Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 Next page
shall see if truth will come down to the earth from Above."
The chief of the police made a sign to his men, who advanced to
secure Joam Garral.
"But speak, father!" shouted Benito, mad with despair; "say one word,
and we shall contest even by force this horrible mistake of which you
are the victim!"
"There is no mistake here, my son," replied Joam Garral; "Joam
Dacosta and Joam Garral are one. I am in truth Joam Dacosta! I am the
honest man whom a legal error unjustly doomed to death twenty-five
years ago in the place of the true culprit! That I am quite innocent
I swear before Heaven, once for all, on your heads, my children, and
on the head of your mother!"
"All communication between you and yours is now forbidden," said the
chief of the police. "You are my prisoner, Joam Garral, and I will
rigorously execute my warrant."
Joam restrained by a gesture his dismayed children and servants.
"Let the justice of man be done while we wait for the justice of
And with his head unbent, he stepped into the pirogue.
It seemed, indeed, as though of all present Joam Garral was the only
one whom this fearful thunderbolt, which had fallen so unexpectedly
on his head, had failed to overwhelm.
THE TOWN of Manaos is in 3° 8' 4" south latitude, and 67° 27' west
longitude, reckoning from the Paris meridian. It is some four hundred
and twenty leagues from Belem, and about ten miles from the
_embouchure_ of the Rio Negro.
Manaos is not built on the Amazon. It is on the left bank of the Rio
Negro, the most important and remarkable of all the tributaries of
the great artery of Brazil, that the capital of the province, with
its picturesque group of private houses and public buildings, towers
above the surrounding plain.
The Rio Negro, which was discovered by the Spaniard Favella in 1645,
rises in the very heart of the province of Popayan, on the flanks of
the mountains which separate Brazil from New Grenada, and it
communicates with the Orinoco by two of its affluents, the Pimichin
and the Cassiquary.
After a noble course of some seventeen hundred miles it mingles its
cloudy waters with those of the Amazon through a mouth eleven hundred
feet wide, but such is its vigorous influx that many a mile has to be
completed before those waters lose their distinctive character.
Hereabouts the ends of both its banks trend off and form a huge bay
fifteen leagues across, extending to the islands of Anavilhanas; and
in one of its indentations the port of Manaos is situated. Vessels of
all kinds are there collected in great numbers, some moored in the
stream awaiting a favorable wind, others under repair up the numerous
_iguarapes,_ or canals, which so capriciously intersect the town, and
give it its slightly Dutch appearance.
With the introduction of steam vessels, which is now rapidly taking
place, the trade of Manaos is destined to increase enormously. Woods
used in building and furniture work, cocoa, caoutchouc, coffee,
sarsaparilla, sugar-canes, indigo, muscado nuts, salt fish, turtle
butter, and other commodities, are brought here from all parts, down
the innumerable streams into the Rio Negro from the west and north,
into the Madeira from the west and south, and then into the Amazon,
and by it away eastward to the coast of the Atlantic.
Manaos was formerly called Moura, or Barra de Rio Negro. From 1757 to
1804 it was only part of the captaincy which bears the name of the
great river at whose mouth it is placed; but since 1826 it has been
the capital of the large province of Amazones, borrowing its latest
name from an Indian tribe which formerly existed in these parts of
Careless travelers have frequently confounded it with the famous
Manoa, a city of romance, built, it was reported, near the legendary
lake of Parima--which would seem to be merely the Upper Branco, a
tributary of the Rio Negro. Here was the Empire of El Dorado, whose
monarch, if we are to believe the fables of the district, was every
morning covered with powder of gold, there being so much of the
precious metal abounding in this privileged locality that it was
swept up with the very dust of the streets. This assertion, however,
when put to the test, was disproved, and with extreme regret, for the
auriferous deposits which had deceived the greedy scrutiny of the
gold-seekers turned out to be only worthless flakes of mica!
In short, Manaos has none of the fabulous splendors of the mythical
capital of El Dorado. It is an ordinary town of about five thousand
inhabitants, and of these at least three thousand are in government
employ. This fact is to be attributed to the number of its public
buildings, which consist of the legislative chamber, the government
house, the treasury, the post-office, and the custom-house, and, in
addition, a college founded in 1848, and a hospital erected in 1851.
When with these is also mentioned a cemetery on the south side of a
hill, on which, in 1669, a fortress, which has since been demolished,
was thrown up against the pirates of the Amazon, some idea can be
gained as to the importance of the official establishments of the
city. Of religious buildings it would be difficult to find more than
two, the small Church of the Conception and the Chapel of Notre Dame
des Remedes, built on a knoll which overlooks the town. These are
very few for a town of Spanish origin, though to them should perhaps
be added the Carmelite Convent, burned down in 1850, of which only
the ruins remain. The population of Manaos does not exceed the number
above given, and after reckoning the public officials and soldiers,
is principally made of up Portuguese and Indian merchants belonging
to the different tribes of the Rio Negro.
Three principal thoroughfares of considerable irregularity run
through the town, and they bear names highly characteristic of the
tone of thought prevalent in these parts--God-the-Father Street,
God-the-Son Street, and God-the-Holy Ghost Street!
In the west of the town is a magnificent avenue of centenarian orange
trees which were carefully respected by the architects who out of the
old city made the new. Round these principal thoroughfares is
interwoven a perfect network of unpaved alleys, intersected every now
and then by four canals, which are occasionally crossed by wooden
bridges. In a few places these iguarapes flow with their brownish
waters through large vacant spaces covered with straggling weeds and
flowers of startling hues, and here and there are natural squares
shaded by magnificent trees, with an occasional white-barked
sumaumeira shooting up, and spreading out its large dome-like parasol
above its gnarled branches.
The private houses have to be sought for among some hundreds of
dwellings, of very rudimentary type, some roofed with tiles, others
with interlaced branches of the palm-tree, and with prominent
miradors, and projecting shops for the most part tenanted by
And what manner of people are they who stroll on to the fashionable
promenade from the public buildings and private residences? Men of
good appearance, with black cloth coats, chimney-pot hats,
patent-leather boots, highly-colored gloves, and diamond pins in
their necktie bows; and women in loud, imposing toilets, with
flounced dressed and headgear of the latest style; and Indians, also
on the road to Europeanization in a way which bids fair to destroy
every bit of local color in this central portion of the district of
Such is Manaos, which, for the benefit of the reader, it was
necessary to sketch. Here the voyage of the giant raft, so tragically
interrupted, had just come to a pause in the midst of its long
journey, and here will be unfolded the further vicissitudes of the
mysterious history of the fazender of Iquitos.
THE FIRST MOMENTS
SCARCELY HAD the pirogue which bore off Joam Garral, or rather Joam
Dacosta--for it is more convenient that he should resume his real
name-disappeared, than Benito stepped up to Manoel.
"What is it you know?" he asked.
"I know that your father is innocent! Yes, innocent!" replied Manoel,
"and that he was sentenced to death twenty-three years ago for a
crime which he never committed!"
"He has told you all about it, Manoel?"
"All about it," replied the young man. "The noble fazender did not
wish that any part of his past life should be hidden from him who,
when he marries his daughter, is to be his second son."
"And the proof of his innocence my father can one day produce?"
"That proof, Benito, lies wholly in the twenty-three years of an
honorable and honored life, lies entirely in the bearing of Joam
Dacosta, who comes forward to say to justice, 'Here am I! I do not
care for this false existence any more. I do not care to hide under a
name which is not my true one! You have condemned an innocent man!
Confess your errors and set matters right."
"And when my father spoke like that, you did not hesitate for a
moment to believe him?"
"Not for an instant," replied Manoel.
The hands of the two young fellows closed in a long and cordial
Then Benito went up to Padre Passanha.
"Padre," he said, "take my mother and sister away to their rooms. Do
not leave them all day. No one here doubts my father's innocence--not
one, you know that! To-morrow my mother and I will seek out the chief