to the door of the loja. The
news of the arrival of Fragoso was not slow to get abroad; natives
came to him from all sides: Ticunas from the left bank of the river,
Mayorunas from the right bank, as well as those who live on the
Cajuru and those who come from the villages of the Javary.
A long array of anxious ones formed itself in the square. The happy
ones coming from the hands of Fragoso went proudly from one house to
another, showed themselves off without daring to shake themselves,
like the big children that they were.
It thus happened that when noon came the much-occupied barber had not
had time to return on board, but had had to content himself with a
little assai, some manioc flour, and turtle eggs, which he rapidly
devoured between two applications of the curling-tongs.
But it was a great harvest for the innkeeper, as all the operations
could not be conducted without a large absorption of liquors drawn
from the cellars of the inn. In fact, it was an event for the town of
Tabatinga, this visit of the celebrated Fragoso, barber in ordinary
and extraordinary to the tribes of the Upper Amazon!
AT FIVE O'CLOCK in the evening Fragoso was still there, and was
asking himself if he would have to pass the night on the spot to
satisfy the expectant crowd, when a stranger arrived in the square,
and seeing all t his native gathering, advanced toward the inn.
For some minutes the stranger eyed Fragoso attentively with some
circumspection. The examination was obviously satisfactory, for he
entered the loja.
He was a man about thirty-five years of age. He was dressed in a
somewhat elegant traveling costume, which added much to his personal
appearance. But his strong black beard, which the scissors had not
touched for some time, and his hair, a trifle long, imperiously
required the good offices of a barber.
"Good-day, friend, good-day!" said he, lightly striking Fragoso on
Fragoso turned round when he heard the words pronounced in pure
Brazilian, and not in the mixed idiom of the natives.
"A compatriot?" he asked, without stopping the twisting of the
refractory mouth of a Mayouma head.
"Yes," answered the stranger. "A compatriot who has need of your
"To be sure! In a minute," said Fragoso. "Wait till I have finished
with this lady!"
And this was done in a couple of strokes with the curling-tongs.
Although he was the last comer, and had no right to the vacant place,
he sat down on the stool without causing any expostulation on the
part of the natives who lost a turn.
Fragoso put down the irons for the scissors, and, after the manner of
his brethren, said:
"What can I do for you, sir?"
"Cut my beard and my hair," answered the stranger.
"All right!" said Fragoso, inserting his comb into the mass of hair.
And then the scissors to do their work.
"And you come from far?" asked Fragoso, who could not work without a
good deal to say.
"I have come from the neighborhood of Iquitos."
"So have I!" exclaimed Fragoso. "I have come down the Amazon from
Iquitos to Tabatinga. May I ask your name?"
"No objection at all," replied the stranger. "My name is Torres."
When the hair was cut in the latest style Fragoso began to thin his
beard, but at this moment, as he was looking straight into his face,
he stopped, then began again, and then:
"Eh! Mr. Torres," said he; "I seem to know you. We must have seen
each other somewhere?"
"I do not think so," quickly answered Torres.
"I am always wrong!" replied Fragoso, and he hurried on to finish his
A moment after Torres continued the conversation which this question
of Fragoso had interrupted, with:
"How did you come from Iquitos?"
"From Iquitos to Tabatinga?"
"On board a raft, on which I was given a passage by a worther
fazender who is going down the Amazon with his family."
"A friend indeed!" replied Torres. "That is a chance, and if your
fazender would take me----"
"Do you intend, then, to go down the river?"
"No, only to Manaos, where I have business."
"Well, my host is very kind, and I think he would cheerfully oblige
"Do you think so?"
"I might almost say I am sure."
"And what is the name of this fazender?" asked Torres carelessly."
"Joam Garral," answered Fragoso.
And at the same time he muttered to himself:
"I certainly have seen this fellow somewhere!"
Torres was not the man to allow a conversation to drop which was
likely to interest him, and for very good reasons.
"And so you think Joam Garral would give me a passage?"
"I do not doubt it," replied Fragoso. "What he would do for a poor
chap like me he would not refuse to do for a compatriot like you."
"Is he alone on board the jangada?"
"No," replied Fragoso. "I wa going to tell you that he is traveling
with all his family--and jolly people they are, I assure you. He is
accompanied by a crew of Indians and negroes, who form part of the
staff at the fazenda."
"Is he rich?"
"Oh, certainly!" answered Fragoso--"very rich. Even the timber which
forms the jangada, and the cargo it carries, constitute a fortune!"
"The Joam Garral and his whole family have just passed the Brazilian
"Yes," said Fragoso; "his wife, his son, his daughter, and Miss
"Ah! he has a daughter?" said Torres.
"A charming girl!"
"Going to get married?"
"Yes, to a brave young fellow," replied Fragoso--"an army surgeon in
garrison at Belem, and the wedding is to take place as soon as we get
to the end of the voyage."
"Good!" said the smiling Torres; "it is what you might call a
"A voyage of betrothal, of pleasure, and of business!" said Fragoso.
"Madame Yaquita and her daughter have never set foot on Brazilian
ground; and as for Joam Garral, it is the first time he has crossed
the frontier since he went to the farm of old MagalhaŰs."
"I suppose," asked Torres, "that there are some servants with the
"Of course," replied Fragoso--"old Cybele, on the farm for the last
fifty years, and a pretty mulatto, Miss Lina, who is more of a
companion than a servant to her mistress. Ah, what an amiable
disposition! What a heart, and what eyes! And the ideas she has about
everything, particularly about lianas--" Fragoso, started on this
subject, would not have been able to stop himself, and Lina would
have been the object of a good many enthusiastic declarations, had
Torres not quitted the chair for another customer.
"What do I owe you?" asked he of the barber.
"Nothing," answered Fragoso. "Between compatriots, when they meet on
the frontier, there can be no question of that sort."
"But," replied Torres, "I want to----"
"Very well, we will settle that later on, on board the jangada."
"But I do not know that, and I do not like to ask Joam Garral to
"Do not hesitate!" exclaimed Fragoso; "I will speak to him if you
would like it better, and he will be very happy to be of use to you
under the circumstances."
And at that instant Manoel and Benito, coming into the town after
dinner, appeared at the door of the loja, wishing to see Fragoso at
Torres turned toward them and suddenly said: "There are two gentlemen
I know--or rather I remember."
"You remember them!" asked Fragoso, surprised.
"Yes, undoubtedly! A month ago, in the forest of Iquitos, they got me
out of a considerable difficulty."
"But they are Benito Garral and Manoel Valdez."
"I know. They told me their names, but I never expected to see them
Torres advanced toward the two young men, who looked at him without
"You do not remember me, gentlemen?" he asked.
"Wait a little," answered Benito; "Mr. Torres, if I remember aright;
it was you who, in the forest of Iquitos, got into difficulties with
"Quite true, gentlemen," replied Torres. "For six weeks I have been
traveling down the Amazon, and I have just crossed the frontier at
the same time as you have."
"Very pleased to see you again," said Benito; "but you have not
forgotten that you promised to come to the fazenda to my father?"
"I have not forgotten it," answered Torres.
"And you would have done better to have accepted my offer; it would
have allowed you to have waited for our departure, rested from you
fatigues, and descended with us to the frontier; so many days of
"To be sure!" answered Torres.
"Our compatriot is not going to stop at the frontier," said Fragoso,
"he is going on to Manaos."
"Well, then," replied Benito, "if you will come on board the jangada
you will be well received, and I am sure my father will give you a
"Willingly," said Torres; "and you will allow me to thank you in
Manoel took no part in the conversation; he let Benito make the offer
of his services, and attentively watched Torres, whose face he
scarcely remembered. There was an entire want of frankness in the
eyes, whose look changed unceasingly, as if he was afraid to fix them
anywhere. But Manoel kept this impression to himself, not wishing to
injure a compatriot whom they were about to oblige.
"Gentlemen," said Torres, "if you like, I am ready to follow you to
"Come, then," answered Benito.
A quarter of an hour afterward Torres was on board the jangada.
Benito introduced him to Joam Garral, acquainting him with the
circumstances under which they had previously met him, and asked him
to give him a passage down to Manaos.
"I am happy, sir, to be able to oblige you," replied Joam.
"Thank you," said Torres, who at the moment of putting forth his hand
kept it back in spite of himself.
"We shall be off at daybreak to-morrow," added Joam Garral, "so you
had better get your things on board."
"Oh, that will not take me long!" answered Torres; "there is only
myself and nothing else!"
"Make yourself at home," said Joam Garral.
That evening Torres took possession of a cabin near to that of the
barber. It was not till eight o'clock that the latter returned to the
raft, and gave the young mulatto an account of his exploits, and
repeated, with no little vanity, that the renown of the illustrious
Fragoso was increasing in the basin of the Upper Amazon.
AT DAYBREAK on the morrow, the 27th of June, the cables were cast
off, and the raft continued its journey down the river.
An extra passenger was on board. Whence came this Torres? No one
exactly knew. Where was he going to? "To Manaos," he said. Torres was
careful to let no suspicion of his past life escape him, nor of the
profession that he had followed till within the last two months, and
no one would have thought that the jangada had given refuge to an old
captain of the woods. Joam Garral did not wish to mar the service he
was rendering by questions of too pressing a nature.
In taking him on board the fazender had obeyed a sentiment of
humanity. In the midst of these vast Amazonian deserts, more
especially at the time when the steamers had not begun to furrow the
waters, it was very difficult to find means of safe and rapid
transit. Boats did not ply regularly, and in most cases the traveler
was obliged to walk across the forests. This is what Torres had done,
and what he would continue to have done, and it was for him
unexpected good luck to have got a passage on the raft.
From the moment that Benito had explained under what conditions he
had met Torres the introduction was complete, and he was able to
consider himself as a passenger on an Atlantic steamer, who is free
to take part in the general life if he cares, or free to keep himself
a little apart if of an unsociable disposition.
It was noticed, at least during the first few days, that Torres did
not try to become intimate with the Garral family. He maintained a
good deal of reserve, answering if addressed, but never provoking a
If he appeared more open with any one, it was with Fragoso. Did he
not owe to this gay companion the idea of taking passage on board the
raft? Many times he asked him about the position of the Garrals at
Iquitos, the sentiments of the daughter for Manoel Valdez, and always
discreetly. Generally, when he was not walking alone in the bow of
the jangada, he kept to his cabin.
He breakfasted and dined with Joam Garral and his family, but he took
little part in their conversation, and retired when the repast was
During the morning the raft passed by the picturesque group of
islands situated in the vast estuary of the Javary. This important
affluent of the Amazon comes from the southwest, and from source to
mouth has not a single island, nor a single rapid, to check its
course. The mouth is about three thousand feet in width, and the
river comes in some miles above the site formerly occupied by the
town of the same name, whose possession was disputed for so long by
Spaniards and Portuguese.
Up to the morning of the 30th of June there had been nothing
particular to distinguish the voyage. Occasionally they met a few
vessels gliding along by the banks attached one to another in such a
way that a single Indian could manage the whole--_"navigar de
bubina,"_ as this kind of navigation is called by the people of the
country, that is to say, "confidence navigation."
They had passed the island of Araria, the Archipelago of the Calderon
islands, the island of Capiatu, and many others whose names have not
yet come to the knowledge of geographers.
On the 30th of June the pilot signaled on the right the little
village of Jurupari-Tapera, where they halted for two or three hours.
Manoel and Benito had gone shooting in the neighborhood, and brought
back some feathered game, which was well received in the larder. At
the same time they had got an animal of whom a naturalist would have
made more than did the cook.
It was a creature of a dark color, something like a large
"A great ant-eater!" exclaimed Benito, as he threw it on the deck of
"And a magnificent specimen which would not disgrace the collection
of a museum!" added Manoel.
"Did you take much trouble to catch the curious animal?" asked Minha.
"Yes, little sister," replied Benito, "and you were not there to ask
for mercy! These dogs die hard, and no less than three bullets were
necessary to bring this fellow down."
The ant-eater looked superb, with his long tail and grizzly hair;
with his pointed snout, which is plunged into the ant-hills whose
insects form its principal food; and his long, thin paws, armed with
sharp nails, five inches long, and which can shut up like the fingers
of one's hand. But what a hand was this hand of the ant-eater! When
it has got hold of anything you have to cut it off to make it let go!
It is of this hand that the traveler, Emile Carrey, has so justly
observed: "The tiger himself would perish in its grasp."
On the 2d of July, in the morning, the jangada arrived at the foot of
San Pablo d'Olivenša, after having floated through the midst of
numerous islands which in all seasons are clad with verdure and
shaded with magnificent trees, and the chief of which bear the names
of Jurupari, Rita, Maracanatena, and Cururu Sapo. Many times they
passed by the mouths of iguarapes, or little affluents, with black
The coloration of these waters is a very curious phenomenon. It is
peculiar to a certain number of these tributaries of the Amazon,
which differ greatly in importance.
Manoel remarked how thick the cloudiness was, for it could be clearly
seen on the surface of the whitish waters of the river.
"They have tried to explain this coloring in many ways," said he,
"but I do not think the most learned have yet arrived at a
"The waters are really black with a magnificent reflection of gold,"
replied Minha, showing a light, reddish-brown cloth, which was
floating level with the jangada.
"Yes," said Manoel, "and Humboldt has already observed the curious
reflection that you have; but on looking at it attentively you will
see that it is rather the color of sepia which pervades the whole."
"Good!" exclaimed Benito. "Another phenomenon on which the _savants_
are not agreed."
"Perhaps," said Fragoso, "they might ask the opinions of the caymans,
dolphins, and manatees, for they certainly prefer the black waters to
the others to enjoy themselves in."
"They are particularly attractive to those animals," replied Manoel,
"but why it is rather embarrassing to say. For instance, is the
coloration due to the hydrocarbons which the waters hold in solution,
or is it because they flow through districts of peat, coal, and
anthracite; or should we not rather attribute it to the enormous
quantity of minute plants which they bear along? There is nothing
certain in the matter. Under any circumstances, they are excellent to
drink, of a freshness quite enviable for the climate, and without
after-taste, and perfectly harmless. Take a little of the water,
Minha, and drink it; you will find it all right."
The water is in truth limpid and fresh, and would advantageously
replace many of the table-waters used in Europe. They drew several
frasques for kitchen use.
It has been said that in the morning of the 2d of July the jangada
had arrived at San Pablo d'Olivenša, where they turn out in thousands
those long strings of beads which are made from the scales of the
_"coco de piassaba."_ This trade is here extensively followed. It
may, perhaps, seem singular that the ancient lords of the country,
Tupinambas and Tupiniquis, should find their principal occupation in
making objects for the Catholic religion. But, after all, why not?
These Indians are no longer the Indians of days gone by. Instead of
being clothed in the national fashion, with a frontlet of macaw
feathers, bow, and blow-tube, have they not adopted the American
costume of white cotton trousers, and a cotton poncho woven by their
wives, who have become thorough adepts in its manufacture?
San Pablo d'Olivenša, a town of some importance, has not less than
two thousand inhabitants, derived from all the neighboring tribes. At
present the capital of the Upper Amazon, it began as a simple
Mission, founded by the Portuguese Carmelites about 1692, and
afterward acquired by the Jesuit missionaries.
From the beginning it has been the country of the Omaguas, whose name
means "flat-heads," and is derived from the barbarous custom of the
native mothers of squeezing the heads of their newborn children
between two plates, so as to give them an oblong skull, which was
then the fashion. Like everything else, that has changed; heads have
re-taken their natural form, and there is not the slightest trace of
the ancient deformity in the skulls of the chaplet-makers.
Every one, with the exception of Joam Garral, went ashore. Torres
also remained on board, and showed no desire to visit San Pablo
d'Olivenša, which he did not, however, seem to be acquainted with.
Assuredly if the adventurer was taciturn he was not inquisitive.
Benito had no difficulty in doing a little bartering, and adding
slightly to the cargo of the jangada. He and the family received an
excellent reception from the principal authorities of the town, the
commandant of the place, and the chief of the custom-house, whose
functions did not in the least prevent them from engaging in trade.
They even intrusted the young merchant with a few products of the
country for him to dispose of on their account at Manaos and Belem.
The town is composed of some sixty houses, arranged on the plain
which hereabouts crowns the river-bank. Some of the huts are covered
with tiles--a very rare thing in these countries; but, on the other
hand, the humble church, dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, has
only a roof of straw, rather more appropriate for a stable of
Bethlehem than for an edifice consecrated to religion in one of the
most Catholic countries of the world.
The commandant, his lieutenant, and the head of the police accepted
an invitation to dine with the family, and they were received by Joam
Garral with the respect due to their rank.
During dinner Torres showed himself more talkative than usual. He
spoke about some of his excursions into the interior of Brazil like a
man who knew the country. But in speaking of these travels Torres did
not neglect to ask the commandant if he knew Manaos, if his colleague
would be there at this time, and if the judge, the first magistrate
of the province, was accustomed to absent himself at this period of
the hot season. It seemed that in putting this series of questions
Torres looked at Joam Garral. It was marked enough for even Benito to
notice it, not without surprise, and he observed that his father gave
particular attention to the questions so curiously propounded by
The commandant of San Pablo d'Olivenša assured the adventurer that
the authorities were not now absent from Manaos, and he even asked
Joam Garral to convey to them his compliments. In all probability the
raft would arrive before the town in seven weeks, or a little later,
say about the 20th or the 25th of August.
The guests of the fazender took leave of the Garral family toward the
evening, and the following morning, that of the 3d of July, the
jangada recommenced its descent of the river.
At noon they passed on the left the mouth of the Yacurupa. This
tributary, properly speaking, is a true canal, for it discharges its
waters into the Iša, which is itself an affluent of the Amazon.
A peculiar phenomenon, for the river displaces itself to feed its own
Toward three o'clock in the afternoon the giant raft passed the mouth
of the Jandiatuba, which brings its magnificent black waters from the
southwest, and discharges them into the main artery by a mouth of
four hundred meters in extent, after having watered the territories
of the Culino Indians.
A number of islands were breasted--Pimaicaira, Caturia, Chico,
Motachina; some inhabited, others deserted, but all covered with
superb vegetation, which forms an unbroken garland of green from one
end of the Amazon to the other.
THE CONTINUED DESCENT
ON THE EVENING of the 5th of July, the atmosphere had been oppressive
since the morning and threatened approaching storms. Large bats of
ruddy color skimmed with their huge wings the current of the Amazon.
Among them could be distinguished the _"perros voladors,"_ somber
brown above and light-colored beneath, for which Minha, and
particularly the young mulatto, felt an instinctive aversion.
These were, in fact, the horrible vampires which suck the blood of
the cattle, and even attack man if he is imprudent enough to sleep
out in the fields.
"Oh, the dreadful creatures!" cried Lina, hiding her eyes; "they fill
me with horror!"
"And they are really formidable," added Minha; "are they not,
"To be sure--very formidable," answered he. "These vampires have a
particular instinct which leads them to bleed you in the places where
the blood most easily comes, and principally behind the ear. During
the operation the continue to move their wings, and cause an
agreeable freshness which renders the sleep of the sleeper more
profound. They tell of people, unconsciously submitted to this
hemorrhage for many hours, who have never awoke!"
"Talk no more of things like that, Manoel," said Yaquita, "or neither
Minha nor Lina will dare sleep to-night."
"Never fear!" replied Manoel; "if necessary we will watch over them
as they sleep."
"Silence!" said Benito.
"What is the matter?" asked Manoel.
"Do you not hear a very curious noise on that side?" continued
Benito, pointing to the right bank.
"Certainly," answered Yaquita.
"What causes the noise?" asked Minha. "One would think it was shingle
rolling on the beach of the islands."
"Good! I know what it is," answered Benito. "Tomorrow, at daybreak,
there will be a rare treat for those who like fresh turtle eggs and
He was not deceived; the noise was produced by innumerable chelonians
of all sizes, who were attracted to the islands to lay their eggs.
It is in the sand of the beach that these amphibians choose the most
convenient places to deposit their eggs. The operation commences with
sunset and finishes with the dawn.
At this moment the chief turtle had left the bed of the river to
reconnoiter for a favorable spot; the others, collected in thousands,
were soon after occupied in digging with their hind paddles a trench
six hundred feet long, a dozen wide, and six deep. After laying their
eggs they cover them with a bed of sand, which they beat down with
their carapaces as if they were rammers.
This egg-laying operation is a grand affair for the riverine Indians
of the Amazon and its tributaries. They watch for the arrival of the
chelonians, and proceed to the extraction of the eggs to the sound of
the drum; and the harvest is divided into three parts--one to the
watchers, another to the Indians, a third to the state, represented
by the captains of the shore, who, in their capacity of police, have
to superintend the collection of the dues. To certain beaches which
the decrease of the waters has left uncovered, and which have the
privilege of attracting the greater number of turtles, there has been
given the name of "royal beaches." When the harvest is gathered it is
a holiday for the Indians, who give themselves up to games, dancing,
and drinking; and it is also a holiday for the alligators of the
river, who hold high revelry on the remains of the amphibians.
Turtles, or turtle eggs, are an object of very considerable trade
throughout the Amazonian basin. It is these chelonians whom they
"turn"--that is to say, put on their backs--when they come from
laying their eggs, and whom they preserve alive, keeping them in
palisaded pools like fish-pools, or attaching them to a stake by a
cord just long enough to allow them to go and come on the land or
under the water. In this way they always have the meat of these
They proceed differently with the little turtles which are just
hatched. There is no need to pack them or tie them up. Their shell is
still soft, their flesh extremely tender, and after they have cooked
them they eat them just like oysters. In this form large quantities
However, this is not the most general use to which the chelonian eggs
are put in the provinces of Amazones and Para. The manufacture of
_"manteigna de tartaruga,"_ or turtle butter, which will bear
comparison with the best products of Normandy or Brittany, does not
take less every year that from two hundred and fifty to three hundred
millions of eggs. But the turtles are innumerable all along the
river, and they deposit their eggs on the sands of the beach in
incalculable quantities. However, on account of the destruction
caused not only by the natives, but by the water-fowl from the side,
the urubus in the air, and the alligators in the river, their number
has been so diminished that for every little turtle a Brazilian
pataque, or about a franc, has to be paid.
On the morrow, at daybreak, Benito, Fragoso, and a few Indians took a
pirogue and landed on the beach of one of the large islands which
they had passed during the night. It was not necessary for the
jangada to halt. They knew they could catch her up.
On the shore they saw the little hillocks which indicated the places
where, that very night, each packet of eggs had been deposited in the
trench in groups of from one hundred and sixty to one hundred and
ninety. These there was no wish to get out. But an earlier laying had
taken place two months before, the eggs had hatched under the action
of the heat stored in the sand, and already several thousands of
little turtles were running about the beach.
The hunters were therefore in luck. The pirogue was filled with these
interesting amphibians, and they arrived just in time for breakfast.
The booty was divided between the passengers and crew of the jangada,
and if any lasted till the evening it did not last any longer.
In the morning of the 7th of July they were before San Jose de
Matura, a town situated near a small river filled up with long grass,
and on the borders of which a legend says that Indians with tails
In the morning of the 8th of July they caught sight of the village of
San Antonio, two or three little houses lost in the trees at the
mouth of the Iša, or Putumayo, which is about nine hundred meters
The Putumayo is one of the most important affluents of the Amazon.
Here in the sixteenth century missions were founded by the Spaniards,
which were afterward destroyed by the Portuguese, and not a trace of
them now remains.
Representatives of different tribes of Indians are found in the
neighborhood, which are easily recognizable by the differences in
their tattoo marks.
The Iša is a body of water coming from the east of the Pasto
Mountains to the northeast of Quito, through the finest forests of
wild cacao-trees. Navigable for a distance of a hundred and forty
leagues for steamers of not greater draught than six feet, it may one
day become one of the chief waterways in the west of America.
The bad weather was at last met with. It did not show itself in
continual rains, but in frequent storms. These could not hinder the
progress of the raft, which offered little resistance to the wind.
Its great length rendered it almost insensible to the swell of the
Amazon, but during the torrential showers the Garral family had to
keep indoors. They had to occupy profitably these hours of leisure.
They chatted together, communicated their observations, and their
tongues were seldom idle.
It was under these circumstances that little by little Torres had
begun to take a more active part in the conversation. The details of
his many voyages throughout the whole north of Brazil afforded him
numerous subjects to talk about. The man had certainly seen a great
deal, but his observations were those of a skeptic, and he often
shocked the straightforward people who were listening to him. IT
should be said that he showed himself much impressed toward Minha.
But these attentions, although they were displeasing to Manoel, were
not sufficiently marked for him to interfere. On the other hand,
Minha felt for him an instinctive repulsion which she was at no pains
On the 5th of July the mouth of the Tunantins appeared on the left
bank, forming an estuary of some four hundred feet across, in which
it pours its blackish waters, coming from the west-northwest, after
having watered the territories of the Cacena Indians. At this spot
the Amazon appears under a truly grandiose aspect, but its course is
more than ever encumbered with islands and islets. It required all
the address of the pilot to steer through the archipelago, going from
one bank to another, avoiding the shallows, shirking the eddies, and
maintaining the advance.
They might have taken the Ahuaty Parana, a sort of natural canal,
which goes off a little below the mouth of the Tunantins, and
re-enters the principal stream a hundred an twenty miles further on
by the Rio Japura; but if the larger portion of this measures a
hundred and fifty feet across, the narrowest is only sixty feet, and
the raft would there have met with a difficulty.
On the 13th of July, after having touched at the island of Capuro,
passed the mouth of the Jutahy, which, coming from the
east-southeast, brings in its black waters by a mouth five hundred
feet wide, and admired the legions of monkeys, sulphur-white in
color, with cinnabar-red faces, who are insatiable lovers of the nuts
produced by the palm-trees from which the river derives its name, the
travelers arrived on the 18th of July before the little village of
At this place the jangada halted for twelve hours, so as to give a
rest to the crew.
Fonteboa, like most of the mission villages of the Amazon, has not
escaped the capricious fate which, during a lengthened period, moves
them about from one place to the other. Probably the hamlet has now
finished with its nomadic existence, and has definitely become
stationary. So much the better; for it is a charming place, with its
thirty houses covered with foliage, and its church dedicated to Notre
Dame de Guadaloupe, the Black Virgin of Mexico. Fonteboa has one
thousand inhabitants, drawn from the Indians on both banks, who rear
numerous cattle in the fields in the neighborhood. These occupations
do not end here, for they are intrepid hunters, or, if they prefer
it, intrepid fishers for the manatee.
On the morning of their arrival the young fellows assisted at a very
interesting expedition of this nature. Two of these herbivorous
cetaceans had just been signaled in the black waters of the Cayaratu,
which comes in at Fonteboa. Six brown points were seen moving along
the surface, and these were the two pointed snouts and four pinions
of the lamantins.
Inexperienced fishermen would at first have taken these moving points
for floating wreckage, but the natives of Fonteboa were not to be so
deceived. Besides, very soon loud blowings indicated that the
spouting animals were vigorously ejecting the air which had become
useless for their breathing purposes.
Two ubas, each carrying three fishermen, set off from the bank and
approached the manatees, who soon took flight. The black points at
first traced a long furrow on the top of the water, and then
disappeared for a time.
The fishermen continued their cautious advance. One of them, armed
with a very primitive harpoon--a long nail at the end of a
stick--kept himself in the bow of the boat, while the other two
noiselessly paddled on. They waited till the necessity of breathing
would bring the manatees up again. In ten minutes or thereabouts the
animals would certainly appear in a circle more or less confined.
In fact, this time had scarcely elapsed before the black points
emerged at a little distance, and two jets of air mingled with vapor
were noiselessly shot forth.
The ubas approached, the harpoons were thrown at the same instant;
one missed its mark, but the other struck one of the cetaceans near
It was only necessary to stun the animal, who rarely defends himself
when touched by the iron of the harpoon. In a few pulls the cord
brought him alongside the uba, and he was towed to the beach at the
foot of the village.
It was not a manatee of any size, for it only measured about three
feet long. These poor cetaceans have been so hunted that they have
become very rare in the Amazon and its affluents, and so little time
is left them to grow that the giants of the species do not now exceed
seven feet. What are these, after manatees twelve and fifteen feet
long, which still abound in the rivers and lakes of Africa?
But it would be difficult to hinder their destruction. The flesh of
the manatee is excellent, superior even to that of pork, and the oil
furnished by its lard, which is three inches thick, is a product of
great value. When the meat is smoke-dried it keeps for a long time,
and is capital food. If to this is added that the animal is easily
caught, it is not to be wondered at that the species is on its way to
On the 19th of July, at sunrise, the jangada left Fonteboa, and
entered between the two completely deserted banks of the river, and
breasted some islands shaded with the grand forests of cacao-trees.
The sky was heavily charged with electric cumuli, warning them of
The Rio Jurua, coming from the southwest, soon joins the river on the
left. A vessel can go up it into Peru without encountering
insurmountable obstacles among its white waters, which are fed by a
great number of petty affluents.
"It is perhaps in these parts," said Manoel, "that we ought to look
for those female warriors who so much astonished Orellana. But we
ought to say that, like their predecessors, they do nor form separate
tribes; they are simply the wives who accompany their husbands to the
fight, and who, among the Juruas, have a great reputation for
The jangada continued to descend; but what a labyrinth the Amazon now
appeared! The Rio Japura, whose mouth was forty-eight miles on ahead,
and which is one of its largest tributaries, runs almost parallel
with the river.
Between them were canals, iguarapes, lagoons, temporary lakes, an
inextricable network which renders the hydrography of this country so
But if Araujo had no map to guide him, his experience served him more
surely, and it was wonderful to see him unraveling the chaos, without
ever turning aside from the main river.
In fact, he did so well that on the 25th of July, in the afternoon,
after having passed before the village of Parani-Tapera, the raft was
anchored at the entrance of the Lake of Ego, or Teffe, which it was
useless to enter, for they would not have been able to get out of it
again into the Amazon.
But the town of Ega is of some importance; it was worthy of a halt to
visit it. It was arranged, therefore, that the jangada should remain
on this spot till the 27th of July, and that on the morrow the large
pirogue should take the whole family to Ega. This would give a rest,
which was deservedly due to the hard-working crew of the raft.
The night passed at the moorings near a slightly rising shore, and
nothing disturbed the quiet. A little sheet-lightning was observable
on the horizon, but it came from a distant storm which did not reach
the entrance to the lake.
AT SIX o'clock in the morning of the 20th of July, Yaquita, Minha,
Lina, and the two young men prepared to leave the jangada.
Joam Garral, who had shown no intention of putting his foot on shore,
had decided this time, at the request of the ladies of his family, to
leave his absorbing daily work and accompany them on their excursion.
Torres had evinced no desire to visit Ega, to the great satisfaction
of Manoel, who had taken a great dislike to the man and only waited
for an opportunity to declare it.
As to Fragoso, he could not have the same reason for going to Ega as
had taken him to Tabatinga, which is a place of little importance
compared to this.
Ega is a chief town with fifteen hundred inhabitants, and in it
reside all those authorities which compose the administration of a
considerable city--considerable for the country; that is to say, the
military commandant, the chief of the police, the judges, the
schoolmaster, and troops under the command of officers of all ranks.
With so many functionaries living in a town, with their wives and
children, it is easy to see that hair-dressers would be in demand.
Such was the case, and Fragoso would not have paid his expenses.
Doubtless, however, the jolly fellow, who could do no business in
Ega, had thought to be of the party if Lina went with her mistress,
but, just as they were leaving the raft, he resolved to remain, at
the request of Lina herself.
"Mr. Fragoso!" she said to him, after taking him aside.
"Miss Lina?" answered Fragoso.
"I do not think that your friend Torres intends to go with us to
"Certainly not, he is going to stay on board, Miss Lina, but you wold
oblige me by not calling him my friend!"
"But you undertook to ask a passage for him before he had shown any
intention of doing so."
"Yes, and on that occasion, if you would like to know what I think, I
made a fool of myself!"
"Quite so! and if you would like to know what I think, I do not like
the man at all, Mr. Fragoso."
"Neither do I, Miss Lina, and I have all the time an idea that I have
seen him somewhere before. But the remembrance is too vague; the
impression, however, is far from being a pleasant one!"
"Where and when could you have met him? Cannot you call it to mind?
It might be useful to know who he is and what he has been."
"No--I try all I can. How long was it ago? In what country? Under
what circumstances? And I cannot hit upon it."
"Stay on board and keep watch on Torres during our absence!"
"What? Not go with you to Ega, and remain a whole day without seeing
"I ask you to do so!"
"Is it an order?"
"It is an entreaty!"
"I will remain!"
"I thank you!"
"Thank me, then, with a good shake of the hand," replied Fragoso;
"that is worth something."
Lina held out her hand, and Fragoso kept it for a few moments while
he looked into her face. And that is the reason why he did not take
his place in the pirogue, and became, without appearing to be, the
guard upon Torres.
Did the latter notice the feelings of aversion with which he was
regarded? Perhaps, but doubtless he had his reasons for taking no
account of them.
A distance of four leagues separated the mooring-place from the town
of Ega. Eight leagues, there and back, in a pirogue containing six
persons, besides two negroes as rowers, would take some hours, not to
mention the fatigue caused by the high temperature, though the sky
was veiled with clouds.
Fortunately a lovely breeze blew from the northwest, and if it held
would be favorable for crossing Lake Teffe. They could go to Ega and
return rapidly without having to tack.
So the lateen sail was hoisted on the mast of the pirogue. Benito
took the tiller, and off they went, after a last gesture from Lina to
Fragoso to keep his eyes open.
The southern shore of the lake had to be followed to get to Ega.
After two hours the pirogue arrived at the port of this ancient
mission founded by the Carmelites, which became a town in 1759, and
which General Gama placed forever under Brazilian rule.
The passengers landed on a flat beach, on which were to be found not
only boats from the interior, but a few of those little schooners
which are used in the coasting-trade on the Atlantic seaboard.
When the two girls entered Ega they were at first much astonished.
"What a large town!" said Minha.
"What houses! what people!" replied Lina, whose eyes seemed to have
expanded so that she might see better.
"Rather!" said Benito laughingly. "More than fifteen hundred
inhabitants! Two hundred houses at the very least! Some of them with
a first floor! And two or three streets! Genuine streets!"
"My dear Manoel!" said Minha, "do protect us against my brother! He
is making fun of us, and only because he had already been in the
finest towns in Amazones and Para!"
"Quite so, and he is also poking fun at his mother," added Yaquita,
"for I confess I never saw anything equal to this!"
"Then, mother and sister, you must take great care that you do not
fall into a trance when you get to Manaos, and vanish altogether when
you reach Belem!"
"Never fear," answered Manoel; "the ladies will have been gently
prepared for these grand wonders by visiting the principal cities of
the Upper Amazon!"
"Now, Manoel," said Minha, "you are talking just like my brother! Are
you making fun of us, too?"
"No, Minha, I assure you."
"Laugh on, gentlemen," said Lina, "and let us look around, my dear
mistress, for it is very fine!"
Very fine! A collection of houses, built of mud, whitewashed, and
principally covered with thatch or palm-leaves; a few built of stone
or wood, with verandas, doors, and shutters painted a bright green,
standing in the middle of a small orchard of orange-trees in flower.
But there were two or three public buildings, a barrack, and a church
dedicated to St. Theresa, which was a cathedral by the side of the
modest chapel at Iquitos. On looking toward the lake a beautiful
panorama unfolded itself, bordered by a frame of cocoanut-trees and
assais, which ended at the edge of the liquid level, and showed
beyond the picturesque village of Noqueira, with its few small houses
lost in the mass of the old olive-trees on the beach.
But for the two girls there was another cause of wonderment, quite
feminine wonderment too, in the fashions of the fair Egans, not the
primitive costume of the natives, converted Omaas or Muas, but the
dress of true Brazilian ladies. The wives and daughters of the
principal functionaries and merchants o the town pretentiously showed
off their Parisian toilettes, a little out of date perhaps, for Ega
is five hundred leagues away from Para, and this is tiself many
thousands of miles from Paris.
"Just look at those fine ladies in their fine slothes!"
"Lina will go mad!" exclaimed Benito.
"If those dresses were worn properly," said Minha, "they might not be
"My dear Minha," said Manoel, "with your simple gown and straw hat,
you are better dressed than any one of these Brazilians, with their
headgear and flying petticoats, which are foreign to their country
and their race."
"If it pleases you to think so," answered Minha, "I do not envy any
But they had come to see. They walked through the streets, which
contained more stalls than shops; they strolled about the
market-place, the rendezvous of the fashionable, who were nearly
stifled in their European clothes; they even breakfasted at an
hotel--it was scarcely an inn--whose cookery caused them to deeply
regret the excellent service on the raft.
After dinner, at which only turtle flesh, served up in different
forms, appeared, the Garral family went for the last time to admire
the borders of the lake as the setting sun gilded it with its rays;
then they rejoined their pirogue, somewhat disillusioned perhaps as
to the magnificence of a town which one hour would give time enough
to visit, and a little tired with walking about its stifling streets
which were not nearly so pleasant as the shady pathways of Iquitos.
The inquisitive Lina's enthusiasm alone had not been damped.
They all took their places in the pirogue. The wind remained in the
northwest, and had freshened with the evening. The sail was hoisted.
They took the same course as in the morning, across the lake fed by
the black waters of the Rio Teffe, which, according to the Indians,
is navigable toward the southwest for forty days' journey. At eight
o'clock the priogue regained the mooring-place and hailed the
As soon as Lina could get Fragoso aside--
"Have you seen anything suspicious?" she inquired.
"Nothing, Miss Lina," he replied; "Torres has scarcely left hi cabin,
where he has been reading and writing."
"He did not get into the house or the dining-room, as I feared?"
"No, all the time he was not in his cabin he was in the bow of the
"And what was he doing?"
"Holding an old piece of paper in his hand, consulting it with great
attention, and muttering a lot of incomprehensible words."
"All that is not so unimportant as you think, Mr. Fragoso. These
readings and writings and old papers have their interest! He is
neither a professor nor a lawyer, this reader and writer!"
"You are right!"
"Still watch him, Mr. Fragoso!"
"I will watch him always, Miss Lina," replied Fragoso.
On the morrow, the 27th of July, at daybreak, Benito gave the pilot
the signal to start.
Away between the islands, in the Bay of Arenapo, the mouth of the
Japura, six thousand six hundred feet wide, was seen for an instant.
This large tributary comes into the Amazon through eight mouths, as
if it were pouring into some gulf or ocean. But its waters come from
afar, and it is the mountains of the republic of Ecuador which start
them on a course that there are no falls to break until two hundred
and ten leagues from its junction with the main stream.
All this day was spent in descending to the island of Yapura, after
which the river, less interfered with, makes navigation much easier.
The current is not so rapid and the islets are easily avoided, so
that there were no touchings or groundings.
The next day the jangada coasted along by vast beaches formed by
undulating high domes, which served as the barriers of immense
pasture grounds, in which the whole of the cattle in Europe could be
raised and fed. These sand banks are considered to be the richest
turtle grounds in the basin of the Upper Amazon.
On the evening of the 29th of July they were securely moored off the
island of Catua, so as to pass the night, which promised to be dark.
On this island, as soon as the sun rose above the horizon, there
appeared a party of Muras Indians, the remains of that ancient and
powerful tribe, which formerly occupied more than a hundred leagues
of the river bank between the Teffe and the Madeira.
These Indians went and came, watching the raft, which remained
stationary. There were about a hundred of them armed with blow-tubes
formed of a reed peculiar to these parts, and which is strengthened
outside by the stem of a dwarf palm from which the pith has been
Joam Garral quitted for an instand the work which took up all his
time, to warn his people to keep a good guard and not to provoke
In truth the sides were not well matched. The Muras are remarkably
clever at sending through their blow-tubes arrows which cause
incurable wounds, even at a range of three hundred paces.
These arrows, made of the leaf of the _"coucourite"_ palm, are
feathered with cotton, and nine or ten inches long, with a point like
a needle, and poisoned with _"curare."_
Curare, or _"wourah,"_ the liquor "which kills in a whisper," as the
Indians say, is prepared from the sap of one of the euphorbiaceŠ and
the juice of a bulbous strychnos, not to mention the paste of
venomous ants and poisonous serpent fangs which they mix with it.
"It is indeed a terrible poison," said Manoel. "It attacks at once
those nerves by which the movements are subordinated to the will. But
the heart is not touched, and it does not cease to beat until the
extinction of the vital functions, and besides no antidote is known
to the poison, which commences by numbness of the limbs."
Very fortunately, these Muras made no hostile demonstrations,
although they entertain a profound hatred toward the whites. They
have, in truth, no longer the courage of their ancestors.
At nightfall a five-holed flute was heard behind the trees in the
island, playing several airs in a minor key. Another flute answered.
This interchange of musical phrases lasted for two or three minutes,
and the Muras disappeared.
Fragoso, in an exuberant moment, had tried to reply by a song in his
own fashion, but Lina had clapped her hand on his mouth, and
prevented his showing off his insignificant singing talents, which he
was so willingly lavish of.
On the 2d of August, at three o'clock in the afternoon, the raft
arrived twenty leagues away from there at Lake Apoara, which is fed
by the black waters of the river of the same name, and two days
afterward, about five o'clock, it stopped at the entrance into Lake
This lake is one of the largest which communicates with the Amazon,
and it serves as a reservoir for different rivers. Five or six
affluents run into it, and there are stored and mixed up, and emerge
by a narrow channel into the main stream.
After catching a glimpse of the hamlet of Tahua-Miri, mounted on its
piles as on stilts, as a protection against inundation from the
floods, which often sweep up over these low sand banks, the raft was
moored for the night.
The stoppage was made in sight of the village of Coary, a dozen
houses, considerably dilapidated, built I the midst of a thick mass
of orange and calabash trees.
Nothing can be more changeable than the aspect of this village, for
according to the rise or fall of the water the lake stretches away on
all sides of it, or is reduced to a narrow canal, scarcely deep
enough to communicate with the Amazon.
On the following morning, that of the 5th of August, they started at
dawn, passing the canal of Yucura, belonging to the tangled system of
lakes and furos of the Rio Zapura, and on the morning of the 6th of
August they reached the entrance to Lake Miana.
No fresh incident occurred in the life on board, which proceeded with
almost methodical regularity.
Fragoso, urged on by Lina, did not cease to watch Torres.
Many times he tried to get him to talk about his past life, but the
adventurer eluded all conversation on the subject, and ended by
maintaining a strict reserve toward the barber.
After catching a glimpse of the hamlet of Tahua-Miri, mounted on its
piles as on stilts, as a protection against inundation from the
floods, which often sweep up and over these low sand banks, the raft
was moored for the night.
His intercourse with the Garral family remained the same. If he spoke
little to Joam, he addressed himself more willingly to Yaquita and
her daughter, and appeared not to notice the evident coolness with
which he was received. They all agreed that when the raft arrived at
Manaos, Torres should leave it, and that they would never speak of
him again. Yaquita followed the advice of Padre Passanha, who
counseled patience, but the good priest had not such an easy task in
Manoel, who was quite disposed to put on shore the intruder who had
been so unfortunately taken on to the raft.
The only thing that happened on this evening was the following:
A pirogue, going down the river, came alongside the jangada, after
being hailed by Joam Garral.
"Are you going to Manaos?" askee he of the Indian who commanded and
was steering her.
"Yes," replied he.
"When will you get there?"
"In eight days."
"Then you will arrive before we shall. Will you deliver a letter for
"Take this letter, then, my friend, and deliver it at Manaos."
The Indian took the letter which Joam gave him, and a handful of reis
was the price of the commission he had undertaken.
No members of the family, then gone into the house, knew anything of
this. Torres was the only witness. He heard a few words exchanged
between Joam and the Indian, and from the cloud which passed over his
face it was easy to see that the sending of this letteer considerably
HOWEVER, if Manoel, to avoid giving rise to a violent scene on board,
said nothing on the subject of Torres, he resolved to have an
explanation with Benito.
"Benito," he began, after taking him to the bow of the jangada, "I
have something to say to you."
Benito, generally so good-humored, stopped as he looked at Manoel,
and a cloud came over his countenance.
"I know why," he said; "it is about Torres."
"And I also wish to speak to you."
"You have then noticed his attention to Minha?" said Manoel, turning
"Ah! It is not a feeling of jealousy, though, that exasperates you
against such a man?" said Benito quickly.
"No!" replied Manoel. "Decidedly not! Heaven forbid I should do such
an injury to the girl who is to become my wife. No, Benito! She holds
the adventurer in horror! I am not thinking anything of that sort;
but it distresses me to see this adventurer constantly obtruding
himself by his presence and conversation on your mother and sister,
and seeking to introduce himself into that intimacy with your family
which is already mine."
"Manoel," gravely answered Benito, "I share your aversion for this
dubious individual, and had I consulted my feelings I would already
have driven Torres off the raft! But I dare not!"
"You dare not?" said Manoel, seizing the hand of his friend. "You
"Listen to me, Manoel," continued Benito. "You have observed Torres
well, have you not? You have remarked his attentions to my sister!
Nothing can be truer! But while you have been noticing that, have you
not seen that this annoying man never keeps his eyes off my father,
no matter if he is near to him or far from him, and that he seems to
have some spiteful secret intention in watching him with such
"What are you talking about, Benito? Have you any reason to think
that Torres bears some grudge against Joam Garral?"
"No! I think nothing!" replied Benito; "it is only a presentiment!
But look well at Torres, study his face with care, and you will see
what an evil grin he has whenever my father comes into his sight."
"Well, then," exclaimed Manoel, "if it is so, Benito, the more reason
for clearing him out!"
"More reason--or less reason," replied Benito. "Manoel, I fear--what?
I know not--but to force my father to get rid of Torres would perhaps
be imprudent! I repeat it, I am aafraid, though no positive fact
enables me to explain my fear to myself!"
And Benito seemed to shudder with anger as he said these words.
"Then," said Manoel, "you think we had better wait?"
"Yes; wait, before doing anything, but above all things let us be on
"After all," answered Manoel, "in twenty days we shall be at Manaos.
There Torres must stop. There he will leave us, and we shall be
relieved of his presence for good! Till then we must keep our eyes on
"You understand me, Manoel?" asked Benito.
"I understand you, my friend, my brother!" replied Manoel, "although
I do not share, and cannot share, your fears! What connection can
possibly exist between your father and this adventurer? Evidently
your father has never seen him!"
"I do not say that my father knows Torres," said Benito; "but
assuredly it seems to me that Torres knows my father. What was the
fellow doing in the neighborhood of the fazenda when we met him in
the forest of Iquitos? Why did he then refuse the hospitality which
we offered, so as to afterward manage to force himself on us as our
traveling companion? We arrive at Tabatinga, and there he is as if he
was waiting for us! The probability is that these meetings were in
pursuance of a preconceived plan. When I see the shifty, dogged look
of Torres, all this crowds on my mind. I do not know! I am losing
myself in things that defy explanation! Oh! why did I ever think of
offering to take him on board this raft?"
"Be calm, Benito, I pray you!"
"Manoel!" continued Benito, who seemed to be powerless to contain
himself, "think you that if it only concerned me--this man who
inspires us all with such aversion and disgust--I should not hesitate
to throw him overboard! But when it concerns my father, I fear lest
in giving way to my impressions I may be injuring my object!
Something tells me that with this scheming fellow there may be danger
in doing anything until he has given us the right--the right and the
duty--to do it. In short, on the jangada, he is in our power, and if
we both keep good watch over my father, we can spoil his game, no
matter how sure it may be, and force him to unmask and betray
himself! Then wait a little longer!"
The arrival of Torres in the bow of the raft broke off the
conversation. Torres looked slyly at the two young men, but said not
Benito was not deceived when he said that the adventurer's eyes were
never off Joam Garral as long as he fancied he was unobserved.
No! he was not deceived when he said that Torres' face grew evil when
he looked at his father!
By what myeterious bond could these two men--one nobleness itself,
that was self-evident--be connected with each other?
Such being the state of affairs it was certainly difficult for
Torres, constantly watched as he was by the two young men, by Fragoso
and Lina, to make a single movement without having instantly to
repress it. Perhaps he understood the position. If he did, he did not
show it, for his manner changed not in the least.
Satisfied with their mutual explanation, Manoel and Benito promised
to keep him in sight without doing anything to awaken his suspicions.
During the following days the jangada passed on the right the mouths
of the rivers Camara, Aru, and Yuripari, whose waters instead of
flowing into the Amazon run off to the south to feed the Rio des
Purus, and return by it into the main river. At five o'clock on the
evening of the 10th of August they put into the island of Cocos.
They there passed a _"seringal."_ This name is applied to a
caoutchouc plantation, the caoutchouc being extracted from the
_"seringueira"_ tree, whose scientific name is _siphonia elastica._
It is said that, by negligence or bad management, the number of these
trees is decreasing in the basin of the Amazon, but the forests of
seringueira trees are still very considerable on the banks of the
Madeira, Purus, and other tributaries.
There were here some twenty Indians collecting and working the
caoutchouc, an operation which principally takes place during the
months of May, June, and July.
After having ascertained that the trees, well prepared by the river
floods which have bathed their stems to a height of about four feet,
are in good condition for the harvest, the Indians are set to work.
Incisions are made into the alburnum of the seringueiras; below the
wound small pots are attached, which twenty-four hours suffice to
fill with a milky sap. It can also be collected by means of a hollow
bamboo, and a receptacle placed on the ground at the foot of the
The sap being obtained, the Indians, to prevent the separation of its
peculiar resins, fumigate it over a fire of the nuts of the assai
palm. By spreading out the sap on a wooden scoop, and shaking it in
the smoke, its coagulation is almost immediately obtained; it assumes
a grayish-yellow tinge and solidifies. The layers formed in
succession are detached from the scoop, exposed to the sun, hardened,
and assume the brownish color with which we are familiar. The
manufacture is then complete.
Benito, finding a capital opportunity, bought from the Indians all
the caoutchouc stored in their cabins, which, by the way, are mostly
built on piles. The price he gave them was sufficiently
remunierative, and they were highly satisfied.
Four days later, on the 14th of August, the jangada passed the mouths
of the Purus.
This is another of the large affluents of the Amazon, and seems to
possess a navigable course, even for large ships, of over five
hundred leagues. It rises in the southwest, and measures nearly five
thousand feet across at its junction with the main river. After
winding beneath the shade of ficuses, tahuaris, nipa palms, and
cecropias, it enters the Amazon by five mouths.
Hereabouts Araujo the pilot managed with great ease. The course of
the river was but slightly obstructed with islands, and besides, from
one bank to another its width is about two leagues.
The current, too, took along the jangada more steadily, and on the
18th of August it stopped at the village of Pasquero to pass the
The sun was already low on the horizon, and with the rapidity
peculiar to these low latitudes, was about to set vertically, like an
Joam Garral and his wife, Lina, and old Cybele, were in front of the
Torres, after having for an instant turned toward Joam as if he would
speak to him, and prevented perhaps by the arrival of Padre Passanha,
who had come to bid the family good-night, had gone back to his
The Indians and the negroes were at their quarters along the sides.
Araujo, seated at the bow, was watching the current which extended
straight away in front of him.
Manoel and Benito, with their eyes open, but chatting and smoking
with apparent indifference, walked about the central part of the
craft awaiting the hour of repose.
All at once Manoel stopped Benito with his hand and said:
"What a queer smell! Am I wrong? Do you not notice it?"
"One would say that it was the odor of burning musk!" replied Benito.
"There ought to be some alligators asleep on the neighboring beach!"
"Well, nature has done wisely in allowing them so to betray
"Yes," said Benito, "it is fortunate, for they are sufficiently
Often at the close of the day these saurians love to stretch
themselves on the shore, and install themselves comfortably there to
pass the night. Crouched at the opening of a hole, into which they
have crept back, they sleep with the mouth open, the upper jaw
perpendicularly erect, so as to lie in wait for their prey. To these
amphibians it is but sport to launch themselves in its pursuit,
either by swimming through the waters propelled by their tails or
running along the bank with a speed no man can equal.
It is on these huge beaches that the caymans are born, live, and die,
not without affording extraordinary examples of longevity. Not only
can the old ones, the centenarians, be recognized by the greenish
moss which carpets their carcass and is scattered over their
protuberances, but by their natural ferocity, which increases with
age. As Benito said, they are formidable creatures, and it is
fortunate that their attacks can be guarded against.
Suddenly cries were heard in the bow.
Manoel and Benito came forward and looked.
Three large saurians, from fifteen to twenty feet long, had managed
to clamber on to the platform of the raft.
"Bring the guns! Bring the guns!" shouted Benito, making signs to the
Indians and the blacks to get behind.
"Into the house!" said Manoel; "make haste!"
And in truth, as they could not attack them at once, the bst thing
they could do was to get into shelter without delay.
It was done in an instant. The Garral family took refuge in the
house, where the two young men joined them. The Indians and the
negroes ran into their huts and cabins. As they were shutting the
"And Minha?" said Manoel.
"She is not there!" replied Lina, who had just run to her mistress'
"Good heavens! where is she?" exclaimed her mother, and they all
shouted at once:
"There she is, on the bow of the jangada!" said Benito.
"Minha!" shouted Manoel.
The two young men, and Fragoso and Joam Garral, thinking no more of
danger, rushed out of the house, guns in hand.
Scarcely were they outside when two of the alligators made a half
turn and ran toward them.
A doze of buckshot to the head, close to the eye, from Benito,
stopped one of the monsters, who, mortally wounded, writhed in
frightful convulsions and fell on his side.
But the second still lived, and came on, and there was no way of
The huge alligator tore up to Joam Garral, and after knocking him
over with a sweep of his tail, ran at him with open jaws.
At this moment Torres rushed from the cabin, hatchet in hand, and
struck such a terrific blow that its edge sunk into the jaw of the
cayman and left him defenseless.
Blinded by the blood, the animal flew to the side, and, designedly or
not, fell over and was lost in the stream.
"Minha! Minha!" shouted Manoel in distraction, when he got to the bow
of the jangada.
Suddenly she came into view. She had taken refuge in the cabin of
Araujo, and the cabin had just been upset by a powerful blow from the
third alligator. Minha was flying aft, pursued by the monster, who
was not six feet away from her.
A second shot from Benito failed to stop the cayman. He only struck
the animals carapace, and the scales flew to splinters but the ball
did not penetrate.
Manoel threw himself at the girl to raise her, or to snatch her from
death! A side blow from the animal's tail knocked him down too.
Minha fainted, and the mouth of the alligator opened to crush her!
And then Fragoso jumped in to the animal, and thrust in a knife to
the very bottom of his throat, at the risk of having his arm snapped
off by the two jaws, had they quickly closed.
Fragoso pulled out his arm in time, but he could not avoid the chock
of the cayman, and was hurled back into the river, whose waters
reddened all around.
"Fragoso! Fragoso!" shrieked Lina, kneeling on the edge of the raft.
A second afterward Fragoso reappeared on the surface of the
Amazon--safe and sound.
But, at the peril of his life he had saved the young girl, who soon
came to. And as all hands were held out to him--Manoel's, Yaquita's,
Minha's, and Lina's, and he did not know what to say, he ended by
squeezing the hands of the young mulatto.
However, though Fragoso had saved Minha, it was assuredly to the
intervention of Torres that Joam Garral owed his safety.
It was not, therefore, the fazender's life that the adventurer
wanted. In the face of this fact, so much had to be admitted.
Manoel said this to Benito in an undertone.
"That is true!" replied Benito, embarrassed. "You are right, and in a
sense it is one cruel care the less! Nevertheless, Manoel, my
suspicions still exist! It is not always a man's worst enemy who
wishes him dead!"
Joam Garral walked up to Torres.
"Thank you, Torres!" he said, holding out his hand. The adventurer
took a step or two backward without replying.
"Torres," continued Joam, "I am sorry that we are arriving at the end
of our voyage, and that in a few days we must part! I owe you----"
"Joam Garral!" answered Torres, "you owe me nothing! Your life is
precious to me above all things! But if you will allow me--I have
been thinking--in place of stopping at Manaos, I will go on to Belem.
Will you take me there?"
Joam Garral replied by an affirmative nod.
In hearing this demand Benito in an unguarded moment was about to
intervene, but Manoel stopped him, and the young man checked himself,
though not without a violent effort.
THE ARRIVAL DINNER
IN THE MORNING, after a night which was scarcely sufficient to calm
so much excitement, they unmoored from the cayman beach and departed.
Before five days, if nothing intervered with their voyage, the raft
would reach the port of Manaos.
Minha had quite recovered from her fright, and her eyes and smiles
thanked all those who had risked their lives for her.
As for Lina, it seemed as though she was more grateful to the brave
Fragoso than if it was herself that he had saved.
"I will pay you back, sooner or later, Mr. Fragoso," said she,
"And how, Miss Lina?"
"Oh! You know very well!"
"Then if I know it, let it be soon and not late!" replied the
And from this day it began to be whispered about that the charming
Lina was engaged to Fragoso, that their marriage would take place at
the same time as that of Minha and Manoel, and that the young couple
would remain at Belem with the others.
"Capital! capital!" repeated Fragoso unceasingly; "but I never
thought Para was such a long way off!"
As for Manoel and Benito, they had had a long conversation about what
had passed. There could be no question about obtaining from Joam
Garral the dismissal of his rescuer.
"Your life is precious to me above all things!" Torres had said.
This reply, hyperbolical and enigmatical at the time, Benito had
heard and remembered.
In the meantime the young men could do nothing. More than ever they
were reduced to waiting--to waiting not for four or five days, but
for seven or eight weeks--that is to say, for whatever time it would
take for the raft to get to Belem.
"There is in all this some mystery that I cannot understand," said
"Yes, but we are assured on one point," answered Manoel. "It is
certain that Torres does not want your father's life. For the rest,
we must still watch!"
It seemed that from this day Torres desired to keep himself more
reserved. He did not seek to intrude on the family, and was even less
assiduous toward Minha. There seemed a relief in the situation of
which all, save perhaps Joam Garral, felt the gravity.
On the evening of the same day they left on the right the island of
Baroso, formed by a furo of that name, and Lake Manaori, which is fed
by a confused series of petty tributaries.
The night passed without incident, though Joam Garral had advised
them to watch with great care.
On the morrow, the 20th of August, the pilot, who kept near the right
bank on account of the uncertain eddies on the left, entered between
the bank and the islands.
Beyond this bank the country was dotted with large and small lakes,
much as those of Calderon, Huarandeina, and other black-watered
lagoons. This water system marks the approach of the Rio Negro, the
most remarkable of all the tributaries of the Amazon. In reality the
main river still bore the name of the Solimoens, and it is only after
the junction of the Rio Negro that it takes the name which has made
it celebrated among the rivers of the globe.
During this day the raft had to be worked under curious conditions.
The arm followed by the pilot, between Calderon Island and the shore,
was very narrow, although it appeared sufficiently large. This was
owing to a great portion of the island being slightly above the mean
level, but still covered by the high flood waters. On each side were
massed forests of giant trees, whose summits towered some fifty feet
above the ground, and joining one bank to the other formed an immense
On the left nothing could be more picturesque than this flooded
forest, which seemed to have been planted in the middle of a lake.
The stems of the trees arose from the clear, still water, in which
every interlacement of their boughs was reflected with unequaled
purity. They were arranged on an immense sheet of glass, like the
trees in miniature on some table _epergne,_ and their reflection
could not be more perfect. The difference between the image and the
reality could scarcely be described. Duplicates of grandeur,
terminated above and below by a vast parasol of green, they seemed to
form two hemispheres, inside which the jangada appeared to follow one
of the great circles.
It had been necessary to bring the raft under these boughs, against
which flowed the gentle current of the stream. It was impossible to
go back. Hence the task of navigating with extreme care, so as to
avoid the collisions on either side.
In this all Araujo's ability was shown, and he was admirably seconded
by his crew. The trees of the forest furnished the resting-places for
the long poles which kept the jangada in its course. The least blow
to the jangada would have endangered the complete demolition of the
woodwork, and caused the loss, if not of the crew, of the greater
part of the cargo.
"It is truly very beautiful," said Minha, "and it would be very
pleasant for us always to travel in this way, on this quiet water,
shaded from the rays of the sun."
"At the same time pleasant and dangerous, dear Minha," said Manoel.
"In a pirogue there is doubtless nothing to fear in sailing here, but
on a huge raft of wood better have a free course and a clear stream."
"We shall be quite through the forest in a couple of hours," said the
"Look well at it, then!" said Lina. "All these beautiful things pass
so quickly! Ah! dear mistress! do you see the troops of monkeys
disporting in the higher branches, and the birds admiring themselves
in the pellucid water!"
"And the flowers half-opened on the surface," replied Minha, "and
which the current dandles like the breeze!"
"And the long lianas, which so oddly stretch from one tree to
another!" added the young mulatto.
"And no Fragoso at the end of them!" said Lina's betrothed. "That was
rather a nice flower you gathered in the forest of Iquitos!"
"Just behold the flower--the only one in the world," said Lina
quizzingly; "and, mistress! just look at the splendid plants!"
And Lina pointed to the nymphŠas with their colossal leaves, whose
flowers bear buds as large as cocoanuts. Then, just where the banks
plunged beneath the waters, there were clumps of _"mucumus,"_ reeds
with large leaves, whose elastic stems bend to give passage to the
pirogues and close again behind them. There was there what would
tempt any sportsman, for a whole world of aquatic birds fluttered
between the higher clusters, which shook with the stream.
Ibises half-lollingly posed on some old trunk, and gray herons
motionless on one leg, solemn flamingoes who from a distance looked
like red umbrellas scattered in the foliage, and phenicopters of
every color, enlivened the temporary morass.
And along the top of the water glided long and swiftly-swimming
snakes, among them the formidable gymnotus, whose electric discharges
successively repeated paralyze the most robust of men or animals, and
end by dealing death. Precautions had to be taken against the
_"sucurijus"_ serpents, which, coiled round the trunk of some tree,
unroll themselves, hang down, seize their prey, and draw it into
their rings, which are powerful enough to crush a bullock. Have there
not been met with in these Amazonian forests reptiles from thirty to
thirty-five feet long? and even, according to M. Carrey, do not some
exist whose length reaches forty-seven feet, and whose girth is that
of a hogshead?
Had one of these sucurijus, indeed, got on to the raft he would have
proved as formidable as an alligator.
Very fortunately the travelers had to contend with neither gymnotus
nor sucuriju, and the passage across the submerged forest, which
lasted about two hours, was effected without accident.
Three days passed. They neared Manaos. Twenty-four hours more and the
raft would be off the mouth of the Rio Negro, before the capital of
the province of Amazones.
In fact, on the 23d of August, at five o'clock in the evening, they
stopped at the southern point of Muras Island, on the right bank of
the stream. They only had to cross obliquely for a few miles to
arrive at the port, but the pilot Araujo very properly would not risk
it on that day, as night was coming on. The three miles which
remained would take three hours to travel, and to keep to the course
of the river it was necessary, above all things, to have a clear
This evening the dinner, which promised to be the last of this first
part of the voyage, was not served without a certain amount of
ceremony. Half the journey on the Amazon had been accomplished, and
the task was worthy of a jovial repast. It was fitting to drink to
the health of Amazones a few glasses of that generous liquor which
comes from the coasts of Oporto and Setubal. Besides, this was, in a
way, the betrothal dinner of Fragoso and the charming Lina--that of
Manoel and Minha had taken place at the fazenda of Iquitos several
weeks before. After the young master and mistress, it was the turn of
the faithful couple who were attached to them by so many bonds of
So Lina, who was to remain in the service of Minha, and Fragoso, who
was about to enter into that of Manoel Valdez, sat at the common
table, and even had the places of honor reserved for them.
Torres, naturally, was present at the dinner, which was worthy of the
larder and kitchen of the jangada.
The adventurer, seated opposite to Joam Garral, who was always
taciturn, listened to all that was said, but took no part in the
conversation. Benito quietly and attentively watched him. The eyes of
Torres, with a peculiar expression, constantly sought his father. One
would have called them the eyes of some wild beast trying to
fascinate his prey before he sprang on it.
Manoel talked mostly with Minha. Between whiles his eyes wandered to
Torres, but he acted his part more successfully than Benito in a
situation which, if it did not finish at Manaos, would certainly end
The dinner was jolly enough. Lina kept it going with her good humor,
Fragoso with his witty repartees.
The Padre Passanha looked gayly round on the little world he
cherished, and on the two young couples which his hands would shortly
bless in the waters of Para.
"Eat, padre," said Benito, who joined in the general conversation;
"do honor to this betrothal dinner. You will want some strength to
celebrate both marriages at once!"
"Well, my dear boy," replied Passanha, "seek out some lovely and
gentle girl who wishes you well, and you will see that I can marry
you at the same time!"
"Well answered, padre!" exclaimed Manoel. "Let us drink to the coming
marriage of Benito."
"We must look out for some nice young lady at Belem," said Minha. "He
should do what everybody else does."
"To the wedding of Mr. Benito!" said Fragoso, "who ought to wish all
the world to marry him!"
"They are right, sir," said Yaquita. "I also drink to your marriage,
and may you be as happy as Minha and Manoel, and as I and your father
"As you always will be, it is to be hoped," said Torres, drinking a
glass of port without having pledged anybody. "All here have their
happiness in their own hands."
It was difficult to say, but this wish, coming from the adventurer,
left an unpleasant impression.
Manoel felt this, and wishing to destroy its effect, "Look here,
padre," said he, "while we are on this subject, are there not any
more couples to betroth on the raft?"
"I do not know," answered Padre Passanha, "unless Torres--you are not
married, I believe?"
"No; I am, and always shall be, a bachelor."
Benito and Manoel thought that while thus speaking Torres looked
Back to Full Books