The Magic Island

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

Chapter IV
PORTRAIT OF A "GROS NÈGRE"

THE leading citizen of La Gonave, after Wirkus and the queen, is a gros nègre by the name of Constant Polynice.

This big negro, however, is neither big nor black. He is a little, nervous wisp of a man, pale mulatto, scarcely five feet tall, thin, small-boned, with tiny hands and feet. His only obvious virile feature is his long black mustaches. In physiognomy he is a bit like a rice-fed mandarin. He habitually dresses in khaki, with leather leggings which he taps with a bone-handled riding-crop. He is a great deal on horseback.

His plantation, called Dernière Marque, is between the mountains at the head of the Plaine Mapou, overlooking his extensive cotton fields. It is about three miles beyond Bois Noir.

Since I had wanted to remain in the interior of the island for a longer time than Wirkus could spare from his duties, he had asked Polynice to put me up and take care of me. We had hunted together. Constant was an ardent supporter of Wirkus and the Wirkus règime; so I was welcomed and made to feel at home.

Polynice was not a native of La Gonave. He had come over from the mainland a decade ago, and was now chief tax collector for the island.

His habitation is a group of the usual mud-walled, earth-floored, straw-roofed houses, but inside the main house is a big four-poster mahogany bed, brought over years ago from Miragoane. It is the only bed on La Gonave.1

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1
All Haitian peasants sleep habitually on thick straw-woven or grasswoven mats which lie all day outdoors in the sun and are taken into the house at night. They are sanitary and comfortable.

-203-

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