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Across Unknown South America by Landor

They had proceeded quickly to the Tapajoz


Alcides

was much upset on seeing my plight. He ran immediately into the hut and got me some clothes from the _seringueiro_, which I put on before entering the house. The _seringueiro_ was kindness itself to me, most thoughtful and hospitable. He prepared some food for us at once. That was a day of joy and sadness combined. I found that all my men were safe, but that they had abandoned all my baggage and all my collections in the forest. They believed that I had been assassinated by Indians or that I had died of starvation.

Alcides cried like a child for some time. He and the others were ill with fever. Those men I had left in charge of my baggage at the camp in the forest had remained at that camp for seven days after my departure. Believing that I was never coming back, three of them had abandoned everything there, and even their companion Antonio, who was in a dying condition and was unable to walk. They had proceeded quickly to the Tapajoz, where they had found plenty to eat. Two or three days later Antonio had become better; he had shot some monkeys and birds, and had been able to keep alive. Had it not been for the kind-hearted _seringueiro_, Albuquerque, who had started out to rescue Antonio, the poor devil would have certainly died there, abandoned by everybody.

I heard stories that day which pained me a great deal. When my men believed that I was lost in the forest the man X had proposed to his companions to

follow the _picada_ I had cut in order to find my body and rob me of all the money which he knew I carried.

"If he is alive," he had said to his companions, "we will cut his throat once for all, and we will divide the money amongst ourselves."

It was with some difficulty that Alcides had prevented him from smashing all my baggage open, as he wished to divide the contents with his companions. Alcides was an honest man. He had stood up against that rascal. After a severe fight it had been decided that the baggage should be left intact in the forest until such authorities as could be sent up from the Fiscal Agency could visit the spot and take charge of my things.

It was then that I understood why the man X was now ashamed to face me, and did not come to greet me after I had nearly sacrificed my life to save him and his companions.

Albuquerque, the _seringueiro_, had also been considerate enough to lift my baggage upon stones and then cover it up with palm leaves, so that it should be preserved as much as possible from moisture and ants. During the month they had been back on the Tapajoz the man X had once taken a journey alone to the spot where the baggage and Antonio had been left, hoping to find his companion dead and so rob him of the money which he knew he had in his possession--the pay he had received from me.

Here is another charming incident. Nearly dead with fatigue, I lay helpless in a hammock which the _seringueiro_ had hung for me. He and his wife had gone out to look after their new plantation, and only my men remained loafing about.


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