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Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 2381

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


Forty to fifty miles a day, always under a weight of more than a hundred pounds,-for when the trait has been emptied she puts in stones for ballast;-carrying her employer's merchandise and money over the mountain ain ranges, beyond the peaks, across the ravines, through the tropical forest, sometimes through by-ways haunted by the fer-de-lance,-and this in summer or winter, the deason of rains or the season of heat, the time of fevers or the time of hurricanes, at a franc a day!... How does she live upon it?

There are twenty sous to the franc. The girl leaves St. Pierre with her load at early morning. At the second village, Morne Rouge, she halts to buy one, two, or three biscuits at a sou apiece; and reaching Ajoupa-Bouillon later in the forenoon, she may buy another biscuit or two. Altogether she may be expected to eat five Sous of biscuit or bread before reaching Grande Anse, where she probably has a meal waiting for her. This ought to cost her ten sous,-especially if there be meat in her rago?t: which represents a total expense of fifteen sous for eatables. Then there is the additional cost of the cheap liquor, which she must mix with her drinking-water, as it woul

d be more than dangerous to swallow pure cold water in her heated condition; two or three sous more. This almost makes the franc. But such a hasty and really erroneous estimate does not include expenses of lodging and clothing;-she may sleep on the bare floor sometimes, and twenty francs a year may keep her in clothes; but she must rent the floor and pay for the clothes out of that franc. As a matter of fact she not only does all this upon her twenty sous a day, but can even economize something which will enable her, when her youth and force decline, to start in business for herself. And her economy will not seem so wonderful when I assure you that thousands of men here-huge men muscled like bulls and lions-live upon an average expenditure of five sous a day. One sou of bread, two sous of manioc flour, one sou of dried codfish, one sou of tafia: such is their meal.

There are women carriers who earn more than a franc a day,-women with a particular talent for selling, who are paid on commission-from ten to fifteen per cent. These eventually make themselves independent in many instances;-they continue to sell and bargain in person, but hire a young girl to carry the goods.

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