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Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest

Chapter XIII
That evening by the fire old Nuflo, lately so miserable, now happy in his
delusions, was more than usually gay and loquacious. He was like a child who by
timely submission has escaped a threatened severe punishment. But his
lightness of heart was exceeded by mine; and, with the exception of one other
yet to come, that evening now shines in memory as the happiest my life has
known. For Rima's sweet secret was known to me; and her very ignorance of the
meaning of the feeling she experienced, which caused her to fly from me as from
an enemy, only served to make the thought of it more purely delightful.
On this occasion she did not steal away like a timid mouse to her own apartment,
as her custom was, but remained to give that one evening a special grace,
seated well away from the fire in that same shadowy corner where I had first
seen her indoors, when I had marvelled at her altered appearance. From that
corner she could see my face, with the firelight full upon it, she herself in shadow,
her eyes veiled by their drooping lashes. Sitting there, the vivid consciousness of
my happiness was like draughts of strong, delicious wine, and its effect was like
wine, imparting such freedom to fancy, such fluency, that again and again old
Nuflo applauded, crying out that I was a poet, and begging me to put it all into
rhyme. I could not do that to please him, never having acquired the art of
improvisation--that idle trick of making words jingle which men of Nuflo's class in
my country so greatly admire; yet it seemed to me on that evening that my
feelings could be adequately expressed only in that sublimated language used by
the finest minds in their inspired moments; and, accordingly, I fell to reciting. But
not from any modern, nor from the poets of the last century, nor even from the
greater seventeenth century. I kept to the more ancient romances and ballads,
the sweet old verse that, whether glad or sorrowful, seems always natural and
spontaneous as the song of a bird, and so simple that even a child can
understand it.
It was late that night before all the romances I remembered or cared to recite
were exhausted, and not until then did Rima come out of her shaded corner and
steal silently away to her sleeping-place.
Although I had resolved to go with them, and had set Nuflo's mind at rest on the
point, I was bent on getting the request from Rima's own lips; and the next
morning the opportunity of seeing her alone presented itself, after old Nuflo had
sneaked off with his dogs. From the moment of his departure I kept a close watch
on the house, as one watches a bush in which a bird one wishes to see has
concealed itself, and out of which it may dart at any moment and escape unseen.
At length she came forth, and seeing me in the way, would have slipped back
into hiding; for, in spite of her boldness on the previous day, she now seemed
shyer than ever when I spoke to her.
"Rima," I said, "do you remember where we first talked together under a tree one
morning, when you spoke of your mother, telling me that she was dead?"