Friday, May 16, 2008

A Florida Picture


Pen Sketch of Southern Scenes and Surroundings by Paul Bourget.

A town of quite small houses, with streets, and all along their wooden side walks trees of magic and overflowing verdure, a bursting into leaf which the dust has been unable to sully, writes Paul Bourget from Jacksonville, Fla., in the Boston Herald. Persian lilacs, like those whose perfume I breathed in the east, stand in the street itself, gigantic, in full bloom, and perfuming the already burning air. There are, moreover, overladen orange trees, Japanese medlars, also yellow with fruit, bananas, palm trees, all of which foreshadow still another world than that of Georgia. A penetrating aroma seems to pass through the sun which shines in the too intense blue like the sky which overhung the Dead sea last year, when, on leaving the grim convent of Mar Saba, I perceived that still water and the soft line of the mountains of Moab. But yonder history and legend were for me mixed with the sensation of nature. Here it is nature alone with which I come in contact, nature with its murderous fauna, its violent flora, its atmospheric phenomena, rather its cataclysms, charm and danger, at once perceptible in the very air one breathes, in every small detail which we meet at the corner of the street, in the sudden jumps of temperature — in fact, in the entire life of this small town, so peaceful on this Easter morning.

Negroes and still more negroes. It seems as if the town belongs to them entirely, so densely do they throng on the sidewalks, the men in Prince Albert coats, with flowers in their buttonholes, and wearing trousers of bright shades, the women clothed in outrageously light colored dresses, among which those of apple green, poppy red and light pink predominate. Their bodices are cut in figaro fashion, their hats are decorated with ribbons and enormous flowers, and their hair is plaited in plaits which are very thin and very tight, the object being to diminish or destroy the natural crinkling. They smile, showing their white teeth between their thick lips. The white teeth of the men are displayed in a similar smile, and they all salute and approach one another with that ceremonious familiarity, that species of natural affectation, which is peculiar to this strange race.

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