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Green Mansions A Romance of the Tropical Forest by W. H. Hudson

Part 4 out of 5

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About seventeen years back--Nuflo had no sure method to compute
time by--when he was already verging on old age, he was one of a
company of nine men, living a kind of roving life in the very
part of Guayana through which we were now travelling; the others,
much younger than himself, were all equally offenders against the
laws of Venezuela, and fugitives from justice. Nuflo was the
leader of this gang, for it happened that he had passed a great
portion of his life outside the pale of civilization, and could
talk the Indian language, and knew this part of Guayana
intimately. But according to his own account he was not in
harmony with them. They were bold, desperate men, whose evil
appetites had so far only been whetted by the crimes they had
committed; while he, with passions worn out, recalling his many
bad acts, and with a vivid conviction of the truth of all he had
been taught in early life--for Nuflo was nothing if not
religious--was now grown timid and desirous only of making his
peace with Heaven. This difference of disposition made him
morose and quarrelsome with his companions; and they would, he
said, have murdered him without remorse if he had not been so
useful to them. Their favourite plan was to hang about the
neighbourhood of some small isolated settlement, keeping a watch
on it, and, when most of the male inhabitants were absent, to
swoop down on it and work their will. Now, shortly after one of
these raids it happened that a woman they had carried off,
becoming a burden to them, was flung into a river to the
alligators; but when being dragged down to the waterside she cast
up her eyes, and in a loud voice cried to God to execute
vengeance on her murderers. Nuflo affirmed that he took no part
in this black deed; nevertheless, the woman's dying appeal to
Heaven preyed on his mind; he feared that it might have won a
hearing, and the "person" eventually commissioned to execute
vengeance--after the usual days, of course might act on the
principle of the old proverb: Tell me whom you are with, and I
will tell you what you are--and punish the innocent (himself to
wit) along with the guilty. But while thus anxious about his
spiritual interests, he was not yet prepared to break with his
companions. He thought it best to temporize, and succeeded in
persuading them that it would be unsafe to attack another
Christian settlement for some time to come; that in the interval
they might find some pleasure, if no great credit, by turning
their attention to the Indians. The infidels, he said, were
God's natural enemies and fair game to the Christian. To make a
long story short, Nuflo's Christian band, after some successful
adventures, met with a reverse which reduced their number from
nine to five. Flying from their enemies, they sought safety at
Riolama, an uninhabited place, where they found it possible to
exist for some weeks on game, which was abundant, and wild

One day at noon, while ascending a mountain at the southern
extremity of the Riolama range in order to get a view of the
country beyond the summit, Nuflo and his companions discovered a
cave; and finding it dry, without animal occupants, and with a
level floor, they at once determined to make it their
dwelling-place for a season. Wood for firing and water were to
be had close by; they were also well provided with smoked flesh
of a tapir they had slaughtered a day or two before, so that they
could afford to rest for a time in so comfortable a shelter. At
a short distance from the cave they made a fire on the rock to
toast some slices of meat for their dinner; and while thus
engaged all at once one of the men uttered a cry of astonishment,
and casting up his eyes Nuflo beheld, standing near and regarding
them with surprise and fear in-her wide-open eyes, a woman of a
most wonderful appearance. The one slight garment she had on was
silky and white as the snow on the summit of some great mountain,
but of the snow when the sinking sun touches and gives it some
delicate changing colour which is like fire. Her dark hair was
like a cloud from which her face looked out, and her head was
surrounded by an aureole like that of a saint in a picture, only
more beautiful. For, said Nuflo, a picture is a picture, and the
other was a reality, which is finer. Seeing her he fell on his
knees and crossed himself; and all the time her eyes, full of
amazement and shining with such a strange splendour that he could
not meet them, were fixed on him and not on the others; and he
felt that she had come to save his soul, in danger of perdition
owing to his companionship with men who were at war with God and
wholly bad.

But at this moment his comrades, recovering from their
astonishment, sprang to their feet, and the heavenly woman
vanished. Just behind where she had stood, and not twelve yards
from them, there was a huge chasm in the mountain, its jagged
precipitous sides clothed with thorny bushes; the men now cried
out that she had made her escape that way, and down after her
they rushed, pell-mell.

Nuflo cried out after them that they had seen a saint and that
some horrible thing would befall them if they allowed any evil
thought to enter their hearts; but they scoffed at his words, and
were soon far down out of hearing, while he, trembling with fear,
remained praying to the woman that had appeared to them and had
looked with such strange eyes at him, not to punish him for the
sins of the others.

Before long the men returned, disappointed and sullen, for they
had failed in their search for the woman; and perhaps Nuflo's
warning words had made them give up the chase too soon. At all
events, they seemed ill at ease, and made up their minds to
abandon the cave; in a short time they left the place to camp
that night at a considerable distance from the mountain. But
they were not satisfied: they had now recovered from their fear,
but not from the excitement of an evil passion; and finally,
after comparing notes, they came to the conclusion that they had
missed a great prize through Nuflo's cowardice; and when he
reproved them they blasphemed all the saints in the calendar and
even threatened him with violence. Fearing to remain longer in
the company of such godless men, he only waited until they slept,
then rose up cautiously, helped himself to most of the
provisions, and made his escape, devoutly hoping that after
losing their guide they would all speedily perish.

Finding himself alone now and master of his own actions, Nuflo
was in terrible distress, for while his heart was in the utmost
fear, it yet urged him imperiously to go back to the mountain, to
seek again for that sacred being who had appeared to him and had
been driven away by his brutal companions. If he obeyed that
inner voice, he would be saved; if he resisted it, then there
would be no hope for him, and along with those who had cast the
woman to the alligators he would be lost eternally. Finally, on
the following day, he went back, although not without fear and
trembling, and sat down on a stone just where he had sat toasting
his tapir meat on the previous day. But he waited in vain, and
at length that voice within him, which he had so far obeyed,
began urging him to descend into the valley-like chasm down which
the woman had escaped from his comrades, and to seek for her
there. Accordingly he rose and began cautiously and slowly
climbing down over the broken jagged rocks and through a dense
mass of thorny bushes and creepers. At the bottom of the chasm a
clear, swift stream of water rushed with foam and noise along its
rocky bed; but before reaching it, and when it was still twenty
yards lower down, he was startled by hearing a low moan among the
bushes, and looking about for the cause, he found the wonderful
woman--his saviour, as he expressed it. She was not now standing
nor able to stand, but half reclining among the rough stones, one
foot, which she had sprained in that headlong flight down the
ragged slope, wedged immovably between the rocks; and in this
painful position she had remained a prisoner since noon on the
previous day. She now gazed on her visitor in silent
consternation; while he, casting himself prostrate on the ground,
implored her forgiveness and begged to know her will. But she
made no reply; and at length, finding that she was powerless to
move, he concluded that, though a saint and one of the beings
that men worship, she was also flesh and liable to accidents
while sojourning on earth; and perhaps, he thought, that accident
which had befallen her had been specially designed by the powers
above to prove him. With great labour, and not without causing
her much pain, he succeeded in extricating her from her position;
and then finding that the injured foot was half crushed and blue
and swollen, he took her up in his arms and carried her to the
stream. There, making a cup of a broad green leaf, he offered
her water, which she drank eagerly; and he also raved her injured
foot in the cold stream and bandaged it with fresh aquatic
leaves; finally he made her a soft bed of moss and dry grass and
placed her on it. That night he spent keeping watch over her, at
intervals applying fresh wet leaves to her foot as the old ones
became dry and wilted from the heat of the inflammation.

The effect of all he did was that the terror with which she
regarded him gradually wore off; and next day, when she seemed to
be recovering her strength, he proposed by signs to remove her to
the cave higher up, where she would be sheltered in case of rain.
She appeared to understand him, and allowed herself to be taken
up in his arms and carried with much labour to the top of the
chasm. In the cave he made her a second couch, and tended her
assiduously. He made a fire on the floor and kept it burning
night and day, and supplied her with water to drink and fresh
leaves for her foot. There was little more that he could do.
From the choicest and fattest bits of toasted tapir flesh he
offered her she turned away with disgust. A little cassava bread
soaked in water she would take, but seemed not to like it. After
a time, fearing that she would starve, he took to hunting after
wild fruits, edible bulbs and gums, and on these small things she
subsisted during the whole time of their sojourn together in the

The woman, although lamed for life, was now so far recovered as
to be able to limp about without assistance, and she spent a
portion of each day out among the rocks and trees on the
mountains. Nuflo at first feared that she would now leave him,
but before long he became convinced that she had no such
intentions. And yet she was profoundly unhappy. He was
accustomed to see her seated on a rock, as if brooding over some
secret grief, her head bowed, and great tears falling from
half-closed eyes.

From the first he had conceived the idea that she was in the way
of becoming a mother at no distant date--an idea which seemed to
accord badly with the suppositions as to the nature of this
heavenly being he was privileged to minister to and so win
salvation; but he was now convinced of its truth, and he imagined
that in her condition he had discovered the cause of that sorrow
and anxiety which preyed continually on her. By means of that
dumb language of signs which enabled them to converse together a
little, he made it known to her that at a great distance from the
mountains there existed a place where there were beings like
herself, women, and mothers of children, who would comfort and
tenderly care for her. When she had understood, she seemed
pleased and willing to accompany him to that distant place; and
so it came to pass that they left their rocky shelter and the
mountains of Riolama far behind. But for several days, as they
slowly journeyed over the plain, she would pause at intervals in
her limping walk to gaze back on those blue summits, shedding
abundant tears.

Fortunately the village Voa, on the river of the same name, which
was the nearest Christian settlement to Riolama, whither his
course was directed, was well known to him; he had lived there in
former years, and, what was of great advantage, the inhabitants
were ignorant of his worst crimes, or, to put it in his own
subtle way, of the crimes committed by the men he had acted with.
Great was the astonishment and curiosity of the people of Voa
when, after many weeks' travelling, Nuflo arrived at last with
his companion. But he was not going to tell the truth, nor even
the least particle of the truth, to a gaping crowd of inferior
persons. For these, ingenious lies; only to the priest he told
the whole story, dwelling minutely on all he had done to rescue
and protect her; all of which was approved by the holy man, whose
first act was to baptize the woman for fear that she was not a
Christian. Let it be said to Nuflo's credit that he objected to
this ceremony, arguing that she could not be a saint, with an
aureole in token of her sainthood, yet stand in need of being
baptized by a priest. A priest--he added, with a little chuckle
of malicious pleasure--who was often seen drunk, who cheated at
cards, and was sometimes suspected of putting poison on his
fighting-cock's spur to make sure of the victory! Doubtless the
priest had his faults; but he was not without humanity, and for
the whole seven years of that unhappy stranger's sojourn at Voa
he did everything in his power to make her existence tolerable.
Some weeks after arriving she gave birth to a female child, and
then the priest insisted on naming it Riolama, in order, he said,
to keep in remembrance the strange story of the mother's
discovery at that place.

Rima's mother could not be taught to speak either Spanish or
Indian; and when she found that the mysterious and melodious
sounds that fell from her own lips were understood by none, she
ceased to utter them, and thereafter preserved an unbroken
silence among the people she lived with. But from the presence
of others she shrank, as if in disgust or fear, excepting only
Nuflo and the priest, whose kindly intentions she appeared to
understand and appreciate. So far her life in the village was
silent and sorrowful. With her child it was different; and every
day that was not wet, taking the little thing by the hand, she
would limp painfully out into the forest, and there, sitting on
the ground, the two would commune with each other by the hour in
their wonderful language.

At length she began to grow perceptibly paler and feebler week by
week, day by day, until she could no longer go out into the wood,
but sat or reclined, panting for breath in the dull hot room,
waiting for death to release her. At the same time little Rima,
who had always appeared frail, as if from sympathy, now began to
fade and look more shadowy, so that it was expected she would not
long survive her parent. To the mother death came slowly, but at
last it seemed so near that Nuflo and the priest were together at
her side waiting to see the end. It was then that little Rima,
who had learnt from infancy to speak in Spanish, rose from the
couch where her mother had been whispering to her, and began with
some difficulty to express what was in the dying woman's mind.
Her child, she had said, could not continue to live in that hot
wet place, but if taken away to a distance where there were
mountains and a cooler air she would survive and grow strong

Hearing this, old Nuflo declared that the child should not
perish; that he himself would take her away to Parahuari, a
distant place where there were mountains and dry plains and open
woods; that he would watch over her and care for her there as he
had cared for her mother at Riolama.

When the substance of this speech had been made known by Rima to
the dying woman, she suddenly rose up from her couch, which she
had not risen from for many days, and stood erect on the floor,
her wasted face shining with joy. Then Nuflo knew that God's
angels had come for her, and put out his arms to save her from
falling; and even while he held her that sudden glory went out
from her face, now of a dead white like burnt-out ashes; and
murmuring something soft and melodious, her spirit passed away.

Once more Nuflo became a wanderer, now with the fragile-looking
little Rima for companion, the sacred child who had inherited the
position of his intercessor from a sacred mother. The priest,
who had probably become infected with Nuflo's superstitions, did
not allow them to leave Voa empty-handed, but gave the old man as
much calico as would serve to buy hospitality and whatsoever he
might require from the Indians for many a day to come.

At Parahuari, where they arrived safely at last, they lived for
some little time at one of the villages. But the child had an
instinctive aversion to all savages, or possibly the feeling was
derived from her mother, for it had shown itself early at Voa,
where she had refused to learn their language; and this
eventually led Nuflo to go away and live apart from them, in the
forest by Ytaioa, where he made himself a house and garden. The
Indians, however, continued friendly with him and visited him
with frequency. But when Rima grew up, developing into that
mysterious woodland girl I found her, they became suspicious, and
in the end regarded her with dangerously hostile feeling. She,
poor child, detested them because they were incessantly at war
with the wild animals she loved, her companions; and having no
fear of them, for she did not know that they had it in their
minds to turn their little poisonous arrows against herself, she
was constantly in the woods frustrating them; and the animals, in
league with her, seemed to understand her note of warning and hid
themselves or took to flight at the approach of danger. At
length their hatred and fear grew to such a degree that they
determined to make away with her, and one day, having matured a
plan, they went to the wood and spread themselves two and two
about it. The couples did not keep together, but moved about or
remained concealed at a distance of forty or fifty yards apart,
lest she should be missed. Two of the savages, armed with
blow-pipes, were near the border of the forest on the side
nearest to the village, and one of them, observing a motion in
the foliage of a tree, ran swiftly and cautiously towards it to
try and catch a glimpse of the enemy. And he did see her no
doubt, as she was there watching both him and his companions, and
blew an arrow at her, but even while in the act of blowing it he
was himself struck by a dart that buried itself deep in his flesh
just over the heart. He ran some distance with the fatal barbed
point in his flesh and met his comrade, who had mistaken him for
the girl and shot him. The wounded man threw himself down to
die, and dying related that he had fired at the girl sitting up
in a tree and that she had caught the arrow in her hand only to
hurl it instantly back with such force and precision that it
pierced his flesh just over the heart. He had seen it all with
his own eyes, and his friend who had accidentally slain him
believed his story and repeated it to the others. Rima had seen
one Indian shoot the other, and when she told her grandfather he
explained to her that it was an accident, but he guessed why the
arrow had been fired.

From that day the Indians hunted no more in the wood; and at
length one day Nuflo, meeting an Indian who did not know him and
with whom he had some talk, heard the strange story of the arrow,
and that the mysterious girl who could not be shot was the
offspring of an old man and a Didi who had become enamoured of
him; that, growing tired of her consort, the Didi had returned to
her river, leaving her half-human child to play her malicious
pranks in the wood.

This, then, was Nuflo's story, told not in Nuflo's manner, which
was infinitely prolix; and think not that it failed to move
me--that I failed to bless him for what he had done, in spite of
his selfish motives.


We were eighteen days travelling to Riolama, on the last two
making little progress, on account of continuous rain, which made
us miserable beyond description. Fortunately the dogs had found,
and Nuflo had succeeded in killing, a great ant-eater, so that we
were well supplied with excellent, strength-giving flesh. We
were among the Riolama mountains at last, and Rima kept with us,
apparently expecting great things. I expected nothing, for
reasons to be stated by and by. My belief was that the only
important thing that could happen to us would be starvation.

The afternoon of the last day was spent in skirting the foot of a
very long mountain, crowned at its southern extremity with a
huge, rocky mass resembling the head of a stone sphinx above its
long, couchant body, and at its highest part about a thousand
feet above the surrounding level. It was late in the day,
raining fast again, yet the old man still toiled on, contrary to
his usual practice, which was to spend the last daylight hours in
gathering firewood and in constructing a shelter. At length,
when we were nearly under the peak, he began to ascend. The rise
in this place was gentle, and the vegetation, chiefly composed of
dwarf thorn trees rooted in the clefts of the rock, scarcely
impeded our progress; yet Nuflo moved obliquely, as if he found
the ascent difficult, pausing frequently to take breath and look
round him. Then we came to a deep, ravine-like cleft in the side
of the mountain, which became deeper and narrower above us, but
below it broadened out to a valley; its steep sides as we looked
down were clothed with dense, thorny vegetation, and from the
bottom rose to our ears the dull sound of a hidden torrent.
Along the border of this ravine Nuflo began toiling upwards, and
finally brought us out upon a stony plateau on the mountain-side.
Here he paused and, turning and regarding us with a look as of
satisfied malice in his eyes, remarked that we were at our
journey's end, and he trusted the sight of that barren
mountain-side would compensate us for all the discomforts we had
suffered during the last eighteen days.

I heard him with indifference. I had already recognized the
place from his own exact description of it, and I now saw all
that I had looked to see--a big, barren hill. But Rima, what had
she expected that her face wore that blank look of surprise and
pain? "Is this the place where mother appeared to you?" she
suddenly cried. "The very place--this! This!" Then she added:
"The cave where you tended her--where is it?"

"Over there," he said, pointing across the plateau, which was
partially overgrown with dwarf trees and bushes, and ended at a
wall of rock, almost vertical and about forty feet high.

Going to this precipice, we saw no cave until Nuflo had cut away
two or three tangled bushes, revealing an opening behind, about
half as high and twice as wide as the door of an ordinary

The next thing was to make a torch, and aided by its light we
groped our way in and explored the interior. The cave, we found,
was about fifty feet long, narrowing to a mere hole at the
extremity; but the anterior portion formed an oblong chamber,
very lofty, with a dry floor. Leaving our torch burning, we set
to work cutting bushes to supply ourselves with wood enough to
last us all night. Nuflo, poor old man, loved a big fire dearly;
a big fire and fat meat to eat (the ranker its flavour, the
better he liked it) were to him the greatest blessings that man
could wish for. In me also the prospect of a cheerful blaze put
a new heart, and I worked with a will in the rain, which
increased in the end to a blinding downpour.

By the time I dragged my last load in, Nuflo had got his fire
well alight, and was heaping on wood in a most lavish way. "No
fear of burning our house down tonight," he remarked, with a
chuckle--the first sound of that description he had emitted for a
long time.

After we had satisfied our hunger, and had smoked one or two
cigarettes, the unaccustomed warmth, and dryness, and the
firelight affected us with drowsiness, and I had probably been
nodding for some time; but starting at last and opening my eyes,
I missed Rima. The old man appeared to be asleep, although still
in a sitting posture close to the fire. I rose and hurried out,
drawing my cloak close around me to protect me from the rain; but
what was my surprise on emerging from the cave to feel a dry,
bracing wind in my face and to see the desert spread out for
leagues before me in the brilliant white light of a full moon!
The rain had apparently long ceased, and only a few thin white
clouds appeared moving swiftly over the wide blue expanse of
heaven. It was a welcome change, but the shock of surprise and
pleasure was instantly succeeded by the maddening fear that Rima
was lost to me. She was nowhere in sight beneath, and running to
the end of the little plateau to get free of the thorn trees, I
turned my eyes towards the summit, and there, at some distance
above me, caught sight of her standing motionless and gazing
upwards. I quickly made my way to her side, calling to her as I
approached; but she only half turned to cast a look at me and did
not reply.

"Rima," I said, "why have you come here? Are you actually
thinking of climbing the mountain at this hour of the night?"
"Yes--why not?" she returned, moving one or two steps from me.

"Rima--sweet Rima, will you listen to me?"

"Now? Oh, no--why do you ask that? Did I not listen to you in
the wood before we started, and you also promised to do what I
wished? See, the rain is over and the moon shines brightly. Why
should I wait? Perhaps from the summit I shall see my people's
country. Are we not near it now?"

"Oh, Rima, what do you expect to see? Listen--you must listen,
for I know best. From that summit you would see nothing but a
vast dim desert, mountain and forest, mountain and forest, where
you might wander for years, or until you perished of hunger or
fever, or were slain by some beast of prey or by savage men; but
oh, Rima, never, never, never would you find your people, for
they exist not. You have seen the false water of the mirage on
the savannah, when the sun shines bright and hot; and if one were
to follow it one would at last fall down and perish, with never a
cool drop to moisten one's parched lips. And your hope,
Rima--this hope to find your people which has brought you all the
way to Riolama--is a mirage, a delusion, which will lead to
destruction if you will not abandon it."

She turned to face me with flashing eyes. "You know best!" she
exclaimed. "You know best and tell me that! Never until this
moment have you spoken falsely. Oh, why have you said such
things to me--named after this place, Riolama? Am I also like
that false water you speak of--no divine Rima, no sweet Rima? My
mother, had she no mother, no mother's mother? I remember her,
at Voa, before she died, and this hand seems real--like yours;
you have asked to hold it. But it is not he that speaks to
me--not one that showed me the whole world on Ytaioa. Ah, you
have wrapped yourself in a stolen cloak, only you have left your
old grey beard behind! Go back to the cave and look for it, and
leave me to seek my people alone!"

Once more, as on that day in the forest when she prevented me
from killing the serpent, and as on the occasion of her meeting
with Nuflo after we had been together on Ytaioa, she appeared
transformed and instinct with intense resentment--a beautiful
human wasp, and every word a sting.

"Rima," I cried, "you are cruelly unjust to say such words to me.
If you know that I have never deceived you before, give me a
little credit now. You are no delusion--no mirage, but Rima,
like no other being on earth. So perfectly truthful and pure I
cannot be, but rather than mislead you with falsehoods I would
drop down and die on this rock, and lose you and the sweet light
that shines on us for ever."

As she listened to my words, spoken with passion, she grew pale
and clasped her hands. "What have I said? What have I said?"
She spoke in a low voice charged with pain, and all at once she
came nearer, and with a low, sobbing cry sank down at my feet,
uttering, as on the occasion of finding me lost at night in the
forest near her home, tender, sorrowful expressions in her own
mysterious language. But before I could take her in my arms she
rose again quickly to her feet and moved away a little space from

"Oh no, no, it cannot be that you know best!" she began again.
"But I know that you have never sought to deceive me. And now,
because I falsely accused you, I cannot go there without
you"--pointing to the summit--"but must stand still and listen to
all you have to say."

"You know, Rima, that your grandfather has now told me your
history--how he found your mother at this place, and took her to
Voa, where you were born; but of your mother's people he knows
nothing, and therefore he can now take you no further."

"Ah, you think that! He says that now; but he deceived me all
these years, and if he lied to me in the past, can he not still
lie, affirming that he knows nothing of my people, even as he
affirmed that he knew not Riolama?"

"He tells lies and he tells truth, Rima, and one can be
distinguished from the other. He spoke truthfully at last, and
brought us to this place, beyond which he cannot lead you."

"You are right; I must go alone."

"Not so, Rima, for where you go, there we must go; only you will
lead and we follow, believing only that our quest will end in
disappointment, if not in death."

"Believe that and yet follow! Oh no! Why did he consent to lead
me so far for nothing?"

"Do you forget that you compelled him? You know what he
believes; and he is old and looks with fear at death, remembering
his evil deeds, and is convinced that only through your
intercession and your mother's he can escape from perdition.
Consider, Rima, he could not refuse, to make you more angry and
so deprive himself of his only hope."

My words seemed to trouble her, but very soon she spoke again
with renewed animation. "If my people exist, why must it be
disappointment and perhaps death? He does not know; but she came
to him here--did she not? The others are not here, but perhaps
not far off. Come, let us go to the summit together to see from
it the desert beneath us--mountain and forest, mountain and
forest. Somewhere there! You said that I had knowledge of
distant things. And shall I not know which mountain--which

"Alas! no, Rima; there is a limit to your far-seeing; and even
if that faculty were as great as you imagine, it would avail you
nothing, for there is no mountain, no forest, in whose shadow
your people dwell."

For a while she was silent, but her eyes and clasping fingers
were restless and showed her agitation. She seemed to be
searching in the depths of her mind for some argument to oppose
to my assertions. Then in a low, almost despondent voice, with
something of reproach in it, she said: "Have we come so far to go
back again? You were not Nuflo to need my intercession, yet you
came too."

"Where you are, there I must be--you have said it yourself.
Besides, when we started I had some hope of finding your people.
Now I know better, having heard Nuflo's story. Now I know that
your hope is a vain one."

"Why? Why? Was she not found here--mother? Where, then, are
the others?"

"Yes, she was found here, alone. You must remember all the
things she spoke to you before she died. Did she ever speak to
you of her people--speak of them as if they existed, and would be
glad to receive you among them some day?"

"No. Why did she not speak of that? Do you know--can you tell

"I can guess the reason, Rima. It is very sad--so sad that it is
hard to tell it. When Nuflo tended her in the cave and was ready
to worship her and do everything she wished, and conversed with
her by signs, she showed no wish to return to her people. And
when he offered her, in a way she understood, to take her to a
distant place, where she would be among strange beings, among
others like Nuflo, she readily consented, and painfully performed
that long journey to Voa. Would you, Rima, have acted
thus--would you have gone so far away from your beloved people,
never to return, never to hear of them or speak to them again?
Oh no, you could not; nor would she if her people had been in
existence. But she knew that she had survived them, that some
great calamity had fallen upon and destroyed them. They were few
in number, perhaps, and surrounded on every side by hostile
tribes, and had no weapons, and made no war. They had been
preserved because they inhabited a place apart, some deep valley
perhaps, guarded on all sides by lofty mountains and impenetrable
forests and marshes; but at last the cruel savages broke into
this retreat and hunted them down, destroying all except a few
fugitives, who escaped singly like your mother, and fled away to
hide in some distant solitude."

The anxious expression on her face deepened as she listened to
one of anguish and despair; and then, almost before I concluded,
she suddenly lifted her hands to her head, uttering a low,
sobbing cry, and would have fallen on the rock had I not caught
her quickly in my arms. Once more in my arms--against my breast,
her proper place! But now all that bright life seemed gone out
of her; her head fell on my shoulder, and there was no motion in
her except at intervals a slight shudder in her frame accompanied
by a low, gasping sob. In a little while the sobs ceased, the
eyes were closed, the face still and deathly white, and with a
terrible anxiety in my heart I carried her down to the cave.


As I re-entered the cave with my burden Nuflo sat up and stared
at me with a frightened look in his eyes. Throwing my cloak
down, I placed the girl on it and briefly related what had

He drew near to examine her; then placed his hand on her heart.
"Dead!--she is dead!" he exclaimed.

My own anxiety changed to an irrational anger at his words. "Old
fool! She has only fainted," I returned. "Get me some water,

But the water failed to restore her, and my anxiety deepened as I
gazed on that white, still face. Oh, why had I told her that sad
tragedy I had imagined with so little preparation? Alas! I had
succeeded too well in my purpose, killing her vain hope and her
at the same moment.

The old man, still bending over her, spoke again. "No, I will
not believe that she is dead yet; but, sir, if not dead, then she
is dying."

I could have struck him down for his words. "She will die in my
arms, then," I exclaimed, thrusting him roughly aside, and
lifting her up with the cloak beneath her.

And while I held her thus, her head resting on my arm, and gazed
with unutterable anguish into her strangely white face, insanely
praying to Heaven to restore her to me, Nuflo fell on his knees
before her, and with bowed head, and hands clasped in
supplication, began to speak.

"Rima! Grandchild!" he prayed, his quivering voice betraying
his agitation. "Do not die just yet: you must not die--not
wholly die--until you have heard what I have to say to you. I do
not ask you to answer in words--you are past that, and I am not
unreasonable. Only, when I finish, make some sign--a sigh, a
movement of the eyelid, a twitch of the lips, even in the small
corners of the mouth; nothing more than that, just to show that
you have heard, and I shall be satisfied. Remember all the years
that I have been your protector, and this long journey that I
have taken on your account; also all that I did for your sainted
mother before she died at Voa, to become one of the most
important of those who surround the Queen of Heaven, and who,
when they wish for any favour, have only to say half a word to
get it. And do not cast in oblivion that at the last I obeyed
your wish and brought you safely to Riolama. It is true that in
some small things I deceived you; but that must not weigh with
you, because it is a small matter and not worthy of mention when
you consider the claims I have on you. In your hands, Rima, I
leave everything, relying on the promise you made me, and on my
services. Only one word of caution remains to be added. Do not
let the magnificence of the place you are now about to enter, the
new sights and colours, and the noise of shouting, and musical
instruments and blowing of trumpets, put these things out of your
head. Nor must you begin to think meanly of yourself and be
abashed when you find yourself surrounded by saints and angels;
for you are not less than they, although it may not seem so at
first when you see them in their bright clothes, which, they say,
shine like the sun. I cannot ask you to tie a string round your
finger; I can only trust to your memory, which was always good,
even about the smallest things; and when you are asked, as no
doubt you will be, to express a wish, remember before everything
to speak of your grandfather, and his claims on you, also on your
angelic mother, to whom you will present my humble remembrances."

During this petition, which in other circumstances would have
moved me to laughter but now only irritated me, a subtle change
seemed to come to the apparently lifeless girl to make me hope.
The small hand in mine felt not so icy cold, and though no
faintest colour had come to the face, its pallor had lost
something of its deathly waxen appearance; and now the compressed
lips had relaxed a little and seemed ready to part. I laid my
finger-tips on her heart and felt, or imagined that I felt, a
faint fluttering; and at last I became convinced that her heart
was really beating.

I turned my eyes on the old man, still bending forward, intently
watching for the sign he had asked her to make. My anger and
disgust at his gross earthy egoism had vanished. "Let us thank
God, old man," I said, the tears of joy half choking my
utterance. "She lives--she is recovering from her fit."

He drew back, and on his knees, with bowed head, murmured a
prayer of thanks to Heaven.

Together we continued watching her face for half an hour longer,
I still holding her in my arms, which could never grow weary of
that sweet burden, waiting for other, surer signs of returning
life; and she seemed now like one that had fallen into a
profound, death-like sleep which must end in death. Yet when I
remembered her face as it had looked an hour ago, I was confirmed
in the belief that the progress to recovery, so strangely slow,
was yet sure. So slow, so gradual was this passing from death to
life that we had hardly ceased to fear when we noticed that the
lips were parted, or almost parted, that they were no longer
white, and that under her pale, transparent skin a faint,
bluish-rosy colour was now visible. And at length, seeing that
all danger was past and recovery so slow, old Nuflo withdrew once
more to the fireside and, stretching himself out on the sandy
floor, soon fell into a deep sleep.

If he had not been lying there before me in the strong light of
the glowing embers and dancing flames, I could not have felt more
alone with Rima--alone amid those remote mountains, in that
secret cavern, with lights and shadows dancing on its grey vault.
In that profound silence and solitude the mysterious loveliness
of the still face I continued to gaze on, its appearance of life
without consciousness, produced a strange feeling in me, hard,
perhaps impossible, to describe.

Once, when clambering among the rough rocks, overgrown with
forest, among the Queneveta mountains, I came on a single white
flower which was new to me, which I have never seen since. After
I had looked long at it, and passed on, the image of that perfect
flower remained so persistently in my mind that on the following
day I went again, in the hope of seeing it still untouched by
decay. There was no change; and on this occasion I spent a much
longer time looking at it, admiring the marvellous beauty of its
form, which seemed so greatly to exceed that of all other
flowers. It had thick petals, and at first gave me the idea of
an artificial flower, cut by a divinely inspired artist from some
unknown precious stone, of the size of a large orange and whiter
than milk, and yet, in spite of its opacity, with a crystalline
lustre on the surface. Next day I went again, scarcely hoping to
find it still unwithered; it was fresh as if only just opened;
and after that I went often, sometimes at intervals of several
days, and still no faintest sign of any change, the clear,
exquisite lines still undimmed, the purity and lustre as I had
first seen it. Why, I often asked, does not this mystic forest
flower fade and perish like others? That first impression of its
artificial appearance had soon left me; it was, indeed, a flower,
and, like other flowers, had life and growth, only with that
transcendent beauty it had a different kind of life.
Unconscious, but higher; perhaps immortal. Thus it would
continue to bloom when I had looked my last on it; wind and rain
and sunlight would never stain, never tinge, its sacred purity;
the savage Indian, though he sees little to admire in a flower,
yet seeing this one would veil his face and turn back; even the
browsing beast crashing his way through the forest, struck with
its strange glory, would swerve aside and pass on without harming
it. Afterwards I heard from some Indians to whom I described it
that the flower I had discovered was called Hata; also that they
had a superstition concerning it--a strange belief. They said
that only one Hata flower existed in the world; that it bloomed
in one spot for the space of a moon; that on the disappearance of
the moon in the sky the Hata disappeared from its place, only to
reappear blooming in some other spot, sometimes in some distant
forest. And they also said that whosoever discovered the Hata
flower in the forest would overcome all his enemies and obtain
all his desires, and finally outlive other men by many years.
But, as I have said, all this I heard afterwards, and my
half-superstitious feeling for the flower had grown up
independently in my own mind. A feeling like that was in me
while I gazed on the face that had no motion, no consciousness in
it, and yet had life, a life of so high a kind as to match with
its pure, surpassing loveliness. I could almost believe that,
like the forest flower, in this state and aspect it would endure
for ever; endure and perhaps give of its own immortality to
everything around it--to me, holding her in my arms and gazing
fixedly on the pale face framed in its cloud of dark, silken
hair; to the leaping flames that threw changing lights on the dim
stony wall of rock; to old Nuflo and his two yellow dogs
stretched out on the floor in eternal, unawakening sleep.

This feeling took such firm possession of my mind that it kept me
for a time as motionless as the form I held in my arms. I was
only released from its power by noting still further changes in
the face I watched, a more distinct advance towards conscious
life. The faint colour, which had scarcely been more than a
suspicion of colour, had deepened perceptibly; the lids were
lifted so as to show a gleam of the crystal orbs beneath; the
lips, too, were slightly parted.

And, at last, bending lower down to feel her breath, the beauty
and sweetness of those lips could no longer be resisted, and I
touched them with mine. Having once tasted their sweetness and
fragrance, it was impossible to keep from touching them again and
again. She was not conscious--how could she be and not shrink
from my caress? Yet there was a suspicion in my mind, and
drawing back I gazed into her face once more. A strange new
radiance had overspread it. Or was this only an illusive colour
thrown on her skin by the red firelight? I shaded her face with
my open hand, and saw that her pallor had really gone, that the
rosy flame on her cheeks was part of her life. Her lustrous
eyes, half open, were gazing into mine. Oh, surely consciousness
had returned to her! Had she been sensible of those stolen
kisses? Would she now shrink from another caress? Trembling, I
bent down and touched her lips again, lightly, but lingeringly,
and then again, and when I drew back and looked at her face the
rosy flame was brighter, and the eyes, more open still, were
looking into mine. And gazing with those open, conscious eyes,
it seemed to me that at last, at last, the shadow that had rested
between us had vanished, that we were united in perfect love and
confidence, and that speech was superfluous. And when I spoke,
it was not without doubt and hesitation: our bliss in those
silent moments had been so complete, what could speaking do but
make it less!

"My love, my life, my sweet Rima, I know that you will understand
me now as you did not before, on that dark night--do you remember
it, Rima?--when I held you clasped to my breast in the wood. How
it pierced my heart with pain to speak plainly to you as I did on
the mountain tonight--to kill the hope that had sustained and
brought you so far from home! But now that anguish is over; the
shadow has gone out of those beautiful eyes that are looking at
me. It is because loving me, knowing now what love is, knowing,
too, how much I love you, that you no longer need to speak to any
other living being of such things? To tell it, to show it, to me
is now enough--is it not so, Rima? How strange it seemed, at
first, when you shrank in fear from me! But, afterwards, when
you prayed aloud to your mother, opening all the secrets of your
heart, I understood it. In that lonely, isolated life in the
wood you had heard nothing of love, of its power over the heart,
its infinite sweetness; when it came to you at last it was a new,
inexplicable thing, and filled you with misgivings and tumultuous
thoughts, so that you feared it and hid yourself from its cause.
Such tremors would be felt if it had always been night, with no
light except that of the stars and the pale moon, as we saw it a
little while ago on the mountain; and, at last, day dawned, and a
strange, unheard-of rose and purple flame kindled in the eastern
sky, foretelling the coming sun. It would seem beautiful beyond
anything that night had shown to you, yet you would tremble and
your heart beat fast at that strange sight; you would wish to fly
to those who might be able to tell you its meaning, and whether
the sweet things it prophesied would ever really come. That is
why you wished to find your people, and came to Riolama to seek
them; and when you knew--when I cruelly told you--that they would
never be found, then you imagined that that strange feeling in
your heart must remain a secret for ever, and you could not
endure the thought of your loneliness. If you had not fainted so
quickly, then I should have told you what I must tell you now.
They are lost, Rima--your people--but I am with you, and know
what you feel, even if you have no words to tell it. But what
need of words? It shines in your eyes, it burns like a flame in
your face; I can feel it in your hands. Do you not also see it
in my face--all that I feel for you, the love that makes me
happy? For this is love, Rima, the flower and the melody of
life, the sweetest thing, the sweet miracle that makes our two
souls one."

Still resting in my arms, as if glad to rest there, still gazing
into my face, it was clear to me that she understood my every
word. And then, with no trace of doubt or fear left, I stooped
again, until my lips were on hers; and when I drew back once
more, hardly knowing which bliss was greatest--kissing her
delicate mouth or gazing into her face--she all at once put her
arms about my neck and drew herself up until she sat on my knee.

"Abel--shall I call you Abel now--and always?" she spoke, still
with her arms round my neck. "Ah, why did you let me come to
Riolama? I would come! I made him come--old grandfather,
sleeping there: he does not count, but you--you! After you had
heard my story, and knew that it was all for nothing! And all I
wished to know was there--in you. Oh, how sweet it is! But a
little while ago, what pain! When I stood on the mountain when
you talked to me, and I knew that you knew best, and tried and
tried not to know. At last I could try no more; they were all
dead like mother; I had chased the false water on the savannah.
'Oh, let me die too,' I said, for I could not bear the pain. And
afterwards, here in the cave, I was like one asleep, and when I
woke I did not really wake. It was like morning with the light
teasing me to open my eyes and look at it. Not yet, dear light;
a little while longer, it is so sweet to lie still. But it would
not leave me, and stayed teasing me still, like a small shining
green fly; until, because it teased me so, I opened my lids just
a little. It was not morning, but the firelight, and I was in
your arms, not in my little bed. Your eyes looking, looking into
mine. But I could see yours better. I remembered everything
then, how you once asked me to look into your eyes. I remembered
so many things--oh, so many!"

"How many things did you remember, Rima?"

"Listen, Abel, do you ever lie on the dry moss and look straight
up into a tree and count a thousand leaves?"

"No, sweetest, that could not be done, it is so many to count.
Do you know how many a thousand are?"

"Oh, do I not! When a humming-bird flies close to my face and
stops still in the air, humming like a bee, and then is gone, in
that short time I can count a hundred small round bright feathers
on its throat. That is only a hundred; a thousand are more, ten
times. Looking up I count a thousand leaves; then stop counting,
because there are thousands more behind the first, and thousands
more, crowded together so that I cannot count them. Lying in
your arms, looking up into your face, it was like that; I could
not count the things I remembered. In the wood, when you were
there, and before; and long, long ago at Voa, when I was a child
with mother."

"Tell me some of the things you remembered, Rima."

"Yes, one--only one now. When I was a child at Voa mother was
very lame--you know that. Whenever we went out, away from the
houses, into the forest, walking slowly, slowly, she would sit
under a tree while I ran about playing. And every time I came
back to her I would find her so pale, so sad, crying--crying.
That was when I would hide and come softly back so that she would
not hear me coming. 'Oh, mother, why are you crying? Does your
lame foot hurt you?' And one day she took me in her arms and told
me truly why she cried."

She ceased speaking, but looked at me with a strange new light
coming into her eyes.

"Why did she cry, my love?"

"Oh, Abel, can you understand--now--at last!" And putting her
lips close to my ear, she began to murmur soft, melodious sounds
that told me nothing. Then drawing back her head, she looked
again at me, her eyes glistening with tears, her lips half parted
with a smile, tender and wistful.

Ah, poor child! in spite of all that had been said, all that had
happened, she had returned to the old delusion that I must
understand her speech. I could only return her look, sorrowfully
and in silence.

Her face became clouded with disappointment, then she spoke again
with something of pleading in her tone. "Look, we are not now
apart, I hiding in the wood, you seeking, but together, saying
the same things. In your language--yours and now mine. But
before you came I knew nothing, nothing, for there was only
grandfather to talk to. A few words each day, the same words.
If yours is mine, mine must be yours. Oh, do you not know that
mine is better?"

"Yes, better; but alas! Rima, I can never hope to understand
your sweet speech, much less to speak it. The bird that only
chirps and twitters can never sing like the organ-bird."

Crying, she hid her face against my neck, murmuring sadly between
her sobs: "Never--never!"

How strange it seemed, in that moment of joy, such a passion of
tears, such despondent words!

For some minutes I preserved a sorrowful silence, realizing for
the first time, so far as it was possible to realize- such a
thing, what my inability to understand her secret language meant
to her--that finer language in which alone her swift thoughts and
vivid emotions could be expressed. Easily and well as she seemed
able to declare herself in my tongue, I could well imagine that
to her it would seem like the merest stammering. As she had said
to me once when I asked her to speak in Spanish, "That is not
speaking." And so long as she could not commune with me in that
better language, which reflected her mind, there would not be
that perfect union of soul she so passionately desired.

By and by, as she grew calmer, I sought to say something that
would be consoling to both of us. "Sweetest Rima," I spoke, "it
is so sad that I can never hope to talk with you in your way; but
a greater love than this that is ours we could never feel, and
love will make us happy, unutterably happy, in spite of that one
sadness. And perhaps, after a while, you will be able to say all
you wish in my language, which is also yours, as you said some
time ago. When we are back again in the beloved wood, and talk
once more under that tree where we first talked, and under the
old mora, where you hid yourself and threw down leaves on me, and
where you caught the little spider to show me how you made
yourself a dress, you shall speak to me in your own sweet tongue,
and then try to say the same things in mine.... And in the end,
perhaps, you will find that it is not so impossible as you

She looked at me, smiling again through her tears, and shook her
head a little.

"Remember what I have heard, that before your mother died you
were able to tell Nuflo and the priest what her wish was. Can
you not, in the same way, tell me why she cried?"

"I can tell you, but it will not be telling you."

"I understand. You can tell the bare facts. I can imagine
something more, and the rest I must lose. Tell me, Rima."

Her face became troubled; she glanced away and let her eyes
wander round the dim, firelit cavern; then they returned to mine
once more.

"Look," she said, "grandfather lying asleep by the fire. So far
away from us--oh, so far! But if we were to go out from the
cave, and on and on to the great mountains where the city of the
sun is, and stood there at last in the midst of great crowds of
people, all looking at us, talking to us' it would be just the
same. They would be like the trees and rocks and animals--so
far! Not with us nor we with them. But we are everywhere alone
together, apart--we two. It is love; I know it now, but I did
not know it before because I had forgotten what she told me. Do
you think I can tell you what she said when I asked her why she
cried? Oh no! Only this, she and another were like one, always,
apart from the others. Then something came--something came! O
Abel, was that the something you told me about on the mountain?
And the other was lost for ever, and she was alone in the forests
and mountains of the world. Oh, why do we cry for what is lost?
Why do we not quickly forget it and feel glad again? Now only do
I know what you felt, O sweet mother, when you sat still and
cried, while I ran about and played and laughed! O poor mother!
Oh, what pain!" And hiding her face against my neck, she sobbed
once more.

To my eyes also love and sympathy brought the tears; but in a
little while the fond, comforting words I spoke and my caresses
recalled her from that sad past to the present; then, lying back
as at first, her head resting on my folded cloak, her body partly
supported by my encircling arm and partly by the rock we were
leaning against, her half-closed eyes turned to mine expressed a
tender assured happiness--the chastened gladness of sunshine
after rain; a soft delicious languor that was partly passionate
with the passion etherealized.

"Tell me, Rima," I said, bending down to her, "in all those
troubled days with me in the woods had you no happy moments? Did
not something in your heart tell you that it was sweet to love,
even before you knew what love meant?"

"Yes; and once--O Abel, do you remember that night, after
returning from Ytaioa, when you sat so late talking by the
fire--I in the shadow, never stirring, listening, listening; you
by the fire with the light on your face, saying so many strange
things? I was happy then--oh, how happy! It was black night and
raining, and I a plant growing in the dark, feeling the sweet
raindrops falling, falling on my leaves. Oh, it will be morning
by and by and the sun will shine on my wet leaves; and that made
me glad till I trembled with happiness. Then suddenly the
lightning would come, so bright, and I would tremble with fear,
and wish that it would be dark again. That was when you looked
at me sitting in the shadow, and I could not take my eyes away
quickly and could not meet yours, so that I trembled with fear."

"And now there is no fear--no shadow; now you are perfectly

"Oh, so happy! If the way back to the wood was longer, ten
times, and if the great mountains, white with snow on their tops,
were between, and the great dark forest, and rivers wider than
Orinoco, still I would go alone without fear, because you would
come after me, to join me in the wood, to be with me at last and

"But I should not let you go alone, Rima--your lonely days are
over now."

She opened her eyes wider and looked earnestly into my face. "I
must go back alone, Abel," she said. "Before day comes I must
leave you. Rest here, with grandfather, for a few days and
nights, then follow me."

I heard her with astonishment. "It must not be, Rima," I cried.
"What, let you leave me--now you are mine--to go all that
distance, through all that wild country where you might lose
yourself and perish alone? Oh, do not think of it!"

She listened, regarding me with some slight trouble in her eyes,
but smiling a little at the same time. Her small hand moved up
my arm and caressed my cheek; then she drew my face down to hers
until our lips met. But when I looked at her eyes again, I saw
that she had not consented to my wish. "Do I not know all the
way now," she spoke, "all the mountains, rivers, forests--how
should I lose myself? And I must return quickly, not step by
step, walking--resting, resting--walking, stopping to cook and
eat, stopping to gather firewood, to make a shelter--so many
things! Oh, I shall be back in half the time; and I have so much
to do."

"What can you have to do, love?--everything can be done when we
are in the wood together."

A bright smile with a touch of mockery in it flitted over her
face as she replied: "Oh, must I tell you that there are things
you cannot do? Look, Abel," and she touched the slight garment
she wore, thinner now than at first, and dulled by long exposure
to sun and wind and rain.

I could not command her, and seemed powerless to persuade her;
but I had not done yet, and proceeded to use every argument I
could find to bring her round to my view; and when I finished she
put her arms around my neck and drew herself up once more. "O
Abel, how happy I shall be!" she said, taking no notice of all I
had said. "Think of me alone, days and days, in the wood,
waiting for you, working all the time; saying: 'Come quickly,
Abel; come slow, Abel. O Abel, how long you are! Oh, do not come
until my work is finished!' And when it is finished and you
arrive you shall find me, but not at once. First you will seek
for me in the house, then in the wood, calling: 'Rime! Rima!'
And she will be there, listening, hid in the trees, wishing to be
in your arms, wishing for your lips--oh, so glad, yet fearing to
show herself. Do you know why? He told you--did he not?--that
when he first saw her she was standing before him all in white--a
dress that was like snow on the mountain-tops when the sun is
setting and gives it rose and purple colour. I shall be like
that, hidden among the trees, saying: 'Am I different--not like
Rima? Will he know me--will he love me just the same?' Oh, do I
not know that you will be glad, and love me, and call me
beautiful? Listen! Listen!" she suddenly exclaimed, lifting
her face.

Among the bushes not far from the cave's mouth a small bird had
broken out in song, a clear, tender melody soon taken up by other
birds further away.

"It will soon be morning," she said, and then clasped her arms
about me once more and held me in a long, passionate embrace;
then slipping away from my arms and with one swift glance at the
sleeping old man, passed out of the cave.

For a few moments I remained sitting, not yet realizing that she
had left me, so suddenly and swiftly had she passed from my arms
and my sight; then, recovering my faculties, I started up and
rushed out in hopes of overtaking her.

It was not yet dawn, but there was still some light from the full
moon, now somewhere behind the mountains. Running to the verge
of the bushgrown plateau, I explored the rocky slope beneath
without seeing her form, and then called: "Rima! Rima!"

A soft, warbling sound, uttered by no bird, came up from the
shadowy bushes far below; and in that direction I ran on; then
pausing, called again. The sweet sound was repeated once more,
but much lower down now, and so faintly that I scarcely heard it.
And when I went on further and called again and again, there was
no reply, and I knew that she had indeed gone on that long
journey alone.


When Nuflo at length opened his eyes he found me sitting alone
and despondent by the fire, just returned from my vain chase. I
had been caught in a heavy mist on the mountain-side, and was wet
through as well as weighed down by fatigue and drowsiness,
consequent upon the previous day's laborious march and my
night-long vigil; yet I dared not think of rest. She had gone
from me, and I could not have prevented it; yet the thought that
I had allowed her to slip out of my arms, to go away alone on
that long, perilous journey, was as intolerable as if I had
consented to it.

Nuflo was at first startled to hear of her sudden departure; but
he laughed at my fears, affirming that after having once been
over the ground she could not lose herself; that she would be in
no danger from the Indians, as she would invariably see them at a
distance and avoid them, and that wild beasts, serpents, and
other evil creatures would do her no harm. The small amount of
food she required to sustain life could be found anywhere;
furthermore, her journey would not be interrupted by bad weather,
since rain and heat had no effect on her. In the end he seemed
pleased that she had left us, saying that with Rima in the wood
the house and cultivated patch and hidden provisions and
implements would be safe, for no Indian would venture to come
where she was. His confidence reassured me, and casting myself
down on the sandy floor of the cave, I fell into a deep slumber,
which lasted until evening; then I only woke to share a meal with
the old man, and sleep again until the following day.

Nuflo was not ready to start yet; he was enamoured of the
unaccustomed comforts of a dry sleeping-place and a fire blown
about by no wind and into which fell no hissing raindrops. Not
for two days more would he consent to set out on the return
journey, and if he could have persuaded me our stay at Riolama
would have lasted a week.

We had fine weather at starting; but before long it clouded, and
then for upwards of a fortnight we had it wet and stormy, which
so hindered us that it took us twenty-three days to accomplish
the return journey, whereas the journey out had only taken
eighteen. The adventures we met with and the pains we suffered
during this long march need not be related. The rain made us
miserable, but we suffered more from hunger than from any other
cause, and on more than one occasion were reduced to the verge of
starvation. Twice we were driven to beg for food at Indian
villages, and as we had nothing to give in exchange for it, we
got very little. It is possible to buy hospitality from the
savage without fish-hooks, nails, and calico; but on this
occasion I found myself without that impalpable medium of
exchange which had been so great a help to me on my first journey
to Parahuari. Now I was weak and miserable and without cunning.
It is true that we could have exchanged the two dogs for cassava
bread and corn, but we should then have been worse off than ever.
And in the end the dogs saved us by an occasional capture--an
armadillo surprised in the open and seized before it could bury
itself in the soil, or an iguana, opossum, or labba, traced by
means of their keen sense of smell to its hiding-place. Then
Nuflo would rejoice and feast, rewarding them with the skin,
bones, and entrails. But at length one of the dogs fell lame,
and Nuflo, who was very hungry, made its lameness an excuse for
dispatching it, which he did apparently without compunction,
notwithstanding that the poor brute had served him well in its
way. He cut up and smoke-dried the flesh, and the intolerable
pangs of hunger compelled me to share the loathsome food with
him. We were not only indecent, it seemed to me, but cannibals
to feed on the faithful servant that had been our butcher. "But
what does it matter?" I argued with myself. "All flesh, clean
and unclean, should be, and is, equally abhorrent to me, and
killing animals a kind of murder. But now I find myself
constrained to do this evil thing that good may come. Only to
live I take it now--this hateful strength-giver that will enable
me to reach Rima, and the purer, better life that is to be."

During all that time, when we toiled onwards league after league
in silence, or sat silent by the nightly fire, I thought of many
things; but the past, with which I had definitely broken, was
little in my mind. Rima was still the source and centre of all
my thoughts; from her they rose, and to her returned. Thinking,
hoping, dreaming, sustained me in those dark days and nights of
pain and privation. Imagination was the bread that gave me
strength, the wine that exhilarated. What sustained old Nuflo's
mind I know not. Probably it was like a chrysalis, dormant,
independent of sustenance; the bright-winged image to be called
at some future time to life by a great shouting of angelic hosts
and noises of musical instruments slept secure, coffined in that
dull, gross nature.

The old beloved wood once more! Never did his native village in
some mountain valley seem more beautiful to the Switzer,
returning, war-worn, from long voluntary exile, than did that
blue cloud on the horizon--the forest where Rima dwelt, my bride,
my beautiful--and towering over it the dark cone of Ytaioa, now
seem to my hungry eyes! How near at last--how near! And yet the
two or three intervening leagues to be traversed so slowly, step
by step--how vast the distance seemed! Even at far Riolama, when
I set out on my return, I scarcely seemed so far from my love.
This maddening impatience told on my strength, which was small,
and hindered me. I could not run nor even walk fast; old Nuflo,
slow, and sober, with no flame consuming his heart, was more than
my equal in the end, and to keep up with him was all I could do.
At the finish he became silent and cautious, first entering the
belt of trees leading away through the low range of hills at the
southern extremity of the wood. For a mile or upwards we trudged
on in the shade; then I began to recognize familiar ground, the
old trees under which I had walked or sat, and knew that a
hundred yards further on there would be a first glimpse of the
palm-leaf thatch. Then all weakness forsook me; with a low cry
of passionate longing and joy I rushed on ahead; but I strained
my eyes in vain for a sight of that sweet shelter; no patch of
pale yellow colour appeared amidst the universal verdure of
bushes, creepers, and trees--trees beyond trees, trees towering
above trees.

For some moments I could not realize it. No, I had surely made a
mistake, the house had not stood on that spot; it would appear in
sight a little further on. I took a few uncertain steps onwards,
and then again stood still, my brain reeling, my heart swelling
nigh to bursting with anguish. I was still standing motionless,
with hand pressed to my breast, when Nuflo overtook me. "Where
is it--the house?" I stammered, pointing with my hand. All his
stolidity seemed gone now; he was trembling too, his lips
silently moving. At length he spoke: "They have come--the
children of hell have been here, and have destroyed everything!"

"Rima! What has become of Rima?" I cried; but without replying
he walked on, and I followed.

The house, we soon found, had been burnt down. Not a stick
remained. Where it had stood a heap of black ashes covered the
ground--nothing more. But on looking round we could discover no
sign of human beings having recently visited the spot. A rank
growth of grass and herbage now covered the once clear space
surrounding the site of the dwelling, and the ash-heap looked as
if it had been lying there for a month at least. As to what had
become of Rima the old man could say no word. He sat down on the
ground overwhelmed at the calamity: Runi's people had been there,
he could not doubt it, and they would come again, and he could
only look for death at their hands. The thought that Rima had
perished, that she was lost, was unendurable. It could not be!
No doubt the Indians tract come and destroyed the house during
our absence; but she had returned, and they had gone away again
to come no more. She would be somewhere in the forest, perhaps
not far off, impatiently waiting our return. The old man stared
at me while I spoke; he appeared to be in a kind of stupor, and
made no reply: and at last, leaving him still sitting on the
ground, I went into the wood to look for Rima.

As I walked there, occasionally stopping to peer into some
shadowy glade or opening, and to listen, I was tempted again and
again to call the name of her I sought aloud; and still the fear
that by so doing I might bring some hidden danger on myself,
perhaps on her, made me silent. A strange melancholy rested on
the forest, a quietude seldom broken by a distant bird's cry.
How, I asked myself, should I ever find her in that wide forest
while I moved about in that silent, cautious way? My only hope
was that she would find me. It occurred to me that the most
likely place to seek her would be some of the old haunts known to
us both, where we had talked together. I thought first of the
mora tree, where she had hidden herself from me, and thither I
directed my steps. About this tree, and within its shade, I
lingered for upwards of an hour; and, finally, casting my eyes up
into the great dim cloud of green and purple leaves, I softly
called: "Rima, Rima, if you have seen me, and have concealed
yourself from me in your hiding-place, in mercy answer me--in
mercy come down to me now!" But Rima answered not, nor threw
down any red glowing leaves to mock me: only the wind, high up,
whispered something low and sorrowful in the foliage; and
turning, I wandered away at random into the deeper shadows.

By and by I was startled by the long, piercing cry of a wildfowl,
sounding strangely loud in the silence; and no sooner was the air
still again than it struck me that no bird had uttered that cry.
The Indian is a good mimic of animal voices, but practice had
made me able to distinguish the true from the false bird-note.
For a minute or so I stood still, at a loss what to do, then
moved on again with greater caution, scarcely breathing,
straining my sight to pierce the shadowy depths. All at once I
gave a great start, for directly before me, on the projecting
root in the deeper shade of a tree, sat a dark, motionless human
form. I stood still, watching it for some time, not yet knowing
that it had seen me, when all doubts were put to flight by the
form rising and deliberately advancing--a naked Indian with a
zabatana in his hand. As he came up out of the deeper shade I
recognized Piake, the surly elder brother of my friend Kua-ko.

It was a great shock to meet him in the wood, but I had no time
to reflect just then. I only remembered that I had deeply
offended him and his people, that they probably looked on me as
an enemy, and would think little of taking my life. It was too
late to attempt to escape by flight; I was spent with my long
journey and the many privations I had suffered, while he stood
there in his full strength with a deadly weapon in his hand.

Nothing was left but to put a bold face on, greet him in a
friendly way, and invent some plausible story to account for my
action in secretly leaving the village.

He was now standing still, silently regarding me, and glancing
round I saw that he was not alone: at a distance of about forty
yards on my right hand two other dusky forms appeared watching me
from the deep shade.

"Piake!" I cried, advancing three or four steps.

"You have returned," he answered, but without moving. "Where


He shook his head, then asked where it was.

"Twenty days towards the setting sun," I said. As he remained
silent I added: "I heard that I could find gold in the mountains
there. An old man told me, and we went to look for gold."

"What did you find?"



And so our conversation appeared to be at an end. But after a
few moments my intense desire to discover whether the savages
knew aught of Rima or not made me hazard a question.

"Do you live here in the forest now?" I asked.

He shook his head, and after a while said: "We come to kill

"You are like me now," I returned quickly; "you fear nothing."

He looked distrustfully at me, then came a little nearer and
said: "You are very brave. I should not have gone twenty days'
journey with no weapons and only an old man for companion. What
weapons did you have?"

I saw that he feared me and wished to make sure that I had it not
in my power to do him some injury. "No weapon except my knife,"
I replied, with assumed carelessness. With that I raised my
cloak so as to let him see for himself, turning my body round
before him. "Have you found my pistol?" I added.

He shook his head; but he appeared less suspicious now and came
close up to me. "How do you get food? Where are you going?" he

I answered boldly: "Food! I am nearly starving. I am going to
the village to see if the women have got any meat in the pot, and
to tell Runi all I have done since I left him."

He looked at me keenly, a little surprised at my confidence
perhaps, then said that he was also going back and would
accompany me One of the other men now advanced, blow-pipe in
hand, to join us, and, leaving the wood, we started to walk
across the savannah.

It was hateful to have to recross that savannah again, to leave
the woodland shadows where I had hoped to find Rima; but I was
powerless: I was a prisoner once more, the lost captive recovered
and not yet pardoned, probably never to be pardoned. Only by
means of my own cunning could I be saved, and Nuflo, poor old
man, must take his chance.

Again and again as we tramped over the barren ground, and when we
climbed the ridge, I was compelled to stand still to recover
breath, explaining to Piake that I had been travelling day and
night, with no meat during the last three days, so that I was
exhausted. This was an exaggeration, but it was necessary to
account in some way for the faintness I experienced during our
walk, caused less by fatigue and want of food than by anguish of

At intervals I talked to him, asking after all the other members
of the community by name. At last, thinking only of Rima, I
asked him if any other person or persons besides his people came
to the wood now or lived there.

He said no. "Once," I said, "there was a daughter of the Didi, a
girl you all feared: is she there now?"

He looked at me with suspicion and then shook his head. I dared
not press him with more questions; but after an interval he said
plainly: "She is not there now."

And I was forced to believe him; for had Rima been in the wood
they would not have been there. She was not there, this much I
had discovered. Had she, then, lost her way, or perished on that
long journey from Riolama? Or had she returned only to fall into
the hands of her cruel enemies? My heart was heavy in me; but if
these devils in human shape knew more than they had told me, I
must, I said, hide my anxiety and wait patiently to find it out,
should they spare my life. And if they spared me and had not
spared that other sacred life interwoven with mine, the time
would come when they would find, too late, that they had taken to
their bosom a worse devil than themselves.


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 there?

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 Managa? Perhaps he is a friend of my enemy?
Where has he been?' I must now answer these things, saying true
words to my friend. You are an Indian, I am a white man. You do
not know all the white man's thoughts. These are the things I
wish to tell you. In the white man's country are two kinds of
men. There are the rich men, who have all that a man can
desire--houses made of stone, full of fine things, fine clothes,
fine weapons, fine ornaments; and they have horses, cattle,
sheep, dogs--everything they desire. Because they have gold, for
with gold the white man buys everything. The other kind of white
men are the poor, who have no gold and cannot buy or have
anything: they must work hard for the rich man for the little
food he gives them, and a rag to cover their nakedness; and if he
gives them shelter they have it; if not they must lie down in the
rain out of doors. In my own country, a hundred days from here,
I was the son of a great chief, who had much gold, and when he
died it was all mine, and I was rich. But I had an enemy, one
worse than Managa, for he was rich and had many people. And in a
war his people overcame mine, and he took my gold, and all I
possessed, making me poor. The Indian kills his enemy, but the
white man takes his gold, and that is worse than death. Then I
said: 'I have been a rich man and now I am poor, and must work
like a dog for some rich man, for the sake of the little food he
will throw me at the end of each day. No, I cannot do it! I
will go away and live with the Indians, so that those who have
seen me a rich man shall never see me working like a dog for a
master, and cry out and mock at me. For the Indians are not like
white men: they have no gold; they are not rich and poor; all are
alike. One roof covers them from the rain and sun. All have
weapons which they make; all kill birds in the forest and catch
fish in the rivers; and the women cook the meat and all eat from
one pot. And with the Indians I will be an Indian, and hunt in
the forest and eat with them and drink with them.' Then I left my
country and came here, and lived with you, Runi, and was well
treated. And now, why did I go away? This I have now to tell
you. After I had been here a certain time I went over there to
the forest. You wished me not to go, because of an evil thing, a
daughter of the Didi, that lived there; but I feared nothing and
went. There I met an old man, who talked to me in the white
man's language. He had travelled and seen much, and told me one
strange thing. On a mountain at Riolama he told me that he had
seen a great lump of gold, as much as a man could carry. And
when I heard this I said: 'With the gold I could return to my
country, and buy weapons for myself and all my people and go to
war with my enemy and deprive him of all his possessions and
serve him as he served me.' I asked the old man to take me to
Riolama; and when he had consented I went away from here without
saying a word, so as not to be prevented. It is far to Riolama,
and I had no weapons; but I feared nothing. I said: 'If I must
fight I must fight, and if I must be killed I must be killed.'
But when I got to Riolama I found no gold. There was only a
yellow stone which the old man had mistaken for gold. It was
yellow, like gold, but it would buy nothing. Therefore I came
back to Parahuari again, to my friend; and if he is angry with me
still because I went away without informing him, let him say: 'Go
and seek elsewhere for a new friend, for I am your friend no

I concluded thus boldly because I did not wish him to know that I
had suspected him of harbouring any sinister designs, or that I
looked on our quarrel as a very serious one. When I had finished
speaking he emitted a sound which expressed neither approval nor
disapproval, but only the fact that he had heard me. But I was
satisfied. His expression had undergone a favourable change; it
was less grim. After a while he remarked, with a peculiar
twitching of the mouth which might have developed into a smile:
"The white man will do much to get gold. You walked twenty days
to see a yellow stone that would buy nothing." It was fortunate
that he took this view of the case, which was flattering to his
Indian nature, and perhaps touched his sense of the ludicrous.
At all events, he said nothing to discredit my story, to which
they had all listened with profound interest.

From that time it seemed to be tacitly agreed to let bygones be
bygones; and I could see that as the dangerous feeling that had
threatened my life diminished, the old pleasure they had once
found in my company returned. But my feelings towards them did
not change, nor could they while that black and terrible
suspicion concerning Rima was in my heart. I talked again freely
with them, as if there had been no break in the old friendly
relations. If they watched me furtively whenever I went out of
doors, I affected not to see it. I set to work to repair my rude
guitar, which had been broken in my absence, and studied to show
them a cheerful countenance. But when alone, or in my hammock,
hidden from their eyes, free to look into my own heart, then I
was conscious that something new and strange had come into my
life; that a new nature, black and implacable, had taken the
place of the old. And sometimes it was hard to conceal this fury
that burnt in me; sometimes I felt an impulse to spring like a
tiger on one of the Indians, to hold him fast by the throat until
the secret I wished to learn was forced from his lips, then to
dash his brains out against the stone. But they were many, and
there was no choice but to be cautious and patient if I wished to
outwit them with a cunning superior to their own.

Three days after my arrival at the village, Kua-ko returned with
his companion. I greeted him with affected warmth, but was
really pleased that he was back, believing that if the Indians
knew anything of Rima he among them all would be most likely to
tell it.

Kua-ko appeared to have brought some important news, which he
discussed with Runi and the others; and on the following day I
noticed that preparations for an expedition were in progress.
Spears and bows and arrows were got ready, but not blow-pipes,
and I knew by this that the expedition would not be a hunting
one. Having discovered so much, also that only four men were
going out, I called Kua-ko aside and begged him to let me go with
them. He seemed pleased at the proposal, and at once repeated it
to Runi, who considered for a little and then consented.

By and by he said, touching his bow: "You cannot fight with our
weapons; what will you do if we meet an enemy?"

I smiled and returned that I would not run away. All I wished to
show him was that his enemies were my enemies, that I was ready
to fight for my friend.

He was pleased at my words, and said no more and gave me no
weapons. Next morning, however, when we set out before daylight,
I made the discovery that he was carrying my revolver fastened to
his waist. He had concealed it carefully under the one simple
garment he wore, but it bulged slightly, and so the secret was
betrayed. I had never believed that he had lost it, and I was
convinced that he took it now with the object of putting it into
my hands at the last moment in case of meeting with an enemy.

From the village we travelled in a north-westerly direction, and
before noon camped in a grove of dwarf trees, where we remained
until the sun was low, then continued our walk through a rather
barren country. At night we camped again beside a small stream,
only a few inches deep, and after a meal of smoked meat and
parched maize prepared to sleep till dawn on the next day.

Sitting by the fire I resolved to make a first attempt to
discover from Kua-ko anything concerning Rima which might be
known to him. Instead of lying down when the others did, I
remained seated, my guardian also sitting--no doubt waiting for
me to lie down first. Presently I moved nearer to him and began
a conversation in a low voice, anxious not to rouse the attention
of the other men.

"Once you said that Oalava would be given to me for a wife," I
began. "Some day I shall want a wife."

He nodded approval, and remarked sententiously that the desire to
possess a wife was common to all men.

"What has been left to me?" I said despondingly and spreading
out my hands. "My pistol gone, and did I not give Runi the
tinder-box, and the little box with a cock painted on it to you?
I had no return--not even the blow-pipe. How, then, can I get me
a wife?"

He, like the others--dull-witted savage that he was--had come to
the belief that I was incapable of the cunning and duplicity they
practiced. I could not see a green parrot sitting silent and
motionless amidst the green foliage as they could; 1 had not
their preternatural keenness of sight; and, in like manner, to
deceive with lies and false seeming was their faculty and not
mine. He fell readily into the trap. My return to practical
subjects pleased him. He bade me hope that Oalava might yet be
mine in spite of my poverty. It was not always necessary to have
things to get a wife: to be able to maintain her was enough; some
day I would be like one of themselves, able to kill animals and
catch fish. Besides, did not Runi wish to keep me with them for
other reasons? But he could not keep me wifeless. I could do
much: I could sing and make music; I was brave and feared
nothing; I could teach the children to fight.

He did not say, however, that I could teach anything to one of
his years and attainments.

I protested that he gave me too much praise, that they were just
as brave. Did they not show a courage equal to mine by going
every day to hunt in that wood which was inhabited by the
daughter of the Didi?

I came to this subject with fear and trembling, but he took it
quietly. He shook his head, and then all at once began to tell
me how they first came to go there to hunt. He said that a few
days after I had secretly disappeared, two men and a woman,
returning home from a distant place where they had been on a
visit to a relation, stopped at the village. These travellers
related that two days' journey from Ytaioa they had met three
persons travelling in an opposite direction: an old man with a
white beard, followed by two yellow dogs, a young man in a big
cloak, and a strange-looking girl. Thus it came to be known that
I had left the wood with the old man and the daughter of the
Didi. It was great news to them, for they did not believe that
we had any intention of returning, and at once they began to hunt
in the wood, and went there every day, killing birds, monkeys,
and other animals in numbers.

His words had begun to excite me greatly, but I studied to appear
calm and only slightly interested, so as to draw him on to say

"Then we returned," I said at last. "But only two of us, and not
together. I left the old man on the road, and SHE left us in
Riolama. She went away from us into the mountains--who knows

"But she came back!" he returned, with a gleam of devilish
satisfaction in his eyes that made the blood run cold in my

It was hard to dissemble still, to tempt him to say something
that would madden me! "No, no," I answered, after considering
his words. "She feared to return; she went away to hide herself
in the great mountains beyond Riolama. She could not come back."

"But she came back!" he persisted, with that triumphant gleam in
his eyes once more. Under my cloak my hand had clutched my
knife-handle, but I strove hard against the fierce, almost
maddening impulse to pluck it out and bury it, quick as
lightning, in his accursed throat.

He continued: "Seven days before you returned we saw her in the
wood. We were always expecting, watching, always afraid; and
when hunting we were three and four together. On that day I and
three others saw her. It was in an open place, where the trees
are big and wide apart. We started up and chased her when she
ran from us, but feared to shoot. And in one moment she climbed
up into a small tree, then, like a monkey, passed from its
highest branches into a big tree. We could not see her there,
but she was there in the big tree, for there was no other tree
near--no way of escape. Three of us sat down to watch, and the
other went back to the village. He was long gone; we were just
going to leave the tree, fearing that she would do us some
injury, when he came back, and with him all the others, men,
women, and children. They brought axes and knives. Then Runi
said: 'Let no one shoot an arrow into the tree thinking to hit
her, for the arrow would be caught in her hand and thrown back at
him. We must burn her in the tree; there is no way to kill her
except by fire.' Then we went round and round looking up, but
could see nothing; and someone said: 'She has escaped, flying
like a bird from the tree'; but Runi answered that fire would
show. So we cut down the small tree and lopped the branches off
and heaped them round the big trunk. Then, at a distance, we cut
down ten more small trees, and afterwards, further away, ten
more, and then others, and piled them all round, tree after tree,
until the pile reached as far from the trunk as that," and here
he pointed to a bush forty to fifty yards from where we sat.

The feeling with which I had listened to this recital had become
intolerable. The sweat ran from me in streams; I shivered like a
person in a fit of ague, and clenched my teeth together to
prevent them from rattling. "I must drink," I said, cutting him
short and rising to my feet. He also rose, but did not follow
me, when, with uncertain steps, I made my way to the waterside,
which was ten or twelve yards away. Lying prostrate on my chest,
I took a long draught of clear cold water, and held my face for a
few moments in the current. It sent a chill through me, drying
my wet skin, and bracing me for the concluding part of the
hideous narrative. Slowly I stepped back to the fireside and sat
down again, while he resumed his old place at my side.

"You burnt the tree down," I said. "Finish telling me now and
let me sleep--my eyes are heavy."

"Yes. While the men cut and brought trees, the women and
children gathered dry stuff in the forest and brought it in their
arms and piled it round. Then they set fire to it on all sides,
laughing and shouting: 'Burn, burn, daughter of the Didi!' At
length all the lower branches of the big tree were on fire, and
the trunk was on fire, but above it was still green, and we could
see nothing. But the flames went up higher and higher with a
great noise; and at last from the top of the tree, out of the
green leaves, came a great cry, like the cry of a bird: 'Abel!
Abel!' and then looking we saw something fall; through leaves and
smoke and flame it fell like a great white bird killed with an
arrow and falling to the earth, and fell into the flames beneath.
And it was the daughter of the Didi, and she was burnt to ashes
like a moth in the flames of a fire, and no one has ever heard or
seen her since."

It was well for me that he spoke rapidly, and finished quickly.
Even before he had quite concluded I drew my cloak round my face
and stretched myself out. And I suppose that he at once followed
my example, but I had grown blind and deaf to outward things just
then. My heart no longer throbbed violently; it fluttered and
seemed to grow feebler and feebler in its action: I remember that
there was a dull, rushing sound in my ears, that I gasped for
breath, that my life seemed ebbing away. After these horrible
sensations had passed, I remained quiet for about half an hour;
and during this time the picture of that last act in the hateful
tragedy grew more and more distinct and vivid in my mind, until I
seemed to be actually gazing on it, until my ears were filled
with the hissing and crackling of the fire, the exultant shouts
of the savages, and above all the last piercing cry of "Abel!
Abel!" from the cloud of burning foliage. I could not endure it
longer, and rose at last to my feet. I glanced at Kua-ko lying
two or three yards away, and he, like the others, was, or
appeared to be, in a deep sleep; he was lying on his back, and
his dark firelit face looked as still and unconscious as a face
of stone. Now was my chance to escape--if to escape was my wish.
Yes; for I now possessed the coveted knowledge, and nothing more
was to be gained by keeping with my deadly enemies. And now,
most fortunately for me, they had brought me far on the road to
that place of the five hills where Managa lived--Managa, whose
name had been often in my mind since my return to Parahuari.
Glancing away from Kua-ko's still stone-like face. I caught
sight of that pale solitary star which Runi had pointed out to me
low down in the north-western sky when I had asked him where his
enemy lived. In that direction we had been travelling since
leaving the village; surely if I walked all night, by tomorrow I
could reach Managa's hunting-ground, and be safe and think over
what I had heard and on what I had to do.

I moved softly away a few steps, then thinking that it would be
well to take a spear in my hand, I turned back, and was surprised
and startled to notice that Kua-ko had moved in the interval. He
had turned over on his side, and his face was now towards me.
His eyes appeared closed, but he might be only feigning sleep,
and I dared not go back to pick up the spear. After a moment's
hesitation I moved on again, and after a second glance back and
seeing that he did not stir, I waded cautiously across the
stream, walked softly twenty or thirty yards, and then began to
run. At intervals I paused to listen for a moment; and presently
I heard a pattering sound as of footsteps coming swiftly after
me. I instantly concluded that Kua-ko had been awake all the
time watching my movements, and that he was now following me. I
now put forth my whole speed, and while thus running could
distinguish no sound. That he would miss me, for it was very
dark, although with a starry sky above, was my only hope; for
with no weapon except my knife my chances would be small indeed
should he overtake me. Besides, he had no doubt roused the
others before starting, and they would be close behind. There
were no bushes in that place to hide myself in and let them pass
me; and presently, to make matters worse, the character of the
soil changed, and I was running over level clayey ground, so
white with a salt efflorescence that a dark object moving on it
would show conspicuously at a distance. Here I paused to look
back and listen, when distinctly came the sound of footsteps, and
the next moment I made out the vague form of an Indian advancing
at a rapid rate of speed and with his uplifted spear in his hand.
In the brief pause I had made he had advanced almost to within
hurling distance of me, and turning, I sped on again, throwing
off my cloak to ease my flight. The next time I looked back he
was still in sight, but not so near; he had stopped to pick up my
cloak, which would be his now, and this had given me a slight
advantage. I fled on, and had continued running for a distance
perhaps of fifty yards when an object rushed past me, tearing
through the flesh of my left arm close to the shoulder on its
way; and not knowing that I was not badly wounded nor how near my
pursuer might be, I turned in desperation to meet him, and saw
him not above twenty-five yards away, running towards me with
something bright in his hand. It was Kua-ko, and after wounding
me with his spear he was about to finish me with his knife. O
fortunate young savage, after such a victory, and with that noble
blue cloth cloak for trophy and covering, what fame and happiness
will be yours! A change swift as lightning had come over me, a
sudden exultation. I was wounded, but my right hand was sound
and clutched a knife as good as his, and we were on an equality.
I waited for him calmly. All weakness, grief, despair had
vanished, all feelings except a terrible raging desire to spill
his accursed blood; and my brain was clear and my nerves like
steel, and I remembered with something like laughter our old
amusing encounters with rapiers of wood. Ah, that was only
making believe and childish play; this was reality. Could any
white man, deprived of his treacherous, far-killing weapon, meet
the resolute savage, face to face and foot to foot, and equal him
with the old primitive weapons? Poor youth, this delusion will
cost you dear! It was scarcely an equal contest when he hurled
himself against me, with only his savage strength and courage to
match my skill; in a few moments he was lying at my feet, pouring
out his life blood on that white thirsty plain. From his
prostrate form I turned, the wet, red knife in my hand, to meet
the others, still thinking that they were on the track and close
at hand. Why had he stooped to pick up the cloak if they were
not following--if he had not been afraid of losing it? I turned
only to receive their spears, to die with my face to them; nor
was the thought of death terrible to me; I could die calmly now
after killing my first assailant. But had I indeed killed him? I
asked, hearing a sound like a groan escape from his lips.
Quickly stooping, I once more drove my weapon to the hilt in his
prostrate form, and when he exhaled a deep sigh, and his frame
quivered, and the blood spurted afresh, I experienced a feeling
of savage joy. And still no sound of hurrying footsteps came to
my listening ears and no vague forms appeared in the darkness.
I concluded that he had either left them sleeping or that they
had not followed in the right direction. Taking up the cloak, I
was about to walk on, when I noticed the spear he had thrown at
me lying where it had fallen some yards away, and picking that up
also, I went on once more, still keeping the guiding star before


That good fight had been to me like a draught of wine, and made
me for a while oblivious of my loss and of the pain from my
wound. But the glow and feeling of exultation did not last: the
lacerated flesh smarted; I was weak from loss of blood, and
oppressed with sensations of fatigue. If my foes had appeared on
the scene they would have made an easy conquest of me; but they
came not, and I continued to walk on, slowly and painfully,
pausing often to rest.

At last, recovering somewhat from my faint condition, and losing
all fear of being overtaken, my sorrow revived in full force, and
thought returned to madden me.

Alas! this bright being, like no other in its divine brightness,
so long in the making, now no more than a dead leaf, a little
dust, lost and forgotten for ever--oh, pitiless! Oh, cruel!

But I knew it all before--this law of nature and of necessity,
against which all revolt is idle: often had the remembrance of it
filled me with ineffable melancholy; only now it seemed cruel
beyond all cruelty.

Not nature the instrument, not the keen sword that cuts into the
bleeding tissues, but the hand that wields it--the unseen unknown
something, or person, that manifests itself in the horrible
workings of nature.

"Did you know, beloved, at the last, in that intolerable heat, in
that moment of supreme anguish, that he is unlistening, unhelpful
as the stars, that you cried not to him? To me was your cry; but
your poor, frail fellow creature was not there to save, or,
failing that, to cast himself into the flames and perish with
you, hating God."

Thus, in my insufferable pain, I spoke aloud; alone in that
solitary place, a bleeding fugitive in the dark night, looking up
at the stars I cursed the Author of my being and called on Him to
take back the abhorred gift of life.

Yet, according to my philosophy, how vain it was! All my
bitterness and hatred and defiance were as empty, as ineffectual,
as utterly futile, as are the supplications of the meek
worshipper, and no more than the whisper of a leaf, the light
whirr of an insect's wing. Whether I loved Him who was over all,
as when I thanked Him on my knees for guiding me to where I had
heard so sweet and mysterious a melody, or hated and defied Him
as now, it all came from Him--love and hate, good and evil.

But I know--I knew then--that in one thing my philosophy was
false, that it was not the whole truth; that though my cries did
not touch nor come near Him they would yet hurt me; and, just as
a prisoner maddened at his unjust fate beats against the stone
walls of his cell until he falls back bruised and bleeding to the
floor, so did I wilfully bruise my own soul, and knew that those
wounds I gave myself would not heal.

Of that night, the beginning of the blackest period of my life, I
shall say no more; and over subsequent events I shall pass

Morning found me at a distance of many miles from the scene of my
duel with the Indian, in a broken, hilly country, varied with
savannah and open forest. I was well-nigh spent with my long
march, and felt that unless food was obtained before many hours
my situation would be indeed desperate. With labour I managed to
climb to the summit of a hill about three hundred feet high in
order to survey the surrounding country, and found that it was
one of a group of five, and conjectured that these were the five
hills of Uritay and that I was in the neighbourhood of Managa's
village. Coming down I proceeded to the next hill, which was
higher; and before reaching it came to a stream in a narrow
valley dividing the hills, and proceeding along its banks in
search of a crossing-place, I came full in sight of the
settlement sought for. As I approached, people were seen moving
hurriedly about; and by the time I arrived, walking slowly and
painfully, seven or eight men were standing before the village'
some with spears in their hands, the women and children behind
them, all staring curiously at me. Drawing near I cried out in a
somewhat feeble voice that I was seeking for Managa; whereupon a
gray-haired man stepped forth, spear in hand, and replied that he
was Managa, and demanded to know why I sought him. I told him a
part of my story--enough to show that I had a deadly feud with
Runi, that I had escaped from him after killing one of his

I was taken in and supplied with food; my wound was examined and
dressed; and then I was permitted to lie down and sleep, while
Managa, with half a dozen of his people, hurriedly started to
visit the scene of my fight with Kua-ko, not only to verify my
story, but partly with the hope of meeting Runi. I did not see
him again until the next morning, when he informed me that he had
found the spot where I had been overtaken, that the dead man had
been discovered by the others and carried back towards Parahuari.
He had followed the trace for some distance, and he was satisfied
that Runi had come thus far in the first place only with the
intention of spying on him.

My arrival, and the strange tidings I had brought, had thrown the
village into a great commotion; it was evident that from that
time Managa lived in constant apprehension of a sudden attack
from his old enemy. This gave me great satisfaction; it was my

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