Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon
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He had put the invariable question which had hitherto brought the
invariable reply from culprits of every category protesting their
innocence. The fingers of the judge began to beat a gentle tattoo on
"Joam Dacosta," he asked, "what were you doing at Iquitos?"
"I was a fazender, and engaged in managing a farming establishment of
"It was prospering?"
"How long ago did you leave your fazenda?"
"About nine weeks."
"As to that, sir," answered Dacosta, "I invented a pretext, but in
reality I had a motive."
"What was the pretext?"
"The responsibility of taking into Para a large raft, and a cargo of
different products of the Amazon."
"Ah! and what was the real motive of your departure?"
And in asking this question Jarriquez said to himself:
"Now we shall get into denials and falsehoods."
"The real motive," replied Joam Dacosta, in a firm voice, "was the
resolution I had taken to give myself up to the justice of my
"You give yourself up!" exclaimed the judge, rising from his stool.
"You give yourself up of your own free will?"
"Of my own free will."
"Because I had had enough of this lying life, this obligatin to live
under a false name, of this impossibility to be able to restore to my
wife and children that which belongs to them; in short, sir,
"I was innocent!"
"That is what I was waiting for," said Judge Jarriquez.
And while his fingers tattooed a slightly more audible march, he made
a sign with his head to Dacosta, which signified as clearly as
possible, "Go on! Tell me your history. I know it, but I do not wish
to interrupt you in telling it in your own way."
Joam Dacosta, who did not disregard the magistrate's far from
encouraging attitude, could not but see this, and he told the history
of his whole life. He spoke quietly without departing from the calm
he had imposed upon himself, without omitting any circumstances which
had preceded or succeeded his condemnation. In the same tone he
insisted on the honored and honorable life he had led since his
escape, on his duties as head of his family, as husband and father,
which he had so worthily fulfilled. He laid stress only on one
circumstance--that which had brought him to Manaos to urge on the
revision of the proceedings against him, to procure his
rehabilitation--and that he was compelled to do.
Judge Jarriques, who was naturally prepossessed against all
criminals, did not interrupt him. He contented himself with opening
and shutting his eyes like a man who heard the story told for the
hundredth time; and when Joam Dacosta laid on the table the memoir
which he had drawn up, he made no movement to take it.
"You have finished?" he said.
"And you persist in asserting that you only left Iquitos to procure
the revision of the judgment against you."
"I had no other intention."
"What is there to prove that? Who can prove that, without the
denunciation which had brought about your arrest, you would have
given yourself up?"
"This memoir, in the first place."
"That memoir was in your possession, and there is nothing to show
that had you not been arrested, you would have put it to the use you
say you intended."
"At the least, sir, there was one thing that was not in my
possession, and of the authenticity of which there can be no doubt."
"The letter I wrote to your predecessor, Judge Ribeiro, the letter
which gave him notice of my early arrival."
"Ah! you wrote?"
"Yes. And the letter which ought to have arrived at its destination
should have been handed over to you."
"Really!" answered Judge Jarriquez, in a slightly incredulous tone.
"You wrote to Judge Ribeiro."
"Before he was a judge in this province," answered Joam Dacosta, "he
was an advocate at Villa Rica. He it was who defended me in the trial
at Tijuco. He never doubted of the justice of my cause. He did all he
could to save me. Twenty years later, when he had become chief
justice at Manaos, I let him know who I was, where I was, and what I
wished to attempt. His opinion about me had not changed, and it was
at his advice I left the fazenda, and came in person to proceed with
my rehabilitation. But death had unfortunately struck him, and maybe
I shall be lost, sir, if in Judge Jarriquez I do not find another
The magistrate, appealed to so directly, was about to start up in
defiance of all the traditions of the judicial bench, but he managed
to restrain himself, and was contented with muttering:
"Very strong, indeed; very strong!"
Judge Jarriquez was evidently hard of heart, and proof against all
At this moment a guard entered the room, and handed a sealed packet
to the magistrate.
He broke the seal and drew a letter from the envelope. He opened it
and read it, not without a certain contraction of his eyebrows, and
"I have no reason for hiding from you, Joam Dacosta, that this is the
letter you have been speaking about, addressed by you to Judge
Ribeiro and sent on to me. I have, therefore, no reason to doubt what
you have said on the subject."
"Not only on that subject," answered Dacosta, "but on the subject of
all the circumstances of my life which I have brought to your
knowledge, and which are none of them open to question."
"Eh! Joam Dacosta," quickly replie dJudge Jarriquez. "You protest
your innocence; but all prisoners do as much! After all, you only
offer moral presumptions. Have you any material proof?"
"Perhaps I have," answered Joam Dacosta.
At these words, Judge Jarriquez left his chair. This was too much for
him, and he had to take two or three circuits of the room to recover
WHEN THE MAGISTRATE had again taken his place, like a man who
considered he was perfectly master of himself, he leaned back in his
chair, and with his head raised and his eyes looking straight in
front, as though not even noticing the accused, remarked, in a tone
of the most perfect indifference:
Joam Dacosta reflected for a minute as if hesitating to resume the
order of his thoughts, and then answered as follows:
"Up to the present, sir, I have only given you moral presumptions of
my innocence grounded on the dignity, propriety, and honesty of the
whole of my life. I should have thought that such proofs were those
most worthy of being brought forward in matters of justice."
Judge Jarriquez could not restrain a movement of his shoulders,
showing that such was not his opinion.
"Since they are not enough, I proceed with the material proofs which
I shall perhaps be able to produce," continued Dacosta; "I say
perhaps, for I do not yet know what credit to attach to them. And,
sir, I have never spoken of these things to my wife or children, not
wishing to raise a hope which might be destroyed."
"To the point," answered Jarriquez.
"I have every reason to believe, sir, that my arrest on the eve of
the arrival of the raft at Manaos is due to information given to the
chief of the police!"
"You are not mistaken, Joam Dacosta, but I ought to tell you that the
information is anonymous."