As Benito said, they are formidable creatures, and it is fortunate that their attacks can be guarded against.
Suddenly cries were heard in the bow.
Manoel and Benito came forward and looked.
Three large saurians, from fifteen to twenty feet long, had managed to clamber on to the platform of the raft.
"Bring the guns! Bring the guns!" shouted Benito, making signs to the Indians and the blacks to get behind.
"Into the house!" said Manoel; "make haste!"
And in truth, as they could not attack them at once, the bst thing they could do was to get into shelter without delay.
It was done in an instant. The Garral family took refuge in the house, where the two young men joined them. The Indians and the negroes ran into their huts and cabins. As they were shutting the door:
"And Minha?" said Manoel.
"She is not there!" replied Lina, who had just run to her mistress' room.
"Good heavens! where is she?" exclaimed her mother, and they all shouted at once:
"There she is, on the bow of the jangada!" said Benito.
"Minha!" shouted Manoel.
The two young men, and Fragoso and Joam Garral, thinking no more of danger, rushed out of the house, guns in hand.
Scarcely were they outside when two of the alligators made a half turn and ran toward them.
A doze of buckshot to the head, close to the eye, from Benito, stopped one of the monsters, who, mortally wounded, writhed in frightful convulsions and fell on his side.
But the second still lived, and came on, and there was no way of avoiding him.
The huge alligator tore up to Joam Garral, and after knocking him over with a sweep of his tail, ran at him with open jaws.
At this moment Torres rushed from the cabin, hatchet in hand, and struck such a terrific blow that its edge sunk into the jaw of the cayman and left him defenseless.
Blinded by the blood, the animal flew to the side, and, designedly or not, fell over and was lost in the stream.
"Minha! Minha!" shouted Manoel in distraction, when he got to the bow of the jangada.
Suddenly she came into view. She had taken refuge in the cabin of Araujo, and the cabin had just been upset by a powerful blow from the third alligator. Minha was flying aft, pursued by the monster, who was not six feet away from her.
A second shot from Benito failed to stop the cayman. He only struck the animals carapace, and the scales flew to splinters but the ball did not penetrate.
Manoel threw himself at the girl to raise her, or to snatch her from death! A side blow from the animal's tail knocked him down too.
Minha fainted, and the mouth of the alligator opened to crush her!
And then Fragoso jumped in to the animal, and thrust in a knife to the very bottom of his throat, at the risk of having his arm snapped off by the two jaws, had they quickly closed.
Fragoso pulled out his arm in time, but he could not avoid the chock of the cayman, and was hurled back into the river, whose waters reddened all around.
"Fragoso! Fragoso!" shrieked Lina, kneeling on the edge of the raft.
A second afterward Fragoso reappeared on the surface of the Amazon--safe and sound.
But, at the peril of his life he had saved the young girl, who soon came to. And as all hands were held out to him--Manoel's, Yaquita's, Minha's, and Lina's, and he did not know what to say, he ended by squeezing the hands of the young mulatto.
However, though Fragoso had saved Minha, it was assuredly to the intervention of Torres that Joam Garral owed his safety.
It was not, therefore, the fazender's life that the adventurer wanted. In the face of this fact, so much had to be admitted.
Manoel said this to Benito in an undertone.
"That is true!" replied Benito, embarrassed. "You are right, and in a sense it is one cruel care the less! Nevertheless, Manoel, my suspicions still exist! It is not always a man's worst enemy who wishes him dead!"
Joam Garral walked up to Torres.
"Thank you, Torres!" he said, holding out his hand.