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Across Unknown South America by Landor

Benedicto and I could not help laughing at him

In going down one of those difficult ravines I had an accident which might have been fatal. The ravine, the sides of which were almost vertical, was very narrow--only about 10 m. across. We let ourselves down, holding on to liane. When we reached the bottom we found a tiny brook winding its way between great round boulders, and leaving a space about 2 ft. wide for the water. I proceeded up on the other side, and I had got up to a height of some 30 ft. In order to go up this steep incline I had placed one foot against a small tree while I was pulling myself up by a liana. Unluckily, the liana suddenly gave way. The weight of the load which I had on my shoulders made me lose my balance, so that my body described an entire semicircle. I dropped down head first from that height on the rocks below.

[Illustration: Trading Boats landing Balls of Rubber, River Tapajoz.]

Providence once more looked after me on that occasion. On the flight down I already imagined myself dead; but no--my head entered the cavity between the two rocks against which my shoulders and the load became jammed, while my legs were struggling up in mid-air. I was forced so hard against the two side rocks that I could not possibly extricate myself. It was only when Benedicto and the new man came to my help and pulled me out that we were able to resume our journey--I much shaken and somewhat aching, but otherwise none the worse for that unpleasant fall.

On September 26th my two men were already complaining of their loads. They said they could not go on any more--the man in good health and full of strength rebelling more than poor Benedicto, who was in a weak condition. So that we might march quickly I decided to abandon one bag of flour and eight tins of salt butter. With the lighter loads we marched comparatively well, and went 22 kil. that day with no particular experience worth noticing.

On September 27th we started once more quite early, after a hearty breakfast--notwithstanding the pain which I always had whenever I ate, especially a stabbing pain in my heart which was almost unbearable at times. We crossed several streamlets, one fairly large, all of which flowed into the Secundury. Rain, which came down in torrents, greatly interfered with our march that day, the new man I had employed worrying me all the time, saying that he did not like to march in wet clothes. Benedicto and I could not help laughing at him, as we had not been dry one moment since the beginning of July, and we were now at the end of September. Wet or not wet, I made the man come along. Finding the forest comparatively clean, we covered another 20 kil. that day. We had a most miserable night, rain coming down in sheets upon us. I was suffering from high fever, chiefly from exhaustion and the effects of over-eating, most injurious to my internal arrangements, which had got dried up during the long sixteen days' fast. I shivered with cold the entire night.

When we got up the next morning, dripping all over, with water still pouring down in bucketfuls upon us from above, Benedicto said that if it went on much longer like that he should surely turn into a fish. He looked comical, with water streaming down from his hair, his ears, nose and coat.

The trousers which our friend Pedro Nunes had given me were made of cheap calico, printed in little checks. They were of the kind that was usually sold to the _seringueiros_, and looked pretty when they were new. But they were a little too small, and had evidently not been shrunk before they were made. With the great moisture that night they shrank so badly all of a sudden that they split in four or five different places. I had no way of mending them.

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