"And what should prevent you marrying?" replied Padre Passanha; "at Belem you could find a wife whose age would suit yours, and it would be possible perhaps for you to settle in that town. That would be better than this wandering life, of which, up to the present, you have not made so very much."
"You are right, padre," answered Torres; "I do not say no. Besides the example is contagious. Seeing all these young couples gives me rather a longing for marriage. But I am quite a stranger in Belem, and, for certain reasons, that would make my settlement more difficult."
"Where do you come from, then?" asked Fragoso, who always had the idea that he had already met Torres somewhere.
"From the province of Minas Geraes."
"And you were born----"
"In the capital of the diamond district, Tijuco."
Those who had seen Joam Garral at this moment would have been surprised at the fixity of his look which met that of Torres.
BUT THE CONVERSATION was continued by Fragoso, who immediately rejoined:
"What! you come from Tijuco, from the very capital of the diamond district?"
"Yes," said Torres. "Do you hail from that province?"
"No! I come from the Atlantic seaboard in the north of Brazil," replied Fragoso.
"You do not know this diamond country, Mr. Manoel?" asked Torres.
A negative shake of the head from the young man was the only reply.
"And you, Mr. Benito," continued Torres, addressing the younger Garral, whom he evidently wished to join in the conversation; "you have never had curiosity enough to visit the diamond arraval?"
"Never," dryly replied Benito.
"Ah! I should like to see that country," said Fragoso, who unconsciously played Torres' game. "It seems to me I should finish by picking up a diamond worth something considerable."
"And what would you do with this diamond worth something considerable, Fragoso?" queried Lina.
"Then you would get rich all of a sudden!"
"Well, if you had been rich three months ago you would never have had the idea of--that liana!"
"And if I had not had that," exclaimed Fragoso, "I should not have found a charming little wife who--well, assuredly, all is for the best!"
"You see, Fragoso," said Minha, "when you marry Lina, diamond takes the place of diamond, and you do not lose by the change!"
"To be sure, Miss Minha," gallantly replied Fragoso; "rather I gain!"
There could be no doubt that Torres did not want the subject to drop, for he went on with:
"It is a fact that at Tijuco sudden fortunes are realized enough to turn any man's head! Have you heard tell of the famous diamond of Abaete, which was valued at more than two million contos of reis? Well, this stone, which weighed an ounce, came from the Brazilian mines! And they were three convicts--yes! three men sentenced to transportation for life--who found it by chance in the River Abaete, at ninety leagues from Terro de Frio."
"At a stroke their fortune was made?" asked Fragoso.
"No," replied Torres; "the diamond was handed over to the governor-general of the mines. The value of the stone was recognized, and King John VI., of Portugal, had it cut, and wore it on his neck on great occasions. As for the convicts, they got their pardon, but that was all, and the cleverest could not get much of an income out of that!"
"You, doubtless?" said Benito very dryly.
"Yes--I? Why not?" answered Torres. "Have you ever been to the diamond district?" added he, this time addressing Joam Garral.
"Never!" said Joam, looking straight at him.
"That is a pity!" replied he. "You should go there one day. It is a very curious place, I assure you. The diamond valley is an isolated spot in the vast empire of Brazil, something like a park of a dozen leagues in circumference, which in the nature of its soil, its vegetation, and its sandy rocks surrounded by a circle of high mountains, differs considerably from the neighboring provinces. But, as I have told you, it is one of the richest places in the world, for from 1807 to 1817 the annual return was about eighteen thousand carats.