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   Chapter 86 March 30th.

Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 2459

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


Good Friday....

The bells have ceased to ring,-even the bells for the dead; the hours are marked by cannon-shots. The ships in the harbor form crosses with their spars, turn their flags upside down. And the entire colored population put on mourning:-it is a custom among them centuries old.

You will not perceive a single gaudy robe to-day, a single calendered Madras: not a speck of showy color visible through all the ways of St. Pierre. The costumes donned are all similar to those worn for the death relatives: either full mourning,-a black robe with violet foulard, and dark violet-banded headkerchief; or half-mourning,-a dark violet robe with black foulard and turban;-the half-mourning being worn only by those who cannot afford the more sombre costume. From my winndow I can see long processions climbing the mornes about the city, to visit the shrines and crucifixes, and to pray for the cessation of the pestilence.

... Three o'clock. Three cannon-shots shake the hill: it is the supposed hour of the Saviour's death. All believers-whether in the churches, on the highways, or in their homes-bow down and kiss the cross thrice, or, if there be no cross, press their lips three times to the ground or the paveme

nt, and utter those three wishes which if expressed precisely at this traditional moment will surely, it is held, be fulfilled. Immense crowds are assembled before the crosses on the heights, and about the statue of Notre Dame de la Garde.

... There is no hubbub in the streets; there is not even the customary loud weeping to be heard as the coffins go by. One must not complain to-day, nor become angry, nor utter unkind words,-any fault committed on Good Friday is thought to obtain a special and awful magnitude in the sight of Heaven.... There is a curious saying in vogue here. If a son or daughter grow up vicious,-become a shame to the family and a curse to the parents,-it is observed of such:-"?a, c'est yon péché Vendredi-Saint!" (Must be a Good-Friday sin!)

There are two other strange beliefs connected with Good Friday. One is that it always rains on that day,-that the sky weeps for the death of the Saviour; and that this rain, if caught in a vessel, will never evaporate or spoil, and will cure all diseases.

The other is that only Jesus Christ died precisely at three o'clock. Nobody else ever died exactly at that hour;-they may die a second before or a second after three, but never exactly at three.

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