Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest HTML version

Chapter XVI
We were eighteen days travelling to Riolama, on the last two making little
progress, on account of continuous rain, which made us miserable beyond
description. Fortunately the dogs had found, and Nuflo had succeeded in killing,
a great ant-eater, so that we were well supplied with excellent, strength-giving
flesh. We were among the Riolama mountains at last, and Rima kept with us,
apparently expecting great things. I expected nothing, for reasons to be stated by
and by. My belief was that the only important thing that could happen to us would
be starvation.
The afternoon of the last day was spent in skirting the foot of a very long
mountain, crowned at its southern extremity with a huge, rocky mass resembling
the head of a stone sphinx above its long, couchant body, and at its highest part
about a thousand feet above the surrounding level. It was late in the day, raining
fast again, yet the old man still toiled on, contrary to his usual practice, which was
to spend the last daylight hours in gathering firewood and in constructing a
shelter. At length, when we were nearly under the peak, he began to ascend.
The rise in this place was gentle, and the vegetation, chiefly composed of dwarf
thorn trees rooted in the clefts of the rock, scarcely impeded our progress; yet
Nuflo moved obliquely, as if he found the ascent difficult, pausing frequently to
take breath and look round him. Then we came to a deep, ravine-like cleft in the
side of the mountain, which became deeper and narrower above us, but below it
broadened out to a valley; its steep sides as we looked down were clothed with
dense, thorny vegetation, and from the bottom rose to our ears the dull sound of
a hidden torrent. Along the border of this ravine Nuflo began toiling upwards, and
finally brought us out upon a stony plateau on the mountain-side. Here he
paused and, turning and regarding us with a look as of satisfied malice in his
eyes, remarked that we were at our journey's end, and he trusted the sight of that
barren mountain-side would compensate us for all the discomforts we had
suffered during the last eighteen days.
I heard him with indifference. I had already recognized the place from his own
exact description of it, and I now saw all that I had looked to see--a big, barren
hill. But Rima, what had she expected that her face wore that blank look of
surprise and pain? "Is this the place where mother appeared to you?" she
suddenly cried. "The very place--this! This!" Then she added: "The cave where
you tended her--where is it?"
"Over there," he said, pointing across the plateau, which was partially overgrown
with dwarf trees and bushes, and ended at a wall of rock, almost vertical and
about forty feet high.
Going to this precipice, we saw no cave until Nuflo had cut away two or three
tangled bushes, revealing an opening behind, about half as high and twice as
wide as the door of an ordinary dwelling-house.
The next thing was to make a torch, and aided by its light we groped our way in
and explored the interior. The cave, we found, was about fifty feet long,
narrowing to a mere hole at the extremity; but the anterior portion formed an