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Across Unknown South America by Landor

The other Indians refused to leave their chief


As

we passed under the hill our crew fired several volleys in honour of the saint; then we landed and I climbed up to go and see the wonderful image. Many candles had been burnt on a platform of rock on the cliff side, and the sailors who came up with me brought a new supply of stearine and set them ablaze on that natural altar. The men pointed out to me the figure of the saint, but with all the best intentions in the world I could see no resemblance whatever to a human being.

"There it is! there it is!" they shouted, as I twisted my head one way and the other to see if I could find a point of view from which I could see the saint. The men knelt down and prayed fervently for some minutes, as they believed it was necessary to pay these signs of respect in order to ensure a good journey down the river. Some went as far as to tear off pieces of their garments and leave them on the rocky platform as offerings.

The eastern face of the S. Benedicto Mount was a vertical wall 200 ft. high in horizontal strata of a deep grey colour, and some 300 m. in length along the river.

We had wasted so much time, and the men rowed so badly, that we made poor progress. We only went 21 kil. that day. We halted for the night near a _seringueiro's_ hut at the small rapid of Meia Carga, or Half-charge Rapid, because at low water the boats have to be half unloaded in order to get over that spot.

style="text-align: justify;">The minimum temperature during the night was 69 deg. F. We slept in the boat, and were simply devoured by mosquitoes. The chief of the Indians who had been lent me by the Fiscal Agent became seriously ill during the night with a severe attack of fever. All my men, with no exception, also became ill, and were shivering with cold, owing to fever. The chief of the police, Luiz Perreira da Silva, who had been placed by Mr. Barretto in charge of the Indians who were to accompany me, in jumping from the boat that night on to the shore hurt his foot, the pain caused by that slight injury giving him also a severe attack of fever. So that of the entire crew there remained only two men in good health--viz. Mr. Julio Nery and myself.

Amid moans and groans we got the boat under way at 6.45 the next morning, the men paddling in a half-hearted manner. As the current was strong we drifted down fairly quickly in a northerly direction, the river there being in a perfectly straight line for some 8,000 m. The width of the river was 1,300 m.

Behind a little island on the left side, and approached through a circle of dangerous rocks, was the hut of a _seringueiro_ called Albuquerque, a man in the employ of Colonel Brazil, the greatest rubber trader on the river Tapajoz. We landed at that point and made preparations so that I could start at once on the journey on foot across the virgin forest.

The loads the men were to carry were not heavy--merely from 35 to 40 lb. each--the heaviest load being the one I carried, so as to give a good example to my men. We had ample provisions to last us, with a little economy, three months. When the moment arrived to depart there was not one man who could stand up on his legs; the policeman with his injured foot could not even land from the boat, as it gave him so much pain. The chief of the Indians was so ill with the fever and the medicine he had taken that he really looked as if he might not survive. The other Indians refused to leave their chief; while the Indian Miguel, whom I had employed subsequently, flatly refused to come along. Much time was wasted talking, Mr. Nery, a fluent speaker, haranguing the men, who lay around helpless, holding their heads between their hands or rolling themselves on the ground.


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