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, The Baldwin Library
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THE GIANT RAFT.
His special alphabet was in one hand, the cryptogram in the other.
THE GIANT RAFT
TRANSLATED BY W. J. GORDON
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
[All rights reserved]
THE FIRST MOMENTS .
MORAL PROOFS .
MATERIAL PROOFS. .
THE LAST BLOW .
THE FIRST SEARCH .
THE SECOND ATTEMPT .
A CANNON SHOT. .
THE CONTENTS OF THE CASE
THE DOCUMENT .
IS IT A MATTER OF FIGURES?
THE LAST EFFORTS .
THE LAST NIGHT.
THE CRIME OF TIJUCO.
iHE LOWER AMAZON .
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
His special alphabet was in one hand, the cryptogram in the
The fashionable promenade at Manaos 8
The Giant Raft at its moorings near Manaos 18
Judge Jarriquez was there, his back turned towards the window 39
The Judge leant back in his chair. 48
" This is a much stranger affair than I ever thought it would be 56
" We saw him turning towards the Amazon 6
Manoel and Fragoso saw two men standing face to face to each
other .. ..... .63
Torres and Benito stepped forward 70
He disappeared beneath the waters of the river 73
Five minutes afterwards the four boats started from the raft .83
The river bottom was stirred up in every direction 90
"Nothing ?" she asked .. 95
Benito was lowered into the stream 103
Near him was a tangled mass of reeds and twigs 10
It was the carcass of a huge cayman 112
It slowly ascended to the surface of the Amazon 118
Not a single exterior movement betraying that he still lived 120
A dock of birds of prey pounced on the floating body 125
VIll LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
Judge Jarriquez was at last in his true element 133
"And now, young man, just look at it!" 155
His servants, black or white, dared not come near him 166
A flock of humming-birds betook themselves to flight .. 170
Benito, Manoel, and Minha tried to extract the secret from the
They arrived in front of the prison 191
By the afternoon all was ready 200
Hardly ever did he mention the document 203
" To fly is to dishonour myself, and you with me 10
The gallows. .. 215
It was Fragoso .. 216
" And the name of that friend was ? "-" Ortega" 218
Judge Jarriquez flew from his study into the street, shouting,
"Halt! Halt!" 227
Jarr!quez at rest at last 239
Into the midst of magnificent forests 246
Numerous vessels were descending the river 248
Joam was received with absolutely frantic applause 252
THE GIANT RAFT.
THE town of Manaos is in 3 8' 4" south latitude, and 670
27' west longitude, reckoning from the Paris meridian. It
is some 420 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 remark-
able 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 Pirichin and the
After a noble course of some 1700 miles it mingles its
cloudy waters with those of the Amazon through a mouth
IIoo feet wide, but such is its vigorous influx that many a
mile has to be completed before those waters lose their dis-
tinctive character. Hereabouts the ends of both its banks
trend off, and form a huge bay fifteen leagues across, ex-
tending 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 favourable wind, others under
repair up the numerous iguarapes, or canals, which so
capriciously intersect the town, and give it its slightly
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 furni-
ture 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 eastwards 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 cap-
taincy 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 Equatorial America.
Careless travellers have frequently confounded it with
the famous Manoa, a city of romance, built, it was re-
ported, 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 worth-
less flakes of mica!
In short, Manaos has none of the fabulous splendours
of the mythical capital of El Dorado. It is an ordinary
town of about 500ooo inhabitants, and of these at least 3000
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 Trea-
sury, the Post-office, and the Custom-house, and, in addi-
tion, 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, burnt 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 up of
Portuguese and Indian merchants belonging to the
different tribes of the Rio Negro.
Three principal thoroughfares of considerable irregu-
larity 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
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 per-
fect 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 amongst
some hundreds of dwellings of very .rudimentary type,
some roofed with tiles, others with interlaced branches of
the palm-tree, and with prominent miradcrs, and projeet-
ing shops for the most part tenanted by Portuguese
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
The fashionable promenade at Manaos.
cloth coats, chimney-pot hats, patent-leather boots, highly-
coloured gloves, and diamond pins in their necktie bows;
and women in loud, imposing tilets, with flounced
dresses 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 colour in this central
portion of the district of the Amazon !
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
three-and-twenty years ago for a crime which he never
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
THE FIRST MOMENTS. It
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 three-and-twenty
years of an honourable and honoured 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 error and set matters
"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 grasp.
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 the 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 three entered the
The two young fellows found themselves alone.
THE FIRST MOMENTS.
"And now," said Benito, I ought to know all that my
father has told you."
"I have nothing to hide from you."
"Why did Torres come on board the jangada ?"
To sell 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 learnt 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 terri-
tory 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 your-
self. 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,
endeavoured to grasp the details of this strange affair.
How," he asked, "did Torres ascertain that my father
had been sentenced three-and-twenty years back for this
abominable crime at Tijuco ?"
"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 was living ?"
THE FIRST MOMENTS.
"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 understand."
One more question," continued Benito. "What was
the proposition that Torres made to my father during
the short interview which preceded his expulsion ?"
"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 gave."
"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's information that they came here and
arrested my father; is not that so ?"
"Yes, on his denunciation."
"Very well," continued Benito, shaking his fist towards
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 reso-
"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 irrevocable.
At this moment the pilot Araujo, who had been observ-
ing 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 FIRST MOMENTS.
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 Manaos ?
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 manceuvre 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
At five o'clock in the evening it was strongly moored
alongside this bank, not in the port of Manaos itself,
The Giant Raft at its moorings near Manaos.
THE FIRST MOMENTS.
which it could not enter without stemming a rather
powerful current, but a short mile below it.
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
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 dissuaded him.
"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
Yaquita slowly advanced towards 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
wve! 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 loam 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."
TIE FIRST MOMENTS.
"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 son!"
"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 unfor-
tunate family who were being so cruelly tried.
JOAM DACOSTA had relied entirely on Judge Ribeiro, and
his death was most unfortunate.
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 scoun-
drels of the convoy's departure, who was it ? The official
who accompanied 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 premedi-
tated murder, did not even obtain the benefit of ex-
tenuating circumstances, and heard himself condemned
There was no hope left for the accused. No commuta-
tion of the sentence was possible, for the crime was com-
mitted in the diamond arrayal. The condemned man was
lost. But during the night which preceded his execution,
and when the gallows was already erected, Joami Dacosta
managed to escape from the prison at Villa Rica. We
know the rest.
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
favourable 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
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
Let us recall what had happened up to this time. 'Four
years after the young clerk who eventually became the
partner, of Magalhaes, had arrived at Iquitos, the old Portu-
guese had been taken back to the farm mortally injured.
26 THE CRYPTOGRAM.
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 pro-
tector or the servant of Yaquita without becoming her
husband. The wish of the dying Magalhais was so urgent
that resistance became impossible. Yaquita put her hand
into the hand of Joam, and Joam did not withdraw it.
Yes! It was a serious matter! Joam Dacosta ought
to have confessed all, or to have fled for ever 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 might be!
But the case was pressing, the old fazender was on the
point of death, his hands were stretched out towards 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 Minha! 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 happi-
ness was his work, and it might be destroyed for ever by
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 from
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 rehabilita-
tion 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 ap-
pealed. 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 unex-
pected revelation, but he soon recovered himself, and
scrupulously considered the duties which the position im-
posed 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 afd facili-
tated 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 Jdam 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 ar-
rested 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
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 belong-
ing 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 Ribeiro,-
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. Dur-
ing the voyage, to the great astonishment of his wife and
son, he landed but rarely, as we know. More often he
remained shut up in 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 per-
haps would ruin his prospects, he entrusted 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
During the night before the arrival of the raft at Manacs
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 honour which was in question, but the honour of
all who belonged to him I
34 THE CRYPTOGRAM.
THE warrant against Joam Dacosta, alias Joam Garral,
had been issued by the assistant of Judge Ribeiro, who
filled the position of magistrate in the province of Ama-
zones, until the nomination of the successor of the late
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
towards 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 a prior
admissible. To be sure, he did not come to a decision
MORAL PROOFS. 35
unconscientiously ; but his conscience was strongly fortified,
and was not easily affected by the circumstances of the
examination or the arguments for the defence. 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 judge's wig of the past; his
piercing gimlet-like eyes, with their expression of surprising
acuteness; his prominent nose, with which he would as-
suredly 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 practising 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 magistrate's
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 neither 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 three-and-twenty 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 con-
demned. 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 own free will to face the justice which his past life
should have taught him to dread, and herein would be one
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
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 mis-
sionary convent, situated on the bank of one of the princi-
pal 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.
Judge Jarriquez was there, his back turned towards the window.
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 towards 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 with-
Judge Jarriquez looked at the accused for some time.
The latter, leaning slightly forwards and maintaining a
becoming attitude, neither careless nor humble, waited
with dignity for the questions to which he was expected
Your name ?" said Judge Jarriquez.
40 TIE CRYPTOGRAM.
"Your age ?"
"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 three-and-twenty 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 every-
thing concerning his past and present life, that Judge Jar-
riquez, 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 Tijuco."
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 cate-
gory protesting their innocence. The fingers of the judge
began to beat a gentle tattoo on the table.
"Joam Dacosta," he asked, "what were you doing at
"I was a fazender, and engaged in managing a farming
establishment of considerable size."
It was prospering ?"
How long ago did you leave your fazenda ?"
"About nine weeks."
"As to that, sir," answered Dacosta, I invented a pre-
text, but in reality I had a motive."
42 THE CRYPTOGRAM.
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
, the justice of my country."
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 obli-
gation 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, because-"
'" I was innocent 1"
"That is what I was waiting for!" said Judge Jarri-
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 honoured and honourable 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 rehabilita-
tion-and that he was compelled to do.
44 THE CRYPTOGRAM.
Judge Jarriquez, who was naturally prepossessed against
all criminals, did not inteirupt him. He contented him-
self with opening and shutting his eyes like a man who
heard the story told for the hundredth time ; and whe;i
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
"I had no other intention."
"What is there to prove that ? Who can prove, that
without the denunciation which 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
MORAL PROOFS. 45
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 in-
credulous 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 rehabi-
litation. But death has unfortunately struck him, and
40 THE CRYPTOGRAM.
maybe I shall be lost, sir, if in Judge Jarriquez I do not
find another Judge Ribeiro."
The magistrate, appealed to so directly, was about to
star up in defiance of all the traditions of the judicial
bench, but he managed to restrain himself, and was con-
tented with muttering,-
S"Very strong, indeed; very strong !"
SJudge Jarriquez was evidently hard of heart, and proof
against all surprise.
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 contrac-
tion of his eyebrows, and then said,-
I have no reason for hiding from you, Joam Dacosta,
that this is the letter you have been speaking about, ad-
dressed by you to Judge Ribeiro and sent on to me. I
have, therefore, no reason to doubt what you have said on
Not only on that subject," answered Dacosta, but on
MORAL PROOFS. 47
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 replied Judge Jarriqucz.
"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 himself.
WHEN the magistrate had again taken his place, like a
man who considered he was perfectly master of himself, he
leant 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 in-
difference,-" Go on."
Joam Dacosta reflected for a minute as if hesitating to
resume the order of his thoughts, and then answered as
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
The Judge leant back in his chair.
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 in-
formation 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
VOL. II. E
"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 de-
"Always this method!" thought Judge Jarriquez;
"accusing others to clear himself."
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
"And what is the name of the guilty man?" asked
Jarriquez, shaken in his indifference.
"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,
MATERIAL PROOFS. 51
and he could not avoid exclaiming, "The man who
can furnish the proof of a prisoner's innocence is always
"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
It 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 honour! But this
scoundrel, knowing that I was at his mercy, required more
than my fortune "
How so ?"
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! '
52 ITIE CRYPTOGRAM.
"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 justice ?"
"Without the slightest hesitation," replied Joam, in a
firm voice; "for, I repeat it, I had no other object in
leaving Iquitos to come to Manaos."
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
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."
'cs, 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 con-
sequently he cannot retain any hope of resuming his bar.
gaining under the previous conditions. Iut 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 interest."
The reasoning of Joam Daccsta was unanswerable, and
Judge Jarriquez felt it to be so. He made the only possib
"The interest of Torres is doubtless to sell 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 in God !"
Atthese 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 com-
plicity 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 execu-
tion. But that you came here to deliver yourself over, or
not, to the hands of justice threz-and-twenty years after-
wards, 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 asked.
"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 muttered,-
Well, well! This is a much stranger affair than I ever
thought it would be 1"
"This is a much stranger affair than I ever thought it would be!"
THE LAST BLOW. 57
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 the after-
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
Manoel," said he, I have a favour 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 resolution.
You never doubt my father's innocence ? Is that so ?"
"Ah !" exclaimed Fragoso. Rather I think it was I
who committed the crime."
Well, we must now commence on the project I thought
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
THE LAST BLOW. 59
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 fur
00 THE CRYPTOGRAM.
avoiding all communication with the police. Neverthe-
less, 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 trades-
men 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 accu-
Had Torres left Manaos? Would they have to give up
all hope of coming across him ?
In vain Manoel tried to calm Benito, whose head seemed
on fire. Cost what it might, he must get at Torres !
Chance at last favoured them, and it was Fragoso who
put them on the right track.
In a tavern in Holy Ghost Street, from the description
which the people received of the adventurer, they replied
"We saw him turn towards the Amazon."
THE LAST BLOW.
that the individual in question had put up at the loja the
"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, an
he will doubtless come back to supper."
"Do you know what road he took when he went out ?
"We saw him turning towards 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 after-
wards 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 towards 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 extended across the flat, where cultivated fields had
replaced the former forests.
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
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
Manoel and Fragoso saw two men standing fate to face to each other.
THE LAST BLOW.
in the direction of the angle formed by the two rivers at
Without waiting .for more, Benito, by an irresistible
movement, strode to the front, and his two companions
had to hurry on to avoid being left behind.
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
"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
Had Benito caught sight of Torres ? What had he seen?
Had Benito and Torres already met ?
Manoel and Fragoso, fifty paces farther 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 him-
The two men looked at one another for a few moments
without a word.
Tbrres first broke silence, and in the impudent tone
habitual to him, remarked,-
"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
THE LAST BLOW. 65
At the irritating qualification thus accorded him by the
adventurer, Fragoso, who was by no means loth 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 for a few steps. I think I had better
put myself on guard."
And as he spoke he drew from beneath his poncho
his manchetta, the weapon, adapted at will for offence or
defence,. which a Brazilian is never without. And then,
slightly stooping, and planted firmly on his feet, he waited
for what was to follow.
"I have come to look for you, Torres," said Benito, who
had not stirred in the least at this threatening attitude.
"To look for me ?" answered the adventurer. "It is
not very difficult to find me. And why have you come
to look for me'?"
"To know from your own lips what you appear to know
of the past life of my father.'
66 THE CRYPTOGRAM.
"Yes. I want to know how you recognized him, why
you were prowling about our fazenda in the forest of
Iquitos, and why you were waiting for us at Taba-
tinga ? "
"Well! it -seems to me nothing could be clearer!"
answered Torres, with a grin. "I was waiting to get a
passage on the jangada, and I went on board with the
intention of making him a very simple proposition-which
possibly he was wrong in rejecting."
At these words Manoel could stand it no longer. With
pale face and eye of fire he strode up to Torres.
Benito, wishing to exhaust every means of conciliation,
thrust himself between them.
"Calm yourself, Manoel!" he said. "I'am calm-even
And then continuing,-
"Quite so, Torres; I know the reason of your coming
on board the raft. Possessed of a secret which was doubt-
less given to you, you wanted to make it a means of ex-
tortion. But that is not what I want to know at present."
TIE LAST BLOW.
"What is it, then ?"
"I want to know how you recognized Joam Dacosta in
the fazenda of Iquitos ? "
How I recognized him ?" replied Torres. "That is
my business, and I see no reason why I should tell you.
The important fact is, that I was not mistaken when I
denounced in him the real author of the crime of
"You say that to me I exclaimed Benito, who began
to lose his self-possession.
"I will tell you nothing," returned Torres; "Joam
Dacosta declined my propositions He refused to admit
me into his family I Well! now that his secret is known,
now that he is a prisoner, it is I who refuse to enter his
family, the family of a thief, of a murderer, of a condemned
felon, for whom the gallows now waits "
Scoundrel! exclaimed Benito, who drew his manchetta
from his belt and put himself in position.
Manoel and Fragoso, by a similar movement, quickly
drew their weapons.
O0 THE CRYPTOGRAM.
"Three against one!" said Torres.
"No one against one !" answered Benito.
"Really I should have thought an assassination would
have better suited an assassin's son!"
"Torres !" exclaimed Benito, "defend yourself, or I
will kill you like a mad dog!"
"Mad so be it! answered Torres. "But I bite, Benito
Dacosta, and beware of the wounds!"
And then again grasping his manchetta, he put himself
on guard and ready to attack his enemy.
Benito had stepped back a few paces.
"Torres," he said, regaining all his coolness, which for
a moment he had lost; you were the guest of my father,
you threatened him, you betrayed him, you denounced
him, you accused an innocent man, and with God's help
I am going to kill you!"
Torres replied with the most insolent smile imaginable.
Perhaps at the moment the scoundrel had an idea of
stopping any struggle between Benito and him, and he
could have done so. In fact, he had seen that Joam
THE LAST BLOW.
Dacosta had said nothing about the document which
formed the material proof of his innocence.
Had he revealed to Benito that he, Torres, possessed
this proof, Benito would have been that instant disarmed.
But his desire to wait till the very last moment, so as to
get, the very best price for the document he possessed, the
recollection of the young man's insulting words, and the
hate which he bore to all that belonged to him, made him
forget his own interest.
In addition to being thoroughly accustomed to the
manchetta, which he often had had occasion to use, the
adventurer was strong, active, and artful, so that against
an adversary who was scarcely twenty, who could have
neither his strength nor his dexterity, the chances were
greatly in his favour.
Manoel by a last effort wished to insist on fighting him
instead of Benito.
"No, Manoel," was the cool reply, "it is for me alone
to avenge my father, and as everything here ought to be
in order, you shall be my second."
"As for you, Fragoso, you will not refuse if I ask you
to act as second for that man ? "
So be it," answered Fragoso, though it is not an office
of honour! Without the least ceremony," he added, "I
would have killed him like a wild beast! "
The place where the duel was about to take place
was a level bank -about fifty paces long, on the top
of a cliff rising perpendicularly some fifty feet above
the Amazon. The river slowly flowed at the foot, and
bathed the clumps of reeds which' bristled round its
There was, therefore, none too much room, and the
combatant who was the first to give way would quickly be
driven over into the abyss.
The signal was given by Manoel, and Torres and Benito
Benito had complete command over himself. The de-
fender of a'sacred cause, his coolness was unruffled, much
more so than that of Torres, whose conscience, insensible
Torres and Benito stepped forward.
THE LAST BLOW.
and hardened as it was, was bound at the moment to
The two met, and the first blow came from Benito.
Torres parried it. They then jumped back, but almost at
the same instant they rushed together, and with their left
hands seized each other by the shoulder-never to leave go
Torres, who was the strongest, struck a side blow with
his manchetta which Benito could not quite parry. His left
side was touched, and his poncho was reddened with his
blood. But he quickly replied, and slightly wounded Torres
in the hand.
Several blowswere then interchanged,but nothing decisive
was done. The ever silent gaze of Benito pierced the eyes
of Torres like asword blade thrust to his very heart. Visibly,
the scoundrel began to quail. He recoiled little by little,
pressed back by his implacable foe, who was more deter-
mined on taking the life of his father's denouncer than in
defending his own. To strike was all that Benito longed
for; to parry was all that the other now attempted to do.
Soon Torres saw himself thrust to the very edge of the
bank, at a spot where, slightly scooped away, it over-
hung the river. He perceived the danger; he tried to
retake the offensive and regain the lost ground. His
agitation increased, his looks grew livid. At length he
was obliged to stoop beneath the arm which threatened
Die, then !" exclaimed Benito.
The blow was struck full on his chest, but the point of
the manchetta was stopped by a hard substance hidden
beneath the poncho of the adventurer.
Benito renewed his attack, and Torres, whose return
thrust did not touch his adversary, felt himself lost. He
was again obliged to retreat. Then he would have
shouted-shouted that the life of Joam Dacosta depended
on his own He had not time!
A second thrust of the manchetta pierced his heart. He
fell backwards, and the ground suddenly failing him, he
was precipitated down the cliff. As a last effort his hands
convulsively clutched at a clump of reeds, but they could
I-Ie disappeared beneath the waters of the river.
THE LAST BLOW. 73
not stop him, and he disappeared beneath the waters of
Benito was supported on Manoel's shoulder.; Fragoso
grasped his hands. He would not even give his com-
panions time to dress his wound, which was very
To the jangada he said, "to the jangada !"
Manoel and Fragoso with deep emotion followed him
without speaking a word.
A quarter of an hour afterwards the three reached the
bank to which the raft was moored. Benito and Mancel
rushed into the room where were Yaquita and Minha, and
told them all that had passed.
My son My brother! "
The words were uttered at the same moment.
"To the prison !" said Benito.
"Yes! Come i come!" replied Yaquita.
Benito, followed by Manoel, hurried along his mother,
and half an hour later they arrived before the prison.
Owing to the order previously given by Judge Jarriquez
74 THE CRYPTOGRAM
they were immediately admitted, and conducted to the
chamber occupied by the prisoner.
The door opened.
Joam Dacosta saw his wife, his son, and Manoel enter
"Ah Joam, my Joam !" exclaimed Yaquita.
Yaquita! my wife! my children replied the prisoner,
who ope ied his arms and pressed them to his heart.
My Joam, innocent!"
Innocent and avenged !" said Benito.
"Avenged ? What do you mean ?"
"Torres is dead, father ; killed by my hand "
Dead !-Torres!-Dead gasped Joam Dacosta. ".My
son 1 You have ruined me!"
A FEW hours later the whole family had returned to the
raft, and were assembled in the large room. All were there,
except the prisoner, on whom the last blow had just fallen.
Benito was quite overwhelmed, and accused himself of
having destroyed his father, and had it not been for the
entreaties of Yaquita, of his sister, of Padre Passanha, and
of Manoel, the distracted youth would in the first moments
of despair have probably made away with himself. But he
was never allowed to get out of sight, he was never left
alone. And besides, how could he have acted otherwise ?
Ah! why had not Joam Dacosta told him all before he left
thejangada ? Why had he refrained from speaking, except
before a judge, of this material proof of his innocence?
Why, in his interview with Manoel after the expulsion of
Torres, had he been silent about the document which the
adventurer pretended to hold in his hands ? But, after all,
what faith ought he to place in what Torres had said ?
Could he be certain that such a document was in the
rascal's possession ?
Whatever might be the reason, the family now knew
cvcrything, and that from the lips of J oam Dacosta himself.
They knew that Torres had declared that the proof of the
innocence of the convict of Tijuco actually existed; that
the document had been written by the very hand of the
author of the attack ; that the criminal, seized by remorse
at the moment of his death, had entrusted it to his com-
panion, Torres ; and that he, instead of fulfilling the wishes
of the dying man, had made the handing over of the docu-
ment an excuse for extortion. But they knew also that
Torres had just been killed, and that his body was qn-
gulphed in the waters of the Amazon, and that he died
without even mentioning the name of the guilty man.
Unless he was saved by a miracle, Joam Dacosta might.
now be considered as irrevocably lost. The death of Judge
Ribeiro on the bne hand, the death of Torres on the other,
were blows from which he could not recover It should
here be said that public opinion at Manaos, unreasoning
as it always is, was all against the prisoner. The unex-
pected atrest of Joam Dacosta had revived the memory of
the terrible crime of Tijuco, which had lain forgotten for
three-and-twenty years. The trial of the young clerk at
the mines of the diamond arrayal, his capital sentence, his
escape a few hour. before his intended execution-all were
remembered, analyzed, and commented on. An article
which had just appeared in the 0 Diario d'o Grand Para,
the most widely circulated journal in these parts, after
giving a history of the circumstances of the crime, showed
itself decidedly hostile to the prisoner. Why should these
people believe in Joam Dacosta's innocence, when they were
ignorant of all that his friends knew-of what they alone
And so the people of Manaos became excited. A mob
of Indians and negroes hurried, in their blind folly, to sur-
round the prison and roar forth tumultuous shouts of death.
In this part of the two Americas, where executions under
Lynch law are of frequent occurrence, the mob soon sur-
renders itself to its cruel instincts, and it was feared that
on this occasion it would do justice with its own hands.
What a night it was for the passengers from the fazenda !
Masters and servants had been affected by the blow!
Were not the servants of the fazenda members of one
family ? Every one of them would watch over the safety
of Yaquita and her people On the. bank of the Rio Ne-
gro there was a constant coming and going of the natives,
evidently excited by the arrest of Joam Dacosta, and who
could say to what excesses these half-barbarous men might
be led ?
The time, however, passed without any demonstration
against the jangada.
On the morrow, the 26th of August, as soon as the sun
rose, Manoel and Fragoso, who had never left Benito for
an instant during this terrible night, attempted to distract
his attention from his despair. After taking him aside
they made him understand that there was no time to be
lost-that they must make up their minds to act.
Benito," said Manoel, pull yourself together Be a
man again Be a son again !"
"My father exclaimed Benito. I have killed him !"
"No!" replied Manoel. "With Heaven's help it is
possible that all may not be lost! "
Listen to us, Mr. Benito," said Fragoso.
The young man, passing his hand over his eyes, made a
violent effort to collect himself.
Benito," continued Manoel, Torres never gave a hint
to put us on the track of his past life. We therefore can-
not tell who was the author of the crime of Tijuco, or under
what conditions it was committed. To try in that direction
is to lose our time!"
"And time presses !" added Fragoso.
Besides," said Manoel, "suppose we do find out who
this companion of Torres was, he is dead, and he could not
testify in any way to the innocence of Joam Dacosta.
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