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Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 3373

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


... Three o'clock, hot and clear.... In the distance there is a heavy sound of drums, always drawing nearer: tam!-tam!-tamtamtam! The Grande Rue is lined with expectant multitudes; and its tiny square,-the Batterie d'Esnotz,-thronged with békés. Tam!-tam!-tamtamtam!... In our own street the people are beginning to gather at door-ways, and peer out of windows,-prepared to descend to the main thoroughfare at the first glimpse of the procession.

-"Oti masque-à?" Where are the maskers?

It is little Mimi's voice: she is speaking for two besides herself, both quite as anxious as she to know where the maskers are,-Maurice, her little fair-haired and blue-eyed brother, three years old; and Gabrielle, her child-sister, aged four,-two years her junior.

Every day I have been observing the three, playing in the door-way of the house across the street. Mimi, with her brilliant white skin, black hair, and laughing black eyes, is the prettiest,-though all are unusually pretty children. Were it not for the fact that their mother's beautiful brown hair is usually covered with a violet foulard, you would certainly believe them white as any children in the world. Now there are children whom everyone knows to be white, living not very far from here, but in a much more silent street, and in a rich house full of servants, children who resemble these as one fleur-d'amour blossom resembles another;-there is actually another Mimi (though she is not so called at home) so like this Mimi that you could not possibly tell one from the other,-except by their dress. And yet the most unhappy experience of the Mimi who wears white satin slippers was certainly that punishment given h

er for having been once caught playing in the street with this Mimi, who wears no shoes at all. What mischance could have brought them thus together?-and the worst of it was they had fallen in love with each other at first sight!... It was not because the other Mimi must not talk to nice little colored girls, or that this one may not play with white children of her own age: it was because there are cases.... It was not because the other children I speak of are prettier or sweeter or more intelligent than these now playing before me;-or because the finest microscopist in the world could or could not detect any imaginable race difference between those delicate satin skins. It was only because human nature has little changed since the day that Hagar knew the hate of Sarah, and the thing was grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son.....

... The father of these children loved them very much: he had provided a home for them,-a house in the Quarter of the Fort, with an allowance of two hundred francs monthly; and he died in the belief their future was secured. But relatives fought the will with large means and shrewd lawyers, and won!... Yzore, the mother, found herself homeless and penniless, with three children to care for. But she was brave;-she abandoned the costume of the upper class forever, put on the douillette and the foulard,-the attire that is a confession of race,-and went to work. She is still comely, and so white that she seems only to be masquerading in that violet head-dress and long loose robe....

-"Vini ouè!-vini ouè!" cry the children to one another,-"come and see!" The drums are drawing near;-everybody is running to the Grande Rue....

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