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Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 2685

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


You are not at first undeceived;-the disillusion is long delayed. Doubtless you have read the delicious idyl of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre (this is not Mauritius, but the old life of Mauritius was wellnigh the same); and you look for idyllic personages among the beautiful humanity about you,-for idyllic scenes among the mornes shadowed by primeval forest, and the valleys threaded by a hundred brooks. I know not whether the faces and forms that you seek will be revealed to you;-but you will not be able to complain for the lack of idyllic loveliness in the commonest landscape. Whatever artistic knowledge you possess will merely teach you the more to wonder at the luxuriant purple of the sea, the violet opulence of the sky, the violent beauty of foliage greens, the lilac tints of evening, and the color-enchantments distance gives in an atmosphere full of iridescent power,-the amethysts and agates, the pearls and ghostly golds, of far mountainings. Never, you imagine, never could one tire of wandering through those marvellous valleys,-of climbing the silent roads under emeraldine shadow to heights from which the city seems but a few inches long, and the moored ships tinier than gnats that cling to a mirror,-or of swimming in that blue bay whose clear flood stays warm through all the year. [51]

Or, standing alone, in some a

isle of colossal palms, where humming-birds are flashing and shooting like a showering of jewel-fires, you feel how weak the skill of poet or painter to fix the sensation of that white-pillared imperial splendor;-and you think you know why creoles exiled by necessity to colder lands may sicken for love of their own,-die of home-yearning, as did many a one in far Louisiana, after the political tragedies of 1848....

... But you are not a creole, and must pay tribute of suffering to the climate of the tropics. You will have to learn that a temperature of 90° Fahr. in the tropics is by no means the same thing as 90° Fahr. in Europe or the United States;-that the mornes cannot be climbed with safety during the hotter hours of the afternoon;-that by taking a long walk you incur serious danger of catching a fever;-that to enter the high woods, a path must be hewn with the cutlass through the creepers and vines and undergrowth,-among snakes, venomous insects, venomous plants, and malarial exhalations;-that the finest blown dust is full of irritant and invisible enemies;-that it is folly to seek repose on a sward, or in the shade of trees,-particularly under tamarinds. Only after you have by experience become well convinced of these facts can you begin to comprehend something general in regard to West Indian conditions of life.

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