"What a change from the Arizona desert!"
The words broke from the lips of Ken Ward as he leaned from the window of the train which was bearing his brother and himself over the plateau to Tampico in Tamaulipas, the southeastern state of Mexico. He had caught sight of a river leaping out between heavily wooded slopes and plunging down in the most beautiful waterfall he had ever seen.
"Look, Hal," he cried.
The first fall was a long white streak, ending in a dark pool; below came cascade after cascade, fall after fall, some wide, others narrow, and all white and green against the yellow rock. Then the train curved round a spur of the mountain, descended to a level, to be lost in a luxuriance of jungle growth.
It was indeed a change for Ken Ward, young forester, pitcher of the varsity nine at school, and hunter of lions in the Arizona canyons. Here he was entering the jungle of the tropics. The rifles and the camp outfit on the seat beside his brother Hal and himself spoke of coming adventures. Before them lay an unknown wilderness—the semi-tropical jungle. And the future was to show that the mystery of the jungle was stranger even than their imaginings.
It was not love of adventure alone or interest in the strange new forest growths that had drawn Ken to the jungle. His uncle, the one who had gotten Ken letters from the Forestry Department at Washington, had been proud of Ken's Arizona achievements. This uncle was a member of the American Geographical Society and a fellow of the New York Museum of Natural History. He wanted Ken to try his hand at field work in the jungle of Mexico, and if that was successful, then to explore the ruined cities of wild Yucatan. If Ken made good as an explorer his reward was to be a trip to Equatorial Africa after big game. And of course that trip meant opportunity to see England and France, and, what meant more to Ken, a chance to see the great forests of Germany, where forestry had been carried on for three hundred years.
In spite of the fact that the inducement was irresistible, and that Ken's father was as proud and eager as Ken's uncle to have him make a name for himself, and that Hal would be allowed to go with him, Ken had hesitated. There was the responsibility for Hal and the absolute certainty that Hal could not keep out of mischief. Still Ken simply could not have gone to Mexico leaving his brother at home broken-hearted.