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Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 3485

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


Perhaps, if there had been a breeze, neither Stéphane nor Maximilien would have seen the sun again. But they saw him rise.

Light pearled in the east, over the edge of the ocean, ran around the rim of the sky and yellowed: then the sun's brow appeared;-a current of gold gushed rippling across the sea before him;-and all the heaven at once caught blue fire from horizon to zenith. Violet from flood to cloud the vast recumbent form of Pelée loomed far behind,-with long reaches of mountaining: pale grays o'ertopping misty blues. And in the north another lofty shape was towering,-strangely jagged and peaked and beautiful,-the silhouette of Dominica: a sapphire Sea!... No wandering clouds:-over far Pelée only a shadowy piling of nimbi.... Under them the sea swayed dark as purple ink-a token of tremendous depth.... Still a dead calm, and no sail in sight.

-"?a c'est la Dominique," said Maximilien,-"Ennou pou ouivage-à!"

They had lost their little palettes during the night;-they used their naked hands, and moved swiftly. But Dominica was many and many a mile away. Which was the nearer island, it was yet difficult to say;-in the morning sea-haze, both were vapory,-difference of color was largely due to position....

Sough!-sough!-sough!-A bird with a white breast passed overhead; and they stopped paddling to look at it,-a gull. Sign of fair weather!-it was making for Dominica.

-"Moin ni ben faim," murmured Maximilien. Neither had eaten since the morning of the previous day,-most of which they had passed sitting in their canoe.

-"Moin ni anni soif," said Stéphane. And besides his thirst he complained of a burning pain in his head, always growing worse. He still coughed, and spat out pink threads after each

burst of coughing.

The heightening sun flamed whiter and whiter: the flashing of waters before his face began to dazzle like a play of lightning.... Now the islands began to show sharper lines, stronger colors; and Dominica was evidently the nearer;-for bright streaks of green were breaking at various angles through its vapor-colored silhouette, and Martinique still remained all blue.

... Hotter and hotter the sun burned; more and more blinding became his reverberation. Maximilien's black skin suffered least; but both lads, accustomed as they were to remaining naked in the sun, found the heat difficult to bear. They would gladly have plunged into the deep water to cool themselves, but for fear of sharks;-all they could do was to moisten their heads, and rinse their mouths with sea-water.

Each from his end of the canoe continually watched the horizon. Neither hoped for a sail, there was no wind; but they looked for the coming of steamers,-the Orinoco might pass, or the English packet, or some one of the small Martinique steamboats might be sent out to find them.

Yet hours went by; and there still appeared no smoke in the ring of the sky,-never a sign in all the round of the sea, broken only by the two huge silhouettes.... But Dominica was certainly nearing;-the green lights were spreading through the luminous blue of her hills.

... Their long immobility in the squatting posture began to tell upon the endurance of both boys,-producing dull throbbing aches in thighs, hips, and loins.... Then, about mid-day, Stéphane declared he could not paddle any more;-it seemed to him as if his head must soon burst open with the pain which filled it: even the sound of his own voice hurt him,-he did not want to talk.

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