Martin Rattler
by Robert Michael Ballantyne
Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"Behold your beds! I wish you a very good sleep,—adios!"

So saying, this strange individual sat down at the table, and was soon as deeply engaged with his large book as if he had suffered no interruption; while Martin and Barney, having gazed gravely and abstractedly at him for five minutes, turned and smiled to each other, jumped into their hammocks, and were soon buried in deep slumber.



Next morning Martin Rattler awoke with a feeling of lightness in his head, and a sensation of extreme weakness pervading his entire frame. Turning his head round to the right he observed that a third hammock was slung across the further end of the hut; which was, no doubt, that in which the hermit had passed the night. But it was empty now. Martin did not require to turn his head to the other side to see if Barney O'Flannagan was there, for that worthy individual made his presence known, for a distance of at least sixty yards all round the outside of the hut, by means of his nose, which he was in the habit of using as a trumpet when asleep. It was as well that Martin did not require to look round; for he found, to his surprise, that he had scarcely strength to do so. While he was wondering in a dreamy sort of manner what could be the matter with him, the hermit entered the hut bearing a small deer upon his shoulders. Resting his gun in a corner of the room, he advanced to Martin's hammock.

"My boy," he exclaimed, in surprise, "what is wrong with you?"

"I'm sure I don't know," said Martin, faintly; "I think there is something wet about my feet."

Turning up the sheet, he found that Martin's feet were covered with blood! For a few seconds the hermit growled forth a number of apparently very pithy sentences in Portuguese, in a deep guttural voice, which awakened Barney with a start. Springing from his hammock with a bound like a tiger, he exclaimed, "Och! ye blackguard, would ye murther the boy before me very nose?" and seizing the hermit in his powerful grasp, he would infallibly have hurled him, big though he was, through his own doorway, had not Martin cried out, "Stop, stop, Barney. It's all right; he's done nothing:" on hearing which the Irishman loosened his hold, and turned towards his friend.

"What's the matter, honey?" said Barney, in a soothing tone of voice, as a mother might address her infant son. The hermit, whose composure had not been in the slightest degree disturbed, here said—

"The poor child has been sucked by a vampire bat."

"Ochone!" groaned Barney, sitting down on the table, and looking at his host with a face of horror.

"Yes, these are the worst animals in Brazil for sucking the blood of men and cattle. I find it quite impossible to keep my mules alive, they are so bad."

Barney groaned.

"They have killed two cows which I tried to keep here, and one young horse—a foal you call him, I think; and now I have no cattle remaining, they are so bad."

Barney groaned again, and the hermit went on to enumerate the wicked deeds of the vampire bats, while he applied poultices of certain herbs to Martin's toe, in order to check the bleeding, and then bandaged it up; after which he sat down to relate to his visitors the manner in which the bat carries on its bloody operations. He explained, first of all, that the vampire bats are so large and ferocious that they often kill horses and cattle by sucking their blood out. Of course they cannot do this at one meal, but they attack the poor animals again and again, and the blood continues to flow from the wounds they make long afterwards, so that the creatures attacked soon grow weak and die. They attack men, too,—as Martin knew to his cost; and they usually fix upon the toes and other extremities. So gentle are they in their operations, that sleepers frequently do not feel the puncture, which they make, it is supposed, with the sharp hooked nail of their thumb; and the unconscious victim knows nothing of the enemy who has been draining his blood until he awakens, faint and exhausted, in the morning.

Moreover, the hermit told them that these vampire bats have very sharp, carnivorous teeth, besides a tongue which is furnished with the curious organs by which they suck the life-blood of their fellow-creatures; that they have a peculiar, leaf-like, overhanging lip; and that he had a stuffed specimen of a bat that measured no less than two feet across the expanded wings, from tip to tip,

"Och, the blood-thirsty spalpeen!" exclaimed Barney, as he rose and crossed the room to examine the bat in question, which was nailed against the wall. "Bad luck to them, they've ruined Martin intirely."

"O no," remarked the hermit with a smile. "It will do the boy much good the loss of the blood; much good, and he will not be sick at all to-morrow."

"I'm glad to hear you say so," said Martin, "for it would be a great bore to be obliged to lie here when I've so many things to see. In fact I feel better already, and if you will be so kind as to give me a little breakfast I shall be quite well,"

While Martin was speaking, the obliging hermit,—who, by the way, was now habited in a loose short hunting-coat of brown cotton,—spread a plentiful repast upon his table; to which, having assisted Martin to get out of his hammock, they all proceeded to do ample justice: for the travellers were very hungry after the fatigue of the previous day; and as for the hermit, he looked like a man whose appetite was always sharp set and whose food agreed with him.

They had cold meat of several kinds, and a hot steak of venison just killed that morning, which the hermit cooked while his guests were engaged with the other viands. There was also excellent coffee, and superb cream, besides cakes made of a species of coarse flour or meal, fruits of various kinds, arid very fine honey.

"Arrah! ye've the hoith o' livin' here!" cried Barney, smacking his lips as he held out his plate for another supply of a species of meat which resembled chicken in tenderness and flavour. "What sort o' bird or baste may that be, now, av' I may ask ye, Mister—what's yer name?"

"My name is Carlos," replied the hermit, gravely; "and this is the flesh of the Armadillo."

"Arma—what—o?" inquired Barney.

"Armadillo," repeated the hermit. "He is very good to eat, but very difficult to catch. He digs down so fast we cannot catch him, and must smoke him out of his hole."

"Have you many cows?" inquired Martin, as he replenished his cup with coffee.

"Cows?" echoed the hermit, "I have got no cows."

"Where do you get such capital cream, then?" asked Martin in surprise.

The hermit smiled. "Ah! my friends, that cream has come from a very curious cow. It is from a cow that grows in the ground."

"Grows!" ejaculated his guests.

"Yes, he grows. I will show him to you one day."

The hermit's broad shoulders shook with a quiet internal laugh. "I will explain a little of that you behold on my table.

"The coffee I get from the trees. There are plenty of them here. Much money is made in Brazil by the export of coffee,—very much. The cakes are made from the mandioca-root, which I grow near my house. The root is dried and ground into flour, which, under the general name farina, is used all over the country. It is almost the only food used by the Indians and Negroes."

"Then there are Injins and Niggers here, are there?" inquired Barney.

"Yes, a great many. Most of the Negroes are slaves; some of the Indians too; and the people who are descended from the Portuguese who came and took the country long ago, they are the masters.—Well, the honey I get in holes in the trees. There are different kinds of honey here; some of it is sour honey. And the fruits and roots, the plantains, and bananas, and yams, and cocoa-nuts, and oranges, and plums, all grow in the forest, and much more besides, which you will see for yourselves if you stay long here."

"It's a quare country, intirely," remarked Barney, as he wiped his mouth and heaved a sigh of contentment. Then, drawing his hand over his chin, he looked earnestly in the hermit's face, and, with a peculiar twinkle in his eye, said—

"I s'pose ye couldn't favour me with the lind of a raazor, could ye?"

"No, my friend; I never use that foolish weapon."

"Ah, well, as there's only monkeys and jaguars, and sich like to see me, it don't much signify; but my mustaches is gitin' mighty long, for I've been two weeks already without a shave."

Martin laughed heartily at the grave, anxious expression of his comrade's face. "Never mind, Barney," he said, "a beard and moustache will improve you vastly. Besides, they will be a great protection against mosquitoes; for you are such a hairy monster, that when they grow nothing of your face will be exposed except your eyes and cheek-bones. And now," continued Martin, climbing into his hammock again and addressing the hermit, "since you won't allow me to go out a-hunting to-day, I would like very much if you would tell me something more about this strange country."

"An' may be," suggested Barney, modestly, "ye won't object to tell us something about yersilf,—how you came for to live in this quare, solitary kind of a way."

The hermit looked gravely from one to the other, and stroked his beard. Drawing his rude chair towards the door of the hut, he folded his arms, and crossed his legs, and gazed dreamily forth upon the rich landscape. Then, glancing again at his guests, he said, slowly: "Yes, I will do what you ask,—I will tell you my story."

"An', if I might make so bould as to inquire," said Barney, with a deprecatory smile, while he drew a short black pipe from his pocket, "have ye got such a thing as 'baccy in them parts?"

The hermit rose, and going to a small box which stood in a corner, returned with a quantity of cut tobacco in one hand, and a cigar not far short of a foot long in the other! In a few seconds the cigar was going in full force, like a factory chimney; and the short black pipe glowed like a miniature furnace, while its owner seated himself on a low stool, crossed his arms on his breast, leaned his back against the door-post, and smiled,—as only an Irishman can smile under such circumstances. The smoke soon formed a thick cloud, which effectually drove the mosquitoes out of the hut, and through which Martin, lying in his hammock, gazed out upon the sunlit orange and coffee trees, and tall palms with their rich festoons of creeping plants, and sweet-scented flowers, that clambered over and round the hut and peeped in at the open door and windows, while he listened to the hermit, who continued for at least ten minutes to murmur slowly, between the puffs of his cigar, "Yes, I will do it; I will tell you my story."



"My ancestors," began the hermit, "were among the first to land upon Brazil, after the country was taken possession of in the name of the King of Portugal, in the year 1500. In the first year of the century, Vincent Yanez Pinon, a companion of the famed Columbus, discovered Brazil; and in the next year, Pedro Alvarez Cabral, a Portuguese commander, took possession of it in the name of the King of Portugal. In 1503, Americus Vespucius discovered the Bay of All Saints, and took home a cargo of Brazil-wood, monkeys and parrots; but no permanent settlement was effected upon the shores of the new continent, and the rich treasures of this great country remained for some years longer buried and unknown to man,—for the wild Indians who lived here knew not their value.

"It was on a dark and stormy night in the year 1510. A group of swarthy and naked savages encircled a small fire on the edge of the forest on the east coast of Brazil. The spot where their watchfire was kindled is now covered by the flourishing city of Bahia. At that time it was a wilderness. Before them stretched the noble bay which is now termed Bahia de Todos Santos,—All Saints' Bay.

"The savages talked earnestly and with excited looks as they stood upon the shore, for the memory of the wondrous ships of the white men that had visited them a few years before was deeply engraven on their minds; and now, in the midst of the howling storm, another ship was seen approaching their land. It was a small vessel, shattered and tempest-tossed, that drove into the Bahia de Todos Santos on that stormy night. Long had it battled with the waves of the Atlantic, and the brave hearts that manned it had remained stanch to duty and strong in hope, remembering the recent glorious example of Columbus. But the storm was fierce and the bark was frail. The top-masts were broken and the sails rent; and worst of all, just as land hove in sight and cheered the drooping spirits of the crew, a tremendous wave dashed upon the ship's stern and carried away the rudder.

"As they drove helplessly before the gale towards the shore, the naked savages crowded down upon the beach and gazed in awe and astonishment at the mysterious ship. A few of them had seen the vessels of Americus Vespucius and Cabral. The rumour of the white men and their floating castle had been wafted far and wide along the coast and into the interior of Brazil, and with breathless wonder the natives had listened to the strange account. But now the vision was before them in reality. On came the floating castle, the white foam dashing from her bows and the torn sails and ropes flying from her masts as she surged over the billows and loomed through the driving spray.

"It was a grand sight to see that ship dashing straight towards the shore at fearful speed; and those who looked on seemed to be impressed with a vague feeling that she had power to spring upon the strand and continue her swift career through the forest, as she had hitherto cleft her passage through the sea. As she approached, the savages shrank back in fear. Suddenly her frame trembled with a mighty shock. A terrible cry was borne to land by the gale, and all her masts went overboard. A huge wave lifted the vessel on its crest and flung her further on the shore, where she remained firmly fixed, while the waves dashed in foam around her and soon began to break her up. Ere this happened, however, a rope was thrown ashore and fastened to a rock by the natives. By means of this the crew were saved. But it would have been well for these bold navigators of Portugal if they had perished in the stormy sea, for they were spared by the ocean only to be murdered by the wild savages on whose shore they had been cast.

"All were slain save one,—Diego Alvarez Carreo, the captain of the ship. Before grasping the rope by which he reached the shore, he thrust several cartridges into his bosom and caught up a loaded musket. Wrapping the lock in several folds of cloth to keep it dry, he slid along the rope and gained the beach in safety. Here he was seized by the natives, and would no doubt have been barbarously slain with his unfortunate companions; but, being a very powerful man, he dashed aside the foremost, and, breaking through their ranks, rushed towards the wood. The fleet savages, however, overtook him in an instant, and were about to seize him when a young Indian woman interposed between them and their victim. This girl was the chiefs daughter, and respect for her rank induced them to hesitate for a moment; but in another instant the Portuguese captain was surrounded. In the scuffle that ensued his musket exploded, but fortunately wounded no one. Instantly the horrified savages fled in all directions leaving Carreo alone!

"The captain was quick-witted. He knew that among hundreds of savages it was madness to attempt either to fight or fly, and the happy effect of the musket explosion induced him to adopt another course of action. He drew himself up proudly to his full height, and beckoned the savages to return. This they did, casting many glances of fear at the dreaded musket. Going up to one who, from his bearing and ornaments, seemed to be a chief, Carreo laid his musket on the sand, and, stepping over it so that he left it behind him, held out his hand frankly to the chief. The savage looked at him in surprise, and suffered the captain to take his hand and pat it; after which he began to examine the stranger's dress with much curiosity. Seeing that their chief was friendly to the white man, the other savages hurried him to the campfire, where he soon stripped off his wet clothes and ate the food which they put before him. Thus Diego Carreo was spared.

"Next day, the Indians lined the beach and collected the stores of the wrecked vessel. While thus employed, Carreo shot a gull with his musket; which so astonished the natives that they regarded him with fear and respect amounting almost to veneration. A considerable quantity of powder and shot was saved from the wreck, so that the captain was enabled to keep his ascendency over the ignorant natives; and at length he became a man of great importance in the tribe, and married the daughter of the chief. He went by the name of Caramuru,—'The man of fire.' This man founded the city of Bahia.

"The coasts of Brazil began soon after this to be settled in various places by the Portuguese; who, however, were much annoyed by the Spaniards, who claimed a share in the rich prize. The Dutch and English also formed settlements; but the Portuguese still retained possession of the country, and continued to prosper. Meanwhile Diego Caramuru, 'the man of fire,' had a son who in course of time became a prosperous settler; and as his sons grew up he trained them to become cultivators of the soil and traders in the valuable products of the New World. He took a piece of ground, far removed from the spot where his father had been cast ashore, and a short distance in the interior of the country. Here the eldest sons of the family dwelt, laboured, and died, for many generations.

"In the year 1808 Portugal was invaded by Napoleon Buonaparte, and the sovereign of that kingdom, John VI., fled to Brazil, accompanied by his court and a large body of emigrants. The king was warmly received by the Brazilians, and immediately set about improving the condition of the country. He threw open its ports to all nations; freed the land from all marks of colonial dependence; established newspapers; made the press free, and did everything to promote education and industry. But although much was done, the good was greatly hindered, especially in the inland districts, by the vice, ignorance, and stupidity of many of the Roman Catholic priests, who totally neglected their duties,—which, indeed, they were incompetent to perform,—and in many instances, were no better than miscreants in disguise, teaching the people vice instead of virtue.

"Foremost among the priests who opposed advancement was a descendant of the 'man of fire,' Padre Caramuru dwelt for some years with an English merchant in the capital of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro. The padre was not an immoral man, but he was a fiery bigot, and fiercely opposed everything that tended to advance the education of the people. This he did, firmly believing that education was dangerous to the lower orders. His church taught him, too, that the Bible was a dangerous book; and whenever a copy fell into his hands he immediately destroyed it. During the disturbances that took place after the time of King John's departure for Portugal, and just before Brazil became an independent state under his son, the Emperor Don Pedro I., Padre Caramuru lost a beloved and only brother. He was quite a youth, and had joined the army only a few months previously, at the desire of his elder brother the padre, who was so overwhelmed by the blow that he ceased to take an active part in church or political affairs and buried himself in a retired part of his native valley. Here he sought relief and comfort in the study of the beauties of Nature by which he was surrounded, but found none. Then he turned his mind to the doctrines of his church, and took pleasure in verifying them from the Bible. But as he proceeded he found, to his great surprise, that these doctrines were, many of them, not to be found there; nay, further, that some of them were absolutely contradicted by the word of God.

"Padre Caramuru had been in the habit of commanding his people not to listen to the Bible when any one offered to read it; but in the Bible itself he found these words, 'Search the Scriptures.' He had been in the habit of praying to the Virgin Mary, and begging her to intercede with God for him; but in the Bible he found these words: 'There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.' These things perplexed him much. But while he was thus searching, as it were, for silver, the ignorant padre found gold! He found that he did not require to work for salvation, but to ask for it. He discovered that the atonement had been made once for all by Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God; and he read with a thrilling heart these words: 'God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.'

"Long and earnestly did the padre ponder these words and pray over them; and gradually the Holy Spirit enlightened his mind, and he saw how hateful that system was which could forbid or discourage the reading of the blessed word of God. He soon resolved to forsake the priesthood. But when he had done so, he knew not what to turn his hand to. He had no one like-minded to consult with, and he felt that it was wrong to eat the bread of idleness. Being thus uncertain what to do, he resolved in the meantime to carry goods into the interior of the country, and offer them for sale. The land round his dwelling and his own gun would supply him with food; and for the rest, he would spend his time in the study of the Bible, and seek for more light and direction from God.

"Such," continued the hermit, "is a slight sketch of the history of my country and of myself."

"Yourself?" exclaimed Martin.

"Yes. I am the Padre Caramuru, or rather I was. I am Padre no longer, but Senhor Carlos Caramuru, a merchant. Yet I know not what to do. When I look round upon my country, and see how they know not the precious word of God, my heart burns in me, and I sometimes think that it is my duty to go forth and preach."

"No doubt ye are right," said Barney. "I've always bin of opinion that when a man feels very strong in his heart on any partic'lar subject, it's a sure sign that the Almighty intends him to have something more to do with that subject than other men who don't feel about it at all."

The hermit remained silent for a few minutes. "I think you are right, friend," he said; "but I am very ignorant yet. I have no one to explain difficulties to me; and I fear to go about preaching, lest I should preach what is not true. I will study yet for a time, and pray. After that, perhaps, I may go forth."

"But you have told us nothing yet about the trade of the country," said Martin, "or its size, or anything of that sort."

"I will soon tell you of that when I have lighted another cigar. This one does not draw well. Have you got a full pipe still, my friend?"

"All right, Mr. Carrymooroo," replied Barney, knocking out the ashes. "I'll jist load wance more, and then,—fire away."

In a few minutes the big cigar and short pipe were in full play, and the hermit continued:—

"This country is very large and very rich, but it is not well worked. The people are lazy, many of them, and have not much enterprise. Much is done, no doubt; but very much more might be done.

"The empire of Brazil occupies nearly one-half of the whole continent of South America. It is 2600 miles long, and 2500 miles broad; which, as you know perhaps, is a little larger than all Europe. The surface of the country is beautiful and varied. The hilly regions are very wild, although none of the mountains are very high, and the woods are magnificent; but a great part of the land consists of vast grassy plains, which are called llanos, or campos, or silvas. The campos along the banks of the River Amazon are equal to six times the size of France; and there is one great plain which lies between the Sierra Ibiapaba and the River Tocantins which is 600 miles long by 400 miles broad. There are very few lakes in Brazil, and only one worth speaking of—the Lagoa dos Platos—which is 150 miles long. But our rivers are the finest in the whole world, being so long, and wide, and deep, and free from falls, that they afford splendid communication with the interior of the land. But, alas! there are few ships on these rivers yet, very few. The rivers in the north part of Brazil are so numerous and interlaced that they are much like the veins in the human body; and the great River Amazon and a few of its chief tributaries resemble the arteries.

"Then as to our produce," continued the hermit, "who can tell it all? We export sugar, and coffee, and cotton, and gold, silver, lead, zinc, quicksilver, and amethysts, and we have diamond mines—"

"Di'mond mines!" echoed Barney; "och but I would like for to see them. Sure they would sparkle most beautiful. Are they far off, Mr. Carrymooroo?"

"Yes, very far off. Then we export dye-woods, and cabinet-woods, and drugs, and gums, and hides,—a great many hides, for the campos are full of wild cattle, and men hunt them on horseback, and catch them with a long rope called the lasso."

"How I should like to have a gallop over these great plains," murmured Martin.

"Then we have," continued the hermit, "rice, tapioca, cocoa, maize, wheat, mandioca, beans, bananas, pepper, cinnamon, oranges, figs, ginger, pineapples, yams, lemons, mangoes, and many other fruits and vegetables. The mandioca you have eaten in the shape of farina. It is very good food; one acre gives as much nutriment as six acres of wheat.

"Of the trees you have seen something. There are thousands of kinds, and most magnificent. Some of them are more than thirty feet round about. There are two hundred different kinds of palms, and so thick stand the giant trees in many places, with creeping plants growing between, that it is not possible for man to cut his way through the forests in some parts. Language cannot describe the grandeur and glory of the Brazilian forests.

"We have numbers of wild horses, and hogs, and goats; and in the woods are tiger-cats, jaguars, tapirs, hyenas, sloths, porcupines, and—but you have seen many things already. If you live you will see more. I need not tell you of these things; very soon I will show you some.

"The population of my country consists of the descendants of Portuguese settlers, native Indians, and Negroes. Of the latter, some are free, some slaves. The Indians go about nearly naked. Most of them are in a savage state: they paint their skins, and wear gaudy ornaments. The religion of the country is Roman Catholic, but all religions are tolerated; and I have much hope for the future of Brazil, in spite of the priests."

"And do ye git much out o' the di'mond mines?" inquired Barney, whose mind was running on this subject.

"O yes, a great deal. Every year many are got, and Government gets one-fifth of the value of all the gold and diamonds found in the country. One diamond was found a short time ago which was worth 40,000."

"Ye don't say so!" exclaimed Barney in great surprise, as he blew an immense cloud of smoke from his lips. "Now, that's extror'nary. Why don't everybody go to the mines and dig up their fortin at wance?"

"Because men cannot eat diamonds," replied the hermit gravely.

"Troth, I niver thought o' that; ye're right."

Martin laughed heartily as he lay in his hammock and watched his friend's expression while pondering this weighty subject.

"Moreover," resumed the hermit, "you will be surprised to hear that diamond and gold finding is not the most profitable employment in this country.

"The man who cultivates the ground is better off than anybody. It is a fact, a very great fact, a fact that you should get firmly fixed in your memory—that in less than two years the exports of sugar and coffee amounted to more than the value of all the diamonds found in eighty years. Yes, that is true. But the people of Brazil are not well off. They have everything that is necessary to make a great nation; but we are not a great nation, far from it." The hermit sighed deeply as he ceased speaking, and fell into an abstracted frame of mind.

"It's a great country intirely," said Barney, knocking the ashes out of his pipe, and placing that much-loved implement carefully in his pocket; "a great country, but there's a tremendous big screw loose somewhere."

"It seems curious to me," said Martin, in a ruminating tone of voice, "that people should not get on better in a country in which there is everything that man can desire to make him rich and happy. I wonder what it wants; perhaps it's too hot, and the people want energy of character."

"Want energy!" shouted the hermit, leaping from his seat, and regarding his guests for a few moments with a stern expression of countenance; then, stretching forth his hand, he continued, in an excited tone: "Brazil does not want energy; it has only one want,—it wants the Bible! When a country is sunk down in superstition and ignorance and moral depravity, so that the people know not right from wrong, there is only one cure for her,—the Bible. Religion here is a mockery and a shame; such as, if it were better known, would make the heathen laugh in scorn. The priests are a curse to the land, not a blessing. Perhaps they are better in other lands,—I know not; but well I know they are many of them false and wicked here. No truth is taught to the people,—no Bible is read in their ears; religion is not taught,—even morality is not taught; men follow the devices and desires of their own hearts, and there is no voice raised to say, 'You are doing wrong.' My country is sunk very low; and she cannot hope to rise, for the word of her Maker is not in her hand. True, there are a few, a very few Bibles in the great cities; but that is all: that cannot save her hundreds of towns and villages. Thousands of her people are slaves in body,—all, all are slaves in soul; and yet you ask me what she wants. Ha! she wants truth,—she wants to be purged of falsehood. She has bones and muscles, and arteries and veins,—everything to make a strong and healthy nation; but she wants blood,—she has no vital stream; yes, Brazil, my country, wants the Bible!"



For many weeks Martin Rattler and his friend Barney O'Flannagan continued to dwell with the hermit in his forest-home, enjoying his entertaining and instructive discourse, and joining with him in the hunting expeditions which he undertook for the purpose of procuring fresh food for his table. In these rambles they made constant discoveries of something new and surprising, both in reference to the vegetables and animals of that extraordinary region of the earth. They also had many adventures,—some amusing and some terrible,—which we cannot enlarge on here, for they would fill ten volumes such as this, were they to be all recorded in detail.

One day the hermit roused them earlier than usual and told them to get ready, as he intended to go a considerable distance that day, and he wished to reach a particular spot before the heat of noon. So Martin and Barney despatched breakfast in as short a time as possible, and the hermit read them a chapter out of his large and well-thumbed Bible, after which they equipped themselves for the chase.

When Martin and his friend escaped from the pirates and landed on the coast of Brazil, they were clothed in sailor-like costume, namely, white duck trousers, coloured flannel shirts, blue jackets, round straw hats, and strong shoes. This costume was not very suitable for the warm climate in which they now found themselves, so their hospitable friend the hermit gave them two loose light cotton coats or jackets, of a blue colour, and broad brimmed straw hats similar to his own. He also gave them two curious garments called ponchos. The poncho serves the purpose of cloak and blanket. It is simply a square dark-coloured blanket with a hole in the middle of it, through which the head is thrust in rainy weather, and the garment hangs down all round. At night the poncho is useful as a covering. The hermit wore a loose open hunting coat, and underneath it a girdle, in which was a long sharp knife and a brace of pistols. His trousers were of blue-striped cotton. He usually carried a double-barrelled gun over his shoulder, and a powder-horn and bullet-bag were slung round his neck. Barney now procured from this hospitable man a supply of powder and shot for his large brass-mounted cavalry pistol. The hermit also made him a present of a long hunting-knife; and he gave one of a smaller size to Martin. As Martin had no weapon, the hermit manufactured for him a stout bow and quiver full of arrows; with which, after some practice, he became reasonably expert.

Thus armed they sallied forth, and, following the foot-path that conducted from the door of the hut to the brow of the hill opposite, they were soon buried in the shades of the great forest. On this particular morning Barney observed that the hermit carried with him a stout spear, which he was not usually in the habit of doing. Being of an inquisitive disposition, he inquired the reason of his taking it.

"I expect to find a jaguar to-day," answered the hermit. "I saw him yesterday go down into the small valley in which my cows grow. I will show you my cows soon, Martin."

The hermit stopped short suddenly as he spoke, and pointed to a large bird, about fifty yards in advance of them. It seemed to bear a particular ill-will to a round rough stone which it pecked most energetically. After a few minutes the bird ceased its attacks and flew off; whereupon the rough stone opened itself out, and, running quickly away, burrowed into a little hole and disappeared!

"That is an armadillo," remarked the hermit, continuing to lead the way through the woods; "it is covered with a coat of mail, as you see; and when enemies come it rolls itself up like a ball and lies like a hard stone till they go away. But it has four little legs, and with them it burrows so quickly that we cannot dig it up, and must smoke it out of its hole,—which I do often, because it is very good to eat, as you very well know."

While they continued thus to walk through the woods conversing, Martin and Barney were again interested and amused by the immense number of brilliant parrots and toucans which swooped about, chattering from tree to tree, in large flocks. Sometimes thirty or forty of the latter would come screaming through the woods and settle upon the dark-green foliage of a coffee-tree; the effect of which was to give the tree the appearance of having been suddenly loaded with ripe golden fruit. Then the birds would catch sight of the travellers and fly screaming away, leaving the tree dark-green and fruitless as before. The little green parrots were the most outrageously noisy things that ever lived. Not content with screaming when they flew, they continued to shriek, apparently with delight, while they devoured the seeds of the gorgeous sun-flowers: and more than once Martin was prompted to scatter a handful of stones among them, as a hint to be less noisy; but this only made them worse,—like a bad baby, which, the more you tell it to be quiet, sets to work the more earnestly to increase and add to the vigour of its roaring. So Martin wisely let the parrots alone. They also startled, in passing through swampy places, several large blue herons, and long-legged cranes; and on many of the trees they observed the curious hanging nests of a bird, which the hermit told them was the large oriole. These nests hung in long strings from the tops of the palm-trees, and the birds were very actively employed moving about and chattering round their swinging villages: on seeing which Martin could not help remarking that it would astonish the colony not a little, if the top house were to give way and let all the mansions below come tumbling to the ground!

They were disappointed, however, in not seeing monkeys gambolling among the trees, as they had expected.

"Ah! my friends," said the hermit, "travellers in my country are very often disappointed. They come here expecting to see everything all at once; but although there are jaguars, and serpents, and bears, and monkeys, plenty of them, as your ears can tell you, these creatures keep out of the sight of man as much as possible. They won't come out of the woods and show themselves to please travellers! You have been very lucky since you arrived. Many travellers go about for months together and do not see half so much as you."

"That's thrue," observed Barney, with his head a little on one side, and his eyes cast up in a sort of meditative frown, as if he were engaged in subjecting the hermit's remarks to a process of severe philosophical contemplation; "but I would be very well plazed av the wild bastes would show themselves now and then, for—"

Martin Rattler burst into a loud laugh, for Barney's upward glance of contemplation was suddenly transformed into a gaze of intense astonishment, as he beheld the blue countenance of a large red monkey staring down upon him from amid the branches of an overhanging tree. The monkey's face expressed, if possible, greater surprise than that of the Irishman, and its mouth was partially open and thrust forward in a sort of threatening and inquiring manner. There seemed to be some bond of sympathy between the monkey and the man, for while its mouth opened his mouth opened too.

"A-a-a-a-a—ah!" exclaimed the monkey.

A facetious smile overspread Barney's face—"Och! be all manes; the same to you, kindly," said he, taking off his hat and making a low bow.

The civility did not seem to be appreciated, however; for the monkey put on a most indignant frown and displayed a terrific double-row of long brilliant teeth and red gums, while it uttered a shriek of passion, twisted its long tail round a branch, and hurled itself, with a motion more like that of a bird than a beast, into the midst of the tree and disappeared, leaving Martin and Barney and the hermit each with a very broad grin on his countenance.

The hunters now arrived at an open space where there were several large umbrageous trees, and as it was approaching mid-day they resolved to rest here for a couple of hours. Birds and insects were gradually becoming more and more silent, and soon afterwards the only sounds that broke upon their ears were the curious metallic notes of the urupongas, or bell-birds; which were so like to the rapid beating of a smith's hammer on an anvil, that it was with the greatest difficulty Barney was restrained from going off by himself in search of the "smiddy." Indeed he began to suspect that the worthy hermit was deceiving him, and was only fully convinced at last when he saw one of the birds. It was pure white, about the size of a thrush, and had a curious horn or fleshy tubercle upon its head.

Having rested and refreshed themselves, they resumed their journey a short time before the noisy inhabitants of the woods recommenced their active afternoon operations.

"Hallo! what's that?" cried Barney, starting back and drawing his pistol, while Martin hastily fitted an arrow to his bow.

Not ten paces in front of them a frightful monster ran across their path, which seemed so hideous to Martin that his mind instantly reverted to the fable of St. George and the Dragon, and he almost expected to see fire issuing from its mouth. It was a huge lizard, with a body about three feet long, covered with bright scales. It had a long, thick tail. Its head was clumsy and misshapen, and altogether its aspect was very horrible. Before either Martin or Barney could fire, the hermit dropped his gun and spear, sprang quickly forward, caught the animal by the tail, and, putting forth his great strength to the utmost, swung it round his head and dashed its brains out against a tree.

Barney and Martin could only stare with amazement.

"This we call an iguana," said the hermit, as he piled a number of heavy stones on the carcase to preserve it from other animals. "It is very good to eat,—as good as chicken. This is not a very big one; they are sometimes five feet long, but almost quite harmless,—not venomous at all; and the only means he has to defend himself is the tail, which is very powerful, and gives a tremendously hard blow; but, as you see, if you catch him quick he can do nothing."

"It's all very well for you, or even Barney here, to talk of catching him by the tail," said Martin, smiling; "but it would have puzzled me to swing that fellow round my head."

"Arrah! ye're right, boy; I doubt if I could have done it mesilf," said Barney.

"No fear," said the hermit, patting Martin's broad shoulders as he passed him and led the way; "you will be strong enough for that very soon,—as strong as me in a year or two."

They now proceeded down into a somewhat dark and closely wooded valley, through which meandered a small rivulet. Here they had some difficulty in forcing their way through the dense underwood and broad leaves, most of which seemed very strange to Martin and his comrade, being so gigantic. There were also many kinds of ferns, which sometimes arched over their heads and completely shut out the view, while some of them crept up the trees like climbing-plants. Emerging from this, they came upon a more open space, in the midst of which grew a number of majestic trees.

"There are my cows!" said the hermit, pausing as he spoke, and pointing towards a group of tall straight-stemmed trees that were the noblest in appearance they had yet seen. "Good cows they are," he continued, going up to one and making a notch in the bark with his axe: "they need no feeding or looking after, yet, as you see, they are always ready to give me cream."

While he spoke, a thick white liquid flowed from the notch in the bark into a cocoa-nut drinking-cup, which the hermit always carried at his girdle. In a few minutes he presented his visitors with a draught of what they declared was most excellent cream.

The masseranduba, or milk-tree, as it is called, is indeed one of the most wonderful of all the extraordinary trees in the forests of Brazil, and is one among many instances of the bountiful manner in which God provides for the wants of His creatures. No doubt this might with equal truth be said of all the gifts that a beneficent Creator bestows upon mankind; but when, as in the case of this milk-tree, the provision for our wants comes in a singular and striking manner, it seems fitting and appropriate that we should specially acknowledge the gift as coming from the hand of Him who giveth us all things liberally to enjoy.

The milk-tree rises with a straight stem to an enormous height, and the fruit, about the size of a small apple, is full of rich and juicy pulp, and is very good. The timber, also, is hard, fine-grained, and durable,—particularly adapted for such works as are exposed to the weather. But its most remarkable peculiarity is the rich vegetable milk which flows in abundance from it when the bark is cut. This milk is so like to that of the cow in taste, that it can scarcely be distinguished from it, having only a very slight peculiarity of flavour, which is rather agreeable than otherwise. In tea and coffee it has the same effect as rich cream, and, indeed, is so thick that it requires to be diluted with water before being used. This milk is also employed as glue. It hardens when exposed to the air, and becomes very tough and slightly elastic, and is said to be quite as good and useful as ordinary glue.

Having partaken of as much milk as they desired, they continued their journey a little further, when they came to a spur of the sierra, or mountain range, that cuts through that part of the country. Here the ground became more rugged, but still densely covered with wood, and rocks lay piled about in many places, forming several dark and gloomy caverns. The hermit now unslung his gun and advanced to the foot of a cliff, near the further end of which there were several caves, the mouths of which were partially closed with long ferns and masses of luxuriant vegetation.

"Now we must be prepared," said the hermit, feeling the point of his spear. "I think there is a jaguar here. I saw him yesterday, and I am quite sure he will not go away till he tries to do some mischief. He little knows that there is nothing here to hurt but me." The hermit chuckled as he said this, and resting his gun against the cliff near the entrance to the first cave, which was a small one, he passed on to the next. Holding the spear in his left hand, he threw a stone violently into the cavern. Barney and Martin listened and gazed in silent expectation; but they only heard the hollow sound of the falling stone as it dashed against the sides of the cave; then all was still.

"Och, then, he's off," cried Barney.

"Hush," said Martin; "don't speak till he has tried the other cave."

Without taking notice of their remarks, the hermit repeated the experiment at the mouths of two caverns further on, with the like result.

"Maybe the spalpeen's hidin' in the little cave where ye laid down yer gun," suggested Barney, going towards the place as he spoke. "Och, then, come here, friend; sure it must be the mouth of a mine, for there's two o' the beautifulest di'monds I iver—"

Barney's speech was cut short by a low peculiar sound, that seemed like the muttering of far-distant thunder. At the same moment the hermit pulled him violently back, and, placing himself in a firm attitude full in front of the cavern, held the point of the spear advanced before him.

"Martin," he whispered, "shoot an arrow straight into that hole,—quick!"

Martin obeyed, and the arrow whizzed through the aperture. Instantly there issued from it a savage and tremendous roar, so awful that it seemed as if the very mountain were bellowing and that the cavern were its mouth. But not a muscle of the hermit's figure moved. He stood like a bronze statue,—his head thrown back and his chest advanced, with one foot planted firmly before him and the spear pointing towards the cave. It seemed strange to Martin that a man should face what appeared to him unknown danger so boldly and calmly; but he did not consider that the hermit knew exactly the amount of danger before him. He knew precisely the manner in which it would assail him, and he knew just what was necessary to be done in order to avert it; and in the strength of that knowledge he stood unmoved, with a slight smile upon his tightly compressed lips.

Scarcely had the roar ceased when it was repeated with tenfold fierceness; the bushes and fern leaves shook violently, and an enormous and beautifully spotted jaguar shot through the air as if it had been discharged from a cannon's mouth. The hermit's eye wavered not; he bent forward a hair's-breadth; the glittering spear-point touched the animal's breast, pierced through it, and came out at its side below the ribs. But the force of the bound was too great for the strength of the weapon: the handle snapped in twain, and the transfixed jaguar struck down the hermit and fell writhing upon him!

In the excitement of the moment Barney drew his pistol from his belt and snapped it at the animal. It was well for the hermit at that moment that Barney had forgotten to prime his weapon; for, although he aimed at the jaguar's skull, there is no doubt whatever that he would have blown out the hermit's brains. Before he could make a second attempt, Martin sprang towards the gun which leaned against the cliff, and, running quickly up, he placed the muzzle close to the jaguar's ear and lodged a bullet in its brain. All this was done in a few seconds, and the hermit regained his legs just as the animal fell dead. Fortunately he was not hurt, having adroitly avoided the sharp claws of his enemy.

"Arrah! Mister Hermit," said Barney, wiping the perspiration from his forehead, "it's yersilf that was well-nigh done for this time, an' no mistake. Did iver I see sich a spring! an' ye stud the charge jist like a stone wall,—niver moved a fut!"

"Are you not hurt?" inquired Martin, somewhat anxiously; "your face is all covered with blood."

"Yes, boy, but it is the blood of the jaguar; thanks to you for your quick hand, I am not hurt at all."

The hermit washed his face in the neighbouring brook, and then proceeded to skin the jaguar, the carcase being worthless. After which they retraced their steps through the woods as quickly as possible, for the day was now far spent, and the twilight, as we have before remarked, is so short in tropical latitudes that travellers require to make sure of reaching the end of the day's journey towards evening, unless they choose to risk losing their way, and spending the night in the forest.

They picked up the iguana in passing; and, on reaching the spot where the armadillo had burrowed, the hermit paused and kindled a small fire over the hole, by means of his flint, steel, and tinder-box. He thus contrived to render the creature's habitation so uncomfortable that it rushed hurriedly out; then, observing that its enemies were waiting, it doubled its head and tail together, and became the image of a rough stone.

"Poor thing," said Martin, as the hermit killed it, "that reminds me of the ostrich of the desert, which, I'm told, when it is chased over the plains by men on horseback, and finds that it cannot escape, thrusts its head into a bush, and fancies, no doubt, that it cannot be seen, although its great body is visible a mile off!"

"Martin," said Barney, "this arth is full o' quare craturs intirely."

"That's true, Barney; and not the least 'quare' among them is an Irishman, a particular friend of mine."

"Hould yer tongue, ye spalpeen, or I'll put yer head in the wather!"

"I wish ye would, Barney, for it is terribly hot and mosquito-bitten, and you couldn't have suggested anything more delightful. But here we are once more at our forest home; and now for a magnificent cup of coffee and a mandioca-cake."

"Not to mintion," added Barney, "a juicy steak of Igu Anny, an' a tender chop o' Army Dillo."



Martin Rattler and Barney O'Flannagan soon after this began to entertain a desire to travel further into the interior of Brazil, and behold with their own eyes the wonders of which they had heard so much from their kind and hospitable friend the hermit. Martin was especially anxious to see the great river Amazon, about which he entertained the most romantic ideas,—as well he might, for there is not such another river in the world for size, and for the many curious things connected with its waters and its banks. Barney, too, was smitten with an intense desire to visit the diamond mines, which he fancied must be the most brilliant and beautiful sight in the whole world; and when Martin asked him what sort of place he expected to see, he used to say that he "pictur'd in his mind a great many deep and lofty caverns, windin' in an' out an' round about, with the sides and the floors and the ceilin's all of a blaze with glittering di'monds, an' top'zes, an' purls, an' what not; with Naiggurs be the dozen picking them up in handfuls. An' sure," he would add, "if we was wance there, we could fill our pockets in no time, an' then, hooray for ould Ireland! an' live like Imperors for ivermore."

"But you forget, Barney, the account the hermit has given us of the mines. He evidently does not think that much is to be made of them."

"Och! niver mind the hermit. There's always good luck attends Barney O'Flanngan; an' sure if nobody wint for fear they would git nothing, all the di'monds that iver came out o' the mines would be lyin' there still; an' didn't he tell us there was wan got only a short time since, worth I don't know how many thousand pounds? Arrah! if I don't go to the mines an' git one the size o' me head, I'll let ye rig me out with a long tail an' set me adrift in the woods for a blue-faced monkey."

It so happened that this was the time when the hermit was in the habit of setting out on one of his trading trips; and when Martin told him of the desire that he and Barney entertained to visit the interior, he told them that he would be happy to take them along with him, provided they would act the part of muleteers. To this they readily agreed, being only too glad of an opportunity of making some return to their friend, who refused to accept any payment for his hospitality, although Barney earnestly begged of him to accept of his watch, which was the only object of value he was possessed of,—and that wasn't worth much, being made of pinch-beck, and utterly incapable of going! Moreover, he relieved their minds, by telling them that they would easily obtain employment as canoe-men on the Amazon, for men were very difficult to be got on that river to man the boats; and if they could stand the heat, and were willing to work like Indians, they might travel as far as they pleased. To which Martin replied, in his ignorance, that he thought he could stand anything; and Barney roundly asserted that, having been burnt to a cinder long ago in the "East Injies," it was impossible to overdo him any more.

Under these circumstances, therefore, they started three weeks later to visit a populous town about twenty miles off, from which they set out on their travels, with a string of heavily laden mules, crossed the low countries or campos lying near to the sea, and began to ascend the sierras that divide this portion of Brazil from the country which is watered by the innumerable rivers that flow into the mighty Amazon.

The cavalcade consisted of ten mules, each with two goodly sized bales of merchandise on its back. They were driven and attended to by Negroes, whose costume consisted of a light cotton shirt with short sleeves, and a pair of loose cotton drawers reaching down to the knee. With the exception of a straw hat this was all they wore. Martin, and Barney, and the hermit each bestrode a mule, with a small bale slung on either side; over the front of which their legs dangled comfortably. They had ponchos with them, strapped to the mules' backs, and each carried a clumsy umbrella to shield him from the fierce rays of the sun; but our two adventurers soon became so hardened and used to the climate, that they dispensed with the umbrellas altogether.

The sierra, or mountain range, over which they passed was about thirty miles in extent, being in some places quite level and open, but in others somewhat rugged and covered with large but thinly scattered trees, the most common of which had fine dark-green glossy leaves, with spikes of bright yellow flowers terminating the branchlets. There were also many peculiar shrubs and flowering plants, of a sort that the travellers had never seen the like of in their native land.

"How I wish," said Martin with a sigh, as he rode along beside his friend Barney, "that I knew something of botany."

Barney opened his eyes in surprise. "Arrah! it's too much of a philosopher ye are already, lad. What good would it do ye to know all the hard names that men have given to the flowers? Sure I wance wint after the doctor o' a ship, to carry his box for him when he wint on what he called botanical excursions; and the poor cratur used to be pokin' his nose for iver down at the ground, an' peerin' through his green spectacles at miserable bits o' plants, an' niver seemin' to enjoy anything; when all the time I was lookin' far fornint me, an' all around me, an' up at the sky, seem' ivery beautiful thing, and snifterin' up the sweet smells, an' in fact enjoyin' the whole univarse—an my pipe to boot—like an intelligent cratur." Barney looked round as he spoke, with a bland, self-satisfied expression of countenance, as if he felt that he had given a lucid definition of the very highest style of philosophy, and proved that he, Barney O'Flannagan, was possessed of the same in no common degree.

"Well, Barney," rejoined Martin, "since you give me credit for being a philosopher, I must continue to talk philosophically. Your botanical friend took a microscopic view of nature, while you took a telescopic view of it. Each view is good, but both views are better; and I can't help wishing that I were more of a philosopher than I am, especially in reference to botany."

"Humph!" ejaculated Barney, who seemed not quite to understand his young friend, "yer observations are remarkably thrue, and do ye great credit, for yer years. Ah! Mr. Hermit, good luck to ye! I'm glad to see that ye've got some consideration for man and baste. I'm quite ready for my victuals, and so's my mule; aren't you, avic?"

Barney's latter remark was addressed to his patient charger, from whose back he sprang as he spoke, and slackened its girths.

It was now approaching mid-day, and the hermit had pitched upon a large tree as a fitting spot for rest and refreshment. Water had been brought up the mountain in a huge calabash; but they did not require to use it, as they found a quantity in the hollow stump of a tree. There were several frogs swimming about in this miniature lake; but it was found to be fresh and clear and good notwithstanding.

Towards evening they passed a string of mules going towards the town which they had just left. They were driven by Negroes, most of whom were slaves, and nearly quite naked. A Brazilian merchant, wearing a picturesque broad-brimmed, high-crowned straw-hat, a poncho, and brown leather boots armed at the heels with large sharp spurs, rode at the head, and gave the strangers a surly nod of his head as they passed. Soon after, they descended into the plain, and came to a halt at a sort of roadside public-house, where there was no sleeping accommodation, but where they found an open shed in which travellers placed their goods, and slung their hammocks, and attended to themselves. At the venda, close beside it, they purchased a large bag of farina, being short of that necessary article of food, and then set to work to prepare supper in the open air; while the merry Negroes, who seemed to enjoy life most thoroughly, laughed and sang as they removed the bales from the mules' backs and cooked their simple fare.

Barney's cooking propensities now came into full play; and, with the variety of fruits and vegetables which the country afforded, he exercised his ingenuity, and produced several dishes of so savoury a nature that the hermit was compelled to open his eyes in amazement, and smack his lips with satisfaction, being quite unable to express his sentiments in words. While thus busily and agreeably employed, they were told by the owner of the venda that a festa was being celebrated at a village about a league distant from where they stood.

"I should like to see it above all things," said Martin eagerly; "could we not go?"

The hermit frowned. "Yes, we can go, but it will be to behold folly. Perhaps it will be a good lesson, from which much may be learned. We will go."

"It's not a step that I'll budge till I've finished me pipe," said Barney, pulling away at that bosom friend with unexampled energy. "To smoke," he continued, winking gently with one eye, "is the first law of nature; jist give me ten minutes more, an' I'm your man for anything,"

Being a fine evening, they proceeded on foot. In about an hour after setting out they approached the village, which lay in a beautiful valley below them. Sounds of mirth and music rose like a distant murmur on the air, and mingled with the songs of birds and insects. Then the sun went down, and in a few minutes it grew dark, while the brilliant fire-flies began their nocturnal gambols. Suddenly a bright flame burst over the village, and a flight of magnificent rockets shot up into the sky, and burst in a hundred bright and variously-coloured stars, which paled for a few seconds the lights of nature. But they vanished in a moment, and the clear stars shed abroad their undying lustre,—seeming, in their quiet, unfading beauty, a gentle satire on the short-lived and gairish productions of man.

"Mighty purty, no doubt," exclaimed Barney. "Is this the Imperor's birth-day?"

"No," replied the hermit, shaking his head; "that is the way in which the false priests amuse the people. The poor Indian and the Negro, and, indeed, the ignorant Brazilian, thinks it very grand; and the priests let them think it is pleasing to the God of heaven. Ah! here comes an old Negro; we will ask him."

Several country people, in varied and picturesque costumes, hurried past the travellers towards the village; and as they came to a foot-path that joined the road, an old Negro approached them. Saluting him in the Portuguese language, the hermit said, "Friend, why do they let off rockets to-night?"

"For Dios" (for God), answered the old man, looking and pointing upwards with grave solemnity. Without vouchsafing another word, he hurried away.

"So they think," said the hermit, "and so they are taught by the priests. Music, noise, and fire-works please these ignorant people; and so the priests, who are mostly as ignorant as the people, tell them it is a good part of religious ceremony."

Presently a band of young girls came laughing and singing along the road. They were dressed in pure white, their rich black tresses being uncovered and ornamented with flowers, and what appeared to be bright jewels.

"Hallo!" exclaimed Martin, gazing after them; "what splendid jewels! surely these must be the daughters of very rich people."

"Och, but they've been at the di'mond mines for certain! Did iver ye sae the like?"

The girls did indeed seem to blaze with jewels, which not only sparkled in their hair, but fringed their white robes, and were worked round the edges of their slippers; so that a positive light shone around their persons, and fell upon the path like a halo, giving them more the appearance of lovely supernatural beings than the daughters of earth.

"These jewels," said the hermit, "were never polished by the hands of men. They are fire-flies."

"Fire-flies!" exclaimed Martin and Barney simultaneously.

"Yes, they are living fire-flies. The girls very often catch them and tie them up in little bits of gauze, and put them, as you see, on their dresses and in their hair. To my mind they seem more beautiful far than diamonds. Sometimes the Indians, when they travel at night, fix fire-flies to their feet, and so have good lamps to their path."

While Barney was expressing his surprise at this information, in very racy language, they entered the village; and, mingling with the throng of holiday-keepers, followed the stream towards the grand square.

The church, which seemed to be a centre of attraction, and was brilliantly illuminated, was a neat wooden building with two towers. The streets of the village were broad and straggling; and so luxuriant was the vegetation, and so lazy the nature of the inhabitants, that it seemed as if the whole place were overgrown with gigantic weeds. Shrubs and creeping-plants grew in the neglected gardens, climbed over the palings, and straggled about the streets. Plants grew on the tops of the houses, ferns peeped out under the eaves; and, in short, on looking at it one had the feeling that ere long the whole place, people and all, must be smothered in superabundant vegetation!

The houses were all painted white or yellow, with the doors and windows bright green,—just like grown-up toys; and sounds of revelry, with now and then the noise of disputation, issued from many of them.

It is impossible to describe minutely the appearance of the motley crowd through which our adventurers elbowed their way, gazing curiously on the strange scene, which seemed to them more like a dream than reality, after their long sojourn in the solitudes of the forest. Processions headed by long-robed priests with flambeaux and crucifixes; young girls in light costumes and long white cotton shawls, selling sweet cakes of mandioca flour, and bonbons; swarthy Brazilians, some in white jackets, loose cotton drawers, and straw hats, others in brown leather boots and ponchos; Negroes in short white drawers and shirts, besides many without any clothing above their waists; Indians from the interior, copper-coloured, and some of them, fine-looking men, having only a strip of cloth about their loins;—such were the strange crew whose loud voices added to the whiz of rockets, squibs, crackers, guns, and musical instruments, created a deafening noise.

In the midst of the village there was a tree of such enormous size that it quite took our travellers by surprise. It was a wild fig-tree, capable of sheltering a thousand persons under its shadow! Here a spirited fandango was going on, and they stood for some time watching the movements of the performers. Growing tired of this, they wandered about until they came to a less crowded part of the village, and entered a pleasant grove of trees skirting the road by which they had arrived. While sauntering here, enjoying the cool night breeze and delicious perfume of flowers, a woman uttered a piercing shriek near to them. It was instantly followed by loud voices in altercation. Ever ready to fly to the help of womankind, and, generally, to assist in a "row," Barney darted through the bushes, and came upon the scene of action just in time to see the white skirt of a female's dress disappear down an avenue, and to behold two Brazilians savagely writhing in mortal strife. At the moment he came up, one of the combatants had overcome the other, and a fierce smile of triumph crossed his swarthy countenance as he raised his gleaming knife.

"Och, ye murtherer! would ye attimpt that same?" cried Barney, catching the man by the wrist and hurling him on his back. The other sprang up on being thus unexpectedly freed, and darted away, while the thwarted man uttered a yell of disappointment and sprang like a tiger at Barney's throat. A blow, however, from the Irishman's fist, quietly delivered, and straight between the eyes, stretched the Brazilian on the ground. At the same moment a party of men, attracted by the cries, burst through the bushes and surrounded the successful champion. Seeing their countryman apparently dead upon the ground, they rushed upon Barney in a body; but the first who came within reach was floored in an instant, and the others were checked in their career by the sudden appearance of the hermit and Martin Rattler. The noise of many voices, as of people hastening towards them, was heard at the same time.

"We have no time to lose, do as I bid you," whispered the hermit. Whirling a heavy stick round his head the hermit shouted the single word "Charge!" and dashed forward.

Barney and Martin obeyed. Three Brazilians went down like ninepins; the rest turned and fled precipitately.

"Now, run for life!" cried the hermit, setting the example. Barney hesitated to follow what he deemed a cowardly flight, but the yells of the natives returning in strong force decided the question. He and Martin took to their heels with right good will, and in a few minutes the three friends were far on the road which led to their night bivouac; while the villagers, finding pursuit hopeless, returned to the village, and continued the wild orgies of their festa.



It is pleasant, when the sun is bright, and the trees are green, and when flowering shrubs and sweet-smelling tropical trees scent the balmy atmosphere at eventide, to lie extended at full length in a canoe, and drop easily, silently, yet quickly, down the current of a noble river, under the grateful shadow of overhanging foliage; and to look lazily up at the bright blue sky which appears in broken patches among the verdant leaves; or down at the river in which that bright sky and those green leaves are reflected; or aside at the mud-banks where greedy vultures are searching for prey, and lazy alligators are basking in the sun; and to listen, the while, to the innumerable cries and notes of monkeys, toucans, parrots, orioles, bemtevi or fly-catchers, white-winged and blue chatterers, and all the myriads of birds and beasts that cause the forests of Brazil, above all other forests in the world probably, to resound with the gleeful songs of animated nature!

It is pleasant to be thus situated, especially when a cool breeze blows the mosquitoes and other insects off the water, and relieves you for a time from their incessant attacks. Martin Rattler found it pleasant, as he thus lay on his back with his diminutive pet marmoset monkey seated on his breast quietly picking the kernel out of a nut. And Barney O'Flannagan found it pleasant, as he lay extended in the bow of the canoe with his head leaning over the edge gazing abstractedly at his own reflected visage, while his hands trailed through the cool water, and his young dog—a shaggy indescribable beast with a bluff nose and a bushy tail—watched him intently, as a mother might watch an only child in a dangerous situation. And the old sun-dried, and storm-battered, and time-shrivelled mulatto trader, in those canoe they were embarked and whose servants they had become, found it pleasant, as he sat there perched in his little montaria, like an exceedingly ancient and overgrown monkey, guiding it safely down the waters of the great river of the Tocantins.

Some months have passed since we last parted from our daring adventurers. During that period they had crossed an immense tract of country, and reached the head waters of one of the many streams that carry the surplus moisture of central Brazil into the Amazon. Here they found an old trader, a free mulatto, whose crew of Indians had deserted him,—a common thing in that country,—and who gladly accepted their services, agreeing to pay them a small wage. And here they sorrowfully, and with many expressions of good-will, parted from their kind friend and entertainer the hermit. His last gift to Martin was the wonderfully small marmoset monkey before mentioned; and his parting souvenir to Barney was the bluff-nosed dog that watched over him with maternal care, and loved him next to itself;—as well it might; for if everybody had been of the same spirit as Barney O'Flannagan, the Act for the prevention of cruelty to animals would never have been passed in Britain.

It was a peculiar and remarkable and altogether extraordinary monkey, that tiny marmoset. There was a sort of romance connected with it, too; for it had been the mother of an indescribably small infant-monkey, which was killed at the time of its mother's capture. It drank coffee, too, like—like a Frenchman; and would by no means retire to rest at night until it had had its usual allowance. Then it would fold its delicate little hands on its bosom, and close its eyes with an expression of solemn grief, as if, having had its last earthly wish gratified, it now resigned itself to—sleep. Martin loved it deeply, but his love was unrequited; for, strange to say, that small monkey lavished all its affection on Barney's shaggy dog. And the dog knew it, and was evidently proud of it, and made no objection whatever to the monkey sitting on his back, or his head, or his nose, or doing, in fact, whatever it chose whenever it pleased. When in the canoe, the marmoset played with Grampus, as the dog was named; and when on shore it invariably travelled on his back.

Martin used to lie in the canoe half asleep and watch the little face of the marmoset, until, by some unaccountable mental process, he came to think of Aunt Dorothy Grumbit. Often did poor Martin dream of his dear old aunt, while sleeping under the shelter of these strange-leaved tropical trees and surrounded by the wild sounds of that distant land, until he dreamed himself back again in the old village. Then he would rush to the well-known school, and find all the boys there except Bob Croaker, who he felt certain must be away drowning the white kitten; and off he would go and catch him, sure enough, in the very act, and would give him the old thrashing over again, with all the additional vigour acquired during his rambles abroad thrown into it. Then he would run home in eager haste, and find old Mrs. Grumbit hard at the one thousand nine hundred and ninety-ninth pair of worsted socks; and fat Mr. Arthur Jollyboy sitting opposite to her, dressed in the old lady's bed-curtain chintz and high-crowned cap, with the white kitten in his arms and his spectacles on his chin, watching the process with intense interest, and cautioning her not to forget the "hitch" by any means; whereupon the kitten would fly up in his face, and Mr. Jollyboy would dash through the window with a loud howl, and Mrs. Grumbit's face would turn blue; and, uncoiling an enormous tail, she would bound shrieking after him in among the trees and disappear! Martin usually wakened at this point, and found the marmoset gazing in his face with an expression of sorrowful solemnity, and the old sun-dried trader staring vacantly before him as he steered his light craft down the broad stream of the Tocantins.

The trader could speak little more English than sufficed to enable him to say "yes" and "no"; Barney could speak about as much Portuguese as enabled him to say "no" and "yes"; while Martin, by means of a slight smattering of that language, which he had picked up by ear during the last few months, mixed now and then with a word or two of Latin, and helped out by a clever use of the language of signs, succeeded in becoming the link of communication between the two.

For many weeks they continued to descend the river; paddling energetically when the stream was sluggish, and resting comfortably when the stream was strong, and sometimes dragging their canoe over rocks and sand-banks to avoid rapids—passing many villages and plantations of the natives by the way—till at last they swept out upon the bosom of the great Amazon River.

The very first thing they saw upon entering it was an enormous alligator, fully eighteen feet long, sound asleep on a mud-bank.

"Och! put ashore, ye Naygur," cried Barney, seizing his pistol and rising up in the bow of the canoe. The old man complied quickly, for his spirit was high and easily roused.

"Look out now, Martin, an' hould back the dog for fear he wakes him up," said Barney, in a hoarse whisper, as he stepped ashore and hastened stealthily towards the sleeping monster; catching up a handful of gravel as he went, and ramming it down the barrel of his pistol. It was a wonderful pistol that—an Irish one by birth, and absolutely incapable of bursting, else assuredly it would have gone, as its owner said, to "smithereens" long ago.

Barney was not a good stalker. The alligator awoke and made for the water as fast as it could waddle. The Irishman rushed forward close up, as it plunged into the river, and discharged the compound of lead and stones right against the back of its head. He might as well have fired at the boiler of a steam-engine. The entire body of an alligator—back and belly, head and tail—is so completely covered with thick hard scales, that shot has no effect on it; and even a bullet cannot pierce its coat of mail, except in one or two vulnerable places. Nevertheless the shot had been fired so close to it that the animal was stunned, and rolled over on its back in the water. Seeing this, the old trader rushed in up to his chin, and caught it by the tail; but at the same moment the monster recovered, and, turning round, displayed its terrific rows of teeth. The old man uttered a dreadful roar, and struggled to the land as fast as he could; while the alligator, equally frightened, no doubt, gave a magnificent flourish and splash with its tail, and dived to the bottom of the river.

The travellers returned disgusted to their canoe, and resumed their journey up the Amazon in silence.

The vulnerable places about an alligator are the soft parts under the throat and the joints of the legs. This is well known to the jaguar, its mortal foe, which attacks it on land, and fastening on these soft parts, soon succeeds in killing it; but should the alligator get the jaguar into its powerful jaws or catch it in the water, it is certain to come off the conqueror.

The Amazon, at its mouth, is more like a wide lake or arm of the sea than a river. Mention has been already made of this noble stream in the Hermit's Story; but it is worthy of more particular notice, for truly the Amazon is in many respects a wonderful river. It is the largest, though not quite the longest, in the world. Taking its rise among the rocky solitudes of the great mountain range of the Andes, it flows through nearly four thousand miles of the continent in an easterly direction, trending northward towards its mouth, and entering the Atlantic Ocean on the northern coast of South America, directly under the Equator. In its course it receives the waters of nearly all the great rivers of central South America, and thousands of smaller tributaries; so that when it reaches the ocean its volume of water is enormous. Some idea may be formed of its majestic size, from the fact that one of its tributaries—the Rio Negro—is fifteen hundred miles long, and varying in breadth; being a mile wide not far from its mouth, while higher up it spreads out in some places into sheets of ten miles in width. The Madeira, another tributary, is also a river of the largest size. The Amazon is divided into two branches at its mouth by the island of Marajo, the larger branch being ninety-six miles in width. About two thousand miles from its mouth it is upwards of a mile wide. So great is the force of this flood of water, that it flows into the sea unmixed for nearly two hundred miles. The tide affects the river to a distance of about four hundred miles inland; and it is navigable from the sea for a distance of three thousand miles inland.

On the north bank of the Amazon there are ranges of low hills, partly bare and partly covered with thickets. These hills vary from three hundred to a thousand feet high, and extend about two hundred miles inland. Beyond them the shores of the river are low and flat for more than two thousand miles, till the spurs of the Andes are reached.

During the rainy season the Amazon overflows all its banks, like the Nile, for many hundreds of miles; during which season, as Martin Rattler truly remarked, the natives may be appropriately called aquatic animals. Towns and villages, and plantations belonging to Brazilians, foreign settlers, and half-civilized Indians, occur at intervals throughout the whole course of the river; and a little trade in dye-woods, India-rubber, medicinal drugs, Brazil nuts, coffee, &c., is done; but nothing to what might and ought to be, and perhaps would be, were this splendid country in the hands of an enterprising people. But the Amazonians are lazy, and the greater part of the resources of one of the richest countries in the world is totally neglected.

"Arrah!" said Barney, scratching his head and wrinkling his forehead intensely, as all that we have just written, and a great deal more, was told to him by a Scotch settler whom he found superintending a cattle estate and a saw-mill on the banks of the Amazon—"Faix, then, I'm jist as wise now as before ye begun to spake. I've no head for fagures whatsumdiver; an' to tell me that the strame is ninety-six miles long and three thousand miles broad at the mouth, and sich like calcerlations, is o' no manner o' use, and jist goes in at wan ear an' out at the tother."

Whereupon the Scotch settler smiled and said, "Well, then, if ye can remember that the Amazon is longer than all Europe is broad; that it opens up to the ocean not less than ten thousand miles of the interior of Brazil; and that, comparatively speaking, no use is made of it whatever, ye'll remember enough to think about with profit for some time to come."

And Barney did think about it, and ponder it, and revolve it in his mind, for many days after, while he worked with Martin and the old trader at the paddles of their montaria. They found the work of canoeing easier than had been anticipated; for during the summer months the wind blows steadily up the river, and they were enabled to hoist their mat-sail, and bowl along before it against the stream.

Hotels and inns there were none; for Brazil does not boast of many such conveniences, except in the chief towns; so they were obliged, in travelling, to make use of an empty hut or shed, when they chanced to stop at a village, and to cook their own victuals. More frequently, however, they preferred to encamp in the woods—slinging their hammocks between the stems of the trees, and making a fire sometimes, to frighten away the jaguars, which, although seldom seen, were often heard at night. They met large canoes and montarias occasionally coming down the stream, and saw them hauled up on shore, while their owners were cooking their breakfast in the woods; and once they came upon a solitary old Indian in a very curious position. They had entered a small stream in order to procure a few turtles' eggs, of which there were many in that place buried in the sand-banks. On turning a point where the stream was narrow and overhung with bushes and trees, they beheld a canoe tied to the stem of a tree, and a hammock slung between two branches overhanging the water. In this an old Indian lay extended, quite naked and fast asleep! The old fellow had grown weary with paddling his little canoe; and, finding the thicket along the river's banks so impenetrable that he could not land, he slung his hammock over the water, and thus quietly took his siesta. A flock of paroquets were screaming like little green demons just above him, and several alligators gave him a passing glance as they floundered heavily in the water below; but the red man cared not for such trifles. Almost involuntarily Martin began to hum the popular nursery rhyme—

"Hushy ba, baby, on the tree top; When the wind blows the cradle will rock."

"Arrah, if he was only two foot lower, its thirty pair o' long teeth would be stuck into his flank in wan minute, or I'm no prophet," said Barney, with a broad grin.

"Suppose we give him a touch with the paddle in passing," suggested Martin.

At this moment Barney started up, shaded his eyes with his hand, and, after gazing for a few seconds at some object ahead of the canoe, he gave utterance to an exclamation of mingled surprise and consternation.



The object which called forth the cry from our Irish friend, as related in the last chapter, was neither more nor less than a serpent of dimensions more enormous than Barney had ever before conceived of. It was upwards of sixteen feet long, and nearly as thick as a man's body; but about the neck it was three times that size. This serpent was not, indeed, of the largest size. In South America they grow to nearly forty feet in length. But it was fabulously gigantic in the eyes of our adventurers, who had never seen a serpent of any kind before.

"Oh!" cried Martin, eagerly, "that must be an anaconda. Is it not?" he inquired, turning to the old trader.

"Yees; it dead," was the short reply.

"So it is!" cried Martin, who, on a nearer approach, observed that the brute's body was cut in two just below the swelling at the neck.

"Now, did ye iver," cried Barney with increased surprise, "see a sarpint with a cow's horns growin' out at its mouth? Put ashore, old boy; we must have a Vestigation o' this remarkable cratur."

The canoe was soon aground, and in another minute the three travellers busily engaged in turning over the carcass of the huge reptile, which they found, to the amazement of Martin and Barney, had actually swallowed an ox whole, with the exception of the horns, which protruded from its mouth!

After much questioning, in bad Portuguese, broken English, and remarkable signs, Martin succeeded in drawing from the old trader the information that anacondas of a large size are often in the habit of thus bolting horses and oxen at a mouthful.

There is not the slightest exaggeration in this fact. Readers who are inclined to disbelieve it may refer to the works of Wallace and Gardner on Brazil,—authorities which cannot be doubted.

The reptile commences by patiently watching until an unfortunate animal strays near to where it is lying, when it darts upon it, encircles it in its massive coils, and crushes it to death in an instant. Then it squeezes the body and broken bones into a shapeless mass; after which it licks the carcass all over, and covers it with a thick coating of saliva. Having thus prepared its mouthful, the andaconda begins at the tail and gradually engulfs its victim, while its elastic jaws, and throat, and stomach are distended sufficiently to let it in; after which it lies in a torpid state for many weeks, till the morsel is digested, when it is ready for another meal. A horse goes down entire, but a cow sticks at the horns, which the anaconda cannot swallow. They are allowed to protrude from its mouth until they decay and drop off.

They were at a loss at first to account for the creature being killed; but the old trader suggested that it had been found in a torpid state, and slain by the Indian whom they had seen a short time ago enjoying his siesta among the trees.

Having cut it open, in order to convince themselves beyond a doubt that it had swallowed an entire ox, Martin and the old trader re-embarked in the canoe, and Barney was on the point of joining them when the bushes close beside him were slightly stirred. Looking quickly round, he beheld the head and the glittering eyes of another anaconda, apparently as large as the dead one, ready to dart upon him,—at least so he fancied; but he did not wait to give it a chance. He fled instantly, and sprang towards the boat, which he nearly upset as he leaped into it, and pushed out into the stream. On reaching the middle of the river they looked back, but the anaconda was gone.

Soon after this they came to a long sandbank, where the old trader said they should find as many turtles' eggs as they wished for, although to Barney and Martin there seemed to be nothing on the bank at all. The fresh-water turtle of the Amazon, of which there are various species, is one of the most useful of reptiles. Its flesh supplies abundance of good food; and the eggs, besides being eaten, afford an excellent oil. The largest species grow to the length of three feet, and have a flattish oval shell of a dark colour, and quite smooth. Turtles lay their eggs about the beginning of September, when the sand-banks begin to be uncovered. They scrape deep holes for them, and cover them carefully over, beating down the sand quite flat, and walking across the place several times, for the purpose of concealment. The eggs are then left to be hatched by the heat of the sun. But, alas for the poor turtles! men are too clever for them. The eggs are collected by the natives in thousands, and, when oil is to be made of them, they are thrown into a canoe, smashed and mixed up together, and left to stand, when the oil rises to the top, and is skimmed off and boiled. It keeps well, and is used both for lamps and cooking. Very few of the millions of eggs that are annually laid arrive at maturity.

When the young turtles issue forth and run to the water, there are many enemies watching for them. Great alligators open their jaws and swallow them by hundreds; jaguars come out of the forests and feed upon them; eagles and buzzards and wood ibises are there, too, to claim their share of the feast; and, if they are fortunate enough to escape all these, there are many large and ravenous fishes ready to seize them in the stream. It seems a marvel that any escape at all.

In a few minutes the old trader scraped up about a hundred eggs, to the immense satisfaction of Martin and Barney. Then he took a bow and arrow from the bottom of the montaria and shot a large turtle in the water, while his companions kindled a fire, intending to dine. Only the nose of the turtle was visible above water; but the old man was so expert in the use of the bow, that he succeeded in transfixing the soft part of the animal's neck with an arrow, although that part was under water. It was a large turtle, and very fat and heavy, so that it was with difficulty the trader lifted it upon his old shoulders and bore it in triumph to the spot where his companions were busily engaged with their cooking operations. Turtles are frequently shot with the arrow by the natives; they are also taken in great numbers with the hook and the net.

Dinner was soon ready. Barney concocted an immense and savoury omelet, and the old trader cooked an excellent turtle-steak, while Martin prepared a junk of jaguar meat, which he roasted, being curious to taste it, as he had been told that the Indians like it very much. It was pretty good, but not equal to the turtle-eggs. The shell of the egg is leathery, and the yolk only is eaten. The Indians sometimes cat them raw, mixed with farina. Cakes of farina, and excellent coffee, concluded their repast; and Barney declared he had never had such a satisfactory "blow out" in his life; a sentiment with which Martin entirely agreed, and the old trader—if one might judge from the expression of his black countenance—sympathized.

For many weeks our adventurers continued to ascend the Amazon, sometimes sailing before the wind; at other times, when it fell calm, pushing the montaria up the current by means of long poles, or advancing more easily with the paddles. Occasionally they halted for a day at the residence of a wealthy cacao planter, in order to sell him some merchandise; for which purpose the canoe was unloaded, and the bales were opened out for his inspection. Most of these planters were Brazilians, a few were Yankee adventurers, and one or two were Scotch and English; but nearly all had married Brazilian ladies, who, with their daughters, proved good customers to the old trader. Some of these ladies were extremely "purty craturs," as Barney expressed it; but most of them were totally uneducated and very ignorant,—not knowing half so much as a child of seven or eight years old in more favoured lands. They were very fond of fine dresses and ornaments, of which considerable supplies were sent to them from Europe and the United States, in exchange for the valuable produce of their country. But, although their dresses were fine and themselves elegant, their houses were generally very poor affairs—made of wood and thatched with broad leaves; and it was no uncommon thing to see a lady, who seemed from her gay dress to be fitted for a drawing-room, seated on an earthen floor. But there were all sorts of extremes in this strange land; for at the next place they came to, perhaps, they found a population of Negroes and Indians, and most of the grown-up people were half naked, while all the children were entirely so.

At one plantation, where they resolved to spend a few days, the owner had a pond which was much frequented by alligators. These he was in the habit of hunting periodically, for the sake of their fat, which he converted into oil. At the time of their arrival, he was on the eve of starting on a hunting expedition to the lake, which was about eight miles distant; so Barney and Martin determined to go and "see the fun," as the latter said.

"Martin, lad," remarked Barney, as they followed the Negro slave who had been sent by Senhor Antonio, the planter, to conduct them to the lake, while he remained behind for an hour or two to examine the bales of the old trader; "this is the quarest country, I believe, that iver was made; what with bastes, and varmints, and riptiles, and traes, and bushes, and rivers, it bates all creation."

"Certainly it does, Barney; and it is a pity there are so few people in it who know how to make use of the things that are scattered all around them. I'm inclined to think the hermit was right when he said that they wanted the Bible. They are too far sunk in laziness and idleness to be raised up by anything else. Just look," continued Martin, glancing round, "what a wonderful place this is! It seems as if all the birds and curious trees in Brazil had congregated here to meet us."

Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse