The wonderful hyacinth macaws, in twos and threes, accompanied us at times for several hundred yards, hovering over our heads and uttering their rasping screams. In one wood we came on the black howler monkey. The place smelt almost like a menagerie. Not watching with sufficient care I brushed against a sapling on which the venomous fire-ants swarmed.
The big-game hunter of this type and the outdoors, faunal naturalist, the student of the life-histories of big mammals, have open to them in South America a wonderful field in which to work. The fire-ants, of which I have above spoken, are generally found on a species of small tree or sapling, with a greenish trunk. They bend the whole body as they bite, the tail and head being thrust downward.
I have also seen them clear a sapling tenanted by their kinsmen, the poisonous red ants, or fire-ants; the fire-ants fought and I have no doubt injured or killed some of their swarming and active black foes; but the latter quickly did away with them. I have only come across black foraging ants; but there are red species.
One tree was gorgeous with the brilliant hues of a flock of party-colored macaws. Green parrots flew shrieking overhead. Now and then we were bitten and stung by the venomous fire-ants, and ticks crawled upon us. Once we were assailed by more serious foes, in the shape of a nest of maribundi wasps, not the biggest kind, but about the size of our hornets.
We were bitten by the hosts of fire-ants, and by the mosquitoes, which we scarcely noticed where the fire-ants were found, exactly as all dread of the latter vanished when we were menaced by the big red wasps, of which a dozen stings will disable a man, and if he is weak or in bad health will seriously menace his life.
Some of the vines were as thick as a man's leg. Mosquitoes hummed about us, the venomous fire-ants stung us, the sharp spines of a small palm tore our hands afterward some of the wounds festered. Hour after hour we thus walked on through the Brazilian forest.
For me so valorous a person "no torture," he answered magnanimously. But he Kua-ko had made up his mind as to the form of torture he meant to inflict some day on his own person. He would prepare a large sack and into it put fire-ants "As many as that!" he exclaimed triumphantly, stooping and filling his two hands with loose sand.
We all suffered much more from the stings of several smaller ants, especially the fire-ants, by which we had on more than one occasion been attacked. Although I had twice before made the trip through the forest, I still felt certain that we were far from the hut, when Duppo signified to me that we should soon reach it.