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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/627

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BRAZILIAN DIAMONDS AND THEIR ORIGIN.

nearly alike that the study of one of them is enough to give an exact idea of the others. The country here is not one that we have to discover, but to make known, and it well repays a better acquaintance. If we go to it we shall run no dangers, we need fear or seek no thrilling adventures; but we may feel as much ease in traveling as we enjoyed a few years ago in going from Florence to Bologna, or on the road to the Apennines. The security is even greater. It is said that in Mexico military convoys have been necessary to guard the trains engaged in the transportation of silver from the interior to the coast, and that even these guards did not protect them. Never has a single soldier or a single agent of the police been employed in such service in Brazil. For nearly two centuries successive caravans and numerous travelers have transported to Rio Janeiro from the most remote points of the interior fortunes in diamonds or in gold, simply packed in wooden boxes; yet we can not cite a theft that has been committed on the roads, now great highways, which were still, hardly fifty years ago, simple bridle-paths traced through virgin forests.

The rocks are at first schistose; then, in the environs of Ouro Preto, the capital of the province, appear quartzose formations, sandstones, and quartzites. These rocks constitute the peak of Itacolumi and the enormous mass of Caraca, the landmarks that guide us. After a while the white or green mica of the quartzites is replaced by spangles of oligist iron, and for several leagues the dust of the road and the pavements of the streets of the towns through which we pass are formed of the most beautiful iron minerals in the world. Quartz, mica, and oligist iron are not generally elements of a very fertile soil, but, under the action of a considerable humidity, these rocks are disintegrated and decomposed. Wherever the hand of man has not carried destruction, there is developed, under the influence of a favorable climate, one of the finest vegetations in the world.

We are now in the land of gold. The road is everywhere marked with the ancient diggings; enormous heaps of gravel on the banks of the streams indicate how considerable have been the excavations of which we see only the persisting mark-.

The rocks are always the same: mica-schists, quartzite containing mica or oligist iron, or itabaryte. The aspect of the country does not change: mountains succeed mountains, all of them rounded, gradually sloping on one side, carved into peaks on the other; and, since we follow generally the water-sheds, we have only brooks to cross, the sources of all the rivers that finally form the Rio Doce. But. after having passed the town of Serro and crossed, a few miles north of this, a chain of mountains perpendicular to the grand crest we have been following, the aspect wholly changes. Before us extends a vast plain, on which the eye hardly distinguishes a few undulations rising around the city of Diamantina. the red roofs of which are visible through a bouquet of verdure that forms a green oasis in the midst of the sur-