"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 sort."
"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!"
"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 Dacosta?"
"Who told me so?" repeated Manoel, and his face was hidden in his hands.
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.