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Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 4877

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


... "Ou 'lè màchanne!" rings out a rich alto, resonant as the tone of a gong, from behind the balisiers that shut in our garden. There are two of them-no, three-Maiyotte, Chéchelle, and Rina. Maiyotte and Chéchelle have just arrived from St. Pierre;-Rina come from Gros-Morne with fruits and vegetables. Suppose we call them all in, and see what they have got. Maiyotte and Chéchelle sell on commission; Rina sells for her mother, who has a little garden at Gros-Morne.

... "Bonjou', Maiyotte;-bonjou', Chéchelle! coument ou kallé, Rina, chè!"... Throw open the folding-doors to let the great trays pass.... Now all three are unloaded by old Théréza and by young Adou;-all the packs are on the floor, and the water-proof wrappings are being un-corded, while Ah-Manmzell, the adopted child, brings the rum and water for the tall walkers.... "Oh, what a medley, Maiyotte!"... Inkstands and wooden cows; purses and paper dogs and cats; dolls and cosmetics; pins and needles and soap and tooth-brushes; candied fruits and smoking-caps; pelotes of thread, and tapes, and ribbons, and laces, and Madeira wine; cuffs, and collars, and dancing-shoes, and tobacco sachets.... But what is in that little flat bundle? Presents for your guêpe, if you have one.... Fesis-Ma?a!-the pretty foulards! Azure and yellow in checkerings; orange and crimson in stripes; rose and scarlet in plaidings; and bronze tints, and beetle-tints of black and green.

"Chéchelle, what a bloucoutoum if you should ever let that tray fall-a?e ya?e ya?e!" Here is a whole shop of crockeries and porcelains;-plates, dishes, cups,-earthen-ware canaris and dobannes, and gift-mugs and cups bearing creole girls' names,-all names that end in ine. "Micheline," "Honorine," "Prospérine" [you will never sell that, Chéchelle: there is not a Prospérine this side of St. Pierre], "Azaline," "Leontine," "Zéphyrine," "Albertine," "Chrysaline," "Florine," "Coralline," "Alexandrine."...And knives and forks, and cheap spoons, and tin coffee-pots, and tin rattles for babies, and tin flutes for horrid little boys,-and pencils and note-paper and envelopes!...

... "Oh, Rina, what superb oranges!-fully twelve inches round-!

... "and these, which look something like our mandarins, what do you call them?" "Zorange-macaque!" (monkey-oranges). And here are avocados-beauties!-guavas of three different kinds,-tropical cherries (which have four seeds instead of one),-tropical

raspberries, whereof the entire eatable portion comes off in one elastic piece, lined with something like white silk.... Here are fresh nutmegs: the thick green case splits in equal halves at a touch; and see the beautiful heart within,-deep dark glossy red, all wrapped in a bright net-work of flat blood-colored fibre, spun over it like branching veins.... This big heavy red-and-yellow thing is a pomme-cythère: the smooth cuticle, bitter as gall, covers a sweet juicy pulp, interwoven with something that seems like cotton thread.... Here is a pomme-cannelle: inside its scaly covering is the most delicious yellow custard conceivable, with little black seeds floating in it. This larger corossol has almost as delicate an interior, only the custard is white instead of yellow.... Here are christophines,-great pear-shaped things, white and green, according to kind, with a peel prickly and knobby as the skin of a horned toad; but they stew exquisitely. And mélongènes, or egg-plants; and palmiste-pith, and chadèques, and pommes-d' Ha?ti,-and roots that at first sight look all alike, but they are not: there are camanioc, and couscous, and choux-cara?bes, and zignames, and various kinds of patates among them. Old Théréza's magic will transform these shapeless muddy things, before evening, into pyramids of smoking gold,-into odorous porridges that will look like messes of molten amber and liquid pearl;-for Rina makes a good sale.

Then Chéchelle manages to dispose of a tin coffee-pot and a big canari.... And Maiyotte makes the best sale of all; for the sight of a funny biscuit doll has made Ah-Manmzell cry and smile so at the same time that I should feel unhappy for the rest of my life if I did not buy it for her. I know I ought to get some change out of that six francs;-and Maiyotte, who is black but comely as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon, seems to be aware of the fact.

Oh, Maiyotte, how plaintive that pretty sphinx face of yours, now turned in profile;-as if you knew you looked beautiful thus,-with the great gold circlets of your ears glittering and swaying as you bend! And why are you so long, so long untying that poor little canvas purse?-fumbling and fingering it?-is it because you want me to think of the weight of that trait and the sixty kilometres you must walk, and the heat, and the dust, and all the disappointments? Ah, you are cunning, Maiyotte! No, I do not want the change!

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