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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."
  • Barney groaned.
  • "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."