by Augusto Monterroso
“Surely not as strange, altho
ugh without a doubt more exemplary," theother man said, "is the case of Mr. Percy Taylor, a head-hunter in the Amazon jungle."It is known that in 1937 he left Boston, Massachusetts, where he hadrefined his spirit to the point of not having a penny. In 1944 he turned up for thefirst time in South America, in the region of the Amazon, living with a tribe of Indians whose name there is no need to mention here.With his sagging eyes and his ravenous appearance, he quickly becameknown as the "poor gringo," and the schoolchildren even pointed and threwstones at him whenever he walked by with his beard shining in the brighttropical sun. But Mr. Taylor refused to be discouraged by his humblecircumstances for he had read in the first volume of the
of William G. Knight that poverty was no disgrace, so long as one did not envy thewealthy.It was only a matter of weeks before the natives grew accustomed to himand his eccentric attire. Besides, since he had blue eyes and a vague foreignaccent, the President and Foreign Minister treated him with singular respect,fearful of provoking international incidents.Still, he was so wretchedly poor that one day he went off into the jungleto search for plants to eat. He had only gone a few yards without daring to turnhis head when he happened to notice through the dense tangle of vegetation twonative eyes decidedly observing him. A long shiver ran down his tender spine.But Mr. Taylor, intrepid, defied all danger and continued on his way,, whistlingas though he had seen nothing.With a leap (that need not be described as cat-like) the Indian was beforehim, exclaiming:
!Although the Indian
s English could not have been worse, Mr. Taylor,caught a little off guard, gathered that the Indian was offering to sell him anoddly shrunken human head of a man, which he held out in his hand.It is hardly necessary to say that Mr. Taylor was in no position to buy it,but because he gave the impression of not having understood, the Indian feltterribly small for not speaking good English and, begging the gringo's pardon,made him a gift of the head.