It is true that later on, when, on account of the expansion of the gases, it would again rise to the surface, the current would bear it away, and it would then be irrevocably lost down the stream, a long way beyond the obstruction. But this purely physical effect would not take place for several days.
They could not have applied to a man who was more skillful or more conversant with the locality than Araujo, and when he affirmed that the body could not have been borne out of the narrow channel for more than a mile or so, they were sure to recover it if they thoroughly sounded that portion of the river.
Not an island, not an islet, checked the course of the Amazon in these parts. Hence, when the foot of the two banks had been visited up to the bar, it was in the bed itself, about five hundred feet in width, that more careful investigations had to be commenced.
The way the work was conducted was this. The boats taking the right and left of the Amazon lay alongside the banks. The reeds and vegetation were tried with the poles. Of the smallest ledges in the banks in which a body could rest, not one escaped the scrutiny of Araujo and his Indians.
But all this labor produced no result, and half the day had elapsed without the body being brought to the surface of the stream.
An hour's rest was given to the Indians. During this time they partook of some refreshment, and then they returned to their task.
Four of the boats, in charge of the pilot, Benito, Fragoso, and Manoel, divided the river between the Rio Negro and the Bar of Frias into four portions. They set to work to explore its very bed. In certain places the poles proved insufficient to thoroughly search among the deeps, and hence a few dredges--or rather harrows, made of stones and old iron, bound round with a solid bar--were taken on board, and when the boats had pushed off these rakes were thrown in and the river bottom stirred up in every direction.
It was in this difficult task that Benito and his companions were employed till the evening. The ubas and pirogues, worked by the oars, traversed the whole surface of the river up to the bar of Frias.
There had been moments of excitement during this spell of work, when the harrows, catching in something at the bottom, offered some slight resistance. They were then hauled up, but in place of the body so eagerly searched for, there would appear only heavy stones or tufts of herbage which they had dragged from their sandy bed. No one, however, had an idea of giving up the enterprise. They none of them thought of themselves in this work of salvation. Benito, Manoel, Araujo had not even to stir up the Indians or to encourage them. The gallant fellows knew that they were working for the fazender of Iquitos--for the man whom they lvoed, for the chief of the excellent family who treated their servants so well.
Yes; and so they would have passed the night in dragging the river. Of every minute lost all knew the value.
A little before the sun disappeared, Araujo, finding it useless to continue his operations in the gloom, gave the signal for the boats to join company and return together to the confluence of the Rio Negro and regain the jangada.
The work so carefully and intelligently conducted was not, however, at an end.
Manoel and Fragoso, as they came back, dared not mention their ill success before Benito. They feared that the disappointment would only force him to some act of despair.
But neither courage nor coolness deserted the young fellow; he was determined to follow to the end this supreme effort to save the honor and the life of his father, and he it was who addressed his companions, and said: "To-morrow we will try again, and under better conditions if possible."
"Yes," answered Manoel; "you are right, Benito. We can do better. We cannot pretend to have entirely explored the river along the whole of the banks and over the whole of its bed."
"No; we cannot have done that," replied Araujo; "and I maintain what I said--that the body of Torres is there, and that it is there because it has not been carried away, because it could not be drawn over the Bar of Frias, and because it will take many days before it rises to the surface and floats down the stream.