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Across Unknown South America by Landor

And Benedicto a very handsome present of money


We

halted in the afternoon at a picturesque little place called Prainha--prettier than any I had seen so far, because of its frontage battlement, with its numerous staircases to allow the people of the various houses to go down to the water. A tiny church stood farther back on a prominence.

Late at night we arrived at Santarem, at the junction of the Tapajoz River with the Amazon. At that spot the man X and poor Benedicto insisted on leaving me, so they received their full pay, and Benedicto a very handsome present of money; after which they disembarked. As the sum I paid Benedicto was a considerable one, so that he might be well off for the rest of his days, I warned him not to waste it in buying all kinds of absurd things.

We halted at Santarem for several hours. What was not my astonishment, just before we departed, to find that Benedicto had gone into a store and had spent over L25 sterling in buying innumerable tins of jam--in fact, he had bought up the entire supply which was in the store! When I asked him what he did that for, he said he was very fond of jam. With his friends and a number of people he had quickly collected round him, they opened tin after tin, ravenously devouring the contents, so that within a short time he would have none left.

Brazilians of all classes are hopelessly improvident.

CHAPTER XXIII

Santarem to Belem (Para)--The Amazon--From Belem to Manaos--The Madeira-Mamore Railway

SANTAREM was an old settlement of no great interest. It had a few relatively fine ancient buildings and many ugly new ones.

Early on November 6th the steamer proceeded on her way to Belem (Para). On leaving Santarem we first emerged into the great Amazon River, a regular sea of fresh water, where we tossed about in a strong north-easterly gale. Unless one knew, one never could have imagined oneself on a river, as the stream was so wide at that point that the opposite bank could not be seen at all.

Things were a little better when we entered the channel of Monte Alegre. On that channel was the little town of the same name, half of the buildings being along the water's edge, the other half on the summit of a low hill near by. There is a sulphur spring there with wonderful medicinal properties, and coal is also said to be found.

A colony of Spaniards had been imported to work, but they were dissatisfied and had left. Tobacco, made up into fusiform sticks 6 ft. long and tied into bundles, was exported from that place in considerable quantities; the inhabitants were also engaged in breeding cattle, growing Indian corn, and drying fish--the _pirarucu_ (_Vastres gigas_), a salmonoid vulgarly called the cod-fish of the Amazon. A big trade was done in that dried fish all over that region.

In the full moon of a glorious night we could discern to the north a mountain region with elevations of over 3,000 ft. Between those mountains--the Serra de Almerin--and ourselves, lay a long flat island, the vegetation on which was, for that particular region, comparatively sparse. That island of mud had formed during the last fifteen or twenty years, and was at the time of my visit several kilometres in length. It was called the Pesqueiro. Islands have a way of forming in a very short time in the Amazon, while others change their shape or disappear altogether.


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