But the entire distance was almost passed, and the hearts of the two were beating high with increasing hope, when Long, with a gasp of terror, grasped the arm of the Professor with incredible force, and jerking him backward, pointed with his extended finger to the camp in front of them.
The native village.
Meanwhile, Fred Ashman and Aaron Johnston the sailor, found themselves involved in a most stirring experience.
After studying the path or trail which led directly from the camp into the vast forest, stretching to an unknown distance from the Xingu, the young man decided to follow the route which he believed had been formed by persons instead of the wild animals of the wilderness.
Johnston was disposed to complain, but he was deeply attached to the manly partner in the exploring enterprise, and there was no reasonable peril which he would not willingly face in his defence.
The forest wore an unusually gloomy and dismal appearance, now that the sun had set and night was closing in.
The roar of the rapids, which at first sounded so loud, grew duller and fainter as they penetrated the wood until it became like the moaning of the distant ocean. The men spoke in guarded undertones and were able to hear each other plainly, while eyes and ears were on the alert, for the first sight or sound of danger.
Being within the forest, they were favored with but little of the moonlight, which proved such a help to their friends in their ascent of the bank of the Xingu to the head of the rapids. But here and there a few of the rays penetrated the vegetation overhead and illuminated the trail sufficiently to prevent their wandering from it.
Ashman was less than a rod in advance of the sailor and led until they had traversed perhaps a fifth of a mile, during which they met no living creature, though the noises from the wood left no doubt that wild animals were on every hand.
Fred began to think he had gone far enough, though his wish to obtain a glimpse of the village, which he believed was not far off, prevented his coming to a full stop. Johnston noticing his hesitation put in another vigorous protest, but he was easily persuaded to venture further under the pledge that if they discovered nothing within the next ten minutes, they would withdraw and return to camp.
Knowing that his companion would insist on the fulfillment of this agreement, Fred pushed on faster than before; the sailor, however, easily maintaining his place almost on his heels. It was only at intervals they spoke, for there was no call to do so, and it was not wise to allow any cause to interfere with their watchfulness for the peril which was liable to come with the suddenness of the thunderbolt.
By stepping carefully they were able to proceed without noise, and, at the same time, hoped to catch the sound of any other footsteps, since there was not supposed to be any call on the part of the natives for the caution which they might have displayed under different circumstances.