Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon
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"Minha!" shouted Manoel.
The two young men, and Fragoso and Joam Garral, thinking no more of
danger, rushed out of the house, guns in hand.
Scarcely were they outside when two of the alligators made a half
turn and ran toward them.
A doze of buckshot to the head, close to the eye, from Benito,
stopped one of the monsters, who, mortally wounded, writhed in
frightful convulsions and fell on his side.
But the second still lived, and came on, and there was no way of
The huge alligator tore up to Joam Garral, and after knocking him
over with a sweep of his tail, ran at him with open jaws.
At this moment Torres rushed from the cabin, hatchet in hand, and
struck such a terrific blow that its edge sunk into the jaw of the
cayman and left him defenseless.
Blinded by the blood, the animal flew to the side, and, designedly or
not, fell over and was lost in the stream.
"Minha! Minha!" shouted Manoel in distraction, when he got to the bow
of the jangada.
Suddenly she came into view. She had taken refuge in the cabin of
Araujo, and the cabin had just been upset by a powerful blow from the
third alligator. Minha was flying aft, pursued by the monster, who
was not six feet away from her.
A second shot from Benito failed to stop the cayman. He only struck
the animals carapace, and the scales flew to splinters but the ball
did not penetrate.
Manoel threw himself at the girl to raise her, or to snatch her from
death! A side blow from the animal's tail knocked him down too.
Minha fainted, and the mouth of the alligator opened to crush her!
And then Fragoso jumped in to the animal, and thrust in a knife to
the very bottom of his throat, at the risk of having his arm snapped
off by the two jaws, had they quickly closed.
Fragoso pulled out his arm in time, but he could not avoid the chock
of the cayman, and was hurled back into the river, whose waters
reddened all around.
"Fragoso! Fragoso!" shrieked Lina, kneeling on the edge of the raft.
A second afterward Fragoso reappeared on the surface of the
Amazon--safe and sound.
But, at the peril of his life he had saved the young girl, who soon
came to. And as all hands were held out to him--Manoel's, Yaquita's,
Minha's, and Lina's, and he did not know what to say, he ended by
squeezing the hands of the young mulatto.
However, though Fragoso had saved Minha, it was assuredly to the
intervention of Torres that Joam Garral owed his safety.
It was not, therefore, the fazender's life that the adventurer
wanted. In the face of this fact, so much had to be admitted.
Manoel said this to Benito in an undertone.
"That is true!" replied Benito, embarrassed. "You are right, and in a
sense it is one cruel care the less! Nevertheless, Manoel, my
suspicions still exist! It is not always a man's worst enemy who
wishes him dead!"
Joam Garral walked up to Torres.
"Thank you, Torres!" he said, holding out his hand. The adventurer
took a step or two backward without replying.
"Torres," continued Joam, "I am sorry that we are arriving at the end
of our voyage, and that in a few days we must part! I owe you----"
"Joam Garral!" answered Torres, "you owe me nothing! Your life is
precious to me above all things! But if you will allow me--I have
been thinking--in place of stopping at Manaos, I will go on to Belem.
Will you take me there?"
Joam Garral replied by an affirmative nod.
In hearing this demand Benito in an unguarded moment was about to
intervene, but Manoel stopped him, and the young man checked himself,
though not without a violent effort.
THE ARRIVAL DINNER
IN THE MORNING, after a night which was scarcely sufficient to calm
so much excitement, they unmoored from the cayman beach and departed.
Before five days, if nothing intervered with their voyage, the raft
would reach the port of Manaos.
Minha had quite recovered from her fright, and her eyes and smiles
thanked all those who had risked their lives for her.
As for Lina, it seemed as though she was more grateful to the brave
Fragoso than if it was herself that he had saved.
"I will pay you back, sooner or later, Mr. Fragoso," said she,
"And how, Miss Lina?"
"Oh! You know very well!"
"Then if I know it, let it be soon and not late!" replied the
And from this day it began to be whispered about that the charming
Lina was engaged to Fragoso, that their marriage would take place at
the same time as that of Minha and Manoel, and that the young couple
would remain at Belem with the others.
"Capital! capital!" repeated Fragoso unceasingly; "but I never
thought Para was such a long way off!"
As for Manoel and Benito, they had had a long conversation about what
had passed. There could be no question about obtaining from Joam
Garral the dismissal of his rescuer.
"Your life is precious to me above all things!" Torres had said.
This reply, hyperbolical and enigmatical at the time, Benito had
heard and remembered.
In the meantime the young men could do nothing. More than ever they
were reduced to waiting--to waiting not for four or five days, but
for seven or eight weeks--that is to say, for whatever time it would
take for the raft to get to Belem.
"There is in all this some mystery that I cannot understand," said
"Yes, but we are assured on one point," answered Manoel. "It is
certain that Torres does not want your father's life. For the rest,
we must still watch!"
It seemed that from this day Torres desired to keep himself more
reserved. He did not seek to intrude on the family, and was even less
assiduous toward Minha. There seemed a relief in the situation of
which all, save perhaps Joam Garral, felt the gravity.
On the evening of the same day they left on the right the island of
Baroso, formed by a furo of that name, and Lake Manaori, which is fed
by a confused series of petty tributaries.
The night passed without incident, though Joam Garral had advised
them to watch with great care.
On the morrow, the 20th of August, the pilot, who kept near the right
bank on account of the uncertain eddies on the left, entered between
the bank and the islands.
Beyond this bank the country was dotted with large and small lakes,
much as those of Calderon, Huarandeina, and other black-watered
lagoons. This water system marks the approach of the Rio Negro, the
most remarkable of all the tributaries of the Amazon. In reality the
main river still bore the name of the Solimoens, and it is only after
the junction of the Rio Negro that it takes the name which has made
it celebrated among the rivers of the globe.
During this day the raft had to be worked under curious conditions.
The arm followed by the pilot, between Calderon Island and the shore,
was very narrow, although it appeared sufficiently large. This was
owing to a great portion of the island being slightly above the mean
level, but still covered by the high flood waters. On each side were
massed forests of giant trees, whose summits towered some fifty feet
above the ground, and joining one bank to the other formed an immense
On the left nothing could be more picturesque than this flooded
forest, which seemed to have been planted in the middle of a lake.
The stems of the trees arose from the clear, still water, in which
every interlacement of their boughs was reflected with unequaled
purity. They were arranged on an immense sheet of glass, like the
trees in miniature on some table _epergne,_ and their reflection
could not be more perfect. The difference between the image and the
reality could scarcely be described. Duplicates of grandeur,
terminated above and below by a vast parasol of green, they seemed to
form two hemispheres, inside which the jangada appeared to follow one
of the great circles.
It had been necessary to bring the raft under these boughs, against
which flowed the gentle current of the stream. It was impossible to
go back. Hence the task of navigating with extreme care, so as to
avoid the collisions on either side.