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Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 3236

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


... And another oppression came upon them,-in spite of all the pains, and the blinding dazzle of waters, and the biting of the sun: the oppression of drowsiness. They began to doze at intervals,-keeping their canoe balanced in some automatic way,-as cavalry soldiers, overweary, ride asleep in the saddle.

But at last, Stéphane, awaking suddenly with a paroxysm of coughing, so swayed himself to one side as to overturn the canoe; and both found themselves in the sea. Maximilien righted the craft, and got in again; but the little chabin twice fell back in trying to raise himself upon his arms. He had become almost helplessly feeble. Maximilien, attempting to aid him, again overturned the unsteady little boat; and this time it required all his skill and his utmost strength to get Stéphane out of the water. Evidently Stéphane could be of no more assistance;-the boy was so weak he could not even sit up straight.

-"A?e! ou ké jété nou encò," panted Maximilien,-"metté ou toutt longue."

Stéphane slowly let himself down, so as to lie nearly all his length in the canoe,-one foot on either side of Maximilien's hips. Then he lay very still for a long time,-so still that Maximilien became uneasy.

-"Ou ben malade?" he asked.... Stéphane did not seem to hear: his eyes remained closed.

-"Stéphane!" cried Maximilien, in alarm,-"Stéphane!"

-"C'est lò, papoute," murmured Stéphane, without lifting his eyelids,-"?a c'est lò!-ou pa janmain ouè yon bel pièce conm ?a?" (It is gold, little father.... Didst thou ever see a pretty piece like that?... No, thou wilt not beat me, little father?-no, papout

e!)

-"Ou ka dòmi, Stéphane?"-queried Maximilien, wondering,-"art asleep?"

But Stéphane opened his eyes and looked at him so strangely! Never had he seen Stéphane look that way before.

-"C'a ou ni, Stéphane?-what ails thee?-a?e, Bon-Dié, Bon-Dié!"

-"Bon-Dié!"-muttered Stéphane, closing his eyes again at the sound of the great Name,-"He has no color!-He is like the Wind."...

-"Stéphane!"...

-"He feels in the dark-He has not eyes."...

-"Stéphane, pa pàlé ?a!!"

-"He tosses the sea.... He has no face;-He lifts up the dead... and the leaves."...

-"Ou fou" cried Maximilien, bursting into a wild fit of sobbing,-"Stéphane, thou art mad!"

And all at once he became afraid of Stéphane,-afraid of all he said,-afraid of his touch,-afraid of his eyes... he was growing like a zombi!

But Stéphane's eyes remained closed!-he ceased to speak.

... About them deepened the enormous silence of the sea;-low swung the sun again. The horizon was yellowing: day had begun to fade. Tall Dominica was now half green; but there yet appeared no smoke, no sail, no sign of life.

And the tints of the two vast Shapes that shattered the rim of the light shifted as if evanescing,-shifted like tones of West Indian fishes,-of pisquette and congre,-of caringue and gou?s-zié and balaou. Lower sank the sun;-cloud-fleeces of orange pushed up over the edge of the west;-a thin warm breath caressed the sea,-sent long lilac shudderings over the flanks of the swells. Then colors changed again: violet richened to purple;-greens blackened softlY;-grays smouldered into smoky gold.

And the sun went down.

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