And then the encouragements of the artist to the crowd!
"Look here! look here!" said he; "how will that do, my friends--if you don't sleep on the top of it! There you are, for a twelvemonth! and these are the latest novelties from Belem and Rio de Janeiro! The queen's maids of honor are not more cleverly decked out; and observe, I am not stingy with the pomade!"
No, he was not stingy with it. True, it was only a little grease, with which he had mixed some of the juices of a few flowers, but he plaster it on like cement!
And as to the names of the capillary edifices--for the monuments reared by the hands of Fragoso were of every order of architecture--buckles, rings, clubs, tresses, crimpings, rolls, corkscrews, curls, everything found there a place. Nothing false; no towers, no chignons, no shams! These head were not enfeebled by cuttings nor thinned by fallings-off, but were forests in all their native virginity! Fragoso, however, was not above adding a few natural flowers, to or three long fish-bones, and some fine bone or copper ornaments, which were brought him b the dandies of the district. Assuredly, the exquisites of the Directory would have envied the arrangement of these high-art coiffures, three and four stories high, and the great Leonard himself would have bowed before his transatlantic rival.
And then the vatems, the handfuls of reis--the only coins for which the natives of the Amazon exchange their goods--which rained into the pocket of Fragoso, and which he collected with evident satisfaction. But assuredly night would come before he could satisfy the demands of the customers, who were so constantly renewed. It was not only the population of Tabatinga which crowded to the door of the loja. The news of the arrival of Fragoso was not slow to get abroad; natives came to him from all sides: Ticunas from the left bank of the river, Mayorunas from the right bank, as well as those who live on the Cajuru and those who come from the villages of the Javary.
A long array of anxious ones formed itself in the square. The happy ones coming from the hands of Fragoso went proudly from one house to another, showed themselves off without daring to shake themselves, like the big children that they were.
It thus happened that when noon came the much-occupied barber had not had time to return on board, but had had to content himself with a little assai, some manioc flour, and turtle eggs, which he rapidly devoured between two applications of the curling-tongs.
But it was a great harvest for the innkeeper, as all the operations could not be conducted without a large absorption of liquors drawn from the cellars of the inn. In fact, it was an event for the town of Tabatinga, this visit of the celebrated Fragoso, barber in ordinary and extraordinary to the tribes of the Upper Amazon!
AT FIVE O'CLOCK in the evening Fragoso was still there, and was asking himself if he would have to pass the night on the spot to satisfy the expectant crowd, when a stranger arrived in the square, and seeing all t his native gathering, advanced toward the inn.
For some minutes the stranger eyed Fragoso attentively with some circumspection. The examination was obviously satisfactory, for he entered the loja.
He was a man about thirty-five years of age. He was dressed in a somewhat elegant traveling costume, which added much to his personal appearance. But his strong black beard, which the scissors had not touched for some time, and his hair, a trifle long, imperiously required the good offices of a barber.
"Good-day, friend, good-day!" said he, lightly striking Fragoso on the shoulder.
Fragoso turned round when he heard the words pronounced in pure Brazilian, and not in the mixed idiom of the natives.
"A compatriot?" he asked, without stopping the twisting of the refractory mouth of a Mayouma head.
"Yes," answered the stranger. "A compatriot who has need of your services."
"To be sure! In a minute," said Fragoso.