The chain of events was reproduced in Joam's mind with a clearness and completeness quite remarkable.
And now he was thinking of the day when his daughter's marriage with Manoel had been decided. Could he allow that union to take place under a false name without acquainting the lad with the mystery of his life? No! And so at the advice of Judge Ribeiro he resolved to come and claim the revision of his sentence, to demand the rehabilitation which was his due! He was starting with his people, and then came the intervention of Torres, the detestable bargain proposed by the scoundrel, the indignant refusal of the father to hand over his daughter to save his honor and his life, and then the denunciation and the arrest!
Suddenly the window flew open with a violent push from without.
Joam started up; the souvenire of the past vanished like a shadow.
Benito leaped into the room; he was in the presence of his father, and the next moment Manoel, tearing down the remaining bars, appeared before him.
Joam Dacosta would have uttered a cry of surprise. Benito left him no time to do so.
"Father," he said, "the window grating is down. A rope leads to the ground. A pirogue is waiting for you on the canal not a hundred yards off. Araujo is there ready to take you far away from Manaos, on the other bank of the Amazon where your track will never be discovered. Father, you must escape this very moment! It was the judge's own suggestion!"
"It must be done!" added Manoel.
"Fly! I!--Fly a second time! Escape again?"
And with crossed arms, and head erect, Joam Dacosta stepped forward.
"Never!" he said, in a voice so firm that Benito and Manoel stood bewildered.
The young men had never thought of a difficulty like this. They had never reckoned on the hindrances to escape coming from the prisoner himself.
Benito advanced to his father, and looking him straight in the face, and taking both his hands in his, not to force him, but to try and convince him, said:
"Never, did you say, father?"
"Father," said Manoel--"for I also have the right to call you father--listen to us! If we tell you that you ought to fly without losing an instant, it is because if you remain you will be guilty toward others, toward yourself!"
"To remain," continued Benito, "is to remain to die! The order for execution may come at any moment! If you imagine that the justice of men will nullify a wrong decision, if you think it will rehabilitate you whom it condemned twenty years since, you are mistaken! There is hope no longer! You must escape! Come!"
By an irresistible impulse Benito seized his father and drew him toward the window.
Joam Dacosta struggled from his son's grasp and recoiled a second time.
"To fly," he answered, in the tone of a man whose resolution was unalterable, "is to dishonor myself, and you with me! It would be a confession of my guilt! Of my own free will I surrendered myself to my country's judges, and I will await their decision, whatever that decision may be!"
"But the presumptions on which you trusted are insufficient," replied Manoel, "and the material proof of your innocence is still wanting! If we tell you that you ought to fly, it is because Judge Jarriquez himself told us so. You have now only this one chance left to escape from death!"
"I will die, then," said Joam, in a calm voice. "I will die protesting against the decision which condemned me! The first time, a few hours before the execution--I fled! Yes! I was then young. I had all my life before me in which to struggle against man's injustice! But to save myself now, to begin again the miserable existence of a felon hiding under a false name, whose every effort is required to avoid the pursuit of the police, again to live the life of anxiety which I have led for twenty-three years, and oblige you to share it with me; to wait each day for a denunciation which sooner or later must come, to wait for the claim for extradition which would follow me to a foreign country! Am I to live for that? No! Never!"
"Father," interrupted Benito, whose mind threatened to give way before such obstinacy, "you shall fly! I will have it so!" And he caught hold of Joam Dacosta, and tried by force to drag him toward the window.