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The Unconquered by Wallace Scott

The Unconquered by Wallace Scott

Author:Wallace, Scott [Wallace, Scott]
Language: eng
Format: mobi, epub
ISBN: 9780307462985
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Published: 2011-10-18T04:00:00+00:00


CHAPTER 16

Ours Guns, Our Germs, and Our Steel

THE MATIS LED THE WAY forward. Suddenly they pulled up in their tracks and pointed ahead, toward a cluster of trees beyond the sawgrass. Possuelo raised his hand for silence. From off in the distance came a muffled, excited babble, unintelligible but unmistakably human. With hushed commands, Possuelo called for the Kanamari to come to the front of the column. Word was relayed back into the thicket, and soon Márcio and Remi appeared.

“Call to them in Kanamari,” Possuelo instructed. “Tell them we’re friends, and we mean no harm.” The Indians cupped their hands and shouted toward the tree line. We strained our ears to listen. The distant murmuring ceased. Possuelo signaled the Matis to follow suit. They called out, but there was no response. Finally the Marubo took a turn. Again, nothing but the cry of the screaming piha.

Suddenly, without command and without explanation, our ranks broke. Everyone lurched forward, trouncing through the high grass in hot pursuit. In the excitement to catch a glimpse of the wild Indians, all discipline and sense of reason fell away. The sunlight danced like liquid gold on the river as we ran, ricocheting sideways in blinding flashes through the silhouettes of trunks and branches. Soldado and Paulo Welker cut left and made straight for the river, some two hundred yards off to the left. Possuelo held straight to the parallel course. I was torn: Whom to follow? In a split second, I decided to follow Possuelo. Bad choice. Within moments, we heard shouts behind us, coming from the direction of the water. It was Paulo Welker. “Over here!” he yelled. “Over here, they’re crossing the river!”

Soldado and Paulo Welker were heaving deeply, hands on their knees, by the time we reached the bluff above the river. Behind them rose the upended roots of an enormous tree that had fallen into the water. Another tree of similar dimensions had fallen from the opposite bank, some thirty yards distant, and the two trunks met halfway across the river to form a single span, in the shape of a shallow V, like a bridge that had taken a direct hit in the midsection and had collapsed into the water. Vines had been strung between the barren branches that protruded vertically from the prostrate logs to form a makeshift handrail. Clearly, this was a regular transit point for the flecheiros.

“I saw one!” Welker gasped, still struggling to recover his breath. “He was naked, with long hair. Broad shoulders. Strong. He ran across the bridge. Disappeared into the woods.” He pointed across to the far side of the river.

“There were two of them,” corrected Soldado. “They were naked—but for a string tied around their waists.” As he had done before, Possuelo commanded the Indians to call out toward the high trees across the river. He cupped his hands and hooted, the Indians pleaded, but there was no response.

“Who’s carrying those small pots we brought along for gifts?” Possuelo called out. José, Soldado’s son-in-law, stepped forward.



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