Home  »  Through the Brazilian Wilderness  »  Page 57

Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919). Through the Brazilian Wilderness. 1914.

Page 57

the Brazilian, now on the western, the Paraguayan, bank. The Paraguay was known to men of European birth, bore soldiers and priests and merchants as they sailed and rowed up and down the current of its stream, and beheld little towns and forts rise on its banks, long before the Mississippi had become the white man’s highway. Now, along its upper course, the settlements are much like those on the Mississippi at the end of the first quarter of the last century; and in the not distant future it will witness a burst of growth and prosperity much like that which the Mississippi saw when the old men of today were very young.
  In the early forenoon we stopped at a little Paraguayan hamlet, nestling in the green growth under a group of low hills by the river-brink. On one of these hills stood a picturesque old stone fort, known as Fort Bourbon in the Spanish, the colonial, days. Now the Paraguayan flag floats over it, and it is garrisoned by a handful of Paraguayan soldiers. Here Father Zahm baptized two children, the youngest of a large family of fair-skinned, light-haired small people, whose father was a Paraguayan and the mother an “Orient&ál,” or Uruguayan. No priest had visited the village for three years, and the children were respectively one and two years of age. The sponsors included the local commandante and a married couple from Austria. In answer to what was supposed to be the perfunctory question whether they were Catholics, the parents returned the unexpected answer that they were not. Further questioning elicited the fact that the father called himself a “free-thinking Catholic,” and the mother said she was