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   Chapter 65 February 15th.

Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 1563

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

... Ash-Wednesday. The last masquerade will appear this afternoon, notwithstanding; for the Carnival is in Martinique a day longer than elsewhere.

All through the country districts since the first week of January there have been wild festivities every Sunday-dancing on the public highways to the pattering of tamtams,-African dancing, too, such as is never seen in St. Pierre. In the city, however, there has been less merriment than in previous years;-the natural gaiety of the population has been visibly affected by the advent of a terrible and unfamiliar visitor to the island,-La Vérette: she came by steamer from Colon.

... It was in September. Only two cases had been reported when every neighboring British colony quarantined against Martinique. Then other West India

n colonies did likewise. Only two cases of small-pox. "But there may be two thousand in another month," answered the governors and the consuls to many indignant protests. Among West Indian populations the malady has a signification unknown in Europe or the United States: it means an exterminating plague.

Two months later the little capital of Fort-de-France was swept by the pestilence as by a wind of death. Then the evil began to spread. It entered St. Pierre in December, about Christmas time. Last week 173 cases were reported; and a serious epidemic is almost certain. There were only 8500 inhabitants in Fort-de-France; there are 28,000 in the three quarters of St. Pierre proper, not including her suburbs; and there is no saying what ravages the disease may make here.

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