Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
No one in Georgetown can remember his full name, and so he is known only as Mr. Abel. One evening, as he sits talking to a friend, he tells a strange story, a tale of his youth.
While he was living among the native people of the jungle, a nearby savannah caught his fancy. The natives claimed it was haunted and would not go near it. One day, he set out to explore the savannah for himself. For a long while he sat on a log trying to identify the calls of the birds. One particularly engaging sound seemed almost human, and it followed him as he returned to the village. Soon he bribed one of the natives to enter the haunted savannah. The guide became frightened, however, and ran away, leaving Abel alone with the weird sound. The man had said that the daughter of the spirit Didi inhabited the forest. Abel felt sure that the nearly intelligible language of the birdlike sounds was associated with the one to whom the man referred. Again and again, Abel returned to the forest in his search for the source of the warbling sound, but it always eluded him. Then, one day, he saw a girl playing with a bird. The girl disappeared among the trees, but not before Abel had decided that she must be connected in some way with the warbling sounds he had heard.
The native tribe had been encouraging him to continue his quests into the area of mystery. He decided at last that they were hoping he would try to kill the creature who seemed to be haunting their forest. He was stricken with horror at the idea. One day, he came face to face with the elusive being. He had been menaced by a small venomous snake, and he was about to kill it with a rock when the girl appeared before him to protest vigorously in her odd, birdlike, warbling language. She was not like any human he had ever seen. Her coloring was her most striking characteristic; it was luminescent and changed with her every mood. As he stood looking at her, fascinated by her loveliness, the snake bit him on the leg.
He started back toward the village for help, but a blinding rainstorm overtook him on the way. After falling unconscious while running through the trees, he awakened in a hut with a bearded old man named Nuflo. The man expressed fear and hatred of the natives who, he said, were afraid of his grandchild, Rima. It was she who had saved Abel from dying of the snake’s venom, and it was she who had been following him in the forest. Abel could not believe that the listless, colorless girl standing in a corner of the hut was the lovely birdlike creature he had met. On closer examination, he could detect a likeness of figure and features, but her luminous radiance was missing. When Rima addressed him in Spanish, he questioned her about the musical language that she emitted in the trees. She gave no explanation and ran away.
In a few days, Abel learned that Rima would harm no living creature, not even for her own food. Abel grew to love...
(The entire section is 1192 words.)
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