The Magic Island

By B. Seabrook; Alexander King | Go to book overview

Chapter II
". . . DEAD MEN WORKING IN THE CANE FIELDS"

PRETTY mulatto Julie had taken baby Marianne to bed. Constant Polynice and I sat late before the doorway of his caille, talking of fire-hags, demons, werewolves, and vampires, while a full moon, rising slowly, flooded his sloping cotton fields and the dark rolling hills beyond.

Polynice was a Haitian farmer, but he was no common jungle peasant. He lived on the island of La Gonave, where I shall return to him in later chapters. He seldom went over to the Haitian mainland, but he knew what was going on in Port-au-Prince, and spoke sometimes of installing a radio.

A countryman, half peasant born and bred, he was familiar with every superstition of the mountains and the plain, yet too intelligent to believe them literally true -- or at least so I gathered from his talk.

He was interested in helping me toward an understanding of the tangled Haitian folk-lore. It was only by chance that we came presently to a subject which -- though I refused for a long time to admit it -- lies in a baffling category on the ragged edge of things which are beyond either superstition or reason. He had been telling me of fire-hags who left their skins at home and set the cane fields blazing; of the vampire, a woman sometimes living, sometimes dead, who sucked the blood of children and who could be distinguished because her hair always turned an ugly red;1 of the werewolf -- chauché, in creole -- a man or woman who

____________________
1
See Appendix, page 332.

-92-

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