Passes San Bento, and arrives at the Arraial de Conceição

The Villa de Natividade is situated near the western base of the southern extremity of the Serra already mentioned, which bears the same name, and like most of the towns in the interior is very irregularly built. The population amounts to about 2,000 souls consisting of the same mixed races we had so frequently met with before. It contains four churches, which although now very old, are not yet quite finished, nor is it at all likely that they ever will be completed. There is also a jail, but it is built of unburned bricks, through which the prisoners generally contrive to escape, so that it can scarcely be called a prison. Most of the houses are constructed of this material. The inhabitants are lazy and indolent in the extreme, and consequently there is always a great scarcity of the common necessaries of life among them; notwithstanding that much of the country in the neighbourhood of the Villa is well suited for plantations of mandiocca, &c., still very few are to[257] be seen; and although there are many large cattle farms at only a few leagues distance, it is not above once a month, that fresh beef can be purchased; but this is not much to be wondered at, as the mass of the inhabitants, from their indolent habits, have not the means of buying it, or any other useful article. On enquiry of one of the most respectable persons in the place, how these persons contrived to live, he told me that the few who were industrious had to support the others, for they generally stole from their plantations as much as served to sustain their miserable existence. During our stay, we were obliged to live almost entirely on farinha and dried salt beef, neither rice, plantains, nor yams being obtainable. Occasionally I was able to purchase a kind of coarse biscuit, made of Indian corn flour, and once or twice I had a present sent me of a few small loaves, made from wheat grown on high lands, near the town of Cavalcante, a long way to the south. I never saw wheat cultivated in any of those places I visited, and this was the only time I ever tasted bread made from that grain grown within the tropics.

Although the dress of the men is here much the same as in other northern parts of Brazil, that of the women differs greatly, for when dressed either for attending church, joining in processions, or visiting their friends, in place of the large white cotton shawl, which the women of Ceará throw over their heads, or the small white handkerchief used in Piauhy for the same purpose, I was rather surprised to find that here, they all wore cloaks made either of Scotch tartan or blue cloth, very similar to those worn by the factory girls of Glasgow in the winter season. Here it is a universal custom for the women to smoke; and the pipe, which has a wooden tube about three feet long, is seldom out of their mouths from morning till night. They work little, but eat and sleep a great deal; the lower classes of females are also much addicted to drinking the rum of the country (cachaça). The only prisoner confined in the jail while I was there, was a woman, who a few years before was condemned to twenty years’ imprisonment, for causing her own son to kill his father. The son, who was condemned to perpetual imprisonment and hard labour, broke[258] through the walls of the prison shortly after his sentence, and effected his escape.

When we arrived, there were three priests in the Villa, one of whom died during our stay. These, like most others I met with, instead of being examples of morality to the people, were immoral to an extent almost past belief. The one who died was an old man upwards of seventy-four years of age: he was a native of Santos in the province of San Paulo, and a cousin of the celebrated José Bonifacio de Andrade. Although a man of a very humane and benevolent disposition, and well educated, he left behind him a family of half a dozen children by his own slaves, most of whom, with their mothers, were left in bondage, and were afterwards sold with his other effects for the payment of his debts. The Vigario General was a half-caste, upwards of forty years of age, who had only been ordained a few years before; up to that time he was, and still continues to be, the largest cattle farmer in the district. Having acquired as much Latin from the old priest, as would enable him to mumble over the service of the church, but without the least knowledge of theology, he went to the city of Goyaz, to purchase his ordination from the bishop; a short time afterwards he obtained, by another purchase, the vicar generalship of the district. About a month after my arrival in the Villa, I was sent for to attend a young slave belonging to him, a fine girl about sixteen years of age, who died of puerperal fever, a few days after giving birth to a child, of which he was the father. By the inhabitants, this man was as much detested, as the old priest had been loved and esteemed.

Both the soil and the climate of this neighbourhood are far superior to those of Piauhy and Ceará; the rains generally set in about the beginning of October, and continue more or less till April. During the whole of the month of December, and part of January, it rained almost incessantly every day, rendering it quite impossible to stir out; but in the latter part of January and the beginning of February the weather was very fine, with the exception of the afternoons, when there was usually a heavy thunder-storm. The thunder-storms and the rain generally came from[259] the north, north-east, and east, originating probably on the Serras which exist at a considerable distance in those directions. Indian corn and mandiocca are the principal articles cultivated here; but many of the fazendeiros also find it profitable to plant cane, not so much for the manufacture of sugar as of rum, which meets a ready sale. The only fruit trees that are cultivated are orange and lime, and in a few instances the jaca and tamarind.

The principal diseases of this district are intermittent and malignant fevers, especially at the beginning and towards the end of the rainy season. Ophthalmia and its consequences, as well as syphilis and its effects, are also very common, and yearly produce many miserable objects. Nearly the whole of the inhabitants are affected with goître, and children are frequently born with it, even strangers who come to reside in the Villa and neighbourhood, are sure to become affected with it in the course of a few years. Some ascribe it to the use of the sea salt brought from Pará, the people having previously been accustomed to the use of that they obtain from the soil in the neighbourhood, which is impregnated with salt; others say that it is caused by the waters from the Serra, which in the dry season particularly are a little saline. Whatever the cause may be, all seemed to agree both here, and at Almas, that it is only within the last twenty years that it has become so prevalent among them: I found it quite as frequent at Conceição and Arrayas, two towns further to the south, at which places the waters are also saline, especially those flowing from the limestone mountains. All the places where I have seen it prevail, lie along the eastern base of the Serra Geral, a broad mountain chain, which divides the province of Goyaz from those of Pernambuco and Minas Geräes; burnt sponge is the only remedy they employ against it. They have, however, recourse to another method, in which they put great faith; this is a small piece of cord taken to a church, and cut exactly the length of the image of the crucifixion which they wear round their necks. I made enquiries of several who wore this kind of charm, whether they imagined it produced any effect on the swelling, but, as was to be expected, they all confessed that it not[260] only failed in curing it, but in no way prevented it from increasing in size.

I had now reached the most northerly point of the Brazilian empire, that had previously been visited by any naturalist, for neither Pohl nor Burchell had extended their excursions beyond Natividade. It is true that Spix and Martius also travelled in the north of Brazil, but their route was in a very different direction. As I was here informed that these travellers had not ascended the neighbouring lofty Serra, I was resolved to do so, for the double purpose of making botanical collections, and of examining its geological structure. On this journey I was accompanied by Mr. Walker, a black shoe-maker, who acted as a guide, and one of my own men. Following the banks of a small stream which comes from the Serra, and which passing near the north end of the Villa, yields it a constant supply of clear and cool water, we reached the foot of the Serra, and shortly afterwards, by a gradual ascent, arrived on the top of a low branch, where we found a broad shallow valley, the soil of which had been completely turned over in search of gold; and near the centre of it, we came upon the ruins of what we were told had been the original site of the Villa. It was founded by those who first ventured into this distant region in search of gold, and was abandoned about sixty or seventy years ago, when this metal became scarce, and when cattle farms were found to be more productive than mines. Near the top of this valley there is a small artificial lake, which must have been formed at a great expense, and from it the water was led in small streams to the places where the washings were going on. The soil in which the gold was found, is a ferruginous gravel, formed from the disintegration of the primitive rocks of which the Serra is composed.

Leaving the valley of the gold mines, which is above a mile in length, and beginning to ascend the higher part of the Serra, which is very thinly wooded with small trees, and covered with abundance of tree-lilies (Vellozia), as well as several kinds of coarse grass, we arrived at a place near the summit, which was rocky, steep, and of difficult ascent. It was some time before we[261] could find a proper path, and in doing so, Mr. Walker, who was the first to climb up, met with an accident which nearly proved fatal to him; when near the top, part of a rock by which he laid hold gave way, and he was precipitated from a height of about sixteen or eighteen feet with great violence, and rolled over some large stones to within a few feet of a deep precipice; it was a most fortunate circumstance for him that he did not go over it, or he would have been dashed to pieces. Although considerably bruised, he was again the first to lead the way, reaching the top with safety, where with more or less difficulty we followed him. On attaining this point, we thought we had gained the highest part of the Serra, but about half a mile to the north we saw another point considerably higher to which we now directed our steps. During the ascent the sun was very powerful, but at this elevation, we found a deliciously cool breeze blowing from the east, which was very refreshing. We all suffered from thirst, and fortunately found, at the base of the highest peak, a little pool of clear cool water, by the side of which we took some refreshment that we had brought with us. From the summit we had a beautiful prospect in all directions; to the eastward and north, the view was bounded by several chains of low Serras, but to the westward and south, the country appeared one vast plain, which was lost in the horizon. The top was covered with large blocks of granite, among which grew a few stunted trees and shrubs.

I found the western side of the Serra to be bounded by a thick bed of very compact greyish-coloured limestone, which beyond the northern point of the Serra, for some leagues, forms large isolated hills, covered with wood. The central part of the chain is granite, between which and the limestone formation the rocks are schistose. My botanical harvest was a very rich one, so much so that I was induced, on two subsequent occasions, to ascend the mountain again. I collected, in particular, many curious and beautiful little ferns, all new species, and several beautiful Vellozias; these plants are peculiar to Brazil, and as I have so often spoken of them, I shall here describe their appearance: they belong[262] to the Endogenous or Monocotyledonous division of the vegetable kingdom, and were named in honour of Dr. Joaquim Vellozo de Miranda, a Jesuit, who was a native of the province of Minas Geräes, and who devoted much of his leisure time to the study of the botany of his country. They are most commonly found on the mountains of the interior, but principally in the gold and diamond districts, growing in open grassy places, and often covering large tracts; they vary in height from a few inches to twelve feet; their stems are very dry and fibrous, and seem to be made up of a great mass of long slender roots loosely hung together; and not unfrequently they contain a resinous matter, which causes them to be sought after in the woodless regions of the diamond district for fuel. Sometimes these stems are not less than a foot in diameter; they are very much branched, and are entirely leafless, except the last divisions of the branches, which are clothed with long, narrow, aloe-like leaves, not, however, fleshy; from the centre of these spring the flowers, which are generally solitary, although some of the smaller species have as many as six arising from the end of each branch. In the large kinds, the flowers are about six inches long, either of a pure white, or more frequently of a beautiful purple colour; in shape, they are not unlike the large white lily of our gardens, and hence their name of tree-lilies. These plants are called by the Brazilians, Canela d’Emú (literally Emu shanks), from their bare stems resembling the legs of that bird. These beautiful plants were first introduced into the hot-houses of England, from seeds sent home by me; and as they are of very slow growth, and apparently difficult of cultivation, it may reasonably be expected they will be a long time before they can exhibit the beauty of their wild progenitors.

Besides many shorter excursions which I made in the neighbourhood of Natividade, I went several times to the Arraial da Chapada, a village about two leagues to the N.W.; it is about half the size of Natividade, and is situated on one of those low, flat table-lands called Chapadas, and hence its name. The country round it, as about Natividade, has all been turned over in[263] search of gold; but those who formerly employed their slaves on this labour, now find it more to their profit to employ them on plantations. There are still a few old free blacks who get a scanty livelihood by washing the soil. On my visits to this place I was always very hospitably entertained by Captain Baptista, an old Portuguese, who has been settled there for many years, and who is father-in-law to the proprietor of Sociedade. He spoke much of Pohl and Burchell, both of whom remained some time in the Arraial, and with whom he seemed to have been intimate. My visits to this place afforded large additions to my collections, the limestone hills near Sociedade in particular being very rich in plants. During my stay in the Villa de Natividade, I received much kindness from Senhor Zacaria Antonio do Santo, the Juiz dos Orfãos. I had many visits also from a person who lived at a little distance from the Villa, and who at one time had been Juiz de Paz: he was a very good-natured and simple-minded man, as the following anecdote will show. The first time he called on me, he said he wished to speak with me in private: he began by telling me that he had heard the English had the power of divining where hidden gold was to be discovered, and that as much gold was to be found in the Serra, if I would point out where a rich mine existed, he would undertake to work it, and share the profits with me. In almost the same breath he informed me, that a few years ago a Portuguese died in the neighbourhood, who was always considered to be very rich, but that on his decease no money was to be found; now, he said, he fully believed that it was all buried, somewhere near his house, which was now in ruins, and that if I would accompany him there, and discover it, we could without any one knowing it, share it between us. The poor old fellow seemed sadly disappointed when I told him that I had never made such a branch of knowledge my study.

One dark night, about the beginning of December, while passing along the streets of the Villa de Natividade, I observed some boys amusing themselves with some’ luminous object, which I at first supposed to be a kind of large fire-fly; but on making[264] enquiry I found it to be a beautiful phosphorescent fungus, belonging to the genus Agaricus, and was told that it grew abundantly in the neighbourhood, on the decaying leaves of a dwarf palm. Next day I obtained a great many specimens, and found them to vary from one to two inches and a half across. The whole plant gives out at night a bright phosphorescent light, of a pale greenish hue, similar to that emitted by the larger fire-flies, or by those curious soft-bodied marine animals, the Pyrosomæ; from which circumstance, and from growing on a palm, it is called by the inhabitants “Flor do Coco;” the light given out by a few of these fungi, in a dark room, was sufficient to read by. It proved to be quite a new species, and since my return from Brazil, has been described by the Rev. Mr. Berkeley under the name of Agaricus Gardneri, from preserved specimens which I brought home. I had already named it A. phosphorescens, not being aware at the time I discovered it, that any other species of the same genus exhibited a similar phenomenon; such, however, is the case in the Agaricus olearius of De Candolle; and Mr. Drummond, of the Swan River Colony in Australia, has given an account of a very large phosphorescent species occasionally found there.[11]

On the 10th of February, 1840, we left Natividade, with the intention of proceeding to the Villa de Arrayas, a small town about thirty leagues to the S.E. We had made all our preparations to leave on the second, but had the mortification to find one of our horses missing, which detained us eight days. It proved, in the end, that some one had taken the loan of it, for four days after our departure, it was found near the place whence it had been taken, and was sent after me by my friend the Juiz dos Orfãos. Leaving Natividade, and skirting the base of the Serra in a southerly direction, we arrived at the banks of a small river called the Riacho Salobro, which flows towards the west, and falls into the Manoel Alvez: its waters are very brackish during the dry season. The loads had all to be passed over a rude kind of bridge (pingella) formed of the trunks of two trees, and as both[265] the river and its banks were deep, we had no little difficulty in getting the horses across, which was done by swimming them. We remained for the night at the fazenda Das tres legoas, nearly three leagues from the Villa, as its name implies. On the following morning, after a journey of one long league and a half, we again reached the banks of the Rio de Manoel Alvez, at a place where it was both much broader and deeper than where we previously crossed it; here, however, we were fortunate enough to find a canoe. My first care was to have the horses passed to the other side, which was done by two men entering the canoe, and each taking hold of a halter they were swum over, two at a time. Before all our luggage was conveyed to the opposite bank, a heavy thunder-storm passed over us from the N.E., which drenched us completely; in consequence of this I thought it best to proceed at once to the first house, which was only a league and a half distant, where we remained for the night. The country between the Villa and the river is nearly a flat plain, consisting of large open campos, marshes, and tracts, but thinly wooded with small trees. Several beautiful flowering shrubs, and a few terrestrial Orchideæ were collected on this journey.

From this place, a journey of about ten leagues brought us to the Arraial de Conceição, a distance that occupied us two days and a half. On the night of the 12th, we slept at a large cattle fazenda, called San Bento, and a very stormy afternoon prevented us from leaving it. Till within about a league of the Arraial, the country continues flat and open, but afterwards it became hilly, the hills being low and often rocky. So thinly is the country populated in these districts, that between San Bento and the Arraial, a distance of at least twenty miles, we passed only one house. The greater part of this district is only adapted for the rearing of cattle, but there is much also admirably suited for plantations of different kinds.

The Arraial de Conceição contains a population of about one hundred persons; but there are many houses in the village, belonging to fazendeiros, who only occupy them at the time of the principal church festivals; blacks and mulattos form the greater[266] portion of the residents, and during the four days we remained here, we saw very few white people. This village is situated in a hollow between two small hills, but the country around in general is level; the houses stand principally in two long streets, and one of the two churches it contains is now in ruins. The water with which the Arraial is supplied, is obtained from a small rivulet; it is very bad and of a brackish taste; it seems to have some connection with the production of goître, so prevalent along the western side of the Serra Geral, which, as far as I have traced it, is bounded by limestone similar to that which exists at Natividade. The streams which flow over these rocks are all more or less saline, and wherever these waters are drunk by the inhabitants, there goître is found to exist. Along the eastern side of the Serra, on the contrary, this disease is scarcely to be met with, and there, at least in those parts which I visited, no limestone was to be seen, nor were any of the rivulets impregnated with saline matter.

The soil for nearly a league round the village, has evidently been well turned over in search of gold, and from all accounts a considerable quantity was found in former times; the little met with at present scarcely repays the labour of searching for it. The soil in which it is found is of a clayey, gravelly nature, being evidently the débris of primitive rocks, the gold appearing either in very minute particles, or in grains of all sizes, some of which are said to weigh several ounces. Rich veins are also supposed to exist in the solid rock, which consists mostly of quartz, but these they cannot explore to any depth, as they do not possess the means of getting rid of the water which accumulates. I was informed by the Vigario, who perhaps exaggerated the fact, that at a short distance from the village there exists a mine so rich, that a small bucket of soil yields nearly a quarter of an ounce of gold: he said it was not above, twenty feet deep, but in consequence of the influx of a spring, it had been abandoned for a long time. The only method they employed to get rid of the water, was by a number of men stationed at different heights, who handed it to one another in buckets; when I enquired why they[267] did not make use of pumps, he said they had only heard of such things, but had never seen them, the mechanics of the place being so ignorant that they did not know how to construct so simple an instrument! From the Vigario I received a great deal of kindness during my stay: he was a man of very benevolent disposition, and much respected by the people; although advanced in years, he was of a very active temperament, far more so indeed than the generality, not only of his class, but of his countrymen. He was the only person in those parts who was a subscriber for a newspaper from Rio de Janeiro, but from the irregularity of the posts, long intervals often elapsed in their delivery. He kindly gave me a letter of introduction to one of the most influential persons in the neighbourhood of the Villa de Arrayas, who was his intimate friend.

Within the last twenty years, two slight earthquakes have been felt both at Natividade and Conceição; the first occurred in the year 1826, and the other in 1834; the movement of the earth was very perceptibly felt in both places, although they were each of short duration. These were the only places in Brazil where I could learn such phenomena had been observed.

We left Conceição on the morning of the 17th of Feb., when a journey of four long leagues brought us, late in the afternoon, to the banks of the Rio da Palma. About half a league from the Arraial, the road winds round the end of a somewhat lofty ridge of rocky hills, not far from the foot of which we passed some gold workings. The slaves employed in this occupation do not give all they find to their masters, for they are obliged to maintain and clothe themselves, and pay to their employers a certain fixed sum of money, somewhere about six shillings per week. Many of them have been fortunate enough to purchase their freedom, but the greater number of them become indolent and dissipated. A short time before our arrival, a slave found a piece of pure gold weighing upwards of ten ounces, which was more than sufficient to procure him his freedom. The fields about here were gay with a fine terrestrial Orchideous plant, an Epistephium, about two feet high, bearing a spike of large rose-coloured flowers. We[268] halted during the middle of the day at the only house on the road, the fazenda de Pindobal, and started early again, so as to reach the Rio da Palma in good time to cross it. The country we found to be nearly flat, consisting of large open campos, which were better stocked with cattle than any we had hitherto passed through in this province. When about half way to the river, we unfortunately went off the proper path, and got upon a cattle track, which in those thinly-inhabited countries often lead the traveller astray, the highway having quite the same appearance; it was some time before we discovered our error, but knowing the direction in which the river ran, we made direct for it, and in less than half an hour were so fortunate as to come upon the right road again, which now lay through a thin forest, consisting principally of Qualea parviflora, Mart. In consequence of the delay thus occasioned, it was nearly sunset before we arrived at the ferry.

We found the river much swollen, although it had not rained here for more than a week, but we concluded that much rain had fallen recently further up the country. Owing to this circumstance, and to the lateness of the hour, we had some difficulty in prevailing on the ferryman to carry us over to the other side. The Rio da Palma is considerably broader than that of Manoel Alvez, and flows with much greater force. In this, as in the former river, the canoe is maintained at the expence of government, but it was here on so small a scale that only one horse could be taken over at a time; in this tedious manner the transit was repeated no less than twelve times before all could be passed over, which occupied more than three hours. This place is called Fazenda da Barra, and contains several houses on both sides of the river; that to which we were directed to find accommodation was so small, that as the night promised to be fine, we preferred taking up our quarters under some trees that grew in front of it.

On the following morning, after we had travelled about two leagues and a half, we were obliged to stop in consequence of two of the horses becoming very much fatigued, caused most probably by the great-exertion of crossing the river the night before. We[269] halted at a place near the foot of the Serra da Santa Brida, where only a few small trees grew, which were barely sufficient to shelter us from a powerful sun. This Serra is a branch of the same range as that on which the Villa de Arrayas is situated, and runs in a north-west direction to within about two leagues of the Rio da Palma; at its highest part it is not more than a thousand feet above the level of the surrounding country. In the afternoon we again made a short stage of about a league and a half, and encamped for the night under some small trees, by the side of a clear rivulet that flows from the Serra. On this journey we met with some showers of rain, and when we arrived at the place of our encampment, a heavy thunder-storm came rolling along the Serra towards us from the south-east, which made us regret that we were under the necessity of sleeping in the woods; fortunately, however, as it approached near to us, it turned off suddenly towards the north, after which we had the advantage of a beautiful night. Our route on this journey was through a large flat open valley, bounded on the north and east by the Serra de Santa Brida, and on the south and east by another range called the Serra de Buriti. This valley consists of large open campos abounding in tree-lilies, and is but thinly wooded except on the margins of small streams that flow from the mountains. Next morning we made a journey of two leagues through a similar country, and arrived early in the forenoon at the fazenda de Santa Brida, which belongs to a person for whom I brought letters from the Vigario of the Arraial de Conceição. He does not, however, reside here, and the only house we found was one belonging to the vaqueiro who has charge of the cattle. As the pasture was good, we remained here till the following day, in order to give the horses a little rest.

We left early in the morning, and at a short distance from the fazenda, crossed a small river which was well wooded along its banks with large trees, particularly the Jatobá (Hymenæa). In this river, as in all those within this province, the electric eel (Gymnolus electricus) is very common; they are of all sizes, from a foot to six feet in length, and are frequently caught on the lines[270] which are set for other fishes; they are sometimes eaten, but not generally, although their flesh is said to be very good. Horses as well as men, by coming in contact with them in the water, are not unfrequently thrown down by the shock which they impart; they are called by the inhabitants Treme-treme. In rainy weather, those who fish in these rivers often receive a shock, which is communicated along the moisture upon the rod and line, when one of them happens to seize the hook. I saw one in a state of captivity, about six feet long, which was so tame that it would allow any one to put his hand upon it, and even slide for its whole length through the fingers, but if irritated in the smallest degree, by pinching it a little, however slightly, it instantly communicated a smart shock. A fatiguing journey of upwards of four leagues, under a burning sun, and through a rather open country, brought us to the fazenda of Sapê, the residence of the owner of the fazenda of Santa Brida, Lieut. João Gomez Lagoeira. On our arrival I was informed that he had gone to visit a plantation a little way off, but was expected home immediately. In an hour’s time he made his appearance, and on reading the letter I brought from his friend the Vigario, he gave me a most hearty welcome. It was my intention to have proceeded to the Villa de Arrayas, which is four leagues distant, on the following morning, but this our kind host would not listen to, and it was only after the expiration of five days, that he consented to our departure. In order that we might not reach the Villa short of provisions, he sent to one of his cattle farms for a fat ox, which was killed and dried for our use, and he also obliged me to accept a load of farinha.

The fazenda of Sapê is situated at the foot of the Serra de Santa Brida, near the entrance of a small valley, which is enclosed on both sides by the surrounding hills; the grounds belonging to it being well watered, and the soil rich, they are well adapted for the cultivation of the sugar cane, of which there are several large plantations. The greater part of the cane is converted into rum, for which there exists a greater demand than for sugar; rice and mandiocca also yield abundant crops. The whole of the property[271] which Lieut. Lagoeira possesses, covers an area of about sixty-four square miles: it is divided into several fazendas for the rearing of cattle, which amount to about fourteen thousand head, the produce of which are principally sold to drovers, who take them down to Bahia. He was originally a drover, but becoming a great favourite of the former owner of the estate, he obtained his daughter in marriage; and the father dying soon after, the entire management of the fazenda fell into his hands. Being a man of a mild and benevolent disposition, and having received a good education, he is looked up to and respected by the inhabitants of all the surrounding country. During our residence at this fazenda, and the several times I visited it during my residence at Arrayas, I made several excursions in its neighbourhood. On these occasions I was always accompanied by Senhor Lagoeira, who was a keen sportsman; sometimes we went to an upland grassy plain, thinly covered with Vellozia and Diplusodon, the latter, a beautiful little shrub, bearing a profusion of small rose-coloured flowers. On these dry plains are found plenty of a kind of quail, called Perdiz, which is a species of the genus Tinamus, very little smaller than the partridge of Europe. Senhor Lagoeira possessed several pointers, one of which always accompanied us, but not being well trained, many of the birds escaped. Sometimes we visited the valley behind the house, which in several places is swampy, and abounds in a large species of palm, called Cabeçudo,[12] the fruit of which forms the principal food of the large blue Maccaw, which is very common in this district. In the marshes of this valley the Boa Constrictor is often met with of considerable size; it is not uncommon throughout the whole province, particularly by the wooded margins of lakes, marshes, and streams. Sometimes they attain the enormous length of forty feet: the largest I ever saw was at this place, but it was not alive. Some weeks before our arrival at Sapê, the favourite riding horse of Senhor Lagoeira, which had been put out to pasture not far from the house, could not be found, although strict search was made for it all over the fazenda. Shortly after this, one of[272] his vaqueiros, in going through the wood by the side of a small river, saw an enormous boa, suspended in the fork of a tree which hung over the water; it was dead, but had evidently been floated down alive by a recent flood, and being in an inert state, it had not been able to extricate itself from the fork before the waters fell. It was dragged out to the open country by two horses, and was found to measure thirty-seven feet in length; on opening it, the bones of a horse, in a somewhat broken condition, and the flesh in a half digested state, were found within it, the bones of the head were uninjured; from these circumstances we concluded that the boa had devoured the horse entire. In all kinds of snakes, the capacity for swallowing is prodigious. I have often seen one not thicker than my thumb, swallow a frog nearly as large as my fist; and I once killed a rattle-snake, about four feet long, and of no great thickness, which had swallowed not less than three large frogs, one of which swelled out its sides to nearly twice the thickness of the other parts; it was still alive, and hopped away after it was liberated. I have also seen a very slender snake that frequents the roofs of houses, swallow an entire bat three times its own thickness. If such be the case with these smaller kinds, it is not to be wondered at that one thirty-seven feet long should be able to swallow a horse, particularly when it is known that, previously to doing so, it breaks the bones of the animal by coiling itself round it, and afterwards lubricates it with a slimy matter which it has the power of secreting in its mouth.

At other times we went into the forest that skirts the base of the Serra, in which the larger trees consist of a kind of Mimosa called Angica. On their branches were to be seen numbers of a beautiful little Marmoset monkey, attracted thither by a gum which this tree secretes, and of which they are very fond. Among the trees of these forests were also seen some of the large howling monkeys (Mycetes barbatus, Spix), which are known in Brazil by the names of Barbudo and Guariba; they possess immense muscular power in their long prehensile tails, and even after being shot, and quite dead, they hang suspended by them from the branches. They generally appear in bands, making a disagreeable[273] howling noise, particularly at an early hour in the morning. A little ring-tailed monkey (Ateles paniscus) is still more abundant, and is more persecuted by the fazendeiro, on account of the depredations it commits in his plantations. The cane and Indian corn-fields are those which they most frequently visit, whence they always carry off their plunder to the woods. An old negro assured me he had often seen one of these animals carry with it not less than three spikes of Indian corn, one in its mouth, another secured by one of its arms, and a third held by its prehensile tail; I confess, however, that before placing implicit faith in this tale, I must be a witness to the fact. The moist and marshy campos produce various kinds of palm trees, which bear large clusters of small nuts, greatly resembling miniature cocoa-nuts. When ripe, these are covered externally with a fibrous oily substance, which has a sweetish taste, and constitutes the favourite food of these little monkeys, who are no less fond of the internal part of the nut, which contains a substance similar to that found in cocoa-nuts. In several parts of the interior I had been told, that to get at the kernel, the shell being too hard to break with their teeth, the monkeys carry the nuts to a rocky place, and then break them with a stone, and I even met with persons who assured me that they had watched them in such places through the bushes, and actually seen them engaged in this operation. This account, like that of the carrying away of Indian corn, I always considered to be fabulous till I arrived at Sapê. In an excursion we made over the Serra, immediately behind the fazenda, where it is composed of nearly bare, rugged limestone peaks, in several almost inaccessible places we came upon large heaps of the broken shells of nuts, generally on a bare open part of the rock, and along with them a number of roundish pieces of stone, larger than the fist, which had evidently been employed in breaking the shells. These Senhor Lagoeira told me were the places resorted to by the monkeys for the purpose of breaking the nuts collected in the low grounds; and that in his shooting excursions over the mountains, he has frequently seen them take flight on his approach. That they both can, and really do make[274] use of a stone in order to break that which is too hard for their teeth, I have frequently witnessed in a little pet monkey that accompanied me on my journey: I obtained it in Piauhy, and it was the only one of the many tame animals I carried with me, that reached Rio de Janeiro alive; it was a female of the species we are now speaking of, and ultimately became very gentle. Jerry was the favourite with all, and indeed in all respects fared like ourselves; it became so fond of tea, which it drank every morning and evening, that it would not go to sleep without its usual allowance. Its favourite food was farinha, boiled rice, and bananas, but scarcely anything came amiss to it; a raw egg was a choice morsel, and on being given to it, it broke one end by gently knocking it on the floor, and completed the hole by picking off the broken bits of shell, and putting in the point of its long slender finger; throwing back its head, and holding the egg erect between its two hands, it soon contrived to suck out the whole contents. Whenever anything was given to it that was too hard to break with its teeth, it always looked about for a stone, and lifting it with one hand, by repeated blows would attempt to crack it; if unsuccessful by these means, it would try to find a larger stone, which it would hold in both its hands, and, rising erect on its legs, would let it fall, leaping backwards at the same time to avoid any injury to its toes. I have often watched the means it employed to obtain any small object that happened to be a little beyond its reach; if it could lay its hands upon a little switch, or slender twig of any sort, it would stretch itself out as far as its cord would allow, and continue working at the object till it got it within its reach. These operations were certainly often very awkwardly performed, but they were always interesting from the amount of reasoning power which the little animal exhibited, and the perseverance with which its object was attained. Jerry almost always rode on the back of a large mastiff dog that accompanied us, and in this manner performed a journey of several thousand miles. These two animals were greatly attached to each other, and it was often an amusing sight to see them gamboling together. Before starting, the dog used[275] to go every morning to the place where the little monkey was tied, and wait till it was put upon its back, and its cord made fast to his collar. In travelling it was not at all particular as to whether its face was towards the head or tail of the charger, except in going down hill, when its face was turned forwards, and to prevent itself from slipping over the dog’s head, it made use of its long prehensile tail as a crupper, by coiling the extremity round the root of that of the dog. I had determined to bring Jerry with me to England, but in taking it with me to the Organ Mountains, after my arrival at Rio de Janeiro, much to my grief, it disappeared one night, and was never afterwards heard of; it was stolen, I have no doubt, by one of the slaves, and sold somewhere for a mere trifle.

A few days before we arrived at Sapê, one of the slaves caught a young male monkey of this species. A number of these little animals had come to pay a visit to a plantation of Indian corn, several of them were females that carried their young on their backs, which they seldom quit till they are able to provide for themselves; being pursued by some slaves, in the heat of the retreat, this one was thrown from its mother’s back, and made prisoner, and was presented to me by Senhor Lagoeira as a companion for Jerry. I little expected it would pay any attention to the young one, but no sooner were they put beside each other than the little one, fancying no doubt it had found its mother, crept up and secured itself on Jerry’s back, and apparently seemed quite happy. Jerry instead of being ill pleased with this intrusion, became so much attached to it, that she would not allow any one to touch the young one; and seemed to have all the affection for it as if it had been her own. Several times I observed that when it came off her back to amuse itself on the ground, and was about to get out of her reach, she would catch it by the tail and draw it back. During the first few days they were together, her breasts became inflamed by the attempt the young one made to obtain milk from them; it seldom left her back, remaining there both day and night. It was amusing to see her cleaning it of fleas by laying it down on the ground, turning over its long hair,[276] layer by layer, and catching between her fore-finger and thumb the insects as they made their appearance and then eating them; when they were difficult to take in this manner, she would catch them between her teeth at once. During this operation the little one would lie as quiet as if it had been sleeping. It only lived a few weeks after we reached Arrayas, and I was surprised that although so much attachment was shown to it by the old one while it was alive, not the least symptom of grief was exhibited at its death.

In the densest parts of the forests near Sapê, the Jacutinga (Penelope Jacutinga, Spix), the fine large game bird so common in the forests of the Organ Mountains, was not unfrequently encountered in our walks, and brought home as trophies. The mountains here, as already mentioned, are composed entirely of a compact primitive limestone, similar to that existing at Natividade, and which I afterwards found extending many leagues to the southwards. The lower parts of these mountains are tolerably well wooded, but the upper parts consisting of sharp rugged peaks, surrounded by broken masses at their bases, are nearly destitute of vegetation, the only plants found here being a small wild Fig tree, a large prickly Cactus, a shrubby Trixis, a small Begonia, and a stinging Loasa. The heaps of broken rocks which exist around the bases of the peaks, are frequented by vast numbers of a small animal, greatly resembling a rabbit, and about the same size; it is allied to the Guinea-pig, and its flesh, which is white, is very good to eat. It is the Kerodon moco of naturalists, and is well known to the inhabitants by the name of Mocó.

It was in the afternoon of the twenty-sixth of February that we left Sapê for Arrayas, and after travelling two rather long leagues, we reached the foot of the Serra, at the point of ascent to the upland plain in which the Villa is situated. Here we bivouacked for the night, slinging our hammocks among some trees, by the side of a little stream which came from the mountains. On this journey, after leaving the more densely wooded tract which surrounded Sapê, we entered a wide open valley, situated between the Serra de Santa Brida and that of Buriti,[277] which gradually became narrower until the two Serras united at the place of our encampment. This valley is very thinly-wooded, except along the margins of the many small streams which intersect it, and which join to form a small river that flows through its centre. I found this locality particularly rich in botanical productions, as it abounded with elegant flowering shrubs and trees, such as Pleroma, Crotalaria, Bauhinia, Diplusodon, Vochysia, Kielmeyera, &c. The ascent of the Serra, which was accomplished on the following morning, we found both long and tiresome, and very rocky. From the top of the Serra to the Villa, which is a league and a half distant, the road is of gentle declivity. I carried a letter from Senhor Lagoeira to a schoolmaster, who in a short time found an empty house for our accommodation, of a very inferior description, and little calculated to keep out either wind or rain; it was, however, the only one that could be obtained. Here we remained for about a week, until another, which on our arrival was occupied by a travelling merchant, became empty; it was far superior, and now fell to our use. As the season of rain was not yet nearly terminated, I remained in Arrayas nearly two months, during which time I amassed a splendid collection of the curious and beautiful plants, which are peculiar to the upland grassy campos of the interior of Brazil.

The Villa de Arrayas is very pleasantly situated in a hollow on the table-land of the Serra; it is surrounded nearly on all sides by low grassy hills, which are but thinly-wooded with small trees and bushes. The highest of these hills are towards the N.E. side of the town, and from behind them flows a beautiful stream that at all seasons supplies it with water; the inhabitants have a saying, that the place has neither bad water nor good roads (em Arrayas não tem agoa roim, nem caminhos bons), and this is truly its characteristic. The town is of very small size, the population not exceeding three hundred inhabitants, great and small. Here, as in other towns in the interior, many of the houses belong to the fazendeiros, who only occupy them during the festas; they are nearly all arranged before a large square, on the east side of which the only church is situated. On our arrival I was surprised to[278] observe a house with glazed windows, a rare sight in the interior of Brazil, but on nearer inspection, I found that the place of glass was supplied by plates of talc, which is found abundantly in this neighbourhood.

During my stay among the people of this place I found them universally kind and obliging, so far as their limited means permitted, for the greater part are very poor; in most instances, however, this poverty is occasioned by their own indolence. It was with great difficulty that we could purchase any thing in the shape of provisions, and it is still a mystery to me, how the great mass of the inhabitants contrive to live; had it not been for the kindness of my good friend Senhor Lagoeira, who again sent me supplies of provisions, we should often have been in a state of starvation. Notwithstanding the smallness and the poverty of the place, it contains two priests, neither of whom seemed to be the worst fed of the community. There are three public schools, two of which are elementary, one for boys, the other for girls; in the third, Latin only is taught. Here, as in all the other towns and villages in the interior, the teachers are paid by government, and, consequently, the education of all classes is gratuitous; notwithstanding this, I was surprised to see the small number who take advantage of so favourable an opportunity for the education of their children. Those who live in the country, and who send their children to school, are obliged to board them in the town, which is generally looked upon as a great grievance. Here, as elsewhere, I met with very few who have a taste for reading, and, generally, the only books they possess are some small volumes of orisons. Even the libraries of the priests are confined to a few religious and classical works; and among these, a Bible is rarely to be met with, a mere abridgment of it supplying its place.

The rocks which compose the mountain range on which the town of Arrayas stands, all belong to the primary strata; these are nearly vertical, the little inclination which they present, being towards the east, that being the direction of the highest part of the Serra. The most westerly of these rocks have an arenaceous schistose structure, and these overlay a very compact greyish-coloured[279] stratified rock, very much resembling gneiss, in which are imbedded innumerable rounded pebbles of granite and quartz, of all sizes from one to three or four inches, and which is probably equivalent to the grauwacke rocks of the old world. The limestone of which the western side of the Serra is composed at Sapê and Natividade, is not found here, but I again met with it to the south; in none of the rocks did I observe any appearance of organic remains.

From its elevated situation, the climate of Arrayas is much cooler than in the plains below, and the rains are both heavier and of longer duration; these always come from the N.E., beginning in October or November, and continuing till the month of April, or until a regular S.E. wind sets in, which is the first signal that the dry season has commenced. The rearing of cattle is the most ordinary occupation of the fazendeiros, their cattle meeting with a ready sale in the Bahia market; but they generally also cultivate a little sugar cane, principally for the manufacture of rum, which is extensively used among all classes of society, and of course meets with a good sale. Mandiocca, rice, and Indian corn, are also cultivated, both for family use and for sale in the Villa. All these productions, however, are grown in the low countries, principally along the foot of the Serra; around the Villa itself little or nothing is cultivated, notwithstanding that the soil in many places is favourable for small plantations. Both the climate and soil seem well adapted for the production of coffee, as the few small plantations that have been attempted yield good crops, without any care having been bestowed on them; in the garden belonging to the house in which I lived, there were about one hundred and fifty coffee plants, which in the end of April were loaded as heavily with fruit as any I have seen in the large plantations in the province of Rio de Janeiro. This article, however, can never be cultivated here to any extent, with a view to exportation, on account of its great distance from the coast. The Rio Tocantins offers the only water conveyance, and that as yet is only navigable for canoes of small burden. There are only two shopkeepers in the Villa, both of whom bring their goods from Rio de Janeiro.[280] They go there once in two or three years, the entire journey generally occupying from six to nine months.

The diseases of this district are very similar to those which are common in the more northern part of the province. In the low country, which, during the rainy season, is full of marshes and swamps, intermittent fevers are prevalent, and are often fatal to those coming from the upland districts. As very few only can afford to purchase sulphate of quinine, the general mode of curing these fevers is by emetics and purgatives, and occasionally by bitter barks obtained from the trees in the woods; of these the one most commonly used is procured from the Strychnos pseudochina of St. Hilaire, a small tree which grows on the upland campos. A strong infusion of coffee with a mixture of salt is also sometimes administered. Though the inhabitants of the plains are constantly subject to the fever, they seldom die of the disease itself, but the effects which it produces on the constitution after a long series of yearly attacks, ultimately cut off a great many. The principal organ that becomes affected is the spleen, which is sometimes so much enlarged, that it nearly fills the whole abdominal cavity; when travelling in these districts, we seldom arrived at a house where I was not consulted respecting enlargements of this organ. The liver is more rarely affected: its affections are generally produced by intemperance in eating and drinking, and by the constant and immoderate use of tobacco. In the Villa intermittent fevers are unknown, in consequence of its being situated above the region of miasmata, unless they appear in cases where the infection has been imbibed below. The traveller before alluded to, who gave up the house for our use, left behind him an Indian servant, with no one to attend to him, and whom I found almost dead from the attacks of a severe tertian ague, but who soon recovered after being properly treated. This poor fellow was a native of the banks of the Amazon, and he remained in my service until my arrival in Rio de Janeiro. These fevers very often lose their intermittent character, and assume a malignant remittent nature. The prevailing diseases in the Villa are ophthalmia, colds, inflammatory complaints, rheumatism, and dyspepsia; paralysis also is common;[281] and as a preventive, nearly all the people wear a thick twisted iron ring, made on the Saturday of the passion week (sexta feira da Paixão), and blessed by a priest. Goître is common, but not nearly so much as in Natividade and Conceição. Here they attribute it to the coldness of the water they use for drinking.

The country around Arrayas affords many prospects as highly picturesque and pleasing to the eye of a common observer as that of the naturalist; to the latter, however, it offers a double charm, owing to the great variety in the objects which such diversity of soil and situation presents for his investigations. My excursions in various directions yielded me upwards of three hundred species of plants, all different from any I had elsewhere collected. The dry upland campos afforded numerous grasses, which are nearly all coarse and rank, and not well suited for pasturage; these grasses do not form a close turf, as in Europe, but grow in scattered tufts, leaving greater intervals of bare soil than the amount of surface actually covered by them; this, however, is not apparent at first sight, for the culm is generally long, and when ripe, and seen from a distance, the campos appear as if covered with wheat or oats. Many flowering shrubs and beautiful herbaceous plants are found growing among the grasses; of the former Diplusodon and Kielmeyera are the most ornamental; one of the latter (Kielmeyera rosea, Mart.) grows in bushes about a foot and a half high, and produces numerous large rose-coloured flowers, from which it has obtained the name of Rosa do Campo. Of the herbaceous plants of these tracts, the most beautiful are those belonging to the Gentian tribe. A species of Lisianthus produces large blue bell-shaped blossoms, not unlike those of the Digitalis in shape; and towards the end of the rainy season, the fields are gaily adorned with two elegant species of Callopisma; one of these is more abundant than the other, and being intensely bitter, is used medicinally as gentian by the inhabitants of Goyaz, who collect it when in full flower, dried bundles of it being seen hanging up in almost every house; it is used, in infusion, in dyspepsia, and also to strengthen those who are recovering from fever. The trees of the upland Campos are mostly small, consisting chiefly of[282] the beautiful Sicupíra (Commilobium polygalæflorum), Qualea grandiflora, and Q. parviflora, a Vochysia, Salvertia convallariodora, a Panax, an Albertinia, a Lafoensia, two species of Cecropia, the Mangába do Mono, the Cashew, and several species of Mimosa.

Towards the latter end of the month of April, the whole north of the province of Goyaz was thrown into a state of alarm, in consequence of information received from San Pedro de Alcantará, a small town in the extreme north of the province, near the banks of the Rio Tocantins, that a party of the troops of Raimundo Gomez, and the Balaio had crossed over from Pastos Boms in the province of Maranham, to Alcantará, and taken it by force; and that although the greater part of the more respectable inhabitants had fled to the woods, a number had been killed and robbed, while others had joined the rebels. Notice arrived at the same time that all the canoes which had descended from the central parts of the province towards Pará (April being the month in which they generally start), were taken, the owners killed, and the hides with which they were laden thrown into the river. It was immediately surmised that the canoes were captured for no other purpose than to ascend the river in order to devastate the towns and villages in this quarter, in the same manner as they had attacked those below. On the 22nd of April I was called to a fazenda about three leagues to the north of Arrayas, to visit a young lady, who was indisposed. When I arrived there, her father had just received a letter from the Vigario of Conceição, stating that a few days before, the robbers had reached Porto Imperial, a village on the Tocantins, only three days’ journey from the Villa de Natividade, and that the inhabitants of the latter place were flying in all directions. On my return to Arrayas, he sent by me a letter to the President of the Camara Municipal, containing the above information, who immediately called a meeting of the principal inhabitants to take into consideration what steps were necessary in this exigency; it was agreed that the National Guard should be called out by beat of drum, but although the town possessed such an instrument, unfortunately there was no one able[283] to use it, until one of my men, a black from Natividade, asked my leave to offer his services. Accordingly the drum beat to arms round the town, but not more than half a dozen men made their appearance. Next morning they were again called out, when about a dozen assembled, nearly all without arms. These few were immediately put under drill by a fazendeiro who happened to be in town, and who, although bearing the rank of ensign in the National Guards, appeared quite ignorant of the task he undertook. The Juiz de Paz was immediately summoned from his fazenda, and expresses sent off to the city of Goyaz to inform the President, as well as the intermediate towns; orders were likewise issued to the different parts of the district to assemble the whole of the National Guard. In the course of four or five days above a hundred and forty men appeared in the Villa, the greater part of them armed with their own fowling-pieces, but there were no muskets, gunpowder, or ball in the place. Those who had no guns, armed themselves with their long knives, firmly tied to the ends of short poles; like the troops of Piauhy, they formed the most motley group imaginable, being of all colours, of all sizes, and without any uniform. They remained under drill for about eight days, at the expiration of which time, news arrived that the previous information had been premature, and that the rebels, amounting to about five hundred men, all well armed, were still in Alcantará. Immediately on receiving this information, the Juiz de Paz dismissed his troops, with the exception of ten men, kept as a guard for the protection of the Villa. In proportion to the number of inhabitants which this district contains, the number of National Guards assembled on this occasion, was greater than in any of the districts of Piauhy; but I had doubts whether one half of them would have responded to a second call, as these poor fellows who had been suddenly called away from their houses and families, most of them after a long journey which they had to make on foot, were not satisfied with the treatment they received from the authorities, for they found on their arrival, that no accommodation had been provided for them, except an old house, the walls of which were raised but little above the ground,[284] where, more like pigs than human beings, they were all stowed together. Had the weather been fine, the greater part of them would have preferred sleeping in the open air, but unfortunately much rain, at this time, fell at night. Moreover, during the whole period they remained in the Villa, not one sixpence was expended in procuring provisions for them, and had it not been for the charity of some of the inhabitants, they would certainly have either starved, or been driven to take food by force. When some of them applied to the Juiz de Paz for provisions, he told them he did not like to appropriate any of the funds belonging to the town to such a purpose, as these were absolutely required for the erection of a new jail, which they had in contemplation! A few hours before their dismissal, they mustered in the church to hear mass, after which the Juiz de Paz gave each of them a glass of rum, and this was all the remuneration they received for their services. When the news first arrived that the rebels had reached Porto Imperial, several inhabitants of the Villa, who had previously boasted of the feats of bravery they would perform, should the enemy advance as far south as Arrayas, were the first to pack up their valuables, in readiness to decamp on a short notice; and none of the women were now to be seen with the rings on their fingers, or in their ears, or with the gold chains which they usually wear round their necks.

The proper season for travelling having now arrived, I became desirous to resume my journey, so as to reach Rio de Janeiro, if possible, before the setting in of the next rains. Thanks to the kindness of my excellent friend Senhor Lagoeira, who supplied me with the greater portion of our provisions from his fazenda, my funds had not been much encroached on during our stay in Arrayas. By my profession, I gained even more than was expended, by which I was thus enabled to add four fine horses to my troop, which now therefore amounted to sixteen in all. On the 4th of May I went to Sapê, to take leave of my friend, and to bring back my horses, which had been pasturing there since our arrival; knowing that I was about to leave, he had prepared an ox, and other articles of provision for our journey. The parting with this[285] truly good person, with whom, in a strange land, I had lived on terms of intimacy, from whom I had experienced kindness that I could never have expected, and with whom I had no earthly chance of again meeting, produced a feeling of depression which hung over me many days after my departure.

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