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Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest

Chapter VI
Thinking about the forest girl while lying awake that night, I came to the
conclusion that I had made it sufficiently plain to her how little her capricious
behaviour had been relished, and had therefore no need to punish myself more
by keeping any longer out of my beloved green mansions. Accordingly, next day,
after the heavy rain that fell during the morning hours had ceased, I set forth
about noon to visit the wood. Overhead the sky was clear again; but there was
no motion in the heavy sultry atmosphere, while dark blue masses of banked-up
clouds on the western horizon threatened a fresh downpour later in the day. My
mind was, however, now too greatly excited at the prospect of a possible
encounter with the forest nymph to allow me to pay any heed to these ominous
signs.
I had passed through the first strip of wood and was in the succeeding stony
sterile space when a gleam of brilliant colour close by on the ground caught my
sight. It was a snake lying on the bare earth; had I kept on without noticing it, I
should most probably have trodden upon or dangerously near it. Viewing it
closely, I found that it was a coral snake, famed as much for its beauty and
singularity as for its deadly character. It was about three feet long, and very slim;
its ground colour a brilliant vermilion, with broad jet-black rings at equal distances
round its body, each black ring or band divided by a narrow yellow strip in the
middle. The symmetrical pattern and vividly contrasted colours would have given
it the appearance of an artificial snake made by some fanciful artist, but for the
gleam of life in its bright coils. Its fixed eyes, too, were living gems, and from the
point of its dangerous arrowy head the glistening tongue flickered ceaselessly as
I stood a few yards away regarding it.
"I admire you greatly, Sir Serpent," I said, or thought, "but it is dangerous, say the
military authorities, to leave an enemy or possible enemy in the rear; the person
who does such a thing must be either a bad strategist or a genius, and I am
neither."
Retreating a few paces, I found and picked up a stone about as big as a man's
hand and hurled it at the dangerous-looking head with the intention of crushing it;
but the stone hit upon the rocky ground a little on one side of the mark and, being
soft, flew into a hundred small fragments. This roused the creature's anger, and
in a moment with raised head he was gliding swiftly towards me. Again I
retreated, not so slowly on this occasion; and finding another stone, I raised and
was about to launch it when a sharp, ringing cry issued from the bushes growing
near, and, quickly following the sound, forth stepped the forest girl; no longer
elusive and shy, vaguely seen in the shadowy wood, but boldly challenging
attention, exposed to the full power of the meridian sun, which made her appear
luminous and rich in colour beyond example. Seeing her thus, all those emotions
of fear and abhorrence invariably excited in us by the sight of an active
venomous serpent in our path vanished instantly from my mind: I could now only
feel astonishment and admiration at the brilliant being as she advanced with
swift, easy, undulating motion towards me; or rather towards the serpent, which
 
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