There yet remained to be described all that unimaginable space east of the Andes; the rivers — what rivers! — the green plains that are like the sea — the illimitable waste of water where there is no land — and the forest region. The very thought of the Amazonian forest made my spirit droop. If I could have snatched her up and placed her on the dome of Chimborazo she would have looked on an area of ten thousand square miles of earth, so vast is the horizon at that elevation. And possibly her imagination would have been able to clothe it all with an unbroken forest. Yet how small a portion this would be of the stupendous whole — of a forest region equal in extent to the whole of Europe! All loveliness, all grace, all majesty are there; but we cannot see, cannot conceive — come away! From this vast stage, to be occupied in the distant future by millions and myriads of beings, like us of upright form, the nations that will be born when all the existing dominant races on the globe and the civilizations they represent have perished as utterly as those who sculptured the stones of old Tiahuanaco — from this theatre of palms prepared for a drama unlike any which the Immortals have yet witnessed — I hurried away; and then slowly conducted her along the Atlantic coast, listening to the thunder of its great waves, and pausing at intervals to survey some maritime city.
Never probably since old Father Noah divided the earth among his sons had so grand a geographical discourse been delivered; and having finished, I sat down, exhausted with my efforts, and mopped my brow, but glad that my huge task was over, and satisfied that I had convinced her of the futility of her wish to see the world for herself.
Her excitement had passed away by now. She was standing a little apart from me, her eyes cast down and thoughtful. At length she approached me and said, waving her hand all round: "What is beyond the mountains over there, beyond the cities on that side — beyond the world?"
"Water, only water. Did I not tell you?" I returned stoutly; for I had, of course, sunk the Isthmus of Panama beneath the sea.
"Water! All round?" she persisted.
"Water, and no beyond? Only water — always water?"
I could no longer adhere to so gross a lie. She was too intelligent, and I loved her too much. Standing up, I pointed to distant mountains and isolated peaks.
"Look at those peaks," I said. "It is like that with the world — this world we are standing on. Beyond that great water that flows all round the world, but far away, so far that it would take months in a big boat to reach them, there are islands, some small, others as large as this world. But, Rima, they are so far away, so impossible to reach, that it is useless to speak or to think of them. They are to us like the sun and moon and stars, to which we cannot fly. And now sit down and rest by my side, for you know everything."
She glanced at me with troubled eyes.
"Nothing do I know — nothing have you told me. Did I not say that mountains and rivers and forests are nothing? Tell me about all the people in the world. Look! there is Cuzco over there, a city like no other in the world — did you not tell me so? Of the people nothing. Are they also different from all others in the world?"
"I will tell you that if you will first answer me one question, Rima."
She drew a little nearer, curious to hear, but was silent.
"Promise that you will answer me," I persisted, and as she continued silent, I added: "Shall I not ask you, then?"
"Say," she murmured.
"Why do you wish to know about the people of Cuzco?"
She flashed a look at me, then averted her face. For some moments she stood hesitating; then, coming closer, touched me on the shoulder and said softly: "Turn away, do not look at me."
I obeyed, and bending so close that I felt her warm breath on my neck, she whispered: "Are the people in Cuzco like me? Would they understand me — the things you cannot understand? Do you know?"
Her tremulous voice betrayed her agitation, and her words, I imagined, revealed the motive of her action in bringing me to the summit of Ytaioa, and of her desire to visit and know all the various peoples inhabiting the world. She had begun to realize, after knowing me, her isolation and unlikeness to others, and at the same time to dream that all human beings might not be unlike her and unable to understand her mysterious speech and to enter into her thoughts and feelings.
"I can answer that question, Rima," I said. "Ah, no, poor child, there are none there like you — not one, not one. Of all there — priests, soldiers, merchants, workmen, white, black, red, and mixed; men and women, old and young, rich and poor, ugly and beautiful — not one would understand the sweet language you speak."
She said nothing, and glancing round, I discovered that she was walking away, her fingers clasped before her, her eyes cast down, and looking profoundly dejected. Jumping up, I hurried after her. "Listen!" I said, coming to her side. "Do you know that there are others in the world like you who would understand your speech?"
"Oh, do I not! Yes — mother told me. I was young when you died, but, O mother, why did you not tell me more?"
"Oh, do you not think that I would go to them if I knew — that I would ask?"
"Does Nuflo know?"
She shook her head, walking dejectedly along.
"But have you asked him?" I persisted.
"Have I not! Not once — not a hundred times."
Suddenly she paused. "Look," she said, "now we are standing in Guayana again. And over there in Brazil, and up there towards the Cordilleras, it is unknown. And there are people there. Come, let us go and seek for my mother's people in that place. With grandfather, but not the dogs; they would frighten the animals and betray us by barking to cruel men who would slay us with poisoned arrows."
"O Rima, can you not understand? It is too far. And your grandfather, poor old man, would die of weariness and hunger and old age in some strange forest."
"Would he die — old grandfather? Then we could cover him up with palm leaves in the forest and leave him. It would not be grandfather; only his body that must turn to dust. He would be away — away where the stars are. We should not die, but go on, and on, and on."