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Title: The Land of Mystery
Author: Ellis, Edward Sylvester, 1840-1916
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Land of Mystery" ***

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THE LAND OF MYSTERY

by

EDWARD S. ELLIS

Author of

"Famous American Naval Commanders," "Jungle Fugitives," "Old Ironsides,
The Hero of Tripoli and 1812," etc.


New York
Hurst & Company
Publishers
Copyright
1889 by Frank Lovell Co.
1901 by Street & Smith



THE LAND OF MYSTERY.


CHAPTER I.

IN THE MATTO GROSSO.

The blood-red sun was sinking beyond the distant Geral Mountains, when
a canoe, containing four white men and three natives, came to a halt a
thousand miles from the mighty Amazon, in the upper waters of the Xingu
River, near the great table-land of Matto Grosso.

It was hard work, forcing the long shallow boat against the rapid
current of the stream, whose unknown source is somewhere among the
famous diamond regions of Brazil.  It was plain sailing for three
hundred leagues from the Amazon, from whose majestic volume the little
party of explorers had turned southward more than a month before.  The
broad sail, which was erected in the centre of the craft, swept it
smoothly along over the narrowing bosom of the Xingu, between luxuriant
forests and past tribes of strange-looking Indians, who stood on the
banks staring wonderingly at the extraordinary beings, the like of
which many of them had never seen before.

Occasionally the explorers put ashore, and, using only the language of
signs, exchanged some of the beads and gaudy trinkets for the curious
articles of the savages.  Endless varieties of fruit were so abundant
that it was to be had for the simple trouble of plucking; while the
timid natives stood in such awe of their visitors, that the thought of
harming them never entered their minds.

But ominous changes were gradually noted by our friends, as they
steadily ascended the mysterious stream.  At first the natives fled at
their approach, and failed to understand the signs of comity, or were
so distrustful of the strangers that they refused to meet their
advances.  Fleeing into the woods or high hills, they peeped out from
their coverts, uttering strange cries and indulging in grotesque
gestures, the meaning of which could hardly be mistaken.  Had there
been any misapprehension on the part of the visitors, there was none
after several scores launched their arrows at the boat, as it glided
away from the shore and up stream.  The aim was wild and no one was
struck, but when Professor Ernest Grimcke, the sturdy, blue-eyed
scientist of the party, picked up one of the missiles and carefully
examined it, he made the disturbing announcement that it was tipped
with one of the deadliest of known poisons.

The other members of this exploring party were Fred Ashman, a bright,
intelligent American, four-and-twenty years of age; Jared Long, an
attenuated, muscular New Englander in middle life, and Aaron Johnston,
a grim, reserved but powerful sailor from New Bedford, who had spent
most of his life on whaling voyages.  Professor Grimcke and Ashman were
joint partners in the exploring enterprise, Long and Johnston being
their assistants.

In addition, there were three native servants, or helpers, known as
Bippo, Pedros and Quincal.  They had been engaged at Macapa, near the
mouth of the Amazon.  They were rather small of size, the first-named
being the most intelligent, and in that warm, tropical climate wore no
clothing except a strip of native cloth around the loins.  Ashman had
striven to teach them the use of firearms, but they could never
overcome the terror caused by the jet of fire and the thunderous
explosion when the things were discharged.  They, therefore, clung to
their spears, which, having honest points, cannot be said to have been
very formidable weapons in their hands, even though each native was
able to throw them with remarkable deftness and accuracy.

The sail that had served the explorers so well, where the Xingu was
broader and with a slower current, became useless, or at least proved
unequal to the task of overcoming the force of the stream.
Consequently they had recourse to the broad-bladed oars, with which
they drove the canoe swiftly against the resisting river, cheered by
the oft-repeated declaration of the Professor, whose spirits never
flagged, that the harder it proved going up stream, the easier must it
be in descending, and that the arrangement was much better than if the
condition of affairs were reversed.

The most tiresome work came when they reached some place, where the
falls or rapids compelled them to land, and, lifting the boat and its
contents from the ground, carry it round the obstruction to the more
favorable current above.  These portages varied in length from a few
rods to a fourth of a mile, and the further the party advanced, the
more frequent did they become.

"We have gone far enough for to-night," said the Professor, as the prow
of the boat was turned toward the left bank; "we will go into camp and
make ready for to-morrow."

A few minutes later, the bow of the canoe gently touched the dark sand
of the shore.  Bippo, Pedros and Quincal understood their duty so well
that, without suggestion from the others, they leaped into the shallow
waters, ran a few steps, and, grasping the front of the craft, drew it
so far upon the land that the others stepped out without so much as
wetting the soles of their shoes.

This task was no more than finished, when the natives scattered in the
forest, which came almost to the edge of the water, in quest of fuel.
This of course was so abundant that the work was slight, but since
Professor Grimcke and Fred Ashman paid them well for their services
they were left to attend to that duty unassisted.

As the surroundings of the party were entirely new and strange, Grimcke
proposed that while the evening meal was being prepared, they should
find out, if it could be done, whether any unwelcome neighbors were
likely to disturb them before morning.  After a brief consultation, it
was decided that the Professor and Jared Long should make their way up
the river, keeping close to shore, with the purpose of learning the
extent of the rapids, while Ashman and the sailor, Johnston, should
follow the clearly marked trail which led directly away from the stream
and into the forest.  It was more than probable that one of the couples
would come upon something worth knowing, and it was not unlikely that
both would return with important information.

Twilight is of short duration in the low latitudes, and the wish of the
four white men was to be back in camp at the end of an hour, by which
time night would be fairly upon them.  But the moon was at its full and
would serve them better than the twilight itself.

The German and New Englander, therefore, moved away from camp,
following the course of the Xingu, while their two friends quickly
vanished in the forest.  Each carried his repeating Winchester and his
Smith & Wesson.

Ashman felt some misgiving because of the trail leading into the woods
from a point so near the camp.  It seemed likely to have been worn by
the inhabitants of some village near at hand, though it was possible
that the innumerable feet of wild animals on their way to and from the
river may have been the cause.  The upper waters of the Xingu are
remarkably clear and pure, a fact which rendered the first theory most
probable.

The explorers had landed in a dangerous region, as they were destined
to learn very soon, and the experience of the couples who took routes
at right angles to each other was of the most thrilling character.

It has been stated that the progress of the canoe had been checked, as
was often the case before, by the rapids of the Xingu, which could be
passed only by carrying the canoe and luggage to the smoother waters
above.  It was apparent that the river frequently overflowed its banks,
for immense quantities of driftwood lined both shores, while the
vegetation had been swept away to that extent that a space of a dozen
feet from the margin of the stream was comparatively free from it.
Thus both parties found the travelling easy.

The rapids were a hundred yards wide, more or less, and, with such a
steep incline, that the foamy waves dashed hither and thither and
against each other with the utmost fury, sending the spray high in air
and sweeping forward with such impetuosity that it seemed impossible
for the strongest craft under the most skilful guidance to shoot them.
The explorers studied them with great interest as they ascended the
left bank.

It was inevitable that in a country with such excessive vegetable
growth, every part of the Xingu should show much floating timber.  The
logs which plunged through the rapids played all manner of antics.
Sometimes they leaped high out of the waters, like immense sea
monsters, the out-spreading limbs showing a startling resemblance to
the arms of a drowning person mutely appealing for help.  Then a heavy
trunk would strike a rock just below the surface, and the branches,
dripping with spray, swept over in a huge semi-circle.  The roar and
swirl suggested the whirlpool below the falls of Niagara, one of the
most appalling sights in all nature.



CHAPTER II.

A TRIO OF ENEMIES.

At last, when the full moon was shining, the two men stood at the head
of the rapids and surveyed their surroundings before setting out on
their return to camp.

Both sides of the Xingu were lined by the dense forest, in which the
vegetation is so luxuriant that it must be a source of never ending
wonder to those who look upon it for the first time.  The river above
made a sharp bend, shutting off the view so fully that from their
position, it was impossible to tell how far they would be able to use
the canoe without making another portage.

"We haven't seen a person on our way here," remarked the Professor,
calmly surveying the river and shores; "and I hope Ashman will bring
back a similar report, for we all need a full night's rest."

"How is _that_?"

Long touched the arm of his companion, as he asked the question, and
pointed down stream in the direction of camp.

To the amazement of the Professor, three natives were seen standing on
the very spot where they themselves had stood a brief while before,
evidently scrutinizing the white strangers with profound wonder and
curiosity.

They were dressed similarly to Bippo, Pedros and Quincal--that is, with
only a piece of cloth around the loins--but they displayed a marked
contrast in other respects.  They were taller, more athletic, with
immense bushy heads of hair, enormous rings in their ears, while the
hue of their skins was almost as dark as that of the native African.

One carried a long-bow and a bundle of arrows strapped behind his
shoulders, while the others were armed simply with javelins or spears.

"Those fellows mean fight," added Long.

"No doubt of it," replied the Professor.

"But a Winchester will reach further than their arrows and spears, even
if they are tipped with poison."

"Possibly they may be friendly, if they can be convinced that we intend
them no harm, and you know what an advantage it will be to us if able
to trust all the natives on our return."

Long could not share the confidence of his companion and favored a
direct advance down the bank toward the savages.  If the latter
preserved their armed neutrality, all would be well enough, but at the
first sign of hostility he advocated opening fire on them.

Perhaps he was right in the declaration that anything like timidity in
dealing with savages is the worst possible course.  While the rights of
every barbarian should be respected, it is all important that he should
know that such concession is made not through fear, but because the
superior party wishes to be just and merciful.

The natives stood as motionless as statues for several minutes, during
which the white men scrutinized them with an interest that may be
imagined.

The first and most natural thought of our friends was that an encounter
could be avoided by entering the forest on the right and passing round
the savages, who, it was quite apparent, intended to dispute their
return; but if such was really their purpose, they would have little
trouble in heading off the whites in the dense wood, beside which, for
the weighty reasons already named, it would have been exceedingly
unwise to act as though afraid of the dusky natives.

Despite Long's protest, the Professor decided to make a friendly
advance, being vigilantly on his guard at the same time for the first
offensive move of the savages.  He carried his Winchester in one hand,
while he rested the other on his revolver.  He was determined, while
hoping for comity, to be prepared for hostility or treachery.

Long was so dissatisfied with the looks of things, that he followed his
friend a few paces, then halting with his Winchester ready for any
emergency, and certain in his own mind that a sharp fight was
inevitable.

The approach of the white man was evidently a surprise to the savages.
The middle one, who held the long-bow and arrows, fell back several
paces, as if about to break into flight or dart among the trees so
invitingly near, but something must have been said by his companions to
check him, for he stopped abruptly, and not only came back to his first
position, but advanced a couple of paces beyond.  The noise from the
rapids prevented the Professor hearing their voices, though the
unusually clear moonlight told him that some utterance had passed
between them.

The first ominous act on the part of the natives was by this archer,
who deliberately drew an arrow from over his shoulder and fitted it
against the string of his bow.  The fact that the missile was
undoubtedly coated at the end with a virus more deadly than that of the
rattlesnake or cobra was enough to render the would-be friend
uncomfortable and to increase his alertness.

At the same time that the archer went through this significant
preliminary, his companions shifted their grasp upon their javelins in
a manner that was equally suggestive.

While carrying these primitive weapons, the fingers closed around the
centre of gravity, that naturally being more convenient, but when about
to hurl them, the hand was shoved further toward the head.  Both
natives thus shifted their right hands, though, they still held them
horizontal at their thighs, from which position they could be brought
aloft in the twinkling of an eye.

The white man walked slowly.  The left hand, which supported his rifle,
remained motionless, but removing the right from his revolver, he
continued making signs, whose friendly meaning was so obvious that it
was impossible for the natives to mistake it.

While approaching in this guarded manner, he Studied them with the
closest scrutiny.  Interesting under any circumstances, they were
vastly more so at this time.  What struck him in addition to the
characteristics already named, were their frowsy eyebrows and
glittering coal-black eyes.  These were unusually large and protruding.
The noses, instead of being broad and flat, like those of the native
Africans, were Roman in shape.  The mouths were wide, and, when they
spoke, he observed that the teeth which were displayed were black,
showing that a fashion prevailed among this unknown tribe similar to
that in vogue among many of the natives in the East Indies.

Now, Professor Grimcke was too experienced an explorer to walk directly
into danger, where there was no prospect of avoiding a desperate
encounter.  While eager to make friends with all the people whom he
met, he did not intend to assume any unnecessary risks.  The demeanor
of the natives tendered it certain they were hostile.  They made no
responsive signs to those of the white man, and the latter would have
checked himself half way, but for his suspicion that they were
mystified by his conduct and were undecided as to the precise thing to
do.

He not only heard their peculiar rumbling voices, but saw from the
movements of their lips and their glances in each other's faces, that
they were consulting as to what they should do.  The white man was
already so close that he could easily be reached by the bowman, and
there was little doubt that either of the others could hurl his
poisoned javelin the intervening distance.

The only way of defeating such a movement was for the white man to
secure "the drop" on them, but, in one sense that was impossible.
Unable to understand the words spoken, they were equally unacquainted
with the weapons of the pale face, and would, doubtless pay no heed to
the most threatening demonstration on his part.

"Take my advice and come back," called Jared Long; "keep your face
toward them and blaze away, and I'll do my part!"

Instead of adopting the suggestion of his friend, the Professor slowed
his pace, still making his gestures of good will.  However, when fifty
steps away, he came to a dead halt.

He had advanced three-fourths the distance, and, if the others were
willing to accept his offers, they should signify it by coming forward
and meeting him where he had stopped.

While moving forward in this guarded manner, Grimcke was prudent enough
to edge over toward the woods, which were now so close to his right
side as to be instantly available.  When he came to a stop also it was
near the trunk of a large tree, no more than a yard distant.

"The Professor is cunning," reflected Jared Long, watching every
movement; "he'll whisk behind the tree the instant one of them makes a
move.  Helloa! what's up now?"

To the astonishment of both white men the native with the bow shifted
it at this moment to his right hand, holding the arrow in place against
the string with the same hand, while the weapon was at his side.  Then
he moved a step or two, as if to meet the stranger.

"Look out!" called the vigilant New Englander, "that chap is up to some
deviltry."

He did not refer to him with the bow and arrow, but to one of the
others, who stealthily turned aside and vanished among the trees.
Being in the Professor's line of vision the latter observed the
suspicious movement, and it cannot be said that it added to his comfort.

Meanwhile the archer advanced, but with such tardy step that it was
evident he was timing his pace to that of his comrade who had so
stealthily entered the wood.  Convinced that his real peril lay among
those trees, Grimcke began a backward movement with such caution that
he hoped it would not be noticed by the native who was approaching with
a sluggish pace.

The forest, like all those in South America, was so dense that great
care was necessary for one to pick his way through it.  The Professor's
theory was that the savage with the spear would regulate his movements
on the theory that the white man would not stir from the place where he
had first halted.  He would thus aim to secure a position from which he
could hurl his javelin at him without detection.  Grimcke conceived
this was certain to take place, and, if he remained where he was,
nothing could save him from the treacherous assault.  It was a matter,
therefore, of self preservation that dictated the brief retreat with
the hope of thus disconcerting the savage.

The task which Grimcke had given himself was difficult indeed.  The
ground was unfavorable for the peculiar twitching movement which he
hoped would carry him out of danger.  He had gone barely a couple of
yards when the bowman evidently suspected something of the kind, for he
stopped short and stared inquiringly at the white man.

The latter extended his right hand as if to shake that of the savage,
who stood motionless, making no sign of pleasure or displeasure.
Indeed, he remained so fixed in his position that Grimcke was convinced
he was listening for the sound of the other miscreant stealing through
the wood.  He plainly saw the black eyes cast a single inquiring glance
in that direction.

"This is getting a little too threatening," reflected the Professor,
satisfied that the three natives were as venomous as so many serpents;
"at the first move war is declared."

His situation was so critical that he did not dare turn his head to
look behind him, but never was there a more welcome sound to him than
that made by the footsteps of the lank New Englander.

"Keep moving hack!" called Long, "but don't try to hide what you're
doing."

The Professor saw the sense of this advice and he followed it, lifting
his feet so high that the action was plainly seen, but doing so with a
certain dignity that was not lacking in impressiveness.  His aim was to
give the act the appearance of a strategic movement, as it may be
called.  It was not that he was afraid of the natives, but he was
seeking a better place from which to open hostilities against them.

This was the impression which he sought to give the fierce savages, and
whether he succeeded, or not was certain to become apparent within the
following five minutes.  He himself believed, the chances were against
the success of his plan.



CHAPTER III.

LIVELY WORK.

Now took place an unprecedented incident.

The air of comity, or at least neutrality, which brooded over the two
parties had given way to that of silent but intense hostility.  The
prowling movement of the native with the spear as he slipped into the
wood, the sudden advance of Jared Long, whose face became like a
thunder-cloud, when every hope of a friendly termination vanished, and
the abrupt halt of the bowman, showed that all parties had thrown off
the cloak of good will and become deadly enemies.

The third savage kept his place farther down the stream, his black eyes
fixed on the archer in front, while he doubtless was waiting for some
action on the part of his comrade who had stolen into the wood.  As has
been stated, he was nigh enough to hurl his javelin, so that both the
white men were too wise to eliminate him from the curiously involved
problem that confronted them.

The bowman having halted, stood a moment with his piercing black eyes
fixed on the nearest white man, as if seeking to read in his face the
meaning of his action or rather abrupt cessation of action.

"Professor," called Jared, "I'll attend to the one in front of you; but
look out for the scamp among the trees."

Grimcke was relieved to hear this, and had there been only the two
natives to confront, he would have been disturbed by no misgiving, but
there were signs that the third one down the stream was preparing to do
his part in the treacherous business.  He too began advancing, but
instead of doing so with the quick, angry stride of the New Englander,
he stepped slowly and softly, as if seeking to conceal his movement.

Grimcke would have been glad to turn the archer over to the care of
Long, but he was so frightfully close, that he did not dare do so.  A
moment's delay on the part of his friend would be fatal.  At the same
time, it was not to be forgotten that the most stealthy foe of all was
prowling among the trees on the right.

The Professor's hope, as has been explained, was that his own
retrogression had disconcerted the plans of this special miscreant for
whom, however, he kept a keen watch.

The archer still held his bow, with the arrow in place grasped by his
right hand, the long weapon resting against his hip.  Provided he was
right-handed, the bow would have to be shifted to his left hand, the
arrow drawn back with the right and the missile then launched at his
foe.  This, it would seem, involved enough action to give both Grimcke
and Long abundance of time in which to anticipate him.

But there remained the possibility that the savage was left-handed, in
which event, the necessary action on his part would be much less,
though sufficiently complicated to afford the white men abundance of
time to anticipate him.

The native _was_ left-handed, with a quickness that surpassed all
expectation, the bow was suddenly raised, the end of the arrow drawn
back and the missile driven directly at the breast of Grimcke.

At precisely the same instant, the latter's strained ear caught the
crackling of a twig, above the din of the rapids (which was much less
there than below), and something was discerned moving among the trees
on his right.  His frightened glance in that direction gave him a
glimpse of a dusky figure in the act of hurling his javelin.

Thus it was that the spearman and archer let fly at precisely the same
instant, and Jared Long, who was so anxious to help his friend, saw
only the deft movements of the archer.  Grimcke could not fire at both
in time to save himself, but he instinctively did the very best and
indeed the only thing that could be done.  Without moving his feet, he
dropped to a sitting posture, instantly popping up again like a
jack-in-the-box.

The movement took place at precisely the right instant, and both the
javelin and arrow whizzed over his head, without grazing him, but the
arrow shot by Long's temple so close that he blinked and for an instant
believed he had been hit.

But, like the hunter when bitten by a rattlesnake, he determined to
crush his assailant and to attend to his hurt afterwards.

The sharp crack of the Winchester, the shriek of the smitten savage and
his frenzied leap in the air, followed in such instant succession that
they seemed simultaneous.  When the wretch went back on the ground he
was as dead as Julius Caesar.

A man can fire with amazing rapidity, when using a Winchester repeater,
but some persons are like cats in their own movements.  The New
Englander leveled his weapon as quickly as he could bring it to his
shoulder, but the native along the side of the Xingu had vanished as
though he never existed.

Whether he knew anything about fire-arms or not, he was quick to
understand that some kind of weapon in the hands of the white men had
knocked the bowman out of time, and he bounded among the trees at his
side, as though he, too, was discharged from the bow.  He was just
quick enough to escape the bullet that would have been after him an
instant later.

The moment Grimcke knew that he was safe from the javelin, which sped
over his head, he straightened up, and, still maintaining his removable
posture, discharged his gun at the point whence came the well-nigh
fatal missile.

But the shot was a blind one, for he did not see the native at the
instant of firing.  Nothing could have surpassed the alertness of these
strange savages.  The one with the javelin disappeared with the same
suddenness as did his brother down the bank, and, had the archer but
comprehended his danger he, too, would have escaped.

The affray roused the wrath of both Long and Grimcke.  They had offered
the hand of friendship, only to be answered with an attempt upon their
lives.  One of their assailants had eluded them, and the other would
have been an assailant had the opportunity been given.

"Let's shoot him too!"

He alluded to the man who hurled the javelin and who, so far as they
could see, was left without any weapon with which to defend himself.
In their natural excitement over their victory, the friends forgot
themselves for the moment.  Heedless of consequences, they dashed among
the trees, in pursuit of the savage who had flung his spear with
well-nigh fatal effect.

The undergrowth was frightfully tangled, and, as the first plunge, the
Professor went forward on his hands and knees.  The wonder was how Long
kept his feet; but it will be remembered that he was much more
attenuated than his companion, and seemed to have picked up a skill
elsewhere which now stood him well.

The moon was shining and despite the dense vegetation around him,
enough rays found their way to the ground to give him a partial view
for few paces in front.  He had not gone far when he caught a glimpse
of the dusky figure slipping through the undergrowth ahead, and at no
great distance.

Strange as it may seem, the impetuosity of the American caused him to
gain upon the terrified native, who, having flung his poisoned weapon,
was without the means of defending himself.  It was not in the nature
of things, however, that Long should overtake the fugitive, who was
more accustomed to making his way through such obstructions.  The first
burst of pursuit caused the white man to believe he would win in the
strange race, but the next minute he saw he was losing ground.

Determined that the wretch should not escape, he checked his pursuit
for an instant, and, bringing his Winchester to his shoulder, let fly.

But brief as was his halt, it give the savage time to make one terrific
bound which shut him almost from sight, and rendered the hasty aim of
Long so faulty that his intended victim was not so much as scratched.

Had the savage dashed deeper into the forest, he would have passed
beyond all peril at this moment, but he was seeking to do that which
Long did not discover until after discharging his gun.  He headed
toward the river, where he was first seen.  It must have been that he
was actuated by a desire to go to the help of his comrade, or more
likely he was anxious to recover his javelin, in which he placed
unbounded faith, and believed he could do it without undue risk.

Whatever his purpose, he quickly burst from the forest, while Long, who
was pushing furiously after him, discovered from the increasing light
in front, that he was close to the Xingu again.

Suspecting his purpose, the white man tore forward at the most reckless
speed, and, before the native could recover his weapon and dart back to
cover, he himself had dashed into the moonlight.

"Now, we've got him!" he shouted; "there's no getting away _this_ time!"

This exultant exclamation was uttered to a form which appeared on his
right, and who he was certain was the Professor; but to his
consternation, as he turned his head, he saw that it was the other
native, javelin in hand!



CHAPTER IV.

HOW IT ENDED.

It will be recalled that the Professor started in pursuit of the flying
native with as much ardor as his friend, but, less skilful than he, he
had taken but a step or two, when an obstruction flung him to the
ground with discouraging emphasis.

Concluding that he had undertaken a futile task, he hastily climbed to
his feet to await the return of Long who, he was satisfied, would
attempt only a brief pursuit.

Remembering the javelin which had whizzed so near his crown, he cast
about for a moment and picked it up from the earth where it lay but a
few feet distant.  As he balanced it in his hand, he observed that it
was about six feet in length, was made entirely of wood, which was
heavy and as hard and smooth as polished ebony.

The light of the moon was like that of the day itself.  It would have
been easy to read ordinary print by it.  He had no trouble, therefore,
in closely examining the novel implement of war.  As he suspected, the
point was made of stone or flint, ground almost to needle-like
sharpness and securely fastened in place by a fine tendon wound around
the portion of the stick that held the harder part.  This was covered
with a gummy substance extending to the end.

This he was satisfied was among the most virulent of substances known
to toxicology.  A puncture of the skin was sure to be fatal unless some
remedy, of whose existence he held no suspicion, was instantly
obtainable.

He had set down his rifle white examining the weapon, but quickly
caught it up again, still retaining the javelin in his right band.  He
had been startled by the sound of the terrific threshing among the
trees on his right.

He supposed that his friend was coming back, but, glancing toward the
point where he expected him to appear, he was amazed to see the third
native, who whisked off before Long could draw a bead on him, step from
the wood not twenty paces away.  His back was toward the Professor,
and, strangely enough, he did not observe the white man--an oversight
that never could have occurred, but for the tumult in the undergrowth
which held his attention.

Grimcke had hardly caught sight of him, when the other native came
flying to view, so astonishing his waiting comrade that he stood a
moment irresolute after the white pursuer burst into sight.

Brief as was this pause, it gave the Professor time for some
exceedingly fine work.  He uttered a shout which caused the native to
turn his affrighted gaze behind him, just in time to observe the white
man with javelin raised and apparently in the very act of launching it
at him.

The savage knew what a prick from that frightful thing meant, and with
a howling shriek he ducked his head as though he had caught its whizz
through the air, and shot among the trees with as much celerity as his
companion had shown in coming from them.

Neither of the explorers wished to slay the natives, no matter how
savage, unless compelled to do so in actual self-defence.  Long had
recovered from his first burst of fury, and, though the Professor could
have sunk the javelin in the naked body, he withheld it, not unwilling
that his assailant, now that he had started to flee, should escape.

The one who had so foolishly come back to the river side was left in
the worst possible situation, for both his enemies stood between him
and the sheltering forest and he was defenceless.  He was at their
mercy, and such people as those natives neither gave nor expected
quarter, when engaged in their savage warfare.

The fellow acted like a bewildered animal.  The white strangers were
standing a few paces apart, so as to form the two angles of a triangle,
while he made the third.  The nearest point to the forest way midway
between Grimcke and Long, as was apparent to the savage, who was fairly
cornered.

Had the Xingu behind him been as placid as farther above or below the
rapids, he would not have hesitated to plunge into its waters, trusting
to his skill in swimming; but, to dive into the raging current would
have been as certain destruction as for a man to undertake to swim
unaided through the whirlpool below Niagara.

Grimcke and Long were not unwilling to torment the fellow, because of
his cowardly attempt a few minutes before, though, as has been stated,
neither intended to do him any special harm.

The affrighted native crouched down, as though seeking to draw himself
into such a narrow compass that the terrible javelin could not reach
him.  Despite the proof he had seen of the power of the civilized
weapons, he held his own in greater dread.

Grimcke raised the spear, as if poising it aloft to hurl at the savage.
The latter uttered a howl of terror, and, with his head still low,
attempted to dart between the strangers.  Naturally he shied as far
away as possible from the Professor, and thereby brought himself almost
close enough to touch Jared.

"That's what I want," muttered the latter, hurriedly concentrating his
strength in his good right leg, and delivering the most powerful kick
at his command.

It was well aimed and most effectively landed.  The Professor was sure
he heard the "dull thud," and always insisted that the recipient was
lifted clear of the ground and propelled among the trees with an
impetus sufficient to break his neck.

"There!" exclaimed the New Englander, looking around, "I guess I'm
through!"

"I am sure that last fellow hopes so," said the Professor with a laugh,
"for it's safe to conclude he was never handled with such vigor before."

The levity which both felt over their triumphant routing of their
assailants was checked by the sight of the stark, lifeless form on the
ground, only a few paces distant.

They had the best plea in the world for shooting the fierce savage, but
the consciousness that the necessity existed and that the deed had been
done, rendered them serious and thoughtful.

There was reason for believing the other natives would watch them from
the forest, and the one who retained his javelin was likely to seek the
chance to use it again.  He certainly had strong temptation to do so,
with the prospect of little risk to himself.

Besides, as the explorers followed the rapids, their uproar increased
to that extent that the savages could move freely without danger of any
noise being overheard.

The most prudent thing to do seemed for the friends to walk so briskly
as to disconcert any plan their enemies might have formed.  This was
quite easy, because of the open space, already mentioned, as lining
both banks of the Xingu.

Fortunately the distance to camp was not far, and, with the hurried
pace adopted by the Professor and Long, it ought not to occupy more
than a few minutes, provided no interruption occurred.  Strange
emotions tortured both, as they kept their eyes fixed on the dark wood
at their side, from which they expected the sweep of the fearful
javelin, whose touch was death.

The keenest hearing could not detect the faint whizz, while the roar of
the rapids was in their ears, and they had to depend, therefore, on
their eyes, which promised to be of little more service.

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.



CHAPTER V.

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.

The young man's heart gave a quicker throb than usual when he caught
the sound of something like a shout, and observed a faint light in the
path in front.  It was apparent that the latter made an abrupt turn,
and the cause of the noise was but a brief distance beyond.

Fred reached back his hand and touched his companion, as a warning for
the most extreme care on his part, but the admonition was not needed.
Johnston understood the situation too well.

Sure enough, less than a couple of rods further, and the path turned
almost at right angles.  Passing guardedly around this, the explorers
came upon a striking scene.

There was an open space with an area of perhaps three or four acres; it
was as clear of trees as a stretch of western prairie.  It was
triangular in shape, the boundary being so regular that there could be
no doubt it was artificially made.

Around three sides of this space were erected huts or cabins, the
excellence and similarity or their structure suggesting that the
natives were the superior in intelligence of any that had yet been
encountered during the ascent of the Xingu.  The huts were a dozen feet
square, half as high, and each had a broad open entrance in the middle
of the front.  They seemed to be built of logs or heavy limbs, the
roofs being flat and composed of the branches of trees, overlaid with
leaves and earth.

In the middle of the open square was a tall pole, like an immense
flag-staff.  The light which had been noticed sometime before by the
whites was the full flood of the moon's rays, there being no other kind
of illumination, so far as they could ascertain, in the native village.

The huge pole was without any limbs or appurtenances, but around the
space were gathered a score of figures in rapid motion, the meaning of
whose actions was a puzzle to the white spectators, until they studied
them.

Then it was seen they were struggling together, and the conclusion was
that they were engaged in some kind of a rough sport, for all the rest
of the savages were seated in front of their huts watching the singular
spectacle.

Naturally they ought to have come closer, and the fact that they did
not, suggested that they kept back to give the actors plenty of room
for their performances.

Not the least impressive feature of the scene was the profound silence
which marked it.  The shout that first arrested the attention of Ashman
and his companion, must have been some kind of a signal, probably
announcing the opening of the proceedings.

It was evident that the villagers in the square were struggling hard,
for their forms were interlocked and they were divided into two lines,
which swayed back and forth as one gained or yielded ground.

"It is a wrestling bout," whispered Ashman to his companion, and then,
reflecting that their situation was dangerous, the two stopped from the
path among the trees, where they would not be noticed by any passing
near.

Suddenly something like a groan was heard from the body of contesting
men.  Almost at the same instant, a command was shouted from the
further end of the square, where part of the spectators were gathered.
The two lines fell apart, and ran silently and swiftly to opposite
points a hundred feet distant, where they abruptly halted as if in
obedience to some signal and faced each other.

This was stirring enough, but that which riveted the eyes of the white
men was the sight of three figures lying prone on the ground, at the
foot of the pole.

They were as motionless as so many stones.  There could be no mistaking
the significance of the sight: they were dead.

It may have been some species of sport in which the actors were engaged
for the entertainment of the spectators, but, if so, there was an awful
earnestness about it, for the stake for which they strove was human
life.

The two lines faced each other but a moment, when another shout rang
out, and they rushed together once more with the fury of two cyclones.

By this time, our friends had discovered that no member of the parties
was furnished with any weapon other than those provided by nature.

Fearful then must have been the struggle, which had already terminated
in the death of three of the contestants.

But they were at it again with the fierceness of so many cougars
fighting in defence of their young.

The result was terrifying.  The contest had lasted but a few minutes,
and already a couple were on the earth, when one of the combatants,
with a cry of pain dashed in almost a direct line toward the spot where
our friends were hiding.

Had he not been overtaken and dragged back, he would have been upon
them before they could get out of the way, and it is not difficult to
conjecture what would have followed.

The miserable wretch, however, was seized on the very edge of the wood
by four others and carried writhing and resisting back to the space.
There he was flung down, and, being unable to rise, the others leaped
upon him and in a few minutes all was over.  He was added to the list
that were already _hors du combat_.

Ashman and Johnston had received a shock which drove away all interest
in the fearful spectacle.  Their escape was exceedingly narrow and they
could scarcely hope for such good fortune again.

Fred touched his friend and whispered to him.  Immediately, they began
stealing from the dangerous spot.



CHAPTER VI.

ALONG THE FOREST PATH.

If any further proof were needed of the delicacy and danger of the
situation of the white men, it came the next minute, when, as they were
in the act of stepping back into the trail, the sailor caught the arm
of his friend and checked him.

No need of speaking, for Ashman had detected the peril at the same
instant.

Two natives were stealing like phantoms along the path, from the
direction of the river and going toward the village.

Had they been ten seconds later, the foremost would have collided with
the young explorer.

The latter held his breath, and placed his hand on his revolver,
believing a fight was inevitable.

So it would have been, had not the attention of the savages been
absorbed by the scene in the square, of which they caught sight a pace
or two before coming opposite the watchers.

They strode directly onward, and swung across the open space, swerving
enough to one side to avoid the struggling lines, and moving on until
they reached the fringe of spectators beyond.  There they could no
longer be identified, and probably took their places among those who
were enjoying the cruel spectacle.

Ashman waited a brief while beside the path, fearful that other natives
might be coming; but, when the minutes passed without their appearance,
he resumed picking his way back, and quickly stood erect in the narrow
opening, which he felt had been followed too far from the Xingu.

There was no reason to suspect that any of the natives knew of the
presence of the mysterious strangers so near them, but since they
seemed to have a remarkable disposition to be on the move, our friends
felt it would not be safe to relax their caution for a single instant.

While they did not apprehend a direct pursuit, there was a probability
that some parties might be moving along the trail behind them, while
they had seen enough to convince them of the danger from the front.
Ashman, therefore, whispered to his companion to keep special guard
against an approach from the rear, while he would be equally alert in
guarding the front.

The two kept so near that they could have reached each other by simply
extending the hand.

They had no more than fairly started on their withdrawal from the spot,
when Johnston touched the arm of his friend, who instantly halted to
learn the cause.

"I believe some of 'em are following us," said Johnston.

Fred listened, but his straining ear could detect nothing to warrant
such an alarming conclusion, and he so stated.

The sailor became convinced that possibly he was mistaken.  There is no
law governing noises at night, and it might be that he had misjudged
the rustling of a branch or possibly the stealthy footsteps of some
wild animal.

Not entirely convinced, however, that his companion was mistaken, Fred
once more resumed the advance, trying to perform the difficult task of
giving as much attention to the rear as the front.

If the savages suspected the presence of others, they would be likely
to tread so lightly that their footfalls could not be heard; but
inasmuch as neither of the whites could believe they had even the most
shadowy knowledge of them, they relied more on hearing than sight.

Suddenly Fred started and almost uttered an exclamation.  In his
nervous, apprehensive state, he was sure that one of their dusky foes
had leaped from the side of the path and was crouching in front.

He drew his pistol and waited for the assault, which he was confident
would come the next moment; but the seconds passed and all remained
profoundly still.

With his weapon ready for instant use, he advanced a pace or two,
touching the sailor as a command for him to remain motionless; but the
chivalrous fellow would not obey, and was close behind him, when he
stooped down and placed his hand on a piece of decayed limb that had
fallen into the path.

"What a mistake," muttered Fred, with a sigh, as he shoved it aside
with his foot, explaining its nature to the wondering Johnston.

But it was only simple prudence to maintain unceasing vigilance, and he
did not permit the error to lessen his watchfulness.  It was rather the
reverse.

But the explorers were threading their way through a labyrinth of
peril, the like of which they had never encountered before.

Fred had not gone a hundred yards further, when his companion once more
caught his arm, and he turned about as before to learn the cause.

"What have you heard?" he asked, with his mouth almost against the ear
of the other.

"There are some of 'em behind us, certain sure!"

"How do you know there are more than one?"

"By the sound--there!"

The amazement of the two may be understood, when they not only detected
the sound of footfalls, but discovered that instead of being at the
rear as both thought, they were in front!

A party of natives were approaching from the Xingu, and the keener
hearing of Johnston first discovered them.

The whites had stopped near a spot where a few rays of moonlight fell
upon the trail, giving them a faint but needed view of the direction
from which the danger threatened.

Neither spoke again, but with the utmost care and noiselessness, they
stepped aside from the path and crouched among the undergrowth.

They had barely time to ensconce themselves in their new position, when
the footfalls sounded more distinctly than before, and something in the
nature of an exclamation was heard from one of the approaching savages.

It sounded more like the grunt of a pig than anything the listeners
could call to mind, and Ashman feared it was notice of one warrior to
his companions that he had discovered something amiss.

But if such were the fact, the natives would have stopped, while the
cat-like steps were more audible than before, though the wonder to the
watchers was that the parties continued invisible.

The eyes of both remained fixed on the faintly illuminated space, where
they expected to catch sight of them, but the straining gaze failed to
detect the most shadowy form.

Ashman was just beginning to suspect some strange mistake had been
made, when he suddenly saw the form of a tall savage with bushy head
and a javelin in his hand, glide like a shadow into the darkness in
front.  A moment after, a second followed, then a third, fourth and
fifth, the last carrying a long-bow, and all plainly seen by the whites
at the side of the trail.

A few minutes later, Fred once more took the advance, reflecting that
they were as likely to meet more of the natives as to have them
overtake them.

The mystery was where they had come from in the first place.  They
could not have entered the trail at the camp where Ashman and Johnston
had started on their little exploring enterprise.  It looked as though
they were hiding among the trees at the time the canoe approached the
land, and may have followed the explorers soon after they started along
the path with the purpose of cutting off their retreat.  If such should
prove to be the case, Fred felt that not only he and his companion were
in danger, but all the rest were liable to be attacked by these
natives, who, as has been stated, were the most athletic that had been
encountered since leaving the Amazon.

"Fred," whispered the sailor a little later, "they've turned back and
are following us again."

"Are you sure of it?"

"There's no mistake about it."

Fred was debating whether they should not turn again from the path, but
he reflected that the natives having discovered the trick played on
them, would be likely to defeat such a piece of strategy.

Before he could decide upon the best course, Johnston whispered:

"Run! it's the only chance we've got!"



CHAPTER VII

DESPERATE WORK.

It seemed to be the only course left.  Whether it was or not, it was
too late to try anything else.  That the natives had discovered the
explorers was proven by several low, tremulous whistles which at that
instant sounded on the night.

It was risky running along the dark trail, even though illuminated here
and there by the rays of the moon: but, feeling that the situation was
desperate, Ashman broke into a swift lope, with Johnston at his heels,
urging him to make haste.

"If they come too close," thought the young man, "we can dodge among
the trees again and pick our way back to the river as best we
can--helloa! what's that?"

Well might he ask himself the question, for the whizz of something
close to his ear left no doubt that one of their pursuers had hurled a
poisoned javelin at them.

An instant after he heard a faint but peculiar noise which he could not
describe nor identify.  Johnston at the same instant uttered a
suppressed exclamation, not intended for his ears, and he called out in
a recklessly loud voice,

"Into the woods, quick!"

Ashman did not hesitate, but darted to his right, halting after a
couple of steps, through fear of betraying himself.

"Where are you?" asked Johnston, speaking more guardedly.

His groping hand touched Ashman, who seized it and silently drew him
forward, neither speaking again.

Even in that trying moment, the younger was impressed by the
singularity of his friend's actions, though there was no opportunity to
ask an explanation.

The savages could be plainly heard, as they hurried past, evidently
believing they would overtake the fugitives the next minute and certain
of locating them, wherever they might be.

Sure enough, they had not gone fifty feet, when they detected the trick
and turned about to catch the whites before they could steal any
distance from the trail.

"We must leave," said Ashman; "we are too close to the path, and they
are sure to find us."

Johnston made no answer, and, instead of following him, sank heavily to
the ground, with a groan.

"Great heaven! what is the matter, Aaron?" gasped his friend.

"I'm done for," was the feeble reply; "never mind me:
look--out--for--for--good-bye!"

Struck almost dumb by an awful fear, Fred forgot the natives for the
time and stooped over his friend.  It was as he suspected; the poor
fellow had been struck full in the back by one of the poisoned
javelins.  The exclamation which he uttered at the moment of receiving
the wound was that which puzzled Ashman.  The sailor had withdrawn the
weapon, and the wound bled but little.  The young man, however,
identified it on the instant.

"Aaron, rouse up!" he called, shaking his shoulder; "fight off your
drowsiness!"

He suddenly ceased, for at that moment, he realized that his companion
was dead.  Thus fearfully did the virus do its work.

Before Ashman, could do more than rally from his shock, a muttered
exclamation at his elbow announced that the savages had located him.

"Curse you!" he exclaimed, whipping out his revolver and letting fly in
the dark at the point where he knew several of his foes were standing,
waiting for a chance to hurl their missiles at him.

A screech announced that the bullet had found its mark, and he followed
it with a couple more shots, which inflicted wounds, even if they
caused no mortal ones.

The effect of this volley was to throw the natives into consternation
and panic.  There is nothing go appalling as an unknown peril, and the
flashes of fire lighting up the gloom sent them flying toward their
village.

The path was open for the young man's escape, but could he leave the
body of his friend behind?

Alas! it was that all he could do, and unless that were done within the
next few minutes, it would be too late.

Stooping over, he grasped the shoulders of the body and drew it further
from the path, in the hope that it would remain unnoticed.  Then he
loosed the Winchester from the death grip, removed the revolver, and
stepping back into the trail, started on his sorrowful return to his
friends.

"I wish they would follow me," he muttered; glaring into the gloom
behind him; "the man they have killed is worth more than the whole
tribe of miscreants."

He was in a savage mood, and, despite the fearful danger from the
poisoned arrows and spears, he yearned for another chance at the
wretches who fought so unfairly.

He held a couple of loaded and repeating Winchesters, with which he
could pour the most destructive of volleys among the savages, and he
longed for the opportunity; but the profound silence which followed the
fierce encounter was so striking that to Fred it all seemed like some
horrid vision of sleep.

But he dare not wait.  These wretches had come from the direction of
the Xingu, and he was apprehensive of trouble at the camp, where the
three native attendants had been left.  His services might be needed at
that very moment.

He did not run, but advanced with the stealth of an American Indian
stealing upon an enemy.  It seemed to him his senses were strung to a
higher pitch than ever before, for he had not walked far, when he
became aware that some one was ahead of him, in the path and travelling
in the same direction.

As yet he could catch no glimpse of the stranger, but there could be no
mistake about the stealthy tread.  He was sure, too, that sooner or
later the broken rays of moonlight would give him the sight for which
he was waiting.

"Yonder is a spot where he will betray himself," he added a moment
later, as he observed the faint light ahead.

Instead of following on, Fred paused and laying the rifle of his dead
friend on the ground he knelt and sighted his own piece as best he
could in the darkness.  Where the hunter is placed in such a situation
he instinctively _feels_ how to aim his weapon.

He was not kept long waiting.  A dark form became dimly outlined in the
faint moonlight and an instant later the infuriated Ashman fired.

The rasping screech which followed was enough to curdle one's blood,
but the young man only uttered an exclamation of disgust.  He had
driven a ball through the vitals of a South American cougar, instead of
through one of the natives, a score of whom he gladly would have wiped
out of existence had he possessed the power.

The shot could not have been better aimed, had the sun been shining.
The furious beast dropped in the middle of the path, rolled over on his
back, clawed the air for a moment or two, and then became motionless.
Had not Ashman been on the lookout when he reached the spot, he would
have stumbled over the carcass.

"It is only so much ammunition thrown away," he muttered, again glaring
into the gloom behind him, in the hope of catching sight or sound of
his pursuers; but they were too thoroughly panic-stricken by the
frightful experience a few minutes before to trouble the white man for
some time to come.

The dull roar of the rapids grew plainer, and, increasing his pace, he
had but to walk a short distance when the clear moonlight, unobstructed
by cloud or vegetation, was discerned where the path debouched from the
forest.

The feeling that something had gone amiss in the camp during his
absence was so strong with Ashman that he slowed his walk and stopped
before emerging from the wood.  He paused, however, at a point where he
had a full view not only of the camp but of the river and dark shore
beyond.

The sight which met his gaze was not calculated to soothe his nerves.
From some cause Bippo, Pedros and Quincal seemed to have been seized
with a panic, hardly less than that produced among their countrymen by
the discharge of the firearms of Ashman.  They were in the act of
shoving the canoe back into the water in such haste that there could be
no doubt they intended to flee from some enemy that had driven all
thoughts of resistance out of their minds.

"What the mischief are you doing?" shouted the young man, dashing from
cover and hurrying down the bank to intercept them before they could
get away.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE LAND OF MYSTERY.

The peremptory tones of Fred Ashman rang out loud and clear above the
roar of the rapids and caused the servants to halt at the moment the
canoe was shoved into the water.  They looked up with frightened
expressions and awaited his approach.

"What do you mean?" he demanded as he drew near.

Bippo, who was by far the brightest of the three, had shown a wonderful
readiness in picking up a knowledge of the English tongue.  He was so
much superior in that respect to his companions, that they invariably
left to him the duty of conversing with their masters.

"_Dey're_ ober dere," he replied, pointing to the other shore.

"Who's over there?"

"Perfess'r and Long man; we seed 'em, dey motion for us to hurry ober
to 'em."

This was astounding news and Ashman was mystified.

"How did they get over there?  And why did they leave camp?"

"Don' know; seed 'em; want us hurry."

Without waiting to reflect upon the strange information, and recalling
that more of the natives were likely to issue from the path at any
moment, the young man stepped into the canoe, and, catching up one of
the paddles, lent his help in propelling the craft across the foamy
Xingu.

"Where Johns'n?" asked Bippo, when the middle of the stream was
reached, and without ceasing his toil with the paddle.

"The natives killed him with a poisoned spear; you will never see him
again."

Bippo made no reply, but communicated the startling tidings to his
companions, who muttered their amazement.  It was apparent that the
news had added to their panic, and they bent to their task with such
vigor that the boat rapidly approached the other bank.

Fred was asking himself, that if his friends had managed to get across
the river, why it was they were not in sight.  He scrutinized the dark
forest and the line of moonlit space in the expectation, of seeing them
come forth to welcome him, but not a soul was in sight.

He did not know what to make of it.  There was something so uncanny
about the whole business, that a strange distrust and uneasiness took
possession of him.  It could not be that the natives had deceived him
and were anxious to place the Xingu between them and the fierce savages
who had handled the whites so roughly.  Bippo and his comrades had
shown a loyalty from the first which gave their employers the fullest
confidence in them.

The canoe was almost against the bank, where something of the
bewilderment of Ashman seemed to enter the head of Bippo.  He spoke to
his companions and the three ceased paddling.  Ashman had done so a
moment before and was scanning the bank with a searching but vain
scrutiny.

"You must have been mistaken," he said in a low voice; "they could not
have swam the river and they had no other way of crossing."

"We seed 'em--motion dat way," and the native beckoned with his right
arm, just as a person would do when signaling another to approach.

"I can't understand it," replied Ashman, with a shake of his head.

His doubts were confirmed, when he recalled that the professor and
Jared Long had gone up the bank of the river with the purpose of
learning the extent of the rapids.  It followed, therefore, that if
they had made their way to the other shore, it must have been at a
point so far above the angry waters that there was no danger of being
caught in the furious current.

He was turning over these troublous thoughts, when Bippo, who was
facing the bank they had left, uttered an expression of dismay and
extended his arm toward the shore behind them.

Ashman turned his head, and there in the moonlight he saw Professor
Grimcke and the New Englander standing on the land and motioning to
them to return.

"Yes--dat de way he do--he move arm like _dat_," said Bippo; "we hurry
to go to him, den he ain't here--but _dere_."

Ashman could not doubt that the servant believed the extraordinary
assertion he had just made, and such being the case, the startling
truth was manifest; they had seen two strangers whom they mistook for
their own friends, and these strangers had beckoned them to paddle the
canoe to the other shore where they were awaiting them.

If such were the fact--and he did not doubt it--a new mystery
confronted him.

Who were the white men and strangers? and why had they disappeared when
approached by the canoe and its occupants?

Ashman ordered the servants to turn the craft about and return to the
shore they had left with all speed.  While doing so, and while Grimcke
and Long were doubtless wondering what had got into the heads of the
others, the young man wrought himself into a most uncomfortable
condition of mind.

He questioned Bippo more particularly as to the appearance and actions
of the strangers.  It was clear that he, as well as the other two,
still believed the couple on the opposite bank were Grimcke and Long;
though when reminded that it was impossible that they could have
crossed and recrossed the stream in such a brief time, and without any
means except that of swimming, they only shook their heads, signifying
that, though they could not explain _that_ feature of the strange
business, they would not yield their belief.

Ashman asked further, directing his question to each of the natives in
turn, whether they saw the parties plainly enough to make sure they
were white men.  The servants were positive on this point, adding the
distracting statement that they were dressed precisely like the two
absent members of the little company, and that each carried a rifle as
they did.

"Same ones--same ones; don't know how cross riber, but allee same do
so," repeated Bippo, with a grin.

By this time the swiftly moving canoe was well on the way to the camp
which it had left so abruptly, and, a minute later, Ashman sprang out
and grasped the hand of each of his friends in turn.

In a few words he explained the extraordinary incidents of the last
half hour, receiving in return the story of the experience of the
Professor and his companion.  The latter were deeply touched by the
loss of Johnston.  Danger tends to draw the members of a party closely
together, and, despite the peculiar disposition of the sailor, the
three felt a deep attachment for him.  They would have faced any danger
in his behalf, but the time had passed for that, and they could only
mourn the loss of such a valuable comrade.

"But what about this story that Bippo tells?"

Before a reply could be made, the native approached, with his peculiar
grin.

"How you cross riber?--why you come back 'gin?  Why you no stay ober
dere when we hurry to go to you?"

"Bippo, you are mistaken," replied the Professor, with all the
earnestness at his command.  "We went up this side of the stream, and
have not been on the other side since dark.  When we came back and saw
that you were not in the camp, we thought you had all been killed."

The native grinned more than ever, and shook his head.

"De Purfes'r funny man--he make laugh."  And he walked back to his
companions with an unshakeable belief in the story given to Fred Ashman
when he dashed in such excitement from the wood.

"Bippo believes what he has told us," said Long, who had studied the
fellow closely; "and it follows that he and the others _did_ see a
couple of white men."

"I imagined," remarked Grimcke with something like regret in his tones,
"that we were the first of our race to reach this spot; but it is hard
in these days to find any place on the globe where some white person
had not been before us."

"If there are a couple of them over there," said Ashman, scanning the
opposite bank, "they ought to be friends; and, after signaling to our
servants to cross, it is inexplainable that they should withdraw from
sight as they did."

"We can depend on _one_ thing," added the Professor; "we haven't seen
the last of them.  I would be glad to believe them friends, but their
actions are unsatisfactory.  I am inclined to think that the cause of
their withdrawing was your entrance into the canoe.  For some reason
they wished to have nothing to do with any of us."

"It may be that since we are suspicious of them," said Fred, "they feel
the same toward us, and are unwilling to make our acquaintance until
after reconnoiterin' us.  Helloa! what's up now?"

This question was caused by the action of Bippo, who, trembling in
every limb, and with the appearance of a person overcome with terror,
pointed to the forest behind them.



CHAPTER IX.

A NATIVE HERCULES.

The savages that had shown such pluck in the instances described, now
gave another striking proof of their courage.

At the moment the mystified explorers were discussing the strange
appearance and actions of the white men, more than twenty of the
athletic barbarians issued as stealthily as phantoms from the trail
leading from the forest and crouched along the edge of the timber.

Their silence added impressiveness to the singular scene and prevented
their movements being observed except by Bippo, who was so terrified
that he could only tremble and point at them.

They were partly hidden by the shadow which put out a short distance
from the fringe of the wood, but there could be no doubt of their
hostile intentions.  They assumed the form of a line, somewhat after
the manner of the combatants in the square of the native village.  This
was to give free play to their arms in flinging their javelins.

The occasion was one in which the fate of the explorers depended upon
their promptness and bravery.  Anything like timidity or hesitation
meant sure destruction, and the whites knew it.

"Into the boat!" commanded Ashman, addressing Bippo and his friends.

The words were like an electric shock to the helpers, who instantly
clambered into the canoe and lay flat behind the luggage, where they
were safe from the poisoned missiles that would soon be flying through
the air.

Those natives, with their crude weapons, were only incumbrances in a
crisis like the present.

The whites exchanged but a word or two and then opened the ball.

A savage, evidently the leader, and one who probably now saw the whites
for the first time, had the audacity to step forward a couple of paces,
and with a yell of defiance, raised his spear over his head.

Before he could launch the missile Jared Long sent a bullet through
him, and then, shifting the muzzle of his Winchester toward the line of
dusky figures, he blazed away as fast as he could sight the weapon and
pull the trigger.

At the same instant the Professor and Ashman opened, and the
bombardment which followed was enough to strike terror to the hearts of
a hundred men.

It was more than the savages could stand, but, great as was their
panic, most of them hurled one or two javelins apiece at the white men
who stood fearlessly erect and combated them.  They had come from their
village prepared for a fight, and each warrior was provided with
several of the poisoned missiles.

Before the explorers had emptied the magazines of their Winchesters not
a live foe was left.  The affrighted survivors, shrieking with terror,
scrambled hastily back among the trees, some of them dragging the dead
bodies, so that the spot was freed of the dusky miscreants with as much
suddenness as it had been occupied by them.

There were plenty of shots left, and, after the disappearance of the
savages, the whites fired into the woods, where they had vanished, not
with the expectation of accomplishing anything more than adding to the
panic.

When it was sure the wretches were gone, our friends made their
preparations for leaving the spot, for nothing was clearer than that
such was the wisest step to take.

It will be borne in mind that all the trouble had taken place on the
left bank of the Xingu, no savages having been observed on the western
bank.  The daring of the savages could not be questioned.  They had
faced death repeatedly, and now, that they had the strongest of all
motives--revenge--to prompt them, they were sure to use every means
possible to bring about the ruin of the whites and their three native
companions.

The forest, extending so close to the river, was a constant menace, for
it afforded the best kind of shelter.  Indeed, had the savages been
less courageous and kept among the trees, taking a stealthy shot as the
chance offered, they would have had a much better chance of doing what
they wished and with less risk to themselves.

The javelins flung in blind desperation went wide of their mark, with
the exception of one which whizzed over the canoe within a few inches
of Bippo's head.  The fellow was peeping furtively above the luggage,
and heard the whizz of the missile passing fearfully close.  He
instantly ducked with such emphasis that he almost broke his nose
against the bottom of the craft.

Striking the water beyond, the spear sank as abruptly as if it were a
cannon ball.

The belief of our friends was that the troublesome natives were
entirely confined to the left bank, though it was not likely they
refrained from crossing so narrow a stream as the Xingu at its upper
portion.

If the savages had been slow to learn from their first experience with
the white men, there could be no doubt that the valuable lesson of the
last encounter would not be lost upon them.  The space between the edge
of the wood and the margin of the river was so slight that it was the
easiest thing in the world for one of them to launch his javelin with
terrific force across it, and they would do so before morning, if the
chance were given them.

If the other bank were reached, the savages would be easily detected in
the bright moonlight, if they attempted to swim across or used some of
their own boats.  The only way in which they could avoid detection
would be by crossing above or below this point.

They would hardly ascend the Xingu for this purpose, since the rapids
would oblige them to travel a long way, and the place of ferryage,
therefore, was likely to be below the campfire.

Such were the views of the whites, as they shoved the canoe into the
stream, and stepping within, seized the paddles, which the helpers were
too frightened to use effectively, while so near the dreaded shore.

Fred Ashman had taken but a few strokes when he handed the implement to
Bippo and ordered him to use it.  Then, resuming his Winchester, he
faced the land, half suspecting they would not be allowed to reach the
other side without some demonstration on the part of their fierce
antagonists.

Time was of the first importance, and all the paddles in the craft were
plied with the utmost possible vigor, each yard passed adding to the
hope that hostilities were over for the time.

Probably three-fourths of the distance was accomplished, when a low
exclamation from Ashman caused all to cease paddling and gaze at the
shore which he was watching with such interest.

The most gigantic savage yet seen had emerged from the forest trail,
but instead of advancing to the river's edge, he halted just far enough
from the wood to allow the moonlight to inclose him.  He was thus in
almost as plain-sight as if it were mid-day.

He stood in silent contemplation of the strangers that had invaded his
dominions and given his people such a dear lesson.  Confident that he
could accomplish no harm, even if he wished to try it, Ashman refrained
from firing, while the company surveyed him with a feeling akin to
admiration.

He was over six feet in height and of massive proportions.  He would
have been an ugly customer in a tussle where the conditions were equal,
and Ashman could not forbear the thought that he was one of the
contestants in the frightful sport he had witnessed near the village.
If so, there was little doubt that he was hailed the champion.  It may
have been that he had hastened along the forest path, burning with a
desire to assail the mysterious beings who had used his countrymen so
ill, and he was filled with chagrin and disappointment that he had
arrived too late.

But there was no end to the fancies that might be formed concerning
him.  That there was little imagination about Bippo was shown by his
timid request to his masters to shoot the savage.  To Bippo the
elimination of a single enemy of such formidable mien was a
consummation devoutly to be prayed for.  But the Professor reminded the
native that they only slew in self-defense.

All at once, the herculean savage was seen to make a motion of his arm,
and before the act could be understood, the terrified Bippo called out
that he was about to throw his javelin.  At the same instant he and his
two companions cowered in the bottom of the boat, where they were
abundantly protected.

"The poor fellow is disappointed," laughed Ashman, "and he must show
his anger, even if it requires the loss of one of his----"

Something like the flitting of a bird's wing whisked so close to the
speaker's face that he involuntarily threw back his head.  At the same
instant, a heavy javelin crashed through the side of the boat, as if it
were cardboard, and splashed out of sight in the water beyond.

The missile of the gigantic savage had passed between Ashman and the
Professor, missing both by a few inches.

The young man, like a flash, brought his rifle to his shoulder and
sighted at the savage who was still in plain sight, as if defying the
whites to do their worst.

But Ashman did not pull the trigger.  Lowering his weapon, he said:

"You have earned your life."



CHAPTER X.

DOUBLE-GUARDED.

The native who had made the wonderful throw of the javelin stood a
moment longer, and then as if satisfied that he could do no more, he
turned about and disappeared.

Fortunately, the missile had struck the upper part of the canoe,
through which it tore a jagged hole several inches wide, and a short
distance above the water.  The injury could be easily repaired, and at
present required no attention.

The paddles were again called into play, and the prow of the craft
gently touched shore.

Having reached the right bank, the explorers had something to think of
beside the savages whom they hoped were left behind for good.  Two
white men were known to be in the neighborhood, and there was warrant
for believing they were as hostile as the natives from whom our friends
had had such a narrow escape.  With their superior intelligence, there
was more to be feared from them than from the brave but ignorant
savages; but, at the same time, it was to be hoped they might be
conciliated, and that, if not, they would fight without the use of the
fearful implements used by the savages, who held human life in such
light esteem.

On the other hand, the explorers were too sensible to believe they had
seen the last of the warriors that had proven their daring and ferocity.

It was decided to leave all the luggage in the canoe which was held so
lightly against the bank that it could be shoved into the river at an
instant's need.  No fire was to be kindled, although the entire party
left the boat and advanced to the edge of the wood, beneath whose
shelter they seated themselves on the ground.

The night which they had hoped would afford them much needed rest,
promised to be most exhausting in its requirements.

It had been the custom of the explorers, when camping on their way to
the Matto Grosso, to have at all times a couple of their number on
guard, the night being divided into two watches.  For the first five
hundred miles, after leaving the Amazon, this precaution was mainly to
provide against the wild animals, that were always prowling around
camp, and often showed a curiosity to make the acquaintance of the
sleepers, and especially of their supplies.

The white men held an earnest consultation, while occupied in eating
their evening meal or lunch.  Had they deemed it prudent to kindle a
fire, they would have prepared some fragrant coffee, of which they
carried an abundance, though plenty of the little berries were
encountered growing wild along the Xingu.

But that much-relished refreshment was now dispensed with, and they ate
their fruit and a slight quantity of dried meat in darkness.  The fish
in the river was an unfailing source of supply, but that species of
food also required fire in its preparation, and was therefore out of
the question for the time.

Their latitude was about fifteen degrees south, the temperature being
so mild that the whites could have got along very well with as scanty
raiment as their native helpers, though, as has been intimated, they
clung to a civilized costume.  They wore broad Panama hats, flannel
shirts, with no coats or vests, and strong duck trousers thrust into
their bootlegs.  Thus attired, they were probably as comfortable as
they could be.

A belt around the waist contained a supply of cartridges for their
Winchesters and revolvers, besides affording a resting place for the
knives, the indispensible Smith & Wesson being carried in the hip
pocket, after the usual fashion.

In view of the unusual peril threatening the party, extra precautions
were taken against surprise.  It was arranged that Quincal and Jared
Long should mount guard until midnight, when they would give way to
Pedros and the professor.  This would leave Bippo and Ashman free from
any duty, their turn to come the following night.

Ashman, however, insisted on taking a part which was somewhat original
in its nature.  He was confident that if the savages found it
impracticable to cross the Xingu in sight of the explorers, they would
pass down stream and endeavor to do so, at a point where they could not
be observed by those in camp.

He meant, therefore, to station himself so as to be able to detect such
a movement.  With his repeating rifle at command, he was sanguine of
defeating the attempt, even though made by a score of enemies.

But for the peculiar contour of the banks on both sides, the whites
could have done much better by simply paddling the canoe a quarter of a
mile down the river and then hiding under the overhanging vegetation;
but it has been explained that the Xingu, when its volume was swelled
by rain, had swept the shores with such violence that they were bare
for a dozen feet from the water.

Such a movement, therefore, would have to be made in the full light of
the moon, and would, therefore, be plainly perceptible from the
opposite bank--a fact which rendered the precaution of no avail.

All conceded the wisdom of Ashman's plan.  The Professor urged him in
case he found himself growing drowsy, to return at once to camp and
allow one of his friends to take his place.  The young man gave his
promise, and, bidding them good-by, he began stealing down the stream,
keeping as closely within the wall of shadow as he could, and advancing
with as much care as though he saw the fierce savages across the Xingu
watching for just such a movement.

The peculiar nature of the ground rendered progress easy, and he paused
after going about a furlong, believing he had advanced sufficiently far
to accomplish what he wished.

The essential work of Ashman was to cover one-half the distance between
him and the camp, the further half being under the surveillance of the
guards on duty there.  Since he could also overlook the stream equally
far in the opposite direction, it will be seen that the savages would
have to make their crossing nearly a fourth of a mile below the camp to
escape observation.

All this was on the theory that the lone sentinel was really able to
scan the space with sufficient clearness to detect anything of the
nature apprehended, and that the savages themselves had no suspicion of
any such extra care on the part of their enemies.

The astonishing brilliancy of the moonlight will be appreciated, when
it is stated that Ashman felt not the least doubt of his ability to
meet every requirement of his self-assumed duty.

Well aware, from previous experience, of the insidious approach of
slumber to the most vigilant sentinel, when unable to keep in motion,
he avoided sitting down, even though he never felt more wakeful.  So
long as he stood erect, there was no danger of his lapsing into
unconsciousness.

Another indispensable requirement was that he should not be tempted
into venturing from the shadow where he stood, for such an act was
liable to bring about discovery and defeat the very object that had
brought him thither.

The moon was so nearly in the zenith that the shade from the edge of
the forest did not project halfway across the open space to which we
have alluded.  It was in this partial gloom that the young man took his
station, placing himself as far back as he could without standing among
the trees themselves.

He was in the position of one who feels that the lives of his dearest
friends are placed in his hands.  To him, nothing was more evident than
that the revengeful savages would attempt to cross the stream and make
another stealthy attack upon the camp.  They surely must feel enough
dread of the terrible weapons that had wrought such havoc, not to defy
them again, but would make their next demonstration in the nature of a
flank movement.

One fact caused Ashman some surprise; he had seen nothing of any canoes
or boats, which were plentiful along the shores of the Xingu below.  It
was not to be supposed that such a powerful and brave tribe as those on
the other side, would live in a country abounding in streams, without
finding need of such craft.

But because he had not seen them, was no proof that they were not in
existence.  They may have been drawn up among the trees, their precise
location known only to their owners.

The prospect of holding his place for several hours, with his senses at
a high tension, was not an inviting one, for he did not expect the
savages to make their attempt before midnight; all such people aiming
to surprise their enemies when wrapped in profound slumber.

But Ashman had not been at his station a half hour, when, to his
amazement, he discovered that something was going on across the river
directly opposite.

Despite the strong moonlight, he was unable to guess for a long time
what it meant.  He first heard a splash, as though a body had fallen or
been thrown into the water, and then, for several minutes, everything
was still as before.

It was a source of annoyance to him that at this moment, when he hoped
to keep his attention fixed on matters on the other bank, he should be
disturbed by a sound among the trees directly behind him.  He, turned
sharply and looked around, for the noise which had caught his attention
was a footfall beyond all question.

But, if the youth was to be taken between two fires, he was ready.  The
stranger nearest him could have no thought of his proximity, or he
would have taken more care to suppress any noise.  Since he was so much
nearer than him on the other side.  Ashman was forced to give his whole
attention for the moment to the former's approach.

His suspense was brief, for while he stood with rifle ready, a large
puma, or American lion, emerged from a point a couple of rods away,
walked in his stealthy fashion to the edge of the river and began
lapping the water.

Ashman wished nothing with him in view of more important business
elsewhere, and he, therefore, stepped softly back in the wood, before
the beast finished drinking.

The puma quickly slaked his thirst, and then, raising his head, looked
about him with an inquiring stare as though he scented something
suspicious.  He gazed toward the other shore and finally swung himself
lightly around, and trotted back to the forest.

Just before entering, he abruptly stopped and looked toward the spot
where Ashman was concealed.  He offered a tempting shot, but it hardly
need be said that the young man restrained himself, and the next minute
the beast vanished.



CHAPTER XI.

A MYSTIFIED SENTINEL.

Jared Long, the New Englander, and Quincal, the native helper, were the
sentinels on duty in the immediate vicinity of the camp.

The professor was wearied from a hard day's work, and, feeling that
everything possible had been done for the safety of all, stretched out
upon his blanket on the soft ground and was soon asleep.

He expected to assume his duty as guardsman in the course of a few
hours, and needed all the rest he could get before that time.

Bippo and Pedros were so disturbed by what they had witnessed, that,
though they lay down at the same time, it was a good while before they
closed their eyes in slumber.  Their homes were near the mouth of the
Xingu, and, even at that remote point, they had heard so many fearful
accounts of the ferocious savages that infested the upper portions of
the river, that they never would have dared to help in an attempt to
explore the region but for the liberal pay promised, and their
unbounded faith in the white men and their firearms.

The poor fellows would have given all they had, or expected to have, to
be transported down the Xingu and out of the reach of the terrible
natives who used their poisoned arrows and javelins with such effect;
but, behold! the explorers, undaunted by what had taken place, had no
thought of turning back, but were resolved to push on for an unknown
distance, and Bippo and his friends had no choice but to go with them,
for to run away would insure certain death at the hands of these people
who seemed to be all around them.

Jared Long had so little faith in the usefulness of the servant Quincal
as sentinel, that he arranged to place the least dependence possible on
him.  With no supposition that any danger was likely to come from the
woods behind them, he sent the fellow a short distance back,
instructing him to keep his ears and eyes open, since if he failed to
do so, some wild animal was likely to devour him.

In crossing the Xingu below the falls, the rapid current had swept the
canoe downward, so that it lay against the bank at a point fully two
hundred yards below.  It was here that the American stationed himself,
standing, like Fred Ashman, just far enough from the water to be
shrouded in the slight but increasing shadow made as the moon slowly
worked over and beyond the zenith.

Looking across to the other shore, he could discern nothing upon which
to hang a suspicion; but the first thing, perhaps trifling in itself,
which attracted notice, was the unusual quantity of driftwood which
appeared to be coming through the rapids and floating past.

As has been stated, in such a wooded country as the Matto Grasso there
was always more or less of this, and Long had taken a critical survey
of the rapids and noted the stuff which went plunging and dancing
through them.  Now, however, he was sure there was an increase, and a
good deal of it consisted of large trees and logs, which must have been
brought down by some cause more than ordinary.

Had there been anything else to occupy his attention, the fact would
have escaped him, but the sentinel who is alive to his duty, notes
little things, even when they seem to have no bearing on the great
subject which engages all his energies.

It was a long way from the camp to the source of the Xingu, and in such
a vast country as Brazil, there might have been a violent storm raging
at that moment above and below them without the least evidence, so far
as they could see, around them.  Like all countries, that portion of
empire is ravaged at times by fierce hurricanes and cyclones, which
might have uprooted scores of trees and flung them into the waters
which were now bearing them toward the Amazon and the broad Atlantic.

The sentinel naturally gave his chief attention to the other side of
the Xingu, where so many stirring scenes had taken place that afternoon
and evening.  The camp-fire, which had been left burning, had
smouldered so low that none of the embers were discernible, and only a
thin column of smoke crept slowly upward marking where it had been.
But this vapor was so clearly seen in the wonderful moonlight that it
was easy to fix the precise point where the trail entered the
wilderness.

It was just there, as Long believed, that the savages would debouch
into sight, and renew the warfare which thus far had been only one
series of disasters to them.

He was not mistaken, when, shortly after he had noticed the increasing
number of logs and driftwood, he fancied he detected something going on
at the very point on which his gaze was fixed.

As was the case with Fred Ashman, it was some time before he could so
much as conjecture its nature.  The glimpses were so faint and
momentary that nothing tangible resulted, though he was positive that
some of their enemies were there.

At the moment he uttered an exclamation of impatience, he made out
three figures of the natives, who advanced far enough from the wood for
him to identify them.

Not only that, but they walked stealthily to the edge of the river and
stood several minutes, as if looking across at the canoe.

Long was confident that he could drop one of them at least, and he was
tempted to do so.  The most effective way of keeping the savages off
was by nipping their schemes in the bud, and filling them with
additional terror of the white strangers.

But he decided to wait a while, suspecting, as he did, that some scheme
whose nature he could not guess was under way, and that if the
projectors were undisturbed, it would soon be revealed.

Jared Long, we say, was convinced that the natives were scrutinizing
the canoe and seeking to learn something about the occupants, whom they
had doubtless watched as they made their way from the water to the
shelter of the wood.  Such was his belief, and yet he was altogether
mistaken.

It struck him as odd that the savages acted as they did, when it would
seem that they could see just as well from the edge of the wood, where
they were not exposed to the fire of their enemies; but he reflected
that there was precious little about the conduct of the natives from
the first that could be explained on the line of common sense and
consistency.

The trio stood in view less than five minutes, when they darted back to
cover, as if afraid of being seen by the whites, a theory altogether
untenable under the circumstances.

The natural supposition of the sentinel was that a large number of the
savages had gathered under the bank and were making ready for some
demonstration, which would soon take place.

It was not yet time to awaken the Professor and the natives.  In fact,
the plucky New Englander half believed that with his repeating rifle he
would be able to beat off any approach from the other shore.

At this moment, he was amazed to see one of the savages do an
extraordinary thing.

Darting out from the wood behind him, he ran to the smouldering
camp-fire seized a brand that was covered with ashes, and circled it so
swiftly about his head that it was fanned into a roaring blaze.

While doing this, he stood apparently with one foot in the margin of
the Xingu, and evidently with not the slightest fear of the white
strangers within gun-shot.  He not only swung the brand forward several
times, but reversed and spun it in the other direction, with a velocity
that made it look like a solid ring of fire.

Suddenly the truth flashed upon the bewildered sentinel: _the savage
was signaling to some friend or friends on the other bank_!  That being
the case, it followed that the friend or friends were most
uncomfortably close to the camp of the white men.

And still Long failed to attach any importance to the unusual quantity
of logs and driftwood that was sweeping down the Xingu in front of him.



CHAPTER XII.

TO THE DEATH.

It was at this juncture that Jared Long, peering out from the shadow of
the wood, observed a larger log than any he had yet noticed, sweeping
by within a short distance of shore.

It was without any branches, except a few near the top, but there
seemed to be a number of big knots projecting from the upper side.  He
counted seven and they were all of the same size.  Furthermore, unless
he was mistaken, the huge tree, from some cause, was working closer to
land.

_Suddenly one of the knots moved_!

The sentinel uttered an exclamation, for the startling truth flashed
upon him with the quickness of lightning.

Each apparent knot was the head of a native!

With amazing coolness, the New Englander brought his Winchester to a
level, and _bang, bang, bang_, he shattered three of the knots in quick
succession.

He would not have stopped the frightful work even then, had not the
other targets disappeared.

Awaking to their danger, the warriors, dropped down so low in the water
that the log intervened between them and the deadly marksman.

Still the tree with its terrible load was approaching land.  The
natives were swimming toward shore and pushing it in front of them.

Long stepped back and roused the professor, placing his mouth so close
to his ear that he was able to apprise him of what was going on,
without being heard by their enemies.

Grimcke bounded to his feet, rifle in hand.

"We'll take them as they come out!" he replied, instantly grasping the
situation.

The log was drifting lower down at the same time that it neared the
land.  Determined to confront the savages the instant they came forth,
the explorers hurried along the edge of the wood, so as to be on the
spot when the landing should be made.  It was well they did so, for a
more astounding discovery than the first, instantly followed the
movement.

More than one of the trees that had floated by carried its human
freight, and nearly a score of savages were crouching in the edge of
the river, so flat on their faces that not one was visible from the
spot where the sentinel was standing a moment before.

The natives, with a cunning that was never suspected, had crossed the
Xingu above the rapids, where, as they knew, such a proceeding would
not be anticipated by the explorers.  Then, stealthily making their way
to the bottom of the rapids, they first launched a number of trees and
logs until, as may be said, the white man on guard should become so
accustomed to them that they would cause no distrust.

If he should be tempted to scrutinize the first, he would learn that
nothing was amiss and would let the rest go by unquestioned.

As a result, the natives had floated past the canoe and under the very
nose of the sentinel without his detecting it.

The savage who swung the torch on the other side of the river probably
meant it as a command for the daring raiders to make no further delay
in their attack.

The group lying against the shore must have been puzzled by the sudden
bombardment from the edge of the wood.  They were so disconcerted, that
instead of springing to their feet and charging upon the two defenders
of the camp, half of them turned about, and diving deep into the
stream, began furiously swimming for the other shore.

They must have concluded that there was a hitch somewhere in the
programme, and the time for disappearing had arrived.

The other half, however, leaped to their feet, and, brandishing their
spears and yelling at the top of their voices, ran swiftly in the
direction of the whites, who were still firing their Winchesters.

"Get behind a tree!" shouted the professor, who had a wholesome dread
of the poisoned weapons, and who lost no time in availing himself of
the nearest shelter.

But he did not cease to use his rifle.  The cartridges in his magazine
were running low, and it was necessary to exercise care in aiming, for
a few precious seconds must be consumed in extracting an additional
supply from the belt at his waist.

But Jared Long declined to follow the sensible advice and example of
his friend.  Scorning to seek shelter, even from such terrible weapons,
he blazed away, making nearly every shot tell.

It was not until he saw a knot of savages working round with a view of
getting behind him, that he fell back a few paces, though still
exposed.  The wonder was that he had not already been pierced by more
than one of the fatal missiles.

Suddenly he was jerked almost off his feet.  The impatient professor
had seized his arm and yanked him behind the tree at his side in spite
of himself.

The New Englander would have been a zany to expose himself again, after
being provided in this summary fashion with a shield.

But he, too, had about emptied the magazine of his Winchester.
Although he could have brought out more cartridges from his belt in a
twinkling, he coolly leaned his rifle against the tree and whipped out
his revolver.

"After that is emptied," he reflected, "my knife is left."

The action of the natives suggested that it was their wish to take both
the men prisoners instead of killing them.  They had done too much to
be let off with such an easy death: they were wanted for torture.

But, in making such a contract, it may be said that the assailants
found it exceedingly difficult to deliver the goods.

They might as well have tried to seize and hold a couple of diminutive
volcanoes, as to lay hands on the men whose supply of fire and death
seemed without limit.

In the midst of the frightful struggle, with the shrieking figures
falling, dashing forward and retreating, as if in wild bewilderment,
Quincal rushed out of the wood with a shout brandishing his spear and
making straight for the ferocious savages.

With a daring and strength that surprised the latter no more than it
did his white friends, he drove the head of the weapon sheer through
one of the assailants, who went over backward with a screech that
drowned all other noises.

Quincal still grasped his weapon with both hands, and with amazing
power, extricated it, as his victim fell, and turned upon the others.

But, by this time, he was surrounded and his fate was sealed.

Anxious to save the brave fellow, the professor and Long emptied their
revolvers among his enemies, but were unable to scatter them until the
fellow sank to the ground, pierced deep and fatally in a dozen places
by the poisoned javelins.

Instinctively, the two white men filled their magazines from their
belts, as quickly as they could, and by the time Quincal was no more,
they opened again on the savages.

The latter had already lost fearfully, and this renewed assault was
more than they could stand.  If, instead of trying to make the white
men prisoners, they had contented themselves with hurling their spears,
when they first sprang from the ground, nothing could have saved
Grimcke and Long.

Now, when they launched the missiles, it was too late.  The white men
were each protected by the trunk of a large tree, and standing back in
the shadow, their faces could not be seen.  The only way of locating
them was by the flash of their guns.

They sent a shower of the javelins into the wood, and then were seized
with that strange, aimless panic which sometimes comes over the bravest
men in the crisis of a conflict.  The survivors made a wild break for
the river, into which they sprang as far as they could leap, diving
deep, swimming as far as possible beneath the surface, then coming up
an instant for breath and diving again.

The blood of the Professor and the American was at fever heat.  They
felt it wrong to show mercy, after what had taken place, and were in no
mood for any further weakness of that nature.

Both ran down to the edge of the stream, and, standing almost in the
water, took deliberate aim at every black head as it rose to the
surface.  They kept popping up here and there, at varying distances,
only to drop out of sight again, the instant the swimmer caught breath;
but in many instances, when they went down the second or third time,
they did not come up again.

Professor Grimcke and Jared Long were throwing away no ammunition.

Finally, the dark forms began rising from the river on the other shore,
where they darted into the wood, fearful of the dreadful messengers
which followed them even there.

The repulse was decisive and there was little fear of the attack on the
camp being renewed that night.

The shocking evidences of the disastrous repulse were on every hand,
with the body of poor Quincal lying at the feet of the assailant whom
he had slain, and with nearly a score of dusky bodies stretched in
every conceivable attitude.



CHAPTER XIII.

A CHANGE OF CAMP.

Professor Grimcke and Jared Long stood like a couple of warriors,
exhausted from the desperate conflict which they had been waging for
hours.

And yet the sanguinary contest had lasted but a few minutes, while they
who had wrought all this destruction did little more than stand, aim
and fire their guns.  The task of the natives was tenfold harder, as
the results were tenfold worse against them.

Like old hunters, the first thing the explorers did was to fill the
magazines of their Winchesters with cartridges, after which their
revolvers were reloaded.  Then they were ready for business again.

At this moment, Bippo and Pedros crept from the wood, the picture of
quaking terror.  They had been roused at the beginning of the tumult,
but deeming discretion the better part of valor, scrambled farther back
into the forest, where they remained almost dead with fright, until
sure the awful scene was over.

There can be little question that Quincal was as much terrified as they
and possibly more.  It was his very excess of panic, which turned his
head, and caused him to do that which would have been beyond his power
under other circumstances.

When they saw the dead body of their comrade, Bippo and Pedros broke
into loud lamentations.  There could be no doubt that they mourned the
poor fellow as much as did the explorers who had witnessed his death.

The surroundings of the camp were so frightful that the Professor
proposed they should get beyond sight of it by drifting further down
stream, a proposal to which his companion willingly agreed.

What should be done with the body of Quincal?  This was the question
which caused the party to hesitate a minute or two after the canoe was
shoved into the water and ready to float down stream.

The wishes of his companions were asked, and Bippo replied that the
most fitting burial, and one in accordance with the peculiar customs of
their people, was to give it burial in the Xingu.

This was in consonance with the feelings of Grimcke and Long, and they
at once made arrangements to carry out the plan.

The remains were tenderly carried into the boat, and a large stone
fastened by means of a piece of rope to the ankles, which were tied
together.  Then the craft was paddled to the middle of the river, and
the body carefully lifted over the side.  Holding it thus suspended for
a minute or two, Jared Long and the Professor lifted their hats and
closed their eyes while the New Englander uttered a brief prayer,
committing the soul to Him who gave it, commending the other body,
lying alone in the dark forest where it had fallen, to the same
merciful Father, and beseeching his protection to the living through
the perils by which they were environed.  A splash followed, and all
that was mortal of the native sank out of sight to sleep until awakened
by the trump of the resurrection morn.

The sad duty completed, the attention of the party was given to the
duties before them.

It was a sorrowful reflection, that, since the set of sun, two of their
number had yielded up their lives, and they had barely reached the edge
of the Matto Grosso, that land of mystery into which they hoped to
penetrate far enough to learn much that was yet unknown to the
civilized world.

If they were compelled to pay such fearful toll before they were fairly
within the strange region, what was to be the cost of exploring the
wild country itself?

But while Bippo and Pedros were more anxious than ever to leave the
section with its dreadful memories behind them, neither dare give
expression to his thoughts, and the German and American were not made
of the stuff which yields when first exposed to the fire.

They reasoned that if there were no such formidable difficulties to
overcome, others would have visited the country long before and
explored it so fully that nothing would be left for those who came
after them.  The prize is the most valuable for which the highest price
is exacted.  Neither referred to the abandonment of their work, for no
such idea entered their minds.

It is not to be supposed that during the fearful scenes through which
the leader of the expedition and his friend passed, they forgot that
their friend Fred Ashman was only a short distance away.  Indeed, one
cause for pushing the canoe into the stream and allowing it to drift
with the swift current was that they might join Fred with the
announcement of what had taken place during his absence.

They supposed that he must have heard the rifle reports and the yells
and shrieks of the natives during the desperate conflict, for though
the rapids gave out a roar which penetrated miles, yet the sharp
discharges and cries of the combatants were of a nature to be heard
still farther.

Had the explorers suspected what was coming, Ashman, of course, would
have staid with his friends; for his services were almost
indispensable.  In fact, but for the singular attempt of the natives to
make captives of the white men, they would have been unable to
withstand the terrific onslaught, despite the vast superiority of their
weapons over those of the assailants.

It never occurred to Grimcke or Long that their friend could have got
into trouble himself.  He was removed from the scene of conflict, which
was over so quickly that he could not have reached the spot in time to
take part, had he started on the instant the first gun was fired.

But it struck both, while drifting downward and carefully scanning the
shore, as strange that nothing had been seen of Ashman.  Enough time
had now elapsed for him to traverse the intervening distance several
times, and it was to be supposed that he would have put in an
appearance without delay, provided he was free to do so.

The two talked together in low tones, and admitted that there was
something to cause misgiving in Fred's continued absence.  What could
be the explanation?

The Professor was inclined to think their friend had gone farther down
stream than he first intended; but, even if such were the fact, he
hardly could have traveled so far that he would not have been well on
his way back to the battle ground by this time.

The trend of the Xingu was such at this point, that the thin line of
shadow along the wood on their left, as they passed down the river,
steadily widened until it now almost reached the water itself.  In a
short time it would extend over the surface and afford the canoe that
shelter which, had it come earlier in the evening, might have postponed
the desperate conflict with the savages.

The move from above was merely to get away from the sights that met
them at every turn; and, without seeking to drift to the point where
Ashman was supposed to be waiting, the explorers turned the prow to
land, which they touched a moment later.

It would have been more cheerful to have had a fire burning, but there
was no other call for it.  The mild temperature rendered it really more
enjoyable without it, since the blaze was always sure to attract
innumerable insects, and possibly might tempt the defeated natives to
another effort to wipe out the deadly insults that had been theirs from
the beginning.

It was not yet midnight, nor indeed anywhere near it, but the Professor
volunteered to take his turn with Bippo for the remaining hours of
darkness.  But no such arrangement was necessary, since every member of
the party was rendered wakeful by the exciting incidents, while the
grief of Bippo and Pedros over the loss of their friend was sure to
drive away all slumber for a long time.

The luggage was left in the canoe, where all the party would have
stayed, had not their positions been so cramped as to render sleeping
difficult.  Their blankets were spread on the ground, where they
reclined, talking in low tones, watching, listening, and speculating as
to the cause of Fred Ashman's continued absence.

Long was about to open his mouth to advance a new theory, when a slight
sound apprised him that either the young man they were talking about,
or some one else, was approaching.



CHAPTER XIV.

A STRANGE ENCOUNTER.

Fred Ashman was standing near the edge of the Xingu, as will be
remembered, when his attention was diverted for the moment by a puma,
which came out of the wood, drank from the stream, and then, after a
brief pause, returned to his shelter.

All this while, the dull roar of the rapids was in the explorer's ears,
and he was eager to withdraw his attention from the beast and direct it
upon the opposite shore, where he was convinced something unusual was
going on.

The minute the beast disappeared, he looked across at the point that
had so interested him.

The question which he had asked himself some time before, was answered
by the sight of a small canoe that was stealing down the river, instead
of heading directly across to where he was standing.  In this boat was
a single individual, using a paddle with the deftness of an American
Indian.

Here was something that needed attention, and, with the aid of the
brilliant moonlight.  Ashman watched the craft and its occupant as
closely as if his own fate were wrapped up in its movements--a
supposition which it was not improbable was fact itself.

The savage moved slowly, as if sensible of the call for the utmost
care, went only a few rods down stream, when he turned out in the water
and aimed for the shore where the watcher was standing.  He had gone
some distance below, and it was to be supposed that the force of the
current would carry him still farther, so that if he made a landing it
was likely to be far below.

But he who held the paddle was a master of that species of navigation,
and Ashman was surprised to observe that he was aiming at the very spot
where he was standing carefully concealed in the shadow.  If nothing
interfered, they were sure of making a closer acquaintance.

The boat was about the middle of the river, when the white man was
struck by the immense size of the occupant.  He was one of the largest
men he had ever seen, his weight sinking the canoe almost to its
gunwales.

"He must be the savage who hurled his javelin through our boat," was
the conclusion of the astonished Fred.  "What a magnificent fellow he
is!"

The native sat so that his face was turned toward the young man, who
studied his countenance with the deepest interest.

He had the busy head, the large protruding eyes, and the dark, naked
skin of all his people.  His enormous arms swung the paddle first on
one side of the boat and then on the other.  As he did so, Fred saw the
play of the splendid muscle, which was like that of Hercules himself.
Rash would be that antagonist who engaged him in a hand-to-hand
struggle.

Nothing in the world was easier than for the explorer to extinguish the
life in that impressive specimen of physical manhood, without the least
risk to himself, and yet, although he knew him to be the most
formidable enemy of his people, he held no thought of doing him
harm--at least not at the present stage of his extraordinary business.

It was at this decidedly interesting juncture that a new element
obtruded itself.  The sounds of guns, shouts and yells, in the
direction of the rapids left no doubt that his friends there were
having a lively time with the natives.

Ashman would have turned and made all haste thither, but for the
presence of this burly giant in front.  Whatever was going on down
stream was with the full knowledge of him, and he was the one for the
white man to look after.

Had the latter been surprised by the sounds of conflict, he would have
ceased paddling or headed his boat up stream, but he merely glanced
toward the rapids, and continued dipping his paddle and propelling his
craft, as if it was his intention to step ashore and grasp the hand of
the astonished youth awaiting his arrival.

The passage occupied but a very few minutes.  Just before the bank was
reached, he made one powerful sweep of the oar, which sent the prow far
up the shingle, and then leaped as lightly as a cat from the structure,
which bounded up as if relieved of several hundred pounds' weight.

Turning about, the giant stooped down and took a spear as long and
heavy as the one he had hurled nearly across the Xingu, through the
boat of the explorers.

It seemed that there was to be no end to the obtrusion of "side issues"
upon the little drama going on under Fred Ashman's eyes.  It must have
been that the puma which had slaked its thirst at the Xingu's margin a
short time before, had become convinced that parties were near,
entitled to his attention.

While endeavoring to locate him, he probably caught sight of the
approaching native and concluded that he was the individual to whom he
should turn.

Be that as it may, the native had only time to pick up his ponderous
spear and face toward the wood, when the lion emerged from the
broadening band of shadow, and, with a low, threatening growl, advanced
upon him.

Like the cat species to which he belonged, he crouched so low while
walking, that his shoulders protruded above his back in large humps,
and his belly almost touched the ground.  His long tail flirted angrily
from side to side, his jaws were parted, disclosing his sharp,
carnivorous teeth and blood-red tongue, while his eyes emitted a
phosphorescent glow that was like fire itself.

He was a formidable antagonist, and as Ashman observed his movements
and ugly appearance, he felt like pumping a half dozen bullets into his
lank, muscular body.

But he experienced the natural interest of a sportsman in an impending
fight, and was curious to see how the huge native would acquit himself
in the struggle at hand.

He was not kept long in doubt.  The savage observed the puma the moment
his head emerged from the shadow into the moonlight, and he instantly
prepared himself to meet him.

Little preparation, however, was necessary, for he carried but the
single weapon and that had only to be grasped in his right hand.

The warrior might have leaped into his craft and escaped by paddling
out in the river, where he could drive the boat at a faster pace than
the beast could swim, but he did nothing of the kind.

He neither advanced nor retreated, but, standing just in front of the
prow, he rested on his right leg; with the left foot thrown forward,
and the tremendous javelin balanced over his right shoulder.

His pose was admirable, and even in that thrilling moment compelled the
admiration of the single spectator, who was strongly of the opinion
that the puma, to put it mildly, was committing an error of judgment.

There may have been some strange, instinctive knowledge which
penetrated the brain of the beast before he reached the assailing
point, and which compelled him to stop.  The individual whom he had
selected as his victim was not to be crushed at a single effort, as he
was accustomed to bring down the llamas, antelope, and other animals of
the wilderness.  No; there was something in that pose, the demeanor and
the flash of the midnight eyes which forced the fierce creature to
pause, when on the very death line, as it may be termed.

But if the native was defiant, the puma had no purpose of retreating
from before such a powerful enemy.  In his blind ferocity, he would
have assailed him, could it have been impressed upon him that his own
destruction would be the inevitable result.

The lank jaws were still parted and dripped foam, as the lion continued
his cavernous growls, while his ears lying flat on his head in the
manner peculiar to the feline species, the bristling spine and the
lashing of the tail gave the beast the appearance of a bundle of
concentrated fury, as indeed he was.

Fred Ashman was struck almost breathless by what followed.

He observed the curious, twitching movement of the puma's legs as they
were gathered closer under his body, and which is always a sure
evidence that the animal is about to make his decisive leap upon his
victim.  The native must have read the movement aright, for the hand
over his shoulder was suddenly thrown back and instantly forward again,
as his javelin left his grasp with terrific force and the suddenness of
lightning.

But inconceivably quick as was the action, the puma dodged the missile,
which entered the earth just behind him, and driven with such
tremendous force was buried half its length in the ground.

Almost at the same instant the body of the lion rose in air and shot
forward as if driven from the throat of a Parrott gun.

But if the brute was quick, so was the man, who dropped downward
without moving his feet, and allowed his assailant to pass over his
head and land directly in the canoe, where for a single second only he
was partly hidden from sight.

Hardly had he landed, when the warrior darted forward several paces to
where his javelin projected from the ground, seized it with both hands
and wrenched it free.  Whirling about, he confronted the beast once
more, as he was gathering himself for a second leap.

The savage learned wisdom from what had just occurred, and instead of
allowing the weapon to leave his hand, held it with an immovable grip
and awaited the renewal of the attack.

The puma seemed also to have absorbed some instruction from his
failure, and instead of leaping at once, began a stealthy advance,
coming over the side of the canoe with the gliding motion of a serpent,
and evidently wishing to get so near that his victim could not escape
again by the means he used before.

Suddenly the native, still holding the javelin with both hands, stepped
forward a single pace.  This placed him in the strongest possible
position, and, with one appalling thrust, he drove the spear for a
distance of two feet into the chest of the puma, instantly snatching it
forth again, moving back a couple of feet, and holding himself ready
for any assault from the brute.

No need of any virus on the point of _that_ weapon, for it had cloven
the heart of the lion in twain, and he went down without a single
groan, as dead as dead could be.

The native stepped to the river, washed the blood from the weapon and
then turned about to resume his advance toward the wood.

As he did so, he found himself face to face with a white man, who,
stepping from the shadow, held his Winchester leveled at him in an
exceedingly suggestive fashion.

If Fred Ashman had been astonished before, what words shall describe
his amazement when the dusky Hercules, calmly staring at him for a
moment, said in unmistakable English, "_I surrender_."



CHAPTER XV.

ZIFFAK.

Fred Ashman was so startled by hearing the giant native utter his
submission in unmistakable English, that he came near dropping his
leveled Winchester to the earth in sheer amazement.

He had not dreamed that the savage understood a word of that tongue,
but judged from his own posture, with his weapon pointed at him, that
the other knew when an enemy had "the drop" on him.  Even if such were
the fact, he counted upon a desperate resistance, and was prepared to
give the fellow his quietus by a shot from his rifle.

The savage held his ponderous javelin in his hand, but made no effort
to use it.  His black eyes were fixed on the face of the handsome
American, and he could not have failed to note the expression of
bewilderment and wonder caused by the words that had just dropped from
his dusky lips.  Indeed, Ashman fancied he detected something akin to a
smile lighting up the forbidding countenance.

It may be said that the young explorer for the moment felt himself in
the position of the man who drew an elephant in a lottery--he didn't
know what to do with his prize.  It had come to him so unexpectedly
that he was bewildered.

But he was quick to rally from his dazed condition.  The fact that the
giant had shown such a knowledge of the English tongue suggested the
possibility not only of obtaining important information, but of making
a friend of this personage, who must possess great influence among his
people.

True, the events of the afternoon and evening were against anything in
the nature of comity or good will, but no harm could come from an
attempt to bring about an understanding between the people and the
explorers that had become involved in such fierce conflicts with them.

"Drop that spear!" commanded Ashman.

"I have surrendered," said the savage, in a low, coarse voice; "and
Ziffak does not lie."

Nevertheless, while the words were passing his lips, he unclosed his
right hand and allowed the implement to fall to the ground.

"Is your weapon poisoned?" asked Ashman, still mystified by the
extraordinary situation and hardly knowing what to say.

"Your man in the wood was pierced by one of our spears; ask him."

"Such a warrior as Ziffak does not need to tip his weapons with
poison," said Ashman, glancing significantly at the carcass of the
puma.  "It is cowardly to use such means against your enemies."

The savage shook his head and an ugly flash appeared in his eyes.

"Do not the whites from the Great River use fire to slay the natives
before they can come nigh enough to use their spears?"

"But they have no wish to use them against your people; we would be
their friends, and it pains us to do them harm; we would not have done
so had they not compelled us."

Ziffak stood a moment as motionless as a statue, with his piercing
black eyes fixed with burning intensity on the white man.  The latter
would have given much could he have read his thoughts, of which an
intimation came with the first words that followed.

"Waggaman and Burkhardt told our people that if we allowed the white
folks to come into our country, they would bring others and slay all
our men, women and children."

"Who are Waggaman and Burkhardt?" asked the explorer, uncertain whether
he was awake or dreaming.

"They have lived with the Murhapas for years; they are white men, but
they are our friends."

Ashman recalled the story told by Bippo and his companions earlier in
the evening.  It must be that the names mentioned belonged to those two
mysterious individuals, who beckoned them across the Xingu.  For some
reason of their own, they wished to keep all others of their race out
of the country.

It was plain that Ziffak was a remarkable person and the explorer
determined to use every effort to win his good will.

"Waggaman and Burkhardt have told you lies; we are your friends."

"Why do you not stay at home and leave us alone?"

"We expect to go back, after ascending the river a short distance
further; nothing would persuade us to live here, and, as I have told
you, we would not harm any person if they would leave us alone."

Ziffak seemed on the point of saying something, but checked himself and
held his peace, meanwhile looking steadily at the man who had made him
a prisoner in such clever style.

Ashman resolved on a rash proceeding.

"Take up your spear again, Ziffak; go back to your people, and, if you
believe what I say, tell them my words, and ask them to give us a
chance to prove that we mean all I have uttered."

"My people know nothing about you," was the strange response.

"You heard but a few minutes ago the sounds of guns and the shouts from
the direction of the rapids, which show they were fighting."

"Those people are not mine," said the native; "but they are my friends,
and I fight for them."

"From what you said, you are a Murhapa?"

Ziffak nodded his head in the affirmative.

"Where do they live?"

He extended his hand and pointed up the river.

"One day's ride above the rapids and you reach the villages of the
Murhapas.  There live Waggaman and Burkhardt; they came many years ago.
I am a chieftain, and they rule with me."

"It was from them you learned to speak my tongue?"

Ziffak again nodded his head, adding:

"Many of my people speak it as well as I."

"Tell me, Ziffak, why, if your home is so far above the rapids, you are
here among these people, whose name I do not know?"

"They are Aryks; they have much less people than the Murhapas, and are
our slaves.  Some days ago word was brought to us that a party of white
men were making their way up the Xingu.  Waggaman and Burkhardt and I
set out to learn for ourselves and to stop them.  They went down the
other side of the river and I came down to the Aryk village.  I roused
them to kill you before you could pass above the rapids, but we were
able to slay only one of them."

"And it was a sad mistake that you did that; for he was a good man, who
wished you no evil.  Where are Waggaman and Burkhardt?"

The native shook his head.  He had picked up his spear, but made no
movement toward taking his departure.  Ashman hoped he would not, for
everything said not only convinced him of the first importance of
gaining the fellow's confidence, but encouraged him in the belief that
he was fast doing so.  He resolved to leave no stone unturned looking
to that end.

"Why did not your two white friends help you in the fight, to keep us
from going further up the Xingu?"

"_Maybe they did_," replied Ziffak, with a significant glance up
stream, which left no doubt that he referred to the conflict that had
taken place there while the couple were talking on the margin of the
river.

"I don't believe it," Ashman hastened to say, hopeful that such was the
case; for, with two white men and their firearms, the peril of his
friends must have been greatly increased.

"Why do you seek to enter our country?" asked the dusky giant, after a
brief pause.

"We want to learn about your people; but I pledge you we wish not to
harm a hair of their heads."

It was not to be expected that a savage who has heard nothing else for
years except that any penetration of his territory by white men meant
destruction, could give up that belief simply on the pledge of one of
the race accused.

But it was equally clear that this particular savage was favorably
disposed toward Ashman.  It may have been that his good will was won by
the neat manner in which he had got the best of Ziffak, the most
terrible warrior ever produced by that people.  A brave man respects
another brave man.

"Why did Waggaman and Burkhardt visit your villages and make their home
with you for so many years?"

"I do not know," replied Ziffak, with another shake of his head; "but
they have proven they are friends.  They do not want to go back to
their people, who are all bad."

The thought occurred to Ashman, though he did not express it, that the
strange white men were criminals.  They may have escaped from the
diamond mines, which were at no great distance, and naturally preferred
the free, wild life of the interior to the labor and tyranny which the
miserable wretches condemned to service in those regions undergo.

"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.



CHAPTER XVI.

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.

Such weapons were entirely unknown to the Murhapas, who had never heard
of anything of the kind.  The exploits of the owners caused the natives
to look upon them with awe.  They were soon established on the best of
terms with their new associates, who allowed them to do as they chose
in everything.

It is not to be supposed that Ashman gathered all the information given
in this chapter, during his brief walk with Ziffak.  Indeed, that which
has already been stated was obtained only in part during the memorable
interview; but it may be as well to add other facts which afterwards
came to the knowledge of him and the explorers, since it is necessary
to know them in order to understand the strange series of incidents and
adventures in which they became speedily involved.

The Murhapa tribe was ruled by King Haffgo, whose complexion was almost
as fair as that of a European.  He had fifty wives, but only one child,
whose mother was dead.  This child was a daughter, Ariel, of surpassing
beauty and loveliness, the pride of her grim father and adored by all
his subjects.  From Waggaman and Burkhardt she had acquired a knowledge
of the English tongue, which Ziffak declared was superior to his own.
Both of these men had sought in turn to win her as his wife, and the
king was not unwilling, because of the awe in which he held them; but
Ariel would not agree to mate herself with either, though she once
intimated that when she became older she might listen favorably to the
suit of Waggaman, whose appearance and manner were less repulsive than
those of his comrade.

The first duty the guests took upon themselves was to impress King
Haffgo and his subjects that all white men except themselves were their
deadliest enemies, and, if any of them were allowed to visit the
village, they would assuredly bring others who would cause the utter
destruction of the inhabitants.

Three years before, a party of six white explorers ascended the Xingu,
and suddenly presented themselves to the Murhapas, without previous
announcement or knowledge.  Despite their professions of friendship,
and a most valiant defence, they were set upon and slain the same hour
they appeared among the fierce people.

Ariel, the daughter of the king, was but a child, at that time, just
entering her teens.  She did not know of the cruel massacre until it
was over, when she surprised all by expressing her sorrow and declaring
that a great wrong had been done the strangers.  From that time
forward, those who studied her closely saw that she had formed a strong
distrust, if not dislike, of Waggaman and Burkhardt, though, seeing the
high favor in which they were held in court, she sought to veil her
true feelings.

Ziffak was a younger brother of the king, and bore the title of
head-chieftain.  He was next in authority and power, and, because of
his immense size and prowess, led all expeditions against their
enemies, none of whom was held in fear.  Occasionally, he headed a
hundred warriors, who made excursions through the neighboring
wilderness and in pure wantoness spread destruction and death on every
hand.

The Aryks, after receiving several such terrible visits, sued for terms
and willingly agreed to consider themselves slaves of the Murhapas.
Their location was favorable to detect the advance of any of the
dreaded white men up the Xingu, and they agreed in consideration of
being left alone, to check any such approach, a fact which will explain
the fierceness and determination with which they contested the ascent
of the river by our friends.

If they allowed the whites to pass above the rapids, they knew that the
mighty Ziffak would sweep down upon them and visit frightful punishment
upon their heads.

Instead of bringing a body of his own warriors, Ziffak, as has been
intimated in another place, came alone down one side of the Xingu, with
Waggaman and Burkhardt on the other, the calculation being to rouse
enough Aryks to destroy the invaders, as they were regarded.  Enough
has been told to show how thoroughly the head-chieftain acquitted
himself of this duty.

Several of the powerful reasons for the jealousy of Waggaman and
Burkhardt of their race, was apparent in the fact that there was an
astonishing abundance of diamonds and gold among the Murhapas.
Although none was seen on Ziffak, it was only because he was on the
war-path.  He had enough at home to furnish a prince's ransom, while
the possessions of the beautiful princess Ariel were worth a kingdom.

These were obtained from some place among the mountains to the westward
of the town.  In the same mysterious region was a peak, whose interior
was a mass of fire that had burned from a date too remote to be known
even in the legends of the wild people.  There was a lake also, whose
waters were so clear that a boat floating over them seemed suspended in
mid air.

This wonderful section was claimed by King Haffgo, who would permit
none but his subjects and the two white men to visit it.  A party of
Aryks; presuming upon the friendly relations just established with
their masters, ventured to make their way to the enchanted place
without permission or knowledge of the Murhapas.

Before they could get away, they were discovered by some of the
lookouts, and every one slain with dreadful torture.  The lesson was
not lost upon their surviving friends, who never again ventured to
repeat the experiment.

The Murhapas were the first to use the spears with the deadly points.
They not only taught the Aryks how to prepare the poison from the venom
of several species of serpents and noxious vegetables, but imparted to
them the remedy,--a decoction of such marvellous power, that a single
swallow would instantly neutralize the effect of any wound received
from the dreaded missiles.

Among the tribes named, there was no knowledge of the use of iron
though the ore is abundant in that region.  The only objects composed
of the metal were the firearms of the white men, and the natives could
not comprehend how they were fashioned from the substance which
underwent such a change from its native state.

Every implement used by this people is made from stone, which however
seems almost the equal of iron and steel.  Spear points, axes and
cutting tools are shaped with remarkably keen edges, with which trees
are readily felled, and cut into any form desired.

Shells are used in the formation of knives, while the teeth of certain
fish, taken from the Xingu, enables them to construct still more
delicate implements for cutting and carving.

Indian corn, cotton and tobacco are raised from a soil whose fertility
cannot be surpassed, though strangely enough the tribes have no
knowledge of the banana, sugar cane and rice, which belong so
essentially to the torrid zones.  Dogs and fowls are entirely unknown,
and there is no conception of a God, though all have a firm belief that
they will live again after death.  A myth has existed among them from
time immemorial of the creation of the world, which, according to their
views, consists of the regions around the headwaters of the Xingu and
Tapajos.

Ziffak was a favorite of the beauteous Ariel, and it is not improbable
that, knowing as he did, her lamentation over the cruel death of the
white men, who appeared at her home three years before, he was more
willing than would otherwise have been the case to stay his hand, after
doing such yeoman service against the new-comers.

Where these tribes came from is a question yet unsolved by
anthropologists, though the theory has many supporters that most of the
isolated peoples are allied to the original stock of the once mighty
Caribs, who journeyed from the south to the sea.

Conscious of their own might, and knowing the prodigious mineral wealth
at their command, the Murhapas are naturally jealous of their
neighbors, and fight fiercely to resist anything that bears a
resemblance to an encroachment upon their rights.

It will be understood that Waggaman and Burkhardt met with little
difficulty in rousing their enmity particularly against the Caucasian
race, since the members of that, of all others, were the ones most to
be dreaded.

The foregoing, much of which is in the way of anticipation, we have
deemed best to incorporate in this place.



CHAPTER XVII.

THE NEW ALLY.

The amazement which so nearly overwhelmed Fred Ashman during the few
minutes succeeding the surrender of Ziffak, was shared in all its
entirety, when the two presented themselves before the astounded
explorers in the canoe.

In fact, Jared Long came within a hair of shooting the Hercules, before
the situation could be explained to him.  Even then he refused for
awhile to believe the astonishing story, but declared that some
infernal trickery was afoot.  Finally, however, he and the Professor
and Bippo and Pedros realized that the most powerful enemy had become
their ally.

Ziffak showed a strange talkativeness after joining the company.
Seating himself on the ground where all were now veiled in shadow, he
answered the questions that were rained upon him, until most of the
information given in the preceding chapter was told to the wondering
listeners.

The account of the dreadful reception that awaited their predecessors
three years before, would have deterred such brave men as the explorers
from pushing further, but for the fact that they had secured an
all-powerful friend at court.  Believing that he could pave the way for
a friendly reception, they were eager to visit what seemed to them an
enchanted land.

There was some uneasiness over Waggaman and Burkhardt, who, it could be
easily seen, would at the most do nothing more than disguise their
enmity under the guise of friendship, holding themselves ready for some
treachery that would bring about the death of the visitors.

The conversation lasted a long time, and was ended by the natural
question put to Ziffak as to what should be the next step.

From what he had already stated, it was evident they were not yet
through with the Aryks.  Despite their frightful repulse, they would
hold the Murhapas in greater dread than the whites; and, well aware of
the penalty of allowing them to pass above the rapids, would never
cease their efforts to prevent such a disaster.  It followed,
therefore, that something must be done to spike their guns, and Ziffak
was the only one who could do it.

The whites were not surprised, when he offered to return to the point
down the river, where he had left his canoe, recross to the other side,
and make known to the Aryks that it was his wish that the explorers
should be molested no further.

The announcement would be a surprise indeed to them, but there was none
who would dare question the authority of such a source.

During the absorbingly interesting conversation, Ziffak stated that his
object in coming from the other side was to reach the camp of the
whites at the same time that an attack was made by the Aryks who so
cunningly used the floating logs and trees as a screen to hide their
approach.  He preferred his course to that of accompanying them.

It will thus be seen, that, although the act of Fred Ashman in passing
down the Xingu seemed like a mistake, yet it was the most providential
thing that could have occurred.

Having made known his plan, the burly chieftain set about carrying it
out with characteristic promptness.  Without saying good-bye, he rose
to his feet, and walking rapidly off, soon disappeared in the direction
of the spot where took place his encounter with the puma and his
meeting with Fred Ashman.

He had not been gone long, when those left in camp caught sight of the
little boat skimming swiftly across the Xingu below them.  The
preliminaries of the singular movement in their favor was going on
according to programme.

But, with the departure of Ziffak, something like a distrust of his
friendship entered the minds of the three whites.  Bippo and Pedros
were so overcome by what they had seen that they were unable to
comprehend what it all meant.  They kept their places in the boat and
listened and wondered in silence.

The Professor hoped for the best, though he admitted that there was
something inexplainable in the business.  He had spent hours in
examining the strange fish of the Upper Xingu, in inspecting the
remarkable plants, which he saw for the first time, and in studying the
zoology and mineralogy of the region.  He had been delighted and
puzzled, over and over again, but all of these problems combined failed
to astonish him as did the action of Ziffak and the story he told.

Ashman was the most hopeful of all.  He had been with the native more
than the rest, and was given the opportunity to study him closely.  He
was confident that he read the workings of his mind aright, and that
the fellow would be their friend to the end.

Jared Long, the New Englander, was equally positive in the other
direction.  He maintained that since the leopard cannot change his
spots, no savage showing such relentless hatred of the white race as
did Ziffak, could be transformed into a friend for no other reason than
that he had been made a prisoner.

He insisted further that, if he succeeded in helping them through to
the Murhapa village, it would be only with the purpose of securing a
more complete revenge.  Such a powerful tribe as his need feel no
misgiving in allowing a small party to enter their town; for, after
that was done, they would be so completely at their mercy that there
was no possibility of any explorer ever living to tell the tale.

He especially dwelt upon the undoubted influence possessed by Waggaman
and Burkhardt.  They would never consent to yield the influence they
had held so long, nor could they be induced to share it with any of
their own countrymen.

Grimcke and Ashman laughed at his fears, but strive as much as they
chose, they could not help being affected more or less by his
pessimistic views.

However, the brave fellow declared that he would accompany them on the
hazardous journey, and stick by them to the end.  If they could not
survive, they would fall together.

By this time the night was far along.  A careful scrutiny of the other
bank failed to reveal anything of their enemies, though all believed
there were plenty of them along the shore.

Ashman proposed, that now, since they were entirely screened by the
projecting shadow of the wood, they should cautiously push their way up
the bank, as near as possible to the rapids, so as to lessen the
distance that was to be passed on the morrow.  There could be no
objection to this, and adjusting themselves in the usual manner in the
large canoe, they began the ascent of the river.

Naturally they would have kept close to the shore to escape, so far as
they could, the force of the current, and the main object now was to
prevent their movements being seen by the vigilant Aryks across the
stream, who might resume hostilities before Ziffak could make his
wishes known to them.

Our friends did not forget that a large body of these warriors had
passed the Xingu above the rapids to reach the bank along which the
craft was now stealing its way; but they had received such treatment
that the survivors hurried from the vicinity.

Still there was a probability that after rallying from their repulse,
more of them had swam across and were at that moment on the western
shore, on the watch for just such a movement as was under way.

If this should prove the case, it could not be expected that Ziffak
could interfere in time to prevent another sanguinary conflict; but
that might come about, even if the explorers remained where they had
stopped until daylight.  If the Aryks were prepared to attack them
while on the move, they could do so with equal effect while they were
not in motion.

The increasing roar of the rapids was a great disadvantage, for it
drowned all inferior noises and compelled our friends to depend on
their eyesight alone to discover the approach of danger.

There was an involuntary shudder on the part of all, when they came
opposite the scene of the desperate fight, and they hastened past
without exchanging a word.

They had not much further to go when they found themselves, for the
time, at the end of their voyage.  It was impossible to ascend further,
because of the rapids, which tossed the canoe about as though it were
an eggshell.

A halt was therefore made, and, at the moment this took place, all
observed that day was breaking, the light rapidly increasing in the
direction of the Aryk village.

"_Just what I told you_!" exclaimed Jared Long, as the simultaneous
discovery was made by all, that the forest around them was swarming
with the vengeful savages, eager for another and bloodier joust at arms.



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE NICK OF TIME.

The peril which menaced the explorers was more frightful than any that
they had been called upon to face since entering that mysterious land
known by the name of the Matto Grosso.

The Aryks numbered more than half a hundred, all active, vigilant and
armed with their fearful poisoned javelins.  They had taken position
among the trees on the western bank of the Xingu, at the base of the
rapids, at the very point where the white men intended to shoulder
their canoe and make their last portage.

Instead of being in the open, where they were in plain sight of the
defenders, and fair targets for their unerring Winchesters, they were
stationed behind the numerous trunks or lying on the ground, where
little could be seen of them except their bushy heads and gleaming
black eyes, as they glared with inextinguishable hate at the white men
who had slain so many of their number.

The suspicious Long was looking in the direction, with the thought that
if any ambush was attempted, that would be the very spot, when he
caught sight of a dusky figure, as it whisked from behind a narrow
trunk to another that afforded better cover.

That hasty glance in the dim morning light revealed an alarming number
of heads glaring around the trees and from among the undergrowth like
so many wild beasts, aflame with fury and the exultation of savages who
knew that their enemies were at last forced inextricably into their
grasp.

So assured were the Aryks in fact that they showed a disposition to toy
for a moment with their victims, as a cat does with a mouse before
craunching it in her jaws.  They brandished their weapons, danced
grotesquely and uttered shrill shrieks audible above the deafening roar
of the angry Xingu as it foamed through the rapids.

It was a fearful trap in which our friends found themselves, for it was
impossible to advance or retreat, and it was madness to hope that they
could again escape the shower of spears that were already poised in the
air and ready to be launched.

Bippo and Pedros, with wild shrieks of terror bounded into the canoe,
and wrapping the blankets around them, cowered in abject helpless dread
of impending death.  They were only an incumbrance, as they had proven
in more than one crisis before.

But not one of the Caucasians showed the white feather.  Disdaining to
seek impossible shelter, they coolly prepared to die fighting, while
exposed to the hurtling javelins, whose appalling effectiveness they
knew too well.

But at this appalling juncture, when life hung on the passing moment, a
piercing shout rang out above the roar of the waters.

It came from a point behind them, and, despite the imminent peril all
three looked around.

A small canoe was darting across the Xingu toward them, so close to the
foot of the rapids, that it danced about like a cork and seemed certain
to be submerged every minute.

In this frail craft sat the giant Ziffak, propelling it across the
furious swirl with such prodigious power that though the spume dashed
over it, the boat was driven by the sheer power of his mighty arms
under, above, and through the waters.

It was he who uttered the resounding cry which caused the wondering
explorers to turn their heads, and stayed the uplifted arms of the
venomous Aryks.

All saw the giant head chieftain of the Murhapas who repeated the shout
and added an exclamation that was a command, forbidding his allies to
hurl a single weapon.

They must have deemed him mad, but if so he was ten times more to be
dreaded than if sane.  Not a javelin was launched, but all stood
motionless awaiting his arrival, and doubtless believing he meant them
to pause only long enough to place himself at their head as the leader.

They must have thought, too, that his appearance so filled the whites
with fear that their arms were paralyzed, for, though he was in direct
range, not a hand of the foreigners was raised to do him hurt.

Coming with such tremendous speed, Ziffak occupied but a moment in
passing the remaining distance.  Before the prow of his boat could
touch land, he flung the paddle aside, spurned the canoe with his foot,
caught up his huge spear, and with one bound placed himself opposite
the wondering trio of white men, while two more leaps landed him among
the Aryks.

Grimcke, Ashman and Long had read aright the meaning of the amazing
demonstration and calmly awaited the issue.

Pausing in the very middle of the dusky force, he addressed them in
their native tongue, with savage gestures and a fierceness of tones
which rendered every word audible amid the roaring tumult.

Only a second or two was required for him to finish his harangue, when
he made a final command for them to fall back, emphasized by the swing
of his tremendous arms.

No more striking proof could have been given of the sway of this mighty
warrior over his vassals, than was shown by their instant obedience to
the order, which fell upon them like the bursting of a thunderbolt from
the clear summer sky.

They did not scatter and flee, for they had not been directed to do so,
but skurried several rods back among the trees, so as to leave the way
open for the explorers to pass around the rapids to the calmer waters
above.

Ziffak did not remove his eyes from the natives, until he saw that his
commands were not only obeyed, but that it was understood by them that
the white men were not to be molested.

This extraordinary person had hastened to the other shore, in
accordance with his pledge, only to learn from a couple of Aryks whom
he met that the main body of warriors had again crossed the Xingu above
the rapids, and were gathered in the wood waiting for the whites to
walk into the trap set for them.

Had our friends remained where he left them, no danger would have been
encountered, but, as we have shown, they moved up stream and came
within a hair's-breadth of being wiped from the face of the earth
before their powerful ally could interfere.

The breaking morning gave Ziffak his first knowledge of the mistake
they had made, and, leaping into his canoe, he drove it across the
stream with resistless speed, reaching the spot in the nick of time,
and barely doing that, since he was forced to raise his voice while yet
on the river, in order to hold the battle in suspense.

Having satisfied himself that everything was adjusted, Ziffak now
turned around, and, without the least appearance of agitation on his
swarthy countenance, signified that the path was open for them to
continue their journey.

Reaching into the canoe, Ashman seized Bippo by the nape of the neck
and hoisted him out on land.  He did the same with Pedros, both of them
howling in the extremity of mortal terror.  Tearing the blankets from
their bodies, he shouted for them to give their help in carrying the
canoe and luggage around the rapids.

It was some minutes before they could comprehend in their blind way the
situation.  Finally, when they saw that their deaths were postponed,
they lent their aid as eagerly as a couple of obedient dogs.

The sturdy whites were equally helpful, and the boat was quickly raised
aloft and so adjusted that its well apportioned weight bore lightly
upon the shoulders of all.

The sidelong glances which Bippo and Pedros cast at the Aryks as they
moved up the bank, brought a smile to the whites who witnessed them.
The poor fellows were ready to let go and drop down dead the moment
they felt the puncture of the whizzing javelins.

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.



CHAPTER XIX.

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.

The halt was made at the top of the rapids, where the boat was
carefully replaced in the river, the fracture made by Ziffak's javelin
repaired, and everything adjusted for the resumption of their voyage.
Then, with only the Professor on guard, the others lay down on their
blankets and almost immediately sank into a deep, refreshing slumber.

Professor Grimcke, finding the care of the camp on his hands, took a
careful survey of his surroundings, which were quite similar to those
that had enclosed him many times before.

On both sides, stretched the almost endless Brazilian forest, within
which a traveller might wander for weeks and months without coming upon
any openings.  In front was the Xingu, smooth, swift, and winding
through the wilderness in such form that he could see only a short
distance up stream.  Looking in the opposite direction, the agitation
of the water was noticeable before breaking into rapids, similar,
though in a less degree, to the rapids above Niagara Falls.  The volume
still preserved its remarkable purity and clearness, which enabled him
to trace the shelving bottom a long way from where he stood.

Grimcke was somewhat of a philosopher, and always eager to make the
best use of the time at his command.  There was nothing more to be
feared from the Aryks, and his situation, therefore, of guardian of his
sleeping friends might be considered a sinecure.

His fishing line was soon arranged, and with some of the dried meat he
had brought along serving for bait, he began piscatorial operations.

It will strike the reader as incredible, but in Borne portions of the
Orinoco and other tropical rivers of South America, the fish are so
abundant that they have been known to impede the progress of large
vessels moving through the waters.  While no such overflowing supply is
found in the Xingu, yet they were so numerous that it required but a
few minutes for the Professor to haul in more than enough to furnish
the entire party with all they could eat at a single meal.

His next step was to start a fire, and prepare the coals for broiling.
This was a simple task, and was completed before his friends finished
their naps.

No pleasanter awakening could have come to them than that of opening
their eyes and finding their breakfast awaiting their keen appetites.
They fell to with a will, and, though saddened by the loss of two of
their number, were filled with a strange delight at the prospect of
their visit to the enchanted land.

The boat was launched, but there was not enough wind to make it worth
while to spread the sail, which had often proven of such assistance,
but the four pairs of arms swung the paddles with a vigor that sent the
craft swiftly against the current.  The Professor disposed of himself
in the boat so that he slept while the others were at work.

Naturally the craft was kept as close to the bank as possible, so as to
gain the benefit of the sluggish current.  The trees having been swept
from the margin of the Xingu, an open space was before the explorers
throughout the entire distance.

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.

The cunning Ziffak dropped a hint that the newcomers were much better
persons than the couple that had made their homes among the Murhapas
for so many years.  Then, having completed his business in that line,
he struck through the forest at a high rate of speed and soon reached
his own people.

He expected to find Waggaman and Burkhardt there, but they had not yet
arrived.  He explained to his brother the king what had taken place at
the rapids of the Xingu and succeeded in gaining his promise of the
king that he would allow the white men to enter the village without the
sacrifice of their lives; but he was not willing that they should
remain more than a couple of days.  Indeed he gave such assent
grudgingly and probably would have refused it altogether, but for the
earnest pleading of his beloved Ariel, who insisted that it would be a
partial recompense of the crime of three years previous.

This was the best that Ziffak, with all his influence at court could
do, and indeed it was as much as he expected to accomplish.  He
admitted that Waggaman and Burkhardt were likely to interfere, but he
did not believe they could do so to any serious extent, provided the
white men themselves were circumspect in their behavior.

While this interesting interchange was going on, the two boats were
side by side, so gently impelled that their progress was moderate and
conversation pleasant.  Thinking that the Professor had slept long
enough, and that he ought to know the news, Fred Ashman turned to wake
him; but to his surprise, the German met his look with a smile and the
remark that he had heard every word spoken.  Then he rose to a sitting
posture, saluted Ziffak and proceeded to light his pipe.

The latter pleased the whites still further by explaining that he meant
to keep them company for the rest of the distance.  Despite his
encouraging statements, they felt much easier with him as their escort.

By using their paddles with moderate vigor, they could reach their
destination by the middle of the afternoon.  There was no better hour
to arrive, for the king was always in his best mood after enjoying his
siesta, which was always completed by the time the sun was half-way
down the sky.

It was to be expected also that before that hour, Waggaman and
Burkhardt would spread the news of the expected coming of the wonderful
strangers.  They would do what they could, to excite distrust and
enmity, but Ziffak was positive that since his brother had given his
promise, it would be sacredly kept, and that for two days at least
their stay at the village would be without peril to any one of the
little company.



CHAPTER XX.

AT THE MURHAPA VILLAGE.

The sun was half-way down the sky when the canoe containing the
explorers, and accompanied by the smaller craft impelled by Ziffak,
rounded a bend of the upper Xingu and came in sight of the village of
the Murhapas.

The herculean native gave an extra sweep of his paddle which sent his
boat slightly in advance of the other, and, striking the shore, he
sprang out and turned about to wait for them to disembark.

The scene was an impressive one, which every member of the company was
sure to remember the rest of his life.

The huts in which these strange people made their homes were similar in
structure to those of the Aryks, but instead of being built around the
three sides of a rectangle, composed one row, numbering more than a
hundred, and facing the river.  They stood a hundred yards from the
water, and being at the top of the sloping bank were above the reach of
the most violent freshet that ever came down from the mountain-fed
sources of the mighty Xingu.

The ground in front of this novel town was cleared of all trees and
undergrowth, but for most of the space was covered with bright green
grass; the whole having the appearance of a well-kept lawn that had
been artificially sodded or strewn with seed, which flourished with the
luxuriance of every species of vegetation in that tropic country.

Not only in front, but on the sides and to the rear, for an extent of
more than a hundred acres, the earth had been cleared with equal
thoroughness and was growing abundant crops of cotton, tobacco, and
edibles peculiar to the region.

The houses were separated by a space of several rods, so that the town
itself extended a long way along the water.  The dwellings, like those
of the Aryks, consisted of a single story, with the door in the middle
of the front, a window-like opening on each side of the same, roofed
over with poles, covered with earth, leaves and grass, that were
impervious to wind and storm.

It seemed to the astonished whites that the entire population had
gathered along the shore to receive them.  Several strange sights
impressed them.  The men were large, sinewy, bushy-haired and athletic.
Some sported bows and arrows, but the majority by far carried the
spears which the explorers held in such dread.  There was no native, so
far as they could see, who was the equal in size and strength of
Ziffak, but they were so much the superiors of any natives encountered
since leaving the Amazon, that it was easy to understand how they were
the lords and masters of all the tribes with which they came in
conflict.

We have spoken of the Murhapa houses as being but a single story in
height.  There was a single exception.  In the middle of the town was a
broader and larger structure than the others.  It was two stories high
and so much more marked in every respect that it was easy to decide
that it was the residence or palace of Haffgo, the king of these people.

Another singular feature was noticed by our friends as they stepped
from their canoe.  Among the natives, who were mostly as dark of skin
as Africans, was a sprinkling so different that the inference was that
they belonged to some other race, or that nature was accustomed to play
some strange freak in this almost unknown part of the world.

The king and his daughter Ariel had complexions as fair as the natives
of Georgia and Persia, and yet Ziffak, a full brother of Haffgo, was as
ebon-tinted as the darkest warrior of the tribe.  Since the features of
all were similar in a general way the cause was one that could not be
explained.

It was a moment when the new-comers fully appreciated the value of a
friend at court.  They felt that had each possessed a dozen repeating
Winchesters they would have been of no avail after leaving their canoe
and entering the village.  They had now placed their lives in the hands
of Ziffak, and, should he choose to desert them, they were doomed; it
was too late to retreat.

Many of the warriors scowled at the white men and their two helpers as
though they would have been glad to impale them with their spears, but
no demonstration was made.  Evidently Ziffak possessed unlimited power
and was backed by the pledge of the king.

Professor Grimcke was the first to step ashore, Ashman and Long
following immediately.  The three whites formed abreast, while Bippo
and Pedros covered [Transcriber's note: cowered?] so close that it was
hard for them to keep from stepping on their heels.  Ziffak placed
himself at the head, as the escort, and moved up the sloping bank with
the dignity of a conqueror.

The women, showed more taste in their dress, for all wore loose-fitting
gowns of native cloth, gaudily colored, though the children were
attired similarly to the men, with little more than a breech cloth
about the loins.  Even the boys of a most tender age were each armed
with a javelin, none of them, however, having the points of the weapons
poisoned as did their fathers and elders when on the war-path.

Another striking characteristic of these people was the abundance of
gold and diamond ornaments.  Not a woman was visible from whose ears
were not suspended heavy rings of the precious metal, while the
majority had diamonds fastened in the gold, all of several carats'
weight, and some so large and brilliant that they would have sold for
immense sums in a civilized country.

The older females had not only rings hanging from their ears, but still
more valuable ornaments depended from their noses.  It would have
enriched an army to loot the Murhapa village.

Each of the whites carried his Winchester, and Bippo and Pedros did not
forget their almost harmless spears; but the rifle of Johnston was left
behind with the valuable property.

At the moment of starting, Ziffak called to two warriors and said
something in a commanding voice.  They instantly hastened to the edge
of the water and placed themselves in front of the large canoe.  Their
action left no doubt they were obeying an order to guard the treasures
during the absence of the owners.

Reaching the top of the bank, the party were in what might be called
the main or only street of the town.  The grass had been worn smooth by
the feet of the villagers, among whom was not a dog, cat, horse, and,
indeed, any four-footed animal.

The visitors had landed near the lower end of the village, so that it
was necessary to walk some way before reaching the house of the king,
which was their destination.

As they started, the whole population began falling in behind them.
The terrified Bippo and Pedros shrank still closer to those in front,
trembling and affrighted, for the experience to which they were
subjected was enough to upset them morally, mentally and physically.

Ziffak turned his head with such a threatening scowl that the foremost
instantly fell back, dreading his vengeance, but when he faced the
other way, they began crowding forward again.

There must have been that in the appearance and action of Bippo and
Pedros which excited the latent mirth of the Murhapas, for say what we
may, the trait exists in a greater or less degree in all human beings.
One of them reached forward with his javelin and gave Bippo a sharp
prick.  With a howl, he leaped several feet in air and yelled that he
was killed.

There was an instant expansion of dark faces into grins, showing an
endless array of black stained, teeth, for the spear point was not
poisoned, and the incident caused a laugh on the part of his white
friends when they came to know the whole truth.

But the author of the practical joke had reckoned without his host.
The cry had hardly escaped the victim, when Ziffak bounded to the rear
like a cyclone.  The fellow who was a full grown warrior was still
grinning with delight, when he found himself in the terrific grasp of
the head chieftain.  It was then his turn to utter a shriek of
affright, which availed him nothing.

Ziffak first smote him to the earth by a single tremendous blow.  Then,
before he could rise to his feet, he grasped his ankles, one with
either hand, and swung him round his head, as a child whirls a sling,
before throwing the stone.

To the awed spectators he seemed a black ring of fire, so dizzyingly
swift were the gyrations, from the midst of which came a buzzing moan
of terror.

Only for a second or two was he subjected to this torture.  Suddenly
Ziffak ran toward the Xingu and then let go of the ankles.  The black,
limp object went spinning far out in the air, as if driven from some
enormous catapult.

Across the remaining space he went, falling several feet from shore and
disappearing beneath the surface.  But such fellows are extinguished
with difficulty, and the cold water quickly revived him.

By and by he came up, blew the moisture from his mouth, swam to shore,
climbed timidly out, and, sneaking up the bank again, humbly took his
place at the rear of the procession.

But Ziffak, having disposed of the joker, paid no further attention to
him, caring naught whether he swam or was drowned.  The lesson was one
that he would not forget, and produced a salutary effect upon the rest
of the multitude.  They instantly fell back so far that Bippo, finding
he had not been seriously hurt, saw that he was safe from further
disturbance.

It was only a few minutes later that Ziffak halted, his friends
immediately doing the same.

The cause was apparent: they had reached the dwelling place of Haffgo
king of the Murhapas.



CHAPTER XXI.

HAFFGO, KING OF THE MURHAPAS.

It was a memorable interview which the explorers held with Haffgo, king
of the mighty Murhapas.

Since Bippo and Pedros were servants, they were not admitted to an
audience with the potentate.  Ziffak conducted the others into the hut
adjoining the palace.  This was his own building, where his aged mother
had charge.  She understood matters from her son, and the frightened
fellows were made to feel that they were safe for a time from the
annoyances and persecutions of the multitude.

The apartment was an oblong one, being at the front, and was
characteristically furnished.  Instead of the smooth bare ground which
formed the floors of the other buildings, the palace was entirely
covered with the skins of wild animals, gaudily stained.  The whole
looked like a gorgeous, oriental carpet, which was as soft as down to
the tread.

There were no chairs or benches for auditors, for no one presumed to
sit in the presence of majesty.  The walls were hung with the same
species of ornamented furs, set off here and there by spears, bows and
arrows, arranged in fantastic fashion.

At the further end of the apartment, was a platform several feet high,
with a broad seat, covered with still more brilliant peltries, a
footstool, and on each side a vase of magnificent flowers.  These vases
were of native manufacture, beautifully ornamented, while the flowers
were of a radiant loveliness, such as are seen nowhere outside of
tropical countries.  Their delicious fragrance filled the apartment and
affected the strangers the moment the blanket was pulled aside by
Ziffak and they stepped within the royal reception room.

On each side was a broad open window, without glass, which admitted
enough sunlight to flood the place with illumination.

At the right of the dais or throne, the curtains were draped so as to
serve as a door for the king or any member of the royal household to
enter or withdraw.

On this barbaric throne sat the extraordinary personage known as King
Haffgo, ruler of the warlike Murhapas.

To say the least, his appearance was stunning, if not bewildering.

In the first place, it maybe doubted whether the intrinsic value of his
crown was not the equal of any that can be found to-day in the
monarchical countries of Europe, Asia or Africa.  Its foundation seemed
to be a network of golden wire, in which were set scores upon scores of
diamonds, weighing from five to ten carats apiece, with a central sun
the equal of the great Pitt diamond.  The coruscations from these
brilliants were overwhelming.  As the king moved his head while
speaking, every hue of the rainbow flashed and scintillated, the rays
at times seeming to dart entirely across the room.

In addition, the neck of Haffgo was encircled by a double string of the
same dazzling jewels, of hardly less magnitude; while the wrist of the
right hand, which rested on a large javelin, was clasped by a golden
bracelet of what appeared to be living fire.

The king was dressed in a species of thin cloth, gathered by a girdle
at the waist.  The crimson tint of this garment was relieved by figures
of the sun, moon and stars, of dragons, birds, beasts and reptiles in
gold.  One of his feet was visible, disclosing a species of sandal such
as is seen among the natives of the East Indies.

Had King Haffgo been encountered anywhere else, he would have been set
down as a European with an unusually fair complexion.  It bore no
liking to that of the African or native Murhapa.  His skin had none of
that chalky, transparent appearance shown by the Albinos, but was
almost pinkish and ruddy.

His bushy hair was not white, but of a decided brown, his eyes hazel,
his nose Roman, with a strong chin and a keen expression, such as was
natural to a man who had reigned an absolute autocrat all his life.

He was about fifty years of age, but his face was wrinkled like a man
of threescore and more.

King Haffgo was seated on his throne when his visitors were ushered
into his presence, as though he expected and was waiting for them.

The white men were unacquainted with the etiquette prevailing in this
barbaric court, but there are certain ceremonies which are received as
expressive of courtesy and obeisance the world over.

Ziffak gave no instructions; but, placing himself at the side of
Professor Grimcke on the left, he surveyed his friends with much
curiosity, as if waiting to see how they would conduct themselves.

Grimcke, Long and Ashman removed their hats and bowed slowly, bending
their heads almost to their knees.  Then, as they straightened up
again, the Professor, who took upon himself the duty of spokesman, said:

"We greet the great King Haffgo, and beg that he will accept the homage
of his brothers from their homes near the great water."

"Why do my brothers come from their homes to hunt out the king of the
Murhapas, when he has not asked them to come?"

These words were uttered almost exactly as given.  The accent was thick
and somewhat broken, but they showed an astonishing command of the
English tongue, and proved that Waggaman and Burkhardt had found some
exceedingly apt pupils among this people.

It is not necessary to give the interview in detail.  There was a
certain stateliness about the manner of the king which was remarkably
becoming.  His guests had prepared themselves, when starting out on
their exploring enterprise, to make friends, by providing a large
supply of gaudy trinkets, such as is always pleasing to the average
savage; but, when they saw the wonderful crown and diamond ornaments of
this autocrat, they were ashamed to let the baubles in their possession
be seen.

They consisted mainly of children's toys; and, since they were entirely
different from anything in the country, Professor Grimcke finally made
bold to offer them, with another low obeisance, to his majesty.  The
latter may have been delighted, but, if so, he did not allow it to
appear in his face or manner.

Fred Ashman handed him two brightly-polished knives, fashioned somewhat
after the familiar Bowie pattern, and, despite his reserve, it was easy
to see that they pleased him more than anything else.

Jared Long's present was a handsomely-carved meerschaum pipe.  The king
was an inveterate smoker, and, even if he didn't do anything more than
nod his head when it was placed in his hand, he ought to have been very
grateful.

Despite the pains which our friends took to win the good will of King
Haffgo, it was apparent to all three that their visit was not welcome.
Waggaman and Burkhardt may not have whispered anything in his ear about
them, but the ruler was thoroughly filled with a distrust of all white
men, the only exceptions being the ones that were the cause of this
distrust.

Being a man of unquestioned native sagacity, it needed nothing more
from his first guests than their accounts of what the other race was
doing in the cities and towns along the sea coasts.  Any people who
builded canoes large enough to cross the awful waste of waters in quest
of diamonds and gold, were sure to seize the chance to force their way
up the Xingu where much more boundless wealth awaited them.

The famous diamond mines of Brazil were not very far from this portion
of the Matto Grosso, and the pains which the emperors of Brazil had
taken to draw a part of their riches from the earth was all the proof
Haffgo could ask of the rapacity of the nations which called themselves
civilized.

Now, while this remarkable ruler could not always make certain that no
white men should enter his dominions, there remained a very good chance
of preventing such intruders from getting away again, carrying the
glowing accounts of what they had discovered.  So long as he could
maintain this condition of affairs, so long was he safe; for if he
"absorbed" every foreigner ascending the Xingu, the supply could never
exceed the demand.

The King conversed with not only the Professor, but with Long and
Ashman in turn.  They were as deferential as they knew how to be, but
all the same, their sagacity told them he bore them no good will, and
would have been much better pleased had the Aryks wiped them out before
they ascended the rapids.

At the conclusion of the interview, which lasted about half an hour,
the King Haffgo informed them they were at liberty to remain two days
in the village, during which they were not to pass outside its
boundaries.  At the expiration of the period named, they would be
allowed to descend the Xingu to their homes, under their pledge to tell
no person what they had seen and learned about the Murhapas.



CHAPTER XXII.

ARIEL THE BEAUTIFUL.

It will be understood that during the interview described, the three
white men stood near the front entrance to the royal apartment with
their faces turned toward King Haffgo.

In this position each made good use of his eyes and Fred Ashman's, from
some cause or other, continually wandered to the draped curtains at the
right of the ruler, between which he must pass when entering or leaving
that part of his residence.

It was while his gaze was used on these curtains that he saw them
gently agitated in a way which left no doubt that some person on the
other side was the cause.

By and by he discerned part of a dainty hand, and the next minute
became aware that a pair of the most beautifully lustrous eyes on which
he had ever gazed was peering into the apartment.

"_It is Ariel_," was his instant thought, "and she as listening to the
words that we are speaking."

The thought had hardly found shape, when one eye, a part of a lovely
face and the top of the head were discerned, as the owner, giving rein
to her curiosity, ventured upon a little further view of the visitors.

Then, as if conscious of her breach of etiquette, she withdrew, like a
flash, from view altogether.

But he knew it was only for a brief interval, and sure enough, the eyes
speedily appeared at another portion of the curtains, where the
beauteous princess must have believed she was not observed, for she
looked steadily at the faces of the visitors, with a depth of interest
that it was vain for her to attempt to conceal.

The heart of Fred Ashman gave a flutter, when he realized that the
midnight orbs were fastened upon _him_, and, evidently studying his
countenance with more interest than those of his companions.

Feeling a peculiar boldness, because of the strange situation in which
he was placed, he deliberately smiled at the unknown one.

She could not have vanished more suddenly had she been snatched away by
the hand of some ogre.

A pang shot through Fred's heart, as he felt that he had driven away
the enchantress by his own forwardness.  He reproached himself bitterly
for having overreached himself.

But while he was lamenting, he once more discovered the eyes, rivalling
the diamonds in the crown of her royal father, slyly viewing him from
the other side of the curtain.  This time the fair one took care that
no part of her countenance was visible, and the young man was equally
guarded for the time, not to betray his sweet knowledge of the other's
scrutiny.

It was at this juncture, that King Haffgo addressed some pointed
questions to Ashman who was forced to withdraw his gaze from the
marvellously attractive sight, and fasten it upon the rugged and
wrinkled countenance of the king of the Murhapas.

But those eyes were in his field of vision, and, even while speaking to
the potentate, his glance continually wandered to the orbs which
attracted him as the lodestone draws the magnet.

But alas! the American forgot a fact of the first importance: the eyes
of the father were as observant as those of his only child.  He saw the
furtive glances at the curtains, and a slight rustling at his right
hand told him that his beloved Ariel, with the curiosity of her sex,
was playing the eavesdropper.

The indulgent father would have cared nothing for this, had he not
discovered the extraordinary interest which one of his three callers
manifested in his child.  In that moment, the distrust which he felt of
the strange race was turned to violent hatred toward one of its
members, because of his unpardonable insolence in daring to return the
gaze with a smile.

The king suddenly leaned the javelin in his hand against the chair in
which he was sitting, and partly rose from his seat as if about to
descend from the throne.  Instead of doing so, he leaned slightly to
one side, and, with a quick movement, seized one of the curtains and
snatched it aside.

The act, which was like the flitting of a bird's wing, caused Ariel,
his daughter, to stand forth fully revealed!

If the white men had been dazzled by the amazing collection of diamonds
on the brow of the king, it may be said that they were now blinded for
the moment by the vision of loveliness which burst upon them, like the
unexpected emergence of the sun from behind a dark cloud.

Before the princess could rally from her bewilderment, her father
sharply commanded her to advance.  She knew that that affectionate
parent could be stern and cruel as well as loving and affectionate, and
with her eyes bent modestly on the floor she stepped forward and stood
beside him.

Her hair, instead of being auburn like her parent's, was as black as
the raven's wing.  It hung in luxuriant wavy masses below her waist,
being gathered by a white clasp of burnished silver at the back of the
neck, without which it would have enveloped all the upper part of her
body in its fleecy veil.

Her gown of spotless white, composed of native cloth, as fine as satin,
was without any ornament.  It was encircled at the waist by a golden
girdle, falling in folds which concealed the rest of the figure,
leaving only one Cinderella-like foot to twinkle from the front, like a
jewel of rare beauty.

But no eye could fail to see that the slight girlish figure was of
ravishing perfection.  The waist was slender, the partly revealed arms
were as delicate as lilies, the tiny hands with their tapering fingers
were like those of a fairy, while the countenance was one of the
fairest that ever sun shone on.

The contour was such as Rubens delighted to place on canvas, and that
Michael Angelo loved to carve from the snowy marble.  The Grecian nose,
the small mouth, the white teeth, unstained like those of her
countrymen and countrywomen, the wealth of hair, the lustrous, soulful
eyes, the sea-shell-like tint of the cheeks, all these fell upon the
startled vision of the explorers with such overpowering suddenness that
for the moment they believed they were dreaming, or that some trick of
magic revealed to them a picture which had no reality.

"Look upon the white men!" commanded the king speaking in English, and
with a sternness which left disobedience out of the question; "look, I
say, for never will come the opportunity to see them again."

It was then that Ariel raised her eyes, and turned them toward the
trio, gazing at no one in particular--for she knew her parent was
closely studying her--but seeming to fix them upon some one miles
behind them.

Grimcke, Long and Ashman again bowed their heads almost to the ground,
and, feeling that the interview was over, began withdrawing.

Like the vassals leaving the presence of their sovereign, they did so
walking backward, with their faces toward the throne, and making a low
obeisance with each step.

The king looked steadily at them, without inclining his head or making
the slightest acknowledgment of the salutation.  Had not Fred Ashman
been mad with the intoxication of his new, overwhelming passion, he
would have observed that which was noticed by Grimcke and Long: the
King was watching him.

The young American hardly raised his gaze from the floor, until in his
retreat, he found himself at the entrance, by which all three had come
in to the apartment.  His companions had made their final obeisance and
disappeared, while he was left with Ziffak standing near the middle of
the apartment, his pose such that he could glance at his royal relative
or at him without shifting his body.

It now became Fred's duty to assume the perpendicular, in order to
effect a graceful withdrawal.

As he came upright once more, he looked straight into the countenance
of the scowling king.  Then--he could not help it---his eyes flashed in
the face of the blushing Ariel, who was gazing fixedly at him, and he
smiled and saluted her.

It was a daring thing to do, with the eyes of the king and the head
chieftain upon him.  He never understood how it was that it was done.
The salutation might have been forgiven, but that smile was an offense
like smiting King Haffgo's countenance with the back of the open hand.

But wonder of wonders! the ruby lips of the radiant beauty parted for
an instant in the faintest possible smile which lit up her countenance
like a burst of sunshine.  Ashman noticed not the diamond bracelet and
necklace, which flashed in all their prismatic beauty, but knew only
that she had returned the smile of recognition.  For that boon he would
have risked life a thousand times over.

Both Ziffak and the king were looking at the white man at the moment;
but, as if suspicion had entered the brain of the infuriated monarch,
he quickly shifted his head and glared at his daughter.

The movement was like the dart of a serpent, but that shadowy smile on
the face of Ariel had passed, as the lightning flash cleaves the
midnight, leaving the darkness deeper than before.

The king saw it not, and well for his child that so it was; for, much
as he cherished her, he would have smitten her to the earth had he
dreamed that she ventured on such a response to the impudence of the
white man, whose very life was his own only through the sufferance of
King Haffgo.

Not until Fred Ashman found himself in the air on the outside of the
place did he realize what he had done.  He feared that he had committed
a fatal indiscretion, but when he asked, himself whether he would
recall it if he could, his heart said "No."

The afternoon was drawing to a close, and there was a sensible coolness
in the air.  The natives who had remained standing round the front of
the palace, when the explorers first went inside, had grown tired of
waiting and, scattered in different directions.  The Murhapa village
wore its usual appearance, so in contrast with what met the eyes of our
friends when they first saw it.

The Professor and the New Englander were waiting near the door for
Ashman to join them.  As he came out, the former shook his head, with a
laugh, as an intimation that the young man in the ardor of his interest
had made a mistake.

Fred admitted that possibly he had forgotten himself, but added that it
was now too late to recall what had been done, and he was not sure that
he would do so, if the opportunity were given.

"At any rate," said he, "we are promised safe treatment for a couple of
days, provided we don't stray off or misbehave ourselves.  Our visit
can't amount to anything after all, since we must start for home
whenever King Haffgo gives his command."

"A good deal may take place in two days," said the Professor
significantly.

"And a good deal _after_ five days," was the more significant remark of
Jared Long.

It was evident from these declarations that Grimcke and Long had in
mind the same thought; which came to Ashman himself, when the ruler of
the Murhapas made known to his guests that they must take their
departure within such a brief period.

While no one of the three would have dared to signify dissent, yet they
were not the men to come so many hundred miles, forcing their way
through endless dangers to turn about and retrace their steps at the
command of a savage who looked upon himself as king, simply because he
was able to lord it over a horde of barbarians.

It was no place to discuss their plans, in front of the "palace,"
especially as the natives were beginning to gather around them again,
and among them it was certain was more than one who understood the
English tongue "as she is spoke."

They were waiting for the coming of Ziffak, who was still within.  He
was their chaperon, and without his guidance, they did not dare to move
from the spot.

"Hark!" suddenly exclaimed the Professor, raising his hand as a signal
for the whispering to cease.

The sound of voices was heard inside.  They recognized the tones of
Ziffak, to which they had become accustomed since the previous night.
Those of King Haffgo were also distinguishable, and there could be no
doubt to whom the low silvery accents heard only occasionally belonged.

The alarming feature of it all was, that the king was in an
unmistakably angry mood.  He not only talked fast but he talked loud,
sure evidence of his excited feelings.  It sounded as if Ziffak was
striving to placate him, but his royal brother grew more savage each
moment.

The words of all were uttered in the Murhapa tongue, so that the
listeners could form no idea of their meaning.  Had they been able to
do so, it is safe to say that they would have been in anything but a
comfortable frame of mind.



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE SHADOW OF DANGER.

A few minutes later, Ziffak came through the door of the king's
residence and greeted the explorers.

His dusky countenance showed unmistakable traces of emotion, but like a
true warrior, he knew how to govern his feelings.  When he spoke, there
was no agitation perceptible in his voice.

He motioned to his friends to enter the adjoining hut, where Bippo and
Pedros had been left.  The Professor showing a natural timidity, he
stepped forward and led the way.

Immediately, the party found themselves within a structure, which while
no larger than the others, still, in view of the royal prerogatives of
the occupant perhaps, possessed more conveniences.  The lower
apartment, or rather floor, was separated into three divisions, the
front being that in which the cooking was done, while serving also for
a sitting and general reception room.

The mother of Ziffak and King Haffgo was a tall, muscular widow of
threescore and ten, much wrinkled, but strong and active on her feet.
Her countenance was darker if possible than that of the head chieftain,
making it the more wonderful that Haffgo should be the reverse in that
respect of both.

The royal mother paid little heed to her visitors, probably believing
they were able to take care of themselves without help from her.
Indeed, shortly after the white men entered, she took her departure,
and was not seen again until dark, when she came in to help provide
them with their evening meal.

Bippo and Pedros finding themselves safe at last were doing what they
could to make up for the sleepless nights and hard labor they had
undergone on their way thither.  They were stretched upon some skins in
one corner, sleeping heavily and refreshingly.

Ziffak sat on the floor with the whites.  It was apparent from his
manner that he was on the point of making a communication of
importance, but he seemed to change his mind suddenly, and, for a time,
spoke upon matters of such trivial account that his listeners were
surprised.

The next astonishing thing which he did was to declare that the stories
he gave to Ashman the night before, when made a prisoner by him were
fables.  There was no enchanted lake in the neighborhood, and his
account of the burning mountain was a myth, as were his yarns about the
diamonds obtained from the same mountain.

The Professor nodded his head, laughed and said he was glad to be told
that; for, while he wished to believe their good friend, when he was in
earnest, he found it hard to swallow those marvellous narratives which
exceeded anything that had ever come to their ears.

Long and Ashman also expressed great relief at the naïve confession of
the head chieftain.  All the same, however, not one of them was
deceived by the fellow's subterfuge.

They knew that the stories which Ziffak related on the shore of the
Xingu were true.  Seized at that time by a burst of confidence, he had
unburdened himself to the young man for whom he formed such deep
admiration.

Since that time, and especially since his angry interview with his
royal brother, he appreciated the grievous mistake he made and was now
anxious to recall it.  He, therefore, declared the accounts to be of
the Munchausen order.  His listeners read his purpose and it suited
them to let him think they accepted every word of his remarkable
recantation.

He impressed upon them that the king was angry because of their coming
to his village.  Indeed Ziffak was afraid that he would recall his
permission to allow them to stay the two days, and might compel them to
leave that night.

This was startling news, and, when Ziffak was pressed, he admitted that
during his absence on the Xingu to meet them, Waggaman and Burkhardt
had returned and secured an audience with His Majesty.  This explained
the new phase of matters and was anything but welcome information, but
there was no help for it.

The Professor asked Ziffak whether he could not bring the two white men
to his home, in order that an interview might be had.  If that could be
done, Grimcke was hopeful that a better understanding could be
established, but the head chieftain replied that he had not seen either
of the white men since he returned, nor did he know where to find them.
They occupied a building on the opposite side of the king's home, but
he was told they were not there.  No doubt they were purposely keeping
out of the way of the new-comers.

Suddenly Ashman asked their friend whether there was any objection to
his taking a stroll around the village and whether he was likely to be
molested.  Ziffak promptly replied that there could be no earthly
objection to anything of that nature, and springing to his feet, gun in
hand, he bade his friends good-bye, saying he expected to be back with
them at the end of an hour or so.

It cannot be said that Ashman had any special errand in view, when he
formed this resolution, which was explainable upon the well known laws
governing the human mind.

He was tired of idleness.  The prospect of sitting for hours in the
darkening apartment, talking with Ziffak, who, instead of being willing
to give information, was doing his most to withhold it, was not
inviting, but beyond this, he was restless because he was haunted by
those marvellous eyes, peeping from behind the curtain in the king's
room, and that smile of recognition when the gaze of the two met,
thrilled him with a new and strange emotion.

It was this feeling which drove him forth.  He wanted to escape the
prying scrutiny of his friends, who, he fancied, suspected his secret.
He wanted to walk in the open air and think and revel in the bliss of
his new delight.

It was growing dark, when he stepped outside of the building.  There
was no light visible in any direction, though there would be plenty of
it later on.  The natives appeared to be moving aimlessly about, and
one or two near at hand scrutinized him curiously, but they neither
spoke nor made any movement to annoy him.  They had not yet forgotten
the lesson given by Ziffak some hours before.

To escape attention, he walked toward the river, passing down the long
sloping bank, until he reached the open, cleared space which has been
referred to as caused by the overflow of the water.  Here the walking
was easy, and, turning his face up stream, he walked slowly as a man
does who is in deep thought.

A man who is revelling in the first dream of love is not the one to pay
close attention to his surroundings.  He is so apt to be rapt in his
own sweet meditations, that he fails in the most ordinary observation.

Reaching the bottom of the slope, Ashman glanced behind and on his
right.  He caught glimpses of several figures moving about like
shadows, but so far as he could judge, none of them was interested in
him.  Dismissing them from his mind, he moved on.

He had walked less than one-third of the length of the village front,
when the form of a man slipped softly down the incline, following in
his footsteps and moving as silently as a Murhapa warrior tracking his
foe through the forest.

He was dressed similarly to the American, having the same style of
Panama hat, shirt and boots, and he carried a rifle in his hand.  Being
of the same race, he ought to have been a friend, but when the bright
moonlight fell upon his face, it showed the countenance of a demon.

He was Burkhardt, an escaped convict, who had lived for five years
among the Murhapas, and he was seeking the life of Fred Ashman, who, in
his enchanting visions of love, never dreamed of the awful shadow
stealing upon him.



CHAPTER XXIV.

YOUNG LOVE'S DREAM.

What in all the world so sweet as young love's dream?  It is the old,
old story, and yet it is as new and fresh and blissful to the soul as
it will be to the end of time, or until these natures of ours are
changed by the same Hand that framed them.

What more bewitching romance could cast its halo about the divine
passion than that which enshrined the affection of Fred Ashman for the
wonderful Ariel, the only child of the grim Haffgo, king of the
Murhapas?

He had met and chatted and exchanged glances with the beauties of his
own clime, and yet his heart remained unscathed.  He reverenced the sex
to which his adored mother and sister belonged, and yet never had he
felt the thrill that stirred his nature to the profoundest depths, when
his eyes met those of the barbarian princess and the two smiled without
either uttering a word.

"What care I for the gold and the diamonds and the precious stones of
the Matto Grosso?" the ardent lover asked himself; "is not she the
Koh-i-noor of them all?--the one gem whose preciousness is worth more
than all the world?"

He was willing that the Professor and Jared Long should risk their
lives in searching for the enchanted lake, and the burning mountain
where such priceless wealth existed.  Thousands of their kind had done
it before, and countless thousands would follow in their footsteps
through the generations to come.

But as for _him_, a new mission had broken upon his consciousness; he
had a sacred duty to perform.  Somewhere, in this broad world, a human
soul is always waiting for its mate.  Perchance it never comes, and the
weary one may be joined to that which heaven never intended it to be
joined, or it repines and goes to the grave unloved.

Fred Ashman was as sure as if he heard a voice from the stars, telling
him that Ariel, the daughter of Haffgo, was his other self.  He could
never rest, he could not really live until it should be his lot to
carry her from this lonely wilderness to his own home thousands of
miles away.

To the young lover, aglow and happy in his new passion, all things are
possible.  It is he who can appreciate even the days of chivalry, when
the valiant knight went forth, with lance and buckler to win his lady
against all comers, counting it his highest happiness to face the
perils of flood and field if perchance he could but win her smile.

And yet, amid all the roseate dreams which fairly lifted Fred Ashman
from the gross earth, he could not entirely lose sight of his peculiar
situation and the formidable difficulties which environed his path.  He
would not admit they were insurmountable, but they were hard to climb.

To come down to facts, he felt that the first, and, indeed, the
indispensable step was to secure a meeting with the princess that had
taken such complete possession of his heart.

Guarded as she was by her father, who was sure to resent with instant
death any such presumption on his part, he might well shrink from the
appalling attempt; but love has many ways of picking the locks that may
be fastened to keep hearts apart.

"Ziffak!"

That was the name which came to his tongue again and again, with the
question whether his friendship could not be enlisted on the side of
the youth, who had come so strangely to the Murhapa village.  He was a
shrewd fellow who must suspect the truth of those stolen glances.  He
had shown a sudden and strong affection for the explorers, and
especially for Ashman to whom he surrendered.  Was what friendship
strong enough to lead him to a step that would insure a rupture with
his royal brother and probably bring about war in his little kingdom?

"I wonder what revelation he was on the point of making when he sat
down with us in his mother's home," Ashman muttered, as he slowly
walked along the bank of the Upper Xingu, unmindful of the creeping
shadow behind him.

That it bore upon that interview and related to the angry quarrel he
did not doubt, but he could only conjecture its nature which was not
encouraging when he recalled that Ziffak had told him and his friends,
without protest on his part, that they were likely to be compelled to
leave the village that night.

Ashman ceased in his walk, for he saw, in spite of his absorbing
reverie, that he had passed above the uppermost house of the village.
The condition under which he was allowed to stay in peace, even for a
brief time, was that he should not wander beyond the limits of the town.

It was useless to excite resentment without reason, and he was about to
turn and retrace his steps, when a slight rustling of the undergrowth,
which marked the boundary of the forest on the south caused him to turn
his head, stop, and hold his rifle ready for danger.

His old habit of caution came back the instant peril seemed to threaten.

While he debated whether to advance and force the stranger to reveal
himself, the outlines of a form were distinguished and a slight figure
stepped forth in the moonlight.

Ashman's heart seemed to stop beating and life itself hang in suspense,
when he recognized the very being that had taken such full possession
of his thoughts.

Ay, Ariel, daughter of King Haffgo, stood before him.

For a moment, neither spoke or moved.  It was not strange perhaps that
she was the first to recover the power of utterance.

Advancing timidly, she said in a tremulous voice and with an accent
just broken enough to make it all the sweeter:

"You are in danger and I could not help coming to tell you."

"Heaven bless you!" he exclaimed, taking a step toward her, but still
observing a respectful distance.  "You have braved danger yourself to
give me the warning."

"I left my home and waited for a chance to speak to you; I dared not go
to the door of Ziffak's house for I would have been seen.  Then, while
I was wondering what to do, I saw you come forth and walk toward the
river.  I thought you would go to the end of the village, so I hurried
on and hid among the bushes until I could speak to you without any one
seeing me."

Ashman's head was in a swirl.  He was trembling in every limb, while
she seemed to be devoid of any agitation whatever.

"Your father King Haffgo was angry this afternoon, because I looked at
you; but," added the lover, "I could not have helped doing it, if I
knew my life would have paid for the act.  Ziffak told me about you, so
you see I did not feel that you were a stranger, even though I then saw
you for the first time and never heard the music of your voice until
now."

"The king is angry," said she, withdrawing a little as the happy fellow
took another step; "he says you shall be killed, but Ziffak persuaded
him to say your life should be spared if you went away to-night."

Ashman felt another delicious thrill as he reflected that if such were
the understanding, there would seem to be no cause for the lovely Ariel
to come thus far out of her way to repeat what Ziffak was sure to
explain before the departure of the explorers.

Ah, it must have been because of her interest in him that she had
sought this perilous stolen interview.

"Well, then," said he mournfully, "I must depart and never see you
again.  Death would be preferable to _that_!"

"But you may come back some time," said she in such a tremulous,
hesitating voice, that he impulsively sprang forward and caught her
dainty hand before she could escape him.

"O don't!" she plead like a timid bird, striving to withdraw the
imprisoned fingers which he still held fast.

"Nay, but you must, if I am never to see you again," he exclaimed
vehemently; "O, Ariel, I had hoped that I might stay here until I could
see and talk with you and tell you that I can never, never leave you;
that if I go, you must go with me; I will take you to my home which is
many many long miles away, but I will be your slave; I will love you; I
will make you happy; you shall never sigh for the land and the people
you leave behind you----"

There is no saying when the impetuous lover would have stopped his
wooing in this cyclone-like fashion hut for an alarming interruption.
He had been smitten profoundly, and the urgency of the case impelled
him to an ardor which could not have found expression under any other
conditions; but, all the time the frightened maiden was striving to
free her imprisoned hand, and the lover felt he ought to release it but
could not.

Suddenly she ceased her efforts and looked beyond him with a gasp and
such a startled expression, that he knew some unusual cause had
produced it.



CHAPTER XXV.

ZIFFAK'S BLOW.

Ziffak, head chieftain of the Murhapas, was a shrewder and more
far-seeing man than even his white friends suspected.

He had been the first to observe the significant glances of Fred Ashman
at the hanging curtains, as he was the first to detect the presence of
his beloved niece behind them.

Although King Haffgo saw not the smile which flitted over the face of
his daughter, when her eyes met those of the young American, yet Ziffak
observed it, and he could not have translated it wrongly had he wished
to do so.

An intimation has been given of the nature of the quarrel between
Ziffak and his royal brother.  The latter was so infuriated that he
declared that every one of the white men should die.  Ziffak reminded
him of his pledge that they should be safe for two days, a pledge that
he had repeated in their presence.

But in his hot anger, Ziffak said, he would break that pledge.  One of
the explorers had dared to look upon the face of Ariel and smile.  Had
he detected her returning it, he would have driven his javelin through
her body as she stood beside him.

Ziffak gave no hint of what he had observed.

The head chieftain was not afraid to brave his brother to his face; but
he wisely forbore carrying the quarrel beyond the point of
reconciliation.  He told his brother that he was so beside himself that
he forgot he was a Murhapa who never broke his word.  But if the king
insisted, he would see that the white men took their departure before
the rising of the morrow's sun.

King Haffgo consented that if that was done, he would permit them to go
in peace.  It was Ziffak's hope that his brother, after his anger had
time to cool, would modify his last declaration still further and allow
them to stay their two days, that led him to qualify his remark about
the necessity of their withdrawing that night.

The same cunning which stood the head chieftain so well during this
stormy interview remained with him to the end.  While he and his
brother were wrangling, Ariel stood mute and with bowed head.  She
durst not speak, but withdrew only a minute or two before her parent.

Ziffak was still warmly attached to Ashman, and was willing to risk his
life in his behalf.  Knowing that Waggaman and Burkhardt had had much
to do with stirring the resentment of the king, he was angry enough to
slay both of them.

When the most peculiar situation is considered, however, it is hardly
safe to believe the head chieftain was ready to go to the length of
helping to bring about a meeting between the lovers.

He understood his niece well enough to know that despite the fury of
her parent, she would brave a good deal to exchange words with the
handsome stranger that had made such an impression on his heart.

So long as this young man remained in Ziffak's house, so long was it
impossible for such meeting to take place; but, when Ashman sprang up
and announced his intention of taking a stroll, Ziffak believed that it
was with the intention of trying to see Ariel.  That is to say, he
suspected what really came to pass, though it was not in the mind of
the youth.

Ashman had not been gone long, when Ziffak made an excuse to withdraw,
saying he meant to find out, if he could, where Waggaman and Burkhardt
were hiding.  He counselled the Professor and the New Englander to stay
where they were until his return, which he promised should not be long
deferred.

Neither Grimcke nor Long dreamt of the object of their dusky friend in
leaving, and as the mother of the Murhapa reappeared about that time
and started a fire, with a view of preparing their evening meal, they
concluded that the best thing for them was to follow the advice of the
brave fellow.

The instant Ziffak was on the outside of his own house, he became as
alert as a cat scenting a mouse.  He held his ponderous javelin with
its poisoned tip in his right hand, and he looked keenly about in the
gathering gloom.

A warrior stopped in front of him and made a respectful inquiry about
the white men.  Ziffak uttered such an angry reply and raised his
weapon so menacingly that the native skurried away in terror of his
life.

All at once the keen black eyes caught sight of a small, petite figure
as it vanished in the darkness.  He smiled, for he recognized Ariel on
her way to the upper end of the village.  He knew on the instant what
_that_ meant.

Then the penetrating gaze outlined the figure of a man, sneaking like a
wild animal, down the river bank.  He was seen only faintly, but he was
equally sure of _his_ identity.  It was Burkhardt, one of the hated
white men that had poisoned the mind of his brother and caused him to
forget he was a Murhapa, whose word should be sacred.

An exultant gleam came into the dusky face, as he stole forward in the
same direction that the convict took.  The action of the miscreant
showed that he was following some prey, and who was it as likely to be
as the white man that was abroad and was held in such detestation by
the scoundrel?

Burkhardt, in one respect, acted precisely as did his intended victim.
The latter was so absorbed in his own delicious thoughts, that, after
that hurried glance around him, he did not once again look to the rear.
So Burkhardt, never once dreaming that he was under surveillance, kept
his gloating eyes fixed on the shadowy figure in front, without looking
to see that while the man was hunting the tiger another tiger was not
hunting him.

Being a slight distance to the rear of the convict, Ziffak could not
see the form in front of him with equal distinctness, but the faint
glimpse which he caught was all he needed.

Thus the strange procession passed up the western bank of the calmly
flowing Xingu.  Fred Ashman moving slowly and lost in reverie,
Burkhardt prowling like a wild beast behind him, with Ziffak clinging
to the heels of the wretch as if he were his very shadow.

The moon, which gave but faint light at the beginning, increased in
power as the minutes passed.  Ziffak fell back, so that if Burkhardt
should look around, he would not recognize though he might see him.

But the ruffian did not turn his head: he was too intent on the fearful
task before him.

Suddenly he stopped.  Instantly Ziffak crouched down into the smallest
possible space and clutched his javelin.  The increasing moonlight
showed that he had passed beyond the upper end of the village and was
watching the lovers on the fringe of the forest beyond.

A movement on the part of Burkhardt, as if he were making preparation
to fire his rifle, caused Ziffak to move swiftly and silently forward
until he was within twenty paces.  Then he paused, for he was close
enough.

The change of position on the part of the pursuer enabled him to catch
the outlines of the lovers, so absorbed in each other's presence that
they forgot to keep within the sheltering shadow of the trees.

Burkhardt could ask for no better opportunity than that which was now
before him.  He knew the inextinguishable hatred of King Haffgo for
this white man, and no greater favor could be done the ruler than to
slay him.

Sinking on one knee, he carefully brought his gun to a level.  The
gleam of the moonlight on the barrel insured unerring aim.

But a moment before it was perfected, Ashman stepped forward and seized
the hand of his adored one.  This caused such a change of the relative
situation of the two that the weapon could not be fired without
endangering the life of the maiden.

That would never do, and waiting a moment in the hope that another
charge would take place, Burkhardt began stealthily moving to the right
to secure the advantage.  A few steps up the slope were all that was
required, when he again knelt on one knee and pointed his rifle at the
unsuspicious American.

It was but an instant before that Ariel caught sight of the crouching
figure and was transfixed with terror.  The moonlight enabled her to
identify the person, who was aiming his gun either at her or her
companion.

Before she could speak, and at the moment Ashman turned his head, a
giant figure was seen to rise as if out of the very earth, directly
behind the miscreant.  He held his prodigious javelin poised over his
bead.  He was seen to make a sudden onward movement and then the weapon
vanished.

Speeding toward the couple with such amazing velocity it was invisible;
but, ere the crouching convict could press the trigger of his rifle, he
was seen to sprawl forward, his gun flying from his grasp.  The
terrible javelin had gone entirely through his body as though it were
tissue paper, and pinned him like an impaled insect to the earth!

"The scoundrel!" exclaimed Ashman, who was just too late to anticipate
their friend.

"It is Ziffak who has saved us!" gasped Ariel, shrinking against the
side of her lover.

The herculean chieftain towered aloft in more imposing proportions than
ever as he strode toward the startled couple.  Whether he was advancing
to regain his weapon, or whether he meant to join them could not be
known; for, before he reached the body of the assassin, he abruptly
stopped and looked in the direction of the village.

He had caught an ominous sound: it was that made by the discharge of
firearms!

"Great heaven!" exclaimed Ashman; "they have attacked my friends in
Ziffak's house; I must go to their help; dearest Ariel, what will
become of you?" added the distracted lover.

"Leave me alone," she replied, becoming calm again; "I can return home."

"Well, then, good-bye!  It may be for the last time," he impulsively
added, catching her, his one arm clasped about her yielding form and
drawing her to him.  Then, while she only faintly resisted, he kissed
her passionately, as a lover kisses the queen of his heart when he
believes he is bidding her farewell forever.

Suddenly, Ashman felt both of the willowy arms about his own neck, and
she returned his caresses with a fervor equal to his own.

"Heaven bless and keep you!" he murmured; "I now have everything to
live for!  I shall fight hard, for it is not the life of my friends or
my own that it is at stake!  It is _you_! It is YOU!"

The startled Ziffak had paused but an instant, when he read aright the
meaning of the sounds of guns from the village.  The explorers had been
attacked by the Murhapas.  King Haffgo must have given the order.  He
had violated his pledge for the first time in his life.  Great was his
provocation!

The bosom of the giant heaved with indignation.  He stood glaring like
a lion at the keepers who are torturing his mate to death, while he is
barred within the cage and cannot rush to her help.

Then, wheeling about, he broke into a run straight for his home, whence
came the shots that left no doubt that Professor Grimcke, Jared Long,
and perchance their servants were fighting for their lives.

The chieftain had not far to go, and half the distance was passed, when
he paused as suddenly as he had started.  A new and startling decision
had formed itself in his mind.

Again he wheeled and dashed toward the spot where he had left the
lovers a minute before.

They saw him coming, and Ashman released his beloved and started to
join the chieftain, who he suspected had come for him.

"Back!" he commanded, waving his immense arms; "neither of you must go
to the village!"

"But what shall we do?" asked Ariel, pausing in front of the excited
giant.

"Flee at once!  Delay not a moment!  If you do not, Haffgo will slay
both of you!  They are searching for Ariel!  They suspect she is with
you!  They will soon know it and death awaits each!"



CHAPTER XXVI.

THE FLIGHT.

Never had Ziffak shown such fearful excitement.  He swung his arms, and
in his wild agitation uttered some of his words in Murhapa, but his
meaning was caught by Ashman, who was infected by his overwhelming
emotion.  He was distraught for the moment, and stood undecided what to
do.

It was the lovely Ariel who showed the most self-command.

"Whither shall we go, Ziffak?" she asked in English.

"To the enchanted lake; to the burning mountain!  You know the way!
Nothing else will save you, and you are lost if you wait another
minute!"

And laying hands on the young man, he whirled him about and gave him a
shove which nearly threw him off his feet.  Then he reached to catch
her, but she eluded him and slipped like a bird to the side of her
lover.

"We will go!" said she; "leave us alone!"

Ashman turned his head and seizing the hand of his companion, said,

"You are my guide now!  Lead on, and I will follow you to the death!"

She made no answer, but moved rapidly through the wood until they came
to the open space along the river.  Here, since there were no
obstructions, they increased their pace almost to a run.  He sought to
maintain his place beside her, but she moved so fast, with little
apparent effort that it was hard to do so.

He had his Winchester and revolver, and he glanced behind to learn
whether they were followed.  Ziffak had vanished, and no one was in
sight.  It was well that such was the fact; for he would not have
hesitated to shoot down any that might appear.

The extraordinary flight continued for a furlong, and then Ariel paused
on the edge of the Xingu.  Her lover saw the reason: a small canoe lay
against the shore.

"Is this to be used?" he asked, glancing in her pale face.

She nodded her head, and, lifting her skirts, stepped daintily within,
and sat down near the stern.  He shoved the boat clear, sprang in and
sat down near the middle, as he seized the broad thin paddle.

Although considerably above the rapids, which had been the cause of all
his difficulty, Ashman noticed that the current was not so swift as
that encountered at many places leagues below; and, since the width was
no greater, it followed that that portion of the Upper Xingu was of
unusual depth.

In the strange excitement of the occasion, the lovers spoke few words.
They had said much, and, when the opportunity should again come, they
would say a great deal more; but they were fleeing for their lives, and
any distraction of their whole interest and effort was likely to be
fatal.

Ariel realized this as fully as did Ashman.  She continually glanced in
every direction, especially toward the village which was fast receding
behind them.  Fred swung the paddle powerfully, but with as little
noise as possible.

In such crises of a man's life he thinks rapidly.  While the young
man's heart was aglow with the ecstacy of a promised fulfillment of his
love--a more glorious fulfillment than he had dared to dream of--he saw
that a desperate struggle was not only certain but close at hand.

Very soon the flight of Ariel must be discovered, and her infuriated
father would stop at nothing to punish the elopers.  He could command
hundreds of the most valiant warriors of the Matto Grosso, and any one,
except such a lover as Fred Ashman, would have shrunk from the
prodigious task before him.

When the flight of the canoe had continued for several minutes, and he
could breathe a little more freely, he asked of his companion, whether
she was familiar with the region they expected to visit.

The reply was singular.  King Haffgo was accustomed to make regular
excursions to the wonderful place, and he rarely did so without Ariel
as his companion.  He had guards stationed night and day to watch for
the approach of strangers, for there was wealth enough to awaken the
avarice even of the Emperor of Brazil himself.

Leaving his warriors at the entrance to the lake, with instructions to
prevent any one following him, Haffgo would paddle the frail craft out
upon the lake, with his daughter as his only companion.

They explored much of the strange locality, visiting places unknown, so
far as they were aware, to every one else.

Ashman reflected that this was extremely fortunate so far as Ariel was
concerned, for it gave her the very knowledge that was so necessary in
their flight; but, unfortunately, their bitterest and most unrelenting
enemy possessed the same knowledge.

Now the Xingu broadened, and the flow became still more moderate.
Ashman held his paddle suspended and looked around.

"Are we entering the lake?"

"Not yet," she replied with a shake of her lovely head.

The oar was dipped again, and the light boat shot forward like a water
fowl over the smooth surface.

He had noticed that the boat was similar to that used by Ziffak, being
composed of a species of bark, the seams of which were skilfully joined
with tendons, and the outside covered with a gum which rendered it
close enough to exclude even air itself.

What seemed to be a creek a hundred feet wide, suddenly opened on the
right, winding through an exuberant forest whose branches overhung the
water.  She motioned with her hand for him to guide the boat into this,
adding that it was the entrance to the enchanted lake of which he had
heard such glowing accounts, and whose existence, he remembered, had
been denied by Ziffak, though it had been admitted by him only a brief
while before.

The course of the canoe was changed, and Ashman involuntarily slackened
the pace, while he gazed around with increasing wonder.

The distance was not far, when a towering rock was observed jutting out
from the bank.  It was fully twenty feet high, rough, jagged and
massive and obtruded half-way across the stream.

She whispered to him to proceed as cautiously as he could, for on the
rock was stationed one of the lookouts of King Haffgo, whose duty it
was to challenge every one on his way to the enchanted lake.  Ashman
was told to keep his lips mute, in case they were hailed, as they were
likely to be, and to leave to her any explanation it might be necessary
to make.

In the bright moonlight, the sentinel was sure to notice the presence
of a white man in the boat, but would be likely to believe he was
either Waggaman or Burkhardt, while he would not dare to question the
daughter of the king, however much he might be astonished at her
presence at this time.

Ashman saw the figure of a Murhapa, but instead of being erect, he was
seated on a ledge of the rock, his body half prone and in a motionless
posture.  The paddle was dipped more softly than ever as the craft came
opposite him, but he did not speak, or stir.

"He's asleep?" whispered Ashman, looking inquiringly at her.

She nodded her head, and he did not require to be told of the great
gain that would be secured, if they could pass without awaking him.

With that view, he used the utmost care, causing only the faintest
ripple, as he propelled the light craft over the mirror-like surface.

In a few seconds, the massive rock was passed, and still the sentinel
remained as motionless, as if he were a part of the solid stone, on
which he was seated.  He surely was a negligent servant to lose his
consciousness thus early in the night.

A few more strokes, and a turn in the creek left him out of sight.
_That_ danger was safely passed, and Fred Ashman drew a sigh of relief,
accepting it as a good omen of their future.

He now dipped the paddle deeper, and, within the following five
minutes, the canoe and its occupants debouched upon the waters of the
wonderful enchanted lake.



CHAPTER XXVII.

SHUT IN.

The situation in which the visitors to the dominions of King Haffgo
were placed, was such as to sharpen their wits to the keenest edge.

After the departure of Fred Ashman, Ziffak talked more plainly with the
Professor and New Englander.  The head chieftain told his white friends
what they had suspected; Haffgo was enraged at Ashman's presumption
with his daughter.  He was in that mood indeed, in which, but for his
promise, he would have hurled his javelin at the youth before he left
the audience chamber.

Ziffak, however, was hopeful that the anger of his royal brother would
cool sufficiently to allow the visitors to remain there two days; but
he doubted whether, after all, they would want to stay that long under
the strained condition of things.

When the chieftain took his departure, it was without any hint that he
wished to have an eye to the young gentleman, but Grimcke and Long
suspected it, and their conversation became of the gravest character,
for they fully realized their peril.

They regretted the mad infatuation of their young friend with Ariel the
princess, and yet they did not blame him, for, as the New Englander
remarked, could they have believed there was any hope for them, they
would have fallen as irrestrainably in love as he.

But they did not, and, therefore, were in a frame of mind to consider
the situation more coolly than the hot-headed lover.

Both agreed that the stroll taken by Ashman was likely to bring about
trouble, but they were powerless to do anything.  Ziffak was the only
individual who could manage matters in such an emergency.

It will be remembered that night had fully come at the time of the
chieftain's departure.  The interior of the room would have been
wrapped in gloom, had not the mother of Ziffak made her appearance and
started a fire on the hearth at the further end of the apartment.

The white men watched her closely to see how the Murhapas were
accustomed to secure ignition.  But they were disappointed.  She raked
aside the ashes until some embers were disclosed beneath, which were
readily fanned into a flame.  This caused the apartment to shine with a
light like that at mid-day.

She had brought in an earthen vessel of water and began broiling
several thin slices of meat on the coals.  They were quickly finished,
and she then handed to each of her guests the prepared meat on an
earthen plate.  All ate heartily, using their fingers for knives and
forks, while the cool water could not have been more refreshing.

Bippo and Pedros had been sleeping and resting so long that they
desired to get out doors.  Since they were not likely to be recognized
in the night, if they used caution, Grimcke and Long told them to go,
but to take care they did not lose themselves.

They had hardly departed when their hostess also left, passing out by
the rear way.  She did not speak, but as she was disappearing, gave the
two men such a strange look that their suspicions were awakened.  Both
at that moment were reflecting upon the ominous news brought them by
Ziffak.

By a common impulse, both hastened to the rear to learn all they could
about the building in which they might be compelled to fight for their
lives.

The result was rather pleasing.  The structure was heavier and more
compact than the ordinary buildings, and, in addition to the usual
opening in front, had one at the rear, through which the woman
undoubtedly passed on her way to her royal son.

Neither of these openings were provided with anything in the nature of
a door that could be closed.  Whenever the rare occasions arose for
such a sealing of the inhabitants of a house, it was done by means of
furs suspended in front of the entrance.

The white men noted this with quick eyes, and then went back to the
front apartment.

"In the event of attack," said the Professor with the utmost coolness,
"you can take the rear door and I the front."

Long nodded his head; he understood and was ready.

They had hardly entered the front apartment, when both were struck by
the unusual chatter of voices on the outside.  There must have been a
large gathering of people who were growing excited about something.

The Professor was about to step into the opening to learn what it
meant, when Bippo burst into the apartment, the picture of fright and
terror.

"Going to kill us!" was his alarming exclamation; "make me run--almost
kill me!"

"Where's Pedros?" asked Long.

"He scared--run into woods--won't come back--run all way to Am'zon!"

"I think he'll have to stop once or twice to get breath before he
reaches there," was the characteristic comment of the Professor, who
standing near the door, listened more closely to the threatening words
and exclamations on the outside.

It sounded singular to recognize more than one expression uttered in
English by these people, who, until a few years before were unaware
that such people were living.

But for the proof Ziffak had given of his loyalty the whites might have
connected his absence with the ugly signs outside; but the confidence
even of Jared Long in his friendship was unshaken.

"Bippo," said the Professor, speaking with the same quiet
self-possession he had shown in the first place, "they are going to
attack us; more than likely we shall be killed, but there is a chance
for you, because you are dressed like these people, and, so long as you
can keep in the shadow, you can pass for one of them; you can slip out
by the opening at the rear without being noticed; steal away, find
Pedros if you can, and leave."

The eyes of the servant seemed to protrude from his head, as he grasped
the fearful meaning of these words.  Then, clutching his spear in his
hand, he whisked like a shadow into the rear apartment beyond sight.

Grimcke and Long smiled in each other's face; they could not blame the
fellow for thinking of his own safety.

"The music will begin in a few minutes," added the Professor.  "I think
you had better guard the rear; you understand, Jared, that it's no time
to throw away any powder."

"I don't propose to waste my ammunition," muttered the New Englander,
as he stepped softly into the rear apartment.

Only a slight reflection from the fire on the hearth found its way into
that part of the house, which had no window; but by the dim light Jared
Long saw a dusky figure come rapidly from the door toward him.  He was
on the point of raising his gun, when it spoke:

"It's me--Bippo."

"I thought you had left.  Why didn't you go?"

"Love my white folks--can't leave 'em, stay die wid 'em."

This sounded very fine, but the New Englander was incredulous.  He
believed that their servant was more afraid to leave than to stay.  He
had probably taken a look outside and decided that he was safer under
the shelter of those three Winchesters (for the weapon of poor Aaron
Johnston was still in the possession of his friends).

Long was inclined to ask him to take charge of the extra rifle, and use
it in helping to defend themselves; but, recalling the antipathy of the
fellow against handling firearms, he decided that he would only throw
away his cartridges.

He, therefore, cautioned him to keep out of the reach of any of the
missiles that were likely to come flying into the apartment, and urged
him, in case he saw any opening, to dart out among the people and do
his best to escape.

Professor Grimcke firmly believed that the impending fight would be to
the death, and that the only issue would be the slaying of himself and
companion.  It was the same danger they had faced many times, with the
difference that this was to be the last.

He surveyed his surroundings, like a general making ready to receive
the assault of a foe, and die fighting in the last ditch.

There was the door in front and the two windows, through which the
attack could be made.  He could cover all three with his repeating
rifle, and, when the last struggle came, appeal to his revolver and
knife.  He smiled, grimly at the reflection, that he had every ground
for believing, that the victory of the Murhapas would prove the most
costly they had ever won.  Jared Long was his equal in markmanship and
coolness, and, as he coolly remarked, there would be no ammunition
wasted, by either.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

BESIEGERS AND BESIEGED.

Suddenly a bushy bead, with a black face, horribly distorted by
passion, appeared at the window furthest from where Professor Grimcke
was standing.

The right hand was raised and in the act of poising a javelin to hurl
at the white man; but the latter, with an incredibly quick movement,
brought his Winchester to a level and fired.

The bronze skull was shattered as though it were a rotten apple, and
the Murhapa, with a resounding shriek, went backward in the darkness.

A slight rustling at the other window drew the white man's attention
thither, and, without lowering his weapon, he let fly at a group who
were simply peering within, evidently believing there was no call to
use their javelins.

Another screech told that the bullet had found its mark, and the other
faces vanished.

Then Grimcke stepped out from the wall to gain a view of the opening
which answered for a door.  A rustling there told him a crowd were
gathering, but they had taken warning just in time to avoid a third
shot.  Then he slipped a couple more cartridges from his belt into the
magazine, so as to keep it full, and awaited the next step in this
extraordinary business.

"I've about a hundred left," he reflected, "and that's enough to keep
things on a jump, if I can dodge their javelins."

Meanwhile, Jared Long was not idle.  He had but the opening at the rear
to watch, and he did the duty well.  Almost at the moment that his
comrade fired his first shot, he descried the figure of a Murhapa
trying to steal into the apartment without detection; but just enough
of the moonlight that was shut from the front doors and windows,
reached the rear of the building, to disclose the outlines of the head
and shoulders, as he began stealthily creeping into the building.

Bippo had discovered the peril at the same moment, and clutched the arm
of his master with a nervous intensity of terror.  Long impatiently
shook him off, and, with the same cool quickness of Professor Grimcke,
drove a bullet through the head of the dusky miscreant, who was slain
so suddenly that he rolled convulsively backward, without any outcry.

Almost at the same instant, a second native emitted a wild shout.  He
was directly behind the first and the latter lurched against him,
causing such fright that he leaped back several feet with the
involuntary cry fully understood by all whose ears it reached.

Long stood as rigid as a statue for several minutes, waiting for
another chance, but none presented.  Then he reflected that his
position was much more favorable than Grimcke's, for not only had he
but the single opening to guard, but his apartment was so shrouded in
gloom that the sharpest-eyed warrior could not locate him from the
outside.

The New Englander stepped to the door communicating with the front
apartment and, barely showing himself, spoke:

"I can attend to the window on the right, Professor; leave that to me,
while you watch the door and the other one."

"Thanks," returned his friend; "I think there is a little too much
light in this part of the house."

Moving quickly to the hearth he heaped the ashes with his foot upon the
blazing embers, until they were so smothered that only a few tiny
twists of flame struggled through the covering.  This left the place in
such darkness that a sense of security instantly came to him.

"Good!" called the New Englander, who could no longer be discerned;
"that makes matters more nearly equal!"

Although, as we have said, the moonlight was substantially shut off
from the front of the heavy structure, yet the moon itself, being full,
so illumined the surroundings that it was quite easy to distinguish the
head and figure of any one of their enemies the instant he presented
himself at one of the openings.

What both the defenders feared was, that the savages would make a
sudden rush and force themselves within the cabin in spite of the
disastrous reception they were sure to be given.  Such an essay was
certain to result in the overthrow of the whites, but the Murhapas must
have realized the cost it would be to them.  Brave as they were, they
hesitated to incur the consequences until other means had failed.

Professor Ernest Grimcke now did a most daring thing.  The fierce
welcome he had given the attacking Murhapas resulted in their temporary
demoralization.  Knowing they would speedily recover, he decided to
take advantage of the panic by an attempt to intensify it.

Striding to the door he paused on the very threshold and peered out
upon the large space in his field of vision.

Fully a hundred savages were in sight.  Apparently they had been
crowding around the entrance when the shots from within caused a hasty
scattering.  They had halted a dozen yards or so away, where they were
talking excitedly, still frightened and enraged, and with no thought of
relinquishing the fight.

They had withdrawn so far from the front of the building that they were
in the strong moonlight, and consequently in full view of the white
man, who saw others of the natives hurrying from the right and left.
Among them were women and children and the confusion and excitement
were fearful.

Standing thus, Grimcke again raised his repeater and deliberately
opened fire on the crowd.  It seemed cruel, but it was an act of
self-defence, for those people were clamoring for the lives of the two
men within, and would not be satisfied until they were at their mercy.

It was a strange scene that followed.  The interior of the building
being dark, while the moonlight failed to touch the front, the figure
of the white man was invisible to the dusky wretches howling on the
outside.

All at once, from the black opening of the building, came the crash of
the repeating Winchester.  Spouts of fire shot out into the gloom in
terrific succession, as if fiery serpents were darting their heads in
different directions; for the marksman aimed, quickly to the right, to
the left and to the front, never pausing until he had discharged half a
score of shots.

The panic for a minute or two was indescribable.  Men, women and
children shrieked and scattered for the nearest available shelter.
Behind the buildings and down the river bank they dashed, stumbled and
rolled, until, but for the tragic nature of the scene, the white man
would have smiled.

But he had done enough, and he stepped back within the room to
replenish the magazine of his rifle.

Jared Long had been drawn into the room by the furious fusillade, and
now put the startling question whether advantage could not be taken of
the panic to make a sudden dash for the woods.  It would never do to
make for the boat still resting against the shore, for it would be
filled with poisoned javelins before they could shove out into the
Xingu.

"I believe we can," replied the Professor; "it will take them some
minutes to get over their panic and that will be enough for us."

"Let us leave by the rear," said Long, "for I don't think that is so
well guarded."

The two turned to attempt the dash for freedom, when a cry from Bippo
struck them.

"Stay here," exclaimed the New Englander, fearing that a diversion was
on foot; "and I'll attend to him!"

He was back in the apartment in an instant.  The light on the hearth
having been extinguished, the gloom in this portion of the building was
impenetrable, but a fearful struggle of some kind was going on.  Some
animal or person had got within and grappled Bippo who was fighting
like a tiger.

Had the New Englander been able to distinguish the combatants, he would
have ended the contest in a twinkling, but though the two rolled
against his feet, he dared not fire through fear of hurting his friend.

"Are you under or on top?" he asked, bending downward at the moment he
knew from the peculiar sounds the foes had become stationary.

"_He on top_," was the doleful response.

Long extended his right hand to learn precisely how matters stood, or
rather lay, when it came in contact with the arm of a Murhapa in the
act of raising it aloft to bury his knife in the body of the helpless
Bippo, who was at the mercy of the savage, holding him inextricably in
his grasp.

The American secured a firm hold of the forearm, and with a powerful
wrench, not only jerked the miscreant free, but flung him from one side
of the room clean to the door, where he was visible in the faint light
beyond.

Evidently concluding that his mission in that place was over, he nimbly
came to his feet and shot like a rocket through the opening.

The New Englander was in no mood for sentimentality, and, he levelled
his weapon with the intention to kill; but quick as he was, he was just
a fraction of a minute too late, and, much to his chagrin, the dusky
wretch got away unharmed.

Long darted into the front room, ready for the proposal he had made
just before.

The Professor was peering out, seemingly debating whether it was not
advisable to re-open his bombardment.

"It beats creation," he remarked, as his friend appeared at his elbow,
"how quickly those fellows rally; their heads are popping up in every
direction, and it won't do to try to steal out this way."

"But I suggested the rear," reminded Long.

"Let's see how matters look there."

The survey from the other opening was disappointing.  Although all the
Murhapas had been affected in a greater or less degree by the panic,
yet it was more incomplete at the rear, because the confusing volley
had not come from that direction.

There seemed to be fully as many warriors on this side, which, with the
exception of the river, was quite similar in appearance to the other.
The shadowy figures were observed moving noiselessly in a dozen
different directions, their heads bent down and their bodies crouching,
as if in expectation of a shot, but, at the same time, they were not to
be frightened off by any fusilade from within.

"We're just too late," remarked the Professor, quick to take in every
point of the situation; "we might have done it a minute ago, but they
are watching too closely now."

"Let's open again," suggested the New Englander.

"Better wait awhile; they can be stampeded easier then than now," was
the reply of the Professor.

During this lull, when it may be said the defenders were becoming
accustomed to the siege, they had time to give a few minutes' thought
to their absent friends, Fred Ashman and Ziffak, regarding whom it was
natural to feel great curiosity.

They believed themselves warranted in hoping for the best, so far as
Ashman was concerned.  He had probably strolled some distance, and must
have been warned by the firing of the Professor's Winchester from the
front, of the serious danger in which his friends were involved.  If
all had gone well with the youth up to that time, he ought to be wise
enough to get away without an instant's delay.  What was feared was,
that in his anxiety to help his comrades, he would run into a peril
from which he could not extricate himself.

The real hope for the youth was centered on Ziffak.  Believing he had
gone forth to look after Ashman, they were confident he would speedily
get upon his track.  If so, he would not permit him to return to the
village.

From what the reader has been told, it will be seen that the defenders
were not far off in their conjectures.

But, when they came to speculate upon the part that the head chieftain
was likely to take, affecting Grimcke and Long, they were all at sea.
It would ever be a source of wonder that he had been transformed from a
relentless enemy into the strongest of friends, but they fully realized
that such friendship must have its bounds.

Ziffak might not shrink from using very plain speech when talking face
to face with his brother, but it was hardly to be supposed that he
would raise his arm against his authority.   At the time Ziffak made
known the probability that the explorers might be compelled to take
their departure that evening, he gave no intimation of any purpose of
helping them to resist such an order.

Accustomed as he was to lead the warlike Murhapas in battle, he might
well hesitate to ask them to turn their weapons against the king, and
if he should presume on such treason, all the probabilities were that
such weapons would be turned against the head chieftain himself.



CHAPTER XXIX.

ACROSS THE LAKE.

A few minutes after passing the bend in the stream, which hid the rock
and the sleeping sentinel from sight, Fred Ashman observed that the
smooth current broadened into a lake, forming the extraordinary sheet
of water of which he had heard such strange accounts.

He held the paddle suspended, and looked around.

The surface was as calm as the face of a mirror, and in the strong
moonlight, as he looked down he could see that it was of crystalline
clearness--so much so, indeed, that a boat or any floating object
looked as if suspended in mid-air.

It expanded right and left and in front, until he could barely discern
the dim outlines of trees and rocks that shut it in.  It was probably
two or three square miles in extent, and to the westward the shore
appeared to be composed of enormous boulders and masses of rocks.

Directly ahead, was a crag more massive than the rest, towering a
hundred feet above the lake, with a breadth fully one half as great.
It resembled some gigantic sentinel, keeping ward and watch over the
strange region unknown to few if any white man.

Ashman turned to his companion with the question, what course he should
take, and, without speaking, she pointed to the rock which she saw had
attracted his attention.

Very slight effort was required to propel the delicate craft, which
seemed to become sentient, and to move forward in obedience to the
wishes of its occupants.  He barely dipped the blade into the water,
when it skimmed forward like a swallow.  After a number of strokes he
ceased and fixed his eyes on the landmark by which he was proceeding.

A singular emotion held him speechless for the time.  The vast mass of
stone appeared to be slowly rising from the bosom of the lake, and,
instead of remaining motionless, was advancing to meet the tiny canoe
and its awed occupants.  One moment, it was like some vast ogre,
stealing silently about to crush them beneath the clear waters, and
then it became a friendly giant, reaching out its hand to lead them
forward.

But for the distant sounds of firing at the Murhapa village, Fred
Ashman would have felt that it was all a vision of sleep, from which he
must soon awake to the realities of life.

But that horrible, grinding discord continually creeping into their
ears told too plainly the dreadful scenes at comparatively a short
distance.  Even in his exalted mental state, Ashman began to ask
himself what was to be the end of the strange venture upon which he had
started.  A disquieting misgiving arose, that perhaps he had not done
the wisest thing in leaving his imperilled friends.

But he reflected that he had only obeyed the orders of Ziffak, who
indeed would not have permitted his wishes to be disregarded, for who
should know the wisest course so well as he?  Besides, his own reason
told him that if the Professor and his companion were attacked in the
cabin, it was impossible for him to raise a finger in their behalf.

And so he dismissed that phase of the marvellous business from his mind
and faced the present situation.

He had fled with Ariel from her father, King Haffgo.  Instead of
turning to the northward down the Xingu, they had gone further up the
stream and directly away from the right course out of the perilous
country.

But while, in one sense, this might be looked upon as the height of
recklessness, he saw it was unavoidable.  Had they turned down the
Xingu, there would have been no escaping their foes, while the
enchanted lake and its surroundings must afford secure shelter for a
time.

But for how long?

That was the question which obtruded itself, even while filled with the
delightful thrill of his new love, and when _en rapport_ with his
marvellous surroundings.

The intimate knowledge which Ariel possessed of the region would guide
them to some spot where they could reasonably hope to be safe from
pursuit, unless such pursuit was led by her enraged parent.

Ashman was still scrutinizing the great mass of rock, steadily assuming
more definite shape in the moonlight as the intervening distance
decreased, when he was surprised that he had not noticed the
mountainous elevation behind it.  The immense rock seemed but the
beginning of others rising beyond to the height of a thousand feet,
while they broadened to the right and left until they stretched over an
extent of several miles.

It seemed to him that these constituted a spur of the Geral range,
which extend in a northwesterly direction between the Guapore River
(forming a part of the eastern boundary of Bolivia) and the headwaters
of the Tapajos and Xingu.  If so, their extent was continuous for a
hundred miles.

Ashman had ceased paddling, though, under the faint momentum remaining,
the canoe continued slowly moving over the lake and gradually drawing
near the rock.  He did not break the silence, but asked himself what
could be the reason of Ariel's direction for him to paddle toward the
rock.  He supposed there was some place of concealment which she had in
mind, though he discerned nothing of that nature.

"We cannot stay there forever," was the practical thought in the mind
of the lover, who felt the next moment as though he would be happy to
dwell forever anywhere with her.

"After we have staid here until pursuit is given up--_if it ever will
be_--then we must leave the country.  I will take her to my home in
North America, where I shall love and cherish her and become the envied
of all men."

"We are approaching the rock," he said, addressing her; "what next,
dearest Ariel."

"Paddle right on," was the astonishing reply.

He looked at her with a questioning smile.  Could she be in earnest?

"Right on," she repeated, reading his thoughts aright.

"Very well; the slave obeys his mistress," he replied, giving the
paddle another dip in the water.

Gazing ahead, he instantly discovered the cause of her reply.  A tunnel
opened into the rock, seemingly near the centre.  It was perhaps ten
feet in height and with a width slightly greater.  Could it be she
meant he should enter that black forbidding passage?  He asked the
question and she replied that such was her wish.

He could not decline to take her whither she desired to go.  Gently
swaying the blade, he sent the boat within the dark opening, which
appeared to distend its jaws to swallow the canoe and them from the
world to which they had bidden good-bye.

Ashman was beginning to ask himself how he was to continue the advance
in the darkness, which must become impenetrable as they passed beyond
the limit of the moonlight, when he perceived the water into which he
dipped the paddle.

Not only that, but it grew more distinct as he progressed, until once
more the form of his beloved came out to view, as she sat near him in
the canoe.

Wondering what it all meant, he gazed ahead.  The surface of the water
grew plainer, as his eye ranged along the tunnel, until, only a short
distance away, the view was clearer than on the lake itself, beneath
the full moon.

What was the explanation of this wonderful sea of illumination into
which he was guiding the canoe?



CHAPTER XXX.

A GUESS.

Standing in the door of the building, his figure so wrapped in gloom
that it was invisible to the fierce Murhapas, Professor Grimcke
cautiously peered out upon the multitude that were clamorously seeking
the death of himself and comrade.

The horde seemed to be everywhere.  They were glaring over the river
bank, behind which they could find secure shelter by merely dropping
their heads; they were crouching at the corners of the adjacent houses,
the king's residence affording screen to fully a score.  Not yet fully
recovered from their panic, they appeared to be awaiting the leadership
of some strong man who held the fire-arms of the explorers in less
dread than they.

A form rose upright along the Xingu, at the upper portion of the line
of savages.  In the full moonlight he was as clearly revealed as if at
mid-day.

It was with strange feelings that Professor Grimcke saw that this
individual belonged to the same race as himself.  He was one of the two
white men that had lived for years among the Murhapas and who had
instigated the furious assault upon them.

"You have earned your fate," muttered the German, bringing his unerring
Winchester once more to his shoulder, and sighting as best he could at
the unconscious miscreant, who appeared to be conversing with some one
sitting on the ground at his side.

The finger of Grimcke was pressing the trigger when, yielding to an
unaccountable impulse, he lowered the weapon.  He was impatient with
himself that his heart should fail him at the critical moment, but
perhaps it was well it was so.

"You and I ought to be friends," he reflected, "and it is not my fault
that we are not, however, I cannot shoot you down like a dog, though
you deserve it."

The emotion which checked him so unexpectedly, also prevented his
renewing fire upon the Murhapas, who were really less guilty than he.

He had decided to await the next demonstration before discharging his
gun again.

Jared Long was as vigilant and alert as his friend.  It may be doubted
whether he would have spared Waggaman, had he been given the
opportunity to draw bead on him.  He realized too vividly that the two
defenders never would have been in this fearful situation but for the
machinations of those two men.

It seemed to him that Bippo was curiously quiet.  He had not spoken,
nor, so far as he could judge, moved since his own return from his
brief conference with the Professor.

He pronounced his name in a low voice, but there was no reply.  A call
in a louder tone also failed of response.

"I wonder whether he was killed?" was the thought which led Long to
leave his station at the door, and to set out on a tour of
investigation around the room, using his hands and feet to aid him.

He expected every minute to come in contact with the lifeless figure of
his helper, whom he supposed to have been pierced by the poisoned
weapon of the Murhapa; but when he had passed around the apartment and
across it several times, until assured that not a foot of square space
had been neglected he awoke to the fact that Bippo was not there.

It was hardly probable that he had entered the front apartment, but he
made inquiry of the Professor.  The latter replied that he had heard
nothing of him; but, since he had a few minutes that could be spared
without danger for that purpose, he went through a search similar to
that of his friend.

"He is not here," called the Professor, in a guarded undertone.

The surprising conclusion followed that the fellow after all had
effected his escape from the building, though how it was done puzzled
the two whom he left behind.

Bippo had got away by yielding to one of those sudden inspirations
which sometimes come to a person.  Hearing the explorers speaking about
a stealthy withdrawal by the rear, he decided to anticipate them.
Without pausing to debate the matter or ask for permission, he slipped
out the rear door and moved rapidly off in a crouching posture.

He must have been seen by numbers of the Murhapas, but was mistaken for
one of their own number.

The error cannot be regarded as remarkable, when it is recalled that
Bippo bore a strong resemblance to the savages around them.  He was
dressed the same and carried a spear similar to the missiles used by
them.  Though he lacked their bushy heads and stature, these were not
marked enough to attract notice at a time when the Murhapas knew that
several of their number had been defeated in their efforts to enter the
structure from the rear.

With his wits sharpened by his danger, Bippo displayed admirable
discretion.  Showing no undue haste or flurry, he avoided too close
acquaintance with the savages, who were so absorbed in the work of
securing the destruction of the white men that they paid less attention
to such an incident than they would at any other time.

So it was that he edged farther and farther away, until he found
himself so close to the woods that he whisked among the trees without
any one questioning or trying to check him.  He was free at last, and,
as if Dame Fortune had decided to take him in charge, he had hardly
reached the margin of the Xingu, at a point considerably below the
village, when he almost stumbled over Pedros, who was waiting and
wondering what he ought to do next.

Both the Professor and his friend were glad that Bippo had managed to
get away.  They liked the fellow, and, even if they must be sacrificed,
it was a relief to know that the poor native, who had had such a woful
experience since leaving the Amazon, now had a fighting chance of
escaping from the dreadful region.

Besides, as has been shown, the presence of the fellow was more of an
incumbrance than a help.  But for the delay caused by Long's rush to
his help, the whites would have made a dash for liberty themselves,
though the question of their escape was problematical to the last
degree.

Precious little ground could the explorers see for extricating
themselves from their peril.  The Murhapas numbered a hundred, all were
brave, and the weapons in their hands were dreaded tenfold more than
firearms.  It seemed miraculous that Grimcke and Long had not been
pierced long before.  Why did not the Murhapas set fire to the
building, after the manner of the North American Indians?

This was the question which both the defenders had asked themselves
several times, but in the case of each the answer was obvious.

The house, it will be recalled, adjoined that of King Haffgo, and,
although there was no wind blowing, the burning of the less important
structure was sure to endanger the other.  As a last resort, the white
men might be driven out in that way, but not yet.

If the besiegers could persuade themselves to make a united rush, they
would be sure to prevail; but, as has been explained, the cost of such
an essay was sure to be frightful, and led the Murhapas to defer that,
also, until assured less risky means would not prevail.

It seemed to our friends that there were scores of schemes which ought
to be successful, and, such being the case, it will be understood why
they believed their last fight was on, and why they were disposed to
show no mercy to their assailants.

The Professor was surprised, knowing, as he did, the part taken against
them by Waggaman and Burkhardt, that no reports of firearms had yet
been heard among the assailants.  It would seem as if something of the
kind was required in order that those miscreants should retain their
prestige among the people.

Now, all these thoughts and many more passed through the minds of the
defenders in a tenth of the time it has taken us to put them on paper.
It was yet early in the evening, and the crisis in the siege must come
before long.

Jared Long peeped out of the rear entrance.  A study of what he saw
showed little change in the situation.  He was convinced that the next
demonstration would be from the front.  He, therefore, did not hesitate
to leave his post and slip into the next room for a few hasty words
with the Professor.

"There's no use of staying in here," he said, "for we are sure to be
overwhelmed within the next hour."

"I fully agree with you."

"And I can see but one desperate hope."

"What is that?"

"To follow Bippo."

"I agree with you again; let us make such a demonstration from the
front that we shall be able to draw most of them there; then one of us
will make a rush."

"Why not both."

"We shall fail; one must keep up the firing while they think both are
at it, and then the other can make the attempt."

"Very well; let me open here."

"No; we will both do it; you know that this station is mine and as soon
as there appears to be a chance, you can make the start."

Now, both of the men believed in their hearts that if the desperate
scheme could work, that the utmost it could do would be to save one:
there could be no earthly chance for the other.

It was characteristic of the chivalrous friendship of each that he had
fully determined that that forlorn opportunity should be given to the
other.

But they understood their mutual natures too well to waste any words in
argument, for neither would yield.

"Very well, Professor; we'll draw lots."

"I will agree to that."

It was so dark in the room that they could not see each other, nor did
either window afford light enough for their purpose.

Grimcke glanced out the door.  No immediate movement seemed impending,
and they moved to the fire-place.  The Professor kicked some of the
ashes aside and a tiny blaze arose, throwing a dull illumination over a
few feet of the room.

The Professor drew an American coin from his pocket,--one that he had
kept ever since entering South America.

"Now," said he, placing both hands behind his back, "tell me which
contains it."

"The right," said the New Englander.

"You have lost," coolly replied the Professor, bringing the two hands
quickly to the front and opening the palms.

Sure enough the coin was in the left, but the sly fellow did not
confess that he had deftly changed it after his companion made his
guess.



CHAPTER XXXI.

A DESPERATE SCHEME.

Not another word was said.  The question had been submitted to the
arbitrament of chance and the New Englander had lost, and that, too
without any suspicion on his part of the little trick played upon him.

Before resorting to the last opportunity, Long slipped through the back
room and ascertained the outlook there.  He was surprised at the
result.  Hardly a native was visible.  It looked indeed as if they were
working their way round to the front, and that some scheme of attack
had been agreed upon by the leaders from that point.

The Professor's survey confirmed the theory of his friend.  The
Murhapas were more plentiful than ever.  They appeared to be
marshalling along the bank of the Xingu, where there were so many that
it was impossible to count the heads and shoulders rising above the
slope.

Waggaman was not in sight, though there could be no doubt that he was
the inspiring spirit in the movement.  All the indications were that a
rush had been agreed upon.  Should it be permitted to come off
unopposed in its incipiency, it would be all up with the men who had
defended themselves so bravely thus far.

"I will begin at the head of the row," said the Professor, "and you at
the foot; make every shot tell."

"All right; begin!"

The fusillade was opened the same instant.  Both men fired rapidly,
and, though they could not pause to make their aim as sure as they
wished, and though it is not to be supposed that every shot was
effective, yet the execution was dreadful.

Arms were seen flung spasmodically upwards, figures leaped clear off
the ground and then fell back out of sight, shrieks and shouts filled
the air, and still the crack of the Winchesters continued without
intermission.

One gratifying feature of the fearful scene was that the warriors began
flocking around to the front, though they kept well back, as if to
avoid the murderous discharge.  These new arrivals not only afforded
additional targets to the riflemen, despite their furious efforts to
screen themselves, but proved that the scheme of the defenders was
working as they desired: the natives were swarming from the rear to the
front.

"Off with you; don't wait!" commanded the Professor.

"Good-bye!" was all that Jared Long said, as he darted from the side of
his gallant friend and vanished.

Professor Grimcke took a few seconds to refill his magazine, when up
went his Winchester again and the furious discharges seemed to be more
rapid than before.

It would naturally be supposed that if the assailants saw that both of
the white men had concentrated their fusillade at the front, they would
make a dash to the rear.  That, it may be said, would be the second
step in the programme.  It was calculated that the sudden volleys of
the rifles would draw all the natives thither, and then, after learning
what had taken place, a large part of them would rush back again.

The New Englander had been gone only a few minutes, when the Professor
saw evidences that the second step was about to be taken.  The savages
were beginning to move back to the rear, though at a greater distance
then from the building than before.

All at once Grimcke ceased firing.  While looking sharply out of the
door, he mechanically refilled the magazine of his rifle from his stock
of cartridges which was running low.

"Now or never!" he said to himself, and then, turning, he ran swiftly
through the two rooms to the rear door, through which he bounded
without a moment's hesitation.

He expected his flight would be announced by a series of shouts and a
storm of poisoned javelins.  He held his breath, and, as the seconds
passed, began wondering whether there was a possibility after all of
successfully following the footsteps of his friend.

He was encouraged by the sounds of the deafening tumult from the front
of the house.  The Murhapas had swarmed into the front-room, proving
that they had decided upon making the very rush of which the defenders
stood in such dread.

This, although only a momentary diversion, was immeasurably in favor of
the daring attempt of the flying fugitive.

Lest the reader may pronounce the escape of these two white men
incredible, we hasten to explain that which, if left unexplained, would
warrant such disbelief on the part of our friends.

The individual who gave the wild scheme an ending that otherwise it
never could have had, was Ziffak, the head chieftain of the Murhapas.
He proved to be the all-potent factor in the terrible problem.

From what has been related about these strange inhabitants of the Matto
Grosso, it need not be said that they were too cunning, if left to
themselves, to allow a door to stand open for their intended victims to
escape, after penning them in such a trap.

Ziffak was the shrewdest member of the Murhapa tribe and much more
fitted to be its ruler than King Haffgo.  After bidding good-bye to the
lovers, he hastened back to the middle of the village, where he arrived
after the first disastrous repulse given his people by Professor
Grimcke.

It took the fellow but a few moments to grasp the situation.  He told
no one of the death of Burkhardt, but busied himself in learning
precisely how matters stood.  Had he dared to do so, he would have
ordered a cessation of the attack, but the latter was made by the
direct orders of King Haffgo, and Ziffak was not the chieftain to butt
his head against a stone wall, by an open defiance of his royal
brother's authority.

The assault was under the direction of Waggaman himself.  The king from
his own door, where he could not be reached by any bullet of the
defenders, was watching the futile assault with an impatience and anger
that could hardly be restrained.  His soul became like a volcano, as he
saw his brave warriors fall back, with many of them biting the dust.
Had not the traditions of his country forbade such a proceeding, he
would have placed himself at the head of the natives and led the
decisive charge.

Seeing how it was at the front, Ziffak cautiously made his way to the
rear.  There were few warriors there, and he instinctively felt that if
his white friends were to get off at all, it must be through the rear
opening.

While intently debating with himself what he could do to help them, he
stealthily slipped down to where the large boat was lying under the
bank.  No one was near it, for the attention of all was concentrated on
the fight under way.  Unobserved, he shoved the craft out into the
stream and saw it drift with the current.

Returning to the rear of the besieged building again, he formed the
plan of getting the warriors to the front and then dashing back and
helping them out.  This was a wild scheme, and involved great personal
risk to himself, for he was sure to be punished for rendering aid whose
discovery was inevitable.

At the very moment he was about to make the attempt, Grimcke and Long
gave him unexpected help by opening their united fire from the front
upon the warriors marshalling for the decisive charge.

This afforded him just the pretext he wanted, to order the Murhapas to
hasten to the other side of the building to assist in what was in
contemplation there, though, even with such a movement under way, it
will be seen that the right place for a portion of the savages was at
the rear, in order to head off the very thing that was attempted.

Thus it was, that, while the two explorers were congratulating
themselves on the success of their clever scheme, they never suspected
that its success was due to their giant friend, who kept himself so
well in the background that neither of them caught sight of him.

Having got his men away, Ziffak slipped back with the purpose of
carrying out the rest of the plan he had formed; but before he could
reach the rear entrance, he caught sight of Professor Grimcke running
like a deer toward the woods.

Ziffak was puzzled, not knowing that his friend had preceded him, and
he dashed into the building to hurry him out.  As he came in at one
door, Waggaman and the Murhapas swarmed in at the other, and
pandemonium was let loose.

The certainty of another murderous fire from the rifles of the
defenders caused some lagging at the threshold, but those in the rear
forced those at the front forward, and the next moment the mob was
inside.

Still there was no sound of firearms, though, the savages were crowding
into both apartments.  Some one kicked the ashes from the embers, and
the blaze which followed made known the astounding fact that both of
the white men had fled.

Ziffak seemed to be in a towering rage because such a blunder had been
made, and called upon the fleetest runners to follow him.

Out of the door he went as if shot from the throat of a columbiad, with
a procession of sinewy-limbed warriors at his heels.  All ran as fast
as they could, though none were his equal in fleetness.

It need hardly be said that Ziffak took mighty good care that he did
not pursue the course of Professor Grimcke, and presumably that of his
companion who preceded him.  Instead of aiming for the woods, he
diverged toward the river, and seemed to find it necessary to shout and
yell every second or two at the top of his voice.

His followers may have imagined he was laboring under uncontrollable
rage or deemed it necessary to keep their courage up to the highest
point by such means; but the two fugitives who had joined each other in
the woods, and were picking their way with the utmost care, held a
strong suspicion that the prodigious shouts were intended for their
special benefit.  At any rate, they accepted them as such, and took
pains to continue their flight in a different course from that of the
howling Murhapas.

It did not require Ziffak long to find out that the fugitives were
irrecoverably gone, and he came back with his report to the king.

There he was met by astounding news.  Burkhardt had been slain by a
poisoned javelin, and Ariel, the beloved daughter of the ruler, had
been seen in full flight toward the enchanted lake in the company of
the execrated white man, Ashman.  Pursuit was to be organized at once,
and, though Ziffak was to take part, yet the chosen warriors were to be
led by the king in person.



CHAPTER XXXII.

THE BURNING MOUNTAIN.

The tunnel through which Ashman propelled the canoe containing himself
and Ariel, was more than a hundred yards in length.  It was only for
the smallest distance that the craft was in darkness, when the water
began to reflect light and reveal its outlines.

A few minutes later the tunnel was passed, and they debouched into an
expansion of the enchanted lake.  The second division was similar to
the other and almost as large, but its appearance was tenfold more
wonderful.

The sheet of water may be said to have been divided into two nearly
equal parts by the narrow tunnel running under the mass of rocks
described.  One division was in the outer air, after the usual fashion
of lakes, while the other was wholly underground.

The interior lake was nearly circular in shape, with an arching roof
hundreds of feet high.  It was surrounded by towering crags, and
volcanic masses of stone, which gave it an appearance different from
anything on which Fred Ashman had ever looked.  Nothing grander,
wilder, more picturesque or romantic can be conceived.  It was a scene
which an explorer could stand for hours and contemplate in rapt
admiration.

But the most amazing feature of this underground lake was the way in
which it was illuminated, so that every portion stood out in as bold
relief as if under the flaming sun of mid-day.

At the western side, the shore, as was the case in nearly all other
directions, was a mass of jagged rocks, piled upon each other in the
wildest confusion.  Beyond these rocks, was a vast chasm above the
level of the lake, and extending right and left for a distance of fifty
rods.  This huge chasm was one mass of crimson light, whose rays
pierced every nook and cranny on every side of the lake.

The eye gazing in that direction saw something similar to that which
greets the traveller in the far north, when viewing the play of the
aurora borealis in the horizon, or when the red sun is rising from its
ocean bed.

This enormous opening was so surcharged with light that Ashman, after
contemplating it but a minute or two, did not need to ask its source.
Beyond the area of illumination was the burning mountain whose
blood-red glow covered the entire surface and shores of the underground
portion of the enchanted lake.  The volcano had been aflame for ages,
and was likely to continue to burn for centuries to come.

Such an eternal conflagration must have an outlet for the vast quantity
of vapor generated, and Ashman wondered that he had not noticed the
ascending smoke on his way thither.  He recalled that when he and his
friend were coming up the Xingu, far below the last rapids, they
observed a dark cloud resting in the western horizon.  There was no
thought at that time that it was caused by a burning mountain, but such
must have been the fact.  The most singular fact was, that while on his
way across the lake to the tunnel, he had failed to notice and remark
it.

There was a steady draft in the direction of the flaming cavern.  He
had observed it while paddling through the tunnel where it was strong
enough to assist in the propulsion of the canoe.  It was caused by the
ascent of the vapor through the chimney of the fiery mountain, and
averted the intolerable heat that otherwise would have been felt over
every portion of the lake.  As it was, a moderate increase of
temperature was perceptible.

Ashman was tempted to paddle the canoe to the black rocks which
separated the chasm from the lake, and he timidly moved the blade,
restrained by the fear of something in the nature of a "back draft,"
which might consume them before they could escape.

Ariel assured him that she had never encountered or heard of anything
of the kind, though she had often visited this remarkable region in the
company of her father.  Thereupon Ashman sent the boat ahead faster
than before, and a minute later the bow touched the rocky wharf.

Stepping out, he drew the bow upon the rocks, so as to hold it fast,
and, extending his hand, assisted her to shore.  Then he drew the craft
still further up, and, taking her hand again in his own, began picking
their way over the jagged bowlders and stones to the edge of the
volcano.

From the margin of the lake to the other side of the mass of rocks was
a hundred feet.  This may be defined as a solid wall, shutting out the
water from the burning mountain.  The rocks rose to a height of a dozen
rods or so, attaining which a spectator found himself half-way across
the dividing ridge, where, viewed from the lake, his figure looked as
if stamped in ink on the crimson background.

It was here that the lovers paused and viewed the striking picture
spread out before their vision.

That which they saw might properly be considered the crater of the
volcano.  It was four or five acres in extent, irregular in contour,
and so filled with gases and vapors that one could not see the bottom,
while the jagged boundary on the farther side came out to view only at
intervals, when the obstructing smoke was swept aside.

Spiral columns of black vapor twisted swiftly upward from the fiery
depths, sometimes side by side, and sometimes they would unite and
climb toward the opening above, like a couple of huge serpents
struggling together.  The air quivered and pulsated in certain
portions, as if with fervid heat, and Ashman fancied once or twice that
he caught glimpses of a vast mass of molten stuff, far down in the
mountain, surging; seething and turning upon itself with terrific
violence.  But the glare was so dazzling that it was like staring at
the sun, and he was compelled to withdraw his gaze.

The opening above, through which all this vapor and gas effected its
escape into the clear atmosphere outside, was of irregular outline and
no more than twenty feet across.  It was at a great height above the
spectators, and ought to have been visible many miles in every
direction.

Now and then Ashman caught the odor of the sulphurous fumes rising from
the naming depth, and he could not help reflecting that if the
ascending vapors should swerve toward them only for a minute or two,
they would be asphyxiated before they could get away; but he could not
shrink, when his lovely companion stood so boldly by his side, unmoved
by the impressive scene.

When he had become accustomed in a degree to the sight, the like of
which he had never viewed before, he recalled that they could not
occupy a more conspicuous position, in the event of being pursued by
their enemies to the underground lake.

As we have explained, they were standing on the highest portion of the
rocky wall, separating the burning mountain from the subterranean
portion of the enchanted lake.  In this situation, they were in sight
from every portion of the shore; any one entering by the tunnel, as
they had done, would descry them almost at once, because of the vivid
background against which their figures were thrown.

This fact led Ashman to turn to his love and suggest that they should
leave the spot.  She nodded her head in acquiescence, and, still
clasping hands, they began picking their way down among the bowlders to
the spot where they had left their canoe a short time before.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

THE PURSUERS.

Haffgo, king of the Murhapas, intended to keep his promise to Ziffak,
so far as permitting the explorers to remain in his village until the
morrow, at which time he intended that the men should be allowed to go
in safety.

But the barbarian was very similar to some of us whose resentment grows
with reflection.  When he recalled the admiring glances of the handsome
young member of the company towards his beloved Ariel, his anger became
intense, fanned by the strong suspicion that the princess herself felt
some interest in the stranger.

At this critical time, Waggaman put in an appearance.  The ruffian was
shrewd enough to see his opportunity, and it took him but a few minutes
to rouse him to the exploding point.  He determined that every one of
the whites should die, and he ordered the assault which has already
been described.

As has been explained, the king kept within his home, while the attack
was under way; but since he resided adjoining the structure which was
assaulted, he was aware of every phase of the progress.

His rage has been hinted at because of the repulse of his warriors
directly under his own eyes; but when he came to learn that the youth
against whom his resentment burned so hotly was not within the
building; that the two who had fought so bravely had escaped with their
native helpers; that his own daughter the princess was absent; that she
had been seen fleeing with the white youth in the direction of the
enchanted lake:--when all this became known to the ruler, it may be
said that his fury was such that no language could do it justice.  It
is not impossible that the despot felt thus himself, for, without
pausing to give utterance to a few of his imaginings, he made instant
preparations to follow the couple to the region which he never
permitted a white man to look upon.

A native woman had seen the princess pass up the side of the river,
followed a few minutes later by the young man.  Her curiosity led her
to watch them.  She saw the two meet and stand for some time in loving
converse.  Then one of the white men stole behind them and was about to
fire his dreadful weapon, when Ziffak hurled his terrible javelin which
pinned him to the ground.  Then the native woman hastened to the palace
to tell the news, but she could not gain the chance for some time.

When the king turned upon his brother for an explanation of what he had
done, Ziffak was prepared.  It was the intention of Burkhardt to shoot
not the white man but the princess herself, because she had refused his
love.  He heard Burkhardt mutter those words to himself and it was
because of those words that Ziffak drove his javelin through his body.

King Haffgo looked sharply at his kinsman when he made this unblushing
response, but his doubts if there were any quickly vanished, when he
recalled the impetuosity with which he had attacked the defenders in
the house and the vigor of his pursuit and his evident indignation and
chagrin at the escape of the two white men.  No, Ziffak might talk
plainly with his royal brother, but when the time for action came he
was a true Murhapa, who knew only his duty to his king.

Besides, the little flurry between the two had helped to clear away the
fogs of misunderstanding as the lightning often purifies the murky
atmosphere.  The pursuit of the lovers was quickly organized, for they
now occupied the thoughts of the king to the exclusion of everything
else.  Grimcke and Long could not be far off, and a vigorous hunt was
likely to discover one or both of them, but the king gave orders that
no attempt of the kind should be made.  It was his intention to leave
the village for an indefinite time, and he wished every one of his
warriors to remain while he was absent.  It cannot be said that he was
afraid of such an insignificant force, but there was a strong vein of
superstition in his nature, which caused a vague fear of the men that
had escaped him with such wonderful cleverness.  Individuals who could
do _that_ sort of thing, were capable of doing things still more
marvellous, and to use homely language, King Haffgo was taking no
chances.

The party in pursuit numbered just ten persona including the king,
Ziffak, Waggaman, and the very pick of the tribe.  They were all
splendid fellows, fit to be the body-guard of a king, who, when he laid
aside the robes of cumbrous dress he was accustomed to wear, and
arrayed himself similarly to the warriors, proved himself no mean
leader of such a party.

Any one looking upon the little company would have been most impressed
by the fact that there were nine dusky barbarians, half naked and as
black as Africans, under the guidance of a man as fair as any European;
and yet, as the reader knows, the most prominent warrior of the party
was the brother of that king, dusky, tall and a giant in stature.

A tribe living in a country as well watered as the Matto Grosso, is
sure to be well provided with the means of navigation, though the
explorers, when they first reached the neighborhood of the rapids,
deemed there was an unusual absence of such craft.  A canoe, longer
even than that used by our friends in ascending from the Amazon, was
carried a short distance down the bank and launched in the Xingu.  Five
of the warriors seized their long paddles and swung them with the skill
of veterans.  They were accustomed to that kind of work, and sent the
craft up the current with much greater speed than would have been
suspected, even by those accustomed to see such work.

Two of the dusky occupants were furnished with bows and arrows, while
Waggaman carried his rifle.  Thus every species of weapon known to the
Murhapas was in the boat.

King Haffgo sat at the stern, his brow dark and threatening, his arms
folded and his lips set.  His thoughts were too deep for utterance and
no one ventured to disturb him.  Though the pale countenance was
outwardly calm, yet a volcano was raging in that breast, hot and
furious enough to burst out and consume the barbarian.

Just in front of him, Ziffak was facing toward the prow, directing the
actions of the crew, though for a time little of that was required of
him.  Waggaman was at the prow, silent, glum, scowling.  He did not
speak for a long while, but, now and then, glanced at Ziffak.  When he
did so, he was pretty sure to find the black eyes of the head chieftain
fixed upon him.

The two thoroughly distrusted each other.  Waggaman knew why that
javelin had been driven through the body of his associate and, though
the convict felt little sorrow for the loss of his companion, yet he
hated the chieftain with a deadly hatred, well aware as he was that the
feeling was thoroughly reciprocated by Ziffak.

Whether King Haffgo suspected the truth cannot be known, nor is it of
importance to know.  All the energy of his nature was concentrated in
the emotion of fury against Fred Ashman, who had committed the
unparalleled presumption of robbing him of his daughter; and even
against that lovely maiden he was so incensed that he stood ready to
bury his spear in her snowy bosom.

Though it may have seemed strange to Ashman that Ziffak had ordered him
to make all haste to the enchanted lake, instead of starting on a
direct flight through the woods, returning to the Xingu at a lower
point, yet the sagacious chieftain had the best of reasons for his
course, as will soon appear.

Had Ashman fled through the forest, the fact would have been discovered
at daybreak, if not before, and such a vigorous pursuit would have been
pressed as to render escape out of the question.  There was a
possibility of outwitting Haffgo by the flight to the lake, though it
was remote enough to cause the giant warrior to shudder when he
reflected upon it.

That which caused Ziffak regret was, that he had not paused long enough
before parting from the couple, to arrange a better understanding with
them.  As it was, he was mostly in the dark concerning their movements,
and greatly handicapped by the necessity of appearing to be the devoted
ally of his royal brother.

Under the powerful propulsion of the five paddles, the long narrow
canoe sped swiftly up the Xingu, and, sooner than even Ziffak
anticipated, it turned into the narrow stream leading to the enchanted
lake.  Along this it sped like a swallow until the huge rock with its
sentinel came in sight.

It was here that King Haffgo, for the first time, showed some interest
in his surroundings.  He scanned the massive rock closely and
manifestly was surprised that the guard did not rise to his feet and
challenge them.

Observing that the figure remained motionless, he commanded the craft
to approach the rock.  This was silently done, the boat halting with
the prow touching the mass of black stone.

Still the sentinel moved not, all unaware of his peril.  One keen
glance showed he was committing the unpardonable sin of sleeping at his
post.

Rising quickly to his feet, the king stood upright for an instant, and
then, with a furious exclamation, drove the javelin which he snatched
from the hands of one of the warriors through the breast of the
unfaithful servant, who uttered but a single groan as he perished by
the hands of his master and sovereign.

Then Haffgo commanded one of his men to take his place.  The fellow
instantly sprang from the boat and took his station on the rock, as the
successor of him who had died so ignominiously.  Little fear of his
falling asleep on his post.

A minute later the boat shot out upon the moonlit surface of the
enchanted lake.  There the occupants used their eyes for all they were
worth, the craft making a partial circuit of the sheet of water.  There
was a possibility that the fugitives were there, though it was slight.
Many places afforded a landing, where they might have found temporary
shelter, but nothing was seen of the boat, and Haffgo ordered the
oarsmen to pass through the tunnel leading to the underground lake.

This was speedily effected, and the large boat debouched into the
wonderful body of water, so brilliantly illuminated by the glare from
the burning mountain on the western side.

Instinctively every eye was cast in that direction, but nothing
rewarded the scrutiny.  Then the vision swept along the shores, every
portion of which, as will be remembered, was in plain view.

Almost at the same moment; Ziffak uttered an excited exclamation, and
pointed to the northern shore.  As the gaze of every one was directed
thither, they caught sight of the craft for which they were so eagerly
hunting.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

WATCHING AND WAITING.

When Professor Ernest Grimcke realized that his desperate flight from
the besieged building had been attended with complete success, and that
he was standing among the dense shadows of the forest, with no enemy
near, he devoutly uncovered his head, and, looking upward, uttered his
fervent thanks to heaven for its amazing mercy.

"If ever a man was snatched from the jaws of death," he said, "I am
that man."

"And I am another," added Jared Long, who approached in the gloom.  "It
seems to me like a veritable miracle."

The New Englander explained that, after his furious dash for shelter
from the building, he did not believe his chances were any better than
those of the man he left behind him.  He started, with the intention of
making his way by a circuitous course to the river, but had not gone
far when he was struck by the baseness of his desertion of his friend.
He, therefore, turned about with the resolve to try to do something for
him, but had no more than caught sight of the structure again when he
descried the Professor coming like a whirlwind for the trees.

Long moved to the point at which he saw he was aiming, and held his
Winchester ready to open on any pursuers that might try to follow him.
He would have picked off a dozen or so, for he was cool and collected,
and fully determined to stand by his friend to the death.

Fortunately, however, for all parties concerned, none of the Murhapas
pursued the Professor, though, as has been told, a number under the
leadership of Ziffak dashed off in another direction, without
endangering the fugitives in the least.

It was a marvellous deliverance, indeed, for our friends, and they
understood the part the giant head chieftain had taken in extricating
them from the peril.  Their hearts glowed with gratitude to the savage,
whose friendship for them they could not understand, but who had proven
it in such a striking manner.

But it could not be said that they were yet free from danger; and there
was much to do before they could breathe freely.

It needed but a brief consultation to agree that after what had taken
place, it was the height of madness to attempt to push on to the
enchanted lake and burning mountain.  King Haffgo was so roused that
there was not the slightest chance of escape.  The only earthly
probability of accomplishing anything in that direction, was by
bringing a force strong enough to sweep the warlike Murhapas from their
path.

Thankful would the little party of explorers be if they were permitted
to get out of the Matto Grosso with their lives.

They waited in the margin of the wood until the return of Ziffak and
his baffled company.  It was easy to understand the clever trick played
by the chieftain upon his followers, and Grimcke and Long were
convinced that no further attempt, at least for a time, would be made
to capture them.

But being free to attend to their own safety, their thoughts naturally
turned to the missing members of the company, especially to Ashman, who
unquestionably was involved in the most imminent peril.

It was clear that his two friends could do nothing in his behalf.  They
did not know where to look for him, and such an attempt was sure to be
followed by disastrous consequences to themselves.

It was a singular conclusion to which Grimcke and Long arrived and yet
perhaps it was natural.  They believed that Ashman had escaped before
they did themselves, and that he was probably waiting at some point
down the Xingu for them.  They decided to pass in the same direction
and strive to open communication with him.

How little did they suspect that though he was for the time out of the
power of his enemies, yet the Princess Ariel was his companion, and
that instead of seeking to flee from the dangerous country, he had
actually penetrated farther into it.

After carefully reconnoitering their surroundings, therefore, the
Professor and Long approached the Xingu at a point a third of a mile
below the Murhapa village.  Everything seemed to be quiet and
motionless around them, with the exception of the river, yet they were
given precious little time for wonderment or speculation.

The first amazing sight on which their eyes rested was their own large
canoe drifting down stream.  They stood a moment, not knowing what to
make of it, but speedily reached the right conclusion: Ziffak had set
it free for their special benefit.

It was floating sideways near the middle of the Xingu, and showed there
was no one on board.

It was too invaluable to be allowed to get away from them, or to run
the risk of a passage through the rapids below.  Long decided to swim
out to it, but, before he could enter the water, the Professor showed
him that some one had anticipated them.  A short distance up the bank,
a native was in the act of entering the Xingu, while his companion
stood on the bank, evidently about to follow him.

The clear moonlight enabled the explorers to identify them as Bippo and
Pedros, the former being the one already in the water.

"Let them go," whispered the Professor, "they may as well do it for us."

Pedros was but a few strokes behind his friend, and the two were seen
to clamber over the side of the craft at the moment it came opposite
where the delighted white men were standing.

At this juncture, the Professor called to them in a guarded voice.
Their expressions of amazement were ludicrous, and it was only after
they had stared for several minutes and the call was repeated that they
comprehended that their friends were near.

Then the two showed their extravagant delight by leaping up and down
like a couple of children, and uttering cries that, to say the least,
were imprudent.

The Professor sternly ordered them to hold their peace and paddle the
boat to shore.  They set to work with a will and brought the craft to
land, only a short distance below, where the white men had reached the
river.  Instantly, they stepped on board, and with the exception of the
single absent member, our friends stood in the same situation as a
short time before.

It was Jared Long that in his flight from the beleaguered building took
the extra Winchester with him, so that the little party could not have
been better armed.  Luckily, too, there was an abundant supply of
ammunition on board, so that the old feeling of confidence came back to
the party when they once more felt they were masters of the boat and
all it contained.

Their desire now was to increase the distance between themselves and
the Murhapa village, from which all had had such a narrow escape.  When
Bippo timidly asked his masters whether they meant to return or attempt
to go any farther up the Xingu, they were assured that no such thought
was in the mind of either of the explorers.  They would only be
thankful if they could get back to the Amazon without ever meeting
another Murhapa.

This was enough for the natives, who were willing to jump overboard and
tow the boat faster than it was already going.  That, however, was
unnecessary, and they were told that they had only to obey orders as
cheerfully as they had done from the beginning and that undoubtedly
everything would come out well.

It was past midnight, when the roaring just below, which was increasing
every minute, warned them they were approaching the dangerous rapids.
Possibly the craft might have passed safely through but it would have
been imprudent to make the attempt for which no necessity existed.

Accordingly, the boat was once more run ashore and drawn against the
bank, with the view of raising it upon their shoulders to be
transported to the calmer waters below.

The four men were in the very act of lifting the craft, when to their
terror, fully a score of Aryks suddenly emerged from the wood and
surrounded them.  All were armed with the frightful javelins, a prick
from one of which was enough to cause almost instant death.

The whites could not have been caught at greater disadvantage, and
Bippo and Pedros were so overcome that they were unable to move.  Long
was on the point of opening a fusillade, when Professor Grimcke was
struck by the fact that no one of the Aryks offered to harm them.  They
chattered like a lot of magpies, and gathering round them made a
movement as if to take possession of their boat.

The New Englander would have showed fight, had not his companion said
in a low tone:

"They are friendly!  They mean to do us no harm!"

Such was the astounding truth, and it was easily explained.  Ziffak on
his way up the Xingu with his new friends had warned the Aryks that
they must do the whites no harm: they were on their way at that time to
the Murhapa village as friends, and the head chieftain told his allies
that any further hostility would be visited with the punishment of
death.

The Aryks were not likely to forget such a notice.  They had seen the
boat approaching; and, being totally unsuspicious of what had occurred
during the earlier part of the evening, were anxious to manifest their
good will by carrying the canoe around the rapids.

Jared Long could hardly credit the truth, and held himself ready for a
desperate fight; but, when the boat was lifted upon the shoulders of a
half dozen stalwart warriors who started down the shore with it, he
smiled grimly and admitted that the Professor was right.

The load was quite burdensome, but the carriers stepped off, highly
pleased with the privilege, while the rest of their party straggled
after them, the whites and their servants bringing up the rear.

Bippo and Pedros were not quite able to comprehend the extraordinary
condition of affairs, and kept close to the heels of their masters like
a couple of frightened dogs.

At the base of the rapids, the Aryks set down the boat, with great
care, saluted in their rude way, and turning about, disappeared in the
forest from which they had emerged.

"_If they only knew_," said Long when they were drifting down stream
once more.

"But they _don't_," replied the Professor, "and yet they will learn the
truth before long."

The boat was allowed to drift a half mile further, when, convinced they
had gone far enough, they ran into land, disembarked and carried it in
among the trees, where it was out of the sight of any one passing up or
down the Xingu.  Then they prepared to await the coming of Fred Ashman,
doubtful, however, whether he ever would come.



CHAPTER XXXV.

THE CAVERN OF DIAMONDS.

Fred Ashman was greatly relieved when he had assisted Ariel down from
the high, rocky wall, and they had picked their way to the spot where
the little canoe had been left but a short time before.

He had felt a singular misgiving from the first about the boat, fearful
that in this region of enchantment, as it seemed to him, something
would cause it to disappear, and he and his lovely companion be left in
a most exposed and dangerous situation.

But it was found just where it had been left, and helping her in it, he
shoved it clear and then looked to her for directions as to what was to
be the next step.

The maiden now made a singular statement.  She said that some weeks
before, she had visited this place with no companion but her father.
They landed at a point which she indicated, and he ordered her to stay
on the shore until his return.  He was gone so long, however, that she
undertook a little exploration on her own account, and made a discovery
which she now hoped to turn to account.

The canoe touched at the spot she pointed out, and they stepped ashore.
She said that her parent strolled off to the left, toward a passage
which she showed, and which she had entered with him several times
before, but from which he seemed desirous to exclude her on the
occasion named.

It was while he was absent at that time, that Ariel walked some
distance to the right.  She clambered up the rocks a little way to a
clump of bushes.  She was examining a species of crimson berry, growing
upon them, when she observed a passage, which she followed far enough
to find that it led into a large cavern, whose full extent she did not
attempt to learn.  She withdrew, and, fearful of offending the king,
told him nothing about it when he returned and found her with the boat.

Ariel was confident that neither her parent nor any of her people knew
of her discovery, and she now proposed to Ashman that they should enter
the strange cavern, and remain until the present danger was over.  She
believed that if her friends or enemies, as they might be considered,
did not discover them soon, they would conclude that they had
voluntarily met death together, and would give up the hunt.

Ashman was struck with the sagacity of the lady, and eagerly agreed to
her suggestion.  It would never do to leave the canoe as a tell-tale,
and he gave it a shove which carried it far out on the lake.
Discovered in that situation, no one could tell what point on the shore
it had touched, and, being adrift, near the middle of the lake, it
would suggest the theory of suicide, which they were anxious to impress
upon their pursuers.

Carefully picking their way through the mass of brush and undergrowth
which showed remarkable vigor, considering that the revivifying
sunlight never touched it, Ashman readily found the opening described
by his companion.

It was just broad enough to allow the passage of their bodies, its
height being such that they could move by stooping slightly.  Holding
his Winchester in hand, he led the way with Ariel pressing him close.

The same fact was noticeable that struck him when paddling through the
tunnel connecting the outer and the underground lake.  The light
increased as they progressed until everything was seen with a
distinctness hardly less than that shown in the water they had just
left behind them.

Suddenly Ashman paused with an expression of amazement.  He had entered
a cavern so striking in appearance that it almost took away his wreath.

It was several acres in extent, with an arching, dome-like roof rising
fully two hundred feet above their heads.  Stalactites and stalagmites
dozens of feet in length were visible hanging from the roof and
obtruding from the floor, the latter being broken by chasms and
ravines, many of which seemed to have a depth that was fathomless.

No water was visible, but the proximity of the lake rendered it likely
that some of the abysses were filled at the bottom with the element.
It looked impossible for the lovers to advance beyond the entrance, and
yet while Ashman was standing motionless he observed that a ledge put
out on their right, along which they could make their way indefinitely,
its course being hidden by scores of intervening obstacles.

It looked like a scene of enchantment indeed, the wonderful cavern
illumined by the flood of crimson light, which was on every hand, while
the radiating point was invisible.

Ariel stood silent and waited for her companion to recover from his
astonishment.  She had viewed all this before and had witnessed so many
similar scenes that they produced less effect upon her imagination than
upon his.

By and by he looked around, and she smilingly nodded her head.  He
began picking his way along the ledge, carefully feeling his way, for a
misstep or a treacherous support was liable to precipitate him to the
fathomless depths below with the inevitable certainty of instant death.

It was while the young American was working forward in this guarded
manner, that he particularly noticed that the roof overhead, and all
parts of the walls were dotted with what seemed points of living fire.
While some were small, others were larger and gave out a light that was
dazzling to the point of blindness.

He supposed they were composed of a species of quartz or mineral, but
observing one of them within reach at his side, he reached upward with
his knife and extracted it from the shale in which it was imbedded.

Taking it in his hand he turned it over several times with increasing
curiosity.  It appeared to be a rough pebble, from which he brushed
away a portion of the dirt, so as to permit it to shine with a splendor
that would have been tenfold greater in the full light of the sun.

"Don't you know what it is?" asked Ariel with another smile at his
perplexed expression.

"I do not; can you tell me?"

"It is a diamond!"

"And," he asked, with a sweep of his arm, "are all those diamonds?"

"They are."

"Great heavens!" gasped the astounded Ashman; "we have entered a cavern
of diamonds."

"There can be no doubt of that," she calmly replied; "there are plenty
of them among the rocks along other portions of the lake, for that is
where the king has obtained them for years.  There is gold there too.
You know now the reason why he guards the approaches of the lake so
jealously.  I have seen our men digging for diamonds and they looked
just like what these seem around us."

Ashman had paused again and his eyes roved around the magnificent
scene, whose splendors were enough to turn the head of Solomon himself.
Thousands of the points were gleaming from all portions of the roof,
walls, and even on the ledge along which they were walking.  There was
enough wealth within his gaze to pay the national debt of his country
and to effect a revolution in any nation.

"I would be a fool," he reflected, "not to gather some of these while
the chance is mine, even though I may never live to carry them away."



CHAPTER XXXVI.

PURSUERS AND PURSUED.

It may be doubted whether the most cool-headed of men could find
himself in such a situation as that of Fred Ashman, without being
overwhelmed by the bewildering wealth surrounding him.  He forgot for
the time that the lives of himself and lovely companion were at stake,
and that, despite her assurance that they were the first persons who
had ever entered the wonderful cavern of diamonds, its existence might
be known or discovered by their vengeful pursuers.

With the aid of his hunting knife, he set himself to work picking out
the precious gems that were within his reach at all times.

Now and then, when some one of unusual size fell into his palm he
uttered an exclamation of delight, and turned and held it up for Ariel
to admire.  She smiled at his pleasure, and showed her sympathy by
assisting in the excavation of the marvellous pebbles.

As they toiled, they advanced, sometimes a step at a time, and then for
several paces.  Conscious that he could carry away only an infinitely
small portion of the riches, Ashman found himself in the unparalleled
situation of casting aside the smaller gems and taking only those that
were large and of the first water.

Who before was compelled to fling away diamonds worth hundreds of
dollars apiece, simply because they were of too insignificant value to
be carried with him?  Ariel, who was a much better expert than he,
carefully selected the choicest until she was burdened with all she
could conveniently carry.  He filled his pockets and thrust others into
every receptacle at command.  The partially emptied cartridge-belt was
made to do duty as a casket, and it is safe to say that no similar
contrivance was ever laden with a tithe of the riches that particular
one held.

"Ah," reflected the young man again and again, "if only the Professor
and Long were here to help me!"

But there came the time, all too soon, when he was forced to admit that
it was useless to attempt to carry more.  He had the wealth of a prince
about his person, and yet the storehouse showed no diminution of its
boundless supply, which was enough to burden a regiment of soldiers.

Gold, the most precious of all metals, for which men delve and starve
and toil and die, still lies hidden in immeasurable masses, in
unsuspected places, screened perhaps by a thin sheeting of earth, over
which thousands have tramped, never dreaming of the boundless riches
just beneath their feet.  And rubies and diamonds strew the bottom of
the ocean or scintillate within caverns and caves, as they have shone
and gleamed through ages, still waiting for the fortunate miner or
explorer to bring them to light and the gaze of an admiring world.

"If I ever live to get away from this spot," added Ashman, when he
ceased his wonderful garnering, "I will bring a force here; I can
afford to make it irresistible by King Haffgo, for every one of the men
can take away a fortune and leave more than enough for these
barbarians."

"I can take no more," he said, turning his flushed face upon the
radiant countenance just behind him; "King Haffgo will never miss
these, but when I carry you to my distant home, Ariel, where I shall
cherish and love you forever, these diamonds will bring us such wealth
that we shall never know the meaning of want; every luxury that
affection can dream of, or heart can crave, shall be yours."

"The greatest luxury my heart yearns for," said she softly, "is _your_
love."

"And that you have now," he replied catching her in his arms and
straining her to his heart.

"I am sure of it," replied the happy maiden, resisting no longer the
ardent embrace of him whose affection seemed to grow with every passing
hour.

"All that I pray heaven to grant is the opportunity to prove to you
that you are not mistaken.  I do not want to leave here or ever see my
home again unless you are with me.  I shall live or die with you, for
death with you is preferable to life without you, my cherished, my own
Ariel."

The radiant countenance was illumined by a light such as only the
divine passion can impart.  She did not speak, for there are some
emotions of the soul beyond the power of language.

The hunt for the diamonds had taken the lovers to a point almost
opposite the entrance.  They observed what they had not noticed during
their absorbing work,--the ledge along which they advanced, steadily
ascended until it carried them to a point half-way to the top of the
mighty dome.  Standing there, they could look back on the awful chasms
spread below their feet, the crimsoned walls, sparkling and
scintillating with innumerable gems, with the craggy roof seemingly
almost within their reach.

Looking over the wild, dazzling, unapproachable scene, the American was
considering the practical question of what was next to be done, when
Ariel at his side abruptly seized his arm with an intensity which
startled and caused him to ask,

"What has frightened you, dearest?"

With a gasp, she pointed to the other side of the cavern, where they
had entered this region of enchantment and wonders.

A procession of figures was moving along the ledge, over which they had
just made their way.  The intervening objects shut them partly out of
sight, but the heads and shoulders of several were always in view and
they were moving with the utmost haste possible.

The foremost figure was a white man; the next was a dusky giant, and
the third was of fair complexion, while all the others were of the hue
of native Africans.

There could be no mistaking the identity of the leaders: the foremost
was Waggaman, the second, Ziffak, and the third, King Haffgo.  Those
who followed were the pick of the Murhapa warriors.

It mattered not whether Ariel was right in her belief that the
existence of the cavern of diamonds was unknown to every one else, or
that some fateful good fortune had directed the party to the entrance.
It was enough that they had found it, and were now pressing forward
along the very ridge on which they had halted, and stood gazing back in
amazement and horror, unable for the moment to divine what could be
done to help themselves.

But Ashman needed but a few seconds to decide his course.  He held his
Winchester and revolver and was ready to die in the defence of the idol
of his heart.

"Have courage," he said; "all is not yet lost."

The ledge on which they stood was so narrow that there was no room for
two to walk beside each other.  Lifting the gentle form in one arm, he
swung her over the abyss at his feet and placed her on the ledge in
front of him.

The danger was at the rear, and that was the place for him.

"Now advance," he added; "we may find a better spot than this for
defence."

He feared that his pursuers might divide, and some of them start around
the other way, so as to come upon him from the opposite side.  If that
were done, he would be caught between two fires; and, since one of the
party possessed a gun, the advantage would be preponderatingly against
him.

There was subject, too, for perplexing thought in the situation.  He
had no wish to shoot King Haffgo, and would not do it if any possible
way of avoiding it should present itself.  He determined that he should
be spared until the last one, when he could probably be handled,
without resorting to the last extremity.

Then, too, he felt no doubt about the presence of the giant Ziffak.  He
was the friend of himself and Ariel, though for politic reasons he had
assumed the guise of an enemy.  His situation was a most delicate one,
and, even in his bewilderment and anxiety, Ashman could not help
wondering how he would conduct himself in the crisis at hand.

Inasmuch as the American was resolved to avoid injuring the dusky
Hercules, it will be observed that there were two of the company of
pursuers whom he was much more anxious to spare than he was to inflict
harm upon the rest.

He was hopeful for a moment that he and his companion had not been
detected, but a resounding shout echoed through the cavern of
diamonds--a shout of such amazing power that he knew it had come from
the throat of Ziffak himself, who, as if to make sure his meaning was
not misunderstood, brandished his mighty javelin over his prodigious
head and shoulders, as he almost pushed his leader from the path in
front of him.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

AT BAY.

Ariel flitted so rapidly along the ledge that her lover felt obliged to
ask her to desist, as he found it difficult to keep pace with her.

The narrow path ascended more rapidly than before, and he saw they were
steadily climbing toward the top of the roof.  The shelly support to
their feet, too, became less substantial, crumbling and giving way at a
rate that threatened the most serious consequences.

He again cautioned the maiden, who seemed to dart over the rocky ground
with the graceful ease of a bird, and without producing any more
effect, with her dainty sandals.

Suddenly she paused.  She had reached the margin or break in the ledge.
A chasm, whose black depths the eye could not fathom, yawned between
her and the support on the opposite side.

"We will make our stand here," said he; "keep behind me--"

He checked himself in astonishment; for, at that moment, she bounded as
lightly across as a fawn.  He never would have permitted it had he
dreamed of her intention; but it was done.

He could only follow, and, gathering his muscles, he ran rapidly the
slight distance and bounded from the support.

It was a tremendous leap, and, for one instant, he believed he would
fail; but he cleared the chasm of breathless darkness and landed on the
edge, where, for a single second, he tottered between life and death.

But, at the critical instant, a tiny hand was outstretched, and,
seizing one of the fluttering arms, his poise was restored, and he
stood firmly by her side.

Even then, as he stepped forward, the ground crumbled and gave way for
fully two feet, the debris rattling down the abyss as long as the ear
could detect the sound, growing fainter and fainter as it hastened
toward the far-away bottom.

"There is no one in that party except Ziffak who can leap it now," said
Ashman, gazing with a shudder behind him.

By this time the pursuers were close at hand and gaining fast.

The ledge led straight away and upward for a hundred feet, when it
terminated at a point in the dome as high as the middle portion.  There
the rocks were piled in irregular masses, and, knowing they could go no
further, Ashman resolved that the last stand should be made there.

As he hurried onward, another shout fell upon his ear.  It was a
different voice, and he recognized it as Waggaman's, who was leading
the advance.

The fugitive glanced backward, while toiling up the slope, and saw that
the white man in his eagerness was fully a rod ahead of the herculean
Ziffak, while the rest were stringing along behind him.

He might have wondered how the chieftain contrived to lose so much
ground had he not seen him clambering to his feet.  It followed that he
must have fallen in his hurry to get forward.

"We have them!" shouted the exultant convict; "there is no escape; they
are cornered!"

The words were yet ringing in his mouth, when he came to a stop.

He had reached the edge of the abyss and might well pause before trying
to leap across.

The fierce king called to him to make the jump.  It had been done not
only by the man, but by the girl who preceded him; why should he
hesitate?

Spurred by the taunt, the white man withdrew a few paces, and, like
Ashman, ran swiftly, the next instant his body rising in air, as he
made the fatal effort.

The American stood coolly watching the result.  If the miscreant
succeeded, where it looked impossible, he meant to shoot him.  Thus the
prospect before the convict could not have been worse.

It was a tremendous leap indeed, and the fellow struck the opposite
ledge with his chest, his feet dropping below.

In his furious efforts to save himself, he let go of his weapon, which
went ringing down the chasm, and seized the ledge with both hands.

Even then, had the ground been firm, he might have succeeded, but it
gave way like rotten ice, and, with a shriek of agony, he vanished
forever from the sight of men.

The frightful occurrence brought the pursuers to a halt and gave the
fugitives a minute or two in which to prepare for the end.

Ariel, by command of her lover, placed herself behind the rocks and
bowlders, where she was secure against any of the missiles, that were
sure to be soon flying through the air.  Ashman also placed himself so
that all of his body was hidden, except his head and shoulders, but his
Winchester was thrust out, ready for instant use.  He was resolved that
no one of the party should leap that chasm and live after reaching the
other side.

There were two exceptions, be it remembered, to this resolution.

Ziffak, being next to Waggaman, approached the chasm, where he also
stopped and peered into the impenetrable depth, his dusky face showing
a horrified expression at the awful fate that had befallen the foremost
of the little party.

Ashman, who was closely watching the chieftain with a natural wonder us
to how he would conduct himself (for he did not waver in his faith that
the giant was still loyal to him), saw him suddenly raise his eyes and
gaze at the opposite ledge, which was fully two feet above that upon
which he was standing.

Haffgo was immediately behind him, and peering under his arms at the
opening.  There being no room for the two to stand beside each other,
this was the nearest position he could secure.

Beyond him the other figures could be partly discerned, all standing
motionless until some way should present itself for their advance.

Ashman observed the chieftain, as his eyes followed the ledge until
they rested upon him, crouching behind one of the bowlders with his
rifle leveled at the war party.

The two looked into each other's eyes for a single instant, when
Ziffak, knowing he could not be seen by any of those behind, contracted
his brows and moved his lips.

He did not speak, for that would have "given the whole thing away," but
his dusky mouth was contorted with such vigorous care that the words
were understood, as readily as if shouted aloud.

They formed the single sentence,

"_I am your friend!_"

No need of saying that, for, as we have stated, Fred Ashman had never
doubted it.

Haffgo now began urging his brother to make the leap, which had proven
the death of Waggaman, saying, with reason, that the strength and
activity of the head chieftain of the Murhapas were sure to carry him
over where no one else could succeed.

The two talked in their native tongue, but their meaning was so clear
that the American needed no one to interpret the words.

Ziffak replied that he would gladly do so, but for the treacherous
character of the other side of the ledge.  He showed that considerable
had fallen away, and intimated that the fugitives had loosened it for
the purpose of entrapping all the party just as Waggaman had been
entrapped.

Then the king took another look at the chasm.  It so happened that
while he was doing this, a large slice of the ledge sloughed off and
went down the abyss, after the miserable wretch who must have been
lying at that moment a shapeless mass far down the fearful gorge.

Haffgo could not gainsay such testimony, and, for the first time, his
face showed an expression of disappointment.  It was not the look of a
baffled man, but of one forced to see a sweet pleasure deferred.

He had only to peer up the ledge, as it led toward the roof, to realize
that the fugitives were as safely caged as if bound and secured in his
own home.

They had penetrated as far as possible in the cavern of diamonds.  If
the pursuers could not reach them, neither could they return over the
chasm by which they had attained the spot where they still defied him.

The most athletic man living could not leap across that chasm, nor
could it be passed until it was bridged artificially, and that could
only be accomplished from below, where the pursuers were glaring
across.  They might erect a structure, if, the king so willed, which
would open a way of advance; but he was in no mood to care for or think
of anything of the kind.

Haffgo now talked earnestly for a few minutes to his head chieftain.
The latter listened respectfully, nodding his head several times in
acquiescence.  Then he suddenly looked up the ledge again, steadied
himself for an instant, and hurled his javelin with terrific force at
the head of Ashman.

It was done with such incredible deftness that the American had no time
in which to dodge the fearful missile.  Had it been accurately aimed,
it would have been driven straight through his skull!

But it missed by a hair's breadth, shooting up to the roof, where it
struck the rock with such violence that the head was shattered and the
remaining portion fell uselessly down among the rocks.

It was a close call, but Ashman was not frightened; he knew why it
missed him.

He now sighted along the barrel, as if he meant to shoot the chieftain,
who instantly ducked his head, and began crowding backward.  It was the
first time King Haffgo had been placed in such a grave situation, and
he was panic-stricken.  He turned so suddenly and began crowding to the
rear so hard, that he came within a hair of precipitating himself and
those immediately behind him from the ledge.

But Ashman did not pull trigger.  He could not do so without
endangering the lives of Ziffak and the king, and as yet the other
warriors had made no demonstration against him.

But, seeing that the white man did not fire, Ziffak seemed to gather
courage and straightened up again.  The king passed his own javelin to
him, and he glared up the ledge as if looking for another favorable
chance to launch, it with greater effect than before.

Ashman, who was narrowly watching every movement of his enemies, now
observed that the warrior directly behind the king, carried a bow and
arrow, and he was in the act of fitting a missile to the string, with
the evident intention of trying his hand at the business in which the
head chieftain had failed only a minute before.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

THE POISONED ARROW.

Such being the case, Ashman concluded that the time had arrived when he
should also take a hand.

Ziffak and King Haffgo placed their backs against the face of the
rocks, along which the ledge ran, so as to open a clear course for the
archer.  The latter fitted his arrow with great care and then
straightening up drew back the string and slowly levelled, the missile
at the head and breast of the American.

"Does that fool imagine I am going to keep still and let him practice
on me?" the latter asked himself, an instant before discharging his
rifle, whose bullet went straight through the dusky miscreant and sent
him toppling off the side of the ledge as dead as dead could be.

Not only that, but the ball wounded the warrior directly behind him,
causing him to utter a howl which rang with piercing force from side to
side of the cavern of diamonds.

This prompt act caused something like a panic, Ziffak seemed the most
terrified of any.  Facing about, he flung his arms aloft and shouted to
the rest to hurry away before the white man killed them all.

They lost no time in obeying, and it was noticeable that King Haffgo,
being well at the rear, added his frenzied commands for his warriors to
lose no time in leaving the fatal spot.

Ashman could have sent a succession of shots along the ridge, as the
party scrambled away, which would have toppled the dusky barbarians off
like so many ten-pins; but he had no desire to inflict needless
slaughter, and, in answer to the appeal of the shrinking Ariel, he had
promised her that, so far as he was concerned, her parent should
receive no harm.

He therefore contented himself with watching them, until a bend in the
ledge hid them from sight, with the exception of their heads, and they,
too, soon disappeared; because the frightened warriors, glancing back,
and seeing their peril, crouched low to escape the bullets which they
seemed to expect would come whistling about their crowns.

As long as the natives kept at such a distance, they could do no harm
to the defenders; for they were too far off to make use of their
javelins, and the single archer left was not likely to attempt to bring
his weapon into play.

Naturally, Ashman and Ariel, finding they were left to themselves for a
time, fell to speculating upon what was likely to be the next move of
their enemies.  He believed they would make an attempt to bridge the
chasm separating them, a task which, as will be seen, was comparatively
easy of accomplishment.

But should such a structure be laid, it must be so strait that only one
could pass at a time, and the American could pick them off as often as
they presented themselves.  There were now no firearms at the command
of the Murhapas, unless some one recovered the weapon of Burkhardt, and
even then, Ashman would feel little fear of harm from the savages.

Ariel thought her parent and his little company would simply keep guard
at the entrance of the cavern, in order to intercept them, if they
discovered some way of re-crossing the chasm and attempted to leave.

But both were wrong.

The young man was resolved that no march should be stolen upon him.  It
was impossible for the Murhapas to pass far enough around to leave the
place, without being seen, provided he kept unremitting watch, which he
felt competent to do for a number of hours to come.

If the siege was prolonged, he could take turns with Ariel, whose
bright eyes were quicker of perception than his.

In the cavern of diamonds, there was no means of telling when it was
day or night on the earth outside.  Lit by the eternal fires of the
volcano, it was always day; but he carried a watch, which told him that
the night was far advanced, and that the bright sun would soon shine
upon mountain, forest, and river again, though his heart sank at the
faint prospect of it ever being his privilege to greet the orb again.

The incidents of the next hour mystified both Ashman and Ariel.

The first movement which attracted their notice, was Ziffak, who,
rising to the upright posture, so that his immense shoulders were in
plain sight, was seen picking his way along the ledge, until he reached
the opening on the other side.  Through this he passed and was seen no
more.

It was useless to speculate as to the meaning of this proceeding, which
could not be explained until made clear by occurrences themselves.  It
was safe to assume, however, that it was ostensibly in the interests of
King Haffgo, and therefore against those of the fugitive lovers.

Probably a half-hour after the disappearance of the chieftain, two of
the party were seen stealing along the ledge in the direction of the
entrance to the cavern.  These, however, were of such slight stature,
when compared with Ziffak, and they made such efforts to conceal their
movements, that it was hard to follow or identify them.  Ashman thought
that Haffgo was one of the number, but he could not make certain, and,
since Ariel did not catch as favoring a glimpse as he, she could give
no help in solving the question.

The best solution of the singular acts was that while the Murhapas
seemed to try to hide themselves from the lovers, they still took pains
to allow enough to be disclosed to reveal the movements, which they
wished the couple to observe.

And here again, both Ashman and Ariel were in error.

Strange that a possibility which had once been thought of by the two
did not occur again to them.

King Haffgo, despite his confidence in Ziffak, began to feel some
distrust of him.  His refusal to attempt the leap of the chasm, and his
former friendship for the explorers, might have been reasonably
explained, but his failure to drive his javelin through the white man,
who was so near and who never stirred from his position, could not be
an accident.  He knew the marvellous skill of the head chieftain, who
could have had but one cause for missing Ashman: that was an
intentional deviation of his weapon, which, slight though it was,
proved as effective as if hurled in the opposite direction.

And yet, shrewd as was Ziffak; he really believed he had deceived his
royal brother.  No suspicion of the distrust in the mind of the king
came to the chieftain, when he was directed to return to the village
and bring ten more warriors with him.

But this errand secured the absence of Ziffak for a couple of hours at
least, and that was the sole purpose of Haffgo in sending him out of
the cavern of diamonds.

When the chieftain was gone, the archer was directed to ascertain how
far he could steal around the cavern, by taking the opposite course.
Haffgo followed, directing the others to stay where they were until
further orders were given them.

The archer set out at once, ahead of the king, both doing their best to
avoid detection.

Fortune favored them in an unexpected manner.  The ledge was found
easier of travel than they expected, and, by using great care, they
worked their way to a point less than two hundred feet from where the
fugitives were standing on guard.  They had traversed the whole
distance, too, without detection.

When King Haffgo peered carefully over the shoulders of the crouching
bowman, he saw the couple standing with their backs toward him, as they
faced the chasm which had been found impassable for the Murhapas.

The slumbering anger in the parent's breast was kindled to a white
heat, when he observed the white man holding the hand of his daughter,
and he saw him lean over and touch his lips to hers.  He whispered to
the warrior to lose no time.

The latter quickly examined his arrows, and picked out the one which
not only seemed the best, but was most plentifully provided with the
deadly poison.  This was speedily fitted to the string, and he
deliberately took aim, his nerves like steel, for the king had
whispered to him that he must not fail.

At the instant the string twanged, something caused Ariel to look
behind them.

She uttered a faint scream as she caught sight of the two crouching
figures.  She descried a flitting shadow which she knew was the
approaching missile on its deadly mission.

Knowing that it was aimed at her lover, she threw both her arms around
his neck and interposed her body to protect him while he stood
bewildered, not comprehending what it all meant.

Her figure was too slight to serve the purpose of a shield.  The
poisoned arrow whizzed straight at the breast of Ashman, who had turned
about, but instead of entering his body, the point, surcharged with
venom, was imbedded in the snowy arm of Ariel herself!



CHAPTER XXXIX.

CONCLUSION.

The horrified Fred Ashman saw that the poisoned arrow, aimed at his own
heart had buried itself in the fair arm of Ariel, as she clasped him
about the neck anxious to shield him from harm at the expense of her
own life.

She had saved him, but at what a fearful cost!  The agonized lover
realized it all, as he tenderly placed her on the rock beside which
they were standing.  Then, like the man who, knowing he has been
fatally struck by the rattlesnake or cobra, turns to stamp the life out
of the reptile, before looking after his own wound, he faced about and
brought his rifle to his shoulder.  The dusky miscreant cowered low,
but he could not save himself, for the bullet which left the
Winchester, entering at the skull, ranged through the length of his
body, and he rolled off the ledge like a rotten log and went down the
yawning abyss that afforded a fit sepulture for such as he.

King Haffgo was standing erect, as if defying the white man to fire at
him.  He had seen the result of the shot and he did not regret it.

"Die the death you deserve!" he called out in English; "for you are not
the daughter of Haffgo!"

Then he turned about and moved along the ledge, while Ashman stood for
an instant, with weapon levelled, feeling that the awful occurrence had
absolved him from the pledge made a short time before.

He was aiming, when a faint voice at his side said:

"No, hurt him not; _I shall get well_!"

Letting the rifle fall from his grasp, he wheeled around as if he had
been shot himself.

What did he see?

The brave Ariel had drawn the arrow from her arm, and was sitting
erect.  In her right hand, was a small earthen bottle such as was in
common use among the Murhapas.

"Great heaven! what does this mean?" demanded her lover, uncertain
whether he was awake or dreaming.

She smiled faintly, and said:

"I feel a little faint, but the danger is past."

"But,--but,"--he added, "the arrow was poisoned!"

"Yes, but the poison has a remedy; it is in _that_," she added, holding
up the bottle; "my parent always carried it; I brought it with me when
I left home."

The overjoyed lover could not repress a shout of joy,--a shout which
penetrated every portion of the cavern of diamonds, but whose meaning,
fortunately for the couple, was not understood by the ears on which it
fell.

He knelt beside her, so that the bowlders shut both from the view of
any prowlers who might seek to reach them.  He kissed the happy face
again and again; he called her the sweetest names that ever mortal
uttered, and he assured her that they should both live and be happy
forever.

In his overflowing bliss, he could not realize that they were still
walled in on every hand.  All that he could know and feel, was, that
she was spared from a dreadful death,--that she had interposed her own
precious body to protect him from harm.

Enwrapped in his arms, she was obliged to confess that the bringing of
the potent remedy was an inspiration, when she stole out of her
father's house, for she never dreamed of the use to which it would be
put.

She had forgotten all about it, until the sharp twinge in her arm
apprised her that she was struck by the fearful missile.  Then, as she
was about to swoon, she recalled that she carried the remedy in her
bosom.

Drawing it quickly forth, while her lover's face was turned away, she
drank the whole contents, which were sufficient to save the lives of
three or four persons.  Not a drop, however, was left; and she remarked
in her own peculiar manner, that they must be careful not to be struck
by any more such missiles, since the remedy was gone, and it would be
hard to secure more.

With a full realization of the remarkable deliverance of his beloved,
Ashman was roused to a stronger resolution than before of making a
desperate effort to extricate themselves from their perilous situation,
which looked indeed as if without hope.

Rising to his feet, but screening his body as he could, he carefully
peered around the cavern of diamonds.  He cautioned Ariel to keep out
of sight, for, if it should become know that her life was saved, her
father and his warriors would doubtless make another attempt to reach
them.

Looking in the direction of the opening on the other side, he saw
Haffgo pass out, followed the next minute or two by the rest of the
Murhapas.  To Ashman this was proof that the party had decided to
withdraw from the cavern, but would keep watch of the egress to make
sure that the white man did not get away by some freak of fortune.

Since they were sure he was caught in a trap from which there was no
escape, he had his choice of remaining and starving to death, of coming
forth and giving himself up, or of ending it all by precipitating
himself down the rocks.

A terrible punishment indeed for the white man that had dared to defy
the king of the Murhapas, and had been the cause of the death of the
beloved princess!

Ashman was still studying the insoluble problem, when a strange impulse
led him to look aloft.  It will be remembered that he was near the roof
of the cavern, among a mass of bowlders and rocks which touched the
dome.

Several times it had seemed to him that a felt a slight, upward
draught, as though a portion of the air found vent in that direction.
When he mentioned it to Ariel she admitted that she had noticed the
same thing, and urged him to investigate.

Leaving his Winchester with her, he began a cautious ascent of the
rugged stairs.  He had about twenty feet to climb, and the greatest
care was necessary.  Not until at the very top, did he pass from the
sight of the maiden who was attentively watching his movements.

Five minutes later, he let go his hold and dropped, down beside her.
His face was flushed and his eyes glowing with excitement.

"Thank heaven!" he exclaimed, greatly agitated; "there is an opening by
which we can reach the outer world."

"I was sure of it," she replied with a happy smile.

During his brief absence, she had bandaged her arm as best she could by
tearing a slip from her dress.  The wound bled less than would be
supposed, and caused her little pain.

Taking her other hand, Ashman began helping her up among the rocks and
bowlders.  She needed little aid, however, for she was lighter and more
graceful on her feet than he.

Sure enough, when they arrived at the top, they came upon a broader
opening than that by which they had entered the cavern.  It was hidden
from sight by a projecting table of rock, and when they came to pass
through, the outer opening was seen to be so covered by bushes that it
never could have been found except by the accident which first showed
Ariel the way into the cavern.

But with hearts overflowing with gratitude to heaven, they found
themselves on the earth again, with the sun shining and the pure air of
heaven fanning their fevered faces.

They had emerged at the crest of the mountainous mass, which covered a
portion of the enchanted lake and the cavern of diamonds.  Fortunately,
too, they were among the woods, where they could not see far in any
direction.  This rendered them less liable to discovery by their
enemies in the neighborhood.

Ashman held his position until the two could study their location and
gain an idea of the points of the compass.  The rising sun helped them
to do this, and, by moving carefully about until they gained sight of
the lake and the Upper Xingu, they soon ascertained in what direction
the Murhapa village lay, and the course necessary to take in order to
avoid it.

It was decided to put back in the forest and thread their way through
the dense wilderness, striking the Xingu at a point below the rapids.
There, if they found nothing of their friends, they would manage to
secure a boat in which they could press their flight in the direction
of the Amazon.

The forests abounded with wild animals and huge serpents, but the
ardent lover was admirably armed and confident that he could protect
his beloved from all harm, provided they could escape discovery by the
Murhapas and Aryks.

If Haffgo should venture on an approach to the rocks, where the
fugitives made their stand, he could not fail to find out the
extraordinary manner in which they had eluded him, and he would be
certain to organize instant pursuit.

But this was not likely to take place for a considerable time, though
the possibility led Ashman to push forward with all vigor, often
pausing to listen for sounds of pursuit.

The extreme caution of the lovers led them to trend much further into
the woods than was really necessary, and they were a long time,
therefore, in reaching the Xingu.

Neither had eaten food for an unusual while, but they cared nothing for
that.  They were too anxious for any thought except that of getting
forward as fast as possible.

As they progressed, startled now and then by the prowling wild beasts
which threatened attack more than once, and by the sight of enormous
serpents, some in trees and some on the ground, Fred Ashman's thoughts
naturally went forward, and he speculated as to what was the result of
the attack on his friends the preceding night in the village.

He could comprehend the frightful situation in which they were placed
by the enmity of the king, and it seemed incredible that any, or at
least all of them, could have extricated themselves from their peril.
Gladly would he have risked everything in their defence, but, as has
been shown, that was beyond his power at any time.

The young American shrank from firing his gun, through fear of the
report reaching the ears of the Murhapas.  If that should take place,
it would be sure to excite their suspicions, and prompt an
investigation which the fugitives dreaded.

Once a jaguar became so threatening, that he leveled his weapon
convinced that he must fire or be attacked, but the snarling beast
finally withdrew, after sneaking behind them for a long distance.

The sun had passed the meridian when the wanderers caught the gleam of
water among the trees in front.  They hastened forward, and a moment's
survey of the stream convinced them that they had reached the Xingu
beyond all question.

Ashman recognized several features along the banks which he had noticed
on his way up the river.  Ariel was equally positive, so they dismissed
the question from their minds.

Both were nearly exhausted, for they had had a tiresome tramp, during
all of which they were under a severe mental strain.  They felt that,
at last, they could sit down and rest themselves before resuming their
journey.

"The next thing to be done," said Ashman as he imprisoned the hand of
Ariel and drew her head upon his shoulder, "is to find some boat in
which we can float down stream.  It will be less work than we had in
ascending it."

"I suppose," she replied, "that there are people all the way along the
river until you reach the end of it."

"There are; but we found most of them unfriendly long before we struck
the region of the Aryks."

"Are they likely to attack us?" she asked, raising her head and looking
at her lover with an alarmed expression.

"We had little difficulty, so long as we kept in the middle of the
stream, and one discharge from our guns was generally enough to drive
them away."

"And for how far does this prevail?"

"Two or three days ought to take us out of the danger.  Then it will be
plain sailing all the rest of the way.  The river is long, but,
dearest, we shall be with each other, and it will seem brief."

She parted her lips to make a suitable reply, when a startled
expression came upon her lovely countenance and she whispered:

"They must have followed us through the woods."

"What do you mean?" he asked, grasping his rifle.

"I hear some one moving behind us."

"It is a wild animal----"

He checked himself, for, to his unspeakable amazement, Professor
Grimcke at that instant stepped to view.

The two men caught sight of each other at the same moment.  They stared
as if in doubt, and then, with exclamations of delight, clasped hands.

By great good fortune, the lovers had emerged from the forest within a
stone's throw of the point where Grimcke, Long, Bippo, and Pedros were
waiting with the canoe hidden among the trees.

After this reunion they set out for home.

A few days carried them beyond danger, and in good time the Amazon was
reached.  Bippo and Pedros were left at Marcapa, at which port the
explorers secured passage for home, where they arrived in safety.  And
in that land, so strange to the beauteous Ariel, daughter of Haffgo,
king of the Murhapas, we bid good-by to our friends.  But to her,
Ashman was all the world; and in the sunshine of their mutual love they
dwell to-day, happy, grateful, contented, and envying no one, assured,
as they are, that none can be more blessed than they.





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