The thing about the trial that seemed to Miss Proudleigh the unkindest
cut of all was the utter failure of Lawyer Jones to rise to the occasion
and pulverize his legal opponent with arguments. She had accompanied
Susan to the court-house with proud expectancy. Lawyer Jones had been
recommended by her, and she felt that she had certain proprietary rights
in him; that she was, in a way, responsible for his good behaviour as a
lawyer. And now he had failed, failed miserably; he had disgraced her;
she regarded him as guilty of a base deception. On the way home she
urged this point of view upon Susan, and her brother agreed that the
lawyer had indeed acted most strangely.
“The whole of them cheat me!” said Susan bitterly. “There is no justice
in dis country at all. From the judge down, them is all a set of thief!”
“Solomon say that it is better to chop a baby in two dan go to law,”
observed Mr. Proudleigh, “an’ I see to-day dat him is quite right. Now
if you did half murder Maria, them would only fine you, an’ you would
have de satisfaction to know that you give it to her properly. Instead
of dat, you bring ’er up in a respectable style, an’ put a lawyer on
’er, an’ pay him two pounds to persecute her, an’ all de justice you get
is dat the judge tell y’u to make up de quarrel or him will fine you
“Leave them all to God!” said Miss Proudleigh piously.
“Leave them to de devil, you mean!” Susan rapped out. “The judge abuse
me about me intended, an’ the lawyer take me money and don’t do nothing
for it; an’ now you tell me to leave them to God! The truth of de matter
is that all these judge an’ all these lawyers is simply humbugging poor
people in this country. Them want nothing better than for we to leave
them to God, so long as them can get de money. But while we walk to
church to pray, them drive in motor-car!”
Wrath had made Susan a rebel, and contemptuous of the things she had
always regarded with respect; but Miss Proudleigh had her Christian
reputation to think of, and she could not join her niece in her violent
protest. As for her father, though he was inclined to think Susan was
right, he did not care to express his opinion of the judge too freely in
the open street.
When they got home, Susan stationed herself by the window, her favourite
point of vantage, and there she sat for hours nursing her anger. Now and
then, as she looked around her, the pride of possession filled her soul.
The room contained two American rocking-chairs, and five cane-seated
chairs of a yellowish hue. There was a long wooden bench without a back
placed against one of the walls, and two dealboard tables, both covered
with gaudy worsted spreads. On one of them was a kerosene lamp, a couple
of hymn books, and a few earthenware ornaments. The other was crowded
with thick tumblers, some of fantastic shapes, and a heap of cheap
crockery ware. On the walls hung coloured prints of the King and the
Royal Family, and pictures of ladies dressed in exiguous garments, and
smoking cigarettes with an air of enjoyment. All these things belonged
to her. They had been given to her by Tom. And in the inner room she had
an iron bed on which was a straw mattress, and two more chairs, and a
big trunk containing her clothes, and a basin-stand, on which she kept
her “china” basin and ewer. She had, besides, a large looking-glass on a
little table in the room. And all these household gods were
She took pride in her furniture. Only married people of her class
usually had as much, and certainly Maria had not. “After all,” she more
than once muttered to herself, “I ’ave a comfortable house to come to,
an’ perhaps Maria don’t ’ave a penny to-day.”
Yet she was not long comforted by this reflection. Maria had practically
triumphed, and her success at the court-house might embolden her to
attempt to capture Tom outright. Susan did not care much for Tom; in
fact, she rather despised him. But times were hard in Kingston, and
lovers were not easy to obtain; so if Maria should succeed. . . . “But
that can’t be done,” she concluded; for what was Maria when compared
Susan was not given to following out a train of thought for any length
of time; she usually jumped from one subject to another as it came up in
her mind. But the experience of that morning, and its unknown but
dreaded consequences, caused her now to dwell lengthily upon the days
before she became acquainted with Tom. Her past had not been a pleasant
one. Her father was a carpenter, and when in good health he had earned a
fair amount of money by working at his trade. But some sixteen years
before he had been prostrated by a severe attack of rheumatism, and when
he recovered he found that he had almost lost the use of his lower
limbs. Then her brother went away to Nicaragua, and only wrote
occasionally, sometimes sending a few dollars to his parents. After her
father’s illness her mother had turned washerwoman, and what the old
woman earned helped to keep the family from starvation. Her father did a
few light jobs, when he could get them, but these did not bring in much.
Susan herself, on leaving the Government elementary school when a little
over fourteen years of age, had tried to find a situation; but there was
hardly anything she could do at that age.
In those days she lived in a yard-room with the rest of the family. She
could remember herself as often standing at the gate of the yard, her
feet thrust into a pair of slippers, and looking with envy at those
girls who could afford to wear shoes and go to all the Sunday-school
picnics and treats. There were days when she went to bed without dinner,
a fate by no means unknown to hundreds of other persons in her position.
On other days she was glad if her dinner consisted of a piece of dry
bread. The rent of the room her family occupied was always the great
problem that faced them continually; for if it was not paid their few
belongings might be levied upon, and the old people would have to go to
the almshouse. Semi-starvation was better than that, so they not
When she was nearly eighteen, what she called “a luck” befell her. She
was in the habit of attending, every Wednesday evening, a little church
near where she lived. There had been revival meetings in that church a
short time before she had taken to going to the services, and nearly
everybody in its immediate neighbourhood had been converted. Amongst
these converts was a young fellow of nineteen, a clerk by occupation;
and seeing Susan in the church once or twice, he was moved to attempt
the saving of her soul. He only succeeded in losing his heart.
For some months he gave her five shillings a week out of the fifteen he
earned; then he unfortunately lost his situation, and Susan’s father
awoke to a sense of outraged morality. It was edifying to hear Mr.
Proudleigh lecture that young man on the moral obliquity of endeavouring
to “draw a youthful feminine away from religion.” There was no arguing
with him, for very little argument is left in any youth who has lost his
situation; so the young man quietly drifted out of Susan’s life.
For some time longer the family was compelled to exist on the mother’s
earnings and on what Mr. Proudleigh’s son in Nicaragua occasionally sent
home. It was then that Susan tried her hardest to obtain work of some
kind. But it required influence to secure a position as a barmaid; the
small shops had as many assistants as they required, and in any case
usually employed young women fairer than she was; as for crochet-making,
that had become so common that very few persons now cared to trim their
clothes with crochet. She might have got a situation as nurse in one of
the wealthier families of Kingston, but to domestic work she had a
strong aversion. It was not, in her opinion, genteel. She did not want
to be what she called “a common servant.” So she waited in idleness day
after day, a prey to discontent, and wondering if her luck would ever
It did turn when she was twenty years of age. She was standing at the
gate of her yard one Sunday afternoon, very plainly dressed, but with
her hair neatly combed and plaited. Tom was walking down the lane, with
no object in particular, and seeing her all alone he thought he might as
well try to make her acquaintance and have a little chat with her. As he
was well dressed, from his polished yellow boots up to his new straw
hat, Susan did not object to his inquiry after her health; and being
thus encouraged he made further advances.
That afternoon he talked of trifling things for about a quarter of an
hour. The following evening he again walked down the lane, and Susan was
once more at the gate. On the subsequent night, when Tom met her by
appointment, she asked him why he did not come inside, and on his
accepting her invitation he was welcomed by her family with every mark
of cordiality and respect. In fact, they all went out of the room and
left him with Susan, so that the young couple’s conversation might not
be interrupted in any way.
A week after that, she removed into the house which she now occupied.
Thus she had realized, at a bound, one of the great ambitions of her
But now Maria was trying to come between her and Tom. And this case—now
that she had lost it, she was rather sorry she had taken it to court.
Tom’s name had been repeatedly called, and he had warned her against
that. And her money, the money he had originally given her, had gone for
nothing. If that had been all she would not have cared much, but she
felt sure she had not yet heard the last of the fight and the trial. She
wished she could believe that she had.
It was in an uneasy frame of mind that she ate her dinner by the window
that evening, putting her plate on a chair in front of her. She was
still eating when her aunt returned to the house for the purpose of
further discussing the details of the case; and it was only then that
Susan’s father and the others came into the sitting-room, which they had
avoided all during the day, perceiving that Susan was too sorely sick at
heart to appreciate conversation.
Miss Proudleigh, who, more than all of them together, was versed in the
newspaper reports of the courts, had conceived a brilliant idea, and
wished to lose no time before letting Susan know of it.
“I thinks, Susan,” she said, after she had sat down, “that the case was
not try fair. An’ I thinks you ought to appeal.”
“Appeal?” asked her brother. “What is dat?”
Now Miss Proudleigh did not know exactly. So she answered vaguely,
“Something to make de case try right.”
“That won’t help,” said Susan decisively. “De judge tell me I better
drop the case, an’ I agree. It is all done away wid now. What is
bothering me is the way de judge talk about Tom. It’s going to be all
over Kingston to-morrow, for I saw the newspaper man writing it down.
What a piece of bad luck fall upon a poor gurl to-day! An’ I didn’t do a
single soul anyt’ing.”
“But don’t it finish now?” asked the old man hopefully.
“I don’t know about dat,” Susan replied. “Tom’s name call, an’ him going
This was indeed what everybody feared; but Miss Proudleigh had a
never-failing source of comfort in her principles as a religious woman.
“Susan,” she said, “you must have faith. When did you’ intended see you
de first time? Wasn’t it on a Sunday evening? Now if it was on a Monday
or a Saturday or any other day of de week, you would say it was a sort
of accident. But when an important events take place on a Sunday, all of
a sudden, it is you’ business to acknowledge that the Lord have made
special interposition in your behalf. You mustn’t be ungrateful, Sue.
The Lord is not mocked. Blessed is de man that trusteth in Him. An’
though the text says ‘man’ it mean woman too. Everything is goin’ to go
right. Tom won’t vex too much.”
“That is what I thinks meself,” agreed Susan’s father, who was only too
glad to catch at any ray of hope. “Susan is de child of many pr’yers.
From the day she born to dis day, I been prayin’ for her. Not a thing
can happen to her! De night before she became acquaint wid Mister Tom, I
dream dat a mango tree grow up in me room, an’ I know that same time
that somet’ing was going to happen. Now last night I dream dat a cow
maltreat Mother Smit, an’ at first I thoughted that Susan was goin’ to
win de case. But I see now dat it mean that Mister Tom is not goin’ to
’ave nothing more to do wid Maria.”
“Well, sah,” answered Susan petulantly, “all I have to say is, that you’
prayers didn’t ’elp me much this morning!”
This, Susan’s latest expression of infidelity, simply startled her
audience. Their Providence was one that struck with blindness or instant
death any of His creatures who dared to question His wisdom or goodness,
and who bestowed no blessings upon those who worked on the Sabbath Day.
To other sins He was lenient. He always allowed ample time to the
sinners to repent of them. One could also think hard things of Him, for
what was not spoken aloud might escape the hearing even of the higher
Powers. But so openly to doubt the efficacy of prayer, as Susan had
done, was to tempt Providence; and she herself felt a little frightened
after the words had escaped her.
Miss Proudleigh, who herself had much of Susan’s temper, and who could
never forget that she stood high in the estimation of her “leader” in
the Wesleyan chapel of which she was an honoured and vocal member, would
not allow this last speech of Susan’s to pass without reproof.
“If you goin’ to talk like that, Susan,” she said severely, “I will ’ave
to leave the premises. I can’t sit down an’ hear you laugh at pr’yer. I
don’t want to be include in the general judgment; for when the Lord’s
time come to laugh, Him going to laugh for true.”
Her indignation having been expressed, faith immediately rose to higher
heights, and she went on.
“As fo’ Maria, she will be punished, an’ you an’ me will live to see
Mother Smith beggin’ bread. ‘He will smite the oppressor, an’ the wicked
He will utterly destroy.’ I am goin’ to pray for Maria an’ her mother. I
am goin’ to pray that them won’t have bread to eat; an’ when a woman
like me kneel down an’ pray, her pr’yers must be heard!”
“I gwine to pray too,” cried the old man, with enthusiasm. “Four knees
is better than two. I are going to church next Sunday night to offer up
me supplication against all Susan’s enemy. Sue,” he concluded, turning
to his daughter, “you don’t happen to have a small coins about y’u to
lend your ole fader? I feel weak in me chest, an’ a little rum an’
anisou would help de feeling.”
This request for a loan, coming after his expressed determination to
pray against her enemies, could not well be refused by Susan; and she
was about to hand him threepence, when the front door opened quickly and
Tom stepped into the room.
As he entered, the old man rose and gave him a military salute. But on
this occasion Tom simply brushed past him without saying anything, and
went at once to Susan. Such brusqueness was unusual, and Mr. Proudleigh,
still in the military attitude, stared at Tom with wonder in his eyes.
The young man was angry. They all saw that. At any other time they would
have left him alone with Susan, but now curiosity got the better of
respect, and they remained to hear what he had to say.
“Susan,” he began, without even bidding her good evening, “didn’t I tell
y’u not to take the case to court?”
“You goin’ to quarrel wid me about it now?” was her answer. “It’s not my
fault dat I lose it! It’s Hezekiah wid his foolishness. An’ instead of
sympathizing with me, you walk into the house, like a nager man, an’
don’t speak to nobody! See here, Tom, if it’s because I lose the money
you give me, I will work an’ pay you back.”
“Never mind, Susan, never mind,” interposed her aunt, anxious to play
the blessed part of peacemaker. “Mr. Tom don’t say anything of an
aggravating nature. Two young people mustn’t quarrel. You is to live in
“I don’t want to hear anything from you,” snapped Susan. “Tom ’ave no
right to come into de house like this.”
Thus she tried to put Tom in the wrong, feeling that if she frightened
him by a display of temper he would not say very much about his name
being called in the court-house, a circumstance which she herself
But the old man, alarmed at Tom’s attitude, and fearing lest Susan
should drive him away at a time when Maria, and probably others, were
spreading their nets for him, thought that now was the opportunity for
proving to Tom that in every important domestic crisis he would have the
head of the family on his side.
“Susan,” he commenced, with some fear in his heart as to how she would
receive his admonition, “I don’t exprove of you’ conduct. Mister Tom is
a young man, an’ a young man is supposed to get aggravated. Ef I did
know that him tell you positive not to take de case to court, I would
have tell you the same meself. The fact of de matter is, I did tell you
so. For when you look upon one thing, an’ also upon another——”
But Susan would listen to no more. She sprang from her chair. “See
here!” she asked, looking rapidly at each of them in turn, “you all want
to abuse me to-night? What I do any of you? Eh? What you interfering
with me for?”
But Tom was now in a desperate mood, and Susan’s rage did not seem to
He glared back at her. “Didn’t I tell you I didn’t want me name call in
the court-house?” he demanded. “Y’u had no business to fight with Maria.
If you didn’t speak to her, she couldn’t have troubled you. But you
“Don’t call me infernal, Taam! Don’t y’u call me infernal! It’s not
because you paying me rent that you must use me an’ take an advantage of
me as if I was a common street gurl. Don’t y’u do it, Tom!”
“Well, whether you like it or not, I say it already,” replied Tom
bitterly. “As to the rent, y’u will have to pay it yourself next month!”
“Oh yes?” retorted Susan. “So you gwine to Maria, eh? Well, I tell you
straight that I will pull every plait out of she head! An’ as for you,
me good man, I don’t know what foot you goin’ to take to walk go to
“Lor-r-rd!” she screamed. “Look what this man come an’ tell me to me
face! Him say him going to this woman, Maria, an’ is leaving me!” and
she burst into angry tears.
“I didn’t say that at all,” Tom muttered sullenly. “I said I am not
going to pay any rent next month. Somebody go to-day an’ tell Mr. Jacobs
all that de judge say about me, and Mr. Jacobs pay me two weeks’ wages
and tell me him don’t want me any more.”
It was only too true. Tom had many friends who envied him his job, and
it was one of these who had hastened to his employer with a full account
of Susan’s case. In his narration this friend had managed to convey the
impression that Susan and Maria were not the only two ladies who enjoyed
the good things of life at Tom’s expense; and as Mr. Jacobs thought that
it was not Tom, but he himself, who might later on suffer through Tom’s
excessive gallantry, he concluded that the wisest thing to do was to get
rid of his philandering employee at once. Thus had the blow fallen with
dramatic swiftness. Susan realized what it meant. She ceased sobbing.
This was no time for angry tears. Even her aunt felt that a religious
text would not relieve the gravity of the situation. The old man gazed
in blank amazement at Tom. Susan’s mother and sister were dumbfounded.
“Then what y’u going to do, Tom?” It was Susan who asked the question;
she knew she was the cause of the crisis, but did not wish to face the
blame. “P’rhaps,” she went on, without waiting for an answer, “you will
get another job? Mr. Jacobs can’t say y’u rob him, an’ him must give you
a character paper.”
Tom shook his head despondently. “When a man lose his job in Kingston,”
he said, “it is the hardest thing for him to get another one.”
He had sat down, no longer angry, but a prey to despair. His natural
weakness was beginning to reassert itself.
“But you can’t live widout working?” said Susan. “You mean to say that
y’u don’t know anybody who will hire you? Don’t you have education?”
“Yes, Mister Tom,” her father remarked encouragingly, dipping into the
conversation; “a ejucated gen’leman like you is not common. Trust to
But Tom was not to be comforted. “I been with Mr. Jacobs six years,” he
said, “an’ everybody is goin’ to say that it is funny him discharge me
all of a sudden.”
“Then what you goin’ to do?” Susan asked again.
“I’m going to Colon.”
“Colon?” repeated Susan, with mingled hope and fear in her heart.
“Well, Colon is a very good place,” said the old man reflectively. He
was entertaining hopes of being taken to Colon himself. “I thinks Miss
Susan will like it.”
“I can’t take her. I don’t have sufficient money.”
“Then what you goin’ to do wid me?” asked Susan, seeing her worst fears
about to be realized. “Leave me here?”
“I will send for y’u, Sue,” Tom answered, “if I get a job. But I don’t
know what is goin’ to happen. . . . It’s all your fault.”
This was so true that the rebuke was accepted in silence. But Susan did
not wish to be left behind, for Maria and her mother to triumph over her
“Tom,” she pleaded, “take me with you! I can work, an’ there is plenty
o’ work in Colon.”
“We all can work,” said her father anxiously, though why he should have
included himself was something of a mystery. “I have always wanted to go
oversea like me son. The fambily could makes you very happy, Mister
Tom.” He paused, for he saw that nobody was paying any attention to him.
Tom, in fact, was explaining to Susan how impossible it was for him to
take her to Colon with him, and was mingling his explanations with weak
reproaches. Susan listened dumbly. She was thinking how few of her
friends and acquaintances would sympathize with her; how the front house
would have to be given up, and perhaps some of her furniture sold. Nor
was that all. For if Tom did not send for her, as he promised, the old
life might have to be resumed; and that would be more intolerable now
than before. She would miss all that she had become accustomed to. She
might have to face actual want—she who had for one full year enjoyed
what she considered luxury. . . .
“When you goin’?” she asked at length, after Tom had said his say.
This was Wednesday night: three days more and he would be gone.
She cried, this time in real distress. Tom was touched, or he thought,
erroneously, that she was crying because he was going to a foreign land
where he would be far away from her.
“Don’t fret, Sue,” he said, trying to soothe her. “Colon is a place
where a lot o’ money is making now. If I strike a job, you will be all
right. In the meantime y’u must do you’ best.”
What that best was, and how it was to be done, was not apparent to
Susan. But the old man faithfully promised Tom that Susan would do her
“An’ when you is arrive, Mister Tom, write to de ole man,” Mr.
Proudleigh added, rising, for Tom had risen to go.
“God bless you, me son,” said his wife, as Tom shook hands with her;
“you has been kind to Miss Susan.”
“Put your trust in de Lord,” said Miss Proudleigh, “an’ He shall renew
Susan’s sisters said nothing; Susan herself put on her hat to walk with
him a portion of the way home, partly for the purpose of discussing
certain financial matters, partly to make sure that he did not call at
They went out together, and then Catherine remarked:
“If Susan didn’t take de case to court, this wouldn’t happen.”
“What we gwine to do now?” asked Mr. Proudleigh dolefully.
No one answered the question.
“I don’t do too badly this week,” said Susan, as, sitting at the
threshold of a little room, which was one of a range in a yard, she
slowly counted a number of small silver and copper coins which she held
in her lap.
“How much you make?” asked Catherine, who sat on a little box near to
the door, watching Susan’s addition with interested eyes.
“I make eight shillin’s and sixpence, an’ two shillin’s is owing out to
me, all of which is profit. If I did ’ave anybody to go an’ dun for it
last night, I would ’ave ten shillin’s an’ sixpence this morning. Next
week I going to sell more, for I am goin’ to put more things in the
“Business is good,” said Catherine, “but it will soon get better; so
even if Tom don’t send for you, Sue, you will be all right.”
“Yes, I am independent now,” returned Susan, with a touch of pride in
her voice; “but I sick of this life. Every day it’s de same thing. I
’ave to work too hard, an’ sometimes I don’t make as much in a day as I
use to spend on car ride when Tom was here. I feel so tired, I can’t
even go to church dis morning. An’ yet I have some good frock. I going
to save up money meself an’ go to Colon, even if Tom don’t send for me.”
“That is a very good resolution, Sue,” said her father, speaking from
inside of the room. “Colon is a better place dan Kingston. I hear dat
you can earn money there like water, an’ that’s de place I want to go
to. Ef you’ brother could only send me a few dollars, I would give it to
you, an’ then you could go an’ send for the whole of we.”
“Yes, sah,” replied his daughter. “I would send for you, an’ mammee, an’
Eliza. Kate could go wid me. P’rhaps Kate would get an intended in
“I wish so,” said Catherine wistfully; “de young men in Kingston don’t
“It wasn’t so when I was a young man,” observed Mr. Proudleigh, harking
back to the past. “In dose days a man could make plenty money, an’ he
treat de females like a king. Me first sweetheart rob me over ten
pounds, an’ yet I didn’t miss it. But now a man don’t ’ave ten shillin’s
to give a gal, much less ten pounds for anybody to rob.”
“You right,” agreed Susan. “Dis is not the place for me. Colon or Port
Limon is the country to go to, an’ if me business prosper I going to
save an’ go there.”
She nodded her head determinedly, then tied the money in the corner of a
handkerchief, put it in her pocket, and went towards the back of the
Her father came out and sat on the spot she had vacated. He did not like
to question Susan too closely, but of Catherine, who was of a milder
disposition, he had no fear.
“Kate,” he said, “you t’ink Susan will really save money to go away?”
“So she say, papee,” Catherine answered. “An’ she doing very well. She
make ten an’ six this week, an’ she goin’ to make more.”
“That is good,” said the old man. “Ef you go wid her you mustn’t forget
you’ ole father, Kate. I don’t want all me children to be away from me
when I dead. An’ if you don’t send fo’ me when you go away, I don’t see
how I can ever go.”
As Kate saw no immediate prospect of leaving Jamaica herself, she did
not pursue the conversation. And both she and her father continued
sitting there for some time in silence, gazing at nihility, and thus
keeping the Sabbath day holy.
They were still living in a lane, but not the lane in which they had
lately lived for fully a year. This one was called Luke Lane, and their
yard was situated near the northern end of it, close to North Street. It
was some eight weeks since Tom had left, and much had happened in the
interval. The first four weeks had been a trying time for Susan, for,
even before Tom sailed for Colon, Maria and her mother had heard of his
dismissal. They spread the news rapidly and all Susan’s enemies rejoiced
without any attempt at concealment. They assembled at the gates of their
yards when she passed up and down the lane, and laughed loudly. They
made remarks which she knew were intended for her hearing. Maria,
remembering Susan’s fatal allusion to her dress, attired herself every
Sunday in her most gaudy garments and went to see some people who lived
opposite to Susan, so that the latter’s cup of humiliation should be
full. She knew that Susan’s establishment could not be maintained long
after Tom’s departure, unless some extraordinary piece of good fortune
should befall her. This Maria confidently hoped would not happen: she
had missed taking Tom away from Susan; but still there was great
satisfaction in knowing that if she had lost what she might have had,
Susan had lost what she actually had possessed.
Susan endured all these insults with considerable fortitude, and went
about her business quietly, keeping her own counsel as to what she
intended to do. About a month after Tom had left for Colon, she and her
family, aided by a cart, removed what remained of her furniture (for she
had sold some), and went to live elsewhere.
They removed late at night, and silently; for Susan’s pride revolted at
the very thought of being seen taking last leave of the beloved front
house. Removing late at night had its inconveniences, for it was certain
to be said that she had left without paying the month’s rent, and
without the knowledge of the landlord. Night removals in the West Indies
(and they are very frequent) are always attended with this suspicion, a
suspicion based upon extensive experience. But in this instance the
landlord knew all about Susan’s intention, for she had given him the
proper notice, and at the end of the month had gone to him and paid him
two-thirds of the rent that was due. As she had been a good tenant, he
made a virtue of necessity and generously allowed her to owe him the
balance. Yet all this did not prevent it from being circulated in
certain quarters of the lane that Susan, true to the principles of many
who live in yard-rooms and little front houses, had availed herself of
the darkness to cover her rent-escaping tracks.
She heard from Tom before her removal. In his letter he mentioned that
the chances were that he should obtain a good situation if he did not
fall ill of fever. Like a sensible girl she concluded that his chances
of being ill were probably as great as his prospects of getting a job;
so she told her aunt, “I better look for meself.” Her way of looking for
herself was not original; but it proved successful. Tom had given her
two pounds before leaving. She had also saved a few shillings. And this
money had come in useful for the setting up of a small business.
She had rented a little shop and had stocked it with the things she knew
would sell. The shop was built against the fence, and opened both in the
yard and on the lane. It was constructed of odd bits of board and roofed
with three sheets of corrugated iron. It could scarcely accommodate two
persons. Customers were not allowed inside. They stood in the lane and
made their purchases over a counter which was merely a square bit of
board cut out of that side of the shop which faced the lane. This
counter formed a shutter at night; you fixed it into the opening and
secured it by means of an ingenious system of bars and bolts. As thieves
might break in and steal, Susan usually removed some of her goods to a
safer place at night; the room in which she and her family lived being
the only place available to her.
She sold bread and “grater cake” (a cake made of desiccated cocoa-nut
stewed with sugar). The prices of this sweetmeat ranged from a farthing
to three farthings each, and she did a considerable trade in it. For the
children held that a halfpenny spent on a small loaf of bread and a
small grater cake yielded abundant satisfaction, and even grown-up
people frequently made their lunch off the same articles.
She sold cocoa-nut oil, sugar-cane, mangoes, bananas, and flour-cakes.
These last were made of flour and sugar and plenty of baking-soda, were
very cheap and filling, and were openly despised by everybody and
secretly eaten by all.
She sold Rosebud cigarettes, for that, she wisely calculated, would be a
good bait for the boys and men, and she wanted the biggest custom
She sold firewood, and yams and plantains, and gingerbeer. Ice also; and
she proclaimed that fact by means of a red flag, hung out diagonally on
a pole, and having sewn upon it three ill-shaped letters in white calico
which spelt out the word, ICE. She was, in short, a full-fledged
higgler, and as she sat in her shop surrounded by boxes and baskets, and
little heaps of bread-stuffs, she assumed the important facial
expression common to all higglers, though in her case neither ugliness
nor slatternliness had set its seal upon her; which alone differentiated
her sharply from most of the other women who followed her trade.
There were many of these in the lane. They were rivals, but among them
Susan easily stood first. For the stock of none of them was ever worth
more than seven or eight shillings, and sometimes not worth even half of
that amount. She, on the other hand, had boldly invested thirty
shillings in purchases at the start, and the venture had been justified
Her looks helped her. The young men who passed by her shop patronized
her and attempted to make love to her; but they were obviously poor, so
while she was polite to them she kept them at a distance. Her family was
also of great assistance. Her mother made the “grater cakes” and boiled
the cocoa-nut oil; her sisters went in the mornings far beyond the
northern boundaries of the city to meet the countrywomen coming down to
market, so as to buy fruit cheap from them. By this means Susan saved
money, an important consideration, for a shilling a day was the very
most that she could spend on food for all the family. As for the old
man, he rendered no material assistance; but he personally felt that his
moral influence upon the situation was immeasurable. With the tattered
remains of an old soft felt hat upon his head—he never went without it,
for he imagined that it added to his dignity—a pipe in his mouth, and
his feet thrust into slippers, he hovered about what he called “de
little shaps,” feeling himself the natural protector of his daughter,
and the inspiring genius of the family.
He was proud of Susan. The problem of living had presented itself to him
with distressing intensity on the night that Tom had announced his
intention of going to Colon. He then had seen nothing before himself and
his wife but the Union Poorhouse, an institution which he thought of
with a shudder. He knew he could do nothing to help himself, though he
never would have acknowledged that to anyone; so, even though the girls
might shift for themselves, he could see no ray of hope for himself and
the old woman. Susan, however, had solved the problem by unexpectedly
developing commercial instincts; and he reflected that most of her
ability must have been inherited from him, since he had never credited
his wife with much intelligence.
As he sat this Sunday morning at the threshold of the single room they
now lived in, he felt placidly contented. The shop had become a certain
source of revenue, and no Maria could interfere with it. He was quite
satisfied not to take much thought of the morrow; and the change that
had recently taken place in Susan’s circumstances was accepted by him
with a temperamental equanimity which could only be disturbed by fear of
the almshouse or of immediate starvation.
He looked about the yard, seeing nothing. Such scenes he had been
familiar with all the days of his life. It was an ordinary Kingston
tenement yard; the low range of rooms, each room being separated from
the other by but a thin partition of board; the broken-down kitchen; the
water-pipe continually dripping, so that a part of the yard was never
dry; babies sitting in little boxes stuffed with rags to prevent the
little creatures from hurting themselves; bigger babies creeping about;
wash-tubs everywhere; it was what he had always seen in every similar
place. The prevailing squalor did not affect the old man and his wife,
and even Catherine and his youngest daughter had reconciled themselves
to it. But Susan rebelled; she felt that she ought not to be reduced to
living in a yard-room.
This Sunday morning, however, she was better pleased than usual, for she
saw that if her custom continued to increase she would soon be in a
position to save money. Up to now she had been living on every penny of
her profits, for the rent of the shop and the room together was sixteen
shillings a month. But good luck was plainly attending her, and already
she was speculating upon what she would do in the future.
Presently she returned to where her father and Catherine were still
sitting. Catherine made room for her on the box, and Mr. Proudleigh,
never happy if compelled to remain silent for long, asked her when next
she expected to hear from Tom.
“How can I tell, sah?” was her very reasonable reply. “Him only write me
once since he gone to Colon; an’ I wants to believe he must be in the
hospital. From all dat I hear about Colon, Tom don’t likely to get on
there. Him too soft! Kingston is all right enough; but in Colon—so I
hear—if you look on a man too hard, him wants to shoot you; an’ if you
don’t look on him hard, him wants to take an advantage of y’u. That is
not the sort o’ place for Tom.”
“Then how you expects to go down to him?” asked her father. “Ef him is
such a young man of unreligable nature, I don’t see how you can teck up
you’self an’ put you’self under his protection an’ care.”
Susan laughed scornfully. “I was ever under his protection an’ care in
Jamaica?” she asked.
“No,” said Catherine; “but here everything is quiet. Down in Colon a
young gurl must ’ave a young man to look after ’er; otherwise there may
be boderation. I wouldn’t like to go down by meself that way.”
“I would go,” said Susan decisively. “After all, whatever y’u meet in
this world it is you’ luck. If you to dead in Colon, you will dead
there. If you to come back to Jamaica, y’u will come back.”
This fatalistic note, struck with such confidence, awoke a responsive
echo in the hearts of her hearers.
“You is right,” said the old man. “A man shouldn’t bother him head about
what goin’ to happen to-morrow, for him can’t prevent what is gwine to
happen. Therefore, sufficient to de day is the evil thereof. You saving
money to go?”
“Don’t I tell y’u so a little while ago, sah?” asked Susan, though she
knew that the old man would repeat the question every day.
“I don’t mean nothing by askin’ you,” he explained; “only, ef I was you,
I wouldn’t put me money into any bank. I hear that bank is a thing that
broke every now an’ then; though,” he continued sagaciously, “I don’t
see how such a strong place can broke.”
“When a bank broke,” explained Catherine, “it mean that de clerk rob
“Oh! I see! But, even then, I don’t t’ink Sue should put her money in a
bank, for if them rob her few shillin’s, what she gwine to do?”
“The Government bank is safe,” said Sue, conscious of superior
knowledge. “Nobody can rob it, an’ them give you interest on you’
“Then you gwine to put yours in de Government bank?”
“Yes, sah; to-morrow morning I goin’ to lodge three shillin’s: it is me
first commencement. It’s to help me to go away.—Who that?”
Some one had knocked at the gate, and the person thus addressed loudly
“Who me?” asked Catherine.
“Letitia Samuels: can you hinform me ef Miss Susan Proudleigh resides
Both Susan and Catherine rose simultaneously and rushed towards the
gate. They opened it, and a young lady of about twenty, glossily black,
fat, not bad looking, and extremely stylish, walked into the yard. She
was dressed in a white lawn frock trimmed with any quantity of lace;
wore high-heeled shoes and carried a pink parasol. Her hat was a marvel;
her cheeks were covered with white powder. She kissed both the girls
loudly, said she was feeling “fine,” shook hands with Mr. Proudleigh,
and then was taken into the room.
There she met the old woman, who spoke to her, then went outside, with
the true West Indian instinct of hospitality, to prepare some
refreshment for her.
The room, originally small, was divided into two apartments by a cloth
partition, one side of it being reserved for the old people, the other
being occupied by Susan and her sisters. Letitia sat in the one chair
that she saw, while Catherine and Susan perched themselves on the bed.
Letitia was an old friend. She had known Susan at the elementary school,
and Susan had admired and envied her because of her constant possession
of small coin. Letitia’s father was a plumber in a good position, and he
looked after his daughter well. She was a Roman Catholic, and loudly
sang hymns in honour of the saints; Susan, on the other hand, was a
staunch Protestant, and strongly objected to “the worship of idols.” But
differences of doctrine did not disturb their personal relations, and
even Mr. Proudleigh’s efforts to convert the erring Catholic to a truer
faith did not sow the seeds of discord. For though his theology (from a
Protestant point of view) was perfectly sound, he never ventured on
moral admonitions. This was satisfactory, for Letitia still enjoyed the
favour of the priests and nuns and other important personages of the
Church, and gratefully rejoiced in the present security of a suspected
She was very excited.
“I didn’t know you move, Sue; I went roun’ to Blake Lane, an’ them tell
me y’u move. It was you’ aunt told me yesterday where y’u live.”
“Yes, me dear,” was Susan’s remark. “My intended gone away, so I have to
look for meself. Just see where I living now!”
“Cho! never mind! Y’u soon get another intended. Now guess what I come
to tell y’u about?”
“A picnic. A big picnic! Father Moulder making it at Cumberland Pen
to-morrow, an’ it’s only one an’ sixpence for trainage and hentrance to
the pen. You ’ave to provide you’ own refreshment; but that can’t cost
more dan one an’ six. I want you come. Y’u will come?”
Susan’s answer was interrupted by the entrance of her mother, who
brought in a mug of chocolate and a plate containing a big slice of
Letitia spread out her handkerchief in her lap, and rested the plate on
it, then took the mug from the old woman. Eating and drinking, she
continued the conversation.
“Y’u must come, me child! It’s goin’ to be grand. All the young men in
Kingston is goin’. There is to be six piece of music, an’ dancing all
Catherine’s face lighted up, then fell as she remembered that she had no
Susan shook her head slowly, the wish to go struggling with her desire
“It will cost me three shillin’s,” she said, “an’ I don’t see how I can
manage it.” She paused as a vision of the dancing on the sward rose
before her mind’s eye.
“I engage a bag of coal for Thursday, an’ I must have to take it. An’ I
’ave to save money. . . .”
“Cho!” pleaded Letitia. “Come, man! It’s only once!”
The old man, still sitting at the threshold, had overheard the
conversation. By way of showing disinterested generosity, he called out:
“Don’t fret you’self about t’ree shillin’s, Sue. Go an’ enjies you’self.
Don’t kill you’self, me daughter. You lookin’ thin.”
“Then how is Sue to go to Colon?” asked Catherine, who, seeing no
prospect of going to the picnic herself, was not inclined to be
enthusiastic about it.
The old man remembered that he also wanted to go to Colon, and
immediately regretted his precipitancy. But his words had had their
effect. The struggle in Susan’s soul was over. In a moment she passed
from a calculating to an excited frame of mind.
“All right!” she cried, jumping from the bed; “I will go.” Excitedly, “I
will wear me blue dress, an’ me new straw hat! Lord! I goin’ to dance
every dance! I goin’ to enjoy meself! What a thing!”
She was dancing already, and all thought of saving was thrown to the
“Come for me in the morning, Letitia, early,” were her last words to her
friend, when she bade her good-bye at the gate.
That afternoon Susan made special preparations for the great event of
the morrow. Hairdressing being a very important part of her toilet, she
literally sat at Catherine’s feet, who, armed with a strong comb and a
pot of scented castor oil, bent over her sister’s head and spent fully
three-quarters of an hour in combing out the hair, oiling it, plaiting
it, and twisting the plaits into the shape dictated by the latest
fashion. That done, Susan tied up her hair very carefully in a towel, so
that it should not become disarranged. Then she took out her blue dress
and hung it up over the head of her bed. She polished her shoes,
carefully looked over her hat, and fished out a fan from the bottom of
her trunk. When all this work was over, she untied her head, dressed
hurriedly and went to church, her sister going with her. Both her
parents strongly approved of church-going; and though the old man
himself never went out on Sunday, he would not allow the day to pass
without reading aloud the first Psalm, laying special stress on the
opening words which proclaim a blessing on those who walk not in the way
of the ungodly.
Susan and her sisters enjoyed the service. They usually did. The large
church, nearly filled with people dressed in their multi-coloured best,
the deep-toned organ, the hearty singing in which they joined, the
bright light from the electric lamps—all this was a weekly source of
pleasure to girls who had nice dresses to wear on the Sabbath day. The
sermon might consist of denunciations of the popular way of living. They
listened to it with interest and agreed that the parson was, from his
point of view, perfectly right. But he, so to speak, was looking at life
theoretically, while they were compelled to regard it from the practical
standpoint of daily bread. If he expounded doctrine, they appeared
engrossed in his words, and followed his meaning with a fair degree of
understanding. What they liked best were the hymns; and when the service
was over, and they mingled with the contented home-going crowds, they
felt that they were, after all, not very far from the Kingdom.
Susan went to bed immediately after going home, not omitting to bind up
her head once more. She wished to be up early in the morning. Her father
talked to her for a while from his part of the room, a cloth partition
placing no obstacles in the way of conversation; but though he was very
anxious to hear about the sermon, so that he might give his opinion on
the parson’s theology, she soon shut him up by saying she wished to go
to sleep. Then silence reigned unbroken, but for the barking of the dogs
in the lane; for by nine o’clock practically all the inmates of the yard
had retired, after a day spent for the most part in lolling about and
avoiding any unnecessary work.
At half-past four in the morning Susan was awake. She hurried out of the
hot, stifling room to wash her face under the water-pipe, then went in
again to dress. She was ready by five o’clock. Her dress fitted her
nicely; and though blue was perhaps not the colour that best suited her
complexion, it was more striking than white would have been, and she
wanted to attract attention. She wore a pink sash, and her hat was
trimmed with pink roses and ribbons. Her high-heeled shoes were gorgeous
with buckles. When fully arrayed, and after she had gulped down her cup
of coffee, she turned herself round and round to be admired. Catherine
and Eliza surveyed her critically.
“You is all right, Sue,” said the first, and her younger sister agreed.
Her mother smiled, then went about her business. Her father was vocal in
“Ef I was a young man,” he said approvingly, “I would fall in love wid
you. Dat frock suit you’ figure. Everybody gwine to dance wid you, an’
you mustn’t fo’got to bring somet’ing nice fo’ me.”
Susan, satisfied with this appreciation, promised to bring home for him
a part of whatever she might get; and Letitia coming in just then, both
girls went out to catch the electric car that should take them to the
It was not yet six o’clock, so the air was still comparatively cool. It
was a public holiday, consequently they met numbers of other
pleasure-seekers like themselves, all gaily dressed. They caught the
car, and it took them by a circuitous route to the station, going first
towards the north of the city for nearly a mile, then south again, then
east to where the railway station stands. On the way they passed
handsome villas; those were the houses, they thought, where the rich
people lived, people so much above their own station in life that they
never dreamt of envying them. The white and the higher classes of fair
coloured people belonged to one world. They belonged to another. But
envy and hatred did not embitter the relations of one class with
another, though their interests in life were superficially as different
as was the yard-room or little front house from the spacious-looking
residence with its garden of tropical shrubs and flowers blooming in
front of it.
They alighted at the railway station, and found it crowded. Every colour
of the rainbow was represented in the dresses of the women and the
neckties of the men; and a stranger not accustomed to a West Indian
crowd might well have thought that there could have been no greater
confusion at the Tower of Babel. Everybody talked and nobody listened.
Everybody gesticulated. Laughing, pushing, screaming, scrambling through
the iron gates, the good-humoured picnickers made towards the platform,
and then began to fight their way into the train. In vain the guards
shouted. In vain they tried to direct the passengers. Discipline and
order were thrown to the winds on this holiday morning, when the chief
thought of every one was to obtain all the fun and excitement that the
day could afford.
In the struggle for a good seat Susan was nearly separated from her
friend. But by a vigorous use of their elbows they managed to keep
together; and when at last, breathless but triumphant, they were seated,
they began to look about them to see if any of their friends were near.
Susan saw many persons whom she knew. Amongst these was Hezekiah, and
him she stared out of countenance. She nodded to the others, and
commenced with lively anticipation to discuss the prospects of the
picnic with Letitia, when the train, with a sudden jerk, pulled out of
Slowly at first, then quickly, and crowded to its utmost capacity, it
ran out of the city and into the open, sunlit country. The transition
was abrupt. Within a minute Kingston had been left behind, and broad
fields and forests soon appeared on either side, all steeped in the
early morning light and still green and fresh with the dews of the
night. The hot and dusty city lay baking in the sun behind the
pleasure-seekers; the country, with its wonderful beauty of deep blue
skies, giant trees, and variegated green; with its dark-gleaming
rivulets, placid streams and leaping waterfalls, unrolled itself before
them. Peeping out of the windows, they could see the cattle and horses
browsing in the pastures, the distant skyline broken by a long chain of
dream-like verdure-clothed mountains, the long, delicate tendrils of
parasitic plants waving gently in the breeze, and clumps of
water-hyacinths glowing in the ponds or in some quiet backwater of a
stream. All, all was beautiful. A majestic peace pervaded the spacious
countryside, and the great yellow sun of the tropics lighted it up with
splendour. There was something alluring, enticing about it all;
something enervating too in its luscious appealing beauty. But Susan and
Letitia gave no thought to it all, nor did many of the people in the
train. Their minds were centred upon one subject—this picnic to which
they were speeding and which was to afford them a whole day’s intensest
“Cumberland Pen!” The guard shouted the name of the station, the train
slowed down and stopped, the doors of the carriages were thrown open,
and then the scramble and hubbub began once more. Parcels were grabbed
at and secured, and then—a phenomenon which one observes in every
country and on every occasion among passengers on a train—every one
pushed forward to alight as quickly as possible, and as though a second
longer spent upon the train would lead to the most unpleasant results.
The siding was soon crowded, and already a straggling stream of human
beings was pouring towards the Cumberland Pen gate, where stood two men
who collected the tickets and indulged in arguments with those who
pretended to be scandalized at the amount they were called upon to pay
as entrance fee. It was quick work at this gate in spite of the chaffing
and arguing; then other trains came in from Kingston, and soon more than
a thousand persons were assembled on a grassy sward, spacious and fairly
smooth, and shaded here and there by leafy trees that grew singly or in
cool inviting clumps. But shade trees were not in demand just now,
except as convenient places for the storing of parcels and baskets
filled with refreshments, which some of the more prudent or more
fastidious picnickers had brought with them. These impedimenta put away
for the present, the pleasure-lovers broke into groups, and a loud cry
for music arose.
Then rose the piercing squeal of the clarionettes, the squeak of
fiddles, the blare of cornets and the bang of a big drum. There was
noise enough, and the dancers called it music. The young men took off
their jackets and waved them wildly in the air to show their
appreciation of the band. Girls with arms akimbo swayed their bodies to
and fro, keeping time with the tune. Thus encouraged, the musicians
redoubled their efforts and the discord was infernal; but partners were
rapidly selected, places taken, and in a few minutes there were nearly
five hundred couples dancing on the sward and under the now burning,
blistering rays of the forenoon sun.
Susan was in her element. Quadrilles followed lancers, polkas followed
quadrilles, and mentoes, a sublimated West African, phallic dance,
followed the polkas and were the most popular with a certain section of
the people. The girls danced these, swaying on their hips. Some of the
women, however, and amongst these was Susan, did not care to dance these
mentoes, on the ground that they were not quite proper. So while mentoes
were being danced, Susan sat at the foot of a tree fanning herself, and
trying to mop up with her wet handkerchief the flood of perspiration
that streamed from her face.
Gazing intently at the dancers during one of these intervals, she did
not notice that a man had approached her, till she heard herself
“Young lady,” said the stranger, “you not dancing?”
“No,” she answered shortly, without looking round to see who the speaker
“I don’t dance mento.”
“But why you don’t?”
The persistency of her questioner annoyed her; it was common enough for
girls to be accosted by strangers at a picnic; but she did not want to
make any more acquaintances that day, for the simple reason that she was
tired. The stranger, however, was not to be denied. He deliberately sat
down near her, and resumed the conversation.
“Well,” said he, “allow me to introduce meself. My name is Samuel Josiah
Jones from Spanish Town. I been watchin’ you all the time you been
sitting here; an’ when I see a beautiful young female not enjoying
herself, I think I ought to do the consequential.”
Susan had not the faintest idea of what the consequential might be, but
the word pleased her. Besides, Samuel Josiah Jones had called her
beautiful, and such a compliment predisposed her to be kind. As she did
not exactly know what to reply, she looked at him with an inquiring air;
but that did not in the least disconcert Mr. Jones, who blandly went on.
“My name,” he repeated, “is Samuel Josiah Jones.” (He plainly expected
the repetition of his name to have a talismanic effect.) “Spanish Town
is my paternity. Where you come from?”
“Kingston,” said Susan briefly; then she added, “What is that to you?”
“Oh, don’t be vex,” said Jones appealingly. “Don’t expostulate with me.
I don’t ask you for nothing. But you didn’t introduce you’self properly,
so I interrogated you. You angry?”
Susan saying nothing in reply, Jones’s voice became more confidential.
“I wouldn’t tell you a lie. I have had a few good drinks to-day. But me
head is strong, an’ when I see a young lady like you, I would rather die
than disgrace meself.
“If a young man can’t behave himself in the company of ladies,” he
continued, still speaking confidentially, “he ought not to frequent
their company. Don’t you think I am right?”
Susan was obliged to nod her agreement.
Pleased with this, his voice took on a triumphant ring.
“Quite so,” he resumed. “As I tell these boys here, sobriety is the
great thing; sobriety an’ temperance. Take a drink when y’u want one;
but don’t disgrace you’self—like me.”
“But you not disgracin’ you’self,” said Susan, flattered by the respect
he professed for her, but a little puzzled by his last sentence.
“No,” said Jones, “that is what I say. I don’t disgrace meself. I set a
good example. I don’t want no man to say that Samuel Josiah Jones
disgrace himself in public.”
Mr. Jones leaned back against the tree, obviously proud of the example
he was setting, and quite as obviously pleased with the world and
himself. Susan looked at him curiously. He was a young man of her own
complexion; that is to say, dark brown. His features were good, his face
frank and lively, and when he spoke two big gold teeth gleamed brightly,
showing that Mr. Jones did not belong to the common classes. He was
tall, and flashily dressed, his necktie reminding one of a Scotch plaid
of the most pronounced pattern. A gorgeous fob hung out of the trousers
pocket in which he kept his watch. It was plain to Susan that he was a
young man of some importance, and by the words he used she judged him to
be a man of considerable education. She was pleased too he had
recognized that she was a young lady, for some “fast and forward young
men” of her acquaintance had not always been ready to do that. She was
rather glad now that he had persisted in talking to her. His preference
for her company was a distinct compliment.
She saw that his sobriety had been tempered with a fair quantity of
strong drink. He had himself said so. But temperance folk were held in
strong contempt by her, and she had always heard her aunt quote with
great approval Paul’s advice to Timothy, that he should take a little
wine for his stomach’s sake. Miss Proudleigh faithfully followed this
advice herself: every night before going to bed she drank, not a little
wine, but a little rum and water; and Susan’s parents would have done
the same had they been able to afford it. So she thought more highly of
Mr. Jones for being able to enjoy himself in the free and independent
manner which his appearance denoted. She was about to continue the
conversation when Letitia came up.
The latter stared at Jones, not exactly surprised, for on such a day a
girl might pick up half a dozen new acquaintances. Susan introduced her,
and Jones, rising with great dignity, assured her that his name was
Samuel Josiah Jones, and asked her to take a seat.
“I not sitting down,” said Letitia, shaking her head. “I came to
henquire if Sue are going to ’ave her lunch.” (Letitia was very careful
of her diction in company.)
“Lunch?” said Jones; “lunch? Of course! The inner man must be
replenished. We will have lunch immediate. Miss Susan, arise!”
Miss Susan arose, as bidden, and seeing that Letitia showed no objection
to accepting Mr. Jones’s hospitality, she followed the young man to the
spot where refreshments were being sold.
Under a tree, and protected by a barricade of dealboard tables and low
wooden benches, were a number of women and a man, retailers of
refreshments, and all busy attending to the crowd of customers that
surrounded them. Quick-tempered and aggressive, the women bustled about
with their sleeves drawn up above their elbows, and the upper part of
their skirts tucked up into bundles around their waists. Within the
enclosure, huge pots steamed and bubbled on improvised fireplaces; and
barrels and boxes containing aerated waters, and beer and whisky and
Jamaica rum, stood invitingly open.
The smell of stewed beef mingled with that of stewed salt-fish, and the
heavy odour of cocoa-nut oil rose from two five-gallon cans in which
rice and red peas were boiling. The women ladled the food into coarse
earthenware and enamelled plates as it was ordered, and the man served
Jones and the girls sat down to a lunch of stewed fish and
rice-and-peas. He ordered whisky for himself, and asked his companions
what they would have. After some hesitation, they decided on beer, this
being a luxury they did not often enjoy. He called for two glasses of
“the best beer,” and the girls gulped the stuff down, declaring with
grimaces that it tasted bitter.
Letitia noticed that Jones paid a good deal of attention to Susan. “I
wonder if him speaking ’er up?” was her thought, but presently she
ceased to think, the beer having set her head a-swimming. Susan felt
dizzy too, and had to cling to Jones for support when they rose from the
He offered an arm to each of the girls, and gallantly escorted them back
to the tree. They sat there for a little while, Jones talking, Susan and
Letitia hearing nothing.
The pipes still screamed, and the fiddles squeaked, and the dancers
continued dancing. A good many persons had strolled down to the river
that ran through the pen, to bathe. Here and there some sat on stones or
logs of wood, resting; contented-looking cows cropped the grass within a
stone’s throw of the picnickers, no longer frightened by the unusual
noise; children climbed the trees to hunt for mangoes; big green lizards
pursued their prey among the stones and leaves; and down on men and
beasts and trees came the fiery rays of the now vertical sun, scorching,
blistering, burning, but powerless to exhaust the energy of the
musicians or to put an end to the dance.
“This sun,” remarked Jones, “is the hottest sun I feel for a long time.
It make me sweat like a bull. But I come to dance, an’ I must dance.
What you say?”
His words were addressed to Susan, who faintly murmured in reply, “Too
Two or three minutes passed in silence, and then the beer, acting in
conjunction with the heat and the exertion of the morning, completed its
work. Reclining against the tree, Susan slept. Letitia, who was not so
easily affected by strong drinks as her friend, laughed at first; then,
finding it dull sitting there, asked Jones what he intended to do.
“Remain here,” he said. “A gentleman must behave gentlemanly. Can’t
leave this female alone when she is not in her senses.”
“All right,” said Letitia; “I goin’ to dance. I will come back later.
Tell Susan so when she ’wake.”.
Jones nodded, then stretched his legs out more comfortably, covered his
face with his handkerchief, and disposed himself to reflect on his own
superior manners, while Letitia walked away.
He dozed, and for an hour both of them lay there, recumbent in the sun.
Jones woke first. Although desiring to be gentlemanly, his first impulse
was to go and join the dancers; for a chance meeting at a picnic did
not, he felt, compel him to remain constantly in attendance upon one
young woman. Instead of doing so, however, he bent over and shook Susan
slightly. She opened her eyes, yawned loudly, stretched her arms above
her head, yawned again, then remarked, “I seems to ’ave been sleepin’,
“Yes,” he said. “You been sleepin’ all the time. An’ I been watching
you, in case any of these common young men wanted to take any liberty
with you. I wouldn’t move a foot while you reposed.”
“Thank you,” said Susan; “but I mustn’t keep y’u back from dancin’.”
“Don’t mention,” said Jones; “it would be preposterous to leave you in a
somnolescent state. Will you take some more beer?”
She shook her head firmly. “It make me giddy,” she confessed.
“All right, then, you stay here till I come. I am goin’ for a rum; I
soon be back.”
He went off to the refreshment stand, and Susan followed him with her
eyes. He was showing her a lot of attention: did he mean anything? She
quickly persuaded herself that he did; otherwise why should he have
remained with her all the time? It might be her good fortune to get
another intended in place of Tom. She thought of the yard-room and the
shop with disgust. This fellow was evidently well off, decent looking,
generous. . . . She smiled when he returned, and readily rose when he
suggested that they should take a little walk and then have a dance.
“Y’u like Spanish Town, Mr. Jones?” she asked him as they moved away.
“So, so,” he replied; “but I been living in Kingston these last ten
years—up in Allman Town.”
“Funny I never see y’u,” said Susan, though there seemed nothing really
funny in her not having before met one particular person in a city of
over sixty thousand souls.
“That is so,” Jones agreed; “it is a peculiar incident. And here we have
become acquainted just when I am goin’ away.”
“Goin’ away?” Susan asked, surprised. “Where?”
“Panama. They wants mechanics down there. An’ Mr. Hewet, an American man
that was down here three months ago hiring labourers, send for me. They
wants a man like me to help them dig the canal,” he proceeded
grandiloquently. “Fifteen dollars a week, an’ quarters. Here I can’t
earn much more than thirty shillin’s, an’ I have so many people to boss
me that sometimes I don’t know what to do.
“This is a worthless country,” he continued. “No prospects at all. It is
much better foreign. I don’t think I will bother come back to Jamaica.”
So he wasn’t “speaking her up” after all! The disappointment she felt
was keener than she would have thought possible. Her hastily constructed
castle in the air came toppling down, and only the shop and the
yard-room remained in their sordid reality.
Tom had gone to Panama. Jones was going. She knew that every week scores
and hundreds of other people went, and that the dream of almost
everybody she had met was to go to Colon or Port Limon, or “anywhere,”
as one man told the steamship clerk to whom he applied for a decker’s
ticket. “Anywhere.” Anywhere outside of Jamaica. That was the wish of
thousands of persons in all classes and ranks of society, and she had
caught the general infection.
She too wanted to go away. She had heard of the riches of Panama and
Costa Rica, and had often talked about those places with her friends.
Life there, they believed, was free as air; money almost to be had for
the asking. True, returning emigrants told of fearful fevers, and
unsympathetic policemen, and months of continuous rain, and the dark
impenetrable jungle; but the bright fantastic picture painted by
imagination cast no shadow in spite of all these dreadful tales. The
emigrants who returned to Jamaica almost invariably went back. The
fascination of the semi-civilized Central American countries, once felt,
was too often irresistible. Hundreds of forgotten graves in Central
America contained the bones of men and women who had gone thither with
high hopes of enriching themselves; but still the exodus continued. The
restless longing for change, for new scenes, for a new life, acted as a
spur to discontent.
Susan had become silent and depressed. Jones noticed this and asked her:
“No,” she said, “I was thinkin’!”
“What was you thinkin’ about?”
She hesitated, then said quite frankly:
“I would like to go to Colon.”
Jones pushed back his jippi jappa hat and stared at her. So she was
dissatisfied with Jamaica also! Half-jestingly he asked her:
“You want to go with me?”
She, on her part, surprised by the question, looked at him with eager
eyes. Her heart beat quickly, her face lit up with excitement.
“But y’u don’t mean it?” she asked.
Now he really did not know whether he meant it or not. He was a very
impulsive man, who did most things on the spur of the moment. He was
also a very gallant man, and wasted much of his substance on “females.”
He had no permanent connexion with any one of them just then, however;
and on Susan asking him whether he really wanted to take her with him or
not, it occurred to him that it might be a very fine thing indeed to
land in Colon with so attractive a companion.
The idea was worth playing with. “A man,” he answered Susan, “say a lot
of things he don’t mean. But y’u don’t answer me question yet. You would
like to come with me?”
She made up her mind to a straightforward reply. “I wouldn’t mind,
“If y’u would treat me good.”
“Oh,” he remonstrated. “Do you think a gentlemanly man like me would
treat y’u bad? I never do such a thing in me life!”
“I don’t think y’u would,” Susan graciously replied. “You don’t look
like those sort of young men at all.”
This compliment pleased Jones immensely. “You are intrinsically
correct,” he assured her. “Not a female have a word to say against
Samuel Josiah Jones. An’ you will find when you get to Colon what sort
of man I am.”
“Then you goin’ to take me?” Susan asked quickly.
“Of course! Don’t y’u want to go?”
Her heart gave one great bound. Here was the opportunity come to her at
“All right,” she exclaimed. “I will come. When you goin’?”
“Three weeks’ time. I give notice at the Railway already, but I have to
fix up me business. Where y’u live in Kingston?”
“Luke Lane. Y’u must come wid me to-night, let me introduce you to me
parents. The place don’t too nice, but you mustn’t mind dat.”
“Certainly not. You are nice, an’ that is enough.”
He felt that something more was required of him—something that a lover
in one of the novels he had read would have thought appropriate to the
occasion. At the moment only one thing in the way of what he called
poetry came to his memory; but still it was poetry, and therefore
suitable. He repeated it, standing still and looking fondly in Susan’s
“Fleecy looks and black complexion
Do not alter Nature’s claim,
Skin may differ, but affection
Dwells in white and black the same.”
He expected applause. As Susan did not know what the verse was intended
for, she simply answered, “Yes.”
“Let us go and tell Letitia,” she added, catching hold of his arm and
dragging him with her in her excitement. Nothing loth, he followed, and
soon they found Letitia, to whom the good tidings were told. Hezekiah
heard it too. He was standing near by when Susan was speaking to her
friend, and Susan spoke loudly on purpose that he might hear.
“I goin’ in three weeks’ time. I not comin’ back to Jamaica at all! Sam
going to get three pounds a week! What a good luck, eh, Letitia? What a
Hezekiah heard it all, and saw Jones in the flesh, smiling with the
consciousness of irresistible masculine attractions and great potential
wealth. Hezekiah could not doubt, and so that night he did exactly what
Susan had calculated on his doing. Not only Maria and her mother, but
everybody else that he met in Blake Lane was told that Susan had got
another intended with plenty of money, and was going to Colon.
“Dis world don’t level,” was Maria’s bitter comment on Susan’s
undeserved good fortune.
 Fortune is not fair.