The Magic Island

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

Chapter III
TOUSSEL'S PALE BRIDE

WHAT proportion of the Haitian upper classes believe secretly in sorcery and Voodoo is impossible to ascertain and difficult to guess. "Not one in a thousand," I have been told. "Nine hundred and ninety-nine in every thousand," I have also been told, and both answers came from Haitians who were themselves of that class. Yet I am convinced that neither answer was approximately correct.

I believe, and this is ventured simply as an opinion, that very few of them adhere to Voodoo as a religion, but that a great majority of them fear its magic.

Strange tales, however, are told in Port-au-Prince of both these phases of Voodoo in the boudoir and salon, and whenever this subject becomes the topic of more or less confidential speculation, some one is always certain to recall and tell the story of how -- and why -- Père Béranger, a Catholic priest as distinguished for his mundane elegance and the exquisite diction of his classical French sermons as for his inner piety, astounded his fashionable congregation one Sunday morning by mounting the pulpit and denouncing them in blunt jungle creole.

Before coming to that, however, I must revert for a moment to the peasants. If you stroll through any market, even in the cities, where country women are assembled with their produce, you will see here and there among them some woman fantastically garbed. She will be wearing usually a white dress, but an irregular shoulder of the dress may be black or glaring red, not dyed so, but a sort of huge, crazyquilt patch sewn on. Another may wear a dress made entirely of large, angular, crazy-quilt cotton patches in clashing

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