Very fortunately the travelers had to contend with neither gymnotus nor sucuriju, and the passage across the submerged forest, which lasted about two hours, was effected without accident.
Three days passed. They neared Manaos. Twenty-four hours more and the raft would be off the mouth of the Rio Negro, before the capital of the province of Amazones.
In fact, on the 23d of August, at five o'clock in the evening, they stopped at the southern point of Muras Island, on the right bank of the stream. They only had to cross obliquely for a few miles to arrive at the port, but the pilot Araujo very properly would not risk it on that day, as night was coming on. The three miles which remained would take three hours to travel, and to keep to the course of the river it was necessary, above all things, to have a clear outlook.
This evening the dinner, which promised to be the last of this first part of the voyage, was not served without a certain amount of ceremony. Half the journey on the Amazon had been accomplished, and the task was worthy of a jovial repast. It was fitting to drink to the health of Amazones a few glasses of that generous liquor which comes from the coasts of Oporto and Setubal. Besides, this was, in a way, the betrothal dinner of Fragoso and the charming Lina--that of Manoel and Minha had taken place at the fazenda of Iquitos several weeks before. After the young master and mistress, it was the turn of the faithful couple who were attached to them by so many bonds of gratitude.
So Lina, who was to remain in the service of Minha, and Fragoso, who was about to enter into that of Manoel Valdez, sat at the common table, and even had the places of honor reserved for them.
Torres, naturally, was present at the dinner, which was worthy of the larder and kitchen of the jangada.
The adventurer, seated opposite to Joam Garral, who was always taciturn, listened to all that was said, but took no part in the conversation. Benito quietly and attentively watched him. The eyes of Torres, with a peculiar expression, constantly sought his father. One would have called them the eyes of some wild beast trying to fascinate his prey before he sprang on it.
Manoel talked mostly with Minha. Between whiles his eyes wandered to Torres, but he acted his part more successfully than Benito in a situation which, if it did not finish at Manaos, would certainly end at Belem.
The dinner was jolly enough. Lina kept it going with her good humor, Fragoso with his witty repartees.
The Padre Passanha looked gayly round on the little world he cherished, and on the two young couples which his hands would shortly bless in the waters of Para.
"Eat, padre," said Benito, who joined in the general conversation; "do honor to this betrothal dinner. You will want some strength to celebrate both marriages at once!"
"Well, my dear boy," replied Passanha, "seek out some lovely and gentle girl who wishes you well, and you will see that I can marry you at the same time!"
"Well answered, padre!" exclaimed Manoel. "Let us drink to the coming marriage of Benito."
"We must look out for some nice young lady at Belem," said Minha. "He should do what everybody else does."
"To the wedding of Mr. Benito!" said Fragoso, "who ought to wish all the world to marry him!"
"They are right, sir," said Yaquita. "I also drink to your marriage, and may you be as happy as Minha and Manoel, and as I and your father have been!"
"As you always will be, it is to be hoped," said Torres, drinking a glass of port without having pledged anybody. "All here have their happiness in their own hands."
It was difficult to say, but this wish, coming from the adventurer, left an unpleasant impression.
Manoel felt this, and wishing to destroy its effect, "Look here, padre," said he, "while we are on this subject, are there not any more couples to betroth on the raft?"
"I do not know," answered Padre Passanha, "unless Torres--you are not married, I believe?"
"No; I am, and always shall be, a bachelor."
Benito and Manoel thought that while thus speaking Torres looked toward Minha.