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Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 5611

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


With darkness all the population of the island retire to their homes;-the streets become silent, and the life of the day is done. By eight o'clock nearly all the windows are closed, and the lights put out;-by nine the people are asleep. There are no evening parties, no night amusements, except during rare theatrical seasons and times of Carnival; there are no evening visits: active existence is almost timed by the rising and setting of the sun.... The only pleasure left for the stranger of evenings is a quiet smoke on his balcony or before his door: reading is out of the question, partly because books are rare, partly because lights are bad, partly because insects throng about every lamp or candle. I am lucky enough to have a balcony, broad enough for a rocking-chair; and sometimes Cyrillia and the kitten come to keep me company before bedtime. The kitten climbs on my knees; Cyrillia sits right down upon the balcony.

One bright evening, Cyrillia was amusing herself very much by watching the clouds: they were floating high; the moonlight made them brilliant as frost. As they changed shape under the pressure of the trade-wind, Cyrillia seemed to discover wonderful things in them: sheep, ships with sails, cows, faces, perhaps even zombis.

-"Travaill Bon-Dié joli,-anh?" (Is not the work of the Good-God pretty?) she said at last.... "There was Madame Remy, who used to sell the finest foulards and Madrases in St. Pierre;-she used to study the clouds. She drew the patterns of the clouds for her foulards: whenever she saw a beautiful cloud or a beautiful rainbow, she would make a drawing of it in color at once; and then she would send that to France to have foulards made just like it.... Since she is dead, you do not see any more pretty foulards such as there used to be."...

-"Would you like to look at the moon with my telescope, Cyrillia?" I asked. "Let me get it for you."

-"Oh no, no!" she answered, as if shocked.

-"Why?"

-"Ah! faut pa gàdé bagga?e Bon-Dié conm ?a!" (It is not right to look at the things of the Good-God that way.)

I did not insist. After a little silence, Cyrillia resumed:-

-"But I saw the Sun and the Moon once fighting together: that was what people call an eclipse,-is not that the word?... They fought together a long time: I was looking at them. We put a terrine full of water on the ground, and looked into the water to see them. And the Moon is stronger than the Sun!-yes, the Sun was obliged to give way to the Moon.... Why do they fight like that?"

-"They don't, Cyrillia."

-"Oh yes, they do. I saw them!... And the Moon is much stronger than the Sun!"

I did not attempt to contradict this testimony of the eyes. Cyrillia continued to watch the pretty clouds. Then she said:-"Would you not like to have a ladder long

enough to let you climb up to those clouds, and see what they are made of?"

-"Why, Cyrillia, they are only vapor,-brume: I have been in clouds."

She looked at me in surprise, and, after a moment's silence, asked, with an irony of which I had not supposed her capable:-

-"Then you are the Good-God?"

-"Why, Cyrillia, it is not difficult to reach clouds. You see clouds always upon the top of the Montagne Pelée;-people go there. I have been there-in the clouds."

-"Ah! those are not the same clouds: those are not the clouds of the Good-God. You cannot touch the sky when you are on the Morne de la Croix."

-"My dear Cyrillia, there is no sky to touch. The sky is only an appearance."

-"Anh, anh, anh! No sky!-you say there is no sky?... Then, what is that up there?"

-"That is air, Cyrillia, beautiful blue air."

-"And what are the stars fastened to?"

-"To nothing. They are suns, but so much further away than our sun that they look small."

-"No, they are not suns! They have not the same form as the sun... You must not say there is no sky: it is wicked! But you are not a Catholic!"

-"My dear Cyrillia, I don't see what that has to do with the sky."

-"Where does the Good-God stay, if there be no sky? And where is heaven?-and where is hell?"

-"Hell in the sky, Cyrillia?"

-"The Good-God made heaven in one part of the sky, and hell in another part, for bad people.... Ah! you are a Protestant;-you do not know the things of the Good-God! That is why you talk like that."

-"What is a Protestant, Cyrillia?"

-"You are one. The Protestants do not believe in religion,-do not love the Good-God."

-"Well, I am neither a Protestant nor a Catholic, Cyrillia."

-"Oh! you do not mean that; you cannot be a maudi, an accursed. There are only the Protestants, the Catholics, and the accursed. You are not a maudi, I am sure, But you must not say there is no sky"...

-"But, Cyrillia"-

-"No: I will not listen to you:-you are a Protestant. Where does the rain come from, if there is no sky,"...

-"Why, Cyrillia,... the clouds"...

-"No, you are a Protestant.... How can you say such things? There are the Three Kings and the Three Valets,-the beautiful stars that come at Christmas-time,-there, over there-all beautiful, and big, big, big!... And you say there is no sky!"

-"Cyrillia, perhaps I am a maudi."

-"No, no! You are only a Protestant. But do not tell me there is no sky: it is wicked to say that!"

-"I won't say it any more, Cyrillia-there! But I will say there are no zombis."

-"I know you are not a maudi;-you have been baptized."

-"How do you know I have been baptized?"

-"Because, if you had not been baptized you would see zombis all the time, even in broad day. All children who are not baptized see zombis."...

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