Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest
There was a welcome change in the weather when I rose early next morning; the
sky was without cloud and had that purity in its colour and look of infinite distance
seen only when the atmosphere is free from vapour. The sun had not yet risen,
but old Nuflo was already among the ashes, on his hands and knees, blowing the
embers he had uncovered to a flame. Then Rima appeared only to pass through
the room with quick light tread to go out of the door without a word or even a
glance at my face. The old man, after watching at the door for a few minutes,
turned and began eagerly questioning me about my adventures on the previous
evening. In reply I related to him how the girl had found me in the forest lost and
unable to extricate myself from the tangled undergrowth.
He rubbed his hands on his knees and chuckled. "Happy for you, senor," he said,
"that my granddaughter regards you with such friendly eyes, otherwise you might
have perished before morning. Once she was at your side, no light, whether of
sun or moon or lantern, was needed, nor that small instrument which is said to
guide a man aright in the desert, even in the darkest night--let him that can
believe such a thing!"
"Yes, happy for me," I returned. "I am filled with remorse that it was all through
my fault that the poor child was exposed to such weather."
"O senor," he cried airily, "let not that distress you! Rain and wind and hot suns,
from which we seek shelter, do not harm her. She takes no cold, and no fever,
with or without ague."
After some further conversation I left him to steal away unobserved on his own
account, and set out for a ramble in the hope of encountering Rima and winning
her to talk to me.
My quest did not succeed: not a glimpse of her delicate shadowy form did I catch
among the trees; and not one note from her melodious lips came to gladden me.
At noon I returned to the house, where I found food placed ready for me, and
knew that she had come there during my absence and had not been forgetful of
my wants. "Shall I thank you for this?" I said. "I ask you for heavenly nectar for
the sustentation of the higher winged nature in me, and you give me a boiled
sweet potato, toasted strips of sun-dried pumpkins, and a handful of parched
maize! Rima! Rima! my woodland fairy, my sweet saviour, why do you yet fear
me? Is it that love struggles in you with repugnance? Can you discern with clear
spiritual eyes the grosser elements in me, and hate them; or has some false
imagination made me appear all dark and evil, but too late for your peace, after
the sweet sickness of love has infected you?"
But she was not there to answer me, and so after a time I went forth again and
seated myself listlessly on the root of an old tree not far from the house. I had sat
there a full hour when all at once Rima appeared at my side. Bending forward,
she touched my hand, but without glancing at my face; "Come with me," she
said, and turning, moved swiftly towards the northern extremity of the forest. She
seemed to take it for granted that I would follow, never casting a look behind nor
pausing in her rapid walk; but I was only too glad to obey and, starting up, was