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The priest then hurriedly performed mass, and read the burial
service over the deceased, who had belonged to rather a wealthy
family, and therefore was respectably interred. Unfortunately, when
they wanted to lower the corpse into its cold resting-place, the
latter was found to be too short and too narrow, and the poor wretch
was so tossed about, coffin and all, that I expected every moment to
see him roll out. But all was of no avail, and after a great deal
of useless exertion no other course was left but to place the coffin
on one side and enlarge the grave, which was done with much
unwillingness and amid an unceasing volley of oaths.

This fatiguing work being at last finished, I returned to the house,
where I took a good dejeuner a la fourchette in company with the
priest, and then set out with my black guide.

We rode for some time through a broad valley between splendid woods,
and had to cross two rivers, the Parahyby and the Pomba, in trunks
of trees hollowed out. For each of these wretched conveyances I was
obliged to pay one milreis (2s. 2d.), and to incur great danger into
the bargain; not so much on account of the stream and the small size
of the craft, as of our mules, which, fastened by their halter, swam
alongside, and frequently came so near that I was afraid that we
should be every moment capsized.

After riding twelve miles further, we reached the last settlement of
the whites. {47} On an open space, which had with difficulty been
conquered from the virgin forest, stood a largish wooden house,
surrounded by a few miserable huts, the house serving as the
residence of the whites, and the huts as that of the slaves. A
letter which I had brought from the priest procured me a welcome.

The manner of living in this settlement was of such a description
that I was almost tempted to believe that I was already among

The large house contained an entrance hall leading into four rooms,
each of which was inhabited by a white family. The whole furniture
of these rooms consisted of a few hammocks and straw mats. The
inhabitants were cowering upon the floor, playing with the children,
or assisting one another to get rid of their vermin. The kitchen
was immediately adjoining the house, and resembled a very large barn
with openings in it; upon a hearth that took up nearly the entire
length of the barn, several fires were burning, over which hung
small kettles, and at each side were fastened wooden spits. On
these were fixed several pieces of meat, some of which were being
roasted by the fire and some cured by the smoke. The kitchen was
full of people: whites, Puris, and negroes, children whose parents
were whites and Puris, or Puris and negroes - in a word, the place
was like a book of specimens containing the most varied
ramifications of the three principal races of the country.

In the court-yard was an immense number of fowls, beautifully marked
ducks and geese; I also saw some extraordinarily fat pigs, and some
horribly ugly dogs. Under some cocoa-palms and tamarind-trees, were
seated white and coloured people, separate and in groups, mostly
occupied in satisfying their hunger. Some had got broken basins or
pumpkin-gourds before them, in which they kneaded up with their
hands boiled beans and manioc flour; this thick and disgusting-
looking mess they devoured with avidity. Others were eating pieces
of meat, which they likewise tore with their hands, and threw into
their mouths alternately with handfuls of manioc flour. The
children, who also had their gourds before them, were obliged to
defend the contents valiantly; for at one moment a hen would peck
something out, and, at the next, a dog would run off with a bit, or
sometimes even a little pig would waggle up, and invariably give a
most contented grunt when it had not performed the journey for

While I was making these observations, I suddenly heard a merry cry
outside the court-yard; I proceeded to the place from which it
issued, and saw two boys dragging towards me a large dark brown
serpent; certainly more than seven feet long, at the end of a bast-
rope. It was already dead, and, as far as I could learn from the
explanations of those about me, it was of so venomous a kind, that
if a person is bitten by it, he immediately swells up and dies.

I was rather startled at what I heard, and determined at least not
to set out through the wood just as evening was closing in, as I
might have to take up my quarters for the night under some tree; I
therefore deferred my visit to the savages until the next morning.
The good people imagined that I was afraid of the savages, and
earnestly assured me that they were a most harmless race, from whom
I had not the least to fear. As my knowledge of Portuguese was
limited to a few words, I found it rather difficult to make myself
understood, and it was only by the help of gesticulations, with now
and then a small sketch, that I succeeded in enlightening them as to
the real cause of my fear.

I passed the night, therefore, with these half savages, who
constantly showed me the greatest respect, and overwhelmed me with
attention. A straw mat, which, at my request, was spread out under
shelter in the court-yard, was my bed. They brought me for supper a
roast fowl, rice, and hard eggs, and for dessert, oranges and
tamarind-pods; the latter contain a brown, half sweet, half sour
pulp, very agreeable to the taste. The women lay all round me, and
by degrees we managed to get on wonderfully together.

I showed them the different flowers and insects I had gathered
during the day. This, doubtless, induced them to look upon me as a
learned person, and, as such, to impute to me a knowledge of
medicine. They begged me to prescribe for different cases of
illness: bad ears, eruptions of the skin, and in the children, a
considerable tendency to scrofula, etc. I ordered lukewarm baths,
frequent fomentations, and the use of oil and soap, applied
externally and rubbed into the body. May Heaven grant that these
remedies have really worked some good!

On the 11th of October, I proceeded into the forest, in company with
a negress and a Puri, to find out the Indians. At times, we had to
work our way laboriously through the thicket, and then again we
would find narrow paths, by which we pursued our journey with
greater ease. After eight hours' walking, we came upon a number of
Puris, who led us into their huts, situated in the immediate
vicinity, where I beheld a picture of the greatest misery and want:
I had often met with a great deal of wretchedness in my travels, but
never so much as I saw here!

On a small space, under lofty trees, five huts, or rather sheds,
formed of leaves, were erected, eighteen feet long, by twelve feet
broad. The frames were formed of four poles stuck in the ground,
with another reaching across; and the roof, of palm-leaves, through
which the rain could penetrate with the utmost facility. On three
sides, these bowers were entirely open. In the interior hung a
hammock or two; and on the ground glimmered a little fire, under a
heap of ashes, in which a few roots, Indian corn, and bananas, were
roasting. In one corner, under the roof, a small supply of
provisions was hoarded up, and a few gourds were scattered around:
these are used by the savages instead of plates, pots, water-jugs,
etc. The long bows and arrows, which constitute their only weapons,
were leaning in the background against the wall.

I found the Indians still more ugly than the negroes. Their
complexion is a light bronze, stunted in stature, well-knit, and
about the middle size. They have broad and somewhat compressed
features, and thick, coal-black hair, hanging straight down, which
the women sometimes wear in plaits fastened to the back of the head,
and sometimes falling down loose about them. Their forehead is
broad and low, the nose somewhat flattened, the eyes long and
narrow, almost like those of the Chinese, and the mouth large, with
rather thick lips. To give a still greater effect to all these
various charms, a peculiar look of stupidity is spread over the
whole face, and is more especially to be attributed to the way in
which their mouths are always kept opened.

Most of them, both men and women, were tattooed with a reddish or
blue colour, though only round the mouth, in the form of a
moustache. Both sexes are passionately fond of smoking, and prefer
brandy to everything. Their dress was composed of a few rags, which
they had fastened round their loins.

I had already heard, in Novo Friburgo, a few interesting particulars
concerning the Puris, which I will here relate.

The number of the Brazilian Indians at the present time is
calculated at about 500,000, who live scattered about the forests in
the heart of the country. Not more than six or seven families ever
settle on the same spot, which they leave as soon as the game in the
neighbourhood has been killed, and all the fruit and roots consumed.
A large number of these Indians have been christened. They are
always ready, for a little brandy or tobacco, to undergo the
ceremony at the shortest notice, and only regret that it cannot be
repeated more frequently, as it is soon over. The priest believes
that he has only to perform the rite in order to gain another soul
for heaven, and afterwards gives himself very little concern, either
about the instruction or the manners and morals of his converts.
These, it is true, are called Christians, or _tamed savages_, but
live in the same heathen manner that they previously did. Thus, for
instance, they contract marriages for indefinite periods; elect
their Caciques (chiefs) from the strongest and finest men; follow
all their old customs on the occasion of marriages and deaths, just
the same as before baptism.

Their language is very poor: they are said, for example, only to be
able to count one and two, and are therefore obliged, when they
desire to express a larger number, to repeat these two figures
continually. Furthermore, for _today, to-morrow_, and _yesterday_,
they possess only the word _day_, and express their more particular
meaning by signs; for _today_, they say _day_, and feel their head,
or point upwards; for _to-morrow_, they again use the word _day_,
and point their fingers in a straightforward direction; and for
_yesterday_, they use the same word, and point behind them.

The Puris are said to be peculiarly adapted for tracking runaway
negroes, as their organs of smell are very highly developed. They
smell the trace of the fugitive on the leaves of the trees; and if
the negro does not succeed in reaching some stream, in which he can
either walk or swim for a considerable distance, it is asserted that
he can very seldom escape the Indian engaged in pursuit of him.
These savages are also readily employed in felling timber, and
cultivating Indian corn, manioc, etc., as they are very industrious,
and think themselves well paid with a little tobacco, brandy, or
coloured cloth. But on no account must they be compelled to do
anything by force: they are free men. They seldom, however, come
to offer their assistance unless they are half-starved.

I visited the huts of all these savages; and as my guides had
trumpeted forth my praises as being a woman of great knowledge, I
was here asked my advice for the benefit of every one who was ill.

In one of the huts, I found an old woman groaning in her hammock.
On my drawing nearer, they uncovered the poor creature, and I
perceived that all her breast was eaten up by cancer. She seemed to
have no idea of a bandage, or any means of soothing the pain. I
advised her to wash the wound frequently with a decoction of
mallows, {50} and, in addition to this, to cover it over with the
leaves of the same plant. I only trust that my advice procured her
some trifling relief.

This horrible disease unfortunately does not appear to be at all
rare among the Puris, for I saw many of their women, some of whom
had large hard swellings, and others even small tumours on the

After having sufficiently examined everything in the huts, I went
with some of the savages to shoot parrots and monkeys. We had not
far to go in order to meet with both; and I had now an opportunity
of admiring the skill with which these people use their bows. They
brought down the birds even when they were on the wing, and very
seldom missed their mark. After shooting three parrots and an ape,
we returned to the huts.

The good creatures offered me the best hut they possessed, and
invited me to pass the night there. Being rather fatigued by the
toilsome nature of my journey on foot, the heat, and the hunting
excursion, I very joyfully accepted their proposition: the day,
too, was drawing to a close, and I should not have been able to
reach the settlement of the whites before night. I therefore spread
out my cloak upon the ground, arranged a log of wood so as to serve
instead of a pillow, and for the present seated myself upon my
splendid couch. In the meanwhile, my hosts were preparing the
monkey and the parrots, by sticking them on wooden spits, and
roasting them before the fire. In order to render the meal a
peculiarly dainty one, they also buried some Indian corn and roots
in the cinders. They then gathered a few large fresh leaves off the
trees, tore the roasted ape into several pieces with their hands,
and placing a large portion of it, as well as a parrot, Indian corn,
and some roots upon the leaves, put it before me. My appetite was
tremendous, seeing that I had tasted nothing since the morning. I
therefore immediately fell to on the roasted monkey, which I found
superlatively delicious: the flesh of the parrot was far from being
so tender and palatable.

After our meal, I begged the Indians to perform one of their dances
for me - a request with which they readily complied. As it was
already dark, they brought a quantity of wood, which they formed
into a sort of funeral pile, and set on fire: the men then formed a
circle all round, and began the dance. They threw their bodies from
side to side in a most remarkably awkward fashion, but always moving
the head forwards in a straight line. The women then joined in,
remaining, however, at some little distance in the rear of the men,
and making the same awkward movements. They now began a most
horrible noise, which was intended for a song, at the same time
distorting their features in a frightful manner. One of them stood
near, playing upon a kind of stringed instrument, made out of the
stem of a cabbage-palm, and about two feet, or two feet and a half,
in length. A hole was cut in it in a slanting direction, and six
fibres of the stem had been raised up, and kept in an elevated
position at each end, by means of a small bridge. The fingers were
then used for playing upon these as upon a guitar: the tone was
very low, disagreeable, and hoarse.

This first dance they named the Dance of Peace or Joy. The men then
performed a much wilder one alone. After providing themselves for
the purpose with bows, arrows, and stout clubs, they again formed a
circle, but their movements were much quicker and wilder than in the
first instance, and they likewise hit about them with their clubs in
a horrible fashion. They then suddenly broke their rank, strung
their bows, placed their arrows ready, and went through the
pantomime of shooting after a flying foe, uttering at the same time
the most piercing cries, which echoed through the whole forest. I
started up in affright, for I really believed that I was surrounded
by enemies, and that I was delivered up into their power, without
any chance of help or assistance. I was heartily glad when this
horrible war-dance came to a conclusion.

After retiring to rest, and when all around had gradually become
hushed into silence, I was assailed by apprehensions of another
description: I thought of the number of wild beasts, and the
horrible serpents that might perhaps be concealed quite close to me,
and then of the exposed situation I was in. This kept me awake a
long time, and I often fancied I heard a rustling among the leaves,
as if one of the dreaded animals were breaking through. At length,
however, my weary body asserted its rights. I laid my head upon my
wooden pillow, and consoled myself with the idea that the danger
was, after all, not so great as many of we travellers wish to have
believed, otherwise how would it be possible for the savages to live
as they do, without any precautions, in their open huts!

On the 12th of October, early in the morning, I took leave of the
savages, and made them a present of various bronze ornaments, with
which they were so delighted that they offered me everything they
possessed. I took a bow with a couple of arrows, as mementos of my
visit; returned to the wooden house, and having also distributed
similar presents there, mounted my mule, and arrived late in the
evening at Aldea do Pedro.

On the morning of the 13th of October, I bade the obliging priest
farewell, and with my attendant, who, by this time was quite
recovered, began my journey back to Novo Friburgo, and, in this
instance, although I pursued the same road, was only three days
instead of four on the way.

On arriving I found Count Berchthold, who was now quite well. We
determined, therefore, before returning to Rio Janeiro, to make a
little excursion to a fine waterfall, about twelve miles from Novo
Friburgo. By mere chance we learned that the christening of the
Princess Isabella would take place on the 19th, and, as we did not
wish to miss this interesting ceremony, we preferred returning
directly. We followed the same road we had taken in coming, till
about four miles before reaching Ponte de Pinheiro, and then struck
off towards Porto de Praja. This road was thirty-two miles longer
by land, but so much shorter by sea, that the passage is made by
steamer from Porto de Praja to Rio Janeiro in half an hour. The
scenery around Pinheiro was mostly dull and tedious, almost like a
desert, the monotony of which was only broken here and there by a
few scanty woods or low hills. We were not lucky enough to see the
mountains again until we were near the capital.

I must here mention a comical mistake of Herr Beske, of Novo
Friburgo, which we at first could not understand, but which
afterwards afforded a good deal of amusement. Herr Beske had
recommended us a guide, whom he described as a walking encyclopaedia
of knowledge, and able to answer all our questions about trees,
plants, scenery, etc., in the most complete manner. We esteemed
ourselves exceedingly fortunate to obtain such a phoenix of a guide,
and immediately took advantage of every opportunity to put his
powers to the test. He could, however, tell us nothing at all; if
we asked him the name of a river, he replied that it was too small,
and had no name. The trees, likewise, were too insignificant, the
plants too common. This ignorance was rather too much; we made
inquiry, and found that Herr Beske had not intended to send us the
guide we had, but his brother, who, however, had died six months
previously - a circumstance which Herr Beske must have forgotten.

On the evening of the 18th of October, we arrived safely in Rio
Janeiro. We immediately inquired about the christening, and heard
it had been put off till the 15th of November, and that on the 19th
of October only the Emperor's anniversary would be kept. We had
thus hurried back to no purpose, without visiting the waterfall near
Novo Friburgo, which we might have admired very much at our leisure.

On our return we only came eight miles out of our way.


DECEMBER, 1846, TO 2ND MARCH, 1847.

When I paid 25 pounds for my place in the fine English barque, "John
Renwick," Captain Bell, the latter promised me that he would be
ready to sail on the 25th of November at the latest, and would stop
at no intermediate port, but shape his course direct to Valparaiso.
The first part of this promise I believed, because he assured me
that every day he stopped cost him 7 pounds; and the second,
because, as a general rule, I willingly believe every one, even ship
captains. In both particulars, however, was I deceived; for it was
not until the 8th of December that I received a notice to go on
board that evening and then for the first time the captain informed
me that he must run into Santos, to lay in a stock of provisions,
which were there much cheaper than in Rio Janeiro; that he also
intended clearing out a cargo of coal and taking in another of
sugar. He did not tell me till we arrived in Santos itself, where
he also assured me that all these different matters would not take
him more than three or four days.

I took leave of my friends and went on board in the evening; Count
Berchthold and Messrs. Geiger and Rister accompanying me to the

Early in the morning of the 9th of December we weighed anchor, but
the wind was so unfavourable that we were obliged to tack the whole
day in order to gain the open sea, and it was not until about 10
A.M. that we lost sight of land.

There were eight passengers besides myself; five Frenchmen, one
Belgian, and two citizens of Milan. I looked upon the latter as
half countrymen of mine, and we were soon very good friends.

It was the second time this year that the two Italians were making
the voyage round Cape Horn. Their first had not been fortunate;
they reached Cape Horn in winter, which in those cold southern
latitudes lasts from April till about November. {53} They were
unable to circumnavigate the Cape, being driven back by violent
contrary winds and storms, against which they strove for fourteen
weary days without making the least progress. The crew now lost
courage, and affirmed that it would be advisable to turn back and
wait for more favourable winds. The captain, however, was not of
this opinion, and succeeded so well in working upon the pride of the
crew that they once more engaged in their conflict with the
elements. It was, however, for the last time, for the very same
night a tremendous sea broke over the ship, tearing away all her
upper works, and sweeping the captain and six of the sailors
overboard. The water poured in torrents into the cabins, and drove
every one from the berths. The bulwarks, boats, and binnacle were
carried clean off, and the mainmast had to be cut away. The sailors
then turned the ship about, and after a long and dangerous voyage,
succeeded in bringing her, dismasted as she was, into Rio Janeiro.

This story was not very encouraging, but the fine weather and our
good ship relieved us of all anxiety. With regard to the vessel, we
could not have chosen a better. It had large, comfortable cabins,
an exceedingly good-natured and obliging captain, and a bill of fare
which must have contented the most dainty palate. Every day we had
roast or stewed fowls, ducks, or geese, fresh mutton or pork, eggs
variously prepared, plum-pudding and tarts; to all this were added
side dishes of ham, rice, potatoes, and other vegetables; and for
dessert, dried fruit, nuts, almonds, cheese, etc. There was also
plenty of bread, fresh baked every day, and good wine. We all
unanimously acknowledged that we had never been so well treated, or
had so good a table in any sailing vessel before; and we could,
therefore, in this respect, look forward to our voyage without any

On the 12th of December we hove in sight of the mountain ranges of
Santos, and at 9 o'clock the same evening we reached a bay which the
captain took for that of the same name. Lighted torches were
repeatedly held over the vessel's side to summon a pilot; no pilot,
however, made his appearance, and we were therefore obliged to trust
to chance, and anchor at the mouth of the bay.

On the morning of the 13th a pilot came on board, and astonished us
with the intelligence that we had anchored before the wrong bay. We
had some trouble in working our way out, and anchoring about noon in
the right one. A pretty little chateau-like building immediately
attracted our attention. We took it for some advanced building of
the town, and congratulated one another on having reached our
temporary destination so quickly. On approaching nearer, however,
we could perceive no signs of the town, and learned that the
building was a small fort, and that Santos was situated in a second

Online LibraryIda PfeifferA Woman's Journey Round the World → online text (page 7 of 44)