Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon
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good-natured, and charitable, she was beloved by all. On this subject
you could fearlessly interrogate the humblest servants of the
fazenda. It was unnecessary to ask her brother's friend, Manoel
Valdez, what he thought of her. He was too much interested in the
question to have replied without a certain amount of partiality.
This sketch of the Garral family would not be complete, and would
lack some of its features, were we not to mention the numerous staff
of the fazenda.
In the first place, then, it behooves us to name an old negress, of
some sixty years, called Cybele, free through the will of her master,
a slave through her affection for him and his, and who had been the
nurse of Yaquita. She was one of the family. She thee-ed and thou-ed
both daughter and mother. The whole of this good creature's life was
passed in these fields, in the middle of these forests, on that bank
of the river which bounded the horizon of the farm. Coming as a child
to Iquitos in the slave-trading times, she had never quitted the
village; she was married there, and early a widow, had lost her only
son, and remained in the service of MagalhaŽs. Of the Amazon she knew
no more than what flowed before her eyes.
With her, and more specially attached to the service of Minha, was a
pretty, laughing mulatto, of the same age as her mistress, to whom
she was completely devoted. She was called Lina. One of those gentle
creatures, a little spoiled, perhaps, to whom a good deal of
familiarity is allowed, but who in return adore their mistresses.
Quick, restless, coaxing, and lazy, she could do what she pleased in
As for servants they were of two kinds--Indians, of whom there were
about a hundred, employed always for the works of the fazenda, and
blacks to about double the number, who were not yet free, but whose
children were not born slaves. Joam Garral had herein preceded the
Brazilian government. In this country, moreover, the negroes coming
from Benguela, the Congo, or the Gold Coast were always treated with
kindness, and it was not at the fazenda of Iquitos that one would
look for those sad examples of cruelty which were so frequent on
MANOEL WAS in love with the sister of his friend Benito, and she was
in love with him. Each was sensible of the other's worth, and each
was worthy of the other.
When he was no longer able to mistake the state of his feelings
toward Minha, Manoel had opened his heart to Benito.
"Manoel, my friend," had immediately answered the enthusiastic young
fellow, "you could not do better than wish to marry my sister. Leave
it to me! I will commence by speaking to the mother, and I think I
can promise that you will not have to wait long for her consent."
Half an hour afterward he had done so.
Benito had nothing to tell his mother which she did not know; Yaquita
had already divined the young people's secret.
Before ten minutes had elapsed Benito was in the presence of Minha.
They had but to agree; there was no need for much eloquence. At the
first words the head of the gentle girl was laid on her brother's
shoulder, and the confession, "I am so happy!" was whispered from her
The answer almost came before the question; that was obvious. Benito
did not ask for more.
There could be little doubt as to Joam Garral's consent. But if
Yaquita and her children did not at once speak to him about the
marriage, it was because they wished at the same time to touch on a
question which might be more difficult to solve. That question was,
Where should the wedding take place?
Where should it be celebrated? In the humble cottage which served for
the village church? Why not? Joam and Yaquita had there received the
nuptial benediction of the Padre Passanha, who was then the curate of
Iquitos parish. At that time, as now, there was no distinction in
Brazil between the civil and religious acts, and the registers of the
mission were sufficient testimony to a ceremony which no officer of
the civil power was intrusted to attend to.
Joam Garral would probably wish the marriage to take place at
Iquitos, with grand ceremonies and the attendance of the whole staff
of the fazenda, but if such was to be his idea he would have to
withstand a vigorous attack concerning it.
"Manoel," Minha said to her betrothed, "if I was consulted in the
matter we should not be married here, but at Para. Madame Valdez is
an invalid; she cannot visit Iquitos, and I should not like to become
her daughter without knowing and being known by her. My mother agrees
with me in thinking so. We should like to persuade my father to take
us to Belem. Do you not think so?"
To this proposition Manoel had replied by pressing Minha's hand. He
also had a great wish for his mother to be present at his marriage.
Benito had approved the scheme without hesitation, and it was only
necessary to persuade Joam Garral. And hence on this day the young
men had gone out hunting in the woods, so as to leave Yaquita alone
with her husband.
In the afternoon these two were in the large room of the house. Joam
Garral, who had just come in, was half-reclining on a couch of
plaited bamboos, when Yaquita, a little anxious, came and seated
herself beside him.
To tell Joam of the feelings which Manoel entertained toward his
daughter was not what troubled her. The happiness of Minha could not
but be assured by the marriage, and Joam would be glad to welcome to
his arms the new son whose sterling qualities he recognized and
appreciated. But to persuade her husband to leave the fazenda Yaquita
felt to be a very serious matter.
In fact, since Joam Garral, then a young man, had arrived in the
country, he had never left it for a day. Though the sight of the
Amazon, with its waters gently flowing to the east, invited him to
follow its course; though Joam every year sent rafts of wood to
Manaos, to Belem, and the seacoast of Para; though he had seen each
year Benito leave after his holidays to return to his studies, yet
the thought seemed never to have occurred to him to go with him.
The products of the farm, of the forest, and of the fields, the
fazender sold on the spot. He had not wish, either with thought or
look, to go beyond the horizon which bounded his Eden.
From this it followed that for twenty-five years Joam Garral had
never crossed the Brazilian frontier, his wife and daughter had never
set foot on Brazilian soil. The longing to see something of that
beautiful country of which Benito was often talking was not wanting,
nevertheless. Two or three times Yaquita had sounded her husband in
the matter. But she had noticed that the thought of leaving the
fazenda, if only for a few weeks, brought an increase of sadness to
his face. His eyes would close, and in a tone of mild reproach he
"Why leave our home? Are we not comfortable here?"
And Yaquita, in the presence of the man whose active kindness and
unchangeable tenderness rendered her so happy, had not the courage to
This time, however, there was a serious reason to make it worth
while. The marriage of Minha afforded an excellent opportunity, it
being so natural for them to accompany her to Belem, where she was
going to live with her husband. She would there see and learn to love
the mother of Manoel Valdez. How could Joam Garral hesitate in the
face of so praiseworthy a desire? Why, on the other hand, did he not
participate in this desire to become acquainted with her who was to
be the second mother of his child?
Yaquita took her husband's hand, and with that gentle voice which had
been to him all the music of his life:
"Joam," she said, "I am going to talk to you about something which we
ardently wish, and which will make you as happy as we are."
"What is it about, Yaquita?" asked Joam.
"Manoel loves your daughter, he is loved by her, and in this union
they will find the happiness----"
At the first words of Yaquita Joam Garral had risen, without being
able to control a sudden start. His eyes were immediately cast down,
and he seemed to designedly avoid the look of his wife.
"What is the matter with you?" asked she.
"Minha? To get married!" murmured Joam.
"My dear," said Yaquita, feeling somewhat hurt, "have you any
objection to make to the marriage? Have you not for some time noticed
the feelings which Manoel has entertained toward our daughter?"
"Yes; and a year since----"
And Joam sat down without finishing his thoughts. By an effort of his
will he had again become master of himself. The unaccountable
impression which had been made upon him disappeared. Gradually his
eyes returned to meet those of Yaquita, and he remained thoughtfully
looking at her.
Yaquita took his hand.
"Joam," she said, "have I been deceived? Had you no idea that this
marriage would one day take place, and that it would give her every
chance of happiness?"
"Yes," answered Joam. "All! Certainly. But, Yaquita, this
wedding--this wedding that we are both thinking of--when is it coming
"It will come off when you choose, Joam."
"And it will take place here--at Iquitos?"