Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest HTML version

Chapter XIX
My arrival at the village created some excitement; but I was plainly no longer
regarded as a friend or one of the family. Runi was absent, and I looked forward
to his return with no little apprehension; he would doubtless decide my fate. Kua-
ko was also away. The others sat or stood about the great room, staring at me in
silence. I took no notice, but merely asked for food, then for my hammock, which
I hung up in the old place, and lying down I fell into a doze. Runi made his
appearance at dusk. I rose and greeted him, but he spoke no word and, until he
went to his hammock, sat in sullen silence, ignoring my presence.
On the following day the crisis came. We were once more gathered in the room--
all but Kua-ko and another of the men, who had not yet returned from some
expedition--and for the space of half an hour not a word was spoken by anyone.
Something was expected; even the children were strangely still, and whenever
one of the pet birds strayed in at the open door, uttering a little plaintive note, it
was chased out again, but without a sound. At length Runi straightened himself
on his seat and fixed his eyes on me; then cleared his throat and began a long
harangue, delivered in the loud, monotonous singsong which I knew so well and
which meant that the occasion was an important one. And as is usual in such
efforts, the same thought and expressions were used again and again, and yet
again, with dull, angry insistence. The orator of Guayana to be impressive must
be long, however little he may have to say. Strange as it may seem, I listened
critically to him, not without a feeling of scorn at his lower intelligence. But I was
easier in my mind now. From the very fact of his addressing such a speech to me
I was convinced that he wished not to take my life, and would not do so if I could
clear myself of the suspicion of treachery.
I was a white man, he said, they were Indians; nevertheless they had treated me
well. They had fed me and sheltered me. They had done a great deal for me:
they had taught me the use of the zabatana, and had promised to make one for
me, asking for nothing in return. They had also promised me a wife. How had I
treated them? I had deserted them, going away secretly to a distance, leaving
them in doubt as to my intentions. How could they tell why I had gone, and
where? They had an enemy. Managa was his name; he and his people hated
them; I knew that he wished them evil; I knew where to find him, for they had told
me. That was what they thought when I suddenly left them. Now I returned to
them, saying that I had been to Riolama. He knew where Riolama was, although
he had never been there: it was so far. Why did I go to Riolama? It was a bad
place. There were Indians there, a few; but they were not good Indians like those
of Parahuari, and would kill a white man. HAD I gone there? Why had I gone
He finished at last, and it was my turn to speak, but he had given me plenty of
time, and my reply was ready. "I have heard you," I said. "Your words are good
words. They are the words of a friend. 'I am the white man's friend,' you say; 'is
he my friend? He went away secretly, saying no word; why did he go without
speaking to his friend who had treated him well? Has he been to my enemy