Textos literários em meio eletrônico
The Guarany, by José de Alencar
Edição de Referência:
Monthly and Out West magazine,
From vol. 21, issue 127, July 1893 to vol. 22 issue 131, November 1893.
Edited by Daniel Serravalle de Sá and Emilene Lubianco de Sá.
Agradecimentos a Daniel Serravalle de Sá e a Emilene Lubianco de Sá
pela gentil colaboração.
Translated by James W. Hawes
THE GUARANY. FROM THE PORTUGUESE OF JOSÉ MARTINIANO DE ALENCAR.
books have been printed in America, from those of Mayne Reid and yet earlier writers,
to that of Mrs. Alice Wellington Rollins, giving the impressions of travelers
in Brazil, though even these chiefly confine themselves to the neighborhood of
Rio and the course of the Amazon. But very few books have been published in
English written by Brazilians, or giving any view of their life as seen from
within. This is the
one of the summits of the
Vegetation in those regions formerly displayed all its luxuriance and vigor; virgin forests extended along the margins of the river, which flowed through arcades of verdure, with capitals formed by the fans of the palm trees.
the year of grace 1604, the place we have been describing was deserted and
uncultivated; the city of
However, on the right bank of the river stood a large and spacious house, built on an eminence, and protected on all sides by a steep wall of rock. The esplanade on which the building was placed formed an irregular semi-circle, containing at most two hundred square yards. On the north side there was a stairway of freestone, made half by nature and half by art.
Descending two or three of the broad stone steps, one found a wooden bridge solidly built across a wide and deep fissure in the rock. Continuing to descend, one reached the brink of the river, which lowed in a graceful curve, shaded by large gamelleiras and angelins, that grew along its banks. On each side of the stairway was a row of trees, widening gradually, enclosing like two arms the bend of the river; between the trunks of these trees a high hedge of thorns made that little valley impenetrable.
The house was built in the plain and simple style of architecture that our ancient dwellings still show. It had five windows in front, low, wide, and almost square. On the right side was the principal door, which opened upon a courtyard, enclosed by a stockade, covered with wild melons. On the left a wing, with two windows over looking the defile of the rock, extended to the border of the esplanade.
In the angle that this wing made with the rest of the house was a garden, a pretty imitation of the rich, vigorous, and splendid nature that the sight embraced from the top of the rock. Wildflowers from our forests, small tufted trees, a grass plot, a tiny stream of water simulating a river and forming a little cascade,-all this the hand of man had created in the scanty space with admirable art and beauty.
In the rear, entirely separated from the rest of the dwelling by a wall, were two storehouses or porches, which served as an abode for adventurers and dependents. Finally, at the end of the little garden, on the brink of the precipice, was seen a thatch cabin, whose supports were two palm-trees that had sprung up in the crevices of the rock.
Now that we have described the locality where most of the events of this story are to take place, we may open the heavy rosewood door, and enter into the house. The principal room displayed a certain luxury, which seemed impossible at that period in a wilderness like this. The walls and ceiling were white washed, but ornamented with a wide border of flower-work in fresco; between the windows hung two portraits representing an aged nobleman and an elderly lady, and over the canter door was painted a coat of arms. A large red damask curtain, on which the same arms were reproduced, concealed this door, which was rarely opened, and which led into a chapel. Opposite, between the two center windows, was a small canopy, closed by white curtains with blue loops. High-backed leather chairs, a rosewood table with turned feet, a silver lamp suspended from the ceiling, constituted the furniture of the room, which breathed a severe and gloomy air.
inner apartments were in the same style, save the heraldic decorations. In the
wing of the building, however, this aspect suddenly changed, and gave place to
a fanciful and dainty one, which revealed the presence of a woman. Indeed,
nothing could be more beautiful than this room, in which silk brocatels were
mingled with the pretty feathers of our birds, entwined in garlands and
festoons around the border of the ceiling, and upon the canopy of a bedstead
standing on a carpet of skins of wild animals. In a corner an alabaster
crucifix hung upon the wall, with a gilt bracket at its feet. At a little
distance, on a bureau, was seen one of those Spanish guitars that the gypsies
dwelling we have described belonged to Dom Antônio de Mariz, a distinguished
Portuguese nobleman. In 1567 he had accompanied Mem de Sá to
defeat of Alcacerquibir and the
Spanish domination that followed it changed his life. A Portuguese of the old
school, he considered that he was bound to the king of
I am a Portuguese! Here a loyal heart, which has never proved false to its
oath, can breathe at ease. In this country, which was given me by my king and
conquered by my arm, in this free country, thou shall reign,
had taken place in April, 1593;on the following day they began building a small
dwelling, which served as a provisional residence, until the artisans from
Dom Antônio had gained a fortune during the earlier years of his life as an adventurer, and not merely from the caprice of nobility, but in consideration for his family, sought to give to this dwelling, built in the midst of a wilderness, all the luxury and conveniences possible.
He not only made periodical expeditions to the city of Rio de Janeiro, to purchase goods from Portugal, which he obtained in exchange for the products of the country, but he had also ordered from the kingdom some mechanics and gardeners, who employed the resources of nature, so bountiful in that region, in providing his family with every necessary. Thus the house was a genuine castle of a Portuguese nobleman, except for the battlements and barbican, which were replaced by the wall of inaccessible rocks, which offered a natural defense. Under the circumstances this was necessary, because of the savage tribes, which, although they always retired from the neighborhood of places inhabited by the colonists, nevertheless frequently made incursions and attacked the whites by stealth.
In a circle of a league from the house there were only a few cabins, in which lived poor adventurers, eager to make a rapid fortune, who had settled in that place in companies of ten and twenty, in order more easily to carry on the contraband trade in gold and precious stones, which they sold on the coast. These, in times of danger, always sought refuge with Dom Antônio de Mariz, whose house took the place of a feudal castle in the middle ages. Thus, in case of attack by the Indians, the dwellers in the house on Paquequer could count only on their own resources, and therefore, Dom Antônio, like a wise and practical man as he was, had provided against every occurrence.
He maintained, like all captains engaged in discoveries in those colonial times, a band of adventurers, who served him in his explorations and expeditions into the interior. They were brave, fearless men, uniting with the resources of civilized man, the cunning and agility of the Indian, of whom they had learned; they were a sort of guerrillas, soldiers and savages at the same time. Dom Antônio, who knew them, had established among them a rigorous but just military discipline.
the time for selling the products arrived, which was always prior to the
departure of the armada for
The nobleman’s family was composed of four persons: his wife, Dona Lauriana, a lady from São Paulo, imbued with all the prejudices of nobility and all the religious superstitions of that time; for the rest, a good heart, - a little selfish, yet not incapable of an act of self-sacrifice; his son, Dom Diogo de Mariz, who was later to follow the career of his father, and who succeeded him in all his honors and privileges; still in the flower of youth, who spent his time in warlike excursions and in hunting; his daughter, Dona Cecília, a girl of eighteen, who was the goddess of that little world, which she illumined with her smile and cheered with her playful disposition and attractive ways; Dona Isabel, his niece, whom Dom Antônio’s companions, though they said nothing, suspected of being the fruit of the aged nobleman’s love for an Indian woman whom he had taken captive in one of his explorations.
III. THE BANDEIRA.
IT was midday. A troop of horsemen, consisting, at most, of fifteen persons, was pursuing its way along the right bank of the Parahyba. They were all armed from head to foot; besides his large war-sword, which struck the haunches of his animal, each of them carried two pistols at his girdle, a dagger at his side, and an arquebuse slung by a belt over his shoulder.
A little in advance two men on foot were driving some animals laden with boxes and other packages covered with tarpaulins, to protect them from the rain. As often as the horsemen, who were proceeding at a gentle trot, overcame the short distance that separated them from this group, the two men, not to retard the march, would mount on the haunches of their animals and again obtain the lead.
that time those caravans of adventurers that penetrated into the interior of
On one of the occasions, when the horsemen approached the pack animals, a good-looking young man of twenty eight, who was riding at the head of the troop, managing his horse with much grace and spirit, broke the general silence.
“Come, boys!” said he cheerfully to the drivers, “a little exertion and we shall soon reach home. We have only four leagues farther to go.”
One of the troop, on hearing these words, put spurs to his horse, and advancing some yards, placed himself at the young man’s side.
“You seem to be in a hurry to get home, Senhor Álvaro de Sá,” said he with a slight Italian accent, and a half smile whose expression of irony was concealed by a suspicious air of friendliness.
“Certainly, Senhor Loredano; nothing is more natural when one is traveling than the desire to get home.”
“I do not say it is not; but you will admit, too, that nothing is more natural when one is traveling than to spare his animals.”
“What do you mean by that, Senhor Loredano?” asked Álvaro with an angry movement.
“I mean, cavalier,” replied the Italian in a mocking tone, measuring with his eye the height of the sun, “that we shall reach home today before six o’clock.”
Álvaro colored. “I do not see why you take special notice of that; we must get there at some hour, and it is better it should be by day than by night.”
“And so it is better it should be on a Saturday than any other day,” replied the Italian in the same tone.
A new blush overspread Álvaro’s cheeks, and he could not disguise his confusion; but recovering himself, he gave a loud laugh, and answered:
“Zounds, Senhor Loredano! you are talking to me in riddles; on the faith of a cavalier, I do not understand you.”
“So it should be. Scripture tells us that none is so deaf as he that will not hear.”
“Ah! a proverb, I see. I wager that you learned this but now in São Sebastião.Was it some aged nun, or some doctor of divinity that taught you it?” said the cavalier jokingly.
“Neither the one nor the other, cavalier; it was a trader in the rua dos Mercadores, who at the same time showed me costly brocades and pretty pearl ear-rings, very appropriate for a present from a gallant cavalier to his lady.”
Álvaro blushed for the third time. Clearly the sarcastic Italian found means of connecting with all the young man’s questions an allusion that disconcerted him; and this in the most natural tone in the world.
Álvaro wanted to end the conversation at this point; but his companion proceeded with extreme good nature, “You did not, per chance, enter the shop of this trader of whom I have spoken?”
“I don’t remember; I think not, for I scarcely had time to transact our business, and not a moment was left to look at ladies’ gewgaws,” said the young man coldly.
is true,” asserted Loredano with pretended frankness; “that reminds me that we
only remained five days in
“I had orders to act with all haste; and I believe,” he continued, fixing a severe look on the Italian, “that I owe an account of my actions only to those whom I have given the right to command them.”
“Per Bacco, cavalier! You understand everything contrarily! No one asks you why you do whatever you like; and you will also find that everyone thinks after his own manner.”
“Think what you please!” said Álvaro, shrugging his shoulders and quickening the pace of his horse.
The conversation was broken off. The two horsemen, a little in advance of the rest of the troop, traveled in silence side by side. Álvaro now and then glanced along the road, as if to measure the way they still had to go, and at other times seemed lost in thought.
On these occasions the Italian would cast upon him a furtive glance, full of malice and scorn, and then continue to whistle between his teeth a song of the condottieri, of whom he exhibited the true type. A swarthy face, covered by a long black beard, through which his contemptuous smile permitted the whiteness of his teeth to glisten; sharp eyes, a wide forehead, which his broad brimmed hat falling upon his shoulders left uncovered; a tall stature, and a strong, active, and muscular constitution: these were the chief traits of this adventurer.
The little cavalcade had left the riverbank, which no longer afforded a passage, and had turned into a narrow path in the forest. Although it was little after two o’clock, twilight reigned in the deep and shady vaults of verdure; the light in passing through the dense foliage was entirely absorbed, and not a ray of the sun penetrated into this temple of creation, for which the ancient trunks of acaris and araribas served as columns. The silence of night with its vague and uncertain noises and its dull echoes slept in the depth of this solitude, and was scarcely interrupted by the step of the animals, which made the dry leaves crackle. It seemed that it must be six o’clock, and that declining day was enveloping the earth in the dark shadows of evening. Álvaro de Sá, although accustomed to this illusion, could not help being surprised for an instant, when, roused from his meditation, he found himself suddenly in the midst of the clare-obscure of the forest. He involuntarily raised his head, to see if through the dome of verdure he could discover the sun, or at least some ray of light to indicate the hour.
Loredano could not repress a sardonic laugh. “Have no anxiety, cavalier; we shall be there before six o’clock; I assure you of it.”
The young man turned toward the Italian with a scowl.
“Senhor Loredano, it is the second time that you have spoken that word in a tone that displeases me; you appear to want to tell me something, but you lack the courage to speak out. Once for all, speak openly, and God keep you from touching on subjects that are sacred.”
The Italian’s eyes flashed, but his countenance remained calm and serene. “You know that I owe you obedience, cavalier, and I shall not be wanting. You wish me to speak clearly; to me it appears that nothing I have said can be clearer than it is.”
“To you, no doubt; but this is no reason why it should be so to others.”
“But tell me cavalier, does it not seem clear, in the light of what you have heard from me, that I have divined your desire to get back as soon as possible?”
“As to that, I have already avowed it; there is no great merit in divining it.”
“Does it not also seem clear that I have observed with what celerity you have made this expedition, so that here we are, in less than twenty days, at the end of it?”
“I have already told you that I had orders, and I believe you have nothing to say against it.”
“Certainly not; an order is a duty, and a duty is fulfilled with pleasure, when the heart is in it.”
“Senhor Loredano!” said the young man, placing his hand on the hilt of his sword and gathering up the reins.
The Italian, pretending not to have seen the threatening gesture, continued:
“So everything is explained. You received an order; it was from Dom Antônio de Mariz, doubtless?”
“I do not know that anyone else has the right to order me,” replied the young man haughtily.
“Naturally, in pursuance of this order,” continued the Italian politely, “you set out from the Paquequer on Monday, when the day appointed was Sunday.”
“What! did you notice that, too?” asked the young man, biting his lips with vexation. “I notice everything, cavalier, and have not failed to observe likewise that you have made every exertion, in pursuance of the order of course, to arrive just the day before Sunday.”
“And have you observed nothing more?” asked Álvaro, with a tremulous voice, making an effort to restrain him self.
“Another little circumstance has not escaped me, of which I have already made mention.”
“And what is it, if you please?”
“O, it’s not worth the trouble of repeating; it’s a matter of little consequence.” “Nevertheless, tell it; nothing is lost between two men who understand each other,” replied Álvaro with a threatening look.
“Since you wish it, I must satisfy you. I notice that the order of Dom Antônio,” - and the Italian emphasized that word, - “directs you to be at the Paquequer a little before six o’clock, in time to hear the evening prayer.”
“You have an admirable gift, Senhor Loredano; it is to be lamented that you employ it in trifles.”
“On what would you have a man spend his time in this wilderness, if not in looking at his kind, and seeing what they are doing?”
“It certainly is a good amusement.”
“Excellent. Look you, I have seen things occurring in the presence of others which no one else perceived because no one would take the trouble to observe as I do,” said the Italian, with an air of pretended simplicity.
“Tell us about it; it must be curious.”
“On the contrary, it is the most natural thing possible; a youth gathering a flower, or a man walking by night in the starlight. Can anything be simpler?”
Álvaro turned pale this time.
“Do you know one thing, Senhor Loredano?”
“I shall know it, cavalier, if you do me the honor to tell me.”
“It appears to me that your cleverness as an observer has taken you too far, and that you are playing neither more nor less than the part of a spy.”
The adventurer raised his head with a haughty gesture, placing his hand on the handle of a large dagger which he carried at his side; at the same instant, however, he controlled this movement, and resumed his habitual good nature.
“You are joking, cavalier.”
“You are mistaken,” said the young man, spurring his horse, and placing himself by the side of the Italian. “I speak seriously; you are an infamous spy! But I swear by God, that at the first word you utter I will break your head as I would crush a venomous serpent.”
Loredano’s countenance did not change; it maintained the same immobility; but his air of indifference and sarcasm disappeared under the expression of energy and malice that lent force to his powerful features. Fixing a stern look on the cavalier, he replied:
“Since you take the matter in this way, Senhor Álvaro de Sá, it is proper for me to tell you that it does not belong to you to threaten; between us two you ought to know which it is that should fear.”
“Do you forget to whom you are speaking?” said the young man haughtily. “No, sir, I remember everything; I remember that you are my superior, and also,” he added in a hoarse voice, “that I have your secret”. And stopping his horse, the adventurer left Álvaro to go on alone, and joined his companions.
The little cavalcade continued its march along the path, and approached one of those openings which occur in virgin forests, resembling vast vaults of verdure. At that moment a frightful roar made the forest tremble, and filled the solitude with harsh echoes. The drivers turned pale, and looked at each other; the horsemen cocked their arquebuses, and proceeded slowly, looking cautiously through the branches.
IV. THE HUNT.
WHEN the cavalcade reached the border of the opening, a curious scene was passing there. Standing in the center of the great dome of trees, and leaning against an aged tree riven by lightning, was seen an Indian in the vigor of youth. A simple cotton tunic, which the aborigines call aimará, fastened at the waist by a band of scarlet feathers, fell from his shoulders down to his knees, and revealed his figure, delicate and slender as a wild reed. Upon the transparent whiteness of the cotton his copper-colored skin shone with a golden light; his short, black hair, smooth visage, and large, oblique eyes, with black, active, sparkling pupils, his powerful but well-shaped mouth, and white teeth, gave to his somewhat oval face the rude beauty of grace, force, and intelligence. His head was encircled by a leather band, to the side of which were fastened two variegated feathers, which, describing a long spiral, touched his neck with their black points. He was tall of stature; his hands were delicate; his agile and nervous leg, ornamented with a bracelet of yellow berries, rested upon a foot, small, but firm in walking, and fleet in running.
He had his bow and arrows in his right hand, while with his left he held vertically before him a long fork of wood blackened in the fire. Near him on the ground were lying an inlaid carbine, a small leather bag for ammunition, and a rich Flemish knife.
At that instant he raised his head and fixed his eyes on a tree some twenty distant, which was imperceptibly agitated. There, through the foliage, were distinguished the cat-like undulations of a black and shining back, spotted with gray; at times two pale and glassy rays, like the reflections from some rock crystal struck by the sunlight, were seen shining in the gloom.
It was an enormous ounce. The animal was beating his flanks with his long tail, and moving his monstrous head as if seeking an opening through the foliage to make his spring. A sort of sardonic and ferocious smile contracted his black lips and showed the line of yellow teeth; his dilated nostrils breathed forcibly, as if already enjoying the smell of the victim’s blood.
The Indian, smiling and indolently leaning against the dry trunk, lost not one of these movements, and awaited his enemy with the calmness and serenity of one contemplating an agreeable scene; his fixed look alone revealed a thought of defense.
Thus, for a brief moment, the beast and the savage eyed each other; then the tiger crouched and was about to make his leap, when the cavalcade appeared on the border of the opening. Then the animal, casting around a glance full of blood, hesitated to risk an attack.
The Indian, who at the movement of the ounce had bent his knees slightly and grasped the fork, straightened himself up again. Without taking his eyes from the animal, he saw the troop, which had halted on his right. He extended his arm, and with a kingly wave of the hand, for he was king of the forests, motioned the horsemen to continue their march. Then as the Italian, with his arquebuse at his face, was trying to get aim through the leaves, the Indian stamped on the ground in token of impatience, and pointing to the tiger and putting his hand on his breast, exclaimed, “It is mine! mine only!”
These words were spoken in Portuguese, with an agreeable and sonorous pronunciation, but in a tone of energy and resolution.
The Italian laughed. “By my faith, an original claim! You do not want your friend offended? Very well, Dom Cazique,” he continued, slinging his arquebuse over his shoulder; “he will thank you for it, doubtless.”
In answer to this warning, the Indian pushed contemptuously with his foot the carbine lying on the ground, as if to signify that had he wished he might already have shot the tiger.
All this passed rapidly, in a moment, the Indian never for an instant removing, his eyes from his enemy. At a signal from Álvaro the horsemen proceeded on their march, and entered again into the forest. The tiger uttered a roar of joy and satisfaction. A noise of breaking branches was heard, as if a tree had fallen in the forest, and the black form of the beast passed through the air; at a single leap, he had gained the other tree, and placed a considerable distance between himself and his adversary.
The savage comprehended at once the reason of this; the ounce had seen the horses. Quick as the thought, he took from his girdle a little arrow, slender as a porcupine’s quill, and drew his great bow, which exceeded by a third his own height. A loud whiz was heard, accompanied by a cry from the beast; the little arrow discharged by the Indian had penetrated his ear, and a second, cutting the air, struck him on the lower jaw.
The tiger turned, threatening and terrible, and with two leaps approached again. A death-struggle was to ensue. The Indian knew it, and waited calmly as on the first occasion; the disquiet that he had felt for a moment lest his prey should escape him had disappeared.
This time the tiger did not delay; scarcely did he get within some fifteen paces of his enemy, when he gathered himself up with extraordinary elasticity, and sprang like a fragment of rock riven by lightning. He struck on his great hind paws, with his body erect, his claws extended to rend his victim, and his teeth ready to devour him.
But before him was an enemy worthy of him in strength and agility. The Indian had bent his knees a little, and held in his left hand the long fork, his only defense; his fixed look magnetized the animal. Just as the tiger sprang he bent still more, and shielding his body presented the fork. The beast felt it close around his neck, and struggled.
Then the savage straightened himself with the flexibility of a rattlesnake making its thrust, and placing his feet and back against the trunk, sprang upon the ounce, which, thrown on its back, its head fastened to the ground by the fork, struggled against its conqueror, striving in vain to reach him with its claws.
When the animal, almost choked by the strangulation, made only a weak resistance, the savage, still holding the fork, placed his hand under his tunic and drew out a cord of ticum that was wound around his waist in many coils. At the end of this cord were two nooses, which he opened with his teeth and passed over the fore-paws, binding them tightly together; then he did the same with the hind legs, and ended by tying the jaws together, so that the ounce could not open its mouth.
At that moment a wild and timid agonti appeared on the border of the forest. The Indian sprung for his bow, and stopped the little animal in the midst of its career. He then broke two dry branches of biribá, and drawing fire by rubbing them rapidly together set about preparing his game for dinner.
In a little while he had finished his savage repast, which he accompanied with the honeycombs of a small bee that constructs its hives in the ground. He then went to a brook that flowed near by, drank a little water, washed his hands, face, and feet, and prepared to take his departure. Passing his long bow between the tiger’s legs, he suspended it to his shoulders, and bending under the weight of the animal, which struggled with violent contortions, took the path along which the cavalcade had gone.
Some moments afterward the thick shrubbery opened and an Indian appeared upon the now deserted scene, completely naked, except for a mantle of yellow feathers. He cast an astonished look around, cautiously examined the still-burning fire and the remnants of the game, and then lay down with his ear to the ground, and thus remained for some time. Rising, he entered again into the forest, in the direction the other had taken a short time before.
V. BLONDE AND BRUNETTE.
EVENING was approaching. In the little garden of the house on the Paquequer a pretty maiden was swinging lazily in a straw hammock fastened to the branches of a wild acacia, which, as it was shaken, let fall some of its small and fragrant flowers.
Her large blue eyes, half closed, at times opened languidly as if to drink in the light, then the rosy lids drooped again. Her red and moist lips were like the wild lily of our fields, bedewed by the vapor of night; her sweet and gentle breath exhaling formed a smile. Her complexion, white and pure as a tuft of cotton, was tinged on the cheeks with rose color, which, gradually fading, died out on the neck in pleasing and delicate lines.
Over her white muslin dress she wore a light sack of blue velvet gathered at the waist by a clasp; a kind of pearl-colored ermine, made of the soft clown of certain birds, bordered the neck and sleeves, setting off the whiteness of her shoulders and the harmonious contour of her arm arched over her breast. Her long fair hair, negligently twined in rich tresses, left bare her white forehead, and fell around her neck confined by a delicate loop of golden straw, braided with admirable skill and perfection. Her slender little hand was playing with a branch of the acacia, which bent beneath the weight of flowers, and which she grasped from time to time to give a gentle oscillation to the hammock. This maiden was Cecília.
What was passing in her mind at that moment it is impossible to describe; her body, yielding to the languor produced by a sultry afternoon, allowed her imagination to run at large. The warm breath of the breeze that came laden with the perfume of honeysuckles and wild lilies excited still more that enchantment, and conveyed perhaps to that innocent soul some undefined thought, one of those myths of the girlish heart at eighteen. She dreamed that one of the white clouds that were passing through the blue sky, coming into contact with the rocks opened suddenly, and a man appeared and fell at her feet, timid and suppliant. She dreamed that she blushed, and a bright flush kindled the rosy hue of her cheeks, but little by little this chaste embarrassment disappeared, and ended in a gracious smile which her soul brought to her lips. With palpitating breast, all tremulous and at the same time pleased and happy, she opened her eyes, but turned them away in disgust, for, instead of the handsome cavalier of whom she had dreamed, she saw at her feet a savage. She then as she dreamed exhibited a queenly anger, contracting her fair eyebrows and stamping with her little foot upon the grass. But the suppliant slave raised his eyes, so full of grief, of mute prayers and resignation, that an inexpressible feeling overcame her, and she became sad, and ran away and wept. Then her handsome cavalier came, wiped away her tears, and she felt consoled, and smiled again; but ever kept a shade of melancholy, which her cheerful disposition only succeeded little by little in driving away.
At this point in her dream the little inner door of the garden opened, and another maiden, scarcely touching the grass with her light step, approached the hammock. She was of a type entirely different from Cecília; the true Brazilian type in all its grace and beauty, with its enchanting contrast of melancholy and sportiveness, of indolence and vivacity. Her large black eyes, dark and rosy complexion, black hair, disdainful lips, provoking smile, gave her face a seductive power quite irresistible.
She stopped in front of Cecília, and could not disguise the admiration that her cousin's delicate beauty inspired; and an imperceptible shadow, perhaps of envy, passed over her countenance, but vanished at once. She sat down on one side of the hammock, leaning over the maiden to kiss her, or see if she was asleep. Cecília, awakened from her revery, opened her eyes and fixed them on her cousin.
“Lazy girl!” said Isabel smiling.
“True!” replied the maiden, seeing the great shadows cast by the trees “it is almost night.”
“And you have been sleeping since the sun was high, have n’t you?” asked the other playfully.
“No, I have n’t slept a moment; but I don't know what is the matter with me today, that I feel so sad.”
“You sad, Cecília! It would be easier for the birds not to sing at sunrise.”
“You won’t believe me then?”
“But pray, what reason have you to be sad, - you who the livelong year wear only a smile?”
“It’s apparent enough! Everything tires in this world.”
“O, I understand! You are tired of living here in this wilderness.”
“Nay! I am so accustomed to seeing these trees, this river, these mountains, that I love them as if they had witnessed my birth.”
“Then what is it that makes you sad?”
“I don’t know; I lack something.”
“I don’t see what it can be. Yes, I see now!”
“See what?” asked Cecília with wonder.
“O, what you lack.”
“But I don’t know myself,” said the maiden smiling.
“Look,” replied Isabel, “there is your dove waiting for you to call it, and your pretty fawn watching you with its soft eyes; you only lack the other wild animal.”
“Pery!” exclaimed Cecília, laughing at her cousin’s idea.
“The same! You have only two captives to frolic with, and as you do not see the ugliest and most ungraceful you are unhappy.”
“But now I think of it,” said Cecília, “have you seen him today?”
“No; I don’t know what has become of him.”
“He went away day before yesterday afternoon; I hope no accident has befallen him,” said the maiden with some alarm.
“What accident do you suppose can happen to him? Does he not all day long roam the woods, and run about like a wild beast?”
“Yes; but he never stayed away so long before.”
“The most that can have happened to him is to have been seized with longings for his old free life.”
“No,” exclaimed the maiden with vivacity; “it is not possible that he has abandoned us so.”
“But then, what do you think he can be doing in the forest?”
“True!” said Cecília pensively. She remained a moment with her head down, almost in sorrow; in that position her eye fell upon the fawn, which had its dark pupils fixed upon her with all the soft melancholy that Nature had embodied in its eyes. She held out her hand and snapped her fingers, at which the pretty animal leaped for joy, and came and laid its head in her lap.
“You will not abandon your mistress, will you?” said she, passing her hand over its satin hair.
“Never mind, Cecília,” replied Isabel, observing her tone of melancholy; “you can ask my uncle to get you another to domesticate, and it will prove tamer than your Pery.”
“Cousin,” said the girl with a slight tone of reproof, “you treat very unjustly that poor Indian, who has done you no ill.”
“But, Cecília, how would you have one treat a savage that has a dark skin and red blood? Does not your mother say that an Indian is an animal, like a horse or a dog?”
These last words were spoken with a bitter irony, which the daughter of Antônio Mariz comprehended perfectly.
“Isabel!” exclaimed she, offended. “I know that you do not think so, Cecília, and that your kind heart does not look at the color of the face to learn the soul. But the others?… Do you think I do not perceive the disdain with which they treat me?”
“I have told you again and again that it is a suspicion on your part; all like you and respect you as they ought.”
Isabel shook her head sadly. “It is very well for you to console me; but you, yourself, have seen whether I am right.”
“O, a moment of aversion on the part of my mother…”
“It is a very long moment, Cecília,” answered the girl with a bitter smile.
“But listen,” said Cecília, putting her arm round her cousin’s waist. “You know that my mother is a very severe mistress, even to me.”
“Don't trouble yourself, cousin; this only serves to confirm still more what I have already said: in this house you are the only one that loves me; the rest despise me.”
“Well then,” replied Cecília, “I will love you for all; have I not already asked you to treat me as a sister?”
“Yes; and that gave me a pleasure which you cannot imagine. If I only were your sister!”
“And why will you not be? I would have you so.”
“To you, but to him…” This him was murmured in her soul.
“But, look you, I demand one thing.”
“What is it?” asked Isabel.
“It is that I shall be the elder sister.”
“In spite of your being the younger?”
“No matter! As elder sister, you must obey me?”
“Certainly,” answered her cousin, unable to keep from smiling.
“Well then!” exclaimed Cecília, kissing her on the cheek, “I don’t want to see you sad, do you hear? or I shall be displeased.”
“And were you not sad a little while ago?”
“O, it’s all gone now!” said the girl, springing lightly from the hammock. In fact, that sweet melancholy that had possession of her a little while before, as she was swinging and thinking of a thousand things, had entirely disappeared; the spirit of joyous and bewitching childhood had yielded but a moment to the enchantment, but had returned again. She was now as ever, a laughing and attractive girl, breathing all the grace and beauty, combined with innocence and unrestraint, which open air and life in the country impart.
Rising, she gathered her red lips into a rosebud, and imitated with an enchanting grace the sweet cooings of the jurity, immediately the dove flew from the branches of the acacia, and nestled in her bosom, trembling with pleasure at the touch of the little hand that smoothed its soft plumage.
“Let’s go to bed,” said she to the dove, with the tenderness of a mother talking to her babe; “the little dove is sleepy, is n’t it?” And leaving her cousin for a moment alone in the garden, she went to take care for the night of the two companions of her solitude with so much affection and solicitude that the wealth of feeling existing in the depths of her heart, hid in the infantile charm of her disposition, was clearly revealed.
Soon the tread of animals near the house was heard; Isabel looked toward the river, and saw a troop of horsemen entering the enclosure. She uttered a cry of surprise, joy, and fear at the same time.
“What is it?” asked Cecília, running to her cousin.
“They have arrived?”
“Senhor Álvaro and the others.”
“Ah!” exclaimed the girl blushing.
“Do you not think they have returned very quickly?” asked Isabel, without noticing her cousin’s agitation.
“Very; who knows but something has happened!”
“Only nineteen days!” said Isabel mechanically.
“Have you counted the days?”
“It is easy,” replied she, blushing in her turn; “day after tomorrow it will be three weeks.”
“Let’s go and see what pretty things they bring us.”
“Bring us?” repeated Isabel, emphasizing the word with a tone of melancholy.
“Bring us, yes; for I ordered a string of pearls for you. Pearls ought to become you. Do you know that I enjoy your dark complexion, cousin?”
“And I would give my life to have your fair skin, Cecília.”
“O, the sun is almost setting! Let us go.”
And the two girls passed through the house toward the entrance.
VI. THE RETURN.
WHILE this scene was taking place in the garden, two men were walking on the other side of the esplanade in the shade of the building.
One of them, of tall stature, was recognized immediately as a nobleman by his proud air and his dress of a cavalier. He wore a black velvet doublet, with loops of coffee-colored silk on the breast and the openings of the sleeves; breeches of the same stuff, likewise black, fell over his long boots of white leather, with golden spurs. A ruffled collar of the whitest linen bordered his doublet, and left uncovered his neck, which sustained with grace his handsome and noble head. From his dark felt hat, without plume, his white locks escaped, and fell upon his shoulders; through his long beard, white as the foam of the cascade, shone his rosy cheeks and his still expressive mouth. His eyes were small but piercing. This was Dom Antônio de Mariz, who, in spite of his sixty years, showed a vigor due perhaps to his active life; his body was still erect, and his step firm and secure as in the strength of youth.
Walking by his side with his hat in his hand was Ayres Gomes, his esquire and former comrade in his life as an adventurer: the nobleman placed the greatest confidence in his zeal and discretion. This man’s face, whether from the restless sagacity which was its ordinary expression, or from his elongated features, bore a certain resemblance to that of a fox, a resemblance enhanced by his odd dress. He wore over his doublet of deep chestnut-colored velveteen a sort of waistcoat of fox skin, and the long boots that served him almost for breeches were of the same material.
“Although you deny it, Ayres Gomes,” said the nobleman to his esquire, slowly pacing the esplanade, “I am certain that you are of my opinion.”
“I by no means assert the contrary, cavalier; I confess that Dom Diogo committed an imprudence in killing that Indian woman.”
“Say a barbarity, a madness. Do not think that because he is my son I exculpate him.”
“You judge with too much severity.”
“And I ought to, for a nobleman who kills a weak and inoffensive creature does a mean and unworthy act. Accompanying me for thirty years, you know how I treat my enemies; but my sword, which has struck down so many men in war, would fall from my hand if, in a moment of insanity, I should raise it against a woman.”
“But we should consider what this woman was, - a savage -”
“I know what you would say; I do not share those ideas that prevail among my companions: For me the Indians, when they attack us, are enemies whom we must fight; when they respect us they are vassals of a land that we have conquered; but they are men.”
“Your son does not think so, and you know well what principles Dona Lauriana has instilled into him.”
“My wife?” replied the nobleman, with some sharpness. “But it is not of this that we were speaking.”
“True; you were mentioning the alarm that Dom Diogo’s imprudence caused you.”
“And what do you think?”
“I have already told you that I do not see things so black as you do, Dom Antônio. The Indians respect you, fear you, and will not dare to attack you.”
“I tell you that you are deceiving yourself, or, rather, that you are seeking to deceive me.”
“I am not capable of such a thing, cavalier!”
“You understand as well as I, Ayres, the character of these savages; you know that their dominant passion is revenge, and that for it they sacrifice everything - their life and their liberty.”
“I am not ignorant of this,” answered the esquire.
“They fear me, you say; but from the moment when they think they have been injured by me they will suffer everything to avenge themselves.”
“You have more experience than I, cavalier; but God grant that you may prove to be mistaken.”
Turning at the edge of the esplanade to continue their walk, Dom Antônio and his esquire saw a young cavalier crossing in front of the house.
“Leave me,” said the nobleman to Ayres Gomes, “and think on what I have said: in any event, let us be prepared to receive them.”
“If they come!” retorted the obstinate esquire, as he was going away.
Dom Antônio proceeded slowly toward the young nobleman, who had taken a seat some steps distant.
Seeing his father approaching, Dom Diogo de Mariz rose, and uncovering himself, waited in a respectful attitude.
“Cavalier,” said the old man sternly, “you infringed yesterday the orders that I gave you.”
“In spite of my express directions you have injured one of these savages, and brought down upon us their vengeance; you have put in jeopardy the lives of your father, your mother, and our devoted men. You ought to be satisfied with your work.”
“You have done an evil act in assassinating a woman, an act unworthy of the name I gave you; this shows that you do not yet know how to use the sword you wear in your belt.”
“I do not deserve this wrong, sir. Punish me, but do not degrade your son.”
“It is not your father that degrades you, cavalier, but the act that you have perpetrated. I do not wish to humiliate you by taking away that weapon which I gave you to wield in the cause of your king; but as you do not yet know how to use it, I forbid you to take it from its scabbard, even to defend your life.”
Dom Diogo bowed in token of obedience.
“You will start soon, immediately upon the arrival of the expedition from Rio de Janeiro, and will go and seek service with Diogo Botelho in his explorations. You are a Portuguese, and must maintain fidelity to your legitimate king, but you will fight like a nobleman and a Christian for the advancement of religion, conquering from the heathen this country, which will one day return to the dominion of free Portugal.”
“I will obey your orders, father.”
“Until then,” continued the aged nobleman, “you will not stir from this house without my order. Go, cavalier; remember that I am sixty years old, and that your mother and sister will soon need a valiant arm to defend them, and a wise counsellor to protect them.”
The young man felt the tears start in his eyes, but did not utter a word; he bowed, and kissed his father’s hand respectfully.
Dom Antônio, after looking at him a moment with a severity under which appeared signs of a father’s love, turned, and was about to continue his walk, when his wife appeared on the threshold.
Dona Lauriana was a lady of fifty-five; thin, but robust, and well preserved like her husband; she still had black hair, interspersed with some threads of white, which were concealed by her lofty headdress, crowned by one of those ancient combs so large as to encircle her head like a diadem. Her smoke-colored dress, long-waisted and a little short in front, had a respectable train, which she swept with a certain noble grace, relic of her beauty long since departed. Long, gold ear-rings, with emerald pendants that almost grazed her shoulders, and a collar with a golden cross around her neck, were her only ornaments.
In character, she was a combination of pride and devotion; the spirit of nobility, which in Dom Antônio served to set off his other qualities, in her became a ridiculous exaggeration. In the wilderness in which she was placed, instead of seeking to diminish the social distinction that existed between her and the people among whom she lived; she, on the contrary, took advantage of the fact that she was the only noble lady in that place, to crush those around her with her superiority, and to reign from the elevation of her high-backed chair, which for her was almost a throne. In religion it was the same, and one of the greatest griefs of her life was not to see herself surrounded by all those paraphernalia of worship which Dom Antônio, like a man of robust faith and sound judgment, had known how to dispense with perfectly.
In spite of this difference in character, Dom Antônio, either by concession or sternness, lived in perfect harmony with his wife. He sought to satisfy her in everything, but when that was impossible, expressed his will in such a manner that the lady knew at once it was useless to insist. Only at one point had his firmness been baffled; he had not been able to overcome the repugnance that Dona Lauriana had for his niece; but as the aged nobleman felt, perhaps, some twinges of conscience in this regard, he left his wife free to do as she pleased, and respected her feelings.
“You were speaking too severely to Dom Diogo!” said Dona Lauriana, descending to meet her husband.
“I gave him an order and a punishment which he deserved,” replied the nobleman.
“You always treat your son with excessive rigor, Dom Antônio!”
“And you with extreme indulgence, Dona Lauriana. Therefore, as I do not want your love to ruin him, I find myself obliged to deprive you of his company.”
“Mercy! What do you say, Dom Antônio?”
“Dom Diogo will start, in a few days, for the city of Salvador, where he will live like a nobleman, serving the cause of religion, and not wasting his time in wild conduct.”
“You will not do this, Senhor Mariz!” exclaimed his wife. “Banish your son from his father’s house!”
“Who spoke of banishment, Madam? Do you want Dom Diogo to pass his whole life tied to your apron-string?”
“But, sir, I am his mother, and I cannot live away from my son, full of anxiety for his lot.”
“Nevertheless it must be so, for I have decided it.”
“You are cruel, sir.”
“I am only just.”
It was at this point that the tread of animals was heard, and Isabel saw the troop of horsemen approaching the house.
“O, here is Álvaro de Sá!” cried Dom Antônio.
The young man with whom we are already acquainted, the Italian, and their companions dismounted, ascended the declivity leading to the esplanade, and approached the cavalier and his wife, whom they saluted respectfully. The aged nobleman extended his hand to Álvaro, and answered the salutation of the others with a certain amiability. As for Dona Lauriana, the inclination of her head was so imperceptible that she scarcely saw the faces of the adventurers.
After the exchange of these salutations, the nobleman made a sign to Álvaro, and the to stepped aside to converse in a corner of the esplanade, seating themselves on two large trunks of trees rudely wrought, which served as benches. Dom Antônio wished to learn the news from Rio de Janeiro and Portugal, where all hope had been lost of a restoration, which only took place forty years afterward, when the Duke of Bragança was proclaimed king.
The rest of the adventurers proceeded to the other side of the esplanade, and mingled with their comrades who came out to meet them. There they were received by a volley of questions, laughter and jests, in which they took part; afterward, some desirous of news, others eager to relate what they had seen. they began to talk all at once, so that no one could be understood.
At that moment the two girls appeared at the door; Isabel stopped trembling and confused; Cecília descending the steps lightly, ran to her mother. While she was crossing the space that separated her from Dona Lauriana, Álvaro, having obtained permission from the nobleman, advanced, and with hat in hand bowed blushingly before the maiden.
“Here you are back again, Senhor Álvaro!” said Cecília somewhat abruptly, to conceal the embarrassment which she also felt. “You have returned quickly.”
“Less so than I wished,” replied the young man stammeringly; “when the thought remains, the body hastens to return.”
Cecília blushed and fled to her mother. While this brief scene was taking place on the esplanade, three very dissimilar looks were accompanying it, starting from different points and meeting on those two heads, which shone with youth and beauty. Dom Antônio, seated not far off, contemplated the handsome pair, and a heartfelt smile of happiness expanded his venerable face. At a distance, Loredano, a little withdrawn from the groups of his companions, fastened upon the young couple an ardent, hard, incisive look, while his dilated nostrils inhaled the air with the delight of a beast scenting its prey. Isabel, poor child, fixed upon Álvaro her large black eyes, full of bitterness and sadness; her soul seemed to escape in that luminous ray and bow at the young man’s feet. Not one of the mute witnesses of this scene perceived what was passing beyond the point where their looks converged, except that the Italian saw Dom Antônio’s smile, and understood it.
Meantime Dom Diogo, who had withdrawn, returned to greet Álvaro and his companions. The young man had still on his countenance the expression of sadness that his father’s severe words had left.
VII. THE PRAYER.
NIGHT was at hand. The sun was setting behind the great forests which he illumined with his last rays. The soft, dim light of sunset, gliding over the green carpet, rolled like waves gold and purple along the foliage. The wild thorn-trees opened their white and delicate flowers, and the ouricory expanded its newest palms to receive in its cup the dew of night. The belated animals sought their lairs; and the jurity, calling to its mate, uttered the soft and mournful cooings with which it takes leave of day. A concert of deep notes hailed the setting sun and mingled with the noise of the waterfall, which seemed to break the harshness of its descent and yield to the sweet influence of the evening.
It was the Ave Maria. How grave and solemn in the midst of our forest is the mysterious hour of twilight, when nature kneels at the feet of the Creator to murmur the evening prayer! Those great shadows from the trees stretching along the ground; those infinite graduations of light in the mountain ravines; those chance rays that escaping through the network of leaves play for a moment upon the sand; all these breathe a boundless poetry that fills the soul. The urutáo in the depth of the forest utters its deep and sonorous notes, which, echoing through the long archways of verdure, sound in the distance like the slow and measured tones of the angelus. The breeze, moving the tops of the trees, brings a feeble murmur, which seems the final echo of the voices of day and the last of the sign of the dying evening. All those on the esplanade felt more or less the powerful impression of that solemn hour, and yielded involuntarily to a vague sentiment, not indeed of sadness, but of awe. Suddenly the melancholy tones of a clarion were borne through the air, interrupting the evening concert. It was one of the adventurers playing the Ave Maria. All uncovered. Dom Antônio, advancing to the edge of the esplanade toward the west, took off his hat and knelt down. Around him grouped his wife, the two girls, Álvaro, and Dom Diogo; the adventurers, forming a great arc of a circle, knelt some steps distant. The sun with his last reflection lighted up the beard and white hair of the aged nobleman, and heightened the beauty of that bust of an ancient cavalier.
It was a scene at once simple and majestic that was presented by that half Christian, half savage prayer. In all those countenances, illumined by the sunset rays, was reverence. Loredano alone maintained his disdainful smile, and followed with the same malignant look the least movement on the part of Álvaro, who was kneeling near Cecília, absorbed in contemplating her as if she were the divinity to whom he was addressing his prayer.
During the moment when the king of light, suspended on the horizon, was casting his last glance on the earth, all surrendered themselves to a deep meditation and said a mute prayer, which scarcely moved their lips. Finally the sun went down. Ayres Gomes extended his musket over the precipice and a shot saluted its setting. It was night. All rose; the adventurers took their leave, and one by one retired.
Cecília offered her forehead to her father and mother for a kiss, and made a graceful courtesy to her brother and Álvaro. Isabel touched with her lips her uncle’s hand, and bent before Dona Lauriana to receive a blessing given with the dignity and haughtiness of an abbot. Then the family, going toward the door, prepared to enjoy one of those short evening conversations that used to precede the simple but nutritious supper.
Álvaro, in consideration of its being the first day of his arrival, had been summoned by the nobleman to join in this family collation, which he regarded as an extraordinary favor. The great value that he attached to so simple an invitation was explained by the domestic regulations that Dona Lauriana had established in her house. The adventurers and their chiefs lived on one side of the house, entirely separated from the family; during the day they were in the woods, occupied in hunting, or in various operations of rope-making and joinery. It was only at the hour of prayer that they assembled for a moment on the esplanade, where, when the weather was good, the ladies also came to make their evening devotions. As to the family, it always kept retired within the house during the week; Sunday was consecrated to repose, diversion, and gayety; then sometimes occurred an extraordinary event, such as a walk, a hunt, or a canoe trip on the river.
The reason then is apparent why Álvaro had such a desire, as the Italian said, to reach the Paquequer on Saturday and before six o’clock; the young man was dreaming of the happiness of those brief moments of contemplation, and of the liberty of Sunday, which would perhaps offer him an opportunity to venture a word.
The family group being formed, the conversation was carried on between Dom Antônio, Álvaro, and Dona Lauriana; Diogo had remained a little aside; the girls modestly listened, and hardly ever ventured to say a word, unless they were directly spoken to, which rarely occurred. Álvaro, desirous of hearing Cecília’s sweet and silvery voice, for which he had longed all through his absence, sought a pretext to draw her into the conversation.
“I forgot to tell you, Dom Antônio,” said he, taking advantage of a pause, “an incident of our trip.”
“What was it? let us hear,” replied the nobleman.
“Some four leagues from here, we found Pery.”
“Good!” said Cecília; “we have n’t heard anything of him for two days.”
“Nothing simpler,” replied the noble man; “he is running up and down the forest here.”
“Yes,” returned Álvaro, “but the way in which we found him will not appear so simple to you.”
“Well, what was he doing?”
“Playing with an ounce as you with your fawn, Dona Cecília.”
“Goodness!” exclaimed the girl with a shriek.
“What is the matter, my child?” asked Dona Lauriana.
“Why, he must be dead by this time, mother.”
“No great loss,” responded the lady.
“But I shall be the cause of his death.”
“How so, my daughter,” said Dom Antônio.
“You see, father,” answered Cecília, wiping away the tears that came to her eyes, “I was talking Thursday with Isabel, who is very much afraid of ounces, and in jest I told her that I should like to see one alive -”
“And Pery went to get one to gratify your desire,” replied the nobleman laughing. “There is nothing strange about it; he has done the like before.”
“But, father, can such a thing be done? The ounce must have killed him.”
“Have no fears, Dona Cecília; he will know how to defend himself.”
“But why did you not help him, Senhor Álvaro, to defend himself?” said the girl sorrowfully.
“If you had only seen how angry he was because we were going to shoot the animal!” And the young man related part of the scene.
“No doubt,” said Dom Antônio, “in his blind devotion to Cecília he sought to gratify her wish at the risk of his life. To me one of the most admirable things that I have seen in this country is the character of this Indian. From the first day that he entered here, after rescuing my daughter, his life has been a single act of self-denial and heroism. Believe me, Álvaro, he is a Portuguese cavalier in the body of a savage.”
The conversation continued, but Cecília had become sad and took no further part in it. Dona Lauriana retired to give her orders; the aged nobleman and the young man conversed till eight o’clock, when the sound of a bell in the courtyard announced the hour of supper.
While the others were ascending the doorsteps and entering the house, Álvaro found an opportunity of exchanging a few words with Cecília.
“Are you not going to ask me for what you ordered, Dona Cecília?” said he in a low tone.
“O, yes! Have you brought all the things that I asked you to?”
“All and more -” said the young man, stammering.
“And what more?” asked Cecília.
“And one thing more that you did not ask.”
“I do not want it!” replied the girl with some annoyance.
“Not even if it belongs to you already?” answered he timidly.
“I do not understand. It is something that belongs to me already, do you say?”
“Yes; for it is a keepsake for you.”
“In that case keep it, Senhor Álvaro,” said she smiling, “and keep it carefully.”
And escaping, she went to her father, who was approaching the balcony, and in his presence received from Álvaro a small box, which the young man had directed to be brought, and which contained her orders, - jewellery, silks, edgings, ribbons, galloons, hollands, and a handsome pair of pistols skillfully inlaid.
Seeing these weapons, the girl uttered a suppressed sigh and murmured to herself: “My poor Pery! Perhaps they will no longer avail you, even to defend yourself.”
The supper was long and leisurely, as was the custom in those times, when eating was a serious occupation and the table an altar that was respected.
As soon as her father rose, Cecília retired to her room, and kneeling before the crucifix said her prayers. Then, rising, she raised a corner of the window curtain, and looked at the cabin that stood on the summit of the rock, deserted and solitary. She felt her heart oppressed with the idea that by a jest she had been the cause of the death of that devoted friend who had saved her life, and every day risked his own merely to make her smile.
Everything in that apartment spoke of him: her birds, her two little friends, sleeping, one in its nest and the other on the carpet, the feathers that ornamented her chamber, the skins of animals beneath her feet; the sweet perfume of benzoin that she breathed, all had come from the Indian who, like a poet or an artist seemed to create around her a little temple of the masterpieces of Brazilian nature.
She remained thus looking out of the window for some time; all the while she had no thought of Álvaro, the elegant young cavalier, so gentle, so timid, who blushed in her presence as she in his.
Suddenly she started. She had seen by the starlight a figure pass which she recognized by the whiteness of its cotton tunic and by its slender and flexible form. When it entered into the cabin she no longer had the least doubt. It was Pery.
She felt relieved of a great weight, and could then give herself up to the pleasure of examining one by one, with the greatest care, the pretty things she had received, which afforded her a keen enjoyment. In this way she spent certainly half an hour; then she went to bed, and as she no longer had any inquietude or sadness, she fell asleep smiling at the image of Álvaro, and thinking of the grief she had caused him by refusing his gift.
VIII. THREE LINES.
ALL was still; the only sound, heard when the wind lulled, was a noise of subdued voices from the side of the building occupied by the adventurers.
At that hour there were in that place three men very different in character, in position, and in origin, who nevertheless were controlled by the same idea. Separated by manners and by distance, their minds broke that moral and physical barrier, and united in a single thought, converging to the same point like the radii of a circle.
Let us follow each of the lines traced by those existences, which sooner or later must intersect.
In one of the porches that ran in the rear of the house thirty-six adventurers were seated around a long table, on which in wooden porringers some pieces of game were smoking, already disposed of in a manner that did honor to the appetite of the guests. The Catalan did not run so freely in the earthen and metal jugs as was to be desired, but by way of compensation large jars of cashew-nut and pineapple wine were seen in the corners of the porch, from which the adventurers could drink their fill. The meal had lasted half an hour: at first only the grating of the teeth, the smacking of the jugs, and the ringing of the knives in the porringers were heard. Then one of the adventurers made a remark which immediately ran around the table, and the conversation became a confused and discordant chorus.
It was in the midst of this hubbub that one of the guests, raising his voice, uttered these words:
“And you, Loredano, have n’t you anything to say? You sit there mute, and we can’t get a word out of you!”
“Certainly,” chimed in another, “Bento Simões is right; if it is not hunger that makes you silent, something is the matter with you, Sir Italian.”
“I wager, Martin Vaz,” said a third, “that it is grief for some girl that he courted in São Sebastião.”
“Away with your griefs, Ruy Soeiro; do you think Loredano is a man to be troubled by things of that sort?”
“And why not, Vasco Affonso? We all wear the same shoe, though it pinches some more than others.”
“Do not judge others by yourself, Sir Lover; there are men who employ their thought on things of more value than love and gallantries.”
The Italian remained silent, and let the others talk without taking any notice of them. It was plain that he was following out an idea that was at work in his mind.
“But, in faith,” continued Bento Simões, “tell us what you saw on your journey, Loredano; I wager something happened to you.”
“Listen to what I tell you,” interrupted Ruy Soeiro; “My Lord Italian is in love.”
“And with whom, if you please?” asked several.
“O, there’s no difficulty in seeing: with that jug of wine there before him; do you not see what looks he gives it?”
The adventurers burst into a loud laugh, applauding the joke.
Ayres Gomes appeared at the door of the porch.
“Come, boys!” said he, in a tone that he tried to make severe, “stop your noise!”
“It is an arrival, esquire, and you ought to take that into account,” said Ruy Soeiro.
Ayres sat down, and began to do the honors to a remnant of venison in front of him. “You there,” cried he, with his mouth full, to two adventurers who had risen, “go and stand watch, now that you are refreshed, and the rest will be ready for their turn.”
The two adventurers went out to relieve those on duty, for it was the custom to stand sentry at night; a necessary measure at that time.
“You are very strict today, Senhor Ayres Gomes,” said Martin Vaz.
“He who gives the orders knows what he is doing; it is for us to obey,” replied the esquire.
“Ah! why did n’t you say that at once?”
“Well, you will understand now. A vigilant watch, for perhaps we shall shortly have something to do.”
“Let it come,” said Bento Simões, “for I am tired of shooting the guinea pigs and wild hogs.”
“And in honor of whom do you think we shall shortly burn some pounds of powder?” asked Vasco Affonso.
“Can there be any question? Who but the Indians can afford us this amusement?”
Loredano raised his head. “What sort of a story are you telling there? Do you suppose the Indians will attack us?” asked he.
“O, here is My Lord Italian waking up; it was necessary for him to smell powder,” exclaimed Martin Vaz.
The presence of Ayres Gomes checking the free hilarity of the adventurers, caused them one after another to forsake the table, and leave the esquire alone with the jugs and porringers. Loredano, rising, made a sign to Ruy Soeiro and Bento Simões, and the three went together to the center of the yard. The Italian murmured in their ears a single word, “Tomorrow!” Then as if nothing had passed between them, the two adventurers went each his own way, and left Loredano to continue his walk to the brink of the precipice.
On the opposite side the Italian saw dimly reflected on the trees the light from Cecília’s room, the windows of which he could not distinguish, because of the angle formed by the esplanade. There he waited.
Álvaro, upon leaving Cecília, had come away sad and hurt at her refusal, although her last word, and above all the smile that accompanied it, consoled him. He could not reconcile himself to the loss of the great pleasure on which he had counted, of seeing among the maiden’s ornaments some favor from himself, some memento to tell him that she thought of him. He had cherished this idea so much, had lived so long upon it, that to tear it from his mind would be torture.
While on his way to his room, he formed a project and made a resolution. He put in a small silken purse a little box of jewels, and wrapping himself in his mantle proceeded along the side of the house, and approached the little garden in front of Cecília’s room. He also saw the light reflected opposite, and waited till the night should advance and the whole house should be wrapped in sleep.
In the meantime Pery, the Indian, had arrived with his burden, so precious that he would not exchange it for a treasure. He left his prisoner in the enclosure on the river bank, secured to a tree. He then ascended to the esplanade, and it was at this time that the girl saw him enter his cabin. What, however, she could not perceive was the manner in which he left almost immediately. Two days had passed since he had seen his mistress, received an order from her, or anticipated a desire. The first thought of the Indian then was to see Cecília, or at least her shadow. Entering his cabin he saw, like the others, the glimmer of light that escaped through the window curtains.
He suspended himself to one of the palm trees that served as supports to the hut, and by one of those agile movements that were so natural to him, at a single bound reached the branch of a gigantic oleo, which, rising on the slope opposite, threw out some limbs on the side toward the house. For a moment the Indian hung over the abyss, swinging on the frail branch that supported him; then he regained his equilibrium, and continued his aerial journey with the security and firmness with which an old sailor walks tile maintop and climbs the shrouds. He reached the other side of the tree, and, concealed in the foliage, gained a branch opposite Cecília’s windows, and about two yards from them. It was at this moment that Loredano arrived on one side, and Álvaro on the other, and stationed themselves alike at a little distance.
At first Pery had eyes only to see what was passing in the room; Cecília was still examining the articles she had received from Rio de Janeiro. In this silent gaze the Indian forgot everything; what mattered to him the precipice that opened at his feet to swallow him at the least movement, and over which he was suspended by a frail branch, which bent and might break at any moment? He was happy: he had seen his mistress; she was joyous, pleased, satisfied; he could now seek sleep and repose.
A sad reflection, however, assailed him; seeing the pretty things the maiden had received, he thought that he might save her life, but that he had no such beautiful things as those to offer her. The poor savage raised his eyes to heaven with a look of despair, as if to see whether, placed a hundred and fifty feet above the earth, on the top of the tree, he could not stretch out his hand and gather the stars, and lay them at Cecília’s feet.
This, then, was the point at which those three lines, starting from such different sources, intersected. As they were situated, the three men formed a literal triangle, whose center was the dimly lighted window. They were all risking, or were going to risk their lives, merely to touch the lattice, and yet not one of them weighed the danger that he was to incur; not one of them valued his life in comparison with so great a pleasure.
Passions in a wilderness, and above all in the bosom of a grand and majestic nature like this, are true epics of the heart.
THE window curtains closed; Cecília had gone to bed.
Near the innocent girl, asleep in the freedom of her pure and virgin soul, were watching three deep passions, were palpitating three very unlike hearts.
In Loredano, the adventurer of low extraction, this passion was an ardent desire, a thirst for enjoyment, a fever that burned his blood: moreover, the brutal instinct of his vigorous nature was heightened by the moral impossibility that his condition created; by the barrier that rose between him, a poor colonist, and the daughter of Dom Antônio de Mariz, a rich nobleman of rank and fame. To break down this barrier and equalize their positions, some extraordinary occurrence would be necessary; some event that should change completely the laws of society, at that time more rigid than today: there was demanded one of those situations in presence of which individuals, whatever their rank, noble or pariah, are leveled, and descend or ascend to the condition of men. The adventurer knew this perhaps his Italian penetration bad already sounded the depth of that idea. At all events he hoped, and hoping watched his treasure with a zeal and constancy equal to every trial. The twenty days he had passed in Rio de Janeiro had been a real torment.
In Álvaro, a courteous and refined cavalier, the passion was a pure and noble affection, full of the pleasing timidity that perfumes the first flowers of the heart, and of the knightly enthusiasm that lent so much poetry to the loves of that time of faith and loyalty. To feel himself near Cecília, to see her and exchange a word, stammered with difficulty, both blushing without knowing why, and avoiding each other while desiring to meet, this was the whole history of that innocent affection which surrendered itself carelessly to the future, balancing on the wings of hope. Tonight Álvaro was about to take a step which in his habitual timidity he compared almost to a formal request of marriage; he had resolved to make the maiden accept in spite of herself the gift she had refused, by laying it on her window; he hoped that when she found it on the following day Cecília would pardon his boldness and keep his present.
In Pery the passion was a worship, a kind of fanatical idolatry, into which entered no thought of self; he loved Cecília, not to feel a pleasure or experience a satisfaction, but to dedicate himself wholly to her, to fulfill her slightest desire, to anticipate her very thoughts. Unlike the others, he was not there either from a restless jealousy or a ridiculous hope; he braved death solely to see whether Cecília was contented, happy, and joyous; whether she did not desire something that he could read on her countenance, and go in search of that same night, that very instant.
Thus love was so completely transformed into those organizations that it assumed three very different forms; one was a madness, the other a passion, the last a religion. Loredano desired; Álvaro loved; Pery adored. The adventurer would give his life to enjoy; the cavalier would brave death to deserve a look; the savage would kill himself, if need were, merely to make Cecília smile.
Meanwhile neither of those three men could touch the girl’s window without running an imminent risk, in consequence of the position of Cecília’s room. Although this side of the house was only two yards from the precipice, Dom Antônio, for the purpose of fortifying it, had had an inclined plane constructed from the windows to the edge of the esplanade, which it was impossible to ascend, - its smooth and polished face offering no point of contact to the firmest and surest foot. Under the window opened the steep rock, forming a deep palisade, covered by a green canopy of climbing plants and shrubs, which seemed a dwelling-place for all those reptiles that breed in darkness and moisture. Any one precipitated from the top of the esplanade into the broad and deep fissure, if by a miracle he was not dashed in pieces on the points of the rock, would be devoured by the venomous snakes and insects that filled the cavities and the slopes.
Some moments had passed since the window-curtain was closed; only a dim and fading light reflected on the dark-green foliage of the oleo the outline of the window. The Italian, who had his eyes fixed upon this reflection as upon a mirror where he saw all the images of his mad passion, suddenly started. In its light a moving shadow was depicted; a man was approaching the window.
Pale, with glowing eyes and clinched teeth, hanging over the precipice, he followed the slightest movements of the shadow. He saw an arm stretched toward the window, and the hand leave on the sill some object so small that its form was not discerned. By the wide sleeve of the doublet, or rather by instinct, the Italian divined that this arm belonged to Álvaro, and comprehended what the hand had laid in the window.
And he was not mistaken. Álvaro, steadying himself by one of the posts of the garden-fence, placed one foot on he inclined plane, pressed his body against the wall, and leaning forward succeeded in accomplishing his purpose. Then he returned, divided between fear at what he had done and hope that Cecília would pardon him.
No Sooner did Loredano see the shadow disappear and hear the echoes of the young man’s footsteps, than he smiled, and his eyes shone in the darkness like those of a wildcat. He drew his dagger and buried it in the wall, as far around the corner as his arm would reach. Then supporting himself by this frail prop, he was able to climb the inclined plane and approach the window; at the least indecision and the slightest movement it was enough that his foot should fail him, or that the poniard should move in the cement, to precipitate him headlong upon the rocks.
In the meantime, Pery, seated quietly on the branch of the oleo, and hidden by the foliage, witnessed without a movement the whole scene. As soon as Cecília closed her window-curtains, the Indian had seen the two men standing on either hand and apparently waiting. He waited also, curious to know what was to occur; but resolved, if it were necessary, to hurl himself at one bound upon the one that should offer the least violence, and to fall with him from the top of the esplanade. He had recognized Álvaro and Loredano; for a long time he had known the cavalier’s love for Cecília, but of the Italian he had never had the least suspicion.
What could these two men want? What came they to do there at that silent hour of the night? Álvaro’s action explained part of the enigma; Loredano’s was about to make plain the rest. For the Italian, who had approached the window, succeeded with an effort in pushing the object that Álvaro had left there off, over the precipice. This done, he returned in the same way, and retired enjoying the pleasure of that simple revenge, - the result of which, however, he foresaw.
Pery did not move. With his natural sagacity he had comprehended the love of the one and the jealousy of the other, and reached a conclusion that for him, with his savage understanding and fanatical adoration, was very simple. If Cecília thought this ought to be so, the rest mattered little to him; but if what he had seen caused her a shade of sadness and dimmed for a moment the lustre of her blue eyes, then it was different. Quieted by this idea he sought his cabin, and slept dreaming that the moon sent him a ray of her white and satiny light to tell him that she was protecting her daughter on earth.
And in reality the moon was rising above the trees, and illuminating the front of the house. Then anyone approaching one of the windows at the end of the garden would have seen in the obscurity of the room a motionless figure. It was Isabel, watching pensively, wiping away from time to time a tear that trickled down her cheek.
She was thinking of her unhappy love, of the solitude of her soul, so bereft of pleasing recollections and bright hopes. All that evening had been a martyrdom to her; she had seen Álvaro talking with Cecília, and had divined almost his very words. Within a few moments she had seen the shadow of the young man crossing the esplanade, and knew that it was not on her account that he passed.
From time to time her lips moved, and some imperceptible words escaped, “If I could make up my mind!”
She took from her bosom a golden phial, under whose crystal lid was seen a lock of hair coiled in the narrow metal ring. What was there in this phial so powerful as to justify that exclamation, and the brilliant look that lighted up Isabel’s black eye? Could it be a secret, one of those terrible secrets that suddenly change the face of things, and make the past rise up to crush the present? Could it be some inestimable and fabulous treasure, whose seduction human nature had not power to resist? Could it be some weapon against which there was no possible defense except in a miracle of Providence? It was the fine dust of the curari, the terrible poison of the savages.
Isabel pressed her lips upon the crystal with a sort of frenzy. “My mother! My mother!” A sob burst from her breast.
X. AT DAWN.
ON the following morning, at break of day, Cecília opened the little garden gate and approached the wall. “Pery!” said she.
The Indian appeared at the entrance of his cabin, and ran joyfully, but timidly and submissively.
Cecília sat down on a mound of grass, and with much difficulty assumed an air of severity, which from time to time was almost betrayed by an obstinate smile that sought to escape from her lips. She fixed upon the Indian for a moment her large blue eyes in gentle reproof, and then said in a tone more of complaint than of sternness: “I am very angry with Pery!”
His countenance became clouded. “You, mistress, angry with Pery? Why?”
“Because Pery is bad and ungrateful; instead of remaining near his mistress, he goes off hunting, imperiling his life,” said the girl, exhibiting displeasure.
“Cecy wished to see an ounce alive.”
“Can I not joke, then? Is it enough for me to desire a thing, to set you running after it like a mad man?”
“When Cecy thinks a flower beautiful, shall not Pery go and get it?” asked the Indian.
“When Cecy hears the soffrer sing, shall not Pery catch it?”
“What of that?”
“Since Cecy wished to see an ounce, Pery went to get one.”
Cecília could not repress a smile at hearing this rude syllogism, to which the simple and concise language of the Indian gave a certain poetry and originality. But she was resolved to maintain her severity, and to scold Pery for the anxiety he had caused her the evening before.
“That is no reason,” said she. “Is a savage beast the same thing as a bird, and can you gather it like a flower?”
“Everything is the same that causes you pleasure, mistress.”
“But then,” exclaimed the girl, with a sign of impatience, “if I should ask you for that cloud?” And she pointed to the white vapors that were passing over, still enveloped in the pale shades of night.
“Pery would go and get it.”
“"The cloud?” asked she with astonment.
“Yes, the cloud.”
Cecília thought that the Indian was out of his head. He continued -
“Only, as the cloud is not of earth, and man cannot reach it, Pery would die, and ask the Lord of the sky for the cloud to give to Cecy.” These words were spoken with the simplicity that marks the language of the heart.
The girl’s feigned severity could no longer resist, and suffered a divine smile to play upon her lips. “Thank you, my good Pery! You are a devoted friend. But I do not want you to risk your life to satisfy a whim of mine; on the other hand, I wish you to preserve it, that you may defend me as you have already once done.”
“Mistress is no longer angry with Pery?”
“No; although she ought to be, because Pery yesterday made his mistress unhappy, thinking that he was going to die.”
“And was Cecy sad?” exclaimed the Indian.
“Cecy cried,” replied the girl, with a charming frankness.
“Pardon me, mistress!”
“I not only pardon you, but I am going to make you a present also.”
Cecília ran to her room, and brought the rich pair of pistols which she had ordered by Álvaro.
“Look! would n’t Pery like to have a pair like these?”
“Well, here they are! you will never part with them, will you? because they a memento from Cecília.”
“I will sooner part with life.”
“When you are in any danger, remember that Cecília gave them to you to defend and save your life.”
“Because it is yours, is it not mistress?”
“Yes, because it is mine, and I want you to preserve it for me.”
Pery’s countenance became radiant with a boundless joy, an infinite happiness; he put the pistols in his girdle of feathers, and held his head up, proud as a king who had just received God’s anointing.
For him this maiden, - this fair, blue-eyed angel, - represented divinity on earth: to admire her, to make her smile, to see her happy was his worship; a holy and reverential worship in which his heart poured out treasures of feeling and poetry that overflowed from his virgin nature.
Isabel entered into the garden the poor girl had been awake all night, and her face appeared to still wear traces of those hot tears that scald the bosom and burn the cheeks. The maiden and the Indian did not notice each other; they entertained a mutual hatred; it was an antipathy that had begun with their first meeting and had increased daily.
“Now, Pery, Isabel and I are going to take a bath.”
“May not Pery accompany you, mistress?”
“Yes; but on condition that Pery is very still and quiet.”
The reason why Cecília imposed this condition could be fully understood only by one who had witnessed one of the scenes that used to occur when the two girls took a bath, which happened almost always on Sunday.
Pery, with his bow, his inseparable companion, and a terrible weapon in his skillful hand, would take his seat at a distance on the river bank, on one of the highest points of rock, or on the are branch of some tree, and would not let anyone approach within twenty paces of the place where the girls were bathing.
When an adventurer crossed by chance the circle that the Indian traced around him with his eye, Pery, from his commanding position would discover him at once. Then if the careless hunter felt his hat suddenly ornamented with a red feather that flew hissing through the air; if he saw an arrow snatch from him the fruit he had stretched out his hand to pluck; if he stopped affrighted before a long plumed shaft, which, discharged from above, stuck two paces in front of him, as if to arrest his progress and serve as a limit, he was not astonished. He understood at once what this meant, and from the respect that they all entertained for Dom Antônio and his family, retraced his steps, hurling an oath at Pery, who had pierced his hat, or compelled him to draw back his hand in fright.
And he did well to return, for the Indian with his ardent zeal would not have hesitated to put out his eyes, to prevent him upon reaching the river-bank from seeing the maiden bathing in the waters. Cecília and her cousin were accustomed to bathe in a garment of light woolen stuff, that completely concealed their forms under its dark colors, while leaving their movements free for swimming. But Pery thought that notwithstanding this it would be a profanation that anyone should see his mistress in her bathing dress, even though it were only her slave, who could not injure her that was his only god. While the Indian, by the sureness of his rapid vision and the discharge of his arrows, thus kept this circle impenetrable, he did not cease to regard with scrupulous attention the current and the banks of the river. The fish that kissed the surface of the water and might injure the maiden; an innocent green snake, coiled in the leaves of the water-lilies; a chameleon basking in the sun, its prism of brilliant colors sparkling in the light; a white and shaggy monkey making naughty grimaces, suspended by his tail to the branch of a tree, - everything that might frighten the maiden he drove away if it was distant, and if it was near he transfixed the animal to a tree or to the ground. If a branch borne by the current was passing, if a little grass became detached from the pebbly margin of the river, if the fruit of a sapucaia hanging over the Paquequer snapped and fell, the Indian, fleet as the arrow from his bow, sprang and caught the nut in the midst of its fall, or leaped into the water and picked up the floating objects. Cecília might be injured by the tree brought down by the current, by the falling fruit; she might be frightened by the contact of the grass, thinking it a snake; and Pery would not have forgiven himself if the maiden had suffered the slightest discomfort through lack of his care. In short, he extended around her a watchfulness so constant and untiring, a protection so intelligent and delicate, that she might be at ease, certain that if she suffered anything it would be because all power of man had been impotent to prevent it. This then is the reason why Cecília ordered Pery to be still and quiet; she knew, nevertheless, that this order was always vain, and that the Indian would do everything to prevent even a bee from kissing her red lips, mistaking them for a flower of the pequiá.
When the two girls crossed the esplanade, Álvaro was walking near the steps. Cecília saluted the young cavalier in passing with a smile, and descended lightly, followed by her cousin.
Álvaro, who had sought to read in her eyes and on her countenance the pardon of his last night’s rashness, and had found nothing to calm his fear, concluded to follow the maiden and speak with her. He turned to see if any one was there to observe what he was about to do, and found the Italian a few feet distant, looking at him with one of his sarcastic smiles.
“Good morning, cavalier.”
The two enemies exchanged looks that crossed like blades of steel.
At that moment Pery approached them slowly, loading one of the pistols that Cecília had given him a few minutes before. The Indian stopped, and with a slight, indefinable smile took the pistols by the barrel, and presented one of them to Álvaro and the other to Loredano.
Both understood the act and the smile, both felt that they had committed an imprudence, and that the sagacity of the savage had read hatred in their eyes and perhaps the cause of that hatred. They turned away, pretending not to have seen the movement.
Pery shrugged his shoulders and putting the pistols in his girdle passed proudly between them, and accompanied his mistress.
XI. AT THE BATH.
WHILE descending the stone steps from the esplanade, Cecília asked her cousin:
“Tell me one thing, Isabel; why do you not speak to Senhor Álvaro?”
“I have noticed,” continued the girl, “that you do not even respond to the bow that he makes to us.”
“That he makes to you, Cecília,” replied the maiden gently.
“Confess that you do not like him. Have you an antipathy against him?”
The girl was silent.
“Will you not speak? Well, then I shall think another thing,” continued Cecília jestingly.
Isabel turned pale, and placing her hand on her heart to check its violent pulsations, made a supreme effort, and extorted a few words that seemed to burn her lips. “You know well enough that I detest him!”
Cecília did not see the alteration in her cousin’s countenance, for, having reached the bottom at that moment, she had forgotten the conversation and had begun to play with childish glee upon the grass. But even if she had seen the girl’s confusion, she certainly would have attributed it to every reason but the right one. The affection she had for Álvaro appeared to her so innocent, so natural, that she had never imagined it would sometime pass beyond what it was; that is, a pleasure that brought a smile and a confusion that caused a blush. This love, if it was love, could not know what was passing in Isabel’s soul; could not understand the sublime falsehood her lips had just uttered.
For Isabel, that expression of hatred was almost a blasphemy. But better that than to reveal what was passing in her soul; that mystery, that ignorance, that enshrouded her love and concealed it from all eyes, had for her an inexpressible delight. She could thus gaze hour after hour upon the young man without his perceiving it, without disturbing him perchance with the mute prayer of her supplicating look; she could believe herself mirrored in his soul without exciting a smile of contempt or ridicule.
The sun was rising. The soft and pleasant light of morning was but just lighting up the earth, and surprising the lazy shadows that still slumbered under the trees. It was the hour when the cactus, flower of night, closes its cup full of the dew-drops from which it distils its perfume, fearing lest the sun should scorch the transparent whiteness of its petals.
Cecília, like a playful child, ran about upon the still damp grass, plucking a blue graciola swinging to and fro upon its stalk, or a marshmallow just opening its pretty scarlet buds. Everything for her had an inexpressible charm; the tears of night trembling like brilliants on the leaves of the palm trees; the butterfly, its wings still torpid, waiting for the warmth of the sun to reanimate it; the viuvinha concealed among the branches, warning its companion that day was breaking, - all this drew from her a cry of surprise and pleasure.
While she was thus playing on the meadow, Pery, who was following her at a distance, stopped suddenly, struck with a thought that sent a cold shudder through his body; he remembered the tiger.
At one bound he disappeared in a large thicket near by; a stifled roar was heard, a great crackling of leaves, and the Indian reappeared. Cecília had turned around a little startled.
“What was that, Pery?”
“Is this the way you promised to keep quiet?”
“Cecy will not be angry any more.”
“What do you mean?”
“Pery knows!” replied the Indian, smiling.
The evening before he had provoked a dreadful struggle to tame and overcome a fierce animal, and lay it submissive and harmless at the maiden’s feet, because he thought this would please her. Now, trembling with fear lest his mistress should suffer, he had destroyed in an instant that act of heroism, without uttering a word to reveal it. It was enough that he knew what he had done.
The girls, who were far from knowing what a pitch Pery’s madness had reached, and who did not think it possible that a man could do what he had done, understood neither the words nor the smile. Cecília had reached a jasmine bower, standing at the water’s edge, which served her as a bathing house. It was one of Pery’s works; he had arranged with the care and attention he habitually bestowed in gratifying her wishes. Then, removing the jasmine branches that wholly concealed the entrance, Cecília stepped into that little pavilion of verdure, and carefully examined the leaves to see whether there was not some aperture through which the eye of day might penetrate. The innocent girl was ashamed to have even a ray of light espy the treasures of beauty concealed beneath her cambric robes. And when her garments revealed her white shoulders and her pure, sweet neck, she almost died of embarrassment and fright, for a malicious little bird, concealed amid the foliage, chirped distinctly: “Bem-te-vi, (I saw you well)!”
Cecília smiled at her fear, and adjusted her bathing dress, which covered her completely, leaving bare only her arms and her little foot. She sprang into the water like a little bird; Isabel, who merely came to please her, remained seated on the river bank.
How beautiful was Cecília swimming on the limpid waters of the stream, her fair hair hanging loose, and her white arms curved gracefully to give a gentle motion to her body; like one of those white herons or rose-colored spoon bills that glide slowly over the surface of the lake on calm evenings, mirrored in the crystal waters. Sometimes the pretty girl would lie at length upon the water, and smiling at the blue sky be borne by the current, or would pursue the jassanans and wild ducks that fled before her. At others, Pery, who was at a distance above her, plucking some parasitic flower, would place it in a little boat of bark, and send it down the stream. The girl would swim after the boat, secure the flower, and offer it on the tips of her fingers to Isabel, who tearing off its leaves would sadly murmur the cabalistic words with which the heart seeks to deceive itself. But instead of consulting the present she inquired of the future, because she knew that the present held no hope for her, and if the flower said the contrary it was false.
Cecília had been at her bath for half an hour when Pery, seated on a tree and keeping a sharp lookout around him, saw the bushes move on the opposite bank. The undulation extended like a spiral, and approached the place where the girl was bathing, until it stopped behind some large rocks on the river bank.
At the first glance the Indian perceived that it must be produced by an animal of large size.
He moved rapidly along the limbs of the trees, crossed the river upon this aerial bridge, and concealed among the foliage succeeded in placing himself directly over the place where the bushes were still vibrating. He then saw sitting among the shrubs two savages, ill-covered by breeches of yellow feathers, who with bows drawn were waiting for Cecília to pass before the aperture made by the rocks in order to discharge their arrows. And the girl, calm and unsuspecting, had already extended her arm, and striking the water was passing with a smile upon her lips in front of the death that threatened her.
If it had concerned his own life, Pery would have been self-possessed but Cecília was in peril, and therefore he neither reflected nor calculated. He fell like a stone from the top of the tree the two arrows were just then discharged, and one struck him on the shoulder, while the other grazing his hair changed its direction.
He immediately rose, and without even taking the trouble to draw out the arrow, with a single movement took from his girdle the pistols he had received from his mistress, and shot the savages through the head.
Two cries of fear were heard from the opposite bank, and almost at the same moment the trembling and angry voice of Cecília, calling “Pery!”
He kissed the still smoking pistols and was about to answer, when a few feet from him the form of an Indian woman rose from among the bushes, and quickly disappeared in the forest. He cast a glance through the aperture, and thinking Cecília already in a safe place sprang after the woman, who now had a considerable start of him.
A broad red stripe escaping from his wound tinged his white cotton tunic. Pery suddenly became dizzy and grasped his heart despairingly as if to check the flow of blood. It was a moment of terrible struggle between the force of will and the power of nature. His body grew faint, his knees bent, and Pery, raising his arms as if to grasp the overarching trees, and straining his muscles to keep on his feet, struggled in vain with the weakness that was overpowering him.
He contended for a moment against the mighty gravitation that was drawing him to the earth, but he was a man and must yield to the law of nature. Nevertheless, while submitting, the indomitable Indian continued to resist, and when overcome seemed to want to struggle still. He did not fall, - no: when his strength wholly failed him he drew himself back slowly, and only touched the earth with his knees.
But then he remembered Cecília, his mistress whom he must avenge, and for whom he must live, to save and watch over her. He made a supreme effort; drawing himself up he succeeded in rising again, took two dizzy steps, whirled round in the air, and struck against a tree, which he embraced convulsively.
It was a cabuiba of great height, rising above the rest of the forest, from whose ashen trunk exuded an opal-colored oil that trickled down in tears. The sweet aroma of these drops made the Indian open his dying eyes, which were lighted up with a bright glow of happiness. He pressed his lips eagerly upon the tree, and sipped the oil, which acted like a powerful balsam in his breast. He began to revive. He rubbed the oil over the wound, stanched the blood, and breathed.
He was saved.
XII. THE OUNCE.
LET us return to the house.
Loredano, after Pery’s demonstration, had kept his eyes on Álvaro, who proceeded along the edge of the esplanade to see Cecília on her way to the river.
Scarcely had the young man turned the corner formed by the rock, when the Italian descended the steps rapidly and entered into the forest. A few moments later Ruy Soeiro appeared on the esplanade, descended, and entered in his turn into the forest. Bento Simões imitated him after a little interval, and guided by fresh notches on the trees took the same direction.
About half an hour passed; all the windows had been opened to admit the pure morning air and the wholesome breath from the fields; a slight column of whitish smoke crowned the chimney, announcing that the household labors had begun. Suddenly a cry was heard in the house; all the doors and windows were closed with a din and a quickness as though an enemy had made an attack. Through a half-opened window appeared the face of Dona Lauriana, pale, with her hair unarranged, an extraordinary circumstance.
“Ayres Gomes! The esquire! Call Ayres Gomes! Let him come at once!” shrieked the lady. The window closed again and was bolted.
Gomes did not delay, but crossing the esplanade went to the house. “Did you call me?” said he, approaching the window.
“Yes; are you armed?” asked Dona Lauriana from behind the door.
“I have my sword; but what news is there?”
The agitated countenance of Dona Lauriana appeared again at the window. “The ounce, Ayres Gomes! The ounce!”
The esquire gave a prodigious leap, thinking that the animal was springing at his throat, and drawing his sword placed himself on guard. The lady, seeing the movement of the esquire, supposed that the ounce was leaping into the window, and fell upon her knees murmuring a prayer to the saint that protects against wild beasts.
Some minutes passed thus; Dona Lauriana praying, and Ayres Gomes turning round in the yard like a top, fearing lest the ounce should attack him from behind, which besides being a disgrace for a man of arms of his temper would be disagreeable to his health. Finally he succeeded in gaining the wall of the house again, and placed his back against it, which completely tranquillized him.
In front of him there was no enemy to make him blink. Then striking with his sword-blade on the side of the window, he said in a loud voice: “Be good enough to tell me what ounce that is of which you speak, Dona Lauriana; either I am blind, or I do not see the shadow of such an animal here.”
“Are you sure of this, Ayres Gomes?” said the lady, rising again.
“Am I sure of it? Satisfy yourself with your own eyes.”
“True! but there must be one somewhere!”
“And why in the world will you have it that there is an ounce here, Dona Lauriana?” said the esquire somewhat out of patience.
“Then you don't know!” exclaimed the lady.
“Did not that demon of an Indian take it into his head to bring home a live ounce yesterday?”
“Who, the dog of a cazique?”
“And who but that scurvy cur! It’s one of his old tricks! Was ever such a thing known, Ayres Gomes? I want to see if Senhor Mariz will still persist in keeping this fine jewel.”
“And what has become of the ounce, Dona Lauriana?”
“It must be somewhere. Hunt for it, Ayres; look everywhere, kill it, and bring it here to me.”
“No sooner said than done,” replied the esquire, running as fast as his foxskin boots permitted.
With little delay about twenty armed adventurers descended from the esplanade. Ayres Gomes marched at their head with an enormous pike, his sword in hand, and a knife in his teeth.
After scouring almost the whole valley and beating the grove, they were returning, when the esquire stopped suddenly and cried: “There it is, boys! Fire before it makes its leap!”
In fact, through the branches of the trees was seen the black and variegated skin of the tiger, and its cat-like eyes gleaming with a pale reflection.
The adventurers raised their muskets to the face, hut just as they were going to pull the trigger, they all burst into a loud laugh, and lowered their weapons.
“What does this mean? Are you afraid?” And the fearless esquire, without troubling himself about the others, plunged among the trees, and presented himself proudly before the tiger. There, however, his jaw fell with astonishment.
The ounce was swinging lifeless on a branch, to which it was suspended by its neck, with a noose. While it was alive a single man had sufficed to bring it from the Parahyba to the forest where it had been caught, and from the forest to that place where it had died. It was after death that it made all that uproar; that it put in arms twenty valiant men, and produced a revolution in Dona Lauriana’s house.
After the first moment of astonishment, Ayres Gomes cut the cord, and dragging the animal along, presented it to the lady. After they had assured her from without that the tiger was certainly dead, the door partly opened, and Dona Lauriana, still quaking with fear, looked tremblingly upon the body of the wild beast.
“Leave it right there. Dom Antônio shall see it with his own eyes!” It was the corpus delicti upon which she intended to base the accusation she was going to bring against Pery.
At various times the lady had sought to persuade her husband to banish the Indian, whom she could not endure and whose presence was enough to throw her into hysterics. But all her efforts had been vain the nobleman, with his loyalty and knightly spirit, appreciated Pery’s character, and saw in him, though a savage, a man of noble sentiments and lofty soul. As a father he valued the Indian from the circumstance, which will he explained further on, that he had saved his daughter’s life.
This time, however, Dona Lauriana hoped to succeed, and considered it impossible that her husband should not severely punish the crime of going into the forest to catch an ounce and bringing it home alive. What mattered it that Pery had saved the life of one person, if he put in jeopardy the existence of the whole family, and above all of herself? She ended this reflection exactly at the moment when Dom Antônio appeared at the door.
“Will you tell me, madam, what this noise is, and what is the cause?”
“There you have it!” exclaimed Dona Lauriana, pointing to the ounce with a proud gesture.
“Pretty animal!” said the nobleman, approaching and touching the tiger’s claws with his foot.
“O, you think it pretty! You will think it still more so when you know who brought it!”
“He must have been a good hunter,” said Dom Antônio, contemplating the beast with that huntsman’s fondness that characterized the nobleman of that period. “It does not bear the mark of a single wound!”
“It is the work of that copper-colored reprobate, Senhor Mariz!” answered Dona Lauriana, preparing for the attack.
“Oh!” said the nobleman laughing. “It is the animal Pery was pursuing yesterday, which Álvaro told us about.”
“Yes; and which he brought alive as if it had been a guinea-pig.”
“Brought alive! But don't you see it is impossible?”
“How impossible, if Ayres Gomes has but just killed it!”
Ayres Gomes wanted to reply, but the lady enjoined silence by a gesture.
The nobleman stooped and taking the animal by the ears raised it up. While examining the body to see if he could discover the mark of a ball, he noticed that the feet and jaws were bound.
“True!” murmured he. “It must have been alive an hour ago; it is still warm.”
Dona Lauriana let her husband contemplate the animal to his entire satisfaction, certain that the reflections this view would inspire could not but be favorable to her plan.
When she thought the moment had arrived. she took a step or two, arranged her train, and leaning forward slightly, addressed Dom Antônio.
“It is well you should see, Senhor Mariz, that I am never deceived. How many times have I told you that you were doing wrong in keeping that Indian? You would not believe me; you had an inexplicable weakness for the pagan. Well, then -” The lady assumed an oratorical tone, and accented the word with an energetic gesture, pointing to the dead animal: “There you have your reward. Your whole family threatened! You yourself, who might have gone out unwittingly; your daughter, who went to her bath ignorant of the danger, and might have been at this moment food for beasts.”
The nobleman shuddered at thought of the risk his daughter had run, and started to rush after her, but he heard a low murmuring of voices like the chirping of little birds; it was the two girls ascending the steps.
Dona Lauriana smiled at her triumph. “And if this were all!” continued she. “But it will not stop here; tomorrow you will see him bringing us an alligator, afterward a rattlesnake or a jiboya; he will fill our house with snakes and scorpions. We shall all be devoured alive here because a detested Indian has taken it into his head to practice his sorceries!”
“But you exaggerate the affair greatly, Dona Lauriana. Pery has certainly done a wild thing, but there is no reason why we should have such extravagant fears. He deserved a reprimand; I will give him one, and that severe. He will not do so again.”
“If you knew him as I do, Senhor Mariz! He is an Indian, and that is enough. You may scold him as much as you like; he will do so all the same from mere spite.”
“I do not share your apprehensions.”
The lady knew that she was losing ground, and resolved to give the decisive blow. She softened the tone of her voice and began to whimper. “Do what you like! You are a man and fear nothing! But I,” she continued shuddering, “shall not be able to sleep any more, imagining that a jararaca is crawling into my bed, and by day I shall every moment think that a wildcat is ready to spring into my window, or that my clothes are full of caterpillars! No strength can endure such martyrdom!”
Dom Antônio began to reflect seriously on what his wife was saying, and to imagine the numberless spasms, swoonings, and outbursts of anger that the panic caused by the Indian would produce; nevertheless he still entertained the hope of being able to calm and dissuade her.
Dona Lauriana watched the effect of her last attack. She considered herself victorious.
XIII. THE DISCLOSURE.
ISABEL and Cecília, returning from the bath in conversation with each other, approached the door, not without some fear of the tiger, a fear dispelled by the smile of the aged nobleman fondly admiring his daughter’s beauty. Her hair was still wet, and now and then a pearly drop escaped and coursed down her pretty neck; her skin was fresh, as if waves of milk had flowed over her shoulders; her cheeks brilliant as two thistle-buds opening at sunset.
The two girls were talking with some vivacity, but on approaching the door, Cecília, who was a little in advance, turned on tiptoe to her cousin, and with a shade of petulance placed her finger on her lips, demanding silence.
“Do you know, Cecília, that your mother is very angry with Pery!” said Dom Antônio, clasping in his hands his daughter’s pretty face, and kissing her on the forehead.
“Why, father? Has he done anything?”
“One of his pranks, of which you already know part.”
“And I will tell you the rest!” interposed Dona Lauriana, placing her hand on her daughter’s arm. And she proceeded to set forth in the blackest colors and with the most dramatic emphasis, not only the imminent risk that in her opinion the whole house had run, but the perils still threatening the peace and quiet of the family. She related that if by miracle her housekeeper had not an hour or so before gone out on the esplanade, and seen the Indian performing diabolic ceremonies with the tiger, which naturally enough he was teaching how to enter the house, they would at that moment all be dead.
Cecília grew pale, remembering how carelessly and joyously she had crossed the valley and taken her bath; Isabel remained calm, but her eyes flashed.
“So,” concluded Dona Lauriana peremptorily, “it is not conceivable that we shall live any longer with such a plague in the house.”
“What do you say, mother?” exclaimed Cecília alarmed. “Do you intend to send him away?”
“Undoubtedly: that class of people, if indeed it deserves the title, is fit only to live in the woods.”
“But he loves us so! has done so much for us! Hasn’t he, father?” said the girl, turning to the nobleman.
Dom Antônio answered his daughter by a smile that reassured her.
“You will scold him, father; I will be angry,” continued Cecília, “and he will do better and will not act so any more.”
“But about what happened just now?” interposed Isabel, addressing Cecília.
Dona Lauriana, seeing that her cause had lost ground since the arrival of the girls, in spite of her repugnance for Isabel perceived that she had in her an ally, and addressed a word to her, an occurrence that took place not oftener than once a week.
“Come here, child; what is it you say happened just now?”
“Another danger that threatened Cecília.”
“No, mother! it was more tear on Isabel’s part than anything else.”
“Fear, yes; but from what I saw.”
“Tell me about it; and you, Cecília, stay there and keep quiet.”
Out of respect for her mother the girl did not venture to say another word; but taking advantage of the movement that Dona Lauriana made in turning to listen to Isabel, she shook her head to her cousin, praying her not to say anything. Isabel pretended not to notice the gesture, and replied to her aunt: “Cecília was bathing, and I had stayed on the river bank. Some time after that I saw Pery passing at a distance along the branch of a tree. He disappeared; and suddenly an arrow discharged from that place struck a few feet from my cousin.”
“Hear that, Senhor Mariz!” exclaimed Dona Lauriana. “Hear the miscreant’s villainy!”
“At the same moment,” continued Isabel, “we heard two pistol shots, which frightened us still more, because they also were certainly aimed in our direction.”
“Good heavens! It is worse than a joke! But who gave that ape pistols.”
“I did, mother,” timidly answered Cecília.
“You would better have said your prayers; you would better have with them - Heaven forgive me!”
Dom Antônio had heard Isabel’s words, though standing at some distance, and his countenance took on a grave expression. He made a sign to Cecília, and stepped aside with her as if for a walk on the esplanade.
“Is what your cousin says true?”
“Yes, father; but I am sure Pery did not do it maliciously.”
“Nevertheless,” replied the nobleman, “it may be repeated: on the other hand, your mother is alarmed; so it is better to send him away.”
“He will grieve very much.”
“And you and I too, for we esteem him; but we will not be ungrateful. I will discharge our debt of gratitude; leave that to my care.”
“Yes, father!” exclaimed the girl, with a look moist with thankfulness and admiration, “yes, you can appreciate everything noble!”
“You too, my Cecília!” replied the nobleman, caressing her.
“I learned in your heart and in your slightest actions.”
Dom Antônio embraced her.
“Oh! I have something to ask of you.”
“Tell me what it is; it is a long time since you have asked anything of me, and I have reason to complain of this.”
“You will have this animal preserved, won’t you?”
“Since you wish it.!
“It will be a memento to us of Pery.”
“To you, but to me you are the best memento. If it had not been for him, should I now be able to clasp you in my arms?”
“Do you know that I have a good mind to cry, just at the thought of his going away?”
“It is natural, my daughter; tears are a balm that God gives to the weakness of woman, and denies to the strength of man.”
The nobleman left his daughter, and approached the door where his wife, Isabel, and Ayres Gomes were still standing.
“What have you decided, Dom Antônio?” asked the lady.
“I have decided to do as you wish, for your quiet and my peace. Today, or at furthest tomorrow, Pery will leave this house; but, while he is here, I do not wish,” said he, emphasizing that monosyllable slightly, “a single unpleasant word spoken to him. Pery leaves this house because I ask him to, and not because he is ordered to do so by any one. Do you understand, my wife?”
Dona Lauriana, who knew how much energy and resolution there was in the imperceptible intonation given by the nobleman to that simple phrase, inclined her head.
“I charge myself with the duty of speaking to Pery! You will tell him, Ayres Gomes, to come to me.”
The esquire bowed; the nobleman, who was retiring, turned: “O, I forgot. You will have this pretty animal stuffed. I wish to preserve it; it will be a curiosity for my armory -”
Dona Lauriana made a sign of aversion.
“And will enable my wife to get accustomed to its sight, and have less fear of ounces.”
Dom Antônio withdrew.
The lady could then dress her hair and make her Sunday toilet; she had gained an important victory. Pery was finally to be expelled from the house, into which in her opinion he ought never to have entered.
Meantime, Cecília, upon parting from her father, had turned the corner of the house to go into the garden, and had encountered Álvaro walking up and down, restless and melancholy.
“Dona Cecília!” said the young man.
“O, leave me, Senhor Álvaro!” replied Cecília without stopping.
“In what have I offended you, that you treat me so?”
“Pardon me, I am sad; you have n’t offended me at all.”
“When one has committed a fault.”
“A fault?” asked the girl with surprise.
“Yes!” answered the young man with downcast look.
“And what fault have you committed, Senhor Álvaro?”
“I have disobeyed you.”
“Ah! it is a grave one!” said she, half smiling.
“Do not jest, Dona Cecília! If you only knew what uneasiness it has caused me! I have repented a thousand times of what I have done, and yet it seems to me I could do it again.”
“But, Senhor Álvaro, you forget that you are talking about a matter that I am ignorant of; I merely know that it concerns a disobedience.”
“You remember that yesterday you ordered me to keep an object that -”
“Yes,” interrupted the girl, blushing; “an object that -”
“That belonged to you, and which I, against your will, restored.”
“How! what do you say?”
“Pardon me! I was overbold! But -”
“But once for all, I do not understand a word of all this,” exclaimed the maiden, with some impatience.
Álvaro, at last overcoming his bashfulness, related rapidly what he had done the evening before.
Cecília upon hearing it became serious. “Senhor Álvaro,” said she, in a tone of reproach, “you did wrong to do such a thing, very wrong. Let no one know it, at all events.”
“I swear it on my honor!”
“It is not enough; you yourself must undo what you have done. I will not open that window while there is there an object that did not come from my father, and which I cannot touch.”
“Dona Cecília! -” stammered the young man, pale and downcast.
She raised her eyes, and saw on Álvaro’s countenance so much bitterness and despair that she was touched.
“Do not blame me,” said she in a gentle tone, “the fault is yours.”
“I feel it, and do not complain.”
“You saw that not being able to accept it I asked you to keep it as a memento.”
“And I will keep it still; it will teach me to expiate my fault, and will always recall it to me.”
“It will now be a sad recollection.”
“And can I have joyous ones?”
“Who knows!” said Cecília, disentangling a jasmine from her fair hair; “it is so pleasant to hope!”
Turning to conceal her blushes, she saw Isabel near by, devouring this scene with an ardent look. She uttered a cry of dismay and went quickly into the garden. Álvaro caught in the air the little flower, which had escaped from her fingers, and kissed it, thinking no one was there. When he saw Isabel, he was so much agitated that he let the jasmine fall without perceiving it. She caught it, and presenting it to him said in an inimitable tone of voice, “Also a restitution!”
Álvaro turned pale. The maiden trembling with excitement passed before him and entered her cousin’s room.
Cecília, upon seeing Isabel approach, blushed, and did not venture to raise her eyes, remembering what the latter had seen and heard; for the first time the innocent girl knew that there was something in her pure affection that should be concealed from the eyes of others. Isabel, upon entering her cousin’s room, to which she had been drawn by an irresistible impulse, had repented immediately. Her agitation was so great that she feared to betray herself; she leaned against the bedstead in front of Cecília, silent, and with her eyes fixed upon the ground.
A long interval was thus passed; then the two girls almost at the same time raised their heads and looked toward the window. Their eyes met and both blushed still more. Cecília rebelled; the gay and sportive girl kept in a corner of her heart under her mirth and laughter the germ of that firmness of character that distinguished her father, and felt indignant at being obliged to blush with shame in the presence of another, as if she had done something wrong. She regained her courage, and formed a resolution whose energy was portrayed in an imperceptible movement of her eyebrows.
“Isabel, open that window.”
Isabel started as if an electric spark had struck her, hesitated, but finally crossed the room. Two eager, ardent looks fell upon the window at the moment it was opened.
There was nothing there.
Isabel’s emotion was so great that she involuntarily turned to her cousin, uttering an exclamation of pleasure; her countenance was lighted up with one of those divine reflections that appear to descend from heaven upon the head of a woman who loves.
Cecília looked at her cousin without understanding her; but little by little wonder and astonishment were depicted on her countenance.
The girl fell on her knees at Cecília’s feet.
She had betrayed herself.
XIV. THE INDIAN WOMAN.
SCARCELY did Pery feel his strength returning when he continued his pursuit through the forest. For a long time he followed the woman’s track through the thicket with a rapidity and certainty incredible to one not acquainted with the ease with which savages discover slightest traces left by the footsteps of any animal. A broken twig, a blade of grass trodden down, the dry leaves scattered and broken, a branch still vibrating, the dew-drops dissolved, - these are to their practiced eyes the same as a line traced in the forest, which they follow without hesitation.
There was a reason why Pery was so relentless in his pursuit of that inoffensive Indian woman, and made such extraordinary efforts to capture her. To understand that reason, it is necessary to become acquainted with certain events that had recently occurred in the neighborhood of the Paquequer. At the end of the moon of waters a tribe of Aymorés had descended from the heights of the Organ Mountains to gather the fruits and prepare the wines, drinks, and different articles of food that they were accustomed to provide. A family of that tribe on a hunting excursion had appeared some days before on the banks of the Parahyba; it was composed of a savage, his wife, a son and a daughter. The daughter was a handsome maiden, for whose possession all the warriors of the tribe were contending; her father, the chief, felt a pride in having a daughter as beautiful as the prettiest arrow of his bow or the most graceful feather in his plume.
It is now Sunday: on Friday, at ten o’clock in the morning, Pery had been passing through the woods, imitating joyously the song of the sahixé, whose hissing notes he translated by the sweet name of Cecy. He was going in search of that animal that has played so important a part in this story, especially after its death. As no small jaguar would satisfy him he had determined to seek, in its peculiar domains, one of the kings of the mighty forests that border the Parahyba.
He was approaching a small brook, when a little shaggy dog ran out of the woods, immediately followed by an Indian girl, who took a step or two and fell, struck by a bullet. Pery turned to see whence the shot came, and recognized Dom Diogo de Mariz approaching slowly, accompanied by two adventurers. The young man was shooting at a bird, and the girl, passing at that moment, had received the charge of the musket and fallen dead.
The little dog sprang to his mistress howling, and began to lick her cold hands, and rub his head over her bloody body, as if seeking to reanimate her. Dom Diogo, leaning on his arquebuse, cast a look of pity upon that young victim of a hunter’s carelessness. As for his companions, they laughed at the occurrence, and amused themselves by making remarks on the kind of game the cavalier had selected.
Suddenly the little dog raised its head, snuffed the air, and darted off like an arrow.
Pery, who had been a silent witness of this scene, advised Dom Diogo to return home as a matter of prudence, and continued his journey. The sight he had just witnessed had saddened him; he remembered his tribe, his brethren, whom he had abandoned so long ago, and who, perhaps at that moment, were also victims of the conquerors of their country, where formerly they had lived free and happy.
When he had gone about half a league, he saw at a distance a fire in the woods, around which were seated three Indians, two men and a woman. The elder man, of gigantic stature, was fixing to the tips of wild reeds the long, sharp teeth of the capivara, and whetting on a stone this terrible weapon. The younger was filling with small red and black seeds a nutshell, ornamented with feathers, and fastened to a handle a foot and a half long. The woman, who was still young, was carding a bunch of cotton, which fell in pure white tufts on a large leaf in her lap. Near the fire there was a small glazed vessel containing coals, upon which, from time to time, she threw some large dry leaves, which emitted dense clouds of smoke. Then the two Indians, by means of a reed, would inhale whiffs of this smoke until the tears started from their eyes, when they would continue their work.
While Pery was observing this scene from a distance, the dog sprang into the midst of the group. Scarcely had the animal recovered his breath, when he began to pull with his teeth at the feather mantle of the younger Indian, who with a push threw him several feet from him. He then went to the woman, repeated the same movement, and as he was ill received here also, leaped upon the cotton and began to bite it. She took him by the collar, made of berries, patted him on the back and smoothed his hair; it was stained with blood.
She examined him anxiously, and seeing no wound, cast her eyes around her and uttered a hoarse and guttural cry. The two Indians raised their heads, asking with their eyes the cause of that exclamation. As her only reply, the woman pointed to the blood on the animal, and spoke with a voice full of grief a word in a tongue that Pery did not understand.
The younger Indian sprang swiftly through the forest after the dog, which acted as guide; the elder one and the woman followed closely.
Pery understood perfectly all that was taking place, and pursued his way, thinking that the colonists must now be beyond the reach of the savages.
This is what he had seen; the rest, the occurrence at the bath had clearly revealed to him. The savages had found the body of their daughter and noticed the bullet-mark; for a long time they had sought in vain the hunters’ tracks, until on the following day the cavalcade as it passed served to guide them. All night they had kept watch around the dwelling, and on that morning, seeing the two girls come out, had resolved to avenge themselves by the application of that law of retaliation which was the only principle of right and justice that they recognized. Their daughter had been slain; it was just that they should kill the daughter of their enemy; life for life, tear for tear, grief for grief. The result, we already know; the two savages were sleeping forever on the banks of the Paquequer, with no kind hand to give them burial.
It is now easy to see the reason why Pery pursued the woman, the last of the unfortunate family. He knew that she would go directly to her brethren, and that at the first word she uttered the whole tribe would rise as one man, to avenge the death of their chief, and the loss of the comeliest daughter of the Aymorés. He knew the ferocity of that people, without country and without religion, who lived on human flesh, and dwelt like beasts on the ground and in dens and caves; he trembled at the thought of their attacking Dom Antônio’s house. It was necessary, therefore, to exterminate the family and leave no trace of its existence.
Pery had spent nearly an hour in traversing the forest uselessly; the woman had gained a great advantage while he was struggling against the faintness produced by the wound. Finally he concluded that the wisest course was to warn Dom Antônio at once, that he might take all the precautions demanded by the imminence of the peril.
He had reached a field covered with groves of holm-oaks, scattered here and there upon the sharp and sunburnt grass. He had taken but a few steps across the field, when he stopped with a sign of surprise. Before him was panting a little dog, which he recognized by the collar of scarlet berries around its neck. It was the same that he had seen in the forest two days before. It had naturally followed the woman when she took to flight, and as it was hidden by the bushes he had not seen it. It had been strangled with so much violence as to break its neck; nevertheless it was still writhing.
At the first glance Pery had seen all this, and had judged what had occurred. That death, thought he, could have been caused only by a human being; any other animal would have used its teeth or claws, and would have left marks of a wound. The dog belonged to the Indian woman; it was she then that had strangled it, and but a few moments before, for its neck being broken, death would follow almost immediately.
But from what motive had she done that barbarous deed? Because, replied the Indian, she knew that she was pursued, and the dog, which could not keep up with her, might betray her.
Scarcely had Pery reached this conclusion when he lay down on the ground and listened for some time; twice he raised his head, thinking he was mistaken, and placed his ear again to the earth.
When he rose, his countenance betokened great surprise; he had heard something that he still seemed to doubt, as if his senses had deceived him.
He went toward the east listening on the ground at every moment, and thus came within a few feet of a large clump of thistles growing in a depression of the earth. Then, getting to leeward, he approached very cautiously, and heard a confused murmuring of voices and the sound of an implement digging.
He applied his ear and tried to see what was taking place beyond, but it was impossible; no opening admitted sound or sight. Only one who has traveled in the interior of Brazil, and seen those gigantic thistles whose broad leaves filled with thorns closely interlace, forming a high wall several feet thick, can have an idea of the impenetrable barrier that enclosed on all sides the persons whose voices Pery heard, but whose words he could not distinguish.
Nevertheless, those men must have got in there somewhere, and it could only be by the branch of a dead tree that extended over the thistles, around which twined a climbing plant, knotty and strong.
Pery was studying the situation, and endeavoring to discover means of learning what was taking place behind those trees, when a voice that he thought he recognized exclaimed: -
“Per Dio! Here it is!”
He started at hearing that voice, and resolved at whatever cost to know what those men were doing; he had a presentiment that there was a danger there to dispel and an enemy to combat. An enemy perhaps more terrible than the Aymorés, because if these were wild beasts, the other might be a serpent concealed among the flowers.
So he forgot everything else, and his thought was concentrated on a single object, - to hear what those men were saying.
But how? He was striving to answer; he had gone around the thicket, applying his ear, and thought that in one place the noise of voices and of the iron, which was still digging, reached him more distinctly.
He cast down his eyes, which immediately gleamed with pleasure. The cause was a simple mound of cracked clay, rising like a sugar loaf a foot and a half above the ground, and covered with plantain leaves. It was the entrance to an ant-hill, to one of those subterranean dwellings constructed by the little architects, who, by dint of patience and labor, undermine a whole field and form great vaults under the earth.
The one that Pery had discovered had been abandoned by its inhabitants, in consequence of a heavy rain that had penetrated into its interior.
The Indian drew his knife, and cutting off the dome of that miniature tower, laid bare an aperture that extended into the earth and certainly passed under the place where the persons talking were assembled. This aperture became for him a sort of acoustic tube, which brought the words clearly and distinctly to him.
He sat down and listened.
XV. THE THREE.
LOREDANO, who had left the house so quickly that same morning, as soon as he got into the woods, waited.
A quarter of an hour afterward Bento Simões and Ruy Soeiro met him.
The three went on together without uttering a word, the Italian walking in advance and the two adventurers following, exchanging occasionally a significant look.
Finally Ruy Soeiro broke the silence.
“It was certainly not to take an airing in the woods at the break of day that you brought us here, Sir Loredano?”
“No,” replied the Italian laconically.
“Well then, out with it at once, and let us not lose time.”
“Wait, I say to you,” interposed Bento Simões; “you are going with a rush; where do you intend to take us on this route?”
“You shall see.”
“Since there is no way of getting a word out of you, go on, and God be with you, Sir Loredano.”
“Yes,” chimed in Ruy Soeiro, “go on, for we shall return the way we came.”
“When you are in the mood to speak, please inform us.”
And the two adventurers stopped, as if to retrace their steps. The Italian turned with a shrug of contempt. “Fools that you are,” said he. “If you think best, rebel now that you are in my power, and have no other recourse but to follow my fortunes! Return! I too will return, but to inform against all of us.”
The two adventurers turned pale.
“Do not remind me, Loredano,” said Ruy Soeiro, with a quick glance at his dagger, “that there is a way to close forever blabbing mouths.”
“That means,” replied the Italian contemptuously, “that you would kill me in case I purposed to inform against you?”
“On my faith, yes!” answered Ruy Soeiro in a tone that showed resolution.
“And I for my part would do the same! Our lives are dearer to us than your whims, Sir Italian.”
“And what would you gain by killing me?” asked Loredano smiling.
“That is good! What should we gain! Do you consider it a small thing to insure one’s existence and tranquillity of mind.”
“Fools!” said the Italian, with a look at once of contempt and pity. “Do you not see that when a man carries a secret like mine, unless that man be a blockhead of your description, he must have taken precautions against these little accidents!”
“I am aware that you are armed, and it is better so,” replied Ruy Soeiro: “it will be death rather than murder.”
“Say rather execution, Ruy Soeiro!” added Bento Simões.
The Italian continued: -
“These are not the arms that will serve me against you; I have others more powerful. Know only that alive or dead my voice will come from afar, even from the grave, to inform against you and avenge me.”
“Are you disposed to jest, Sir Italian? It is not a fit occasion.”
“When the time comes you will see whether I am jesting. I have placed my will in the hands of Dom Antônio de Mariz, who is to open it when he knows or thinks I am dead. In that will I set forth the relations that exist between us, and the purpose for which we are working.”
The two adventurers turned pale as ghosts.
“You understand now,” said Loredano, smiling, “that if you assassinate me, if any accident deprives me of life, if even I take it into my head to run away and give rise to the belief that I am dead, you are irretrievably lost.”
Bento Simões stood paralyzed, as if struck with catalepsy. Ruy Soeiro, in spite of the violent shock he experienced, succeeded with an effort in recovering his speech.
“It is impossible!” cried he. “What you say is false. No man would do such a thing.”
“Put it to the proof,” replied the Italian, calm and unmoved.
“He has done it... I am sure” - stammered Bento Simões in a low voice.
“No,” retorted Ruy Soeiro; “Satan would not do it. Come, Loredano, confess that you have deceived us, that you wanted to frighten us.”
“I have told the truth.”
“You lie!” cried the adventurer, with desperation.
The Italian smiled. Drawing his sword, he placed his hand upon the cross formed by the hilt, and said slowly, uttering the words one by one: “By this cross, and by Christ who suffered on it, by my honor in this world and my soul in the next, I swear it.”
Bento Simões fell upon his knees, crushed by this oath, which lost none of its solemnity amid the gloom and silence of the forest. Ruy Soeiro, pale, his eyes starting from their sockets, his lips quivering, his hair on end, his fingers extended and rigid, looked the image of despair. He stretched out his arms to Loredano, and exclaimed with a tremulous and choked voice, -
“Then, Loredano, you have confided to Dom Antônio de Mariz a paper containing the infernal plot we have concocted against his family?”
“And in that paper you wrote that you intend to assassinate him and his wife, and set fire to his house, if necessary to the realization of your purposes?”
“You had the audacity to confess that you intend to carry off his daughter, and make of her, a noble maiden, the concubine of an adventurer and reprobate like yourself?”
“And you also said,” continued Ruy in the extremity of his despair, “that his other daughter is to belong to us, who are to decide by lot which shall have her?”
“I forgot nothing, and least of all that important point,” replied the Italian with a smile; “everything is written on a parchment in the hands of Dom Antônio de Mariz. To learn its contents the nobleman has only to break the seals of black wax with which Master Garcia Ferreira, notary of Rio de Janeiro, closed it on the next to my last journey thither.” Loredano pronounced these words with the utmost coolness, his eyes fixed on the two adventurers, pale and humbled before him.
Some time was passed in silence.
“You now see,” said the Italian, “that you are in my power; let this serve you as an example. When once the foot is over the chasm, it is necessary to advance across, or roll off and fall to the bottom. Let us go on, then. Only of one thing I warn you; from today onward - obedience, blind and passive.”
two adventurers said not a word; but their attitude was a better answer
than a thousand protestations.
“Lay aside now your mournful and terrified looks. I am alive, and Dom Antônio is a true nobleman, incapable of opening a will. Take heart, trust in me, and we shall soon reach the goal.”
Bento Simões’s face brightened.
“Speak clearly once, at least,” replied Ruy Soeiro.
“Not here; follow me, and I will take you to a place where we will converse freely.”
“Wait,” joined in Bento Simões. “Before anything else, reparation is due to you. A little while ago we threatened you; here are our weapons.”
“Yes, after what has passed it is just that you should distrust us; take them.”
They both took off their daggers and swords.
“Keep your weapons,” said Loredano, in a mocking tone. “They will aid you to defend me. I know how dear and precious my life is to you.”
Both adventurers turned pale, and followed the Italian.
After a half hour’s walk they reached the clump of thistles already described. At a sign from Loredano, his companions climbed the tree and descended by the vine into the center of that thorn-enclosed space, which was at most but twenty feet long by ten or twelve wide.
On one side, in a depression of the ground, was a kind of vault, or cave, the remains of one of those great anthills, now half destroyed by the rain. There, in the shade of a small shrub that had sprung up among the thistles, the three adventurers seated themselves.
“Oh!” said the Italian at once. “It’s some time since I have been in these parts, but I think there must still be something here that will tickle your palates.”
He leaned back, and thrusting his arm into the cavity, drew out a flagon that was lying there, which he placed in the midst of the group.
“It is Caparica, and of the best. Not much of it comes this way.”
“The devil! You have a cellar here!” exclaimed Bento Simões, whom the sight of the flagon had restored to good humor.
“To tell the truth,” said Ruy, “I should have expected anything sooner than to see a flagon of wine come out of that hole.”
“But here it is, you see. As I am accustomed to come to this place, where I am sometimes much exposed to the sun, it was necessary to have a companion with which to amuse myself.”
“And you could not find a better!” said Bento Simões, taking a good drink and smacking his lips. “I have long been wanting something of this sort.”
Each of the three took his turn at the wine, and the flagon was replaced.
“Well,” said the Italian, “now let us proceed to business. I promised, when I invited you to follow me, to make you rich, very rich.”
The adventurers nodded.
“The promise I made is about to be fulfilled; the wealth is here, near us; we can touch it.”
“Where?” asked the adventurers, looking eagerly around.
“Not so quick! I was speaking figuratively. I mean that the riches are before us, but to obtain them it is necessary -”
“What is necessary? Speak!”
“At the proper time. I wish now to tell you a story.”
“A story!” said Ruy Soeiro.
“Some nursery tale?” asked Bento Simões.
“No, a story true as a bull of our Holy Father. Have you ever heard of a certain Robério Dias?”
“Robério Dias? - Ah! Yes! of Salvador?” asked Ruy Soeiro.
“The very same.”
“I saw him, some eight years ago, in São Sebastião, whence he went to Spain.”
“And do you know, friend Bento Simões, what business called that worthy descendant of Caramuru to Spain?” asked the Italian.
“I have heard a report that it concerned a fabulous treasure, which he intended to offer to Philip II, who in return was to make him a marquis and grandee.”
“And what followed? Has not that come to your knowledge?”
“No; I have never heard anything further about that Robério Dias.”
“Then listen. Upon his arrival at Madrid, he hastened to make his offer, and was received in the palm of the hand by Philip II., who, as you know, had very long nails.”
“And threw dust in his eyes like the fox that he was?” suggested Ruy Soeiro.
“You are mistaken; this time the fox became a monkey; he wanted to see the cocoanut before paying for it.”
“And what then?”
“Then,” said the Italian, smiling wickedly, “the cocoanut was empty.”
“Yes, friend Ruy, there was left to him merely the shell; fortunately for us, who shall enjoy the meat.”
“You are full of enigmas, Loredano!”
“Put a man to the rack and he could n’t understand you.”
“Is it my fault that you are not acquainted with the history of your country?”
“All are not as learned as you, Dom Italian.”
“Well, let us end the matter at once; what Robério Dias intended to offer at Madrid to Philip II is here, my friends.”
And Loredano at the word placed his hand on a stone at his side.
The two adventurers looked at each other without comprehending the movement, and began to doubt their companion’s sanity. He, without regarding what they thought, drew his sword, and after removing the stone, began to dig. While he was engaged in this labor, the others, watching him, passed the flagon of wine back and forth, and made conjectures and guesses.
The Italian had been digging for some time, when the steel struck some hard object that caused it to ring.
“Per Dio!” he cried, “here it is!”
Some moments after he drew out of the hole one of those glazed earthern vessels that the Indians call camuci; this was small and closed on all sides. Loredano, taking it in both hands, shook it, and felt the almost imperceptible movement of some object within.
“Here,” said he slowly, “you have the treasure of Robério Dias; it is ours. A little prudence, and we shall be richer than the Sultan of Bagdad, and more powerful than the Doge of Venice.”
He struck the vessel against the stone and broke it in pieces.
The adventurers, with eyes on fire with greed, expecting to see waves of gold, diamonds, and emeralds, flow forth, were stupefied. The vessel contained merely a small roll of parchment covered with red leather, and tied crosswise with a dark-colored string.
Loredano cut the knot with the point of his dagger, and opening the parchment rapidly, showed the adventurers an inscription in large red letters.
Ruy Soeiro uttered a cry; Bento Simões began to tremble with pleasure and astonishment.
After a moment the Italian extended his hand to the paper, which lay in the midst of the group, and his eyes assumed a stern expression.
“Now,” said he, his voice vibrating, “now that you have the riches and the power within your grasp, swear that your arms will not tremble when the occasion comes; that you will obey my gesture, my word, as the decree of fate.”
“We swear it!”
“I am tired of waiting, and am determined to take advantage of the first opportunity. To me as chief,” said the Italian with a diabolic smile, “should belong Dom Antônio de Mariz; I surrender him to you, Ruy Soeiro. Bento Simões shall have the esquire; I claim as mine Álvaro de Sá, the noble cavalier.”
“I will lead Ayres Gomes a pretty dance!” said Bento Simões with a martial air.
“The rest, if they trouble us, shall go afterward; if they join us, they will be welcome. Only I warn you that he who shall cross the threshold of Cecília’s door is a dead man; she is my share of the booty, the lion’s share!”
At that instant a noise was heard as if the leaves had been agitated. The adventurers paid no attention to it, and naturally attributed it to the wind.
“A few days more, my friends,” continued Loredano, “and we shall be rich, noble, powerful as kings. You, Bento Simões, shall be Marquis of Paquequer; you, Ruy Soeiro, Duke of Minas; I - What shall I be?” said Loredano, with a smile that lighted up his intelligent countenance. “I shall be -”
A word issued from the bosom of the earth, low and hollow, as if a sepulchral voice had pronounced it.
“TRAITORS!” The three adventurers sprang to their feet together, pale and rigid, like corpses rising from the grave.
The two crossed themselves. The Italian raised himself by the branch of the tree, and looked hurriedly around.
All was still. The sun in the zenith was diffusing an ocean of light; not a leaf was stirring, not an insect sporting on the grass. Day in its splendor held sway over nature.
I. THE CARMELITE.
IT was March, 1603, and therefore a year before the opening of this story.
By the side of the road followed by the then infrequent expeditions between Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo stood a large inn, where dwelt some colonists and Christianized Indians. It was almost nightfall. One of those fearful tempests that frequently occur on the slopes of mountain ranges was descending upon the earth. The bellowing wind lashed the huge trees, which bowed before it their aged trunks; the thunder reverberated in the dense clouds driven hither and thither through the sky; and the lightning flashed with such frequency that forests, mountains, nature itself, seemed bathed in an ocean of fire. In the spacious hall three persons were watching with a certain pleasure the dreadful struggle of the elements.
One of these men, short and fat, reclining in a hammock in the center of the porch, with his legs crossed and his arms folded uttered an exclamation at each new havoc of the tempest.
The second, leaning against one of the rosewood pillars that supported the roof, was of a swarthy complexion, and about forty years old; his face showed some traces of Jewish blood; his eyes were fixed on a path that wound in front of the house and was lost in the forest.
Opposite him, leaning against the other column was a Carmelite friar, who watched with a smile of profound satisfaction the progress of the storm. His handsome face and strongly marked features were animated by a ray of intelligence, and an expression of energy that clearly revealed his character. Seeing this man smiling at the tempest and meeting with unflinching eye the flash of the lightning, one perceived that his soul possessed a strength of resolution and an indomitable will capable of wishing the impossible, and contending against heaven and earth to obtain it.
Brother Angelo di Luca was there as a missionary, charged with the propagation of the faith, and the care of souls among the heathen in that region. In the six months of his ministry he had succeeded in civilizing several families, and expected soon to receive them into the bosom of the Church. A year had passed since he had obtained from the general of his order the privilege of leaving his convent in Rome, that of Santa Maria Transpontina, for the house which the order had founded in Rio de Janeiro in 1590, to engage in missionary labors. Both the general and the provincial of Lisbon, touched by his ardent religious enthusiasm, had expressly recommended him to Brother Diogo do Rosario, then prior of the convent in Rio de Janeiro, asking Rosario to employ in the service of the Lord and in the glory of the order of the Most Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel the zeal and holy fervor of Brother Angelo di Luca. Thus it was that the son of a fisherman from the lagoons of Venice found himself in the interior of Brazil, leaning against the pillar of a house, watching a tempest which was redoubling in fury.
“Shall you start tonight all the same, Fernão Aines?” said the man in the hammock.
“At daybreak,” replied the other, without turning.
“And with such weather?”
“It is not that that hinders me, you are well aware, Master Nunes. This cursed hunting excursion!”
“Do you fear that your men will not return from it in time?”
“I fear that destruction will overtake them all in the forests in such a storm.”
The friar turned. “Those who follow the law of God are secure everywhere, brother, - in a wilderness as in this building: the evil alone have to fear the fire from heaven and find no shelter to save them.”
Fernão Aines smiled ironically. “Do you believe that, Brother Angelo?”
“I believe in God, brother.”
“Very well; but I prefer to be where I am, rather than standing on some precipice.”
“Nevertheless,” spoke Nunes, “what our reverend missionary says -”
“Brother Angelo may say what he will. Here, I laugh at the tempest; there, the tempest would laugh at me.”
“Fernão Aines!” exclaimed Nunes.
“Cursed idea of a hunting excursion!” muttered the other without noticing him.
Silence was re-established. Suddenly a cloud opened; the electric current, winding through the air like a fiery serpent, struck a cedar standing in front of the building.
The tree was rent asunder from tip to root; one part remained standing, slender and mutilated; the other fell and struck Fernão Aines on the breast, hurling him mangled to the rear of the porch.
His companion remained motionless for some time, and then began to shake as though shivering with ague; with his thumb extended to make the sign of the cross, his teeth chattering, and his features contracted, he presented an appearance at once terrible and grotesque.
The friar had turned livid, as though he were the victim of the catastrophe; terror for a moment disturbed his countenance; but a sardonic smile quickly escaped from his lips, still bloodless from the shock.
After the first fright, they both went to help the wounded man; he made a great effort, and raising himself on one arm uttered, amid a stream of blood, the words, “A punishment from heaven!” Perceiving that there was no hope for his body, the dying man sought spiritual remedies, and with a weak voice asked Brother Angelo to hear his confession. Nunes took him to a room that opened into the porch, and laid him on a leather bed.
It was already dark; the room was in the greatest obscurity, only illuminated now and then for an instant by the lightning, which threw its bluish light upon the confessor, leaning over the penitent to catch his voice, which was gradually becoming weaker.
“Hear me without interruption, father; I feel that I have but a few moments left, and though there may be no pardon for me, I wish at least to make amends for my crime.”
“Speak, brother; I am listening.”
“Last November I arrived at Rio de Janeiro, and was entertained by a relative of mine; both he and his wife gave me the most cordial reception.
“Having during his life as an adventurer traveled much through the interior, my relative spoke to me one day of joining him in an expedition which would result in great riches for us both.
“On different occasions we conversed about this project, until he unfolded it completely to me.
“The father of one Robério Dias, a colonist of Bahia, guided by an Indian, had discovered in the interior of that province silver mines so rich that they might pave the street of Lisbon with that metal.
“As he had to traverse a pathless and inhospitable wilderness, Dias had written down the necessary directions to enable any one to find at any time the place where those mines are situated.
“The paper had been abstracted from its owner without his knowledge, and through a long series of events, which I have not strength to relate, had come into the hands of my relative.
“Of how many crimes had this paper already been the cause, father, and of how many more it would have been, if God had not finally punished in me the last heir of this legacy of blood!”
The dying man stopped for a moment, exhausted, and then continued feebly: -
“It had already become known upon the arrival of Governor Dom Francisco de Souza that Robério had offered to Philip II at Madrid, the discovery of these mines, and that the King not having rewarded him as he hoped, he persisted in keeping silent.
“The reason of this silence, which was generally attributed to spite, was known only to my relative, who held the paper: Robério, upon his arrival in Spain, had ascertained his loss, and had wished at least to secure the reward.
“The secret of the mines, the key to that wealth surpassing all the treasures of the caliph, was in the hands of my relative, who, needing a devoted man to aid him in the undertaking, thought he could choose no one more suitable than myself to share his risks and hopes.
“I accepted this partnership of crime, this compact of robbery, father. It was my first misstep!”
The voice of the adventurer became still more inaudible. The friar, leaning over him, seemed to devour with his half-opened lips the words murmured by the dying man.
“Yes! I must tell all!... Fascinated by the description of that fabulous treasure, I entertained a wicked thought.... that thought became a desire... then a plan, and finally was realized. It was a crime! I assassinated my relative and his wife.”
“And -” suggested the friar, in a hoarse voice.
“And stole the secret!”
The friar smiled in the darkness.
“Now it only remains for me to seek God’s mercy, and to make reparation for the evil I have done.... Robério is dead, his wife is living in distress in Bahia.... I wish this paper delivered to her.... Do you promise, Brother Angelo?”
“I promise! The paper?”
“In yon... der…”
The dying man gasped.
Brother Angelo, leaning completely over him, with his ear pressed to the sufferer’s mouth, from which bubbled forth a bloody foam, and his hand upon the heart to see whether it was still palpitating, seemed eager to retain the last breath of life, in order to draw from him one word more.
“Where?” murmured the friar from time to time, in a hollow voice.
The sick man kept gasping; the last throes of life, which goes out like a flickering lamp, scarcely moved his benumbed body.
Finally the friar saw him raise his stiffened arm, pointing to the wall, and felt his icy lips, quivering convulsively, whisper in his ear a word that caused him to spring upon the bed.
Friar Angelo stood up, and looked wildly around the room. On the head of the bed was an iron image of Christ upon a large wooden cross, rough and ill-wrought.
With mad eagerness the friar seized the cross and broke it upon his knee. The image rolled to the floor. Between the pieces of wood appeared a roll of parchment, flattened by the pressure to which it had been exposed.
He broke the seal with his teeth, and going to the window read by the uncertain aid of the lightning the first words of an inscription in red letters, which ran thus: -
True and exact description of the route which Robério Dias, the elder, followed in the year of grace 1587, to the neighborhood of Jacobina, where with the favor of God he discovered the richest mines of silver that exist in the world; with a summary of the signs, landmarks, and latitude, of the locality where those said mines lie; begun on the twentieth of January, the day of the martyr Saint Sebastian, and terminated on the first Sunday in Lent, on which with the blessing of Providence we reached this city of Salvador.
While the friar was endeavoring to read, the dying man was struggling in the last agony, awaiting perhaps the final absolution and extreme unction of the penitent. But the monk saw only the paper that he had in his hands, and sinking upon a bench, with his head resting on his arm, fell into a deep meditation.
What was he thinking? He was not thinking; he was raving. Before his eyes his excited imagination exhibited a sea of silver, an ocean of molten metal, white and resplendent, that was lost in immensity. The waves of that silvery sea now flowed in gentle undulations, now rolled in angry billows, throwing off flakes of foam that resembled diamonds, emeralds, and rubies, sparkling in the sunlight.
Sometimes, too, on that smooth and polished surface were reflected, as in a glass, enchanted palaces, women beautiful as the houris of the prophet, virgins graceful as the angels of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Thus slipped away half an hour, during which the silence was broken only by the loud breathing of the dying man and the roar of the thunder; then ensued an ill-boding calm; the sinner was dying impenitent.
Brother Angelo rose in a desperate mood, tore off his habit, and trampled it under foot; on the bedstead was a change of clothing, which he put on; he then took the weapons from the dead body, seized the felt hat, and clasping the manuscript to his breast, moved to ward the door.
The footsteps of Nunes walking in the porch without were heard.
The friar stopped; the unexpected presence of this man before the door gave him an inspiration. He took up his habit, put it on over his new garments, an concealing the adventurer’s hat in his sleeve, covered himself with his large cowl; then he opened the door and approached Nunes.
“Consummatum est, brother!” said he in a sorrowful tone.
“May God have mercy on his soul!”
“So I hope, if strength does not fail me, to carry out his last vow, which is a reparation.”
“For a grave sin?”
“For a crime, brother. Give me a light; I am going to write to Brother Diogo do Rosario, our prior, for perhaps I shall never return, nor you hear any further news of me.”
The friar wrote by the light of a torch a few lines to the prior of the convent in Rio de Janeiro, and taking leave of Nunes, set out.
As he was turning a corner, the heavens opened, and the earth was ablaze with the glare of a lightning-flash, so vivid as to dazzle him. Two bolts, describing fiery spirals in the air, had struck the forest, and diffused around a suffocating smell of brimstone.
The Carmelite was seized with a vertigo; he remembered the recent scene, the terrible punishment which he himself had foretold, and which had been so speedily realized.
But the dazed feeling passed away: still trembling and pale with terror, the reprobate raised his arm as if in defiance of the wrath of heaven, and uttered a horrible blasphemy: -
“You may kill me; but if you spare my life, I will be rich and powerful, though the whole world oppose!” There was in these words something of the impotent rage and fury of Satan hurled into the abyss by the irrevocable sentence of the Creator.
Going on in the darkness, he reached a large hut in the rear of the inn, in which he had gathered a few families of Indians; he entered and awoke one of the savages, whom he ordered to prepare to accompany him at the break of day.
The rain was falling in torrents, while the wind beat against the thatch walls, and whistled through the straw. The friar did not close his eyes, but spent the night in thought, tracing in his mind an infernal plan, in the accomplishment of which he would be deterred by no obstacle: now and then he would rise to see if the horizon was yet illuminated.
Finally day came; the storm had exhausted itself during the night; the weather was calm.
The Carmelite, accompanied by the savage, set out; he wandered over forest and plain in every direction; he was in search of something. After two hours he espied the clump of thistles near which a year later occurred the last scene that we have narrated; he examined it on all sides, and smiled with satisfaction.
Climbing the tree and descending by the vine, he and the savage entered the space with which we are already acquainted. The sun had been a short time above the horizon. On the next day, at about two o’clock in the afternoon, a single man issued from that place; it was neither the friar nor the savage. It was a bold and fearless adventurer, on whose face the features of the Carmelite, Angelo di Luca, were still recognizable.
This adventurer was Loredano. He left in that place, buried in the bosom of the earth, a terrible secret, - a roll of parchment, a friar’s cloak, and a corpse.
Five months afterward, the vicar of the order informed the general at Rome that Brother Angelo di Luca had died as a saint and martyr, through his zeal for the apostolic faith.
ON a fine summer evening, two days after the scene at the inn, the family of Dom Antônio de Mariz was assembled on the bank of the Paquequer, in a little valley between two rocky hills.
The grass that carpeted the rugged slopes and the trees that had sprung up in the fissures of the rocks, and inclining over the valley, wove a pretty canopy of verdure, made the retreat very picturesque. There could be no more agreeable place to spend a summer afternoon than that arbor full of shade and freshness, where the song- of the birds formed a concert with the tremulous murmuring of the waters. Therefore, though it was at some distance from the house, the family occasionally came, when the weather was good, to enjoy some hours of the delicious coolness that lingered there.
Dom Antônio, seated by the side of his wife, was surveying through an opening in the foliage the blue and velvety sky of our country, which the sons of Europe never tire of admiring. Isabel, leaning against a young palm tree, was watching the current of the river, and softly murmuring a lay of Bernardim Ribeiro.
Cecília was running about in the valley, chasing a pretty humming bird, which in its rapid flight shone with a thousand colors. The lovely girl, laughing at the turns the little bird made her take, as if it were playing with her, found in this amusement a lively pleasure. But finally, feeling tired, she went and reclined on a mound of grass, which formed a natural sofa at the foot of the rock. She rested her head on the slope, while her little feet nestled in the grass, which concealed them like the wool of a rich carpet.
Some time passed without the smallest incident to disturb the pleasing tableau formed by their family group. Suddenly through the canopy of verdure that covered the scene, was heard a shrill cry, and a word in a strange tongue:
It is a Guarany term, signifying lady. Dom Antônio rose, and casting his eyes rapidly around, saw on the height overhanging the place where Cecília was lying, a strange picture.
Standing firmly braced on the narrow space, an Indian covered with a light cotton tunic was supporting with his shoulder a fragment of rock that had become detached from its bed and was on the point of rolling down the declivity. He was making a supreme effort to sustain the weight of the stone, which was ready to crush him, and with his arm extended to the branch of a tree was keeping his balance by a violent tension of his muscles. The tree quivered; for some moments it seemed that rock and man would give way together and be hurled upon the girl.
Cecília upon hearing the cry, raised her head and looked at her father with some surprise, without suspecting the danger that threatened her. To see, to spring to his daughter, to take her in his arms and snatch her from death, was the sole thought of Dom Antônio, which he acted on with all the strength and impetuosity of paternal love.
As the nobleman laid Cecília almost swooning in her mother’s lap, the Indian leaped into the valley; the rock, rolling over and over from the top of the hill, buried itself deeply in the ground. Then the spectators of this scene, recovering from the shock, uttered a cry of terror at thought of the danger that was already past.
A wide furrow, descending from the eminence to the place where Cecília had been reclining, showed the course the rock had taken, tearing up the grass and plowing the ground. Dom Antônio, still pale and shuddering at the danger to which Cecília had been exposed, turned his eyes from that spot, which to his imagination looked like a grave, to the Indian, who had risen like a beneficent genius of the Brazilian forests. The nobleman did not know which to admire more, the strength and heroism by which he had saved his daughter, or the miracle of agility by which he had rescued himself from death.
As to the feeling that had prompted that act, Dom Antônio felt no astonishment; he was acquainted with the character of our savages, so unjustly calumniated by historians, and knew that apart from war and revenge they were generous, capable of a great action and a noble impulse.
For some time an expressive silence reigned in that group, which had been transformed in so unlooked for a manner. Dona Lauriana and Isabel were on their knees returning thanks to God; Cecília, still frightened, leaned on her father's breast and kissed his hand affectionately; while the Indian, humble and submissive, kept his eyes fixed on the girl he had saved, with a look of deep admiration.
Finally Dom Antônio, putting his left arm around his daughter’s waist, advanced and extended his hand with a noble and kindly manner; the Indian bowed and kissed it.
“To what tribe do you belong?” asked the nobleman in Guarany.
“I am a Goytacaz,” replied he proudly.
“What is your name?”
“Pery, son of Ararê, first of his tribe.”
“I am a Portuguese nobleman, a white enemy to your race, conqueror of your land; but you have saved my daughter; I offer you my friendship.”
“Pery accepts it; you were already a friend.”
“How so?” asked Dom Antônio with surprise.
The Indian began in his language, so rich and poetical, with the sweet pronunciation that he seemed to have learned from the breezes of his country or the birds of the virgin forests, this simple narrative:
“It was the time when the trees were golden.
“The earth covered the body of Ararê and his arms, except his war-bow.
“Pery called the warriors of his tribe and said: My father is dead; he who shall prove himself the bravest of all shall have Ararê’s bow. War!’
“Thus spoke Pery; the warriors answered, War!’
“While the sun lighted up the earth we marched; when the moon rose in the heavens we arrived. We fought like Goytacazes. The whole night was one battle. There was blood, there was fire.
“When Pery lowered Ararê’s bow there was not in the city of the white men a cabin standing, a man alive; all were ashes.
“The day came and illuminated the field; the wind came and carried away the ashes. “Pery had prevailed; he was the first of his tribe and the mightiest of all the warriors. “His mother came, and said: ‘Pery, chief of the Goytacazes, son of Ararê, you are great, you are brave like your father; your mother loves you.’
“The warriors came and said, ‘Pery, chief of the Goytacazes, son of Ararê, you are the most valiant of the tribe and the most feared by the enemy; the warriors obey you.’
“The women came and said: ‘Pery, first of all, you are handsome as the sun and flexible as the wild reeds that gave you your name; the women are your slaves.’
“Pery heard, and did not reply; neither the voice of his mother, nor the song of the warriors, nor the love of the women made him smile.
“In the house of the cross, in the midst of the fire, Pery had seen the Lady of the white men. She was fair as the daughter of the moon. She was beautiful as the heron of the river. “She had the color of the sky in her eyes; the color of the sun in her hair; she was clothed with clouds, with a girdle of stars and a plume of light.
“The fire ceased; the house of the cross fell.
“At night Pery had a dream; the Lady appeared; she was sad, and spoke thus: ‘Pery, free warrior, you are my slave; you will follow me everywhere as the great star accompanies the day.’
“The moon had reversed her red bow when we returned from the war. Every night Pery saw the Lady in her cloud. She did not touch the earth and Pery could not ascend into the sky.
“The cashew, when it loses its leaf, seems dead; it has neither flower nor shade, and weeps tears sweet as the honey of its fruit. So was Pery sad.
“The Lady appeared no more, but Pery saw her always before his eyes.
“The trees became green; the little birds built their nests; the sabiá sang; everything laughed; the son of Ararê remembered his father.
“The time of war came.
“We set out; we marched; we reached the great river. The warriors set the nets; the women made a fire; Pery looked at the sun.
“He saw the hawk pass. If Pery were the hawk, he would go and see the Lady in the sky.
“He saw the wind pass. If Pery were the wind, he would carry the Lady in the air.
“He saw the shadow pass. If Pery were the shadow, he would accompany the Lady by night.
“The little birds slept thrice. His mother came and said: ‘Pery, son of Ararê, a white warrior saved your mother, a white maiden also.’
“Pery took his weapons and set out; he was going to see the white warrior, to be his friend, and the daughter of the Lady to be her slave.
“The sun was nearing the midheavens, and Pery also was nearing the river; he saw in the distance your great house.
“The white maiden appeared.
“She was the Lady whom Pery had seen; she was not sad as the first time; she was joyous; she had left behind the cloud and the stars.
“Pery said: ‘The Lady has descended from the sky because the moon, her mother, gave her leave; Pery, son of the sun, will accompany the Lady on earth.’
“Pery’s eyes were on the Lady, but his ear was attentive. The rock cracked and threatened to injure the Lady.
“The Lady had saved Pery’s mother; Pery did not wish the Lady to become sad and return to the sky.
“White warrior, Pery, first of his tribe, son of Ararê, of the Goytacaz nation, mighty in war, offers you his bow; you are a friend.”
The Indian here ended his story.
While he was speaking, an appearance of savage pride of strength and courage gleamed in his black eyes, and lent an air of nobility to his demeanor. Though ignorant, a son of the forests, he was a king; he had the royalty of strength. As soon as he had ended, the pride of the warrior disappeared; he became timid and modest; he was now only a barbarian in the presence of civilized beings, whose superiority of education he instinctively recognized.
Dom Antônio listened to him smiling at his style, now figurative, now simple as the first sentences that the child lisps on its mother’s breast. The nobleman translated as well as he could this poetical language to Cecília, who, recovered from her fright, was eager - in spite of the fear that the Indian caused her - to know what he said.
It was evident from the story than an Indian woman who had been rescued two days before by Dom Antônio from the hands of the adventurers, and whom Cecília had loaded with presents of blue and scarlet beads, was Pery’s mother.
“Pery,” said the nobleman, “when two men meet and become friends, the one who is at the other’s house receives his hospitality.”
“It is a custom that the aged have transmitted to the youth of the tribe and the fathers to the sons.”
“You will take supper with us.”
“Pery obeys you.”
The evening was waning; the first stars began to appear. The family, accompanied by Pery, went to the house and ascended the esplanade.
Dom Antônio went in for a moment and returned with a beautiful carbine, bearing the nobleman’s coat of arms, the same that we have already seen in the hands of the Indian.
“It is my faithful companion, my weapon of war; it never hung fire, never missed the mark; its ball is like the arrow of your bow. Pery, you have given me my daughter; my daughter gives you her father’s war-gun.”
The Indian received the present with deep gratitude.
“This weapon, which comes from the Lady, and Pery will form but one body.”
The bell in the courtyard sounded the hour of supper. The Indian, harassed by strange customs, and under the influence of a feeling of awe, did not know how to act. In spite of every effort on the part of the nobleman, who felt an indescribable pleasure in showing him how much he appreciated his act, and how overjoyed he was to see his daughter alive, the savage did not touch a mouthful.
Finally Dom Antônio, perceiving that every entreaty was vain, filled two goblets with Canary wine.
“Pery,” said the nobleman, “there is a custom among the whites for a man to drink to him who is his friend. Wine is the liquor that imparts strength, courage, joy. To drink to a friend is a way of saying that the friend is and shall be strong, courageous, and happy. I drink to the son of Ararê.”
“And Pery drinks to you, because you are the father of the Lady; drinks to you, because you saved his mother; drinks to you, because you are a warrior.”
At each word the Indian touched the goblet, and drank a mouthful of wine, without making the least sign of dislike; he would have drunk poison to the health of Cecília’s father.
III. THE EVIL GENIUS.
PERY had returned at different times to the house.
The aged nobleman received him cordially, and treated him as a friend; his noble character sympathized with that uncultured nature. But Cecília, in spite of the gratitude that his devotion to her inspired, could not overcome the fear she felt at seeing one of those savages of whom her mother gave her so hideous a description, and whose name had been used to frighten her when a child.
On Isabel the Indian had made the same impression that the presence of a man of his color always produced; she remembered her unhappy mother, the race from which she sprung, and the cause of the contempt with which she was commonly treated.
As for Dona Lauriana, she saw in Pery a faithful dog that had rendered a service to the family, and was sufficiently rewarded with a piece of bread. We must, however, say that it was not from a bad heart that she thought so, but in consequence of prejudices of education.
One morning, a fortnight after Cecília had been rescued by Pery, Ayres Gomes crossed the esplanade, and sought Dom Antônio, who was in his armory.
“Dom Antônio, the stranger to whom you gave hospitality two weeks ago, asks an audience of you.”
“Show him in.”
Ayres Gomes introduced the stranger. It was that Loredano into whom the Carmelite, Brother Angelo di Luca, had transformed himself.
“What do you wish, friend? Is anything lacking?”
“On the contrary, sir, I am so well situated that my desire would be to remain.”
“And who hinders you? As our hospitality does not ask the name of the seeker, so also it does not inquire the time of his departure.”
“Your hospitality is that of a true nobleman; but it is not of that that I wish to speak.”
“Explain yourself, then.”
“One of your band is going to Rio de Janeiro, where he has a wife and children, who have arrived from the kingdom.”
“Yes; he spoke to me about it yesterday.”
“You lack, then, one man; I can be that man, if you have no objection.”
“In that case, may I consider myself admitted?”
“Wait; Ayres Gomes will explain to you the conditions to which you subject yourself; if you agree to them the business is decided.”
“I believe I already understand those conditions,” said the Italian, smiling. “Nevertheless, go.”
The nobleman called his esquire, and charged him to acquaint the Italian with the conditions of the company of adventurers that he had in his service. This was one of the prerogatives of Ayres Gomes, who discharged it with all the gravity of which his somewhat grotesque appearance was susceptible. Upon reaching the esplanade, the esquire drew himself up, and began the following introduction: -
“Law, statute, rule, discipline, or by whatever better name it may be called, to which every one subjects himself who enters into the service of the Cavalier Dom Antônio de Mariz, nobleman of rank, of the stock of the Marizes in direct line.”
Here the esquire moistened his throat, and then proceeded: -
“First: Unquestioning obedience. Whoever refuses shall suffer death.”
The Italian made a sign of approval.
“This means. Sir Italian, that if some day Dom Antônio orders you to leap down from this rock, say your prayers and leap; for in one way or the other, feet foremost or head foremost, on the faith of Ayres Gomes, you will have to go.”
“Secondly: To be contented with what there is. Whoever -”
“With your leave, Senhor Ayres Gomes, do not give yourself unnecessary trouble; I know all that you are going to say, and therefore excuse you from continuing.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that all the comrades, each one in his turn, have already described to me the ceremony that you are now putting in practice.”
“It is useless. I know everything, accept everything, swear everything you wish.”
And saying this the Italian turned, and proceeded to Dom Antônio’s room, while the esquire, angry at not having carried out to the end the initiatory ceremony to which he attached so much value, muttered, “A low class of people!”
Loredano presented himself to Dom Antônio.
“Well?” said the nobleman.
“Very well; now but one thing remains, which Ayres Gomes naturally has not told you.”
“That Dom Antônio de Mariz,” said the nobleman, placing his hand on the Italian’s shoulder, “is a rigorous chief to his men, but a true, loyal friend to his comrades. I am here the lord of the house and the father of the whole family, to which you now belong.”
The Italian bowed to thank him, but more than all to conceal the alteration in his countenance. Upon hearing Dom Antônio’s noble words he felt agitated; for his brain was already at work upon the plot that we saw revealed a year later.
When he left the place where he had concealed his treasure, the adventurer had gone straight to the house of Dom Antônio de Mariz and asked the hospitality that was refused to no one; his intention was to proceed to Rio de Janeiro, there to arrange the means of turning his fortune to account.
Two ideas had occurred to his mind when he found himself the possessor of the paper of Robério Dias. Should he go to Europe, and sell his secret to Phillip III or the sovereign of some powerful nation hostile to Spain? Should he take into his service a company of adventurers, and explore on his own account this fabulous treasure, which must raise him to the pinnacle of greatness? This last idea pleased him most.
Meantime he formed no positive resolution. His secret having been bestowed in a safe place, and himself relieved of that weight which made him tremble at every step, the Italian resolved, as we have said, to seek hospitality of Dom Antônio de Mariz. There he would mature his plan and mark out the road he was to follow; then he would return for the paper, and with it march to riches, fortune, power.
At the nobleman’s house the ex-Carmelite with his keenness of observation studied the situation, and found it favorable to the carrying out of an idea which soon began to take form in his mind.
Mercenaries, who sell their liberty, conscience, and life, for a salary, have a true devotion for only one object, money; their martyr, their chief, their friend, is he who pays them most. Brother Angelo knew the human heart, and therefore no sooner did he become one of the band than he formed an estimate of the character of the adventurers. “These men would serve my purpose perfectly,” said he to himself.
In the midst of these reflections a circumstance occurred that produced a complete revolution in his ideas. He saw Cecília.
The image of that beautiful girl, chaste and innocent, was to his ardent nature, long sealed as with a crust of ice by monastic life, a spark upon powder. He thought this woman as necessary to his existence as the treasure of which he dreamed; to be rich for her, to possess her to enjoy his riches, was from that time forth his only passion.
One of the adventurers was about to leave the house; Loredano solicited his place and obtained it, as we have seen; his plan was formed. What it was we already know. The Italian purposed to become chief of the band, to possess himself of Cecília, go to the hidden mines, obtain as much silver as he could carry away, proceed to Bahia, capture a Spanish ship, and make sail for Europe. There he would equip a fleet, return to Brazil, explore his treasure, draw from it immense riches, and -. And the world opened before him, full of hope and happiness.
For a year he worked upon this enterprise with sagacity and intelligence; he had gained over the two most influential men of the band, Ruy Soeiro and Bento Simões; through them he was preparing for the final issue.
There were only two persons who could ruin him. Now, Loredano was not a man to overlook the result of treason, and to put into the hands of his accomplices a weapon with which they could slay him; hence the idea of that will which he had intrusted to Dom Antônio. Only in that paper, instead of having revealed his plot, as the Italian had told Ruy Soeiro, he had merely pointed out the treason of the two adventurers, declaring that he had been seduced by them; the friar had lied therefore even in death, when the paper was to speak.
The confidence which he had in the character of Dom Antônio gave him entire peace of mind; he knew that under no circumstances would the nobleman open the will that had been placed in his keeping.
Thus lived Brother Angelo di Luca, under his new name of Loredano, in the house of Dom Antônio de Mariz, preparing for the realization at last of his constant thought. He had waited for a year, and as he said, was tired. He had resolved at last to strike the blow.
let us not anticipate: it is still
A FEW hours after Loredano had been admitted into the house, Cecília, going to the window of her room, saw Pery on the opposite side of the declivity, looking at her with deep admiration. The poor Indian, timid and reserved, did not venture to approach the house except when he saw Dom Antônio walking on the esplanade; he was conscious that in that dwelling only the noble heart of the aged cavalier felt any esteem for him.
He had not made his appearance for four days; Dom Antônio had begun to think that he had returned with his tribe to the regions where they dwelt. The Goytacazes ruled over the entire territory between Cape St. Thomas and Cape Frio. They were a warlike people, valiant and fearless, and on different occasions had made the conquerors feel the force of their arms. They had completely destroyed the colony of Parahyba, founded by Pedro de Góes, and after a siege of six months had in like manner laid waste the colony of Victoria, founded in Espírito Santo by Vasco Fernandes Coutinho.
Let us return from this slight historical digression to our hero.
Cecília’s first movement on seeing the Indian had been one of fright; she had fled from the window mechanically. But her good heart was vexed at that fear, and told her that she had nothing to apprehend from the man who had saved her life. She remembered that it would be wrong and ungrateful to repay the devotion which he showed to her by showing the repugnance he inspired. She accordingly overcame her timidity, and resolved to make a sacrifice to the gratitude she owed to him. She went to the window, and beckoned him with her pretty white hand to approach.
The Indian, unable to restrain his joy, ran toward the house, while Cecília sought her father, and said to him:
“Pery is approaching, father; come and see him.”
“Is he? Good!” said the nobleman. And in company with his daughter, Dom Antônio went to meet the Indian, who had already reached the esplanade.
Pery had in his hand a little basket, woven with extraordinary delicacy of very white straw, like lace-work; through the interstices were heard feeble chirpings, and a slight noise made by the little inhabitants of that pretty nest. He knelt at Cecília’s feet; without venturing to raise his eyes, he presented to her the straw basket. Opening the lid, the girl was startled, but smiled. A swarm of humming birds was fluttering within, and some escaped. One came and nestled in her bosom; another began to hover around her fair head, as if it mistook her rosy little mouth for a flower.
She was delighted with those brilliant little birds, some scarlet, others blue and green, and all of golden luster, and exquisite and delicate forms. When she grew weary of admiring them, she took them one by one, kissed them, warmed them in her bosom, and grieved that she was not a pretty, fragrant flower, that they might kiss her too and hover constantly around her. Pery looked on, and was happy; for the first time since he had saved her life he had succeeded in doing something that brought a smile of pleasure to her lips.
Still, notwithstanding this happiness, it was easy to see that the Indian was sad; he went up to Dom Antônio and said, “Pery is going away.”
“Ah!” said the nobleman. “You are going back to your country?”
“Yes; Pery returns to the land that covers the bones of Ararê.”
“Ask him why he goes away and leaves us, father,” said Cecília.
The nobleman translated the question.
“Because the Lady does not need Pery, and Pery must accompany his mother and brethren.”
“But if the rock threatens to injure the Lady, who will defend her?” asked the girl, smiling, and alluding to the Indian’s narrative.
Hearing the question from Dom Antônio’s lips, Pery did not know what to reply, because it reminded him of a thought that had already passed through his mind: he feared in his absence the girl would be subject to some peril, and he not be near to save her.
“If the Lady orders it, Pery will remain.”
Cecília, as soon as her father translated the Indian’s response, laughed at his blind obedience; but she was a woman, and a trace of vanity slept in her girlish heart. To see that wild soul, free as the birds that hover in the air or the rivers that coursed through the plain, that strong and vigorous nature, which performed prodigies of strength and courage, that will, untameable as the mountain torrent, prostrate at her feet, a vanquished and submissive slave! She must have been other than a woman not to have felt a pride in her control over such a nature. Women have this characteristic, that, recognizing their own weakness, their greatest ambition is to reign through the magnetism of this weakness over whatever is strong, great, and superior to themselves; they love intelligence, courage, genius, power, only to vanquish and subjugate them.
“The Lady does not wish Pery to go away,” said she, with a queenly air.
The Indian understood her perfectly.
“Pery will remain.”
“See, Cecília,” said Dom Antônio, laughing; “he obeys you!”
“My daughter thanks you for the sacrifice, Pery,” continued the nobleman, “but neither of us wish you to abandon your tribe.”
“The Lady has ordered it,” replied the Indian.
“She wanted to see if you would obey her; she has learned your devotion, and is satisfied; she consents to your departure.”
“But your brethren, your mother, and your free life?”
“Pery is the Lady’s slave.”
“But Pery is a warrior and a chief.”
“The Goytacaz nation has a hundred warriors powerful as Pery, a thousand bows swift. as the flight of the hawk.”
“Then you are determined to remain?”
“Yes; and as you do not wish to admit Pery to your house, a forest tree will serve for his shelter.”
“You offend me, Pery!” exclaimed the nobleman. “My door is open to all, and above all to you, who are a friend, and who rescued my daughter.”
“No, Pery means no offense; but he knows that his skin is red.”
“And his heart golden.”
While Dom Antônio was continuing his efforts to induce the Indian to depart, a monotonous chant was heard from the forest. Pery listened, and descending from the esplanade ran in the direction whence came the voice that was chanting with the sad and melancholy cadence peculiar to the Indians the following lament in the Guarany tongue: -
“The star has shone; we set out with the evening. The breeze has blown; it bears us on its wings.
“War brought us; we conquer. The war is over; we return.
“In war the warriors fight; there is blood. In peace the women work; there is wine.
“The star has shone; it is the hour of departure. The breeze has blown; it is time to go.”
The person singing this savage song was an aged Indian woman, who, leaning against a tree in the forest, had seen through the foliage the scene enacted on the esplanade. On reaching her, Pery became sad and troubled.
“Mother!” exclaimed he.
“Come!” said the woman, advancing into the woods.
“We are ready to depart.”
The woman looked at her son in utter astonishment. “Your brethren are going.”
Pery made no reply.
“Your mother is going.”
The same silence.
“Your country awaits you.”
“Pery remains, mother,” said he, with a voice betraying emotion.
“The Lady has ordered it.”
The poor mother received that word as an irrevocable sentence; she knew the control exercised over Pery’s soul by the image of Our Lady which he had seen in the midst of a fight, and had personified in Cecília. She felt that she was about to lose her son, the pride of her old age, as Ararê had been the pride of her youth. A tear trickled down her copper-colored cheek.
“Mother, take Pery’s bow; bury it near the bones of his father; and burn Ararê’s cabin.”
“No; if some day Pery returns, he will find his father’s cabin, and his mother to love him; everything will be sad till the moon of flowers brings the son of Ararê to the country where he was born.”
Pery shook his head sorrowfully: “Pery will not return!”
His mother started with a movement of terror and despair.
“The fruit that falls from the tree does not return to it again; the leaf that becomes detached from the branch withers, dries up, and dies; the wind carries it away. Pery is the leaf; you are the tree, mother. Pery will not return to your bosom.”
“The white virgin saved your mother; she should have let her die rather than rob her of her son. A mother without her son is a tract without water, which burns and kills whatever approaches it.” These words were accompanied by a threatening look, in which was revealed the ferocity of a tiger defending its young.
“Mother, do not injure the Lady; Pery would die, and at the last hour would think of you.”
Both stood some time in silence.
“Your mother will remain,” said the woman, with a tone of resolution.
“And who will be the mother of the tribe? Who will guard Pery’s cabin? Who will narrate to the children the wars of Ararê, mighty among the mightiest? Who will tell how many times the Goytacazes have set fire to the city of the white men, and conquered the men of thunder? Who will prepare the wines and drinks for the warriors, and teach the sons the customs of the fathers?” Pery uttered these words with an enthusiasm roused by the recollections of his savage life.
The woman became pensive and replied: “Your mother will return; she will await you at the door of the cabin in the shade of the jambo tree; if its blossoms come without Pery, your, mother will never see the fruit.”
She placed her hands on her son’s shoulders, and rested her forehead on his, while their tears mingled.
Presently she withdrew slowly; Pery followed her with his eyes till she disappeared in the forest; he was on the point of running, calling her, and going with her. But the wind brought to his ear the silvery voice of Cecília talking with her father, and he remained.
That night he had built, on the edge of the rock, the little cabin that was to be his world.
Three months passed. Cecília, who for a moment had overcome her repugnance for the Indian when she ordered him to remain, forgot the ingratitude of the action, and no longer concealed her antipathy. When he approached her, she would utter a cry of fear and flee, or order him to retire. Pery, who already understood and spoke Portuguese, would withdraw humbly and sorrowfully. Nevertheless his devotion remained constant; he accompanied Dom Antônio on his expeditions, aided him with his experience, and guided him to deposits of gold or precious stones. Upon his return he would spend the whole day in the fields in search of a perfume, a flower, a bird, which he would deliver to the nobleman with the request that he would give it to Cecy, since he no longer ventured to approach her himself.
Cecy was the name which the Indian gave his mistress after he had learned that she was called Cecília. One day the girl, hearing him call her so, and finding a pretext for getting angry with the submissive slave who obeyed her slightest word, reproved him sharply.
“Why do you call me Cecy?”
The Indian smiled sadly.
“Can you not say Cecília?”
Pery pronounced all the syllables distinctly; this was the more to be wondered at since his language lacked four letters, of which l was one.
“But then,” said the girl with some curiosity, “if you know my name why do you not always say it?”
“Because Cecy is the name which Pery has in his soul.”
“Oh, it is a name of your language?”
“What does it mean?”
“What Pery feels.”
“But in Portuguese?”
“Mistress must not know.”
The girl tapped her foot impatiently on the ground. Dom Antônio was passing; Cecília ran to him. “Father, tell me what Cecy signifies in that Indian language which you speak?”
“Cecy?” said the nobleman, endeavoring to recollect. “Yes! It is a verb, meaning to pain, to grieve.”
The girl felt a twinge of remorse; she was conscious of her ingratitude; and remembering what she owed to the Indian, and the manner in which she treated him, she thought herself wicked, selfish, and cruel.
“What a sweet word!” said she to her father. “It is like the song of a bird.”
From that day she was good to Pery. She gradually lost her fear, and began to understand that untutored soul. She no longer saw in him a slave, but a faithful and devoted friend.
“Call me Cecy,” she would sometimes say to the Indian, smiling; “that sweet name will remind me that I have been unkind to you, and teach me to be good.”
IT is time to continue this story, interrupted to relate some antecedent events.
Let us return, then, to the place where we left Loredano and his companions, terror stricken by that unlooked-for exclamation.
The two accomplices, superstitious as were persons of the lower classes in that age, attributed the occurrence to a supernatural cause, and saw in it a warning from heaven. Loredano, however, was not a man to yield to such weakness. He had heard a voice, and that voice, though dull and hollow, must have been the voice of a man. Who was it? Could it be Dom Antônio? or one of the adventurers? He could not tell; his mind was lost in a chaos of uncertainties.
He made a sign to Ruy Soeiro and Bento Simões to follow him, and securing in his bosom the fatal parchment, the cause of so many crimes, sprang into the plain. They had advanced perhaps a hundred yards, when they saw a cavalier crossing the path they were pursuing. The Italian recognized him immediately; it was Álvaro.
The young man was seeking the solitude to think of Cecília, and especially to reflect on a circumstance that had occurred that morning, which he could not understand. He had seen Cecília’s window open, the two girls appear, exchange glances, and then Isabel fall on her knees at her cousin’s feet. If he had heard what we already know, he would have understood perfectly; but, distant as he was, he could merely see without being seen by the girls.
Loredano, upon seeing the cavalier, turned to his companions. “There he is!” said he, with a look gleaming with joy. “Fools! to attribute to heaven what you cannot understand!” And he accompanied these words with a smile of deep contempt. “Wait for me here.”
“What are you going to do?” asked Ruy Soeiro.
The Italian turned with surprise, and then shrugged his shoulders, as if his companion’s question did not merit a reply. Ruy Soeiro, who knew the character of this man, understood the action. A remnant of magnanimity still lingering in his corrupt heart prompted him to grasp his companion’s arm, to hold him back.
“Do you wish me to speak?” said Loredano.
“It is besides a useless crime!” chimed in Bento Simões.
The Italian fixed upon him his eyes, cold as the touch of polished steel. “There is one more useful, friend Simões; we will consider it at the proper time.”
And without waiting for a reply, he plunged into the bushes that covered the plain at that point, and followed Álvaro, who was proceeding slowly on his way.
The young man, though absorbed in thought, had all the watchfulness that the hazardous life of our hunters in the interior, compelled to penetrate virgin forests, imparts. There man is surrounded by dangers on every side; in front, behind, on the left, on the right, in the air, on the ground, there may spring up an enemy that, concealed by the foliage, approaches unseen. The sole defense is an acuteness of hearing capable of distinguishing among the vague noises of the forest such as are not produced by the wind, coupled with a rapidity and certainty of vision able to explore the gloom of the thickets and penetrate the dense foliage of the trees. This gift of practiced hunters Álvaro possessed; and as soon as the wind brought to his ear the sound of dry leaves crackling under foot, he raised his head and looked around the plain; then, by way of precaution, he leaned against the thick trunk of an isolated tree, and folding his arms over his carbine waited. In that position the enemy, whatever it was, beast, reptile, man, could attack him only in front.
Loredano, crouched among the leaves, had observed this movement and hesitated. But his secret was compromised; the suspicion he had entertained that it was Álvaro who a little while before had threatened him with the word, “Traitors!” was confirmed in his mind by the caution with which the young man avoided a surprise. The cavalier was a terrible enemy, and wielded every weapon with admirable dexterity. The Italian had reason for hesitating; but necessity urged, and he was brave and active. He advanced toward the cavalier, resolved to die, or save his life and fortune.
Álvaro frowned as he saw him approach; after what had occurred the evening before, and that morning, he hated the man, or rather despised him.
“I wager you have had the same thought as I, cavalier,” said the adventurer when he got within a few steps of Álvaro.
“I don’t know what you mean,” replied the young man coldly.
“I mean, cavalier, that two men who hate each other meet better in a solitary place than among their companions.”
“It is not hate that you inspire in me; it is contempt. It is more than contempt, it is loathing. The reptile that creeps along the ground causes me less repugnance.”
“Let us not dispute about words, cavalier; it all comes to the same thing I hate you, you despise me! I could have told you as much.”
“Wretch!” exclaimed the cavalier, putting his hand on the hilt of his sword. So rapid was the movement that the word had no sooner escaped from his lips than the steel blade touched the Italian’s cheek. Loredano sought to avoid the insult, but there was no time.
His eyes became inflamed with rage. “Cavalier, you owe me satisfaction for the insult you have offered me.”
“It is fair,” answered Álvaro with dignity. “But not with the sword which is the weapon of a cavalier; draw your bandit's dagger and defend yourself.”
With these words, the young man sheathed his sword with the greatest calmness, fastened it to his belt so as not to embarass his movements, and drew his dagger, an excellent Damascus blade.
The two enemies advanced toward each other and engaged. The Italian was agile and strong, and defended himself with consummate skill; yet twice already had Álvaro’s dagger, grazing his neck, cut the collar of his doublet.
Suddenly Loredano sprang backward, and raised his left hand as a signal for a truce.
“Are you satisfied?” asked Álvaro.
“No, cavalier; but I think that instead of wearying ourselves uselessly here, we had better adopt a more expeditious method.”
“Choose whatever weapon you please, except the sword; all others are indifferent to me.”
“Still another thing: if we fight here, we may prejudice each other; for I intend to kill you, and I believe you have the same intention with respect to me. Now it is necessary that he who falls should leave no mark to betray the survivor.”