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Across Unknown South America by Landor

According to their low mental qualities


With all this meanness of which they were accusing me, these poltroons were clothed in garments such as they had never before possessed in their lives; they were gorging themselves with food such as they had never dreamt of having in their homes, where they had lived like pariah dogs--and huge heaps were thrown daily to the dogs--and they were paid a salary five times higher than they could have possibly earned under Brazilian employers.

What annoyed me a great deal with these men was the really criminal way in which they--notwithstanding my instructions--always tried to smash my cameras and scientific instruments and to injure anything I possessed. Those men were vandals by nature. The more valuable an object was, the greater the pleasure they seemed to take in damaging it.

Thus another and unnecessary burden was placed upon me in order to save my instruments from destruction, not only from natural accidents but through the infamy of my followers. Those fellows seemed to take no pride in anything. Even the beautiful and expensive repeating rifles and automatic pistols I had given each man had been reduced to scrap-iron. Yet they were so scared of Indians that the first time we met some, they handed over to them anything that took their fancy--and which belonged to me, of course--for fear of incurring their ill-favour. During my absence from camp they even gave away to the Indians a handsome dog I had, which I never was able to trace again.

Like all people with a dastardly nature, they could on no account speak the truth--even when it would have been to their advantage. They could never look you straight in the face. Hence, full of distrust for everybody, all the responsibility of every kind of work in connection with the expedition fell upon me. I not only had to do my own scientific work, but had to supervise in its minutest detail all the work done by them, and all the time. It was indeed like travelling with a band of mischievous demented people. The mental strain was considerable for me.

On that day's march we had passed two crosses erected, the Salesians had told me, on the spot where two men had been murdered by passing Brazilians--not by Indians. Their usual way of procedure was to shoot people in the back--never in front--or else when you were asleep. Nearly all carried a razor on their person--not to shave with, but in order to cut people's throats as a vengeance, or even under less provocation. This was usually done in a quick way by severing the artery at the neck while the person to be killed was asleep.

The Brazilians of the interior were almost altogether the descendants of criminal Portuguese, who had been exiled to the country, and intermarried with the lowest possible class of African slaves. They seemed to feel strongly their inferiority when facing a European, and imagined--in which they were not far wrong--the contempt with which, although it was covered by the greatest politeness, one looked down upon them. That was perhaps the only excuse one could offer for their vile behaviour, which, according to their low mental qualities, they liked to display in order to prove their independence and superiority.


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