Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon
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"I will die, then," said Joam, in a calm voice. "I will die
protesting against the decision which condemned me! The first time, a
few hours before the execution--I fled! Yes! I was then young. I had
all my life before me in which to struggle against man's injustice!
But to save myself now, to begin again the miserable existence of a
felon hiding under a false name, whose every effort is required to
avoid the pursuit of the police, again to live the life of anxiety
which I have led for twenty-three years, and oblige you to share it
with me; to wait each day for a denunciation which sooner or later
must come, to wait for the claim for extradition which would follow
me to a foreign country! Am I to live for that? No! Never!"
"Father," interrupted Benito, whose mind threatened to give way
before such obstinacy, "you shall fly! I will have it so!" And he
caught hold of Joam Dacosta, and tried by force to drag him toward
"You wish to drive me mad?"
"My son," exclaimed Joam Dacosta, "listen to me! Once already I
escaped from the prison at Villa Rica, and people believed I fled
from well-merited punishment. Yes, they had reason to think so. Well,
for the honor of the name which you bear I shall not do so again."
Benito had fallen on his knees before his father. He held up his
hands to him; he begged him:
"But this order, father," he repeated, "this order which is due
to-day--even now--it will contain your sentence of death."
"The order may come, but my determination will not change. No, my
son! Joam Dacosta, guilty, might fly! Joam Dacosta, innocent, will
The scene which followed these words was heart-rending. Benito
struggled with his father. Manoel, distracted, kept near the window
ready to carry off the prisoner--when the door of the room opened.
On the threshold appeared the chief of the police, accompanied by the
head warder of the prison and a few soldiers. The chief of the police
understood at a glance that an attempt at escape was being made; but
he also understood from the prisoner's attitude that he it was who
had no wish to go! He said nothing. The sincerest pity was depicted
on his face. Doubtless he also, like Judge Jarriquez, would have
liked Dacosta to have escaped.
It was too late!
The chief of the police, who held a paper in his hand, advanced
toward the prisoner.
"Before all of you," said Joam Dacosta, "let me tell you, sir, that
it only rested with me to get away, and that I would not do so."
The chief of the police bowed his head, and then, in a voice which he
vainly tried to control"
"Joam Dacosta," he said, "the order has this moment arrived from the
chief justice at Rio Janeiro."
"Father!" exclaimed Manoel and Benito.
"This order," asked Joam Dacosta, who had crossed his arms, "this
order requires the execution of my sentence?"
"And that will take place?"
Benito threw himself on his father. Again would he have dragged him
from his cell, but the soldiers came and drew away the prisoner from
At a sign from the chief of the police Benito and Manoel were taken
away. An end had to be put to this painful scene, which had already
lasted too long.
"Sir," said the doomed man, "before to-morrow, before the hour of my
execution, may I pass a few moments with Padre Passanha, whom I ask
you to tell?"
"It will be forbidden."
"May I see my family, and embrace for a last time my wife and
"You shall see them."
"Thank you, sir," answered Joam; "and now keep guard over that
window; it will not do for them to take me out of here against my
And then the chief of the police, after a respectful bow, retired
with the warder and the soldiers.
The doomed man, who had now but a few hours to live, was left alone.
AND SO the order had come, and, as Judge Jarriquez had foreseen, it
was an order requiring the immediate execution of the sentence
pronounced on Joam Dacosta. No proof had been produced; justice must
take its course.
It was the very day--the 31st of August, at nine o'clock in the
morning of which the condemned man was to perish on the gallows.
The death penalty in Brazil is generally commuted except in the case
of negroes, but this time it was to be suffered by a white man.
Such are the penal arrangements relative to crimes in the diamond
arrayal, for which, in the public interest, the law allows no appear
Nothing could now save Joam Dacosta. It was not only life, but honor
that he was about to lose.
But on the 31st of August a man was approaching Manaos with all the
speed his horse was capable of, and such had been the pace at which
he had come that half a mile from the town the gallant creature fell,
incapable of carrying him any further.
The rider did not even stop to raise his steed. Evidently he had
asked and obtained from it all that was possible, and, despite the
state of exhaustion in which he found himself, he rushed off in the
direction of the city.
The man came from the eastern provinces, and had followed the left
bank of the river. All his means had gone in the purchase of this
horse, which, swifter far than any pirogue on the Amazon, had brought
him to Manaos.
It was Fragoso!
Had, then, the brave fellow succeeded in the enterprise of which he
had spoken to nobody? Had he found the party to which Torres
belonged? Had he discovered some secret which would yet save Joam
He hardly knew. But in any case he was in great haste to acquaint
Judge Jarriquez with what he had ascertained during his short
And this is what had happened.
Fragoso had made no mistake when he recognized Torres as one of the
captains of the party which was employed in the river provinces of
He set out, and on reaching the mouth of that tributary he learned
that the chief of these _capitaes da mato_ was then in the
Without losing a minute, Fragoso started on the search, and, not
without difficulty, succeeded in meeting him.
To Fragoso's questions the chief of the party had no hesitation in
replying; he had no interest in keeping silence with regard to the
few simple matters on which he was interrogated. In fact, three
questions only of importance were asked him by Fragoso, and these
"Did not a captain of the woods named Torres belong to your party a
few months ago?"
"At that time had he not one intimate friend among his companions who
has recently died?"
"And the name of that friend was?"
This was all that Fragoso had learned. Was this information of a kind
to modify Dacosta's position? It was hardly likely.
Fragoso saw this, and pressed the chief of the band to tell him what
he knew of this Ortega, of the place where he came from, and of his
antecedents generally. Such information would have been of great
importance if Ortega, as Torres had declared, was the true author of
the crime of Tijuco. But unfortunately the chief could give him no
information whatever in the matter.
What was certain was that Ortega had been a member of the band for
many years, that an intimate friendship existed between him and
Torres, that they were always seen together, and that Torres had
watched at his bedside when he died.
This was all the chief of the band knew, and he could tell no more.
Fragoso, then, had to be contented with these insignificant details,