The traveller who allots a portion of his time to peep at his fellow- creatures in their relaxations, and accustoms himself to read their several little histories in their looks and gestures as he goes musing on, may have full occupation for an hour or two every day at this season amid the variegated scenes around the pretty village of Monteiro. In the evening groups sitting at the door, he may sometimes see with a sigh how wealth and the prince's favour cause a booby to pass for a Solon, and be reverenced as such, while perhaps a poor neglected Camoens stands silent at a distance, awed by the dazzling glare of wealth and power. Retired from the public road he may see poor Maria sitting under a palm-tree, with her elbow in her lap and her head leaning on one side within her hand, weeping over her forbidden bans. And as he moves on "with wandering step and slow," he may hear a broken-hearted nymph ask her faithless swain:
How could you say my face was fair,
And yet that face forsake?
How could you win my virgin heart,
Yet leave that heart to break?
One afternoon, in an unfrequented part not far from Monteiro, these adventures were near being brought to a speedy and a final close: six or seven blackbirds, with a white spot betwixt the shoulders, were making a noise and passing to and fro on the lower branches of a tree in an abandoned, weed-grown orange-orchard. In the long grass underneath the tree apparently a pale green grasshopper was fluttering, as though it had got entangled in it. When you once fancy that the thing you are looking at is really what you take it for, the more you look at it the more you are convinced it is so. In the present case this was a grasshopper beyond all doubt, and nothing more remained to be done but to wait in patience till it had settled, in order that you might run no risk of breaking its legs in attempting to lay hold of it while it was fluttering - it still kept fluttering; and having quietly approached it, intending to make sure of it - behold, the head of a large rattlesnake appeared in the grass close by: an instantaneous spring backwards prevented fatal consequences. What had been taken for a grasshopper was, in fact, the elevated rattle of the snake in the act of announcing that he was quite prepared, though unwilling, to make a sure and deadly spring. He shortly after passed slowly from under the orange-tree to the neighbouring wood on the side of a hill: as he moved over a place bare of grass and weeds he appeared to be about eight feet long; it was he who had engaged the attention of the birds and made them heedless of danger from another quarter: they flew away on his retiring - one alone left his little life in the air, destined to become a specimen, mute and motionless, for the inspection of the curious in a far distant clime.
It was now the rainy season. The birds were moulting - fifty-eight specimens of the handsomest of them in the neighbourhood of Pernambuco had been collected; and it was time to proceed elsewhere. The conveyance to the interior was by horses, and this mode, together with the heavy rains, would expose preserved specimens to almost certain damage. The journey to Maranham by land would take at least forty days. The route was not wild enough to engage the attention of an explorer, or civilised enough to afford common comforts to a traveller. By sea there were no opportunities, except slave-ships. As the transporting poor negroes from port to port for sale pays well in Brazil, the ships' decks are crowded with them. This would not do.
Excuse here, benevolent reader, a small tribute of gratitude to an Irish family whose urbanity and goodness have long gained it the esteem and respect of all ranks in Pernambuco. The kindness and attention I received from Dennis Kearney, Esq., and his amiable lady will be remembered with gratitude to my dying day.
After wishing farewell to this hospitable family, I embarked on board a Portuguese brig, with poor accommodations, for Cayenne in Guiana. The most eligible bedroom was the top of a hen-coop on deck. Even here an unsavoury little beast, called bug, was neither shy nor deficient in appetite.
The Portuguese seamen are famed for catching fish. One evening, under the line, four sharks made their appearance in the wake of the vessel. The sailors caught them all.
On the fourteenth day after leaving Pernambuco, the brig cast anchor off the Island of Cayenne. The entrance is beautiful. To windward, not far off, there are two bold wooded islands called the Father and Mother, and near them are others, their children, smaller, though as beautiful as their parents. Another is seen a long way to leeward of the family, and seems as if it had strayed from home and cannot find its way back. The French call it "l'enfant perdu." As you pass the islands the stately hills on the main, ornamented with ever-verdant foliage, show you that this is by far the sublimest scenery on the sea-coast from the Amazons to the Oroonoque. On casting your eye towards Dutch Guiana you will see that the mountains become unconnected and few in number, and long before you reach Surinam the Atlantic wave washes a flat and muddy shore.