I would not think of her as gone I knew not where. I would fancy myself much less a stranger to the doings of her life."
This time Joam had fixed his eyes on his wife and looked at her for some time without saying anything.
What ailed him? Why this hesitation to grant a request which was so just in itself--to say "Yes," when it would give such pleasure to all who belonged to him? His business affairs could not afford a sufficient reason. A few weeks of absence would not compromise matters to such a degree. Hi manager would be able to take his place without any hitch in the fazenda. And yet all this time he hesitated.
Yaquita had taken both her husband's hands in hers, and pressed them tenderly.
"Joam," she said, "it is not a mere whim that I am asking you to grant. No! For a long time I have thought over the proposition I have just made to you; and if you consent, it will be the realization of my most cherished desire. Our children know why I am now talking to you. Minha, Benito, Manoel, all ask this favor, that we should accompany them. We would all rather have the wedding at Belem than at Iquitos. It will be better for your daughter, for her establishment, for the position which she will take at Belem, that she should arrive with her people, and appear less of a stranger in the town in which she will spend most of her life."
Joam Garral leaned on his elbows. For a moment he hid his face in his hands, like a man who had to collect his thoughts before he made answer. There was evidently some hesitation which he was anxious to overcome, even some trouble which his wife felt but could not explain. A secret battle was being fought under that thoughtful brow. Yaquita got anxious, and almost reproached herself for raising the question. Anyhow, she was resigned to what Joam should decide. If the expedition would cost too much, she would silence her wishes; she would never more speak of leaving the fazenda, and never ask the reason for the inexplicable refusal.
Some minutes passed. Joam Garral rose. He went to the door, and did not return. Then he seemed to give a last look on that glorious nature, on that corner of the world where for twenty years of his life he had met with all his happiness.
Then with slow steps he returned to his wife. His face bore a new expression, that of a man who had taken a last decision, and with whom irresolution had ceased.
"You are right," he said, in a firm voice. "The journey is necessary. When shall we start?"
"Ah! Joam! my Joam!" cried Yaquita, in her joy. "Thank you for me! Thank you for them!"
And tears of affection came to her eyes as her husband clasped her to his heart.
At this moment happy voices were heard outside at the door of the house.
Manoel and Benito appeared an instant after at the threshold, almost at the same moment as Minha entered the room.
"Children! your father consents!" cried Yaquita. "We are going to Belem!"
With a grave face, and without speaking a word, Joam Garral received the congratulations of his son and the kisses of his daughter.
"And what date, father," asked Benito, "have you fixed for the wedding?"
"Date?" answered Joam. "Date? We shall see. We will fix it at Belem."
"I am so happy! I am so happy!" repeated Minha, as she had done on the day when she had first known of Manoel's request. "We shall now see the Amazon in all its glory throughout its course through the provinces of Brazil! Thanks, father!"
And the young enthusiast, whose imagination was already stirred, continued to her brother and to Manoel:
"Let us be off to the library! Let us get hold of every book and every map that we can find which will tell us anything about this magnificent river system! Don't let us travel like blind folks! I want to see everything and know everything about this king of the rivers of the earth!"
"THE LARGEST river in the whole world!" said Benito to Manoel Valdez, on the morrow.
They were sitting on the bank which formed the southern boundary of the fazenda, and looking at the liquid molecules passing slowly by, which, coming from the enormous range of the Andes, were on their road to lose themselves in the Atlantic Ocean eight hundred leagues away.