Despite the glowing expectations of the party, there was enough in the prospect before them to cause serious thought. Long and Ashman consulted continually and saw that it would not do to felicitate themselves with the belief that all danger was at an end.
Two facts must be well weighed. Waggaman and Burkhardt were inimical to them. Whether they could be won over even to neutrality could not be determined until they were seen. For the present they must be classed as dangerous enemies.
Was it unreasonable to suspect that their influence with the terrible King Haffgo would prove superior to that of Ziffak? If so, what hope was there of the escape of the explorers after once intrusting themselves within the power of the tyrant?
But the immediate question which faced our friends was, whether it would do for them to reveal themselves to the Murhapas without again seeing their native friend. They deemed it probable that he had pushed on to the village, with the expectation of reaching it ahead of them and thus preparing the way for their reception.
This, however, was but a pretty theory which was as liable to be wrong as right. At any rate, Ziffak must reach his home ahead of or simultaneously with the whites. The latter continued using their paddles with steady vigor, until near noon, when they knew that considerably more than half the distance was passed.
They now began swaying their paddles less powerfully, for the feeling was strong upon them that they had approached as close as was prudent to the Murhapa village.
It was about this time, that they rounded a bend in the Xingu which gave them sight of the river for fully half a mile before another change in its course shut out all view. Naturally, they scanned the stream in quest of enemies, who were now likely to be quite close.
The first survey showed them a canoe coming down stream. It was near the middle and was approaching at a rapid rate.
Fred Ashman laid down his paddle and took up his binocular.
“It is Ziffak!” he exclaimed, passing the glass to Long.
“So it is and he is alone,” was the reply of the astonished New Englander, who added an exclamation of surprise that he should be approaching from that direction. The only explanation was, that since last seeing him, he had made a journey to his home and was now returning to meet and convoy his friends to his own people.
Such proved to be the case, as he explained on joining them.
After the affair at the foot of the rapids, he paused long enough to make clear to the Aryks that not one of them was to make another offensive movement against the whites under penalty of the most fearful punishment. He explained that these particular white men were the friends of all natives, and that they never would have harmed an Aryk had they not been forced to do so to save their own lives.