Parthagica Directory 08
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Parthagica Directory 08
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It was impossible to get labour up that river. The few _seringueiros_, chiefly negroes who were there in absolute slavery, had been led and established by their masters up the river, with no chance of getting away. Their masters came, of course, every year to bring down the rubber that had been collected. Twenty times the quantity could easily be brought down to the coast if labour were obtainable. Not only was the Juruena River itself almost absolutely untouched commercially--as we have seen, we did not meet a soul during the fifty days we navigated it--but even important tributaries close to S. Manoel, such as the Euphrasia, the Sao Thome, the Sao Florencio, the Misericordia, and others, were absolutely desert regions, although the quantity of rubber to be found along those streams must be immense. The difficulty of transport, even on the Tapajoz--from the junction of the two rivers the Juruena took the name of Tapajoz River--was very great, although the many rapids there encountered were mere child's play in comparison with those we had met with up above. In them, nevertheless, many lives were lost and many valuable cargoes disappeared for ever yearly. The rubber itself was not always lost when boats were wrecked, as rubber floats, and some of it was generally recovered. The expense of a journey up that river was enormous; it took forty to sixty days from the mouth of the Tapajoz to reach the _collectoria_ of S. Manoel. Thus, on an average the cost of freight on each kilo (about 2 lb.) of rubber between those two points alone was not less than sevenpence or eightpence.

My men had an idea that the great river we were looking for must be in that plain. For a few hours they seemed to have regained their courage. We heard some piercing shrieks, and we at once proceeded in their direction, as we knew they came from monkeys. In fact we found an enormously high tree, some 5 ft. in diameter. Up on its summit some beautiful yellow fruit stared us in the face. Four tiny monkeys were busy eating the fruit. Benedicto, who had by that time become very religious, joined his hands and offered prayers to the Virgin that the monkeys might drop some fruit down, but they went on eating while we gazed at them from below. We tried to fire at them with the Mauser, but again not a single cartridge went off. Eventually the monkeys dropped down the empty shells of the fruit they had eaten. With our ravenous appetite we rushed for them and with our teeth scraped off the few grains of sweet substance which remained attached to the inside of the shells. We waited and waited under that tree for a long time, Filippe now joining also in the prayers. Each time a shell dropped our palates rejoiced for a few moments at the infinitesimal taste we got from the discarded shells. It was out of the question to climb up such a big tree or to cut it down, as we had no strength left.

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