The Naturalist on the River Amazons
Henry Walter Bates

Part 9 out of 9

men had great holes pierced in their earlobes, in which they
insert plugs of wood, and their lips were drilled with smaller
holes. One of the younger men, a fine strapping fellow nearly six
feet high, with a large aquiline nose, who seemed to wish to be
particularly friendly with me, showed me the use of these lip-
holes, by fixing a number of little white sticks in them, and
then twisting his mouth about and going through a pantomime to
represent defiance in the presence of an enemy. Nearly all the
people were disfigured by dark blotches on the skin, the effect
of a cutaneous disease very prevalent in this part of the
country. The face of one old man was completely blackened, and
looked as though it had been smeared with black lead, the
blotches having coalesced to form one large patch. Others were
simply mottled; the black spots were hard and rough, but not
scaly, and were margined with rings of a colour paler than the
natural hue of the skin.

I had seen many Indians and a few half-castes at Tunantins, and
afterwards saw others at Fonte Boa, blotched in the same way. The
disease would seem to be contagious, for I was told that a
Portuguese trader became disfigured with it after cohabiting some
years with an Indian woman. It is curious that, although
prevalent in many places on the Solimoens, no resident of Ega
exhibited signs of the disease: the early explorers of the
country, on noticing spotted skins to be very frequent in certain
localities, thought they were peculiar to a few tribes of
Indians. The younger children in these houses on the Sapo were
free from spots; but two or three of them, about ten years of
age, showed signs of their commencement in rounded yellowish
patches on the skin, and these appeared languid and sickly,
although the blotched adults seemed not to be affected in their
general health. A middle-aged half-caste at Fonte Boa told me he
had cured himself of the disorder by strong doses of
sarsaparilla; the black patches had caused the hair of his beard
and eyebrows to fall off, but it had grown again since his cure.

When my tall friend saw me, after dinner, collecting insects
along the paths near the houses, he approached, and, taking me by
the arm, led me to a mandioca shed, making signs, as he could
speak very little Tupi, that he had something to show. I was not
a little surprised when, having mounted the girao, or stage of
split palm-stems, and taken down an object transfixed to a post,
he exhibited, with an air of great mystery, a large chrysalis
suspended from a leaf, which he placed carefully in my hands,
saying, "Pana-pana curi " (Tupi: butterfly by-and-by). Thus I
found that the metamorphoses of insects were known to these
savages; but being unable to talk with my new friend, I could not
ascertain what ideas such a phenomenon had given rise to in his
mind. The good fellow did not leave my side during the remainder
of our stay; but, thinking apparently that I had come here for
information, he put himself to considerable trouble to give me
all he could. He made a quantity of Hypadu or Coca powder that I
might see the process; going about the task with much action and
ceremony, as though he were a conjuror performing some wonderful

We left these friendly people about four o'clock in the
afternoon, and in descending the umbrageous river, stopped, about
half-way down, at another house, built in one of the most
charming situations I had yet seen in this country. A clean,
narrow, sandy pathway led from the shady port to the house,
through a tract of forest of indescribable luxuriance. The
buildings stood on an eminence in the middle of a level cleared
space-- the firm sand soil, smooth as a floor, forming a broad
terrace around them. The owner was a semi-civilised Indian, named
Manoel; a dull, taciturn fellow, who, together with his wife and
children, seemed by no means pleased at being intruded on in
their solitude. The family must have been very industrious, for
the plantations were very extensive, and included a little of
almost all kinds of cultivated tropical productions: fruit trees,
vegetables, and even flowers for ornament. The silent old man had
surely a fine appreciation of the beauties of nature, for the
site he had chosen commanded a view of surprising magnificence
over the summits of the forest; and, to give finish to the
prospect, he had planted a large quantity of banana trees in the
foreground, thus concealing the charred and dead stumps which
would otherwise have marred the effect of the rolling sea of
greenery. The only information I could get out of Manoel was,
that large flocks of richly-coloured birds came down in the fruit
season and despoiled his trees. The sun set over the treetops
before we left this little Eden, and the remainder of our journey
was made slowly and pleasantly, under the chequered shades of the
river banks, by the light of the moon.

December 7th--Arrived at Fonte Boa; a wretched, muddy, and
dilapidated village situated two or three miles within the mouth
of a narrow by-stream called the Cayhiar-hy, which runs almost as
straight as an artificial canal between the village and the main
Amazons. The character of the vegetation and soil here was
different from that of all other localities I had hitherto
examined; I had planned, therefore, to devote six weeks to the
place. Having written beforehand to one of the principal
inhabitants, Senor Venancio, a house was ready for me on landing.
The only recommendation of the dwelling was its coolness. It was,
in fact, rather damp; the plastered walls bore a crop of green
mold, and a slimy moisture oozed through the black, dirty floor;
the rooms were large, but lighted by miserable little holes in
place of windows. The village is built on a clayey plateau, and
the ruinous houses are arranged round a large square, which is so
choked up with tangled bushes that it is quite impassable, the
lazy inhabitants having allowed the fine open space to relapse
into jungle. The stiff clayey eminence is worn into deep gullies
which slope towards the river, and the ascent from the port in
rainy weather is so slippery that one is obliged to crawl up to
the streets on all fours. A large tract of round behind the place
is clear of forest, but this, as well as the streets and gardens,
is covered with a dense, tough carpet of shrubs, having the same
wiry nature as our common heath. Beneath its deceitful covering
the soil is always moist and soft, and in the wet season the
whole is converted into a glutinous mud swamp. There is a very
pretty church in one corner of the square, but in the rainy
months of the year (nine out of twelve) the place of worship is
almost inaccessible to the inhabitants on account of the mud, the
only means of getting to it being by hugging closely the walls
and palings, and so advancing sideways step by step.

I remained in this delectable place until the 25th of January,
1857. Fonte Boa, in addition to its other amenities, has the
reputation throughout the country of being the headquarters of
mosquitoes, and it fully deserves the title. They are more
annoying in the houses by day than by night, for they swarm in
the dark and damp rooms, keeping, in the daytime, near the floor,
and settling by half-dozens together on the legs. At night the
calico tent is a sufficient protection; but this is obliged to be
folded every morning, and in letting it down before sunset, great
care is required to prevent even one or two of the tormentors
from stealing in beneath, their insatiable thirst for blood, and
pungent sting, making these enough to spoil all comfort. In the
forest the plague is much worse; but the forest-mosquito belongs
to a different species from that of the town, being much larger,
and having transparent wings; it is a little cloud that one
carries about one's person every step on a woodland ramble, and
their hum is so loud that it prevents one hearing well the notes
of birds. The town-mosquito has opaque speckled wings, a less
severe sting, and a silent way of going to work; the inhabitants
ought to be thankful the big, noisy fellows never come out of the
forest. In compensation for the abundance of mosquitoes, Fonte
Boa has no piums; there was, therefore, some comfort outside
one's door in the daytime; the comfort, however, was lessened by
their being scarcely any room in front of the house to sit down
or walk about, for, on our side of the square, the causeway was
only two feet broad, and to step over the boundary, formed by a
line of slippery stems of palms, was to sink up to the knees in a
sticky swamp.

Notwithstanding damp and mosquitoes, I had capital health, and
enjoyed myself much at Fonte Boa; swampy and weedy places being
generally more healthy than dry ones in the Amazons, probably
owing to the absence of great radiation of heat from the ground.
The forest was extremely rich and picturesque, although the soil
was everywhere clayey and cold, and broad pathways threaded it
for many a mile over hill and dale. In every hollow flowed a
sparkling brook, with perennial and crystal waters. The margins
of these streams were paradises of leafiness and verdure; the
most striking feature being the variety of ferns, with immense
leaves, some terrestrial, others climbing over trees, and two, at
least, arborescent. I saw here some of the largest trees I had
yet seen; there was one especially, a cedar, whose colossal trunk
towered up for more than a hundred feet, straight as an arrow; I
never saw its crown, which was lost to view, from below, beyond
the crowd of lesser trees which surrounded it. Birds and monkeys
in this glorious forest were very abundant; the bear-like
Pithecia hirsuta being the most remarkable of the monkeys, and
the Umbrella Chatterer and Curl-crested Toucans amongst the most
beautiful of the birds. The Indians and half-castes of the
village have made their little plantations, and built huts for
summer residence on the banks of the rivulets, and my rambles
generally terminated at one or other of these places. The people
were always cheerful and friendly, and seemed to be glad when I
proposed to join them at their meals, contributing the contents
of my provision-bag to the dinner, and squatting down among them
on the mat.

The village was formerly a place of more importance than it now
is, a great number of Indians belonging to the most industrious
tribes, Shumanas, Passes, and Cambevas, having settled on the
site and adopted civilised habits, their industry being directed
by a few whites, who seem to have been men of humane views as
well as enterprising traders. One of these old employers, Senor
Guerreiro, a well-educated Paraense, was still trading on the
Amazons when I left the country in 1859: he told me that forty
years previously Fonte Boa was a delightful place to live in. The
neighbourhood was then well cleared, and almost free from
mosquitoes, and the Indians were orderly, industrious, and happy.
What led to the ruin of the settlement was the arrival of several
Portuguese and Brazilian traders of a low class, who in their
eagerness for business taught the easy-going Indians all kinds of
trickery and immorality. They enticed the men and women away from
their old employers, and thus broke up the large establishments,
compelling the principals to take their capital to other places.
At the time of my visit there were few pure-blood Indians at
Fonte Boa, and no true whites. The inhabitants seemed to be
nearly all Mamelucos, and were a loose-living, rustic, plain-
spoken and ignorant set of people. There was no priest or
schoolmaster within 150 miles, and had not been any for many
years: the people seemed to be almost without government of any
kind, and yet crime and deeds of violence appeared to be of very
rare occurrence. The principal man of the village, one Senor
Justo, was a big, coarse, energetic fellow, sub-delegado of
police, and the only tradesman who owned a large vessel running
directly between Fonte Boa and Para. He had recently built a
large house, in the style of middle-class dwellings of towns,
namely, with brick floors and tiled roof, the bricks and tiles
having been brought from Para, 1500 miles distant, the nearest
place where they are manufactured in surplus. When Senor Justo
visited me he was much struck with the engravings in a file of
Illustrated London News, which lay on my table. It was impossible
to resist his urgent entreaties to let him have some of them, "to
look at," so one day he carried off a portion of the papers on
loan. A fortnight afterwards, on going to request him to return
them, I found the engravings had been cut out, and stuck all over
the newly whitewashed walls of his chamber, many of them upside
down. He thought a room thus decorated with foreign views would
increase his importance among his neighbours, and when I yielded
to his wish to keep them, was boundless in demonstrations of
gratitude, ending by shipping a boat-load of turtles for my use
at Ega.

These neglected and rude villagers still retained many religious
practices which former missionaries or priests had taught them.
The ceremony which they observed at Christmas, like that
described as practised by negroes in a former chapter, was very
pleasing for its simplicity, and for the heartiness with which it
was conducted. The church was opened, dried, and swept clean a
few days before Christmas Eve, and on the morning all the women
and children of the village were busy decorating it with festoons
of leaves and wild flowers. Towards midnight it was illuminated
inside and out with little oil lamps, made of clay, and the image
of the "menino Deus," or Child-God, in its cradle, was placed
below the altar, which was lighted up with rows of wax candles,
very lean ones, but the best the poor people could afford. All
the villagers assembled soon afterwards, dressed in their best,
he women with flowers in their hair, and a few simple hymns,
totally irrelevant to the occasion, but probably the only ones
known by them, were sung kneeling; an old half-caste, with black-
spotted face, leading off the tunes. This finished, the
congregation rose, and then marched in single file up one side of
the church and down the other, singing together a very pretty
marching chorus, and each one, on reaching the little image,
stooping to kiss the end of a ribbon which was tied round its
waist. Considering that the ceremony was got up of their own free
will, and at considerable expense, I thought it spoke well for
the good intentions and simplicity of heart of these poor,
neglected villagers.

I left Fonte Boa, for Ega, on the 25th of January, making the
passage by steamer, down the middle of the current, in sixteen
hours. The sight of the clean and neat little town, with its open
spaces, close-cropped grass, broad lake, and white sandy shores,
had a most exhilarating effect, after my trip into the wilder
parts of the country. The district between Ega and Loreto, the
first Peruvian village on the river, is, indeed, the most remote,
thinly-peopled, and barbarous of the whole line of the Amazons,
from ocean to ocean. Beyond Loreto, signs of civilisation, from
the side of the Pacific, begin to be numerous, and, from Ega
downwards, the improvement is felt from the side of the Atlantic.

September 5th, 1857--Again embarked on the Tabatinga, this time
for a longer excursion than the last, namely to St. Paulo de
Olivenca, a village higher up than any I had yet visited, being
260 miles distant, in a straight line, from Ega, or about 400
miles following the bends of the river.

The waters were now nearly at their lowest point; but this made
no difference to the rate of travelling, night or day. Several of
the Parana mirims, or by-channels, which the steamer threads in
the season of full-water, to save a long circuit, were now dried
up, their empty beds looking like deep sandy ravines in the midst
of the thick forest. The large sand-islands, and miles of sandy
beach, were also uncovered, and these, with the swarms of large
aquatic birds; storks, herons, ducks, waders, and spoon-bills,
which lined their margins in certain places, made the river view
much more varied and animated than it is in the season of the
flood. Alligators of large size were common near the shores,
lazily floating, and heedless of the passing steamer. The
passengers amused themselves by shooting at them from the deck
with a double-barrelled rifle we had on board. The sign of a
mortal hit was the monster turning suddenly over, and remaining
floating, with its white belly upwards. Lieutenant Nunes wished
to have one of the dead animals on board, for the purpose of
opening the abdomen, and, if a male, extracting a part which is
held in great estimation among Brazilians as a "remedio," charm
or medicine. The steamer was stopped, and a boat sent, with four
strong men, to embark the beast; the body, however, was found too
heavy to be lifted into the boat; so a rope was passed round it,
and the hideous creature towed alongside, and hoisted on deck by
means of the crane, which was rigged for the purpose. It had
still some sparks of life, and when the knife was applied, lashed
its tail, and opened its enormous jaws, sending the crowd of
bystanders flying in all directions. A blow with a hatchet on the
crown of the head gave him his quietus at last. The length of the
animal was fifteen feet; but this statement can give but an
imperfect idea of its immense bulk and weight. The numbers of
turtles which were seen swimming in quiet shoaly bays passed on
the road, also gave us much amusement. They were seen by dozens
ahead, with their snouts peering above the surface of the water;
and, on the steamer approaching, turning round to stare, but not
losing confidence till the vessel had nearly passed, when they
appeared to be suddenly smitten with distrust, diving like ducks
under the stream.

We had on board, among our deck-passengers, a middle-aged Indian,
of the Juri tribe; a short, thickset man, with features
resembling much those of the late Daniel O'Connell. His name was
Caracara-i (Black Eagle), and his countenance seemed permanently
twisted into a grim smile, the effect of which was heightened by
the tattooed marks--a blue rim to the mouth, with a diagonal
pointed streak from each corner towards the ear. He was dressed
in European-style black hat, coat, and trousers--looking very
uncomfortable in the dreadful heat which, it is unnecessary to
say, exists on board a steamer, under a vertical sun, during mid-
day hours. This Indian was a man of steady resolution, ambitious
and enterprising; very rare qualities in the race to which he
belonged, weakness of resolution being one of the fundamental
defects in the Indian character. He was now on his return home to
the banks of the Issa from Para, whither he had been to sell a
large quantity of sarsaparilla that he had collected, with the
help of a number of Indians, whom he induces, or forces, to work
for him. One naturally feels inclined to know what ideas such a
favourable specimen of the Indian race may have acquired after so
much experience amongst civilised scenes. On conversing with our
fellow-passenger, I was greatly disappointed in him; he had seen
nothing, and thought of nothing, beyond what concerned his little
trading speculation, his mind being, evidently, what it had been
before, with regard to all higher subjects or general ideas, a
blank. The dull, mean, practical way of thinking of the Amazonian
Indians, and the absence of curiosity and speculative thought
which seems to be organic or confirmed in their character,
although they are improvable to a certain extent, make them, like
commonplace people everywhere, most uninteresting companions.
Caracara-i disembarked at Tunantins with his cargo, which
consisted of a considerable number of packages of European wares.

The river scenery about the mouth of the Japura is extremely
grand, and was the subject of remark among the passengers.
Lieutenant Nunes gave it as his opinion, that there was no
diminution of width or grandeur in the mighty stream up to this
point, a distance of 1500 miles from the Atlantic; and yet we did
not here see the two shores of the river on both sides at once;
lines of islands, or tracts of alluvial land, having by-channels
in the rear, intercepting the view of the northern mainland, and
sometimes also of the southern. Beyond the Issa, however, the
river becomes evidently narrower, being reduced to an average
width of about a mile; there were then no longer those
magnificent reaches, with blank horizons, which occur lower down.
We had a dark and rainy night after passing Tunantins, and the
passengers were all very uneasy on account of the speed at which
we were travelling, twelve miles an hour, with every plank
vibrating with the force of the engines. Many of them could not
sleep, myself among the number. At length, a little after
midnight, a sudden shout startled us: "Back her!" (English terms
being used in matters relating to steam-engines). The pilot
instantly sprung to the helm, and in a few moments we felt our
paddle-box brushing against the wall of forest into which we had
nearly driven headlong. Fortunately, the water was deep close up
to the bank. Early in the morning of the 10th of September we
anchored in the port of St. Paulo, after five days' quick
travelling from Ega.

St. Paulo is built on a high hill, on the southern bank of the
river. The hill is formed of the same Tabatinga clay, which
occurs at intervals over the whole valley of the Amazons, but
nowhere rises to so great an elevation as here, the height being
about 100 feet above the mean level of the river. The ascent from
the port is steep and slippery; steps and resting-places have
been made to lighten the fatigue of mounting, otherwise the
village would be almost inaccessible, especially to porters of
luggage and cargo, for there are no means of making a circuitous
road of more moderate slope, the hill being steep on all sides,
and surrounded by dense forests and swamps. The place contains
about 500 inhabitants, chiefly half-castes and Indians of the
Tucuna and Collina tribes, who are very little improved from
their primitive state. The streets are narrow, and in rainy
weather inches deep in mud; many houses are of substantial
structure, but in a ruinous condition, and the place altogether
presents the appearance, like Fonte Boa, of having seen better
days. Signs of commerce, such as meet the eye at Ega, could
scarcely be expected in this remote spot, situate 1800 miles, or
seven months' round voyage by sailing-vessels, from Para, the
nearest market for produce. A very short experience showed that
the inhabitants were utterly debased, the few Portuguese and
other immigrants having, instead of promoting industry, adopted
the lazy mode of life of the Indians, spiced with the practice of
a few strong vices of their own introduction.

The head-man of the village, Senor Antonio Ribeiro, half-white
half-Tucuna, prepared a house for me on landing, and introduced
me to the principal people. The summit of the hill is grassy
table-land, of two or three hundred acres in extent. The soil is
not wholly clay, but partly sand and gravel; the village itself,
however, stands chiefly on clay, and the streets therefore after
heavy rains, become filled with muddy puddles. On damp nights the
chorus of frogs and toads which swarm in weedy back-yards creates
such a bewildering uproar that it is impossible to carry on a
conversation indoors except by shouting. My house was damper even
than the one I occupied at Fonte Boa, and this made it extremely
difficult to keep my collections from being spoilt by mould. But
the general humidity of the atmosphere in this part of the river
was evidently much greater than it is lower down; it appears to
increase gradually in ascending from the Atlantic to the Andes.
It was impossible at St. Paulo to keep salt for many days in a
solid state, which was not the case at Ega, when the baskets in
which it is contained were well wrapped in leaves. Six degrees
further westward, namely, at the foot of the Andes, the dampness
of the climate of the Amazonian forest region appears to reach
its acme, for Poeppig found at Chinchao that the most refined
sugar, in a few days, dissolved into syrup, and the best
gunpowder became liquid, even when enclosed in canisters. At St.
Paulo refined sugar kept pretty well in tin boxes, and I had no
difficulty in keeping my gunpowder dry in canisters, although a
gun loaded overnight could very seldom be fired off in the

The principal residents at St. Paulo were the priest, a white
from Para, who spent his days and most of his nights in gambling
and rum-drinking, corrupting the young fellows and setting the
vilest example to the Indians; the sub-delegado, an upright,
open-hearted, and loyal negro, whom I have before mentioned,
Senor Jose Patricio; the Juiz de Paz, a half-caste named Geraldo,
and lastly, Senor Antonio Ribeiro, who was Director of the
Indians. Geraldo and Ribeiro were my near neighbours, but they
took offence at me after the first few days, because I would not
join them in their drinking bouts, which took place about every
third day. They used to begin early in the morning with Cashaca
mixed with grated ginger, a powerful drink, which used to excite
them almost to madness. Neighbour Geraldo, after these morning
potations, used to station himself opposite my house and rave
about foreigners, gesticulating in a threatening manner towards
me by the hour. After becoming sober in the evening, he usually
came to offer me the humblest apologies, driven to it, I believe,
by his wife, he himself being quite unconscious of this breach of
good manners. The wives of the St. Paulo worthies, however, were
generally as bad as their husbands; nearly all the women being
hard drinkers, and corrupt to the last degree. Wifebeating
naturally flourished under such a state of things. I found it
always best to lock myself indoors after sunset, and take no
notice of the thumps and screams which used to rouse the village
in different quarters throughout the night, especially at
festival times.

The only companionable man I found in the place, except Jose
Patricio, who was absent most part of the time, was the negro
tailor of the village, a tall, thin, grave young man, named
Mestre Chico (Master Frank), whose acquaintance I had made at
Para several years previously. He was a free negro by birth, but
had had the advantage of kind treatment in his younger days,
having been brought up by a humane and sensible man, one Captain
Basilio, of Pernambuco, his padrinho, or godfather. He neither
drank, smoked, nor gambled, and was thoroughly disgusted at the
depravity of all classes in this wretched little settlement,
which he intended to quit as soon as possible.

When he visited me at night he used to knock at my shutters in a
manner we had agreed on, it being necessary to guard against
admitting drunken neighbours, and we then spent the long evenings
most pleasantly, working and conversing. His manners were
courteous, and his talk well worth listening to, for the
shrewdness and good sense of his remarks. I first met Mestre
Chico at the house of an old negress of Para, Tia Rufina (Aunt
Rufina), who used to take charge of my goods when I was absent on
a voyage, and this affords me an opportunity of giving a few
further instances of the excellent qualities of free negroes in a
country where they are not wholly condemned to a degrading
position by the pride or selfishness of the white race. This old
woman was born a slave, but, like many others in the large towns
of Brazil, she had been allowed to trade on her own account, as
market-woman, paying a fixed sum daily to her owner, and keeping
for herself all her surplus gains. In a few years she had saved
sufficient money to purchase her freedom, and that of her grown-
up son. This done, the old lady continued to strive until she had
earned enough to buy the house in which she lived, a considerable
property situated in one of the principal streets. When I
returned from the interior, after seven years' absence from Para,
I found she was still advancing in prosperity, entirely through
her own exertions (being a widow) and those of her son, who
continued, with the most regular industry, his trade as
blacksmith, and was now building a number of small houses on a
piece of unoccupied land attached to her property. I found these
and many other free negroes most trustworthy people, and admired
the constancy of their friendships and the gentleness and
cheerfulness of their manners towards each other. They showed
great disinterestedness in their dealings with me, doing me many
a piece of service without a hint at remuneration; but this may
have been partly due to the name of Englishman, the knowledge of
our national generosity towards the African race being spread far
and wide amongst the Brazilian negroes.

I remained at St. Paulo five months; five years would not have
been sufficient to exhaust the treasures of its neighbourhood in
Zoology and Botany. Although now a forest-rambler of ten years'
experience, the beautiful forest which surrounds this settlement
gave me as much enjoyment as if I had only just landed for the
first time in a tropical country. The plateau on which the
village is built extends on one side nearly a mile into the
forest, but on the other side the descent into the lowland begins
close to the streets; the hill sloping abruptly towards a boggy
meadow surrounded by woods, through which a narrow winding path
continues the slope down to a cool shady glen, with a brook of
icy-cold water flowing at the bottom. At mid-day the vertical sun
penetrates into the gloomy depths of this romantic spot, lighting
up the leafy banks of the rivulet and its clean sandy margins,
where numbers of scarlet, green, and black tanagers and brightly-
coloured butterflies sport about in the stray beams. Sparkling
brooks, large and small, traverse the glorious forest in almost
every direction, and one is constantly meeting, while rambling
through the thickets, with trickling rills and bubbling springs,
so well-provided is the country with moisture. Some of the
rivulets flow over a sandy and pebbly bed, and the banks of all
are clothed with the most magnificent vegetation conceivable. I
had the almost daily habit, in my solitary walks, of resting on
the clean banks of these swift-flowing streams, and bathing for
an hour at a time in their bracing waters; hours which now remain
among my most pleasant memories. The broad forest roads continue,
as I was told, a distance of several days' journey into the
interior, which is peopled by Tucunas and other Indians, living
in scattered houses and villages nearly in their primitive state,
the nearest village lying about six miles from St. Paulo. The
banks of all the streams are dotted with palm-thatched dwellings
of Tucunas, all half-buried in the leafy wilderness, the
scattered families having chosen the coolest and shadiest nooks
for their abodes.

I frequently heard in the neighbourhood of these huts, the
"realejo" or organ bird (Cyphorhinus cantans), the most
remarkable songster, by far, of the Amazonian forests. When its
singular notes strike the ear for the first time, the impression
cannot be resisted that they are produced by a human voice. Some
musical boy must be gathering fruit in the thickets, and is
singing a few notes to cheer himself. The tones become more fluty
and plaintive; they are now those of a flageolet, and
notwithstanding the utter impossibility of the thing, one is for
the moment convinced that somebody is playing that instrument. No
bird is to be seen, however closely the surrounding trees and
bushes may be scanned, and yet the voice seems to come from the
thicket close to one's ears. The ending of the song is rather
disappointing. It begins with a few very slow and mellow notes,
following each other like the commencement of an air; one listens
expecting to hear a complete strain, but an abrupt pause occurs,
and then the song breaks down, finishing with a number of
clicking unmusical sounds like a piping barrel organ out of wind
and tune. I never heard the bird on the Lower Amazon, and very
rarely heard it even at Ega; it is the only songster which makes
an impression on the natives, who sometimes rest their paddles
whilst travelling in their small canoes, along the shady by-
streams, as if struck by the mysterious sounds.

The Tucuna Indians are a tribe resembling much the Shumanas,
Passes, Juris, and Mauhes in their physical appearance and
customs. They lead, like those tribes, a settled agricultural
life, each horde obeying a chief of more or less influence,
according to his energy and ambition, and possessing its paje or
medicine-man who fosters its superstitions; but, they are much
more idle and debauched than other Indians belonging to the
superior tribes. They are not so warlike and loyal as the
Mundurucus, although resembling them in many respects, nor have
they the slender figures, dignified mien, and gentle disposition
of the Passes; there are, however, no trenchant points of
difference to distinguish them from these highest of all the
tribes. Both men and women are tattooed, the pattern being
sometimes a scroll on each cheek, but generally rows of short
straight lines on the face. Most of the older people wear
bracelets, anklets, and garters of tapir-hide or tough bark; in
their homes they wear no other dress except on festival days,
when they ornament themselves with feathers or masked cloaks made
of the inner bark of a tree. They were very shy when I made my
first visits to their habitations in the forest, all scampering
off to the thicket when I approached, but on subsequent days they
became more familiar, and I found them a harmless, good-natured

A great part of the horde living at the first Maloca or village
dwell in a common habitation, a large oblong hut built and
arranged inside with such a disregard of all symmetry that it
appeared as though constructed by a number of hands, each working
independently, stretching a rafter or fitting in a piece of
thatch, without reference to what his fellow-labourers were
doing. The walls as well as the roof are covered with thatch of
palm leaves-- each piece consisting of leaflets plaited and
attached in a row to a lath many feet in length. Strong upright
posts support the roof, hammocks being slung between them,
leaving a free space for passage and for fires in the middle, and
on one side is an elevated stage (girao) overhead, formed of
split palm-stems. The Tucunas excel over most of the other tribes
in the manufacture of pottery. They make broad-mouthed jars for
Tucupi sauce, caysuma or mandioca beer, capable of holding twenty
or more gallons, ornamenting them outside with crossed diagonal
streaks of various colours. These jars, with cooking-pots,
smaller jars for holding water, blow-guns, quivers, matiri bags
[These bags are formed of remarkably neat twine made of Bromelia
fibres elaborately knitted, all in one piece, with sticks; a belt
of the same material, but more closely woven, being attached to
the top to suspend them by. They afford good examples of the
mechanical ability of these Indians. The Tucunas also possess the
art of skinning and stuffing birds, the handsome kinds of which
they sell in great numbers to passing travellers.] full of small
articles, baskets, skins of animals, and so forth, form the
principal part of the furniture of their huts both large and
small. The dead bodies of their chiefs are interred, the knees
doubled up, in large jars under the floors of their huts.

The semi-religious dances and drinking bouts usual among the
settled tribes of Amazonian Indians are indulged in to greater
excess by the Tucunas than they are by most other tribes. The
Jurupari or Demon is the only superior being they have any
conception of, and his name is mixed up with all their
ceremonies, but it is difficult to ascertain what they consider
to be his attributes. He seems to be believed in simply as a
mischievous imp, who is at the bottom of all those mishaps of
their daily life, the causes of which are not very immediate or
obvious to their dull understandings. It is vain to try to get
information out of a Tucuna on this subject; they affect great
mystery when the name is mentioned, and give very confused
answers to questions: it was clear, however, that the idea of a
spirit as a beneficent God or Creator had not entered the minds
of these Indians. There is great similarity in all their
ceremonies and mummeries, whether the object is a wedding, the
celebration of the feast of fruits, the plucking of the hair from
the heads of their children, or a holiday got up simply out of a
love of dissipation. Some of the tribe on these occasions deck
themselves with the bright-coloured feathers of parrots and
macaws. The chief wears a headdress or cap made by fixing the
breast-feathers of the Toucan on a web of Bromelia twine, with
erect tail plumes of macaws rising from the crown. The cinctures
of the arms and legs are also then ornamented with bunches of
feathers. Others wear masked dresses; these are long cloaks
reaching below the knee, and made of the thick whitish-coloured
inner bark of a tree, the fibres of which are interlaced in so
regular a manner that the material looks like artificial cloth.
The cloak covers the head; two holes are cut out for the eyes, a
large round piece of the cloth stretched on a rim of flexible
wood is stitched on each side to represent cars, and the features
are painted in exaggerated style with yellow, red, and black
streaks. The dresses are sewn into the proper shapes with thread
made of the inner bark of the Uaissima tree. Sometimes grotesque
head-dresses, representing monkeys' busts or heads of other
animals, made by stretching cloth or skin over a basketwork
frame, are worn at these holidays. The biggest and ugliest mask
represents the Jurupari. In these festival habiliments the
Tucunas go through their monotonous see-saw and stamping dances
accompanied by singing and drumming, and keep up the sport often
for three or four days and nights in succession, drinking
enormous quantities of caysuma, smoking tobacco, and snuffing
parica powder.

I could not learn that there was any deep symbolical meaning in
these masked dances, or that they commemorated any past event in
the history of the tribe. Some of them seem vaguely intended as a
propitiation of the Jurupari, but the masker who represents the
demon sometimes gets drunk along with the rest, and is not
treated with any reverence. From all I could make out, these
Indians preserve no memory of events going beyond the times of
their fathers or grandfathers. Almost every joyful event is made
the occasion of a festival-- weddings among the best. A young man
who wishes to wed a Tucuna girl has to demand her hand of her
parents, who arrange the rest of the affair, and fix a day for
the marriage ceremony. A wedding which took place in the
Christmas week while I was at St. Paulo was kept up with great
spirit for three or four days, flagging during the heats of mid-
day, but renewing itself with increased vigour every evening.
During the whole time the bride, decked out with feather
ornaments, was under the charge of the older squaws whose
business seemed to be, sedulously, to keep the bridegroom at a
safe distance until the end of the dreary period of dancing and
boosing. The Tucunas have the singular custom, in common with the
Collinas and Mauhes, of treating their young girls, on their
showing the first signs of womanhood, as if they had committed
some crime. They are sent up to the girao under the smoky and
filthy roof, and kept there on very meagre diet, sometimes for a
whole month. I heard of one poor girl dying under this treatment.

The only other tribe of this neighbourhood concerning which I
obtained any information were the Majeronas, whose territory
embraces several hundred miles of the western bank of the river
Jauari, an affluent of the Solimoens, 120 miles beyond St. Paulo.
These are a fierce, indomitable, and hostile people, like the
Araras of the river Madeira; they are also cannibals. The
navigation of the Jauari is rendered impossible on account of the
Majeronas lying in wait on its banks to intercept and murder all
travellers, especially whites.

Four months before my arrival at St. Paulo, two young half-castes
(nearly white) of the village went to trade on the Jauari; the
Majeronas having shown signs of abating their hostility for a
year or two previously. They had not been long gone, when their
canoe returned with the news that the two young fellows had been
shot with arrows, roasted, and eaten by the savages. Jose
Patricio, with his usual activity in the cause of law and order,
despatched a party of armed men of the National Guard to the
place to make inquiries, and, if the murder should appear to be
unprovoked, to retaliate. When they reached the settlement of the
horde who had eaten the two men, it was found evacuated, with the
exception of one girl, who had been in the woods when the rest of
her people had taken flight, and whom the guards brought with
them to St. Paulo. It was gathered from her, and from other
Indians on the Jauari, that the young men had brought their fate
on themselves through improper conduct towards the Majerona
women. The girl, on arriving at St. Paulo, was taken care of by
Senor Jose Patricio, baptised under the name of Maria, and taught
Portuguese. I saw a good deal of her, for my friend sent her
daily to my house to fill the water-jars, make the fire, and so
forth. I also gained her goodwill by extracting the grub of an
Oestrus fly from her back, and thus cured her of a painful
tumour. She was decidedly the best-humoured and, to all
appearance, the kindest-hearted specimen of her race I had yet
seen. She was tall and very stout; in colour much lighter than
the ordinary Indian tint, and her ways altogether were more like
those of a careless, laughing country wench, such as might be met
with any day amongst the labouring class in villages in our own
country, than a cannibal. I heard this artless maiden relate, in
the coolest manner possible, how she ate a portion of the bodies
of the young men whom her tribe had roasted. But what increased
greatly the incongruity of this business, the young widow of one
of the victims, a neighbour of mine, happened to be present
during the narrative, and showed her interest in it by laughing
at the broken Portuguese in which the girl related the horrible

In the fourth month of my sojourn at St. Paulo I had a serious
illness, an attack of the "sizoens," or ague of the country,
which, as it left me with shattered health and damped enthusiasm,
led to my abandoning the plan I had formed of proceeding to the
Peruvian towns of Pebas and Moyobamba, 250 and 600 miles further
west, and so completing the examination of the Natural History of
the Amazonian plains up to the foot of the Andes. I made a very
large collection at St. Paulo, and employed a collector at
Tabatinga and on the banks of the Jauari for several months, so
that I acquired a very fair knowledge altogether of the
productions of the country bordering the Amazons to the end of
the Brazilian territory, a distance of 1900 miles from the
Atlantic at the mouth of the Para; but beyond the Peruvian
boundary I found now I should be unable to go. My ague seemed to
be the culmination of a gradual deterioration of health, which
had been going on for several years. I had exposed myself too
much in the sun, working to the utmost of my strength six days a
week, and had suffered much, besides, from bad and insufficient
food. The ague did not exist at St. Paulo but the foul and humid
state of the village was, perhaps, sufficient to produce ague in
a person much weakened from other causes. The country bordering
the shores of the Solimoens is healthy throughout; some endemic
diseases certainly exist, but these are not of a fatal nature,
and the epidemics which desolated the Lower Amazons from Para to
the Rio Negro, between the years 1850 and 1856, had never reached
this favoured land. Ague is known only on the banks of those
tributary streams which have dark-coloured water.

I always carried a stock of medicines with me; and a small phial
of quinine, which I had bought at Para in 1851, but never yet had
use for, now came in very useful. I took for each dose as much as
would lie on the tip of a penknife-blade, mixing it with warm
camomile tea. The first few days after my first attack I could
not stir, and was delirious during the paroxysms of fever; but
the worst being over, I made an effort to rouse myself, knowing
that incurable disorders of the liver and spleen follow ague in
this country if the feeling of lassitude is too much indulged. So
every morning I shouldered my gun or insect-net, and went my
usual walk in the forest. The fit of shivering very often seized
me before I got home, and I then used to stand still and brave it
out. When the steamer ascended in January, 1858, Lieutenant Nunes
was shocked to see me so much shattered, and recommended me
strongly to return at once to Ega. I took his advice, and
embarked with him, when he touched at St. Paulo on his downward
voyage, on the 2nd of February. I still hoped to be able to turn
my face westward again, to gather the yet unseen treasures of the
marvellous countries lying between Tabatinga and the slopes of
the Andes; but although, after a short rest in Ega, the ague left
me, my general health remained in a state too weak to justify the
undertaking of further journeys. At length I left Ega, on the 3rd
of February, 1859, en route for England.

I arrived at Para on the 17th of March, after an absence in the
interior of seven years and a half. My old friends, English,
American, and Brazilian, scarcely knew me again, but all gave me
a very warm welcome, especially Mr. G. R. Brocklehurst (of the
firm of R. Singlehurst and Co., the chief foreign merchants, who
had been my correspondents), who received me into his house, and
treated me with the utmost kindness. I was rather surprised at
the warm appreciation shown by many of the principal people of my
labours; but, in fact, the interior of the country is still the
"sertao" (wilderness)--a terra incognita to most residents of the
seaport--and a man who had spent seven years and a half in
exploring it solely with scientific aims was somewhat of a
curiosity. I found Para greatly changed and improved. It was no
longer the weedy, ruinous, village-looking place that it appeared
to be when I first knew it in 1848. The population had been
increased to 20,000 by an influx of Portuguese, Madeiran, and
German immigrants, and for many years past the provincial
government had spent their considerable surplus revenue in
beautifying the city. The streets, formerly unpaved or strewn
with loose stones and sand, were now laid with concrete in a most
complete manner, all the projecting masonry of the irregularly-
built houses had been cleared away, and the buildings made more
uniform. Most of the dilapidated houses were replaced by handsome
new edifices, having long and elegant balconies fronting the
first floors, at an elevation of several feet above the roadway.
The large, swampy squares had been drained, weeded, and planted
with rows of almond and casuarina trees, so that they were now a
great ornament to the city, instead of an eyesore as they
formerly were. My old favourite road, the Monguba avenue, had
been renovated and joined to many other magnificent rides lined
with trees, which in a very few years had grown to a height
sufficient to afford agreeable shade; one of these, the Estrada
de Sao Jose, had been planted with cocoa-nut palms. Sixty public
vehicles, light cabriolets (some of them built in Para), now
plied in the streets, increasing much the animation of the
beautified squares, streets, and avenues.

I found also the habits of the people considerably changed. Many
of the old religious holidays had declined in importance, and
given way to secular amusements--social parties, balls, music,
billiards, and so forth. There was quite as much pleasure seeking
as formerly, but it was turned in a more rational direction, and
the Paraenses seemed now to copy rather the customs of the
northern nations of Europe than those of the mother country,
Portugal. I was glad to see several new booksellers' shops, and
also a fine edifice devoted to a reading-room supplied with
periodicals, globes, and maps, and a circulating library. There
were now many printing-offices, and four daily newspapers. The
health of the place had greatly improved since 1850, the year of
the yellow fever, and Para was now considered no longer dangerous
to newcomers.

So much for the improvements visible in the place, and now for
the dark side of the picture. The expenses of living had
increased about fourfold, a natural consequence of the demand for
labour and for native products of all kinds having augmented in
greater ratio than the supply, through large arrivals of
nonproductive residents, and considerable importations of money
on account of the steamboat company and foreign merchants. Para,
in 1848, was one of the cheapest places of residence on the
American continent; it was now one of the dearest. Imported
articles of food, clothing, and furniture were mostly cheaper,
although charged with duties varying from 18 to 80 percent,
besides high freights and large profits, than those produced in
the neighbourhood. Salt codfish was twopence per pound cheaper
than the vile salt pirarucu of the country. Oranges, which could
formerly be had almost gratis, were now sold in the streets at
the rate of three for a penny; large bananas were a penny each;
tomatoes were from two to three pence each, and all other fruits
in this fruit-producing country had advanced in like proportion.
Mandioca-meal, the bread of the country, had become so scarce and
dear and bad that the poorer classes of natives suffered famine,
and all who could afford it were obliged to eat wheaten bread at
fourpence to fivepence per pound, made from American flour, 1200
barrels of which were consumed monthly; this was now, therefore,
a very serious item of daily expense to all but the most wealthy.
House rent was most exorbitant; a miserable little place of two
rooms, without fixtures or conveniences of any kind, having
simply blank walls' cost at the rate of 18 sterling a year.
Lastly, the hire of servants was beyond the means of all persons
in moderate circumstances--a lazy cook or porter could not be had
for less than three or four shillings a day, besides his board
and what he could steal. It cost me half-a-crown for the hire of
a small boat and one man to disembark from the steamer, a
distance of 100 yards.

In rambling over my old ground in the forests of the
neighbourhood, I found great changes had taken place--to me,
changes for the worse. The mantle of shrubs, bushes, and creeping
plants which formerly, when the suburbs were undisturbed by axe
or spade, had been left free to arrange itself in rich, full, and
smooth sheets and masses over the forest borders, had been nearly
all cut away, and troops of labourers were still employed cutting
ugly muddy roads for carts and cattle, through the once clean and
lonely woods. Houses and mills had been erected on the borders of
these new roads. The noble forest-trees had been cut down, and
their naked, half-burnt stems remained in the midst of ashes,
muddy puddles, and heaps of broken branches. I was obliged to
hire a negro boy to show me the way to my favourite path near
Una, which I have described in the second chapter of this
narrative; the new clearings having quite obliterated the old
forest roads. Only a few acres of the glorious forest near Una
now remained in their natural state. On the other side of the
city, near the old road to the rice mills, several scores of
woodsmen were employed under Government, in cutting a broad
carriage-road through the forest to Maranham, the capital of the
neighbouring province, distant 250 miles from Para, and this had
entirely destroyed the solitude of the grand old forest path. In
the course of a few years, however, a new growth of creepers will
cover the naked treetrunks on the borders of this new road, and
luxuriant shrubs form a green fringe to the path: it will then
become as beautiful a woodland road as the old one was. A
naturalist will have, henceforward, to go farther from the city
to find the glorious forest scenery which lay so near in 1848,
and work much more laboriously than was formerly needed to make
the large collections which Mr. Wallace and I succeeded in doing
in the neighbourhood of Para.

June 2, 1859--At length, on the 2nd of June, I left Para,
probably forever; embarking in a North American trading-vessel,
the Frederick Demming, for New York, the United States route
being the quickest as well as the pleasantest way of reaching
England. My extensive private collections were divided into three
portions and sent by three separate ships, to lessen the risk of
loss of the whole. On the evening of the 3rd of June, I took a
last view of the glorious forest for which I had so much love,
and to explore which I had devoted so many years. The saddest
hours I ever recollect to have spent were those of the succeeding
night when, the Mameluco pilot having left us free of the shoals
and out of sight of land though within the mouth of the river at
anchor waiting for the wind, I felt that the last link which
connected me with the land of so many pleasing recollections was
broken. The Paraenses, who are fully aware of the attractiveness
of their country, have an alliterative proverb, "Quem vai para
(o) Para para," "He who goes to Para stops there," and I had
often thought I should myself have been added to the list of
examples. The desire, however, of seeing again my parents and
enjoying once more the rich pleasures of intellectual society,
had succeeded in overcoming the attractions of a region which may
be fittingly called a Naturalist's Paradise. During this last
night on the Para river, a crowd of unusual thoughts occupied my
mind. Recollections of English climate, scenery, and modes of
life came to me with a vividness I had never before experienced,
during the eleven years of my absence. Pictures of startling
clearness rose up of the gloomy winters, the long grey twilights,
murky atmosphere, elongated shadows, chilly springs, and sloppy
summers; of factory chimneys and crowds of grimy operatives, rung
to work in early morning by factory bells; of union workhouses,
confined rooms, artificial cares, and slavish conventionalities.
To live again amidst these dull scenes, I was quitting a country
of perpetual summer, where my life had been spent like that of
three-fourths of the people-- in gipsy fashion-- on the endless
streams or in the boundless forests. I was leaving the equator,
where the well-balanced forces of Nature maintained a land-
surface and climate that seemed to be typical of mundane order
and beauty, to sail towards the North Pole, where lay my home
under crepuscular skies somewhere about fifty-two degrees of
latitude. It was natural to feel a little dismayed at the
prospect of so great a change; but now, after three years of
renewed experience of England, I find how incomparably superior
is civilised life, where feelings, tastes, and intellect find
abundant nourishment, to the spiritual sterility of half-savage
existence, even though it be passed in the garden of Eden. What
has struck me powerfully is the immeasurably greater diversity
and interest of human character and social conditions in a single
civilised nation, than in equatorial South America, where three
distinct races of man live together. The superiority of the bleak
north to tropical regions, however, is only in their social
aspect, for I hold to the opinion that, although humanity can
reach an advanced state of culture only by battling with the
inclemencies of nature in high latitudes, it is under the equator
alone that the perfect race of the future will attain to complete
fruition of man's beautiful heritage, the earth.

The following day, having no wind, we drifted out of the mouth of
the Para with the current of fresh water that is poured from the
mouth of the river, and in twenty-four hours advanced in this way
seventy miles on our road. On the 6th of June, when in 7' 55' N.
lat. and 52' 30' W. long., and therefore about 400 miles from the
mouth of the main Amazons, we passed numerous patches of floating
grass mingled with tree-trunks and withered foliage. Among these
masses I espied many fruits of that peculiarly Amazonian tree the
Ubussu palm; this was the last I saw of the Great River.


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