BY R M BALLANTYNE
"MARTIN RATTLER" was one of, Robert Michael Ballantyne's early books.
Born at Edinburgh in 1825, he was sent to Rupert's Land as a
trading-clerk in the Hudson Bay Fur Company's service when he left
school, a boy of sixteen. There, to relieve his home-sickness, he first
practised his pen in long letters home to his mother. Soon after his
return to Scotland in 1848 he published a first book on Hudson's Bay.
Then he passed some years in a Scottish publisher's office; and in 1855 a
chance suggestion from another publisher led to his writing his first
book for boys—"Snowflakes and Sunbeams, or The Young Fur Traders." That
story showed he had found his vocation, and he poured forth its
successors to the tune in all of some fourscore volumes. "Martin Rattler"
appeared in 1858. In his "Personal Reminiscences" Ballantyne wrote: "How
many thousands of lads have an intense liking for the idea of a sailor's
life!" and he pointed out there the other side of the romantic picture:
the long watches "in dirty unromantic weather," and the hard work of
holystoning the decks, scraping down the masts and cleaning out the
coal-hole. But though his books show something of this reverse side too,
there is no doubt they have helped to set many boys dreaming of
"Wrecks, buccaneers, black flags, and desert lands
On which, alone, the second Crusoe stands."
[Footnote 1: See Note to "The Coral Island" in this series.]
Among these persuasions to the life of adventure "Martin Rattler" is
still one of the favourite among all his books. Ballantyne himself was
fated to die on foreign soil in 1894, at Rome, where he lies buried in
the English Protestant cemetery.
The following is a list of Ballantyne's chief romances, tales of
adventure, and descriptive works:—
"Hudson's Bay, or Every-day Life in the Wilds of North America," etc.,
1848; "Snowflakes and Sunbeams, or the Young Fur Traders," 1856. In 1857
and 1858 appeared, under the pseudonym of "Comus": "The Butterfly's Ball
and the Grasshopper's Feast" (in verse by Roscoe), ed. with music,
coloured illustrations, and a prose version; "Mister Fox"; "My Mother";
"The Robber Kitten" (by the author of "Three Little Kittens"). "The Coral
Island, a Tale of the Pacific Ocean" (with a preface subscribed "Ralph
Rover"), 1858 (1857); "Ungava, a Tale of Esquimaux Land," 1858 (1857);
"Martin Rattler, or a Boy's Adventures in the Forests of Brazil," 1858;
"Ships, the Great Eastern and lesser Craft" (with illustrations), 1859;
"Mee-a-ow! or Good Advice to Cats and Kittens," 1859; "The World of Ice,
or Adventures in the Polar Regions," 1860 (1859); "The Dog Crusoe, a Tale
of the Western Prairies," 1861 (1860); "The Golden Dream, or Adventures
in the Far West," 1861 (1860); "The Gorilla Hunters, a Tale of the Wilds
of Africa," 1861; "The Red Eric, or the Whaler's Last Cruise," 1861; "Man
on the Ocean, a Book for Boys," 1863 (1862); "The Wild Man of the West, a
Tale of the Rocky Mountains," 1863 (1862); "Gascoyne, the Sandal-wood
Trader, a Tale of the Pacific," 1864 (1863); "The Lifeboat, a Tale of our
Coast Heroes," 1864; "Freaks on the Fells, or Three Months' Rustication,"
and "Why I did not become a Sailor," etc., 1865 (1861); "The Lighthouse,
being the Story of a Great Fight between Man and the Sea," etc., 1865;
"Shifting Winds, a Tough Yarn," etc., 1866; "Silver Lake, or Lost in the
Snow," 1867; "A Rescue in the Rocky Mountains," 1867; "Fighting the
Flames, a Tale of the London Fire Brigade," 1868; "Away in the
Wilderness, or Life among the Red Indians and Fur Traders of North
America," 1869; "Erling the Bold, a Tale of the Norse Sea-kings," with
illustrations by the author, 1869; "Deep Down, a Tale of the Cornish
Mines," 1869; "The Floating Light of the Goodwin Sands," with
illustrations by the author, 1870; "The Iron Horse, or Life on the Line,
a Tale of the Grand National Trunk Railway," 1871; "The Norsemen in the
West, or America before Columbus," 1872; "The Pioneers, a Tale of the
Western Wilderness, illustrative of the Adventures and Discoveries
of Sir A. Mackenzie," 1872; "Black Ivory, a Tale of Adventure among
the Slaves of East Africa," 1873; "Life in the Red Brigade, a Story
for Boys," 1873; "The Ocean and its Wonders," 1874; "The Pirate
City, an Algerine Tale," 1875; "Under the Waves, or Diving in Deep
Waters," 1876; "Rivers of Ice, a Tale illustrative of Alpine
Adventure and Glacier Action," 1876; "The Settler and the Savage, a
Tale of Peace and War in South Africa," 1877; "Jarwin and Cuffy"
(Incident and Adventure Library), 1878; "In the Track of the
Troops, a Tale of Modern War," 1878; "Six Months at the Cape, or
Letters to Periwinkle from South Africa," 1879 (1878); "Post
Haste, a Tale of Her Majesty's Mails," 1880 (1879); "The Red Man's
Revenge, a Tale of the Red River Flood," 1880; "Philosopher Jack, a
Tale of the Southern Seas," 1880; "The Lonely Island, or the Refuge
of the Mutineers," 1880; "The Robber Kitten" (in volume of tales by
two or three authors), 1880; "The Collected Works of Ensign Sopht,
late of the Volunteers, illustrated by himself," 1881; "My Doggie
and I," etc., 1881; "The Giant of the North, or Pokings round the
Pole," 1882 (1881); "The Kitten Pilgrims, or Great Battles and
Grand Victories," 1882; "The Madman and the Pirate," 1883; "The
Battery and the Boiler, or Adventures in the Laying of Submarine
Cables," etc., 1883; "Battles with the Sea, or Heroes of the
Lifeboat and Rocket," 1883; "Dusty Diamonds Cut and Polished, a
Tale of City-arab Life and Adventure," 1884 (1862); "Twice Bought, a Tale
of the Oregon Gold-fields," 1885 (1863); "The Island Queen, a Tale of the
Southern Hemisphere," etc., 1885; "The Rover of the Andes, a Tale of
Adventure in South America," 1885; "Red Rooney, or the Last of the Crew,"
1886; "The Big Otter, a Tale of the Great Nor'-West," 1887 (1864); "The
Middy of the Moors, an Algerine Story," 1888; "Blue Lights, or Hot Work
in the Soudan, a Tale of Soldier Life," 1888; "The Crew of the Water
Wagtail, a Story of Newfoundland," 1889; "A Gallant Rescue" (stories
jolly, stories new, etc.), 1889; "The Fight on the Green" (Miles'
Fifty-two Stories for Boys), 1889; "Charlie to the Rescue, a Tale of the
Sea and the Rockies," with illustrations by the author, 1890; "The Garret
and the Garden…, or the Young Coast-guardsman," 1890; "The Coxswain's
Bride, or the Rising Tide, and other Tales," with illustrations by the
author, 1891; "The Hot Swamp, a Romance of Old Albion," 1892; "Hunted and
Harried, a Tale of the Scottish Covenanters," 1892; "The Walrus Hunters,
a Romance of the Realms of Ice," 1893.
Ballantyne's Miscellany was started in 1863.
MY DEAR YOUNG READERS,
In presenting this book to you I have only to repeat what I have said in
the prefaces of my former works,—namely, that all the important points
and anecdotes are true; only the minor and unimportant ones being
mingled with fiction. With this single remark I commit my work to your
hands, and wish you a pleasant ramble, in spirit, through the romantic
forests of Brazil.
THE HERO AND HIS ONLY RELATIVE
Martin Rattler was a very bad boy. At least his aunt, Mrs. Dorothy
Grumbit, said so; and certainly she ought to have known, if anybody
should, for Martin lived with her, and was, as she herself expressed it,
"the bane of her existence,—the very torment of her life." No doubt of
it whatever, according to Aunt Dorothy Grumbit's showing, Martin Rattler
was "a remarkably bad boy."
It is a curious fact, however, that, although most of the people in the
village of Ashford seemed to agree with Mrs. Grumbit in her opinion of
Martin, there were very few of them who did not smile cheerfully on the
child when they met him, and say, "Good day, lad!" as heartily as if they
thought him the best boy in the place. No one seemed to bear Martin
Rattler ill-will, notwithstanding his alleged badness. Men laughed when
they said he was a bad boy, as if they did not quite believe their own
assertion. The vicar, an old whiteheaded man, with a kind, hearty
countenance, said that the child was full of mischief, full of mischief;
but he would improve as he grew older, he was quite certain of that. And
the vicar was a good judge, for he had five boys of his own, besides
three other boys, the sons of a distant relative, who boarded with him;
and he had lived forty years in a parish overflowing with boys, and he
was particularly fond of boys in general. Not so the doctor, a pursy
little man with a terrific frown, who hated boys, especially little ones,
with a very powerful hatred. The doctor said that Martin was a scamp.
And yet Martin had not the appearance of a scamp. He had fat rosy cheeks,
a round rosy mouth, a straight delicately-formed nose, a firm massive
chin, and a broad forehead. But the latter was seldom visible, owing to
the thickly-clustering fair curls that overhung it. When asleep Martin's
face was the perfection of gentle innocence. But the instant he opened
his dark-brown eyes, a thousand dimples and wrinkles played over his
visage, chiefly at the corners of his mouth and round his eyes; as if the
spirit of fun and the spirit of mischief had got entire possession of the
boy, and were determined to make the most of him. When deeply interested
in anything, Martin was as grave and serious as a philosopher.
Aunt Dorothy Grumbit had a turned-up nose,—a very much turned-up nose;
so much so, indeed, that it presented a front view of the nostrils! It
was an aggravating nose, too for the old lady's spectacles refused to
rest on any part of it except the extreme point. Mrs. Grumbit invariably
placed them on the right part of her nose, and they as invariably slid
down the curved slope until they were brought up by the little hillock at
the end. There they condescended to repose in peace.
Mrs. Grumbit was mild, and gentle, and little, and thin, and
old,—perhaps seventy-five; but no one knew her age for certain, not even
herself. She wore an old-fashioned, high-crowned cap, and a gown of
bed-curtain chintz, with flowers on it the size of a saucer. It was a
curious gown, and very cheap, for Mrs. Grumbit was poor. No one knew the
extent of her poverty, any more than they did her age; but she herself
knew it, and felt it deeply,—never so deeply, perhaps, as when her
orphan nephew Martin grew old enough to be put to school, and she had not
wherewithal to send him. But love is quick-witted and resolute. A
residence of six years in Germany had taught her to knit stockings at a
rate that cannot be described, neither conceived unless seen. She knitted
two dozen pairs. The vicar took one dozen, the doctor took the other. The
fact soon became known. Shops were not numerous in the village in those
days; and the wares they supplied were only second rate. Orders came
pouring in, Mrs. Grumbit's knitting wires clicked, and her little old
hands wagged with incomprehensible rapidity and unflagging
regularity,—and Martin Rattler was sent to school.
While occupied with her knitting, she sat in a high-backed chair in a
very small deep window, through which the sun streamed nearly the whole
day; and out of which there was the most charming imaginable view of the
gardens and orchards of the villagers, with a little dancing brook in the
midst, and the green fields of the farmers beyond, studded with sheep and
cattle and knolls of woodland, and bounded in the far distance by the
bright blue sea. It was a lovely scene, such an one as causes the eye to
brighten and the heart to melt as we gaze upon it, and think, perchance,
of its Creator.
Yes, it was a scene worth looking at; but Mrs. Grumbit never looked at
it, for the simple reason that she could not have seen it if she had.
Half way across her own little parlour was the extent of her natural
vision. By the aid of spectacles and a steady concentrated effort, she
could see the fire-place at the other end of the room; and the portrait
of her deceased husband, who had been a sea-captain; and the white kitten
that usually sat on the rug before the fire. To be sure she saw them very
indistinctly. The picture was a hazy blue patch, which was the captain's
coat; with a white patch down the middle of it, which was his waistcoat;
and a yellow ball on the top of it, which was his head. It was rather an
indistinct and generalized view, no doubt; but she saw it, and that was
a great comfort.
Fire was the cause of Martin's getting into disgrace at school for the
first time; and this is how it happened.
"Go and poke the fire, Martin Rattler," said the school-master, "and put
on a bit of coal, and see that you don't send the sparks flying about
Martin sprang with alacrity to obey; for he was standing up with the
class at the time, and was glad of the temporary relaxation. He stirred
the fire with great care, and put on several pieces of coal very slowly,
and rearranged them two or three times; after which he stirred the fire a
little more, and examined it carefully to see that it was all right; but
he did not seem quite satisfied, and was proceeding to re-adjust the
coals when Bob Croaker, one of the big boys, who was a bullying,
ill-tempered fellow, and had a spite against Martin, called out,—
"Please, sir, Rattler's playin' at the fire."
"Come back to your place, sir!" cried the master, sternly.
Martin returned in haste, and resumed his position in the class. As he
did so he observed that his fore-finger was covered with soot.
Immediately a smile of glee overspread his features; and, while the
master was busy with one of the boys, he drew his black finger gently
down the forehead and nose of the boy next to him.
"What part of the earth was peopled by the descendants of Ham?" cried the
master, pointing to the dux.
"Shem!" shrieked a small boy near the foot of the class.
"Silence!" thundered the master, with a frown that caused the small boy
to quake down to the points of his toes.
"Asia!" answered dux.
"Next, next, next? Hallo! John Ward," cried the master, starting up in
anger from his seat, "what do you mean by that, sir?"
"What, sir?" said John Ward, tremulously, while a suppressed titter ran
round the class.
"Your face, sir! Who blacked your face, eh?"
"I—I—don't know," said the boy, drawing his sleeve across his face,
which had the effect of covering it with sooty streaks.
An uncontrollable shout of laughter burst from the whole school, which
was instantly followed by a silence so awful and profound that a pin
might have been heard to fall.
"Martin Rattler, you did that! I know you did,—I see the marks on your
fingers. Come here, sir! Now tell me; did you do it?"
Martin Rattler never told falsehoods. His old aunt had laboured to
impress upon him from infancy that to lie was to commit a sin which is
abhorred by God and scorned by man; and her teaching had not been in
vain. The child would have suffered any punishment rather than have told
a deliberate lie. He looked straight in the master's face and said, "Yes,
sir, I did it."
"Very well, go to your seat, and remain in school during the play-hour."
With a heavy heart Martin obeyed; and soon after the school was
"I say, Rattler," whispered Bob Croaker, as he passed, "I'm going to
teach your white kitten to swim just now. Won't you come and see it?"
The malicious laugh with which the boy accompanied this remark convinced
Martin that he intended to put his threat in execution. For a moment he
thought of rushing out after him to protect his pet kitten; but a glance
at the stern brow of the master, as he sat at his desk reading,
restrained him; so, crushing down his feelings of mingled fear and anger,
he endeavoured to while away the time by watching the boys as they played
in the fields before the windows of the school.
THE GREAT FIGHT
"Martin!" said the school-master, in a severe tone, looking up from the
book with which he was engaged, "don't look out at the window, sir; turn
your back to it."
"Please, sir, I can't help it," replied the boy, trembling with eagerness
as he stared across the fields.
"Turn your back on it, I say!" reiterated the master in a loud tone, at
the same time striking the desk violently with his cane.
"Oh, sir, let me out! There's Bob Croaker with my kitten. He's going to
drown it. I know he is,—he said he would; and if he does aunty will die,
for she loves it next to me; and I must save it, and—and, if you
don't let me out—you'll be a murderer!"
At this concluding burst, Martin sprang forward and stood before his
master with clenched fists and a face blazing with excitement. The
schoolmaster's gaze of astonishment gradually gave place to a dark frown
strangely mingled with a smile, and, when the boy concluded, he said
quietly—"You may go."
No second bidding was needed. The door flew open with a bang; and the
gravel of the play-ground, spurned right and left, dashed against the
window panes as Martin flew across it. The paling that fenced it off from
the fields beyond was low, but too high for a jump. Never a boy in all
the school had crossed that paling at a spring, without laying his hands
upon it; but Martin did. We do not mean to say that he did anything
superhuman; but he rushed at it like a charge of cavalry, sprang from the
ground like a deer, kicked away the top bar, tumbled completely over,
landed on his head, and rolled down the slope on the other side as fast
as he could have run down,—perhaps faster.
It would have required sharper eyes than yours or mine to have observed
how Martin got on his legs again, but he did it in a twinkling, and was
half across the field almost before you could wink, and panting on the
heels of Bob Croaker. Bob saw him coming and instantly started off at a
hard run, followed by the whole school. A few minutes brought them to the
banks of the stream, where Bob Croaker halted, and, turning round, held
the white kitten up by the nape of the neck.
"O spare it! spare it, Bob!—don't do it—please don't, don't do it!"
gasped Martin, as he strove in vain to run faster.
"There you go!" shouted Bob, with a coarse laugh, sending the kitten high
into the air, whence it fell with a loud splash into the water.
It was a dreadful shock to feline nerves, no doubt, but that white kitten
was no ordinary animal. Its little heart beat bravely when it rose to the
surface, and, before its young master came up, it had regained the bank.
But, alas! what a change! It went into the stream a fat, round,
comfortable ball of eider-down. It came out—a scraggy blotch of white
paint, with its black eyes glaring like two great glass beads! No sooner
did it crawl out of the water than Bob Croaker seized it, and whirled it
round his head, amid suppressed cries of "Shame!" intending to throw it
in again; but at that instant Martin Rattler seized Bob by the collar of
his coat with both hands, and, letting himself drop suddenly, dragged the
cruel boy to the ground, while the kitten crept humbly away and hid
itself in a thick tuft of grass.
A moment sufficed to enable Bob Croaker, who was nearly twice Martin's
weight, to free himself from the grasp of his panting antagonist, whom he
threw on his back, and doubled his fist, intending to strike Martin on
the face; but a general rush of the boys prevented this.
"Shame, shame, fair play!" cried several; "don't hit him when he's down!"
"Then let him rise up and come on!" cried Bob, fiercely, as he sprang up
and released Martin.
"Ay, that's fair. Now then, Martin, remember the kitten!"
"Strike men of your own size!" cried several of the bigger boys, as they
interposed to prevent Martin from rushing into the unequal contest.
"So I will," cried Bob Croaker, glaring round with passion. "Come on any
of you that likes. I don't care a button for the biggest of you."
No one accepted this challenge, for Bob was the oldest and the strongest
boy in the school, although, as is usually the case with bullies, by no
means the bravest.
Seeing that no one intended to fight with him, and that a crowd of boys
strove to hold Martin Rattler back, while they assured him that he had
not the smallest chance in the world, Bob turned towards the kitten,
which was quietly and busily employed in licking itself dry, and said,
"Now, Martin, you coward, I'll give it another swim for your impudence."
"Stop, stop!" cried Martin earnestly. "Bob Croaker, I would rather do
anything than fight. I would give you everything I have to save my
kitten; but if you won't spare it unless I fight, I'll do it. If you
throw it in before you fight me, you're the greatest coward that ever
walked. Just give me five minutes to breathe and a drink of water, and
I'll fight you as long as I can stand."
Bob looked at his little foe in surprise. "Well, that's fair. I'm your
man; but if you don't lick me I'll drown the kitten, that's all." Having
said this, he quietly divested himself of his jacket and neckcloth, while
several boys assisted Martin to do the same, and brought him a draught of
water in the crown of one of their caps. In five minutes all was ready,
and the two boys stood face to face and foot to foot, with their fists
doubled and revolving, and a ring of boys around them.
Just at this moment the kitten, having found the process of licking
itself dry more fatiguing than it had expected, gave vent to a faint mew
of distress. It was all that was wanting to set Martin's indignant heart
into a blaze of inexpressible fury. Bob Croaker's visage instantly
received a shower of sharp, stinging blows, that had the double effect of
taking that youth by surprise and throwing him down upon the green sward.
But Martin could not hope to do this a second time. Bob now knew the
vigour of his assailant, and braced himself warily to the combat,
commencing operations by giving Martin a tremendous blow on the point of
his nose, and another on the chest. These had the effect of tempering
Martin's rage with a salutary degree of caution, and of eliciting from
the spectators sundry cries of warning on the one hand, and admiration on
the other, while the young champions revolved warily round each other,
and panted vehemently.
The battle that was fought that day was one of a thousand. It created as
great a sensation in the village school as did the battle of Waterloo in
England. It was a notable fight; such as had not taken place within the
memory of the oldest boy in the village, and from which, in after years,
events of juvenile history were dated,—especially pugilistic events, of
which, when a good one came off, it used to be said that "such a battle
had not taken place since the year of the Great Fight" Bob Croaker was
a noted fighter. Martin Rattler was, up to this date, an untried hero.
Although fond of rough play and boisterous mischief, he had an
unconquerable aversion to earnest fighting, and very rarely indeed
returned home with a black eye,—much to the satisfaction of Aunt Dorothy
Grumbit, who objected to all fighting from principle, and frequently
asserted, in gentle tones, that there should be no soldiers or sailors
(fighting sailors, she meant) at all, but that people ought all to settle
everything the best way they could without fighting, and live peaceably
with one another, as the Bible told them to do. They would be far happier
and better off, she was sure of that; and if everybody was of her way of
thinking, there would be neither swords, nor guns, nor pistols, nor
squibs, nor anything else at all! Dear old lady. It would indeed be a
blessing if her principles could be carried out in this warring and
jarring world. But as this is rather difficult, what we ought to be
careful about is, that we never fight except in a good cause and with a
It was well for Martin Rattler, on that great day, that the formation of
the ground favoured him. The spot on which the fight took place was
uneven, and covered with little hillocks and hollows, over which Bob
Croaker stumbled, and into which he fell,—being a clumsy boy on his
legs,—and did himself considerable damage; while Martin, who was firmly
knit and active as a kitten, scarcely ever fell, or, if he did, sprang up
again like an India-rubber ball. Fair-play was embedded deep in the
centre of Martin's heart, so that he scorned to hit his adversary when he
was down or in the act of rising; but the thought of the fate that
awaited the white kitten if he were conquered, acted like lightning in
his veins, and scarcely had Bob time to double his fists after a fall,
when he was knocked back again into the hollow out of which he had risen.
There were no rounds in this fight,—no pausing to recover breath.
Martin's anger rose with every blow, whether given or received; and
although he was knocked down flat four or five times, he rose again, and,
without a second's delay, rushed headlong at his enemy. Feeling that he
was too little and light to make much impression on Bob Croaker by means
of mere blows, he endeavoured as much as possible to throw his weight
against him at each assault; but Bob stood his ground well, and after a
time seemed even to be recovering strength a little.
Suddenly he made a rush at Martin, and, dealing him a successful blow on
the forehead, knocked him down; at the same time he himself tripped over
a molehill and fell upon his face. Both were on their legs in an instant.
Martin grew desperate. The white kitten swimming for its life seemed to
rise before him, and new energy was infused into his frame. He retreated
a step or two, and then darted forward like an arrow from a bow. Uttering
a loud cry, he sprang completely in the air and plunged—head and fists
together, as if he were taking a dive—into Bob Croaker's bosom! The
effect was tremendous. Bob went down like a shock of grain before the
sickle; and having, in their prolonged movements, approached close to the
brink of the stream, both he and Martin went with a sounding splash into
the deep pool and disappeared. It was but for a moment, however, Martin's
head emerged first, with eyes and mouth distended to the utmost.
Instantly, on finding bottom, he turned to deal his opponent another
blow; but it was not needed. When Bob Croaker's head rose to the surface
there was no motion in the features, and the eyes were closed. The
intended blow was changed into a friendly grasp; and, exerting himself to
the utmost, Martin dragged his insensible school-fellow to the bank,
where, in a few minutes, he recovered sufficiently to declare in a sulky
tone that he would fight no more!
"Bob Croaker," said Martin, holding out his hand, "I'm sorry we've had to
fight. I wouldn't have done it, but to save my kitten. You compelled me
to do it, you know that. Come, let's be friends again."
Bob made no reply, but slowly and with some difficulty put on his vest
"I'm sure," continued Martin, "there's no reason in bearing me ill-will.
I've done nothing unfair, and I'm very sorry we've had to fight. Won't
you shake hands?"
Bob was silent.
"Come, come, Bob!" cried several of the bigger boys, "don't be sulky,
man; shake hands and be friends. Martin has licked you this time, and
you'll lick him next time, no doubt, and that's all about it."
"Arrah, then, ye're out there, intirely. Bob Croaker'll niver lick Martin
Rattler though he wos to live to the age of the great M'Thuselah!'" said
a deep-toned voice close to the spot where the fight had taken place.
All eyes were instantly turned in the direction whence it proceeded, and
the boys now became aware, for the first time, that the combat had been
witnessed by a sailor, who, with a smile of approval beaming on his
good-humoured countenance, sat under the shade of a neighbouring tree
smoking a pipe of that excessive shortness and blackness that seems to be
peculiarly beloved by Irishmen in the humbler ranks of life. The man was
very tall and broad-shouldered, and carried himself with a free-and-easy
swagger, as he rose and approached the group of boys.
"He'll niver bate ye, Martin, avic, as long as there's two timbers of ye
The seaman patted Martin on the head as he spoke; and, turning to Bob
Croaker, continued: "Ye ought to be proud, ye spalpeen, o' bein' wopped
by sich a young hero as this. Come here and shake hands with him: d'ye
hear? Troth an' it's besmearin' ye with too much honour that same. There,
that'll do. Don't say ye're sorry now, for it's lies ye'd be tellin' if
ye did. Come along, Martin, an' I'll convarse with ye as ye go home.
Ye'll be a man yet, as sure as my name is Barney O'Flannagan."
Martin took the white kitten in his arms and thrust its wet little body
into his equally wet bosom, where the warmth began soon to exercise a
soothing influence on the kitten's depressed spirits, so that, ere long,
it began to purr. He then walked with the sailor towards the village,
with his face black and blue, and swelled and covered with blood, while
Bob Croaker and his companions returned to the school.
The distance to Martin's residence was not great, but it was sufficient
to enable the voluble Irishman to recount a series of the most wonderful
adventures and stories of foreign lands, that set Martin's heart on fire
with desire to go to sea,—a desire which was by no means new to him, and
which recurred violently every time he paid a visit to the small sea-port
of Bilton, which lay about five miles to the southward of his native
village. Moreover, Barney suggested that it was time Martin should be
doing for himself (he was now ten years old), and said that if he would
join his ship, he could get him a berth, for he was much in want of an
active lad to help him with the coppers. But Martin Rattler sighed
deeply, and said that, although his heart was set upon going to sea, he
did not see how it was to be managed, for his aunt would not let him go.
Before they separated, however, it was arranged that Martin should pay
the sailor's ship a visit, when he would hear a good deal more about
foreign lands; and that, in the meantime, he should make another attempt
to induce Aunt Dorothy Grumbit to give her consent to his going to sea.
A LESSON TO ALL STOCKING-KNITTERS—MARTIN'S PROSPECTS BEGIN TO OPEN UP
In the small sea-port of Bilton, before mentioned, there dwelt an old and
wealthy merchant and ship-owner, who devoted a small portion of his time
to business, and a very large portion of it to what is usually termed
"doing good," This old gentleman was short, and stout, and rosy, and
bald, and active, and sharp as a needle.
In the short time that Mr. Arthur Jollyboy devoted to business, he
accomplished as much as most men do in the course of a long day. There
was not a benevolent society in the town, of which Arthur Jollyboy,
Esquire, of the Old Hulk (as he styled his cottage), was not a member,
director, secretary, and treasurer, all in one, and all at once! If it
had been possible for man to be ubiquitous, Mr. Jollyboy would have been
so naturally; or, if not naturally, he would have made himself so by
force of will. Yet he made no talk about it. His step was quiet, though
quick; and his voice was gentle, though rapid; and he was chiefly famous
for talking little and doing much.
Some time after the opening of our tale, Mr. Jollyboy had received
information of Mrs. Grumbit's stocking movement. That same afternoon he
put on his broad-brimmed white hat, and, walking out to the village in
which she lived, called upon the vicar, who was a particular and intimate
friend of his. Having ascertained from the vicar that Mrs. Grumbit would
not accept of charity, he said abruptly,—
"And why not,—is she too proud?"
"By no means," replied the vicar. "She says that she would think shame to
take money from friends as long as she can work, because every penny that
she would thus get would be so much less to go to the helpless poor; of
whom, she says, with much truth, there are enough and to spare. And I
quite agree with her as regards her principle; but it does not apply
fully to her, for she cannot work so as to procure a sufficient
livelihood without injury to her health."
"Is she clever?" inquired Mr. Jollyboy.
"Why, no, not particularly. In fact, she does not often exert her
reasoning faculties, except in the common-place matters of ordinary and
"Then she's cleverer than most people," said Mr. Jollyboy, shortly. "Is
"No, not in the least," returned the vicar with a puzzled smile.
"Ah, well, good-bye, good-bye; that's all I want to know."
Mr. Jollyboy rose, and hurrying through the village, tapped at the
cottage door, and was soon closeted with Mrs. Dorothy Grumbit. In the
course of half an hour, Mr. Jollyboy drew from Mrs. Grumbit as much about
her private affairs as he could, without appearing rude. But he found the
old lady very close and sensitive on that point. Not so, however, when he
got her upon the subject of her nephew. She had enough, and more than
enough, to say about him. It is true she began by remarking, sadly, that
he was a very bad boy; but, as she continued to talk about him, she
somehow or other gave her visitor the impression that he was a very
good boy! They had a wonderfully long and confidential talk about
Martin, during which Mr. Jollyboy struck Mrs. Grumbit nearly dumb with
horror by stating positively what he would do for the boy,—he would send
him to sea! Then, seeing that he had hit the wrongest possible nail on
the head, he said that he would make the lad a clerk in his office, where
he would be sure to rise to a place of trust; whereat Mrs. Grumbit
danced, if we may so speak, into herself for joy.
"And now, ma'am, about these stockings. I want two thousand pairs as soon
as I can get them!"
"Sir?" said Mrs. Grumbit.
"Of course, not for my own use, ma'am; nor for the use of my family, for
I have no family; and if I had, that would be an unnecessarily large
supply. The fact is, Mrs. Grumbit, I am a merchant, and I send very large
supplies of home-made articles to foreign lands, and two thousand pairs
of socks are a mere driblet. Of course I do not expect you to make them
all for me, but I wish you to make as many pairs as you can."
"I shall be very happy—" began Mrs. Grumbit.
"But, Mrs. Grumbit, there is a peculiar formation which I require in my
socks that will give you extra trouble, I fear; but I must have it,
whatever the additional expense may be. What is your charge for the pair
you are now making?"
"Three shillings," said Mrs. Grumbit.
"Ah! very good. Now, take up the wires if you please, ma'am, and do what
I tell you. Now, drop that stitch,—good; and take up this one,—capital;
and pull this one across that way,—so; and that one across this
way,—exactly. Now, what is the result?"
The result was a complicated knot; and Mrs. Grumbit, after staring a few
seconds at the old gentleman in surprise, said so, and begged to know
what use it was of.
"Oh, never mind, never mind. We merchants have strange fancies, and
foreigners have curious tastes now and then. Please to make all my
socks with a hitch like that in them all round, just above the ankle.
It will form an ornamental ring. I'm sorry to put you to the trouble,
but of course I pay extra for fancy-work. Will six shillings a pair do
"My dear sir," said Mrs. Grumbit, "it is no additional—"
"Well, well, never mind," said Mr. Jollyboy. "Two thousand pairs,
remember, as soon as possible,—close knitted, plain stitch, rather
coarse worsted; and don't forget the hitch, Mrs. Grumbit, don't forget
Ah! reader, there are many Mrs. Grumbits in this world, requiring
hitches to be made in their stockings!
At this moment the door burst open. Mrs. Dorothy Grumbit uttered a
piercing scream, Mr. Jollyboy dropped his spectacles and sat down on
his hat, and Martin Rattler stood before them with the white kitten
in his arms.
For a few seconds there was a dead silence, while an expression of
puzzled disappointment passed over Mr. Jollyboy's ruddy countenance. At
last he said,—
"Is this, madam, the nephew who, you told me a little ago, is not
addicted to fighting?"
"Yes," answered the old lady faintly, and covering her eyes with her
hands, "that is Martin."
"If my aunt told you that, sir, she told you the truth," said Martin,
setting down the blood-stained white kitten, which forthwith began to
stretch its limbs and lick itself dry. "I don't ever fight if I can help
it, but I couldn't help it to-day."
With a great deal of energy, and a revival of much of his former
indignation, when he spoke of the kitten's sufferings, Martin recounted
all the circumstances of the fight; during the recital of which Mrs.
Dorothy Grumbit took his hand in hers and patted it, gazing the while
into his swelled visage, and weeping plentifully, but very silently. When
he had finished, Mr. Jollyboy shook hands with him, and said he was a
trump, at the same time recommending him to go and wash his face. Then he
whispered a few words in Mrs. Grumbit's ear, which seemed to give that
excellent lady much pleasure; after which he endeavoured to straighten
his crushed hat; in which attempt he failed, took his leave, promised to
call again very soon, and went back to the Old Hulk—chuckling.
MARTIN, BEING WILLING TO GO TO SEA, GOES TO SEA AGAINST HIS WILL
Four years rolled away, casting chequered light and shadow over the
little village of Ashford in their silent passage,—whitening the
forelocks of the aged, and strengthening the muscles of the young. Death,
too, touched a hearth here and there, and carried desolation to a home;
for four years cannot wing their flight without enforcing on us the
lesson—which we are so often taught, and yet take so long to learn—that
this is not our rest,—that here we have no abiding city. Did we but
ponder this lesson more frequently and earnestly, instead of making us
sad, it would nerve our hearts and hands to fight and work more
diligently,—to work in the cause of our Redeemer,—the only cause that
is worth the life-long energy of immortal beings,—the great cause that
includes all others; and it would teach us to remember that our little
day of opportunity will soon be spent, and that the night is at hand in
which no man can work.
Four years rolled away, and during this time Martin, having failed to
obtain his aunt's consent to his going to sea, continued at school, doing
his best to curb the roving spirit that strove within him. Martin was not
particularly bright at the dead languages; to the rules of grammar he
entertained a rooted aversion; and at history he was inclined to yawn,
except when it happened to touch upon the names and deeds of such men as
Vasco di Gama and Columbus. But in geography he was perfect; and in
arithmetic and book-keeping he was quite a proficient, to the delight of
Mrs. Dorothy Grumbit, whose household books he summed up; and to the
satisfaction of his fast friend, Mr. Arthur Jollyboy, whose ledgers he
was—in that old gentleman's secret resolves—destined to keep.
Martin was now fourteen, broad and strong, and tall for his age. He was
the idol of the school,—dashing, daring, reckless, and good-natured.
There was almost nothing that he would not attempt, and there were very
few things that he could not do. He never fought, however—from
principle; and his strength and size often saved him from the necessity.
But he often prevented other boys from fighting, except when he thought
there was good reason for it; then he stood by and saw fair play. There
was a strange mixture of philosophical gravity, too, in Martin. As he
grew older he became more enthusiastic and less boisterous.
Bob Croaker was still at the school, and was, from prudential motives, a
fast friend of Martin. But he bore him a secret grudge, for he could not
forget the great fight.
One day Bob took Martin by the arm, and said, "I say, Rattler, come with
me to Bilton, and have some fun among the shipping."
"Well, I don't mind if I do," said Martin. "I'm just in the mood for a
ramble, and I'm not expected home till bed-time."
In little more than an hour the two boys were wandering about the
dock-yards of the sea-port town, and deeply engaged in examining the
complicated rigging of the ships. While thus occupied, the clanking of a
windlass and the merry "Yo heave O! and away she goes," of the sailors,
attracted their attention.
"Hallo! there goes the Firefly, bound for the South Seas," cried Bob
Croaker; "come, let's see her start. I say, Martin, isn't your friend,
Barney O'Flannagan, on board?"
"Yes, he is. He tries to get me to go out every voyage, and I wish I
could. Come quickly; I want to say good-bye to him before he starts."
"Why don't you run away, Rattler?" inquired Bob, as they hurried round
the docks to where the vessel was warping out.
"Because I don't need to. My aunt has given me leave to go if I like; but
she says it would break her heart if I do; and I would rather be screwed
down to a desk for ever than do that, Bob Croaker."
The vessel, upon the deck of which the two boys now leaped, was a large,
heavy-built barque. Her sails were hanging loose, and the captain was
giving orders to the men, who had their attention divided between their
duties on board and their mothers, wives, and sisters, who still lingered
to take a last farewell.
"Now, then, those who don't want to go to sea had better go ashore,"
roared the captain.
There was an immediate rush to the side.
"I say, Martin," whispered Barney, as he hurried past, "jump down below
for'ard; you can go out o' the harbour mouth with us and get ashore in
one o' the shore-boats alongside. They'll not cast off till we're well
out. I want to speak to you—"
"Man the fore top-sail halyards," shouted the first mate.
"Ay ay, sir-r-r," and the men sprang to obey. Just then the ship
touched on the bar at the mouth of the harbour, and in another moment
she was aground.
"There, now, she's hard and fast!" roared the captain, as he stormed
about the deck in a paroxysm of rage. But man's rage could avail nothing.
They had missed the passage by a few feet, and now they had to wait the
fall and rise again of the tide ere they could hope to get off.
In the confusion that followed, Bob Croaker suggested that Martin and he
should take one of the punts, or small boats which hovered round the
vessel, and put out to sea, where they might spend the day pleasantly in
rowing and fishing.
"Capital!" exclaimed Martin. "Let's go at once. Yonder's a little fellow
who will let us have his punt for a few pence. I know him. Hallo, Tom!"
"Ay, ay," squeaked a boy who was so small that he could scarcely lift the
oar, light though it was, with which he sculled his punt cleverly along.
"Shove alongside, like a good fellow; we want your boat for a little to
row out a bit."
"It's a-blowin' too hard," squeaked the small boy, as he ranged
alongside. "I'm afeared you'll be blowed out."
"Nonsense!" cried Bob Croaker, grasping the rope which the boy threw to
him. "Jump on board, younker; we don't want you to help us, and you're
too heavy for ballast. Slip down the side, Martin, and get in while I
hold on to the rope. All right? now I'll follow. Here, shrimp, hold the
rope till I'm in, and then cast off. Look alive!"
As Bob spoke, he handed the rope to the little boy; but, in doing so, let
it accidentally slip out of his hand.
"Catch hold o' the main chains, Martin,—quick!"
But Martin was too late. The current that swept out of the harbour
whirled the light punt away from the ship's side, and carried it out
seaward. Martin instantly sprang to the oar, and turned the boat's head
round. He was a stout and expert rower, and would soon have regained the
ship; but the wind increased at the moment, and blew in a squall off
shore, which carried him further out despite his utmost efforts. Seeing
that all further attempts were useless, Martin stood up and waved his
hand to Bob Croaker, shouting as he did so, "Never mind, Bob, I'll make
for the South Point. Run round and meet me, and we'll row back together."
The South Point was a low cape of land which stretched a considerable
distance out to sea, about three miles to the southward of Bilton
harbour. It formed a large bay, across which, in ordinary weather, a
small boat might be rowed in safety. Martin Rattler was well known at the
sea-port as a strong and fearless boy, so that no apprehension was
entertained for his safety by those who saw him blown away. Bob Croaker
immediately started for the Point on foot, a distance of about four miles
by land; and the crew of the Firefly were so busied with their stranded
vessel that they took no notice of the doings of the boys.
But the weather now became more and more stormy. Thick clouds gathered on
the horizon. The wind began to blow with steady violence, and shifted a
couple of points to the southward; so that Martin found it impossible to
keep straight for the Point. Still he worked perseveringly at his single
oar, and sculled rapidly over the sea; but, as he approached the Point,
he soon perceived that no effort of which he was capable could enable him
to gain it. But Martin's heart was stout. He strove with all the energy
of hope, until the Point was passed; and then, turning the head of his
little boat towards it, he strove with all the energy of despair, until
he fell down exhausted. The wind and tide swept him rapidly out to sea;
and when his terrified comrade reached the Point, the little boat was but
a speck on the seaward horizon.
Well was it then for Martin Rattler that a friendly heart beat for him on
board the Firefly, Bob Croaker carried the news to the town; but no one
was found daring enough to risk his life out in a boat on that stormy
evening. The little punt had been long out of sight ere the news reached
them, and the wind had increased to a gale. But Barney O'Flannagan
questioned Bob Croaker closely, and took particular note of the point of
the compass at which Martin had disappeared; and when the Firefly at
length got under weigh, he climbed to the fore-top cross-trees, and stood
there scanning the horizon with an anxious eye.
It was getting dark, and a feeling of despair began to creep over
the seaman's heart as he gazed round the wide expanse of water, on
which nothing was to be seen except the white foam that crested the
"Starboard, hard!" he shouted suddenly.
"Starboard it is!" replied the man at the wheel, with prompt obedience.
In another moment Barney slid down the back-stay and stood on the deck,
while the ship rounded to and narrowly missed striking a small boat that
floated keel up on the water. There was no cry from the boat; and it
might have been passed as a mere wreck, had not the lynx eye of Barney
noticed a dark object clinging to it.
"Lower away a boat, lads," cried the Irishman, springing overboard;
and the words had scarcely passed his lips when the water closed
over his head.
The Firefly was hove to, a boat was lowered and rowed towards Barney,
whose strong voice guided his shipmates towards him. In less than a
quarter of an hour the bold sailor and his young friend Martin Rattler
were safe on board, and the ship's head was again turned out to sea.
It was full half an hour before Martin was restored to consciousness in
the forecastle, to which his deliverer had conveyed him.
"Musha, lad, but ye're booked for the blue wather now, an' no mistake!"
said Barney, looking with an expression of deep sympathy at the poor boy,
who sat staring before him quite speechless. "The capting'll not let ye
out o' this ship till ye git to the gould coast, or some sich place. He
couldn't turn back av he wanted iver so much; but he doesn't want to, for
he needs a smart lad like you, an' he'll keep you now, for sartin."
Barney sat down by Martin's side and stroked his fair curls, as he sought
in his own quaint fashion to console him. But in vain. Martin grew quite
desperate as he thought of the misery into which poor Aunt Dorothy
Grumbit would be plunged, on learning that he had been swept out to sea
in a little boat, and drowned, as she would naturally suppose. In his
frenzy he entreated and implored the captain to send him back in the
boat, and even threatened to knock out his brains with a handspike if he
did not; but the captain smiled and told him that it was his own fault.
He had no business to be putting to sea in a small boat in rough weather,
and he might be thankful he wasn't drowned. He wouldn't turn back now for
fifty pounds twice told.
At length Martin became convinced that all hope of returning home was
gone. He went quietly below, threw himself into one of the sailor's
berths, turned his face to the wall, and wept long and bitterly.
THE VOYAGE, A PIRATE, CHASE, WRECK, AND ESCAPE
Time reconciles a man to almost anything. In the course of time Martin
Rattler became reconciled to his fate, and went about the ordinary duties
of a cabin-boy on board the Firefly just as if he had been appointed to
that office in the ordinary way,—with the consent of the owners and by
the advice of his friends. The captain, Skinflint by name, and as surly
an old fellow as ever walked a quarter-deck, agreed to pay him wages "if
he behaved well." The steward, under whose immediate authority he was
placed, turned out to be a hearty, good-natured young fellow, and was
very kind to him. But Martin's great friend was Barney O'Flannagan, the
cook, with whom he spent many an hour in the night watches, talking over
plans, and prospects, and retrospects, and foreign lands.
As Martin had no clothes except those on his back, which fortunately
happened to be new and good, Barney gave him a couple of blue striped
shirts, and made him a jacket, pantaloons, and slippers of canvas; and,
what was of much greater importance, taught him how to make and mend the
same for himself.
"Ye see, Martin, lad," he said, while thus employed one day, many weeks
after leaving port, "it's a great thing, intirely, to be able to help
yerself. For my part, I niver travel without my work-box in my pocket."
"Your work-box!" said Martin, laughing.
"Jist so. An' it consists of wan sail-maker's needle, a ball o' twine,
and a clasp-knife. Set me down with these before a roll o' canvas and
I'll make you a'most anything."
"You seem to have a turn for everything, Barney," said Martin. "How came
you to be a cook?"
"That's more nor I can tell ye, lad. As far as I remimber, I began with
murphies, when I was two feet high, in my father's cabin in ould Ireland.
But that was on my own account intirely, and not as a purfession; and a
sorrowful time I had of it, too, for I was for iver burnin' my fingers
promiskiously, and fallin' into the fire ivery day more or less—"
"Stand by to hoist top-gallant-sails," shouted the captain. "How's
"South and by east, sir," answered the man at the wheel.
"Keep her away two points. Look alive lads. Hand me the glass, Martin."
The ship was close hauled when these abrupt orders were given, battling
in the teeth of a stiff breeze, off the coast of South America. About
this time, several piratical vessels had succeeded in cutting off a
number of merchantmen near the coast of Brazil. They had not only taken
the valuable parts of their cargoes, but had murdered the crews under
circumstances of great cruelty; and ships trading to these regions were,
consequently, exceedingly careful to avoid all suspicious craft as much
as possible. It was, therefore, with some anxiety that the men watched
the captain's face as he examined the strange sail through the telescope.
"A Spanish schooner," muttered the captain, as he shut up the glass with
a bang. "I won't trust her. Up with the royals and rig out stun'-sails,
Mr. Wilson, (to the mate). Let her fall away, keep her head nor'-west,
"Ay, ay, sir."
"Let go the lee braces and square the yards. Look sharp, now, lads. If
that blackguard gets hold of us ye'll have to walk the plank, every
man of ye."
In a few minutes the ship's course was completely altered; a cloud of
canvas spread out from the yards, and the Firefly bounded on her course
like a fresh race-horse. But it soon became evident that the heavy barque
was no match for the schooner, which crowded sail and bore down at a rate
that bade fair to overhaul them in a few hours. The chase continued till
evening, when suddenly the look-out at the mast-head shouted, "Land, ho!"
"Where away?" cried the captain.
"Right ahead," sang out the man.
"I'll run her ashore sooner than be taken," muttered the captain, with an
angry scowl at the schooner, which was now almost within range on the
weather quarter, with the dreaded black flag flying at her peak. In a few
minutes breakers were descried ahead.
"D'ye see anything like a passage?" shouted the captain.
"Yes, sir; two points on the weather bow."
At this moment a white cloud burst from the schooner's bow, and a shot,
evidently from a heavy gun, came ricochetting over the sea. It was well
aimed, for it cut right through the barque's main-mast, just below the
yard, and brought the main-top-mast, with all the yards, sails, and
gearing above it, down upon the deck. The weight of the wreck, also,
carried away the fore-top-mast, and, in a single instant, the Firefly
was completely disabled.
"Lower away the boats," cried the captain; "look alive, now; we'll give
them the slip yet. It'll be dark in two minutes."
The captain was right. In tropical regions there is little or no
twilight. Night succeeds day almost instantaneously. Before the boats
were lowered and the men embarked it was becoming quite dark. The
schooner observed the movement, however, and, as she did not dare to
venture through the reef in the dark, her boats were also lowered and the
chase was recommenced.
The reef was passed in safety, and now a hard struggle took place, for
the shore was still far distant. As it chanced to be cloudy weather the
darkness became intense, and progress could only be guessed at by the
sound of the oars; but these soon told too plainly that the boats of the
schooner were overtaking those of the barque.
"Pull with a will, lads," cried the captain; "we can't be more than half
a mile from shore; give way, my hearties."
"Surely, captain, we can fight them, we've most of us got pistols and
cutlasses," said one of the men in a sulky tone.
"Fight them!" cried the captain, "they're four times our number, and
every man armed to the teeth. If ye don't fancy walking the plank or
dancing on nothing at the yard-arm, ye'd better pull away and hold
By this time they could just see the schooner's boats in the dim light,
about half-musket range astern.
"Back you' oars," shouted a stern voice in broken English, "or I blow you
out de watter in one oder moment,—black-yards!"
This order was enforced by a musket shot, which whizzed over the boat
within an inch of the captain's head. The men ceased rowing and the boats
of the pirate ranged close up.
"Now then, Martin," whispered Barney O'Flannagan, who sat at the bow oar,
"I'm goin' to swim ashore; jist you slip arter me as quiet as ye can."
"But the sharks!" suggested Martin.
"Bad luck to them," said Barney as he slipped over the side, "they're
welcome to me. Til take my chance. They'll find me mortial tough, anyhow.
Come along, lad, look sharp!"
Without a moment's hesitation Martin slid over the gunwale into the sea,
and, just as the pirate boats grappled with those of the barque, he and
Barney found themselves gliding as silently as otters towards the shore.
So quietly had the manoeuvre been accomplished, that the men in their own
boat were ignorant of their absence. In a few minutes they were beyond
the chance of detection.
"Keep close to me, lad," whispered the Irishman. "If we separate in the
darkness we'll niver forgather again. Catch hould o; my shoulder if ye
get blowed, and splutter as much as ye like. They can't hear us now, and
it'll help to frighten the sharks."
"All right," replied Martin; "I can swim like a cork in such warm water
as this. Just go a little slower and I'll do famously."
Thus encouraging each other, and keeping close together, lest they should
get separated in the thick darkness of the night, the two friends struck
out bravely for the shore.
MARTIN AND BARNEY GET LOST IN A GREAT FOREST, WHERE THEY SEE STRANGE AND
On gaining the beach, the first thing that Barney did, after shaking
himself like a huge Newfoundland dog, was to ascertain that his pistol
and cutlass were safe; for, although the former could be of no use in its
present condition, still, as he sagaciously remarked, "it was a good
thing to have, for they might chance to git powder wan day or other, and
the flint would make fire, anyhow." Fortunately the weather was extremely
warm; so they were enabled to take off and wring their clothes without
much inconvenience, except that in a short time a few adventurous
mosquitoes—probably sea-faring ones—came down out of the woods and
attacked their bare bodies so vigorously that they were fain to hurry on
their clothes again before they were quite dry.
The clouds began to clear away soon after they landed, and the brilliant
light of the southern constellations revealed to them dimly the
appearance of the coast. It was a low sandy beach skirting the sea and
extending back for about a quarter of a mile in the form of a grassy
plain, dotted here and there with scrubby underwood. Beyond this was a
dark line of forest. The light was not sufficient to enable them to
ascertain the appearance of the interior. Barney and Martin now cast
about in their minds how they were to spend the night.
"Ye see," said the Irishman, "it's of no use goin' to look for houses,
because there's maybe none at all on this coast; an' there's no sayin'
but we may fall in with savages—for them parts swarms with them; so we'd
better go into the woods an'—"
Barney was interrupted here by a low howl, which proceeded from the woods
referred to, and was most unlike any cry they had ever heard before.
"Och, but I'll think better of it. P'raps it'll be as well not to go
into the woods, but to camp where we are."
"I think so too," said Martin, searching about for small twigs and
drift-wood with which to make a fire. "There is no saying what sort of
wild beasts may be in the forest, so we had better wait till daylight."
A fire was quickly lighted by means of the pistol-flint and a little dry
grass, which, when well bruised and put into the pan, caught a spark
after one or two attempts, and was soon blown into a flame. But no wood
large enough to keep the fire burning for any length of time could be
found; so Barney said he would go up to the forest and fetch some. "I'll
lave my shoes and socks, Martin, to dry at the fire. See ye don't let
Traversing the meadow with hasty strides, the bold sailor quickly reached
the edge of the forest, where he began to lop off several dead branches
from the trees with his cutlass. While thus engaged the howl which had
formerly startled him was repeated. "Av I only knowed what ye was,"
muttered Barney in a serious tone, "it would be some sort o' comfort."
A loud cry of a different kind here interrupted his soliloquy, and soon
after the first cry was repeated louder than before.
Clenching his teeth and knitting his brows the perplexed Irishman resumed
his work with a desperate resolve not to be again interrupted. But he had
miscalculated the strength of his nerves. Albeit as brave a man as ever
stepped, when his enemy was before him, Barney was, nevertheless,
strongly imbued with superstitious feelings; and the conflict between his
physical courage and his mental cowardice produced a species of wild
exasperation, which, he often asserted, was very hard to bear. Scarcely
had he resumed his work when a bat of enormous size brushed past his nose
so noiselessly that it seemed more like a phantom than a reality. Barney
had never seen anything of the sort before, and a cold perspiration broke
out upon him, when he fancied it might be a ghost. Again the bat swept
past close to his eyes.
"Musha, but I'll kill ye, ghost or no ghost," he ejaculated, gazing all
round into the gloomy depths of the woods with his cutlass uplifted.
Instead of flying again in front of him, as he had expected, the bat flew
with a whirring noise past his ear. Down came the cutlass with a sudden
thwack, cutting deep into the trunk of a small tree, which trembled under
the shock and sent a shower of ripe nuts of a large size down upon the
sailor's head. Startled as he was, he sprang backward with a wild cry;
then, half ashamed of his groundless fears, he collected the wood he had
cut, threw it hastily on his shoulder and went with a quick step out of
the woods. In doing so he put his foot upon the head of a small snake,
which wriggled up round his ankle and leg. If there was anything on earth
that Barney abhorred and dreaded it was a snake. No sooner did he feel
its cold form writhing under his foot, than he uttered a tremendous yell
of terror, dropped his bundle of sticks, and fled precipitately to the
beach, where he did not hall till he found himself knee-deep in the sea.
"Och, Martin, boy," gasped the affrighted sailor, "it's my belafe that
all the evil spirits on arth live in yonder wood; indeed I do."
"Nonsense, Barney," said Martin, laughing; "there are no such things as
ghosts; at any rate I'm resolved to face them, for if we don't get some
sticks the fire will go out and leave us very comfortless. Come, I'll go
up with you."
"Put on yer shoes then, avic, for the sarpints are no ghosts, anyhow, and
I'm tould they're pisonous sometimes."
They soon found the bundle of dry sticks that Barney had thrown down, and
returning with it to the beach, they speedily kindled a roaring fire,
which made them feel quite cheerful. True, they had nothing to eat; but
having had a good dinner on board the barque late that afternoon, they
were not much in want of food. While they sat thus on the sand of the
sea-shore, spreading their hands before the blaze and talking over their
strange position, a low rumbling of distant thunder was heard. Barney's
countenance instantly fell.
"What's the matter, Barney?" inquired Martin, as he observed his
companion gaze anxiously up at the sky.
"Och, it's comin', sure enough."
"And what though it does come?" returned Martin; "we can creep under one
of these thick bushes till the shower is past."
"Did ye iver see a thunder-storm in the tropics?" inquired Barney.
"No, never," replied Martin.
"Then if ye don't want to feel and see it both at wance, come with me as
quick as iver ye can."
Barney started up as he spoke, stuck his cutlass and pistol into his
belt, and set off towards the woods at a sharp run, followed closely by
his wondering companion.
Their haste was by no means unnecessary. Great black clouds rushed up
towards the zenith from all points of the compass, and, just as they
reached the woods, darkness so thick that it might almost be felt
overspread the scene. Then there was a flash of lightning so vivid that
it seemed as if a bright day had been created and extinguished in a
moment, leaving the darkness ten times more oppressive. It was followed
instantaneously by a crash and a prolonged rattle, that sounded as if a
universe of solid worlds were rushing into contact overhead and bursting
into atoms. The flash was so far useful to the fugitives, that it enabled
them to observe a many-stemmed tree with dense and heavy foliage, under
which they darted. They were just in time, and had scarcely seated
themselves among its branches when the rain came down in a way not only
that Martin had never seen, but that he had never conceived of before. It
fell, as it were, in broad heavy sheets, and its sound was a loud,
The wind soon after burst upon the forest and added to the hideous shriek
of elements. The trees bent before it; the rain was whirled and dashed
about in water-spouts; and huge limbs were rent from some of the larger
trees with a crash like thunder, and swept far away into the forest. The
very earth trembled and seemed terrified at the dreadful conflict going
on above. It seemed to the two friends as if the end of the world were
come; and they could do nothing but cower among the branches of the tree
and watch the storm in silence; while they felt, in a way they had never
before experienced, how utterly helpless they were and unable to foresee
or avert the many dangers by which they were surrounded, and how
absolutely dependent they were on God for protection.
For several hours the storm continued. Then it ceased as suddenly as it
had begun, and the bright stars again shone down upon a peaceful scene.
When it was over, Martin and his comrade descended the tree and
endeavoured to find their way back to the beach. But this was no easy
matter. The haste with which they had run into the woods, and the
confusion of the storm, had made them uncertain in which direction it
lay; and the more they tried to get out, the deeper they penetrated into
the forest. At length, wearied with fruitless wandering and stumbling
about in the dark, they resolved to spend the night where they were.
Coming to a place which was more open than usual, and where they could
see a portion of the starry sky overhead, they sat down on a dry spot
under the shelter of a spreading tree, and, leaning their backs against
the trunk, very soon fell sound asleep.
AN ENCHANTING LAND—AN UNCOMFORTABLE BED AND A QUEER BREAKFAST—MANY
SURPRISES AND A FEW FRIGHTS, TOGETHER WITH A NOTABLE DISCOVERY
"I've woked in paradise!"
Such was the exclamation that aroused Martin Rattler on the morning after
his landing on the coast of South America. It was uttered by Barney
O'Flannagan, who lay at full length on his back, his head propped up by a
root of the tree under which they had slept, and his eyes staring right
before him with an expression of concentrated amazement. When Martin
opened his eyes, he too was struck dumb with surprise. And well might
they gaze with astonishment; for the last ray of departing daylight on
the night before had flickered over the open sea, and now the first gleam
of returning sunshine revealed to them the magnificent forests of Brazil.
Yes, well might they gaze and gaze again in boundless admiration; for
the tropical sun shone down on a scene of dazzling and luxuriant
vegetation, so resplendent that it seemed to them the realization of a
fairy tale. Plants and shrubs and flowers were there, of the most
curious and brilliant description, and of which they neither knew the
uses nor the names. Majestic trees were there, with foliage of every
shape and size and hue; some with stems twenty feet in circumference;
others more slender in form, straight and tall; and some twisted in a
bunch together and rising upwards like fluted pillars: a few had
buttresses, or natural planks, several feet broad, ranged all round
their trunks, as if to support them; while many bent gracefully beneath
the load of their clustering fruit and heavy foliage. Orange-trees with
their ripe fruit shone in the sunbeams like gold. Stately palms rose
above the surrounding trees and waved their feathery plumes in the air,
and bananas with broad enormous leaves rustled in the breeze and cast a
cool shadow on the ground.
Well might they gaze in great surprise; for all these curious and
beautiful trees were surrounded by and entwined in the embrace of
luxuriant and remarkable climbing plants. The parasitic vanilla with its
star-like blossoms crept up their trunks and along their branches, where
it hung in graceful festoons, or drooped back again almost to the ground.
So rich and numerous were these creepers, that in many cases they killed
the strong giants whom they embraced so lovingly. Some of them hung from
the tree-tops like stays from the masts of a ship, and many of them
mingled their brilliant flowers so closely with the leaves, that the
climbing-plants and their supporters could not be distinguished from each
other, and it seemed as though the trees themselves had become gigantic
Birds, too, were there in myriads,—and such birds! Their feathers were
green and gold and scarlet and yellow and blue—fresh and bright and
brilliant as the sky beneath which they were nurtured. The great toucan,
with a beak nearly as big as his body, flew clumsily from stem to stem.
The tiny, delicate humming-birds, scarce larger than bees, fluttered from
flower to flower and spray to spray, like points of brilliant green. But
they were irritable, passionate little creatures, these lovely things,
and quarrelled with each other and fought like very wasps! Enormous
butterflies, with wings of deep metallic blue, shot past or hovered in
the air like gleams of light; and green paroquets swooped from tree to
tree and chattered joyfully over their morning meal.
Well might they gaze with wonder, and smile too with extreme merriment,
for monkeys stared at them from between the leaves with expressions of
undisguised amazement, and bounded away shrieking and chattering in
consternation, swinging from branch to branch with incredible speed, and
not scrupling to use each other's tails to swing by when occasion
offered. Some were big and red and ugly,—as ugly as you can possibly
imagine, with blue faces and fiercely grinning teeth; others were
delicately formed and sad of countenance, as if they were for ever
bewailing the loss of near and dear relations, and could by no means come
at consolation; and some were small and pretty, with faces no bigger than
a halfpenny. As a general rule, it seemed to Barney, the smaller the
monkey the longer the tail.
Yes, well might they gaze and gaze again in surprise and in excessive
admiration; and well might Barney O'Flannagan—under the circumstances,
with such sights and sounds around him, and the delightful odours of
myrtle trees arid orange blossoms and the Cape jessamine stealing up his
nostrils—deem himself the tenant of another world, and evince his
conviction of the fact in that memorable expression—"I've woked in
But Barney began to find "paradise" not quite so comfortable as it ought
to be; for when he tried to get up he found his bones pained and stiff
from sleeping in damp clothes; and moreover, his face was very much
swelled, owing to the myriads of mosquitoes which had supped of it during
"Arrah, then, won't ye be done!" he cried, angrily, giving his face a
slap that killed at least two or three hundred of his tormentors. But
thousands more attacked him instantly, and he soon found out,—what every
one finds out sooner or later in hot climates,—that patience is one of
the best remedies for mosquito bites. He also discovered shortly
afterwards that smoke is not a bad remedy, in connection with patience.
"What are we to have for breakfast, Barney?" inquired Martin as he rose
and yawned and stretched his limbs.
"Help yersilf to what ye plase," said Barney, with a polite bow, waving
his hand round him, as if the forest were his private property and Martin
Rattler his honoured guest.
"Well, I vote for oranges," said Martin, going towards a tree which was
laden with ripe fruit.
"An' I'll try plums, by way of variety," added his companion.
In a few minutes several kinds of fruit and nuts were gathered and
spread at the foot of the tree under which they had reposed. Then
Barney proceeded to kindle a fire,—not that he had anything to cook,
but he said it looked sociable-like, and the smoke would keep off the
flies. The operation, however, was by no means easy. Everything had
been soaked by the rain of the previous night, and a bit of dry grass
could scarcely be found. At length he procured a little; and by rubbing
it in the damp gunpowder which he had extracted from his pistol, and
drying it in the sun, he formed a sort of tinder that caught fire after
much persevering effort.
Some of the fruits they found to be good,—others bad. The good they
ate,—the bad they threw away. After their frugal fare they felt much
refreshed, and then began to talk of what they should do.
"We can't live here with parrots and monkeys, you know," said Martin; "we
must try to find a village or town of some sort; or get to the coast, and
then we shall perhaps meet with a ship."
"True, lad," replied Barney, knitting his brows and looking extremely
sagacious; "the fact is, since neither of us knows nothing about
anything, or the way to any place, my advice is to walk straight for'ard
till we come to something."
"So think I," replied Martin; "therefore the sooner we set off the
Having no luggage to pack and no arrangements of any kind to make, the
two friends rose from their primitive breakfast-table, and walked away
straight before them into the forest.
All that day they travelled patiently forward, conversing pleasantly
about the various and wonderful trees, and flowers, and animals they met
with by the way; but no signs were discovered that indicated the presence
of man. Towards evening, however, they fell upon a track or
foot-path,—which discovery rejoiced them much; and here, before
proceeding further, they sat down to eat a little more fruit,—which,
indeed, they had done several times during the day. They walked nearly
thirty miles that day without seeing a human being; but they met with
many strange and beautiful birds and beasts,—some of which were of so
fierce an aspect that they would have been very glad to have had guns to
defend themselves with. Fortunately, however, all the animals seemed to
be much more afraid of them than they were of the animals; so they
travelled in safety. Several times during the course of the day they saw
snakes and serpents, which glided away into the jungle on their approach,
and could not be overtaken, although Barney made repeated darts at them,
intending to attack them with his cutlass; which assaults always proved
Once they were charged by a herd of peccaries,—a species of pig or wild
hog,—from which they escaped by jumping actively to one side; but the
peccaries turned and rushed at them again, and it was only by springing
up the branches of a neighbouring tree that they escaped their fury.
These peccaries are the fiercest and most dauntless animals in the
forests of Brazil. They do not know what fear is,—they will rush in the
face of anything; and, unlike all other animals, are quite indifferent to
the report of fire-arms. Their bodies are covered with long bristles,
resembling very much the quills of the porcupine.
As the evening drew on, the birds and beasts and the innumerable insects,
that had kept up a perpetual noise during the day, retired to rest; and
then the nocturnal animals began to creep out of their holes and go
about. Huge vampire-bats, one of which had given Barney such a fright the
night before, flew silently past them; and the wild howlings commenced
again. They now discovered that one of the most dismal of the howls
proceeded from a species of monkey: at which discovery Martin laughed
very much, and rallied his companion on being so easily frightened; but
Barney gladly joined in the laugh against himself, for, to say truth, he
felt quite relieved and light-hearted at discovering that his ghosts were
converted into bats and monkeys!
There was one roar, however, which, when they heard it ever and anon,
gave them considerable uneasiness.
"D'ye think there's lions in them parts?" inquired Barney, glancing with
an expression of regret at his empty pistol, and laying his hand on the
hilt of his cutlass.
"I think not," replied Martin, in a low tone of voice. "I have read in
my school geography that there are tigers of some sort,—jaguars, or
ounces, I think they are called,—but there are no—"
Martin's speech was cut short by a terrific roar, which rang through the
woods, and the next instant a magnificent jaguar, or South American
tiger, bounded on to the track a few yards in advance, and, wheeling
round, glared fiercely at the travellers. It seemed, in the uncertain
light, as if his eyes were two balls of living fire. Though not so large
as the royal Bengal tiger of India, this animal was nevertheless of
immense size, and had a very ferocious aspect. His roar was so sudden and
awful, and his appearance so unexpected, that the blood was sent
thrilling back into the hearts of the travellers, who stood rooted to the
spot, absolutely unable to move. This was the first large animal of the
cat kind that either of them had seen in all the terrible majesty of its
wild condition; and, for the first time, Martin and his friend felt that
awful sensation of dread that will assail even the bravest heart when a
new species of imminent danger is suddenly presented. It is said that no
animal can withstand the steady gaze of a human eye; and many travellers
in wild countries have proved this to be a fact. On the present occasion
our adventurers stared long and steadily at the wild creature before
them, from a mingled feeling of surprise and horror. In a few seconds the
jaguar showed signs of being disconcerted. It turned its head from side
to side slightly, and dropped its eyes, as if to avoid their gaze. Then
turning slowly and stealthily round, it sprang with a magnificent bound
into the jungle, and disappeared.
Both Martin and Barney heaved a deep sigh of relief.
"What a mercy it did not attack us!" said the former, wiping the cold
perspiration from his forehead. "We should have had no chance against
such a terrible beast with a cutlass, I fear."
"True, boy, true," replied his friend, gravely; "it would have been
little better than a penknife in the ribs o' sich a cratur. I niver
thought that it was in the power o' man or baste to put me in sich a
fright; but the longer we live we learn, boy."
Barney's disposition to make light of everything was thoroughly subdued
by this incident, and he felt none of his usual inclination to regard all
that he saw in the Brazilian forests with a comical eye. The danger they
had escaped was too real and terrible, and their almost unarmed condition
too serious, to be lightly esteemed. For the next hour or two he
continued to walk by Martin's side either in total silence, or in
earnest, grave conversation; but by degrees these feelings wore off, and
his buoyant spirits gradually returned.
The country over which they had passed during the day was of a mingled
character. At one time they traversed a portion of dark forest, heavy and
choked up with the dense and gigantic foliage peculiar to those countries
that lie near to the equator; then they emerged from this upon what to
their eyes seemed most beautiful scenery,—mingled plain and
woodland,—where the excessive brilliancy and beauty of the tropical
vegetation was brought to perfection by exposure to the light of the blue
sky and the warm rays of the sun. In such lovely spots they travelled
more slowly and rested more frequently, enjoying to the full the sight of
the gaily-coloured birds and insects that fluttered busily around them,
and the delicious perfume of the flowers that decked the ground and
clambered up the trees. At other times they came to plains, or campos,
as they are termed, where there were no trees at all, and few shrubs, and
where the grass was burned brown and dry by the sun. Over such they
hurried as quickly as they could; and fortunately, where they chanced to
travel, such places were neither numerous nor extensive, although in some
districts of Brazil there are campos hundreds of miles in extent.
A small stream meandered through the forest, and enabled them to refresh
themselves frequently; which was very fortunate, for the heat, especially
towards noon, became extremely intense, and they could not have existed
without water. So great, indeed, was the heat about mid-day, that, by
mutual consent, they resolved to seek the cool shade of a spreading tree,
and try to sleep if possible. At this time they learned, to their
surprise, that all animated nature did likewise, and sought repose at
noon. God had implanted in the breast of every bird and insect in that
mighty forest an instinct which taught it to rest and find refreshment
during the excessive heat of mid-day; so that, during the space of two or
three hours, not a thing with life was seen, and not a sound was heard.
Even the troublesome mosquitoes, so active at all other times, day and
night, were silent now. The change was very great and striking, and
difficult for those who have not observed it to comprehend. All the
forenoon, screams, and cries, and croaks, and grunts, and whistles, ring
out through the woods incessantly; while, if you listen attentively, you
hear the low, deep, and never-ending buzz and hum of millions upon
millions of insects, that dance in the air and creep on every leaf and
blade upon the ground. About noon all this is hushed. The hot rays of the
sun beat perpendicularly down upon what seems a vast untenanted solitude,
and not a single chirp breaks the death-like stillness of the great
forest, with the solitary exception of the metallic note of the uruponga,
or bell-bird, which seems to mount guard when all the rest of the world
has gone to sleep. As the afternoon approaches they all wake up,
refreshed by their siesta, active and lively as fairies, and ready for
another spell of work and another deep-toned noisy chorus.
The country through which our adventurers travelled, as evening
approached, became gradually more hilly, and their march consequently
more toilsome. They were just about to give up all thought of proceeding
further that night, when, on reaching the summit of a little hill, they
beheld a bright red light shining at a considerable distance in the
valley beyond. With light steps and hearts full of hope they descended
the hill and hastened towards it.
It was now quite dark, and the whole country seemed alive with
fire-flies. These beautiful little insects sat upon the trees and bushes,
spangling them as with living diamonds, and flew about in the air like
little wandering stars. Barney had seen them before, in the West Indies,
but Martin had only heard of them; and his delight and amazement at their
extreme brilliancy were very great. Although he was naturally anxious to
reach the light in the valley, in the hope that it might prove to proceed
from some cottage, he could not refrain from stopping once or twice to
catch these lovely creatures; and when he succeeded in doing so, and
placed one on the palm of his hand, the light emitted from it was more
brilliant than that of a small taper, and much more beautiful, for it was
of a bluish colour, and very intense,—more like the light reflected from
a jewel than a flame of fire. He could have read a book by means of it
In half an hour they drew near to the light, which they found proceeded
from the window of a small cottage or hut.
"Whist, Martin," whispered Barney, as they approached the hut on tiptoe;
"there may be savages into it, an' there's no sayin' what sort o' craturs
they are in them parts."
When about fifty yards distant, they could see through the open window
into the room where the light burned; and what they beheld there was well
calculated to fill them with surprise. On a rude wooden chair, at a rough
unpainted table, a man was seated, with his head resting on his hand, and
his eyes fixed intently on a book. Owing to the distance, and the few
leaves and branches that intervened between them and the hut, they could
not observe him very distinctly. But it was evident that he was a large
and strong man, a little past the prime of life. The hair of his head and
beard was black and bushy, and streaked with silver-grey. His face was
massive, and of a dark olive complexion, with an expression of sadness on
it, strangely mingled with stern gravity. His broad shoulders—and,
indeed, his whole person—were enveloped in the coarse folds of a long
gown or robe, gathered in at the waist with a broad band of leather.
The room in which he sat—or rather the hut, for there was but one room
in it—was destitute of all furniture, except that already mentioned,
besides one or two roughly-formed stools; but the walls were completely
covered with strange-looking implements and trophies of the chase; and
in a corner lay a confused pile of books, some of which were, from
their appearance, extremely ancient. All this the benighted wanderers
observed as they continued to approach cautiously on tiptoe. So
cautious did they become as they drew near, and came within the light
of the lamp, that Barney at length attempted to step over his own
shadow for fear of making a noise; and, in doing so, tripped and fell
with considerable noise through a hedge of prickly shrubs that
encircled the strange man's dwelling.
The hermit—for such he appeared to be—betrayed no symptom of surprise
or fear at the sudden sound; but, rising quietly though quickly from his
seat, took down a musket that hung on the wall, and, stepping to the open
door, demanded sternly, in the Portuguese language, "Who goes there?"
"Arrah, then, if ye'd help a fellow-cratur to rise, instead o' talkin'
gibberish like that, it would be more to your credit!" exclaimed the
Irishman, as he scrambled to his feet and presented himself, along with
Martin, at the hermit's door.
A peculiar smile lighted up the man's features as he retreated into the
hut, and invited the strangers to enter.
"Come in," said he, in good English, although with a slightly foreign
accent. "I am most happy to see you. You are English. I know the voice
and the language very well. Lived among them once, but long time past
now—very long. Have not seen one of you for many years."
With many such speeches, and much expression of good-will, the hospitable
hermit invited Martin and his companion to sit down at his rude table, on
which he quickly spread several plates of ripe and dried fruits, a few
cakes, and a jar of excellent honey, with a stone bottle of cool water.
When they were busily engaged with these viands, he began to make
inquiries as to where his visitors had come from.
"We've comed from the sae," replied Barney, as he devoted himself to a
magnificent pineapple. "Och but yer victuals is mighty good,
Mister—what's yer name?—'ticklerly to them that's a'most starvin'."
"The fact is," said Martin, "our ship has been taken by pirates, and we
two swam ashore, and lost ourselves in the woods; and now we have
stumbled upon your dwelling, friend, which is a great comfort."
"Hoigh, an' that's true," sighed Barney, as he finished the last slice of
They now explained to their entertainer all the circumstances attending
the capture of the Firefly, and their subsequent adventures and
vicissitudes in the forest; all of which Barney detailed in a most
graphic manner, and to all of which their new friend listened with grave
attention and unbroken silence. When they had concluded he said,—
"Very good. You have seen much in very short time. Perhaps you shall see
more by-and-by. For the present you will go to rest, for you must be
fatigued. I will think to-night,—to-morrow I will speak"
"An', if I may make so bould," said Barney, glancing with a somewhat
rueful expression round the hard earthen floor of the hut, "where-abouts
may I take the liberty of sleepin'?"
The hermit replied by going to a corner, whence, from beneath a heap of
rubbish, he dragged two hammocks, curiously wrought in a sort of light
net-work. These he slung across the hut, at one end, from wall to wall,
and, throwing a sheet or coverlet into each, he turned with a smile to
"Behold your beds! I wish you a very good sleep,—adios!"
So saying, this strange individual sat down at the table, and was soon as
deeply engaged with his large book as if he had suffered no interruption;
while Martin and Barney, having gazed gravely and abstractedly at him for
five minutes, turned and smiled to each other, jumped into their
hammocks, and were soon buried in deep slumber.
AN ENEMY IN THE NIGHT—THE VAMPIRE BAT—THE HERMIT DISCOURSES ON STRANGE,
AND CURIOUS, AND INTERESTING THINGS
Next morning Martin Rattler awoke with a feeling of lightness in his
head, and a sensation of extreme weakness pervading his entire frame.
Turning his head round to the right he observed that a third hammock was
slung across the further end of the hut; which was, no doubt, that in
which the hermit had passed the night. But it was empty now. Martin did
not require to turn his head to the other side to see if Barney
O'Flannagan was there, for that worthy individual made his presence
known, for a distance of at least sixty yards all round the outside of
the hut, by means of his nose, which he was in the habit of using as a
trumpet when asleep. It was as well that Martin did not require to look
round; for he found, to his surprise, that he had scarcely strength to do
so. While he was wondering in a dreamy sort of manner what could be the
matter with him, the hermit entered the hut bearing a small deer upon his
shoulders. Resting his gun in a corner of the room, he advanced to
"My boy," he exclaimed, in surprise, "what is wrong with you?"
"I'm sure I don't know," said Martin, faintly; "I think there is
something wet about my feet."
Turning up the sheet, he found that Martin's feet were covered with
blood! For a few seconds the hermit growled forth a number of apparently
very pithy sentences in Portuguese, in a deep guttural voice, which
awakened Barney with a start. Springing from his hammock with a bound
like a tiger, he exclaimed, "Och! ye blackguard, would ye murther the boy
before me very nose?" and seizing the hermit in his powerful grasp, he
would infallibly have hurled him, big though he was, through his own
doorway, had not Martin cried out, "Stop, stop, Barney. It's all right;
he's done nothing:" on hearing which the Irishman loosened his hold, and
turned towards his friend.
"What's the matter, honey?" said Barney, in a soothing tone of voice, as
a mother might address her infant son. The hermit, whose composure had
not been in the slightest degree disturbed, here said—
"The poor child has been sucked by a vampire bat."
"Ochone!" groaned Barney, sitting down on the table, and looking at his
host with a face of horror.
"Yes, these are the worst animals in Brazil for sucking the blood of
men and cattle. I find it quite impossible to keep my mules alive, they
are so bad."
"They have killed two cows which I tried to keep here, and one young
horse—a foal you call him, I think; and now I have no cattle remaining,
they are so bad."
Barney groaned again, and the hermit went on to enumerate the wicked
deeds of the vampire bats, while he applied poultices of certain herbs to
Martin's toe, in order to check the bleeding, and then bandaged it up;
after which he sat down to relate to his visitors the manner in which the
bat carries on its bloody operations. He explained, first of all, that
the vampire bats are so large and ferocious that they often kill horses
and cattle by sucking their blood out. Of course they cannot do this at
one meal, but they attack the poor animals again and again, and the blood
continues to flow from the wounds they make long afterwards, so that the
creatures attacked soon grow weak and die. They attack men, too,—as
Martin knew to his cost; and they usually fix upon the toes and other
extremities. So gentle are they in their operations, that sleepers
frequently do not feel the puncture, which they make, it is supposed,
with the sharp hooked nail of their thumb; and the unconscious victim
knows nothing of the enemy who has been draining his blood until he
awakens, faint and exhausted, in the morning.
Moreover, the hermit told them that these vampire bats have very sharp,
carnivorous teeth, besides a tongue which is furnished with the curious
organs by which they suck the life-blood of their fellow-creatures; that
they have a peculiar, leaf-like, overhanging lip; and that he had a
stuffed specimen of a bat that measured no less than two feet across the
expanded wings, from tip to tip,
"Och, the blood-thirsty spalpeen!" exclaimed Barney, as he rose and
crossed the room to examine the bat in question, which was nailed against
the wall. "Bad luck to them, they've ruined Martin intirely."
"O no," remarked the hermit with a smile. "It will do the boy much good
the loss of the blood; much good, and he will not be sick at all
"I'm glad to hear you say so," said Martin, "for it would be a great bore
to be obliged to lie here when I've so many things to see. In fact I feel
better already, and if you will be so kind as to give me a little
breakfast I shall be quite well,"
While Martin was speaking, the obliging hermit,—who, by the way, was now
habited in a loose short hunting-coat of brown cotton,—spread a
plentiful repast upon his table; to which, having assisted Martin to get
out of his hammock, they all proceeded to do ample justice: for the
travellers were very hungry after the fatigue of the previous day; and as
for the hermit, he looked like a man whose appetite was always sharp set
and whose food agreed with him.
They had cold meat of several kinds, and a hot steak of venison just
killed that morning, which the hermit cooked while his guests were
engaged with the other viands. There was also excellent coffee, and
superb cream, besides cakes made of a species of coarse flour or meal,
fruits of various kinds, arid very fine honey.
"Arrah! ye've the hoith o' livin' here!" cried Barney, smacking his lips
as he held out his plate for another supply of a species of meat which
resembled chicken in tenderness and flavour. "What sort o' bird or baste
may that be, now, av' I may ask ye, Mister—what's yer name?"
"My name is Carlos," replied the hermit, gravely; "and this is the flesh
of the Armadillo."
"Arma—what—o?" inquired Barney.
"Arma_dillo_," repeated the hermit. "He is very good to eat, but very
difficult to catch. He digs down so fast we cannot catch him, and must
smoke him out of his hole."
"Have you many cows?" inquired Martin, as he replenished his cup
"Cows?" echoed the hermit, "I have got no cows."
"Where do you get such capital cream, then?" asked Martin in surprise.
The hermit smiled. "Ah! my friends, that cream has come from a very
curious cow. It is from a cow that grows in the ground."
"Grows!" ejaculated his guests.
"Yes, he grows. I will show him to you one day."
The hermit's broad shoulders shook with a quiet internal laugh. "I will
explain a little of that you behold on my table.
"The coffee I get from the trees. There are plenty of them here. Much
money is made in Brazil by the export of coffee,—very much. The cakes
are made from the mandioca-root, which I grow near my house. The root is
dried and ground into flour, which, under the general name farina, is
used all over the country. It is almost the only food used by the Indians
"Then there are Injins and Niggers here, are there?" inquired Barney.
"Yes, a great many. Most of the Negroes are slaves; some of the Indians
too; and the people who are descended from the Portuguese who came and
took the country long ago, they are the masters.—Well, the honey I get
in holes in the trees. There are different kinds of honey here; some of
it is sour honey. And the fruits and roots, the plantains, and
bananas, and yams, and cocoa-nuts, and oranges, and plums, all grow in
the forest, and much more besides, which you will see for yourselves if
you stay long here."
"It's a quare country, intirely," remarked Barney, as he wiped his mouth
and heaved a sigh of contentment. Then, drawing his hand over his chin,
he looked earnestly in the hermit's face, and, with a peculiar twinkle in
his eye, said—
"I s'pose ye couldn't favour me with the lind of a raazor, could ye?"
"No, my friend; I never use that foolish weapon."
"Ah, well, as there's only monkeys and jaguars, and sich like to see me,
it don't much signify; but my mustaches is gitin' mighty long, for I've
been two weeks already without a shave."
Martin laughed heartily at the grave, anxious expression of his
comrade's face. "Never mind, Barney," he said, "a beard and moustache
will improve you vastly. Besides, they will be a great protection
against mosquitoes; for you are such a hairy monster, that when they
grow nothing of your face will be exposed except your eyes and
cheek-bones. And now," continued Martin, climbing into his hammock again
and addressing the hermit, "since you won't allow me to go out a-hunting
to-day, I would like very much if you would tell me something more about
this strange country."
"An' may be," suggested Barney, modestly, "ye won't object to tell us
something about yersilf,—how you came for to live in this quare,
solitary kind of a way."
The hermit looked gravely from one to the other, and stroked his beard.
Drawing his rude chair towards the door of the hut, he folded his arms,
and crossed his legs, and gazed dreamily forth upon the rich landscape.
Then, glancing again at his guests, he said, slowly: "Yes, I will do what
you ask,—I will tell you my story."
"An', if I might make so bould as to inquire," said Barney, with a
deprecatory smile, while he drew a short black pipe from his pocket,
"have ye got such a thing as 'baccy in them parts?"
The hermit rose, and going to a small box which stood in a corner,
returned with a quantity of cut tobacco in one hand, and a cigar not far
short of a foot long in the other! In a few seconds the cigar was going
in full force, like a factory chimney; and the short black pipe glowed
like a miniature furnace, while its owner seated himself on a low stool,
crossed his arms on his breast, leaned his back against the door-post,
and smiled,—as only an Irishman can smile under such circumstances. The
smoke soon formed a thick cloud, which effectually drove the mosquitoes
out of the hut, and through which Martin, lying in his hammock, gazed out
upon the sunlit orange and coffee trees, and tall palms with their rich
festoons of creeping plants, and sweet-scented flowers, that clambered
over and round the hut and peeped in at the open door and windows, while
he listened to the hermit, who continued for at least ten minutes to
murmur slowly, between the puffs of his cigar, "Yes, I will do it; I will
tell you my story."
THE HERMIT'S STORY
"My ancestors," began the hermit, "were among the first to land upon
Brazil, after the country was taken possession of in the name of the King
of Portugal, in the year 1500. In the first year of the century, Vincent
Yanez Pinçon, a companion of the famed Columbus, discovered Brazil; and
in the next year, Pedro Alvarez Cabral, a Portuguese commander, took
possession of it in the name of the King of Portugal. In 1503, Americus
Vespucius discovered the Bay of All Saints, and took home a cargo of
Brazil-wood, monkeys and parrots; but no permanent settlement was
effected upon the shores of the new continent, and the rich treasures of
this great country remained for some years longer buried and unknown to
man,—for the wild Indians who lived here knew not their value.
"It was on a dark and stormy night in the year 1510. A group of swarthy
and naked savages encircled a small fire on the edge of the forest on the
east coast of Brazil. The spot where their watchfire was kindled is now
covered by the flourishing city of Bahia. At that time it was a
wilderness. Before them stretched the noble bay which is now termed
Bahia de Todos Santos,—All Saints' Bay.
"The savages talked earnestly and with excited looks as they stood upon
the shore, for the memory of the wondrous ships of the white men that
had visited them a few years before was deeply engraven on their minds;
and now, in the midst of the howling storm, another ship was seen
approaching their land. It was a small vessel, shattered and
tempest-tossed, that drove into the Bahia de Todos Santos on that stormy
night. Long had it battled with the waves of the Atlantic, and the brave
hearts that manned it had remained stanch to duty and strong in hope,
remembering the recent glorious example of Columbus. But the storm was
fierce and the bark was frail. The top-masts were broken and the sails
rent; and worst of all, just as land hove in sight and cheered the
drooping spirits of the crew, a tremendous wave dashed upon the ship's
stern and carried away the rudder.
"As they drove helplessly before the gale towards the shore, the naked
savages crowded down upon the beach and gazed in awe and astonishment at
the mysterious ship. A few of them had seen the vessels of Americus
Vespucius and Cabral. The rumour of the white men and their floating
castle had been wafted far and wide along the coast and into the interior
of Brazil, and with breathless wonder the natives had listened to the
strange account. But now the vision was before them in reality. On came
the floating castle, the white foam dashing from her bows and the torn
sails and ropes flying from her masts as she surged over the billows and
loomed through the driving spray.
"It was a grand sight to see that ship dashing straight towards the shore
at fearful speed; and those who looked on seemed to be impressed with a
vague feeling that she had power to spring upon the strand and continue
her swift career through the forest, as she had hitherto cleft her
passage through the sea. As she approached, the savages shrank back in
fear. Suddenly her frame trembled with a mighty shock. A terrible cry was
borne to land by the gale, and all her masts went overboard. A huge wave
lifted the vessel on its crest and flung her further on the shore, where
she remained firmly fixed, while the waves dashed in foam around her and
soon began to break her up. Ere this happened, however, a rope was thrown
ashore and fastened to a rock by the natives. By means of this the crew
were saved. But it would have been well for these bold navigators of
Portugal if they had perished in the stormy sea, for they were spared by
the ocean only to be murdered by the wild savages on whose shore they had
"All were slain save one,—Diego Alvarez Carreo, the captain of the ship.
Before grasping the rope by which he reached the shore, he thrust several
cartridges into his bosom and caught up a loaded musket. Wrapping the
lock in several folds of cloth to keep it dry, he slid along the rope and
gained the beach in safety. Here he was seized by the natives, and would
no doubt have been barbarously slain with his unfortunate companions;
but, being a very powerful man, he dashed aside the foremost, and,
breaking through their ranks, rushed towards the wood. The fleet savages,
however, overtook him in an instant, and were about to seize him when a
young Indian woman interposed between them and their victim. This girl
was the chiefs daughter, and respect for her rank induced them to
hesitate for a moment; but in another instant the Portuguese captain was
surrounded. In the scuffle that ensued his musket exploded, but
fortunately wounded no one. Instantly the horrified savages fled in all
directions leaving Carreo alone!
"The captain was quick-witted. He knew that among hundreds of savages it
was madness to attempt either to fight or fly, and the happy effect of
the musket explosion induced him to adopt another course of action. He
drew himself up proudly to his full height, and beckoned the savages to
return. This they did, casting many glances of fear at the dreaded
musket. Going up to one who, from his bearing and ornaments, seemed to be
a chief, Carreo laid his musket on the sand, and, stepping over it so
that he left it behind him, held out his hand frankly to the chief. The
savage looked at him in surprise, and suffered the captain to take his
hand and pat it; after which he began to examine the stranger's dress
with much curiosity. Seeing that their chief was friendly to the white
man, the other savages hurried him to the campfire, where he soon
stripped off his wet clothes and ate the food which they put before him.
Thus Diego Carreo was spared.
"Next day, the Indians lined the beach and collected the stores of the
wrecked vessel. While thus employed, Carreo shot a gull with his musket;
which so astonished the natives that they regarded him with fear and
respect amounting almost to veneration. A considerable quantity of powder
and shot was saved from the wreck, so that the captain was enabled to
keep his ascendency over the ignorant natives; and at length he became a
man of great importance in the tribe, and married the daughter of the
chief. He went by the name of Caramuru,—'The man of fire.' This man
founded the city of Bahia.
"The coasts of Brazil began soon after this to be settled in various
places by the Portuguese; who, however, were much annoyed by the
Spaniards, who claimed a share in the rich prize. The Dutch and English
also formed settlements; but the Portuguese still retained possession of
the country, and continued to prosper. Meanwhile Diego Caramuru, 'the man
of fire,' had a son who in course of time became a prosperous settler;
and as his sons grew up he trained them to become cultivators of the soil
and traders in the valuable products of the New World. He took a piece of
ground, far removed from the spot where his father had been cast ashore,
and a short distance in the interior of the country. Here the eldest sons
of the family dwelt, laboured, and died, for many generations.
"In the year 1808 Portugal was invaded by Napoleon Buonaparte, and the
sovereign of that kingdom, John VI., fled to Brazil, accompanied by his
court and a large body of emigrants. The king was warmly received by the
Brazilians, and immediately set about improving the condition of the
country. He threw open its ports to all nations; freed the land from all
marks of colonial dependence; established newspapers; made the press
free, and did everything to promote education and industry. But although
much was done, the good was greatly hindered, especially in the inland
districts, by the vice, ignorance, and stupidity of many of the Roman
Catholic priests, who totally neglected their duties,—which, indeed,
they were incompetent to perform,—and in many instances, were no better
than miscreants in disguise, teaching the people vice instead of virtue.
"Foremost among the priests who opposed advancement was a descendant of
the 'man of fire,' Padre Caramuru dwelt for some years with an English
merchant in the capital of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro. The padre was not an
immoral man, but he was a fiery bigot, and fiercely opposed everything
that tended to advance the education of the people. This he did, firmly
believing that education was dangerous to the lower orders. His church
taught him, too, that the Bible was a dangerous book; and whenever a copy
fell into his hands he immediately destroyed it. During the disturbances
that took place after the time of King John's departure for Portugal, and
just before Brazil became an independent state under his son, the Emperor
Don Pedro I., Padre Caramuru lost a beloved and only brother. He was
quite a youth, and had joined the army only a few months previously, at
the desire of his elder brother the padre, who was so overwhelmed by the
blow that he ceased to take an active part in church or political affairs
and buried himself in a retired part of his native valley. Here he sought
relief and comfort in the study of the beauties of Nature by which he was
surrounded, but found none. Then he turned his mind to the doctrines of
his church, and took pleasure in verifying them from the Bible. But as he
proceeded he found, to his great surprise, that these doctrines were,
many of them, not to be found there; nay, further, that some of them were
absolutely contradicted by the word of God.
"Padre Caramuru had been in the habit of commanding his people not to
listen to the Bible when any one offered to read it; but in the Bible
itself he found these words, 'Search the Scriptures.' He had been in the
habit of praying to the Virgin Mary, and begging her to intercede with
God for him; but in the Bible he found these words: 'There is one
mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.' These things
perplexed him much. But while he was thus searching, as it were, for
silver, the ignorant padre found gold! He found that he did not require
to work for salvation, but to ask for it. He discovered that the
atonement had been made once for all by Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God;
and he read with a thrilling heart these words: 'God so loved the world,
that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him
should not perish, but have everlasting life.'
"Long and earnestly did the padre ponder these words and pray over them;
and gradually the Holy Spirit enlightened his mind, and he saw how
hateful that system was which could forbid or discourage the reading of
the blessed word of God. He soon resolved to forsake the priesthood. But
when he had done so, he knew not what to turn his hand to. He had no one
like-minded to consult with, and he felt that it was wrong to eat the
bread of idleness. Being thus uncertain what to do, he resolved in the
meantime to carry goods into the interior of the country, and offer them
for sale. The land round his dwelling and his own gun would supply him
with food; and for the rest, he would spend his time in the study of the
Bible, and seek for more light and direction from God.
"Such," continued the hermit, "is a slight sketch of the history of my
country and of myself."
"Yourself?" exclaimed Martin.
"Yes. I am the Padre Caramuru, or rather I was. I am Padre no longer,
but Senhor Carlos Caramuru, a merchant. Yet I know not what to do. When I
look round upon my country, and see how they know not the precious word
of God, my heart burns in me, and I sometimes think that it is my duty to
go forth and preach."
"No doubt ye are right," said Barney. "I've always bin of opinion that
when a man feels very strong in his heart on any partic'lar subject, it's
a sure sign that the Almighty intends him to have something more to do
with that subject than other men who don't feel about it at all."
The hermit remained silent for a few minutes. "I think you are right,
friend," he said; "but I am very ignorant yet. I have no one to explain
difficulties to me; and I fear to go about preaching, lest I should
preach what is not true. I will study yet for a time, and pray. After
that, perhaps, I may go forth."
"But you have told us nothing yet about the trade of the country," said
Martin, "or its size, or anything of that sort."
"I will soon tell you of that when I have lighted another cigar. This one
does not draw well. Have you got a full pipe still, my friend?"
"All right, Mr. Carrymooroo," replied Barney, knocking out the ashes.
"I'll jist load wance more, and then,—fire away."
In a few minutes the big cigar and short pipe were in full play, and the
"This country is very large and very rich, but it is not well worked. The
people are lazy, many of them, and have not much enterprise. Much is
done, no doubt; but very much more might be done.
"The empire of Brazil occupies nearly one-half of the whole continent of
South America. It is 2600 miles long, and 2500 miles broad; which, as you
know perhaps, is a little larger than all Europe. The surface of the
country is beautiful and varied. The hilly regions are very wild,
although none of the mountains are very high, and the woods are
magnificent; but a great part of the land consists of vast grassy plains,
which are called llanos, or campos, or silvas. The campos along the banks
of the River Amazon are equal to six times the size of France; and there
is one great plain which lies between the Sierra Ibiapaba and the River
Tocantins which is 600 miles long by 400 miles broad. There are very few
lakes in Brazil, and only one worth speaking of—the Lagoa dos
Platos—which is 150 miles long. But our rivers are the finest in the
whole world, being so long, and wide, and deep, and free from falls, that
they afford splendid communication with the interior of the land. But,
alas! there are few ships on these rivers yet, very few. The rivers in
the north part of Brazil are so numerous and interlaced that they are
much like the veins in the human body; and the great River Amazon and a
few of its chief tributaries resemble the arteries.
"Then as to our produce," continued the hermit, "who can tell it all? We
export sugar, and coffee, and cotton, and gold, silver, lead, zinc,
quicksilver, and amethysts, and we have diamond mines—"
"Di'mond mines!" echoed Barney; "och but I would like for to see them.
Sure they would sparkle most beautiful. Are they far off, Mr.
"Yes, very far off. Then we export dye-woods, and cabinet-woods, and
drugs, and gums, and hides,—a great many hides, for the campos are full
of wild cattle, and men hunt them on horseback, and catch them with a
long rope called the lasso."
"How I should like to have a gallop over these great plains,"
"Then we have," continued the hermit, "rice, tapioca, cocoa, maize,
wheat, mandioca, beans, bananas, pepper, cinnamon, oranges, figs, ginger,
pineapples, yams, lemons, mangoes, and many other fruits and vegetables.
The mandioca you have eaten in the shape of farina. It is very good food;
one acre gives as much nutriment as six acres of wheat.
"Of the trees you have seen something. There are thousands of kinds, and
most magnificent. Some of them are more than thirty feet round about.
There are two hundred different kinds of palms, and so thick stand the
giant trees in many places, with creeping plants growing between, that it
is not possible for man to cut his way through the forests in some parts.
Language cannot describe the grandeur and glory of the Brazilian forests.
"We have numbers of wild horses, and hogs, and goats; and in the woods
are tiger-cats, jaguars, tapirs, hyenas, sloths, porcupines, and—but you
have seen many things already. If you live you will see more. I need not
tell you of these things; very soon I will show you some.
"The population of my country consists of the descendants of Portuguese
settlers, native Indians, and Negroes. Of the latter, some are free, some
slaves. The Indians go about nearly naked. Most of them are in a savage
state: they paint their skins, and wear gaudy ornaments. The religion of
the country is Roman Catholic, but all religions are tolerated; and I
have much hope for the future of Brazil, in spite of the priests."
"And do ye git much out o' the di'mond mines?" inquired Barney, whose
mind was running on this subject.
"O yes, a great deal. Every year many are got, and Government gets
one-fifth of the value of all the gold and diamonds found in the country.
One diamond was found a short time ago which was worth £40,000."
"Ye don't say so!" exclaimed Barney in great surprise, as he blew an
immense cloud of smoke from his lips. "Now, that's extror'nary. Why don't
everybody go to the mines and dig up their fortin at wance?"
"Because men cannot eat diamonds," replied the hermit gravely.
"Troth, I niver thought o' that; ye're right."
Martin laughed heartily as he lay in his hammock and watched his friend's
expression while pondering this weighty subject.
"Moreover," resumed the hermit, "you will be surprised to hear that
diamond and gold finding is not the most profitable employment in
"The man who cultivates the ground is better off than anybody. It is a
fact, a very great fact, a fact that you should get firmly fixed in your
memory—that in less than two years the exports of sugar and coffee
amounted to more than the value of all the diamonds found in eighty
years. Yes, that is true. But the people of Brazil are not well off. They
have everything that is necessary to make a great nation; but we are not
a great nation, far from it." The hermit sighed deeply as he ceased
speaking, and fell into an abstracted frame of mind.
"It's a great country intirely," said Barney, knocking the ashes out of
his pipe, and placing that much-loved implement carefully in his pocket;
"a great country, but there's a tremendous big screw loose somewhere."
"It seems curious to me," said Martin, in a ruminating tone of voice,
"that people should not get on better in a country in which there is
everything that man can desire to make him rich and happy. I wonder what
it wants; perhaps it's too hot, and the people want energy of character."
"Want energy!" shouted the hermit, leaping from his seat, and regarding
his guests for a few moments with a stern expression of countenance;
then, stretching forth his hand, he continued, in an excited tone:
"Brazil does not want energy; it has only one want,—it wants the Bible!
When a country is sunk down in superstition and ignorance and moral
depravity, so that the people know not right from wrong, there is only
one cure for her,—the Bible. Religion here is a mockery and a shame;
such as, if it were better known, would make the heathen laugh in scorn.
The priests are a curse to the land, not a blessing. Perhaps they are
better in other lands,—I know not; but well I know they are many of
them false and wicked here. No truth is taught to the people,—no Bible
is read in their ears; religion is not taught,—even morality is not
taught; men follow the devices and desires of their own hearts, and
there is no voice raised to say, 'You are doing wrong.' My country is
sunk very low; and she cannot hope to rise, for the word of her Maker is
not in her hand. True, there are a few, a very few Bibles in the great
cities; but that is all: that cannot save her hundreds of towns and
villages. Thousands of her people are slaves in body,—all, all are
slaves in soul; and yet you ask me what she wants. Ha! she wants
truth,—she wants to be purged of falsehood. She has bones and
muscles, and arteries and veins,—everything to make a strong and
healthy nation; but she wants blood,—she has no vital stream; yes,
Brazil, my country, wants the Bible!"
A HUNTING EXPEDITION, IN WHICH ARE SEEN STONES THAT CAN RUN, AND COWS
THAT REQUIRE NO FOOD—BESIDES A DESPERATE ENCOUNTER WITH A JAGUAR, AND
OTHER STRANGE THINGS
For many weeks Martin Rattler and his friend Barney O'Flannagan continued
to dwell with the hermit in his forest-home, enjoying his entertaining
and instructive discourse, and joining with him in the hunting
expeditions which he undertook for the purpose of procuring fresh food
for his table. In these rambles they made constant discoveries of
something new and surprising, both in reference to the vegetables and
animals of that extraordinary region of the earth. They also had many
adventures,—some amusing and some terrible,—which we cannot enlarge on
here, for they would fill ten volumes such as this, were they to be all
recorded in detail.
One day the hermit roused them earlier than usual and told them to get
ready, as he intended to go a considerable distance that day, and he
wished to reach a particular spot before the heat of noon. So Martin and
Barney despatched breakfast in as short a time as possible, and the
hermit read them a chapter out of his large and well-thumbed Bible, after
which they equipped themselves for the chase.
When Martin and his friend escaped from the pirates and landed on the
coast of Brazil, they were clothed in sailor-like costume, namely, white
duck trousers, coloured flannel shirts, blue jackets, round straw hats,
and strong shoes. This costume was not very suitable for the warm climate
in which they now found themselves, so their hospitable friend the hermit
gave them two loose light cotton coats or jackets, of a blue colour, and
broad brimmed straw hats similar to his own. He also gave them two
curious garments called ponchos. The poncho serves the purpose of cloak
and blanket. It is simply a square dark-coloured blanket with a hole in
the middle of it, through which the head is thrust in rainy weather, and
the garment hangs down all round. At night the poncho is useful as a
covering. The hermit wore a loose open hunting coat, and underneath it a
girdle, in which was a long sharp knife and a brace of pistols. His
trousers were of blue-striped cotton. He usually carried a
double-barrelled gun over his shoulder, and a powder-horn and bullet-bag
were slung round his neck. Barney now procured from this hospitable man a
supply of powder and shot for his large brass-mounted cavalry pistol. The
hermit also made him a present of a long hunting-knife; and he gave one
of a smaller size to Martin. As Martin had no weapon, the hermit
manufactured for him a stout bow and quiver full of arrows; with which,
after some practice, he became reasonably expert.
Thus armed they sallied forth, and, following the foot-path that
conducted from the door of the hut to the brow of the hill opposite, they
were soon buried in the shades of the great forest. On this particular
morning Barney observed that the hermit carried with him a stout spear,
which he was not usually in the habit of doing. Being of an inquisitive
disposition, he inquired the reason of his taking it.
"I expect to find a jaguar to-day," answered the hermit. "I saw him
yesterday go down into the small valley in which my cows grow. I will
show you my cows soon, Martin."
The hermit stopped short suddenly as he spoke, and pointed to a large
bird, about fifty yards in advance of them. It seemed to bear a
particular ill-will to a round rough stone which it pecked most
energetically. After a few minutes the bird ceased its attacks and flew
off; whereupon the rough stone opened itself out, and, running quickly
away, burrowed into a little hole and disappeared!
"That is an armadillo," remarked the hermit, continuing to lead the way
through the woods; "it is covered with a coat of mail, as you see; and
when enemies come it rolls itself up like a ball and lies like a hard
stone till they go away. But it has four little legs, and with them it
burrows so quickly that we cannot dig it up, and must smoke it out of
its hole,—which I do often, because it is very good to eat, as you very
While they continued thus to walk through the woods conversing, Martin
and Barney were again interested and amused by the immense number of
brilliant parrots and toucans which swooped about, chattering from tree
to tree, in large flocks. Sometimes thirty or forty of the latter would
come screaming through the woods and settle upon the dark-green foliage
of a coffee-tree; the effect of which was to give the tree the appearance
of having been suddenly loaded with ripe golden fruit. Then the birds
would catch sight of the travellers and fly screaming away, leaving the
tree dark-green and fruitless as before. The little green parrots were
the most outrageously noisy things that ever lived. Not content with
screaming when they flew, they continued to shriek, apparently with
delight, while they devoured the seeds of the gorgeous sun-flowers: and
more than once Martin was prompted to scatter a handful of stones among
them, as a hint to be less noisy; but this only made them worse,—like a
bad baby, which, the more you tell it to be quiet, sets to work the more
earnestly to increase and add to the vigour of its roaring. So Martin
wisely let the parrots alone. They also startled, in passing through
swampy places, several large blue herons, and long-legged cranes; and on
many of the trees they observed the curious hanging nests of a bird,
which the hermit told them was the large oriole. These nests hung in long
strings from the tops of the palm-trees, and the birds were very actively
employed moving about and chattering round their swinging villages: on
seeing which Martin could not help remarking that it would astonish the
colony not a little, if the top house were to give way and let all the
mansions below come tumbling to the ground!
They were disappointed, however, in not seeing monkeys gambolling among
the trees, as they had expected.
"Ah! my friends," said the hermit, "travellers in my country are very
often disappointed. They come here expecting to see everything all at
once; but although there are jaguars, and serpents, and bears, and
monkeys, plenty of them, as your ears can tell you, these creatures keep
out of the sight of man as much as possible. They won't come out of the
woods and show themselves to please travellers! You have been very lucky
since you arrived. Many travellers go about for months together and do
not see half so much as you."
"That's thrue," observed Barney, with his head a little on one side, and
his eyes cast up in a sort of meditative frown, as if he were engaged in
subjecting the hermit's remarks to a process of severe philosophical
contemplation; "but I would be very well plazed av the wild bastes would
show themselves now and then, for—"
Martin Rattler burst into a loud laugh, for Barney's upward glance of
contemplation was suddenly transformed into a gaze of intense
astonishment, as he beheld the blue countenance of a large red monkey
staring down upon him from amid the branches of an overhanging tree. The
monkey's face expressed, if possible, greater surprise than that of the
Irishman, and its mouth was partially open and thrust forward in a sort
of threatening and inquiring manner. There seemed to be some bond of
sympathy between the monkey and the man, for while its mouth opened
his mouth opened too.
"A-a-a-a-a—ah!" exclaimed the monkey.
A facetious smile overspread Barney's face—"Och! be all manes; the same
to you, kindly," said he, taking off his hat and making a low bow.
The civility did not seem to be appreciated, however; for the monkey put
on a most indignant frown and displayed a terrific double-row of long
brilliant teeth and red gums, while it uttered a shriek of passion,
twisted its long tail round a branch, and hurled itself, with a motion
more like that of a bird than a beast, into the midst of the tree and
disappeared, leaving Martin and Barney and the hermit each with a very
broad grin on his countenance.
The hunters now arrived at an open space where there were several large
umbrageous trees, and as it was approaching mid-day they resolved to rest
here for a couple of hours. Birds and insects were gradually becoming
more and more silent, and soon afterwards the only sounds that broke upon
their ears were the curious metallic notes of the urupongas, or
bell-birds; which were so like to the rapid beating of a smith's hammer
on an anvil, that it was with the greatest difficulty Barney was
restrained from going off by himself in search of the "smiddy." Indeed he
began to suspect that the worthy hermit was deceiving him, and was only
fully convinced at last when he saw one of the birds. It was pure white,
about the size of a thrush, and had a curious horn or fleshy tubercle
upon its head.
Having rested and refreshed themselves, they resumed their journey a
short time before the noisy inhabitants of the woods recommenced their
active afternoon operations.
"Hallo! what's that?" cried Barney, starting back and drawing his pistol,
while Martin hastily fitted an arrow to his bow.
Not ten paces in front of them a frightful monster ran across their path,
which seemed so hideous to Martin that his mind instantly reverted to the
fable of St. George and the Dragon, and he almost expected to see fire
issuing from its mouth. It was a huge lizard, with a body about three
feet long, covered with bright scales. It had a long, thick tail. Its
head was clumsy and misshapen, and altogether its aspect was very
horrible. Before either Martin or Barney could fire, the hermit dropped
his gun and spear, sprang quickly forward, caught the animal by the tail,
and, putting forth his great strength to the utmost, swung it round his
head and dashed its brains out against a tree.
Barney and Martin could only stare with amazement.
"This we call an iguana," said the hermit, as he piled a number of heavy
stones on the carcase to preserve it from other animals. "It is very good
to eat,—as good as chicken. This is not a very big one; they are
sometimes five feet long, but almost quite harmless,—not venomous at
all; and the only means he has to defend himself is the tail, which is
very powerful, and gives a tremendously hard blow; but, as you see, if
you catch him quick he can do nothing."
"It's all very well for you, or even Barney here, to talk of catching him
by the tail," said Martin, smiling; "but it would have puzzled me to
swing that fellow round my head."
"Arrah! ye're right, boy; I doubt if I could have done it mesilf,"
"No fear," said the hermit, patting Martin's broad shoulders as he passed
him and led the way; "you will be strong enough for that very soon,—as
strong as me in a year or two."
They now proceeded down into a somewhat dark and closely wooded valley,
through which meandered a small rivulet. Here they had some difficulty in
forcing their way through the dense underwood and broad leaves, most of
which seemed very strange to Martin and his comrade, being so gigantic.
There were also many kinds of ferns, which sometimes arched over their
heads and completely shut out the view, while some of them crept up the
trees like climbing-plants. Emerging from this, they came upon a more
open space, in the midst of which grew a number of majestic trees.
"There are my cows!" said the hermit, pausing as he spoke, and pointing
towards a group of tall straight-stemmed trees that were the noblest in
appearance they had yet seen. "Good cows they are," he continued, going
up to one and making a notch in the bark with his axe: "they need no
feeding or looking after, yet, as you see, they are always ready to give
While he spoke, a thick white liquid flowed from the notch in the bark
into a cocoa-nut drinking-cup, which the hermit always carried at his
girdle. In a few minutes he presented his visitors with a draught of what
they declared was most excellent cream.
The masseranduba, or milk-tree, as it is called, is indeed one of the
most wonderful of all the extraordinary trees in the forests of Brazil,
and is one among many instances of the bountiful manner in which God
provides for the wants of His creatures. No doubt this might with equal
truth be said of all the gifts that a beneficent Creator bestows upon
mankind; but when, as in the case of this milk-tree, the provision for
our wants comes in a singular and striking manner, it seems fitting and
appropriate that we should specially acknowledge the gift as coming from
the hand of Him who giveth us all things liberally to enjoy.
The milk-tree rises with a straight stem to an enormous height, and the
fruit, about the size of a small apple, is full of rich and juicy pulp,
and is very good. The timber, also, is hard, fine-grained, and
durable,—particularly adapted for such works as are exposed to the
weather. But its most remarkable peculiarity is the rich vegetable milk
which flows in abundance from it when the bark is cut. This milk is so
like to that of the cow in taste, that it can scarcely be distinguished
from it, having only a very slight peculiarity of flavour, which is
rather agreeable than otherwise. In tea and coffee it has the same effect
as rich cream, and, indeed, is so thick that it requires to be diluted
with water before being used. This milk is also employed as glue. It
hardens when exposed to the air, and becomes very tough and slightly
elastic, and is said to be quite as good and useful as ordinary glue.
Having partaken of as much milk as they desired, they continued their
journey a little further, when they came to a spur of the sierra, or
mountain range, that cuts through that part of the country. Here the
ground became more rugged, but still densely covered with wood, and rocks
lay piled about in many places, forming several dark and gloomy caverns.
The hermit now unslung his gun and advanced to the foot of a cliff, near
the further end of which there were several caves, the mouths of which
were partially closed with long ferns and masses of luxuriant vegetation.
"Now we must be prepared," said the hermit, feeling the point of his
spear. "I think there is a jaguar here. I saw him yesterday, and I am
quite sure he will not go away till he tries to do some mischief. He
little knows that there is nothing here to hurt but me." The hermit
chuckled as he said this, and resting his gun against the cliff near the
entrance to the first cave, which was a small one, he passed on to the
next. Holding the spear in his left hand, he threw a stone violently into
the cavern. Barney and Martin listened and gazed in silent expectation;
but they only heard the hollow sound of the falling stone as it dashed
against the sides of the cave; then all was still.
"Och, then, he's off," cried Barney.
"Hush," said Martin; "don't speak till he has tried the other cave."
Without taking notice of their remarks, the hermit repeated the
experiment at the mouths of two caverns further on, with the like result.
"Maybe the spalpeen's hidin' in the little cave where ye laid down yer
gun," suggested Barney, going towards the place as he spoke. "Och, then,
come here, friend; sure it must be the mouth of a mine, for there's two
o' the beautifulest di'monds I iver—"
Barney's speech was cut short by a low peculiar sound, that seemed like
the muttering of far-distant thunder. At the same moment the hermit
pulled him violently back, and, placing himself in a firm attitude full
in front of the cavern, held the point of the spear advanced before him.
"Martin," he whispered, "shoot an arrow straight into that hole,—quick!"
Martin obeyed, and the arrow whizzed through the aperture. Instantly
there issued from it a savage and tremendous roar, so awful that it
seemed as if the very mountain were bellowing and that the cavern were
its mouth. But not a muscle of the hermit's figure moved. He stood like a
bronze statue,—his head thrown back and his chest advanced, with one
foot planted firmly before him and the spear pointing towards the cave.
It seemed strange to Martin that a man should face what appeared to him
unknown danger so boldly and calmly; but he did not consider that the
hermit knew exactly the amount of danger before him. He knew precisely
the manner in which it would assail him, and he knew just what was
necessary to be done in order to avert it; and in the strength of that
knowledge he stood unmoved, with a slight smile upon his tightly
Scarcely had the roar ceased when it was repeated with tenfold
fierceness; the bushes and fern leaves shook violently, and an enormous
and beautifully spotted jaguar shot through the air as if it had been
discharged from a cannon's mouth. The hermit's eye wavered not; he bent
forward a hair's-breadth; the glittering spear-point touched the animal's
breast, pierced through it, and came out at its side below the ribs. But
the force of the bound was too great for the strength of the weapon: the
handle snapped in twain, and the transfixed jaguar struck down the hermit
and fell writhing upon him!
In the excitement of the moment Barney drew his pistol from his belt and
snapped it at the animal. It was well for the hermit at that moment that
Barney had forgotten to prime his weapon; for, although he aimed at the
jaguar's skull, there is no doubt whatever that he would have blown out
the hermit's brains. Before he could make a second attempt, Martin sprang
towards the gun which leaned against the cliff, and, running quickly up,
he placed the muzzle close to the jaguar's ear and lodged a bullet in its
brain. All this was done in a few seconds, and the hermit regained his
legs just as the animal fell dead. Fortunately he was not hurt, having
adroitly avoided the sharp claws of his enemy.
"Arrah! Mister Hermit," said Barney, wiping the perspiration from his
forehead, "it's yersilf that was well-nigh done for this time, an' no
mistake. Did iver I see sich a spring! an' ye stud the charge jist like a
stone wall,—niver moved a fut!"
"Are you not hurt?" inquired Martin, somewhat anxiously; "your face is
all covered with blood."
"Yes, boy, but it is the blood of the jaguar; thanks to you for your
quick hand, I am not hurt at all."
The hermit washed his face in the neighbouring brook, and then proceeded
to skin the jaguar, the carcase being worthless. After which they
retraced their steps through the woods as quickly as possible, for the
day was now far spent, and the twilight, as we have before remarked, is
so short in tropical latitudes that travellers require to make sure of
reaching the end of the day's journey towards evening, unless they choose
to risk losing their way, and spending the night in the forest.
They picked up the iguana in passing; and, on reaching the spot where the
armadillo had burrowed, the hermit paused and kindled a small fire over
the hole, by means of his flint, steel, and tinder-box. He thus contrived
to render the creature's habitation so uncomfortable that it rushed
hurriedly out; then, observing that its enemies were waiting, it doubled
its head and tail together, and became the image of a rough stone.
"Poor thing," said Martin, as the hermit killed it, "that reminds me of
the ostrich of the desert, which, I'm told, when it is chased over the
plains by men on horseback, and finds that it cannot escape, thrusts its
head into a bush, and fancies, no doubt, that it cannot be seen, although
its great body is visible a mile off!"
"Martin," said Barney, "this arth is full o' quare craturs intirely."
"That's true, Barney; and not the least 'quare' among them is an
Irishman, a particular friend of mine."
"Hould yer tongue, ye spalpeen, or I'll put yer head in the wather!"
"I wish ye would, Barney, for it is terribly hot and mosquito-bitten, and
you couldn't have suggested anything more delightful. But here we are
once more at our forest home; and now for a magnificent cup of coffee and
"Not to mintion," added Barney, "a juicy steak of Igu Anny, an' a tender
chop o' Army Dillo."
MARTIN AND BARNEY CONTINUE THEIR TRAVELS, AND SEE STRANGE
THINGS—AMONG OTHERS, THEY SEE LIVING JEWELS—THEY GO TO SEE A
FESTA—THEY FIGHT AND RUN AWAY
Martin Rattler and Barney O'Flannagan soon after this began to entertain
a desire to travel further into the interior of Brazil, and behold with
their own eyes the wonders of which they had heard so much from their
kind and hospitable friend the hermit. Martin was especially anxious to
see the great river Amazon, about which he entertained the most romantic
ideas,—as well he might, for there is not such another river in the
world for size, and for the many curious things connected with its waters
and its banks. Barney, too, was smitten with an intense desire to visit
the diamond mines, which he fancied must be the most brilliant and
beautiful sight in the whole world; and when Martin asked him what sort
of place he expected to see, he used to say that he "pictur'd in his mind
a great many deep and lofty caverns, windin' in an' out an' round about,
with the sides and the floors and the ceilin's all of a blaze with
glittering di'monds, an' top'zes, an' purls, an' what not; with Naiggurs
be the dozen picking them up in handfuls. An' sure," he would add, "if we
was wance there, we could fill our pockets in no time, an' then, hooray
for ould Ireland! an' live like Imperors for ivermore."
"But you forget, Barney, the account the hermit has given us of the
mines. He evidently does not think that much is to be made of them."
"Och! niver mind the hermit. There's always good luck attends Barney
O'Flanngan; an' sure if nobody wint for fear they would git nothing, all
the di'monds that iver came out o' the mines would be lyin' there still;
an' didn't he tell us there was wan got only a short time since, worth I
don't know how many thousand pounds? Arrah! if I don't go to the mines
an' git one the size o' me head, I'll let ye rig me out with a long tail
an' set me adrift in the woods for a blue-faced monkey."
It so happened that this was the time when the hermit was in the habit of
setting out on one of his trading trips; and when Martin told him of the
desire that he and Barney entertained to visit the interior, he told them
that he would be happy to take them along with him, provided they would
act the part of muleteers. To this they readily agreed, being only too
glad of an opportunity of making some return to their friend, who refused
to accept any payment for his hospitality, although Barney earnestly
begged of him to accept of his watch, which was the only object of value
he was possessed of,—and that wasn't worth much, being made of
pinch-beck, and utterly incapable of going! Moreover, he relieved their
minds, by telling them that they would easily obtain employment as
canoe-men on the Amazon, for men were very difficult to be got on that
river to man the boats; and if they could stand the heat, and were
willing to work like Indians, they might travel as far as they pleased.
To which Martin replied, in his ignorance, that he thought he could stand
anything; and Barney roundly asserted that, having been burnt to a cinder
long ago in the "East Injies," it was impossible to overdo him any more.
Under these circumstances, therefore, they started three weeks later to
visit a populous town about twenty miles off, from which they set out on
their travels, with a string of heavily laden mules, crossed the low
countries or campos lying near to the sea, and began to ascend the
sierras that divide this portion of Brazil from the country which is
watered by the innumerable rivers that flow into the mighty Amazon.
The cavalcade consisted of ten mules, each with two goodly sized bales of
merchandise on its back. They were driven and attended to by Negroes,
whose costume consisted of a light cotton shirt with short sleeves, and a
pair of loose cotton drawers reaching down to the knee. With the
exception of a straw hat this was all they wore. Martin, and Barney, and
the hermit each bestrode a mule, with a small bale slung on either side;
over the front of which their legs dangled comfortably. They had ponchos
with them, strapped to the mules' backs, and each carried a clumsy
umbrella to shield him from the fierce rays of the sun; but our two
adventurers soon became so hardened and used to the climate, that they
dispensed with the umbrellas altogether.
The sierra, or mountain range, over which they passed was about thirty
miles in extent, being in some places quite level and open, but in others
somewhat rugged and covered with large but thinly scattered trees, the
most common of which had fine dark-green glossy leaves, with spikes of
bright yellow flowers terminating the branchlets. There were also many
peculiar shrubs and flowering plants, of a sort that the travellers had
never seen the like of in their native land.
"How I wish," said Martin with a sigh, as he rode along beside his friend
Barney, "that I knew something of botany."
Barney opened his eyes in surprise. "Arrah! it's too much of a
philosopher ye are already, lad. What good would it do ye to know all the
hard names that men have given to the flowers? Sure I wance wint after
the doctor o' a ship, to carry his box for him when he wint on what he
called botanical excursions; and the poor cratur used to be pokin' his
nose for iver down at the ground, an' peerin' through his green
spectacles at miserable bits o' plants, an' niver seemin' to enjoy
anything; when all the time I was lookin' far fornint me, an' all
around me, an' up at the sky, seem' ivery beautiful thing, and snifterin'
up the sweet smells, an' in fact enjoyin' the whole univarse—an my pipe
to boot—like an intelligent cratur." Barney looked round as he spoke,
with a bland, self-satisfied expression of countenance, as if he felt
that he had given a lucid definition of the very highest style of
philosophy, and proved that he, Barney O'Flannagan, was possessed of the
same in no common degree.
"Well, Barney," rejoined Martin, "since you give me credit for being a
philosopher, I must continue to talk philosophically. Your botanical
friend took a microscopic view of nature, while you took a telescopic
view of it. Each view is good, but both views are better; and I can't
help wishing that I were more of a philosopher than I am, especially in
reference to botany."
"Humph!" ejaculated Barney, who seemed not quite to understand his young
friend, "yer observations are remarkably thrue, and do ye great credit,
for yer years. Ah! Mr. Hermit, good luck to ye! I'm glad to see that
ye've got some consideration for man and baste. I'm quite ready for my
victuals, and so's my mule; aren't you, avic?"
Barney's latter remark was addressed to his patient charger, from whose
back he sprang as he spoke, and slackened its girths.
It was now approaching mid-day, and the hermit had pitched upon a large
tree as a fitting spot for rest and refreshment. Water had been brought
up the mountain in a huge calabash; but they did not require to use it,
as they found a quantity in the hollow stump of a tree. There were
several frogs swimming about in this miniature lake; but it was found to
be fresh and clear and good notwithstanding.
Towards evening they passed a string of mules going towards the town
which they had just left. They were driven by Negroes, most of whom were
slaves, and nearly quite naked. A Brazilian merchant, wearing a
picturesque broad-brimmed, high-crowned straw-hat, a poncho, and brown
leather boots armed at the heels with large sharp spurs, rode at the
head, and gave the strangers a surly nod of his head as they passed. Soon
after, they descended into the plain, and came to a halt at a sort of
roadside public-house, where there was no sleeping accommodation, but
where they found an open shed in which travellers placed their goods, and
slung their hammocks, and attended to themselves. At the venda, close
beside it, they purchased a large bag of farina, being short of that
necessary article of food, and then set to work to prepare supper in the
open air; while the merry Negroes, who seemed to enjoy life most
thoroughly, laughed and sang as they removed the bales from the mules'
backs and cooked their simple fare.
Barney's cooking propensities now came into full play; and, with the
variety of fruits and vegetables which the country afforded, he exercised
his ingenuity, and produced several dishes of so savoury a nature that
the hermit was compelled to open his eyes in amazement, and smack his
lips with satisfaction, being quite unable to express his sentiments in
words. While thus busily and agreeably employed, they were told by the
owner of the venda that a festa was being celebrated at a village about a
league distant from where they stood.
"I should like to see it above all things," said Martin eagerly; "could
we not go?"
The hermit frowned. "Yes, we can go, but it will be to behold
folly. Perhaps it will be a good lesson, from which much may be
learned. We will go."
"It's not a step that I'll budge till I've finished me pipe," said
Barney, pulling away at that bosom friend with unexampled energy. "To
smoke," he continued, winking gently with one eye, "is the first law of
nature; jist give me ten minutes more, an' I'm your man for anything,"
Being a fine evening, they proceeded on foot. In about an hour after
setting out they approached the village, which lay in a beautiful valley
below them. Sounds of mirth and music rose like a distant murmur on the
air, and mingled with the songs of birds and insects. Then the sun went
down, and in a few minutes it grew dark, while the brilliant fire-flies
began their nocturnal gambols. Suddenly a bright flame burst over the
village, and a flight of magnificent rockets shot up into the sky, and
burst in a hundred bright and variously-coloured stars, which paled for a
few seconds the lights of nature. But they vanished in a moment, and the
clear stars shed abroad their undying lustre,—seeming, in their quiet,
unfading beauty, a gentle satire on the short-lived and gairish
productions of man.
"Mighty purty, no doubt," exclaimed Barney. "Is this the Imperor's
"No," replied the hermit, shaking his head; "that is the way in which the
false priests amuse the people. The poor Indian and the Negro, and,
indeed, the ignorant Brazilian, thinks it very grand; and the priests let
them think it is pleasing to the God of heaven. Ah! here comes an old
Negro; we will ask him."
Several country people, in varied and picturesque costumes, hurried past
the travellers towards the village; and as they came to a foot-path that
joined the road, an old Negro approached them. Saluting him in the
Portuguese language, the hermit said, "Friend, why do they let off
"For Dios" (for God), answered the old man, looking and pointing upwards
with grave solemnity. Without vouchsafing another word, he hurried away.
"So they think," said the hermit, "and so they are taught by the priests.
Music, noise, and fire-works please these ignorant people; and so the
priests, who are mostly as ignorant as the people, tell them it is a good
part of religious ceremony."
Presently a band of young girls came laughing and singing along the road.
They were dressed in pure white, their rich black tresses being uncovered
and ornamented with flowers, and what appeared to be bright jewels.
"Hallo!" exclaimed Martin, gazing after them; "what splendid jewels!
surely these must be the daughters of very rich people."
"Och, but they've been at the di'mond mines for certain! Did iver ye sae
The girls did indeed seem to blaze with jewels, which not only sparkled
in their hair, but fringed their white robes, and were worked round the
edges of their slippers; so that a positive light shone around their
persons, and fell upon the path like a halo, giving them more the
appearance of lovely supernatural beings than the daughters of earth.
"These jewels," said the hermit, "were never polished by the hands of
men. They are fire-flies."
"Fire-flies!" exclaimed Martin and Barney simultaneously.
"Yes, they are living fire-flies. The girls very often catch them and tie
them up in little bits of gauze, and put them, as you see, on their
dresses and in their hair. To my mind they seem more beautiful far than
diamonds. Sometimes the Indians, when they travel at night, fix
fire-flies to their feet, and so have good lamps to their path."
While Barney was expressing his surprise at this information, in very
racy language, they entered the village; and, mingling with the throng of
holiday-keepers, followed the stream towards the grand square.
The church, which seemed to be a centre of attraction, and was
brilliantly illuminated, was a neat wooden building with two towers. The
streets of the village were broad and straggling; and so luxuriant was
the vegetation, and so lazy the nature of the inhabitants, that it seemed
as if the whole place were overgrown with gigantic weeds. Shrubs and
creeping-plants grew in the neglected gardens, climbed over the palings,
and straggled about the streets. Plants grew on the tops of the houses,
ferns peeped out under the eaves; and, in short, on looking at it one had
the feeling that ere long the whole place, people and all, must be
smothered in superabundant vegetation!
The houses were all painted white or yellow, with the doors and windows
bright green,—just like grown-up toys; and sounds of revelry, with now
and then the noise of disputation, issued from many of them.
It is impossible to describe minutely the appearance of the motley crowd
through which our adventurers elbowed their way, gazing curiously on the
strange scene, which seemed to them more like a dream than reality, after
their long sojourn in the solitudes of the forest. Processions headed by
long-robed priests with flambeaux and crucifixes; young girls in light
costumes and long white cotton shawls, selling sweet cakes of mandioca
flour, and bonbons; swarthy Brazilians, some in white jackets, loose
cotton drawers, and straw hats, others in brown leather boots and
ponchos; Negroes in short white drawers and shirts, besides many without
any clothing above their waists; Indians from the interior,
copper-coloured, and some of them, fine-looking men, having only a strip
of cloth about their loins;—such were the strange crew whose loud voices
added to the whiz of rockets, squibs, crackers, guns, and musical
instruments, created a deafening noise.
In the midst of the village there was a tree of such enormous size that
it quite took our travellers by surprise. It was a wild fig-tree, capable
of sheltering a thousand persons under its shadow! Here a spirited
fandango was going on, and they stood for some time watching the
movements of the performers. Growing tired of this, they wandered about
until they came to a less crowded part of the village, and entered a
pleasant grove of trees skirting the road by which they had arrived.
While sauntering here, enjoying the cool night breeze and delicious
perfume of flowers, a woman uttered a piercing shriek near to them. It
was instantly followed by loud voices in altercation. Ever ready to fly
to the help of womankind, and, generally, to assist in a "row," Barney
darted through the bushes, and came upon the scene of action just in time
to see the white skirt of a female's dress disappear down an avenue, and
to behold two Brazilians savagely writhing in mortal strife. At the
moment he came up, one of the combatants had overcome the other, and a
fierce smile of triumph crossed his swarthy countenance as he raised his
"Och, ye murtherer! would ye attimpt that same?" cried Barney, catching
the man by the wrist and hurling him on his back. The other sprang up on
being thus unexpectedly freed, and darted away, while the thwarted man
uttered a yell of disappointment and sprang like a tiger at Barney's
throat. A blow, however, from the Irishman's fist, quietly delivered, and
straight between the eyes, stretched the Brazilian on the ground. At the
same moment a party of men, attracted by the cries, burst through the
bushes and surrounded the successful champion. Seeing their countryman
apparently dead upon the ground, they rushed upon Barney in a body; but
the first who came within reach was floored in an instant, and the others
were checked in their career by the sudden appearance of the hermit and
Martin Rattler. The noise of many voices, as of people hastening towards
them, was heard at the same time.
"We have no time to lose, do as I bid you," whispered the hermit.
Whirling a heavy stick round his head the hermit shouted the single word
"Charge!" and dashed forward.
Barney and Martin obeyed. Three Brazilians went down like ninepins; the
rest turned and fled precipitately.
"Now, run for life!" cried the hermit, setting the example. Barney
hesitated to follow what he deemed a cowardly flight, but the yells of
the natives returning in strong force decided the question. He and Martin
took to their heels with right good will, and in a few minutes the three
friends were far on the road which led to their night bivouac; while the
villagers, finding pursuit hopeless, returned to the village, and
continued the wild orgies of their festa.
COGITATIONS AND CANOEING ON THE AMAZON—BARNEY'S EXPLOIT WITH AN
ALLIGATOR—STUBBORN FACTS—REMARKABLE MODE OF SLEEPING
It is pleasant, when the sun is bright, and the trees are green, and when
flowering shrubs and sweet-smelling tropical trees scent the balmy
atmosphere at eventide, to lie extended at full length in a canoe, and
drop easily, silently, yet quickly, down the current of a noble river,
under the grateful shadow of overhanging foliage; and to look lazily up
at the bright blue sky which appears in broken patches among the verdant
leaves; or down at the river in which that bright sky and those green
leaves are reflected; or aside at the mud-banks where greedy vultures are
searching for prey, and lazy alligators are basking in the sun; and to
listen, the while, to the innumerable cries and notes of monkeys,
toucans, parrots, orioles, bemtevi or fly-catchers, white-winged and blue
chatterers, and all the myriads of birds and beasts that cause the
forests of Brazil, above all other forests in the world probably, to
resound with the gleeful songs of animated nature!
It is pleasant to be thus situated, especially when a cool breeze blows
the mosquitoes and other insects off the water, and relieves you for a
time from their incessant attacks. Martin Rattler found it pleasant, as
he thus lay on his back with his diminutive pet marmoset monkey seated on
his breast quietly picking the kernel out of a nut. And Barney
O'Flannagan found it pleasant, as he lay extended in the bow of the canoe
with his head leaning over the edge gazing abstractedly at his own
reflected visage, while his hands trailed through the cool water, and his
young dog—a shaggy indescribable beast with a bluff nose and a bushy
tail—watched him intently, as a mother might watch an only child in a
dangerous situation. And the old sun-dried, and storm-battered, and
time-shrivelled mulatto trader, in those canoe they were embarked and
whose servants they had become, found it pleasant, as he sat there
perched in his little montaria, like an exceedingly ancient and overgrown
monkey, guiding it safely down the waters of the great river of the
Some months have passed since we last parted from our daring adventurers.
During that period they had crossed an immense tract of country, and
reached the head waters of one of the many streams that carry the surplus
moisture of central Brazil into the Amazon. Here they found an old
trader, a free mulatto, whose crew of Indians had deserted him,—a common
thing in that country,—and who gladly accepted their services, agreeing
to pay them a small wage. And here they sorrowfully, and with many
expressions of good-will, parted from their kind friend and entertainer
the hermit. His last gift to Martin was the wonderfully small marmoset
monkey before mentioned; and his parting souvenir to Barney was the
bluff-nosed dog that watched over him with maternal care, and loved him
next to itself;—as well it might; for if everybody had been of the same
spirit as Barney O'Flannagan, the Act for the prevention of cruelty to
animals would never have been passed in Britain.
It was a peculiar and remarkable and altogether extraordinary monkey,
that tiny marmoset. There was a sort of romance connected with it, too;
for it had been the mother of an indescribably small infant-monkey,
which was killed at the time of its mother's capture. It drank coffee,
too, like—like a Frenchman; and would by no means retire to rest at
night until it had had its usual allowance. Then it would fold its
delicate little hands on its bosom, and close its eyes with an
expression of solemn grief, as if, having had its last earthly wish
gratified, it now resigned itself to—sleep. Martin loved it deeply, but
his love was unrequited; for, strange to say, that small monkey lavished
all its affection on Barney's shaggy dog. And the dog knew it, and was
evidently proud of it, and made no objection whatever to the monkey
sitting on his back, or his head, or his nose, or doing, in fact,
whatever it chose whenever it pleased. When in the canoe, the marmoset
played with Grampus, as the dog was named; and when on shore it
invariably travelled on his back.
Martin used to lie in the canoe half asleep and watch the little face of
the marmoset, until, by some unaccountable mental process, he came to
think of Aunt Dorothy Grumbit. Often did poor Martin dream of his dear
old aunt, while sleeping under the shelter of these strange-leaved
tropical trees and surrounded by the wild sounds of that distant land,
until he dreamed himself back again in the old village. Then he would
rush to the well-known school, and find all the boys there except Bob
Croaker, who he felt certain must be away drowning the white kitten; and
off he would go and catch him, sure enough, in the very act, and would
give him the old thrashing over again, with all the additional vigour
acquired during his rambles abroad thrown into it. Then he would run home
in eager haste, and find old Mrs. Grumbit hard at the one thousand nine
hundred and ninety-ninth pair of worsted socks; and fat Mr. Arthur
Jollyboy sitting opposite to her, dressed in the old lady's bed-curtain
chintz and high-crowned cap, with the white kitten in his arms and his
spectacles on his chin, watching the process with intense interest, and
cautioning her not to forget the "hitch" by any means; whereupon the
kitten would fly up in his face, and Mr. Jollyboy would dash through the
window with a loud howl, and Mrs. Grumbit's face would turn blue; and,
uncoiling an enormous tail, she would bound shrieking after him in among
the trees and disappear! Martin usually wakened at this point, and found
the marmoset gazing in his face with an expression of sorrowful
solemnity, and the old sun-dried trader staring vacantly before him as he
steered his light craft down the broad stream of the Tocantins.
The trader could speak little more English than sufficed to enable him to
say "yes" and "no"; Barney could speak about as much Portuguese as
enabled him to say "no" and "yes"; while Martin, by means of a slight
smattering of that language, which he had picked up by ear during the
last few months, mixed now and then with a word or two of Latin, and
helped out by a clever use of the language of signs, succeeded in
becoming the link of communication between the two.
For many weeks they continued to descend the river; paddling
energetically when the stream was sluggish, and resting comfortably when
the stream was strong, and sometimes dragging their canoe over rocks and
sand-banks to avoid rapids—passing many villages and plantations of the
natives by the way—till at last they swept out upon the bosom of the
great Amazon River.
The very first thing they saw upon entering it was an enormous alligator,
fully eighteen feet long, sound asleep on a mud-bank.
"Och! put ashore, ye Naygur," cried Barney, seizing his pistol and rising
up in the bow of the canoe. The old man complied quickly, for his spirit
was high and easily roused.
"Look out now, Martin, an' hould back the dog for fear he wakes him up,"
said Barney, in a hoarse whisper, as he stepped ashore and hastened
stealthily towards the sleeping monster; catching up a handful of gravel
as he went, and ramming it down the barrel of his pistol. It was a
wonderful pistol that—an Irish one by birth, and absolutely incapable of
bursting, else assuredly it would have gone, as its owner said, to
"smithereens" long ago.
Barney was not a good stalker. The alligator awoke and made for the water
as fast as it could waddle. The Irishman rushed forward close up, as it
plunged into the river, and discharged the compound of lead and stones
right against the back of its head. He might as well have fired at the
boiler of a steam-engine. The entire body of an alligator—back and
belly, head and tail—is so completely covered with thick hard scales,
that shot has no effect on it; and even a bullet cannot pierce its coat
of mail, except in one or two vulnerable places. Nevertheless the shot
had been fired so close to it that the animal was stunned, and rolled
over on its back in the water. Seeing this, the old trader rushed in up
to his chin, and caught it by the tail; but at the same moment the
monster recovered, and, turning round, displayed its terrific rows of
teeth. The old man uttered a dreadful roar, and struggled to the land as
fast as he could; while the alligator, equally frightened, no doubt, gave
a magnificent flourish and splash with its tail, and dived to the bottom
of the river.
The travellers returned disgusted to their canoe, and resumed their
journey up the Amazon in silence.
The vulnerable places about an alligator are the soft parts under the
throat and the joints of the legs. This is well known to the jaguar, its
mortal foe, which attacks it on land, and fastening on these soft parts,
soon succeeds in killing it; but should the alligator get the jaguar into
its powerful jaws or catch it in the water, it is certain to come off the
The Amazon, at its mouth, is more like a wide lake or arm of the sea than
a river. Mention has been already made of this noble stream in the
Hermit's Story; but it is worthy of more particular notice, for truly the
Amazon is in many respects a wonderful river. It is the largest, though
not quite the longest, in the world. Taking its rise among the rocky
solitudes of the great mountain range of the Andes, it flows through
nearly four thousand miles of the continent in an easterly direction,
trending northward towards its mouth, and entering the Atlantic Ocean on
the northern coast of South America, directly under the Equator. In its
course it receives the waters of nearly all the great rivers of central
South America, and thousands of smaller tributaries; so that when it
reaches the ocean its volume of water is enormous. Some idea may be
formed of its majestic size, from the fact that one of its
tributaries—the Rio Negro—is fifteen hundred miles long, and varying in
breadth; being a mile wide not far from its mouth, while higher up it
spreads out in some places into sheets of ten miles in width. The
Madeira, another tributary, is also a river of the largest size. The
Amazon is divided into two branches at its mouth by the island of Marajo,
the larger branch being ninety-six miles in width. About two thousand
miles from its mouth it is upwards of a mile wide. So great is the force
of this flood of water, that it flows into the sea unmixed for nearly two
hundred miles. The tide affects the river to a distance of about four
hundred miles inland; and it is navigable from the sea for a distance of
three thousand miles inland.
On the north bank of the Amazon there are ranges of low hills, partly
bare and partly covered with thickets. These hills vary from three
hundred to a thousand feet high, and extend about two hundred miles
inland. Beyond them the shores of the river are low and flat for more
than two thousand miles, till the spurs of the Andes are reached.
During the rainy season the Amazon overflows all its banks, like the
Nile, for many hundreds of miles; during which season, as Martin Rattler
truly remarked, the natives may be appropriately called aquatic animals.
Towns and villages, and plantations belonging to Brazilians, foreign
settlers, and half-civilized Indians, occur at intervals throughout the
whole course of the river; and a little trade in dye-woods, India-rubber,
medicinal drugs, Brazil nuts, coffee, &c., is done; but nothing to what
might and ought to be, and perhaps would be, were this splendid country
in the hands of an enterprising people. But the Amazonians are lazy, and
the greater part of the resources of one of the richest countries in the
world is totally neglected.
"Arrah!" said Barney, scratching his head and wrinkling his forehead
intensely, as all that we have just written, and a great deal more, was
told to him by a Scotch settler whom he found superintending a cattle
estate and a saw-mill on the banks of the Amazon—"Faix, then, I'm jist
as wise now as before ye begun to spake. I've no head for fagures
whatsumdiver; an' to tell me that the strame is ninety-six miles long and
three thousand miles broad at the mouth, and sich like calcerlations, is
o' no manner o' use, and jist goes in at wan ear an' out at the tother."
Whereupon the Scotch settler smiled and said, "Well, then, if ye can
remember that the Amazon is longer than all Europe is broad; that it
opens up to the ocean not less than ten thousand miles of the interior
of Brazil; and that, comparatively speaking, no use is made of it
whatever, ye'll remember enough to think about with profit for some
time to come."
And Barney did think about it, and ponder it, and revolve it in his mind,
for many days after, while he worked with Martin and the old trader at
the paddles of their montaria. They found the work of canoeing easier
than had been anticipated; for during the summer months the wind blows
steadily up the river, and they were enabled to hoist their mat-sail, and
bowl along before it against the stream.
Hotels and inns there were none; for Brazil does not boast of many such
conveniences, except in the chief towns; so they were obliged, in
travelling, to make use of an empty hut or shed, when they chanced to
stop at a village, and to cook their own victuals. More frequently,
however, they preferred to encamp in the woods—slinging their hammocks
between the stems of the trees, and making a fire sometimes, to frighten
away the jaguars, which, although seldom seen, were often heard at
night. They met large canoes and montarias occasionally coming down the
stream, and saw them hauled up on shore, while their owners were cooking
their breakfast in the woods; and once they came upon a solitary old
Indian in a very curious position. They had entered a small stream in
order to procure a few turtles' eggs, of which there were many in that
place buried in the sand-banks. On turning a point where the stream was
narrow and overhung with bushes and trees, they beheld a canoe tied to
the stem of a tree, and a hammock slung between two branches overhanging
the water. In this an old Indian lay extended, quite naked and fast
asleep! The old fellow had grown weary with paddling his little canoe;
and, finding the thicket along the river's banks so impenetrable that he
could not land, he slung his hammock over the water, and thus quietly
took his siesta. A flock of paroquets were screaming like little green
demons just above him, and several alligators gave him a passing glance
as they floundered heavily in the water below; but the red man cared not
for such trifles. Almost involuntarily Martin began to hum the popular
"Hushy ba, baby, on the tree top;
When the wind blows the cradle will rock."
"Arrah, if he was only two foot lower, its thirty pair o' long teeth
would be stuck into his flank in wan minute, or I'm no prophet," said
Barney, with a broad grin.
"Suppose we give him a touch with the paddle in passing,"
At this moment Barney started up, shaded his eyes with his hand, and,
after gazing for a few seconds at some object ahead of the canoe, he gave
utterance to an exclamation of mingled surprise and consternation.
THE GREAT ANACONDA'S DINNER—BARNEY GETS A FRIGHT—TURTLES' EGGS, OMELETS
AND ALLIGATORS' TAILS—SENHOR ANTONIO'S PLANTATION—PREPARATIONS FOR A
The object which called forth the cry from our Irish friend, as related
in the last chapter, was neither more nor less than a serpent of
dimensions more enormous than Barney had ever before conceived of. It was
upwards of sixteen feet long, and nearly as thick as a man's body; but
about the neck it was three times that size. This serpent was not,
indeed, of the largest size. In South America they grow to nearly forty
feet in length. But it was fabulously gigantic in the eyes of our
adventurers, who had never seen a serpent of any kind before.
"Oh!" cried Martin, eagerly, "that must be an anaconda. Is it not?" he
inquired, turning to the old trader.
"Yees; it dead," was the short reply.
"So it is!" cried Martin, who, on a nearer approach, observed that the
brute's body was cut in two just below the swelling at the neck.
"Now, did ye iver," cried Barney with increased surprise, "see a sarpint
with a cow's horns growin' out at its mouth? Put ashore, old boy; we must
have a Vestigation o' this remarkable cratur."
The canoe was soon aground, and in another minute the three travellers
busily engaged in turning over the carcass of the huge reptile, which
they found, to the amazement of Martin and Barney, had actually
swallowed an ox whole, with the exception of the horns, which protruded
from its mouth!
After much questioning, in bad Portuguese, broken English, and remarkable
signs, Martin succeeded in drawing from the old trader the information
that anacondas of a large size are often in the habit of thus bolting
horses and oxen at a mouthful.
There is not the slightest exaggeration in this fact. Readers who are
inclined to disbelieve it may refer to the works of Wallace and Gardner
on Brazil,—authorities which cannot be doubted.
The reptile commences by patiently watching until an unfortunate animal
strays near to where it is lying, when it darts upon it, encircles it in
its massive coils, and crushes it to death in an instant. Then it
squeezes the body and broken bones into a shapeless mass; after which it
licks the carcass all over, and covers it with a thick coating of saliva.
Having thus prepared its mouthful, the andaconda begins at the tail and
gradually engulfs its victim, while its elastic jaws, and throat, and
stomach are distended sufficiently to let it in; after which it lies in a
torpid state for many weeks, till the morsel is digested, when it is
ready for another meal. A horse goes down entire, but a cow sticks at the
horns, which the anaconda cannot swallow. They are allowed to protrude
from its mouth until they decay and drop off.
They were at a loss at first to account for the creature being killed;
but the old trader suggested that it had been found in a torpid state,
and slain by the Indian whom they had seen a short time ago enjoying his
siesta among the trees.
Having cut it open, in order to convince themselves beyond a doubt that
it had swallowed an entire ox, Martin and the old trader re-embarked in
the canoe, and Barney was on the point of joining them when the bushes
close beside him were slightly stirred. Looking quickly round, he beheld
the head and the glittering eyes of another anaconda, apparently as large
as the dead one, ready to dart upon him,—at least so he fancied; but he
did not wait to give it a chance. He fled instantly, and sprang towards
the boat, which he nearly upset as he leaped into it, and pushed out into
the stream. On reaching the middle of the river they looked back, but the
anaconda was gone.
Soon after this they came to a long sandbank, where the old trader said
they should find as many turtles' eggs as they wished for, although to
Barney and Martin there seemed to be nothing on the bank at all. The
fresh-water turtle of the Amazon, of which there are various species, is
one of the most useful of reptiles. Its flesh supplies abundance of good
food; and the eggs, besides being eaten, afford an excellent oil. The
largest species grow to the length of three feet, and have a flattish
oval shell of a dark colour, and quite smooth. Turtles lay their eggs
about the beginning of September, when the sand-banks begin to be
uncovered. They scrape deep holes for them, and cover them carefully
over, beating down the sand quite flat, and walking across the place
several times, for the purpose of concealment. The eggs are then left to
be hatched by the heat of the sun. But, alas for the poor turtles! men
are too clever for them. The eggs are collected by the natives in
thousands, and, when oil is to be made of them, they are thrown into a
canoe, smashed and mixed up together, and left to stand, when the oil
rises to the top, and is skimmed off and boiled. It keeps well, and is
used both for lamps and cooking. Very few of the millions of eggs that
are annually laid arrive at maturity.
When the young turtles issue forth and run to the water, there are many
enemies watching for them. Great alligators open their jaws and swallow
them by hundreds; jaguars come out of the forests and feed upon them;
eagles and buzzards and wood ibises are there, too, to claim their share
of the feast; and, if they are fortunate enough to escape all these,
there are many large and ravenous fishes ready to seize them in the
stream. It seems a marvel that any escape at all.
In a few minutes the old trader scraped up about a hundred eggs, to the
immense satisfaction of Martin and Barney. Then he took a bow and arrow
from the bottom of the montaria and shot a large turtle in the water,
while his companions kindled a fire, intending to dine. Only the nose of
the turtle was visible above water; but the old man was so expert in the
use of the bow, that he succeeded in transfixing the soft part of the
animal's neck with an arrow, although that part was under water. It was a
large turtle, and very fat and heavy, so that it was with difficulty the
trader lifted it upon his old shoulders and bore it in triumph to the
spot where his companions were busily engaged with their cooking
operations. Turtles are frequently shot with the arrow by the natives;
they are also taken in great numbers with the hook and the net.
Dinner was soon ready. Barney concocted an immense and savoury omelet,
and the old trader cooked an excellent turtle-steak, while Martin
prepared a junk of jaguar meat, which he roasted, being curious to taste
it, as he had been told that the Indians like it very much. It was pretty
good, but not equal to the turtle-eggs. The shell of the egg is leathery,
and the yolk only is eaten. The Indians sometimes cat them raw, mixed
with farina. Cakes of farina, and excellent coffee, concluded their
repast; and Barney declared he had never had such a satisfactory "blow
out" in his life; a sentiment with which Martin entirely agreed, and the
old trader—if one might judge from the expression of his black
For many weeks our adventurers continued to ascend the Amazon, sometimes
sailing before the wind; at other times, when it fell calm, pushing the
montaria up the current by means of long poles, or advancing more easily
with the paddles. Occasionally they halted for a day at the residence of
a wealthy cacao planter, in order to sell him some merchandise; for which
purpose the canoe was unloaded, and the bales were opened out for his
inspection. Most of these planters were Brazilians, a few were Yankee
adventurers, and one or two were Scotch and English; but nearly all had
married Brazilian ladies, who, with their daughters, proved good
customers to the old trader. Some of these ladies were extremely "purty
craturs," as Barney expressed it; but most of them were totally
uneducated and very ignorant,—not knowing half so much as a child of
seven or eight years old in more favoured lands. They were very fond of
fine dresses and ornaments, of which considerable supplies were sent to
them from Europe and the United States, in exchange for the valuable
produce of their country. But, although their dresses were fine and
themselves elegant, their houses were generally very poor affairs—made
of wood and thatched with broad leaves; and it was no uncommon thing to
see a lady, who seemed from her gay dress to be fitted for a
drawing-room, seated on an earthen floor. But there were all sorts of
extremes in this strange land; for at the next place they came to,
perhaps, they found a population of Negroes and Indians, and most of the
grown-up people were half naked, while all the children were entirely so.
At one plantation, where they resolved to spend a few days, the owner had
a pond which was much frequented by alligators. These he was in the habit
of hunting periodically, for the sake of their fat, which he converted
into oil. At the time of their arrival, he was on the eve of starting on
a hunting expedition to the lake, which was about eight miles distant; so
Barney and Martin determined to go and "see the fun," as the latter said.
"Martin, lad," remarked Barney, as they followed the Negro slave who had
been sent by Senhor Antonio, the planter, to conduct them to the lake,
while he remained behind for an hour or two to examine the bales of the
old trader; "this is the quarest country, I believe, that iver was made;
what with bastes, and varmints, and riptiles, and traes, and bushes, and
rivers, it bates all creation."
"Certainly it does, Barney; and it is a pity there are so few people in
it who know how to make use of the things that are scattered all around
them. I'm inclined to think the hermit was right when he said that they
wanted the Bible. They are too far sunk in laziness and idleness to be
raised up by anything else. Just look," continued Martin, glancing round,
"what a wonderful place this is! It seems as if all the birds and curious
trees in Brazil had congregated here to meet us."
"So't does," said Barney, stopping to gaze on the scene through which
they were passing, with an expression of perplexity on his face, as if he
found the sight rather too much even for his comprehension. Besides the
parrots and scarlet and yellow macaws, and other strange-looking birds
which we have elsewhere mentioned, there were long-tailed light-coloured
cuckoos flying about from tree to tree, not calling like the cuckoo of
Europe at all, but giving forth a sound like the creaking of a rusty
hinge; there were hawks and buzzards of many different kinds, and
red-breasted orioles in the bushes, and black vultures flying overhead,
and Muscovy ducks sweeping past with whizzing wings, and flocks of the
great wood-ibis sailing in the air on noiseless pinions, and hundreds of
other birds that it would require an ornithologist to name; and myriads
of insects,—especially ants and spiders, great and small,—that no
entomologist could chronicle in a lifetime; all these were heard and seen
at once; while of the animals that were heard, but not so often seen,
there were black and spotted jaguars, and pacas, and cotias, and
armadillos, and deer, and many others, that would take pages to
enumerate and whole books to describe. But the noise was the great point.
That was the thing that took Martin and Barney quite aback, although it
was by no means new to them; but they could not get used to it. And no
wonder! Ten thousand paroquets shrieking passionately, like a hundred
knife-grinders at work, is no joke; especially when their melodies are
mingled with the discordant cries of herons, and bitterns, and cranes,
and the ceaseless buzz and hum of insects, like the bagpipe's drone, and
the dismal croaking of boat-bills and frogs,—one kind of which latter,
by the way, doesn't croak at all, but whistles, ay, better than many a
bird! The universal hubbub is tremendous! I tell you, reader, that you
don't understand it, and you can't understand it; and if, after I had
used the utmost excess of exaggerated language to convey a correct
impression of the reality, you were to imagine that you really did
understand it, you would be very lamentably mistaken—that's all!
Nevertheless, you must not run away with the idea that the whole empire
of Brazil is like this. There are dark thick solitudes in these vast
forests, which are solemn and silent enough at times; and there are wide
grassy campos, and great sandy plains, where such sounds are absent. Yet
there are also thousands of such spots as I have just described, where
all nature, in earth, air, and water, is instinct with noisy animal life.
After two hours' walk, Martin and his companion reached the lake, and
here active preparations were making for the alligator hunt.
"Is that the only place ye have to spind the night in, Sambo?" said
Barney to their conductor, as he pointed to a wooden shed near which some
fifteen or twenty Negro slaves were overhauling the fishing tackle.
"Yis, massa," answered the black, showing his white teeth; "dat is de
bottle of dis great city." Sambo could speak a little English, having
wrought for several years on the coffee plantation of a Yankee settler.
He was a bit of a wag, too, much to the indignation of his grave master,
the Senhor Antonio, who abhorred jesting.
"Ye're too cliver, avic," said Barney, with a patronizing smile; "take
care ye don't use up yer intellect too fast. It hurts the constitution in
"I say, Barney," cried Martin, who had gone ahead of his companions,
"come here, man, and just look at this pond. It's literally crammed full
"Musha, but there's more alligators than wather, I belave!"
The pond was indeed swarming with these ferocious reptiles, which were
constantly thrusting their ugly snouts above the surface and then
disappearing with a flourish of their powerful tails. During the rainy
season this lake was much larger, and afforded ample room for its
inhabitants; but at the height of the dry season, which it was at this
time, there was little water, and it was much overstocked. When
alligators are thus put upon short allowance of water, they frequently
bury themselves in the wet mud, and lie dormant for a long time, while
the water continues to retire and leaves them buried. But when the first
shower of the rainy season falls, they burst open their tomb and drag
their dry bodies to the lake or river on whose margin they went to sleep.
An hour or two later the Senhor Antonio arrived; but as it was getting
dark, nothing could be done until the following morning; so they slung
their hammocks under the wooden shed on the margin of the lake, and, in
order to save themselves as much as possible from the bites of the
tormenting mosquitoes, went to sleep with their heads tied up in their
handkerchiefs, and their hands thrust into their breeches pockets! The
occasional splash and snort of contending alligators, about twenty yards
off, varied the monotony of the hours of darkness, while the frogs and
cranes and jaguars sang their lullaby.
AN ALLIGATOR HUNT—REMARKABLE EXPLOSIONS—THE RAINY SEASON USHERED IN BY
AN AWFUL RESURRECTION
At sunrise an expressive shout in Portuguese set the black slaves on
their feet; and, after a hasty breakfast of alligator-tail and farina,
they commenced operations. Alligator-tail is by no means bad food, and
after the first mouthful,—taken with hesitation and swallowed with
difficulty,—Martin and Barney both pronounced it "capital." Sambo, who
had cooked the delicate morsel, and stood watching them, smacked his lips
and added, "Fuss rate."
All being now ready for the hunt, a number of Negroes entered the
water, which was nowhere very deep, with long poles in their hands.
This appeared to Martin and Barney a very reckless and dangerous thing
to do, as no doubt it was. Nevertheless accidents, they were told, very
Sambo, who was the overseer of the party, was the first to dash up to the
middle in the water. "Hi," exclaimed that dingy individual, making a
torrent of remarks in Portuguese, while he darted his long pole hither
and thither; then, observing that Martin and Barney were gazing at him
open mouthed, he shouted, "Look out, boys! here Jim comes! Take care, ole
feller, or he jump right down you' throat! hi-i-i!"
As he spoke, a large alligator, having been rudely stirred up from his
muddy bed, floundered on the surface of the lake and Sambo instantly
gave it a thump over the back and a blow under the ribs; which had the
effect of driving it in the direction of the shore. Here a number of
Negroes were ready for him; and the moment he came within reach, a coil
of rope with a noose on the end of it, called a lasso, was adroitly
thrown over the reptile's head: ten or twelve men then hauled the lasso
and dragged it ashore amid shouts of triumph. This alligator was twenty
feet long, with an enormous misshapen head and fearful rows of teeth
that were terrible to behold. The monster did not submit to be captured,
however, without a struggle; and the Negroes grew wild with excitement
as they yelled and leaped madly about seeking to avoid its dangerous
jaws and the blows of its powerful tail. After some trouble, a second
lasso was thrown over the tail, which was thus somewhat restrained in
its movements; and Sambo, approaching cautiously with an axe, cut a deep
gash just at the root of that formidable appendage, which rendered it
harmless. "Hi-i," shouted Sambo in triumph, as he sprang towards the
animal's head, and inflicted a similar gash in the neck; "dare, you
quite finish, ole feller."
"Musha but that's thrue!" ejaculated Barney, who stood staring at the
whole proceeding like one in a trance. "Did ye iver git a bite, Sambo?"
Barney received no answer, for his sable friend was already up to his
waist in the water with five or six of his brethren, who were flourishing
their long poles and driving the snorting alligators towards the shore,
where their comrades, with lassos and harpoons, awaited them. Sometimes
they harpooned the alligators, and then, fastening lassos to their heads
and tails, or to a hind leg, dragged them ashore; at other times they
threw the lasso over their heads at once, without taking the trouble to
harpoon them. It was a terrible and a wonderful sight to witness the
Negroes in the very midst of a shoal of these creatures, any one of which
could have taken a man into his jaws quite easily,—whence, once between
these long saw-like rows of teeth, no man could have escaped to tell how
sharp they were. The creatures were so numerous that it was impossible to
thrust a pole into the mud without stirring up one of them; but they were
so terrified at the sudden attack and the shouts of the Negroes, that
they thought only of escape.
Suddenly there arose a great cry. One of the lassos had snapt, and the
alligator was floundering back into the water, when Sambo rushed in up to
the arm-pits, and caught the end of the rope. At the same moment two
alligators made at the Negro with open jaws. It is probable that the
animals went in his direction by mere accident, and would have brushed
past him in blind haste; but to Martin and Barney it seemed as if the
poor man's fate were sealed, and they uttered a loud shout of horror as
they bounded simultaneously into the water, not knowing what to do, but
being unable to restrain the impulse to spring to Sambo's aid.
Fortunately, however, one of the other Negroes was near Sambo. He sprang
forward, and dealt the alligators two tremendous blows with his pole on
their snouts, right and left, which turned them off. Then other Negroes
came up, laid hold of Sambo, who would not let go his hold and was being
dragged into deep water, caught the end of the rope, and in ten minutes
hauled their victim to the shore, when it was quickly despatched in the
By this time about a dozen alligators, varying from ten to twenty feet in
length, had been captured; and Barney at length became so bold that he
requested to be allowed to try his hand at throwing the lasso, the
dexterous use of which by the Negroes had filled him with admiration. A
loud burst of laughter greeted this proposal, and Sambo showed a set of
teeth that might have made even the alligators envious, as he handed the
Irishman a coil of line.
"Now don't miss, Barney," cried Martin, laughing heartily, as his comrade
advanced to the edge of the lake and watched his opportunity. "Mind, your
credit as an expert hunter is at stake."
The Senhor Antonio stood close behind the Irishman, with his arms folded
and a sarcastic smile on his countenance.
"Don't send it down him's throat," yelled Sambo. "Hi-i; dat's de vay to
swing urn round. Stir um up, boys!—poke um up, villains, hi!"
The Negroes in the water obeyed with frantic glee, and the terrified
monsters surged about in all directions, so that Barney found it almost
impossible to fix his attention on any particular individual. At length
he made up his mind, whirled the coil round his head, discharged the
noose, caught the Senhor Antonio round the neck, and jerked him violently
to the ground!
There was a simultaneous pause of horror among the slaves; but it was too
much for their risible faculties to withstand; with one accord they
rushed howling into the water to conceal their laughter, and began to
stir up and belabour the alligators with their poles, until the surface
of the lake was a sheet of foam.
Meanwhile the Senhor Antonio sprang to his feet and began to bluster
considerably in Portuguese; but poor Barney seemed awfully crest-fallen,
arid the deep concern which wrinkled his face, and the genuine regret
that sounded in the tones of his voice, at length soothed the indignant
Brazilian, who frowned gravely, and waving his hand, as if to signify
that Barney had his forgiveness, he stalked up to the shed, lighted a
cigarito, and lay down in his hammock.
"Well!" said Martin, in an under-tone, "you did it that time, Barney.
I verily thought the old fellow was hanged. He became quite livid in
"Och! bad luck to the lasso, say I. May I niver more see the swate groves
o' Killarney if iver I meddle with wan again."
"Hi-i; you is fuss rate," said Sambo, as he and his comrades returned and
busied themselves in cutting up the dead alligators. "You beat de Niggers
all to not'ing. Not any of dis yere chiles eber lasso Sen'or Antonio yet;
It was some time before the Negroes could effectually subdue their
merriment, but at length they succeeded, and applied themselves
vigorously to the work of cutting out the fat. The alligators were all
cut open,—a work of no small difficulty, owing to the hard scales
which covered them as with coats of mail; then the fat, which
accumulates in large quantities about the intestines, was cut out and
made up into packets in the skins of the smaller ones, which were taken
off for this purpose.
These packets were afterwards carried to the Senhor's dwelling, and the
fat melted down into oil, which served for burning in lamps quite as well
as train oil. The flesh of a smaller species of alligator, some of which
were also taken, is considered excellent food; and, while the Negroes
were engaged in their work, Barney made himself useful by kindling a
large fire and preparing a savoury dish for "all hands," plentifully
seasoned with salt and pepper, with which condiments the country is well
supplied, and of which the people are exceedingly fond.
There was also caught in this lake a large species of fish called
pirarucu, which, strangely enough, found it possible to exist in spite of
alligators. They were splendid creatures, from five to six feet long, and
covered with large scales more than an inch in diameter, which were
beautifully marked and spotted with red. These fish were most delicately
flavoured, and Barney exerted his talents to the utmost in order to do
them justice. Martin also did his best to prove himself a willing and
efficient assistant, and cleaned and washed the pirarucu steaks and the
junks of alligator-tail to admiration. In short, the exertions of the two
strangers in this way quite won the hearts of the Negroes, and after
dinner the Senhor Antonio had quite recovered his good humour.
While staying at this place Martin had an opportunity of seeing a great
variety of the curious fish with which the Amazon is stocked. These are
so numerous that sometimes, when sailing up stream with a fair wind, they
were seen leaping all round the canoe in shoals, so that it was only
necessary to strike the water with the paddles in order to kill a few.
The peixe boi, or cow-fish, is one of the most curious of the inhabitants
of the Amazon. It is about six feet long, and no less than five feet in
circumference at its thickest part. It is a perfectly smooth, and what we
may call dumpy fish, of a leaden colour, with a semi-circular flat
tail, and a large mouth with thick fleshy lips resembling those of a cow.
There are stiff bristles on the lips, and a few scattered hairs over the
body. It has two fins just behind the head; and below these, in the
females, there are two breasts, from which good white milk flows when
pressure is applied. The cow-fish feeds on grass at the borders of rivers
and lakes; and when suckling its young it carries it in its fins or
flippers, and clasps the little one to its breast, just as a mother
clasps her baby! It is harpooned and taken for the sake of its fat, from
which oil is made. The flesh is also very good, resembling beef in
quality, and it was much relished by Martin and Barney, who frequently
dined on beef-steaks cut from this remarkable cow-fish.
There was also another fish which surprised our adventurers not a little
the first time they met with it. One evening Senhor Antonio had ordered
a net to be thrown into the river, being desirous of procuring a few
fresh fish for the use of his establishment. The Indians and Negroes
soon after commenced dragging, and in a few minutes afterwards the sandy
bank of the river was strewn with an immense variety of small fish,
among which were a few of a larger kind. Martin and Barney became
excited as they saw them leaping and spluttering about, and ran in
amongst them to assist in gathering them into baskets. But scarcely had
the latter advanced a few steps when there was a loud report, as if a
pistol had gone off under his feet.
"Hallo!" exclaimed the Irishman, leaping two feet into the air. On his
reaching the ground again, a similar explosion occurred, and Barney
dashed aside, overturning Martin in his haste. Martin's heel caught on a
stone, and he fell flat on the ground, when instantly there was a report
as if he had fallen upon and burst an inflated paper bag. The natives
laughed loud and long, while the unfortunate couple sprang up the bank,
half inclined to think that an earthquake was about to take place. The
cause of their fright was then pointed out. It was a species of small
fish which has the power of inflating the fore part of its body into a
complete ball, and which, when stamped upon, explodes with a loud noise.
There were great numbers of these scattered among the other fish, and
also large quantities of a little fish armed with long spines, which
inflict a serious wound when trodden upon.
At this place adventures on a small scale crowded upon our travellers
so thickly that Martin began to look upon sudden surprises as a
necessary of life, and Barney said that "if it wint on any longer he
feared his eye-brows would get fixed near the top of his head, and
niver more come down,"
One evening, soon after their departure from the residence of Senhor
Antonio, the old trader was sitting steering in the stern of his canoe,
which was running up before a pretty stiff breeze. Martin was lying on
his back, as was his wont in such easy circumstances, amusing himself
with Marmoset; and Barney was reclining in the bow talking solemnly to
Grampus; when suddenly the wind ceased, and it became a dead calm. The
current was so strong that they could scarcely paddle against it, so they
resolved to go no further that night, and ran the canoe ashore on a low
point of mud, intending to encamp under the trees, no human habitation
being near them. The mud bank was hard and dry, and cracked with the
heat; for it was now the end of the dry season, and the river had long
since retired from it.
"Not a very comfortable place, Barney," said Martin, looking round, as he
threw down one of the bales which he had just carried up from the canoe.
"Hallo! there's a hut, I declare. Come, that's a comfort anyhow."
As he spoke Martin pointed to one of the solitary and rudely constructed
huts or sheds which the natives of the banks of the Amazon sometimes
erect during the dry season, and forsake when the river overflows its
banks. The hut was a very old one, and had evidently been inundated, for
the floor was a mass of dry, solid mud, and the palm-leaf roof was much
damaged. However, it was better than nothing, so they slung their
hammocks under it, kindled a fire, and prepared supper. While they were
busy discussing this meal, a few dark and ominous clouds gathered in the
sky, and the old trader, glancing uneasily about him, gave them to
understand that he feared the rainy season was going to begin.
"Well then," said Barney, lighting his pipe and stretching himself at
full length in his hammock, with a leg swinging to and fro over one side
and his head leaning over the other, as was his wont when he felt
particularly comfortable in mind and body; "Well then, avic, let it
begin. If we're sure to have it anyhow, the sooner it begins the better,
to my thinkin'."
"I don't know that," said Martin, who was seated on a large stone beside
the fire sipping a can of coffee, which he shared equally with Marmoset.
The monkey sat on his shoulder gazing anxiously into his face, with an
expression that seemed as if the creature were mentally exclaiming, "Now
me, now you; now me, now you," during the whole process. "It would be
better, I think, if we were in a more sheltered position before it
begins. Ha! there it comes though, in earnest."
A smart shower began to fall as he spoke, and, percolating through the
old roof, descended rather copiously on the mud floor. In a few minutes
there was a heaving of the ground under their feet!
"Ochone!" cried Barney, taking his pipe out of his mouth and looking down
with a disturbed expression, "there's an arthquake, I do belave."
For a few seconds there was a dead silence.
"Nonsense," whispered Martin uneasily.
"It's dramin' I must have been," sighed Barney, resuming his pipe.
Again the ground heaved and cracked, and Martin and the old trader had
just time to spring to their feet when the mud floor of the hut burst
upwards and a huge dried-up-looking alligator crawled forth, as if from
the bowels of the earth! It glanced up at Barney; opened its tremendous
jaws, and made as if it would run at the terrified old trader; then,
observing the doorway, it waddled out, and, trundling down the bank,
plunged into the river and disappeared.
Barney could find no words to express his feelings, but continued to gaze
with an unbelieving expression down into the hole out of which the
monster had come, and in which it had buried itself many weeks before,
when the whole country was covered with soft mud. At that time it had
probably regarded the shelter of the inundated hut as of some advantage,
and had lain down to repose. The water retiring had left it there buried,
and—as we have already mentioned in reference to alligators—when the
first shower of the rainy season fell it was led by instinct to burst its
earthy prison, and seek its native element.
Before Barney or his companions could recover from their surprise, they
had other and more urgent matters to think about. The dark clouds burst
overhead, and the rain descended like a continued water-spout,—not in
drops but in heavy sheets and masses; the roof of the hut gave way in
several places, driving them into a corner for shelter; the river began
to rise rapidly, soon flooding the hut; and, when darkness overspread the
land, they found themselves drenched to the skin and suspended in their
hammocks over a running stream of water!
This event brought about an entire change in the aspect of nature, and
was the cause of a sad and momentous era in the adventures of Martin
Rattler and his companion.
THE CAPO—INTERRUPTIONS—GRAMPUS AND MARMOSET—CANOEING IN THE WOODS—A
NIGHT ON A FLOATING ISLAND
There is a peculiar and very striking feature in the character of the
great Amazon, which affects the distinctive appearance of that river and
materially alters the manners and customs of those who dwell beside it.
This peculiarity is the periodical overflow of its low banks; and the
part thus overflowed is called the Gapo. It extends from a little above
the town of San-tarem up to the confines of Peru, a distance of about
seventeen hundred miles; and varies in width from one to twenty miles: so
that the country when inundated assumes in many places the appearance of
an extensive lake with forest trees growing out of the water; and
travellers may proceed many hundreds of miles in their canoes without
once entering the main stream of the river. At this time the natives
become almost aquatic animals. Several tribes of Indians inhabit the
Gapo; such as the Purupurus, Muras; and others. They build small movable
huts on the sandy shores during the dry season, and on rafts in the wet
They subsist on turtle, cow-fish, and the other fish with which the river
abounds, and live almost entirely in their canoes; while at night they
frequently sling their hammocks between the branches of trees and sleep
suspended over the deep water.
Some of the animals found in the Gapo are peculiar to it, being attracted
by the fruit-trees which are found growing only there. The Indians assert
that every tree that grows in the Gapo is distinct from all those that
grow in other districts; and when we consider that these trees are
submerged for six months every year, till they are tall enough to rise
above the highest water-level, we may well believe their constitution is
somewhat different from those that are reared on ordinary ground. The
Indians are wonderfully expert in finding their way among the trackless
mazes of the Gapo, being guided by the broken twigs and scraped bark that
indicate the route followed by previous travellers.
Owing to this sudden commencement of the rainy season, the old trader
resolved to return to a small village and there spend several months.
Martin and Barney were much annoyed at this; for the former was impatient
to penetrate further into the interior, and the latter had firmly made up
his mind to visit the diamond mines, about which he entertained the most
extravagant notions. He did not, indeed, know in the least how to get to
these mines, nor even in which direction they lay; but he had a strong
impression that as long as he continued travelling he was approaching
gradually nearer to them, and he had no doubt whatever that he would get
to them at last. It was, therefore, with no small degree of impatience
that they awaited the pleasure of their sable master, who explained to
them that when the waters reached their height he would proceed.
Everything comes to an end, even a long story. After many weeks had
passed slowly by, their sojourn in this village came to an end too. It
was a dull place, very dull, and they had nothing to do; and the few
poor people who lived there seemed to have very little or nothing to do.
We will, therefore, pass it over, and resume our narrative at the point
when the old trader announced to Barney that the flood was at its height
and they would now continue their journey. They embarked once more in
their old canoe with their goods and chattels, not forgetting Marmoset
and Grampus, whose friendship during their inactive life had become more
close than ever. This friendship was evidenced chiefly by the
matter-of-course way in which Grampus permitted the monkey to mount his
back and ride about the village and through the woods, where dry places
could be found, as long as she pleased. Marmoset was fonder of riding
than walking, so that Grampus had enough to do; but he did not put
himself much about. He trotted, walked, galloped, and lay down, when,
and where, and as often as he chose, without any reference to the small
monkey; and Marmoset held on through thick and thin, and nibbled nuts or
whatever else it picked up, utterly regardless of where it was going to
or the pace at which it went. It was sharp, though, that small monkey,
sharp as a needle, and had its little black eyes glancing on all sides;
so that when Grampus dashed through underwood, and the branches
threatened to sweep it off, it ducked its head; or, lying flat down,
shut its eyes and held on with all its teeth and four hands like a
limpet to a rock. Marmoset was not careful as to her attitude on
dog-back. She sat with her face to the front or rear, just as her fancy
or convenience dictated.
After leaving the village they travelled for many days and nights through
the Gapo. Although afloat on the waters of the Amazon, they never entered
the main river after the first few days, but wound their way, in a
creeping, serpentine sort of fashion, through small streams and lakes and
swamps, from which the light was partially excluded by the thick foliage
of the forest. It was a strange scene that illimitable watery waste, and
aroused new sensations in the breasts of our travellers. As Barney said,
it made him "feel quite solemn-like and eerie to travel through the woods
The canoe was forced under branches and among dense bushes, till they got
into a part where the trees were loftier and a deep gloom prevailed. Here
the lowest branches were on a level with the surface of the water, and
many of them were putting forth beautiful flowers. On one occasion they
came to a grove of small palms, which were so deep in the water that the
leaves were only a few feet above the surface. Indeed they were so low
that one of them caught Martin's straw-hat and swept it overboard.
"Hallo! stop!" cried Martin, interrupting the silence so suddenly
that Grampus sprang up with a growl, under the impression that game
was in view; and Marmoset scampered off behind a packing-box with an
"What's wrong, lad?" inquired Barney.
"Back water, quick! my hat's overboard, and there's an alligator going to
snap it up. Look alive, man!"
In a few seconds the canoe was backed and the straw-hat rescued from its
"It's an ill wind that blows nae guid, as the Scotch say," remarked
Barney, rising in the canoe and reaching towards something among the
overhanging branches. "Here's wan o' them trees that old black-face calls
a maraja, with some splendid bunches o' fruit on it. Hould yer hat,
Martin; there's more nor enough for supper anyhow,"
As he spoke a rustling in the leaves told that monkeys were watching us,
and Marmoset kept peeping up as if she half expected they might be
relations. But the moment the travellers caught sight of them they
bounded away screaming.
Having gathered as much fruit as they required, they continued their
voyage, and presently emerged into the pleasant sunshine in a large
grassy lake, which was filled with lilies and beautiful water-plants,
little yellow bladder-worts, with several other plants of which they knew
not the names; especially one with a thick swollen stalk, curious leaves,
and bright blue flowers. This lake was soon passed, and they again
entered into the gloomy forest, and paddled among the lofty trunks of the
trees, which rose like massive columns out of the deep water. There was
enough of animal life there, however, to amuse and interest them. The
constant plash of falling fruit showed that birds were feeding overhead.
Sometimes a flock of parrots or bright blue chatterers swept from tree to
tree, or atrogon swooped at a falling bunch of fruit and caught it ere it
reached the water; while ungainly toucans plumped clumsily down upon the
branches, and sat, in striking contrast, beside the lovely pompadours,
with their claret-coloured plumage and delicate white wings.
Vieing with these birds in splendour were several large bright-yellow
flowers of the creeping-plants, which twined round the trees. Some of
these plants had white, spotted, and purple blossoms; and there was one
splendid species, called by the natives the flor de Santa Anna—the
flower of St. Ann—which emitted a delightful odour and was four inches
Having traversed this part of the wood, they once more emerged upon the
main stream of the Amazon. It was covered with water-fowl. Large logs of
trees and numerous floating islands of grass were sailing down; and on
these sat hundreds of white gulls, demurely and comfortably voyaging to
the ocean; for the sea would be their final resting-place if they sat on
these logs and islands until they descended several hundreds of miles of
the great river.
"I wish," said Martin, after a long silence, during which the travellers
had been gazing on the watery waste as they paddled up stream—"I wish
that we could fall in with solid land, where we might have something
cooked. I'm desperately hungry now; but I don't see a spot of earth large
enough for a mosquito to rest his foot on."
"We'll jist have to take to farhina and wather," remarked Barney, laying
down his paddle and proceeding leisurely to light his pipe. "It's a
blissin' we've got baccy, any how. Tis mesilf that could niver git on
"I wish you joy of it, Barney. It may fill your mouth, but it can't stop
"Och, boy, it's little ye know! Sure it stops the cravin's o' hunger, and
kapes yer stumick from callin' out for iver, till ye fall in with
somethin' to ate."
"It does not seem to stop the mouth then, Barney, for you call out for
grub oftener than I do; and then you say that you couldn't get on without
it; so you're a slave to it, old boy. I wouldn't be a slave to anything
if I could help it."
"Martin, lad, ye're gittin' deep. Take care now, or ye'll be in
mettlefeesics soon. I say, ould black-face,"—Barney was not on ceremony
with the old trader,—"is there no land in thim parts at all?"
"No, not dis night,"
"Och, then, we'll have to git up a tree and try to cook somethin' there;
for I'm not goin' to work on flour and wather. Hallo! hould on! There's
an island, or the portrait o' wan! Port your helm, Naygur! hard aport!
The old man heard, but, as usual, paid no attention to the Irishman's
remarks; and the canoe would have passed straight on, had not Barney used
his bow-paddle so energetically that he managed to steer her, as he
expressed it, by the nose, and ran her against a mass of floating logs
which had caught firmly in a thicket, and were so covered with grass and
broken twigs as to have very much the appearance of a real island. Here
they landed, so to speak, kindled a small fire, made some coffee, roasted
a few fish, baked several cakes, and were soon as happy and comfortable
as hungry and wearied men usually are when they obtain rest and food.
"This is what I call jolly," remarked Barney.
"What's jolly?" inquired Martin.
"Why this, to be sure,—grub to begin with, and a smoke and a
convanient snooze in prospect,"
The hopes which Barney cherished, however, were destined to be blighted,
at least in part. To the victuals he did ample justice; the pipe was
delightful, and in good working order; but when they lay down to repose,
they were attacked by swarms of stinging ants, which the heat of the fire
had driven out of the old logs. These and mosquitoes effectually banished
sleep from their eye-lids, and caused them to reflect very seriously, and
to state to each other more than once very impressively, that, with all
their beauties and wonders, tropical lands had their disadvantages, and
there was no place like the "ould country," after all.
THE SAD AND MOMENTOUS ERA REFERRED TO AT THE CLOSE OF THE CHAPTER
PRECEDING THE LAST
One sultry evening, many weeks after our travellers had passed the
uncomfortable night on the floating island in the Gapo, they came to a
place where the banks of the river rose boldly up in rugged rocks and
hemmed in the waters of the Amazon, which were by this time somewhat
abated. Here they put ashore, intending to kindle their fire and encamp
for the night, having been up and hard at work since daybreak.
The evening was calm and beautiful, and the troublesome insects not so
numerous as usual,—probably owing to the nature of the ground. One or
two monkeys showed themselves for a moment, as if to enquire who was
there, and then ran away screaming; a porcupine also crossed their
path, and several small bright snakes, of a harmless species, glided
over the rocks, and sought refuge among the small bushes; but beyond
these there were few of the sights and sounds that were wont to greet
them in the forest.
"I think things look well to-night," remarked Martin as he threw down a
bundle of sticks which he had gathered for the fire; "we shall have a
comfortable snooze for certain, if the mosquitoes don't wake up."
"I'm not so sure of that," replied Barney, striking a light with flint
and steel and stooping to puff the smouldering spark into a flame. "I've
larned by exparience that ye niver can be—puff—sure o' nothin' in
this—puff—remarkable country. Jist look at Darkey now," continued the
Irishman, sitting down on a stone before the fire, which now began to
kindle up, and stuffing the tobacco into his pipe with his little finger.
"There he is, a livin' Naygur, aliftin' of the provision-bag out o' the
canoe. Well, if he was all of a suddent to turn into Marmoset an' swaller
himself, an' then jump down the throat of Grampus, and the whole consarn,
canoe and all, to disappear, I don't think that I would be much
"Would you not, Barney? I suspect that I should be, a little, under the
circumstances; perhaps the old Nigger would be more so."
"Niver a taste," continued Barney. "Ye see, if that was to happen, I
would then know that it was all a drame. I've more than wance expected to
wake up since I comed into furrin parts; the only thing that kapes me in
doubt about it is the baccy."
"How so, Barney?"
"Why, bekase it tastes so rael, good luck to it! that I can't git myself
to think it's only a drame. Jist look, now," he continued, in the same
tone of voice; "if it wasn't a drame, how could I see sich a thing as
that standin' on the rock over there?"
Martin glanced towards the spot pointed out by his friend, and
immediately started up with surprise.
"Hallo! Barney, that's no dream, I'll vouch for it. He's an Indian, and a
very ugly one too, I declare. I say, old fellow, do you know what sort of
savage that is?"
"Not know," answered the trader, glancing uneasily at the stranger.
"He might have the dacency to put on more close, anyhow," muttered
Barney, as he gazed inquiringly at the savage.
The being who had thus appeared so suddenly before the travellers
belonged to one of the numerous tribes of Indians inhabiting the country
near the head-waters of some of the chief tributaries of the Amazon. He
was almost entirely naked, having merely a scanty covering on his loins;
and carried a small quiver full of arrows at his back, and what appeared
to be a long spear in his hand. His figure was strongly but not well
formed; and his face, which was of a dark copper hue, was disfigured in a
most remarkable manner. A mass of coarse black hair formed the only
covering to his head. His cheeks were painted with curious marks of jet
black. But the most remarkable points about him were the huge pieces of
wood which formed ornaments in his ears and under lip. They were round
and flat like the wooden wheel of a toy-cart, about half an inch thick,
and larger than an old-fashioned watch. These were fitted into enormous
slits made in the ears and under lip, and the latter projected more than
two inches from his mouth! Indeed, the cut that had been made to receive
this ornament was so large that the lip had been almost cut off
altogether, and merely hung by each corner of his mouth! The aspect of
the man was very hideous, and it was by no means improved when, having
recovered from his surprise at unexpectedly encountering strangers, he
opened his mouth to the full extent and uttered a savage yell.
The cry was answered immediately. In a few minutes a troop of upwards of
thirty savages sprang from the woods, and, ascending the rock on which
their comrade stood, gazed down on the travellers in surprise, and, by
their movements, seemed to be making hasty preparations for an attack.
By this time Barney had recovered his self-possession, and became
thoroughly convinced of the reality of the apparition before him. Drawing
his pistol hastily from his belt, he caught up a handful of gravel,
wherewith he loaded it to the muzzle, ramming down the charge with a bit
of mandioca-cake in lieu of a wad; then drawing his cutlass he handed it
to Martin, exclaiming, "Come, lad, we're in for it now. Take you the
cutlass and Til try their skulls with the butt o' my pistol: it has done
good work before now in that way. If there's no more o' the blackguards
in the background we'll bate them aisy."
Martin instinctively grasped the cutlass, and there is no doubt that,
under the impulse of that remarkable quality, British valour, which
utterly despises odds, they would have hurled themselves recklessly upon
the savages, when the horrified old trader threw himself on Barney's neck
and implored him not to fight; for if he did they would all be killed,
and if he only kept quiet the savages would perhaps do them no harm. At
the same moment about fifty additional Indians arrived upon the scene of
action. This, and the old man's earnest entreaties, induced them to
hesitate for an instant, and, before they could determine what to do,
they were surprised by some of the savages, who rushed upon them from
behind and took them prisoners. Barney struggled long and fiercely, but
he was at length overpowered by numbers. The pistol, which missed fire,
was wrenched from his grasp, and his hands were speedily bound behind his
back. Martin was likewise disarmed and secured; not, however, before he
made a desperate slash at one of the savages, which narrowly missed his
skull, and cut away his lip ornament.
As for the old trader, he made no resistance at all, but submitted
quietly to his fate. The savages did not seem to think it worth their
while to bind him. Grampus bounced and barked round the party savagely,
but did not attack; and Marmoset slept in the canoe in blissful ignorance
of the whole transaction.
The hands of the two prisoners being firmly bound, they were allowed to
do as they pleased; so they sat down on a rock in gloomy silence, and
watched the naked savages as they rifled the canoe and danced joyfully
round the treasures which their active knives and fingers soon exposed to
view. The old trader took things philosophically. Knowing that it was
absolutely impossible to escape, he sat quietly down on a stone, rested
his chin on his hands, heaved one or two deep sighs, and thereafter
seemed to be nothing more than an ebony statue.
The ransacking of the canoe and appropriating of its contents occupied
the savages but a short time, after which they packed everything up in
small bundles, which they strapped upon their backs. Then, making signs
to their prisoners to rise, they all marched away into the forest. Just
as they were departing, Marmoset, observing that she was about to be left
behind, uttered a frantic cry, which brought Grampus gambolling to her
side. With an active bound the monkey mounted its charger, and away they
went into the forest in the track of the band of savages.
During the first part of their march Martin and Barney were permitted to
walk beside each other, and they conversed in low, anxious tones.
"Surely," said Barney, as they marched along surrounded by Indians,
"thim long poles the savages have got are not spears; I don't see no
point to them."
"And what's more remarkable," added Martin, "is that they all carry
quivers full of arrows, but none of them have bows."
"There's a raison for iverything," said Barney, pointing to one of the
Indians in advance; "that fellow explains the mystery."
As he spoke, the savage referred to lowered the pole, which seemed to be
about thirteen feet long, and pushing an arrow into a hole in the end of
it, applied it to his mouth. In another moment the arrow flew through the
air and grazed a bird that was sitting on a branch hard by.
"Tis a blow-pipe, and no mistake!" cried Barney.
"And a poisoned arrow, I'm quite sure," added Martin; "for it only
ruffled the bird's feathers, and see, it has fallen to the ground."
"Och, then, but we'd have stood a bad chance in a fight, if thim's the
wipons they use. Och, the dirty spalpeens! Martin, dear, we're done for.
There's no chance for us at all."
This impression seemed to take such deep hold of Barney's mind, that his
usually reckless and half jesting disposition was completely subdued, and
he walked along in gloomy silence, while a feeling of deep dejection
filled the heart of his young companion.
The blow-pipe which these Indians use is an ingeniously contrived weapon.
It is made from a species of palm-tree. When an Indian wants one, he goes
into the woods and selects a tree with a long slender stem of less than
an inch in diameter; he extracts the pith out of this, and then cuts
another stem, so much larger than the first that he can push the small
tube into the bore of the large one,—thus the slight bend in one is
counteracted by the other, and a perfectly straight pipe is formed. The
mouthpiece is afterwards neatly finished off. The arrows used are very
short, having a little ball of cotton at the end to fill the tube of the
blow-pipe. The points are dipped in a peculiar poison, which has the
effect of producing death when introduced into the blood by a mere
scratch of the skin. The Indians can send these arrows an immense
distance, and with unerring aim, as Martin and Barney had many an
opportunity of witnessing during their long and weary journey on foot to
the forest-home of the savages.
WORSE AND WORSE—EVERYTHING SEEMS TO GO WRONG TOGETHER
Although the Indians did not maltreat the unfortunate strangers who had
thus fallen into their hands, they made them proceed by forced marches
through the wilderness; and as neither Barney nor Martin had been of late
much used to long walks, they felt the journey very severely. The old
trader had been accustomed to everything wretched and unfortunate and
uncomfortable from his childhood, so he plodded onward in silent
The country through which they passed became every day more and more
rugged, until at length it assumed the character of a wild mountainous
district. Sometimes they wound their way in a zigzag manner up the
mountain sides, by paths so narrow that they could scarcely find a
foot-hold. At other times they descended into narrow valleys where they
saw great numbers of wild animals of various kinds, some of which the
Indians killed for food. After they reached the mountain district they
loosed the hands of their prisoners, in order to enable them to climb
more easily. Indeed in many places they had to scramble so carefully that
it would have been impossible for any one to climb with his hands tied
behind his back. But the Indians knew full well that they ran no risk of
losing their prisoners; for if they had attempted to escape, dozens of
their number were on the watch, before, behind, and on either side, ready
to dart away in pursuit. Moreover, Barney had a feeling of horror at the
bare idea of the poisoned arrows, that effectually prevented him from
making the smallest attempt at escape. With a cutlass or a heavy stick he
would have attacked the whole tribe single-handed, and have fought till
his brains were knocked out; but when he thought of the small arrows that
would pour upon him in hundreds if he made a dash for the woods, and the
certain death that would follow the slightest scratch, he discarded all
idea of rebellion.
One of the animals killed by the Indians at this time was a black
jaguar,—a magnificent animal, and very fierce. He was discovered
crouching in a thicket backed by a precipice, from which he could only
escape by charging through the ranks of his enemies. He did it nobly.
With a roar that rebounded from the face of the high cliff and echoed
through the valley like a peal of thunder, he sprang out and rushed at
the savages in front, who scattered like chaff right and left. But at the
same instant fifty blow-pipes sent their poisoned shafts into his body,
and, after a few convulsive bounds, the splendid monarch of the American
forests fell dead on the ground. The black jaguar is a somewhat rare
animal, and is very seldom seen. This one was therefore hailed as a great
prize, and the skin and claws were carefully preserved.
On the afternoon of the same day the party came to a broad stream, over
which they, or some other of the numerous tribes in the country, had
constructed a very simple and curious bridge. It was a single rope
attached to an immense mass of rock on one side and to the stem of a
large tree on the other. On this tight-rope was fastened a simple loop of
cord, so constructed that it could encircle the waist of a man and at the
same time traverse from one end of the tight-rope to the other. Barney
put on a comical frown when he came to this and saw the leader of the
party rest his weight in the loop, and, in clinging with hands and legs
to the long rope, work himself slowly across.
"Arrah! it's well for us, Martin, that we're used to goin' aloft," said
he, "or that same bridge would try our narves a little."
"So it would, Barney. I've seldom seen a more uncomfortable-looking
contrivance. If we lost our hold we should first be dashed to pieces on
the rocks, and then be drowned in the river."
Difficult though the passage seemed, however? it was soon accomplished by
the active savages in safety. The only one of the party likely to be left
behind was Grampus; whom his master, after much entreaty in dumb-show,
was permitted to carry over by tying him firmly to his shoulders.
Marmoset crossed over walking, like a tight-rope dancer, being quite au
fait at such work. Soon after they came to another curious bridge over a
ravine. It had been constructed by simply felling two tall trees on the
edge of it in such a manner that they fell across. They were bound
together with the supple vines that grew there in profusion. Nature had
soon covered the whole over with climbing plants and luxuriant verdure;
and the bridge had become a broad and solid structure over which the
whole party marched with perfect ease. Several such bridges were crossed,
and also a few of the rope kind, during the journey.
After many weeks' constant travelling, the Indians came to a beautiful
valley one evening just about sunset, and began to make the usual
preparations for encamping. The spot they selected was a singular one. It
was at the foot of a rocky gorge, up which might be seen trees and bushes
mingled with jagged rocks and dark caverns, with a lofty sierra or
mountain range in the background. In front was the beautiful valley which
they had just crossed. On a huge rock there grew a tree of considerable
size, the roots of which projected beyond the rock several yards, and
then, bending downwards, struck into the ground. Creeping plants had
twined thickly among the roots, and thus formed a sort of lattice-work
which enclosed a large space of ground. In this natural arbour the chiefs
of the Indians took up their quarters and kindled their fire in the
centre of it, while the main body of the party pitched their camp
outside. The three prisoners were allotted a corner in the arbour; and,
after having supped, they spread their ponchos on a pile of ferns, and
found themselves very snug indeed.
"Martin," said Barney, gravely, as he smoked his pipe and patted the head
of his dog, "d'ye know I'm beginning to feel tired o' the company o' thim
naked rascals, and I've been revolvin' in my mind what we should do to
escape. Moreover, I've corned to a conclusion."
"And what's that?" inquired Martin.
"That it's unposs'ble to escape at all, and I don't know what to do."
"That's not a satisfactory conclusion, Barney. I, too, have been
cogitating a good deal about these Indians, and it is my opinion that
they have been on a war expedition, for I've noticed that several of
them have been wounded; and, besides, I cannot fancy what else could
take them so far from home."
"True, Martin, true. I wonder what they intind to do with us. They don't
mean to kill us, anyhow; for if they did they would niver take the
trouble to bring us here. Ochone! me heart's beginnin' to go down
altogether; for we are miles and miles away from anywrhere now, and I
don't know the direction o' no place whatsumdiver."
"Never mind, Barney, cheer up," said Martin with a smile; "if they don't
kill us that's all we need care about. I'm sure we shall manage to escape
somehow or other in the long-run."
While they thus conversed the old trader spread his poncho over himself
and was soon sound asleep; while the Indians, after finishing supper,
held an animated conversation. At times they seemed to be disputing, and
spoke angrily and with violent gesticulations, glancing now and then at
the corner where their prisoners lay.
"It's my belafe," whispered Barney, "that they're spakin' about us. I'm
afeard they don't mean us any good. Och, but if I wance had my pistol and
the ould cutlass. Well, well, it's of no manner o' use frettin'.
Good-night, Martin, good-night!"
The Irishman knocked the ashes out of his pipe, turned his face to the
wall, and, heaving a deep sigh, speedily forgot his cares in sleep. The
Indians also lay down, the camp-fires died slowly out; and the deep
breathing of the savages alone betokened the presence of man in that lone
Barney's forebodings proved to be only too well founded; for next
morning, instead of pursuing their way together, as usual, the savages
divided their forces into two separate bands, placing the Irishman and
the old trader in the midst of one, and Martin Rattler with the other.
"Surely they're niver goin' to part us, Martin," said Barney with a
care-worn expression on his honest countenance that indicated the anxious
suspicions in his heart.
"I fear it much," replied Martin with a startled look, as he watched the
proceedings of the Indians. "We must fight now, Barney, if we should die
for it. We must not be separated."
Martin spoke with intense fervour and gazed anxiously in the face of his
friend. A dark frown had gathered there. The sudden prospect of being
forcibly torn from his young companion, whom he regarded with almost a
mother's tenderness, stirred his enthusiastic and fiery temperament to
its centre, and he gazed wildly about, as if for some weapon. But the
savages anticipated his intention; ere he could grasp any offensive
weapon two of their number leaped upon him, and at the same moment
Martin's arms were pinioned in a powerful grasp.
"Och, ye murderin' blackguards!" cried Barney, hitting out right and left
and knocking down a savage at each blow. "Now or niver! come on, ye
A general rush was made upon the Irishman, who was fairly overturned by
the mass of men. Martin struggled fiercely to free himself, and would
have succeeded had not two powerful Indians hastened to the help of the
one who had first seized him. Despite his frantic efforts, he was dragged
forcibly up the mountain gorge, the echoes of which rang with his cries
as he shouted despairingly the name of his friend. Barney fought like a
tiger; but he could make no impression on such numbers. Although at least
a dozen Indians lay around him bleeding and stunned by the savage blows
of his fists,—a species of warfare which was entirely new to
them,—fresh savages crowded round. But they did not wish to kill him,
and numerous though they were, they found it no easy matter to secure so
powerful a man; and when Martin turned a last despairing glance towards
the camp, ere a turn in the path shut it out from view, the hammer-like
fists of his comrade were still smashing down the naked creatures who
danced like monkeys round him, and the war-like shouts of his stentorian
voice reverberated among the cliffs and caverns of the mountain pass long
after he was hid from view.
Thus Martin and Barney were separated in the wild regions near the Sierra
dos Parecis of Brazil.
MARTIN REFLECTS MUCH, AND FORMS A FIRM RESOLVE—THE INDIAN VILLAGE
When the mind has been overwhelmed by some sudden and terrible calamity,
it is long ere it again recovers its wonted elasticity. An aching void
seems to exist in the heart, and a dead weight appears to press upon the
brain, so that ordinary objects make but little impression, and the soul
seems to turn inwards and brood drearily upon itself. The spirit of fun
arid frolick, that had filled Martin Rattler's heart ever since he landed
in Brazil, was now so thoroughly and rudely crushed, that he felt as if
it were utterly impossible that he should ever smile again.
He had no conception of the strength of his affection for the rough,
hearty sailor, who had until now been the faithful and good-humoured
companion of his wanderings. As Barney had himself said on a former
occasion, his life up till this period had been a pleasant and exciting
dream. But he was now awakened rudely to the terrible reality of his
forlorn position; and the more he thought of it the more hopeless and
terrible it appeared to be.
He knew not in what part of Brazil he was; he was being hurried
apparently deeper into these vast solitudes by savages who were certainly
not friendly, and of whose language he knew not a word; and worst of all,
he was separated perhaps for ever from the friend on whom, all
unconsciously to himself, he had so long leaned for support in all their
difficulties and dangers. Even though he and Barney should succeed in
escaping from the Indians, he felt—and his heart was overwhelmed at the
thought—that in such a vast country there was not the shadow of a chance
that they should find each other. Under the deep depression produced by
these thoughts Martin wandered on wearily, as if in a dream—taking no
interest in anything that occurred by the way. At length, after several
days fatiguing journey over mountains and plains, they arrived at the
Here the warriors were received with the utmost joy by the wives and
children whom they had left behind, and for a long time Martin was left
almost entirely to do as he pleased. A few days before, his bonds had
been removed, and once or twice he thought of attempting to escape; but
whenever he wandered a little further than usual into the woods, he found
that he was watched and followed by a tall and powerful savage, whose
duty it evidently was to see that the prisoner did not escape. The
fearful idea now entered Martin's mind that he was reserved for torture,
and perhaps a lingering death; for he had read that many savage nations
treated their prisoners in this cruel manner, for the gratification of
the women who had lost relations in the war. But as no violence was
offered to him in the meantime, and he had as much farina and fruit to
eat as he could use, his mind gradually became relieved, and he
endeavoured as much as possible to dismiss the terrible thought
The Indian village occupied a lovely situation at the base of a gentle
hill or rising ground, the summit of which was clothed with luxuriant
trees and shrubs. The huts were of various shapes and sizes, and very
simple in construction. They were built upon the bare ground; some were
supported by four corner posts, twelve or fifteen feet high, and from
thirty to forty feet long, the walls being made of thin laths connected
with wicker-work and plastered with clay. The doors were made of
palm-leaves, and the roofs were covered with the same material, or with
maize straw. Other huts were made almost entirely of palm-leaves and
tent-shaped in form; and, while a few were enclosed by walls, the most of
the square ones had one or more sides entirely open. In the large huts
several families dwelt together, and each family had a hearth and a
portion of the floor allotted to it. The smoke from their fires was
allowed to find its way out by the doors and chinks in the roofs, as no
chimneys were constructed for its egress.
The furniture of each hut was very simple. It consisted of a few earthen
pots; baskets made of palm-leaves, which were filled with Spanish
potatoes, maize, mandioca roots, and various kinds of wild fruits; one or
two drinking vessels; the hollow trunk of a tree, used for pounding maize
in; and several dishes which contained the colours used by the Indians in
painting their naked bodies,—a custom which was very prevalent amongst
them. Besides these things, there were bows, arrows, spears, and
blow-pipes in abundance; and hammocks hung from various posts, elevated
about a foot from the ground. These hammocks were made of cotton cords,
and served the purpose of tables, chairs, and beds.
The ground in the immediate neighbourhood of the village was laid out in
patches, in which were cultivated mandioca roots, maize, and other plants
useful for domestic purposes. In front of the village there was an
extensive valley, through which a small river gurgled with a pleasant
sound. It was hemmed in on all sides by wooded mountains, and was so
beautifully diversified by scattered clusters of palms, and irregular
patches of undulating grassy plains all covered with a rich profusion of
tropical flowers and climbing plants, that it seemed to Martin more like
a magnificent garden than the uncultivated forest,—only far more rich
and lovely and picturesque than any artificial garden could possibly be.
When the sun shone in full splendour on this valley—as it almost always
did—it seemed as if the whole landscape were on the point of bursting
into flames of red and blue, and green and gold; and when Martin sat
under the shade of a tamarind-tree and gazed long upon the enchanting
scene, his memory often reverted to the Eden of which he used to read in
the Bible at home, and he used to wonder if it were possible that the sun
and flowers and trees could be more lovely in the time when Adam walked
with God in Paradise.
Martin was young then, and he did not consider, although he afterwards
came to know, that it was not the beauty of natural objects, but the
presence and favour of God and the absence of sin, that rendered the
Garden of Eden a paradise. But these thoughts always carried him back to
dear old Aunt Dorothy and the sweet village of Ashford; and the Brazilian
paradise was not unfrequently obliterated in tears while he gazed, and
turned into a vale of weeping. Ay, he would have given that magnificent
valley,—had it been his own,—ten times over, in exchange for one more
glance at the loved faces and the green fields of home.
Soon after his arrival at the Indian village Martin was given to
understand, by signs, that he was to reside with a particular family, and
work every day in the maize and mandioca fields, besides doing a great
deal of the drudgery of the hut; so that he now knew he was regarded as a
slave by the tribe into whose hands he had fallen. It is impossible to
express the bitterness of his feelings at this discovery, and for many
weeks he went about his work scarcely knowing what he did, and caring
little, when the hot sun beat on him so fiercely that he could hardly
stand, whether he lived or died. At length, however, he made up his mind
firmly to attempt his escape. He was sitting beneath the shade of his
favourite resort, the tamarind-tree, when he made this resolve. Longing
thoughts of home had been strong upon him all that day, and desire for
the companionship of Barney had filled his heart to bursting; so that the
sweet evening sunshine and the beautiful vale over which his eyes
wandered, instead of affording him pleasure, seemed but to mock his
misery. It was a lesson that all must learn sooner or later, and one we
would do well to think upon before we learn it, that sunshine in the soul
is not dependent on the sunshine of this world, and when once the clouds
descend, the brightest beams of all that earth contains cannot pierce
them,—God alone can touch these dark clouds with the finger of love and
mercy, and say again, as He said of old, "Let there be light." A firm
purpose, formed with heart and will, is cheering and invigorating to a
depressed mind. No sooner did the firm determination to escape or die
enter into Martin's heart, than he sprang from his seat, and, falling on
his knees, prayed to God, in the name of our Redeemer, for help and
guidance. He had not the least idea of how he was to effect his escape,
or of what he intended to do. All he knew was that he had made up his
mind to do so, if God would help him. And under the strength of that
resolve he soon recovered much of his former cheerfulness of disposition,
and did his work among the savages with a degree of energy that filled
them with surprise and respect. From that day forth he never ceased to
revolve in his mind every imaginable and unimaginable plan of escape, and
to watch every event or circumstance, no matter how trifling, that seemed
likely to aid him in his purpose.
Seeing that he was a very strong and active fellow, and that he had
become remarkably expert in the use of the bow and the blow-pipe, the
Indians now permitted Martin to accompany them frequently on their
short hunting expeditions, so that he had many opportunities of seeing
more of the wonderful animals and plants of the Brazilian forests, in
the studying of which he experienced great delight. Moreover, in the
course of a few months he began to acquire a smattering of the Indian
language, and was not compelled to live in constant silence, as had
been the case at first. But he carefully avoided the formation of any
friendships with the youths of the tribe, although many of them seemed
to desire it, considering that his doing so might in some way or other
interfere with the execution of his great purpose. He was civil and
kind to them all, however, though reserved; and, as time wore away, he
enjoyed much more liberty than was the case at first. Still, however,
he was watched by the tall savage, who was a surly, silent fellow, and
would not be drawn into conversation. Indeed he did not walk with
Martin, but followed him wherever he went, during his hours of leisure,
at a distance of a few hundred yards, moving when his prisoner moved,
and stopping when he halted, so that Martin at last began to regard him
more as a shadow than a man.
SAVAGE FEASTS AND ORNAMENTS—MARTIN GROWS DESPERATE, AND MAKES A BOLD
ATTEMPT TO ESCAPE
Hunting and feasting were the chief occupations of the men of the tribe
with whom Martin sojourned. One day Martin was told that a great feast
was to take place, and he was permitted to attend. Accordingly, a little
before the appointed time he hastened to the large hut in and around
which the festivities were to take place, in order to witness the
The first thing that struck him was that there seemed to be no
preparations making for eating; and on inquiry he was told that they did
not meet to eat, they met to drink and dance,—those who were hungry
might eat at home.
The preparations for drinking were made on an extensive scale by the
women, a number of whom stood round a large caldron, preparing its
contents for use. These women wore very little clothing, and their
bodies, besides being painted in a fantastic style, were also decorated
with flowers and feathers. Martin could not help feeling that, however
absurd the idea of painting the body was, it had at least the good effect
of doing away to some extent with the idea of nakedness; for the curious
patterns and devices gave to the Indians the appearance of being clothed
in tights,—and, at any rate, he argued mentally, paint was better than
nothing. Some of the flowers were artificially constructed out of
beetles' wings, shells, fish-scales, and feathers, and were exquisitely
beautiful as well as gorgeous.
One of the younger women struck Martin as being ultra-fashionable in her
paint. Her black shining hair hung like a cloak over her reddish-brown
shoulders, and various strange drawings and figures ornamented her face
and breast. On each cheek she had a circle, and over that two strokes;
under the nose were four red spots; from the corners of her mouth to the
middle of each cheek were two parallel lines, and below these several
upright stripes; on various parts of her back and shoulders were
curiously entwined circles, and the form of a snake was depicted in
vermilion down each arm. Unlike the others, she wore no ornament except a
simple necklace of monkeys' teeth. This beauty was particularly active in
manufacturing the intoxicating drink, which is prepared thus:—A quantity
of maize was pounded in the hollow trunk of a tree and put into an
earthen pot, where it was boiled in a large quantity of water. Then the
woman took the coarsely ground and boiled flour out of the water, chewed
it in their mouths for a little, and put it into the pot again! By this
means the decoction began to ferment and became intoxicating. It was a
very disgusting method, yet it is practised by many Indian tribes in
America; and, strange to say, also by some of the South Sea islanders,
who, of course, could not have learned it from these Indians.
When this beverage was ready, the chief, a tall, broad-shouldered man,
whose painted costume and ornaments were most elaborate, stepped up to
the pot and began a strange series of incantations, which he accompanied
by rattling a small wooden instrument in his hand; staring all the time
at the earthen pot, as if he half expected it to run away; and dancing
slowly round it, as if to prevent such a catastrophe from taking place.
The oftener the song was repeated the more solemn and earnest became the
expression of his face and the tones of his voice. The rest of the
Indians, who were assembled to the number of several hundreds, stood
motionless round the pot, staring at him intently without speaking, and
only now and then, when the voice and actions of the chief became much
excited, they gave vent to a sympathetic howl.
After this had gone on for some time, the chief seized a drinking-cup,
or cuja, which he gravely dipped into the pot and took a sip. Then the
shaking of the rattle and the monotonous song began again. The chief
next took a good pull at the cup and emptied it; after which he
presented it to his companions, who helped themselves at pleasure; and
the dance and monotonous music became more furious and noisy the longer
the cup went round.
When the cup had circulated pretty freely among them, their dances and
music became more lively; but they were by no means attractive. After he
had watched them a short time, Martin left the festive scene with a
feeling of pity for the poor savages; and as he thought upon their low
and debased condition he recalled to mind the remark of his old friend
the hermit,—"They want the Bible in Brazil."
During his frequent rambles in the neighbourhood of the Indian village,
Martin discovered many beautiful and retired spots, to which he was in
the habit of going in the evenings after his daily labours were
accomplished, accompanied, as usual, at a respectful distance, by his
vigilant friend the tall savage. One of his favourite resting-places was
at the foot of a banana-tree which grew on the brow of a stupendous cliff
about a mile distant from the hut in which he dwelt. From this spot he
had a commanding view of the noble valley and the distant mountains.
These mountains now seemed to the poor boy to be the ponderous gates of
his beautiful prison; for he had been told by one of his Indian friends
that on the other side of them were great campos and forests, beyond
which dwelt many Portuguese, while still further on was a great lake
without shores, which was the end of the world. This, Martin was
convinced, must be the Atlantic Ocean; for, upon inquiry, he found that
many months of travel must be undergone ere it could be reached.
Moreover, he knew that it could not be the Pacific, because the sun rose
in that direction.
Sauntering away to his favourite cliff, one fine evening towards sunset,
he seated himself beneath the banana-tree and gazed longingly at the
distant mountains, whose sharp summits glittered in the ruddy glow. He
had long racked his brain in order to devise some method of escape, but
hitherto without success. Wherever he went the "shadow" followed him,
armed with the deadly blow-pipe; and he knew that even if he did succeed
in eluding his vigilance and escaping into the woods, hundreds of
savages would turn out and track him, with unerring certainty, to any
hiding-place. Still the strength of his stern determination sustained
him; and, at each failure in his efforts to devise some means of
effecting his purpose, he threw off regret with a deep sigh, and
returned to his labour with a firmer step, assured that he should
As he sat there on the edge of the precipice, he said, half aloud, "What
prevents me from darting suddenly on that fellow and knocking him down?"
This was a question that might have been easily answered. No doubt he was
physically capable of coping with the man, for he had now been upwards of
a year in the wilderness, and was in his sixteenth year, besides being
unusually tall and robust for his age. Indeed he looked more like a
full-grown man than a stripling; for hard, incessant toil had developed
his muscles and enlarged his frame, and his stirring life, combined
latterly with anxiety, had stamped a few of the lines of manhood on his
sunburnt countenance. But, although he could have easily overcome the
Indian, he knew that he would be instantly missed; and, from what he had
seen of the powers of the savages in tracking wild animals to their dens
in the mountains, he felt that he could not possibly elude them except by
Perplexed and wearied with unavailing thought and anxiety, Martin pressed
his hands to his forehead and gazed down the perpendicular cliff, which
was elevated fully a hundred feet above the plain below. Suddenly he
started and clasped his hands upon his eyes, as if to shut out some
terrible object from his sight. Then, creeping cautiously towards the
edge of the cliff, he gazed down, while an expression of stern resolution
settled upon his pale face.
And well might Martin's cheek blanch, for he had hit upon a plan of
escape which, to be successful, required that he should twice turn a
bold, unflinching face on death. The precipice, as before mentioned, was
fully a hundred feet high, and quite perpendicular. At the foot of it
there flowed a deep and pretty wide stream, which, just under the spot
where Martin stood, collected in a deep black pool, where it rested for a
moment ere it rushed on its rapid course down the valley. Over the cliff
and into that pool Martin made up his mind to plunge, and so give the
impression that he had fallen over and been drowned. The risk he ran in
taking such a tremendous leap was very great indeed, but that was only
half the danger he must encounter.
The river was one of a remarkable kind, of which there are one or two
instances in South America. It flowed down the valley between high
rocks, and, a few hundred yards below the pool, it ran straight against
the face of a precipice and there terminated to all appearance; but a
gurgling vortex in the deep water at the base of the cliff, and the
disappearance of everything that entered it, showed that the stream
found a subterranean passage. There was no sign of its reappearance,
however, in all the country round. In short, the river was lost in the
bowels of the earth.
From the pool to the cliff where the river was engulfed the water ran
like a mill-race, and there was no spot on either bank where any one
could land, or even grasp with his hand, except one. It was a narrow,
sharp rock, that jutted out about two feet from the bank, quite close to
the vortex of the whirlpool. This rock was Martin's only hope. To miss it
would be certain destruction. But if he should gain a footing on it he
knew that he could climb by a narrow fissure into a wild, cavernous spot,
which it was exceedingly difficult to reach from any other point. A bend
in the river concealed this rock and the vortex from the place whereon he
stood, so that he hoped to be able to reach the point of escape before
the savage could descend the slope and gain the summit of the cliff from
whence it could be seen.
Of all this Martin was well aware, for he had been often at the place
before, and knew every inch of the ground. His chief difficulty would be
to leap over the precipice in such a manner as to cause the Indian to
believe he had fallen over accidentally. If he could accomplish this,
then he felt assured the savages would suppose he had been drowned, and
so make no search for him at all. Fortunately the ground favoured this.
About five feet below the edge of the precipice there was a projecting
ledge of rock nearly four feet broad and covered with shrubs. Upon this
it was necessary to allow himself to fall. The expedient was a desperate
one, and he grew sick at heart as he glanced down the awful cliff, which
seemed to him three times higher than it really was, as all heights do
when seen from above.
Glancing round, he observed his savage guardian gazing contemplatively at
the distant prospect. Martin's heart beat audibly as he rose and walked
with an affectation of carelessness to the edge of the cliff. As he gazed
down, a feeling of horror seized him; he gasped for breath, and almost
fainted. Then the idea of perpetual slavery flashed across his mind, and
the thought of freedom and home nerved him: He clenched his hands,
staggered convulsively forward and fell, with a loud and genuine shriek
of terror, upon the shrubs that covered the rocky ledge. Instantly he
arose, ground his teeth together, raised his eyes for one moment to
heaven, and sprang into the air. For one instant he swept through empty
space; the next he was deep down in the waters of the dark pool, and when
the horrified Indian reached the edge of the precipice, he beheld his
prisoner struggling on the surface for a moment, ere he was swept by the
rapid stream round the point and out of view.
Bounding down the slope, the savage sped like a hunted antelope across
the intervening space between the two cliffs, and quickly gained the brow
of the lower precipice, which he reached just in time to see Martin
Rattler's straw hat dance for a moment on the troubled waters of the
vortex and disappear in the awful abyss. But Martin saw it, too, from the
cleft in the frowning rock.
On reaching the surface after his leap he dashed the water from his eyes
and looked with intense earnestness in the direction of the projecting
rock towards which he was hurried. Down he came upon it with such speed
that he felt no power of man could resist. But there was a small eddy
just below it, into which he was whirled as he stretched forth his hands
and clutched the rock with the energy of despair. He was instantly torn
away. But another small point projected two feet below it. This he
seized. The water swung his feet to and fro as it gushed into the vortex,
but the eddy saved him. In a moment his breast was on the rock, then his
foot, and he sprang into the sheltering cleft just a moment before the
Indian came in view of the scene of his supposed death.
Martin flung himself with his face to the ground, and thought rather than
uttered a heartfelt thanksgiving for his deliverance. The savage carried
the news of his death to his friends in the Indian village, and recounted
with deep solemnity the particulars of his awful fate to crowds of
wondering,—in many cases sorrowing,—listeners; and for many a day after
that, the poor savages were wont to visit the terrible cliff and gaze
with awe on the mysterious vortex that had swallowed up, as they
believed, the fair-haired boy.
THE ESCAPE—ALONE IN THE WILDERNESS—FIGHT BETWEEN A JAGUAR AND AN
ALLIGATOR—MARTIN ENCOUNTERS STRANGE AND TERRIBLE CREATURES
Freedom can be fully appreciated only by those who have been for a long
period deprived of liberty. It is impossible to comprehend the feelings
of joy that welled up in Martin's bosom as he clambered up the rugged
cliffs among which he had found shelter, and looked round upon the
beautiful valley, now lying in the shadow of the mountain range behind
which the sun had just set. He sat down on a rock, regardless of the wet
condition of his clothes, and pondered long and earnestly over his
position, which was still one of some danger; but a sensation of
light-hearted recklessness made the prospect before him seem very bright.
He soon made up his mind what to do. The weather was extremely warm, so
that after wringing the water out of his linen clothes he experienced
little discomfort; but he felt that there would not only be discomfort
but no little danger in travelling in such a country without arms,
covering, or provisions. He therefore determined on the bold expedient of
revisiting the Indian village during the darkness of the night in order
to procure what he required. He ran great risk of being retaken, but his
necessity was urgent, and he was aware that several families were absent
on a hunting expedition at that time whose huts were pretty certain to be
Accordingly, when two or three hours of the night had passed, he
clambered with much difficulty down the precipitous rock and reached the
level plain, over which he quickly ran, and soon reached the outskirts of
the village. The Indians were all asleep, and no sound disturbed the
solemn stillness of the night. Going stealthily towards a hut he peeped
in at the open window, but could see and hear nothing. Just as he was
about to enter, however, a long-drawn breath proved that it was occupied.
He shrank hastily back into the deep shade of the bushes. In a few
minutes he recovered from the agitation into which he had been thrown and
advanced cautiously towards another hut. This one seemed to be
untenanted, so he opened the palm-leaf door gently and entered. No time
was to be lost now. He found an empty sack or bag, into which he hastily
threw as much farina as he could carry without inconvenience. Besides
this, he appropriated a long knife; a small hatchet; a flint and steel,
to enable him to make a fire; and a stout bow with a quiver full of
arrows. It was so dark that it was with difficulty he found these things.
But as he was on the point of leaving he observed a white object in a
corner. This turned out to be a light hammock, which he seized eagerly,
and, rolling it up into a small bundle, placed it in the sack. He also
sought for, and fortunately found, an old straw-hat, which he put on.
Martin had now obtained all that he required, and was about to quit the
hut when he became suddenly rooted to the spot with horror on observing
the dark countenance of an Indian gazing at him with distended eyeballs
over the edge of a hammock. His eyes, unaccustomed to the darkness of the
room, had not at first observed that an Indian was sleeping there. He now
felt that he was lost. The savage evidently knew him. Dreadful thoughts
flashed through his brain. He thought of the knife in his belt, and how
easily he could despatch the Indian in a moment as he lay; but then the
idea of imbruing his hands in human blood seemed so awful that he could
not bring himself to do it.
As he looked steadily at the savage he observed that his gaze was one of
intense horror, and it suddenly occurred to him that the Indian supposed
he was a ghost! Acting upon this supposition, Martin advanced his face
slowly towards that of the Indian, put on a dark frown, and stood for a
few seconds without uttering a word. The savage shrank back and shuddered
from head to foot. Then, with a noiseless step, Martin retreated slowly
backward towards the door and passed out like a spectre—never for a
moment taking his eyes off those of the savage until he was lost in
darkness. On gaining the forest he fled with a beating heart to his
former retreat; but his fears were groundless, for the Indian firmly
believed that Martin's spirit had visited his hut and carried away
provisions for his journey to the land of spirits.
Without waiting to rest, Martin no sooner reached the scene of his
adventurous leap than he fastened his bag firmly on his shoulders and
struck across the valley in the direction of the blue mountains that
hemmed it in. Four or five hours' hard walking brought him to their base,
and long before the rising sun shone down upon his recent home he was
over the hills and far away, trudging onward with a weary foot, but with
a light heart, in what he believed to be the direction of the east coast
of Brazil. He did not dare to rest until the rugged peaks of the mountain
range were between him and the savages; but, when he had left these far
behind him, he halted about mid-day to breakfast and repose by the margin
of a delightfully cool mountain stream.
"I'm safe now!" said Martin aloud, as he threw down his bundle beneath a
spreading tree and commenced to prepare breakfast. "O! my friend Barney,
I wish that you were here to keep me company." The solitary youth looked
round as if he half expected to see the rough visage and hear the
gladsome voice of his friend; but no voice replied to his, and the only
living creature he saw was a large monkey, which peered inquisitively
clown at him from among the branches of a neighbouring bush. This
reminded him that he had left his pet Marmoset in the Indian village, and
a feeling of deep self-reproach filled his heart In the haste and anxiety
of his flight he had totally forgotten his little friend. But regret was
now unavailing. Marmoset was lost to him for ever.
Having kindled a small fire, Martin kneaded a large quantity of farina in
the hollow of a smooth stone, and baked a number of flat cakes, which
were soon fired and spread out upon the ground. While thus engaged, a
snake of about six feet long and as thick as a man's arm glided past him.
Martin started convulsively, for he had never seen one of the kind
before, and he knew that the bite of some of the snakes is deadly.
Fortunately his axe was at hand. Grasping it quickly, he killed the
reptile with a single blow. Two or three mandioca cakes, a few wild
fruits, and a draught of water from the stream, formed the wanderer's
simple breakfast. After it was finished, he slung his hammock between two
trees, and jumping in, fell into a deep, untroubled slumber, in which he
continued all that day and until daybreak the following morning.
After partaking of a hearty breakfast, Martin took up his bundle and
resumed his travels. That day he descended into the level and wooded
country that succeeded the mountain range; and that night he was obliged
to encamp in a swampy place near a stagnant lake in which several
alligators were swimming, and where the mosquitoes were so numerous that
he found it absolutely impossible to sleep. At last, in despair, he
sprang into the branches of the tree to which his hammock was slung and
ascended to the top. Here, to his satisfaction, he found that there were
scarcely any mosquitoes, while a cool breeze fanned his fevered brow; so
he determined to spend the night in the tree.
By binding several branches together he formed a rude sort of couch, on
which he lay down comfortably, placing his knife and bow beside him, and
using the hammock rolled up as a pillow. As the sun was setting, and
while he leaned on his elbow looking down through the leaves with much
interest at the alligators that gambolled in the reedy lake, his
attention was attracted to a slight rustling in the bushes near the foot
of the tree. Looking down, he perceived a large jaguar gliding through
the underwood with cat-like stealth. Martin now observed that a huge
alligator had crawled out of the lake, and was lying on the bank asleep a
few yards from the margin. When the jaguar reached the edge of the bushes
it paused, and then, with one tremendous spring, seized the alligator by
the soft part beneath its tail. The huge monster struggled for a few
seconds, endeavouring to reach the water, and then lay still, while the
jaguar worried and tore at its tough hide with savage fury. Martin was
much surprised at the passive conduct of the alligator. That it could not
turn its stiff body, so as to catch the jaguar in its jaws, did not,
indeed, surprise him; but he wondered very much to see the great reptile
suffer pain so quietly. It seemed to be quite paralyzed. In a few minutes
the jaguar retired a short distance. Then the alligator made a rush for
the water; but the jaguar darted back and caught it again; and Martin now
saw that the jaguar was actually playing with the alligator as a cat
plays with a mouse before she kills it! During one of the cessations of
the combat, if we may call it by that name, the alligator almost gained
the water, and in the short struggle that ensued both animals rolled down
the bank and fell into the lake. The tables were now turned. The jaguar
made for the shore; but before it could reach it the alligator wheeled
round, opened its tremendous jaws and caught its enemy by the middle.
There was one loud splash in the water, as the alligator's powerful tail
dashed it into foam; and one awful roar of agony, which was cut suddenly
short and stifled as the monster dived to the bottom with its prey; then
all was silent as the grave, and a few ripples on the surface were all
that remained to tell of the battle that had been fought there.
Martin remained motionless on the tree top, brooding over the fight which
he had just witnessed, until the deepening shadows warned him that it was
time to seek repose. Turning on his side he laid his head on his pillow,
while a soft breeze swayed the tree gently to and fro and rocked him
Thus, day after day, and week after week, did Martin Rattler wander alone
through the great forests, sometimes pleasantly, and at other times with
more or less discomfort; subsisting on game which he shot with his
arrows, and on wild fruits. He met with many strange adventures by the
way, which would fill numerous volumes were they to be written every one;
but we must pass over many of these in silence that we may recount those
that were most interesting.
One evening as he was walking through a very beautiful country, in which
were numerous small lakes and streams, he was suddenly arrested by a
crashing sound in the underwood, as if some large animal were coming
towards him; and he had barely time to fit an arrow to his bow when the
bushes in front of him were thrust aside, and the most hideous monster
that he had ever seen appeared before his eyes. It was a tapir; but
Martin had never heard of or seen such creatures before, although there
are a good many in some parts of Brazil.
The tapir is a very large animal,—about five or six feet long and three
or four feet high. It is in appearance something between an elephant and
a hog. Its nose is very long, and extends into a short proboscis; but
there is no finger at the end of it like that of the elephant. Its
colour is a deep brownish black, its tough hide is covered with a thin
sprinkling of strong hairs, and its mane is thick and bristly. So thick
is its hide that a bullet can scarcely penetrate it; and it can crush
its way through thickets and bushes, however dense, without receiving a
scratch. Although a very terrific animal to look at, it is fortunately
of a very peaceable and timid disposition, so that it flees from danger
and is very quick in discovering the presence of an enemy. Sometimes it
is attacked by the jaguar, which springs suddenly upon it and fastens
its claws in its back; but the tapir's tough hide is not easily torn,
and he gets rid of his enemy by bouncing into the tangled bushes and
bursting through them, so that the jaguar is very soon scraped off his
back! The tapir lives as much in the water as on the land, and delights
to wallow like a pig in muddy pools. It is, in fact, very similar in
many of its habits to the great hippopotamus of Africa, but is not quite
so large. It feeds entirely on vegetables, buds, fruits, and the tender
shoots of trees, and always at night. During the day time it sleeps. The
Indians of Brazil are fond of its flesh, and they hunt it with spears
and poisoned arrows.
But Martin knew nothing of all this, and fully expected that the dreadful
creature before him would attack and kill him; for, when he observed its
coarse, tough-looking hide, and thought of the slender arrows with which
he was armed, he felt that he had no chance, and there did not happen to
be a tree near him at the time up which he could climb.
With the energy of despair he let fly an arrow with all his force; but
the weak shaft glanced from the tapir's side without doing it the
slightest damage. Then Martin turned to fly, but at the same moment the
tapir did the same, to his great delight and surprise. It wheeled round
with a snort, and went off crashing through the stout underwood as if it
had been grass, leaving a broad track behind it.
On another occasion he met with a formidable-looking but comparatively
harmless animal, called the great ant-eater. This remarkable creature is
about six feet in length, with very short legs and very long strong
claws; a short curly tail, and a sharp snout, out of which it thrusts a
long narrow tongue. It can roll itself up like a hedgehog, and when in
this position might be easily mistaken for a bundle of coarse hay. It
lives chiefly if not entirely upon ants.
When Martin discovered the great ant-eater, it was about to begin its
supper; so he watched it. The plain was covered with ant-hills, somewhat
pillar-like in shape. At the foot of one of these the animal made an
attack, tearing up earth and sticks with its enormously strong claws,
until it made a large hole in the hard materials of which the hill was
composed. Into this hole it thrust its long tongue, and immediately the
ants swarmed upon it. The creature let its tongue rest till it was
completely covered over with thousands of ants, then it drew it into its
mouth and engulfed them all!
As Martin had no reason in the world for attempting to shoot the great
ant-eater, and as he was, moreover, by no means sure that he could kill
it if he were to try, he passed on quietly and left this curious animal
to finish its supper in peace.
MARTIN MEETS WITH FRIENDS AND VISITS THE DIAMOND MINES
One day, after Martin had spent many weeks in wandering alone through the
forest, during the course of which he was sometimes tempted to despair of
seeing the face of man again, he discovered a beaten track; at the sight
of which his heart bounded with delight. It was a Saturday afternoon when
he made this discovery, and he spent the Sabbath-day in rest beside it.
For Martin had more than once called to remembrance the words which good
Aunt Dorothy used to hear him repeat out of the Bible "Remember the
Sabbath-day, to keep it holy." He had many long, earnest, and serious
meditations in that silent forest, such as a youth would be very unlikely
to have in almost any other circumstances, except, perhaps, on a
sick-bed; and among other things he had been led to consider that if he
made no difference between Saturday and Sunday, he must certainly be
breaking that commandment; so he resolved thenceforth to rest on the
Sabbath-day; and he found much benefit, both to mind and body, from this
arrangement. During this particular Sabbath he rested beside the beaten
track, and often did he walk up and down it a short way, wondering where
it would lead him to; and several times he prayed that he might be led by
it to the habitations of civilized men.
Next day after breakfast he prepared to set out; but now he was much
perplexed as to which way he ought to go, for the track did not run in
the direction in which he had been travelling, but at right angles to
that way. While he still hesitated the sound of voices struck on his ear,
and he almost fainted with excitement; for, besides the hope that he
might now meet with friends, there was also the fear that those
approaching might be enemies; and the sudden sound of the human voice,
which he had not heard for so long, tended to create conflicting and
almost overwhelming feelings in his breast. Hiding quickly behind a tree,
he awaited the passing of the cavalcade; for the sounds of horses' hoofs
were now audible.
In a few minutes a string of laden mules approached, and then six
horsemen appeared, whose bronzed olive complexions, straw-hats and
ponchos, betokened them Brazilians. As they passed, Martin hailed them in
an unsteady voice. They pulled up suddenly and drew pistols from their
holsters; but on seeing only a fair youth armed with a bow, they replaced
their weapons, and with a look of surprise rode up and assailed him with
a volley of unintelligible Portuguese.
"Do any of you speak English?" inquired Martin, advancing.
One of the horsemen replied, "Yees, I spok one leet. Ver' smoll. Where
you be com?"
"I have escaped from the Indians who live in the mountains far away over
yonder. I have been wandering now for many weeks in the forest, and I
wish to get to the sea-coast or to some town where I may get something to
do, that I may be enabled to return home."
"Ho!" said the horseman, gravely. "You com vid us. Ve go vid goods to de
Diamond Mines. Git vork dere, yees. Put you body on dat hoss."
As the Brazilian spoke he pointed to a spare horse, which was led, along
with several others, by a Negro. Thanking him for his politeness Martin
seized the horse by the mane and vaulted into the saddle, if the rude
contrivance on its back might be so designated. The string of mules then
moved on, and Martin rode with a light heart beside this obliging
stranger, conversing with much animation.
In a very short time he learned, through the medium of his own bad
Portuguese and the Brazilian's worse English, that he was not more than a
day's ride from one of the diamond mines of that province of Brazil which
is named Minas Geraes; that he was still many leagues distant from the
sea; and that he would be sure to get work at the mines if he wished it,
for the chief overseer, the Baron Fagoni, was an amiable man and very
fond of the English,—but he could not speak their language at all, and
required an interpreter. "And," said the Brazilian, with a look of great
dignity, "I hab de honour for be de 'terpreter."
"Ah!" exclaimed Martin, "then I am in good fortune, for I shall have a
friend at court."
The interpreter smiled slightly and bowed, after which they proceeded for
some time in silence.
Next evening they arrived at the mines; and, after seeing to the comfort
of his horse, and inquiring rather hastily as to the welfare of his
family, the interpreter conducted Martin to the overseer's house in order
to introduce him.
The Baron Fagoni stood smoking in the doorway of his dwelling as they
approached; and the first impression that Martin received of him was
anything but agreeable.
He was a large, powerful man, with an enormous red beard and moustache,
and a sombrero-like hat that concealed nearly the whole of his face. He
seemed an irritable man, too; for he jerked his arms about and stamped in
a violent manner as they drew near, and instead of waiting to receive
them, he entered the house hastily and shut the door in their faces!
"The Baron would do well to take lessons in civility," said Martin,
colouring, as he turned to the interpreter.
"Ah, he be a leet pecoolair, sometime! Nev'r mind. Ve vill go to him,"
So saying, the interpreter opened the door and entered the hall where
the overseer was seated at a desk writing as if in violent haste. Seeing
that he did not mean to take notice of them, the interpreter spoke to
him in Portuguese; but he was soon interrupted by a sharp reply, uttered
in a harsh, grating voice, by the overseer, who did not look up or cease
from his work.
Again the interpreter spoke as if in some surprise; but he was cut short
by the overseer uttering, in a deep, stern voice, the single word "Obey."
With a low bow the interpreter turned away, and taking Martin by the arm
led him into an inner apartment, where, having securely fastened the
window, he said to him, "De Baron say you be von blackguard tief; go bout
contrie for steal diamonds. He make prisoner ov you. Adios."
So saying, the interpreter made his bow and retired, locking the door
behind him and leaving Martin standing in the middle of the room staring
before him in speechless amazement.
THE DIAMOND MINES—MORE AND MORE ASTONISHING!
If Martin Rattler was amazed at the treatment he experienced at the hands
of his new acquaintances on arriving, he had occasion to be very much
more surprised at what occurred three hours after his incarceration.
It was getting dark when he was locked up, and for upwards of two hours
he was left in total darkness. Moreover, he began to feel very hungry,
having eaten nothing since mid-day. He was deeply engaged in devising
plans for his escape when he was interrupted by the door being unlocked
and a Negro slave entering with four magnificent candles, made of
beeswax, which he placed upon the table. Then he returned to the door,
where another slave handed him a tray containing dishes, knives and
forks, and, in short, all the requisites for laying out a supper-table.
Having spread a clean linen cloth on the board, he arranged covers for
two, and going to the door placed his head to one side and regarded his
arrangements with much complacency and without paying the slightest
attention to Martin, who pinched himself in order to make sure he was
In a few minutes the second Negro returned with an enormous tray, on
which were dishes of all sizes, from under whose covers came the most
savoury odours imaginable. Having placed these symmetrically on the
board, both slaves retired and relocked the door without saying a word.
At last it began to dawn on Martin's Imagination that the overseer must
be an eccentric individual, who found pleasure in taking his visitors by
surprise. But although this seemed a possible solution of the difficulty,
he did not feel satisfied with it. He could with difficulty resist the
temptation to attack the viands, however, and was beginning to think of
doing this, regardless of all consequences, when the door again opened
and the Baron Fagoni entered, relocked the door, put the key in his
pocket, and, standing before his prisoner with folded arms, gazed at him
intently from beneath his sombrero.
Martin could not stand this. "Sir," said he, starting up, "if this is a
joke you have carried it far enough; and if you really detain me here a
prisoner, every feeling of honour ought to deter you from adding insult
To this sternly delivered speech the Baron made no reply, but, springing
suddenly upon Martin, he grasped him in his powerful arms and crushed him
to his broad breast till he almost broke every bone in his body.
"Och! cushla, bliss yer young face! sure it's yersilf, an' no mistake!
Kape still, Martin dear. Let me look at ye, darlint! Ah! then, isn't it
my heart that's been broken for months an' months past about ye?"
Reader, it would be utterly in vain for me to attempt to describe either
the words that flowed from the lips of Martin Rattler and Barney
O'Flannagan on this happy occasion, or the feelings that filled their
swelling hearts. The speechless amazement of Martin, the ejaculatory
exclamations of the Baron Fagoni, the rapid questions and brief replies,
are all totally indescribable. Suffice it to say that for full quarter of
an hour they exclaimed, shouted, and danced round each other, without
coming to any satisfactory knowledge of how each had got to the same
place, except that Barney at last discovered that Martin had travelled
there by chance, and he had reached the mines by "intuition." Having
settled this point, they sobered down a little.
"Now, Martin darlint," cried the Irishman, throwing aside his hat for the
first time, and displaying his well-known jolly visage, of which the
forehead, eyes, and nose alone survived the general inundation of red
hair, "ye'll be hungry, I've small doubt, so sit ye down, lad, to supper,
and you'll tell me yer story as ye go along, and afther that I'll tell ye
mine, while I smoke my pipe,—the ould cutty, boy, that has corned
through fire and wather, sound as a bell and blacker than iver!"
The Baron held up the well-known instrument of fumigation, as he spoke,
Supper was superb. There were venison steaks, armadillo cutlets, tapir
hash, iguana pie, and an immense variety of fruits and vegetables, that
would have served a dozen men, besides cakes and splendid coffee.
"You live well here, Barney—I beg pardon—Baron Fagoni," said
Martin, during a pause in their meal; "how in the world did you come
by that name?"
Barney winked expressively. "Ah, boy, I wish I may niver have a worse. Ye
see, when I first corned here, about four months ago, I found that the
mine was owned by an Irish gintleman; an', like all the race, he's a
trump. He took to me at wance when he hear'd my voice, and then he took
more to me when he corned to know me character; and says he to me wan
day, 'Barney,' says he, 'I'm gittin' tired o' this kind o' life now, and
if ye'll agree to stop here as overseer, and sind me the proceeds o' the
mine to Rio Janeiro, a great city on the sea-coast, an' the capital o'
Brazil, I'll give ye a good share o' the profits. But,' says he, 'ye'll
need to pretind ye're a Roosian, or a Pole, or somethin' o' that kind;
for the fellows in thim parts are great rascals, and there's a few
Englishmen among them who would soon find out that ye're only a jack-tar
before the mast, and would chate ye at no allowance; but if ye could
spake no language under the sun but the gibberish pecooliar to the
unbeknown provinces o' Siberia, ye could escape detection as far as yer
voice is consarned; and by lettin' yer beard grow as long as possible,
and dressin' yersilf properly, ye might pass, and be as dignified as the
"'Musha!' said I, 'but if I don't spake me own tongue I'll have to be
"'No fear,' says he; 'I'll tache ye enough Portuguese in a month or two
to begin with, an' ye'll pick it up aisy after that.' And sure enough I
began, tooth and nail, and, by hard workin', got on faster than I
expected; for I can spake as much o' the lingo now as tides me over
needcessities, and I understand most o' what's said to me. Anyhow, I
ginerally see what they're drivin' at."
"So, then, you're actually in charge of the mine?" said Martin, in
"Jist so, boy; but I'm tired of it already; it's by no means so pleasant
as I expected it would be; so I'm thinkin' o' lavin' it, and takin' to
the say again. I'm longin' dreadful to see the salt wather wance more."
"But what will the owner say, Barney: won't he have cause to complain of
your breaking your engagement?"
"Niver a bit, boy. He tould me, before we parted, that if I wanted to
quit I was to hand over the consarn to the interpreter, who is an
honest fellow, I belave; so I'm jist goin' to pocket a di'mond or two,
and ask lave to take them home wid me. I'll be off in a week, if all
goes well. An' now, Martin, fill yer glass; ye'll find the wine is not
bad, after wan or two glasses; an' I'll tell ye about my adventures
since I saw ye last."
"But you have not explained about your name," said Martin.
"Och! the fact is, that when I corned here I fortunately fell in with the
owner first, and we spoke almost intirely in Irish, so nobody understood
where I corned from; and the interpreter hear'd the master call me by my
name; so he wint off and said to the people that a great Barono Flanagoni
had come, and was up at the house wid the master. But we corrected him
afterward, and gave him to understand that I was the Baron Fagoni. I had
some trouble with the people at first, after the owner left; but I
pounded wan or two o' the biggest o' them, to such a extint that their
own friends hardly knew them; an' iver since they've been mighty civil."
Having carefully filled the black pipe, and involved himself in his own
favourite atmosphere, the Baron Fagoni then proceeded to relate his
adventures, and dilated upon them to such an extent that five or six
pipes were filled and finished ere the story came to a close. Martin also
related his adventures; to which his companion listened with such
breathless attention and earnestness that his pipe was constantly
going-out; and the two friends did not retire to rest till near daybreak.
The substance of the Baron's narrative was as follows:—
At the time that he had been so suddenly separated from his friend,
Barney had overcome many of his opponents, but at length he was
overpowered by numbers, and his arms were firmly bound; after which he
was roughly driven before them through the woods for several days, and
was at length taken to their village among the mountains. Here he
remained a close prisoner for three weeks, shut up in a small hut and
bound by a strong rope to a post. Food was taken to him by an old Indian
woman, who paid no attention at first to what he said to her, for the
good reason that she did not understand a word of English. The persuasive
eloquence of her prisoner's tones, however, or perhaps his brogue, seemed
in the course of a few days to have made an impression on her; for she
condescended to smile at the unintelligible compliments which Barney
lavished upon her in the hope of securing her good-will.
During all this time the Irishman's heart was torn with conflicting
feelings, and although, from the mere force of habit, he could jest with
the old woman when she paid her daily visits, there was no feeling of fun
in his bosom, but, on the contrary, a deep and overwhelming sorrow, which
showed itself very evidently on his expressive face. He groaned aloud
when he thought of Martin, whom he never expected again to see; and he
dreaded every hour the approach of his savage captors, who, he fully
expected, retained him in order to put him to death.
One day, while he was sitting in a very disconsolate mood, the Indian
woman entered with his usual dinner—a plate of thick soup and a coarse
cake. Barney smiled upon her as usual, and then letting his eyes fall on
the ground, sighed deeply,—for his heart was heavier than usual that
day. As the woman was about to go, he looked earnestly and gravely in her
face, and putting his large hand gently on her head, patted her grey
hairs. This tender action seemed to affect the old woman more than usual.
She laid her hand on Barney's arm, and looked as if she wished to speak.
Then turning suddenly from him, she drew a small knife from her girdle
and dropped it on the ground, as if accidentally, while she left the hut
and re-fastened the door. Barney's heart leaped. He seized the knife and
concealed it hastily in his bosom, and then ate his dinner with more than
ordinary zest; for now he possessed the means of cutting the strong rope
that bound him.
He waited with much impatience until night closed over the Indian
village, and then cutting his bonds, he tore down the rude and rather
feeble fastenings of the door. In another instant he was dashing along at
full speed through the forest, without hat or coat, and with the knife
clutched in his right hand! Presently he heard cries behind him, and
redoubled his speed; for now he knew that the savages had discovered his
escape and were in pursuit. But, although a good runner, Barney was no
match for the lithe and naked Indians. They rapidly gained on him, and he
was about to turn at bay and fight for his life, when he observed water
gleaming through the foliage on his left. Dashing down a glade he came to
the edge of a broad river with a rapid current. Into this he sprang
recklessly, intending to swim with the stream; but ere he lost his
footing he heard the low deep thunder of a cataract a short distance
below! Drawing back in terror, he regained the bank, and waded up a
considerable distance in the shallow water, so as to leave no trace of
his footsteps. Then he leaped upon a rock, and, catching hold of the
lower branches of a large tree, drew himself up among the dense foliage,
just as the yelling savages rushed with wild tumult to the water's edge.
Here they paused, as if baffled. They spoke in rapid, vehement tones for
a few seconds, and then one party hastened down the banks of the stream
towards the fall, while another band searched the banks above.
Barney's heart fell as he sat panting in the tree, for he knew that they
would soon discover him. But he soon resolved on a bold expedient.
Slipping down from the tree, he ran deliberately back towards the
village; and, as he drew near, he followed the regular beaten track that
led towards it. On the way he encountered one or two savages hastening
after the pursuing party; but he leaped lightly into the bushes, and lay
still till they were past. Then he ran on, skirted round the village, and
pushed into the woods in an entirely opposite direction from the one in
which he had first set out. Keeping by one of the numerous tracks that
radiated from the village into the forest, he held on at top speed, until
his progress was suddenly arrested by a stream about twenty yards broad.
It was very deep, and he was about to plunge in, in order to swim across,
when he observed a small montaria, or canoe, lying on the bank. This he
launched quickly, and observing that the river took a bend a little
further down, and appeared to proceed in the direction he wished to
pursue,—namely, away from the Indian village,—he paddled down the rapid
stream as fast as he could. The current was very strong, so that his
little bark flew down it like an arrow, and on more than one occasion
narrowly missed being dashed to pieces on the rocks which here and there
rose above the stream.
In about two hours Barney came to a place where the stream took another
bend to the left, and soon after the canoe swept out upon the broad river
into which he had at first so nearly plunged. He was a long way below the
fall now, for its sound was inaudible; but it was no time to abate his
exertions. The Indians might be still in pursuit; so he continued to
paddle all that night, and did not take rest until daybreak. Then he
slept for two hours, ate a few wild fruits, and continued his journey.
In the course of the next day, to his great joy, he overtook a trading
canoe, which had been up another tributary of this river, and was
descending with part of a cargo of India-rubber shoes. None of the men,
of whom there were four, could speak English; but they easily saw from
the Irishman's condition that he had escaped from enemies and was in
distress; so they took him on board, and were glad to avail themselves of
his services: for, as we have before mentioned, men are not easily
procured for voyaging in those parts of Brazil. Three weeks after this
they arrived at a small town, where the natives were busily engaged in
the manufacture of shoes, bottles, and other articles of India-rubber;
and here Barney found employment for a short time.
The seringa, or India-rubber-tree, grows plentifully in some parts of
Brazil, and many hundreds of the inhabitants are employed in the
manufacture of shoes. The India-rubber is the juice of the tree, and
flows from it when an incision is made. This juice is poured into moulds
and left to harden. It is of a yellowish colour naturally, and is
blackened in the course of preparation. Barney did not stay long here.
Shoe-making, he declared, was not his calling by any means; so he seized
the first opportunity he had of joining a party of traders going into the
interior, in the direction of the diamond districts. The journey was long
and varied. Sometimes by canoe and sometimes on the backs of mules and
horses, and many extraordinary adventures did he go through ere he
reached the diamond mines. And when at length he did so, great was his
disappointment. Instead of the glittering caves which his vivid
imagination had pictured, he found that there were no caves at all; that
the diamonds were found by washing in the muddy soil; and worst of all,
that when found they were dim and unpolished, so that they seemed no
better than any other stone. However, he resolved to continue there for a
short time, in order to make a little money; but now that Martin had
arrived he thought that they could not do better than make their way to
the coast as fast as possible, and go to sea.
"The only thing I have to regret," he said, at the conclusion of his
narrative, "is that I left Grampus behind me. But arrah! I came off
from the savages in such a hurry that I had no time at all to tell him
I was goin'!"
Having sat till daybreak, the two friends went to bed to dream of each
other and of home.
Next morning Barney took Martin to visit the diamond mines. On the way
they passed a band of Negro slaves who encircled a large fire, the
weather being very cold. It was at that time about the end of July, which
is one of the coldest months in the year. In this part of Brazil summer
and winter are reversed,—the coldest months being May, June, and July;
the hottest, November, December, January, and February.
Minas Geraes, the diamond district, is one of the richest provinces of
Brazil. The inhabitants are almost entirely occupied in mining or in
supplying the miners with the necessaries of life. Diggers and
shopkeepers are the two principal classes, and of these the latter are
best off; for their trade is steady and lucrative, while the success of
the miners is very uncertain. Frequently a large sum of money and much
time are expended in mining without any adequate result; but the
merchants always find a ready sale for their merchandise, and, as they
take diamonds and gold-dust in exchange, they generally realize large
profits and soon become rich. The poor miner is like the gambler. He
digs on in hope; sometimes finding barely enough to supply his
wants,—at other times making a fortune suddenly; but never giving up
in despair, because he knows that at every handful of earth he turns up
he may perhaps find a diamond worth hundreds, or, it may be, thousands
Cidade Diamantina,—the City of Diamonds,—is the capital of the
province. It is a large city, with many fine churches and buildings; and
the whole population, consisting of more than 6000 souls, are engaged,
directly or indirectly, in mining. Every one who owns a few slaves
employs them in washing the earth for gold and diamonds.
The mine of which Barney had so unexpectedly become overseer, was a small
one, in a remote part of the district, situated among the mountains, and
far distant from the City of Diamonds. There were only a few huts, rudely
built and roofed with palm leaves, besides a larger building, or cottage,
in which the Baron Fagoni resided.
"Tis a strange life they lead here," said Barney, as he led Martin down a
gorge of the mountains towards a small spot of level ground on which the
slaves were at work; "a strange life, and by no means a pleasant wan; for
the feedin' is none o' the best and the work very sevare."
"Why, Barney, if I may judge from last night's supper, the feeding seems
to be excellent."
"Thrue, boy, the Baron Fagoni feeds well, bekase he's the cock o' the
roost; but the poor Naygurs are not overly well fed, and the critters are
up to their knees in wather all day, washing di'monds; so they suffer
much from rheumatiz and colds. Och, but it's murther entirely; an' I've
more than wance felt inclined to fill their pockets with di'monds and set
them all free! Jist look, now, there they are, hard at it."
As he spoke they arrived at the mine. The ground in the vicinity was all
cut up and dug out to a considerable depth, and a dozen Negroes were
standing under a shed washing the earth, while others were engaged in the
holes excavating the material. While Martin watched them his friend
explained the process.
The different kinds of soil through which it is necessary to cut before
reaching the diamond deposit are, first, about twenty feet of reddish
sandy soil; then about eight feet of a tough yellowish clay; beneath this
lies a layer of coarse reddish sand, below which is the peculiar soil in
which diamonds are found. It is called by the miners the cascalho, and
consists of loose gravel, the pebbles of which are rounded and polished,
having at some previous era been subject to the action of running water.
The bed varies in thickness from one to four feet, and the pebbles are of
various kinds; but when there are many of a species called
Esmerilopreto, the cascalho is considered to be rich in diamonds.
Taking Martin round to the back of the shed, Barney showed him a row of
troughs, about three feet square, close to the edge of a pond of water.
These troughs are called bacos. In front of each stood a Negro slave up
to his knees in water. Each had a wooden plate, with which he dashed
water upon the rough cascalho as it was thrown into the trough by another
slave. By this means, and by stirring it with a small hoe, the earth and
sand are washed away. Two overseers were closely watching the process;
for it is during this part of the operation that the largest diamonds are
found. These overseers were seated on elevated seats, each being armed
with a long leathern whip, to keep a sharp look out, for the slaves are
After the cascalho had been thus purified it was carefully removed to the
shed to be finally washed.
Here seven slaves were seated on the side of a small canal, about four
feet broad, with their legs in the water nearly up to their knees. The
canal is called the lavadeira. Each man had a small wooden platter,
into which another slave, who stood behind him, put a shovelful of
purified cascalho. The bateia, or platter, was then filled with water
and washed with the utmost care several times, being closely examined
after each washing, and the diamonds picked out. Sometimes many platefuls
were examined but nothing found; at other times several diamonds were
found in one plate. While Martin was looking on with much curiosity and
interest, one of the slaves uttered an exclamation and held up a minute
stone between his finger and thumb.
"Ah! good luck to ye, lad!" said Barney, advancing and taking the diamond
which had been discovered. "See here, Martin; there's the thing, lad,
that sparkles on the brow o' beauty, and gives the Naygurs rheumatiz—"
"Not to mention their usefulness in providing the great Baron Fagoni with
a livelihood," added Martin, with a smile.
Barney laughed, and going up to the place where the two overseers were
seated, dropped the precious gem into a plate of water placed between
them for the purpose of receiving the diamonds as they were found.
"They git fifteen or twinty a day sometimes," said Barney, as they
retraced their steps to the cottage; "and I've hear'd o' them getting
stones worth many thousands o' pounds; but the biggest they iver found
since I corned here was not worth more than four hundred."
"And what do you do with them, Barney, when they are found?"
"Sind them to Rio Janeiro, lad, where my employer sells them. I don't
know how much he makes a year by it; but the thing must pay, for he's
very liberal with his cash, and niver forgits to pay wages. There's
always a lot o' gould-dust found in the bottom o' the bateia after each
washing, and that is carefully collected and sold. But, arrah! I wouldn't
give wan snifter o' the say-breezes for all the di'monds in Brazil!"
As Barney said this he entered his cottage and flung down his hat with
the air of a man who was resolved to stand it no longer.
"But why don't you wash on your own account?" cried Martin. "What
say you; shall we begin together? We may make our fortune the first
Barney shook his head. "No, no, boy; I've no faith in my luck with the
di'monds or gould. Nevertheless I have hear'd o' men makin' an awful
heap o' money that way; partiklarly wan man that made his fortin with
"Who was that lucky dog?" asked Martin.
"Well, ye see, it happened this way: There's a custom hereaway that
slaves are allowed to work on Sundays and holidays on their own account;
but when the mines was a government consarn this was not allowed, and the
slaves were the most awful thieves livin', and often made off with some
o' the largest diamonds. Well, there was a man named Juiz de Paz, who
owned a small shop, and used to go down now and then to Rio de Janeiro to
buy goods. Wan evenin' he returned from wan o' his long journeys, and,
being rather tired, wint to bed. He was jist goin' off into a comfortable
doze when there came a terrible bumpin' at the door.
"'Hallo!' cried Juiz, growlin' angrily in the Portugee tongue; 'what
"There was no answer but another bumpin' at the door. So up he jumps,
and, takin' down a big blunderbuss that hung over his bed, opened the
door, an' seized a Naygur be the hair o' the head!
"'Oh, massa! oh, massa! let him go! Got di'mond for to sell!'
"On hearin' this, Juiz let go, and found that the slave had come to
offer for sale a large di'mond, which weighed about two penny-weights
and a third.
"'What d'ye ask for it?' said Juiz, with sparklin' eyes.
"'Six hundred mil-reis,' answered the Naygur.
"This was about equal to £180 Stirling. Without more words about it, he
paid down the money; and the slave went away. Juiz lost his sleep that
night. He went and tould the neighbours he had forgot a piece of
important business in Rio and must go back at wance. So back he went, and
stayed some time in the city, tryin' to git his di'mond safely sold; for
it was such a big wan that he feared the government fellows might hear
o't; in which case he would have got tin years transportation to Angola
on the coast of Africa. At last, however, he got rid of it for 20,000
mil-reis, which is about £6000. It was all paid to him in hard dollars;
and he nearly went out o' his wits for joy. But he was brought down a peg
nixt day, when he found that the same di'mond was sold for nearly twice
as much as he had got for it. Howiver, he had made a pretty considerable
fortin; an' he's now the richest di'mond and gould merchant in the
"A lucky fellow certainly," said Martin. "But I must say I have no taste
for such chance work; so I'm quite ready to start for the sea-coast
whenever it suits the Baron Fagoni's convenience."
While they were speaking they were attracted by voices outside the
cottage, which sounded as if in altercation. In another minute the door
burst open, and a man entered hurriedly, followed by the interpreter.
"Your overseer is impertinent!" exclaimed the man, who was a tall swarthy
Brazilian. "I wish to buy a horse or a good mule, and he won't let me
have one. I am not a beggar; I offer to pay."
The man spoke in Portuguese, and Barney replied in the same language.
"You can have a horse if you pay for it."
The Brazilian replied by throwing a heavy bag of dollars on the table.
"All right," said Barney, turning to his interpreter and conversing with
him in an under-tone. "Give him what he requires." So saying he bowed the
Brazilian out of the room, and returned to the enjoyment of his black
pipe, which had been interrupted by the incident.
"That man seems in a hurry," said Martin.
"So he is. My interpreter tells me that he is quite like one o' the
blackguards that sometimes go about the mines doin' mischief, and he's in
hot haste to be away. I should not wonder if the spalpeen has been
stealin' gould or di'monds and wants to escape. But of course I've
nothin' to do with that, unless I was sure of it; and I've a horse or two
to sell, and he has money to pay for it; so he's welcome. He says he is
makin' straight for the say-coast; and with your lave, Martin, my boy,
you and I will be doin' that same in a week after this, and say good-bye
to the di'mond mines."
NEW SCENES AND PLEASANT TRAVELLING
A new and agreeable sensation is a pleasant thing. It was on as bright an
evening as ever shone upon Brazil, and in as fair a scene as one could
wish to behold, that Martin Rattler and his friend Barney experienced a
new sensation. On the wide campos, on the flower-bedecked and grassy
plains, they each bestrode a fiery charger; and, in the exultation of
health, and strength, and liberty, they swept over the green sward of the
undulating campos, as light as the soft wind that fanned their bronzed
cheeks, as gay in heart as the buzzing insects that hovered above the
"Oh, this is best of all!" shouted Martin, turning his sparkling eyes to
Barney, as he reined up his steed after a gallop that caused its nostril
to expand and its eye to dilate. "There's nothing like it! A fiery
charger that can't and won't tire, and a glorious sweep of plain like
that! Huzza! whoop!" And loosening the rein of his willing horse, away he
went again in a wild headlong career.
"Och, boy, pull up, or ye'll kill the baste!" cried Barney, who thundered
along at Martin's side enjoying to the full the spring of his powerful
horse; for Barney had spent the last farthing of his salary on the two
best steeds the country could produce, being determined, as he said, to
make the last overland voyage on clipper-built animals, which, he wisely
concluded, would fetch a good price at the end of the journey. "Pull up!
d'ye hear? They can't stand goin' at that pace. Back yer topsails, ye
young rascal, or I'll board ye in a jiffy."
"How can I pull up with that before me?" cried Martin, pointing to
a wide ditch or gully that lay in front of them. "I must go over
"Go over that!" cried Barney, endeavouring to rein in his horse, and
looking with an anxious expression at the chasm. "It's all very well for
you to talk o' goin' over, ye feather; but fifteen stun—Ah, then,
won't ye stop? Bad luck to him, he's got the bit in his teeth! Oh then,
ye ugly baste, go, and my blissin' go with ye!"
The leap was inevitable. Martin went over like a deer. Barney shut his
eyes, seized the pommel of the saddle, and went at it like a
thunder-bolt In the excitement of the moment he shouted, in a stentorian
voice, "Clap on all sail! d'ye hear? Stu'n-sails and sky-scrapers! Kape
her steady! Hooray!"
It was well for Barney that he had seized the saddle. Even as it was he
received a tremendous blow from the horse's head as it took the leap,
and was thrown back on its haunches when it cleared the ditch, which it
"Hallo! old boy, not hurt, I hope," said Martin, suppressing his laughter
as his comrade scrambled on to the saddle. "You travel about on the back
of your horse at full gallop like a circus rider."
"Whist, darlint, I do belave he has damaged my faygurhead. What a nose
I've got! Sure I can see it mesilf without squintin'."
"So you have, Barney. It's a little swelled, but never mind. We must all
learn by experience, you know. So come along."
"Hould on, ye spalpeen, till I git my wind!"
But Martin was off again at full speed; and Barney's horse, scorning to
be left behind, took the bit again in its teeth and went—as he himself
expressed it,—"screamin' before the wind."
A new sensation is not always and necessarily an agreeable thing. Martin
and Barney found it so on the evening of that same day, as they reclined
(they could not sit) by the side of their fire on the campo under the
shelter of one of the small trees which grew here and there at wide
intervals on the plain. They had left the diamond mine early that
morning, and their first day on horseback proved to them that there are
shadows as well as lights in equestrian life. Their only baggage was a
single change of apparel and a small bag of diamonds,—the latter being
the product of the mine during the Baron Fagoni's reign, and which that
worthy was conveying faithfully to his employer. During the first part of
the day they had ridden through a hilly and woody country, and towards
evening they emerged upon one of the smaller campos, which occur here and
there in the district.
"Martin," said Barney, as he lay smoking his pipe, "'tis a pity that
there's no pleasure in this world without something cross-grained
into it. My own feelin's is as if I had been lately passed through a
"Wrong, Barney, as usual," said Martin, who was busily engaged concluding
supper with an orange. "If we had pleasures without discomforts we
wouldn't half enjoy them. We need lights and shadows in life—what are
you grinning at, Barney?"
"Oh! nothin', only ye're a remarkable philosopher, when ye're in
"Tis always in vain to talk philosophy to you, Barney, so good-night t'
ye. Oh, dear me, I wish I could sit down! but there's no
alternative,—either bolt upright or quite flat."
In a quarter of an hour they both forgot pleasures and sorrows alike in
sleep. Next day the sun rose on the edge of the campo as it does out of
the ocean, streaming across its grassy billows, and tipping the ridges as
with ruddy gold. At first Martin and Barney did not enjoy the lovely
scene, for they felt stiff and sore; but after half an hour's ride they
began to recover; and when the sun rose in all its glory on the wide
plain, the feelings of joyous bounding freedom that such scenes always
engender obtained the mastery, and they coursed along in silent delight.
The campo was hard, composed chiefly of a stiff red clay soil and covered
with short grass in most places; but here and there were rank bushes of
long hairy grasses, around and amongst which grew a multitude of the most
exquisitely beautiful flowerets and plants of elegant forms. Wherever
these flowers flourished very luxuriantly there were single trees of
stunted growth and thick bark, which seldom rose above fifteen or twenty
feet. Besides these there were rich flowering myrtles, and here and there
a grotesque cactus or two.
Under one of these trees they reined up after a ride of two hours, and
piqueting their horses, prepared breakfast. It was soon despatched, and
then remounting, away they went once more over the beautiful plains.
About mid-day, as they were hasting towards the shelter of a grove which
appeared opportunely on the horizon, Barney said suddenly,—
"Martin, lad, we're lost! We're out of our course, for sartin."
"I've been thinking that for some time, Barney," replied Martin; "but you
have your compass, and we can surely make the coast by dead
"True, lad, we can; but it'll cost us a dale o' tackin' to make up for
lee-way. Ah, good luck to ye! here's a friend 'll help us."
As he spoke a herd of wild cattle dashed out of the grove and scampered
over the plain, followed by a herdsman on horseback. Seeing that he was
in eager pursuit of an animal which he wished to lasso, they followed him
quietly and watched his movements. Whirling the noose round his head, he
threw it adroitly in such a manner that the bull put one of its legs
within the coil. Then he reined up suddenly, and the animal was thrown on
its back. At the same moment the lasso broke, and the bull recovered its
feet and continued its wild flight.
"Good-day, friend," said Barney, galloping towards the disappointed
herdsman and addressing him in Portuguese, "could you show us the road to
Rio? We've lost it intirely."
The man pointed sulkily in the direction in which they were going, and,
having mended his lasso, he wheeled about and galloped after the herd
"Bad luck to yer manners!" said Barney, as he gazed after him. "But what
can ye expect from the poor critter? He niver larned better Come along,
Martin, we'll rest here a while."
They were soon under the shelter of the trees, and having fastened their
horses to one of them, they proceeded to search for water. While thus
employed, Barney shouted to his companion, "Come here, lad; look here."
There was something in the tone of the Irishman's voice that startled
Martin, and he sprang hastily towards him. Barney was standing with his
arms crossed upon his chest and his head bowed forward, as he gazed with
a solemn expression on the figure of a man at his feet.
"Is he ill?" inquired Martin, stooping and lifting his hand. Starting
back as he dropped it, he exclaimed, "Dead!"
"Ah, boy, he has gone to his last account. Look at him again, Martin. It
was he who came to the mine a week ago to buy a horse, and now—" Barney
sighed as he stooped and turned the body over in order to ascertain
whether he had been murdered; but there were no marks of violence to be
seen. There was bread too in his wallet; so they could come to no other
conclusion than that the unhappy man had been seized with fatal illness
in the lonesome wood and died there.
As they searched his clothes they found a small leathern bag, which, to
their amazement, was filled with gold-dust; and in the midst of the gold
was another smaller bag containing several small diamonds.
"Ha!" exclaimed Martin, "that explains his hurry. No doubt he had made
off with these, and was anxious to avoid pursuit."
"No doubt of it," said Barney. "Well, thief or no thief, we must give the
poor cratur' dacent burial. There's not a scrap o' paper to tell who he
is or where he came from,—a sure sign that he wasn't what he should ha'
been. Ah! Martin, what will we not do for the sake o' money! and, after
all, we can't keep it long. May the Almighty niver let you or me set our
hearts on it."
They dug a shallow grave with their hands in a sandy spot where the soil
was loose, in which they deposited the body of the unfortunate man; and
then remounting their horses, rode away and left him in his lonely
For many days did Martin and Barney travel through the land on horseback,
now galloping over open campos, anon threading their way through the
forest, and sometimes toiling slowly up the mountain sides. The aspect of
the country varied continually as they advanced, and the feelings of
excessive hilarity with which they commenced the journey began to subside
as they became accustomed to it.
One evening they were toiling slowly up a steep range of hills which had
been the prospect in front of them the whole of that day. As they neared
the summit of the range Martin halted at a stream to drink, and Barney
advanced alone. Suddenly Martin was startled by a loud cry, and looking
up he saw Barney on his knees with his hands clasped before him! Rushing
up the hill, Martin found his comrade with his face flushed and the tears
coursing down his cheeks as he stared before him!
"Look at it, Martin, dear!" he cried, starting up and flinging his cap in
the air, and shouting like a madman. "The say! my own native illiment!
the beautiful ocean! Och, darlint, my blessing on ye! Little did I think
to see you more,—hooray!"
Barney sang and danced till he sank down on the grass exhausted; and, to
say truth, Martin felt much difficulty in restraining himself from doing
likewise, for before him was spread out the bright ocean, gleaming in the
light of the sinking sun, and calm and placid as a mirror. It was indeed
a glorious sight to these two sailors, who had not seen the sea for
nearly two years. It was like coming suddenly face to face—after a long
absence—with an old and much loved friend.
Although visible, the sea, however, was still a long way off from the
Serra dos Orgos on which they stood. But their steeds were good, and it
was not long ere they were both rolling like dolphins in the beautiful
bay of Rio de Janeiro.
Here Barney delivered up the gold and diamonds to his employer, who paid
him liberally for his services and entertained them both hospitably while
they remained in the city. The bag of gold and diamonds which had been
found on the body of the dead man they appropriated, as it was absolutely
impossible to discover the rightful owner. Barney's friend bought it of
them at full price; and when they embarked, soon after, on board a
homeward bound ship, each had four hundred pounds in his pocket!
As they sailed out of the noble harbour Martin sat on the poop gazing at
the receding shore while thick-coming memories crowded on his brain.
His imagination flew back to the day when he first landed on the coast
and escaped with his friend Barney from the pirates,—to the hermit's
cottage in the lonely valley, where he first made acquaintance with
monkeys, iguanas, jaguars, armadillos, and all the wonderful, beautiful,
and curious birds, beasts, and reptiles, plants, trees, and flowers, that
live and flourish in that romantic country. Once more, in fancy, he was
sailing up the mighty Amazon, shooting alligators on its banks, spearing
fish in its waters, paddling through its curious gapo, and swinging in
his hammock under its luxuriant forests. Once again he was a prisoner
among the wild Indians, and he started convulsively as he thought of the
terrible leap over the precipice into the stream that flowed into the
heart of the earth. Then he wandered in the lonely forest. Suddenly the
diamond mines were before him, and Barney's jovial voice rang in his
ears; and he replied to it with energy, for now he was bounding on a
fiery steed over the grassy campos. With a deep sigh he awoke from his
reverie to find himself surrounded by the great wide sea.
Arthur Jollyboy, Esquire, of the Old Hulk, sat on the top of a tall
three-legged stool in his own snug little office in the sea-port town of
Bilton, with his legs swinging to and fro; his socks displayed a
considerable way above the tops of his gaiters; his hands thrust deep
into his breeches pockets; his spectacles high on his bald forehead, and
his eyes looking through the open letter that lay before him; through the
desk underneath it; through the plank floor, cellars and foundations of
the edifice; and through the entire world into the distant future beyond.
"Four thousand pair of socks," he murmured, pulling down his spectacles
and consulting the open letter for the tenth time; "four thousand pair of
socks, with the hitch, same as last bale, but a very little coarser in
"Four thousand pair! and who's to make them, I wonder. If poor Mrs.
Dorothy Grumbit were here—ah! well, she's gone, so it can't be helped.
Four thousand!—dear me who will make them. Do you know?"
This question was addressed to his youngest clerk, who sat on the
opposite side of the desk staring at Mr. Jollyboy with that open
impudence of expression peculiar to young puppy-dogs whose masters are
"No, sir, I don't," said the clerk with a broad grin.
Before the perplexed merchant could come at any conclusion on this knotty
subject the door opened and Martin Rattler entered the room, followed by
his friend Barney O'Flannagan.
"You've come to the wrong room, friends," said Mr. Jollyboy with a
benignant smile. "My principal clerk engages men and pays wages. His
office is just opposite; first door in the passage."
"We don't want to engage," said Martin; "we wish to speak with you, sir."
"Oh, beg pardon!" cried Mr. Jollyboy, leaping off the stool with
surprising agility for a man of his years. "Come in this way. Pray be
seated—Eh! ah, surely I've seen you before, my good fellow?"
"Yis, sir, that ye have. I've sailed aboard your ships many a time. My
name's Barney O'Flannagan, at yer sarvice."
"Ah! I recollect; and a good man you are, I've been told, Barney; but I
have lost sight of you for some years. Been on a long voyage, I suppose?"
"Well, not 'xactly; but I've been on a long cruise, an' no mistake, in
the woods o' Brazil. I wos wrecked on the coast there, in the Firefly."
"Ah! to be sure. I remember. And your young messmate here, was he
"Yes, sir, I was," said Martin, answering for himself; "and I had once
the pleasure of your acquaintance. Perhaps if you look steadily in my
face you may—"
"Ah, then! don't try to bamboozle him. He might as well look at a bit o'
mahogany as at your faygurhead. Tell him at wance, Martin dear."
"Martin?" exclaimed the puzzled old gentleman, seizing the young sailor
by the shoulders and gazing intently into his face. "Martin! Martin!
Surely not—yes! eh? Martin Rattler?"
"Ay that am I, dear Mr. Jollyboy, safe and sound, and—"
Martin's speech was cut short in consequence of his being violently
throttled by Mr. Jollyboy, who flung his arms round his neck and
staggered recklessly about the office with him! This was the great point
which Barney had expected; it was the climax to which he had been looking
forward all the morning: and it did not come short of his anticipations;
for Mr. Jollyboy danced round Martin and embraced him for at least ten
minutes, asking him at the same time a shower of questions which he gave
him no time to answer. In the excess of his delight Barney smote his
thigh with his broad hand so forcibly that it burst upon the startled
clerk like a pistol-shot, and caused him to spring off his stool!
"Don't be afeared, young un," said Barney, winking and poking the small
clerk jocosely in the ribs with his thumb. "Isn't it beautiful to see
them. Arrah, now! isn't it purty?"
"Keep your thumbs to yourself, you sea monster," said the small clerk,
angrily, and laying his hand on the ruler. But Barney minded him not, and
continued to smite his thigh and rub his hands, while he performed a sort
of gigantic war-dance round Mr. Jollyboy and Martin.
In a few minutes the old gentleman subsided sufficiently to understand
"But, my aunt," said Martin, anxiously; "you have said nothing about Aunt
Dorothy. How is she? where is she? is she well?"
To these questions Mr. Jollyboy returned no answer, but sitting suddenly
down on a chair, he covered his face with his hands.
"She is not ill?" inquired Martin in a husky voice, while his heart beat
violently. "Speak, Mr. Jollyboy, is she—is she—"
"No, she's not ill," returned the old gentleman; "but she's—"
"She is dead!" said Martin, in a tone so deep and sorrowful that the old
gentleman started up.
"No, no, not dead, my dear boy; I did not mean that. Forgive my
stupidity, Martin. Aunt Dorothy is gone,—left the village a year ago;
and I have never seen or heard of her since."
Terrible though this news was, Martin felt a slight degree of relief to
know that she was not dead;—at least there was reason to hope that she
might be still alive.
"But when did she go? and why? and where?"
"She went about twelve months ago," replied Mr. Jollyboy. "You see,
Martin, after she lost you she seemed to lose all hope and all spirit;
and at last she gave up making socks for me, and did little but moan in
her seat in the window and look out towards the sea. So I got a pleasant
young girl to take care of her; and she did not want for any of the
comforts of life. One day the little girl came to me here, having run all
the way from the village, to say that Mrs. Grumbit had packed up a bundle
of clothes and gone off to Liverpool by the coach. She took the
opportunity of the girl's absence on some errand to escape; and we should
never have known it, had not some boys of the village seen her get into
the coach and tell the guard that she was going to make inquiries after
Martin. I instantly set out for Liverpool; but long before I arrived the
coach had discharged its passengers, and the coachman, not suspecting
that anything was wrong, had taken no notice of her after arriving. From
that day to this I have not ceased to advertise and make all possible
inquiries, but without success."
Martin heard the narrative in silence, and when it was finished he sat a
few minutes gazing vacantly before him, like one in a dream. Then
starting up suddenly, he wrung Mr. Jollyboy's hand, "Good-bye, my dear
friend; good-bye. I shall go to Liverpool. We shall meet again."
"Stay, Martin, stay—"
But Martin had rushed from the room, followed by his faithful friend, and
in less than half an hour they were in the village of Ashford. The coach
was to pass in twenty minutes, so, bidding Barney engage two outside
seats, he hastened round by the road towards the cottage. There it stood,
quaint, time-worn, and old-fashioned, as when he had last seen it,—the
little garden in which he had so often played,—the bower in which, on
fine weather, Aunt Dorothy used to sit, and the door-step on which the
white kitten used to gambol. But the shutters were closed, and the door
was locked, and there was an air of desolation and a deep silence
brooding over the place, that sank more poignantly into Martin's heart
than if he had come and found every vestige of the home of his childhood
swept away. It was like the body without the soul. The flowers, and
stones, and well-known forms were there; but she who had given animation
to the whole was gone. Sitting down on the door-step, Martin buried his
face in his hands and wept.
He was quickly aroused by the bugle of the approaching coach. Springing
up, he dashed the tears away and hurried towards the high-road. In a few
minutes Barney and he were seated on the top of the coach, and dashing,
at the rate of ten miles an hour, along the road to Liverpool.
THE OLD GARRET
Days, and weeks, and months, passed away, and Martin had searched every
nook and corner of the great sea-port without discovering his old aunt,
or obtaining the slightest information regarding her. At first he and
Barney went about the search together, but after a time he sent his old
companion forcibly away to visit his own relatives, who dwelt not far
from Bilton, at the same time promising that if he had any good news to
tell he would immediately write and let him know.
One morning, as Martin was sitting beside the little fire in his lodging,
a tap came to the door, and the servant girl told him that a policeman
wished to see him.
"Show him in," said Martin, who was not in the least surprised, for he
had had much intercourse with these guardians of the public peace during
the course of his unavailing search.
"I think, sir," said the man on entering, "that we've got scent of an old
woman w'ich is as like the one that you're arter as hanythink."
Martin rose in haste. "Have you, my man? Are you sure?"
"'Bout as sure as a man can be who never seed her. But it won't take you
long to walk. You'd better come and see for yourself."
Without uttering another word, Martin put on his hat and followed the
policeman. They passed through several streets and lanes, and at length
came to one of the poorest districts of the city, not far distant from
the shipping. Turning down a narrow alley, and crossing a low
dirty-looking court, Martin's guide stopped before a door, which he
pushed open and mounted by a flight of rickety wooden stairs to a garret.
He opened the door and entered.
"There she is," said the man in a tone of pity, as he pointed to a corner
of the apartment, "an' I'm afeer'd she's goin' fast."
Martin stepped towards a low truckle-bed on which lay the emaciated form
of a woman covered with a scanty and ragged quilt. The corner of it was
drawn across her face, and so gentle was her breathing that it seemed as
if she were already dead. Martin removed the covering, and one glance at
that gentle, care-worn countenance sufficed to convince him that his old
aunt lay before him! His first impulse was to seize her in his strong
arms, but another look at the frail and attenuated form caused him to
shrink back in fear.
"Leave me," he said, rising hastily and slipping half a sovereign into
the policeman's hand; "this is she. I wish to be alone with her."
The man touched his hat and retired, closing the door behind him; while
Martin, sitting down on the bed, took one of his aunt's thin hands in
his. The action was tenderly performed, but it awoke her. For the first
time it flashed across Martin's mind that the sudden joy at seeing him
might be too much for one so feeble as Aunt Dorothy seemed to be. He
turned his back hastily to the light, and with a violent effort
suppressed his feelings while he asked how she did.
"Well, very well," said Aunt Dorothy, in a faint voice. "Are you the
missionary that was here long ago? Oh! I've been longing for you. Why did
you not come to read to me oftener about Jesus? But I have had Him here
although you did not come. He has been saying 'Come unto me, ye that
labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' Yes, I have found
rest in Him." She ceased and seemed to fall asleep again; but in a few
seconds she opened her eyes and said, "Martin, too, has been to see me;
but he does not come so often now. The darling boy used always to come to
me in my dreams. But he never brings me food. Why does no one ever bring
me food? I am hungry."
"Should you like food now, if I brought it to you?" said Martin in a
"Yes, yes; bring me food,—I am dying."
Martin released her hand and glided gently out of the room. In a few
minutes he returned with a can of warm soup and a roll; of which Aunt
Dorothy partook with an avidity that showed she had been in urgent need.
Immediately after, she went to sleep; and Martin sat upon the bed holding
her hand in both of his till she awoke, which she did in an hour after,
and again ate a little food. While she was thus engaged the door opened
and a young man entered, who stated that he was a doctor, and had been
sent there by a policeman.
"There is no hope," he said in a whisper, after feeling her pulse; "the
system is quite exhausted."
"Doctor," whispered Martin, seizing the young man by the arm, "can
nothing save her? I have money, and can command anything that may do
The doctor shook his head. "You may give her a little wine. It will
strengthen her for a time, but I fear there is no hope. I will send in a
bottle if you wish it."
Martin gave him the requisite sum, and in a few minutes the wine was
brought up by a boy.
The effect of the wine was wonderful. Aunt Dorothy's eyes sparkled as
they used to do in days of old, and she spoke with unwonted energy.
"You are kind to me, young man," she said, looking earnestly into
Martin's face, which, however, he kept carefully in shadow. "May our Lord
"Would you like me to talk to you of your nephew?" said Martin; "I have
seen him abroad."
"Seen my boy! Is he not dead?"
"No; he is alive, and in this country, too."
Aunt Dorothy turned pale, but did not reply for a few minutes, during
which she grasped his hand convulsively.
"Turn your face to the light," she said faintly.
Martin obeyed, and bending over her whispered, "He is here; I am Martin,
my dear, dear aunt—"
No expression of surprise escaped from Aunt Dorothy as she folded her
arms round his neck and pressed his head upon her bosom. His hot tears
fell upon her neck while she held him, but she spoke not. It was evident
that as the strength infused by the wine abated her faculties became
confused. At length she whispered,—
"It is good of you to come to see me, darling boy. You have often come to
me in my dreams. But do not leave me so soon; stay a very little longer,"
"This is no dream, dearest aunt," whispered Martin, while his tears
flowed faster; "I am really here."
"Ay, so you always say, my darling child; but you always go away and
leave me. This is a dream, no doubt, like all the rest; but oh, it seems
very very real! You never wept before, although you often smiled.
Surely this is the best and brightest dream I ever had!"
Continuing to murmur his name while she clasped him tightly to her bosom,
Aunt Dorothy gently fell asleep.
Aunt Dorothy Grumbit did not die! Her gentle spirit had nearly fled;
but Martin's return and Martin's tender nursing brought her round, and
she gradually regained all her former strength and vigour. Yes, to the
unutterable joy of Martin, to the inexpressible delight of Mr. Arthur
Jollyboy and Barney, and to the surprise and complete discomfiture of the
young doctor who shook his head and said "There is no hope," Aunt Dorothy
Grumbit recovered? and was brought back in health and in triumph to her
old cottage at Ashford!
Moreover, she was arrayed again in the old bed-curtain chintz with the
flowers as big as saucers, and the old high-crowned cap. A white kitten
was got, too, so like the one that used to be Martin's playmate, that no
one could discover a hair of difference. So remarkable was this, that
Martin made inquiry, and found that it was actually the grand-daughter of
the old kitten, which was still alive and well; so he brought it back
too, and formally installed it in the cottage along with its grandchild.
There was a great house-warming on the night of the day in which Aunt
Dorothy Grumbit was brought back. Mr. Arthur Jollyboy was there—of
course; and the vicar was there; and the pursy doctor who used to call
Martin "a scamp;" and the school-master; and last, though not least,
Barney O'Flannagan was there. And they all had tea, during which dear
Aunt Dorothy smiled sweetly on everybody and said nothing,—and, indeed,
did nothing, except that once or twice she put additional sugar and cream
into Martin's cup when he was not looking, and stroked one of his hands
continually. After tea Martin related his adventures in Brazil, and
Barney helped him; and these two talked more that night than any one
could have believed it possible for human beings to do, without the aid
of steam lungs! And the doctor listened, and the vicar and school-master
questioned, and old Mr. Jollyboy roared and laughed till he became purple
in the face—particularly at the sallies of Barney. As for old Aunt
Dorothy Grumbit, she listened when Martin spoke. When Martin was silent
she became stone deaf!
In the course of time Mr. Jollyboy made Martin his head clerk; and then,
becoming impatient, he made him his partner off-hand. Then he made Barney
O'Flannagan an overseer in the warehouses; and when the duties of the day
were over, the versatile Irishman became his confidential servant, and
went to sup and sleep at the Old Hulk; which, he used to remark, was
quite a natural and proper and decidedly comfortable place to come to an
Martin became the stay and comfort of his aunt in her old age; and the
joy which he was the means of giving to her heart was like a deep and
placid river which never ceases to flow. Ah! there is a rich blessing in
store for those who tenderly nurse and comfort the aged, when called upon
to do so; and assuredly there is a sharp thorn prepared for those who
neglect this sacred duty. Martin read the Bible to her night and morning;
and she did nothing but watch for him at the window while he was out. As
Martin afterwards became an active member of the benevolent societies
with which his partner was connected, he learned from sweet experience
that "it is more blessed to give than to receive," and that "it is
better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of
feasting." Dear young reader, do not imagine that we plead in favour of
moroseness or gloom. Laugh if you will, and feast if you will, and
remember, too, that "a merry heart is a continual feast;" but we pray you
not to forget that God himself has said that a visit to the house of
mourning is better than a visit to the house of feasting: and, strange
to say, it is productive of greater joy; for to do good is better than to
get good, as surely as sympathy is better than selfishness.
Martin visited the poor and read the Bible to them; and in watering
others he was himself watered, for he found the "Pearl of Great Price,"
even Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.
Business prospered in the hands of Martin Rattler, too, and he became a
man of substance. Naturally, too, he became a man of great importance in
the town of Bilton. The quantity of work that Martin and Mr. Jollyboy and
Barney used to get through was quite marvellous; and the number of
engagements they had during the course of a day was quite bewildering.
In the existence of all men, who are not born to unmitigated misery,
there are times and seasons of peculiar enjoyment. The happiest hour of
all the twenty-four to Martin Rattler was the hour of seven in the
evening; for then it was that he found himself seated before the blazing
fire in the parlour of the Old Hulk, to which Aunt Dorothy Grumbit had
consented to be removed, and in which she was now a fixture. Then it
was that old Mr. Jollyboy beamed with benevolence, until the old lady
sometimes thought the fire was going to melt him; then it was that the
tea-kettle sang on the hob like a canary; and then it was that Barney
bustled about the room preparing the evening meal, and talking all the
time with the most perfect freedom to any one who chose to listen to him.
Yes, seven p.m. was Martin's great hour, and Aunt Dorothy's great hour,
and old Mr. Jollyboy's great hour, and Barney's too; for each knew that
the labours of the day were done, and that the front door was locked for
the night, and that a great talk was brewing. They had a tremendous talk
every night, sometimes on one subject, sometimes on another; but the
subject of all others that they talked oftenest about was their travels.
And many a time and oft, when the winter storms howled round the Old
Hulk, Barney was invited to draw in his chair, and Martin and he plunged
again vigorously into the great old forests of South America, and spoke
so feelingly about them that Aunt Dorothy and Mr. Jollyboy almost fancied
themselves transported into the midst of tropical scenes, and felt as if
they were surrounded by parrots, and monkeys, and jaguars, and
alligators, and anacondas, and all the wonderful birds, beasts, reptiles,
and fishes, that inhabit the woods and waters of Brazil.