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Title: Jungle Peace
Author: Beebe, William, 1877-1962
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Jungle Peace" ***

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                             THE MODERN LIBRARY
                          OF THE WORLD'S BEST BOOKS

                                JUNGLE PEACE



                     _Turn to the end of this volume
                      for a complete list of titles
                         in the Modern Library_



                               JUNGLE PEACE

                                   BY
                              WILLIAM BEEBE

                               Foreword by
                           THEODORE ROOSEVELT

                  [Illustration: (Publisher's Logo)]

                           THE MODERN LIBRARY

                       PUBLISHERS :: :: NEW YORK



                        _Copyright, 1920, by_
                          HENRY HOLT & CO.

           _Manufactured in the United States of America_
            _Bound for_ THE MODERN LIBRARY _by H. Wolff_



TO
COLONEL and MRS. THEODORE ROOSEVELT
I OFFER THIS VOLUME WITH DEEPEST FRIENDSHIP



NOTE


With three exceptions these chapters have appeared in the pages of _The
Atlantic Monthly_, and I publish them through the kindness of the
Editor, Ellery Sedgwick. "Hoatzins at Home" is adapted from a title in
my _Tropical Wild Life_, Volume I, published by the New York Zoölogical
Society, which deals with the more technical results of study at the
Research Station. The illustrations are from my own photographs, except
the frontispiece and those facing pages 162, 186, and 268, which were
taken by Paul G. Howes. All the chapters dealing with the jungle relate
to Bartica District, British Guiana, except X, which refers to Pará at
the mouth of the Amazon.



FOREWORD


Mr. Beebe's volume is one of the rare books which represent a positive
addition to the sum total of genuine literature. It is not merely a
"book of the season" or "book of the year"; it will stand on the shelves
of cultivated people, of people whose taste in reading is both wide and
good, as long as men and women appreciate charm of form in the writings
of men who also combine love of daring adventure with the power to
observe and vividly to record the things of strange interest which they
have seen.

Nothing like this type of book was written until within the last century
and a half. Books of this kind can only be produced in a refined,
cultivated, civilized society. In rude societies there may be much
appreciation of outdoor life, much fierce joy in hunting, much longing
for adventurous wandering, but the appreciation and joy are
inarticulate; for in such societies the people who write are generally
not the people who act, and they express emotions by words as
conventional as Egyptian hieroglyphics. In the popular poetry which has
come down to us from early times, in the ballads of Britain and France,
and the folk songs of the Russian and Turkish steppes, there are
occasional lines which bring before us the song birds in Spring, in the
merry greenwood, or the great flocks of water fowl on the ponds of the
plains of green grass; but they are merely a few words of incidental
description of the land through which the hero rides to foray and
battle. We do not pass much beyond this stage even with Chaucer and the
Minnesingers; and although the heroes of the Nibelungenlied were mighty
hunters, those who described their deeds knew nothing of the game, even
of their own forests. There were sovereigns of Nineveh whose devotion to
the bolder forms of the chase was a passion; and Kings and Queens of
Memphis and Thebes who with absorbed and intelligent curiosity sought
for information about the life of far-off lands; but their laborious
writings, if they did not deal with business contracts, were generally
concerned only with boastful annals or religious ritual.

Hitherto there have been only two periods of Western history in which
both the art of expression, and the breadth of interest among cultivated
men, grew to a point which permitted the cultivated man to turn back to
the life of the open which his inarticulate ancestor had gradually
abandoned, and to enjoy, appreciate, and describe it.

One of these periods included the society which enjoyed Theocritus and
the society which applauded the country poems of Virgil. The other
includes our own time, and may roughly be said to have begun when the
rise of writers like Pope showed that English eighteenth century society
had at last regained the level of the ancient society which enjoyed
Cicero and Horace and Pliny; in France the advance had been more rapid.

It was not until the end of the eighteenth century that there appeared
(in primitive form, of course, as with all early types) "nature books"
and books of natural history, big game hunting and adventures in
out-of-the-way lands. In the Middle Ages there had been many
"beastiaries," in which the natural history was for the most part
fabulous; and many French and German, and some Italian, Spanish, and
English hunting books, which were for the most part as stiff and
technical as treatises on farriery.

But Bruce and Le Vaillant at last foreshadowed the
wilderness--wanderers, half explorers, half big game hunters, of our own
day; with Gilbert White, there appeared the first book of literary work
by a stay-at-home lover of nature and natural history; and a century ago
Waterton's "Wanderings" marked the beginning of the literature wherein
field naturalists who are also men of letters and men of action have
described for us the magic and interest, the terror and beauty of the
far-off wilds where nature gives peace to bold souls and inspires terror
in the mind.

Gilbert White and Waterton added in new ways to the sum of achievement
of men of letters. Each made a contribution to literature as new and
distinctive as the Idylls of Theocritus--it is not necessary to compare
the worth of two kinds of literary work, and in speaking of Theocritus I
am making no such comparison, but merely indicating that literature may
be literature even although of a totally new type. The new literature,
of appreciative love of nature and of hardy outdoor life, will appeal
only to the never very extensive class which neither ignorantly believes
that literature is purely an affair of the lamp and the library, nor
ignorantly proclaims its own shortcomings and conceit by boasting that
it does not value books because, forsooth, it is too "red-blooded" to
care for anything except action. A really first-class hunting book, for
instance, ought to be written by a man of prowess and adventure, who is
a fair out-of-doors naturalist; who loves nature, who loves books, and
who possesses the gift of seeing what is worth seeing and of portraying
it with vivid force and yet with refinement. Such men are rare; and it
is not always easy for them to command an audience.

In his own much larger field Mr. Beebe is just such a man; and he has
such marked ability that he can make and command his audience. Exactly
as John Burroughs is the man who has carried to its highest point of
development the school in which Gilbert White was the first scholar, so
Beebe is the man who has turned into a new type of higher literature the
kind of work first produced by Waterton.

Nothing of this kind could have been done by the man who was only a good
writer, only a trained scientific observer, or only an enterprising and
adventurous traveler. Mr. Beebe is not merely one of these, but all
three; and he is very much more in addition. He possesses a wide field
of interest; he is in the truest sense of the word a man of broad and
deep cultivation. He cares greatly for noble architecture and noble
poetry; for beautiful pictures and statues and finely written books. Nor
are his interests only concerned with nature apart from man and from the
works of man. He possesses an extraordinary sympathy with and
understanding of mankind itself, in all its myriad types and varieties.
In this book, and in his other recent writing (for I wish to draw a
sharp line in favor of what he has recently written as compared with his
earlier and more commonplace work), some of his most interesting
descriptions are of the wild folk he meets in the wilderness--black or
yellow, brown or red--and of some nominally tamer folk with whom he has
foregathered in civilization.

I don't know in which category, civilization or savagery, the trenches
at the front ought to come; but Mr. Beebe, a man of deeds as well as of
books, knows the trenches and the people in them, and the pathetic or
pitiful or else wholly brave and admirable people back of them; and his
sketches of some of them and of their deeds and of the by-products of
war as waged today are wholly admirable. Lowell, praising the
Elizabethans as both doers and writers, spoke of Ben Jonson's having
trailed a pike in the lowlands, and of Kenelm Digby's having illustrated
a point in physics by the effects of the concussion of the guns in the
sea fight in which he took part off Scanderoon. Beebe, as bomber, has
sailed in planes over the German lines; in company with a French officer
he has listened to a wolf howl just back of the fighting front; he has
gone with Iroquois Indians into the No Man's Land between the trenches
of the mightiest armies the world has ever seen.

This volume was written when the writer's soul was sick of the carnage
which has turned the soil of Northern France into a red desert of
horror. To him the jungle seemed peaceful, and the underlying war among
its furtive dwellers but a small thing compared to the awful contest
raging among the most highly civilized of the nations of mankind. It is
the same feeling that makes strong men, who have sickened of the mean
and squalid injustice of so much of life in the centres of material
progress, turn with longing to the waste places where no paths penetrate
the frowning or smiling forests and no keels furrow the lonely rivers.

The jungle he herein describes is that of Guiana; and in the
introductory chapters he gives cameos of what one sees sailing southward
through the lovely islands where the fronds of the palms thrash
endlessly as the warm trade blows. He knows well and intimately Malaysia
and the East Indian islands, and Ceylon and Farther India and mid-China
and the stupendous mountain masses of the Himalayas. All of these he
will some time put before us, in volumes not one of which can be spared
from the library of any man who loves life and literature. This is the
first of these volumes. In it are records of extraordinary scientific
interest, in language which has all the charm of an essay of Robert
Louis Stevenson. He tells of bird and beast and plant and insect; of the
hoatzin, a bird out of place in the modern world, a bird which comes
down unchanged from a time when birds merely fluttered instead of
flying--and had only recently learned to flutter instead of gliding.
Whatever he touches he turns into the gold of truth rightly interpreted
and vividly set forth--as witness his extraordinary account of the
sleeping parlor of certain gorgeous tropic butterflies.

If I had space I would like to give an abstract of the whole book. As it
is I merely advise all who love good books, very good books, at once to
get this book of Mr. Beebe.

THEODORE ROOSEVELT.

Reprinted from the _New York Times_. REVIEW OF BOOKS.



                       CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                    PAGE

     I Jungle Peace                             3

    II Sea-wrack                                5

   III Islands                                 33

    IV The Pomeroon Trail                      66

     V A Hunt for Hoatzins                     92

    VI Hoatzins at Home                       123

   VII A Wilderness Laboratory                140

  VIII The Convict Trail                      177

    IX With Army Ants "Somewhere" in the
         Jungle                               211

     X A Yard of Jungle                       239

    XI Jungle Night                           263

       Index                                  295



JUNGLE PEACE



                       I

                JUNGLE PEACE


After creeping through slime-filled holes beneath the shrieking of swift
metal, after splashing one's plane through companionable clouds three
miles above the little jagged, hero-filled ditches, and dodging other
sudden-born clouds of nauseous fumes and blasting heart of steel; after
these, one craves thoughts of comfortable hens, sweet apple orchards, or
ineffable themes of opera. And when nerves have cried for a time
'enough' and an unsteady hand threatens to turn a joy stick into a sign
post to Charon, the mind seeks amelioration--some symbol of worthy
content and peace--and for my part, I turn with all desire to the
jungles of the tropics.

If one looks the jungle straight in the face and transcribes what is
seen, there is evolved technical science, and until this can be done
with accuracy and discretion, one can never feel worthy now and then, of
stealing quietly up a side aisle of the great green wonderland, and, as
I have done in these pages, looking obliquely at all things, observing
them as actors and companions rather than as species and varieties;
softening facts with quiet meditation, leavening science with thoughts
of the sheer joy of existence. It should be possible occasionally to
achieve this and yet to return to science enriched and with enthusiasm,
and again to play some little part in the great physical struggle--that
wonderful strife which must give to future peace and contentment new
appreciation, a worthier enjoyment.

It is possible to enter a jungle and become acutely aware of poison fang
and rending claw--much as a pacifist considers the high adventure of
righteous war. But it is infinitely more wonderful and altogether
satisfying to slip quietly and receptively into the life of the jungle,
to accept all things as worthy and reasonable; to sense the beauty, the
joy, the majestic serenity of this age-old fraternity of nature, into
whose sanctuary man's entrance is unnoticed, his absence unregretted.
The peace of the jungle is beyond all telling.



II

SEA-WRACK


Suspended in the naked air eight thousand feet above New York, I look
down and see the city and its inhabitants merged into one. From this
height the metropolis is less interesting and hardly more noticeable
than many tropical ants' nests which have come under my observation.
Circling slowly earthward, I have watched the city split apart into its
canyon streets, and have finally distinguished the caterpillars which I
knew were trains, and the black beetles which must be automobiles. Last,
and apparently least, were resolved a multitude of tiny specks, weird
beings all hats and legs, which were undoubtedly the makers and owners
of these beetles and worms and canyons.

In many similar bird's-eye-views of the city one phase of activity
always amuses and thrills. Circling as low as I dare, bumped and jolted
by the surging uprush of invisible spouts of warm air, I head, like a
frigate-bird, straight into the teeth of the wind and hang for a time
parallel with the streaming lines of gray and white smoke. Near the
margin of the city where the glittering water reaches long fingers in
between the wharves, a crowd of people push, antwise, down to the brink.
Many burdened individuals pass and repass over slender bridges or
gang-planks, for all the world like leaf-cutting ants transporting their
booty over twigs and grass stems. Then comes a frantic waving of
antennæ, (or are they handkerchiefs), and finally part of the wharf
detaches itself and is slowly separated from the city. Now I can mount
higher to a less dangerous altitude and watch the ship become a drifting
leaf, then a floating mote, to vanish at last over a curve of the world.
I cease chuckling into the roar of my motor; my amusement becomes all
thrill. The gods shift and change: Yoharneth-Lahai leaves me, and in his
place comes Slid, with the hand of Roon beside me on the wheel. I hasten
hangarwards with the gulls which are beating towards their roosting
sands of far Long Island beaches.

On some future day I in my turn, scurry up a gang-plank laden with my
own particular bundles, following days of haste and nights of planning.
I go out on the upper deck of the vessel, look upward at a gull and
think of the amusing side of all the fuss and preparation, the
farewells, the departure, which sufficient perspective gives. And then I
look ahead, out toward the blue-black ocean, and up again to the passing
gulls, and the old, yet ever new thrill of travel, of exploration,
possesses me. Even if now the thrill is shared by none other, if I must
stand alone at the rail watching the bow dip to the first swell outside
the harbor, I am yet glad to be one of the ants which has escaped from
the turmoil of the great nest, to drift for a while on this tossing
leaf.

At the earnest of winter--whether biting frost or flurry of
snowflakes--a woodchuck mounts his little moraine of trampled earth,
looks about upon the saddening world, disapproves, and descends to his
long winter's sleep. An exact parallel may be observed in the average
passenger. As the close perspective of home, of streets, of terrestrial
society slips away, and his timid eyes gaze upon the unwonted sight of a
horizon--a level horizon unobstructed by any obstacles of man's
devising, mental and physical activity desert him: he hibernates. He
swathes himself, larva-like--in many wrappings, and encases himself in
the angular cocoons furnished for the purpose at one dollar each by the
deck steward; or he haunts the smoking room, and under the stimulus of
unaccustomed beverages enters into arguments at levels of intelligence
and logic which would hardly tax the powers of Pithecanthropus or a
Bushman.

From the moment of sailing I am always impressed with the amusing
terrestrial instincts of most human beings. They leave their fellows and
the very wharf itself with regret, and no sooner are they surrounded by
old ocean than their desires fly ahead to the day of freedom from this
transitory aquatic prison. En route, every thought, every worry, every
hope is centripetal. The littlenesses of ship life are magnified to
subjects of vital importance, and so perennial and enthusiastic are
these discussions that it seems as if the neighbor's accent, the daily
dessert, the sempiternal post-mortem of the bridge game, the home life
of the stewardess, must contain elements of greatness and goodness. With
a few phonograph records it would not be a difficult matter to dictate
in advance a satisfactory part in the average conversation at the
Captain's table. The subjects, almost without exception, are capable of
prediction, the remarks and points of view may be anticipated.

Occasionally a passenger detaches his mind from the ship and its doings
long enough to take note of something happening beyond the rail--some
cosmic phenomenon which he indicates with unerring finger as a beautiful
sunset, frequently reassuring himself of our recognition by a careful
enumeration of his conception of the colors. Or a school of dolphins
undulates through two mediums, and is announced, in a commendably
Adam-like, but quite inaccurate spirit, as porpoises or young whales.
Mercury, setting laggardly in the west, is gilded anew by our informant
as a lightship, or some phare off Cape Imagination. We shall draw a veil
or go below, when an "average citizen" begins to expound the stars and
constellations.

All this is only amusing, and with the limited interest in the ship and
the trip which the usual passenger permits himself, he still derives an
amazing amount of pleasure from it all. It is a wonderful child-like
joy, whether of convincingly misnaming stars, enthusiastically playing
an atrocious game of shuffle-board, or estimating the ship's log with
methods of cunning mathematical accuracy, but hopeless financial
results. All these things I have done and shall doubtless continue to do
on future voyages, but there is an additional joy of striving to break
with precedent, to concentrate on the alluring possibilities of new
experiences, new discoveries, on board ship.

If the vessel is an oasis in a desert, or in a "waste of waters" as is
usually announced at table about the second or third day out, then I am
a true Arab, or, to follow more closely the dinner simile, a Jonah of
sorts, for my interest is so much more with the said waste, or the
things in it and above it, than with my swathed, hibernating fellow
mortals.

Precedent on board ship is not easily to be broken, and much depends on
the personality of the Captain. If he has dipped into little-known
places all over the world with which you are familiar, or if you show
appreciation of a Captain's point of view, the battle is won. A few
remarks about the difficulty of navigation of Nippon's Inland Sea, a
rebuke of some thoughtless idiot at table who hopes for a storm; such
things soon draw forth casual inquiries on his side, and when a Captain
begins to ask questions, the freedom of the chart-room is yours, and
your unheard-of requests which only a naturalist could invent or desire,
will not fail of fulfilment.

I am off on a voyage of two weeks to British Guiana and I begin to
ponder the solution of my first problem. The vessel plows along at a
ten-knot rate, through waters teeming with interesting life and stopping
at islands where every moment ashore is of thrilling scientific
possibility. By what means can I achieve the impossible and study the
life of this great ocean as we slip rapidly through it--an ocean so
all-encompassing, yet to a passenger, so inaccessible.

Day after day I scan the surface for momentary glimpses of cetaceans,
and the air for passing sea birds. Even the rigging, at certain seasons,
is worth watching as a resting place for migrating birds. The extreme
bow is one of the best points of vantage, but the spot of all spots for
an observer is the appropriately named crow's nest, high up on the
foremast. You have indeed won the Captain over to your bizarre
activities when he accords permission to climb the swaying ratlines and
heave yourself into that wonderful place. It is tame enough when
compared with piloting a plane among the clouds, but it presents an
enormous expanse of ocean compared with the humble deck view. Here you
can follow the small whales or blackfish down and down long after they
have sounded; with your binoculars you can see every detail of the great
floating turtles. And when the sun sinks in glory which is terrible in
its grandeur, you may let it fill your senses with wordless ecstasy,
without fear of interpretive interruption. Save for the other matchstick
mast and the spider-web ratlines, the horizon is unbroken.

Many years ago I spent a night in the torch of the Statue of Liberty and
each time I dozed, the twenty odd inch arch through which the lofty
structure swayed, awoke me again and again, being changed, behind one's
closed lids, into a single motion, apparently that of a gradually
accelerated fall to earth. In the crow's nest, when the ship is rolling,
I can often conjure up the same feeling when my eyes are shut, but now I
react to a new stimulus and instinctively reach for a steering rod, as
the sensation is that of a wing slip, consequent upon too slow progress
of an aeroplane.

Among the luggage which I take on board is invariably a large,
eight-pronged, iron grapple, with a long coil of rope. These the
stewards eye askance when they place them in my cabin, and hold
whispered consultations as to their possible use. It is by no accident
or chance that before the third day I have won the attention and a
certain amount of interest of the Captain and have obtained permission
to put his vessel to a novel use. About the fourth day, from the upper
deck or the ship's bow, I begin to see floating patches of
seaweed--gulfweed or sargasso as it is called. For the most part this
appears as single stems or in small rounded heads, awash with the
surface. But as we proceed southward larger masses appear, and then,
with my assistant, I get my crude apparatus ready. We fasten one end of
the coil of rope to the rail of the lowest open deck forward, and then I
mount the rail, securing a good grip with legs and feet. As a cowboy on
a fractious horse gathers the loops of his lariat for the throw, so I
estimate my distance and balance myself for the propitious moment. Now
if not before, the audience gathers. It is flattering to see how quickly
my performance will empty the smoking room, put an end to bridge games
and fill the deck chairs with deserted, outspread yellow-backs. As
dangerous rival attractions, I admit only boat-drill and the dinner
gong!

My whole object is of course to secure as much as possible of the
sargasso weed together with its strange inhabitants, and to this end I
have tramped the decks of steamers with the patience of the pedestrian
of Chillon. I have learned the exact portions of the vessels where the
strain is the least, and where the water, outflung from the bow is
redrawn most closely to the vessel's side. I have had overheavy grapples
dragged from my hand and barely escaped following the lost instrument. I
have seen too-light irons skip along the surface, touching only the high
spots of the waves. As one drops one's aerial bomb well in advance of
the object aimed at, so I have had to learn to adjust the advance of my
cast to the speed of the ship.

I make throw after throw in vain, and my audience is beginning to jeer
and to threaten to return to the unfinished no trumps, or the final
chapter of "The Lure of Love." Near the water level as I am, I can yet
see ahead a big 'slick' of golden brown, and I wait. But the bow dips
farther and farther away and I almost give up hope. Then I look up
appealingly to the bridge and catch a twinkle in the Captain's eye. Even
as I look he motions to the wheelman and the second succeeding dip of
the bow slews it nearer the aquatic golden field. Still more it swings
to starboard and at last crashes down into the very heart of the dense
mass of weed. The frothing water alongside is thick with the tangle of
floating vegetation, and it is impossible to miss. I throw and lean far
over, dragging the grapple until its arms are packed full. Then with all
my strength I draw up, hand over hand, leaning far out so it will not
bang against the side, and dump the dripping mass on the deck. My helper
instantly frees the prongs and I make a second cast and get another rich
haul before the last of the field of weed drifts astern and tarnishes
the emerald foam of the propeller churned wake.

For a few minutes there is wild excitement. My audience dances and
shouts with enthusiasm from the upper rails, members of the crew appear
and help me pursue agile crabs and flopping fish about the deck. Even
the surly old mate roars down news of another batch of weed ahead, and I
curb my curiosity and again mount my precarious roost.

In the course of several days I acquire a wonderful sunburn,
considerable accuracy in flinging my octodont, and finally a series of
tumblers of very interesting specimens, which furnish me with many new
facts, and my fellow passengers with the means to kill much of that
embarrassing concomitant of ocean voyages--time.

An amazing amount of fiction and nonsense has been written about the
sargasso weed, but the truth is actually more unbelievable. Though we
see it in such immense patches, and although for days the ocean may be
flecked with the scattered heads of the weed, yet it is no more at home
in mid-ocean than the falling leaves in autumn may claim as their place
of abode, the breeze which whirls them about, or the moss upon which at
last they come to rest. Along the coast of Central America the sargasso
weed grows, clinging, as is the way with seaweeds, to coral and rock and
shell, and flowering and fruiting after its lowly fashion. The
berry-like bladders with which the stems are strung, are filled with gas
and enable the plants to maintain their position regardless of the state
of the tide. Vast quantities are torn away by the waves and drift out to
sea and these stray masses are what we see on every trip south, and
which, caught in the great mid-ocean eddy, form the so-called Sargasso
Sea. Just as the unfailing fall of dead leaves has brought about a
forest loving clique of brown and russet colored small folk--frogs,
crickets, lizards, birds and mammals which spend much of their life
hiding beneath or living upon the brown dead leaves, so this
never-ending drift of weed has evolved about it a little world of life,
a microcosmos of great intimacy, striving by imitation of frond and
berry and color to avoid some of the host of enemies forever on the
lookout.

It is possible to place a bit of weed in a tumbler of salt water and
have a dozen people examine it without seeing anything but a yellowish
brown frond with many long, narrow leaves and a number of berry-like
structures. Here and there are patches of thin ivory-white shells--tiny
whorls glued closely to the surface of the leaves. Yet on this same
small piece of weed there may be several good-sized crabs, slug-like
creatures, shrimps and a fish two or three inches in length. Until they
move, the eye is powerless to detach them. No two are alike; the little
frog-fish is mottled and striped, with many small flabby filaments, and
apparently ragged fins, with curious hand-like fore limbs which clutch
the fronds closely. The pipe-fish and sea-horses are draped and ragged,
and splashed with yellow and brown, the slugs are simply flaccid stems
or leaves, and the crabs are beyond belief, living bits of weed. Some
are clear yellow, others are mottled, others again have white enameled
spots like the small masses of tiny shells. The little shrimps are mere
ghosts of life, transparent, yielding to every movement of the
water--altogether marvelous. Then there are other beings, blue like the
sea, white like the foam, or translucent bits of disembodied organs.
This is all absorbingly wonderful, but the unreality of this little
world's existence, the remembrance of its instability is always
present, and the tragedy of the immediate future looms large.

The weed along the coast is honest growth, with promise of permanence.
The great floating Sargasso Sea is permanent only in appearance, and
when finally the big masses drift, with all their lesser, attendant
freight into the gulf stream, then life becomes a sham. There can be no
more fruiting or sustained development of gas-filled berries. No eggs of
fish or crabs will hatch, no new generation of sea-horses or mollusks
appear among the stems. Bravely the fronds float along, day by day the
hundred little lives breathe and feed and cling to their drifting home.
But soon the gas berries decay and the fronds sink lower and lower. As
the current flows northward, and the water becomes colder the crabs move
less rapidly, the fish nibble less eagerly at the bits of passing food.
Soon a sea-horse lets go and falls slowly downward, to be snapped up at
once or to sink steadily into the eternal dusk and black night of deeper
fathoms. Soon the plant follows and like all its chilled pensioners,
dies. The supply from the Sargasso Sea seems unfailing, but one's
sympathies are touched by these little assemblages, so teeming with the
hope of life, all doomed by the current which is at once their support,
their breath and their kismet.

But all these creatures, interesting as they are, form but a tithe of
the life existing around and beneath the ship. Night after night I lean
over the bow and watch the phosphorescence flare and flash beneath the
surface, the disturbance of the steamer's approach springing a myriad of
these floating mines, whose explosions, gentler than those of human
make, merely vibrate into a splendor of visibility. How to capture these
tiny beings which the eye can scarcely resolve is a matter far more
difficult than the netting of the seaweed. I try to plan, then give it
up. I walk restlessly over the vessel, seeking some method. But, as is
often the case, nature had fairly to force the solution upon me. Thoreau
says somewhere, "A trout in the milk is pretty good circumstantial
evidence," and in similar guise I saw the light. Early one morning I was
paddling in my salt-water bath, thinking of the coming week when I
should be able to dive into island harbors from the deck, when I sat up
suddenly at the sight of a tiny fish disporting himself with me in the
tub. At least I needed no further hint, and as I scooped up the little
being my plan was made. By exhaustive inquiry among the feminine portion
of the passengers I obtained possession of a small square of a very
fine-meshed fabric something like bolting cloth. In the evening, with
the assurance of a small monetary liaison with the bath steward, I tied
this bit of cloth over the salt-water nozzle and carefully set the
faucet so that a dribble of water trickled forth. In the morning the
cloth strainer contained a small blob of grayish jelly. This I dropped
into a tumbler and saw the water cloud with an opalescent mist of a
myriad motes and I knew that my plan was successful. No matter how
tempestuous the sea, or at what speed the ship throbbed through the
water, I would always be able to gather any amount of the wonderful
floating life of the ocean--the phosphorescent plankton--for my
microscope. Again, aside from my own edification, I was able to give
some thrills to my fellow passengers, and I have had twenty or more
lined up for a squint at the weird things of the open sea. In spite of
my reassurances, there was reported to be less enthusiasm for the daily
bath, and much suspicious inspection of the clear ocean tub water as a
result of glimpses of the concentrated cosmos in my tumblers.

I can recall many similar diversions and discoveries of new
possibilities of life on board ship, but one brings memories of especial
delight. Next to the crow's nest the bow is, for me, the place of
greatest joy--the spot where each moment one's eyes reach forward into a
trackless, unexplored field of view; a heaving, translucent No Man's
Land, fraught with potentialities such as sea-serpents. Long had I
pondered the possibility of getting nearer the fascinating bit of
unbroken water just ahead. At last a scheme unfolded itself, but not
until a following trip when I had made all preparations did I venture to
ask permission of the Captain. For I knew better than to wish to add
anything to the responsibility of this official. When he had become used
to my eccentric use of the deck and the bath tubs, I unfolded my new
plan, and thanks to my preparation, met with no opposition. I had a
waistcoat made of stout leather straps, with a heavy ring behind to
which I attached a strong rope. This tethered to the rail, in the
extreme bow, enabled me to swarm safely down until I reached the flukes
of the great anchor. Seating myself comfortably, I lashed my leather
straps fast, and was ready for work with glass or net or camera. Of
course this was possible only on comparatively calm days, but when the
sea was mirror-like, with only the low, heaving swells bending its
surface, and the flying fish flushed before us in schools, then I had
days of good sport.

This novel method of anchor perching led indirectly to the solution of a
very different puzzle. I had been thinking and talking of the congested
turmoil of the great city far below the horizon to the north. Looking
back on a year in its midst, memory, aroused by present contrasts,
registered sham, insincerity, deceit, illusion, veneer as dominant notes
in civilization. In an argument one evening I had held that deceit or
illusion was not of necessity evil, nor when unconsciously self-imposed,
even reprehensible.

The next day I instanced a rather apt example. Our very knowledge, our
mental mastery leads us to false sensory assertions, which become so
universal that they develop into apparent truisms. Only by a distinct
effort may we summon them to consciousness and correctly orient them.
It is not without a wrench that we set aside the evidence of our senses
and realize the proof which physics offers. We watch the glorious
"sunset" and to disillusion our minds require to repeat again and again
that it is the earth which is heaving upward, the horizon which is
eclipsing the sun and the sky of day. I once persuaded a group of
passengers to speak only of the evening's "earth-rise" and in three or
four days this term had become reasonable, and almost lost its
strangeness.

One finds numerous examples of these sensory deceits at sea; our senses
are at fault in every direction. The wind flutters the fins of the
flying fish and we think they actually fly. The tropic sea, under the
palest of green skies, is saturated ultramarine, save where the
propellers churn it to pea-green, yet in our bath the water is clear and
colorless.

My most interesting oceanic illusion, was a personal one, a result of
memory. I looked about the ship and felt that this at least was wholly
sincere; it was made to fulfil every function and it achieved its
destiny day by day, finally and completely. I had never sailed on a
vessel of this name before, the "Yamaro," and yet at certain moments an
oblique glance brought a flash of memory, of a familiar hatchway, a rail
which fitted snugly under one's elbows, a stretch of open deck which
seemed too much of a known path for these few days' acquaintance. As I
talked with the Trinidad negro lookout on the forward deck, I saw a
brass coolie plate roll out of the galley, and I wondered. There were
only negroes among the crew. Then one day I donned my leather waistcoat
and climbed down to my anchor flukes, and my mystery was solved. In
clear new letters the name of the vessel appeared along the side of the
bow above me, but a second glance showed me something else: a palimpsest
of old corroded sites of four letters, painted out, which once had sent
their message to so many inquiring eyes: Pegu.

Long ago, on trips of unalloyed happiness, I had traveled between
Colombo and Rangoon on this selfsame steamer, which now, caught in some
unusual stress of distant demand of war, had with her sister ships been
taken from her route in the Far East and settled to her new routine.

So even the ship beneath me was not what she had seemed, and yet her
deceit and illusion were harmless, wholly without guile, and I began to
wonder whether my unfriendly thoughts of the great city behind me were
quite fair.

The carven Wodens and Brünnhildes who guarded the fortunes of old Viking
ships, watched the icy Arctic waters forever cleft beneath them and felt
the sting of flying splinters of ice; the figureheads of Gloucester
merchantmen of old, with wind blown draperies and pious hands, counted
the daily and monthly growth of barnacles, and noted the lengthening of
the green fronds on the hull below. One day I lay in the great arms of
an anchor, beneath a prosaic bow; myself the only figurehead, peering
gargoyle-wise over the new-painted steel. Far below, in place of wooden
virgin or muscled Neptune, there appeared only four numbers, 2, 3, 4 and
25. Even these, however, yielded to imagination when I remembered that
the light cargo which made them visible was due to the need of sugar by
soldiers in far distant trenches.

The great unlovely bow rose and reached forward and settled until, as I
lay face downward, our speed seemed increased many fold. And I wondered
if the set wooden expression which always marked the figurehead ladies
and gods had not its origin in the hypnotic joy of forever watching the
molten cobalt crash into alabaster, this to emerald, then to merge again
into the blue which is a hue born of depth and space and not of pigment.
And now I forgot the plunging bow beneath and the schools of toy
biplanes, the strange little grasshopper-like fish which burst from the
ultramarine, unstained, full-finned and banked sharply outward for their
brief span of flight. I looked up and saw pale-green shallows, a thread
of silver surf and the rounded mountains of a tropical island. And I
frowned with impatience--something that more reliable figureheads never
did--for the island, teeming with interest, with exciting birds, and
fascinating people, had been spoiled for me. Force of circumstance had
shuffled me inextricably into a pack (I use the simile advisedly) of
insufferable tourists. Effeminate men, childish women and spoiled
children diluted or wholly eclipsed every possible scene. The obvious
was made blatant, the superficial was imagined subtle, the glories of
silent appreciation were shattered by garrulous nothings. At the thought
of such fellow countrymen I hid my face and strived with all my might to
obliterate the remembrance. Soothed by the rise and thrust of the great
ship's bow and the intermittent roar of the steel-born breaker beneath,
I rested motionless.

When at last I roused, it was with a start at the altered scene. It
seemed as if my thought--Buddha-powerful--had actually wrought the magic
of widespread change. The alabaster breaker was there, but oxidized,
dulled; the cobalt had become gray-black, and by the same alchemy the
emerald shallows were reset with a mosaic of age-dimmed jade. Most of
all was the island changed. From strand to cloud-capped peak, the tone
was purple. In high lights it hued to dull silver-gray, in the shadows
it deadened to utter black. Rugged and sheer Mont Pelee drew upwards,
its head in cloud, its feet in the sea--the shadow-gray sea. My eye
strove to penetrate the cloud and picked from its heart a thread of
black among the gray lava, which, dropping downward, enlarged to a
ribbon and then to a gully. In ugly angles and sharp, unreasonable bends
it zigzagged down the shoulder of the great cinderous mountain. Before I
realized it my gully became a gorge and ended at the edge of the dark
waters, as black and as mysterious as it had begun.

Idly, I lay and watched the silver shuttle of coral-shattered foam
weaving the warp and woof of the rising tide along the whole length of
shore. This seemed the only bit of land in the whole world. Was it the
first--or the last--to appear above the waters? It might have been
either, until, suddenly I saw a movement among what I had taken for
huge, crater-spewed boulders, but which I now knew for the weathered
remains of a city. From between two walls of this city of the dead came
slowly into view the last human being in the world--or so the
surroundings suggested. Yet a second glance belied this, for her mission
was fraught with hope. Even at this distance I could discern her stately
carriage, swinging and free, her black countenance and her heavy burden.
At the very edge of the water she stopped, lifted down the basket piled
with black volcanic débris and emptied it. She stood up, looked
steadily out at the passing steamer and vanished among the shadows of
the ruins. It was startlingly like the first grain of sand which an ant
brings out after a passing heel has crushed its nest. But however vivid
the simile, the dominant thought was hope. At least one ant had faith in
a new ant-nest of the future, and the somber picture of the negress, her
basket of black lava poured into the equally black waters, was suddenly
framed in high relief by the thought of a new St. Pierre. The great
mountain still rumbled and smoked. One at least believed in a home in
its very shadows.

But the end was not yet. The island had been for me unhappily visited;
its passing had been a sudden, wonderfully dynamic vision. And now I
shut my eyes again to strive to interpret and to fix indelibly in mind
this vision and all the network of thoughts it wove. Again the roar from
below and the gentle rise and forward surge calmed and rested me. And
the thought of the unhappy morning was become dim and carried no
resentment.

Ten minutes later I looked up again and found all changed--no ruthless,
startling shift of values, but a subtle, all-wonderful transformation.
Pelee should still have loomed high, the craters and gullys were but a
short distance away and indeed all were faintly discernible. A faint
veil of azure had intervened. There was no wind, it had neither drifted
in from the sea nor frayed from the edges of the dense cloud which
enveloped the peak. So evanescent, so delicate was this still-born haze
that the crater cloud was only softened, not eclipsed. From the strong
sweep and stroke and virile outline of a Brangwyn or the gnomesque
possibilities of a Rackham, the great mountain softened to the ethereal
air castle of a Parrish. Between winks, as imperceptibly as the coming
of twilight to a cloudless sky, the vision changed to a veritable Isle
of Death. This seemed too evanescent, too ethereally fragile to endure,
and yet for moment after moment it held and held--and then the
mountain--which was yet but the shadow of a mountain--this itself
dissolved, and over the gently heaving sea, were neither lava flows nor
cinders, gorges nor ruins, but only a faint pearly-white mist,
translucent, permeable, floating softly between sea and sky. Martinique
had vanished--had dissolved--there was no longer any land above the
waters.

Dusk settled quickly and the vision remained unbroken. All my sensory
relations with the world seemed inverted. My actual contact with the
island had passed into happy forgetfulness; the coastal vision was more
vivid and real, and now, the essence of memory, the vital, tangible
retrospect was forever bound up in the final vanishing, the very
evaporation of this island--lapped by the sea--the sea which tomorrow's
sun would fill with the glorious hue of sapphires--the sapphires of
Kashmir.



III

ISLANDS


With thrice seven-league boots one could stride from the coast of the
United States and with a dozen steps reach British Guiana dry-shod. From
an aviator's seat, the chain of West Indies, Windward and Leeward
Islands curves gracefully southwards, like stepping-stones across a
Japanese stream. If, corresponding to this annihilation of space, we
could abbreviate minutes, hours and days as in a moving-picture film, we
might have the edifying spectacle of our steamer's trip reduced to a
succession of loops, ricochetting from island after island, as a stone
skips along the surface of the water, sliding along those dotted lines
which are so characteristic a feature of coasts in our school
geographies, and coming to rest at last with a splash in the muddy
current off the Georgetown stelling.

Our steamer is preferable to the seven-league trip, for we thereby omit
the big, cumbersome West Indies. It is a curious fact that any land
projecting above the surface of the water is interesting and exciting in
inverse ratio to its size. The endless New Jersey shore moves one not at
all, while the single volcanic cone of Nevis brings thrills and
emotions; Cuba is wearisome as one steams slowly past headland after
headland, while Sombrero--a veritable oceanic speck of dust--stimulates
the imagination to the highest pitch. It seems as if our Ego enlarges as
our immediate terrestrial cosmos diminishes. In studying the birds of
the endless jungles of the South American continent my interest never
flags, yet it never quite attains the _n_th power of enthusiasm which
accompanies the thought of the possibility of locating every nest on St.
Thomas. This love of small islands must savor of the joy of possible
completeness in achievement, plus a king's sensations, plus some of
those of Adam!

Any guide book will give the area, population, amusements, best hotels
(or the least objectionable ones), summary of history and the more
important exports. But no one has ever attempted to tell of the soul of
these islands--or even of the individuality of each, which is very
real and very distinct. Some day this will be done, and the telling will
be very wonderful, and will use up most of the superlatives in our
language. For my part I may only search my memory for some little
unimportant scene which lives again when the name of the island is
spoken--and string these at random on pages, like the chains of little
scarlet and black sea-beans which glisten in the fingers of the
negresses, held up in hope of sale from their leaky boats, rocking on
the liquid emerald around the steamer.

ST. THOMAS, OR HOW I WAS TAUGHT TO CATCH LIZARDS BY A DANISH
FLAPPER.--Nearly a week had passed since we began to exchange a sleety
winter for the velvety tropics, to traverse the latitude spectrum of
ocean from drab-gray to living turquoise. As on every trip, it was early
morning when the long undulating profile of St. Thomas reared itself
lazily from the sea, and almost at once, flocks of great-winged
booby-gannets began to wheel and veer around the ship, banking in a way
to make an aviator's blood leap.

From a dusky monochrome the land resolved into shades, and slowly into
colors--gray volcanic rocks, dry yellow turf and green patches of trees.
Then contours became traceable, smooth rounded shoulders of hills frayed
out into jagged strata, with the close-shaven fur of bushes and shrubs,
and occasional tall slender palms reminding one of single hydroids on
the sargasso fronds. A thread of smoke drifting free from a palm grove
was the first sign of life, and after a few minutes of twisting and
turning, the steamer nosed out her circuitous channel, and from the very
heart of the island the great crater harbor opened before us.

The beautiful hills rolled up and upward, and to their feet Charlotte
Amalie, crowned with Bluebeard's castle, clung obliquely, her streets
climbing with astonishing steepness. The little town was newly roofed,
all the picturesque old red ones having been ripped off in the last
hurricane. The houses were as flat, quite as like cardboard theatrical
scenery as ever.

At the sight of a distant flag I endeavored to thrill patriotically at
the thought that this island was now a part of the United States. I
would have been more successful, however, if I could have recalled the
vision of some fellow countryman in far distant time, landing on these
slopes and taking possession by right of discovery. Even if some burly,
semi-piratical American adventurer had annexed it for his president by
feat of arms, my blood would have flowed less calmly than it did at the
thought of so many millions of dollars paid as _droit de possession_.
However, a tropic bird flew past and put the lesser matter out of mind.

As always, near the wharf thrived the same little open bar-room, with
its floral-bedecked mirrors, selling good beer and vile soda. Aside from
a flag here and there, the only sign of the change of nationality was
several motorcycles with side cars which American soldiers drove like
Jehu through the narrow streets, hustling natives and their tiny carts
and ponies to one side, and leaving enduring trains of gasoline-scented
dust. A few minutes' walk up one of the steep streets and all was quiet
and unhurried, and the sense of a yet undigested possession, of
embarrassing novelty of purchase, slipped aside and we knew that St.
Thomas was still the unspoiled little island which the slow mellowing
growth of West Indian evolution had made it. We climbed slowly up the
steep road toward Mafolie, and behind us the glory of this wonderful
island unfolded and spread, the roofs of the town shifting into strange
geometric figures, and the harbor circle widening. We passed pleasant
sunburned Danes and negroes driving tiny burros laden with small fagots
and with grass. At one turn a tamarind tree was in full blossom, and
here were gathered all the hummingbirds and butterflies of the island,
or so it seemed. At last we reached a ravine, dry as everything else at
this season on the island, and walked slowly up it, catching
butterflies. They were in great numbers and gayly colored. The strangest
sight was hundreds of large, brown millipedes clinging to the stems of
bushes and small trees, apparently finding more moisture in the steady
tradewinds than in the soil, which even under large stones, was parched
and dry: dragonflies were abundant, but the dominant forms of insect
life were butterflies and spiders.

The road wound over the top of the ridge and from its summit we looked
down on the other half of the island. No house or trace of cultivation
was visible and the beauty of the view was beyond adequate description.
Rolling, comfortably undulating hills were below us, and in front a
taller, rounded one like the head of some wearied tropical giant. Beyond
this, a long curved arm of richest green had been stretched carelessly
out into the sea, inclosing a bay, which from our height, looked like a
small pool, but such a pool as would grace a Dunsany tale. It was
limpid, its surface like glass and of the most exquisite turquoise. Its
inner rim was of pure white sand, a winding line bounding turquoise
water and the rich, dark green of the sloping land in a flattened figure
three. I never knew before that turquoise had a hundred tints and
shades, but here the film nearest the sand was unbelievably pale and
translucent, then a deeper sheen overlaid the surface, while the center
of the pool was shaded with the indescribable pigment of sheer depth. In
a great frame of shifting emerald and cobalt, set a shining blue wing of
a morpho butterfly and you can visualize this wonder scene.

Outside the encircling green arm, the water of ocean glowed ultramarine
in the slanting sunlight, and stretched on and on to the curving horizon
of Atlantis. The scene seemed the essence of peace, and to the casual
glance hardly a cloud moved. I sat for a long time and let every part
of my retina absorb the glory of colors. Soon motion and life became
apparent. Shadows shifted softly across the surface, bringing hues of
delicate purplish blue, memory tints of open ocean, and against these
darkened tones a thousand specks of white glowed and inter-weaved like a
maze of motes in a shaft of sunlight. In imagination we could enlarge
them to a swarm of silvery bees, and then my glasses resolved them into
gannets--great sea birds with wings six feet from tip to tip--an
astounding hint of the actual distance and depth below me of this
pool-like bay. An hour later the sunlight left the turquoise surface,
and its blueness darkened and strengthened and became opaque, although
it was a long time before sunset, and the ocean beyond kept all its
brilliance.

My eye was drawn to two tiny dots on the sandy rim. I could just make
out that they were moving and guessed them to be dogs or chickens. The
glasses made magic again and split up each group into a triumvirate of
little burros which trotted along, and presently turned into an
invisible side trail. Perhaps the most fascinating discovery of motion
was that of the water's edge. To the eye there were neither waves nor
ripples, but careful scrutiny through the strong prisms showed a
rhythmical approach and receding, a gentle breathlike pulsation which
regularly darkened and uncovered a thread of sand. I forgot the busy
little town on the other side of the island, the commerce and coaling
and the distant echo of war, and giving a last look at the tarnished
turquoise pool, the resentment of financial acquisition of such beauty
softened, and I felt glad that I had indirectly some small tithe of
ownership, as well as the complete memory monopoly of the glories of
this passing day.

As I made my way down the ravine, the fascinating island lizards
scrambled about or watched me knowingly from rock or tree-trunk. As
usual I wrecked my net in striving to sweep them into it, and bruised my
fingers in vain efforts to seize their slender forms. Rarely I
succeeded; usually I found but a bit of tail in my fingers, or a handful
of loose bark, while, just out of reach, they would halt and look me
over derisively with their bright intelligent eyes. At the roadside I
came suddenly upon a little Danish girl of about twelve years, dancing
excitedly with a lizard dangling from the end of a slender grass stem.

Her blue eyes flashed with excitement, her yellow pigtail flew wildly
about as she danced and backed away, fearful of touching the little
lizard, and yet too fascinated to drop it and allow it to escape. I took
it up and found it had been captured with a neat slip noose. She said it
was easy to catch them and showed me how, and before I reached the wharf
I had a dozen of the interesting little chaps stored in various pockets.
Thus after years of effort a little Danish school girl solved my problem
for me. Acting on this hint I tried fine hair wire, but nothing proved
as effective as the thin, pliant but strong stems of grass.

It is surprising how difficult it is to touch these little reptiles and
yet how easy to noose them. At the approach of hand or net they are off
faster than the eye can follow, yet they are merely interested in the
waving grass. Even when by an awkward motion one flicks their nose, they
merely shake their heads or shift a step or two. They detect no
connection between the moving grass and the more distant hand that
wields it.

Bound to the ground by their short scales and four limbs, these small
lizards are yet remarkably birdlike in their vivacity and their
enthusiastic playing of their little game of life. Every motion is
registered by quick wrenlike movements and by the changing play of
colors over their scales, while when particularly excited, they puff out
a comical dewlap of yellow and orange skin beneath their throat. Thanks
to my flapper acquaintance I am now on more equal terms with the little
scaly people of the islands, and can study their puzzling color problems
at close range.

Looking back at Bluebeard's and Blackbeard's castles from the deck of
our vessel as we slowly steamed from the harbor, some one asked when the
last pirate plied his trade. I looked ashore at the fort and guns, I
listened to the warning bugle, I watched the scattered lights vanish,
leaving all of the town in darkness, I saw our own darkened portholes
and shaded lights. As my mind went to the submarines which inspired all
these precautions, as I recalled the sinister swirl in the Atlantic
which had threatened us more than once on my return from the
battle-front, I could answer truly that Bluebeard and his ilk were
worthily represented at the present day. Indeed, of the two enemies, I
found much more to condone in the ignorance and the frank primitive
brutality of the pirate of past centuries, than in the prostituted
science and camouflaged kultur of the teutonic ishmaelite of today.

ST. KITTS, A PLUNGE, EXPLORATION AND MONKEYS.--I came on deck at
daybreak and found the sea like a mirror. Even the clouds were
undisturbed, resting quietly in the mountain valleys of St. Eustatius,
and on the upper slopes of St. Kitts in the distance. The tropical
morning was a lazy one, and the engines seemed to throb in a
half-somnolent manner. I folded up into a deck chair and idly watched
the beautiful profile of the island astern.

Suddenly the sea became alive with virile beings--curving steel-gray
bodies which shot forth like torpedoes from some mighty battery. I
thrilled in every fiber and the sloth of the tropics fell from me as if
by a galvanic shock: the dolphins had come! Usually they appear in their
haunts between Dominica and Martinique or off the latter island, but
here they were in dozens, leaping for breath with the regularity of
machinery. Now and then the spirit of play would possess one and he
vaulted high in air, ten feet above the surface, twisted and fell
broadside with a slap which could be heard a half-mile away. Then
several simultaneously did the same thing. A school would come close
alongside, slacken speed to that of the vessel, and now and then dive
beneath and appear off the opposite quarter. Another trick was for one
or two to station themselves just ahead of the bow and remain
motionless, urged on by the pressure of the water from behind. It was
very unexpected and very splendid to have this battalion of magnificent
cetaceans, bursting with vital energy and fullness of life, injected
without warning into the calm quiet of this tropical sea.

We anchored off Basseterre and waited in vain for the doctor. There
seemed no chance of landing for some time, so several of us dived off
and swam about the ship for an hour. The joy of this tropical water is
something which can be communicated only by experience. It was so
transparent that in diving one hardly knew the moment he would enter
it. Paddling along just beneath the surface, there was a constant
temptation to reach down and grasp the waving seaferns and bits of coral
which seemed only just out of reach, whereas they were a good thirty
feet beneath. Whether floating idly or barging clumsily along in the
only fashion possible to us terrestrial humans, we longed for the
sinuous power of the dolphins, whose easy sculling imparts such
astounding impetus. Now and then we saw a deep swimming fish, but the
line of envious fellow voyagers along the ship's rail were denied all
this joy by reason of their fear of sharks. They had read in many books
and they had listened to many tales, and they do not know what we shared
with the little nigger boys who dive for pennies--the knowledge that the
chance of an attack from a shark is about equal to that of having your
ears sewed up by devil's darning needles. Over all the world I have swum
among sharks; from Ceylon to the Spanish Main I have talked intimately
with scores of native captains and sailors and learned the difference
between what they tell to the credulous tourist and what they believe in
their hearts.

In time the St. Kitts doctor arrived, and, as he rowed past, looked at
us critically as if he suspected us of infecting the waters of the sea
with some of those mysteriously terrible diseases which he is always
hoping for on the ship's papers, but never seems to find.

Walking hastily through the town, we reached the first of the great
sugar-cane fields, and skirting these diagonally came ever nearer the
sloping base of the high land. Ravines are always interesting for they
cannot be cultivated, and it was up one of these lava and water-worn
gullies that we began to climb Monkey Hill. We went slowly, for there
were many absorbing things on the way. Palm swifts swooped about, while
noisy kingbirds gleaned as industriously but with shorter flights.
Heavy-billed anis _whaleeped_ and fluttered clumsily ahead of us; honey
creepers squeaked and small black finches watched us anxiously. From a
marshy pool half a dozen migrating sandpipers flew up and circled down
to the shore. Every shrubby field was alive with butterflies of many
kinds and the vigorous shaking of each bush yielded excellent harvests
of strange insects which fell into the open umbrella held beneath. In a
grove of wild mango and acacias were hosts of green filigree
butterflies, dropping and swirling from the foliage like falling leaves,
the comparison being heightened by the brown spots, like fungus
blotches, which were etched upon their wings.

Leaving the ravine we climbed over great lateral shoulders of the
mountain, grassy slopes with bold outjutting rocks, and rarely a clump
of small shrubs, bringing to mind the lower foothills of Garhwal and
Kashmir. Higher still came dense shrubby growths, much of it thorny,
seamed by our narrow trail, and threaded here and there by glowing
fronds of golden shower orchids. Ground doves perched on low branches
and an occasional big pigeon whistled past. From the summit a wonderful
view stretched out--the long, sloping green cane-fields, the clustered
roofs, and beyond the curving beaches, the blue water with our vessel
resting at anchor. Now came a search for monkeys, regardless of thorns
and rough stones, for, strange though it sounds, St. Kitts possesses
many of these animals. Whatever the accident of their arrival, they are
firmly established and work much havoc in the small hours, among
gardens and sugar-cane. Our efforts were in vain. We heard the scolding
chatter of one of the small simians, and were preparing to surround him,
when a warning blast from the ship summoned us and we packed up our
collection of insects and flowers, munched our last piece of chocolate
and began to clamber down the great sun-drenched slopes.

MARTINIQUE, OR A NEW USE FOR AN EIGHT OF HEARTS.--Columbus thought that
this island was inhabited only by women, and to this day the market
place bears out the idea. It is a place apart from all the rest of the
city. In early morning, before the gaudy shutters were taken down, the
streets were quiet--the callous soles of the passersby made the merest
velvet shuffling and only an occasional cry of the vendor of some
strange fruit or cakes broke the stillness. When yet half a block away
from the market one became aurally aware of it. The air was filled with
a subdued hum, an indefinite murmur which might as well be the sound of
tumbling waters as of human voices. It was a communal tongue, lacking
individual words, accent and grammar, and yet containing the essence of
a hundred little arguments, soliloquies, pleadings, offers and
refusals. After the aural came the olfactory zone, and none may describe
this, so intermingled that fish and vegetables, spice and onions were
only to be detected when one approached their respective booths.

The details of market life hold the possibilities of epic description;
the transactions of a stock exchange pale into mediocrity when compared
with the noise and excitement when a sixpence changes hands between
Martinique negresses.

All the sales in the market were of the smallest quantities; little
silver was seen, pennies, ha'pennies and sous composing all the piles of
coppers. The colors of the fruits were like flowers, melons white with a
delicate fretwork of green; brilliant touches of red peppers like
scarlet passion flowers; tiny bits of garlic lilac-tinted. The fish had
the hues of sunsets on their scales, and the most beautiful, the
angelfish, were three for a penny, while the uglier, more edible ones,
were sixpence each. Beauty was rated at inverse value here.

Around and around the iron fence which bounded the market place, paced a
pitiful pair--a tiny black mite who could not have passed three
summers, leading by the hem of an ample black skirt an old blind woman.
After several halting steps they would hesitate and the gaunt hand would
be thrust through the bars begging for market refuse. Once the gods were
kind and a bit of melon and a spotted mango were given, but more often
alms was asked of an empty stall, or within sight only of a tethered
duck or chicken. Some of the gifts were no better than the garbage over
which the pair stepped.

We sat in chairs in a tiny pharmacist shop--the artist and I--and were
at once the center of a chattering, staring throng, a kaleidoscope of
shifting colors. We shoved and dismissed to no avail, then the owner of
the shop with a gentle "permitte-moi" threw a pailful of "not-too-clean"
water over the crowd, including the artist and myself. The mob scattered
shrieking and for a short time the surrounding space was open. Soon a
larger crowd gathered, with the still dripping units of the first
assemblage smiling expectantly in the offing, hovering at a safe
distance. The second dispersal had a legal origin; the market policeman
stole quietly along the wall of the shop and hurled himself like a
catapult, butting goatlike into the heart of the crowd. A half-dozen fat
negresses toppled over, and cassava, tin cups and stray fishes flew
about. Even those who lost all their purchases showed no resentment but
only a roaring appreciation of the joke. In this rush we were almost
upset with the crowd, and we began to look forward with dread to any
more strenuous defense of our comfort.

The little French mulatto pharmacist who was responsible for the
occasional joyful outbursts of eau, seemed to profit by our presence,
for a number of interested onlookers who had pushed into the shop to
watch us from behind, when cornered and hailed by the irate owner,
stammeringly asked for some small thing, by the purchase of which they
bought their liberty. The regular business of this little shop alone was
worthy one's whole attention. A prescription was being pounded up in a
mortar and when the clerk reached out for a scoop and for something to
scrape the sides clean, an eight of hearts was the nearest and with this
the chemicals were mixed. Within the next fifteen minutes eight or ten
different prescriptions, powders and crystals were measured, shaken,
mixed and scraped by the same eight of hearts, and the combination of
ingredients which the last purchaser obtained must surely have had some
radical effect on his system--salubrious or otherwise.

Then came the unusual one--the super person who is always to be
discovered sooner or later. Externally she was indistinguishable from
the host of her sisters. She was garbed in a wrapper, flowing and
reaching the ground, purple, and pocked with large white spots. A
diminutive turban of yellow and red madras was surmounted by an ancient
and crownless straw hat, but at the first word she was revealed. A
British subject, she was here at the eruption fifteen years ago. That
day she and one of her daughters happened to be far away from St.
Pierre. When the explosion came, she was outside the danger zone, but
her husband, son and other daughter were burned to death. She regretted
the impoliteness of the French here and apologized for them for crowding
us. Later she brought a gift of rose bananas to Mary Hammond, saying
that Americans had given her food and clothes when she lost everything.

The crowd was curious, thoughtless, selfish, with the dominant hope of
a laugh at some one's expense. Here was one who sought us out, who left
unguarded her little tray of bananas and garlic to speak a word of
thanks, to present a handful of fruit which in her station was a
munificent gift, and who was satisfied and grateful with our sincere
appreciation. She has sisters in graciousness over all the world, but
they are rare and widely scattered, like the Akawai Indian squaw who
gave me her last cassava, like the wrinkled Japanese crone who persuaded
her son to become one of my best servants, like the wife of the headman
of an isolated village in Yunnan, who from among her sodden, beastlike
neighbors came forth and offered fowls and vegetables with a courteous
spirit worthy of any station in life.

ST. LUCIA, A STUDY IN CONTRASTS.--Each time I have visited Castries it
has seemed more somber and less pleasant. It is colorless because it is
full of coal and no change of weather brings amelioration. When the sun
fills the air with a blinding glare and palpitating heat waves (as it
occasionally does), each step raises a cloud of coal dust, and when the
tropical rain falls in a steady downpour (as it usually does), the
whole world seems covered with coal mud, as if about to dissolve into
some carboniferous slime.

This is an important military and coaling station, which perhaps
explains much. Military exigency compelled me to procure a special pass
from the Chief of Police to paddle about its dreary streets, and which
strictly forbade my climbing the comparatively clean and attractive
mountains beyond these streets. As a coaling station I am sure of its
success and popularity, for the coal carriers who comprise most of the
natives, have apparently no time to wash between steamers. So intensive
was the grime that the original dark hue of their skins offered no
camouflage to the anthracite palimpsest which overlaid it. Such huge
negro women, such muscles, such sense of power, I had never before
sensed. I should dislike, were I an official of St. Lucia, to take any
decided stand on an anti-feminine platform. So saturated are the people
in coal, such is their lack of proper perspective of this material, they
seem actually to be unconscious of its presence. Returning on board, one
passes the Seaview Hotel, about which coal is piled to a much greater
height than the roof. Such abstraction is worthy of mention at least.

Amid the memory of all the dirt and damp, dull sadness, two things were
unforgetable, as untouched diamonds glisten in their matrix of wet blue
clay. Amid sodden clothes, unwashed hands and bestial faces, a trayful
of rainbow fishes gleamed opalwise--coral, parrot and angelfish, all
awaiting some unsavory purchaser. Then came the little French negress,
selling fans, out of the ruck of sexless bearers of coal. When we
answered her appeal with a "_Non merci_," her face lighted up at the
courtesy of the words; "_Voyons!_" said she, "_comme c'est gracieusement
refusé!_" No mortal could have resisted buying her wares after such
delicate sentiment.

About five in the afternoon we parted from the gritty wharf and steamed
for hour after hour along the shore. We forgot the poor, filthy,
ill-mannered coal carriers, and the thought of the misery and squalor of
the town passed with its vanishing, still clad in its cloak of rain. As
the natives appeared to us so inferior to those of the other islands, so
by some law of compensation the coast was revealed correspondingly
beautiful. At four bells the sun sank on the side away from the island,
in a blaze of yellow and orange with one particular cloud touching the
water line with flame color, as if a mighty distant volcano had just
reared its head above the sea, still in the throes of molten erection.
On the opposite side were passing the dark green headlands and fiords of
the land, while upward, high into the sky, there arose now and then some
tremendous cloud, on fire with rich rose or salmon afterglow, or a maze
of other tints defying human name or pigment. In front was the living
blue water dulled by the dimming light and above all the transparent
blue of the tropic sky.

Without warning, from out of the soft folded edges of one of the filmy
clouds, crept a curved edge of cold steel, like some strange kind of
floating shell coming forth from its cloud of smoke, and a moment later
the full moon was revealed, unlike any other color note in this
marvelous scene. The icy, unchanging moon craters, the more plastic
island mountains fringed by the wind-shapen trees, the still more
shifting waters and the evanescent cloud mist, all were played upon and
saturated and stained by colors which were beyond words, almost beyond
our appreciation. Tiny villages, fronted by canoes and swathed in
feathery cocoanut fronds, snuggled at the foot of great volcanic and
coral cliffs.

But the crowning glory was reserved for the last, when we surged past
the _Trois Pitons_, rearing their majestic heads above all the island,
hundreds and hundreds of feet into the sky. Even the moon could not top
one, and after cutting into sharp, silver silhouette every leaf and
branch of a moon-wide swath of trees, it buried itself behind the peak
and framed the whole mountain.

A small wandering rain storm drifted against the tallest piton and split
in two, one half going away down the coast and the rest passing close
enough to us to shower the decks with drops. As it fell astern, it
spread out fanwise and in its heart developed a ghostly lunar
rainbow--the spectrum cleansed and denuded of all the garish colors of
day. At first we could only sense which was the warm, which the cold
side of the bow, then it strengthened and the red appeared as dull
copper or amber buff, and the violet as a deeper, colder blue, cloud
hue. All the time, even when the rain was falling heaviest, the moon
shone with full strength, and when at last we veered away from this
wonder island, it was so high that there was no moonpath on the water,
but only a living, shifting patch of a million electric wires, which
wrote untold myriad messages in lunar script upon the little waves. From
one fraction of time to another, the eye could detect and hold in memory
innumerable strange figures, and the resemblance, if it be not sacrilege
to make any simile, was only to script of languages long, long dead--the
cuneiform of Babylon and the tendril spirals of Pali.

Once a faint light appeared upon the distant shore. Our steamer spoke in
a short, sharp blast which thrilled us with its unexpectedness and the
signal among the palms was quenched. From the great things of the
cosmos, from brilliant Venus, and from the north star low in the sky,
from the new splendor of Formalhaut, rising ever higher in the south,
our thoughts were forced back to the littlenesses of the world war,
whose faint influence reached even thus far to break the thread of our
abstraction.

BARBADOS, IN ECLIPSE AND IN SUN.--The vagaries of a naturalist are the
delight of the uninitiated, and impress simple natives more than
immoderate tips or the routine excesses of tourist folk. One's
scientific eccentricities may even establish a small measure of fame, or
rather notoriety. So it was that as I walked up the landing stage at
Bridgetown, a small ebon personality pointed finger at me and confided
to his neighbor, "See de mon--de tall mon da--he de mon who chase tree
lizards in de cemetry!"

"Yes, George," I said, "I'm de mon who chased them with you two years
ago, but this time we shall catch them as well."

"Anyting you say true, Boss, I'se yo boy."

But as is always true in sport, certainty robs it of the finest element
of excitement, and our successful stalks that afternoon with grass stem
nooses were less memorable than the frantic tree circlings and grave
hurdlings of two years before.

On our return from the cemetery a breeze swept up from the sea, the palm
fronds slithered against one another, and I suddenly caught myself
shivering. The moment I became conscious of this I thought of fever and
wondered if my life-long immunity had come to an end. Then I observed
old hags wrapping themselves up; my eyes suddenly readjusted, I
perceived that the glaring sunlight was tempered; again the strange
mid-day breeze arose and finally I realized that I was witnessing an
eclipse of the sun on the island of Barbados. The natives and the birds
and even the patient little donkeys grew restless, the light became
weaker and strange, and until the end of the eclipse we could think of
nothing else. The most remarkable part to me, were the reflections.
Looking however hastily and obliquely at the sun, I perceived nothing
but a blinding glare, but walking beneath the shade of dense tropical
foliage, the hosts of specks of sunlight sifting through, reflected on
the white limestone, were in reality thousands of tiny representations
of the sun's disk incised with the segment of the silhouetted moon, but
reversed, just like the image through the aperture of a pinhole camera.
I suppose it is a very common physical phenomenon, but to me it was a
surprising thing to trace the curve of the eclipse clearly and with ease
in the sunbeams on the pavement beneath my feet, while my retinas
refused to face or register the original.

Barbados is very flat, thoroughly cultivated and said to be the most
densely populated bit of land in the world; all of which guide-book
gossip was discouraging to a naturalist. But besides the cemetery which
was sanctuary for the jolly little lizards, I found a bit of unspoilt
beach, with sand as white and fine as talcum powder, where dwelt
undisturbed many assemblages of small folk. There were land-crabs which
had come to have at heart more affection for the vegetable gardens at
the beach top than for the waters of their forefathers. They had
degenerated into mere commuters from their holes to the nearest melon
patch. The lower part of the beach was that ever changing zone--that
altar upon which each tide deposited some offering from the depths of
the sea. This will some day have a worthy interpreter, a sympathetic
recorder and commentator who will make a marvelous volume of this
intermittent thread of the earth's surface, pulsing, changing--now
showing as water, now as land--but always vital with exciting
happenings.

I sat for an hour on the upper beach and watched the little native folk,
autochthones who for innumerable generations had been so loyal to their
arenaceous home that the sheltering mantle of its pale hue had fallen
upon their wings and bodies. Here were tiny, grayish-white crabs, here
were spiders, which, until they moved, were not spiders but sand. And
when they did move, recognition usually came too late to some fly, which
had trespassed on this littoral hunting ground. Tiger-beetles drifted
about like sand-grain wraiths, whose life wanderings lay between low
tide and the highest dune; veriest ghosts of their brilliant green
brethren farther inland. Ashen wasps buzzed past, with compass and maps
in their heads, enabling them to circle about once or twice, alight,
take a step or two and, kicking down their diminutive front door, to
enter the slanting sandy tube which for them fulfilled all the
requirements of home.

From an aeroplane, Barbados would appear like a circular expanse of
patchwork, or a wild futurist painting set in deepest ultramarine; a
maze of rectangles or squares of sugar-cane, with a scattering of sweet
potatoes and sea island cotton. I got a hint of this when I motored to
the highest point of land, and then climbed the steeple of the loftiest
church. At my feet was the Atlantic with great breakers, reduced by
distance to tiny wavelets twinkling among the black boulders and
feathery palms which were scattered along shore. For more than two
hundred and seventy-five years the church had stood here, and not to be
outdone by the strangeness of the little beach people, the graveyard
boasted the remains of a descendant of a Greek Emperor, who long ago had
been warden.

But again our steamer summoned us and we left the dusky natives with
their weird legends and the tiny island which they love, and were rowed
steadily out beyond the two miles of shallow coast.

When we steamed away from shore that night, no lights except those of
the dining saloon were allowed. Yet the path of the vessel made a
mockery of this concealment. The world did not exist a hundred feet away
from the ship and yet there was no mist or fog. The outward curve of the
water from the bow was a long slender scimitar of phosphorescence, and
from its cutting edge and tip flashed bits of flame and brilliant steely
sparks, apparently suspended above the jet-black water. Alongside was a
steady ribbon of dull green luminescence, while, rolling and drifting
along through this path of light came now and then great balls of clear,
pure fire touched with emerald flames, some huge jelly or fish, or
sargasso weed incrusted with noctiluca. Everywhere throughout the narrow
zone of visibility were flickering constellations, suns and planets of
momentary life, dying within the second in which they flashed into
sight. Once Orion left a distinct memory on the retina--instantly to
vanish forever. Perhaps to some unimaginably distant and unknown god,
our world system may appear as fleeting. To my eyes it seemed as if I
looked at the reflections of constellations which no longer swung across
the heavens--shadows of shadows.

Then four bells struck--silveryly--and I knew that time still existed.



IV

THE POMEROON TRAIL


Ram Narine gave a party. It was already a thing of three months past,
and it had been an extremely small party, and Ram Narine was only a very
unimportant coolie on the plantation of the Golden Fleece. But, like
many things small in themselves, this party had far-flung effects, and
finally certain of these reached out and touched me. So far as I was
concerned the party was a blessing. Because of it I was to travel the
Pomeroon Trail. But it befell otherwise with Ram Narine.

It was, as I have said, a small party. Only two friends had been
invited, and Ram and his companions had made very merry over a cooked
cock-fowl and two bottles of rum. In the course of the night there was a
fracas, and the face of one of Ram's friends had been somewhat
disfigured, with a thick club and a bit of rock. He spent two months in
the hospital, and eventually recovered. His injuries did not affect his
speech, but, coolie-like, he would give little information as to his
assailant.

And now the majesty of the law was about to inquire into this matter of
Ram's party, and to sift to the uttermost the mystery which concerned
the cooked cock-fowl and the rum, and the possibilities for evil which
accrued to the sinister club and the bit of rock. I was invited to go,
with my friends the Lawyer and the Judge, and our route lay from
Georgetown westward, athwart two mighty Guiana rivers.

My mission to British Guiana was to find some suitable place to
establish a Tropical Research Station, where three of us, a Wasp Man, an
Embryo Man, and a Bird Man, all Americans, all enthusiastic, might learn
at first-hand of the ways and lives of the wilderness creatures. After
seven years of travel and bird-study in far distant countries, I had
turned again to Guiana, the memory of whose jungles had never left me.
In New York I had persuaded the powers of the Zoölogical Society that
here lay a new, a worthy field of endeavor, hidden among the maze of
water-trails, deep in the heart of the forests. For these were forests
whose treasury of bird and beast and insect secrets had been only
skimmed by collectors. The spoils had been carried to northern museums,
where they were made available for human conversation and writing by the
conferring of names by twentieth-century Adams. We had learned much
besides from these specimens, and they had delighted the hearts of
multitudes who would never have an opportunity to hear the evening
cadence of the six-o'clock bee or the morning chorus of the howling
monkeys.

But just as a single photograph reveals little of the inception,
movement and dénouement of an entire moving-picture reel, so an isolated
dead bird can present only the static condition of the plumage, molt,
and dimensions at the instant before death. I am no nature
sentimentalist, and in spite of moments of weakness, I will without
hesitation shoot a bird as she sits upon her eggs, if I can thereby
acquire desired information. But whenever possible, I prefer, for my own
sake as well as hers, to prolong my observations, and thus acquire merit
in the eyes of my fellow scientists and of Buddha.

I hoped the Pomeroon might prove such a desirable region, and fulfil my
requirements to the extent that I might call it home for a season. So I
accepted the invitation with a double pleasure, for I already knew what
excellent company were friends Lawyer and Judge. As a site for my
researches the Pomeroon failed; as an experience filled to the brim with
interest and enjoyment, my visit left nothing to be desired.

Besides, I met Ram.

The big yellow kiskadees woke me at daybreak; my bedroom wren sang his
heart out as I splashed in my shower; and before breakfast was over I
heard the honking of my host's car. We glided over the rich red streets
in the cool of early morning, past the thronged and already odoriferous
market, and on to the tiny river ferry.

This was on Monday, but Ram Narine was to have yet another day of grace,
by a twist in the nexus of circumstance which envelops all of us. The
Lawyer's orderly had failed to notify his cabman that the Georgetown
steamer left at six-fifty instead of seven. So when we finally left the
stelling, with a host of twittering martins about us, it was with
sorrowful faces. Not only were the master's wig and gown missing,
besides other articles less necessary from a legal point of view, but
the ham for luncheon was lacking. The higher law of compensation now
became active, and the day of postponement gave me the sight of the
Pomeroon Trail. This delay solved the matter of the wig and gown, and
the ham was replaced by a curry equal to a Calcutta cook's best. This
was served in the Colony House at Suddy Village, where one ate and slept
in full enjoyment of the cool tradewind which blew in from the clear
stretch of the Atlantic. And here one sat and read or listened to the
droning of the witnesses in the petty cases held by the local magistrate
in the courtroom below stairs.

I chose to do none of these things, but walked to the sandy beach and
along it in the direction of the distant Spanish Main. It was a barren
beach, judged by the salvage of most beaches; few shells, little
seaweed, and the white sand alternating with stretches of brown mud. I
walked until I came to a promontory and, amid splashing muddy waves,
climbed out and perched where I ever love to be--on the outermost
isolated pile of an old wharf. Scores of years must have passed since
it was in use, and I tried to imagine what things had come and gone over
it. Those were the days of the great Dutch sugar-plantations, when
plantations were like small kingdoms, with crowds of slaves, and when
the rich amber crystals resembled gold-dust in more than appearance.
What bales of wondrous Dutch lace and furniture and goodies were
unloaded from the old high-pooped sailing ships, and what frills and
flounces fluttered in this same tradewind, what time the master's
daughter set forth upon her first visit to the Netherlands! Now, a few
rotted piles and rows of precise, flat Dutch bricks along the foreshore
were all that was left of such memories. Inland, the wattled huts of the
negroes had outlasted the great manor-houses.

Out at sea there was no change. The same muddy waves rose but never
broke; the same tidal current swirled and eddied downstream. And now my
mind became centered on passing débris, and in a few minutes I realized
that, whatever changes had ruffled or passed over this coastal region of
Guiana, the source of the muddy waters up country was as untouched now
as when Amerigo Vespucci sailed along this coast four hundred and
twenty years ago. I forgot the shore with its memories and its present
lush growth and heat. For in the eddies of the wharf piles swirled
strange things from the inland bush. First a patch of coarse grass,
sailing out to sea, upright and slowly circling. On the stems I could
distinguish unwilling travelers--crickets, spiders, and lesser wingless
fry. Half-hollow logs drifted past, some deep and water-soaked, others
floating high, with their upper parts quite dry. On such a one I saw a
small green snake coiled as high as possible, and, serpent-like, waiting
quietly for what fate should bring.

And now came an extraordinary sight--another serpent, a huge one, a
great water-constrictor long dead, entangled in some brush, half caught
firm and half dangling in the water. Attending were two vultures,
ravenous and ready to risk anything for a meal. And they were risking a
good deal, for each time they alighted, the brush and snake began to
sink and allowed them time for only one or two frantic pecks before they
were in water up to their bodies. They then had laboriously to take to
flight, beating the water for the first few strokes. For several
minutes one loop of the snake became entangled about a sunken pile, and
now the scavengers boldly perched in the shallow water and fairly ducked
their heads at each beakful. Next came a white ants' nest on a lichened
trunk, with a multitude of the owners rushing frantically about, scores
of them overrunning the confines of their small cosmos, to the great
profit and delectation of a school of little fish which swam in the
wake.

Most pitiful of all was a tiny opossum, with a single young one clinging
tightly about her neck, which approached as I was about to leave. She
was marooned on a hollow log which revolved in an arc while it drifted.
As it turned, the little mother climbed, creeping first upward, then
turning and clambering back, keeping thus ever on the summit. The tail
of the baby was coiled about her mouth, and he was clinging with all his
strength. It was a brave fight and well deserved success. No boat was in
sight, so I could not hesitate, but, pulling off my shoes, I waded out
as far as I could. At first I thought I must miss it, for I could not go
in to my neck even for an opossum. But the wind helped; one or two heavy
waves lapped conveniently against the sodden bark, and I succeeded in
seizing the stub. As I reached for the little creature, the young
opossum gave up and slipped into the water, and a ripple showed where a
watchful fish had snapped it up. But I got hold of the mother's tail,
and despite a weak hiss and a perfunctory showing of teeth, I lifted her
and waded ashore. The last view I had, showed her crawling feebly but
steadily along a branch into the heart of a dense thicket.

I climbed back to my outpost and dried my clothes in the sun, meditating
on the curious psychology of a human which wanted opossums and would
unhesitatingly sacrifice a score of opossums for a real scientific need,
and yet would put itself to much discomfort to save a single one from
going out to sea. Sentimental weakness is an inexplicable thing, and I
finally made up my mind--as I always do--not to yield again to its
promptings. In fact, I half turned to go in search of my specimen--and
then didn't.

The tide had reached full ebb and the sun was low when I started back,
and now I found a new beach many feet farther out and down. Still no
shells, but a wonderful assortment of substitutes in the shape of a
host of nuts and seeds--flotsam and jetsam from far up-river, like the
snake and ants and opossum. There were spheres and kidney-shapes,
half-circles and crescents, heads of little old men and pods like
scimitars, and others like boomerangs. Some were dull, others polished
and varnished. They were red and green, brown and pink and mauve, and a
few gorgeous ones shaded from salmon into the most brilliant orange and
yellow. Most were as lifeless in appearance as empty shells, but there
were many with the tiny root and natal leaves sprouting hopefully
through a chink. And just to be consistent, I chose one out of the many
thousands piled in windrows and carried it high up on the shore, where I
carefully planted it. It was a nut unknown to me at the time, but later
I knew that I had started one of the greatest of the jungle trees on its
way to success.

Ahead of me two boys dashed out of the underbrush and rushed into the
waves. After swimming a few strokes they reached a great log and,
heading it inward, swam it ashore and tied a rope to it. Here was a
profession which appealed to me, and which indeed I had already entered
upon, although the copper-skinned coolie boys did not recognize me as
one of their guild. And small blame to them, for I was an idler who had
labored and salvaged a perfectly good opossum and the scion of a mighty
_mora_ for naught. Here I was, no richer for my walk, and with only damp
clothing to show for my pains. Yet we grinned cheerfully at each other
as I went by, and they patted their log affectionately as they moored it
fast.

Dusk was not far away when I reached Colony House and the Lawyer and I
fared forth to seek a suit of pajamas. For the orderly had with him both
luxuries and necessities, and so we went shopping. I may say at once
that we failed completely in our quest, but, as is usually the case in
the tropics, we were abundantly compensated.

We visited emporiums to the number of three,--all that the village could
boast,--and the stare of the three Chinawomen was uniformly blank. They
could be made in three days, or one could send to Georgetown for most
excellent ones; we could not make clear the pressure of our need. The
Lawyer grumbled, but the afterglow was too marvelous for anything to
matter for long. Indeed, things--wonderful and strange, pathetic and
amusing--were so numerous and so needful of all our faculties, that at
one time my mind blurred like an over-talked telephone wire. My
enthusiasm bubbled over and the good-natured Lawyer enjoyed them as I
did.

Here were two among the many. There was the matter of the poor coolie
woman who had injured a leg and who, misunderstanding some hastily given
order, had left the hospital and was attempting to creep homeward, using
hands and arms for crutches. Her husband was very small and very patient
and he had not the strength to help her, although now and then he made
an awkward attempt. While we sent for help, I asked questions, and in
half-broken English I found that they lived six miles away. I had passed
them early in the afternoon on the way to the beach, and in the
intervening four hours they had progressed just about two hundred feet!
This was patience with a vengeance, and worthy of compute. So,
astronomer-like, I took notebook and pencil and began to estimate the
time of their orbit. It was not an easy matter, for mathematics is to me
the least of earth's mercies--and besides, I was not certain how many
feet there were in a mile. By saying it over rapidly I at last convinced
myself that it was "fivethousantwohunderaneighty."

I gasped when I finished, and repeated my questions. And again came the
answers: "Yes, sahib, we go home. Yes, sahib, we live Aurora. Yes,
sahib, we go like this ver' slow. No, sahib, have no food." And as he
said the last sentence, a few drops of rain fell and he instantly spread
his body-cloth out and held it over the sick woman. My mind
instinctively went back to the mother opossum and her young. The coolie
woman ceaselessly murmured in her native tongue and looked steadily
ahead with patient eyes. Always she fumbled with her dusty fingers for a
spot to grip and shuffle ahead a few inches.

Two hundred feet in four hours! And six full miles to the coolie
quarters! This was on the fourteenth of a month. If my calculation was
correct they would reach home on the tenth of the following month, in
three weeks and five days. Truly oriental, if not, indeed, elemental
patience! This planet-like journey was deviated from its path by a
hospital stretcher and a swift return over the four-hour course,
although this cosmic disturbance aroused comment from neither the man
nor his wife. I checked off another helpless being salvaged from the
stream of ignorance.

From serio-comic tragedy the village street led us to pure comedy. At
the roadside we discovered a tiny white flag, and beneath it a bit of
worn and grimy cloth stretched between a frame of wood. This was a
poster announcing the impending performance of one "Profesor
Rabintrapore," who, the painfully inked-in printing went on to relate,
"craled from ankoffs" and "esskaped from cofens," and, besides, dealt
with "spirits INvisibal." The professor's system of spelling would have
warmed the heart of our modern schoolteachers, but his séances did not
seem to be tempting many shekels from the pockets of coolie
spiritualists.

After tea at the Colony House, I leaned out of my window and watched the
moonlight gather power and slowly usurp the place of the sun. Then, like
the succession of light, there followed sound: the last sleepy twitter
came from the martin's nest under the eaves, and was sustained and
deepened until it changed to the reverberating bass rumble of a great
nocturnal frog.

In the moonlight the road lay white, though I knew in the warm sun it
was a rich, foxy red. It vanished beyond some huts, and I wondered
whither it went and remembered that tomorrow I should learn for certain.
Then a ghostly goatsucker called eerily, "Who-are-you?" and the next
sound for me was the summons to early coffee.

During the morning the missing orderly arrived, and with him the wig and
gown and the ham. And now the matter of Ram Narine became pressing, and
my friends Lawyer and Judge became less human and increasingly legal. I
attended court and was accorded the honor of a chair between a bewigged
official and the Inspector of Police, the latter resplendent in starched
duck, gold lace, spiked helmet, and sword. Being a mere scientist and
wholly ignorant of legal matters, I am quite like my fellow human beings
and associate fear with my ignorance. So under the curious eyes of the
black and Indian witnesses and other attendants, I had all the weaving
little spinal thrills which one must experience on being, or being about
to be, a criminal. There was I betwixt law and police, and quite ready
to believe that I had committed something or other, with malicious or
related intent.

But my thoughts were soon given another turn as a loud rapping summoned
us to our feet at the entrance of the Judge. A few minutes before, we
had been joking together and companionably messing our fingers with
oranges upstairs. Now I gazed in awe at this impassive being in wig and
scarlet vestments, whose mere entrance had brought us to our feet as if
by religious or royal command. I shuddered at my memory of intimacies,
and felt quite certain we could never again sit down at table as equals.
When we had resumed our seats there was a stir at the opposite end of
the courtroom, and a half-dozen gigantic black policemen entered, and
with them a little, calm-faced, womanly man--Ram Narine, the wielder of
the club and the rock. He ascended to the fenced-in prisoners' dock,
looking, amid all his superstrong barriers to freedom, ridiculously
small and inoffensive, like a very small puppy tethered with a cable. He
gazed quietly down at the various ominous exhibits. A and B were the
club and the rock, with their glued labels reminding one of museum
specimens. Exhibit C was a rum-bottle--an empty one. Perhaps if it had
been full, some flash of interest might have crossed Ram's face. Then
weighty legal phrases and accusations passed, and the Judge's voice was
raised, sonorous and impressive, and I felt that nothing but memory
remained of that jovial personality which I had known so recently.

The proceeding which impressed me most was the uncanny skill of the
official interpreter, who seemed almost to anticipate the words of the
Judge or the Clerk. And, too, he gestured and shook his finger at the
prisoner at the appropriate places, though he had his back fairly to the
Judge and so could have had none but verbal clues. Ram Narine, it seems,
was indicted on four counts, among which I could distinguish only that
he was accused of maltreating his friend with intent to kill, and this
in soft Hindustani tones he gently denied. Finally, that he had at least
done the damage to his friend's face and very nearly killed him. To this
he acquiesced, and the Court, as the Judge called himself, would now
proceed to pass sentence. I was relieved to hear him thus re-name
himself, for it seemed as if he too realized his changed personality.

And now the flow of legal reiteration and alliteration ceased for a
moment, and I listened to the buzzing of a _marabunta_ wasp and the
warbling of a blue tanager among the fronds. For a moment, in the warm
sunshine, the hot, woolly wigs and the starched coats and the shining
scabbard seemed out of place. One felt all the discomfort of the tight
boots and stiff collars, and a glance at Ram Narine showed his slim
figure clothed in the looped, soft linen of his race. And he seemed the
only wholly normal tropic thing there--he and the wasp and the tanager
and the drooping motionless palm shading the window. In comparison, all
else seemed almost Arctic, unacclimatized.

Then the deep tones of the Court rose, and in more simple
verbiage,--almost crude and quite unlegal to my ears,--we heard Ram
Narine sentenced to twelve months' hard labor. And the final words of
the interpreter left Ram's face as unconcerned and emotionless as that
of the Buddhas in the Burmese pagodas. And the simile recurred again and
again after it was all over. So Ram and I parted, to meet again a few
weeks later under strangely different conditions.

Robes and wigs and other legal properties were thrown aside, and once
more we were all genial friends in the little automobile, with no trace
of the terribly formal side of justice and right. The red Pomeroon road
slipped past, and I, for one, wished for a dozen eyes and a score of
memories to record the unrolling of that road. It was baffling in its
interest.

The first ten or twenty miles consisted of huge sugar estates, recently
awakened to feverish activity by the war prices of this commodity.
Golden Fleece, Taymouth Manor, Capoey, Move Success, Anna Regina,
Hampton Court--all old names long famous in the history of the colony.
In many other districts the Dutch have left not only a heritage of
names, such as Vreeden-Hoop and Kyk-over-al, but the memory of a grim
sense of humor, as in the case of three estates lying one beyond the
other, which the owners named in turn, Trouble, More Trouble, and Most
Trouble. Unlike our southern plantations, the workers' quarters are
along the road, with the big house of the manager well back, often quite
concealed. The coolies usually live in long, communal, barrack-like
structures, the negroes in half-open huts.

This first part of the Pomeroon road was one long ribbon of variegated
color: Hundreds of tiny huts, with picturesque groups of coolies and
negroes and a smaller number of Chinese, all the huts dilapidated, some
leaning over, others so perforated that they looked like the ruins of
European farmhouses after being shelled. Patched, propped up, tied
together, it was difficult to believe that they were habitable. All were
embowered in masses of color and shadowed by the graceful curves of
cocoanut palms and bananas. The sheets of bougainvillea blossoms, of
yellow allamandas, and the white frangipani temple flowers of the East,
brought joy to the eye and the nostril; the scarlet lilies growing rank
as weeds--all these emphasized the ruinous character of the huts. Along
the front ran a trench, doubling all the glorious color in reflection,
except where it was filled with lotus blossoms and Victoria regia.

As we passed swiftly, the natives rushed out on the shaky board-and-log
bridges, staring in wonder, the women with babies astride of their
hips, the copper-skinned children now and then tumbling into the water
in their excitement. The yellows and reds and greens of the coolies
added another color-note. Everything seemed a riot of brilliant pigment.
Against the blue sky great orange-headed vultures balanced and
volplaned; yellow-gold kiskadees shrieked blatantly, and, silhouetted
against the green fronds, smote both eye and ear.

We were among the first to pass the road in an automobile. Awkward,
big-wheeled carts, drawn by the tiniest of burros and heaped high with
wood, were the only other vehicles. For the rest, the road was a Noah's
Ark, studded with all the domestic animals of the world: pigs, calves,
horses, burros, sheep, turkeys, chickens, and hordes of gaunt, pariah
curs. Drive as carefully as we might, we left behind a succession of
defunct dogs and fowls. For the other species, especially those of
respectable size, we slowed down, more for our sake than theirs. Calves
were the least intelligent, and would run ahead of us, gazing fearfully
back, first over one, then the other shoulder, until from fatigue they
leaped into the wayside ditch. The natives themselves barely moved
aside, and why we did not topple over more of the great head-carried
loads I do not know. We left behind us a world of scared coolies and
gaping children.

The road was excellent, but it twisted and turned bewilderingly. It was
always the same rich red hue--made of earth-clinker burned under sods.
Preparing this seemed a frequent occupation of the natives, and the wood
piles on the carts melted away in the charcoal-like fires of these
subterranean furnaces. Here and there tiny red flags fluttered from tall
bamboo poles, reminiscent of the evil-spirit flags in India and Burma.
But with the transportation across the sea of these oriental customs
certain improvements had entered in,--adaptations to the gods of ill of
this new world. So the huts in course of alteration, and the new ones
being erected, were guarded, not only by the fluttering and the color,
but by a weird little figure of a dragon demon himself drawn on the
cloth, a quite unoriental visualizing of the dreaded one.

As we flew along, we gradually left the villages of huts behind. Single
thatched houses were separated by expanses of rice-fields, green
rectangles framed in sepia mud walls, picked out here and there by
intensely white and intensely Japanesque egrets. Great black muscovy
ducks spattered up from amber pools, and tri-colored herons stood like
detached shadows of birds, mere cardboard figures, so attenuated that
they appeared to exist in only two planes of space.

The rice-fields gave place to pastures and these to marshes; thin lines
of grass trisected the red road--the first hint of the passing of the
road and the coming of the trail. Rough places became more frequent.
Then came shrub, and an occasional branch whipped our faces. Black
cuckoos or old witch-birds flew up like disheveled grackles;
cotton-birds flashed by, and black-throated orioles glowed among the
foliage. Carrion crows and laughing falcons watched us from nearby
perches, and our chauffeur went into second gear.

Now and then some strange human being passed,--man or woman, we could
hardly tell which,--clad in rags which flapped in the breeze, long hair
waving, leaning unsteadily on a staff, like a perambulating scarecrow.
The eyes, fixed ahead, were fastened on things other than those of this
world, so detached that their first sight of an automobile aroused them
not at all. The gulf between the thoughts of these creatures and the
world today was too deep to be bridged by any transient curiosity or
fear. They trudged onward without a glance, and we steered aside to let
them pass.

The grass between the ruts now brushed the body of the car; even the
wild people passed no more, and the huts vanished utterly. Forest palms
appeared, then taller brush, and trees in the distance. Finally, the
last three miles became a scar through the heart of the primeval jungle,
open under the lofty sky of foliage, the great buttresses of the trunks
exposed for the first time to the full glare of day. The trail was raw
with all the snags and concealed roots with which the jungle likes to
block entrance to its privacy; and, rocking and pitching like a ship in
the waves, we drew up to a woodpile directly in our path. Standing up in
our seats, we could see, just beyond it, the dark flood of the Pomeroon
surging slowly down to the sea. Seven years ago I had passed this way en
route from Morawhanna, paddled by six Indians. _Maintenant ce n'est
qu'une mémoire._

For centuries the woodskins of the Indians had passed up and down and
left no trace. Only by this tidal road could one reach the mouth of
tributaries. And now the sacred isolation of this great tropical river
was forever gone. The tiny scar along which we had bumped marked the
permanent coming of man. And his grip would never relax. Already
capillaries were spreading through the wilderness tissues. Across the
river from our woodpile were two tiny Portuguese houses--those petty
pioneers of today whose forefathers were worldwide explorers. Around us,
scarcely separable from the bush, was the coffee plantation of one Señor
Serrao. He and his mother greeted us, and with beaming courtesy we were
led to their wattled hut, where a timid sister gave us grapefruit. I
talked with him of his work and of the passing of the animals of the
surrounding forest. Tapir were still common, and the wild pigs and deer
waged war on his vegetables. Then a swirl drew our eyes to the brown
flood and he said, "Perai."

And this was the end of the tropical trail which had started out as a
road, with its beginning, for me, in the matter of Ram Narine. Along its
route we had passed civilization as men know it here, and had seen it
gradually fray out into single aged outcasts, brooding on thoughts
rooted and hidden in the mystery of the Far East. From the water and the
jungle the trail had vouchsafed us glimpses and whispers of the wild
creatures of this great continent, of the web of whose lives we hoped to
unravel a few strands. The end of the trail was barred with the closed
toll-gate of memory.



V

A HUNT FOR HOATZINS


Lines of gray, plunging tropic rain slanted across the whole world.
Outward-curving waves of red mud lost themselves in the steady downpour
beyond the guards on the motor-car of the Inspector of Police. It is
surprising to think how many times and in what a multitude of places I
have been indebted to inspectors of police. In New York the average
visitor would never think of meeting that official except under
extraordinary and perhaps compromising circumstances; but in tropical
British possessions the head of the police combines with his requisite
large quantity of gold lace and tact a delightful way of placing
visitors, and especially those of serious scientific intent, under
considerable obligation. So my present Inspector of Police, at an
official banquet the preceding evening, had insisted that I travel along
the seafront of Guiana--betwixt muddy salt water and cane-fields--in his
car. But an inspector of police is not necessarily a weather prophet,
and now the close-drawn curtains forbade any view, so it was decided
that I tranship to the single daily train.

Three times I had to pass the ticket-collector at the station to see
after my luggage, and three times a large clover-leaf was punched out of
my exceedingly small bit of pasteboard. A can of formaline still eluded
me, but I looked dubiously at my limp trey of clubs. Like a soggy
gingersnap, it drooped with its own weight, and the chances seemed about
even whether another trip past the hopelessly conscientious coolie
gate-man would find me with a totally dismembered ticket or an
asymmetrical four of clubs of lace-like consistency. I forebore, and
walking to the end of the platform, looked out at a long line of
feathery cocoanut palms, pasteled by the intervening rain. They were
silhouetted in a station aperture of corrugated iron, of all building
materials the most hideous; but the aperture was of that most graceful
of all shapes, a Moorish arch.

Neither my color nor my caste, in this ultra-democratic country, forced
me to travel first-class, but that necessary, unwritten distinction,
felt so keenly wherever there is a mingling of race, compelled me to
step into a deserted car upholstered in soiled dusty blue. I regretted
that I must "save my face," as a Chinaman would say, and not sit on the
greasy bare boards of the second-class coach, where fascinating coolie
persons sat, squatting on the seats with their heads mixed up with their
knees. Desire, prompted by interest and curiosity, drew me to them, and
frequently I got up and walked past, listening to the subdued clink of
silver bracelets and anklets, and sniffing the wisps of ghee and curry
and hemp which drifted out. Nose-rings flashed, and in the dim station
light I caught faint gleams of pastel scarves--sea-green and rose. I
longed for Kim's disguise, but I knew that before many stations were
passed the concentration of mingled odors would have driven me back to
my solitude. Perhaps the chief joy of it all lay in the vignettes of
memory which it aroused: that unbelievable hot midnight at Agra; the
glimpse of sheer Paradise in a sunrise on the slopes of Kinchinjunga;
the odors of a caravan headed for the Khyber Pass.

When I returned to my coach I found I was to have company. A stout--no,
exceedingly fat--bespectacled gentleman, with pigment of ebony, and
arrayed in full evening dress and high hat, was guarding a small
dilapidated suitcase, and glaring at him across the aisle was a man of
chocolate hue, with the straight black hair of the East Indian and the
high cheekbones and slanting eyes of the Mongolian. His dress was a
black suit of heavy Scotch plaid, waistcoat and all, with diamonds and
loud tie, and a monocle which he did not attempt to use. Far off in the
distant corner lounged a bronzed planter in comfortable muddy clothes.
But we three upheld the prestige of the west end of the carriage.

Soon, impelled by the great heat, I removed my coat and was looked at
askance; but I was the only comfortable one of the three. With the
planter I should have liked to converse, but with those who sat near I
held no communication. I could think of them only as insincere imitators
of customs wholly unadapted to their present lives and country. I could
have respected them so much more if they had clad themselves in cool
white duck. I hold that a man is not worth knowing who will endure
excessive tropical heat, perspiring at every pore, because his pride
demands a waistcoat and coat of thickest woolen material, which would
have been comfortable in a blizzard. So I went out again to look at the
coolies with their honest garb of draped linen, and they seemed more
sincere and worthy of acquaintance.

We started at last, and only a few miles of glistening rails had passed
beneath us when, finally, proof of the complete schism between police
and weather bureaus became evident: the fresh tradewind dispersed the
rain! The clouds remained, however--low, swirling masses of ashy-blue,
billowing out like smoke from a bursting shell, or fraying in pale gray
tatters, tangling the fronds of lofty palms. For the rest of the day the
light came from the horizon--a thrillingly weird, indirect illumination,
which lent vividness and intensity to every view. The world was scoured
clean, the air cleansed of every particle of dust, while the clouds lent
a cool freshness wholly untropical, and hour after hour the splendid
savannah lands of the coast of Guiana slipped past, as we rumbled
swiftly southward along the entire shore-front.

At first we passed close to the sea, and this was the most exciting part
of the trip. In places the dikes had given way and the turbulent muddy
waters had swept inland over rice and cane-fields, submerging in one
implacable tide the labor of years. A new dike, of mud and timbers and
sweet-smelling hurdles of black sage, had been erected at the roadside,
and past this went all traffic. Now and then an automobile had to slow
up until a great wave broke, and then dash at full speed across the
danger-spot. In spite of the swiftness, the wind-flung spray of the next
wave would drench the occupants. The lowering sea-water glistened among
the sickly plants, and strange fish troubled the salty pools as they
sought uneasily for an outlet to the ocean. A flock of skimmers looked
wholly out of place driving past a clump of bamboos.

Then the roadbed shifted inland, and lines of patient, humped zebus
trailed slowly from their sheds--sheds of larger size and better built
than the huts of their owners. These open-work homes were picturesque and
unobtrusive; they fitted into the landscape as if, like the palms, they
had come into being through years of quiet assimilation of water and
warmth. Their walls were of mud, adobe, mere casual upliftings of the
sticky soil which glistened in every direction. Their roofs were of
_trooly_-palm fronds, brown and withered, as though they had dropped
from invisible trees high overhead. Like the coolies themselves, the
houses offered no note of discord.

I had just come from the deep jungle of the interior with its varying
lights and shadows, its myriad color-grades, pastel, neutral in quality.
Here was boldness of stroke, sharpness of outline, strength of pigment.
All the dominant tones of this newly washed coastal region were distinct
and incisive. Clear-cut silhouettes of vultures and black witch-birds
were hunched on fence-posts and shrubs. Egrets, like manikins cut from
the whitest of celluloid, shone as far as the eye could see them. As if
the rain had dissolved and washed away every mixed shade and hue, the
eye registered only flaming, clashing colors; great flocks of birds
black as night, save for a glowing scarlet gorget; other black birds
with heads of shining gold, flashing as the filigree nose-beads flash
against the rich dark skin of the coolies.

Like the colors, the sounds were individualized by sharpness of tone,
incisiveness of utterance. The violent cries of flycatchers cleft the
air, and, swiftly as we passed, struck on my ear fair and strong. The
notes of the blackbirds were harmonious shafts of sound, cleaving the
air like the whistle of the meadowlark. Hawks with plumage of bright
cinnamon and cream, hurled crisp, piercing shrieks at the train. Only
the vultures, strung like ebony beads along the fronds of the cocoanut
palms, spread their wings to dry, and dumbly craned their necks down as
we passed.

Past Mahaica and Abary we rushed, the world about us a sliding carpet of
all the emerald tints in the universe. And just as the last tint had
been used up and I knew there must be some repetition, the clouds split
and a ray of pure sunlight shot through the clear air and lit up a field
of growing rice with living green of a still newer hue, an unearthly
concentrated essence of emerald which was comparable to nothing but
sprouting rice in rain-washed sunlight. Whether this be on the hot
coastlands of Java, in tiny sod-banked terraces far up on the slopes of
Dehra Dun, or in the shadow of Fuji itself, makes no manner of
difference. The miracle of color never fails.

Trees were so rare that one was compelled to take notice of them. High
above the bamboos, high above even those arboreal towers of Pisa, the
cocoanut palms, rose the majestic silk-cotton trees, bare of leaves at
this season, with great branches shooting out at breathless heights.
Like strange gourd-like fruit, three sizes of nests hung pendant from
these lofty boughs: short, scattered purses of yellow orioles, colonied
clusters of the long pouches of yellow-backed _bunyahs_, and, finally,
the great, graceful, woven trumpets of the giant black caciques, rarely
beautiful, and, like the trees, scarce enough to catch and hold the eye.
The groves of cocoanut palms, like a hundred enormous green rockets ever
bursting in mid-air, checkered the sunlight, which sifted through and
was made rosy by a host of lotus blooms beneath. Then the scene changed
in a few yards, and low, untropical shrubs filled the background, while
at our feet rose rank upon rank of cat-tails, and we might be passing
across the Jersey meadows.

Each little station was the focus of a world of its own. Coolies and
blacks excitedly hustled to place on board their contribution to the
world's commerce:--tomatoes no larger than cherries, in beautifully
woven baskets; a crate of chickens or young turkeys; a live sheep
protesting and entangled in the spokes of an old-fashioned bicycle; a
box of fish, flashing silver and old rose. Some had only a single bundle
of fodder to offer. At one station, quaintly named De Kinderen, a
clear-faced coolie boy pushed a small bunch of plantains into the
freight van, then sat on the steps. As the train started to move he
settled himself as if for a long ride, and for a second or two closed
his eyes. Then he opened them, climbed down, and swung off into the last
bit of clearing. His face was sober, not a-smile at a thoughtless lark.
I looked at his little back as he trudged toward his home, and wondered
what desire for travel, for a glimpse of the world, was back of it all.
And I wished that I could have asked him about it and taken him with me.
This little narrow-gauge link with the outside world perhaps scatters
heartaches as well as shekels along its right of way.

I was watching a flock of giant _anis_, which bubbled cheerfully on
their slow flight across the fields, when a wide expanse of water
blocked our way, and we drew up at the bank of the Berbice River.

In the course of five days at New Amsterdam we achieved our object. We
found hoatzins, their nests, eggs, and young, and perpetuated in
photographs their wonderful habits handed down through all the ages
past, from the time when reptiles were the dominant beings, and birds
and mammals crept about, understudying their rôle to come, as yet
uncertain of themselves and their heritage. When we needed it the sun
broke through the rain and shone brightly; when our lenses were ready,
the baby hoatzins ran the gamut of their achievements. They crept on all
fours, they climbed with fingers and toes, they dived headlong, and swam
as skilfully as any Hesperornis of old. This was, and I think always
will be, to me, the most wonderful sight in the world. To see a tiny
living bird duplicate within a few minutes the processes which, evolved
slowly through uncounted years, have at last culminated in the world of
birds as we find it today--this is impressive beyond words. No poem, no
picture, no terrible danger, no sight of men killed or injured has ever
affected me as profoundly as this.

Thus the primary object of the trip was accomplished. But that is a poor
expedition indeed which does not yield another hundred per cent. in
oblique values, of things seen out of the corner of one's eyes.

If one is an official or an accredited visitor to Berbice, the Colony
House is placed at one's service. I am sure that it is quite the ugliest
of all colony houses, and surrounded by what I am equally sure is one of
the most beautiful of tropical gardens. If Berbice held no other
attraction it would be worth visiting to see this garden. The first
floor of Colony House is offices, the second is the Supreme Court, and
when I peeped in I saw there were three occupants--a great yellow cat
curled up in the judge's chair, and two huge toads solemnly regarding
each other from the witness-box and the aisle.

Three stories in Guiana constitute a skyscraper, and that night I slept
on a level with the palm fronds. It was a house of a thousand sounds.
During the day hosts of carpenters tore off uncountable shingles
devastated by white ants. Two antithetical black maids attended noisily
but skilfully to all my wants. At night, cats and frogs divided the
vocal watches, and a patient dog never tired of rolling the garbage-can
downstairs past the Supreme Court to the first floor. I thought of this
at first as some strange canine rite, a thing which Alice could have
explained with ease, or which to Seumas and to Slith would have appeared
reasonable and fitting. I used to wait for it before I went to sleep,
knowing that comparative silence would follow. I discovered later that
this intelligent dog had learned that, by nudging the can off the top
step, the cover would become dislodged at about the level of the Supreme
Court, and from there to the government offices he could spend a night
of gastronomic joy, gradually descending to the level of the entrance.

A kind planter put me up at the club, the usual colonial institution
where one may play bridge or billiards, drink swizzles, or read war
telegrams "delayed in transit." These were the usual things to do, daily
duties, timed almost regularly by the kiskadees' frantic farewell to the
day or the dodging of the first vampire among the electric-light bulbs.
But in this exciting country, with hoatzins asleep within a half-mile,
I could not bring my mind to any of these things, and wandered about,
idly turning the leaves of dull periodicals, looking at cases of cues
and the unfinished records of past billiard tournaments, yellowed with
age. The steward approached timidly.

"Would the sahib like to see the library?"

Yes, the sahib decidedly would. We climbed the stairs, creaking as if
they complained at the unaccustomed weight of footsteps, to the upper
room of the club. It was large, barn-like in its vacantness, with a few
little tables, each surrounded by a group of chairs, like chickens
crowded about a hen. The walls were lined with books and there was an
atmosphere about the room which took hold of me at once. I could not
identify it with any previous experience, certainly not with the
libraries of Georgetown in which I had spent days. This was something
subtle, something which had to discover itself. The steward led me
proudly about, making it plain that his affection was here rather than
with the mixing of swizzles below. No, he had never read any of them,
but he would feel honored if I found any pleasure in them and would
condescend to borrow one. He seemed rather emphatic on this point; he
especially desired that I take one to Colony House. Then he left me.

The books were without a speck of dust, each volume in its place and
aligned with precision. Little by little, as I made my round, nibbling
at a book here and there, the secret of the place came to me: it was a
library of the past, a dead library. There seemed something uncanny,
something unreal about it. Here were hundreds of books, there tables and
chairs, but no one ever used them. Yet it was in the center of a large
town just above the most frequented gathering-place. More than this the
library itself was obsolete. No volume had been added for many years.
Most of them were old, old tomes, richly bound in leather and tree calf.
Nearly all were strange to me--little-known histories and charmingly
naïve "Conversations" and memoirs of generations ago. They were
delicately, gracefully worded, many of them; one could feel the lace and
velvet of the sleeve which had touched them; the subtle musty odors of
the yellowed page and crumbling leather seemed tinged with faint,
strange perfumes. It was astounding and very affecting, and my interest
increased with every minute.

The evening chorus of the tropical night had commenced outside, and a
glance out of the window showed a network of motionless fronds dimly
outlined against the rose-colored clouds over the waters of the Berbice.
Below I heard the soft click of billiard balls. Then I returned to the
books. Their rich bindings were falling apart, musty, worm-eaten, many
held together only by a string. It was as if I had entered the richly
filled library of some old manor-house which had been sealed up for
two-score years, and yet kept lovingly dusted. It was this sense of
constant care which served to emphasize the weird isolation, the uncanny
desolation.

I glanced at _Lives of the Lindsays_, by Lord Lindsay, a work of
sixty-five years ago, unknown to me, quaint and delightful. This rubbed
covers with Lockhart's _Life of Scott_. On another shelf I recall _The
Colloquies of Edward Osborne, Citizen and Clothmaker of London_, which
held me until I knew that the Colony House dog would get all of my
dinner if I did not start homewards. The next volume to this was a
friend, Thier's _The Consulate and the Empire_. Then I walked past
stacks of old-fashioned novels, nearly all in three volumes. Their names
were strange, and I suppose they would prove deadly reading to our
generation; but I am sure that in their day they fascinated many eyes
reading by the flickering light of tapers and rushes. And even now they
stood bravely alongside Dickens and Scott.

Finally I reached up to the highest row and chose one of a series of
heavy tomes whose titles had completely fallen away with age and
climate. I untied the binding string, opened at random and read thus:--

"It is vain, then, any longer to insist on variations of organic
structure being the result of habits or circumstances. Nothing has been
elongated, shortened or modified, either by external causes or internal
volition; all that has been changed has been changed suddenly, and has
left nothing but wrecks behind it, to advertise us of its former
existence."

Thus wrote the Baron Cuvier many years ago. And this brought me back to
reality, and my study of those living fossils now asleep in the
neighboring _bunduri_ thorn bushes, whose nestlings so completely
refute the good baron's thesis.

As I reached the door I selected a volume at random to take back to
Colony House. I put out the lights and turned a moment to look about.
The platinum wires still glowed dully, and weak moonlight now filled the
room with a silver grayness. I wondered whether, in the magic of some of
these tropical nights, when the last ball had been pocketed and the last
swizzle drunk belowstairs, some of the book-lovers of olden times, who
had read these volumes and turned down the creased pages, did not return
and again laugh and cry over them. There was no inharmonious note: no
thrilling short stories, no gaudy chromatic bindings, no slangy terse
titles, no magazines or newspapers. Such gentlefolk as came could have
sat there and listened to the crickets and the occasional cry of a
distant heron and have been untroubled by the consciousness of any
passage of time.

I learned that this Library Club had been the oldest in the West Indies,
founded about three quarters of a century ago. It had long ceased to
exist, and no one ever disturbed the quietness of the gradual
dissolution of this admirable collection of old works. I walked slowly
back, thinking of the strange contrast between what I had seen and the
unlovely, commercialized buildings along the street. I was startled from
my reverie by the challenge of the sentry, and for a moment could not
think what to answer. I had well-nigh forgotten my own personality in
the vividness of the stately early Victorian atmosphere.

Long after the Colony House dog had noisily announced the beginning of
his nocturnal feast, I lay behind my net poring over the _Memoirs of the
Lady Hester Stanhope, as related by herself in conversations with her
physician, comprising her opinions and anecdotes of some most remarkable
persons_, and I came to the conclusion that by far the most remarkable
of them all was Lady Hester herself.

Berbice, we were told by residents elsewhere, was behind the times. I
found it up to date, colonially speaking, and, indeed, possessing
certain ideas and ideals which might advantageously be dispersed
throughout the colony. But New Amsterdam, with all its commercial
hardness of outline and sordid back streets, flashed out in strangely
atavistic touches now and then; a sort of quintessence of
out-of-dateness which no inhabitant suspected, and which was incapable
of legislative change. First, there were hoatzins, hinting of æons of
years ago; then, the library, which preserved so perfectly the
atmosphere of our great grandparents. And now, as I left the compound of
Colony House in the early morning, I watched with fascination a coolie
woman bearing a great bundle of loosely bound fagots on her head. As she
walked, they kept dropping out, and instead of leaning down or squatting
and so endangering the equilibrium of all the rest, she simply shifted
her weight to one foot, and felt about with the other. When it
encountered the fallen stick, the big toe uncannily separated and curled
about it, and she instantly bent her knee, passed up the stick to her
hand and thence to the bundle again. It surpassed anything I had ever
seen among savages--the hand-like mobility of that coolie woman's toes.
And I thought that, if she was a woman of Simla or of the Western Ghats,
then my belief in the Siwalik origin of mankind was irrevocable!

It seemed as if I could not escape from the spell of the past. I walked
down to a dilapidated stelling to photograph a mob of vultures, and
there found a small circle of fisherfolk cleaning their catch. They were
wild-looking negroes and coolies, half-naked, and grunting with the
exertion of their work. A glance at the fish again drove me from Berbice
into ages long gone by. Armored catfish they were, reminiscent of the
piscine glories of Devonian times--uncouth creatures, with outrageously
long feelers and tentacles, misplaced fins, and mostly ensconced in bony
armor, sculptured and embossed with designs in low relief. I watched
with half-closed eyes the fretted shadows of the palms playing over the
glistening black bodies of the men, and the spell of the strange fish
seemed to shift the whole scene centuries, tens of centuries, backward.

The fish, attractive in the thought suggested by their ancient armor,
were quite unlovely in their present surroundings. Piles of them were
lying about in the hot sun, under a humming mass of flies, awaiting
their unhurried transit to the general market. When the fishermen had
collected a quantity of heads, apparently the chief portions considered
inedible, these were scraped off the stelling to the mud beneath. At
this there arose a monstrous hissing and a whistle of wings, and a cloud
of black vultures descended with a rush and roar from surrounding roofs
and trees.

While watching and photographing them, I saw an antithesis of bird-life
such as I had never imagined. The score of vultures fought and tore and
slid about in the black noisome mud exposed by the low tide. Sometimes
they were almost back downward--fairly slithering through the muck to
seize some shred of fish, hissing venomously; and at last spreading
filthy, mud-dripping pinions to flap heavily away a few paces. In
disgust at the sight and sound and odor, I started to turn back, when in
the air just above the fighting mass, within reach of the flying mud,
poised a hummingbird, clean and fresh as a rain-washed blossom. With cap
of gold and gorget of copper, this smallest, most ethereal, and
daintiest of birds hung balanced just above the most offensive of avian
sights. My day threatened to be one of emotion instead of science.

Berbice vouchsafed one more surprise, a memory from the past which
appeared and vanished in an instant. One of the most delightful of men
was taking me out to where the hoatzins lived. We went in his car,
which, and I use his own simile, was as truly a relic as anything I have
mentioned. I have been in one-horse shays. I have ridden for miles in a
Calcutta gharry. I was now in a one-cylinder knockabout which in every
way lived up to its name. It was only after a considerable time that I
felt assured that the mud-guards and wheels were not on the point of
leaving us. When I had also become accustomed to the clatter and bang of
loose machinery I was once more able to look around. I had become fairly
familiar with the various racial types of Guiana, and with some accuracy
I could distinguish the more apparent strains. Halfway through the town
we passed three girls, one a coolie, the second dominantly negroid,
while the third showed the delicate profile, the subtle color, the
unmistakable physiognomy of a Syrian. She might have posed for the
finest of the sculptures on a Babylonian wall. I turned in astonishment
to my host, who explained that years ago some Syrian peddlers had come
this way, remained, prospered, and sent for their wives. Now their
children had affiliated with the other varied types--affiliated in
language and ideas perhaps, but not, in one case at least, at the
expense of purity of facial lineament of race.

As I have said, success with the hoatzins came swiftly and completely.
We had discovered a few nests with young birds of just the right age and
in positions which left nothing to be desired. Yet when a jovial Scotch
manager came with news that one of his coolies knew of colonies of
hundreds of breeding _anaquas_, we decided to take the whole of the
proverbial cake instead of being satisfied with our generous slice. So
we made all preparations and left Colony House early one morning.

To be equal to the occasion we went in full force, with two servants, an
Indian and a black, and an automobile full of duffle, guns, nets to
catch the young birds, glasses, notebooks, game-bags, and ropes. As
usual it poured in torrents at daybreak but cleared somewhat as we
started. A reckless Creole driver hurled our tiny Ford through deep
puddles and around corners, and we rocked and skidded and splashed, and
were forever just grazing coolies and their carts.

A land of a thousand surprises! We stopped a moment at the lunatic
asylum to borrow an ax, and it was presently brought to us by a
smiling, kindly old coolie inmate, who kept murmuring Hindustani to
himself. As we drove on, a gigantic black man appeared on the ridgepole
of the highest building and, stark naked, rushed aimlessly back and
forth, stamping gleefully on the corrugated iron, and chanting as he
stamped. We gazed on the axe and for once did not chide the driver in
his reckless progress.

With relief we reached the bridge, where our Scotch friend had kindly
provided mule, rope, boat, and coolies. We waited for a while, but as
the downpour showed no signs of abating, we started on one of the
wildest, weirdest journeys I have ever taken. The trench was narrow and
deep, the boat was overladen, the banks were erratic, the mule was
fractious, and the coolies were extremely unskilful. For the first
half-mile the trench was crowded with great dreadnaughts of iron
cane-boats, wholly irresponsible in position and movements. In places
our speed caused a troubling of the water far ahead, and this now and
again swung a cane-barge directly across our path. Again and again the
stern of our boat would develop a sentient mind of its own and swirl
ahead. Then followed a chorus of yells at the mule-boy, and a nervous
half-rising in the boat, and a still more terrible silence, broken at
last by a crash--hollow and echoing if we struck a cane-barge,
splintering if against a log or stump. The boat would tip, several
gallons of water pour in, and then there became audible our minute and
detailed opinions of coolies and mules in general and ours in
particular.

Of course every one who came between our mule and the bank had to flee,
or else was scraped into the trench by the rope; and we left in our wake
knots of discomfited coolie women who had been washing themselves or
their clothes and who had to escape at the last moment. Calves were a
source of intense excitement, and their gambols and intricate
manipulations of our rope would have been highly amusing if the result
of each encounter had not been mixed up so acutely with our own fate. I
sat crouched down, a water-soaked mound of misery. Miserable, for I was
still partly dry, having on the only raincoat, for the purpose of
protecting our precious camera. Water ran up hill that morning, seeking
out crevices and buttonholes by which to penetrate to my person and to
the leather-covered box which was so precious.

Things went better after we made the discovery that we were progressing
bow-hindmost. And all the time the rain poured down, and coolie women
and girls plodded drearily by to work. We landed finally and, in despair
of photography, I cached the camera beneath a slanting tree. Then we
began a tramp through all the mud in the world. There is only one place
where the mud is deeper and more sticky than by a sugar-plantation
trench, and that is on the dividing dikes of a Chinese rice-field. We
slipped and slid, and when our shoes became too heavy to lift, we
dabbled them in the trench and washed them. In brief intervals of less
heavy rain we watched passing herons and hawks, while giant _anis_
bubbled and grunted in surprise at our procession.

At last the never-to-be-forgotten hoarse gutturals of hoatzins came to
our ears, and dimly through the rain we saw one small branchful of four
birds, hunched up with drenched plumage. Two others were posed as
rain-worshipers--rufous wings widespread, heads stretched out, welcoming
the sheets of water which poured over them. Their wild crests, though
sodden and glued together, were still erect, dripping and swaying. We
encircled the clump of trees and found deep canals and trenches on all
sides. We shot one bird, which, true to its reptilian nature, spread
both wings, locked its flight feathers among the twists of a liana
tangle, and there hung suspended out of reach.

A strange coolie now appeared out of the mist and promised many, many,
many _anaquas_ "not too far" beyond. We shook the wet from our
hat-brims, squeezed it from our shoes, and plodded on. The cane-fields
seemed never-ending, always separated by lily-covered trenches. Then
came half-swampy expanses with scattered trees. Careful search revealed
another half-dozen hoatzins, sheltered among the dense foliage of the
tallest tree. No nests were visible, and the rain was so heavy that we
could not look upward. In the midst of the vague expanse of this dreary
world a rootie spine-tail perched in a tree and sang three notes. We
shot him because we could think of no other way at that moment of
relieving our feelings. Then we had a reaction, almost hysterical, and
the coolies murmured, "_Padliadme_" (madmen), and we laughed loudly
again and again and started homeward. We chaffed the coolies until they
were embarrassed; we slid into the deepest holes we could find. We made
set speeches on the dampness of sugar-plantations, on tropical weather,
and especially on the veracity of the indentured inhabitants of India.
It was all as good-natured as it sounded, for, after all, had we not
already found the birds themselves and obtained our notes and
photographs?

Then we discussed the psychology of rain and of getting wet, and I
arrived at the following conclusions, which are true ones. Once drenched
to the skin in the tropics, all discomfort is gone. One simply squidges
around in the blissful knowledge that all the mud and water in the world
can now arouse no feeling of discomfort. One has simply been translated
to a new world of elements, a new cosmos of sensation. And as with most
such transmigrations, it is only the shifting which is disagreeable. As
long as a shred of clothing is dry, we think of it and worry about it,
and endeavor to keep it dry, and shrink from the clammy touch of partly
sodden foot-wear. Once we slip into a trench, the rain becomes only a
pleasant tapping on one's shoulders, a rhythmical, liquid vibration.
With all fear eliminated, water and mud become no more unpleasant than
air and earth. So our plantation expedition, like Gaul, may be divided
into three parts: first, a thrilling, dangerous, expectant phase; a
brief second period of thoroughly disappointing revelation; third, a
jolly, unscientific, and wholly hilarious finale. These are the trips
which no explorer or traveler mentions, because there are no tangible
returns. But it is seldom that any expedition, however barren of direct
results, cannot be made to yield some viewpoint of interest.

     *     *     *     *     *

The sun had just risen when the little ferryboat left the stelling on
its way to the railway station on the opposite bank of the river. Half
of the jungle across the Berbice was dark, dark green, almost black,
with a fragment of rainbow hung obliquely above it, tangled in
blue-black clouds. A little way up-river the level sun's rays struck
fairly, and the rounded, cloud-like billows of foliage were of palest
sage-green. Our shore was all one blatant glare, flooded already with
the violent light of a tropical day. Against the black Berbice cloud a
hundred fork-tailed flycatchers flashed and vanished alternately as
they swerved and careened. Steadily across its threatening face was
drawn a single line of scarlet--a score of ibises glowing like the
essence of rubies.



VI

HOATZINS AT HOME


The flight of the hoatzin resembles that of an over-fed hen. The
hoatzin's voice is no more melodious than the cry of a peacock, and less
sonorous than an alligator's roar. The bird's grace is batrachian rather
than avian, while the odor of its body resembles that of no bird
untouched by dissolution. Still, zoölogically considered, the hoatzin is
probably the most remarkable and interesting bird living on the earth
today.

It has successfully defied time and space. For it, the dial of the ages
has moved more slowly than for the rest of organic life, and although
living and breathing with us today, yet its world is an affair of two
dimensions--a line of thorny saplings threaded along the muddy banks of
a few tropical waters.

A bird in a cage cannot escape, and may be found month after month
wherever the cage is placed. A stuffed bird in a case may resist
disintegration for a century. But when we go to look for the bluebirds
which nest in the orchard, they may have flown a half mile away in their
search for food. The plover which scurries before us today on the beach
may tonight be far away on the first lap of his seven thousand mile
flight to the southward.

The hoatzin's status lies rather with the caged bird. In November in New
York City an Englishman from British Guiana said to me, "Go to the
Berbice River, and at the north end of the town of New Amsterdam, in
front of Mr. Beckett's house, you will find hoatzins." Six months later
as I drove along a tropical river road I saw three hoatzins perched on a
low thorn bush at the river's edge in front of a house. And the river
was the Berbice, and the house that of Mr. Beckett.

Thus are the hoatzins independent of space, as all other flying birds
know it, and in their classic reptilian affinities,--voice, actions,
arms, fingers, habits,--they bring close the dim epochs of past time,
and renew for our inspection the youth of bird-life on the earth. It is
discouraging ever to attempt to translate habits fraught with so
profound a significance into words, or to make them realistic even with
the aid of photographs.

We took a boat opposite Mr. Beckett's house, and paddled slowly with the
nearly-flood tide up the Berbice River. It was two o'clock, the hottest
time of the day. For three miles we drifted past the chosen haunts of
the hoatzins. All were perched in the shade, quiet in the intense heat,
squatting prostrate or sleepily preening their plumage. Now and then we
saw a bird on her nest, always over the water. If she was sitting on
eggs she sat close. If young birds were in the nest she half-crouched,
or perched on the rim, so that her body cast a shadow over the young.

The vegetation was not varied. Muckamucka was here and there in the
foreground, with an almost solid line of bunduri pimpler or thorn tree.
This was the real home of the birds, and this plant forms the background
whenever the hoatzin comes to mind. It is a growth which loves the
water, and crowds down so that the rising of the tide, whether fresh or
brackish, covers the mud in which it stands, so that it appears to be
quite as aquatic as the mangrove which, here and there, creeps out
alongside it.

The pimpler bears thorns of the first magnitude, often double, recurved
and at such diabolically unexpected places, that like barbed wire, it is
impossible to grasp anywhere without drawing blood. Such a
chevaux-de-frise would defend a trench against the most courageous
regiment. The stems were light gray, greening toward the younger shoots,
and the foliage was pleasantly divided into double lines of locust-like
leaflets.

The plants were in full flower,--dainty, upright panicles of
wisteria-like pea-blooms, pale violet and white with tiny buds of
magenta. A faint, subdued perfume drifted from them through the tangle
of branches. The fruit was ripening on many plants, in clusters of
green, semi-circular, flat, kidney pods. The low branches stretched
gracefully waterwards in long sweeping curves. On these at a fork or at
the crossing of two distinct branches, the hoatzins placed their nests,
and with the soft-tissued leaflets they packed their capacious crops and
fed their young.

Besides these two plants, which alone may be considered as forming the
principal environment, two blooms were conspicuous at this season; a
deep-calyxed, round blossom of rich yellow,--an hibiscus, which the
Indians called makoe, and from the bark of which they made most
excellent rope. The other flower was a vine which crept commonly up over
the pimpler trees, regardless of water and thorns, and hung out twin
blossoms in profusion, pink and pinkish-white, trumpet-shaped, with
flaring lips.

The mid-day life about this haunt of hoatzins was full of interest.
Tody-flycatchers of two species, yellow-breasted and streaked, were the
commonest birds, and their little homes, like bits of tide-hung drift,
swayed from the tips of the pimpler branches. They dashed to and fro
regardless of the heat, and whenever we stopped they came within a foot
or two, curiously watching our every motion. Kiskadees hopped along the
water's edge in the shade, snatching insects and occasionally splashing
into the water after small fish. Awkward Guinea green herons, not long
out of the nest, crept like shadow silhouettes of birds close to the
dark water. High overhead, like flecks of jet against the blue sky, the
vultures soared. Green dragonflies whirled here and there, and great
blue-black bees fumbled in and out of the hibiscus, yellowed with pollen
and too busy to stop a second in their day-long labor.

This little area held very strange creatures as well, some of which we
saw even in our few hours' search. Four-eyed fish skittered over the
water, pale as the ghosts of fish, and when quiet, showing only as a
pair of bubbly eyes. Still more weird hairy caterpillars wriggled their
way through the muddy, brackish current--aquatic larvæ of a small moth
which I had not seen since I found them in the trenches of Pará.

The only sound at this time of day was a drowsy but penetrating
_tr-r-r-r-r-p!_ made by a green-bodied, green-legged grasshopper of good
size, whose joy in life seemed to be to lie lengthwise upon a pimpler
branch, and skreek violently at frequent intervals, giving his wings a
frantic flutter at each utterance, and slowly encircling the stem.

In such environment the hoatzin lives and thrives, and, thanks to its
strong body odor, has existed from time immemorial in the face of
terrific handicaps. The odor is a strong musky one, not particularly
disagreeable. I searched my memory at every whiff for something of which
it vividly reminded me, and at last the recollection came to me--the
smell, delectable and fearfully exciting in former years--of elephants
at a circus, and not altogether elephants either, but a compound of
one-sixth sawdust, another part peanuts, another of strange animals and
three-sixths swaying elephant. That, to my mind, exactly describes the
odor of hoatzins as I sensed it among these alien surroundings.

As I have mentioned, the nest of the hoatzin was invariably built over
the water, and we shall later discover the reason for this. The nests
were sometimes only four feet above high water, or equally rarely, at a
height of forty to fifty feet. From six to fifteen feet included the
zone of four-fifths of the nests of these birds. They varied much in
solidity, some being frail and loosely put together, the dry, dead
sticks which composed them dropping apart almost at a touch. Usually
they were as well knitted as a heron's, and in about half the cases
consisted of a recent nest built upon the foundations of an old one.
There was hardly any cavity at the top, and the coarse network of
sticks looked like a precarious resting place for eggs and an
exceedingly uncomfortable one for young birds.

When we approached a nest, the occupant paid no attention until we
actually came close to a branch, or shook it. She then rose, protesting
hoarsely, and lifting wings and tail as she croaked. At the last moment,
often when only a yard away, she flew off and away to a distance of
fifty feet or more. Watching closely, when she realized that we really
had intentions on her nest, she returned and perched fifteen or twenty
feet away, croaking continually, her mate a little farther off, and all
the hoatzins within sight or hearing joining in sympathetic disharmony,
all with synchronous lifting of tail and wings at each utterance.

The voice of the female is appreciably deeper than that of the male,
having more of a gurgling character, like one of the notes of a
curassow. The usual note of both sexes is an unwritable, hoarse,
creaking sound, quite cicada or frog-like.

Their tameness was astounding, and they would often sit unmoved, while
we were walking noisily about, or focusing the camera within two yards.
If several were sitting on a branch and one was shot, the others would
often show no symptoms of concern or alarm, either at the noise of the
gun or the fall of their companion. A hoatzin which may have been
crouched close to the slain bird would continue to preen its plumage
without a glance downward. When the young had attained their first full
plumage it was almost impossible to distinguish them from the older
members of the flock except by their generally smaller size.

But the heart of our interest in the hoatzins centered in the nestlings.
Some kind Providence directed the time of our visit, which I chose
against the advice of some of the very inhabitants of New Amsterdam. It
turned out that we were on the scene exactly at the right time. A week
either way would have yielded much poorer results. The nestlings, in
seven occupied nests, observed as we drifted along shore, or landed and
climbed among the thorns, were in an almost identical stage of
development. In fact, the greatest difference in size occurred between
two nestlings of the same brood. Their down was a thin, scanty, fuzzy
covering, and the flight feathers were less than a half-inch in length.
No age would have showed to better advantage every movement of wings or
head.

When a mother hoatzin took reluctant flight from her nest, the young
bird at once stood upright and looked curiously in every direction. No
slacker he, crouching flat or awaiting his mother's directing cries.
From the moment he was left alone he began to depend upon the warnings
and signs which his great beady eyes and skinny ears conveyed to him.
Hawks and vultures had swept low over his nest and mother unheeded.
Coolies in their boats had paddled underneath with no more than a glance
upward. Throughout his week of life, as through his parents' and their
parents' parents' lives, no danger had disturbed their peaceful
existence. Only for a sudden windstorm such as that which the week
before had upset nests and blown out eggs, it might be said that for the
little hoatzin chicks life held nothing but siestas and munchings of
pimpler leaves.

But one little hoatzin, if he had any thoughts such as these, failed to
count on the invariable exceptions to every rule, for this day the
totally unexpected happened. Fate, in the shape of enthusiastic
scientists, descended upon him. He was not for a second nonplussed. If
we had concentrated upon him a thousand strong, by boats and by land, he
would have fought the good fight for freedom and life as calmly as he
waged it against us. And we found him no mean antagonist, and far from
reptilian in his ability to meet new and unforeseen conditions.

His mother, who a moment before had been packing his capacious little
crop with predigested pimpler leaves, had now flown off to an adjoining
group of mangroves, where she and his father croaked to him hoarse
encouragement. His flight feathers hardly reached beyond his
finger-tips, and his body was covered with a sparse coating of sooty
black down. So there could be no resort to flight. He must defend
himself, bound to earth like his assailants.

Hardly had his mother left when his comical head, with thick, blunt beak
and large intelligent eyes, appeared over the rim of the nest. His alert
expression was increased by the suspicion of a crest on his crown where
the down was slightly longer. Higher and higher rose his head, supported
on a neck of extraordinary length and thinness. No more than this was
needed to mark his absurd resemblance to some strange, extinct reptile.
A young dinosaur must have looked much like this, while for all that my
glance revealed, I might have been looking at a diminutive Galapagos
tortoise. Indeed this simile came to mind often when I became more
intimate with nestling hoatzins.

Sam, my black tree-climber, kicked off his shoes and began creeping
along the horizontal limbs of the pimplers. At every step he felt
carefully with a calloused sole in order to avoid the longer of the
cruel thorns, and punctuated every yard with some gasp of pain or
muttered personal prayer, "Pleas' doan' stick me, Thorns!"

At last his hand touched the branch, and it shook slightly. The young
bird stretched his mittened hands high above his head and waved them a
moment. With similar intent a boxer or wrestler flexes his muscles and
bends his body. One or two uncertain, forward steps brought the bird to
the edge of the nest at the base of a small branch. There he stood, and
raising one wing leaned heavily against the stern, bracing himself. My
man climbed higher and the nest swayed violently.

Now the brave little hoatzin reached up to some tiny side twigs and
aided by the projecting ends of dead sticks from the nest, he climbed
with facility, his thumbs and forefingers apparently being of more aid
than his feet. It was fascinating to see him ascend, stopping now and
then to crane his head and neck far out, turtlewise. He met every
difficulty with some new contortion of body or limbs, often with so
quick or so subtle a shifting as to escape my scrutiny. The branch ended
in a tiny crotch and here perforce, ended his attempt at escape by
climbing. He stood on the swaying twig, one wing clutched tight, and
braced himself with both feet.

Nearer and nearer crept Sam. Not a quiver on the part of the little
hoatzin. We did not know it, but inside that ridiculous head there was
definite decision as to a deadline. He watched the approach of this
great, strange creature--this Danger, this thing so wholly new and
foreign to his experience, and doubtless to all the generations of his
forbears. A black hand grasped the thorny branch six feet from his
perch, and like a flash he played his next trick--the only remaining one
he knew, one that set him apart from all modern land birds, as the frog
is set apart from the swallow.

The young hoatzin stood erect for an instant, and then both wings of the
little bird were stretched straight back, not folded, bird-wise, but
dangling loosely and reaching well beyond the body. For a considerable
fraction of time he leaned forward. Then without effort, without
apparent leap or jump he dived straight downward, as beautifully as a
seal, direct as a plummet and very swiftly. There was a
scarcely-noticeable splash, and as I gazed with real awe, I watched the
widening ripples which undulated over the muddy water--the only trace of
the whereabouts of the young bird.

It seemed as if no one, whether ornithologist, evolutionist, poet or
philosopher could fail to be profoundly impressed at the sight we had
seen. Here I was in a very real, a very modern boat, with the honk of
motor horns sounding from the river road a few yards away through the
bushes, in the shade of this tropical vegetation in the year nineteen
hundred and sixteen; and yet the curtain of the past had been lifted and
I had been permitted a glimpse of what must have been common in the
millions of years ago. It was a tremendous thing, a wonderful thing to
have seen, and it seemed to dwarf all the strange sights which had come
to me in all other parts of the earth's wilderness. I had read of these
habits and had expected them, but like one's first sight of a volcano in
eruption, no reading or description prepares one for the actual
phenomenon.

I sat silently watching for the re-appearance of the young bird. We
tallied five pairs of eyes and yet many minutes passed before I saw the
same little head and emaciated neck sticking out of the water alongside
a bit of drift rubbish. The only visible thing was the protruding spikes
of the bedraggled tail feathers. I worked the boat in toward the bird,
half-heartedly, for I had made up my mind that this particular brave
little bit of atavism deserved his freedom, so splendidly had he fought
for it among the pimplers. Soon he ducked forward, dived out of sight
and came up twenty feet away among an inextricable tangle of vines. I
sent a little cheer of well wishing after him and we salvaged Sam.

Then we shoved out the boat and watched from a distance. Five or six
minutes passed and a skinny, crooked, two-fingered mitten of an arm
reared upward out of the muddy flood and the nestling, black and
glistening, hauled itself out of water.

Thus must the first amphibian have climbed into the thin air. But the
young hoatzin neither gasped nor shivered, and seemed as self-possessed
as if this was a common occurrence in its life. There was not the
slightest doubt however, that this was its first introduction to water.
Yet it had dived from a height of fifteen feet, about fifty times its
own length, as cleanly as a seal leaps from a berg. It was as if a human
child should dive _two hundred feet_!

In fifteen minutes more it had climbed high above the water, and with
unerring accuracy directly toward its natal bundle of sticks overhead.
The mother now came close, and with hoarse rasping notes and frantic
heaves of tail and wings lent encouragement. Just before we paddled from
sight, when the little fellow had reached his last rung, he partly
opened his beak and gave a little falsetto cry,--a clear, high tone,
tailing off into a guttural rasp. His splendid courage had broken at
last; he had nearly reached the nest and he was aching to put aside all
this terrible responsibility, this pitting of his tiny might against
such fearful odds. He wanted to be a helpless nestling again, to crouch
on the springy bed of twigs with a feather comforter over him and be
stuffed at will with delectable pimpler pap. Such is the normal right
destiny of a hoatzin chick, and the _whee-og!_ wrung from him by the
reaction of safety seemed to voice all this.



VII

A WILDERNESS LABORATORY


Robinson Crusoe had a wreck well stored with supplies, and we inherited
only four walls and a roof. Still, we had a boy Friday--Sam, an ebony
Demeraran, exactly half of whose teeth had been lost in the only
automobile ride he had ever taken. Sam was sent by some personal
Providence--perhaps the god of intelligence bureaus--as the first of our
faithful following in Guiana. Sam had formerly been a warden in the
Georgetown jail, and rumor had it that he left because he saw "jumbies"
in the court where one hundred and nine men had been hung. And surely
that was where jumbies would be found if anywhere. Even Crusoe's man
must have admitted that. How wardenship could be of aid to us in our
scientific work was a puzzle.

Only once before did a servant's previous experience surpass this in
utter uselessness. That was when a Russian chauffeur whom I had taken
on trial found a cowboy saddle in my attic and seriously and proudly
showed me in great detail, with the saddle strapped to the banisters,
how with his long Cossack training he could stand on his neck when going
at full speed! But Sam, like many another servant of the past, was to
prove a treasure.

We had come from New York with a very distinct idea of what we wanted to
do, but no idea at all of just how or where we should begin. On kindly
but conflicting advice and suggestion, we had searched hither and
thither over the coastlands of British Guiana. Everywhere we found
drawbacks. We wanted to be near primeval jungle, we wished to be free of
mosquitoes and other disturbers of long-continued observation. We
desired the seemingly impossible combination of isolation and facility
of communication with the outside world.

In a driving, tropical rainstorm I ascended the Essequibo to Bartica,
and from the hills, as the sun broke through gray clouds, my friend the
rubber planter pointed over two jungle-clad ranges to a great house, a
house with many pillars, a house with roof of pale pink like a giant
_mora_ in full bloom. Then, like the good fairy prince in a
well-regulated tale, he waved his wand toward it, and said, "That is
Kalacoon; take it and use it if you want it." Only his wand was a stout
walking-stick, and for the nonce the fairy prince had taken the form of
a tall, bronzed, very good-looking Englishman, who had carved a rubber
plantation out of the very edge of the jungle, and with wife and small
daughter lived in the midst of his clean-barked trees.

And now we had had a gift of a great house in the heart of the Guiana
wilderness, a house built many years before by one who was Protector of
the Indians. This we were to turn into a home and a laboratory to study
the wild things about us--birds, animals, and insects; not to collect
them primarily, but to photograph, sketch, and watch them day after day,
learning of those characters and habits which cannot be transported to a
museum. And exactly this had not been done before; hence it took on new
fascination.

I had never given serious thought to the details of housekeeping, and I
suddenly realized how much for granted one takes things in civilization.
In New York I had possessed beds and baths and tables, dishes and cooks
and towels, in a spirit of subconsciousness which made one think of them
only if they were not there. Now I had suddenly to think about all these
and other things particularly hard. If it had been the usual camping
duffle of hammock, net, tarpaulin, and frying-pan, that would have been
simple. But when the sugar-bowl is empty, one becomes at once acutely
conscious of it; if it is not, while the hand unbidden manipulates the
tongs, the brain distils or listens to thoughts of opera, science, or
war. Optical eclipse, impelled by familiarity, is often total. However,
we found the Georgetown stores well stocked, and whenever we purchased a
useless thing we found that it could be used for something else. And
sooner or later, everything we possessed was used for something else,
thereby moving one of us to suggest a society for reducing household
articles by half.

But while it was well enough to make a lark of such things when one had
to, we begrudged every minute taken from the new field outspread before
us in every direction. For Kalacoon was on a hilltop and looked out on
the northern third of the horizon over the expanse of three mighty
rivers--the Essequibo, the Mazaruni, and the Cuyuni. And around us was
high second growth, losing itself to the southward in a gigantic, abrupt
wall of the real jungle--the jungle that I knew by experience was more
wonderful than any of the forests of the Far East, of Burma or Ceylon or
Malaysia.

We sat down on some packing-boxes after our first day of indoor labor,
and watched the sun settle slowly beyond the silvered Mazaruni. And a
song, not of the tropics, but bubbling and clear and jubilant as that of
our northern singers, rang out from the single tall palm standing in our
front compound. Clinging to the topmost frond was an oriole, jet as
night, with the gold of sunshine on crown and shoulders and back. He was
singing. While he sang, a second oriole swooped upward between two vanes
of a frond to a small ball of fibers knotted close to the midrib. The
event had come and it developed swiftly.

We seized a great ladder and by superhuman efforts raised it little by
little, until it rested high against the smooth trunk. One of us then
mounted the swaying rungs, reckless with excitement, and thrust his
hand into the nest. It was withdrawn and went to his mouth, and down he
came. To our impatient, impolite inquiries, he answered only with
inarticulate mumblings and grunts. He reached the ground and into his
pursed hands carefully regurgitated an egg--white, with clustered
markings of lavender and sepia about the larger end. We looked at each
other and grinned. Words seemed superfluous. Later I believe we quieted
down and danced some kind of a war-dance. Our feelings had then reached
the stage where they could at least be expressed in action. Perhaps it
was not altogether the scientific joy of gazing at and possessing the
first known egg of the _moriche_ oriole. I know that by sheer perversity
I kept thinking of the narrow-gauge canyon of a city street, as I
gloried in this cosmic openness of tropical river and jungle and sunset.
Only in an aeroplane have I experienced an equal spatial elation.

Our bird-nester told us that there was a second egg, and said something
about not daring to put two in his mouth lest he slip and swallow both.
But later, in a moment of weakness, he admitted the real reason,--that
he had not the heart, after the glorious song and this splendid omen of
our work, to do more than divide the spoils fifty-fifty with the
orioles. Self-control was rewarded, as the other egg hatched and we
learned a secret of the juvenile plumage of these birds, while the songs
of the _cadouries_, as the Indians call them, were heard month after
month at our windows.

When the idea of a tropical research station occurred to me, the first
person with whom I discussed the matter was Colonel Roosevelt. In all of
my scientific undertakings under the auspices of the New York Zoölogical
Society, I have found his attitude always one of whole-souled sympathy,
checked and practicalized by trenchant criticism and advice. For Colonel
Roosevelt, besides his other abilities and interests, is one of the best
of our American naturalists. To a solid foundation of scientific
knowledge, gained direct from literature, he adds one of the widest and
keenest of experiences in the field. His published work is always based
on a utilization of the two sources, and is characterized by a
commendable restraint and the leaven of a philosophy which combines an
unalterable adhesion to facts, with moderation of theory and an
unhesitating use of the three words which should be ready for instant
use in the vocabulary of every honest scientist, "I don't know."

My object in founding the research station was to destroy the bogie of
danger and difficulty supposed to attend all tropical investigation, and
to show that scientists from north temperate regions could accomplish
keen, intensive, protracted scientific work in tropical jungles without
injury to health or detriment to the facility of mental activity, and at
extremely moderate expense. This will open to direct personal
investigation, regions which, more than any others, promise dynamic
results from evolutional study, and will supplement the work of museums
with correlated researches upon living and freshly killed organisms.
This was a "progressive" doctrine which Colonel Roosevelt endorsed with
enthusiasm, and after we had brought semblance of a comfortable American
home to great, rambling Kalacoon, we were able to welcome Colonel and
Mrs. Roosevelt as the first visitors to the actual accomplishment of the
project which months before, we had so enthusiastically discussed at
Oyster Bay.

The jungles of South America were no novelty to Colonel Roosevelt, but
to be able to traverse them over smooth, easy trails, in a comfortable
temperature and with no annoyance of flies or mosquitoes, was an
experience which none of us had enjoyed before. To Mrs. Roosevelt it was
all new--the huge, buttressed trunks, the maze of lianas in tangles,
loops and spirals, the sudden burst of pink or lavender blossoms in a
sunlit spot, and the piercingly sweet, liquid notes of the goldbird,
"like the bird of Siegfried," as she aptly said. The coolie workmen in
their Eastern garb, the Akawai Indian hunters and their tattooed squaws
along the trail, all aroused that enthusiasm which a second meeting can
never quite elicit.

Most memorable to me were the long walks which Colonel Roosevelt and I
took on the Kaburi Trail, that narrow path which is the only entrance by
land to all the great hinterland lying between the Essequibo and
Mazaruni Rivers. Majestically the massive trees rose on either side, so
that while our contracted aisle was as lofty as the nave of a cathedral,
yet it was densely shaded by the interlocking foliage high overhead.
Our progress was thus through a glorified tunnel; we traveled molewise
with only here and there a glimpse of the sky. Every walk was filled to
the brim for me with that infinitely satisfying joy, derived from frank,
sympathetic communion with an enthusiastic, true friend. I know of no
earthly pleasure more to be desired. Perhaps this is because friends are
so rare with whom one can be wholly natural, with one's guard completely
down, unafraid of any misunderstanding--an omnimental communion.

It was with dismay, at the end of one long walk, that I realized we had
forgotten to search for the tropical creatures for which we had
presumably set out. We had kept the jungle birds and animals well at
distance by a constant flow of human speech--argumentative, eulogistic,
condemnatory--of literary and field and museum doings of the scientific
world.

But we did not wholly neglect the life around us and one of the last
problems which we solved that day was that of a small voice, one of
those apparently unattached sounds which come from no definite place,
nor are referable to any certain source. It might have been a cicada or
other insect, it could well have come from the throat of a bird. Were we
in the heart of a city we should unhesitatingly have pronounced it a
jewsharp played very badly. We set out in search, we stalked it through
the thin underbrush, we scanned every branch with our glasses, and when
we found it was bird and not insect we shamelessly played upon its
feelings and squeaked after the manner of a stricken nestling. We saw
that it was a small flycatcher, green with waistcoat of lemon-yellow.
Finally after we had learned its fashion of flight, the stratum of
jungle it inhabited and its notes, I secured it. Not until then did we
perceive that concealed on its head it wore a glorious crown of orange
and gold. When my reference books arrive, and we learn the technical
name of this little golden-crowned flycatcher or cotinga, I do not think
that this title will persist as vividly as the "jewsharp bird of Kaburi
trail."

Close to where we walked on those first days, we were later to find our
best hunting. During the next few months all the more interesting
animals of this part of South America were shot or their presence
noticed; jaguars, tapirs, deer, peccaries, howling monkeys, vampires,
agoutis, jaguarondis, otters, sloths, and armadillos. Hosts of birds,
almost half the entire number of species found in the Colony, made their
home hereabouts, macaws, bellbirds, curassows, trumpeters, toucans, the
great harpy eagle and the tiniest of iridescent hummingbirds.

Within a week our great front room, full thirty by sixty feet, with
sixteen large windows, was a laboratory in appearance and odor. Hundreds
of jars and vials, vivaria and insectaries, microscopes, guns, and
cameras, with all their details and mysterious inner workings, left no
table vacant. With book-shelves up, there remained only the walls, which
little by little became mosaics of maps, diagrams, sketches, drying
skins, Indian weapons, birds' nests and shot-holes. Whiffs of formaline,
chloroform, and xylol, together with the odors of occasional mislaid or
neglected specimens, left no doubt as to the character of the room. We
found that the tradewind came from the front, and also that we had much
to discuss after the lamps were put out; so we turned the couches into
their rightful functions of cots, and the three of us slept scattered
here and there in the great room.

The vampire bats never allowed us to become bored. There were no
mosquitoes or flies, so we used no nets; but for months we burned a
lantern. Low around our heads swept the soft wings of the little
creatures, while the bat enthusiast now and then fired his auxiliary
pistol. Later we found that a score of them roosted behind a broken
clapboard, and, by spreading a seine below and around this, we were able
to capture and examine the entire colony at will. Tarantulas were
common, but not in the least offensive, and we learned to know where to
look for a big black fellow and a small gray one who kept the room free
from cockroaches. One or two scorpions were caught indoors, but the
three centipedes which appeared occasionally were those which had been
brought in and were always escaping from a defective vivarium. There
were no other dangers or inconveniences, if we can apply such terms to
these comparatively harmless creatures.

This was the background of our labors, our la_bor_atory as our English
visitors called it: cool in the daytime, cold at night, where one could
work as well as in the north, and where a morning's tramp usually
furnished material sufficient for a week of research. We came to know it
as the house of a thousand noises. The partitions, like those of all
tropical houses, extended only part way to the ceiling, so, as some one
has said, one enjoyed about the privacy of a goldfish. It would have
been a terrible place for a victim of insomnia; but when we were kept
awake by noises it was because we were interested in them. After a day's
hard work in the jungle, it must indeed be a bad conscience or a serious
physical ailment which keeps one awake a minute after one rolls up in
his blanket. Through all the months of varying tropical seasons we slept
as soundly as we should at home. I can do with five or six hours' sleep
the year round, and I begrudged even this in the tropical wonderland,
where my utmost efforts seemed to result in such slight inroads into our
tremendous zoölogical ignorance. At night I spent many wonderful hours,
leaning first out of one, then out of another window, or occasionally
going down the outside lattice stairway and strolling about the
compound.

No two nights were alike, although almost all were peaceful, with
hardly a breath of air stirring--just the cool, velvet touch of the
tropics, always free from any trace of the heat of the day. Whether dark
rich olive under crescent or starlight, or glowing silvery-gray in the
flood of the full moon, the forest, so quiet, so motionless all about
me, was always mysterious, always alluring. To the north, at the foot of
the hill, lay the dark surface of the great river, its waters one amber,
homogeneous flood, yet drawn from a thousand tributaries: hidden creeks
seeping through mossy jungles far beyond the Spanish border, brown
cascades filtering through gravel which gleamed with yellow gold and
sparkled with the light from uncut diamonds. And to the south rose the
wall of the jungle itself, symbol of all that is wild and untamed in
nature.

Yet I am never conscious of the bloody fang, the poison tooth, of the
wilderness. The peace of this jungle at night was the same peace as that
of the trees in our city parks. I knew that well within my horizon,
jaguars and pumas were stalking their prey, while here and there on the
forest floor bushmasters lay coiled like mats of death. But quite as
vividly could I picture the stray cats pouncing on sleeping sparrows in
the shrubbery of Washington Square, or the screech owls working havoc in
the glades of Central Park where the glare of the electric lights is
less violent. And I have not forgotten the two-score gulls and swans
with torn throats--a single night's work of wild mink in the Bronx.
Nature is the same everywhere; only here the sparrows are not alien
immigrants, and the light is not measured in kilowatts, and the _hacka_
tigers are not so sated that they kill for pleasure.

A sound broke in upon my reverie, so low at first that it seemed but the
droning hum of a beetle's wing echoing against the hollow shield of
their ebony cases. It was deep, soothing, almost hypnotic; one did not
want it to cease. Then it gained in volume and depth, and from the heart
of the bass there arose a terrible, subdued shrilling--a muffled,
raucous grating which touched some secret chord of long-past fear. The
whole effect was most terrifying, but still one did not desire it to
cease. In itself it seemed wholly suited to its present jungle setting;
the emotion it aroused was alien to all modern life. My mind sped
swiftly back over the intervening years of sound, over the jeering
chorus of Malay gibbons, the roars of anger of orangutans, four-handing
themselves through the swaying Bornean jungle, and on past the impudent
chatter of the gray _langurs_ of Kashmir deodars. Memory came to rest in
a tent-boat, seven years ago and not many more miles distant, when I
heard my first red howlers. Then I shared my thrill. Now all with me
were asleep, and alone I reached far out into the night and with mouth
and ears absorbed every vibration of the wonderful chorus.

In spite of all this variety and immeasurable diversity, I came to
perceive a definite sequence of many daily and nightly events, as I
observed them from Kalacoon windows. Not only did the sun rise
invariably in the east and the tradewinds blow regularly every
afternoon, but a multitude of organic beings timed their activities to
these elemental phenomena. At half after five, when it was just light
enough to see distinctly, I went out into the calm dawn. The quiet of
the great spaces at this hour was absolute. No matter how tempestuous
the evening before or the night, the hours of early morning were
peaceful. Not a leaf stirred. The tide flowed silently up or down or
for a time held itself motionless. At the flood the mirror surface would
occasionally be shattered for a moment far from shore, where a porpoise
or a great _lucannani_ rolled, or a crocodile or a _water mama_ nosed
for breath. The calm was invariable, but the air might be crystal clear
to the horizon, or so drenched in mist that the nearest foliage was
invisible.

No matter how early I went out into the dawn, the wrens were always
singing--though they were recent arrivals at Kalacoon. Then, within a
few minutes, the chachalacas began their loud duets, answering one
another in couples from first one, then another direction, until the air
was ringing with _hanaqua! hanaqua! hanaqua!_ Dragonflies appeared in
mid-air, martins left their nests among the beams, parrakeets crossed
over from their roosts, and swifts met them coming from their sleeping
quarters in hollow trees. The quaint little grass-quits began their
absurd dance against gravity, and blatant kiskadees ushered in the sun
and day.

Then came an interval when every one was too busy feeding to sing, and
the wren's notes were hushed by an astounding succession of tiny
spiders, and the chirps of young martins were smothered in winged ants.
Swiftly the sun rose and the heat dissipated the mists and lured out a
host of flying things. Even at mid-day one might sit at a window and take
notes continuously of lesser happenings, while now and then something of
such note occurred that one could only watch and wonder. This might be a
migration of sulphur butterflies, thousands flying steadily toward the
southeast hour after hour, day after day. Or a host of hummingbirds of
nearly a score of species would descend upon the cashew blossoms in the
rear compound. Most exciting was a flight of winged termites. In the
rainy season the clouds would bank up about mid-day, and showers fall
with true tropical violence. After an exceptionally long downpour the
marriage flight would take place and logs, dead branches, and even the
steps and beams of Kalacoon would give up their multitudes. From great
rotted stumps the insects poured forth like curling smoke. The breeze
carried them slowly off toward the west, and at the first hint the birds
gathered to the feast. Only Rangoon vultures surpassed them in numbers
and voracity. The air was fretted with a kaleidoscopic network of
swifts--from great, collared fellows to the tiny dwellers in palms--with
swallows, martins, and, if late enough, nighthawks. Fork-tailed
flycatchers swept by scores round the vortex of insects, while a
fluttering host of kiskadees, tanagers, anis, thrushes, and wrens
gleaned as best they could from grass-top or branch. In ten minutes the
whole flight had vanished. Any queen termite which ran that gauntlet
safely, deserved to found her colony without further molestation.

Although I might have stalked and watched the white _campañeros_ for a
week past, yet whenever there came to ear the anvil-like _kong! kang!_
or the ringing, sonorous _kaaaaaaaaaaang!_ of a bell-bird three miles
away, I always stopped work and became one great ear to this jungle
angelus.

One could watch the changing seasons of the great tropical jungle from
the same wonder windows of Kalacoon. A dull rose suffused the tree-tops,
deepening day by day, and finally the green appeared, picked out
everywhere by a myriad blossoms--magenta, mauve, maroon, carmine, rose,
salmon-pink. Yet the glass showed only top-gallant foliage of wilted,
parti-colored leaves. Illusion upon illusion: these were not wilted,
but newborn leaves which thus in their spring glory rivaled our autumnal
tints. One never forgot the day when the first mora burst into full
bloom--a great mound of lavender pigment, swung nearly two hundred feet
in mid-air, dominating all the surrounding jungle growth. This was the
lush, prodigal way in which the tropics announced spring.

Whether I had spent the day in hard tramping or stalking in the jungle,
or at my laboratory table trying to disentangle the whys and wherefores
from the physical skein of my specimens, toward sunset I always went
down to the cement floor of an orchid-house long fallen in decay. This
was under the open sky, and from this spot on the highest hilltop in all
this region, I watched the end of the day.

No sunset should ever be described, and the Kalacoon sunsets were too
wonderful for aught but wordless reverence. They were explosions of wild
glory, palettefuls of unheard-of pigments splashed across the sky, and
most bewildering because they were chiefly in the east or north. This
evening on which I write was sealed with a sunset of negligible yellow,
but the east was a splendor of forest fires and minarets, great golden
castles and pale-green dragons and snow-capped mountains all conceived
and molded from glorious tumbled cloud-masses, and ultimately melting
back into them again. The moriche orioles met the beauty of the heavens
with their silver notes, and as the sky cooled, there arose the sweet,
trilled cadence of the little tinamou heralding the voices of night. The
silvery collared nighthawks began their eternal questioning
_who-are-you! who-are-you!_ and the coolness banished all thought of the
blistering sunshine now pouring down upon the waters of the Pacific.

Not until later, when the night-life was fairly under way, and all the
beings of the sun hidden and asleep, did the deep bass rumble of the big
toads commence, and the tinkling chorus of the little frogs. Last of all
came the essence of the nocturnal--the sound furthest removed from day.
All other voices seemed to become for an instant hushed, and the
poor-me-one spoke--a wail which rose, trembled, and broke into a falling
cadence of hopeless sighs.

And now, with the crescent moon writing its heliograph cipher upon the
water, a new sound arose, low and indistinct, lost for a moment, then
rising and lost again. Then it rang out rich and harmonious, the
full-throated paddling chanty of a gold-boat of blacks coming down river
with their tiny pokes of glittering dust. It tore at the heart-strings
of memory, and in its wildness, its sad minor strain, was strangely
moving. The steersman set the words and in high, quavering tones led the
chorus, which broke in, took up the phrase, different each time, and
repeated it twice over, with a sweet pathos, a finality of cadence which
no trained white chorus could reproduce.

There was much of savage African rhythm in these boat-songs, and instead
of the drum of the Zulus came the regular _thump-thump, thump-thump_, of
paddles on the thwarts. They were paddling slowly, weary and tired after
a long day of portaging, passing with the tide down to Bartica. Then on
to a short, exciting period of affluence in Georgetown, after which they
would return for another six months in the gold bush. They were
realizing their little El Dorados in these very waters more successfully
than Sir Walter Raleigh was able to do.

I have said that the wonder windows would take one to the Far East; and
hardly had the gold-boat passed out of hearing when the
never-to-be-forgotten _beat-beat-beat-beat_ of a tom-tom rose without
hint or introduction, and straightway the cecropias became deodars and
the palms dwarfed to _pîpuls_ and _sal_, and the smells of the Calcutta
bazaars and the dust of Agra caravans lived again in that sound.

A voice in soft Hindustani tones was heard below--the low, inarticulate
phrases framing themselves into a gentle _honk-honka, honk, honk-honka_.
Then, still out of sight, came a voice on the stairway: "Salaam, sahib,
will sahib come see dance and see wedding?"

The sahib would; and I followed the wavering lantern of the bride's
father down the steep, rocky path which, at the water's edge, turned
toward the half-dozen huts of the East Indians.

For a week the coolie women had done no work in the fields, but had
spent much of their time squatted in chanting circles. I learned that a
marriage was to take place, and, to my surprise, the bride proved to be
Budhany, the little child who brought us milk each day from the only cow
south of the Mazaruni. Another day, as I passed to the tent-boat, I saw
the groom, naked save for his breech-clout, looking very foolish and
unhappy, seated on a box in the center of the one short street, and
surrounded by six or eight women, all who could reach him rigorously
slapping him and rubbing him with oil from head to foot. Every evening,
to the dull monotone of a tom-tom, the shrill voices of the women were
carried up to Kalacoon; but tonight a louder, more sonorous drum was
audible and the moaning whine of a short, misshapen Hindi violin.

Amid a murmur of salaams we seated ourselves on grocery boxes while the
audience ranged itself behind. In the flickering light of torches I
recognized my friends one by one. There was Guiadeen who had brought in
the first ant-eater; he seated us. Then Persaïd of the prominent teeth,
who had tried to cheat me of a sixpence already paid for a mouse-opossum
with her young. Persaïd gave us only a hasty salaam, for he was a very
busy and fussy master of ceremonies. From behind came the constant
droning chant of the priest, lingeringly reading from a tattered Pali
volume, an oil torch dripping close to his white turban. His voice was
cracked, but his intonation was careful and his words well articulated.
The day before we had greeted him and chaffingly admonished him to marry
them well.

"God only could promise that," he had replied with a quick smile.

Others of the little village I knew: Rahim the milkman, and Mahabol,
with the head and beard of a Sikh on the legs of a Bengalee, and a thin
Bengalee at that. The audience which pressed close behind, looked and
smelled Calcutta and Darjeeling, and a homesickness which was pain came
over me, to be once more among the great Himalayas. The flickering torch
showed all my retinue threaded along the outer rim of onlookers; my
following who formed a veritable racial tower of Babel. There was Nupee
the Akawai, and Vingi the Machusi and Semmi the Wapiano--red Indians
from forest and savannah. Near them the broad, black African face of
little Mame, all eyes and mouth in the dim light. Then de Freitas the
Portuguese, and all the others of less certain lineage.

Meanwhile Persaïd had brought forth an oily, vile-smelling liquid with
which he coated a square yard of earth, and then with pounded maize and
rice he marked out a mystic figure--two squares and diagonals. As the
ceremony went on I lost much of the significance, and the coolies
themselves seemed very vague. They were all of low caste and preserved
more of the form than knowledge of the intricate rites.

We were at the groom's end of the absurd street, and before long Madhoo
himself appeared and was led a few steps away by his female tormentors.
This time they scrubbed and washed and rinsed him with water, and then
dressed him in a soft white waist-cloth draped coolie-wise. Then a long
tight-sleeved pink dress was pulled with much difficulty over his head.
Madhoo now looked like a woman dressed in a fashion long extinct. Next,
a pink turban was wound wonderfully about his head and he was led to one
side of the rice figure, where he sat down on a low stool.

Sam, my black factotum, sat close to me, translating when my slender
knowledge of Hindustani gave out. Suddenly he stopped abruptly in the
middle of a sentence. I saw that he was staring at the groom, the whites
of his eyes glistening in astonishment.

"Chief," he whispered at last, "see where my socks, my shoes!"

And sure enough, we saw Persaïd pulling the purple-striped socks, which
had been Sam's delight, over the unaccustomed ankles of the groom. These
were followed by cheap white tennis shoes, causing another ejaculation
on the part of Sam.

"Hello, shoes!" I heard him murmur to himself.

Sam always personified those parts of his environment which touched his
feelings most deeply, whether clothes, curries, thorns, or gravitation.
When unloading the tent-boat a few nights before, he had left his shoes
on the bank; and during a trip up the hill to Kalacoon they had
vanished. For a moment I was not sure that Sam, like the hero in some
melodrama, would not rise and forbid the marriage. Then I heard him
chuckling and knew that his sense of humor and regard for our evening's
entertainment had nobly overcome what must have been a very real desire
to possess again those gorgeous articles of attire. And, besides, I felt
sure that the morrow would witness a short, pithy interview regarding
these same articles, between Sam and either Madhoo or Persaïd.

Clad now in this added glory, the groom waited, like the tethered
heifer, looking furtively at his circle of well-wishers. His little,
shriveled mother came and squatted close behind him, toboggan-fashion,
and flung a fold of her cloth over his back. Then she waved various
things three times over his head: a stone grain-crusher, a brass bowl of
water, and tossed rice and pellets of dough in the four directions. Red
paint was put on her toes and feet and caste marks on her son.

Meanwhile the dancer had begun and his musicians were in full swing; but
of these I shall speak later. The groom was backed into an elaborate
head-dress, a high, open-work affair of long wired beads with dangling
artificial flowers. First it was placed on the mother's head and then on
the turban of the long-suffering young man. An outflaring of torches and
a line of white-robed and turbaned coolies from the other end of the
street of six houses roused the groom and his friends to new activity.
He climbed upon one of the men, straddling his neck, and what appeared
to be a best man, or boy, mounted another human steed. They were then
carried the few feet to the house of the bride, the shiny, black-rubber
soles of the filched tennis shoes sticking absurdly out in front. A
third man carried a bundle,--very small, to which no one seemed to
attach much importance,--which was said to contain clothes for the
bride.

After an undignified dismounting, the groom squatted by a new
rice-and-maize square and removed his shoes and socks, to his own
evident relief and Sam's renewed excitement. Then coppers passed to the
priest and many symbolic gifts were put in the groom's hands; some of
these he ate, and others he laid in the square. Whenever money passed,
it was hidden under sweet-smelling frangipani blossoms, or
temple-flowers, as they are called in India. The bride's mother came out
and performed numerous rites to and around the groom; finally, a small
person in white also achieved one or two unimportant things and
disappeared.

While we waited for some culminating event, the groom stood up,
skilfully lit a cigarette through the meshes of the dangling head-dress,
and walked with his friends to the porch of the opposite house, where he
squatted on the earthen floor in the semi-darkness. Then came Persaïd
and announced, "Marriage over; man wait until daylight, then carry off
bride to honeymoon house"--the 'dobe hut plastered all over with the
imprints of hundreds of white, outspread fingers and palms.

The marriage over! This was a shock. The critical moment had come and
passed, eluding us, and Budhany, the little bride, had appeared and
vanished so hurriedly that we had not recognized her.

The dancer had throughout been the focus of interest for me. There was
no perfunctory work or slurring over of the niceties of his part, and
his sincerity and absorption inspired and stimulated his four assistants
until they fairly lost themselves in _abandon_ to the rhythm and the
chant. His name was Gokool and he had come up from one of the great
coastal sugar plantations. Nowhere outside of India had I seen such
conscientious devotion to the dancer's work.

Rammo the tent-boat captain played the cretinous violin; he it was who
never tired of bringing us giant _buprestids_ and rails' eggs, and whose
reward was to watch and listen to our typewriter machine through all the
time that he dared prolong his visit to our laboratory. Dusráte played
the tiny clinking cymbals; Mattora, he of the woman's voice, held the
torch always close before the dancer's face; while the drummer--the most
striking of them all--was a stranger, Omeer by name. Omeer, with the
double-ended tom-tom in a neck-sling, followed Gokool about, his eyes
never leaving the latter's face. Little by little he became wholly rapt,
absorbed, and his face so expressive, so working with emotion, that I
could watch nothing else.

Gokool was a real actor, a master of his art, with a voice deep, yet
shifting easily to falsetto quavers, and with the controlled ability of
emphasizing the slightest intonations and delicate semi-tones which made
his singing full of emotional power. He got his little orchestra
together, patting his palms in the _tempo_ he wished, then broke
suddenly into the wailing, dynamic, abrupt phrases which I knew so well.
Had not my servants droned them over my camp-fires from Kashmir to
Myitkyina, and itinerant ballad-singers chanted them from Ceylon to the
Great Snows!

Gokool's dress was wide and his skirt flaring, so that, when he whirled,
it stood straight out, and it was stiff with embroidery and
scintillating with tinsel. From his sleek, black hair came perfume,
that musky, exciting scent which alone would summon India to mind as
with a rub of Aladdin's lamp. His anklets and bracelets clinked as he
moved; and suddenly, and to our Western senses always unexpectedly, he
would begin the swaying, reeling motion, almost that of a cobra in hood.
Then after several more phrases, chanted with all the fire and
temperamental vigor which marks Hindu music, he would start the rigid
little muscular steps which carried him over the ground with no apparent
effort, though all the time he was wholly tense and working up into that
ecstasy which would obsess him more and more. His songs were of love and
riches and war, and all the things of life which can mean so little to
these poor coolies.

Exhausted at last, he stopped; and I found that I too suddenly
relaxed--that I had been sitting with every muscle tense in sympathy.
Gokool came and gave me a salaam, and as he turned away for a
hand-hollowed puff of hemp I spoke a little word of thanks in his own
tongue.

He looked back, not believing that he had heard aright. I repeated it
and asked if he knew "Dar-i-Parhadoor," this being my phonetic spelling
of a certain ballad of ancient India.

"Koom, sahib," he said; and kneeling touched my foot with his head.

Then we talked as best we could, and I found he was from the Hills, and
knew and adored the Parhadoor, and was even more homesick for the Great
Snows than I. But once something had snapped in his head and he could
not work in the sun, and could dance but rarely; so now he earned money
for his daily rice only and could never return.

Then he gathered his musicians once more and sang part of the majestic
Parhadoor, which is full of romance and royal wars, and has much to do
with the wonders of the early Rajputs. And he sang more to me than to
the groom, who neither looked nor listened, but kept busy with his
clothes.

Out of all the pressing throng a little coolie boy came and squatted
close, and his eyes grew large as he listened to the tale, and from time
to time he smiled at me. He had once brought me a coral snake, but I
could not call him by name. Now I knew him for the one unlike the
rest,--worthy perhaps of a place in my memory roll of supercoolies,--who
worked at weeding day after day, like the rest of the men, but who
thought other thoughts than those of Mahabol and Guiadeen. I wished I
had known of him sooner.

So Gokool sang to us two, the coolie boy and me, a song of ancient
India, and danced it by moonlight here in this American jungle, and I
dotted his dancing circle with pence, and a few bits, and even a
shilling or two. And Gokool thanked me with dignity. And his face will
long remain vivid, tense with feeling, forgetful of all but the
loud-cadenced phrases, the quavering chant which broke in and out of
falsetto so subtlely that no Western voice may imitate it. And I like to
think that he enjoyed dancing for a sahib who loved Lucknow and the old
ballads. And so we parted.

     *     *     *     *     *

After I cached the vampire lantern behind its intrenched bulwark of
books and magazines, I leaned far out of a window and thought over the
night's happenings. It was long after midnight, and the steady throb of
the tom-tom still kept rhythm with the beat of my temples, and I gave
myself up to the lure of the hypnotic monotone.

One thought kept recurring--of the little girl far back in the dark
depths of the wattled hut. She was so little, so childish, and her part
that evening had been so slight and perfunctory, not as much as that of
any of the other women and girls who had slovenly performed the
half-understood rites. She had brought us milk regularly, and smiled
when we wished salaam to her.

She knew less of India than I did. Guiana, this alien land, as humid and
luxuriant as the Great Plains were dry and parched--this was her native
country. And this evening was her supreme moment; yet her part in it had
not seemed fair. She would have liked so much to have worn that pink
dress which made her future husband a caricature; she would have adored
to place the shining, tinseled head-dress on her black hair--more with a
child's delight than a woman's. And now she would live in a house of her
own, and not a play-house, and obey this kind-faced young man--young,
but not in comparison with her, whose father he could have been. And she
would have anklets and bracelets and a gorgeous nose-button if he could
save enough shillings,--I almost said rupees,--and ultimately she would
go and cut grass with the other women, and each day take her little baby
astride her hip down to the water and wash it, as she, so very short a
time ago, had been washed.

And so, close to the wonder windows, we had seen a marriage of strange
peoples, who were yet of our own old Aryan stock; whose ceremonies were
already ancient when the Christians first kept faith, now transported to
a new land where life was infinitely easier for them than in their own
overcrowded villages; immigrants to the tropical hinterland where they
rubbed elbows with idle Africans and stolid Red Indians. And I was glad
of all their strange symbolic doings, for these showed imagination and a
love of the long past in time and the distant in space.

I wished a good wish for Budhany, our little milkmaid, and forgot all in
the sound, dreamless sleep which comes each night at Kalacoon.



VIII

THE CONVICT TRAIL


I am thinking of a very wonderful thing and words come laggardly. For it
is a thing which more easily rests quietly in the deep pool of memory
than stirred up and crystalized into words and phrases. It is of the
making of a new trail, of the need and the planning and the achievement,
of the immediate effects and the possible consequences. For the effects
became manifest at once, myriad, unexpected, some sinister, others
altogether thrilling and wholly delightful to the soul of a naturalist.
And now, many months after, they are still spreading, like a forest fire
which has passed beyond control. Only in this case the land was no worse
and untold numbers of creatures were better off because of our new
trail.

Of the still more distant consequences I cannot write, for the book of
the future is tightly sealed. But we may recall that a trail once was
cut through coarse, high grass and belts of cedar, which in time became
the Appian Way. And a herd of aurochs breasting in single file dense
shrubby oaks and heather toward a salt lick may well have foreshadowed
Regent Street; the Place d'Etoile was perhaps first adumbrated by wild
boars concentrating on a root-filled marsh. And why should not the
Indian trail which became a Dutch road and our Fifth Avenue, have had
its first hint in a moose track down the heart of a wooded island,
leading to some hidden spring!

We left our boats stranded on the Mazaruni River bank and climbed the
steep ascent to our new home in the heart of British Guiana. Our outfit
was unpacked, and the laboratory and kitchen and bedrooms in the big
Kalacoon house were at last more than names.

And now we surveyed our little kingdom. One path led down to our boats,
another meandered eastwards through the hills. But like the feathered
end of the magnetic arrow, we drifted as with one will to the south.
Here at the edge of our cleared compound we were confronted by a tangle.
It was not very high--twenty feet or so--but dense and unbroken. Like
newly trapped creatures we paced back and forth along it looking for an
opening. It was without a break. We examined it more closely and saw a
multitude of slender, graceful cane stems hung with festoons and
grass-like drapery. One of us seized a wisp of this climbing grass and
pulled downward. When he dropped it his hand dripped blood. He might as
well have run a scroll saw over his fingers. The jungle had shown its
teeth.

We laughed and retreated to the upper floor for consultation. The sight
we saw there decided us. In the distance "not too far," to use the
hopelessly indefinite Guiana vernacular, high over the tumbled lower
growths towered the real jungle--the high bush. This was the edge of
that mighty tropical ocean of foliage, that sea of life with its surface
one hundred, two hundred feet above the earth, stretching unbroken to
the Andes: leagues of unknown wonderland. And here we were, after
thousands of miles of voyaging to study the life of this great jungle,
to find our last few yards blocked by a mass of vegetation. There was no
dissenting voice. We must cut a trail, and at once, straight to the
jungle.

Before we begin our trail, it will be wise to try to understand this
twenty-foot tangle, stretching almost a mile back from Kalacoon. Three
years before it was pure jungle. Then man came with ax and saw and fire
and one by one the great giants were felled--mora, greenheart,
crabwood--each crashing its way to earth after centuries of upward
growth. The underbrush in the dark, high jungle is comparatively scanty.
Light-starved and fungus-plagued, the shrubs and saplings are stunted
and weak. So when only the great stumps were left standing, the
erstwhile jungle showed as a mere shambles of raw wood and shriveled
foliage. After a time fire was applied, and quickly, as in the case of
resinous trees, or with long, slow smolderings of half-rotted, hollow
giants, the huge boles were consumed.

For a period, utter desolation reigned. Charcoal and gray ash covered
everything. No life stirred. Birds had flown, reptiles and insects made
their escape or succumbed. Only the saffron-faced vultures swung past,
on the watch for some half-charred creature. Almost at once, however,
the marvelous vitality of the tropical vegetation asserted itself.
Phoenix-like, from the very heart of the ashes, appeared leaves of
strange shape and color. Stumps whose tissues seemed wholly turned to
charcoal sent forth adventitious shoots, and splintered boughs blossomed
from their wounds. Now was the lowest ebb of the jungle's life, when man
for the success of his commercial aims, should take instant advantage.
But plans miscarried and the ruin wrought was left to nature.

The destruction of the jungle had been complete and the searing flames
had destroyed all forest seeds. In their place, by some magic, there
sprang up at once a maze of weeds, vines and woody shrubs, reeds, ferns
and grasses, all foreign to the dark jungle and whose nearest congeners
were miles away. Yet here were their seeds and spores, baffling all
attempts at tracing their migration or the time they had laid dormant.

When we had begun to penetrate this newborn tangle we found it possible,
by comparing various spots, to follow its growth in past time. The first
things to appear in the burned jungle area were grasses or grass-like
plants and prostrate vines. These latter climbed over the fallen
tree-trunks and covered the charred stumps with a glory of
blossoms--white convolvulus gleaming everywhere, then pale yellow
allamandas, and later, orchid-like, violet, butterfly peas which at
first flowered among the ashes on the ground, but climbed as soon as
they found support. Little by little, a five-finger vine flung whole
chains of bloom over stumps, logs and bushes, a beautiful, blood-red
passion flower, whose buds looked like strings of tiny Chinese lanterns.

Soon another type of plant appeared, with hollow and jointed stems,
pushing out fans of fingered leaves, swiftly, wasting no time in
branching, but content with a single spike piercing up through strata of
grass and reeds, through shrubs and bushes until it won to the open sky.
This was the cecropia or trumpet tree, falsely appearing firm and solid
stemmed, but quite dominant in the neglected tangle.

We started early one morning with small axes and sharp machetes, and
single file, began to cut and hew and tear a narrow trail southward. For
some distance we found almost a pure culture of the cecropia trees,
through which we made rapid progress which aroused entirely false hopes.
It was a joy to crash obliquely through the crisp hollow stems at one
blow from our great knives. The second man cut again at the base and the
rest took the severed stems and threw or pushed them to one side,
cutting away any smaller growths. We soon learned to be careful in
handling the stems for they were sanctuary for scores of a small
stinging ant, whose race had practiced preparedness for many generations
and who rushed out when the stem was split by cutlass or ax.

As we went on we learned that differences in soil which were not
apparent when the great jungle covered everything, had now become of
much importance. On high sandy spots the cecropias did not get that
flying start which they needed for their vertical straightaway dash.
Here a community of hollow reeds or bamboo grass appeared from no one
knows where. They had grown and multiplied until their stems fairly
touched one another, forming a dense, impenetrable thicket of green,
silicious tubes eight to twelve feet in length. These were smooth and
hard as glass and tapered beautifully, making wonderfully light and
strong arrows with which our Akawai Indians shot fish. Slow indeed was
our progress through this. The silica dulled and chipped our blades and
the sharp points of the cut stems lamed us at a touch.

But whatever the character of the vegetation, whether a tangle of
various thorny nightshades, a grove of cecropias, or a serried phalanx
of reeds, the terrible razor-grass overran all. Gracefully it hung in
emerald loops from branch to branch, festooning living foliage and dead
stump alike, with masses of slender fronds. It appeared soft and
loose-hung as if one could brush it away with a sweep of the hand. But
it was the most punishing of all living things, insidiously cutting to
the bone as we grasped it, and binding all this new growth together with
bands more efficient than steel.

An age-old jungle is kind to the intruder, its floor is smooth and open,
one's footsteps fall upon soft moss, the air is cooled and shadowed by
the foliage high overhead. Here, in this mushroom growth of only three
years, our progress became slower and ever more difficult. Our hands
bled and were cut until we could barely keep them gripped about the
cutlass handles; our trail opened up a lane down which poured the
seething heat of the sun's direct rays; thorns penetrated our moccasins
and ants dropped down our necks and bit and stung simultaneously with
opposite ends of their anatomy. Five minutes' chopping and hacking was
all that the leader could stand, who would then give way to another.
Fifty yards of a narrow lane represented our combined efforts the first
day.

Direction was a constant source of trouble. Every three or four feet we
had to consult a compass, so confusing was the tangle. Sudden gullies
blocked us, a barren, half-open, sandy slope cheered us for a few yards.
It was nature's defense and excelled any barbed-wire entanglement I have
ever seen at the battle-front.

Once I came to a steep concealed gully. The razor-grass had been
particularly bad, giving like elastic to blows of the cutlass and then
flying back across my face. I was adrip with perspiration, panting in
the heat when I slid part way down the bank, and chopping away a solid
mass of huge elephant's ears, uncovered a tree-trunk bridging the swamp.
It brought to mind the bridge from Bad to Worse in the terrible Dubious
Land. Strange insects fled from the great leaves, lizards whisked past
me, hummingbirds whirred close to my face--the very sound seeming to
increase the heat. I slipped and fell off the log, splashing into the
hot water and warm mud, and sat in it for a while, too fagged to move.
Then the rest of the party came up and we clambered slowly to the top of
the next rise, and there caught sight of the jungle's edge, and it
seemed a trifle nearer and we went on with renewed courage. Shortly
afterwards two of us were resting in a patch of reeds while the third
worked some distance ahead, when there came a sudden low growl and rush.
Instinctively we rose on the instant, just in time to see a jaguar
swerve off on one side and disappear in a swish of swaying reed stems. I
have never known one of these animals to attack a man, and in this case
the jaguar had undoubtedly heard but not scented us, and the attack
ceased the moment we proved to be other than deer or similar prey. The
incident had come and passed too swiftly for thought, but now when we
realized that this was a bit of the real wild life of the jungle, our
enthusiasm never flagged, and we kept steadily at the heart-breaking
work, resting only now and then for our cuts to heal.

Then a government official who was our guest, took pity on us, and for
science' sake, obtained special dispensation. One morning we went out
and found in our compound several huge, blue-uniformed policemen, who
saluted and with real black magic, produced twenty convicts--negroes and
coolies--armed with cutlasses. So began the second phase of what we now
named the Convict Trail. We had already fought our painful way through a
half-mile of the terrible maze, and now we heartily welcomed this new
aid, whether good-natured murderers, and burglars, or like Sippy, Slorg
and Slith, mere thieves. We watched them strip to their black skins and
begin a real assault. On a front of ten to fifteen feet, the tangle
fairly dissolved before our eyes, and their great tough palms and soles
made little moment of the razor-grass and thorns. In one of the
slight-bodied coolies, whose task was to clear away the cut débris, I
recognized Ram Narine, whose trial had been the cause of my traveling
another trail.

With my friend, Hope, an honest forger, I went on far ahead and laid the
course for the jungle. In especially dense parts we climbed to the
summit of great jungle stumps and stretched a white sheet to guide the
oncoming trail cutters.

Day after day the score of convicts returned with their guards and at
last we saw the path unite with an old game and Indian trail in the cool
shade of the jungle, and Kalacoon was in direct contact with the great
tropical forest itself. I have passed lightly over the really frightful
pain and exhaustion which we experienced in the initial part of this
work, and which emphasized the tremendous difference between the age-old
jungle untouched by man, and the terrible tangle which springs after he
has destroyed the primeval vegetation.

After this came our reward, and never a day passed but the trail yielded
many wonderful facts. The creatures of the wilderness soon found this
wide swath, and used it by day and night, making it an exciting thing
for us to peer around a corner, to see what strange beings were sitting
or feeding in our little street.

Before the trail was quite completed, it yielded one of the most
exciting hunts of our trip--the noosing of a giant bushmaster--the most
deadly serpent of the tropics. Nupee--my Akawai Indian hunter, two
nestling trogons and Easter eve--these things led to the capture of the
Master of the Bush: For nothing in the tropics is direct, premeditated.

My thoughts were far from poisonous serpents when Nupee came into our
Kalacoon laboratory late on a Saturday afternoon. Outdoors he had
deposited the coarser game intended for the mess, consisting, today, of
a small deer, a tinamou or maam and two agoutis. But now with his quiet
smile, he held out his lesser booty, which he always brought in to me,
offering in his slender, effeminate hands his contribution to science.
Usually this was a bird of brilliant plumage, or a nestful of maam's
eggs with shells like great spheres of burnished emeralds. These he
would carry in a basket so cunningly woven from a single palm frond that
it shared our interest in its contents. Today, he presented two nestling
trogons, and this was against rules. For we desired only to know where
such nests were, there to go and study and photograph.

"Nupee,--listen! You sabe we no want bird here. Must go and show nest,
eh?"

"Me sabe."

Accompanied by one of us, off he started again, without a murmur. In
the slanting rays of the sun he walked lightly down the trail from
Kalacoon as if he had not been hunting since early dawn. An hour passed
and the sun swung still lower when a panting voice gasped out:

"Huge labaria, yards long! Big as leg!"

The flight of queen bees and their swarms, the call to arms in a
sleeping camp creates somewhat the commotion that the news of the
bushmaster aroused with us. For he is really what his name implies. What
the elephant is to the African jungles and the buffalo to Malaysia, this
serpent is to the Guiana wilderness. He fears nothing--save one thing,
hunting ants, before which all the world flees. And this was the first
bushmaster of the rainy season.

Nupee had been left to mount guard over the serpent which had been found
near the trogon tree. Already the light was failing; so we walked
rapidly with gun, snake-pole and canvas bag. Parrakeets hurtled
bamboowards to roost; doves scurried off and small rails flew from our
path and flopped into the reeds. Our route led from the open compound of
Kalacoon, through the freshly cut Convict Trail, toward the edge of the
high bush, and we did not slacken speed until we were in the dim light
which filtered through the western branches.

At the top of the slope we heard a yell--a veritable Red Indian
yell--and there our Akawai hunter was dancing excitedly about, shouting
to us to come on. "Snake, he move! Snake, he move!" We arrived panting,
and he tremblingly led me along a fallen tree and pointed to the dead
leaves. I well knew the color and pattern of the bushmaster. I had had
them brought to me dead and had killed them myself, and I had seen them
in their cage behind glass. But now, though I was thinking bushmaster
and looking bushmaster, my eyes insisted on registering dead leaves.
Eager as I was to begin operations before darkness closed down, it was a
full three minutes before I could honestly say, "This is leaf; that is
snake."

The pattern and pigment of the cunningly arranged coils were that of the
jungle floor, anywhere; a design of dead leaves, reddish-yellow,
pinkish, dark-brown, etched with mold, fungus and decay, and with all
the shadows and high lights which the heaped-up plant tissues throw upon
one another. In the center of this dread plaque, this reptilian mirage,
silent and motionless, rested the head. I knew it was triangular and
flattened, because I had dissected such heads in times past, but now my
senses revealed to me only an irregularity in the contour, a central
focus in this jungle mat, the unraveling of which spelt death.

It was a big snake, seven or eight feet long, and heavy bodied--by no
means a one-man job. Again we carefully examined the screw-eyes on the
pole, and each looked behind for a possible line of escape.

I quickly formed my method of attack. Nupee was sent to cut forked
sticks, but his enthusiasm at having work to do away from the scene of
immediate conflict was so sincere that he vanished altogether and
returned with the sticks only when our shouts announced the end of the
struggle. An Indian will smilingly undergo any physical hardship, and he
will face any creature in the jungle, except the bushmaster.

We approached from three sides, bringing snake-pole, free noose and gun
to bear. Slowly the noose on the pole pushed nearer and nearer. I had no
idea how he would react at the attack, whether he would receive it
quietly, or, as I have seen the king cobra in Burma, become enraged and
attack in turn.

The cord touched his nose, and he drew back close to some bushy stems.
Again it dangled against his head, and his tongue played like lightning.
And now he sent forth the warning of his mastership--a sharp _whirrrrr!_
and the tip of his tail became a blur, the rough scales rasping and
vibrating against the dead leaves, and giving out a sound not less sharp
and sinister than the instrumental rattling of his near relatives.

For a moment the head hung motionless, then the noose-man made a lunge
and pulled his cord. The great serpent drew back like a flash, and
turning, undulated slowly away toward the darker depths of the forest.
There was no panic, no fear of pursuit in his movements. He had
encountered something quite new to his experience, and the knowledge of
his own power made it easy for him to gauge that of an opponent. He
feared neither deer nor tapir, yet at their approach he would sound his
warning as a reciprocal precaution, poison against hoofs. And now, when
his warning had no effect on this new disturbing thing, he chose
dignifiedly to withdraw.

I crept quickly along on one side and with the gun-barrel slightly
deflected his course so that he was headed toward an open space, free
from brush and bush-ropes. Here the pole-man awaited him, the noose
spread and swaying a few inches from the leaves. Steadily the snake held
to his course, and without sensing any danger pushed his head cleanly
into the circle of cord. A sudden snap of the taut line and pandemonium
began. The snake lashed and curled and whipped up a whirlpool of débris,
while one of us held grimly on to the noose and the rest tried to
disentangle the whirling coils and make certain of a tight grip close
behind the head, praying for the screw-eyes to hold fast. Even with the
scant inch of neck ahead of the noose, the head had such play that I had
to pin it down with the gun-barrel before we dared seize it. When our
fingers gained their safe hold and pressed, the great mouth opened wide,
a gaping expanse of snowy white tissue, and the inch-long fangs appeared
erect, each draped under the folds of its sheath like a rapier outlined
beneath a courtier's cloak.

When once the serpent felt himself conquered, he ceased to struggle; and
this was fortunate, for in the dim light we stumbled more than once as
we sidled and backed through the maze of lianas and over fallen logs.

Nupee now appeared, unashamed and wide-eyed with excitement. He followed
and picked up the wreck of battle--gun, hats and bags which had been
thrown aside or knocked off in the struggle. With locked step, so as not
to wrench the long body, we marched back to Kalacoon. Now and then a
great shudder would pass through the hanging loops and a spasm of
muscular stress that tested our strength. It was no easy matter to hold
the snake, for the scales on its back were as rough and hard as a file,
and a sudden twist fairly took the skin off one's hand.

I cleaned his mouth of all dirt and débris, and then we laid him upon
the ground and, without stretching, found that he measured a good eight
feet and a half. With no relaxing of care we slid him into the wired box
which would be his home until he was liberated in his roomier quarters
in the Zoölogical Park in New York.

Close to the very entrance of the Convict Trail behind Kalacoon stood
four sentinel trees. Every day we passed and repassed them on the way to
and from the jungle. For many days we paid very little attention to
them, except to be grateful for the shade cast by their dense foliage of
glossy leaves. Their trunks were their most striking feature, the bark
almost concealed by a maze of beautifully colored lichens, different
forms overlapping one another in many places, forming a palimpsest of
gray, white, pink, mauve and lilac. One day a streaked flycatcher chose
the top of a branch for her nest, and this we watched and photographed
and robbed for science' sake, and again we thought no more of the four
trees.

Late in April, however, a change came over the trees. The leaves had
been shed some time in January and the fallen foliage formed a dry mass
on the ground which crackled under foot. Now each branch and twig began
to send out clusters of small buds, and one day,--a week after
Easter,--these burst into indescribable glory. Every lichened bough and
branch and twig was lined with a soft mass of bloom, clear, bright
cerise, which reflected its brilliance on the foliage itself. After two
days a rain of stamens began and soon the ground beneath the trees was
solid cerise, a carpet of tens of thousands of fallen stamens, and
within the length of a foot on one small branch were often a score of
blooms. This feast of color was wonderful enough, and it made us want to
know more of these trees. But all the information we could glean was
that they were called French cashew. Yet they had not nearly finished
with the surprises they had in store. A hummingbird or two was not an
uncommon sight along the trail at any time, but now we began to notice
an increase in numbers. Then it was observed that the tiny birds seemed
to focus their flight upon one part of the clearing, and this proved to
be the four cashew trees.

The next few days made the trees ever memorable: they were the Mecca of
all the hummingbirds in the jungle. In early morning the air for many
yards resounded with a dull droning, as of a swarming of giant bees.
Standing or sitting under the tree we could detect the units of this
host and then the individuals forced themselves on our notice. Back and
forth the hummers swooped and swung, now poising in front of a mass of
blossom and probing deeply among the stamens, now dashing off at a
tangent, squeaking or chattering their loudest. The magnitude of the
total sound made by these feathered atoms was astounding; piercing
squeaks, shrill insect-like tones, and now and then a real song,
diminutive trills and warbles as if from a flock of song birds a long
distance away. Combats and encounters were frequent, some mere sparring
bouts, while, when two would go at it in earnest, their humming and
squeaks and throb of wings were audible above the general noise.

This being an effect, I looked for the cause. The massed cerise bloom
gave forth comparatively little perfume, but at the base of each flower,
hidden and protected by the twenty score densely ranked stamens, was a
cup of honey; not a nectary with one or two delicately distilled drops,
but a good thimbleful, a veritable stein of liquor. No creature without
a long proboscis or bill could penetrate the chevaux-de-frise of
stamens, and to reach the honey the hummingbirds had to probe to their
eyes. They came out with forehead well dusted with pollen and carried it
to the next blossom. The destiny of the flower was now fulfilled, the
pot of honey might dry up, the stamens rain to the earth and the glory
of Tyrian rose pass into the dull hues of decay.

Day after day as we watched this kaleidoscope of vegetable and avian
hues, we came to know more intimately the units which formed the mass.
There were at least fifteen species and all had peculiarities of flight
and plumage so marked that they soon became recognizable at sight.

After our eyes had become accustomed to specific differences in these
atoms of birds we began to notice the eccentricities of individuals.
This was made easy by the persistence with which certain birds usurped
and clung to favorite perches. One glowing hermit clad in resplendent
emerald armor selected a bare twig on a nearby shrub and from there
challenged every hummer that came in sight; whether larger, smaller or
of his own kind made no difference. He considered the cashew trees as
his own special property and as far as his side of them went he made
good his claim. I have never seen such a concentration of virile
combative force in so condensed a form.

In some such way as vultures concentrate upon carrion, so news of the
cashew sweets had passed through the jungle. Not by any altruistic
agency we may be certain, as we watch the selfish, irritable little
beings, but by subtile scent, or as with the vultures, by the jealous
watching of each other's actions. I observed closely for one hour and
counted one hundred and forty-six hummingbirds coming to the tree.
During the day at least one thousand must visit it.

They did not have a monopoly of the cashew manna, for now and then a
honey-creeper or flower-pecker flew into the tree and took toll of the
sweets. But they were scarcely noticeable. We had almost a pure culture
of hummingbirds to watch and vainly to attempt to study, for more
elusive creatures do not exist. Convict Trail revealed no more beautiful
a sight than this concentration of the smallest, most active and the
most gorgeous birds in the world.

Such treats--floral and avian--were all that might be expected of any
tree, but the cashews had still more treasures in store. The weeks
passed and we had almost forgotten the flowers and hummingbirds, when a
new odor greeted us, the sweet, intense smell of overripe fruit. We
noticed a scattering of soft yellow cashews fallen here and there, and
simultaneously there arrived the hosts of fruit-eating birds. From the
most delicate turquoise honey-creepers to great red and black grosbeaks,
they thronged the trees. All day a perfect stream of tanagers--green,
azure and wine-colored--flew in and about the manna, callistes and
silver-beaks, dacnis and palm tanagers. And for a whole week we gloried
in this new feast of color, before the last riddled cashew dropped, to
be henceforth the prize of great wasps and gauze-winged flies, who
guzzled its fermented juice and helped in the general redistribution of
its flesh--back to the elements of the tropic mold, to await the swarms
of fingering rootlets, a renewed synthesis--to rise again for a time
high in air, again to become part of blossom and bird and insect.

It was along this Convict Trail that I sank the series of pits which
trapped unwary walkers of the night, and halfway out at pit number five,
the army ants waged their wonderful warfare.

In fact it was while watching operations in another sector of this same
battle-front that I found myself all unintentionally in the sleeping
chamber of the heliconias.

Tired from a long day's work in the laboratory, I wandered slowly along
the Convict Trail, aimlessly, in that wholly relaxed state which always
seems to invite small adventures. It is a mental condition wholly
desirable, but not to be achieved consciously. One cannot say, "Lo, I
will now be relaxed, receptive." It must come subconsciously, unnoticed,
induced by a certain wearied content of body or mind--and then--many
secret doors stand ajar, any one of which may be opened and passed if
the gods approve. My stroll was marked at first, however, by only one
quaint happening. For several weeks the jolly little trail-lizards had
been carrying on most enthusiastic courtships, marked with much bowing
and posing, and a terrific amount of scrambling about. The previous
day--that of the first rains--numbers of lizardlets appeared, and at the
same time the brown tree-lizards initiated their season of love-making.
I had often watched them battle with one another--combats wholly futile
as far as any damage was concerned. But the vanquished invariably gave
up to his conqueror the last thing he had swallowed, the victor
receiving it in a gluttonly rather than a gracious spirit, but allowing
his captive to escape. I surprised one of these dark-brown chaps in the
trail and seized him well up toward the head, to preserve his tail
intact. Hardly had I lifted him from the ground, when he turned his
head, considered me calmly with his bright little eyes, and forthwith
solemnly spat out a still living ant in my direction. The inquiring look
he then gave me, was exceedingly embarrassing. Who was I not to be bound
in chivalry by the accredited customs of his race?

With dignity and certainty of acceptance he had surrendered, calmly and
without doubt he had proffered his little substitute of sword. It was, I
felt, infinitely preferable to any guttural and cowardly "kamerad!"
Feeling rather shamefaced I accepted the weakly struggling ant, gently
lowered the small saurian to the ground and opened my fingers. He went
as he had surrendered, with steadiness and without terror. From the
summit of a fallen log he turned and watched me walk slowly out of
sight, and I at least felt the better for the encounter.

Of all tropical butterflies, heliconias seem the most casual and
irresponsible. The background of the wings of many is jet-black, and on
this sable canvas are splashed the boldest of yellow streaks and the
most conspicuous of scarlet spots. Unquestionably protected by nauseous
body fluids, they flaunt their glaring colors in measured, impudent
flight, weaving their way slowly through the jungle, in the face of
lizard and bird. Warningly colored they assuredly are. One cannot think
of them except as flitting aimlessly on their way, usually threading the
densest part of the undergrowth. No butterflies are more conspicuous or
easier to capture. They must feed, they must pay court and mate, and
they must stop long enough in their aimless wanderings to deposit their
eggs on particular plants by an instinct which we have never fathomed.
But these are consummations hidden from the casual observer.

Now, however, I am prepared for any unexpected meaningful trait, for I
have surprised them in a habit, which presupposes memory, sociability
and caution, manifested at least subconsciously.

The afternoon had worn on, and after leaving my lizard, I had squatted
at the edge of a small glade. This glade was my private property, and
the way by which one reached it from the nearby Convict Trail was a
pressure trail, not a cut one. One pushed one's way through the reeds,
which flew back into place and revealed nothing. Lifting my eyes from
the tragedies of a hastening column of army ants, I saw that an unusual
number of heliconias were flitting about the glade, both species, the
Reds and the Yellows. All were fluttering slowly about and as I watched,
one by one they alighted on the very tips of bare twigs, upside down
with closed wings. In this position they were almost invisible, even a
side view showing only the subdued under-wing pigments which blended
with the pastel colors of twilight in the glade, reflected from
variegated leaves and from the opening blossoms of the scarlet passion
vine. Perhaps the most significant fact of this sleeping posture, was
the very evident protection it afforded to butterflies which in motion
during their waking hours are undoubtedly warningly colored and
advertised to the world as inedible. Hanging perpendicularly beneath the
twig, although they were almost in the open with little or no foliage
overhead, yet they presented no surface to the rain of the night, and
all faced northeast--the certain direction of both rain and wind.

The first one or two roosting butterflies I thought must be due to
accidental association, but I soon saw my error. I counted twelve of the
Red-spots and eight Yellows on two small bushes and a few minutes'
search revealed forty-three more. All were swung invariably from the
tips of bare twigs, and there was very evident segregation of the two
kinds, one on each side of the glade.

When I disturbed them, they flew up in a colorful flurry, flapped about
for a minute or less and returned, each to its particular perch. After
two or three gentle waves of the wings and a momentary shifting of feet
they settled again to perfect rest. This persistent choice of position
was invariably the case, as I observed in a number of butterflies which
had recognizable tears in their wings. No matter how often they were
disturbed they never made a mistake in the number of their cabin. A
certain section of a particular twig on a definite branch was the
resting place of some one heliconia, and he always claimed it.

Several were bright and fresh, newly emerged, but the remainder were
somewhat faded and chipped at the edges. The delicate little beings
slept soundly. I waited until dusk began finally to settle down and
crept gently toward a Red-spot. I brought my face close and aroused no
sign of life. Then I reached up and slowly detached the butterfly from
its resting place. It moved its feet slightly, but soon became quiet.
Then I gently replaced it, and at the touch of the twig, its feet took
new hold. When I released its wings it did not fly but sank back into
the same position as before. I wondered if I was the first scientist to
pluck a sleepy butterfly from a jungle tree and replace it unawakened.
At the time I was more impressed by the romantic beauty of it all than
by its psychological significance. I wondered if heliconias ever
dreamed, I compared the peacefulness of this little company with the
fierce ants which even now were just disappearing from view. These were
my thoughts rather than later meditations on whether this might not be a
sort of atavistic social instinct, faintly reminiscent of the
gregariousness of their caterpillar youth.

From any point of view I shall think better of all butterflies for this
discovery; their desire for company, the instinctive wisdom of place
and posture, the gentleness and silence of the little foregathering in
the jungle. As I walked back along the trail several late comers passed
me, vibrating softly through the twilight, headed for their glade of
dreams.

Subsequent visits to this glade emphasized the strength of association
of this little fraternity, by realization of its temporal brevity. Three
weeks after I first discovered the glade, I returned in late afternoon
and waited silently. For a time I feared that the mariposal friendship
was a thing of the past. But a few minutes before five the first
Red-spot fluttered by, in and out among the twigs and leaves, as one
slips an aeroplane through openings in drifting clouds. One by one, from
all directions, the rest followed, until I counted twelve, twenty,
thirty-four. Many of the twigs were now vacant, and most of the
heliconias were tattered and forlorn, just able to keep at their
fluttering level. There was something infinitely pathetic in this little
company, which in less than a month had become so out at elbow, so aged,
with death close ahead, yet with all their remaining strength making
their way from north and from south, from dense and from open jungle,
to keep tryst for this silent, somnolent communion. I rose quietly and
passed carefully from the glade, disturbing none of the paper-thin
silhouettes, so like the foliage in outward seeming, yet so individual,
each perhaps with dim dreams of flowers and little meetings and wind
tossings; certainly with small adventures awaiting their awakening on
the morrow, and a very certain kismet such a short way ahead.

Two weeks after this, only three butterflies came to the glade, one
newly painted, freshly emerged, the other two old and tattered and very
weary.

I loitered on my homeward way and before I reached Kalacoon found myself
in the Convict Trail in full moonlight. At one turn of the path a
peculiar tinkling reached my ear. It was a veritable silver wire of
sound--so high, so tenuous that one had to think as well as listen to
keep it in audible focus. I pushed through a growth of cecropias and at
once lost the sound never to hear it again, but in its place there
appeared a very wonderful thing--a good-sized tree standing alone and
exposed, bathed in full moonlight, and yet gleaming, as brightly as if
silhouetted against complete darkness, by the greenish light of
numberless fireflies. After the first marvel of the sudden sight, I
approached and pulled down a branch and counted twenty-six glowing
insects, as close together as the blossoms on a Japanese cherry branch.
There were hundreds upon hundreds, all clustered together in candelabred
glory, hidden from the view of all, at the farther side of this dense
thicket. As I left I remembered with gratitude the silver wire of sound
which had guided me, and in a far corner of my mind I stored a new
memory--one which I could draw upon at need in distant times of pain, or
of intolerance or perhaps in some lull of battle--the thought of a tree
all aglow with living flames, in the moonlight of the Convict Trail.



IX

WITH ARMY ANTS "SOMEWHERE" IN THE JUNGLE


Pit number five had become a shambles. Number five was one of the series
of holes dug along the Convict Trail to entrap unwary walkers of the
night--walkers or hoppers, for frogs and toads of strange tropical sorts
were the most frequent victims. It was dug wide and deep on the slope of
an ancient dune of pure white sand, a dune deep hidden in the Guiana
jungle, which had not heard the rush and slither of breaking waves for
centuries untold. All around this quiet glade was an almost pure culture
of young cecropia trees. Day after day the pit had entrapped big
beetles, rarely a mouse of some unknown species, more frequently a frog.

Now I stood on the brim, shocked at an unexpected sight. A horde of
those Huns of the jungle, army ants, had made their drive directly
across the glade, and scores of fleeing insects and other creatures had
fallen headlong into this deep pit. From my man's height it was a
dreadful encounter, but squatting near the edge it became even more
terrible; and when I flattened myself on the sand and began to
distinguish individuals and perceive the details from an ant's point of
view, I realized the full horror and irresistibility of an assault by
these ants.

One is not strongly affected by the dying struggles of a single
grasshopper captured by a cuckoo or flycatcher. An individual roach
being torn to pieces moves one but slightly. A batrachian, however, has
more claim on our emotions, and my sympathy went out to a small,
sandy-white frog who was making a brave fight for his life. The pit was
alive with a host of the army ants, and wherever the little frog hopped,
some soldier or heavy-jawed worker soon found him and sank jaws into his
soft skin. With frantic scratching the frog would brush it off and leap
again, only to be again attacked. The most horrible thing about these
ants is their leaping ability. The hop of a bird or the jump of a toad
when going about their usual business of life, if we think of it at all,
is only amusing. But the sudden leap of a bulldog or tarantula, and the
corresponding vicious attack of these ants, is particularly appalling. I
saw a soldier leap a full inch and a half toward the landing thud of the
frog and bite and sting at the instant of contact. I did not dare go
into the pit. No warm-blooded creature could have stood the torture for
more than a few seconds. So I opened my umbrella and reaching down,
scooped up the sand-colored frog. A half-dozen ants came up in the same
instrument, but I evaded them and tied up the tormented batrachian in my
handkerchief.

My next glance into the pit showed a large toad, squatted on a small
shelf of sand, close to the edge of a crowded column of ants. He was a
rough old-chap, covered with warts and corrugations, and pigmented in
dark gray, with mottlings of chocolate and dull red and occasional
glints of gold. He was crouched flat, with all his fingers and toes
tucked in beneath him. His head was drawn in, his eyes closed, and all
his exposed surface was sticky with his acid perspiration--the sweat of
fear. He knew his danger--of that there was no doubt--and he was
apparently aware of the fact that he could not escape. Resignedly he
had settled on the very line of traffic of the deadly foe, after
intrenching himself and summoning to his aid all the defenses with which
nature had endowed him. And he was winning out--the first vertebrate I
have ever known to withstand the army ants. For a few minutes he would
be ignored and his sides would vibrate as he breathed with feverish
rapidity. Then two or three ants would run toward him, play upon him
with their antennæ, and examine him suspiciously. During this time he
was immovable. Even when a soldier sank his mandibles deep into the
roughened skin and wrenched viciously, the toad never moved. He might
have been a parti-colored pebble embedded in its matrix of sand. Once,
when three bit him simultaneously, he winced, and the whitish, acrid
juice oozed from his pores. Usually the ants were content with merely
examining him. I left him when I saw that he was in no immediate danger.

One other creature was quiescent in the pit and yet lived: a big, brown,
hardbacked millipede. Like the frog, he fully realized his danger and
had sunk his bulk partly into the sand, bending down head and tail and
presenting only mailed segments. A mob of ants were trying vainly to
bite their way into this organic citadel.

For the dozens of grasshoppers, crickets, roaches, beetles, spiders,
ants, and harvest men, there was no escape. One daddy-long-legs did a
pitiful dance of death. Supported on his eight long legs, he stood high
out of reach of his assailants. He was balanced so exactly that the
instant a feeling antenna touched a leg, he would lift it out of reach.
Even when two or three were simultaneously threatened, he raised them,
and at one time stood perfectly balanced on four legs, the other four
waving in air. But his _kismet_ came with a concerted rush of half a
dozen ants, which overbore him, and in a fraction of time his body, with
two long legs trailing behind, was straddled by a small worker and borne
rapidly away.

I now flattened myself on an antless area at the edge of the pit and
studied the field of battle. In another half-hour the massacre was
almost over. Five double, and often quadruple, columns were formed up
the sandy cliffs, and the terrific labor of carrying out the dead
victims began. The pit was five feet deep, with perfectly straight
sides, which at the rim had been gutted by the rain, so that they
actually overhung. Yet the ants which had half-climbed, half-tumbled and
rolled their way to the bottom in the wake of their victims, now set
themselves to solving the problem of surmounting these cliffs of loose,
crumbling grains, dragging loads which, in most cases, were much heavier
than themselves. Imagine a gang of men set to carrying bundles of one to
two hundred pounds up perpendicular cliffs twelve hundred feet in
height, and the task of the army ants is made more vivid. So swiftly did
they work and so constantly shifted their formations and methods of
meeting and surmounting difficulties, that I felt as I used when looking
at a three-ring circus. I could perceive and record only a small part of
the ingenious devices and the mutual assistance and sharing of the
complicated conditions which arose at every step.

Among the frightened victims, even for those endowed with excellent
eyesight and powerful flight, there was only hopeless confusion and
blind terror. Instead of directing their flight upward, they drove from
side to side. Those whose leaps should have carried them out, simply
kicked out blindly and brought up against the sandy walls.

If leaf-cutting ants had been at work here, there would have been a
certain amount of cooperation. Certain ones would have cut leaves, other
individuals would have picked them up and transported them. But with the
army ants this mutual assistance was sublimated, developed to a
quintessence of excellence. If I, seated on the rim, overlooking the
whole, had been an all-powerful spirit, gifted with the ability to guide
by thought simultaneously all the ants within sight, such guidance could
not have bettered the cunning cooperation, the unexpectedly clever
anticipation of trouble, the marvelous singleness of purpose and
manifold effectiveness exhibited by these astounding creatures.

First, as to the personnel of the army ants. Roughly I divided them into
two categories, white-heads and black-heads. The latter were by far the
more numerous and, as a rule, were smaller, with less powerful jaws. But
this did not mean that the white-heads were all soldiers. Most of them
indeed were the hardest workers. Between the great extremes of size in
each of these two types, there seemed to exist only a difference of
degree. The smallest black-head laborers, only a little more than
one-fifth of an inch long, did their bit, flew like bull pups at any
prey which showed signs of life, and staggered bravely along with any
piece of loot which their short legs could straddle.

The white-heads, twice as large, were the strong men of the community,
putting all their activity into the labor, shouldering, pushing,
dragging, lifting, singly or in unison. These persons had powerful jaws,
but jaws which were stout and scissor-edged. The largest of the
white-heads were armed with reaping-hooks, long inwardly-pronged jaws,
curved like the tushes of ancient mammoths, too specialized for carrying
loads, but well adapted for defense of the most powerful character. Yet,
as we shall see, even these were not too proud to work, when occasion
demanded it. But their jaws were so enormous that they had to carry
themselves very erect, and they could not make quite as good time as the
other castes.

All had reddish brown abdomens, with darker thoraxes and white or black
heads. These heads bulged on each side like the domes of observatories.
Exactly in the center of each dome, looking like the jet-black head of
a tiny pin, was the single remaining facet of the eye, the degenerate
residue of the hundreds which were present in their ancestors, and which
the perfect males and females still possess and look through. Even this
single eye is a sham, for its optic nerve dies out before the brain
ganglion is reached; so we come to the astounding realization that these
ants are totally blind, and carry on all their activities through the
sense or senses residing in those marvelous quivering antennæ. Here are
beings spending all their lives in ceaseless changing activities,
meeting and coping with constantly new conditions, yet wholly blind.
Their sense of smell dominates their judgment of substance, and the
moment an army ant reached my moccasin he sank jaws and sting deep into
the fabric as instinctively and instantly as when he executed the same
manoeuvers more effectively on my hand.

Keeping this handicap in mind, the achievements of these little
creatures assumed a still greater significance, and with renewed
interest and appreciation I again surveyed the scene in the amphitheater
before me. When the majority of the pit victims had been slain, the
process of carrying them up to the surface began. The hordes of
ravening ants resolved themselves, as I have said, into five distinct
columns of traffic which, inch by inch, fought for a footing up three of
the four sides.

Half of the bottom of the pit was a sort of flat table-land several
inches higher than the rest, and the first thing the ants did was to
carry all their booty to this steppe, in pieces or bodily, some of the
unfortunate creatures still protesting weakly as they were dragged
along. In fifteen minutes the lowest part of the pit bottom was
deserted, and after much hesitation I vaulted down and found a footing
reasonably safe from attack.

Two traffic columns had already reached the summit, and the others were
forging rapidly ahead. All used a similar method of advance. A group of
mixed castes led the way, acting as scouts, sappers, and miners. They
searched out every slope, every helpful step or shelf of sand. They took
advantage of every hurdle of white grass-roots as a welcome grip which
would bind the shifting sand grains. Now and then they had to cross a
bare, barren slope with no natural advantages. Behind them pressed a
motley throng, some still obsessed with the sapper instinct, widening
the trail, tumbling down loose, dangerous grains. Some bore the
first-fruits of victory, small ants and roaches which had been the first
to succumb. These were carried by one, or at most by two ants, usually
with the prey held in the jaws close beneath the body, the legs or
hinderpart trailing behind. In this straddling fashion the burden was
borne rapidly along, an opposite method from the overhead waving banners
of the leaf-cutters.

With these came a crowd of workers, both white and black-headed, and
soldiers, all empty-jawed, active, but taking no part in the actual
preparation of the trail. This second cohort or brigade had, it seemed
to me, the most remarkable functions of any of the ants which I saw
during my whole period of observation. They were the living implements
of trail-making, and their ultimate functions and distribution were so
astounding, so correlated, so synchronized with the activities of all
the others that it was difficult not to postulate an all-pervading
intelligence, to think of these hundreds and thousands of organisms as
other than corpuscles in a dynamic stream of life controlled by some
single, outside mind.

Here, then, were scores of ants scrambling up the steep uneven sides,
over ground which they had never explored, with unknown obstacles
confronting them at every step. To the eye they were ants of assorted
sizes, but as they advanced, numbers fell out here and there and
remained behind. This mob consisted of potential corduroy, rope-bridges,
props, hand-rails, lattices, screens, fillers, stiles, ladders, and
other unnamable adjuncts to the successful scaling of these apparently
impregnable cliffs. If a stratum of hard sand appeared, on which no
impression could be made, a line of ants strung themselves out, each
elaborately fixing himself fast by means of jaws and feet. From that
moment his feverish activity left him: he became a fixture, a single
unit of a swaying bridge over a chasm; a beam, an organic plank, over
which his fellows tramped by hundreds, some empty, some heavily laden.
If a sudden ascent had to be made, one ant joined himself to others to
form a hanging ladder, up which the columns climbed, partly braced
against the sandy wall.

At uncertain, unguarded turns a huge soldier would take up his station,
with as many functions and duties as a member of the Broadway traffic
squad. Stray, wandering ants would be set right by a single twiddle of
antennæ; an over-burdened brother would be given a helping jaw and
assisted for some distance to the end of his beat. I was especially
interested in seeing, again and again, this willingness to help bear the
burdens. It showed the remains of an instinct, inhibited by
over-development, by ultra-specialization of fighting paraphernalia,
still active when opportunity gave it play. At the first hint, by sound
or smell, of danger, the big soldier whirled outward and, rearing high
on his legs, brandished his mighty blades in mid-air. Here was an ideal
pacifist, who could turn his sword into a plowshare at will, and yet
keep the former unsheathed for instant use.

When I watched more closely, I detected more delicate gradations of
mutual aid. At the same level in two columns of ascent, the same stratum
of hard sand was encountered. To one column the sand presented a rough
surface which gave good foothold. Here the single line of ants which was
ranged along the lower edge of the trail, in lieu of hand-rail, all
faced downward, so that the ants passing above them walked partly on
the abdomens and partly on the hind legs of their fellows. In the second
column, the surface of the sand was smooth, and here the burdened ants
found great difficulty in obtaining a foothold. In this instance the
supporting gang of ants faced upward, keeping their place solely by
their six sturdy legs. This left head and jaws free, and in almost every
case they helped the passage of the booty by a system of passing from
jaw to jaw, like a line of people handing buckets at a fire. The
rightful carriers gave up their loads temporarily and devoted their
attention to their own precarious footing.

I learned as much from the failures of this particular formation as from
its successes. Once a great segment of a wood-roach was too much for the
gallant line clinging to the sides of the pit, and the whole load broke
loose and rolled to the bottom. Of the hand-rail squad only two ants
remained. Yet in four minutes another line was formed of fresh
ants,--ants who had never been to the spot before,--and again the
traffic was uninterrupted. I saw one ant deliberately drop his burden,
letting it bounce and roll far down to the bottom of the pit, and
instantly take his place in the line of living guardrails. The former
constituents of the line had clung to the roach segment through all its
wild descent, and until it came to rest at the bottom. Without a
moment's pause, they all attacked it as if they thought it had come to
life, then seized it and began tugging it upward. In a fraction of time,
without signal or suggestion or order, the hand-rails had become
porters. The huge piece of provender had rolled close to an ascending
column on the opposite side of the pit, and up this new trail the
bearers started, pulling and pushing in unison, as if they had been
droghers and nothing else throughout the whole of their ant-existence.

One climax of mutual assistance occurred near the rim of the pit on a
level with my eyes, where one column passed over a surface which had
been undermined by heavy rain, and which actually overhung. I watched
the overcoming of this obstacle. All the ants which attempted to make
their way up at this point lost their footing and rolled headlong to the
bottom. By superformicine exertions a single small worker at last won a
path to the rim at the top. Around the edge of the pit innumerable ants
were constantly running, trying, on their part, to find a way down. The
single ant communicated at once with all which came past, and without
hesitation a mass of the insects formed at this spot and began to work
downward. This could be done only by clinging one to the other; but more
and more clambered down this living ladder, until it swayed far out over
the vastness of the pit, three inches in length. I had never lost sight
of the small worker, who had turned on his tracks and was now near the
bottom of the ladder, reaching wildly out for some support--ant, grass,
or sand. I was astonished to see that, as the length and consequent
weight of the dangling chain increased, the base support was
correspondingly strengthened. Ant after ant settled itself firmly on the
sand at the top, until a mat of insects had been formed, spread out like
animate guy-ropes.

At last the ultimate ant in the rope touched the upraised jaws of the
soldier far below. The contact acted like an electric shock. The
farthest ant in the guy-rope gang quivered with emotion, a crowd of ants
climbed down and another up, and bits of insect and spider prey began
to appear from the depths of the pit, over the living carpet suspended
from the brim. For an inch the droghers climbed over the bodies braced
against the cliff. Then, where the surface became smooth, the dangling
chain came into use. Before the rim of the pit was reached, the chain
had become a veritable hollow tube of ants, all with heads inward, and
through this organic shaft passed the host from the ascending column.
But it was far more than any mechanically built tube. When an extra
large piece of loot came up, the tube voluntarily enlarged, the swelling
passing along until the booty and its bearers emerged at the top.

Within five minutes after this last column was completed, there passed
over it, out of the pit, a daddy-long-legs with legs trailing, perhaps
the same one which I had seen in the tragic little dance of death. There
followed two silvery-gray ants, a wood-roach in two installments, part
of a small frog, three roaches, and two beetles. These latter gave a
great deal of trouble and tumbled down the cliff again and again.

When all the columns were established and the provision trains in full
movement, I leaped out and scouted round for the rest of the army. I
found that the pit was only an incident. In all directions lines of ants
poured past, carrying booty of all sizes and descriptions. Here and
there the huge soldiers walked slowly along the outskirts, directing
stragglers, looking for danger, snapping at any roach or strange ant
which rushed frantically by, and holding it until it was carried off by
nearby workers.

I followed a column over logs and leaves to where it ascended a cecropia
tree. A harvest of small arboreal insects was being gleaned high
overhead. As I watched, there came a heavy downpour of rain, a typical
shower of the tropics, with a scattering of heavy drops out of the full
sunshine and then a sudden clouding and a straight deluge for a few
minutes. The reaction of the ants was interesting. They did not like the
water, and it was comical to see them tumble over one another to get
under shelter. Like the doorways of city shops in a shower, every
curled-up leaf was packed, and from every crevice of bark projected
sundry abdomens and hind legs for which there was no room inside. When
the bearer of a large bag of booty found a convenient corner, he backed
into it and left his meat sticking out in the rain.

After the shower all came forth at full speed, but for some minutes
there was considerable confusion. The sluice of water had evidently
washed away much of the scent which stood for guide-posts, directing
signs, and pointing hands along the trail. Only after many false starts
were the old pathways discovered and again traversed. In one place the
ants climbed a huge log and marched along the top for six or seven
yards. I timed them carefully and found that on this straightaway track
their average speed was two and a half feet in ten seconds. So they
covered a mile in three hours and a half, and in all the army ants I
have ever watched this rate of speed never slackens; in fact, it
frequently greatly increases. When hot on the scent of prey they double
their usual gait.

There are as many ludicrous sights to be seen in the ranks of army ants
as there are among the banner-decked processions of the leaf-cutters.
Along the tree-trunk track came three big white-heads straddling an
inch-worm--in this case an inch-and-a-half-worm. They leaned forward and
downward, the heads of those behind overlapping the abdomens in front,
and they looked for all the world like the riders of an old-fashioned
three-seated bicycle, spurting along the trail. Another simile, even
more vivid, evoked the vision of some weirdly constructed, elongated
myriopod with eighteen legs. After a hard fight, in the course of which
I was stung twice, I unseated the trio and took the measuring worm away
from them. As I lifted it from where it had fallen, at least fifty ants
hurled themselves at the spot, jaws snapping, trembling with violent
rage. I walked ten feet away and dropped the worm in the midst of
another column, and within an equal number of seconds three new
white-heads had mounted it and were hustling it along--the replicas in
appearance and method of the first team.

Many species of stranger ants were killed and carried off as food, but
now and then I noted a most significant exception. In three different
parts of the glade I saw good-sized, pale, flesh-colored ants which
walked unharmed in the very ranks of the terrible host. Unharmed they
were, but not wholly above suspicion, and their progress was not an easy
one. For every unburdened ant which passed leaped at the pale one,
antennaed it fiercely for a moment and reluctantly released it. One
could read their indecision as they slowly loosened their hold, turning
again and again and waving their antennæ as if to make sure that it was
not better to act on their suspicion and slay at once. Finally, they
always passed on. The pale ones had some strange inaudible password,
some sensory parole which protected them. And their total lack of fear
showed their knowledge of their immunity. Even with the added sense of
sight which they possessed, they chose voluntarily to accept this
dubious, reluctantly accorded friendship. But it was probable that, even
if they lived in the very community or nest of the army ants, theirs was
the hard-earned dependence of neutrals who were liable to be knocked
down at a moment's notice, and searched for any strange, inimical scent
which would spell instant death.

In one place the army column made a slight détour round a hillock of
sandgrains upon which a host of tiny brown ants was laboring. I thought
it remarkable that such immunity should be accorded these dwarfs, and I
sought the reason. It was forthcoming at once when I gingerly lifted a
big soldier with the forceps and dropped him on the ant-hill. What
occurred was a replica of the usual army ant scene, but enacted as if
viewed through the large end of an opera-glass. Scores of the minute
brown chaps rushed forth and for a moment fairly overbore the
white-headed giant. Indeed, before he could recover he was dragged
partly down a sandy hole. His jaws brandished and champed, but his
assailants were so small that they slipped through them unharmed. Many
actually seized the jaws themselves and were hurled through the air as
they snapped together. Regaining his feet, the great army ant staggered
off and, fortunately for him, rolled down a slope into another column of
his own kind. Here he freed himself little by little, scraping off the
minute fighting browns with the help of two very small workers, whose
jaws, being much less in size, were better able to grip the diminutive
furies. Their assistance was half-hearted, and the odor of the dead and
dying pygmies was distinctly disliked by them. They were apparently well
aware of the capabilities of these small cousins, and held them in high
respect. This outburst of successful defense on the part of the small
ants was unexpected. I glanced back at their hill and saw them
unconcernedly piling up grains as if nothing had occurred to disturb
them. I wondered if, with senses perfectly attuned, with an
enlarging-glass ability of observation, one might not find still lesser
communities which would in their turn consider the little brown ants as
giants, and on the space of a pin's head attack them and fly at their
throats.

A species of silvery-gray ant which was abundant in the glade was an
object of special enmity, and even after one of these was killed and
being carried along, passing army ants would rush up and give it a
vicious, unnecessary nip. One such ant made its escape from the hold of
a small worker; but before it had taken ten steps it was actually buried
under a rolling mass of army ants. The flying leap with which these
athletes make their tackle would delight the heart of any football
coach, although their succeeding activities belong rather to savage
warfare. Termites, or so-called white ants, are, curiously enough,
immune from attack. Yet these slow-moving, fat-bodied creatures would
seem first-rate food, and the fight which they could put up would not
stand an instant before a concerted rush of battling army ants. The
saving character is doubtless odor or taste. I dropped a tunnelful of
these insects in the path of the army ants and they were quite ignored,
although the black-and-white-headed fellows were terribly angry and
excited.

I coveted a small beetle of peculiar pattern which the ants were
hurrying along, and in taking it from them I accidentally cut an army
ant in two. His abdomen rolled down a small slope and caused
considerable panic among his fellows. They formed a ring round it and
waved their antennæ in mid-air, the scent of the blood of their own kind
causing them to forget hurry and burdens and their normal activities.
The front part of the ant seemed but little inconvenienced and
endeavored to seize and carry the load it had dropped. Little by little
it began to realize that all was not right, and after one or two
attempts to turn and investigate, it ran rapidly down the trail. I made
a dab at it to put it out of what seems better called inconvenience than
misery, but succeeded only in bisecting the thorax, so that there
remained the head and front pair of legs. These lost nothing in
activity, and by means of the single pair of legs the head rowed itself
rapidly along, its antennæ twiddling vigorously those of every ant it
met. This was uncanny, a little too much, and I ground the fraction of
ant to powder. No wonder the army ant is such a virile creature, endowed
with the most extreme emotions, when, with such a small section of its
anatomy remaining it can continue to show such astounding activity.

One could study for hours the interactions among the army ants
themselves. More than once I saw a good-sized ant transporting one of
its fellows, exactly as it would carry a bit of booty. I tried to
examine this ant, and to my surprise, both attacked me ferociously. The
one which was carried was neither dead, ill, nor disabled, but very much
alive. I cannot even suggest an explanation of this phenomenon, as it
did not seem an attempt to aid a comrade in distress.

As dusk began to settle down, I found a column of ants which must have
discovered and sacked the city of some stranger ants. They were laden
with ant-booty: eggs, larvæ, and dead ants by the hundred. It was
comprehensible, but what I did not at first understand was a dense line
of ants moving solidly in one direction, all laden with large eggs and
immature ants, which they were carrying with great care. A large number
of the huge soldiers patrolled the outer flanks of the column, more than
I had seen with all the other traffic lines together. I realized at last
that I was looking at an actual moving of a portion of the army ant
household itself. It was guarded and transported with all the care of
which these insects were capable. The infant ants rested safely in the
great jaws, the same jaws which all day had been busy slashing and
biting and tearing, and carrying food for these same infants.

And now the tropical night began to close down and I made my way back to
the sandpit. The last of the columns was making its way out,
systematically from the bottom up, each ant following in turn. The
moment the last bit of prey passed up the column, by some wonderfully
delicate and subtile sense, every ant knew of it, and the corduroy rose,
the hand-rails unjointed themselves, the ropes unspliced, the embankments
dislodged of their own volition, and stepping-stones took to themselves
legs. After hours of total inactivity, these sentient paraphernalia of
the _via formica_ became, once more, beings surcharged with ceaseless
movement, alert and ready to become a useful cog in the next movement of
this myriad-minded machine. I jumped down into the pit. The great
gold-spotted toad stretched and scratched himself, looked at me, and
trembled his throat. I was not an army ant! The millipede cautiously
reared its head from the sand and felt timidly about.

I looked out and saw the last of the mighty army disappearing into the
undergrowth. I listened and heard no chirp of cricket, nor voice of any
insect in the glade. Silence brooded, significant of wholesale death.
Only at my feet two ants still moved, a small worker and a great
white-headed soldier. Both had been badly disabled in the struggles in
the pit, and now vainly sought to surmount even the first step of the
lofty cliff. They had been ruthlessly deserted. The rearing of new hosts
was too easy a matter for nature to have evolved anything like
stretchers or a Red Cross service among these social beings. The
impotence of these two, struggling in the dusk, only emphasized the
terrible vitality of their distant fellows. As the last twilight of day
dimmed, I saw the twain still bravely striving, and now the toad was
watching them intently. A poor-me-one called mournfully from a distance,
and I walked slowly toward home.



X

A YARD OF JUNGLE


Within five minutes the daily downpour of tropical rain would drench the
jungle. At this moment the air was tense with electricity, absolutely
motionless, and saturated with odorous moisture. The voices of all the
wild creatures were hushed. The sense of mystery which is always so
dominant in a tropical jungle seemed nearer, more vital, but more than
ever a mystery. Its insistency made one oblivious of the great heat. The
beating of one's heart became a perceptible sound, absurdly loud. All
the swamp and jungle seemed listening to it.

Suddenly a voice came out of the heart of this mystery, and fittingly
enough, the voice seemed something a little more or less than human, and
also fittingly it uttered but a single word, and that word a question.
And the listener realized that the answer to the question was the only
thing which made life and work worth while. The throb of the blood in
his veins was forgotten, and all his senses reached out to the sights
and sounds and scents about him. And again the great black frog called
from its slimy seat hidden in the still blacker water of the jungle
swamp. Its voice was deep, guttural, and a little inhuman, but it asked
as plainly as any honest man could ask, _Wh--y?_ And after a minute,
_Wh--y?_

I squatted in the center of a trail. Within walking distance behind me
flowed the yellow waters of the Amazon, and the igarapé from which the
frog had called was even now feeling the tidal heave of the ocean.
Ahead, the jungle stretched without a break for three thousand miles or
more. And here for a week I had suffered bodily torture, twisting into
unhappy positions for hours at a time, watching the birds which crowded
the berry-laden foliage of a single jungle tree. In the cool of early
morning, throughout the terrible breathless heat of mid-day and the
drenching downpour of afternoon, the frog and I put our questions. There
was hope in our interrogation. And my five senses all gave aid, and my
hand wrote down facts, and my mind pondered them.

In the very suburbs of Pará, at the mouth of the great Amazon and within
a hundred miles of the equator, I found a Mecca of bird-life. It was a
gastronomic Mecca to be sure, a tall, slender, wild cinnamon
tree,--_canella do matto_ the natives called it. For a full week I
invited torture by attempting to study the bird-life of this single
tree. This thing had not been done before; it might not be worth the
doing. But testing such possibilities are as important to a naturalist's
work as following along the more conventional and consequently more
certain lines of investigation. I had no time for exploration of the
surrounding country; so I had determined to risk all my precious hours
upon intensive observation in one spot.

The century before, a plantling had pushed up through the jungle mold
and had won success in the terrible competition of the tropics--the
helpless, motionless, silent strife of the vegetable folk. Year by year
the lichen-sculptured trunk had pushed its way upward toward light and
air, miraculously saved from the deadly embraces of the lianas which
crawled forever through the jungle. Today it had gained an accepted
place. Although no forest giant, with no great buttresses or masses of
parasitic growths, it held up its branches and twigs in full sunlight a
hundred feet or more above the ground. And its twiggy fingers were laden
with a wonderful harvest of fruit, uncounted berries which attracted the
birds from distant roosts and drinking places.

Here, then, a thousand combinations of fate had led me, and here I
suffered day by day. Bound to the earth like other normal men, my eyes
should have been directed forward. Now I forced them upward for hours at
a time, and all the muscles of neck and shoulders revolted. Then
eyestrain and headache and a touch of fever followed, and I cast about
for means to ameliorate my bodily ills. I dragged a canvas steamer chair
to my place of vigil and all my body was grateful.

In memory, there now remain only the highlights of new discoveries, the
colorful moments of unalloyed realization of success. Nevertheless this
new method of tropical work brought its own new delights and trials. One
joy lay in the very difficulties to be overcome. Every sense came into
play. Sight, first and foremost, had been put to the most severe of
tests in attempting to record the happenings against the glare of the
sky high up among the foliage of this bit of jungle. I strained through
my high-power glasses, until, when I looked without them, the world
seemed withdrawn, dwarfed, as in the horrid imaginings of fever. The
glasses gained in weight as I held them pointing vertically until they
fairly dropped from my aching arms. My ears strove to catch every song,
every note which might prove a character of worth. The jungle scents
played upon my emotions and sometimes dominated my work; the faint aroma
from some invisible orchid overhead, the telltale musk from a passing
mammal, the healthful scent of clean jungle mold. As for taste, I had
tested the aromatic berries and fruit of my canella tree, and for
science' sake had proved two warningly colored insects. My sense of
feeling had operated involuntarily and wholly aside from my scientific
desires. Whether stimulated by dozens of mosquitoes, scores of ants, or
hundreds of _bêtes rouges_ or "mucuims," the insistency of discomfort
never discouraged a primary desire to delve as deeply as possible into
the secrets of this small area of tropical jungle.

As I walked slowly about beneath the tree or lay back resting in the
chair, I seemed to be watching creatures of another world. Whether I
ogled them with glasses or now and then brought one down with a charge
of small shot, I was a thing of no account to the berry-eating flocks
high overhead. A vulture soaring lower than usual passed over the tree,
and the shadow of his partial eclipse of the sun froze every bird to
instant silence and complete immobility. But my terrestrial activities
wrought no excitement. The shot whistled through the foliage, one of
their number dropped from sight, and life for the rest went on without a
tremor. To ancestral generations, danger had come always from above, not
below.

The very difficulty of observation rendered this mode of research full
of excitement, and at the same time made my method of work very simple.
Against the sky, green, blue, or black feathers all appear black, and
the first two days my glasses helped but little. For several minutes I
would watch some tiny bird which might have been a yellow warbler had I
been three thousand miles farther north. After memorizing personal
characters, scrutinizing its flight and method of feeding, striving to
fix its individuality, I would secure the bird, and find in all
probability that it was a calliste, or tanager of brilliant plumage.
Tomorrow, if I were lucky, I might be able to tell off the numbers of
this species, to watch them and to know that I was watching them. But
recognition would not be by way of the cerulean or topaz or amethystine
hues of plumage, but by the slight idiosyncrasies of flirting tail or
wing or of general carriage.

Day by day, as I came to know better the jungle about me, I began to
perceive a phase which did not change. Even when the sun shone most
brightly, when the coolness of early morning had not yet passed, the
mood of the Amazon jungle remained. It was consistent, this low swampy
jungle, in its uniform, somber mystery. In spite of wholesale
exaggeration it was the dangers which came to mind. Of all places in the
world this was probably fullest of life, both in numbers and diversity.
Yet it was death--or the danger of death--which seemed in waiting,
always just concealed from view.

Beneath my tree I squatted silently. Just overhead the foliage might
have been almost northern. The finely cut leaves were like willow, and
at one side an oak, unusual but still an oak, reached out a thousand
thousand motionless leaves, breaking the glare into innumerable patches.
But ahead, the terrible interlacing of vines and thorny ropes, the
strangle-hold of serpentine lianas on every available trunk--all this
could be only tropic.

The ground glistened here and there with a film of black water which
revealed the swamp. Everywhere the mold and leaves of a hundred years
lay scattered, the last fallen still green. Many feet above, great fans
dangled, rayed fronds dry and crackling, fallen from high overhead, and
suspended, waiting for the interfering twigs and foliage to die in turn
and permit them to seek dissolution in the mold.

The jungle was bright with flowers, but it was a sinister brightness--a
poisonous, threatening flash of pigment, set off by the blackness of the
shadows. Heliconia spikes gleamed like fixed scarlet lightning,
zigzagging through the pungent air. Now and then a bunch of pleasing,
warm-hued berries reminded one of innocuous currants, but a second
glance showed them ripening into swollen, liver-hued globes which
offered no temptation to taste. One tree dangled hideous purple cups
filled with vermilion fruits, and not far away the color sequence was
reversed. A low-growing, pleasant-leaved plant lifted bursting masses of
purple-black, all dripping like wounds upon the foliage below. Many
flowers were unrecognizable save by their fragrance and naked stamens,
advertised neither by color nor form of blossom. I despaired of flowers
worthy of the name, until close by my foot I saw a tiny plant with a
comely, sweet-scented blossom, grateful to the eye and beautiful as our
northern blooms are beautiful. The leaf was like scores lying about, and
I realized that this was a sproutling of the giant tree. Nothing but the
death of this monster could give the light and air which the little
plant needed. It was doomed, but it had performed its destiny. It had
hinted that much of the beauty of the jungle lay far above the mold and
stagnant water. And then I remembered the orchids high overhead. And the
realization came that the low-growing blooms needed their glaring colors
to outshine the dim, shadowy under-jungle, and their nauseous fumes to
outscent the musky vapors of decay.

The plants of the jungle won success either by elbowing their neighbors
and fighting their path up to sunlight, or else by adapting their needs
to the starvation meed of air and light allotted to the lowly growths.
The big-leaved churacas had found another means of existence. They lived
like permanent rockets, bursting in mid-air. A long, curved stem shot up
and reached far out into space. It was so slender as to be almost
invisible in the dim light. At its tip radiated a great burst of
foliage, leaves springing out in all directions, and absorbing nutrition
which a sapling growing amid the undergrowth could not possibly do.

From daybreak to dark the canella tree was seldom deserted. Usually a
score or more birds fluttered and fed among its branches, and true to
tropic laws, there were comparatively few individuals but a multitude of
species. In the few hours I was able to devote to its study, I
identified seventy-six different kinds, and together with those which I
saw but could not name, I judge that more than a hundred species must
have come to the berries during that week in early May. The first day I
secured sixteen specimens, all different; and the following day yielded
fourteen more, only one of which was a duplicate of the first day's
results.

The bird visitors to the tree arrived in one of two characteristic ways.
Many came direct and swiftly, singly or in pairs, flying straight and
with decision. These came from a distance, with full knowledge of the
berries. They fed quietly, and when satiated flew off. The second method
of arrival was wholly casual,--loose flocks drifting slowly from the
neighboring jungle, sifting into the tree, and feeding for a time before
passing on. When these left it was rather hastily, and in answer to the
chirps and calls of the members of their flock who had not been beguiled
by the berries and hence had forged steadily ahead.

These more or less well-defined flocks are very characteristic of all
tropical jungles. Little assemblages of flycatchers, callistes,
tanagers, antbirds, manakins, woodhewers, and woodpeckers are drawn
together by some intangible but very social instinct. Day after day they
unite in these fragile fraternities which drift along, gleaning from
leaves, flowers, branches, trunks, or ground, each bird according to its
structure and way of life. They are so held together by an intangible
gregarious instinct that day after day the same heterogeneous flock may
be observed, identifiable by peculiarities of one or several of its
members. The only recognizable bond is vocal--a constant low calling;
half unconscious, absent-minded little signals which keep the members in
touch with one another, spurring on the laggards, retarding the
overswift.

While I watched, there came to my tree a single species of pigeon, two
hawks, and two parrots, four hummingbirds, and an equal number of
toucans and woodpeckers. The remaining fifty-nine were all passerine
birds, of which there were eight each of the families of flycatchers,
manakins, and cotingas. Eleven were tanagers.

The greedy, noisy parrakeets were always the center of commotion,
wasting more berries than they ate. The toucans, those bizarre birds of
whose lives we know so little, yelped and called and bathed in the water
caught in the stubs of branches, and fed to repletion. All the
flycatchers forgot their usual diet and took to berrying as ardently as
the tanagers themselves. Not all the birds came to feed on the berries.
A wren hunted insects among the branches, and a hawk found a giant
snail crawling up the trunk and devoured it. The insect-eaters of the
trunk numbered nine and showed no interest in the berries. Two were
woodpeckers and seven woodhewers.

These latter are a strange tropical family four hundred strong, and all
the very essence of protective coloring. Their habits of life make of
them wandering bits of bark, easy to detect when they are in motion, but
vanishing utterly when they are quiet. Their similarity in dress is
remarkable. They may be large or small, short or long-tailed, with beaks
blunt, sharp, straight, curved, thick, or needle-pointed. In these
characters they differ; by these points they must know one another. But
their colors are almost identical. Their olives or browns invariably
warm into rich foxy rufous on wings and tail, while over head and
shoulders a shower of light streaks has fallen, bits of sunlight fixed
in down.

Further details belong to the literature of ornithology. But the colors
of the berry-hunters--these baffle description, yet we cannot pass them
by in silence. The blood and orange splashed on black of the toucans,
the scarlet and yellow of woodpeckers, the soft greens and buffs of
flycatchers, all these paled when a flock of manakins or tanagers or
honey-creepers came to the tree. Every precious stone found its
counterpart in the metallic hues of these exquisite feathered folk.

The glory of all was the opal-crowned manakin, a midget in green coat
and sulphur waistcoat, with a cap of scaly, iridescent, silvery
mother-of-pearl plates, in no way akin to feathers. Until now the life
of this Hop o' my Thumb, like those of all his ancestors, had gone
smoothly on, with never a human to admire, to wonder, and vainly to echo
the question of the great black frog, _Wh--y?_

On the last day of my stay I walked slowly up the trail toward the
_canella do matto_. For the last time I strained upward at the
well-known branches, and with the very movement there came the voice of
the swamp. Its tone was insistent, with a tinge of accusation, a note of
censure. _Wh--y?_ and after a little time, _Wh--y?_

I looked about me despairingly. What had I learned after all? Was there
any clearing up of the mystery of the jungle? Had my week of scrutiny
brought me any closer to the real intimacies of evolution? Or--evading
these questions for the time--was there nothing I could do in the few
precious moments left?

In five minutes I should turn my back on all this wildness, this jungle
seething with profound truths, and great solutions within arm's reach. I
should pass to the ocean where monotony compels introspection, and
finally to the great center of civilization where the veneer covers up
all truths.

Even if my studies had taught only the lesson of the tremendous
insurgence of life, could I not emphasize this, make it a more
compelling factor to be considered in future efforts toward the frog's
question and mine?

My eyes left the foliage overhead and sought the ground. Acting on
impulse, I brought from my camping stores an empty war-bag, and scraped
together an armful of leaves, sticks, moss, earth, mold of all sorts.
Four square feet of jungle débris went into my bag, and I shouldered it.

Then I said adieu to my trail and my tree--a sorrowful leave-taking, as
is always my misfortune. For the bonds which bind me to a place or a
person are not easily broken. And, as usual when the trail passed from
view, the ideal alone remained. The thoughts of mosquitoes, of
drenchings, of hours of breathless disappointed waiting, all sank in the
memory of the daily discoveries, the mental delights of new research.

A week later, when the sky-line was unbroken by land, when a long
ground-swell waved but did not disturb the deep blue of the open sea, I
unlaced my bag of jungle mold. Armed with forceps, lens, and vials I
began my search. For days I had gazed upward; now my scrutiny was
directed downward. With binoculars I had scanned without ceasing the
myriad leaves of a great tree; now with lens or naked eye I sought for
life or motion on single fallen leaves and dead twigs. When I studied
the life of the great tree I was in the land of Brobdingnag; now I was
verily a Gulliver in Lilliput. The cosmos in my war-bag teemed with
mystery as deep and as inviting as any in the jungle itself.

When I began work I knew little of what I should find. My vague thoughts
visualized ants and worms, and especially I anticipated unearthing
myriads of the unpleasant "mucuims" or _bêtes rouges_, whose hosts had
done all in their power to make life in the jungle unhappy.

Day by day my vials increased. Scores of creatures evaded my search;
many others, of whose kind I had captured a generous number, I allowed
to escape.

My lilliputian census was far from the mere aggregation of ants and
worms which I had anticipated, and a review of the whole showed that
hardly any great group of living creatures was unrepresented.

As hinting of the presence of wild animals, a bunch of rufous hairs had
in some way been tweaked from a passing agouti. Man himself was
represented in the shape of two wads which had dropped from my gun-shots
some time during the week. One had already begun to disintegrate and
sheltered half a dozen diminutive creatures. Five feathers were the
indications of birds, two of which were brilliant green plumes from a
calliste. Of reptiles there was a broken skull of some lizard, long
since dead, and the eggshell of a lizardling which had hatched and gone
forth upon his mission into the jungle. A third reptilian trace may have
been his nemesis--a bit of shed snake-skin. The group of amphibians was
present even in this square of four feet--a very tiny, dried, black, and
wholly unrecognizable little frog. Fishes were absent, though from my
knees as I scraped up the débris, I could almost have seen a little
igarapé in which dwelt scores of minnows.

As I delved deeper and examined the mold more carefully for the
diminutive inhabitants, I found that this thin film from the floor of
the jungle appeared to have several layers, each with its particular
fauna. The upper layer was composed of recently fallen leaves, nuts,
seeds, and twigs, dry and quite fresh. Here were colonies of small ants
and huge, solitary ones; here lived in hiding small moths and beetles
and bugs, awaiting dusk to fly forth through the jungle. The middle
layer was by far the most important, and in it lived four fifths of all
the small folk. The lowest layer was one of matted roots and clayey soil
and its animal life was meager.

Between the upper and the middle strata were sprouting nuts and seeds,
with their blanched roots threaded downward into the rich dark mold, and
the greening cotyledons curling upward toward light and warmth. Thus had
the great bird-filled canella begun its life. In my war-bag were a
score of potential forest giants doomed to death in the salt ocean. But
for my efforts toward the _Wh--y_, their fate might have been very
different.

Some of the half-decayed leaves were very beautiful. Vistas of pale,
bleached fungus lace trailed over the rich mahogany-colored tissues,
studded here and there with bits of glistening, transparent quartz. Here
I had many hints of a world of life beyond the power of the unaided eye.
And here too the grosser fauna scrambled, hopped, or wriggled.
Everywhere were tiny chrysalides and cocoons, many empty. Now and then a
plaque of eggs, almost microscopic, showed veriest pin-pricks where
still more minute parasites had made their escape. When one contracted
the field of vision to this world where leaves were fields and fungi
loomed as forests, competition, the tragedies, the mystery lessened not
at all. Minute seeds mimicked small beetles in shape and in exquisite
tracery of patterns. Bits of bark simulated insects, a patch of fungus
seemed a worm, while the mites themselves were invisible until they
moved. Here and there I discovered a lifeless boulder of emerald or
turquoise--the metallic cuirass of some long-dead beetle.

Some of the scenes which appeared as I picked over the mold, suddenly
unfolding after an upheaval of débris, were like Aladdin's cave. Close
to the eye appeared great logs and branches protruding in confusion from
a heaped up bank of diamonds. Brown, yellow, orange, and white colors
played over the scene; and now over a steep hill came a horrid, ungainly
creature, with enormous proboscis, eight legs, and a shining,
liver-colored body, spotted with a sickly hue of yellow. It was studded
with short, stiff, horny hairs--a mite by name, but under the lens a
terrible monster. I put some of these on my arm, to see if they were the
notorious "mucuims" which tortured us daily. Under the lens I saw the
hideous creature stop in its awkward progress, and as it prepared to
sink its proboscis I involuntarily flinched, so fearful a thing seemed
about to happen.

The lesser organisms defy description. They are nameless except in the
lists of specialists, and indeed most are of new, quite unnamed forms.
The only social insects were small twigfuls of ant and termite colonies,
with from five to fifteen members. All others were isolated, scattered.
Life here, so far beneath the sunlight, is an individual thing. Flocks
and herds are unknown; the mob has no place here. Each tiny organism
must live its life and meet its fate single-handed.

Little pseudo-scorpions were very abundant, and I could have vialed
hundreds. They rushed out excitedly and, unlike all the other little
beings, did not seek to hide. Instead, when they were disturbed, they
sought open spaces, walking slowly and brandishing and feeling ahead
with their great pincer-tipped arms, as long as their entire body. When
irritated or frightened, they scurried backwards, holding up their chelæ
in readiness.

Mites were the most abundant creatures, equaling the ants in number,
always crawling slowly along, tumbling over every obstacle in their path
and feeling their way awkwardly. Their kinds were numerous, all
villainous in appearance. Ticks were less common but equally repellent.
Small spiders and beetles were occasionally found, and hundred-legged
wrigglers fled to shelter at every turn of a leaf. The smallest snails
in the world crawled slowly about, some flat-shelled, others turreted.
Tiny earthworms, bright red and very active, crept slowly through fungus
jungles until disturbed, when they became an amazingly active tangle of
twisting curves, dancing all about. Simple insects, which we shall have
to call collembolas, were difficult to capture. They leaped with agility
many times their own length, and when quiescent looked like bits of
fungus. As for the rest, only Adam and a few specialists hidden in
museums could call them by name. They were a numerous company, some
ornamented with weird horns and fringes and patterns, others long of
legs or legless, swift of foot or curling up into minute balls of
animate matter.

One thing was evident early in my exploration: I was in a world of
little people. No large insects were in any of the débris. The largest
would be very small in comparison with a May beetle. And another thing
was the durability of chitin. The remains of beetles, considering the
rareness of living ones, were remarkable. The hard wing-cases, the
thorax armor, the segments of wasps, eyeless head masks, still remained
perfect in shape and vivid in color. Even in the deepest layers where
all else had disintegrated and returned to the elements, these shards
of death were as new.

And the smell of the mold, keen and strong as it came to my nostrils an
inch away--it was pungent, rich, woody. It hinted of the age-old
dissolution, century after century, which had been going on. Leaves had
fallen, not in a sudden autumnal downpour, but in a never-ending drift,
day after day, month after month. With a daily rain for moisture, with a
temperature of three figures, for the quicker increase of bacteria, and
an excess of humidity to foster quick decay, the jungle floor was indeed
a laboratory of vital work--where only analytic chemistry was allowed
full sway, and the mystery of synthetic life was ever handicapped, and
ever a mystery.

Before the vessel docked I had completed my task and had secured over
five hundred creatures of this lesser cosmos. At least twice as many
remained, but when I made my calculations I estimated that the mold had
sheltered only a thousand organisms plainly visible to the eye.

And when I had corked my last vial and the steward had removed the last
pile of shredded débris, I leaned back and thought of the thousand
creatures in my scant four square feet of mold. Then there came to mind
a square mile of jungle floor with its thin layer of fallen leaves
sheltering more than six billion creatures. Then I recalled the three
thousand straight miles of jungle which had lain west of me, and the
hundreds of miles of wonderful unbroken forest north and south, and my
mind became a blank. And then from the mist of unnamable numerals, from
this uncharted arithmetical census, there came to memory a voice, deep
and guttural,--and this time the slow enunciation was jeering, hopeless
of answer, _Wh--y?_ And soon afterwards, _Wh--y?_ And I packed up my
last box of vials and went on deck to watch the sunset.



XI

JUNGLE NIGHT


Within gun-reach in front of me trudged my little Akawai Indian hunter.
He turned his head suddenly, his ears catching some sound which mine had
missed, and I saw that his profile was rather like that of Dante.
Instantly the thought spread and the simile deepened. Were we two not
all alone? and this unearthly hour and light--Then I chuckled softly,
but the silence that the chuckle shattered shrank away and made it a
loud, coarse sound, so that I involuntarily drew in my breath. But it
was really amusing, the thought of Dante setting out on a hunt for
kinkajous and giant armadillos. Jeremiah looked at me wonderingly, and
we went on in silence. And for the next mile Dante vanished from my
thoughts and I mused upon the sturdy little red man. Jeremiah was his
civilized name; he would never tell me his real one. It seemed so
unsuited to him that I thought up one still less appropriate and called
him Nupee--which is the three-toed sloth; and in his quiet way he saw
the humor of it, for a more agile human being never lived.

Nupee's face was unclouded, but his position as hunter to our expedition
had brought decisions and responsibilities which he had not known
before. The simple life,--the unruffled existence in the little open
_benab_, with hammock, cassava field, and an occasional hunt,--this was
of the past. A wife had come, slipping quietly into his life,
Indian-fashion; and now, before the baby arrived, decisions had to be
made. Nupee longed for some store shoes and a suit of black clothes. He
had owned a big _benab_ which he himself had built; but a godmother,
like the cowbird in a warbler's nest, had gradually but firmly ousted
him and had filled it with diseased relatives, so that it was unpleasant
to visit. He now, to my knowledge, owned a single shirt and a pair of
short trousers.

The shoes were achieved. I detected in him qualities which I knew that I
should find in some one, as I do on every expedition, and I made him
perform some unnecessary labor and gave him the shoes. But the clothes
would cost five dollars, a month's wages, and he had promised to get
married--white-fashion--in another month, and that would consume several
times five dollars. I did not offer to help him decide. His Akawai
marriage ceremony seemed not without honor, and as for its sincerity--I
had seen the two together. But my lips were sealed. I could not tell him
that a recementing of the ritual of his own tribe did not seem quite the
equal of a five-dollar suit of clothes. That was a matter for individual
decision.

But tonight I think that we both had put all our worries and sorrows far
away, and I memory as well; and I felt sympathy in the quiet, pliant
gait which carried him so swiftly over the sandy trail. I knew Nupee now
for what he was--the one for whom I am always on the lookout, the
exceptional one, the super-servant, worthy of friendship as an equal. I
had seen his uncle and his cousins. They were Indians, nothing more.
Nupee had slipped into the place left vacant for a time by Aladdin, and
by Satán and Shimosaka, by Drojak and Trujillo--all exceptional, all
faithful, all servants first and then friends. I say "for a time," for
all hoped, and I think still hope with me, that we shall meet and
travel and camp together again, whether in the Cinghalese thornbush, or
Himalayan dâks, in Dyak canoes or among the camphor groves of
Sakarajama.

Nupee and I had not been thrown together closely. This had proved a
static expedition, settled in one place, with no dangers to speak of, no
real roughing it, and we met only after each hunting trip. But the magic
of a full moon had lured me from my laboratory table, and here we were,
we two, plodding junglewards, becoming better acquainted in silence than
I have often achieved with much talk.

It was nearly midnight. We traversed a broad trail of white sand,
between lines of saplings of pale-barked rubber trees, flooded,
saturated, with milky-gray light. Not a star appeared in the cloudless
sky, which, in contrast to the great silver moon-plaque, was blue-black.
These open sandy stretches, so recently etched into what had been
primitive jungle, were too glowing with light for most of the nocturnal
creatures who, in darkness, flew and ran and hunted about in them. And
the lovers of twilight were already come and gone. The stage was vacant
save for one actor--the nighthawk of the silvery collar, whose eerie
_wheeeo!_ or more leisurely and articulate _who-are-you?_ was queried
from stump and log. There was in it the same liquid tang, the virile
ringing of skates on ice, which enriches the cry of the whip-poor-will
in our country lanes.

Where the open trail skirted a hillside we came suddenly upon a great
gathering of these goatsuckers, engaged in some strange midnight revel.
Usually they roost and hunt and call in solitude, but here at least
forty were collected on the white sand within an area of a few yards. We
stopped and watched. They were dancing--or, rather, popping, as corn
pops in a hopper. One after another, or a half dozen at a time, they
bounced up a foot or two from the ground and flopped back, at the
instant of leaving and returning uttering a sudden, explosive _wop!_
This they kept up unceasingly for the five minutes we gave to them, and
our passage interrupted them for only a moment. Later we passed single
birds which popped and wopped in solitary state; whether practicing, or
snobbishly refusing to perform in public, only they could tell. It was a
scene not soon forgotten.

Suddenly before us rose the jungle, raw-edged, with border zone of
bleached, ashamed trunks and lofty branches white as chalk, of dead and
dying trees. For no jungle tree, however hardy, can withstand the
blasting of violent sun after the veiling of emerald foliage is torn
away. As the diver plunges beneath the waves, so, after one glance
backward over the silvered landscape, I passed at a single stride into
what seemed by contrast inky blackness, relieved by the trail ahead,
which showed as does a ray of light through closed eyelids. As the
chirruping rails climbed among the roots of the tall cat-tails out
yonder, so we now crept far beneath the level of the moonlit foliage.
The silvery landscape had been shifted one hundred, two hundred feet
above the earth. We had become lords of creation in name alone,
threading our way humbly among the fungi and toadstools, able only to
look aloft and wonder what it was like. And for a long time no voice
answered to tell us whether any creature lived and moved in the
tree-tops.

The tropical jungle by day is the most wonderful place in the world. At
night I am sure it is the most weirdly beautiful of all places outside
the world. For it is primarily unearthly, unreal; and at last I came to
know why. In the light of the full moon it was rejuvenated. The simile
of theatrical scenery was always present to the mind, the illusion lying
especially in the completeness of transformation from the jungle by
daylight. The theatrical effect was heightened by the sense of being in
some vast building. This was because of the complete absence of any
breath of air. Not a leaf moved; even the pendulous air-roots reaching
down their seventy-foot plummets for the touch of soil did not sway a
hair's breadth. The throb of the pulse set the rhythm for one's steps.
The silence, for a time, was as perfect as the breathlessness. It was a
wonderfully ventilated amphitheater; the air was as free from any
feeling of tropical heat, as it lacked all crispness of the north. It
was exactly the temperature of one's skin. Heat and cold were for the
moment as unthinkable as wind.

One's body seemed wholly negligible. In soft padding moccasins and easy
swinging gait close behind my naked Indian hunter, and in such khaki
browns that my body was almost invisible to my own downward glance, I
was conscious only of the play of my senses--of two at first, sight and
smell; later, of hearing. The others did not exist. We two were
unattached, impersonal, moving without effort or exertion. It was magic,
and I was glad that I had only my Akawai for companion, for it was magic
that a word would have shattered. Yet there was this wonderfully
satisfying thing about it, that most magic lacks: it exists at present,
today perhaps, at least once a month, and I know that I shall experience
it again. When I go to the window and look out upon the city night, I
find all extraneous light emaciated and shattered by the blare of gas
and electricity, but from one upreaching tower I can see reflected a
sheen which is not generated in any power-house of earth. Then I know
that within the twenty-four hours the _terai_ jungles of Garhwal, the
tree-ferns of Pahang, and the mighty _moras_ which now surround us, will
stand in silvery silence and in the peace which only the wilderness
knows.

I soon took the lead and slackened the pace to a slow walk. Every few
minutes we stood motionless, listening with mouth as well as ears. For
no one who has not listened in such silence can realize how important
the mouth is. Like the gill of old which gave it origin, our ear has
still an entrance inward as well as outward, and the sweep of breath and
throb of the blood are louder than we ever suspect. When at an opera or
concert I see some one sitting rapt, listening with open mouth, I do not
think of it as ill-bred. I know it for unconscious and sincere
absorption based on an excellent physical reason.

It was early spring in the tropics; insect life was still in the
gourmand stage, or that of pupal sleep. The final period of pipe and
fiddle had not yet arrived, so that there was no hum from the
underworld. The flow of sap and the spread of petals were no less silent
than the myriad creatures which, I knew, slumbered or hunted on every
side. It was as if I had slipped back one dimension in space and walked
in a shadow world. But these shadows were not all colorless. Although
the light was strained almost barren by the moon mountains, yet the glow
from the distant lava and craters still kept something of color, and the
green of the leaves, great and small, showed as a rich dark olive. The
afternoon's rain had left each one filmed with clear water, and this
struck back the light as polished silver. There was no tempered
illumination. The trail ahead was either black, or a solid sheet of
light. Here and there in the jungle on each side, where a tree had
fallen, or a flue of clear space led moonwards, the effect was of cold
electric light seen through trees in city parks. When such a shaft
struck down upon us, it surpassed simile. I have seen old paintings in
Belgian cathedrals of celestial light which now seems less imaginary.

At last the silence was broken, and like the first breath of the
tradewind which clouds the Mazaruni surface, the mirror of silence was
never quite clear again--or so it seemed. My northern mind, stored with
sounds of memory, never instinctively accepted a new voice of the jungle
for what it was. Each had to go through a reference clearing-house of
sorts. It was like the psychological reaction to words or phrases. Any
strange wail or scream striking suddenly upon my ear instantly
crystallized some vision of the past--some circumstance or adventure
fraught with similar sound. Then, appreciably as a second thought, came
the keen concentration of every sense to identify this new sound, to
hear it again, to fix it in mind with its character and its meaning.
Perhaps at some distant place and time, in utterly incongruous
surroundings, it may in turn flash into consciousness--a memory-simile
stimulated by some sound of the future.

I stood in a patch of moonlight listening to the baying of a hound, or
so I thought: that musical ululation which links man's companion
wolfwards. Then I thought of the packs of wild hunting dogs, the dreaded
"warracabra tigers," and I turned to the Indian at my elbow, full of
hopeful expectation. With his quiet smile he whispered, "_kunama_" and I
knew I had heard the giant tree-frog of Guiana--a frog of size and voice
well in keeping with these mighty jungles. I knew these were powerful
beenas with the Indians, tokens of good hunting, and every fortunate
benab would have its dried mummy frog hung up with the tail of the giant
armadillo and other charms. Well might these batrachians arouse profound
emotions among the Indians, familiar as they are with the strange beings
of the forest. I could imagine the great goggle-eyed fellow sprawled
high near the roof of the jungle, clutching the leaves with his
vacuum-cupped toes. The moonlight would make him ghostly--a pastel
frog; but in the day he flaunted splashes of azure and green on his
scarlet body.

At a turn in the trail we squatted and waited for what the jungle might
send of sight or sound. And in whispers Nupee told me of the big frog
_kunama_, and its ways. It never came to the ground, or even descended
part way down the trees; and by some unknown method of distillation it
made little pools of its own in deep hollows and there lived. And this
water was thick like honey and white like milk, and when stirred became
reddish. Besides which, it was very bitter. If a man drank of it,
forever after he hopped each night and clasped all the trees which he
encountered, endlessly endeavoring to ascend them and always failing.
And yet, if he could once manage to reach a pool of _kunama_ water in an
uncut tree and drink, his manhood would return and his mind be healed.

When the Indians desired this beena, they marked a tree whence a frog
called at night, and in the daytime cut it down. Forming a big circle,
they searched and found the frog, and forthwith smoked it and rubbed it
on arrows and bow before they went out. I listened gravely and found it
all fitted in with the magic of the night. If an Indian had appeared
down the trail, hopping endlessly and gripping the trunks, gazing upward
with staring eyes, I should not have thought it more strange than the
next thing that really happened.

We had settled on our toes in another squatting-place--a dark aisle with
only scattered flecks of light. The silence and breathlessness of the
mooncraters could have been no more complete than that which enveloped
us. My eye wandered from spot to spot, when suddenly I began to think of
that great owl-like goatsucker, the "poor-me-one." We had shot one at
Kalacoon a month before and no others had called since, and I had not
thought of the species again. Quite without reason I began to think of
the bird, of its wonderful markings, of the eyes which years ago in
Trinidad I had made to glow like iridescent globes in the light of a
flash, and then--a poor-me-one called behind us, not fifty feet away.
Even this did not seem strange among these surroundings. It was an
interesting happening, one which I have experienced many times in my
life. It may have been just another coincidence. I am quite certain it
was not. In any event it was a Dantesque touch, emphasized by the
character of the call--the wail of a lost soul being as good a simile as
any other. It started as a high, trembling wail, the final cry being
lost in the depths of whispered woe:--

_Oo----ooh!
         oh!
          oh!
           oh!
            oh!
             oh!_

Nupee never moved; only his lips formed the name by which he knew
it--_halawoe_. Whatever else characterized the sounds of the jungle at
night, none became monotonous or common. Five minutes later the great
bird called to us from far, far away, as if from another round of
purgatory--an eerie lure to enter still deeper into the jungle depths.
We never heard it again.

Nature seems to have apportioned the voices of many of her creatures
with sensitive regard for their environment. Somber voices seem
fittingly to be associated with subdued light, and joyous notes with the
blaze of sunlit twigs and open meadows. A bobolink's bubbling carol is
unthinkable in a jungle, and the strain of a wood pewee on a sunny
hillside would be like an organ playing dance music. This is even more
pronounced in the tropics, where, quite aside from any mental
association on my part, the voices and calls of the jungle reflect the
qualities of that twilight world. The poor-me-one proves too much. He is
the very essence of night, his wings edged with velvet silence, his
plumage the mingled concentration of moss and lichens and dead wood.

I was about to rise and lead Nupee farther into the gloom when the
jungle showed another mood--a silent whimsy, the humor of which I could
not share with the little red man. Close to my face, so near that it
startled me for a moment, over the curved length of a long narrow
caladium leaf, there came suddenly two brilliant lights. Steadily they
moved onward, coming up into view for all the world like two tiny
headlights of a motor-car. They passed, and the broadside view of this
great elater was still absurdly like the profile of a miniature tonneau
with the top down. I laughingly thought to myself how perfect the
illusion would be if a red tail-light should be shown, when to my
amazement a rosy red light flashed out behind, and my bewildered eyes
all but distinguished a number! Naught but a tropical forest could
present such contrasts in such rapid succession as the poor-me-one and
this parody of man's invention.

I captured the big beetle and slid him into a vial, where in his disgust
he clicked sharply against the glass. The vial went into my pocket and
we picked up our guns and crept on. As we traversed a dark patch, dull
gleams like heat lightning flashed over the leaves, and, looking down, I
saw that my khaki was aglow from the illuminated insect within. This
betrayed every motion, so I wrapped the vial in several sheets of paper
and rolled it up in my handkerchief. The glow was duller but almost as
penetrating. At one time or another I have had to make use of all my
garments, from topee to moccasins, in order to confine captives armed
with stings, beaks, teeth, or fangs, but now I was at a complete loss. I
tried a gun-barrel with a handkerchief stopper, and found I now carried
an excellent, long-handled flashlight. Besides, I might have sudden use
for the normal function of the gun. I had nothing sufficiently opaque
to quench those flaring headlights, and I had to own myself beaten and
release him. He spread his wings and flew swiftly away, his red light
glowing derisively; and even in the flood of pure moonlight he moved
within an aura which carried far through the jungle. I knew that killing
him was of no use, for a week after death from chloroform I have seen
the entire interior of a large insect box brilliantly lighted by the
glow of these wonderful candles, still burning on the dead shoulders of
the same kind of insect.

Twice, deeper in the jungle we squatted and listened, and twice the
silence remained unbroken and the air unmoved. Happening to look up
through a lofty, narrow canyon of dark foliage, I was startled as by
some sudden sound by seeing a pure white cloud, moonlit, low down, pass
rapidly across. It was first astounding, then unreal: a bit of
exceedingly poor work on the part of the property man, who had mixed the
hurricane scenery with that of the dog-days. Even the elements seemed to
have been laved with magic. The zone of high wind with its swift flying
clouds must have been flowing like a river just above the motionless
foliage of the tree-tops.

This piece of ultra-unnaturalism seemed to break part of the spell and
the magic silence was lifted. Two frogs boomed again, close at hand, and
now all the hound similitude was gone, and in its place another, still
more strange, when we think of the goggle-eyed author far up in the
trees. The sound now was identical with the short cough or growl of a
hungry lion, and though I have heard the frogs many times since that
night, this resemblance never changed or weakened. It seemed as if the
volume, the roaring outburst, could come only from the throat of some
large, full-lunged mammal.

A sudden tearing rush from the trail-side, and ripping of vines and
shrubs, was mingled with deep, hoarse snorts, and we knew that we had
disturbed one of the big red deer--big only in comparison with the
common tiny brown brockets. A few yards farther the leaves rustled high
overhead, although no breath of wind had as yet touched the jungle. I
began a slow, careful search with my flashlight, and, mingled with the
splotches and specks of moonlight high overhead, I seemed to see scores
of little eyes peering down. But at last my faint electric beam found
its mark and evolved the first bit of real color which the jungle had
shown--always excepting the ruby tail-light. Two tiny red globes gleamed
down at us, and as they gleamed, moved without a sound, apparently
unattached, slowly through the foliage. Then came a voice, as wandering,
as impersonal as the eyes--a sharp, incisive _wheeeeeat!_ with a
cat-like timbre; and from the eyes and voice I reconstructed a night
monkey--a kinkajou.

Then another notch was slipped and the jungle for a time showed
something of the exuberance of its life. A paca leaped from its meal of
nuts and bounced away with quick, repeated pats; a beetle with wings
tuned to the bass clef droned by; some giant tree-cricket tore the
remaining intervals of silence to shreds with unmuted wing-fiddles,
_cricks_ so shrill and high that they well-nigh passed beyond the upper
register of my ear out again into silence. The roar of another frog was
comforting to my eardrums.

Then silence descended again, and hours passed in our search for sound
or smell of the animal we wished chiefest to find--the giant armadillo.
These rare beings have a distinct odor. Months of work in the open had
sharpened my nostrils so that on such a tramp as this they were not much
inferior to those of Nupee. This sense gave me as keen pleasure as eye
or ear, and furnished quite as much information. The odors of city and
civilization seemed very far away: gasoline, paint, smoke, perfumery,
leather--all these could hardly be recalled. And how absurd seemed
society's unwritten taboo on discussion of this admirable, but pitifully
degenerate sense! Why may you look at your friend's books, touch his
collection of _netsukés_, listen to his music, yet dare sniff at naught
but his blossoms!

In the open spaces of the earth, and more than anywhere in this
conservatory of unblown odors, we come more and more to appreciate and
to envy a dog's sensitive muzzle. Here we sniffed as naturally as we
turned ear, and were able to recognize many of our nasal impressions,
and even to follow a particularly strong scent to its source. Few yards
of trail but had their distinguishable scent, whether violent, acrid
smell or delectable fragrance. Long after a crab-jackal had passed, we
noted the stinging, bitter taint in the air, and now and then the
pungent wake of some big jungle-bug struck us like a tangible barrier.

The most tantalizing odors were the wonderfully delicate and penetrating
ones from some great burst of blossoms, odors heavy with sweetness,
which seeped down from vine or tree high overhead, wholly invisible from
below even in broad daylight. These odors remained longest in memory,
perhaps because they were so completely the product of a single sense.
There were others too, which were unforgetable, because, like the voice
of the frog, they stirred the memory a fraction before they excited
curiosity. Such I found the powerful musk from the bed of leaves which a
fawn had just left. For some reason this brought vividly to mind the
fearful compound of smells arising from the decks of Chinese junks.

Along the moonlit trail there came wavering whiffs of orchids, ranging
from attar of roses and carnations to the pungence of carrion, the
latter doubtless distilled from as delicate and beautiful blossoms as
the former. There were, besides, the myriad and bewildering smells of
sap, crushed leaves, and decaying wood; acrid, sweet, spicy and
suffocating, some like musty books, others recalling the paint on the
Noah's Ark of one's nursery.

But the scent of the giant armadillo eluded us. When we waded through
some new, strange odor I looked back at Nupee, hoping for some sign that
it was the one we sought. But that night the great armored creatures
went their way and we ours, and the two did not cross. Nupee showed me a
track at the trail-side made long ago, as wide and deep as the spoor of
a dinosaur, and I fingered it reverently as I would have touched the
imprint of a recently alighted pterodactyl, taking care not to spoil the
outlines of the huge claw-marks. All my search for him had been in vain
thus far, though I had been so close upon his trail as to have seen
fresh blood. I had made up my mind not to give up, but it seemed as if
success must wait for another year.

We watched and called the ghostly kinkajous and held them fascinated
with our stream of light; we roused unnamable creatures which squawked
companionably at us and rustled the tree-top leaves; we listened to the
whispered rush of passing vampires skimming our faces and were soothed
by the hypnotic droning hum which beetles left in their swift wake.
Finally we turned and circled through side trails so narrow and so dark
that we walked with outstretched arms, feeling for the trunks and
lianas, choosing a sloth's gait and the hope of new adventures rather
than the glare of my flash on our path.

When we entered the Convict Trail, we headed toward home. Within sight
of the first turn a great black limb of a tree had recently fallen
across the trail in a patch of moonlight. Before we reached it, the
branch had done something it should not have done--it had straightened
slightly. We strained our eyes to the utmost but could not, in this
eerie light, tell head from tail end of this great serpent. It moved
very slowly, and with a motion which perfectly confounded our
perception. Its progress seemed no faster than the hour hand of a watch,
but we knew that it moved, yet so close to the white sand that the whole
trail seemed to move with it. The eye refused to admit any motion except
in sudden shifts, like widely separated films of a motion-picture. For
minute after minute it seemed quiescent; then we would blink and realize
that it was two feet higher up the bank. One thing we could see--a
great thickening near the center of the snake: it had fed recently and
to repletion, and slowly it was making its way to some hidden lair,
perhaps to lie motionless until another moon should silver the jungle.
Was there any stranger life in the world?

Whether it was a giant bushmaster or a constrictor, we could not tell in
the diffused light. I allowed it to go unharmed, for the spell of
silence and the jungle night was too strongly woven to be shattered
again by the crash of gun or rifle. Nupee had been quite willing to
remain behind, and now, as so often with my savage friends, he looked at
me wonderingly. He did not understand and I could not explain. We were
at one in the enjoyment of direct phenomena; we could have passed months
of intimate companionship in the wilds as I had done with his
predecessors; but at the touch of abstract things, of letting a deadly
creature live for any reason except for lack of a gun--then they looked
at me always with that puzzled look, that straining to grasp the
something which they knew must be there. And at once always followed
instant acceptance, unquestioning, without protest. The transition was
smooth, direct, complete; the sahib had had opportunity to shoot; he
had not done so; what did the sahib wish to do now--to squat longer or
to go on?

We waited for many minutes at the edge of the small glade, and the event
which seemed most significant to me was in actual spectacle one of the
last of the night's happenings. I sat with chin on knees,
coolie-fashion--a position which, when once mastered, and with muscles
trained to withstand the unusual flexion for hour after hour, is one of
the most valuable assets of the wilderness lover and the watcher of wild
things. It enables one to spend long periods of time in the lowest of
umbrella tents, or to rest on wet ground or sharp stones where actual
sitting down would be impossible. Thus is one insulated from _bêtes
rouges_ and enthusiastic ants whose sole motto is eternal preparedness.
Thus, too, one slips as it were, under the visual guard of human-shy
creatures, whose eyes are on the lookout for their enemy at human
height. From such a position, a single upward leap prepares one
instantly for advance or retreat, either of which manoeuvers is well
within instant necessity at times. Then there were always the two
positions to which one could change if occasion required--flat-footed,
with arm-pits on knees, or on the balls of the feet with elbows on
knees. Thus is every muscle shifted and relaxed.

Squatting is one of the many things which a white man may learn from
watching his _shikarees_ and guides, and which, in the wilderness, he
may adopt without losing caste. We are a chair-ridden people, and dare
hardly even cross our knees in public. Yet how many of us enjoy sitting
Buddha-fashion, or as near to it as we can attain, when the ban of
society is lifted! A chairless people, however, does not necessarily
mean a more simple, primitive type. The Japanese method of sitting is
infinitely more difficult and complex than ours. The characters of our
weak-thighed, neolithic forbears are as yet too pronounced in our own
bodies for us to keep an upright position for long. Witness the
admirable admittance of this anthropological fact by the architects of
our subway cars, who know that only a tithe of their patrons will be
fortunate enough to find room on the cane-barked seats which have come
to take the place of the stumps and fallen logs of a hundred thousand
years ago. So they have thoughtfully strung upper reaches of the cars
with imitation branches and swaying lianas, to which the last-comers
cling jealously, and swing with more or less of the grace of their
distant forbears. Their fur, to be sure, is rubbed thinner; nuts and
fruits have given place to newspapers and novels, and the roar and odors
are not those of the wind among the leaves and blossoms. But the simile
is amusing enough to end abruptly, and permit individual imagination to
complete it.

When I see an overtired waiter or clerk swaying from foot to foot like a
rocking elephant, I sometimes place the blame further back than
immediate impatience for the striking of the closing hour. It were more
true to blame the gentlemen whose habits were formed before caste, whose
activities preceded speech.

We may be certain that chairs will never go out of fashion. We are at
the end of bodily evolution in that direction. But to see a
white-draped, lanky Hindu, or a red-cloaked lama of the hills, quietly
fold up, no matter where he may be, is to witness the perfection of
chairless rest. One can read or write or doze comfortably, swaying
slightly with a bird's unconscious balance, or, as in my case at
present, wholly disarm suspicion on the part of the wild creatures by
sinking from the height of a man to that of a jungle deer. And still I
had lost nothing of the insulation which my moccasins provided from all
the inconveniences of the forest floor. Looking at Nupee after this rush
of chaotic thoughts which came between jungle and happenings, I chuckled
as I hugged my knees, for I knew that Nupee had noticed and silently
considered my little accomplishment, and that he approved, and I knew
that I had acquired merit in his sight. Thus may we revel in the
approval of our super-servants, but they must never know it.

From this eulogy of squatting, my mind returned to the white light of
the glade. I watched the motionless leaves about me, many of them
drooping and rich maroon by daylight, for they were just unbudded.
Reaching far into the dark mystery of the upper jungle stretched the
air-roots, held so straight by gravity, so unheeding of the whirling of
the planet through space. Only one mighty liana--a monkey-ladder--had
revolted against this dominance of the earth's pull and writhed and
looped upon itself in fantastic whorls, while along its length rippled
ever the undulations which mark this uneasy growth, this crystallized
Saint Vitus plant.

A momentary shiver of leaves drew our eyes to the left, and we began to
destroy the optical images evolved by the moon-shadows and to seek for
the small reality which we knew lived and breathed somewhere on that
branch. Then a sharp crack like a rifle lost whatever it was to us
forever, and we half leaped to our feet as something swept downward
through the air and crashed length after length among the plants and
fallen logs. The branches overhead rocked to and fro, and for many
minutes, like the aftermath of a volcanic eruption, came a shower, first
of twigs and swirling leaves, then of finer particles, and lastly of
motes which gleamed like silver dust as they sifted down to the trail.
When the air cleared I saw that the monkey-ladder had vanished and I
knew that its yards upon yards of length lay coiled and crushed among
the ferns and sprouting palms of the jungle floor. It seemed most
fitting that the vegetable kingdom, whose silence and majesty gave to
the jungle night its magic qualities, should have contributed this
memorable climax.

Long before the first Spaniard sailed up the neighboring river, the
monkey ladder had thrown its spirals aloft, and through all the
centuries, all the years, it had seen no change wrought beneath it. The
animal trail was trod now and then by Indian hunters, and lately we had
passed several times. The sound of our guns was less than the crashing
fall of an occasional forest tree. Now, with no leaf moved by the air,
with only the two of us squatting in the moonlight for audience, the
last cell had given way. The sap could no longer fight the decay which
had entered its heart; and at the appointed moment, the moment set by
the culmination of a greater nexus of forces than our human mind could
ever hope to grasp, the last fiber parted and the massive growth fell.

In the last few minutes, as it hung suspended, gracefully spiraled in
the moonlight, it had seemed as perfect as the new-sprouted _moras_ at
my feet. As I slowly walked out of the jungle I saw in this the
explanation of the simile of artificial scenery, of all the strange
magic which had come to me as I entered. The alchemy of moonlight turned
all the jungle to perfect growth, growth at rest. In the silvery light
was no trace of gnawing worm, of ravening ant, or corroding fungus. The
jungle was rejuvenated and made a place more wonderful than any
fairyland of which I have read or which I have conceived. The jungle by
day, as I have said--that, too, is wonderful. We may have two friends,
quite unlike in character, whom we love each for his own personality,
and yet it would be a hideous and unthinkable thing to see one
transformed into the other.

So, with the mist settling down and tarnishing the great plaque of
silver, I left the jungle, glad that I could be far away before the
first hint of dawn came to mar the magic. Thus in memory I can always
keep the dawn away until I return.

And some time in the future, when the lure of the full moon comes, and I
answer, I shall be certain of finding the same silence, the same
wonderful light, and the waiting trees and the magic. But Nupee may not
be there. He will perhaps have slipped into memory, with Drojak and
Aladdin. And if I find no one as silently friendly as Nupee, I shall
have to watch alone through my jungle night.



  INDEX

  Abary, 99

  agouti, 189

  allamandas, 85, 182

  Amazon, 240

  anaquas, 115

  anchor, observation from, 22, 23

  anis, 47, 100, 118

  antbirds, 249

  ants, 183, 256, 258;
    immunity from killing, 231;
    silvery gray, 223;
    "white," 233

  army ants,
    behavior in rain, 228, 229;
    castes, 217;
    eyes, 219;
    leap, 212, 213, 223;
    methods of transportation, 215, 229;
    moving of nest, 235, 236;
    tube, 227;
    trail makers, 221, 222;
    virility, 234;
    weight lifted, 216


  Barbados, 59-65

  Bartica, 141

  Basseterre, 45

  bat, vampire, 104, 152

  batrachian, 212

  beach, 62, 63, 70, 74, 75

  Beckett, Mr., 124

  beena, 274

  beetles, 211, 227, 234, 256, 277;
    mimicry, 257;
    tiger, 63

  bell bird, 159

  Berbice, 102, 103, 124

  bête rouge, 243, 255

  blackbirds, 98, 99

  blackfish, 12

  bougainvillea, 85

  British Guiana, mission to, 67;
    coast lands, 92-102

  bunduri pimpler, 125

  bunyahs, yellow-backed, 100

  bushmaster,
    noosing, 188-195;
    protective coloration, 191, 192;
    fangs, 194;
    size, 195

  butterflies,
    on St. Thomas, 38;
    on St. Kitts, 48;
    migration of sulphur, 158


  caciques, 100

  cadouries, 146

  callistes, 201, 249

  _canella do matto_, 241

  cashew, French, 197-200

  caterpillars, aquatic, 128

  catfish, armored, 112

  cecropia, 182

  centipedes, 152

  cetaceans, 11

  chachalacas, 157

  churacas, 248

  coal-carriers, St. Lucia, 55

  convolvulus, 182

  coolie,
    trial, 80-84;
    marriage, 163-176

  cotton-birds, 88

  crabs, 16;
    land, 62

  cricket, tree, 281

  crows, carrion, 88

  cuckoos, 212;
    black, 88

  Cuyuni, 144


  dacnis, 201

  daddy-long-legs, 215, 227

  dance, Hindu, 170

  débris, jungle, 253

  deer, 280

  dikes, 97

  dogs, wild hunting, 273

  dolphins, 44, 45

  doves, ground, 48

  ducks, Muscovy, 88



  eclipse, in Barbados, 61

  egrets, 88

  elater, 277

  Essequibo, 144, 148


  falcons, laughing, 88

  fireflies, cluster, 210

  fish,
    angel, 50, 56;
    four-eyed, 128;
    frog, 18;
    photographing of flying, 23;
    pipe, 18

  flower, passion, 182

  flycatchers, 249;
    fork-tailed, 122, 159;
    golden-crowned crested, 150;
    streaked, 196

  frangipani, 85

  frog, 211, 212, 240, 273;
    call, 240


  gannets, 40

  grass, bamboo, 183

  grasshopper, 128, 212

  grass-quits, 157

  grass, razor, 179, 184

  guide, for cutting trail, 187, 188


  hanaquas, 119

  hawks, 99

  heliconias, 202;
    color, 204;
    Reds, 205;
    sleeping glade, 205, 206;
    sleeping position, 205;
    Yellows, 205

  herons,
    Guiana green, 127;
    tri-colored, 88

  hoatzins, 118, 119;
    call, 130;
    food of young, 126;
    home life, 123-139;
    nest, 126, 129;
    nestlings, 131;
    odor, 129;
    photographing young, 102, 103

  honey creepers, 47, 252;
    turquoise, 201

  hummingbirds, 38, 113, 197, 198, 199, 200


  ibis, scarlet, 122


  jackal, crab, 282

  jaguar, 186

  jungle,
    animals obtained from, 282;
    trail through, 89;
    yard of, 255


  Kaburi trail, 148

  Kalacoon, 142, 143

  kingbirds, 47

  kinkajous, 263, 281

  kiskadees, 86, 104, 127, 157

  kunama, 273;
    habits, 274


  laboratory, wilderness, 141-153

  lianas, 246

  library, New Amsterdam, 105, 110

  lichens, 196

  lizards,
    in Barbados, 60;
    method of capture, 41-43;
    surrender of, 203;
    trail, 202

  lucannani, 157


  maam, 189

  Mafolie, 38

  Mahaica, 99

  manakins, 249, 252;
    opal-crowned, 252

  Martinique, 27-32, 49-54;
    market, 49-51

  martins, 69, 79, 158

  Mazaruni, 144, 148

  millipede, 38, 214

  mimicry, 257

  mites, 259

  Monkey Hill, 47

  monkeys, 48;
    howling, 155-156

  Mont Pelee, 27-32

  moths, 256

  mouse, 211

  muckamucka, 125


  New Amsterdam, 110, 124

  nighthawk, call, 267;
    gathering, 267

  noctiluca, 65

  nuts, 75


  opossum, 73, 74

  orioles, black-throated, 88;
    yellow, nest of, 100

  paca, 281

  palms, cocoanut, 100

  Pará, 241

  parrakeets, 250

  peas, butterfly, 182

  perai, 90

  phosphorescence, 20, 65

  phosphorescent animals, method of capturing, 20, 21

   pigeons, 48
   pits, 201;
     number five, 211

  Pomeroon, 89, 90


  rain, tropical, 120, 121

  rainbow, lunar, 58

  roaches, wood, 277

  Roosevelt, Colonel, 146-150

  Roosevelt, Mrs., 147, 148


  sandpiper, 47

  sargasso weed,
    animals associated with, 18;
    fate of, 19;
    method of grappling, 13-16;
    origin, 16

  scorpions, 152; pseudo, 259

  sea-birds, 11
  sea,
    color of, 24;
    swimming in, 45, 46

  sea-horses, 18

  second-growth, 180

  seeds, 75

  sharks, harmlessness of, 46

  shrimps, 18

  skimmers, 97

  sloth, name of, 264

  snails, 259

  snake, 285;
    green, 72;
    water constrictor, 72

  spiders, 259

  spine-tail, 119

  Station, Zoölogical, 141, 153;
    Tropical Research, 67

  St. Eustatius, 44

  St. Kitts, 44-49

  St. Lucia, 54-59;
    coal-carriers, 55

  St. Pierre, 30

  St. Thomas, 35-44

  Suddy, 70

  swifts, Palm, 47, 159;
    collared, 159


  tamarind tree, 38

  tanagers, 201, 249, 252

  tapir, 90

  tarantula, 152

  termites, 258;
    flight, 158;
    immunity from attack, 233

  tinamou, 189; eggs, 189

  toads, 161, 213

  tody-flycatchers, 127

  toucans, 250, 251

  trail,
    Convict, 177-210;
    Pomeroon, 84-91

  trees,
    silk cotton, 100;
    sentinel, 196;
    wild cinnamon, 241

  trogons, 188

  Trois Pitons, 58

  tropic-bird, 37

  trumpet tree, 182


  warracabra tiger, 273

  wasp, 63, 83

  wharf, Dutch, 71

  woodhewers, 249, 251

  woodpeckers, 249, 251, 252

  worm, inch, 229

  wrens, 157, 250

  Zoölogical Society, New York, 67



     *     *     *     *     *

Modern Library of the World's Best Books

COMPLETE LIST OF TITLES IN

THE MODERN LIBRARY

_For convenience in ordering please use number at right of title_


         AUTHOR                TITLE AND NUMBER

  AIKEN, CONRAD           A Comprehensive Anthology of American Verse 101
  AIKEN, CONRAD           Modern American Poetry 127
  ANDERSON, SHERWOOD      Poor White 115
  ANDERSON, SHERWOOD      Winesburg, Ohio 104
  ANDREYEV, LEONID        The Seven That Were Hanged, and the Red Laugh 45
  APULEIUS, LUCIUS        The Golden Ass 88

  BALZAC                  Short Stories 40
  BAUDELAIRE              Prose and Poetry 70
  BEARDSLEY, AUBREY       64 Reproductions 42
  BEEBE, WILLIAM          Jungle Peace 30
  BEERBOHM, MAX           Zuleika Dobson 116
  BIERCE, AMBROSE         In the Midst of Life 133
  BLAKE, WILLIAM          Poems 91
  BRONTË, EMILY           Wuthering Heights 106
  BROWN, GEO. DOUGLAS     The House with the Green Shutters 129
  BUTLER, SAMUEL          Erewhon 136
  BUTLER, SAMUEL          The Way of All Flesh 13

  CABELL, JAMES BRANCH    Beyond Life 25
  CABELL, JAMES BRANCH    The Cream of the Jest 126
  CARPENTER, EDWARD       Love's Coming of Age 51
  CARROLL, LEWIS          Alice in Wonderland, etc. 79
  CASANOVA, JACQUES       Memoirs of Casanova 165
  CELLINI, BENVENUTO      Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini 3
  CERVANTES               Don Quixote 174
  CHAUCER                 The Canterbury Tales 161
  CHESTERTON, G. K.       Man Who Was Thursday 35
  CRANE, STEPHEN          Men, Women and Boats 102

  D'ANNUNZIO, GABRIELE    Flame of Life 65
  D'ANNUNZIO, GABRIELE    The Child of Pleasure 98
  D'ANNUNZIO, GABRIELE    The Triumph of Death 112
  DAUDET, ALPHONSE        Sappho 85
  DEFOE, DANIEL           Moll Flanders 122
  DEWEY, JOHN             Human Nature and Conduct 173
  DOSTOYEVSKY, FYODOR     The Brothers Karamazov 151
  DOSTOYEVSKY, FYODOR     Poor People 10
  DOUGLAS, NORMAN         Old Calabria 141
  DOUGLAS, NORMAN         South Wind 5
  DOWSON, ERNEST          Poems and Prose 74
  DREISER, THEODORE       Free, and Other Stories 50
  DREISER, THEODORE       Twelve Men 148
  DUMAS, ALEXANDRE        Camille 69
  DUMAS, ALEXANDRE        The Three Musketeers 143
  DUNSANY, LORD           A Dreamer's Tales 34
  ELLIS, HAVELOCK         The Dance of Life 160
  ELLIS, HAVELOCK         The New Spirit 95

  FLAUBERT, GUSTAVE       Madame Bovary 28
  FLAUBERT, GUSTAVE       Salammbo 118
  FLAUBERT, GUSTAVE       Temptation of St. Anthony 92
  FRANCE, ANATOLE         Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard 22
  FRANCE, ANATOLE         The Queen Pedauque 110
  FRANCE, ANATOLE         The Red Lily 7
  FRANCE, ANATOLE         The Revolt of the Angels 11
  FRANCE, ANATOLE         Thais 67

  GAUTIER, THEOPHILE      Mlle. De Maupin 53
  GEORGE, W. L.           A Bed of Roses 75
  GILBERT, W. S.          The Mikado, Iolanthe, etc. 26
  GILBERT, W. S.          Pinafore and Other Plays 113
  GISSING, GEORGE         New Grub Street 125
  GISSING, GEORGE         Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft 46
  GONCOURT, E. AND J. DE  Renee Mauperin 76
  GORKY, MAXIM            Creatures That Once Were Men and Other Stories 48
  GOURMONT, REMY DE       A Night in the Luxembourg 120
  GOURMONT, REMY DE       A Virgin Heart 131

  HARDY, THOMAS           Jude the Obscure 135
  HARDY, THOMAS           The Mayor of Casterbridge 17
  HARDY, THOMAS           The Return of the Native 121
  HAUPTMANN, GERHART      The Heretic of Soana 149
  HAWTHORNE, NATHANIEL    The Scarlet Letter 93
  HEARN, LAFCADIO         Some Chinese Ghosts 130
  HECHT, BEN              Erik Dorn 29
  HEMINGWAY, ERNEST       The Sun Also Rises 170
  HOMER                   The Iliad 166
  HOMER                   The Odyssey 167
  HUDSON, W. H.           Green Mansions 89
  HUDSON, W. H.           The Purple Land 24
  HUNEKER, JAMES G.       Painted Veils 43
  HUXLEY, ALDOUS          A Virgin Heart 131

  IBSEN, HENRIK           A Doll's House, Ghosts, etc. 6
  IBSEN, HENRIK           Hedda Gabler, Pillars of Society,
                            The Master Builder 36
  IBSEN, HENRIK           The Wild Duck, Rosmersholm,
                            The League of Youth 54

  JAMES, HENRY            Daisy Miller, etc. 63
  JAMES, HENRY            The Turn of the Screw 169
  JAMES, WILLIAM          The Philosophy of William James 114
  JOYCE, JAMES            Dubliners 124
  JOYCE, JAMES            A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man 145

  KIPLING, RUDYARD        Soldiers Three 71
  KOMROFF, MANUEL         Oriental Romances 55

  LAWRENCE, D. H.         The Rainbow 128
  LAWRENCE, D. H.         Sons and Lovers 109
  LEWISOHN, LUDWIG        Upstream 123
  LOTI, PIERRE            Mme. Chrysantheme 94

  MACY, JOHN              The Spirit of American Literature 56
  MAUPASSANT, GUY DE      Love and Other Stories 72
  MAUPASSANT, GUY DE      Mademoiselle Fifi, and Twelve Other Stories 8
  MAUPASSANT, GUY DE      Une Vie 57
  MENKEN, H. L.           Selected Prejudices 107
  MELVILLE, HERMAN        Moby Dick 119
  MEREDITH, GEORGE        Diana of the Crossways 14
  MEREDITH, GEORGE        The Ordeal of Richard Feverel 134
  MEREJKOWSKI, DMITRI     The Death of the Gods 153
  MEREJKOWSKI, DMITRI     Peter and Alexis 175
  MEREJKOWSKI, DMITRI     The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci 138
  MISCELLANEOUS           An Anthology of American Negro Literature 163
                          A Modern Book of Criticism 81
                          Best Ghost Stories 73
                          Best American Humorous Short Stories 87
                          Best Russian Short Stories 18
                          Four Famous Greek Plays 158
                           Fourteen Great Detective Stories 144
                          Great Modern Short Stories 168
                             Edited by Grant Overton and including
                             stories by Joseph Conrad, D. H. Lawrence,
                             Katherine Mansfield, Sherwood Anderson,
                             Glenway Westcott, E. M. Forster, etc.
                          Outline of Abnormal Psychology 152
                          Outline of Psychoanalysis 66
  MOLIERE                 Plays 78
  MOORE, GEORGE           Confessions of a Young Man 16
  MORRISON, ARTHUR        Tales of Mean Streets 100
  NIETZSCHE, FRIEDRICH    Beyond Good and Evil 20
  NIETZSCHE, FRIEDRICH    Ecce Homo and the Birth of Tragedy 68
  NIETZSCHE, FRIEDRICH    Genealogy of Morals 62
  NIETZSCHE, FRIEDRICH    Thus Spake Zarathustra 9

  O'NEILL, EUGENE         The Emperor Jones and The Straw 146
  O'NEILL, EUGENE         Seven Plays of the Sea 111

  PAINE, THOMAS           Writings 108
  PATER, WALTER           The Renaissance 86
  PATER, WALTER           Marius the Epicurean 90
  PEPYS, SAMUEL           Samuel Pepys' Diary 103
  PETRONIUS ARBITER       The Satyricon 156
  POE, EDGAR ALLAN        Best Tales 82
  PREVOST, ANTOINE        Manon Lescaut 85
  PROUST, MARCEL          Swann's Way 59
  PROUST, MARCEL          Within A Budding Grove 172

  RABELAIS                Gargantua and Pantagruel 4
  RENAN, ERNEST           The Life of Jesus 140

  RODIN                   64 Reproductions 41
  ROSTAND, EDMOND         Cyrano de Bergerac 154
  RUSSELL, BERTRAND       Selected Papers of Bertrand Russell 137

  SALTUS, EDGAR           The Imperial Orgy 139
  SCHNITZLER, ARTHUR      Anatol, Green Cockatoo, etc. 32
  SCHNITZLER, ARTHUR      Bertha Garlan 39
  SCHOPENHAUER            The Philosophy of Schopenhauer 52
  SCHOPENHAUER            Studies in Pessimism 12
  SCHREINER, OLIVE        The Story of an African Farm 132
  SHAW, G. B.             An Unsocial Socialist 15
  SMOLLETT, TOBIAS        Humphrey Clinker 159
  SPINOZA                 The Philosophy of Spinoza 60
  STENDHAL                The Red and the Black 157
  STERNE, LAURENCE        Tristram Shandy 147
  STRINDBERG, AUGUST      Married 2
  SUDERMANN, HERMANN      Dame Care 33
  SUDERMANN, HERMANN      The Song of Songs 162
  SWINBURNE, CHARLES      Poems 23
  SYMONDS, JOHN A.        The Life of Michelangelo 49

  TCHEKOV                 Rothschild's Fiddle, etc. 31
  TCHEKOV                 Sea Gull, Cherry Orchard,
                            Three Sisters, etc. 171
  THOMPSON, FRANCIS       Complete Poems 38
  TOLSTOY, LEO            Anna Karenina 37
  TOLSTOY, LEO            Redemption and Other Plays 77
  TOLSTOY, LEO            The Death of Ivan Ilyitch and
                            Four Other Stories 64
  TOMLINSON, H. M.        The Sea and The Jungle 99
  TURGENEV, IVAN          Fathers and Sons 21
  TURGENEV, IVAN          Smoke 80

  VAN LOON, HENDRIK W.    Ancient Man 105
  VAN VECHTEN, CARL       Peter Whiffle 164
  VILLON, FRANCOIS        Poems 58
  VOLTAIRE                Candide 47

  WELLS, H. G.            Ann Veronica 27
  WHISTLER, J. McNEIL     The Art of Whistler with 32 Reproductions 150
  WHITMAN, WALT           Leaves of Grass 97
  WILDE, OSCAR            An Ideal Husband, A Woman of No Importance 84
  WILDE, OSCAR            De Profundis 117
  WILDE, OSCAR            Dorian Gray 1
  WILDE, OSCAR            Poems 19
  WILDE, OSCAR            Fairy Tales, Poems in Prose 61
  WILDE, OSCAR            Salome, The Importance of Being Earnest, etc. 83
  WILDER, THORNTON        The Cabala 155
  WOOLF, VIRGINIA         Mrs. Dalloway 96

  YEATS, W. B.            Irish Fairy and Folk Tales 44

  ZOLA, EMILE             Nana 142



    Transcriber's Note:
    Spelling and punctuation inaccuracies were silently corrected.
    Hyphenation and accented words were standardised.
    Archaic and variable spelling is preserved.
    Author's punctuation style is preserved.
    Text in italics is denoted by _underscores_.





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