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Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest

Chapter IX
That afternoon with Rima in the forest under the mora tree had proved so
delightful that I was eager for more rambles and talks with her, but the variable
little witch had a great surprise in store for me. All her wild natural gaiety had
unaccountably gone out of her: when I walked in the shade she was there, but no
longer as the blithe, fantastic being, bright as an angel, innocent and affectionate
as a child, tricksy as a monkey, that had played at hide-and-seek with me. She
was now my shy, silent attendant, only occasionally visible, and appearing then
like the mysterious maid I had found reclining among the ferns who had melted
away mist-like from sight as I gazed. When I called she would not now answer as
formerly, but in response would appear in sight as if to assure me that I had not
been forsaken; and after a few moments her grey shadowy form would once
more vanish among the trees. The hope that as her confidence increased and
she grew accustomed to talk with me she would be brought to reveal the story of
her life had to be abandoned, at all events for the present. I must, after all, get
my information from Nuflo, or rest in ignorance. The old man was out for the
greater part of each day with his dogs, and from these expeditions he brought
back nothing that I could see but a few nuts and fruits, some thin bark for his
cigarettes, and an occasional handful of haima gum to perfume the hut of an
evening. After I had wasted three days in vainly trying to overcome the girl's now
inexplicable shyness, I resolved to give for a while my undivided attention to her
grandfather to discover, if possible, where he went and how he spent his time.
My new game of hide-and-seek with Nuflo instead of with Rima began on the
following morning. He was cunning; so was I. Going out and concealing myself
among the bushes, I began to watch the hut. That I could elude Rima's keener
eyes I doubted; but that did not trouble me. She was not in harmony with the old
man, and would do nothing to defeat my plan. I had not been long in my hiding-
place before he came out, followed by his two dogs, and going to some distance
from the door, he sat down on a log. For some minutes he smoked, then rose,
and after looking cautiously round slipped away among the trees. I saw that he
was going off in the direction of the low range of rocky hills south of the forest. I
knew that the forest did not extend far in that direction, and thinking that I should
be able to catch a sight of him on its borders, I left the bushes and ran through
the trees as fast as I could to get ahead of him. Coming to where the wood was
very open, I found that a barren plain beyond it, a quarter of a mile wide,
separated it from the range of hills; thinking that the old man might cross this
open space, I climbed into a tree to watch. After some time he appeared, walking
rapidly among the trees, the dogs at his heels, but not going towards the open
plain; he had, it seemed, after arriving at the edge of the wood, changed his
direction and was going west, still keeping in the shelter of the trees. When he
had been gone about five minutes, I dropped to the ground and started in pursuit;
once more I caught sight of him through the trees, and I kept him in sight for
about twenty minutes longer; then he came to a broad strip of dense wood which
extended into and through the range of hills, and here I quickly lost him. Hoping