Only a few feet further on I became firmly entangled in a mass of slender creepers.
Searching through the undergrowth beside the stream, I came upon a beautiful ruby-red frog. I took hold of it with all the fingers of my left hand and lifted, but it remained immobile as if dead. It was not until I had pulled each limb off separately with my right hand that the animal showed any signs of life. Then it kicked furiously and I had some difficulty in getting it into a glass jar. Once in, it clung to the perpendicular side all neatly folded up, but with such tenacity that I could not shake it off.
I made a grab at the frog but, although my hand closed over it, all its four feet remained fully spread out on my trouser leg. A slight jerk was required to release them and as soon as I showed our welcome guest to George, its long bony fingers fastened on his hand.
Putting down my pen, I lay back and stretched my legs. Then I sat bolt upright and fairly goggled at my right knee. We continued to stare fixedly at each other until I had almost regained my composure, when this startling intruder began creeping slowly forward, blowing sky-blue bubbles ever more vigorously.
I had selected a vantage point from which I could watch unobserved and unsmelt a long vista of bare forest floor leading from a stream choked with lush herbage and a clay bank beyond to a patch of ground covered with newly fallen fruits. I had settled into my hide-out shortly after three-thirty in the afternoon, fully expecting some two hours’ wait during which time I should get used to the bites of ants and other insects and perhaps have the opportunity of witnessing the passing of some monkeys, bush-cats, or other larger animals. I was very much mistaken, however, since streaks of brown and red began flashing among the leaves and tree roots as soon as I felt quiet.
Lying silently among a tangled mass of foliage brought down from above by a fallen tree, I waited in the eerie light of evening to see for myself the life of this mysterious hidden world. Before it became too dark to see, I was rewarded by a sight that finally shattered all my beliefs in the balance of life.
It is New Year's Eve, 1928, in Moscow. I put on headphones to listen to some TASS news reports. That's the last thing I remember. Suddenly, it is summer and I am sitting next to a tree-lined walk.
I am puzzled and light up a cigarette. I am immediately surrounded by the people, who look at me aghast and astonished.
I offer to shake his hand.
I don't know.
A stream of water poured out of the barrels, but I let go both charges in quick succession at the fleeing animal. I raised my gun to fire.
I meanwhile stood back ready to dive at it, should George miss. I told George to take off his singlet and try to put this over the animal’s head so that he could effect a capture.
George and I advanced again towards an immense tree base formed of towering flanges. I could see very little, but I soon discovered that the cage had gone. I struggled to my feet and staggered forward through the blinding cascade towards the cage that housed our precious squirrel.
These animals (Funisciurus leucostygma) made a peculiar ticking-clocking sound as if the tongue were being flicked down between the lower teeth, and from this fact I inferred that they could call each other together to partake of the food they unearthed, or for other reasons.
I have difficulty making George understand that I am hungry and thirsty. I eat the wafer and my hunger suddenly vanishes.
I take a sip of a special drink.
“Shut up!” I yelled at it.
“Is it far?” I inquired.
These must have been the small things that I had clearly seen falling from the animal. I paused to examine the ground where the antelope had been standing and found that there were a great number of huge bloated ticks lying among the leaves.
No sooner had I done it, than I regretted it bitterly and decided that the animal must be followed. In my excitement I stupidly and cruelly fired a shot at it which of course did not kill it. I was so intrigued at this phenomenon that I must have made a hasty movement, because the animal suddenly took to flight. As it was a little too far off to be killed with the only weapon I had with me, a shotgun, I decided to try getting closer, in order to observe its habits. Every time that I made a small noise or stirred at all, this strange beast gave a little jump with its hind legs but remained otherwise quite stationary.
When I eventually peered round the flange at the base of an immense tree, I could see the opposite bank. Quickly I got behind a tree trunk and began creeping forward. As I descended I heard a slight noise below, but took little note of it until all of a sudden some large animal began lazily walking forward in front of me. After some time I came to a little dell where the trees grew so very close together that the opposite bank was almost completely obliterated by the continuous rank of their trunks.
There was practically no undergrowth in this part of the forest and I could walk on without hindrance as one would on the pavement of any city, my rubber shoes eradicating all noise except the occasional crackle of a breaking twig. I was left to wander on into the undisturbed depths. I followed as quickly as I could into the gloom of the deep jungle, but were out of earshot in a few seconds.
When I stumbled over a dead branch, they all leapt into the air with one accord like a lot of great springs, and the next instant were all gone. I began advancing cautiously upon them, drifting as far as was possible in the same general direction that they were taking.
“Listen George,” I shouted. “I have something more exciting for you. That’s what I always do when I hit a snag.”