Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest HTML version

Chapter XVIII
When Nuflo at length opened his eyes he found me sitting alone and despondent
by the fire, just returned from my vain chase. I had been caught in a heavy mist
on the mountain-side, and was wet through as well as weighed down by fatigue
and drowsiness, consequent upon the previous day's laborious march and my
night-long vigil; yet I dared not think of rest. She had gone from me, and I could
not have prevented it; yet the thought that I had allowed her to slip out of my
arms, to go away alone on that long, perilous journey, was as intolerable as if I
had consented to it.
Nuflo was at first startled to hear of her sudden departure; but he laughed at my
fears, affirming that after having once been over the ground she could not lose
herself; that she would be in no danger from the Indians, as she would invariably
see them at a distance and avoid them, and that wild beasts, serpents, and other
evil creatures would do her no harm. The small amount of food she required to
sustain life could be found anywhere; furthermore, her journey would not be
interrupted by bad weather, since rain and heat had no effect on her. In the end
he seemed pleased that she had left us, saying that with Rima in the wood the
house and cultivated patch and hidden provisions and implements would be safe,
for no Indian would venture to come where she was. His confidence reassured
me, and casting myself down on the sandy floor of the cave, I fell into a deep
slumber, which lasted until evening; then I only woke to share a meal with the old
man, and sleep again until the following day.
Nuflo was not ready to start yet; he was enamoured of the unaccustomed
comforts of a dry sleeping-place and a fire blown about by no wind and into
which fell no hissing raindrops. Not for two days more would he consent to set
out on the return journey, and if he could have persuaded me our stay at Riolama
would have lasted a week.
We had fine weather at starting; but before long it clouded, and then for upwards
of a fortnight we had it wet and stormy, which so hindered us that it took us
twenty-three days to accomplish the return journey, whereas the journey out had
only taken eighteen. The adventures we met with and the pains we suffered
during this long march need not be related. The rain made us miserable, but we
suffered more from hunger than from any other cause, and on more than one
occasion were reduced to the verge of starvation. Twice we were driven to beg
for food at Indian villages, and as we had nothing to give in exchange for it, we
got very little. It is possible to buy hospitality from the savage without fish-hooks,
nails, and calico; but on this occasion I found myself without that impalpable
medium of exchange which had been so great a help to me on my first journey to
Parahuari. Now I was weak and miserable and without cunning. It is true that we
could have exchanged the two dogs for cassava bread and corn, but we should
then have been worse off than ever. And in the end the dogs saved us by an
occasional capture--an armadillo surprised in the open and seized before it could
bury itself in the soil, or an iguana, opossum, or labba, traced by means of their
keen sense of smell to its hiding-place. Then Nuflo would rejoice and feast,