THE FLY IN THE OINTMEN

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

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

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

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

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

“Who is ‘she’?” inquired the latter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jones snorted contemptuously, despising such prudence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The invitation was addressed to

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Susan!”

“Tom!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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