The Magic Island

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

Chapter II
THE BLACK QUEEN'S COURT

THE night before our projected journey up to Bois Noir to visit the black queen, Ti Meminne, Wirkus told me the story of how he had been crowned king of La Gonave.

Coming to the island four years before, he had set about a thorough exploration of its interior. From peasants who came down to the coast, he had heard that in Bois Noir, in a forest on a mountain top, in the almost exact geographical center of the island, there dwelt an old black woman who had ruled for more than thirty years. In her compound, they said, was a drum "taller than a man," so that the drummers had to stand on a raised platform to boom out the signals for the convocations of her court. She had prime ministers, they told him, a cabinet, and an army.

He hadn't quite believed it, he said, but he had gone up, alone, unarmed, and friendly I gathered, to see what it was all about. The old woman had proudly welcomed him and set the drum booming. In an hour or two, processions of negroes, men and women, blowing conch-shells, beating work-drums, waving flags, armed with machetes, began arriving, until there were several hundred in her compound. She introduced him to an old man who was ministre l'intérieur, others who were ministre l'agriculture, ministre la querre," etc. Wirkus remained there. He spent almost the entire first day in conference with them. They talked and talked and talked. Also they sent for the old blind soothsayer.

What they really had, he discovered, was a sort of agricultural guild, primitive yet highly organized. In planting

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