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   Chapter 78 March 5th.

Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 3240

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


... The streets are so narrow in this old-fashioned quarter that even a whisper is audible across them; and after dark I hear a great many things,-sometimes sounds of pain, sobbing, despairing cries as Death makes his round,-sometimes, again, angry words, and laughter, and even song,-always one melancholy chant: the voice has that peculiar metallic timbre that reveals the young negress:-

"Pauv' ti Lélé,

Pauv' ti Lélé!

Li gagnin doulè, doulè, doulè,-

Li gagnin doulè Tout-pàtout!"

I want to know who little Lélé was, and why she had pains "all over";-for however artless and childish these creole songs seem, they are invariably originated by some real incident. And at last somebody tells me that "poor little Lélé" had the reputation in other years of being the most unlucky girl in St. Pierre; whatever she tried to do resulted only in misfortune;-when it was morning she wished it were evening, that she might sleep and forget; but when the night came she could not sleep for thinking of the trouble she had had during the day, so that she wished it were morning....

More pleasant it is to hear the chatting of Yzore's childlren across the way, after the sun has set, and the stars come out.... Gabrielle always wants to know what the stars are:-

-"?a qui ka clairé conm ?a, manman?" (What is it shines like that?)

And Yzore answers:-

-"?a, mafi,-c'est ti limiè Bon-Dié." (Those are the little lights of the Good-God.)

-"It is so pretty,-eh, mamma? I want to count them."

-"You cannot count them, child."

-"One-two-three-four-five-six-seven." Gabrielle can only count up to sev

en. "Moin peide!-I am lost, mamma!"

The moon comes up;-she cries:-"Mi! manman!-gàdé gou?s difé qui adans ciel-à! Look at the great fire in the sky."

-"It is the Moon, child!... Don't you see St. Joseph in it, carrying a bundle of wood?"

-"Yes, mamma! I see him!... A great big bundle of wood!"...

But Mimi is wiser in moon-lore: she borrows half a franc from her mother "to show to the Moon." And holding it up before the silver light, she sings:-

"Pretty Moon, I show you my little money;-now let me always have money so long as you shine!" [20]

Then the mother takes them up to bed;-and in a little while there floats to me, through the open window, the murmur of the children's evening prayer:-

"Ange-gardien Veillez sur moi; * * * * Ayez pitié de ma faiblesse; Couchez-vous sur mon petit lit; Suivez-moi sans cesse."... [21]

I can only catch a line here and there.... They do not sleep immediately;-they continue to chat in bed. Gabrielle wants to know what a guardian-angel is like. And I hear Mimi's voice replying in creole:-

-"Zange-gàdien, c'est yon jeine fi, toutt bel." (The guardian-angel is a young girl, all beautiful.)

A little while, and there is silence; and I see Yzore come out, barefooted, upon the moonlit balcony of her little room,-looking up and down the hushed street, looking at the sea, looking up betimes at the high flickering of stars,-moving her lips as in prayer.... And, standing there white-robed, with her rich dark hair loose-falling, there is a weird grace about her that recalls those long slim figures of guardian-angels in French religious prints....

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