Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon
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"To me?" replied the young mulatto.
"No doubt of it. Without the liana, without the idea of the liana,
could I ever have been the cause of so much happiness?"
So that Fragoso and Lina were praised and petted by all the family,
and by all the new friends whom so many trials had procured them at
Manaos, need hardly be insisted on.
But had not Judge Jarriquez also had his share in this rehabilitation
of an innocent man? If, in spite of all the shrewdness of his
analytical talents, he had not been able to read the document, which
was absolutely undecipherable to any one who had not got the key, had
he not at any rate discovered the system on which the cryptogram was
composed? Without him what could have been done with only the name of
Ortega to reconstitute the number which the author of the crime and
Torres, both of whom were dead, alone knew?
And so he also received abundant thanks.
Needless to say that the same day there was sent to Rio de Janeiro a
detailed report of the whole affair, and with it the original
document and the cipher to enable it to be read. New instructions
from the minister of justice had to be waited for, though there could
be no doubt that they would order the immediate discharge of the
prisoner. A few days would thus have to be passed at Manaos, and then
Joam Dacosta and his people, free from all constraint, and released
from all apprehension, would take leave of their host to go on board
once more and continue their descent of the Amazon to Para, where the
voyage was intended to terminate with the double marriage of Minha
and Manoel and Lina and Fragoso.
Four days afterward, on the fourth of September, the order of
discharge arrived. The document had been recognized as authentic. The
handwriting was really that of Ortega, who had been formerly employed
in the diamond district, and there could be no doubt that the
confession of his crime, with the minutest details that were given,
had been entirely written with his own hand.
The innocence of the convict of Villa Rica was at length admitted.
The rehabilitation of Joam Dacosta was at last officially proclaimed.
That very day Judge Jarriquez dined with the family on board the
giant raft, and when evening came he shook hands with them all.
Touching were the adieus, but an engagement was made for them to see
him again on their return at Manaos, and later on the fazenda of
On the morning of the morrow, the fifth of September, the signal for
departure was given. Joam Dacosta and Yaquita, with their daughter
and sons, were on the deck of the enormous raft. The jangada had its
moorings slackened off and began to move with the current, and when
it disappeared round the bend of the Rio Negro, the hurrahs of the
whole population of Manaos, who were assembled on the bank, again and
again re-echoed across the stream.
THE LOWER AMAZON
LITTLE REMAINS to tell of the second part of the voyage down the
mighty river. It was but a series of days of joy. Joam Dacosta
returned to a new life, which shed its happiness on all who belonged
The giant raft glided along with greater rapidity on the waters now
swollen by the floods. On the left they passed the small village of
Don Jose de Maturi, and on the right the mouth of that Madeira which
owes its name to the floating masses of vegetable remains and trunks
denuded of their foliage which it bears from the depths of Bolivia.
They passed the archipelago of Caniny, whose islets are veritable
boxes of palms, and before the village of Serpa, which, successively
transported from one back to the other, has definitely settled on the
left of the river, with its little houses, whose thresholds stand on
the yellow carpet of the beach.
The village of Silves, built on the left of the Amazon, and the town
of Villa Bella, which is the principal guarana market in the whole
province, were soon left behind by the giant raft. And so was the
village of Faro and its celebrated river of the Nhamundas, on which,
in 1539, Orellana asserted he was attacked by female warriors, who
have never been seen again since, and thus gave us the legend which
justifies the immortal name of the river of the Amazons.
Here it is that the province of Rio Negro terminates. The
jurisdiction of Para then commences; and on the 22d of September the
family, marveling much at a valley which has no equal in the world,
entered that portion of the Brazilian empire which has no boundary to
the east except the Atlantic.
"How magnificent!" remarked Minha, over and over again.
"How long!" murmured Manoel.
"How beautiful!" repeated Lina.
"When shall we get there?" murmured Fragoso.
And this was what might have been expected of these folks from the
different points of view, though time passed pleasantly enough with
them all the same. Benito, who was neither patient nor impatient, had
recovered all his former good humor.
Soon the jangada glided between interminable plantations of
cocoa-trees with their somber green flanked by the yellow thatch or
ruddy tiles of the roofs of the huts of the settlers on both banks
from Obidos up to the town of Monto Alegre.
Then there opened out the mouth of the Rio Trombetas, bathing with
its black waters the houses of Obidos, situated at about one hundred
and eighty miles from Belem, quite a small town, and even a
_"citade"_ with large streets bordered with handsome habitations, and
a great center for cocoa produce. Then they saw another tributary,
the Tapajos, with its greenish-gray waters descending from the
south-west; and then Santarem, a wealthy town of not less than five
thousand inhabitants, Indians for the most part, whose nearest houses
were built on the vast beach of white sand.
After its departure from Manaos the jangada did not stop anywhere as
it passed down the much less encumbered course of the Amazon. Day and
night it moved along under the vigilant care of its trusty pilot; no
more stoppages either for the gratification of the passengers or for
business purposes. Unceasingly it progressed, and the end rapidly
On leaving Alemquer, situated on the left bank, a new horizon
appeared in view. In place of the curtain of forests which had shut
them in up to then, our friends beheld a foreground of hills, whose
undulations could be easily descried, and beyond them the faint
summits of veritable mountains vandyked across the distant depth of
sky. Neither Yaquita, nor her daughter, nor Lina, nor old Cybele, had
ever seen anything like this.
But in this jurisdiction of Para, Manoel was at home, and he could
tell them the names of the double chain which gradually narrowed the
valley of the huge river.
"To the right," said he, "that is the Sierra de Paracuarta, which
curves in a half-circle to the south! To the left, that is the Sierra
de Curuva, of which we have already passed the first outposts."
"Then they close in?" asked Fragoso.
"They close in!" replied Manoel.
And the two young men seemed to understand each other, for the same
slight but significant nodding of the head accompanied the question
At last, notwithstanding the tide, which since leaving Obidos had
begun to be felt, and which somewhat checked the progress of the
raft, the town of Monto Alegre was passed, then that of Pravnha de
Onteiro, then the mouth of the Xingu, frequented by Yurumas Indians,
whose principal industry consists in preparing their enemies' heads
for natural history cabinets.
To what a superb size the Amazon had now developed as already this
monarch of rivers gave signs of opening out like a sea! Plants from
eight to ten feet high clustered along the beach, and bordered it
with a forest of reeds. Porto de Mos, Boa Vista, and Gurupa, whose
prosperity is on the decline, were soon among the places left in the
Then the river divided into two important branches, which flowed off
toward the Atlantic, one going away northeastward, the other
eastward, and between them appeared the beginning of the large island
of Marajo. This island is quite a province in itself. It measures no
less than a hundred and eighty leagues in circumference. Cut up by
marshes and rivers, all savannah to the east, all forest to the west,
it offers most excellent advantages for the raising of cattle, which
can here be seen in their thousands. This immense barricade of Marajo
is the natural obstacle which has compelled the Amazon to divide
before precipitating its torrents of water into the sea. Following
the upper branch, the jangada, after passing the islands of Caviana
and Mexiana, would have found an _embouchure_ of some fifty leagues
across, but it would also have bet with the bar of the prororoca,
that terrible eddy which, for the three days preceding the new or
full moon, takes but two minutes instead of six hours to raise the
river from twelve to fifteen feet above ordinary high-water mark.
This is by far the most formidable of tide-races. Most fortunately
the lower branch, known as the Canal of Breves, which is the natural
area of the Para, is not subject to the visitations of this terrible
phenomenon, and its tides are of a more regular description. Araujo,
the pilot, was quite aware of this. He steered, therefore, into the
midst of magnificent forests, here and there gliding past island
covered with muritis palms; and the weather was so favorable that
they did not experience any of the storms which so frequently rage
along this Breves Canal.
A few days afterward the jangada passed the village of the same name,
which, although built on the ground flooded for many months in the
year, has become, since 1845, an important town of a hundred houses.
Throughout these districts, which are frequented by Tapuyas, the
Indians of the Lower Amazon become more and more commingled with the
white population, and promise to be completely absorbed by them.
And still the jangada continued its journey down the river. Here, at