The Professor was at the head of the strange procession bearing the boat on their shoulders. Like his companions, he moved with a springy, elastic step, for he had received the most striking proof possible of the friendship of Ziffak, and he foresaw the dazzling results that were to flow from such an alliance.
Had this remarkable savage been disposed to play them false, no better opportunity could have been given than that which occurred a few minutes before. All he had to do was to arrive on the spot a minute later: the Aryks would have left nothing for him except to view the dead bodies of the whites and their servants.
As for Jared Long, the doubter, he was willing to admit that he had made a grevious error of judgment. Had he thought that Ziffak suspected his misgivings, he would have taken the fellow’s hand, and humbly begged his pardon.
THE JOURNEY’S END.
The explorers, bearing the canoe with the luggage upon their shoulders, ascended at a steady gait the western bank of the Xingu. The cleared space which they had noticed on both sides of the river, caused by the furious overflow, continued, so that the progress was comparatively easy.
The din of the rapids was so loud that they could not have heard each other, except by shouting at the top of their voices, for which there was no call, since even Bippo and Pedros were now able to read the full meaning of the extraordinary incidents of the night.
Ashman looked around and ascertained that Ziffak was not bearing them company. None of the savages were in sight, though all would have been as eager as tigers to rend the white men to shreds had such permission been given.
The absence of the great leader caused no uneasiness on the part of any one of our friends. Strange indeed, would it have been had they felt any distrust of him after his late interference.
The sun appeared while the party were still pushing forward. The sky was as clear as on the preceding day, and, though the temperature was quite warm, it was not unpleasantly so. Several causes contributed to the delightful coolness which renders the Matto Grosso one of the most attractive regions on the globe. The abundance of water, the endless stretch of forest, with few llanos of any extent, and, above all, the elevation of the plateau produce a moderation of temperature not met with in the lowlands, less than twenty degrees further south.
But the explorers were weary and in need of rest. It will be recalled that they found precious little opportunity for sleep during the preceding night, which marked the close of an unusually hard day’s labor. They would have rested could they have done so, and now that the chance seemed to present itself, they wisely decided to wait a few hours before beginning the last stretch of water which lay between them and the villages of the Murhapas.