The Magic Island

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

Chapter X
THE SOUL OF HAITI

ON the last bright Easter morning which I spent in Portau-Prince -- this was only a year ago -- the Champs de Mars, a fashionable park adjacent to the presidential palace and new government buildings, resembled an untidied battlefield on which scenes of wholesale carnage had been recently enacted.

It was impossible to drive through it without swerving to avoid mangled torsos; it was impossible to stroll through it without stepping aside to avoid arms, legs, heads, and other detached fragments of human anatomies.

It was impossible also to refrain from smiling, for these mangled remains were not gory; they exuded nothing more dreadful than sawdust, straw and cotton batting. They were, in fact, life-sized effigies of Judas and Pontius Pilate's soldiers -- done to death annually by naïve mobs bent on avenging at this somewhat late day an event which occurred in Palestine during the reign of Tiberius.

My black yard-boy, Louis -- sweet, gentle soul -- had come to me on Saturday and begged in his soft creole accents the loan of our garden machete in order that he might be suitably armed to participate in the pious slaughter. A Judas, he told me, was hiding somewhere in the jungle ravine just behind the house of Colonel Myers, one of our near neighbors; if I listened, he said, I could already hear the crowd howling and beating drums to drive him from cover. "Go, Louis," said I, "and God go with you." It seemed a sort of neighborhood duty as well as a devout one. I suggested that he might take also an old caco sword

-270-

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