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
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
“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
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
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
“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
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
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;
“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.
“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
“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
“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
“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,
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
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,
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
“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——
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
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
“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
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
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
“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
“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
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
“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
“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.