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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1192

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...

(The entire section contains 1192 words.)

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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 strange, beautiful, untamed girl of the green forest. When he questioned her, she spoke willingly, but her speech was strangely poetic and difficult to understand. She expressed deep, spiritual longings and made him understand that in the forest she communed with her mother, who had died long ago.

Rima began to sense that since Abel, the only person she had known except her grandfather, could not understand her language and did not understand her longings, she must be unlike other human beings in the world. In her desire to meet other people and to return to the place of her birth where her mother had died, Rima revealed to Abel the name of her birthplace, a mountain he knew well. Rima demanded that her grandfather guide her to Riolama Mountain. Old Nuflo consented and requested that Abel come also.

Before he took the long journey with Rima and Nuflo, Abel returned to the village. There, greeted with quiet suspicion and awe because of where he had been, Abel was held a prisoner. After six days’ absence, he returned to Rima’s forest. Nuflo and Abel made preparations for their journey. When they started, Rima followed them, only showing herself when they needed directions.

Nuflo began telling Rima’s story. He had been wandering about with a band of outlaws when an ethereal woman appeared among them. After she had fallen and broken her ankle, Nuflo, who thought she must be a saint, nursed her back to health. Observing that she was to have a baby, he took her to a native village. Rima was born soon after. The woman could learn neither Spanish nor the language of the native people, and the soft melodious sounds that fell from her lips were unintelligible to everyone. Gradually, the woman faded. As she lay dying, she made the rough hunter understand that Rima could not live unless she were taken to the dry, cool mountains.

Knowing their search for her mother’s people to be in vain, Abel sought to dissuade Rima from the journey. He explained to her that they must have disappeared or have been wiped out by natives. Rima believed him, but at the thought of her own continued loneliness, she fell fainting at his feet. When she had recovered, she spoke of being alone, of never finding anyone who could understand her sweet, warbling language. Abel promised to stay with her always in the forest. Rima insisted on making the journey back alone so that she could prepare herself for Abel’s return.

The return to the savannah was not easy for Abel and the old man. They were nearly starving when they came to their own forest and saw, to their horror, that the hut was gone. Rima could not be found. As Abel ran through the forest searching for her, he came upon a lurking native tribesman. Then he realized that she must be gone, for the man would not have dared to enter the savannah if the daughter of Didi were still there. He went back to the village for food and learned from them that Rima had returned to her forest. Finding her in a tree, the chief, Runi, had ordered his men to burn the tree in order to destroy the daughter of Didi.

Half mad with sorrow, Abel fled to the village of an enemy tribe. There he made a pact with the villagers for the slaughter of the tribe of Runi. He then went to the forest, where he found Nuflo dead. He also found Rima’s bones lying among the ashes of the fire-consumed tree. He placed her remains in an urn that he carried with him back to civilization.

Living in Georgetown, Abel at last understood Rima’s sorrowful loneliness. Having known and lost her, he suffered the same longings she had felt when she was searching for her people.

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