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Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest

Chapter XVII
As I re-entered the cave with my burden Nuflo sat up and stared at me with a
frightened look in his eyes. Throwing my cloak down, I placed the girl on it and
briefly related what had happened.
He drew near to examine her; then placed his hand on her heart. "Dead!--she is
dead!" he exclaimed.
My own anxiety changed to an irrational anger at his words. "Old fool! She has
only fainted," I returned. "Get me some water, quick."
But the water failed to restore her, and my anxiety deepened as I gazed on that
white, still face. Oh, why had I told her that sad tragedy I had imagined with so
little preparation? Alas! I had succeeded too well in my purpose, killing her vain
hope and her at the same moment.
The old man, still bending over her, spoke again. "No, I will not believe that she is
dead yet; but, sir, if not dead, then she is dying."
I could have struck him down for his words. "She will die in my arms, then," I
exclaimed, thrusting him roughly aside, and lifting her up with the cloak beneath
her.
And while I held her thus, her head resting on my arm, and gazed with
unutterable anguish into her strangely white face, insanely praying to Heaven to
restore her to me, Nuflo fell on his knees before her, and with bowed head, and
hands clasped in supplication, began to speak.
"Rima! Grandchild!" he prayed, his quivering voice betraying his agitation. "Do
not die just yet: you must not die--not wholly die--until you have heard what I
have to say to you. I do not ask you to answer in words--you are past that, and I
am not unreasonable. Only, when I finish, make some sign--a sigh, a movement
of the eyelid, a twitch of the lips, even in the small corners of the mouth; nothing
more than that, just to show that you have heard, and I shall be satisfied.
Remember all the years that I have been your protector, and this long journey
that I have taken on your account; also all that I did for your sainted mother
before she died at Voa, to become one of the most important of those who
surround the Queen of Heaven, and who, when they wish for any favour, have
only to say half a word to get it. And do not cast in oblivion that at the last I
obeyed your wish and brought you safely to Riolama. It is true that in some small
things I deceived you; but that must not weigh with you, because it is a small
matter and not worthy of mention when you consider the claims I have on you. In
your hands, Rima, I leave everything, relying on the promise you made me, and
on my services. Only one word of caution remains to be added. Do not let the
magnificence of the place you are now about to enter, the new sights and
colours, and the noise of shouting, and musical instruments and blowing of
trumpets, put these things out of your head. Nor must you begin to think meanly
of yourself and be abashed when you find yourself surrounded by saints and
angels; for you are not less than they, although it may not seem so at first when
you see them in their bright clothes, which, they say, shine like the sun. I cannot
ask you to tie a string round your finger; I can only trust to your memory, which
was always good, even about the smallest things; and when you are asked, as
 
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