But in the nature of things Joam Dacosta would protest his innocence; he would say he had been unjustly condemned. The magistrate's duty, notwithstanding the opinions he held, would be to listen to him. The question would be, what proofs could the convict offer to make good his assertions? And if he was not able to produce them when he appeared before his first judges, was he able to do so now?
Herein consisted all the interest of the examination. There would have to be admitted the fact of a defaulter, prosperous and safe in a foreign country, leaving his refuge of his won free will to face the justice which his past life should have taught him to dread, and herein would be on of those rare and curious cases which ought to interest even a magistrate hardened with all the surroundings of forensic strife. Was it impudent folly on the part of the doomed man of Tijuco, who was tired of his life, or was it the impulse of a conscience which would at all risks have wrong set right? The problem was a strange one, it must be acknowledged.
On the morrow of Joam Dacosta's arrest, Judge Jarriquez made his way to the prison in God-the-Son Street, where the convict had been placed. The prison was an old missionary convent, situated on the bank of one of the principal iguarapes of the town. To the voluntary prisoners of former times there had succeeded in this building, which was but little adapted for the purpose, the compulsory prisoners of to-day. The room occupied by Joam Dacosta was nothing like one of those sad little cells which form part of our modern penitentiary system: but an old monk's room, with a barred window without shutters, opening on to an uncultivated space, a bench in one corner, and a kind of pallet in the other. It was from this apartment that Joam Dacosta, on this 25th of August, about eleven o'clock in the morning, was taken and brought into the judge's room, which was the old common hall of the convent.
Judge Jarriquez was there in front of his desk, perched on his high chair, his back turned toward the window, so that his face was in shadow while that of the accused remained in full daylight. His clerk, with the indifference which characterizes these legal folks, had taken his seat at the end of the table, his pen behind his ear, ready to record the questions and answers.
Joam Dacosta was introduced into the room, and at a sign from the judge the guards who had brought him withdrew.
Judge Jarriquez looke at the accused for some time. The latter, leaning slightly forward and maintaining a becoming attitude, neither careless nor humble, waited with dignity for the questions to which he was expected to reply.
"Your name?" said Judge Jarriquez.
"Where do you live?"
"In Peru, at the village of Iquitos."
"Under what name?"
"Under that of Garral, which is that of my mother."
"And why do you bear that name?"
"Because for twenty-three years I wished to hide myself from the pursuit of Brazilian justice."
The answers were so exact, and seemed to show that Joam Dacosta had made up his mind to confess everything concerning his past and present life, that Judge Jarriquez, little accustomed to such a course, cocked up his nose more than was usual to him.
"And why," he continued, "should Brazilian justice pursue you?"
"Because I was sentenced to death in 1826 in the diamond affair at Tijuco."
"You confess then that you are Joam Dacosta?"
"I am Joam Dacosta."
All this was said with great calmness, and as simply as possible. The little eyes of Judge Jarriquez, hidden by their lids, seemed to say:
"Never came across anything like this before."
He had put the invariable question which had hitherto brought the invariable reply from culprits of every category protesting their innocence. The fingers of the judge began to beat a gentle tattoo on the table.
"Joam Dacosta," he asked, "what were you doing at Iquitos?"
"I was a fazender, and engaged in managing a farming establishment of considerable size."
"It was prospering?"
"How long ago did you leave your fazenda?"
"About nine weeks."
"As to that, sir," answered Dacosta, "I invented a pretext, but in reality I had a motive."
"What was the pretext?"
"The responsibility of taking into Para a large raft, and a cargo of different products of the Amazon."
"Ah! and what was the real motive of your departure?"
And in asking this question Jarriquez said to himself:
"Now we shall get into denials and falsehoods."
"The real motive," replied Joam Dacosta, in a firm voice, "was the resolution I had taken to give myself up to the justice of my country."
"You give yourself up!" exclaimed the judge, rising from his stool. "You give yourself up of your own free will?"
"Of my own free will."
"Because I had had enough of this lying life, this obligatin to live under a false name, of this impossibility to be able to restore to my wife and children that which belongs to them; in short, sir, because----"
"I was innocent!"
"That is what I was waiting for," said Judge Jarriquez.