Chapter 8 AN ENCHANTING LAND—AN UNCOMFORTABLE BED AND A QUEE_REAKFAST—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 hi_anding 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 tre_nder which they had slept, and his eyes staring right before him with a_xpression of concentrated amazement. When Martin opened his eyes, he too wa_truck dumb with surprise. And well might they gaze with astonishment; for th_ast ray of departing daylight on the night before had flickered over the ope_ea, and now the first gleam of returning sunshine revealed to them th_agnificent forests of Brazil.
Yes, well might they gaze and gaze again in boundless admiration; for th_ropical sun shone down on a scene of dazzling and luxuriant vegetation, s_esplendent that it seemed to them the realization of a fairy tale. Plants an_hrubs and flowers were there, of the most curious and brilliant description,
and of which they neither knew the uses nor the names. Majestic trees wer_here, with foliage of every shape and size and hue; some with stems twent_eet in circumference; others more slender in form, straight and tall; an_ome twisted in a bunch together and rising upwards like fluted pillars: a fe_ad buttresses, or natural planks, several feet broad, ranged all round thei_runks, as if to support them; while many bent gracefully beneath the load o_heir clustering fruit and heavy foliage. Orange-trees with their ripe frui_hone in the sunbeams like gold. Stately palms rose above the surroundin_rees and waved their feathery plumes in the air, and bananas with broa_normous 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 beautifu_rees were surrounded by and entwined in the embrace of luxuriant an_emarkable climbing plants. The parasitic vanilla with its star-like blossom_rept up their trunks and along their branches, where it hung in gracefu_estoons, or drooped back again almost to the ground. So rich and numerou_ere these creepers, that in many cases they killed the strong giants who_hey embraced so lovingly. Some of them hung from the tree-tops like stay_rom the masts of a ship, and many of them mingled their brilliant flowers s_losely with the leaves, that the climbing-plants and their supporters coul_ot be distinguished from each other, and it seemed as though the tree_hemselves had become gigantic flowering shrubs.
Birds, too, were there in myriads,—and such birds! Their feathers were gree_nd gold and scarlet and yellow and blue—fresh and bright and brilliant as th_ky beneath which they were nurtured. The great toucan, with a beak nearly a_ig 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 t_pray, like points of brilliant green. But they were irritable, passionat_ittle creatures, these lovely things, and quarrelled with each other an_ought like very wasps! Enormous butterflies, with wings of deep metalli_lue, shot past or hovered in the air like gleams of light; and gree_aroquets swooped from tree to tree and chattered joyfully over their mornin_eal.
Well might they gaze with wonder, and smile too with extreme merriment, fo_onkeys stared at them from between the leaves with expressions of undisguise_mazement, and bounded away shrieking and chattering in consternation,
swinging from branch to branch with incredible speed, and not scrupling to us_ach other's tails to swing by when occasion offered. Some were big and re_nd ugly,—as ugly as you can possibly imagine, with blue faces and fiercel_rinning teeth; others were delicately formed and sad of countenance, as i_hey were for ever bewailing the loss of near and dear relations, and could b_o means come at consolation; and some were small and pretty, with faces n_igger than a halfpenny. As a general rule, it seemed to Barney, the smalle_he monkey the longer the tail.
Yes, well might they gaze and gaze again in surprise and in excessiv_dmiration; and well might Barney O'Flannagan—under the circumstances, wit_uch sights and sounds around him, and the delightful odours of myrtle tree_rid orange blossoms and the Cape jessamine stealing up his nostrils—dee_imself the tenant of another world, and evince his conviction of the fact i_hat memorable expression—"I've woked in paradise!"
But Barney began to find "paradise" not quite so comfortable as it ought t_e; for when he tried to get up he found his bones pained and stiff fro_leeping in damp clothes; and moreover, his face was very much swelled, owin_o the myriads of mosquitoes which had supped of it during the night.
"Arrah, then, _won't_ ye be done!" he cried, angrily, giving his face a sla_hat killed at least two or three hundred of his tormentors. But thousand_ore attacked him instantly, and he soon found out,—what every one finds ou_ooner or later in hot climates,—that _patience_ is one of the best remedie_or mosquito bites. He also discovered shortly afterwards that smoke is not _ad remedy, in connection with patience.
"What are we to have for breakfast, Barney?" inquired Martin as he rose an_awned and stretched his limbs.
"Help yersilf to what ye plase," said Barney, with a polite bow, waving hi_and round him, as if the forest were his private property and Martin Rattle_is honoured guest.
"Well, I vote for oranges," said Martin, going towards a tree which was lade_ith 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 a_he foot of the tree under which they had reposed. Then Barney proceeded t_indle a fire,—not that he had anything to cook, but he said it looke_ociable-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 previou_ight, and a bit of dry grass could scarcely be found. At length he procured _ittle; and by rubbing it in the damp gunpowder which he had extracted fro_is pistol, and drying it in the sun, he formed a sort of tinder that caugh_ire after much persevering effort.
Some of the fruits they found to be good,—others bad. The good they ate,—th_ad they threw away. After their frugal fare they felt much refreshed, an_hen began to talk of what they should do.
"We can't live here with parrots and monkeys, you know," said Martin; "we mus_ry to find a village or town of some sort; or get to the coast, and then w_hall perhaps meet with a ship."
"True, lad," replied Barney, knitting his brows and looking extremel_agacious; "the fact is, since neither of us knows nothing about anything, o_he way to any place, my advice is to walk straight for'ard till we come t_omething."
"So think I," replied Martin; "therefore the sooner we set off the better."
Having no luggage to pack and no arrangements of any kind to make, the tw_riends rose from their primitive breakfast-table, and walked away straigh_efore them into the forest.
All that day they travelled patiently forward, conversing pleasantly about th_arious and wonderful trees, and flowers, and animals they met with by th_ay; but no signs were discovered that indicated the presence of man. Toward_vening, however, they fell upon a track or foot-path,—which discover_ejoiced them much; and here, before proceeding further, they sat down to ea_ little more fruit,—which, indeed, they had done several times during th_ay. 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 whic_ere of so fierce an aspect that they would have been very glad to have ha_uns to defend themselves with. Fortunately, however, all the animals seeme_o be much more afraid of them than they were of the animals; so the_ravelled in safety. Several times during the course of the day they sa_nakes and serpents, which glided away into the jungle on their approach, an_ould not be overtaken, although Barney made repeated darts at them, intendin_o attack them with his cutlass; which assaults always proved fruitless.
Once they were charged by a herd of peccaries,—a species of pig or wil_og,—from which they escaped by jumping actively to one side; but th_eccaries turned and rushed at them again, and it was only by springing up th_ranches of a neighbouring tree that they escaped their fury. These peccarie_re the fiercest and most dauntless animals in the forests of Brazil. They d_ot know what fear is,—they will rush in the face of anything; and, unlike al_ther animals, are quite indifferent to the report of fire-arms. Their bodie_re covered with long bristles, resembling very much the quills of th_orcupine.
As the evening drew on, the birds and beasts and the innumerable insects, tha_ad kept up a perpetual noise during the day, retired to rest; and then th_octurnal animals began to creep out of their holes and go about. Hug_ampire-bats, one of which had given Barney such a fright the night before,
flew silently past them; and the wild howlings commenced again. They no_iscovered that one of the most dismal of the howls proceeded from a specie_f monkey: at which discovery Martin laughed very much, and rallied hi_ompanion on being so easily frightened; but Barney gladly joined in the laug_gainst himself, for, to say truth, he felt quite relieved and light-hearte_t discovering that his ghosts were converted into bats and monkeys!
There was one roar, however, which, when they heard it ever and anon, gav_hem considerable uneasiness.
"D'ye think there's lions in them parts?" inquired Barney, glancing with a_xpression of regret at his empty pistol, and laying his hand on the hilt o_is cutlass.
"I think not," replied Martin, in a low tone of voice. "I have read in m_chool geography that there are tigers of some sort,—jaguars, or ounces, _hink they are called,—but there are no—"
Martin's speech was cut short by a terrific roar, which rang through th_oods, and the next instant a magnificent jaguar, or South American tiger,
bounded on to the track a few yards in advance, and, wheeling round, glare_iercely at the travellers. It seemed, in the uncertain light, as if his eye_ere two balls of living fire. Though not so large as the royal Bengal tige_f India, this animal was nevertheless of immense size, and had a ver_erocious aspect. His roar was so sudden and awful, and his appearance s_nexpected, that the blood was sent thrilling back into the hearts of th_ravellers, who stood rooted to the spot, absolutely unable to move. This wa_he first large animal of the cat kind that either of them had seen in all th_errible majesty of its wild condition; and, for the first time, Martin an_is friend felt that awful sensation of dread that will assail even th_ravest heart when a new species of imminent danger is suddenly presented. I_s said that no animal can withstand the steady gaze of a human eye; and man_ravellers in wild countries have proved this to be a fact. On the presen_ccasion our adventurers stared long and steadily at the wild creature befor_hem, from a mingled feeling of surprise and horror. In a few seconds th_aguar showed signs of being disconcerted. It turned its head from side t_ide slightly, and dropped its eyes, as if to avoid their gaze. Then turnin_lowly and stealthily round, it sprang with a magnificent bound into th_ungle, 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 col_erspiration from his forehead. "We should have had no chance against such _errible beast with a cutlass, I fear."
"True, boy, true," replied his friend, gravely; "it would have been littl_etter than a penknife in the ribs o' sich a cratur. I niver thought that i_as in the power o' man or baste to put me in sich a fright; but the longer w_ive we learn, boy."
Barney's disposition to make light of everything was thoroughly subdued b_his incident, and he felt none of his usual inclination to regard all that h_aw in the Brazilian forests with a comical eye. The danger they had escape_as too real and terrible, and their almost unarmed condition too serious, t_e lightly esteemed. For the next hour or two he continued to walk by Martin'_ide either in total silence, or in earnest, grave conversation; but b_egrees these feelings wore off, and his buoyant spirits gradually returned.
The country over which they had passed during the day was of a mingle_haracter. At one time they traversed a portion of dark forest, heavy an_hoked up with the dense and gigantic foliage peculiar to those countries tha_ie near to the equator; then they emerged from this upon what to their eye_eemed most beautiful scenery,—mingled plain and woodland,—where the excessiv_rilliancy and beauty of the tropical vegetation was brought to perfection b_xposure to the light of the blue sky and the warm rays of the sun. In suc_ovely spots they travelled more slowly and rested more frequently, enjoyin_o the full the sight of the gaily-coloured birds and insects that fluttere_usily around them, and the delicious perfume of the flowers that decked th_round and clambered up the trees. At other times they came to plains, o_campos_ , as they are termed, where there were no trees at all, and fe_hrubs, and where the grass was burned brown and dry by the sun. Over suc_hey hurried as quickly as they could; and fortunately, where they chanced t_ravel, such places were neither numerous nor extensive, although in som_istricts of Brazil there are campos hundreds of miles in extent.
A small stream meandered through the forest, and enabled them to refres_hemselves frequently; which was very fortunate, for the heat, especiall_owards noon, became extremely intense, and they could not have existe_ithout water. So great, indeed, was the heat about mid-day, that, by mutua_onsent, they resolved to seek the cool shade of a spreading tree, and try t_leep if possible. At this time they learned, to their surprise, that al_nimated nature did likewise, and sought repose at noon. God had implanted i_he breast of every bird and insect in that mighty forest an instinct whic_aught 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 wa_een, and not a sound was heard. Even the troublesome mosquitoes, so active a_ll other times, day and night, were silent now. The change was very great an_triking, and difficult for those who have not observed it to comprehend. Al_he forenoon, screams, and cries, and croaks, and grunts, and whistles, rin_ut through the woods incessantly; while, if you listen attentively, you hea_he low, deep, and never-ending buzz and hum of millions upon millions o_nsects, that dance in the air and creep on every leaf and blade upon th_round. About noon all this is hushed. The hot rays of the sun bea_erpendicularly down upon what seems a vast untenanted solitude, and not _ingle chirp breaks the death-like stillness of the great forest, with th_olitary exception of the metallic note of the uruponga, or bell-bird, whic_eems to mount guard when all the rest of the world has gone to sleep. As th_fternoon approaches they all wake up, refreshed by their siesta, active an_ively as fairies, and ready for another spell of work and another deep-tone_oisy chorus.
The country through which our adventurers travelled, as evening approached,
became gradually more hilly, and their march consequently more toilsome. The_ere 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 ligh_hining at a considerable distance in the valley beyond. With light steps an_earts full of hope they descended the hill and hastened towards it.