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Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest

Chapter V
After making a hasty meal at the house, I started, full of pleasing anticipations,
for the wood; for how pleasant a place it was to be in! What a wild beauty and
fragrance and melodiousness it possessed above all forests, because of that
mystery that drew me to it! And it was mine, truly and absolutely--as much mine
as any portion of earth's surface could belong to any man--mine with all its
products: the precious woods and fruits and fragrant gums that would never be
trafficked away; its wild animals that man would never persecute; nor would any
jealous savage dispute my ownership or pretend that it was part of his hunting-
ground. As I crossed the savannah I played with this fancy; but when I reached
the ridgy eminence, to look down once more on my new domain, the fancy
changed to a feeling so keen that it pierced to my heart and was like pain in its
intensity, causing tears to rush to my eyes. And caring not in that solitude to
disguise my feelings from myself, and from the wide heaven that looked down
and saw me--for this is the sweetest thing that solitude has for us, that we are
free in it, and no convention holds us--I dropped on my knees and kissed the
stony ground, then casting up my eyes, thanked the Author of my being for the
gift of that wild forest, those green mansions where I had found so great a
happiness!
Elated with this strain of feeling, I reached the wood not long after noon; but no
melodious voice gave me familiar and expected welcome; nor did my invisible
companion make itself heard at all on that day, or, at all events, not in its usual
bird-like warbling language. But on this day I met with a curious little adventure
and heard something very extraordinary, very mysterious, which I could not avoid
connecting in my mind with the unseen warbler that so often followed me in my
rambles.
It was an exceedingly bright day, without cloud, but windy, and finding myself in a
rather open part of the wood, near its border, where the breeze could be felt, I sat
down to rest on the lower part of a large branch, which was half broken, but still
remained attached to the trunk of the tree, while resting its terminal twigs on the
ground. Just before me, where I sat, grew a low, wide-spreading plant, covered
with broad, round, polished leaves; and the roundness, stiffness, and perfectly
horizontal position of the upper leaves made them look like a collection of small
platforms or round table-tops placed nearly on a level. Through the leaves, to the
height of a foot or more above them, a slender dead stem protruded, and from a
twig at its summit depended a broken spider's web. A minute dead leaf had
become attached to one of the loose threads and threw its small but distinct
shadow on the platform leaves below; and as it trembled and swayed in the
current of air, the black spot trembled with it or flew swiftly over the bright green
surfaces, and was seldom at rest. Now, as I sat looking down on the leaves and
the small dancing shadow, scarcely thinking of what I was looking at, I noticed a
small spider, with a flat body and short legs, creep cautiously out on to the upper
surface of a leaf. Its pale red colour barred with velvet black first drew my
attention to it, for it was beautiful to the eye; and presently I discovered that this
 
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