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THE PRIEST AND THE GOVERNOR.
commissioned me to bring him out (should I ever return) a small piano and a French horn, which he would pay for in salt fish and sarsaparilla. I cannot refrain from expressing my grateful thanks, for much attention and much information, to my friends—the well-informed and gentlemanlike Arebalo, and the pious, simple-minded, single-hearted little Indian priest of Pebas. We arrived at Cochiquinas (twenty-five miles distant) at half-past 8 p. m.
Cochiquinas—Caballo Cocha-Alligators-Indian Incantations—Loreto-Taba
tinga-River Yavari -San Paulo-River Iça-Tunantins-Making manteigaRiver Jutay-Fronteboa-River Juruá-River Japurá.
Cochiquinas, or New Cochiquinas, is a miserable fishing village, of two hundred and forty inhabitants; though at this time there did not appear to be forty in the village, most of them being absent fishing and seeking a livelihood. Old Cochiquinas is four miles further down the river, and seems a far better situation; but the people there were afraid of the attacks of the savages of the Yavari, and removed up to this place.
The old town, to which place we dropped down to breakfast, has one hundred and twenty inhabitants, of which twenty-five are white, and the rest Indians of the Yavari, called Marubos. These are dressed with even more simplicity than the Yaguas, dispensing with the mop behind. They have small, curly moustaches and beards ; are darker than the other Indians; and do nothing but hunt for their living.
The governor treated us very civilly, and gave us a good breakfast of soup, chickens, rice, and eggs, with milk just taken from the cow. What a luxury! I saw before his door a large canoe filled with unshelled rice, of very good quality. The governor told us that rice grew very well, and gave about forty-fold in five months. He seemed a very gay and good-tempered young person, with a fine family of a wife and eleven remarkably handsome children-some born in lawful wedlock, others natural—but all cared for alike, and brought up together. I had the impertinence to ask him how he supported so many people. He said that the forest and the river yielded abundantly, and that he occasionally made an expedition to the Napo, and collected sarsaparilla enough to buy clothes and luxuries for his family in Loreto. The Napo, he says, is very full of sand-banks, and that twenty days from its mouth the men have to get overboard and drag the canoes.
The Yavari may be reached from this point by land in four days. The banks of the river at this place are steep, and about thirty feet in height above the present level. Veins of the same black clay slate that we saw at Pebas, and that burned with a bituminous smell, also crop out of the banks here.
We sailed at noon, and arrived at Peruaté at 5 p. m., (twenty miles.) The population of this village is one hundred, made up of remnants of different tribes—Ticunas, and natives of the towns of Barranca, on the upper Amazon, and Andoas, on the Pastaza. I talked with an old negro who had been many times up the Napo. He confirmed the accounts that I had from other people.
November 28.–From Peruaté to Camucheros is thirty miles. This place has only a population of four families, recently settled there, who have cleared away a small portion of the forest and commenced their plantations of yuccas, maize, and rice. Just below Camucheros we had apparently all the width of the river in view—about a mile broad. I was surprised to find, near the middle of it, only thirty feet of water. I think a sand-bank stretches out a long way from the left shore. The velocity of the current was two and a quarter miles the hour. We arrived at Moromoroté at a quarter past 6 p. m., (distance fifteen miles.)
This consists of one house of christianized Indians. There is a house of Ticunas a mile further inland. We could hear the sound of their music, and sent them word that we wanted to buy animals and food from them. They came to see us after night, but were drunk, and had nothing to sell.
November 29.-We passed to-day a number of small islands. Between one of them and the right bank, where the river was at least a quarter of a mile wide, we saw many trees grounded, and, in what appeared the deepest part, found but twelve feet of water. Doubtless there is more in the other channels, and more might possibly be found in this.
At 9 a. m., after a journey of twenty miles, we entered the caño of Caballococha, (Horse lake. It is about eighty yards wide, and has eighteen feet of depth in the middle. The water is clear, and makes an agreeable contrast with the muddy waters of the Amazon; but, there being no current in the caño, the water is supposed to be not so good to drink as that of the main river, which is very good when it is allowed to settle.
The village is situated on the caño, about a mile and a half from the entrance, and at the same distance from the lake. It contains two hundred and seventy-five inhabitants, mostly Ticunas Indians. These are darker than the generality of Indians of the Marañon, though not so dark as the Marubos; and they are beardless, which frees them from the negro-look that these last have. Their houses are generally plastered with mud inside, and are far neater-looking, and more comfortable, than the other Indian residences that I have seen. This is, however, entirely owing to the activity and energy of the priest, Father Flores, who seems to have them in excellent order. They are now building a church for him, which, when finished, will be the finest in the Montaña.
The men are all decently clad in frock and trousers; and the women, besides the usual roll of cotton cloth around the loins, wear a short tunic covering the breast. I think that Father Flores, though he wants the honest simplicity and kindness of heart of Valdivia, and the noble patience, magnanimity, and gentleness of dear Father Calvo, is a better man for the Indians, and more successful in their management, than either of the others. He does not seem to care about their coming to church; for there was not an Indian at mass Sunday morning, (though the padre did give us a little homily on the importance of attending worship:) but he has them afraid of him, keeps them at work, sees that they keep themselves and houses clean, and the streets of the village in order; and I saw none of the abominable drinking and dancing with which the other Indians invariably wind up the Sunday.
The town is situated on quite an extensive plain; the soil is of a light, and rather sandy character, which, even in the rainy season, quickly absorbs the water, and makes the walking always agreeable. This is very rarely the case with the other villages of the Amazon. The climate is said to be very hot; and, from the fact that the village is yet closely surrounded by the forest, which keeps off the breeze, I suspect this is the case in the dry season. I did not find it so at this time.
It is very dangerous to bathe in the caño, on account of the alligators. Not long before my arrival, a woman, bathing after night-fall, in company with her husband, was seized and carried off by one of these monsters. She was not even in the caño. but was sitting on the bank, pouring water over her head with a gourd, when the reptile crawled from behind a log, where it had been lying, and carried her off in its mouth, though struck several heavy blows with a stick by the unfortunate husband. The padre next morning declared war upon the alligators, and had the Indians out with their harpoons and lances to destroy them. They killed a number; and they thought it remarkable that the first they killed should have parts of the woman yet undigested in its stomach. I think it probable that a good many alligators had a bite.
The lake is a pretty and nearly circular sheet of water of two and a half miles in diameter, and is twenty feet deep in the centre.
There were a great many water-fowl in it, but principally cranes and cormorants.
Padre Flores, as usual, gave us a room in his house, and seats at his table. I admired a very old-looking silver spoon that he had on the table, and which Ijurra judged to be of the date of Ferdinand and Isabella, from the armed figures and lion's head upon the handle; whereupon the padre, with the courtesy that belongs to his race, insisted upon my accepting it. I was glad to have it in my power to acknowledge the civility by pressing upon the padre a set of tumblers, neatly put up in a morocco case, which had been given me by R. E. Johnson, first lieutenant of the Vandalia.
After dark he proposed that we should go out and see some of the incantations of the Indians for the cure of the sick. We heard music at a distance, and approached a large house whence it proceeded, in which the padre said there was almost always some one sick. We listened at the door, which was closed. There seemed to be a number of persons singing inside. I was almost enchanted myself. I never heard such tones, and think that even instrumental music could not be made to equal them. I have frequently been astonished at the power of the Indians to mock animals; but I had heard nothing like this before. The tones were so low, so faint, so guttural, and at the same time so sweet and clear, that I could scarcely believe they came from human throats; and they seemed fitting sounds in which to address spirits of another world.
Some one appearing to approach the door, the priest and I filed; for, though we were mean enough to listen at a man's door, we were ashamed to be caught at it; but hearing nothing further we returned, and Ijurra, with his usual audacity, pushed open the door and proposed to enter. The noise we made in opening the door caused a hasty retreat of some persons, which we could hear and partly see; and when we entered, we found but two Indians-an old man and a young one-sitting on the floor by a little heap of flaming copal, engaged in chewing tobacco and spitting in an earthen pot before them. The young man turned his face to the wall with a sullen look, and although the old man smiled when he was patted on the head and desired to proceed with his music, yet it was with a smile that had no mirth or satisfaction in it, and that showed plainly that he was annoyed, and would have expressed his annoyance had he dared.
The hut was a large one, and appeared larger in the gloom. There was a light burning in the farther end of it, which looked to be a milo off; Ijurra strode the distance and found it to be just twenty-four paces. There were a number of hammocks slung one above the other between the posts that supported the roof, and all seemed occupied. In one corner of the house was built a small partition of cane, in which I understood was confined a young girl, who was probably looking at us with curious eyes, but whom we could not see. I had been told before that it was the custom among most of the Indians of the Montaña to