Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon
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out of sight; he was never left alone. And besides, how could he have
acted otherwise? Ah! why had not Joam Dacosta told him all before he
left the jangada? Why had he refrained from speaking, except before a
judge, of this material proof of his innocence? Why, in his interview
with Manoel after the expulsion of Torres, had he been silent about
the document which the adventurer pretended to hold in his hands?
But, after all, what faith ought he to place in what Torres had said?
Could he be certain that such a document was in the rascal's
Whatever might be the reason, the family now knew everything, and
that from the lips of Joam Dacosta himself. They knew that Torres had
declared that the proof of the innocence of the convict of Tijuco
actually existed; that the document had been written by the very hand
of the author of the attack; that the criminal, seized by remorse at
the moment of his death, had intrusted it to his companion, Torres;
and that he, instead of fulfilling the wishes of the dying man, had
made the handing over of the document an excuse for extortion. But
they knew also that Torrres had just been killed, and that his body
was engulfed in the waters of the Amazon, and that he died without
even mentioning the name of the guilty man.
Unless he was saved by a miracle, Joam Dacosta might now be
considered as irrevocably lost. The death of Judge Ribeiro on the one
hand, the death of Torres on the other, were blows from which he
could not recover! It should here be said that public opinion at
Manaos, unreasoning as it always is, was all against he prisoner. The
unexpected arrest of Joam Dacosta had revived the memory of the
terrible crime of Tijuco, which had lain forgotten for twenty-three
years. The trial of othe young clerk at the mines of the diamond
arrayal, his capital sentence, his escape a few hours before his
intended execution--all were remembered, analyzed, and commented on.
An article which had just appeared in the _O Diario d'o Grand Para,_
the most widely circulated journal in these parts, after giving a
history of the circumstances of the crime, showed itself decidedly
hostile to the prisoner. Why should these people believe in Joam
Dacosta's innocence, when they were ignorant of all that his friends
knew--of what they alone knew?
And so the people of Manaos became excited. A mob of Indians and
negroes hurried, in their blind folly, to surround the prison and
roar forth tumultuous shouts of death. In this part of the two
Americas, where executions under Lynch law are of frequent
occurrence, the mob soon surrenders itself to its cruel instincts,
and it was feared that on this occasion it would do justice with its
What a night it was for the passengers from the fazenda! Masters and
servants had been affected by the blow! Were not the servants of the
fazenda members of one family? Every one of them would watch over the
safety of Yaquita and her people! On the bank of the Rio Negro there
was a constant coming and going of the natives, evidently excited by
the arrest of Joam Dacosta, and who could say to what excesses these
half-barbarous men might be led?
The time, however, passed without any demonstration against the
On the morrow, the 26th of August, as soon as the sun rose, Manoel
and Fragoso, who had never left Benito for an instant during this
terrible night, attempted to distract his attention from his despair.
After taking him aside they made him understand that there was no
time to be lost--that they must make up their minds to act.
"Benito," said Manoel, "pull yourself together! Be a man again! Be a
"My father!" exclaimed Benito. "I have killed him!"
"No!" replied Manoel. "With heaven's help it is possible that all may
not be lost!"
"Listen to us, Mr. Benito," said Fragoso.
The young man, passing his hand over his eyes, made a violent effort
to collect himself.
"Benito," continued Manoel, "Torres never gave a hint to put us on
the track of his past life. We therefore cannot tell who was the
author of the crime of Tijuco, or under what conditions it was
committed. To try in that direction is to lose our time."
"And time presses!" added Fragoso.
"Besides," said Manoel, "suppose we do find out who this companion of
Torres was, he is dead, and he could not testify in any way to the
innocence of Joam Dacosta. But it is none the less certain that the
proof of this innocence exists, and there is not room to doubt the
existence of a document which Torres was anxious to make the subject
of a bargain. He told us so himself. The document is a complete
avowal written in the handwriting of the culprit, which relates the
attack in its smallest details, and which clears our father! Yes! a
hundred times, yes! The document exists!"
"But Torres does not exist!" groaned Benito, "and the document has
perished with him!"
"Wait, and don't despair yet!" answered Manoel. "You remember under
what circumstances we made the acquaintance of Torres? It was in the
depths of the forest of Iquitos. He was in pursuit of a monkey which
had stolen a metal case, which it so strangely kept, and the chase
had lasted a couple of hours when the monkey fell to our guns. Now,
do you think that it was for the few pieces of gold contained in the
case that Torres was in such a fury to recover it? and do you not
remember the extraordinary satisfaction which he displayed when we
gave him back the case which we had taken out of the monkey's paw?"
"Yes!" yes!" answered Benito. "This case which I held--which I gave
back to him! Perhaps it contained----"
"It is more than probable! It is certain!" replied Manoel.
"And I beg to add," said Fragoso, "for now the fact recurs to my
memory, that during the time you were at Ega I remained on board, at
Lina's advice, to keep an eye on Torres, and I saw him--yes, I saw
him--reading, and again reading, an old faded paper, and muttering
words which I could not understand."
"That was the document!" exclaimed Benito, who snatched at the
hope--the only one that was left. "But this document; had he not put
it in some place of security?"
"No," answered Manoel--"no; it was too precious for Torres to dream
of parting with it. He was bound to carry it always about with him,
and doubtless in that very case."
"Wait! wait, Manoel!" exclaimed Benito; "I remember--yes, I remember.
During the struggle, at the first blow I struck Torres in his chest,
my manchetta was stopped by some hard substance under his poncho,
like a plate of metal----"
"That was the case!" said Fragoso.
"Yes," replied Manoel; "doubt is impossible! That was the case; it
was in his breast-pocket."
"But the corpse of Torres?"
"We will recover it!"
"But the paper! The water will have stained it, perhaps destroyed it,
or rendered it undecipherable!"
"Why," answered Manoel, "if the metal case which held it was
"Manoel," replied Benito, who seized on the last hope, "you are
right! The corpse of Torres must be recovered! We will ransack the
whole of this part of the river, if necessary, but we will recover
The pilot Araujo was then summoned and informed of what they were
going to do.
"Good!" replied he; "I know all the eddies and currents where the Rio
Negro and the Amazon join, and we shall succeed in recovering the
body. Let us take two pirogues, two ubas, a dozen of our Indians, and
make a start."
Padre Passanha was then coming out of Yaquita's room.
Benito went to him, and in a few words told him what they were going
to do to get possession of the document. "Say nothing to my mother or
my sister," he added; "if this last hope fails it will kill them!"
"Go, my lad, go," replied Passanha, "and may God help you in your
Five minutes afterward the four boats started from the raft. After
descending the Rio Negro they arrived near the bank of the Amazon, at
the very place where Torres, mortally wounded, had disappeared
beneath the waters of the stream.
THE FIRST SEARCH
THE SEARCH had to commence at once, and that for two weighty reasons.
The first of these was--and this was a question of life or
death--that this proof of Joam Dacosta's innocence must be produced
before the arrival of the order from Rio Janeiro. Once the identity
of the prisoner was established, it was impossible that such an order
could be other than the order for his execution.
The second was that the body of Torres should be got out of the water
as quickly as possible so as to regain undamaged the metal case and
the paper it ought to contain.
At this juncture Araujo displayed not only zeal and intelligence, but
also a perfect knowledge of the state of the river at its confluence
with the Rio Negro.
"If Torres," he said to the young men, "had been from the first
carried away by the current, we should have to drag the river
throughout a large area, for we shall have a good many days to wait
for his body to reappear on the surface through the effects of