Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest HTML version

Chapter XII
To follow impetuous, bird-like Rima in her descent of the hill would have been
impossible, nor had I any desire to be a witness of old Nuflo's discomfiture at the
finish. It was better to leave them to settle their quarrel themselves, while I
occupied myself in turning over these fresh facts in my mind to find out how they
fitted into the speculative structure I had been building during the last two or
three weeks. But it soon struck me that it was getting late, that the sun would be
gone in a couple of hours; and at once I began the descent. It was not
accomplished without some bruises and a good many scratches. After a cold
draught, obtained by putting my lips to a black rock from which the water was
trickling, I set out on my walk home, keeping near the western border of the
forest for fear of losing myself. I had covered about half the distance from the foot
of the hill to Nuflo's lodge when the sun went down. Away on my left the evening
uproar of the howling monkeys burst out, and after three or four minutes ceased;
the after silence was pierced at intervals by screams of birds going to roost
among the trees in the distance, and by many minor sounds close at hand, of
small bird, frog, and insect. The western sky was now like amber-coloured flame,
and against that immeasurably distant luminous background the near branches
and clustered foliage looked black; but on my left hand the vegetation still
appeared of a uniform dusky green. In a little while night would drown all colour,
and there would be no light but that of the wandering lantern-fly, always
unwelcome to the belated walker in a lonely place, since, like the ignis fatuus, it
is confusing to the sight and sense of direction.
With increasing anxiety I hastened on, when all at once a low growl issuing from
the bushes some yards ahead of me brought me to a stop. In a moment the
dogs, Susio and Goloso, rushed out from some hiding place furiously barking;
but they quickly recognized me and slunk back again. Relieved from fear, I
walked on for a short distance; then it struck me that the old man must be about
somewhere, as the dogs scarcely ever stirred from his side. Turning back, I went
to the spot where they had appeared to me; and there, after a while, I caught
sight of a dim, yellow form as one of the brutes rose up to look at me. He had
been lying on the ground by the side of a wide-spreading bush, dead and dry, but
overgrown by a creeping plant which had completely covered its broad, flat top
like a piece of tapestry thrown over a table, its slender terminal stems and leaves
hanging over the edge like a deep fringe. But the fringe did not reach to the
ground and under the bush, in its dark interior. I caught sight of the other dog;
and after gazing in for some time, I also discovered a black, recumbent form,
which I took to be Nuflo.
"What are you doing there, old man?" I cried. "Where is Rima--have you not seen
her? Come out."
Then he stirred himself, slowly creeping out on all fours; and finally, getting free
of the dead twigs and leaves, he stood up and faced me. He had a strange, wild
look, his white beard all disordered, moss and dead leaves clinging to it, his eyes
staring like an owl's, while his mouth opened and shut, the teeth striking together