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Remember the Rainforest 1

 

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This was not the last time I congratulated myself for having the company of Mr. Zani; in the course of the whole journey, he proved to be a seasoned friend.

Captain Zani ?

In addition to all that I was doing to oppose the hostile assaults and trying to befriend the Indians in this solitary region, I experienced on December 23 what would probably have been my death, if it were not for the fidelity of the Indians we had hired in Belem do Para, to take care of the cooking. We had already, in Maripi, killed several beautiful snakes, who had been warming themselves in the sun on the shore; and this made me want to hunt one of the great snakes, which live in quantity in the lakes of the neighborhood. When, therefore, my pilot assured us that we were by the Lake of Cumapi, I took one of the small canoes, equipped with four Indians, and tried to reach the mouth of the lake. An Indian from the Macuna tribe,

Macuna today

who had been with us since Ega, volunteered as a guide, and I thought I had no reason to distrust him, even if ordinarily, it is not common for the indians to be zealous for service. The terrain is very low, several canals flow between the islands and the mainland, and the flooded forest was far below the water.

Igapo, the flooded forest

The lively fish which had been drawn therein in abundance, the profusion of the most beautiful flowers, which covered this cape, and the swarming of the swarms of ants, who took refuge in the trees and, at the least shock, fell on us in the thousands, so much so it occupied my attention; for a long time I did not notice that the guide had not stayed in the right direction, but rather was trying to take shortcuts to go downstream. The shadows grew longer as my faithful Indian from Belem do Para approached me and, with signs and some Portuguese words, gave me the impression that the Macuna, in conspiracy with some others, intended to get rid of me, to escape with the canoe, which happened to carry a box with objects of barter. As soon as I became convinced of the change in course, I had the Macuna seated at the stern with his left hand bound at the edge, so that he could guide the rudder with his right hand; I stood with the guns loaded before him, and I swore I would kill him, if by sunset he did not return me to his own river. This forewarning decided my fate; the Indian, frightened, took me back to the river, and even before the rising of the moon I reached the boat of Joao Bernardo, to whom I delivered my enemy, so as not to spread the spirit of rebellion among my garrison of soldiers. It was one of the rare occasions when I encountered cold perversity in an Indian. Then I became more cautious, but equally more confident of the Red Skins, who have too much a weak and irresolute mindset, to take into account the manifestation of firm courage, which a resolute mindset is known to impose.

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