MoboReader> Literature > Two Years in the French West Indies

   Chapter 64 —ST. PIERRE, 1887.

Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 2100

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


One returning from the country to the city in the Carnival season is lucky to find any comfortable rooms for rent. I have been happy to secure one even in a rather retired street,-so steep that it is really dangerous to sneeze while descending it, lest one lose one's balance and tumble right across the town. It is not a fashionable street, the Rue du Morne Mirail; but, after all, there is no particularly fashionable street in this extraordinary city, and the poorer the neighborhood, the better one's chance to see something of its human nature.

One consolation is that I have Manm-Robert for a next-door neighbor, who keeps the best bouts in town (those long thin Martinique cigars of which a stranger soon becomes fond), and who can relate more queer stories and legends of old times in the island than anybody else I know of. Manm-Robert is yon màchanne lapacotte, a dealer in such cheap articles of food as the poor live upon: fruits and tropical vegetables, manioc-flour, "macadam" (a singular dish of rice stewed with salt fish-diri épi

coubouyon lamori), akras, etc.; but her bouts probably bring her the largest profit-they are all bought up by the békés. Manm-Robert is also a sort of doctor: whenever anyone in the neighborhood falls sick she is sent for, and always comes, and very often cures,-as she is skilled in the knowledge and use of medicinal herbs, which she gathers herself upon the mornes. But for these services she never accepts any reuneration: she is a sort of Mother of the poor in immediate vicinity. She helps everybody, listens to everybody's troubles, gives everybody some sort of consolation, trusts everybody, and sees a great deal of the thankless side of human nature without seeming to feel any the worse for it. Poor as she must really be she appears to have everything that everybody wants; and will lend anything to her neighbors except a scissors or a broom, which it is thought bad-luck to lend. And, finally, if anyybody is afraid of being bewitched (quimboisé) Manm-Robert can furnish him or her with something that will keep the bewitchment away....

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