Part 6 out of 6
that is not probable."
"Quite so!" sighed Manoel, who, with this improbability, saw the last
"And so we must trust to chance alone," continued Jarriquez, who
shook his head, "and chance does not often do much in things of this
"But still," said Manoel, "chance might give us this number."
"This number," exclaimed the magistrate--"this number? But how many
ciphers is it composed of? Of two, or three, or four, or nine, or
ten? Is it made of different ciphers only or of ciphers in different
order many times repeated? Do you not know, young man, that with the
ordinary ten ciphers, using all at a time, but without any
repetition, you can make three million two hundred and sixty-eight
thousand and eight hundred different numbers, and that if you use the
same cipher more than once in the number, these millions of
combinations will be enormously increased! And do you not know that
if we employ every one of the five hundred and twenty-five thousand
and six hundred minutes of which the year is composed to try at each
of these numbers, it would take you six years, and that you would
want three centuries if each operation you an hour? No! You ask the
"Impossible, sir?" answered Manoel. "An innocent man has been branded
as guilty, and Joam Dacosta is to lose his life and his honor while
you hold in your hands the material proof of his innocence! That is
what is impossible!"
"Ah! young man!" exclaimed Jarriquez, "who told you, after all, that
Torres did not tell a lie? Who told you that he really did have in
his hands a document written by the author of the crime? that this
paper was the document, and that this document refers to Joam
"Who told me so?" repeated Manoel, and his face was hidden in his
In fact, nothing could prove for certain that the document had
anything to do with the affair in the diamond province. There was, in
fact, nothing to show that it was not utterly devoid of meaning, and
that it had been imagined by Torres himself, who was as capable of
selling a false thing as a true one!
"It does not matter, Manoel," continued the judge, rising; "it does
not matter! Whatever it may be to which the document refers, I have
not yet given up discovering the cipher. After all, it is worth more
than a logogryph or a rebus!"
At these words Manoel rose, shook hands with the magistrate, and
returned to the jangada, feeling more hopeless when he went back than
when he set out.
A COMPLETE change took place in public opinion on the subject of Joam
Dacosta. To anger succeeded pity. The population no longer thronged
to the prison of Manaos to roar out cries of death to the prisoner.
On the contrary, the most forward of them in accusing him of being
the principal author of the crime of Tijuco now averred that he was
not guilty, and demanded his immediate restoration to liberty. Thus
it always is with the mob--from one extreme they run to the other.
But the change was intelligible.
The events which had happened during the last few days--the struggle
between Benito and Torres; the search for the corpse, which had
reappeared under such extraordinary circumstances; the finding of the
"indecipherable" document, if we can so call it; the information it
concealed, the assurance that it contained, or rather the wish that
it contained, the material proof of the guiltlessness of Joam
Dacosta; and the hope that it was written by the real culprit--all
these things had contributed to work the change in public opinion.
What the people had desired and impatiently demanded forty-eight
hours before, they now feared, and that was the arrival of the
instructions due from Rio de Janeiro.
These, however, were not likely to be delayed.
Joam Dacosta had been arrested on the 24th of August, and examined
next day. The judge's report was sent off on the 26th. It was now the
28th. In three or four days more the minister would have come to a
decision regarding the convict, and it was only too certain that
justice would take its course.
There was no doubt that such would be the case. On the other hand,
that the assurance of Dacosta's innocence would appear from the
document, was not doubted by anybody, neither by his family nor by
the fickle population of Manaos, who excitedly followed the phases of
this dramatic affair.
But, on the other hand, in the eyes of disinterested or indifferent
persons who were not affected by the event, what value could be
assigned to this document? and how could they even declare that it
referred to the crime in the diamond arrayal? It existed, that was
undeniable; it had been found on the corpse of Torres, nothing could
be more certain. It could even be seen, by comparing it with the
letter in which Torres gave the information about Joam Dacosta, that
the document was not in the handwriting of the adventurer. But, as
had been suggested by Judge Jarriquez, why should not the scoundrel
have invented it for the sake of his bargain? And this was less
unlikely to be the case, considering that Torres had declined to part
with it until after his marriage with Dacosta's daughter--that is to
say, when it would have been impossible to undo an accomplished fact.
All these views were held by some people in some form, and we can
quite understand what interest the affair created. In any case, the
situation of Joam Dacosta was most hazardous. If trhe document were
not deciphered, it would be just the same as if it did not exist; and
if the secret of the cryptogram were not miraculously divined or
revealed before the end of the three days, the supreme sentence would
inevitably be suffered by the doomed man of Tijuco. And this miracle
a man attempted to perform! The man was Jarriquez, and he now really
set to work more in the interest of Joam Dacosta than for the
satisfaction of his analytical faculties. A complete change had also
taken place in his opinion. Was not this man, who had voluntarily
abandoned his retreat at Iquitos, who had come at the risk of his
life to demand his rehabilitation at the hands of Brazilian justice,
a moral enigma worth all the others put together? And so the judge
had resolved never to leave the document until he had discovered the
cipher. He set to work at it in a fury. He ate no more; he slept no
more! All his time was passed in inventing combinations of numbers,
in forging a key to force this lock!
This idea had taken possession of Judge Jarriquez's brain at the end
of the first day. Suppressed frenzy consumed him, and kept him in a
perpetual heat. His whole house trembled; his servants, black or
white, dared not come near him. Fortunately he was a bachelor; had
there been a Madame Jarriquez she would have had a very uncomfortable
time of it. Never had a problem so taken possession of this oddity,
and he had thoroughly made up his mind to get at the solution, even
if his head exploded like an overheated boiler under the tension of
It was perfectly clear to the mind of the worthy magistrate that the
key to the document was a number, composed of two or more ciphers,
but what this number was all investigation seemed powerless to
This was the enterprise on which Jarriquez, in quite a fury, was
engaged, and during this 28th of August he brought all his faculties
to bear on it, and worked away almost superhumanly.
To arrive at the number by chance, he said, was to lose himself in
millions of combinations, which would absorb the life of a first-rate
calculator. But if he could in no respect reckon on chance, was it
impossible to proceed by reasoning? Decidedly not! And so it was "to
reason till he became unreasoning" that Judge Jarriquez gave himself
up after vainly seeking repose in a few hours of sleep. He who
ventured in upon him at this moment, after braving the formal
defenses which protected his solitude, would have found him, as on
the day before, in his study, before his desk, with the document
under his eyes, the thousands of letters of which seemed all jumbled
together and flying about his head.
"Ah!" he explaimed, "why did not the scoundrel who wrote this
separate the words in this paragraph? We might--we will try--but no!
However, if there is anything here about the murder and the robbery,
two or three words there must be in it--'arrayal,' 'diamond,'
'Tijuco,' 'Dacosta,' and others; and in putting down their
cryptological equivalents the number could be arrived at. But there
is nothing--not a single break!--not one word by itself! One word of
two hundred and seventy-six letters! I hope the wretch may be blessed
two hundred and seventy-six times for complicating his system in this
way! He ought to be hanged two hundred and seventy-six times!"
And a violent thump with his fist on the document emphasized this
"But," continued the magistrate, "if I cannot find one of the words
in the body of the document, I might at least try my hand at the
beginning and end of each paragraph. There may be a chance there that
I ought not to miss."
And impressed with this idea Judge Jarriquez successively tried if
the letters which commenced or finished the different paragraphs
could be made to correspond with those which formed the most
important word, which was sure to be found somewhre, that of
He could do nothing of the kind.
In fact, to take only the last paragraph with which he began, the
Now, at the very first letter Jarriquez was stopped in his
calculations, for the difference in alphabetical position between the
_d_ and the _p_ gave him not one cipher, but two, namely, 12, and in
this kind of cryptograph only one letter can take the place of
It was the same for the seven last letters of the paragraph, _p s u v
j h d,_ of which the series also commences with a _p,_ and which in
no case could stand for the _d_ in _Dacosta,_ because these letters
were in like manner twelve spaces apart.
So it was not his name that figured here.
The same observation applies to the words _arrayal_ and _Tijuco,_
which were successively tried, but whose construction did not
correspond with the cryptographic series.
After he had got so far, Judge Jarriquez, with his head nearly
splitting, arose and paced his office, went for fresh air to the
window, and gave utterance to a growl, at the noise of which a flock
of hummingbirds, murmuring among the foliage of a mimosa tree, betook
themselves to flight. Then he returned to the document.
He picked it up and turned it over and over.
"The humbig! the rascal!" he hissed; "it will end by driving me mad!
But steady! Be calm! Don't let our spirits go down! This is not the
And then, having refreshed himself by giving his head a thorough
sluicing with cold water:
"Let us try another way," he said, "and as I cannot hit upon the
number from the arrangement of the letters, let us see what number
the author of the document would have chosen in confessing that he
was the author of the crime at Tijuco."
This was another method for the magistrate to enter upon, and maybe
he was right, for there was a certain amount of logic about it.
"And first let us try a date! Why should not the culprit have taken
the date of the year in which Dacosta, the innocent man he allowed to
be sentenced in his own place, was born? Was he likely to forget a
number which was so important to him? Then Joam Dacosta was born in
1804. Let us see what 1804 will give us as a cryptographical number."
And Judge Jarriquez wrote the first letters of the paragraph, and
putting over them the number 1804 repeated thrice, he obtained
Then in counting up the spaced in alphabetical order, he obtained
And this was meaningless! And he wanted three letters which he had to
replace by points, because the ciphers, 8, 4, and 4, which command
the three letters, _h, d,_ and _d,_ do not give corresponding letters
in ascending the series.
"That is not it again!" exclaimed Jarriques. "Let us try another
And he asked himself, if instead of this first date the author of the
document had not rather selected the date of the year in which the
crime was committed.
This was in 1826.
And so proceeding as above, he obtained.
and that gave
the same meaningless series, the same absence of sense, as many
letters wanting as in the former instance, and for the same reason.
"Bother the number!" exclaimed the magistrate. "We must give it up
again. Let us have another one! Perhaps the rascal chose the number
of contos representing the amount of the booty!"
Now the value of the stolen diamonds was estimated at eight hundred
and thirty-four contos, or about 2,500,000 francs, and so the formula
and this gave a result as little gratifying as the others----
"Confound the document and him who imagined it!" shouted Jarriquez,
throwing down the paper, which was wafted to the other side of the
room. "It would try the patience of a saint!"
But the short burst of anger passed away, and the magistrate, who had
no idea of being beaten, picked up the paper. What he had done with
the first letters of the different paragraphs he did with the
last--and to no purpose. Then he tried everything his excited
imagination could suggest.
He tried in succession the numbers which represented Dacosta's age,
which would have been known to the author of the crime, the date of
his arrest, the date of the sentence at the Villa Rica assizes, the
date fixed for the execution, etc., etc., even the number of victims
at the affray at Tijuco!
Nothing! All the time nothing!
Judge Jarriquez had worked himself into such a state of exasperation
that there really was some fear that his mental faculties would lose
their balance. He jumped about, and twisted about, and wrestled about
as if he really had got hold of his enemy's body. Then suddenly he
cried, "Now for chance! Heaven help me now, logic is powerless!"
His hand seized a bell-pull hanging near his table. The bell rang
furiously, and the magistrate strode up to the door, which he opened.
"Bobo!" he shouted.
A moment or two elapsed.
Bobo was a freed negro, who was the privileged servant of Jarriquez.
He did not appear; it was evident that Bobo was afraid to come into
his master's room.
Another ring at the bell; another call to Bobo, who, for his own
safety, pretended to be deaf on this occasion. And now a third ring
at the bell, which unhitched the crank and broke the cord.
This time Bobo came up. "What is it, sir?" asked Bobo, prudently
waiting on the threshold.
"Advance, without uttering a single word!" replied the judge, whose
flaming eyes made the negro quake again.
"Bobo," said Jarriquez, "attend to what I say, and answer
immediately; do not even take time to think, or I----"
Bobo, with fixed eyes and open mouth, brought his feet together like
a soldier and stood at attention.
"Are you ready?" asked his master.
"Now, then, tell me, without a moment's thought--you understand--the
first number than comes into your head."
"76223," answered Bobo, all in a breath. Bobo thought he would please
his master by giving him a pretty large one!
Judge Jarriquez had run to the table, and, pencil in hand, had made
out a formula with the number given by Bobo, and which Bobo had in
this way only given him at a venture.
It is obvious that it was most unlikely that a number such as 76223
was the key of the document, and it produced no other result than to
bring to the lips of Jarriquez such a vigorous ejaculation that Bobo
disappeared like a shot!
THE LAST EFFORTS
THE MAGISTRATE, however, was not the only one who passed his time
unprofitably. Benito, Manoel, and Minha tried all they could together
to extract the secret from the document on which depended their
father's life and honor. On his part, Fragoso, aided by Lina, could
not remain quiet, but all their ingenuity had failed, and the number
still escaped them.
"Why don't you find it, Fragoso?" asked the young mulatto.
"I will find it," answered Fragoso.
And he did not find it!
Here we should say that Fragoso had an idea of a project of which he
had not even spoken to Lina, but which had taken full possession of
his mind. This was to go in search of the gang to which the
ex-captain of the woods had belonged, and to find out who was the
probable author of this cipher document, which was supposed to be the
confession of the culprit of Tijuco. The part of the Amazon where
these people were employed, the very place where Fragoso had met
Torres a few years before, was not very far from Manaos. He would
only have to descend the river for about fifty miles, to the mouth of
the Madeira, a tributary coming in on the right, and there he was
almost sure to meet the head of these _"capitaes do mato,"_ to which
Torres belonged. In two days, or three days at the outside, Fragoso
could get into communication with the old comrades of the adventurer.
"Yes! I could do that," he repeated to himself; "but what would be
the good of it, supposing I succeeded? If we are sure that one of
Torres' companions has recently died, would that prove him to be the
author of this crime? Would that show that he gave Torres a document
in which he announced himself the author of this crime, and
exonerated Joam Dacosta? Would that give us the key of the document?
No! Two men only knew the cipher--the culprit and Torres! And these
two men are no more!"
So reasoned Fragoso. It was evident that his enterprise would do no
good. But the thought of it was too much for him. An irresistible
influence impelled him to set out, although he was not even sure of
finding the band on the Madeira. In fact, it might be engaged in some
other part of the province, and to come up with it might require more
time than Fragoso had at his disposal! And what would be the result?
It is none the less true, however, that on the 29th of August, before
sunrise, Fragoso, without saying anything to anybody, secretly left
the jangada, arrived at Manaos, and embarked in one of the egariteas
which daily descend the Amazon.
And great was the astonishment when he was not seen on board, and did
not appear during the day. No one, not even Lina, could explain the
absence of so devoted a servant at such a crisis.
Some of them even asked, and not without reason, if the poor fellow,
rendered desperate at having, when he met him on the frontier,
personally contributed to bringing Torres on board the raft, had not
made away with himself.
But if Fragoso could so reproach himself, how about Benito? In the
first place at Iquitos he had invited Torres to visit the fazenda; in
the second place he had brought him on board the jangada, to become a
passenger on it; and in the third place, in killing him, he had
annihilated the only witness whose evidence could save the condemned
And so Benito considered himself responsible for everything--the
arrest of his father, and the terrible events of which it had been
In fact, had Torres been alive, Benito could not tell but that, in
some way or another, from pity or for reward, he would have finished
by handing over the document. Would not Torres, whom nothing could
compromise, have been persuaded to speak, had money been brought to
bear upon him? Would not the long-sought-for proof have been
furnished to the judge? Yes, undoubtedly! And the only man who could
have furnished this evidence had been killed through Benito!
Such was what the wretched man continually repeated to his mother, to
Manoel, and to himself. Such were the cruel responsibilities which
his conscience laid to his charge.
Between her husband, with whom she passed all the time that was
allowed her, and her son, a prey to despair which made her tremble
for his reason, the brave Yaquita lost none of her moral energy. In
her they found the valiant daughter of Magalha�s, the worthy wife of
the fazender of Iquitos.
The attitude of Joam Dacosta was well adapted to sustain her in this
ordeal. That gallant man, that rigid Puritan, that austere worker,
whose whole life had been a battle, had not yet shown a moment of
The most terrible blow which had struck him without prostrating him
had been the death of Judge Ribeiro, in whose mind his innocence did
not admit of a doubt. Was it not with the help of his old defender
that he had hoped to strive for his rehabilitation? The intervention
of Torres he had regarded throughout as being quite secondary for
him. And of this document he had no knowledge when he left Iquitos to
hand himself over to the justice of his country. He only took with
him moral proofs. When a material proof was unexpectedly produced in
the course of the affair, before or after his arrest, he was
certainly not the man to despise it. But if, on account of
regrettable circumstances, the proof disappeared, he would find
himself once more in the same position as when he passed the
Brazilian frontier--the position of a man who came to say, "Here is
my past life; here is my present; here is an entirely honest
existence of work and devotion which I bring you. You passed on me at
first an erroneous judgment. After twenty-three years of exile I have
come to give myself up! Here I am; judge me again!"
The death of Torres, the impossibility of reading the document found
on him, had thus not produced on Joam Dacosta the impression which it
had on his children, his friends, his household, and all who were
interested in him.
"I have faith in my innocence," he repeated to Yaquita, "as I have
faith in God. If my life is still useful to my people, and a miracle
is necessary to save me, that miracle will be performed; if not, I
shall die! God alone is my judge!"
The excitement increased in Manaos as the time ran on; the affair was
discussed with unexampled acerbity. In the midst of this enthralment
of public opinion, which evoked so much of the mysterious, the
document was the principal object of conversation.
At the end of this fourth day not a single person doubted but that it
contained the vindication of the doomed man. Every one had been given
an opportunity of deciphering its incomprehensible contents, for the
"Diario d'o Grand Para" had reproduced it in facsimile. Autograph
copies were spread about in great numbers at the suggestion of
Manoel, who neglect nothing that might lead to the penetration of the
mystery--not even chance, that "nickname of Providence," as some one
has called it.
In addition, a reward of one hundred contos (or three hundred
thousand francs) was promised to any one who could discover the
cipher so fruitlessly sought after--and read the document. This was
quite a fortune, and so people of all classes forgot to eat, drink,
or sleep to attack this unintelligible cryptogram.
Up to the present, however, all had been useless, and probably the
most ingenious analysts in the world would have spent their time in
vain. It had been advertised that any solution should be sent,
without delay, to Judge Jarriquez, to his house in God-the-Son
Street; but the evening of the 29th of August came and none had
arrived, nor was any likely to arrive.
Of all those who took up the study of the puzzle, Judge Jarriquez was
one of the most to be pitied. By a natural association of ideas, he
also joined in the general opinion that the document referred to the
affair at Tijuco, and that it had ben written by the hand of the
guilty man, and exonerated Joam Dacosta. And so he put even more
ardor into his search for the key. It was not only the art for art's
sake which guided him, it was a sentiment of justice, of pity toward
a man suffering under an unjust condemnation. If it is the fact that
a certain quantity of phosphorus is expended in the work of the
brain, it would be difficult to say how many milligrammes the judge
had parted with to excite the network of his "sensorium," and after
all, to find out nothing, absolutely nothing.
But Jarriquez had no idea of abandoning the inquiry. If he could only
now trust to chance, he would work on for that chance. He tried to
evoke it by all means possible and impossible. He had given himself
over to fury and anger, and, what was worse, to impotent anger!
During the latter part of this day he had been trying different
numbers--numbers selected arbitrarily--and how many of them can
scarcely be imagined. Had he had the time, he would not have shrunk
from plunging into the millions of combinations of which the ten
symbols of numeration are capable. He would have given his whole life
to it at the risk of going mad before the year was out. Mad! was he
not that already? He had had the idea that the document might be read
through the paper, and so he turned it round and exposed it to the
light, and tried it in that way.
Nothing! The numbers already thought of, and which he tried in this
new way, gave no result. Perhaps the document read backward, and the
last letter was really the first, for the author would have done this
had he wished to make the reading more difficult.
Nothing! The new combination only furnished a series of letters just
At eight o'clock in the evening Jarriquez, with his face in his
hands, knocked up, worn out mentally and physically, had neither
strength to move, to speak, to think, or to associate one idea with
Suddenly a noise was heard outside. Almost immediately,
notwithstanding his formal orders, the door of his study was thrown
open. Benito and Manoel were before him, Benito looking dreadfully
pale, and Manoel supporting him, for the unfortunate young man had
hardly strength to support himself.
The magistrate quickly arose.
"What is it, gentlemen? What do you want?" he asked.
"The cipher! the cipher!" exclaimed Benito, mad with grief--"the
cipher of the document."
"Do you know it, then?" shouted the judge.
"No, sir," said Manoel. "But you?"
"Nothing?" gasped Benito, and in a paroxysm of despair he took a
knife from his belt and would have plunged it into his breast had not
the judge and Manoel jumped forward and managed to disarm him.
"Benito," said Jarriquez, ina voice which he tried to keep calm, "if
you father cannot escape the expiation of a crime which is not his,
you could do something better than kill yourself."
"What?" said Benito.
"Try and save his life!"
"That is for you to discover," answered the magistrate, "and not for
me to say."
ON THE FOLLOWING day, the 30th of August, Benito and Manoel talked
matters over together. They had understood the thought to which the
judge had not dared to give utterance in their presence, and were
engaged in devising some means by which the condemned man could
escape the penalty of the law.
Nothing else was left for them to do. It was only too certain that
for the authorities at Rio Janeiro the undeciphered document would
nave no value whatever, that it would be a dead letter, that the
first verdict which declared Joam Dacosta the perpetrator of the
crime at Tijuco would not be set aside, and that, as in such cases no
commutation of the sentence was possible, the order for his execution
would inevitably be received.
Once more, then, Joam Dacosta would have to escape by flight from an
It was at the outset agreed between the two young men that the secret
should be carefully kept, and that neither Yaquita nor Minha should
be informed of preparations, which would probably only give rise to
hopes destined never to be realized. Who could tell if, owing to some
unforeseen circumstance, the attempt at escape would not prove a
The presence of Fragoso on such an occasion would have been most
valuable. Discreet and devoted, his services would have been most
welcome to the two young fellows; but Fragoso had not reappeared.
Lina, when asked, could only say that she knew not what had become of
him, nor why he had left the raft without telling her anything about
And assuredly, had Fragoso foreseen that things would have turned out
as they were doing, he would never have left the Dacosta family on an
expedition which appeared to promise no serious result. Far better
for him to have assisted in the escape of the doomed man than to have
hurried off in search of the former comrades of Torres!
But Fragoso was away, and his assistance had to be dispensed with.
At daybreak Benito and Manoel left the raft and proceeded to Manaos.
They soon reached the town, and passed through its narrow streets,
which at that early hour were quite deserted. In a few minutes they
arrived in front of the prison. The waste ground, amid which the old
convent which served for a house of detention was built, was
traversed by them in all directions, for they had come to study it
with the utmost care.
Fifty-five feet from the ground, in an angle of the building, they
recognized the window of the cell in which Joam Dacosta was confined.
The window was secured with iron bars in a miserable state of repair,
which it would be easy to tear down or cut through if they could only
get near enough. The badly jointed stones in the wall, which were
crumbled away every here and there, offered many a ledge for the feet
to rest on, if only a rope could be fixed to climb up by. One of the
bars had slipped out of its socket, and formed a hook over which it
might be possible to throw a rope. That done, one or two of the bars
could be removed, so as to permit a man to get through. Benito and
Manoel would then have to make their way into the prisoner's room,
and without much difficulty the escape could be managed by means of
the rope fastened to the projecting iron. During the night, if the
sky were very cloudy, none of these operations would be noticed
before the day dawned. Joam Dacosta could get safely away.
Manoel and Benito spent an hour about the spot, taking care not to
attract attention, but examining the locality with great exactness,
particularly as regarded the position of the window, the arrangement
of the iron bars, and the place from which it would be best to throw
"That is agreed," said Manoel at length. "And now, ought Joam Dacosta
to be told about this?"
"No, Manoel. Neither to him, any more than to my mother, ought we to
impart the secret of an attempt in which there is such a risk of
"We shall succeed, Benito!" continued Manoel. "However, we must
prepare for everything; and in case the chief of the prison should
discover us at the moment of escape----"
"We shall have money enough to purchase his silence," answered
"Good!" replied Manoel. "But once your father is out of prison he
cannot remain hidden in the town or on the jangada. Where is he to
This was the second question to solve: and a very difficult one it
A hundred paces away from the prison, however, the waste land was
crossed by one of those canals which flow through the town into the
Rio Negro. This canal afforded an easy way of gaining the river if a
pirogue were in waiting for the fugitive. From the foot of the wall
to the canal side was hardly a hundred yards.
Benito and Manoel decided that about eight o'clock in the evening one
of the pirogues, with two strong rowers, under the command of the
pilot Araujo, should start from the jangada. They could ascend the
Rio Negro, enter the canal, and, crossing the waste land, remain
concealed throughout the night under the tall vegetation on the
But once on board, where was Joam Dacosta to seek refuge? To return
to Iquitos was to follow a road full of difficulties and peril, and a
long one in any case, should the fugitive either travel across the
country or by the river. Neither by horse not pirogue could he be got
out of danger quickly enough, and the fazenda was no longer a safe
retreat. He would not return to it as the fazender, Joam Garral, but
as the convict, Joam Dacosta, continually in fear of his extradition.
He could never dream of resuming his former life.
To get away by the Rio Negro into the north of the province, or even
beyond the Brazilian territory, would require more time than he could
spare, and his first care must be to escape from immediate pursuit.
To start again down the Amazon? But stations, village, and towns
abounded on both sides of the river. The description of the fugitive
would be sent to all the police, and he would run the risk of being
arrested long before he reached the Atlantic. And supposing he
reached the coast, where and how was he to hide and wait for a
passage to put the sea between himself and his pursuers?
On consideration of these various plans, Benito and Manoel agreed
that neither of them was practicable. One, however, did offer some
chance of safety, and that was to embark in the pirogue, follow the
canal into the Rio Negro, descend this tributary under the guidance
of the pilot, reach the confluence of the rivers, and run down the
Amazon along its right bank for some sixty miles during the nights,
resting during the daylight, and so gaining the _embouchure_ of the
This tributary, which, fed by a hundred affluents, descends from the
watershed of the Cordilleras, is a regular waterway opening into the
very heart of Bolivia. A pirogue could pass up it and leave no trace
of its passage, and a refuge could be found in some town or village
beyond the Brazilian frontier. There Joam Dacosta would be
comparatively safe, and there for several months he could wait for an
opportunity of reaching the Pacific coast and taking passage in some
vessel leaving one of its ports; and if the ship were bound for one
of the States of North America he would be free. Once there, he could
sell the fazenda, eave his country forever, and seek beyond the sea,
in the Old World, a final retreat in which to end an existence so
cruelly and unjustly disturbed. Anywhere he might go, his family--not
excepting Manoel, who was bound to him by so many ties--would
assuredly follow without the slightest hesitation.
"Let us go," said Benito; "we must have all ready before night, and
we have no time to lose."
The young men returned on board by way of the canal bank, which led
along the Rio Negro. They satisfied themselves that the passage of
the pirogue would be quite possible, and that no obstacles such as
locks or boats under repair were there to stop it. They then
descended the left bank of the tributary, avoiding the slowly-filling
streets of the town, and reached the jangada.
Benito's first care was to see his mother. He felt sufficiently
master of himself to dissemble the anxiety which consumed him. He
wished to assure her that all hope was not lost, that the mystery of
the document would be cleared up, that in any case public opinion was
in favor of Joam, and that, in face of the agitation which was being
made in his favor, justice would grant all the necessary time for the
production of the material proof his innocence. "Yes, mother," he
added, "before to-morrow we shall be free from anxiety."
"May heaven grant it so!" replied Yaquita, and she looked at him so
keenly that Benito could hardly meet her glance.
On his part, and as if by pre-arrangement, Manoel had tried to
reassure Minha by telling her that Judge Jarriquez was convinced of
the innocence of Joam, and would try to save him by every means in
"I only wish he would, Manoel," answered she, endeavoring in vain to
restrain her tears.
And Manoel left her, for the tears were also welling up in his eyes
and witnessing against the words of hope to which he had just given
And now the time had arrived for them to make their daily visit to
the prisoner, and Yaquita and her daughter set off to Manaos.
For an hour the young men were in consultation with Araujo. They
acquainted him with their plan in all its details, and they discussed
not only the projected escape, but the measures which were necessary
for the safety of the fugitive.
Araujo approved of everything; he undertook during the approaching
night to take the pirogue up the canal without attracting any notice,
and he knew its course thoroughly as far as the spot where he was to
await the arrival of Joam Dacosta. To get back to the mouth of the
Rio Negro was easy enough, and the pirogue would be able to pass
unnoticed among the numerous craft continually descending the river.
Araujo had no objection to offer to the idea of following the Amazon
down to its confluence with the Madeira. The course of the Madeira
was familiar to him for quite two hundred miles up, and in the midst
of these thinly-peopled provinces, even if pursuit took place in
their direction, all attempts at capture could be easily frustrated;
they could reach the interior of Bolivia, and if Joam decided to
leave his country he could procure a passage with less danger on the
coast of the Pacific than on that of the Atlantic.
Araujo's approval was most welcome to the young fellows; they had
great faith in the practical good sense of the pilot, and not without
reason. His zeal was undoubted, and he would assuredly have risked
both life and liberty to save the fazender of Iquitos.
With the utmost secrecy Araujo at once set about his preparations. A
considerable sum in gold was handed over to him by Benito to meet all
eventualities during the voyage on the Madeira. In getting the
pirogue ready, he announced his intention of going in search of
Fragoso, whose fate excited a good deal of anxiety among his
companions. He stowed away in the boat provisions for many days, and
did not forget the ropes and tools which would be required by the
young men when they reached the canal at the appointed time and
These preparations evoked no curiosity on the part of the crew of the
jangada, and even the two stalwart negroes were not let into the
secret. They, however, could be absolutely depended on. Whenever they
learned what the work of safety was in which they were engaged--when
Joam Dacosta, once more free, was confided to their charge--Araujo
knew well that they would dare anything, even to the risk of their
own lives, to save the life of their master.
By the afternoon all was ready, and they had only the night to wait
for. But before making a start Manoel wished to call on Judge
Jarriquez for the last time. The magistrate might perhaps have found
out something new about the document. Benito preferred to remain on
the raft and wait for the return of his mother and sister.
Manoel then presented himself at the abode of Judge Jarriquez, and
was immediately admitted.
The magistrate, in the study which he never quitted, was still the
victim of the same excitement. The document crumpled by his impatient
fingers, was still there before his eyes on the table.
"Sir," said Manoel, whose voice trembled as he asked the question,
"have you received anything from Rio de Janeiro."
"No," answered the judge; "the order has not yet come to hand, but it
may at any moment."
"And the document?"
"Nothing yet!" exclaimed he. "Everything my imagination can suggest I
have tried, and no result."
"Nevertheless, I distinctly see one word in the document--only one!"
"What is that--what is the word?"
Manoel said nothing, but he pressed the hand which Jarriquez held out
to him, and returned to the jangada to wait for the moment of action.
THE LAST NIGHT
THE VISIT of Yaquita and her daughter had been like all such visits
during the few hours which each day the husband and wife spent
together. In the presence of the two beings whom Joam so dearly loved
his heart nearly failed him. But the husband--the father--retained
his self-command. It was he who comforted the two poor women and
inspired them with a little of the hope of which so little now
remained to him. They had come with the intention of cheering the
prisoner. Alas! far more than he they themselves were in want of
cheering! But when they found him still bearing himself unflinchingly
in the midst of his terrible trial, they recovered a little of their
Once more had Joam spoken encouraging words to them. His indomitable
energy was due not only to the feeling of his innocence, but to his
faith in that God, a portion of whose justice yet dwells in the
hearts of men. No! Joam Dacosta would never lose his life for the
crime of Tijuco!
Hardly ever did he mention the document. Whether it were apocryphal
or no, whether it were in the handwriting of Torres or in that of the
real perpetrator of the crime, whether it contained or did not
contain the longed-for vindication, it was on no such doubtful
hypothesis that Joam Dacosta presumed to trust. No; he reckoned on a
better argument in his favor, and it was to his long life of toil and
honor that he relegated the task of pleading for him.
This evening, then, his wife and daughter, strengthened by the manly
words, which thrilled them to the core of their hearts, had left him
more confident than they had ever been since his arrest. For the last
time the prisoner had embraced them, and with redoubled tenderness.
It seemed as though the _d�nouement_ was nigh.
Joam Dacosta, after they had left, remained for some time perfectly
motionless. His arms rested on a small table and supported his head.
Of what was he thinking? Had he at last been convinced that human
justice, after failing the first time, would at length pronounce his
Yes, he still hoped. With the report of Judge Jarriquez establishing
his identity, he knew that his memoir, which he had penned with so
much sincerity, would have been sent to Rio Janeiro, and was now in
the hands of the chief justice. This memoir, as we know, was the
history of his life from his entry into the offices of the diamond
arrayal until the very moment when the jangada stopped before Manaos.
Joam Dacosta was pondering over his whole career. He again lived his
past life from the moment when, as an orphan, he had set foot in
Tijuco. There his zeal had raised him high in the offices of the
governor-general, into which he had been admitted when still very
young. The future smiled on him; he would have filled some important
position. Then this sudden catastrophe; the robbery of the diamond
convoy, the massacre of the escort, the suspicion directed against
him as the only official who could have divulged the secret of the
expedition, his arrest, his appearance before the jury, his
conviction in spite of all the efforts of his advocate, the last
hours spent in the condemned cell at Villa Rica, his escape under
conditions which betokened almost superhuman courage, his flight
through the northern provinces, his arrival on the Peruvian frontier,
and the reception which the starving fugitive had met with from the
hospitable fazender Magalha�s.
The prisoner once more passed in review these events, which had so
cruelly amrred his life. And then, lost in his thoughts and
recollections, he sat, regardless of a peculiar noise on the outer
wall of the convent, of the jerkings of a rope hitched on to a bar of
his window, and of grating steel as it cut through iron, which ought
at once to have attracted the attention of a less absorbed man.
Joam Dacosta continued to live the years of his youth after his
arrival in Peru. He again saw the fazender, the clerk, the partner of
the old Portuguese, toiling hard for the prosperity of the
establishment at Iquitos. Ah! why at the outset had he not told all
to his benefactor? He would never have doubted him. It was the only
error with which he could reproach himself. Why had he not confessed
to him whence he had come, and who he was--above all, at the moment
when Magalha�s had place in his hand the hand of the daughter who
would never have believed that he was the author of so frightful a
And now the noise outside became loud enough to attract the
prisoner's attention. For an instant Joam raised his head; his eyes
sought the window, but with a vacant look, as though he were
unconscious, and the next instant his head again sank into his hands.
Again he was in thought back at Iquitos.
There the old fazender was dying; before his end he longed for the
future of his daughter to be assured, for his partner to be the sole
master of the settlement which had grown so prosperous under his
management. Should Dacosta have spoken then? Perhaps; but he dared
not do it. He again lived the happy days he had spent with Yaquita,
and again thought of the birth of his children, again felt the
happiness which had its only trouble in the remembrances of Tijuco
and the remorse that he had not confessed his terrible secret.
The chain of events was reproduced in Joam's mind with a clearness
and completeness quite remarkable.
And now he was thinking of the day when his daughter's marriage with
Manoel had been decided. Could he allow that union to take place
under a false name without acquainting the lad with the mystery of
his life? No! And so at the advice of Judge Ribeiro he resolved to
come and claim the revision of his sentence, to demand the
rehabilitation which was his due! He was starting with his people,
and then came the intervention of Torres, the detestable bargain
proposed by the scoundrel, the indignant refusal of the father to
hand over his daughter to save his honor and his life, and then the
denunciation and the arrest!
Suddenly the window flew open with a violent push from without.
Joam started up; the souvenire of the past vanished like a shadow.
Benito leaped into the room; he was in the presence of his father,
and the next moment Manoel, tearing down the remaining bars, appeared
Joam Dacosta would have uttered a cry of surprise. Benito left him no
time to do so.
"Father," he said, "the window grating is down. A rope leads to the
ground. A pirogue is waiting for you on the canal not a hundred yards
off. Araujo is there ready to take you far away from Manaos, on the
other bank of the Amazon where your track will never be discovered.
Father, you must escape this very moment! It was the judge's own
"It must be done!" added Manoel.
"Fly! I!--Fly a second time! Escape again?"
And with crossed arms, and head erect, Joam Dacosta stepped forward.
"Never!" he said, in a voice so firm that Benito and Manoel stood
The young men had never thought of a difficulty like this. They had
never reckoned on the hindrances to escape coming from the prisoner
Benito advanced to his father, and looking him straight in the face,
and taking both his hands in his, not to force him, but to try and
convince him, said:
"Never, did you say, father?"
"Father," said Manoel--"for I also have the right to call you
father--listen to us! If we tell you that you ought to fly without
losing an instant, it is because if you remain you will be guilty
toward others, toward yourself!"
"To remain," continued Benito, "is to remain to die! The order for
execution may come at any moment! If you imagine that the justice of
men will nullify a wrong decision, if you think it will rehabilitate
you whom it condemned twenty years since, you are mistaken! There is
hope no longer! You must escape! Come!"
By an irresistible impulse Benito seized his father and drew him
toward the window.
Joam Dacosta struggled from his son's grasp and recoiled a second
"To fly," he answered, in the tone of a man whose resolution was
unalterable, "is to dishonor myself, and you with me! It would be a
confession of my guilt! Of my own free will I surrendered myself to
my country's judges, and I will await their decision, whatever that
decision may be!"
"But the presumptions on which you trusted are insufficient," replied
Manoel, "and the material proof of your innocence is still wanting!
If we tell you that you ought to fly, it is because Judge Jarriquez
himself told us so. You have now only this one chance left to escape
"I will die, then," said Joam, in a calm voice. "I will die
protesting against the decision which condemned me! The first time, a
few hours before the execution--I fled! Yes! I was then young. I had
all my life before me in which to struggle against man's injustice!
But to save myself now, to begin again the miserable existence of a
felon hiding under a false name, whose every effort is required to
avoid the pursuit of the police, again to live the life of anxiety
which I have led for twenty-three years, and oblige you to share it
with me; to wait each day for a denunciation which sooner or later
must come, to wait for the claim for extradition which would follow
me to a foreign country! Am I to live for that? No! Never!"
"Father," interrupted Benito, whose mind threatened to give way
before such obstinacy, "you shall fly! I will have it so!" And he
caught hold of Joam Dacosta, and tried by force to drag him toward
"You wish to drive me mad?"
"My son," exclaimed Joam Dacosta, "listen to me! Once already I
escaped from the prison at Villa Rica, and people believed I fled
from well-merited punishment. Yes, they had reason to think so. Well,
for the honor of the name which you bear I shall not do so again."
Benito had fallen on his knees before his father. He held up his
hands to him; he begged him:
"But this order, father," he repeated, "this order which is due
to-day--even now--it will contain your sentence of death."
"The order may come, but my determination will not change. No, my
son! Joam Dacosta, guilty, might fly! Joam Dacosta, innocent, will
The scene which followed these words was heart-rending. Benito
struggled with his father. Manoel, distracted, kept near the window
ready to carry off the prisoner--when the door of the room opened.
On the threshold appeared the chief of the police, accompanied by the
head warder of the prison and a few soldiers. The chief of the police
understood at a glance that an attempt at escape was being made; but
he also understood from the prisoner's attitude that he it was who
had no wish to go! He said nothing. The sincerest pity was depicted
on his face. Doubtless he also, like Judge Jarriquez, would have
liked Dacosta to have escaped.
It was too late!
The chief of the police, who held a paper in his hand, advanced
toward the prisoner.
"Before all of you," said Joam Dacosta, "let me tell you, sir, that
it only rested with me to get away, and that I would not do so."
The chief of the police bowed his head, and then, in a voice which he
vainly tried to control"
"Joam Dacosta," he said, "the order has this moment arrived from the
chief justice at Rio Janeiro."
"Father!" exclaimed Manoel and Benito.
"This order," asked Joam Dacosta, who had crossed his arms, "this
order requires the execution of my sentence?"
"And that will take place?"
Benito threw himself on his father. Again would he have dragged him
from his cell, but the soldiers came and drew away the prisoner from
At a sign from the chief of the police Benito and Manoel were taken
away. An end had to be put to this painful scene, which had already
lasted too long.
"Sir," said the doomed man, "before to-morrow, before the hour of my
execution, may I pass a few moments with Padre Passanha, whom I ask
you to tell?"
"It will be forbidden."
"May I see my family, and embrace for a last time my wife and
"You shall see them."
"Thank you, sir," answered Joam; "and now keep guard over that
window; it will not do for them to take me out of here against my
And then the chief of the police, after a respectful bow, retired
with the warder and the soldiers.
The doomed man, who had now but a few hours to live, was left alone.
AND SO the order had come, and, as Judge Jarriquez had foreseen, it
was an order requiring the immediate execution of the sentence
pronounced on Joam Dacosta. No proof had been produced; justice must
take its course.
It was the very day--the 31st of August, at nine o'clock in the
morning of which the condemned man was to perish on the gallows.
The death penalty in Brazil is generally commuted except in the case
of negroes, but this time it was to be suffered by a white man.
Such are the penal arrangements relative to crimes in the diamond
arrayal, for which, in the public interest, the law allows no appear
Nothing could now save Joam Dacosta. It was not only life, but honor
that he was about to lose.
But on the 31st of August a man was approaching Manaos with all the
speed his horse was capable of, and such had been the pace at which
he had come that half a mile from the town the gallant creature fell,
incapable of carrying him any further.
The rider did not even stop to raise his steed. Evidently he had
asked and obtained from it all that was possible, and, despite the
state of exhaustion in which he found himself, he rushed off in the
direction of the city.
The man came from the eastern provinces, and had followed the left
bank of the river. All his means had gone in the purchase of this
horse, which, swifter far than any pirogue on the Amazon, had brought
him to Manaos.
It was Fragoso!
Had, then, the brave fellow succeeded in the enterprise of which he
had spoken to nobody? Had he found the party to which Torres
belonged? Had he discovered some secret which would yet save Joam
He hardly knew. But in any case he was in great haste to acquaint
Judge Jarriquez with what he had ascertained during his short
And this is what had happened.
Fragoso had made no mistake when he recognized Torres as one of the
captains of the party which was employed in the river provinces of
He set out, and on reaching the mouth of that tributary he learned
that the chief of these _capitaes da mato_ was then in the
Without losing a minute, Fragoso started on the search, and, not
without difficulty, succeeded in meeting him.
To Fragoso's questions the chief of the party had no hesitation in
replying; he had no interest in keeping silence with regard to the
few simple matters on which he was interrogated. In fact, three
questions only of importance were asked him by Fragoso, and these
"Did not a captain of the woods named Torres belong to your party a
few months ago?"
"At that time had he not one intimate friend among his companions who
has recently died?"
"And the name of that friend was?"
This was all that Fragoso had learned. Was this information of a kind
to modify Dacosta's position? It was hardly likely.
Fragoso saw this, and pressed the chief of the band to tell him what
he knew of this Ortega, of the place where he came from, and of his
antecedents generally. Such information would have been of great
importance if Ortega, as Torres had declared, was the true author of
the crime of Tijuco. But unfortunately the chief could give him no
information whatever in the matter.
What was certain was that Ortega had been a member of the band for
many years, that an intimate friendship existed between him and
Torres, that they were always seen together, and that Torres had
watched at his bedside when he died.
This was all the chief of the band knew, and he could tell no more.
Fragoso, then, had to be contented with these insignificant details,
and departed immediately.
But if the devoted fellow had not brought back the proof that Ortega
was the author of the crime of Tijuco, he had gained one thing, and
that was the knowledge that Torres had told the truth when he
affirmed that one of his comrades in the band had died, and that he
had been present during his last moments.
The hypothesis that Ortega had given him the document in question had
now become admissible. Nothing was more probable than that this
document had reference to the crime of which Ortega was really the
author, and that it contained the confession of the culprit,
accompanied by circumstances which permitted of no doubt as to its
And so, if the document could be read, if the key had been found, if
the cipher on which the system hung were known, no doubt of its truth
could be entertained.
But this cipher Fragoso did not know. A few more presumptions, a
half-certainty that the adventurer had invented nothing, certain
circumstances tending to prove that the secret of the matter was
contained in the document--and that was all that the gallant fellow
brought back from his visit to the chief of the gang of which Torres
had been a member.
Nevertheless, little as it was, he was in all haste to relate it to
Judge Jarriquez. He knew that he had not an hour to lose, and that
was why on this very morning, at about eight o'clock, he arrived,
exhausted with fatigue, within half a mile of Manaos. The distance
between there and the town he traversed in a few minutes. A kind of
irresistible presentiment urged him on, and he had almost come to
believe that Joam Dacosta's safety rested in his hands.
Suddenly Fragoso stopped as if his feet had become rooted in the
ground. He had reached the entrance to a small square, on which
opened one of the town gates.
There, in the midst of a dense crowd, arose the gallows, towering up
some twenty feet, and from it there hung the rope!
Fragoso felt his consciousness abandon him. He fell; his eyes
involuntarily closed. He did not wish to look, and these words
escaped his lips: "Too late! too late!" But by a superhuman effort he
raised himself up. No; it was _not_ too late, the corpse of Joam
Dacosta was _not_ hanging at the end of the rope!
"Judge Jarriquez! Judge Jarriquez!" shouted Fragoso, and panting and
bewildered he rushed toward the city gate, dashed up the principal
street of Manaos, and fell half-dead on the threshold of the judge's
house. The door was shut. Fragoso had still strength enough left to
knock at it.
One of the magistrate's servants came to open it; his master would
see no one.
In spite of this denial, Fragoso pushed back the man who guarded the
entrance, and with a bound threw himself into the judge's study.
"I come from the province where Torres pursued his calling as captain
of the woods!" he gasped. "Mr. Judge, Torres told the truth.
Stop--stop the execution?"
"You found the gang?"
"And you have brought me the cipher of the document?"
Fragoso did not reply.
"Come, leave me alone! leave me alone!" shouted Jarriquez, and, a
prey to an outburst of rage, he grasped the document to tear it to
Fragoso seized his hands and stopped him. "The truth is there!" he
"I know," answered Jarriquez; "but it is a truth which will never see
"It will appear--it must! it must!"
"Once more, have you the cipher?"
"No," replied Fragoso; "but, I repeat, Torres has not lied. One of
his companions, with whom he was very intimate, died a few months
ago, and there can be no doubt but that this man gave him the
document he came to sell to Joam Dacosta."
"No," answered Jarriquez--"no, there is no doubt about it--as far as
we are concerned; but that is not enough for those who dispose of the
doomed man's life. Leave me!"
Fragoso, repulsed, would not quit the spot. Again he threw himself at
the judge's feet. "Joam Dacosta is innocent!" he cried; "you will not
leave him to die? It was not he who committed the crime of Tijuco; it
was the comrade of Torres, the author of that document! It was
As he uttered the name the judge bounded backward. A kind of calm
swiftly succeeded to the tempest which raged within him. He dropped
the document from his clenched hand, smoothed it out on the table,
sat down, and, passing his hand over his eyes--"That name?" he
said--"Ortega? Let us see," and then he proceeded with the new name
brought back by Fragoso as he had done with the other names so vainly
tried by himself.
After placing it above the first six letters of the paragraph he
obtained the following formula:
O r t e g a
_P h y j s l_
"Nothing!" he said. "That give us--nothing!"
And in fact the _h_ placed under the _r_ could not be expressed by a
cipher, for, in alphabetical order, this letter occupies an earlier
position to that of the _r._
The _p,_ the _y,_ the _j,_ arranged beneath the letters _o, t, e,_
disclosed the cipher 1, 4, 5, but as for the _s_ and the _l_ at the
end of the word, the interval which separated them from the _g_ and
the _a_ was a dozen letters, and hence impossible to express by a
single cipher, so that they corresponded to neither _g_ nor _a_.
And here appalling shouts arose in the streets; they were the cries
Fragoso jumped to one of the windows, and opened it before the judge
could hinder him.
The people filled the road. The hour had come at which the doomed man
was to start from the prison, and the crowd was flowing back to the
spot where the gallows had been erected.
Judge Jarriquez, quite frightful to look upon, devoured the lines of
the document with a fixed stare.
"The last letters!" he muttered. "Let us try once more the last
It was the last hope.
And then, with a hand whose agitation nearly prevented him from
writing at all, he placed the name of Ortega over the six last
letters of the paragraph, as he had done over the first.
An exclamation immediately escaped him. He saw, at first glance, that
the six last letters were inferior in alphabetical order to those
which composed Ortega's name, and that consequently they might yield
And when he reduced the formula, reckoning each later letter from the
earlier letter of the word, he obtained.
O r t e g a
4 3 2 5 1 3
_S u v j h d_
The number thus disclosed was 432513.
But was this number that which had been used in the document? Was it
not as erroneous as those he had previously tried?
At this moment the shouts below redoubled--shouts of pity which
betrayed the sympathy of the excited crowd. A few minutes more were
all that the doomed man had to live!
Fragoso, maddened with grief, darted from the room! He wished to see,
for the last time, his benefactor who was on the road to death! He
longed to throw himself before the mournful procession and stop it,
shouting, "Do not kill this just man! do not kill him!"
But already Judge Jarriquez had placed the given number above the
first letters of the paragraph, repeating them as often as was
necessary, as follows:
4 3 2 5 1 3 4 3 2 5 1 3 4 3 2 5 1 3 4 3 2 5 1 3
_P h y j s l y d d q f d z x g a s g z z q q e h_
And then, reckoning the true letters according to their alphabetical
order, he read:
"Le v�ritable auteur du vol de----"
A yell of delight escaped him! This number, 432513, was the number
sought for so long! The name of Ortega had enabled him to discover
it! At length he held the key of the document, which would
incontestably prove the innocence of Joam Dacosta, and without
reading any more he flew from his study into the street, shouting:
To cleave the crowd, which opened as he ran, to dash to the prison,
whence the convict was coming at the last moment, with his wife and
children clinging to him with the violence of despair, was but the
work of a minute for Judge Jarriquez.
Stopping before Joam Dacosta, he could not speak for a second, and
then these words escaped his lips:
THE CRIME OF TIJUCO
ON THE ARRIVAL of the judge the mournful procession halted. A roaring
echo had repeated after him and again repeated the cry which escaped
from every mouth:
Then complete silence fell on all. The people did not want to lose
one syllable of what was about to be proclaimed.
Judge Jarriquez sat down on a stone seat, and then, while Minha,
Benito, Manoel, and Fragoso stood round him, while Joam Dacosta
clasped Yaquita to his heart, he first unraveled the last paragraph
of the document by means of the number, and as the words appeared by
the institution of the true letters for the cryptological ones, he
divided and punctuated them, and then read it out in a loud voice.
And this is what he read in the midst of profound silence:
_Le v�ritable auteur du vol des diamants et de_
43 251343251 343251 34 325 134 32513432 51 34
_Ph yjslyddf dzxgas gz zqq ehx gkfndrxu ju gi
l'assassinat des soldats qui escortaient le convoi,_
32513432513 432 5134325 134 32513432513 43 251343
_ocytdxvksbx bhu ypohdvy rym huhpuydkjox ph etozsl
commis dans la nuit du vingt-deux janvier mil_
251343 2513 43 2513 43 251343251 3432513 432
_etnpmv ffov pd pajx hy ynojyggay meqynfu q1n
huit-cent vingt-six, n'est donc pas Joam Dacosta,_
5134 3251 3425 134 3251 3432 513 4325 1343251
_mvly fgsu zmqiz tlb qgyu gsqe uvb nrcc edgruzb
injustement condamn� � mort, c'est moi, les mis�rable_
34325134325 13432513 4 3251 3432 513 43 251343251
_l4msyuhqpz drrgcroh e pqxu fivv rpl ph onthvddqf
employ� de l'administration du district diamantin,_
3432513 43 251343251343251 34 32513432 513432513
_hqsntzh hh nfepmqkyuuexkto gz gkyuumfv ijdqdpzjq
out, moi seul, qui signe de mon vrai nom, Ortega._
432 513 4325 134 32513 43 251 3432 513 432513
_syk rpl xhxq rym vkloh hh oto zvdk spp suvjhd._
"The real author of the robbery of the diamonds and of the murder of
the soldiers who escorted the convoy, committed during the night of
the twenty-second of January, one thousand eight hundred and
twenty-six, was thus not Joam Dacosta, unjustly condemned to death;
it was I, the wretched servant of the Administration of the diamond
district; yes, I alone, who sign this with my true name, Ortega."
The reading of this had hardly finished when the air was rent with
What could be more conclusive than this last paragraph, which
summarized the whole of the document, and proclaimed so absolutely
the innocence of the fazender of Iquitos, and which snatched from the
gallows this victim of a frightful judicial mistake!
Joam Dacosta, surrounded by his wife, his children, and his friends,
was unable to shake the hands which were held out to him. Such was
the strength of his character that a reaction occurred, tears of joy
escaped from his eyes, and at the same instant his heart was lifted
up to that Providence which had come to save him so miraculously at
the moment he was about to offer the last expiation to that God who
would not permit the accomplishment of that greatest of crimes, the
death of an innocent man!
Yes! There could be no doubt as to the vindication of Joam Dacosta.
The true author of the crime of Tijuco confessed of his own free
will, and described the circumstances under which it had been
By means of the number Judge Jarriquez interpreted the whole of the
And this was what Ortega confessed.
He had been the colleague of Joam Dacosta, employed, like him, at
Tijuco, in the offices of the governor of the diamond arrayal. He had
been the official appointed to accompany the convoy to Rio de
Janeiro, and, far from recoiling at the horrible idea of enriching
himself by means of murder and robbery, he had informed the smugglers
of the very day the convoy was to leave Tijuco.
During the attack of the scoundrels, who awaited the convoy just
beyond Villa Rica, he pretended to defend himself with the soldiers
of the escort, and then, falling among the dead, he was carried away
by his accomplices. Hence it was that the solitary soldier who
survived the massacre had reported that Ortega had perished in the
But the robbery did not profit the guilty man in the long run, for, a
little time afterward, he was robbed by those whom he had helped to
commit the crime.
Penniless, and unable to enter Tijuco again, Ortega fled away to the
provinces in the north of Brazil, to those districts of the Upper
Amazon where the _capitaes da mato_ are to be found. He had to live
somehow, and so he joined this not very honorable company; they
neither asked him who he was nor whence he came, and so Ortega became
a captain of the woods, and for many years he followed the trade of a
chaser of men.
During this time Torres, the adventurer, himself in absolute want,
became his companion. Ortega and he became most intimate. But, as he
had told Torres, remorse began gradually to trouble the scoundrel's
life. The remembrance of his crime became horrible to him. He knew
that another had been condemned in his place! He knew subsequently
that the innocent man had escaped from the last penalty, but that he
would never be free from the shadow of the capital sentence! And
then, during an expedition of his party for several months beyond the
Peruvian frontier, chance caused Ortega to visit the neighborhood of
Iquitos, and there in Joam Garral, who did not recognize him, he
recognized Joam Dacosta.
Henceforth he resolved to make all the reparation he could for the
injustice of which is old comrade had been the victim. He committed
to the document all the facts relative to the crime of Tijuco,
writing it first in French, which had been his mother's native
tongue, and then putting it into the mysterious form we know, his
intention being to transmit it to the fazender of Iquitos, with the
cipher by which it could be read.
Death prevented his completing his work of reparation. Mortally
wounded in a scuffle with some negroes on the Madeira, Ortega felt he
was doomed. His comrade Torres was then with him. He thought he could
intrust to his friend the secret which had so grievously darkened his
life. He gave him the document, and made him swear to convey it to
Joam Dacosta, whose name and address he gave him, and with his last
breath he whispered the number 432513, without which the document
would remain undecipherable.
Ortega dead, we know how the unworthy Torres acquitted himself of his
mission, how he resolved to turn to his own profit the secret of
which he was the possessor, and how he tried to make it the subject
of an odious bargain.
Torres died without accomplishing his work, and carried his secret
with him. But the name of Ortega, brought back by Fragoso, and which
was the signature of the document, had afforded the means of
unraveling the cryptogram, dtanks to the sagacity of Judge Jarriquez.
Yes, the material proof sought after for so long was the
incontestable witness of the innocence of Joam Dacosta, returned to
life, restored to honor.
The cheers redoubled when the worthy magistrate, in a loud voice, and
for the edification of all, read from the document this terrible
And from that moment Judge Jarriquez, whoo possessed this indubitable
proof, arranged with the chief of the police, and declined to allow
Joam Dacosta, while waiting new instructions from Rio Janeiro, to
stay in any prison but his own house.
There could be no difficulty about this, and in the center of the
crowd of the entire population of Manaos, Joam Dacosta, accompanied
by all his family, beheld himself conducted like a conquerer to the
And in that minute the honest fazender of Iquitos was well repaid for
all that he had suffered during the long years of exile, and if he
was happy for his family's sake more than for his own, he was none
the less proud for his country's sake that this supreme injustice had
not been consummated!
And in all this what had become of Fragoso?
Well, the good-hearted fellow was covered with caresses! Benito,
Manoel, and Minha had overwhelmed him, and Lina had by no means
spared him. He did not know what to do, he defended himself as best
he could. He did not deserve anything like it. Chance alone had done
it. Were any thanks due to him for having recognized Torres as a
captain of the woods? No, certainly not. As to his idea of hurrying
off in search of the band to which Torres had belonged, he did not
think it had been worth much, and as to the name of Ortega, he did
not even know its value.
Gallant Fragoso! Whether he wished it or no, he had none the less
saved Joam Dacosta!
And herein what a strange succession of different events all tending
to the same end. The deliverance of Fragoso at the time when he was
dying of exhaustion in the forest of Iquitos; the hospitable
reception he had met with at the fazenda, the meeting with Torres on
the Brazilian frontier, his embarkation on the jangada; and lastly,
the fact that Fragoso had seen him somewhere before.
"Well, yes!" Fragoso ended by exclaiming; "but it is not to me that
all this happiness is due, it is due to Lina!"
"To me?" replied the young mulatto.
"No doubt of it. Without the liana, without the idea of the liana,
could I ever have been the cause of so much happiness?"
So that Fragoso and Lina were praised and petted by all the family,
and by all the new friends whom so many trials had procured them at
Manaos, need hardly be insisted on.
But had not Judge Jarriquez also had his share in this rehabilitation
of an innocent man? If, in spite of all the shrewdness of his
analytical talents, he had not been able to read the document, which
was absolutely undecipherable to any one who had not got the key, had
he not at any rate discovered the system on which the cryptogram was
composed? Without him what could have been done with only the name of
Ortega to reconstitute the number which the author of the crime and
Torres, both of whom were dead, alone knew?
And so he also received abundant thanks.
Needless to say that the same day there was sent to Rio de Janeiro a
detailed report of the whole affair, and with it the original
document and the cipher to enable it to be read. New instructions
from the minister of justice had to be waited for, though there could
be no doubt that they would order the immediate discharge of the
prisoner. A few days would thus have to be passed at Manaos, and then
Joam Dacosta and his people, free from all constraint, and released
from all apprehension, would take leave of their host to go on board
once more and continue their descent of the Amazon to Para, where the
voyage was intended to terminate with the double marriage of Minha
and Manoel and Lina and Fragoso.
Four days afterward, on the fourth of September, the order of
discharge arrived. The document had been recognized as authentic. The
handwriting was really that of Ortega, who had been formerly employed
in the diamond district, and there could be no doubt that the
confession of his crime, with the minutest details that were given,
had been entirely written with his own hand.
The innocence of the convict of Villa Rica was at length admitted.
The rehabilitation of Joam Dacosta was at last officially proclaimed.
That very day Judge Jarriquez dined with the family on board the
giant raft, and when evening came he shook hands with them all.
Touching were the adieus, but an engagement was made for them to see
him again on their return at Manaos, and later on the fazenda of
On the morning of the morrow, the fifth of September, the signal for
departure was given. Joam Dacosta and Yaquita, with their daughter
and sons, were on the deck of the enormous raft. The jangada had its
moorings slackened off and began to move with the current, and when
it disappeared round the bend of the Rio Negro, the hurrahs of the
whole population of Manaos, who were assembled on the bank, again and
again re-echoed across the stream.
THE LOWER AMAZON
LITTLE REMAINS to tell of the second part of the voyage down the
mighty river. It was but a series of days of joy. Joam Dacosta
returned to a new life, which shed its happiness on all who belonged
The giant raft glided along with greater rapidity on the waters now
swollen by the floods. On the left they passed the small village of
Don Jose de Maturi, and on the right the mouth of that Madeira which
owes its name to the floating masses of vegetable remains and trunks
denuded of their foliage which it bears from the depths of Bolivia.
They passed the archipelago of Caniny, whose islets are veritable
boxes of palms, and before the village of Serpa, which, successively
transported from one back to the other, has definitely settled on the
left of the river, with its little houses, whose thresholds stand on
the yellow carpet of the beach.
The village of Silves, built on the left of the Amazon, and the town
of Villa Bella, which is the principal guarana market in the whole
province, were soon left behind by the giant raft. And so was the
village of Faro and its celebrated river of the Nhamundas, on which,
in 1539, Orellana asserted he was attacked by female warriors, who
have never been seen again since, and thus gave us the legend which
justifies the immortal name of the river of the Amazons.
Here it is that the province of Rio Negro terminates. The
jurisdiction of Para then commences; and on the 22d of September the
family, marveling much at a valley which has no equal in the world,
entered that portion of the Brazilian empire which has no boundary to
the east except the Atlantic.
"How magnificent!" remarked Minha, over and over again.
"How long!" murmured Manoel.
"How beautiful!" repeated Lina.
"When shall we get there?" murmured Fragoso.
And this was what might have been expected of these folks from the
different points of view, though time passed pleasantly enough with
them all the same. Benito, who was neither patient nor impatient, had
recovered all his former good humor.
Soon the jangada glided between interminable plantations of
cocoa-trees with their somber green flanked by the yellow thatch or
ruddy tiles of the roofs of the huts of the settlers on both banks
from Obidos up to the town of Monto Alegre.
Then there opened out the mouth of the Rio Trombetas, bathing with
its black waters the houses of Obidos, situated at about one hundred
and eighty miles from Belem, quite a small town, and even a
_"citade"_ with large streets bordered with handsome habitations, and
a great center for cocoa produce. Then they saw another tributary,
the Tapajos, with its greenish-gray waters descending from the
south-west; and then Santarem, a wealthy town of not less than five
thousand inhabitants, Indians for the most part, whose nearest houses
were built on the vast beach of white sand.
After its departure from Manaos the jangada did not stop anywhere as
it passed down the much less encumbered course of the Amazon. Day and
night it moved along under the vigilant care of its trusty pilot; no
more stoppages either for the gratification of the passengers or for
business purposes. Unceasingly it progressed, and the end rapidly
On leaving Alemquer, situated on the left bank, a new horizon
appeared in view. In place of the curtain of forests which had shut
them in up to then, our friends beheld a foreground of hills, whose
undulations could be easily descried, and beyond them the faint
summits of veritable mountains vandyked across the distant depth of
sky. Neither Yaquita, nor her daughter, nor Lina, nor old Cybele, had
ever seen anything like this.
But in this jurisdiction of Para, Manoel was at home, and he could
tell them the names of the double chain which gradually narrowed the
valley of the huge river.
"To the right," said he, "that is the Sierra de Paracuarta, which
curves in a half-circle to the south! To the left, that is the Sierra
de Curuva, of which we have already passed the first outposts."
"Then they close in?" asked Fragoso.
"They close in!" replied Manoel.
And the two young men seemed to understand each other, for the same
slight but significant nodding of the head accompanied the question
At last, notwithstanding the tide, which since leaving Obidos had
begun to be felt, and which somewhat checked the progress of the
raft, the town of Monto Alegre was passed, then that of Pravnha de
Onteiro, then the mouth of the Xingu, frequented by Yurumas Indians,
whose principal industry consists in preparing their enemies' heads
for natural history cabinets.
To what a superb size the Amazon had now developed as already this
monarch of rivers gave signs of opening out like a sea! Plants from
eight to ten feet high clustered along the beach, and bordered it
with a forest of reeds. Porto de Mos, Boa Vista, and Gurupa, whose
prosperity is on the decline, were soon among the places left in the
Then the river divided into two important branches, which flowed off
toward the Atlantic, one going away northeastward, the other
eastward, and between them appeared the beginning of the large island
of Marajo. This island is quite a province in itself. It measures no
less than a hundred and eighty leagues in circumference. Cut up by
marshes and rivers, all savannah to the east, all forest to the west,
it offers most excellent advantages for the raising of cattle, which
can here be seen in their thousands. This immense barricade of Marajo
is the natural obstacle which has compelled the Amazon to divide
before precipitating its torrents of water into the sea. Following
the upper branch, the jangada, after passing the islands of Caviana
and Mexiana, would have found an _embouchure_ of some fifty leagues
across, but it would also have bet with the bar of the prororoca,
that terrible eddy which, for the three days preceding the new or
full moon, takes but two minutes instead of six hours to raise the
river from twelve to fifteen feet above ordinary high-water mark.
This is by far the most formidable of tide-races. Most fortunately
the lower branch, known as the Canal of Breves, which is the natural
area of the Para, is not subject to the visitations of this terrible
phenomenon, and its tides are of a more regular description. Araujo,
the pilot, was quite aware of this. He steered, therefore, into the
midst of magnificent forests, here and there gliding past island
covered with muritis palms; and the weather was so favorable that
they did not experience any of the storms which so frequently rage
along this Breves Canal.
A few days afterward the jangada passed the village of the same name,
which, although built on the ground flooded for many months in the
year, has become, since 1845, an important town of a hundred houses.
Throughout these districts, which are frequented by Tapuyas, the
Indians of the Lower Amazon become more and more commingled with the
white population, and promise to be completely absorbed by them.
And still the jangada continued its journey down the river. Here, at
the risk of entanglement, it grazed the branches of the mangliers,
whose roots stretched down into the waters like the claws of gigantic
crustaceans; then the smooth trunks of the paletuviers, with their
pale-green foliage, served as the resting-places for the long poles
of the crew as they kept the raft in the strength of the current.
Then came the Tocantins, whose waters, due to the different rivers of
the province of Goyaz, mingle with those of the Amazon by an
_embouchure_ of great size, then the Moju, then the town of Santa
Majestically the panorama of both banks moved along without a pause,
as though some ingenious mechanism necessitated its unrolling in the
opposite direction to that of the stream.
Already numerous vessels descending the river, ubas, egariteas,
vigilandas, pirogues of all builds, and small coasters from the lower
districts of the Amazon and the Atlantic seaboard, formed a
procession with the giant raft, and seemed lke sloops beside some
At length here appeared on the left Santa Maria de Belem do Para--the
"town" as they call it in that country--with its picturesque lines of
white houses at many different levels, its convents nestled among the
palm-trees, the steeples of its cathedral and of Nostra Senora de
Merced, and the flotilla of its brigantines, brigs, and barks, which
form its commercial communications with the old world.
The hearts of the passengers of the giant raft beat high. At length
they were coming to the end of the voyage which they had thought they
would never reach. While the arrest of Joam detained them at Manaos,
halfway on their journey, could they ever have hoped to see the
capital of the province of Para?
It was in the course of this day, the 15th of October--four months
and a half after leaving the fazenda of Iquitos--that, as they
rounded a sharp bend in the river, Belem came into sight.
The arrival of the jangada had been signaled for some days. The whole
town knew the story of Joam Dacosta. They came forth to welcome him,
and to him and his people accorded a most sympathetic reception.
Hundreds of craft of all sorts conveyed them to the fazender, and
soon the jangada was invaded by all those who wished to welcome the
return of their compatriot after his long exile. Thousands of
sight-seers--or more correctly speaking, thousands of friends crowded
on to the floating village as soon as it came to its moorings, and it
was vast and solid enough to support the entire population. Among
those who hurried on board one of the first pirogues had brought
Madame Valdez. Manoel's mother was at last able to clasp to her arms
the daughter whom her son had chosen. If the good lady had not been
able to come to Iquitos, was it not as though a portion of the
fazenda, with her new family, had come down the Amazon to her?
Before evening the pilot Araujo had securely moored the raft at the
entrance of a creek behind the arsenal. That was to be its last
resting-place, its last halt, after its voyage of eight hundred
leagues on the great Brazilian artery. There the huts of the Indians,
the cottage of the negroes, the store-rooms which held the valuable
cargo, would be gradually demolished; there the principal dwelling,
nestled beneath its verdant tapestry of flowers and foliage, and the
little chapel whose humble bell was then replying to the sounding
clangor from the steeples of Belem, would each in its turn disappear.
But, ere this was done, a ceremony had to take place on the
jangada--the marriage of Manoel and Minha, the marriage of Lina and
Fragoso. To Father Passanha fell the duty of celebrating the double
union which promised so happily. In that little chapel the two
couples were to receive the nuptial benediction from his hands.
If it happened to be so small as to be only capable of holding the
members of Dacosta's family, was not the giant raft large enough to
receive all those who wished to assist at the ceremony? and if not,
and the crowd became swo great, did not the ledges of the river banks
afford sifficient room for as many others of the sympathizing crowd
as were desirous of welcoming him whom so signal a reparation had
made the hero of the day?
It was on the morrow, the 16th of October, that with great pomp the
marriages were celebrated.
It was a magnificent day, and from about ten o'clock in the morning
the raft began to receive its crowd of guests. On the bank could be
seen almost the entire population of Belem in holiday costume. On the
river, vessels of all sorts crammed with visitors gathered round the
enormous mass of timber, and the waters of the Amazon literally
disappeared even up to the left bank beneath the vast flotilla.
When the chapel bell rang out its opening note it seemed like a
signal of joy to ear and eye. In an instant the churches of Belem
replied to the bell of the jangada. The vessels in the port decked
themselves with flags up to their mastheads, and the Brazilian colors
were saluted by the many other national flags. Discharges of musketry
reverberated on all sides, and it was only with difficulty that their
joyous detonations could cope with the loud hurrahs from the
The Dacosta family came forth from their house and moved through the
crowd toward the little chapel. Joam was received with absolutely
frantic applause. He gave his arm to Madame Valdez; Yaquita was
escorted by the governor of Belem, who, accompanied by the friends of
the young army surgeon, had expressed a wish to honor the ceremony
with his presence. Manoel walked by the side of Minha, who looked
most fascinating in her bride's costume, and then came Fragoso,
holding the hand of Lina, who seemed quite radiant with joy. Then
followed Benito, then old Cybele and the servants of the worthy
family between the double ranks of the crew of the jangada.
Padre Passanha awaited the two couples at the entrance of the chapel.
The ceremony was very simple, and the same bands which had formerly
blessed Joam and Yaquita were again stretched forth to give the
nuptial benediction to their child.
So much happiness was not likely to be interrupted by the sorrow of
long separation. In fact, Manoel Valdez almost immediately sent in
his resignation, so as to join the family at Iquitos, where he is
still following the profession of a country doctor.
Naturally the Fragosos did not hesitate to go back with those who
were to them friends rather than masters.
Madame Valdez had no desire to separate so happy a group, but she
insisted on one thing, and that was that they should often come and
see her at Belem. Nothing could be easier. Was not the mighty river a
bond of communication between Belem and Iquitos? In a few days the
first mail steamer was to begin a regular and rapid service, and it
would then only take a week to ascend the Amazon, on which it had
taken the giant raft so many months to drift. The important
commercial negotiations, ably managed by Benito, were carried through
under the best of conditions, and soon of what had formed this
jangada--that is to say, the huge raft of timber constructed from an
entire forest at Iquitos--there remained not a trace.
A month afterward the fazender, his wife, his son, Manoel and Minha
Valdez, Lina and Fragoso, departed by one of the Amazon steamers for
the immense establishment at Iquitos of which Benito was to take the
Joam Dacosta re-entered his home with his head erect, and it was
indeed a family of happy hearts which he brought back with him from
beyond the Brazilian frontier. As for Fragoso, twenty times a day was
he heard to repeat, "What! without the liana?" and he wound up by
bestowing the name on the young mulatto who, by her affection for the
gallant fellow, fully justified its appropriateness. "If it were not
for the one letter," he said, "would not Lina and Liana be the same?"