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Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 4114

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


-But if you believe this disillusion perpetual,-if you fancy the old bewitchment has spent all its force upon you,-you do not know this Nature. She is not done with you yet: she has only torpefied your energies a little. Of your willingness to obey her, she takes no cognizance;-she ignores human purposes, knows only molecules and their combinations; and the blind blood in your veins,-thick with Northern heat and habit,-is still in dumb desperate rebellion against her.

Perhaps she will quell this revolt forever,-thus:-

One day, in the second hour of the afternoon, a few moments after leaving home, there will come to you a sensation such as you have never known before: a sudden weird fear of the light.

It seems to you that the blue sky-fire is burning down into your brain,-that the flare of the white pavements and yellow walls is piercing somehow into your life,-creating an unfamiliar mental confusion,-blurring out thought.... Is the whole world taking fire?... The flaming azure of the sea dazzles and pains like a crucible-glow;-the green of the mornes flickers and blazes in some amazing way.... Then dizziness inexpressible: you grope with eyes shut fast-afraid to open them again in that stupefying torrefaction,-moving automatically,-vaguely knowing you must get out of the flaring and flashing,-somewhere, anywhere away from the white wrath of the sun, and the green fire of the hills, and the monstrous color of the sea.... Then, remembering nothing, you find yourself in bed,-with an insupportable sense of weight at the back of the head,-a pulse beating furiously,-and a strange sharp pain at intervals stinging through your eyes.... And the pain grows, expands,-fills all the skull,-forces you to cry out, replaces all other sensations except a weak consciousness, vanishing and recurring, that you are very sick, more sick than ever before in all your life.

... And with the tedious ebbing of the long fierce fever, all the heat seems to pass from your veins. You can no longer imagine, as before, that it would be delici

ous to die of cold;-you shiver even with all the windows closed;-you feel currents of air,-imperceptible to nerves in a natural condition,-which shock like a dash of cold water, whenever doors are opened and closed; the very moisture upon your forehead is icy. What you now wish for are stimulants and warmth. Your blood has been changed;-tropic Nature has been good to you: she is preparing you to dwell with her.

... Gradually, under the kind nursing of those colored people,-among whom, as a stranger, your lot will probably be cast,-you recover strength; and perhaps it will seem to you that the pain of lying a while in the Shadow of Death is more than compensated by this rare and touching experience of human goodness. How tirelessly watchful,-how na?vely sympathetic,-how utterly self-sacrificing these women-natures are! Patiently, through weeks of stifling days and sleepless nights,-cruelly unnatural to them, for their life is in the open air,-they struggle to save without one murmur of fatigue, without heed of their most ordinary physical wants, without a thought of recompense;-trusting to their own skill when the physician abandons hope,-climbing to the woods for herbs when medicines prove, without avail. The dream of angels holds nothing sweeter than this reality of woman's tenderness.

And simultaneously with the return of force, you may wonder whether this sickness has not sharpened your senses in some extraordinary way,-especially hearing, sight, and smell. Once well enough to be removed without danger, you will be taken up into the mountains somewhere,-for change of air; and there it will seem to you, perhaps, that never before did you feel so acutely the pleasure of perfumes,-of color-tones,-of the timbre of voices. You have simply been acclimated.... And suddenly the old fascination of tropic Nature seizes you again,-more strongly than in the first days;-the frisson of delight returns; the joy of it thrills through all your blood,-making a great fulness at your heart as of unutterable desire to give thanks....

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