The Forest Exiles: The Perils of a Peruvian Family in the Wilds of the AmazonMayne Reid
Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England
The Forest Exiles, by Captain Mayne Reid.
________________________________________________________________________Thinly disguised as a book about the fortunes of a family of exiles inthe forests of Peru, this is actually a very well-written book about thenatural history of the region. Its style makes it eminently readable,and even today anyone reading it will be amused and interested.
The story is supposed to have taken place in the early part of thenineteenth century.
There are a good many Spanish and native Indian words, but this does notaffect the readability of the various chapters, each of which deals withsome aspect of the natural history of the region. It makes a goodaudiobook.
________________________________________________________________________THE FOREST EXILES, BY CAPTAIN MAYNE REID.
THE BIGGEST WOOD IN THE WORLD.
Boy reader, I am told that you are not tired of my company. Is thistrue?
"Quite true, dear Captain,--quite true!" That is your reply. You speaksincerely? I believe you do.
In return, believe _me_, when I tell you I am not tired of yours; andthe best proof I can give is, that I have come once more to seek you. Ihave come to solicit the pleasure of your company,--not to an eveningparty, nor to a ball, nor to the Grand Opera, nor to the Crystal Palace,nor yet to the Zoological Gardens of Regent's Park,--no, but to thegreat zoological garden of Nature. I have come to ask you to accompanyme on another "campaign,"--another "grand journey" through the fields ofScience and Adventure. Will you go?
"Most willingly--with you, dear Captain, anywhere."
Come with me, then.
Again we turn our faces westward; again we cross the blue and billowyAtlantic; again we seek the shores of the noble continent of America.
"What! to America again?"
Ha! that is a large continent, and you need not fear that I am going totake you over old ground. No, fear not that! New scenes await us; anew _fauna_, a new _flora_,--I might almost say, a new earth and a newsky!
You shall have variety, I promise you,--a perfect contrast to the scenesof our last journey.
Then, you remember, we turned our faces to the cold and icy North,--nowour path lies through the hot and sunny South. Then we lived in alog-hut, and closed every cranny to keep out the cold,--now, in ourcottage of palms and cane, we shall be but too glad to let the breezeplay through the open walls. Then we wrapped our bodies in thickfurs,--now we shall be content with the lightest garments. Then we werebitten by the frost,--now we shall be bitten by sand-flies, andmosquitoes, and bats, and snakes, and scorpions, and spiders, and stungby wasps, and centipedes, and great red ants! Trust me, you shall havea change!
Perhaps you do not contemplate _such_ a change with any very livelyfeelings of pleasure. Come! do not be alarmed at the snakes, andscorpions, and centipedes! We shall find a cure for every bite--anantidote for every bane.
Our new journey shall have its pleasures and advantages. Remember howof old we shivered as we slept, coiled up in the corner of our darklog-hut and smothered in skins,--now we shall swing lightly in ournetted hammocks under the gossamer leaves of the palm-tree, or thefeathery frondage of the ferns. Then we gazed upon leaden skies, and atnight looked upon the cold constellation of the Northern Bear;--now, weshall have over us an azure canopy, and shall nightly behold thesparkling glories of the Southern Cross, still shining as bright as whenPaul and his little Virginie with loving eyes gazed upon it from theirisland home. In our last journey we toiled over bleak and barrenwastes, across frozen lakes, and marshes, and rivers;--now we shall passunder the shadows of virgin forests, and float lightly upon the bosom ofbroad majestic streams, whose shores echo with the voices of livingnature.
Hitherto our travels have been upon the wide, open prairie, thetrackless plain of sand, the frozen lake, the thin scattering woods ofthe North, or the treeless snow-clad "Barrens." Now we are about toenter a great forest,--a forest where the leaves never fade, where theflowers are always in bloom,--a forest where the woodman's axe has notyet echoed, where the colonist has hardly hewed out a single clearing,--a vast primeval forest,--the largest in the world.
How large, do you ask? I can hardly tell you. Are you thinking ofEpping, or the New Forest? True, these are large woods, and have beenlarger at one time. But if you draw your ideas of a great forest fromeither of these you must prepare yourself for a startling announcement--and that is, that the forest through which I am going to take you is _asbig as all Europe_! There is one place where a straight line might bedrawn across this forest that would measure the enormous length of twothousand six hundred miles! And there is a point in it from which acircle might be described, with a diameter of more than a thousandmiles, and the whole area included within this vast circumference wouldbe found covered with an unbroken forest!
I need scarce tell you what forest I allude to, for there is none otherin the world of such dimensions--none to compare with that vast,trackless forest that covers the valley of the mighty Amazon!
And what shall we see in travelling through this tree-covered expanse?Many a strange form of life--both vegetable and animal. We shall seethe giant "ceiba" tree, and the "zamang," and the "caoba," twined byhuge parasites almost as thick as their own trunks, and looking asthough they embraced but to crush them; the "juvia," with itsglobe-shaped fruits as large as the human head; the "cow-tree," with itsabundant fountains of rich milk; the "seringa," with its valuable gum--the caoutchouc of commerce; the "cinchona," with its fever-killing bark;the curious "volador," with its winged seeds; the wild indigo, and thearnatto. We shall see palms of many species--some with trunks smoothand cylindrical, others covered with thorns, sharp and thickly set--somewith broad entire leaves, others with fronds pinnate and feathery, andstill others whose leaves are of the shape of a fan--some rising likenaked columns to the height of an hundred and fifty feet, while othersscarcely attain to the standard of an ordinary man.
On the water we shall see beautiful lilies--the snow-white _nymphs_, andthe yellow _nuphars_. We shall see the _Victoria regia_ covering thepool with its massive wax-like flowers, and huge circular leaves ofbronze green. We shall see tall flags like Saracen spears, and the darkgreen culms of gigantic rushes, and the golden _arundinaria_--thebamboo, and "cana brava,"--that rival the forest trees in height.
Many a form of animal life we may behold. Basking in the sun, we maybehold the yellow and spotted body of the jaguar--a beautiful butdreaded sight. Breaking through the thick underwood, or emerging slowlyfrom the water, we may catch a glimpse of the sombre tapir, or thered-brown capivara. We may see the ocelot skulking through the deepshade, or the margay springing upon its winged prey. We may see theshaggy ant-bear tearing at the cones of sand-clay, and licking up thewhite termites; or we may behold the scaly armadillo crawling over thesun-parched earth, and rolling itself up at the approach of danger. Wemay see human-like forms,--the _quadrumana_--clinging among the highbranches, and leaping from tree to tree, like birds upon the wing; wemay see them of many shapes, sizes, and colours, from the great howlingmonkeys, with their long prehensile tails, down to the little saimirisand ouistitis not larger than squirrels.
What beautiful birds, too!--for this forest is their favourite home.Upon the ground, the large curassows, and guans, and the "gallo," withhis plumage of bright red. Upon the trees, the macaws, and parrots, andtoucans, and trogons. In the waters, the scarlet flamingoes, theibises, and the tall herons; and in
the air, the hawks, the zamuros, theking-vultures, and the eagles.
We shall see much of the reptile world, both by land and water. Baskingupon the bank, or floating along the stream, we may behold the greatwater lizards--the crocodile and caiman; or the unwieldy forms of the_cheloniae_--the turtles. Nimbly running along the tree-trunk, or upthe slanting lliana, we may see the crested iguana, hideous to behold.On the branches that overhang the silent pool we may see the"water-boa," of huge dimensions, watching for his prey--the peccary, thecapivara, the paca, or the agouti; and in the dry forest we may meetwith his congener the "stag-swallower," twined around a tree, andwaiting for the roebuck or the little red-deer of the woods.
We may see the mygale, or bird-catching spider, at the end of his strongnet-trap, among the thick foliage; and the tarantula, at the bottom ofhis dark pitfall, constructed in the ground. We may see the tent-likehills of the white ants, raised high above the surface, and the nests ofmany other kinds, hanging from high branches, and looking as though theyhad been constructed out of raw silk and pasteboard. We may see treescovered with these nests, and some with the nests of wasps, and stillothers with those of troupials and orioles--birds of the genus _icterus_and _cassicus_--hanging down like long cylindrical purses.
All these, and many more strange sights, may be seen in the great forestof the Amazon valley; and some of them we shall see--_voila_!