The sun was low on the horizon, but an hour had still to elapse before nightfall.
"These stories are not very lively," said Fragoso, "and our betrothal dinner was best at the beginning."
"But it was your fault, Fragoso," answered Lina.
"How my fault?"
"It was you who went on talking about the district and the diamonds, when you should not have done so."
"Well, that's true," replied Fragoso; "but I had no idea we were going to wind up in that fashion."
"You are the first to blame!"
"And the first to be punished, Miss Lina; for I did not hear you laugh all through the dessert."
The whole family strolled toward the bow of the jangada. Manoel and Benito walked one behind the other without speaking. Yaquita and her daughter silently followed, and all felt an unaccountable impression of sadness, as if they had a presentiment of some coming calamity.
Torres stepped up to Joam Garral, who, with bowed head, seemed to be lost in thought, and putting his hand on his shoulder, said, "Joam Garral, may I have a few minutes' conversation with you?"
Joam looked at Torres.
"Here?" he asked.
"No; in private."
They went toward the house, entered it, and the door was shut on them.
It would be difficult to depict what every one felt when Joam Garral and Torres disappeared. What could there be in common between the adventurer and the honest fazender of Iquitos? The menace of some frightful misfortune seemed to hang over the whole family, and they scarcely dared speak to each other.
"Manoel!" said Benito, seizing his friend's arm, "whatever happens, this man must leave us tomorrow at Manaos."
"Yes!" it is imperative!" answered Manoel.
"And if through him some misfortune happens to my father--I shall kill him!"
BETWEEN THE TWO MEN
FOR A MOMENT, alone in the room, where none could see or hear them, Joam Garral and Torres looked at each other without uttering a word. Did the adventurer hesitate to speak? Did he suspect that Joam Garral would only reply to his demands by a scornful silence?
Yes! Probably so. So Torres did not question him. At the outset of the conversation he took the affirmative, and assumed the part of an accuser.
"Joam," he said, "your name is not Garral. Your name is Dacosta!"
At the guilty name which Torres thus gave him, Joam Garral could not repress a slight shudder.
"You are Joam Dacosta," continued Torres, "who, twenty-five years ago, were a clerk in the governor-general's office at Tijuco, and you are the man who was sentenced to death in this affair of the robbery and murder!"
No response from Joam Garral, whose strange tranquillity surprised the adventurer. Had he made a mistake in accusing his host? No! For Joam Garral made no start at the terrible accusations. Doubtless he wanted to know to what Torres was coming.
"Joam Dacosta, I repeat! It was you whom they sought for this diamond affair, whom they convicted of crime and sentenced to death, and it was you who escaped from the prison at Villa Rica a few hours before you should have been executed! Do you not answer?"
Rather a long silence followed this direct question which Torres asked. Joam Garral, still calm, took a seat. His elbow rested on a small table, and he looked fixedly at his accuser without bending his head.
"Will you reply?" repeated Torres.
"What reply do you want from me?" said Joam quietly.
"A reply," slowly answered Torres, "that will keep me from finding out the chief of the police at Manaos, and saying to him, 'A man is there whose identity can easily be established, who can be recognized even after twenty-five years' absence, and this man was the instigator of the diamond robbery at Tijuco. He was the accomplice of the murderers of the soldiers of the escort; he is the man who escaped from execution; he is Joam Garral, whose true name is Joam Dacosta.'"
"And so, Torres," said Joam Garral, "I shall have nothing to fear from you if I give the answer you require?"
"Nothing, for neither you nor I will have any interest in talking about the matter."
"Neither you nor I?" asked Joam Garral.