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The Blue Man From "Mackinac And Lake Stories", 1899   By: (1847-1902)

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From "Mackinac And Lake Stories", 1899

By Mary Hartwell Catherwood

The lake was like a meadow full of running streams. Far off indeed it seemed frozen with countless wind paths traversing the ice, so level and motionless was the surface under a gray sky. But summer rioted in verdure over the cliffs to the very beaches. From the high greenery of the island could be heard the tink tank of a bell where some cow sighed amid the delicious gloom.

East of the Giant's Stairway in a cove are two round rocks with young cedars springing from them. It is easy to scramble to the flat top of the first one and sit in open ambush undetected by passers. The world's majority is unobservant. Children with their nurses, lovers, bicyclists who have left their wheels behind, excursionists fortunately headed towards this spot in their one available hour an endless procession, tramp by on the rough, wave lapped margin, never wearing it smooth.

Amused by the unconsciousness of the reviewed, I found myself unexpectedly classed with the world's majority. For on the east round rock, a few yards from my seat on the west round rock, behold a man had arranged himself, his back against the cedars, without attracting notice. While the gray weather lightened and wine red streaks on the lake began to alternate with translucent greens, and I was watching mauve plumes spring from a distant steamer before her whistles could be heard, this nimble stranger must have found his own amusement in the blindness of people with eyes.

He was not quite a stranger. I had seen him the day before; and he was a man to be remembered on account of a peculiar blueness of the skin, in which, perhaps, some drug or chemical had left an unearthly haze over the natural flush of blood. It might have appeared the effect of sky lights and cliff shadows, if I had not seen the same blue face distinctly in Madame Clementine's house. He was standing in the middle of a room at the foot of the stairway as we passed his open door.

So unusual a personality was not out of place in a transplanted Parisian tenement. Madame Clementine was a Parisian; and her house, set around three sides of a quadrangle in which flowers overflowed their beds, was a bit of artisan Paris. The ground floor consisted of various levels joined by steps and wide jambed doors. The chambers, to which a box staircase led, wanted nothing except canopies over the beds.

"Alors I give de convenable beds," said Madame Clementine, in mixed French and English, as she poked her mattresses. "Des bons lits! T'ree dollar one chambre, four dollar one chambre " she suddenly spread her hands to include both "seven dollar de tout ensemble!"

It was delightful to go with any friend who might be forced by crowded hotels to seek rooms in Madame Clementine's alley. The active, tiny, Frenchwoman, who wore a black mob cap every where except to mass, had reached present prosperity through past tribulation. Many years before she had followed a runaway husband across the sea. As she stepped upon the dock almost destitute the first person her eyes rested on was her husband standing well forward in the crowd, with a ham under his arm which he was carrying home to his family. He saw Clementine and dropped the ham to run. The same hour he took his new wife and disappeared from the island. The doubly deserted French speaking woman found employment and friends; and by her thrift was now in the way of piling up what she considered a fortune.

The man on the rock near me was no doubt one of Madame Clementine's permanent lodgers. Tourists ranting over the island in a single day had not his repose. He met my discovering start with a dim smile and a bend of his head, which was bare. His features were large, and his mouth corners had the sweet, strong expression of a noble patience. What first impressed me seemed to be his blueness, and the blurredness of his eyes struggling to sight as Bartimeus' eyes might have struggled the instant before the Lord touched them... Continue reading book >>

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