Two hours later, we, our packages, and all we owned, were at the foot of the cliff.
Save for Challenger's luggage we had never a difficulty.
Leaving it all where we descended, we started at once for Zambo's camp.
In the early morning we approached it, but only to find, to our amazement, not one fire but a dozen upon the plain.
The rescue party had arrived.
There were twenty Indians from the river, with stakes, ropes, and all that could be useful for bridging the chasm.
At least we shall have no difficulty now in carrying our packages, when to-morrow we begin to make our way back to the Amazon.
And so, in humble and thankful mood, I close this account.
Our eyes have seen great wonders and our souls are chastened by what we have endured.
Each is in his own way a better and deeper man.
It may be that when we reach Para we shall stop to refit.
If we do, this letter will be a mail ahead.
If not, it will reach London on the very day that I do.
In either case, my dear Mr. McArdle, I hope very soon to shake you by the hand.
CHAPTER XVI "A Procession! A Procession!"
I should wish to place upon record here our gratitude to all our friends upon the Amazon for the very great kindness and hospitality which was shown to us upon our return journey.
Very particularly would I thank Senhor Penalosa and other officials of the Brazilian Government for the special arrangements by which we were helped upon our way, and Senhor Pereira of Para, to whose forethought we owe the complete outfit for a decent appearance in the civilized world which we found ready for us at that town.
It seemed a poor return for all the courtesy which we encountered that we should deceive our hosts and benefactors, but under the circumstances we had really no alternative, and I hereby tell them that they will only waste their time and their money if they attempt to follow upon our traces.
Even the names have been altered in our accounts, and I am very sure that no one, from the most careful study of them, could come within a thousand miles of our unknown land.
The excitement which had been caused through those parts of South America which we had to traverse was imagined by us to be purely local, and I can assure our friends in England that we had no notion of the uproar which the mere rumor of our experiences had caused through Europe.
It was not until the Ivernia was within five hundred miles of Southampton that the wireless messages from paper after paper and agency after agency, offering huge prices for a short return message as to our actual results, showed us how strained was the attention not only of the scientific world but of the general public.
It was agreed among us, however, that no definite statement should be given to the Press until we had met the members of the Zoological Institute, since as delegates it was our clear duty to give our first report to the body from which we had received our commission of investigation.
Thus, although we found Southampton full of Pressmen, we absolutely refused to give any information, which had the natural effect of focussing public attention upon the meeting which was advertised for the evening of November 7th.
For this gathering, the Zoological Hall which had been the scene of the inception of our task was found to be far too small, and it was only in the Queen's Hall in Regent Street that accommodation could be found.
It is now common knowledge the promoters might have ventured upon the Albert Hall and still found their space too scanty.
It was for the second evening after our arrival that the great meeting had been fixed.
For the first, we had each, no doubt, our own pressing personal affairs to absorb us.
Of mine I cannot yet speak.
It may be that as it stands further from me I may think of it, and even speak of it, with less emotion.
I have shown the reader in the beginning of this narrative where lay the springs of my action.
It is but right, perhaps, that I should carry on the tale and show also the results.
And yet the day may come when I would not have it otherwise.
At least I have been driven forth to take part in a wondrous adventure, and I cannot but be thankful to the force that drove me.
And now I turn to the last supreme eventful moment of our adventure.
As I was racking my brain as to how I should best describe it, my eyes fell upon the issue of my own Journal for the morning of the 8th of November with the full and excellent account of my friend and fellow-reporter Macdona.
What can I do better than transcribe his narrative—head-lines and all?
I admit that the paper was exuberant in the matter, out of compliment to its own enterprise in sending a correspondent, but the other great dailies were hardly less full in their account.
Thus, then, friend Mac in his report:
THE NEW WORLD GREAT MEETING AT THE QUEEN'S HALL SCENES OF UPROAR EXTRAORDINARY INCIDENT WHAT WAS IT? NOCTURNAL RIOT IN REGENT STREET (Special)
"The much-discussed meeting of the Zoological Institute, convened to hear the report of the Committee of Investigation sent out last year to South America to test the assertions made by Professor Challenger as to the continued existence of prehistoric life upon that Continent, was held last night in the greater Queen's Hall, and it is safe to say that it is likely to be a red letter date in the history of Science, for the proceedings were of so remarkable and sensational a character that no one present is ever likely to forget them." (Oh, brother scribe Macdona, what a monstrous opening sentence!)
"The tickets were theoretically confined to members and their friends, but the latter is an elastic term, and long before eight o'clock, the hour fixed for the commencement of the proceedings, all parts of the Great Hall were tightly packed.
The general public, however, which most unreasonably entertained a grievance at having been excluded, stormed the doors at a quarter to eight, after a prolonged melee in which several people were injured, including Inspector Scoble of H. Division, whose leg was unfortunately broken.
After this unwarrantable invasion, which not only filled every passage, but even intruded upon the space set apart for the Press, it is estimated that nearly five thousand people awaited the arrival of the travelers.
When they eventually appeared, they took their places in the front of a platform which already contained all the leading scientific men, not only of this country, but of France and of Germany.
Sweden was also represented, in the person of Professor Sergius, the famous Zoologist of the University of Upsala.
The entrance of the four heroes of the occasion was the signal for a remarkable demonstration of welcome, the whole audience rising and cheering for some minutes.
An acute observer might, however, have detected some signs of dissent amid the applause, and gathered that the proceedings were likely to become more lively than harmonious.
It may safely be prophesied, however, that no one could have foreseen the extraordinary turn which they were actually to take.
"Of the appearance of the four wanderers little need be said, since their photographs have for some time been appearing in all the papers.
They bear few traces of the hardships which they are said to have undergone.