|Back||1 2 3||Next|
"Laugh on, gentlemen," said Lina, "and let us look around, my dear mistress, for it is very fine!"
Very fine! A collection of houses, built of mud, whitewashed, and principally covered with thatch or palm-leaves; a few built of stone or wood, with verandas, doors, and shutters painted a bright green, standing in the middle of a small orchard of orange-trees in flower. But there were two or three public buildings, a barrack, and a church dedicated to St. Theresa, which was a cathedral by the side of the modest chapel at Iquitos. On looking toward the lake a beautiful panorama unfolded itself, bordered by a frame of cocoanut-trees and assais, which ended at the edge of the liquid level, and showed beyond the picturesque village of Noqueira, with its few small houses lost in the mass of the old olive-trees on the beach.
But for the two girls there was another cause of wonderment, quite feminine wonderment too, in the fashions of the fair Egans, not the primitive costume of the natives, converted Omaas or Muas, but the dress of true Brazilian ladies. The wives and daughters of the principal functionaries and merchants o the town pretentiously showed off their Parisian toilettes, a little out of date perhaps, for Ega is five hundred leagues away from Para, and this is tiself many thousands of miles from Paris.
"Just look at those fine ladies in their fine slothes!"
"Lina will go mad!" exclaimed Benito.
"If those dresses were worn properly," said Minha, "they might not be so ridiculous!"
"My dear Minha," said Manoel, "with your simple gown and straw hat, you are better dressed than any one of these Brazilians, with their headgear and flying petticoats, which are foreign to their country and their race."
"If it pleases you to think so," answered Minha, "I do not envy any of them."
But they had come to see. They walked through the streets, which contained more stalls than shops; they strolled about the market-place, the rendezvous of the fashionable, who were nearly stifled in their European clothes; they even breakfasted at an hotel--it was scarcely an inn--whose cookery caused them to deeply regret the excellent service on the raft.
After dinner, at which only turtle flesh, served up in different forms, appeared, the Garral family went for the last time to admire the borders of the lake as the setting sun gilded it with its rays; then they rejoined their pirogue, somewhat disillusioned perhaps as to the magnificence of a town which one hour would give time enough to visit, and a little tired with walking about its stifling streets which were not nearly so pleasant as the shady pathways of Iquitos. The inquisitive Lina's enthusiasm alone had not been damped.
They all took their places in the pirogue. The wind remained in the northwest, and had freshened with the evening. The sail was hoisted. They took the same course as in the morning, across the lake fed by the black waters of the Rio Teffe, which, according to the Indians, is navigable toward the southwest for forty days' journey. At eight o'clock the priogue regained the mooring-place and hailed the jangada.
As soon as Lina could get Fragoso aside--
"Have you seen anything suspicious?" she inquired.
"Nothing, Miss Lina," he replied; "Torres has scarcely left hi cabin, where he has been reading and writing."
"He did not get into the house or the dining-room, as I feared?"
"No, all the time he was not in his cabin he was in the bow of the raft."
"And what was he doing?"
"Holding an old piece of paper in his hand, consulting it with great attention, and muttering a lot of incomprehensible words."
"All that is not so unimportant as you think, Mr. Fragoso. These readings and writings and old papers have their interest! He is neither a professor nor a lawyer, this reader and writer!"
"You are right!"
"Still watch him, Mr. Fragoso!"
"I will watch him always, Miss Lina," replied Fragoso.
On the morrow, the 27th of July, at daybreak, Benito gave the pilot the signal to start.
Away between the islands, in the Bay of Arenapo, the mouth of the Japura, six thousand six hundred feet wide, was seen for an instant. This large tributary comes into the Amazon through eight mouths, as if it were pouring into some gulf or ocean. But its waters come from afar, and it is the mountains of the republic of Ecuador which start them on a course that there are no falls to break until two hundred and ten leagues from its junction with the main stream.
All this day was spent in descending to the island of Yapura, after which the river, less interfered with, makes navigation much easier. The current is not so rapid and the islets are easily avoided, so that there were no touchings or groundings.
The next day the jangada coasted along by vast beaches formed by undulating high domes, which served as the barriers of immense pasture grounds, in which the whole of the cattle in Europe could be raised and fed. These sand banks are considered to be the richest turtle grounds in the basin of the Upper Amazon.
On the evening of the 29th of July they were securely moored off the island of Catua, so as to pass the night, which promised to be dark.
On this island, as soon as the sun rose above the horizon, there appeared a party of Muras Indians, the remains of that ancient and powerful tribe, which formerly occupied more than a hundred leagues of the river bank between the Teffe and the Madeira.
These Indians went and came, watching the raft, which remained stationary. There were about a hundred of them armed with blow-tubes formed of a reed peculiar to these parts, and which is strengthened outside by the stem of a dwarf palm from which the pith has been extracted.
|Back||1 2 3||Next|
Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon -by- Jules Verne