Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest HTML version

Chapter II
It is fortunate that casserie is manufactured by an extremely slow, laborious
process, since the women, who are the drink-makers, in the first place have to
reduce the material (cassava bread) to a pulp by means of their own molars,
after which it is watered down and put away in troughs to ferment. Great is the
diligence of these willing slaves; but, work how they will, they can only satisfy
their lords' love of a big drink at long intervals. Such a function as that at which I
had assisted is therefore the result of much patient mastication and silent
fermentation--the delicate flower of a plant that has been a long time growing.
Having now established myself as one of the family, at the cost of some
disagreeable sensations and a pang or two of self-disgust, I resolved to let
nothing further trouble me at Parahuari, but to live the easy, careless life of the
idle man, joining in hunting and fishing expeditions when in the mood; at other
times enjoying existence in my own way, apart from my fellows, conversing with
wild nature in that solitary place. Besides Runi, there were, in our little
community, two oldish men, his cousins I believe, who had wives and grown-up
children. Another family consisted of Piake, Runi's nephew, his brother Kua-ko--
about whom there will be much to say--and a sister Oalava. Piake had a wife and
two children; Kua-ko was unmarried and about nineteen or twenty years old;
Oalava was the youngest of the three. Last of all, who should perhaps have been
first, was Runi's mother, called Cla-cla, probably in imitation of the cry of some
bird, for in these latitudes a person is rarely, perhaps never, called by his or her
real name, which is a secret jealously preserved, even from near relations. I
believe that Cla-cla herself was the only living being who knew the name her
parents had bestowed on her at birth. She was a very old woman, spare in figure,
brown as old sun-baked leather, her face written over with innumerable wrinkles,
and her long coarse hair perfectly white; yet she was exceedingly active, and
seemed to do more work than any other woman in the community; more than
that, when the day's toil was over and nothing remained for the others to do, then
Cla-cla's night work would begin; and this was to talk all the others, or at all
events all the men, to sleep. She was like a self-regulating machine, and
punctually every evening, when the door was closed, and the night fire made up,
and every man in his hammock, she would set herself going, telling the most
interminable stories, until the last listener was fast asleep; later in the night, if any
man woke with a snort or grunt, off she would go again, taking up the thread of
the tale where she had dropped it.
Old Cla-cla amused me very much, by night and day, and I seldom tired of
watching her owlish countenance as she sat by the fire, never allowing it to sink
low for want of fuel; always studying the pot when it was on to simmer, and at the
same time attending to the movements of the others about her, ready at a
moment's notice to give assistance or to dart out on a stray chicken or refractory
So much did she amuse me, although without intending it, that I thought it would
be only fair, in my turn, to do something for her entertainment. I was engaged