Benito went ashore, to buy, if possible, a few bales of this smilax, which is always so much in demand in the markets of the Amazon. Joam Garral, occupied all the time in the work which gave him not a moment's rest, did not stir. Yaquita, her daughter, and Manoel also remained on board. The mosquitoes of Loreto have a deserved reputation for driving away such visitors as do not care to leave much of their blood with the redoubtable diptera.
Manoel had a few appropriate words to say about these insects, and they were not of a nature to encourage an inclination to brave their stings.
"They say that all the new species which infest the banks of the Amazon collect at the village of Loreto. I believe it, but do not wish to confirm it. There, Minha, you can take your choice between the gray mosquito, the hairy mosquito, the white-clawed mosquito, the dwarf mosquito, the trumpeter, the little fifer, the urtiquis, the harlequin, the big black, and the red of the woods; or rather they make take their choice of you for a little repast, and you will come back hardly recognizable! I fancy these bloodthirsty diptera guard the Brazilian frontier considerably better than the poverty-stricken soldiers we see on the bank."
"But if everything is of use in nature," asked Minha, "what is the use of mosquitoes?"
"They minister to the happiness of entomologists," replied Manoel; "and I should be much embarrassed to find a better explanation."
What Manoel had said of the Loreto mosquitoes was only too true. When Benito had finished his business and returned on board, his face and hands were tattooed with thousands of red points, without counting some chigoes, which, in spite of the leather of his boots, had introduced themselves beneath his toes.
"Let us set off this very instant," said Benito, "or these wretched insects will invade us, and the jangada will become uninhabitable!"
"And we shall take them into Para," said Manoel, "where there are already quite enough for its own needs."
And so, in order not to pass even the night near the banks, the jangada pushed off into the stream.
On leaving Loreto the Amazon turns slightly toward the southwest, between the islands of Arava, Cuyari, and Urucutea. The jangada then glided along the black waters of the Cajaru, as they mingled with the white stream of the Amazon. After having passed this tributary on the left, it peacefully arrived during the evening of the 23d of June alongside the large island of Jahuma.
The setting of the sun on a clear horizon, free from all haze, announced one of those beautiful tropical nights which are unknown in the temperate zones. A light breeze freshened the air; the moon arose in the constellated depths of the sky, and for several hours took the place of the twilight which is absent from these latitudes. But even during this period the stars shone with unequaled purity. The immense plain seemed to stretch into the infinite like a sea, and at the extremity of the axis, which measures more than two hundred thousand millions of leagues, there appeared on the north the single diamond of the pole star, on the south the four brilliants of the Southern Cross.
The trees on the left bank and on the island of Jahuma stood up in sharp black outline. There were recognizable in the undecided _silhouettes_ the trunks, or rather columns, of _"copahus,"_ which spread out in umbrellas, groups of _"sandis,"_ from which is extracted the thick and sugared milk, intoxicating as wine itself, and _"vignaticos"_ eighty feet high, whose summits shake at the passage of the lightest currents of air. "What a magnificent sermon are these forests of the Amazon!" has been justly said. Yes; and we might add, "What a magnificent hymn there is in the nights of the tropics!"
The birds were giving forth their last evening notes--_"bentivis,"_ who hang their nests on the bank-side reeds; _"niambus,"_ a kind of partridge, whose song is composed of four notes, in perfect accord; _"kamichis,"_ with their plaintive melody; kingfishers, whose call responds like a signal to the last cry of their congeners; _"canindes,"_ with their sonorous trumpets; and red macaws, who fold their wings in the foliage of the _"jaquetibas,"_ when night comes on to dim their glowing colors.