Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon
Part 1 out of 6
This etext was produced by Norman Wolcott.
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Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon
by Jules Verne
PART 1. THE GIANT RAFT
CHAPTER I. A CAPTAIN OF THE WOODS
CHAPTER II. ROBBER AND ROBBED
CHAPTER III. THE GARRAL FAMILY
CHAPTER IV. HESITATION
CHAPTER V. THE AMAZON
CHAPTER VI. A FOREST ON THE GROUND
CHAPTER VII. FOLLOWING A LIANA
CHAPTER VIII. THE JANGADA
CHAPTER IX. THE EVENING OF THE FIFTH OF JUNE
CHAPTER X. FROM IQUITOS TO PEVAS
CHAPTER XI. FROM PEVAS TO THE FRONTIER
CHAPTER XII. FRAGOSO AT WORK
CHAPTER XIII. TORRES
CHAPTER XIV. STILL DESCENDING
CHAPTER XV. THE CONTINUED DESCENT
CHAPTER XVI. EGA
CHAPTER XVII. AN ATTACK
CHAPTER XVIII. THE ARRIVAL DINNER
CHAPTER XIX. ANCIENT HISTORY
CHAPTER XX. BETWEEN THE TWO MEN
PART II. THE CRYPTOGRAM
CHAPTER I. MANAOS
CHAPTER II. THE FIRST MOMENTS
CHAPTER III. RETROSPECTIVE
CHAPTER IV. MORAL PROOFS
CHAPTER V. MATERIAL PROOFS
CHAPTER VI. THE LAST BLOW
CHAPTER VII. RESOLUTIONS
CHAPTER VIII. THE FIRST SEARCH
CHAPTER IX. THE SECOND ATTEMPT
CHAPTER X. A CANNON SHOT
CHAPTER XI. THE CONTENTS OF THE CASE
CHAPTER XII. THE DOCUMENT
CHAPTER XIII. IS IT A MATTER OF FIGURES?
CHAPTER XIV. CHANCE!
CHAPTER XV. THE LAST EFFORTS
CHAPTER XVI. PREPARATIONS
CHAPTER XVII. THE LAST NIGHT
CHAPTER XVIII. FRAGOSO
CHAPTER XIX. THE CRIME OF TIJUCO
CHAPTER XX. THE LOWER AMAZON
THE GIANT RAFT
A CAPTAIN OF THE WOODS
_"P h y j s l y d d q f d z x g a s g z z q q e h x g k f n d r x u j
u g I o c y t d x v k s b x h h u y p o h d v y r y m h u h p u y d k
j o x p h e t o z l s l e t n p m v f f o v p d p a j x h y y n o j y
g g a y m e q y n f u q l n m v l y f g s u z m q I z t l b q q y u g
s q e u b v n r c r e d g r u z b l r m x y u h q h p z d r r g c r o
h e p q x u f I v v r p l p h o n t h v d d q f h q s n t z h h h n f
e p m q k y u u e x k t o g z g k y u u m f v I j d q d p z j q s y k
r p l x h x q r y m v k l o h h h o t o z v d k s p p s u v j h d."_
THE MAN who held in his hand the document of which this strange
assemblage of letters formed the concluding paragraph remained for
some moments lost in thought.
It contained about a hundred of these lines, with the letters at even
distances, and undivided into words. It seemed to have been written
many years before, and time had already laid his tawny finger on the
sheet of good stout paper which was covered with the hieroglyphics.
On what principle had these letters been arranged? He who held the
paper was alone able to tell. With such cipher language it is as with
the locks of some of our iron safes--in either case the protection is
the same. The combinations which they lead to can be counted by
millions, and no calculator's life would suffice to express them.
Some particular "word" has to be known before the lock of the safe
will act, and some "cipher" is necessary before that cryptogram can
He who had just reperused the document was but a simple "captain of
the woods." Under the name of _"Capitaes do Mato"_ are known in
Brazil those individuals who are engaged in the recapture of fugitive
slaves. The institution dates from 1722. At that period anti-slavery
ideas had entered the minds of a few philanthropists, and more than a
century had to elapse before the mass of the people grasped and
applied them. That freedom was a right, that the very first of the
natural rights of man was to be free and to belong only to himself,
would seem to be self-evident, and yet thousands of years had to pass
before the glorious thought was generally accepted, and the nations
of the earth had the courage to proclaim it.
In 1852, the year in which our story opens, there were still slaves
in Brazil, and as a natural consequence, captains of the woods to
pursue them. For certain reasons of political economy the hour of
general emancipation had been delayed, but the black had at this date
the right to ransom himself, the children which were born to him were
born free. The day was not far distant when the magnificent country,
into which could be put three-quarters of the continent of Europe,
would no longer count a single slave among its ten millions of
The occupation of the captains of the woods was doomed, and at the
period we speak of the advantages obtainable from the capture of
fugitives were rapidly diminishing. While, however, the calling
continued sufficiently profitable, the captains of the woods formed a
peculiar class of adventurers, principally composed of freedmen and
deserters--of not very enviable reputation. The slave hunters in fact
belonged to the dregs of society, and we shall not be far wrong in
assuming that the man with the cryptogram was a fitting comrade for
his fellow _"capitaes do mato."_ Torres--for that was his
name--unlike the majority of his companions, was neither half-breed,
Indian, nor negro. He was a white of Brazilian origin, and had
received a better education than befitted his present condition. One
of those unclassed men who are found so frequently in the distant
countries of the New World, at a time when the Brazilian law still
excluded mulattoes and others of mixed blood from certain
employments, it was evident that if such exclusion had affected him,
it had done so on account of his worthless character, and not because
of his birth.
Torres at the present moment was not, however, in Brazil. He had just
passed the frontier, and was wandering in the forests of Peru, from
which issue the waters of the Upper Amazon.
He was a man of about thirty years of age, on whom the fatigues of a
precarious existence seemed, thanks to an exceptional temperament and
an iron constitution, to have had no effect. Of middle height, broad
shoulders, regular features, and decided gait, his face was tanned
with the scorching air of the tropics. He had a thick black beard,
and eyes lost under contracting eyebrows, giving that swift but hard
glance so characteristic of insolent natures. Clothed as backwoodsmen
are generally clothed, not over elaborately, his garments bore
witness to long and roughish wear. On his head, stuck jauntily on one
side, was a leather hat with a large brim. Trousers he had of coarse
wool, which were tucked into the tops of the thick, heavy boots which
formed the most substantial part of his attire, and over all, and
hiding all, was a faded yellowish poncho.
But if Torres was a captain of the woods it was evident that he was
not now employed in that capacity, his means of attack and defense
being obviously insufficient for any one engaged in the pursuit of
the blacks. No firearms--neither gun nor revolver. In his belt only
one of those weapons, more sword than hunting-knife, called a
_"manchetta,"_ and in addition he had an _"enchada,"_ which is a sort
of hoe, specially employed in the pursuit of the tatous and agoutis
which abound in the forests of the Upper Amazon, where there is
generally little to fear from wild beasts.
On the 4th of May, 1852, it happened, then, that our adventurer was
deeply absorbed in the reading of the document on which his eyes were
fixed, and, accustomed as he was to live in the forests of South
America, he was perfectly indifferent to their splendors. Nothing
could distract his attention; neither the constant cry of the howling
monkeys, which St. Hillaire has graphically compared to the ax of the
woodman as he strikes the branches of the trees, nor the sharp jingle
of the rings of the rattlesnake (not an aggressive reptile, it is
true, but one of the most venomous); neither the bawling voice of the
horned toad, the most hideous of its kind, nor even the solemn and
sonorous croak of the bellowing frog, which, though it cannot equal
the bull in size, can surpass him in noise.
Torres heard nothing of all these sounds, which form, as it were, the
complex voice of the forests of the New World. Reclining at the foot
of a magnificent tree, he did not even admire the lofty boughs of
that _"pao ferro,"_ or iron wood, with its somber bark, hard as the
metal which it replaces in the weapon and utensil of the Indian
savage. No. Lost in thought, the captain of the woods turned the
curious paper again and again between his fingers. With the cipher,
of which he had the secret, he assigned to each letter its true
value. He read, he verified the sense of those lines, unintelligible
to all but him, and then he smiled--and a most unpleasant smile it
Then he murmured some phrases in an undertone which none in the
solitude of the Peruvian forests could hear, and which no one, had he
been anywhere else, would have heard.
"Yes," said he, at length, "here are a hundred lines very neatly
written, which, for some one that I know, have an importance that is
undoubted. That somebody is rich. It is a question of life or death
for him, and looked at in every way it will cost him something." And,
scrutinizing the paper with greedy eyes, "At a conto  only for
each word of this last sentence it will amount to a considerable sum,
and it is this sentence which fixes the price. It sums up the entire
document. It gives their true names to true personages; but before
trying to understand it I ought to begin by counting the number of
words it contains, and even when this is done its true meaning may be
In saying this Torres began to count mentally.
"There are fifty-eight words, and that makes fifty-eight contos. With
nothing but that one could live in Brazil, in America, wherever one
wished, and even live without doing anything! And what would it be,
then, if all the words of this document were paid for at the same
price? It would be necessary to count by hundreds of contos. Ah!
there is quite a fortune here for me to realize if I am not the
greatest of duffers!"
It seemed as though the hands of Torres felt the enormous sum, and
were already closing over the rolls of gold. Suddenly his thoughts
took another turn.
"At length," he cried, "I see land; and I do not regret the voyage
which has led me from the coast of the Atlantic to the Upper Amazon.
But this man may quit America and go beyond the seas, and then how
can I touch him? But no! he is there, and if I climb to the top of
this tree I can see the roof under which he lives with his family!"
Then seizing the paper and shaking it with terrible meaning: "Before
to-morrow I will be in his presence; before to-morrow he will know
that his honor and his life are contained in these lines. And when he
wishes to see the cipher which permits him to read them, he--well, he
will pay for it. He will pay, if I wish it, with all his fortune, as
he ought to pay with all his blood! Ah! My worthy comrade, who gave
me this cipher, who told me where I could find his old colleague, and
the name under which he has been hiding himself for so many years,
hardly suspects that he has made my fortune!"
For the last time Torres glanced over the yellow paper, and then,
after carefully folding it, put it away into a little copper box
which he used for a purse. This box was about as big as a cigar case,
and if what was in it was all Torres possessed he would nowhere have
been considered a wealthy man. He had a few of all the coins of the
neighboring States--ten double-condors in gold of the United States
of Colombia, worth about a hundred francs; Brazilian reis, worth
about as much; golden sols of Peru, worth, say, double; some Chilian
escudos, worth fifty francs or more, and some smaller coins; but the
lot would not amount to more than five hundred francs, and Torres
would have been somewhat embarrassed had he been asked how or where
he had got them. One thing was certain, that for some months, after
having suddenly abandoned the trade of the slave hunter, which he
carried on in the province of Para, Torres had ascended the basin of
the Amazon, crossed the Brazilian frontier, and come into Peruvian
territory. To such a man the necessaries of life were but few;
expenses he had none--nothing for his lodging, nothing for his
clothes. The forest provided his food, which in the backwoods cost
him naught. A few reis were enough for his tobacco, which he bought
at the mission stations or in the villages, and for a trifle more he
filled his flask with liquor. With little he could go far.
When he had pushed the paper into the metal box, of which the lid
shut tightly with a snap, Torres, instead of putting it into the
pocket of his under-vest, thought to be extra careful, and placed it
near him in a hollow of a root of the tree beneath which he was
sitting. This proceeding, as it turned out, might have cost him dear.
It was very warm; the air was oppressive. If the church of the
nearest village had possessed a clock, the clock would have struck
two, and, coming with the wind, Torres would have heard it, for it
was not more than a couple of miles off. But he cared not as to time.
Accustomed to regulate his proceedings by the height of the sun,
calculated with more or less accuracy, he could scarcely be supposed
to conduct himself with military precision. He breakfasted or dined
when he pleased or when he could; he slept when and where sleep
overtook him. If his table was not always spread, his bed was always
ready at the foot of some tree in the open forest. And in other
respects Torres was not difficult to please. He had traveled during
most of the morning, and having already eaten a little, he began to
feel the want of a snooze. Two or three hours' rest would, he
thought, put him in a state to continue his road, and so he laid
himself down on the grass as comfortably as he could, and waited for
sleep beneath the ironwood-tree.
Torres was not one of those people who drop off to sleep without
certain preliminaries. HE was in the habit of drinking a drop or two
of strong liquor, and of then smoking a pipe; the spirits, he said,
overexcited the brain, and the tobacco smoke agreeably mingled with
the general haziness of his reverie.
Torres commenced, then, by applying to his lips a flask which he
carried at his side; it contained the liquor generally known under
the name of _"chica"_ in Peru, and more particularly under that of
_"caysuma"_ in the Upper Amazon, to which fermented distillation of
the root of the sweet manioc the captain had added a good dose of
_"tafia"_ or native rum.
When Torres had drunk a little of this mixture he shook the flask,
and discovered, not without regret, that it was nearly empty.
"Must get some more," he said very quietly.
Then taking out a short wooden pipe, he filled it with the coarse and
bitter tobacco of Brazil, of which the leaves belong to that old
_"petun"_ introduced into France by Nicot, to whom we owe the
popularization of the most productive and widespread of the
This native tobacco had little in common with the fine qualities of
our present manufacturers; but Torres was not more difficult to
please in this matter than in others, and so, having filled his pipe,
he struck a match and applied the flame to a piece of that stick
substance which is the secretion of certain of the hymenoptera, and
is known as "ants' amadou." With the amadou he lighted up, and after
about a dozen whiffs his eyes closed, his pipe escaped from his
fingers, and he fell asleep.
 One thousand reis are equal to three francs, and a conto of reis
is worth three thousand francs.
ROBBER AND ROBBED
TORRES SLEPT for about half an hour, and then there was a noise among
the trees--a sound of light footsteps, as though some visitor was
walking with naked feet, and taking all the precaution he could lest
he should be heard. To have put himself on guard against any
suspicious approach would have been the first care of our adventurer
had his eyes been open at the time. But he had not then awoke, and
what advanced was able to arrive in his presence, at ten paces from
the tree, without being perceived.
It was not a man at all, it was a "guariba."
?Of all the prehensile-tailed monkeys which haunt the forests of the
Upper Amazon--graceful sahuis, horned sapajous, gray-coated monos,
sagouins which seem to wear a mask on their grimacing faces--the
guariba is without doubt the most eccentric. Of sociable disposition,
and not very savage, differing therein very greatly from the mucura,
who is as ferocious as he is foul, he delights in company, and
generally travels in troops. It was he whose presence had been
signaled from afar by the monotonous concert of voices, so like the
psalm-singing of some church choir. But if nature has not made him
vicious, it is none the less necessary to attack him with caution,
and under any circumstances a sleeping traveler ought not to leave
himself exposed, lest a guariba should surprise him when he is not in
a position to defend himself.
This monkey, which is also known in Brazil as the "barbado," was of
large size. The suppleness and stoutness of his limbs proclaimed him
a powerful creature, as fit to fight on the ground as to leap from
branch to branch at the tops of the giants of the forest.
He advanced then cautiously, and with short steps. He glanced to the
right and to the left, and rapidly swung his tail. To these
representatives of the monkey tribe nature has not been content to
give four hands--she has shown herself more generous, and added a
fifth, for the extremity of their caudal appendage possesses a
perfect power of prehension.
The guariba noiselessly approached, brandishing a study cudgel,
which, wielded by his muscular arm, would have proved a formidable
weapon. For some minutes he had seen the man at the foot of the tree,
but the sleeper did not move, and this doubtless induced him to come
and look at him a little nearer. He came forward then, not without
hesitation, and stopped at last about three paces off.
On his bearded face was pictured a grin, which showed his sharp-edged
teeth, white as ivory, and the cudgel began to move about in a way
that was not very reassuring for the captain of the woods.
Unmistakably the sight of Torres did not inspire the guariba with
friendly thoughts. Had he then particular reasons for wishing evil to
this defenseless specimen of the human race which chance had
delivered over to him? Perhaps! We know how certain animals retain
the memory of the bad treatment they have received, and it is
possible that against backwoodsmen in general he bore some special
In fact Indians especially make more fuss about the monkey than any
other kind of game, and, no matter to what species it belongs, follow
its chase with the ardor of Nimrods, not only for the pleasure of
hunting it, but for the pleasure of eating it.
Whatever it was, the guariba did not seen disinclined to change
characters this time, and if he did not quite forget that nature had
made him but a simple herbivore, and longed to devour the captain of
the woods, he seemed at least to have made up his mind to get rid of
one of his natural enemies.
After looking at him for some minutes the guariba began to move round
the tree. He stepped slowly, holding his breath, and getting nearer
and nearer. His attitude was threatening, his countenance ferocious.
Nothing could have seemed easier to him than to have crushed this
motionless man at a single blow, and assuredly at that moment the
life of Torres hung by a thread.
In truth, the guariba stopped a second time close up to the tree,
placed himself at the side, so as to command the head of the sleeper,
and lifted his stick to give the blow.
But if Torres had been imprudent in putting near him in the crevice
of the root the little case which contained his document and his
fortune, it was this imprudence which saved his life.
A sunbeam shooting between the branches just glinted on the case, the
polished metal of which lighted up like a looking-glass. The monkey,
with the frivolity peculiar to his species, instantly had his
attention distracted. His ideas, if such an animal could have ideas,
took another direction. He stopped, caught hold of the case, jumped
back a pace or two, and, raising it to the level of his eyes, looked
at it not without surprise as he moved it about and used it like a
mirror. He was if anything still more astonished when he heard the
rattle of the gold pieces it contained. The music enchanted him. It
was like a rattle in the hands of a child. He carried it to his
mouth, and his teeth grated against the metal, but made no impression
Doubtless the guariba thought he had found some fruit of a new kind,
a sort of huge almost brilliant all over, and with a kernel playing
freely in its shell. But if he soon discovered his mistake he did not
consider it a reason for throwing the case away; on the contrary, he
grasped it more tightly in his left hand, and dropped the cudgel,
which broke off a dry twig in its fall.
At this noise Torres woke, and with the quickness of those who are
always on the watch, with whom there is no transition from the
sleeping to the waking state, was immediately on his legs.
In an instant Torres had recognized with whom he had to deal.
"A guariba!" he cried.
And his hand seizing his manchetta, he put himself into a posture of
The monkey, alarmed, jumped back at once, and not so brave before a
waking man as a sleeping one, performed a rapid caper, and glided
under the trees.
"It was time!" said Torres; "the rogue would have settled me without
Of a sudden, between the hands of the monkey, who had stopped at
about twenty paces, and was watching him with violent grimaces, as if
he would like to snap his fingers at him, he caught sight of his
"The beggar!" he said. "If he has not killed me, he has done what is
almost as bad. He has robbed me!"
The thought that the case held his money was not however, what then
concerned him. But that which made him jump was the recollection that
it contained the precious document, the loss of which was
irreparable, as it carried with it that of all his hopes.
"Botheration!" said he.
And at the moment, cost what it might to recapture his case, Torres
threw himself in pursuit of the guariba.
He knew that to reach such an active animal was not easy. On the
ground he could get away too fast, in the branches he could get away
too far. A well-aimed gunshot could alone stop him as he ran or
climbed, but Torres possessed no firearm. His sword-knife and hoe
were useless unless he could get near enough to hit him.
It soon became evident that the monkey could not be reached unless by
surprise. Hence Torres found it necessary to employ cunning in
dealing with the mischievous animal. To stop, to hide himself behind
some tree trunk, to disappear under a bush, might induce the guariba
to pull up and retrace his steps, and there was nothing else for
Torres to try. This was what he did, and the pursuit commenced under
these conditions; but when the captain of the woods disappeared, the
monkey patiently waited until he came into sight again, and at this
game Torres fatigued himself without result.
"Confound the guariba!" he shouted at length. "There will be no end
to this, and he will lead me back to the Brazilian frontier. If only
he would let go of my case! But no! The jingling of the money amuses
him. Oh, you thief! If I could only get hold of you!"
And Torres recommenced the pursuit, and the monkey scuttled off with
An hour passed in this way without any result. Torres showed a
persistency which was quite natural. How without this document could
he get his money?
And then anger seized him. He swore, he stamped, he threatened the
guariba. That annoying animal only responded by a chuckling which was
enough to put him beside himself.
And then Torres gave himself up to the chase. He ran at top speed,
entangling himself in the high undergrowth, among those thick
brambles and interlacing creepers, across which the guariba passed
like a steeplechaser. Big roots hidden beneath the grass lay often in
the way. He stumbled over them and again started in pursuit. At
length, to his astonishment, he found himself shouting:
"Come here! come here! you robber!" as if he could make him
His strength gave out, breath failed him, and he was obliged to stop.
"Confound it!" said he, "when I am after runaway slaves across the
jungle they never give me such trouble as this! But I will have you,
you wretched monkey! I will go, yes, I will go as far as my legs will
carry me, and we shall see!"
The guariba had remained motionless when he saw that the adventurer
had ceased to pursue him. He rested also, for he had nearly reached
that degree of exhaustion which had forbidden all movement on the
part of Torres.
He remained like this during ten minutes, nibbling away at two or
three roots, which he picked off the ground, and from time to time he
rattled the case at his ear.
Torres, driven to distraction, picked up the stones within his reach,
and threw them at him, but did no harm at such a distance.
But he hesitated to make a fresh start. On one hand, to keep on in
chase of the monkey with so little chance of reaching him was
madness. On the other, to accept as definite this accidental
interruption to all his plans, to be not only conquered, but cheated
and hoaxed by a dumb animal, was maddening. And in the meantime
Torres had begun to think that when the night came the robber would
disappear without trouble, and he, the robbed one, would find a
difficulty in retracing his way through the dense forest. In fact,
the pursuit had taken him many miles from the bank of the river, and
he would even now find it difficult to return to it.
Torres hesitated; he tried to resume his thoughts with coolness, and
finally, after giving vent to a last imprecation, he was about to
abandon all idea of regaining possession of his case, when once more,
in spite of himself, there flashed across him the thought of his
document, the remembrance of all that scaffolding on which his future
hopes depended, on which he had counted so much; and he resolved to
make another effort.
Then he got up.
The guariba got up too.
He made several steps in advance.
The monkey made as many in the rear, but this time, instead of
plunging more deeply into the forest, he stopped at the foot of an
enormous ficus--the tree of which the different kinds are so numerous
all over the Upper Amazon basin.
To seize the trunk with his four hands, to climb with the agility of
a clown who is acting the monkey, to hook on with his prehensile tail
to the first branches, which stretched away horizontally at forty
feet from the ground, and to hoist himself to the top of the tree, to
the point where the higher branches just bent beneath its weight, was
only sport to the active guariba, and the work of but a few seconds.
Up there, installed at his ease, he resumed his interrupted repast,
and gathered the fruits which were within his reach. Torres, like
him, was much in want of something to eat and drink, but it was
impossible! His pouch was flat, his flask was empty.
However, instead of retracing his steps he directed them toward the
tree, although the position taken up by the monkey was still more
unfavorable for him. He could not dream for one instant of climbing
the ficus, which the thief would have quickly abandoned for another.
And all the time the miserable case rattled at his ear.
Then in his fury, in his folly, Torres apostrophized the guariba. It
would be impossible for us to tell the series of invectives in which
he indulged. Not only did he call him a half-breed, which is the
greatest of insults in the mouth of a Brazilian of white descent, but
_"curiboca"_--that is to say, half-breed negro and Indian, and of all
the insults that one man can hurl at another in this equatorial
latitude _"curiboca"_ is the cruelest.
But the monkey, who was only a humble quadruman, was simply amused at
what would have revolted a representative of humanity.
Then Torres began to throw stones at him again, and bits of roots and
everything he could get hold of that would do for a missile. Had he
the hope to seriously hurt the monkey? No! he no longer knew what he
was about. To tell the truth, anger at his powerlessness had deprived
him of his wits. Perhaps he hoped that in one of the movements which
the guariba would make in passing from branch ot branch the case
might escape him, perhaps he thought that if he continued to worry
the monkey he might throw it at his head. But no! the monkey did not
part with the case, and, holding it with one hand, he had still three
left with which to move.
Torres, in despair, was just about to abandon the chase for good, and
to return toward the Amazon, when he heard the sound of voices. Yes!
the sound of human voices.
Those were speaking at about twenty paces to the right of him.
The first care of Torres was to hide himself in a dense thicket. Like
a prudent man, he did not wish to show himself without at least
knowing with whom he might have to deal. Panting, puzzled, his ears
on the stretch, he waited, when suddenly the sharp report of a gun
rang through the woods.
A cry followed, and the monkey, mortally wounded, fell heavily on the
ground, still holding Torres' case.
"By Jove!" he muttered, "that bullet came at the right time!"
And then, without fearing to be seen, he came out of the thicket, and
two young gentlemen appeared from under the trees.
They were Brazilians clothed as hunters, with leather boots, light
palm-leaf hats, waistcoats, or rather tunics, buckled in at the
waist, and more convenient than the national poncho. By their
features and their complexion they were at once recognizable as of
Each of them was armed with one of those long guns of Spanish make
which slightly remind us of the arms of the Arabs, guns of long range
and considerable precision, which the dwellers in the forest of the
upper Amazon handle with success.
What had just happened was a proof of this. At an angular distance of
more than eighty paces the quadruman had been shot full in the head.
The two young men carried in addition, in their belts, a sort of
dagger-knife, which is known in Brazil as a _"foca,"_ and which
hunters do not hesitate to use when attacking the ounce and other
wild animals which, if not very formidable, are pretty numerous in
Torres had obviously little to fear from this meeting, and so he went
on running toward the monkey's corpse.
But the young men, who were taking the same direction, had less
ground to cover, and coming forward a few paces, found themselves
face to face with Torres.
The latter had recovered his presence of mind.
"Many thanks, gentlemen," said he gayly, as he raised the brim of his
hat; "in killing this wretched animal you have just done me a great
The hunters looked at him inquiringly, not knowing what value to
attach to his thanks.
Torres explained matters in a few words.
"You thought you had killed a monkey," said he, "but as it happens
you have killed a thief!"
"If we have been of use to you," said the youngest of the two, "it
was by accident, but we are none the less pleased to find that we
have done some good."
And taking several steps to the rear, he bent over the guariba, and,
not without an effort, withdrew the case from his stiffened hand.
"Doubtless that, sir, is what belongs to you?"
"The very thing," said Torres briskly, catching hold of the case and
failing to repress a huge sigh of relief.
"Whom ought I to thank, gentlemen," said he, "for the service you
have rendered me?"
"My friend, Manoel, assistant surgeon, Brazilian army," replied the
"If it was I who shot the monkey, Benito," said Manoel, "it was you
that pointed him out to me."
"In that case, sirs," replied Torres, "I am under an obligation to
you both, as well to you, Mr. Manoel, as to you, Mr. ----"
"Benito Garral," replied Manoel.
The captain of the woods required great command over himself to avoid
giving a jump when he heard this name, and more especially when the
young man obligingly continued:
"My father, Joam Garral, has his farm about three miles from here. If
you would like, Mr. ----"
"Torres," replied the adventurer.
"If you would like to accompany us there, Mr. Torres, you will be
"I do not know that I can," said Torres, who, surprised by this
unexpected meeting, hesitated to make a start. "I fear in truth that
I am not able to accept your offer. The occurrence I have just
related to you has caused me to lose time. It is necessary for me to
return at once to the Amazon--as I purpose descending thence to
"Very well, Mr. Torres," replied Benito, "it is not unlikely that we
shall see you again in our travels, for before a month has passed my
father and all his family will have taken the same road as you."
"Ah!" said Torres sharply, "your father is thinking of recrossing the
"Yes, for a voyage of some months," replied Benito. "At least we hope
to make him decide so. Don't we, Manoel?"
Manoel nodded affirmatively.
"Well, gentlemen," replied Torres, "it is very probable that we shall
meet again on the road. But I cannot, much to my regret, accept your
offer now. I thank you, nevertheless, and I consider myself as twice
And having said so, Torres saluted the young men, who in turn saluted
him, and set out on their way to the farm.
As for Torres he looked after them as they got further and further
away, and when he had lost sight of them--
"Ah! he is about to recross the frontier!" said he, with a deep
voice. "Let him recross it! and he will be still more at my mercy!
Pleasant journey to you, Joam Garral!"
And having uttered these words the captain of the woods, making for
the south so as to regain the left bank of the river by the shortest
road, disappeared into the dense forest.
THE GARRAL FAMILY
THE VILLAGE of Iquitos is situated on the left bank of the Amazon,
near the seventy-fourth meridian, on that portion of the great river
which still bears the name of the Mar&acitc;non, and of which the bed
separates Peru from the republic of Ecuador. It is about fifty-five
leagues to the west of the Brazilian frontier.
Iquitos, like every other collection of huts, hamlet, or village met
with in the basin of the Upper Amazon, was founded by the
missionaries. Up to the seventeenth year of the century the Iquito
Indians, who then formed the entire population, were settled in the
interior of the province at some distance from the river. But one day
the springs in their territory all dried up under the influence of a
volcanic eruption, and they were obliged to come and take up their
abode on the left of the Mar‚non. The race soon altered through the
alliances which were entered into with the riverine Indians, Ticunas,
or Omaguas, mixed descent with a few Spaniards, and to-day Iquitos
has a population of two or three families of half-breeds.
The village is most picturesquely grouped on a kind of esplanade, and
runs along at about sixty feet from the river. It consists of some
forty miserable huts, whose thatched roofs only just render them
worthy of the name of cottages. A stairway made of crossed trunks of
trees leads up to the village, which lies hidden from the traveler's
eyes until the steps have been ascended. Once at the top he finds
himself before an inclosure admitting of slight defense, and
consisting of many different shrubs and arborescent plants, attached
to each other by festoons of lianas, which here and there have made
their way abgove the summits of the graceful palms and banana-trees.
At the time we speak of the Indians of Iquitos went about in almost a
state of nudity. The Spaniards and half-breeds alone were clothed,
and much as they scorned their indigenous fellow-citizens, wore only
a simple shirt, light cotton trousers, and a straw hat. All lived
cheerlessly enough in the village, mixing little together, and if
they did meet occasionally, it was only at such times as the bell of
the mission called them tot he dilapidated cottage which served them
for a church.
But if existence in the village of Iquitos, as in most of the hamlets
of the Upper Amazon, was almost in a rudimentary stage, it was only
necessary to journey a league further down the river to find on the
same bank a wealthy settlement, with all the elements of comfortable
This was the farm of Joam Garral, toward which our two young friends
returned after their meeting with the captain of the woods.
There, on a bend of the stream, at the junction of the River Nanay,
which is here about five hundred feet across, there had been
established for many years this farm, homestead, or, to use the
expression of the country, _"fazenda,"_ then in the height of its
prosperity. The Nanay with its left bank bounded it to the north for
about a mile, and for nearly the same distance to the east it ran
along the bank of the larger river. To the west some small rivulets,
tributaries of the Nanay, and some lagoons of small extent, separated
it from the savannah and the fields devoted to the pasturage of the
It was here that Joam Garral, in 1826, twenty-six years before the
date when our story opens, was received by the proprietor of the
This Portuguese, whose name was MagalhaŽs, followed the trade of
timber-felling, and his settlement, then recently formed, extended
for about half a mile along the bank of the river.
There, hospitable as he was, like all the Portuguese of the old race,
MagalhaŽs lived with his daughter Yaquita, who after the death of her
mother had taken charge of his household. MagalhaŽs was an excellent
worker, inured to fatigue, but lacking education. If he understood
the management of the few slaves whom he owned, and the dozen Indians
whom he hired, he showed himself much less apt in the various
external requirements of his trade. In truth, the establishment at
Iquitos was not prospering, and the affairs of the Portuguese were
getting somewhat embarrassed.
It was under these circumstances that Joam Garral, then twenty-two
years old, found himself one day in the presence of MagalhaŽs. He had
arrived in the country at the limit both of his strength and his
resources. MagalhaŽs had found him half-dead with hunger and fatigue
in the neighboring forest. The Portuguese had an excellent heart; he
did not ask the unknown where he came from, but what he wanted. The
noble, high-spirited look which Joam Garral bore in spite of his
exhaustion had touched him. He received him, restored him, and, for
several days to begin with, offered him a hospitality which lasted
for his life.
Under such conditions it was that Joam Garral was introduced to the
farm at Iquitos.
Brazilian by birth, Joam Garral was without family or fortune.
Trouble, he said, had obliged him to quit his country and abandon all
thoughts of return. He asked his host to excuse his entering on his
past misfortunes--misfortunes as serious as they were unmerited. What
he sought, and what he wished, was a new life, a life of labor. He
had started on his travels with some slight thought of entering a
fazenda in the interior. He was educated, intelligent. He had in all
his bearing that inexpressible something which tells you that the man
is genuine and of frank and upright character. MagalhaŽs, quite taken
with him, asked him to remain at the farm, where he would, in a
measure, supply that which was wanting in the worthy farmer.
Joam Garral accepted the offer without hesitation. His intention had
been to join a _"seringal,"_ or caoutchouc concern, in which in those
days a good workman could earn from five to six piastres a day, and
could hope to become a master if he had any luck; but MagalhaŽs very
truly observed that if the pay was good, work was only found in the
seringals at harvest time--that is to say, during only a few months
of the year--and this would not constitute the permanent position
that a young man ought to wish for.
The Portuguese was right. Joam Garral saw it, and entered resolutely
into the service of the fazenda, deciding to devote to it all his
MagalhaŽs had no cause to regret his generous action. His business
recovered. His wood trade, which extended by means of the Amazon up
to Para, was soon considerably extended under the impulse of Joam
Garral. The fazenda began to grow in proportion, and to spread out
along the bank of the river up to its junction with the Nanay. A
delightful residence was made of the house; it was raised a story,
surrounded by a veranda, and half hidden under beautiful
trees--mimosas, fig-sycamores, bauhinias, and paullinias, whose
trunks were invisible beneath a network of scarlet-flowered bromelias
At a distance, behind huge bushes and a dense mass of arborescent
plants, were concealed the buildings in which the staff of the
fazenda were accommodated--the servants' offices, the cabins of the
blacks, and the huts of the Indians. From the bank of the river,
bordered with reeds and aquatic plants, the tree-encircled house was
A vast meadow, laboriously cleared along the lagoons, offered
excellent pasturage. Cattle abounded--a new source of profit in these
fertile countries, where a herd doubles in four years, and where ten
per cent. interest is earned by nothing more than the skins and the
hides of the animals killed for the consumption of those who raise
them! A few _"sitios,"_ or manioc and coffee plantations, were
started in parts of the woods which were cleared. Fields of
sugar-canes soon required the construction of a mill to crush the
sacchariferous stalks destined to be used hereafter in the
manufacture of molasses, tafia, and rum. In short, ten years after
the arrival of Joam Garral at the farm at Iquitos the fazenda had
become one of the richest establishments on the Upper Amazon. Thanks
to the good management exercised by the young clerk over the works at
home and the business abroad, its prosperity daily increased.
The Portuguese did not wait so long to acknowledge what he owed to
Joam Garral. In order to recompense him in proportion to his merits
he had from the first given him an interest in the profits of his
business, and four years after his arrival he had made him a partner
on the same footing as himself, and with equal shares.
But there was more that he had in store for him. Yaquita, his
daughter, had, in this silent young man, so gentle to others, so
stern to himself, recognized the sterling qualities which her father
had done. She was in love with him, but though on his side Joam had
not remained insensible to the merits and the beauty of this
excellent girl, he was too proud and reserved to dream of asking her
to marry him.
A serious incident hastened the solution.
MagalhaŽs was one day superintending a clearance and was mortally
wounded by the fall of a tree. Carried home helpless to the farm, and
feeling himself lost, he raised up Yaquita, who was weeping by his
side, took her hand, and put it into that of Joam Garral, making him
swear to take her for his wife.
"You have made my fortune," he said, "and I shall not die in peace
unless by this union I know that the fortune of my daughter is
"I can continue her devoted servant, her brother, her protector,
without being her husband," Joam Garral had at first replied. "I owe
you all, MagalhaŽs. I will never forget it, but the price you would
pay for my endeavors is out of all proportion to what they are
The old man insisted. Death would not allow him to wait; he demanded
the promise, and it was made to him.
Yaquita was then twenty-two years old, Joam was twenty-six. They
loved each other and they were married some hours before the death of
MagalhaŽs, who had just strength left to bless their union.
It was under these circumstances that in 1830 Joam Garral became the
new fazender of Iquitos, to the immense satisfaction of all t hose
who composed the staff of the farm.
The prosperity of the settlement could not do otherwise than grow
then these two minds were thus united.
A year after her marriage Yaquita presented her husband with a son,
and, two years after, a daughter. Benito and Minha, the grandchildren
of the old Portuguese, became worthy of their grandfather, children
worthy of Joam and Yaquita.
The daughter grew to be one of the most charming of girls. She never
left the fazenda. Brought up in pure and healthy surroundings, in the
midst of the beauteous nature of the tropics, the education given to
her by her mother, and the instruction received by her from her
father, were ample. What more could she have learned in a convent at
Manaos or Belem? Where would she have found better examples of the
domestic virtues? Would her mind and feelings have been more
delicately formed away from her home? If it was ordained that she was
not to succeed her mother in the management of the fazenda, she was
equal to say any other position to which she might be called.
With Benito it was another thing. His father very wisely wished him
to receive as solid and complete an education as could then be
obtained in the large towns of Brazil. There was nothing which the
rich fazender refused his son. Benito was possessed of a cheerful
disposition, an active mind, a lively intelligence, and qualities of
heart equal to those of his head. At the age of twelve he was sent
into Para, to Belem, and there, under the direction of excellent
professors, he acquired the elements of an education which could not
but eventually make him a distinguished man. Nothing in literature,
in the sciences, in the arts, was a stranger to him. He studied as if
the fortune of his father would not allow him to remain idle. He was
not among such as imagine that riches exempt men from work--he was
one of those noble characters, resolute and just, who believe that
nothing should diminish our natural obligation in this respect if we
wish to be worthy of the name of men.
During the first years of his residence at Belem, Benito had made the
acquaintance of Manoel Valdez. This young man, the son of a merchant
in P:ara, was pursuing his studies in the same institution as Benito.
The conformity of their characters and their tastes proved no barrier
to their uniting in the closest of friendships, and they became
Manoel, born in 1832, was one year older than Benito. He had only a
mother, and she lived on the modest fortune which her husband had
left her. When Manoel's preliminary studies were finished, he had
taken up the subject of medicine. He had a passionate taste for that
noble profession, and his intention was to enter the army, toward
which he felt himself attracted.
At the time that we saw him with his friend Benito, Manoel Valdez had
already obtained his first step, and he had come away on leave for
some months to the fazenda, where he was accustomed to pass his
holidays. Well-built, and of distinguished bearing, with a certain
native pride which became him well, the young man was treated by Joam
and Yaquita as another son. But if this quality of son made him the
brother of Benito, the title was scarcely appreciated by him when
Minha was concerned, for he soon became attached to the young girl by
a bond more intimate than could exist between brother and sister.
In the year 1852--of which four months had already passed before the
commencement of this history--Joam Garral attained the age of
forty-eight years. In that sultry cliimate, which wears men away so
quickly, he had known how, by sobriety, self-denial, suitable living,
and constant work, to remain untouched where others had prematurely
succumbed. His hair, which he wore short, and his beard, which was
full, had already grown gray, and gave him the look of a Puritan. The
proverbial honesty of the Brazilian merchants and fazenders showed
itself in his features, of which straightforwardness was the leading
characteristic. His calm temperament seemed to indicate an interior
fire, kept well under control. The fearlessness of his look denoted a
deep-rooted strength, to which, when danger threatened, he could
never appeal in vain.
But, notwithstanding one could not help remarking about this quiet
man of vigorous health, with whom all things had succeeded in life, a
depth of sadness which even the tenderness of Yaquita had not been
able to subdue.
Respected by all, placed in all the conditions that would seem
necessary to happiness, why was not this just man more cheerful and
less reserved? Why did he seem to be happy for others and not for
himself? Was this disposition attributable to some secret grief?
Herein was a constant source of anxiety to his wife.
Yaquita was now forty-four. In that tropical country where women are
already old at thirty she had learned the secret of resisting the
climate's destructive influences, and her features, a little
sharpened but still beautiful, retained the haughty outline of the
Portuguese type, in which nobility of face unites so naturally with
dignity of mind.
Benito and Minha responded with an affection unbounded and unceasing
for the love which their parents bore them.
Benito was now aged twenty-one, and quick, brave, and sympathetic,
contrasted outwardly with his friend Manoel, who was more serious and
reflective. It was a great treat for Benito, after quite a year
passed at Belem, so far from the fazenda, to return with his young
friend to his home to see once more his father, his mother, his
sister, and to find himself, enthusiastic hunter as he was, in the
midst of these superb forests of the Upper Amazon, some of whose
secrets remained after so many centuries still unsolved by man.
Minha was twenty years old. A lovely girl, brunette, and with large
blue eyes, eyes which seemed to open into her very soul; of middle
height, good figure, and winning grace, in every way the very image
of Yaquita. A little more serious than her brother, affable,
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?"
This question obliged Yaquita to enter on the other matter which she
had at heart. She did not do so, however, without some hesitation,
which was quite intelligible.
"Joam," said she, after a moment's silence, "listen to me. Regarding
this wedding, I have got a proposal which I hope you will approve of.
Two or three times during the last twenty years I have asked you to
take me and my daughter to the provinces of the Lower Amazon, and to
Para, where we have never been. The cares of the fazenda, the works
which have required your presence, have not allowed you to grant our
request. To absent yourself even for a few days would then have
injured your business. But now everything has been successful beyond
your dreams, and if the hour of repose has not yet come for you, you
can at least for a few weeks get away from your work."
Joam Garral did not answer, but Yaquita felt his hand tremble in
hers, as though under the shock of some sorrowful recollection. At
the same time a half-smile came to her husband's lips--a mute
invitation for her to finish what she had begun.
"Joam," she continued, "here is an occasion which we shall never see
again in this life. Minha is going to be married away from us, and is
going to leave us! It is the first sorrow which our daughter has
caused us, and my heart quails when I think of the separation which
is so near! But I should be content if I could accompany her to
Belem! Does it not seem right to you, even in other respects that we
should know her husband's mother, who is to replace me, and to whom
we are about to entrust her? Added to this, Minha does not wish to
grieve Madame Valdez by getting married at a distance from her. When
we were married, Joam, if your mother had been alive, would you not
have liked her to be present at your wedding?"
At these words of Yaquita Joam made a movement which he could not
"My dear," continued Yaquita, "with Minha, with our two sons, Benito
and Manoel, with you, how I should like to see Brazil, and to journey
down this splendid river, even to the provinces on the seacoast
through which it runs! It seems to me that the separation would be so
much less cruel! As we came back we should revisit our daughter in
her house with her second mother. I would not think of her as gone I
knew not where. I would fancy myself much less a stranger to the
doings of her life."
This time Joam had fixed his eyes on his wife and looked at her for
some time without saying anything.
What ailed him? Why this hesitation to grant a request which was so
just in itself--to say "Yes," when it would give such pleasure to all
who belonged to him? His business affairs could not afford a
sufficient reason. A few weeks of absence would not compromise
matters to such a degree. Hi manager would be able to take his place
without any hitch in the fazenda. And yet all this time he hesitated.
Yaquita had taken both her husband's hands in hers, and pressed them
"Joam," she said, "it is not a mere whim that I am asking you to
grant. No! For a long time I have thought over the proposition I have
just made to you; and if you consent, it will be the realization of
my most cherished desire. Our children know why I am now talking to
you. Minha, Benito, Manoel, all ask this favor, that we should
accompany them. We would all rather have the wedding at Belem than at
Iquitos. It will be better for your daughter, for her establishment,
for the position which she will take at Belem, that she should arrive
with her people, and appear less of a stranger in the town in which
she will spend most of her life."
Joam Garral leaned on his elbows. For a moment he hid his face in his
hands, like a man who had to collect his thoughts before he made
answer. There was evidently some hesitation which he was anxious to
overcome, even some trouble which his wife felt but could not
explain. A secret battle was being fought under that thoughtful brow.
Yaquita got anxious, and almost reproached herself for raising the
question. Anyhow, she was resigned to what Joam should decide. If the
expedition would cost too much, she would silence her wishes; she
would never more speak of leaving the fazenda, and never ask the
reason for the inexplicable refusal.
Some minutes passed. Joam Garral rose. He went to the door, and did
not return. Then he seemed to give a last look on that glorious
nature, on that corner of the world where for twenty years of his
life he had met with all his happiness.
Then with slow steps he returned to his wife. His face bore a new
expression, that of a man who had taken a last decision, and with
whom irresolution had ceased.
"You are right," he said, in a firm voice. "The journey is necessary.
When shall we start?"
"Ah! Joam! my Joam!" cried Yaquita, in her joy. "Thank you for me!
Thank you for them!"
And tears of affection came to her eyes as her husband clasped her to
At this moment happy voices were heard outside at the door of the
Manoel and Benito appeared an instant after at the threshold, almost
at the same moment as Minha entered the room.
"Children! your father consents!" cried Yaquita. "We are going to
With a grave face, and without speaking a word, Joam Garral received
the congratulations of his son and the kisses of his daughter.
"And what date, father," asked Benito, "have you fixed for the
"Date?" answered Joam. "Date? We shall see. We will fix it at Belem."
"I am so happy! I am so happy!" repeated Minha, as she had done on
the day when she had first known of Manoel's request. "We shall now
see the Amazon in all its glory throughout its course through the
provinces of Brazil! Thanks, father!"
And the young enthusiast, whose imagination was already stirred,
continued to her brother and to Manoel:
"Let us be off to the library! Let us get hold of every book and
every map that we can find which will tell us anything about this
magnificent river system! Don't let us travel like blind folks! I
want to see everything and know everything about this king of the
rivers of the earth!"
"THE LARGEST river in the whole world!" said Benito to Manoel Valdez,
on the morrow.
They were sitting on the bank which formed the southern boundary of
the fazenda, and looking at the liquid molecules passing slowly by,
which, coming from the enormous range of the Andes, were on their
road to lose themselves in the Atlantic Ocean eight hundred leagues
"And the river which carries to the sea the largest volume of water,"
"A volume so considerable," added Benito, "that it freshens the sea
water for an immense distance from its mouth, and the force of whose
current is felt by ships at eight leagues from the coast."
"A river whose course is developed over more than thirty degrees of
"And in a basin which from south to north does not comprise less than
"A basin!" exclaimed Benito. "Can you call it a basin, the vast plain
through which it runs, the savannah which on all sides stretches out
of sight, without a hill to give a gradient, without a mountain to
bound the horizon?"
"And along its whole extent," continued Manoel, "like the thousand
tentacles of some gigantic polyp, two hundred tributaries, flowing
from north or south, themselves fed by smaller affluents without
number, by the side of which the large rivers of Europe are but petty
"And in its course five hundred and sixty islands, without counting
islets, drifting or stationary, forming a kind of archipelago, and
yielding of themselves the wealth of a kingdom!"
"And along its flanks canals, lagoons, and lakes, such as cannot be
met with even in Switzerland, Lombardy, Scotland, or Canada."
"A river which, fed by its myriad tributaries, discharges into the
Atlantic over two hundred and fifty millions of cubic meters of water
"A river whose course serves as the boundary of two republics, and
sweeps majestically across the largest empire of South America, as if
it were, in very truth, the Pacific Ocean itself flowing out along
its own canal into the Atlantic."
"And what a mouth! An arm of the sea in which one island, Marajo, has
a circumference of more than five hundred leagues!"
"And whose waters the ocean does not pond back without raising in a
strife which is phenomenal, a tide-race, or _'pororoca,'_ to which
the ebbs, the bores, and the eddies of other rivers are but tiny
ripples fanned up by the breeze."
"A river which three names are scarcely enough to distinguish, and
which ships of heavy tonnage, without any change in their cargoes,
can ascend for more than three thousand miles from its mouth."
"A river which, by itself, its affluents, and subsidiary streams,
opens a navigable commercial route across the whole of the south of
the continent, passing from the Magdalena to the Ortequazza, from the
Ortequazza to the Caqueta, from the Caqueta to the Putumayo, from the
Putumayo to the Amazon! Four thousand miles of waterway, which only
require a few canals to make the network of navigation complete!"
"In short, the biggest and most admirable river system which we have
in the world."
The two young men were speaking in a kind of frenzy of their
incomparable river. They were themselves children of this great
Amazon, whose affluents, well worthy of itself, from the highways
which penetrate Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, New Grenada, Venezuela, and
the four Guianas--English, French, Dutch and Brazilian.
What nations, what races, has it seen whose origin is lost in the
far-distant past! It is one of the largest rivers of the globe. Its
true source still baffles our explorers. Numbers of States still
claim the honor of giving it birth. The Amazon was not likely to
escape the inevitable fate, and Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia have for
years disputed as to the honor of its glorious paternity.
To-day, however, there seems to be little doubt but that the Amazon
rises in Peru, in the district of Huaraco, in the department of
Tarma, and that it starts from the Lake of Lauricocha, which is
situated between the eleventh and twelfth degree of south latitude.
Those who make the river rise in Bolivia, and descend form the
mountains of Titicaca, have to prove that the true Amazon is the
Ucayali, which is formed by the junction of the Paro and the
Apurimac--an assertion which is now generally rejected.
At its departure from Lake Lauricocha the youthful river starts
toward the northeast for a distance of five hundred and sixty miles,
and does not strike to the west until it has received an important
tributary--the Panta. It is called the MaraŮon in its journey through
Colombia and Peru up to the Brazilian frontier--or, rather, the
Maranhao, for MaraŮon is only the French rendering of the Portuguese
From the frontier of Brazil to Manaos, where the superb Rio Negro
joins it, it takes the name of the SolimaŽs, or Solimoens, from the
name of the Indian tribe Solimao, of which survivors are still found
in the neighboring provinces. And, finally, from Manaos to the sea it
is the Amasenas, or river of the Amazons, a name given it by the old
Spaniards, the descendants of the adventurous Orellana, whose vague
but enthusiastic stories went to show that there existed a tribe of
female warriors on the Rio Nhamunda, one of the middle-sized
affluents of the great river.
From its commencement the Amazon is recognizable as destined to
become a magnificent stream. There are neither rapids nor obstacles
of any sort until it reaches a defile where its course is slightly
narrowed between two picturesque and unequal precipices. No falls are
met with until this point is reached, where it curves to the
eastward, and passes through the intermediary chain of the Andes.
Hereabouts are a few waterfalls, were it not for which the river
would be navigable from its mouth to its source. As it is, however,
according the Humboldt, the Amazon is free for five-sixths of its
And from its first starting there is no lack of tributaries, which
are themselves fed by subsidiary streams. There is the Chinchipa,
coming from the northeast, on its left. On its right it is joined by
the Chachapoyas, coming from the northeast. On the left we have the
Marona and the Pastuca; and the Guallaga comes in from the right near
the mission station of Laguna. On the left there comes the Chambyra
and the Tigrť, flowing from the northeast; and on the right the
Huallaga, which joins the main stream twenty-eight hundred miles from
the Atlantic, and can be ascended by steamboats for over two hundred
miles into the very heart of Peru. To the right, again, near the
mission of San Joachim d'Omaguas, just where the upper basin
terminates, and after flowing majestically across the pampas of
Sacramento, it receives the magnificent Ucayali, the great artery
which, fed by numerous affluents, descends from Lake Chucuito, in the
northeast of Arica.
Such are the principal branches above the village of Iquitos. Down
the stream the tributaries become so considerable that the beds of
most European rivers would fail to contain them. But the mouths of
these auxiliary waters Joam Garral and his people will pass as they
journey down the Amazon.
To the beauties of this unrivaled river, which waters the finest
country in the world, and keeps along its whole course at a few
degrees to the south of the equator, there is to be added another
quality, possessed by neither the Nile, the Mississippi, nor the
Livingstone--or, in other words, the old Congo-Zaira-Lualaba--and
that is (although some ill-informed travelers have stated to the
contrary) that the Amazon crosses a most healthy part of South
America. Its basin is constantly swept by westerly winds. It is not a
narrow valley surrounded by high mountains which border its banks,
but a huge plain, measuring three hundred and fifty leagues from
north ot south, scarcely varied with a few knolls, whose whole extent
the atmospheric currents can traverse unchecked.
Professor Agassiz very properly protested against the pretended
unhealthiness o the climate of a country which is destined to become
one of the most active of the world's producers. According to him, "a
soft and gentle breeze is constantly observable, and produces an
evaporation, thanks to which the temperature is kept down, and the
sun does not give out heat unchecked. The constancy of this
refreshing breeze renders the climate of the river Amazon agreeable,
and even delightful."
The Abbť Durand has likewise testified that if the temperature does
not drop below 25 degrees Centigrade, it never rises above 33
degrees, and this gives for the year a mean temperature of from 28
degrees to 29 degrees, with a range of only 8 degrees.
After such statements we are safe in affirming that the basin of the
Amazon has none of the burning heats of countries like Asia and
Africa, which are crossed by the same parallels.
The vast plain which serves for its valley is accessible over its
whole extent to the generous breezes which come from off the
And the provinces to which the river has given its name have
acknowledged right to call themselves the healthiest of a country
which is one of the finest on the earth.
And how can we say that the hydrographical system of the Amazon is
In the sixteenth century Orellana, the lieutenant of one of the
brothers Pizarro, descended the Rio Negro, arrived on the main river
in 1540, ventured without a guide across the unknown district, and,
after eighteen months of a navigation of which is record is most
marvelous, reached the mouth.
In 1636 and 1637 the Portuguese Pedro Texeira ascended the Amazon to
Napo, with a fleet of forty-seven pirogues.
In 1743 La Condamine, after having measured an arc of the meridian at
the equator, left his companions Bouguer and Godin des Odonais,
embarked on the Chinchipe, descended it to its junction with the
MaraŮon, reached the mouth at Napo on the 31st of July, just in time
to observe an emersion of the first satellite of Jupiter--which
allowed this Humboldt of the eighteenth century" to accurately
determine the latitude and longitude of the spot--visited the
villages on both banks, and on the 6th of September arrived in front
of the fort of Para. This immense journey had important results--not
only was the course of the Amazon made out in scientific fashion, but
it seemed almost certain that it communicated with the Orinoco.
Fifty-five years later Humboldt and Bonpland completed the valuable
work of La Condamine, and drew up the map of the ManaŮon as far as
Since this period the Amazon itself and all its principal tributaries
have been frequently visited.
In 1827 Lister-Maw, in 1834 and 1835 Smyth, in 1844 the French
lieutenant in command of the "Boulonnaise," the Brazilian Valdez in
1840, the French "Paul Marcoy" from 1848 to 1860, the whimsical
painter Biard in 1859, Professor Agassiz in 1865 and 1866, in 1967
the Brazilian engineer Franz Keller-Linzenger, and lastly, in 1879
Doctor Crevaux, have explored the course of the river, ascended many
of its tributaries, and ascertained the navigability of its principal
But what has won the greatest honor for the Brazilian government is
that on the 31st of July, 1857, after numerous frontier disputes
between France and Brazil, about the Guiana boundary, the course of
the Amazon was declared to be free and open to all flags; and, to
make practice harmonize with theory, Brazil entered into negotiations
with the neighboring powers for the exploration of every river-road
in the basin of the Amazon.
To-day lines of well-found steamboats, which correspond direct with
Liverpool, are plying on the river from its mouth up to Manaos;
others ascend to Iquitos; others by way of the Tapajoz, the Madeira,
the Rio Negro, or the Purus, make their way into the center of Peru
One can easily imagine the progress which commerce will one day make
in this immense and wealthy area, which is without a rival in the
But to this medal of the future there is a reverse. No progress can
be accomplished without detriment to the indigenous races.
In face, on the Upper Amazon many Indian tribes have already
disappeared, among others the Curicicurus and the Sorimaos. On the
Putumayo, if a few Yuris are still met with, the Yahuas have
abandoned the district to take refuge among some of the distant
tributaries, and the Maoos have quitted its banks to wander in their
diminished numbers among the forests of Japura.
The Tunantins is almost depopulated, and there are only a few
families of wandering Indians at the mouth of the Jurua. The Teffť is
almost deserted, and near the sources of the Japur there remained but
the fragments of the great nation of the UmaŁa. The Coari is
forsaken. There are but few Muras Indians on the banks of the Purus.
Of the ancient Manaos one can count but a wandering party or two. On
the banks of the Rio Negro there are only a few half-breeds,
Portuguese and natives, where a few years ago twenty-four different
nations had their homes.
Such is the law of progress. The Indians will disappear. Before the
Anglo-Saxon race Australians and Tasmanians have vanished. Before the
conquerors of the Far West the North American Indians have been wiped
out. One day perhaps the Arabs will be annihilated by the
colonization of the French.
But we must return to 1852. The means of communication, so numerous
now, did not then exist, and the journey of Joam Garral would require
not less than four months, owing to the conditions under which it was
Hence this observation of Benito, while the two friends were watching
the river as it gently flowed at their feet:
"Manoel, my friend, if there is very little interval between our
arrival at Belem and the moment of our separation, the time will
appear to you to be very short."
"Yes, Benito," said Manoel, "and very long as well, for Minha cannot
by my wife until the end of the voyage."
A FOREST ON THE GROUND
THE GARRAL family were in high glee. The magnificent journey on the
Amazon was to be undertaken under conditions as agreeable as
possible. Not only were the fazender and his family to start on a
voyage for several months, but, as we shall see, he was to be
accompanied by a part of the staff of the farm.
In beholding every one happy around him, Joam forgot the anxieties
which appeared to trouble his life. From the day his decision was
taken he had been another man, and when he busied himself about the
preparations for the expedition he regained his former activity. His
people rejoiced exceedingly at seeing him again at work. His moral
self reacted against his physical self, and Joam again became the
active, energetic man of his earlier years, and moved about once more
as though he had spent his life in the open air, under the
invigorating influences of forests, fields, and running waters.
Moreover, the few weeks that were to precede his departure had been
At this period, as we have just remarked, the course of the Amazon
was not yet furrowed by the numberless steam vessels, which companies
were only then thinking of putting into the river. The service was
worked by individuals on their own account alone, and often the boats
were only employed in the business of the riverside establishments.
These boats were either _"ubas,"_ canoes made from the trunk of a
tree, hollowed out by fire, and finished with the ax, pointed and
light in front, and heavy and broad in the stern, able to carry from
one to a dozen paddlers, and of three or four tons burden:
_"egariteas,"_ constructed on a larger scale, of broader design, and
leaving on each side a gangway for the rowers: or _"jangada,"_ rafts
of no particular shape, propelled by a triangular sail, and
surmounted by a cabin of mud and straw, which served the Indian and
his family for a floating home.
These three kinds of craft formed the lesser flotilla of the Amazon,
and were only suited for a moderate traffic of passengers or
Larger vessels, however, existed, either _"vigilingas,"_ ranging from
eight up to ten tons, with three masts rigged with red sails, and
which in calm weather were rowed by four long paddles not at all easy
to work against the stream; or _"cobertas,"_ of twenty tons burden, a
kind of junk with a poop behind and a cabin down below, with two
masts and square sails of unequal size, and propelled, when the wind
fell, by six long sweeps which Indians worked from a forecastle.
But neither of these vessels satisfied Joam Garral. From the moment
that he had resolved to descend the Amazon he had thought of making
the most of the voyage by carrying a huge convoy of goods into Para.
From this point of view there was no necessity to descend the river
in a hurry. And the determination to which he had come pleased every
one, excepting, perhaps, Manoel, who would for very good reasons have
preferred some rapid steamboat.
But though the means of transport devised by Joam were primitive in
the extreme, he was going to take with him a numerous following and
abandon himself to the stream under exceptional conditions of comfort
It would be, in truth, as if a part of the fazenda of Iquitos had
been cut away from the bank and carried down the Amazon with all that
composed the family of the fazender--masters and servants, in their
dwellings, their cottages, and their huts.
The settlement of Iquitos included a part of those magnificent
forests which, in the central districts of South America, are
Joam Garral thoroughly understood the management of these woods,
which were rich in the most precious and diverse species adapted for
joinery, cabinet work, ship building, and carpentry, and from them he
annually drew considerable profits.
The river was there in front of him, and could it not be as safely
and economically used as a railway if one existed? So every year Joam
Garral felled some hundreds of trees from his stock and formed
immense rafts of floating wood, of joists, beams, and slightly
squared trunks, which were taken to Para in charge of capable pilots
who were thoroughly acquainted with the depths of the river and the
direction of its currents.
This year Joam Garral decided to do as he had done in preceding
years. Only, when the raft was made up, he was going to leave to
Benito all the detail of the trading part of the business. But there
was no time to lose. The beginning of June was the best season to
start, for the waters, increased by the floods of the upper basin,
would gradually and gradually subside until the month of October.
The first steps had thus to be taken without delay, for the raft was
to be of unusual proportions. It would be necessary to fell a
half-mile square of the forest which was situated at the junction of
the Nanay and the Amazon--that is to say, the whole river side of the
fazenda, to form the enormous mass, for such were the _jangadas,_ or
river rafts, which attained the dimensions of a small island.
It was in this _jangada,_ safer than any other vessel of the country,
larger than a hundred _egariteas_ or _vigilingas_ coupled together,
that Joam Garral proposed to embark with his family, his servants,
and his merchandise.
"Excellent idea!" had cried Minha, clapping her hands, when she
learned her father's scheme.
"Yes," said Yaquita, "and in that way we shall reach Belem without
danger or fatigue."
"And during the stoppages we can have some hunting in the forests
which line the banks," added Benito.
"Won't it take rather long?" observed Manoel; "could we not hit upon
some quicker way of descending the Amazon?"
It would take some time, obviously, but the interested observation of
the young doctor received no attention from any one.
Joam Garral then called in an Indian who was the principal manager of
"In a month," he said to him, "the jangada must be built and ready to
"We'll set to work this very day, sir."
It was a heavy task. There were about a hundred Indians and blacks,
and during the first fortnight in May they did wonders. Some people
unaccustomed to these great tree massacres would perhaps have groaned
to see giants many hundred years old fall in a few hours beneath the
axes of the woodmen; but there was such a quantity on the banks of
the river, up stream and down stream, even to the most distant points
of the horizon, that the felling of this half-mile of forest would
scarcely leave an appreciable void.
The superintendent of the men, after receiving the instructions of
Joam Garral, had first cleared the ground of the creepers, brushwood,
weeds, and arborescent plants which obstructed it. Before taking to
the saw and the ax they had armed themselves with a felling-sword,
that indispensable tool of every one who desires to penetrate the
Amazonian forests, a large blade slightly curved, wide and flat, and
two or three feet long, and strongly handled, which the natives wield
with consummate address. In a few hours, with the help of the
felling-sword, they had cleared the ground, cut down the underwood,
and opened large gaps into the densest portions of the wood.
In this way the work progressed. The ground was cleared in front of
the woodmen. The old trunks were divested of their clothing of
creepers, cacti, ferns, mosses, and bromelias. They were stripped
naked to the bark, until such time as the bark itself was stripped
from off them.
Then the whole of the workers, before whom fled an innumerable crowd
of monkeys who were hardly their superiors in agility, slung
themselves into the upper branches, sawing off the heavier boughs and
cutting down the topmost limbs, which had to be cleared away on the
spot. Very soon there remained only a doomed forest, with long bare
stems, bereft of their crowns, through which the sun luxuriantly
rayed on to the humid soil which perhaps its shots had never before
There was not a single tree which could not be used for some work of
skill, either in carpentry or cabinet-work. There, shooting up like
columns of ivory ringed with brown, were wax-palms one hundred and
twenty feet high, and four feet thick at their base; white chestnuts,
which yield the three-cornered nuts; _"murichis,"_ unexcelled for
building purposes; _"barrigudos,"_ measuring a couple of yards at the
swelling, which is found at a few feet above the earth, trees with
shining russet bark dotted with gray tubercles, each pointed stem of
which supports a horizontal parasol; and _"bombax"_ of superb
stature, with its straight and smooth white stem. Among these
magnificent specimens of the Amazonian flora there fell many
_"quatibos"_ whose rosy canopies towered above the neighboring trees,
whose fruits are like little cups with rows of chestnuts ranged
within, and whose wood of clear violet is specially in demand for
ship-building. And besides there was the ironwood; and more
particularly the _"ibiriratea,"_ nearly black in its skin, and so
close grained that of it the Indians make their battle-axes;
_"jacarandas,"_ more precious than mahogany; _"cśsalpinas,"_ only now
found in the depths of the old forests which have escaped the
woodman's ax; _"sapucaias,"_ one hundred and fifty feet high,
buttressed by natural arches, which, starting from three yards from
their base, rejoin the tree some thirty feet up the stem, twining
themselves round the trunk like the filatures of a twisted column,
whose head expands in a bouquet of vegetable fireworks made up of the
yellow, purple, and snowy white of the parasitic plants.
Three weeks after the work was begun not one was standing of all the
trees which had covered the angle of the Amazon and the Nanay. The
clearance was complete. Joam Garral had not even had to bestir
himself in the demolition of a forest which it would take twenty or
thirty years to replace. Not a stick of young or old wood was left to
mark the boundary of a future clearing, not even an angle to mark the
limit of the denudation. It was indeed a clean sweep; the trees were
cut to the level of the earth, to wait the day when their roots would
be got out, over which the coming spring would still spread its
This square space, washed on its sides by the waters of the river and
its tributary, was destined to be cleared, plowed, planted, and sown,
and the following year fields of manioc, coffee-shrubs, sugar-canes,
arrowroot, maize, and peanuts would occupy the ground so recently
covered by the trees.
The last week of the month had not arrived when the trunks,
classified according to their varieties and specific gravity, were
symmetrically arranged on the bank of the Amazon, at the spot where
the immense jangada was to be guilt--which, with the different
habitations for the accommodation of the crew, would become a
veritable floating village--to wait the time when the waters of the
river, swollen by the floods, would raise it and carry it for
hundreds of leagues to the Atlantic coast.
The whole time the work was going on Joam Garral had been engaged in
superintending it. From the clearing to the bank of the fazenda he
had formed a large mound on which the portions of the raft were
disposed, and to this matter he had attended entirely himself.
Yaquita was occupied with Cybele with the preparations for the
departure, though the old negress could not be made to understand why
they wanted to go or what they hoped to see.
"But you will see things that you never saw before," Yaquita kept
saying to her.
"Will they be better than what I see now?" was Cybele's invariable
Minha and her favorite for their part took care of what more
particularly concerned them. They were not preparing for a simple
voyage; for them it was a permanent departure, and there were a
thousand details to look after for settling in the other country in
which the young mulatto was to live with the mistress to whom she was
so devotedly attached. Minha was a trifle sorrowful, but the joyous
Lina was quite unaffected at leaving Iquitos. Minha Valdez would be
the same to her as Minha Garral, and to check her spirits she would
have to be separated from her mistress, and that was never thought
Benito had actively assisted his father in the work, which was on the
point of completion. He commenced his apprenticeship to the trade of
a fazender, which would probably one day become his own, as he was
about to do that of a merchant on their descent of the river.
As for Manoel, he divided his time between the house, where Yaquita
and her daughter were as busy as possible, and the clearing, to which
Benito fetched him rather oftener than he thought convenient, and on
the whole the division was very unequal, as may well be imagined.
FOLLOWING A LIANA
IT WAS a Sunday, the 26th of May, and the young people had made up
their minds to take a holiday. The weather was splendid, the heat
being tempered by the refreshing breezes which blew from off the
Cordilleras, and everything invited them out for an excursion into
Benito and Manoel had offered to accompany Minha through the thick
woods which bordered the right bank of the Amazon opposite the
It was, in a manner, a farewell visit to the charming environs of
Iquitos. The young men went equipped for the chase, but as sportsmen
who had no intention of going far from their companions in pursuit of
any game. Manoel could be trusted for that, and the girls--for Lina
could not leave her mistress-went prepared for a walk, an excursion
of two or three leagues being not too long to frighten them.
Neither Joam Garral nor Yaquita had time to go with them. For one
reason the plan of the jangada was not yet complete, and it was
necessary that its construction should not be interrupted for a day,
and another was that Yaquita and Cybele, well seconded as they were
by the domestics of the fazenda, had not an hour to lose.
Minha had accepted the offer with much pleasure, and so, after
breakfast on the day we speak of, at about eleven o'clock, the two
young men and the two girls met on the bank at the angle where the
two streams joined. One of the blacks went with them. They all
embarked in one of the ubas used in the service of the farm, and
after having passed between the islands of Iquitos and Parianta, they
reached the right bank of the Amazon.
They landed at a clump of superb tree-ferns, which were crowned, at a
height of some thirty feet with a sort of halo made of the dainty
branches of green velvet and the delicate lacework of the drooping
"Well, Manoel," said Minha, "it is for me to do the honors of the
forest; you are only a stranger in these regions of the Upper Amazon.
We are at home here, and you must allow me to do my duty, as mistress
of the house."
"Dearest Minha," replied the young man, "you will be none the less
mistress of your house in our town of Belem than at the fazenda of
Iquitos, and there as here----"
"Now, then," interrupted Benito, "you did not come here to exchange
loving speeches, I imagine. Just forget for a few hours that you are
"Not for an hour--not for an instant!" said Manoel.
"Perhaps you will if Minha orders you?"
"Minha will not order me."
"Who knows?" said Lina, laughing.
"Lina is right," answered Minha, who held out her hand to Manoel.
"Try to forget! Forget! my brother requires it. All is broken off! As
long as this walk lasts we are not engaged: I am no more than the
sister of Benito! You are only my friend!"
"To be sure," said Benito.
"Bravo! bravo! there are only strangers here," said the young
mulatto, clapping her hands.
"Strangers who see each other for the first time," added the girl;
"who meet, bow to----"
"Mademoiselle!" said Manoel, turning to Minha.
"To whom have I the honor to speak, sir?" said she in the most
serious manner possible.
"To Manoel Valdez, who will be glad if your brother will introduce
"Oh, away with your nonsense!" cried Benito. "Stupid idea that I had!
Be engaged, my friends--be it as much as you like! Be it always!"
"Always!" said Minha, from whom the word escaped so naturally that
Lina's peals of laughter redoubled.
A grateful glance from Manoel repaid Minha for the imprudence of her
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