Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon
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"It matters little, for I know that it could only come from a
scoundrel called Torres."
"And what right have you to speak in such a way of this--informer?"
"A scoundrel! Yes, sir!" replied Joam quickly. "This man, whom I
received with hospitality, only came to me to propose that I should
purchase his silence to offer me an odious bargain that I shall never
regret having refused, whatever may be the consequences of his
"Always this method!" thought Judge Jarriquez; "accusing others to
But he none the less listened with extreme attention to Joam's
recital of his relations with the adventurer up to the moment when
Torres let him know that he knew and could reveal the name of the
true author of the crime of Tijuco.
"And what is the name of the guilty man?" asked Jarriquez, shaken in
"I do not know," answered Joam Dacosta. "Torres was too cautious to
let it out."
"And the culprit is living?"
"He is dead."
The fingers of Judge Jarriquez tattooed more quickly, and he could
not avoid exclaiming, "The man who can furnish the proof of a
prisoner's innocence is always dead."
"If the real culprit is dead, sir, " replied Dacosta, "Torres at
least is living, and the proof, written throughout in the handwriting
of the author of the crime, he has assured me is in his hands! He
offered to sell it to me!"
"Eh! Joam Dacosta!" answered Judge Jarriquez, "that would not have
been dear at the cost of the whole of your fortune!"
"If Torres had only asked my fortune, I would have given it to him
and not one of my people would have demurred! Yes, you are right,
sir; a man cannot pay too dearly for the redemption of his honor! But
this scoundrel, knowing that I was at his mercy, required more than
"My daughter's hand was to be the cost of the bargain! I refused; he
denounced me, and that is why I am now before you!"
"And if Torres had not informed against you," asked Judge
Jarriquez--"if Torres had not met with you on your voyage, what would
you have done on learning on your arrival of the death of Judge
Ribeiro? Would you then have delivered yourself into the hands of
"Without the slightest hesitation," replied Joam, in a firm voice;
"for, I repeat it, I had no other object in leaving Iquitos to come
This was said in such a tone of truthfulness that Judge Jarriquez
experienced a kind of feeling making its way to that corner of the
heart where convictions are formed, but he did not yet give in.
He could hardly help being astonished. A judge engaged merely in this
examination, he knew nothing of what is known by those who have
followed this history, and who cannot doubt but that Torres held in
his hands the material proof of Joam Dacosta's innocence. They know
that the document existed; that it contained this evidence; and
perhaps they may be led to think that Judge Jarriquez was pitilessly
incredulous. But they should remember that Judge Jarriquez was not in
their position; that he was accustomed to the invariable
protestations of the culprits who came before him. The document which
Joam Dacosta appealed to was not produced; he did not really know if
it actually existed; and to conclude, he had before him a man whose
guilt had for him the certainty of a settled thing.
However, he wished, perhaps through curiosity, to drive Joam Dacosta
behind his last entrenchments.
"And so," he said, "all your hope now rests on the declaration which
has been made to you by Torres."
"Yes, sir, if my whole life does not plead for me."
"Where do you think Torres really is?"
"I think in Manaos."
"And you hope that he will speak--that he will consent to
good-naturedly hand over to you the document for which you have
declined to pay the price he asked?"
"I hope so, sir," replied Joam Dacosta; "the situation now is not the
same for Torres; he has denounced me, and consequently he cannot
retain any hope of resuming his bargaining under the previous
conditions. But this document might still be worth a fortune if,
supposing I am acquitted or executed, it should ever escape him.
Hence his interest is to sell me the document, which can thus not
injure him in any way, and I think he will act according to his
The reasoning of Joam Dacosta was unanswerable, and Judge Jarriquez
felt it to be so. He made the only possible objection.
"The interest of Torres is doubtless to selel you the document--if
the document exists."
"If it does not exist," answered Joam Dacosta, in a penetrating
voice, "in trusting to the justice of men, I must put my trust only
At these words Judge Jarriquez rose, and, in not quite such an
indifferent tone, said, "Joam Dacosta, in examining you here, in
allowing you to relate the particulars of your past life and to
protest your innocence, I have gone further than my instructions
allow me. An information has already been laid in this affair, and
you have appeared before the jury at Villa Rica, whose verdict was
given unanimously, and without even the addition of extenuating
circumstances. You have been found guilty of the instigation of, and
complicity in, the murder of the soldiers and the robbery of the
diamonds at Tijuco, the capital sentence was pronounced on you, and
it was only by flight that you escaped execution. But that you came
here to deliver yourself over, or not, to the hands of justice
twenty-three years afterward, you would never have been retaken. For
the last time, you admit that you are Joam Dacosta, the condemned man
of the diamond arrayal?"
"I am Joam Dacosta."
"You are ready to sign this declaration?"
"I am ready."
And with a hand without a tremble Joam Dacosta put his name to the
foot of the declaration and the report which Judge Jarriquez had made
his clerk draw up.
"The report, addressed to the minister of justice, is to be sent off
to Rio Janeiro," said the magistrate. "Many days will elapse before
we receive orders to carry out your sentence. If then, as you say,
Torres possesses the proof of your innocence, do all you can
yourself--do all you can through your friends--do everything, so that
that proof can be produced in time. Once the order arrives no delay
will be possible, and justice must take its course."
Joam Dacosta bowed slightly.
"Shall I be allowed in the meantime to see my wife and children?" he
"After to-day, if you wish," answered Judge Jarriquez; "you are no
longer in close confinement, and they can be brought to you as soon
as they apply."
The magistrate then rang the bell. The guards entered the room, and
took away Joam Dacosta.
Judge Jarriquez watched him as he went out, and shook his head and
"Well, well! This is a much stranger affair than I ever thought it
THE LAST BLOW
WHILE JOAM DACOSTA was undergoing this examination, Yaquita, from an
inquiry made by Manoel, ascertained that she and her children would
be permitted to see the prisoner that very day about four o'clock in
Yaquita had not left her room since the evening before. Minha and
Lina kept near her, waiting for the time when she would be admitted
to see her husband.
Yaquita Garral or Yaquita Dacosta, he would still find her the
devoted wife and brave companion he had ever known her to be.
About eleven o'clock in the morning Benito joined Manoel and Fragoso,
who were talking in the bow of the jangada.
"Manoel," said he, "I have a favor to ask you."
"What is it?"
"And you too, Fragoso."
"I am at your service, Mr. Benito," answered the barber.
"What is the matter?" asked Manoel, looking at his friend, whose
expression was that of a man who had come to some unalterable
"You never doubt my father's innocence? Is that so?" said Benito.