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´╗┐Title: Odd People - Being a Popular Description of Singular Races of Man
Author: Reid, Mayne, 1818-1883
Language: English
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Odd People
Being a Popular Description of Singular Races of Man
By Captain Mayne Reid
Published by Ticknor and Fields, Boston.
This edition dated 1861.

Odd People, by Captain Mayne Reid.





Perhaps no race of people has more piqued the curiosity of the civilised
world than those little yellow savages of South Africa, known as the
_Bushmen_.  From the first hour in which European nations became
acquainted with their existence, a keen interest was excited by the
stories told of their peculiar character and habits; and although they
have been visited by many travellers, and many descriptions have been
given of them, it is but truth to say, that the interest in them has not
yet abated, and the Bushmen of Africa are almost as great a curiosity at
this hour as they were when Di Gama first doubled the Cape.  Indeed,
there is no reason why this should not be, for the habits and personal
appearance of these savages are just now as they were then, and our
familiarity with them is not much greater.  Whatever has been added to
our knowledge of their character, has tended rather to increase than
diminish our curiosity.

At first the tales related of them were supposed to be filled with
wilful exaggerations, and the early travellers were accused of dealing
too much in the marvellous.  This is a very common accusation brought
against the early travellers; and in some instances it is a just one.
But in regard to the accounts given of the Bushmen and their habits
there has been far less exaggeration than might be supposed; and the
more insight we obtain into their peculiar customs and modes of
subsistence, the more do we become satisfied that almost everything
alleged of them is true.  In fact, it would be difficult for the most
inventive genius to contrive a fanciful account, that would be much more
curious or interesting than the real and _bona fide_ truth that can be
told about this most peculiar people.

Where do the Bushmen dwell? what is their country?  These are questions
not so easily answered, as in reality they are not supposed to possess
any country at all, any more than the wild animals amidst which they
roam, and upon whom they prey.  There is no Bushman's country upon the
map, though several spots in Southern Africa have at times received this
designation.  It is not possible, therefore, to delineate the boundaries
of their country, since it has no boundaries, any more than that of the
wandering Gypsies of Europe.

If the Bushmen, however, have no country in the proper sense of the
word, they have a "range," and one of the most extensive character--
since it covers the whole southern portion of the African continent,
from the Cape of Good Hope to the twentieth degree of south latitude,
extending east and west from the country of the Cafires to the Atlantic
Ocean.  Until lately it was believed that the Bushman-range did not
extend far to the north of the Orange river; but this has proved an
erroneous idea.  They have recently "turned up" in the land of the
Dammaras, and also in the great Kalahari desert, hundreds of miles north
from the Orange river and it is not certain that they do not range still
nearer to the equatorial line--though it may be remarked that the
country in that direction does not favour the supposition, not being of
the peculiar nature of a Bushman's country.  The Bushman requires a
desert for his dwelling-place.  It is an absolute necessity of his
nature, as it is to the ostrich and many species of animals; and north
of the twentieth degree of latitude, South Africa does not appear to be
of this character.  The heroic Livingstone has dispelled the
long-cherished illusion of the Geography about the "_Great-sanded
level_" of these interior regions; and, instead, disclosed to the world
a fertile land, well watered, and covered with a profuse and luxuriant
vegetation.  In such a land there will be no Bushmen.

The limits we have allowed them, however, are sufficiently large,--
fifteen degrees of latitude, and an equally extensive range from east to
west.  It must not be supposed, however, that they _populate_ this vast
territory.  On the contrary, they are only distributed over it _in
spots_, in little communities, that have no relationship or connection
with one another, but are separated by wide intervals, sometimes of
hundreds of miles in extent.  It is only in the desert tracts of South
Africa that the Bushmen exist,--in the karoos, and treeless, waterless
plains--among the barren ridges and rocky defiles--in the ravines formed
by the beds of dried-up rivers--in situations so sterile, so remote, so
wild and inhospitable as to offer a home to no other human being save
the Bushman himself.

If we state more particularly the localities where the haunts of the
Bushman are to be found, we may specify the barren lands on both sides
of the Orange river,--including most of its headwaters, and down to its
mouth,--and also the Great Kalahari desert.  Through all this extensive
region the _kraals_ of the Bushmen may be encountered.  At one time they
were common enough within the limits of the Cape colony itself, and some
half-caste remnants still exist in the more remote districts; but the
cruel persecution of the _boers_ has had the effect of extirpating these
unfortunate savages; and, like the elephant, the ostrich, and the eland,
the true wild Bushman is now only to be met with beyond the frontiers of
the colony.

About the origin of the Bushmen we can offer no opinion.  They are
generally considered as a branch of the great Hottentot family; but this
theory is far from being an established fact.  When South Africa was
first discovered and colonised, both Hottentots and Bushmen were found
there, differing from each other just as they differ at this day; and
though there are some striking points of resemblance between them, there
are also points of dissimilarity that are equally as striking, if we
regard the two people as one.  In personal appearance there is a certain
general likeness: that is, both are woolly-haired, and both have a
Chinese cast of features, especially in the form and expression of the
eye.  Their colour too is nearly the same; but, on the other hand, the
Hottentots are larger than the Bushmen.  It is not in their persons,
however, that the most essential points of dissimilarity are to be
looked for, but rather in their mental characters; and here we observe
distinctions so marked and antithetical, that it is difficult to
reconcile them with the fact that these two people are of one race.
Whether a different habit of life has produced this distinctive
character, or whether _it_ has influenced the habits of life, are
questions not easily answered.  We only know that a strange anomaly
exists--the anomaly of two people being personally alike--that is,
possessing physical characteristics that seem to prove them of the same
race, while intellectually, as we shall presently see, they have scarce
one character in common.  The slight resemblance that exists between the
languages of the two is not to be regarded as a proof of their common
origin.  It only shows that they have long lived in juxtaposition, or
contiguous to each other; a fact which cannot be denied.

In giving a more particular description of the Bushman, it will be seen
in what respect he resembles the true Hottentot, and in what he differs
from him, both physically and mentally, and this description may now be

The Bushman is the smallest man with whom we are acquainted; and if the
terms "dwarf" and "pigmy" may be applied to any race of human beings,
the South-African Bushmen presents the fairest claim to these titles.
He stands only 4 feet 6 inches upon his naked soles--never more than 4
feet 9, and not unfrequently is he encountered of still less height--
even so diminutive as 4 feet 2.  His wife is of still shorter stature,
and this Lilliputian lady is often the mother of children when the crown
of her head is just 3 feet 9 inches above the soles of her feet.  It has
been a very common thing to contradict the assertion that these people
are such pigmies in stature, and even Dr Livingstone has done so in his
late magnificent work.  The doctor states, very jocosely, that they are
"not dwarfish--that the specimens brought to Europe have been selected,
like costermongers' dogs, for their extreme ugliness."

But the doctor forgets that it is but from "the specimens brought to
Europe" that the above standard of the Bushman's height has been
derived, but from the testimony of numerous travellers--many of them as
trustworthy as the doctor himself--from actual measurements made by them
upon the spot.  It is hardly to be believed that such men as Sparmann
and Burchell, Barrow and Lichtenstein, Harris, Campbell, Patterson, and
a dozen others that might be mentioned, should all give an erroneous
testimony on this subject.  These travellers have differed notoriously
on other points, but in this they all agree, that a Bushman of five feet
in height is a _tall_ man in his tribe.  Dr Livingstone speaks of
Bushmen "six feet high," and these are the tribes lately discovered
living so far north as the Lake Nagami.  It is doubtful whether these
are Bushmen at all.  Indeed, the description given by the doctor, not
only of their height and the colour of their skin, but also some hints
about their intellectual character, would lead to the belief that he has
mistaken some other people for Bushmen.  It must be remembered that the
experience of this great traveller has been chiefly among the _Bechuana_
tribes, and his knowledge of the Bushman proper does not appear to be
either accurate or extensive.  No man is expected to know everybody; and
amid the profusion of new facts, which the doctor has so liberally laid
before the world, it would be strange if a few inaccuracies should not
occur.  Perhaps we should have more confidence if this was the only one
we are enabled to detect; but the doctor also denies that there is
anything either terrific or majestic in the "roaring of the lion."  Thus
speaks he: "The same feeling which has induced the modern painter to
caricature the lion has led the sentimentalist to consider the lion's
roar as the most terrific of all earthly sounds.  We hear of the
`majestic roar of the king of beasts.'  To talk of the majestic roar of
the lion is mere majestic twaddle."

The doctor is certainly in error here.  Does he suppose that any one is
ignorant of the character of the lion's roar?  Does he fancy that no one
has ever heard it but himself?  If it be necessary to go to South Africa
to take the true measure of a Bushman, it is not necessary to make that
long journey in order to obtain a correct idea of the compass of the
lion's voice.  We can hear it at home in all its modulations; and any
one who has ever visited the Zoological Gardens in Regent's Park--nay,
any one who chances to live within half a mile of that magnificent
menagerie--will be very much disposed to doubt the correctness of the
doctor's assertion.  If there be a sound upon the earth above all others
"majestic," a noise above all others "terrific," it is certainly the
_roar_ of the lion.  Ask Albert Terrace and Saint John's Wood!

But let us not be too severe upon the doctor.  The world is indebted to
him much more than to any other modern traveller, and all great men
indulge occasionally in the luxury of an eccentric opinion.  We have
brought the point forward here for a special purpose,--to illustrate a
too much neglected truth.  Error is not always on the side of
_exaggeration_; but is sometimes also found in the opposite extreme of a
too-squeamish moderation.  We find the learned Professor Lichtenstein
ridiculing poor old Hernandez, the natural historian of Mexico, for
having given a description of certain fabulous animals--_fabulous_, he
terms them, because to him they were odd and unknown.  But it turns out
that the old author was right, and the _animals exist_!  How many
similar misconceptions might be recorded of the Buffons, and other
closet philosophers--urged, too, with the most bitter zeal!  Incredulity
carried too far is but another form of credulity.

But to return to our proper theme, and complete the portrait of the
Bushman.  We have given his height.  It is in tolerable proportion to
his other dimensions.  When young, he appears stout enough; but this is
only when a mere boy.  At the age of sixteen he has reached all the
manhood he is ever destined to attain; and then his flesh disappears;
his body assumes a meagre outline; his arms and limbs grow thin; the
calf disappears from his legs; the plumpness from his cheeks; and
altogether he becomes as wretched-looking an object as it is possible to
conceive in human shape.  Older, his skin grows dry, corrugated, and
scaly; his bones protrude; and his knee, elbow, and ankle-joints appear
like horny knobs placed at the ends of what more resemble long straight
sticks than the arms and limbs of a human being.

The colour of this creature may be designated a yellow-brown, though it
is not easy to determine it to a shade.  The Bushman appears darker than
he really is; since his skin serves him for a towel, and every species
of dirt that discommodes his fingers he gets rid of by wiping it off on
his arms, sides, or breast.  The result is, that his whole body is
usually coated over with a stratum of grease and filth, which has led to
the belief that he regularly anoints himself--a custom common among many
savage tribes.  This, however, the Bushman does not do: the smearing
toilet is merely occasional or accidental, and consists simply in the
fat of whatever flesh he has been eating being transferred from his
fingers to the cuticle of his body.  This is never washed off again--for
water never touches the Bushman's hide.  Such a use of water is entirely
unknown to him, not even for washing his face.  Should he have occasion
to cleanse his hands--which the handling of gum or some like substance
sometimes compels him to do--he performs the operation, not with soap
and water, but with the dry dung of cattle or some wild animal.  A
little rubbing of this upon his skin is all the purification the Bushman
believes to be needed.

Of course, the dirt darkens his complexion; but he has the vanity at
times to brighten it up--not by making it whiter--but rather a
brick-red.  A little ochreous earth produces the colour he requires; and
with this he smears his body all over--not excepting even the crown of
his head, and the scant stock of wool that covers it.

Bushmen have been washed.  It requires some scrubbing, and a plentiful
application either of soda or soap, to reach the true skin and bring out
the natural colour; but the experiment has been made, and the result
proves that the Bushman is not so black as, under ordinary
circumstances, he appears.  A yellow hue shines through the epidermis,
somewhat like the colour of the Chinese, or a European in the worst
stage of jaundice--the eye only not having that complexion.  Indeed, the
features of the Bushman, as well as the Hottentot, bear a strong
similarity to those of the Chinese, and the Bushman's eye is essentially
of the Mongolian type.  His hair, however, is entirely of another
character.  Instead of being long, straight, and lank, it is short,
crisp, and curly,--in reality, wool.  Its scantiness is a
characteristic; and in this respect the Bushman differs from the
woolly-haired tribes both of Africa and Australasia.  These generally
have "fleeces" in profusion, whereas both Hottentot and Bushman have not
enough to half cover their scalps; and between the little knot-like
"kinks" there are wide spaces without a single hair upon them.  The
Bushman's "wool" is naturally black, but red ochre and the sun soon
convert the colour into a burnt reddish hue.

The Bushman has no beard or other hairy encumbrances.  Were they to
grow, he would root them out as useless inconveniences.  He has a
low-bridged nose, with wide flattened nostrils; an eye that appears a
mere slit between the eyelids; a pair of high cheek-bones, and a
receding forehead.  His lips are not thick, as in the negro, and he is
furnished with a set of fine white teeth, which, as he grows older, do
not decay, but present the singular phenomenon of being regularly worn
down to the stumps--as occurs to the teeth of sheep and other ruminant

Notwithstanding the small stature of the Bushman, his frame is wiry and
capable of great endurance.  He is also as agile as an antelope.

From the description above given, it will be inferred that the Bushman
is no beauty.  Neither is the Bushwoman; but, on the contrary, both
having passed the period of youth, become absolutely ugly,--the woman,
if possible, more so than the man.

And yet, strange to say, many of the Bush-girls, when young, have a cast
of prettiness almost amounting to beauty.  It is difficult to tell in
what this beauty consists.  Something, perhaps, in the expression of the
oblique almond-shaped eye, and the small well-formed mouth and lips,
with the shining white teeth.  Their limbs, too, at this early age, are
often well-rounded; and many of them exhibit forms that might serve as
models for a sculptor.  Their feet are especially well-shaped, and, in
point of size, they are by far the smallest in the world.  Had the
Chinese ladies been gifted by nature with such little feet, they might
have been spared the torture of compressing them.

The foot of a Bushwoman rarely measures so much as six inches in length;
and full-grown girls have been seen, whose feet, submitted to the test
of an actual measurement, proved but a very little over four inches!

Intellectually, the Bushman does not rank so low as is generally
believed.  He has a quick, cheerful mind, that appears ever on the
alert,--as may be judged by the constant play of his little piercing
black eye,--and though he does not always display much skill in the
manufacture of his weapons, he can do so if he pleases.  Some tribes
construct their bows, arrows, fish-baskets, and other implements and
utensils with admirable ingenuity; but in general the Bushman takes no
pride in fancy weapons.  He prefers having them effective, and to this
end he gives proof of his skill in the manufacture of _most deadly
poisons_ with which to anoint his arrows.  Furthermore, he is ever
active and ready for action; and in this his mind is in complete
contrast with that of the Hottentot, with whom indolence is a
predominant and well-marked characteristic.  The Bushman, on the
contrary, is always on the _qui vive_; always ready to be doing where
there is anything to do; and there is not much opportunity for him to be
idle, as he rarely ever knows where the next meal is to come from.  The
ingenuity which he displays in the capture of various kinds of game,--
far exceeding that of other hunting tribes of Africa,--as also the
cunning exhibited by him while engaged in cattle-stealing and other
plundering forays, prove an intellectual capacity more than proportioned
to his diminutive body; and, in short, in nearly every mental
characteristic does he differ from the supposed cognate race--the

It would be hardly just to give the Bushman a character for high
courage; but, on the other hand, it would be as unjust to charge him
with cowardice.  Small as he is, he shows plenty of "pluck," and when
brought to bay, his motto is, "No surrender."  He will fight to the
death, discharging his poisoned arrows as long as he is able to bend a
bow.  Indeed, he has generally been treated to shooting, or clubbing to
death, wherever and whenever caught, and he knows nothing of _quarter_.
Just as a badger he ends his life,--his last struggle being an attempt
to do injury to his assailant.  This trait in his character has, no
doubt, been strengthened by the inhuman treatment that, for a century,
he has been receiving from the brutal boers of the colonial frontier.

The costume of the Bushman is of the most primitive character,--
differing only from that worn by our first parents, in that the fig-leaf
used by the men is a patch of jackal-skin, and that of the women a sort
of fringe or bunch of leather thongs, suspended around the waist by a
strap, and hanging down to the knees.  It is in reality a little apron
of dressed skin; or, to speak more accurately, two of them, one above
the other, both cut into narrow strips or thongs, from below the waist
downward.  Other clothing than this they have none, if we except a
little skin _kaross_, or cloak, which is worn over their shoulders;--
that of the women being provided with a bag or hood at the top, that
answers the naked "piccaninny" for a nest or cradle.  Sandals protect
their feet from the sharp stones, and these are of the rudest
description,--merely a piece of the thick hide cut a little longer and
broader than the soles of the feet, and fastened at the toes and round
the ankles by thongs of sinews.  An attempt at ornament is displayed in
a leathern skullcap, or more commonly a circlet around the head, upon
which are sewed a number of "cowries," or small shells of the _Cyprea

It is difficult to say where these shells are procured,--as they are not
the product of the Bushman's country, but are only found on the far
shores of the Indian Ocean.  Most probably he obtains them by barter,
and after they have passed through many hands; but they must cost the
Bushman dear, as he sets the highest value upon them.  Other ornaments
consist of old brass or copper buttons, attached to the little curls of
his woolly hair; and, among the women, strings of little pieces of
ostrich egg-shells, fashioned to resemble beads; besides a perfect load
of leathern bracelets on the arms, and a like profusion of similar
circlets on the limbs, often reaching from the knee to the ankle-joint.

Red ochre over the face and hair is the fashionable toilette, and a
perfumery is obtained by rubbing the skin with the powdered leaves of
the "buku" plant, a species of _diosma_.  According to a quaint old
writer, this causes them to "stink like a poppy," and would be highly
objectionable, were it not preferable to the odour which they have
without it.

They do not _tattoo_, nor yet perforate the ears, lips, or nose,--
practices so common among savage tribes.  Some instances of
nose-piercing have been observed, with the usual appendage of a piece of
wood or porcupine's quill inserted in the septum, but this is a custom
rather of the Caffres than Bushmen.  Among the latter it is rare.  A
grand ornament is obtained by smearing the face and head with a shining
micaceous paste, which is procured from a cave in one particular part of
the Bushman's range; but this, being a "far-fetched" article, is
proportionably scarce and dear.  It is only a fine belle who can afford
to give herself a coat of _blink-slip_,--as this sparkling pigment is
called by the colonists.  Many of the women, and men as well, carry in
their hands the bushy tail of a jackal.  The purpose is to fan off the
flies, and serve also as a "wipe," to disembarrass their bodies of
perspiration when the weather chances to be over hot.

The domicile of the Bushman next merits description.  It is quite as
simple and primitive as his dress, and gives him about equal trouble in
its construction.  If a cave or cleft can be found in the rocks, of
sufficient capacity to admit his own body and those of his family--never
a very large one--he builds no house.  The cave contents him, be it ever
so tight a squeeze.  If there be no cave handy, an overhanging rock will
answer equally as well.  He regards not the open sides, nor the
draughts.  It is only the rain which he does not relish; and any sort of
a shed, that will shelter him from that, will serve him for a dwelling.
If neither cave, crevice, nor impending cliff can be found in the
neighbourhood, he then resorts to the alternative of housebuilding; and
his style of architecture does not differ greatly from that of the
orang-outang.  A bush is chosen that grows near to two or three
others,--the branches of all meeting in a common centre.  Of these
branches the builder takes advantage, fastening them together at the
ends, and wattling some into the others.  Over this framework a quantity
of grass is scattered in such a fashion as to cast off a good shower of
rain, and then the "carcass" of the building is considered complete.
The inside work remains yet to be done, and that is next set about.  A
large roundish or oblong hole is scraped out in the middle of the floor.
It is made wide enough and deep enough to hold the bodies of three or
four Bush-people, though a single large Caffre or Dutchman would
scarcely find room in it.  Into this hole is flung a quantity of dry
grass, and arranged so as to present the appearance of a gigantic nest.
This nest, or lair, becomes the bed of the Bushman, his wife, or
wives,--for he frequently keeps two,--and the other members of his
family.  Coiled together like monkeys, and covered with their skin
karosses, they all sleep in it,--whether "sweetly" or "soundly," I shall
not take upon me to determine.

It is supposed to be this fashion of literally "sleeping in the bush,"
as also the mode by which he skulks and hides among bushes,--invariably
taking to them when pursued,--that has given origin to the name Bushman,
or _Bosjesman_, as it is in the language of the colonial Dutch.  This
derivation is probable enough, and no better has been offered.

The Bushman sometimes constructs himself a more elaborate dwelling; that
is, some Bushmen;--for it should be remarked that there are a great many
tribes or communities of these people, and they are not all so very low
in the scale of civilisation.  None, however, ever arrive at the
building of a house,--not even a hut.  A tent is their highest effort in
the building line, and that is of the rudest description, scarce
deserving the name.  Its covering is a mat, which they weave out of a
species of rush that grows along some of the desert streams; and in the
fabrication of the covering they display far more ingenuity than in the
planning or construction of the tent itself.  The mat, in fact, is
simply laid over two poles, that are bent into the form of an arch, by
having both ends stuck into the ground.  A second piece of matting
closes up one end; and the other, left open, serves for the entrance.
As a door is not deemed necessary, no further construction is required,
and the tent is "pitched" complete.  It only remains to scoop out the
sand, and make the _nest_ as already described.

It is said that the Goths drew their ideas of architecture from the
aisles of the oak forest; the Chinese from their Mongolian tents; and
the Egyptians from their caves in the rocks.  Beyond a doubt, the
Bushman has borrowed his from the nest of the ostrich!

It now becomes necessary to inquire how the Bushman spends his time? how
he obtains subsistence? and what is the nature of his food?  All these
questions can be answered, though at first it may appear difficult to
answer them.  Dwelling, as he always does, in the very heart of the
desert, remote from forests that might furnish him with some sort of
food--trees that might yield fruit,--far away from a fertile soil, with
no knowledge of agriculture, even if it were near,--with no flocks or
herds; neither sheep, cattle, horses, nor swine,--no domestic animals
but his lean, diminutive dogs,--how does this Bushman procure enough to
eat?  What are his sources of supply?

We shall see.  Being neither a grazier nor a farmer, he has other means
of subsistence,--though it must be confessed that they are of a
precarious character, and often during his life does the Bushman find
himself on the very threshold of starvation.  This, however, results
less from the parsimony of Nature than the Bushman's own improvident
habits,--a trait in his character which is, perhaps, more strongly
developed in him than any other.  We shall have occasion to refer to it

His first and chief mode of procuring his food is by the chase: for,
although he is surrounded by the sterile wilderness, he is not the only
animated being who has chosen the desert for his home.  Several species
of birds--one the largest of all--and quadrupeds, share with the Bushman
the solitude and safety of this desolate region.  The rhinoceros can
dwell there; and in numerous streams are found the huge hippopotami;
whilst quaggas, zebras, and several species of antelope frequent the
desert plains as their favourite "stamping" ground.  Some of these
animals can live almost without water; but when they do require it, what
to them is a gallop of fifty miles to some well-known "vley" or pool?
It will be seen, therefore, that the desert has its numerous denizens.
All these are objects of the Bushman's pursuit, who follows them with
incessant pertinacity--as if he were a beast of prey, furnished by
Nature with the most carnivorous propensities.

In the capture of these animals he displays an almost incredible
dexterity and cunning.  His mode of approaching the sly ostrich, by
disguising himself in the skin of one of these birds, is so well-known
that I need not describe it here; but the _ruses_ he adopts for
capturing or killing other sorts of game are many of them equally
ingenious.  The pit-trap is one of his favourite contrivances; and this,
too, has been often described,--but often very erroneously.  The pit is
not a large hollow,--as is usually asserted,--but rather of dimensions
proportioned to the size of the animal that is expected to fall into it.
For game like the rhinoceros or _eland_ antelope, it is dug of six feet
in length and three in width at the top; gradually narrowing to the
bottom, where it ends in a trench of only twelve inches broad.  Six or
seven feet is considered deep enough; and the animal, once into it, gets
so wedged at the narrow bottom part as to be unable to make use of its
legs for the purpose of springing out again.  Sometimes a sharp stake or
two are used, with the view of _impaling_ the victim; but this plan is
not always adopted.  There is not much danger of a quadruped that drops
in ever getting out again, till he is dragged out by the Bushman in the
shape of a carcass.

The Bushman's ingenuity does not end here.  Besides the construction of
the trap, it is necessary the game should be guided into it.  Were this
not done, the pit might remain a long time empty, and, as a necessary
consequence, so too might the belly of the Bushman.  In the wide plain
few of the gregarious animals have a path which they follow habitually;
only where there is a pool may such beaten trails be found, and of these
the Bushman also avails himself; but they are not enough.  Some
artificial means must be used to make the traps pay--for they are not
constructed without much labour and patience.  The plan adopted by the
Bushman to accomplish this exhibits some points of originality.  He
first chooses a part of the plain which lies between two mountains.  No
matter if these be distant from each other: a mile, or even two, will
not deter the Bushman from his design.  By the help of his whole tribe--
men, women, and children--he constructs a fence from one mountain to the
other.  The material used is whatever may be most ready to the hand:
stones, sods, brush, or dead timber, if this be convenient.  No matter
how rude the fence: it need not either be very high.  He leaves several
gaps in it; and the wild animals, however easily they might leap over
such a puny barrier, will, in their ordinary way, prefer to walk
leisurely through the gaps.  In each of these, however, there is a
dangerous hole--dangerous from its depth as well as from the cunning way
in which it is concealed from the view--in short, in each gap there is a
_pit-fall_.  No one--at least no animal except the elephant--would ever
suspect its presence; the grass seems to grow over it, and the sand lies
unturned, just as elsewhere upon the plain.  What quadruped could detect
the cheat?  Not any one except the sagacious elephant.  The stupid eland
tumbles through; the gemsbok goes under; and the rhinoceros rushes into
it as if destined to destruction.  The Bushman sees this from his
elevated perch, glides forward over the ground, and spears the
struggling victim with his _poisoned assagai_.

Besides the above method of capturing game the Bushman also uses the bow
and arrows.  This is a weapon in which he is greatly skilled; and
although both bow and arrows are as tiny as if intended for children's
toys, they are among the deadliest of weapons, their fatal effect lies
not in the _size_ of the wound they are capable of inflicting, but in
the peculiar mode in which the barbs of the arrows are prepared.  I need
hardly add that they are dipped in poison;--for who has not heard of the
poisoned arrows of the African Bushmen?

Both bow and arrows are usually rude enough in their construction, and
would appear but a trumpery affair, were it not for a knowledge of their
effects.  The bow is a mere round stick, about three feet long, and
slightly bent by means of its string of twisted sinews.  The arrows are
mere reeds, tipped with pieces of bone, with a split ostrich-quill
lapped behind the head, and answering for a barb.  This arrow the
Bushman can shoot with tolerable certainty to a distance of a hundred
yards, and he can even project it farther by giving a slight elevation
to his aim.  It signifies not whether the force with which it strikes
the object be ever so slight, if it only makes an entrance.  Even a
scratch from its point will sometimes prove fatal.

Of course the danger dwells altogether in the poison.  Were it not for
that, the Bushman, from his dwarfish stature and pigmy strength, would
be a harmless creature indeed.

The poison he well knows how to prepare, and he can make it of the most
"potent spell," when the "materials" are within his reach.  For this
purpose he makes use of both vegetable and animal substances, and a
mineral is also employed; but the last is not a poison, and is only used
to give consistency to the liquid, so that it may the better adhere to
the arrow.  The vegetable substances are of various kinds.  Some are
botanically known: the bulb of _Amaryllis disticha_,--the gum of a
_Euphorbia_,--the sap of a species of sumac (_Rhus_),--and the nuts of a
shrubby plant, by the colonists called _Woolf-gift_ (Wolf-poison).

The animal substance is the fluid found in the fangs of venomous
serpents, several species of which serve the purpose of the Bushman: as
the little "Horned Snake,"--so called from the scales rising prominently
over its eyes; the "Yellow Snake," or South-African Cobra (_Naga haje_);
the "Puff Adder," and others.  From all these he obtains the ingredients
of his deadly ointment, and mixes them, not all together; for he cannot
always procure them all in any one region of the country in which he
dwells.  He makes his poison, also, of different degrees of potency,
according to the purpose for which he intends it; whether for hunting or
war.  With sixty or seventy little arrows, well imbued with this fatal
mixture, and carefully placed in his quiver of tree bark or skin,--or,
what is not uncommon, stuck like a coronet around his head,--he sallies
forth, ready to deal destruction either to game, animals, or to human

Of these last he has no lack.  Every man, not a Bushman, he deems his
enemy; and he has some reason for thinking so.  Truly may it be said of
him, as of Ishmael, that his "hand is against every man, and every man's
hand against him;" and such has been his unhappy history for ages.  Not
alone have the boers been his pursuers and oppressors, but all others
upon his borders who are strong enough to attack him,--colonists,
Caffres, and Bechuanas, all alike,--not even excepting his supposed
kindred, the Hottentots.  Not only does no fellow-feeling exist between
Bushman and Hottentot, but, strange to say, they hate each other with
the most rancorous hatred.  The Bushman will plunder a Namaqua
Hottentot, a Griqua, or a Gonaqua,--plunder and murder him with as much
ruthlessness, or even more, than he would the hated Caffre or boer.  All
are alike his enemies,--all to be plundered and massacred, whenever met,
and the thing appears possible.

We are speaking of plunder.  This is another source of supply to the
Bushman, though one that is not always to be depended upon.  It is his
most dangerous method of obtaining a livelihood, and often costs him his
life.  He only resorts to it when all other resources fail him, and food
is no longer to be obtained by the chase.

He makes an expedition into the settlements,--either of the frontier
boers, Caffres, or Hottentots,--whichever chance to live most convenient
to his haunts.  The expedition, of course, is by night, and conducted,
not as an open _foray_, but in secret, and by stealth.  The cattle are
_stolen_, not _reeved_, and driven off while the owner and his people
are asleep.

In the morning, or as soon as the loss is discovered, a pursuit is at
once set on foot.  A dozen men, mounted and armed with long muskets
(_roers_), take the _spoor_ of the spoilers, and follow it as fast as
their horses will _carry_ them.  A dozen boers, or even half that
number, is considered a match for a whole tribe of Bushmen, in any fight
which may occur in the open plain, as the boers make use of their
long-range guns at such a distance that the Bushmen are shot down
without being able to use their poisoned arrows; and if the thieves have
the fortune to be overtaken before they have got far into the desert,
they stand a good chance of being terribly chastised.

There is no quarter shown them.  Such a thing as mercy is never dreamt
of,--no sparing of lives any more than if they were a pack of hyenas.
The Bushmen may escape to the rocks, such of them as are not hit by the
bullets; and there the boers know it would be idle to follow them.  Like
the klipspringer antelope, the little savages can bound from rock to
rock, and cliff to cliff, or hide like partridges among crevices, where
neither man nor horse can pursue them.  Even upon the level plain--if it
chance to be stony or intersected with breaks and ravines--a horseman
would endeavour to overtake them in vain, for these yellow imps are as
swift as ostriches.

When the spoilers scatter thus, the boer may recover his cattle, but in
what condition?  That he has surmised already, without going among the
herd.  He does not expect to drive home one half of them; perhaps not
one head.  On reaching the flock he finds there is not one without a
wound of some kind or other: a gash in the flank, the cut of a knife,
the stab of an assagai, or a poisoned arrow--intended for the boer
himself--sticking between the ribs.  This is the sad spectacle that
meets his eyes; but he never reflects that it is the result of his own
cruelty,--he never regards it in the light of retribution.  Had he not
first hunted the Bushman to make him a slave, to make bondsmen and
bondsmaids of his sons and daughters, to submit them to the caprice and
tyranny of his great, strapping _frau_, perhaps his cattle would have
been browsing quietly in his fields.  The poor Bushman, in attempting to
take them, followed but his instincts of hunger: in yielding them up he
obeyed but the promptings of revenge.

It is not always that the Bushman is thus overtaken.  He frequently
succeeds in carrying the whole herd to his desert fastness; and the
skill which he exhibits in getting them there is perfectly surprising.
The cattle themselves are more afraid of him than of a wild beast, and
run at his approach; but the Bushman, swifter than they, can glide all
around them, and keep them moving at a rapid rate.

He uses stratagem also to obstruct or baffle the pursuit.  The route he
takes is through the driest part of the desert,--if possible, where
water does not exist at all.  The cattle suffer from thirst, and bellow
from the pain; but the Bushman cares not for that, so long as he is
himself served.  But how is he served?  There is no water, and a Bushman
can no more go without drinking than a boer: how then does he provide
for himself on these long expeditions?

All has been pre-arranged.  While off to the settlements, the Bushman's
wife has been busy.  The whole _kraal_ of women--young and old--have
made an excursion halfway across the desert, each carrying ostrich
egg-shells, as much as her kaross will hold, each shell full of water.
These have been deposited at intervals along the route in secret spots
known by marks to the Bushmen, and this accomplished the women return
home again.  In this way the plunderer obtains his supply of water, and
thus is he enabled to continue his journey over the arid _Karroo_.

The pursuers become appalled.  They are suffering from thirst--their
horses sinking under them.  Perhaps they have lost their way?  It would
be madness to proceed further.  "Let the cattle go this time?" and with
this disheartening reflection they give up the pursuit, turn the heads
of their horses, and ride homeward.

There is a feast at the Bushman's kraal--and such a feast! not _one_ ox
is slaughtered, but a score of them all at once.  They kill them, as if
from very wantonness; and they no longer eat, but raven on the flesh.

For days the feasting is kept up almost continuously,--even at night
they must wake up to have a midnight meal! and thus runs the tale, till
every ox has been eaten.  They have not the slightest idea of a
provision for the future; even the lower animals seem wiser in this
respect.  They do not think of keeping a few of the plundered cattle at
pasture to serve them for a subsequent occasion.  They give the poor
brutes neither food nor drink; but, having penned them up in some defile
of the rocks, leave them to moan and bellow, to drop down and die.

On goes the feasting, till all are finished; and even if the flesh has
turned putrid, this forms not the slightest objection: it is eaten all
the same.

The kraal now exhibits an altered spectacle.  The starved, meagre
wretches, who were seen flitting among its tents but a week ago, have
all disappeared.  Plump bodies and distended abdomens are the order of
the day; and the profile of the Bushwoman, taken from the neck to the
knees, now exhibits the outline of the letter S.  The little imps leap
about, tearing raw flesh,--their yellow cheeks besmeared with blood,--
and the lean curs seem to have been exchanged for a pack of fat, petted

But this scene must some time come to an end, and at length it does end.
All the flesh is exhausted, and the bones picked clean.  A complete
reaction comes over the spirit of the Bushman.  He falls into a state of
languor,--the only time when he knows such a feeling,--and he keeps his
kraal, and remains idle for days.  Often he sleeps for twenty-four hours
at a time, and wakes only to go to sleep again.  He need not rouse
himself with the idea of getting something to eat: there is not a morsel
in the whole kraal, and he knows it.  He lies still, therefore,--
weakened with hunger, and overcome with the drowsiness of a terrible

Fortunate for him, while in this state, if those bold vultures--
attracted by the _debris_ of his feast, and now high wheeling in the
air--be not perceived from afar; fortunate if they do not discover the
whereabouts of his kraal to the vengeful pursuer.  If they should do so,
he has made his last foray and his last feast.

When the absolute danger of starvation at length compels our Bushman to
bestir himself, he seems to recover a little of his energy, and once
more takes to hunting, or, if near a stream, endeavours to catch a few
fish.  Should both these resources fail, he has another,--without which
he would most certainly starve,--and perhaps this may be considered his
most important source of supply, since it is the most constant, and can
be depended on at nearly all seasons of the year.  Weakened with hunger,
then, and scarce equal to any severer labour, he goes _out hunting--this
time insects, not quadrupeds_.  With a stout stick inserted into a stone
at one end and pointed at the other, he proceeds to the nests of the
white ants (_termites_), and using the point of the stick,--the stone
serving by its weight to aid the force of the blow,--he breaks open the
hard, gummy clay of which the hillock is formed.  Unless the _aard-vark_
and the _pangolin_--two very different kinds of ant-eaters--have been
there before him, he finds the chambers filled with the eggs of the
ants, the insects themselves, and perhaps large quantities of their
_larvae_.  All are equally secured by the Bushman, and either devoured
on the spot, or collected into a skin bag, and carried back to his

He hunts also another species of ants that do not build nests or
"hillocks," but bring forth their young in hollows under the ground.
These make long galleries or covered ways just under the surface, and at
certain periods--which the Bushman knows by unmistakable signs--they
become very active, and traverse these underground galleries in
thousands.  If the passages were to be opened above, the ants would soon
make off to their caves, and but a very few could be captured.  The
Bushman, knowing this, adopts a stratagem.  With the stick already
mentioned he pierces holes of a good depth down; and works the stick
about, until the sides of the holes are smooth and even.  These he
intends shall serve him as pitfalls; and they are therefore made in the
covered ways along which the insects are passing.  The result is, that
the little creatures, not suspecting the existence of these deep wells,
tumble head foremost into them, and are unable to mount up the steep
smooth sides again, so that in a few minutes the hole will be filled
with ants, which the Bushman scoops out at his leisure.

Another source of supply which he has, and also a pretty constant one,
consists of various roots of the tuberous kind, but more especially
bulbous roots, which grow in the desert.  They are several species of
_Ixias_ and _Mesembryanthemums_,--some of them producing bulbs of a
large size, and deeply buried underground.  Half the Bushman's and
Bushwoman's time is occupied in digging for these roots; and the spade
employed is the stone-headed staff already described.

Ostrich eggs also furnish the Bushman with many a meal; and the huge
shells of these eggs serve him for water-vessels, cups, and dishes.  He
is exceedingly expert in tracking up the ostrich, and discovering its
nest.  Sometimes he finds a nest in the absence of the birds; and in a
case of this kind he pursues a course of conduct that is _peculiarly
Bushman_.  Having removed all the eggs to a distance, and concealed them
under some bush, he returns to the nest and ensconces himself in it.
His diminutive body, when close squatted, cannot be perceived from a
distance, especially when there are a few bushes around the nest, as
there usually are.  Thus concealed he awaits the return of the birds,
holding his bow and poisoned arrows ready to salute them as soon as they
come within range.  By this _ruse_ he is almost certain of killing
either the cock or hen, and not infrequently both--when they do not
return together.

Lizards and land-tortoises often furnish the Bushman with a meal; and
the shell of the latter serves him also for a dish; but his period of
greatest plenty is when the locusts _appear_.  Then, indeed, the Bushman
is no longer in want of a meal; and while these creatures remain with
him, he knows no hunger.  He grows fat in a trice, and his curs keep
pace with him--for they too greedily devour the locusts.  Were the
locusts a constant, or even an annual visitor, the Bushman would be a
rich man--at all events his wants would be amply supplied.
Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for everybody else, these
terrible destroyers of vegetation only come now and then--several years
often intervening between their visits.

The Bushmen have no religion whatever; no form of marriage--any more
than mating together like wild beasts; but they appear to have some
respect for the memory of their dead, since they bury them--usually
erecting a large pile of stones, or "cairn," over the body.

They are far from being of a melancholy mood.  Though crouching in their
dens and caves during the day, in dread of the boers and other enemies,
they come forth at night to chatter and make merry.  During fine
moonlights they dance all night, keeping up the _ball_ till morning; and
in their kraals may be seen a circular spot--beaten hard and smooth with
their feet--where these dances are performed.

They have no form of government--not so much as a head man or chief.
Even the father of the family possesses no authority, except such as
superior strength may give him; and when his sons are grown up and
become as strong as he is, this of course also ceases.

They have no tribal organisation; the small communities in which they
live being merely so many individuals accidentally brought together,
often quarrelling and separating from one another.  These communities
rarely number over a hundred individuals, since, from the nature of
their country, a large number could not find subsistence in any one
place.  It follows, therefore, that the Bushman race must ever remain
widely scattered--so long as they pursue their present mode of life--and
no influence has ever been able to win them from it.  Missionary efforts
made among them have all proved fruitless.  The desert seems to have
been created for them, as they for the desert; and when transferred
elsewhere, to dwell amidst scenes of civilised life, they always yearn
to return to their wilderness home.

Truly are these pigmy savages an odd people!



In glancing at the map of the American continent, we are struck by a
remarkable analogy between the geographical features of its two great
divisions--the North and the South,--an analogy amounting almost to a
symmetrical parallelism.

Each has its "mighty" mountains--the _Cordilleras of the Andes_ in the
south, and the _Cordilleras of the Sierra Madre_ (Rocky Mountains) in
the north--with all the varieties of volcano and eternal snow.  Each has
its secondary chain: in the north, the _Nevadas_ of California and
Oregon; in the south, the _Sierras_ of Caraccas and the group of Guiana;
and, if you wish to render the parallelism complete, descend to a lower
elevation, and set the Alleghanies of the United States against the
mountains of Brazil--both alike detached from all the others.

In the comparison we have exhausted the mountain chains of both
divisions of the continent.  If we proceed further, and carry it into
minute detail, we shall find the same correspondence--ridge for ridge,
chain for chain, peak for peak;--in short, a most singular equilibrium,
as if there had been a design that one half of this great continent
should balance the other!

From the mountains let us proceed to the rivers, and see how _they_ will
correspond.  Here, again, we discover a like parallelism, amounting
almost to a rivalry.  Each continent (for it is proper to style them so)
contains the largest river in the world.  If we make _length_ the
standard, the north claims precedence for the Mississippi; if _volume of
water_ is to be the criterion, the south is entitled to it upon the
merits of the Amazon.  Each, too, has its numerous branches, spreading
into a mighty "tree"; and these, either singly or combined, form a
curious equipoise both in length and magnitude.  We have only time to
set list against list, tributaries of the great northern river against
tributaries of its great southern compeer,--the Ohio and Illinois, the
Yellowstone and Platte, the Kansas and Osage, the Arkansas and Red,
against the Madeira and Purus, the Ucayali and Huallaga, the Japura and
Negro, the Xingu and Tapajos.

Of other river systems, the Saint Lawrence may be placed against the La
Plata, the Oregon against the Orinoco, the Mackenzie against the
Magdalena, and the Rio Bravo del Norte against the Tocantins; while the
two Colorados--the Brazos and Alabama--find their respective rivals in
the Essequibo, the Paranahybo, the Pedro, and the Patagonian Negro; and
the San Francisco of California, flowing over sands of gold, is balanced
by its homonyme of Brazil, that has its origin in the land of diamonds.
To an endless list might the comparison be carried.

We pass to the plains.  _Prairies_ in the north, _llanos_ and _pampas_
in the south, almost identical in character.  _Of the plateaux_ or
tablelands, those of Mexico, La Puebla, Perote, and silver Potosi in the
north; those of Quito, Bogota, Cusco, and gold Potosi in the south; of
the desert plains, Utah and the Llano Estacado against Atacama and the
deserts of Patagonia.  Even the Great Salt Lake has its parallel in
Titicaca; while the "Salinas" of New Mexico and the upland prairies, are
represented by similar deposits in the Gran Chaco and the Pampas.

We arrive finally at the forests.  Though unlike in other respects, we
have here also a rivalry in magnitude,--between the vast timbered
expanse stretching from Arkansas to the Atlantic shores, and that which
covers the valley of the Amazon.  These _were_ the two greatest forests
on the face of the earth.  I say _were_, for one of them no longer
exists; at least, it is no longer a continuous tract, but a collection
of forests, opened by the axe, and intersected by the clearings of the
colonist.  The other still stands in all its virgin beauty and primeval
vigour, untouched by the axe, undefiled by fire, its path scarce trodden
by human feet, its silent depths to this hour unexplored.

It is with this forest and its denizens we have to do.  Here then let us
terminate the catalogue of similitudes, and concentrate our attention
upon the particular subject of our sketch.

The whole _valley_ of the Amazon--in other words, the tract watered by
this great river and its tributaries--may be described as one unbroken
forest.  We now know the borders of this forest with considerable
exactness, but to trace them here would require a too lengthened detail.
Suffice it to say, that lengthwise it extends from the mouth of the
Amazon to the foothills of the Peruvian Andes, a distance of 2,500
miles.  In breadth it varies, beginning on the Atlantic coast with a
breadth of 400 miles, which widens towards the central part of the
continent till it attains to 1,500, and again narrowing to about 1,000,
where it touches the eastern slope of the Andes.

That form of leaf known to botanists as "obovate" will give a good idea
of the figure of the great Amazon forest, supposing the small end or
shank to rest on the Atlantic, and the broad end to extend along the
semicircular concavity of the Andes, from Bolivia on the south to New
Granada on the north.  In all this vast expanse of territory there is
scarce an acre of open ground, if we except the water-surface of the
rivers and their bordering "lagoons," which, were they to bear their due
proportions on a map, could scarce be represented by the narrowest
lines, or the most inconspicuous dots.  The grass plains which embay the
forest on its southern edge along the banks of some of its Brazilian
tributaries, or those which proceed like spurs from the Llanos of
Venezuela, do not in any place approach the Amazon itself, and there are
many points on the great river which may be taken as centres, and around
which circles may be drawn, having diameters 1,000 miles in length, the
circumferences of which will enclose nothing but timbered land.  The
main stream of the Amazon, though it intersects this grand forest, does
not _bisect_ it, speaking with mathematical precision.  There is rather
more timbered surface to the southward than that which extends
northward, though the inequality of the two divisions is not great.  It
would not be much of an error to say that the Amazon river cuts the
forest in halves.  At its mouth, however, this would not apply; since
for the first 300 miles above the embouchure of the river, the country
on the northern side is destitute of timber.  This is occasioned by the
projecting spurs of the Guiana mountains, which on that side approach
the Amazon in the shape of naked ridges and grass-covered hills and

It is not necessary to say that the great forest of the Amazon is a
tropical one--since the river itself, throughout its whole course,
almost traces the line of the equator.  Its vegetation, therefore, is
emphatically of a tropical character; and in this respect it differs
essentially from that of North America, or rather, we should say, of
Canada and the United States.  It is necessary to make this limitation,
because the forests of the tropical parts of North America, including
the West-Indian islands, present a great similitude to that of the
Amazon.  It is not only in the genera and species of trees that the
_sylva_ of the temperate zone differs from that of the torrid; but there
is a very remarkable difference in the distribution of these genera and
species.  In a great forest of the north, it is not uncommon to find a
large tract covered with a single species of trees,--as with pines,
oaks, poplars, or the red cedar (_Juniperus Virginiana_).  This
arrangement is rather the rule than the exception; whereas, in the
tropical forest, the rule is reversed, except in the case of two or
three species of palms (_Mauritia_ and _Euterpe_), which sometimes
exclusively cover large tracts of surface.  Of other trees, it is rare
to find even a clump or grove standing together--often only two or three
trees, and still more frequently, a single individual is observed,
separated from those of its own kind by hundreds of others, all
differing in order, genus, and species.  I note this peculiarity of the
tropic forest, because it exercises, as may easily be imagined, a direct
influence upon the economy of its human occupants--whether these be
savage or civilised.  Even the habits of the lower animals--beasts and
birds--are subject to a similar influence.

It would be out of place here to enumerate the different kinds of trees
that compose this mighty wood,--a bare catalogue of their names would
alone fill many pages,--and it would be safe to say that if the list
were given as now known to botanists, it would comprise scarce half the
species that actually exist in the valley of the Amazon.  In real truth,
this vast Garden of God is yet unexplored by man.  Its border walks and
edges have alone been examined; and the enthusiastic botanist need not
fear that he is too late in the field.  A hundred years will elapse
before this grand _parterre_ can be exhausted.

At present, a thorough examination of the botany of the Amazon valley
would be difficult, if not altogether impossible, even though conducted
on a grand and expensive scale.  There are several reasons for this.
Its woods are in many places absolutely impenetrable--on account either
of the thick tangled undergrowth, or from the damp, spongy nature of the
soil.  There are no roads that could be traversed by horse or man; and
the few paths are known only to the wild savage,--not always passable
even by him.  Travelling can only be done by water, either upon the
great rivers, or by the narrow creeks (igaripes) or lagoons; and a
journey performed in this fashion must needs be both tedious and
indirect, allowing but a limited opportunity for observation.  Horses
can scarce be said to exist in the country, and cattle are equally
rare--a few only are found in one or two of the large Portuguese
settlements on the main river--and the jaguars and blood-sucking bats
offer a direct impediment to their increase.  Contrary to the general
belief, the tropical forest is not the home of the larger mammalia: it
is not their proper _habitat_, nor are they found in it.  In the Amazon
forest but few species exist, and these not numerous in individuals.
There are no vast herds--as of buffaloes on the prairies of North
America, or of antelopes in Africa.  The tapir alone attains to any
considerable size,--exceeding that of the ass,--but its numbers are few.
Three or four species of small deer represent the ruminants, and the
hog of the Amazon is the peccary.  Of these there are at least three
species.  Where the forest impinges on the mountain regions of Peru,
bears are found of at least two kinds, but not on the lower plains of
the great "Montana,"--for by this general designation is the vast
expanse of the Amazon country known among the Peruvian people.  "Montes"
and "montanas," literally signifying "mountains," are not so understood
among Spanish Americans.  With them the "montes" and "montanas" are
tracts of forest-covered country, and that of the Amazon valley is the
"Montana" _par excellence_.

Sloths of several species, and opossums of still greater variety, are
found all over the Montana, but both thinly distributed as regards the
number of individuals.  A similar remark applies to the ant-eaters or
"ant-bears," of which there are four kinds,--to the armadillos, the
"agoutis," and the "cavies," one of which last, the _capibara_, is the
largest rodent upon earth.  This, with its kindred genus, the "paca," is
not so rare in individual numbers, but, on the contrary, appears in
large herds upon the borders of the rivers and lagoons.  A porcupine,
several species of spinous rats, an otter, two or three kinds of
badger-like animals (the _potto_ and _coatis_), a "honey-bear" (_Galera
barbara_), and a fox, or wild dog, are widely distributed throughout the

Everywhere exists the jaguar, both the black and spotted varieties, and
the puma has there his lurking-place.  Smaller cats, both spotted and
striped, are numerous in species, and squirrels of several kinds, with
bats, complete the list of the terrestrial mammalia.

Of all the lower animals, monkeys are the most common, for to them the
Montana is a congenial home.  They abound not only in species, but in
the number of individuals, and their ubiquitous presence contributes to
enliven the woods.  At least thirty different kinds of them exist in the
Amazon valley, from the "coatas," and other howlers as large as baboons,
to the tiny little "ouistitis" and "saimiris," not bigger than squirrels
or rats.

While we must admit a paucity in the species of the quadrupeds of the
Amazon, the same remark does not apply to the birds.  In the
ornithological department of natural history, a fulness and richness
here exist, perhaps not equalled elsewhere.  The most singular and
graceful forms, combined with the most brilliant plumage, are everywhere
presented to the eye, in the parrots and great macaws, the toucans,
trogons, and tanagers, the _shrikes_, humming-birds, and orioles; and
even in the vultures and eagles: for here are found the most beautiful
of predatory birds,--the king vulture and the harpy eagle.  Of the
feathered creatures existing in the valleys of the Amazon there are not
less than one thousand different species, of which only one half have
yet been caught or described.

Reptiles are equally abundant--the serpent family being represented by
numerous species, from the great water boa (_anaconda_), of ten yards in
length, to the tiny and beautiful but venomous _lachesis_, or coral
snake, not thicker than the shank of a tobacco-pipe.  The lizards range
through a like gradation, beginning with the huge "jacare," or
crocodile, of several species, and ending with the turquoise-blue
_anolius_, not bigger than a newt.

The waters too are rich in species of their peculiar inhabitants--of
which the most remarkable and valuable are the _manatees_ (two or three
species), the great and smaller turtles, the porpoises of various kinds,
and an endless catalogue of the finny tribes that frequent the rivers of
the tropics.  It is mainly from this source, and not from four-footed
creatures of the forest, that the human denizen of the great Montana
draws his supply of food,--at least that portion of it which may be
termed the "meaty."  Were it not for the _manatee_, the great porpoise,
and other large fish, he would often have to "eat his bread dry."

And now it is _his_ turn to be "talked about."  I need not inform you
that the aborigines who inhabit the valley of the Amazon, are all of the
so-called _Indian_ race--though there are so many, distinct tribes of
them that almost every river of any considerable magnitude has a tribe
of its own.  In some cases a number of these tribes belong to one
_nationality_; that is, several of them may be found speaking nearly the
same language, though living apart from each other; and of these larger
divisions or nationalities there are several occupying the different
districts of the Montana.  The tribes even of the same nationality do
not always present a uniform appearance.  There are darker and fairer
tribes; some in which the average standard of height is less than among
Europeans; and others where it equals or exceeds this.  There are tribes
again where both men and women are ill-shaped and ill-favoured--though
these are few--and other tribes where both sexes exhibit a considerable
degree of personal beauty.  Some tribes are even distinguished for their
good looks, the men presenting models of manly form, while the women are
equally attractive by the regularity of their features, and the graceful
modesty of expression that adorns them.

A minute detail of the many peculiarities in which the numerous tribes
of the Amazon differ from one another would fill a large volume; and in
a sketch like the present, which is meant to include them all, it would
not be possible to give such a detail.  Nor indeed would it serve any
good purpose; for although there are many points of difference between
the different tribes, yet these are generally of slight importance, and
are far more than counterbalanced by the multitude of resemblances.  So
numerous are these last, as to create a strong _idiosyncrasy_ in the
tribes of the Amazon, which not only entitles them to be classed
together in an ethnological point of view, but which separates them from
all the other Indians of America.  Of course, the non-possession of the
horse--they do not even know the animal--at once broadly distinguishes
them from the Horse Indians, both of the Northern and Southern divisions
of the continent.

It would be idle here to discuss the question as to whether the
Amazonian Indians have all a common origin.  It is evident they have
not.  We know that many of them are from Peru and Bogota--runaways from
Spanish oppression.  We know that others migrated from the south--
equally fugitives from the still more brutal and barbarous domination of
the Portuguese.  And still others were true aboriginals of the soil, or
if emigrants, when and whence came they?  An idle question, never to be
satisfactorily answered.  There they now are, and _as they are_ only
shall we here consider them.

Notwithstanding the different sources whence they sprang, we find them,
as I have already said, stamped with a certain idiosyncrasy, the result,
no doubt, of the like circumstances which surround them.  One or two
tribes alone, whose habits are somewhat "odder" than the rest, have been
treated to a separate chapter; but for the others, whatever is said of
one, will, with very slight alteration, stand good for the whole of the
Amazonian tribes.  Let it be understood that we are discoursing only of
those known as the "Indios bravos," the fierce, brave, savage, or wild
Indians--as you may choose to translate the phrase,--a phrase used
throughout all Spanish America to distinguish those tribes, or sections
of tribes, who refused obedience to Spanish tyranny, and who preserve to
this hour their native independence and freedom.  In contradistinction
to the "Indios bravos" are the "Indios mansos," or "tame Indians," who
submitted tamely both to the cross and sword, and now enjoy a rude
demi-semi-civilisation, under the joint protectorate of priests and
soldiers.  Between these two kinds of American aborigines, there is as
much difference as between a lord and his serf--the true savage
representing the former and the demi-semi-civilised savage approximating
more nearly to the latter.  The meddling monk has made a complete
failure of it.  His ends were purely political, and the result has
proved ruinous to all concerned;--instead of civilising the savage, he
has positively demoralised him.

It is not of his neophytes, the "Indios mansos," we are now writing, but
of the "infidels," who would not hearken to his voice or listen to his
teachings--those who could never be brought within "sound of the bell."

Both "kinds" dwell within the valley of the Amazon, but in different
places.  The "Indios mansos" may be found along the banks of the main
stream, from its source to its mouth--but more especially on its upper
waters, where it runs through Spanish (Peruvian) territory.  There they
dwell in little villages or collections of huts, ruled by the missionary
monk with iron rod, and performing for him all the offices of the menial
slave.  Their resources are few, not even equalling those of their wild
but independent brethren; and their customs and religion exhibit a
ludicrous _melange_ of savagery and civilisation.  Farther down the
river, the "Indio manso" is a "tapuio," a hireling of the Portuguese, or
to speak more correctly, a _slave_; for the latter treats him as such,
considers him as such, and though there is a law against it, often drags
him from his forest-home and keeps him in life-long bondage.  Any human
law would be a dead letter among such white-skins as are to be
encountered upon the banks of the Amazon.  Fortunately they are but few;
a town or two on the lower Amazon and Rio Negro,--some wretched villages
between,--scattered _estancias_ along the banks--with here and there a
paltry post of "militarios," dignified by the name of a "fort:" these
alone speak the progress of the Portuguese civilisation throughout a
period of three centuries!

From all these settlements the wild Indian keeps away.  He is never
found near them--he is never seen by travellers, not even by the
settlers.  You may descend the mighty Amazon from its source to its
mouth, and not once set your eyes upon the true son of the forest--the
"Indio bravo."  Coming in contact only with the neophyte of the Spanish
missionary, and the skulking _tapuio_ of the Portuguese trader, you
might bring away a very erroneous impression of the character of an
Amazonian Indian.

Where is he to be seen? where dwells he? what like is his home? what
sort of a house does he build?  His costume? his arms? his occupation?
his habits?  These are the questions you would put.  They shall all be
answered, but briefly as possible--since our limited space requires

The wild Indian, then, is not to be found upon the Amazon itself, though
there are long reaches of the river where he is free to roam--hundreds
of miles without either town or _estancia_.  He hunts, and occasionally
fishes by the great water, but does not there make his dwelling--though
in days gone by, its shores were his favourite place of residence.
These were before the time when Orellana floated down past the door of
his "malocca"--before that dark hour when the Brazilian slave-hunter
found his way into the waters of the mighty _Solimoes_.  This last event
was the cause of his disappearance.  It drove him from the shores of his
beloved river-sea; forced him to withdraw his dwelling from observation,
and rebuild it far up, on those tributaries where he might live a more
peaceful life, secure from the trafficker in human flesh.  Hence it is
that the home of the Amazonian Indian is now to be sought for--not on
the Amazon itself, but on its tributary streams--on the "canos" and
"igaripes," the canals and lagoons that, with a labyrinthine
ramification, intersect the mighty forest of the Montana.  Here dwells
he, and here is he to be seen by any one bold enough to visit him in his
fastness home.

How is he domiciled?  Is there anything peculiar about the style of his
house or his village?

Eminently peculiar; for in this respect he differs from all the other
savage people of whom we have yet written, or of whom we may have
occasion to write.

Let us proceed at once to describe his dwelling.  It is not a tent, nor
is it a hut, nor a cabin, nor a cottage, nor yet a cave!  His dwelling
can hardly be termed a house, nor his village a collection of houses--
since both house and village are one and the same, and both are so
peculiar, that we have no name for such a structure in civilised lands,
unless we should call it a "barrack."  But even this appellation would
give but an erroneous idea of the Amazonian dwelling; and therefore we
shall use that by which it is known in the "Lingoa geral," and call it a

By such name is his house (or village rather) known among the _tapuios_
and traders of the Amazon.  Since it is both house and village at the
same time, it must needs be a large structure; and so is it, large
enough to contain the whole tribe--or at least the section of it that
has chosen one particular spot for their residence.  It is the property
of the whole community, built by the labour of all, and used as their
common dwelling--though each family has its own section specially set
apart for itself.  It will thus be seen that the Amazonian savage is, to
some extent, a disciple of the Socialist school.

I have not space to enter into a minute account of the architecture of
the _malocca_.  Suffice it to say, that it is an immense temple-like
building, raised upon timber uprights, so smooth and straight as to
resemble columns.  The beams and rafters are also straight and smooth,
and are held in their places by "sipos" (tough creeping plants), which
are whipped around the joints with a neatness and compactness equal to
that used in the rigging of a ship.  The roof is a thatch of
palm-leaves, laid on with great regularity, and brought very low down at
the eaves, so as to give to the whole structure the appearance of a
gigantic beehive.  The walls are built of split palms or bamboos, placed
so closely together as to be impervious to either bullet or arrows.

The plan is a parallelogram, with a semicircle at one end; and the
building is large enough to accommodate the whole community, often
numbering more than a hundred individuals.  On grand festive occasions
several neighbouring communities can find room enough in it--even for
dancing--and three or four hundred individuals not unfrequently assemble
under the roof of a single _malocca_.

Inside the arrangements are curious.  There is a wide hall or avenue in
the middle--that extends from end to end throughout the whole length of
the parallelogram--and on both sides of the hall is a row of partitions,
separated from each other by split palms or canes, closely placed.  Each
of these sections is the abode of a family, and the place of deposit for
the hammocks, clay pots, calabash-cups, dishes, baskets, weapons, and
ornaments, which are the private property of each.  The hall is used for
the larger cooking utensils--such as the great clay ovens and pans for
baking the cassava, and boiling the _caxire_ or _chicha_.  This is also
a neutral ground, where the children play, and where the dancing is done
on the occasion of grand "balls" and other ceremonial festivals.

The common doorway is in the gable end, and is six feet wide by ten in
height.  It remains open during the day, but is closed at night by a mat
of palm fibre suspended from the top.  There is another and smaller
doorway at the semicircular end; but this is for the private use of the
chief, who appropriates the whole section of the semicircle to himself
and his family.

Of course the above is only the general outline of a _malocca_.  A more
particular description would not answer for that of all the tribes of
the Amazon.  Among different communities, and in different parts of the
Montana, the _malocca_ varies in size, shape, and the materials of which
it is built; and there are some tribes who live in separate huts.  These
exceptions, however, are few, and as a general thing, that above
described is the style of habitation throughout the whole Montana, from
the confines of Peru to the shores of the Atlantic.  North and south we
encounter this singular house-village, from the headwaters of the Rio
Negro to the highlands of Brazil.

Most of the Amazonian tribes follow agriculture, and understood the art
of tillage before the coming of the Spaniards.  They practise it,
however, to a very limited extent.  They cultivate a little manioc, and
know how to manufacture it into _farinha_ or _cassava_ bread.  They
plant the _musaceae_ and yam, and understand the distillation of various
drinks, both from the plantain and several kinds of palms.  They can
make pottery from clay,--shaping it into various forms, neither rude nor
inelegant,--and from the trees and parasitical twiners that surround
their dwellings, they manufacture an endless variety of neat implements
and utensils.

Their canoes are hollow trunks of trees sufficiently well-shaped, and
admirably adapted to their mode of travelling--which is almost
exclusively by water, by the numerous _canos_ and _igaripes_, which are
the roads and paths of their country--often as narrow and intricate as
paths by land.

The Indians of the tropic forest dress in the very lightest costume.  Of
course each tribe has its own fashion; but a mere belt of cotton cloth,
or the inner bark of a tree, passed round the waist and between the
limbs, is all the covering they care for.  It is the _guayuco_.  Some
wear a skirt of tree bark, and, on grand occasions, feather tunics are
seen, and also plume head-dresses, made of the brilliant wing and tail
feathers of parrots and macaws.  Circlets of these also adorn the arms
and limbs.  All the tribes paint, using the _anotto, caruto_, and
several other dyes which they obtain from various kinds of trees,
elsewhere more particularly described.

There are one or two tribes who _tattoo_ their skins; but this strange
practice is far less common among the American Indians than with the
natives of the Pacific isles.

In the manufacture of their various household utensils and implements,
as well as their weapons for war and the chase, many tribes of Amazonian
Indians display an ingenuity that would do credit to the most
accomplished artisans.  The hammocks made by them have been admired
everywhere; and it is from the valley of the Amazon that most of these
are obtained, so much prized in the cities of Spanish and Portuguese
America.  They are the special manufacture of the women, the men only
employing their mechanical skill on their weapons:

The hammock, "rede," or "maqueira," is manufactured out of strings
obtained from the young leaves of several species of palms.  The
_astrocaryum_, or "tucum" palm furnishes this cordage, but a still
better quality is obtained from the "miriti" (_Mauritia flexuosa_).  The
unopened leaf, which forms a thick-pointed column growing up out of the
crown of the tree, is cut off at the base, and this being pulled apart,
is shaken dexterously until the tender leaflets fall out.  These being
stripped of their outer covering, leave behind a thin tissue of a
pale-yellowish colour, which is the fibre for making the cordage.  After
being tied in bundles this fibre is left awhile to dry, and is then
twisted by being rolled between the hand and the hip or thigh.  The
women perform this process with great dexterity.  Taking two strands of
fibre between the forefinger and thumb of the left hand, they lay them
separated a little along the thigh; a roll downward gives them a twist,
and then being adroitly brought together, a roll upwards completes the
making of the cord.  Fifty fathoms in a day is considered a good day's
spinning.  The cords are afterwards dyed of various colours, to render
them more ornamental when woven into the maqueira.

The making of this is a simple process.  Two horizontal rods are placed
at about seven feet apart, over which the cord is passed some fifty or
sixty times, thus forming the "woof."  The warp is then worked in by
knotting the cross strings at equal distances apart, until there are
enough.  Two strong cords are then inserted where the rods pass through,
and these being firmly looped, so as to draw all the parallel strings
together, the rod is pulled out, and the hammock is ready to be used.

Of course, with very fine "redes," and those intended to be disposed of
to the traders, much pains are taken in the selection of the materials,
the dyeing the cord, and the weaving it into the hammock.  Sometimes
very expensive articles are made ornamented with the brilliant feathers
of birds cunningly woven among the meshes and along the borders.

Besides making the hammock, which is the universal couch of the
Amazonian Indian, the women also manufacture a variety of beautiful
baskets.  Many species of palms and _calamus_ supply them with materials
for this purpose, one of the best being the "Iu" palm (_Astrocaryum
acaule_).  They also make many implements and utensils, some for
cultivating the plantains, melons, and _manioc root_, and others for
manufacturing the last-named vegetable into their favourite "farinha"
(_cassava_).  The Indians understood how to separate the poisonous juice
of this valuable root from its wholesome farina before the arrival of
white men among them; and the process by which they accomplish this
purpose has remained without change up to the present hour, in fact, it
is almost the same as that practised by the Spaniards and Portuguese,
who simply adopted the Indian method.  The work is performed by the
women, and thus: the roots are brought home from the manioc "patch" in
baskets, and then washed and peeled.  The peeling is usually performed
by the teeth; after that the roots are grated, the grater being a large
wooden slab about three feet long, a foot wide, a little hollowed out,
and the hollow part covered all over with sharp pieces of quartz set in
regular diamond-shaped patterns.  Sometime a cheaper grater is obtained
by using the aerial root of the pashiuba palm (_Iriartea exhorhiza_),
which, being thickly covered over with hard spinous protuberances,
serves admirably for the purpose.

The grated pulp is next placed to dry upon a sieve, made of the rind of
a water-plant, and is afterwards put into a long elastic cylinder-shaped
basket or net, of the bark of the "jacitara" palm (_Desmoncus
macroacanthus_).  This is the _tipiti_; and at its lower end there is a
strong loop, through which a stout pole is passed; while the _tipiti_
itself, when filled with pulp, is hung up to the branch of a tree, or to
a firm peg in the wall.  One end of the pole is then rested against some
projecting point, that serves as a fulcrum, while the Indian woman,
having seated herself upon the other end, with her infant in her arms,
or perhaps some work in her hands, acts as the lever power.  Her weight
draws the sides of the _tipiti_ together, until it assumes the form of
an inverted cone; and thus the juice is gradually pressed out of the
pulp, and drops into a vessel placed underneath to receive it.  The
mother must be careful that the little imp does not escape from under
her eye, and perchance quench its thirst out of the vessel below.  If
such an accident were to take place, in a very few minutes she would
have to grieve for a lost child; since the sap of the manioc root, the
variety most cultivated by the Indians, is a deadly poison.  This is the
"yucca amarga," or bitter manioc; the "yucca dulce," or sweet kind,
being quite innoxious, even if eaten in its raw state.

The remainder of the process consists in placing the grated pulp--now
sufficiently dry--on a large pan or oven, and submitting it to the
action of the fire.  It is then thought sufficiently good for Indian
use; but much of it is afterwards prepared for commerce, under different
names, and sold as _semonilla_ (erroneously called _semolina_), sago,
and even as arrowroot.

At the bottom of that, poisonous tub, a sediment has all the while been
forming.  That is the _starch_ of the manioc root--the _tapioca_ of
commerce: of course that is not thrown away.

The men of the tropic forest spend their lives in doing very little.
They are idle and not much disposed to work--only when war or the chase
calls them forth do they throw aside for awhile their indolent habit,
and exhibit a little activity.

They hunt with the bow and arrow, and fish with a harpoon spear, nets,
and sometimes by poisoning water with the juice of a vine called
barbasco.  The "peixe boy," "vaca marina," or "manatee,"--all three
names being synonymes--is one of the chief animals of their pursuit.
All the waters of the Amazon valley abound with manatees, probably of
several species, and these large creatures are captured by the harpoon,
just as seals or walrus are taken.  Porpoises also frequent the
South-American rivers; and large fresh-water fish of numerous species.
The game hunted by the Amazonian Indians can scarcely be termed noble.
We have seen that the large _mammalia_ are few, and thinly distributed
in the tropical forest.  With the exception of the jaguar and peccary,
the chase is limited to small quadrupeds--as the capibara, the paca,
agouti--to many kinds of monkeys, and an immense variety of birds.  The
monkey is the most common game, and is not only eaten by all the
Amazonian Indians, but by most of them considered as the choicest of

In procuring their game the hunters sometimes use the common bow and
arrow, but most of the tribes are in possession of a weapon which they
prefer to all others for this particular purpose.  It is an implement of
death so original in its character and so singular in its construction
as to deserve a special and minute description.

The weapon I allude to is the "blow-gun," called "pucuna" by the Indians
themselves, "gravitana" by the Spaniards, and "cerbatana" by the
Portuguese of Brazil.

When the Amazonian Indian wishes to manufacture for himself a _pucuna_
he goes out into the forest and searches for two tall, straight stems of
the "pashiuba miri" palm (_Iriartea setigera_).  These he requires of
such thickness that one can be contained within the other.  Having found
what he wants, he cuts both down and carries them home to his molocca.
Neither of them is of such dimensions as to render this either
impossible or difficult.

He now takes a long slender rod--already prepared for the purpose--and
with this pushes out the pith from both stems, just as boys do when
preparing their pop-guns from the stems of the elder-tree.  The rod thus
used is obtained from another species of _Iriartea_ palm, of which the
wood is very hard and tough.  A little tuft of fern-root, fixed upon the
end of the rod, is then drawn backward and forward through the tubes,
until both are cleared of any pith which may have adhered to the
interior; and both are polished by this process to the smoothness of
ivory.  The palm of smaller diameter, being scraped to a proper size, is
now inserted into the tube of the larger, the object being to correct
any crookedness in either, should there be such; and if this does not
succeed, both are whipped to some straight beam or post, and thus left
till they become straight.  One end of the bore, from the nature of the
tree, is always smaller than the other; and to this end is fitted a
mouthpiece of two peccary tusks to concentrate the breath of the hunter
when blowing into the tube.  The other end is the muzzle; and near this,
on the top, a sight is placed, usually a tooth of the "paca" or some
other rodent animal.  This sight is glued on with a gum which another
tropic tree furnishes.  Over the outside, when desirous of giving the
weapon an ornamental finish, the maker winds spirally a shining creeper,
and then the _pucuna_ is ready for action.

Sometimes only a single shank of palm is used, and instead of the pith
being pushed out, the stem is split into two equal parts throughout its
whole extent.  The heart substance being then removed, the two pieces
are brought together, like the two divisions of a cedarwood pencil, and
tightly bound with a sipo.

The _pucuna_ is usually about an inch and a half in diameter at the
thickest end, and the bore about equal to that of a pistol of ordinary
calibre.  In length, however, the weapon varies from eight to twelve

This singular instrument is designed, not for propelling a bullet, but
an arrow; but as this arrow differs altogether from the common kind it
also needs to be described.

The blow-gun arrow is about fifteen or eighteen inches long, and is made
of a piece of split bamboo; but when the "patawa" palm can be found,
this tree furnishes a still better material, in the long spines that
grow out from the sheathing bases of its leaves.  These are 18 inches in
length, of a black colour, flattish though perfectly straight.  Being
cut to the proper length--which most of them are without cutting--they
are whittled at one end to a sharp point.  This point is dipped about
three inches deep in the celebrated "curare" poison; and just where the
poison mark terminates, a notch is made, so that the head will be easily
broken off when the arrow is in the wound.  Near the other end a little
soft down of silky cotton (the floss of the _bombax ceiba_) is twisted
around into a smooth mass of the shape of a spinning-top, with its
larger end towards the nearer extremity of the arrow.  The cotton is
held in its place by being lightly whipped on by the delicate thread or
fibre of a _bromelia_, and the mass is just big enough to fill the tube
by gently pressing it inward.

The arrow thus made is inserted, and whenever the game is within reach
the Indian places his mouth to the lower end or mouthpiece, and with a
strong "puff," which practice enables him to give, he sends the little
messenger upon its deadly errand.  He can hit with unerring aim at the
distance of forty or fifty paces; but he prefers to shoot in a direction
nearly vertical, as in that way he can take the surest aim.  As his
common game--birds and monkeys--are usually perched upon the higher
branches of tall trees, their situation just suits him.  Of course it is
not the mere wound of the arrow that kills these creatures, but the
poison, which in two or three minutes after they have been hit, will
bring either bird or monkey to the ground.  When the latter is struck he
would be certain to draw out the arrow; but the notch, already
mentioned, provides against this, as the slightest wrench serves to
break off the envenomed head.

These arrows are dangerous things,--even for the manufacturer of them to
play with: they are therefore carried in a quiver, and with great
care,--the quiver consisting either of a bamboo joint or a neat wicker

The weapons of war used by the forest tribes are the common bow and
arrows, also tipped with _curare_, and the "macana," or war-club, a
species peculiar to South America, made out of the hard heavy wood of
the _pissaba_ palm.  Only one or two tribes use the spear; and both the
"bolas" and lazo are quite unknown, as such weapons would not be
available among the trees of the forest.  These are the proper arms of
the Horse Indian, the dweller on the open plains; but without them, for
all war purposes, the forest tribes have weapons enough, and,
unfortunately, make a too frequent use of them.



The Andes mountains, rising in the extreme southern point of South
America, not only extend throughout the whole length of that continent,
but continue on through Central America and Mexico, under the name of
"Cordilleras de Sierra Madre;" and still farther north to the shores of
the Arctic Sea, under the very inappropriate appellation of the "Rocky
Mountains."  You must not suppose that these stupendous mountains form
one continuous elevation.  At many places they furcate into various
branches, throwing off spurs, and sometime parallel "sierras," between
which lie wide "valles," or level plains of great extent.  It is upon
these high plateaux--many of them elevated 7,000 feet above the sea--
that the greater part of the Spanish-American population dwells; and on
them too are found most of the large cities of Spanish South America and

These parallel chains meet at different points, forming what the
Peruvians term "nodas" (knots); and, after continuing for a distance in
one great cordillera, again bifurcate.  One of the most remarkable of
these bifurcations of the Andes occurs about latitude 2 degrees North.
There the gigantic sierra separates into two great branches, forming a
shape like the letter Y, the left limb being that which is usually
regarded as the main continuation of these mountains through the Isthmus
of Panama, while the right forms the eastern boundary of the great
valley of the Magdalena river; and then, trending in an eastwardly
direction along the whole northern coast of South America to the extreme
point of the promontory of Paria.

Each of these limbs again forks into several branches or spurs,--the
whole system forming a figure that may be said to bear some resemblance
to a genealogical tree containing the pedigree of four or five

It is only with one of the bifurcations of the right or eastern sierra
that this sketch has to do.  On reaching the latitude of 7 degrees
north, this chain separates itself into two wings, which, after
diverging widely to the east and west, sweep round again towards each
other, as if desirous to be once more united.  The western wing advances
boldly to this reunion; but the eastern, after vacillating for a time,
as if uncertain what course to take, turns its back abruptly on its old
comrade, and trends off in a due east direction, till it sinks into
insignificance upon the promontory of Paria.

The whole mass of the sierra, however, has not been of one mind; for, at
the time of its indecision, a large spur detaches itself from the main
body, and sweeps round, as if to carry out the union with the left wing
advancing from the west.  Although they get within sight of each other,
they are not permitted to meet,--both ending abruptly before the circle
is completed, and forming a figure bearing a very exact resemblance to
the shoe of a racehorse.  Within this curving boundary is enclosed a
vast valley,--as large as the whole of Ireland,--the central portion of
which, and occupying about one third of its whole extent, is a sheet of
water, known from the days of the discovery of America, as the _Lake of

It obtained this appellation from the name of an Indian cazique, who was
met upon its shores by the first discoverers; but although this lake was
known to the earliest explorers of the New World,--although it lies
contiguous to many colonial settlements both on the mainland and the
islands of the Caribbean Sea,--the lake itself and the vast territory
that surrounds it, remain almost as unknown and obscure as if they were
situated among the central deserts of Africa.

And yet the valley of Maracaibo is one of the most interesting portions
of the globe,--interesting not only as a _terra incognita_, but on
account of the diversified nature of its scenery and productions.  It
possesses a _fauna_ of a peculiar kind, and its _flora_ is one of the
richest in the world, not surpassed,--perhaps not equalled,--by that of
any other portion of the torrid zone.  To give a list of its vegetable
productions would be to enumerate almost every species belonging to
tropical America.  Here are found the well-known medicinal plants,--the
sassafras and sarsaparilla, guaiacum, copaiva, cinchona, and cuspa, or
_Cortex Angosturae_; here are the deadly poisons of _barbasco_ and
_mavacure_, and alongside them the remedies of the "palo sano," and
_mikania guaco_.  Here likewise grow plants and trees producing those
well-known dyes of commerce, the blue indigo, the red arnotto, the
lake-coloured chica, the brazilletto, and dragon's-blood; and above all,
those woods of red, gold, and ebon tints, so precious in the eyes of the
cabinet and musical-instrument makers of Europe.

Yet, strange to say, these rich resources lie, like treasures buried in
the bowels of the earth, or gems at the bottom of the sea, still
undeveloped.  A few small lumbering establishments near the entrance of
the lake,--here and there a miserable village, supported by a little
coast commerce in dyewoods, or cuttings of ebony,--now and then a hamlet
of fishermen,--a "hato" of goats and sheep; and at wider intervals, a
"ganaderia" of cattle, or a plantation of cocoa-trees (_cocale_),
furnish the only evidence that man has asserted his dominion over this
interesting region.  These settlements, however, are sparsely
distributed, and widely distant from one another.  Between them stretch
broad savannas and forests,--vast tracts, untitled and even
unexplored,--a very wilderness, but a wilderness rich in natural

The Lake of Maracaibo is often, though erroneously, described as an arm
of the sea.  This description only applies to the _Gulf of Maracaibo_,
which is in reality a portion of the Caribbean Sea.  The lake itself is
altogether different, and is a true fresh-water lake, separated from the
gulf by a narrow neck or strait.  Within this strait--called "boca," or
mouth--the salt water does not extend, except during very high tides or
after long-continued _nortes_ (north winds), which have the effect of
driving the sea-water up into the lake, and imparting to some portions
of it a saline or brackish taste.  This, however, is only occasional and
of temporary continuance; and the waters of the lake, supplied by a
hundred streams from the horseshoe sierra that surrounds it, soon return
to their normal character of freshness.

The shape of Lake Maracaibo is worthy of remark.  The main body of its
surface is of oval outline,--the longer diameter running north and
south,--but taken in connection with the straits which communicate with
the outer gulf, it assumes a shape somewhat like that of a Jew's-harp,
or rather of a kind of guitar, most in use among Spanish Americans, and
known under the name of "mandolin" (or "bandolon").  To this instrument
do the natives sometimes compare it.

Another peculiarity of Lake Maracaibo, is the extreme shallowness of the
water along its shores.  It is deep enough towards the middle part; but
at many points around the shore, a man may wade for miles into the
water, without getting beyond his depth.  This peculiarity arises from
the formation of the valley in which it is situated.  Only a few spurs
of the sierras that surround it approach near the edge of the lake.
Generally from the bases of the mountains, the land slopes with a very
gentle declination,--so slight as to have the appearance of a perfectly
horizontal plain,--and this is continued for a great way under the
surface of the water.  Strange enough, however, after getting to a
certain distance from the shore, the shoal water ends as abruptly as the
escarpment of a cliff, and a depth almost unfathomable succeeds,--as if
the central part of the lake was a vast subaqueous ravine, bounded on
both sides by precipitous cliffs.  Such, in reality, is it believed to

A singular phenomenon is observed in the Lake Maracaibo, which, since
the days of Columbus, has not only puzzled the Curious, but also the
learned and scientific, who have unsuccessfully attempted to explain it.
This phenomenon consists in the appearance of a remarkable light, which
shows itself in the middle of the night, and at a particular part of the
lake, near its southern extremity.  This light bears some resemblance to
the _ignis fatuus_ of our own marshes; and most probably is a
phosphorescence of a similar nature, though on a much grander scale,--
since it is visible at a vast distance across the open water.  As it is
seen universally in the same direction, and appears fixed in one place,
it serves as a beacon for the fishermen and dye-wood traders who
navigate the waters of the lake,--its longitude being precisely that of
the straits leading outward to the gulf.  Vessels that have strayed from
their course, often regulate their reckoning by the mysterious "Farol de
Maracaibo" (Lantern of Maracaibo),--for by this name is the natural
beacon known to the mariners of the lake.

Various explanations have been offered to account for this singular
phenomenon, but none seem to explain it in a satisfactory manner.  It
appears to be produced by the exhalations that arise from an extensive
marshy tract lying around the mouth of the river Zulia, and above which
it universally shows itself.  The atmosphere in this quarter is usually
hotter than elsewhere, and supposed to be highly charged with
electricity; but whatever may be the chemical process which produces the
illumination, it acts in a perfectly silent manner.  No one has ever
observed any explosion to proceed from it, or the slightest sound
connected with its occurrence.

Of all the ideas suggested by the mention of Lake Maracaibo, perhaps
none are so interesting as those that relate to its native inhabitants,
whose peculiar habits and modes of life not only astonished the early
navigators, but eventually gave its name to the lake itself and to the
extensive province in which it is situated.  When the Spanish
discoverers, sailing around the shores of the gulf, arrived near the
entrance of Lake Maracaibo, they saw, to their amazement, not only
single houses, but whole villages, apparently floating upon the water!
On approaching nearer, they perceived that these houses were raised some
feet above the surface, and supported by posts or piles driven into the
mud at the bottom.  The idea of Venice--that city built upon the sea, to
which they had been long accustomed--was suggested by these
_superaqueous_ habitations; and the name of _Venezuela_ (Little Venice)
was at once bestowed upon the coast, and afterwards applied to the whole
province now known as the Republic of Venezuela.

Though the "water villages" then observed have long since disappeared,
many others of a similar kind were afterwards discovered in Lake
Maracaibo itself, some of which are in existence to the present day.
Besides here and there an isolated habitation, situated in some bay or
"laguna," there are four principal villages upon this plan still in
existence, each containing from fifty to a hundred habitations.  The
inhabitants of some of these villages have been "Christianised," that
is, have submitted to the teaching of the Spanish missionaries; and one
in particular is distinguished by having its little church--a regular
_water_ church--in the centre, built upon piles, just as the rest of the
houses are, and only differing from the common dwellings in being larger
and of a somewhat more pretentious style.  From the belfry of this
curious ecclesiastical edifice a brazen bell may be heard at morn and
eve tolling the "oracion" and "vespers," and declaring over the wide
waters of the lake that the authority of the Spanish monk has replaced
the power of the cazique among the Indians of the Lake Maracaibo.  Not
to all sides of the lake, however, has the cross extended its conquest.
Along its western shore roams the fierce unconquered Goajiro, who, a
true warrior, still maintains his independence; and even encroaches upon
the usurped possessions both of monk and "militario."

The _water-dweller_, however, although of kindred race with the Goajiro,
is very different, both in his disposition and habits of life.  He is
altogether a man of peace, and might almost be termed a civilised
being,--that is, he follows a regular industrial calling, by which he
subsists.  This is the calling of a fisherman, and in no part of the
world could he follow it with more certainty of success, since the
waters which surround his dwelling literally swarm with fish.

Lake Maracaibo has been long noted as the resort of numerous and
valuable species of the finny tribe, in the capture of which the Indian
fisherman finds ample occupation.  He is betimes a fowler,--as we shall
presently see,--and he also sometimes indulges, though more rarely, in
the chase, finding game in the thick forests or on the green savannas
that surround the lake, or border the banks of the numerous "riachos"
(streams) running into it.  On the savanna roams the graceful roebuck
and the "venado," or South-American deer, while along the river banks
stray the capibara and the stout tapir, undisturbed save by their fierce
feline enemies, the puma and spotted jaguar.

But hunting excursions are not a habit of the water Indian, whose
calling, as already observed, is essentially that of a fisherman and
"fowler," and whose subsistence is mainly derived from two kinds of
_water-dwellers_, like himself--one with fins, living below the surface,
and denominated _fish_; another with wings, usually resting _on_ the
surface, and known as _fowl_.  These two creatures, of very different
kinds and of many different species, form the staple and daily food of
the Indian of Maracaibo.

In an account of his habits we stall begin by giving a description of
the mode in which he constructs his singular dwelling.

Like other builders he begins by selecting the site.  This must be a
place where the water is of no great depth; and the farther from the
shore he can find a shallow spot the better for his purpose, for he has
a good reason for desiring to get to a distance from the shore, as we
shall presently see.  Sometimes a sort of subaqueous island, or elevated
sandbank, is found, which gives him the very site he is in search of.
Having pitched upon the spot, his next care is to procure a certain
number of tree-trunks of the proper length and thickness to make
"piles."  Not every kind of timber will serve for this purpose, for
there are not many sorts that would long resist decay and the wear and
tear of the water insects, with which the lake abounds.  Moreover, the
building of one of these aquatic houses, although it be only a rude hut,
is a work of time and labour, and it is desirable therefore to make it
as permanent as possible.  For this reason great care is taken in the
selection of the timber for the "piles."

But it so chances that the forests around the lake furnish the very
thing itself, in the wood of a tree known to the _Spanish inhabitants_
as the "vera," of "palo sano," and to the natives as "guaiac."  It is
one of the zygophyls of the genus _Guaiacum_, of which there are many
species, called by the names of "iron-wood" or "lignum-vitae;" but the
species in question is the _tree_ lignum-vitae (_Guaiacum arboreum_),
which attains to a height of 100 feet, with a fine umbrella-shaped head,
and bright orange flowers.  Its wood is so hard, that it will turn the
edge of an axe, and the natives believe that if it be buried for a
sufficient length of time under the earth it will turn to iron!  Though
this belief is not literally true, as regards the _iron_, it is not so
much of an exaggeration as might be supposed.  The "palo de fierro,"
when buried in the soil of Maracaibo or immersed in the waters of the
lake, in reality does undergo a somewhat similar metamorphose; in other
words, it turns into stone; and the petrified trunks of this wood are
frequently met with along the shores of the lake.  What is still more
singular--the piles of the water-houses often become petrified, so that
the dwelling no longer rests upon wooden posts, but upon real columns of

Knowing all this by experience, the Indian selects the guaiac for his
uprights, cuts them of the proper length; and then, launching them in
the water, transports them to the site of his dwelling, and fixes them
in their places.

Upon this a platform is erected, out of split boards of some less
ponderous timber, usually the "ceiba," or "silk-cotton tree" (_Bombax
ceiba_), or the "cedro negro" (_Cedrela odorata_) of the order
_Meliaceae_.  Both kinds grow in abundance upon the shores of the
lake,--and the huge trunks of the former are also used by the water
Indian for the constructing of his canoe.

The platform, or floor, being thus established, about two or three feet
above the surface of the water, it then only remains to erect, the walls
and cover them over with a roof.  The former are made of the slightest
materials,--light saplings or bamboo poles,--usually left open at the
interstices.  There is no winter or cold weather here,--why should the
walls be thick?  There are heavy rains, however, at certain seasons of
the year, and these require to be guarded against; but this is not a
difficult matter, since the broad leaves of the "enea" and "vihai" (a
species of _Heliconia_) serve the purpose of a roof just as well as
tiles, slates, or shingles.  Nature in these parts is bountiful, and
provides her human creatures with a spontaneous supply of every want.
Even ropes and cords she furnishes, for binding the beams, joists, and
rafters together, and holding on the thatch against the most furious
assaults of the wind.  The numerous species of creeping and twining
plants ("llianas" or "sipos") serve admirably for this purpose.  They
are applied in their green state, and when contracted by exsiccation
draw the timbers as closely together as if held by spikes of iron.  In
this manner and of such materials does the water Indian build his house.

Why he inhabits such a singular dwelling is a question that requires to
be answered.  With the _terra firma_ close at hand, and equally
convenient for all purposes of his calling, why does he not build his
hut there?  So much easier too of access would it be, for he could then
approach it either by land or by water; whereas, in its present
situation, he can neither go away from his house or get back to it
without the aid of his "periagua" (canoe).  Moreover, by building on the
beach, or by the edge of the woods, he would spare himself the labour of
transporting those heavy piles and setting them in their places,--a
work, as already stated, of no ordinary magnitude.  Is it for personal
security against human enemies,--for this sometimes drives a people to
seek singular situations for their homes?  No; the Indian of Maracaibo
has his human foes, like all other people; but it is none of these that
have forced him to adopt this strange custom.  Other enemies? wild
beasts? the dreaded jaguar, perhaps?  No, nothing of this kind.  And yet
it is in reality a living creature that drives him to this resource,--
that has forced him to flee from the mainland and take to the water for
security against its attack,--a creature of such small dimensions, and
apparently so contemptible in its strength, that you will no doubt smile
at the idea of its putting a strong man to flight,--a little insect
exactly the size of an English gnat, and no bigger, but so formidable by
means of its poisonous bite, and its myriads of numbers, as to render
many parts of the shores of Lake Maracaibo quite uninhabitable.  You
guess, no doubt, the insect to which I allude?  You cannot fail to
recognise it as the _mosquito_?  Just so; it is the mosquito I mean, and
in no part of South America do these insects abound in greater numbers,
and nowhere are they more bloodthirsty than upon the borders of this
great fresh-water sea.  Not only one species of mosquito, but all the
varieties known as "jejens," "zancudos," and "tempraneros," here abound
in countless multitudes,--each kind making its appearance at a
particular hour of the day or night,--"mounting guard" (as the
persecuted natives say of them) in turn, and allowing only short
intervals of respite from their bitter attacks.

Now, it so happens, that although the various kinds of mosquitoes are
peculiarly the productions of a marshy or watery region,--and rarely
found where the soil is high and dry,--yet as rarely do they extend
their excursions to a distance from the land.  They delight to dwell
under the shadow of leaves, or near the herbage of grass, plants, or
trees, among which they were hatched.  They do not stray far from the
shore, and only when the breeze carries them do they fly out over the
open water.  Need I say more?  You have now the explanation why the
Indians of Maracaibo build their dwellings upon the water.  It is simply
to escape from the "plaga de moscas" (the pest of the flies).

Like most other Indians of tropical America, and some even of colder
latitudes, those of Maracaibo go naked, wearing only the _guayueo_, or
"waist-belt."  Those of them, however, who have submitted to the
authority of the monks, have adopted a somewhat more modest garb,--
consisting of a small apron of cotton or palm fibre, suspended from the
waist, and reaching down to their knees.

We have already stated, that the water-dwelling Indian is a fisherman,
and that the waters of the lake supply him with numerous kinds of fish
of excellent quality.  An account of these, with the method employed in
capturing them, may not prove uninteresting.

First, there is the fish known as "liza," a species of skate.  It is of
a brilliant silvery hue, with bluish corruscations.  It is a small fish,
being only about a foot in length, but is excellent to eat, and when
preserved by drying, forms an article of commerce with the West-Indian
islands.  Along the coasts of Cumana and Magarita, there are many people
employed in the _pesca de liza_ (skate-fishery); but although the liza
is in reality a sea fish, it abounds in the fresh waters of Maracaibo,
and is there also an object of industrial pursuit.  It is usually
captured by seines, made out of the fibres of the _cocui aloe_ (_agave
cocuiza_), or of cords obtained from the unexpanded leaflets of the
moriche palm (_Mauritia flexuosa_), both of which useful vegetable
products are indigenous to this region.  The roe of the liza, when dried
in the sun, is an article in high estimation, and finds its way into the
channels of commerce.

A still more delicate fish is the "pargo."  It is of a white colour
tinged with rose; and of these great numbers are also captured.  So,
too, with the "doncella," one of the most beautiful species, as its
pretty name of "doncella" (young maiden) would indicate.  These last are
so abundant in some parts of the lake, that one of its bays is
distinguished by the name of _Laguna de Doncella_.

A large, ugly fish, called the "vagre," with an enormous head and wide
mouth, from each side of which stretches a beard-like appendage, is also
an object of the Indian's pursuit.  It is usually struck with a spear,
or killed by arrows, when it shows itself near the surface of the water.
Another monstrous creature, of nearly circular shape, and full three
feet in diameter, is the "carite," which is harpooned in a similar

Besides these there is the "viegita," or "old-woman fish," which itself
feeds upon lesser creatures of the finny tribe, and especially upon the
smaller species of shell-fish.  It has obtained its odd appellation from
a singular noise which it gives forth, and which resembles the voice of
an old woman debilitated with extreme age.

The "dorado," or gilded fish--so called on account of its beautiful
colour--is taken by a hook, with no other bait attached than a piece of
white rag.  This, however, must be kept constantly in motion, and the
bait is played by simply paddling the canoe over the surface of the
lake, until the dorado, attracted by the white meteor, follows in its
track, and eventually hooks itself.

Many other species of fish are taken by the water-Indians, as the
"lebranche" which goes in large "schools," and makes its breeding-place
in the lagunas and up the rivers, and the "guabina," with several kinds
of sardines that find their way into the tin boxes of Europe; for the
Maracaibo fisherman is not contented with an exclusive fish diet.  He
likes a little "casava," or maize-bread, along with it; besides, he has
a few other wants to satisfy, and the means he readily obtains in
exchange for the surplus produce of his nets, harpoons, and arrows.

We have already stated that he is a fowler.  At certain seasons of the
year this is essentially his occupation.  The fowling season with him is
the period of northern winter, when the migratory aquatic birds come
down from the boreal regions of Prince Rupert's Land to disport their
bodies in the more agreeable waters of Lake Maracaibo.  There they
assemble in large flocks, darkening the air with their myriads of
numbers, now fluttering over the lake, or, at other times, seated on its
surface silent and motionless.  Notwithstanding their great numbers,
however, they are too shy to be approached near enough for the "carry"
of an Indian arrow, or a gun either; and were it not for a very cunning
stratagem which the Indian has adopted for their capture, they might
return again to their northern haunts without being minus an individual
of their "count."

But they are not permitted to depart thus unscathed.  During their
sojourn within the limits of Lake Maracaibo their legions get
considerably thinned, and thousands of them that settle down upon its
inviting waters are destined never more to take wing.

To effect their capture, the Indian fowler, as already stated, makes use
of a very ingenious stratagem.  Something similar is described as being
practised in other parts of the world; but in no place is it carried to
such perfection as upon the Lake Maracaibo.

The fowler first provides himself with a number of large gourd-shells of
roundish form, and each of them at least as big as his own skull.  These
he can easily obtain, either from the herbaceous squash (_Cucurbita
lagenaris_) or from the calabash tree (_Crescentia cujete_), both of
which grow luxuriantly on the shores of the lake.  Filling his periagua
with these, he proceeds out into the open water to a certain distance
from the land, or from his own dwelling.  The distance is regulated by
several considerations.  He must reach a place which, at all hours of
the day, the ducks and other waterfowl are not afraid to frequent; and,
on the other hand, he must not go beyond such a depth as will bring the
water higher than his own chin when wading through it.  This last
consideration is not of so much importance, for the water Indian can
swim almost as well as a duck, and dive like one, if need be; but it is
connected with another matter of greater importance--the convenience of
having the birds as near as possible, to save him a too long and
wearisome "wade."  It is necessary to have them so near, that at all
hours they may be under his eye.

Having found the proper situation, which the vast extent of shoal water
(already mentioned) enables him to do, he proceeds to carry out his
design by dropping a gourd here and another there, until a large space
of surface is covered by these floating shells.  Each gourd has a stone
attached to it by means of a string, which, resting upon the bottom,
brings the buoy to an anchor, and prevents it from being drifted into
the deeper water or carried entirely away.

When his decoys are all placed, the Indian paddles back to his platform
dwelling, and there, with watchful eye, awaits the issue.  The birds are
at first shy of these round yellow objects intruded upon their domain;
but, as the hours pass, and they perceive no harm in them, they at
length take courage and venture to approach.  Urged by that curiosity
which is instinctive in every creature, they gradually draw nigher and
nigher, until at length they boldly venture into the midst of the odd
objects and examine them minutely.  Though puzzled to make out what it
is all meant for, they can perceive no harm in the yellow globe-shaped
things that only bob about, but make no attempt to do them any injury.
Thus satisfied, their curiosity soon wears off, and the birds no longer
regarding the floating shells as objects of suspicion, swim freely about
through their midst, or sit quietly on the water side by side with them.

But the crisis has now arrived when it is necessary the Indian should
act, and for this he speedily equips himself.  He first ties a stout
rope around his waist, to which are attached many short strings or
cords.  He then draws over his head a large gourd-shell, which, fitting
pretty tightly, covers his whole skull, reaching down to his neck.  This
shell is exactly similar to the others already floating on the water,
with the exception of having three holes on one side of it, two on the
same level with the Indian's eyes, and the third opposite his mouth,
intended to serve him for a breathing-hole.

He is now ready for work; and, thus oddly accoutred, he slips quietly
down from his platform, and laying himself along the water, swims gently
in the direction of the ducks.

He swims only where the water is too shallow to prevent him from
crouching below the surface; for were he to stand upright, and wade,--
even though he were still distant from them,--the shy birds might have
suspicions about his after-approaches.

When he reaches a point where the lake is sufficiently deep, he gets
upon his feet and wades, still keeping his shoulders below the surface.
He makes his advance very slowly and warily, scarce raising a ripple on
the surface of the placid lake, and the nearer he gets to his intended
victims he proceeds with the greater caution.

The unsuspecting birds see the destroyer approach without having the
slightest misgiving of danger.  They fancy that the new comer is only
another of those inanimate objects by their side--another gourd-shell
drifting out upon the water to join its companions.  They have no
suspicion that this wooden counterfeit--like the horse of Troy--is
inhabited by a terrible enemy.

Poor things! how could they?  A stratagem so well contrived would
deceive more rational intellects than theirs; and, in fact, having no
idea of danger, they perhaps do not trouble themselves even to notice
the new arrival.

Meanwhile the gourd has drifted silently into their midst, and is seen
approaching the odd individuals, first one and afterwards another, as if
it had some special business with each.  This business appears to be of
a very mysterious character; and in each case is abruptly brought to a
conclusion, by the duck making a sudden dive under the water,--not head
foremost, according to its usual practice, but in the reverse way, as if
jerked down by the feet, and so rapidly that the creature has not time
to utter a single "quack."

After quite a number of individuals have disappeared in this mysterious
manner, the others sometimes grow suspicious of the moving calabash, and
either take to wing, or swim off to a less dangerous neighbourhood; but
if the gourd performs its office in a skilful manner, it will be seen
passing several times to and fro between the birds and the water village
before this event takes place.  On each return trip, when far from the
flock, and near the habitations, it will be seen to rise high above the
surface of the water.  It will then be perceived that it covers the
skull of a copper-coloured savage, around whose hips may be observed a
double tier of dead ducks dangling by their necks from the rope upon his
waist, and forming a sort of plumed skirt, the weight of which almost
drags its wearer back into the water.

Of course a capture is followed by a feast; and during the fowling
season of the year the Maracaibo Indian enjoys roast-duck at discretion.
He does not trouble his head much about the green peas, nor is he
particular to have his ducks stuffed with sage and onions; but a hot
seasoning of red pepper is one of the indispensible ingredients of the
South-American _cuisine_; and this he usually obtains from a small patch
of capsicum which he cultivates upon the adjacent shore; or, if he be
not possessed of land, he procures it by barter, exchanging his fowls or
fish for that and a little maize or manioc flour, furnished by the

The Maracaibo Indian is not a stranger to commerce.  He has been
"Christianised,"--to use the phraseology of his priestly proselytiser,--
and this has introduced him to new wants and necessities.  Expenses that
in his former pagan state were entirely unknown to him, have now become
necessary, and a commercial effort is required to meet them.  The Church
must have its dues.  Such luxuries as being baptised, married, and
buried, are not to be had without expense, and the padre takes good care
that none of these shall be had for nothing.  He has taught his
proselyte to believe that unless all these rites have been officially
performed there is pot the slightest chance for him in the next world;
and under the influence of this delusion, the simple savage willingly
yields up his tenth, his fifth, or, perhaps it would be more correct to
say, his all.  Between fees of baptism and burial, mulcts for
performance of the marriage rite, contributions towards the shows and
ceremonies of _dias de fiesta_, extravagant prices for blessed beads,
leaden crucifixes, and images of patron saints, the poor Christianised
Indian is compelled to part with nearly the whole of his humble gains;
and the fear of not being able to pay for Christian burial after death,
is often one of the torments of his life.

To satisfy the numerous demands of the Church, therefore, he is forced
into a little action in the commercial line.  With the water-dweller of
Maracaibo, fish forms one of the staples of export trade,--of course in
the preserved state, as he is too distant from any great town or
metropolis to be able to make market of them while fresh.  He
understands, however, the mode of curing them,--which he accomplishes by
sun-drying and smoking,--and, thus prepared, they are taken off his
hands by the trader, who carries them all over the West Indies, where,
with boiled rice, they form the staple food of thousands of the
dark-skinned children of Ethiopia.

The Maracaibo Indian, however, has still another resource, which
occasionally supplies him with an article of commercial export.  His
country--that is, the adjacent shores of the lake--produces the finest
_caoutchouc_.  There the India-rubber tree, of more than one species,
flourishes in abundance; and the true "seringa," that yields the finest
and most valuable kind of this gummy juice, is nowhere found in greater
perfection than in the forests of Maracaibo.  The caoutchouc of commerce
is obtained from many other parts of America, as well as from other
tropical countries; but as many of the bottles and shoes so well-known
in the india-rubber shops, are manufactured by the Indians of Maracaibo,
we may not find a more appropriate place to give an account of this
singular production, and the mode by which it is prepared for the
purposes of commerce and manufacture.

As already mentioned, many species of trees yield india-rubber, most of
them belonging either to the order of the "Morads," or _Euphorbiaceae_.
Some are species of _ficus_, but both the genera and species are too
numerous to be given here.  That which supplies the "bottle
india-rubber" is a euphorbiaceous plant,--the _seringa_ above
mentioned,--whose proper botanical appellation is _Siphonia elastica_.
It is a tall, straight, smooth-barked tree, having a trunk of about a
foot in diameter, though in favourable situations reaching to much
larger dimensions.  The process of extracting its sap--out of which the
caoutchouc is manufactured--bears some resemblance to the tapping of
sugar-maples in the forests of the north.

With his small hatchet, or tomahawk, the Indian cuts a gash in the bark,
and inserts into it a little wedge of wood to keep the sides apart.
Just under the gash, he fixes a small cup-shaped vessel of clay, the
clay being still in a plastic state, so that it may be attached closely
to the bark.  Into this vessel the milk-like sap of the _seringa_ soon
commences to run, and keeps on until it has yielded about the fifth of a
pint.  This, however, is not the whole yield of a tree, but only of a
single wound; and it is usual to open a great many gashes, or "taps,"
upon the same trunk, each being furnished with its own cup or receiver.
In from four to six hours the sap ceases to run.

The cups are then detached from the tree, and the contents of all,
poured into a large earthen vessel, are carried to the place where the
process of making the caoutchouc is to take place,--usually some dry
open spot in the middle of the forest, where a temporary camp has been
formed for the purpose.

When the dwelling of the Indian is at a distance from where the
india-rubber tree grows,--as is the case with those of Lake Maracaibo,--
it will not do to transport the sap thither.  There must be no delay
after the cups are filled, and the process of manufacture must proceed
at once, or as soon as the milky juice begins to coagulate,--which it
does almost on the instant.

Previous to reaching his camp, the "seringero" has provided a large
quantity of palm-nuts, with which he intends to make a fire for smoking
the caoutchouc.  These nuts are the fruit of several kinds of palms, but
the best are those afforded by two magnificent species,--the "Inaja"
(_Maximiliana regia_), and the "Urucuri" (_Attalea excelsa_).

A fire is kindled of these nuts; and an earthen pot, with a hole in the
bottom, is placed mouth downward over the pile.  Through the aperture
now rises a strong pungent smoke.

If it is a shoe that is intended to be made, a clay last is already
prepared, with a stick standing out of the top of it, to serve as a
handle, while the operation is going on.  Taking the stick in his hand,
the seringero dips the last lightly into the milk, or with a cup pours
the fluid gently over it, so as to give a regular coating to the whole
surface; and then, holding it over the smoke, he keeps turning it,
jack-fashion, till the fluid has become dry and adhesive.  Another dip
is then given, and the smoking done as before; and this goes on, till
forty or fifty different coats have brought the sides and soles of the
shoe to a proper thickness.  The soles, requiring greater weight, are,
of course, oftener dipped than the "upper leather."

The whole process of making the shoe does not occupy half an hour; but
it has afterwards to receive some farther attention in the way of
ornament; the lines and figures are yet to be executed, and this is done
about two days after the smoking process.  They are simply traced out
with a piece of smooth wire, or oftener with the spine obtained from
some tree,--as the thorny point of the _bromelia_ leaf.

In about a week the shoes are ready to be taken from the last; and this
is accomplished at the expense and utter ruin of the latter, which is
broken into fragments, and then cleaned out.  Water is used sometimes to
soften the last, and the inner surface of the shoe is washed after the
clay has been taken out.

Bottles are made precisely in the same manner,--a round ball, or other
shaped mass of clay, serving as the mould for their construction.  It
requires a little more trouble to get the mould extracted from the
narrow neck of the bottle.

It may be remarked that it is not the smoke of the palm-nuts that gives
to the india-rubber its peculiar dark colour; that is the effect of age.
When freshly manufactured, it is still of a whitish or cream colour;
and only attains the dark hue after it has been kept for a considerable

We might add many other particulars about the mode in which the Indian
of Maracaibo employs his time, but perhaps enough has been said to show
that his existence is altogether an _odd_ one.



The Esquimaux are emphatically an "odd people," perhaps the oddest upon
the earth.  The peculiar character of the regions they inhabit has
naturally initiated them into a system of habits and modes of life
different from those of any other people on the face of the globe; and
from the remoteness and inaccessibility of the countries in which they
dwell, not only have they remained an unmixed people, but scarce any
change has taken place in their customs and manners during the long
period since they were first known to civilised nations.

The Esquimaux people have been long known and their habits often
described.  Our first knowledge of them was obtained from Greenland,--
for the native inhabitants of Greenland are true Esquimaux,--and
hundreds of years ago accounts of them were given to the world by the
Danish colonists and missionaries--and also by the whalers who visited
the coasts of that inhospitable land.  In later times they have been
made familiar to us through the Arctic explorers and whale-fishers, who
have traversed the labyrinth of icy islands that extend northward from
the continent of America.  The Esquimaux may boast of possessing the
longest country in the world.  In the first place, Greenland is theirs,
and they are found along the western shores of Baffin's Bay.  In North
America proper their territory commences at the straits of Belle Isle,
which separate Newfoundland from Labrador, and thence extends all around
the shore of the Arctic Ocean, not only to Behring's Straits, but beyond
these, around the Pacific coast of Russian America, as far south as the
great mountain Saint Elias.  Across Behring's Straits they are found
occupying a portion of the Asiatic coast, under the name of Tchutski,
and some of the islands in the northern angle of the Pacific Ocean are
also inhabited by these people, though under a different name.
Furthermore, the numerous ice islands which lie between North America
and the Pole are either inhabited or visited by Esquimaux to the highest
point that discovery has yet reached.

There can be little doubt that the Laplanders of northern Europe, and
the Samoyedes, and other littoral peoples dwelling along the Siberian
shores, are kindred races of the Esquimaux; and taking this view of the
question, it may be said that the latter possess all the line of coast
of both continents facing northward; in other words, that their country
extends around the globe--though it cannot be said (as is often
boastingly declared of the British empire) that "the sun never sets upon
it;" for, over the "empire" of the Esquimaux, the sun not only sets, but
remains out of sight of it for months at a time.

It is not usual, however, to class the Laplanders and _Asiatic Arctic_
people with the Esquimaux.  There are some essential points of
difference; and what is here said of the Esquimaux relates only to those
who inhabit the northern coasts and islands of America, and to the
native Greenlanders.

Notwithstanding the immense extent of territory thus designated,
notwithstanding the sparseness of the Esquimaux population, and the vast
distances by which one little tribe or community is separated from
another, the absolute similarity in their habits, in their physical and
intellectual conformation, and, above all, in their languages, proves
incontestably that they are all originally of one and the same race.

Whatever, therefore, may be said of a "Schelling," or native
Greenlander, will be equally applicable to an Esquimaux of Labrador, to
an Esquimaux of the Mackenzie River or Behring's Straits, or we might
add, to a Khadiak islander, or a Tuski of the opposite Asiatic coast;
always taking into account such differences of costume, dialect, modes
of life, etc, as may be brought about by the different circumstances in
which they are placed.  In all these things, however, they are
wonderfully alike; their dresses, weapons, boats, houses, and house
implements, being almost the same in material and construction from East
Greenland to the Tchutskoi Noss.

If their country be the longest in the world, it is also the
_narrowest_.  Of course, if we take into account the large islands that
thickly stud the Arctic Ocean, it may be deemed broad enough; but I am
speaking rather of the territory which they possess on the continents.
This may be regarded as a mere strip following the outline of the coast,
and never extending beyond the distance of a day's journey inland.
Indeed, they only seek the interior in the few short weeks of summer,
for the purpose of hunting the reindeer, the musk-ox, and other animals;
after each excursion, returning again to the shores of the sea, where
they have their winter-houses and more permanent home.  They are, truly
and emphatically, a _littoral_ people, and it is to the sea they look
for their principal means of support.  But for this source of supply,
they could not long continue to exist upon land altogether incapable of
supplying the wants even of the most limited population.

The name _Esquimaux_--or, as it is sometimes written, "Eskimo,"--like
many other national appellations, is of obscure origin.  It is supposed
to have been given to them by the Canadian voyageurs in the employ of
the Hudson's Bay Company, and derived from the words _Ceux qui miaux_
(those who mew), in relation to their screaming like cats.  But the
etymology is, to say the least, _suspicious_.  They generally call
themselves "Inuit" (pronounced enn-oo-eet), a word which signifies
"men;"--though different tribes of them have distinct tribal

In personal appearance they cannot be regarded as at all prepossessing--
though some of the younger men and girls, when cleansed of the filth and
grease with which their skin is habitually coated, are far from
ill-looking.  Their natural colour is not much darker than that of some
of the southern nations of Europe--the Portuguese, for instance--and the
young girls often have blooming cheeks, and a pleasing expression of
countenance.  Their faces are generally of a broad, roundish shape, the
forehead and chin both narrow and receding, and the cheeks very
prominent, though not angular.  On the contrary, they are rather fat and
round.  This prominence of the cheeks gives to their nose the appearance
of being low and flat; and individuals are often seen with such high
cheeks, that a ruler laid from one to the other would not touch the
bridge of the nose between them!

As they grow older their complexion becomes darker, perhaps from
exposure to the climate.  Very naturally, too, both men and women grow
uglier, but especially the latter, some of whom in old age present such
a hideous aspect, that the early Arctic explorers could not help
characterising them as _witches_.

The average stature of the Esquimaux is far below that of European
nations, though individuals are sometimes met with nearly six feet in
height.  These, however, are rare exceptions; and an Esquimaux of such
proportions would be a giant among his people.  The more common height
is from four feet eight inches to five feet eight; and the women are
still shorter, rarely attaining the standard of five feet.  The
shortness of both men and women appears to be a deficiency in length of
limb, for their bodies are long enough; but, as the Esquimaux is almost
constantly in his canoe, or "kayak," or upon his dog-sledge, his legs
have but little to do, and are consequently stunted in their

A similar peculiarity is presented by the Comanche, and other Indians of
the prairies, and also in the Guachos and Patagonian Indians, of the
South-American Pampas, who spend most of their time on the backs of
their horses.

The Esquimaux have no religion, unless we dignify by that name a belief
in witches, sorcerers, "Shamans," and good or evil spirits, with, some
confused notion of a good and bad place hereafter.  Missionary zeal has
been exerted among them almost in vain.  They exhibit an apathetic
indifference to the teachings of Christianity.

Neither have they any political organisation; and in this respect they
differ essentially from most savages known, the lowest of whom have
usually their chiefs and councils of elders.  This absence of all
government, however, is no proof of their being lower in the scale of
civilisation than other savages; but, perhaps, rather the contrary, for
the very idea of chiefdom, or government, is a presumption of the
existence of vice among a people, and the necessity of coercion and
repression.  To one another these rude people are believed to act in the
most honest manner; and it could be shown that such was likewise their
behaviour towards strangers until they were corrupted by excessive
temptation.  All Arctic voyagers record instances of what they term
petty theft, on the part of certain tribes of Esquimaux,--that is, the
pilfering of nails, hatchets, pieces of iron-hoops, etc,--but it might
be worth while reflecting that these articles are, in the eyes of the
Esquimaux, what ingots of gold are are to Europeans, and worth while
inquiring if a few bars of the last-mentioned metal were laid loosely
and carelessly upon the pavements of London, how long they would be in
changing their owners?  Theft should be regarded along with the amount
of temptation; and it appears even in these recorded cases that only a
few of the Esquimaux took part in it.  I apprehend that something more
than a few Londoners would be found picking up the golden ingots.  How
many thieves have we among us, with no greater temptation than a cheap
cotton kerchief?--more than a few, it is to be feared.

In truth, the Esquimaux are by no means the savages they have been
represented.  The only important point in which they at all assimilate
to the purely savage state is in the filthiness of their persons, and
perhaps also in the fact of their eating much of their food (fish and
flesh-meat) in a raw state.  For the latter habit, however, they are
partially indebted to the circumstances in which they are placed--fires
or cookery being at times altogether impossible.  They are not the only
people who have been forced to eat raw flesh; and Europeans who have
travelled in that inhospitable country soon get used to the practice, at
the same time getting quite cured of their _degout_ for it.

It is certainly not correct to characterise the Esquimaux as mere
_savages_.  On the contrary, they may be regarded as a civilised people,
that is, so far as civilisation is permitted by the rigorous climate in
which they live; and it would be safe to affirm that a colony of the
most polished people in Europe, established as the Esquimaux are, and
left solely to their own resources, would in a single generation exhibit
a civilisation not one degree higher than that now met with among the
Esquimaux.  Indeed, the fact is already established: the Danish and
Norwegian colonists of West Greenland, though backed by constant
intercourse with their mother-land, are but little more civilised than
the "Skellings," who are their neighbours.

In reality, the Esquimaux have made the most of the circumstances in
which they are placed, and continue to do so.  Among them _agriculture_
is impossible, else they would long since have taken to it.  So too is
commerce; and as to manufactures, it is doubtful whether Europeans could
excel them under like circumstances.  Whatever raw material their
country produces, is by them both strongly and neatly fabricated, as
indicated by the surprising skill with which they make their dresses,
their boats, their implements for hunting and fishing; and in these
accomplishments--the only ones practicable under their hyperborean
heaven--they are perfect adepts.  In such arts civilised Europeans are
perfect simpletons to them, and the theories of fireside speculators, so
lately promulgated in our newspapers, that Sir John Franklin and his
crew could not fail to procure a living where the simple Esquimaux were
able to make a home, betrayed only ignorance of the condition of these
people.  In truth, white men would starve, where the Esquimaux could
live in luxurious abundance, so far superior to ours is their knowledge
both of fishing and the chase.  It is a well-recorded fact, that while
our Arctic voyagers, at their winter stations, provided with good guns,
nets, and every appliance, could but rarely kill a reindeer or capture a
seal, the Esquimaux obtained both in abundance, and apparently without
an effort; and we shall presently note the causes of their superiority
in this respect.

The very dress of the Esquimaux is a proof of their superiority over
other savages.  At no season of the year do they go either naked, or
even "ragged."  They have their changes to suit the seasons,--their
summer dress, and one of a warmer kind for winter.  Both are made in a
most complicated manner; and the preparation of the material, as well as
the manner by which it is put together, prove the Esquimaux women--for
they are alike the tailors and dressmakers--to be among the best
seamstresses in the world.

Captain Lyon, one of the most observant of Arctic voyagers, has given a
description of the costume of the Esquimaux of Savage Island, and those
of Repulse Bay, where he wintered, and his account is so graphic and
minute in details, that it would be idle to alter a word of his
language.  His description, with slight differences in make and
material, will answer pretty accurately for the costume of the whole

"The clothes of both sexes are principally composed of fine and
well-prepared reindeer pelts; the skins of bears, seals, wolves, foxes,
and marmottes, are also used.  The sealskins are seldom employed for any
part of the dress except boots and shoes, as being more capable of
resisting water, and of far greater durability than other leather.

"The general winter dress of the men is an ample outer coat of
deer-skin, having no opening in front, and a large hood, which is drawn
over the head at pleasure.  This hood is invariably bordered with white
fur from the thighs of the deer, and thus presents a lively contrast to
the dark face which it encircles.  The front or belly part of the coat
is cut off square with the upper part of the thighs, but behind it is
formed into a broad skirt, rounded at the lower end, which reaches to
within a few inches of the ground.  The lower edges and tails of these
dresses are in some cases bordered with bands of fur of an opposite
colour to the body; and it is a favourite ornament to hang a fringe of
little strips of skin beneath the border.  The embellishments give a
very pleasing appearance to the dress.  It is customary in blowing
weather to tie a piece of skin or cord tight round the waist of the
coat; but in other cases the dress hangs loose.

"Within the covering I have just described is another, of precisely the
same form; but though destitute of ornaments of leather, it has
frequently little strings of beads hanging to it from the shoulders or
small of the back.  This dress is of thinner skin, and acts as a shirt,
the hairy part being placed near the body: it is the indoors habit.
When walking, the tail is tied up by two strings to the back, so that it
may not incommode the legs.  Besides these two coats, they have also a
large cloak, or, in fact, an open deer-skin, with sleeves: this, from
its size, is more frequently used as a blanket; and I but once saw it
worn by a man at the ship, although the women throw it over their
shoulders to shelter themselves and children while sitting on the

"The trowsers, which are tightly tied round the loins, have no
waistbands, but depend entirely by the drawing-string; they are
generally of deer-skin, and ornamented in the same manner as the coats.
One of the most favourite patterns is an arrangement of the skins of
deer's legs, so as to form very pretty stripes.  As with the jackets,
there are two pair of these indispensables, reaching no lower than the
knee-cap, which is a cause of great distress in cold weather, as that
part is frequently severely frost-bitten; yet, with all their experience
of this bad contrivance, they will not add an inch to the established

"The boots reach to the bottom of the breeches, which hang loosely over
them.  In these, as in other parts of the dress, are many varieties of
colour, material, and pattern, yet in shape they never vary.  The
general winter boots are of deer-skin; one having the hair next the leg,
and the other with the fur outside.  A pair of soft slippers of the same
kind are worn between the two pair of boots, and outside of all a strong
sealskin shoe is pulled to the height of the ankle, where it is tightly
secured by a drawing-string.  For hunting excursions, or in summer when
the country is thawed, one pair of boots only is worn.  They are of
sealskin, and so well sewed and prepared without the hair, that although
completely saturated, they allow no water to pass through them.  The
soles are generally of the tough hide of the walrus, or of the large
seal called Oo-ghioo, so that the feet are well protected in walking
over rough ground.  Slippers are sometimes worn outside.  In both cases
the boots are tightly fastened round the instep with a thong of leather.
The mittens in common use are of deer-skin, with the hair inside; but,
in fact, every kind of skin is used for them.  They are extremely
comfortable when dry; but if once wetted and frozen again, in the winter
afford as little protection to the hands as a case of ice would do.  In
summer, and in fishing, excellent sealskin mittens are used, and have
the same power of resisting water as the boots of which I have just
spoken.  The dresses I have just described are chiefly used in winter.
During the summer it is customary to wear coats, boots, and even
breeches, composed of the prepared skins of ducks, with the feathers
next the body.  These are comfortable, light, and easily prepared.  The
few ornaments in their possession are worn by the men.  These are some
bandeaus which encircle the head, and are composed of various-coloured
leather, plaited in a mosaic pattern, and in some cases having human
hair woven in them, as a contrast to the white skins.  From the lower
edge foxes' teeth hang suspended, arranged as a fringe across the
forehead.  Some wear a musk-ox tooth, a bit of ivory, or a small piece
of bone.

"The clothing of the women is of the same materials as that of the men,
but in shape almost every part is different from the male dress.  An
inner jacket is worn next the skin, and the fur of the other is outside.
The hind-flap, or tail, is of the same form before described, but there
is also a small flap in front, extending about halfway down the thigh.
The coats have each an immense hood, which, as well as covering the
head, answers the purpose of a child's cradle for two or three years
after the birth of an infant.  In order to keep the burden of the child
from drawing the dress tight across the throat, a contrivance, in a
great measure resembling the slings of a soldier's knapsack, is affixed
to the collar or neck part, whence it passes beneath the hood, crosses,
and, being brought under the arms, is secured on each side the breast by
a wooden button.  The shoulders of the women's coat have a bag-like
space, for the purpose of facilitating the removal of the child from the
hood round to the breast without taking it out of the jacket.

"A girdle is sometimes worn round the waist: it answers the double
purposes of comfort and ornament; being composed of what they consider
valuable trinkets, such as foxes' bones (those of the rableeaghioo), or
sometimes of the ears of deer, which hang in pairs to the number of
twenty or thirty, and are trophies of the skill of the hunter, to whom
the wearer is allied.  The inexpressibles of the women are in the some
form as those of the men, but they are not ornamented by the same
curious arrangement of colours; the front part is generally of white,
and the back of dark fur.  The manner of securing them at the waist is
also the same; but the drawing-strings are of much greater length, being
suffered to hang down by one side, and their ends are frequently
ornamented with some pendent jewel, such as a grinder or two of the
musk-ox, a piece of ivory, a small ball of wood, or a perforated stone.

"The boots of the fair sex are, without dispute, the most extraordinary
part of their equipment, and are of such an immense size as to resemble
leather sacks, and to give a most deformed, and, at the same time,
ludicrous appearance to the whole figure, the bulky part being at the
knee; the upper end is formed into a pointed flap, which, covering the
front of the thigh, is secured by a button or knot within the waistband
of the breeches.

"Some of these ample articles of apparel are composed with considerable
taste, of various-coloured skins; they also have them of parchment,--
seals' leather.  Two pairs are worn; and the feet have also a pair of
sealskin slippers, which fit close, and are tightly tied round the

"Children have no kind of clothing, but lie naked in their mothers'
hoods until two or three years of age, when they are stuffed into a
little dress, generally of fawn-skin, which has jacket and breeches in
one, the back part being open; into these they are pushed, when a string
or two closes all up again.  A cap forms an indispensable part of the
equipment, and is generally of some fantastical shape; the skin of a
fawn's head is a favourite material in the composition, and is sometimes
seen with the ears perfect; the nose and holes for the eyes lying along
the crown of the wearer's head, which in consequence, looks like that of
an animal."

The same author also gives a most graphic description of the curious
winter dwellings of the Esquimaux, which on many parts of the coast are
built out of the only materials to be had,--_ice and snow_!  Snow for
the walls and ice for the windows! you might fancy the house of the
Esquimaux to be a very cold dwelling; such, however, is by no means its

"The entrance to the dwellings," says Captain Lyon, "was by a hole,
about a yard in diameter, which led through a low-arched passage of
sufficient breadth for two to pass in a stooping posture, and about
sixteen feet in length; another hole then presented itself, and led
through a similarly-shaped, but shorter passage, having at its
termination a round opening, about two feet across.  Up this hole we
crept one step, and found ourselves in a dome about seven feet in
height, and as many in diameter, from whence the three dwelling-places,
with arched roofs, were entered.  It must be observed that this is the
description of a large hut, the smaller ones, containing one or two
families, have the domes somewhat differently arranged.

"Each dwelling might be averaged at fourteen or sixteen feet in diameter
by six or seven in height, but as snow alone was used in their
construction, and was always at hand, it might be supposed that there
was no particular size, that being of course at the option of the
builder.  The laying of the arch was performed in such a manner as would
have satisfied the most regular artist, the key-piece on the top, being
a large square slab.  The blocks of snow used in the buildings were from
four to six inches in thickness, and about a couple of feet in length,
carefully pared with a large knife.  Where two families occupied a dome,
a seat was raised on either side, two feet in height.  These raised
places were used as beds, and covered in the first place with whalebone,
sprigs of andromeda, or pieces of sealskin, over these were spread
deer-pelts and deer-skin clothes, which had a very warm appearance.  The
pelts were used as blankets, and many of them had ornamental fringes of
leather sewed round their edges.

"Each dwelling-place was illumined by a broad piece of transparent
fresh-water ice, of about two feet in diameter, which formed part of the
roof, and was placed over the door.  These windows gave a most pleasing
light, free from glare, and something like that which is thrown through
ground glass.  We soon learned that the building of a house was but the
work of an hour or two, and that a couple of men--one to cut the slabs
and the other to lay them--were labourers sufficient.

"For the support of the lamps and cooking apparatus, a mound of snow is
erected for each family; and when the master has two wives or a mother,
both have an independent place, one at each end of the bench.

"I find it impossible to attempt describing everything at a second
visit, and shall therefore only give an account of those articles of
furniture which must be always the same, and with which, in five
minutes, any one might be acquainted.  A frame, composed of two or three
broken fishing-spears, supported in the first place a large hoop of wood
or bone, across which an open-meshed, and ill-made net was spread or
worked for the reception of wet or damp clothes, skins, etc, which could
be dried by the heat of the lamp.  On this contrivance the master of
each hut placed his gloves on entering, first carefully clearing them of

"From the frame above mentioned, one or more coffin-shaped stone pots
were suspended over lamps of the same material, crescent-shaped, and
having a ridge extending along their back; the bowl part was filled with
blubber, and the oil and wicks were ranged close together along the
edge.  The wicks were made of moss and trimmed by a piece of asbestos,
stone, or wood; near at hand a large bundle of moss was hanging for a
future supply.  The lamps were supported by sticks, bones, or pieces of
horn, at a sufficient height to admit an oval pot of wood or whalebone
beneath, in order to catch any oil that might drop from them.  The lamps
varied considerably in size, from two feet to six inches in length, and
the pots were equally irregular, holding from two or three gallons to
half a pint.  Although I have mentioned a kind of scaffolding, these
people did not all possess so grand an establishment, many being
contented to suspend their pot to a piece of bone stuck in the wall of
the hut.  One young woman was quite a caricature in this way: she was
the inferior wife of a young man, whose senior lady was of a large size,
and had a corresponding lamp, etc, at one corner; while she herself,
being short and fat, had a lamp the size of half a dessert-plate, and a
pot which held a pint only.

"Almost every family was possessed of a large wooden tray, resembling
those used by butchers in England; its offices, however, as we soon
perceived, were more various, some containing raw flesh of seals and
blubber, and others, skins, which were steeping in urine.  A quantity of
variously-sized bowls of whalebone, wood, or skin, completed the list of
vessels, and it was evident that they were made to contain _anything_."

The Esquimaux use two kinds of boats,--the "oomiak" and "kayak."  The
oomiak is merely a large species of punt, used exclusively by the women;
but the kayak is a triumph in the art of naval architecture, and is as
elegant as it is ingenious.  It is about twenty-five feet in length, and
less than two in breadth of beam.  In shape it has been compared to a
weaver's shuttle, though it tapers much more elegantly than this piece
of machinery.  It is decked from stem to stern, excepting a circular
hole very nearly amidships, and this round hatchway is just large enough
to admit the body of an Esquimaux in a sitting posture.  Around the rim
of the circle is a little ridge, sometimes higher in front than at the
back, and this ridge is often ornamented with a hoop of ivory.  A flat
piece of wood runs along each side of the frame, and is, in fact, the
only piece of any strength in a kayak.  Its depth in the centre is four
or five inches, and its thickness about three fourths of an inch; it
tapers to a point at the commencement of the stem and stern projections.
Sixty-four ribs are fastened to this gunwale piece; seven slight rods
run the whole length of the bottom and outside the ribs.  The bottom is
rounded, and has no keel; twenty-two little beams or cross-pieces keep
the frame on a stretch above, and one strong batten runs along the
centre, from stem to stern, being, of course, discontinued at the seat
part.  The ribs are made of ground willow, also of whalebone, or, if it
can be procured, of good-grained wood.  The whole contrivance does not
weigh over fifty or sixty pounds; so that a man easily carries his kayak
on his head, which, by the form of the rim, he can do without the
assistance of his hands.

An Esquimaux prides himself in the neat appearance of his boat, and has
a warm skin placed in its bottom to sit on.  His posture is with the
legs pointed forward, and he cannot change his position without the
assistance of another person; in all cases where a weight is to be
lifted, an alteration of stowage, or any movement to be made, it is
customary for two kayaks to lie together; and the paddle of each being
placed across the other, they form a steady double boat.  An inflated
seal's bladder forms, invariably, part of the equipage of a canoe, and
the weapons are confined in their places by small lines of whalebone,
stretched tightly across the upper covering, so as to receive the points
or handles of the spears beneath them.  Flesh is frequently stowed
within the stem or stern, as are also birds and eggs; but a seal,
although round, and easily made to roll, is so neatly balanced on the
upper part of the boat as seldom to require a lashing.  When Esquimaux
are not paddling, their balance must be nicely preserved, and a
trembling motion is always observable in the boat.  The most difficult
position for managing a kayak is when going before the wind, and with a
little swell running.  Any inattention would instantly; by exposing the
broadside, overturn this frail vessel.  The dexterity with which they
are turned, the velocity of their way, and the extreme elegance of form
of the kayaks, render an Esquimaux of the highest interest when sitting
independently, and urging his course towards his prey.

"The paddle is double-bladed, nine feet three inches in length, small at
the grasp, and widening to four inches at the blades, which are thin,
and edged with ivory for strength as well as ornament.

"The next object of importance to the boat is the sledge, which finds
occupation during at least three fourths of the year.  A man who
possesses both this and a canoe is considered a person of property.  To
give a particular description of the sledge would be impossible, as
there are no two actually alike; and the materials of which they are
composed are as various as their form.  The best are made of the
jaw-bones of the whale, sawed to about two inches in thickness, and in
depth from six inches to a foot.  These are the runners, and are shod
with a thin plank of the same material; the side-pieces are connected by
means of bones, pieces of wood, or deers' horns, lashed across, with a
few inches space between each, and they yield to any great strain which
the sledge may receive.  The general breadth of the upper part of the
sledge is about twenty inches; but the runners lean inwards, and
therefore at bottom it is rather greater.  The length of bone sledges is
from four feet to fourteen.  Their weight is necessarily great; and one
of moderate size, that is to say, about ten or twelve feet, was found to
be two hundred and seventeen pounds.  The skin of the walrus is very
commonly used during the coldest part of the winter, as being
hard-frozen, and resembling an inch board, with ten times the strength,
for runners.  Another ingenious contrivance is, by casing moss and earth
in seal's skin, so that by pouring a little water, a round hard bolster
is easily formed.  Across all these kinds of runners there is the same
arrangement of bones, sticks, etc, on the upper part; and the surface
which passes over the snow is coated with ice, by mixing snow with fresh
water, which assists greatly in lightening the load for the dogs, as it
slides forwards with ease.  Boys frequently amuse themselves by yoking
several dogs to a small piece of seal's skin, and sitting on it, holding
by the traces.  Their plan is then to set off at full speed, and he who
bears the greatest number of bumps before he relinquishes his hold is
considered a very fine fellow.

"The Esquimaux possess various kinds of spears, but their difference is
chiefly in consequence of the substances of which they are composed, and
not in their general form.

"One called ka-te-teek, is a large and strong-handled spear, with an
ivory point made for despatching any wounded animal in the water.  It is
never thrown, but has a place appropriated for it on the kayak.

"The oonak is a lighter kind than the former; also ivory-headed.  It has
a bladder fastened to it, and has a loose head with a line attached;
this being darted into an animal, is instantly liberated from the handle
which gives the impetus.  Some few of these weapons are constructed of
the solid ivory of the unicorn's horn, about four feet in length, and
remarkably well-rounded and polished.

"Ip-poo-too-yoo, is another kind of hand-spear, varying but little from
the one last described.  It has, however, no appendages.

"The Noogh-wit is of two kinds; but both are used for striking birds,
young animals, or fish.  The first has a double fork at the extremity,
and there are three other barbed ones at about half its length,
diverging in different directions, so that if the end pair should miss,
some of the centre ones might strike.  The second kind has only three
barbed forks at the head.  All the points are of ivory, and the natural
curve of the walrus tusk favours and facilitates their construction.

"Amongst the minor instruments of the ice-hunting are a long bone feeler
for plumbing any cracks through which seals are suspected of breathing,
and also for trying the safety of the road.  Another contrivance is
occasionally used with the same effect as the float of a fishing-line.
Its purpose it to warn the hunter, who is watching a seal-hole, when the
animal rises to the surface, so that he may strike without seeing, or
being seen, by his prey.  This is a most delicate little rod of bone or
ivory, of about a foot in length, and the thickness of a fine
knitting-needle.  At the lower end is a small knob like a pin's head,
and the upper extremity has a fine piece of sinew tied to it, so as to
fasten it loosely to the side of the hole.  The animal, on rising, does
not perceive so small an object hanging in the water, and pushes it up
with his nose, when the watchful Esquimaux, observing his little beacon
in motion, strikes down, and secures his prize.

"Small ivory pegs or pins are used to stop the holes made by the spears
in the animal's body; thus the blood, a great luxury to the natives, is

"The same want of wood which renders it necessary to find substitutes in
the construction of spears, also occasions the great variety of bows.
The horn of the musk-ox, thinned horns of deer, or other bony
substances, are as frequently used or met with as wood, in the
manufacture of these weapons, in which elasticity is a secondary
consideration.  Three or four pieces of horn or wood are frequently
joined together in one bow,--the strength lying alone in a vast
collection of small plaited sinews; these, to the number of perhaps a
hundred, run down the back of the bow, and being quite tight, and having
the spring of catgut, cause the weapon, when unstrung, to turn the wrong
way; when bent, their united strength and elasticity are amazing.  The
bowstring is of fifteen to twenty plaits, each loose from the other, but
twisted round when in use, so that a few additional turns will at any
time alter its length.  The general length of the bows is about three
feet and a half.

"The arrows are short, light, and formed according to no general rule as
to length or thickness.  A good one has half the shaft of bone, and a
head of hard slate, or a small piece of iron; others have
sharply-pointed bone heads: none are barbed.  Two feathers are used for
the end, and are tied opposite each other, with the flat sides parallel.
A neatly-formed case contains the bow and a few arrows.  Sealskin is
preferred for this purpose, as more effectually resisting the wet than
any other.  A little bag, which is attached to the side, contains a
stone for sharpening, and some spare arrow-heads carefully wrapped up in
a piece of skin.

"The bow is held in a horizontal position, and though capable of great
force, is rarely used at a greater distance than from twelve to twenty

Their houses, clothing, sledges, boats, utensils, and arms, being now
described, it only remains to be seen in what manner these most singular
people pass their time, how they supply themselves with food, and how
they manage to support life during the long dark winter, and the scarce
less hospitable summer of their rigorous clime.  Their occupations from
year to year are carried on with an almost unvarying regularity, though,
like their dresses, they change according to the season.

Their short summer is chiefly employed in hunting the reindeer, and
other quadrupeds,--for the simple reason that it is at this season that
these appear in greatest numbers among them, migrating northward as the
snow thaws from the valleys and hill-sides.  Not but that they also kill
the reindeer in other seasons, for these animals do not all migrate
southward on the approach of winter, a considerable number remaining all
the year upon the shores of the Arctic Sea, as well as the islands to
the north of them.  Of course, the Esquimaux kills a reindeer when and
where he can; and it may be here remarked, that in no part of the
American continent has the reindeer been trained or domesticated as
among the Laplanders and the people of Russian Asia.  Neither the
Northern Indians (Tinne) nor the Esquimaux have ever reached this degree
in domestic civilisation, and this fact is one of the strongest points
of difference between the American Esquimaux and their kindred races in
the north of Asia.  One tribe of true Esquimaux alone hold the reindeer
in subjection, viz the Tuski, already mentioned, on the Asiatic shore;
and it might easily be shown that the practice reached them from the
contiguous countries of northern Asia.  The American Esquimaux, like
those of Greenland, possess only the dog as a domesticated animal; and
him they have trained to draw their sledges in a style that exhibits the
highest order of skill, and even elegance.  The Esquimaux dog is too
well-known to require particular description.  He is often brought to
this country in the return ships of Arctic whalers and voyagers; and his
thick, stout body covered closely with long stiff hair of a whitish or
yellowish colour, his cocked ears and smooth muzzle, and, above all, the
circle-like curling of his bushy tail, will easily be remembered by any
one who has ever seen this valuable animal.

In summer, then, the Esquimaux desert their winter houses upon the
shore, and taking with them their tents make an excursion into the
interior.  They do not go far from the sea--no farther than is necessary
to find the valleys browsed by the reindeer, and the fresh-water lakes,
which, at this season, are frequented by flocks of swans, geese of
various kinds, ducks, and other aquatic birds.  Hunting the reindeer
forms their principal occupation at this time; but, of course, "all is
fish that comes into the net" of an Esquimaux; and they also employ
themselves in capturing the wild fowl and the fresh-water fish, in which
these lakes abound.  With the wild fowl it is the breeding and moulting
season, and the Esquimaux not only rob them of their eggs, but take
large numbers of the young before they are sufficiently fledged to
enable them to fly, and also the old ones while similarly incapacitated
from their condition of "moult."  In their swift kayaks which they have
carried with them on their heads, they can pursue the fluttering flocks
over any part of a lake, and overtake them wherever they may go.  This
is a season of great plenty in the larder of the _Inuit_.

The fresh-water fish are struck with spears out of the kayaks, or, when
there is ice on the water strong enough to bear the weight of a man, the
fish are captured in a different manner.  A hole is broken in the ice,
the broken fragments are skimmed off and cast aside, and then the
fisherman lets down a shining bauble--usually the white tooth of some
animal--to act as a bait.  This he keeps bobbing about until the fish,
perceiving it afar off through the translucent water, usually approaches
to reconnoitre, partly from curiosity, but more, perhaps, to see if it
be anything to eat.  When near enough the Esquimaux adroitly pins the
victim with his fish spear, and lands it upon the ice.  This species of
fishing is usually delivered over to the boys--the time of the hunters
being too valuable to be wasted in waiting for the approach of the fish
to the decoy, an event of precarious and uncertain occurrence.

In capturing the reindeer, the Esquimaux practises no method very
different from that used by "still hunters" in other parts of America.
He has to depend alone upon his bow and arrows, but with these poor
weapons he contrives to make more havoc among a herd of deer than would
a backwoods hunter with his redoubtable rifle.  There is no mystery
about his superior management.  It consists simply in the exhibition of
the great strategy and patience with which he makes his approaches,
crawling from point to point and using every available cover which the
ground may afford.

But all this would be of little avail were it not for a _ruse_ which he
puts in practice, and which brings the unsuspecting deer within reach of
his deadly arrows.  This consists in a close imitation of the cries of
the animal, so close that the sharp-eared creature itself cannot detect
the counterfeit, but, drawing nearer and nearer to the rock or bush from
which the call appears to proceed, falls a victim to the deception.  The
silent arrow makes no audible sound; the herd, if slightly disturbed at
seeing one of their number fall, soon compose themselves, and go on
browsing upon the grass or licking up the lichen.  Another is attracted
by the call, and another, who fall in their turn victims either to their
curiosity or the instinct of amorous passions.

For this species of hunting, the bow far excels any other weapon; even
the rifle is inferior to it.

Sometimes the Esquimaux take the deer in large numbers, by hunting them
with dogs, driving the herd into some defile or _cul de sac_ among the
rocks, and then killing them at will with their arrows and javelins.
This, however, is an exceptional case, as such natural "pounds" are not
always at hand.  The Indians farther south construct artificial
enclosures; but in the Esquimaux country there is neither time nor
material for such elaborate contrivances.

The Esquimaux who dwell in those parts frequented by the musk-oxen, hunt
these animals very much as they do the reindeer; but killing a musk
bull, or cow either, Is a feat of far grander magnitude, and requires
more address than shooting a tiny deer.

I have said that the Esquimaux do not, even in these hunting excursions,
stray very far into the interior.  There is a good reason for their
keeping close to the seashore.  Were they to penetrate far into the land
they would be in danger of meeting with their _bitter_ foemen, the
_Tinne_ Indians, who in this region also hunt reindeer and musk-oxen.
War to the knife is the practice between these two races of people, and
has ever been since the first knowledge of either.  They often meet in
conflict upon the rivers inland, and these conflicts are of so cruel and
sanguinary a nature as to imbue each with a wholesome fear of the other.
The Indians, however, dread the Esquimaux more than the latter fear
them; and up to a late period took good care never to approach their
coasts; but the musket and rifle have now got into the hands of some of
the northern tribes, who avail themselves of these superior weapons, not
only to keep the Esquimaux at bay, but also to render them more cautious
about extending their range towards the interior.

When the dreary winter begins to make its appearance, and the reindeer
grow scarce upon the snow-covered plains, the Esquimaux return to their
winter villages upon the coast.  Quadrupeds and birds no longer occupy
their whole attention, for the drift of their thoughts is now turned
towards the inhabitants of the great deep.  The seal and the walrus are
henceforth the main objects of pursuit.  Perhaps during the summer, when
the water was open, they may have visited the shore for the purpose of
capturing that great giant of the icy seas--a whale.  If so, and they
have been successful in only one or two captures, they may look forward
to a winter of plenty--since the flesh of a full-grown whale, or, better
still, a brace of such ample creatures, would be sufficient to feed a
whole tribe for months.

They have no curing process for this immense carcass; they stand in need
of none.  Neither salt nor smoking is required in their climate.  Jack
Frost is their provision curer, and performs the task without putting
them either to trouble or expense.  It is only necessary for them to
hoist the great flitches upon scaffolds, already erected for the
purpose, so as to keep the meat from the wolves, wolverines, foxes, and
their own half-starved dogs.  From their aerial larder they can cut a
piece of blubber whenever they feel hungry, or they have a mind to eat,
and this _mind_ they are in so long as a morsel is left.

Their mode of capturing a whale is quite different from that practised
by the whale-fishers.  When the huge creature is discovered near, the
whole tribe sally forth, and surround it in their kayaks; they then hurl
darts into its body, but instead of these having long lines attached to
them, they are provided with sealskins sewed up air-tight and inflated,
like bladders.  When a number of these become attached to the body of
the whale, the animal, powerful though he be, finds great difficulty in
sinking far down, or even progressing rapidly through the water.  He
soon rises to the surface, and the sealskin buoys indicate his
whereabouts to the occupants of the kayaks, who in their swift little
crafts, soon dart up to him again, and shoot a fresh volley into his
body.  In this way the whale is soon "wearied out," and then falls a
victim to their larger spears, just as in the case where a capture is
made by regular, whalers.

I need scarcely add that a success of this kind is hailed as a jubilee
of the tribe, since it not only brings a benefit to the whole community,
but is also a piece of fortune of somewhat rare occurrence.

When no whales have been taken, the long, dark winter may justly be
looked forward to with some solicitude; and it is then that the
Esquimaux requires to put forth all his skill and energies for the
capture of the walrus or the seal--the latter of which may be regarded
as the staff of his life, furnishing him not only with food, but with
light, fuel, and clothing for his body and limbs.

Of the seals that inhabit the Polar Seas there are several species; but
the common seal (_Calocephalus vitulina_) and the harp-seal
(_Calocephalus Groenlandicus_) are those most numerous, and consequently
the principal object of pursuit.

The Esquimaux uses various stratagems for taking these creatures,
according to the circumstances in which they may be encountered; and
simpletons as the seals may appear, they are by no means easy of
capture.  They are usually very shy and suspicious, even in places where
man has never been seen by them.  They have other enemies, especially in
the great polar bear; and the dread of this tyrant of the icy seas keeps
them ever on the alert.  Notwithstanding their watchfulness, however,
both the bear and the biped make great havoc among them, and each year
hundreds of thousands of them are destroyed.

The bear, in capturing seals, exhibits a skill and cunning scarce
excelled by that of the rational being himself.  When this great
quadruped perceives a seal basking on the edge of an ice-field, he makes
his approaches, not by rushing directly towards it, which he well knows
would defeat his purpose.  If once seen by the seal, the latter has only
to betake himself to the water, where it can soon sink or swim beyond
the reach of the bear.  To prevent this, the bear gets well to leeward,
and then diving below the surface, makes his approaches under water, now
and then cautiously raising his head to get the true bearings of his
intended victim.  After a number of these subaqueous "reaches," he gets
close in to the edge of the floe in such a position as to cut off the
seal's retreat to the water.  A single spring brings him on the ice, and
then, before the poor seal has time to make a brace of flounders, it
finds itself locked in the deadly embrace of the bear.  When seals are
thus detected asleep, the Esquimaux approaches them in his kayak, taking
care to paddle cautiously and silently.  If he succeed in getting
between them and the open water, he kills them in the ordinary way--by
simply knocking them on the snout with a club, or piercing them with a
spear.  Sometimes, however, the seal goes to sleep on the surface of the
open water.  Then the approach is made in a similar manner by means of
the kayak, and the animal is struck with a harpoon.  But a single blow
does not always kill a seal, especially if it be a large one, and the
blow has been ill-directed.  In such cases the animal would undoubtedly
make his escape, and carry the harpoon along with it, which would be a
serious loss to the owner, who does not obtain such weapons without
great difficulty.  To prevent this, the Esquimaux uses a contrivance
similar to that employed in the capture of the whale,--that is, he
attaches a float or buoy to his harpoon by means of a cord, and this so
impedes the passage of the seal through the water, that it can neither
dive nor swim to any very great distance.  The float is usually a walrus
bladder inflated in the ordinary way, and wherever the seal may go, the
float betrays its track, enabling the Esquimaux to follow it in his
shuttle-shaped kayak, and pierce it again with a surer aim.

In winter, when the sea is quite covered with ice, you might fancy that
the seal-fishery would be at an end, for the seal is essentially a
marine animal; and although it can exist upon the ice or on dry land, it
could not _subsist_ there.  Access to the water it must have, in order
to procure its food, which consists of small fish and molluscs.  Of
course, when the ice forms on the surface, the seal is in its true
element--the water underneath--but when this ice becomes, as it often
does, a full yard in thickness, extending over hundreds of miles of the
sea, how then is the seal to be got at?  It could not be reached at all;
and at such a season the Esquimaux people would undoubtedly starve, were
it not for a habit peculiar to this animal, which, happily for them,
brings it within their reach.

Though the seal can live under water like a fish, and probably could
pass a whole winter under the ice without much inconvenience, it likes
now and then to take a little fresh air, and have a quiet nap upon the
upper surface in the open air.  With this design it breaks a hole
through the ice, while the latter is yet thin, and this hole it keeps
carefully open during the whole winter, clearing out each new crust as
it forms.  No matter to what thickness the ice may attain, this hole
always forms a breathing-place for the seal, and a passage by which he
may reach the upper surface, and indulge himself in--his favourite
siesta in the open air.  Knowing this habit, the Esquimaux takes
advantage of it to make the seal his captive.  When the animal is
discovered on the ice, the hunter approaches with the greatest stealth
and caution.  This is absolutely necessary: for if the enemy is
perceived, or makes the slightest noise, the wary seal flounders rapidly
into his hole, and is lost beyond redemption.  If badly frightened, he
will not appear for a long time, denying himself his open air exercise
until the patience of his persecutor is quite worn out, and the coast is
again clear.

In making his approaches, the hunter uses all his art, not only taking
advantage of every inequality--such as snow-drifts and ice-hillocks--to
conceal himself; but he also practises an ingenious deception by
dressing himself in the skin of a seal of like species, giving his body
the figure of the animal, and counterfeiting its motions, by floundering
clumsily over the ice, and oscillating his head from side to side, just
as seals are seen to do.

This deception often proves successful, when the hunter under any other
shape would in vain endeavour to get within striking distance of his
prey.  When seals are scarce, and the supply greatly needed, the
Esquimaux often lies patiently for hours together on the edge of a
seal-hole waiting for the animal to come up.  In order to give it time
to get well out upon the ice, the hunter conceals himself behind a heap
of snow, which he has collected and piled up for the purpose.  A
float-stick, ingeniously placed in the water of the breathing-hole,
serves as a signal to tell when the seal is mounting through his
trap-like passage, the motion of the stick betraying its ascent.  The
hunter then gets himself into the right attitude to strike, and summons
all his energies for the encounter.

Even during the long, dark night of winter this mode of capturing the
seal is practised.  The hunter, having discovered a breathing-hole--
which its dark colour enables him to find--proceeds in the following
manner: he scrapes away the snow from around it, and lifting up some
water pours it on the ice, so as to make a circle of a darker hue around
the orifice.  He then makes a sort of cake of pure white snow, and with
this covers the hole as with a lid.  In the centre of this lid he
punches a small opening with the shaft-end of his spear, and then sits
down and patiently awaits the issue.

The seal ascends unsuspiciously as before.  The dark water, bubbling up
through the small central orifice, betrays its approach, which can be
perceived even in the darkest night.  The hunter does not wait for its
climbing out upon the ice.  Perhaps if he did so, the suspicious
creature might detect the device, and dive down again.  But it is not
allowed time for reflection.  Before it can turn its unwieldly body, the
heavy spear of the hunter--struck through the yielding snow--descends
upon its skull, and kills it on the instant.

The great "walrus" or "morse" (_Trichecus rosmarus_) is another
important product of the Polar Seas, and is hunted by the Esquimaux with
great assiduity.  This splendid amphibious animal is taken by
contrivances very similar to those used for the seal; but the capture of
a walrus is an event of importance, second only to the striking of a
whale.  Its great carcass not only supplies food to a whole village, but
an oil superior to that of the whale, besides various other useful
articles.  Its skin, bones, and intestines are employed by the Esquimaux
for many domestic purposes,--and, in addition, there are the huge molar
tusks, that furnish one of the most valuable ivories of commerce, from
which are manufactured those beautiful sets of teeth, of dazzling
whiteness, that, gleaming between vermilion lips, you may often see at a
ball or an evening party!



In our general sketch of the Amazonian Indians it was stated that there
were some few tribes who differed in certain customs from all the rest,
and who might even be regarded as _odd among the odd_.  One of these
tribes is the _Mundrucu_, which, from its numbers and warlike strength,
almost deserves to be styled a nation.  It is, at all events, a powerful
confederacy, of different tribes, linked together in one common
nationality, and including in their league other Indians which the
Mundrucus themselves first conquered, and afterwards associated with
themselves on terms of equality; in other words, "annexed" them.  The
same sort of annexation or alliance is common among the tribes of North
America; as in the case of the powerful Comanche nation, who extend
their protecting alliance over the Wacoes, Washites, and Cayguaas or

The _Mahue_ is the principal tribe that is patronised in this fashion by
the Mundrucus, and the two together number at least 20,000 souls.

Before the days of the Portuguese slave-hunting, the Mundrucus occupied
the south bank of the Amazon, from the mouth of the Tapajos to that of
the Madeira.  This infamous traffic had the effect of clearing the banks
of the great river of its native inhabitants,--except such of them as
chose to submit to slavery, or become _neophytes_, by adopting the
monkish faith.  Neither of these courses appeared pleasing in the eyes
of the Mundrucus, and they adopted the only alternative that was likely
to insure their independence,--by withdrawing from the dangerous
proximity of the sanguinary slave-trade.

This retreat of the Mundrucus, however, was by no means an ignominious
flight.  The withdrawal was voluntary on their part, and not compulsory,
as was the case with weaker tribes.  From the earliest times they had
presented a firm front to the Portuguese encroachments, and the latter
were even forced into a sort of nefarious alliance with them.  The
leaving the Amazon on the part of the Mundrucus was rather the result of
a negotiation, by which they conceded their territory--between the
mouths of the Tapajos and Madeira--to the Brazilian government; and to
this hour they are not exactly unfriendly to Brazilian _whites_, though
to the mulattoes and negroes, who constitute a large proportion of the
Brazilian population, the Mundrucu knows no other feeling than that of a
deadly hostility.  The origin of their hatred of the Brazilian blacks is
to be found in a revolt which occurred in the provinces of the Lower
Amazon (at Para) in 1835.  It was a _caste_ revolution against whites,
but more especially against _European_ Portuguese.  In this affair the
Mundrucus were employed against the darker-skinned rebels--the
_Gabanos_, as they were called--and did great service in putting down
the rebellion.  Hence they retain a lingering spark of friendship for
their _ci-devant_ white allies; or perhaps it would be more correct to
say they do not actually hate them, but carry on a little commerce with
their traders.  For all that, they occasionally cut the throats of a few
of the latter,--especially those who do not come to deal directly with
them, but who pass through their country in going from the Amazon to the
diamond mines of Brazil.  These last are called _Moncaos_, and their
business is to carry supplies from the towns on the Amazon (Santarem and
Para) to the miners of gold and washers of diamonds in the district of
Matto Grosso, of which Cuiaba is the capital.  Their route is by water
and "portage" up the Tapajos river, and through the territory of the
dreaded Mundrucus,--requiring a journey of six months, as perilous and
toilsome as it is tedious.

The present residence of the Mundrucus is between the Tapajos and
Madeira, as formerly, but far up on both rivers.  On the Tapajos, above
what are known as the "Caxoeiras," or Cataracts, their villages are
found.  There they dwell, free from all molestation on the part of the
whites; their borders extending widely around them, and limited only by
contact with those of other warlike tribes like themselves, who are
their deadly enemies.  Among these last are the _Muras_, who dwell at
the mouths of the Madeira and Rio Negro.

The Mundrucus build the _malocca_, elsewhere described; only in their
case it is not used as a dwelling, but rather as a grand arsenal, a
council-chamber, a ballroom, and, if need be, a fortress.  When fearing
an attack, all sleep in it "under arms."  It is a structure of large
size and great strength, usually rendered more unassailable by being
"chinked" and plastered with clay.  It is in this building that are
deposited those horrid trophies which have given to the Mundrucus their
terrible title of _decapitadores_, or "beheaders."  The title and its
origin shall be presently explained.

Around the great malocca the huts are placed, forming a village, and in
these the people ordinarily dwell.

The Mundrucus are not without ample means of subsistence.  Like most
other Amazonian tribes, they cultivate a little manioc, plantains, and
even maize; and they know how to prepare the _farinha_ meal, and,
unfortunately, also the detestable _chicha_, the universal beverage of
the South-American aborigines.  They have their vessels of calabash--
both of the vegetable and arborescent kinds--and a full set of
implements and utensils for the field and kitchen.  Their war weapons
are those common to other Amazonian tribes, and they sometimes also
carry the spear.  They have canoes of hollow trees; and, of course,
fishing and hunting are the employments of the men,--the women, as
almost everywhere else among Indians, doing the drudgery,--the tilling
and reaping, the "hewing of wood and the drawing of water," the making
the household utensils and using them,--all such offices being beneath
the dignity of the "lordly," or rather _lazy_ savage.

I have said that they carry on a commercial intercourse with the white
traders.  It is not of much magnitude, and their exports consist
altogether of the native and spontaneous productions of the soil,
sarsaparilla being one of the chief articles.  They gather this (the
women and children do) during six months of the year.  The other six
months no industry is followed,--as this period is spent in hostile
excursions against the neighbouring tribes.  Their imports consist of
iron tools and pieces for weapons; but they more especially barter the
product of their labour for ornamental gewgaws,--such as savages
universally admire and desire.  Their sarsaparilla is good, and much
sought for in the medical market.

Every one is acquainted with the nature and character of this valuable
medicinal root, the appearance of which must also be known to almost
everybody,--since it is so very common for our druggists to display the
bundles of it in their shop windows.  Perhaps every one is not
acquainted with the fact, that the sarsaparilla root is the product of a
great many different species of plants most of them of the genus
_Simlax_, but not a few belonging to plants of other genera, as those of
_Carex_ and _Herreria_ the roots of which are also sold as sarsaparilla.
The species of simlax are widely distributed throughout the whole
torrid zone, in Asia, Africa, and America, and some kinds are found
growing many degrees outside the tropics,--as is the case in Virginia
and the valley of the Mississippi, and also on the other side of the
Pacific on the great continent-island of Australia.

The best sarsaparilla, however, is that which is produced in tropical
countries, and especially in moist situations, where the atmosphere is
at once hot and humid.  It requires these conditions to concentrate the
virtue of its sap, and render it more active.

It would be idle to give a list of the different species of simlax that
furnish the sarsaparilla root of the pharmacopeia.  There is an almost
endless number of them, and they are equally varied in respect to
excellence of quality; some kinds are in reality almost worthless, and
for this reason, in using it as a medicine, great care should be taken
in the selection of the species.  Like all other articles, either of
food or medicine, the valuable kinds are the scarcest; the reason in
this case being that the best sarsaparilla is found in situations not
only difficult of access, but where the gathering of its root is
attended with considerable danger, from the unhealthy nature of the
climate and the hostility of the savages in whose territory it grows.
As to the quantity that may be obtained, there is no limit, on the score
of any scarcity of the plant itself, since it is found throughout all
the countries of tropical America plenteously distributed both in
species and individual plants.  Such quantities of it grow along the
banks of some South-American rivers, that the Indians have a belief that
those streams known as _black waters_--such as the Rio Negro and
others--derive their peculiar colour from the roots of this plant.
This, however, is an erroneous supposition, as there are many of the
_white-water_ rivers that run through regions abundantly supplied with
the sarsaparilla root.  The black water, therefore, must arise from some
other cause, as yet unknown.

As observed, the sarsaparilla of the Mundrucu country is of the very
best quality.  It is the _Simlax papyracea_ of Soiret, and is known in
commerce as the "Lisbon," or "Brazilian."  It is a climbing plant, or
under-shrub, the stem of which is flattened and angular, with rows of
prickles standing along the prominent edges.  Its leaves are of an oval
acuminated shape, and marked with _longitudinal_ nerves.  It shoots
without any support, to a height of fifteen or twenty feet, after which
it embraces the surrounding branches of trees and spreads to a great
distance in every direction.  The main root sends out many long
tendrils, all of like thickness, covered with a brownish bark, or
sometimes of a dark-grey colour.  These tendrils are fibrous, and about
as thick as a quill.  They present a constant tendency to become
crooked, and they are also wrinkled longitudinally, with here and there
some smaller lateral fibres branching off from the sides.

It is in the bark or epidermis of the rhizomes that the medicinal virtue
lies; but the tendrils--both rhizome and bark--are collected together,
and no attempt is made to separate them, until they have reached their
commercial destination.  Indeed, even these are sold together, the mode
of preparing the root being left to the choice of the consumer, or the
apothecary who procures it.

The Mundrucus collect it during the six months of the rainy season,
partly because during the remaining six they are otherwise employed, and
partly for the reason that, in the time of rain, the roots are more
easily extracted from the damp soil.  The process simply consists in
digging them up or dragging them out of the earth--the latter mode
especially where the tendrils lie near the surface, and they will pull
up without breaking.  If the main root be not dug out, it will send
forth new tendrils, which in a short time would yield a new crop; but
the improvident savages make no prudential calculations of this kind--
present convenience forming their sole consideration; and on this
account both the root and plant are generally destroyed by them during
the operation of collecting.

As already stated, this labour devolves upon the women, who are also
assisted in it by their children.  They proceed into the depths of the
forest--where the simlax grows in greatest abundance--and after
collecting as much root as they can carry home with them, they return
with their bundles to the malocca When fresh gathered the sarsaparilla
is heavy enough--partly on account of the sap which it then contains,
and partly from the quantity of the mud or earth that adheres to the
corrugated surface of the roots.

It is extremely probable that in this fresh state the virtue of the
sarsaparilla, as a blood-purifier, is much greater than after it has
passed through the channels of commerce; and the writer of this sketch
has some reason, derived from personal experience, to believe that such
is the case.  Certain it is, that the reputation of this invaluable drug
is far less in countries where the plant does not grow, than in those
where it is common and can be obtained in its fresh state.  In all parts
of Spanish America its virtues are unquestioned, and experience has led
to a more extensive use of it there than elsewhere.  It is probable,
therefore, that the virtue exists in the juice rather than the cortical
integument of the rhizome; and this of course would be materially
altered and deteriorated, if not altogether destroyed, in the process of
exsiccation, which must necessarily take place in the time required for
transporting it to distant parts of the world.  In the European
pharmacopeia it is the epidermis of the root which is supposed to
contain the sanitary principle; and this, which is of a mucilaginous
nature and slightly bitter taste, is employed, both in decoctions and
infusions, as a tonic and alterative.  In America, however, it is
generally taken for what is termed _purifying the blood_--for the same
purpose as the rhizomes of the _Lauras sassafras_ and other plants are
used; but the sarsaparilla is generally considered the best, and it
certainly _is_ the best of all known medicines for this purpose.  Why it
has fallen in the estimation of the Old World practitioners, or why it
never obtained so great a reputation as it has in America, may arise
from two circumstances.  First, that the root offered for sale is
generally the product of the less valuable species; and second, that the
sap, and not the rhizome, may be the part that contains the virtuous

When the collected roots have been kept for awhile they become dry and
light, and for the convenience of stowage and carriage--an important
consideration to the trader in his eight-ton _garratea_--it is necessary
to have the roots done up in packages of a uniform length and thickness.
These packages are formed by laying the roots side by side, and
doubling in the ends of the longer ones.  A bundle of the proper size
for stowage contains an _arroba_ of twenty-five pounds, though the
weight varies according to the condition of the root.  Uniformity in
size is the chief object aimed at, and the bundles are made of a round
or cylindrical shape, about five inches in diameter, and something more
than a yard in length.  They are trimmed off small at the ends--so as to
admit of stowage without leaving any empty space between two tiers of
them--and each bundle is tightly corded round from one end to the other
with a "sipo," or creeping plant.

It has been stated that this "sipo" is a root of the sarsaparilla
itself, with the bark scraped off; and, indeed, its own root would serve
well enough--were it not that putting it to such a use would destroy its
medicinal value, and thus cause a considerable waste of the costly
material.  The sarsaparilla is not to be had for nothing even upon the
banks of the Tapajos.  A bundle of the best quality does not leave the
hands of the Mundrucu until about four dollars' worth of exchange
commodities have been put into them, which would bring the price of it
to something over sixpence a pound.  He is, therefore, a little
particular about wasting a material that has cost him--or rather his
wife and children--so much trouble in collecting.  His cordage is
obtained more cheaply, and consists of the long, flexible roots of a
species of _pothos_, which roots--being what are termed _aerial_ and not
buried in the ground--require no labour or digging to get at them.  It
is only necessary to stretch up the hand, and pull them down from the
tops of lofty trees, from which they hang like streamers, often to the
length of a hundred feet.  These are toughened by the bark being scraped
off; and when that is done they are ready for use, and serve not only to
tie up the bundles of sarsaparilla, but for many other purposes in the
domestic economy of the Mundrucus.

In addition to the sarsaparilla, the Mundrucu furnishes the trader with
several other items of commercial value--for his climate, although one
of the most unhealthy in all the Amazon region, on account of its great
heat and humidity, is for that very reason one of the most fertile.
Nearly all those tropical vegetable products which are characteristics
of Brazilian export commerce can here be produced of the most luxuriant
kind; but it is only those that grow spontaneously at his very doors
that tempt the Mundrucu to take the trouble of collecting them.

There is one article however, which he not only takes some trouble to
collect, but also to manufacture into an item of commercial exchange--a
very rare item indeed.  This is the _guarana_, which is manufactured
from the fruit of a tree almost peculiar to the Mundrucu territory--
since nowhere is it found so abundantly as on the Tapajos.  It is so
prized in the Brazilian settlements as to command almost its weight in
silver when transported thither.  It is the constituent element of a
drink, which has a stimulating effect on the system, somewhat more
powerful than tea or coffee.  It will prevent sleep; but its most
valuable property is, that it is a good febrifuge, equal to the best
quinine.  _Guarana_ is prepared from the seeds of an inga--one of the
_Mimosacae_.  It is a low, wide-spreading tree like most of the mimosa
family.  The legumes are gathered, and the seeds roasted in them.  The
latter are then taken out, and after being ground to powder, are mixed
with water so as to make a tough paste, which is moulded into little
bricks, and when dried is ready for use.  The beverage is then prepared
by scraping a table-spoonful of dust from the brick, and mixing it with
about a pint of water; and the dry paste, keeping for any length of
time, is ready whenever wanted.

The _guarana_ bush grows elsewhere in the Amazon valley, and on some
headwaters of the Orinoco, where certain tribes also know how to prepare
the drink.  But it is sparingly distributed, and is nowhere so common as
on the upper Tapajos hence its high price in the markets of Brazil.  The
Mundrucu manufactures it, not only for "home use," but for

He prepares another singular article of luxury, and this he makes
exclusively for his own use,--not for the gratification of his lips or
palate, but for his nose,--in other words, a snuff.  Do not fancy,
however, that it is snuff of the ordinary kind--the pulverised produce
of innocent tobacco.  No such thing; but a composition of such a
powerful and stimulating character, that he who inhales it feels as if
struck by an electric shock; his body trembles; his eyes start forward
as if they would forsake their sockets; his limbs fail to support him;
and he drops to the earth like one in a state of intoxication!  For a
short time he is literally mad; but the fit is soon over,--lasting
usually only a few minutes,--and then a feeling of renewed strength,
courage, and joyousness succeeds.  Such are the consequences of taking
snuff with a Mundrucu.

And now to describe the nature of the substance which produces these
powerful effects.

Like the _guarana_ this snuff is a preparation, having for its basis the
seeds of a leguminous tree.  This time, however, it is an _acacia_, not
an _inga_.  It is the _acacia niopo_; so called because "niopo" is the
name given to the snuff itself by certain tribes (the Ottomacs and
others), who, like the Mundrucus, are snuff-takers.  It is also called
_curupa_, and the apparatus for preparing and taking it--for there is an
apparatus of an extensive kind--is termed _parica_, in the general
language (_lingoa geral_) of the Amazonian regions.

We shall describe the preparation, the apparatus, and the ceremonial.

The pods of the _Acacia niopo_--a small tree, with very delicate pinnate
leaves--are plucked when ripe.  They are then cut into small pieces and
flung into a vessel of water.  In this they remain until macerated, and
until the seeds have turned black.  These are then picked out, pounded
in a mortar, which is usually the pericarp of the _sapucaia_, or
"monkey-pot" tree (_Lecythys ollaria_).  The pounding reduces them to a
paste, which is taken up, clapped between the hands and formed into
little cakes--but not until it has been mixed with some manioc flour,
some lime from a burnt shell (a _helix_), and a little juice from the
fresh leaves of the "abuta"--a menispermous plant of the genus
_Cocculus_.  The cakes are then dried or "barbecued" upon a primitive
gridiron--the bars of which are saplings of hard wood--and when
well-hardened the snuff is ready for the "box."  In a box it is actually
carried--usually one made out of some rare and beautiful shell.

The ceremonial of taking the snuff is the most singular part of the
performance.  When a Mundrucu feels inclined for a "pinch"--though it is
something more than a _pinch_ that he inhales when he _does_ feel
inclined--he takes the cake out of the box, scrapes off about a spoonful
of it into a shallow, saucer-shaped vessel of the calabash kind, and
then spreads the powder all over the bottom of the vessel in a regular
"stratification."  The spreading is not performed by the fingers, but
with a tiny, pencil-like brush made out of the bristles of the great
ant-eater (_Myrmecophaga jubata_).

He is in no hurry, but takes his time,--for as you may guess from its
effects, the performance is not one so often repeated as that of
ordinary snuff-taking.  When the _niopo_ dust is laid to his liking,
another implement is brought into play, the construction of which it is
also necessary to describe.  It is a "machine" of six to eight inches in
length, and is made of two quills from the wing of the _gaviao real_, or
"harpy eagle" (_Harpyia destructor_).  These quills are placed side by
side for the greater part of their length, forming two parallel tubes,
and they are thus neatly whipped together by a thread.  At one end they
are pressed apart so as to diverge to a width corresponding to the
breadth between the Mundrucu's nostrils,--where it is intended they
shall be placed during the ceremony of snuff-taking.

And thus are they placed,--one end of each quill being slightly intruded
within the line of the septum, while the other end rests upon the snuff,
or wanders over the surface of the saucer, till all the powder placed
there is drawn up and inhaled, producing the convulsive effects already

The shank-bone of a species of bird--thought to be a plover--is
sometimes used instead of the quills.  It is hollow, and has a
forking-tube at the end.  This kind is not common or easily obtained,
for the niopo-taker who has one, esteems it as the most valuable item of
his apparatus.

Snuffing the niopo is not exclusively confined to the Mundrucu.  We have
seen elsewhere that it is also a habit of the dirt-eating Ottomacs; and
other tribes on the upper Amazon practise it.  But the Mahues, already
mentioned as the allies of the Mundrucus, are the most confirmed
snuff-takers of all.

Another odd custom of the Mundrucus is their habit of "tatooing."  I
speak of real tatooing,--that is, marking the skin with dots and lines
that cannot be effaced, in contradistinction to mere _painting_, or
staining, which can easily be washed off.  The Mundrucus paint also,
with the _anotto_, _kuitoc_, _caruta_, and other pigments, but in this
they only follow the practice of hundreds of other tribes.  The true
_tatoo_ is a far different affair, and scarcely known among the
aborigines of America, though common enough in the islands of the South
Sea.  A few other Indian tribes practise it to a limited extent,--as is
elsewhere stated,--but among the Mundrucus it is an "institution;" and
painful though the process be, it has to be endured by every one in the
nation, "every mother's son," and daughter as well, that are cursed with
a Mundrucu for their father.

It is upon the young people the infliction is performed,--when they are
about eight or ten years of age.

The _tatoo_ has been so often described, that I should not repeat it
here; but there are a few "points" peculiar to Mundrucu tatooing, and a
few others, not elsewhere understood.

The performance is usually the work of certain old crones, who, from
long practice, have acquired great skill in the art.

The chief instrument used is a comb of thorns,--not a single thorn, as
is generally stated,--but a tier or row of them set comb-fashion.  These
thorns are the spines of the "murumuru," or "pupunha" palm (_Gullielmia
speciosa_).  Humboldt states that this palm is smooth and spineless, but
in this the great, good man was in error.  Its trunk is so covered with
thorns or spines, that when the Indians require to climb it--for the
purpose of procuring the valuable fruits, which they eat variously
prepared--they have to erect a staging, or rude sort of ladder, to be
able to get at them.

The comb, then, is pressed down upon the skin of the "tatooee," till all
the points have penetrated the flesh, and a row of holes is laid open,
from which the blood flows profusely.  As soon as this can be wiped off,
ashes of a burnt gum or pitch are rubbed into the wounds, which, when
healed, appear like so many dots of a deep bluish or black colour.  In
this way the young Mundrucus, both boys and girls, get those regular
rows of dotted lines, which traverse their forehead and cheeks, their
arms and limbs, breasts, and bodies in such eccentric fashion.  It has
often been asked how these lines of dots were carried over the skin in
such straight and symmetrical rows, forming regular parallel lines, or
other geometrical patterns.  The "comb" will explain the mystery.

The tatoo, with a few strings of shell-beads or necklaces, and bracelets
of monkey and jaguar teeth, is all the dress which is permitted to the
Mundrucu belle.  In Mundrucu-land it is the reverse of what is practised
among civilised people: the men are the exponents of the fashions, and
keep exclusively to themselves the cosmetics and bijouterie.  Not
contented with being tatooed, these also _paint_ their bodies, by way of
"overcoat," and also adorn themselves with the bright feathers of birds.
They wear on their heads the beautiful circlet of macaw-plumes, and on
grand occasions appear in the magnificent "feather dress," so long
celebrated as the peculiar costume of the tropical-forest Indian.  These
dresses their women weave and border, at a sacrifice of much tedious
labour.  They also ornament their arms and legs with rows of feathers
around them, the tips turned upward and backward.

The tatooing is confined to the Mundrucus proper,--their allies, the
Mahues not following the practice, but contenting themselves with a
simple "coat" of paint.

It is difficult to say what motive first inducted human beings into this
singular and barbarous custom.  It is easier to tell why it is still
followed, and the "why" is answered by saying that the Mundrucus
"scarify" themselves, because their fathers did so before them.  Many a
custom among civilised nations, but little less ridiculous, if we could
only think so, rests upon a similar basis.  Perhaps our modern
abominable hat--though it has a different origin--is not less ludicrous
than the tatooed patterns of the savage.  Certainly it is quite equal to
it in ugliness, and is likely to rival it in permanence,--to our sorrow
be it said.  But even _we_ deal slightly in the tatoo.  Our jolly Jack
would be nobody in the forecastle without "Polly," in blue, upon his
weather-beaten breast, and the _foul anchor_ upon his arm.

But the Mundrucu baptises his unfortunate offspring in a still more
savage fashion.  The tattoo may be termed the _baptism in blood_,
performed at the tender age of ten.  When the youth--fortunately it does
not extend to the weaker sex--has attained to the age of eighteen, he
has then to undergo the _tocandeira_, which deserves to be called _the
baptism of fire_!

This too merits description.  When the Mundrucu youth would become a
candidate for manhood, a pair of "_gloves_" is prepared for him.  These
consist of two pieces of a palm-tree bark, with the pith hollowed out,
but left in at one end.  The hollow part is of sufficient diameter to
draw over the hands loosely, and so long as to reach up to mid-arm,
after the fashion of gauntlets.

The "gloves" being got ready, are nearly filled with ants, not only the
venomous red ants, but all other species, large or small, that can
either bite or sting, of which tropical South America possesses an
endless variety.  With this "lining" the "mittens" are ready for use,
and the "novice" is compelled to draw them on.  Should he refuse, or
even exhibit a disposition to shrink from the fiery trial, he is a lost
man.  From that hour he need never hold up his head, much less offer his
hand and heart, for there is not a maiden in all Mundrucu-land that
would listen to his softest speech.  He is forever debarred from the
pleasure of becoming a benedict.  Of course he does not refuse, but
plunging his hands into the "mittens," into the very midst of the
crawling host, he sets about the ceremony.

He must keep on the gloves till he has danced before every door in the
village.  He must sing as if from very joy; and there is plenty of music
to accompany him, drums and fifes, and human voices,--for his parents
and relatives are by his side encouraging him with their songs and
gestures.  He is in pain,--in positive agony,--for these venomous ants
both sting and bite, and have been busy at both from the very first
moment.  Each moment his agony grows more intense, his sufferings more
acute, for the poison is thrilling through his veins,--he turns pale,--
his eyes become blood-cast,--his breast quivers with emotion and his
limbs tremble beneath him; but despite all this, woe to him if he utter
a cry of weakness!  It would brand him with an eternal stigma,--he would
never be suffered to carry the Mundrucu lance to battle,--to poise upon
its point the ghastly trophy of the _Beheaders_.  On, on, through the
howling throng, amidst friends and relatives with faces anxious as his
own; on to the sound of the shrill-piping reed and the hoarse booming of
the Indian drum; on till he stands in front of the cabin of the chief!
There again the song is sung, the "jig" is danced, both proudly
prolonged till the strength of the performer becomes completely
exhausted.  Then, and not till then, the gloves are thrown aside, and
the wearer falls back, into the arms of his friends, "sufficiently

This is the hour of congratulation.  Girls gather round him, and fling
their tatooed arms about his neck.  They cluster and cling upon him,
singing his song of triumph; but just at that crisis he is not in the
mood for soft caresses; and, escaping from their blandishments, he makes
a rush towards the river.  On reaching its bank he plunges bodily in,
and there remains up to his neck in the water, till the cooling fluid
has to some extent eased his aching arms, and tranquillised the current
of his boiling blood.  When he emerges from the water, he is a man, fit
stuff for a Mundrucu warrior, and eligible to the hand of a Mundrucu

It may be remarked that this terrible ordeal of the Mundrucus, though,
perhaps, peculiar among South-American Indians, has its parallel among
certain tribes of the north,--the Mandans and others, as detailed by
Catlin, one of the most acute of ethnological observers.

The _scalp trophy_, too, of the Northern Indian has its analogy in a
Mundrucu custom--that which distinguishes him most of all, and which has
won for him the terrible title of "Beheader."

This singular appellation is now to be explained.

When a Mundrucu has succeeded in killing an enemy, he is not, like his
northern compeer, satisfied with only the skin of the head.  _He must
have the whole head_, scalp and skull, bones, brains, and all!  And he
takes all, severing the head with his knife by a clean cut across the
small of the neck, and leaving the trunk to the vulture king.  With the
ghastly trophy poised upon the point of his lance, he returns triumphant
to the malocca to receive the greetings of his tribe and the praises of
his chief.

But the warlike exploit requires a memento--some token by which he may
perpetuate its fame.  The art of printing does not exist among the
Mundrucus, and there is no friendly pen to record the deed.  It has been
done,--behold the evidence! much clearer than often accompanies the
exploits of civilised heroes.  There is the evidence of an enemy slain;
there is the grim, gory voucher, palpable both to sight and touch--proof
positive that there is a dead body somewhere.

Of course, such evidence is sufficient for the present; but how about
the future?  As time passes, the feat may be forgotten, as great deeds
are elsewhere.  Somebody may even deny it.  Some slanderous tongue may
whisper, or insinuate, or openly declare that it was no exploit after
all--that there was no dead man; for the vultures by this time would
have removed the body, and the white ants (_termites_) would have
equally extinguished all traces of the bones.  How, then, are the proofs
to be preserved?  _By preserving the head_!  And this is the very idea
that is in the mind of the Mundrucu warrior.  He is resolved not to
permit his exploit to be buried in oblivion by _burying the head_ of his
enemy.  That tongue, though mute, will tell the tale to posterity; that
pallid cheek, though, perhaps, it may become a little shrivelled in the
"drying," will still be smooth enough to show that there is no _tatoo_,
and to be identified as the skin of an enemy.  Some young Mundrucu, yet
unborn, will read in the countenance of that grinning and gory witness,
the testimony of his father's prowess.  The head, therefore, must be
preserved; and it is preserved with as much care as the cherished
portrait of a famous ancestor.  The cranial relic is even _embalmed_, as
if out of affection for him to whom it belonged.  The brains and
eye-balls are removed, to facilitate the process of desiccation; but
false eyes are inserted, and the tongue, teeth, and ears, scalp, skull,
and hair, are all retained, not only retained, but "titivated" out in
the most approved style of fashion.  The long hair is carefully combed
out, parted, and arranged; brilliant feathers of rock-cock and macaw are
planted behind the ears and twisted in the hanging tresses.  An
ornamental string passes through the tongue, and by this the trophy is
suspended from the beams of the great malocca.

It is not permitted to remain there.  In some dark niche of this
Golgotha--this Mundruquin Westminster--it might be overlooked and
forgotten.  To prevent this it is often brought forth, and receives many
an airing.  On all warlike and festive occasions does it appear, poised
upon the point of the warrior's lance; and even in peaceful times it may
be seen--along with hundreds of its like--placed in the circular row
around the manioc clearing, and lending its demure countenance to the
labours of the field.

It is not a little singular that this custom of embalming the heads of
their enemies is found among the Dyaks of Borneo, and the process in
both places is ludicrously similar.  Another rare coincidence occurs
between the Amazonian tribes and the Bornean savages, viz in both being
provided with the blow-gun.  The _gravitana_ of the American tribes is
almost identical with the sumpitan of Borneo.  It furnishes a further
proof of our theory regarding an original connection between the
American Indians and the savages of the great South Sea.

The Mundrucu is rarely ill off in the way of food.  When he is so, it is
altogether his own fault, and chargeable to his indolent disposition.
The soil of his territory is of the most fertile kind, and produces many
kinds of edible fruits spontaneously, as the nuts of the _pupunha_ palm
and the splendid fruits of the _Bertholetia excelsa_, or juvia-tree,
known in Europe as "Brazil-nuts."  Of these then are two kinds, as
mentioned elsewhere, the second being a tree of the genus _Lecythys_,--
the _Lecythys ollaria_, or "monkey-pot" tree.  It obtains this trivial
name from the circumstance, first, of its great pericarp, almost as
large as a child's head, having a movable top or lid, which falls off
when the fruit ripens; and secondly, from the monkeys being often seen
drawing the seeds or nuts out of that part of the shell which remains
attached to the tree, and which, bearing a considerable resemblance to a
pot in its shape, is thus very appropriately designated the pot of the
monkeys.  The common Indian name of the monkey-pot tree is _sapucaia_,
and the nuts of this species are so called in commerce, though they are
also termed Brazil-nuts.  They are of a more agreeable flavour than the
true Brazil-nuts, and not so easily obtained, as the _Lecythys_ is less
generally distributed over the Amazonian valley.  It requires a peculiar
soil, and grows only in those tracts that are subject to the annual
inundations of the rivers.

The true Brazil-nuts are the "juvia" trees of the Indians; and the
season for collecting them is one of the _harvests_ of the Mundrucu
people.  The great pericarps--resembling large cocoa-nuts when stripped
of the fibres--do not open and shed their seeds, as is the case with the
monkey-pot tree.  The whole fruit falls at once; and as it is very
heavy, and the branches on which it grows are often nearly a hundred
feet from the ground, it may easily be imagined that it comes down like
a ten-pound shot; in fact, one of them falling upon the head of a
Mundrucu would be very likely to crush his cranium, as a bullet would an
egg-shell; and such accidents not unfrequently occur to persons passing
imprudently under the branches of the Bertholetia when its nuts are
ripe.  Sometimes the monkeys, when on the ground looking after those
that have fallen, become victims to the like accident; but these
creatures are cunning reasoners, and being by experience aware of the
danger, will scarce ever go under a juvia-tree, but when passing one
always make a wide circuit around it.  The monkeys cannot of themselves
open the great pericarp, as they do that of the "sapucaia," but are
crafty enough to get at the precious contents, notwithstanding.  In
doing this they avail themselves of the help of other creatures, that
have also a motive in opening the juvia shells--cavies and other small
rodent animals, whose teeth, formed for this very purpose, enable them
to gnaw a hole in the ligneous pericarps, hard and thick as they are.
Meanwhile the monkeys, squatted around, watch the operation in a
careless, nonchalant sort of way, as if they had no concern whatever in
the result; but as soon as they perceive that an entrance has been
effected, big enough to admit their hand, they rush forward, drive off
the weaker creature, who has been so long and laboriously at work, and
take possession of the prize.

Neither does the Mundrucu nut-gatherer get possession of the juvia fruit
without a certain degree of danger and toil.  He has to climb the
tallest trees, to secure the whole crop at one time; and while engaged
in collecting those upon the ground, he is in danger of a blow from odd
ones that are constantly falling.  To secure his skull against
accidents, he wears upon his head a thick wooden cap or helmet,--after
the fashion of the hats worn by our firemen,--and he is always careful
to keep his body in an upright attitude, stooping as seldom as he can
avoid doing so, lest he might get a thump between the shoulders, or upon
the spine of his back, which would be very likely to flatten him out
upon the earth.  These Brazil-nuts furnish the Mundrucu with a portion
of his food,--as they also do many other tribes of Amazonian Indians,--
and they are also an item of Indian commerce, being collected from among
the different tribes by the Portuguese and Spanish traders.

But the Mundrucu does not depend altogether on the spontaneous
productions of the forest, which at best furnish only a precarious
supply.  He does something in the agricultural line,--cultivating a
little manioc root, with, plantains, yams, and other tropical plants
that produce an enormous yield with the very slightest trouble or
attention; and this is exactly what suits him.  A few days spent by the
little community in the yam patch--or rather, by the women and children,
for these are the agricultural labourers in Mundrucu-land--is sufficient
to ensure an abundant supply of bread-stuff for the whole year.  With
regard to flesh-meat he is not so well off, for the domestic animals,
and oxen more especially, do not thrive in the Amazon country.  In
Mundrucu-land, the carnivorous jaguar, aided by flies and vampire bats,
would soon destroy them, even if the Indian had the inclination to raise
them, which he has not.

Instead of beef, therefore, he contents himself with fish, and
occasionally a steak from the great tapir, or a griskin of _manati_.
Birds, too, furnish him with an occasional meal; but the staple article
of his flesh diet is obtained from the _quadrumana_,--the numerous
species of monkeys with which his forests abound.  These he obtains by
shooting them down from the trees with his bow and arrows, and also by
various other hunting devices.

His mode of cooking them is sufficiently peculiar to be described.  A
large log fire is first kindled and permitted to burn until a sufficient
quantity of red cinders are produced.  Over these cinders a grating is
erected with green saplings of wood, laid parallel to each other like
the bars of a gridiron, and upon this the "joint" is laid.

Nothing is done to the monkey before its being placed on the gridiron.
Its skin is not removed, and even the intestines are not always taken
out.  The fire will singe off the hair sufficiently to content a
Mundrucu stomach, and the hide is broiled and eaten, with the flesh.  It
is thus literally "carne con cuero."

It may be observed that this forest gridiron, or "barbecue," as it is
properly termed, is not an idea exclusively confined to South America.
It is in use among the Indians of the north, and various uncivilised
tribes in other parts of the world.

Sometimes the Mundrucu does not take the trouble to construct the
gridiron.  When on the march in some warlike expedition that will not
allow time for being particular about the mode of cooking, the joint is
broiled upon a spit over the common fire.  The spit is simply a stick,
sharpened at both ends, one of which impales the monkey, and the other
is stuck into the ground.  The stick is then set with a lean towards the
fire, so as to bring the carcass over the blaze.  While on the spit the
monkey appears in a sitting position, with its head upward, and its long
tail hanging along the sapling,--just as if it were still living, and in
one of its most natural attitudes, clinging to the branch of a tree!
The sight is sufficiently comical; but sometimes a painful spectacle has
been witnessed,--painful to any one but a savage: when the young of the
monkey has been captured along with its dam, and still recognising the
form of its parent,--even when all the hair has been singed off, and the
skin has become calcined by the fire,--is seen rushing forward into the
very flames, and with plaintive cry inviting the maternal embrace!  Such
an affecting incident has been often witnessed amid the forests of

We conclude our sketch of the Mundrucus, by stating that their form of
government is despotic, though not to an extreme degree.  The "tushao,"
or chief, has considerable power, though it is not absolute, and does
not extend to the taking of life,--unless the object of displeasure be a
slave, and many of these are held in abject bondage among the Mundrucus.

The Mundrucu religion resembles that of many other tribes both in North
and South America.  It consists in absurd ceremonies, and appeals to the
good and evil spirits of the other world, and is mixed up with a vast
deal of quackery in relation to the ills that afflict the Mundrucu in
this life.  In other words, it is a combination of the priest and doctor
united in one, that arch-charlatan known to the North-American Indians
as the "Medicine-man," and among the Mundrucus as the "Puge."



I have elsewhere stated that a broad band of independent Indian
territory--that is, territory never really subdued or possessed by the
Spaniards--traverses the interior of South America, extending
longitudinally throughout the whole continent.  Beginning at Cape Horn,
it ends in the peninsula of the free _Goajiros_, which projects into the
Caribbean Sea,--in other words, it is nearly 5,000 miles in length.  In
breadth it varies much.  In Patagonia and a portion of the Pampas
country it extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and it is of still
wider extent on the latitude of the Amazon river, where the whole
country, from the Atlantic to the Peruvian Andes,--with the exception of
some thinly-placed Brazilian settlements,--is occupied by tribes of
independent Indians.  At either point this territory will appear--upon
maps--to be interrupted by tracts of country possessing civilised
settlements.  The names of towns and villages are set as thickly as if
the country were well peopled; and numerous roads are traced, forming a
labyrinthine network upon the paper.  A broad belt of this kind extends
from the Lower Parana (La Plate) to the Andes of Chili, constituting the
upper provinces of the "Argentine Confederation;" another apparently
joins the settlements of Bolivia and Brazil; and again in the north, the
provinces of Venezuela appear to be united to those of New Granada.

All this, however, is more apparent than real.  The towns upon the maps
are in general mere _rancherias_, or collections of huts; some of them
are the names of fortified posts, and a large proportion are but
ruins,--the ruins of monkish mission settlements long since gone to
destruction, and with little else than the name on the map to testify
that they ever had an existence.  The roads are no roads at all, nothing
more than tracings on the chart showing the general route of travel.

Even across the Argentine provinces--where this nomenclature appears
thickest upon the map--the horse Indian of the Pampas extends his forays
at will; his "range" meeting, and, in some cases, "dovetailing" into
that of the tribes dwelling upon the northern side of these settlements.
The latter, in their turn, carry their plundering expeditions across to
the Campos Parexis, on the headwaters of the Amazon, whence stretches
the independent territory, far and wide to the Amazon itself; thence to
the Orinoco, and across the _Llanos_ to the shores of the Maracaibo
Gulf--the free range of the independent Goajiros.

This immense belt of territory, then, is in actual possession of the
aborigines.  Although occupied at a few points by the white race,--
Spanish and Portuguese,--the occupation scarce deserves the name.  The
settlements are sparse and rather _retrograde_ than _progressive_.  The
Indian ranges through and around them, wherever and whenever his
inclination leads him; and only when some humiliating treaty has secured
him a temporary respite from hostilities does the colonist enjoy
tranquillity.  At other times he lives in continual dread, scarce daring
to trust himself beyond the immediate vicinity of his house or village,
both of which he has been under the necessity of fortifying.

It is true that at one period of South-American history things were not
quite so bad.  When the Spanish nation was at the zenith of its power a
different condition existed; but even then, in the territory indicated,
there were large tracts circumstanced just as at the present hour,--
tracts which the Spaniards, with all their boasted warlike strength,
were unable even to _explore_, much less to subdue.  One of these was
that which forms the subject of our sketch, "El Gran Chaco."

Of all the tracts of wild territory existing in South America, and known
by the different appellations of _Pampas, Paramos, Campos Parexis_, the
_Puna_, the _Pajonal, Llanos_, and _Montanas_, there is none possessed
of a greater interest than that of _El Gran Chaco_,--perhaps not one
that equals it in this respect.  It is interesting, not only from having
a peculiar soil, climate, and productions, but quite as much from the
character and history of its inhabitants, both of which present us with
traits and episodes truly romantic.

The "Gran Chaco" is 200,000 square miles in extent, or twice the size of
the British Isles.  Its eastern boundary is well-defined, being the
Paraguay river, and its continuation the Parana, down to the point where
the latter receives one of its great western tributaries, the Salado;
and this last is usually regarded as the southern and western boundary
of the Chaco.  Northward its limits are scarcely so definite; though the
highlands of Bolivia and the old missionary province of Chiquitos,
forming the water-shed between the rivers of the La Plata and the
Amazonian basins--may be geographically regarded as the termination of
the Chaco in that direction.  North and south it extends through eleven
degrees of latitude; east and west it is of unequal breadth,--sometimes
expanding, sometimes contracting, according to the ability of the white
settlers along it borders to maintain their frontier.  On its eastern
side, as already stated, the frontier is definite, and terminates on the
banks of the Paraguay and Parana.  East of this line--coinciding almost
with a meridian of longitude--the Indian of the Gran Chaco does not
roam, the well-settled province of Corrientes and the dictatorial
government of Paraguay presenting a firmer front of resistance; but
neither does the colonist of these countries think of crossing to the
western bank of the boundary river to form any establishment there.  He
dares not even set his foot upon the territory of the Chaco.  For a
thousand miles, up and down, the two races, European and American, hold
the opposite banks of this great stream.  They gaze across at each
other: the one from the portico of his well-built mansion, or perhaps
from the street of his town; the other, standing by his humble "toldo,"
or mat-covered tent,--more probably, upon the back of his half-wild
horse, reined up for a moment on some projecting promontory that
commands the view of the river.  And thus have these two races gazed at
each other for three centuries, with little other intercourse passing
between them than that of a deadly hostility.

The surface of the Gran Chaco is throughout of a champaign character.
It may be described as a vast plain.  It is not, however, a continuation
of the Pampas, since the two are separated by a more broken tract of
country, in which lie the sierras of Cordova and San Luis, with the
Argentine settlements already mentioned.  Besides, the two great plains
differ essentially in their character, even to a greater extent than do
the Pampas themselves from the desert steppes of Patagonia.  Only a few
of the animal and vegetable productions of the Gran Chaco are identical
with those of the Pampas, and its Indian inhabitants are altogether
unlike the sanguinary savages of the more southern plain.  The Chaco,
approaching many degrees nearer to the equator, is more tropical in its
character; in fact, the northern portion of it is truly so, lying as it
does within the torrid zone, and presenting the aspect of a tropical
vegetation.  Every inch of the Chaco is within the palm region; but in
its northern half these beautiful trees abound in numberless species,
yet unknown to the botanist, and forming the characteristic features of
the landscape.  Some grow in forests of many miles in extent, others
only in "clumps," with open, grass-covered plains between, while still
other species mingle their graceful fronds with the leaves and branches
of dicotyledonous trees, or clasped in the embrace of luxuriant llianas
and parasitical climbers form groves of the most variegated verdure and
fantastic outlines.  With such groves the whole surface of the Chaco
country is enamelled; the intervals between being occupied by plains of
rich waving grass, now and then tracts of morass covered with tall and
elegant reeds, a few arid spots bristling with singular forms of
_algarobia_ and _cactus_, and, in some places, isolated rocky mounds, of
dome or conical shape, rising above the general level of the plains, as
if intended to be used as watch-towers for their guardianship and

Such are the landscapes which the Grand Chaco presents to the eye--far
different from the bald and uniform monotony exhibited in the aspect of
either Prairie or Pampa; far grander and lovelier than either--in point
of scenic loveliness, perhaps, unequalled on earth.  No wonder, then,
that the Indian of South America esteems it as an earthly Elysium; no
wonder that the Spaniard dreams of it as such,--though to the Spanish
priest and the Spanish soldier it has ever proved more of a Purgatory
than a Paradise.  Both have entered upon its borders, but neither has
been able to dwell within its domain; and the attempts at its conquest,
by sword and cross, have been alike unsuccessful,--equally and fatally
repulsed, throughout a period of more than three hundred years.  At this
hour, as at the time of the Peruvian conquest,--as on the day when the
ships of Mendoza sailed up the waters of the Parana,--the Gran Chaco is
an unconquered country, owned by its aboriginal inhabitants, and by them
alone.  It is true that it is _claimed_, both by Spaniard and
Portuguese; and by no less than four separate claimants belonging to
these two nationalities.  Brazil and Bolivia, Paraguay and the Argentine
Confederation, all assert their title to a slice of this earthly
paradise; and even quarrel as to how their boundary lines should
intersect it!

There is something extremely ludicrous in these claims,--since neither
one nor other of the four powers can show the slightest basis for them.
Not one of them can pretend to the claim of conquest; and far less can
they rest their rights upon the basis of occupation or possession.  So
far from possessing the land, not one of them dare set foot over its
borders; and they are only too well pleased if its present occupants are
contented to remain within them.  The claim, therefore, of both Spaniard
and Portuguese, has no higher title, than that some three hundred and
fifty years ago it was given them by the Pope,--a title not less
ludicrous than their kissing the Pope's toe to obtain it!

In the midst of these four conflicting claimants, there appears a fifth,
and that is the real owner,--the "red Indian" himself.  His claim has
"three points of the law" in his favour,--possession,--and perhaps the
fourth, too,--the power to keep possession.  At all events, he has held
it for three hundred years against all odds and all comers; and who
knows that he may not hold it for three hundred years more?--only, it is
to be hoped, for a different use, and under the influence of a more
progressive civilisation.

The Indian, then, is the undoubted lord of the "Gran Chaco."  Let us
drop in upon him, and see what sort of an Indian he is, and how he
manages this majestic domain.

After having feasted our eyes upon the rich scenery of the land,--upon
the verdant plains, mottled with copses of "quebracho" and clumps of the
_Caranday_ palm,--upon landscapes that resemble the most lordly parks,
we look around for the mansions and the owners.  The mansion is not
there, but the owner stands before us.

We are at once struck by his appearance: his person tall, and straight
as a reed, his frame muscular, his limbs round and well-proportioned,
piercing coal-black eyes, well-formed features, and slightly aquiline
nose,--and perhaps we are a little surprised at the light colour of his
skin.  In this we note a decided peculiarity which distinguishes him
from most other tribes of his race.  It is not a _red_ Indian we behold,
nor yet a _copper-coloured_ savage; but a man whose complexion is scarce
darker than that of the mulatto, and not at all deeper in hue than many
a Spaniard of Andalusian descent, who boasts possession of the purest
"sangre azul;" not one shade darker than thousands of Portuguese
dwelling upon the other side of the Brazilian frontier.

And remember, that it is the _true_ skin of the Chaco Indian we have
before our view,--and not a _painted_ one,--for here, almost for the
first time, do we encounter the native complexion of the aboriginal,
undisfigured by those horrid pigments which in these pages have so often
glared before the eyes of our readers.

Of paint, the Chaco Indian scarce knows the use; or, at all events,
employs it sparingly, and only at intervals, on very particular and
ceremonial occasions.  We are spared, therefore, the describing his
_escutcheon_, and a positive relief it is.

It would be an interesting inquiry to trace out the cause of his thus
abstaining from a custom almost universal among his race.  Why does he
abjure the paint?

Is it because he cannot afford it, or that it is not procurable in his
country?  No; neither of these can be offered as a reason.  The
"annotto" bush (_Bixa orellana_), and the wild-indigo, abound in his
territory; and he knows how to extract the colours of both,--for his
women do extract them, and use them in dying the yarn of their webs.
Other dyewoods--a multitude of others--he could easily obtain; and even
the cochineal cactus, with its gaudy vermilion parasite, is indigenous
to his land.  It cannot be the scarcity of the material that prevents
him from employing it,--what then?

The cause is unexplained; but may it not be that this romantic savage,
otherwise more highly gifted than the rest of his race, is endowed also
with a truer sense of the beautiful and becoming?  _Quien sabe_?

Let it not be understood, however, that he is altogether free from the
"taint,"--for he _does_ paint sometimes, as already admitted; and it
must be remembered, moreover, that the Chaco Indians are not all of one
tribe, nor of one community.  There are many associations of them
scattered over the face of this vast plain, who are not all alike,
either in their habits or customs, but, on the contrary, very unlike;
who are not even at all times friendly with each other, but occupied
with feuds and _vendettas_ of the most deadly description.  Some of
these tribes paint most frightfully, while others of them go still
farther, and _scarify_ their faces with the indelible _tattoo_,--a
custom that in America is almost confined to the Indians of the Chaco
and a few tribes on the southern tributaries of the Amazon.  Happily
this custom is on the decline: the men practise it no longer; but, by a
singular perversity of taste, it is still universal among the women, and
no Chaco belle would be esteemed beautiful without a cross of
bluish-black dots upon her forehead, a line of like points extending
from the angle of each eye to the ears, with a variety of similar
markings upon her cheeks, arms, and bosom.  All this is done with the
point of a thorn,--the spine of a _mimosa_, or of the _caraguatay_ aloe;
and the dark purple colour is obtained by infusing charcoal into the
fresh and bleeding punctures.  It is an operation that requires days to
complete, and the pain from it is of the most acute and prolonged
character, enduring until the poisoned wounds become cicatrised.  And
yet it is borne without a murmur,--just as people in civilised life bear
the painful application of hair-dyes and tweezers.

I need not say that the hair of the Chaco Indian does not need to be
dyed,--that is, unless he were to fancy having it of a white, or a red,
or yellow colour,--not an uncommon fancy among savages.

His taste, however, does not run that way any more than among civilised
dandies, and he is contented with its natural hue, which is that of the
raven's wing.  But he is not contented to leave it to its natural
growth.  Only a portion of it,--that which covers the upper part of his
head,--is permitted to retain its full length and flowing glories.  For
the remainder, he has a peculiar _tonsure_ of his own; and the hair
immediately over the forehead--and sometimes a stripe running all around
above the ears, to the back of the head--is either close shaven with a
sharp shell, or plucked entirely out by a pair of horn tweezers of
native manufacture.  Were it not that the long and luxuriant tresses
that still remain,--covering his crown, as with a crest,--the shorn
circle would assimilate him to some orders of friars; but,
notwithstanding the similarity of tonsure, there is not much resemblance
between a Chaco Indian and a brother of the crucifix and cowl.

This mode of "dressing the hair" is not altogether peculiar to the
Indian of the Gran Chaco.  It is also practised by certain prairie
tribes,--the Osage, Pawnee, and two or three others; but all these carry
the "razor" a little higher up, leaving a mere patch, or "scalp-lock,"
upon the crown.

The Chaco tribes are beardless by nature; and if a few hairs chance to
show themselves upon cheek or chin, they are carefully "wed" out.  In a
like fashion both men and women serve their eyebrows and lashes,--
sacrificing these undoubted ornaments, as they say, to a principle of
utility, since they allege that they can _see better without them_!
They laugh at white men, who preserve these appendages, calling them
"ostrich-eyed,"--from a resemblance which they perceive between hairy
brows and the stiff, hair-like feathers that bristle round the eyes of
the rhea, or American ostrich,--a well-known denizen of the Gran Chaco.

The costume of the Chaco Indian is one of exceeding simplicity; and in
this again we observe a peculiar trait of his mind.  Instead of the
tawdry and tinsel ornaments, in which most savages delight to array
themselves, he is contented with a single strip of cloth, folded tightly
around his loins.  It is usually either a piece of white cotton, or of
wool woven in a tri-colour of red, white, and blue, and of hues so
brilliant, as to produce altogether a pretty effect.  The wear of the
women scarce differs from that of the men, and the covering of both,
scant as it is, is neither inelegant nor immodest.  It is well adapted
to their mode of life, and to their climate, which is that of an eternal
spring.  When cold winds sweep over their grassy plains, they seek
protection under the folds of a more ample covering, with which they are
provided,--a cloak usually made of the soft fur of the "nutria," or
South-American otter, or a robe of the beautiful spotted skin of the
jaguar.  They wear neither head-dress nor _chaussure_,--neither pendants
from the nose, not the hideous lip ornaments seen among other tribes of
South America; but many of them pierce the ears; and more especially the
women, who split the delicate lobes, and insert into them spiral
appendages of rolled palm-leaf, that hang dangling to their very
shoulders.  It will be observed, therefore, that among the Chaco tribes
the women disfigure themselves more than the men, and all, no doubt, in
the interest of _fashion_.

It will be seen that the simple dress we have described leaves the limbs
and most part of the body bare.  To the superficial observer it might be
deemed an inelegant costume, and perhaps so it would be among Europeans,
or so-called "whites."  The deformed figures of European people--
deformed by ages of toil and monarchical serfdom--would ill bear
exposure to the light, neither would the tripe-coloured skin, of which
they are so commonly conceited.  A very different impression is produced
by the rich brunette hue,--bronze, if you will,--especially when, as in
the case of the Chaco Indian, it covers a body of proper shape, with
arms and limbs in symmetrical proportion.  Then, and then only, does
costly clothing appear superfluous, and the eye at once admits that
there is no fashion on earth equal to that of the human form itself.

Above all does it appear graceful on horseback, and almost universally
in this attitude does the Chaco Indian exhibit it.  Scarce ever may we
meet him afoot, but always on the back of his beautiful horse,--the two
together presenting the aspect of the Centaur.  And probably in the
resemblance he approaches nearer to the true ideal of the Grecian myth,
than any other horseman in the world; for the Chaco Indians differ not
only from other "horse Indians" in their mode of equitation, but also
from every other equestrian people.  The absurd high-peaked saddles of
Tartar and Arab, with their gaudy trappings, are unknown to him,--
unknown, too, the ridiculous paraphernalia, half-hiding the horse, in
use among Mexicans, South-American Spaniards, and even the Indians of
other tribes,--despised by him the plated bits, the embroidered bridles,
and the tinkling spurs, so tickling to the vanity of other New-World
equestrians.  The Chaco horseman needs no such accessories to his
elegance.  Saddle he has none, or only the slightest patch of
jaguar-skin,--spurs and stirrups are alike absent.  Naked he sits upon
his naked horse, the beautiful curvature of whose form is interrupted by
no extraneous trappings,--even the thong that guides him scarce
observable from its slightness.  Who then can deny his resemblance to
the centaur?

Thus mounted, with no other saddle than that described, no bridle but a
thin strip of raw hide looped around the lower jaw of his horse, he will
gallop wildly over the plain, wheel in graceful curves to avoid the
burrows of the _viscacha_, pass at full speed through the close-standing
and often thorny trunks of the palms, or, if need be, stand erect upon
the withers of his horse, like a "star rider" of the Hippodrome.  In
this attitude he looks abroad for his enemies, or the game of which he
may be in search; and, thus elevated above surrounding objects, he
discovers the ostrich far off upon the plain, the large deer (_cervus
campestris_), and the beautiful spotted roebucks that browse in
countless herds upon the grass-covered savannas.

The dwelling of the Chaco Indian is a tent, not covered with skins, but
usually with mats woven from the epidermis of young leaves of a
palm-tree.  It is set up by two long uprights and a ridge-pole, over
which the mat is suspended--very much after the fashion of the _tente
d'abri_ used by Zouave soldiers.  His bed is a hammock, swung between
the upright poles, or oftener, between two palm-trees growing near.  He
only seeks shelter in his tent when it rains, and he prevents its floor
getting wet by digging a trench around the outside.  He cares little for
exposure to the sun; but his wife is more delicate, and usually carries
over her head a large bunch of _rhea_ feathers, _a la parasol_, which
protects her face from the hot scorching beams.

The tent does not stand long in one situation.  Ample as is the supply
which Nature affords in the wilds of the Chaco, it is not all poured out
in any one place.  This would be too much convenience, and would result
in an evil consequence.  The receiver of such a benefit would soon
become indolent, from the absence of all necessity for exertion; and not
only his health, but his moral nature, would suffer from such abundance.

Fortunately no such fate is likely to befall the Indian of the Chaco.
The food upon which he subsists is derived from many varied sources, a
few of which only are to be found in any one particular place, and each
only at its own season of the year.  For instance, upon the dry plains
he pursues the _rhea_ and _viscacha_, the jaguar, puma, _and
partridges_; in woods and marshy places the different species of wild
hogs (peccaries).  On the banks of rivers he encounters the tapir and
capivara, and in their waters, fish, _utrias_, geese, and ducks.  In the
denser forest-covered tracts he must look for the various kinds of
monkeys, which also constitute a portion of his food.  When he would
gather the legumes, of the _algarobias_--of several species--or collects
the sugary sap of the _caraguatay_, he must visit the tracts where the
_mimosae_ and _bromelias_ alone flourish; and then he employs much of
his time in searching for the nests of wild bees, from the honey of
which and the seeds of the _algarobia_ he distils a pleasant but highly
intoxicating drink.  To his credit, however, he uses this but sparingly,
and only upon grand occasions of ceremony; how different from the
bestial chicha-drinking revellers of the Pampas!

These numerous journeys, and the avocations connecting with them, hinder
the Chaco Indian from falling into habits of idleness, and preserve his
health to a longevity that is remarkable: so much so, that "to live as
long as a Chaco Indian," has become a proverbial expression in the
settlements of South America.

The old Styrian monk Dobrizhoffer has chronicled the astounding facts,
that among these people a man of eighty is reckoned to be in the prime
of manhood; that a hundred years is accounted a common age; and that
many of them are still hale and hearty at the age of one hundred and
twenty!  Allowing for a little exaggeration in the statements of the
monk, it is nevertheless certain that the Indians of the Gran Chaco,
partly owing to their fine climate, and partly to their mode of life and
subsistence, enjoy health and strength to a very old age, and to a
degree unknown in less-favoured regions of the world.  Of this there is
ample and trustworthy testimony.

The food of the Chaco Indian is of a simple character, and he makes no
use either of salt or spices.  He is usually the owner of a small herd
of cattle and a few sheep, which he has obtained by plundering the
neighbouring settlements of the Spaniards.  It is towards those of the
south and west that he generally directs his hostile forays; for he is
at peace with the riverine provinces,--Brazilian, Paraguayan, and

In these excursions he travels long distances, crossing many a fordless
stream and river, and taking along with him wife, children, tents, and
utensils, in short, everything which he possesses.  He fords the streams
by swimming, using one hand to guide his horse.  With this hand he can
also propel himself, while in the other, he carries his long lance, on
the top of which he poises any object he does not wish should be wetted.
A "balza," called "pelota," made of bull's hide, and more like a square
box than a boat, carries over the house utensils and the puppies, of
which there are always a large number.  The "precious baby" is also a
passenger by the balza.  The _pelota_ is propelled, or rather, pulled
over, by means of a tiller-rope, held in the teeth of a strong swimmer,
or tied to the tail of a horse; and thus the crossing is effected.

Returning with his plunder--with herds of homed cattle or flocks of
sheep--not unfrequently with human captives, women and children, the
crossing becomes more difficult; but he is certain to effect it without
loss, and almost without danger of being overtaken in the pursuit.

His freebooting habits should not be censured too gravely.  Many
extenuating circumstances must be taken into consideration,--his wrongs
and sanguinary persecutions.  It must be remembered that the hostilities
commenced on the opposite side; and with the Indian the habit is not
altogether indigenous, but rather the result of the principle of
retaliation.  He is near kindred to the _Incas_,--in fact, some of the
Chaco tribes are remnants of the scattered Peruvian race, and he still
remembers the sanguinary slaughter of his ancestors by the Pizarros and
Almagros.  Therefore, using the phraseology of the French tribunals, we
may say there are "extenuating circumstances in his favour."  One
circumstance undoubtedly speaks trumpet-tongued for the Chaco Indian;
and that is, he does not _torture_ his captives, even when _white_ men
have fallen into his hands!  As to the captive women and children, their
treatment is rather gentle than otherwise; in fact, they are adopted
into the tribe, and share, alike with the rest, the pleasures as well as
the hardships of a savage life.

When the Chaco Indian possesses horned cattle and sheep, he eats mutton
and beef; but if these are wanting, he must resort to the chase.  He
captures deer and ostriches by running them down with his swift steed,
and piercing them with his long spear; and occasionally he uses the
_bolas_.  For smaller game he employs the bow and arrow, and fish are
also caught by shooting them with arrows.

The Chaco Indian is the owner of a breed of dogs, and large packs of
these animals may be seen around his camping-ground, or following the
cavalcade in its removal from place to place.  They are small
creatures,--supposed to be derived from a European stock, but they are
wonderfully prolific, the female often bringing forth twelve puppies at
a birth.  They burrow in the ground, and subsist on the offal of the
camp.  They are used in running down the spotted roebuck, in hunting the
capivara, the great ant-bear, _viscachas_, and other small animals.  The
tapir is taken in traps, and also speared, when the opportunity offers.
His flesh is relished by the Chaco Indian, but his hide is of more
consequence, as from it bags, whips, and various other articles can be
manufactured.  The peccary of two species (_dicotyles torquatus_ and
_collaris_) is also pursued by the dogs, and speared by the hunter while
pausing to bay the yelping pack; and the great American tiger (jaguar)
is killed in a like manner.  The slaying of this fierce and powerful
quadruped is one of the feats of the Chaco hunter, and both its skin and
flesh are articles of eager demand.  The latter is particularly sought
for; as by eating the flesh of so strong and courageous a creature the
Indian fancies his own strength and courage will be increased.  When a
jaguar is killed, its carcass becomes the common property of all; and
each individual of the tribe must have his slice, or "griskin,"--however
small the piece may be after such multiplied subdivision!  For the same
reason, the flesh of the wild boar is relished; also that of the
ant-bear--one of the most courageous of animals,--and of the tapir, on
account of its great strength.

The bread of the Chaco Indian is derived, as before mentioned, from
several species of mimosae, called indefinitely _algarobias_, and by the
missionary monks known as "Saint John's bread."  Palms of various kinds
furnish edible nuts; and there are many trees in the Chaco forests that
produce luscious fruits.  With these the Indian varies his diet, and
also with wild honey,--a most important article, for reasons already
assigned.  In the Chaco there are stingless bees, of numerous distinct
species,--a proof of the many blossoms which bloom as it were "unseen"
in that flowery Elysium.  The honey of these bees--of some of the
species in particular--is known to be of the finest and purest quality.
In the Spanish settlements it commands the highest price, and is very
difficult to be obtained,--for the Chaco Indian is but little given to
commerce, and only occasionally brings it to market.  He has but few
wants to satisfy, and cares not for the tinsel of the trader: hence it
is that most of the honey he gathers is reserved for his own use.  He
searches for the bees' nest by observing the flight of the insect, as it
passes back and forward over the wild parterre; and his keenness of
sight--far surpassing that of a European--enables him to trace its
movements in the air, and follow it to its hoard.  He alleges that he
could not accomplish this so well, were he encumbered with eyebrows and
lashes, and offers this as one of his reasons for extracting these
hirsute appendages.  There may be something in what he says,--strange as
it sounds to the ear of one who is _not_ a bee-hunter.  He finds the
nest at length,--sometimes in a hollow tree, sometimes upon a branch,--
the latter kind of nest being a large mass, of a substance like
blotting-paper, and hanging suspended from the twigs.  Sometimes he
traces the insect to a subterranean dwelling; but it must be remarked
that all these are different species of bees, that build their nests and
construct the cells of their honeycombs each in its own favourite place,
and according to its own fashion.  The bee-hunter cares not how--so long
as he can find the nest; though he would prefer being guided to one
built upon a species of thick octagonal cactus, known as the habitat of
the bee "tosimi."  This preference is caused by the simple fact--that of
all the honey in the Chaco, that of the bee "tosimi" is the _sweetest_.

It is to be regretted that, with his many virtues, and his fine
opportunity of exercising them, the Chaco Indian will not consent to
remain in peace and good-will with all men.  It seems a necessity of his
nature to have an occasional shy at some enemy, whether white or of his
own complexion.  But, indeed, it would be ridiculous to censure him for
this, since it appears also to be a vice universal among mankind; for
where is the tribe or nation, savage or civilised, who does not practise
it, whenever it feels bold enough or strong enough to do so?  The Chaco
Indian is not alone in his disregard of of the sixth commandment,--not
the only being on earth who too frequently goes forth to battle.

He has two distinct kinds of enemies,--one of European, the other of his
own race,--almost of his own kindred, you would say.  But it must be
remembered that there are several distinct tribes dwelling in the Chaco;
who, although presenting a certain similitude, are in many respects
widely dissimilar; and, so far from forming one nation, or living in
harmonious alliance with each other, are more frequently engaged in the
most deadly hostilities.  Their wars are all conducted on horseback,--
all cavalry skirmishes,--the Chaco Indian disdaining to touch the ground
with his foot.  Dismounted he would feel himself vanquished,--as much
out of his element as a fish, out of water!

His war weapons are of a primitive kind; they are the bow and lance, and
a species of club, known in Spanish phraseology as the "macana."  This
last weapon is also found in the hands of several of the Amazonian
tribes, though differing slightly in its construction.  The "macana" of
the Chaco Indian is a short, stout piece of heavy iron-wood,--usually a
species known as the _quebracha_, or "axe-breaker," which grows
plentifully throughout the Paraguayan countries.  Numerous species are
termed "quebracha" in Spanish-American countries, as there are numerous
"iron-woods."  That of Paraguay, like most others that have obtained
this name, is a species of ebony-wood, or lignum-vitae,--in short, a
true _guaiacum_.  The wood is hard, solid, and heavy almost as metal;
and therefore just the very stuff for a war-club.

The macana of the Chaco Indian is short,--not much over two feet in
length, and is used both for striking in the hand and throwing to a
distance.  It is thicker, and of course heavier, at both extremities;
and the mode of grasping it is round the narrow part in the middle.  The
Indian youths, while training for war, practise throwing the macana, as
other people play at skittles or quoits.

The _lazo_ and _bolas_ are both in the hands of the Chaco tribes, but
these contrivances are used sparingly, and more for hunting than war.
They rarely trouble themselves with them on a real war expedition.

Their chief weapons against an enemy are their long lances,--for these
are far the most effective arms for a man mounted on horseback.  Those
of the Chaco Indian are of enormous length, their shafts being often
fifteen feet from butt to barb.  They use them also when mounting on
horseback, in a fashion peculiar to themselves.  They mount by the right
side, contrary to our European mode; nor is there the slightest
resemblance in any other respect between the two fashions of getting
into the saddle.  With the Chaco Indian there is no putting toes into
stirrups,--no tugging at the poor steed's withers,--no clinging or
climbing into the seat.  He places the butt of his lance upon the
ground, grasps it a little above his head with the right hand, and then
raising his lithe body with an elastic spring, he drops like a cat upon
the spine of his well-trained steed.  A word,--a touch of his knee, or
other well-understood signal,--and the animal is off like an arrow.

When the Chaco Indian goes to war against the whites, his arms are those
already described.  He is not yet initiated into the use of guns and
gunpowder, though he often experiences their deadly effects.  Indeed,
the wonder is that he could have maintained his independence so long,
with such weapons opposed to him.  Gunpowder has often given cowards the
victory over brave men; but the Chaco Indian, even without gunpowder,
has managed somehow or other to preserve his freedom.

When he makes an expedition against the white settlements, he carries no
shield or other defensive armour.  He did so at one period of his
history; but experience has taught him that these contrivances are of
little use against leaden bullets; and he has thrown them away, taking
them up again, however, when he goes to war with enemies of his own

In attacking a settlement or village of the whites, one of his favourite
strategic plans is to set the houses on fire; and in this he very often
succeeds,--almost certainly when the thatch chances to be dry.  His plan
is to project an arrow with a piece of blazing cotton fastened near the
head.  For this purpose he uses the strongest kind of bow, and lying
upon his back, bends it with his feet.  By this means a much longer
range is obtained, and the aim is of little consequence, so long as the
arrow falls upon the roof a house.

On going to war with a hostile tribe of his own kind and colour, he
equips himself in a manner altogether different His face is then painted
most frightfully, and in the most hideous designs that his imagination
can suggest, while his body is almost entirely covered by a complete
suit of mail.  The thick hide of the tapir furnishes him with the
materials for helmet, cuirass, cuisses, greaves, everything,--and
underneath is a lining of jaguar-skin.  Thus accoutred he is in little
danger from the arrows of the enemy, though he is also sadly encumbered
in the management of his horse; and were he upon a plundering expedition
against the whites, such an encumbrance would certainly bring him to
grief.  He knows that very well, and therefore he never goes in such
guise upon any foray that is directed towards the settlements.

The Chaco Indian has now been at peace with his eastern neighbours--both
Spaniards and Portuguese--for a considerable length of time; but he
still keeps up hostility with the settlements on the south,--those of
Cordova and San Luis,--and often returns from these wretched provinces
laden with booty.  If he should chance to bring away anything that is of
no use to him, or that may appear superfluous in his savage home,--a
harp or guitar, a piece of costly furniture, or even a handsome horse,--
he is not required to throw it away: he knows that he can find
purchasers on the other side of the river,--among the Spanish merchants
of Corrientes or Paraguay, who are ready at any time to become the
receivers of the property stolen from their kindred of the south!

Such queer three-cornered dealings are also carried on in the northern
countries of Spanish America,--in the provinces of Chihuahua, New Leon,
and New Mexico.  They are there called "cosas de Mexico."  It appears
they are equally "cosas de Paraguay."



Have I a reader who has not heard of the "King of the Cannibal Islands?"
I think I may take it for granted that there is not one in my large
circle of boy-readers who has not heard of that royal anthropophagist,
that "mighty king" who,--

                  "In one hut,
  Had fifty wives as black as _sut_,
  And fifty of a double smut--
  That King of the Cannibal Islands."

And yet, strange as it may appear, the old song was no exaggeration--
neither as regards the number of his wives, nor any other particular
relating to King "Musty-fusty-shang."  On the contrary, it presents a
picture of the life and habits of his polygamous majesty that is, alas!
too ludicrously like the truth.

Though the king of the Cannibal Islands has been long known by
reputation, people never had any very definite idea in what quarter of
the world his majesty's dominions lay.  Being, as the name implies, an
island-kingdom, it was to be looked for of course, in some part of the
ocean; and the Pacific Ocean or Great South Sea was generally regarded
as that in which it was situated; but whether it was the Tonga Islands,
or the Marquesas, or the Loo-Choos, or the Soo-loos--or some other
group, that was entitled to the distinction of being the man-eating
community, with the man-eating king at their head--was not very
distinctly ascertained up to a recent period.  On this head there is
uncertainty no longer.  Though in several groups of South-Sea Islands
the horrible propensity is known to exist, yet the man-eaters, _par
excellence_, the real _bona-fide_ followers of the habit, are the
_Feegees_.  Beyond doubt these are the greatest cannibals in all
creation, their islands the true "Cannibal Islands," and their king no
other than "Musty-fusty-shang" himself.

Alas! the subject is too serious to jest upon, and it is not without
pain that we employ our pen upon it.  The truth must needs be told; and
there is no reason why the world should not know how desperately wicked
men may become under the influence of a despotism that leaves the masses
in the power of the irresponsible few, with no law, either moral or
physical, to restrain their unbridled passions.

You will find the Feegee Islands, in the Pacific Ocean, in the latitude
of 18 degrees south.  This parallel passes nearly through the centre of
the group.  Their longitude is remarkable: it is the complement of the
meridian of Greenwich--the line 180 degrees.  Therefore, when it is noon
in London, it is midnight among the Feegees.  Take the intersection of
these two lines, 18 degrees latitude and 180 degrees longitude as a
centre; describe an imaginary circle, with a diameter of 300 miles; its
circumference, with the slight exception of a small outlying group, will
enclose, in a "ring fence," as it were, the whole Feegee archipelago.

The group numbers, in all, no fewer than 225 islands and islets, of
which between 80 and 90 are at present inhabited--the whole population
being not much under 200,000.  The estimates of writers differ widely on
this point; some state 150,000--others, more than double this amount.
There is reason to believe that 150,000 is too low.  Say, then, 200,000;
since the old adage: "In medias res," is generally true.

Only two of the islands are large,--"Viti," and "Vanua."  Viti is 90
miles long, by 50 in breadth, and Vanua 100 by 25.  Some are what are
known as "coral islands;" others are "volcanic," presenting all
varieties of mountain aspect, rugged and sublime.  A few of the
mountain-peaks attain the elevation of 5,000 feet above sea-level, and
every form is known--table-topped, dome-shaped, needle, and conical.  In
fact, no group in the Pacific affords so many varieties of form and
aspect, as are to be observed in the Feegee archipelago.  In sailing
through these islands, the most lovely landscapes open out before the
eye, the most picturesque groupings of rocks, ridges, and
mountain-peaks, ravines filled with luxuriant vegetation, valleys
covered with soft verdure, so divinely fair as to appear the abode of
angelic beings.  "So beautiful was their aspect," writes one who visited
them, "that I could scarcely bring my mind to the realising sense of the
well-known fact, that they were the abode of a savage, ferocious, and
treacherous race of cannibals."  Such, alas! is the fact, well-known, as
the writer observes.

Perhaps to no part of the world has Nature been more bountiful than to
the Feegee Islands.  She has here poured out her favours in very
profusion; and the _cornucopia_ might be regarded as an emblem of the
land.  The richest products of a tropic vegetation flourish in an
abundance elsewhere unknown, and the growth of valuable articles of food
is almost spontaneous.  Many kinds are really of spontaneous production;
and those under cultivation are almost endless in numbers and variety.
Yams grow to the length of six feet, weighing one hundred pounds each!
and several varieties are cultivated.  The sweet potato reaches the
weight of five or six pounds, and the "taro" (_Arum esculentum_) also
produces a root of enormous size, which forms the staple article of the
Feegeean's food.  Still another great tuber, weighing twenty or thirty
pounds, and used as a liquorice, is the produce of the "massawe," or
ti-tree (_dracaena terminalis_); and the root of the _piper methisticum_
often attains the weight of one hundred and forty pounds!  This last is
possessed of highly narcotic properties; and is the material universally
used in the distillation, or rather brewing, of the native drink called
"yaqona"--the "kava" of the South-Sea voyagers.  Breadfruit grows in
abundance: there being no less than nine varieties of this celebrated
tree upon the different islands of the group, each producing a distinct
kind of fruit; and what is equally remarkable, of the _musaceae_--the
plantain and banana--there are in the Feegee isles thirty different
kinds, either of spontaneous growth, or cultivated!  All these are well
distinguished from one another, and bear distinct appellations.  Three
kinds of cocoa-palm add to the extraordinary variety of vegetable food,
as well as to the picturesqueness of the scenery; but there is no lack
of lovely forms in the vegetation, where the beautiful ti-tree grows,--
where the fern and the screw-pines flourish,--where plantains and
bananas unfold their broad bright leaves to the sun; where _arums_
spread their huge fronds mingling with the thick succulent blades of the
bromelia, and where pawpaws, shaddocks, orange and lime-trees exhibit
every hue of foliage, from deep-green to the most brilliant golden.

Fruits of a hundred species are grown in the greatest plenty; the orange
and the Papuan apple, the shaddock and lemon; in short, almost every
species of fruit that will flourish in a tropical clime.  In addition,
many indigenous and valuable kinds, both of roots and fruits, are
peculiar to the Feegee group, yet unknown and uncultivated in any other
part of the world.  Even the very cloth of the country--and a beautiful
fabric it makes--is the product of an indigenous tree, the "malo" or
paper-mulberry (_Brousonetia papyrifera_), the "tapa" of voyagers.  Not
only the material for dresses, but the tapestry for the adornment of
their temples, the curtains and hangings of their houses, are all
obtained from this valuable tree.

We have not space for a more detailed account of the productions of
these isles.  It would fill a volume to describe with any degree of
minuteness the various genera and species of its plants alone.  Enough
has been said to show how bountiful, or rather how prodigal, nature has
been to the islands of the Feegeean Archipelago.

Of the animal kingdom there is not much to be said.  Of quadrupeds there
is the usual paucity of species that is noticed everywhere throughout
the Polynesian islands.  Dogs and pigs are kept; the latter in
considerable numbers, as the flesh forms an important article of food;
but they are not indigenous to the Feegee group, though the period of
their introduction is unknown.  Two or three small rodents are the only
quadrupeds yet known to be true natives of the soil.  Reptiles are alike
scarce in species,--though the turtle is common upon the coasts, and its
fishery forms the regular occupation of a particular class of the
inhabitants.  The species of birds are more numerous, and there are
parrots, peculiar to the islands, of rich and beautiful plumage.

But we are not allowed to dwell upon these subjects.  Interesting as may
be the zoology and botany of the Feegeean Archipelago, both sink into
insignificance when brought into comparison with its ethnology,--the
natural history of its human inhabitants;--a subject of deep, but alas!
of a terribly painful interest.  By inquiry into the condition and
character of these people, we shall see how little they have deserved
the favours which nature has so bounteously bestowed upon them.

In the portrait of the Feegeean you will expect something frightfully
hideous,--knowing, as you already do, that he is an eater of human
flesh,--a man of gigantic stature, swarthy skin, bloodshot eyes, gaunt,
bony jaws, and terrific aspect.  You will expect this man to be
described as being naked,--or only with the skin of a wild beast upon
his shoulders,--building no house, manufacturing no household or other
utensils, and armed with a huge knotted club, which he is ever ready to
use:--a man who dwells in a cavern, sleeps indifferently in the open air
or under the shelter of a bush; in short, a true savage.  That is the
sort of creature you expect me to describe, and I confess that just such
a physical aspect--just such a condition of personal hideousness--would
be exactly in keeping with the moral deformity of the Feegeean.  You
would furthermore expect this savage to be almost devoid of intellectual
power,--altogether wanting in moral sense,--without knowledge of right
and wrong,--without knowledge of any kind,--without ideas.  It seems but
natural you should look for such characteristics in a _cannibal_.

The portrait I am about to paint will disappoint you.  I do not regret
it, since it enables me to bring forward another testimony that man in
his original nature is not a being of such desperate wickedness.  That
simple and primitive state, which men glibly call _savage_, is _not_ the
condition favourable to cannibalism.  I know that it is to such people
that the habit is usually ascribed, but quite erroneously.  The Andaman
islander has been blamed with it simply becauses he chances to go naked,
and looks, as he is, hungry and emaciated.  The charge is proved false.
The Bushman of South Africa has enjoyed a similar reputation.  It also
turns out to be a libel.  The Carib long lived under the imputation,
simply because he presented a fierce front to the Spanish tyrant, who
would have enslaved him; and we have heard the same stigma cast upon a
dozen other tribes, the _lowest savages_ being usually selected; in
other words, those whose condition appeared the most wretched.  In such
cases the accusation has ever been found, upon investigation, to be

In the most primitive state in which man appears upon the earth, he is
either without social organisation altogether, or if any do exist, it is
either patriarchal of republican.  Neither of these conditions is
favourable to the development of vice,--much less the most horrible of
all vices.

It will not do to quote the character of the Bushman, or certain other
of the low tribes, to refute this statement.  These are not men in their
primitive state ascending upward, but a condition altogether the
reverse.  They are the decaying remnants of some corrupt civilisation,
sinking back into the dust out of which they were created.

No--and I am happy to say it--man, as he originally came from the hands
of the Creator, has no such horrid propensity as cannibalism.  In his
primitive state he has never been known to practise it,--except when the
motives have been such as have equally tempted men professing the
highest civilisation,--but this cannot be considered cannibalism.  Where
that exists in its true unmitigated form,--and unhappily it does so,--
the early stages of social organisation must have been passed; the
republican and patriarchal forms must both have given place to the
absolute and monarchical.  This condition of things is absolutely
necessary, before man can obtain sufficient power to prey upon his
fellow-man to the extent of eating him.  There can be no "cannibal"
without a "king."

So far from the Feegeean cannibals being _savages_, according to the
ordinary acceptation of the term, they are in reality the very reverse.
If we adhere to the usual meaning of the word civilisation,
understanding by it a people possessing an intelligent knowledge of
arts, living in well-built houses, fabricating fine goods, tilling their
lands in a scientific and successful manner, practising the little
politenesses and accomplishments of social life,--if these be the
_criteria_ of civilisation, then it is no more than the truth to say
that the standard possessed by the Feegee islanders is incomparably
above that of the lower orders of most European nations.

It is startling to reflect--startling as sad--that a people possessed of
such intellectual power, and who have ever exercised it to a wonderful
extent, in arts, manufactures, and even in the accomplishing of their
own persons, should at the same time exhibit moral traits of such an
opposite character.  An atrocious cruelty,--an instinct for oppression,
brutal and ferocious,--a heart pitiless as that of the fiend himself,--a
hand ever ready to strike the murderous blow, even though the victim be
a brother,--lips that lie in every word they speak,--a tongue ever bent
on barbaric boasting,--a bosom that beats only with sentiments of
treachery and abject cowardice,--these are the revolting characteristics
of the Feegeean.  Dark as is his skin, his soul is many shades darker.

It is time, however, to descend to a more particular delineation of this
man-eating monster; and first, we shall give a description of his
personal appearance.

The Feegeeans are above the average height of Europeans or white men:
men of six feet are common among them, though few reach the height of
six feet six.  Corpulent persons are not common, though large and
muscular men abound.  Their figure corresponds more nearly to that of
the white man than any other race known.  The proportions of their limbs
resemble those of northern Europeans, though some are narrower across
the loins.  Their chests are broad and sinewy, and their stout limbs and
short, well-set necks are conspicuous characters.  The outline of the
face is a good oval; the mouth large, with white teeth regularly
arranged--ah! those horrid teeth!--the nose is well-shaped, with full
nostrils; yet quite distinct, as are the lips also, from the type of the
African negro.  Indeed, with the exception of their colour, they bear
very little resemblance to the negro,--that is, the thick-lipped,
flat-nosed negro of our fancy; for there are negro tribes in Africa
whose features are as fine as those of the Feegeeans, or even as our
own.  In colour of skin the Feegeean is nearly, if not quite, as dark as
the negro; but it may be remarked that there are different shades, as
there are also among pure Ethiopians.  In the Feegee group there are
many men of mulatto colour, but these are not of the original Feegee
stock.  They are either a mixed offspring with the Tonga islander, or
pure-bred Tonga islanders themselves who for the past two hundred years
have been insinuating themselves into the social compact of the
Feegeeans.  These light-coloured people are mostly found on the eastern
or windward side of the Feegee group,--that is, the side towards Tonga
itself,--and the trade-winds will account for their immigration, which
was at first purely accidental.  They at present play a conspicuous part
in the affairs of the Feegeeans, being in favour with the kings and
great chiefs, partly on account of their being better sailors than the
native Feegeeans, and partly on account of other services which these
tyrants require them to perform.  In some arts the Tongans are superior
to the Feegeeans, but not in all.  In pottery, wood-carving, making of
mats or baskets, and the manufacture of the tapa cloth, the Feegeeans
stand unrivalled over all the Pacific Ocean.

We need say no more of the Tongans here; they are elsewhere described.
Those dwelling in Feegee are not all fixed there for life.  Some are so,
and these are called Tonga-Feegeeans; the others are only visitors,
giving their services temporarily to the Feegeean chiefs, or occupied in
ship-building,--in constructing those great war canoes that have been
the astonishment of South-Sea voyagers, and which Feegee sends forth
from her dockyards in the greatest perfection.  These, when finished by
the Tongan strangers, are used to carry them back to their own islands,
that lie about three hundred miles to the windward (southeast).

But to continue the portrait of the Feegeean.  We have touched almost
every part of it except the hair; but this requires a most elaborate
limning, such as the owner himself gives it.  In its natural state the
head of the Feegeean is covered by a mass of black hair, long, frizzled,
and bushy, sometimes encroaching on the forehead, and joined by whiskers
to a thick, round, or pointed beard, to which moustaches are often
added.  Black is, of course, the natural colour of the hair, but it is
not always worn of this hue.  Other colours are thought more becoming;
and the hair, both of the men and women, is dyed in a variety of ways,
lime burning it to a reddish or whitey-brown shade.  A turmeric-yellow,
or even a vermilion-red are not uncommon colours; but all these keep
varying, according to the change of fashions at court!

Commodore Wilkes, who has given a good deal of his time to an
exploration of the Feegee Islands, states that the Feegee hair, in its
natural condition, is straight, and not "frizzled," as described above--
he says that the frizzling is the work of the barber; but the Commodore
is altogether mistaken in this idea.  Thousands of Feegeeans, whose hair
was never touched by a barber, nor dressed even by themselves, exhibit
this peculiarity.  We regret to add that this is only one of a thousand
erroneous statements which the Commodore has made during his gigantic
exploration.  He may have been excellent at his own speciality of making
soundings and laying down charts; but on all matters pertaining to
natural history or ethnology, the worthy Commodore appears to have been
purblind, and, indeed, his extensive staff of naturalists of every kind
have produced far less than might have been expected from such excellent
opportunities as they enjoyed.  The observation of the Commodore will
not stand the test of time, and cannot be depended upon as safe guides,
excepting in those cases where he was an actual eye-witness.  About his
truthful intentions there can be no doubt whatever.

Of one very peculiar performance among the Feegees he appears to have
had actual demonstration, and as he has described this with sufficient
minuteness, we shall copy his account; though, after what we have said,
we should apologise largely for the liberty.  The performance referred
to is that of "barberising" a barbarian monarch, and may be taken as a
proof of high civilisation among the Feegees.  It will be seen that,
with the exception of the tabooed fingers, there is not much difference
between a barber of Bond Street and an artist of like calling in the
Cannibal Islands.

"The chiefs in particular," writes Commodore Wilkes, "pay great
attention to the dressing of their heads, and for this purpose all of
them have barbers, whose sole occupation is the care of their masters'
heads.  These barbers are called _a-vu-ni-ulu_.  They are attached to
the household of the chiefs in numbers of from two to a dozen.  The duty
is held to be of so sacred a nature, that their hands are tabooed from
all other employment, and they are not even permitted to feed
themselves.  To dress the head of a chief requires several hours.  The
hair is made to spread out from the head, on every side, to a distance
that is often eight inches.  The beard, which is also carefully nursed,
often reaches the breast, and when a Feegeean has these important parts
of his person well dressed, he exhibits a degree of conceit that is not
a little amusing.

"In the process of dressing the hair it is well anointed with oil, mixed
with a carbonaceous black, until it is completely saturated.  The barber
then takes the hairpin, which is a long and slender rod, made of
tortoise-shell or bone, and proceeds to twitch almost every separate
hair.  This causes it to frizzle and stand erect.  The bush of hair is
then trimmed smooth by singeing it, until it has the appearance of an
immense wig.  When this has been finished, a piece of tapa, so fine as
to resemble tissue-paper, is wound in light folds around it, to protect
the hair from the dew or dust.  This covering, which has the look of a
turban, is called _sala_, and none but the chiefs are allowed to wear
it; any attempt to assume this head-dress by a kai-si, or common person,
would be immediately punished with death.  The sala, when taken proper
care of, will last three weeks or a month, and the hair is not dressed
except when it is removed; but the high chiefs and dandies seldom allow
a day to pass without changing the sala and having the hair put in

With this account, we conclude our description of the Feegeean's person.
His costume is of the simplest kind, and easily described.  With the
men it is merely a strip of "tapa" or "malo" cloth passed several times
round the waist, and the ends left to hang down in front.  The length of
the hanging ends determines the rank of the wearer, and only in the case
of kings or great chiefs are they allowed to touch the ground.  A turban
of the finest tapa cloth among the great mop of hair is another badge of
rank, worn only by kings and chiefs; and this head-dress, which adds
greatly to the dignified appearance of the wearer, is not always coiffed
in the same fashion, but each chief adapts it to his own or the
prevailing taste of the court.  The dress of the women is a mere
waist-belt, with a fringe from six to ten inches in length.  It is worn
longer after they have become wives, sometimes reaching near the knee,
and forming a very picturesque garment.  It is called the "liku," and
many of them are manufactured with surprising skill and neatness, the
material being obtained from various climbing plants of the forest.
Under the "liku" the women are tattooed, and there only.  Their men, on
the contrary, do not undergo the tattoo; but on grand occasions paint
their faces and bodies in the most fanciful colours and patterns.

The kings and some chiefs suspend from their necks shell ornaments--
often as large as a dining-plate--that down upon the breast.  Some,
instead of this, wear a necklace of whales' teeth, carved to resemble
claws, and bearing a very close resemblance to the necklaces of the
Prairie Indians, made of the claws of the grizzly bear.  Another kind of
necklace--perhaps more appropriate to the Feegee--is a string of human
teeth; and this kind is not unfrequently worn by these ferocious

It must not be supposed that the scantiness of the Feegeean costume
arises from poverty or stinginess on the part of the wearer.  Nothing of
the kind.  It is simply because such is the fashion of the time.  Were
it otherwise, he could easily supply the materials, but he does not wish
it otherwise.  His climate is an eternal summer, and he has no need to
encumber his body with extraneous clothing.  With the exception of the
turban upon his head, his king is as naked as himself.

You may suppose that the Feegeeans have but little notions of modesty;
but, strange as it may appear, this is in reality not one of their
failings.  They regard the "malo" and "liku" as the most modest of
garments; and a man or woman seen in the streets without these scanty
coverings would be in danger of being clubbed to death!

It must be acknowledged that they are not _altogether_ depraved--for in
this respect they present the most astounding anomaly.  Certain virtues
are ascribed to them, and as I have painted only the dark side of their
character, it is but fair to give the other.  Indeed, it is a pleasure
to do this--though there is not enough of the favourable to make any
great alteration in the picture.  The whole character is so well
described by one of the most acute observers who has yet visited the
South Seas--the Wesleyan missionary Williams--that we borrow the

"The aspect of the Feegeean," says Mr Williams, "with reference to his
mental character, so far from supporting the decision which would thrust
him almost out of mankind, presents many points of great interest,
showing that, if an ordinary amount of attention were bestowed on him,
he would take no mean rank in the human family, to which, hitherto, he
has been a disgrace.  Dull, barren stupidity forms no part of his
character.  His feelings are acute, but not lasting; his emotions easily
roused, but transient; he can love truly, and hate deeply; he can
sympathise with thorough sincerity, and feign with consummate skill; his
fidelity and loyalty are strong and enduring, while his revenge never
dies, but waits to avail itself of circumstances, or of the blackest
treachery, to accomplish its purpose.  His senses are keen, and so well
employed, that he often excels the white man in ordinary things.  Tact
has been called `ready cash,' and of this the native of Feegee has a
full share, enabling him to surmount at once many difficulties, and
accomplish many tasks, that would have `fixed' an Englishman.  Tools,
cord, or packing materials, he finds directly, where the white man would
be at a loss for either; and nature seems to him but a general store for
his use, where the article he wants is always within reach.

"In social diplomacy the Feegeean is very cautious and clever.  That he
ever paid a visit merely _en passant_, is hard to be believed.  If no
request leaves his lips, he has brought the desire, and only waits for a
good chance to present it now, or prepare the way for its favourable
reception at some other time.  His face and voice are all pleasantness;
and he has the rare skill of finding out just the subject on which you
most like to talk, or sees at once whether you desire silence.  Barely
will he fail to read your countenance; and the case must be urgent
indeed which obliges him to ask a favour when he sees a frown.  The more
important he feels his business the more earnestly he protests that he
has none at all; and the subject uppermost in his thoughts comes last to
his lips, or is not even named; for he will make a second, or even a
third visit, rather than risk a failure through precipitancy.  He seems
to read other men by intuition, especially where selfishness or lust are
prominent traits.  If it serves his purpose, he will study difficult and
peculiar characters, reserving the results for future use; if afterwards
he wish to please them, he will know how, and if to annoy them, it will
be done most exactly.

"His sense of hearing is acute, and by a stroke of his nail he judges
the ripeness of fruits, or soundness of various substances."

From what source the Feegeean has sprung is purely a matter of
conjecture.  He has no history,--not even a tradition of when his
ancestors first peopled the Archipelago in which we now find him.  Of
his race we have not a much clearer knowledge.  Speculation places him
in the same family as the "Papuan Negro," and he has some points of
resemblance to this race, in the colour and frizzled hair; but there is
as much difference between the wretched native of West Australia and the
finely-developed Feegeean as there is between the stunted Laplander and
the stalwart Norwegian; nor is the coarse rough skin of the true Papuan
to be recognised in the smooth, glossy epidermis of the Feegee Islander.
This, however, may be the result of better living; and certainly among
the mountain-tribes of the Feegees, who lead lives of greater privation
and hardship, the approach to the Papuan appearance is observable.  It
is hardly necessary to add that the Feegeean is of a race quite distinct
from that known as the Polynesian or South-Sea Islander.  This last is
different not only in form, complexion, and language, but also in many
important mental characteristics.  It is to this race the Tongans
belong, and its peculiarities will be sketched in treating of that

Were we to enter upon a minute description of the manners and customs of
the Feegees,--of their mode of house and canoe building,--of their arts
and manufactures, for they possess both,--of their implements of
agriculture and domestic use,--of their weapons of war,--their
ceremonies of religion and court etiquette,--our task would require more
space than is here allotted to us: it would in fact be as much as to
describe the complete social economy of a civilised nation; and a whole
volume would scarce suffice to contain such a description.  In a sketch
like the present, the account of these people requires to be given in
the most condensed and synoptical form, and only those points can be
touched upon that may appear of the greatest interest.

It must be remembered that the civilisation of the Feegees--of course, I
allude to their proficiency in the industrial arts--is entirely an
indigenous growth.  They have borrowed ideas from the Tongans,--as the
Tongans have also from them,--but both are native productions of the
South Sea, and not derived from any of the so-called great _centres_ of
civilisation.  Such as have sprung from these sources are of modern
date, and make but a small feature in the panorama of Feegeean life.
The houses they build are substantial, and suitable to their
necessities.  We cannot stay to note the architecture minutely.  The
private dwellings are usually about twenty-five feet long by fifteen in
breadth, the interior forming one room, but with a sort of elevated
divan at the end, sometimes screened with beautiful "tapa" curtains, and
serving as the dormitory.

The ground-plan of the house is that of an oblong square,--or, to speak
more properly, a parallelogram.  The walls are constructed of timber,--
being straight posts of cocoa-palm, tree-fern, bamboo, or breadfruit,--
the spaces between closely warped or otherwise filled in with reeds of
cane or _calamus_.  The thatch is of the leaves of the wild or
cultivated sugar-cane,--sometimes of a _pandanus_,--thickly laid on,
especially near the eaves, where it is carefully cropped, exposing an
edge of from one to two feet in thickness.  The roof has four faces,--
that is, it is a "hip roof."  It is made with a very steep pitch, and
comes down low, projecting fer over the heads of the upright timbers.
This gives a sort of shaded veranda all around the house, and throws the
rain quite clear of the walls.  The ridge-pole is a peculiar feature; it
is fastened to the ridge of the thatch by strong twisted ropes, that
give it an ornamental appearance; and its carved ends project at both
gables, or rather, over the "hip roofs," to the length of a foot, or
more; it is further ornamented by white shells, those of the _cyprea
ovula_ being most used for the purpose.  The Feegee house presents
altogether a picturesque and not inelegant appearance.  The worst
feature is the low door.  There are usually two of them, neither in each
house being over three feet in height.  The Feegee assigns no reason why
his door is made so low; but as he is frequently in expectation of a
visitor, with a murderous bludgeon in his grasp, it is possible this may
have something to do with his making the entrance so difficult.

The houses of the chiefs, and the great council-house, or temple,--
called the "Bure,"--are built precisely in the same style; only that
both are larger, and the doors, walls, and ridge-poles more elaborately
ornamented.  The fashionable style of decoration is a plaiting of
cocoa-fibre, or "sinnet," which is worked and woven around the posts in
regular figures of "relievo."

The house described is not universal throughout all the group.  There
are many "orders" of architecture, and that prevailing in the Windward
Islands is different from the style of the Leeward, and altogether of a
better kind.  Different districts have different forms.  In one you may
see a village looking like an assemblage of wicker baskets, while in
another you might fancy it a collection of rustic arbours.  A third
seems a collection oblong hayricks, with holes in their sides; while, in
a fourth these ricks are conical.

It will be seen that, with this variety in housebuilding, it would be a
tedious task to illustrate the complete architecture of Feegeeans.  Even
Master Kuskin himself would surrender it up in despair.

Equally tedious would it be to describe the various implements or
utensils which a Feegee house contains.  The furniture is simple enough.
There are neither chairs, tables, nor bedsteads.  The bed is a
beautiful mat spread on the dais, or divan; and in the houses of the
rich the floors are covered with a similar carpet.  These mats are of
the finest texture, far superior to those made elsewhere.  The materials
used are the _Hibiscus tiliaceus, Pandanus odoratissimus_, and a species
of rush.  They are in great abundance in every house,--even the poorest
person having his mat to sit or lie upon; and it is they that serve for
the broad-spreading sails of the gigantic canoes.  In addition to the
mats, plenty of tapa cloth may be seen, and baskets of every shape and
size,--the wicker being obtained from the rattan (_flagellaria_), and
other sources.  One piece of furniture deserves especial mention,--this
is the pillow upon which the Feegee lord lays his head when he goes to
sleep.  It presents but little claim to the appellation of a _downy_
pillow; since it is a mere cylinder of hard polished wood, with short
arched pedestals to it, to keep it firmly in its place.  Its object is
to keep the great frizzled mop from being tossed or disarranged, during
the hours of repose; and Feegeean vanity enables the owner of the mop to
endure this flinty bolster with the most uncomplaining equanimity.  If
he were possessed of the slightest spark of conscience, even this would
be soft, compared with any pillow upon which he might rest his guilty

In addition to the baskets, other vessels meet the eye.  These are of
pottery, as varied in shape and size as they are in kind.  There are
pots and pans, bowls, dishes, cups and saucers, jars and bottles,--many
of them of rare and curious designs,--some red, some ornamented with a
glaze obtained from the gum of the _kauri_ pine,--for this tree is also
an indigenous production of the Feegee Islands.  Though no potter's
wheel is known to the Feegees, the proportions of their vessels are as
just and true, and their polish as complete, as if Stafford had produced
them.  There are cooking-pots to be seen of immense size.  These are
jars formed with mouths wide enough to admit the largest joint.  I dare
not mention the kind of joint that is frequently cooked in those great
caldrons.  Ugh! the horrid pots!

Their implements are equally varied and numerous,--some for
manufacturing purposes, and others for agriculture.  The latter are of
the simplest kind.  The Feegee plough is merely a pointed stick inserted
deeply into the ground, and kept moving about till a lump of the soil is
broken upward.  This is crushed into mould, first by a light club, and
afterwards pulverised with the fingers.  The process is slow, but fast
enough for the Feegeean, whose farm is only a garden.  He requires no
plough, neither bullocks nor horses.  With taro-roots and sweet potatoes
that weigh ten pounds each, yams and yaqonas over one hundred, and
plantains producing bunches of a hundred and fifty fruits to the single
head, why need he trouble himself by breaking up more surface?  His
single acre yields him as much vegetable wealth as fifty would to an
English farmer!

It is not to be supposed that he has it all to himself; no, nor half of
it either; nor yet the fifth part of it.  At least four fifths of his
sweat has to be expended in tax or tithe; and this brings us to the form
of his government.  We shall not dwell long upon this subject.  Suffice
it to say that the great body of the people are in a condition of abject
serfdom,--worse than slavery itself.  They own nothing that they can
call their own,--not their wives,--not their daughters,--not even their
lives!  All these may be taken from them at any hour.  There is no law
against despoiling them,--no check upon the will and pleasure of their
chiefs or superiors; and, as these constitute a numerous body, the poor
_canaille_ have no end of ruffian despoilers.  It is an everyday act for
a chief to rob, or _club to death_, one of the common people! and no
unfrequent occurrence to be himself clubbed to death by his superior,
the king!  Of these _kings_ there are eight in Feegee,--not one, as the
old song has it; but the words of the ballad will apply to each of them
with sufficient appropriateness.  Any one of them will answer to the
character of "Musty-fusty-shang?"

These kings have their residences on various islands, and the different
parts of the group are distributed somewhat irregularly under their
rule.  Some islands, or parts of islands, are only tributary to them;
others connected by a sort of deferential alliance; and there are
communities quite independent, and living under the arbitrary sway of
their own chieftains.  The kings are not all of equal power or
importance; but in this respect there have been many changes, even
during the Feegeean historical period,--which extends back only to the
beginning of the present century.  Sometimes one is the most
influential, sometimes another; and in most cases the pre-eminence is
obtained by him who possesses the greatest amount of truculence and
treachery.  He who is most successful in murdering his rivals, and
ridding himself of opposition, by the simple application of the club,
usually succeeds in becoming for the time head "king of the Cannibal
Islands."  I do not mean that he reigns over the whole Archipelago.  No
king has yet succeeded in uniting all the islands under one government.
He only gets so far as to be feared everywhere, and to have tributary
presents, and all manner of debasing compliments offered to him.  These
kings have all their courts and court etiquette, just as their "royal
brothers" elsewhere; and the ceremonials observed are quite as
complicated and degrading to the dignity of man.

The punishment for neglecting their observance is rather more severe in
Feegee than elsewhere.  For a decided or wilful non-compliance, the
skull of the delinquent is frequently crushed in by the club of his
majesty himself,--even in presence of a full "drawing-room."  Lesser or
accidental mistakes, or even the exhibition of an ungraceful
_gaucherie_, are punished by the loss of a finger: the consequence of
which is, that in Feegee there are many fingers missing!  Indeed, a
complete set is rather the exception than the rule.  If a king or great
chief should chance to miss his foot and slip down, it is the true _ton_
for all those who are near or around him to fall likewise,--the crowd
coming down, literally like a "thousand of bricks!"

I might detail a thousand customs to show how far the dignity of the
human form is debased and disgraced upon Feegee soil; but the subject
could be well illustrated nearer home.  Flunkeyism is a fashion
unfortunately not confined to the Feegeean archipelago; and though the
forms in which it exhibits itself there may be different, the sentiment
is still the same.  It must ever appear where men are politically
unequal,--wherever there is a class possessed of hereditary privileges.

I come to the last,--the darkest feature in the Feegeean character,--the
horrid crime and custom of cannibalism.  I could paint a picture, and
fill up the details with the testimony of scores of eyewitnesses,--a
picture that would cause your heart to weep.  It is too horrid to be
given here.  My pen declines the office; and, therefore, I must leave
the painful story untold.



It is a pleasure to pass out of the company of the ferocious Feegees
into that of another people, which, though near neighbours of the
former, are different from them in almost every respect,--I mean the
Tongans, or Friendly Islanders.  This appellation scarce requires to be
explained.  Every one knows that it was bestowed upon them by the
celebrated navigator Cook,--who although not the actual discoverer of
the Tonga group, was the first who thoroughly explored these islands,
and gave any reliable account of them to the civilised world.  Tasman,
who might be termed the "Dutch Captain Cook," is allowed to be their
discoverer, so long ago as 1643; though there is reason to believe that
some of the Spanish explorers from Peru may have touched at these
islands before his time.  Tasman, however, has fixed the record of his
visit, and is therefore entitled to the credit of the discovery,--as he
is also to that of Australia, New Zealand, Van Diemen's Land, and other
now well-known islands of the South-western Pacific.  Tasman bestowed
upon three of the Tonga group the names--Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and
Middleburgh; but, fortunately, geographers have acted in this matter
with better taste than is their wont; and Tasman's Dutch national titles
have fallen into disuse,--while the true native names of the islands
have been restored to the map.  This is what should be done with other
Pacific islands as well; for it is difficult to conceive anything in
worse taste than such titles as the Caroline and Loyalty Isles, Prince
William's Land, King George's Island, and the ten thousand Albert and
Victoria Lands which the genius of flattery, or rather flunkeyism, has
so liberally distributed over the face of the earth.  The title of
Friendly Isles, bestowed by Cook upon the Tonga archipelago, deserves to
live; since it is not only appropriate, but forms the record of a
pleasant fact,--the pacific character of our earliest intercourse with
these interesting people.

It may be here remarked, that Mr Wylde and other superficial map-makers
have taken a most unwarrantable liberty with this title.  Instead of
leaving it as bestowed by the great navigator,--applicable to the Tonga
archipelago alone,--they have _stretched_ it to include that of the
Samoans, and--would it be believed--that of the _Feegees_?  It is hardly
necessary to point out the extreme absurdity of such a classification:
since it would be difficult to find two nationalities much more unlike
than those of Tonga and Feegee.  That they have many customs in common,
is due (unfortunately for the Tongans) to the intercourse which
proximity has produced; but in an ethnological sense, white is not a
greater contrast to black, nor good to evil, than that which exists
between a Tongan and a Feegeean.  Cook never visited the Feegee
archipelago,--he only saw some of these people while at Tongataboo, and
heard of their country as being _a large island_.  Had he visited that
island,--or rather that group of over two hundred islands,--it is not at
all likely he would have seen reason to extend to them the title which
the map-makers have thought fit to bestow.  Instead of "Friendly
Islands," he might by way of contrast have called them the "Hostile
Isles," or given them that--above all others most appropriate, and which
they truly deserve to bear--that old title celebrated in song! the
"Cannibal Islands."  An observer so acute as Cook could scarce have
overlooked the appropriateness of the appellation.

The situation of the Tonga, or Friendly Isles, is easily registered in
the memory.  The parallel of 20 degrees south, and the meridian of 175
degrees west, very nearly intersect each other in Tofoa, which may be
regarded as the central island of the group.  It will thus be seen that
their central point is 5 degrees east and 2 degrees south of the centre
of the Feegeean archipelago, and the nearest islands of the two groups
are about three hundred miles apart.

It is worthy of observation, however, that the Tonga Isles have the
advantage, as regards the wind.  The _trades_ are in their favour; and
from Tonga to Feegee, if we employ a landsman's phraseology, it is "down
hill," while it is all "up hill" in the contrary direction.  The
consequence is, that many Tongans are constantly making voyages to the
Feegee group,--a large number of them having settled there (as stated
elsewhere),--while but a limited number of Feegeeans find their way to
the Friendly Islands.  There is another reason for this
unequally-balanced migration: and that is, that the Tongans are much
bolder and better sailors than their western neighbours; for although
fer excel any other South-Sea islanders in the art of _building_ their
canoes (or ships as they might reasonably be called), yet they are as
far behind many others in the art of _sailing_ them.

Their superiority in ship-building may be attributed, partly, to the
excellent materials which these islands abundantly afford; though this
is not the sole cause.  However much we may deny to the Feegeeans the
possession of moral qualities, we are at the same time forced to admit
their great intellectual capacity,--as exhibited in the advanced state
of their arts and manufactures.  In intellectual capacity, however, the
Friendly Islanders are their equals; and the superiority of the
Feegeeans even in "canoe architecture" is no longer acknowledged.  It is
true the Tongans go to the Feegee group for most of their large double
vessels; but that is for the reasons already stated,--the greater
abundance and superior quality of the timber and other materials
produced there.  In the Feegee "dockyards," the Tongans build for
themselves; and have even improved upon the borrowed pattern.

This intercourse,--partaking somewhat of the character of an alliance,--
although in some respects advantageous to the Friendly Islanders, may be
regarded, upon the whole, as unfortunate for them.  If it has improved
their knowledge in arts and manufactures, it has far more than
counterbalanced this advantage by the damage done to their moral
character.  It is always much easier to make proselytes to vice than to
virtue,--as is proved in this instance: for his intercourse with the
ferocious Feegee has done much to deteriorate the character of the
Tongan.  From that source he has imbibed a fondness for war and other
wicked customs; and, in all probability, had this influence been
permitted to continue uninterrupted for a few years longer, the horrid
habit of cannibalism--though entirely repugnant to the natural
disposition of the Tongans--would have become common among them.
Indeed, there can be little doubt that this would have been the ultimate
consequence of the alliance; for already its precursors--human
sacrifices and the vengeful immolation of enemies--had made their
appearance upon the Friendly Islands.  Happily for the Tongan, another
influence--that of the missionaries--came just in time to avert this
dire catastrophe; and, although this missionary interference has not
been the best of its kind, it is still preferable to the paganism which
it has partially succeeded in subduing.

The Tongan archipelago is much less extensive than that of the
Feegees,--the islands being of a limited number, and only five or six of
them of any considerable size.  Tongataboo, the largest, is about ninety
miles in circumference.  From the most southern of the group Eoo, to
Yavan at the other extremity, it stretches, northerly or northeasterly,
about two hundred miles, in a nearly direct line.  The islands are all,
with one or two exceptions, low-lying, their surface being diversified
by a few hillocks or mounds, of fifty or sixty feet in height, most of
which have the appearance of being artificial.  Some of the smaller
islets, as Kao, are mountains of some six hundred feet elevation, rising
directly out of the sea; while Tofoa, near the eastern edge of the
archipelago, presents the appearance of an _elevated_ tableland.  The
larger number of them are clothed with a rich tropical vegetation, both
natural and cultivated, and their botany includes most of the species
common to the other islands of the South Sea.  We find the cocoa, and
three other species of palm, the pandanus, the breadfruit in varieties,
as also the useful musacaae,--the plantain, and banana.  The ti-tree
(_Dracaena terminalis_), the paper-mulberry (_Brousonetia papyrifera_),
the sugar-cane, yams of many kinds, the tree yielding the well-known
_turmeric_, the beautiful _casuarina_, and a hundred other sorts of
plants, shrubs, or trees, valuable for the product of their roots or
fruits, their sap and pith, of their trunks and branches, their leaves
and the fibrous material of their bark.

As a scenic decoration to the soil, there is no part of the world where
more lovely landscapes are produced by the aid of a luxuriant
vegetation.  They are perhaps not equal in picturesque effect to those
of the Feegee group,--where mountains form an adjunct to the scenery,--
but in point of soft, quiet beauty, the landscapes of the Tonga Islands
are not surpassed by any others in the tropical world; and with the
climate they enjoy--that of an endless summer--they might well answer to
the description of the "abode of the Blessed."  And, indeed, when Tasman
first looked upon these islands, they perhaps merited the title more
than any other spot on the habitable globe; for, if any people on this
earth might be esteemed happy and blessed, surely it was the inhabitants
of these fair isles of the far Southern Sea.  Tasman even records the
remarkable fact, that he saw no arms among them,--no weapons of war! and
perhaps, at that time, neither the detestable trade nor its implements
were known to them.  Alas! in little more than a century afterwards,
this peaceful aspect was no longer presented.  When the great English
navigator visited these islands, he found the war-club and spear in the
hands of the people, both of Feegee pattern, and undoubtedly of the same
ill-omened origin.

The personal appearance of the Friendly Islanders differs not a great
deal from that of the other South-Sea tribes or nations.  Of course we
speak only of the true Polynesians of the brown complexion, without
reference to the black-skinned islanders--as the Feegees and others of
the Papuan stock.  The two have neither resemblance nor relationship to
one another; and it would not be difficult to show that they are of a
totally distinct origin.  As for the blacks, it is not even certain that
they are themselves of one original stock; for the splendidly-developed
cannibal of Feegee presents very few features in common with the
wretched kangaroo-eater of West Australia.  Whether the black islanders
(or Melanesians as they have been designated) originally came from one
source, is still a question for ethnologists; but there can be no doubt
as to the direction whence they entered upon the colonisation of the
Pacific.  That was certainly upon its western border, beyond which they
have not made much progress: since the Feegeean archipelago is at the
present time their most advanced station to the eastward.  The brown or
Polynesian races, on the contrary, began their migrations from the
eastern border of the great ocean--in other words, they came from
America; and the so-called Indians of America are, in my opinion, the
_progenitors_, not the _descendants_, of these people of the Ocean
world.  If learned ethnologists will give their attention to this view
of the subject, and disembarrass their minds of that fabulous old fancy,
about an original stock situated somewhere (they know not exactly where)
upon the steppes of Asia, they will perhaps arrive at a more rational
hypothesis about the peopling of the so-called new worlds, both the
American and Oceanic.  They will be able to prove--what might be here
done if space would permit--that the Polynesians are emigrants from
tropical America, and that the Sandwich Islanders came originally from
California, and not the Californians from the island homes of Hawaii.

It is of slight importance here how this question may be viewed.  Enough
to know that the natives of the Tonga group bear a strong resemblance to
those of the other Polynesian archipelagos--to the Otaheitans and New
Zealanders, but most of all to the inhabitants of the Samoan or
Navigators' Islands, of whom, indeed, they may be regarded as a branch,
with a separate political and geographical existence.  Their language
also confirms the affinity, as it is merely a dialect of the common
tongue spoken by all the Polynesians.

Whatever difference exists between the Tongans and other Polynesians in
point of personal appearance, is in favour of the former.  The men are
generally regarded as the best-looking of all South-Sea Islanders, and
the women among the fairest of their sex.  Many of them would be
accounted beautiful in any part of the world; and as a general rule,
they possess personal beauty in a fer higher degree than the
much-talked-of Otaheitans.

The Tongans are of tall stature--rather above than under that of
European nations.  Men of six feet are common enough; though few are
seen of what might be termed gigantic proportions.  In fact, the true
medium size is almost universal, and the excess in either direction
forms the exception.  The bulk of their bodies is in perfect proportion
to their height.  Unlike the black Feegeeans--who are often bony and
gaunt--the Tongans possess well-rounded arms and limbs; and the hands
and feet, especially those of the women, are small and elegantly shaped.

To give a delineation of their features would be a difficult task--since
these are so varied in different individuals, that it would be almost
impossible to select a good typical face.  Indeed the same might be said
of nearly every nation on the face of the earth; and the difficulty will
be understood by your making an attempt to describe some face that will
answer for every set of features in a large town, or even a small
village; or still, with greater limitation, for the different
individuals of a single family.  Just such a variety there will be found
among the faces of the Friendly Islanders, as you might note in the
inhabitants of an English town or county; and hence the difficulty of
making a correct likeness.  A few characteristic points, however, may be
given, both as to their features and complexion.  Their lips are
scarcely ever of a thick or negro form; and although the noses are in
general rounded at the end, this rule is not universal;--many have
genuine Roman noses, and what may be termed a full set of the best
Italian features.  There is also less difference between the sexes in
regard to their features than is usually seen elsewhere--those of the
women being only distinguished by their less size.

The forms of the women constitute a more marked distinction; and among
the beauties of Tonga are many that might be termed models in respect to
shape and proportions.  In colour, the Tongans are lighter than most
other South-Sea Islanders.  Some of the better classes of women--those
least exposed to the open air--show skins of a light olive tint; and the
children of all are nearly white after birth.  They become browner less
from age than exposure to the sun; for, as soon as they are able to be
abroad, they scarce ever afterwards enter under the shadow of a roof,
except during the hours of night.

The Tongans have good eyes and teeth; but in this respect they are not
superior to many other Oceanic tribes--even the black Feegeeans
possessing both eyes and "ivories" scarce surpassed anywhere.  The
Tongans, however, have the advantage of their dusky neighbours in the
matter of hair--their heads being clothed with a luxuriant growth of
true hair.  Sometimes it is quite straight, as among the American
Indians, but oftener with a slight wave or undulation, or a curl
approaching, but never quite arriving at the condition of "crisp."

His hair in its natural colour is jet black; and it is to be regretted
that the Tongans have not the good taste to leave it to its natural hue.
On the contrary, their fashion is to stain it of a reddish-brown, a
purple or an orange.  The brown is obtained by the application of burnt
coral, the purple from a vegetable dye applied poultice-fashion to the
hair, and the orange is produced by a copious lathering of common
turmeric,--with which the women also sometimes anoint their bodies, and
those of their children.  This fashion of hair-dyeing is also common to
the Feegees, and whether they obtained it from the Tongans, or the
Tongans from them, is an unsettled point.  The more probable hypothesis
would be, that among many other ugly customs, it had its origin in
Feegee-land,--where, however, the people assign a reason for practising
it very different from the mere motive of ornament.  They allege that it
also serves a useful purpose, in preventing the too great fructification
of a breed of parasitic insects,--that would otherwise find--the immense
mop of the frizzly Feegeean a most convenient dwelling-place, and a
secure asylum from danger.  This may have had something to do with the
origin of the custom; but once established for purposes of utility, it
is now confirmed, and kept up by the Tongans as a useless ornament.
Their taste in the colour runs exactly counter to that of European
fashionables.  What a pity it is that the two could not make an exchange
of hair!  Then both parties, like a pair of advertisements in the
"Times," would exactly _fit_ each other.

Besides the varied fashion in colours, there is also great variety in
the styles in which the Tongans wear their hair.  Some cut it short on
one side of their head, leaving it at full length on the other; some
shave a small patch, or cut off only a single lock; while others--and
these certainly display the best taste--leave it to grow out in all its
full luxuriance.  In this, again, we find the European fashion reversed,
for the women are those who wear it shortest.  The men, although they
are not without beard, usually crop this appendage very close, or shave
it off altogether,--a piece of shell, or rather a pair of shells,
serving them for a razor.

The mode is to place the thin edge of one shell underneath the hair,--
just as a hair-cutter does his comb,--and with the edge of the other
applied above, the hairs are rasped through and divided.  There are
regular barbers for this purpose, who by practice have been rendered
exceedingly dexterous in its performance; and the victim of the
operation alleges that there is little or no pain produced,--at all
events, it does not bring the tears to his eyes, as a dull razor often
does with us poor thin-skinned Europeans!

The dress of the Tongans is very similar to that of the Otaheitans, so
often described and well-known; but we cannot pass it here without
remarking a notable peculiarity on the part of the Polynesian people, as
exhibited in the character of their costume.  The native tribes of
almost all other warm climates content themselves with the most scant
covering,--generally with no covering at all, but rarely with anything
that may be termed a skirt.  In South America most tribes wear the
"guayuco,"--a mere strip around the loins, and among the Feegees the
"malo" or "masi" of the men, and the scant "liku" of the women are the
only excuse for a modest garment.  In Africa we find tribes equally
destitute of clothing, and the same remark will apply to the tropical
countries all around the globe.  Here, however, amongst a people
dwelling in the middle of a vast ocean,--isolated from the whole
civilised world, we find a natural instinct of modesty that does credit
to their character, and is even in keeping with that character, as first
observed by voyagers to the South Seas.  Whatever acts of indelicacy may
be alleged against the Otaheitans, this has been much exaggerated by
their intercourse with immoral white men; but none of such criminal
conduct can be charged against the natives of the Friendly Isles.  On
the contrary, the behaviour of these, both among themselves and in
presence of European visitors, has been ever characterised by a modesty
that would shame either Regent Street or Ratcliffe Highway.

A description of the national costume of the Tongans, though often
given, is not unworthy of a place here; and we shall give it as briefly
as a proper understanding of it will allow.  There is but one "garment"
to be described, and that is the "pareu," which will be better
understood, perhaps, by calling it a "petticoat."  The material is
usually of "tapa" cloth,--a fabric of native manufacture, to be
described hereafter,--and the cutting out is one of the simplest of
performances, requiring neither a tailor for the men, nor a dressmaker
for the other sex, for every one can make their own pareu.  It needs
only to clip a piece of "tapa" cloth in the form of an "oblong square"--
an ample one, being about two yards either way.  This is wrapped round
the body,--the middle part against the small of the back,--and then both
ends brought round to the front are lapped over each other as far as
they will go, producing, of course, a double fold of the cloth.  A
girdle is next tied around the waist,--usually a cord of ornamental
plait; and this divides the piece of tapa into body and skirt.  The
latter is of such a length as to stretch below the calf of the leg,--
sometimes down to the ankle,--and the upper part or body _would_ reach
to the shoulders, if the weather required it, and often does _when the
missionaries require it_.  But not at any other time: such an ungraceful
mode of wearing the pareu was never intended by the simple Tongans, who
never dreamt of there being any immodesty in their fashion until told of
it by their puritanical preceptors!

Tongan-fashion, the pareu is a sort of tunic, and a most graceful
garment to boot; Methodist fashion, it becomes a gown or rather a
sleeveless wrapper that resembles a sack.  But if the body part is not
to be used in this way, how, you will ask, is it to be disposed of?  Is
it allowed to hang down outside, like the gown of a slattern woman, who
has only half got into it?  No such thing.  The natural arrangement is
both simple and peculiar; and produces, moreover, a costume that is not
only characteristic but graceful to the eye that once becomes used to
it.  The upper half of the tapa cloth is neatly folded or turned, until
it becomes a thick roll; and this roll, brought round the body, just
above the girdle, is secured in that position.  The swell thus produced
causes the waist to appear smaller by contrast; and the effect of a
well-formed bust, rising above the roll of tapa cloth, is undoubtedly
striking and elegant.  In cold weather, but more especially at night,
the roll is taken out, and the shoulders are then covered; for it is to
be observed that the pareu, worn by day as a dress, is also kept on at
night as a sleeping-gown, more especially by those who possess only a
limited wardrobe.  It is not always the cold that requires it to be kept
on at night.  It is more used, at this time, as a protection against the
mosquitoes, that abound amidst the luxuriant vegetation of the Tongan

The "pareu" is not always made of the "tapa" cloth.  Fine mats, woven
from the fibres of the screw-pine (pandanus), are equally in vogue; and,
upon festive occasions, a full-dress pareu is embellished with red
feather-work, adding greatly to the elegance and picturesqueness of its
appearance.  A coarser and scantier pareu is to be seen among the poorer
people, the material of which is a rough tapa, fabricated from the bark
of the breadfruit, and not unfrequently this is only a mere strip
wrapped around the loins; in other words, a "malo," "maro," or "maso,"--
as it is indifferently written in the varied orthography of the
voyagers.  Having described this only and unique garment, we have
finished with the costume of the Tongan Islanders, both men and women,--
for both wear the pareu alike.  The head is almost universally
uncovered; and no head-dress is ever worn unless a cap of feathers by
the great chiefs, and this only upon rare and grand occasions.  It is a
sort of chaplet encircling the head, and deeper in front than behind.
Over the forehead the plumes stand up to a height of twelve or fifteen
inches, gradually lowering on each side as the ray extends backward
beyond the ears.  The main row is made with the beautiful tail-plumes of
the tropic bird _Phaeton aetherus_, while the front or fillet part of
the cap is ornamented with the scarlet feathers of a species of parrot.

The head-dress of the women consists simply of fresh flowers: a
profusion of which--among others the beautiful blossoms of the orange--
is always easily obtained.  An ear-pendant is also worn,--a piece of
ivory of about two inches in length, passed through two holes, pierced
in the lobe of the ear for this purpose.  The pendant hangs
horizontally, the two holes balancing it, and keeping it in position.  A
necklace also of pearl-shells, shaped into beads, is worn.  Sometimes a
string of the seeds of the pandanus is added, and an additional ornament
is an armlet of mother-o'-pearl, fashioned into the form of a ring.
Only the men tattoo themselves; and the process is confined to that
portion of the body from the waist to the thighs, which is always
covered with the pareu.  The practice of tattooing perhaps first
originated in the desire to equalise age with youth, and to hide an ugly
physiognomy.  But the Tongan Islander has no ugliness to conceal, and
both men and women have had the good taste to refrain from disfiguring
the fair features which nature has so bountifully bestowed upon them.
The only marks of tattoo to be seen upon the women are a few fine lines
upon the palms of their hands; nor do they disfigure their fair skins
with the hideous pigments so much in use among other tribes, of what we
are in the habit of terming _savages_.

They anoint the body with a fine oil procured from the cocoanut, and
which is also perfumed by various kinds of flowers that are allowed to
macerate in the oil; but this toilet is somewhat expensive, and is only
practised by the better classes of the community.  All, however, both
rich and poor, are addicted to habits of extreme cleanliness, and
bathing in fresh water is a frequent performance.  They object to
bathing in the sea; and when they do so, always finish the bath by
pouring fresh water over their bodies,--a practice which they allege
prevents the skin from becoming rough, which the sea-water would
otherwise make it.

House architecture in the Tongan Islands is in rather a backward state.
They have produced no Wrens nor Inigo Joneses; but this arises from a
natural cause.  They have no need for great architects,--scarce any need
for houses either,--and only the richer Tongans erect any dwelling more
pretentious than a mere shed.  A few posts of palm-trunks are set up,
and upon these are placed the cross-beams, rafters, and roof.  Pandanus
leaves, or those of the sugar-cane, form the thatch; and the sides are
left open underneath.  In the houses of the chiefs and more wealthy
people there are walls of pandanus mats, fastened to the uprights; and
some of these houses are of considerable size and neatly built.  The
interiors are kept scrupulously clean,--the floors being covered with
beautiful mats woven in coloured patterns, and presenting all the gay
appearance of costly carpeting.  There are neither chairs nor tables.
The men sit tailor-fashion, and the women in a reclining posture, with
both limbs turned a little to one side and backwards.  A curious
enclosure or partition is formed by setting a stiff mat, of about two
feet width, upon its edge,--the roll at each end steadying it and
keeping it in an upright position.

The utensils to be observed are dishes, bowls, and cups,--usually of
calabash or cocoa-shells,--and an endless variety of baskets of the most
ingenious plait and construction.  The "stool-pillow" is also used; but
differing from that of the Feegees in the horizontal piece having a
hollow to receive the head.  Many kinds of musical instruments may be
seen,--the Pandean pipes, the nose-flute, and various kinds of bamboo
drums, all of which have been minutely described by travellers.  I am
sorry to add that war-clubs and spears for a similar purpose are also to
be observed conspicuous among the more useful implements of peace.  Bows
and arrows, too, are common; but these are only employed for shooting
birds and small rodents, especially rats, that are very numerous and
destructive to the crops.

For food, the Tongans have the pig,--the same variety as is so generally
distributed throughout the Oceanic Islands.  It is stated that the
Feegeeans obtained this animal from the Friendly Isles; but I am of
opinion that in this case the benefit came the other way, as the _Sus
Papua_ is more likely to have entered the South Sea from its leeward
rather than its windward side.  In all likelihood the dog may have been
derived from the eastern edge; but the pigs and poultry would seem to be
of western origin,--western as regards the position of the Pacific.

The principal food of the Friendly Islanders, however, is of a vegetable
nature, and consists of yams, breadfruit, taro, plantains, sweet
potatoes, and, in fact, most of those roots and fruits common to the
other islands of the Pacific.  Fish also forms an important article of
their food.  They drink the "kava," or juice of the _Piper
methisticum_--or rather of its roots chewed to a pulp; but they rarely
indulge to that excess observed among the Feegees, and they are not over
fond of the drink, except as a means of producing a species of
intoxication which gives them a momentary pleasure.  Many of them,
especially the women, make wry faces while partaking of it; and no
wonder they do, for it is at best a disgusting beverage.

The time of the Tongan Islanders is passed pleasantly enough, when there
is no wicked war upon hand.  The men employ themselves in cultivating
the ground or fishing; and here the woman is no longer the mere slave
and drudge--as almost universally elsewhere among savage or even
semi-civilised nations.  This is a great fact, which tells a wondrous
tale--which speaks trumpet-tongued to the credit of the Tongan Islander.
Not only do the men share the labour with their more delicate
companions, but everything else--their food, conversation, and every
enjoyment of life.  Both partake alike--eat together, drink together,
and join at once in the festive ceremony.  In their grand dances--or
balls as they might more properly be termed--the women play an important
part; and these exhibitions, though in the open air, are got up with an
elegance and eclat that would not disgrace the most fashionable ballroom
in Christendom.  Their dances, indeed, are far more graceful than
anything ever seen either at "Almacks" or the "Jardin Mabille."

The principal employment of the men is in the cultivation of their yam
and plantain grounds, many of which extend to the size of fields, with
fences that would almost appear to have been erected as ornaments.
These are of canes, closely set, raised to the height of six feet--wide
spaces being left between the fences of different owners to serve as
roads for the whole community.  In the midst of these fields stand the
sheds, or houses, surrounded by splendid forms of tropic vegetation, and
forming pictures of a softly beautiful character.

The men also occupy themselves in the construction of their canoes,--to
procure the large ones, making a voyage as already stated, to the Feegee
Islands, and sometimes remaining absent for several years.

These, however, are usually professional boat-builders, and form but a
very small proportion of the forty thousand people who inhabit the
different islands of the Tongan archipelago.

The men also occasionally occupy themselves in weaving mats and wicker
baskets, and carving fancy toys out of wood and shells; but the chief
part of the manufacturing business is in the hands of the women--more
especially the making of the tapa cloth, already so often mentioned.  An
account of the manufacture may be here introduced, with the proviso,
that it is carried on not only by the women of the Feegee group, but by
those of nearly all the other Polynesian Islands.  There are slight
differences in the mode of manufacture, as well as in the quality of the
fabric; but the account here given, both of the making and dyeing, will
answer pretty nearly for all.

The bark of the malo-tree, or "paper-mulberry," is taken off in strips,
as long as possible, and then steeped in water, to facilitate the
separation of the epidermis, which is effected by a large volute shell.
In this state it is kept for some time, although fit for immediate use.
A log, flattened on the upper side, is so fixed as to spring a little,
and on this the strips of bark--or _masi_, as it is called--are beaten
with an _iki_, or mallet, about two inches square, and grooved
longitudinally on three of its sides.  Two lengths of the wet _masi_ are
generally beaten together, in order to secure greater strength--the
gluten which they contain being sufficient to keep their fibres united.
A two-inch strip can thus be beaten out to the width of a foot and a
half; but the length is at the same time reduced.  The pieces are neatly
lapped together with the starch of the taro, or arrowroot, boiled whole;
and thus reach a length of many yards.  The "widths" are also joined by
the same means laterally, so as to form pieces of fifteen or thirty feet
square; and upon these, the ladies exhaust their ornamenting skill.  The
middle of the square is printed with a red-brown, by the following
process:--Upon a convex board, several feet long, are arranged parallel,
at about a finger-width apart, thin straight slips of bamboo, a quarter
of an inch wide.  By the side of these, curved pieces, formed of the
midrib of cocoanut leaflets, are arranged.  On the board thus prepared
the cloth is laid, and rubbed over with a dye obtained from the _lauci_
(_Aleurites triloba_).  The cloth of course, takes the dye upon those
parts which receive pressure, being supported by the slips beneath; and
thus shows the same pattern in the colour employed.  A stronger
preparation of the same dye, laid on with a sort of brush, is used to
divide the square into oblong compartments, with large round or radiated
dots in the centre.  The _kesa_, or dye, when good, dries bright.  Blank
borders, two or three feet wide, are still left on two sides of the
square; and to elaborate the ornamentation of these, so as to excite
applause, is the pride of every lady.  There is now an entire change of
apparatus.  The operator works on a plain board; the red dye gives place
to a jet black; the pattern is now formed of a strip of banana-leaf
placed on the upper surface of the cloth.  Out of the leaf is cut the
pattern--not more than an inch long--which the lady wishes to print upon
the border, and holds by her first and middle finger, pressing it down
with the thumb.  Then taking a soft pad of cloth steeped in the dye, in
her right hand, she rubs it firmly over the stencil, and a sharp figure
is made.  The practised fingers of the operator move quickly, but it is,
after all, a tedious process.

I regret to add, that the men employ themselves in an art of less
utility: the manufacture of war weapons--clubs and spears--which the
people of the different islands, and even those of the same, too often
brandish against one another.  This war spirit is entirely owing to
their intercourse with the ferocious Feegees, whose boasting and
ambitious spirit they are too prone to emulate.  In fact, their
admiration of the Feegee habits is something surprising; and can only be
accounted for by the fact, that while visiting these savages and
professed warriors, the Tongans have become imbued with a certain fear
of them.  They acknowledge the more reckless spirit of their allies, and
are also aware that in intellectual capacity the black men are not
inferior to themselves.  They certainly are inferior in courage, as in
every good moral quality; but the Tongans can hardly believe this, since
their cruel and ferocious conduct seems to give colour to the contrary
idea.  In fact, it is this that inspires them with a kind of respect,
which has no other foundation than a vague sense of fear.  Hence they
endeavour to emulate the actions that produce this fear, and this leads
them to go to war with one another.

It is to be regretted that the missionaries have supplied them with a
motive.  Their late wars are solely due to missionary influence,--for
Methodism upon the Tongan Islands has adopted one of the doctrines of
Mahomet, and believes in the faith being propagated by the sword!  A
usurper, who wishes to be king over the whole group, has embraced the
Methodist form of Christianity, and linked himself with its teachers,--
who offer to aid him with all their influence; and these formerly
peaceful islands now present the painful spectacle of a divided
nationality,--the "Christian party," and the "Devil's party."  The
object of conquest on the part of the former is to place the Devil's
party under the absolute sovereignty of a despot, whose laws will be
dictated by his missionary ministers.  Of the mildness of these laws we
have already some specimens, which of course extend only to the
"Christianised."  One of them, which refers to the mode of wearing the
pareu, has been already hinted at,--and another is a still more off-hand
piece of legislation: being an edict that no one hereafter shall be
permitted to smoke tobacco, under pain of a most severe punishment.

When it is considered that the Tongan Islander enjoys the "weed" (and
grows it too) more than almost any other smoker in creation, the
severity of the "taboo" may be understood.  But it is very certain, if
his Methodist majesty were once firmly seated on his throne, _bluer_
laws than this would speedily be proclaimed.  The American Commodore
Wilkes found things in this warlike attitude when he visited the Tongan
Islands; but perceiving that the right was clearly on the side of the
"Devil's party," declined to interfere; or rather, his interference,
which would have speedily brought peace, was rejected by the Christian
party, instigated by the sanguinary spirit of their "Christian"
teachers.  Not so, Captain Croker, of Her Britannic Majesty's service,
who came shortly after.  This unreflecting officer--loath to believe
that royalty could be in the wrong--at once took side with the king and
Christians, and dashed headlong into the affair.  The melancholy result
is well-known.  It ended by Captain Croker leaving his body upon the
field, alongside those of many of his brave tars; and a disgraceful
retreat of the Christian party beyond the reach of their enemies.

This interference of a British war-vessel in the affairs of the Tongan
Islanders, offers a strong contrast to our conduct when in presence of
the Feegees.  There we have the fact recorded of British officers being
eyewitnesses of the most horrid scenes,--wholesale murder and
cannibalism,--with full power to stay the crime and full authority to
punish it,--that authority which would have been freely given them by
the accord and acclamation of the whole civilised world,--and yet they
stood by, in the character of idle spectators, fearful of breaking
through the delicate icy line of _non-intervention_!

A strange theory it seems, that murder is no longer murder, when the
murderer and his victim chance to be of a different nationality from our
own!  It is a distinction too delicate to bear the investigation of the
philosophic mind; and perhaps will yet yield to a truer appreciation of
the principles of justice.  There was no such squeamishness displayed
when royalty required support upon the Tongan Islands; nor ever is there
when self-interest demands it otherwise.  Mercy and justice may both
fail to disarrange the hypocritical fallacy of non-intervention; but the
principle always breaks down at the call of political convenience.



Asia has been remarkable, from the earliest times, for having a large
population without any fixed place of residence, but who lead a _nomade_
or wandering life.  It is not the only quarter of the globe where this
kind of people are found: as there are many _nomade_ nations in Africa,
especially in the northern division of it; and if we take the Indian
race into consideration, we find that both the North and South-American
continents have their tribes of wandering people.  It is in Asia,
nevertheless, that we find this unsettled mode of life carried out to
its greatest extent,--it is there that we find those great pastoral
tribes,--or "hordes," as they have been termed,--who at different
historical periods have not only increased to the numerical strength of
large nationalities, but have also been powerful enough to overrun
adjacent empires, pushing their conquests even into Europe itself.  Such
were the invasions of the Mongols under Zenghis Khan, the Tartars under
Timour, and the Turks, whose degenerate descendants now so feebly hold
the vast territory won by their wandering ancestors.

The pastoral life, indeed, has its charms, that render it attractive to
the natural disposition of man, and wherever the opportunity offers of
following it, this life will be preferred to any other.  It affords to
man an abundant supply of all his most prominent wants, without
requiring from him any very severe exertion, either of mind or body;
and, considering the natural indolence of Asiatic people, it is not to
be wondered at that so many of them betake themselves to this mode of
existence.  Their country, moreover, is peculiarly favourable to the
development of a pastoral race.  Perhaps not one third of the surface of
the Asiatic continent is adapted to agriculture.  At least one half of
it is occupied by treeless, waterless plains, many of which have all the
characters of a desert, where an agricultural people could not exist, or
at all events, where their labour would be rewarded by only the most
scant and precarious returns.

Even a pastoral people in these regions would find but a sorry
subsistence, were they confined to one spot; for the luxurious herbage
which, for the most part, characterises the great savanna plains of
America, is either altogether wanting upon the _steppes_ of Asia, or at
best very meagre and inconstant.  A fixed abode is therefore impossible,
except in the most fertile tracts or _oases_: elsewhere, the nomad life
is a necessity arising from the circumstances of the soil.

It would be difficult to define exactly the limits of the territory
occupied by the wandering races in Asia; but in a general way it may be
said that the whole central portion of the continent is thus peopled:
indeed, much more than the central portion,--for, if we except the rich
agricultural countries of Hindostan and a small portion of Persia,
Arabia, and Turkey, the whole of Asia is of this character.  The
countries known as Balk and Bokara, Yarkand and Khiva, with several
others of equal note, are merely the central points of oases,--large
towns, supported rather by commerce than by the produce of agriculture,
and having nomad tribes dwelling within sight of their walls.  Even the
present boundaries of Asiatic Turkey, Arabia and Persia, contain within
them a large proportion of nomadic population; and the same is true of
Eastern Poland and Russia in Europe.  A portion of the Affghan and
Belochee country is also inhabited by nomad people.

These wandering people are of many different types and races of men; but
there is a certain similarity in the habits and customs of all: as might
be expected from the similar circumstances in which they are placed.

It is always the more sterile steppes that are thus occupied; and this
is easily accounted for: where fertile districts occur the nomad life is
no longer necessary.  Even a wandering tribe, entering upon such a
tract, would no longer have a motive for leaving it, and would soon
become attached to the soil,--in other words, would cease to be
wanderers; and whether they turned their attention to the pursuit of
agriculture, or not, they would be certain to give up their tent-life,
and fix themselves in a permanent abode.  This has been the history of
many Asiatic tribes; but there are many others, again, who from time
immemorial, have shown a repugnance to the idea of fixing themselves to
the soil.  They prefer the free roving life which the desert enables
them to indulge in; and wandering from place to place as the choice of
pasture guides them, occupy themselves entirely in feeding their flocks
and herds,--the sole means of their subsistence.  These never have been,
and never could be, induced to reside in towns or villages.

Nor is it that they have been driven into these desert tracts to seek
shelter from political oppression,--as is the case with some of the
native tribes of Africa and America.  On the contrary, these Asiatic
nomads are more often the aggressors than the objects of aggression.  It
is rather a matter of choice and propensity with them: as with those
tribes of the Arabian race,--known as "Bedouins."

The proportion of the Asiatic wandering population to those who dwell in
towns, or fixed habitations, varies according to the nature of the
country.  In many extensive tracts, the former greatly exceed the
latter; and the more sterile steppes are almost exclusively occupied by
them.  In general, they acknowledge the sovereignty of some of the great
powers,--such as the empires of China, Russia, and Turkey, the kingdom
of Persia, or that of several powerful khans, as those of Khiva and
Bokara; but this sovereignty is, for the most part, little more than
nominal, and their allegiance is readily thrown off, whenever they
desire it.  It is rarely so strong, as to enable any of the aforesaid
powers to draw a heavy tribute from them; and some of the more warlike
of the wandering tribes are much courted and caressed,--especially when
their war services are required.  In general they claim an hereditary
right to the territories over which they roam, and pay but little heed
to the orders of either king, khan, or emperor.

As already stated, these wandering people are of different races; in
fact, they are of nearly all the varieties indigenous to the Asiatic
continent; and a whole catalogue of names might be given, of which
Mongols, Tartars, Turcomans, Usbecks, Kirghees, and Calmucks, are
perhaps the most generally known.  It has been also stated that in many
points they are alike; but there are also many important particulars in
which they differ,--physical, moral, and intellectual.  Some of the
"hordes," or tribes, are purely pastoral in their mode of life, and of
mild and hospital dispositions, exceedingly fond of strangers, and kind
to such as come among them.  Others again are averse to all intercourse
with others, than those of their own race and religion, and are shy, if
not inhospitable, when visited by strangers.  But there is a class of a
still less creditable character,--a large number of tribes that are not
only inhospitable, and hostile to strangers, but as ferocious and
bloodthirsty as any savages in Africa, America, or the South-Sea

As a fair specimen of this class we select the Turcomans; in fact, they
may be regarded as its _type_; and our description henceforward may be
regarded as applying particularly to these people.

The country of the Turcomans will be found upon the map without
difficulty; but to define its exact boundary would be an impossibility,
since none such exists.  Were you to travel along the whole northern
frontier of Persia, almost from the gates of Teheran to the eastern
frontier of the kingdom,--or even further towards Balk,--you would be
pretty sure of hearing of Turcoman robbers, and in very great danger of
being plundered by them,--which last misfortune would be of less
importance, as it would only be the prelude to your being either
murdered on the spot, or carried off by them into captivity.  In making
this journey along the northern frontier of Persia, you would become
acquainted with the whereabouts of the Turcoman hordes; or rather you
would discover that the whole north part of Persia,--a good broad band
of it extending hundreds of miles into its interior,--if not absolutely
in possession of the Turcomans, is overrun and plundered by them at
will.  This, however, is not their home,--it is only their
"stamping-ground,"--the home of their victims.  Their place of habitual
residence lies further to the north, and is defined with tolerable
accuracy by its having the whole eastern shore of the Caspian Sea for
its western border, while the Amou River (the ancient Oxus) may be
generally regarded as the limit of their range towards the east.  Some
tribes go still further east than the Amou; but those more particularly
distinguished for their plundering habits dwell within the limits
described,--north of the Elburz Mountains, and on the great steppe of
Kaurezm, where they are contiguous to the Usbeck community of Khiva.

The whole of this immense territory, stretching from the eastern shore
of the Caspian to the Amou and Aral Sea, may be characterised as a true
desert.  Here and there oases exist, but none of any importance, save
the country of Khiva itself: and even that is but a mere irrigated
strip, lying on both banks of the Oxus.  Indeed, it is difficult to
believe that this territory of Khiva, so insignificant in superficial
extent, could have been the seat of a powerful empire, as it once was.

The desert, then, between the Caspian Sea and the Oxus River may be
regarded as the true land of the Turcomans, and is usually known as
Turcomania.  It is to be remembered, however, that there are some
kindred tribes not included within the boundaries of Turcomania--for the
Turkistan of the geographers is a country of much larger extent;
besides, an important division of the Turcoman races are settlers, or
rather wanderers in Armenia.  To Turcomania proper, then, and its
inhabitants, we shall confine our remarks.

We shall not stay to inquire into the origin of the people now called
Turcomans.  Were we to speculate upon that point, we should make but
little progress in an account of their habits and mode of living.  They
are usually regarded as of Tartar origin, or of Usbeck origin, or of
Mongolian race; and in giving this account of them, I am certain that I
add very little to your knowledge of what they really are.  The truth
is, that the words Tartar and Mongol and some half-dozen other titles,
used in relation to the Asiatic races, are without any very definite
signification,--simply because the relative distinctions of the
different nations of that continent are very imperfectly known; and
learned ethnologists are river loath to a confession of limited
knowledge.  One of this class, Mr Latham,--who requires only a few
words of their language to decide categorically to what variety of the
human race a people belongs,--has unfortunately added to this confusion
by pronouncing nearly everybody _Mongolian_: placing the proud turbaned
Turk in juxtaposition with the squat and stunted Laplander!  Of course
this is only bringing us back to the old idea, that all men are sprung
from a single pair of first parents,--a doctrine, which, though popular,
is difficult to reconcile with the rational knowledge derived from
ethnological investigation.

It matters little to our present purpose from what original race the
Turcoman has descended: whether he be a true Turk, as some regard him,
or whether he is a descendant of the followers of the Great Khan of the
Tartars.  He possesses the Tartar physiognomy to a considerable extent--
some of the tribes more than others being thus distinguished,--and high
cheek-bones, flat noses, small oblique eyes, and scanty beards, are all
characteristics that are very generally observed.  Some of these
peculiarities are more common among the women than the men--many of the
latter being tall, stout, and well-made, while a large number may be
seen who have the regular features of a Persian.  Perhaps it would be
safest to consider the present Turcoman tribes as not belonging to a
pure stock, but rather an admixture of several; and their habit of
taking slaves from other nations, which has for a long time existed
among them, would give probability to this idea.  At all events, without
some such hypothesis, it is difficult to account for the wonderful
variety, both in feature and form, that is found among them.  Their
complexion is swarthy, in some cases almost brown as that of an American
Indian; but constant exposure to the open air, in all sorts of weather,
has much to do in darkening the hue of their skin.  The newborn children
are nearly as white as those of the Persians; and their young girls
exhibit a ruddy brunette tint, which some consider even more pleasing
than a perfectly white complexion.

The costume of the Turcoman, like that of most Oriental nations, is rich
and picturesque.  The dress of the men varies according to rank.  Some
of the very poorer people wear nothing but a short woollen tonic or
shirt, with a pair of coarse woollen drawers.  Others, in place of this
shirt, are clad in a longer garment, a sort of robe or wrapper, like a
gentleman's dressing-gown, made of camel's-hair cloth, or some coarse
brown woollen staff.  But the true Turcoman costume, and that worn by
all who can afford it, consists of a garment of mixed silk and cotton,--
the _baronnee_,--which descends below the knee, and though open in
front, is made to button over the breast quite up to the neck.  A gay
sash around the waist adds to the effect; and below the skirt are seen
trowsers of cotton or even silk.  Cloth wrappers around the legs serve
in the place of boots or gaiters; and on the feet are worn slippers of
Persian fashion, with socks of soft Koordish leather.

As the material of which the baronnee is made is of good quality--a
mixture of silk and cotton--and as the fabric is always striped or
checkered in colours of red, blue, purple, and green, the effect
produced is that of a certain picturesqueness.  The head-dress adds to
this appearance--being a high fur cap, with truncated top, the fur being
that beautiful kind obtained from the skins of the Astracan lamb,
well-known in commerce.  These caps are of different colours, either
black, red, or grey.  Another style of head-dress much worn is a
round-topped or helmet-shaped cap, made of quilted cotton-stuff; but
this kind, although in use among the Turcomans, is a more characteristic
costume of their enemies, the "Koords," who wear it universally.

The "jubba" is a kind of robe generally intended to go over the other
garments, and is usually of woollen or camel's-hair cloth.  It is also
made like a dressing-gown, with wide sleeves,--tight, however, around
the wrist.  It is of ample dimensions, and one side is lapped over the
other across the front, like a double-breasted coat.  The "jubba" is
essentially a national garment.

The dress of the women is exceedingly picturesque.  It is thus minutely
described by a traveller:--

"The head-dress of these women is singular enough: most of them wear a
lofty cap, with a broad crown, resembling that of a soldier's cap called
a shako.  This is stuck upon the back of the head; and over it is thrown
a silk handkerchief of very brilliant colours, which covers the top, and
falls down on each side like a veil.  The front of this is covered with
ornaments of silver and gold, in various shapes; more frequently gold
coins, mohrs, or tomauns, strung in rows, with silver bells or buttons,
and chains depending from them; hearts and other fanciful forms, with
stones set in them.  The whole gives rather the idea of gorgeous
trappings for a horse, than ornaments for a female.

"The frames of these monstrous caps are made of light chips of wood, or
split reeds, covered with cloth; and when they do not wear these, they
wrap a cloth around their heads in the same form; and carelessly throw
another, like a veil over it.  The veil or curtain above spoken of
covers the mouth; descending to the breast.  Earrings are worn in the
ears; and their long hair is divided, and plaited into four parts,
disposed two on each side; one of which falls down behind the shoulders
and one before, and both are strung with a profusion of gold ornaments,
agates, cornelians, and other stones, according to the means and quality
of the wearer.  The rest of their dress consists of a long, loose vest
or shirt, with sleeves, which covers the whole person down to the feet,
and is open at the breast, in front, but buttons or ties close up to the
neck: this is made of silk or cotton-stuff, red, blue, green, striped
red, and yellow, checked, or various-coloured: underneath this, are the
zere-jameh, or drawers, also of silk or cotton; and some wear a short
_peerahn_ or shirt of the same.  This, I believe, is all; but in the
cold weather they wear, in addition, jubbas, or coats like those of the
men, of striped stuff made of silk and cotton; on their feet they
generally wear slippers like those of the Persian women."

The tents, or "portable houses" of the Turcomans--as their movable
dwellings rather deserve to be called--differ from most structures of
the kind in use elsewhere.  They are thus described by the same
intelligent traveller:--

"The portable wooden houses of the Turcomans have been referred to by
several writers; but I am not aware that any exact description of their
structure has been given.  The frame is curiously constructed of light
wood, disposed in laths of about an inch broad by three quarters thick,
crossing one another diagonally, but at right angles, about a foot
asunder, and pinned at each crossing with thongs of raw hide, so as to
be movable; and the whole framework may be closed up or opened in the
manner of those toys for children that represent a company of soldiers,
and close or expand at will, so as to form open or close column.

"One or more pieces thus constructed being stretched out, surround a
circular space of from fifteen to twenty feet diameter; and form the
skeleton of the walls,--which are made firm by bands of hair or woollen
ropes, hitched round the end of each rod, to secure it in its position.
From the upper ends of these, rods of a similar kind, bent near the wall
end into somewhat less than a right angle, are so disposed that the
longer portions slope to the centre, and being tied with ropes, form the
framework of a roof.  Over this is thrown a covering of black _numud_,
leaving in the centre a large hole to give vent to the smoke, and light
to the dwelling.  Similar numuds are wrapped round the walls; and
outside of these, to keep all tight, is bound another frame, formed of
split reeds or cane, or of very light and tough wood, tied together with
strong twine, the pieces being perpendicular.  This is itself secured by
a strong, broad band of woven hair-stuff, which firmly unites.  The
large round opening at top is covered, as occasion requires, by a piece
of numud, which is drawn off or on by a strong cord, like a curtain.  If
the wind be powerful, a stick is placed to leeward, which supports the

"In most of these houses they do not keep a carpet or numud constantly
spread; but the better classes use a carpet shaped somewhat in the form
of a horseshoe, having the centre cut out for the fireplace, and the
ends truncated, that those of inferior condition, or who do not choose
to take off their boots, may sit down upon the ground.  Upon this carpet
they place one or two other numuds, as may be required, for guests of
distinction.  When they have women in the tent, a division of split
reeds is made for their convenience; but the richer people have a
separate tent for their private apartments.

"The furniture consists of little more than camels and horses; _joals_,
or bags in which their goods are packed, and which are often made of a
very handsome species of worsted velvet carpet, of rich patterns; the
swords, guns, spears, bows and arrows, and other implements of the
family, with odds and ends of every description, may be seen hung on the
ends of the wooden rods, which form very convenient pins for the
purpose.  Among some tribes all the domestic utensils are made of
wood,--calleeoons, trays for presenting food, milk-vessels, etc: among
others, all these things are formed of clay or metal.  Upon the black
tops of the tents may frequently be seen large white masses of sour
curd, expressed from buttermilk, and set to dry as future store; this,
broken down and mixed with water, forms a very pleasant acidulous drink,
and is used as the basis of that intoxicating beverage called _kimmiz_.
The most common and most refreshing drink which they offer to the weary
and over-heated traveller in the forenoon is buttermilk, or sour curds
and water; and, indeed, a modification of this, with some other simple
sherbets, are the only liquors presented at their meals.

"Such are the wooden houses of the Turcomans, one of which just makes a
camel's load.  There are poorer ones, of a less artificial construction,
the framework of which is formed of reeds.

"The encampment is generally square, enclosing an open space, or forming
a broad street, the houses being ranged on either side, with their doors
towards each other.  At these may always be seen the most picturesque
groups, occupied with their various domestic duties, or smoking their
simple wooden _calleeoons_.  The more important encampments are
surrounded by a fence of reeds, which serve to protect the flocks from
petty thefts."

It is now our place to inquire how the Turcomans occupy their time.  We
have already described them as a pastoral and nomadic people; and, under
ordinary circumstances, their employment consists in looking after their
flocks.  In a few of the more fertile oases they have habitations, or
rather camps, of a more permanent character, where they cultivate a
little corn or barley, to supply them with the material for bread; but
these settlements, if they deserve the name, are only exceptional; and
are used chiefly as a kind of head-quarters, where the women and
property are kept, while the men themselves are absent on their thieving
expeditions.  More generally their herds are kept on the move, and are
driven from place to place at short intervals of a few weeks or even
days.  The striking and pitching of their tents gives them employment;
to which is added that of milking the cattle, and making the cheese and
butter.  The women, moreover, fill up their idle hours in weaving the
coarse blankets, or "numuds," in plaiting mats, and manufacturing
various articles of dress or household use.  The more costly parts of
their costume, however, are not of native manufacture: these are
obtained by trade.  The men alone look after the camels and horses,
taking special care of the latter.

Their flocks present a considerable variety of species.  Besides horses,
cattle, and sheep, they own many camels, and they have no less than
three distinct varieties of this valuable animal in their possession,--
the dromedary with two humps, and the common camel.  The third sort is a
cross breed--or "mule"--between these two.  The dromedary is slightly
made, and swifter than either of the others, but it is not so powerful
as either; and being inferior as a beast of burden, is least cared for
by the Turcomans.  The one-humped camel is in more general use, and a
good one will carry a load of six or seven hundred pounds with ease.
The mule camel is more powerful than either of its parents, and also
more docile and capable of greater endurance.  It grows to a very large
size, but is low in proportion to its bulk, with stout, bony legs, and a
large quantity of coarse, shaggy hair on its haunch, shoulders, neck,
and even on the crown of its head, which gives it a strange, somewhat
fantastic appearance.  Its colour varies from light grey to brown,
though it is as often nearly black.  This kind of camel will carry a
load of from eight hundred to a thousand pounds.

The Turcoman sheep are of the large-tailed breed,--their tails often
attaining enormous dimensions.  This variety of sheep is a true denizen
of the desert, the fat tail being unquestionably a provision of nature
against seasons of hunger,--just as in the single protuberance, or
"hump," upon the camel.

The horse of the Turcoman is the animal upon which he sets most value.
The breed possessed by him is celebrated over all Eastern Asia, as that
of the Arab is in the West.  They cannot be regarded, however, as
handsome horses, according to the true standard of "horse beauty;" but
the Turcoman cares less for this than for other good qualities.  In
point of speed and endurance they are not excelled, if equalled, by the
horses of any other country.

Their size is that of the common horse, but they are very different in
make.  Their bodies are long in proportion to the bulk of carcass; and
they do not appear to possess sufficient compactness of frame.  Their
legs are also long, generally falling off in muscular development below
the knee-joint; and they would appear to an English jockey too narrow in
the counter.  They have also long necks, with large heavy heads.  These
are the points which are generally observed in the Turcoman horses; but
it is to be remarked, that it is only when in an under-condition they
look so ungraceful; and in this condition their owners are accustomed to
keep them, especially when they have any very heavy service to perform.
Feeding produces a better shape, and brings them much nearer to the look
of a well-bred English horse.

Their powers of endurance are indeed, almost incredible: when trained
for a chappow, or plundering expedition, they will carry their rider and
provisions for seven or eight days together, at the rate of twenty or
even thirty fursungs--that is, from eighty to one hundred miles--a day.
Their mode of training is more like that of our pugilistic and
pedestrian performers, than that adopted for race-horses.  When any
expedition of great length, and requiring the exertion of much speed, is
in contemplation, they commence by running their horses every day for
many miles together; they feed them sparingly on barley alone, and pile
numuds upon them at night to sweat them, until every particle of fat has
been removed, and the flesh becomes hard and tendonous.  Of this they
judge by the feel of the muscles, particularly on the crest, at the back
of the neck, and on the haunches; and when these are sufficiently firm
and hard, they say in praise of the animal, that "his flesh is marble."
After this sort of training, the horse will proceed with expedition and
perseverance, for almost any length of time, without either falling off
in condition or knocking up, while horses that set out fat seldom
survive.  They are taught a quick walk, a light trot, or a sort of
amble, which carries the rider on easily, at the rate of six miles an
hour; but they will also go at a round canter, or gallop, for forty or
fifty miles, without ever drawing bridle or showing the least symptom of
fatigue.  Their _yaboos_, or galloways, and large ponies are fully as
remarkable, if not superior, to their horses, in their power of
sustaining fatigue; they are stout, compact, spirited beasts, without
the fine blood of the larger breeds, but more within the reach of the
poorer classes, and consequently used in by far greater numbers than the
superior and more expensive horses.

"It is a common practice of the Turcomans to teach their horses to fight
with their heels, and thus assist their masters in the time of action.
At the will of their riders they will run at and lay hold with their
teeth of whatever man or animal may be before them.  This acquirement is
useful in the day of battle and plunder, for catching prisoners and
stray cattle, but it at the same time renders them vicious and dangerous
to be handled."

In addition to the flocks and herds, the Turcomans possess a breed of
very large fierce dogs, to assist them in keeping their cattle.  These
are also necessary as watch-dogs, to protect the camp from thieves as
well as more dangerous enemies to their peace; and so well-trained are
those faithful creatures, that it would be impossible for either friend
or enemy to approach a Turcoman camp without the inmates being
forewarned in time.  Two or three of these dogs may always be seen lying
by the entrance of each tent; and throughout the night several others
keep sentry at the approaches to the camp.

Other breeds of dogs owned by them are used for hunting,--for these wild
wanderers sometimes devote their hours to the chase.  They have two
sorts,--a smooth-skinned dog, half hound half pointer, that hunts
chiefly by the scent; and a greyhound, of great swiftness, with a coat
of long, silky hair, which they make use of in coursing,--hares and
antelopes being their game.

They have a mode of hunting--also practised by the Persians--which is
peculiar.  It should rather be termed hawking than hunting, as a hawk is
employed for the purpose.  It is a species of falcon denominated
"goork," and is trained not only to dash at small game, such as
partridges and bustards, but upon antelopes and even the wild ass that
is found in plenty upon the plains of Turcomania.  You will wonder how a
bird, not larger than the common falcon, could capture such game as this
but it will appear simple enough when the method has been explained.
The "goork" is trained to fly at the quadruped, and fix its claws in one
particular place,--that is, upon the frontlet, just between the eyes.
When thus attached, the bird, instead of closing its wings and remaining
at rest, keeps them constantly in motion, flapping them over the eyes of
the quadruped.  This it does, no doubt, to enable it to retain its
perch; while the unfortunate animal, thus assailed, knows not in what
direction to run, and is soon overtaken by the pursuing sportsmen, and
either speared or shot with the bow and arrow.

Wild boars are frequently hunted by the Turcomans; and this, like
everything else with these rude centaurs, is performed on horseback.
The bow and arrow is but a poor weapon when employed against the thick,
tough hide of the Hyrcanian boar (for he is literally the Hyrcanian
boar), and of course the matchlock would be equally ineffective.  How,
then, does the Turcoman sportsman manage to bag this bristly game?  With
all the ease in the world.  It costs him only the effort of galloping
his horse close up to the side of the boar after he has been brought to
by the dogs, and then suddenly wheeling the steed.  The latter,
well-trained to the task, without further prompting, goes through the
rest of the performance, which consists in administering to the boar
such a slap with his iron-shod heel, as to prostrate the porcine
quadruped, often killing it on the instant!

Such employments and such diversions occupy only a small portion of the
Turcoman's tune.  He follows another calling of a far less creditable
character, which unfortunately he regards as the most honourable
occupation of his life.  This is the calling of the robber.  His
pastoral pursuits are matters of only secondary consideration.  He only
looks to them as a means of supplying his daily wants,--his food and the
more necessary portion of his clothing; but he has other wants that may
be deemed luxuries.  He requires to keep up his stock of horses and
camels, and wishes to increase them.  He needs costly gear for his
horse, and costly garments for himself--and he is desirous of being
possessed of fine weapons, such as spears, swords, bows, matchlocks,
daggers, and pistols.  His most effective weapons are the spear and
sword, and these are the kinds he chiefly uses.

His spear consists of a steel head with four flutes, and edges very
sharp, fixed upon a slender shaft of from eight to ten feet in length.
In using it he couches it under the left arm, and directs it with the
right hand, either; straightforward, or to the right or left; if to the
right, the butt of the shaft lies across the hinder part of the saddle;
if to the left, the forepart of the spear rests on the horse's neck.
The Turcomans manage their horses with the left hand, but most of these
are so well broken as to obey the movement of the knee, or the impulse
of the body.  When close to their object, they frequently grasp the
spear with both hands, to give greater effect to the thrust.  The horse,
spurred to the full speed of a charge, in this way, offers an attack no
doubt very formidable in appearance, but perhaps less really dangerous
than the other, in which success depends so greatly on skill and
address.  The Turcomans are all sufficiently dexterous with the sword,
which is almost universally formed in the curved Persian fashion, and
very sharp; they also wear a dagger at the waist-belt.  Firearms are as
yet little in use among them; they possess a few, taken from the
travellers they have plundered, and procure a few more occasionally from
the Russians by the way of Bokara.  Some use bows and arrows, but they
are by no means so dexterous as their ancestors were in the handling of
those weapons.

Mounted, then, upon his matchless steed, and armed with spear and sword,
the Turcoman goes forth to practise his favourite profession,--that of
plunder.  He does not go alone, nor with a small number of his comrades,
either.  The number depends altogether on the distance or danger of the
expedition; and where these are considered great, a troop of five
hundred, or even a thousand, usually proceed together upon their errand.

You will be inquiring to what point they direct themselves,--east, west,
north, or south?  That altogether depends upon who may be their enemies
for the time, for along with their desire for booty, there is also mixed
up something like a sentiment of hostility.  In this respect, however,
the Turcoman is a true Ishmaelite, and in lack of other victim he will
not hesitate to plunder the people of a kindred race.  Indeed, several
of the Turcoman tribes have long been at war with one another; and their
animosity is quite as deadly among themselves as when directed against
strangers to their race.  The _butt_, however, of most of the Turcoman
expeditions is the northern part of Persia,--Korassan in particular.  It
is into this province that most of their great forays are directed,
either against the peaceful citizens of the Persian towns and villages,
or as often against the merchant caravans that are constantly passing
between Teheran and the cities of the east,--Mushed, Balkh, Bokara,
Herat, and Kelat.  I have already stated that these forays are pushed
far into the interior of Persia; and the fact of Persia permitting such
a state of things to continue will perhaps surprise you; but you would
not be surprised were you better acquainted with the condition of that
kingdom.  From historic associations, you believe Persia to be a
powerful nation; and so it once was, both powerful and prosperous.  That
day is past; and at the present hour, this decaying monarchy is not only
powerless to maintain order within its own borders, but is even
threatened with annihilation from those very nomad races that have so
often given laws to the great empires of Asia.  Even at this moment, the
more powerful Tartar Khans turn a longing look towards the tottering
throne of Nadir Shah; and he of Khiva has more than once made a feint at
invasion.  But the subject is too extensive to be discussed here.  It is
only introduced to explain with what facility a few hundreds of Turcoman
robbers can enter and harass the land.  We find a parallel in many other
parts of the world,--old as well as new.  In the latter, the northern
provinces of Mexico, and the southern countries of La Plata and
Paraguay, are in just such a condition: the weak, worn-out descendants
of the Spanish conquerors on one side, well representing the remnants of
the race of Nadir Shah; while, on the other, the Turcoman is type enough
of the Red Indian.  The comparison, however, is not just to the latter.
He, at least, is possessed of courage and prowess; while the Turcoman,
notwithstanding his propensities for plunder, and the bloodthirsty
ferocity of his character, is as arrant a coward as ever carried lance.
Even the Persian can cope with him, when fairly matched; and the
merchant caravans,--which are usually made up of true Turks, and other
races possessing a little "pluck," are never attacked, unless when
outnumbered in the ratio of three to one.

For all this, the whole northern portion of the Persian kingdom is left
to the mercy of these desert-robbers.  The towns and villages have each
their large fortress, into which the people retire whenever the
plunderers make their appearance, and there dwell till the latter have
ridden away,--driving off their flocks and herds to the desert
fastnesses.  Even the poor farmer is obliged to build a fortress in the
middle of his fields, to which he may retire upon the occasion of any
sudden alarm, and his labourers till the ground with their swords by
their sides, and their matchlocks lying near!

These field fortresses of Korassan are altogether so curious, both as to
construction and purpose, that we cannot pass them without a word of
description.  They are usually placed in some conspicuous place, at a
convenient distance from all parts of the cultivated tract.  They are
built of mud, and raised to a height of fifteen or twenty feet, of a
circular form,--bearing some resemblance to the well-known round towers
of Ireland.  A small aperture is left open at the bottom, through which
those seeking shelter may just squeeze their bodies, and this being
barricaded inside, the defence is complete.  From the top--which can be
reached easily on the inside--the farmer and his labourers can use their
matchlocks with effect; but they are never called upon to do so,--as the
cowardly freebooter takes good care to give the mud tower a wide birth.
He has no weapons by which he might assail it; and, moreover, he has no
time for sieges: since an hour's delay might bring him into danger from
the force that is fast approaching.  His only thought is to keep on his
course, and sweep off such cattle, or make prisoners of such people as
he may chance to find unwarned and unarmed.  Now and then he ventures
upon an attack--where there is much booty to tempt him, and but a weak
force to defend it.  His enemies,--the hated "Kuzzilbashes," as he calls
the Persians,--if defeated, have no mercy to expect from him.  All who
resist are killed upon the spot, and often torture is the mode of their
death; but if they can be made prisoners, the desert-robber prefers
letting them live, as a captive is to him a more valuable consideration
than the death of an enemy.  His prisoner, once secured, knows tolerably
well what is to follow.  The first thing the Turcoman does is to bind
the victim's hands securely behind his back; he then puts a long halter
around his neck, attaching the other end of it to the tail of his horse,
and in this fashion the homeward march commences.  If the poor
pedestrian does not keep pace with the horse, he knows what he may
expect,--to be dragged at intervals along the ground, and perhaps torn
to pieces upon the rocks.  With this horrid fate before his fancy, he
makes efforts almost superhuman to keep pace with the troop of his
inhuman captors: though well aware that they are leading him off into a
hopeless bondage.

At night, his feet are also tied; and, thrown down upon the earth, he is
covered with a coarse "numud."  Do not fancy that this is done to screen
him from the cold: the object is very different indeed.  The numud is
placed over him in order that two of his captors may sleep upon its
edges--one on each side of him--thus holding him down, and frustrating
any chance of escape.

On arriving at the robber-camp, the captive is not kept long in suspense
as to his future fate.  His owner--for he is now in reality a slave--
wants a new word, or a piece of silken cloth, or a camel, or some other
article of luxury.  That he can obtain either at Khiva or Bokara, in
exchange for his slave; and therefore the new captive--or captives, as
the chance may be--is marched off to the ready market.  This is no
isolated nor rare incident.  It is one of everyday occurrence; and it is
a noted fact, that of the three hundred thousand people who constitute
the subjects of the Khivan Khan, nearly one half are Persian slaves
obtained from the robbers of Turcomania!

The political organisation of the Turcomans is of the patriarchal
character.  From necessity they dwell in small communities that are
termed "teers," the literal signification of which is "arrows,"--though
for what reason they are so styled does not appear.  Perhaps it is on
account of the rapidity of their movements: for, in hostile excursions,
or moving from place to place, they proceed with a celerity that may be
compared to arrows.

Over each tribe or teer there is a chief, similar to the "sheik" of the
Arab tribes,--and indeed, many of their customs offer a close analogy to
those of the wandering Bedouins of Arabia and Egypt, and the Kabyles of
Morocco and the Algerine provinces.  The circumstances of life--almost
alike to both--could not fail to produce many striking resemblances.

The Turcoman tribes, as already observed, frequently go to war with each
other, but they oftener unite to rob the common enemy,--the caravan or
the Persian village.  In these mere plundering expeditions they go in
such numbers as the case may require; but when called forth to take side
in anything like a national war, they can muster to the strength of many
thousands; and then indeed, they become terrible,--even to the most
potent sovereigns of Central Asia, by whom much diplomacy is employed to
enlist them on one side or the other.  It matters little to them what
the cause be,--he who can promise them the largest booty in cattle or
slaves is sure to have the help of their spears and swords.

The Turcomans are not Pagans,--that is, they are not professedly so,--
though, for all the regard which they pay to religious observances, they
might as well be termed true Infidels.  They profess a religion,
however, and that is Mohametanism in its worst and most bigoted form,--
the "Sunnite."  The Persians, as is well-known, hold the milder Sheean
doctrines; and as the votaries of the two, in most countries where both
are practised, cordially hate each other, so it is between Turcomans and
Persians.  The former even scorn the Persian creed, calling its
followers "Infidel" dogs, or _Kuzzilbashes_; and this bigoted rancour
gives them a sort of plausible excuse for the hostile attitude which
they hold towards them.

Taking them upon the whole, the Turcomans may be looked upon as true
savages,--savages dressed in _silk_ instead of in _skins_.



On the banks of the Orinoco, a short distance above the point where that
mighty river makes its second great sweep to the eastward, dwells a
remarkable people,--a tribe of savages that, even among savages, are
remarkable for many peculiar and singular customs.  These are the

They have been long known,--and by the narratives of the early Spanish
missionaries, rendered notorious,--on account of some curious habits;
but although the missionaries have resided among them, and endeavoured
to bring them within "sound of the bell," their efforts have met with a
very partial and temporary success; and at this present hour, the
Ottomacs are as savage in their habits; and as singular in their
customs, as they were in the days of Columbus.

The Ottomacs are neither a stunted nor yet a weak race of men.  Their
bodies are strong, and their arms and limbs stout and muscular; but they
are remarkably ill-featured, with an expression of countenance
habitually stern and vindictive.

Their costume is easily described, or rather cannot be _described_ at
all, since they have none.  Both, sexes go entirely naked,--if we except
a little belt of three or four inches in width, made from cotton or the
bark of trees, and called the _guayuco_, which they wear around the
waist,--but even this is worn from no motives of modesty.

What they regard in the light of a costume is a coat of paint, and about
this they are as nice and particular as a Parisian dandy.  Talk about
"blooming up" a faded _belle_ for the ballroom, or the time spent by an
exquisite in adjusting the tie of his cravat! these are trifles when
compared with the lengthy and elaborate toilette of an Ottomac lady or

The greater part of a day is often spent by them in a single dressing,
with one or two helpers to assist in the operation; and this is not a
_tattooing_ process, intended to last for a lifetime, but a costume
certain to be disfigured, or entirely washed off, at the first exposure
to a heavy shower of rain.  Add to this, that the pigments which are
used for the purpose are by no means easily obtained: the vegetable
substances which furnish them are scarce in the Ottomac country; and it
costs one of these Indians the produce of several days of his labour to
purchase sufficient paint to give his whole skin a single "coat."  For
this reason the Ottomac paints his body only on grand occasions,--
contenting himself at ordinary times with merely staining his face and

When an Ottomac wishes to appear in "full dress" he first gives himself
a "priming" of red.  This consists of the dye called "annotto," which is
obtained from the fruit pulp of the _Bixa orellana_, and which the
Indians knew how to prepare previous to their intercourse with
Europeans.  Over this red ground is then formed a lattice-work of lines
of black, with a dot in the centre of every little square or diamond.
The black dye is the "caruto," also a vegetable pigment, obtained from
the _Genipa Americana_.  If the gentleman be rich enough to possess a
little "chica" which is a beautiful lake-coloured red,--also the produce
of a plant,--the _Bignoni, chica_, he will then feel all the ecstatic
delight of a fashionable dandy who possesses a good wardrobe; and, with
half a pound of turtle-oil rubbed into his long black tresses, he will
regard himself as dressed "within an inch of his life."  It is not
always, however, that he can afford the _chica_,--for it is one of the
costliest materials of which a South-American savage can manufacture his

The Ottomac takes far less trouble in the building of his house.  Very
often he builds none; but when he wishes to guard his body from the rays
of the sun, or the periodical rains, he constructs him a slight
edifice--a mere hut--out of saplings or bamboos, with a thatch of

His arms consist of the universal bow and arrows, which he manages with
much dexterity; and he has also a harpoon which he employs in killing
the manatee and the alligator.  He has, besides, several other weapons,
to aid him in the chase and fishing,--the latter of which forms his
principal employment as well as his chief source of subsistence.

The Ottomac belongs to one of those tribes of Indians termed by the
Spanish missionaries _Indios andantes_, that is "wandering," or
"vagabond Indians," who instead of remaining in fixed and permanent
villages, roam about from place to place, as necessity or inclination
dictates.  Perhaps this arises from the peculiarity of the country which
they inhabit: for the _Indios andantes_ do not live in the thick
forests, but upon vast treeless savannas, which stretch along the
Orinoco above its great bend.  In these tracts the "juvia" trees
(_bertholletia_ and _lecythys_), which produce the delicious
"Brazil-nuts"--and other plants that supply the savage spontaneously
with food, are sparsely found; and as the savannas are annually
inundated for several months, the Ottomac is forced, whether he will or
no, to shift his quarters and try for subsistence elsewhere.  When the
inundations have subsided and the waters become settled enough to permit
of fishing, the Ottomac "winter" is over, and he can obtain food in
plenty from the alligators, the manatees, the turtles, the _toninas_ or
dolphins, and other large fish that frequent the great stream upon which
he dwells.  Of these the _manatee_ is the most important in the eyes of
the Ottomac--as it is the largest in size, and consequently furnishes
him with the greatest amount of meat.

This singular semi-cetaceous creature is almost too well-known to
require description.  It is found in nearly all the large rivers of
tropical America, where it feeds upon the grass and aquatic plants
growing along their banks.  It is known by various names, according to
the place and people.  The Spaniards call it _vaca marina_, or
"sea-cow," and the Portuguese _peixe hoi_, or "fish-ox,"--both being
appellations equally inappropriate, and having their origin in a slight
resemblance which there exists between the animal's "countenance" and
that of an ox.

The _West Indian_ name is the one we though the true orthography is
_manati_, not _manatee_, since the word is of Indian origin.  Some
writers deny this, alleging that it is a derivative from the Spanish
word "mano," a hand, signifying, therefore, the fish with hands,--in
allusion to the rudimentary hands which form one of its distinguishing
characteristics.  This is the account of the historian Oviedo, but
another Spanish missionary, Father Gili, offers a more correct
explanation of the name,--in fact, he proves, what is neither more nor
less than the simple truth, that "manati" was the name given to this
animal by the natives of Hayti and Cuba,--where a species is also
found,--and the word has no reference whatever to the "hands" of the
creature.  The resemblance to the Spanish word which should signify
"handed," is merely an accidental circumstance; and, as the acute
Humboldt very justly remarks, according to the genius of the Spanish
language, the word thus applied would have been written _manudo_, or
_manon_, and not _manati_.

The Indians have almost as many different names for this creature as
there are rivers in which it is found; but its appellation in the "lingo
ageral" of the great Amazon valley, is "juarua."  Among the Ottomacs it
is called the "apoia."  It may be safely affirmed that there are several
species of this amphibious animal in the rivers of tropical America; and
possibly no one of them is identical with that of the West Indies.  All
have hitherto been regarded as belonging to the same species, and
described under the scientific title of _Manatus Americanus_--a name
given to the American manati, to distinguish it from the "lamantin" of
Africa, and the "dugong" of the East-Indian seas.  But the West-Indian
species appears to have certain characteristic differences, which shows
that it is a separate one, or, at all events, a variety.  It is of much
larger size than those of the South-American rivers generally are--
though there also a large variety is found, but much rarer than those
commonly captured by the fishermen.  The West-Indian manati has nails
well developed upon the outer edge of its fins, or forearms; while those
on the other kinds are either not seen at all, or only in a very
rudimentary state.  That there are different species, may be deduced
from the accounts of the natives, who employ themselves in its capture:
and the observations of such people are usually more trustworthy than
the speculations of learned anatomists.  The Amazon fishermen all agree
in the belief that there are three kinds of manati in the Amazon and its
numerous tributaries, that not only differ greatly in size--from seven
to twenty feet long--and in weight, from four hundred to two thousand
pounds,--but also in the colour of their skin, and the shape of their
tails and fins.  The species found in the Orinoco, and called "apoia" by
the Ottomacs, is usually about twelve feet in length, and weighs from
five hundred to eight hundred pounds; but now and then a much larger
individual is captured, perhaps owing to greater age, or other
accidental circumstance.  Humboldt heard of one that weighed eight
thousand pounds; and the French naturalist D'Orbigny speaks of one
killed in the Bolivian waters of the Amazon that was twenty feet in
length.  This size is often attained by the _Manatus Americanus_ of Cuba
and Hayti.

The manati is shaped somewhat like a large seal, and has certain
resemblances to a fish.  Its body is of an oval oblong, with a large,
flat, rounded tail, set horizontally, and which serves as a rudder to
direct its course in the water.  Just behind its shoulders appear,
instead of fins, a pair of flippers, which have a certain resemblance to
hands set on to the body without arms.  Of these it avails itself, when
creeping out against the bank, and the female also uses them in carrying
her young.  The mammae (for it must be remembered that this creature is
a mammiferous animal) are placed just below and behind the flippers.
The muzzle is blunt, with thick lips,--the upper projecting several
inches beyond the lower, and covered with a delicate epidermis: showing
evidently that it avails itself of this prominence--which possesses a
keen sense of touch--just as the elephant of his proboscis.  The lips
are covered with bristles, or beard, which impart a kind of human-like
expression to the animal's countenance,--a circumstance more observable
in the "dugongs" of the Oriental waters.  "Woman fish," too, these have
been called, and no doubt such creatures, along with the seals and
walruses, have given rise to many a story of sirens and mermaids.  The
"cow-face," however, from which the manati obtains its Spanish and
Portuguese epithets, is the most characteristic; and in its food we find
a still greater analogy to the bovine quadruped with which it is brought
in comparison.  Beyond this the resemblance ceases.  The body is that of
a seal; but instead of being covered with hair, as the cetaceous animal,
the manati has a smooth skin that resembles india-rubber more than
anything else.  A few short hairs are set here and there, but they are
scarce observable.  The colour of the manati is that of lead, with a few
mottlings of a pinkish-white hue upon the belly; but in this respect
there is no uniformity.  Some are seen with the whole under-parts of a
uniform cream colour.

The lungs of this animal present a peculiarity worthy of being noted.
They are very voluminous,--being sometimes three feet in length, and of
such a porous and elastic nature as to be capable of immense extension.
When blown out, they present the appearance of great swimming bladders;
and it is by means of this capacity for containing air that the manati
is enabled to remain so long under water,--though, like the true
_cetaceae_, it requires to come at intervals to the surface to obtain

The flesh of the manati is eaten by all the tribes of Indians who can
procure it,--though by some it is more highly esteemed than by others.
It was once much relished in the colonial settlements of Guiana and the
West Indies, and formed a considerable article of commerce; but in these
quarters manatis have grown scarce,--from the incessant persecution of
the fishermen.  The flesh has been deemed unwholesome by some, and apt
to produce fevers; but this is not the general opinion.  It has a
greater resemblance to pork than beef,--though it be the flesh of a
cow,--and is very savoury when fresh, though neither is it bad eating
when salted or dried in the sun.  In this way it will keep for several
months; and it has always been a stock article with the monks of the
South-American missions,--who, in spite of its mammiferous character,
find it convenient, during the days of Lent, to regard it as a fish!
The skin of the manati is of exceeding thickness,--on the back an inch
and a half at least, though it becomes thinner as it approaches the
under-parts of the body.  It is cut into slips which serve various
purposes, as for shields, cordage, and whips.  "These whips of manati
leather," Bays Humboldt, "are a cruel instrument of punishment for the
unhappy slaves, and even for the Indians of the missions, though,
according to the laws, the latter ought to be treated as freemen."

Another valuable commodity obtained from this animal is oil, known in
the missions as manati-butter (_manteca de manati_).  This is produced
by the layer of pure fat, of an inch and a half in thickness, which,
lying immediately under the skin, envelops the whole body of the animal.
The oil is used for lamps in the mission churches; but among the
Indians themselves it is also employed in the _cuisine_,--as it has not
that fetid smell peculiar to the oil of whales and salt-water cetaceae.

The food of the manati is grass exclusively, which it finds on the banks
of the lakes and rivers it frequents.  Of this it will eat an enormous
quantity; and its usual time of browsing is at night,--though this habit
may have arisen from its observance of the fact, that night is the
safest time to approach the shore.  In those places, where is has been
left undisturbed, it may be often seen browsing by day.

I have been thus particular in my account of this animal, because it is
more nearly connected with the history of Ottomac habits than perhaps
that of any other tribe of South-American Indians,--the Guamos alone
excepted, who may themselves be regarded as merely a branch of the
Ottomac family.  Though, as already remarked, all the tribes who dwell
upon manati rivers pursue this creature and feed upon its flesh, yet in
no other part of South America is this species of fishery so extensively
or so dexterously carried on as among the Ottomacs and Guamos,--the
reason being, that, amidst the great grassy savannas which characterise
the Ottomac country, there are numerous streams and lagoons that are the
favourite haunts of this herbivorous animal.  In one river in
particular, so great a number are found that it has been distinguished
by the appellation of the _Rio de Manatis_ (river of manatis).  The
manati, when undisturbed, is gregarious in its habits, going in troops
(or "herds," if we preserve the analogy) of greater or less numbers, and
keeping the young "calves" in the centre, which the mothers guard with
the tenderest affection.  So attached are the parents to their young,
that if the calf be taken, the mother can be easily approached; and the
devotion is reciprocated on the filial side; since in cases where the
mother has been captured and dragged ashore, the young one has often
been known to follow the lifeless body up to the very bank!

As the manati plays such an important part in the domestic economy of
the Ottomacs, of course the capturing of this animal is carried on upon
the grandest scale among these people, and, like the "harvest of
turtle-eggs," hereafter to be described, the manati fishery has its
particular _season_.  Some writers have erroneously stated this season
as being the period of inundation, and when the water is at its maximum
height.  This is quite contrary to the truth; since that period, both on
the Amazon and Orinoco rivers, is just the time when all kinds of
fishing is difficult and precarious.  Then is the true winter,--the
"blue months" of the South-American river Indians; and it is then, as
will presently be seen, that the Ottomac comes nearest the point of
starvation,--which he approaches every year of his life.

There are manati and other kinds of fish taken at all times of the year;
but the true season of the manati-fishing is when the waters of the
great flood have considerably subsided, and are still continuing to
diminish rapidly.  When the inundation is at its height, the manati
passes out of the channel current of the great river, and in search of
grass it finds its way into the lakes and surrounding marshes, remaining
there to browse along their banks.  When the flood is rapidly passing
away from it, it begins to find itself a "little out of its element,"
and just then is the time when it is most easily captured.

Sometimes the Indians assemble in a body with their canoes, forming a
large fleet; and, proceeding to the best haunts of the "cow-fish," carry
on the fishery in a wholesale manner.  The monks of the missions also
head the _tame_ tribes on these expeditions,--as they do when collecting
the eggs of the turtle,--and a regular systematic course is carried on
under the eye of discipline and authority.  A camp is formed at some
convenient place on the shore.  Scaffolds are erected for sun-drying the
flesh and skins; and vessels and other utensils brought upon the ground
to render the fat into oil.  The manatis that have been captured are all
brought in the canoes to this central point, and delivered up to be
"_flensed_," cured, and cooked.  There is the usual assemblage of small
traders from Angostura and other ports on the lower Orinoco, who come to
barter their Indian trinkets for the _manteca de manati_ in the same
manner as it will presently be seen they trade for the _manteca de
tortugas_.  I need not add that this is a season of joy and festivity,
like the wine-gatherings and harvest-homes of the European peasantry.

The mode of capturing the manati is very similar to that employed by the
Esquimaux in taking the seal, and which has been elsewhere described.
There is not much danger in the fishery, for no creature could be more
harmless and inoffensive than this.  It makes not the slightest attempt
either at defence or retaliation,--though the accident sometimes occurs
of a canoe being swamped or drawn under water,--but this is nothing to
the Ottomac Indian, who is almost as amphibious as the manati itself.

At the proper hour the fisherman starts off in search of the manati.
His fishing-boat is a canoe hollowed from a single trunk, of that kind
usually styled a "dugout."  On perceiving the cow-fish resting upon the
surface of the water, the Ottomac paddles towards it, observing the
greatest caution; for although the organs of sight and hearing in this
animal are, externally, but very little developed, it both hears and
sees well; and the slightest suspicious noise would be a signal for it
to dive under, and of course escape.

When near enough to insure a good aim, the Ottomac hurls his harpoon
into the animal's body; which, after piercing the thick hide, sticks
fast.  To this harpoon a cord is attached, with a float, and the float
remaining above water indicates the direction in which the wounded
animal now endeavours to get off.  When it is tired of struggling, the
Indian regains the cord; and taking it in, hand over hand, draws up his
canoe to the side of the fish.  If it be still too lively, he repeatedly
strikes it with a spear; but he does not aim to kill it outright until
he has got it "aboard."  Once there, he ends the creature's existence by
driving a wooden plug into its nostrils, which in a moment deprives it
of life.

The Ottomac now prepares himself to transport the carcass to his home;
or, if fishing in company, to the common rendezvous.  Perhaps he has
some distance to take it, and against a current; and he finds it
inconvenient to tow such a heavy and cumbrous article.  To remedy this
inconvenience, he adopts the expedient already mentioned, of placing the
carcass in his canoe.  But how does he get it there?  How can a single
Indian of ordinary strength raise a weight of a thousand pounds out of
the water, and lift it over the gunwale of his unsteady craft?  It is in
this that he exhibits great cunning and address: for instead of raising
the carcass above the canoe, he sinks the canoe below the carcass, by
first filling the vessel nearly full of water; and then, after he has
got his freight aboard, he bales out the water with his gourd-shell.  He
at length succeeds in adjusting his load, and then paddles homeward with
his prize.

On arriving at his village,--if it be to the village he takes it,--he is
assisted in transporting the load by others of his tribe; but he does
not carry it to his own house,--for the Ottomacs are true socialists,
and the produce both of the chase and the fishery is the common property
of all.  The chief of the village, seated in front of his hut, receives
all that is brought home, and distributes it out to the various heads of
families,--giving to each in proportion to the number of mouths that are
to be fed.

The manati is flayed,--its thick hide, as already observed, serving for
many useful purposes; the strata of fat, or "blubber," which lies
beneath is removed, to be converted into oil; and finally, the flesh,
which is esteemed equal to pork, both in delicacy and flavour, is cut
into thin slices, either to be broiled and eaten at the time, or to be
preserved for a future occasion, not by salt, of which the Ottomac is
entirely ignorant, but by drying in the sun and smoking over a slow
fire.  Fish and the flesh of the alligator are similarly "cured;" and
when the process is carefully done, both will keep for months.

The alligator is captured in various ways: sometimes by a baited hook
with a strong cord attached,--sometimes he is killed by a stab of the
harpoon spear, and not unfrequently is he taken by a noose slipped over
his paw, the Ottomac diving fearlessly under him and adjusting the

Some of the Indian tribes will not eat the musky flesh of the alligator;
but the Ottomacs are not thus particular.  Indeed, these people refuse
scarce any article of food, however nasty or disagreeable; and it is a
saying among their neighbours--the Indians of other tribes--that
"nothing is too loathsome for the stomach of an Ottomac."

Perhaps the saying will be considered as perfectly true when we come to
describe a species of food which these people eat, and which, for a long
time, has rendered them famous--or rather infamous--under the
appellation of "dirt-eaters."  Of them it may literally be said that
they "eat dirt," for such, in reality, is one of their customs.

This singular practice is chiefly resorted to during those months in the
year when the rivers swell to their greatest height, and continue full.
At this time all fishing ceases, and the Ottomac finds it difficult to
obtain a sufficiency of food.  To make up for the deficiency, he fills
his stomach with a kind of unctuous clay, which he has already stored up
for the emergency, and of which he eats about a pound per diem!  It does
not constitute his sole diet, but often for several days together it is
the only food which passes his lips!  There is nothing nourishing in
it,--that has been proved by analysis.  It merely _fills_ the belly,--
producing a satiety, or, at least, giving some sort of relief from the
pangs of hunger.  Nor has it been observed that the Ottomac grows thin
or unhealthy on this unnatural viand: on the contrary, he is one of the
most robust and healthy of American Indians.

The earth which the Ottomac eats goes by the name of _poya_.  He does
not eat clay of every kind: only a peculiar sort which he finds upon the
banks of streams.  It is soft and smooth to the touch, and unctuous,
like putty.  In its natural state it is of a yellowish-grey colour; but,
when hardened before the fire, it assumes a tinge of red, owing to the
oxide of iron which is in it.

It was for a long time believed that the Ottomac mixed this clay with
cassava and turtle-oil, or some other sort of nutritive substance.  Even
Father Gumilla--who was credulous enough to believe almost anything--
could not "swallow" the story of the clay in its natural state, but
believed that it was prepared with some combination of farinha or fat.
This, however, is not the case.  It is a pure earth, containing
(according to the analysis of Vauquelin) silex and alumina, with three
or four per cent of lime!

This clay the Ottomac stores up, forming it into balls of several inches
in diameter; which; being slightly hardened before the fire, he builds
into little pyramids, just as cannon-balls are piled in an arsenal or
fortress.  When the Ottomac wishes to eat of the _poya_, he softens one
of the balls by wetting it; and then, scraping off as much as he may
require for his meal, returns the _poya_ to its place on the pyramid.

The dirt-eating does not entirely end with the falling of the waters.
The practice has begot a craving for it; and the Ottomac is not
contented without a little _poya_, even when more nutritious food may be
obtained in abundance.

This habit of eating earth is not exclusively Ottomac.  Other kindred
tribes indulge in it, though not to so great an extent; and we find the
same unnatural practice among the savages of New Caledonia and the
Indian archipelago.  It is also common on the west coast of Africa.
Humboldt believed it to be exclusively a tropical habit.  In this the
great philosopher was in error, since it is known to be practised by
some tribes of northern Indians on the frigid banks of the Mackenzie

When the floods subside, as already stated, the Ottomac lives better.
Then he can obtain both fish and turtles in abundance.  The former he
captures, both with hooks and nets, or shoots with his arrows, when they
rise near the surface.

The turtles of the Ottomac rivers are of two kinds the _arau_ and
_terecay_.  The former is the one most sought after, as being by far the
largest.  It is nearly a yard across the back, and weighs from fifty to
a hundred pounds.  It is a shy creature, and would be difficult to
capture, were it not for a habit it has of raising its head above the
surface of the water, and thus exposing the soft part of its throat to
the Indian's arrow.  Even then an arrow might fail to kill it; but the
Ottomac takes care to have the point well coated with _curare_ poison,
which in a few seconds does its work, and secures the death of the

The _terecay_ is taken in a different and still more ingenious manner.
This species, floating along the surface, or even when lying still,
presents no mark at which a shaft can be aimed with the slightest chance
of success.  The sharpest arrow would glance off its flat shelly back as
from a surface of steel.  In order, therefore, to reach the vitals of
his victim, the Indian adopts an expedient, in which he exhibits a
dexterity and skill that are truly remarkable.

He aims his shaft, not at the turtle, but up into the air, describing by
its course a parabolic curve, and so calculating its velocity and
direction that it will drop perpendicularly, point foremost, upon the
back of the unsuspecting swimmer, and pierce through the shell right
into the vital veins of its body!

It is rare that an Indian will fail in hitting such a mark; and, both on
the Orinoco and Amazon, thousands of turtles are obtained in this

The great season of Ottomac festivity and rejoicing, however, is that of
the _cosecha de tortugas_, or "turtle-crop."  As has been already
observed, in relation to the manati fishery, it is to him what the
harvest-home is to the nations of northern Europe, or the wine-gathering
to those of the south; for this is more truly the character of the
_cosecha_.  It is then that he is enabled, not only to procure a supply
of turtle-oil with which to lubricate his hair and skin, but he obtains
enough of this delicious grease wherewith to fry his dried slices of
manati and a surplus for sale to the turtle-traders from the Lower
Orinoco.  In this petty commerce no coin is required; harpoon spears,
and arrow-heads of iron, rude knives, and hatchets; but, above all, a
few cakes of _annotto_, _chica_, and _caruto_, are bartered in exchange
for the turtle-oil.  The thick hide of the manati,--for making
slave-whips,--the spotted skin of the jaguar, and some other pelts which
the chase produces, are also items of his export trade.

The pigments above mentioned have already been procured by the trader,
as the _export_ articles of commerce of some other tribe.

The turtle-oil is the product of the eggs of the larger species,--the
_arau_,--known simply by the name _tortuga_, or turtle.  The eggs of the
_terecay_ would serve equally as well; but, from a difference in the
habit of this animal, its eggs cannot be obtained in sufficient quantity
for oil-making.  There is no such thing as a grand "cosecha," or crop of
them--for the creature is not gregarious, like its congener, but each
female makes her nest apart from the others, in some solitary place, and
there brings forth her young brood.  Not but that the nests of the
_terecay_ are also found and despoiled of their eggs,--but this only
occurs at intervals; and as the contents of a single nest would not be
sufficient for a "churning," no "butter" can be made of them.  They are,
therefore, gathered to be used only as _eggs_, and not as _butter_.

The _arau_, on the other hand, although not gregarious under ordinary
circumstances, becomes pre-eminently so during the "laying season."
Then all the turtles in the Orinoco and its tributaries collect into
three or four vast gangs--numbering in all over a million of
individuals--and proceed to certain points of rendezvous which they have
been in the habit of visiting from time immemorial.  These common
breeding-places are situated between the cataracts of the river and the
great bend, where it meets the Apure; and are simply broad beaches of
sand, rising with a gentle slope from the edge of the water, and
extending for miles along the bank.  There are some small rookeries on
tributary streams, but the three most noted are upon the shores of the
main river, between the points already indicated.  That frequented by
the Ottomacs is upon an island, at the mouth of the Uruana River, upon
which these people principally dwell.

The laying season of the _arau_ turtle varies in the different rivers of
tropical America,--occurring in the Amazon and its tributaries at a
different period from that of the Orinoco.  It is regulated by the rise,
or rather the fall of the inundations; and takes place when the waters,
at their lowest stage, have laid bare the low sand-banks upon the
shores.  This occurs (in the Orinoco) in March, and early in this month
the great assemblages are complete.  For weeks before, the turtles are
seen, in all parts of the river near the intended breeding-places,
swimming about on the surface, or basking along the banks.  As the sun
grows stronger, the desire of depositing their eggs increases,--as
though the heat had something to do with their fecundation.  For some
time before the final action, the creatures may be seen ranged in a long
line in front of the breeding-place, with their heads and necks held
high above the water; as if contemplating their intended nursery, and
calculating the dangers to which they may be exposed.  It is not without
reason that they may dwell upon these.  Along the beach stalks the
lordly jaguar, waiting to make a meal of the first that may set his foot
on terra firma, or to fill his stomach with the delicious "new-laid"
eggs.  The ugly alligator, too, is equally _friand_ of a gigantic
omelette; and not less so the "garzas" (white cranes), and the "zamuros"
(black vultures), who hover in hundreds in the air.  Here and there,
too, may be observed an Indian sentinel, keeping as much as possible out
of sight of the turtles themselves, but endeavouring to drive off all
other enemies whose presence may give them fear.  Should a canoe or boat
appear upon the river, it is warned by these sentinels to keep well off
from the phalanx of the turtles,--lest these should be disturbed or
alarmed,--for the Indian well knows that if anything should occur to
produce a panic among the araus, his _cosecha_ would be very much
shortened thereby.

When at length the turtles have had sun enough to warm them to the work,
they crawl out upon the dry sand-beach, and the laying commences.  It is
at night that the operation is carried on: for then their numerous
enemies--especially the vultures--are less active.  Each turtle scoops
out a hole, of nearly a yard in diameter and depth; and having therein
deposited from fifty to one hundred eggs, it covers them up with the
sand, smoothing the surface, and treading it firmly down.  Sometimes the
individuals are so crowded as to lay in one another's nests, breaking
many of the eggs, and causing an inextricable confusion; while the
creaking noise of their shells rubbing against each other may be heard
afar off, like the rushing of a cataract.  Sometimes a number that have
arrived late, or have been slow at their work, continue engaged in it
till after daybreak, and even after the Indians have come upon the
ground--whose presence they no longer regard.  Impelled by the instinct
of philo-progenitiveness, these "mad turtles," as the Indians call them,
appear utterly regardless of danger, and make no effort to escape from
it; but are turned over on their backs, or killed upon the spot without

The beach being now deserted by the turtles, the egg-gatherers proceed
to their work.  As there are usually several tribes, who claim a share
in the _cosecha_, the ground is measured out, and partitioned among
them.  The regularity with which the nests are placed, and the number of
eggs in each being pretty nearly the same, an average estimate of the
quantity under a given surface is easily made.  By means of a pointed
stick thrust into the sand, the outline of the deposit is ascertained--
usually running along the beach in a strip of about thirty yards in

When the allotments are determined, the work of oil-making begins,--each
tribe working by itself, and upon the social system.  The covering of
sand is removed, and the eggs placed in baskets, which are then emptied
into large wooden troughs, as a common receptacle.  The canoes, drawn up
on the sand, are frequently made to do duty as troughs.  When a
sufficient number of eggs have been thrown in, they are broken and
pounded together, and whipped about, as if intended for a gigantic
omelette.  Water is added; and then the mixture is put into large
caldrons, and boiled until the oil comes to the top; after which it is
carefully skimmed off and poured into earthen jars ("botigas,") provided
by the traders.

It takes about two weeks to complete the operations, during which time
many curious scenes occur.  The sand swarms with young turtles about as
big as a dollar, which have been prematurely hatched; and have contrived
to crawl out of the shell.  These are chased in all directions, and
captured by the little naked Ottomacs, who devour them "body, bones, and
all," with as much gusto as if they were gooseberries.  The cranes and
vultures, and young alligators too, take a part in this by-play--for the
offspring of the poor arau has no end of enemies.

When the oil is all boiled and bottled, the trader displays his tempting
wares, and makes the best market he can; and the savage returns to his
palm-hut village,--taking with him the articles of exchange and a few
baskets of eggs, which he has reserved for his own eating; and so ends
the _cosecha de tortugas_.

It is in this season that the Ottomac indulges most in good living, and
eats the smallest quantity of dirt.  The waters afford him abundance of
fish and turtle-flesh, beef from the sea-cow, and steaks from the tail
of the alligator.  He has his turtle and manati-butter, in which to fry
all these dainties, and also to lubricate his hair and skin.

He can dress, too, "within an inch of his life," having obtained for his
oil a fresh supply of the precious pigments.  He indulges, moreover, in
fits of intoxication, caused by a beverage made from maize or manioc
root; but oftener produced by a species of snuff which he inhales into
his nostrils.  This is the _niopo_, manufactured from the leaves of a
_mimosa_, and mixed with a kind of lime, which last is obtained by
burning a shell of the genus _helix_, that is found in the waters of the
Orinoco.  The effect of the _niopo_ resembles that produced by chewing
_betel_, tobacco, opium, or the narcotic _coca_ of Peru.  When freely
taken, a species of intoxication or rather mania is produced; but this
snuff and its effects are more minutely described elsewhere.  It is here
introduced because, in the case of the Ottomac, the drug often produces
most baneful consequences.  During the continuance of his intoxication
the Ottomac is quarrelsome and disorderly.  He picks a hole in the coat
of his neighbour; but if there chance to be any "old sore" between him
and a rival, the vindictive feeling is sure to exhibit itself on these
occasions; and not unfrequently ends in an encounter, causing the death
of one or both of the combatants.  These duels are not fought either
with swords or pistols, knives, clubs, nor any similar weapons.  The
destruction of the victim is brought about in a very different manner;
and is the result of a very slight scratch which he has received during
the fight from the _nail_ of his antagonist.  That a wound of so
trifling a nature should prove mortal would be something _very_
mysterious, did we not know that the nail which inflicted that scratch
has been already enfiltrated with _curare_,--one of the deadliest of
vegetable poisons, which the Ottomac understands how to prepare in its
most potent and virulent form.

Should it ever be your unfortunate fate therefore, to get into a
"scrimmage" with an Ottomac Indian, you must remember to keep clear of
his "claws!"



Young reader, I need scarce tell you that the noblest of animals--the
horse--is not indigenous to America.  You already know that when
Columbus discovered the New World, no animal of the horse kind was found
there; and yet the geologist has proved incontestably that at one time
horses existed in the New World,--at a period too, geologically
speaking, not very remote.  The fossilised bones examined by one of the
most accomplished of modern travellers--Dr Darwin--establish this truth
beyond a doubt.

The horse that at present inhabits America, though not indigenous, has
proved a flourishing exotic.  Not only in a domestic state has he
increased in numbers, but he has in many places escaped from the control
of man, and now runs wild upon the great plains both of North and South
America.  Although you may find in America almost every "breed" of
horses known in Europe, yet the great majority belong to two very
distinct kinds.  The first of these is the large English horse, in his
different varieties, imported by the Anglo-Americans, and existing
almost exclusively in the woodland territory of the United States.  The
second kind is the Andalusian-Arab,--the horse of the Spanish
conquerors,--a much smaller breed than the English-Arabian, but quite
equal to him in mettle and beauty of form.  It is the Andalusian horse
that is found throughout all Spanish America,--it is he that has
multiplied to such a wonderful extent,--it is he that has "run wild."

That the horse in his normal state is a dweller upon open plains, is
proved by his habits in America,--for in no part where the forest
predominates is he found wild,--only upon the prairies of the north, and
the llanos and pampas of the south, where a timbered tract forms the

He must have found these great steppes congenial to his natural
disposition,--since, only a very short time after the arrival of the
Spaniards in the New World, we find the horse a runaway from
civilisation,--not only existing in a wild state upon the prairies, but
in possession of many of the Indian tribes.

It would be an interesting inquiry to trace the change of habits which
the possession of the horse must have occasioned among these Arabs of
the Western world.  However hostile they may have been to his European
rider, they must have welcomed the horse as a friend.  No doubt they
admired the bold, free spirit of the noble animal so analogous to their
own nature.  He and they soon became inseparable companions; and have
continued so from that time to the present hour.  Certain it is that the
prairie, or "horse Indians" of the present day, are in many respects
essentially different from the staid and stoical sons of the forest so
often depicted in romances; and almost equally certain is it, that the
possession of the horse has contributed much to this dissimilarity.  It
could not be otherwise.  With the horse new habits were introduced,--new
manners and customs,--new modes of thought and action.  Not only the
chase, but war itself, became a changed game,--to be played in an
entirely different manner.

We shall not go back to inquire what these Indians _were_ when afoot.
It is our purpose only to describe what they _are_ now that they are on
horseback.  Literally, may we say _on horseback_; for, unless at this
present writing they are asleep, we may safely take it for granted they
are upon the backs of their horses,--young and old of them, rich and
poor,--for there is none of them so poor as not to be the master of a
"mustang" steed.

In "Prairie-land" every tribe of Indians is in possession of the horse.
On the north the Crees, Crows, and Blackfeet, the Sioux, Cheyennes, and
Arapahoes; on the plains of the Platte, the Kansas, and Osage, we find
the Pawnees, the Kansas, and Osages,--all horse Indians.  West of the
great mountain range, the Apache is mounted: so likewise the Utah, the
Navajo, and the Snake, or Shoshonee,--the latter rather sparingly.
Other tribes, to a greater or less degree, possess this valuable animal;
but the true type of the "horse Indian" is to be found in the Comanche,
the lord of that wide domain that extends from the Arkansas to the Rio
Grande.  He it is who gives trouble to the frontier colonists of Texas,
and equally harasses the Spanish settlements of New Mexico; he it is who
carries his forays almost into the heart of New Spain,--even to the
gates of the populous Durango.

Regarding the Comanche, then, as the type of the horse Indians, we shall
speak more particularly of him.  Allowing for some slight difference in
the character of his climate and country, his habits and customs will be
found not very dissimilar to those of the other tribes who make the
prairie their home.

To say that the Comanche is the finest horseman in the world would be to
state what is not the fact.  He is not more excellent in this
accomplishment than his neighbour and bitter foeman, the Pawnee,--no
better than the "vaquero" of California, the "ranchero" of Mexico, the
"llanero" of Venezuela, the "gaucho" of Buenos Ayres, and the horse
Indians of the "Gran Chaco" of Paraguay, of the Pampas, and Patagonia.
He is _equal_, however, to any of these, and that is saying enough,--in
a word, that he takes rank among the finest horsemen in the world.

The Comanche is on horseback almost from the hour of infancy,--
transferred, as it were, from his mother's arms to the withers of a
mustang.  When able to walk, he is scarce allowed to practise this
natural mode of progression, but performs all his movements on the back
of a horse.  A Comanche would no more think of making a journey afoot--
even if it were only to the distance of a few hundred yards--than he
would of crawling upon his hands and knees.  The horse, ready saddled
and bridled, stands ever near,--it differs little whether there is
either saddle or bridle,--and flinging himself on the animal's back, or
his neck, or his croup, or hanging suspended along his side, the Indian
guides him to the destined spot, usually at a rapid gallop.  It is of no
consequence to the rider how fast the horse may be going: it will not
hinder him from mounting, or dismounting at will.  At any time, by
clutching the mane, he can spring upon the horse's shoulders,--just as
may be often seen in the arena of the circus.

The horse Indian is a true type of the _nomadic_ races,--a dweller in
tents, which his four-footed associate enables him to transport from
place to place with the utmost facility.  Some of the tribes, however,
and even some of the Comanches, have fixed residences, or "villages,"
where at a certain season of the year they--or rather their women--
cultivate the maize, the pumpkin, the melon, the calabash, and a few
other species of plants,--all being vegetable products indigenous to
their country.  No doubt, before the arrival of Europeans, this
cultivation was carried on more extensively than at present; but the
possession of the horse has enabled the prairie tribes to dispense with
a calling which they cordially contemn: the calling of the husbandman.

These misguided savages, one and all, regard agricultural pursuits as
unworthy of men; and wherever necessity compels them to practise them,
the work falls to the lot of the women and slaves,--for be it known that
the Comanche is a slave-owner; and holds in bondage not only Indians of
other tribes, but also a large number of mestizoes and whites of the
Spanish race, captured during many a sanguinary raid into the
settlements of Mexico!  It would be easy to show that it is this false
pride of being hunters and warriors, with its associated aversion for an
agricultural life, that has thinned the numbers of the Indian race--far
more than any persecution they have endured at the hands of the white
man.  This it is that starves them, that makes unendurable neighbours of
them, and has rendered it necessary in some instances to "civilise them
off the face of the earth."

But they are not yet all civilised from off the face of the earth; nor
is it their destiny to disappear so readily as short-seeing prophets
have declared.  Their idle habits and internecine wars have done much to
thin their numbers,--far more than the white man's hostility,--but
wherever the white man has stepped in and put a stop to their tribal
contentions,--wherever he has succeeded in conquering their aversion to
industrial pursuits,--the Indian is found not only to hold his ground,
but to increase rapidly in numbers.  This is the case with many
tribes,--Greeks, Choctaws, and Cherokees,--so that I can promise you,
young reader, that by the time you get to be an old man, there will be
as many Indians in the world as upon that day when Columbus first set
his foot upon "Cat" Island.

You will be inquiring how the horse could render the prairie Indian more
independent of agriculture?  The answer is simple.  With this valuable
auxiliary a new mode of subsistence was placed within his reach.  An
article of food, which he had hitherto been able to obtain only in a
limited quantity, was now procurable in abundance,--the flesh of the

The prairies of North America have their own peculiarities.  They are
not stocked with large droves of ruminant animals, as the plains of
Southern Africa,--where the simplest savage may easily obtain a dinner
of flesh-meat.  A few species of deer, thinly distributed,--all swift,
shy animals,--the prong-horn antelope, still swifter and shyer,--and the
"big-horn," shyest of all,--were the only ruminants of Prairie-land,
with the exception of the great bison, or buffalo, as he is generally
called.  But even this last was not so easily captured in those days.
The bison, though not a swift runner, is yet more than a match for the
biped man; and though the Indian might steal upon the great drove, and
succeed in bringing down a few with his arrows, it was not always a sure
game.  Moreover, afoot, the hunter could not follow the buffalo in its
grand migrations,--often extending for hundreds of miles across plains,
rivers, and ravines.  Once mounted, the circumstances became changed.
The Indian hunter could not only overtake the buffalo, but ride round
him at will, and pursue him, if need be, to the most distant parts of
Prairie-land.  The result, therefore, of the introduction of the horse
was a plentiful supply of buffalo-meat, or, when that failed, the flesh
of the horse himself,--upon which two articles of diet the prairie
Indian has almost exclusively subsisted ever since.

The Comanche has several modes of hunting the buffalo.  If alone, and he
wishes to make a grand _coup_, he will leave his horse at a distance,--
the animal being trained to remain where his master has left him.  The
hunter then approaches the herd with great caution, keeping to
leeward,--lest he might be "winded" by the old sentinel bulls who keep
watch.  Should there be no cover to shelter the approach of the hunter,
the result would be that the bulls would discover him; and, giving out
their bellow of alarm, cause the others to scamper off.

To guard against this, the Indian has already prepared himself by
adopting a _ruse_,--which consists in disguising himself in the skin of
a buffalo, horns and all complete, and approaching the herd, as if he
were some stray individual that had been left behind, and was just on
the way to join its fellows.  Even the motions of the buffalo, when
browsing, are closely imitated by the red hunter; and, unless the wind
be in favour of his being scented by the bulls, this device will insure
the success of a shot.  Sometimes the skin of the large whitish-grey
wolf is used in this masquerade with equal success.  This may appear
singular, since the animal itself is one of the deadliest enemies of the
buffalo: a large pack of them hanging on the skirts of every herd, and
patiently waiting for an opportunity to attack it.  But as this attack
is only directed against the younger calves,--or some disabled or
decrepit individual who may lag behind,--the strong and healthy ones
have no fear of the wolves, and permit them to squat upon the prairie
within a few feet of where they are browsing!  Indeed, they could not
hinder them, even if they wished: as the long-legged wolf in a few
springs can easily get out of the way of the more clumsy ruminant; and,
therefore, does not dread the lowering frontlet of the most shaggy and
ill-tempered bull in the herd.

Of course the hunter, in the guise of a wolf, obtains the like privilege
of close quarters; and, when he has arrived at the proper distance for
his purpose, he prepares himself for the work of destruction.  The bow
is the weapon he uses,--though the rifle is now a common weapon in the
hands of many of the horse Indians.  But the bow is preferred for the
species of "still hunting" here described.  The first crack of a rifle
would scatter the gang, leaving the hunter perhaps only an empty gun for
his pains; while an arrow at quarters is equally as deadly in its
effect; and, being a _silent_ weapon, no alarm is given to any of the
buffaloes, except that one which has felt the deadly shaft passing
through its vitals.

Often the animal thus shot--even when the wound is a mortal one--does
not immediately fall; but sinks gradually to the earth, as if lying down
for a rest.  Sometimes it gets only to its knees, and dies in this
attitude; at other times it remains a long while upon its legs,
spreading its feet widely apart, as if to prop itself up, and then
rocking from side to side like a ship in a ground-swell, till at last,
weakened by loss of blood, it yields its body to the earth.  Sometimes
the struggles of a wounded individual cause the herd to "stampede," and
then the hunter has to content himself with what he may already have
shot; but not unfrequently the unsuspicious gang keeps the ground till
the Indian has emptied his quiver.  Nay, longer than that: for it often
occurs that the disguised buffalo or wolf (as the case may be)
approaches the bodies of those that have fallen, recovers some of his
arrows, and uses them a second time with like deadly effect!  For this
purpose it is his practice, if the aim and distance favour him, to send
his shaft clear through the body of the bison, in order that the barb
may not hinder it from being extracted on the other side!  This feat is
by no means of uncommon occurrence among the buffalo-hunters of the

Of course, a grand wholesale slaughter of the kind just described is not
an everyday matter; and can only be accomplished when the buffaloes are
in a state of comparative rest, or browsing slowly.  More generally they
detect the dangerous counterfeit in time to save their skins; or else
keep moving too rapidly for the hunter to follow them on foot.  His only
resource, then, is to ride rapidly up on horseback, fire his arrows
without dismounting, or strike the victim with his long lance while
galloping side by side with it.  If in this way he can obtain two or
three fat cows, before his horse becomes _blown_, or the herd scatters
beyond his reach, he considers that he has had good success.

But in this kind of chase the hunter is rarely alone: the whole tribe
takes part in it; and, mounted on their well-trained mustangs, often
pursue the buffalo gangs for, an hour or more, before the latter can get
off and hide themselves in the distance, or behind the swells of the
prairie.  The clouds of dust raised in a _melee_ of this kind often
afford the buffalo a chance of escaping,--especially when they are
running _with_ the wind.

A "buffalo surround" is effected by a large party of hunters riding to a
great distance; deploying themselves into a circle around the herd; and
then galloping inward with loud yells.  The buffaloes, thus attacked on
all sides, become frightened and confused, and are easily driven into a
close-packed mass, around the edges of which the mounted hunters wheel
and deliver their arrows, or strike those that try to escape, with their
long spears.  Sometimes the infuriated bulls rush upon the horses, and
gore them to death; and the hunters, thus dismounted, often run a narrow
risk of meeting with the same fate,--more than a risk, for not
unfrequently they are killed outright.  Often are they obliged to leap
up on the croup of a companion's horse, to get out of the way of danger;
and many instances are recorded where a horseman, by the stumbling of
his horse, has been pitched right into the thick of the herd, and has
made his escape by mounting on the backs of the bulls themselves, and
leaping from one to another until he has reached clear ground again.

The buffalo is never captured in a "pound," as large mammalia are in
many countries.  He is too powerful a creature to be imprisoned by
anything but the strongest stockade fence; and for this the prairie
country does not afford materials.  A contrivance, however, of a
somewhat similar character is occasionally resorted to by various tribes
of Indians.  When it is known that the buffaloes have become habituated
to range in any part of the country, where the plain is intersected by
deep ravines,--_canons_, or _barrancas_, as they are called,--then a
grand _battue_ is got up by driving the animals pellmell over the
precipitous bluffs, which universally form the sides of these singular
ravines.  To guide the herd to the point where it is intended they
should take the fatal leap, a singular contrivance is resorted to.  This
consists in placing two rows of objects--which appear to the buffalo to
be human beings--in such a manner that one end of each row abuts upon
the edge of the precipice, not very distant from the other, while the
lines extend far out into the plain, until they have diverged into a
wide and extensive funnel.  It is simply the contrivance used for
guiding animals into a pound; but, instead of a pair of close log
fences, the objects forming these rows stand at a considerable distance
apart; and, as already stated, appear to the not very discriminating eye
of the buffalo to be human beings.  They are in reality designed to
resemble the human form in a rude fashion; and the material out of which
they are constructed is neither more nor less than the dung of the
buffaloes themselves,--the _bois de vache_, as it is called, by the
Canadian trappers, who often warm their shins, and roast their buffalo
ribs over a fire of this same material.

The decoy being thus set, the mounted hunters next make a wide sweep
around the prairie,--including in their deployment such gangs of
buffaloes as may be browsing between their line and the mouth of the
funnel.  At first the buffaloes are merely guided forward, or driven
slowly and with caution,--as boys in snow-time often drive larks toward
their snares.  When the animals, however, have entered between the
converging lines of mock men, a rush, accompanied by hideous yells, is
made upon them from behind: the result of which is, that they are
impelled forward in a headlong course towards the precipice.

The buffalo is, at best, but a half-blind creature.  Through the long,
shaggy locks hanging over his frontlet he sees objects in a dubious
light, or not at all.  He depends more on his scent than his sight; but
though he may scent a living enemy, the keenness of his organ does not
warn him of the yawning chasm that opens before him,--not till it is too
late to retire: for although he may perceive the fearful leap before
taking it, and would willingly turn on his track, and refuse it, he
finds it no longer possible to do so.  In fact, he is not allowed time
for reflection.  The dense crowd presses from behind, and he is left no
choice, except that of springing forward or suffering himself to be
tumbled over upon his head.  In either case it is his last leap; and,
frequently, the last of a whole crowd of his companions.

With such persecutions, I need hardly say that the buffaloes are
becoming scarcer every year; and it is predicted that at no distant
period this really valuable mammal will be altogether extinct.  At
present their range is greatly contracted within the wide boundaries
which it formerly occupied.  Going west from the Mississippi,--at any
point below the mouth of the Missouri,--you will not meet with buffalo
for the first three hundred miles; and, though the herds formerly ranged
to the south and west of the Rio Grande, the Comanches on the banks of
that river no longer know the buffalo, except by their excursions to the
grand prairie far to the north of their country.  The Great Slave Lake
is the northern terminus of the buffalo range; and westward the chain of
the Rocky Mountains; but of late years stray herds have been observed at
some points west of these,--impelled through the passes by the
hunter-pressure of the horse Indians from the eastward.  Speculators
have adopted several ingenious and plausible reasons to account for the
diminution of the numbers of the buffalo.  There is but one cause worth
assigning,--a very simple one too,--the horse.

With the disappearance of the buffalo,--or perhaps with the thinning of
their numbers,--the prairie Indians may be induced to throw aside their
roving habits.  This would be a happy result both for them and their
neighbours; though it is even doubtful whether it might follow from such
a circumstance.  No doubt some change would be effected in their mode of
life; but unfortunately these Bedouins of the Western world can live
upon the horse, even if the buffalo were entirely extirpated.  Even as
it is, whole tribes of them subsist almost exclusively upon horse-flesh,
which they esteem and relish more than any other food.  But this
resource would, in time, also fail them; for they have not the economy
to raise a sufficient supply for the demand that would occur were the
buffaloes once out of the way: since the _caballadas_ of wild mustangs
are by no means so easy to capture as the "gangs" of unwieldy and
lumbering buffaloes.

It is to be hoped, however, that before the horse Indians have been put
to this trial, the strong arm of civilisation shall be extended over
them, and, withholding them from those predatory incursions, which they
annually make into the Mexican settlements, will induce them to
_dismount_, and turn peaceably to the tillage of the soil,--now so
successfully practised by numerous tribes of their race, who dwell in
fixed and flourishing homes upon the eastern border of the prairies.

At this moment, however, the Comanches are in open hostility with the
settlers of the Texan frontier.  The _lex talionis_ is in active
operation while we write, and every mail brings the account of some
sanguinary massacre, or some act of terrible retaliation.  The deeds of
blood and savage cruelty practised alike by both sides--whites as well
as Indians--have had their parallel, it is true, but they are not the
less revolting to read about.  The colonists have suffered much from
these Ishmaelites of the West,--these lordly savages, who regard
industry as a dishonourable calling; and who fancy that their vast
territory should remain an idle hunting-ground, or rather a fortress, to
which they might betake themselves during their intervals of war and
plundering.  The colonists have a clear title to the land,--that title
acknowledged by all right-thinking men, who believe the good of the
majority must not be sacrificed to the obstinacy of the individual, or
the minority,--that title which gives the right to remove the dwelling
of the citizen,--his very castle,--rather than that the public way be
impeded.  All admit this right; and just such a title has the Texan
colonist to the soil of the Comanche.  There may be guilt in the _mode_
of establishing the claim,--there may have been scenes of cruelty, and
blood unnecessarily spilt,--but it is some consolation to know that
there has occurred nothing yet to parallel in cold-blooded atrocity the
annals of Algiers, or the similar acts committed in Southern Africa.
The crime of _smoke-murder_ is yet peculiar to Pellisier and Potgieter.

In their present outbreak, the Comanches have exhibited but a poor,
short-sighted policy.  They will find they have committed a grand error
in mistaking the courageous colonists of Texas for the weak Mexicans,--
with whom they have long been at war, and whom they have almost
invariably conquered.  The result is easily told: much blood may be shed
on both sides, but it is sure to end as all such contests do; and the
Comanche, like the Caffre, must "go to the wall."  Perhaps it is better
that things should be brought to a climax,--it will certainly be better
for the wretched remnant of the Spano-Americans dwelling along the
Comanche frontiers,--a race who for a hundred years have not known

As this long-standing hostility with the Mexican nation has been a
predominant feature in the history of the Comanche Indian, it is
necessary to give some account of how it is usually carried on.  There
was a time when the Spanish nation entertained the hope of
_Christianising_ these rude savages,--that is, taming and training them
to something of the condition to which they have brought the Aztec
descendants of Montezuma,--a condition scarce differing from slavery
itself.  As no gold or silver mines had been discovered in Texas, it was
not their intention to make mine-labourers of them; but rather peons, or
field-labourers, and tenders of cattle,--precisely as they had done, and
were still doing, with the tribes of California.  The soldier and the
sword had proved a failure,--as in many other parts of Spanish
America,--in fact, everywhere, except among the degenerated remnants of
monarchical misrule found in Mexico, Bogota, and Peru.  In these
countries was encountered the _debris_ of a declining civilisation, and
not, as is generally believed, the children of a progressive
development; and of course they gave way,--as the people of all
corrupted monarchies must in the end.

It was different with the "Indios bravos," or warrior tribes, still free
and independent,--the so-called _savages_.  Against these the soldier
and the sword proved a complete failure; and it therefore became
necessary to use the other kind of conquering power,--the monk and his
cross.  Among the Comanches this kind of conquest had attained a certain
amount of success.  Mission-houses sprung up through the whole province
of Texas,--the Comanche country,--though the new neophytes were not
altogether Comanches, but rather Indians of other tribes who were less
warlike.  Many Comanches, however, became converts; and some of the
"missiones" became establishments on a grand scale,--each having,
according to Spanish missionary-fashion, its "presidio," or garrison of
troops, to keep the new believers within sound of the bell, and to hunt
and bring them back, whenever they endeavoured to escape from that
Christian vassalage for which they had too rashly exchanged their pagan

All went well, so long as Spain was a power upon the earth, and the
Mexican viceroyalty was rich enough to keep the presidios stocked with
troopers.  The monks led as jolly a life as their prototypes of "Bolton
Abbey in the olden time."  The neophytes were simply their slaves,
receiving, in exchange for the sweat of their brow, baptism, absolution,
little pewter crucifixes, and various like valuable commodities.

But there came a time when they grew tired of the exchange, and longed
for their old life of roving freedom.  Their brethren had obtained the
horse; and this was an additional attraction which a prairie life
presented.  They grew tired of the petty tricks of the Christian
superstition,--to their view less rational than their own,--they grew
tired of the toil of constant work, the childlike chastisements
inflicted, and sick of the sound of that ever-clanging clapper,--the
bell.  In fine, they made one desperate effort, and freed themselves

The grand establishment of San Saba, on the river of the same name, fell
first.  The troops were abroad on some convert-hunting expedition.  The
Comanches entered the fort,--their tomahawks and war-clubs hidden under
their great robes of buffalo-hide: the attack commenced, and ended only
with the annihilation of the settlement.

One monk alone escaped the slaughter,--a man renowned for his holy zeal.
He fled towards San Antonio, pursued by a savage band.  A large river
coursed across the route it was necessary for him to take; but this did
not intercept him: its waters opened for a moment, till the bottom was
bare from bank to bank.  He crossed without wetting his feet.  The waves
closed immediately behind him, offering an impassable barrier to his
pursuers, who could only vent their fury in idle curses!  But the monk
could curse too.  He had, perhaps, taken some lessons at the Vatican;
and, turning round, he anathematised every "mother's son" of the
red-skinned savages.  The wholesale excommunication produced a wonderful
effect.  Every one of the accursed fell back where he stood, and lay
face upward upon the plain, dead as a post!  The monk, after baptising
the river "Brazos de Dios" (arm of God), continued his flight, and
reached San Antonio in safety,--where he duly detailed his miraculous
adventure to the credulous converts of Bejar, and the other missions.

Such is the supposed origin of the name Brazos de Dios, which the second
river in Texas bears to this day.  It is to be remarked, however, that
the river crossed by the monk was the present Colorado, not the Brazos:
for, by a curious error of the colonists, the two rivers have made an
exchange of titles!

The Comanches--freed from missionary rule, and now equal to their
adversaries by possession of the horse--forthwith commenced their
plundering expeditions; and, with short intervals of truce,--periods _en
paz_,--have continued them to the present hour.  All Northern and
Western Texas they soon recovered; but they were not content with
territory: they wanted horses and cattle and chattels, and white wives
and slaves; and it would scarce be credited, were I to state the number
of these they have taken within the last half-century.  Nearly every
year they have been in the habit of making an expedition to the Mexican
settlements of the provinces Tamaulipas, New Leon, and Chihuahua,--every
expedition a fresh conquest over their feeble and corrupt adversaries.
On every occasion they have returned with booty, consisting of horses,
cattle, sheep, household utensils, and, sad to relate, human captives.
Women and children only do they bring back,--the men they kill upon
sight.  The children may be either male or female,--it matters not
which, as these are to be adopted into their tribe, to become future
warriors; and, strange to relate, many of these, when grown up, not only
refuse to return to the land of their birth, but prove the most bitter
and dangerous foes to the people from whom they have sprung!  Even the
girls and women, after a period, become reconciled to their new home,
and no longer desire to leave it.  Some, when afterwards discovered and
ransomed by their kindred, have refused to accept the conditions, but
prefer to continue the savage career into which misfortune has
introduced them!  Many a heartrending scene has been the consequence of
such apparently unnatural predilections.

You would wonder why such a state of things has been so long submitted
to by a civilised people; but it is not so much to be wondered at.  The
selfishness that springs from constant revolutions has destroyed almost
every sentiment of patriotism in the Mexican national heart; and,
indeed, many of these captives are perhaps not much worse off under the
guardianship of the brave Comanches than they would have been, exposed
to the petty tyranny and robber-rule that has so long existed in Mexico.
Besides, it is doubtful whether the Mexican government, with all her
united strength, could retake them.  The Comanche country is as
inaccessible to a regular army as the territory of Timbuctoo; and it
will give even the powerful republic of the north no small trouble to
reduce these red freebooters to subjection.  Mexico had quite despaired
of being able to make an effort; and in the last treaty made between her
and the United States, one of the articles was a special agreement on
the part of the latter to restrain the Comanches from future forays into
the Mexican states, and also cause them to deliver up the Mexican
captives then in the hands of the Indians!

It was computed that their number at the time amounted to four thousand!
It is with regret I have to add, that these unfortunates are still held
in bondage.  The great republic, too busy with its own concerns, has not
carried out the stipulations of the treaty; and the present Comanche war
is but the result of this criminal negligence.  Had energetic measures
been adopted at the close of the Mexico-American war, the Comanche would
not now be harrying the settlers of Texas.

To prove the incapacity of the Mexicans to deal with this warlike race,
it only needs to consider the present condition of the northern Mexican
states.  One half the territory in that extensive region has returned to
the condition of a desert.  The isolated "ranchos" have been long since
abandoned,--the fields are overgrown with weeds,--and the cattle have
run wild or been carried off by the Comanches.  Only the stronger
settlements and large fortified haciendas any longer exist; and many of
these, too, have been deserted.  Where children once played in the
security of innocence,--where gaily-dressed cavaliers and elegant ladies
amused themselves in the pleasant _dia de campo_, such scenes are no
longer witnessed.  The rancho is in ruins,--the door hangs upon its
hinge, broken and battered, or has been torn off to feed the camp-fire
of the savage; the dwelling is empty and silent, except when the howling
wolf or coyote wakes up the echoes of its walls.

About ten years ago, the proud governor of the state of Chihuahua--one
of the most energetic soldiers of the Mexican republic--had a son taken
captive by the Comanches.  Powerful though this man was, he knew it was
idle to appeal to arms; and was only too contented to recover his child
by paying a large ransom!  This fact, more than a volume of words, will
illustrate the condition of unhappy Mexico.

The Comanche leads a gay, merry life,--he is far from being the Indian
of Cooper's description.  In scarcely any respect does he resemble the
sombre son of the forest.  He is lively, talkative, and ever ready for a
laugh.  His butt is the Mexican presidio soldier, whom he holds in too
just contempt.  He is rarely without a meal.  If the buffalo fails him,
he can draw a steak from his spare horses, of which he possesses a large
herd: besides, there are the wild mustangs, which he can capture on
occasions.  He has no work to do except war and hunting: at all other
times he has slaves to wait upon him, and perform the domestic drudgery.
When idle, he sometimes bestows great pains upon his dress,--which is
the usual deer-skin tunic of the prairie Indian, with mocassins and
fringed leggings.  Sometimes a head-dress of plumes is worn; sometimes
one of the skin of the buffalo's skull, with the horns left on!  The
robe of buffalo pelt hangs from his shoulders, with all the grandeur of
a toga; but when he proceeds on a plundering expedition, all these
fripperies are thrown aside, and his body appears naked from the waist
to the ears.  Then only the breech-clout is worn, with leggings and
mocassins on his legs and feet.  A coat of scarlet paint takes the place
of the hunting-shirt,--in order to render his presence more terrific in
the eyes of his enemy.  It needs not this.  Without any disguise, the
sight of him is sufficiently horrifying,--sufficiently suggestive of
"blood and murder."



The vast plain known as the "Pampas" is one of the largest tracts of
level country upon the face of the earth.  East and west it stretches
from the mouth of the Rio de la Plata to the foothills of the Andes
mountains.  It is interrupted on the north by a series of mountains and
hill country, that cross from the Andes to the Paraguay River, forming
the Sierras of Mendoza, San Luis, and Cordova; while its southern
boundary is not so definitely marked, though it may be regarded as
ending at the Rio Negro, where it meets, coming up from the south, the
desert plains of Patagonia.

Geologically, the Pampas (or plains, as the word signifies, in the
language of the Peruvian Indians) is an alluvial formation,--the bed of
an ancient sea,--upheaved by some unknown cause to its present
elevation, which is not much above the ocean-level.  It is not,
therefore, a _plateau_ or "tableland," but a vast natural meadow.  The
soil is in general of a red colour, argillaceous in character, and at
all points filled with marine shells and other testimonies that the sea
once rolled over it.  It is in the Pampas formation that many of the
fossil monsters have been found,--the gigantic megatherium, the colossal
_mylodon_, and the giant armadillo (_glyptodon_), with many other
creatures, of such dimensions as to make it a subject of speculation how
the earth could have produced food enough for their maintenance.

In giving to the Pampas the designation of a _vast meadow_, do not
suffer yourself to be misled by this phrase,--which is here and
elsewhere used in rather a loose and indefinite manner.  Many large
tracts in the Pampas country would correspond well enough to this
definition,--both as regards their appearance and the character of the
herbage which covers them; but there are other parts which bear not the
slightest resemblance to a meadow.  There are vast tracts thickly
covered with tall thistles,--so tall as to reach to the head of a man
mounted on horseback, and so thickly set, that neither man nor horse
could enter them without a path being first cleared for them.

Other extensive tracts are grown over with tall grass so rank as to
resemble reeds or rushes more than grass; and an equally extensive
surface is timbered with small trees, standing thinly and without
underwood, like the fruit-trees in an orchard.  Again, there are wide
morasses and extensive lakes, many of them brackish, and some as salt as
the sea itself.  In addition to these, there are "salinas," or plains of
salt,--the produce of salt lakes, whose waters have evaporated, leaving
a stratum of pure salt often over a foot in thickness, and covering
their beds to an extent of many square leagues.  There are some parts,
too, where the Pampas country assumes a sterile and stony character,--
corresponding to that of the great desert of Patagonia.  It is not
correct therefore, to regard the Pampas as one unbroken tract of
_meadow_.  In one character alone is it uniform in being a country
without mountains,--or any considerable elevations in the way of ridges
or hills,--though a few scattered sierras are found both on its northern
and southern edges.

The _Thistle Pampas_, as we take the liberty of naming them, constitute
perhaps the most curious section of this great plain; and not the less
so that the "weed" which covers them is supposed not to be an indigenous
production, but to have been carried there by the early colonists.
About this, however, there is a difference of opinion.  No matter whence
sprung, the thistles have flourished luxuriantly, and at this day
constitute a marked feature in the scenery of the Pampas.  Their
position is upon the eastern edge of the great plain, contiguous to the
banks of the La Plata; but from this river they extend backwards into
the interior, at some points to the distance of nearly two hundred
miles.  Over this vast surface they grow so thickly that, as already
mentioned, it is not possible for either man or horse to make way
through them.  They can only be traversed by devious paths--already
formed by constant use, and leading through narrow lanes or glades,
where, for some reason, the thistles do not choose to grow.  Otherwise
they cannot be entered even by cattle.  These will not, unless
compelled, attempt penetrating such an impervious thicket; and if a herd
driven along the paths should chance to be "stampeded" by any object of
terror, and driven to take to the thistles, scarce a head of the whole
flock can ever afterwards be recovered.  Even the instincts of the dumb
animals do not enable them to find their way out again; and they usually
perish, either from thirst, or by the claws of the fierce pumas and
jaguars, which alone find themselves at home in the labyrinthine
"_cardonales_."  The little _viscacha_ contrives to make its burrow
among them, and must find subsistence by feeding upon their leaves and
seed, since there is no other herbage upon the ground,--the well-armed
thistle usurping the soil, and hindering the growth of any other plants.
It may be proper to remark, however, that there are two kinds of these
plants, both of which cover large tracts of the plain.  One is a true
thistle, while the other is a weed of the artichoke family, called by
the Spanish Americans "cardoon."  It is a species of _Cardunculus_.  The
two do not mingle their stalks, though both form thickets in a similar
manner and often in the same tract of country.  The cardoon is not so
tall as the thistle; and, being without spines, its "beds" are more
easily penetrated; though even among these, it would be easy enough to
get entangled and lost.

It is proper to remark here, that these thistle-thickets do not shut up
the country all the year round.  Only for a season,--from the time they
have grown up and "shoot," till their tall ripened stalks wither and
fall back to the earth, where they soon moulder into decay.  The plains
are then open and free to all creatures,--man among the rest,--and the
Gaucho, with his herds of horses, horned cattle, and sheep, or the
troops of roving Indians, spread over and take possession of them.

The young thistles now present the appearance of a vast field of
turnips; and their leaves, still tender, are greedily devoured by both
cattle and sheep.  In this condition the Pampas thistles remain during
their short winter; but as spring returns, they once more "bristle" up,
till, growing taller and stouter, they present a _chevaux-de-frise_ that
at length expels all intruders from their domain.

On the western selvage of this thistle tract lies the grass-covered
section of the Pampas.  It is much more extensive than that of the
"cardonales,"--having an average width of three hundred miles, and
running longitudinally throughout the whole northern and southern
extension of the Pampas.  Its chief characteristic is a covering of
coarse grass,--which at different seasons of the year is short or tall,
green, brown, or yellowish, according to the different degrees of
ripeness.  When dry, it is sometimes fired,--either by design or
accident,--as are also the withered stems of the thistles; and on these
occasions a conflagration occurs, stupendous in its effects,--often
extending over vast tracts, and reducing everything to black ashes.
Nothing can be more melancholy to the eye than the aspect of a burnt

The grass section is succeeded by that of the "openings," or scanty
forests, already mentioned; but the trees in many places are more
closely set; assuming the character of thickets, or "jungles."  These
tracts end among the spurs of the Andes,--which, at some points, are
thrown out into the plain, but generally rise up from it abruptly and by
a well-defined border.

The marshes and bitter lakes above mentioned are the produce of numerous
streams, which have their rise in the Great Cordillera of the Andes, and
run eastward across the Pampas.  A few of these, that trend in a
southerly direction, reach the Atlantic by means of the two great
outlets,--the "Colorado" and "Negro."  All the others--and "their name
is legion"--empty their waters into the morasses and lakes, or sink into
the soil of the plains, at a greater or less distance from the
Cordillera, according to the body of water they may carry down.
Evaporation keeps up the equilibrium.

Who are the dwellers upon the Pampas?  To whom does this vast
pasture-ground belong?  Whose flocks and herds are they that browse upon

You will be told that the Pampas belong to the republic of Buenos Ayres,
or rather to the "States of the Argentine Confederation,"--that they are
inhabited by a class of citizens called "Gauchos," who are of Spanish
race, and whose sole occupation is that of herdsmen, breeders of cattle
and horses,--men famed for their skill as horsemen, and for their
dexterity in the use of the "lazo" and "bolas,"--two weapons borrowed
from the aboriginal races.

All this is but partially true.  The proprietorship of this great plain
was never actually in the hands of the Buenos-Ayrean government, nor in
those of their predecessors,--the Spaniards.  Neither has ever owned
it--either by conquest or otherwise:--no further than by an empty boast
of ownership; for, from the day when they first set foot upon its
borders to the present hour, neither has ever been able to cross it, or
penetrate any great distance into it, without a grand army to back their
progress.  But their possession virtually ceased at the termination of
each melancholy excursion; and the land relapsed to its original owners.
With the exception of some scanty strips along its borders, and some
wider ranges, thinly occupied by the half-nomade Gauchos, the Pampas are
in reality an Indian territory, as they have always been; and the claim
of the white man is no more than nominal,--a mere title upon the map.
It is not the only vast expanse of Spanish American soil that _never was

The true owners of the Pampas, then, are the red aborigines,--the Pampas
Indians; and to give some account of these is now our purpose.

Forming so large an extent, it is not likely it should all belong to one
united tribe,--that would at once elevate them into the character of a
nation.  But they are not united.  On the contrary, they form several
distinct associations, with an endless number of smaller subdivisions or
communities,--just in the same way as it is among their prairie cousin
of the north.  They may all, however, be referred to four grand tribal
associations or nationalities,--the _Pehuenches_, _Puelches_,
_Picunches_, and _Ranqueles_.

Some add the _Puilliches_, who dwell on the southern rim of the Pampas;
but these, although they extend their excursions over a portion of the
great plain, are different from the other Pampas Indians in many
respects,--altogether a braver and better race of men, and partaking
more of the character of the Patagonians,--both in point of _physique_
and _morale_,--of which tribes, indeed, they are evidently only a
branch.  In their dealings with white men, when fairly treated, these
have exhibited the same noble bearing which characterises the true
Patagonian.  I shall not, therefore, lower the standard--neither of
their bodies nor their minds--by classing them among "Pampas Indians."

Of these tribes--one and all of them--we have, unfortunately, a much
less favourable impression; and shall therefore be able to say but
little to their credit.

The different names are all native.  _Puelches_ means the people living
to the east, from "_puel_," east, and _che_, people.  The _Picunches_
derive this appellation, in a similar fashion, from "_picun_,"
signifying the north.  The _Pehuenches_ are the people of the pine-tree
country, from "_pehuen_," the name for the celebrated "Chili pine"
(_Araucaria_); and the _Ranqueles_ are the men who dwell among the
thistles, from _ranquel_, a thistle.

These national appellations will give some idea of the locality which
each tribe inhabits.  The _Ranqueles_ dwell, not among the thistles,--
for that would be an unpleasant residence, even to a red-skin; but along
the western border of this tract.  To the westward of them, and up into
the clefts of the Cordilleras extends the country of the Pehuenches; and
northward of both lies the land of the Picunches.  Their boundary in
that direction _should be_ the frontiers of the _quasi-civilised_
provinces of San Luis and Cordova, but they are _not_; for the Picunche
can at will extend his plundering forays as far north as he pleases:
even to _dovetailing_ them into the similar excursions of his _Guaycuru_
kinsmen from the "Gran Chaco" on the north.

The Puelche territory is on the eastern side of the Pampas, and south
from Buenos Ayres.  At one time these people occupied the country to the
banks of the La Plata; and no doubt it was they who first met the
Spaniards in hostile array.  Even up to a late period their forays
extended almost to Buenos Ayres itself; but Rosas, tyrant as he may have
been, was nevertheless a true soldier, and in a grand military
expedition against them swept their country, and inflicted such a
terrible chastisement upon both them and the neighbouring tribes, as
they had not suffered since the days of Mendoza.  The result has been a
retirement of the Puelche frontier to a much greater distance from
Buenos Ayres; but how long it may continue stationary is a question,--no
longer than some strong arm--such as that of Rosas--is held
threateningly over them.

It is usual to inquire whence come a people; and the question has been
asked of the Pampas Indians.  It is not difficult to answer.  They came
from the land of Arauco.  Yes, they are the kindred of that famed people
whom the Spaniards could never subdue,--even with all their strength put
forth in the effort.  They are near kindred too,--the Pehuenches
especially,--whose country is only separated from that of the
Araucanians by the great Cordillera of Chili; and with whom, as well as
the Spaniards on the Chilian side, they have constant and friendly

But it must be admitted, that the Araucanians have had far more than
their just meed of praise.  The romantic stories, in that endless epic
of the rhymer Ercilla, have crept into history; and the credulous Molina
has endorsed them: so that the true character of the Araucanian Indian
has never been understood.  Brave he has shown himself, beyond doubt, in
defending his country against Spanish aggression; but so, too, has the
Carib and Guaraon,--so, too, has the Comanche and Apache, the Yaqui of
Sonora, the savage of the Mosquito shore, the Guaycuru of the Gran
Chaco, and a score of other Indian tribes,--in whose territory the
Spaniard has never dared to fix a settlement.  Brave is the Araucanian;
but, beyond this, he has few virtues indeed.  He is cruel in the
extreme,--uncivil and selfish,--filthy and indolent,--a polygamist in
the most approved fashion,--a very tyrant over his own,--in short,
taking rank among the beastliest of semi-civilised savages,--for it may
be here observed, that he is not exactly what is termed a _savage_: that
is, he does not go naked, and sleep in the open air.  On the contrary,
he clothes himself in stuff of his own weaving,--or rather, that of his
slave-wives,--and lives in a hut which they build for him.  He owns
land, too,--beautiful fields,--of which he makes no use: except to
browse a few horses, and sheep, and cattle.  For the rest, he is too
indolent to pursue agriculture; and spends most of his time in drinking
_chicha_, or tyrannising over his wives.  This is the heroic Araucanian
who inhabits the plains and valleys of Southern Chili.

Unfortunately, by passing to the other side of the Andes, he has not
improved his manners.  The air of the Pampas does not appear to be
conducive to virtue; and upon that side of the mountains it can scarce
be said to exist,--even in the shape of personal courage.  The men of
the pines and thistles seem to have lost this quality, while passing
through the snows of the Cordilleras, or left it behind them, as they
have also left the incipient civilisation of their race.  On the Pampas
we find them once more in the character of the true savage: living by
the chase or by plunder; and bartering the produce of the latter for the
trappings and trinkets of personal adornment, supplied them by the
unprincipled white trader.  Puelches and Picunches, Pehuenches and
Ranqueles, all share this character alike,--all are treacherous,
quarrelsome, and cowardly.

But we shall now speak more particularly of their customs and modes of
life, and we may take the "pine people" as our text,--since these are
supposed to be most nearly related to the true Araucanians,--and,
indeed, many of their "ways" are exactly the same as those of that
"heroic nation."

The "people of the pines" are of the ordinary stature of North-American
Indians, or of Europeans; and their natural colour is a dark coppery
hue.  But it is not often you can see them in their natural colour: for
the Pampas Indians, like nearly all the aboriginal tribes, are
"painters."  They have pigments of black and white, blue, red, and
yellow,--all of which they obtain from different coloured stones, found
in the streams of the Cordilleras.  "Yama," they call the black stone;
"colo," the red; "palan," the white; and "codin," the blue; the yellow
they obtain from a sort of argillaceous earth.  The stones of each
colour they submit to a rubbing or grinding process, until a quantity of
dust is produced; which, being mixed with suet, constitutes the paint,
ready for being laid on.

The Pampas Indians do not confine themselves to any particular
"escutcheon."  In this respect their fancy is allowed a wide scope, and
their fashions change.  A face quite black, or red, is a common
countenance among them; and often may be seen a single band, of about
two inches in width, extending from ear to ear across the eyes and nose.
On war excursions they paint hideous figures: not only on their own
faces and bodies, but on their trappings, and even upon the bodies of
their horses,--aiming to render themselves as appalling as possible in
the sight of their enemies.  The same trick is employed by the warriors
of the prairies, as well as in many other parts of the world.  Under
ordinary circumstances, the Pampas Indian is not a _naked_ savage.  On
the contrary, he is well clad; and, so far from obtaining the material
of his garments from the looms of civilised nations, he weaves it for
himself,--that is, his wives weave it; and in such quantity that he has
not only enough for his own "wear," but more than enough, a surplus for
trade.  The cloth is usually a stuff spun and woven from sheep's wool.
It is coarse, but durable; and in the shape of blankets or "ponchos," is
eagerly purchased by the Spanish traders.  Silver spurs, long, pointed
knives, lance-heads, and a few other iron commodities, constitute the
articles of exchange, with various ornamental articles, as beads, rings,
bracelets, and large-headed silver bodkins to fasten their cloaks around
the shoulders of his "ladies."  Nor is he contented with mere tinsel, as
other savages are,--he can tell the difference between the real metal
and the counterfeit, as well as the most expert assayer; and if he
should fancy to have a pair of silver spurs, not even a Jew peddler
could put off upon him the plated "article."  In this respect the
Araucanian Indian has been distinguished, since his earliest intercourse
with Europeans; and his Pampas kindred are equally subtle in their

The Pampas Indian, when well dressed, has a cloak upon his shoulders of
the thick woollen stuff already described.  It is usually woven in
colours; and is not unlike the "poncho" worn by the "gauchos" of Buenos
Ayres, or the "serape" of the Mexicans.  Besides the cloak, his dress
consists of a mere skirt,--also of coloured woollen stuff, being an
oblong piece swathed around his loins, and reaching to the knee.  A sash
or belt--sometimes elaborately ornamented--binds the cloth around the
waist.  Boots of a peculiar construction complete the costume.  These
are manufactured in a very simple manner.  The fresh skin taken from a
horse's hind leg is drawn on--just as if it were a stocking--until the
heel rests in that part which covered the hock-joint of the original
wearer.  The superfluous portion is then trimmed to accommodate itself
as a covering for the foot; and the boot is not only finished, but put
on,--there to remain until it is worn out, and a new one required!  If
it should be a little loose at first, that does not matter.  The hot
sun, combined with the warmth of the wearer's leg, soon contracts the
hide, and brings it to "fit like a glove."  The head is often left
uncovered; but as often a sort of skullcap or helmet of horse-skin is
worn; and not unfrequently a high, conical hat of palm fibre.  This last
is not a native production, but an importation of the traders.  So also
is a pair of enormous rings of brass, which are worn in the ears; and
are as bulky as a pair of padlocks.  In this costume, mounted on
horseback with his long lance in hand, the Pampas Indian would be a
picturesque, object; and really is so, when _clean_; but that is only on
the very rarest occasions,--only when he has donned a new suit.  At all
other times, not only his face and the skin of his body, but every rag
upon his back, are covered with grease and filth,--so as to produce an
effect rather "tatterdemalion" than picturesque.

The "squaw" is costumed somewhat differently.  First, she has a long
"robe," which covers her from neck to heels, leaving only her neck and
arms bare.  The robe is of red or blue woollen stuff of her own weaving.
This garment is the "quedeto."  A belt, embroidered with beads, called
"quepique," holds it around the waist, by means of a large silver
buckle.  This belt is an article, of first fashion.  Over the shoulders
hangs the "iquilla," which is a square piece of similar stuff,--but
usually of a different dye; and which is fastened in front by a pin with
a large silver head, called the "tupo."  The shock of thick, black
hair--after having received the usual anointment of mare's tallow, the
fashionable hair-oil of the Pampas Indians--is kept in its place by a
sort of cap or _coiffure_, like a shallow dish inverted, and bristling
all over with trader's beads.  To this a little bell is fastened; or
sometimes a brace of them are worn as earrings.  These tinkle so
agreeably in the ears of the wearer, that she can scarce for a moment
hold her head at rest, but keeps rocking it from side to side, as a
Spanish coquette would play with her fan.

In addition to this varied wardrobe, the Pampas belle carries a large
stock of bijouterie,--such as beads and bangles upon her neck, rings and
circlets upon her arms, ankles, and fingers; and, to set her snaky locks
in order, she separates them by means of a stiff brush, made from the
fibrous roots of a reed.  _She_ is _picturesque_ enough, but never
_pretty_.  Nature has given the Araucanian woman a plain face; and all
the adornment in the world cannot hide its homeliness.

The Pehuenche builds no house.  He is a true nomade, and dwells in a
tent, though one of the rudest construction.  As it differs entirely
from the tent of the prairie Indians, it may be worth while describing

Its framework is of reeds,--of the same kind as are used for the long
lances so often mentioned; and which resemble _bambusa_ canes.  They
grow in plenty throughout the Pampas, especially near the mountains,--
where they form impenetrable thickets on the borders of the marshy
lakes.  Any other flexible poles will serve as well, when the canes are
not "handy."

The poles being procured, one is first bent into a semicircle, and in
this shape both ends are stuck into the ground, so as to form an arch
about three feet in height.  This arch afterwards becomes the doorway or
entrance to the tent.  The remaining poles are attached to this first
one at one end, and at right angles; and being carried backward with a
slight bend, their other ends are inserted into the turf.  This forms
the skeleton of the tent; and its covering is a horse-skin, or rather a
number of horse-skins stitched together, making a sort of large
tarpaulin.  The skins are sewed with the sinews of the horse or ox,--
which are first chewed by the women, until their fibres become separated
like hemp, and are afterwards spun by them into twine.

The tent is not tall enough to admit of a man standing erect; and in it
the Pehuenche crouches, whenever it snows, rains, or blows cold.  He has
sheep-skins spread to sleep upon, and other skins to serve as
bed-clothes,--all in so filthy a condition, that but for the cold, he
might find it far more comfortable to sleep in the open air.  He never
attempts to sweep out this miserable lair; but when the spot becomes
_very_ filthy, he "takes up his sticks" and shifts his penates to a
fresh "location."  He is generally, however, too indolent to make a
"remove,"--until the dirt has accumulated so as to "be in the way."

The Pampas Indian is less of a hunter than most other tribes of savages.
He has less need to be,--at least, in modern days; for he is in
possession of three kinds of valuable domestic animals, upon which he
can subsist without hunting,--horses, horned cattle, and sheep.  Of
course, these are of colonial origin.  He hunts, nevertheless, for
amusement, and to vary his food.  The larger ostrich (_rhea Americana_),
the guanaco, and the great "gama" stag of the Pampas (_cervus
campestris_) are his usual game.  These he captures with the _bolas_,--
which is his chief implement for the chase.  In the flesh of the stag he
may find a variety, but not a delicacy.  Its venison would scarce tempt
a Lucullian palate,--since even the hungriest Gaucho will not eat it.
It is a large beast, often weighing above three hundred pounds; and
infecting the air with such a rank odour, that dogs decline to follow it
in the chase.  This odour is generated in a pair of glands situated near
the eyes; and it has the power of projecting it at will,--just as skunks
and polecats when closely chased by an enemy.  If these glands are cut
out immediately after the animal is killed, the flesh tastes well
enough: otherwise it is too rank to be eatable.  The Indians cure it of
the "bad smell" by burying it for several days in the ground; which has
the effect of "sweetening" it, while at the same time it makes it more

But the Pampas Indian does not rely upon the chase for his subsistence.
He is a small grazier in his way; and is usually accompanied in his
wanderings by a herd of horned cattle and sheep.  He has also his stud
of horses; which furnish the staple of his food,--for whenever he
hungers, a horse is "slaughtered."  Strictly speaking, it is not a
horse, for it is the mare that is used for this purpose.  In no part of
the Pampas region,--not even in the white settlement,--are the mares
used for riding.  It would be considered derogatory to the character of
either Gaucho or Indian to mount a mare; and these are kept only for
breeding purposes.  Not that the Indian is much of a horse-breeder.  He
keeps up his stock in quite another way,--by stealing.  The same remark
will apply to the mode by which he recruits his herds of horned cattle,
and his flocks of sheep.  The last he values only for their wool; out of
which his garments are woven; and which has replaced the scantier fleece
of the vicuna and guanaco,--the material used by him in days gone by.

From whom does he steal these valuable animals,--and in such numbers as
almost to subsist upon them?  That is a question that can be easily
answered; though it is not exact language to say that he steals them.
Rather say that he _takes_ them, by main force and in open daylight,--
takes them from the Creole Spaniard,--the Gaucho and _estanciero_.  Nay,
he does not content himself always with four-footed plunder; but often
returns from his forays with a crowd of captives,--women and children,
with white skins and ruddy cheeks,--afterwards to be converted into his
drudges and slaves.  Not alone to the frontier does he extend these
plundering expeditions; but even into the heart of the Spanish
settlements,--to the estancias of grandees, and the gates of fortified
towns; and, strange as it may read, this condition of things has been in
existence, not for years, but, at intervals, extending over a century!

But what may read stranger still--and I can vouch for it as true--is,
that _white men_ actually purchase this plunder from him,--not the human
part of it, but the four-footed and the _furniture_,--for this, too,
sometimes forms part of his booty.  Yes, the surplus, of which the
Indian can make no use or cares nothing about,--more especially the
large droves of fine horses, taken from the Spaniards of Buenos Ayres,--
are driven through the passes of the Cordilleras, and sold to the
Spaniards of Chili! the people of one province actually encouraging the
robbery of their kindred race in another!  The very same condition of
things exists in North America.  The Comanche, steals, or rather takes,
from the white settler of Tamaulipas and New Leon,--the Apache rieves
from the white settler of Chihuahua and Sonora: both sell to the white
settlers, who dwell along the banks of the Rio del Norte!  And all these
settlers are of one race,--one country,--one kindred!  These things have
hitherto been styled _cosas de Mexico_.  Their signification may be
extended to South America: since they are equally _cosas de las Pampas_.

We are not permitted to doubt the truth of these appalling facts,--
neither as regards the nefarious traffic, nor the captive women and
children.  At this very hour, not less than four thousand individuals of
Spanish-Mexican race are held captives by the prairie tribes; and when
Rosas swept the Pampas, he released fifteen hundred of similar
unfortunates from their worse than Egyptian taskmasters,--the Puelches!

With such facts as these before our eyes, who can doubt the decline of
the Spanish power? the utter enfeeblement of that once noble race?  Who
can contradict the hypothetical prophecy--more than once offered in
these pages--that if the two races be left to themselves, the
aboriginal, before the lapse of a single century, will once more recover
the soil; and his haughty victor be swept from the face of the American

Nor need such a change be too keenly regretted.  The Spanish occupation
of America has been an utter failure.  It has served no high human
purpose, but the contrary.  It has only corrupted and encowardiced a
once brave and noble race; and, savage as may be the character of that
which would supplant it, still that savage has within him the elements
of a future civilisation.

Not so the Spaniard.  The fire of his civilisation has blazed up with a
high but fitful gleam.  It has passed like the lightning's flash.  Its
sparks have fallen and died out,--never to be rekindled again.



It is now pretty generally known that there are many _deserts_ in North
America,--as wild, waste, and inhospitable as the famed Sahara of
Africa.  These deserts occupy a large portion of the central regions of
that great continent--extending, north and south, from Mexico to the
shores of the Arctic Sea; and east and west for several hundred miles,
on each side of the great vertebral chain of the Rocky Mountains.  It is
true that in the vast territory thus indicated, the desert is not
continuous; but it is equally true that the fertile stripes or valleys
that intersect it, bear but a very small proportion to the whole
surface.  Many tracts are there, of larger area than all the British
Islands, where the desert is scarce varied by an oasis, and where the
very rivers pursue their course amidst rocks and barren sands, without a
blade of vegetation on their banks.  Usually, however, a narrow selvage
of green--caused by the growth of cotton woods, willows, and a few
humbler plants--denotes the course of a stream,--a glad sight at all
times to the weary and thirsting traveller.

These desert wastes are not all alike, but differ much in character.  In
one point only do they agree,--they are all _deserts_.  Otherwise they
exhibit many varieties,--both of aspect and nature.  Some of them are
level plains, with scarce a hill to break the monotony of the view: and
of this character is the greater portion of the desert country extending
eastward from the Rocky Mountains to about 100 degrees of west
longitude.  At this point the soil gradually becomes more fertile,--
assuming the character of timbered tracts, with prairie opening
between,--at length terminating in the vast, unbroken forests of the

This eastern desert extends parallel with the Rocky Mountains,--
throughout nearly the whole of their length,--from the Rio Grande in
Mexico, northward to the Mackenzie River.  One tract of it deserves
particular mention.  It is that known as the _llano estacado_, or
"staked plain," It lies in North-western Texas, and consists of a barren
plateau, of several thousand square miles in extent, the surface of
which is raised nearly a thousand feet above the level of the
surrounding plains.  Geologists have endeavoured to account for this
singular formation, but in vain.  The table-like elevation of the Llano
estacado still remains a puzzle.  Its name, however, is easier of
explanation.  In the days of Spanish supremacy over this part of
Prairie-land, caravans frequently journeyed from Santa Fe in New Mexico,
to San Antonio in Texas.  The most direct route between these two
provincial capitals lay across the Llano estacado; but as there were
neither mountains nor other landmarks to guide the traveller, he often
wandered from the right path,--a mistake that frequently ended in the
most terrible suffering from thirst, and very often in the loss of life.
To prevent such catastrophes, stakes were set up at such intervals as
to be seen from one another, like so many "telegraph posts;" and
although these have long since disappeared, the great plain still bears
the name, given to it from this circumstance.

Besides the contour of surface, there are other respects in which the
desert tracts of North America differ from one another.  In their
vegetation--if it deserves the name--they are unlike.  Some have no
vegetation whatever; but exhibit a surface of pure sand, or sand and
pebbles; others are covered with a stratum of soda, of snow-white
colour, and still others with a layer of common salt, equally white and
pure.  Many of these salt and soda "prairies"--as the trappers term
them--are hundreds of square miles in extent.  Again, there are deserts
of scoria, of lava, and pumice-stone,--the "cut-rock prairies" of the
trappers,--a perfect contrast in colour to the above mentioned.  All
these are absolutely without vegetation of any sort.

On some of the wastes--those of southern latitudes,--the cactus appears
of several species, and also the wild agave, or "pita" plant; but these
plants are in reality but emblems of the desert itself.  So, also, is
the _yucca_, which thinly stands over many of the great plains, in the
south-western part of the desert region,--its stiff, shaggy foliage in
no way relieving the sterile landscape, but rather rendering its aspect
more horrid and austere.

Again, there are the deserts known as "chapparals,"--extensive jungles
of brush and low trees, all of a thorny character; among which the
"mezquite" of several species (_mimosas_ and _acacias_), the
"stink-wood" or _creosote plant_ (_kaeberlinia_), the "grease-bush"
(_obione canescens_), several kinds of _prosopis_, and now and then, as
if to gratify the eye of the tired traveller, the tall flowering spike
of the scarlet _fouquiera_.  Further to the north--especially throughout
the upper section of the Great Salt Lake territory--are vast tracts,
upon which scarce any vegetation appears, except the _artemisia_ plant,
and other kindred products of a sterile soil.

Of all the desert tracts upon the North-American continent, perhaps none
possesses greater interest for the student of cosmography than that
known as the "Great Basin."  It has been so styled from the fact of its
possessing a hydrographic system of its own,--lakes and rivers that have
no communication with the sea; but whose waters spend themselves within
the limits of the desert itself, and are kept in equilibrium by
evaporation,--as is the case with many water systems of the continents
of the Old World, both in Asia and Africa.

The largest lake of the "Basin" is the "Great Salt Lake,"--of late so
celebrated in Mormon story: since near its southern shore the chief city
of the "Latter-day Saints" is situated.  But there are other large lakes
within the limits of the Great Basin, both fresh and saline,--most of
them entirely unconnected with the Great Salt Lake, and some of them
having a complete system of waters of their own.  There are "Utah" and
"Humboldt," "Walker's" and "Pyramid" lakes, with a long list of others,
whose names have been but recently entered upon the map, by the numerous
very intelligent explorers employed by the government of the United

Large rivers, too, run in all directions through this central desert,
some of them falling into the Great Salt Lake, as the "Bear" river, the
"Weber," the "Utah," from Utah Lake,--upon which the Mormon metropolis
stands,--and which stream has been absurdly baptised by these
free-living fanatics as the "Jordan?"  Other rivers are the
"Timpanogos," emptying into Lake Utah; the "Humboldt," that runs to the
lake of that name; the "Carson" river; besides many of lesser note.

The limits assigned to the Great Basin are tolerably well-defined.  Its
western rim is the _Sierra Nevada_, or "snowy range" of California;
while the Rocky and Wahsatch mountains are its boundaries on the east.
Several cross-ranges, and spurs of ranges, separate it from the system
of waters that empty northward into the Columbia River of Oregon; while
upon its southern edge there is a more indefinite "divide" between it
and the great desert region of the western "Colorado."  Strictly
speaking, the desert of the Great Basin might be regarded as only a
portion of that vast tract of sterile, and almost treeless soil, which
stretches from the Mexican state of Sonora to the upper waters of
Oregon; but the deserts of the Colorado on the south, and those of the
"forks" of the Columbia on the north, are generally treated as distinct
territories; and the Great Basin, with the limits already assigned, is
suffered to stand by itself.  As a separate country, then, we shall here
consider it.

From its name, you might fancy that the Great Basin was a low-lying
tract of country.  This, however, is far from being the case.  On the
contrary, nearly all of it is of the nature of an elevated tableland,
even its lakes lying several thousand feet above the level of the sea.
It is only by its "rim," of still more elevated mountain ridges, that it
can lay claim to be considered as a "basin;" but, indeed, the name--
given by the somewhat speculative explorer, Fremont--is not very
appropriate, since later investigations show that this rim is in many
places neither definite nor regular,--especially on its northern and
southern sides, where the "Great Basin" may be said to be badly cracked,
and even to have some pieces chipped out of its edge.

Besides the mountain chains that surround it, many others run into and
intersect it in all directions.  Some are spurs of the main ranges;
while others form "sierras"--as the Spaniards term them--distinct in
themselves.  These sierras are of all shapes and of every altitude,--
from the low-lying ridge scarce rising above the plain, to peaks and
summits of over ten thousand feet in elevation.  Their forms are as
varied as their height.  Some are round or dome-shaped; others shoot up
little turrets or "needles;" and still others mount into the sky in
shapeless masses,--as if they had been flung upon the earth, and upon
one another, in some struggle of Titans, who have left them lying in
chaotic confusion.  A very singular mountain form is here observed,--
though it is not peculiar to this region, since it is found elsewhere,
beyond the limits of the Great Basin, and is also common in many parts
of Africa.  This is the formation known among the Spaniards as _mesas_,
or "table-mountains," and by this very name it is distinguished among
the colonists of the Cape.

The _Llano estacado_, already mentioned, is often styled a "mesa," but
its elevation is inconsiderable when compared with the _mesa_ mountains
that occur in the regions west of the great Rocky chain,--both in the
Basin and on the deserts of the Colorado.  Many of these are of great
height,--rising several thousand feet above the general level; and, with
their square truncated _table-like_ tops, lend a peculiar character to
the landscape.

The characteristic vegetation of the Great Basin is very similar to that
of the other central regions of the North-American continent.  Only near
the banks of the rivers and some of the fresh-water lakes, is there any
evidence of a fertile soil; and even in these situations the timber is
usually scarce and stunted.  Of course, there are tracts that are
exceptional,--oases, as they are geographically styled.  Of this
character is the country of the Mormons on the Jordan, their settlements
on the Utah and Bear Rivers, in Tuilla and Ogden valleys, and elsewhere
at more remote points.  There are also isolated tracts on the banks of
the smaller streams and the shores of lakes not yet "located" by the
colonist; and only frequented by the original dwellers of the desert,
the red aborigines.  In these oases are usually found cottonwood-trees,
of several distinct species,--one or other of which is the
characteristic, vegetation on nearly every stream from the Mississippi
to the mountains of California.

Willows of many species also appear; and now and then, in stunted forms,
the oak, the elm, maples, and sycamores.  But all these last are very
rarely encountered within the limits of the desert region.  On the
mountains, and more frequently in the mountain ravines pines of many
species--some of which produce edible cones--grow in such numbers as to
merit the name of forests, of greater or less extent.  Among these, or
apart from them, may be distinguished the darker foliage of the cedar
(_Juniperus_) of several varieties, distinct from the _juniperus
virginiana_ of the States.

The arid plains are generally without the semblance of vegetation.  When
any appears upon them, it is of the character of the "chapparal,"
already described; its principal growth being "tornilla," or
"screw-wood," and other varieties of _mezquite_; all of them species of
the extensive order of the _leguminosae_, and belonging to the several
genera of _acacias_, _mimosas_, and _robinias_.  In many places
_cactacae_ appear of an endless variety of forms; and some,--as the
"pitahaya" (_cereus giganteus_), and the "tree" and "cochineal" cacti
(_opuntias_),--of gigantesque proportions.  These, however, are only
developed to their full size in the regions further south,--on the
deserts of the Colorado and Gila,--where also the "tree yuccas" abound,
covering tracts of large extent, and presenting the appearance of
forests of palms.

Perhaps the most characteristic vegetation of the Great Basin--that is,
if it deserve the name of a vegetation--is the wild sage, or
_artemisia_.  With this plant vast plains are covered, as far as the eye
can reach; not presenting a hue of green, as the grass prairies do, but
a uniform aspect of greyish white, as monotonous as if the earth were
without a leaf to cover it.  Instead of relieving the eye of the
traveller, the artemisia rather adds to the dreariness of a desert
landscape,--for its presence promises food neither to man nor horse, nor
water for them to drink, but indicates the absence of both.  Upon the
hill-sides also is it seen, along the sloping declivities of the
sierras, marbling the dark volcanic rocks with its hoary frondage.

More than one species of this wild sage occurs throughout the American
desert: there are four or five kinds, differing very considerably from
each other, and known to the trappers by such names as "wormwood,"
"grease-bush," "stink-plant," and "rabbit-bush."  Some of the species
attain to a considerable height,--their tops often rising above the head
of the traveller on horseback,--while another kind scarce reaches the
knee of the pedestrian.

In some places the plains are so thickly covered with this vegetation,
that it is difficult for either man or horse to make way through them,--
the gnarled and crooked branches twisting into each other and forming an
impenetrable wattle.  At other places, and especially where the larger
species grow, the plants stand apart like apple-trees in an orchard, and
bear a considerable resemblance to shrubs or small trees.

Both man and horse refuse the artemisia as food; and so, too, the less
fastidious mule.  Even a donkey will not eat it.  There are animals,
however,--both birds and beasts, as will be seen hereafter,--that relish
the sage-plant; and not only eat of it, but subsist almost exclusively
on its stalks, leaves, and berries.

The denizens of the Great Basin desert--I mean its human denizens--are
comprehended in two great families of the aboriginal race,--the _Utahs_
and _Snakes_, or _Shoshonees_.  Of the white inhabitants--the Mormons
and trap-settlers--we have nothing to say here.  Nor yet much respecting
the above-mentioned Indians, the Utahs and Snakes.  It will be enough
for our purpose to make known that these two tribes are distinct from
each other,--that there are many communities or sub-tribes of both,--
that each claims ownership of a large tract of the central region, lying
between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada; and that their limits
are not coterminal with those of the Great Basin: since the range of the
Snakes extends into Oregon upon the north, while that of the Utahs runs
down into the valley of the Rio del Norte upon the south.  Furthermore,
that both are in possession of the horse,--the Utahs owning large
numbers,--that both are of roving and predatory habits, and quite as
wicked and warlike as the generality of their red brethren.

They are also as well to do in the world as most Indians; but there are
many degrees in their "civilisation," or rather in the comforts of their
life, depending upon the situation in which they may be placed.  When
dwelling upon a good "salmon-stream," or among the rocky mountain
"parks," that abound in game, they manage to pass a portion of the year
in luxuriant abundance.  In other places, however, and at other times,
their existence is irksome enough,--often bordering upon actual

It may be further observed, that the Utahs and Snakes usually occupy the
larger and more fertile oases of the desert,--wherever a tract is found
of sufficient size to subsist a community.  With this observation I
shall dismiss both these tribes; for it is not of them that our present
sketch is intended to treat.

This is specially designed for a far _odder_ people than either,--for
the _Yamparicos_, or "Root-diggers;" and having described their country,
I shall now proceed to give some account of themselves.

It may be necessary here to remark that the name "Diggers," has of late
been very improperly applied,--not only by the settlers of California,
but by some of the exploring officers of the United States government.
Every tribe or community throughout the desert, found existing in a
state of special wretchedness, has been so styled; and a learned
ethnologist (!), writing in the "Examiner," newspaper, gravely explains
the name, by deriving it from the gold-diggers of California!  This
"conceit" of the London editor is a palpable absurdity,--since the
Digger Indians were so designated, long before the first gold-digger of
California put spade into its soil.  The name is of "trapper" origin;
bestowed upon these people from the observation of one of their most
common practices,--viz, the _digging for roots_, which form an essential
portion of their subsistence.  The term "yamparico," is from a Spanish
source, and has a very similar meaning to that of "Root-digger."  It is
literally "Yampa-rooter," or "Yampa-root eater," the root of the "yampa"
(_anethum graviolens_) being their favourite food.  The true "Diggers"
are not found in California west of the Sierra Nevada; though certain
tribes of ill-used Indians in that quarter are called by the name.  The
great deserts extending between the Nevada and the Rocky Mountains are
their locality; and their limits are more or less cotemporaneous with
those of the Shoshonees or Snakes, and the Utahs,--of both of which
tribes they are supposed to be a sort of outcast kindred.  This
hypothesis, however, rests only on a slight foundation: that of some
resemblance in habits and language, which are very uncertain _criteria_
where two people dwell within the same boundaries,--as, for instance,
the whites and blacks in Virginia.  In fact, the language of the Diggers
can scarce be called a language at all: being a sort of gibberish like
the growling of a dog, eked out by a copious vocabulary of signs: and
perhaps, here and there, by an odd word from the Shoshonee or Utah,--not
unlikely, introduced by the association of the Diggers with these
last-mentioned tribes.

In the western and southern division of the Great Basin, the Digger
exists under the name of _Paiute_, or more properly, _Pah-Utah_,--
so-called from his supposed relationship with the tribe of the Utahs.
In some respects the Pah-Utahs differ from the Shoshokee, or
Snake-Diggers; though in most of their characteristic habits they are
very similar to each other.  There might be no anomaly committed by
considering them as one people; for in personal appearance and habits of
life the Pah-Utah, and the "Shoshokee"--this last is the national
appellation of the yampa-eater,--are as like each other as _eggs_.  We
shall here speak however, principally of the Shoshokees: leaving it to
be understood, that their neighbours the "Paiutes" will equally answer
the description.

Although the Shoshokees, as already observed, dwell within the same
limits as their supposed kindred the Shoshonees, they rarely or never
associate with the latter.  On the contrary, they keep well out of their
way,--inhabiting only those districts of country where the larger
Shoshonee communities could not dwell.  The very smallest oasis, or the
tiniest stream, affords all the fertility that is required for the
support of a Digger family; and rarely are these people found living
more than one, or at most, two or three families together.  The very
necessity of their circumstances precludes the possibility of a more
extensive association; for on the deserts where they dwell, neither the
earth nor the air, nor yet the water, affords a sufficient supply of
food to support even the smallest "tribe."  Not in tribes, then, but in
single families, or little groups of two or three, do the Digger Indians
dwell,--not in the larger and more fertile valleys, but in those small
and secluded; in the midst of the sage-plains, or more frequently in the
rocky defiles of the mountains that stand thickly over the "Basin."

The Shoshokee is no _nomade_, but the very reverse.  A single and
isolated mountain is often the abode of his group or family; and beyond
this his wanderings extend not.  There he is at home, knowing every nook
and rat-hole in his own neighbourhood; but as ignorant of the world
beyond as the "sand-rats" themselves,--whose pursuit occupies the
greater portion of his time.

In respect to his "settled" mode of life, the _Shoshokee_ offers a
striking contrast to the _Shoshonee_.  Many of the latter are Indians of
noble type,--warriors who have tamed the horse, and who extend their
incursions, both hunting and hostile, into the very heart of the Rocky
Mountains,--up their fertile valleys, and across their splendid "parks,"
often bringing back with them the scalps of the savage and redoubtable

Far different is the character of the wretched Shoshokee,--the mere
semblance of a human being,--who rarely strays out of the ravine in
which he was brought forth; and who, at sight of a human face--be it of
friend or enemy--flies to his crag or cave like a hunted beast!

The Pah-Utah Diggers, however, are of a more warlike disposition; or
rather a more wicked and hostile one,--hostile to whites, or even to
such other Indians as may have occasion to travel through the deserts
they inhabit.  These people are found scattered throughout the whole
southern and south-western portion of the Great Basin,--and also in the
north-western part of the Colorado desert,--especially about the Sevier
River, and on several of the tributaries of the great Colorado itself of
the west It was through this part of the country that the caravans from
California to New Mexico used to make their annual "trips,"--long before
Alta Calafornia became a possession of the United States,--and the route
by which they travelled is known as the _Spanish trail_.  The object of
these caravans was the import of horses, mules, and other animals,--from
the fertile valleys of the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers, to the
more sterile settlements of New Mexico.  Several kinds of goods were
also carried into these interior countries.

This Spanish trail was far from running in a direct line.  The sandy,
waterless plain--known more particularly as the Colorado desert--could
not be crossed with safety, and the caravan-route was forced far to the
north; and entered within the limits of the Great Basin--thus bringing
it through the county inhabited by the Pah-Utah Diggers.  The
consequence was, that these savages looked out annually for its arrival;
and, whenever an opportunity offered, stole the animals that accompanied
it, or murdered any of the men who might be found straggling from the
main body.  When bent on such purposes, these Diggers for a time threw
aside their solitary habits,--assembling in large bands of several
hundred each, and following the caravan travellers, like wolves upon the
track of a gang of buffaloes.  They never made their attacks upon the
main body, or when the white men were in any considerable force.  Only
small groups who had lagged behind, or gone too rashly in advance, had
to fear from these merciless marauders,--who never thought of such a
thing as making captives, but murdered indiscriminately all who fell
into their hands.  When horses or mules were captured, it was never done
with the intention of keeping them to ride upon.  Scarcely ever do the
Pah-Utahs make such a use of the horse.  Only for food were these stolen
or plundered from their owners; and when a booty of this kind was
obtained, the animals were driven to some remote defile among the
mountains, and there slaughtered outright.  So long as a morsel of horse
or mule flesh remained upon the bones, the Diggers kept up a scene of
feasting and merriment--precisely similar to the _carnivals_ of the
African Bushmen, after a successful foray upon the cattle of the Dutch
settlers near the Cape.  Indeed there is such a very striking
resemblance between the Bushmen of Africa and these Digger Indians of
North America; that, were it not for the distinction of race, and some
slight differences in personal appearance, they might pass as one
people.  In nearly every habit and custom, the two people resemble each
other; and in many mental characteristics they appear truly identical.

The Pah-Utah Diggers have not yet laid aside their hostile and predatory
habits.  They are at the present hour engaged in plundering forays,--
acting towards the emigrant trains of Californian adventurers just as
they did towards the Spanish caravans.  But they usually meet with a
very different reception from the more daring Saxon travellers, who
constitute the "trains" now crossing their country; and not unfrequently
a terrible punishment is the reward of their audacity.  For all that,
many of the emigrants, who have been so imprudent as to travel in small
parties, have suffered at their hands, losing not only their property,
but their lives; since hundreds of the bravest men have fallen by the
arrows of these insignificant savages!  Even the exploring parties of
the United States government, accompanied by troops, have been attacked
by them; and more than one officer has fallen a victim to their
Ishmaelitish propensities.

It is not in open warfare that there is any dread of them.  The smallest
party of whites need not fear to encounter a hundred of them at once;
but their attacks are made by stealth, and under cover of the night;
and, as soon as they have succeeded in separating the horses or other
animals from the travellers' camp, they drive them off so adroitly that
pursuit is impossible.  Whenever a grand blow has been struck--that is,
a traveller has been murdered--they all disappear as if by magic; and
for several days after not one is to be seen, upon whom revenge might be
taken.  The numerous "smokes," rising up out of the rocky defiles of the
mountains, are then the only evidence that human beings are in the
neighbourhood of the travellers' camp.

The Digger is different from other North-American Indians,--both in
physical organisation and intellectual character.  So low is he in the
scale of both, as to dispute with the African Bushman, the Andaman
Islander, and the starving savage of Tierra del Fuego, the claim to that
point in the transition, which is supposed to separate the monkey from
the man.  It has been variously awarded by ethnologists, and I as one
have had my doubts, as to which of the three is deserving of the
distinction.  Upon mature consideration, however, I have come to the
conclusion that the Digger is entitled to it.

This miserable creature is of a dark-brown or copper colour,--the hue so
generally known as characteristic of the American aborigines.  He stands
about five feet in height,--often under but rarely over this standard,--
and his body is thin and meagre, resembling that of a frog stretched
upon a fish-hook.  The skin that covers it--especially that of an old
Digger--is wrinkled and corrugated like the hide of an Asiatic
rhinoceros,--with a surface as dry as parched buck-skin.  His feet,
turned in at the toes,--as with all the aborigines of America,--have
some resemblance to human feet; but in the legs this resemblance ends.
The lower limbs are almost destitute of calves, and the knee-pans are of
immense size,--resembling a pair of pads or callosities, like those upon
goats and antelopes.  The face is broad and angular, with high
cheek-bones; the eyes small, black, and sunken, and sparkle in their
hollow sockets, not with true intelligence, but that sort of vivacity
which may often be observed in the lower animals, especially in several
species of monkeys.  Throughout the whole physical composition of the
Digger, there is only one thing that appears luxuriant,--and that is his
hair.  Like all Indians he is amply endowed in this respect, and long,
black tresses--sometimes embrowned by the sun, and matted together with
mud or other filth--hang over his naked shoulders.  Generally he crops

In the summer months, the Digger's costume is extremely simple,--after
the fashion of that worn by our common parents, Adam and Eve.  In
winter, however, the climate of his desert home is rigorous in the
extreme,--the mountains over his head, and the plains under his feet,
being often covered with snow.  At this season he requires a garment to
shelter his body from the piercing blast; and this he obtains by
stitching together a few skins of the sage-hare, so as to form a kind of
shirt or body-coat.  He is not always rich enough to have even a good
coat of this simple material; and its scanty skirt too often exposes his
wrinkled limbs to the biting frost.

Between the Digger and his wife, or "squaw," there is not much
difference either in costume or character.  The latter may be
distinguished, by being of less stature, rather than by any feminine
graces in her physical or intellectual conformation.  She might be
recognised, too, by watching the employment of the family; for it is she
who does nearly all the work, stitches the rabbit-skin shirt, digs the
"yampa" and "kamas" roots, gathers the "mezquite" pods, and gets
together the larder of "prairie crickets."  Though lowest of all
American Indians in the scale of civilisation, the Digger resembles them
all in this,--he regards himself as lord and master, and the woman as
his slave.

As already observed, there is no such thing as a tribe of Diggers,--
nothing of the nature of a political organisation; and the chief of
their miserable little community--for sometimes there is a head man--is
only he who is most regarded for his strength.  Indeed, the nature of
their country would not admit of a large number of them living together.
The little valleys or "oases"--that occur at intervals along the banks
of some lone desert stream,--would not, any one of them, furnish
subsistence to more than a few individuals,--especially to savages
ignorant of agriculture,--that is, not knowing how to _plant_ or _sow_.
The Diggers, however, if they know not how to _sow_, may be said to
understand something about how to _reap_, since _root-digging_ is one of
their most essential employments,--that occupation from which they have
obtained their distinctive appellation, in the language of the trappers.

Not being agriculturists, you will naturally conclude that they are
either a pastoral people, or else a nation of hunters.  But in truth
they are neither one nor the other.  They have no domestic animal,--many
of them not even the universal dog; and as to hunting, there is no large
game in their country.  The buffalo does not range so far west; and if
he did, it is not likely they could either kill or capture so formidable
a creature; while the prong-horned antelope, which does inhabit their
plains, is altogether too swift a creature, to be taken by any wiles a
Digger might invent.  The "big-horn," and the black and white-tailed
species of deer, are also too shy and too fleet for their puny weapons;
and as to the grizzly bear, the very sight of one is enough to give a
Digger Indian the "chills."

If, then, they do not cultivate the ground, nor rear some kind of
animals, nor yet live by the chase, how do these people manage to obtain
subsistence?  The answer to this question appears a dilemma,--since it
has been already stated, that their country produces little else than
the wild and worthless sage plant.

Were we speaking of an Indian of tropical America, or a native of the
lovely islands of the great South Sea, there would be no difficulty
whatever in accounting for his subsistence,--even though he neither
planted nor sowed, tended cattle, nor yet followed the chase.  In these
regions of luxuriant vegetation, nature has been bountiful to her
children; and, it may be almost literally alleged that the loaf of bread
grows spontaneously on the tree.  But the very reverse is the case in
the country of the Digger Indian.  Even the hand of cultivation could
scarce wring a crop from the sterile soil; and Nature has provided
hardly one article that deserves the name of food.

Perhaps you may fancy that the Digger is a fisherman; and obtains his
living from the stream, by the side of which he makes his dwelling.  Not
even this is permitted to him.  It is true that his supposed kindred,
the Shoshonees, occasionally follow the occupation of fishermen upon the
banks of the Great Snake River,--which at certain seasons of the year
swarms with the finest salmon; but the poor Digger has no share in the
finny spoil.  The streams, that traverse his desert home, empty their
waters into the briny bosom of the Great Salt Lake,--a true _Dead Sea_,
where neither salmon, nor any other fish could live for an instant.

How then does the Digger obtain his food?  Is he a manufacturer,--and
perforce a merchant,--who exchanges with some other tribe his
manufactured goods for provisions and "raw material?"  Nothing of the
sort.  Least of all is he a manufacturer.  The hare-skin shirt is his
highest effort in the line of textile fabrics; and his poor weak bow,
and flint-tipped arrows, are the only tools he is capable of making.
Sometimes he is even without these weapons; and may be seen with
another,--a long stick, with a hook at one end,--the hook itself being
the stump of a lopped branch, with its natural inclination to that which
forms the stick.  The object and purpose of this simple weapon we shall
presently describe.

The Digger's wife may be seen with a weapon equally simple in its
construction.  This is also a stick--but a much shorter one--pointed at
one end, and bearing some resemblance to a gardener's "dibble."
Sometimes it is tipped with horn,--when this can be procured,--but
otherwise the hard point is produced by calcining it in the fire.  This
tool is essentially an implement of husbandry,--as will presently

Let us now clear up the mystery, and explain how the Digger maintains
himself.  There is not much mystery after all.  Although, as already
stated, his country produces nothing that could fairly be termed _food_,
yet there are a few articles within his reach upon which a human being
_might_ subsist,--that is, might just keep body and soul together.  One
of these articles is the bean, or legume of the "mezquite" tree, of
which there are many kinds throughout the desert region.  They are known
to Spanish Americans as _algarobia_ trees; and, in the southern parts of
the desert, grow to a considerable size,--often attaining the dimension
of twenty to twenty-five feet in height.

They produce a large legume, filled with seeds and a pulp of
sweetish-acid taste,--similar to that of the "honey-locust."  These
beans are collected in large quantities, by the squaw of the Digger,
stowed away in grass-woven baskets, or sometimes only in heaps in a
corner of his cave, or hovel, if he chance to have one.  If so, it is a
mere wattle of artemisia, thatched and "chinked" with grass.

The mezquite seeds, then, are the _bread_ of the Digger; but, bad as is
the quality, the supply is often far behind the demands of his hungry
stomach.  For vegetables, he has the "yampa" root, an umbelliferous
plant, which grows along the banks of the streams.  This, with another
kind, known as "kamas" or "quamash" (_Camassia esculenta_), is a
spontaneous production; and the digging for these roots forms, at a
certain season of the year, the principal occupation of the women.  The
"dibble-like" instrument already described is the _root-digger_.  The
roots here mentioned, before being eaten, have to undergo a process of
cooking.  The yampa is boiled in a very ingenious manner; but this piece
of ingenuity is not native to the Shoshokees, and has been obtained from
their more clever kindred, the Snakes.  The pot is a _wooden one_; and
yet they can boil meat in it, or make soup if they wish!  Moreover, it
is only a basket, a mere vessel of wicker-work!  How, then, can water be
boiled in it?  If you had not been already told how it is done, it would
no doubt puzzle you to find out.

But most likely you have read of a somewhat similar vessel among the
Chippewa Indians,--especially the tribe known as the "Assineboins," or
stone boilers--who cook their fish or flesh in pots made of birch-bark.
The phrase _stone boilers_ will suggest to you how the difficulty is got
over.  The birch-bark pot is not set over fire; but stones are heated
and thrown into it,--of course already filled with water.  The hot
stones soon cause the water to simmer, and fresh ones are added until it
boils, and the meat is sufficiently cooked.  By just such a process the
"Snakes" cook their salmon and deer's flesh,--their wicker pots being
woven of so close a texture that not even water can pass through the

It is not often, however, that, the Digger is rich enough to have one of
these wicker pots,--and when he has, he is often without anything to put
into it.

The _kamas_ roots are usually baked in a hole dug in the earth, and
heated by stones taken from the fire.  It requires nearly two days to
bake them properly; and then, when taken out of the "oven," the mass
bears a strong resemblance to soft glue or size, and has a sweet and
rather agreeable taste,--likened to that of baked pears or quinces.

I have not yet specified the whole of the Digger's larder.  Were he to
depend altogether on the roots and seeds already mentioned, he would
often have to starve,--and in reality he often _does_ starve,--for, even
with the additional supplies which his sterile soil scantily furnishes
him, he is frequently the victim of famine.

There may be a bad season of the mezquite-crop, and the bears--who are
as cunning "diggers" as he--sometimes destroy his "plantations" of yampa
and kamas.  He finds a resource, however, in the prairie cricket, an
insect--or reptile, you may call it--of the _gryllus_ tribe, of a
dark-brown colour, and more like a bug than any other crawler.  These,
at certain seasons of the year, make their appearance upon the desert
plains, and in such numbers that the ground appears to be alive with
them.  An allied species has of late years become celebrated: on account
of a visit paid by vast numbers of them to the Mormon plantations;
where, as may be remembered, they devastated the crops,--just as the
locusts do in Africa,--causing a very severe season of famine among
these isolated people.  It may be remembered also, that flocks of white
birds followed the movements of these American locusts,--preying upon
them, and thinning their multitudinous hosts.

These birds were of the gull genus (_Larus_), and one of the most
beautiful of the species.  They frequent the shores and islands of the
rivers of _Prairie-land_, living chiefly upon such insects as are found
in the neighbourhood of their waters.  It was but natural, therefore,
they should follow the locusts, or "grasshoppers," as the Mormons termed
them; but the _pseudo-prophet_ of these deluded people could not suffer
to pass such a fine opportunity of proving his divine inspiration: which
he did by audaciously declaring that the birds were "heaven-born," and
had been sent by the Almighty (in obedience to a prayer from him, the
prophet) to rid the country of the pest of the grasshoppers!

These prairie crickets are of a dark-brown colour,--not unlike the
_gryllus migratorius_ of Africa, and with very similar habits.  When
settled thickly upon the ground, the whole surface assumes a darkish
hue, as if covered with crape; and when they are all in motion,--
creeping to and fro in search of their food,--a very singular effect is
produced.  At this time they do not take to wing; though they attempt to
get out of the way, by making short hops from place to place, and
crawling with great rapidity.  Notwithstanding their efforts to escape,
hundreds of them are "squashed" beneath the foot of the pedestrian, or
hoofs of the traveller's horse.

These crickets, with several bug-like insects of different species,
furnish the Digger with an important article of food.  It may appear a
strange provender for a human stomach; but there is nothing unnatural
about it,--any more than about the eating of shrimps or prawns; and it
will be remembered that the Bushmen, and many other tribes of South
Africa eat the _gryllus migratorius_; while, in the northern part of
that same continent, many nations regard them as a proper article of
food.  Though some writers have asserted, that it was the legume of the
locust-tree (an acacia) which was eaten by Saint John the Baptist in the
wilderness, it is easily proved that such was not the case.  That his
food was the locust (_gryllus migratorius_) and wild honey, is strictly
and literally true; and at the present day, were you to visit the
"wilderness" mentioned by the Apostle, you might see people living upon
"locusts and wild honey," just as they did eighteen hundred years ago.

The Diggers _cook_ their crickets sometimes by boiling them in the pots
aforementioned, and sometimes by "roasting."  They also mix them with
the mezquite seeds and pulp,--the whole forming a kind of plum-pudding,
or "cricket-pasty,"--or, as it is jocosely termed by the trappers,

Their mode of collecting the grasshoppers is not without some display of
ingenuity.  When the insects are in abundance, there is not much
difficulty in obtaining a sufficient supply; but this is not always the
case.  Sometimes they appear very sparsely upon the plains; and, being
nimble in their movements, are not easily laid hold of.  Only one could
be taken at a time; and, by gleaning in this way, a very limited supply
would be obtained.  To remedy this, the Diggers have invented a somewhat
ingenious contrivance for capturing them wholesale,--which is effected
in the following manner:--When the whereabouts of the grasshoppers has
been discovered, a round hole--of three or four feet in diameter, and of
about equal depth--is scooped out in the centre of the plain.  It is
shaped somewhat after the fashion of a kiln; and the earth, that has
been taken out, is carried out of the way.

The Digger community then all turn out--men, women, and children--and
deploy themselves into a wide circle, enclosing as large a tract as
their numbers will permit.  Each individual is armed with a stick, with
which he beats the sage-bushes, and makes other violent demonstrations:
the object being to frighten the grasshoppers, and cause them to move
inward towards the pit that has been dug.  The insects, thus beset, move
as directed,--gradually approaching the centre,--while the "beaters"
follow in a circle constantly lessening in circumference.  After a time
the crickets, before only thinly scattered over the plain,--grow more
crowded as the space becomes contracted; until at length the surface is
covered with a black moving swarm; and the beaters, still pressing upon
them, and driving them onward, force the whole body pellmell over the
edges of the pit.

Bunches of grass, already provided are now flung over them, and upon
that a few shovelfuls of earth or sand; and then--horrible to relate!--a
large pile of artemisia stalks is heaped upon the top and set on fire!
The result is that, in a few minutes, the poor grasshoppers are smoked
to death, and parched at the same time--so as to be ready for eating,
whenever the _debris_ of the fire has been removed.

The prairie cricket is not the only article of the _flesh-meat_ kind,
found in the larder of the Digger.  Another animal furnishes him with an
occasional meal.  This is the "sage-hare," known to hunters as the
"sage-rabbit," but to naturalists as the _lepus artemisia_.  It is a
very small animal,--less in size than the common rabbit,--though it is
in reality a true hare.  It is of a silvery, or whitish-grey colour--
which adapts it to the hue of the _artemisia_ bushes on the stalks and
berries of which it feeds.

It is from the skins of this animal, that the Digger women manufacture
the rabbit-skin shirts, already described.  Its flesh would not be very
agreeable to a European palate,--even with the addition of an onion,--
for it has the sage flavour to such a degree, as to be as bitter as
wormwood itself.  An onion with it would not be tasted!  But tastes
differ, and by the Digger the flesh of the sage-hare is esteemed one of
the nicest delicacies.  He hunts it, therefore, with the greatest
assiduity; and the chase of this insignificant animal is to the Digger,
what the hunt of the stag, the elephant, or the wild boar, is to hunters
of a more pretentious ambition.

With his bow and arrows he frequently succeeds in killing a single hare;
but this is not always so easy,--since the sage-hare, like all of its
kind, is shy, swift, and cunning.  Its colour, closely resembling the
hue of the artemisia foliage, is a considerable protection to it; and it
can hide among these bushes, where they grow thickly--as they generally
do--over the surface of the ground.

But the Digger is not satisfied with the scanty and uncertain supply,
which his weak bow and arrows would enable him to obtain.  As in the
case of the grasshoppers, he has contrived a plan for capturing the
sage-hares by wholesale.

This he accomplishes by making a "surround," and driving the animals,
not into a _pit_, but into a _pound_.  The pound is constructed
something after the same fashion as that used by the Chippewas, and
other northern Indians, for capturing the herds of reindeer; in other
words, it is an enclosure, entered by a narrow mouth--from the _jaws_ of
which mouth, two fences are carried far out into the plain, in a
gradually diverging direction.  For the deer and other large animals,
the fences of the pound--as also those of the funnel that conducts to
it, require to be made of strong stakes, stockaded side by side; but
this work, as well as the timber with which to construct it, is far
beyond the reach of the Digger.  His enclosure consists of a mere wattle
of artemisia stalks and branches, woven into a row of those already
standing--with here and there a patching of rude nets, made of roots and
grass.  The height is not over three feet; and the sage-hare might
easily spring over it; but the stupid creature, when once "in the
pound," never thinks of looking upward; but continues to dash its little
skull against the wattle, until it is either "clubbed" by the Digger, or
impaled upon one of his obsidian arrows.

Other quadrupeds, constituting a portion of the Digger's food, are
several species of "gophers," or sand-rats, ground-squirrels, and
marmots.  In many parts of the Great Basin, the small rodents abound:
dwelling between the crevices of rocks, or honeycombing the dry plains
with their countless burrows.  The Digger captures them by various
wiles.  One method is by shooting them with blunt arrows; but the more
successful plan is, by setting a trap at the entrance to their earthen
caves.  It is the "figure of 4 trap," which the Digger employs for this
purpose, and which he constructs with ingenuity,--placing a great many
around a "warren," and often taking as many as fifty or sixty "rats" in
a single day!

In weather too cold for the gophers to come out of their caves, the
Digger then "digs" for them: thus further entitling him to his special

That magnificent bird, the "cock of the plains," sometimes furnishes the
Digger with "fowl" for his dinner.  This is a bird of the grouse family
(_tetrao urophasianus_), and the largest species that is known,--
exceeding in size the famed "cock of the woods" of northern Europe.  A
full-fledged cock of the plains is as large as an eagle; and, unlike
most of the grouse kind, has a long, narrow body.  His plumage is of a
silvery grey colour--produced by a mottle of black and white,--no doubt,
given him by a nature to assimilate him to the hue of the artemisia,--
amidst which he habitually dwells, and the berries of which furnish him
with most of his food.

He is remarkable for two large _goitre-like_ swellings on the breast,
covered with a sort of hair instead of feathers; but, though a
fine-looking large bird, and a grouse too, his flesh is bitter and
unpalatable--even more so than that of the sage-hare.  For all that, it
is a delicacy to the Digger, and a rare one; for the cock of the plains
is neither plentiful, nor easily captured when seen.

There are several other small animals--both quadrupeds and birds--
inhabiting Digger-land, upon which an occasional meal is made.  Indeed,
the food of the Digger is sufficiently varied.  It is not in the quality
but the quantity he finds most cause of complaint: for with all his
energies he never gets enough.  In the summer season, however, he is
less stinted.  Then the berries of the buffalo-bush are ripe; and these,
resembling currants, he collects in large quantities,--placing his
rabbit-skin wrapper under the bush, and shaking down the ripe fruit in
showers.  A _melange_ of prairie crickets and buffalo-berries is
esteemed by the Digger, as much as would be the best specimen of a
"currant-cake" in any nursery in Christendom!

The Digger finds a very curious species of edible bug, which builds its
nest on the ledges of the cliffs,--especially those that overhang a
stream.  These nests are of a conical or pine-apple shape, and about the
size of this fruit.

This bug,--not yet classified or described by entomologists,--is of a
dark-brown colour, about the size of the ordinary cockroach; and when
boiled is considered a proper article of food,--not only by the
unfastidious Diggers, but by Indians of a more epicurean _gout_.

Besides the yampa and kamas, there are several other edible roots found
in the Digger country.  Among others may be mentioned a species of
thistle (_circium virginiarum_),--the root of which grows to the size of
an ordinary carrot, and is almost as well flavoured.  It requires a
great deal of roasting, or boiling, before it is sufficiently cooked to
be eaten.

The _kooyah_ is another article of food still more popular among Digger
gourmands.  This is the root of the _Valeriana edulis_.  It is of a
bright-yellow colour, and grows to a considerable size.  It has the
characteristic odour of the well-known plant; but not so strong as in
the prepared substance of _valerian_.  The plant itself does not grow in
the arid soil of the desert, but rather in the rich fertile bottoms of
the streams, or along the shores of marshy lakes,--in company with the
kamas and yampa.  It is when these roots are in season, that the
Shoshokees most frequent such localities; and, indeed, this same season
is the time when all other articles of Digger food are plenteous
enough,--the summer.  The winter months are to him the "tight times."

In some parts of the desert country, as already observed, grow species
of pines, with edible cones,--or rather edible seeds which the cones
contain.  These seeds resemble nuts, and are about the size of the
common filberts.

More than one species of pine produces this sort of food; but in the
language of the Spanish Californians and New Mexicans, they are all
indifferently termed _pinon_, and the seeds simply _pinones_, or
"pinons."  Where these are within the reach of the Digger,--as they are
in some districts,--he is then well provided for; since the pinons, when
roasted, not only form an agreeable and nutritious article of food, but
can be stored up as a winter stock,--that will keep for a considerable
time, without danger of spoiling, or growing too stale.

Such is the _commissariat_ of the Digger Indian; and, poor in quality
though it be, there are times when he cannot obtain a sufficient supply
of it.  At such times he has recourse to food of a still meaner kind,--
to roots, scarce eatable, and even to the seeds of several species of
grass!  Worms, grubs, the _agama comuta_, or "horned-frog of the
prairies," with other species of lizards, become his sole resource; and
in the search and capture of these he occupies himself from morning to

It is in this employment that he finds use for the long sapling, with
the hooked end upon it,--the hook being used for dragging the lizards
out of clefts in the rocks, within which they have sought shelter.  In
the accomplishment of this, the Digger displays an adroitness that
astonishes the traveller: often "jerking" the reptile out of some dark
crevice within which it might be supposed to have found a retreat secure
from all intruders.

Many other curious habits might be related of this abject and miserable
race of human beings; but perhaps enough has been detailed, to secure
them a place in the list of our "odd people."



Young reader, I may take it for granted that you have heard of the great
river Orinoco,--one of the largest rivers not only of South America, but
in the world.  By entering at its mouth, and ascending to its source,
you would have to make a journey of about one thousand five hundred
miles; but this journey, so far from being direct, or in a straight
line, would carry you in a kind of spiral curve,--very much like the
figure 6, the apex of the figure representing the mouth of the river.
In other words, the Orinoco, rising in the unexplored mountains of
Spanish Guiana, first runs eastward; and then, having turned gradually
to every point of the compass, resumes its easterly course, continuing
in this direction till it empties its mighty flood into the Atlantic

Not by one mouth, however.  On the contrary, long before the Orinoco
approaches the sea, its channel separates into a great many branches (or
"canos," as they are called in the language of the country), each of
which, slowly meandering in its own course, reaches the coast by a
separate mouth, or "boca."  Of these canos there are about fifty,
embracing within their ramifications a "delta" nearly half as large as
England!  Though they have all been distinguished by separate names,
only three or four of them are navigable by ships of any considerable
size; and, except to the few pilots whose duty it is to conduct vessels
into that main channel of the river, the whole delta of the Orinoco may
be regarded as a country still unexplored, and almost unknown.  Indeed,
the same remark might be made of the whole river, were it not for the
magnificent monument left by the great traveller Von Humboldt,--whose
narrative of the exploration of the Orinoco is, beyond all comparison,
the finest book of travels yet given to the world.  To him are we
chiefly indebted for our knowledge of the Orinoco; since the Spanish
nation, who, for more than three centuries, have held undisputed
possession of this mighty stream, have left us scarce a line about it
worth either credit or record.

It is now more than half a century, since the date of Humboldt's
"Personal Narrative;" and yet, strange to say, during all that period,
scarce an item has been added to our knowledge of the Orinoco, beyond
what this scientific traveller had already told us.  Indeed, there is
not much to say: for there has been little change in the river since
then,--either in the aspect of nature, or the condition of man.  What
change there has been possesses rather a retrograde, than a progressive
character.  Still, now, as then, on the banks of the Orinoco, we behold
a languid commerce,--characteristic of the decaying Spano-American
race,--and the declining efforts of a selfish and bigoted missionary
zeal, whose boasted aim of "christianising and civilising" has ended
only in producing a greater brutalisation.  After three centuries of
_paternosters_ and bell-ringing, the red savage of the Orinoco returns
to the worship of his ancestral gods,--or to no worship at all,--and for
this backsliding he can, perhaps, give a sufficient reason.

Pardon me, young reader, for this digression.  It is not my purpose to
discuss the polemical relations of those who inhabit the banks of the
Orinoco; but to give you some account of a very singular people who
dwell near its mouth,--upon the numerous canos, already mentioned as
constituting its delta.  These are the "Guaraons,"--a tribe of
Indians,--usually considered as a branch of the Great Carib family, but
forming a community among themselves of seven or eight thousand souls;
and differing so much from most other savages in their habits and mode
of life, as fairly to entitle them to the appellation of an "Odd

The Orinoco, like many other large rivers, is subject to a periodical
rise and fall; that is, once every year, the river swells to a great
height above its ordinary level.  The swelling or "flood" was for a long
time supposed to proceed from the melting of snow upon the Cordilleras
of the Andes,--in which mountains several of the tributaries of the
Orinoco have their rise.  This hypothesis, however, has been shown to be
an incorrect one: since the main stream of the Orinoco does not proceed
from the Andes, nor from any other snowcapped mountains; but has its
origin, as already stated, in the _sierras_ of Guiana.  The true cause
of its periodical rising, therefore, is the vast amount of rain which
falls within the tropics; and this is itself occasioned by the sun's
course across the torrid zone, which is also the cause of its being
periodical or "annual."  So exact is the time at which these rains fall,
and produce the floods of the Orinoco, that the inhabitants of the river
can tell, within a few days, when the rising will commence, and when the
waters will reach their lowest!

The flood season very nearly corresponds to our own summer,--the rise
commencing in April, and the river being at its maximum height in
August,--while the minimum is again reached in December.  The height to
which the Orinoco rises has been variously estimated by travellers: some
alleging it to be nearly one hundred feet; while others estimate it to
be only fifty, or even less!  The reason of this discrepancy may be,
that the measurements have been made at different points,--at each of
which, the actual height to which the flood attains, may be greater or
less than at the others.  At any one place, however, the rise is the
same--or very nearly so--in successive years.  This is proved by
observations made at the town of Angostura,--the lowest Spanish
settlement of any importance upon the Orinoco.  There, nearly in front
of the town, a little rocky islet towers up in the middle of the river;
the top of which is just fifty feet above the bed of the stream, when
the volume of water is at its minimum.  A solitary tree stands upon the
pinnacle of this rock; and each year, when the water is in full flood,
the tree alone is visible,--the islet being entirely submerged.  From
this peculiar circumstance, the little islet has obtained the name of
"Orinocometer," or measurer of the Orinoco.

The rise here indicated is about fifty feet; but it does not follow from
this, that throughout its whole course the river should annually rise to
so great a height.  In reality it does not.

At Angostura, as the name imports, the river is _narrowed_ to less than
half its usual width,--being there confined between high banks that
impinge upon its channel.  Above and below, it widens again; and, no
doubt, in proportion to this widening will the annual rise be greater or
less.  In fact, at many places, the width of the stream is no longer
that of its ordinary channel; but, on the contrary, a vast "freshet" or
inundation, covering the country for hundreds of miles,--here flooding
over immense marshes or grassy plains, and hiding them altogether,--
there flowing among forests of tall trees, the tops of which alone
project above the tumult of waters!  These inundations are peculiarly
observable in the _delta_ of the Orinoco,--where every year, in the
months of July and August, the whole surface of the country becomes
changed into a grand fresh-water sea: the tops of the trees alone rising
above the flood, and proclaiming that there is _land_ at the bottom.

At this season the ordinary channels, or _canos_, would be obliterated;
and navigation through them become difficult or impossible, but for the
tree-tops; which, after the manner of "buoys" and signal-marks, serve to
guide the pilots through the intricate mazes of the "bocas del Orinoco."

Now it is this annual inundation, and the semi-submergence of these
trees under the flood, that has given origin to the peculiar people of
whom we are about to speak,--the Guaraons; or, perhaps, we should rather
say, from these causes have arisen their strange habits and modes of
life which entitle them to be considered an "odd people."

During the period of the inundation, if you should sail up the southern
or principal cano of the Orinoco,--known as the "boca de navios," or
"ships' mouth,"--and keep your face to the northward, you would behold
the singular spectacle of a forest growing out of the water!  In some
places you would perceive single trees, with the upper portion of their
straight, branchless trunks rising vertically above the surface, and
crowned by about a dozen great fan-shaped leaves, radiating outwards
from their summits.  At other places, you would see many crowded
together, their huge fronds meeting, and forming close clumps, or "water
groves," whose deep-green colour contrasts finely as it flings its
reflection on the glistening surface below.

Were it night,--and your course led you through one of the smaller canos
in the northern part of the delta,--you would behold a spectacle yet
more singular, and more difficult to be explained; a spectacle that
astounded and almost terrified the bold navigators, who first ventured
to explore these intricate coasts.--You would not only perceive a
forest, growing out of the water; but, high up among the tops of the
trees, you would behold blazing fires,--not the conflagration of the
trees themselves, as if the forest were in flames,--but fires regularly
built, glowing as from so many furnaces, and casting their red glare
upwards upon the broad green leaves, and downwards upon the silvery
surface of the water!

If you should chance to be near enough to these fires, you would see
cooking utensils suspended over them; human forms, both, of men and
women seated or squatting around them; other human forms, flitting like
shadows among the tops of the trees; and down below, upon the surface of
the water, a fleet of canoes (_periaguas_), fastened with their
mooring-ropes to the trunks.  All this would surprise you,--as it did
the early navigators,--and, very naturally, you would inquire what it
could mean.  Fires apparently suspended in the air! human beings moving
about among the tops of the trees, talking, laughing, and gesticulating!
in a word, acting just as any other savages would do,--for these human
beings _are_ savages,--amidst the tents of their encampment or the
houses of their village.  In reality it is a village upon which you are
gazing,--a village suspended in the air,--a village of the Guaraon

Let us approach nearer; let us steal into this water village--for it
would not be always safe to enter it, except by stealth--and see how its
singular habitations are constructed, as also in what way their
occupants manage to get their living.  The village under our observation
is now,--at the period of inundation,--nearly a hundred miles from
shore, or from any dry land: it will be months before the waters can
subside; and, even then, the country around will partake more of the
nature of a quagmire, than of firm soil; impassable to any human
being,--though _not_ to a Guaraon, as we shall presently see.  It is
true, the canoes, already mentioned, might enable their owners to reach
the firm shores beyond the delta; and so they do at times; but it would
be a voyage too long and too arduous to be made often,--as for the
supply of food and other daily wants,--and it is not for this purpose
the canoes are kept.  No: these Guaraons visit terra firma only at
intervals; and then for purposes of trade with a portion of their own
and other tribes who dwell there; but they permanently reside within the
area of the inundated forests; where they are independent, not only of
foreign aggression, but also for their supply of all the necessaries of
life.  In these forests, whether flooded or not, they procure everything
of which they stand in need,--they there find, to use an old-fashioned
phrase, "meat, drink, washing, and lodging."  In other words: were the
inundation to continue forever, and were the Guaraons entirely
prohibited from intercourse with the dry land, they could still find
subsistence in this, their home upon the waters.

Whence comes their subsistence?  No doubt you will say that fish is
their food; and drink, of course, they have in abundance; but this would
not be the true explanation.  It is true they eat fish, and turtle, and
the flesh of the _manatee_, or "fish-cow,"--since the capturing of these
aquatic creatures is one of the chief occupations of the Guaraons,--but
they are ofttimes entirely without such food; for, it is to be observed,
that, during the period of the inundations fish are not easily caught,
sometimes not at all.  At these times the Guaraons would starve--since,
like all other savages, they are improvident--were it not that the
singular region they inhabit supplies them with another article of
food,--one that is inexhaustible.

What is this food, and from whence derived?  It will scarce surprise you
to hear that it is the produce of the trees already mentioned; but
perhaps you _will_ deem it singular when I tell you that the trees of
this great _water-forest_ are all of one kind,--all of the same
species,--so that here we have the remarkable fact of a single species
of vegetable, growing without care or cultivation, and supplying all the
wants of man,--his food, clothing, fuel, utensils, ropes, houses, and
boats,--not even drink excepted, as will presently be seen.

The name of this wonderful tree?  "Ita," the Guaraons call it; though it
is more generally known as "morichi" among the Spanish inhabitants of
the Orinoco; but I shall here give my young reader an account of it,
from which he will learn something more than its name.

The _ita_ is a true palm-tree, belonging to the genus _mauritia_; and, I
may remark, that notwithstanding the resemblance in sound, the name of
the genus is not derived from the words "morichi," "murichi," or
"muriti," all of which are different Indian appellations of this tree.
_Mauritia_ is simply a Latinised designation borrowed from the name of
Prince Maurice of Nassau, in whose honour the genus was named.  The
resemblance, therefore, is merely accidental.  I may add, too, that
there are many species of _mauritia_ growing in different parts of
tropical America,--some of them palms of large size, and towering
height, with straight, smooth trunks; while others are only tiny little
trees, scarce taller than a man, and with their trunks thickly covered
with conical protuberances or spines.

Some of them, moreover, affect a high, dry soil, beyond the reach of
floods; while others do not prosper, except on tracts habitually marshy,
or annually covered with inundations.  Of these latter, the _ita_ is
perhaps the most conspicuous; since we have already stated, that for
nearly six months of the year it grows literally out of the water.

Like all its congeners, the ita is a "fan-palm;" that is, its leaves,
instead of being _pinnately_ divided, as in most species of palms, or
altogether _entire_, as in some few, radiate from the midrib of the
leaf-stalk, into a broad palmated shape, bearing considerable
resemblance to a fan when opened to its full extent.  At the tips these
leaflets droop slightly, but at that end where they spring out of the
midrib, they are stiff and rigid.  The petiole, or leaf-stalk itself, is
long, straight, and thick; and where it clasps the stem or trunk, is
swollen out to a foot in width, hollowed, or concave on the upper side.
A full-grown leaf, with its petiole, is a wonderful object to look upon.
The stalk is a solid beam full twelve feet in length, and the leaf has
a diameter of nearly as much.  Leaf and stalk together make a load, just
as much as one man can carry upon his shoulders!

Set about a dozen of these enormous leaves on the summit of a tall
cylindrical column of five feet in circumference, and about one hundred
in height,--place them with their stalks clasping or sheathing its
top,--so that the spreading fans will point in every direction outwards,
inclining slightly upwards; do this, and you will have the great
_morichi_ palm.  Perhaps, you may see the trunk swollen at its middle or
near the top,--so that its lower part is thinner than above,--but more
often the huge stem is a perfect cylinder.  Perhaps you may see several
of the leaves drooping downward, as if threatening to fall from the
tree; you may even see them upon the ground where they have fallen, and
a splendid ruin they appear.  You may see again rising upward out of the
very centre of the crown of foliage, a straight, thick-pointed column.
This is the young leaf in process of development,--its tender leaflets
yet unopened, and closely clasped together.  But the fervid tropical sun
soon produces expansion; and a new fan takes the place of the one that
has served its time and fallen to the earth,--there to decay, or to be
swept off by the flood of waters.

Still more may be noticed, while regarding this noble palm.  Out of that
part of the trunk,--where it is embraced by the sheathing bases of the
petioles,--at a certain season of the year, a large spathe will be seen
to protrude itself, until it has attained a length of several feet.
This spathe is a bract-like sheath, of an imperfect tubular form.  It
bursts open; and then appears the huge spadix of flowers, of a
whitish-green colour, arranged along the flower-stalk in
rows,--_pinnately_.  It will be observed, moreover, that these spadices
are different upon different trees; for it must be remembered that the
mauritia palm is _diaecious_,--that is, having the female flowers on one
tree, and the male or staminiferous flowers upon another.  After the
former have glowed for a time in the heat of the sun, and received the
fertilising pollen wafted to them by the breeze,--carried by bee or
bird, or transported by some unknown and mysterious agency of nature,--
the fruits take form and ripen.  These, when fully ripe, have attained
to the size of a small apple, and are of a very similar form.  They are
covered with small brown, smooth scales,--giving them somewhat the
appearance of fir-cones, except that they are roundish instead of being
cone-shaped.  Underneath the scales there is a thinnish layer of pulp,
and then the stone or _nut_.  A single spadix will carry carry several
hundreds--thousands, I might say--of these nuts; and the whole bunch is
a load equal to the strength of two ordinary men!

Such is the ita palm.  Now for its uses,--the uses to which it is put by
the Guaraons.

When the Guaraon wishes to build himself a habitation, he does not begin
by digging a foundation in the earth.  In the spongy soil on which he
stands, that would be absurd.  At a few inches below the surface he
would reach water; and he might dig to a vast depth without finding firm
ground.  But he has no idea of laying a foundation upon the ground, or
of building a house there.  He knows that in a few weeks the river will
be rising; and would overtop his roof, however high he might make it.
His foundation, therefore, instead of being laid in the ground, is
placed far above it,--just so far, that when the inundation is at its
height the floor of his dwelling will be a foot or two above it.  He
does not take this height from guesswork.  That would be a perilous
speculation.  He is guided by certain marks upon the trunks of
palm-trees,--notches which he has himself made on the preceding year, or
the natural watermark, which he is able to distinguish by certain
appearances on the trees.  This point once determined, he proceeds to
the building of his house.

A few trunks are selected, cut down, and then split into beams of
sufficient length.  Four fine trees, standing in a quadrangle, have
already been selected to form the corner-posts.  In each of these, just
above the watermark, is cut a deep notch with a horizontal base to serve
as a rest for the cross-beams that are to form the foundation of the
structure.  Into these notches the beams are hoisted,--by means of
ropes,--and there securely tied.  To reach the point where the platform
is to be erected--sometimes a very high elevation--ladders are
necessary; and these are of native manufacture,--being simply the trunk
of a palm-tree, with notches cut in it for the toes of the climber.
These afterwards serve as a means of ascending and descending to the
surface of the water, during the period of its rise and fall.  The main
timbers having been firmly secured in their places, cross-beams are laid
upon them, the latter being either pieces of the split trunks, or, what
is usually easier to obtain, the petioles of the great leaves,--each of
which, as already stated, forms of itself a large beam, twelve feet in
length and from six to twelves inches in breadth.  These are next
secured at both ends by ropes of the palm fibre.

Next comes a layer of palm-leaves, the strong, tough leaflets serving
admirably as laths to uphold the coating of mud, which is laid thickly
over them.  The mud is obtained from below, without difficulty, and in
any quantity required; and when trowelled smooth, and dry,--which it
soon becomes under the hot sun,--constitutes an excellent floor, where a
fire may be kindled without danger of burning either the laths or joists

As yet the Guaraon has completed only the floor of his dwelling, but
that is his principal labour.  He cares not for walls,--neither sides
nor gables.  There is no cold, frosty weather to chill him in his
tropical home,--no snow to be kept out.  The rain alone, usually falling
in a vertical direction, has to be guarded against; and from this he
secures himself by a second platform of lighter materials, covered with
mats, which he has already woven for the purpose, and with
palm-leaflets, so placed as to cast off the heaviest shower.  This also
shelters him against the burning sun,--an enemy which he dreads even
more than the rain.

His house is now finished; and, with the exception of the mud floor, is
all of ita palm,--beams, cross-timbers, laths, ropes, and mats.  The
ropes he has obtained by stripping off the epidermis of the full-grown
leaflets, and then twisting it into cordage of any thickness required.
For this purpose it is equal to hemp.  The mats he has made from the
same material,--and well does he, or rather his wife--for this is
usually the work of the females--know how to plait and weave them.

Having completed the building of his aerial dwelling, the Guaraon would
eat.  He has fish, which has been caught in the neighbouring cano,--
perhaps turtle,--perhaps the flesh of the manatee, or the alligator,--
for his palate is by no means of a delicate fineness, and will not
refuse a steak from the tail of the American crocodile.  But when the
flood time is on, fish become scarce, or cannot be had at all,--no more
can turtles, or sea-cows, or alligators.  Besides, scarce or plenty,
something else is wanted to vary the diet.  Bread is wanted; and for
this the Guaraon has not far to go.  The ita again befriends him, for he
finds, upon splitting open its trunk, a large deposit of medullary pith
or fecula; which, when submitted to the process of bruising or grating,
and afterwards stirred in water, forms a sediment at the bottom of the
vessel, a substance not only eatable, but equal in excellence to the
well-known produce of the _sago_ palm.

This farinaceous pith, formed into cakes and roasted over the fire,--the
fuel being supplied by leaves and leaf-stalks,--constitutes the
_yuruma_,--the daily bread of the Guaraon.

The yuruma, or rather the sago out of which it is made, is not
obtainable at all times.  It is the male palm which produces it; and it
must be extracted just as the tree is about to expand its spadix of
flowers.  The same curious fact is observed with regard to the _maguey_,
or great American aloe, which produces the drink called "pulque."  To
procure the sap in any considerable quantity, the maguey must be tapped
just on that day when the flower-stalk is about to shoot upward from
among the leaves.

The Guaraon, having eaten his yuruma, would drink.  Does he have
recourse to the water which flows in abundance beneath his dwelling?
No.  On ordinary occasions he may quench his thirst in that way; but he
wishes for some beverage more cheering.  Again the ita yields it without
stint, and even gives him a choice.  He may tap the trunk, and draw
forth the sap; which, after being submitted to a process of
fermentation, becomes a wine,--"murichi wine," a beverage which, if the
Guaraon be so inclined, and drink to excess, will make him "as drunk as
a lord!"

But he may indulge in a less dangerous, and more delicate drink, also
furnished by his favourite ita.  This he obtains by flinging a few of
the nuts into a vessel of water, and leaving them awhile to ferment;
then beating them with a pestle, until the scales and pulp are detached;
and, lastly, passing the water through a sieve of palm fibre.  This
done, the drink is ready to be quaffed.  For all these purposes tools
and utensils are required, but the ita also furnishes them.  The trunk
can be scooped out into dishes; or cut into spoons, ladles, and
trenchers.  The flower "spathes" also gives him cups and saucers.  Iron
tools, such as hatchets and knives, he has obtained from commerce with
Europeans; but, before their arrival in the New World, the Guaraon had
his hatchet of flint, and his knife-blade of obsidian; and even now, if
necessary, he could manage without metal of any kind.

The bow and arrows which he uses are obtained from the tough, sinewy
petiole of the leaf; so is the harpoon spear with which he strikes the
great manatee, the porpoise, and the alligator; the canoe, light as
cork, which carries him through the intricate channels of the delta, is
the hollow trunk of a morichi palm.  His nets and lines, and the cloth
which he wears around his loins, are all plaited or woven from the young
leaflets before they have expanded into the fan-like leaf.

Like other beings, the Guaraon must at times sleep.  Where does he
stretch his body,--on the floor?--on a mat?  No.  He has already
provided himself with a more luxurious couch,--the "rede," or hammock,
which he suspends between two trees; and in this he reclines, not only
during the night, but by day, when the sun is too hot to admit of
violent exertion.  His wife has woven the hammock most ingeniously.  She
has cut off the column of young leaves, that projects above the crown of
the morichi.  This she has shaken, until the tender leaflets become
detached from each other and fall apart.  Each she now strips of its
outer covering,--a thin, ribbon-like pellicle of a pale-yellow colour,--
which shrivels up almost like a thread.  These she ties into bundles,
leaving them to dry awhile; after which she spins them into strings, or,
if need be, twists them into larger cords.  She then places two
horizontal rods or poles about six feet apart, and doubles the string
over them some forty or fifty times.  This constitutes the _woof_; and
the _warp_ is obtained by cross strings twisted or tied to each of the
longitudinal ones, at intervals of seven or eight inches.  A strong
cord, made from the epidermis of the full-grown leaves, is now passed
through the loop of all the strings, drawn together at both ends, and
the poles are then pulled out.  The hammock, being finished and hung up
between two trees, provides the naked Indian with a couch, upon which he
may repose as luxuriantly as a monarch on his bed of down.  Thus, then,
does a single tree furnish everything which man, in his primitive
simplicity, may require.  No wonder that the enthusiastic missionaries
have given to the morichi palm the designation of "arbol de vida" (tree
of life).

It may be asked why does the Guaraon live in such a strange fashion,--
especially when on all sides around him there are vast tracts of _terra
firma_ upon which he might make his dwelling, and where he could, with
far less difficulty, procure all the necessaries, and many of the
luxuries of life?  The question is easily answered; and this answer will
be best given by asking others in, return.  Why do the Esquimaux and
Laplanders cling to their inhospitable home upon the icy coasts of the
Arctic Sea?  Why do tribes of men take to the cold, barren mountains,
and dwell there, within sight of lovely and fertile plains?  Why do
others betake themselves to the arid steppes and dreary recesses of the

No doubt the Guaraon, by powerful enemies forced from his aboriginal
home upon the firm soil, first sought refuge in the marshy flats where
we now encounter him: there he found security from pursuit and
oppression; there--even at the expense of other luxuries--he was enabled
to enjoy the sweetest of fill,--the luxury of liberty.

What was only a necessity at first, soon became a habit; and that habit
is now an essential part of his nature.  Indeed, it is not so long since
the necessity itself has been removed.

Even at the present hour, the Guaraon would not be secure, were he to
stray too far from his sheltering marshes,--for, sad though it be to say
so, the poor Indian, when beyond the protection of his tribe, is in many
parts of South America still treated as a slave.  In the _delta_ he
feels secure.  No slave-hunter,--no enemy can follow him there.  Even
the foeman of his own race cannot compete with him in crossing the wide
flats of spongy quagmire,--over which, from long habit, he is enabled to
glide with the lightness and fleetness of a bird.  During the season of
overflow, or when the waters have fallen to their lowest, he is equally
secure from aggression or pursuit; and, no doubt, in spite of missionary
zeal,--in spite of the general progress of civilisation,--in this savage
security he will long remain.



One of the oldest "odd" people with which we are acquainted are the Laps
or Laplanders.  For many centuries the more civilised nations of Europe
have listened to strange accounts, told by travellers of these strange
people; many of these accounts being exaggerated, and others totally
untrue.  Some of the old travellers, being misled by the deer-skin
dresses worn by the Laps, believed, or endeavoured to make others
believe, that they were born with hairy skins like wild beasts; and one
traveller represented that they had only a single eye, and that in the
middle of the breast!  This very absurd conception about a one-eyed
people gained credit, even so late as the time of Sir Walter Raleigh,--
with this difference, that the locality of these gentry with the odd
"optic" was South America instead of Northern Europe.

In the case of the poor Laplander, not the slightest exaggeration is
needed to render him an interesting study, either to the student of
ethnology, or to the merely curious reader.  He needs neither the odd
eye nor the hairy pelt.  In his personal appearance, dress, dwelling,
mode of occupation, and subsistence, he is so different from almost
every other tribe or nation of people, as to furnish ample matter for a
monograph at once unique and amusing.

I shall not stay to inquire whence originated this odd specimen of
humanity.  Such speculations are more suited to those so-called
_learned_ ethnologists, who, resembling the anatomists in other branches
of natural history, delight to deal in the mere pedantry of science,--
who, from the mere coincidence of a few words, can prove that two
peoples utterly unlike have sprung from a common source: precisely as
Monsieur Cuvier, by the examination of a single tooth, has proved that a
rabbit was a rhinoceros!

I shall not, therefore, waste time in this way, in hunting up the origin
of the miserable Laplander; nor does it matter much where he sprang
from.  He either came from somewhere else, or was created in Lapland,--
one of the two; and I defy all the philosophers in creation to say
which: since there is no account extant of when he first arrived in that
cold northern land,--not a word to contradict the idea of his having
been there since the first creation of the human race.  We find him
there _now_; and that is all that we have to do with his origin at
present.  Were we to speculate, as to what races are kindred to him, and
to which he bears the greatest resemblance, we should say that he was of
either the same or similar origin with the Esquimaux of North America,
the Greenlanders of Greenland, and the Samoeids, Tuski, and other tribes
dwelling along the northern shores of Asia.  Among all these nations of
little men, there is a very great similarity, both in personal
appearance and habits of life; but it would not be safe to say that they
all came from one common stock.  The resemblances may be the result of a
similarity in the circumstances, by which they are surrounded.  As for
language,--so much relied upon by the _scientific_ ethnologist,--there
could scarce be a more unreliable guide.  The black negro of Carolina,
the fair blue-eyed Saxon, and the red-skinned, red-polled Hibernian, all
speak one language; the descendants of all three, thousands of years
hence, will speak the same,--perhaps when they are widely scattered
apart,--and the superficial philosopher of those future times will, no
doubt, ascribe to them all one common origin!

Language, of itself, is no _proof_ of the natural affinities of two
peoples.  It is evidence of their once having been in juxtaposition,--
not much more.  Of course when other points correspond, similarity of
speech becomes a valuable corroboration.  It is not our purpose, then,
to inquire whence the Laplander came,--only _where_ he is now, and
_what_ he is now.  Where is he now?

If you take your map of Europe, and draw a line from the Gulf of
Kandalax, in the White Sea, to the middle of the Loffoden Isles, on the
Norwegian coast, you will cut off the country which is now properly
called Lapland.  The country at present inhabited by the people called
Laplanders, will be found north of this line.  It is a boundary more
imaginary than real: for in truth there is no political division known
as Lapland, nor has there been for hundreds of years.  It is said there
once was a kingdom of Lapland, and a nation of Laplanders; but there is
no proof that either one or the other ever existed.  There was a
peculiar people, whom we now style Laplanders, scattered over the whole
northern part of the Scandinavian peninsula, and wandering as far south
as the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia; but, that this people had ever any
general compact, or union, deserving the name of government or nation,
there is no proof.  There is no evidence that they ever enjoyed a higher
degree of civilisation than they do at present; and that is not one iota
higher than exists among the Esquimaux of North America,--
notwithstanding the advantage which the Laplander has in the
domestication of a ruminating quadruped and a knowledge of the Christian

The tract of country which I have above assigned to the modern
Laplander, is to be regarded rather as meaning that portion of Northern
Europe, which can scarcely be said to be in the occupation of any other
people.  True Laplanders may be found dwelling, or rather wandering,
much to the south of the line here indicated,--almost to the head of the
Bothnian Gulf,--but in these southern districts, he no longer has the
range clear to himself.  The Finn--a creature of a very different kind--
here meets him; constantly encroaching as a colonist on that territory
which once belonged to the Laplander alone.

It becomes necessary to say a few words about the names we are using:
since a perfect chaos of confusion has arisen among travellers and
writers, in relation to the nomenclature of these two people,--the Finns
and the Laplanders.

In the first place, then, there is in reality no such a people as
Laplanders in Northern Europe.  The word is a mere geographical
invention, or "synonyme," if you wish.  The people to whom we apply the
name, call themselves "Samlash."  The Danes and Norwegians term them
"_Finns_;" and the Swedes and Russians style them "_Laps_."  The people
whom _we_ know as Finns--and who are not Laplanders in any sense--have
received the appellation of Finns erroneously.  These Finns have for a
long period been making progress, as colonists, in the territory once
occupied by the true Finns, or Laplanders; and have nothing in common
with these last people.  They are agriculturists, and dwell in fixed
settlements; not pastoral and nomadic, as the Laplanders eminently are.
Besides, there are many other essential points of difference between the
two,--in mind,--in personal appearance, in habits, in almost everything.
I am particular upon this point,--because the wrong application of the
name _Finns_, to this last-mentioned race, has led writers into a world
of error; and descriptions given of them and their habits have been
applied to the people who are the subjects of the present chapter,--
leading, of course, to the most erroneous conclusions.  It would be like
exhibiting the picture of a Caffre as the likeness of a Hottentot or

The Finns, as geography now designates them,--and which also assigns to
them a country called Finland,--are, therefore, not Finns at all.
Where, they are found in the old Lapland territory as colonists, they
are called _Quans_; and this name is given them alike by Russians,
Swedes, Danes, and Norwegians.

To return to our Laplanders, who are the true Finns.  I have said that
they are called by different names; by the Danes and Norwegians "Finns,"
and by the Russians and Swedes simply "Laps."  No known meaning is
attached to either name; nor can it be discovered at what period either
came into use.  Enough to know that these are the designations by which
they are now known to those four nations who have had chiefly to deal
with them.

Since these people have received so many appellations,--and especially
one that leads to much confusion,--perhaps it is better, for geography's
sake, to accept the error: to leave the _new_ Finns to their usurped
title, and to give the old Finns that distinctive name by which they are
best known to the world, viz _Laplanders_.  So long as it is remembered,
that this is merely a geographical title, no harm can result from
employing it; and should the word _Finns_ occur hereafter, it is to be
considered as meaning not the Finns of Norwegian Finmark, but the Quans
of Finland, on the Gulf of Bothnia.

I have spoken of the country of the Laplanders, as if they _had_ a
country.  They have not.  There is a territory in which they dwell; but
it is not theirs.  Long, long ago the lordship of the soil was taken
from them; and divided between three powerful neighbours.  Russia took
her largest slice from the east; Sweden fell in for its southern part;
and Norway claimed that northern and western portion, lying along the
Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.  This afterwards became the property of
Denmark: when Norway herself ceased to be independent.

The country, therefore, which I have defined as Lapland, in modern times
is so styled, merely because it is almost exclusively occupied by these
people: it not being worth the while of their Danish, Swedish, or
Russian masters to colonise it.  All three, however, claim their share
of it,--have their regular boundary lines,--and each mulcts the
miserable Laplander of an annual tribute, in the shape of a small
poll-tax.  Each, too, has _forced_ his own peculiar views of
Christianity on those within his borders,--the Russian has shaped the
Lap into a Greek Christian; while, under Swedish influence, he is a
disciple of Martin Luther.  His faith, however, is not very rational,
one way or the other; and, in out-of-the-way corners of his chaotic
country, he still adheres to some of his old mythic customs of sorcery
and witchcraft: in other words, he is a "pagan."

Before proceeding to describe the Laplander, either personally or
intellectually, a word about the country in which he dwells.  I have
called it a _chaotic_ land.  It has been described as a "huge congeries
of frightful rocks and stupendous mountains, with many pleasant valleys,
watered by an infinite number of rivulets, that run into the rivers and
lakes."  Some of the lakes are of large extent, containing a countless
number of islands; one alone--the Lake Enaro--having so many, that it
has been said no Laplander has lived long enough to visit each
particular island.  There is a great variety in the surface of the land.
In some parts of the country the eye rests only on peaks and ridges of
bleak, barren mountains,--on summits covered with never-melting snow,--
on bold, rocky cliffs or wooded slopes, where only the firs and birches
can flourish.  In other parts there are dusky forests of pines,
intersected here and there by wide morasses or bogs.  Elsewhere, are
extensive tracts of treeless champaign, covered with the white
reindeer-lichen, as if they were under a fall of snow!

During summer there are many green and beautiful spots, where even the
rose sheds its fragrance around, and many berry-bearing bushes blossom
brightly; but the summer is of short duration, and in those parts where
it is most attractive, the pest of gnats, mosquitoes, and gadflies,
renders the country uninhabitable to the Laplander.  We shall see
presently, that, in the summer months, he flees from such lowland
scenes, as from a pestilence; and betakes himself and his herd to the
bleak, barren mountains.

Having given this short sketch of the country inhabited by the
Laplander, we proceed to a description of himself.

He is short,--not more than five feet five inches, average height,--
squat and stoutish,--rarely corpulent,--though there is a difference in
all these respects, between those who inhabit different parts of the
country.  The Laps of Norwegian Lapland are taller than those in the
Russian and Swedish territory.

His features are small, his eyes elongated, or slit-like, as among the
Mongolian tribes; his cheek-bones prominent,--his mouth large and wide,
and his chin sharply-pointed.  His hair is black, or sometimes brownish;
though among some tribes settled along the coasts light hair is not
uncommon.  It is probable that this may have originated in some
admixture of blood with Norwegian, Russian, and other fishermen who
frequent these coasts.

The Laplander has little or no beard; and in this respect he resembles
the Greenlander and Esquimaux.  His body is ill-made, bony and muscular,
and stronger than would be expected from his pigmy stature.  He is
active, and capable of enduring extreme fatigue and privation; though it
is a mistake to suppose that he is the agile creature he has been
represented,--this error arising no doubt from the surprising speed with
which habit has enabled him to skate over the frozen snow; and which, to
a person unused to it, would appear to prove an extraordinary degree of
agility.  The hands and feet are small,--another point in common with
the Esquimaux.  The Laplander's voice is far from being a manly one.  On
the contrary, it is of small compass, weak, and of a squeaking tone.
The complexion of the Laplander is generally regarded as _dark_.  Its
natural hue is perhaps not much darker than that of the Norwegian.
Certainly not darker than many Portuguese or Spaniards; but, as he is
seen, he appears as swarth as an Indian.  This, however, arises from the
long and almost constant exposure to smoke: in the midst of which the
miserable creature spends more than half of his time.

It may again be observed, that those dwelling on the seashore are of
lighter complexion; but perhaps that is also due to a foreign admixture.

We have given a picture of the Laplander's person; now a word or two
about his mind.

Both his intellectual and moral man are peculiar,--even more so than his
physical,--differing essentially from that of all the other
nationalities with which he is brought in contact.  He is cold-hearted,
selfish, and morose.  To love he is almost a stranger; and when such a
feeling does exist within his bosom, it is rather as a spark than a
passion.  His courtship and marriage are pure matters of business,--
rarely having any other motive than self-interest.  One woman will do
for his wife wife as well as another; and better, if she be richer by
half a dozen reindeer!

Hospitality is a virtue equally unknown to him.  He wishes to see no
stranger; and even wonders why a stranger should stray into his wild,
bleak country.  He is ever suspicious of the traveller through his land;
unless that traveller chance to come in the guise of a Russian or
Norwegian merchant, to exchange strong brandy for his reindeer-skins, or
the furs of the animals he may have trapped.  In his dealings he
exhibits a sufficient degree of cunning,--much more than might be
expected from the low standard of his intellect; and he will take no
paper-money or any kind of "scrip" in exchange.  This caution, however,
he has acquired from a terrible experience, which he once had in dealing
with paper-money; and he is determined that the folly shall never again
be repeated.  Even in _his_ out-of-the-way corner of the globe, there
was at one time a bank speculation of the "Anglo-Bengalee" character, of
which the poor Lap was made an especial victim.

He has no courage whatever.  He will not resist oppression.  The
stranger--Russ or Norwegian--may strike, kick, or cuff him,--he will not
return the blow.  Belike he will burst into tears!

And yet, under some circumstances, he shows a feeling akin to courage.
He is cool in moments of danger from the elements, or when opposed to
fierce animals, as the wolf or the bear.  He is also capable of enduring
fatigue to an extreme degree; and it is known historically that he was
once warlike,--at least much more so than at present.  _Now_, there is
not a drop of warrior blood in his veins.  On the contrary, he is timid
and pacific, and rarely quarrels.  He carries constantly upon his person
a long ugly knife, of Norwegian manufacture; but he has never been known
to draw it,--never known to commit murder with it.

These are certainly virtues; but it is to be feared that with him they
owe their origin to timidity and the dread of consequences.  Now and
then he has a quarrel with one of his fellows; but the knife is never
used; and the "punishment" consists in giving and receiving various
kicks, scratches, pullings of the hair and ears: genuine blows, however,
are not attempted, and the long knife never leaves its sheath.

In the olden time he was a great believer in witches; in fact, noted for
his faith in sorcery.  Christianity, such as it is, has done much to
eradicate this belief; but he is still troubled with a host of

Of filial and parental affection his stock is but scanty.  The son
shifts for himself, as soon as he is able to do so; and but little
anxiety is exhibited about him afterwards.  The daughter goes to the
highest bidder,--to him who is most liberal in presents of brandy to the
parent.  Jealousy is little known.  How could it be felt, where there is
no love?

One of the worst vices of the Laplander is his fondness for drink,--
amounting almost to a passion.  It is one of his costliest, too: since
he often consumes the produce of his industry in its indulgence.  His
favourite beverage is strong, bad brandy,--a staple article kept by the
traders, to exchange for the commodities which the country affords.  As
these men care little for the result, and have a far greater influence
over the Laplander than either the government officials, or the lazy,
timeserving missionaries, it is not probable that temperance will ever
be introduced among these wretched people.  Fortunately, only the coast
Laplanders are at all times subject to this influence.  The mountain
people or those who dwell most of their time in the interior, are too
distant from the "tap" to be so grievously affected by it.  It is only
on their short annual visits to the merchant stations on the coast, that
they fall extensively into the jaws of this degrading vice.

The dress of the Laplander is now to be described.

The men wear on their heads tall caps, of a conical form, usually of a
cloth called _wadmal_, or some species of kersey furnished by the
merchants.  This cap has a tassel at top, and around the bottom is
turned up several inches,--where it is strengthened by a band of
reindeer-skin, or the fur of the otter.  The coat is a loose garment or
frock: made of the skin of the reindeer, with the hairy side out, and
fastened around the waist with a broad leathern belt.

In this belt is stuck the pointed knife, and a pouch or two, for pipe,
tobacco, and spoon, are also suspended from it.  Breeches of
reindeer-skin--the hide of the young fawns--reach to the ankles; and
buskins, or rather stockings, of the same material cover the feet.
These are gartered over the ends of the breeches, in such a way that no
snow can get in; and since there is neither shirt nor drawers worn, we
have given every article of a Laplander's dress.  No.  There are the
gloves, or mittens, which must not be forgotten,--as they are one of the
things most essential to his comfort.  These are also the universal

Simple as is this dress of the Lapland men, it is not more simple than
that of the Lapland women, since both one and the other are exactly
alike.  A slight difference is observable in the shape of the bonnet;
but for the rest, the lady wears the deer-skin frock, the breeches, and
boots,--and like her liege lord, she scorns to include linen in her
wardrobe.  This plain dress, however, is the everyday _winter_ costume.
The summer one, and especially upon grand occasions, is somewhat
different, and altogether gayer.  The shape is much the same; but the
tunic or frock is of cloth, sometimes plain, coarse _wadmal_; but in the
case of the richer proprietors, of fine coloured cloth,--even scarlet
being sometimes worn.  No matter what the quality of the cloth, however,
the trimmings are always of rich, bright-coloured stuffs; and consist of
bands or cords around the skirt, sleeves, and collar, elaborately
stitched by the females,--who are in all cases the tailors.  The
leathern belt, worn with this dress, is loaded with ornaments,--little
square and triangular plates of brass or white metal, and often of
heavy, solid silver.  The belt is an esteemed article,--as much so as
his wampum to a North-American savage,--and it requires a large sum to
tempt a Laplander to part with the precious equipment.  A finer cap is
also worn, on these summer and holiday occasions.  Not unfrequently,
however, the Laplander--especially the mountain Lap--sticks to his
deer-skin coat, the _paesk_, through all weathers, and throughout all
seasons,--when it is too hot simply taking off the belt, and leaving the
flaps loose and open.  In cold weather, and especially when riding in
his sledge, an additional garment is worn.  This is a fur "tippet,"
which covers his shoulders down to the elbows.  It is made from the
shaggy skin of the brown bear,--with the claws left on and hanging down
in front of the breast.

Before proceeding to describe the mode of life and occupation of the
Laplander, it is necessary to state that all of the people known as
Laplanders, are not occupied alike.  On the contrary, they may be
separated into three distinct classes, according to the lives which they
lead; and it is absolutely necessary to make this classification in the
illustration of their habits.  They are all alike in race and national
characteristics,--all Laplanders,--and they differ but little in their--
style of dressing; but, in other respects, what might be said of one
would not be true of the other two.  I proceed, therefore, to point out
the distinction.

The first to be noticed are those we have already mentioned under the
title of "Coast," or "Shore Laplanders."  The name will give an idea of
their _habitat_,--as also their mode of life and subsistence.  They
dwell along the Norwegian coasts, round to the North Cape, and even
beyond it.  They build their _gammes_, or sod-thatched dwellings, in
little villages around the numerous creeks and "fiords" that intersect
this rock-bound shore.

Their calling is that of fishermen.  They subsist almost entirely upon
fish; and live by selling their surplus to the merchants and Russian
traders.  They keep a few sheep, sometimes a poor cow, but rarely own
the reindeer.  The life they lead is entirely different from that of
their kindred, who dwell habitually in the interior.  As it differs
little from that of poor fishermen elsewhere, I shall dismiss the coast
Laplander without another word.

The second kind of Lap who merits our consideration, is that known as
the "Wood Laplander," or, more commonly, "Wood Lap."  He is less known
than either of the two other varieties; but, as already stated, he
differs from them principally on account of his occupation.  His home is
to be found upon the extensive plain country of Russian Lapland, and not
near the sea.  He is a dweller in the pine and fir-forests; and builds
him a rude hut, very similar to the gamme of the coast Lap; but he is in
possession of some reindeer,--not enough, however, to support him,--and
he ekes out a subsistence by fishing in the rivers and fresh-water lakes
of the interior, by shooting the elk and wild reindeer, and trapping the
fur-bearing animals,--the ermine, the sable, the miniver-squirrel, the
badger, glutton, foxes, and wolves.

As his calling is chiefly that of a hunter and trapper, and therefore
very similar to like occupations in many other parts of the world, we
need not enter into details of it here.  For the present, therefore, we
must _shelve_ the _Wood Lap_ along with his kinsman of the coast.

This brings us to the third class,--the "Mountain," or, as he is often
called, the "Reindeer Laplander:" since it is the possession of this
animal that chiefly distinguishes him from the other two classes of his

His mode of life is altogether different from either,--in fact,
resembling theirs in but few particulars.  True, he fishes a little, and
occasionally does a bit of amateur hunting; but these are mere adjuncts
or pastimes.  His main support is his antlered flock: it would be more
truthful to call it his sole support.  By the reindeer lives, by the
reindeer he _moves_, by the reindeer he has his being.

His life is purely pastoral; he is a nomade,--a wanderer.  All the world
knows this; but all the world does not know _why_ he wanders.  Writers
have asserted that it was to seek new pasture for his flocks,--the old
ground having been eaten bare.  Nothing of the sort.  He leaves the
fertile plains, just as the willows are putting forth their succulent
shoots,--just as the rich grass begins to spring fresh and green,--and
betakes himself to the bleak sides of the mountains.  That does not look
like seeking for a better pasture.  It has nothing to do with it.

Let us follow him, however, throughout his wanderings,--through the
circuit of a single year,--and, perhaps, we shall find out the motive
that inducts him into the roving habit.

First, then, to be a "Reindeer Laplander," he must be the owner of one
hundred head of deer; fewer than that will be of no use.  If he have
only fifty, he must sell out, and betake himself to some settlement of
Quans or Norwegians,--there to give his service for hire,--or else turn
Coast Laplander and fisherman,--a calling which he despises.  This would
be a sinking in the social scale; but, if he has been imprudent or
unfortunate, and his flock has got reduced to fifty head, there is no
help for it.  If he have one hundred, however, he may manage with great
economy to rub on; and keep up his character as a _free Reindeer Lap_.
With three hundred he can live comfortably; better with five hundred;
but a thousand would render him affluent.  With fifteen hundred he would
be a grandee; and two thousand would give him the rank of a millionaire!
There are very few millionaires in Lapland, and not many grandees.
Proprietors of even a thousand head are scarce; there are more whose
herds number from three hundred to five hundred each.

And here, I may remark, that there is no government,--no tribal
organisation.  The owner of each herd is the head of a family; over them
he is patriarch, but his power extends no further.  It is not even great
so far, if there chance to be grown-up unruly sons sharing the common

I have used the word tent.  That is the Reindeer Laplander's home,--
winter and summer alike.  Notwithstanding the severity of his clime, he
builds no house; and even his tent is of the very rudest kind known
among tenting tribes.  It consists of some birch saplings set up in the
snow, bent towards each other, and then covered over with a piece of
coarse cloth,--the _wadmal_.  This he prefers to a covering of skins;
and obtains it from the Norwegian or Russ trader in exchange for the
latter.  The tent, when standing, is only six feet high, and not much
more in diameter.  In this circumscribed space his whole family, wife,
daughters, sons, often a retainer or two, and about a dozen dogs find
shelter from the piercing blast,--seated, or lying beside, or on top of
one another, higgledy-piggledy, any way they can.  There is room found
besides for a large iron or brass cooking-pot, some dishes and bowls of
birch, a rude stone furnace, and a fire in the middle of the floor.
Above the fire, a rack forms a shelf for countless tough cheeses, pieces
of reindeers' flesh, bowls of milk, bladders of deer's blood, and a
multiplicity of like objects.

The spring is just opening; the frost has thawed from the trees,--for
the winter home is in the midst of a forest,--the ground is bare of
snow, and already smiling with a carpet of green, enamelled by many
brilliant flowers.  It is time, therefore, for the Reindeer Laplander to
decamp from the spot, and seek some other scene less inviting to the
eye.  You will naturally inquire why he does this? and perhaps you will
express some surprise at a man showing so little judgment as to take
leave of the fertile plain,--just now promising to yield him a rich
pasture for his herds,--and transport his whole stock to the cold
declivity of a bleak mountain?  Yes, it is natural this should astonish
you,--not, however, when you have heard the explanation.

Were he to stay in that plain--in that wood where he has wintered--a
month longer, he would run the risk of losing half of his precious herd:
perhaps in one season find himself reduced to the necessity of becoming
a _Coast Lap_.  The reason is simple,--the great gadfly (_Aestrus
tarandi_), with numerous other tormentors, are about to spring forth
from the morass; and, as soon as the hot sun has blown them into full
strength and vitality, commence their work of desolation upon the deer.
In a few short days or hours their eggs would be deposited in the
skin,--even in the nostrils of the antlered creature,--there to
germinate and produce disease and death.  Indeed, the torment of biting
gnats and other insects would of itself materially injure the health and
condition of the animals; and if not driven to the mountains, they would
"stampede," and go there of their own accord.  It becomes a necessity,
then, for the Reindeer Lap to remove his habitation; and, having
gathered a few necessary utensils, and packed them on his stoutest
bucks, he is off to the mountains.

He does not take the whole of his _penates_ along with him.  That would
be difficult, for the snow is now gone, and he cannot use his proper
mode of travelling,--the sledge.  This he leaves behind him; as well as
all other implements and articles of household use, which he can do
without in his summer quarters.  The cooking-pot, and a few bowls and
dishes, go along with him,--also the tent-cloth, and some skins for
bedding.  The smaller articles are deposited in panniers of wicker,
which are slung over the backs of a number of pack-deer; and, if a
balance be required, the infant Lap, in its little boat-like cradle,
forms the adjusting medium.

The journey is often of immense length.  There may be highlands near,
but these are not to the Laplander's liking.  Nothing will satisfy him
but the bold mountain range that overlooks the sea, trending along the
whole Norwegian coast: only on the declivities of this, or on one of the
thousand elevated rocky isles that guard this extensive seaboard, does
the Laplander believe that his deer will enjoy proper health.  He has a
belief, moreover, that at least once every year, the reindeer should
drink sea-water to keep them in condition.  Certain it is, that on
reaching the sea, these animals rush eagerly into the water, and drink
the briny fluid; and yet ever after, during the same season, they refuse
to taste it!  It is the general opinion that the solitary draught thus
taken has the effect of destroying such larvae, as may have already
formed in their skins.

This journey often costs the Laplander great fatigue and trouble.  It is
not uncommon for him to go two hundred miles to the Norwegian coast; for
although his habitual home may lie much nearer to the shores of the
Bothnian gulf, it would not serve his purpose to take his flock there.
The forest on that side grows to the water's edge; and the gadfly is as
abundant there, as in the wooded districts of the interior.

On reaching his destination, the Laplander chooses his grazing-ground,
sometimes on the mountains of the mainland; but he prefers one of the
elevated islets so numerous along the shore.  This insures him against
all danger from the flies, and also saves him much trouble in herding
his deer.  The islet may be two miles from the main, or any other land.
That does not signify.  The reindeer can swim like ducks, and the herd
is soon driven over.  The wadmal tent is then pitched; and the work of
the summer begins.  This consists in milking, cheese-making, and looking
after the young deer; and a little fishing adds to the keep of the
family: for it is at this time that foreign support is most required.
The season of summer is with the mountain Lap his season of scarcity!
He does not dream of killing his deer at this season,--that would be
sheer waste,--nor does he drink their milk, only in very little
quantity.  It goes to the making of cheese, and the owner of the herd
contents himself with the whey.  Butter is not made at all by the
Reindeer Lap, though the Quans and Norwegians make some.  The Lap would
have no use for it,--since he eats no bread,--and it would not keep so
well, nor yet be so safe an article of merchandise as the cheese.  The
latter he regards as his staple article of profit.  He sells it to the
coast-merchant: receiving in exchange his favourite dram-stuff, and a
few pieces of coarse cloth, or utensils.  The merchant is near at hand:
for just for this very purpose are several small ports and settlements
kept in existence along the otherwise desert shores of Norway.
Deer-skins and dried fish, oils of the seal, furs and pelts of various
kinds, have drawn these little settlements to the coast.  Otherwise they
would not be there.

When the heat of the summer is over, the reindeer Laplander commences
his return to his winter abode,--back to the place whence he came.  The
gadflies are now gone, and he can drive his deer back with safety; and
just as he travelled to the coast, he wends his way home again: for it
is to be observed that he regards the winter residence as the real home,
and the summer one only as a place of temporary sojourn.  He does not
look upon it, as we at such a season.  To him it is no pleasant
excursion: rather is it his period of toil and dearth,--his _tightest_

Once home again, he has nothing to do but erect his wadmal tent and look
after his deer,--that now find food upon their favourite lichen.  It is
buried inches deep under the snow.  They care not for that.  They can
soon uncover the pasture with their broad hoofs; and their keen scent
never allows them to scrape up the snow without finding the lichen
underneath.  Upon it they thrive, and at this season are in the best
condition for the knife.

The Laplander now also enjoys life.  If rich, he has fresh venison every
day; but even if only moderately well off, he "kills" two or three times
a week.  His mode of slaughtering is original.  He sticks his long,
knife-blade into the throat of the animal, leaving it there till the
creature is dead!  This precaution he takes to prevent waste.  Were he
to pull out the blade, the blood would flow and be lost.  The knife acts
as a stopper to the wound it has made.  The blood is preserved and
carefully put away,--the bladder being used as the vessel to contain it.

You must not imagine that the Reindeer Lap remains all the winter in one
place; on the contrary, he moves repeatedly, always taking his tent and
tent-utensils along with him.  The tent is as easily set up as taken
down.  The ground in all sheltered places is, at this season, covered
with snow.  It is only necessary to shovel it off, clearing a circular
space about the size of the ground-plan of the tent.  The snow, thus
removed, produces a sort of elevated ring or snow-dyke all round the
bare spot; and into this the tent-poles are hammered.  They are then
bent inward, tied near the tops, and the _wadmal_ being laid on as
before, the tent is ready for use.

Fresh branches of evergreen pines, and other trees, are strewed over the
floor; and on top of these are laid the deer-skins that serve for beds,
chairs, tables, and blankets.  These, with the iron cooking-pot, a large
iron or brass pail to hold melted snow-water for drinking, and a few
other utensils, are the only furniture of the dwelling.  I have already
stated that the fire is built in the centre of the tent,--on some large
stones, forming a rudely-constructed hearth.  A hole in the roof is
intended for a chimney; but its draught is so bad, that the tent is
almost always filled with a cloud of bitter smoke,--so thick as to
render objects invisible.  In this atmosphere no other European,
excepting a Lap, could possibly exist; and travellers, passing through
the Lapland country, have often preferred braving the cold frost of the
night air, to being half smothered by the smoke; and have consequently
taken shelter under a neighbouring tree.  The Laplander himself feels
but little inconvenienced by the very thickest smoke.

Habit is everything, and to this habit has he been used from his
infancy.  His eyes, however, are not so indifferent to the annoyance.
These suffer from it; and the consequence is that the eyes of the
Laplanders are almost universally sore and watery.  This is a notable
characteristic of the race.  Smoke, however, is not the sole cause of
it.  The Esquimaux equally suffer from sore eyes; and these, burning oil
in their houses instead of wood, are seldom troubled with smoke.  More
likely it is the snow-glare to which the Laplander, as well as the
Esquimaux, is much exposed, that brings about this copious _watering_ of
the eyes.

The Laplander cooks the reindeer flesh by boiling.  A large piece is put
into the great family pot, and nothing added but a quantity of water.
In this the meat boils and simmers till it is done tender.  The oily fat
is then skimmed off, and put into a separate vessel; and the meat is
"dished" in a large tray or bowl of birch-bark.

A piece is then cut off, for each individual of the family; and handed
around the circle.  It is eaten without bread, and even salt is
dispensed with.  A dip in the bowl of skim-fat is all the seasoning it
gets; and it is washed down with the "liquor" in which it has been
boiled, and which is nothing but greasy water, without vegetables or any
other "lining."  It has the flavour of the fat venison, however; and is
by no means ill-tasted.  The _angelica_ flourishes in the country of the
Laplander, and of this vegetable he makes occasional use, not eating the
roots, but the stalks and leaves, usually raw and without any
preparation.  Perhaps he is led to use it, by a knowledge of the
antiscorbutic properties of the plant.

Several species of berry-producing bushes also furnish him with an
occasional meal of fruit.  There are wild currants, the cranberry,
whortle, and bilberries.  The fruits of these trees do not fall in the
autumn, as with us; but remain all winter upon the branches.  Buried
under the snow, they are preserved in perfect condition, until the thaw
of the following spring once more brings them into view.  At this time
they are sweet and mellow; and are gathered in large quantities by the
Lap women.  Sometimes they are eaten, as they come from the tree; but it
is more usual to make them into a "plum-pudding:" that is, they are
mixed with a kind of curdled milk, and stored away in bladders.  When
wanted, a slice is cut from the mass,--including a piece of the bladder,
within which they have now attained to the stiffness and consistence of
a "cream-cheese."

Another great luxury of the Laplander, is the reindeer's milk frozen
into an "ice."  This is easily obtained; and the process consists simply
in filling a birchen bowl with milk, and exposing it to the open air
during frost.  It is soon converted into solid ice; and in this
condition will keep perfectly sweet throughout the whole of the winter.
As the reindeer are never milked in the depth of the winter season, the
Laplander takes care, before that period approaches, to lay in a stock
of ice-milk: so that he may have a drink of it at all times, by simply
setting one of his birchen bowls within reach of the fire.  He even
makes a merchandise of this article: for the frozen reindeer milk is
highly prized by the foreign merchants; who are ready, at any time, to
exchange for the delicious article a dram of their devilish fire-water.

It is at this season that the Laplander moves about, both on foot and in
his sledge.  He not only travels from place to place, in a circuit of
twenty miles,--round the little solitary church which the Swedish
missionary has built for him,--but he makes an occasional journey to the
distant coast.

In his sledge, or even afoot, a hundred miles are to him as nothing: for
the frozen snow enables him to perform such a distance in an incredibly
short time.  On his "skis," or snow-skates he could do a hundred miles
in a couple of days; even though the paths led him over hills,
mountains, lakes, and rivers.  All are now alike,--all concealed under
the common covering of a deep snow.  The lakes and rivers are frozen and
bridged for him; and the mountain declivities are rendered smooth and
easily traversed,--either by the sledge or the "skis."  With the former
he would think little of a hundred miles in a single day; and if the
occasion were a "killing" one, and relays could be had upon the route,
twice that enormous distance he could easily accomplish.

The mode of sleigh-travelling by the Reindeer Laplander, as also his
snow-skimming, or skating, have been both often and elaborately
described.  I have only space here to present the more salient points of
the picture.

This sleigh or sledge is termed by him "pulka;" but he has three
varieties of this article,--two for travelling, and the third for
carrying luggage.  The two first kinds are nearly alike; and, in fact,
differ only in a little extra "furniture," which one of them has upon
it,--that is, a covering over the top, to keep more comfortable the feet
and legs of the traveller.  In other respects it is only the common
pulk, being similar to the latter in shape, size, _atelage_, and

To get an idea of the Laplander's sledge, you must fancy a little boat,
about six feet long, and sixteen inches in breadth of beam.  This is the
width at the stern, where it is broadest; but from the stern it narrows
all the way forward, until, on reaching the stem, it has tapered almost
to a point.  Its sides are exactly like those of a boat; and it rests
upon a "keel" of about four inches breadth, which keel is the one and
only "runner."  A strong board boxes up the stern end, in front of which
is the seat; and the board itself serves to support the back of the
rider.  His legs and feet are stretched out longitudinally; filling up
the space between the quarter-deck and the "forward" part of the little
craft; and, thus fixed, the Laplander is ready for the road.

In the best class of "pulk"--that used by the Russ and Swedish traders
and travellers--the forward part is covered with a sort of half-deck of
skins or leather; but the Laplander does not often fancy this.  It gives
him too much trouble to get out and in; as he is often compelled to do
to look after his train of deer.  His pulk, therefore, is open from stem
to stern; and his deer-skin coverings keep his legs warm enough.

Only one deer is used; and the mode of harnessing is of primitive
simplicity.  A band of skin acts as a collar round the neck of the
animal; and from the lowest point of this a piece falls downwards below
the animal's breast,--striking in on the counter like the pendants of a
martingale.  To this piece is attached the trace,--there is but one,--
which, passing between the forelegs, and afterwards the hind ones, is
looped into an iron ring upon the stem of the sledge.  Upon this trace,
which is a strong strap of raw hide or leather, the whole draught-power
is exerted.  A broad surcingle--usually of cloth, neatly stitched and
ornamented--passes round the deer's body.  Its use is to hold up the
trace underneath the belly, and prevent it from dragging the ground, or
getting among the animal's feet.  A similar band of cloth passes round
its neck, giving a fine appearance to the noble creature.  A single rein
attached to the left horn, or fixed halter-fashion around the deer's
head, is all that is necessary to guide it along; the movements of this,
aided by the accents of its master's voice, are understood by this
well-trained animal.

For all that, the deer does not _always_ travel kindly.  Frequently he
takes a fit of obstinacy or anger; and will then turn upon his
trainer,--presenting his antlered front in an attitude of attack.  On
such occasions the Lap takes shelter behind his "pulk," raising it in
his arms, and holding it as a shield wherewith to defend himself; until
he can pacify, or otherwise subdue, the irritated buck.

The tumbling of the sledge, and consequent spilling of its load, is a
thing of frequent occurrence, owing to the narrow base upon which the
vehicle is supported; but the Laplander thinks nothing of a trifling
mishap of this nature.  In a trice the "snow-boat" is righted, the
voyager in his seat again, and off over the frozen snow with the speed
of lightning.

The reindeer can travel nearly twenty English miles an hour!  This rate
of speed has been proved and tested; and with fresh relays along the
route, over four hundred miles might be made in a day.  But the same
thing could be done with horses,--that is, upon a desperate emergency.

The luggage "pulk" of the Laplander differs only from the other kinds of
sledges in being longer, broader, deeper, and consequently of more
capacity to carry goods.  It is used for transporting the skins, and
other merchantable commodities, from the interior to the trading depots
on the coast.

The _skis_ or snow-skates require very little description.  They are on
the same principle as the snow-shoes in use among the North-American
Indians; though from these they differ materially in construction.  They
are merely two long pieces of smooth board, a few inches in breadth, and
slightly turned up at the ends.  One is full six feet,--the right one;
the left is about twelve inches shorter.  Near the middle they are
lashed firmly to the feet by strong pieces of hide; and by means of
these curious appendages, when the snow is crusted over, the Laplander
can skim over its surface with great rapidity.  He uses a long pole to
guide and assist him in his movements; and this pole has a piece of
circular board, or a round ball, near its point,--to prevent it from
sinking too deeply in the snow.  Going _up hill_ upon the skis is not so
easy,--but the practised skater can ascend even the steep acclivities of
the mountains with less difficulty than might be imagined.  This is
accomplished in zigzag lines,--each leading to a higher elevation.  Down
hill, the course upon _skis_ is rapid almost as the flight of an arrow;
and, by means of the long pole, rocks, ravines, and precipices, are
shunned with a dexterity that is quite surprising.  Altogether a
Laplander, either in his reindeer sledge, or upon his long wooden
"skis," is as interesting a sight as may be seen anywhere.

After all that has been said, it will appear pretty clearly, that the
Laplander, though dwelling so very near to civilised lands, is still
very far distant from _true civilisation_.



On the eastern side of the Bay of Bengal lies a cluster, or archipelago,
of islands known as the "Andamans."  They form a long string running
nearly northward and southward; and with the Nicobar group, still
further to the south, they appear like a series of stepping-stones
connecting Cape Negrais, in the Burmese country, with the island of
Sumatra.  Independent of the Nicobar Islands, the Andamans themselves
have an extent of several hundred miles in length; while their breadth
is nowhere over about twenty miles.  Until of late the greater portion
of the group was supposed to form only one island,--known as the "Great
Andaman;" but, in the year 1792, this was discovered to have a channel
across it that divided it into two distinct parts.

The discovery of this channel was accidental; and the accident was
attended with melancholy consequences.  A vessel from Madras had entered
between the Great Andaman, and the opposite coast of Burmah.  This
vessel was laden with provisions, intended for the supply of Port
Cornwallis,--a convict settlement, which the British had formed the
preceding year on the eastern side of the island.  The master of the
vessel, not knowing the position of Port Cornwallis, sent a boat to
explore an opening which he saw in the land,--fancying that it might be
the entrance to the harbour.  It was not this, however; but the mouth of
the channel above mentioned.  The crew of the boat consisted of two
Europeans and six Lascars.  It was late in the afternoon when they stood
into the entrance; and, as it soon fell dark upon them, they lost their
way, and found themselves carried along by a rapid current that set
towards the Bay of Bengal.  The north-east monsoon was blowing at the
time with great violence; and this, together with the rapid current,
soon carried the boat through the channel; and, in spite of their
efforts, they were driven out into the Indian Ocean, far beyond sight of
land!  Here for eighteen days the unfortunate crew were buffeted about;
until they were picked up by a French ship, almost under the equinoctial
line, many hundreds of miles from the channel they had thus
involuntarily discovered!  The sad part of the story remains to be told.
When relieved by the French vessel, the two Europeans and three of the
Lascars were still living; the other three Lascars had disappeared.
Shocking to relate, they had been killed and eaten by their companions!

The convict settlement above mentioned was carried on only for a few
years, and then abandoned,--in consequence of the unhealthiness of the
climate, by which the Sepoy guards of the establishment perished in
great numbers.

Notwithstanding this, the Andaman Islands present a very attractive
aspect.  A ridge of mountains runs nearly throughout their whole extent,
rising in some places to a height of between two and three thousand
feet.  These mountains are covered to their tops by dense forests, that
might be called primeval,--since no trace of clearing or cultivation is
to be found on the whole surface of the islands; nor has any ever
existed within the memory of man, excepting that of the convict
settlement referred to.  Some of the forest trees are of great size and
height; and numerous species are intermixed.  Mangroves line the shores;
and prickly ferns and wild rattans form an impenetrable brake on the
sides of the hills; bamboos are also common, and the "gambier" or
"cutch" tree (_Agathis_), from which is extracted the _Terra Japonica_
of commerce.  There are others that yield dyes, and a curious species of
screw-pine (_pandanus_),--known as the "Nicobar breadfruit."

Notwithstanding their favourable situation, the zoology of these islands
is extremely limited in species.  The only quadrupeds known to exist
upon them are wild hogs, dogs, and rats; and a variety of the monkey
tribe inhabits the forests of the interior.  The land-birds are few,--
consisting of pigeons, doves, small parrots, and the Indian crow; while
hawks are seen occasionally hovering over the trees; and a species of
humming-bird flies about at night, uttering a soft cry that resembles
the cooing of doves.  There are owls of several species; and the cliffs
that front the coast are frequented by a singular swallow,--the _hirundo
esculenta_, whose nests are eaten by the wealthy mandarins of China.
Along the shores there are gulls, kingfishers, and other aquatic birds.
A large lizard of the _guana_ species is common, with several others;
and a green snake, of the most venomous description, renders it
dangerous to penetrate the jungle thickets that cover the whole surface
of the country.

In all these matters there is not much that is remarkable,--if we accept
the extreme paucity of the zoology; and this is really a peculiarity,--
considering that the Andaman Islands lie within less than eighty leagues
of the Burman territory, a country so rich in mammalia; considering,
too, that they are covered with immense forests, almost impenetrable to
human beings, on account of their thick intertwining of underwood and
parasitical plants,--the very home, one would suppose for wild beasts of
many kinds!  And withal we find only three species of quadrupeds, and
these small ones, thinly distributed along the skirts of the forest.  In
truth, the Andaman Islands and their _fauna_ have long been a puzzle to
the zoologist.

But longer still, and to a far greater extent, have their human
inhabitants perplexed the ethnologist; and here we arrive at the true
peculiarity of the Andaman Islands,--that is to say, the _people_ who
inhabit them.  With perhaps no exception, these people are the most
truly savage of any on the face of the globe; and this has been their
character from the earliest times: for they have been known to the
ancients as far back as the time of Ptolemy.  Ptolemy mentions them
under the title of _anthropophagi_ (man-eaters); and the Arabs of the
ninth century, who navigated the Indian Ocean, have given a similar
account of them.  Marco Polo adopts this statement, and what is still
more surprising, one of the most noted ethnologists of our own time--Dr
Latham--has given way to a like credulity, and puts the poor Andamaners
down as "pagan cannibals."  It is an error: they are not cannibals in
any sense of the word; and if they have ever eaten human flesh,--of
which there is no proof,--it has been when impelled by famine.  Under
like circumstances, some of every nation on earth have done the same,--
Englishmen, Germans, Frenchmen, Americans,--of late years frequently,--
in the mountains of New Mexico and California.

The charge of cannibalism against these miserable beings rests on no
other foundation than the allegations of Chinese sailors, and the vague
statements of Ptolemy and the Arabs above mentioned.

The Chinese have occasion now and then to visit the Andaman Islands in
their junks, to collect the edible nests of the swallow (_hirundo
esculenta_),--which birds have extensive breeding-places on the cliffs
that overhang the coast of the Great Andaman.  The "trepang," or
sea-slug, is also found in large quantities upon the rocks near the
shore; and this is equally an object of commerce, and esteemed an
article of the greatest luxury, among the mandarins, and other rich
celestials who can afford to indulge in it.

Now and then, a junk has been wrecked among these rocks; and its
miserable crew have fallen a victim to the hostility of the natives:
just as they might have done on more civilised coasts, where no
cannibalism was ever suspected to exist.  Crews of junks have been
totally destroyed,--murdered, if you please,--but it would not be
difficult to show, that this was done more from motives of revenge than
from a mere sanguinary instinct or disposition; but there is no proof
whatever of, even a single case, of true cannibalism.  Indeed there are
strong reasons for our disbelief in this horrid custom,--so far as
regards the poor savages of the Andamans.  An incident, that seems to
give a flat contradiction to it, occurred during the occupancy of the
island by the East-India Company in the year 1793; and other proofs of
non-cannibalism have been obtained at a still more recent period, to
which we shall presently allude.

The incident of 1793 was as follows: A party of fishers belonging to the
settlement enticed an Andaman woman to come near, by holding out
presents of food.  The woman was made captive by these treacherous men;
who, instead of relieving her hunger, proceeded to behave to her in the
most brutal and unfeeling manner.  The cries of the poor creature
brought a numerous troop of her people to the spot; who, rushing out of
the thickets from every side, collected around the fishermen; and,
having attacked them with spears and arrows, succeeded in killing two of
their number.  The rest with difficulty escaped to the settlement; and,
having obtained assistance, a large party set out to search for the
bodies of their companions.  There was but little expectation that these
would be recovered: as all were under the belief that the savages must
have carried them away for the purpose of making a cannibal feast upon
them.  There had been ample time for the removing of them: since the
scene of the struggle was at a considerable distance from the fort.

The searchers, therefore, were somewhat astonished at finding both
bodies on the spot where they had fallen, and the enemy entirely gone
from the ground!  The bodies were disfigured in the most shocking
manner.  The flesh was pierced in every part,--by spears, no doubt,--and
the bones had been pounded with heavy stones, until they were mashed
into fragments; but not a bit of flesh was removed, not even an arm or
limb had been severed!

The other instance to which we have promised to allude occurred at a
much more recent period,--so late, in fact, as the period of the King of
Delhi's imprisonment.  It will be fresh in the memory of my readers,
that his Hindoo majesty was carried to the island of Great Andaman,
along with a number of "Sepoy" rebels, who had been taken prisoners
during the late Indian revolt.  The convict settlement was restored,
especially for this purpose; and a detachment of "East-India Company's
troops" was sent along with the rebel sepoys to guard them.  It was
supposed that the troops would have great difficulty in the performance
of their duty: since the number of their prisoners was larger than could
be fairly looked after; and, it was well-known, that, if a prisoner
could once get clear of the walls of the fort, it would be altogether
idle to pursue him.  The chase after a fugitive through the tangled
forests of the Andamans would be emphatically a "wild-goose" chase; and
there would be ten chances to one against his being recaptured.

Such, in reality, did it appear, for the first week or two, after the
settlement was re-established.  Numerous prisoners escaped into the
woods, and as it was deemed idle to follow them, they were given up as
"lost birds."

In the end, however, it proved that they were not all lost,--though some
of them were.  After a week or two had expired, they began to straggle
back to the fort, and voluntarily deliver themselves up to their old
guards,--now one, now another, or two or three at a time,--but all of
them in the most forlorn and deplorable condition.  They had enjoyed a
little, liberty on the Andaman isles; but a taste of it had proved
sufficient to satisfy them that captivity in a well-rationed guard-house
was even preferable to freedom with a hungry stomach, added to the risk
which they ran every hour of the day of being impaled upon the spears of
the savages.  Many of them actually met with this fate; and others only
escaped half dead from the hostile treatment they had received at the
hands of the islanders.  There was no account, however, that any of them
had been _eaten_,--no evidence that their implacable enemies were

Such are a few arguments that seem to controvert the accusation of
Ptolemy and the two Arab merchants,--in whose travels the statement is
found, and afterwards copied by the famous Marco Polo.  Probably the
Arabs obtained their idea from Ptolemy, Marco Polo from the Arabs, and
Dr Latham from Marco Polo.  Indeed, it is by no means certain that
Ptolemy meant the Andaman Islands by his _Islae bonae Fortunae_, or
"Good-luck Isles,"--certainly a most inappropriate appellation.  He may
have referred to Sumatra and its Battas,--who _are_ cannibals beyond a
doubt.  And, after all, what could Ptolemy know about the matter except
from vague report, or, more likely still, more vague _speculation_,--a
process of reasoning practised in Ptolemy's time, just as at the present
day.  We are too ready to adopt the errors of the ancient writers,--as
if men were more infallible then than they are now; and, on the other
hand, we are equally prone to incredulity,--often rejecting their
testimony when it would conduct to truth.

I believe there is no historic testimony--ancient or modern--before us,
to prove that the Andaman islanders are cannibals; and yet, with all the
testimony to the contrary, there is one fact, or rather a hypothesis,
which shall be presently adduced, that would point to the _probability_
of their being so.

If they are not cannibals, however, they are not the less unmitigated
_savages_, of the very lowest grade and degree.  They are unacquainted
with almost the very humblest arts of social life; and are not even so
far advanced in the scale as to have an organisation.  In this respect
they are upon a par with the Bushmen of Africa and the Diggers of North
America: still more do they resemble the wretched starvelings of Tierra
del Fuego.  They have no tribal tie; but dwell in scattered groups or
gangs,--just as monkeys or other animals of a gregarious nature.

In person, the Andaman is one of the very "ugliest" of known savages.
He is of short stature, attaining to the height of only five feet; and
his wife is a head shorter than himself.  Both are as black as pitch,
could their natural colour be discovered; but the skin is usually hidden
under a mask of rare material, which we shall presently have occasion to

The upper half of the Andamaner's body is strongly and compactly built,
and his arms are muscular enough.  It is below, in the limbs, where he
is most lacking in development.  His legs are osseous and thin; and,
only when he is in fine condition, is there the slightest swell on them
that would indicate the presence of a calf.  His feet are of monstrous
length, and without any symmetry,--the heel projecting far backwards, in
the fashion usually styled "lark-heeled."  It is just possible that a
good deal of practice, by running over mud-banks and quicksands in
search of his shell-fish subsistence, may have added to the natural
development of his pedal extremities; for there can be no longer any
doubt, that like effects have been produced by such causes,--effects
that are indeed, after all, more _natural_ than _artificial_.

The Andamaner exhibits the protuberance of belly noticed among other
savages, who lead a starving life; and his countenance is usually marked
with an expression that betrays a mixture of ferocity and famine.

It is worthy of remark, however, that though these stunted proportions
are generally observable among the natives of the Andaman Islands, they
do not appear to be universal.  It is chiefly on the island of the Great
Andaman that the most wretched of these savages are found.  The Little
Andaman seems to produce a better breed: since parties have been met
with on this last-named island, in which many individuals were observed
nearly six feet in height, and stout in proportion.  One of these
parties, and the incident of meeting with it, are thus described by an
officer who was present:--

"We had not gone far, when, at an angle of the jungle, which covers the
island to within a few yards of the water's edge, we came suddenly upon
a party of the natives, lying upon their bellies behind the bushes,
armed with spears, arrows, and long-bows, which they bent at us in a
threatening manner.  Our Lascars, as soon as they saw them, fell back in
great consternation, levelling their muskets and running into the sea
towards the boats.  It was with great difficulty we could prevent our
cowardly rascals from firing; the tyndal was the only one who stood by
the chief mate and myself.  We advanced within a few paces of the
natives, and made signs of drinking, to intimate the purpose of our
visit.  The tyndal salaamed to them, according to the different oriental
modes of salutation,--he spoke to them in Malay, and other languages;
but they returned no answer, and continued in their crouching attitude,
pointing their weapons at us whenever we turned.  I held out my
handkerchief but they would not come from behind the bushes to take it.
I placed it upon the ground; and we returned, in order to allow them an
opportunity of picking it up: still they would not move.

"I counted sixteen strong and able-bodied men opposite to us, many of
them very lusty; and further on, six more.  They were very different in
appearance from what the natives of the Great Andaman are represented to
be,--that is, of a puny race.  The whole party was completely naked,
with the exception of one,--a stout man nearly six feet in height, who
was standing up along with two or three women in the rear.  He wore on
his head a red cloth with white spots.

"They were the most ferocious and wild-looking beings I ever beheld.
Those parts of their bodies that were not besmeared with mud, were of a
sooty black colour.  Their faces seemed to be painted with a red ochre."

Notwithstanding the difference in stature and other respects,--the
result no doubt of a better condition of existence,--the inhabitants of
both islands, Great and Little Andaman, are the same race of people; and
in the portrait, the faces of both may be considered as one and the
same.  This brings us to the strangest fact in the whole history of the
Andaman islander.  Instead of a Hindoo face, or a Chinese Mongolian
face, or that of a Malay,--any of which we might reasonably expect to
find in an aboriginal of the Bay of Bengal,--we trace in the Andaman
islander the true physiognomy of a negro.  Not only have we the flat
nose and thick lips, but the curly hair, the sooty complexion, and all
the other negro characteristics.  And the most ill-favoured variety at
that; for, in addition to the ungraceful features already mentioned, we
find a head large beyond all proportion, and a pair of small, red eyes
deeply sunken in their sockets.  Truly the Andaman islander has few
pretensions to being a beauty!

Wretched, however, as the Andaman islander may appear, and of little
importance as he certainly is in the great social family of the human
race, he is, ethnologically speaking, one of its most interesting
varieties.  From the earliest times he has been a subject of
speculation, or rather his presence in that particular part of the world
where he is now found: for, since it is the general belief that he is
entirely isolated from the two acknowledged negro races, and surrounded
by other types of the human family, far different from either, the
wonder is how he came to be there.

Perhaps no other two thousand people on earth--for that is about the
number of Andaman islanders--have been honoured with a greater amount of
speculation in regard to their origin.  Some ethnologists assign to them
an African origin, and account for their presence upon the Andaman
Islands by a singular story: that a Portuguese ship laden with African
slaves, and proceeding to the Indian colonies, was wrecked in the Bay of
Bengal, and, of course, off the coast of the Andamans: that the crew
were murdered by the slaves; who, set free by this circumstance, became
the inhabitants of the island.  This story is supported by the argument,
that the hostility which the natives now so notoriously exhibit, had its
origin in a spirit of revenge: that still remembering the cruel
treatment received on the "middle passage" at the hands of their
Portuguese masters, they have resolved never to be enslaved again; but
to retaliate upon the white man, whenever he may fall into their power!

Certainly the circumstances would seem to give some colour to the tale,
if it had any foundation; but it has none.  Were we to credit it, it
would be necessary to throw Ptolemy and the Arab merchants overboard,
and Marco Polo to boot.  All these have recorded the existence of the
Andaman islanders, long before ever a Portuguese keel cleft the waters
of the Indian Ocean,--long even before Di Gama doubled the Cape!

But without either the aid of Ptolemy or the testimony of the Arabian
explorers, it can be established that the Andaman Islands were inhabited
before the era of the Portuguese in India; and by the same race of
savages as now dwell upon them.

Another theory is that it was an _Arabian_ slave-ship that was wrecked,
and not a Portuguese; and this would place the peopling of the islands
at a much earlier period.  There is no positive fact, however, to
support this theory,--which, like the other, rests only on mere

The error of these hypotheses lies in their mistaken _data_; for,
although, we have stated that the Andaman islanders are undoubtedly a
negro race, they are not that negro race to which the speculation
points,--in other words, they are not _African_ negroes.  Beyond certain
marked features, as the flat nose and thick lips, they have nothing in
common with these last.  Their hair is more of the kind called
"frizzly," than of the "woolly" texture of that of the Ethiopian negro;
and in this respect they assimilate closely to the "Papuan," or New
Guinea "negrillo," which every one knows is a very different being from
the _African_ negro.

Their moral characteristics--such as there has been an opportunity of
observing among them--are also an additional proof that they are not of
African origin; while these point unmistakably to a kinship with the
other side of the Indian Ocean.  Even some of their fashions, as we
shall presently have occasion to notice, have a like tendency to confirm
the belief that the Andaman is a "negrillo," and not a "negro."  The
only obstacle to this belief has hitherto been the fact of their
isolated situation: since it is alleged--rather hastily as we shall
see--that the whole of the opposite continent of the Burmese and other
empires, is peopled by races entirely distinct: that none of the
adjacent islands--the Nicobars and Sumatra--have any negro or negrillo
inhabitants: and that the Andamaners are thus cut off, as it were, from
any possible line of migration which they could have followed in
entering the Bay of Bengal.  Ethnologists, however, seem to have
overlooked the circumstance that this allegation is not strictly true.
The _Samangs_--a tribe inhabiting the mountainous parts of the Malayan
peninsula--are also a negro or negrillo race; a fact which at once
establishes a link in the chain of a supposed migration from the great
Indian archipelago.

This lets the Andaman islander into the Great China Sea; or rather,
coming from that sea, it forms the stepping-stone to his present
residence in the Bay of Bengal.  Who can say that he was not at one time
the owner of the Malayan peninsula?  How can we account for the strange
fact, that figures of Boodh--the Guadma of the Burmese and Siamese--are
often seen in India beyond the Ganges, delineated with the curly hair
and other characteristic features of the negro?

The theory that the Samang and Andaman islander once ruled the Malay
peninsula; that they themselves came from eastward,--from the great
islands of the Melanesian group, the centre and source of the negrillo
race,--will in some measure account for this singular monumental
testimony.  The probability, moreover, is always in favour of a
migration westward within the tropics.  Beyond the tropics, the rule is
sometimes reversed.

A coincidence of personal habit, between the Andaman islander and the
Melanesian, is also observed.  The former dyes his head of a brown or
reddish colour,--the very fashion of the Feegee!

Suppose, then, that the Samang and Andaman islander came down the
trades, at a period too remote for even tradition to deal with it:
suppose they occupied the Malay peninsula, no matter how long; and that
at a much more recent period, they were pushed out of place,--the one
returning to the Andaman Islands, the other to the mountains of the
Quedah: suppose also that the party pushing them off were Malays,--who
had themselves been drifted for hundreds of years down the trades from
the far shores of America (for this is _our_ "speculation"): suppose all
these circumstances to have taken place, and you will be able to account
for two facts that have for a long time puzzled the ethnologist.  One is
the presence of negroes on the islands of Andaman,--and the other of
Malays in the south-eastern corner of Asia.  We might bring forward many
arguments to uphold the probability of these hypotheses, had we space
and time.  Both, however, compel us to return to the more particular
subject of our sketch; and we shall do so after having made a remark,
promised above, and which relates to the _probability_ of the Andaman
islander being a cannibal.  This, then, _would lie in the fact of his
being a Papuan negro_.  And yet, again, it is only a seeming; for it
might be shown that with the Papuan cannibalism is not a natural
instinct.  It is only where he has reached a high degree of
_civilisation_, as in the case of the Feegee islander.  Call the latter
a monster if you will; but, as may be learnt from our account of him, he
is anything but a _savage_, in the usual acceptation of the term.  In
fact, language has no epithet sufficiently vile to characterise such an
anomalous animal as he.

I have endeavoured to clear the Andaman islander of the charge of this
guilt; and, since appearances are so much against him, he ought to feel
grateful.  It is doubtful whether he would, should this fall into his
hands, and he be able to read it.  The portrait of his face without that
stain upon it, he might regard as ugly enough; and that of his habits,
which now follows, is not much more flattering.

His house is little better than the den of a wild beast; and far
inferior in ingenuity of construction to those which beavers build.  A
few poles stuck in the ground are leant towards each other, and tied
together at the top.  Over these a wattle of reeds and rattan-leaves
forms the roof; and on the floor a "shake-down" of withered leaves makes
his bed, or, perhaps it should rather be called his "lair."  This, it
will be perceived, is just the house built by Diggers, Bushmen, and
Fuegians.  There are no culinary utensils,--only a drinking-cup of the
_nautilus_ shell; but implements of war and the chase in plenty: for
such are found even amongst the lowest of savages.  They consist of
bows, arrows, and a species of javelin or dart.  The bows are very long,
and made of the bamboo cane,--as are also the darts.  The arrows are
usually pointed with the tusks of the small wild hogs which inhabit the
islands.  These they occasionally capture in the chase, hanging up the
skulls in their huts as trophies and ornaments.  With strings of the
hog's teeth also they sometimes ornament their bodies; but they are not
very vain in this respect.  Sometimes pieces of iron are found among
them,--nails flattened to form the blades of knives, or to make an edge
for their adzes, the heads of which are of hard wood.  These pieces of
iron they have no doubt obtained from wrecked vessels, or in the
occasional intercourse which they have had with the convict
establishment; but there is no regular commerce with them,--in fact, no
commerce whatever,--as even the Malay traders, that go everywhere, do
not visit the Andamaners, from dread of their well-known Ishmaelitish
character.  Some of the communities, more forward in civilisation,
possess articles of more ingenious construction,--such as baskets to
hold fruits and shell-fish, well-made bows, and arrows with several
heads, for shooting fish.  The only other article they possess of their
own manufacture, is a rude kind of canoe, hollowed out of the trunk of a
tree, by means of fire and their poor adze.  A bamboo raft, of still
ruder structure, enables them to cross the narrow bays and creeks by
which their coast is indented.

Their habitual dwelling-place is upon the shore.  They rarely penetrate
the thick forests of the interior, where there is nothing to tempt them:
for the wild hog, to which they sometimes give chase, is found only
along the coasts where the forest is thinner and more straggling, or
among the mangrove-bushes,--on the fruits of which these animals feed.
Strange to say, the forest, though luxuriant in species, affords but few
trees that bear edible fruits.  The cocoa-palm--abundant in all other
parts of the East-Indian territories, and even upon the Cocos Islands,
that lie a little north of the Andamans--does not grow upon these
mountain islands.  Since the savages know nothing of cultivation, of
course their dependence upon a vegetable diet would be exceedingly
precarious.  A few fruits and roots are eaten by them.  The pandanus,
above mentioned, bears a fine cone-shaped fruit, often weighing between
thirty and forty pounds; and this, under the name of _mellori_, or
"Nicobar breadfruit," forms part of their food.  But it requires a
process of cooking, which, being quite unknown to the Andamaners, must
make it to them a "bitter fruit" even when roasted in the ashes of their
fires, which is their mode of preparing it.  They eat also the fruit of
the mangrove, and of some other trees--but these are not obtainable at
all seasons, or in such quantity as to afford them a subsistence.  They
depend principally upon fish, which they broil in a primitive manner
over a gridiron of bamboos, sometimes not waiting till they are half
done.  They especially subsist upon shell-fish, several kinds abounding
on their coasts, which they obtain among the rocks after the tide has
gone out.  To gather these is the work of the women, while the men
employ themselves in fishing or in the chase of the wild hog.  The
species of shell-fish most common are the _murex tribulus, trochus
telescopium, cypraea caurica_, and mussels.  They are dexterous in
capturing other fish with their darts, which they strike down upon the
finny prey, either from their rafts, or by wading up to their knees in
the water.  They also take fish by torchlight,--that is, by kindling dry
grass, the blaze of which attracts certain species into the shallow
water, where the fishers stand in wait for them.

When the fishery fails them, and the oysters and muscles become scarce,
they are often driven to sad extremities, and will then eat anything
that will sustain life,--lizards, insects, worms,--perhaps even _human
flesh_.  They are not unfrequently in such straits; and instances are
recorded, where they have been found lying upon the shore in the last
stages of starvation.

An instance of this kind is related in connection with the convict
settlement of 1793.  A coasting-party one day discovered two Andamaners
lying upon the beach.  They were at first believed to be dead, but as it
proved, they were only debilitated from hunger: being then in the very
last stages of famine.  They were an old man and a boy; and having been
carried at once to the fort, every means that humanity could suggest was
used to recover them.  With the boy this result was accomplished; but
the old man could not be restored: his strength was too far gone; and he
died, shortly after being brought to the settlement.

Two women or young girls were also found far gone with hunger; so far,
that a piece of fish held out was sufficient to allure them into the
presence of a boat's crew that had landed on the shore.  They were taken
on board the ship, and treated with the utmost humanity.  In a short
time they got rid of all fears of violence being offered them; but
seemed, at the same time, to be sensible of modesty to a great degree.
They had a small apartment allotted to them; and though they could
hardly have had any real cause for apprehension, yet it was remarked
that the two never went to sleep at the same time: one always kept watch
while the other slept!  When time made them more familiar with the good
intentions towards them, they became exceedingly cheerful, chattered
with freedom, and were amused above all things at the sight of their own
persons in a mirror.  They allowed clothes to be put on them; but took
them off again, whenever they thought they were not watched, and threw
them away as a useless encumbrance!  They were fond of singing;
sometimes in a melancholy recitative, and sometimes in a lively key; and
they often gave exhibitions of dancing around the deck, in the fashion
peculiar to the Andamans.  They would not drink either wine or any
spirituous liquor; but were immoderately fond of fish and sugar.  They
also ate rice when it was offered to them.  They remained, or rather
were retained, several weeks on board the ship; and had become so smooth
and plump, under the liberal diet they indulged in, that they were
scarce recognisable as the half-starved creatures that had been brought
aboard so recently.  It was evident, however, that they were not
contented.  Liberty, even with starvation allied to it, appeared sweeter
to them than captivity in the midst of luxury and ease.  The result
proved that this sentiment was no stranger to them: for one night, when
all but the watchman were asleep, they stole silently through the
captain's cabin, jumped out of the stern windows into the sea, and swam
to an island full half a mile distant from the ship!  It was thought
idle to pursue them; but, indeed, there was no intention of doing so.
The object was to retain them by kindness, and try what effect might
thus be produced on their wild companions, when they should return to
them.  Strange to say, this mode of dealing with the Andaman islanders
has been made repeatedly, and always with the same fruitless result.
Whatever may have been the original cause that interrupted their
intercourse with the rest of mankind, they seem determined that this
intercourse shall never be renewed.

When plenty reigns among them, and there has been a good take of fish,
they act like other starved wretches; and yield themselves up to
feasting and gorging, till not a morsel remains.  At such times they
give way to excessive mirth,--dancing for hours together, and chattering
all the while like as many apes.

They are extremely fond of "tripping it on the light fantastic toe;" and
their dance is peculiar.  It is carried on by the dancers forming a
ring, and leaping about, each at intervals saluting his own posteriors
with a slap from his foot,--a feat which both the men and women perform
with great dexterity.  Not unfrequently this mode of salutation is
passed from one to the other, around the the whole ring,--causing
unbounded merriment among the spectators.

Their fashion of dress is, perhaps, the most peculiar of all known
costumes.  As to clothing, they care nothing about it,--the females only
wearing a sort of narrow fringe around the waist,--not from motives of
modesty, but simply as an ornament; and in this scant garment we have a
resemblance to the _liku_ of the Feegeeans.  It can hardly be said,
however, that either men or women go entirely naked; for each morning,
after rising from his couch of leaves, the Andamaner plasters the whole
of his body with a thick coat of mud, which he wears throughout the day.
Wherever this cracks from getting dry by the sun, the place is patched
or mended up with a fresh layer.  The black mop upon his head is not
permitted to wear its natural hue; but, as already mentioned, is
coloured by means of a red ochreous earth, which is found in plenty upon
the islands.  This reddening of his poll is the only attempt which the
Andamaner makes at personal adornment; for his livery of mud is assumed
for a purpose of utility,--to protect his body from the numerous
mosquitoes, and other biting insects, whose myriads infest the lowland
coast upon which he dwells.

A startling peculiarity of these islanders is the unmitigated hostility
which they exhibit, and have always exhibited, towards every people with
whom they have, come in contact.  It is not the white man alone whom
they hate and harass; but they also murder the Malay, whose skin is
almost as dark as their own.  This would seem to contradict the
hypothesis of a tradition of hostility preserved amongst them, and
directed against white men who enslaved their ancestors; but, indeed,
that story has been sufficiently refuted.  A far more probable cause of
their universal hatred is, that, at some period of their history, they
have been grossly abused; so much so as to render suspicion and
treachery almost an instinct of their nature.

In these very characteristic moral features we find another of those
striking analogies that would seem to connect them with the negrillo
races of the Eastern Archipelago; but, whether they are or are not
connected with them, their appearance upon the Andaman is no greater
mystery, than the solitary "fox-wolf" on the Falkland Islands, or the
smallest wingless insect in some lone islet of the Ocean?



Who has not heard of the _giants_ of Patagonia?  From the days of
Magellan, when they were first seen, many a tale has been told, and many
a speculation indulged in about these colossal men: some representing
them as very Titans, of twelve feet in height, and stout in proportion:
that, when standing a little astride, an ordinary-sized man could pass
between their legs without even stooping his head!  So talked the early
navigators of the Great South Sea.

Since the time when these people were first seen by Europeans, up to the
present hour,--in all, three hundred and thirty years ago,--it is
astonishing how little has been added to our knowledge of them; the more
so, that almost every voyager who has since passed through the Straits
of Magellan, has had some intercourse with them;--the more so, that
Spanish people have had settlements on the confines of their country;
and one--an unsuccessful one, however--in the very heart of it!  But
these Spanish settlements have all decayed, or are fast decaying; and
when the Spanish race disappears from America,--which sooner or later it
will most certainly do,--it will leave behind it a greater paucity of
monumental record, than perhaps any civilised nation ever before
transmitted to posterity.

Little, however, as we have learnt about the customs of the Patagonian
people, we have at least obtained a more definite idea of their height.
_They have been measured_.  The twelve-feet giants can no longer be
found; they never existed, except in the fertile imaginations of some of
the old _navigators_,--whose embodied testimony, nevertheless, it is
difficult to disbelieve.  Other and more reliable witnesses have done
away with the Titans; but still we are unable to reduce the stature of
the Patagonians to that of ordinary men.  If not actual _giants_, they
are, at all events, very tall men,--many of them standing seven feet in
their boots of guanaco-leather, few less than six, and a like few rising
nearly to eight!  These measurements are definite and certain; and
although the whole number of the Indians that inhabit the plains of
Patagonia may not reach the above standard there are tribes of smaller
men called by the common name Patagonians,--yet many individuals
certainly exist who come up to it.

If not positive giants, then, it is safe enough to consider the
Patagonians as among the "tallest" of human beings,--perhaps the very
tallest that exist, or ever existed, upon the face of the earth; and for
this reason, if for no other, they are entitled to be regarded as an
"odd people."  But they have other claims to this distinction; for their
habits and customs, although in general corresponding to those of other
tribes of American Indians, present us with many points that are

It may be remarked that the Patagonian women, although not so tall as
their men, are in the usual proportion observable between the sexes.
Many of them are more corpulent than the men; and if the latter be
called _giants_, the former have every claim to the appellation of

We have observed, elsewhere, the very remarkable difference between the
two territories, lying respectively north and south of the Magellan
Straits,--the Patagonian on the north, and the Fuegian on the south.  No
two lands could exhibit a greater contrast than these,--the former with
its dry sterile treeless plains,--the latter almost entirely without
plains; and, excepting a portion of its eastern end, without one level
spot of an acre in breadth; but a grand chaos of humid forest-clad
ravines and snow-covered mountains.  Yet these two dissimilar regions
are only separated by a narrow sea-channel,--deep, it is true; but so
narrow, that a cannon-shot may be projected from one shore to the other.
Not less dissimilar are the people who inhabit these opposite shores;
and one might fancy a strange picture of contrast presented in the
Straits of Magellan: on some projecting bluff on the northern shore, a
stalwart Patagonian, eight feet in height, with his ample guanaco skin
floating from his shoulders, and his long spear towering ten feet above
his head;--on the southern promontory, the dwarfed and shrivelled figure
of a Fuegian,--scarce five feet tall,--with tiny bow and arrows in hand,
and shivering under his patch of greasy sealskin!--and yet so near each
other, that the stentorian voice of the giant may thunder in the ears of
the dwarf; while the henlike cackle of the latter may even reach those
of his colossal _vis-a-vis_!

Notwithstanding this proximity, there is no converse between them; for,
unlike as are their persons, they are not more dissimilar than their
thoughts, habits, and actions.  The one is an aquatic animal, the other
essentially terrestrial; and, strange to say, in this peculiarity the
weaker creature has the advantage: since the Fuegian can cross in his
bark canoe to the territory of his gigantic neighbour, while the latter
has no canoe nor water-craft of any kind, and therefore never thinks of
extending his excursions to the "land of fire," excepting at one very
narrow place where he has effected a crossing.  In many other respects,
more particularly detailed elsewhere,--in their natural dispositions and
modes of life, these two peoples are equally dissimilar; and although
learned craniologists may prove from their skulls, that both belong to
one division of the human family, this fact proves also that craniology,
like anatomy, is but a blind guide in the illustration of scientific
truth,--whether the subject be the skull of a man or an animal.  Despite
all the revelations of craniologic skill, an Indian of Patagonia bears
about the same resemblance to an Indian of Tierra del Fuego, as may be
found between a bull and a bluebottle!

Before proceeding to describe the modes of life practised by the
Patagonian giants, a word or two about the country they inhabit.

It may be generally described as occupying the whole southern part of
South America,--from the frontier of the Spanish settlements to the
Straits of Magellan,--and bounded east and west by the two great oceans.
Now, the most southern Spanish (Buenos-Ayrean) settlement is at the
mouth of Rio Negro; therefore, the Rio Negro--which is the largest river
south of the La Plata--may be taken as the northern boundary of
Patagonia.  Not that the weak, vitiated Spanish-American extends his
sway from the Atlantic to the Andes: on the contrary, the Indian
aborigines, under one name or another, are masters of the whole
interior,--not only to the north of the Rio Negro, but to the very
shores of the Caribbean Sea!  Yes, the broad inland of South America,
from Cape Horn to the sea of the Antilles, is now, as it always has
been, the domain of the Red Indian; who, so far from having ever been
reduced by conquest, has not only resisted the power of the Spanish
sword, and the blandishments of the Spanish cross; but at this hour is
encroaching, with constant and rapid strides, upon the blood-stained
territory wrested from him by that _Christian conquest_!

And this is the man who is so rapidly to disappear from the face of the
earth!  If so, it is not the puny Spaniard who is destined to push him
off.  If he is to disappear, it will be at such a time, that no Spaniard
will be living to witness his extermination.

Let us take Patagonia proper, then, as bordered upon the north by the
Rio Negro, and extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  In that case
it is a country of eight hundred miles in length, with a breadth of at
least two hundred,--a country larger than either France or Spain.
Patagonia is usually described as a continuation of the great plains,
known as the "Pampas," which extend from the La Plata River to the
eastern slope of the Andes.  This idea is altogether erroneous.  It is
true that Patagonia is a country of plains,--excepting that portion of
it occupied by the Andes, which is, of course, a mountain tract, much of
it resembling Tierra del Fuego in character more than Patagonia.
Indeed, Patagonia proper can hardly be regarded as including this
mountain strip: since the Patagonian Indians only inhabit the plains
properly so called.  These plains differ essentially from those of the
Pampas.  The latter are based upon a calcareous formation: and produce a
rank, rich herbage,--here of gigantic thistles and wild artichokes,--
there of tall grasses; and, still nearer the mountains, they are thinly
covered with copses of low trees.  The plains of Patagonia on the other
hand, are of tertiary formation, covered all over with a shingly pebble
of porphyry and basalt, and almost destitute of vegetation.  Here and
there are some tufts of scanty grass with a few stunted bushes in the
valleys of the streams, but nothing that can be called a tree.  A
surface drear and arid, in places mottled with "salinas" or salt lakes;
with fresh water only found at long intervals, and, when found, of
scanty supply.  There are many hilly tracts, but nothing that can be
called mountains,--excepting the snow-covered Cordilleras in the west.
The Patagonian plain is not everywhere of equal elevation: it rises by
steps, as you follow it westward, beginning from the sea-level of the
Atlantic shore; until, having reached the _piedmont_ of the Andes, you
still find yourself on a plain, but one which is elevated three thousand
feet above the point from which you started.  At all elevations,
however, it presents the same sterile aspect; and you perceive that
Patagonia is a true desert,--as much so as Atacama, in Peru, the desert
of the Colorado in the north, the "barren grounds" of Hudson's Bay, the
Sahara and Kalahari, Gobi, or the steppe of Kaurezm.  To the
South-African deserts it bears a more striking resemblance than to any
of the others,--a resemblance heightened by the presence of that most
remarkable of birds,--the ostrich.  Two species stalk over the plains of
Patagonia,--the _struthio rhea_ and _struthio Darwinii_.  The former
extends northward over the Pampas, but not southward to the Straits of
Magellan; the latter reaches the Straits, but is never seen upon the
Pampas.  The ranges of both meet and overlap near the middle of the
Patagonian plain.

In addition to the ostrich, there are other large birds that frequent
the steppes of Patagonia.  The great condor here crosses the continent,
and appears upon the Atlantic shores.  He perches upon the cliffs of the
sea,--as well as those that overhang the inland streams,--and builds his
nest upon the bare rock.  Two species of _polyborus_, or
vulture-eagles,--the "carrancha" and "chiniango,"--fly side by side with
the condor; and the black turkey-vultures are also denizens of this
desert land.  The red puma, too, has his home here; the fox of Azara;
and several species of hawks and eagles.

With the exception of the first-mentioned--the ostrich--all these beasts
and birds are predatory creatures; and require flesh for their
subsistence.  Where do they get it?  Upon what do they all prey?  Surely
not upon the ostrich: since this bird is bigger than any of the birds of
prey, and able to defend itself even against the great condor.  There
are only one or two other species of birds upon which the eagles might
subsist,--a partridge and two kinds of plover; but the vultures could
not get a living out of partridges and plovers.  Small quadrupeds are
alike scarce.  There are only two or three species; and very small
creatures they are,--one a sort of mole, "terutero," and several kinds
of mice.  The latter are, indeed, numerous enough in some places,--
swarming over the ground in tracts so sterile, that it is difficult to
understand upon what they subsist.  But vultures do not relish food,
which they require to kill for themselves.  They are too indolent for
that; and wherever they are found, there must be some source of
supply,--some large quadrupeds to provide them with their favourite
food,--carrion.  Otherwise, in this desert land, how should the ravenous
puma maintain himself?--how the vultures and vulture-eagles? and, above
all, upon what does the Patagonian himself subsist,--a man of such great
bulk, as naturally to require more than the ordinary amount of food?
The answer to all these questions, then, is, that a quadruped _does_
exist in the deserts of Patagonia; which, if it furnish not all these
creatures with their full diet supplies, does a large proportion of it.
This quadruped is the _guanaco_.

Before proceeding to give an account of the guanaco, let us paint the
portrait of the Patagonian himself.

As already observed, he is nearly seven feet in height, without any
exaggeration in the way of a hat.  He wears none, but suffers his long
black hair to hang loosely over his shoulders, or, more frequently,
gathers it into a knot or club upon the crown of his head.  To keep it
from straggling into his eyes, he usually wears a narrow strap of
guanaco skin around his forehead, or a plaited band of the hair of the
same animal; but, although possessing ostrich-feathers at discretion, he
rarely indulges in the fashion of wearing a plume,--he knows he is tall
enough without one.  Over his shoulders, and hanging nearly to his
heels, he wears a loose mantle of guanaco skins; which is of sufficient
width to wrap round his body, and meet over his breast,--should he feel
cold enough to require it.  But he is not of a chilly nature; and he
often throws this mantle entirely aside to give him the freedom of his
arms; or more generally ties a girdle round it, and leaves the upper
part to fall back from his shoulders, and hang down over the girdle.
This mantle--with the exception of a small pouch-like apron in front--is
the only "garment," the Patagonian wears upon his body; but his lower
limbs have a covering of their own.  These are encased in a sort of
boots or mocassins,--but differing from all other boots and mocassins,
in the fact of their being without _soles_!  They are made of the same
material as the mantle,--that is, of the skin of the _guanaco_,--but
sometimes also of the skin of a horse's shank,--for the Patagonian, like
the Pampas Indian, is in possession of this valuable animal.

This soleless boot covers the leg all round from below the knee, passing
over the top of the foot like a gaiter; it extends also around the heel,
and a little under it, but not so far as the instep, thus leaving the
greater part of the sole bare, and the toes peeping out in front!  They
are, in reality, nothing more or less than gaiters, but gaiters of
_guanaco skin_, with the hair turned outward, and worn, not over a pair
of boots or shoes, as gaiters usually are, but upon the naked shanks.

I have been thus particular in my description of the Patagonian
_chaussure_; but you will understand my reasons, when I tell you that,
from this trifling circumstance, not only has a vast territory of
country, but the people who inhabit it, obtained the appellation by
which both have long been known to the civilised world, that is,

When the sailors who accompanied Magellan first saw these colossal men,
they noticed a peculiar circumstance in relation to their feet.  The
flaps, or "uppers," of the gaiters, extending loosely across the tops of
their feet, and exaggerated in breadth by the long hair that fringed out
from their edges, gave to these Indians the appearance of having paws or
"patas;" and the name _patagones_, or "duck-feet," was given them by the
sailors,--ever prone to the bestowal of a ludicrous epithet.  This name,
in a slightly altered form, they have borne ever since,--so that
Patagonia means the country of the _duck-footed_ men.

The gaiters of the Patagonians have their peculiar purpose.  They are
not worn merely for the sake of keeping the legs warm, but also as a
protection against the thorny shrubs which in Patagonia, as in all
desert lands, are exceedingly abundant.

The mantle and mocassins, then, constitute the Patagonian's costume; and
it does not differ so widely from that of his neighbour the Fuegian,--
the chief points of difference being in the size and material.

Of course the guanaco skin is much larger than that of the common seal;
and a good Patagonian cloak would furnish "doublets" for a whole tribe
of the diminutive Fuegians.  Perhaps his ample garment has something to
do in producing the exaggerated accounts that have been given of the
stature of the Patagonians.  Certain it is, that a man thus apparelled,
looks larger than he otherwise would do; and presents altogether a
_more_ imposing appearance.  The Caffre, in his civet-cat "kaross," and
the Pawnee Indian, in his robe of shaggy buffalo-hide, loom very large
upon karroo and prairie,--much larger in appearance than they really
are.  It is but natural, therefore, to suppose that the Patagonian,
attired in his guanaco mantle, and seen against the sky, standing upon
the summit of a conspicuous cliff, would present a truly gigantic

When first seen in this position he was on foot.  It was in the year
1520,--before the Spaniards had set foot upon South-American soil,--and
of course before the horse became naturalised to that continent.  In
less than thirty years afterward, he appeared upon these same cliffs
bestriding a steed: for this noble animal had extended his range over
the plains of America,--even at an earlier period than his European
owner.  When the Spaniards, in their after-attempts at conquering the
Indians of the Pampas and those of the northern prairies, entered upon
these great plains, they encountered, to their great astonishment, their
red enemies upon horseback, brandishing long lances, and managing fiery
chargers with a skill equal to their own!

Among the earliest tribes that obtained possession of the horse, were
those of the Pampas: since the first of these animals that ran wild on
the plains of America were those landed in the La Plata expedition of
Mendoza,--whence they became scattered over the adjacent pampas of
Buenos Ayres.

From the banks of the La Plata, the horse passed rapidly southward to
the Straits of Magellan; and from that hour the Patagonian walked no
more.  With the exception of a spur,--usually a sharp stick of wood,
upon his heel,--the only additional article of his "wear," the horse has
made no change in his costume, nor in the fashion of his toilet.  He
still paints his face, as Magellan first saw it,--with a white ring
encircling one eye, and a black or red one around the other; with one
half of his body coloured black, and a white sun delineated upon it,
while the other half is white, forming the "ground" for a black moon!
Scarce two individuals, however, wear the same escutcheon; for the
fashion of having eyes, arms, and legs of two different colours--just as
our ancestors used to wear their doublets and hose--is that followed by
the Patagonians.

Notwithstanding this queer custom,--usually regarded as savage,--it
would be unjust to call the Patagonian a _savage_.  If we overlook the
circumstance of his painting himself,--which, after all, is scarce more
absurd than numberless practices of civilised life,--if we excuse him
for too scantily covering the nakedness of his person, and relishing his
food a little "underdone," we find little else, either in his habits or
his moral nature that would entitle him to be termed a savage.  On the
contrary, from all the testimony that can be obtained,--in all the
intercourse which white men have had with him,--there is scarce an act
recorded, that would hinder his claim to being considered as civilised
as they.  Honourable and amiable, brave and generous, he has ever proved
himself; and never has he exhibited those traits of vindictive ferocity
supposed to be characteristic of the untutored man.  He has not even
harboured malice for the wrongs done him by the unprincipled adventurer
Magellan: who, in his treatment of these people, proved himself more of
a savage than they.  But the Patagonian restrained his vengeance; and
apparently burying the outrage in oblivion, has ever since that time
treated the white man with a generous and dignified friendship.  Those
who have been shipwrecked upon his solitary shores, have had no reason
to complain of the treatment they have received at his hands.  He is
neither cannibal, nor yet barbarian,--but in truth a gentleman,--or, if
you prefer it, a _gentleman savage_.

But how does this gentleman maintain himself?  We have already seen that
he is not a fisherman,--for he owns no species of boat; and without that
his chances of capturing fish would be slight and uncertain.  We have
stated, moreover, that his country is a sterile desert; and so it is,--
producing only the scantiest of herbage; neither plant, nor tree, that
would furnish food; and incapable of being cultivated with any success.
But he does not attempt cultivation,--he has no knowledge of it; nor is
it likely he would feel the inclination, even if tempted by the most
fertile soil.  Neither is he pastoral in his habits: he has no flocks
nor herds.  The horse and dog are his only domestic animals; and these
he requires for other purposes than food.  The former enables him to
pass easily over the wide tracts of his sterile land, and both assist
him in the chase,--which is his true and only calling.  One of the chief
objects of his pursuit is the ostrich; and he eats the flesh of this
fine desert bird.  He eats it, whenever he can procure it; but he could
not live solely upon such food: since he could not obtain it in
sufficient quantity; and were this bird the only means he had for
supplying his larder, he would soon be in danger of starvation.  True,
the ostrich lays a great many eggs, and brings forth a large brood of
young; but there are a great many hungry mouths, and a great many large
stomachs among the Patagonian people.  The ostrich could never supply
them all; and were it their only resource, the bird would soon disappear
from the plains of Patagonia, and, perhaps, the race of Patagonian
giants along with it.

Fortunately for the Patagonian, his country furnishes him with another
kind of game, from which he obtains a more sufficient supply; and that
is the guanaco.  Behold yonder herd of stately creatures!  There are
several hundreds of them in all.  Their bodies are covered with long,
woolly hair of a reddish-brown colour.  If they had antlers upon their
heads, you might mistake them for stags,--for they are just about the
size of the male of the red deer.  But they have no horns; and otherwise
they are unlike these animals,--in their long slender necks, and coat of
woolly hair.  They are not deer of any kind,--they are _guanacos_.
These, then, are the herds of the Patagonian Indian; they are the game
he chiefly pursues; and their flesh the food, upon which he is mainly

I need not here give the natural history of the guanaco.  Suffice it to
say that it is one of the four (perhaps five) species of _llamas_ or
"camel-sheep" peculiar to the continent of South America,--the other
three of which are the _vicuna_, the true _llama_, and the _paco_, or
_alpaca_.  The llama and alpaca are domesticated; but the vicuna, the
most graceful of all, exists only in a wild state, like the guanaco.
The four kinds inhabit the tablelands of the Andes, from Colombia to
Chili; but the guanaco has extended its range across to the Atlantic
side of the continent: this only in the territory south of the La Plata
River.  On the plains of Patagonia it is the characteristic quadruped:
rarely out of sight, and usually seen in herds of twenty or thirty
individuals; but sometimes in large droves, numbering as many as five
hundred.  There the puma--after the Indian of course--is its greatest
enemy,--and the _debris_ of _his_ feast constitutes the food of the
vultures and vulture-eagles,--thus accounting for the presence of these
great birds in such a desert land.

The guanaco is among the shyest of quadrupeds; and its capture would be
difficult to any one unacquainted with its habits.  But these betray
them to the skilled Patagonian hunter,--who is well acquainted with
every fact in the natural history of the animal.

The Patagonian mode of capturing these creatures is not without many
peculiarities in hunting practice.  His first care is to find out their
whereabouts: for the haunts which the guanacos most affect are not the
level plains, where they might be seen from afar, but rather those
places where the ground is hilly or rolling.  There they are to be met
with, ranged in extended lines along the sides of the hills, with an old
male keeping watch upon the summit of some eminence that overlooks the
flock.  Should the sentinel espy any danger, or even suspect it, he
gives the alarm by uttering a shrill, whistling cry, somewhat resembling
a neigh.  On hearing this well-known signal, the others at once take to
flight, and gallop straight for the side of some other hill,--where they
all halt in line, and stand waiting to see if they are followed.  Very
often the first intimation which the hunter has of their presence, is by
hearing their strange signal of flight,--which may be described as a
sort of triangular cross between squealing, neighing, and whistling.

Shy as they are, and difficult to be approached, they have the strange
peculiarity of losing all their senses when put into confusion.  On
these occasions they behave exactly like a flock of sheep: not knowing
which way to ran; now dashing to one side, then to the other, and often
rushing into the very teeth of that danger from which they are trying to

Knowing their stupidity in this respect, the Patagonian hunter acts
accordingly.  He does not go out to hunt the guanacos alone, but in
company with others of his tribe, the hunting-party often comprising the
whole tribe.  Armed with their "chuzos,"--light cane spears of eighteen
feet in length,--and mounted on their well-trained steeds, they sally
forth from their encampment, and proceed to the favourite
pasturing-ground of the guanacos.  Their purpose is, if possible, to
effect the "surround" of a whole herd; and to accomplish this, it is
necessary to proceed with great skill and caution.  The animals are
found at length; and, by means of a deployment of dogs and horsemen, are
driven towards some hill which may be convenient to the pasture.  The
instinct of the animal guiding it thither, renders this part of the
performance easy enough.  On reaching the hill, the guanacos dash
onward, up to its summit; and there, halting in a compact crowd, make
front towards their pursuers.  These meanwhile have galloped into a
circle,--surrounding the eminence on all sides; and, advancing upwards
amidst loud yells and the yelping of their dogs, close finally around
the herd, and rush forward to the attack.

The long chuzos do their work with rapidity; and, in a few minutes,
numbers of the guanacos lie lifeless among the rocks.  The dogs, with
some men, form an outer circle of assailants; and should any guanacos
escape through the line of horsemen, they are seized upon by the dogs,
and pinned to the spot,--for it is another sheep-like trait in the
character of this animal, that the moment a dog--even though he be the
merest cur--seizes hold of it, it neither attempts further flight nor
resistance, but remains "pinned" to the spot as if under a paralysis of
terror.  They sometimes give battle, however, though never to a dog; and
their mode of assault is by kicking behind them,--not with their hoofs
as horses do, but with the knee-joints, the hind legs being both raised
at once.  Among themselves the males fight terrible battles: biting each
other with their teeth, and often inflicting cruel lacerations.

Strange to say, when the guanacos are found solitary, or only two or
three together, they are far less shy than when assembled in large
herds.  At such times, the feeling of curiosity seems stronger than that
of fear within them; and the hunter can easily approach within a dozen
paces of one, by simply cutting a few capers, or holding up something
that may be new to it,--such as a strip of coloured rag, or some showy
article of any kind.  It was by such devices that the Patagonian
captured these creatures, before possession of the horse enabled him to
effect their destruction in the more wholesale fashion of the

By tumbling about over the ground, he was enabled to bring the game
within reach,--not of his bow and arrows; nor yet of his long spear,--
for he did not use it for such a purpose,--and, of course, not of a gun,
for he never had heard of such a weapon.  Within reach of what then?  Of
a weapon peculiarly his own,--a weapon of singular construction and
deadly effect; which he knew how to employ before ever the white man
came upon his shores, and which the Spaniards who dwell in the Pampas
country have found both pride and profit in adopting.  This weapon is
the "bolas."

It is simple and easily described.  Two round stones,--the women make
them round by grinding the one against the other,--two round stones are
covered with a piece of guanaco raw hide, presenting very much the
appearance of cricket-balls, though of unequal size,--one being
considerably smaller than the other.  Two thongs are cut; and one end of
each is firmly attached to one of the balls.

The other ends of the thongs are knotted to each other; and when the
strings are at full stretch, the balls will then be about eight feet
apart,--in other words, each thong should be four feet in length.  The
bolas are now made, and ready for use.  The chief difficulty in their
manufacture lies in the rounding of the stones; which, as above
observed, is the work of the women; and at least two days are required
to grind a pair of bola-stones to the proper spherical shape.  To handle
them requires long practice; and this the Patagonian has had: for, ever
since the young giant was able to stand upon his feet, he has been in
the habit of playing with the bolas.  They have been the toy of his
childhood; and to display skill in their management has been the pride
of his boyish days; therefore, on arriving at full maturity, no wonder
he exhibits great dexterity in their use.  He can then project them to a
distance of fifty yards,--with such precision as to strike the legs of
either man or quadruped, and with such force, that the thong not only
whips itself around the object struck, but often leaves a deep weal in
the skin and flesh.  The mode of throwing them is well-known.  The right
hand only is used; and this grasps the thongs at their point of union,
about halfway between the ends.  The balls are then whirled in a
circular motion around the head; and, when sufficient centrifugal power
has been obtained, the weapon is launched at the object to be captured.
The aim is a matter of nice calculation,--in which arm, eye, and mind,
all bear a part,--and so true is this aim, in Patagonian practice, that
the hunter seldom fails to bring down or otherwise cripple his game,--be
it ostrich, cavy, or guanaco.

By these bolas, then, did the Patagonian hunter capture the guanaco and
ostrich in times past; and by the same weapon does he still capture
them: for he can use it even better on horseback than on foot.  Either
the bird or the quadruped, within fifty yards, has no chance of escape
from his unerring aim.

The bolas, in some districts, have been improved upon by the
introduction of a third ball; but this the Patagonian does not consider
an _improvement_.  Wooden balls are sometimes employed; and iron ones,
where they can be had,--the last sort can be projected to the greatest

The Patagonian takes the young guanacos alive; and brings them up in a
state of domestication.  The little creatures may often be observed,
standing outside the tents of a Patagonian encampment,--either tied by a
string, or held in hand by some "infant giant" of the tribe.  It is not
solely for the pleasure of making pets of them, that the young guanacos
are thus cherished; nor yet to raise them for food.  The object aimed at
has a very different signification.  These young guanacos are intended
to be used as _decoys_: for the purpose of attracting their own
relatives,--fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, uncles, and aunts, even
to the most distant thirty-second cousinship,--within reach of the
terrible bolas!

This is effected by tying the innocent little creature to some bush,--
behind which the hunter conceals himself,--and then imitating the
mother's call; which the Indian hunter can do with all the skill of a
ventriloquist.  The young captive responds with the plaintive cry of
captivity,--the parents are soon attracted to the spot, and fall victims
to their instinct of natural affection.  Were it not for this, and
similar stratagems adopted by the Patagonian hunter, he would pursue the
guanaco in vain.  Even with the help of his pack of dogs, and mounted
upon the fleet Spanish horse, the guanaco cannot be hunted with success.
Nature, in denying to these animals almost every means of defence, has
also bestowed upon them a gift which enables them to escape from many
kinds of danger.  Of mild and inoffensive habits,--defenceless as the
hare,--they are also possessed of a like swiftness.  Indeed, there is
perhaps no quadruped--not even the antelope--that can get over the
ground as speedily as the guanaco or its kindred species the vicuna.
Both are swift as the wind; and the eye, following either in its retreat
over the level plain, or up the declivity of a hill, is deluded into the
fancy that it is watching some great bird upon the wing.

There are certain seasons during which the guanaco is much more
difficult to approach than at other times; but this is true of almost
every species of animal,--whether bird or quadruped.  Of course, the
tame season is that of sexual intercourse, when even the wild beasts
become reckless under the influence of passion.  At other times the
guanacos are generally very shy; and sometimes extremely so.  It is not
uncommon for a herd of them to take the alarm, and scamper off from the
hunter, even before the latter has approached near enough to be himself
within sight of them!  They possess great keenness of scent, but it is
the eye which usually proves their friend, warning them of the approach
of an enemy--especially if that enemy be a man upon horseback--before
the latter is aware of their proximity.  Often a cloud of dust, rising
afar off over the plain, is the only proof the hunter can obtain, that
there was game within the range of his vision.  It is a curious
circumstance connected with hunting on these great plains,--both on the
Pampas and in Patagonia,--that a man on foot can approach much nearer to
any game than if he were mounted upon a horse.  This is true not only in
relation to the guanaco and ostrich, but also of the large Pampas deer
(_cervus campestris_); and indeed of almost every animal that inhabits
these regions.  The reason is simple enough.  All these creatures are
accustomed to seeing their human enemy only on horseback: for "still
hunting," or hunting afoot, is rarely or never practised upon the
plains.  Not only that, but a man on foot, would be a rare sight either
to an ostrich or guanaco; and they would scarce recognise him as an
enemy!  Curiosity would be their leading sentiment; and, being
influenced by this, the hunter _on foot_ can often approach them without
difficulty.  The Patagonian, knowing this peculiarity, not unfrequently
takes advantage of it, to kill or capture both the bird and the

This sentiment of the brute creation, on the plains of Patagonia, is
directly the reverse of what may be observed in our own fields.  The sly
crow shows but little of this shyness, so long as you approach it on a
horse's back; but only attempt to steal up to it on foot,--even with a
thick hawthorn hedge to screen you,--and every fowler knows how wary the
bird can prove itself.  Some people pronounce this _instinct_.  If so,
instinct and reason must be one and the same thing.

Besides hunting the guanaco, much of the Patagonian's time is spent in
the chase of the ostrich; and, to circumvent this shy creature, he
adopts various _ruses_.  The American ostrich, or more properly _rhea_,
has many habits in common with its African congener.  One of these is,
when pursued it runs in a straight track, and, if possible, _against_
the wind.  Aware of this habit, the Patagonians pursue it on
horseback,--taking the precaution to place some of their party in ambush
in the direction which the bird is most likely to run.  They then gallop
hastily up to the line of flight, and either intercept the rhea
altogether, or succeed in "hoppling" it with the bolas.  The moment
these touch its long legs, both are drawn suddenly together; and the
bird goes down as if shot!

Drake and other voyagers have recorded the statement that the
Patagonians attract the rhea within reach, by disguising themselves in a
skin of this bird.  This is evidently an untruth; and the error, whether
wilful or otherwise, derives its origin from the fact, that a stratagem
of the kind is adopted by the Bushmen of Africa to deceive the ostrich.
But what is practicable and possible between a pigmy Bushman and a
gigantic African ostrich, becomes altogether impracticable and
improbable, when the _dramatis persona_ are a gigantic Patagonian and an
American _rhea_.  Moreover, it is also worthy of remark, that the _rhea_
of the Patagonian plains is not the larger of the two species of
American ostrich, but the smaller one (_rhea Darwinii_), which has been
lately specifically named after the celebrated naturalist.  And justly
does Mr Darwin merit the honour: since he was the first to give a
scientific description of the bird.  He was not the first, however,--as
he appears himself to believe,--to discover its existence, or to give a
record of it in writing.  The old Styrian monk, Dobrizhoffer, two
centuries before Mr Darwin was born, in his "History of the Abipones"
clearly points to the fact that there were two distinct species of the
"avestruz," or South-American ostrich.

Mr Darwin, however, has confirmed Dobrizhoffer's account; and brought
both birds home with him; and he, who chooses to reflect upon the
subject, will easily perceive how impossible it would be for a
Patagonian to conceal his bulky _corpus_ under the skin of a _rhea
Darwinii, or even_ that of its larger congener, the _rhea Americana_.
The skin of either would be little more than large enough to form a cap
for the _colossus_ of the Patagonian plains.

In the more fertile parts of Patagonia, the large deer (_cervus
campestris_) is found.  These are also hunted by the Patagonian, and
their flesh is esteemed excellent food; not, however, until it has lain
several days buried underground,--for it requires this funereal process,
to rid it of the rank, goat-like smell, so peculiar to the species.  The
mode of hunting this deer--at least that most likely to insure success--
is by stealing forward to it on foot.

Sometimes a man may approach it, within the distance of a few yards,--
even when there is no cover to shelter him,--by walking gently up to it.
Of all the other quadrupeds of the Pampas,--and these plains are its
favourite _habitat_,--the _cervus campestris_ most dreads the
horseman:--since its enemy always appears in that guise; and it has
learnt the destructive power of both lazo and bolas, by having witnessed
their effects upon its comrades.  The hunter dismounted has no terrors
for it; and if he will only keep lazo and bolas out of sight,--for these
it can distinguish, as our crow does the gun,--he may get near enough to
fling either one or the other with a fatal precision.

The "agouti" (_cavia Patagonica_) frequently furnishes the Patagonian
with a meal.  This species is a true denizen of the desert plains of
Patagonia; and forms one of the characteristic features of their
landscape.  I need not describe its generic characters; and specifically
it has been long known as the "Patagonian cavy."  Its habits differ very
little from the other South-American animals of this rodent genus,--
except that, unlike the great capivara, it does not affect to dwell near
the water.  It is altogether a denizen of dry plains, in which it
burrows, and upon which it may be seen browsing, or hopping at intervals
from one point to another, like a gigantic rabbit or hare.  In fact, the
cavies appear to be the South-American representatives of the hare
family,--taking their place upon all occasions; and, though of many
different species,--according to climate, soil, and other
circumstances,--yet agreeing with the hares in most of their
characteristic habits.  So much do some of the species assimilate to
these last, that colonial sportsmen are accustomed to give them the
Old-World appellation of the celebrated swift-footed rodent.  The
Patagonian cavies are much larger than English hares,--one of them will
weigh twenty-five pounds,--but, in other respects, there is a great deal
of resemblance.  On a fine evening, three or four cavies may be seen
squatted near each other, or hopping about over the plains, one
following the other in a direct line, as if they were all proceeding on
the same errand!  Just such a habit is frequently observed among hares
and rabbits in a field of young corn or fallow.

The Patagonian boys and women often employ themselves in seeking out the
ostriches' nests, and robbing them of their eggs,--which last they find
good eating.  In the nests of the smaller species which we have already
stated to be the most common in the Patagonian country,--they are not
rewarded so liberally for their trouble.  Only from sixteen to twenty
eggs are hatched by the _rhea Darwinii_ and about twenty-five to thirty
by the _rhea Americana_.  It will be seen, that this is far below the
number obtained from the nest of the African ostrich (_struthio
camelus_),--in which as many as sixty or seventy eggs are frequently
found.  It would appear, therefore, that the greater the size of the
bird, belonging to this genus the greater the number of its brood.  Both
the American rheas follow the peculiar habit of the true ostrich: that
is, several hens deposit their eggs in the same nest; and the male bird
assists in the process of incubation.  Indeed, in almost every respect--
except size and general colour of plumage--the American and African
ostriches resemble each other very closely; and there is no reason in
the world why a pedantic compiler should have bestowed upon them
distinct generic names.  Both are true _camel birds_: both alike the
offspring, as they are the ornament, of the desert land.

Another occupation in which the Patagonian engages--and which sometimes
rewards him with a meal--is the snaring of the Pampas partridge
(_nothuria major_).  This is usually the employment of the more youthful
giants; and is performed both on foot and on horseback.  A small species
of partridge is taken on foot; but the larger kind can be snared best
from the back of a horse.  The mode is not altogether peculiar to
Patagonia: since it is also practised in other parts of America,--both
north and south,--and the bustard is similarly captured upon the
_karoos_ of Africa.  During the noon hours of the day, the performance
takes place: that is, when the sun no longer casts a shadow.  The
locality of the bird being first ascertained, the fowler approaches it,
as near as it will allow.  He then commences riding round, and round,
and round,--being all the while watched by the _foolish_ bird, that, in
constantly turning its head, appears to grow giddy, and loses all dread
of danger.  The Indian each moment keeps lessening his circle; or, in
other words, approaches by a spiral line, continually closing upon its
centre.  His only weapon is a long light reed,--something like the
common kind of cane fishing-rod, seen in the hands of rustic youth in
our own country.  On the end of this reed he has adjusted a stiff snare;
the noose of which is made from the epidermis of an ostrich plume, or a
piece of the split quill; and which, being both stiff and elastic,
serves admirably for the purpose for which it is designed.

Having at length arrived within a proper distance to reach the beguiled
bird, the boy softly stops his horse, bends gently sidewards, and,
adroitly passing his noose over the neck of the partridge, jerks the
silly creature into the air.  In this way an Indian boy will capture a
dozen of these birds in a few hours; and might obtain far more, if the
sun would only stay all day in the zenith.  But as the bright orb sinks
westward, the elongated shadow of the horseman passes over the partridge
before the latter is within reach of the snare; and this alarming the
creature, causes it to take flight.

The Patagonian builds no house; nor does he remain long in one place at
a time.  The sterile soil upon which he dwells requires him to lead a
nomade life; passing from place to place in search of game.  A tent is
therefore his home; and this is of the simplest kind: the tent-cloth
consisting of a number of guanaco skins stitched together, and the poles
being such as he can obtain from the nearest tract of thicket or
_chapparal_.  The poles are set bow-fashion in the ground, and over
these the skin covering is spread,--one of the bent poles being left
uncovered, to serve as a doorway.  Most of the Patagonian's time is
occupied in procuring game: which, as we have seen, is his sole
sustenance; and when he has any leisure moments, they are given to the
care of his horse, or to the making or repairing his weapons for the
chase.  Above all, the bolas are his especial pride, and ever present
with him.  When not in actual use, they are suspended from his girdle,
or tied sash-like around his waist,--the balls dangling down like a pair
of tassels.

Only during his hours of sleep, is this national weapon ever out of the
hands of the Patagonian giant.  Had the wonderful giant of our nurseries
been provided with such a sling, it is probable that little Jack would
have found in him an adversary more difficult to subdue!



The great continent of South America, tapering like a tongue to the
southward, ends abruptly on the Straits of Magellan.  These straits may
be regarded as a sort of natural canal, connecting the Atlantic with the
Pacific Ocean, winding between high rocky shores, and indented with
numerous bays and inlets.  Though the water is of great depth, the
Straits themselves are so narrow that a ship passing through need never
lose sight of land on either side; and in many places a shell, projected
from an ordinary howitzer, would pitch clear across them from shore to
shore!  The country extending northward from these straits is, as
already seen, called _Patagonia_; that which lies on their southern side
is the famed "land of fire," _Tierra del Fuego_.

The canal, or channel, of the Straits of Magellan does not run in a
direct line from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  On the contrary, a ship
entering from the former, instead of passing due west, must first run in
a south-west direction,--rather more south than west.  This course will
continue, until the ship is about halfway between the two oceans.  She
will then head almost at a right angle to her former course; and keep
this direction--which is nearly due north-west--until she emerges into
the Pacific.

It will thus be seen, that the Straits form an angle near their middle;
and the point of land which projects into the vertex of this angle, and
known to navigators as Cape Forward, is the most southern land of the
American _continent_.  Of course this is not meant to apply to the most
southern point of American land,--since Tierra del Fuego must be
considered as part of South America.  The far-famed "Cape Horn" is the
part of America nearest to the South Pole; and this is a promontory on
one of the small elevated islands lying off the southern coast of Tierra
del Fuego itself.  Tierra del Fuego was for a long time regarded as a
single island; though, even in the voyage of Magellan, several large
inlets, that resembled channels, were observed running into the land;
and it was suspected by that navigator, that these inlets might be
passages leading through to the ocean.  Later surveys have proved that
the conjectures of the Spano-Portuguese voyager were well founded; and
it is now known that instead of a single island, the country called
Tierra del Fuego is a congeries of many islands, of different shapes and
sizes,--separated from one another by deep and narrow channels, or arms
of the sea, with an endless ramification of sounds and inlets.  In the
western part--and occupying more than three fourths of their whole
territory--these close-lying islands are nothing else than mountains,--
several of them rising five thousand feet above the level of the water;
and stepping directly down to it, without any foothills intervening!
Some of them have their lower declivities covered with sombre forests;
while, farther up, nothing appears but the bare brown rocks, varied with
blue glaciers, or mottled with masses of snow.  The more elevated peaks
are covered with snow that never melts; since their summits rise
considerably above the snow-line of this cold region.

These mountain islands of Tierra del Fuego continue on to Cape Horn, and
eastward to the Straits of Le Maire, and the bleak islet of Staaten
Land.  They may, in fact, be considered as the continuation of the great
chain of the Andes, if we regard the intersecting channels--including
that of Magellan itself--as mere clefts or ravines, the bottoms of
which, lying below the level of the sea, have been filled with
sea-water.  Indeed, we may rationally take this view of the case: since
these channels bear a very great resemblance to the stupendous ravines
termed "barrancas" and "quebradas," which intersect the Cordilleras of
the Andes in other parts of South America,--as also in the northern
division of the American continent.

Regarding the Straits of Magellan, then, and the other channels of
Tierra del Fuego, as great _water-barrancas_, we may consider the Andes
as terminating at Cape Horn itself, or rather at Staaten Land: since
that island is a still more distant extension of this, the longest chain
of mountains on the globe.

Another point may be here adduced, in proof of the rationality of this
theory.  The western, or mountainous part of Tierra del Fuego bears a
strong resemblance to the western section of the continent,--that is,
the part occupied by the Andes.  For a considerable distance to the
north of the Magellan Straits, nearly one half of the continental land
is of a mountainous character.  It is also indented by numerous sounds
and inlets, resembling those of Tierra del Fuego; while the mountains
that hang over these deep-water ravines are either timbered, or bare of
trees and snow-covered, exhibiting glacier valleys, like those farther
south.  The whole physical character is similar; and, what is a still
more singular fact, we find that in the western, or mountainous part of
Patagonia, there are no true Patagonians; but that there, the
water-Indians, or Fuegians, frequent the creeks and inlets.

Again, upon the east,--or rather north-east of Tierra del Fuego,--that
angular division of it, which lies to the north of the Sebastian channel
presents us with physical features that correspond more nearly with
those of the plains of Patagonia; and upon this part we find tribes of
Indians that beyond doubt are true Patagonians,--and not Fuegians, as
they have been described.  This will account for the fact that some
navigators have seen people on the Fuegian side that were large-bodied
men, clothed in guanaco skins, and exhibiting none of those wretched
traits which characterise the Fuegians; while, on the other hand,
miserable, stunted men are known to occupy the mountainous western part
of Patagonia.  It amounts to this,--that the Patagonians _have_ crossed
the Straits of Magellan; and it is this people, and not Fuegians, who
are usually seen upon the champaign lands north of the Sebastian
channel.  Even the guanaco has crossed at the same place,--for this
quadruped, as well as a species of deer, is found in the eastern
division of Tierra del Fuego.  Perhaps it was the camel-sheep--which
appears to be almost a necessity of the Patagonian's existence--that
first induced these water-hating giants to make so extensive a voyage as
that of crossing the Straits at Cape Orange!

At Cape Orange the channel is so narrow, one might fancy that the
Patagonians, if they possessed one half the pedestrian stretch
attributed to the giants of old, might have stepped from shore to shore
without wetting their great feet!

Perhaps there are no two people on earth, living so near each other as
the Patagonians and Fuegians, who are more unlike.  Except in the colour
of the skin and hair, there is hardly a point of resemblance between
them.  The former seems to hate the sea: at all events he never goes out
upon, nor even approaches its shore, except in pursuit of such game as
may wander that way.  He neither dwells near, nor does he draw any
portion of his subsistence from the waters of the great deep,--fish
constituting no part of his food.

All this is directly the reverse with the Fuegian.  The beach is the
situation _he_ chooses for his dwelling-place, and the sea or its shore
is his proper element.  He is more than half his time, either on it, or
_in_ it,--on it in his canoe, and in it, while wading among the tidal
shoals in search of fish, mussels, and limpets, which constitute very
nearly the whole of his subsistence.

It is very curious, therefore, while noting the difference between these
two tribes of Indians, to observe how each confines its range to that
part of the Magellanic land that appears best adapted to their own
peculiar habits,--those of the Patagonian being altogether
_terrestrial_, while those of the Fuegian are essentially _aquatic_.

We have stated elsewhere the limits of the Patagonian territory; and
shown that, ethnologically speaking they do not occupy the whole
northern shore of the Magellan Straits, but only the eastern half of it.
Westward towards the Pacific the aspect of the land, on both sides of
this famous channel, may be regarded as of the same character, though
altogether different from that which is seen at the entrance, or eastern

West of Cape Negro on one side, and the Sebastian passage on the other,
bleak mountain summits, with narrow wooded valleys intervening, become
the characteristic features.  There we behold an incongruous labyrinth
of peaks and ridges, of singular and fantastic forms,--many of them
reaching above the limits of perpetual snow,--which, in this cold
climate descends to the height of four thousand feet.  We have seen that
these mountains are separated from each other,--not by plains, nor even
valleys, in the ordinary understanding of the term; but by _ravines_,
the steep sides of which are covered with sombre forests up to a height
of one thousand five hundred feet above the level of the sea: at which
point vegetation terminates with a uniformity as exact as that of the
snow-line itself!  These forests grow out of a wet, peaty soil,--in many
places impassable on account of its boggy nature; and of this character
is almost the whole surface of the different islands.  The trees
composing the forests are few in species,--those of the greatest size
and numbers being the "winter's bark" (_drymys_), of the order
_magnoliacae_, a birch, and, more abundantly, a species of beech-tree,
the _fagus betuloides_.  These last-named trees are many of them of
great size; and might almost be called evergreens: since they retain
part of their foliage throughout the whole year; but it would be more
appropriate to style them _ever-yellows_: since at no period do they
exhibit a verdure, anything like the forests of other countries.  They
are always clad in the same sombre livery of dull yellow, rendering the
mountain landscape around them, if possible, more dreary and desolate.

The forests of Tierra del Fuego are essentially worthless forests; their
timber offering but a limited contribution to the necessities of man,
and producing scarce any food for his subsistence.

Many of the ravines are so deep as to end, as already stated, in
becoming arms or inlets of the sea; while others again are filled up
with stupendous glaciers, that appear like cataracts suddenly arrested
in their fall, by being frozen into solid ice!  Most of these inlets are
of great depth,--so deep that the largest ship may plough through them
with safety.  They intersect the islands in every direction,--cutting
them up into numerous peninsulas of the most fantastic forms; while some
of the channels are narrow _sounds_, and stretch across the land of
Tierra del Fuego from ocean to ocean.

The "Land of Fire" is therefore not an island,--as it was long
regarded,--but rather a collection of islands, terminated by precipitous
cliffs that frown within gunshot of each other.  Ofttimes vast masses of
rock, or still larger masses of glacier ice, fall from these cliffs into
the profound abysses of the inlets below; the concussion, as they strike
the water, reverberating to the distance of miles; while the water
itself, stirred to its lowest depths, rises in grand surging waves, that
often engulf the canoe of the unwary savage.

"Tierra del Fuego" is simply the Spanish phrase for "Land of Fire."  It
was so called by Magellan on account of the numerous fires seen at night
upon its shores,--while he and his people were passing through the
Straits.  These were signal fires, kindled by the natives,--no doubt to
telegraph to one another the arrival of those strange leviathans, the
Spanish ships, then seen by them for the first time.

The name is inappropriate.  A more fit appellation would be the "land of
water;" for, certainly, in no part of the earth is water more abundant:
both rain and snow supplying it almost continually.  Water is the very
plague of the island; it lies stagnant or runs everywhere,--forming
swamps, wherever there is a spot of level ground, and rendering even the
declivities of the mountains as spongy as a peat-bog.

The climate throughout the whole year is excessively cold; for, though
the winter is perhaps not more rigorous than in the same latitude of a
northern land, yet the summer is almost as severe as the winter; and it
would be a misnomer to call it summer at all.  Snow falls throughout the
whole year; and even in the midsummer of Tierra del Fuego men have
actually perished from cold, at no great elevation above the level of
the sea!

Under these circumstances, it would scarce be expected that Tierra del
Fuego should be inhabited,--either by men or animals of any kind; but no
country has yet been reached, too cold for the existence of both.  No
part of the earth seems to have been created in vain; and both men and
beasts are found dwelling under the chill skies of Tierra del Fuego.

The land-animals, as well as the birds, are few in species, as in
numbers.  The _guanaco_ is found upon the islands; but whether
indigenous, or carried across from the Patagonian shore, can never be
determined: since it was an inhabitant of the islands long anterior to
the arrival of Magellan.  It frequents only the eastern side of the
cluster,--where the ground is firmer, and a few level spots appear that
might be termed plains or meadows.  A species of deer inhabits the same
districts; and besides these, there are two kinds of fox-wolves (_canis
Magellanicus_ and _canis Azarae_), three or four kinds of mice, and a
species of bat.

Of water-mammalia there is a greater abundance: these comprising the
whale, seals, sea-lions, and the sea-otter.

But few birds have been observed; only the white-tufted flycatcher, a
large black woodpecker with scarlet crest, a creeper, a wren, a thrush,
a starling, hawks, owls, and four or five kinds of finches.

The water-birds, like the water-mammalia, muster in greater numbers.  Of
these there are ducks of various kinds, sea-divers, and penguins, the
albatross, and sheer-water, and, more beautiful than all, the "painted"
or "Magellan goose."

Reptiles do not exist, and insects are exceedingly rare.  A few flies
and butterflies are seen; but the mosquito--the plague of other parts of
South America--does not venture into the cold, humid atmosphere of the
Land of Fire.

We now arrive at the _human_ inhabitants of this desolate region.

As might be expected, these exhibit no very high condition of either
physical or mental development, but the contrary.  The character of
their civilisation is in complete correspondence with that of their
dreary dwelling-place,--at the very bottom of the scale.  Yes, at the
very bottom, according to most ethnologists; even lower down than that
of the Digger Indian, the Andaman islander, the Bushman of Africa, or
the Esquimaux of the Arctic Ocean: in fact, any comparison of a Fuegian
with the last-mentioned would be ridiculous, as regards either their
moral or physical condition.  Below the Esquimaux, the Fuegian certainly
is, and by many a long degree.

In height, the tallest Fuegian stands about five feet,--not in his
boots, for he wears none; but on his naked soles.  His wife is just six
inches shorter than himself--a difference which is not a bad proportion
between the sexes, but in other respects they are much alike.  Both have
small, misshapen limbs, with large knee-caps, and but little calf; both
have long masses of coarse tangled hair, hanging like bunches of black
snakes over their shoulders; and both are as naked as the hour in which
they were born,--unless we call _that_ a dress,--that bit of stinking
sealskin which is slung at the back, and covers about a fifth part of
the whole body!  Hairy side turned inward, it extends only from the nape
of the neck to a few inches below the hollow of the back; and is
fastened in front by means of a thong or skewer passing over the breast.
It is rarely so ample as to admit of being "skewered;" and with this
scanty covering, in rain and snow, frost and blow,--some one of which is
continuously going on,--the shivering wretch is contented.  Nay, more;
if there should happen an interval of mild weather, or the wearer be at
work in paddling his canoe, he flings this unique garment aside, as if
its warmth were an incumbrance!  When the weather is particularly cold,
he shifts the sealskin to that side of his body which may chance to be
exposed to the blast!

The Fuegian wears neither hat, nor shirt, waistcoat, nor breeches,--no
shoes, no stockings,--nothing intended for clothing but the bit of
stinking skin.  His vanity, however, is exhibited, not in his dress, to
some extent in his adornments.  Like all savages and many civilised
people, he _paints_ certain portions of his person; and his "escutcheon"
is peculiar.  It would be difficult to detail its complicated labyrinth
of "crossings" and "quarterings."  We shall content ourselves by stating
that black lines and blotches upon a white ground constitute its chief
characteristic.  Red, too, is sometimes seen, of a dark or "bricky"
colour.  The black is simply charcoal; while the white-ground coat is
obtained from a species of infusorial clay, which he finds at the bottom
of the peaty streams, that pour down the ravines of the mountains.  As
additional ornaments, he wears strings of fish-teeth, or pieces of bone,
about his wrists and ankles.  His wife carries the same upon her neck;
and both, when they can procure it, tie a plain band around the head, of
a reddish-brown colour,--the material of which is the long hair of the
guanaco.  The "cloak," already described, is sometimes of sea-otter
instead of sealskin; and on some of the islands, where the deer dwells,
the hide of that animal affords a more ample covering.  In most cases,
however, the size of the garment is that of a pocket handkerchief; and
affords about as much protection against the weather as a kerchief

Though the Fuegian has abundance of hair upon his head, there is none,
or almost none on any part of his body.  He is beardless and whiskerless
as an Esquimaux; though his features,--without the adornment of hair,--
are sufficiently fierce in their expression.

He not only looks ferocious, but in reality is so,--deformed in mind, as
he is hideous in person.  He is not only ungrateful for kindness done,
but unwilling to remember it; and he is cruel and vindictive in the
extreme.  Beyond a doubt he is a _cannibal_; not habitually perhaps, but
in times of scarcity and famine,--a true cannibal, for he does not
confine himself to eating his _enemies_, but his _friends_ if need be,--
and especially the old women of his tribe, who fall the first victims,
in those crises produced by the terrible requirements of an impending
starvation.  Unfortunately the fact is too well authenticated to admit
of either doubt or denial; and, even while we write, the account of a
massacre of a ship's crew by these hostile savages is going the rounds
of the press,--that ship, too, a missionary vessel, that had landed on
their shores with the humane object of ameliorating their condition.

Of course such unnatural food is only partaken of at long and rare
intervals,--by many communities never,--and there is no proof that the
wretched Fuegian has acquired an appetite for it: like the Feegee and
some other savage tribes.  It is to be hoped that he indulges in the
horrid habit, only when forced to it by the necessities of extreme

His ordinary subsistence is shell-fish; though he eats also the flesh of
the seal and sea-otter; of birds, especially the penguin and Magellanic
goose, when he can capture them.  His stomach will not "turn" at the
blubber of a whale,--when by good chance one of these leviathans gets
stranded on his coast,--even though the great carcass be far gone in the
stages of decomposition!  The only vegetable diet in which he indulges
is the berry of a shrub--a species of arbutus--which grows abundantly on
the peaty soil; and a fungus of a very curious kind, that is produced
upon the trunks of the beech-tree.  This fungus is of a globular form,
and pale-yellow colour.  When young, it is elastic and turgid, with a
smooth surface; but as it matures it becomes shrunken, grows tougher in
its texture, and presents the pitted appearance of a honeycomb.  When
fully ripe, the Fuegians collect it in large quantities, eating it
without cooking or other preparation.  It is tough between the teeth;
but soon changes into pulp, with a sweetish taste and flavour,--somewhat
resembling that of our common mushroom.

These two vegetables--a berry and a cryptogamic plant--are almost the
only ones eaten by the natives of Tierra del Fuego.  There are others
upon the island that might enable them to eke out their miserable
existence: there are two especially sought after by such Europeans as
visit this dreary land,--the "wild celery" (_opium antarcticum_), and
the "scurvy grass" (_cardamine antiscorbutica_); but for these the
Fuegian cares not.  He even knows not their uses.

In speaking of other "odd people," I have usually described the mode of
building their house; but about the house of the Fuegian I have almost
"no story to tell."  It would be idle to call that a house, which far
more resembles the lair of a wild beast; and is, in reality, little
better than the den made by the orang-outang in the forests of Borneo.
Such as it is, however, I shall describe it.

Having procured a number of long saplings or branches,--not always
straight ones,--the Fuegian sharpens them at one end by means of his
mussel-shell knife; and then sticking the sharpened ends into the ground
in a kind of circle, he brings the tops all together, and ties them in a
bunch,--so as to form a rude hemispherical frame.  Upon this he lays
some smaller branches; and over these a few armfuls of long coarse
grass, and the house is "built".  One side--that to leeward of the
prevailing wind--is left open, to allow for an entrance and the escape
of smoke.  As this opening is usually about an eighth part of the whole
circumference, the house is, in reality, nothing more than a shed or
lair.  Its furniture does not contradict the idea; but, on the contrary,
only strengthens the comparison.  There is no table, no chair, no
bedstead: a "shake-down" of damp grass answers for all.  There are no
implements or utensils,--if we except a rude basket used for holding the
arbutus berries, and a sealskin bag, in which the shell-fish are
collected.  A bladder, filled with water, hangs upon some forking stuck
against the side: in the top of this bladder is a hole, from which each
member of the family takes a "suck," when thirst inclines them to drink!

The "tools" observable are a bow and arrow, the latter headed with
flint; a fish spear with a forked point, made from a bone of the
sea-lion; a short stick,--a woman's implement for knocking the limpets
from the rocks; and some knives, the blades of which are sharpened
shells of the mussel,--a very large species of which is found along the
coast.  These knives are simply manufactured.  The brittle edge of the
shell--which is five or six inches in length--is first chipped off, and
a new edge formed by grinding the shell upon the rocks.  When thus
prepared, it will cut not only the hardest wood, but even the bones of
fish; and serves the Fuegian for all purposes.

Outside the hut, you may see the canoe,--near at hand too,--for the
shieling of the Fuegian universally stands upon the beach.  He never
dwells in the interior of his island; and but rarely roams there,--the
women only making such excursions as are necessary to procure the berry
and the mushroom.  The woods have no charms for him, except to afford
him a little fuel; they are difficult to be traversed on account of the
miry soil out of which the trees grow; and, otherwise, there is
absolutely nothing to be found amidst their gloomy depths, that would in
any way contribute to his comfort or sustenance.  He is therefore
essentially a dweller on the shore; and even there he is not free to
come and go as he might choose.  From the bold character of his coast,
there are here and there long reaches, where the beach cannot be
followed by land,--places where the water's edge can only be reached,
and the shell-fish collected, by means of some sort of navigable craft.
For this purpose the Fuegian requires a canoe; and the necessity of his
life makes him a waterman.  His skill, however, both in the construction
of his craft, and the management of it, is of a very inferior order,--
infinitely inferior to that exhibited either by the Esquimaux or the
Water-Indians of the North.

His canoe is usually made of the bark of a tree,--the birch already
mentioned.  Sometimes it is so rudely shaped, as to be merely a large
piece of bark shelled from a single trunk, closed at each end, and tied
tightly with thong of sealskin.  A few cross-sticks prevent the sides
from pressing inward; while as many stays of thong keep them from
"bulging" in the contrary direction.  If there are cracks in the bark,
these are caulked with rushes and a species of resin, which the woods

With this rude vessel the Fuegian ventures forth, upon the numerous
straits and inlets that intersect his land; but he rarely trusts himself
to a tempestuous sea.

If rich or industrious, he sometimes becomes the possessor of a craft
superior to this.  It is also a bark canoe, but not made of a single
"flitch."  On the contrary, there are many choice pieces used in its
construction: for it is fifteen feet in length and three in width
amidships.  Its "build" also is better,--with a high prow and stern, and
cross-pieces regularly set and secured at the ends.  The pieces of bark
are united by a stitching of thongs; and the seams carefully caulked so
that no water can enter.  In this vessel, the Fuegian may embark with
his whole family,--and his whole furniture to boot,--and voyage to any
part of his coast.  And this in reality he does; for the "shanty" above
described, is to him only a temporary home.  The necessities of his life
require him to be continually changing it; and a "removal," with the
building of a new domicile, is a circumstance of frequent recurrence.

Not unfrequently, in removing from one part of the coast to another, he
finds it safer making a land journey, to avoid the dangers of the deep.
In times of high wind, it is necessary for him to adopt this course,--
else his frail bark might be dashed against the rocks and riven to
pieces.  In the land journey he carries the canoe along with him; and in
order to do this with convenience, he has so contrived it, that the
planks composing the little vessel can be taken apart, and put together
again without much difficulty,--the seams only requiring to be freshly
caulked.  In the transport across land, each member of the family
carries a part of the canoe: the stronger individuals taking the heavier
pieces,--as the side and bottom planks,--while the ribs and light beams
are borne by the younger and weaker.

The necessity of removal arises from a very natural cause.  A few days
spent at a particular place,--on a creek or bay,--even though the
community be a small one, soon exhausts the chief store of food,--the
mussel-bank upon the beach,--and, of course, another must be sought for.
This may lie at some distance; perhaps can only be reached by a
tedious, and sometimes perilous water-journey; and under these
circumstances the Fuegian deems it less trouble to carry the mountain to
Mahomet, than carry Mahomet so often to the mountain.  The transporting
his whole menage, is just as easy as bringing home a load of limpets;
and as to the building of a new house, that is a mere bagatelle, which
takes little labour, and no more time than the erection of a tent.  Some
Fuegians actually possess a tent, covered with the skins of animals; but
this a rare and exceptional advantage; and the tent itself of the rudest
kind.  The Fuegian has his own mode of procuring fire.  He is provided
with a piece of "mundic," or iron pyrites, which he finds high up upon
the sides of his mountains.  This struck by a pebble will produce
sparks.  These he catches upon a tinder of moss, or the "punk" of a dead
tree, which he knows how to prepare.  The tinder once ignited, is placed
within a roundish ball of dry grass; and, this being waved about in
circles, sets the grass in a blaze.  It is then only necessary to
communicate the flame to a bundle of sticks; and the work is complete.
The process, though easy enough in a climate where "punk" is plenty, and
dry grass and sticks can be readily procured, is nevertheless difficult
enough in the humid atmosphere of Tierra del Fuego,--where moss is like
a wet sponge, and grass, sticks, and logs, can hardly be found dry
enough to burn.  Well knowing this, the Fuegian is habitually careful of
his fire: scarce ever permitting it to go out; and even while travelling
in his canoe, in search of a "new home," side by side with his other
"penates" he carries the fire along with him.

Notwithstanding the abundance of fuel with which his country provides
him, he seems never to be thoroughly warm.  Having no close walls to
surround him, and no clothing to cover his body, he suffers almost
incessantly from cold.  Wherever met, he presents himself with a
shivering aspect, like one undergoing a severe fit of the ague!

The Fuegians live in small communities, which scarce deserve the name of
"tribes," since they have no political leader, nor chief of any
description.  The conjuror--and they have him--is the only individual
that differs in any degree from the other members of the community; but
his power is very slight and limited; nor does it extend to the exercise
of any physical force.  Religion they have none,--at least, none more
sacred or sanctified than a vague belief in devils and other evil

Although without leaders, they are far from being a peaceful people.
The various communities often quarrel and wage cruel and vindictive war
against one another; and were it not that the boundaries of each
association are well-defined, by deep ravines and inlets of the sea, as
well as by the impassable barriers of snow-covered mountains, these
warlike dwarfs would thin one another's numbers to a far greater extent
than they now do,--perhaps to a mutual extermination.  Fortunately the
peculiar nature of their country hinders them from coming very often
within fighting distance.

Their whole system of life is abject in the extreme.  Although provided
with fires, their food is eaten raw; and a fish taken from the water
will be swallowed upon the instant--almost before the life is gone out
of it.  Seal and penguin flesh are devoured in the same manner; and the
blubber of the whale is also a raw repast.  When one of these is found
dead upon the beach,--for they have neither the skill nor courage to
capture the whale,--the lucky accident brings a season of rejoicing.  A
fleet of canoes--if it is to be reached only by water--at once paddle
towards the place; or, if it be an overland journey, the whole
community--man, woman, and child--start forth on foot.  In an hour or
two they may be seen returning to their hut village, each with a large
"flitch" of blubber flapping over the shoulders, and the head just
appearing above, through a hole cut in the centre of the piece,--just as
a Mexican ranchero wears his "serape," or a denizen of the Pampas his
woollen "poncho."  A feast follows this singular procession.

Like the Esquimaux of the north, the Fuegian is very skilful in
capturing the seal.  His mode of capturing this creature, however, is
very different from that employed by the "sealer" of the Arctic Seas;
and consists simply in stealing as near as possible in his canoe, when
he sees the animal asleep upon the surface, and striking it with a
javelin,--which he throws with an unerring aim.

We have already observed that the principal subsistence of the Fuegian
is supplied by the sea; and shell-fish forms the most important item of
his food.  These are mussels, limpets, oysters, and other kinds of
shell-fish, and so many are annually consumed by a single family, that
an immense heap of the shells may be seen not only in front of every
hut, but all along the coast of the islands, above high-water mark,--
wherever a tribe has made its temporary sojourn.

There is a singular fact connected with these conglomerations of shells,
which appears to have escaped the observations of the Magellanic
voyagers.  It is not by mere accident they are thus collected in piles.
There is a certain amount of superstition in the matter.  The Fuegian
believes that, were the shells scattered negligently about, ill-luck
would follow; and, above all, if the emptied ones were thrown back into
the sea: since this would be a warning of destruction that would
frighten the living bivalves in their "beds," and drive them away from
the coast!  Hence it is that the shell-heaps are so carefully kept

In collecting these shell-fish, the women are the chief labourers.  They
do not always gather them from the rocks, after the tide has gone out;
though that is the usual time.  But there are some species not found in
shallow water, and therefore only to be obtained by diving to the bottom
after them.  Of this kind is a species of _echinus_, or "sea-urchin," of
the shape of an orange, and about twice the bulk of one,--the whole
outside surface being thickly set with spines, or protuberances.  These
curious shell-fish are called "sea-eggs" by the sailor navigators; and
constitute an important article of the food of the Fuegian.  It is often
necessary to dive for them to a great depth; and this is done by the
Fuegian women, who are as expert in plunging as the pearl-divers of
California or the Indian seas.

Fish is another article of Fuegian diet; and many kinds are captured
upon their coasts, some of excellent quality.  They sometimes obtain the
fish by shooting them with their arrows, or striking them with a dart;
but they have a mode of catching the finny creatures, which is
altogether peculiar: that is to say, _hunting them with dogs_!  The
Fuegians possess a breed of small fox-like dogs, mean, wretched-looking
curs, usually on the very verge of starvation,--since their owners take
not the slightest care of them, and hardly ever trouble themselves about
feeding them.  Notwithstanding this neglect, the Fuegian dogs are not
without certain good qualities; and become important auxiliaries to the
Fuegian fisherman.  They are trained to pursue the fish through the
water, and drive them into a net, or some enclosed creek or inlet,
shallow enough for them to be shot with the arrow.  In doing this the
dogs dive to the bottom; and follow the fish to and fro, as if they were
amphibious carnivora, like the seals and otters.  For this useful
service the poor brutes receive a very inadequate reward,--getting only
the bones as their portion.  They would undoubtedly starve, were it not
that, being left to shift for themselves, they have learnt how to
procure their own food; and understand how to catch a fish now and then
_on their own account_.  Their principal food, however, consists in
shell-fish, which they find along the shores, with polypi, and such
other animal substances as the sea leaves uncovered upon the beach after
the tide has retired.  A certain kind of sea-weed also furnishes them
with an occasional meal, as it does their masters,--often as hungry and
starving as themselves.

In his personal habits no human being is more filthy than the Fuegian.
He never uses water for washing purposes; nor cleans the dirt from his
skin in any way.  He has no more idea of putting water to such use, than
he has of drowning himself in it; and in respect to cleanliness, he is
not only below most other savages, but below the brutes themselves:
since even these are taught cleanliness by instinct.  But no such
instinct exists in the mind of the Fuegian; and he lives in the midst of
filth.  The smell of his body can be perceived at a considerable
distance; and Hotspur's fop might have had reasonable grounds of
complaint, had it been a Fuegian who came between the "wind and his
nobility."  To use the pithy language of one of the old navigators, "The
Fuegian stinks like a fox."

Fairly examined, then, in all his bearings,--fairly judged by his habits
and actions,--the Fuegian may claim the credit of being the most
wretched of our race.



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