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Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 2960

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

... Another sunset like the conflagration of a world, as we steam away from Guiana;-another unclouded night; and morning brings back to us that bright blue in the sea-water which we missed for the first time on our approach to the main-land. There is a long swell all day, and tepid winds. But towards evening the water once more shifts its hue-takes olive tint-the mighty flood of the Orinoco is near.

Over the rim of the sea rise shapes faint pink, faint gray-misty shapes that grow and lengthen as we advance. We are nearing Trinidad.

It first takes definite form as a prolonged, undulating, pale gray mountain chain,-the outline of a sierra. Approaching nearer, we discern other hill summits rounding up and shouldering away behind the chain itself. Then the nearest heights begin to turn faint green-very slowly. Right before the outermost spur of cliff, fantastic shapes of rock are rising sheer from the water: partly green, partly reddish-gray where the surface remains unclothed by creepers and shrubs. Between them the sea leaps and whitens.

... And we begin to steam along a magnificent tropical coast,-before a billowing of hills wrapped in forest from sea to summit,-astonishing forest, dense, sombre, impervious to sun-every gap a blackness as of ink. Giant palms here and there overtop the denser foliage; and queer monster trees rise above the forest-level against the blue,-spreading out huge flat crests from which masses of lianas stream down. This for

est-front has the apparent solidity of a wall, and forty-five miles of it undulate uninterruptedly by us-rising by terraces, or projecting like turret-lines, or shooting up into semblance of cathedral forms or suggestions of castellated architecture.... But the secrets of these woods have not been unexplored;-one of the noblest writers of our time has so beautifully and fully written of them as to leave little for anyone else to say. He who knows Charles Kingsley's "At Last" probably knows the woods of Trinidad far better than many who pass them daily.

Even as observed from the steamer's deck, the mountains and forests of Trinidad have an aspect very different from those of the other Antilles. The heights are less lofty,-less jagged and abrupt,-with rounded summits; the peaks of Martinique or Dominica rise fully two thousand feet higher. The land itself is a totally different formation,-anciently being a portion of the continent; and its flora and fauna are of South America.

... There comes a great cool whiff of wind,-another and another;-then a mighty breath begins to blow steadily upon us,-the breath of the Orinoco.... It grows dark before we pass through the Ape's Mouth, to anchor in one of the calmest harbors in the world,-never disturbed by hurricanes. Over unruffled water the lights of Port-of-Spain shoot long still yellow beams. The night grows chill;-the air is made frigid by the breath of the enormous river and the vapors of the great woods.

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