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Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 2365

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

You reach Fort-de-France, the capital of Martinique, steamer from St. Pierre, in about an hour and a... There is an overland route-La Trace, but it twenty-five-mile ride, and a weary one in such a climate, notwithstanding the indescribable beauty of the landscapes which the lofty road commands.

Rebuilt in wood after the almost total destruction by an earthquake of its once picturesque streets of stone, Fort-de-France (formerly Fort-Royal) has little of outward interest by comparison with St. Pierre. It lies in a low, moist plain, and has few remarkable buildings: you can walk allover the little town in about half an hour. But the Savane,-the great green public square, with its grand tamarinds and sabliers,-would be worth the visit alone, even were it not made romantic by the marble memory of Josephine.

I went to look at the white dream of her there, a creation of master-sculptors.... It seemed to me absolutely lovely.

Sea winds have bitten it; tropical rains have streaked it: some microscopic growth has darkened the exquisite hollow of the throat. And yet such is the human charm of the figure that you almost fancy you are gazing at a living presence.... P

erhaps the profile is less artistically real,-statuesque to the point of betraying the chisel; but when you look straight up into the sweet creole face, you can believe she lives: all the wonderful West Indian charm of the woman is there.

She is standing just in the centre of the Savane, robed in the fashion of the First Empire, with gracious arms and shoulders bare: one hand leans upon a medallion bearing the eagle profile of Napoleon.... Seven tall palms stand in a circle around her, lifting their comely heads into the blue glory of the tropic day. Within their enchanted circle you feel that you tread holy ground,-the sacred soil of artist and poet;-here the recollections of memoir-writers vanish away; the gossip of history is hushed for you; you no longer care to know how rumor has it that she spoke or smiled or wept: only the bewitchment of her lives under the thin, soft, swaying shadows of those feminine palms.... Over violet space of summer sea; through the vast splendor of azure light, she is looking back to the place of her birth, back to beautiful drowsy Trois-Islets,-and always with the same half-dreaming, half-plaintive smile,-unutterably touching....

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