Island Beneath the Sea

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

Book: Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende Read Free Book Online
Authors: Isabel Allende
Tags: Fiction, General
blue liquid, but that only half calmed Eugenia, who suspected they had put something in the pot. Dr. Parmentier, to whom they had not told a word of Tante Rose’s intervention, ordered them to keep Eugenia Valmorain in a constant half-sleep until she delivered the baby. By then he had lost any hope of making her well; he believed that the atmosphere of the island was gradually killing her.

Ceremony Officiant
    T he drastic measure of keeping Eugenia sedated had a better result than Parmentier himself had hoped. During the following months, her belly swelled normally as she passed her days lying beneath mosquito netting on a divan on the gallery, sleeping or distracted by the passing clouds, completely disconnected from the miracle occurring inside her. “If she was always this tranquil, it would be perfect,” Tété heard her master say. Eugenia was fed sugar and a concentrated soup of chicken and vegetables that had been ground in a mortar, a soup invented by the cook, Tante Mathilde, capable of reviving a dead-for-three-days corpse. Tété carried out her tasks in the house and then sat in the gallery to sew the baby’s layette and sing in her deep voice the religious hymns Eugenia loved. Sometimes when they were alone, Prosper Cambray would come to visit, using the pretext of asking for a glass of lemonade, which he drank with astonishing slowness, sitting with a leg over the railing and striking his boots with his rolled up whip. The overseer’s always red-rimmed eyes would run up and down Tété’s body.
    â€œAre you calculating her price, Cambray? She isn’t for sale,” Toulouse Valmorain said one afternoon when he surprised his overseer by suddenly appearing on the gallery.
    â€œWhat did you say, monsieur?” the mulatto answered in a defiant tone, not changing his position.
    Valmorain motioned to him, and the head overseer unwillingly followed him to the office. Tété did not know what they talked about; her master told her only that he did not want anyone wandering through the house without his authorization, not even the overseer. Cambray’s insolence did not change after that run-in with his employer, and his only precaution before coming to the gallery to ask for a drink and unclothe Tété with his eyes was to make sure Valmorain wasn’t nearby. He had lost respect for him some time ago, but he didn’t dare push too hard because he was still nursing the ambition to become manager.
    When December arrived, Valmorain summoned Dr. Parmentier to stay at the plantation for as long as necessary, until Eugenia gave birth; he did not want to leave the matter in Tante Rose’s hands. “She knows more about these things than I do,” the physician argued, but he accepted the invitation because it would give him time to rest, read, and annotate the healer’s new remedies for his book. Tante Rose was often consulted by people from other plantations, and she treated both slaves and animals, fighting infections, stitching wounds, relieving fevers and injuries, helping at births, and trying to save the lives of punished blacks. She was permitted to travel over large areas while searching for her plants, and she was often taken to buy ingredients in Le Cap, where she was left with money, then picked up in a couple of days to return to the plantation. She was the mambo , officiating at the kalendas attended by Negroes from other plantations, something Valmorain did not object to even though his head overseer had warned him they ended in sexual orgies or with dozens of possessed writhing on the ground with their eyes rolled back in their heads. “Do not be so strict, Cambray. Let them unwind, it makes them more docile at work,” the master had replied with good humor. Tante Rose would disappear for days, and when the head overseer was proclaiming that the woman had run away to the Maroons, or crossed the river into Spanish territory, she

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