There were indications as to the direction from which the dead traveler had come.
Indian legends would alone have been my guide, for I found that rumors of a strange land were common among all the riverine tribes.
You have heard, no doubt, of Curupuri?"
"Curupuri is the spirit of the woods, something terrible, something malevolent, something to be avoided.
None can describe its shape or nature, but it is a word of terror along the Amazon.
Now all tribes agree as to the direction in which Curupuri lives.
It was the same direction from which the American had come.
Something terrible lay that way.
It was my business to find out what it was."
"What did you do?"
My flippancy was all gone.
This massive man compelled one's attention and respect.
"I overcame the extreme reluctance of the natives—a reluctance which extends even to talk upon the subject—and by judicious persuasion and gifts, aided, I will admit, by some threats of coercion, I got two of them to act as guides.
After many adventures which I need not describe, and after traveling a distance which I will not mention, in a direction which I withhold, we came at last to a tract of country which has never been described, nor, indeed, visited save by my unfortunate predecessor.
Would you kindly look at this?"
He handed me a photograph—half-plate size.
"The unsatisfactory appearance of it is due to the fact," said he, "that on descending the river the boat was upset and the case which contained the undeveloped films was broken, with disastrous results.
Nearly all of them were totally ruined—an irreparable loss.
This is one of the few which partially escaped.
This explanation of deficiencies or abnormalities you will kindly accept.
There was talk of faking. I am not in a mood to argue such a point."
The photograph was certainly very off-colored.
An unkind critic might easily have misinterpreted that dim surface.
It was a dull gray landscape, and as I gradually deciphered the details of it I realized that it represented a long and enormously high line of cliffs exactly like an immense cataract seen in the distance, with a sloping, tree-clad plain in the foreground.
"I believe it is the same place as the painted picture," said I.
"It is the same place," the Professor answered.
"I found traces of the fellow's camp.
Now look at this."
It was a nearer view of the same scene, though the photograph was extremely defective.
I could distinctly see the isolated, tree-crowned pinnacle of rock which was detached from the crag.
"I have no doubt of it at all," said I.
"Well, that is something gained," said he.
"We progress, do we not?
Now, will you please look at the top of that rocky pinnacle?
Do you observe something there?"
"An enormous tree."
"But on the tree?"
"A large bird," said I.
He handed me a lens.
"Yes," I said, peering through it, "a large bird stands on the tree.
It appears to have a considerable beak.
I should say it was a pelican."
"I cannot congratulate you upon your eyesight," said the Professor.
"It is not a pelican, nor, indeed, is it a bird.
It may interest you to know that I succeeded in shooting that particular specimen.
It was the only absolute proof of my experiences which I was able to bring away with me."
"You have it, then?"
Here at last was tangible corroboration.
"I had it.