Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest HTML version

Chapter XIV
Ah, that return to the forest where Rima dwelt, after so anxious day, when the
declining sun shone hotly still, and the green woodland shadows were so
grateful! The coolness, the sense of security, allayed the fever and excitement I
had suffered on the open savannah; I walked leisurely, pausing often to listen to
some bird voice or to admire some rare insect or parasitic flower shining star-like
in the shade. There was a strangely delightful sensation in me. I likened myself to
a child that, startled at something it had seen while out playing in the sun, flies to
its mother to feel her caressing hand on its cheek and forget its tremors. And
describing what I felt in that way, I was a little ashamed and laughed at myself;
nevertheless the feeling was very sweet. At that moment Mother and Nature
seemed one and the same thing. As I kept to the more open part of the wood, on
its southernmost border, the red flame of the sinking sun was seen at intervals
through the deep humid green of the higher foliage. How every object it touched
took from it a new wonderful glory! At one spot, high up where the foliage was
scanty, and slender bush ropes and moss depended like broken cordage from a
dead limb--just there, bathing itself in that glory-giving light, I noticed a fluttering
bird, and stood still to watch its antics. Now it would cling, head downwards, to
the slender twigs, wings and tail open; then, righting itself, it would flit from
waving line to line, dropping lower and lower; and anon soar upwards a distance
of twenty feet and alight to recommence the flitting and swaying and dropping
towards the earth. It was one of those birds that have a polished plumage, and
as it moved this way and that, flirting its feathers, they caught the beams and
shone at moments like glass or burnished metal. Suddenly another bird of the
same kind dropped down to it as if from the sky, straight and swift as a falling
stone; and the first bird sprang up to meet the comer, and after rapidly wheeling
round each other for a moment, they fled away in company, screaming shrilly
through the wood, and were instantly lost to sight, while their jubilant cries came
back fainter and fainter at each repetition.
I envied them not their wings: at that moment earth did not seem fixed and solid
beneath me, nor I bound by gravity to it. The faint, floating clouds, the blue
infinite heaven itself, seemed not more ethereal and free than I, or the ground I
walked on. The low, stony hills on my right hand, of which I caught occasional
glimpses through the trees, looking now blue and delicate in the level rays, were
no more than the billowy projections on the moving cloud of earth: the trees of
unnumbered kinds--great more, cecropia, and greenheart, bush and fern and
suspended lianas, and tall palms balancing their feathery foliage on slender
stems--all was but a fantastic mist embroidery covering the surface of that
floating cloud on which my feet were set, and which floated with me near the sun.
The red evening flame had vanished from the summits of the trees, the sun was
setting, the woods in shadow, when I got to the end of my walk. I did not
approach the house on the side of the door, yet by some means those within
became aware of my presence, for out they came in a great hurry, Rima leading
the way, Nuflo behind her, waving his arms and shouting. But as I drew near, the