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- Equinoctial Regions of America - 60/104 -


shady places. They shun the direct rays of the sun, and while the pumos, the corypha of the steppes and other palms of America, flourish on the barren and burning plains, these ferns with arborescent trunks, which at a distance look like palm-trees, preserve the character and habits of cryptogamous plants. They love solitary places, little light, moist, temperate and stagnant air. If they sometimes descend towards the sea-coast, it is only under cover of a thick shade. The old trunks of the cyathea and the meniscium are covered with a carbonaceous powder, which, probably being deprived of hydrogen, has a metallic lustre like plumbago. No other plant presents this phenomenon; for the trunks of the dicotyledons, in spite of the heat of the climate, and the intensity of the light, are less burnt within the tropics than in the temperate zone. It may be said that the trunks of the ferns, which, like the monocotyledons, are enlarged by the remains of the petioles, decay from the circumference to the centre; and that, deprived of the cortical organs through which the elaborated juices descend to the roots, they are burnt more easily by the action of the oxygen of the atmosphere. I brought to Europe some powders with metallic lustre, taken from very old trunks of Meniscium and Aspidium.

In proportion as we descended the mountain of Santa Maria, we saw the arborescent ferns diminish, and the number of palm-trees increase. The beautiful large-winged butterflies (nymphales), which fly at a prodigious height, became more common. Everything denoted our approach to the coast, and to a zone in which the mean temperature of the day is from 28 to 30 degrees.

The weather was cloudy, and led us to fear one of those heavy rains, during which from 1 to 1.3 inches of water sometimes falls in a day. The sun at times illumined the tops of the trees; and, though sheltered from its rays, we felt an oppressive heat. Thunder rolled at a distance; the clouds seemed suspended on the top of the lofty mountains of the Guacharo; and the plaintive howling of the araguatoes, which we had so often heard at Caripe, denoted the proximity of the storm. We now for the first time had a near view of these howling apes. They are of the family of the alouates,* (* Stentor, Geoffroy.) the different species of which have long been confounded one with another. The small sapajous of America, which imitate in whistling the tones of the passeres, have the bone of the tongue thin and simple, but the apes of large size, as the alouates and marimondes,* (* Ateles, Geoffroy.) have the tongue placed on a large bony drum. Their superior larynx has six pouches, in which the voice loses itself; and two of which, shaped like pigeons' nests, resemble the inferior larynx of birds. The air driven with force into the bony drum produces that mournful sound which characterises the araguatoes. I sketched on the spot these organs, which are imperfectly known to anatomists, and published the description of them on my return to Europe.

The araguato, which the Tamanac Indians call aravata,* (* In the writings of the early Spanish missionaries, this monkey is described by the names of aranata and araguato. In both names we easily discover the same root. The v has been transformed into g and n. The name of arabata, which Gumilla gives to the howling apes of the Lower Orinoco, and which Geoffroy thinks belongs to the S. straminea of Great Paria, is the same Tamanac word aravata. This identity of names need not surprise us. The language of the Chayma Indians of Cumana is one of the numerous branches of the Tamanac language, and the latter is connected with the Caribbee language of the Lower Orinoco.) and the Maypures marave, resembles a young bear.* (* Alouate ourse (Simia ursina).) It is three feet long, reckoning from the top of the head (which is small and very pyramidal) to the beginning of the prehensile tail. Its fur is bushy, and of a reddish brown; the breast and belly are covered with fine hair, and not bare as in the mono colorado, or alouate roux of Buffon, which we carefully examined in going from Carthagena to Santa Fe de Bogota. The face of the araguato is of a blackish blue, and is covered with a fine and wrinkled skin: its beard is pretty long; and, notwithstanding the direction of the facial line, the angle of which is only thirty degrees, the araguato has, in the expression of the countenance, as much resemblance to man as the marimonde (S. belzebuth, Bresson) and the capuchin of the Orinoco (S. chiropotes). Among thousands of araguatoes which we observed in the provinces of Cumana, Caracas, and Guiana, we never saw any change in the reddish brown fur of the back and shoulders, whether we examined individuals or whole troops. It appeared to me in general, that variety of colour is less frequent among monkeys than naturalists suppose.

The araguato of Caripe is a new species of the genus Stentor, which I have above described. It differs equally from the ouarine (S. guariba) and the alouate roux (S. seniculus, old man of the woods). Its eye, voice, and gait, denote melancholy. I have seen young araguatoes brought up in Indian huts. They never play like the little sagoins, and their gravity was described with much simplicity by Lopez de Gomara, in the beginning of the sixteenth century. "The Aranata de los Cumaneses," says this author, "has the face of a man, the beard of a goat, and a grave demeanour (honrado gesto.)" Monkeys are more melancholy in proportion as they have more resemblance to man. Their sprightliness diminishes, as their intellectual faculties appear to increase.

We stopped to observe some howling monkeys, which, to the number of thirty or forty, crossed the road, passing in a file from one tree to another over the horizontal and intersecting branches. While we were observing their movements, we saw a troop of Indians going towards the mountains of Caripe. They were without clothing, as the natives of this country generally are. The women, laden with rather heavy burdens, closed the march. The men were all armed; and even the youngest boys had bows and arrows. They moved on in silence, with their eyes fixed on the ground. We endeavoured to learn from them whether we were yet far from the Mission of Santa Cruz, where we intended passing the night. We were overcome with fatigue, and suffered from thirst. The heat increased as the storm drew near, and we had not met with a single spring on the way. The words si, patre; no, patre; which the Indians continually repeated, led us to think they understood a little Spanish. In the eyes of a native every white man is a monk, a padre; for in the Missions the colour of the skin characterizes the monk, more than the colour of the garment. In vain we questioned them respecting the length of the way: they answered, as if by chance, si and no, without our being able to attach any precise sense to their replies. This made us the more impatient, as their smiles and gestures indicated their wish to direct us; and the forest seemed at every step to become thicker and thicker. At length we separated from the Indians; our guides were able to follow us only at a distance, because the beasts of burden fell at every step in the ravines.

After journeying for several hours, continually descending on blocks of scattered rock, we found ourselves unexpectedly at the outlet of the forest of Santa Maria. A savannah, the verdure of which had been renewed by the winter rains, stretched before us farther than the eye could reach. On the left we discovered a narrow valley, extending as far as the mountains of the Guacharo, and covered with a thick forest. Looking downward, the eye rested on the tops of the trees, which, at eight hundred feet below the road, formed a carpet of verdure of a dark and uniform tint. The openings in the forest appeared like vast funnels, in which we could distinguish by their elegant forms and pinnated leaves, the Praga and Irasse palms. But what renders this spot eminently picturesque, is the aspect of the Sierra del Guacharo. Its northern slope, in the direction of the gulf of Cariaco, is abrupt. It presents a wall of rock, an almost vertical profile, exceeding 3000 feet in height. The vegetation which covers this wall is so scanty, that the eye can follow the lines of the calcareous strata. The summit of the Sierra is flat, and it is only at its eastern extremity, that the majestic peak of the Guacharo rises like an inclined pyramid, its form resembles that of the needles and horns* of the Alps. (* The Shreckhorner, the Finsteraarhorn, etc.)

The savannah we crossed to the Indian village of Santa Cruz is composed of several smooth plateaux, lying above each other like terraces. This geological phenomenon, which is repeated in every climate, seems to indicate a long abode of the waters in basins that have poured them from one to the other. The calcareous rock is no longer visible, but is covered with a thick layer of mould. The last time we saw it in the forest of Santa Maria it was slightly porous, and looked more like the limestone of Cumanacoa than that of Caripe. We there found brown iron-ore disseminated in patches, and if we were not deceived in our observation, a Cornu-ammonis, which we could not succeed in our attempt to detach. It was seven inches in diameter. This fact is the more important, as in this part of America we have never seen ammonites. The Mission of Santa Cruz is situated in the midst of the plain. We reached it towards the evening, suffering much from thirst, having travelled nearly eight hours without finding water. The thermometer kept at 26 degrees; accordingly we were not more than 190 toises above the level of the sea.

We passed the night in one of those ajupas called King's houses, which, as I have already said, serve as tambos or caravanserais to travellers. The rains prevented any observations of the stars; and the next day, the 23rd of September, we continued our descent towards the gulf of Cariaco. Beyond Santa Cruz a thick forest again appears; and in it we found, under tufts of melastomas, a beautiful fern, with osmundia leaves, which forms a new genus of the order of polypodiaceous plants.* (* Polybotya.)

Having reached the mission of Catuaro, we were desirous of continuing our journey eastward by Santa Rosalia, Casanay, San Josef, Carupano, Rio Carives, and the Montana of Paria; but we learnt with great regret, that torrents of rain had rendered the roads impassable, and that we should run the risk of losing the plants we had already gathered. A rich planter of cacao-trees was to accompany us from Santa Rosalia to the port of Carupano; but when the time of departure approached, we were informed that his affairs had called him to Cumana. We resolved in consequence to embark at Cariaco, and to return directly by the gulf, instead of passing between the island of Margareta and the isthmus of Araya. The Mission of Catuaro is situated on a very wild spot. Trees of full growth still surround the church, and the tigers come by night to devour the poultry and swine belonging to the Indians. We lodged at the dwelling of the priest, a monk of the congregation of the Observance, to whom the Capuchins had confided the Mission, because priests of their own community were wanting.

At this Mission we met Don Alexandro Mexia, the corregidor of the district, an amiable and well-educated man. He gave us three Indians, who, armed with their machetes, were to precede us, and cut our way through the forest. In this country, so little frequented, the power of vegetation is such at the period of the great rains, that a man on horseback can with difficulty make his way through narrow paths, covered with lianas and intertwining branches. To our great annoyance, the missionary of Catuaro insisted on conducting us to Cariaco; and we could not decline the proposal. The movement for independence, which had nearly broken out at Caracas in 1798, had been preceded and followed by great agitation among the slaves at Coro, Maracaybo, and Cariaco. At the


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