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Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 2325

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


... So!-She is ready: "Chagé moin, souplè, chè!" She bends to lift the end of the heavy trait: some one takes the other,-yon!-dé!-toua!-it is on her head. Perhaps she winces an instant;-the weight is not perfectly balanced; she settles it with her hands,-gets it in the exact place. Then, all steady,-lithe, light, half naked,-away she moves with a long springy step. So even her walk that the burden never sways; yet so rapid her motion that however good a walker you may fancy yourself to be you will tire out after a sustained effort of fifteen minutes to follow her uphill. Fifteen minutes;-and she can keep up that pace without slackening-save for a minute to eat and drink at mid-day,-for at least twelve hours and fifty-six minutes, the extreme length of a West Indian day. She starts before dawn; tries to reach her resting-place by sunset: after dark, like all her people, she is afraid of meeting zombis.

Let me give you some idea of her average speed under an average weight of one hundred and twenty-five pounds,-estimates based partly upon my own observations, partly upon the declarations of the trustworthy merchants who employ her, and partly

on the assertion of habitants of the burghs or cities named-all of which statements perfectly agree. From St. Pierre to Basse-Pointe, by the national road, the distance is a trifle less than twenty-seven kilometres and three-quarters. She makes the transit easily in three hours and a half; and returns in the afternoon, after an absence of scarcely more than eight hours. From St. Pierre to Morne Rouge-two thousand feet up in the mountains (an ascent so abrupt that no one able to pay carriage-fare dreams of attempting to walk it)-the distance is seven kilometres and three-quarters. She makes it in little more than an hour. But this represents only the beginning of her journey. She passes on to Grande Anse, twenty-one and three-quarter kilometres away. But she does not rest there: she returns at the same pace, and reaches St. Pierre before dark. From St. Pierre to Gros-Morne the distance to be twice traversed by her is more than thirty-two kilometres. A journey of sixty-four kilometres,-daily, perhaps,-forty miles! And there are many màchannes who make yet longer trips,-trips of three or four days' duration;-these rest at villages upon their route.

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