Gambar halaman

with an open shed, or a dilapidated but, we had to spend the greater part of the night in drying our wet clothes, in taking our collections out of the chests, and again exposing them to the air. Often we had pot even the comfort of resting ourselves round the fire, because the wet wood emitted more smoke than flame. Ju this gloomy wilderness we met with but a few huts, chiefly inhabited by mulattoes; and, besides milk and black beans, no kind of provision was to be expected.” The

passage of Rio Mandú was not effected without danger. "After having shouted a long time, a small boat, rowed by two mulattoes, at length appeared, which was not large enough to contain a sixth part of our baggage. We ourselves rade, with great danger, a quarter of a league farther through the overflowed meadows, which, besides, were full of holes, and had the beasts of burden driven after us till we reached a spot rising above the water, where the boal waited for us, and where the people and the baggage were successively embarked. The mules were then all fastened to a long rope, one behind another, and driven into the river, where they swain after the boat, the people in wbich endeavoured, by continual calling, to eucourage them. All reached the other bank in safety, and we soon after had the satisfaction of seeing the baggage also landed without receiving any damage. We had the more reason to congratulate ourselves on escaping this danger, for we learnt, upon our arrival, that a caravan which had crossed the preceding day had lost some animals.”

To the north of Rio Gervo, they observed the first trace of gold-washing: here agriculture is consequently neglected.

“At S. Anva de Sapucahy, two leagues to the north of S. Vicente, we found the gold-washing (Lavras) of more considerable extent. At a distance they resembled skilfully erected fortifications. Trenches, several feet deep and broad, were dug upon terraced declivities, for the purpose of conducting the rain-water into the opened sides of the red loam. The washed loam was, here and there, thrown together in high heaps, or covered large tracts of laud, through which artificial furrows were drawn. The whole presented a melancholy picture of wild de. solation, in which even the roads are not spared; and a view of it is the more painful to the traveller, since at the first place where he sees gold obtained, he finds, instead of hard money, paper currency, and all the misery which it produces."

The uncertain tenure upon which gold-washers hold their wealth, is manifested at the village of St. Gonzalo, which, thirty years ago enjoyed great prosperity, from the quantity of this metal found in the neighbourhood, but which now exhibits only the half-decayed remains of handsome houses. The gold mines in the vicinity of the Villa Campanha afforded another proof of the demoralisation which they produce among all classes ; which, as physicians, our authors had abundant means of demonstrating. Even with this tract, which is by far the richest in Brazil, the inhabitants were discontented, and drew invidious comparisons between their own country and the northern districts of Minas, which they described as the true Eldorado. Being detained at Rio Verde, by the wandering of some of the mules, they had an opportunity of observing the services of religion.

" It happened to be a holiday, and about a hundred of the inhabitants of the neighbourhood assembled in the church to hear mass. This edifice, like most of the country churches in Minas, is small, and built only of clay and wood, without steeple, organ, or interoal ornaments. The want of all these things gives to the service a simplicity, which, as well as the presence of all the members of the families, even the youngest, imparts to this religious assembly, in a country so backward in civilisation, an affecting character resembling the first Christian meetings.”

To the north they met with numerous apes and a variety of poisonous serpents, the effects of whose bite is vividly described; together with the extreme difficulty and uncertainty of cure, which is seldom completely accomplished. We regret our want of room to extract the passage. Near a solitary chapel, called Campo Bello, were found a great number of loose garnets, about the size of a hazel-nut. The inhabitants of Minas are represented as different, both in character and person, from those of the other Capitanias, particularly the Paulistas; their general appearance is slender, with lively black eyes and black hair; a noble pride, with delicate and obliging manners, is conspicuous in these people, who are fond of a romantic way of life. The road from St. Joâo d' El Rey to Villa Rica commences with a north-east direction : here European fruits have been planted in the gardens with success, but oats, barley, and rye, run to straw. At the Fazenda de Chapada, the thermoineter fell during the night to 57° in a close room, but in the day rose to* 80° in the shade, which is the usual range of temperature in the higher parts of the Minas during the dry months. The well-known Brazilian topazes are found a short distance from the Morro de Gravier.

“The soil is thrown up into long heaps with shovels, and washed by means of water conducted over it into a narrow channel, with soine wooden lattices fixed in it, so that only the more solid parts remain behind, which are then broken with hoes and with the hands, in search of topazes. These harder parts of the decomposed formation, are the fragments of white quartz, often quite friable, sometimes mingled with

* We here use Fahrenheit's scale, which we have adopted throughout our remarks.

detached rock crystals, and are often accompanied with a white or brown ferruginous porcelain earth."

“The size of the stones is very various ; the workmen affirmed that pieces have been found as large as a fist. The natural colour is manifold, sometimes greyish, sometimes bright yellow, and sometimes a mean between this and carnation, of different shades, very rarely dark red. The stones which are found in the malacacheta are said to be the lightest. The inhabitants understand how to give to the topazes an artificial, particularly rose, colour, by means of heat. The number of topazes annually found here is very considerable, and may amount to about fifty or sixty arrobas; this quantity, however, is not always pure and fit for polishing; on the contrary, a great part of them are of so imperfect a colour and full of flaws, that they are thrown away as useless. The octavo (a gold weight) of the inferior sort of the stones fit for cutting, is sold at 320 rees; of the best, at 2000 rees. Remarkably large, beautiful, and brilliant stones are sold upon the spot, from twenty to thirty piasters. The greater part of these topazes is exported from this place to Rio de Janeiro, a smaller portion to Babia, and in both places so great a quantity has been accumulated within a few years, that the prices there are lower than at the nine itself.”

Villa Rica contains about 8,500 souls, while the Minas, of which it is the capital, is estimated at half a million; the climate of this Capitania, from its elevated situation, is very temperate; in the heat of summer the thermometer never rises higher than 82° in the shade, nor sinks in the winter below 54°; the magnetic inclination at Villa Rica was found to be 29° 31', the oscillations 20.8. in a minute. Agriculture is not carried on to a great extent, the soil is unfruitful, but rich in minerals. Iron-stone abounds, yielding 90 per cent. lead, copper, platina, mercury, arsenic, bismuth, antimony, chrome, manganese, diamonds, topazes, garnets, and amethysts, are procured in great quantity; the latter' principally in Minas Novas. Gold is obtained in the neighbourhood of Villa Rica, generally in the form of powder; a mass has, however, been found weighing sixteen pounds. We have a copious account of the strata and formation of the neighbourhood, which will afford the scientific reader abundant gratification. On the 31st of March they left Villa Rica, to visit the Coroades Indians, on the Ria Xipoto. The Cidade de Mariana contains about 5000 inhabitants, but, from some mines in the neighbourhood becoming unproductive, is falling to decay; the climate is warmer, and therefore not so healthy as at Villa Rica; the road from Mariana passes over gloomy mountains, rendered more melancholy by numerous crosses on the way, erected as monuments for those who had been murdered by fugitive negroes. Gold-washing is every where followed as a matter of course in this province, whether the labour is productive or not. Mining, in this respect, strongly resembles gambling; the uncertainty of the event possesses a fascination for those who follow it, which their better judg. ment, if ever exerted, is unable to subdue. At Coronel Texeira they passed the night at the house of a young eco clesiastic, whose library was limited to Ovid de Arte Amandi, and who appeared a worthy counterpart to the hermit in the Decameron. Entering the region of the Serra do Mar,

“The path grew so narrow that one mule could scarcely go behind the other; the

forest became gloomy as the Inferno of Dante; and the way, growing narrower and steeper, led in mazy windings on the edge of deep precipices, traversed by impetuous torrents, and here and there bordered with detached rocks. The horrors with which this savage solitude filled our souls, was enhanced by the apprehension of an attack of wild animals or hostile Indians, which occupied our imaginations with the most gloomy ideas and melancholy forebodings. Our joy, therefore, was inexpressible, when we reached the other side of the mountain of the Serra de S. Geraldo, and saw the glimmer of daylight gradually penetrate. After we had conquered a part of the way which descended precipitously and resembled a ravine, we overlooked a forest of prodigious extent, bounded towards the S.W. by the Serra da Onça, which is likewise covered with wood. We had scarcely descended into the wide plain between these two mountain chains, which chiefly consist of gneiss, and are about 2500 feet higb, when we were surprised by seeing in the narrow path vo human figures. They were both naked, and their jet black hair hung over their shoulders. They crept along with short step and necks contracted, looking sometimes to the right and sometimes to the left; the man went first, carrying a bow and arrow in his left hand, and had a bundle of arrows hanging over his shoulders. The woman, with the older children, followed him, and carried on her back a basket made of palm leaves, which was fastened by a band to her forehead, and contained the domestic utensils, their provisions, such as maize, mandiocca, Spanish potatoes, an earthen pot, &c. Upon it sat a little child, a few months old, which had its arms around its mother's neck. Scarcely had we perceived each other, when they hurried into the forest and disappeared.

In their first interviews with the savages, the latter appeared silent and distrustful, but a few trifling presents prepared the way for a better understanding. The government have been at great pains, and adopted many wise measures for the purpose of bringing these wandering children of nature within the pale of civilization: hitherto their charitable labours have been attended with very little success; notwithstanding many attempts, our travellers found it impossible to cultivate a close acquaintance with the natives in this part, they hoped, how

[ocr errors]


for better success at Guidowald. They made several excursions into the forests, which are thus described :

“These intricate woods, in the interior of which almost eternal darkness prevails, are calculated to fill the soul with awe and terror; we never ventured to penetrate into them without being accompanied by soldiers, or at least being well-armed and keeping close together. Even near to the rossas there is danger, and the traveller has to defend himself from furious dogs that keep watch, almost as much as froin the wild beasts of the forest."

Here the genuine ipecacuanha root is met with in considerable quantity, but, as it grows wild, is carefully sought for, and never planted; a future scarcity of it is very probable, One of the greatest ornaments of these woods is the sapacaya, or pot-tree:

“Its immense stem is above a hundred feet high, and spreads into a majestic and vaulted crown, which is extremely beautiful in the spring, when the rose-coloured leaves shoot out, and in the flowering season, by the large white blossoms. The nuts, which have a thick shell, are of the size of a child's head, with a lid which is loose all round, and which at length, when the weight of the fruit turns it downwards, separates, and lets the seed fall out. In a high wind it is dangerous to remain in the woods, on account of these heavy nuts falling from so great a height.”

On the 10th of April they set out for Guidowald: the description of the way, and their interview with the Coroados, we cannot resist our inclination to extract.

“A dark forest covered us, and the most singular notes of various animals were heard in the distance. The magical solitude and the wonderful luxuriance of the forest, kept our mind balanced as it were between the feelings of fear and joy. We beheld with astonishment, on the summits of the trees, many birds of the gayest plumage, and bright garlands of the most beautiful climbing plants and parasites: but we were obliged to content ourselves with admiring them at the unattainable height at which they were placed.

Towards noon we were near the Aldea do Morro Grande, where several families of the Coroados reside, and by the advice of our soldier we entered a side path leading to them, having left our mules and arms at the neighbouring fazenda of a white colonist. Nothing but confidence in the experience of our guide, could have induced us to proceed in the narrow and intricate path, till we at length came out of a thicket to a rather lighter spot by the side of a stream, in which we perceived a naked Indian woman, painted with all kinds of figures of a dark blue colour. She was employed in pouring water over herself, and on our appearance she was as much astonished as we. Her black shining hair hung like a cloak over her reddish brown shoulders, and various drawings and figures, difficult to be explained, ornamented her face and breast. On the cheek she had a circle, and over that

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »