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Title: In the Amazon Jungle - Adventures in Remote Parts of the Upper Amazon River, Including a - Sojourn Among Cannibal Indians
Author: Lange, Algot, 1884-
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                      In the Amazon Jungle

               Adventures in Remote Parts of the
                Upper Amazon River, Including a
                 Sojourn Among Cannibal Indians

                              By

                          Algot Lange

               Edited in Part by J. Odell Hauser

        With an Introduction by Frederick S. Dellenbaugh



                              To

                         The Memory of

                           My Father



INTRODUCTION


When Mr. Algot Lange told me he was going to the headwaters of the
Amazon, I was particularly interested because once, years ago, I had
turned my own mind in that direction with considerable longing. I knew
he would encounter many set-backs, but I never would have predicted
the adventures he actually passed through alive.

He started in fine spirits: buoyant, strong, vigorous. When I saw
him again in New York, a year or so later, on his return, he was
an emaciated fever-wreck, placing one foot before the other only
with much exertion and indeed barely able to hold himself erect. A
few weeks in the hospital, followed by a daily diet of quinine,
improved his condition, but after months he had scarcely arrived at
his previous excellent physical state.

Many explorers have had experiences similar to those related in
this volume, but, at least so far as the fever and the cannibals
are concerned, they have seldom survived to tell of them. Their
interviews with cannibals have been generally too painfully confined
to internal affairs to be available in this world for authorship,
whereas Mr. Lange, happily, avoided not only a calamitous intimacy,
but was even permitted to view the culinary preparations relating to
the absorption of less favoured individuals, and himself could have
joined the feast, had he possessed the stomach for it.

These good friends of his, the Mangeromas, conserved his life when
they found him almost dying, not, strange as it may appear, for
selfish banqueting purposes, but merely that he might return to his
own people. It seems rather paradoxical that they should have loved
one stranger so well as to spare him with suspicious kindness, and
love others to the extent of making them into table delicacies. The
explanation probably is that these Mangeromas were the reverse of
a certain foreign youth with only a small stock of English, who, on
being offered in New York a fruit he had never seen before, replied,
"Thank you, I eat only my acquaintances"--the Mangeromas eat only
their enemies.

Mr. Lange's account of his stay with these people, of their weapons,
habits, form of battle, and method of cooking the human captives,
etc., forms one of the specially interesting parts of the book, and
is at the same time a valuable contribution to the ethnology of the
western Amazon (or Marañon) region, where dwell numerous similar tribes
little known to the white man. Particularly notable is his description
of the wonderful wourahli (urari) poison, its extraordinary effect,
and the _modus operandi_ of its making; a poison used extensively
by Amazonian tribes but not made by all. He describes also the
bows and arrows, the war-clubs, and the very scientific weapon, the
blow-gun. He was fortunate in securing a photograph of a Mangeroma in
the act of shooting this gun. Special skill, of course, is necessary
for the effective use of this simple but terrible arm, and, like that
required for the boomerang or lasso, practice begins with childhood.

The region of Mr. Lange's almost fatal experiences, the region of
the Javary River (the boundary between Brazil and Peru), is one of
the most formidable and least known portions of the South American
continent. It abounds with obstacles to exploration of the most
overwhelming kind. Low, swampy, with a heavy rainfall, it is inundated
annually, like most of the Amazon basin, and at time of high water
the rivers know no limits. Lying, as it does, so near the equator,
the heat is intense and constant, oppressive even to the native. The
forest-growth--and it is forest wherever it is not river--is forced
as in a huge hothouse, and is so dense as to render progress through
it extremely difficult. Not only are there obstructions in the way of
tree trunks, underbrush, and trailing vines and creepers like ropes,
but the footing is nothing more than a mat of interlaced roots. The
forest is also sombre and gloomy. To take a photograph required an
exposure of from three to five minutes. Not a stone, not even a pebble,
is anywhere to be found.

Disease is rampant, especially on the smaller branches of the
rivers. The incurable _beri-beri_ and a large assortment of fevers
claim first place as death dealers, smiting the traveller with fearful
facility. Next come a myriad of insects and reptiles--alligators,
huge bird-eating spiders, and snakes of many varieties. Snakes,
both the poisonous and non-poisonous kinds, find here conditions
precisely to their liking. The bush-master is met with in the more
open places, and there are many that are venomous, but the most
terrifying, though not a biting reptile is the water-boa, the sucurujú
(_Eunectes murinus_) or anaconda. It lives to a great age and reaches
a size almost beyond belief. Feeding, as generally it does at night,
it escapes common observation, and white men, heretofore, have not
seen the largest specimens reported, though more than thirty feet is
an accepted length, and Bates, the English naturalist, mentions one
he heard of, forty-two feet long. It is not surprising that Mr. Lange
should have met with one in the far wilderness he visited, of even
greater proportions, a hideous monster, ranking in its huge bulk with
the giant beasts of antediluvian times. The sucurujú is said to be
able to swallow whole animals as large as a goat or a donkey, or even
larger, and the naturalist referred to tells of a ten-year-old boy,
son of his neighbour, who, left to mind a canoe while his father went
into the forest, was, in broad day, playing in the shade of the trees,
stealthily enwrapped by one of the monsters. His cries brought his
father to the rescue just in time.

As the Javary heads near the eastern slopes and spurs of the great
Peruvian Cordillera, where once lived the powerful and wealthy Inca
race with their great stores of pure gold obtained from prolific mines
known to them, it is again not surprising that Mr. Lange should have
stumbled upon a marvellously rich deposit of the precious metal in
a singular form. The geology of the region is unknown and the origin
of the gold Mr. Lange found cannot at present even be surmised.

Because of the immense value of the rubber product, gold attracts less
attention than it would in some other country. The rubber industry
is extensive and thousands of the wild rubber trees are located and
tapped. The trees usually are found near streams and the search for
them leads the rubber-hunter farther and farther into the unbroken
wilderness. Expeditions from time to time are sent out by rich
owners of rubber "estates" to explore for fresh trees, and after
his sojourn at Remate de Males and Floresta, so full of interest,
Mr. Lange accompanied one of these parties into the unknown, with
the extraordinary results described so simply yet dramatically in
the following pages, which I commend most cordially, both to the
experienced explorer and to the stay-by-the-fire, as an unusual and
exciting story of adventure.

FREDERICK S. DELLENBAUGH.

NEW YORK, November 24, 1911.



PREFACE


It is difficult, if not impossible, to find a more hospitable and
generous nation than the Brazilian. The recollection of my trip through
the wilds of Amazonas lingers in all its details, and although my
experiences were not always of a pleasant character, yet the good
treatment and warm reception accorded me make me feel the deepest
sense of gratitude to the Brazilians, whose generosity will always
abide in my memory.

There is in the Brazilian language a word that better than any
other describes the feeling with which one remembers a sojourn
in Brazil. This word, _saudades_, is charged with an abundance of
sentiment, and, though a literal translation of it is difficult to
arrive at, its meaning approaches "sweet memories of bygone days."

Although a limitation of space forbids my expressing in full my
obligation to all those who treated me kindly, I must not omit to state
my special indebtedness to three persons, without whose invaluable
assistance and co-operation I would not have been able to complete
this book.

First of all, my thanks are due to the worthy Colonel Rosendo da Silva,
owner of the rubber estate Floresta on the Itecoahy River. Through
his generosity and his interest, I was enabled to study the work and
the life conditions of the rubber workers, the employees on his estate.

The equally generous but slightly less civilised Benjamin, high
potentate of the tribe of Mangeroma cannibals, is the second to whom I
wish to express my extreme gratitude, although my obligations to him
are of a slightly different character: in the first place, because
he did not order me to be killed and served up, well or medium done,
to suit his fancy (which he had a perfect right to do); and, in the
second place, because he took a great deal of interest in my personal
welfare and bestowed all the strange favours upon me that are recorded
in this book. He opened my eyes to things which, at the time and under
the circumstances, did not impress me much, but which, nevertheless,
convinced me that, even at this late period of the world's history,
our earth has not been reduced to a dead level of drab and commonplace
existence, and that somewhere in the remote parts of the world are
still to be found people who have never seen or heard of white men.

Last, but not least, I wish to express my deep obligation to my
valued friend, Frederick S. Dellenbaugh, who, through his helpful
suggestions, made prior to my departure, contributed essentially to
the final success of this enterprise, and whose friendly assistance
has been called into requisition and unstintingly given in the course
of the preparation of this volume.


A.L.

NEW YORK, January, 1912.



CONTENTS


  Chapter

    I       Remate de Males, or "Culmination of Evils"
    II      The Social and Political Life of Remate de Males
    III     Other Incidents During My Stay in Remate de Males
    IV      The Journey up the Itecoahy River
    V       Floresta: Life Among the Rubber-Workers
    VI      The Fatal March Through the Forest
    VII     The Fatal "Tambo No. 9"
    VIII    What Happened in the Forest
    IX      Among the Cannibal Mangeromas
    X       The Fight Between the Mangeromas and the Peruvians
            Index



ILLUSTRATIONS



    A Little Village Built on Poles
    The Javary River
    The Mouth of the Itecoahy River
    Nazareth
    Trader's Store
    Remate de Males or "Culmination of Evils"
    The Street in Remate de Males
    General View of Remate de Males
    Sunset on the Itecoahy River
    An Ant Nest in a Tree
    The Launch "Carolina"
    The Banks of the Itecoahy
    The Mouth of the Ituhy River
    The Toucan
    The Banks of the Itecoahy River
    Clearing the Jungle
    Urubus
    "Nova Aurora"
    "Defumador" or Smoking Hut
    Matamata Tree
    The Urucu Plant
    The Author in the Jungle
    The Mouth of the Branco
    Branding Rubber on the Sand-Bar
    The Landing at Floresta
    The Banks at Floresta
    A General View of Floresta
    Morning
    Coronel Rosendo da Silva
    Chief Marques
    Interior of A Rubber-Worker's Hut
    João
    The Murumuru Palm
    A "Seringueiro" Tapping a Rubber Tree
    Smoking the Rubber-Milk
    Forest Interior
    A Fig-Tree Completely Overgrown with Orchids
    Chico, The Monkey
    Turtle Eggs on the Sand-Bank
    The Pirarucu
    The Last Resting-Place of the Rubber-Workers
    "Seringueiros"
    João
    Floresta Creek
    Lake Innocence
    Alligator from Lake Innocence
    Another Alligator from Lake Innocence
    Rubber-Workers' Home near Lake Innocence
    Harpooning a Large Sting-Ray
    Shooting Fish on Lake Innocence
    The Pirarucu
    Amazonian Game-Fish
    The Track of the Anaconda--The Sucuruju
    The Paca
    Rubber-Worker Perreira and Wife in their Sunday Clothes
    A "New Home" Sewing-Machine in an Indian Hut
    The Remarkable Pachiuba Palm-Tree
    Kitchen Interior
    The Beginning of the Fatal Expedition
    A Halt in the Forest
    Jungle Scenery
    Forest Creek
    Top of Hill
    Page Marsh-Deer and Mutum-Bird
    Jungle Darkness
    Creek in the Unknown
    Eating our Broiled Monkey at Tambo No. 5
    Hunting
    The Fatal Tambo No. 9
    A Photograph of the Author
    The Front View of Tambo No. 9
    Caoutchouc Process No. 1
    Caoutchouc Process No. 2
    Caoutchouc Process No. 3
    Creek Near Tambo No. 9
    The Author's Working Table at Tambo No. 9
    Forest Scenery Near Tambo No. 9
    Our Parting Breakfast
    Mangeroma Vase  399



CHAPTER I

REMATE DE MALES, OR "CULMINATION OF EVILS"


My eyes rested long upon the graceful white-painted hull of the
R.M.S. _Manco_ as she disappeared behind a bend of the Amazon River,
more than 2200 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. After 47 days of
continuous travel aboard of her, I was at last standing on the
Brazilian frontier, watching the steamer's plume of smoke still
hanging lazily over the immense, brooding forests. More than a plume
of smoke it was to me then; it was the final link that bound me to
the outside world of civilisation. At last it disappeared. I turned
and waded through the mud up to a small wooden hut built on poles.

It was the end of January, 1910, that saw me approaching this house,
built on Brazilian terra firma--or rather terra aqua, for water was
inundating the entire land. I had behind me the Amazon itself, and to
the right the Javary River, while the little house that I was heading
for was Esperança, the official frontier station of Brazil. The
opposite shore was Peru and presented an unbroken range of dense,
swampy forest, grand but desolate to look upon.

A middle-aged man in uniform came towards me and greeted me cordially,
in fact embraced me, and, ordering a servant to pull my baggage out
of the water, led me up a ladder into the house. I told him that
I intended to go up the Javary River, to a place called Remate de
Males, where I would live with a medical friend of mine, whereupon
he informed me that a launch was due this same night, which would
immediately proceed to my proposed destination. Later in the evening
the launch came and I embarked after being once more embraced by the
courteous Cor. Monteiro, the frontier official. The captain of this
small trading launch was an equally hospitable and courteous man; he
invited me into his cabin and tried to explain that this river, and
the town in particular, where we were going, was a most unhealthy and
forbidding place, especially for a foreigner, but he added cheerfully
that he knew of one white man, an Englishman, who had succeeded in
living for several years on the Javary without being killed by the
fever, but incidentally had drank himself to death.

The night was very dark and damp, and I did not see much of the passing
scenery; a towering black wall of trees was my total impression
during the journey. However, I managed at length to fall asleep on
some coffee-bags near the engine and did not wake till the launch
was exhausting its steam supply through its whistle.

My next impression was that of a low river bank fringed with dirty
houses lighted by candles. People were sitting in hammocks smoking
cigarettes, dogs were barking incessantly, and frogs and crickets were
making a deafening noise when I walked up the main and only street
of this little town, which was to be my headquarters for many months
to come.

After some inquiry, I finally found my friend, Dr. M----, sitting in
a dark, dismal room in the so-called _Hotel Agosto_. With a graceful
motion of his hand he pointed to a chair of ancient structure,
indicating that having now travelled so many thousand miles to reach
this glorious place, I was entitled to sit down and let repose overtake
me. Indeed, I was in Remate de Males.

Never shall I forget that first night's experience with mosquitoes and
ants. Besides this my debut in a hammock for a bed was a pronounced
failure, until a merciful sleep temporarily took me from the sad
realities.

Remate de Males lies just where a step farther would plunge one into
an unmapped country. It is a little village built on poles; the last
"blaze" of civilisation on the trail of the upper river. When the
rainy winter season drives out of the forests every living creature
that can not take refuge in the trees, the rubber-workers abandon
the crude stages of the manufacture that they carry on there and
gather in the village to make the best of what life has to offer them
in this region. At such times the population rises to the number of
some 500 souls, for the most part Brazilians and domesticated Indians
or _caboclos_.

Nothing could better summarise the attractions (!) of the place than
the name which has become fixed upon it. Translated into English this
means "Culmination of Evils," Remate de Males.

Some thirty years ago, a prospector with his family and servants,
in all about a score, arrived at this spot near the junction of the
Javary and the Itecoahy rivers, close to the equator. They came by
the only possible highway, the river, and decided to settle. Soon the
infinite variety of destroyers of human life that abound on the upper
Amazon began their work on the little household, reducing its number
to four and threatening to wipe it out altogether. But the prospector
stuck to it and eventually succeeded in giving mankind a firm hold
on this wilderness. In memory of what he and succeeding settlers went
through, the village received its cynically descriptive name.

Remate de Males, separated by weeks and weeks of journey by boat
from the nearest spot of comparative civilisation down the river,
has grown wonderfully since its pioneer days. Dismal as one finds
it to be, if I can give an adequate description in these pages, it
will be pronounced a monument to man's nature-conquering instincts,
and ability. Surely no pioneers ever had a harder battle than these
Brazilians, standing with one foot in "the white man's grave," as the
Javary region is called in South America, while they faced innumerable
dangers. The markets of the world need rubber, and the supplying of
this gives them each year a few months' work in the forests at very
high wages. I always try to remember these facts when I am tempted to
harshly judge Remate de Males according to our standards; moreover, I
can never look upon the place quite as an outsider. I formed pleasant
friendships there and entered into the lives of many of its people,
so I shall always think of it with affection. The village is placed
where the Itecoahy runs at right angles into the Javary, the right-hand
bank of the Itecoahy forming at once its main and its only street. The
houses stand facing this street, all very primitive and all elevated
on palm-trunk poles as far as possible above the usual high-water
mark of the river. Everything, from the little sheet-iron church
to the pig-sty, is built on poles. Indeed, if there is anything in
the theory of evolution, it will not be many generations before the
inhabitants and domestic animals are born equipped with stilts.

Opposite Remate de Males, across the Itecoahy, is a collection of
some ten huts that form the village of São Francisco, while across
the Javary is the somewhat larger village of Nazareth. Like every real
metropolis, you see, Remate de Males has its suburbs. Nazareth is in
Peruvian territory, the Javary forming the boundary between Brazil and
Peru throughout its length of some 700 miles. This same boundary line
is a source of amusing punctiliousness between the officials of each
country. To cross it is an affair requiring the exercise of the limits
of statesmanship. I well remember an incident that occurred during my
stay in the village. A sojourner in our town, an Indian rubber-worker
from the Ituhy River, had murdered a woman by strangling her. He
escaped in a canoe to Nazareth before the Brazilian officials could
capture him, and calmly took refuge on the porch of a house there,
where he sat down in a hammock and commenced to smoke cigarettes,
feeling confident that his pursuers would not invade Peruvian soil. But
local diplomacy was equal to the emergency. Our officials went to the
shore opposite Nazareth, and, hiding behind the trees, endeavoured to
pick off their man with their .44 Winchesters, reasoning that though
their crossing would be an international incident, no one could
object to a bullet's crossing. Their poor aim was the weak spot in
the plan. After a few vain shots had rattled against the sheet-iron
walls of the house where the fugitive was sitting, he got up from among
his friends and lost himself in the jungle, never to be heard of again.

About sixty-five houses, lining the bank of the Itecoahy River over a
distance of what would be perhaps six blocks in New York City, make up
Remate de Males. They are close together and each has a ladder reaching
from the street to the main and only floor. At the bottom of every
ladder appears a rudimentary pavement, probably five square feet in
area and consisting of fifty or sixty whiskey and gin bottles placed
with their necks downwards. Thus in the rainy season when the water
covers the street to a height of seven feet, the ladders always have
a solid foundation. The floors consist of split palm logs laid with
the round side up. Palm leaves form the roofs, and rusty corrugated
sheet-iron, for the most part, the walls. Each house has a sort of
backyard and kitchen, also on stilts and reached by a bridge.

Through the roofs and rafters gambol all sorts of wretched
pests. Underneath the houses roam pigs, goats, and other domestic
animals, which sometimes appear in closer proximity than might be
wished, owing to the spaces between the logs of the  floor. That is
in the dry season. In the winter, or the wet season, these animals
are moved into the houses with you, and their places underneath are
occupied by river creatures, alligators, water-snakes, and malignant,
repulsive fish, of which persons outside South America know nothing.

Near the centre of the village is the "sky-scraper," the _Hotel
de Augusto_, which boasts a story and a quarter in height. Farther
along are the _Intendencia_, or Government building, painted blue,
the post-office yellow, the _Recreio Popular_ pink; beyond, the
residence of Mons. Danon, the plutocrat of the village, and farther
"downtown" the church, unpainted. Do not try to picture any of these
places from familiar structures. They are all most unpretentious;
their main point of difference architecturally from the rest of the
village consists in more utterly neglected façades.

The post-office and the meteorological observatory, in one dilapidated
house, presided over by a single self-important official, deserve
description here. The postmaster himself is a pajama-clad gentleman,
whose appearance is calculated to strike terror to the souls of
humble _seringueiros_, or rubber-workers, who apply for letters
only at long intervals. On each of these occasions I would see this
important gentleman, who had the word _coronel_ prefixed to his name,
João Silva de Costa Cabral, throw up his hands, in utter despair at
being disturbed, and slowly proceed to his desk from which he would
produce the letters. With great pride this "Pooh-Bah" had a large sign
painted over the door. The post-office over which he presides is by no
means overworked, as only one steamer arrives every five weeks, or so,
but still he has the appearance of being "driven." But when he fusses
around his "_Observatorio meteorologico_," which consists of a maximum
and minimum thermometer and a pluviometer, in a tightly closed box,
raised above the ground on a tall pole, then indeed, his air would
impress even the most blasé town-sport. I was in the village when
this observatory was installed, and after it had been running about
a week, the mighty official called on me and asked me confidentially
if I would not look the observatory over and see if it was all right.

My examination showed that the thermometers were screwed on tight,
which accounted for the amazingly uniform readings shown on his
chart. The pluviometer was inside the box, and therefore it would have
been difficult to convince scientists that the clouds had not entirely
skipped Remate de Males during the rainy season, unless the postmaster
were to put the whole observatory under water by main force. He also
had a chart showing the distribution of clouds on each day of the
year. I noticed that the letter "N" occupied a suspiciously large
percentage of the space on the chart, and when I asked him for the
meaning of this he said that "N"--which in meteorological abbreviation
means Nimbus--stood for "_None_" (in Portuguese _Não_). And he thought
that he must be right because it was the rainy season.

The hotel, in which I passed several months as a guest, until
I finally decided to rent a hut for myself, had points about it
which outdid anything that I have ever seen or heard of in comic
papers about "summer boarding." The most noticeable feature was the
quarter-of-a-story higher than any other house in the village. While
this meant a lead as to quantity I could never see that it represented
anything in actual quality. I would not have ventured up the ladder
which gave access to the extra story without my Winchester in hand,
and during the time I was there I never saw anyone else do so. The
place was nominally a store-house, but having gone undisturbed for
long periods it was an ideal sanctuary for hordes of vermin--and
these the vermin of the Amazon, dangerous, poisonous, not merely the
annoying species we know. Rats were there in abundance, also deadly
scolopendra and centipedes; and large bird-eating spiders were daily
seen promenading up and down the sheet-iron walls.

On the main floor the building had two large rooms across the centre,
one on the front and one on the rear. At each side were four small
rooms. The large front-room was used as a dining-room and had two
broad tables of planed palm trunks. The side-rooms were bedrooms,
generally speaking, though most of the time I was there some were
used for stabling the pigs and goats, which had to be taken in owing
to the rainy season.

It is a simple matter to keep a hotel on the upper Amazon. Each room
in the _Hotel de Augusto_ was neatly and chastely furnished with
a pair of iron hooks from which to hang the hammock, an article
one had to provide himself. There was nothing in the room besides
the hooks. No complete privacy was possible because the corrugated
sheet-iron partitions forming the walls did not extend to the roof. The
floors were sections of palm trees, with the flat side down, making
a succession of ridges with open spaces of about an inch between,
through which the ground or the water, according to the season, was
visible. The meals were of the usual monotonous fare typical of the
region. Food is imported at an enormous cost to this remote place,
since there is absolutely no local agriculture. Even sugar and rice,
for instance, which are among the important products of Brazil,
can be had in New York for about one-tenth of what the natives pay
for them in Remate de Males. A can of condensed milk, made to sell
in America for eight or nine cents, brings sixty cents on the upper
Amazon, and preserved butter costs $1.20 a pound.

The following prices which I have had to pay during the wet season
in this town will, doubtless, be of interest:


    One box of sardines                               $ 1.20
    One pound of unrefined sugar                         .30
    One roll of tobacco (16 pounds)                    21.30
    One basket of farinha retails in Para for $4.50    13.30
    One bottle of ginger ale                             .60
    One pound of potatoes                                .60
    Calico with stamped pattern, pr. yd.                 .90
    One Collins machete, N.Y. price, $1.00             12.00
    One pair of men's shoes                            11.00
    One bottle of very plain port wine, 22,000 reis or  7.30


Under such circumstances, of course, the food supply is very
poor. Except for a few dried cereals and staples, nothing is used
but canned goods; the instances where small domestic animals are
slaughtered are so few as to be negligible. Furthermore, as a rule,
these very animals are converted into jerked meat to be kept for months
and months. Some fish are taken from the river, but the Amazon fish
are none too palatable generally speaking, with a few exceptions;
besides, the natives are not skilful enough to prepare them to suit
a civilised palate.

A typical, well provided table on the Amazon would afford dry farinha
in the first place. This is the granulated root of the Macacheira
plant, the _Jatropha manihot_, which to our palates would seem like
desiccated sawdust, although it appears to be a necessity for the
Brazilian. He pours it on his meat, into his soup, and even into his
wine and jams. Next you would have a black bean, which for us lacks
flavour even as much as the farinha. With this there would probably be
rice, and on special occasions jerked beef, a product as tender and
succulent as the sole of a riding boot. Great quantities of coffee
are drunk, made very thick and prepared without milk or sugar. All
these dishes are served at once, so that they promptly get cold and
are even more tasteless before their turn comes to be devoured.

For five months I experienced this torturing menu at the hotel with
never-ceasing regularity. The only change I ever noticed was on Sundays
or days of feast when beans might occupy the other end of the table.

But what can the Brazilians do? The cost of living is about ten times
as high as in New York. Agriculture is impossible in the regions
where the land is flooded annually, and the difficulties of shipping
are enormous. When I left the hotel and started housekeeping on my
own account, I found that I could not do a great deal better. By
specialising on one thing at a time I avoided monotony to some
extent, but then it was probably only because I was a "new broom"
at the business.

As illustrating the community life that we enjoyed at the hotel,
I will relate a happening that I have set down in my notes as
an instance of the great mortality of this region. One afternoon
a woman's three-months-old child was suddenly taken ill. The child
grew worse rapidly and the mother finally decided that it was going
to die. Her husband was up the river on the rubber estates and she
did not want to be left alone. So she came to the hotel with the
child and besought them to let her in. The infant was placed in a
hammock where it lay crying pitifully. At last the wailings of the
poor little creature became less frequent and the child died.

Before the body was quite cold the mother and the landlady commenced
clearing a table in the dining-room. I looked at this performance
in astonishment because it was now evident that they were going to
prepare a "_lit de parade_" there, close to the tables where our
meals were served. The body was then brought in, dressed in a white
robe adorned with pink, yellow, and sky-blue silk ribbons. Loose
leaves and branches were scattered over the little emaciated body,
care being taken not to conceal any of the fancy silk ribbons. Empty
whiskey and gin bottles were placed around the bier, a candle stuck
in the mouth of each bottle, and then the whole thing was lighted up.

It was now getting dark fast, and as the doors were wide open,
a great crowd was soon attracted by the brilliant display. All the
"400" of the little rubber town seemed to pour in a steady stream into
the dining-room. It was a new experience, even in this hotel where
I had eaten with water up to my knees, to take a meal with a funeral
going on three feet away. We had to partake of our food with the body
close by and the candle smoke blowing in our faces, adding more local
colour to our jerked beef and beans than was desirable. More and more
people came in to pay their respects to the child that hardly any
one had known while it was alive. Through it all the mother sat on
a trunk in a corner peacefully smoking her pipe, evidently proud of
the celebration that was going on in honour of her deceased offspring.

The kitchen boy brought in a large tray with cups of steaming coffee;
biscuits also were carried around to the spectators who sat against
the wall on wooden boxes. The women seemed to get the most enjoyment
out of the mourning; drinking black coffee, smoking their pipes, and
paying little attention to the cause of their being there, only too
happy to have an official occasion to show off their finest skirts. The
men had assembled around the other table, which had been cleared in
the meantime, and they soon sent the boy out for whiskey and beer,
passing away the time playing cards.

I modestly inquired how long this feast was going to last, because
my room adjoined the dining-room and was separated only by a thin
sheet-iron partition open at the top. The landlady, with a happy smile,
informed me that the mourning would continue till the early hours,
when a launch would arrive to transport the deceased and the guests
to the cemetery. This was about four miles down the Javary River and
was a lonely, half-submerged spot.

There was nothing for me to do but submit and make the best of it. All
night the mourners went on, the women drinking black coffee, while the
men gambled and drank whiskey in great quantities, the empty bottles
being employed immediately as additional candlesticks. Towards morning,
due to their heroic efforts, a multitude of bottles totally obliterated
the "_lit de parade_" from view. I managed to fall asleep completely
exhausted when the guests finally went off at nine o'clock. The
doctor diagnosed the case of the dead child as chronic indigestion,
the result of the mother's feeding a three-months-old infant on jerked
beef and black beans.

Life in the hotel during the rainy season is variegated. I have spoken
of having eaten a meal with water up to my knees. That happened often
during the weeks when the river was at its highest level. Once when
we were having our noon-day meal during the extreme high-water period
a man came paddling his canoe in at the open door, sailed past us,
splashing a little water on the table as he did so, and navigated
through to the back room where he delivered some supplies.

During this feat everybody displayed the cheerful and courteous
disposition usual to the Brazilians. At this season you must
wear wading boots to eat a meal or do anything else about the
house. Sleeping is somewhat easier as the hammocks are suspended about
three feet above the level of the water, but an involuntary plunge
is a thing not entirely unknown to an amateur sleeping in a hammock;
I know this from personal experience.

Every morning the butcher comes to the village between five and
six o'clock and sharpens his knife while he awaits calls for his
ministrations. He is an undersized man with very broad shoulders and
a face remarkable for its cunning, cruel expression. His olive-brown
complexion, slanting eyes, high cheek-bones, and sharp-filed teeth
are all signs of his coming from the great unknown interior. His
business here is to slaughter the cattle of the town. He does this
deftly by thrusting a long-bladed knife into the neck of the animal
at the base of the brain, until it severs the medulla, whereupon
the animal collapses without any visible sign of suffering. It is
then skinned and the intestines thrown into the water where they
are immediately devoured by a small but voracious fish called the
_candiroo-escrivão_. This whole operation is carried on inside the
house, in the back-room, as long as the land is flooded.

It must be remembered that during the rainy season an area equal in
size to about a third of the United States is entirely submerged. There
is a network of rivers that eventually find their way into the Amazon
and the land between is completely inundated. In all this immense
territory there are only a few spots of sufficient elevation to be
left high and dry. Remate de Males, as I have explained, is at the
junction of the Itecoahy and the Javary rivers, the latter 700 miles
in length, and thirty miles or so below the village the Javary joins
the Amazon proper, or Solimoés as it is called here. Thus we are in
the heart of the submerged region. When I first arrived in February,
1910, I found the river still confined to its channel, with the water
about ten feet below the level of the street. A few weeks later it
was impossible to take a single step on dry land anywhere.

The water that drives the rubber-workers out of the forests also drives
all animal life to safety. Some of the creatures seek refuge in the
village. I remember that we once had a huge alligator take temporary
lodgings in the backyard of the hotel after he had travelled no one
knows how many miles through the inundated forest. At all hours we
could hear him making excursions under the house to snatch refuse
thrown from the kitchen, but we always knew he would have welcomed
more eagerly a member of the household who might drop his way.

And now a few words about the people who lived under the conditions
I have described, and who keep up the struggle even though, as they
themselves have put it, "each ton of rubber costs a human life."

In the first place I must correct any erroneous impression as to
neatness that may have been formed by my remarks about the animals
being kept in the dwellings during the rainy season. The Brazilians
are scrupulous about their personal cleanliness, and in fact, go
through difficulties to secure a bath which might well discourage
more civilised folk.

No one would dream, for an instant, of immersing himself in the
rivers. In nine cases out of ten it would amount to suicide to do
so, and the natives have bathhouses along the shores; more literally
bathhouses than ours, for their baths are actually taken in them. They
are just as careful about clothing being aired and clean. Indeed, the
main item of the Brazilian woman's housekeeping is the washing. The
cooking is rather happy-go-lucky; and there is no use cleaning and
polishing iron walls; they get rusty anyhow.

The people are all occupied with the rubber industry and the town
owes its existence to the economic necessity of having here a shipping
and trading point for the product. The rubber is gathered farther up
along the shores of the Javary and the Itecoahy and is transported
by launch and canoe to Remate de Males. Here it is shipped directly
or sold to travelling dealers who send it down to Manaos or Para via
the boat of the Amazon Steam Navigation Co., which comes up during
the rainy season. Thence it goes to the ports of the world.

The rubber-worker is a well paid labourer even though he belongs to
the unskilled class. The tapping of the rubber trees and the smoking of
the milk pays from eight to ten dollars a day in American gold. This,
to him, of course, is riches and the men labour here in order that they
may go back to their own province as wealthy men. Nothing else will
yield this return; the land is not used for other products. It is hard
to see how agriculture or cattle-raising could be carried on in this
region, and, if they could, they would certainly not return more than
one fourth or one fifth of what the rubber industry does. The owners of
the great rubber estates, or _seringales_, are enormously wealthy men.

There are fewer women than men in Remate de Males, and none of the
former is beautiful. They are for the most part Indians or Brazilians
from the province of Ceara, with very dark skin, hair, and eyes, and
teeth filed like shark's teeth. They go barefooted, as a rule. Here
you will find all the incongruities typical of a race taking the
first step in civilisation. The women show in their dress how the
well-paid men lavish on them the extravagances that appeal to the
lingering savage left in their simple natures.

Women, who have spent most of their isolated lives in utterly
uncivilised surroundings, will suddenly be brought into a community
where other women are found, and immediately the instinct of
self-adornment is brought into full play. Each of them falls under
the sway of "Dame Fashion"--for there are the _latest things_, even
on the upper Amazon. Screaming colours are favoured; a red skirt with
green stars was considered at one time the height of fashion, until an
inventive woman discovered that yellow dots could also be worked in. In
addition to these dresses, the women will squander money on elegant
patent-leather French slippers (with which they generally neglect to
wear stockings), and use silk handkerchiefs perfumed with the finest
Parisian eau de Cologne, bought at a cost of from fourteen to fifteen
dollars a bottle. Arrayed in all her glory on some gala occasion,
the whole effect enhanced by the use of a short pipe from which she
blows volumes of smoke, the woman of Remate de Males is a unique sight.



CHAPTER II

THE SOCIAL AND POLITICAL LIFE OF REMATE DE MALES


The social life of the town is in about the same stage of development
as it must have been during the Stone Age. When darkness falls over the
village, as it does at six o'clock all the year round, life practically
stops, and a few hours afterwards everyone is in his hammock.

There is one resort where the town-sports come to spend their
evenings, the so-called _Recreio Popular_. Its principal patrons are
_seringueiros_, or rubber-workers, who have large rolls of money that
they are anxious to spend with the least possible effort, and generally
get their desire over the gaming boards. The place is furnished with
a billiard table and a gramophone with three badly worn records. The
billiard table is in constant use by a certain element up to midnight,
and so are the three eternal records of the gramophone. It will take
me years surrounded by the comforts of civilisation to get those three
frightful tunes out of my head, and I do not see how they could fail
to drive even the hardened _seringueiros_ to an early grave.

Another resort close by, where the native _cachassa_ is sold, is
patronised principally by negroes and half-breeds. Here they play
the guitar, in combination with a home-made instrument resembling
a mandolin, as accompaniment to a monotonous native song, which
is kept up for hours. With the exception of these two places, the
village does not furnish any life or local colour after nightfall,
the natives spending their time around the mis-treated gramophones,
which are found in almost every hut.

The men of the village, unlike the women, are not picturesque
in appearance. The officials are well paid, so is everyone else,
yet they never think of spending money to improve the looks of the
village or even their own. Most of them are ragged. A few exhibit an
inadequate elegance, dressed in white suits, derby hats, and very
high collars. But in spite of the seeming poverty, there is not a
_seringueiro_ who could not at a moment's notice produce a handful of
bills that would strike envy to the heart of many prosperous business
men of civilisation. The amount will often run into millions of reis;
a sum that may take away the breath of a stranger who does not know
that one thousand of these Brazilian reis make but thirty cents in
our money.

The people of the Amazon love to gamble. One night three merchants
and a village official came to the hotel to play cards. They gathered
around the dining-room table at eight o'clock, ordered a case of
Pabst beer, which sells, by the way, at four dollars and sixty cents
a bottle in American gold, and several boxes of our National Biscuit
Company's products, and then began on a game, which resembles our
poker. They played till midnight, when they took a recess of half
an hour, during which large quantities of the warm beer and many
crackers were consumed. Then, properly nourished, they resumed the
game, which lasted until six o'clock the next morning. This was a
fair example of the gambling that went on.

The stakes were high enough to do honours to the fashionable gamblers
of New York, but there was never the slightest sign of excitement. At
first I used to expect that surely the card table would bring forth all
sorts of flashes of tropic temperament--even a shooting or stabbing
affair. But the composure was always perfect. I have seen a loser
pay, without so much as a regretful remark, the sum of three million
and a half reis, which, though only $1050 in our money, is still a
considerable sum for a labourer to lose.

Once a month a launch comes down from Iquitos in Peru, about five
days' journey up the Amazon. This launch is sent out by Iquitos
merchants, to supply the wants of settlers of the rubber estates on
the various affluents. It is hard to estimate what suffering would
result if these launches should be prevented from reaching their
destinations, for the people are absolutely dependent upon them,
the region being non-producing, as I have said, and the supplies
very closely calculated. In Remate de Males, the superintendent, or
the mayor of the town, generally owns a few head of cattle brought
by steamer, and when these are consumed no meat can be had in the
region but Swift's canned "Corned Beef."

Then there are the steamers from the outer world. During the rainy
season, the _Mauretania_ could get up to Remate de Males from
the Atlantic Ocean without difficulty, though there is no heavy
navigation on the upper Javary River. But steamers go up the Amazon
proper several days' journey farther. You can at the present get a
through steamer from Iquitos in Peru down the Amazon to New York.

These boats occasionally bring immigrants from the eastern portions of
Brazil, where they have heard of the fortunes to be made in working the
rubber, and who have come, just as our prospectors came into the West,
hoping to take gold and their lives back with them. Besides passengers,
these boats carry cattle and merchandise and transport the precious
rubber back to Para and Manaos. They are welcomed enthusiastically. As
soon as they are sighted, every man in town takes his Winchester down
from the wall and runs into the street to empty the magazine as many
times as he feels that he can afford in his exuberance of feeling at
the prospect of getting mail from home and fresh food supplies.

On some occasions, marked with a red letter on the calendar, canoes
may be seen coming down the Itecoahy River, decorated with leaves
and burning candles galore. They are filled with enthusiasts who are
setting off fireworks and shouting with delight. They are devotees of
some up-river saint, who are taking this conventional way of paying
the headquarters a visit.

The priest, who occupies himself with saving the hardened souls of
the rubber-workers, is a worthy-looking man, who wears a dark-brown
cassock, confined at the waist with a rope. He is considered the
champion drinker of Remate de Males. The church is one of the neatest
buildings in the town, though this may be because it is so small as
to hold only about twenty-five people. It is devoid of any article
of decoration, but outside is a white-washed wooden cross on whose
foundation candles are burned, when there is illness in some family,
or the local patron saint's influence is sought on such a problem as
getting a job. The religion is, of course, Catholic, but, as in every
case where isolation from the source occurs, the natives have grafted
local influences into their faith, until the result is a Catholicism
different from the one we know.

The administration of the town is in the hands of the superintendent,
who is a Federal officer not elected by the villagers. His power is
practically absolute as far as this community is concerned. Under
him are a number of Government officials, all of whom are extremely
well paid and whose duty seems to consist in being on hand promptly
when the salaries are paid.

The chief of police is a man of very prepossessing appearance, but
with a slightly discoloured nose. His appointment reminded me of that
of Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B., in _Pinafore_, who was made "ruler of
the Queen's navee" in spite of a very slight acquaintance with things
nautical. Our chief of police had been _chef d' orchestre_ of the
military band of Manaos. They found there that his bibulous habits
were causing his nose to blush more and more, so he was given the
position of Chief of Police of Remate de Males. It must be admitted
that in his new position he has gone on developing the virtue that
secured it for him, so there is no telling how high he may rise.

The police force consists of one man, and a very versatile one,
as will be seen, for he is also the rank and file of the military
force. I saw this remarkable official only once. At that time he was
in a sad condition from over-indulgence in alcoholic beverages. There
are exact statistics of comparison available for the police and
military forces. The former is just two-thirds of the latter in
number. Expressed in the most easily understood terms, we can put it
that our versatile friend has a chief to command him when a policeman,
and a coronel and lieutenant when he is a soldier. Whether there
is any graft in it or not, I do not know, but money is saved by the
police-military force being one man with interchangeable uniforms, and
the money must go into somebody's pocket. It might be thought that when
the versatile one had to appear in both capacities at once, he might be
at a loss. But not a bit of it. The landing of one of the down-river
steamers offers such an occasion. As soon as the gangplank is out,
the policeman goes aboard with the official papers. He is welcomed,
receives his fee, and disappears. Not two minutes afterwards, the
military force in full uniform is seen to emerge from the same hut
into which the policeman went. He appears on the scene with entire
unconcern, and the rough and ready diplomacy of Remate de Males has
again triumphed.

One of the reasons for the flattering (!) name of the town,
"Culmination of Evils," is the great mortality of the community, which
it has as a part of the great Javary district. Its inhabitants suffer
from all the functional diseases found in other parts of the world,
and, in addition, maladies which are typical of the region. Among the
most important of these are the paludismus, or malarial swamp-fever,
the yellow-fever, popularly recognised as the black vomit, and last but
not least the beri-beri, the mysterious disease which science does not
yet fully understand. The paludismus is so common that it is looked
upon as an unavoidable incident of the daily life. It is generally
caused by the infectious bite of a mosquito, the _Anopheles_, which
is characterised by its attacking with its body almost perpendicular
to the surface it has selected. It is only the female mosquito
that bites. There are always fever patients on the Amazon, and the
_Anopheles_, stinging indiscriminately, transfers the malarial microbes
from a fever patient to the blood of well persons. The latter are sure
to be laid up within ten days with the _sezoes_, as the fever is called
here, unless a heavy dose of quinine is taken in time to check it.

The yellow fever mosquito, the _Stygoma faciata_, seems to prefer other
down-river localities, but is frequent enough to cause anxiety. They
call the yellow fever the black vomit, because of this unmistakable
symptom of the disease, which, when once it sets in, always means
a fatal termination. The beri-beri still remains a puzzling malady
from which no recoveries have yet been reported, at least not on the
Amazon. On certain rivers, in the Matto Grosso province of Brazil,
or in Bolivian territory, the beri-beri patients have some chance
of recovery. By immediately leaving the infested district they can
descend the rivers until they reach a more favourable climate near
the sea-coast, or they can go to more elevated regions. But here
on the Amazon, where the only avenue of escape is the river itself,
throughout its length a hot-bed of disease where no change of climate
occurs, the time consumed in reaching the sea-coast is too long. The
cause of this disease, and its cure, are unknown. It manifests itself
through paralysis of the limbs, which begins at the finger-tips and
gradually extends through the system until the heart-muscles become
paralysed and death occurs.

The only precautionary measures available are doses of quinine and
the use of the mosquito-net, or _mosquitero_. The latter's value as
a preventive is problematical, however, for during each night one
is bound to be bitten frequently, yes, hundreds of times, by the
ever-present insects in spite of all.

But if we curse the mosquito, what are we to say of certain other
pests that add to the miseries of life in that out-of-the-way corner
of the globe, and are more persistent in their attentions than
even the mosquito? In the first place, there are the ants. They are
everywhere. They build their nests under the houses, in the tables,
and in the cracks of the floors, and lie in ambush waiting the arrival
of a victim, whom they attack from all sides. They fasten themselves
on one and sometimes it takes hours of labour to extract them. Many
are the breakfasts I have delayed on awaking and finding myself to
be the object of their attention. It proved necessary to tie wads
of cotton covered with vaseline to the fastenings of the hammock,
to keep the intruders off. But they even got around this plan. As
soon as the bodies of the first arrivals covered the vaseline, the
rest of the troops marched across them in safety and gained access to
the hammock, causing a quick evacuation on my part. Articles of food
were completely destroyed by these carnivorous creatures, within a
few minutes after I had placed them on the table.

I present here a list of the various species of ants known to the
natives, together with the peculiarities by which they distinguish
them. I collected the information from Indians on the Seringal
"Floresta" on the Itecoahy River.


_Aracara_--the dreaded fire-ant whose sting is felt for hours.

_Auhiqui_--lives in the houses where it devours everything edible.

_Chicitaya_--its bite gives a transient fever.

_Monyuarah_--clears a large space in the forest for its nest.

_Sauba_--carries a green leaf over its head.

_Tachee_--a black ant whose bite gives a transient fever.

_Tanajura_--one inch long and edible when fried in lard.

_Taxyrana_--enters the houses like the _auhiqui_.

_Termita_--builds a typical cone-shaped nest in the dry part of
the forests.

_Tracoã_--its bite gives no fever, but the effect is of long duration.

_Tucandeira_--black and an inch and a half long, with a bite not only
painful but absolutely dangerous.

_Tucushee_--gives a transient fever.

_Uça_--builds large nests in the trees.


While convalescing from my first attack of swamp-fever, I had
occasion to study a most remarkable species of spider which was a
fellow lodger in the hut I then occupied. In size, the specimen was
very respectable, being able to cover a circle of nearly six inches
in diameter. This spider subsists on large insects and at times on
the smaller varieties of birds, like finches, etc. Its scientific
name is _Mygale avicularia_. The natives dread it for its poisonous
bite and on account of its great size and hairy body. The first time
I saw the one in my hut was when it was climbing the wall in close
proximity to my hammock. I got up and tried to crush it with my fist,
but the spider made a lightning-quick move and stopped about five or
six inches from where I hit the wall.

Several times I repeated the attack without success, the spider
always succeeding in moving before it could be touched. Somewhat
out of temper, I procured a hammer of large size and continued
the chase until I was exhausted. When my hand grew steady again,
I took my automatic pistol, used for big game, and, taking a steady
aim on the fat body of the spider, I fired. But with another of the
remarkably quick movements the spider landed the usual safe distance
from destruction. Then I gave it up. For all I know, that animal, I
can scarcely call it an insect after using a big game pistol on it,
is still occupying the hut. About nine months later I was telling
Captain Barnett, of the R.M.S. _Napo_ which picked me up on the Amazon
on my way home, about my ill success in hunting the spider. "Lange,"
he asked, "why didn't you try for him with a frying-pan?"



CHAPTER III

OTHER INCIDENTS DURING MY STAY IN REMATE DE MALES


Remate De Males, with Nazareth and São Francisco, is set down in the
midst of absolute wilderness. Directly behind the village is the
almost impenetrable maze of tropical jungle. If with the aid of a
machete one gets a minute's walk into it, he cannot find his way out
except by the cackling of the hens around the houses. A dense wall
of vegetation shuts in the settlement on every side. Tall palms stand
above the rest of the trees; lower down is a mass of smaller but more
luxuriant plants, while everywhere is the twining, tangled _lianas_,
making the forest a dark labyrinth of devious ways. Here and there
are patches of tropical blossoms, towering ferns, fungoid growths, or
some rare and beautiful orchid whose parasitical roots have attached
themselves to a tree trunk. And there is always the subdued confusion
that betokens the teeming animal life.

Looking up the Itecoahy River, one can see nothing but endless forest
and jungle. And the same scene continues for a distance of some eight
or nine hundred miles until reaching the headwaters of the river
somewhere far up in Bolivian territory. No settlements are to be found
up there; a few _seringales_ from seventy-five to a hundred miles
apart constitute the only human habitations in this large area. So
wild and desolate is this river that its length and course are only
vaguely indicated even on the best Brazilian maps. It is popularly
supposed that the Itecoahy takes its actual rise about two weeks'
journey from its nominal head in an absolutely unexplored region.

I found the life very monotonous in Remate de Males, especially when
the river began to go down. This meant the almost complete ending of
communication with the outer world; news from home reached me seldom
and there was no relief from the isolation. In addition, the various
torments of the region are worse at this season. Sitting beside the
muddy banks of the Itecoahy at sunset, when the vapours arose from the
immense swamps and the sky was coloured in fantastical designs across
the western horizon, was the only relief from the sweltering heat of
the day, for a brief time before the night and its tortures began. Soon
the chorus of a million frogs would start. At first is heard only the
croaking of a few; then gradually more and more add their music until
a loud penetrating throb makes the still, vapour-laden atmosphere
vibrate. The sound reminded me strikingly of that which is heard when
pneumatic hammers are driving home rivets through steel beams. There
were other frogs whose louder and deeper-pitched tones could be
distinguished through the main nocturnal song. These seemed always
to be grumbling something about "_Rubberboots--Rubberboots_."

By-and-bye one would get used to the sound and it would lose
attention. The water in the river floated slowly on its long journey
towards the ocean, almost 2500 miles away. Large dolphins sometimes
came to the surface, saluting the calm evening with a loud snort,
and disappeared again with a slow, graceful movement. Almost every
evening I could hear issuing from the forest a horrible roar. It came
from the farthest depths and seemed as if it might well represent
the mingled cries of some huge bull and a prowling jaguar that had
attacked him unawares. Yet it all came, I found, from one throat,
that of the howling monkey. He will sit alone for hours in a tree-top
and pour forth these dreadful sounds which are well calculated to
make the lonely wanderer stop and light a camp-fire for protection.

On the other hand, is heard the noise of the domestic animals of
the village. Cows, calves, goats, and pigs seemed to make a habit of
exercising their vocal organs thoroughly before retiring. Dogs bark
at the moon; cats chase rats through openings of the palm-leaf roofs,
threatening every moment to fall, pursued and pursuers, down upon the
hammocks. Vampires flutter around from room to room, occasionally
resting on the tops of the iron partitions, and when they halt,
continuing to chirp for a while like hoarse sparrows. Occasionally
there will come out of the darkness of the river a disagreeable
sound as if some huge animal were gasping for its last breath before
suffocating in the mud. The sound has its effect, even upon animals,
coming as it does out of the black mysterious night, warning them not
to venture far for fear some uncanny force may drag them to death in
the dismal waters. It is the night call of the alligator.

The sweet plaintive note of a little partridge, called _inamboo_,
would sometimes tremble through the air and compel me to forget
the spell of unholy sounds arising from the beasts of the jungle and
river. Throughout the evening this amorous bird would call to its mate,
and somewhere there would be an answering call back in the woods. Many
were the nights when, weak with fever, I awoke and listened to their
calling and answering. Yet never did they seem to achieve the bliss
of meeting, for after a brief lull the calling and answering voices
would again take up their pretty song.

Slowly the days went by and, with their passing, the river fell lower
and lower until the waters receded from the land itself and were
confined once more to their old course in the river-bed. As the ground
began to dry, the time came when the mosquitoes were particularly
vicious. They multiplied by the million. Soon the village was filled
with malaria, and the hypodermic needle was in full activity.

A crowd of about fifty Indians from the Curuça River had been brought
to Remate de Males by launch. They belonged to the territory owned by
Mons. Danon and slept outside the store-rooms of this plutocrat. Men,
women, and children arranged their quarters in the soft mud until they
could be taken to his rubber estate some hundred miles up the Javary
River. They were still waiting to be equipped with rubber-workers'
outfits when the malaria began its work among them. The poor mistreated
Indians seemed to have been literally saturated with the germs, as
they always slept without any protection whatever; consequently their
systems offered less resistance to the disease than the ordinary
Brazilian's. In four days there were only twelve persons left out
of fifty-two.

During the last weeks of my stay in Remate de Males, I received an
invitation to take lunch with the local Department Secretary, Professor
Silveiro, an extremely hospitable and well educated Brazilian. The
importance of such an invitation meant for me a radical change in
appearance--an extensive alteration that could not be wrought without
considerable pains. I had to have a five-months' beard shaved off, and
then get into my best New York shirt, not to forget a high collar. I
also considered that the occasion necessitated the impressiveness
of a frock-coat, which I produced at the end of a long search among
my baggage and proceeded to don after extracting a tarantula and
some stray scolopendra from the sleeves and pockets. The sensation of
wearing a stiff collar was novel, and not altogether welcome, since the
temperature was near the 100° mark. The reward for my discomfort came,
however, in the shape of the best meal I ever had in the Amazon region.

During these dull days I was made happy by finding a copy of Mark
Twain's _A Tramp Abroad_ in a store over in Nazareth on the Peruvian
side of the Javary River. I took it with me to my hammock, hailing
with joy the opportunity of receiving in the wilderness something
that promised a word from "God's Own Country." But before I could
begin the book I had an attack of swamp-fever that laid me up four
days. During one of the intermissions, when I was barely able to move
around, I commenced reading Mark Twain. It did not take more than
two pages of the book to make me forget all about my fever. When I
got to the ninth page, I laughed as I had not laughed for months, and
page 14 made me roar so athletically that I lost my balance and fell
out of my hammock on the floor. I soon recovered and crept back into
the hammock, but out I went when I reached page 16, and repeated the
performance at pages 19, 21, and 24 until the supplementary excitement
became monotonous. Whereupon I procured some rags and excelsior,
made a bed underneath the hammock, and proceeded to enjoy our eminent
humourist's experience in peace.



CHAPTER IV

THE JOURNEY UP THE ITECOAHY RIVER


With the subsiding of the waters came my long-desired opportunity
to travel the course of the unmapped Itecoahy. In the month of June
a local trader issued a notice that he was to send a launch up the
river for trading purposes and to take the workers who had been
sojourning in Remate de Males back to their places of employment,
to commence the annual extraction of rubber. The launch was scheduled
to sail on a Monday and would ascend the Itecoahy to its headwaters,
or nearly so, thus passing the mouths of the Ituhy, the Branco,
and Las Pedras rivers, affluents of considerable size which are
nevertheless unrecorded on maps. The total length of the Branco River
is over three hundred miles, and it has on its shores several large
and productive _seringales_.

When on my way up the Amazon to the Brazilian frontier, I had stopped
at Manaos, the capital of the State of Amazonas. There I had occasion
to consult an Englishman about the Javary region. In answer to one of
my inquiries, I received the following letter, which speaks for itself:

Referring to our conversation of recent date, I should wish once
more to impress upon your mind the perilous nature of your journey,
and I am not basing this information upon hearsay, but upon personal
experience, having traversed the region in question quite recently.

Owing to certain absolutely untrue articles written by one H----,
claiming to be your countryman, I am convinced that you can not rely
upon the protection of the employees of this company, as having been
so badly libelled by one, they are apt to forget that such articles
were not at your instigation, and as is often the case the innocent
may suffer for the guilty.

On the other hand, without this protection you will find yourself
absolutely at the mercy of savage and cannibal Indians.

I have this day spoken to the consul here at Manaos and explained
to him that, although I have no wish to deter you from your voyage,
you must be considered as the only one responsible in any way for
any ill that may befall you.

Finally, I hope that before disregarding this advice (which I offer
you in a perfectly friendly spirit) you will carefully consider the
consequences which such a voyage might produce, and, frankly speaking,
I consider that your chance of bringing it to a successful termination
is Nil.

Believe me to be, etc.,

J.A.M.


During the time of my journey up the river and of my stay in Remate
de Males, I had seen nothing of the particular dangers mentioned
in this letter. The only Indians I had seen were such as smoked
long black cigars and wore pink or blue pajamas. The letter further
developed an interest, started by the hints of life in the interior,
which had come to me in the civilisation of Remate de Males. I was,
of course, particularly desirous of finding out all I could about the
wild people of the inland regions, since I could not recall that much
had been written about them.

Henry W. Bates, the famous explorer who ascended the Amazon as far
as Teffé, came within 120 miles of the mouth of the Javary River in
the year 1858, and makes the following statement about the indigenous
tribes of this region:

The only other tribe of this neighbourhood concerning which I obtained
any information was the Mangeromas, whose territory embraces several
hundred miles of the western banks of the river Javary, an affluent
of the Solimoës, a hundred and twenty miles beyond São Paolo da
Olivença. These are fierce and indomitable and hostile people, like the
Araras of the Madeira River. They are also cannibals. The navigation
of the Javary River is rendered impossible on account of the Mangeromas
lying in wait on its banks to intercept and murder all travellers.

Now to return to the letter; I thought that perhaps my English friend
had overdrawn things a little in a laudable endeavour to make me more
cautious. In other words, it was for me the old story over again, of
learning at the cost of experience--the story of disregarded advice,
and so I went on in my confidence.

When the announcement of the launch's sailing came, I went immediately
for an interview with the owner, a Brazilian named Pedro Smith,
whose kindness I shall never forget. He offered me the chance of
making the entire trip on his boat, but would accept no remuneration,
saying that I would find conditions on the little overcrowded vessel
very uncomfortable, and that the trip would not be free from actual
bodily risk. When even he tried to dissuade me, I began to think
more seriously of the Englishman's letter, but I told him that I had
fully made up my mind to penetrate the mystery of those little known
regions. I use the term "little known" in the sense that while they
are well enough known to the handful of Indians and rubber-workers
yet they are "terra incognita" to the outside world. The white man
has not as yet traversed this Itecoahy and its affluents, although
it would be a system of no little importance if located in some other
country--for instance, in the United States.

My object was to study the rubber-worker at his labour, to find out the
true length of the Itecoahy River, and to photograph everything worth
while. I had with me all the materials and instruments necessary--at
least so I thought.

The photographic outfit consisted of a Graflex camera with a shutter
of high speed, which would come handy when taking animals in motion,
and a large-view camera with ten dozen photographic plates and a
corresponding amount of prepared paper. In view of the difficulties
of travel, I had decided to develop my plates as I went along and make
prints in the field, rather than run the risk of ruining them by some
unlucky accident. Perhaps at the very end of the trip a quantity
of undeveloped plates might be lost, and such a calamity would
mean the failure of the whole journey in one of its most important
particulars. Such a disastrous result was foreshadowed when a porter,
loaded with my effects, clambering down the sixty-foot incline extreme
low water made at Remate de Males, lost his balance in the last few
feet of the descent and dropped into the water, completely ruining
a whole pack of photographic supplies whose arrival from New York I
had been awaiting for months. Luckily this was at the beginning of
this trip and I could replace them from my general stock.

A hypodermic outfit, quinine, and a few bistouries completed my
primitive medical department. Later on these proved of the greatest
value. I would never think of omitting such supplies even in a case
where a few pounds of extra weight are not rashly to be considered. It
turned out that in the regions I penetrated, medical assistance was
a thing unheard of within a radius of several hundred miles.

A Luger automatic pistol of a calibre of nine millimetres, and several
hundred cartridges, were my armament, and for weeks this pistol became
my only means of providing a scant food supply.

Thus equipped I was on hand early in the morning of the day of
starting, anxious to see what sort of shipmates I was to have. They
proved all to be _seringueiros_, bound for the upper river. Our
craft was a forty-foot launch called the _Carolina_. There was a
large crowd of the passengers assembled when I arrived, and they
kept coming. To my amazement, it developed that one hundred and
twenty souls were expected to find room on board, together with
several tons of merchandise. The mystery of how the load was to be
accommodated was somewhat solved, when I saw them attach a lighter to
each side of the launch, and again, when some of the helpers brought
up a fleet of dugouts which they proceeded to make fast by a stern
hawser. But the mystery was again increased, when I was told that
none of the passengers intended to occupy permanent quarters on the
auxiliary fleet. As I was already taken care of, I resolved that if
the problem was to worry anybody, it would be the _seringueiros_,
though I realised that I would be travelling by "slow steamer" when
the little old-fashioned _Carolina_ should at length begin the task
of fighting the five-mile current with this tagging fleet to challenge
its claim to a twelve-horse-power engine.

The _seringueiros_ and their families occupied every foot of space
that was not reserved for merchandise. Hammocks were strung over
and under each other in every direction, secured to the posts which
supported the roof. Between them the rubber-coated knapsacks were
suspended. On the roof was an indiscriminate mass of chicken-coops
with feathered occupants; and humanity.

About midships on each lighter was a store-room, one of which was
occupied by the clerk who accompanied the launch. In this they
generously offered me the opportunity of making my headquarters
during the trip. The room was about six feet by eight and contained
a multitude of luxuries and necessities for the rubber-workers. There
were .44 Winchester rifles in large numbers, the usual, indispensable
Collins machete, and tobacco in six-feet-long, spindle-shaped
rolls. There was also the "***" Hennessy cognac, selling at 40,000
reis ($14.00 gold) a bottle; and every variety of canned edible from
California pears to Horlick's malted milk, from Armour's corned beef
to Heinz's sweet pickles.

Every one was anxious to get started; I, who had more to look forward
to than months of monotonous labour in the forests, not the least. At
last the owner of the boat arrived, it being then two o'clock in the
afternoon. He came aboard to shake hands with everyone and after a
long period of talking pulled the cord leading to the steam-whistle,
giving the official signal for departure. It then developed that one
of the firemen was missing. Without him we could not start on our
journey. The whistling was continued for fully forty minutes without
any answer. Finally, the longed-for gentleman was seen emerging
unsteadily from the local gin-shop with no sign of haste. He managed
to crawl on board and we were off, amid much noise and firing of guns.

After a two-hours' run we stopped at a place consisting of two houses
and a banana patch. Evidently the owner of this property made a
side-business of supplying palm-wood as fuel for the launch. A load
was carried on board and stowed beside the boiler, and we went once
more on our way. I cannot say that the immediate surroundings were
comfortable. There were people everywhere. They were lounging in the
hammocks, or lying on the deck itself; and some were even sprawling
uncomfortably on their trunks or knapsacks. A cat would have had
difficulty in squeezing itself through this compact mass of men,
chattering women, and crying children. But I had no sooner begun to
reflect adversely on the situation, than the old charm of the Amazon
asserted itself again and made me oblivious to anything so trivial
as personal comfort surroundings. I became lost to myself in the
enjoyment of the river.

That old fig-tree on the bank is worth looking at. The mass of its
branches, once so high-reaching and ornamental, now lie on the ground
in a confused huddle, shattered and covered with parasites and orchids,
while millions of ants are in full activity destroying the last
clusters of foliage. It is only a question of weeks, perhaps days,
before some blast of wind will throw this humbled forest-monarch over
the steep bank of the river. When the water rises again, the trunk
with a few skeleton branches will be carried away with the current
to begin a slow but relentless drift to old Father Amazon. Here and
there will be a little pause, while the river gods decide, and then it
will move on, to be caught somewhere along the course and contribute
to the formation of some new island or complete its last long journey
to the Atlantic Ocean.

As the launch rounds bend after bend in the river, the same magnificent
forest scenery is repeated over and over again. Sometimes a tall
matamatá tree stands in a little accidental clearing, entirely
covered with a luxuriant growth of vegetation. But these are borrowed
plumes. Bushropes, climbers, and vines have clothed it from root
to topmost branch, but they are only examples of the legion of
beautiful parasites that seem to abound in the tropics. They will
sap the vitality of this masterpiece of Nature, until in its turn
it will fall before some stormy night's blow. All along the shore
there is a myriad life among the trees and beautifully coloured birds
flash in and out of the branches. You can hear a nervous chattering
and discern little brown bodies swinging from branch to branch,
or hanging suspended for fractions of a second from the network of
climbers and aerial roots. They are monkeys. They follow the launch
along the trees on the banks for a while and then disappear.

The sun is glaring down on the little craft and its human freight. The
temperature is 112 degrees (F.) in the shade and the only place for
possible relief is on a box of cognac alongside the commandant's
hammock. He has fastened this directly behind the wheel so that he
can watch the steersman, an Indian with filed teeth and a machete
stuck in his belt.

Would anyone think that these trees, lining the shore for miles and
miles and looking so beautiful and harmless by day, have a miasmatic
breath or exhalation at night that produces a severe fever in one who
is subjected for any length of time to their influence. It would be
impossible for even the most fantastical scenic artist to exaggerate
the picturesque combinations of colour and form ever changing like
a kaleidoscope to exhibit new delights. A tall and slender palm
can be seen in its simple beauty alongside the white trunk of the
embauba tree, with umbrella-shaped crown, covered and gracefully
draped with vines and hanging plants, whose roots drop down until
they reach the water, or join and twist themselves until they form a
leaf-portière. And for thousands of square miles this ever changing
display of floral splendour is repeated and repeated. And it would be
a treat for an ornithologist to pass up the river. A hundred times
a day flocks of small paroquets fly screaming over our heads and
settle behind the trees. Large, green, blue, and scarlet parrots,
the araras, fly in pairs, uttering penetrating, harsh cries, and
sometimes an egret with her precious snow-white plumage would keep
just ahead of us with graceful wing-motion, until she chose a spot
to alight among the low bushes close to the water-front.

The dark blue toucan, with its enormous scarlet and yellow beak,
would suddenly appear and fly up with peculiar jerky swoops, at the
same time uttering its yelping cry. Several times I saw light green
lizards of from three to four feet in length stretched out on branches
of dead trees and staring at us as we passed.

Night came and drew its sombre curtain over the splendours. I was
now shown a place of unpretentious dimensions where I could suspend
my hammock, but, unluckily, things were so crowded that there was
no room for a mosquito-net around me. Under ordinary circumstances,
neglect of this would have been an inexcusable lack of prudence,
but I lay down trusting that the draft created by the passage of the
boat would keep the insect pests away, as they told me it would. I
found that experience had taught them rightly.

To the post where I tied the foot-end of my hammock there were fastened
six other hammocks. Consequently seven pairs of feet were bound to
come into pretty close contact with each other. While I was lucky
enough to have the hammock closest to the rail, I was unlucky enough
to have as my next neighbour a woman; she was part Brazilian negro
and part Indian. She had her teeth filed sharp like shark's teeth,
wore brass rings in her ears, large enough to suspend portières from,
and smoked a pipe continually. I found later that it was a habit to
take the pipe to bed with her, so that she could begin smoking the
first thing in the morning. She used a very expensive Parisian perfume,
whether to mitigate the effects of the pipe or not, I do not know.

Under the conditions I have described I lay down in my hammock, but
found that sleep was impossible. There was nothing to do but resign
myself to Fate and find amusement, with all the philosophy possible,
by staring at the sky. I counted the stars over and over again and
tried to identify old friends among the constellations. Among them the
Southern Cross was a stranger to me, but the Great Dipper, one end
of which was almost hidden behind the trees, I recognised with all
the freedom of years of acquaintance. My mind went back to the last
time I had seen it; across the house-tops of old Manhattan it was,
and under what widely different conditions!

At last a merciful Providence closed my eyes and I was soon transported
by the arms of Morpheus to the little lake in Central Park that I had
liked so well. I dreamed of gliding slowly over the waters of that
placid lake, and awoke to find myself being energetically kicked in the
shins by my female neighbour. There was nothing to do but indulge in
a few appropriate thoughts on this community-sleeping-apartment life,
and then I got up to wander forward, as best I could in the dark,
across the sleeping forms and take refuge on top of my case of cognac.

We seemed to be down in a pool of vast darkness, of whose walls no
one could guess the limits. I listened to the gurgling of water at
the bow and wondered how it was possible for the man at the wheel
to guide our course without colliding with the many tree trunks that
were scattered everywhere about us. The river wound back and forth,
hardly ever running straight for more than half a mile, and the pilot
continually had to steer the boat almost to the opposite bank to keep
the trailing canoes from stranding on the sand-bars at the turns. Now
and then a lightning flash would illuminate the wild banks, proving
that we were not on the bosom of some Cimmerian lake, but following a
continuous stream that stretched far ahead, and I could get a glimpse
of the dark, doubly-mysterious forests on either hand; and now and
then a huge tree-trunk would slip swiftly and silently past us.

The only interruption of the perfect quiet that prevailed was the
occasional outburst of roars from the throat of the howling monkey,
which I had come to know as making the night hideous in Remate de
Males. But the present environment added just the proper atmosphere
to make one think for a second that he was participating in some
phantasm of Dante's.

There was no particular incident to record on the trip, till June
the 16th, in the night-time, when we arrived at Porto Alegre, the
glad harbour, which consisted of one hut. This hut belonged to the
proprietor of a _seringale_. I followed the captain and the clerk
ashore and, with them, was warmly received by the owner, when we had
clambered up the ladder in front of the hut. He had not heard from
civilisation for seven months, and was very glad to see people from
the outside world, especially as they were bringing a consignment of
merchandise that would enable him to commence the annual tapping of
the rubber trees.

About a dozen _seringueiros_ and their families disembarked here and
went without ceremony to their quarters, where they had a fire going
in less than no time.

It is the custom in this section of Brazil to make visitors welcome
in a rather complicated manner. You first place your arm around the
other man's waist, resting the palm of your hand on his back. Then
with the other hand you pat him on the shoulder, or as near that
point as you can reach. Whether it recalled my wrestling practice or
not, I do not know, but the first time I ever tried this, I nearly
succeeded in throwing down the man I was seeking to honour.

After the proprietor had greeted each of us in this cordial way, we sat
down. A large negress made her appearance, smoking a pipe and carrying
a tray full of tiny cups, filled with the usual unsweetened jet-black
coffee. After a brief stay, during which business was discussed and
an account given of the manner of death of all the friends who had
departed this life during the season in Remate de Males, we took our
leave and were off again, in the middle of the night, amid a general
discharging of rifles and much blowing of the steam-whistle.

The night was intensely dark, what moon there was being hidden behind
clouds most of the time, and an occasional flash of lightning would
show us that we were running very close to the shores. I decided
to go on the roof of the right-hand lighter, where I thought I
would get better air and feel more comfortable than in the close
quarters below. On the roof I found some old rags and a rubber coated
knapsack. Taking these to the stern, I lay down upon them and went
to sleep. I imagine that I must have been asleep about two hours,
when I was aroused by a crashing sound that came from the forepart
of the boat. Luckily, I had fallen asleep with my eyeglasses on,
otherwise, as I am near-sighted, I should not have been able to grasp
the situation as quickly as proved necessary.

We were so close to the shore that the branches of a low-hanging tree
swept across the top of the lighter, and it was this branch that caused
the turmoil as the craft passed through it, causing everything to be
torn from the roof; trunks, bags, and chicken-coops, in a disordered
mass. I had received no warning and hardly had collected my senses
before this avalanche was upon me. Seizing the branches as they came, I
held on for dear life. I tried to scramble over them to the other part
of the roof, but having fallen asleep on the stern there was no chance.

I felt myself being lifted off the boat, and as I blindly held on I
had time to wonder whether the tree would keep me out of the water,
or lower me into the waiting jaws of some late alligator. But it did
better than that for me. The branches sagged under my weight, and I
soon saw that they were going to lower me upon the trailing canoes. I
did not wait to choose any particular canoe, but, as the first one
came beneath me, I dropped off, landing directly on top of a sleeping
rubber-worker and giving him probably as bad a scare as I had had. For
the remainder of the night I considered the case of cognac, previously
referred to, a marvellously comfortable and safe place to stay.

During the next day we made two stops, and at the second took on board
eighteen more passengers. It seemed to me that they would have to sleep
in a vertical position, since, as far as I could discover, the places
where it could be done horizontally were all occupied. At five in the
afternoon of this day, we arrived at a small rubber estate called Boa
Vista, where the owner kept cut palm-wood to be used for the launch,
besides bananas, pineapples and a small patch of cocoa-plants. The
firemen of our launch were busily engaged in carrying the wood,
when one of them suddenly threw off his load and came running down
the bank. The others scattered like frightened sheep, and only with
difficulty could be brought to explain that they had seen a snake
of a poisonous variety. We crept slowly up to the place under the
wood-pile which they had pointed out, and there about a foot of the
tail of a beautifully decorated snake was projecting. I jammed my
twenty-four-inch machete through it longitudinally, at the same time
jumping back, since it was impossible to judge accurately where the
head might come from. It emerged suddenly about where we expected, the
thin tongue working in and out with lightning speed and the reptile
evidently in a state of great rage, for which I could hardly blame
it, as its tail was pinned down and perforated with a machete. We
dispatched it with a blow on the head and on measuring it found
the length to be nearly nine feet. The interrupted loading of wood
continued without much additional excitement and we were soon on our
way again.

That night I passed very badly. My female neighbour insisted on
using the edge of my hammock for a foot-rest, and, to add to my
general discomfort, my hammock persisted in assuming a convex shape
rather than a more conventional and convenient concave, which put me
in constant danger of being thrown headlong into the river, only a
few inches away. Finally, I took my hammock down from its fastenings
and went aft where I found a vacant canoe among those still trailing
behind. I threw my hammock in the bottom and with this for a bed
managed to fall asleep, now and then receiving a blow from some
unusually low branch which threatened to upset my floating couch.

The next morning it was found that we had lost two canoes,
evidently torn loose during the night without anybody noticing the
accident. Luckily, I had not chosen either of these to sleep in,
nor had anyone else. I cannot help thinking what my feelings would
have been if I had found myself adrift far behind the launch.

For several days more we continued going up the seemingly endless
river. Human habitations were far apart, the last ones we had seen
as much as eighty-five miles below. We expected soon to be in the
territory owned by Coronel da Silva, the richest rubber proprietor in
the Javary region. I found the level of this land we were passing
through to be slightly higher than any I had traversed as yet,
although even here we were passing through an entirely submerged
stretch of forest. There were high inland spaces that had already
begun to dry up, as we could see, and this was the main indication
of higher altitude than had been found lower down the river. Another
indication was that big game was more in evidence. The animals find
here a good feeding place without the necessity of migrating to
distant locations when the water begins to come through the forest.

At a place, with the name of Nova Aurora, again consisting of one hut,
we found a quantity of skins stretched in the sunlight to dry. They
were mostly the hides of yellow jaguars, or pumas, as we call them
in the United States, and seven feet from the nose to the end of the
tail was not an unusual length. Although, as we learned, they had been
taken from the animals only a few weeks previously, they had already
been partly destroyed by the gnawing of rats. A tapir, weighing nearly
seven hundred and fifty pounds, had been shot the day before and was
being cut up for food when we arrived. We were invited to stay and
take dinner here, and I had my first opportunity of tasting roast
tapir. I found that it resembled roast beef very much, only sweeter,
and the enjoyment of this food belongs among the very few pleasant
memories I preserve of this trip.

While they were getting dinner ready, I noticed what I took to be a
stuffed parrot on a beam in the kitchen. But when I touched its tail
I found that it was enough alive to come near snapping my finger
off. It was a very large arara parrot with two tail feathers, each
about thirty-six inches long, a magnificent specimen worthy of a place
in a museum. Parrots of this particular species are very difficult
to handle, being as stupid and malicious as they are beautiful. They
often made me think of dandies who go resplendent in fine clothes
but are less conspicuous for mental excellences.

After having indulged in black coffee, we were invited to give the
house and the surroundings a general inspection. Directly behind the
structure was the smoking hut, or _defumador_, as it is called. Inside
this are a number of sticks inclined in pyramid form and covered with
palm-leaves. In the floor a hole was dug for the fire that serves for
coagulating the rubber-milk. Over this pit is hung a sort of frame for
guiding the heavy stick employed in the smoking of the rubber. At this
time the process had not become for me the familiar story that it was
destined to be. Beneath the hut were several unfinished paddles and a
canoe under construction. The latter are invariably of the "dugout"
type. A shape is roughly cut from a tree-trunk and then a fire is
built in the centre and kept burning in the selected places until the
trunk is well hollowed out. It is then finished off by hand. Paddles
are formed from the buttresses which radiate from the base of the
matamatá tree, forming thin but very strong spurs. They are easily
cut into the desired shape by the men and receive decorations from
the hands of the women who often produce striking colour effects. A
beautiful scarlet tint is obtained from the fruit of the urueu plant,
and the genipapa produces a deep rich-black colour. These dyes are
remarkably glossy, and they are waterproof and very stable.

After sunset the launch was off again. Everything went quietly until
midnight, when we were awakened with great suddenness. The launch
had collided with a huge log that came floating down the stream. It
wedged itself between the side of the boat and the lighter and it
required much labour to get ourselves loose from it. After we got
free, the log tore two of the canoes from their fastenings and they
drifted off; but the loss was not discovered until the next morning,
when we were about thirty-five miles from the scene of the accident.

Two more days passed without any incident of a more interesting
nature than was afforded by occasional stops at lonely _barracãos_
where merchandise was unloaded and fuel for the engine taken in. We
were always most cordially received by the people and invited to take
coffee, while murmurs of "_Esta casa e a suas ordenes_"--This house
is at your disposal--followed our departure. Unlike many conventional
phrases of politeness, I do not know that the sentiment was entirely
exaggerated, It is typical of the Brazilian and is to be reckoned
with his other good qualities. They always combine a respect for
those things that are foreign, with their decided patriotism. The
hospitality the stranger receives at their hands is nothing short of
marvellous, and no greater insult can be inflicted than to offer to
pay for accommodations. I find any retrospective glance over the days
I spent among these people coloured with much pleasure when I review
incidents connected with my contact with them. There is a word in the
Portuguese language which holds a world of meaning for anyone who has
been in that land so richly bestowed with the blessings of Nature,
Brazil. It is _saudades_, a word that arouses only the sweetest and
tenderest of memories.

There were seven more days of travel before we reached the headquarters
of Floresta, the largest rubber-estate in the Javary region. It covers
an area somewhat larger than Long Island. Coronel da Silva, the owner,
lives in what would be called an unpretentious house in any other
place but the Amazon. Here it represents the highest achievement of
architecture and modern comfort. It is built on sixteen-foot poles and
stands on the outskirts of a half-cleared space which contains also six
smaller buildings scattered around. The house had seven medium-sized
rooms, equipped with modern furniture of an inexpensive grade. There
was also an office which, considering that it was located about
2900 miles from civilisation, could be almost called up-to-date. I
remember, for instance, that a clock from New Haven had found its
way here. In charge of the office was a secretary, a Mr. da Marinha,
who was a man of considerable education and who had graduated in
the Federal capital. Several years of health-racking existence in
the swamps had made him a nervous and indolent man, upon whose face
a smile was never seen. The launch stopped here twenty-four hours,
unloading several tons of merchandise, to replenish the store-house
close to the river front. I took advantage of the wait to converse
with Coronel da Silva. He invited me cordially to stop at his house
and spend the summer watching the rubber-work and hunting the game
that these forests contained. It was finally proposed that I go with
the launch up to the Branco River, only two days' journey distant, and
that on its return I should disembark and stay as long as I wished. To
this I gladly assented. We departed in the evening bound for the Branco
River. On this trip I had my first attack of fever. I had no warning
of the approaching danger until a chill suddenly came over me on the
first day out from Floresta. I had felt a peculiar drowsiness for
several days, but had paid little attention to it as one generally
feels drowsy and tired in the oppressive heat and humidity. When to
this was added a second chill that shook me from head to foot with such
violence that I thought my last hour had come, I knew I was in for my
first experience of the dreaded Javary fever. There was nothing to do
but to take copious doses of quinine and keep still in my hammock close
to the rail of the boat. The fever soon got strong hold of me and I
alternated between shivering with cold and burning with a temperature
that reached 104 and 105 degrees. Towards midnight it abated somewhat,
but left me so nearly exhausted that I was hardly able to raise my
head to see where we were going. Our boat kept close to the bank so
as to get all possible advantage of the eddying currents.

I was at length aroused from a feverish slumber by being flung suddenly
to the deck of the launch with a violent shock, while men and women
shouted in excitement that the craft would surely turn over. We
were careened at a dangerous angle when I awoke and in my reduced
condition it was not difficult to imagine that a capsize was to be the
result. But with a ripping, rending sound the launch suddenly righted
itself. It developed that we had had a more serious encounter with
a protruding branch than in any of the previous collisions. This one
had caught on the very upright to which my hammock was secured. The
stanchion in this case was iron and its failure to give way had caused
the boat to tilt. Finally the iron bent to an S shape and the branch
slipped off after tearing the post from its upper fastenings. It
was a narrow escape from a calamity, but the additional excitement
aggravated my fever and I went from bad to worse. Therefore it was
found advisable, when we arrived, late the next day, at the mouth of
the Branco, to put me ashore to stay in the hut of the manager of the
rubber estate, so that I might not cause the crew and the passengers
of the launch inconvenience through my sickness and perhaps ultimate
death. I was carried up to the hut and placed in a hammock where
I was given a heavy dose of quinine. I dimly remember hearing the
farewell-toot of the launch as she left for the down-river trip, and
there I was alone in a strange place among people of whose language
I understood very little. In the afternoon a young boy was placed in
a hammock next to mine, and soon after they brought in a big, heavy
Brazilian negro, whom they put on the other side. Like me they were
suffering from Javary fever and kept moaning all through the afternoon
in their pain, but all three of us were too sick to pay any attention
to each other. That night my fever abated a trifle and I could hear
the big fellow raving in delirium about snakes and lizards, which
he imagined he saw. When the sun rose at six the next morning he was
dead. The boy expired during the afternoon.

It was torture to lie under the mosquito-net with the fever pulsing
through my veins and keeping my blood at a high temperature, but I
dared not venture out, even if I had possessed the strength to do so,
for fear of the mosquitoes and the sand-flies which buzzed outside in
legions. For several days I remained thus and then began to mend a
little. Whether it was because of the greater vitality of the white
race or because I had not absorbed a fatal dose, I do not know,
but I improved. When I felt well enough, I got up and arranged with
the rubber-estate manager to give me two Indians to paddle me and my
baggage down to Floresta. I wanted to get down there where I could
have better accommodations before I should become sick again.



CHAPTER V

FLORESTA: LIFE AMONG THE RUBBER-WORKERS


It was half past five in the morning when we arrived at the landing
of the Floresta estate. Since it was too early to go up to the
house I placed my trunk on the bank and sat admiring the surrounding
landscape, partly enveloped in the mist that always hangs over these
damp forests until sunrise. The sun was just beginning to colour the
eastern sky with faint warm tints. Before me was the placid surface of
the Itecoahy, which seemed as though nothing but my Indian's paddles
had disturbed it for a century. Just here the river made a wide turn
and on the sand-bar that was formed a few large freshwater turtles
could be seen moving slowly around. The banks were high and steep,
and it appeared incredible that the flood could rise so high that
it would inundate the surrounding country and stand ten or twelve
feet above the roots of the trees--a rise that represented about
sixty-seven feet in all.

When I turned around I saw the half-cleared space in front of me
stretching over a square mile of ground. To the right was Coronel
da Silva's house, already described, and all about, the humbler
_barracãos_ or huts of the rubber-workers. In the clearing, palm-trees
and guava brush formed a fairly thick covering for the ground, but
compared with the surrounding impenetrable jungle the little open space
deserved its title of "clearing." A few cows formed a rare sight as
they wandered around nibbling at the sparse and sickly growth of grass.

By-and-bye the sun was fully up; but even then it could not fully
disperse the mists that hung over the landscape. The birds were waking
and their calls filled the air. The amorous notes of the inamboo were
repeated and answered from far off by its mate, and the melancholy
song of the wacurão piped musically out from the vastness of the
forest. Small green paroquets flew about and filled the air with
their not altogether pleasant voices. These are the same birds that
are well-known to the residents of New York and other large cities,
where a dozen of them can often be seen in charge of an intrepid
Italian, who has them trained to pick cards out of a box for anyone
desiring his fortune told for the sum of five cents. Here they must
provide by their own efforts for their own futures, however. Even at
this hour the howling monkey had not left off disturbing the peace
with its hideous din.

Gradually the camp woke up to the day's work. A tall pajama-clad man
spied me and was the first to come over. He was a very serious-looking
gentleman and with his full-bearded face looked not unlike the artist's
conception of the Saviour. He bade me welcome in the usual generous
terms of the Brazilians and invited me into the house, where I again
met Coronel da Silva. This first-mentioned grave-looking man was Mr. da
Marinha. The kindness with which he welcomed me was most grateful;
especially so in my present physical condition. I noticed what had
not been so apparent on my first meeting with him, that recent and
continuous ravages of fevers and spleen troubles had reduced him,
though a fairly young man, to the usual nerve-worn type that the
white man seems bound to become after any long stay in the upper
Amazon region.

Not knowing where I might stop when I left Remate de Males, I had
brought with me a case of canned goods. I only succeeded in insulting
the Coronel when I mentioned this. He gave me his best room and
sent for a new hammock for me. Such attentions to a stranger, who
came without even a letter of introduction, are typical of Brazilian
hospitality.

After a plentiful meal, consisting of fried fish and roast
loin of tapir, which tasted very good, we drank black coffee and
conversed as well as my limited knowledge of the Portuguese language
permitted. After this, naturally, feeling very tired from my travels
and the heat of the day, I arranged my future room, strung my hammock,
and slept until a servant announced that supper was served. This meal
consisted of jerked beef, farinha, rice, black beans, turtle soup,
and the national Goiabada marmalade. The cook, who was nothing but
a sick rubber-worker, had spoiled the principal part of the meal by
disregarding the juices of the meat, and cooking it without salt,
besides mixing the inevitable farinha with everything. But it was
a part of the custom of the country and could not be helped. _De
gustibus non est disputandum._

When this meal was over, I was invited to go with the secretary,
Mr. da Marinha, the man who had first greeted me in the morning,
to see a sick person. At some distance from the house was a small
barracão, where we were received by a _seringueiro_ named Marques. This
remarkable man was destined to figure prominently in experiences that
I had to undergo later. He pulled aside a large mosquito-net which
guarded the entrance of the inner room of this hut. In the hammock
we found a middle-aged woman; a native of Cearã. Her face was not
unattractive but terribly emaciated, and she was evidently very
sick. She showed us an arm bound up in rags, and the part exposed
was wasted and dark red. It was explained that three weeks before,
an accident had forced a wooden splinter into her thumb and she had
neglected the inflammation that followed. I asked her to undo the
wrappings, a thing which I should never have done, and the sight
we saw was most discouraging. The hand was swollen until it would
not have been recognised as a hand, and there was an immense lesion
extending from the palm to the middle of the forearm. The latter was in
a terrible condition, the flesh having been eaten away to the bone. It
was plainly a case of gangrene of a particularly vicious character.

Suddenly it dawned upon me that they all took me for a doctor; and the
questions they asked as to what should be done, plainly indicated that
they looked to me for assistance. I explained that I had no knowledge
of surgery, but that in spite of this I was sure that if something
were not done immediately the woman would have little time to live.

I asked if there was not a doctor that could be reached within a few
days' journey. We discussed sending the woman to Remate de Males by
canoe, but this idea was abandoned, for the journey even undertaken by
the most skilful paddlers could not be made in less than eighteen days,
and by that time the gangrene would surely have killed the patient.

Coronel da Silva was called in. He said that the woman was the wife
of the chief of the _caucheros_ and that her life must be saved if
possible. I explained my own incapacity in this field once more, but
insisted that we would be justified in undertaking an amputation as
the only chance of preventing her death.

I now found myself in a terrible position. The operation is a very
difficult one even in the hands of a skilful surgeon, and here I was
called to perform it with hardly an elementary knowledge of the science
and not even adequate instruments. At the same time, it seemed moral
cowardice to avoid it, since evidently I was the one best qualified,
and the woman would die in agony if not soon relieved. I trembled all
over when I concluded that there was no escape. We went to the room
and got the bistoury and the forceps given me by a medical friend
before I left home. Besides these, I took some corrosive sublimate,
intended for the preparation of animal skins, and some photographic
clips. The secretary, after a search produced an old and rusty hacksaw
as the only instrument the estate could furnish. This we cleaned as
carefully as possible with cloths and then immersed it in a solution
of sublimate. Before going to the patient's hut I asked the owner and
the woman's husband if they were reconciled to my attempt and would
not hold me responsible in case of her death. They answered that,
as the woman was otherwise going to die, we were entirely right
in doing whatever we could. I found the patient placidly smoking
a pipe, her injured arm over the edge of the hammock. By this time
she understood that she was to have her arm amputated by a surgical
novice. She seemed not to be greatly concerned over the matter, and
went on smoking her pipe while we made the arrangements. We placed her
on the floor and told her to lie still. We adjusted some rubber cloth
under the dead arm. Her husband and three children stood watching with
expressionless faces. Two monkeys, tied to a board in a corner were
playing and fighting together. A large parrot was making discursive
comment on the whole affair, while a little lame dog seemed to be the
most interested spectator. The secretary took the bistoury from the
bowl containing the sublimate and handed it to me with a bow. With
a piece of cotton I washed the intended spot of operation and traced
a line with a pencil on the arm.

Imagine with what emotions I worked! After we had once started,
however, we forgot everything except the success of our operation. I
omit a description of the details, as they might prove too
gruesome. The woman fainted from shock just before we touched the
bone,--Nature thus supplying an effective, if rude, anæsthetic. We
had forgotten about sewing together the flesh, and when we came
to this a boy was dispatched to the owner's house for a package of
stout needles. These were held in the fire for a few seconds, and
then immersed when cold in the sublimate before they were used to
join the flesh. By the time it was done, I was, myself, feeling very
sick. Finally I could stand the little room of torture no longer,
and left the secretary dressing the wound. Would she recover from
the barbaric operation? This question kept coursing through my head
as I vainly tried for a long time to go to sleep.

The next day, after an early observation of my patient, who seemed
to have recovered from the shock and thus gave at least this hope
of success, I spent my time going around to visit the homes of the
_seringueiros_. They were all as polite as their chief, and after
exchanging the salute of "Boa dia," they would invite me to climb
up the ladder and enter the hut. Here they would invariably offer
me a cup of strong coffee. There were always two or three hammocks,
of which I was given the one I liked best. The huts generally consist
of two rooms with a few biscuit-boxes as chairs, and Winchester rifles
and some fancy-painted paddles to complete the furniture.

The following day I arose with the sun and, after some coffee, asked
a huge small-pox-scarred fellow to accompany me on my first excursion
into the real jungle. Up to this time I had only seen it from my back
porch in Remate de Males and from the deck of the launch _Carolina_,
but now I was in the heart of the forest and would indulge in jungle
trips to my heart's content. We entered through a narrow pathway called
an _estrada_, whose gateway was guarded by a splendid palm-tree,
like a Cerberus at the gates of dark Hades. The _estrada_ led us
past one hundred to one hundred and fifty rubber trees, as it wound
its way over brooks and fallen trees. Each of the producing trees
had its rough bark gashed with cuts to a height of ten to twelve
feet all around its circumference. These marks were about an inch
and a half in length. Alongside of the tree was always to be found
a stick, on the end of which were a dozen or so of small tin-cups
used in collecting the rubber-milk. Every worker has two _estradas_
to manage, and by tapping along each one alternately he obtains the
maximum of the product. This particular _estrada_ was now deserted
as the _seringueiro_ happened to be at work on the other one under
his jurisdiction.

It was in a sense agreeable to work there as the sun could not
penetrate the dense foliage and the air was therefore cool. After we
had walked for about an hour, my big guide complained of being tired
and of feeling unwell. I told him he could go back to the camp and
leave me to find my way alone. Accordingly he left me and I now had
the task of carrying without assistance my large 8 x 10 view-camera,
a shotgun, a revolver, and a machete.

Gradually my ear caught a terrible sound which to the uninitiated
would have seemed like the roaring of a dozen lions in combat, but
the dreadful notes that vibrated through the forest were only those
of the howling monkey. I always had a great desire to see one of this
species in the act of performing this uncanny forest-concert, therefore
I left the rubber pathway after placing my camera on the ground, up
against a rubber tree, and commenced following the noise, cutting my
way through the underbrush. I walked and walked, but the sound seemed
to remain the same distance away, and I stopped to reconnoitre.

I hesitated whether to proceed or not, fearing I might lose the way
and not be able to find my camera again. The monkey was not visible
at all; it fact, it was not possible to see anything, unless it was
very close by, so dense was the foliage. I laid my automatic pistol
on a fallen tree-trunk, and was trying to figure out the chances of
getting a look at my simian friend and at the same time not losing my
valuable property on the pathway, when I heard another startling sound,
this time near-by. I prepared myself for whatever species of animal was
due, and could feel the excitement a hunter knows when he thinks he is
about to get a sight of big game. Suddenly the undergrowth parted in
front of me and a herd of wild boars came trotting out. I drew a bead
on the biggest of the lot and fired, letting five soft-nose bullets go
through his head to make sure; the others fled, and I hastened to the
spot to examine my prize more closely. It was a boar of medium size,
weighing in the neighbourhood of one hundred and twenty-five pounds,
and he had a fine set of tusks. He was rather vicious-looking and
was doing considerable kicking before he gave up the ghost. It was
impossible for me to carry him through the bush owing to the fact that
I had the valuable camera and apparatus to take care of, so I made
a mental note of the spot, and cut his ears off. It took four hours'
search to find the camera, in spite of my belief that I had not gone
far, and it was late in the afternoon when I arrived at headquarters.

The very next morning there was a good opportunity to see the smoking
of rubber-milk. A _seringueiro_ had collected his product and when
I went to the smoking-hut I found him busy turning over and over a
big stick, resting on two horizontal guides, built on both sides of
a funnel from which a dense smoke was issuing. On the middle of the
stick was a huge ball of rubber. Over this he kept pouring the milk
from a tin-basin. Gradually the substance lost its liquidity and
coagulated into a beautiful yellow-brown mass which was rubber in
its first crude shipping state.

The funnel from which the smoke issued was about three feet high and of
a conical shape. At its base was a fire of small wooden chips, which
when burning gave forth an acrid smoke containing a large percentage
of creosote. It is this latter substance which has the coagulating
effect upon the rubber-milk. When the supply of milk was exhausted,
he lifted the ball and stick off the guides and rolled it on a smooth
plank to drive the moisture out of the newly-smoked rubber. Then he
was through for the day. He placed the stick on two forked branches
and put some green leaves over the funnel to smother the fire. On top
of the leaves he put a tin-can and a chunk of clay, then filled the
hole in the ground with ashes. Under this arrangement the fire would
keep smouldering for twenty-four hours, to be used anew for the next
repetition of the smoking process.

In the afternoon we again went out to hunt. This time I took only a
12-gauge shotgun. As we travelled through the forest I was impressed
once more by the fascination of the grandly extravagant vegetation.

But there is little charm about it, nothing of the tranquillity our
idyllic Catskills or even the sterner Adirondacks, create. There is no
invitation to repose, no stimulus to quiet enjoyment, for the myriad
life of the Amazon's jungle forest never rests. There is always some
sound or some movement which is bound to stir in one the instinct
of self-preservation. You have to be constantly alive to the danger
of disagreeable annoyance from the pests that abound, or of actual
bodily harm from animals of the reptilian order.

Were I in possession of adequate descriptive power I could picture
the impression that this jungle creates upon the mind of one from the
North, but now, as I once more sit in a large city with sky-scrapers
towering about me, and hear the rattling noise of the elevated railway
train as it rushes past, my pen fails me and I have to remove myself on
the wings of thought to those remote forests, fully realising, "_Beatus
ille, qui procul negotiis, ut_" etc., etc. Then I can feel again
the silence and the gloom that pervade those immense and wonderful
woods. The few sounds of birds and animals are, generally, of a pensive
and mysterious character, and they intensify the feeling of solitude
rather than impart to it a sense of life and cheerfulness. Sometimes
in the midst of the noon-day stillness, a sudden yell or scream will
startle one, coming from some minor fruit-eating animal, set upon by a
carnivorous beast or serpent. Morning and evening, the forest resounds
with the fearful roar of the howling monkeys, and it is hard, even
for the stoutest heart, to maintain its buoyancy of spirit. The sense
of inhospitable wilderness, which the jungle inspires, is increased
tenfold by this monstrous uproar. Often in the still hours of night,
a sudden crash will be heard, as some great branch or a dead tree falls
to the ground. There are, besides, many sounds which are impossible
to account for and which the natives are as much at a loss to explain
as myself. Sometimes a strange sound is heard, like the clang of an
iron bar against a hard, hollow tree; or a piercing cry rends the
air. These are not repeated, and the succeeding stillness only tends
to heighten the unpleasant impression which they produce on the mind.

The first thing that claimed our attention, shortly after we started,
was a sound of breaking branches and falling leaves, somewhere in
the distance. Through the trees I could perceive that it was a big
dark-grey monkey, which we had alarmed. He was scrambling up a tall
tree when I fired at him. I evidently missed, for I could see him
prepare for a mighty jump to a lower tree where he would be out of
sight. But in the jump he got another load of pellets, which struck
him in the back. His leap fell short of the mark and he landed headlong
among some bushes, kicking violently as I came up to him. As he seemed
strongly built and had a rather savage expression, it did not seem
wise to tackle him with bare hands, therefore, as I desired to get him
alive, I ran back and procured my focussing cloth, which I tied around
his head. Thus I got him safely back to the camp, where he was tied
to a board and the bullets extracted from his flesh. Then his wounds,
which were not serious, were bound up and he was put into a cage with
a bunch of bananas and a saucer of goat's milk to cheer him up a bit.

The suddenness with which these monkey delicacies disappeared,
convinced me that his complete recovery was a matter of only a short
time, unless perchance some hungry rubber-worker, surreptitiously,
had removed these viands while nobody was looking, for bananas and
milk are things which will tempt any Amazonian from the narrow path
of rectitude; but it was not so in this case. The conviction as to
recovery proved right, and with the improvement of his health he
displayed a cheerful and fond disposition that decided me to take
him back with me to New York when I should go. I have since been
informed that he belonged to the Humboldt Sika species. I watched him
for several months and came to like him for the innocent tricks he
never tired of playing. One night he managed to liberate himself from
the tree near the hut where he was tied. He disappeared for two days,
but on the third he returned, chains and all. He had doubtless found
life in the jungle trees not altogether cheerful with a heavy chain
secured to his waist, and he had returned reconciled to captivity
and regular meals. There is at present one specimen of this kind of
monkey at the Bronx Zoölogical Gardens in charge of the head keeper.

At the time of low water, the so-called _prayas_ appear at the bends
of the river; they grow with the accumulation of sand and mud. They are
wide and often of a considerable area, and on them the alligators like
to bask in the sunshine of early morning and late afternoon, and the
_tartarugas_, or fresh-water turtles, lay their eggs. These eggs are
laid in the months of September and October on moon-lit nights and
are somewhat smaller than the ordinary hen's egg, the yolk tasting
very much the same, but they are covered with a tough parchment-like
shell. Here on the upper Amazon the people prepare a favourite meal
by collecting these eggs and storing them for two or three weeks,
when they tear open the shell and squeeze out the yolks, mixing them
all up into a mush with the inevitable farinha. Few people, except
native Brazilians, ever acquire a relish for this remarkable dish.

I spent a whole day waiting for the elusive alligators on one of
these sand-bars, but evidently they were too wise, for they never came
within camera-range. I did, however, see some tapir-tracks, leading
down to the water's edge. After the long wait I grew discouraged,
and chose a camping place farther up the river, where I prepared
a meal consisting of turtle eggs and river water. The meal was not
absolutely undisturbed, as the air was full of a species of fly that
derives its principal sustenance from the bodies of various dead
animals always to be found through the jungle, whose teeming life
crowds out all but those fittest to survive.

I had begun my vigil before sunrise, when there are two or three hours
very cool and humid. In the dry season the dew which collects is of
the greatest importance to animal and plant life. For the tired and
thirsty wanderer, the calyx of the beautiful scarlet orchid, which
grows abundantly in this region, contains the refreshment of two or
three ounces of clear, cool water. But you must look carefully into
this cup of nature to see that no insects lurk in its depths to spoil
the draught.

I have previously described the breakfast table of the millionaire
Coronel R. da Silva, with its black beans, the dreadful farinha, the
black coffee, and the handful of mutilated _bolachas_ or biscuits. The
only variable factor was the meat, sometimes wild hog, occasionally
tapir, and very often the common green parrot or the howling monkey. At
most meals the _pirarucu_ fish appears, especially on Mondays when
the rubber-workers have had the whole of Sunday in which to indulge
in the sport of shooting this gamy two-hundred-pound fish. They carry
their _pirarucu_ to headquarters and courteously offer the best cuts
to the Coronel, afterwards cutting the rest into long strips and
leaving them to dry in the sun. Jerked beef was always to be relied
upon when other supplies ran low.

There must have been some terrible mystery connected with the
milk. There were twenty-one cows on the place, but never a drop of
milk from them was to be had. I was always afraid to ask any questions
about this deficiency for fear I might be treading on dangerous ground,
but with the lack of any other explanation I ascribe it to continual
sickness from which the cattle must probably suffer, in common with
every other living thing here.

During the month of September, the number of patients from fever,
pleurisy, and accidents, at Floresta headquarters, amounted to 82% of
the population. A fever resembling typhoid resulted in several cases
from drinking the river-water. The Coronel claimed that Mangeroma
Indians living in the interior about 150 miles from Floresta had
poisoned the creeks and affluents of the Itecoahy to take revenge upon
the traders who brought the much dreaded Peruvian rubber-workers up
to the Itecoahy River estates. These Peruvians are hated because they
abduct the women of the indigenous tribes, when on their expeditions
far into the forests where these tribes live, and consequently they
are hunted down and their entrance to the region as far as possible
prevented.

At this morning hour in New York (Floresta is on the same meridian
as New York), thousands of toilers are entering the hot subways and
legions of workers are filing into their offices and stuffy shops
to take their places at the huge machinery which keeps the world
in motion. At the very same hour a handful of rubber-workers are
passing my house, returning from their first trip in the _estradas_,
where they have been tapping the trees, and on their way to the huts
and a frugal breakfast. Here in the wilds of Brazil there are no
subways, no worry about the "market," nor indeed any thought for the
morrow. Nature supplies the rubber trees, and the "boss" the tools to
work them with; the philosophy of the rubber-worker goes no farther. A
shirt, trousers, and a hat are all the dress that fashion requires,
and often the worker even finds the shirt superfluous. He wears a
pair of overalls, and carries slung over his shoulder his rifle and
the little hatchet for tapping the trees, besides a small rubber bag
in which he keeps a supply of farinha and jerked beef, should he be
prevented from reaching his hut in regulation time.

The _seringueiro_ is free in his movements and in his mind, he is a
quick and keen observer of nature, and an expert in knowledge of the
cries and calls of the animals of the forest. He knows their habits
and hiding-places to perfection, and he could probably astonish the
naturalist by informing him of many things he has observed that his
brother scientist never has heard of. He knows the names of the trees
and plants in the forest and what they can be used for, though his
knowledge of them is often supplemented by superstitious imaginings. He
knows the multitudinous fish of the Amazon, whether they are to be
caught with a net, speared, or shot with bow and arrows, or, if the
hunter is of a progressive disposition, shot with rifle ball. There are
varieties that have, as yet, not been seen, classified, or identified
by the scientist of to-day--I am positive of having seen several such.

The inhabitant of this region is clean in his habits and in his mind as
soon as he gets away from the evil influence of civilisation--which for
him is the town of Remate de Males or "Culmination of Evils." He takes
a bath at least twice a day, and attends closely to the cleanliness of
his wardrobe, which for that matter does not absorb any considerable
amount of time. As a rule, he is industrious, but frequent attacks of
fever, dysentery, liver and spleen complaints, or pneumonia make him
in the end, like all living things here not native to the forests,
sluggish in general, and irritable on occasion.

A little distance from the headquarters lies a beautiful lake. It is
not wider than the Itecoahy itself, four hundred feet on an average,
and is about five miles long. It runs parallel with the river, and has
only one outlet. In the dry season this amounts to nothing more than a
little rivulet across which a large fallen tree has formed a natural
bridge, but in January, when the waters rise, the creek is so full
that the servants of Coronel da Silva can wash the linen there. After
some weeks of sojourn at Floresta, I found my way to this lake, and it
was here that I was able to observe some of the largest specimens of
Amazonian reptiles in their haunts, where the equatorial sun had full
opportunity to develop an amazing growth of faunal and floral life.

It was a most enchanting stretch of water. I had heard of the dangers
lurking beneath its surface long before I saw it, so when I arrived
there one morning I was surprised to find a placid lake, set in
picturesque and romantic surroundings. My first impulse was to exclaim,
partly to myself, and partly to the Indian João who accompanied me,
"Why, this is Lake Innocence," so peaceful did it appear. In fact,
so much did it charm me that during the remainder of my stay at
Floresta there was hardly a day some part of which I did not spend
in the immediate vicinity of this lake. But it was treacherous. It
was the home of six or seven old alligators and of young ones--too
numerous to count; the oldest reaching a length of about seventeen
feet. They would lie perfectly still under the banks, among the dead
branches and snags, which made the shores generally inaccessible to
boat or canoe, but when a person approached they would make their
presence known by violent splashing in the water and repeated loud
grunts, very much resembling those of a walrus. Then they would burrow
under the soft mud and remain quiet for an hour or two. In the early
forenoon, before the sun became too hot, they would sun themselves,
but in the sweltering mid-day hours they remained buried in the mud,
and were then very hard to rouse.

I found, on the shores of the lake, two alligator nests, formed of many
twigs and branches stuck together, half in the water and half in the
soft slimy mud. There they deposited their eggs, oblong tough ones;
and one could always count on finding the female in the neighbourhood,
should one desire to visit her. I came near stepping on one of these
female alligators during a morning hunt with my camera. I was intently
examining a group of eggs I found under a cluster of branches, when
I was startled by a splash in the water and a loud grunt. As fast
as the muddy ground would let me, I scrambled up the bank, and when
I reached the top I saw the alligator swimming away from the very
spot where I had been standing, its small close-set eyes fastened on
me. Then it disappeared in the mud.

My next encounter occurred one forenoon, when I was sitting close
to the dried-up canal which formed the outlet of the lake. It was
almost mid-day. I was sitting in the shade, safe from the blazing sun,
enjoying a peaceful smoke. The air was fairly vibrating with heat,
causing the blood to surge through my veins. Not a sound was heard
except the irritating buzz of the ever-present mosquitoes. For some
time I had been aware of the slow, stealthy movement of a large body
near-by, though only half consciously. The heat made me sluggish
and sleepy, but suddenly I awoke to the fact that the moving thing,
whatever it might be, was near me. Mechanically, I released the
"safety" of my automatic pistol, and then realised that out of the
reeds near me was creeping a medium-sized alligator. He was making
straight for the water, and I do not know whether he was cognisant of
my presence or not. He was moving steadily, advancing a few inches,
stopping for a minute, then resuming the journey. I believe I was
not more than five feet from the head as it emerged from the fringe
of reeds. I raised my camera, secured a focus, and snapped the
shutter. The click of the apparatus and perhaps my movement drew
his attention. He stopped abruptly. The long jaws opened toward
me, displaying an enormous expanse of pink flesh and two rows of
shining teeth. I lost not a second in throwing aside the camera and
jumping back to a position of relative safety, whence I fired into
the open mouth of the beast. I killed him. On examining the carcass,
I noticed that he had unusually large eyes, indicating that he was
a young specimen.

A few days later I again went to this lake--which, from my remarks, had
now come to be generally called "Lago Innocencia"--to catch fish with
my Indian friend João. He carried a bow, four arrows with detachable
heads, and a harpoon six feet long. The little boat which we found
close to the outlet of the lake was pushed away from the shore, we
each seized one of the peculiarly decorated paddles, and were off,
looking for finny game. We paddled quietly along near the shore,
now and then receiving a bump from some concealed snag which nearly
upset us. It requires considerable skill to navigate one of these
poorly-made dugouts, the slightest move causing a disproportionate
amount of disturbance of equilibrium.

Suddenly João jumped up, his black eyes glowing with excitement. He
motioned me to keep quiet, but it was quiet superfluous for him to
do this, as I was unable to talk, or even look around, for fear the
canoe might upset. He seized the harpoon, and with a powerful swing
sent it into the water ahead of us, at the same time grasping the line
which was attached to the end. The spear sank deep into the water,
and then by the vivacity with which it danced around I could tell
there was something on the end of it. As he began to pull in the line,
the struggle became so violent that I crept forward on my knees in
the bottom of the canoe and helped him recover the spear. Only after
some strenuous balancing feats and a stiff fight by both of us, did
we land our game. It was a large flat fish at least four feet square,
with a long whip-shaped tail, at the base of which were two barbed
bones each about three and a half inches in length. Our first act was
to sever this tail with a hatchet, as it was far too active to make
the fish a pleasant neighbour in close quarters. When the sting-ray,
or, as the Brazilians call it, the _araya_, was dead, I cut out the
two barbed bones and no longer wondered why these fish are so dreaded
by those who know them. João told me that they attack anyone who
ventures into the water, and with their sharp, barbed bones inflict
a wound that in most cases proves fatal, for the bones are brittle
and break off in the flesh. Superstition and carelessness are the
main factors that make the wound dangerous; the people believe too
much in an ever-present evil spirit which abides in all the vicious
and fiendish animals of the forest and swamp. Once wounded by any of
these malignant creatures, they believe there is no hope of recovery
and they hardly try to survive. Besides, lack of proper care and
treatment of a wound generally results in its terminating in a case
of septicaemia and ultimately gangrene.

I have mentioned the _pirarucu_ several times as being the largest
edible fish of the Amazon. When full grown, it attains a weight of two
hundred and fifty pounds. In Lake Innocence we saw this remarkable
fish feeding close to the shore in shallow water, surrounded by a
school of young ones. The old one was about seven feet in length
and the others but recently hatched, from nine to ten inches. The
Indian who pointed them out to me stood up in the bow of the canoe
and, fitting one of his five-foot arrows to the bow-string, sent it
through the air and into the head of the big fellow.

The bow which he used was of his own manufacture. It was about seven
and a half feet long, very tough and straight, and made of Caripari
wood. The shafts of the arrows were made of long straight reeds, the
stalks of a certain species of wild cane. The detachable part of the
arrow is a short but extremely hard piece of wood upon which is fitted
an iron head with two barbs. When the point pierces the flesh this hard
piece comes off, but remains attached to the shaft by a short stout
cord. This allows the shaft free play so that it will not break during
the struggles of the victim. Then there is a line attached to the head
itself so that the hunter can handle the struggling animal or fish by
means of it and of the shaft of the arrow. The whole contrivance is
a marvel of ingenuity in meeting the conditions the Amazon hunter is
called on to face. When the arrow struck this particular _pirarucu_,
at close range, he made straight for the shore, hauling the canoe
and its contents after him at considerable speed. We got tangled
among the low branches and fought the fish in considerable danger
of being overturned--and I should not at all care to be capsized on
Lake Innocence.

Finally, we got our prize ashore. I sent the Indian to headquarters,
telling him to go, as fast as he could and bring assistance so that
we could get the fish home. I myself mounted guard over the carcass
to see that neither the turkey buzzards nor the carnivorous mammals
should destroy it. If we had left it alone for even a short time,
we would have found, on our return, little to remind us of its
existence. The Indian returned shortly with two men. They stuck a
pole through the great gills of the _pirarucu_ and in this fashion
carried it to the settlement.

These waters contain great quantities of another and smaller fish known
as the _piranha_, scientifically termed _Serraselmus piraya_. This
is quite as much dreaded by the natives as the alligator, or even as
the shark along the coast. Its ferocity seems to know no bounds. It
will attack other fish and bite large pieces out of their fins and
tails. Although it is not much larger than the herring it can make
fatal attacks on man when in large numbers.

Mr. C.B. Brown in his work on Guiana gives the following account of
this fish:

The _piranhas_ in the Corentins were so abundant and were so ferocious
that at times it was dangerous to go into the water to a greater depth
than the knees. Even then small bodies of these hungry creatures would
swim in and make a dash close to our legs, and then retreat to a short
distance. They actually bit the steering paddles as they were drawn
through the water astern of the boat. A tapir which I shot as it swam
across the water had his nose bitten off by them whilst we were towing
it to the shore. The men used to catch some of them for the sport
of it, and in taking the hook from the mouth produced a wound from
which the blood ran freely. On throwing them back into the water in
this injured condition, they were immediately set upon and devoured
by their companions. Even as one was being hauled in on the line,
its comrades, seeing that it was in difficulties, attacked it at once.

I heard about these fiends but had no opportunity to witness their
ferocity until one day, in crossing the river in a dugout, we wounded
a wild hog that had also decided to cross at the same time and at the
same place. The man with the stern paddle seized his machete as he saw
the hog swimming close by the port-side of the canoe and stabbed it in
the shoulder, intending to tow it ashore and have a luxurious dinner of
roast hog. But his dream was never realised, for the _piranhas_ which
had tasted the blood, I suppose, came in large numbers and set upon
the unfortunate hog. In a minute the water seemed to be boiling, so
great was the activity of the little demons as they tore away pieces of
the flesh until it was vanishing by inches. When we reached the other
shore there was not enough left of the hog to furnish a single meal.

Later I learned that certain Indian tribes leave their dead in the
river for the _piranhas_ to strip the flesh from the bones. It is
then customary to take the remaining skeleton and let it dry in the
sun, after which it is rubbed with the juice of the _urucu_ plant
(the _Bixa orellana_), which produces a bright scarlet colour. Then
it is hung up in the hut and the Indians consider that a token of
great reverence has been thus bestowed on the deceased.

Before leaving the subject of fish, I will mention another species,
smaller than the _piranha_, yet, although not as ferocious, the
cause of much dread and annoyance to the natives living near the
banks of the rivers. In fact, throughout the Amazon this little
worm-like creature, called the _kandiroo_, is so omnipresent that a
bath-house of a particular construction is necessary. The kandiroo is
usually three to four inches long and one sixteenth in thickness. It
belongs to the lampreys, and its particular group is the Myxinos or
slime-fish. Its body is coated with a peculiar mucus. It is dangerous
to human beings, because when they are taking a bath in the river
it will approach and with a swift powerful movement penetrate one of
the natural openings of the body whence it can be removed only by a
difficult and dangerous operation.

A small but hard and pointed dorsal fin acts as a barb and prevents
the fish from being drawn back. While I was in Remate de Males the
local doctor was called upon to remove a _kandiroo_ from the urethra
of a man. The man subsequently died from the hemorrhage following
the operation.

Largely through the danger of the attack from this scourge, though
perhaps not entirely, the natives have adopted the method of bathing
in use. A plunge into the river is unheard of, and bath-houses are
constructed so as to make this unnecessary. A hole about eighteen
inches square is cut in the middle of the floor--built immediately
above the water--through which the bather, provided with a calabash
or gourd of the bread-fruit tree, dips water up and pours it over
himself after he has first examined it carefully. The indigenous
Indians, living in the remote parts of the forest, do not use this
mode of protection, but cover the vulnerable portions of the body
carefully with strips of bark, which render  complete  immersion
less  dangerous.

During my walks in the forest I often came across snakes of
considerable length, but never found any difficulty in killing them, as
they were sluggish in their movements and seemed to be inoffensive. The
rubber-workers, who had no doubt had many encounters with reptiles,
told me about large _sucurujus_ or boa-constrictors, which had their
homes in the river not many miles from headquarters. They told me
that these snakes were in possession of hypnotic powers, but this,
like many other assertions, should be taken with a large grain of
salt. However, I will relate an incident which occurred while I
lived at Floresta, and in which I have absolute faith, as I had the
opportunity of talking to the persons involved in the affair.

José Perreira. a rubber-worker, had left headquarters after having
delivered his weekly report on the rubber extracted, and was paddling
his canoe at a good rate down the stream, expecting to reach his
hut before midnight. Arriving at a recess in the banks formed by the
confluence of a small creek called Igarapé do Inferno, or the Creek
of Hell, he thought that he heard the noise of some game, probably a
deer or tapir, drinking, and he silently ran his canoe to the shore,
where he fastened it to a branch, at the same time holding his rifle
in readiness. Finally, as he saw nothing, he returned to the canoe
and continued his way down-stream.

Hardly more than ten yards from the spot, he stopped again and
listened. He heard only the distant howling of a monkey. This he was
used to on his nightly trips. No! there was something else! He could
not say it was a sound. It was a strange something that called him back
to the bank that he had left but a few minutes before. He fastened
his canoe again to the same branch and crept up to the same place,
feeling very uneasy and uncomfortable, but seeing nothing that could
alarm him--nothing that he could draw the bead of his rifle on. Yet,
something there was! For the second time he left, without being able
to account for the mysterious force that lured him to this gloomy,
moon-lit place on the dark, treacherous bank. In setting out in the
stream again he decided to fight off the uncanny, unexplainable feeling
that had called him back, but scarcely a stone's throw from the bank
he had the same desire to return,--a desire that he had never before
experienced. He went again, and looked, and meditated over the thing
that he did not understand.

He had not drunk _cachassa_ that day and was consequently quite sober;
he had not had fever for two weeks and was in good health physically as
well as mentally; he had never so much indulged in the dissipations of
civilisation that his nerves had been affected; he had lived all his
life in these surroundings and knew no fear of man or beast. And now,
this splendid type of manhood, free and unbound in his thoughts and
unprejudiced by superstition, broke down completely and hid his face
in his hands, sobbing like a child in a dark room afraid of ghosts. He
had been called to this spot three times without knowing the cause, and
now, the mysterious force attracting him, as a magnet does a piece of
iron, he was unable to move. Helpless as a child he awaited his fate.

Luckily three workers from headquarters happened to pass on their
way to their homes, which lay not far above the "Creek of Hell,"
and when they heard sobbing from the bank they called out.

The hypnotised _seringueiro_ managed to state that he had three
times been forced, by some strange power, to the spot where he now
was, unable to get away, and that he was deadly frightened. The
rubber-workers, with rifles cocked, approached in their canoe, fully
prepared to meet a jaguar, but when only a few yards from their comrade
they saw directly under the root where the man was sitting the head
of a monstrous boa-constrictor, its eyes fastened on its prey. Though
it was only a few feet from him, he had been unable to see it.

One of the men took good aim and fired, crushing the head of the snake,
and breaking the spell, but the intended victim was completely played
out and had to lie down in the bottom of the canoe, shivering as if
with ague.

The others took pains to measure the length of the snake before
leaving. It was 79 palmas or 52 feet 8 inches. In circumference it
measured 11 palmas, corresponding to a diameter of 28 inches. Its
mouth, they said, was two palmas or sixteen inches, but how they mean
this to be understood I do not know.

This event happened while I was living at headquarters. I had a
long talk with Perreira, but could not shake his statement, nor that
of the three others; nevertheless, I remained a sceptic as to this
alleged charming or mesmeric power of the snakes, at least so far as
man is concerned.

At that time we were awaiting the arrival of the monthly launch from
the town of Remate de Males, and had spent a day weighing rubber
at the camp of one of the employees, half a day's journey from
headquarters. The rubber-pellets were loaded into our large canoe
to take up to Floresta. We spent the evening drinking black coffee
and eating some large, sweet pineapples, whereafter we all took a
nap lasting until midnight, when we got up to start on our night
trip. It had been considered best to travel at night, when it was
nice and cool with none of the pestering insects to torture us, and
we were soon paddling the heavy canoe at a merry rate, smoking our
pipes and singing in the still, dark night. Soon we rounded a point
where the mighty trees, covered with orchids and other parasitic
plants, sent their branches down to the very water which in its
depths was hiding the dreaded water-snakes. The only sound we heard
was the weird calling of the night-owl, the "Mother of the Moon"
as the Indians call it. Except this and the lapping sound of water,
as we sped along, nothing disturbed the tranquillity of the night.

I was in the act of lighting another pipe when one of the men
cried out:

"What's this?"

We all stopped paddling and stared ahead at a large dark object,
resting on a moon-lit sand-bar not far from us. Then someone said,
"_Sucuruju_." Few people can comprehend the feeling that creeps into
one's heart when this word is pronounced, under such circumstances,
in the far-off forest, in the middle of the night. The word
means boa-constrictor, but it meant a lot more at this moment. An
indescribable feeling of awe seized me. I knew now that I was to face
the awful master of the swamps, the great silent monster of the river,
of which so much had been said, and which so few ever meet in its lair.

Running the canoe ashore we advanced in single file. I now had a
chance to inspect the object. On a soft, muddy sand-bar, half hidden
by dead branches, I beheld a somewhat cone-shaped mass about seven
feet in height. From the base of this came the neck and head of the
snake, flat on the ground, with beady eyes staring at us as we slowly
advanced and stopped. The snake was coiled, forming an enormous pile
of round, scaly monstrosity, large enough to crush us all to death at
once. We had stopped at a distance of about fifteen feet from him,
and looked at each other. I felt as if I were spellbound, unable to
move a step farther or even to think or act on my own initiative.

The snake still made no move, but in the clear moonlight I could
see its body expand and contract in breathing; its yellow eyes
seeming to radiate a phosphorescent light. I felt no fear, nor any
inclination to retreat, yet I was now facing a beast that few men
had ever succeeded in seeing. Thus we stood looking at each other,
scarcely moving an eyelid, while the great silent monster looked at
us. I slid my right hand down to the holster of my automatic pistol,
the 9mm. Luger, and slowly removed the safety lock, at the same time
staring into the faces of the men. In this manner I was less under
the spell of the mesmerism of the snake, and could to some extent
think and act. I wheeled around while I still held control of my
faculties, and, perceiving a slight movement of the snake's coils,
I fired point-blank at the head, letting go the entire chamber of
soft-nose bullets. Instantly the other men woke up from their trance
and in their turn fired, emptying their Winchesters into the huge
head, which by this time was raised to a great height above us,
loudly hissing in agony.

Our wild yelling echoed through the deep forest. The snake uncoiled
itself and writhing with pain made for the water's edge. By this time
we were relieved of the terrible suspense, but we took care to keep
at a respectful distance from the struggling reptile and the powerful
lashing of its tail, which would have killed a man with one blow.

After half an hour the struggles grew weaker, yet we hesitated to
approach even when it seemed quiet and had its head and a portion
of its body submerged in the water. We decided to stay through the
night and wait here a day, as I was very anxious to skin the snake
and take the trophy home to the States as a souvenir of a night's
adventure in this far-off jungle of the Amazon. We went up in the
bushes and lit a fire, suspended our hammocks to some tree-trunks,
and slept soundly not more than ten yards from the dying leviathan.

We all got up before sunrise, had our coffee in haste, and ran down to
see the snake. It was dead, its head practically shot to pieces. We
set to work, stretching the huge body out on the sand-bar, and by
eight o'clock we had the entire snake flat on the ground, ready to
measure and skin.

It was a most astonishing sight, that giant snake lying there full
length, while around it gathered six Amazon Indians and the one
solitary New Yorker, here in the woods about as far from civilisation
as it is possible to get. I proceeded to take measurements and used
the span between my thumb and little finger tips as a unit, knowing
that this was exactly eight inches.

Beginning at the mouth of the snake, I continued to the end and found
that this unit was contained eighty-four times. Thus 84 times 8 divided
by 12 gives exactly 56 feet as the total length. In circumference,
the unit, the "palma," was contained 8 times and a fraction, around
the thickest part of the body. From this I derived the diameter 2
feet 1 inch.

These measurements are the result of very careful work. I went from
the tail to the nose over again so as to eliminate any error, and then
asked the men with me also to take careful measurements in their own
manner, which only confirmed the figures given above.

Then we proceeded to skin the snake, which was no easy task under the
fierce sun now baking our backs. Great flocks of _urubus_, or vultures,
had smelled the carcass and were circling above our heads waiting
for their share of the spoils. Each man had his section to work on,
using a wooden club and his machete. The snake had been laid on its
belly and it was split open, following the spinal column throughout
its length, the ventral part being far too hard and unyielding. About
two o'clock in the afternoon we had the work finished and the carcass
was thrown into the river, where it was instantly set upon by the
vigilant _piranhas_ and alligators.

Standing in front of this immense skin I could not withhold my elation.

"Men," I said, "here am I on this the 29th day of July, 1910, standing
before a snake-skin the size of which is wonderful. When I return to
my people in the United States of America, and tell them that I have
seen and killed a boa-constrictor nearly eighteen metres in length,
they will laugh and call me a man with a bad tongue."

Whereupon my friend, the chief, rose to his full height and exclaimed
in a grieved tone: "Sir, you say that your people in the north will
not believe that we have snakes like this or even larger. That is
an insult to Brazilians, yet you tell us that in your town Nova York
there are _barracãos_ that have thirty-five or even forty stories on
top of each other! How do you expect us to believe such an improbable
tale as that?"

I was in a sad plight between two realities of such mighty proportions
that they could be disbelieved in localities far removed from each
other.

We brought the skin to headquarters, where I prepared it with arsenical
soap and boxed it for later shipment to New York. The skin measured,
when dried, 54 feet 8 inches, with a width of 5 feet 1 inch.

Kind reader, if you have grown weary of my accounts of the reptilian
life of the Amazon, forgive me, but such an important role does this
life play in the every-day experience of the brave rubber-workers
that the descriptions could not be omitted. A story of life in the
Amazon jungle without them would be a deficient one, indeed.


There is a bird in the forests, before referred to, called by the
Indians "_A mae da lua_," or the "Mother of the Moon." It is an owl and
makes its habitation in the large, dead, hollow trees in the depths
of the jungle, far away from the river front, and it will fly out of
its nest only on still, moonlit nights, to pour forth its desolate and
melancholy song. This consists of four notes uttered in a major key,
then a short pause lasting but a few seconds, followed by another
four notes in the corresponding minor key. After a little while the
last two notes in the minor key will be heard and then all is still.

When the lonely wanderer on the river in a canoe, or sitting in his
hammock, philosophises over the perplexing questions of life, he is
assisted in his dreary analysis by the gloomy and hair-raising cry
of the mother of the moon. When the first four notes strike his ear,
he will listen, thinking that some human being in dire distress is
somewhere out in the swamps, pitifully calling for help, but in so
painful a manner that it seems as if all hope were abandoned. Still
listening, he will hear the four succeeding melancholy notes,
sounding as if the desolate sufferer were giving up the ghost in a
last desperate effort. The final two notes, following after a brief
interval, tell him that he now hears the last despairing sobs of a
condemned soul. So harrowing and depressing is this song that, once
heard, the memory of it alone will cause one's hair to stand on end
and he will be grateful when too far away to hear again this sob of
the forest.

A surprise was in store for me one day when I visited the domicile of
a rubber-worker living at the extreme end of the estate. I expected to
find a dwelling of the ordinary appearance, raised on poles above the
ground, but instead this hut was built among the branches of a tree
some twenty feet above the level of the earth. I commenced climbing
the rickety ladder leading to the door of the hut. Half-way up a
familiar sound reached my ear. Yes, I had surely heard that sound
before, but far away from this place. When I finally entered the
habitation and had exchanged greetings with the head of the family,
I looked for the source of the sound. Turning round I saw a woman
sitting at a _sewing-machine_, working on a shirt evidently for her
husband. I examined this machine with great curiosity and found it
to be a "New Home" sewing-machine from New York. What journeys and
transfers had not this apparatus undergone before it finally settled
here in a tree-top in this far-off wilderness!


One afternoon while sitting in the office at headquarters discussing
Amazonian politics with Coronel da Silva, Francisco, a rubber-worker,
came up and talked for a while with the Coronel, who then turned to me
and said: "Do you want to get the skin of a black jaguar? Francisco
has just killed one on his _estrada_ while collecting rubber-milk;
he will take you down to his _barracão_, and from there he will lead
you to the spot where the jaguar lies, and there you can skin him."

I thanked Francisco for his information and went for my machete,
having my pistol already in my belt. I joined him at the foot of
the river bank outside the main building, where he was waiting for
me in his canoe, and we paddled down-stream to his hut. On our way
(he lived about two miles below Floresta) he told me that he was
walking at a good rate on the narrow path of the _estrada_ when
he was attracted by a growling and snarling in the thicket. He
stopped and saw a black jaguar grappling with a full-grown buck in
a small opening between the trees. The jaguar had felled the buck
by jumping on its back from the branches of a tree, and, with claws
deeply imbedded in the neck, broke its spine and opened its throat,
when Francisco drew the bead on the head or neck of the jaguar and
fired. The jaguar fell, roaring with pain. Francisco was too much
in a hurry to leave the narrow path of the rubber-workers and go
to the spot where the victim was writhing in its death agonies,
but hastened on for his dinner. Remembering later that the Coronel
had offered an attractive sum of money for any large game they would
bag for my benefit, and having finished his dinner, he paddled up to
headquarters and reminded the Coronel of the promised reward. When
we came to the hut of the rubber-worker a large dog greeted us. This
dog looked like a cross between a great Dane and a Russian greyhound;
it was rather powerfully built, although with a softness of movement
that did not correspond with its great frame. Francisco whistled for
the dog to follow us. He carried his Winchester and a machete, while
I discovered that my pistol had been left unloaded when I hurried
from headquarters, so I was armed with nothing but a machete. After
walking for nearly half an hour, we slowed down a little and Francisco
looked around at the trees and said that he thought we were on the
spot where he had heard the growlings of the jaguar. It was nearing
half-past five and the sun was low so we launched ourselves into the
thicket towards the spot where the jaguar had been killed.

We advanced rapidly; then slower and slower. The great dog at first had
been very brave, but the closer we came to the spot we were looking
for, the more timid the dog became, until it uttered a fearful yell
of fright, and with its tail between its legs slunk back. There was
nothing to do but to leave the contemptible brute alone with its fear,
so we pushed ahead. Suddenly we came to the place, but there was no
jaguar. There were plenty of evidences of the struggle. The mutilated
body of a beautiful marsh-deer was lying on the moist ground, pieces of
fur and flesh were scattered around, and the blood had even spurted on
the surrounding leaves and branches. Francisco had wounded the jaguar,
no doubt--at least he said so, but plainly he had not killed it nor
disabled it to such extent that it had remained on the spot.

We commenced searching in the underbrush, for it was evident it could
not be far off. The bloody track could be followed for some distance;
in fact, in one place the thorny roots of the remarkable _pachiuba_
palm-tree, the roots that the women here use for kitchen graters,
had torn off a bunch of long, beautiful hair from the sides of the
jaguar, which very likely was weak and was dragging itself to some
cluster of trees where it could be safe, or else to find a point of
vantage to fall upon its pursuers.

We searched for some time. The forest was growing dark, and the many
noises of the night began. First came the yelping of the toucan, which
sounded like the carefree yap-yap of some clumsy little pup. Then
came the chattering of the night monkeys and the croaking of the
thousands of frogs that hide in the swamps. And still no traces of the
jaguar. Again we separated. The dog had run home utterly scared. Now
and then we would whistle so as not to lose track of each other. I
regretted that I had been so careless as to leave my ammunition
at home, as it might happen that the wounded and enraged cat would
spring at us from some dark cluster of branches, and then a machete
would hardly be an adequate weapon.

We searched for over an hour until it was pitch dark, but, sad to
relate, we never found that jaguar. We went home silently. Francisco
did not secure the reward.

This incident is of no particular interest as the result of the
excursion was nil and our humour consequently very bad. But it serves
to show how the mind of man will be influenced by local surroundings,
and how it adapts itself to strange customs, and how a novice may be
so greatly enthused that he will, half-armed, enter upon a reckless
hunt for a wounded jaguar.



CHAPTER VI

THE FATAL MARCH THROUGH THE FOREST


Thus I lived among these kind and hospitable people for five months
until one day my lust for further excitement broke out again, induced
by a seemingly commonplace notice posted outside the door of the
storeroom. It read: "The men--Marques, Freitas, Anisette, Magellaes,
Jerome, and Brabo--are to make themselves ready to hunt caoutchouc
in the eastern virgin forest." Puzzled as to the meaning of this,
I consulted the Chief and was informed that Coronel da Silva was
about to equip and send out a small expedition into the forests,
far beyond the explored territory, to locate new caoutchouc trees,
which were to be cut and the rubber or caoutchouc collected, whereupon
the expedition was to return to headquarters with these samples and a
report on the number of trees observed. This greatly interested me, and
I asked the Chief, Marques, whose wife I had operated upon previously,
if I could accompany him on this trip. He consented unwillingly, saying
that it was very dangerous and that the same number of men that went
out never came back. However, this was too rare a chance to let pass,
and I made my preparations to accompany the expedition on this journey
into regions where even the native _caucheros_ had never before been.

On a Monday morning we all assembled at the Floresta headquarters,
where Coronel da Silva bade us good-bye, and at the same time once
more warned me against venturing on this trip, but I was determined
and could not be persuaded to give it up.

The expedition consisted of the six men, above mentioned, all, except
the Chief, Marques, unmarried. After leaving the main building we
went down to the store-room where we chose the necessary articles
of food--enough to last us for three or four weeks. Our staples
were to be dried _pirarucu_, the largest fish of the Amazon, some
dried or "jerked" beef, and a large quantity of the farinha, the
eternal woody and unpalatable meal that figures on every Brazilian's
table. Besides these, we carried sugar, coffee, rice, and several
bottles of "Painkiller" from Fulton Street, N.Y. Hammocks and cooking
utensils completed our outfit. I took with me a large plate camera,
photographic plates and paper, chemicals, scales and weights; also
a magnifying glass, a primitive surgical outfit, and a hypodermic
needle with several dozen prepared "ampules." My men were armed with
the usual .44 Winchesters and some ancient muzzle-loaders, while I
had my 9mm. automatic Luger pistol. When we were fully packed, each
man carried a load weighing eighty-five pounds, strapped by means of
bark strips to the shoulders, with his rifle in his left hand and a
machete to clear the path in his right.

Thus equipped, we left headquarters, not knowing how or when we
would see it again, while the natives fired a farewell salute,
wishing us God-speed.

After a few hours by canoe, up the Itecoahy, we left the river and
turned our faces inland. Our way now led through dense forest, but for
four hours we travelled in a region familiar to the rubber-workers,
and we were able to follow pathways used by them in their daily work.

Let no one think that a jungle trail is broad and easy. As I stumbled
along the tortuous, uneven path, in the sweltering mid-day heat,
pestered by legions of _piums_ or sand-flies and the omnipresent
mosquitoes, climbing, fallen trees that impeded us at every turn,
I thought that I had reached the climax of discomfort. Little could
I know that during the time to come I was to look back upon this day
as one of easy, delightful promenading.

The four hours' march brought us to an open place, apparently a
clearing, where the _estrada_ suddenly seemed to stop. Exhausted,
I threw myself on the moist ground while the Chief explained our
position. He said that we were now at the end of the cut _estrada_
and that beyond this we would have no path to follow, though he had
somewhat explored the region farther on the year previous, during a
similar expedition. We found that the undergrowth had been renewed
to such an extent that his old track was indistinguishable, and we
had to hew our every step. When we resumed the march I received a more
thorough understanding of what the word _jungle_ really means. Ahead of
us was one solid and apparently impenetrable wall of vegetation, but
my men attacked it systematically with their heavy machetes. Slowly
we advanced, but I wondered that we made any progress at all. The
skill of these sons of the forest in cutting a pathway with their
long knives became a constant wonder to me. Where an inexperienced
person would have lost himself, looking for a round-about easy course,
these men moved straight ahead, hewing and hacking right and left,
the play of the swift blades seemingly dissolving all obstacles in
their path. Some idea of the density of the growth can be gathered
from the fact that if a man moved off he became instantly invisible
although he might be only a yard or two away.

Late in the afternoon we reached a small hut or _tambo_ built on
the former trip by the Chief. It was nothing but a roof on poles,
but it was a welcome sight to us as it meant rest and food. We were
tired and hungry and were glad to find a small creek close by where
we could refresh ourselves, taking care to keep out of the reach of
the alligators and water-snakes swimming close to the weeds by the
shore. For our supper we gave the dried _pirarucu_ flesh a boil and
soaked some farinha in water, eating this tasteless repast with as much
gusto as we would if it had been roast beef. Let me here recommend
this diet for any gourmet whose appetite has been impaired, and he
will soon be able to enjoy a stew of shoe-leather. One of the men, a
good-natured athlete, Jerome by name, was sent out after fresh meat,
and brought back a weird little animal resembling a fox (_cuti_). We
decided to test it as a stew, but, lacking salt, we found the dried
_pirarucu_ preferable.

The excitement of the night was furnished by ants, which had built
a nest in the _tambo_ where we had swung our hammocks. The visitors
swarmed up poles and down ropes and would not be denied entrance. Wads
of cotton smeared with vaseline and bandaged around the fastenings of
the hammock proved no obstacle. It was impossible to sleep; mosquitoes
came to the assistance of the ants and managed to find their way
through the mosquito-net. To complete the general "cheerfulness,"
the tree-tops were full of little spider-monkeys whispering mournfully
throughout the dark and showery night.

The second day's march took us through the region which the Chief
had explored the year before, and we spent the night in another
_tambo_ built on that occasion. Our progress, however, was made with
increasing difficulty, as the land had become more hilly and broken
and the forest, if possible, more dense and wild. We were now at a
considerable distance from the river-front and in a region where the
yearly inundation could never reach. This stage of the journey remains
among the few pleasant memories of that terrible expedition, through
what I may call the gastronomic revel with which it ended. Jerome had
succeeded in bringing down with his muzzle-loader a _mutum_, a bird
which in flavour and appearance reminds one of a turkey, while I was so
lucky as to bag a nice fat deer (marsh-deer). This happened at _tambo_
No. 2. We called each successive hut by its respective number. Here we
had a great culinary feast, so great that during the following days I
thought of this time with a sad "_ils sont passé, ces jours de fête_."

Now, guided by the position of the sun, we held a course due west, our
ultimate destination being a far-off region where the Chief expected
to find large areas covered with fine caoutchouc trees. The ground
was hilly and interspersed with deeply cut creeks where we could see
the ugly heads of the _jararaca_ snakes pop up as if they were waiting
for us. There was only one way of crossing these creeks; this was by
felling a young tree across the stream for a bridge. A long slender
stick was then cut and one end placed at the bottom of the creek, when
each man seizing this in his right hand steadied himself over the tree
to the other side of the deep treacherous water. It required steady
nerve to walk this trunk, such as I did not possess, therefore I found
it safer to hang from the levelled bole by my hands and travel across
in that manner. _Tambo_ No. 3 we constructed ourselves, as we did every
other for the rest of the journey. We always selected a site near a
creek that we were following, and cleared away the underbrush so as to
leave an open area of about twenty-five feet square, always allowing
one tree to remain for a corner. A framework of saplings tied together
with strips of _matamata_ bark was raised for a roof, and across this
were laid gigantic leaves of the _murumuru_, twenty-five to thirty
feet long. The hammocks were then strung beneath, and we managed to
keep comparatively sheltered from the nightly rain that always occurs
in these deep forests. After the frugal meal of _pirarucu_ and dried
farinha, or of some game we had picked up during the march, we would
creep into our hammocks and smoke, while the men told hunting stories,
or sang their monotonous, unmelodious tribal songs.

It must have been about two o'clock in the morning when I was awakened
by a terrific roaring which fairly made the forest tremble. Sitting
up and staring fearfully into the darkness, I heard the crashing
of underbrush and trees close upon us. My first thought was of a
hurricane, but in the confusion of my senses, stunned by the impact
of sound, I had few clear impressions. My companions were calling one
another. The noise grew louder, more terrifying. Suddenly the little
world around me went to smash in one mad upheaval. The roof of the
_tambo_ collapsed and fell upon us. At the same instant I felt some
huge body brush past me, hurling me sprawling to the ground. The noise
was deafening, mingled with the shrieks and excited yellings of my men,
but the object passed swiftly in the direction of the creek.

Some one now thought of striking a light to discover the extent of
the damage. The _tambo_ was a wreck; the hammocks were one tangled
mass. Jerome, who had jumped from his hammock when he first heard
the noise, followed the "hurricane" to the creek and soon solved
the mystery of the storm that swept our little camp. He told us,
it was a jaguar, which had sprung upon the back of a large tapir
while the animal was feeding in the woods behind our _tambo_. The
tapir started for the creek in the hope of knocking the jaguar off
its back by rushing through the underbrush; not succeeding in this,
its next hope was the water in the creek. It had chosen a straight
course through our _tambo_.

The next day we were successful in killing two howling monkeys;
these were greeted with loud yells of joy, as we had not been able
to locate any game during the last twenty-four hours' march. This is
easy to understand. We were much absorbed in cutting our way through
the bushes and the game was scared away long before we could sight it.

After the ninth day of wearisome journeying, the Chief found signs
of numerous caoutchouc trees, indicating a rich district, and it was
accordingly decided that _tambo_ No. 9 should be our last. We were
now fully 150 miles from the Floresta headquarters and some 120 miles
back in the absolutely unknown. That night the temperature went down
to 41° Fahrenheit, a remarkable drop so close to the equator and on
such low ground, but it was undoubtedly due to the fact that the sun
never penetrates the dark foliage of the surrounding dense forests
where the swamps between the hills give off their damp exhalations.

Up to this point I had not feared the jungle more than I would have
feared any other forest, but soon a dread commenced to take hold
of me, now that I could see how a great danger crept closer and
closer--danger of starvation and sickness. Our supplies were growing
scant when we reached _tambo_ No. 9, and yet we lingered, forgetful
of the precarious position into which we had thrust ourselves, and
the violated wilderness was preparing to take its revenge.

I suppose our carelessness in remaining was due in part to the
exhausted state to which we had been reduced, and which made us
all rejoice in the comfort of effortless days rather than face new
exertions.



CHAPTER VII

THE FATAL "TAMBO NO. 9"


We were three weeks at _tambo_ No. 9 before the sharp tooth of
necessity began to rouse us to the precarious situation. Occasionally
a lucky shot would bring down a _mutum_ or a couple of monkeys and,
on one occasion, a female tapir. Thus feasting to repletion, we
failed to notice that the lucky strikes came at longer intervals;
that the animals were deserting our part of the forest. During these
three weeks we were not wholly idle. The Chief had the men out every
day making excursions in the neighbourhood to locate the caoutchouc
trees. As soon as a tree was found, they set to work bleeding the
base of it to let the milky sap ooze out on the ground where it would
collect in a small pool. Then they would fell the tree and cut rings
in the bark at regular intervals so that the milk could flow out. In
a few days when the milk had coagulated, forming large patches of
caoutchouc, they would return for it. The pieces were washed in the
creek and then tied into large bundles ready for transporting.

In all they located more than 800 caoutchouc trees. At this time too I
made my remarkable discovery of gold deposits in the creek. It seems
to me now like the plot of some old morality play, for while we were
searching eagerly for the thing that we considered the ultimate goal
of human desires--wealth, the final master, Death, was closing his
net upon us day by day. Our food supply was nearly gone.

While strolling along the shores of the creek in search of game, I
noticed irregular clumps or nodules of clay which had accumulated in
large quantities in the bed of the stream, especially where branches
and logs had caused whirlpools and eddies to form. They had the
appearance of pebbles or stones, and were so heavy in proportion to
their size that my curiosity was aroused, and throwing one of them
on the bank I split it open with my machete. My weakened heart then
commenced to beat violently, for what I saw looked like gold.

I took the two pieces to my working table near our _tambo_, and
examining the dirty-yellow heart with my magnifying glass, I found the
following: A central mass about one cubic inch in size, containing
a quantity of yellowish grains measuring, say, one thirty-second of
an inch in diameter, slightly adhering to each other, but separating
upon pressure of the finger, and around this a thick layer of hard
clay or mud of somewhat irregular shape. It immediately struck me
that the yellow substance might be gold, though I could not account
for the presence of it in the centre of the clay-balls.

I carefully scraped the granules out of the clay, and washing them
clean, placed them on a sheet of paper to dry in the sun. By this
time the attention of the other men had been attracted to what I was
doing, and it seemed to amuse the brave fellows immensely to watch
my painstaking efforts with the yellow stuff. I produced some fine
scales I had for weighing chemicals for my photographic work, and
suspended these above a gourd filled with water. Then I went down to
the creek and collected more of the clay-balls and scraped the mud of
one away from the solid centre of what I took to be grains of gold. A
fine thread I next wound around the gold ball and this was tied to
one end of the balance. After an equilibrium had been established,
I found that the weight of the gold was 660 grains. Next I raised
the gourd until the water reached the suspended ball, causing the
opposite pan of the scales to go down. To again establish equilibrium,
I had to add 35 grains. With this figure I divided the actual weight
of the gold, which gave me 18.9, and this I remembered was close to
the specific gravity of pure gold.

Still a little in doubt, I broke the bulb of one of my clinical
thermometers and, placing the small quantity of mercury thus obtained
in the bottom of a tray, I threw a few of the grains into it, and
found that they immediately united, forming a dirty-grey amalgam. I
was now sure the substance was gold and in less than five hours I
collected enough to fill five photographic 5 × 7 plate-boxes, the
only empty receptacles I could lay my hands on. I could have filled a
barrel, for the creek was thick with the clay-balls as far as I could
see; but I had a continuous fever and this, with the exhaustion from
semi-starvation, caused me to be indifferent to this great wealth. In
fact, I would have gladly given all the gold in the creek for _One_
square meal. If the difficulties in reaching this infernal region
were not so great, I have no doubt that a few men could soon make
themselves millionaires.

The deadly fever came among us after a few days. It struck a young
man called Brabo first; the next day I fell sick with another serious
attack of swamp-fever, and we both took to our hammocks. For five
days and nights I was delirious most of the time, listening to the
mysterious noises of the forest and seeing in my dreams visions of
juicy steaks, great loaves of bread, and cups of creamy coffee. In
those five days the only food in the camp was howling monkey,
the jerked beef and the dried farinha having given out much to my
satisfaction, as I became so heartily disgusted with this unpalatable
food that I preferred to starve rather than eat it again. At first I
felt the lack of food keenly, but later the pain of hunger was dulled,
and only a warm, drugged sensation pervaded my system. Starvation
has its small mercies.

I became almost childishly interested in small things. There was a
peculiar sound that came from the deep forest in the damp nights;
I used to call it the "voice of the forest." To close one's eyes and
listen was almost to imagine oneself near the murmuring crowd of a
large city. It was the song of numerous frogs which inhabited a creek
near our _tambo_. Then I would hear four musical notes uttered in a
major key from the tree-tops close by, soon answered by another four
in a similar pitch, and this musical and cheerful(!) conversation was
continued all night long. The men told me that this was the note of
a species of frog that lived in the trees.

One day the jungle took the first toll from us. Young Brabo was very
low; I managed to stagger out of my hammock to give him a hypodermic
injection, but he was too far gone for it to do him any good. He
died in the early afternoon. We dug a grave with our machetes right
behind our _tambo_. No stone marks this place; only a small wooden
cross tied together with bark-strips shows where our comrade lies--a
son of the forest whom the forest claimed again.

The arrival of Death in our camp showed us all how far we were in
the grasp of actual, threatening danger. We stood about the grave in
silence. These men, these Indians of the Amazon, were very human;
somehow, I always considered them equals and not of an inferior
race. We had worked together, eaten and slept and laughed together,
and now together we faced the mystery of Death. The tie between us
became closer; the fraternity of common flesh and blood bound us.

The next day I arose and was able to walk around, having injected my
left arm with copious doses of quinine and arsenical acid. Borrowing
thus false strength from drugs, I was able, to some extent, to roam
around with my camera and secure photographs that I wanted to take
home with me to the States.

I had constructed a table of stalks of the _murumuru_ palm-leaves,
and I had made a sun-dial by the aid of a compass and a stick, much to
the delight of the men, who were now able to tell the hour of the day
with precision. The next day I had another attack of fever and bled
my arm freely with the bistoury, relieving myself of about sixteen
ounces of blood. Shortly after nine o'clock in the morning I heard
a shot which I recognised as being that of Jerome's muzzle-loader;
soon afterward he made his appearance with a splendid specimen of a
jet-black jaguar, killed by a shot behind the ear. He skinned it after
first asking me if I wanted to get up and take a photograph of it,
but I was too weak to do it and had to decline.

The Chief one day brought into camp a fine deer and a _mutum_ bird,
which relieved our hunger for a while. As we were preparing a luxurious
meal, Jerome returned with two red howling monkeys, but we had all
the meat we could take care of, and these monkeys were rejected and
thrown away.

By this time the Chief informed us that enough caoutchouc trees had
been located to justify our return to the Floresta headquarters
with a satisfactory report--of course, excepting the death of
poor Brabo. Furthermore it was decided that owing to the lack of
provisions we should separate. He directed that the men Freitas,
Magellaes, and Anisette should take a course at a right angle to the
Itecoahy, so as to reach this river in a short time, where they were
to procure a canoe and secure assistance for the rest of us. This,
of course, was a chance, but under the circumstances every step was
a chance. The Chief himself, Jerome, and I would retrace the route
which we had lately travelled and reach Floresta that way. The evening
before our departure I did not think myself strong enough to carry
my load a single step, but the hypodermic needle, with quinine, which
had now become my constant stand-by, lent me an artificial strength,
and when the packing was done the next morning, I stood up with the
rest and strapped the load on my shoulders.

We parted with the other three men before sunrise, with clasps of the
hand that were never to be repeated, and so turned our faces toward
the outer world. My only hope was to retain sufficient strength in
my emaciated, fever-racked body to drag myself back to Floresta, and
from there, in the course of time, get canoe or launch connection
to the frontier down the river, and then wait for the steamer that
would take me back to "God's Country," where I could eat proper food,
and rest--rest.

The jungle no longer seemed beautiful or wonderful to me, but
horrible--a place of terror and death.

In my drug-dazed sleep on that back-track, I started up in my hammock,
bathed in a sweat of fear from a dream; I saw myself and my companions
engulfed in a sea of poisonous green, caught by living creepers
that dragged us down and held us in a deadly octopus embrace. The
forest was something from which I fled; it was hideous, a trap, with
its impenetrable wall of vegetation, its dark shadows, and moist,
treacherous ground.

I longed for the open; struggled for it, as the swimmer struggles up
for air to escape from the insidious sucking of the undertow.

Starving, weak from fever, oppressed by the thought of death, but
lashed on by stimulants and the tenacity of life, I headed with my
two comrades out of the world of the unknown, toward the world of
men--to _Life_.



CHAPTER VIII

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE FOREST


On the second day of the return trip, we had a remarkable
experience. Probably not more than two hundred yards from the _tambo_
where we had spent the night, we heard the noise, as we thought, of a
tapir, but nothing could surpass our astonishment when we saw a human
being. Who could it be that dared alone to disturb the solitude of
the virgin forest, and who went along in these dreary woods humming
a melody?

It was a young Indian who approached us cautiously when Jerome spoke
in a tongue I did not understand, and evidently told him that we were
friends on the way back to our homes by the river. He was an unusually
fine specimen of a savage, well built, beautifully proportioned, and
with a flawless skin like polished bronze. His clothing was limited
to a bark girdle, and a feather head-dress not unlike that worn by
some North American Indians.

He was armed with bow and arrows and a blow-gun; and he had a small
rubber pouch filled with a brownish substance, the remarkable wourahli
poison. He explained to Jerome that his tribe lived in their _maloca_,
or tribal house, about 24 hours' march from this place, and that he
had been chasing a tapir all day, but had lost its track, and was now
returning to his home. He pointed in a north-western direction with
his blow-gun, signifying thereby the general route he was going to
follow in order to reach his destination. We sat down on the ground
and looked at each other for quite a while, and thus I had my first
chance of studying a blow-gun and the poisoned arrows, outside a
museum, and in a place where it was part of a man's life. At the time
I did not know that I was to have a little later a more thorough
opportunity of examining this weapon. I asked the Indian, Jerome
acting as interpreter, to demonstrate the use of the gun, to which he
consented with a grin. We soon heard the chattering of monkeys in the
tree-tops, and deftly inserting one of the thin poisoned arrows in the
ten-foot tube he pointed the weapon at a swiftly moving body among the
branches, and filling his lungs with air, let go. With a slight noise,
hardly perceptible, the arrow flew out and pierced the left thigh of a
little monkey. Quick as lightning he inserted another arrow and caught
one of the other monkeys as it was taking a tremendous leap through
the air to a lower branch. The arrow struck this one in the shoulder,
but it was a glancing shot and the shaft dropped to the ground. In the
meantime the Indian ran after the first monkey and carried it up to
me. It seemed fast asleep, suffering no agony whatever; and after five
or six minutes its heart ceased beating. The other monkey landed on the
branch it was aiming for in its leap, but after a short while it seemed
uneasy and sniffed at everything. Finally, its hold on the branch
relaxed, it dropped to the ground and was dead in a few minutes. It
was a marvellous thing to behold these animals wounded but slightly,
the last one only scratched, and yet dying after a few minutes as if
they were falling asleep. It was then explained to me that the meat
was still good to eat and that the presence of poison would not affect
the consumer's stomach in the least; in fact, most of the game these
Indians get is procured in this manner. I was lucky enough to secure
a snap-shot of this man in the act of using his blow-gun. It proved
to be the last photograph I took in the Brazilian jungles. Accidents
and sickness subsequently set in, and the fight for life became too
hard and all-absorbing even to think of photographing. He left us
after an hour's conversation, and we resumed our journey homewards.

We had a slight advantage in retracing our former path. Although the
reedy undergrowth had already choked it, we were travelling over
ground that we knew, and it was also no longer necessary to delay
for the building of _tambos_; we used the old ones again.

Jerome had complained for some time of a numbness in his fingers
and toes, and also of an increasing weakness of the heart that
made every step a torment. The Chief and I tried our best to cheer
him up, although I felt certain that the brave fellow himself knew
what dreadful disease had laid its spell upon him. However, we kept
on walking without any words that might tend to lower our already
depressed spirits.

But our march was no longer the animated travel it had been on the
way out; we talked like automatons rather than like human, thinking
beings. Suffering, hunger, and drugs had dulled our senses. Only the
will to escape somehow, the instinct of self-preservation, was fully
awake in us. A sweep of the machete to cut a barrier bushrope or
climber, one foot placed before the other, meant that much nearer to
home and safety. Such was now the simple operation of our stupefied
and tired brains, brains that could not hold one complex thought to
its end; too tired--tired!

At nightfall we stumbled into our old _tambo_ No. 7. There was no
thought of securing food, no possibility of getting any; we had
been too tired to even attempt to shoot game during the day. The two
monkeys which the Indian had killed with his blow-gun were the only
food we had and these we now broiled over the camp-fire and devoured
fiercely. After this meal, none too good, we slung our hammocks with
difficulty and dropped in. Jerome's numbness increased during the
night. We were up and on the trail again with the dawn.

In the afternoon we descended a hill to find ourselves confronted by
a swamp of unusual extent. The Chief was in the lead as we crossed the
swamp and we lost him from our sight for a few minutes. While crossing
this wide, slimy-bottomed place, I noticed a peculiar movement in the
water near me, and soon made out the slender bodies of swamp-snakes
as they whipped past among the branches and reeds. These snakes are
called by the Brazilians _jararacas_ and are very poisonous; however,
I had no fear for myself as I wore heavy buffalo-hide boots, but the
men walked barefooted, and were in great danger. I cried out a warning
to Jerome, who took care to thrash about him. We supposed that we had
passed this snake-hole without mishap when we rejoined the Chief on
"terra firma." He was leaning over, as we approached him, and he
turned a face to us that was stricken with fear. He pointed to the
instep of his right foot and there on the skin were two tiny spots,
marked by the fangs of the snake. Without a word we sank to the
ground beside him in despair. The unfortunate man, with dilated eyes
fixed upon the ground, crouched waiting for the coming of the pain
that would indicate that the poison was working its deadly course,
and that the end was near if something was not done immediately.

Losing no more time, I cried to Jerome to pour out some gunpowder
while I sucked the wound. While doing this I fumbled in the spacious
pockets of my khaki hunting-coat and secured the bistoury with which
I made a deep incision in the flesh over the wound, causing the blood
to flow freely. In the meantime, Jerome had filled a measure with
black powder and this was now emptied into the bleeding wound and a
burning match applied at once. The object of this was to cauterise the
wound, a method that has been used with success in the outskirts of
the world where poisonous reptiles abound and where proper antidotes
cannot be had.

The Chief stood the ordeal without a murmur, never flinching even at
the explosion of the gunpowder. Jerome and I made him as comfortable
as possible, and sat sadly by his side watching him suffer and die
by inches.

It is no easy thing to see a man meet death, but under these
circumstances it was particularly distressing. The Chief had been a man
of a strong constitution particularly adapted to the health-racking
work of a rubber-hunter. He it was who with his forest-wisdom had
planned all our moves, and had mapped our course through the blind
forest, where a man could be lost as easily as on the open sea. He had
proved himself a good leader, save for the fatal mistake in delaying
our return, over-anxious as he was to render his employer, Coronel
da Silva, full and faithful service. He was extremely capable, kind,
and human, and a good friend to us all.

We had looked to him for advice in all our needs. He knew the language
of the wild beasts of the forest, he knew a way out of everything,
and at home he was a most devoted father. Now, this splendid fellow,
the sole reliance, in this vast and intricate maze, of Jerome and
myself, succumbed before our eyes to one of the dangers of the
merciless wilderness. He was beyond all hope. Nothing in our power
could to any extent add to the prolongation of his life which slowly
ebbed away. About four o'clock in the afternoon his respirations grew
difficult, and a few moments later he drew his last painful breath. He
died three hours after being bitten by the _jararaca_. For the second
time during that ill-fated journey I went to work digging a grave
with my machete, Jerome lending me whatever assistance he could in
his enfeebled state. My own condition was such that I had to rest
and recover my breath with every few stabs of the machete.

We completed that day's journey late in the afternoon, arriving
at _tambo_ No. 6 after taking almost an hour for the last half
mile. Jerome could now scarcely stand without my assistance. There was
no longer any attempt to disguise the nature of his sickness. He had
_beri-beri_, and that meant in our situation not the slightest chance
of recovery. Even with the best of care and nursing his case would
be hopeless, for in these regions the disease is absolutely fatal.

We built a fire and managed to get our hammocks fastened in some
fashion, but there was not a scrap of food to be had. The heart-leaves
from a young palm were chewed in a mood of hopeless desperation.

The next morning it was a task of several minutes for me to get out of
the hammock and on my feet. Jerome made several painful efforts and,
finally, solved his problem by dropping to the ground. He could not
rise until I came to his assistance. Then we two tottering wrecks
attempted to carry our heavy loads, but Jerome could not make it;
he cast from him everything he owned, even the smallest personal
belongings so dear to his simple, pure soul. It was heartrending
to see this young man, who in health would have been able to handle
three or four of his own size, now reduced to such a pitiful state.

And in my own case, the fever which I had fought off by constant use
of the hypodermic needle, now swept over me with renewed violence. The
drug did not have the same effect as when I was new to the ravages
of the fever.

At this point my recollections became almost inextricably confused. I
know that at times I raved wildly as I staggered on, for occasionally
I came to myself with strange phrases on my lips addressed to no one
in particular. When these lucid moments brought coherent thought,
it was the jungle, the endless, all-embracing, fearful jungle, that
overwhelmed my mind. No shipwrecked mariner driven to madness by long
tossing on a raft at sea ever conceived such hatred and horror of his
surroundings as that which now came upon me for the fresh, perpetual,
monotonous green of the interminable forest.

About noon the weight on my back became unbearable and I resolved to
sacrifice my precious cargo. I threw away my camera, my unexposed
plates, all utensils, and four of the boxes of gold dust. This
left me with one box of gold, a few boxes of exposed plates (which
I eventually succeeded in carrying all the way back to New York),
and fifty-six bullets, the automatic revolver, and the machete. Last,
but not least, I kept the hypodermic needle and a few more ampules.

We had walked scarcely a quarter of a mile when Jerome collapsed. The
poor fellow declared that he was beaten; it was no use to fight any
more; he begged me to hurry the inevitable and send a bullet through
his brain. The prospect of another visitation of Death aroused me
from my stupor. I got him to a dry spot and found some dry leaves and
branches with which I started a fire. Jerome was beyond recognising
me. He lay by the fire, drawing long, wheezing breaths, and his face
was horribly distorted, like that of a man in a violent fit. He
babbled incessantly to himself and occasionally stared at me and
broke out into shrill, dreadful laughter, that made my flesh creep.

All this overwhelmed me and sapped the little energy I had left. I
threw myself on the ground some little distance from the fire, not
caring if I ever rose again.

How long it was before a penetrating, weird cry aroused me from this
stupor, I do not know, but when I raised my head I saw that the forest
was growing dark and the fire burning low. I saw too that Jerome was
trying to get on his feet, his eyes bulging from their sockets, his
face crimson in colour. He was on one knee, when the thread of life
snapped, and he fell headlong into the fire. I saw this as through
a hazy veil and almost instantly my senses left me again.

I have no clear knowledge of what happened after this. Throughout the
rest of the night, my madness mercifully left me insensible to the
full appreciation of the situation and my future prospects. It was
night again before I was able to arouse myself from my collapse. The
fire was out, the forest dark and still, except for the weird cry of
the owl, the uncanny "Mother of the Moon." Poor Jerome lay quiet among
the embers. I did not have the courage, even if I had had the strength,
to pull the body away, for there could be nothing left of his face
by now. I looked at him once more, shuddering, and because I could
not walk, I crept on all fours through the brush, without any object
in mind,--just kept moving--just crept on like a sick, worthless dog.

One definite incident of the night I remember quite distinctly. It
occurred during one of those moments when my senses returned for a
while; when I could realise where I was and how I got there. I was
crawling through the thicket making small, miserable progress, my
insensible face and hands torn and scratched by spines and thorns
which I did not heed, when something bumped against my thigh; I
clutched at it and my hand closed around the butt of my automatic
pistol. The weapon came out of its holster unconsciously, but as I felt
my finger rest in the curve of the trigger, I knew that some numbed
and exhausted corner of my brain had prompted me to do this thing;
indeed, as I weighed the matter with what coolness I could bring to
bear, it did not seem particularly wicked. With the pistol in my hand
and with the safety released, I believed that the rest would have been
easy and even pleasant. What did I have in my favour? What prospect
did I have of escaping the jungle? None whatever--none!

There was no shadow of hope for me, and I had long ago given up
believing in miracles. For eight days I had scarcely had a mouthful to
eat, excepting the broiled monkey at _tambo_ No. 7, shot by the young
Indian. The fever had me completely in its grasp. I was left alone
more than one hundred miles from human beings in absolute wilderness. I
measured cynically the tenaciousness of life, measured the thread that
yet held me among the number of the living, and I realised now what the
fight between life and death meant to a man brought to bay. I had not
the slightest doubt in my mind that this was the last of me. Surely,
no man could have been brought lower or to greater extremity and live;
no man ever faced a more hopeless proposition. Yet I could or would
not yield, but put the pistol back where it belonged.

All night long I crawled on and on and ever on, through the underbrush,
with no sense of direction whatever, and still I am sure that I did
not crawl in a circle but that I covered a considerable distance. For
hours I moved along at the absolute mercy of any beast of the forest
that might meet me.

The damp chill of the approaching morning usual in these regions came
to me with a cooling touch and restored once more to some extent my
sanity. My clothes were almost stripped from my body, and smeared with
mud, my hands and face were torn and my knees were a mass of bruises.



CHAPTER IX

AMONG THE CANNIBAL MANGEROMAS


I have a vague recollection of hearing the barking of dogs, of
changing my crawling direction to head for the sound, and then,
suddenly, seeing in front of me a sight which had the same effect as
a rescuing steamer on the shipwrecked.

To my confused vision it seemed that I saw many men and women and
children, and a large, round house; I saw parrots fly across the
open space in brilliant, flashing plumage and heard their shrill
screaming. I cried aloud and fell forward when a little curly-haired
dog jumped up and commenced licking my face, and then I knew no more.

When I came to I was lying in a comfortable hammock in a large, dark
room. I heard the murmur of many voices and presently a man came over
and looked at me. I did not understand where I was, but thought that
I, finally, had gone mad. I fell asleep again. The next time I woke
up I saw an old woman leaning over me and holding in her hand a gourd
containing some chicken-broth which I swallowed slowly, not feeling
the cravings of hunger, in fact not knowing whether I was dead or
alive. The old woman had a peculiar piece of wood through her lip
and looked very unreal to me, and I soon fell asleep again.

On the fifth day, so I learned later, I began to feel my senses
return, my fever commenced to abate, and I was able to grasp the
fact that I had crawled into the _maloca_, or communal village,
of the Mangeromas. I was as weak as a kitten, and, indeed, it has
been a marvel to me ever since that I succeeded at all in coming
out of the Shadow. The savages, by tender care, with strengthening
drinks prepared in their own primitive method, wrought the miracle,
and returned to life a man who was as near death as any one could be,
and not complete the transition. They fed me at regular intervals,
thus checking my sickness, and when I could make out their meaning,
I understood that I could stay with them as long as I desired.

Luckily I had kept my spectacles on my nose (they were the kind that
fasten back of the ears) during the previous hardships, and I found
these sticking in their position when I awoke. My khaki coat was on the
ground under my hammock, and the first thing was to ascertain if the
precious contents of its large pockets had been disturbed, but I found
everything safe. The exposed plates were there in their closed boxes,
the gold dust was also there and mocked me with its yellow glare,
and my hypodermic outfit was intact and was used without delay, much
to the astonishment of some of the men, standing around my hammock.

When my head was clear and strong enough to raise, I turned and began
my first visual exploration of my immediate surroundings. The big room
I found to be a colossal house, forty feet high and one hundred and
fifty feet in diameter, thatched with palm-leaves and with sides formed
of the stems of the _pachiuba_ tree. It was the communal residence of
this entire tribe, consisting, as I learned later, of two hundred and
fifty-eight souls. A single door and a circular opening in the roof
were the only apertures of this enormous structure. The door was very
low, not more than four feet, so that it was necessary to creep on
one's knees to enter the place, and this opening was closed at night,
that is to say, about six o'clock, by a sliding door which fitted so
snugly that I never noticed any mosquitoes or _piums_ in the dark,
cool room.

The next day I could get out of my hammock, though I could not
stand or walk without the aid of two women, who took me over to a
man I later found to be the chief of the tribe. He was well-fed,
and by his elaborate dress was distinguished from the rest of the
men. He had a very pleasant, good-natured smile, and almost constantly
displayed a row of white, sharp-filed teeth. This smile gave me some
confidence, but I very well knew that I was now living among cannibal
Indians, whose reputation in this part of the Amazon is anything but
flattering. I prepared for the new ordeal without any special fear--my
feelings seemed by this time to have been pretty well exhausted and
any appreciation of actual danger was considerably reduced as a result
of the gamut of the terrors which I had run.

I addressed the Chief in the Portuguese language, which I had learned
during my stay at Floresta headquarters, and also in Spanish but he
only shook his head; all my efforts were useless. He let me know
in a friendly manner that my hammock was to be my resting-place
and that I would not be molested. His tribe was one that occupied
an almost unknown region and had no connection with white men or
Brazilians or people near the river. I tried in the course of the
mimical conversation to make him understand that, with six companions
from a big Chief's _maloca_ (meaning Coronel da Silva and the Floresta
headquarters), I had penetrated into the woods near this mighty Chief's
_maloca_,--here I pointed at the Chief--that the men had died from
fever and I was left alone and that luckily, I had found my way to
the free men of the forest (here I made a sweeping movement with my
hands). He nodded and the audience was over. I was led back to my
hammock to dream and eat, and dream again.

Although the Chief and his men presented an appearance wholly unknown
to me, yet it did not seem to distract me at the first glance, but
as my faculties slowly returned to their former activity, I looked
at them and found them very strange figures, indeed. Every man had
two feathers inserted in the cartilage of his nose; at some distance
it appeared as if they wore moustaches. Besides this, the Chief had
a sort of feather-dress reaching half way down to his knees; this
was simply a quantity of _mutum_ feathers tied together as a girdle
by means of plant-fibres. The women wore no clothing whatever, their
only ornamentation being the oval wooden piece in the lower lip and
fancifully arranged designs on face, arms, and body. The colours which
they preferred were scarlet and black, and they procured these dyes
from two plants that grew in the forest near by. They would squeeze
the pulp of the fruits and apply the rich-coloured juice with their
fingers, forming one scarlet ring around each eye, outside of this a
black and larger ring, and, finally, two scarlet bands reaching from
the temples to the chin.

There were probably sixty-five families in this communal hut,
all having their little households scattered throughout the place
without any separating partitions whatever. The many poles which
supported the roof formed the only way of distinguishing the individual
households. The men strung their hammocks between the poles in such a
way that they formed a triangle, and in the middle of this a fire was
always going. Here the women were doing the cooking of game that the
men brought in at all times of the day. The men slept in the hammocks,
while the women were treated less cavalierly; they slept with their
children on the ground under the hammocks around the little family
triangle. As a rule they had woven mats made of grass-fibre and
coloured with the juices of the _urucu_ plant and the _genipapa_,
but in many instances they had skins of jaguars, and, which was more
frequent, the furs of the three-toed sloths. These were placed around
the family fire, directly under the hammocks occupied by the men. In
these hammocks the men did most of the repair work on their bows and
arrows when necessary, here they fitted the arrow heads to the shafts,
in fact, they spent all their time in them when not actually hunting
in the forests.

The hospitality of my friends proved unbounded. The Chief appointed
two young girls to care for me, and though they were not startling
from any point of view, especially when remembering their labial
ornaments and their early developed abdominal hypertrophies, they were
as kind as any one could have been, watching me when I tried to walk
and supporting me when I became too weak. There was a certain broth
they prepared, which was delicious, but there were others which were
nauseating and which I had to force myself to eat. I soon learned
that it was impolite to refuse any dish that was put in front of me,
no matter how repugnant. One day the Chief ordered me to come over to
his family triangle and have dinner with him. The meal consisted of
some very tender fried fish which were really delicious; then followed
three broiled parrots with fried bananas which were equally good;
but then came a soup which I could not swallow. The first mouthful
almost choked me,--the meat which was one of the ingredients tasted
and smelled as if it had been kept for weeks, the herbs which were
used were so bitter and gave out such a rank odour that my mouth
puckered and the muscles of my throat refused to swallow. The Chief
looked at me and frowned, and then I remembered the forest from which
I had lately arrived and the starvation and the terrors; I closed my
eyes and swallowed the dish, seeking what mental relief I could find
in the so-called auto-suggestion.

But I had the greatest respect for the impulsive, unreasoning nature
of these sons of the forest. Easily insulted, they are well-nigh
implacable. This incident shows upon what a slender thread my life
hung. The friends of one moment might become vindictive foes of
the next.

Besides the head-Chief there were two sub-Chiefs, so that in case of
sickness or death there would be always one regent. They were plainly
distinguished by their dress, which consisted mainly of fancifully
arranged feather belts of _arara_, _mutum_, and trumpeter plumes
covering the shoulders and abdomen. These articles of dress were made
by young women of the tribe: women who wanted to become favourites of
the Chief and sub-Chiefs. They often worked for months on a feather
dress and when finished presented it to the particular Chief whose
favour they desired.

The Chiefs had several wives, but the tribesmen were never allowed to
take more than one. Whenever a particularly pretty girl desired to
join the household of the Great Chief or of a sub-Chief, she set to
work and for months and months she made necklaces of alligator teeth,
peccary teeth, and finely carved ivory nuts and coloured pieces of
wood. She also would weave some elaborate hammock and fringe this
with the bushy tails of the squirrels and the forest-cats, and when
these articles were done, she would present them to the Chief, who,
in return for these favours, would bestow upon her the great honour
of accepting her as a wife.

There seemed to be few maladies among these people; in fact, during
the five weeks I spent with them, I never saw a case of fever nor of
anything else. When a person died the body was carried far into the
woods, where a fire was built, and it was cremated. The party would
then leave in a hurry and never return to the same spot; they were
afraid of the Spirit of the Dead. They told me that they could hear
the Spirit far off in the forests at night when the moon was shining.

The men were good hunters and were experts in the use of bow and arrow
and also the blow-gun, and never failed to bring home a fresh supply
of game for the village. This supply was always divided equally,
so that no one should receive more than he needed for the day. At
first glance the men might appear lazy, but why should they hurry
and worry when they have no landlord, and no grocer's bills to pay;
in fact, the value of money is entirely unknown to them.

I was allowed to walk around as I pleased, everybody showing me a
kindness for which I shall ever gratefully remember these "savages." I
frequently spent my forenoons on a tree trunk outside the _maloca_
with the Chief, who took a particular interest in my welfare. We
would sit for hours and talk, he sometimes pointing at an object
and giving its Indian name, which I would repeat until I got the
right pronunciation. Thus, gradually instructed, and by watching
the men and women as they came and went, day after day, I was able
to understand some of their language and learned to answer questions
fairly well. They never laughed at my mistakes, but repeated a word
until I had it right.

The word of the Chief was law and no one dared appeal from the
decisions of this man. In fact, there would have been nobody to appeal
to, for the natives believed him vested with mysterious power which
made him the ruler of men. I once had occasion to see him use the
power which had been given him.

I had accompanied two young Indians, one of whom was the man we had
met in the forest on our return trip not far from that fatal _tambo_
No. 3. His name, at least as it sounded to me, was Reré. They carried
bows and arrows and I my automatic pistol, although I had no great
intention of using it. What little ammunition I had left I desired to
keep for an emergency and, besides, I reasoned that I might, at some
future time, be able to use the power and noise of the weapon to good
advantage if I kept the Indians ignorant of them for the present.

We had scarcely gone a mile, when we discovered on the opposite
side of a creek, about one hundred and fifty yards away, a wild hog
rooting for food. We were on a slight elevation ourselves and under
cover of the brush, while the hog was exposed to view on the next
knoll. Almost simultaneously my companions fitted arrows to their
bow-strings. Instead of shooting point blank, manipulating the bows
with their hands and arms, they placed their great and second toes
on the cords on the ground, and with their left arms gave the proper
tension and inclination to the bows which were at least eight feet
long. With a whirr the poisoned arrows shot forth and, while the
cords still twanged, sailed gracefully through the air, describing
a hyperbola, fell with a speed that made them almost invisible, and
plunged into the animal on each side of his neck a little back from
the base of the brain.

The hog dropped in his tracks, and I doubt if he could have lived
even though the arrows had not been poisoned. Tying his feet together
with plant-fibres we slung the body over a heavy pole and carried it
to the _maloca_. All the way the two fellows disputed as to who was
the owner of the hog, and from time to time they put the carcass on
the ground to gesticulate and argue. I thought they would come to
blows. When they appealed to me I declared that the arrows had sped
so rapidly that my eyes could not follow them and therefore could
not tell which arrow had found its mark first.

A few yards from the house my friends fell to arguing again, and a
crowd collected about them, cheering first the one then the other. My
suggestion that the game be divided was rejected as showing very
poor judgment. Finally, the dispute grew to such proportions that the
Chief sent a messenger to learn the cause of the trouble and report
it to him.

The emissary retired and the crowd immediately began to disperse and
the combatants quieted. The messenger soon returned saying that the
Great Chief would judge the case and ordered the men to enter the
_maloca_. With some difficulty the hog was dragged through the door
opening and all the inhabitants crawled in after. The Chief was decked
out in a new and splendid feather dress, his face had received a fresh
coat of paint (in fact, the shells of the _urucu_ plant with which he
coloured his face and body scarlet were still lying under his hammock),
and his nose was supplied with a new set of _mutum_ feathers. He was
sitting in his hammock which was made of fine, braided, multi-coloured
grass-fibres and was fringed with numerous squirrel tails. The whole
picture was one which impressed me as being weirdly fantastic and
extremely picturesque, the reddish, flickering light from the fires
adding a mystic colour to the scene. On the opposite side of the fire
from where the Chief was sitting lay the body of the hog, and at each
end of the carcass stood the two hunters, straight as saplings, gazing
stolidly ahead. In a semi-circle, facing the Chief and surrounding the
disputants, was the tribe, squatting on the ground. The Chief motioned
to me to seat myself on the ground alongside of the hammock where he
was sitting. The men told their story, now and then looking to me for
an affirmative nod of the head. After having listened to the argument
of the hunters for a considerable time without uttering a syllable, and
regarding the crowd with a steady, unblinking expression, with a trace
of a satirical smile around the corners of his mouth, which suited him
admirably, the Chief finally spoke. He said, "The hog is mine.--Go!"

The matter was ended with this wise judgment, and there seemed to be
no disposition to grumble or re-appeal to the great authority.

My life among the Mangeromas was, for the greater part, free from
adventure, at least as compared with former experiences, and yet I was
more than once within an inch of meeting death. In fact, I think that
I looked more squarely in the eyes of death in that peaceful little
community than ever I did out in the wilds of the jungle or in my most
perilous adventures. The creek that ran near the _maloca_ supplied
the Indians with what water they needed for drinking purposes. Besides
this the creek gave them an abundant supply of fish, a dish that made
its appearance at every meal. Whatever washing was to be done--the
natives took a bath at least twice a day--was done at some distance
down the creek so as not to spoil the water for drinking and culinary
purposes. Whenever I was thirsty I was in the habit of stooping down
at the water's edge to scoop the fluid up in my curved hands. One
morning I had been tramping through the jungle with two companions
who were in search of game, and I was very tired and hot when we
came to a little stream which I took to be the same that ran past the
_maloca_. My friends were at a short distance from me, beating their
way through the underbrush, when I stooped to quench my thirst. The
cool water looked to me like the very Elixir of Life. At that moment,
literally speaking, I was only two inches from death. Hearing a sharp
cry behind me I turned slightly to feel a rough hand upon my shoulders
and found myself flung backwards on the ground.

"Poison," was the reply to my angry question. Then my friend explained,
and as he talked my knees wobbled and I turned pale. It seems that
the Mangeromas often poison the streams below the drinking places
in order to get rid of their enemies. In the present case there
had been a rumour that a party of Peruvian rubber-workers might be
coming up the creek, and this is always a signal of trouble among
these Indians. Although you cannot induce a Brazilian to go into the
Indian settlements or _malocas_, the Peruvians are more than willing
to go there, because of the chance of abducting girls. To accomplish
this, a few Peruvians sneak close to the _maloca_ at night, force the
door, which is always bolted to keep out the Evil Spirit, but which
without difficulty can be cut open, and fire a volley of shots into
the hut. The Indians sleep with the blow-guns and arrows suspended
from the rafters, and before they can collect their sleepy senses
and procure the weapons the Peruvians, in the general confusion,
have carried off some of the girls. The Mangeromas, therefore, hate
the Peruvians and will go to any extreme to compass their death. The
poisoning of the rivers is effected by the root of a plant that is
found throughout the Amazon valley; the plant belongs to the genus
_Lonchocarpus_ and bears a small cluster of bluish blossoms which
produce a pod about two inches in length. It is only the yellow roots
that are used for poisoning the water. This is done by crushing the
roots and throwing the pulp into the stream, when all animal life
will be killed or driven away.

It seems strange that during my stay among the Mangeromas, who were
heathens and even cannibals, I saw no signs of idolatry. They believed
implicitly in a good and an evil spirit. The good spirit was too good
to do them any harm and consequently they did not bother with him;
but the evil spirit was more active and could be heard in the dark
nights, howling and wailing far off in the forest as he searched for
lonely wanderers, whom he was said to devour.

Thinking to amuse some of my friends, I one day kindled a flame by
means of my magnifying glass and a few dry twigs. A group of ten or
twelve Indians had gathered squatting in a circle about me, to see
the wonder that I was to exhibit, but at the sight of smoke followed
by flame they were badly scared and ran for the house, where they
called the Chief. He arrived on the scene with his usual smile.

He asked me to show him what I had done. I applied the focussed rays
of the sun to some more dry leaves and twigs and, finally, the flames
broke out again. The Chief was delighted and begged me to make him a
present of the magnifier. As I did not dare to refuse, I showed him
how to use it and then presented it with as good grace as I could.

Some time after this, I learned that two Peruvians had been caught
in a trap set for the purpose. The unfortunate men had spent a whole
night in a pit, nine feet deep, and were discovered the next forenoon
by a party of hunters, who immediately killed them with unpoisoned,
big-game arrows. In contrast to the North-American Indians they never
torture captives, but kill them as quickly as possible.

I had plenty of opportunity to investigate the different kinds
of traps used by the Mangeromas for catching Peruvian _caboclos_
or half-breeds. First of all in importance is the pit-trap, into
which the aforesaid men had fallen. It is simple but ingenious in its
arrangement. A hole about nine feet deep and eight feet wide is dug
in the ground at a place where the _caboclos_ are liable to come. A
cover is laid across this and cleverly disguised with dead leaves and
branches so as to exactly resemble the surrounding soil. This cover
is constructed of branches placed parallel, and is slightly smaller
than the diameter of the pit. It is balanced on a stick, tied across
the middle in such a manner that the slightest weight on any part will
cause it to turn over and precipitate the object into the pit whence
egress is impossible. Besides this, the walls of the pit are inclined,
the widest part being at the bottom, and they gradually slope inward
till the level of the ground is reached. When the victim is discovered
he is quickly killed, as in the case noted above.

The second trap, which I had an opportunity to investigate, is the
so-called _araya_ trap. It is merely a small piece of ground thickly
set with the barbed bones of the sting-ray. These bones are slightly
touched with wourahli poison and, concealed as they are under dead
leaves, they inflict severe wounds on the bare feet of the _caboclos_,
and death follows within a short period.

The third trap, and the most ingenious of all, is the blow-gun
trap. One day the sub-Chief, a tall, gloomy-looking fellow, took me
to one of these traps and explained everything, till I had obtained
a thorough knowledge of the complicated apparatus. The blow-gun of
these Indians is supplied with a wide mouth-piece and requires but
slight air pressure to shoot the arrow at a considerable speed. In
the trap one is placed horizontally so as to point at a right angle
to the path leading to the _maloca_. At the "breech" of the gun is a
young sapling, severed five feet above the ground. To this is tied a
broad and straight bark-strip which, when the sapling is in its normal
vertical position, completely covers the mouth-piece. The gun was
not loaded on this occasion, as it had been accidentally discharged
the day before. To set the trap, a long, thin, and pliable climber,
which in these forests is so plentiful, is attached to the end of
the severed sapling, when this is bent to its extreme position
and is then led over branches, serving as pulleys, right across
the path and directly in front of the mouth of the blow-gun and
is tied to some small root covered with leaves. When the _caboclo_
passes along this path at night to raid the Indian _maloca,_ he must
sever this thin bushrope or climber, thereby releasing suddenly the
tension of the sapling. The bark-flap is drawn quickly up against
the mouth-piece with a slap that forces sufficient air into the gun
to eject the arrow. All this takes place in a fraction of a second;
a slight flapping sound is heard and the arrow lodges in the skin of
the unfortunate _caboclo_. He can never walk more than twenty yards,
for the poison rapidly paralyses his limbs. Death follows in less
than ten minutes.

The bodies of these captured _caboclos_ are soon found by the
"police warriors" of the tribe and carried to the _maloca_. On such
occasions a day of feasting always follows and an obscure religious
rite is performed.

It is true that the Mangeromas are cannibals, but at the same time
their habits and morals are otherwise remarkably clean. Without their
good care and excellent treatment, I have no doubt I would now be
with my brave companions out in that dark, green jungle.

But to return to my story of the two Peruvians caught in the pit-trap:
the warriors cut off the hands and feet of both corpses, pulled
the big game arrows out of the bodies, and had an audience with the
Chief. He seemed to be well satisfied, but spoke little, just nodding
his head and smiling. Shortly after the village prepared for a grand
feast. The fires were rebuilt, the pots and jars were cleaned, and a
scene followed which to me was frightful. Had it not happened, I should
always have believed this little world out in the wild forest an ideal,
pure, and morally clean  community. But now I could only hasten to my
hammock and simulate sleep, for I well knew, from previous experience,
that otherwise I would have to partake of the meal in preparation: a
horrible meal of human flesh! It was enough for me to see them strip
the flesh from the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet and
fry these delicacies in the lard of tapir I hoped to see no more.

An awful thought coursed through my brain when I beheld the men bend
eagerly over the pans to see if the meat were done. How long would it
be, I said to myself, before they would forget themselves and place
my own extremities in the same pots and pans. Such a possibility
was not pleasant to contemplate, but as I had found the word of
these Indians to be always good, I believed I was safe. They were
never false and they hated falsehood. True, they were cunning, but
once their friend always their friend, through thick and thin. And
the Chief had promised that I should not be eaten, either fried or
stewed! Therefore I slept in peace.

I had long desired to see the hunters prepare the mysterious wourahli
poison, which acts so quickly and painlessly, and which allows the
game killed by it to be eaten without interfering with the nutritive
qualities. Only three men in this village understood the proper mixing
of the ingredients, although everybody knew the two plants from which
the poisonous juices were obtained. One of these is a vine that grows
close to the creeks. The stem is about two inches in diameter and
covered with a rough greyish bark. It yields several round fruits,
shaped like an apple, containing seeds imbedded in a very bitter
pulp. The other is also a vine and bears small bluish flowers, but it
is only the roots of this that are used. These are crushed and steeped
in water for several days. The three men in our village who understood
the concoction of this poison collected the plants themselves once
a month. When they returned from their expedition they set to work
at once scraping the first named vine into fine shavings and mixing
these in an earthen jar with the crushed pulp of the roots of the
second plant. The pot is then placed over a fire and kept simmering
for several hours. At this stage the shavings are removed and thrown
away as useless and several large black ants, the _Tucandeiras_, are
added. This is the ant whose bite is not only painful but absolutely
dangerous to man. The concoction is kept boiling slowly until the
next morning, when it has assumed a thick consistency of a brown
colour and very bitter to the taste. The poison is then tried on some
arrows and if it comes up to the standard it is placed in a small
earthen jar which is covered with a piece of animal skin and it is
ready for use. The arrows, which are from ten to twelve inches long,
are made from the stalks of a certain palm-leaf, the Jacy palm. They
are absolutely straight and true; in fact, they resemble very much
a lady's hat-pin. When the gun is to be used, a piece of cotton is
wound around the end of an arrow and the other end or point inserted
first in the barrel, the cotton acting as a piston by means of which
the air forces the shaft through the tube.

The men always carry a small rubber-pouch containing a few drams of
the poison; the pouch was worn strapped to the waist on the left side,
when on their hunting excursions, and they were extremely careful
in handling it and the arrows. The slightest scratch with the poison
would cause a quick and sure death.

I was so far recuperated by this time that I thought of returning to
civilisation, and I, accordingly, broached the subject to the Chief,
who answered me very kindly, promising that he would send me by the
next full-moon, with some of the wourahli men, down to the Branco
River, and from there they would guide me within a safe distance of
the rubber-estate, situated at the junction with the Itecoahy.

One day I was informed that a friendly call on a neighbouring tribe was
being contemplated and that I could accompany the Chief and his men.

At last the time arrived and the expedition was organised. I was not
absolutely sure how I would be treated by these up-stream Indians,
and I am almost ashamed to confess that, in spite of all the faithful,
unswerving friendship which the Mangeromas had shown me, I had it in
my mind that these other Indians might harm me, so black was the name
that people down at the settlements had given them.

Until this time, as related above, I had thought best not to exhibit
the character of my automatic pistol, and I had never used it here,
but before I started on this journey I decided to give them an
example of its power, and possibly awe them. Inviting the Chief and
all the tribe to witness my experiment, I explained to them that
this little weapon would make a great noise and bore a hole through
a thick tree. The Chief examined it gingerly after I had locked the
trigger mechanism. He had heard of such arms, he said, but thought
that they were much larger and heavier. This one, he thought, must
be a baby and he was inclined to doubt its power.

Selecting an "assai" palm of about nine inches diameter, across the
creek, I took steady aim and fired four bullets. Three of the bullets
went through the same hole and the fourth pierced the trunk of the
palm about two inches higher. The Chief and his men hurried across the
creek and examined the holes which caused then to discuss the affair
for more than an hour. The empty shells which had been ejected from the
magazine were picked up by two young girls who fastened them in their
ears with wire-like fibres, whereupon a dozen other women surrounded
me, beseeching me to give them also cartridge-shells. I discharged
more than a dozen bullets, to please these children of the forest,
who were as completely the slaves of fashion as are their sisters of
more civilised lands.

Early the next morning we started up the river. In one canoe the
Chief and I sat on jaguar skins, while two men paddled. In another
canoe were four men armed with bows and arrows and blow-guns, and a
fifth who acted in the capacity of "Wireless Operator." The system
of signalling which he employed was by far the most ingenious device
I saw while in Brazil, and considering their resources and their low
state of culture the affair was little short of marvellous.

Before the canoes were launched, a man fastened two upright forked
sticks on each side of one, near the middle. About three and a
half feet astern of these a cross-piece was laid on the bottom of
the craft. To this was attached two shorter forked sticks. Between
each pair of upright forked sticks was placed another cross-piece,
thus forming two horizontal bars, parallel to each other, one only
a few inches from the bottom of the boat and the other about a foot
and a half above the gunwales. Next, four slabs of Caripari wood of
varying thickness, about three feet long and eight inches wide, were
suspended from these horizontal bars, so as to hang length-wise of
the canoe and at an angle of forty-five degrees. Each pair of slabs
was perforated by a longitudinal slit and they were joined firmly at
their extremities by finely carved and richly painted end-pieces.

The operator strikes the slabs with a wooden mallet or hammer, the
head of which is wrapped with an inch layer of caoutchouc and then
with a cover of thick tapir-skin. Each section of the wooden slabs
gives forth a different note when struck, a penetrating, xylophonic,
tone but devoid of the disagreeably metallic, disharmonic bysounds of
that instrument. The slabs of wood were suspended by means of thin
fibre-cords from the crosspieces, and in this manner all absorption
by the adjacent material was done away with.

By means of many different combinations of the four notes obtained
which, as far as I could ascertain, were _Do--Re--Mi--Fa_, the
operator was able to send any message to a person who understood
this code. The operator seized one mallet with each hand and gave
the thickest section, the _Do_ slat, a blow, followed by a blow with
the left hand mallet on the _Re_ slat; a blow on the _Mi_ slat and on
the _Fa_ slat followed in quick succession. These four notes, given
rapidly and repeated several times, represented the tuning up of the
"wireless," calculated to catch the attention of the operator at the
_maloca_ up-creek. The sound was very powerful, but rather pleasant,
and made the still forest resound with a musical echo. He repeated this
tuning process several times, but received no answer and we proceeded
for a mile. Then we stopped and signalled again. Very faintly came
a reply from some invisible source. I learned afterwards that at
this time we were at least five miles from the answering station. As
soon as communication was thus established the first message was sent
through the air, and it was a moment of extreme suspense for me when
the powerful notes vibrated through the depth of the forest. I shall
never forget this message, not only because it was ethnographically
interesting, but because so much of my happiness depended upon
a favourable reply. I made the operator repeat it for my benefit
when we later returned to our village, and I learned it by heart by
whistling it. When printed it looks like this:

After each message the operator explained its meaning. The purport
of this first message was so important to me that I awaited the
translation with much the same feelings that a prisoner listens for
the verdict of the jury when it files back into the court-room.

Questions and answers now came in rapid succession. "A white man
is coming with us; he seems to have a good heart, and to be of good
character."

Whereupon the deciding answer was translated: "You are all welcome
provided you place your arms in the bottom of the canoe."

Next message: "We ask you to place your arms in the _maloca_; we
are friends."

After the last message we paddled briskly ahead, and at the end of
one hour's work we made a turn of the creek and saw a large open
space where probably five hundred Indians had assembled outside of
two round _malocas_, constructed like ours. How much I now regretted
leaving my precious camera out in the forest, but that was a thing of
the past and the loss could not be repaired. The view that presented
itself to my eyes was a splendid and rare one for a civilised man
to see. The crowd standing on the banks had never seen a white man
before; how would they greet me?

Little dogs barked, large scarlet _araras_ screamed in the tree-tops,
and the little children hid themselves behind their equally fearful
mothers. The tribal Chief, a big fellow, decorated with squirrel tails
and feathers of the _mutum_ bird around, his waist and with the tail
feathers of the scarlet and blue _arara_-parrot adorning his handsome
head, stood in front with his arms folded.

We landed and the operator dismantled his musical apparatus and laid
it carefully in the bottom of the canoe. The two Chiefs embraced each
other, at the same time uttering their welcome greeting "_He--He_." I
was greeted in the same cordial manner and we all entered the Chief's
_maloca_ in a long procession. Here in the village of the kindred
tribe we stayed for two days, enjoying unlimited hospitality and
kindness. Most of the time was spent eating, walking around the
_malocas_, looking at dugouts, and at the farinha plants.

On the third day we went back to our _maloca_ where I prepared for
my return trip to civilisation. It was now the beginning of October.

I would, finally, have recorded many words of the Mangeroma language
had not my pencil given out after I had been there a month. The
pencil was an "ink-pencil," that is, a pencil with a solid "lead" of
bluish colour, very soft, sometimes called "indelible pencil." This
lead became brittle from the moisture of the air and broke into
fragments so that I could do nothing with it, and my recording was
at an end. Fortunately I had made memoranda covering the life and
customs before this.



CHAPTER X

THE FIGHT BETWEEN THE MANGEROMAS AND THE PERUVIANS


I was sitting outside the _maloca_ writing my observations in the
note-book which I always carried in my hunting-coat, when two young
hunters hurried toward the Chief, who was reclining in the shade of
a banana-tree near the other end of the large house. It was early
afternoon, when most of the men of the Mangeromas were off hunting in
the near-by forests, while the women and children attended to various
duties around the village. Probably not more than eight or ten men
remained about the _maloca_.

I had recovered from my sickness and was not entirely devoid of
a desire for excitement--the best tonic of the explorer. The two
young hunters with bows and arrows halted before the Chief. They
were gesticulating wildly; and although I could not understand what
they were talking about, I judged from the frown of the Chief that
something serious was the matter.

He arose with unusual agility for a man of his size, and shouted
something toward the opening of the _maloca_, whence the men were
soon seen coming with leaps and bounds. Anticipating trouble, I
also ran over to the Chief, and, in my defective Mangeroma lingo,
inquired the cause of the excitement. He did not answer me, but,
in a greater state of agitation than I had previously observed in
him, he gave orders to his men. He called the "wireless" operator
and commanded him to bring out his precious apparatus. This was soon
fastened to the gunwales of the canoe where I had seen it used before,
on my trip to the neighbouring tribe, and soon the same powerful,
xylophonic sounds vibrated through the forest. It was his intention
to summon the hunters that were still roaming around the vicinity, by
this "C.Q.D." message. The message I could not interpret nor repeat,
although it was not nearly as complex as the one I had learned
before. After a while, the men came streaming into the _maloca_
from all directions, with anxiety darkening their faces. I had now my
first inkling of what was the cause of the commotion, and it did not
take me long to understand that we were in danger from some Peruvian
_caboclos_. The two young men who had brought the news to the Chief
had spied a detachment of Peruvian half-breeds as they were camping
in our old _tambo_ No. 6, the one we had built on our sixth day out
from Floresta. There were about a score of them, all ugly _caboclos_,
or half-breed _caucheros_, hunting rubber and no doubt out also for
prey in the shape of young Mangeroma girls, as was their custom. The
traps set by the Indians, as described in a previous chapter, would
be of no avail in this case, as the number of Peruvians was greater
than in any previous experience.

The enemy had been observed more than ten miles off, in an easterly
direction, when our two hunters were on the trail of a large
herd of peccaries, or wild boars, they had sighted in the early
morning. The Peruvians were believed to be heading for the _maloca_
of the Mangeromas, as there were no other settlements in this region
excepting the up-creek tribe, but this numbered at least five hundred
souls, and would be no easy prey for them.

I now had a remarkable opportunity to watch the war preparations
of these savage, cannibal people, my friends, the Mangeromas. Their
army consisted of twelve able-bodied men, all fine muscular fellows,
about five feet ten in height, and bearing an array of vicious-looking
weapons such as few white men have seen. First of all were three
club-men, armed with strong, slender clubs, of hard and extremely
tough Caripari wood. The handle, which was very slim, was provided
with a knob at the end to prevent the club from slipping out of the
hand when in action. The heavy end was furnished with six bicuspid
teeth of the black jaguar, embedded in the wood and projecting about
two inches beyond the surface. The club had a total length of five
feet and weighed about eight pounds. The second division of the
wild-looking band consisted of three spear-men, each provided with
the three-pronged spears, a horrible weapon which always proves fatal
in the hands of these savages. It is a long straight shaft of Caripari
wood, about one inch in thickness, divided into three parts at the end,
each division being tipped with a barbed bone of the sting-ray. These
bones, about three and a half inches long, were smeared with wourahli
poison, and thus rendered absolutely fatal even when inflicting only
a superficial wound. Each man carried two of these spears, the points
being protected by grass-sheaths. The third division was composed
of three bow-and-arrow men, the youngest men in the tribe, boys of
sixteen and seventeen. They were armed with bows of great length,
from six to seven feet, and each bore, at his left side, a quiver,
containing a dozen big-game arrows fully five feet long. These arrows,
as far as I could ascertain, were not poisoned, but their shock-giving
and rending powers were extraordinary. The arrow-heads were all made
of the bones of the sting-ray, in themselves formidable weapons,
because of the many jagged barbs that prevent extraction from a wound
except by the use of great force, resulting in ugly laceration.

The fourth and last division consisted of three blow-gun men, the
most effective and cunning of this deadly and imposing array. As so
much depended upon the success of a first attack on the Peruvians,
who not only outnumbered us, but also were armed with Winchesters,
the blow-guns were in the hands of the older and more experienced
men. All, except the club-men, wore, around the waist, girdles fringed
with _mutum_ plumes, and the captains added, to their uniforms
multi-coloured fringes of squirrel tails. Their faces all had the
usual scarlet and black stripes. The Chief, and his principal aide, or
sub-Chief, had on their gayest feathers, including head ornaments of
_arara_ plumes and egrets. The club-men were naked, except for their
head-gear, which consisted simply of a band of _mutum_ plumes. When
the warriors stood together in their costumes, ready for battle,
they presented an awe-inspiring sight.

The Chief gave the order for the bow-and-arrow men to start in single
file, the others to follow after, in close succession. The Chief and I
fell in at the rear. In the meantime I had examined my Luger automatic
pistol to make sure of the smooth action of the mechanism, and found
besides that I had in all thirty-seven soft-nose bullets. This was my
only weapon, but previous narrow escapes from death and many close
contacts with danger had hardened me, so I was willing to depend
entirely upon my pistol. The women and children of the _maloca_ stood
around, as we disappeared in the jungle, and, while they showed some
interest in the proceeding, they displayed little or no emotion. A
couple of sweethearts exchanged kisses as composedly as if they had
been bluecoats parting with the ladies of their choice before going
to the annual parade.

Soon we were in the dark, dense jungle that I was now so well
acquainted with, and, strange to say, the green and tangled mass of
vegetation contained more terrors for me than the bloody combat that
was to follow.

For an hour we travelled in a straight line, pushing our way as
noiselessly as possible through the thick mass of creepers and
lianas. About three o'clock, one of the scouts sighted the Peruvians,
and our Chief decided that an attack should be made as soon as
possible, before darkness could set in. We stopped and sent out two
bow-and-arrow men to reconnoitre. An anxious half hour passed before
one of them returned with the report that the Peruvians were now
coming towards us and would probably reach our position in a few
minutes. I could almost hear my heart thump; my knees grew weak,
and for a moment I almost wished that I had stayed in the _maloca_.

The Chief immediately directed certain strategic movements which,
in ingenuity and foresight, would have been worthy of a Napoleon.

We were between two low hills, covered with the usual dense vegetation,
which made it impossible to see an advancing enemy at a distance of
more than five yards. The three blow-gun men were now ordered to ascend
the hills on each side of the valley and conceal themselves about
half-way up the slopes, and towards the enemy. They were to insert the
poisoned arrows in their guns and draw a bead on the Peruvians as they
came on cutting their way through the underbrush. The bow-and-arrow
men posted themselves farther on about five yards behind the blow-gun
men, with big-game arrows fitted to the bowstrings, ready to shoot
when the first volley of the deadly and silent poisoned arrows had
been fired. Farther back were the spear-men with spears unsheathed,
and finally came the three brave and ferocious club-men. Of these last
warriors, a tall athlete was visibly nervous, not from fear but from
anticipation. The veins of his forehead stood out, pulsating with every
throb of his heart. He clutched the heavy club and continually gritted
his white, sharp-filed teeth in concentrated rage. It was wisely
calculated that the Peruvians would unconsciously wedge themselves
into this trap, and by the time they could realise their danger their
return would be cut off by our bow-and-arrow men in their rear.

After a pause that seemed an eternity to most of us no doubt, for the
savage heart beats as the white man's in time of danger and action,
we heard the talking and shouting of the enemy as they advanced,
following the natural and easiest route between the hills and cutting
their way through the brush. I stood near the Chief and the young
club-man Arara, who, on account of his bravery and great ability in
handling his club, had been detailed to remain near us.

Before I could see any of the approaching foe, I heard great shouts
of anger and pain from them. It was easy for me to understand their
cries as they spoke Spanish and their cursings sounded loud through
the forest.

The blow-gun men, perceiving the Peruvians at the foot of the hill
only some twenty feet away, had prudently waited until at least half a
dozen were visible, before they fired a volley of poisoned arrows. The
three arrows fired in this first volley all hit their mark. Hardly
had they gone forth, when other arrows were dexterously inserted in
the tubes. The work of the blow-gun men was soon restricted to the
picking out of any stray enemy, their long, delicate, and cumbersome
blow-guns preventing them from taking an active part in the mêlée. Now
the conflict was at its height and it was a most remarkable one,
on account of its swiftness and fierceness. The bow-and-arrow men
charging with their sting-ray arrows poisoned with the wourahli took
the place of the cautiously retreating blow-gun men. At the same
instant the spear-men rushed down, dashing through the underbrush at
the foot of the hill, like breakers on a stormy night.

The rear-guard of the Peruvians now came into action, having had
a chance to view the situation. Several of them filed to the right
and managed to fire their large-calibre bullets into the backs of
our charging bow-and-arrow men, but, in their turn, they were picked
off by the blow-gun men, who kept firing their poisoned darts from a
safe distance. The fearful yells of our men, mingled with the cursing
of the Peruvians, and the sharp reports of their heavy rifles, so
plainly heard, proved that the centre of battle was not many yards
from the spot where I was standing.

The club-men now broke into action; they could not be kept back any
longer. The tension had already been too painful for these brave
fellows, and with fierce war-cries of "_Yob--Hee--Hee_" they launched
themselves into the fight, swinging their strong clubs above their
heads and crashing skulls from left to right. By this time the
Peruvians had lost many men, but the slaughter went on. The huge
black clubs of the Mangeromas fell again and again, with sickening
thuds, piercing the heads and brains of the enemy with the pointed
jaguar teeth.

Suddenly two Peruvians came into view not more than twelve feet from
where the Chief, Arara the big club-man, and I were standing. One of
these was a Spaniard, evidently the captain of this band of marauders
(or, to use their correct name, _caucheros_). His face was of a sickly,
yellowish hue, and a big, black moustache hid the lower part of his
cruel and narrow chin. He took a quick aim as he saw us in his path,
but before he could pull the trigger, Arara, with a mighty side-swing
of his club literally tore the Spaniard's head off. Now, at last,
the bonds of restraint were broken for this handsome devil Arara, and
yelling himself hoarse, and with his strong but cruel face contracted
to a fiendish grin, he charged the enemy; I saw him crush the life
out of three.

The Chief took no active part in the fight whatever, but added
to the excitement by bellowing with all his might an encouraging
"_Aa--Oo--Ah_." No doubt, this had a highly beneficial effect upon the
tribesmen, for they never for an instant ceased their furious fighting
until the last Peruvian was killed. During the final moments of the
battle, several bullets whirred by me at close range, but during the
whole affair I had had neither opportunity nor necessity for using
my pistol. Now, however, a _caboclo_, with a large, bloody machete
in his hand, sprang from behind a tree and made straight for me. I
dodged behind another tree and saw how the branches were swept aside
as he rushed towards me.

Then I fired point-blank, sending three bullets into his head. He
fell on his face at my feet. As I bent over him, I saw that he had
a blow-gun arrow in his left thigh; he was therefore a doomed man
before he attacked me. This was my first and only victim, during this
brief but horrible slaughter. As I was already thoroughly sick from
the noise of cracking rifles and the thumping of clubs smashing their
way into the brains of the Peruvians, I rushed toward the centre of
the valley where the first attack on the advance guard of the enemy
had taken place, but even more revolting was the sight that revealed
itself. Here and there bushes were shaking as some _caboclo_ crawled
along on all fours in his death agony. Those who were struck by the
blow-gun arrows seemed simply to fall asleep without much pain or
struggle, but the victims of the club-men and the bow-and-arrow men had
a terrible death. They could not die by the merciful wourahli poison,
like those shot by the blow-gun, but expired from hemorrhages caused
by the injuries of the ruder weapons. One poor fellow was groaning
most pitifully. He had received a well-directed big-game arrow in
the upper part of the abdomen, the arrow having been shot with such
terrible force that about a foot of the shaft projected from the
man's back. The arrow-head had been broken off by striking a vertebra.

The battle was over. Soon the _urubus_, or vultures, were hanging
over the tree-tops waiting for their share of the spoils. The men
assembled in front of the Chief for roll-call. Four of our men were
killed outright by rifle-bullets, and it was typical of these brave men
that none were killed by machete stabs. The entire marauding expedition
of twenty Peruvians was completely wiped out, not a single one escaping
the deadly aim of the Mangeromas. Thus was avoided the danger of being
attacked in the near future by a greater force of Peruvians, called
to this place from the distant frontier by some returning survivor.

It is true that the Mangeromas lay in ambush for their enemy
and killed them, for the greater part, with poisoned arrows and
spears, but the odds were against the Indians, not only because the
_caboclos_ were attacking them in larger numbers, but because they
came with modern, repeating fire-arms against the hand weapons of the
Mangeromas. These marauders, too, came with murder and girl-robbery
in their black hearts, while the Mangeromas were defending their homes
and families. But it is true that after the battle, so bravely fought,
the Indians cut off the hands and feet of their enemies, dead or dying,
and carried them home.

The fight lasted only some twenty minutes, but it was after sunset
when we reached the _maloca_. The women and children received us
with great demonstrations of joy. Soon the pots and pans were boiling
inside the great house. I have previously observed how the Mangeromas
would partake of parts of the human body as a sort of religious rite,
whenever they had been successful with their man-traps; now they
feasted upon the hands and feet of the slain, these parts having been
distributed among the different families.

I crept into my hammock and lit my pipe, watching the great mass of
naked humanity. All the men had laid aside their feather-dresses and
squirrel tails, and were moving around among the many fires on the
floor of the hut. Some were sitting in groups discussing the battle,
while women bent over the pots to examine the ghastly contents. Here,
a woman was engaged in stripping the flesh from the palm of a hand
and the sole of a foot, which operation finished, she threw both
into a large earthen pot to boil; there, another woman was applying
an herb-poultice to her husband's wounds.

Over it all hung a thick, odoriferous smoke, gradually finding its
way out through the central opening in the roof.

This was a feast, indeed, such as few white men, I believe, have
witnessed.

That night and the next day, and the following four days, great
quantities of _chicha_ were drunk and much meat was consumed to
celebrate the great victory, the greatest in the annals of the
Mangeromas of Rio Branco.

Earthen vessels and jars were used in the cooking of food. The red clay
(Tabatinga clay) found abundantly in these regions formed a superior
material for these utensils. They were always decorated symbolically
with juices of the scarlet _urucu_ and the black _genipapa_. Even
when not burned into the clay, these were permanent colours.

Men and women wore their hair long and untrimmed as far as I could
observe. The older and more experienced of the tribesmen would have
quite elaborate head-gear, consisting of a band of _mutum_ plumes,
interspersed with parrot-tail feathers, while the younger hunters wore
nothing but a band of the _mutum_ plumes. The body was uncovered,
save by a narrow strip of bark encircling the waist. A broad piece,
woven of several bark-strips into a sort of mat, protected the lower
anterior part of the abdomen. The women wore no clothing whatever.

Their colour was remarkably light. Probably nothing can designate this
better than the statement that if a Mangeroma were placed alongside
of an Italian, no difference would be noticeable. Their cheek-bones
were not as high as is usual with tribes found on the Amazon; they
seemed to come from a different race. Their eyes were set straight
without any tendency to the Mongolian slanting that characterises
the Peruvian _caboclos_ and the tribes of the northern affluents. The
women had unusually large feet, while those of the men were small and
well-shaped. The general appearance of a young Mangeroma was that of
a well-proportioned athlete, standing about five feet ten in his bare
feet. No moccasins, nor any other protection for the feet, were worn.

The supply of wourahli poison had run low and three wourahli men were
to go out in the forest to collect poison plants, a journey which
would require several days to complete. This occasion was set as the
time of my departure.

It was a rainy morning when I wrapped my few belongings in a leaf,
tied some grass-fibres around them, and inserted them in the large
pocket of my khaki-coat. The box with the gold dust was there, also
the boxes with the exposed photographic plates. Most of the gold had
filtered out of the box, but a neat quantity still remained. One of my
servants--a handsome girl--who, excepting for the labial ornaments,
could have been transformed into an individual of quite a civilised
appearance by opportunity, gave me a beautiful black necklace as
a souvenir. It was composed of several hundred pieces, all carved
out of ebony nuts. It had cost her three weeks of constant work. I
embraced and was embraced by almost everybody in the _maloca_, after
which ceremony we went in procession to the canoe that was to take
me down to the Branco River. The Chief bade me a fond farewell, that
forever shall be implanted in my heart. I had lived here weeks among
these cannibal Indians, had enjoyed their kindness and generosity
without charge; I could give them nothing in return and they asked
nothing. I could have stayed here for the rest of my natural life if I
had so desired, but now I was to say good-bye forever. How wonderful
was this farewell! It was my opportunity for acknowledging that the
savage heart is by no means devoid of the feelings and sentiments
that characterise more elevated, so-called civilised individuals.

For the last time I heard the little dog bark, the same that had licked
my face when I fainted in front of the _maloca_ upon my first arrival;
and the large _arara_ screamed in the tree-tops as I turned once more
towards the world of the white man.

The journey was without incident. The wourahli men set me off near the
mouth of the Branco River, at a distance which I covered in less than
five hours by following the banks. I was greeted by Coronel Maya of
the _Compagnie Transatlantique de Caoutchouc_, who sent me by canoe
down the old Itecoahy, until we reached the Floresta headquarters.

Here I gave Coronel da Silva an account of the death of Chief Marques,
and the brave Jerome, which made a deep impression upon this noble man.

The three men, Magellaes, Anisette, and Freitas, had returned in
safety after they separated from us.

I met the wife of Chief Marques. She was the woman whose arm I had
amputated. When I saw her she was carrying, with the arm left to
her, a pail of water from the little creek behind headquarters. She
was a different woman, and I was pleased to know that my desperate
surgical operation had resulted so well. Her cheeks were full and
almost rosy. Her health, I was told, excepting for occasional attacks
of ague, was very good.

Soon after, the launch arrived from Remate de Males and I put my
baggage on board. The Coronel accompanied me down river for about
forty-eight hours and then, reaching the northern extremity of
his estate, he bade me a fond good-bye with the words: "_Sempre,
illustrissimo Senhor, minha casa e a suas ordenes_," "My house,
most illustrious Sir, is always at your disposal."

When I arrived at Remate de Males I had another attack of malaria,
which almost severed the slender thread by which my life hung; my
physical resistance was gone. But I managed to develop my plates
before breaking down completely, and after having disposed of my
small quantity of gold dust, for which I realised some three hundred
and forty dollars, I was taken down to the mouth of the Javary River,
where I had landed almost a year previous, now a physical and, I might
almost say, mental wreck. I stayed in the house of Coronel Monteiro,
the frontier official at Esperança, for five long days, fighting with
death, until one afternoon I saw the white hull of the R.M.S. _Napo_
appear at a bend of the Amazon, only five hundred yards away.

Closer she came--this rescuing instrument of Providence. She was none
too soon, for I had now reached the last notch of human endurance. She
dropped anchor; a small gasoline launch was lowered into the water;
three white-coated officers stepped into it--they came ashore--they
climbed the stairs. The captain, a stout, kind-looking Englishman,
approached my hammock and found therein a very sick white man. I was
carried aboard and placed in the hands of the ship's physician. At last
those black forests of the Amazon were left behind. After twenty-two
days' sail, Sandy Hook lighthouse loomed on our port side, and soon
after, I could rest--rest, and _live_ again!





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