The adventurer took a step or two backward without replying.
"Torres," continued Joam, "I am sorry that we are arriving at the end of our voyage, and that in a few days we must part! I owe you----"
"Joam Garral!" answered Torres, "you owe me nothing! Your life is precious to me above all things! But if you will allow me--I have been thinking--in place of stopping at Manaos, I will go on to Belem. Will you take me there?"
Joam Garral replied by an affirmative nod.
In hearing this demand Benito in an unguarded moment was about to intervene, but Manoel stopped him, and the young man checked himself, though not without a violent effort.
THE ARRIVAL DINNER
IN THE MORNING, after a night which was scarcely sufficient to calm so much excitement, they unmoored from the cayman beach and departed. Before five days, if nothing intervered with their voyage, the raft would reach the port of Manaos.
Minha had quite recovered from her fright, and her eyes and smiles thanked all those who had risked their lives for her.
As for Lina, it seemed as though she was more grateful to the brave Fragoso than if it was herself that he had saved.
"I will pay you back, sooner or later, Mr. Fragoso," said she, smiling.
"And how, Miss Lina?"
"Oh! You know very well!"
"Then if I know it, let it be soon and not late!" replied the good-natured fellow.
And from this day it began to be whispered about that the charming Lina was engaged to Fragoso, that their marriage would take place at the same time as that of Minha and Manoel, and that the young couple would remain at Belem with the others.
"Capital! capital!" repeated Fragoso unceasingly; "but I never thought Para was such a long way off!"
As for Manoel and Benito, they had had a long conversation about what had passed. There could be no question about obtaining from Joam Garral the dismissal of his rescuer.
"Your life is precious to me above all things!" Torres had said.
This reply, hyperbolical and enigmatical at the time, Benito had heard and remembered.
In the meantime the young men could do nothing. More than ever they were reduced to waiting--to waiting not for four or five days, but for seven or eight weeks--that is to say, for whatever time it would take for the raft to get to Belem.
"There is in all this some mystery that I cannot understand," said Benito.
"Yes, but we are assured on one point," answered Manoel. "It is certain that Torres does not want your father's life. For the rest, we must still watch!"
It seemed that from this day Torres desired to keep himself more reserved. He did not seek to intrude on the family, and was even less assiduous toward Minha. There seemed a relief in the situation of which all, save perhaps Joam Garral, felt the gravity.
On the evening of the same day they left on the right the island of Baroso, formed by a furo of that name, and Lake Manaori, which is fed by a confused series of petty tributaries.
The night passed without incident, though Joam Garral had advised them to watch with great care.
On the morrow, the 20th of August, the pilot, who kept near the right bank on account of the uncertain eddies on the left, entered between the bank and the islands.
Beyond this bank the country was dotted with large and small lakes, much as those of Calderon, Huarandeina, and other black-watered lagoons. This water system marks the approach of the Rio Negro, the most remarkable of all the tributaries of the Amazon. In reality the main river still bore the name of the Solimoens, and it is only after the junction of the Rio Negro that it takes the name which has made it celebrated among the rivers of the globe.
During this day the raft had to be worked under curious conditions.
The arm followed by the pilot, between Calderon Island and the shore, was very narrow, although it appeared sufficiently large. This was owing to a great portion of the island being slightly above the mean level, but still covered by the high flood waters.