Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon
Part 4 out of 6
"And what should prevent you marrying?" replied Padre Passanha; "at
Belem you could find a wife whose age would suit yours, and it would
be possible perhaps for you to settle in that town. That would be
better than this wandering life, of which, up to the present, you
have not made so very much."
"You are right, padre," answered Torres; "I do not say no. Besides
the example is contagious. Seeing all these young couples gives me
rather a longing for marriage. But I am quite a stranger in Belem,
and, for certain reasons, that would make my settlement more
"Where do you come from, then?" asked Fragoso, who always had the
idea that he had already met Torres somewhere.
"From the province of Minas Geraes."
"And you were born----"
"In the capital of the diamond district, Tijuco."
Those who had seen Joam Garral at this moment would have been
surprised at the fixity of his look which met that of Torres.
BUT THE CONVERSATION was continued by Fragoso, who immediately
"What! you come from Tijuco, from the very capital of the diamond
"Yes," said Torres. "Do you hail from that province?"
"No! I come from the Atlantic seaboard in the north of Brazil,"
"You do not know this diamond country, Mr. Manoel?" asked Torres.
A negative shake of the head from the young man was the only reply.
"And you, Mr. Benito," continued Torres, addressing the younger
Garral, whom he evidently wished to join in the conversation; "you
have never had curiosity enough to visit the diamond arraval?"
"Never," dryly replied Benito.
"Ah! I should like to see that country," said Fragoso, who
unconsciously played Torres' game. "It seems to me I should finish by
picking up a diamond worth something considerable."
"And what would you do with this diamond worth something
considerable, Fragoso?" queried Lina.
"Then you would get rich all of a sudden!"
"Well, if you had been rich three months ago you would never have had
the idea of--that liana!"
"And if I had not had that," exclaimed Fragoso, "I should not have
found a charming little wife who--well, assuredly, all is for the
"You see, Fragoso," said Minha, "when you marry Lina, diamond takes
the place of diamond, and you do not lose by the change!"
"To be sure, Miss Minha," gallantly replied Fragoso; "rather I gain!"
There could be no doubt that Torres did not want the subject to drop,
for he went on with:
"It is a fact that at Tijuco sudden fortunes are realized enough to
turn any man's head! Have you heard tell of the famous diamond of
Abaete, which was valued at more than two million contos of reis?
Well, this stone, which weighed an ounce, came from the Brazilian
mines! And they were three convicts--yes! three men sentenced to
transportation for life--who found it by chance in the River Abaete,
at ninety leagues from Terro de Frio."
"At a stroke their fortune was made?" asked Fragoso.
"No," replied Torres; "the diamond was handed over to the
governor-general of the mines. The value of the stone was recognized,
and King John VI., of Portugal, had it cut, and wore it on his neck
on great occasions. As for the convicts, they got their pardon, but
that was all, and the cleverest could not get much of an income out
"You, doubtless?" said Benito very dryly.
"Yes--I? Why not?" answered Torres. "Have you ever been to the
diamond district?" added he, this time addressing Joam Garral.
"Never!" said Joam, looking straight at him.
"That is a pity!" replied he. "You should go there one day. It is a
very curious place, I assure you. The diamond valley is an isolated
spot in the vast empire of Brazil, something like a park of a dozen
leagues in circumference, which in the nature of its soil, its
vegetation, and its sandy rocks surrounded by a circle of high
mountains, differs considerably from the neighboring provinces. But,
as I have told you, it is one of the richest places in the world, for
from 1807 to 1817 the annual return was about eighteen thousand
carats. Ah! there have been some rare finds there, not only for the
climbers who seek the precious stone up to the very tops of the
mountains, but also for the smugglers who fraudulently export it. But
the work in the mines is not so pleasant, and the two thousand
negroes employed in that work by the government are obliged even to
divert the watercourses to get at the diamantiferous sand. Formerly
it was easier work."
"In short," said Fragoso, "the good time has gone!"
"But what is still easy is to get the diamonds in
scoundrel-fashion--that is, by theft; and--stop! in 1826, when I was
about eight years old, a terrible drama happened at Tijuco, which
showed that criminal would recoil from nothing if they could gain a
fortune by one bold stroke. But perhaps you are not interested?"
"On the contrary, Torres; go on," replied Joam Garral, in a
singularly calm voice.
"So be it," answered Torres. "Well, the story is about stealing
diamonds, and a handful of those pretty stones is worth a million,
And Torres, whose face expressed the vilest sentiments of cupidity,
almost unconsciously made a gesture of opening and shutting his hand.
"This is what happened," he continued. "At Tijuco it is customary to
send off in one delivery the diamonds collected during the year. They
are divided into two lots, according to their size, after being
sorted in a dozen sieves with holes of different dimensions. These
lots are put into sacks and forwarded to Rio de Janeiro; but as they
are worth many millions you may imagine they are heavily escorted. A
workman chosen by the superintendent, four cavalrymen from the
district regiment, and ten men on foot, complete the convoy. They
first make for Villa Rica, where the commandant puts his seal on the
sacks, and then the convoy continues its journey to Rio de Janeiro. I
should add that, for the sake of precaution, the start is always kept
secret. Well, in 1826, a young fellow named Dacosta, who was about
twenty-two or twenty-three years of age, and who for some years had
been employed at Tijuco in the offices of the governor-general,
devised the following scheme. He leagued himself with a band of
smugglers, and informed them of the date of the departure of the
convoy. The scoundrels took their measures accordingly. They were
numerous and well armed. Close to Villa Rica, during the night of the
22d of January, the gang suddenly attacked the diamond escort, who
defended themselves bravely, but were all massacred, with the
exception of one man, who, seriously wounded, managed to escape and
bring the news of the horrible deed. The workman was not spared any
more than the soldiers. He fell beneath he blows of the thieves, and
was doubtless dragged away and thrown over some precipice, for his
body was never found."
"And this Dacosta?" asked Joam Garral.
"Well, his crime did not do him much good, for suspicion soon pointed
toward him. He was accused of having got up the affair. In vain he
protested that he was innocent. Thanks to the situation he held, he
was in a position to know the date on which the convoy's departure
was to take place. He alone could have informed the smugglers. He was
charged, arrested, tried, and sentenced to death. Such a sentence
required his execution in twenty-four hourse."
"Was the fellow executed?" asked Fragoso.
"No," replied Torres; "they shut him up in the prison at Villa Rica,
and during the night, a few hours only before his execution, whether
alone or helped by others, he managed to escape."
"Has this young man been heard of since?" asked Joam Garral.
"Never," replied Torres. "He probably left Brazil, and now, in some
distant land, lives a cheerful life with the proceeds of the robbery
which he is sure to have realized."
"Perhaps, on the other hand, he died miserably!" answered Joam
"And, perhaps," added Padre Passanha, "Heaven caused him to feel
remorse for his crime."
Here they all rose from the table, and, having finished their dinner,
went out to breathe the evening air. The sun was low on the horizon,
but an hour had still to elapse before nightfall.
"These stories are not very lively," said Fragoso, "and our betrothal
dinner was best at the beginning."
"But it was your fault, Fragoso," answered Lina.
"How my fault?"
"It was you who went on talking about the district and the diamonds,
when you should not have done so."
"Well, that's true," replied Fragoso; "but I had no idea we were
going to wind up in that fashion."
"You are the first to blame!"
"And the first to be punished, Miss Lina; for I did not hear you
laugh all through the dessert."
The whole family strolled toward the bow of the jangada. Manoel and
Benito walked one behind the other without speaking. Yaquita and her
daughter silently followed, and all felt an unaccountable impression
of sadness, as if they had a presentiment of some coming calamity.
Torres stepped up to Joam Garral, who, with bowed head, seemed to be
lost in thought, and putting his hand on his shoulder, said, "Joam
Garral, may I have a few minutes' conversation with you?"
Joam looked at Torres.
"Here?" he asked.
"No; in private."
They went toward the house, entered it, and the door was shut on
It would be difficult to depict what every one felt when Joam Garral
and Torres disappeared. What could there be in common between the
adventurer and the honest fazender of Iquitos? The menace of some
frightful misfortune seemed to hang over the whole family, and they
scarcely dared speak to each other.
"Manoel!" said Benito, seizing his friend's arm, "whatever happens,
this man must leave us tomorrow at Manaos."
"Yes!" it is imperative!" answered Manoel.
"And if through him some misfortune happens to my father--I shall
BETWEEN THE TWO MEN
FOR A MOMENT, alone in the room, where none could see or hear them,
Joam Garral and Torres looked at each other without uttering a word.
Did the adventurer hesitate to speak? Did he suspect that Joam Garral
would only reply to his demands by a scornful silence?
Yes! Probably so. So Torres did not question him. At the outset of
the conversation he took the affirmative, and assumed the part of an
"Joam," he said, "your name is not Garral. Your name is Dacosta!"
At the guilty name which Torres thus gave him, Joam Garral could not
repress a slight shudder.
"You are Joam Dacosta," continued Torres, "who, twenty-five years
ago, were a clerk in the governor-general's office at Tijuco, and you
are the man who was sentenced to death in this affair of the robbery
No response from Joam Garral, whose strange tranquillity surprised
the adventurer. Had he made a mistake in accusing his host? No! For
Joam Garral made no start at the terrible accusations. Doubtless he
wanted to know to what Torres was coming.
"Joam Dacosta, I repeat! It was you whom they sought for this diamond
affair, whom they convicted of crime and sentenced to death, and it
was you who escaped from the prison at Villa Rica a few hours before
you should have been executed! Do you not answer?"
Rather a long silence followed this direct question which Torres
asked. Joam Garral, still calm, took a seat. His elbow rested on a
small table, and he looked fixedly at his accuser without bending his
"Will you reply?" repeated Torres.
"What reply do you want from me?" said Joam quietly.
"A reply," slowly answered Torres, "that will keep me from finding
out the chief of the police at Manaos, and saying to him, 'A man is
there whose identity can easily be established, who can be recognized
even after twenty-five years' absence, and this man was the
instigator of the diamond robbery at Tijuco. He was the accomplice of
the murderers of the soldiers of the escort; he is the man who
escaped from execution; he is Joam Garral, whose true name is Joam
"And so, Torres," said Joam Garral, "I shall have nothing to fear
from you if I give the answer you require?"
"Nothing, for neither you nor I will have any interest in talking
about the matter."
"Neither you nor I?" asked Joam Garral. "It is not with money, then,
that your silence is to be bought?"
"No! No matter how much you offered me!"
"What do you want, then?"
"Joam Garral," replied Torres, "here is my proposal. Do not be in a
hurry to reply by a formal refusal. Remember that you are in my
"What is this proposal?" asked Joam.
Torres hesitated for a moment.
The attitude of this guilty man, whose life he held in his hands, was
enough to astonish him. He had expected a stormy discussion and
prayers and tears. He had before him a man convicted of the most
heinous of crimes, and the man never flinched.
At length, crossing his arms, he said:
"You have a daughter!--I like her--and I want to marry her!"
Apparently Joam Garral expected anything from such a man, and was as
quiet as before.
"And so," he said, "the worthy Torres is anxious to enter the family
of a murderer and a thief?"
"I am the sole judge of what it suits me to do," said Torres. "I wish
to be the son-in-law of Joam Garral, and I will."
"You ignore, then, that my daughter is going to marry Manoel Valdez?"
"You will break it off with Manoel Valdez!"
"And if my daughter declines?"
"If you tell her all, I have no doubt she would consent," was the
"All, if necessary. Between her own feelings and the honor of her
family and the life of her father she would not hesitate."
"You are a consummate scoundrel, Torres," quietly said Joam, whose
coolness never forsook him.
"A scoundrel and a murderer were made to understand each other."
At these words Joam Garral rose, advanced to the adventurer, and
looking him straight in the face, "Torres," he said, "if you wish to
become one of the family of Joam Dacosta, you ought to know that Joam
Dacosta was innocent of the crime for which he was condemned."
"And I add," replied Joam, "that you hold the proof of his innocence,
and are keeping it back to proclaim it on the day when you marry his
"Fair play, Joam Garral," answered Torres, lowering his voice, "and
when you have heard me out, you will see if you dare refuse me your
"I am listening, Torres."
"Well," said the adventurer, half keeping back his words, as if he
was sorry to let them escape from his lips, "I know you are innocent!
I know it, for I know the true culprit, and I am in a position to
prove your innocence."
"And the unhappy man who committed the crime?"
"Dead!" exclaimed Joam Garral; and the word made him turn pale, in
spite of himself, as if it had deprived him of all power of
"Dead," repeated Torres; "but this man, whom I knew a long time after
his crime, and without knowing that he was a convict, had written out
at length, in his own hand, the story of this affair of the diamonds,
even to the smallest details. Feeling his end approaching, he was
seized with remorse. He knew where Joam Dacosta had taken refuge, and
under what name the innocent man had again begun a new life. He knew
that he was rich, in the bosom of a happy family, but he knew also
that there was no happiness for him. And this happiness he desired to
add to the reputation to which he was entitled. But death came--he
intrusted to me, his companion, to do what he could no longer do. He
gave me the proofs of Dacosta's innocence for me to transmit them to
him, and he died."
"The man's name?" exclaimed Joam Garral, in a tone he could not
"You will know it when I am one of your family."
"And the writing?"
Joam Garral was ready to throw himself on Torres, to search him, to
snatch from him the proofs of his innocence.
"The writing is in a safe place," replied Torres, "and you will not
have it until your daughter has become my wife. Now will you still
"Yes," replied Joam, "but in return for that paper the half of my
fortune is yours."
"The half of your fortune?" exclaimed Torres; "agreed, on condition
that Minha brings it to me at her marriage."
"And it is thus that you respect the wishes of a dying man, of a
criminal tortured by remorse, and who has charge you to repair as
much as he could the evil which he had done?"
"It is thus."
"Once more, Torres," said Joam Garral, "you are a consummate
"Be it so."
"And as I am not a criminal we were not made to understand one
"And your refuse?"
"It will be your ruin, then, Joam Garral. Everything accuses you in
the proceedings that have already taken place. You are condemned to
death, and you know, in sentences for crimes of that nature, the
government is forbidden the right of commuting the penalty.
Denounced, you are taken; taken, you are executed. And I will
Master as he was of himself, Joam could stand it no longler. He was
about to rush on Torres.
A gesture from the rascal cooled his anger.
"Take care," said Torres, "your wife knows not that she is the wife
of Joam Dacosta, your children do not know they are the children of
Joam Dacosta, and you are not going to give them the information."
Joam Garral stopped himself. He regained his usual command over
himself, and his features recovered their habitual calm.
"This discussion has lasted long enough," said he, moving toward the
door, "and I know what there is left for me to do."
"Take care, Joam Garral!" said Torres, for the last time, for he
could scarcely believe that his ignoble attempt at extortion had
Joam Garral made him no answer. He threw back the door which opened
under the veranda, made a sign to Torres to follow him, and they
advanced toward the center of the jangada, where the family were
Benito, Manoel, and all of them, under a feeling of deep anxiety, had
risen. They could see that the bearing of Torres was still menacing,
and that the fire of anger still shone in his eyes.
In extraordinary contrast, Joam Garral was master of himself, and
Both of them stopped before Yaquita and her people. Not one dared to
say a word to them.
It was Torres who, in a hollow voice, and with his customary
impudence, broke the painful silence.
"For the last time, Joam Garral," he said, "I ask you for a last
"And here is my reply."
And addressing his wife:
"Yaquita," he said, "peculiar circumstances oblige me to alter what
we have formerly decided as to the marriage of Minha and Manoel."
"At last!" exclaimed Torres.
Joam Garral, without answering him, shot at the adventurer a glance
of the deepest scorn.
But at the words Manoel had felt his heart beat as if it would break.
The girl arose, ashy pale, as if she would seek shelter by the side
of her mother. Yaquita opened her arms to protect, to defend her.
"Father," said Benito, who had placed himself between Joam Garral and
Torres, "what were you going to say?"
"I was going to say," answered Joam Garral, raising his voice, "that
to wait for our arrival in Para for the wedding of Minha and Manoel
is to wait too long. The marriage will take place here, not later
than to-morrow, on the jangada, with the aid of Padre Passanha, if,
after a conversation I am about to have with Manoel, he agrees with
me to defer it no longer."
"Ah, father, father!" exclaimed the young man.
"Wait a little before you call me so, Manoel," replied Joam, in a
tone of unspeakable suffering.
Here Torres, with crossed arms, gave the whole family a look of
"So that is you last word?" said he, extending his hand toward Joam
"No, that is not my last word."
"What is it, then?"
"This, Torres. I am master here. You will be off, if you please, and
even if you do not please, and leave the jangada at this very
"Yes, this instant!" exclaimed Benito, "or I will throw you
Torres shrugged his shoulders.
"No threats," he said; "they are of no use. It suits me also to land,
and without delay. But you will remember me, Joam Garral. We shall
not be long before we meet."
"If it only depends on me," answered Joam Garral, "we shall soon
meet, and rather sooner, perhaps, than you will like. To-morrow I
shall be with Judge Ribeiro, the first magistrate of the province,
whom I have advised of my arrival at Manaos. If you dare, meet me
"At Judge Ribeiro's?" said Torres, evidently disconcerted.
"At Judge Ribeiro's," answered Joam Garral.
And then, showing the pirogue to Torres, with a gesture of supreme
contempt Joam Garral ordered four of his people to land him without
delay on the nearest point of the island.
The scoundrel at last disappeared.
The family, who were still appalled, respected the silence of its
chief; but Fragoso, comprehending scarce half the gravity of the
situation, and carried away by his customary vivacity, came up to
"If the wedding of Miss Minha and Mr. Manoel is to take place
to-morrow on the raft----"
"Yours shall take place at the same time," kindly answered Joam
And making a sign to Manoel, he retired to his room with him.
The interview between Joam and Manoel had lasted for half an hour,
and it seemed a century to the family, when the door of the room was
Manoel came out alone; his face glowed with generous resolution.
Going up to Yaquita, he said, "My mother!" to Minha he said, "My
wife!" and to Benito he said, "My brother!" and, turning toward Lina
and Fragoso, he said to all, "To-morrow!"
He knew all that had passed between Joam Garral and Torres. He knew
that, counting on the protection of Judge Ribeiro, by means of a
correspondence which he had had with him for a year past without
speaking of it to his people, Joam Garral had at last succeeded in
clearing himself and convincing him of his innocence. He knew that
Joam Garral had boldly undertaken the voyage with the sole object of
canceling the hateful proceedings of which he had been the victim, so
as not to leave on his daughter and son-in-law the weight of the
terrible situation which he had had to endure so long himself.
Yes, Manoel knew all this, and, further, he knew that Joam Garral--or
rather Joam Dacosta--was innocent, and his misfortunes made him even
dearer and more devoted to him. What he did not know was that the
material proof of the innocence of the fazender existed, and that
this proof was in the hands of Torres. Joam Garral wished to reserve
for the judge himself the use of this proof, which, if the adventurer
had spoken truly, would demonstrate his innocence.
Manoel confined himself, then, to announcing that he was going to
Padre Passanha to ask him to get things ready for the two weddings.
Next day, the 24th of August, scarcely an hour before the ceremony
was to take place, a large pirogue came off from the left bank of the
river and hailed the jangada. A dozen paddlers had swiftly brought it
from Manaos, and with a few men it carried the chief of the police,
who made himself known and came on board.
At the moment Joam Garral and his family, attired for the ceremony,
were coming out of the house.
"Joam Garral?" asked the chief of the police.
"I am here," replied Joam.
"Joam Garral," continued the chief of the police, "you have also been
Joam Dacosta; both names have been borne by the same man--I arrest
At these words Yaquita and Minha, struck with stupor, stopped without
any power to move.
"My father a murderer?" exclaimed Benito, rushing toward Joam Garral.
By a gesture his father silenced him.
"I will only ask you one question," said Joam with firm voice,
addressing the chief of police. "Has the warrant in virtue of which
you arrest me been issued against me by the justice at Manaos--by
"No," answered the chief of the police, "it was given to me, with an
order for its immediate execution, by his substitute. Judge Ribeiro
was struck with apoplexy yesterday evening, and died during the night
at two o'clock, without having recovered his consciousness."
"Dead!" exclaimed Joam Garral, crushed for a moment by the
But soon raising his head, he said to his wife and children, "Judge
Ribeiro alone knew that I was innocent, my dear ones. The death of
the judge may be fatal to me, but that is no reason for me to
And, turning toward Manoel, "Heaven help us!" he said to him; "we
shall see if truth will come down to the earth from Above."
The chief of the police made a sign to his men, who advanced to
secure Joam Garral.
"But speak, father!" shouted Benito, mad with despair; "say one word,
and we shall contest even by force this horrible mistake of which you
are the victim!"
"There is no mistake here, my son," replied Joam Garral; "Joam
Dacosta and Joam Garral are one. I am in truth Joam Dacosta! I am the
honest man whom a legal error unjustly doomed to death twenty-five
years ago in the place of the true culprit! That I am quite innocent
I swear before Heaven, once for all, on your heads, my children, and
on the head of your mother!"
"All communication between you and yours is now forbidden," said the
chief of the police. "You are my prisoner, Joam Garral, and I will
rigorously execute my warrant."
Joam restrained by a gesture his dismayed children and servants.
"Let the justice of man be done while we wait for the justice of
And with his head unbent, he stepped into the pirogue.
It seemed, indeed, as though of all present Joam Garral was the only
one whom this fearful thunderbolt, which had fallen so unexpectedly
on his head, had failed to overwhelm.
THE TOWN of Manaos is in 3° 8' 4" south latitude, and 67° 27' west
longitude, reckoning from the Paris meridian. It is some four hundred
and twenty leagues from Belem, and about ten miles from the
_embouchure_ of the Rio Negro.
Manaos is not built on the Amazon. It is on the left bank of the Rio
Negro, the most important and remarkable of all the tributaries of
the great artery of Brazil, that the capital of the province, with
its picturesque group of private houses and public buildings, towers
above the surrounding plain.
The Rio Negro, which was discovered by the Spaniard Favella in 1645,
rises in the very heart of the province of Popayan, on the flanks of
the mountains which separate Brazil from New Grenada, and it
communicates with the Orinoco by two of its affluents, the Pimichin
and the Cassiquary.
After a noble course of some seventeen hundred miles it mingles its
cloudy waters with those of the Amazon through a mouth eleven hundred
feet wide, but such is its vigorous influx that many a mile has to be
completed before those waters lose their distinctive character.
Hereabouts the ends of both its banks trend off and form a huge bay
fifteen leagues across, extending to the islands of Anavilhanas; and
in one of its indentations the port of Manaos is situated. Vessels of
all kinds are there collected in great numbers, some moored in the
stream awaiting a favorable wind, others under repair up the numerous
_iguarapes,_ or canals, which so capriciously intersect the town, and
give it its slightly Dutch appearance.
With the introduction of steam vessels, which is now rapidly taking
place, the trade of Manaos is destined to increase enormously. Woods
used in building and furniture work, cocoa, caoutchouc, coffee,
sarsaparilla, sugar-canes, indigo, muscado nuts, salt fish, turtle
butter, and other commodities, are brought here from all parts, down
the innumerable streams into the Rio Negro from the west and north,
into the Madeira from the west and south, and then into the Amazon,
and by it away eastward to the coast of the Atlantic.
Manaos was formerly called Moura, or Barra de Rio Negro. From 1757 to
1804 it was only part of the captaincy which bears the name of the
great river at whose mouth it is placed; but since 1826 it has been
the capital of the large province of Amazones, borrowing its latest
name from an Indian tribe which formerly existed in these parts of
Careless travelers have frequently confounded it with the famous
Manoa, a city of romance, built, it was reported, near the legendary
lake of Parima--which would seem to be merely the Upper Branco, a
tributary of the Rio Negro. Here was the Empire of El Dorado, whose
monarch, if we are to believe the fables of the district, was every
morning covered with powder of gold, there being so much of the
precious metal abounding in this privileged locality that it was
swept up with the very dust of the streets. This assertion, however,
when put to the test, was disproved, and with extreme regret, for the
auriferous deposits which had deceived the greedy scrutiny of the
gold-seekers turned out to be only worthless flakes of mica!
In short, Manaos has none of the fabulous splendors of the mythical
capital of El Dorado. It is an ordinary town of about five thousand
inhabitants, and of these at least three thousand are in government
employ. This fact is to be attributed to the number of its public
buildings, which consist of the legislative chamber, the government
house, the treasury, the post-office, and the custom-house, and, in
addition, a college founded in 1848, and a hospital erected in 1851.
When with these is also mentioned a cemetery on the south side of a
hill, on which, in 1669, a fortress, which has since been demolished,
was thrown up against the pirates of the Amazon, some idea can be
gained as to the importance of the official establishments of the
city. Of religious buildings it would be difficult to find more than
two, the small Church of the Conception and the Chapel of Notre Dame
des Remedes, built on a knoll which overlooks the town. These are
very few for a town of Spanish origin, though to them should perhaps
be added the Carmelite Convent, burned down in 1850, of which only
the ruins remain. The population of Manaos does not exceed the number
above given, and after reckoning the public officials and soldiers,
is principally made of up Portuguese and Indian merchants belonging
to the different tribes of the Rio Negro.
Three principal thoroughfares of considerable irregularity run
through the town, and they bear names highly characteristic of the
tone of thought prevalent in these parts--God-the-Father Street,
God-the-Son Street, and God-the-Holy Ghost Street!
In the west of the town is a magnificent avenue of centenarian orange
trees which were carefully respected by the architects who out of the
old city made the new. Round these principal thoroughfares is
interwoven a perfect network of unpaved alleys, intersected every now
and then by four canals, which are occasionally crossed by wooden
bridges. In a few places these iguarapes flow with their brownish
waters through large vacant spaces covered with straggling weeds and
flowers of startling hues, and here and there are natural squares
shaded by magnificent trees, with an occasional white-barked
sumaumeira shooting up, and spreading out its large dome-like parasol
above its gnarled branches.
The private houses have to be sought for among some hundreds of
dwellings, of very rudimentary type, some roofed with tiles, others
with interlaced branches of the palm-tree, and with prominent
miradors, and projecting shops for the most part tenanted by
And what manner of people are they who stroll on to the fashionable
promenade from the public buildings and private residences? Men of
good appearance, with black cloth coats, chimney-pot hats,
patent-leather boots, highly-colored gloves, and diamond pins in
their necktie bows; and women in loud, imposing toilets, with
flounced dressed and headgear of the latest style; and Indians, also
on the road to Europeanization in a way which bids fair to destroy
every bit of local color in this central portion of the district of
Such is Manaos, which, for the benefit of the reader, it was
necessary to sketch. Here the voyage of the giant raft, so tragically
interrupted, had just come to a pause in the midst of its long
journey, and here will be unfolded the further vicissitudes of the
mysterious history of the fazender of Iquitos.
THE FIRST MOMENTS
SCARCELY HAD the pirogue which bore off Joam Garral, or rather Joam
Dacosta--for it is more convenient that he should resume his real
name-disappeared, than Benito stepped up to Manoel.
"What is it you know?" he asked.
"I know that your father is innocent! Yes, innocent!" replied Manoel,
"and that he was sentenced to death twenty-three years ago for a
crime which he never committed!"
"He has told you all about it, Manoel?"
"All about it," replied the young man. "The noble fazender did not
wish that any part of his past life should be hidden from him who,
when he marries his daughter, is to be his second son."
"And the proof of his innocence my father can one day produce?"
"That proof, Benito, lies wholly in the twenty-three years of an
honorable and honored life, lies entirely in the bearing of Joam
Dacosta, who comes forward to say to justice, 'Here am I! I do not
care for this false existence any more. I do not care to hide under a
name which is not my true one! You have condemned an innocent man!
Confess your errors and set matters right."
"And when my father spoke like that, you did not hesitate for a
moment to believe him?"
"Not for an instant," replied Manoel.
The hands of the two young fellows closed in a long and cordial
Then Benito went up to Padre Passanha.
"Padre," he said, "take my mother and sister away to their rooms. Do
not leave them all day. No one here doubts my father's innocence--not
one, you know that! To-morrow my mother and I will seek out the chief
of the police. They will not refuse us permission to visit the
prison. No! that would be too cruel. We will see my father again, and
decide what steps shall be taken to procure his vindication."
Yaquita was almost helpless, but the brave woman, though nearly
crushed by this sudden blow, arose. With Yaquita Dacosta it was as
with Yaquita Garral. She had not a doubt as to the innocence of her
husband. The idea even never occurred to her that Joam Dacosta had
been to blame in marrying her under a name which was not his own. She
only thought of the life of happiness she had led with the noble man
who had been injured so unjustly. Yes! On the morrow she would go to
the gate of the prison, and never leave it until it was opened!
Padre Passanha took her and her daughter, who could not restrain her
tears, and the tree entered the house.
The two young fellows found themselves alone.
"And now," said Benito, "I ought to know all that my father has told
"I have nothing to hide from you."
"Why did Torres come on board the jangada?"
"To see to Joam Dacosta the secret of his past life."
"And so, when we first met Torres in the forest of Iquitos, his plan
had already been formed to enter into communication with my father?"
"There cannot be a doubt of it," replied Manoel. "The scoundrel was
on his way to the fazenda with the idea of consummating a vile scheme
of extortion which he had been preparing for a long time."
"And when he learned from us that my father and his whole family were
about to pass the frontier, he suddenly changed his line of conduct?"
"Yes. Because Joam Dacosta once in Brazilian territory became more at
his mercy than while within the frontiers of Peru. That is why we
found Torres at Tabatinga, where he was waiting in expectation of our
"And it was I who offered him a passage on the raft!" exclaimed
Benito, with a gesture of despair.
"Brother," said Manoel, "you need not reproach yourself. Torres would
have joined us sooner or later. He was not the man to abandon such a
trail. Had we lost him at Tabatinga, we should have found him at
"Yes, Manoel, you are right. But we are not concerned with the past
now. We must think of the present. An end to useless recriminations!
Let us see!" And while speaking, Benito, passing his hand across his
forehead, endeavored to grasp the details of the strange affair.
"How," he asked, "did Torres ascertain that my father had been
sentenced twenty-three years back for this abominable crime at
"I do not know," answered Manoel, "and everything leads me to think
that your father did not know that."
"But Torres knew that Garral was the name under which Joam Dacosta
"And he knew that it was in Peru, at Iquitos, that for so many years
my father had taken refuge?"
"He knew it," said Manoel, "but how he came to know it I do not
"One more question," continued Benito. "What was the proposition that
Torres made to my father during the short interview which preceded
"He threatened to denounce Joam Garral as being Joam Dacosta, if he
declined to purchase his silence."
"And at what price?"
"At the price of his daughter's hand!" answered Manoel
unhesitatingly, but pale with anger.
"The scoundrel dared to do that!" exclaimed Benito.
"To this infamous request, Benito, you saw the reply that your father
"Yes, Manoel, yes! The indignant reply of an honest man. He kicked
Torres off the raft. But it is not enough to have kicked him out. No!
That will not do for me. It was on Torres' information that they came
here and arrested my father; is not that so?"
"Yes, on his denunciation."
"Very well," continued Benito, shaking his fist toward the left bank
of the river, "I must find out Torres. I must know how he became
master of the secret. He must tell me if he knows the real author of
this crime. He shall speak out. And if he does not speak out, I know
what I shall have to do."
"What you will have to do is for me to do as well!" added Manoel,
more coolly, but not less reolutely.
"No! Manoel, no, to me alone!"
"We are brothers, Benito," replied Manoel. "The right of demanding an
explanation belongs to us both."
Benito made no reply. Evidently on that subject his decision was
At this moment the pilot Araujo, who had been observing the state of
the river, came up to them.
"Have you decided," he asked, "if the raft is to remain at her
moorings at the Isle of Muras, or to go on to the port of Manaos?"
The question had to be decided before nightfall, and the sooner it
was settled the better.
In fact, the news of the arrest of Joam Dacosta ought already to have
spread through the town. That it was of a nature to excite the
interest of the population of Manaos could scarcely be doubted. But
would it provoke more than curiosity against the condemned man, who
was the principal author of the crime of Tijuco, which had formerly
created such a sensation? Ought they not to fear that some popular
movement might be directed against the prisoner? In the face of this
hypothesis was it not better to leave the jangada moored near the
Isle of Muras on the right bank of the river at a few miles from
The pros and cons of the question were well weighed.
"No!" at length exclaimed Benito; "to remain here would look as
though we were abandoning my father and doubting his innocence--as
though we were afraid to make common cause with him. We must go to
Manaos, and without delay."
"You are right," replied Manoel. "Let us go."
Araujo, with an approving nod, began his preparations for leaving the
island. The maneuver necessitated a good deal of care. They had to
work the raft slantingly across the current of the Amazon, here
doubled in force by that of the Rio Negro, and to make for the
_embouchure_ of the tributary about a dozen miles down on the left
The ropes were cast off from the island. The jangada, again started
on the river, began to drift off diagonally. Araujo, cleverly
profiting by the bendings of the current, which were due to the
projections of the banks, and assisted by the long poles of his crew,
succeeded in working the immense raft in the desired direction.
In two hours the jangada was on the other side of the Amazon, a
little above the mouth of the Rio Negro, and fairly in the current
which was to take it to the lower bank of the vast bay which opened
on the left side of the stream.
At five o'clock in the evening it was strongly moored alongside this
bank, not in the port of Manaos itself, which it could not enter
without stemming a rather powerful current, but a short mile below
The raft was then in the black waters of the Rio Negro, near rather a
high bluff covered with cecropias with buds of reddish-brown, and
palisaded with stiff-stalked reeds called _"froxas,"_ of which the
Indians make some of their weapons.
A few citizens were strolling about the bank. A feeling of curiosity
had doubtless attracted them to the anchorage of the raft. The news
of the arrest of Joam Dacosta had soon spread about, but the
curiosity of the Manaens did not outrun their discretion, and they
were very quiet.
Benito's intention had been to land that evening, but Manoel
"Wait till to-morrow," he said; "night is approaching, and there is
no necessity for us to leave the raft."
"So be it! To-morrow!" answered Benito.
And here Yaquita, followed by her daughter and Padre Passanha, came
out of the house. Minha was still weeping, but her mother's face was
tearless, and she had that look of calm resolution which showed that
the wife was now ready for all things, either to do her duty or to
insist on her rights.
Yaquita slowly advanced toward Manoel.
"Manoel," she said, "listen to what I have to say, for my conscience
commands me to speak as I am about to do."
"I am listening," replied Manoel.
Yaquita, looking him straight in the face, continued: "Yesterday,
after the interview you had with Joam Dacosta, my husband, you came
to me and called me--mother! You took Minha's hand, and called
her--your wife! You then knew everything, and the past life of Joam
Dacosta had been disclosed to you."
"Yes," answered Manoel, "and heaven forbid I should have had any
hesitation in doing so!"
"Perhaps so," replied Yaquita; "but then Joam Dacosta had not been
arrested. The position is not now the same. However innocent he may
be, my husband is in the hands of justice; his past life has been
publicly proclaimed. Minha is a convict's daughter."
"Minha Dacosta or Minha Garral, what matters it to me?" exclaimed
Manoel, who could keep silent no longer.
"Manoel!" murmured Minha.
And she would certainly have fallen had not Lina's arm supported her.
"Mother, if you do not wish to kill her," said Manoel, "call me your
"My son! my child!"
It was all Yaquita could say, and the tears, which she restrained
with difficulty, filled her eyes.
And then they all re-entered the house. But during the long night not
an hour's sleep fell to the lot of the unfortunate family who were
being so cruelly tried.
JOAM DACOSTA had relied entirely on Judge Albeiro, and his death was
Before he was judge at Manaos, and chief magistrate in the province,
Ribeiro had known the young clerk at the time he was being prosecuted
for the murder in the diamond arrayal. He was then an advocate at
Villa Rica, and he it was who defended the prisoner at the trial. He
took the cause to heart and made it his own, and from an examination
of the papers and detailed information, and not from the simple fact
of his position in the matter, he came to the conclusion that his
client was wrongfully accused, and that he had taken not the
slightest part in the murder of the escort or the theft of the
diamonds--in a word, that Joam Dacosta was innocent.
But, notwithstanding this conviction, notwithstanding his talent and
zeal, Ribeiro was unable to persuade the jury to take the same view
of the matter. How could he remove so strong a presumption? If it was
not Joam Dacosta, who had every facility for informing the scoundrels
of the convoy's departure, who was it? The official who acocmpanied
the escort had perished with the greater part of the soldiers, and
suspicion could not point against him. Everything agreed in
distinguishing Dacosta as the true and only author of the crime.
Ribeiro defended him with great warmth and with all his powers, but
he could not succeed in saving him. The verdict of the jury was
affirmative on all the questions. Joam Dacosta, convicted of
aggravated and premeditated murder, did not even obtain the benefit
of extenuating circumstances, and heard himself condemned to death.
There was no hope left for the accused. No commutation of the
sentence was possible, for the crime was committed in the diamond
arrayal. The condemned man was lost. But during the night which
preceded his execution, and when the gallows was already erected,
Joam Dacosta managed to escape from the prison at Villa Rica. We know
Twenty years later Ribeiro the advocate became the chief justice of
Manaos. In the depths of his retreat the fazender of Iquitos heard of
the change, and in it saw a favorable opportunity for bringing
forward the revision of the former proceedings against him with some
chance of success. He knew that the old convictions of the advocate
would be still unshaken in the mind of the judge. He therefore
resolved to try and rehabilitate himself. Had it not been for
Ribeiro's nomination to the chief justiceship in the province of
Amazones, he might perhaps have hesitated, for he had no new material
proof of his innocence to bring forward. Although the honest man
suffered acutely, he might still have remained hidden in exile at
Iquitos, and still have asked for time to smother the remembrances of
the horrible occurrence, but something was urging him to act in the
matter without delay.
In fact, before Yaquita had spoken to him, Joam Dacosta had noticed
that Manoel was in love with his daughter.
The union of the young army doctor and his daughter was in every
respect a suitable one. It was evident to Joam that some day or other
he would be asked for her hand in marriage, and he did not wish to be
obliged to refuse.
But then the thought that his daughter would have to marry under a
name which did not belong to her, that Manoel Valdez, thinking he was
entering the family of Garral, would enter that of Dacosta, the head
of which was under sentence of death, was intolerable to him. No! The
wedding should not take place unless under proper conditions! Never!
Let us recall what had happened up to this time. Four years after the
young clerk, who eventually became the partner of Magalhaės, had
arrived at Iquitos, the old Portuguese had been taken back to the
farm mortally injured. A few days only were left for him to live. He
was alarmed at the thought that his daughter would be left alone and
unprotected; but knowing that Joam and Yaquita were in love with each
other, he desired their union without delay.
Joam at first refused. He offered to remain the protector or the
servant of Yaquita without becoming her husband. The wish of the
dying Magalhaės was so urgent that resistance became impossible.
Yaquita put her hand into the hand of Joam, and Joam did not withdraw
Yes! It was a serious matter! Joam Dacosta ought to have confessed
all, or to have fled forever from the house in which he had been so
hospitably received, from the establishment of which he had built up
the prosperity! Yes! To confess everything rather than to give to the
daughter of his benefactor a name which was not his, instead of the
name of a felon condemned to death for murder, innocent though he
But the case was pressing, the old fazender was on the point of
death, his hands were stretched out toward the young people! Joam was
silent, the marriage took place, and the remainder of his life was
devoted to the happiness of the girl he had made his wife.
"The day when I confess everything," Joam repeated, "Yaquita will
pardon everything! She will not doubt me for an instant! But if I
ought not to have deceived her, I certainly will not deceive the
honest fellow who wishes to enter our family by marrying Mina! No! I
would rather give myself up and have done with this life!"
Many times had Joam thought of telling his wife about his past life.
Yes! the avowal was on his lips whenever she asked him to take her
into Brazil, and with her and her daughter descend the beautiful
Amazon river. He knew sufficient of Yaquita to be sure that her
affection for him would not thereby be diminished in the least. But
courage failed him!
And this is easily intelligible in the face of the happiness of the
family, which increased on every side. This happiness was his work,
and it might be destroyed forever by his return.
Such had been his life for those long years; such had been the
continuous source of his sufferings, of which he had kept the secret
so well; such had been the existence of this man, who had no action
to be ashamed of, and whom a great injustice compelled to hide away
But at length the day arrived when there could no longer remain a
doubt as to the affection which Manoel bore to Minha, when he could
see that a year would not go by before he was asked to give his
consent to her marriage, and after a short delay he no longer
hesitated to proceed in the matter.
A letter from him, addressed to Judge Ribeiro, acquainted the chief
justice with the secret of the existence of Joam Dacosta, with the
name under which he was concealed, with the place where he lived with
his family, and at the same time with his formal intention of
delivering himself up to justice, and taking steps to procure the
revision of the proceedings, which would either result in his
rehabilitation or in the execution of the iniquitous judgment
delivered at Villa Rica.
What were the feelings which agitated the heart of the worthy
magistrate? We can easily divine them. It was no longer to the
advocate that the accused applied; it was to the chief justice of the
province that the convict appealed. Joam Dacosta gave himself over to
him entirely, and did not even ask him to keep the secret.
Judge Ribeiro was at first troubled about this unexpected revelation,
but he soon recovered himself, and scrupulously considered the duties
which the position imposed on him. It was his place to pursue
criminals, and here was one who delivered himself into his hands.
This criminal, it was true, he had defended; he had never doubted but
that he had been unjustly condemned; his joy had been extreme when he
saw him escape by flight from the last penalty; he had even
instigated and facilitated his flight! But what the advocate had done
in the past could the magistrate do in the present?
"Well, yes!" had the judge said, "my conscience tells me not to
abandon this just man. The step he is taking is a fresh proof of his
innocence, a moral proof, even if he brings me others, which may be
the most convincing of all! No! I will not abandon him!"
From this day forward a secret correspondence took place between the
magistrate and Joam Dacosta. Ribeiro at the outset cautioned his
client against compromising himself by any imprudence. He had again
to work up the matter, again to read over the papers, again to look
through the inquiries. He had to find out if any new facts had come
to light in the diamond province referring to so serious a case. Had
any of the accomplices of the crime, of the smugglers who had
attacked the convoy, been arrested since the attempt? Had any
confessions or half-confessions been brought forward? Joam Dacosta
had done nothing but protest his innocence from the very first. But
that was not enough, and Judge Ribeiro was desirous of finding in the
case itself the clue to the real culprit.
Joam Dacosta had accordingly been prudent. He had promised to be so.
But in all his trials it was an immense consolation for him to find
his old advocate, though now a chief justice, so firmly convinced
that he was not guilty. Yes! Joam Dacosta, in spite of his
condemnation, was a victim, a martyr, an honest man to whom society
owed a signal reparation! And when the magistrate knew the past
career of the fazender of Iquitos since his sentence, the position of
his family, all that life of devotion, of work, employed unceasingly
for the happiness of those belonging to him, he was not only more
convinced but more affected, and determined to do all that he could
to procure the rehabilitation of the felon of Tijuco.
For six months a correspondence had passed between these two men.
One day, the case being pressing, Joam Dacosta wrote to Judge
"In two months I will be with you, in the power of the chief justice
of the province!"
"Come, then," replied Ribeiro.
The jangada was then ready to go down the river. Joam Dacosta
embarked on it with all his people. During the voyage, to the great
astonishment of his wife and son, he landed but rarely, as we know.
More often he remained shut up on his room, writing, working, not at
his trading accounts, but, without saying anything about it, at a
kind of memoir, which he called "The History of My Life," and which
was meant to be used in the revision of the legal proceedings.
Eight days before his new arrest, made on account of information
given by Torres, which forestalled and perhaps would ruin his
prospects, he intrusted to an Indian on the Amazon a letter, in which
he warned Judge Ribeiro of his approaching arrival.
The letter was sent and delivered as addressed, and the magistrate
only waited for Joam Dacosta to commence on the serious undertaking
which he hoped to bring to a successful issue.
During the night before the arrival of the raft at Manaos Judge
Ribeiro was seized with an attack of apoplexy. But the denunciation
of Torres, whose scheme of extortion had collapsed in face of the
noble anger of his victim, had produced its effect. Joam Dacosta was
arrested in the bosom of his family, and his old advocate was no
longer in this world to defend him!
Yes, the blow was terrible indeed. His lot was cast, whatever his
fate might be; there was no going back for him! And Joam Dacosta rose
from beneath the blow which had so unexpectedly struck him. It was
not only his own honor which was in question, but the honor of all
who belonged to him.
THE WARRANT against Joam Dacosta, alias Joam Garral, had been issued
by the assistant of Judge Ribeiro, who filled the position of the
magistrate in the province of Amazones, until the nomination of the
successor of the late justice.
This assistant bore the name of Vicente Jarriquez. He was a surly
little fellow, whom forty years' practice in criminal procedure had
not rendered particularly friendly toward those who came before him.
He had had so many cases of this sort, and tried and sentenced so
many rascals, that a prisoner's innocence seemed to him _ą priori_
inadmissable. To be sure, he did not come to a decision
unconscientiously; but his conscience was strongly fortified and was
not easily affected by the circumstances of the examination or the
arguments for the defense. Like a good many judges, he thought but
little of the indulgence of the jury, and when a prisoner was brought
before him, after having passed through the sieve of inquest,
inquiry, and examination, there was every presumption in his eyes
that the man was quite ten times guilty.
Jarriquez, however, was not a bad man. Nervous, fidgety, talkative,
keen, crafty, he had a curious look about him, with his big head on
his little body; his ruffled hair, which would not have disgraced the
judges wig of the past; his piercing gimlet-like eyes, with their
expression of surprising acuteness; his prominent nose, with which he
would assuredly have gesticulated had it been movable; his ears wide
open, so as to better catch all that was said, even when it was out
of range of ordinary auditory apparatus; his fingers unceasingly
tapping the table in front of him, like those of a pianist practicing
on the mute; and his body so long and his legs so short, and his feet
perpetually crossing and recrossing, as he sat in state in his
In private life, Jarriquez, who was a confirmed old bachelor, never
left his law-books but for the table which he did not despise; for
chess, of which he was a past master; and above all things for
Chinese puzzles, enigmas, charades, rebuses, anagrams, riddles, and
such things, with which, like more than one European
justice--thorough sphinxes by taste as well as by profession--he
principally passed his leisure.
It will be seen that he was an original, and it will be seen also how
much Joam Dacosta had lost by the death of Judge Ribeiro, inasmuch as
his case would come before this not very agreeable judge.
Moreover, the task of Jarriquez was in a way very simple. He had
either to inquire nor to rule; he had not even to regulate a
discussion nor to obtain a verdict, neither to apply the articles of
the penal code nor to pronounce a sentence. Unfortunately for the
fazender, such formalities were no longer necessary; Joam Dacosta had
been arrested, convicted, and sentenced twenty-three years ago for
the crime at Tijuco; no limitation had yet affected his sentence. No
demand in commutation of the penalty could be introduced, and no
appeal for mercy could be received. It was only necessary then to
establish his identity, and as soon as the order arrived from Rio
Janeiro justice would have to take its course.
But in the nature of things Joam Dacosta would protest his innocence;
he would say he had been unjustly condemned. The magistrate's duty,
notwithstanding the opinions he held, would be to listen to him. The
question would be, what proofs could the convict offer to make good
his assertions? And if he was not able to produce them when he
appeared before his first judges, was he able to do so now?
Herein consisted all the interest of the examination. There would
have to be admitted the fact of a defaulter, prosperous and safe in a
foreign country, leaving his refuge of his won free will to face the
justice which his past life should have taught him to dread, and
herein would be on of those rare and curious cases which ought to
interest even a magistrate hardened with all the surroundings of
forensic strife. Was it impudent folly on the part of the doomed man
of Tijuco, who was tired of his life, or was it the impulse of a
conscience which would at all risks have wrong set right? The problem
was a strange one, it must be acknowledged.
On the morrow of Joam Dacosta's arrest, Judge Jarriquez made his way
to the prison in God-the-Son Street, where the convict had been
placed. The prison was an old missionary convent, situated on the
bank of one of the principal iguarapes of the town. To the voluntary
prisoners of former times there had succeeded in this building, which
was but little adapted for the purpose, the compulsory prisoners of
to-day. The room occupied by Joam Dacosta was nothing like one of
those sad little cells which form part of our modern penitentiary
system: but an old monk's room, with a barred window without
shutters, opening on to an uncultivated space, a bench in one corner,
and a kind of pallet in the other. It was from this apartment that
Joam Dacosta, on this 25th of August, about eleven o'clock in the
morning, was taken and brought into the judge's room, which was the
old common hall of the convent.
Judge Jarriquez was there in front of his desk, perched on his high
chair, his back turned toward the window, so that his face was in
shadow while that of the accused remained in full daylight. His
clerk, with the indifference which characterizes these legal folks,
had taken his seat at the end of the table, his pen behind his ear,
ready to record the questions and answers.
Joam Dacosta was introduced into the room, and at a sign from the
judge the guards who had brought him withdrew.
Judge Jarriquez looke at the accused for some time. The latter,
leaning slightly forward and maintaining a becoming attitude, neither
careless nor humble, waited with dignity for the questions to which
he was expected to reply.
"Your name?" said Judge Jarriquez.
"Where do you live?"
"In Peru, at the village of Iquitos."
"Under what name?"
"Under that of Garral, which is that of my mother."
"And why do you bear that name?"
"Because for twenty-three years I wished to hide myself from the
pursuit of Brazilian justice."
The answers were so exact, and seemed to show that Joam Dacosta had
made up his mind to confess everything concerning his past and
present life, that Judge Jarriquez, little accustomed to such a
course, cocked up his nose more than was usual to him.
"And why," he continued, "should Brazilian justice pursue you?"
"Because I was sentenced to death in 1826 in the diamond affair at
"You confess then that you are Joam Dacosta?"
"I am Joam Dacosta."
All this was said with great calmness, and as simply as possible. The
little eyes of Judge Jarriquez, hidden by their lids, seemed to say:
"Never came across anything like this before."
He had put the invariable question which had hitherto brought the
invariable reply from culprits of every category protesting their
innocence. The fingers of the judge began to beat a gentle tattoo on
"Joam Dacosta," he asked, "what were you doing at Iquitos?"
"I was a fazender, and engaged in managing a farming establishment of
"It was prospering?"
"How long ago did you leave your fazenda?"
"About nine weeks."
"As to that, sir," answered Dacosta, "I invented a pretext, but in
reality I had a motive."
"What was the pretext?"
"The responsibility of taking into Para a large raft, and a cargo of
different products of the Amazon."
"Ah! and what was the real motive of your departure?"
And in asking this question Jarriquez said to himself:
"Now we shall get into denials and falsehoods."
"The real motive," replied Joam Dacosta, in a firm voice, "was the
resolution I had taken to give myself up to the justice of my
"You give yourself up!" exclaimed the judge, rising from his stool.
"You give yourself up of your own free will?"
"Of my own free will."
"Because I had had enough of this lying life, this obligatin to live
under a false name, of this impossibility to be able to restore to my
wife and children that which belongs to them; in short, sir,
"I was innocent!"
"That is what I was waiting for," said Judge Jarriquez.
And while his fingers tattooed a slightly more audible march, he made
a sign with his head to Dacosta, which signified as clearly as
possible, "Go on! Tell me your history. I know it, but I do not wish
to interrupt you in telling it in your own way."
Joam Dacosta, who did not disregard the magistrate's far from
encouraging attitude, could not but see this, and he told the history
of his whole life. He spoke quietly without departing from the calm
he had imposed upon himself, without omitting any circumstances which
had preceded or succeeded his condemnation. In the same tone he
insisted on the honored and honorable life he had led since his
escape, on his duties as head of his family, as husband and father,
which he had so worthily fulfilled. He laid stress only on one
circumstance--that which had brought him to Manaos to urge on the
revision of the proceedings against him, to procure his
rehabilitation--and that he was compelled to do.
Judge Jarriques, who was naturally prepossessed against all
criminals, did not interrupt him. He contented himself with opening
and shutting his eyes like a man who heard the story told for the
hundredth time; and when Joam Dacosta laid on the table the memoir
which he had drawn up, he made no movement to take it.
"You have finished?" he said.
"And you persist in asserting that you only left Iquitos to procure
the revision of the judgment against you."
"I had no other intention."
"What is there to prove that? Who can prove that, without the
denunciation which had brought about your arrest, you would have
given yourself up?"
"This memoir, in the first place."
"That memoir was in your possession, and there is nothing to show
that had you not been arrested, you would have put it to the use you
say you intended."
"At the least, sir, there was one thing that was not in my
possession, and of the authenticity of which there can be no doubt."
"The letter I wrote to your predecessor, Judge Ribeiro, the letter
which gave him notice of my early arrival."
"Ah! you wrote?"
"Yes. And the letter which ought to have arrived at its destination
should have been handed over to you."
"Really!" answered Judge Jarriquez, in a slightly incredulous tone.
"You wrote to Judge Ribeiro."
"Before he was a judge in this province," answered Joam Dacosta, "he
was an advocate at Villa Rica. He it was who defended me in the trial
at Tijuco. He never doubted of the justice of my cause. He did all he
could to save me. Twenty years later, when he had become chief
justice at Manaos, I let him know who I was, where I was, and what I
wished to attempt. His opinion about me had not changed, and it was
at his advice I left the fazenda, and came in person to proceed with
my rehabilitation. But death had unfortunately struck him, and maybe
I shall be lost, sir, if in Judge Jarriquez I do not find another
The magistrate, appealed to so directly, was about to start up in
defiance of all the traditions of the judicial bench, but he managed
to restrain himself, and was contented with muttering:
"Very strong, indeed; very strong!"
Judge Jarriquez was evidently hard of heart, and proof against all
At this moment a guard entered the room, and handed a sealed packet
to the magistrate.
He broke the seal and drew a letter from the envelope. He opened it
and read it, not without a certain contraction of his eyebrows, and
"I have no reason for hiding from you, Joam Dacosta, that this is the
letter you have been speaking about, addressed by you to Judge
Ribeiro and sent on to me. I have, therefore, no reason to doubt what
you have said on the subject."
"Not only on that subject," answered Dacosta, "but on the subject of
all the circumstances of my life which I have brought to your
knowledge, and which are none of them open to question."
"Eh! Joam Dacosta," quickly replie dJudge Jarriquez. "You protest
your innocence; but all prisoners do as much! After all, you only
offer moral presumptions. Have you any material proof?"
"Perhaps I have," answered Joam Dacosta.
At these words, Judge Jarriquez left his chair. This was too much for
him, and he had to take two or three circuits of the room to recover
WHEN THE MAGISTRATE had again taken his place, like a man who
considered he was perfectly master of himself, he leaned back in his
chair, and with his head raised and his eyes looking straight in
front, as though not even noticing the accused, remarked, in a tone
of the most perfect indifference:
Joam Dacosta reflected for a minute as if hesitating to resume the
order of his thoughts, and then answered as follows:
"Up to the present, sir, I have only given you moral presumptions of
my innocence grounded on the dignity, propriety, and honesty of the
whole of my life. I should have thought that such proofs were those
most worthy of being brought forward in matters of justice."
Judge Jarriquez could not restrain a movement of his shoulders,
showing that such was not his opinion.
"Since they are not enough, I proceed with the material proofs which
I shall perhaps be able to produce," continued Dacosta; "I say
perhaps, for I do not yet know what credit to attach to them. And,
sir, I have never spoken of these things to my wife or children, not
wishing to raise a hope which might be destroyed."
"To the point," answered Jarriquez.
"I have every reason to believe, sir, that my arrest on the eve of
the arrival of the raft at Manaos is due to information given to the
chief of the police!"
"You are not mistaken, Joam Dacosta, but I ought to tell you that the
information is anonymous."
"It matters little, for I know that it could only come from a
scoundrel called Torres."
"And what right have you to speak in such a way of this--informer?"
"A scoundrel! Yes, sir!" replied Joam quickly. "This man, whom I
received with hospitality, only came to me to propose that I should
purchase his silence to offer me an odious bargain that I shall never
regret having refused, whatever may be the consequences of his
"Always this method!" thought Judge Jarriquez; "accusing others to
But he none the less listened with extreme attention to Joam's
recital of his relations with the adventurer up to the moment when
Torres let him know that he knew and could reveal the name of the
true author of the crime of Tijuco.
"And what is the name of the guilty man?" asked Jarriquez, shaken in
"I do not know," answered Joam Dacosta. "Torres was too cautious to
let it out."
"And the culprit is living?"
"He is dead."
The fingers of Judge Jarriquez tattooed more quickly, and he could
not avoid exclaiming, "The man who can furnish the proof of a
prisoner's innocence is always dead."
"If the real culprit is dead, sir, " replied Dacosta, "Torres at
least is living, and the proof, written throughout in the handwriting
of the author of the crime, he has assured me is in his hands! He
offered to sell it to me!"
"Eh! Joam Dacosta!" answered Judge Jarriquez, "that would not have
been dear at the cost of the whole of your fortune!"
"If Torres had only asked my fortune, I would have given it to him
and not one of my people would have demurred! Yes, you are right,
sir; a man cannot pay too dearly for the redemption of his honor! But
this scoundrel, knowing that I was at his mercy, required more than
"My daughter's hand was to be the cost of the bargain! I refused; he
denounced me, and that is why I am now before you!"
"And if Torres had not informed against you," asked Judge
Jarriquez--"if Torres had not met with you on your voyage, what would
you have done on learning on your arrival of the death of Judge
Ribeiro? Would you then have delivered yourself into the hands of
"Without the slightest hesitation," replied Joam, in a firm voice;
"for, I repeat it, I had no other object in leaving Iquitos to come
This was said in such a tone of truthfulness that Judge Jarriquez
experienced a kind of feeling making its way to that corner of the
heart where convictions are formed, but he did not yet give in.
He could hardly help being astonished. A judge engaged merely in this
examination, he knew nothing of what is known by those who have
followed this history, and who cannot doubt but that Torres held in
his hands the material proof of Joam Dacosta's innocence. They know
that the document existed; that it contained this evidence; and
perhaps they may be led to think that Judge Jarriquez was pitilessly
incredulous. But they should remember that Judge Jarriquez was not in
their position; that he was accustomed to the invariable
protestations of the culprits who came before him. The document which
Joam Dacosta appealed to was not produced; he did not really know if
it actually existed; and to conclude, he had before him a man whose
guilt had for him the certainty of a settled thing.
However, he wished, perhaps through curiosity, to drive Joam Dacosta
behind his last entrenchments.
"And so," he said, "all your hope now rests on the declaration which
has been made to you by Torres."
"Yes, sir, if my whole life does not plead for me."
"Where do you think Torres really is?"
"I think in Manaos."
"And you hope that he will speak--that he will consent to
good-naturedly hand over to you the document for which you have
declined to pay the price he asked?"
"I hope so, sir," replied Joam Dacosta; "the situation now is not the
same for Torres; he has denounced me, and consequently he cannot
retain any hope of resuming his bargaining under the previous
conditions. But this document might still be worth a fortune if,
supposing I am acquitted or executed, it should ever escape him.
Hence his interest is to sell me the document, which can thus not
injure him in any way, and I think he will act according to his
The reasoning of Joam Dacosta was unanswerable, and Judge Jarriquez
felt it to be so. He made the only possible objection.
"The interest of Torres is doubtless to selel you the document--if
the document exists."
"If it does not exist," answered Joam Dacosta, in a penetrating
voice, "in trusting to the justice of men, I must put my trust only
At these words Judge Jarriquez rose, and, in not quite such an
indifferent tone, said, "Joam Dacosta, in examining you here, in
allowing you to relate the particulars of your past life and to
protest your innocence, I have gone further than my instructions
allow me. An information has already been laid in this affair, and
you have appeared before the jury at Villa Rica, whose verdict was
given unanimously, and without even the addition of extenuating
circumstances. You have been found guilty of the instigation of, and
complicity in, the murder of the soldiers and the robbery of the
diamonds at Tijuco, the capital sentence was pronounced on you, and
it was only by flight that you escaped execution. But that you came
here to deliver yourself over, or not, to the hands of justice
twenty-three years afterward, you would never have been retaken. For
the last time, you admit that you are Joam Dacosta, the condemned man
of the diamond arrayal?"
"I am Joam Dacosta."
"You are ready to sign this declaration?"
"I am ready."
And with a hand without a tremble Joam Dacosta put his name to the
foot of the declaration and the report which Judge Jarriquez had made
his clerk draw up.
"The report, addressed to the minister of justice, is to be sent off
to Rio Janeiro," said the magistrate. "Many days will elapse before
we receive orders to carry out your sentence. If then, as you say,
Torres possesses the proof of your innocence, do all you can
yourself--do all you can through your friends--do everything, so that
that proof can be produced in time. Once the order arrives no delay
will be possible, and justice must take its course."
Joam Dacosta bowed slightly.
"Shall I be allowed in the meantime to see my wife and children?" he
"After to-day, if you wish," answered Judge Jarriquez; "you are no
longer in close confinement, and they can be brought to you as soon
as they apply."
The magistrate then rang the bell. The guards entered the room, and
took away Joam Dacosta.
Judge Jarriquez watched him as he went out, and shook his head and
"Well, well! This is a much stranger affair than I ever thought it
THE LAST BLOW
WHILE JOAM DACOSTA was undergoing this examination, Yaquita, from an
inquiry made by Manoel, ascertained that she and her children would
be permitted to see the prisoner that very day about four o'clock in
Yaquita had not left her room since the evening before. Minha and
Lina kept near her, waiting for the time when she would be admitted
to see her husband.
Yaquita Garral or Yaquita Dacosta, he would still find her the
devoted wife and brave companion he had ever known her to be.
About eleven o'clock in the morning Benito joined Manoel and Fragoso,
who were talking in the bow of the jangada.
"Manoel," said he, "I have a favor to ask you."
"What is it?"
"And you too, Fragoso."
"I am at your service, Mr. Benito," answered the barber.
"What is the matter?" asked Manoel, looking at his friend, whose
expression was that of a man who had come to some unalterable
"You never doubt my father's innocence? Is that so?" said Benito.
"Ah!" exclaimed Fragoso. "Rather I think it was I who committed the
"Well, we must now commence on the project I thought of yesterday."
"To find out Torres?" asked Manoel.
"Yes, and know from him how he found out my father's retreat. There
is something inexplicable about it. Did he know it before? I cannot
understand it, for my father never left Iquitos for more than twenty
years, and this scoundrel is hardly thirty! But the day will not
close before I know it; or, woe to Torres!"
Benito's resolution admitted of no discussion; and besides, neither
Manoel nor Fragoso had the slightest thought of dissuading him.
"I will ask, then," continued Benito, "for both of you to accompany
me. We shall start in a minute or two. It will not do to wait till
Torres has left Manaos. He has no longer got his silence to sell, and
the idea might occur to him. Let us be off!"
And so all three of them landed on the bank of the Rio Negro and
started for the town.
Manaos was not so considerable that it could not be searched in a few
hours. They had made up their minds to go from house to house, if
necessary, to look for Torres, but their better plan seemed to be to
apply in the first instance to the keepers of the taverns and lojas
where the adventurer was most likely to put up. There could hardly be
a doubt that the ex-captain of the woods would not have given his
name; he might have personal reasons for avoiding all communication
with the police. Nevertheless, unless he had left Manaos, it was
almost impossible for him to escape the young fellows' search. In any
case, there would be no use in applying to the police, for it was
very probable--in fact, we know that it actually was so--that the
information given to them had been anonymous.
For an hour Benito, Manoel, and Fragoso walked along the principal
streets of the town, inquiring of the tradesmen in their shops, the
tavern-keepers in their cabarets, and even the bystanders, without
any one being able to recognize the individual whose description they
so accurately gave.
Had Torres left Manaos? Would they have to give up all hope of coming
In vain Manoel tried to calm Benito, whose head seemed on fire. Cost
what it might, he must get at Torres!
Chance at last favored them, and it was Fragoso who put them on the
In a tavern in Holy Ghost Street, from the description which the
people received of the adventurer, they replied that the individual
inquestion had put up at the loja the evening before.
"Did he sleep here?" asked Fragoso.
"Yes," answered the tavern-keeper.
"Is he here now?"
"No. He has gone out."
"But has he settled his bill, as a man would who has gone for good?"
"By no means; he left his room about an hour ago, and he will
doubtless come back to supper."
"Do you know what road he took when he went out?"
"We saw him turning toward the Amazon, going through the lower town,
and you will probably meet him on that side."
Fragoso did not want any more. A few seconds afterward he rejoined
the young fellows, and said:
"I am on the track."
"He is there!" exclaimed Benito.
"No; he has just gone out, and they have seen him walking across to
the bank of the Amazon."
"Come on!" replied Benito.
They had to go back toward the river, and the shortest way was for
them to take the left bank of the Rio Negro, down to its mouth.
Benito and his companions soon left the last houses of the town
behind, and followed the bank, making a slight detour so as not to be
observed from the jangada.
The plain was at this time deserted. Far away the view exstended
across the flat, where cultivated fields had replaced the former
Benito did not speak; he could not utter a word. Manoel and Fragoso
respected his silence. And so the three of them went along and looked
about on all sides as they traversed the space between the bank of
the Rio Negro and that of the Amazon. Three-quarters of an hour after
leaving Manaos, and still they had seen nothing!
Once or twice Indians working in the fields were met with. Manoel
questioned them, and one of them at length told him that a man, such
as he described, had just passed in the direction of the angle formed
by the two rivers at their confluence.
Without waiting for more, Benito, by an irresistible movement, strode
to the front, and his two companions had to hurry on to avoid being
The left bank of the Amazon was then about a quarter of a mile off. A
sort of cliff appeared ahead, hiding a part of the horizon, and
bounding the view a few hundred paces in advance.
Benito, hurrying on, soon disappeared behind one of the sandy knolls.
"Quicker! quicker!" said Manoel to Fragoso. "We must not leave him
alone for an instant."
And they were dashing along when a shout struck on their ears.
Had Benito caught sight of Torres? What had he seen? Had Benito and
Torres already met?
Manoel and Fragoso, fifty paces further on, after swiftly running
round one of the spurs of the bank, saw two men standing face to face
to each other.
They were Torres and Benito.
In an instant Manoel and Fragoso had hurried up to them. It might
have been supposed that in Benito's state of excitement he would be
unable to restrain himself when he found himself once again in the
presence of the adventurer. It was not so.
As soon as the young man saw himself face to face with Torres, and
was certain that he could not escape, a complete change took place in
his manner, his coolness returned, and he became once more master of
The two men looked at one another for a few moments without a word.
Torres first broke silence, and, in the impudent tone habitual to
"Ah! How goes it, Mr. Benito Garral?"
"No, Benito Dacosta!" answered the young man.
"Quite so," continued Torres. "Mr. Benito Dacosta, accompanied by Mr.
Manoel Valdez and my friend Fragoso!"
At the irritating qualification thus accorded him by the adventurer,
Fragoso, who was by no means loath to do him some damage, was about
to rush to the attack, when Benito, quite unmoved, held him back.
"What is the matter with you, my lad?" exclaimed Torres, retreating
Back to Full Books