Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon
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"I will remain!"
"I thank you!"
"Thank me, then, with a good shake of the hand," replied Fragoso;
"that is worth something."
Lina held out her hand, and Fragoso kept it for a few moments while
he looked into her face. And that is the reason why he did not take
his place in the pirogue, and became, without appearing to be, the
guard upon Torres.
Did the latter notice the feelings of aversion with which he was
regarded? Perhaps, but doubtless he had his reasons for taking no
account of them.
A distance of four leagues separated the mooring-place from the town
of Ega. Eight leagues, there and back, in a pirogue containing six
persons, besides two negroes as rowers, would take some hours, not to
mention the fatigue caused by the high temperature, though the sky
was veiled with clouds.
Fortunately a lovely breeze blew from the northwest, and if it held
would be favorable for crossing Lake Teffe. They could go to Ega and
return rapidly without having to tack.
So the lateen sail was hoisted on the mast of the pirogue. Benito
took the tiller, and off they went, after a last gesture from Lina to
Fragoso to keep his eyes open.
The southern shore of the lake had to be followed to get to Ega.
After two hours the pirogue arrived at the port of this ancient
mission founded by the Carmelites, which became a town in 1759, and
which General Gama placed forever under Brazilian rule.
The passengers landed on a flat beach, on which were to be found not
only boats from the interior, but a few of those little schooners
which are used in the coasting-trade on the Atlantic seaboard.
When the two girls entered Ega they were at first much astonished.
"What a large town!" said Minha.
"What houses! what people!" replied Lina, whose eyes seemed to have
expanded so that she might see better.
"Rather!" said Benito laughingly. "More than fifteen hundred
inhabitants! Two hundred houses at the very least! Some of them with
a first floor! And two or three streets! Genuine streets!"
"My dear Manoel!" said Minha, "do protect us against my brother! He
is making fun of us, and only because he had already been in the
finest towns in Amazones and Para!"
"Quite so, and he is also poking fun at his mother," added Yaquita,
"for I confess I never saw anything equal to this!"
"Then, mother and sister, you must take great care that you do not
fall into a trance when you get to Manaos, and vanish altogether when
you reach Belem!"
"Never fear," answered Manoel; "the ladies will have been gently
prepared for these grand wonders by visiting the principal cities of
the Upper Amazon!"
"Now, Manoel," said Minha, "you are talking just like my brother! Are
you making fun of us, too?"
"No, Minha, I assure you."
"Laugh on, gentlemen," said Lina, "and let us look around, my dear
mistress, for it is very fine!"
Very fine! A collection of houses, built of mud, whitewashed, and
principally covered with thatch or palm-leaves; a few built of stone
or wood, with verandas, doors, and shutters painted a bright green,
standing in the middle of a small orchard of orange-trees in flower.
But there were two or three public buildings, a barrack, and a church
dedicated to St. Theresa, which was a cathedral by the side of the
modest chapel at Iquitos. On looking toward the lake a beautiful
panorama unfolded itself, bordered by a frame of cocoanut-trees and
assais, which ended at the edge of the liquid level, and showed
beyond the picturesque village of Noqueira, with its few small houses
lost in the mass of the old olive-trees on the beach.
But for the two girls there was another cause of wonderment, quite
feminine wonderment too, in the fashions of the fair Egans, not the
primitive costume of the natives, converted Omaas or Muas, but the
dress of true Brazilian ladies. The wives and daughters of the
principal functionaries and merchants o the town pretentiously showed
off their Parisian toilettes, a little out of date perhaps, for Ega
is five hundred leagues away from Para, and this is tiself many
thousands of miles from Paris.
"Just look at those fine ladies in their fine slothes!"
"Lina will go mad!" exclaimed Benito.
"If those dresses were worn properly," said Minha, "they might not be
"My dear Minha," said Manoel, "with your simple gown and straw hat,
you are better dressed than any one of these Brazilians, with their
headgear and flying petticoats, which are foreign to their country
and their race."
"If it pleases you to think so," answered Minha, "I do not envy any
But they had come to see. They walked through the streets, which
contained more stalls than shops; they strolled about the
market-place, the rendezvous of the fashionable, who were nearly
stifled in their European clothes; they even breakfasted at an
hotel--it was scarcely an inn--whose cookery caused them to deeply
regret the excellent service on the raft.
After dinner, at which only turtle flesh, served up in different
forms, appeared, the Garral family went for the last time to admire
the borders of the lake as the setting sun gilded it with its rays;
then they rejoined their pirogue, somewhat disillusioned perhaps as
to the magnificence of a town which one hour would give time enough
to visit, and a little tired with walking about its stifling streets
which were not nearly so pleasant as the shady pathways of Iquitos.
The inquisitive Lina's enthusiasm alone had not been damped.
They all took their places in the pirogue. The wind remained in the
northwest, and had freshened with the evening. The sail was hoisted.
They took the same course as in the morning, across the lake fed by
the black waters of the Rio Teffe, which, according to the Indians,
is navigable toward the southwest for forty days' journey. At eight
o'clock the priogue regained the mooring-place and hailed the
As soon as Lina could get Fragoso aside--
"Have you seen anything suspicious?" she inquired.
"Nothing, Miss Lina," he replied; "Torres has scarcely left hi cabin,
where he has been reading and writing."
"He did not get into the house or the dining-room, as I feared?"
"No, all the time he was not in his cabin he was in the bow of the
"And what was he doing?"
"Holding an old piece of paper in his hand, consulting it with great
attention, and muttering a lot of incomprehensible words."
"All that is not so unimportant as you think, Mr. Fragoso. These
readings and writings and old papers have their interest! He is
neither a professor nor a lawyer, this reader and writer!"
"You are right!"
"Still watch him, Mr. Fragoso!"
"I will watch him always, Miss Lina," replied Fragoso.
On the morrow, the 27th of July, at daybreak, Benito gave the pilot
the signal to start.
Away between the islands, in the Bay of Arenapo, the mouth of the
Japura, six thousand six hundred feet wide, was seen for an instant.
This large tributary comes into the Amazon through eight mouths, as
if it were pouring into some gulf or ocean. But its waters come from
afar, and it is the mountains of the republic of Ecuador which start
them on a course that there are no falls to break until two hundred
and ten leagues from its junction with the main stream.
All this day was spent in descending to the island of Yapura, after
which the river, less interfered with, makes navigation much easier.
The current is not so rapid and the islets are easily avoided, so
that there were no touchings or groundings.
The next day the jangada coasted along by vast beaches formed by
undulating high domes, which served as the barriers of immense
pasture grounds, in which the whole of the cattle in Europe could be
raised and fed. These sand banks are considered to be the richest
turtle grounds in the basin of the Upper Amazon.
On the evening of the 29th of July they were securely moored off the
island of Catua, so as to pass the night, which promised to be dark.
On this island, as soon as the sun rose above the horizon, there
appeared a party of Muras Indians, the remains of that ancient and
powerful tribe, which formerly occupied more than a hundred leagues
of the river bank between the Teffe and the Madeira.
These Indians went and came, watching the raft, which remained
stationary. There were about a hundred of them armed with blow-tubes
formed of a reed peculiar to these parts, and which is strengthened
outside by the stem of a dwarf palm from which the pith has been