Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest HTML version

Chapter XXI
Many days had passed since the hut was made--how many may not be known,
since I notched no stick and knotted no cord--yet never in my rambles in the
wood had I seen that desolate ash-heap where the fire had done its work. Nor
had I looked for it. On the contrary, my wish was never to see it, and the fear of
coming accidentally upon it made me keep to the old familiar paths. But at length,
one night, without thinking of Rima's fearful end, it all at once occurred to me that
the hated savage whose blood I had shed on the white savannah might have
only been practicing his natural deceit when he told me that most pitiful story. If
that were so--if he had been prepared with a fictitious account of her death to
meet my questions--then Rima might still exist: lost, perhaps, wandering in some
distant place, exposed to perils day and night, and unable to find her way back,
but living still! Living! her heart on fire with the hope of reunion with me,
cautiously threading her way through the undergrowth of immeasurable forests;
spying out the distant villages and hiding herself from the sight of all men, as she
knew so well how to hide; studying the outlines of distant mountains, to recognize
some familiar landmark at last, and so find her way back to the old wood once
more! Even now, while I sat there idly musing, she might be somewhere in the
wood--somewhere near me; but after so long an absence full of apprehension,
waiting in concealment for what tomorrow's light might show.
I started up and replenished the fire with trembling hands, then set the door open
to let the welcoming stream out into the wood. But Rima had done more; going
out into the black forest in the pitiless storm, she had found and led me home.
Could I do less! I was quickly out in the shadows of the wood. Surely it was more
than a mere hope that made my heart beat so wildly! How could a sensation so
strangely sudden, so irresistible in its power, possess me unless she were living
and near? Can it be, can it be that we shall meet again? To look again into your
divine eyes--to hold you again in my arms at last! I so changed--so different! But
the old love remains; and of all that has happened in your absence I shall tell you
nothing--not one word; all shall be forgotten now--sufferings, madness, crime,
remorse! Nothing shall ever vex you again--not Nuflo, who vexed you every day;
for he is dead now--murdered, only I shall not say that--and I have decently
buried his poor old sinful bones. We alone together in the wood--OUR wood now!
The sweet old days again; for I know that you would not have it different, nor
would I.
Thus I talked to myself, mad with the thoughts of the joy that would soon be
mine; and at intervals I stood still and made the forest echo with my calls. "Rima!
Rima!" I called again and again, and waited for some response; and heard only
the familiar night-sounds--voices of insect and bird and tinkling tree-frog, and a
low murmur in the topmost foliage, moved by some light breath of wind unfelt
below. I was drenched with dew, bruised and bleeding from falls in the dark, and
from rocks and thorns and rough branches, but had felt nothing; gradually the
excitement burnt itself out; I was hoarse with shouting and ready to drop down