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Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest

Chapter I
Now that we are cool, he said, and regret that we hurt each other, I am not sorry
that it happened. I deserved your reproach: a hundred times I have wished to tell
you the whole story of my travels and adventures among the savages, and one
of the reasons which prevented me was the fear that it would have an
unfortunate effect on our friendship. That was precious, and I desired above
everything to keep it. But I must think no more about that now. I must think only
of how I am to tell you my story. I will begin at a time when I was twenty-three. It
was early in life to be in the thick of politics, and in trouble to the extent of having
to fly my country to save my liberty, perhaps my life.
Every nation, someone remarks, has the government it deserves, and Venezuela
certainly has the one it deserves and that suits it best. We call it a republic, not
only because it is not one, but also because a thing must have a name; and to
have a good name, or a fine name, is very convenient--especially when you want
to borrow money. If the Venezuelans, thinly distributed over an area of half a
million square miles, mostly illiterate peasants, half-breeds, and indigenes, were
educated, intelligent men, zealous only for the public weal, it would be possible
for them to have a real republic. They have instead a government by cliques,
tempered by revolution; and a very good government it is, in harmony with the
physical conditions of the country and the national temperament. Now, it
happens that the educated men, representing your higher classes, are so few
that there are not many persons unconnected by ties of blood or marriage with
prominent members of the political groups to which they belong. By this you will
see how easy and almost inevitable it is that we should become accustomed to
look on conspiracy and revolt against the regnant party--the men of another
clique--as only in the natural order of things. In the event of failure such
outbreaks are punished, but they are not regarded as immoral. On the contrary,
men of the highest intelligence and virtue among us are seen taking a leading
part in these adventures. Whether such a condition of things is intrinsically wrong
or not, or would be wrong in some circumstances and is not wrong, because
inevitable, in others, I cannot pretend to decide; and all this tiresome profusion is
only to enable you to understand how I--a young man of unblemished character,
not a soldier by profession, not ambitious of political distinction, wealthy for that
country, popular in society, a lover of social pleasures, of books, of nature
actuated, as I believed, by the highest motives, allowed myself to be drawn very
readily by friends and relations into a conspiracy to overthrow the government of
the moment, with the object of replacing it by more worthy men ourselves, to wit.
Our adventure failed because the authorities got wind of the affair and matters
were precipitated. Our leaders at the moment happened to be scattered over the
country--some were abroad; and a few hotheaded men of the party, who were in
Caracas just then and probably feared arrest, struck a rash blow: the President
was attacked in the street and wounded. But the attackers were seized, and
some of them shot on the following day. When the news reached me I was at a
distance from the capital, staying with a friend on an estate he owned on the
 
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