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HOME > Inspiring Novel > The Cruise of the Snark17 > CHAPTER XI THE NATURE MAN
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 I first met him on Market Street in San Francisco.  It was a wet and afternoon, and he was striding along, clad in a pair of knee-trousers and an abbreviated shirt, his bare feet going slick-slick through the pavement-slush.  At his heels trooped a score of excited gamins.  Every head—and there were thousands—turned to glance at him as he went by.  And I turned, too.  Never had I seen such lovely sunburn.  He was all sunburn, of the sort a blond takes on when his skin does not peel.  His long yellow hair was burnt, so was his beard, which sprang from a soil unploughed by any razor.  He was a man, a golden-tawny man, all glowing and radiant with the sun.  Another prophet, thought I, come up to town with a message that will save the world.  
A few weeks later I was with some friends in their in the Piedmont hills overlooking San Francisco Bay.  “We’ve got him, we’ve got him,” they barked.  “We caught him up a tree; but he’s all right now, he’ll feed from the hand.  Come on and see him.”  So I accompanied them up a dizzy hill, and in a rickety in the midst of a found my sunburned prophet of the city pavements.
He hastened to meet us, arriving in the whirl and of a handspring.  He did not shake hands with us; instead, his greeting took the form of .  He turned more handsprings.  He twisted his body , like a snake, until, having limbered up, he from the , and, with legs straight and knees , beat a on the ground with the palms of his hands.  He whirligigged and pirouetted, dancing and round like an ape.  All the sun-warmth of his life beamed in his face.  I am so happy, was the song without words he sang.
He sang it all evening, ringing the changes on it with an endless variety of stunts.  “A fool! a fool!  I met a fool in the forest!” thought I, and a fool he proved.  Between handsprings and whirligigs he delivered his message that would save the world.  It was twofold.  First, let suffering humanity strip off its clothing and run wild in the mountains and valleys; and, second, let the very world adopt spelling.  I caught a glimpse of the great social problems being settled by the city populations naked over the landscape, to the popping of shot-guns, the barking of ranch-dogs, and assaults with pitchforks by farmers.
The years passed, and, one sunny morning, the Snark her nose into a narrow opening in a reef that smoked with the crashing impact of the trade-wind , and beat slowly up Papeete harbour.  Coming off to us was a boat, flying a yellow flag.  We knew it contained the port doctor.  But quite a distance off, in its wake, was a tiny out rigger canoe that puzzled us.  It was flying a red flag.  I studied it through the glasses, fearing that it marked some hidden danger to navigation, some recent or some or that had been swept away.  Then the doctor came on board.  After he had examined the state of our health and been assured that we had no live rats hidden away in the Snark, I asked him the meaning of the red flag.  “Oh, that is Darling,” was the answer.
And then Darling, Ernest Darling flying the red flag that is indicative of the of man, hailed us.  “Hello, !” he called.  “Hello, Charmian!”  He paddled swiftly nearer, and I saw that he was the tawny prophet of the Piedmont hills.  He came over the side, a sun-god clad in a loin-cloth, with presents of Arcady and greeting in both his hands—a bottle of golden honey and a leaf-basket filled with great golden mangoes, golden bananas specked with of deeper gold, golden pine-apples and golden limes, and juicy oranges minted from the same precious ore of sun and soil.  And in this fashion under the southern sky, I met once more Darling, the Nature Man.
Tahiti is one of the most beautiful spots in the world, inhabited by thieves and robbers and , also by several honest and men and women.  Wherefore, because of the cast upon Tahiti’s wonderful beauty by the spidery human vermin that it, I am minded to write, not of Tahiti, but of the Nature Man.  He, at least, is and .  The spirit that from him is so gentle and sweet that it would harm nothing, hurt nobody’s feelings save the feelings of a predatory and capitalist.
“What does this red flag mean?” I asked.
“Socialism, of course.”
“Yes, yes, I know that,” I went on; “but what does it mean in your hands?”
“Why, that I’ve found my message.”
“And that you are delivering it to Tahiti?” I demanded incredulously.
“Sure,” he answered simply; and later on I found that he was, too.
When we dropped anchor, lowered a small boat into the water, and started , the Nature Man joined us.  Now, thought I, I shall be to death by this crank.  Waking or sleeping I shall never be quit of him until I sail away from here.
But never in my life was I more mistaken.  I took a house and went to live and work in it, and the Nature Man never came near me.  He was waiting for the invitation.  In the meantime he went aboard the Snark and took possession of her library, delighted by the quantity of scientific books, and shocked, as I learned afterwards, by the amount of fiction.  The Nature Man never wastes time on fiction.
After a week or so, my conscience me, and I invited him to dinner at a downtown hotel.
He arrived, looking unwontedly stiff and uncomfortable in a cotton jacket.  When invited to peel it off, he beamed his and joy, and did so, revealing his sun-gold skin, from waist to shoulder, covered only by a piece of fish-net of coarse and large of .  A scarlet loin-cloth completed his costume.  I began my acquaintance with him that night, and during my long stay in Tahiti that acquaintance into friendship.
“So you write books,” he said, one day when, tired and sweaty, I finished my morning’s work.
“I, too, write books,” he announced.
Aha, thought I, now at last is he going to me with his literary efforts.  My soul was in revolt.  I had not come all the way to the South Seas to be a literary bureau.
“This is the book I write,” he explained, smashing himself a blow on the chest with his fist.  “The in the African jungle pounds his chest till the noise of it can be heard half a mile away.”
“A pretty good chest,” quoth I, admiringly; “it would even make a gorilla .”
And then, and later, I learned the details of the marvellous book Ernest Darling had written.  Twelve years ago he lay close to death.  He weighed but ninety pounds, and was too weak to speak.  The doctors had given him up.  His father, a practising physician, had given him up.  with other physicians had been held upon him.  There was no hope for him.  Overstudy (as a school-teacher and as a university student) and two successive attacks of were responsible for his .  Day by day he was losing strength.  He could extract no nutrition from the heavy foods they gave him; nor could pellets and powders help his stomach to do the work of .  Not only was he a physical wreck, but he was a mental wreck.  His mind was overwrought.  He was sick and tired of medicine, and he was sick and tired of persons.  Human speech jarred upon him.  Human attentions drove him .  The thought came to him that since he was going to die, he might as well die in the open, away from all the bother and .  And behind this idea a idea that perhaps he would not die after all if only he could escape from the heavy foods, the medicines, and the well-intentioned persons who made him frantic.
So Ernest Darling, a bag of bones and a death’s-head, a perambulating , with just the dimmest flutter of life in it to make it perambulate, turned his back upon men and the habitations of men and dragged himself for five miles through the brush, away from the city of Portland, Oregon.  Of course he was crazy.  Only a lunatic would drag himself out of his death-bed.
But in the brush, Darling found what he was looking for—rest.  Nobody bothered him with beefsteaks and pork.  No physicians lacerated his tired nerves by feeling his pulse, nor his tired stomach with pellets and powders.  He began to feel .  The sun was shining warm, and he in it.  He had the feeling that the sun shine was an of health.  Then it seemed to him that his whole wasted wreck of a body was crying for the sun.  He stripped off his clothes and bathed in the sunshine.  He felt better.  It had done him good—the first relief in weary months of pain.
As he grew better, he sat up and began to take notice.  All about him were the birds fluttering and , the squirrels and playing.  He envied them their health and spirits, their happy, care-free existence.  That he should contrast their condition with his was ; and that he should question why they were splendidly vigorous while he was a feeble, dying of a man, was likewise inevitable.  His conclusion was the very obvious one, namely, that they lived naturally, while he lived most ; therefore, if he intended to live, he must return to nature.
Alone, there in the brush, he worked out his problem and began to apply it.  He stripped off his clothing and leaped and about, running on all fours, climbing trees; in short, doing physical stunts,—and all the time soaking in the sunshine.  He imitated the animals.  He built a nest of dry leaves and grasses in which to sleep at night, covering it over with bark as a protection against the early fall rains.  “Here is a beautiful exercise,” he told me, once, flapping his arms against his sides; “I learned it from watching the roosters crow.”  Another time I remarked the loud, sucking with which he drank cocoanut-milk.  He explained that he had noticed the cows drinking that way and concluded there must be something in it.  He tried it and found it good, and thereafter he drank only in that fashion.
He that the squirrels lived on fruits and nuts.  He started on a fruit-and-nut diet, helped out by bread, and he grew stronger and put on weight.  For three months he continued his existence in the brush, and then the heavy Oregon rains drove him back to the habitations of men.  Not in three months could a ninety-pound of two attacks of pneumonia develop sufficient to live through an Oregon winter in the open.
He had much, but he had been driven in.  There was no place to go but back to his father’s house, and there, living in close rooms with lungs that panted for all the air of the open sky, he was brought down by a third attack of pneumonia.  He grew weaker even than before.  In that tabernacle of flesh, his brain .  He lay like a corpse, too weak to stand the of speaking, too irritated and tired in his miserable brain to care to listen to the speech of others.  The only act of will of which he was capable was to stick his fingers in his ears and to refuse to hear a single word that was spoken to him.  They sent for the experts.  He was adjudged insane, and also the verdict was given that he would not live a month.
By one such mental expert he was carted off to a sanatorium on Mt. Tabor.  Here, when they learned that he was harmless, they gave him his own way.  They no longer as to the food he ate, so he resumed his fruits and nuts—olive oil, peanut butter, and bananas the chief articles of his diet.  As he his strength he made up his mind to live thenceforth his own life.  If he lived like others, according to social conventions, he would surely die.  And he did not want to die.  The fear of death was one of the strongest factors in the genesis of the Nature Man.  To live, he must have a natural diet, the open air, and the blessed sunshine.
Now an Oregon winter has no inducements for those who wish to return to Nature, so Darling started out in search of a climate.  He mounted a bicycle and headed south for the sunlands.  Stanford University claimed him for a year.  Here he studied and worked his way, attending lectures in as as the authorities would allow and applying as much as possible the principles of living that he had learned in squirrel-town.  His favourite method of study was to go off in the hills back of the University, and there to strip off his clothes and lie on the grass, soaking in sunshine and health at the same time that he soaked in knowle............
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