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We left Aveyros in the evening of the 21st, and sailed gently down with the soft land-breeze, keeping about a mile from the eastern shore. It was a brilliant moonlit night, and the men worked cheerfully at the oars when the wind was slack, the terral wafting from the forest a pleasant perfume like that of mignonette.
The distance from Aveyros to the last civilised settlement on the Tapajos, Itaituba, is about forty miles. The falls commence a short distance beyond this place. The canoes of Cuyaba tradesmen which descend annually to Santarem are obliged to be unloaded at each of these, and the cargoes carried by land on the backs of Indians, while the empty vessels are dragged by ropes over the obstruction.
Aveyros is a small settlement, containing only fourteen or fifteen houses besides the church; but it is the place of residence of the authorities of a large district the priest, Juiz de Paz, the subdelegado of police, and the Captain of the Trabalhadores. The district includes Pinhel, which we passed about twenty miles lower down on the left bank of the river.
The trade wind does not deviate from its nearly straight westerly course, so that the branch streams, which run generally at right angles to the Amazons, and, have a slack current for a long distance from their mouths, are left to the horrors of nearly stagnant air and water. Aveyros may be called the headquarters of the fire-ant, which might be fittingly termed the scourge of this fine river.
Aveyros was deserted a few years before my visit on account of this little tormentor, and the inhabitants had only recently returned to their houses, thinking its numbers had decreased.
I wished to keep the bird alive and tame it, but all our efforts to reconcile it to captivity were vain; it refused food, bit everyone who went near it, and damaged its plumage in its exertions to free itself. My friends in Aveyros said that this kind of parrot never became domesticated.
I have already described the line of sediment formed on the sandy shores lower down the river by the dead bodies of the winged individuals of this species. The forest behind Aveyros yielded me little except insects, but in these it was very rich.
The deep and narrow valley of the Cupari has a moister climate than the banks of the Tapajos. We have now frequent showers, whereas we left everything parched up by the sun at Aveyros. After leaving the last sitio we advanced about eight miles, and then stopped at the house of Senor Antonio Malagueita, a mameluco settler, whom we had been recommended to visit.
They formed a beautiful sight as they flew up and wheeled about at a great height in the air. We obtained only one specimen. Before returning to Aveyros, we paid another visit to the Jacare inlet leading to Captain Antonio's cattle farm, for the sake of securing further specimens of the many rare and handsome insects found there landing at the port of one of the settlers.
The loss of a man at this juncture would have been very annoying, with Captain Antonio ill at Aveyros, and not a hand to be had anywhere in the neighbourhood; but, if we had not called at Andre's sitio, we should not have been able to have kept Ricardo from running away at the first landing-place.