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Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 3100

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


Behind the roomy wooden house in which I occupied an apartment there was a small garden-plot surrounded with a hedge strengthened by bamboo fencing, and radiant with flowers of the loseille-bois,-the creole name for a sort of begonia, whose closed bud exactly resembles a pink and white dainty bivalve shell, and whose open blossom imitates the form of a butterfly. Here and there, on the grass, were nets drying, and nasses-curious fish-traps made of split bamboos interwoven and held in place with mibi stalks (the mibi is a liana heavy and tough as copper wire); and immediately behind the garden hedge appeared the white flashing of the surf. The most vivid recollection connected with my trip to Grande Anse is that of the first time that I went to the end of that garden, opened the little bamboo gate, and found myself overlooking the beach-an immense breadth of soot-black sand, with pale green patches and stripings here and there upon it-refuse of cane thatch, decomposing rubbish spread out by old tides. The one solitary boat owned in the community lay there before me, high and dry. It was the hot period of the afternoon; the town slept; there was no living creature in sight; and the booming of the surf drowned all other sounds; the scent of the warm strong sea-wind annihilated all other odors. Then, very suddenly, there came to me a sensation absolutely weird, while watching the strange wild sea roaring over its beach of black sand,-the sensation of seeing something unreal, looking at something that had no more tangible existen

ce than a memory! Whether suggested by the first white vision of the surf over the bamboo hedge,-or by those old green tide-lines on the desolation of the black beach,-or by some tone of the speaking of the sea,-or something indefinable in the living touch of the wind,-or by all of these, I cannot say;-but slowly there became defined within me the thought of having beheld just such a coast very long ago, I could not tell where,-in those child-years of which the recollections gradually become indistinguishable from dreams.

Soon as darkness comes upon Grande Anse the face of the clock in the church-tower is always lighted: you see it suddenly burst into yellow glow above the roofs and the cocoa-palms,-just like a pharos. In my room I could not keep the candle lighted because of the sea-wind; but it never occurred to me to close the shutters of the great broad windows,-sashless, of course, like all the glassless windows of Martinique;-the breeze was too delicious. It seemed full of something vitalizing that made one's blood warmer, and rendered one full of contentment-full of eagerness to believe life all sweetness. Likewise, I found it soporific-this pure, dry, warm wind. And I thought there could be no greater delight in existence than to lie down at night, with all the windows open,-and the Cross of the South visible from my pillow,-and the sea-wind pouring over the bed,-and the tumultuous whispering and muttering of the surf in one's ears,-to dream of that strange sapphire sea white-bursting over its beach of black sand.

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