Chapter 10 AN ENEMY IN THE NIGHT—THE VAMPIRE BAT—THE HERMIT DISCOURSES O_TRANGE, AND CURIOUS, AND INTERESTING THINGS
Next morning Martin Rattler awoke with a feeling of lightness in his head, an_ sensation of extreme weakness pervading his entire frame. Turning his hea_ound to the right he observed that a third hammock was slung across th_urther end of the hut; which was, no doubt, that in which the hermit ha_assed the night. But it was empty now. Martin did not require to turn hi_ead to the other side to see if Barney O'Flannagan was there, for that worth_ndividual made his presence known, for a distance of at least sixty yards al_ound the outside of the hut, by means of his nose, which he was in the habi_f using as a trumpet when asleep. It was as well that Martin did not requir_o look round; for he found, to his surprise, that he had scarcely strength t_o so. While he was wondering in a dreamy sort of manner what could be th_atter with him, the hermit entered the hut bearing a small deer upon hi_houlders. Resting his gun in a corner of the room, he advanced to Martin'_ammock.
"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 we_bout my feet."
Turning up the sheet, he found that Martin's feet were covered with blood! Fo_ few seconds the hermit growled forth a number of apparently very pith_entences in Portuguese, in a deep guttural voice, which awakened Barney wit_ 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?" an_eizing 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 th_rishman loosened his hold, and turned towards his friend.
"What's the matter, honey?" said Barney, in a soothing tone of voice, as _other might address her infant son. The hermit, whose composure had not bee_n 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 hos_ith a face of horror.
"Yes, these are the worst animals in Brazil for sucking the blood of men an_attle. 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—_oal you call him, I think; and now I have no cattle remaining, they are s_ad."
Barney groaned again, and the hermit went on to enumerate the wicked deeds o_he 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 sa_own to relate to his visitors the manner in which the bat carries on it_loody operations. He explained, first of all, that the vampire bats are s_arge and ferocious that they often kill horses and cattle by sucking thei_lood out. Of course they cannot do this at one meal, but they attack the poo_nimals again and again, and the blood continues to flow from the wounds the_ake 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 upo_he toes and other extremities. So gentle are they in their operations, tha_leepers frequently do not feel the puncture, which they make, it is supposed,
with the sharp hooked nail of their thumb; and the unconscious victim know_othing of the enemy who has been draining his blood until he awakens, fain_nd 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 organ_y which they suck the life-blood of their fellow-creatures; that they have _eculiar, leaf-like, overhanging lip; and that he had a stuffed specimen of _at that measured no less than two feet across the expanded wings, from tip t_ip,
"Och, the blood-thirsty spalpeen!" exclaimed Barney, as he rose and crosse_he 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 th_oss of the blood; much good, and he will not be sick at all to-morrow."
"I'm glad to hear you say so," said Martin, "for it would be a great bore t_e obliged to lie here when I've so many things to see. In fact I feel bette_lready, and if you will be so kind as to give me a little breakfast I shal_e quite well,"
While Martin was speaking, the obliging hermit,—who, by the way, was no_abited in a loose short hunting-coat of brown cotton,—spread a plentifu_epast upon his table; to which, having assisted Martin to get out of hi_ammock, they all proceeded to do ample justice: for the travellers were ver_ungry after the fatigue of the previous day; and as for the hermit, he looke_ike 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 kille_hat morning, which the hermit cooked while his guests were engaged with th_ther viands. There was also excellent coffee, and superb cream, besides cake_ade of a species of coarse flour or meal, fruits of various kinds, arid ver_ine honey.
"Arrah! ye've the hoith o' livin' here!" cried Barney, smacking his lips as h_eld out his plate for another supply of a species of meat which resemble_hicken 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 o_he Armadillo."
"Arma—what—o?" inquired Barney.
"Arma_dillo_," repeated the hermit. "He is very good to eat, but ver_ifficult to catch. He digs down so fast we cannot catch him, and must smok_im out of his hole."
"Have you many cows?" inquired Martin, as he replenished his cup with coffee.
"Cows?" echoed the hermit, "I have got no cows."
"Where do you get such capital cream, then?" asked Martin in surprise.
The hermit smiled. "Ah! my friends, that cream has come from a very curiou_ow. 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 wil_xplain a little of that you behold on my table.
"The coffee I get from the trees. There are plenty of them here. Much money i_ade in Brazil by the export of coffee,—very much. The cakes are made from th_andioca-root, which I grow near my house. The root is dried and ground int_lour, which, under the general _name farina_ , is used all over the country.
It is almost the only food used by the Indians and Negroes."
"Then there are Injins and Niggers here, are there?" inquired Barney.
"Yes, a great many. Most of the Negroes are slaves; some of the Indians too;
and the people who are descended from the Portuguese who came and took th_ountry long ago, they are the masters.—Well, the honey I get in holes in th_rees. 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 an_eaved a sigh of contentment. Then, drawing his hand over his chin, he looke_arnestly 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, i_on't much signify; but my mustaches is gitin' mighty long, for I've been tw_eeks already without a shave."
Martin laughed heartily at the grave, anxious expression of his comrade'_ace. "Never mind, Barney," he said, "a beard and moustache will improve yo_astly. Besides, they will be a great protection against mosquitoes; for yo_re such a hairy monster, that when they grow nothing of your face will b_xposed except your eyes and cheek-bones. And now," continued Martin, climbin_nto his hammock again and addressing the hermit, "since you won't allow me t_o out a-hunting to-day, I would like very much if you would tell me somethin_ore about this strange country."
"An' may be," suggested Barney, modestly, "ye won't object to tell u_omething about yersilf,—how you came for to live in this quare, solitary kin_f 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, an_rossed 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,—_ill tell you my story."
"An', if I might make so bould as to inquire," said Barney, with a deprecator_mile, while he drew a short black pipe from his pocket, "have ye got such _hing as 'baccy in them parts?"
The hermit rose, and going to a small box which stood in a corner, returne_ith a quantity of cut tobacco in one hand, and a cigar not far short of _oot 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 miniatur_urnace, while its owner seated himself on a low stool, crossed his arms o_is breast, leaned his back against the door-post, and smiled,—as only a_rishman can smile under such circumstances. The smoke soon formed a thic_loud, which effectually drove the mosquitoes out of the hut, and throug_hich Martin, lying in his hammock, gazed out upon the sunlit orange an_offee trees, and tall palms with their rich festoons of creeping plants, an_weet-scented flowers, that clambered over and round the hut and peeped in a_he open door and windows, while he listened to the hermit, who continued fo_t least ten minutes to murmur slowly, between the puffs of his cigar, "Yes, _ill do it; I will tell you my story."