I WAS afraid of the jungle, and fascinated by it. Perhaps it was because I had come too untraveled, too directly from the pines to the palms and the strangling figs and the clawed wild pineapples, though I was not so much surprised by the strangeness as I was shocked by the manner and temper of the jungle. It gave me no welcome, showing me only a dark, averted face. And now, after weeks of parley and wandering on the trails, I am departing unwept, the alien and the suspect that I came.
The fault is mine, no doubt, yet I am not so certain of that, since I have lived this short time with some of the jungle’s native born. They are much of my mind. The arctic tundras are as hospitable as the equatorial jungle, and neither of them the natural habitat of man — bananas in the one as hardly come by as blubber in the other. And as for raiment — it is just as difficult to keep comfortably naked on the equator as comfortably clothed at the poles, intense heat being as stultifying as extreme cold.
I have read in books of jungle peace, as if it were a highly specialized peace, peculiar to the jungle. So indeed it must be, and shy like the peaceful tapir and cougar, and like them denning apart and alone. If peace comes out upon the trails of Barro Colorado Island, it must come with the great cats at dead of night. In the daytime only confusion and disorder crowd out and cross the narrow trails. Order is not the jungle’s primal law. The jungle has no plan or pattern, no halls or rooms within the great house, no windows except an occasional break in the roof, and not an open door. The only entrance to the jungle is through the narrow, machetecut trails, which cross and recross the forest, but which let no one into the heart of the woods. A long steel blade under the fifth rib is direct, yet it is not a loving way to the heart, nor provocative of tenderness. A forest so approached cannot be friendly, and I felt, only its dark, inimical frown.
The jungle and I were never at peace; nor is the jungle ever at peace with itself. Where all is confusion, there all is struggle, conflict; and in the jungle it is internecine war without quarter, and without safe conduct for the stranger. When hot, high noon broods the jungle, it is but hatching strife; and at midnight, when the barrage of the cicada has ceased, the strained, unnatural silence creeping through the lianas is only a shift of forces — dawn stealing out to the trenches on the edge of no man’s land.
That he shouts with his sister at play!
And better still for our nature writers in prose and verse that their forests primeval have not been rainforest jungles. I had come straight from that murmuring pine and hemlock literature, from the bearded, Druid trees with voices sad and prophetic — sad, indeed, in contrast to the warlike jungle. I found no bearded pines or hemlocks; but such trees as dwell in the jungle, some fifty species of them on Barro Colorado Island, including an ancient tree fern of the genus Hemitelia, wore not only beards but shaggy manes, plumes, and feathers in the shape of ferns, yellow and purple orchids up their backs and on their arms, tails and fetlocks like horses, lines like Maypoles, and hawser hair that cascaded from their matted tops, coiled down over their limbs, wrapped about their trunks, and hobbled their splay feet in bights that would make the writhing serpents of Laocoön feel like angleworms. And so many of the trees grew quills like porcupines!
A fantastic forest, its feet in the air, being swallowed by boa constrictors, was my first impression of the jungle. And the snake persists. The liana, the leaping, reaching, clasping, throttling vine, whose boughs have neither end nor beginning, is the true motif of the jungle. If I have counted over fifty species of trees in Barro Colorado Reservation, I have listed over a hundred species of vines upon them, Hydra-headed, serpent-bodied things that overrun the forest, roof and floor.
Such, however, is the genius of the jungle, else it were a different, less bedeviled thing, this murmuring forest of our poets transplanted into the tropics. I would not have it less a single liana, not even were I forced to slash my own machete trails across the Island, whereas I am trying only to carve a way through my own bejunglement, having lived so long in Hingham under my hemlock tree!
Local, provincial — I am, it may be, my own jungle, for the one on Barro Colorado Island seemed to give me little heed, while I gave it all the eyes and ears I had, seeing only uncouth shapes and hearing only unintelligible sounds, though the coatis and the parrots and the monkeys seemed perfectly to understand. It must have its own language, and so its own logic and order, and somewhere, kept hidden from me within the tangled lianas, its own imperturbable peace.
I was probably no slower in picking up the language of the birds and animals of the jungle than is the average visitor, for, once heard and known, the call of the motmot, waking the forest in the morning, could neither be forgotten nor confused with any other cry. The hollow, muffled notes, now like rocks knocking together under water, nowlike a small engine puffing through the forest, devoid of all voice qualities, have a peculiar vibratory effect upon the morning which shakes everything out of its sleep. And at the opposite end of the day, out of the silence and utter dark on the floor of the forest you see a shooting star, you feel a stab of pain, before you realize that stab and star are bird notes — or are they flute notes, or piccolo, or Pan himself, startled by the night, and laying a spell upon the jungle? Pipe of Pan, piccolo, and blending flute, and something indefinably more is this stabbing, starry whistle of the tinamou.
Two species of these birds inhabit Barro Colorado Island: the chestnutheaded tinamou, about the size of our ruffed grouse, — which is its next of kin among our birds, though the tinamous are an order by themselves, — and the pileated, more like our quail for shape and size; both deepforest birds, both possessed of pearlstrung voices, and both given to calling day and night; yet I could never tell which voice I had just listened to, a chronic unpreparedness diverting my close attention, and a certain reluctance to analyze the spell.
Add to this temperamental stubbornness a snow-white ignorance, and my report of the jungle is partly explained. I yielded as fast and as far as I was shown. One dare not throw one’s self into the arms of the jungle, for one of its arms may wear a serpent bracelet, while up the other, both of them in fact, will be running red or black or brown biting ants, all three colors quite likely, with a few terrible Congo ants to boot. When I find jungle peace I will report it in the name of science; but if my chief experience is tick and red-bug trouble, then I must report the trouble — short shrift in the jungle for sentimentality.
Of the thousand plants roughly constituting the forest I knew by name not a single one. The countenance of the three-toed sloth, if it can be said to have any expression, looks the utter blankness that I felt. Yet it was less of a task to learn the actual botany about me than to unlearn the literary woods that I had expected to find. I had heard trees murmuring in books before I heard them doing it in the breeze. But here they only rattled, quite contrary to literature, and so to life, only a flapping of thick, leathery leaves in the steady trade winds, unless some great-disked Cecropia leaf let go, or a plaited frond from some palm gave way, and crashed into momentary silence. The death and dropping of a jungle leaf are attended with violence. Every tree was strung, but the monotonous, harping wind fingered the sagging strings northeasterly to southwesterly without variation or tune. The toucans croaked, the big green parrots squawked, the black monkeys howled, the fighting coatis screeched and spat and bit each other, but not musically, murmuringly. There must be music in the jungle — in the wind, in the leathery-leaved trees, in the sagging, tangled vines, and in all these unsoothed, savage breasts, just as soon as my own is tamed and soothed. Then there is the cry of the tinamou! I must remember that.
And I must mention the fussing, singing wrens in the box near my window, the Panama house wren, — according to the book, Troglodytes musculus inquietus, but, according to song and feather and manner, just fickle Jenny Wren, — and a temporary lover, singing dooryard ditties of home. And then one morning, on the edge of daybreak, the full-throated singing of a stray Bonaparte’s thrush — our robin, every ion of him, except the color of his feathers! This stray song for color and tune was so utterly robinlike that, as it woke me, I heard rain upon the shingles, though this was the dry season and a corrugated iron roof was over me, and I smelled apple blossoms on the faintly stirring wind, drifting in across the tops of the banana trees.
With such themes to work on, one might in time and with understanding weave the whole inharmonious, sombre jungle into a symphony. But it could come only out of careful, scientific study, for such wood lore as I had forsook me here. I stood in the presence of bombax and bombacopsis as one who had never seen a tree before. And, further to confound me, I picked up in a cabin at the end of one of the trails, where it had been left behind by some other nature lover in his flight from this jungle confusion and fear, a volume of Thoughts from Thoreau. Thoreau! My sylvan High Priest! The man universal! He would understand. I hardly needed the printed page, so often and with such faith had I followed him afield. But I could make nothing of these great sayings here, only a rat-ta-tat of words, as unintelligible as the rat-ta-tat of the slatted palm leaves beside the cabin, and the chatter of the parrakeets, and the jabber of the white-faced monkeys farther off among the trees, so different were the woods about Walden Pond from this rain-forest jungle here in the waters of Gatun Lake! What would Thoreau have written, I wonder, of coatis, agoutis, peccaries, toucans, crocodiles, iguanas, and a bean patch planted to bananas, and his Panamanian townsmen across the lake at Frijoles?
Frijoles means beans, but nothing Thoreau wrote about beans could remotely be made to mean Frijoles. If we wish our literature safe abroad, we must keep it safe at home, and possibly, like Thoreau, stay at home with it. lie traveled much in Concord.
There is a line which runs,
done by an American poet, but associated in my mind with the Ten Commandments — previous to my contact with the jungle. There are coconut groves in the tropics, but the context shows that the poet was not thinking of these. He was thinking of savages in native forests, but he could not have been thinking of jungles, where the savages beat tom-toms and hang spell strings across the trails to scare away the devils. The Indians and the bush Negroes of the rain forest have their gods, as we have ours, but the good gods are not associated with the forest, nor are they worshiped there. Before the conquering, cathedral-building Spaniard came and framed
The sound of anthems,
no Central American savage ever knelt down
Amidst the cool and silence . . .
And offered to the Mightiest, solemn thanks
And supplication. For his simple heart
Might not resist the sacred influences —
not, of course, had such sacred influences been there. But they are not there among the snakes and ticks and jaguars and thorny vines, and until the Americans came there were only hookworms, mosquitoes,— malarial and yellow-fevered, — evil spirits all to lay him low. Ninety-five per cent of equatorial peoples live half-sick, and they know the jungle is not their sanatorium, still less their place of worship, the temple of the Most High. One God or many is strictly a matter of dogma, whereas the classification of religions is a kind of natural history, an aspect of physical geography, not of mission stations. You can’t show a hookworm the majesty of God, nor teach the malarial mosquito to sing His praise.
Yet this is precisely what the entomologists have done in the Canal Zone, and what preventive medicine must, and will, do throughout the jungles of the world. Dividing two continents and uniting seven seas is a thrilling feat of engineering, the Panama Canal being still something of a world wonder. The work of the engineers is tame, however, when put over against that of the doctors who first had to track yellow fever and malaria to their dens and take them captive there. It was the bold imaginative engineering of the naturalists that made the Panama Canal possible; and making things possible is more than making them real.
The machete-cut trails across Barro Colorado Island jungle are not only safe now from the deadly mosquito, but the whole jungle breaks into singing every time the once-fatal insect, scourge of the world, goes winging by. Or so it seemed to me. So sing the twin giants Ajax and Hercules, the most powerful steel cranes ever built, down in the Canal. When they were sick with malaria and yellow fever they were powerless to lift so much as the weight of the two mosquitoes, Anopheles, the malaria carrier, and Aedes, laden with the ‘yellows.’ The mighty shovels and the dredges steamed up hungrily to Culebra Hill, but lost their appetites when Aedes and Anopheles sang their fever song. Men lay down and died at sound of them, and, had they been left at large, the Chagres would still be flowing unhindered to the Atlantic, and the cut at Culebra would have been deepened into the most gruesome graveyard in all the world. But the entomologists came — though very late. From my little study on the Island I can hear across Gatun Lake the rumbling of the Panama Railroad train, every crosstie of whose original bed from Porto Bello to Panama City was a dead man, who need not have died had commerce called in the doctors and entomologists before it called the civil engineers. The civil engineering of the future will be in the field of preventive medicine. The doctors will survey and lay out the next great forward movement of mankind on the map of the world.
So I can sing in the jungle not only with the wren and the ‘ Panama robin ’ and the tinamou, but also now with all the mosquitoes — quite worth while going to the jungle for. Dawn and dusk are safe there now, speaking strictly of the Canal Zone. At dusk yesterday I sat in the edge of the jungle more than an hour watching for the night monkeys that move abroad only after dark, and most of the time I was slapping at Aedes, for all I knew, and smashing at Anopheles, entirely unconcerned except for the momentary irritation of the stings. Science has not exterminated the mosquitoes in the Canal Zone, nor lessened their lust for blood, but it has mightily confined them, and quite perfectly cleansed them, and put a new song in their
mouth, which means a sterilized hypodermic needle in place of the old fatally infected bill.
Barro Colorado Island, among other things, is a wild-life sanctuary, and the only tropical reservation of its particular kind in territory controlled by the United States. At the urgent request of a few enthusiastic and farsighted naturalists it was set aside in 1923 by the Governor of the Canal Zone and given over for administration to the Institute for Research in Tropical America. It is not a national park and, being dedicated to research, must not become a park open to the public. It is in no way connected with, or supported by, the Federal Government, and is none the poorer for that, though desperately in need of money. Its six square miles of jungle life is regarded as so much biologic material for study on the spot, and not as a collecting ground for museums and laboratories elsewhere. The reservation has its own well-equipped laboratory, at the top of a little clearing, looking down over Gatun Lake and the passing ships in the Canal. The wall of the forest presses up close and high behind the laboratory, and through the wall, running in every direction clear across the Island, start the machete-cut trails. Nowhere else in the tropics is the jungle so accessible, the material for study so varied and abundant, and the conditions for research so favorable, as on Barro Colorado Island.
Before the Chagres River was dammed and its waters backed out into the low-lying valleys and swampy bottoms along its course to form what is now Gatun Lake, Barro Colorado Island was only a high hill or mountain top along the river. As the waters gradually rose it was completely cut off and safely separated from the mainland, and, though only about four years in being set adrift, it cannot be called an ‘Island Ark,’ the slowly rising water allowing ample time for all to go ashore who were going ashore. Its insular position and years of protection have doubtless affected both its flora and its fauna, without modifying to any extent, however, its essential features as a semi-rain-forest jungle.
It was those essential features that constituted my particular problem. I had not gone out to see a reed shaken by the wind, but the whole jungle when the trade wind blows. And though the trade wind blows obligingly all the time, yet six square miles of shaking jungle is distressingly hard to see. I stopped and looked and listened for weeks along the trails, and from windows on all four sides of my little study near the corner of the laboratory, baffled and thwarted continually in trying to compass the whole woods by the very trees.
My study is a small box of a house on stilts, a sort of termite test house, built out of stuff contributed by certain lumber companies as an experiment with the so-called white ants. Nothing that I do inside affects the quiet destruction being wrought forever on the house by these all-conquering ants. Nothing that anybody can do in the termite tropics can as yet stay this destruction. The termites and the true ants — not the fevers, not the reptiles, not the heathen in their darkness, nor palms on coral strands — are the tropics. We think of the sun as the great circumstance along the belt of the equator, but he is not so great as the ant, who never sets, for whose multitudinousness all figures fail; neither the sun by day nor all the watching stars by night have seen the beginning or ever will see the end of the ants.
Termite men from Washington are here to-day trying to read the writing of the insects on my study walls. The copper screening on the windows seems to be still proof against them, as does the corrugated sheet-iron roofing — or rather, I should say, at this writing the roof is still tight; but this is March, and the dry season, and no one knows what the acid squirt-gun battalions of the termites may have done to the galvanized iron roof since the last rain back in early December. They are chemists, among other things, these termites, and their armies have been immemorially versed in what we fondly call modern warfare.
So I was put in a termite test house when I arrived at the Island, which sounds less like a welcome than it really was. And yet I had a feeling that I had somehow been thrown to the ants, just as everything and everybody is on coming to the jungle. Science has done marvelous things in the Canal Zone, working on a scale that is almost cosmic, and with so much imagination as to give to concrete and structural steel the very breath of life, something even of a soul. And more than that, science has given to the mosquito a made-over, better soul.
Not so with the termite gnawing away at the underpinning, at sill and plate and rafter and the iron roof of my house. From my window I look down upon a constant procession of ships, under their own power, threading the jungle and piercing a continental divide. All day long they pass, and all across the night. In the dead silence which settles over the jungle with the dark I can hear the purring of great engines in the woods, and soon upon the bosom of the lake I see a medley of phantom lights, an eerie flare of colored fox fires, passing into the woods again. Six hundred and twenty-six ships, if I remember, swam into the lake beneath my window in February — a record month for the Canal. A long ore carrier from the mines in Chile is crossing now, flying the Danish flag; and out of the jungle to meet her midway, heading east by the compass, noses a Japanese passenger ship — for Honolulu bound, maybe, or more distant ports beyond the far Pacific, So hath modern science wrought, smiting the Panamanian rock to give †he ships a seaway through these rainy forests and arid Isthmian hills.
But the magic rod has proved powerless with the plague of termites. Modern science has no terrors for the termites, nor for any of the true ant tribes. It may hold them in check over the temperate portion of the globe, but how can it ever dispossess them of the tropics?
They are the restless, savage soul of the jungle, and while this shocking first consciousness gradually comes to be accepted, the longer one remains in the tropics, the more significant, I think, the insect role, especially that of the ants, becomes. I had barely arrived at Barro Colorado Island — was having my first meal, in fact — when the laboratory was attacked by army ants. Unwarned, of course, because we had not heard the cheeping of the ant birds which accompany the ravaging horde, we suddenly were startled by a shouting in the yard. I understood no word of the excited, highly colored Panamanian Spanish, but I knew a war cry when I heard it, and the coming of wild beasts. I was the first one through the door, landing with a jump in the thick of the fight, then landing with another jump as far out on the thin edge of the fight as one good leg and a half could drop me, hopping, kicking, stamping, and slapping to shake off the biting ants, Miguel and Nemesia dancing and yelling like Hopi Indians, and pumping creosote from high-powered squirt-guns along the advancing lines.
I felt a shade of disappointment at first, expecting jaguars. I have learned to expect nothing of jaguars in the jungle, though there are instances, fairly well authenticated, of their having attacked women and children in remote parts of South America; whereas I came to live in constant expectation of being eaten alive by the ants.
They had me beaten psychologically from the start. To stage their attack in the open yard of the laboratory, before I had learned anything but the way to the table, was masterful tactics. And the fight was real enough while it lasted, as well as highly dramatic, and stranger even than it was dramatic, so mysteriously from nowhere had the black flowing multitudes come, so magically sudden their disappearing before the smothering spray. The soup in our dishes was still hot when Nemesia retired to her cookhouse, and Miguel had washed his battle-begrimed hands, ready to serve our second course.
Instead of with tom-toms and Krags and gins and snake sticks, I had been met at the door of the jungle with creosote squirt-guns, tin ones, and bitten by black ants, as was wholly meet for one who had come to see the real jungle, not to exploit an imaginary one. Seeing the jungle requires a pair of jungle eyes, however, and reporting the jungle a vocabulary and a literary form to go with the eyes — equipment not readily come by, in spite of the work of Bates and Wallace and Belt and Hudson and Beebe. I have not the words wherewith to describe the voice of the black howling monkey, nor do I know where to find them. What unto shall I liken the toucan with his half-ripe banana for a bill? And when I say a three-toed sloth (there is great effort in this) looks like the infant offspring of a sea turtle and an idiot rag doll, who but a few Freshman English teachers will understand? I might, as many do, resort to the camera, could an honest camera be found. It is hard enough to keep a sincere, plodding pen to the truth; but I doubt if there is such a camera, and if anyone could make it tell the whole truth even of known, familiar things, much less of this weird jungle life about which the will to believe is so strong.
No temperate-zone, home-bred botany, ornithology, I had almost said astronomy, stood me in stead here, where west-bound ships ran east, and just over the hills the sun, before the eyes of Ancón and all Panama City, rose every morning out of the broad Pacific.
As I was stepping off the launch at the Island landing that first day, I heard close about me the peeping of spring frogs — hylas, ushering in the month of February, just as they might if a genuine thaw and freshet were on in the marshes at home! What courage the little beggars gave me! Later on that day I heard them again, the same sweet piping, but this time high among the trees in the middle of the forest, and my courage oozed away. Something was awfully wrong. Everything was going wrong, had to be wrong, no doubt, else there could be no jungle, even the small patches of sunshine breaking in upon the forest floor of a sickly color, jaundiced, or, possibly, yellow-feverish! Then, far overhead in an unknown tree, I saw birds, the banana-billed toucans, saying these dear, familiar, but — away up there, and out of such enormous beaks — ridiculous, froggish things.
As I sit here facing the wall of the jungle rising from the bottom of the ravine, I am probably looking at one hundred species of Barro Colorado Island flora, a scant dozen of which I can call by name, and none of which I can make conform to Gray, as I learned Gray, in stem or branch or leaf or blossom. I see Triplaris americana, like a little pointed tower of red tile upon the green roof of the forest; I can also call it palo santo, as the more feeling natives do, the ‘sacred tree,’ an indirect reference to its gorgeous crimson flowers, spurting like a fountain of blood above the matted greens against the blue of the Panamanian sky. I know Cordia alliodora, too, which the natives call their laurel, and whose profusion of soft creamy flowers swaying up and down the steeps each side of the laboratory gives the color key at this moment to the outside of the jungle. Why such satisfaction in mere names? Yes, I have heard about the rose with any other name smelling just as sweet — in a parlor to a poet; but I am in the jungle, whose parlor is a biological laboratory, where all the poets are scientists, and names, mere names, are language. Here only the blind ants communicate with smells. I can smell my way among the peccaries when the wind is right, but not among the blossoming tree tops — they are so far away, and so entirely odorless. I have to shout to most of them, and how can I make them listen unless I call their names?
I should feel sensibly nearer the jungle if I knew the name, and family relations, and life history (all bound up with the name), of a low, bushy tree in spreading panicles of lavender flowers along the margin of the lake, and very abundant up the sides of the steep ravines. It looks so much like the oldfashioned lilac at home that, lacking its true name, I am bound to think lilac every time I look at it, and, thinking lilac, I am bound to smell lilac; but the thing has no odor at all. How very distressing! It may be Macrocnemum, or it may not. It is lovely, and plays a lovely part in the general color scheme; but, for men to whom knowing is essential to feeling, this ‘may be Macrocnemum or may be not’ must needs be plucked and pressed and sent off to the Field Museum for identification, its purple patches wave so irritatingly red!
Poets might get on better with Barro Colorado Island than do the scientists. Panama has bred only one poet whose work is known to me, and the best he could do for the jungle is expressed in the following stanzas from his poem, ‘Beyond the Chagres River’: —
Are paths that lead to death —
To the fever’s deadly breezes,
To malaria’s poisonous breath!
Beyond the tropic foliage,
Where the alligator waits,
Are the mansions of the Devil —
His original estates!
’T is said — the story’s old —
Are paths that lead to mountains
Of purest virgin gold;
But ’t is my firm conviction,
Whatever tales they tell,
That beyond the Chagres River
All paths lead straight to hell!
The poet has his troubles with the jungle too, and on the whole they seem more sulphurous than those of the scientists.
The rain-forest jungle from within is not colorful. There is no period of bloom comparable to our dogwood and rhododendron show. The passion vine burns in places, now in the darkest glooms on the cluttered floor, now under the very ceiling among the twisted rafters; here and there along the trails stands a parrot-beaked heliconia, a striking, exotic yellow thing gayly daubed with red; and frequently one’s eyes, one’s very feet, are refreshed by a stretch of blossom-strewn trail, funnelform and butterfly flowers, orange and white and purple and old rose, the
sweepings of roof gardens hidden up under the sky.
Seen from without, and above, the forest on Barro Colorado Island is probably never lacking its flashes and bursts of color, an ineffable sight while the great guayaeáns are in glorious yellow bloom. They have passed now, giving way to the tender rose-pink of the equally tall roble and to the leafscreened purple of the jacaranda. And with them, draping the tree tops and pouring over the eaves in cataracts of sudsy white and splotches of pale blue and salmon, begins the rainy season of the lianas, the purple wreath, flor de la cruz (Petrea volubilis), very much like our wistaria, a storm just now of azure flower.
Yet all this hardly lightens — indeed, if anything, it accentuates — the gloom; the strangling figs, the smothering vines, the terribly armed palms, and the host of half-parasitic ferns, orchids, and aroids, some of the arums of monstrous size, burdening the trees, emphasizing the bitt er struggle of the jungle beyond any sweetening.
An overtopping tree at the entrance of the main trail from the laboratory gathers unto itself, concentrates, and seems to incarnate this spirit of struggle. It puts a spell upon me every time I pass beneath it on my way along the trails. Tall, lithe, muscular, its trunk is a complex of spliced thews and tendons, the leanest, most athletic living thing that I have ever seen, a bole dissected to bare bone and sinew, but spreading into an airy, triumphant crown of pinnate, and, in the wind, of almost lacy, leaves. Every visitor stops to look and wonder at it, and ask its name, yet no one on the Island knows its name, so aloof, unyielding, and unapproachable it stands.
And behind it stands the whole forest, imbued with the same spirit, secret, inscrutable, alien, if not inimical, uncouth and often bizarre, repelling familiarity, and showing itself least friendly to its native born, who are given a machete against it when they are given their names. The jungle is not peace, but war. Its people are all strangers to each other, fighting individuals, with no common interests, no common mind, no common language, but only an infinitude of tongues. It is without a society, a howling band of monkeys its nearest approach to social order, if we except the amazing programmes of the colonial insects. There are other organized groups, too, like the roving herds of peccaries, the hunting packs of coatis, small flocks of guans, toucans, parrots, and, in favored sections, what amounts to social patches of wild pineapple and thickets of climbing bamboo. These are parts of the jungle, to be sure, but they are inchoate groups without report, so overwhelming, so anti-social is the spirit of the whole, there being nothing even tribal or communal in the jungle, nothing faintly suggestive of the social consciousness and the serene, settled order of a white-pine forest or a piece of old-growth hardwoods on a mountain side in Maine.
So Adventure tags you, or stalks you, at every turn along the machete trails, not in the tawny skin of the tiger, for you never see the cat tribe in public places, nor in the shape of hissing serpents either, for I think the peccaries must have made as clean a sweep of the venomous ones on Barro Colorado Island as Saint Patrick made in his blessed island, though as yet on Barro Colorado we have not canonized the savage little pig. The great adventure of the jungle is with the wild spirit of the jungle itself.
Instead of the tusked head of the peccary, the symbol on the shield of Barro Colorado Island and its jungle is to be the black howling monkey on the roof of the forest roaring defiance at the airplanes roaring over between Ancón and Cristobal, the irreconcilably wild hurling anathema at the still wilder tameness of civilization. Well enough for a letterhead, but the true symbol of the jungle is the twisting, writhing, looping liana swinging from a giant bombacopsis up whose elephantine trunk run earthen tunnels of the termites to a big black nest among the branches. That for a true symbol, and for an open sesame the long, sharpbladed machete.