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   Chapter 11 No.11

Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 2808

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Then a high white shape like a cloud appears before us,-on the purplish-dark edge of the sea. The cloud-shape enlarges, heightens without changing contour. It is not a cloud, but an island! Its outlines begin to sharpen,-with faintest pencillings of color. Shadowy valleys appear, spectral hollows, phantom slopes of pallid blue or green. The apparition is so like a mirage that it is difficult to persuade oneself one is looking at real land,-that it is not a dream. It seems to have shaped itself all suddenly out of the glowing haze. We pass many miles beyond it; and it vanishes into mist again.

... Another and a larger ghost; but we steam straight upon it until it materializes,-Montserrat. It bears a family likeness to the islands we have already passed-one dominant height, with massing of bright crater shapes about it, and ranges of green hills linked together by low valleys. About its highest summit also hovers a flock of clouds. At the foot of the vast hill nestles the little white and red town of Plymouth. The single salute of our gun is answered by a stupendous broadside of echoes.

Plymouth is more than half hidden in the rich foliage that fringes the wonderfully wrinkled green of the hills at their base;-it has a curtain of palms before it. Approaching, you discern only one or two fa?ades above the sea-wall, and the long wharf projecting through an opening ing in the maso

nry, over which young palms stand thick as canes on a sugar plantation. But on reaching the street that descends towards the heavily bowldered shore you find yourself in a delightfully drowsy little burgh,-a miniature tropical town,-with very narrow paved ways,-steep, irregular, full of odd curves and angles,-and likewise of tiny courts everywhere sending up jets of palm-plumes, or displaying above their stone enclosures great candelabra-shapes of cacti. All is old-fashioned and quiet and queer and small. Even the palms are diminutive,-slim and delicate; there is a something in their poise and slenderness like the charm of young girls who have not yet ceased to be children, though soon to become women....

There is a glorious sunset,-a fervid orange splendor, shading starward into delicate roses and greens. Then black boatmen come astern and quarrel furiously for the privilege of carrying one passenger ashore; and as they scream and gesticulate, half naked, their silhouettes against the sunset seem forms of great black apes.

... Under steam and sail we are making south again, with a warm wind blowing south-east,-a wind very moist, very powerful, and soporific. Facing it, one feels almost cool; but the moment one is sheltered from it profuse perspiration bursts out. The ship rocks over immense swells; night falls very black; and there are surprising displays of phosphorescence.

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