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Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 2852

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

... Travelling together, the porteuses often walk in silence for hours at a time;-this is when they feel weary. Sometimes they sing,-most often when approaching their destination;-and when they chat, it is in a key so high-pitched that their voices can be heard to a great distance in this land of echoes and elevations. But she who travels alone is rarely silent: she talks to herself or to inanimate things;-you may hear her talking to the trees, to the flowers,-talking to the high clouds and the far peaks of changing color,-talking to the setting sun!

Over the miles of the morning she sees, perchance, the mighty Piton Gélé, a cone of amethyst in the light; and she talks to it: "Ou jojoll, oui!-moin ni envie monté assou ou, pou moin ouè bien, bien!" (Thou art pretty, pretty, aye!-I would I might climb thee, to see far, far off!) By a great grove of palms she passes;-so thickly mustered they are that against the sun their intermingled heads form one unbroken awning of green. Many rise straight as masts; some bend at beautiful angles, seeming to intercross their long pale single limbs in a fantastic dance; others curve like bows: there is one that undulates from foot to crest, like a monster serpent poised upon its tail. She loves to look at that one-"joli pié-bois-là!"-talks to it as she goes by,-bids it good-day.

Or, looking back as she ascends, she sees the huge blue dream of the sea,-the eternal h

aunter, that ever becomes larger as she mounts the road; and she talks to it: "Mi lanmé ka gaudé moin!" (There is the great sea looking at me!) "Màché toujou de?é moin, lanmè!" (Walk after me, 0 Sea!)

Or she views the clouds of Pelée, spreading gray from the invisible summit, to shadow against the sun; and she fears the rain, and she talks to it: "Pas mouillé moin, laplie-à! Quitté moin rivé avant mouillé moin!" (Do not wet me, 0 Rain! Let me get there before thou wettest me!)

Sometimes a dog barks at her, menaces her bare limbs; and she talks to the dog: "Chien-a, pas mòdé moin, chien-anh! Moin pa fé ou arien, chien, pou ou mòdé moin!" (Do not bite me, 0 Dog! Never did I anything to thee that thou shouldst bite me, 0 Dog! Do not bite me, dear! Do not bite me, doudoux!)

Sometimes she meets a laden sister travelling the opposite way.... "Coument ou yé, chè?" she cries. (How art thou, dear?) And the other makes answer, "Toutt douce, chè,-et ou?" (All sweetly, dear,-and thou?) And each passes on without pausing: they have no time!

... It is perhaps the last human voice she will hear for many a mile. After that only the whisper of the grasses-gra?e-gras, gra?e-gras!-and the gossip of the canes-chououa, chououa!-and the husky speech of the pois-Angole, ka babillé conm yon vié fenme,-that babbles like an old woman;-and the murmur of the filao-trees, like the murmur of the River of the Washerwomen.

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