"You wish to drive me mad?"
"My son," exclaimed Joam Dacosta, "listen to me! Once already I escaped from the prison at Villa Rica, and people believed I fled from well-merited punishment. Yes, they had reason to think so. Well, for the honor of the name which you bear I shall not do so again."
Benito had fallen on his knees before his father. He held up his hands to him; he begged him:
"But this order, father," he repeated, "this order which is due to-day--even now--it will contain your sentence of death."
"The order may come, but my determination will not change. No, my son! Joam Dacosta, guilty, might fly! Joam Dacosta, innocent, will not fly!"
The scene which followed these words was heart-rending. Benito struggled with his father. Manoel, distracted, kept near the window ready to carry off the prisoner--when the door of the room opened.
On the threshold appeared the chief of the police, accompanied by the head warder of the prison and a few soldiers. The chief of the police understood at a glance that an attempt at escape was being made; but he also understood from the prisoner's attitude that he it was who had no wish to go! He said nothing. The sincerest pity was depicted on his face. Doubtless he also, like Judge Jarriquez, would have liked Dacosta to have escaped.
It was too late!
The chief of the police, who held a paper in his hand, advanced toward the prisoner.
"Before all of you," said Joam Dacosta, "let me tell you, sir, that it only rested with me to get away, and that I would not do so."
The chief of the police bowed his head, and then, in a voice which he vainly tried to control"
"Joam Dacosta," he said, "the order has this moment arrived from the chief justice at Rio Janeiro."
"Father!" exclaimed Manoel and Benito.
"This order," asked Joam Dacosta, who had crossed his arms, "this order requires the execution of my sentence?"
"And that will take place?"
Benito threw himself on his father. Again would he have dragged him from his cell, but the soldiers came and drew away the prisoner from his grasp.
At a sign from the chief of the police Benito and Manoel were taken away. An end had to be put to this painful scene, which had already lasted too long.
"Sir," said the doomed man, "before to-morrow, before the hour of my execution, may I pass a few moments with Padre Passanha, whom I ask you to tell?"
"It will be forbidden."
"May I see my family, and embrace for a last time my wife and children?"
"You shall see them."
"Thank you, sir," answered Joam; "and now keep guard over that window; it will not do for them to take me out of here against my will."
And then the chief of the police, after a respectful bow, retired with the warder and the soldiers.
The doomed man, who had now but a few hours to live, was left alone.
AND SO the order had come, and, as Judge Jarriquez had foreseen, it was an order requiring the immediate execution of the sentence pronounced on Joam Dacosta. No proof had been produced; justice must take its course.
It was the very day--the 31st of August, at nine o'clock in the morning of which the condemned man was to perish on the gallows.
The death penalty in Brazil is generally commuted except in the case of negroes, but this time it was to be suffered by a white man.
Such are the penal arrangements relative to crimes in the diamond arrayal, for which, in the public interest, the law allows no appear to mercy.
Nothing could now save Joam Dacosta. It was not only life, but honor that he was about to lose.
But on the 31st of August a man was approaching Manaos with all the speed his horse was capable of, and such had been the pace at which he had come that half a mile from the town the gallant creature fell, incapable of carrying him any further.
The rider did not even stop to raise his steed. Evidently he had asked and obtained from it all that was possible, and, despite the state of exhaustion in which he found himself, he rushed off in the direction of the city.