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Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 2888

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


Considering that Grande Anse lies almost opposite to St. Pierre, at a distance of less than twenty miles even by the complicated windings of the national road, the differences existing in the natural conditions of both places are remarkable enough. Nobody in St. Pierre sees the sun rise, because the mountains immediately behind the city continue to shadow its roofs long after the eastern coast is deluged with light and heat. At Grande Anse, on the other hand, those tremendous sunsets which delight west coast dwellers are not visible at all; and during the briefer West Indian days Grande Anse is all wrapped in darkness as early as half-past four,-or nearly an hour before the orange light has ceased to flare up the streets of St. Pierre from the sea;-since the great mountain range topped by Pelée cuts off all the slanting light from the east valleys. And early as folks rise in St. Pierre, they rise still earlier at Grande Anse-before the sun emerges from the rim of the Atlantic: about half-past four, doors are being opened and coffee is ready. At St. Pierre one can enjoy a sea bath till seven or half-past seven o'clock, even during the time of the sun's earliest rising, because the shadow of the mornes still reaches out upon the bay;-but bathers leave the black beach of Grande Anse by six o'clock; for once the sun's face is up, the light, levelled straight at the eyes, becomes blinding. Again, at St. Pierre it rains almost

every twenty-four hours for a brief while, during at least the greater part of the year; at Grande Anse it rains more moderately and less often. The atmosphere at St. Pierre is always more or less impregnated with vapor, and usually an enervating heat prevails, which makes exertion unpleasant; at Grande Anse the warm wind keeps the skin comparatively dry, in spite of considerable exercise. It is quite rare to see a heavy surf at St, Pierre, but it is much rarer not to see it at Grande Anse.... A curious fact concerning custom is that few white creoles care to bathe in front of the town, notwithstanding the superb beach and magnificent surf, both so inviting to one accustomed to the deep still water and rough pebbly shore of St, Pierre. The creoles really prefer their rivers as bathing-places; and when willing to take a sea bath, they will walk up and down hill for kilometres in order to reach some river mouth, so as to wash off in the fresh-water afterwards. They say that the effect of sea-salt upon the skin gives bouton chauds (what we call "prickly heat"). Friends took me all the way to the mouth of the Lorrain one morning that I might have the experience of such a double bath; but after leaving the tepid sea, I must confess the plunge into the river was something terrible-an icy shock which cured me of all further desire for river baths. My willingness to let the sea-water dry upon me was regarded as an eccentricity.

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