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Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 4772

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


... She approaches the ajoupa: both men remove their big straw hats; and both salute her with a simultaneous "Bonjou', Manzell."

-"Bonjou', Missié," she responds, in a sonorous alto, without appearing to notice Gabou,-but smiling upon Fafa as she passes, with her great eyes turned full upon his face.... All the libertine blood of the man flames under that look;-he feels as if momentarily wrapped in a blaze of black lightning.

-"?a ka fai moin pè," exclaims Gabou, turning his face towards the ajoupa. Something indefinable in the gaze of the stranger has terrified him.

-"Pa ka fai moin pè-fouinq!" (She does not make me afraid) laughs Fafa, boldly following her with a smiling swagger.

-"Fafa!" cries Gabou, in alarm. "Fafa, pa fai ?a!" But Fafa does not heed. The strange woman has slackened her pace, as if inviting pursuit;-another moment and he is at her side.

-"Oti ou ka rêté, che?" he demands, with the boldness of one who knows himself a fine specimen of his race.

-"Zaffai cabritt pa zaffai lapin," she answers, mockingly.

-"Mais pouki au rhabillé toutt nouè conm ?a."

-"Moin pòté deil pou name main mò."

-"A?e ya ya?e!... Non, vouè!-?a ou kallé atouèlement?"

-"Lanmou pàti: moin pàti de?é lanmou."

-"Ho!-on ni guêpe, anh?"

-"Zanoli bail yon bal; épi maboya rentré ladans."

-"Di moin oti ou kallé, doudoux?"

-"Jouq lariviè Lezà."

-"Fouinq!-ni plis passé trente kilomett!"

-"Eh ben?-ess ou 'lè vini épi moin?" [15]

And as she puts the question she stands still and gazes at him;-her voice is no longer mocking: it has taken another tone,-a tone soft as the long golden note of the little brown bird they call the siffleur-de-montagne, the mountain-whistler.... Yet Fafa hesitates. He hears the clear clang of the plantation bell recalling him to duty;-he sees far down the road-(Ouill! how fast they have been walking!)-a white and black speck in the sun: Gabou, uttering through his joined hollowed hands, as through a horn, the ouklé, the rally call. For an instant he thinks of the overseer's anger,-of the distance,-of the white road glaring in the dead heat: then he looks again into the black eyes of the strange woman, and answers:

-"Oui;-moin ké vini épi ou."

With a burst of mischievous laughter, in which Fafa joins, she walks on,-Fafa striding at her side.... And Gabou, far off, watches them go,-and wond

ers that, for the first time since ever they worked together, his comrade failed to answer his ouklé.

-"Coument yo ka crié ou, chè" asks Fafa, curious to know her name.

-"Chaché nom moin ou-menm, duviné."

But Fafa never was a good guesser,-never could guess the simplest of tim-tim.

-"Ess Cendrine?"

-"Non, ?e pa ?a."

-"Ess Vitaline?"

-"Non ?é pa ?a."

-"Ess Aza?"

-"Non, ?é pa ?a."

-"Ess Nini?"

-"Chaché encò."

-"Ess Tité"

-"Ou pa save,-tant pis pou ou!"

-"Ess Youma?"

-"Pouki ou 'lè save nom moin?-?a ou ké épi y?"

-"Ess Yaiya?"

-"Non, ?é pa y."

-"Ess Maiyotte?"

-"Non! ou pa ké janmain trouvé y!"

-"Ess Sounoune?-ess Loulouze?"

She does not answer, but quickens her pace and begins to sing,-not as the half-breed, but as the African sings,-commencing with a low long weird intonation that suddenly breaks into fractions of notes inexpressible, then rising all at once to a liquid purling bird-tone, and descending as abruptly again to the first deep quavering strain:-

"à te-moin ka dòmi toute longue;

Yon paillasse sé fai main bien, Doudoux!

à te-moin ka dòmi toute longue;

Yon robe biésé sé fai moin bien,

Doudoux!

à te-moin ka dòmi toute longue;

Dè jolis foulà sé fai moin bien,

Doudoux!

à te-moin ka dòmi toute longue;

Yon joli madras sé fai moin bien,

Doudoux!

à te-moin ka dòmi toute longue: ?e à tè..."

... Obliged from the first to lengthen his stride in order to keep up with her, Fafa has found his utmost powers of walking overtaxed, and has been left behind. Already his thin attire is saturated with sweat; his breathing is almost a panting;-yet the black bronze of his companion's skin shows no moisture; her rhythmic her silent respiration, reveal no effort: she laughs at his desperate straining to remain by her side.

-"Marché toujou' de?é moin,-anh, chè?-marché toujou' de?é!"...

And the involuntary laggard-utterly bewitched by supple allurement of her motion, by the black flame of her gaze, by the savage melody of her chant-wonders more and more who she may be, while she waits for him with her mocking smile.

But Gabou-who has been following and watching from afar off, and sounding his fruitless ouklé betimes-suddenly starts, halts, turns, and hurries back, fearfully crossing himself at every step.

He has seen the sign by which She is known...

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