Ten: Lost


     Day was breaking when the Caxinauá woman arrived there.  Large shoals of sardines were passing under the liquid surface of the river.  She got to the lake across a splendid labyrinth of channels and bayous.  Stagnant waters, gloomy, lost crossing of sealed byways, the Quati lake in the middle of marshes on the penumbra of the low water line, channels going through branches, hidden.  Beyond, the horrible Mucura slough.

     Maria Caxinauá lived right on Fedegoso Point on Cuco Beach where they said Zequinha Bataillon had disappeared.  She would not leave that place since the disappearance of the boss's son.  They said she was expecting him to return.

     At that time Manixi plantation was in distress, unproductive.  Ferreira himself had not appeared there for two years and the headquarters, since the death of Captain João Beleza, was under the command of a certain Ribamar (d'Aguirre) de Souza, a native of Patos, Pernambuco, as related in the first chapter of this narrative.

     The Caxinauá woman advanced alone among the gigantic roots.  One could say lost, quiet among the large prehistoric trees, in the marsh, among water hyacinths, caimans, clumps of tonka bean trees, under murity palms, licania trees.  Her oar cut the water without a sound; the canoe glided along in the dead side of the world.

     She arrived at a clump of arum.  She caught sight of black vultures on high.  Under the fabric of the water fish could be seen, indolent, immersed in a dreamy sleep in the spillway of the lake.

     She was in no hurry.  She took off her clothes and entered into the water, in the heavy humidity, stepping on the smooth-stoned bottom, which she recognized by the end of the submerged white stone.

     Anyone who saw her would have seen a beautiful woman.  Her face, neck and shoulders blighted, burnt – the tortured skin, burnt in the Numa's attack.  But from her breast on down she was beautiful and unharmed.

     She glanced at the shores.  Her ancestors had lived there.  She was among her own there.  The Caxinauá loved to visit that historic site.  There was no trace of the past; the forest had triumphed.

     Suddenly she sensed danger.

     She felt at once that, from inside, deep in the brush, something menacing was approaching.  She knew it was coming very quickly – there had not been any indication of anything and she got out of the water in a flash.

     But it was too late: she was seized by enormous hands, enormous arms of a monstrous being, from behind, and she could smell the aroma of tonka bean and the strong warmth of that body; she knew immediately who it was, that she would be another one of the Paxiuba the Mules' victims.  She summed up the situation: one of the Mule's arms could break her neck, she was starting to suffocate, she understood his insurmountable, savage animal strength.  She remained motionless.  She let herself be lifted.  She knew what he wanted.  The monster's body trembled with pleasure, it was hot, desire grazed along the back side of the Indian woman, heaving like a dog.

     She saw that he would not leave her alive.  She knew she would get her revenge if she escaped alive.  But Paxiuba now tried other means, he tumbled over with her on the grass and, strangely, he took his pleasure, right there, howling while finishing himself off like a furious bull, sparing her.

      After he disappeared, as mysteriously as he had appeared, she fell into the water to wash off that venomous sticky fluid.