“Ziffak,” said the explorer, lowering his weapon, “will you walk back to the camp of my people? You have my promise that no harm shall be offered you by any one.”
The herculean native nodded his head, and the strange couple started up the bank in the direction of the camp, which was now as silent as though not a hostile shot had been fired, or a savage blow been struck.
THE LAND OF THE MURHAPAS.
It looked as if Fred Ashman had gained a double victory over the giant Ziffak, and his second triumph was infinitely greater than his first.
His heart thrilled at the thought that this formidable antagonist had been so suddenly transformed into a friend; and yet he could not entirely free himself from a certain misgiving, as the two walked side by side along the Xingu. Recalling the dexterity of the native—all the more wonderful because of his bulk—he reflected, that it was the easiest thing in the world for him to turn like a flash and pierce him with his poisoned javelin before the slightest defence could be made.
It was this thought which led him stealthily to place his hand on the butt of the revolver at his hip, prepared to whip it out and fire as quickly as he knew how. At the same time he edged away from him, so as to maintain considerable space between their bodies.
Ziffak suddenly changed his javelin from his right to his left hand, the movement sending a shock of fear through the American, who the next moment blushed from shame, for it was manifest that the shrewd savage suspected the timidity of his new friend, and shifted the frightful weapon to the side furthest from him to relieve any misgiving on his part.
The conversation continued as they walked, the native showing a surprising willingness to answer all questions.
Ashman gathered from what was told him that the Murhapas were a tribe numbering fully a thousand men, women and children; that they occupied a village or town on the right bank of the Xingu about twenty miles above the rapids, where the incidents already recorded occurred, and that they were far superior in intelligence, physical development and prowess to any other tribes in the Matto Grosso.
It was about five years before that the two white men, Waggaman and Burkhardt, suddenly made their appearance at the towns. The fact that they did not come up the Xingu, but from the forest to the south, strengthened Ashman’s suspicion that they were criminals who had managed to escape from the Brazilian diamond mines, though it was a mystery how they had secured the two rifles which they brought with them. They had no revolvers, and their guns were not of the repeating pattern. When their ammunition gave out, one of them made a journey of several days’ duration into the wilderness, invariably bringing back a supply which lasted a long time.