"Neither do I, Miss Lina, and I have all the time an idea that I have seen him somewhere before. But the remembrance is too vague; the impression, however, is far from being a pleasant one!"
"Where and when could you have met him? Cannot you call it to mind? It might be useful to know who he is and what he has been."
"No--I try all I can. How long was it ago? In what country? Under what circumstances? And I cannot hit upon it."
"Stay on board and keep watch on Torres during our absence!"
"What? Not go with you to Ega, and remain a whole day without seeing you?"
"I ask you to do so!"
"Is it an order?"
"It is an entreaty!"
"I will remain!"
"I thank you!"
"Thank me, then, with a good shake of the hand," replied Fragoso; "that is worth something."
Lina held out her hand, and Fragoso kept it for a few moments while he looked into her face. And that is the reason why he did not take his place in the pirogue, and became, without appearing to be, the guard upon Torres.
Did the latter notice the feelings of aversion with which he was regarded? Perhaps, but doubtless he had his reasons for taking no account of them.
A distance of four leagues separated the mooring-place from the town of Ega. Eight leagues, there and back, in a pirogue containing six persons, besides two negroes as rowers, would take some hours, not to mention the fatigue caused by the high temperature, though the sky was veiled with clouds.
Fortunately a lovely breeze blew from the northwest, and if it held would be favorable for crossing Lake Teffe. They could go to Ega and return rapidly without having to tack.
So the lateen sail was hoisted on the mast of the pirogue. Benito took the tiller, and off they went, after a last gesture from Lina to Fragoso to keep his eyes open.
The southern shore of the lake had to be followed to get to Ega.
After two hours the pirogue arrived at the port of this ancient mission founded by the Carmelites, which became a town in 1759, and which General Gama placed forever under Brazilian rule.
The passengers landed on a flat beach, on which were to be found not only boats from the interior, but a few of those little schooners which are used in the coasting-trade on the Atlantic seaboard.
When the two girls entered Ega they were at first much astonished.
"What a large town!" said Minha.
"What houses! what people!" replied Lina, whose eyes seemed to have expanded so that she might see better.
"Rather!" said Benito laughingly. "More than fifteen hundred inhabitants! Two hundred houses at the very least! Some of them with a first floor! And two or three streets! Genuine streets!"
"My dear Manoel!" said Minha, "do protect us against my brother! He is making fun of us, and only because he had already been in the finest towns in Amazones and Para!"
"Quite so, and he is also poking fun at his mother," added Yaquita, "for I confess I never saw anything equal to this!"
"Then, mother and sister, you must take great care that you do not fall into a trance when you get to Manaos, and vanish altogether when you reach Belem!"
"Never fear," answered Manoel; "the ladies will have been gently prepared for these grand wonders by visiting the principal cities of the Upper Amazon!"
"Now, Manoel," said Minha, "you are talking just like my brother! Are you making fun of us, too?"
"No, Minha, I assure you."
"Laugh on, gentlemen," said Lina, "and let us look around, my dear mistress, for it is very fine!"
Very fine! A collection of houses, built of mud, whitewashed, and principally covered with thatch or palm-leaves; a few built of stone or wood, with verandas, doors, and shutters painted a bright green, standing in the middle of a small orchard of orange-trees in flower. But there were two or three public buildings, a barrack, and a church dedicated to St. Theresa, which was a cathedral by the side of the modest chapel at Iquitos. On looking toward the lake a beautiful panorama unfolded itself, bordered by a frame of cocoanut-trees and assais, which ended at the edge of the liquid level, and showed beyond the picturesque village of Noqueira, with its few small houses lost in the mass of the old olive-trees on the beach.