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4. PLECOSTOMUS GUACARI. FAM. LORICARIIDÆ.
(One-third natural size.)
[To face p. 286, Vol. I. THE NEW YORX PUBLIC LIBRO
even surpassed my expectations of them. The first was the
. virgin forest, everywhere grand, often beautiful and even sublime. Its wonderful variety with a more general uniformity never palled. Standing under one of its great buttressed trees-itself a marvel of nature—and looking carefully around, noting the various columnar trunks rising like lofty pillars, one soon perceives that hardly two of these are alike. The shape of the trunks, their colour and texture, the nature of their bark, their mode of branching and the character of the foliage far overhead, or of the fruits or flowers lying on the ground, have an individuality which shows that they are all distinct species differing from one another as our oak, elm, beech, ash, lime, and sycamore differ. This extraordinary variety of the species is a general though not universal characteristic of tropical forests, but seems to be nowhere so marked a feature as in the great forest regions which encircle the globe for a few degrees on each side of the equator. An equatorial forest is a kind of natural arboretum where specimens of an immense number of species are brought together by nature. The western half of the island of Java affords an example of such a forest-region which has been well explored, botanically ; and although almost all the fertile plains have been cleared for cultivation, and the forests cover only a small proportion of the country, the number of distinct species of forest-trees is said to be over fifteen hundred. Now the whole island is only about as large as Ireland, and has a population of over twenty millions; and as the eastern half of the island has a much drier climate, where there are forests of teak and much more open country, it is certain that this enormous variety of species is found in a wonderfully small area, probably little larger than Wales. I have no doubt that the forests of the Amazon valley are equally rich, while there are not improbably certain portions of their vast extent which are still richer.
The second feature, that I can never think of without delight, is the wonderful variety and exquisite beauty of the butterflies and birds, a variety and charm which grow upon one month after month and year after year, as ever new and beautiful, strange and even mysterious, forms are continually met with. Even now I can hardly recall them without a thrill of admiration and wonder.
The third and most unexpected sensation of surprise and delight was my first meeting and living with man in a state of nature—with absolute uncontaminated savages! This was on the Uuapés river, and the surprise of it was that I did not in the least expect to be so surprised. I had already been two years in the country, always among Indians of many tribes; but these were all what are called tame Indians, they wore at least trousers and shirt; they had been (nominally) converted to Christianity, and were under the government of the nearest authorities; and all of them spoke either Portuguese or the common language, called "Lingoa-Geral.”
But these true wild Indians of the Vaupés were at once seen to be something totally different. They had nothing that we call clothes; they had peculiar ornaments, tribal marks, etc.; they all carried weapons or tools of their own manufacture; they were living in a large house, many families together, quite unlike the hut of the tame Indians; but, more than all, their whole aspect and manner were different-they were all going about their own work or pleasure which had nothing to do with white men or their ways; they walked with the free step of the independent forest-dweller, and, except the few that were known to my companion, paid no attention whatever to us, mere strangers of an alien race. In every detail they were original and self-sustaining as are the wild animals of the forests, absolutely independent of civilization, and who could and did live their own lives in their own way, as they had done for countless generations before America was discovered. I could not have believed that there would be so much difference in the aspect of the same people in their native state and when living under European supervision. The true denizen of the Amazonian forests, like the forest itself, is unique and not to be forgotten.