Kanana: The Jungle Girl – Chapter 2 Excerpt

The Jungle GirlThat evening, decked out in a suit and tie, I walked from the hotel to the home of the Winston-Smiths, who lived in one of the larger colonial homes, set somewhat away from the others. The house and yard were brightly lit with hanging lanterns, and music was playing. Dozens of people wandered in the yard or stood on the veranda and I could well imagine that every white man and woman in Abbeyport was to be present that evening.

“Good evening,” said a handsome and well-dressed British woman at the door. “I’m Charlotte Winston-Smith. Welcome to my home.”

“Thank you. I’m Henry Goode.”

“Oh, you’re an American. How wonderful. Are you acquainted with Mr. Roosevelt?”

“There isn’t an American alive, ma’am, who isn’t acquainted with Mr. Roosevelt, but I have the pleasure of saying that Mr. Roosevelt is acquainted with me.”

“Quite, quite.   Please do come in.” She took me by the arm and led me through the foyer into the parlor where a dozen men were carrying on a lively conversation.

“There you are, Henry.” I immediately recognized Colonel Roosevelt’s patrician voice, though I hadn’t initially seen him in the room. He stepped from behind three men to greet me. “I was just telling these gentlemen that we’ve discovered your reason for being in Elizagaea.”

“Oh?”

“Yes, Winston-Smith here knows all about it.”

Having seen Mrs. Winston-Smith, I expected her husband to be an older gentleman, but he looked to be at least ten years her junior. A handsome man of about my own age, he was tall and thin and sported a splendid handlebar mustache.

“How do you do?” he said, reaching out to shake my hand. “I was just telling Mr. Roosevelt about the legend of Kanana.”

“Kanana?”

“Yes. She’s a legendary jungle goddess: part of the culture of the natives for hundreds of years. Lately though, she’s taken on a new hue, as it were. As the story is told now, Kanana is white-skinned. I would assume this is because of the native contact with Europeans, whom they naturally see as superior to themselves.”

“So you see, my boy,” said Roosevelt. “I’ve discovered your secret plan. You are going to capture this Kanana, this jungle goddess, for yourself.”

“I can assure you, sir, that is not my plan. In fact, I am through with women, whether they be civilized or jungle variety.”

Winston-Smith laughed and Roosevelt chuckled, but I could feel his keen eye taking a deeper look at me.

“I have decided to hunt some of the big game,” I said.

“I heartily enjoy hunting,” said Roosevelt. “There are few sensations I prefer to that of pitting my wits against the forces that nature has to offer. But remember that the hunter is a steward of his land and not the conqueror.”

“This land cannot be conquered,” said Winston-Smith. “The jungle here is untamed and will likely stay that way forever. Why, we lose more than half of those men who head into the bush.”

“That is the fate of the unprepared,” replied the former President. “A toughness and hardy endurance are necessary to contend with the forces of nature, whether it is to resist cold and wintery blasts of the arctic, or the heat of the thirsty desert, to wander away to new pastures, to plunge over the broken ground, or to plow one’s way through jungles and quagmires. But there can be found no greater beauty than lands untouched by human hands. There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, or its charm. The farther one gets into the wilderness, the greater is the attraction of its lonely freedom.”

“Why Mr. Roosevelt,” said one of the other men. “I thought you only waxed poetic about navies.”

“Colonel Roosevelt has written a great deal on hunting and the wilderness,” I said. “Every young man should read Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail.”

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