SPEAKS IN THE PREDICATE

When the train from Colon came in, Miss Proudleigh was one of the first
to step on to the platform, closely followed by her niece and brother.
The old man was dressed in a suit once black, but now of a greenish tint
and shiny as though it had been polished; he also wore a bowler hat of a
pattern that had probably been fashionable thirty years before, but of
which few specimens could at this time have been extant.

Catherine and her aunt were attired in white ironed dresses and new
straw hats trimmed with black ribbon. Samuel saw that they had come
ready-dressed for the funeral, which must take place on the following
morning. The severity of Miss Proudleigh’s demeanour indicated that she
was about to officiate at a very important function, and the large straw
fan which she carried in her right hand would have informed anyone who
knew the lady that she had not brought forth her favourite symbol of
authority without a determination to establish her claim to precedence
and power at any cost.

Jones approached the little group. “I was waiting for you,” he said.

“Then you mean to tell me y’u not arrested?” was the startling question
of Miss Proudleigh. “There seems to be no law at all in Panama!”

She edged away from Jones as she spoke, looking as she did so towards an
American policeman who was strolling about the platform.

“What am I to be arrested for?” asked the young man, surprised. “What’s
the matter with you’ aunt?” he said to Catherine. “She takin’ leave of
her senses?”

“Didn’t you’ telegram say that Mackenzie dead?” asked Catherine.

“Yes; but what is that to do with me?”

“I know it wasn’t you dat kill him, me son,” Mr. Proudleigh now
observed. “When I get you’ telegram, I said to meself: ‘Mister Jones is
a man like me. Him talk a lot, but he wouldn’t hurt a fly: him is too
afraid of de court-house.’ But Deborah would insist it was you dat kill
Mackenzie, for you leave the house last night in a blind temper, an’ you
come up here to-day, an’ Mackenzie dead very sudden.”

“It is very suspicious,” said Miss Proudleigh. “I don’t understand it at
all.”

“Well, it is not everything y’u can understand,” said Catherine
practically; “and it couldn’t be Mr. Jones that kill Mackenzie,
otherwise him would be in jail.”

“Dat is so,” agreed her father; “only, I hear dat in Panama y’u can pay
ten dollars an’ kill anybody you like.”

“That is all stupidness,” said Jones impatiently; “it is the Canal that
kill Mackenzie, not me. What was I goin’ to kill him for?”

A snort from Miss Proudleigh was her only comment on this speech. She
was not willing to be persuaded that Mackenzie had not been a victim of
the machinations of Samuel and her niece.

As they went on, Jones explained how Mackenzie had come by his death,
and how he himself had been a witness of the tragedy. All of them had
heard before of the lives which the Culebra Cut had claimed, and now as
Jones spoke doubts rose once more in the minds of Mr. Proudleigh and his
sister as to the wisdom and propriety of human beings attempting to
unite two oceans.

“I always thought that some great disaster would occur because of the
iniquity of man in trying to join what God separate,” said Miss
Proudleigh; “but I never dream that de disaster was to come on me own
family; for, after all, Mackenzie was my nephew-in-law.”

But she did not seem unduly oppressed by the calamity. She found
abundant comfort in the prospect of a funeral, and in the opportunity
now given her of bewailing in public her irreparable loss. She could now
proclaim her past forebodings and hint at other tragedies that would
shortly follow upon this one. Properly managed, this funeral could not
fail to afford some edifying exhibitions of religious fortitude,
Christian resignation, and personal piety, mingled discreetly with an
insulting attitude towards those whom she might happen to dislike.

As for Mr. Proudleigh, at that moment he was chiefly afflicted with
fears for his personal safety. If a landslide or something like it could
kill Mackenzie, there was nothing to prevent a landslide from killing
him. This was a dangerous country.

“We will have to leave this place as soon as poor Mackenzie is in de
grave,” he remarked, as he laboured on. “What y’u goin’ to do wid
you’self, Mister Jones?”

“When?”

“To-morrow. After we bury me son-in-law.”

“I don’t know,” said Jones.

“You staying up here wid Miss Susan?”

“That would not be proper,” observed Miss Proudleigh sternly. “It is
none of my business, an’ I don’t want to interfere. But if the day after
Mackenzie bury, a young man should stay in the same place with the
widder, them will put her out of any church she belong to.”

“I don’t think Susan can stay here much longer, now that Mackenzie is
dead,” said Jones. “She will have to leave soon, for the American people
will want the premises.”

“Well, she better come back to Colon wid me,” said Mr. Proudleigh; “an’
now that Mac is dead, Mister Jones——”

But Samuel, guessing the nature of the old man’s forthcoming
proposition, hastily interrupted him with another recital of that day’s
tragedy. He was still speaking when they arrived at Susan’s house.

All the doors and windows were open, and three or four persons were
moving about within. These were friendly neighbours who had come over to
help Susan with her dead.

She was expecting her family. As a matter of fact she had telegraphed to
them. But having received Jones’s message earlier, they had left for
Culebra before Susan’s telegram was delivered at their house.

She was very quiet and composed. When the news of Mackenzie’s death had
been broken to her she had shrieked in terror. Her first thought was
that there had been a fight between Samuel and her husband, and that the
latter had been murdered. A few words of explanation relieved her mind
of this horrible fear, then she wept bitterly as if stricken to the
heart. She had never cared greatly for her husband; but his sudden
death, the overwhelming memory of how, that very day, she had had to
fight against the temptation to abandon him, the recollection of all his
kindnesses, touched her to genuine sorrow and regret. She recovered her
self-possession a little later on and straightway set about making
preparations for the funeral. She was still engaged on these when Samuel
and her family arrived.

She hardly appeared to notice Jones, who kept himself in the background.
She suffered herself to be embraced by her father, who thought it proper
to assure her that he had hastened to comfort her, though he himself was
grief-stricken and could not say when he should be able to take an
interest in life any more. Mr. Proudleigh then deposited his hat on a
table and elaborately wiped his eyes. This ceremony being gone through,
he sat down.

But Miss Proudleigh would not sit down. She took Susan by the hand. “It
is the will of God,” she loudly proclaimed, “an’ men can only say, ‘Thy
will be done.’ We must be prepared to meet our God. We must take up our
cross an’ follow Him. Husband-o, son-o, mother-o, wife-o, when the call
come we must give them all up to Him who gave them life. We cannot
rebel, for the Lord gave an’ the Lord taketh away—blessed be the name
of the Lord. We cannot prevent the tears from flowing, for that is
nature; but the heart must be submissive.”

She paused to note the effect of her words, which she considered
sufficiently stirring to move Susan to tears and the other people in the
house to sympathy. But most of the people there did not know Miss
Proudleigh and were paying no attention to her; Susan remained dry-eyed;
Catherine appeared unsympathetic. Only her brother seemed attentive, and
as she did not regard him as an audience worth having, she concluded
that spiritual consolations had better be reserved for a later occasion.

“You can go into the dining-room an’ wash you’ hands an’ face if you
like, Aunt Deborah,” said Susan quietly. “It is fixed up.”

“What about the body?” demanded Miss Proudleigh.

“The body fixed up already. Everything is arranged. Some of Mackenzie’s
friends looking after the funeral.”

It was bitterly disappointing to Miss Proudleigh to find that she had
been forestalled; still, opportunities for usefulness might present
themselves later on. She went into the dining-room as invited, feeling
that Susan’s calmness was most unbecoming at such a moment. A widow,
with a proper sense of what was expected of her, should have given way
to a wild outburst of grief at the sight of her sympathizing family.

Presently Susan asked her aunt to go into the room where Mackenzie’s
body was laid out. Mackenzie had been struck mainly by descending masses
of earth; thus he had escaped disfigurement. Miss Proudleigh glanced at
the set face, saying with real feeling, “Poor fellow; just as if he was
sleeping.” Then she mastered this inclination to weakness, and, laying
her hand upon the cold, sheeted figure, she shook her head determinedly.
“Not enough ice,” she said.

“Quite enough,” replied one of Susan’s helpers, a young woman who had
developed a marked fondness for assisting at funerals.

“You will excuse me,” said Miss Proudleigh with great firmness. “I bury
a lot of my relatives an’ friends, an’ therefore it stands to reason
that I must know about de treatment of corpses.

“Mr. Mackenzie was my nephew-in-law, an’ I know he would like to bury
decently an’ in a good condition; in consequence of which I would advise
his wife to take my foolish advice an’ get some more ice. Susan, ’ave
you a little gurl?”

“One is outside,” Susan answered.

“Send ’er for more ice!”

“All right, Aunt Deborah,” said Susan resignedly; “you can send ’er.”

This was a victory of considerable importance; it placed Miss Proudleigh
in charge of all arrangements affecting the corpse. She adapted her
voice to suit her new dignity and now spoke in impressive stage
whispers.

But where was Samuel? Susan had lost sight of him; he had quietly
slipped out of the house after observing how she was conducting herself;
he was glad to see her calm and collected, but a certain delicacy of
feeling warned him that he should not remain in the house just now. He
was damp and dirty; but there were shops in the town where he could buy
some ready-made clothing. He bought a suit and was allowed to put it on
in a room behind the shop; if it did not fit him well, at least it was
clean and dry.

The day’s work was over in the Cut; everybody he met was talking about
the accident. He noticed that they all spoke well of Mackenzie; he
wondered whether, if he had died like Mackenzie, his acquaintances would
have spoken like that of him.

The rain had ceased entirely, but the sky was sombre still. He
remembered that he had eaten nothing from morning, but he had no
appetite, did not feel like eating. He lingered about the houses and the
shops till long after darkness had fallen. At about eight o’clock, he
went back to Susan’s house.

He entered and silently took one of the many chairs that had been
borrowed from friendly neighbours for the accommodation of the people
who had come and were coming to sit up for a few hours with Susan. Every
one was quiet and reverential, and those who talked did so in low and
mournful tone.

A solitary light was burning in the room where the body of the dead man
lay. Those who wished to do so, stole into the room and peeped at it,
then stole back gloomily to their seats. The subdued conversation was
about Mackenzie in particular and death in general, and when an elderly
woman remarked that Mackenzie was a man who could always be depended
upon, and groaned by way of emphasizing her remark, Miss Proudleigh
groaned also, as though parting with Mackenzie had been one of the most
awful experiences of her life.

Then the young woman who had contradicted Miss Proudleigh in the matter
of the ice felt it incumbent upon her to say something.

“I remember poor Mr. Mackenzie when he first come up to Culebra,” she
said. “Such a quiet, mannerly gentleman. And to think he die so sudden!”

“In the midst of life we are in death!” retorted Miss Proudleigh
aggressively.

“I not stayin’ here one day longer than I can help it,” said Mr.
Proudleigh earnestly. “I never did want much to come to Colon at any
time; but me children wishin’ to see if them could make a good living
over here, I say to meself, ‘I mustn’t desert them. Don’t care what
happen to me, it is me juty to go wid dem.’ So I come here, but I not
goin’ to stop any longer, because it must be a very funny country where
a hill-side broke down without nothing do it, and kill me son-in-law. Ef
I are to die, I want to die in me bed in Jamaica.”

“Parents must devote themselves to their children,” said one of Susan’s
neighbours.

“That is what I ’ave always done,” said Mr. Proudleigh with dignity.
“But if Susan take my advice, she will go back wid me to Jamaica as soon
as she bury her husban’. I can’t teck any more risk in Panama.”

“The Lord is strong to save, wherever His people are,” remarked Miss
Proudleigh rebukingly. Her laundry was proving very profitable, and she
needed no further evidence to assure her of the omnipresent care of
Providence.

Just then the young woman who had already angered Miss Proudleigh,
feeling that she was being eclipsed, went up to Susan, and, throwing her
arms about the widow’s neck, exclaimed, “My heart bleed for you,” and
audibly wept. But Miss Proudleigh was mistress of ceremonies, and Susan
herself was now subject to her aunt’s authority. That a stranger, an
insolent stranger, should have dared to set the example of tears in the
midst of a conversation, was more than Miss Proudleigh could stand.
Extraneous sympathy must not be allowed to pass the bounds set by
decorum and established practice. Happily Miss Proudleigh knew that she
was equal to any emergency. Whipping out of her pocket a hymn-book which
she had thoughtfully brought with her from Colon, in a shrill and
belligerent treble she began to sing “Peace, Perfect Peace.” The hymn
sounded like a declaration of war without quarter, and the sobbing young
lady recognized it as such and struggled by means of louder sobs to
maintain the position she had won. But Miss Proudleigh had great allies.
For most of the guests, tired of talking or sitting still, joined in the
hymn, singing with genuine feeling.

Rising and falling in measured cadence, the sound floated far away, and
men and women in other houses listened, thinking perhaps of the days
when they too had watched beside the corpse of some one dear to them.
Perhaps their memory was touched, and they thought of a grave somewhere
on a mountain-side, under the shade of rustling trees, in some far-off
West Indian island which they called home.

The singing ceased; then another hymn, even more pathetic than the
first, was started: All took it up, singing softly:

“Days and moments quickly flying
Blend the living with the dead,
Soon shall you and I be lying
Each within his narrow bed.”

A picture of Mackenzie lying alone in the room, cold, motionless,
swathed in dripping cerements; a picture of him as he went forth that
morning, cheerful, confident, strong, with never a thought of death in
his mind, rose before Susan’s mental vision.

She broke down and cried.

Jones wiped his eyes repeatedly.

Others were crying quietly. For the first time that night they felt
themselves to be strangers in a strange land, men and women who had come
to seek a livelihood in a foreign country from which, for all they knew,
they might never return.

When Susan lifted her head a little while after, her eyes caught those
of Jones. Each knew what the other was thinking of. In the forenoon of
that same day they had wronged Mackenzie in thought, almost in act, and
he had died without knowing it. But did he not know? Did he not know
now? Neither one could boast of being free from superstition: what if
Mackenzie’s spirit were near, reading all that was passing in their
minds and hearts? Susan shuddered. Samuel’s heart failed him in spite of
his desperate inward struggle with his fears. They lowered their eyes
again.

Twelve o’clock came, and most of the people rose to leave. Only a few
would remain until the morning. Some, however, would return in time for
the funeral. They all endeavoured to persuade Susan to go and lie down,
and try to sleep, but she was afraid. She might dream. In her sleep
Mackenzie’s spirit might accuse her!

So all night she and Samuel sat in the same room, wakeful, alert,
thinking over and over again of what had taken place between them a few
hours before, and of the tragedy in Culebra Cut.

At six o’clock in the morning Miss Proudleigh began to set things in
order, and, shortly after, the men who were looking after Mackenzie’s
funeral arrived. They worked quickly: by seven the body was in the
coffin, which was lifted into the sitting-room uncovered, in order that
all who knew Mackenzie might take last leave of him. Flowers were scarce
at Culebra, but the mourners had gathered a few. These they strewed over
the corpse, and the evergreens they had brought were arranged here and
there about the room, giving to it a fresh and verdant appearance.

One by one the men and women who had come to attend the funeral stepped
up to the coffin, gazed a little while at the dead man’s face, and
turned away. Then the minister, a young Englishman connected with
Jamaica, who had followed the people to Panama that they might still be
kept in touch with the religion of their own country, arrived. The
people made way for him respectfully, glancing at him with pride and
admiration; he went up to Susan and shook hands with her
sympathetically, speaking a few words which he meant to be consoling,
but feeling, not for by any means the first time in his life, how poorly
words express real sympathy. Then he was taken possession of by Miss
Proudleigh, who led him to a chair which she had covered, for no very
obvious reason, with a white lace curtain.

“Ready?” he asked her quietly, book in hand.

“Yes, minister; but” (she hesitated a little) “don’t it is right to read
the will first?”

“That depends,” said the parson. “Does Mrs. Mackenzie want it read? Is
there a will?”

Miss Proudleigh looked at Susan inquiringly. It was not usual to read
the will before a funeral; but Miss Proudleigh feared that if she did
not make use of the present opportunity she might never know what
Mackenzie had left, and whether he had bequeathed his property to Susan
alone or not. As for Susan, she was not anxious that her private affairs
should be exposed, but her aunt was now the predominant person in the
house, and she did not want to appear secretive. “My husband used to
keep his papers in his own trunk,” she said; “I will look.”

In a minute or two she returned with a document which she thought must
be the will; which it was. Miss Proudleigh took it from her and handed
it to the minister, asking him to read it.

So the will was read. A small house in Kingston, ten acres of land in
St. Andrew (not far from Kingston), a life insurance policy worth a
hundred pounds, and all the money lodged in Mackenzie’s name in a bank
in Panama—everything was left to Susan. His will had been made three
weeks after Mackenzie’s marriage, and Susan knew that he had at least
eighty pounds in the bank. She was well-off! That was her thought as the
parson ceased reading. “It is my old luck!”—the words formed themselves
in her mind: her good fortune, her luck, never seemed to desert her for
long. She was a woman with property, money. She saw in the faces of the
people in the room that they were surprised that Mackenzie had left so
much.

Miss Proudleigh was conscious of a feeling of resentment, born of envy.
But with it struggled a feeling of pride: she was glad that she had
asked that the will should be read. For was she not related to all these
riches; was it not she who had directed the funeral arrangements in the
house of a man who had left his widow in so comfortable a position?
There was dignity in her look and voice as she said to the minister:

“Minister, will we proceed?”

The offices of the dead took up but little time. Six strong men lifted
the coffin, and, headed by the minister, the funeral cortège moved
slowly out of the house.

Susan and her father walked immediately behind the coffin, the rest of
the mourners following without regard to precedence. Mr. Proudleigh’s
thoughts were not of an unpleasant nature. Never had he heard of any
young widow like Susan possessing so much riches. He concluded that she
must be worth hundreds of pounds, and to a mind which, for some years,
had been content to think financially in terms of sixpence, shilling and
eighteenpence, a hundred pounds meant nearly as much as a million. Never
had he thought so highly of Mackenzie, never had he felt so pleased with
Susan’s marriage. Jones? What was Jones compared with Mackenzie? When
would a man like Jones ever be able to accumulate a fortune? He was more
likely to waste one; and here Mr. Proudleigh began seriously to think
that Susan ought to be warned against having anything to do with Samuel
Josiah in the future. Mr. Proudleigh saw his duty as a father plain
before him, but gravely doubted whether he should ever muster enough
courage to perform it. However, he, as Susan’s father, a parent too who
had always been tender and considerate, should now be comfortable for
life. He marched bravely on, forgetting to be fatigued. Panama was not
such a bad place after all, if you knew just when to leave it.

Catherine wondered at her sister’s luck. She was not of an envious
disposition; she felt quite able to make her own way in the world. But
Susan seemed to be extraordinarily lucky; even incidents that at first
appeared unfortunate were afterwards seen to have contributed to Susan’s
good fortune. Catherine wondered why this was so. She had been told at
school that there was no such thing as luck, that one only got what one
worked for or deserved. She was by no means assured that that was true.

And Jones? He too since the reading of the will had realized that a
great change had taken place in Susan’s financial situation. She was
actually better off than he was—very much better off. She might care
for him. But he could not forget that she had left him to marry
Mackenzie, and only yesterday had refused to desert Mackenzie for him.
Now therefore that she knew herself to be independent, how would she
act? Many men would be glad enough to marry her now: she could afford to
wait, and to pick and choose. She was vain; she would try to make the
most of her improved position. She was very lucky. But there seemed no
end to his ill fortune.

Susan alone, during that procession to the cemetery, did not dwell on
her good fortune. After her first thrill of pleasure on hearing the
terms of the will, she had become depressed and sad: she was again
realizing that Mackenzie’s kindness and thoughtfulness were of sterling
worth. And he was dead, dead and gone for ever, this man who had done so
much for her, and it was of him she thought. Soon they came to the
cemetery. The funeral service was read, the grave filled, and Susan
turned away, the one real mourner there that morning. But not the most
demonstrative, for Miss Proudleigh, feeling that full justice had not
been done to Mackenzie’s memory, burst into loud sobs when the last
spadeful of earth was thrown upon the grave, and had to be led away by
two unnecessarily sympathetic men.

“What a lot of things happen to me since I come to Panama,” said Susan,
as with her hands she smoothed out the black skirt, heavily trimmed with
crape, which she wore.

“This is a world where y’u don’t know to-day what goin’ to happen
to-morrow,” remarked her father, his tone suggesting that in
better-regulated worlds one would know beforehand everything that was
likely to occur.

“A few months ago I was only Susan Proudleigh,” the widow continued,
“an’ I had to work for me living; now I am a widow and everybody respect
me an’ sympathize with me.”

“You are more than a widder,” said Mr. Proudleigh; “you are a young
ooman of property, an’ there is very few that can say de same thing.”

“For which we must be thankful,” Miss Proudleigh interposed. “Providence
is always looking after the widow an’ the orphant; but sometimes they
don’t deserve it, and that is why, peradventure, that some widows with
their money go like butter against the sun. But Sue is not goin’ to be
one of those.”

Since the reading of Mackenzie’s will Miss Proudleigh had come to see
qualities in Susan which she had not been able to perceive during all
the previous months she had lived in Panama. Cordial relations had
therefore been re-established between the two, and Miss Proudleigh had
now reverted to her long-ignored habit of seeing most things that
concerned Susan from Susan’s point of view.

“I am glad y’u make up you’ mind to go back home, Sue, now that you not
married any more, for the house which you’ husband, who is now in
heaven, leave to you in Kingston, needs somebody to look after it, an’
you ’ave other property in Jamaica to see about. An’ you can’t trust no
strange person to do it, for them will rob your eye out of you’ head;
and if you take them to law the judge may tell you to make up the case
peacefully, like that time when you bring up Maria. Therefore,” Miss
Proudleigh concluded, “go and look after your business you’self.”

“I ’ave nothing more to do with court-house,” said Susan, “nor wid Maria
and her mother either. They can’t trouble me again.”

“They have not troubled you at all,” said her aunt. “All their
wickedness have been turned aside, an’ you have not dashed your foot
against a stone. That is what I say from the first. You see what it is
to ’ave faith?”

In her cheap black muslin dress (provided by Susan) Miss Proudleigh
looked as though, by faith, she would be able to move mountains, if only
she should determine to exert herself to that extent.

“Even Tom try to make mischief against me,” continued Susan, still bent
upon recounting her experiences; “but he didn’t succeed any more than
Maria an’ her mother.”

“Well, me dear daurter,” said Mr. Proudleigh, “dat was because I was
always having y’u in me thoughts. I don’t know what you could do without
me. Tom was a bad young man; but when I kneel down every night an’
thoughted about him, an’ pray dat some harm would befall him because he
was tryin’ to disturb y’u, I felt that my pr’yer would be answered.”

“Anything happen to him?” asked Susan.

“Not exactly—yet,” replied her father; “but I hear this morning that
him gone away to de capital with a female who used to beat her other
intended; an’ don’t you see dat if she could beat one, she will do de
same with Tom?”

Susan, knowing Tom as she did, thought it highly probable.

“Let him go about his business,” she said, thus dismissing Tom and his
affairs from her mind. “I am sorry, Aunt Deborah, that you an’ Kate
won’t come home with me; but of course you can do better here.”

Miss Proudleigh nodded affirmatively. “But next year, please God,” she
said, “I will take a trip home to see how everybody is getting on.”

It was the ninth day after Mackenzie’s death. Susan had been allowed to
remain for a few days in the house at Culebra, during which she had made
arrangements for her departure from Panama. She had determined to go to
Jamaica without delay, to see after her property there, and she was
leaving to-morrow. But before going there was one function to be
attended to; this was Mackenzie’s Ninth Night, the final taking leave of
Mackenzie’s spirit, the last ceremony to be held in his honour. For this
purpose she had come to Colon.

This Ninth Night is a survival of an African purification ceremony, the
origin and meaning of which neither Susan nor her relatives knew. All
that they did know was that the Ninth Night was a custom which it was
not considered altogether proper to neglect, and yet which it was not
considered altogether proper to observe after the manner of the lower
classes. With these it tended sometimes to degenerate into an orgy; in
Miss Proudleigh’s view it should only be a quiet prayer-meeting, a sort
of love-feast, eminently respectable and edifying. The theory was that
Mackenzie’s spirit, though ultimately destined for heaven, was for some
nine days fated to hover near those who had been connected with him, and
might continue so to do for years unless the Ninth Night ceremony was
performed. This theory not being countenanced by the churches, Miss
Proudleigh defended it by pointing out that the soul was not the spirit;
and that though the soul went straight to heaven or to hell, after the
decease of the body, the spirit, assuming the form of a ghost, might be
unpleasantly present on earth. When this explanation was held to be
unsatisfactory by some sceptic, Miss Proudleigh took refuge in asserting
that it was all very well to scoff, but that plenty of people had seen
ghosts and every one was afraid of them. Then she would instance the
raising of Samuel’s spirit by the Witch of Endor, a fact which could
only be got rid of by being dismissed as untrue.

On Ninth Nights both Susan and Catherine looked with some disrespect;
they were of the younger generation. But Mr. Proudleigh stood up for
them, not only on religious grounds, but because he knew from experience
that much good cheer was provided at them, and many opportunities
afforded for oratory. Therefore a Ninth Night was highly desirable. So
Susan had decided to wait for the Ninth Night; and Jones, knowing that,
had waited also, and had booked his passage by the same steamer in which
she was going to Jamaica.

Susan and her people were now waiting for the guests. The room in which
they sat was provided with a number of extra chairs; in the centre was a
table covered with a white cloth; on the table were a few hymn-books and
a Bible. The lamps were lighted, for it was already dark.

“Everything is prepared,” said Miss Proudleigh, after she had announced
her intention of going to Jamaica on a visit in the following year. “The
chocolate is good chocolate, an’ I parch ah’ grind the coffee meself.”

“You ’ave any rum?” inquired Mr. Proudleigh anxiously.

“Plenty. You think we could ask people to come an’ have a little quiet
pr’yer and talk with us, and don’t treat them decently?”

“No,” agreed her brother heartily, and would have launched out into a
lengthy account of those Ninth Nights at which he had not been treated
decently, but that his sister refused him the chance of doing so.

“We have bread, an’ bun, an’ cake, an’ fish, cheese, bananas, an’ rum,
an’ a bottle of whisky, an’ lemonade, besides coffee an’ chocolate,”
recited Miss Proudleigh with pride. “Mackenzie can’t feel ashamed
to-night!”

Mr. Proudleigh inwardly determined that, when the time came, he would
make all these good things “look foolish.” He complacently disposed
himself to wait for that happy hour.

Presently Catherine came in, accompanied by a tall young man of her own
complexion, who appeared to be very attentive to her. These were
followed by other persons, and then the ceremony of the evening began.

Miss Proudleigh suggested a hymn, which was sung; then she volunteered
to lead in prayer. This she did, taking the opportunity of reminding her
audience, under guise of a general supplication, that she was not as
other women were, but might more properly be likened to the ancient
Deborah or to some other equally superior character, having been
strenuous in following the light, and having, beyond the shadow of a
doubt, set a noble example to all with whom she had come in contact.

She prayed for Susan, Catherine, and for all her other relatives, and
she informed the angelic host that she knew that Mackenzie was in
heaven, enjoying all the felicities prepared for the righteous before
the foundations of the world were laid. Then she proceeded to review the
events of the times as she had heard of them, and asked earnestly that
peace should be established on earth. She did not forget the King and
all the Royal Family. Jamaica was included as a place which sadly needed
regeneration. It seemed as if she would never cease, and her brother,
who himself had prepared a nice little prayer for the occasion, began to
feel jealous; Deborah had touched upon every subject he had intended to
deal with, and more besides. Susan felt decidedly bored. The guests
began to shuffle uneasily on their knees. Warned by certain slight
though ominous sounds, Miss Proudleigh at last brought her eloquence to
a close. As she rose from her knees she began chanting the Hundredth
Psalm. Everybody joined her. At that moment Samuel Josiah Jones entered
the room.

Jones had left Culebra immediately after the burial of Mackenzie, and,
yielding to the urgent advice of Miss Proudleigh, had not returned
thither to see Susan. He had written to her, and had received in reply a
brief letter telling him that she was going to Colon, to her relatives,
as soon as her affairs at Culebra were settled. It was from Mr.
Proudleigh that he had learnt when Susan was leaving for Jamaica.
Susan’s aloofness, he thought, might be due to grief, or to the
circumstance that her husband was only a few days dead, or to her
improved financial position, and a determination, the result of that
improved position to have nothing more to do with Samuel Josiah. Well,
he would find out what it was. No woman should say that her money
frightened him. He could always earn a good living, either in Jamaica or
in Panama; in a few years he could save as much as Mackenzie had saved,
though he did not see any good reason why he should.

All eyes were turned on him as he entered the room and deliberately
asked a youth to let him have his chair. The youth had been sitting next
to Susan. Jones installed himself in his place.

“Sorry I am late,” he whispered, wishing at the same time that the
people would sing more loudly. Miss Proudleigh seemed to divine his
wish. Her voice shrilled out astonishingly.

“You are quite in time,” said Susan quietly.

“No; I miss you every minute I am not with y’u.”

“Sh-h. People will hear y’u.”

“It is all _in camera_.”

“You mustn’t talk, Mr. Jones.”

The “Mr. Jones” was disconcerting. But he would not be repulsed.

“I want to talk to _you_,” he said.

“Later on,” she answered, and would not pursue the conversation.

Hymn followed hymn, and the good things so freely provided by Miss
Proudleigh (who had received an advance for that purpose from Susan)
were duly handed round. The guests enjoyed them, eating and drinking to
their hearts’ content; and Mr. Proudleigh, reflecting that it might be
long before he should assist at another Ninth Night, worthily led them
on in this satisfactory effort. Then, when it was nearly twelve o’clock,
he thought he saw his opportunity, and, forestalling his sister, he rose
and intimated that it was his intention to make a few remarks.

“It is shortly toward midnight, dear friends,” he began, “an’ before we
finish an’ terminate this firs’ part of our gathering, we must call to
mind certain things. Every meeting have an end, an’ every end has a
termini.” (He paused to allow this term to have its full effect upon the
audience. It was one he had learnt from Jones.) “But before we proceed
to bid Mackenzie good-bye,” he went on, “an’ the younger folkses begin
to enjie themself, which is natural, for I remember that in de old days,
which I always tell my fambily, for none of them know what I know, an’
so to speak a man like me is expected to ’ave experience, an’ as I was
saying——” But the difficulty was that he could not for the life of him
remember what he had been saying. His sister had given him no
opportunity of speaking earlier that night, and in the meantime sundry
glasses of rum and water had inflamed his ambition without strengthening
his mind. There was now, therefore, a struggle between the orator and
the liquor, and his refusal to own himself vanquished as he strove to
recall what he had intended to say would have been magnificent had it
not appeared to the audience supremely ludicrous. Mr. Proudleigh wanted
to pronounce a eulogy upon Mackenzie. He had an idea that Mackenzie’s
spirit was hovering near, and he would have liked it to hear his speech.
He felt that Mackenzie deserved special posthumous praise for having
left Susan so comfortably off. He bravely began once more.

“Mackenzie was me son-in-law. He was a very kind young man. An’ when he
write me for Miss Susan” (here Susan stared) “I wouldn’t refuse him. I
say to him . . . I say . . .” Once again Mr. Proudleigh halted, and in
the midst of the momentary silence the little clock on the shelf just
above his head struck the midnight hour. A hush fell on the company as
Miss Proudleigh sank upon her knees. That lady afterwards declared that
as the last stroke of the clock died away she had felt something like a
cold wind rushing by her, as though an invisible presence were leaving
this mundane sphere for ever; and after hearing of her experience Mr.
Proudleigh also asserted that he too had been touched by Mackenzie’s
departing spirit that night. His sister, recollecting his condition,
secretly doubted his story; but as moral support is always of value when
proof is not forthcoming, she never contradicted him.

“Let us pray,” said Miss Proudleigh when the clock had ceased to strike.

This time she prayed that all wandering spirits might find eternal rest,
and that the dead might never be allowed to intervene in the affairs of
the living. She made it known to all and sundry whose place was another
world that, however much their company may have been pleasant and
interesting when they were alive, the proper sphere for their activities
now was heaven, where, she indirectly assured them, they would be far
more happy than if they returned to earth. This prayer closed with a
loud Amen from the assembled guests, who entirely shared the sentiments
expressed by Miss Proudleigh. “Well, we are done wid poor Mackenzie
now,” she said, satisfied, as she rose from her knees.

Mr. Proudleigh, with his undelivered speech still in mind, understood
from these words that the end of that speech would never be heard by
that audience. He felt that an advantage had been taken of him, and his
bitterness was intense.

* * * * *

It was a relief to the younger guests and members of the family when
Miss Proudleigh signified that the religious portion of the Ninth Night
ceremony was over, and Mackenzie finally dismissed to his last home. In
a moment their emotions changed from grave to gay, and they all settled
themselves down to gossip, joke, laugh, and otherwise enjoy themselves,
while more refreshments were handed round. Every one present addressed
Susan punctiliously as Mrs. Mackenzie. Jones still sat by her side, and
his gestures and movements were marked by the company, whose chief
diversion was to discuss the private affairs of their neighbours and
friends.

“We can’t always mourn,” sententiously observed one young lady, who saw
in Samuel a suitor for Susan’s hand, and who wished to gain merit by
indirectly suggesting that she personally knew of no reason for
unlimited grief. “Life is short, an’ when we ’ave done our best, we must
do what we can.”

An enigmatical speech, but well understood by those who heard it, and
who saw the significant glance which the speaker directed towards Susan
and Jones.

“Sorrow endureth for a night, but joy cometh in the morning,” commented
Miss Proudleigh. “Sue, will you take a little ginger-wine? Or do you
prefer chocolate?”

“She prefer love,” said Jones shamelessly. “Love is better than wine.”

“Behave you’self!” cried Susan. “Y’u forget where you are?”

“After a storm there comes a calm, after a funeral, why not a wedding?”
said the lady who had previously suggested the futility of endless
weeping.

“That’s not the sort of conversation for a Nine-Night,” primly suggested
Susan. “I will never marry again, an’ so what y’u say don’t concern me;
but still, this is not the time to talk about weddings.”

“I don’t know dat I agrees wid Sue,” said her father. “Mister Mac is
dead, an’ if Mister Jones write me for y’u, I——”

But the old man, doomed it would appear to perpetual interruptions, was
not allowed to complete his remark. Miss Proudleigh felt that the limits
of decorum were in danger of being overstepped. She immediately and
loudly began to tell of an arrest she had witnessed a day or two before
in Colon, an arrest which had almost caused the death of the prisoner,
he having been unmercifully clubbed by the policemen. This was an
interesting topic of conversation, and while the company were discussing
the demerits of the Republic’s peace officers, Jones quietly suggested
to Susan that they might go and sit together for a little while on the
veranda.

She agreed, and they went out, remarked by all. But such pairings-off
were customary; it was felt, moreover, that the widow had the right to
do as she pleased, on account of her youth and her superior financial
position.

She and Samuel sat on the chairs they took out with them, and, leaning
over the veranda, looked down into the silent street. They had placed
themselves where they could not easily be seen by the people in the
room, though the door stood open. After a few seconds Jones stretched
out his hand and placed it on Susan’s shoulder. “Sue,” he whispered,
“when you going to Jamaica?”

“To-morrow. Don’t you know it already?”

“I am going with you.”

“I can’t stop y’u, Sam. The ship is for you as well as for me.”

“Stop that foolishness, Sue. It is all very well when you makin’ fun to
talk like that. But now I am talking in the Predicate and in the verb To
Be; I am serious. I am going to marry you.”

“But suppose I don’t want to get married again? I know what marriage
mean, an’ you don’t. Besides that, I am all right now, an’ I can live
comfortable without anybody. When you could marry me y’u didn’t, and I
don’t forget how y’u used to leave me in the night when we was together.
It’s better we remain apart, for what ’appen once will ’appen again.”

“You know you don’t mean what y’u say,” replied Jones with conviction.
“Jamaica is not Colon, and it will be all right when we get there. I
will be steadier. I was steady there.”

“Cho!” exclaimed Susan, but there was something in her voice which
denoted satisfaction. “Y’u going to go on the same way in Jamaica as you
went on here,” she added.

“Well, we will have to make the best of it,” said Jones philosophically,
“though you know quite well I am not a drunkard. We will get married in
Parish Church.”

Fully a minute passed before she replied—

“As poor Mackenzie is just dead, don’t tell anybody here about it.”

* * * * *

When, two days after the Ninth Night ceremony, Susan and Jones, with Mr.
Proudleigh standing between them, saw the grey-green mountains of
Jamaica rising into view as the ship drew nearer the shore, they felt
for the first time in their lives what a homecoming meant. Susan eagerly
pointed out object after object as her eyes roved over the scene
stretched out in front of her; Jones was enthusiastic; Mr. Proudleigh,
contrary to his habit, was silent. But when the ship entered the
harbour, and Kingston appeared, and he saw again the houses and the
piers with which he had been familiar all his life, he broke his silence
and spoke the thoughts that were in his mind.

“Fancy a old man like me go quite to Colon an’ come back,” he said
reflectively. “Who is to tell what is gwine to happen in dis world! An’
I leave me second daurter and me sister behind me! Well, God will take
care of them, same as Him take care of me. I am glad to come back. I
really glad.”

“No place like home,” said Jones heartily.

“That’s a fact,” was Susan’s sincere comment.

_Printed by_
MORRISON & GIBB LIMITED
_Edinburgh_

METHUEN’S
COLONIAL LIBRARY

A SERIES OF COPYRIGHT BOOKS BY EMINENT AND POPULAR
AUTHORS, PUBLISHED AS FAR AS POSSIBLE SIMULTANEOUSLY
WITH THEIR APPEARANCE IN ENGLAND

FICTION

ALBANESI, E. MARIA
SUSANNAH AND ONE OTHER
I KNOW A MAIDEN
THE INVINCIBLE AMELIA
THE BLUNDER OF AN INNOCENT
PETER, A PARASITE
THE GLAD HEART
OLIVIA MARY
THE BELOVED ENEMY

ALLERTON, MARK
THE GIRL ON THE GREEN

ANNESLEY, MAUDE
THIS DAY’S MADNESS
WIND ALONG THE WASTE
SHADOW-SHAPES

‘ANONYMOUS’
HUNGERHEART
FROM BEYOND THE PALE

ANSTEY, F.
PERCY AND OTHERS

ARNOLD, Mrs. J. O.
HONOURS EASY
REQUITAL

BAGOT, RICHARD
A ROMAN MYSTERY
ANTHONY CUTHBERT
LOVE’S PROXY
THE HOUSE OF SERRAVALLE
DARNELEY PLACE

BAILEY, H. C.
STORM AND TREASURE
THE LONELY QUEEN
THE SUBURBAN
THE SEA CAPTAIN
A GENTLEMAN ADVENTURER

BARING-GOULD, S.
KITTY ALONE
NOÉMI Illus.
THE BROOM-SQUIRE Illus.
PABO THE PRIEST Illus.
WINEFRED Illus.

BARB, ROBERT
IN THE MIDST OF ALARMS
THE MUTABLE MANY
THE COUNTESS TEKLA

BARRETT, WILSON
THE SIGN OF THE CROSS
THE NEVER-NEVER LAND

BEACON, EVELYN
ONCE OF THE ANGELS

BELLOC, H.
A CHANGE IN THE CABINET

BENNETT, ARNOLD
CLAYHANGER
HILDA LESSWAYS
THE CARD
A MAN FROM THE NORTH
THE MATADOR OF THE FIVE TOWNS
BURIED ALIVE
THE REGENT
WHOM GOD HATH JOINED
THE PRICE OF LOVE

BENSON, E. F.
DODO

BIRMINGHAM, G. A.
SPANISH GOLD
THE BAD TIMES
THE SEARCH PARTY
LALAGE’S LOVERS
THE ADVENTURES OF DR. WHITTY

BOWEN, MARJORIE
I WILL MAINTAIN
DEFENDER OF THE FAITH
GOD AND THE KING
THE QUEST OF GLORY
A KNIGHT OF SPAIN
THE GOVERNOR OF ENGLAND
MR. WASHINGTON
THE PRINCE OF ORANGE
PRINCE AND HERETIC
THE CARNIVAL OF FLORENCE

BRAMAH, ERNEST
MAX CARRADOS

BURNETT, YELVA
WINGS OF WAX

CAPES, BERNARD
WHY DID HE DO IT?
JEMMY ABERCRAW

CASTLE, AGNES and EGERTON
FLOWER O’ THE ORANGE Illus.
THE GOLDEN BARRIER
FORLORN ADVENTURES

CHESTERTON, G. K.
THE FLYING INN

CONRAD, JOSEPH
THE SECRET AGENT
A SET OF SIX
UNDER WESTERN EYES
CHANCE
VICTORY

CONYERS, DOROTHEA
SALLY
SANDY MARRIED
OLD ANDY
A MIXED PACK

COOK, W. VICTOR
ANTON OF THE ALPS
A WILDERNESS WOOING

CORELLI, MARIE
A ROMANCE OF TWO WORLDS
VENDETTA
THELMA
ARDATH
THE SOUL OF LILITH
WORMWOOD
BARABBAS
THE SORROWS OF SATAN
THE MASTER-CHRISTIAN
TEMPORAL POWER
GOD’S GOOD MAN
HOLY ORDERS
THE LIFE EVERLASTING
BOY
THE MIGHTY ATOM
CAMEOS

CROCKETT, S. R.
LOCHINVAR Illus.
THE STANDARD BEARER

CROKER, B. M.
ANGEL
JOHANNA
A NINE DAYS’ WONDER
KATHERINE THE ARROGANT
BABES IN THE WOOD

CURTOIS, M. A.
THE STORY OF A CIRCLE

DANBY, FRANK
JOSEPH IN JEOPARDY

DE LISSER, HERBERT G.
JANE’S CAREER

DOYLE, Sir A. CONAN
ROUND THE RED LAMP

DUNCAN, SARA JEANNETTE
THE BURNT OFFERING

FINDLATER, JANE H.
THE GREEN GRAVES OF BALGOWRIE

FINDLATER, MARY
THE ROSE OF JOY
A BLIND BIRD’S NEST Illus.
THE NARROW WAY

FRANCIS, M. E.
HARDY-ON-THE-HILL

FRY, B. and C. B.
A MOTHER’S SON

GIBBON, PERCEVAL
MARGARET HARDING
THE SECOND-CLASS PASSENGER

GIBSON, L. S.
THE OAKUM PICKERS

GISSING, GEORGE
THE CROWN OF LIFE

GLANVILLE, ERNEST
THE KLOOF BRIDE Illus.

GLEIG, CHARLES
A WOMAN IN THE LIMELIGHT

GREY, LINCOLN
SARAH MIDGET

HALIFAX, ROBERT
THE WHITE THREAD
RED HAIR

HARRADEN, BEATRICE
IN VARYING MOODS
THE SCHOLAR’S DAUGHTER
HILDA STRAFFORD Illus.
INTERPLAY

HAUPTMANN, G.
A FOOL IN CHRIST

HEATH, E. CROSBY
ENTER AN AMERICAN

HICHENS, ROBERT S.
TONGUES OF CONSCIENCE
THE PROPHET OF BERKELEY SQUARE
FELIX
THE WOMAN WITH THE FAN
THE GARDEN OF ALLAH
THE BLACK SPANIEL Illus.
THE CALL OF THE BLOOD
BARBARY SHEEP
THE DWELLER ON THE THRESHOLD
THE WAY OF AMBITION

HILLIERS, ASHTON
REMITTANCE BILLY

HOLDSWORTH ANNIE E.
THE LITTLE COMPANY OF RUTH
DAME VERONA OF THE ANGELS

HOPE, ANTHONY
A MAN OF MARK
A CHANGE OF AIR
THE GOD IN THE CAR
THE CHRONICLES OF COUNT ANTONIO
PHROSO Illus.
SIMON DALE Illus.
THE KING’S MIRROR
QUISANTÉ
A SERVANT OF THE PUBLIC Illus.
TALES OF TWO PEOPLE Illus.
THE GREAT MISS DRIVER Illus.
MRS. MAXON PROTESTS

HOPE, MARGARET
CHRISTINA HOLBROOK
MESSENGERS
LITTLE MRS. LEE

HORNIMAN, ROY
CAPTIVITY

HYNE, C. J. CUTCLIFFE
MR. HORROCKS, PURSER Illus.
FIREMEN HOT

INGE, CHARLES
SQUARE PEGS

JACOBS, W. W.
MANY CARGOES
SEA URCHINS
A MASTER OF CRAFT Illus.
LIGHT FREIGHTS Illus.
THE SKIPPER’S WOOING Illus.
ODD CRAFT Illus.
AT SUNWICH PORT Illus.
DIALSTONE LANE Illus.
THE LADY OF THE BARGE Illus.
SALTHAVEN Illus.
SAILORS’ KNOTS Illus.
SHORT CRUISES Illus.

JACOMB, AGNES
THE FRUITS OF THE MORROW

KEATING, JOSEPH
TIPPERARY TOMMY

KING, BASIL
THE WILD OLIVE
THE STREET CALLED STRAIGHT
THE WAY HOME
THE LETTER OF THE CONTRACT

LEBLANC, GEORGETTE
THE CHOICE OF LIFE

LE QUEUX, WILLIAM
THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW Illus.
BEHIND THE THRONE
THE CROOKED WAY

LISLE, DAVID
A PAINTER OF SOULS
A KINGDOM DIVIDED
WHAT IS LOVE?

LONDON, JACK
WHITE FANG Illus.

LOWNDES, Mrs. BELLOC
THE CHINK IN THE ARMOUR
MARY PECHELL
STUDIES IN LOVE AND IN TERROR
THE LODGER
THE END OF HER HONEYMOON

LUCAS, E. V.
MR. INGLESIDE
LONDON LAVENDER
LANDMARKS

LUNN, ARNOLD
THE HARROVIANS

LYALL, EDNA
DERRICK VAUGHAN, NOVELIST

LYNEGROYE, R. C.
LOTTERIES OF CIRCUMSTANCE

MAARTENS, MAARTEN
THE NEW RELIGION
BROTHERS ALL
THE PRICE OF LIS DORIS
HARMEN POLS

McCARTHY, JUSTIN HUNTLY
THE DUKE’S MOTTO

MACNAUGHTAN, S.
CHRISTINA M’NAB
PETER AND JANE

MAKGILL, Sir GEORGE
BLACKLAW
MALET, LUCAS
THE WAGES OF SIN
THE CARISSIMA
THE GATELESS BARRIER
A COUNSEL OF PERFECTION
COLONEL ENDERBY’S WIFE Illus.
SIR RICHARD CALMADY

MANN, MARY E.
MRS. PETER HOWARD
THE PARISH NURSE
ASTRAY IN ARCADY
THERE WAS A WIDOW

MARSH, RICHARD
A ROYAL INDISCRETION
LIVE MEN’S SHOES
JUDITH LEE
IF IT PLEASE YOU!

MARSHALL, ARCHIBALD
MANY JUNES Illus.
THE SQUIRE’S DAUGHTER
THE ELDEST SON
THE TERRORS, AND OTHER STORIES

MAUD, CONSTANCE
A DAUGHTER OF FRANCE Illus.

MAXWELL, W. B.
VIVIEN
THE RAGGED MESSENGER
THE GUARDED FLAME
ODD LENGTHS
THE COUNTESS OF MAYBURY
HILL RISE
THE REST CURE

MILNE, A. A.
THE HOLIDAY ROUND
THE DAY’S PLAY
ONCE A WEEK

MITFORD, BERTRAM
THE SIGN OF THE SPIDER Illus.

MOBERLEY, L. G.
THE HIGHWAY

MONTAGUE, C. E.
A HIND LET LOOSE
THE MORNING’S WAR

MORDAUNT, ELEANOR
SIMPSON
BELLAMY
THE FAMILY

MORRISON, ARTHUR
TALES OF MEAN STREETS
A CHILD OF THE JAGO
THE HOLE IN THE WALL
DIVERS VANITIES
TO LONDON TOWN

NESBIT, E.
THE RED HOUSE
DORMANT

NEWTON, DOUGLAS
WAR
THE NORTH AFIRE

NORMAN, Mrs. GEORGE
LADY FANNY
DELPHINE CARFREY
THE SILVER DRESS
THE SUMMER LADY

OLLIVANT, ALFRED
OWD BOB Illus.
THE TAMING OF JOHN BLUNT
THE ROYAL ROAD

ONIONS, OLIVER
THE EXCEPTION
GOOD BOY SELDOM
THE TWO KISSES
A CROOKED MILE

OPPENHEIM, E. PHILLIPS
MASTER OF MEN
THE MISSING DELORA Illus.
THE DOUBLE LIFE OF MR. ALFRED BURTON
A PEOPLE’S MAN
THE WAY OF THESE WOMEN
THE VANISHED MESSENGER

ORCZY, BARONESS
FIRE IN STUBBLE

OSBOURNE, LLOYD
THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD

OXENHAM, JOHN
A WEAVER OF WEBS Illus.
PROFIT AND LOSS Illus.
THE LONG ROAD Illus.
THE SONG OF HYACINTH
MY LADY OF SHADOWS
LAURISTONS
THE COIL OF CARNE
THE QUEST OF THE GOLDEN ROSE
MARY ALL-ALONE
BROKEN SHACKLES

PAIN, BARRY
THE GIFTED FAMILY
THE EXILES OF FALOO

PARKER, GILBERT
THE TRAIL OF THE SWORD Illus.
WHEN VALMOND CAME TO PONTIAC
AN ADVENTURER OF THE NORTH
PIERRE AND HIS PEOPLE
MRS. FALCHION
THE SEATS OF THE MIGHTY Illus.
THE POMP OF THE LAVILETTES
THE BATTLE OF THE STRONG Illus.
THE TRANSLATION OF A SAVAGE
NORTHERN LIGHTS
THE JUDGMENT HOUSE

PEMBERTON, MAX
THE FOOTSTEPS OF A THRONE
LOVE THE HARVESTER Illus.
TWO WOMEN

PENROSE, Mrs. H. H.
CHARLES THE GREAT

PERRIN, ALICE
THE CHARM
THE ANGLO-INDIANS
A HAPPY HUNTING GROUND

PHILLPOTTS, EDEN
SONS OF THE MORNING Illus.
CHILDREN OF THE MIST Illus.
LYING PROPHETS
THE RIVER Illus.
THE HUMAN BOY Illus.
THE AMERICAN PRISONER
THE PORTREEVE Illus.
THE STRIKING HOURS
DEMETER’S DAUGHTER

PICKTHALL, MARMADUKE
SAĪD THE FISHERMAN
BRENDLE

‘Q’
THE MAYOR OF TROY
MAJOR VIGOUREUX

RAWSON, MAUD STEPNEY
HAPPINESS
SPLENDID ZIPPORAH

RIDGE, W. PETT
A SON OF THE STATE
NAME OF GARLAND
SPLENDID BROTHER
MRS. GALER’S BUSINESS Illus.
NINE TO SIX-THIRTY
THANKS TO SANDERSON
DEVOTED SPARKES
THE REMINGTON SENTENCE
THE HAPPY RECRUIT
BOOK HERE

RITCHIE, Mrs. DAVID G.
THE HUMAN CRY

RITTENBERG, MAX
SWIRLING WATERS
EVERY MAN HIS PRICE

ROHMER, SAX
THE MYSTERY OF DR. FU-MANCHU

SCHOFIELD, Mrs. S. R.
CASSANDRA BY MISTAKE

SHELLEY, BERTHA
THE EVOLUTION OF EVE

SIDGWICK, Mrs. A.
THE KINSMAN
THE LANTERN BEARERS
ANTHEA’S GUEST
LAMORNA
BELOW STAIRS
IN OTHER DAYS

SNAITH, J. C.
THE PRINCIPAL GIRL
AN AFFAIR OF STATE

SOMERVILLE, E. Œ., and ROSS, M.
DAN RUSSEL THE FOX

STRAUS, RALPH
THE ORLEY TRADITION

SWINNERTON, FRANK
THE HAPPY FAMILY
ON THE STAIRCASE

SYRETT, NETTA
THE JAM QUEEN

THYNNE, MOLLY
THE UNCERTAIN GLORY

TOWNSHEND, R. B.
A GIRL FROM MEXICO

VAN VORST, MARIE
THE ADVENTURES OF JIMMY BULSTRODE
IN AMBUSH

WAINEMAN, PAUL
A ROMAN PICTURE

WALFORD, L. B.
DAVID AND JONATHAN IN THE RIVIERA

WATSON, FREDERICK
SHALLOWS
THE VOICE OF THE TURTLE

WATSON, H. B. MARRIOTT
THE BIG FISH
THE FLOWER OF THE HEART

WEALE, PUTNAM
THE REVOLT
THE ROMANCE OF A FEW DAYS
THE ETERNAL PRIESTESS

WEBLING, PEGGY
VIRGINIA PERFECT
A SPIRIT OF MIRTH
FELIX CHRISTIE
THE PEARL-STRINGER
EDGAR CHIRRUP

WELLS, H. G.
THE SEA LADY
BEALBY

WESTRUP, MARGARET
TIDE MARKS
ROGER INGRAM

WEYMAN, STANLEY J.
UNDER THE RED ROBE Illus.

WHITBY, BEATRICE
THE RESULT OF AN ACCIDENT
ROSAMUND

WHITE, EDMUND
THE PATH

WHITE, PERCY
LOVE AND THE WISE MEN
THE LOST HALO

WILLIAMSON, C. N. and A. M.
THE LIGHTNING CONDUCTOR Illus.
THE PRINCESS PASSES Illus.
MY FRIEND THE CHAUFFEUR Illus.
LADY BETTY ACROSS THE WATER Illus.
THE CAR OF DESTINY Illus.
THE BOTOR CHAPERON Illus.
SCARLET RUNNER Illus.
SET IN SILVER Illus.
LORD LOVELAND DISCOVERS AMERICA
THE GOLDEN SILENCE
THE GUESTS OF HERCULES
THE HEATHER MOON
THE LOVE PIRATE
IT HAPPENED IN EGYPT
A SOLDIER OF THE LEGION
THE PRINCESS VIRGINIA
THE WEDDING DAY

WITHAM, JOHN
STARVEACRE

WODEHOUSE, P. G.
THE LITTLE NUGGET
THE MAN UPSTAIRS

WRENCH, Mrs. STANLEY
POTTER AND CLAY
LILY LOUISA

WYLLARDE, DOLF
THE PATHWAY OF THE PIONEER
THE UNOFFICIAL HONEYMOON

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Continue Reading

THE ANONYMOUS LETTER

Mr. Thomas Wooley had never been credited with strong moral convictions
by anyone who knew him. Among his mild boasts, uttered in the company of
congenial companions, certain alleged breaches by him of the seventh
commandment had frequently flourished: to gain a reputation for
gallantry he had not scrupled to libel himself. But on that night when
he saw Susan and Jones together in the streets of Colon the sacredness
of the marriage tie appealed to him strongly; he felt that a great wrong
was being done to marriage as a civil and religious institution, and he
remembered that he himself had been badly treated by Susan and by Jones.
That, he decided in his mind, had been freely forgiven. He was
magnanimous. But Susan was now a wife, and it was clearly wrong that she
should have anything whatever to do with Jones, who was, in Tom’s
opinion, a desperate and malignant character who pretended to be
friendly with you at first for the purpose of ill-treating you
afterwards.

Tom argued that, shocked though he was, he had no right to interfere
personally with Jones. He would not remonstrate with him on the evil
tenor of his way. But he reflected with intense satisfaction that
Mackenzie was, if anything, Jones’s physical superior, as well as the
rightful lord and master of Susan. Mackenzie, then, could read to Jones
a much-needed moral lesson, could deal with Susan as an outraged husband
should, and, generally, could do all those things which Tom wanted to
see done, but could not do himself.

The problem was, how to acquaint Mackenzie with the atrocious actions of
Susan and her lover? Tom felt that he had been a martyr. He had suffered
much because of Susan. But martyrdom, he was convinced, should not be
allowed to go beyond reasonable limits, and should, as a general rule,
be carefully avoided whenever possible. He had lost his situation in
Kingston, he had been roughly handled and fined in Colon. These things
he had endured without murmuring. He was now prepared to become an
active agent in the work of Susan’s moral redemption, and, incidentally,
in the deserved punishment of Jones; he had no doubt whatever that in
endeavouring to call Mackenzie’s attention to the wrongs of which that
injured man was still ignorant, he would be performing a highly
meritorious act. But caution must be displayed. Jones was very likely to
take a singularly narrow-minded view of his action, if he should ever
think that he, Tom, had meddled with his affairs. There was only one way
in which to approach Mackenzie, and that was through the medium of an
anonymous letter—a letter so worded that suspicion could not possibly
fall on Tom Wooley. Tom had been removed to Christobal. Early the next
morning, with a fine feeling of noble endeavour, somewhat mingled with
apprehension lest, in spite of all his efforts, his identity should be
disclosed, he sat down and wrote to Mackenzie.

The morning after this, on calling at the Post Office on his way to
work, Mackenzie was handed a letter which he opened and read as he
slowly walked away.

“DEAR SIR,” it ran, “this is to inform you that things are not quite
straight. Everybody has a respect for you, and it would be a shame if a
friend of yours do not let you know that your wife is not behaving
towards you as she should.” Here Mackenzie stopped reading and glanced
at the end of the letter to see from whom it came. It was signed, “A
True Friend,” a signature that left him none the wiser. He continued
reading.

“Your wife is always in Colon with Jones, the young man she was with
when you married her. I see them together over and over, and this is not
right, for she is your wife and should think of your feelings. I
therefore take this opportunity of making you acquainted with the
facts.”

Mackenzie read the letter twice, then studied the handwriting: it told
him nothing. He folded the letter, carefully placed it in its envelope,
put it away in his pocket, and went thoughtfully to his work.

Susan had returned the day before. She had told him all about the fire,
of which he had already read a sensational account in that morning’s
papers. She had told him that she and her relatives had run out to see
the fire (which is what he knew they would have done), that they had met
Jones in the crowd, and that she had spoken to Jones. There was nothing
improbable whatever in her story. He remembered that he himself had
advised her to speak to Jones if she should ever meet him. This
anonymous letter said that she was often in Colon with Jones. But he,
Mackenzie, knew that Susan had only been twice to Colon since she had
been his wife. So that assertion was a lie. The person who had written
the letter, whoever it was, must have seen Susan speaking to Jones on
the night of the fire, but Susan had not kept that a secret. This man
too, who signed himself “A True Friend,” must surely bear Susan a
grudge, and perhaps was also an enemy of himself. For the fellow
evidently wanted to make mischief, and that no true friend would do.
Mackenzie did not like the letter; it worried him a little. He did not
care to have Susan’s name coupled with that of Jones: the association
was not pleasant. But he did not, for he could not, believe the story.
He decided he would show the letter to Susan later on.

He handed it to her when he went home for lunch.

“You have some enemy in Colon, Sue,” he said; “or it is my enemy. I get
this letter to-day, an’ it is no good person write it. I wonder if it is
a woman?”

Susan took the letter and glanced at the handwriting. She knew it at
once. Although Tom had tried to disguise his handwriting, and believed
he had succeeded, his endeavour had been at best a clumsy one; she gave
no sign, however, that she knew the author of the anonymous
communication; she did not wish Mackenzie to seek out Tom and demand an
explanation, which might be very inconvenient to her. She read the
letter slowly. She realized that the attempt to make it appear that she
was continually meeting Samuel had defeated its own end. She felt that
only a fool like Tom could have blundered so badly. He hadn’t even
mentioned the fire, so eager was he to conceal his identity. Her heart
was beating quickly, though she tried to appear unconcerned. She strove
to control her voice when she spoke.

“It’s a wonder the person who writes this letter didn’t say I was two
weeks wid Jones,” she said, as she handed the letter back to her
husband. “That’s the way that worthless people tell lies on other
people! They want to rob me of me character because them is envious of
me!”

“Well, it is what you have to expect,” said Mackenzie philosophically.
“I know you only go twice to Colon to see you’ family, an’ Jones have
his work to do during the day, so he couldn’t be with you.”

He said this more for the purpose of setting her mind at ease than
because he was any longer interested in the subject of the letter; but
Susan was inwardly too anxious to let the matter rest there. None of her
relatives, not even her aunt, would betray her; but suppose some other
person should follow Tom’s example? A bold idea suggested itself to her.
“I wonder if it is Jones himself write it?” she remarked. Mackenzie was
surprised at the suggestion.

“Why y’u think so?” he asked. “Jones wouldn’t tell a lie on himself?”

“I don’t know about that. P’rhaps him think you couldn’t say anything to
him, but might want to quarrel wid me. Men are bad, an’ Jones might want
to get me into trouble because I wouldn’t take much notice of him the
other night when I saw him at the fire, as I told you.”

Mackenzie looked at the letter he still held in his hand. He shook his
head; the handwriting was not like Jones’s.

“He may have begged one of his friend to write it,” urged Susan.

“Maybe,” admitted Mackenzie; “it may be Jones. But I wouldn’t like to
accuse him till I was sure: that would be foolishness.”

“Well, don’t notice it, then,” said Susan, pleased with Mackenzie’s
prudence. “I don’t care what anybody say about me, so long as me
conscience don’t trouble me an’ it don’t put you out. But I wouldn’t
like anybody else do me a thing like this again, for my character is all
dat I have, and what one person do another may do.”

But as Mackenzie preferred always to deal with facts and not with
possibilities, he let the subject drop, and by the time he returned to
his work that afternoon he had ceased to think about the letter.

Not for an instant, however, did Susan cease to think of it. She was
desperately frightened. As she had said to Mackenzie, what one person
had done another might do, and then Mackenzie would begin to grow
suspicious. She feared to meet Samuel again, yet she wanted to see him
at least once more: she wanted to warn him. How could she see him? . . .
If she risked a meeting some enemy of hers might learn about it, and
this time she might not be able to find a ready excuse. It is true that
Mackenzie had told her she should be polite to Jones if she should see
him, but at that time no anonymous letter had coupled her name with that
of her former lover. And to meet Jones the very next time she went to
Colon would of a surety have a suspicious look.

Should she write to him? Letters went astray sometimes, and Samuel was
careless.

Then what was she to do?

She worried herself all that afternoon, trying to think a way out of the
difficulty. Suppose Mackenzie should meet Jones and mention the letter
to him? Jones might say something about his meeting her at her people’s
house . . . and then!

She felt sick of the difficult position in which she found herself,
wearied to death; she had a sensation of being tied hand and foot, of
being a prisoner; she longed for release, and she knew that only one
avenue of escape was open to her. She could leave Culebra, leave Panama,
and go back to Jamaica with Jones. She would be happier there, free,
more like what she used to be before her marriage. What did the
hardships and discontents of that time now seem to her? They were as
nothing; she remembered only that she had been happier, and what was the
good of marriage if it brought but boredom and disgust? But there was
the divorce court to think of also, and her terrible fall from
respectability. Even if Mackenzie did not take the trouble to divorce
her, she would be a byword amongst those persons who should know her as
a woman who had left her husband for another man. She could not face
that shame.

She decided that she must wait. Nothing might happen in the next couple
of weeks. At the end of that time it would not seem at all strange if
she went to Colon to see her people; then, if she met Samuel, she would
tell him of the letter and put him on his guard.

She felt grateful to Mackenzie for his confidence in her. Such
confidence displayed by a man like Tom would merely have awakened her
contempt; but she saw that her husband was perfectly sincere, and
determined to take her part against her traducers. Had he doubted her he
would have shown it at once, he would have made inquiries, and the
sequel would have been terrible. That, she argued, would have been
unjust to her. She had done nothing deserving of blame. She had met
Jones twice; she had not told her husband the truth about those
meetings; but on the other hand she had refused to fly with Samuel, and
on that demonstration of virtuous feeling she greatly preened herself.
She had behaved splendidly; after such conduct it would have been most
unjust if Mackenzie had acted any differently from how he had acted. And
to think that it was Tom who had tried to injure her; to think too that
nothing painful could be done to him! She thirsted for revenge, yet she
knew that Tom must escape scot-free. The slightest attempt at reprisals
might but lead to exposure. The thought that she could not pay back Tom
with heavy interest was like wormwood to her soul.

When Mackenzie came home that evening she again brought up the subject
of the letter. She thought that if she dwelt upon it, showed no anxiety
that it should be forgotten, her husband’s mind would be cleared of any
shadow of suspicion that, unknown to himself, might be lingering in some
dark corner there. Mackenzie laughed as he listened to her extravagantly
expressed wonder that anyone should be base enough to lie against
another person anonymously.

“I remember,” he said, “about eight years ago, when I was workin’ at the
Jamaica railway, somebody write a letter about me to de manager. He
didn’t sign his name, but I knew all the time who it was, an’ the
manager knew it too. The man wanted me job, an’ he accuse me of robbin’
the railway’s goods an’ sellin’ them outside. But I was more than a
match for him. I could account for every screw that pass through me
hand. All that man ever get for his lie was to lose his job, an’ that
teach him not to write letters against other people in future.”

Mackenzie had never forgotten that incident. It had much to do with his
disbelief in anonymous letters.

“So it is not me alone that them try to injure,” said Susan, glad that
her husband had also been attacked by an anonymous scribe. “However, I
not going back to Colon.”

“That’s stupidness,” said Mackenzie. “You goin’ to make a lie trouble
y’u? You must go an’ see you’ people sometimes.”

This remark was just what she wanted to hear; her husband himself had
now advised her to go to Colon when she wanted! But she would not avail
herself of this advice to rush off to Colon. Although her inclination
was to do so, she fought against it, forcing herself to wait. Her
patience and prudence were rewarded when, five days after, her sister
Catherine appeared at Culebra.

Catherine had come by one of the afternoon trains; as she had
calculated, she found Susan alone.

“I bet you you don’t tell me why I come here to-day?” she said to her
sister, dropping her voice as though she had an important secret to
impart.

Susan expressed her inability to guess, but, with the anonymous letter
always in her mind, became feverishly curious to know what had brought
Catherine up to Culebra. Was some scandal about her being circulated in
Colon?

Catherine produced a sealed, unaddressed envelope and placed it in her
sister’s hand; Susan broke the seal; the letter was from Jones.

Catherine observed Susan’s start of surprise and alarm. She hastened to
explain that Jones had not posted the letter because he would not take
the risk of its falling into any other hands except those of Susan. He
had not even addressed the envelope, lest, inadvertently, the
handwriting should be seen and recognized.

“Samuel pay my trainage from Colon to up here, an’ back again,” said
Catherine. “I didn’t want to come, but he beg me hard, an’ I thought it
was better I bring the letter than that him should ask anybody else.”

She looked inquiringly at Susan, anxious to learn what Jones had written
about.

Susan said nothing. She was reading and re-reading the letter. It was
written in Samuel’s most grandiloquent style, and opened with a
declaration of his intention to poison himself, throw himself on a
railway track to be run over by a train, drown himself, or commit
suicide in some other unpleasant manner if he were compelled to endure
much longer his present agony of mind. He wanted to see Susan to tell
her “something very important.” He had to see her, and he begged her to
go to Colon as early as she could. He ended by saying that he was
leaving for Jamaica in a week’s time, wishing as he did to die in his
own country, and that she would never cease to regret it if she let him
leave Panama without seeing her. She must tell Catherine if she would go
to Colon, and when.

There was a postscript: “And when I am departed hence, forlorn and
forsaken, you will eventually come to find that your desertation of me
was a catastrophe worse than ever you have known; but alas! it will be
too late.”

“You know what Sam write to me about?” said Susan, searching Catherine’s
face with her eyes.

Catherine shook her head negatively. “Him want you to leave Mackenzie?”

“Not exactly. Him want to see me, but I can’t go to Colon just now at
all.”

“Why? No harm can be done. Nobody will know why y’u go.”

“Wait till I tell you something,” said Susan, and she told Catherine of
her conversation with Jones on the night of the fire, of their
accidental meeting with Tom, and of how Tom had acted. She had intended
to keep all this secret, but now was glad to have some one to whom she
could confide her cares.

Catherine listened, breathless, but not surprised at what she heard
about Jones. She had never been deceived by the formal conversations he
had carried on with Susan on the two occasions they had met at the house
in Colon. But with Tom’s treachery she was disgusted. She had once
entertained a kindly feeling for him; now she felt contempt. All her
sympathies were with her sister, and she agreed that it might indeed be
a risk for Susan to go just then to Colon; she had better wait for some
time longer.

She proposed to return to Colon the next morning, and she promised to
explain to Samuel why Susan could not see him just then; she also
promised to warn him against Tom, at the same time impressing upon him
that any rash action on his part could do no good but might merely
create an unpleasant scandal. All this agreed upon, Susan professed
herself satisfied, then immediately added, “But suppose Sam go away
without I see him?”

That was possible. She did not take seriously his threats of suicide;
they were merely intended to frighten her. But that he was thinking of
returning to Jamaica she could well believe. His restlessness and
impatience might easily cause him to do that, and quickly, and . . . and
she wanted to see him again.

“Tell him,” she said to Catherine after a pause, “that he must ’ave
patience.”

“But patience for what?” asked Catherine, and Susan could give no
answer.

* * * * *

The following morning Catherine returned to Colon. That evening, when
Jones came round to the house as agreed, she quietly took him out on the
veranda and told him the result of her mission.

When they went back into Mr. Proudleigh’s room, Jones solemnly walked up
to Mr. Proudleigh and shook hands with him.

“Old massa, you have nothing to do with it,” he said—“nothing at all.”

Mr. Proudleigh immediately agreed that he hadn’t, and then anxiously
inquired what it was with which he was so entirely unconnected.

“You know that I loved your daughter, didn’t you?” asked Jones.

“In course!” agreed Mr. Proudleigh briskly. “Dat is what I always say. I
’ave seen many a young man all in love all times, but I never see one
like you. Your love is true love, Mister Jones, like mine when I was
young an’ good-lookin’. I remember I was in love wid three different
young lady at one time, an’ I couldn’t say which one I love de most. One
day——”

“Very well,” said Jones, who was more anxious to air his grievances than
to listen to the youthful idylls of Mr. Proudleigh. “Y’u know that I
take her away from Kingston, Jamaica, an’ bring her here?”

“Sartinly. I was down at de wharf de day you leave. Sun was hot that
day, me friend!”

“Very well. And y’u know that I bring her here an’ look after her
kindly, an’ nearly went to prison for her?”

“Yes, y’u tell me all about it. But she say it was your fault; but, as I
tell her, a young man——”

“Very well. Now tell me fair an’ square: do you think Susan acted right
to leave me in ruinate in the manner visible?”

“Well, to tell y’u de truth, Mister Jones, you is looking very well just
now. Ef I was you, I wouldn’t bodder me head about a young lady that act
so foolish as to leave me an’ go an’ married. De same thing happen to me
once, but it didn’t make a tooth in me head ache. An’ if you want
another han’some intended, there is Miss Catherine——”

“Please to leave me out of you’ conversation, pupa!” came peremptorily
from Catherine, and Mr. Proudleigh halted promptly in the midst of his
matchmaking endeavour.

“It don’t matter how I look,” said Jones angrily: “it’s how I feel. If
it wasn’t for one thing, I would throw meself in the sea this very
night.”

“That would not be Christianlike, Mister Jones,” said Miss Proudleigh,
who had been listening attentively to the conversation. “We must
patiently bear our crosses. Besides, I don’t see what you worrying
you’self about, for there is some things that is a good riddance. Y’u
don’t see it now, but you will see it later on.”

“That may be true, but I am speaking of now an’ not of later on,” said
Jones. “I want you all to understand that I have been driven like a lamb
to the slaughter by Susan Mackenzie. She get married without my
knowledge; she took away all the money I give her, an’ what she used to
take from me when she thought I didn’t know; an’ now she is living like
a king at Culebra. If it wasn’t for me she might have been in Jamaica
to-day keeping a little shop, without an extra five shillin’s. Yet when
I send her sister to ask her——”

“What y’u going to say now?” cried Catherine, seeing he was on the verge
of blurting out what he had agreed should be kept a secret.

“What I am going to say I am going to say,” replied Jones impetuously.
“I am goin’ away to Jamaica, an’ I send an’ ask Susan to come an’ tell
me good-bye and have a talk before I go. What she do? She say she can’t
come! Is that a decent way to treat a man, especially a man like me?
When she left me I bear it in silence, though I might have been very
disagreeable. Yet now she treat me like if I was a dog!”

This angry outburst was received in silence by those who heard it. They
had never seen Jones in a temper before.

“You know what I am going to do now?” he asked after a moment’s pause.
“I am going straight up to Culebra to tell Susan what I think of her!”

“Y’u can’t do that at all, Mr. Jones,” said Catherine firmly. “I told
you already why Sue can’t come now, an’ you must remember she is married
an’ dat her husband wouldn’t like y’u to bring no confusion into his
house.”

“Her husband can go to the devil!” exclaimed Jones. “Who is her
husband?”

“But suppose him meet you an’ have a fight?” said Mr. Proudleigh,
thinking that such a prospect might have a deterrent effect upon Jones.

“If Mackenzie can fight, I can fight too,” replied the young man. “If he
don’t interfere with me, I won’t interfere with him. But I am going to
Culebra.”

“Well, Mister Jones,” said Mr. Proudleigh, “if you determine to go, I
can’t stop y’u. But do, I beg you, don’t say dat we know anyt’ing at all
about it. You see, I don’t ’fraid of any man in de world, but quarrel is
a thing I keep out of. Mackenzie is me son-in-law, so I can’t say
nothing against him, but y’u know what I think; an’ if you take my
foolish advice you wouldn’t go to Culebra.”

“Don’t call my name, whatever you do,” said Catherine. “I sorry I have
anything to do wid your business, for I can see you going to act like a
fool. And after all, what can y’u expect Susan to do? If you go an’ make
any trouble now, her husband will believe what that liar, Tom, write an’
tell him.”

“What is dat?” asked Mr. Proudleigh quickly, but Catherine refused to
reply. Her reticence, coming after her allusion to Tom and Mackenzie,
caused the old man to feel that the situation was more perilous than he
had thought it was.

As for Miss Proudleigh, she loudly lifted up her voice in denunciation
of sin and its consequences, this time with a good deal of sincerity
born of fear.

“Susan have much to answer for,” she cried; “she bring all this trouble
on herself an’ her husband an’ Mr. Jones. Your sin will find you out,
an’ who shall flee from the wrath to come! I have nothing to do with it.
She is me niece, but she never treat me respectfully. She deserve all
she going to suffer, and she going to suffer for true! But I sympathize
wid her, for we are told not to bear any malice.”

As the old lady seemed to be trying to qualify for the position of a
modern Jeremiah, Catherine brusquely demanded if she wanted all the
people in the house to hear what she was saying.

“They will all hear soon enough,” replied Miss Proudleigh grimly. “There
is going to be war an’ rumours of war.”

“An’ I am going to make the war,” said Jones fiercely. “I make up my
mind to die.”

“Don’t do that, me son,” implored Mr. Proudleigh. “Death is not a thing
to meck fun with. Wait an’ have patience.”

“Patience for what?”

As Mr. Proudleigh could not say, he merely suggested that Jones had
better not act rashly, but Samuel would not allow his mind to be
affected by such advice.

He took his hat.

“When you goin’ to Culebra?” asked Catherine, wondering if she would
have time to warn Susan.

“Why you want to know?”

“Never mind, if y’u don’t want to tell me!” she snapped, “but take care
what you doin’.”

“I know what I am doing,” answered Jones, and left the room.

* * * * *

“You think him will really go?” Mr. Proudleigh inquired anxiously of
Catherine, after the door had closed behind Jones.

Catherine pondered a moment.

“If him could go to-night, him would go,” she said; “but he can’t go
to-night. To-morrow him may change his mind. Jones is a man that will do
a thing in a temper, but not otherwise.”

Catherine’s estimate of Samuel’s character was shrewd. But it is not
always possible to foresee the actions of any human being.

It was raining at Culebra—had been raining for days. For miles and
miles the sky was overcast, hour after hour the rain came down, now
swiftly and in showers, now in a light drizzle which gave to the
surrounding country an aspect of greyness, a cheerless, depressing hue.

It was between eight and nine o’clock in the forenoon; her husband had
gone to his work and Susan was busying herself with her household
duties. She was pensive, moving about as one who had no energy; her mind
was not set about what she was doing, her thoughts were far away.

She knew that Catherine must have told Jones on the previous night her
answer to his letter: she was wondering what he had said, whether he had
determined to go back to Jamaica without seeing her, whether all was
over between them now. . . .

There was a knock at the front door: she went to answer it. She opened
the door: on the veranda stood Samuel, the last person in the world she
expected to see at Mackenzie’s house that day.

“You!” she exclaimed. “What y’u doing up here?”

She stood guarding the doorway, as if to prevent him from entering; she
was trembling all over with fear, not of Jones, but lest her husband
should unexpectedly return and find Samuel there.

“You not going to let me in?” asked Jones, with a note of pleading in
his voice; “I have only come to have a talk with you.”

“You shouldn’t come,” she answered. “What a trial is this! I told Kate
to tell you I couldn’t come to Colon now, an’ here you come to Culebra
to make trouble. What’s the good of all this, Sam?”

She did not wait for him to answer.

“You must go right back,” she insisted, “for the neighbours goin’ to
tell Mackenzie dat a strange man come here to-day, an’ if you stay an’
him find out it is you, he will believe what Tom write an’ tell him. You
can’t remain here, Sam.”

Her words, her earnest manner, her evident determination not to let him
enter, left Jones at a loss what to do. He had taken the early morning
train to Culebra; he had left Colon for the purpose of speaking his mind
to her: he wanted to relieve his feelings. While in the train he had
kept his courage up to the sticking point; again and again he had
rehearsed to himself his grievances; even when he left the train and was
climbing the hill he felt that he would be able to go through with the
scene which he had pictured. But when he neared the house which was
pointed out to him as Susan’s, he had been conscious of some hesitation
in his mind, of an inclination to pause and consider whether he was
acting wisely. He had fought down that inclination; he was now standing
face to face with Susan. But she, though frightened, was resolute, and
he stood before her perplexed, uncertain what to do.

“You going to stay at the door all day?” he asked her.

“No, for I don’t expect you goin’ to remain here.”

“You not even going to ask me to take a seat?”

“What for?”

“I am tired. I didn’t sleep all last night; I walk from the train
station to this house, and all you do is to insult me like a dog. I only
came here to tell you good-bye. I am taking the steamer to Jamaica
to-morrow.”

“To-morrow?”

“Yes. I don’t want to stop here any longer.”

Her eyelids fluttered; she gazed at him in blank silence; she felt that
he had spoken the truth, had made up his mind to leave Panama. In a
little while he would return to the station, in a few hours he would be
on his way . . . home.

The patter of the rain on the roofs and ground played a heavy
accompaniment to the beating of her heart. Through the thick atmosphere
came steadily the booming sound of dynamite explosions in the Cut. Boom,
boom, boom: the heavy noise assaulted the ear, but she herself was
conscious only of a deadly stillness within her. Suddenly Jones put out
his hand. “Good-bye,” he said.

For answer, she stepped backwards. “Come in and sit down a little, if
you tired,” she said.

He entered, glanced carelessly around him, and sat down. She left the
door open, threw open all the windows also, as if there were a dead body
in the house. Anyone passing could see them, no one could imagine or say
that she was entertaining Jones clandestinely. “Mackenzie shouldn’t come
back before half-past twelve,” she remarked; “but if he come you must
tell him that you come up here to tell him an’ me good-bye.”

She sat at some distance from him, and by one of the open windows.

“What you going to do in Jamaica?” she asked.

“I don’t know, an’ I don’t care. I should never have come to this place.
In fact,” he added, breaking out a little, “I am goin’ to kill meself!”

“Stop talking stupidness, Sam,” she said quietly: “you know y’u not
goin’ to do nothing of the sort. I suppose at first you thought you
would make a quarrel wid me up here?”

He feebly protested that such a thought had never entered his mind, but
knew that he did not convince her. He was aware now that a quarrel at
Culebra would have been a hopelessly foolish thing.

Both of them fell into silence after this. There seemed nothing more to
say. Both of them appeared to be listening to the rain, to that
persistent booming of the explosions; both of them were wondering if
this were really their last leave-taking.

One question formed itself again and again in Susan’s mind: “Would it
not be better to sacrifice respectability, religion, and go with him?”
Sitting face to face with him, knowing that to-morrow he would be on his
way to Jamaica, the answer “Yes” was whispered to her from her heart. As
if he knew what was passing in her mind, he asked her suddenly:

“And you won’t make up you’ mind to come with me, Sue?”

If “Yes” rose to her lips, she resolutely shut them. A few seconds
passed before she replied.

“Something tell me, ‘Better not,’ Sam. But I am sorry.”

She covered her face with her hands.

“Kiss me an’ tell me good-bye, Sue.”

He had risen and was standing over her. She got up, glanced quickly
outside: no one was passing. She kissed him.

He left the house, walking hurriedly away. She fell back into her chair,
crying as she had never cried before.

* * * * *

Jones walked rapidly in the direction of the Culebra station. He knew
that Susan cared for him still; he believed that if he waited and
persisted he would be able to break down her resolution. But he might
have long to wait, and he did not feel equal to that. His work at
Christobal had become a dreary drudgery. It would be better to go back
to Jamaica, and that he would do the next day.

He did not blame Susan now; he felt for her nothing but kindness and
affection. It was Mackenzie he blamed; Mackenzie it was who had
inveigled her away from him: Mackenzie was the cause of her unhappiness
and his. But even while he thought this, he felt in his heart of hearts
that he himself had been the first cause of Susan’s desertion of him. He
had promised to marry her and had broken his word. He had made a fool of
himself in Colon. He sought for excuses for his conduct; he found many;
yet his self-accusation persisted: conscience was by no means dead in
Samuel Josiah.

He reached the station; there he learnt that there would be no train
leaving for the next couple of hours. This delay he had not foreseen: he
wondered what he should do with himself in the meantime. He could not
return to Susan’s house.

He lounged about the station for a few minutes, but his thoughts
troubled him and inaction was irksome. He must do something, he would
walk about a little: he turned his back to the station and took the road
leading down into the Culebra Cut. He had never been inside the Cut
before. Troubled in mind as he was, the scene there made demands on his
attention. Soon he was looking about him with wondering eyes.

On either hand of him rose lofty walls of rock and earth, carved into
wide terraces which formed the buttresses of the mighty Cut. He was
walking along one of these terraces; on it and on all the others train
lines were laid. The trains were passing up and down, powerful engines
dragging twenty, thirty, forty dump-cars laden with the stones and dirt
that had been dug out of this part of the Canal; and at the bottom of
the ditch and along the sides of it steam shovels were at work.

He watched these shovels curiously. He saw long cranes attached to
engines, and at the end of each crane an iron box with a movable lid and
bottom. The crane swung round, was lowered, the iron box or mouth bit
into a pile of earth and rock shattered by dynamite, gorged itself,
swung round again until it hovered over a dump-car. Then the bottom of
the box opened slowly and a mass of earth and stones was poured into the
car. Again the shovel swung back, and again and again was this process
repeated. He remembered that Mackenzie was engaged on one of those steam
shovels, and thought that perhaps he was, without knowing it, watching
Mackenzie’s shovel at work. Then he resumed his walk, thankful that he
had worn his waterproof that day, for now black and heavy rain-clouds
were brooding over the Cut.

He walked along rapidly, knowing that he had not much more time to
spare. The farther on he went, the more intense became the activity of
the works, the more impressive the scene around him. Thousands of men
were earnestly at work; groups of West Indians were manipulating the
air-drills which bored the holes for the dynamite charges, scores of
steam shovels were toiling to remove the heaped-up debris, dozens of
steam-engines were hurrying to and fro and sending forth shrill screams.
From the escapes of the steam shovels came puffs of greyish smoke, from
the funnels of the engines a thick black smoke was belched, from the
air-drills little spurts of steam darted, and from all around came the
heavy detonation of dynamite discharges, shaking the earth.

Penned in by the high walls on either side, the smoke drifted hither and
thither, forming a gloomy pall. The cliffs of Culebra flung back the
deep boom of the explosions, the hurrying trains seemed to threaten at
every moment to come into violent collision. Jones saw West Indian
labourers carelessly carrying boxes of dynamite on their heads and
shoulders, and remembered that many a man had, through his carelessness,
been shattered to pieces in an instant. He saw more than one of them
trip and the boxes they carried almost hurled to the ground. The men
laughed. Familiarity with danger had rendered them contemptuous of it;
but Jones shuddered; he could not appreciate the indifference and
recklessness of these workers.

Boom, boom, boom: that sound dominated every other. It was answered soon
by a thunder-crash from above, and then the driving rainstorm burst over
Culebra. The rain came roaring down, an opaque volume of rushing water;
objects a yard or two away were completely blotted out of sight; the
blackness of night was above. But still he heard the whistling scream of
the trains, still the heavy detonations warned him that the dynamite was
blasting the solid rock. Nothing could be allowed to stay this work; the
men, clad in their waterproofs, toiled on; the deafening noise ceased
never for a moment.

He was drenched in spite of his cloak. Yet, because of the awful heat,
he was in a profuse perspiration. He began to think he had lost his
train after all; he would have to wait until another one came in from
the city of Panama. Happily the downpour was ceasing; it was too violent
to last. He waited until it became a drizzle, cast a regretful glance
before him, for he wished he had been able to go farther on, and was
about to retrace his steps when a shout from some men in front of him
caused him to look hurriedly opposite, towards where these men were
pointing with wild gestures.

Then he saw a sight that almost paralysed his heart. The mountain-side
immediately opposite to him was slipping, coming down with a rush, as
though it had been struck by an invisible hand and was being hurled to
the bottom of the chasm. Hundreds of tons of loosened rock and earth
were crashing down-wards, and the horror-stricken men who saw what was
happening were shouting, screaming, gesticulating, for well they knew
the fate of any who should be struck unawares by the swift-descending
mass. Jones started to run, then stopped, apprehensive of what might
happen next; he could not be certain that the wall which towered above
him, or even the terrace on which he stood, might not also suddenly slip
away. His mind was dazed; he felt that he had been very near to death,
and, for all he knew, might be near to it still.

He looked about him; hundreds of men were running towards the huge pile
of debris below. He noticed that the train lines down there had been
torn away and twisted as if they were merely wire; some machinery had
been dashed to pieces. Was anyone killed? he wondered.

People were clambering down the sides of the terraces; he ran towards
them, joined them, and found that he could descend without great
difficulty. All the men seemed to know in what direction they should go;
he heard them saying to one another that the rock-fall had not been
unexpected, that the engineers had noticed cracks some days before,
which had led them to believe that once again Culebra would put their
patience to the test. He gathered that on this particular section much
work was not being done; perhaps, then, no one had lost his life. But
the men were not certain; the slide was a bigger one than ordinary. Thus
talking in snatches and exclamations, slipping, climbing, running, they
reached the bottom of the Cut.

Here a crowd was already collected, a crowd working with might and main,
digging away at something as if their lives depended upon it. Jones
pushed his way to the front; he saw that the diggers were at work upon
the earth and shattered rock that covered a steam shovel partly. This
shovel had been in operation when the slide occurred; had it been a few
yards farther back it must have entirely escaped. As it was, the men who
manned it had had no warning, had not been able to leap clear of the
machine and get away in time. It was doubtful if they were yet alive;
but nothing was being left undone to save them, if they could be saved.

“Who are they?” Jones heard one American in the crowd ask another. “Any
white men?”

“Two, and a coloured man,” was the answer: “poor fellows.”

The news spread; dark faces turned ashen with horror. A thousand people
waited to hear if there was any hope—or none.

“What’s their name?” Jones kept on asking of persons who paid no
attention to him. At last one of them who worked in this part of the
Cut, hearing the question, replied, “The white men name Jackson an’
Campbell; the black man is Mackenzie.”

Jones went suddenly cold. “Mackenzie?” he repeated. “Mackenzie being
suffocated to death?” He fought his way to where the men were digging.
The thought uppermost in his mind was that his old friend was dying,
dying horribly. “Good God!” he exclaimed, and the next instant, seizing
a shovel from the heaps which had been hurriedly brought up, he was
digging amongst the labourers like a man gone wild.

Not as his rival, not as the husband of Susan, did he think of Mackenzie
now. For those few moments of his life Jones was utterly unselfish.

Somebody caught him by the shoulder and pushed him back; his assistance
was not needed.

“Careful now,” said a commanding voice; “bring ’em out carefully.”

“Here’s one,” cried a man, an American like the first.

“Back there, back!” came a peremptory order. Four doctors were already
on the spot; the crowd was being forced back; the same remarkable
organization that made the building of the great Canal a matter of
routine and order was in evidence at this tragedy too. It took less than
a minute for the doctors to pronounce their verdict. The men had been
killed instantly, could not have realized what was happening.

The bodies were placed upon stretchers, and the stretchers were hoisted
into a railway car. The people began to return to their temporarily
interrupted work. Tragedies were not rare at Culebra. One cannot build a
great canal without loss of life.

Wet, muddied, horror-stricken still, Jones slowly followed the returning
labourers, intending to get out of the Cut as quickly as possible. He
realized that the man who had stood between him and Susan had been
removed; but the manner of Mackenzie’s removal terrified him. Had
Mackenzie sickened and died, it is possible that Jones would have seen
the hand of Providence in the circumstance. But this sudden death—a
death, too, which might so easily have overtaken himself had he been on
the opposite side of the chasm—seemed to him to be somewhat devilish;
he was afraid. He vehemently told himself that he had never wished
Mackenzie dead, though he knew he had often done so; then he said to
himself that he had never meant his wish. Whether he had meant it or
not, it was realized. He was startled by the fact. This was no good
thing: why should Mackenzie have died like that, just then? He forgot
the two white men entirely.

He got out of the Cut at last, wondering if he should go and tell Susan
the terrible news. He decided that he would not: she would probably have
heard it already, and he was not exactly the one to inform her how
Mackenzie had come to his end. But there was something he could do. He
hurried to the telegraph station and dispatched a message to Susan’s
people in Colon, telling them what had happened and advising them to
come over to Culebra without delay. After that he went to the coloured
section of the town; he saw many people in and about Mackenzie’s house.
So Susan knew. He went back to the railway station to await the arrival
of Susan’s relatives.

He sat down on the edge of the platform, thinking of all that had
happened that day. If Susan had left the house with him and they had
afterwards heard of this death! What a narrow escape it had been! And
then with his mind’s eye he saw Mackenzie as Mackenzie had greeted him
on the day of his arrival in Colon, a cordial, helpful friend. He saw
him as a visitor, always contented and happy in the house. He saw him as
a corpse on the stretcher, suddenly struck dead. “Poor Mac,” he muttered
again and again, “poor Mac; poor fellow.” And he cried like a child in
contrition and sorrow.

Continue Reading

THE NIGHT OF THE FIRE

Susan was no longer annoyed with her people for their unexpected
appearance. Now that it had been decided that they were to live by
themselves and do something to earn their living, she felt glad that
they had come to Panama. They would not be very far from her; she could
go to see them fairly often; the old associations, severed when she left
Jamaica, were renewed once more. With her elbows on the table and her
entwined fingers supporting her chin, she watched them eat with a
pleasant glow of hospitality. “Tell me all about home,” she said. “You
ever see Maria?”

“No,” said Catherine; “but I meet Hezekiah one day, an’ him tell me that
Maria hear that you married: somebody write from Colon to tell her. She
will never get a man to put a ring on _her_ finger. You ever see Tom an’
Jones since you married, Sue?”

“No; I don’t think them ever come up this way; an’ since I married,
going eight weeks now, I never leave Culebra once.”

“Jones never write you?” asked her aunt.

“No! Him couldn’t do that. I have nothing more to do wid him.”

“I never did like dat young man,” said Mr. Proudleigh with grave
deliberation. “He talk too much, an’ him always using big words dat I
couldn’t understand. I never thoughted that you would be happy with him,
Sue.”

“Did Jones ever do you anything, pupa?” asked Susan sharply.

“Me? No. Him couldn’t do me anyt’ing. I wouldn’t make him take a liberty
wid me!”

“An’ when you used to borrow a shillin’ from him every now an’ then,
behind my back, though you know you couldn’t pay him back, he ever
refused you?”

This little matter of the loans Mr. Proudleigh had hitherto regarded as
an entirely private business arrangement between Samuel Josiah and
himself; indeed, he had always prefaced his request for a loan with a
speech on the wisdom of not letting one’s left hand know what one’s
right hand did. He had never failed to intimate clearly that Susan was
one of those symbolical left hands that had always better be kept in
ignorance of all important financial transactions between man and man.
But now that, to his intense surprise, Susan mentioned his past
obligations to Jones, he asserted with assurance, “I goin’ to pay him
back every farden. I will write an’ send de money.” An excellent
resolution, though he did not trouble to mention when he would write or
where the money was to come from.

“Well, seeing that Jones was kind to you in Jamaica, I don’t see why y’u
should say you don’t like him,” Susan continued. “We didn’t get on too
well sometimes in Colon, for him was a little wild an’ he got into bad
company. That is why I leave him an’ married Mackenzie. But I don’t ’ave
anything to say against him, for him didn’t stint me in anything, an’
him never ill-treat me.”

“I always liked Mr. Jones, though I never borrow any money from him,”
said Miss Proudleigh untruthfully, pleased at being able to get even
with her brother for his recent attempt to establish her age at fifty.
“He was always polite an’ gentlemanly.”

Mr. Proudleigh had in the meantime filled his mouth to its utmost
capacity, with a view of showing that he could not without grave
inconvenience take any further part in a conversation which was becoming
unpleasantly personal. Catherine had finished eating. Seeing this, Susan
invited her into the kitchen, on the excuse that she wished to prepare
something for Mackenzie.

“You have it dull, Sue?” asked Catherine, as soon as the two found
themselves alone.

“Lord, yes! Every day it is one thing over an’ over. I know some of de
people here, but you can’t make a dance when you like, or ’ave much
merriment.”

“But you have you’ husband.”

Susan twisted her mouth slightly, a facial contortion which Catherine
interpreted as meaning that Mackenzie’s existence did not contribute
materially to making life bright at Culebra.

“Mac is all right enough,” Susan explained, “but him is very quiet an’
serious.”

After a moment’s hesitation, she added:

“Jones was livelier.”

“Then why you leave Jones?”

Susan let the question pass.

“Marriage is dull,” she said: “you are not you’ own mistress. It is true
you ’ave a honourable position, but what is the good of that if it don’t
make you any happier?”

With unconscious inconsistency she continued. “Sam promised to marry me
when we was at sea, but he wouldn’t do it afterwards. It would have been
better for him if he did keep his word.”

Catherine was looking at her narrowly as she spoke. She saw quite
clearly that Susan was not satisfied with her present situation. And yet
she was in a position that hundreds would have envied.

“Perhaps if you did wait, Jones would have married you,” Catherine
suggested.

“I don’t think so. Him was wild an’ foolish, an’ thought that I care for
him so much that I wouldn’t leave him. If he was different I would be
with him now, even if him didn’t married me.”

Catherine looked wise. “I always say it is better not to married too
quick,” she observed; “for you may find you make a mistake, an’ then you
can’t do nothing.”

But here Susan thought that perhaps she had said too much, even to her
sister. So she remarked, with emphasis, that, after all, she was very
comfortable, and that Mackenzie was kind to her and never quarrelled
with her. “I don’t ’ave a word to say against him,” she asserted
truthfully.

Then she and Catherine rejoined the others, for she was now expecting
her husband at any moment.

He came in presently, glanced inquiringly at Susan, who was about to say
who the strangers were, when Mr. Proudleigh, who for a week had been
rehearsing a little speech he had prepared to greet Mackenzie with,
stood up in haste and unceremoniously interrupted his daughter. The old
man had been an Odd Fellow in his younger days, and had frequently
figured as “chaplain” in the lodge. He now chose to regard Mackenzie as
an embodied Odd Fellows Society, and forthwith addressed him as such:

“My noble king! When first I hear that you married Miss Susan, who is
the best daurter I have, an’ when I hear about you from all de people
who come back to Jamaica from here—for I can tell you you are well
beknown—I say to meself: I will arise an’ never be happy till I see me
son-in-law. An’ here I come, though sea-sickness nearly kill me, to
welcome you into de fambily; an’ I can tell you at once that I are going
to do everything to make you comfortable. We don’t acquainted well yet,
but when we are acquaint——”

What would happen when the further acquaintanceship hinted at by Mr.
Proudleigh should have developed, will never be known. For just then
Mackenzie quietly put a stop to his oratory by remarking:

“So you are Sue’s father? I am glad to see you, sir,” and then shook
hands with him.

He greeted Miss Proudleigh and Catherine with similar cordiality,
assuring them that he was happy to see them. Then they all sat down.

“Come on a trip, or to do business?” he inquired of Miss Proudleigh, who
somehow he took to be the leader of the party.

“Things being bad in Jamaica,” that lady replied, “I took a thought an’
came with me brother an’ niece to see if I could get a little work in
Colon. I am a hard-working woman, an’ so long as I can make an honest
living, I are satisfied.”

“Quite right,” said Mackenzie; “nothing like independence, ma’am. You
goin’ to stop too, sir?” he asked Mr. Proudleigh.

“Well, yes,” said his father-in-law; “I thinks I will. I like up here
well; it’s a nice climate.”

“Well, you can stop here a few days; glad if y’u would,” said Mackenzie
hospitably, but this limited invitation finally put an end to Mr.
Proudleigh’s lingering hope of being invited to stay for good. “I hope
Sue been treating you good?” Mackenzie went on, “and that we have
something nice fo’ supper. Sue, we must get some beer an’ spend a nice
evening. It’s not all times we have friends from home.”

He asked to be excused while he went out to get the beer. Both Catherine
and Miss Proudleigh concluded that he was a kind man, easily satisfied,
and generous in a thoughtful, cautious sort of way. But Mr. Proudleigh
felt that Mackenzie’s invitation to him implied a narrow and
unappreciative spirit. Mr. Proudleigh already voted Mackenzie a failure
as a son-in-law.

That night they sat up until late discussing the condition of Jamaica.
From Mr. Proudleigh’s remarks, a stranger would have gathered that a
perfectly peaceful island was just then on the eve of revolution. He did
most of the talking, Mackenzie agreeing with what he said with all the
politeness of a host.

For four days did the visitors remain at Culebra. Susan tried to prevail
upon Catherine to stay with her for good, but that her sister would not
do; she was bored at Culebra. She noticed that Susan and Mackenzie
seemed to get on very well with one another, and that Mackenzie was
apparently quite satisfied with his marriage. But she was convinced that
Susan was not. “She don’t love him,” thought Catherine; “she don’t
happy. Better she didn’t married.”

But though she felt sorry for Susan, she would not share her loneliness.
She went with her father and her aunt to Colon.

It had been arranged that Susan should go to see her people as soon as
they had settled down in Colon: two weeks later she set out on the
journey to the little town she knew so well and missed so much. She
started in the forenoon, her plan being to spend the night in Colon and
return to Culebra the next day. In less than two hours she arrived, and,
taking a cab, drove to the house where her relatives now lived, they
having written to give her the address.

She was effusively welcomed by them. They had two small apartments in
one of the numerous tenement buildings of Colon. Miss Proudleigh,
although preferring dressmaking as a more genteel occupation, had become
a private laundress, as more money could be made that way. She had hired
a girl to help her; particularly, to go for and to take home the
clothes, for that neither she nor Catherine would consent to do.
Catherine assisted with the ironing. They were pleased to find that they
earned four or five times as much at this work as they would have done
in Jamaica. This almost compensated for the menial character of the
work. Mr. Proudleigh discovered elements of dignity in it. His only
contribution was gratuitous advice.

Catherine had news for Susan.

“Guess who I meet in Colon, Sue?” was her first remark, after Susan had
taken off her hat.

“Jones!” said Susan instantly.

“He an’ Tom. Them tell me all about the row, an’ Jones come here
sometimes during the day an’ in the evening. Him may come here to-day,”
she concluded, with a glance at her sister to see how she took the news.

Susan felt her heart leap as Catherine mentioned the possibility of
Jones’s calling at the house while she was there. But she affected
indifference.

“I don’t want to see him,” she said; “but it won’t matter.”

“Of course not,” observed her aunt, “for you are a lawfully married
woman now.”

“An’ nobody can take dat from you,” Mr. Proudleigh insisted, as though
some attempt to rob Susan of her married state was not at all unlikely.

“Nobody need try,” laughed Susan, pluming herself upon being Mrs.
Mackenzie; “I have me marriage certificate.”

“That is a very good thing to have,” Mr. Proudleigh agreed. “But y’u
needn’t fret that Jones won’t treat you respectful in dis house: he have
to! But I must tell you, Sue, that him is a very decent young man. He
confine to me all his troubles; an’ I must really tell you that I thinks
y’u treat him hard, for he is a noble young man.”

From these remarks Susan gathered that Jones was once more advancing to
her father small loans, to be repaid at a hypothetical future date. The
old financial relations had been re-established between the two men. But
she was not displeased to hear her father speak highly of Samuel. She
did not even resent the old man’s mild reproach.

When twelve o’clock came, she found herself anxiously wondering whether
Jones would call that day. From twelve to two o’clock he would not be
working; he would have ample time for a visit. Her aunt and Catherine
were ironing on that part of the veranda upon which their rooms opened.
She sat on the veranda talking to them, and every now and then she would
glance down into the street to see if anyone she knew was passing. She
saw some acquaintances, but always with a feeling of disappointment; as
two o’clock drew near she grew silent, a change which Catherine was not
slow to notice. When the hour struck and she had to recognize that there
was no possibility of Samuel’s coming that afternoon, she made no effort
to conceal from herself that she was bitterly disappointed: in her
inmost heart, also, she confessed to herself that during all the journey
from Culebra to Colon her great hope had been that she should see him,
meet him. For what? She had her reason ready. She told herself that she
wanted to know how he had taken her sudden departure, how he had fared
in the intervening ten weeks, how he would greet her, and whether he had
been captured by some other woman. When she reflected on the possibility
of his having been captured—just as though his personal responsibility
in that matter must be almost nil—she became fiercely antagonistic
towards the unknown woman. She resented her existence, hated her
bitterly.

During the rest of the afternoon she was rather moody; but when six
o’clock came she grew cheerful and talkative once more. An hour passed,
and then Catherine suggested that they should go for a walk about the
town. She agreed.

As they went along, Susan peeped into all the cafés that they passed.
She well knew the old favourite haunt of Samuel, and she led her sister
past it; but, though the doors were wide open as usual, she saw no sign
of Samuel. They called on one or two of Susan’s friends, and to these
the story of her marriage was related; her hearers had no doubt whatever
that she had acted wisely in leaving Jones; there was but one opinion on
her excellent good fortune. The congratulations she received heartened
her greatly; it was much to be a married woman; now she knew she had
done a sensible and proper thing. It was half-past nine when she and
Catherine went back to the house.

“A stranger is upstairs,” said Catherine, as they ascended the steps;
“that is not papee’s voice.”

Susan paused for a moment, her heart beating violently. “It is Jones,”
she whispered.

Catherine listened. “Yes,” she said; “him must have been here a long
time, for it is late already. Y’u not coming up?” she asked, for Susan
was standing still.

Slowly Susan followed her sister. The latter entered the room first.
Susan stepped in after her with a well-assumed air of indifference.

Some one rose. She heard his voice addressing her.

“Good evening, Mrs. Mackenzie. I hope I see you well? Your husband’s
health is propitious, I presume?”

She was equal to the occasion. “Good evening, Mr. Jones. Yes, thank y’u,
Mr. Mackenzie is quite well. He would ’ave sent you his compliments if
he did know I would meet you.”

She sat down. Their eyes met.

“That don’t matter,” said Jones, most loftily. “Compliments are only
words, an’ nobody don’t mean them. I am not sending anybody any
compliments. I have no friends, Mrs. Mackenzie, an’ I compliment nobody.
A man don’t know who to trust in this world.”

“Quite true, Mr. Jones, quite true,” observed Miss Proudleigh, who had
never forgotten Susan’s reception of her at Culebra. “There is but one
Friend who we can trust, an’ to Him we can take all our troubles. When
man desert us an’ play us false, we can take them to the Lord in
pr’yer.” In this way the good lady endeavoured to convey to Jones her
opinion of Susan’s general behaviour.

Jones enjoyed Miss Proudleigh’s sympathy. He felt that he was amongst
friends. He had helped them with his advice since they had been in
Colon, and Mr. Proudleigh had confessed to him that in Mr. Proudleigh’s
opinion Mackenzie was not fit to unloose the latchet of Samuel Josiah’s
shoe. At that moment Susan was at a disadvantage.

He was looking at her narrowly. Her sojourn at Culebra had improved her:
he did not think he had ever seen her look so well before. She was
singularly attractive. Dressed in cool white, she faced him
self-possessed, while on the third finger of her left hand gleamed a
broad band of gold, the symbol of her new condition. Ever and again his
eyes lingered on that ring. He hated it. But he determined to show he
was indifferent, as indifferent as she appeared to be; in his most
bombastic manner he resumed the conversation.

“I am thinkin’ of returning to me native land. The temperature of Panama
is deleterious to my constitution, an’ they have no decent
administration in the country. Some people, of course, are contented
with it. If you kick some people it will please them. But Samuel Josiah
Jones is of a different characteristic; besides, I am one of those men
who can make a living in me own country, an’ I didn’t come here to pass
all me life digging dirt for American people.”

“I don’t suppose anybody else come here fo’ good, either, Mr. Jones,”
replied Susan sharply, feeling it incumbent upon her to defend her
absent husband against all covert attacks. “I expect meself to go home
before long.”

“Is Mac gwine to Jamaica, Sue?” asked her father quickly. “For, ef so, I
wouldn’t mind takin’ a trip meself, an’ I could come back wid you.”

“I don’t know what Mackenzie is goin’ to do, papee,” answered Susan
severely. “But perhaps, as you an’ Mr. Jones is so friendly, you can go
wid him.”

“Oh, that’s all right!” exclaimed Jones. “I can take the old man. I have
the cash, an’ no one ever say yet that Samuel Josiah was mean. When I am
goin’, old massa, you can come along.”

“Thank y’u, me son!” Mr. Proudleigh burst out.

“You is the sort of young man I did want for me son-in-law.”

He had no sooner spoken the words than he regretted them. They expressed
his true sentiments, but how would Susan take them? Catherine laughed.

“Wishes don’t alter facts,” said Miss Proudleigh sourly, “though some
people, in spite of all they may pretends, would be glad if facts could
be altered.”

Susan understood this remark and hated her aunt very thoroughly at that
moment. “I suppose you been wishin’ for a lot of things you never
get—eh, Aunt Deborah?” she said. “You must ’ave wished to get married
for a long time before you got old, but I hear you never even had an
intended.”

“What!” cried Mr. Proudleigh, before his sister could hurl the full
force of her scorn at the offending Susan, “my dear daurter, you don’t
know you’ aunt. You grow up an’ find ’er in religion, but she was a
little devil when she was young. I remember one night me father
half-murder her because she used to stay out late, an’ a young man beat
her one day because she was carryin’ on wid another young man, while she
was engage to de first one. But when she come near forty, of cou’se, an’
she see she was getting old, she teck to religion an’ becomes an example
to you young people.”

“You are an infernal liar!” cried Miss Proudleigh fiercely, roused now
to bitterest anger by this gratuitous detailing of her early history,
and entirely forgetful of the virtue of Christian forbearance and godly
conversation in her desire to maintain her claim to having always led a
pure and spotless life. “Since you come to Colon I don’t know what come
over you! All you seem to want to do is to make fun of me, an’ abuse me
character; but as you remember so many things that never happen, you
might as well remember dat it is me who is helping you to live in Colon,
an’ not Susan.”

“This don’t need any quarrel,” observed Jones hastily. “If I did want to
quarrel I could find plenty of reason, but I bear all the ill-treatment
I receive in silence, being disposed thereto by an equanimitous attitude
of mind.”

“That is the same like my attitude of mind,” peacefully remarked Mr.
Proudleigh, “for if there is a man that don’t like confusion it is me. I
didn’t mean to vex Deborah at all, an’ I beg to ask her pardon as she
get offended by what I say. In fact, I don’t see how she should think I
could want to insult me own sister before a perfec’ stranger like Mister
Jones, an’ she is very wrong to think so. But it is because I am old an’
poor. Ef I was a young man, an’ earning me two pounds a week, all de
sort of words dat everybody give me now I wouldn’t hear at all. But when
a man is poor, dog can bark at him an’ him can’t say a word; so
everybody take an advantage of me an’ tell me what them do for me,
though them never remember what I do for them. However, I apologize to
Deborah, an’ I excuse her, for she was always very ignorant.”

“When you thinkin’ of goin’ home, Mr. Jones?” asked Susan with a view to
putting an end to the dispute between her aunt and father. She knew how
spiteful Miss Proudleigh could be, and was well aware that if her
usually mild parent was once thoroughly annoyed, the recital of his
grievances and wrongs would form the main topic of all conversations for
the next three or four days.

“I haven’t determined on a date hitherto, Mrs. Mackenzie,” Jones
replied, “but I contemplate a speedy departure from these regions. If I
wasn’t a man of strong mentality, all the sufferings I have had to put
up with in Colon would drive me mad. But I have a solid brain, an’ what
would kill some people passes by me like ‘the idle wind which I regard
not.’ That is Shakespeare,” he explained.

“Well, it’s a good thing to be able to go home when y’u like, Mr. Jones,
an’ you are an independent man with no responsibility. My ’usband have
to work hard to keep his wife in comforts, so he can’t travel about like
you, an’ go out to see his friends an’ enjoy himself every night. Some
people like to ’ave everything, you know, without any responsibility,
but Mackenzie is different.”

“I don’t know anything about your husband, Mrs. Mackenzie,” Jones
answered superciliously. “He and I was never friends in Jamaica: we
didn’t walk in the same street at all. Of course, when a man come to a
place like Colon, he get to know a lot of people he would never know at
home. I moved in good society in Jamaica. The very night before I leave
for Colon I was entertained by a few high-toned educated friends of
mine, an’ if I had paid attention to what one of them say to me, I
wouldn’t have been made a fool of here. But I was always of a confiding
an’ trustful disposition, an’ put a lot of faith in females.”

A sarcastic laugh from Miss Proudleigh, directed at Susan, welcomed this
remark. But Susan took no notice of it.

It was now past ten o’clock, and Catherine was repeatedly yawning. Jones
rose to leave.

“This has been an unexpected pleasure, Mrs. Mackenzie,” he said, as he
bade Susan good night. “If we do not meet again, you may say to Mr.
Mackenzie that y’u saw me here in excellent spirits.” He flourished his
hat and bowed as he spoke, then marched with stately step out of the
room.

“Dat is a perfec’ gen’leman,” said Mr. Proudleigh.

Susan thought so too.

* * * * *

After that visit to Colon, Culebra became more distasteful than ever to
Susan. In spite of her possession of “comforts,” her life seemed to her
to be singularly uninteresting; she felt that she had nothing new to
expect, she experienced no pleasant thrill of anticipated adventures;
she loved excitement, and at Culebra, except for the accidents, there
was nothing like excitement to look forward to. She might have children.
But though she possessed the instinct of motherhood as fully as any
other normally developed woman, the coming of children seemed to her to
be a mere matter of course, something too that would bind her down more
tightly to her humdrum existence as Mackenzie’s wife. She began to
regret even the days in Jamaica when she had the shop—days that now
seemed so very far away, though only a few months had passed since she
had come to Panama.

She had no doubt now, she no longer strove to conceal from herself, that
she had made a mistake in marrying Mackenzie. He was a good husband, a
steady man; but he was over forty and very uninteresting. She could not
even quarrel with him: he did nothing to provoke a quarrel. If she was
petulant, he was patient; if she became a little unreasonable, he
yielded with a good humour which she instinctively felt was not the
result of weakness. She stood in some awe of him; as a friend he had
been altogether desirable, but now as her husband she discovered that
his disposition was alien to hers; she respected but could not care for
him.

She could not even complain that he restricted her liberty, for he did
not. She was free in reason to go where she liked; if she had not left
Culebra but once since her marriage, that was not because she could not
have done so had she wished. The situation, clearly, was hopelessly
annoying. As some one had to be blamed for it, she blamed Jones.

It was all his fault. He should have acted differently. It was not
because he had refused to marry her that she had left him. It was
because he had taken to drinking, gambling, and bad habits generally;
because he had made himself objectionable and might at any moment have
found himself within the four walls of a prison. She had chosen the best
way of escape open to her, and everybody agreed that she had acted
wisely. She was in no way at fault.

But this self-vindication did not tend to console her, for, by an
apparently perverse arrangement of things, she was the sufferer while
Jones was as free as air. Susan was too intelligent not to feel that,
however tragically Jones might conduct himself just now, he was likely
to find consolation as time went on. She believed profoundly in her
lasting influence over every man who had fallen in love with her; there
was Tom’s case as an illustration. But she doubted whether that
influence would keep anyone like Jones, from falling into the clutches
of other women, especially as she was married and separated from him for
ever. “The same way he could do without me before I know him, he will do
without me now,” she thought ruefully; and this was the more certain if
he should return to Jamaica. And if he did return, what chance would
there be of his coming back, in a hurry at any rate?

Besides, even if he did come back, how would that help her? They now met
as acquaintances merely. She addressed him as Mr. Jones. He spoke to her
as Mrs. Mackenzie. Everything was as it should be from the point of view
of propriety: he treated her as a married woman ought to be treated. Yet
she would have much preferred a bitter quarrel with him, an open
flinging of reproaches from one to the other, passionate upbraiding.
Why, she did not exactly know, save that the sarcastic politeness of
both, and the thinly veiled innuendoes they had indulged in at her
relatives’ house on the night of their meeting, seemed to her a mere
sham: they had not spoken to one another as they would have liked to
speak. They had merely acted a part.

She wondered if all married women felt, as she did, that marriage was an
awful bore. And she wondered if her endurance could stand the strain of
that boredom for years.

“Mackenzie,” said Susan one evening, some four days after she had been
to Colon, “you ever see Jones?”

“No,” he replied, “I don’t think him ever come this way. An’ I never
hear anything of him; perhaps he gone back home.”

“I don’t think so,” Susan said, “for Kate tell me when I was in Colon
this week that Jones go to see them sometimes. I was thinking that maybe
him will get married himself.”

“Cho!” laughed Mackenzie, “Jones is never goin’ to do anything. Some
girl may marry him if she really want to get married, and can take him
to a church, but it will be she who will do it. You take my word for it,
some day Jones is going to go back to Jamaica widout a cent in his
pocket. He will have nothing to show for all the time him spend here.”

“I think so meself,” agreed Susan; “he don’t steady at all like you,
Mac.”

This direct compliment, at the expense of Jones too, pleased Mackenzie
not the less because he felt it was deserved. He smiled complacently.

“I always thought from the first time I see you in Colon, Sue,” he said,
“that you was too good for a fellow like Jones. He has his good points,
for he can work hard an’ he know his work. But him like to show off too
much, an’ he never know his own mind.”

“You think I should speak to him if I ever meet him? You see, he may go
to see me family when I am there, an’ I wouldn’t like to speak to him if
you didn’t like it.”

“Why, of course you can speak to him; I don’t see why you shouldn’t. He
don’t do you nothing, an’ I don’t see why he should vex because you
leave him to get married. If I see him meself I will speak to him: an’
if him don’t choose to answer it will be all the same to me.”

“You right, Mac. If you hold out the hand of friendship an’ Jones don’t
choose to take it, that’s ‘up to him’ as the American people here say.
An’ I will follow your advice and speak to him if I ever see him, for I
don’t bear anybody malice.”

“Malice is foolishness,” said Mackenzie emphatically. “If I was to meet
Jones up here I would invite him to come an’ spend a evening in me
house. I don’t know if him would come, but that would show him that I
have no bad feelings towards him.”

She said nothing to her husband of her having already met Samuel Josiah.
But now she felt that she could with a clear conscience be polite to
Jones when next she should see him; and perhaps, after that meeting, she
might tell Mackenzie of it . . . that would be wise. She was going to
see her people again, but she must not seem in any hurry to do so; she
must force herself to wait. She allowed two weeks to elapse before she
went, taking care to let Catherine know by letter beforehand the day on
which to expect her.

She arrived in Colon in the afternoon, and that evening Jones came round
to the house. He expected to meet her.

For a little while they discussed indifferent topics; then suddenly
Susan gave a sharp turn to the conversation and surprised everybody by
saying:

“I hear that I have to congratulate you, Mr. Jones.”

“Me? What for?” he asked.

“I hear you goin’ to get married.”

“You don’t say!” exclaimed Mr. Proudleigh, immediately becoming
interested. Jones had been coming so often to see them, and had been so
obliging in the matter of the loans, that the old gentleman had begun to
think that a match might be arranged between the young man and
Catherine.

“I never hear of it before,” said Jones, “but people always know a man’s
business better than he know it himself.” (Mr. Proudleigh’s face lighted
up with pleasure.) “I have nothing more to do with any woman, Mrs.
Mackenzie, an’ don’t intend to.” (Here Mr. Proudleigh’s hopes fell to
zero—a common enough occurrence.) “Women do me enough already in this
world. I have been fooled once, but that was not my fault. If I allow
anybody to fool me again, however, I would be more than stupid.”

Susan’s question had been deliberately put for the purpose of finding
out if Samuel’s affections were still unengaged. She was therefore
delighted with his reply. But she answered to the point. “I didn’t know
you ever was married before, Mr. Jones, so you couldn’t have been
fooled.”

“P’rhaps it is a very good thing him was never married,” observed Miss
Proudleigh caustically, leaving her meaning to be understood by Susan.

“Perhaps so,” replied Susan promptly, “for if Mr. Jones was married him
might have all his wife’s old relations wanting to live on him.”

“It’s not a matter of relations,” said Jones, “for when I put me hand
into me pocket, I can always find money there to help anybody. But
females are not to be trusted; and as I don’t take away anybody’s wife,
I wouldn’t like anybody to take away mine.”

“I agree wid you, Mister Jones,” said Mr. Proudleigh; “but you don’t
have no occasion to worry you’self, for as you not married, nobody can
teck away you’ wife.” He laughed as he ceased, being proud of his logic.

“Well, marriage is not everything,” said Susan; “but as I hear that Mr.
Jones was goin’ to get married—I forget who tell me—I thought I would
mention it so as to congratulate him. But since it isn’t true, I
congratulate him all de same.”

“I thank you kindly,” said Jones with a sweeping bow, “and without
indulging in any process of vituperation, I venture to submit that some
people would have a better life with Samuel Josiah Jones than with other
men I could mention. Some married people have it dull, you know. Now I
am a sport, an’ anybody who is along with me must enjoy themself.”

Susan immediately credited her aunt with having been talking about her
to Jones. Her suspicions were just. Yet Jones had said enough to
indicate that he was still regretting her desertion of him, and this
established a sympathetic understanding between them: they were both
partners in misfortune.

“What that word, ‘vituperation,’ mean, Mister Jones?” inquired Mr.
Proudleigh, who was interested in polysyllables but sometimes found that
Jones’s terms left him bewildered in a maze of hopeless conjecture.

“It means,” said Jones, beginning an explanation which might have left
the old man no wiser than before, when a shout in the street attracted
their attention, and they heard a babble of voices and the sound of
hurrying feet.

“Fire!” cried Mr. Proudleigh, moving quickly towards the veranda. “What
a place Colon is for fire! Almost every week dere is one.”

“They say the American doctors burn down the houses when they can’t cure
the fever any other way,” said Jones, hurriedly following Mr. Proudleigh
to the veranda.

“The people burn it down themself when them want to rob,” was Miss
Proudleigh’s hypothesis, which probably did account for many of the
fires which afflicted Colon.

From the veranda they could see a red glare against the north-western
sky, and a great volume of smoke surging upwards. The glare grew
brighter every moment; denser became the smoke.

“It’s a big fire!” cried Susan excitedly, “an’ nearly all the house in
Colon is of wood. It may burn down de whole town!”

“I gwine to see it!” Mr. Proudleigh exclaimed. “I never miss a fire
yet.” He hurried into the room for his hat, spurred to unusual activity
by the prospect of enjoying one of his favourite amusements.

“But suppose it come this way, pupa?” cried Catherine in a frightened
tone of voice. “What about we clothes and other things?”

But Mr. Proudleigh was already half-way down the stairs, and calling out
loudly to ask if they were not going with him. Miss Proudleigh refused
to move, not being willing to leave her room to the mercy of wandering
thieves. Catherine, after a moment’s hesitation, ran after her father.
Jones and Susan went out together.

The street below was crowded. Half the people in Colon were running
towards the scene of the conflagration, shouting “Fire!” with all the
power of their lungs. Cabs tore through the narrow thoroughfare, mounted
men appeared from nowhere and began to urge their horses through the
hurrying throng with a fine disregard of other people’s safety. The
excitement was contagious; it infected Susan and Jones, who, hand in
hand, began to run also, immediately losing sight of Catherine and Mr.
Proudleigh and thinking only of themselves. Soon they came to the spot
where a huge crowd was collected near a block of wooden buildings, some
of which were now blazing furiously. Fortunately there was no wind, so
the sparks were not carried to any considerable distance. But they rose
to a tremendous height in the heated air, and at that moment thousands
of anxious people were wondering whether a single house would be left
standing in Colon when morning dawned.

The fire brigades were on the spot, the town brigade as well as that
from Christobal. The men worked like demons. Long silver streams poured
upon the blazing buildings; uniformed men in shining helmets swarmed up
the sides of the doomed structures, splintering and smashing the
woodwork with their axes, giving fierce battle to the yellow monster
which leaped from roof to roof, roaring dully as if glorying in
destruction. The Panamanian police were everywhere, the little fellows
running about and clubbing out of the way whoever ventured too near the
burning houses. Soon it was seen that the flames were threatening to
leap across a narrow street, the houses in which were already warping
and blistering under the terrible heat. If those houses should once
ignite, it would be with the greatest difficulty that they could be
saved.

A sudden scattering of the crowd indicated that the police were
impressing men to help them fight the fire. They seized every
able-bodied man they could lay their hands upon, tolerating no show of
resistance; people on the outskirts of the crowd, knowing that an
unpleasant time would be in store for them if once they were impressed,
were hastily making off, and Jones, who was among them, thought it
eminently wise to follow their example as quickly as possible. Pulling
Susan by the hand, he hurried away. When he thought that he had put
sufficient ground between himself and the police he halted. From where
they now stood they could still see the flames fighting their way
upwards, and the huge masses of heavy black smoke spreading like a pall
over the town.

“I hope them won’t hold pupa,” panted Susan, staring with wide-open eyes
at the curling smoke and lurid sky.

“They wouldn’t bother with him,” Jones assured her; “he is too feeble;
in fact, he shouldn’t be in that crowd at all. It is the strong men they
looking for to-night. They will try to hold people like me an’
Mackenzie.”

Mackenzie’s name slipped out almost without Jones knowing that he had
pronounced it. It showed that Mackenzie occupied a large portion of his
thoughts in these days. The mention of the name also led to a question
which seemed strangely out of place at a time when Colon appeared to be
threatened with wholesale destruction.

“You an’ you’ husband ever talk about me?” he asked Susan.

She was surprised at this question, so out of keeping it was with her
thoughts just then. Still staring towards the fire, she said, “Why you
ask that now?”

“Because I would like to know what you say about me, an’ this is the
only time I can ask you. I suppose Mackenzie laugh at me an’ think I am
a fool to let him take you away from me so easy?”

“Why you always like to talk disagreeable things, Sam?” she answered,
unconsciously dropping back into her old familiar way of addressing him.
There was no pretence now; there was a touch of regret in her voice as
she went on:

“Mackenzie is quite up at Culebra, an’ you is down here. I going back
to-morrow. What’s de good of talkin’ about him?”

“But can you tell me now that you don’t sorry you leave me, Sue; that
you are as happy as you used to be? I don’t make any pretence like you.
I miss you, an’ I tell you so plain.”

“It was your fault, Sam. Before I went away I ask you if you was going
to keep you’ promise to marry me, an’ you say I was talking foolishness.
I knew Mackenzie was going to act differently, and, after all, him do
for me what you would never do.”

“That is the way you put it. But you didn’t tell me Mackenzie offered to
marry you. You stole away from me like a thief in the night. If you had
told me you were going, and why you were going, I wouldn’t have made you
go, an’ we would have been married to-day. But you didn’t give me a
chance to know. Why? I could have done you nothing if you had told me.”

There was so much in what he said, that for the space of a few seconds
Susan remained silent. Then she answered.

“You talk like that now, Sam, but you would have talked different if I
had told you. I was afraid.”

“Afraid,” he repeated bitterly, “though I never lift me hand to you in
me life! An’ suppose it had come to a big quarrel or a fight. You was
living in the same house with a lot of people: what could I do you? An’
if I did make a fight, the wrong would have been on my side, an’ you
could have left me with a clear conscience. How is it now? You mean to
tell me that every day of you’ natural life you going to be content with
the same sort of life you living now? I know all about it. You can’t
prevent you’ people from talking. Besides, I know something about
Culebra; and I know Mackenzie. An’ if it is bad now, what is it goin’ to
be later on? You are going to be miserable, you going to fret, you going
to wish you were dead; an’ so, for all your name is Mrs. Mackenzie, an’
you have a ring on you’ finger, and all the comforts you want, I don’t
see that you are as well off as before you got married. So what is the
good of it?”

Out there, in the streets of Colon, in the town where, as she now so
keenly remembered, she had had so many hours of happiness, Susan felt
the full force of Samuel’s words. Both of them had forgotten the fire.
Their own affairs were of supremest importance in all the world.

“It is no use talkin’ now,” she said dismally. “What is done can’t be
undone.”

“That is true. You make your own bed an’ must lie on it.”

“We live an’ learn,” said Susan. “You can’t know if you don’t try.”

“What’s the sense of tryin’ once if you can never try again?”

She said nothing, and he continued, as if talking to himself:

“You can’t marry again, once you’re married; that’s the hard part of it.
You leave me, but you can’t leave Mackenzie. . . . You can’t. . . . But,
Sue, you can! Let us go away from here to Jamaica!”

No such proposition had definitely formed itself in his mind when he
first began to speak. The suddenness of it was a revelation to himself.
Yet the idea must have been lurking somewhere at the back of his mind,
for he had never entirely given up Susan. Now too he went on as though
the whole course of their future conduct had been carefully thought out
by him.

“We can go to Jamaica, Sue, an’ we’ll be all right there. I will arrange
all about the passage; you can come down here from Culebra the night
before the ship sail, and we can leave in the morning. You needn’t say a
word to anybody, not even your own people; you can write them when you
are in Jamaica. When we get there, Mackenzie can only divorce you, for
he can’t do you anything in Jamaica. But even if he divorce you, it
won’t matter, for I will marry you then. Mackenzie take you away from
me, so it is only fair if I take you away from him. What you say?”

“No, Sam! This is different. When I leave you I wasn’t married; I was me
own woman; now I am not. It would be a disgrace for me to go away wid
you an’ leave me lawful husband. Besides, it would be a sin. Don’t you
know that if a married woman ’ave anything to do with another man it is
seven years’ trouble for both of them?”

It came into Jones’s mind at that moment that, if such were the case,
there must be large numbers of persons in Central America and the West
Indies enduring long seven-year periods of tribulation just then; but he
only said, “That’s all foolishness, Sue.”

“It is not. Marriage is a different thing from every other thing; that
is what I learn, and that is what nobody can take out of me head. An’
suppose Mackenzie was to divorce me. You think I would like to have me
name disgrace like that?”

“Then what we going to do?”

For answer, Susan began to walk slowly in the direction of her people’s
house. There were many persons in the streets now. The fire was burning
still, but had been mastered; the fear that it might consume the whole
town had passed away. People were beginning to return to their homes,
all talking about the danger which they had escaped. The street in which
they were was filled with the murmur of excited voices.

They walked on, Jones at her side. “Pupa must be gone home,” she
remarked. “We better go back too.”

As she spoke she saw a man who was passing in the opposite direction
turn and look at her and her companion. She glanced over her shoulder to
look at him, Jones also turning to stare. The man had stopped and was
staring.

They both recognized who it was, and Susan nodded her head. The man
returned the bow, but Jones looked at him as if he were a post. “That is
the jackass,” he said, “who cause all this trouble;” and he spoke loudly
enough for Tom Wooley to hear.

They continued on their way, arriving at the house in a few minutes.
There they found Mr. Proudleigh relating his wonderful experiences at
the scene of the fire. He and Catherine had been separated in the crowd,
and he related how the police had tried to induce him to assist in
extinguishing the fire, and with what arguments he had effectually
prevented them from laying sacrilegious hands upon his venerable person.
A story which showed that the old man had in him the makings of an
ingenious newspaper reporter, and which was listened to by his sister
with every manifestation of profound disbelief.

Continue Reading

LAST EFFORT

Jones entered the room with a stride that was intended to be impressive.
Unhappily, the one or two persons who observed it merely laughed, and
this did not tend to sweeten his temper. He glared round the room, and
presently saw Susan dancing with some one he did not know; his eyes
searched the company again. He was looking for Tom; the desire uppermost
in his mind just then was once and for all to prevent that young man
from ever thinking of Susan in the light of a lover, or even as a
friend. “This thing got to stop at once,” he muttered. “I must
demonstrate.”

What he intended to do, precisely what steps he proposed to take to
banish all amorous thoughts or conjugal ambitions from the mind of the
offending Tom Wooley, he did not know himself. He was perfectly
satisfied that just then he was bent upon the accomplishment of an
utterly heroic task; something had to be done and he was the man to do
it. He smiled proudly as he thought of his entire devotion to duty. His
eyes soon found the man he was looking for.

Tom was still leaning against the wall, and still engaged in following
Susan’s movements with reproachful glances. The influence of those two
drinks was upon him still, and he too imagined that he presented a
romantic figure, that his appearance at that moment constituted an
eloquent appeal even to hard-hearted Sue. She had seen him all the time
without appearing to do so. Now and then her upper lip curled with
conscious contempt. Susan had no respect for the lover sighing like a
furnace; such a man was “too soft,” in her opinion.

It happened that Jones caught sight of Tom at a moment when the latter’s
gaze was more than usually ardent. Susan was whirling by her ex-intended
at the moment, and her eyes caught his; the next moment she was a couple
of yards away. But Jones saw what he instantly believed to be an
exchange of meaning glances. Straightway he became convinced that a most
dishonest plot was being hatched against his domestic happiness.

Nothing could, in his opinion, surpass the dignity with which, to the
intense amazement and confusion of the dancers, he strode across the
room towards where Tom was standing. He shouldered the men aside,
brushed the women away as if they did not count, disturbed and brought
to an abrupt termination the dancing, and so, of course, aroused the ire
of a score of persons at once. Notwithstanding his tremendous dignity,
he found the maintenance of his equilibrium a task of exceeding
difficulty; he could not for the life of him understand why the floor
was so uneven and why the electric lights would persist in moving out of
place. Nevertheless he succeeded in planting himself before Tom, and
then, with portentous solemnity, and unheeding the indignant wonder of
the guests, he addressed his rival.

“Mr. Wooley,” said he, “I don’t want no quarrel to mar the felicity of
this festivity; but I shall have to interrogate you on one point: where
did y’u know Susan from?”

Tom was startled, both by the question put to him and by the attitude of
the questioner. At the moment his mind was unpleasantly dominated by a
sense of Jones’s height and strength. He discreetly answered, “From
home.”

“I know you must know her from home,” replied Jones severely, “for I am
not a fool, though you seem to take me for one. But . . . but that is
not the question. The position is this: what did you have to do wid her
at home?”

Tom realized that it might not be safe to tell the truth. He hurriedly
explained that he had known Susan casually, through her being a friend
of his sister—a being of hitherto unknown existence.

“But how,” persisted Jones, with a cunning leer, “how if she was only an
acquaintance through you’ sister, you could take such a interest in her
parents? She didn’t tell me anything about you’ sister a little while
ago. An’ a man like you isn’t going to be friendly with old people for
nothing.”

Tom saw that his questioner was trying to trap him, that Jones
entertained suspicions which evasive answers might only inflame. Tom
noticed too that an astonished group had gathered round them, and that
the men especially did not seem to be kindly disposed towards Jones. He
became defiant.

“What right have you to ask me any question about meself?” he demanded,
endeavouring at the same time to edge away from Jones.

“What right I have?” asked Jones, as if the question were an act of high
treason. “What right I have? Well! What right have you to be here? That
is what I got to know to-night. Y’u think I didn’t see you when you was
whispering to Susan before she introduce your miserable carcase to me?
What right I have to ask you any question? I will soon tell you! Come
outside an’ let me beat the skin off you’ body! Come outside and let me
gyrate upon your personality! I will show you the difference between me
and a—a——” But here Samuel Josiah lost the thread of his speech, and
could not remember the comparison he wished to institute. Nothing,
however, would satisfy him but that Tom should immediately proceed
outside to undergo corporal punishment, and as Mr. Wooley firmly
declined that invitation, Jones abruptly grabbed him by his shirt
collar, proposing to remove him by sheer force.

This of course was the signal for an uproar. A dozen men sprang forward
to drag Jones away; the women shrieked in fright; Susan, terror-struck
at the attitude of Jones, uttered the word which rose so easily to the
lips of all frightened Jamaican women—“Murder!” A peremptory rap at the
outer door, followed by the tramp of feet, was the immediate answer to
the clamour and exclamation.

Jones, confused, and, if the truth must be told, not a little frightened
himself, stared around him in bewilderment. Tom, seeing so many friends
at his side, became heroically valiant and manfully glared at his foe
from behind an impregnable barricade of two strong men. But his look of
defiance gave place to one of fear when three diminutive-looking persons
entered the room. They were dressed in the uniform of the Panamanian
policia.

The insignificant size of these policemen gave no indication of their
ferocity when roused to anger. They had been feeling of late that it was
incumbent upon them to do something which should show how thoroughly
they realized their obligation to maintain law and order. They had heard
the cry of “murder,” they knew it came from Mrs. Driscole’s house. At
once they determined to make an example of her and of some of her
guests, being moved to that moral determination by the certainty of the
prisoners being able to pay to the Republic a fine, and of Mrs. Driscole
herself effecting a compromise with them in so far as her share in the
disorder was concerned.

The moment the guests caught sight of the policemen, they rapidly made a
lane through which the little men could advance towards the offenders.
It is regrettable to relate that so anxious were one or two of the
company to escape even the appearance of evil that they did not hesitate
to point out Jones and Tom as the culprits to the preservers of the
peace.

The two young men were sensible enough not to make any effort to move or
to resist, being aware of the Panamanian policemen’s habit of arguing
with their clubs instead of with words. As for Mrs. Driscole, she
appeared on the scene, fat, trembling, obsequious, and protesting
volubly in broken Spanish that she was innocent of any intention of
breaking the laws of the Republic. As she implored the policemen to come
back the next day, so as to give her the opportunity of proving her
innocence, they left her alone. They knew she would be able to offer
substantial proof (_in specie_) of her ignorance of any crime with which
she might be charged. But they had already found Jones and Tom guilty,
and so they motioned these towards the door with some not very gentle
prods from their clubs.

This indignity brought tears to the eyes of Jones. Only in the last
resort would a Jamaica policeman have ventured to enter a private house
when a dance was going on. And the most he would have done, in the
absence of visible wounds, would have been to take the names of the
proprietor and the parties accused of disturbing the peace. Yet here was
he, Samuel Josiah Jones, being dragged off to gaol by men he would have
laughed at in Jamaica!

In his excitement he completely forgot Susan, who was at that moment
almost frantic with terror. She knew nothing about Panamanian law, and,
of course, feared the worst. Sam might be sent to prison without the
option of a fine; she herself might be arrested as the first cause of
the quarrel. It was Mackenzie who came to her rescue. He had not
interfered with the young men; he had been keeping his eye on Susan all
the time. When Tom and Jones had been taken away he went up to her. “You
better come home,” he said.

When they got outside, she broke down completely.

“You think him will go to prison, Mr. Mac?” she asked, between her sobs.

“Prison? what for?” said Mackenzie. “Them can only fine him to-morrow;
that’s all.”

“But what about his job?” said Susan, who never quite lost sight of the
financial aspect of any question.

“His job is all right,” Mackenzie replied. “What happen in Colon don’t
concern the people in de Zone.”

“Then I don’t too sorry him gone to the calaboose,” said Susan
spitefully. “Him is always boasting an’ thinking him can do what him
like! To-night will teach him a good lesson.”

“Jones have no lesson to learn, Miss Sue,” said Mackenzie sententiously.
“He is a young man that will always get himself in trouble. Him talk too
much. What did he want to fight the other young man for to-night?”

“Because I did know Tom from home,” replied Susan.

“You was friendly wid him?” asked Mackenzie bluntly.

“Yes.”

“Did Jones know?”

“No; I will tell you why I didn’t tell him.”

She told Mackenzie quite truthfully all about Tom. “There was no
occasion for Sam to go on like that to-night,” she added in conclusion;
“I wasn’t goin’ to ’ave anything to do with Tom. I am not that sort of
gurl, Mr. Mac; if I have one intended I stick to him. But Sam not
behaving himself now, an’ I going back home to Jamaica.”

They had arrived at her home. Afraid to be left alone, yet also fearing
that if Mackenzie went in with her there might be some talk about it
amongst the neighbours of a suspicious turn of mind, she stopped and
hesitated.

“It is late,” said Mackenzie, “but I want to have a talk with you, so I
will come in for a little.” After this, of course, she could say
nothing.

“You mean to tell me,” he said, as he sat down, “that Jones not goin’ on
no better than before?”

“No, Mr. Mac; him gamble too much, an’ stay out late every night. He
won’t hear what I say to him at all.”

“What you goin’ to do?”

“I make up me mind. I am goin’ back to Jamaica.”

He was silent for the space of a minute. Then:

“Instead of goin’ back, why don’t you get married?” he asked.

The proposal was made so simply—for Susan understood it as such quite
well—that it took her breath away. She knew that Mackenzie liked her,
but it had never occurred to her that he would ever want to marry her.
He had been a good friend, but had never shown any sentiment; he had
even tried to induce Jones to keep in her good graces. Now that she had
said that she was returning to Jamaica (though, in spite of her emphatic
words, she was not at all sure that she meant it)—only now did
Mackenzie reveal his innermost feelings.

She was surprised. Confused too, for she did not quite know what answer
to give. She began picking at an end of her handkerchief with her teeth,
while she revolved in her mind this strange, unexpected turn of events.
Marriage meant a great deal to her. It would give her position, security
. . . and she had more than sufficient excuse for leaving Jones.

Nevertheless she hesitated to agree. Mackenzie was fully twice her age.
She liked him as a friend, not as she had liked Samuel; and
marriage—that was very different from an engagement.

“If you go back to Jamaica, what y’u going to do?” Mackenzie asked,
seeing that she could not make up her mind.

“I don’t know,” she answered frankly.

Mackenzie was well aware of the importance of the proposal he had made.
It was much to offer marriage to Susan, for though she was good-looking
and a capable housewife, and would easily find some one to take care of
her if she deserted Jones and remained in Panama, there were not many
men in his position who might be willing to marry her. And if she
returned to Jamaica her chances of a comfortable living would not be
many. But he also knew that Jones was a much younger man than he, a more
dashing kind of man; and perhaps Susan would prefer another of the same
type, even though he might not offer her marriage. He, Mackenzie,
however, would not break his heart if Susan refused him. There was not
much passion in his composition.

Susan remembered how Jones had promised to marry her, and then had
broken his promise. She had never quite forgiven him that. Then the
habit of drinking might grow upon him. She was well aware that he drank,
not so much through inclination, as from a desire to vie with others who
did so. His ambition was to be considered “a sport,” but he might become
a drunkard. And she had no claim upon him.

Mackenzie was a steady man. If she married him, she could become a
member of a church. That would mean a definite rise in the social scale;
her respectability would then be beyond challenge, beyond question. The
ring on her finger would be the outward and visible sign of her right to
respectful treatment on earth below, and also the promise of an
uninterrupted passage to heaven in the unfortunate event of death. When
she had thought of all these things she came to a provisional decision.

“I can’t answer you right away, Mr. Mac,” she said, “for it is like dis.
When a gurl goin’ to take a step like marriage it is right she should
think well what she doin’. Don’t I right?”

Mackenzie nodded his agreement.

“Well, then, I will write y’u on Friday an’ tell you me answer. I know
you will treat me kind, Mr. Mac.”

“Tell you what we better do, then,” said Mackenzie, who believed in
businesslike arrangements. “If you write me on Friday morning, I will
get the letter during the day. If it is all right, I will get a licence
from de judge at Culebra, an’ he will perform the ceremony when you
come. When you think you will come?”

“Saturday. But I would prefer a parson to marry me.”

“That not easy, for we don’t have time. The judge married almost
everybody in de Zone. You going to tell Jones?”

“No! Why you ask dat?”

“I don’t see why you shouldn’t tell him. Him would only talk an’
bluster, but him is not the sort of man to do anything. Howsoever,
follow you’ own mind.”

He said good night without any attempt at endearment. Susan saw him
downstairs; it was very late. Being much too tired to do any thinking,
she went to bed and fell asleep, spitefully hoping that Jones would
reflect upon his conduct all night in the calaboose of Colon.

On the following morning Jones was fined ten dollars for a breach of the
peace—a light sentence, since the police had at first been inclined to
charge him with attempted murder. Tom escaped with a fine of five
dollars, presumably because he had not been murdered; and both men were
severely warned that the next time they appeared before the court it
would go hard with them, and that in the meantime the police would be
instructed to keep an eye upon them.

In addition to this Samuel lost half a day’s pay, to say nothing of some
hours in a cell shared by insects which vigorously disputed its
possession with him.

It was an embittered Jones that went home that afternoon. His friends,
instead of going to bail him, had avoided the vicinity of the calaboose;
Susan herself had not come near him. He had been deserted by those who
should have rallied to his cause, though he himself would have stood by
them to the end. He solemnly swore that he never again would put his
faith in Jamaicans.

Susan waited until he had voiced his complaints, and had eaten his
dinner. Then she opened her attack.

“Sam, you not ashamed of you’self?”

He was, but was not prepared to admit it. That would be a lowering of
his dignity. “What for?” he asked her sullenly.

“That you goin’ on in this way to make me fret. You quarrel, an’ fight,
an’ drink, an’ gamble, an’ won’t hear what I say. You think you goin’ on
right?”

“But what is all this for now?” he demanded angrily. “Instead of feeling
vex that them wanted to hang me without a trial in Colon, you begin to
ask me all sort of foolish question. You want to provoke me?”

“I don’t want to provoke y’u, but I am going to ask you one plain
question. Don’t you think you should try to behave you’self now, an’
marry me, after you bring me to Colon an’ make me mind disturbed night
an’ day? Suppose the policeman did kill you last night: what position I
would be into to-day?”

“You mean to say you going back to all that foolishness again, Susan?”
he cried, scandalized by her persistence in stupidity. “I am not going
to talk about marriage, an’ as I can’t have peace in this place, I am
going out.” Then, before Susan could make any further remark, he seized
his hat and left the room in a temper.

Then Susan locked the door, took pen, ink, and paper out of one of her
cupboards, and sat down to write. She had given Samuel a last chance. He
had answered her as he had done before. In a sentence or two she
informed Mackenzie that she would leave Colon for Culebra by the second
train on Saturday morning.

Then she indicted a letter to her father. This was an important epistle,
for she calculated upon its being shown to a large number of persons in
Kingston. She informed her father that “When these few lines come to
hand, hoping it will reach you in the same good health it leave me, your
affectionate daughter will be Mrs. John Mackenzie, for I am going to
married to a nice gentleman working with the American people up at
Culebra. Jones is too bad. He meet Tom the other night at a dance, and
make a row and I have to fret too much. But I wouldn’t leave him all the
same if I wasn’t a girl that like religion as you brought me up, and
beside it is an honourable life to get married. Tell Kate and Eliza them
must follow my example, for God bless me and smile on me, and I have
everything I want and Mackenzie care for me, otherwise him wouldn’t want
to put a ring on me finger. If it wasn’t that I always fear the Lord
this good luck wouldn’t happen to me, and I going to pray for all of
you. Tell Kate and Eliza them mustn’t keep any bad company in Kingston,
and make Maria and her old obeah mother know that I married, for it will
hurt them. Tell mammee and Aunt Deborah that I will rite them.—Yours
truly loving daughter,

“SUSAN.”

Then an idea occurred to her, and she added a postscript.

“I send some money for all of you out of what I save. It is a wedding
present.”

This wedding present consisted of five pounds. Only once before had she
written to her people, and then she had enclosed three pounds. She
thought, and rightly, that she was acting generously by them.

She regarded this composition with no little pride, then, though
fatigued by such unwonted mental exertion, she proceeded to compose
another letter. It was brief and to the point.

“DEAR SAM,—When I ask you Thursday evening after you leave the
jail if you was going to keep your promise on board ship and
marry me you say no. Alright then. I am obliged to leave you for
I am going to marry another gentleman who you know. Mr. Mac has
been good to me, and when you get this letter I will be Mrs.
Mackenzie, but if you did behave yourself I wouldn’t go away
from you but it is all your own fault.—Yours affectionate,

“SUSAN PROUDLEIGH.”

She folded these letters, enclosed them in envelopes, and carefully
addressed them. She would post Mackenzie’s that evening. To-morrow she
would buy postal orders for five pounds and then register the letter to
Jamaica; in the meantime the letters that were to be posted the next day
were carefully locked away by her in a little box which she kept at the
bottom of her trunk. Susan had carefully observed how absconding wives
acted in moving-picture dramas. These wrote their last farewells in the
space of five seconds, read them over with frowning brows, sealed them,
and placed them in a most conspicuous position in order that they should
not by any possibility be overlooked. A wife of this type would scarcely
have left the house before the husband would return, and there, on the
table, would be the letter waiting for him, as large as life. But he
never saw it at once. Some occult influence, apparently, kept his eyes
away from it. He would look round the room, search the ceiling for the
missing one, scrutinize the floor, survey the atmosphere, and would be
on the point of leaving the room when his eye would fall upon the table
and the letter would be seen. This procedure would probably give him
just sufficient time to rush into the street, summon the motor-car that
always attends upon the movements of repentant husbands, and dash off to
the railway station or the ship’s dock, or the house to which his wife
had fled. A second more and he would have been too late. In the
moving-picture world, however, time itself is subordinate to the
imperious demands of domestic felicity, and the reconciliation takes
place dramatically with a public embrace.

That Jones might rush to the railway station, she knew. But instead of a
reconciliation there might be a quarrel. There might be an arrest. She
concluded that she would post Sam’s letter at one of the stations at
which the train would stop while on the way to Culebra; by the time he
received it she would have been already married. She went out and posted
Mackenzie’s letter, called on a friend to discuss the scene of the
preceding night, and returned home to find Samuel waiting for her.

He was much earlier than usual. The truth is, he was still very much
frightened and wished to run no further risks with vigilant policemen.
He had opinions to express, and he sought the security of his own
dwelling to give utterance to them; Susan gathered from his remarks that
he would very much like to hoist the standard of revolution in the
Republic of Panama, summoning thereto all the West Indians who suffered
under the tyranny of the laws. A Jamaican named Preston had many years
before been prominently identified with a revolutionary movement in this
same country. All Jamaica had rung with his name. Jones’s idea was
annexation; Panama should be taken by West Indians for the British
Crown, the Protestant religion should be firmly established, the
natives, and especially that portion of them attached to the Police
Force, should be put in their proper places. Sir Henry Morgan had once
burnt the old city of Panama. And Sir Henry had done it with men from
Jamaica. “If that could be done in the old days,” said Jones, “we could
do more now that we are stronger. A couple of English man-o’-war would
soon show them a thing or two!”

But presently he was assailed by doubts as to the part the British
Government would consent to play in such a laudable enterprise. He was
not sure that England was alive to her opportunities in this part of the
world. He confided his misgivings to Susan, who saw in his ambitions
clear evidence of a desire for further trouble. But she quietly agreed
with everything he said, which pleased him immensely. He noticed too
that she did not even remotely approach again the perilous question of
marriage. She seemed to accept the existing situation as permanent. In
an outburst of confidence he passed from Imperialistic aspirations to
her own affairs, and told her how he had been accosted by an old woman
on the night before leaving Kingston, who had warned him about her and
Tom Wooley.

“That was Mother Smith,” said Susan. “She wanted to injure me.”

“But she has not accomplished her purpose,” he graciously replied; “an’
between you and I an’ the door, I sorry I make a fool of myself last
night over a little fellow like Tom Wooley. The fact is, I was drunk. I
know you wouldn’t leave Samuel Josiah for anybody here: love me too
much! An’ nothing anybody say will make me leave you.”

That closed the conversation. He did not notice that Susan said nothing
in answer to these remarks.

* * * * *

Friday night came, the last she was to pass under that roof. Something
unusual happened. After dinner, Jones announced that he was not going
out, and for an instant she wondered, startled, if he had any inkling of
her plans. But her mind was soon at ease. Samuel had not recovered from
the effects of those few hours in gaol. He had received a lesson; he did
not wish for a repetition. He drank nothing: drinking was largely a
matter of show and bravado with him. He had purchased some Jamaica
newspapers that day, and diligently read the news while she sat idle,
thinking of the plan she would carry out in the morning. Even his views
on the annexation of Panama were not mentioned.

Saturday morning came. Had Jones been an observant man he might have
noticed that Susan was unusually nervous, and that she bade him
“good-bye” when he was going out to work. She watched him go, then
hastily made her final preparations. She packed all the things she
needed into a trunk and a straw “grip,” ran downstairs, summoned a cab,
had her trunk brought down, and gave the key of her apartment to a
neighbour, whom she asked to hand it to Samuel when he should come home
that afternoon. Then she drove to the railway station at Christobal,
half-fearing, half-wishing that Jones might see her. In a few minutes
she had passed through the iron gates of the station and had taken her
seat in a second-class carriage of the train.

She was conscious now of a strange sensation somewhere about her heart.
There was a tightening there; there was a lump in her throat; the
inclination was strong upon her to quit the train, to turn back, to
leave marriage and Mackenzie alone. She was nervous, excited, but she
did not feel happy. In a vague kind of way she realized that she was
cutting herself off from the past, entering a new life. . . .

The train moved out of the station. It gathered speed and flew towards
Culebra. She looked out of the window, seeing the long low range of
buildings in which lived the coloured employees of the railway; she saw
the verandas on which the clothes were hung out to dry, where the food
was cooked, where fruit of all kinds was exposed for sale and
healthy-looking children played to their hearts’ content. Soon the train
was running through the swamp outside of Colon and on the mainland of
Panama. Long grass grew in the black water, a thick jungle where fever
lurked, and deadly tarantulas and all sorts of evil things; but the
swamp was passed and now green pastures appeared, and in the distance
she could catch a glimpse of green low-lying hills.

The train stopped every now and then at the Labour Towns along the
route. Masses of wooden buildings clung to hill-sides, the forest grew
beyond them, defiant, the riotous vegetation of this strip of tropical
America striving ceaselessly with man for the mastery. These towns
seemed alive with workers, there was activity everywhere, an eternal
movement. And every now and then an almost interminable train of cars;
laden with rocks and earth dug out of the great Cut at Culebra, would
rush at full speed by her train with a thunderous deafening roar.

On and on, through the forest. Monteliro was reached, and here she asked
a fellow-passenger who had arrived at his destination to post Sam’s
letter for her. Frijoles, and now she saw the turbulent Chagres, the
problem of the Canal Administration’s engineers, rolling peacefully, a
broad and shining river, between its verdant banks. It stretched away
into the distance, travelling through a luxuriant country to the sea,
its surface lighted up by the sun and breaking into iridescent flashes
of silver light.

She saw it all, but half unconsciously. The nature of the ground began
to change. The soil was red; low, rounded hills went rising one after
another to the far-off horizon; the towns were becoming more numerous
too, each one of them a cluster of slate-roofed buildings with
well-constructed streets and paths winding in and out amongst them.

San Pablo, Gorgona, Matachin; the land was rising now. Black earth and
huge black rocks proclaimed the volcanic nature of the soil. The country
became more open, the forests had disappeared. She was nearing Empire.
The next station after that would be Culebra. There Mackenzie would be
waiting for her; there, in at the latest a couple of hours hence, she
would become Mrs. Mackenzie. That thought had never left her mind; it
now obsessed her to the exclusion of every other thought. So she was
actually going to be married! It was not the sort of wedding she would
have preferred, not the sort of ceremony she would have had in Jamaica.
In that country the bridegroom would have hired three carriages at
least; and six bridesmaids, all dressed in white, would have waited upon
her in the church. And all the guests would have been gaily attired; the
women unaffectedly excited, the men striving to show how imperturbably
serene they could be even in the face of such a crisis. She pictured the
scene; her triumphal parade in a carriage to the church, with the
black-coated man beside her who was to give her away—her father, of
course, though she did not think he became the position well. She was
beautifully dressed; a long veil flowed over her head and shoulders; in
her right hand she carried a huge bunch of lilies and white roses. The
ceremony over, she returned with her husband to the house where the
wedding feast was prepared. As she appeared at the door a choir of
female voices, led by her friend, Cordelia Sampson, burst into
song—“Let us open the Door to the Children, the Door of the Kingdom of
Heaven.” Then would come the congratulations, and inquiries would be
made of the spinsters as to when they would follow her good example and
make a few men supremely happy; something which, as Susan knew, they
were quite ready to do at any moment, the only obstacle being the
reluctance of the men to be made happy.

And then the wedding feast. She saw the long decorated table covered
with cakes and sweets and glasses, and at the head of it all, towering
above everything else, the bridal cake. Behind this cake stood herself
and her husband, but he did not resemble Mackenzie. His face, his form,
his voice, his language, his gestures, were those of Jones; it was Jones
who had met her at the church door, Jones who had said, “I will,” Jones
who was with her now, ready to respond to the toast to the bride and
bridegroom. The speeches were stereotyped: she already knew them by
heart. She and her husband were likened first to a pair of turtle-doves,
then afterwards to a pair of white pigeons, the winged creation figuring
prominently as types of matrimonial constancy and bliss. Then Isaac and
Rebecca would be mentioned, and some ambitious speaker, anxious to excel
in oratory, but rather weak in scriptural knowledge, might compare them
to Ananias and Sapphira. Eventually she and her husband would leave
while the dancing was going on, first taking care to make such desperate
efforts to escape unobserved that the departure would become as public
as a well-advertised show. There would be a shower of rose petals, a
chorus of cries——

“Culebra!”

The train stopped. Looking down upon the station and the railway line
was a large building the veranda of which was adorned with a flowering
vine. And other buildings beside and behind this one, and steps cut,
into the high sloping bank which led up to them. Scores of people were
hastily descending from the train at this station, she amongst them. She
looked round. “The train arrive in time to-day,” said Mackenzie
pleasantly.

That afternoon she became Mrs. Mackenzie.

“This hill really hard to climb, an’ de cramps is troubling me feet so
much that it make me feel funny,” said Mr. Proudleigh dolorously.

“The longest journey must hend at last,” his sister consolingly
observed, as Mr. Proudleigh halted in the middle of the steep path and
gazed upwards at the height which yet remained to be climbed.

“If you did know you couldn’t walk it, pupa, you shouldn’t come,” said
Catherine irreverently. “Old people shouldn’t try and do what them know
them can’t do.”

“Y’u don’t have no feelings for you’ poor ole father, Kate,” replied Mr.
Proudleigh sternly. “If I was a young gal, I would treat the old folkses
respectably. There is a commandment in de Bible which say that forty she
bear destroy the children that mock at Elijah, and——”

“You are misquoting de Scripture, Jim,” cried his sister; “an’ though
Kate should treat you respectfully, which is your own daughter, yet I
really thinks you should make an endeavour to reach Susan house before
night come down.”

Mr. Proudleigh groaned, but struggled manfully forward. After the party
had toiled slowly upwards for another couple of minutes they saw coming
towards them two young Americans busily engaged in conversation. When
these drew near enough Mr. Proudleigh accosted them, giving them his
favourite military salute.

“Gentlemen,” he panted, “can you direct de old man to where Mrs. Susan
Mackenzie live? De Lord will bless y’u ef you can render——” But the
young men had passed on without even looking at him.

“Well, what manners!” exclaimed Mr. Proudleigh. “Nobody ever treat me
like dat before!” With this remark he made a movement as if he would sit
down by the roadside, perhaps for the purpose of reflecting on the
discourteous treatment just received.

But Catherine was obdurate. “You can’t sit down, pupa,” she insisted,
with something of Susan’s severity. “You got to try an’ walk it, even if
you tired. An’ don’t ask any more American the way to Susan’s house, for
them not going to answer you, an’ it is not to be supposed that them can
know where everybody live. If we see a man from Jamaica we can ask him;
but we not goin’ to meet anybody if we loiter here.”

Again Mr. Proudleigh groaned, and again he feebly tottered forward, too
exhausted now to indulge in any further observation.

Presently they came to more level ground; as they reached this they saw
yawning, to their left, a tremendous chasm, into the depths of which
they plunged their eyes affrighted, for they had had no idea of what
they would come upon. The three of them halted simultaneously, Mr.
Proudleigh delighted with any excuse to pause for a moment. They were
accustomed to the steep precipices of Jamaica, declivities of a thousand
feet and more, with almost sheer perpendicular walls, vast openings in
the earth, to peer down into which might make one sick and dizzy. But
this was different.

On either side of the great Cut had been carved gigantic terraces, a
sort of giant’s stairway, and along the whole length of these terraces,
as far as their eyes could reach, were railway lines, and along these
lines long trains were passing continuously, and men were everywhere
below, moving up and down, and looking like pygmies in the distance.

It was but a small section of the Culebra Cut, and not the busiest, that
Mr. Proudleigh and his womenfolk saw that afternoon. Little given as
they were to speculation or to thinking, about things that did not
directly concern them, they perceived that a great mountain had been
cleft in twain by the hand of man, and the wonderful signs of intense
energy that the busy scene below presented could not fail to impress
them. But not for long. Mr. Proudleigh was weary, and so was more intent
just then upon finding out where Susan lived than upon admiring the work
that was being carried on before his eyes. Miss Proudleigh, on the other
hand, perceived a comparison between the dividing of Culebra Hill and
the parting of the waters of the Red Sea for the safe passage of the
escaping Israelites. The latter she naturally approved of. But this work
on the hill afflicted her mind with misgivings.

“If the Lord did intend the hill to cut in two,” she said, as they
resumed their walk, “He would have cut it Himself. But now man think he
can improve God’s handiwork, an’ p’rhaps he is only provoking the Lord
to wrath.”

“That is so,” her brother agreed; “dis Canal may bring a judgment. If
them offer me a job on it, I won’t teck it! What them want to dig out
all dis dirt for? I remember that when the Car Company was layin’ de
electric car line in Kingston, I dream one night——”

“You will have to both sleep an’ dream out here to-night, sah, if you go
on talkin’ foolishness an’ don’t hurry up!” exclaimed Catherine, now
thoroughly impatient. “If them didn’t commence diggin’ the Canal, Susan
wouldn’t married, an’ you would now be in Jamaica instead of here.”

Viewed as a contributory cause of Susan’s good fortune, Mr. Proudleigh
instantly agreed that there was a great deal to be said for the Canal.
He would have explained its good points at length, but Catherine
absolutely refused to listen. In silence, therefore, they continued upon
their way.

They could already see before them a number of wooden buildings, one,
two, and three storeys high; it was obvious to them that they were now
approaching a town of no inconsiderable size.

They saw people too, and they gladly observed that some of these were
coloured men. Catherine undertook to question one of them. Did he know
Mrs. Mackenzie? He did not, but thought that Catherine would easily find
the person she was seeking if she inquired at the quarters where the
coloured people lived. These were a little farther away, and there was
nothing for it but that they should proceed thither, without delay.

Mr. Proudleigh would have protested, but even he realized that protests
would be of no avail. Happily, they had not a long distance to go. And
when the old man caught sight of the neat verandaed wire-screened
cottages provided for the skilled coloured employees of the Canal
Commission, his spirits revived wonderfully. Catherine soon found some
one who knew where Susan lived. This man was kind enough to guide them
to the place.

It was a four-roomed single-storey house, built upon high foundations
and provided with a comfortable little veranda. Though Susan’s relatives
had been expecting to find her comfortably situated, this house was
distinctly superior to anything they had imagined she would have. Mr.
Proudleigh immediately calculated that in Jamaica its rental value would
be at least two pounds a month, and the class of persons who could
afford to live in such residences were, from his point of view, very
well off indeed. As the front door and windows were closed, Catherine
timidly knocked at the door. “Come in,” said a voice, which, they at
once recognized.

They opened the door and entered.

Susan was sitting in a rocking-chair, sewing something that looked like
a waist. As she caught sight of her visitors she started up with an
exclamation.

“Kate! Papee! What’s the matter? Why you come?”

The persons thus addressed faced her a little confusedly. Miss
Proudleigh remained in the rear, thus discreetly leaving it to the
others to bear the brunt of Susan’s questioning.

“Me dearest daughter!” exclaimed Mr. Proudleigh, evading any direct
reply just then by a magnificent display of paternal solicitude, “I
can’t tell you how you’ poor ole father is glad to see you! From you
leave me in Jamaica I been fretting after you, an’ now to think dat I
see you wid me own eye in your own mansion!”

He seated himself as he spoke, somewhat disconcerted to observe that
Susan showed no inclination to kiss him, but still continued looking at
him and at the others with a puzzled stare.

“What’s the matter?” she asked again. “Where is mammee an’ Eliza? Why
y’u come here?”

“Mammee an’ Eliza quite well, Sue,” said Catherine. “Them both remain
behind in Jamaica.” She paused, leaving it to the others to explain why
they had come to Panama. She had followed her father’s example and sat
down. So had Miss Proudleigh.

“The sea voyage was very rough, Susan,” remarked the latter lady, as
though a recital of her sufferings would sufficiently explain her reason
for coming to Panama, as well as relieve the obvious embarrassment of
the situation. “I never was so sea-sick before. I couldn’t move for a
whole day.”

“Nor me,” asseverated Mr. Proudleigh promptly. “I never sick like dat
before. I thought I would vomit me heart out, an’ de more I sick, the
more de vessel roll. But I comfort meself wid the reflections that I
would soon see me own daurter again, who was married to a noble
gentleman; an’ when I dwelted upon that, it sort of seem to me that I
didn’t sick so much.”

He glanced at Susan’s face to see how this authentic account of the
effect of fatherly affection on sea-sickness had appealed to her. Not
very much encouraged by her look, he hurried on.

“I nearly died; nevertheless, thanks be to God, I survive me agonies,
an’ now that I see you once more, I can die in peace. You remember dat
old man in the Scriptures, Sue, who say, ‘Lord, now let Thy servant
depart in peace’?——”

“You mean to tell me, pupa, that you only come here to see me, and then
die afterwards?” demanded Susan.

“Well, not exactly, Sue, for I are not prepared fo’ death.”

“Then what y’u come for?”

Driven to his last ditch, Mr. Proudleigh determined to offer no defence,
but to cast himself upon the enemy’s clemency.

“Sue,” said he pathetically, “you don’t appears to be glad to see me.
But if it was you who did come to Jamaica, I would have killed the
fatted calf for you.” This reference to the fatted calf was not only
intended to convince Susan that she would have been welcomed by him, but
also to indicate that bodily refreshment would be most acceptable at
that moment.

Susan would not immediately take the hint. But she had by now recovered
from her first feeling of astonishment and was beginning to be glad to
see some of her people once more. She knew her father and her aunt,
however; she was well aware that they would have written to tell her of
their coming had they thought she would have approved of the reason for
it. She was still suspicious; they had as yet explained nothing. She
turned to Catherine with a view of getting at the bottom of the mystery
at once, when her father, as if suddenly inspired, started out without
further circumlocution on the perilous path of truth.

“The fact of de matter, Sue,” he said, “is that I did always want to
come to Colon. An’ when I got you’ letter that say you was going to
married, an’ receive the five pounds, for which God is goin’ to bless
you, if Him don’t bless you already, I say to you’ mother: ‘I am goin’
to follow me daurter to Colon an’ keep her company, for she must be
lonely.’ An’ I tell them to sell the things in the little shops, which
was not doin’ too well since you lefted us, an’ I advise them all to
come wid me. But you’ mother misjudge you, an’ say you wouldn’t like it;
but I know you wouldn’t mind, for it is me that bring you up since you
was born, an’ look after you, an’ train you in the way you should go,
an’ I persuaded meself that you was not goin’ to be ungrateful. But you’
mother wouldn’t come, an’ Eliza had to stay wid her; but your aunt and
Kate come with me, an’ they are sensible, for you always hear me say I
would like to come to Colon, an’ if you didn’t want me to come you
wouldn’t send five pounds for me in you’ letter.”

“Then you mean to tell me, pupa,” cried Susan, “that—that y’u come here
to live in this house, an’ didn’t even write to tell me?”

“We wanted to give you a pleasant surprise, Sue,” said Miss Proudleigh,
to whom prevarication did not appear as a heinous offence.

“You mean you know that I wouldn’t want you to come, so you keep it
secret!” exclaimed Susan. “I never hear of such a madness before. What
y’u going to do now? You can’t stay here: Mackenzie wouldn’t like it.”

Catherine had been fearing some such announcement. Now, in self-defence,
she said, “I didn’t want to come, Sue.”

“But you are more all right than pupa an’ Aunt Deborah,” said Susan.
“You are young an’ can work; an’ I don’t think Mackenzie would mind if
you stay with me. But Aunt Deborah an’ papee shouldn’t come here at all,
for them don’t have much use for old people in this country.”

“Hexcuse me, Susan,” said Miss Proudleigh with impressive dignity, “but
I objects to being called old. I am only forty.”

“I thought you was fifty,” said Susan rudely.

“You right, Sue!” exclaimed Mr. Proudleigh. “I am sixty year of age, an’
I remember the very day you’ aunt was born. I don’t see why she want to
hide ’er age; age is no disgrace, an’ if a ooman keeps herself
respectfully she should have no concealment from her fambily. Now, when
you’ aunt was born——”

Shocked by the desertion of Mr. Proudleigh at a moment when it was vital
that the invading forces should present a solid front to the enemy, Miss
Proudleigh deemed it advisable to leave the age question severely alone
and adopt a pacific attitude before her brother should adduce the
damaging testimony of days and dates against her. She cut him short with
a diplomatic remark.

“I am not young an’ strong like you, Sue,” she said, with a propitiatory
smile, “an’ the Lord have not blessed me like you, though I am not
ungrateful for His manifold kindness. But I didn’t come here to live on
you. Things is very hard in Jamaica, an’ as I know that you married an’
have influence over here, I thought as you might help me to get a little
dressmakin’ or washing so as to keep me independent. I don’t want
anything but work.”

“Nor me,” said Catherine sturdily. “Nobody can tell me that I can’t make
a good living in Panama, though I couldn’t be a servant.”

Mr. Proudleigh said nothing. Now that the talk was of work, and he was
actually in Panama, he did not care to remind anyone that while in
Jamaica he had never lost an opportunity of proclaiming his readiness to
earn his own living whenever the chance of so doing should present
itself to him.

But Susan wasn’t thinking of his capabilities just then. In her aunt’s
suggestion she saw a way out of the difficulty. “You can get plenty of
washin’ if you want it,” she said quickly, “either up here or in Colon.
You an’ pupa will ’ave to live together by you’self, but Kate can stop
with me.”

“I prefer to go back to Colon,” said Kate. “I like what I see of it, an’
this place look dull.”

“It dull for true!” agreed Susan, “an’ though I would like you to stay
with me, I know Colon livelier than up here.”

Mr. Proudleigh, who had been secretly hoping to spend at least some
months in the comparative calm of Culebra, did not approve of the
suggestion that he should live with his sister or that he should return
to Colon. Nor did he like Susan’s reference to the dullness of the
labour town in which she lived. It did not argue a contented mind. The
house she was mistress of, the furniture she possessed, the leisure she
evidently enjoyed seemed to him enough to make any woman happy for the
rest of her life, especially if to all these things could be added the
blessing of a father’s presence and words of cheer.

“You should be very comfortable, Sue,” he suggested. “A young married
ooman like you shouldn’t have a thing to fret her.”

“Don’t you are now a member of society, Sue?” asked her aunt.

“Yes; I belong to de Baptist church up here, an’ I going to join the
choir.”

“And don’t you’ husband treat you good?” inquired her father.

“Of course! I didn’t say him didn’t!”

This sharp answer, given in the form of a threatening question, checked
at once the impending flow of Mr. Proudleigh’s interrogatory. But
further to prevent any more personal inquiries, and remembering that her
relatives must be hungry, Susan invited them into the dining-room, where
they found a table covered with a clean cloth, a meat-safe, and a few
chairs. She took some cold food out of the meat-safe and placed it
before them, offering the older folk, in addition, a little Jamaica rum,
which Mackenzie always kept in the house. This they drank at once, Mr.
Proudleigh secretly hoping for a further supply of the same liquor. He
expressed his astonishment at the thirst created by the Panamanian
climate, then prepared himself to dine.

Continue Reading

THE FLY IN THE OINTMEN

The clanging of bells awakened Susan and Jones the next morning. The
sharp peals came insistently from different directions; from Christobal,
where the labourers were being warned that the day’s work would shortly
begin once more; from the shunting trains and engines along the
water-front of Colon; from the ships in the harbour. The noise pervaded
the little town, and soon every one was stirring and preparing for the
labours which, however diverse and apparently unconnected, had all a
very definite connection with the one great undertaking of Panama, the
building of the Canal.

Jones was soon ready to report himself for duty at Christobal. Whatever
his failings, shirking his work was not one of them; he had been trained
in the workshops of the Jamaica Government Railway, where discipline was
well understood and where each man had been well drilled into his work.
Jones had grumbled at his chiefs at the railway, but now he thought of
them with pride and was determined to show the American bosses that a
British subject who had served the Government was in no wise inferior to
any man from the States.

He had an early breakfast at the cook-shop where he had lunched the day
before, then hurried off to Christobal, where Mackenzie had promised to
meet him at eight o’clock. Mackenzie appeared on time, and together they
went into the office of Labour and Quarters. Here the arrangements
between Jones and the Canal Commission were promptly concluded.

Jones was to work in the railway shop in Christobal as an
under-mechanic. He was to receive fifteen, dollars a week, payable every
fortnight, and could have free quarters in the Canal Zone, house
accommodation being regarded as part of his salary. He gladly accepted
this offer of houseroom, but was somewhat disconcerted when Mackenzie
asked him if he proposed to leave Susan to live by herself in Colon.

“Can’t she come with me?” he asked, partly of Mackenzie, partly of the
American clerk.

“Who is ‘she’?” inquired the latter.

“A female of mine,” he replied—“a young lady I am talking to.”

“Well, you don’t want to talk to a woman all the time, do you?” asked
the American. “Is she your wife?”

“Not exactly,” said Jones; “she is a young female under my protection
an’ care; I am responsible to her parents for her. We are practically
husband an’ wife, though I don’t put a ring on her finger as yet.”

“Nothin’ doin’!” returned the clerk emphatically. “We kain’t allow them
sort of things here. You’ve got to marry that female of yours if you
want her to live in the Zone. Judge Riggs in the court building near
here will fix you right now if you go to him, and then I’ll give you
married people’s quarters. Now I guess there’s some other people waitin’
on me, so you’d better make up your mind quick, or get out.”

Jones stared at the clerk, wondering if he should not immediately resent
his peremptory manner of disposing of Samuel Josiah Jones, but Mackenzie
took him aside and explained to him that by an ordinance issued some
time before, in obedience to the outraged moral sentiments of America,
it was made compulsory that only married men and women should live
together in the Zone. “It is a hard rule,” said Mackenzie, “an’ a lot of
people only form that they married. The Americans don’t bother them,
unless they can’t help it. But if them find it out, an’ have to take
notice, there is a big fine. That’s why I warn you in time. P’rhaps you
better married you’ sweetheart, an’ get a comfortable little house in
the Zone, like a lot of other Jamaica people.”

“Me?” said Jones. “I let a man force me to marry if I don’t want to do
it? No, me brother! It’s an infringement of the rights of the subject,
that’s what I call it! I have a good mind to go back to that man an’
tell him I am a British subject an’ born under the English flag!”

“That’s what a lot of people from Jamaica is always sayin’ here,”
replied Mackenzie dryly. “Only, some of them say they’re a British
object.”

“An’ what the Americans do?” inquired Jones anxiously.

“Laugh at them, an’ say them don’t care what sort of object Jamaicans
are. You don’t bluff out an American easy in this place, Jones. Them
don’t talk a lot like we do in Jamaica; wid some of them it is a word
an’ a blow, an’ a blow first if you cheek them too much.”

“You don’t mean to tell me that them ill-treat a man down here?” asked
Jones, beginning to feel alarmed.

“No; not if you don’t interfere wid them. There is plenty of law in the
Zone, like in Jamaica. If you mind you’ own business, do you’ work, an’
keep you’self to you’self, you will be perfectly all right. But of
course if you abuse them, an’ go about an’ talk all the time about you
are a British subject, some of them will hurt you. You meet some of the
toughest men in the world down here. I don’t know where them come from!”

“This is a funny place, me friend!” cried Jones indignantly. “They don’t
seem to care about a man’s feelings at all. If I was a married man now,
what that American say or do would not affect my peace of mind; but I am
not a married man. An’ yet I don’t like the prospective view of livin’
in Colon, an’ I can’t leave Sue to live by herself. You don’t think she
could come with me as me cousin?”

Mackenzie explained that the Canal Zone authorities drew the line
sternly at unmarried cousins.

“Well, in that case Sue an’ me will have to live in Colon, an’ the
Americans can keep their house. What am I to do now?”

Mackenzie advised him to report himself at the railway machine shop
without delay, and propose to turn in to work the next morning. They
would allow him time to get quarters in Colon. He, Mackenzie, was on
vacation this week, and would help Jones to find a suitable apartment in
a decent part of the town.

Together they went to the machine shop, where Jones beheld in one great
building more engines than he had ever seen in his life. They were of
all sizes, from the diminutive engines used on soft ground or for
conveying materials to the workmen, to the giant locomotives that could
pull any number of laden freight cars at high speed. Hundreds of men
were at work in this place repairing the engines, the air resounded with
the clangour of hammers striking on hard metal, the workers swarmed
under and around the iron monsters as though they were ants. Jones was
impressed. Here was something he could understand: this mere collection
of railway machinery told him, as nothing else could have done, that the
building of the Panama Canal was a stupendous undertaking. He allowed
Mackenzie to do most of the talking for him, and it was agreed that he
should not report himself for service until eight o’clock on the
following morning.

This matter settled, they went back to Susan, who had managed to procure
some breakfast in the meantime; then the three of them set out on the
hunt for a large apartment. The rain, having temporarily exhausted its
energies during the night, was not falling now, indeed Mackenzie thought
that there wouldn’t be much rain that day. It was gloomy enough
overhead, but here and there the clouds had broken, allowing tiny
patches of muddy blue to be seen. Colon was wet; but, compared with its
condition on the day before, it might almost be said that Colon was
bright. The people moving about were in cheerful spirits. Susan herself
began to feel lively.

Through the assistance of Mackenzie they secured an apartment in Cash
Street, at reasonable terms. Cash Street, probably originally so called
on account of its poverty, ran in an east and west direction, was the
third long thoroughfare behind Front Street, and therefore was near to
the water-front and in the very heart of the populous town. There were
numerous cross-streets in Colon, running in a north and south direction
and indicated by numbers; the house in which Susan was to live was
situated at the corner of one of these crossings: 6th Street it was
called. It was a new building, three storeys high, all of wood, with
very wide verandas, and painted a bright pink. The ground floor or first
storey was devoted to commerce; there a haberdashery shop, a barber’s
saloon, and a flourishing public-house found accommodation, and all
these businesses did a thriving trade. Susan selected a corner room on
the second storey, a room opening on a veranda six feet wide and
commanding a view of Cash and 6th Streets. Her inspection of the
premises showed her that privacy—even such limited privacy as the
poorest might enjoy in Kingston—was not appreciated here. For the
tenants kept their doors wide open and were singularly indifferent as to
who should see them or what they might be seen doing, while it was as
easy to gaze into the apartments of the houses opposite and watch the
inmates going about their intimate household duties. She noticed too
that the people living in the apartments near hers spoke English. As a
matter of fact many of the tenants in this house were British West
Indians.

The room engaged, they started out on another important errand, and
again Mackenzie was of great assistance. He took them to a furniture
shop, where Susan selected a “set” [suite] of furniture, which was to be
sent to her new address at once. The salesman, being a Chinaman, did not
imagine that “at once” signified some time in the indefinite future,
hence the furniture arrived at its destination soon after its purchasers
did. It did not take long to arrange it as Susan directed; this done,
the men went for the trunks which Susan and Jones had taken with them to
the lodging near the swamps the night before. These trunks contained not
only clothing but some domestic linen, or, to be accurate, some domestic
calico, and while the men were away Susan bought a couple of small iron
stoves, a few plates, and some other things which a good housekeeper
must have. She learnt that the cooking and the washing must be done on
the veranda or in the open courtyard below, which was always wet and
could be stared into by all the people passing by. She decided for the
veranda. In the courtyard, in addition to washtubs and cooking-stoves,
were quite a number of babies ranging from six months to five years of
age, and all stark naked, in accordance with the prevailing fashion of
tropical Spanish America. To naked babies she was not accustomed. So she
resolutely set her face against the courtyard.

She would not have the men go out for lunch that day. She provided it at
home, and as she had a turn for cooking, it was a very good meal that
she placed before them in about an hour’s time. She provided coffee
also, with a view to preventing Samuel from indulging in whisky or beer;
and as the men gulped down the hot, fragrant liquid and puffed at their
cigars, a feeling of contentment stole over them and they gave vocal
expression to their appreciation of Susan as a housewife.

She was satisfied. Her discontent of the night before had vanished.
Possessed of a new “set of furniture,” which was better than the things
she had been obliged to sell in Jamaica, settled in a busy part of the
town and fairly far from the noisome swamps, with Mackenzie also as a
good friend ready to aid them with his advice and to put himself to some
trouble on their account, she felt that her fate was by no means an
unpleasant one. “We not going to batter about from pillar to post any
more,” she observed to Jones when lunch was over. “We are comfortable
here.” And, to crown her happiness, when Jones and Mackenzie were
preparing to go out that evening, they invited her to go with them.

They did not return home until ten o’clock that night; in the interval
Susan had seen as much of Colon as she cared to see, and that was nearly
all of it. They dined out. They walked about the streets, Mackenzie
conducting the party; they hired a cab and drove along Front Street and
through Christobal, and the glitter of glass and lights in the open
bars, the crowds that gambled at cards and dice and dominoes in these
places, the shops, which kept their doors open to a late hour, appealed
to Susan, and even more to Jones, with a peculiar fascination.

Here what was done in public by people unashamed, could only take place
behind closed doors in Jamaica. Here the people had money to spend, and
spent it freely. Here there were contradictions and anomalies which were
nevertheless enjoyable. At the corner of a street, in a chapel built
entirely of any old bits of board, a self-ordained preacher from Jamaica
held forth to a small congregation on the error of their ways, though
his ways did not differ from theirs in any essential particular.
Opposite to this building was a merry-go-round in full swing and
abundantly patronized. On the other side of the street, on the second
storey of a high tenement structure, a dance was in progress, the guests
footing it to the sound given forth by an execrable band; at a little
distance away a moving-picture palace invited with flaring posters the
lovers of silent drama to come within and be stewed in a steam bath
provided by corrugated iron and the climate of Colon.

From this spot a walk of two minutes brought them to Christobal, and
there they could see dimly the huge concrete piers jutting out into the
sea—the piers which grew day by day and which were designed to
accommodate easily the largest vessels in the world. It was quiet here:
listening, they could hear the cocoa-nut palms moving their long fronds
if ever so slight a breath of wind stirred, and the long waves of the
Caribbean dash and break eternally on the coral shores of Colon.

Soon they turned their backs on Christobal, and a leisurely stroll of
ten or twelve minutes brought them nearly to the opposite end of the
little island, now artificially connected with the mainland, on which
Colon and Christobal were built. At this part of Colon there was a park,
quite new—a park with paths and seats, little fountains, evergreen
shrubs, flowering hibiscus, and banana trees. They sat here for a little
while, chatting about Jamaica and the life they had lived there, and
after that Mackenzie bade his new friends good night and they went home.

Susan was happy. This day had been so different from the previous one.

Jones went to work the next day, and as he was a competent man he had no
trouble with the workmen of superior grade or the bosses of the shop,
who were all white men. He was pleasantly surprised to find that these
bosses were quite easy in their manner, speaking in a friendly and
encouraging fashion to the men who were under them. They were far more
familiar during working hours than any Englishman in their position
would have been in Jamaica. Later on he added to his experience. Whereas
the Englishman would have recognized him outside of the shop, and would
even have been affable, his American chief did not seem to be aware of
his existence after work was over. Jones did not think that this was at
all correct.

But the pay here was nearly double what it was in Jamaica, and the work
was not so hard. Jones was too loyal to concede, even to himself, that
any American could be a better worker or organizer than an Englishman.
But he liked the eight-hour day of the Zone workshops and the liberal
wages. He felt too that he deserved these things. He deserved them in
his character of British subject and by virtue of being Samuel Josiah
Jones.

In the meantime Susan was picking up some acquaintances. This was not
difficult; she had money to spend; and as she lived in an apartment of a
distinctly decent type, she was regarded as a desirable person to know
by young women of more or less her own class. Some of these she had
known in Jamaica, but had lost sight of for quite a long time. These
young women were either married or “engaged,” and their menfolk were all
in fairly good positions.

What with visiting one another, going to church on Sundays when so
inclined, taking chances in the National Lottery, and gathering at the
park on those nights when the National Band insisted upon playing, Susan
and her friends passed their days pleasantly. Those who could obtain a
girl from Jamaica had a very easy time of it; but in a country where the
men outnumbered the women no girl remained a servant for long. Even so,
Susan found that she could send some of her washing to the laundry, and
could easily wash and iron the lighter things at home. Cooking she
liked, and she could make her own clothes. Samuel was generous, and now
that she knew Colon she found that the cost of living need not be very
high if one did not wish to be extravagant. She saved money.

But she had one trouble that grew as the weeks went on. After his first
few days in Colon, Samuel had begun to leave her every night, and
sometimes he did not return until eleven or twelve o’clock. She was of a
jealous disposition: one night she followed him. She tracked him to a
café near by, where he played for money with some other men. He had
fallen in with a few of the wilder spirits of the town, but as these men
played fair and he was clever at cards, he won more often than he lost.
This encouraged him to continue, and sometimes he would come home with
as much as ten dollars more than he had taken out with him. He was
always a little tipsy then, and disposed to contend loudly that Panama
was the finest country in the world.

She rated him bitterly at times, and always took good care to subtract a
portion of his winnings, which she put away in some place where he could
not easily get at it. But he minded the loss far less than her nagging;
he would have given her the money for the asking. When she upbraided him
he would bark back at her and swear to leave her if she did not behave
herself. But this threat disturbed her not at all; she knew he did not
mean it. The next night, however, he would go to meet his comrades
again.

Mackenzie was a frequent visitor, and Mackenzie made no secret of his
liking for Susan. He even went so far, once or twice, as to remonstrate
with Jones about his leaving her so much to herself at nights. But Jones
was glad when Mackenzie came to see them, for that gave him the
opportunity of pointing out to Susan that, with friends of both sexes
coming to see her, she should not complain of neglect. Susan welcomed
Mackenzie always: she could talk to him freely about the shortcomings of
Sam, and he habitually sympathized with her. It was he, too, who had
first begun to address her as Mrs. Jones in company, an example which
was speedily followed by some of her less intimate acquaintances. His
tact flattered Susan.

There were nights when Jones did not leave the house before eight
o’clock; on those occasions, if Mackenzie happened to be there, Jones
would pour into his ear a long recital of his grievances; and, as
Mackenzie was not much of a talker, Samuel had an attentive if somewhat
amused audience. Jones now pretended to a fine contempt for all things
American, and as the colour line was somewhat strictly drawn in
Christobal he was moved to frequent protests when supported by his
friends. He objected to white men being better paid than coloured men,
to there being separate white and coloured quarters in the Zone, and to
the Americans not permitting coloured people to attend their sports. One
evening he especially enlarged upon these grievances to Mackenzie.
Mackenzie making no comment, Jones was nettled. He put a question
pointedly. “What do you think of all these differences?” he asked.

“Well,” answered Mackenzie deliberately, “this place don’t belong to we.
It belong to the Americans, an’ I am quite satisfied if I get a chance
to earn a good bread from them.”

Jones snorted contemptuously, despising such prudence.

“I couldn’t earn as much in Jamaica as I earn here,” Mackenzie
continued, “an’ the same is true of everybody who come to Panama. Then
what is the use of complaining? I do me work, an’ go to me own sports,
an’ I don’t care what de Americans do so long as them pay me an’ don’t
interfere with me after workin’ time. That is the only way to get on
when you not in you’ own country.”

Jones felt the rebuke conveyed in Mackenzie’s homely remarks. He was
further disconcerted when Susan expressed her agreement with their
friend.

“You right, Mr. Mac,” she said sharply. “If people did mind them own
business, an’ didn’t go out gamblin’ every night, it would ’elp them
better than interfering wid what don’t concern them. All that Jamaica
people know to do is to say that the Americans don’t treat them good.
Then what them come here for? If you know you goin’ to find fault, you
better stay home. I don’t want to go where the American people don’t
want me. If I was in me own country it would be different; but I am
foreign, an’ I can’t expect everything me own way.”

Mackenzie looked pleased when he heard his opinions thus openly
appreciated. Jones looked still more disdainful.

“There is no accounting for diverse tastes,” he remarked loftily. “I
read one time in a book that if you bray a pig in a motor he will return
to his wallow, and though present company is always exceptional I must
beg to convey my entire dissension from the opinions that present
company have expressed. These Americans are a rude set of men, an’ I
don’t temporize with them. But, of course, if some people like to be
treated like a dog, they can continue to put up with it.”

Mackenzie frowned and would have answered, but Susan was before him.

“You goin’ to be rude to Mr. Mac now, after all his kindness to us?” she
asked tartly, and Jones, who guessed that Mackenzie, for all his placid
exterior, was a man who could not be insulted with impunity, denied that
he had any such intention. He informed Susan that he had known Mackenzie
for years, whereas she had only known him for months, and that he would
not allow any female to suggest that he could think of insulting so firm
and tried a friend as Mac. Susan was satisfied with this speech, and
Mackenzie was glad not to be compelled to take offence. He did not want
his friendship with Susan and her lover to end abruptly. A few minutes
afterwards the two men went out quite amicably together.

On another occasion—Jones had now been four months in Panama—he
complained of the difficulty which every one experienced of saving money
in that country.

“You can save if you really want to,” was Mackenzie’s reply. “I know
plenty of men who send money home to Jamaica regular. Some things is
dear, but if you are economical you don’t need to buy dear things all
the time.”

“You are warm you’self, eh, Mr. Mac?” asked Susan, who had a great
respect for the power of money, and no little curiosity concerning those
who possessed it.

“So-so,” he replied, smiling. “I save a little when I was in Jamaica,
an’ I been working steady in the Zone for about four years. Them pay me
pretty well, an’ I don’t spend all I earn.”

“I don’t believe in living mean,” was Jones’s remark, which he strove to
make appear as a statement applicable only to himself and his
inclinations, but which Mackenzie knew was intended as a reflection on
the disposition and habits of John Mackenzie. On this occasion, too,
Susan took him up sharply.

“It’s not living mean to try an’ save money,” she snapped. “Fools make
feast for wise man to come an’ eat. An’ when you spend out all you’
money an’ don’t ’ave one farthing to rub against another, you will begin
to say, ‘I wish I did know.’ Better you save what you ’ave, than cry
when you don’t ’ave it.”

Jones made no reply to this, but sulked a little. He was beginning to
dislike Mackenzie and his prudence and his sensible way of looking upon
life. Mackenzie was embodied criticism, eloquent even in his silence,
and no man likes a critic on his hearth. And though Jones did not think
that Susan had any particular liking for Mackenzie, yet her agreement
with that person’s remarks, especially when those remarks were intended
as a soft of rebuke to Samuel Josiah Jones, annoyed him more and more
every day. He was no longer pleased when Mackenzie came to see them. He
avoided Mackenzie now.

One afternoon Susan was sitting alone in her apartment when the door was
abruptly pushed open and three young women, friends of hers, rushed in.
They were so excited that they did not even trouble to apologize for
their unceremonious entrance.

“This is a business visit!” exclaimed the first, who appeared to act as
leader of the others. “We come wid a written invite to a subscription
dance that some gentlemen givin’ next week Wednesday at Mrs. Driscole
house.”

“You don’t tell me!” cried Susan, delighted with the prospect of
something new.

“Yes, see the invite; read it for you’self,” said her friend, shoving
into Susan’s hand an open envelope containing a gilt-edged card with
letters of gold, which Susan hastily pulled out and perused.

The invitation was addressed to

MISS SUSAN PROUDLEIGH
and
S. J. JONES, ESQ.

and set forth that “A unique entertainment in the form of a refined
dance will take place (D.V.) at Mrs. Driscole’s establishment. Your
attendance is earnestly requested: subscription, two and a half dollars
for males, ladies free if brought by gentlemen. Refreshments will be
provided; subscriptions payable three days in advance. Only ladies and
gentlemen will be admitted. R.S.V.P.”

The card was signed by four persons describing themselves as “The Dance
Committee,” and Susan read it over three times with pleasure. It was the
most stylish thing in the way of invitations that had yet come her way,
and she argued from the elegant appearance of the invitation card, as
well as from the amount of the subscription asked, that the dance would
be a very high-class affair indeed.

“Lots of people goin’?” she asked, and the leader of the girls promptly
answered:

“Any amount. Invitations post to all parts of the Zone, an’ some young
men as far as Empire coming on Wednesday. I take six to deliver meself,
an’ I bring yours. You will come?”

“I will try an’ get Sam to bring me,” said Susan; “I would really like
to come.”

Then the young women departed to invite other ladies to the dance, and
the next day, after talking over the matter with Jones, Susan sent ten
shillings to the Dance Committee.

She was glad of the coming diversion. Mackenzie had been removed some
three weeks before to Culebra, some forty miles away “up the line,” and
Samuel still persisted in spending his evenings with his gaming
companions. She could go out when she pleased, and this she often did,
but she was now bitterly discontented with Jones. She could not accuse
him of positive unkindness, and he was as generous as ever. But she felt
that he neglected her, and this she resented. He readily consented to go
with her to the dance, however, which pleased her greatly.

Wednesday evening came in due time, and she and Samuel started out early
for the dance. It happened to be a fine evening, for Colon; it was warm,
but had not rained for a couple of days. There was a moon visible, and a
clear blue sky. In spite of these weather conditions Samuel insisted
upon driving to Mrs. Driscole’s in a cab, explaining as his reason that
it was absolutely necessary to “do the thing in style.”

Mrs. Driscole lived in Bolivar Street, where she made a mysterious
living by providing for the amusement of her fellow-creatures. Her floor
was at the disposal of anyone with money enough to pay for its use;
to-night it was to be utilized by the Dance Committee and their guests,
and she had pulled down a partition and thrown two rooms into one, which
formed a dance-hall of fairly large size. In this and in two of the
adjoining rooms the guests were rapidly assembling when Susan and Jones
arrived. Dark ladies clothed in dresses of pink and white and blue,
their well-combed hair plaited tightly and tied with white or pink
ribbon, their necks and arms laden with silver and even golden
ornaments; swarthy gentlemen, some in tweed suits, the more punctilious
(and these were not a few) in regulation dress-suits—these formed quite
a merry, laughing crowd. Many knew one another. Strangers were formally
introduced, then immediately afterwards introduced themselves, and the
ceremony proceeded in this fashion:

“Mr. Smith, Miss Brown; Miss Brown, Mr. Smith.”

“Glad to meet you, Miss Brown. My name is Ezekiel Smith.”

“The same I am glad to meet you, Mr. Smith; my name is Rosabella Brown.”

Then they would shake hands politely, and Mr. Smith, or whoever the
gentleman might be, would invariably declare that this was the hottest
night he had ever known, an opinion with which the lady would invariably
agree.

Susan glanced round the ball-room as she entered, her eyes lighting up
as she saw so many gaily-dressed people. The room was decorated; the
musicians were tuning their instruments. Jones whispered to her that he
would shortly return, and went to join some men whom he knew. Susan just
then caught sight of the girl who had brought her the invitation, and
started to go over to speak to her. Half-way across the room she halted
suddenly as a young man turned and looked, surprised, into her face.

“Susan!”

“Tom!”

Thus they greeted one another. Then Susan put out her hand, which Tom
shook lightly.

“I knew you was in Colon,” he said at once, but speaking quietly. “You’
sister, Catherine, write me last week to answer a letter I write you
about a month ago, an’ which she open an’ read. She said you leave
Kingston with a young man named Jones, an’ that you only write them once
since you leave home. Susan, you think you treat me fair?”

“What you mean by if I treat you fair?” she asked, almost hissing the
words. “From the time you leave home till the time I come to Colon, you
ever send anything for me? You only write me one letter, an’ you surely
couldn’t expect me to live on wind in Jamaica? If I didn’t come here wid
Jones, I might have been dead of starvation by this time.”

Everybody was talking and laughing, and the musicians still were
coercing their instruments into the proper pitch of musical perfection.
But Susan was uneasy lest they should be overheard.

Her answer staggered Tom for a second or two, but he put the question
that had been in his mind ever since he had heard from Catherine: “Well,
what you goin’ to do now?”

“Do? What you expect me to do?” was her answer.

He hesitated as to his reply, and she saved him the trouble of replying.

“See here,” she said; “let us understand one another this same time. I
don’t want you to make any trouble here between me and Jones, for I not
leavin’ him to come to you. Y’u leave me alone in Jamaica, though I beg
you hard to bring me wid you. I come here with another young man, who
pay me passage an’ been supporting me all the time I am here, an’ so
what was between you an’ me is dead an’ gone. I don’t want no sort of
confusion here now. Y’u hear?”

Tom Wooley heard and his heart was as water. He subsided, not finding
words with which to blame the fickle fair. He had been cruelly used; he
felt sure of that. But he knew that he might be still more cruelly used,
and by Jones, who, if he might lack Susan’s sharp tongue, might more
than make up for that disadvantage by his hard fists. Thomas Wooley was
a man of peace when sober, and by no means belligerent when drunk. So he
merely answered, “Yes, Susan,” and asked her to point out Jones to him.

That gentleman had already noticed the whispered conference between the
two, and was actually going up to them when Tom made his humble request.
Susan decided that the best thing to do was to introduce them, and this
she did, remarking at the same time that Tom was a friend of her family,
and had been very kind to her parents.

As Samuel Josiah heard the name, he remembered what Mother Smith had
told him about Tom and Susan on the night before he left Kingston for
Colon. The story had long since passed out of his mind. Now also he
recalled what his friend, Professor, had said about the case in which
Susan had figured, and he observed that Susan was anxious to speak of
Tom as a sort of casual friend. Tom Wooley was short, so Jones looked
down upon him. And from the lofty standpoint of physical as well as
intellectual and financial superiority he condescendingly addressed the
young man who had once been Susan’s lover.

“How is it I never see you in Colon before?” was his question.

“I workin’ up the line,” said Tom—“at Pedro Miguel. But I used to be in
Colon, an’ as I get an invitation to the dance, I come.”

“I see,” said Jones; “well, come an’ have a drink, Mr. Wooley, which is
the best thing we can do when we boys meet together from Jamaica.”

Tom accepted the invitation. Susan heard and was delighted. She was
certain that Tom would say nothing about their old relations in Jamaica,
and she was equally certain that Jones could know nothing of those
relations. Again, she felt, her luck was in the ascendant. Then, some
one touched her on the arm, and, turning, she saw Mackenzie.

The two moved quickly to a corner of the room, for the dancers were now
preparing to begin a waltz. Mackenzie explained that he had received an
invitation to this party, and almost at the last moment had accepted,
thinking that Susan would probably be there. He had come over to Colon
by a late train. “Sam don’t seem to like me much now,” he remarked;
“that’s why I don’t take a run over on a Sunday to see both of you,
though I find it sort of lonely up at Culebra.”

Then he asked her to dance, and she consented, and they joined the
slowly whirling groups.

The room was terribly warm. Although the windows were all wide open, no
breath of wind was stirring that night, and the movements of the dancers
in the crowded “ball-room” caused the perspiration to stream from their
faces and drench their bodies. Only West Indians would have found
pleasure in dancing under such circumstances, and even these felt the
discomfort of the heat after a time.

“Lord! it hot!” panted a fat lady as she bounded across the room—they
were now dancing a set of lancers. “I suffocate,” giggled a thin
creature, as a burly fellow clasped her to his breast. But still the
musicians played with undiminished energy, and still the dancers danced.
And the stamping of feet upon the floor ceased only when one dance was
at an end and a new set was being formed.

Tom had two drinks with Jones, and then returned to the dancing-hall,
where he stationed himself against a wall, watching Susan and reflecting
on his forlorn state. Those two drinks had reduced him to a maudlin
condition, and just then his loss appeared to him as the one calamity of
the world, though he had managed to bear it with equanimity since
leaving Jamaica. Jones had also returned, had danced once with Susan and
once with another lady, and then had adjourned to the refreshment-room,
where, on a long table surrounded by chairs, stood a number of bottles
containing various liquors, and some huge dishes filled with ham, beef,
and chicken sandwiches. A few men were seated round this table, and
these Jones joined. Conversation ensued, and this, probably because of
the drink imbibed, soon turned to topics connected with their old life
in Jamaica. Being Jamaicans, these men had grievances. Being British
subjects, their grievances were against the Jamaica Government.

“De Jamaica Government don’t take enough care of we,” observed a
heavy-looking man, who, when in Jamaica, had displayed extraordinary
ingenuity in evading the payment of his taxes. “We ’ave no protection in
dis place, an’ so these foreigners here can treat a Jamaican like a
dawg.”

“Thet is a fact,” agreed a dapper little fellow who sported eyeglasses,
and who was a clerk in one of the mercantile houses of Colon (he had
been a lawyer’s clerk in Kingston). “There is no protection here
whatever. A man’s rights are not regarded. The labourers are badly
treated and have no redress. Representations should at once be made to
the British Government about the Jamaica Government, who are neglectful.
It is my intention to write to the Jamaica papers in re the matter.”

Jones at once recognized in this speaker a man of distinguished ability.
He asked him to have a drink with him, and then made his contribution to
the conversation.

“You are right,” he said. “There is no justice or jurisprudence in this
place. I am a British subject, but it’s no use a man going to the
British Consul here, for he don’t even want to listen to you.

“It’s more than hard,” he continued reflectively. “A man can’t get a
good job in his own country, an’ when he come to a God-forsaken foreign
land he has no protection at all. In Jamaica you have to die of
starvation, an’ here you lucky if you don’t die of neglect.”

“In Jamaica it is only taxes you hear about all de time,” said the
heavy-looking man. (All his remarks invariably gravitated towards the
subject of taxation.) “The Gov’nment don’t care what become of you so
long as them can get the taxes. It’s a shame!

“Look what them do wid a man down here. I live out at Gatun an’ them
won’t even let me keep a female helpmeet in a respectable way. Them want
me to married! Now don’t you see that if the Jamaica Government did look
after us as it should, all that sort of advantage couldn’t be take of a
man?”

“Yes,” assented Jones. “I have a female meself, an’ I have to live in
Colon because they won’t let her come to Christobal. They put me to any
amount of expense, all for the sake of form.”

“The thruth of the matter,” observed the erstwhile lawyer’s clerk, is
this: “the American methods are conducive to immorality. If a man leaves
his gurl in Colon, how is he to know that some other fellow is not going
after her?” He put the question with an air of conviction. He himself
had a great reputation for gallantry, and might be supposed to be
speaking from experience.

“You know, you are right!” exclaimed Jones, staring at him with
semi-drunken gravity. This aspect of the situation had apparently not
occurred to him before. Now, however, it began to loom large in his
muddled brain. He grew indignant. He voiced an imaginary wrong. “Fancy,”
he cried, “just fancy a man working hard all day an’ supporting a female
in comfort an’ proficiency, and another man goin’ to the house in the
daytime an’ enjoying himself at my expense!” He foresaw himself being
wronged, all through the neglect of the British Government and the
faulty methods of the Canal Administration.

“Ah!” sighed the ex-lawyer’s clerk sympathetically, “a man has a lot to
put up with in this country. He cannot be too careful. What I say,
gentlemen, is: don’t trust any wemen, not even you’ own mother.”

This advice strongly appealed to Jones. It inspired him with a desire to
be vigilant. That young man, Tom Wooley, who was even now in the
dancing-hail where Susan was—what base designs might he not be
harbouring against the domestic peace of Samuel Josiah Jones? He had
been warned against Susan. Her friendliness towards Tom was apparent.
Yes, he was not being treated fairly, he was sure of it; neither the
Government of Jamaica nor Susan was treating him fairly. He became
suddenly angry. “Gents,” he said, rising, “I have enjoyed you’ company,
but a man must protect himself. An advantage is being taken of poor
Samuel. I must go inside an’ look after me rights.”

The heavy man nodded a solemn acquiescence, and Jones, with lurching
steps, proceeded to the dancing-hall, where the dancers were now
clapping their hands and stamping their feet in a perfect ecstasy of
enjoyment.

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