Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest HTML version

Chapter XXII
Before that well-nigh hopeless journey to the coast was half over I became ill--so
ill that anyone who had looked on me might well have imagined that I had come
to the end of my pilgrimage. That was what I feared. For days I remained sunk in
the deepest despondence; then, in a happy moment, I remembered how, after
being bitten by the serpent, when death had seemed near and inevitable, I had
madly rushed away through the forest in search of help, and wandered lost for
hours in the storm and darkness, and in the end escaped death, probably by
means of these frantic exertions. The recollection served to inspire me with a
new desperate courage. Bidding good-bye to the Indian village where the fever
had smitten me, I set out once more on that apparently hopeless adventure.
Hopeless, indeed, it seemed to one in my weak condition. My legs trembled
under me when I walked, while hot sun and pelting rain were like flame and
stinging ice to my morbidly sensitive skin.
For many days my sufferings were excessive, so that I often wished myself back
in that milder purgatory of the forest, from which I had been so anxious to
escape. When I try to retrace my route on the map, there occurs a break here--a
space on the chart where names of rivers and mountains call up no image to my
mind, although, in a few cases, they were names I seem to have heard in a
troubled dream. The impressions of nature received during that sick period are
blurred, or else so coloured and exaggerated by perpetual torturing anxiety,
mixed with half-delirious night-fancies, that I can only think of that country as an
earthly inferno, where I fought against every imaginable obstacle, alternately
sweating and freezing, toiling as no man ever toiled before. Hot and cold, cold
and hot, and no medium. Crystal waters; green shadows under coverture of
broad, moist leaves; and night with dewy fanning winds--these chilled but did not
refresh me; a region in which there was no sweet and pleasant thing; where even
the ita palm and mountain glory and airy epiphyte starring the woodland twilight
with pendent blossoms had lost all grace and beauty; where all brilliant colours in
earth and heaven were like the unmitigated sun that blinded my sight and burnt
my brain. Doubtless I met with help from the natives, otherwise I do not see how I
could have continued my journey; yet in my dim mental picture of that period I
see myself incessantly dogged by hostile savages. They flit like ghosts through
the dark forest; they surround me and cut off all retreat, until I burst through
them, escaping out of their very hands, to fly over some wide, naked savannah,
hearing their shrill, pursuing yells behind me, and feeling the sting of their
poisoned arrows in my flesh.
This I set down to the workings of remorse in a disordered mind and to clouds of
venomous insects perpetually shrilling in my ears and stabbing me with their
small, fiery needles.
Not only was I pursued by phantom savages and pierced by phantom arrows, but
the creations of the Indian imagination had now become as real to me as
anything in nature. I was persecuted by that superhuman man-eating monster
supposed to be the guardian of the forest. In dark, silent places he is lying in wait