He drew forth a metal case, with the cover screwed on, and which seemed to have suffered in no way from its sojourn in the water.
"The paper! Is the paper still inside?" exclaimed Benito, who could not contain himself.
"It is for the magistrate to open this case!" answered Manoel. "To him alone belongs the duty of verifying that the document was found within it."
"Yes, yes. Again you are right, Manoel," said Benito. "To Manaos, my friends--to Manaos!"
Benito, Manoel, Fragoso, and the foreman who held the case, immediately jumped into one of the pirogues, and were starting off, when Fragoso said:
"And the corpse?"
The pirogue stopped.
In fact, the Indians had already thrown back the body into the water, and it was drifting away down the river.
"Torres was only a scoundrel," said Benito. "If I had to fight him, it was God that struck him, and his body ought not to go unburied!"
And so orders were given to the second pirogue to recover the corpse, and take it to the bank to await its burial.
But at the same moment a flock of birds of prey, which skimmed along the surface of the stream, pounced on the floating body. They were urubus, a kind of small vulture, with naked necks and long claws, and black as crows. In South America they are known as gallinazos, and their voracity is unparalleled. The body, torn open by their beaks, gave forth the gases which inflated it, its density increased, it sank down little by little, and for the last time what remained of Torres disappeared beneath the waters of the Amazon.
Ten minutes afterward the pirogue arrived at Manaos. Benito and his companions jumped ashore, and hurried through the streets of the town. In a few minutes they had reached the dwelling of Judge Jarriuez, and informed him, through one of his servants, that they wished to see him immediately.
The judge ordered them to be shown into his study.
There Manoel recounted all that had passed, from the moment when Torres had been killed until the moment when the case had been found on his corpse, and taken from his breast-pocket by the foreman.
Although this recital was of a nature to corroborate all that Joam Dacosta had said on the subject of Torres, and of the bargain which he had endeavored to make, Judge Jarriquez could not restrain a smile of incredulity.
"There is the case, sir," said Manoel. "For not a single instant has it been in our hands, and the man who gives it to you is he who took it from the body of Torres."
The magistrate took the case and examined it with care, turning it over and over as though it were made of some precious material. Then he shook it, and a few coins inside sounded with a metallic ring. Did not, then, the case contain the document which had been so much sought after--the document written in the very hand of the true author of the crime of Tijuco, and which Torres had wished to sell at such an ignoble price to Joam Dacosta? Was this material proof of the convict's innocence irrevocably lost?
We can easily imagine the violent agitation which had seized upon the spectators f this scene. Benito could scarcely utter a word, he felt his heart ready to burst. "Open it, sir! open the case!" he at last exclaimed, in a broken voice.
Judge Jarriquez began to unscrew the lid; then, when the cover was removed, he turned up the case, and from it a few pieces of gold dropped out and rolled on the table.
"But the paper! the paper!" again gasped Benito, who clutched hold of the table to save himself from falling.
The magistrate put his fingers into the case and drew out, not without difficulty, a faded paper, folded with care, and which the water did not seem to have even touched.
"The document! that is the document!" shouted Fragoso; "that is the very paper I saw in the hands of Torres!"
Judge Jarriquez unfolded the paper and cast his eyes over it, and then he turned it over so as to examine it on the back and the front, which were both covered with writing. "A document it really is!" said he; "there is no doubt of that.