Araujo, who did not forget to clear his vision and his memory by an occasional application to his demijohn, maneuvered very ably when passing through this archipelago. At his word of command fifty poles from each side of the raft were raised in the air, and struck the water with an automatic movement very curious to behold.
While this was going on, Yaquita, aided by Lina and Cybele, was getting everything in order, and the Indian cooks were preparing the breakfast.
As for the two young fellows and Minha, they were walking up and down in company with Padre Passanha, and from time to time the lady stopped and watered the plants which were placed about the base of the dwelling-house.
"Well, padre," said Benito, "do you know a more agreeable way of traveling?"
"No, my dear boy," replied the padre; "it is truly traveling with all one's belongings."
"And without any fatigue," added Manoel; "we might do hundreds of thousands of miles in this way."
"And," said Minha, "you do not repent having taken passage with us? Does it not seem to you as if we were afloat on an island drifted quietly away from the bed of the river with its prairies and its trees? Only----"
"Only?" repeated the padre.
"Only we have made the island with our own hands; it belongs to us, and I prefer it to all the islands of the Amazon. I have a right to be proud of it."
"Yes, my daughter; and I absolve you from your pride. Besides, I am not allowed to scold you in the presence of Manoel!"
"But, on the other hand," replied she, gayly, "you should teach Manoel to scold me when I deserve it. He is a great deal too indulgent to my little self."
"Well, then, dear Minha," said Manoel, "I shall profit by that permission to remind you----"
"That you were very busy in the library at the fazenda, and that you promised to make me very learned about everything connected with the Upper Amazon. We know very little about it in Para, and here we have been passing several islands and you have not even told me their names!"
"What is the good of that?" said she.
"Yes; what is the good of it?" repeated Benito. "What can be the use of remembering the hundreds of names in the 'Tupi' dialect with which these islands are dressed out? It is enough to know them. The Americans are much more practical with their Mississippi islands; they number then----"
"As they number the avenues and streets of their towns," replied Manoel. "Frankly, I don't care much for that numerical system; it conveys nothing to the imagination--Sixty-fourth Island or Sixty-fifth Island, any more than Sixth Street or Third Avenue. Don't you agree with me, Minha?"
"Yes, Manoel; though I am of somewhat the same way of thinking as my brother. But even if we do not know their names, the islands of our great river are truly splendid! See how they rest under the shadows of those gigantic palm-trees with their drooping leaves! And the girdle of reeds which encircles them through which a pirogue can with difficulty make its way! And the mangrove trees, whose fantastic roots buttress them to the bank like the claws of some gigantic crab! Yes, the islands are beautiful, but, beautiful as they are, they cannot equal the one we have made our own!"
"My little Minha is enthusiastic to-day," said the padre.
"Ah, padre! I am so happy to see everybody happy around em!"
At this moment the voice of Yaquita was heard calling Minha into the house.
The young girl smilingly ran off.
"You will have an amiable companion," said the padre. "All the joy of the house goes away with you, my friend."
"Brave little sister!" said Benito, "we shall miss her greatly, and the padre is right. However, if you do not marry her, Manoel--there is still time--she will stay with us."
"She will stay with you, Benito," replied Manoel. "Believe me, I have a presentiment that we shall all be reunited!"
The first day passed capitally; breakfast, dinner, siesta, walks, all took place as if Joam Garral and his people were still in the comfortable fazenda of Iquitos.