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Title: Droll stories of Isthmian life
Author: Saxton, Evelyn
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                             DROLL STORIES
                                  OF
                             ISTHMIAN LIFE

                           By EVELYN SAXTON

                       [Illustration: colophon]

                                 1914



                      The L. Graham Co., Printers

                           New Orleans, La.



INDEX OF FIRST PART.

                                        Page.
  Nine Years Ago at Panama                  7
  Mr. Comstock’s Arrival                   44
  The Derelict                             57
  The Bounder                              67
  Higgins’ Lady                            77
  The Gang in No. 10                       94
  The Man from No. 9                      105
  The Canal Zone Architect’s Wedding      124
  Graft                                   151
  Vere de Vere                            160
  An Awful Mystery                        175
  A night Off                             185
  The District Quartermasters             195
  Old Panama’s Renaissance                205
  Abe Lincoln, Foundling                  208
  Stranger Than Fiction                   211
  Faction Fights                          215


INDEX OF SECOND PART.

                                        Page.
  The Woes of the Manly Ones              219
  The Flight of the Manly Ones            222
  The Tango Skirt and The Woman           226
  An Epic of the Zone                     227
  To the Vultures on the Zone             229
  A Faker’s Farewell                      230
  It’s Got ’Em                            231
  It’s Hell                               233
  The Loco Germ                           234
  An Isthmian Wooer                       236
  A Word to the Slandered Ones            224
  Mrs. With’s Affinity                    225
  Preserved Peaches                       237
  Eugenics                                238
  Taboga                                  240
  Our Uncle George                        241



ARRIVAL AT PANAMA NINE YEARS AGO.


(PART I.)

Nine years have passed since the ship which brought me from New York to
Panama pulled out of its dock at the foot of Twenty-seventh Street. It
was a bitter cold day in February and the great “Iron City” appeared
very grey and forbidding as I took a last look at it before going below.
A glance at my fellow passengers revealed to me a motley crowd. A number
of tourists were on board bound for West Indian ports, for at that time
none of them would have dreamed of stopping off at Panama, and among
them were to be found the young and handsome, the old and ugly, the
lame, the halt and the blind. There were more than a hundred artisans
and clerks bound for the Panama Canal. There were several trained nurses
for the American hospitals on the Canal Zone, several mining engineers
who were on their way to New Mexico, to Peru, and a millionaire, also
from New Mexico, who, to use his own words, “owned the whole engineering
outfit.” There was also a well-known United States Army surgeon, his
wife, and the wives of several doctors who were already on the Isthmus.
In addition, there were several newspaper men, three San Blas Indians, a
general, an admiral, a Panamanian, who subsequently became President of
Panama, and lastly myself.

As my readers may imagine, the passengers were more or less divided. The
medical ladies felt themselves of such high degree in the profession as
to positively refuse to occupy state-rooms in that part of the ship
where the nurses had been assigned. They refused to eat at the same
table with them, and never, by any chance, would they sit in company.
The general and the admiral were the most democratic persons on board,
and divided their time equally among us all. It was a delightful trip.
Every night we assembled in the waist of the ship and danced to the
music of two violins under rhythm of the waves.

The general and the admiral looked on approvingly and forgot their
dignity to so great an extent as to keep time to the music with their
feet, as on-lookers are apt to do in forgetfulness when they are lifted
above their every-day surroundings by strains of sweet music. The poor
surgeon looked longingly toward the way we made merry, but he was too
hemmed in by conventionalities to join us, and he feared his
thin-voiced little wife, who was, as Charles Dickens would say, in an
interesting condition, and who ruled him with a rod of iron. The ladies
of his atmosphere lowered their eyes in token of disapproval whenever he
happened to venture in our midst, and on us they bestowed black looks.
But we didn’t care; we had music, good fellowship, laughter, love and
tropical moonlight, and, being a mixed assembly, we were carrying out to
the letter that spirit of delightful democracy which is the proudest
boast of the good old U. S. A.

But I digress. As I said before, we danced, and once the surgeon, his
wife being seasick, made a break and danced with us. He was a good
dancer, and, tell it not in Gath, he tried to flirt a little, but “we”
were as much afraid of the thin voice of his little wife as were the
good doctors themselves. “We” started with fear when “we” heard her
calling him. Every girl on board was engaged in a delightful flirtation,
and one young girl--a nurse--was engaged in good faith to the
millionaire. They were to be married at Panama as soon as they landed,
and she was going on with him to Peru. She now became a person of
consequence, because she had captured the only millionaire on board.
Even the medical ladies began to look upon her as a possible person, and
the proudest one among them, an F. F. V. deigned to converse with her,
remarking that she thought she had met her before somewhere; that she
must have come of a good family, etc.

All too soon the delightful trip was about to end. We were in Colon
harbor. Already a line of cocoanut palms had burst upon our view, and
the captain said that the pretty town in the distance was Cristobal.
Every one was shaking hands preparatory to going ashore. It was about
three o’clock in the afternoon and the last train had gone to Panama, so
we were obliged to spend the night at a Colon hotel.

I shall never forget with what feelings of disgust I went up the dirty
stairs to the bedroom which had been assigned to three of the nurses and
myself. There were broad verandas, around the hotel, and they were
littered with all kind of rubbish. The walls and floor of the bedroom
were bare and dingy, but the beds really looked clean. We did not sleep
that night because of the noise in the room next to ours. A disreputable
character occupied it, and she spent the night in a drunken revel with
some friends. In the morning I caught a glimpse of her, and I was amazed
to see that she was a notorious character who had been tried for bigamy,
she having married two young men, sons of wealthy parents, within the
space of a few months.

The New York yellow journals had featured her scandalous behavior, and
she finally dropped out of sight. On seeing her, a gloom settled on my
very soul, and a feeling of loathing for Colon came into my mind.

I was glad when the train which was to take us to Panama pulled out of
the station. As it sped on, we were charmed with the wild beauty of the
country. The luxurious tropical verdure was truly delightful, and helped
to cheer us after our depressing experience of the night before.

The train was dirty and the service bad. The conductor came and set down
beside me with the ease and freedom of a dear brother. He asked me
questions about myself and talked freely of his own past as follows:

“I came from the Far West, and I ain’t ever intending to go back. I been
a conductor on a railroad for nigh on fifteen years, an’ I tell you
what, I been a high flyer. I stole $30,000, killed a man who robbed me
of my girl, an’ then just lit out. Panama ain’t got no terrors for me,”
he continued, “though I will say that it is the doggondest place for
crooks that I ever struck.”

He chewed tobacco vigorously, and he spat through the open window in a
noisy sort of a way that was as amusing as it was disgusting.

“I’d like to marry a good, nice girl from the States,” he went on, “but
good ones from there is goldarned scarce. Some of the boys is taken up
with wenches, but I’m kind of particular about myself. Though I ain’t
been no saint, the woman I marry’ll have to be purty free from the dark
spots on her soul, an’ her skin’ll be white if I have me eyesight. I’m
gittin’ $211 a month, an’ the system is so goldurned bad that a feller
could knock down twice as much as that. I do want to be honest, but with
a system like this it’s purty hard fer a feller to be strictly on the
square.”

I looked into his face as he said this, and I was impressed with its
honesty. He had rather a likeable personality, and his kindly blue eyes
would have a tendency to inspire one with confidence. He had a strong
face, too--a face that might belong to one’s most respected friend--and
yet I felt my flesh creep at the thought that he was a self-confessed
thief and murderer. After a pause he resumed:

“All the folks that come in on this train’ll be measured for their
coffins as soon as they land at Panama. Folks is dyin’ like sheep here
now with yellow fever, and the place ain’t fit for Americans to live
in.”

“Only a few persons have died from yellow fever,” I corrected.

“Is that so?” he retorted. “Folks that jest land think they know it
all.”

At this juncture he was called by a collector, who appeared much
perturbed, and I concluded that something had gone wrong.

“Wal, let them rip; ain’t there a policeman out there?” The man looked
disgusted and went out grumbling.

The conductor restated himself, took a new chew of tobacco, and said:

“If I had no more brains than a collector I’d go to live in Panama, git
measured for me coffin, take yellow fever an’ die.”

This speech sent a shiver through me, as we were nearing Panama, and my
husband already lived there.

“The architect of the Canal Zone died yesterday, and the chief of the
Panama police died a few days ago,” went on my tormentor. “It ain’t no
place for ladies, an’ I wonder that the government lets them land. We’ll
be there in five minutes now. I’d be glad to see you again; an’, say! if
ever you go broke let me know an’ I’ll be Johnny-on-the-spot with some
dinero for you, fer I ain’t the kind of a man that’ud let a lady go
broke. Not with the lax system of the Panama railroad,” he concluded,
with a crackling sort of laugh that was truly funny.

We were at the station now. The nurses were being helped into omnibuses;
the medical ladies were helped into waiting victorias, which were drawn
by handsome black horses, and in a few minutes I, of all the new
arrivals, stood on the station platform alone. There was no one to meet
me. A lump gathered in my throat and my heart beat loudly. There were
negroes hurrying to and fro, but not a white person to be seen anywhere.
Finally I was approached by a young man, evidently a Panamanian, who
took off his hat and respectfully asked me if I would like him to get a
coach for me. “I do not know where I am to go,” I said simply. “I
expected my husband would meet me.”

“He must be ill,” said the young man, after a pause, “else he would not
have had you wait for him. It will be better for you to take a coach and
ride to the hospital at Ancon. The doctor at the gatehouse will know
whether your husband is sick or not.”

“Perhaps I ought to wait here a little longer,” I replied. “He might
have been detained.”

“It is hardly likely that he would have let anything except sickness
detain him,” said the young man. “You really must take a coach, because
there are rough Americans about who would not hesitate to insult you.”

“I do not fear them,” I said, “I am an American myself.”

“Ah, yes,” he replied, “but the Americans I know about Panama are not of
your class. They are here in great numbers, and they are very rough and
vulgar.”

I felt resentful, but at the same time grateful to him for his courtesy,
and I allowed him to call a coach and help me in. When I got to the
gatehouse of Ancon Hospital I was told that my husband had been admitted
to the yellow fever ward the night before. There were several men
suspected of having yellow fever, and he was among them. I was told that
it would be impossible to see him, as he was very ill and would not
recognize me.



ARRIVAL AT PANAMA NINE YEARS AGO.


(PART II.)

“That’s what I call hard luck,” said the doctor in charge. “Where are
you going to stop? You’d better go to the Central. There’s American
women down there.” He then gave me some quinine and bade me take care of
myself, after which I entered the cab and was driven to the Central
Hotel in Panama, where I engaged a room. It was up one flight and
overlooked the Cathedral Plaza. The furniture consisted of two broken
chairs, a broken table, a rickety desk of drawers, with pieces of string
attached for handles, and a mirror very dim from age. There was no rug
on the dirty floor, and there did not appear to be any means of lighting
the place. The walls and ceilings were festooned with cobwebs, and the
grime of many years completely covered the paint, which one might guess
had once been an unsightly green. There were two small beds in the room,
and on examining them I found them to be very clean. They were
incongruously draped within white net, such as is used by milliners.
The servant told me that the net was used to keep mosquitoes from biting
the sleepers. For this disreputable apartment, with two meals and a cup
of very bad coffee, I was to pay $5.00 gold per day. There was no bell
in the room, and no one looked in to see if I might need anything. When
I shut the door and put a chair against it I felt as much alone as if I
was on a desert island. There was a little balcony outside the door,
which looked out upon the street, and I sat on this the whole afternoon,
as the gloom and dampness of the room depressed me terribly. When night
came a negro brought me a candle stuck in an old black bottle. He also
brought my dinner, although I had intended to go into the dining-room,
which was well lighted, as I thought I might meet some American women
there.

Day after day I sat on my little balcony and looked upon the plaza. I
was too perturbed to read. Sometimes I went downstairs and entered the
peaceful Cathedral, where I knelt before graven images and offered up
Protestant prayers for my husband’s safe recovery and for my own peace
of mind. In the hotel dining-room I noticed some women whom I thought
might be Americans. They were bulging-browed, loud-voiced, unsocial to
one another, and unfriendly to me. They were well groomed, however, and
wore good jewels. Every day they rode horseback astride, and shouted to
one another in nasal tones, but all my efforts to get acquainted with
them were in vain. They looked at me as if to say: “Gee! but you do
represent the gloomy side of Panama.” I subsequently learned that these
women were the wives of contracting engineers and railroad men from the
Far West. They were the only women in evidence in Panama at that time. I
occasionally saw a sad-faced woman, carefully wrapped in a black shawl,
on her way to the Cathedral to pray; an occasional Sister of Charity and
negro workmen. The Panamanian ladies were in their camps in the country
and at Taboga Island, and if there were any in the city they were timid
about going into the streets, as Panama was filled to overflowing with
adventurers from all over the world, for it was the reconstruction
period, and the Isthmus was in a state of chaos. I had never seen such a
variety of men. There were men who rode fine horses, looking like
cavaliers of olden times. There were men who wore boots a la
Meddowbrook, and other toggery not unlike those of the Meddowbrook Hunt
Club. There were slick, fat, cheerful looking Chinamen who rode
horseback at breakneck speed in the early morning hours and in the late
hours of the afternoon. There were negroes of every hue, from
shiny-black to that peculiar red-brown shade that denotes the dividing
line. There were numbers of coaches drawn hither and thither filled to
overflowing with men, black, white and brown. I had been looking at them
from my balcony for several days, and at last I made up my mind to go
into the street among them. I would sally forth in the late hours of the
afternoon, and would usually walk to Ancon to make enquiries about my
husband, and, unless I happened to be fortunate enough to find a coach
that was not engaged, I walked back, “a foolhardy thing to do in those
days,” said the hotel clerk in tones which denoted that he considered me
very much under his protection. At first men leered at me, but after a
time they passed me with averted gaze. They not infrequently got out of
coaches and invited me to get in. They knew that the demand for coaches
was greater than the supply, and it became generally known that I was
alone and that my husband was ill in the Ancon Hospital. I soon began to
learn who were Americans, because, no matter how drunk they appeared to
be, whenever I met them on the streets of Panama they showed me some
courtesy, which plainly said: “We’re with you, and we feel sorry for
you.”

Negroes worked slowly in the streets under a broiling sun. They were
paving Panama’s streets with brick at this time. It seemed a hopeless
task, as viewed through a woman’s eyes. Mr. Durham had begun the work,
but made slow progress, because of the restrictions imposed upon him.
However, he must have been a man of courage to undertake such a work at
that time. Mr. J. G. Holcomb subsequently brought the work to a
successful completion. Something more impelling than a desire to earn
$6,000 or $7,000 a year must have prompted these men to undertake to
remodel the misshapen city of Panama, where the filth of three hundred
years had accumulated. When the work was about finished, Mr. Holcomb was
coolly discharged. The Panamanian Government, however, retained him, for
the Panamanians knew how much they were really indebted to him. Colombia
had never done anything for Panama, and most of the city’s streets were
mere zigzag mounds of unwholesome red clay. The common people had never
formed habits of cleanliness, and it was an interesting sight to see the
sanitary squad at work cleaning out their houses. I often paused in my
rambles to watch them. Two great wagons, containing barrels filled with
oil and disinfectants, were drawn up to the doors of the houses which
were to be cleaned. A rubber hose would be attached to the street
hydrant and, after the rooms were carefully prepared with disinfectants,
the water would be turned on and a number of men would proceed to scrub
the ceilings, walls and floors. Then the oil would be sprinkled upon the
spots outside which were thought might be breeding-places for
mosquitoes. That rubbish, which is so dear to the heart of every
housekeeper in the world, and which is to be found in a greater or less
degree in the house of the banker and laborer alike, when discovered in
the houses of the poor Panamanians, was confiscated by order of the head
of the sanitation department and conveyed outside of the city and
burned. In this way Panama was converted into the clean, well-ordered
city it is to-day, and to Colonel Gorgas is due the credit of having
made it so.

One afternoon while on my way to Ancon Hospital I met a man whom I had
known in Boston during my schooldays. He was then a manufacturer of
rubber goods, and apparently successful. Now he was a member of Colonel
Gorgas’ sanitary squad. He told me that two men had been taken from the
Central Hotel that morning, and it was found that they were suffering
from yellow fever. “You will not be allowed to stay there now,” he said.
“But what shall I do?” I exclaimed. “There is no other place to live.”
“I know a man named Martin Luther,” replied my informant. “Did you ever
hear of him? He’s from Boston. He used to be a labor agent, a milkman, a
real estate man, a street car conductor, a preacher, a theatrical
manager, and a walking delegate. Now he is superintendent of
construction at Ancon. He’ll fix you up all right. How would you like to
live in a tent among the boys on Ancon Hill?” “I should like it,” I
said, “but it would be a little irregular, wouldn’t it? A lone woman to
live in a tent among men?” “Oh, shucks! That’s the best place for you.
I’ll see Martin Luther about it this afternoon, and you’ll be moved
soon. Martin Luther has a tender heart, even if he does swear a blue
streak sometimes.”

Together we walked back to the hotel, to find the sanitary squad at work
cleaning out the house. When I entered my room I hardly knew it. It had
an odor redolent of disinfectants that delighted me. The walls and the
ceilings had been cleaned, and the color of the paint was quite visible.
The color had been thoroughly soaked with the disinfecting fluid, and,
sad to relate, the mirror was of no further use as a reflector of my
freckled beauty, for the last vestige of quicksilver had disappeared,
and only the glass remained, with its wooden back showing through it. I
began to like the place now, and I decided to go out on the morrow and
buy a new looking-glass. I decided, too, to unpack my books and
pictures, and I began to speculate on the coziness of my room when I
should have it furnished with my own belongings. The thought of it all
gave me the first comfortable feeling I had experienced since my arrival
at Panama. On the following morning I went out early and bought a pretty
tea set at a Chinese store, and I actually forgot my uneasiness of mind
in the thought of the pretty tea table I was to set up. On my return to
the hotel I was doomed to disappointment, for a communication awaited me
suggesting that I prepare to leave the hotel. But where am I to go? I
thought. I spent a disquieting afternoon speculating what was to become
of me. The hotel had been closed, and, as far as I knew, it was now
quite sanitary, so I wondered why I had been ordered to move in such a
peremptory manner. Late in the afternoon a cart came from the
construction department at Ancon for my trunks, and a negro handed me an
envelope, with “I. C. C.” on one of its corners. This startled me, it
had such an official appearance, so, with a beating heart and trembling
hand, I opened it and read as follows:

     “Dear Madam: Give your trunks to this nigger. At eight o’clock
     to-night a cock-eyed Dutchman, with bowlegs, will call for you. You
     are to live in your husband’s tent, which has been remodeled for
     you.
                                                   MARTIN LUTHER, Etc.”

On reading this I did not know whether to laugh or to cry. My anxiety
had been somewhat relieved, and presuming that the tent was among those
on Ancon Hill “among the boys,” I should be near to the hospital. Still
it seemed rather irregular for a lone woman to live among men, and in a
tent, I reflected. However, I sent the trunks away, and awaited the
arrival of the “cock-eyed Dutchman.”

My sense of the aesthetic was somewhat outraged that such a person
should be picked out to escort me from the hotel, especially as Panama
was filled to overflowing with stalwart Americans. At eight o’clock my
escort arrived, and did not present too bad an appearance. He was a
clean-looking little fellow with reddish hair, and rather a scholarly
type of face. He wore glasses, so that his eyes appeared to be straight,
but his legs might have been a little bit straighter. However, he was
very gallant, and we were soon on our way to Ancon. The tent was unlike
any other that I have seen, as it was hemmed in on all sides by mosquito
netting. It had a hardwood floor, and was comfortably furnished. It had
a tiny veranda, too, which commanded a fine view of the Pacific. On all
sides of me there were tents. The tent of Martin Luther was at the head
of the line, and I was quite taken with him, for he brought me a gun and
told me that the boys would be ready and willing to protect me with
their very lives. This I subsequently found to be quite true. The boys
were all Americans, and ranged in age from 29 to 50 years. The most of
them were veterans of the Spanish-American War, and had been knocking
about in the tropics since that interesting period, so they looked upon
a young white woman, clothed in white, as an ethereal being. My presence
among them must have imposed a strain, for they talked in lowered
voices, and even played poker in rather a silent manner. After a time
the strain became so great that the poker playing was done in the tent
that was farthest away from mine, and my evenings thereafter were very
lonely. I was the first woman that had ever lived on that part of the
hill; at least, that is what Maitland said. I made the acquaintance of
Maitland on the morning after my arrival on Ancon Hill. I awoke early,
feeling very hungry, and, looking out, saw, close to the wire netting,
an old black face. Never had there been a more welcome sight, as I had
no means of procuring breakfast.

“Good morning, mistress,” said the voice of Maitland; “I hope you slept
well.” “Good morning,” I returned, with more cordiality than one would
be likely to show under other circumstances. “My name is Maitland, an’
my business is to look after the tents for the boys, see that the
niggers don’t steal their clothes, an’ to keep the tents clean.” “Do you
ever have any spare time?” I asked. “Oh, yes, mistress, lots of it, an’
I’ll work for you if you will give me something to eat.” “But I am
suffering myself for something to eat,” I replied. “Well, that’s too
bad,” said Maitland, “but if you have some money, I’ll bring you some
beautiful breakfast from Eduardo’s, for they sho’ do cook things fine.”
So I gave him some money, and ordered hire, to bring two breakfasts. He
soon returned with the food, as disgusting a mess as was ever served to
a human being. I was unable to eat it, but Maitland sat on the doorstep
and devoured it with relish. He expressed some concern that I did not
eat, and made some practical suggestions. One was that I get coffee from
the Commission Commissary at Cristobal, and an oil stove in Panama.
Later he found a Jamaican woman, who cooked the meals for me. These he
would bring to the door, and I really enjoyed them. He helped me to
stain the floors and hang my pictures and flags, so, like Robinson
Crusoe and his man Friday, I settled down to the life with resignation,
and began to feel as much a part of it as if I had always lived this
way.

The tent was one of the most picturesque habitations in Panama, and
almost every day something new was added to its adornment. It had an old
brass lamp which had been brought from France, Second Empire style, very
beautiful to look at, but very useless as a bestower of light. I had an
old mahogany desk which had been in use in De Lesseps’ own home, in the
old French days. Some good engravings, relics of my palmy days in New
York, and some real Persian rugs and velvet portiers gave the place the
look of an Arab shiek. Every day I sat alone on the tiny veranda and
wrote or read. I never saw a woman, and the men passed the tent with
averted gaze. Martin Luther usually stopped for a moment to inquire if I
was all right, and if Maitland had been sober. If anything unusual
occurred he would shout it to me. In this way I kept a line on the world
outside of the tent. I seldom went to the city, but whenever I did go
Maitland walked behind me at a respectful distance. One morning I awoke
feeling faint and sick. I found that I had been bitten on my right foot
by some insect. I naturally concluded that it was a tarantula. As the
foot was terribly swollen, I called to Maitland, who came in breathless,
and declared that I had but a short time to live. “Go for a doctor,” I
gasped, and in my fright I began to feel the chill, cold hand of death
at my heart.

Maitland vanished, and soon returned with a little old man, who carried
a green carpet-bag that appeared to be filled with something heavy. The
little old man walked as if he was very tired, and as he knelt down
beside my chair he heaved a long, tired sigh. His hands were small, but
very much knotted, and his eyes were a pale, sad blue. He sat back upon
his heels and looked critically at the swollen foot, pinching it from
time to time, and sighing sadly.

“Was the lady bit by a tarantula, Doctor?” asked Maitland anxiously.

“Ah, yes,” sighed the little man, kindly stroking my foot.

“Then I shall not live much longer?” said I, with a choking lump in my
throat.

“You’ll live just twenty-four hours, unless you have your foot taken
off,” he uttered.

The sincerity of his tone convinced me that I must be near the end of my
life. I had always heard that the bite of a tarantula was fatal, so I
advised Maitland to go for Martin Luther. He would have me sent to the
hospital, and I would have my foot cut off. I wrote a few words of
farewell to friends and sat, frightened and still, while the doctor
bathed my foot with a concoction of stuff, the ingredients of which were
vinegar, ether, pickle and linseed oil.

“That will take the venom out of it,” said the doctor, with another
sigh, as he opened the bag and drew forth a number of old, rusty
instruments. These he wiped carefully on his old blue overalls.

Now Maitland returned with Martin Luther, who grinned as he beheld the
doctor at work on my foot.

“Well, I’ll be goldurned,” said he, throwing his hat upon the floor.
“What in thunder are you doing, Moll? For the love of Mike, don’t go to
poisoning her foot with that old rusty needle.”

“These instruments cost my father a small fortune.”

“Yes, a hundred years ago,” answered Martin Luther, with a disgusted
look.

“Tie up her foot, Moll, and we’ll send her to the hospital,” said Martin
Luther; “and you’d better be getting back on the job, or you’ll be
fired.”

“All right,” answered the little man, with a weary sigh, as he picked up
his green carpet-bag and bade me good morning. Meantime Maitland had
discovered that I had been bitten by a young scorpion.

“That ain’t anything,” said Martin Luther. “I get bit every night, and I
feel better for it. Moll would have cut your foot off if I hadn’t come.”

“Is he attached to the hospital?” I asked.

“Yes,” replied Martin Luther, with a chuckle, “he works for me in the
carpenter shop. He used to be a doctor, but he cut a feller’s toe off in
Cuba with one of them old rusty knives, and blood poison set in and the
feller died, so the medical society won’t let him doctor any more. He
made a mighty good carpenter, but the poor old devil has wheels.
Maitland, if you call that old guy again when any one is sick or hurt,
I’ll have you fired.”

“He cured me of that evil eye that the girl gave me that time, an’ he’s
the best doctor in the world,” said Maitland.

One morning it was announced that a new official had arrived to dwell in
one of the three real cottages on the hill. It was a short distance from
the line of tents. A barbed wire was the dividing line between the tent
ground and the aristocratic residential section. The residents of both
sections kept well within their respective bounds. The wife of the
official must have caught a glimpse of me in the distance on the day of
her arrival, for she wrote a note that night to Martin Luther, which
read something like this:

“Sir--You will please send to my house to-morrow morning the woman who
lives in the tent beside yours. I have not been used to black servants,
and I can’t bear to have them wait upon me. I will give her fifty cents,
gold, a day, and her meals, and she can have a room on my back veranda.
I shall need her at six o’clock in the morning. I hope her character is
good.”

This was kept from me, but a consultation was held, and one of the tent
dwellers, who had been a lawyer in the days before the Spanish-American
War, dictated a pungent letter to the wife of the official, which
enlightened her as to the respective classes to which both she and I
belonged. She was told in part that the woman in the tent was a graduate
of Wellesley College, and had never been obliged to even wait upon
herself.

The official and his lady were invited to come to my tent and to size me
up and see for themselves whether the woman in the tent was the sort of
a person who would make a fancy laundress or not.

On the morning following Mrs. Official paid me a visit, and not only
sized me up to her heart’s content, but asked me questions until I
thought myself on a witness stand on trial for my life. Then, after
offering to buy from me, at her own price, the pretty furnishings in the
tent, she departed, and I have never seen her since.

One morning news was brought to me that the little old doctor was
arrested and was sent to Chiriqui prison. Maitland burst out crying when
I asked him about it, and declared that, as there was a God, the doctor
would soon be again free to cure the evil and all the other ills to
which black humanity is heir.



ARRIVAL AT PANAMA NINE YEARS AGO.


(PART III.)

The new official and his wife, to whom I have already alluded, had both
been in Cuba during the war between the United States and the Spaniards.
The woman had some years before the war had a manicuring and shampooing
establishment at Havana, but when the American troops came pouring in
she decided to turn her parlors into a barber shop. So she shaved troops
with much success, and married a Rough Rider in T. R.’s famous troops of
cavaliers.

When T. R. became President of the U. S. A. he gave this particular
Rough Rider the only position that he could fill. He was an illiterate
man, but he was imbued with a social bug, and he had a dream of becoming
a prominent social lion on the Isthmus. The fair barberess was
good-looking, vivacious, a good dancer, and a lady of good style. Judge
of the surprise of the official pair upon their arrival on Ancon Hill to
find that virgin spot was dotted with tents in which lived the soldiers
of fortune whom the lady had shaved in the dreaming old war days.

“We sure are in bad,” said the official. “Here’s the whole bunch of
chumps that used to be in Havana.”

“Goodness gracious!” exclaimed the lady; “what shall we do? Even old Dr.
Moll is here. Now he’ll tell every one that I was a barber and that he
lovingly called me the little shaver.”

“If he does I’ll have the old devil put in jail,” said the official.

The presence of the old-time acquaintances had been made known to the
official pair by Martin Luther, upon their request to have me sent to
them as a servant.

“What--what do you suppose?” said the little old doctor to Martin
Luther. “Mike is here, and is now an official. We were all awfully fond
of her when she used to shave us. I wonder will she notice us now.”

“Not on your life,” answered Martin L.

The lawyer, who occupied one of the tents, and who was regularly
employed as a timekeeper in one of the nearby offices, gave the doctor
some good advice, as follows: “If you pretend that you ever knew Mike
and the little shaver in the old war days, you’ll find yourself floating
around at high tide in Chiriqui prison, for you know that Mike was a
snob, and now that he has this official position, he’ll put it all over
us, even though we all fared alike in the corral in Havana.”

“She was always good and nice to me, and when I told her once that I
loved her she was real sorry that she was in love with Mike instead of
me.”

“So you told her you loved her, did you? Well, I see your finish. Mike
will never allow a man to live that once was a suitor for the hand of
the little shaver, especially a man who is working in the carpenter
shop.”

“She’ll be glad to see us all,” said the little doctor, with the
conviction that every one on earth had a nature as simple and noble as
his own.

Two days later he was arrested for stealing one thousand dollars from
his room mate, who had the money tied up in the sleeve of an old coat,
which was kept in a trunk in one corner of the tent in which the two men
lived. The official measured carefully the ground on which the tent
stood, and found that the part of the trunk in which the coat lay was on
Panamanian territory. He therefore turned the poor little old doctor
over to the Panamanian authorities, and the gentle little old man was
handcuffed to a negro murderer, and, while the crowds looked on and
jeered, he was led through the streets of Panama to Chiriqui prison,
where he was kept for five months, until a kind-hearted Panamanian
lawyer investigated the matter and learned that the money had been found
three days after the little old man had been committed.

Then the little old doctor was liberated from Chiriqui prison and
resumed his occupation in the carpenter shop, with bowed head and broken
spirit. His old comrades endeavored to cheer him, but, in spite of the
gentleness of his nature, he nursed the terrible wrong until it became a
nightmare. He had a fear that the official called Mike was plotting
against his life, and he began to have dreams that he thought came true.
Each evening he sought his best friends and told them that he had not
long to live. He would conjure up a picture for them of his mother and
father, who were dead about twenty years, and of an old sweetheart
called Betty, whose father, away back in old Virginia, was not only a
colonel, but a judge as well. He would stand in the center of a group of
his friends and tell them that he could close his eyes and see his dead
loved one. “There they are now,” he would say. “There’s little Betty,
like a pink and white carnation, and there’s the judge and colonel
sitting beside Betty and looking lovingly at her like he used to when I
used to go to court her. Ah, see, she loves me still, and I’ll soon be
with her, boys.” At first the men tried to soothe him, but after a time
they decided to agree with him that his end was at hand, and this, as
Martin L. put it, “made the wheels go round faster,” and the little old
man became quite ill in anticipation of his coming demise. Then he was
sent to Taboga to recuperate, and there he fell madly in love with a
young nurse, and became, as a result, quite restored to his normal frame
of mind.

Meantime Mike and the little shaver were leading society by the nose, as
the tent lawyer tritely put it. They had moved into a more palatial
dwelling house and were entertaining foreign ministers and their ladies,
while their old-time friends of the dreamy old war days spent their
waking hours of leisure playing poker.

I had lived in the tent five months, and the time for me to depart to
the United States was drawing to a close. Every day for five months I
had sat on the piazza and gazed upon the lovely Pacific in all its
splendor. Every night during that time I listened to the quiet games of
poker that were being played about me, and I heard the exultant shouts
of the revellers as they cheered the performers in the cantina of
Edmardillo, as they bounded to the fandango and wriggled to the bolero.
In all the five months no woman ever called upon me, and I can safely
say that never in my life have I had so long a period of perfect peace.
Finally the day came when I was to sail away to the U. S. A., and I
impartially distributed the furnishings of the tent among the other tent
residents. The little doctor declined to accept anything of commercial
value, but he begged to be allowed to take as a souvenir a lock of my
hair. He finally consented taking a photograph which some one of the
tent dwellers had taken of me as I sat reading on the tent piazza. On
the ninth of July, with a sad heart, I left the hill to go to New York.
The tent dwellers accompanied me to Colon and stood in a group, waving
their handkerchiefs until the ship was out of sight. With the exception
of three, I have never seen them since. When I returned two years later
I found that they were scattered far and wide. Many are now in
California, in Ecuador, in Brazil, in Peru, in Alaska, and many of them
are dead. But the most pleasant experience of my life was the months in
the tent on Ancon Hill, and I shall always remember with gratitude the
chivalry and kindness with which I was treated by the poor soldiers of
fortune when I was alone, friendless and a stranger in Panama.

Two years later I alighted from a train at Panama and was driven to the
Tivoli Hotel. There was to be a ball there that night, and I sat in the
lobby and watched the smiling throng passing from the dining-room to
the ballroom and balconies.

Men and women in correct evening dress stood about in groups and chatted
with an expectant air, as if some one of consequence was yet to arrive.
Soft lights glowed in the ballroom, and there was good music.

The revellers were beginning to consult their programs, and in less than
five minutes I would be alone in the lobby. I felt a sadness steal upon
me, and I began to wonder where I was, when, lo! who should come
downstairs but Martin Luther.

My heart leaped. He was clad in khaki and leather leggins, and carried
his cowboy hat in his hand.

“Well, so you’re back again. What do you think of this?” said he, by way
of greeting.

“It is like a scene in fairyland,” I replied. “What does it mean, and
who are all these people? What hotel is this?”

“Don’t you know any of ’em?” he asked.

“No, not one,” I replied.

“Well, some of them are the main guys, an’ many of ’em are just
carpenters, plumbers, steam-fitters, steam-shovel men and powder men,
and the washed-out, conceited-looking guys are $125 doctors and clerks.
They were all here in your time, but they didn’t buck up to this gait
then.”

“But what hotel is this?” I asked.

“Why, it’s the Tivoli, and this is the Tivoli Club that’s dancing. They
were just going to start this building when you were here two years
ago.”

“It is all very wonderful,” I replied.

“Well, wait till you hear all about it. Bates, he’s a carpenter; and
Barrett, a policeman; and Norman, a guy that shins up electric light
poles and is a cousin of Shanklin, the American Consul--he’s here
to-night. Awhile ago they got their heads together, an’ they thought
’twould be a good idea to get their best girls an’ have a dance here
every Saturday night. They are all getting good pay, so they sent to the
States for swallowtail suits an’ they started. Well, they hired
musicians in Panama, and the girls looked so swell that some other guys
got in.

“Notices got in the papers in Panama, and the highbrows began to get
interested, so they tried to get the ballroom away from the fellows that
started the thing, and when that didn’t work they came right along to
the dances without saying ‘By your leave,’ and here they are, dancing to
beat the band, and as bold as brass.”

“Where are the men who used to live in the tents?” I asked.

“They’ve gone away to Brazil, to Peru, to Ecuador and to Alaska. They
didn’t like this civilized business; they’d rather be in some new
country, where there ain’t no style. Them fellows were men of the world.

“Catch on to that little man with the whiskers on his chin? He’s the guy
that has the soft snap. He’s running a little paper about the size of a
postage stamp, and he has seven other guys, probably relatives,
assisting in the editing of it. He has the finest house on Ancon Hill, a
pair of horses, two carriages, two saddle horses, one for himself and
one for his daughter, and twelve thousand a year. Looks like a slick
guy, don’t he? He’s got his first dollar, an’, what do you think? His
house stands right where your tent used to stand. The hill is covered
with beautiful houses now.”

So Martin Luther chatted on as I watched, fascinated, the late comers.

“Suppose we go to the ballroom and watch ’em caper--see the snobs an’
the two-cent nobodies, eh? I ain’t in a swallowtail coat, but every one
knows me, and they know that I’ve been up in the roof tryin’ to stop a
leak.”

I followed him into the ballroom, and he gallantly offered me his arm
and led me to a seat.

Each man danced with his wife, daughter or sweetheart, and if he
happened to be without either he sat and looked on with arms folded upon
his breast. Elderly ladies sat straight against the wall, their hands
folded, and a patient smile upon their faded faces. An iciness clutched
my very soul as I sat mute while Luther talked.

“There’s Bates, the best carpenter I have, and he’s rigged up like a
scarecrow. Look at the white shoes and red stockings and red
necktie--things that no one but a fool would wear with a swallowtail
suit. There’s Mike Lyman, wearing a yellow soft shirt, when he ought to
wear a boiled one, and, doggone it, look at Dodson. He’s got on a blue
tie, russet shoes and a watch chain with a shark’s tooth mounted on it
that would moor a ship. Wait till to-morrow when I see them guys. I’ll
have some fun with them. Catch on to Red Mike and the little shaver. And
there’s Garabaldi and Major Brooks. They are the real thing, but
Garabaldi can’t get any one to dance with him, because he don’t put on
lugs; he’s just a simple chap, but he’s good-looking, ain’t he? He’s a
grandson of that old general who put the Pope in prison, or something
like that.

“Some fellows tried to tell me that Garabaldi was only the name of a
race horse on Long Island. Well, anyway, no one has anything to do with
him but Major Brooks.

“Do you see that old guy over there with the glassy bald head that looks
like a cross between a barn door and a wooden leg? Well, he’s another
guy that’s got a soft snap. He lives on the hill, and his house stands
right where my tent used to be. He got in trouble here in the Tivoli
once because he was fresh with the black chambermaids.”

While all this gossip was being poured into my ear I sized up the
ensemble, which was a pleasant picture. When supper was served there was
a grand rush for the dining-room that seemed like the sort of stampede
one might see at a bargain sale on Sixth Avenue, New York. A more motley
crew never blended together at any function. Every craft and profession
had a representative, and there were at the Tivoli that night one or
more persons from every nation in the world.



MR. COMSTOCK’S ARRIVAL.


Mr. Comstock’s arrival at Panama created almost as much stir as did the
arrival of the much beloved and respected T. R., for it was rumored
among Americans on Ancon Hill that John Drew was in town. “Well, say,
the theatrical business must be on the bum,” said the veterans, one to
another. “Surely he is not going to play at Edmarrillos.” The subject of
their comments--the man who looked like John Drew--had recently come to
the Isthmus to work in the timekeeping office at Ancon. “Good morning,
Mr. Drew,” said a young clerk, as Mr. Comstock appeared, ready for
induction into the mysteries of his new position. “My dear young man,”
he replied, “my name is not Drew. I am Arthur Algernon Comstock, of
London, of the Surrey Comstocks, grandson of Lord Algernon Percival
Fillbois, and nephew of Percival Gibbon Comstock, Lord Bishop of
Hounslow.”

“I beg your pardon, Mr. Comstock,” said the clerk humbly. “We thought
you were John Drew, because you look exactly like him.” “Dear me! How
very singular,” replied Mr. Comstock. “Why, it is nothing short of libel
to compare a brute like myself to such a well-behaved chap as John Drew,
and it is iniquitous and unnatural that a Comstock, of Comstock Lodge,
Surrey, should even resemble an actor. I am quite amazed, really I am.
Dear! dear! how my aunt, the Lady Maria Derald Fillbois, would laugh if
she were to know that these Yankee chaps were calling me Mr. Drew.
Fastidious chap, John Drew. Here, my dear fellow, have a smoke,” handing
the young man his ivory cigar case, lined with gold. It was well filled
with cigars of a better quality than were to be found at that time at
Panama, and it bore the Comstock coat of arms.

It soon became generally known that there was a lord, or duke, or
something of the sort, working in the office of the chief timekeeper,
who was a good old sport, likeable, and democratic in his ways, just
like an American, only his expressions of speech were a bit queer. From
time to time fragments of anecdote were related to me as having come
from the well-stored mind of Mr. Comstock. This plainly told me that he
was a man of some erudition. There was a very clever toast which he was
in the habit of giving when in his cups. It appears to have been
written by one Sir Fitzhugh Clavering Comstock, and was said to be both
brilliant and mirth-provoking. The most humble of the Americans on Ancon
Hill had a copy of it, but, strange to say, I was never permitted to
hear the words, and am, therefore, unable to give them to my readers.

It became a popular diversion to listen to the story of Mr. Comstock’s
life, as told by himself, and it ran about as follows: “My mother was
the Lady Elizabeth Howard Derald Fillbois, a beautiful but delicate
woman, and my father was James Percival Comstock, brother of the present
Lord Bishop of Hounslow. My father was a perfect devil for sport, poor
chap. He, it seems, neglected to cherish my mother, and soon after my
birth she died, her family said, of a broken heart. Then my father went
to travel on the Continent, and never returned to England again. He died
a few years ago, poor old chap. He had many affaires d’amour, poor chap.
It quite saddens me to think of them. Really, I wonder how he ever came
out of some of them without losing his honor. I became acquainted with
him when I myself traveled on the Continent, and I became quite fond of
his society. His family and friends got on his nerves, and he abominated
his own country people, the English. My brother and myself were taken at
the time of my mother’s death by my aunt, the Lady Maria Howard Derald
Fillbois, my mother’s only sister, who was a very strong-minded but
fascinating woman, and who took a notion to forsake her lover at the
altar in the presence of half of the aristocracy of England.

“She was a kindly woman, with a strong sense of humor, but was horribly
stingy with us boys. The village folk loved her.

“Well, she had kennels filled with the finest dogs in the United
Kingdom, and, oh, horrors! she obliged my brother and myself to pick the
fleas from the brutes in order to earn spending money. An old Irishman
named Tim Burden stood over us and counted the fleas, for each one of
which we received a ha’penny.

“At one time we became so outraged at the indignity that we wrote to our
father and complained to him. He, bounder that he was, treacherously
sent our letter, with a very complimentary one inclosed, to the Lady
Maria. ‘If it were not for the Deceased Wife’s Sister Prohibitive
Marriage Law,’ wrote he, ‘I should ask you for your hand and heart in
marriage, for your way of managing my sons, the Comstock boys, not only
proves you to be a woman of deep penetration, but one with a most
logical mind and most practical sense of humor. It is no wonder that you
have always been considered to be a female far above the other silly
members of your sex.”

“The dogs were named after my aunt’s favorite characters in history,
viz., Abraham Lincoln, Lord Byron, Napoleon, Beau Brummel, Nell Gynn,
Martha Washington and George Washington, respectively. There were, too,
many others whose names I forget.

“We were so keen about earning half-pennies that we spent the greater
part of each day hunting fleas, and the dogs, thinking us unselfish in
ridding them of such torment, grew to be inordinately fond of us, and it
looked at times, indeed, as if the pests were becoming extinct, for we
often hunted for them for hours in vain. This last was a discouraging
development for us, and we induced old Tim Burden to report for us and
complain to our aunt, in the hope that she would give us a few pennies
as a token of gratitude, but she would merely look solemn and say:$1‘Is
it not good to know that a Comstock has really earned some money by the
sweat of his brow, and, in addition, relieved a fellow-being of
torment?’ ‘Then you compare us to brutes,’ said my brother on one
occasion, he having observed the comparison. ‘No! no!’ replied she, ‘a
Comstock could never be compared with nobility to my magnificent,
well-bred dogs. Abraham Lincoln is the most noble animal in England. I
named him after Lincoln because he saved a little negro child from
drowning at Brighton Beach.’

“I subsequently learned that the Comstocks were devils for all kinds of
sport. The fire was in my blood at an early age, too, and the Lady Maria
knew the symptoms. As we became expert at flea-catching it became less
repugnant to us, and in the end we developed an interest in the little
pests that quite pleased my aunt. We began to discern the difference in
their social and physical habits to a degree which threatened to affect
our future. Our aunt now hinted at our becoming naturalists, and,
strange to say, my brother actually became one, and to-day is considered
an authority not only on the flea, but every variety of insect as well.
What a disgusting occupation!

“At the age of 16 I was placed in the counting-house of an American
banking firm in London. The banker was a decent fellow, fastidious and
all that, not a bit crude, and he had the greatest admiration for the
Lady Maria. At 18 I had an affair with a village girl named Anna
Shakespeare. She was a very good-looking girl, of a magnetic
temperament, and my aunt was rather fond of her. Though of tender years,
my young ideas had been shooting rather promiscuously for some time. The
girl had taken to the affair ad libitum, and I was making plans to have
her come to lodgings in London, as there had been quite some talk in the
village at home, which had upset my aunt terribly. Anna was to leave the
village secretly, after which we were to repair to our future home. I
was delighted with the prospect of having the girl with me, and I went
to the meeting place with my heart filled with delightful emotions,
when, what do you think? I was met by the bounder of a banker, the Lady
Maria, and my uncle, the then Rev. Percival Gibbon Comstock. I was
astounded, and stood rooted to the spot, as the novelists say. The
perspiration rolled from my forehead in the most disgusting profusion,
and I was unable to speak. Lady Maria advanced and held out her hand,
upon which I bestowed a clammy kiss. There was a light in her eyes as
they met mine. At this moment Anna entered, flushed and excited, but, on
finding that my relatives were with me, started to withdraw, when my
aunt caught her and held her firmly. ‘You will kiss your sweetheart,
Arthur,’ said she, in a bantering tone. I hung my head and looked
furtively at Anna. ‘We have come to witness your marriage to Anna,’ said
my uncle. ‘Upon my word, you have not,’ said I, waking up. ‘Oh, yes, we
have,’ put in my aunt. ‘You have hurt Anna’s character, and, in
consequence, she has been made to feel very unhappy. She has lost her
young man, and the village folk have slandered her.’ ‘Your under
gardener, William,’ I put in, ‘is very anxious to marry Anna.’ ‘That
will be better,’ said my Uncle Percival. ‘The time has gone by,’ said my
aunt, ‘when under gardeners feel it incumbent upon them to shoulder the
responsibilities of their masters.’ The situation was becoming
intolerable, when the American laughingly said: ‘Perhaps the young lady
has something to say about the matter.’ As he spoke he eyed Anna’s trim
form approvingly, and, by Jove! I felt jealous. ‘Arthur sent for me to
come up to London, and I came just to see things, and to have a good
time. He didn’t say anything about getting married,’ added Anna. ‘What
did he say?’ asked the Lady Maria, with calmness. ‘He said he’d always
be a friend to me, and that he’d love me almost to death,’ replied Anna.
‘The boy is not unlike any other English boy of his class,’ declared my
Uncle Percival. ‘It is hopeful and wholesome in him to develop a
fondness for the opposite sex at his age. I was not a saint myself,’ he
confessed, with a slight cough. ‘The Comstocks,’ he continued, ‘were
always a hot-blooded set of men, and terrific wine-drinkers for
centuries, but we have been ever careful to marry with females of our
own degree.’ ‘The Shakespeares came from Adam, or whatever other sort of
animal was responsible for our being, and so did the brutal and
licentious Comstocks,’ said the Lady Maria, with flashing eyes, ‘and
what is most needed in the family is blood that has been toned down by
buttermilk and water.’ ‘Why, Maria--er--my dear girl, I am astonished at
such an outburst from you,’ quoth my uncle. ‘Anna will not have many
years to live if she marries Arthur,’ continued my aunt, and as she said
this she laid her hand affectionately upon Anna’s arm. ‘Are you willing
to marry Arthur, and die while you are still young, Anna?’ ‘Yes, ma’am,’
answered the girl in a low tone. ‘Do you not see that Arthur is horribly
ugly; that his nose is out of all proportion to the rest of his face;
that his chin denotes innate selfishness, and that his one eye is
deformed as a result of the unsightly monocle?’ asked my aunt, with a
bubbling sort of a laugh. ‘Arthur is all right,’ said Anna. ‘I think he
is very handsome, and I love him very much, and so does your Ladyship.’
‘Now, Arthur, it is up to you,’ laughed the banker. ‘Marry Anna, and
I’ll give you a better job, with more pay.’

“I was silent. The girl’s words had a strange effect upon me. I looked
at my aunt, and observed that her eyes were filled with tears. ‘I want
to marry Anna,’ I finally said. ‘I love Anna.’ Well, we were married
and went to lodgings. My Uncle Percival tied the knot with much
reluctance, but he was too much afraid of my aunt’s tongue to seriously
object. Lady Maria bought and furnished for us a beautiful little house
in a most exclusive quarter, and we lived happily for three years, but
at that time Anna died, leaving a boy baby three weeks old. I had just
then inherited my mother’s fortune of forty thousand pounds, and I went
the way of all the Comstocks. I was intoxicated with the joy and freedom
that forty thousand pounds can give a man. I lived on the Continent,
spent some time with King Edward, when he traveled as the Earl of
Chester, and spent money like water on actresses, and all that sort of
thing. For twenty years I was drunk with the freedom that money gives a
dissolute man. I courted the beauties of foreign courts, and of course,
I was flattered and fooled accordingly.

“About a year ago, while traveling through India, I received a
communication from my lawyers to the effect that I was a bankrupt. I
hastened back to London, to find myself indeed a beggar. The Lady Maria
met me, with Hugh, my son. I had not seen him since he was eight weeks
old. My heart went out to him, he looked so much like his mother, my
poor, unselfish Anna. He showed his dislike for me, but what could I
expect from the child whom I had abandoned when a tiny infant? Ah! my
fellows, a licentious youth brings a sad old age, as the saying is. I
began to think how to come in touch with my surroundings, as it were,
for the first time in twenty years. I wondered what I should do with
myself, with old age creeping on, for, on account of having lived a
devil of a life for twenty-two years, I felt prematurely old. ‘You have
nothing left,’ said my aunt to me one day. ‘Nothing but a few paltry
hundred pounds and my clothing and trinkets,’ I replied. ‘You will have
to roll up your sleeves and go to work at something,’ she said.
‘Remember, you will have to support yourself for the remainder of your
life.’ ‘How, in the name of God, shall I do it?’ I asked. ‘I’m sure I
cannot tell,’ answered she. ‘I shall have to take some time to think
about it,’ I said, whereupon my aunt only laughed.

“A month later she came to me with a letter which she had just received
from her old admirer, the American banker, for whom I had worked when a
boy. He advised my aunt that he had procured a billet for me at Panama
with the Isthmian Canal Commission. ‘Where is that?’ I asked. ‘Somewhere
in South America,’ she replied. ‘How shall I go about getting there?’ I
queried, with some exasperation. Then who should happen in but my Uncle
Percival, whom I had not seen since the day of my marriage. He had, in
the meantime, become Lord Bishop of Hounslow, and had become fat and
horribly ugly. Nevertheless, I was glad to see him. ‘What does this
Isthmian Canal Company do over at Panama?’ asked my aunt, handing him
the letter. ‘Why,’ replied his Lordship, ‘it is an iniquitous company
organized by the iniquitous Yankee government to continue to dig that
infamous canal, which was commenced by the thieving French, and left
unfinished by them.’ ‘Panama is in South America,’ said my aunt.
‘Central America,’ corrected my uncle. ‘What is the object of the
canal?’ I asked. ‘Why,’ said my uncle fiercely, ‘its object is to
permanently hurt the shipping interests of Great Britain. It is the
greatest piece of iniquity that the Yankees have ever been guilty of,
and no Comstock should lend himself to the work in any capacity.’ ‘It is
Arthur’s last chance to earn an honest living,’ said the Lady Maria
calmly, ‘and if it is, as you say, such a piece of iniquity, it may have
the effect of holding him, since iniquity is as necessary to a Comstock
as is food and drink. You will sail in two days, Arthur,’ she said.

“Well, here I am in this beastly Panama, unloved, unhonored, and seedy,
endeavoring to exist on the paltry sum of thirty-five pounds a month.
The only gratifying recollection of my whole career is the look of
understanding and gratitude which I saw in the eyes of the poor dogs, as
I labored to rid them of the horrible and tormenting flea for the paltry
pennies of my stingy aunt, the Lady Maria.”



THE DERELICT.


“I am quite upset, really I am. This is an iniquitous world--a world of
beastly sorrow and sin, by Jove!”

“What is the trouble now, Mr. Comstock?” I asked.

“Why, my dear lady, my dear old friend Beebe is lying dead, and I’m
trying to have him buried decently; but really I can’t get a soul
interested--the beastly cads. Ah, but it is a long story, my dear lady,
and I fear I will bore you. At any rate, if you will listen, I will tell
you a part of it. I shall be obliged to speak plainly, and, really, I
fear that you will not like to hear of such things.

“Beebe is not, or rather was not, an ordinary person. Poor old Beebe! He
was a poet, you know, and all that sort of a thing, and a perfect fiend
for sport, poor old chap! He came to the Isthmus in the ‘early days’ to
get away from his wife, who, I believe, was a perfect Tartar. She made
his life miserable, poor chap, by always enjoining economy upon him, and
bothering him about practical things. For a chap of his temperament,
she was not the right sort, you know. At first, poor old Beebe had a
good billet, and made a great deal of money--fifty pounds a month with
lodgings and coals. Fancy! Of course, being what you Americans call ‘a
good mixer’ (I used to think that a ‘mixer’ was American for barman), he
was very popular, and was apparently doing very nicely, until he met a
girl with whom he became enamored, and she, seemingly, took quite a
fancy to him. She was a fine musician, and, of her sort, rather pretty.”

“White?”

“Oh, dear, no. She was one of those brown-skinned charmers who make
chaps of every clime forget their home ties, their country, and, often
as not, their God. Well, as I said, poor old Beebe fell in love with
her, and right there began his downfall. The creature ruled him with a
rod of iron. He gave her all the money he could get. He actually gave
her diamonds, by Jove! and the Lord knows what else. Well, the hussy
wasn’t satisfied, but wanted more dinero, et cetera, and poor old Beebe
was at his wits’ end. Finally, she had the beastly cheek to threaten to
leave him for a bounder of a Frenchman who sold sausages, or something
of that sort. The wretched creature! In short, she bluffed the poor
chap, for he came to me one day and said that he could not bear the
thought of giving her up, and that if she wanted more money he would
try to get it for her. I advised him to give her up, but he left me,
shaking his head sadly.

“Well, Beebe visited all his friends in town, and ‘touched’ each one for
more or less, according to his salary. In this way he realized quite a
sum, which he gave to the girl, who immediately turned it over to the
beastly sausage chap, and began clamoring for more. Now, poor old Beebe
wrote to his friends in the States, and, although he hated to tell a lie
(truthful chap, Beebe), he, of course, had to say that he was ill. Well,
at any rate, he received quite a goodly sum from home. His wife was good
enough to send him twenty pounds. I presume she felt sorry for having
been so severe with him in the days that were gone. Now, Beebe took to
drinking harder (very fond of B. and S., was Beebe), and the girl left
him for the bounder. Also, his friends, at about this time, began to dun
him for the money he had borrowed. The poor fellow was simply bothered
to death, and drank more and more every day; and finally lost his
position. What, ill-luck? The poor chap had at last reached the lowest
depths of poverty and degradation, and would probably have died long ago
had he not fallen in with another girl. This one was a different sort.
Good-hearted, and all that, you know. Not a bit mercenary. She was as
faithful as a dog. Went out to work every day, and saw that he wanted
for nothing--even to several ‘nips’ each day, without which the poor
chap could now hardly live. Beebe didn’t take much interest in life,
however. I fancy he was grieving for the hussy, who had made such an ass
of him. My word! he used to steal off secretly at night to plead with
her.

“Well, he’s dead now, poor fellow, and there are none so poor as to do
him reverence; but he was a good sort, a very clever chap, and many the
Scotch we’ve had together. But I won’t moralize, my dear lady. He drank
more and more. Heaven knows where he got it. I believe there must be
some special Providence, whose business it is to see that the thirsty
never languish too long. Beebe began to neglect his personal appearance,
and, his liver being a little congested, his nose became a bit red. It
altered his looks horribly. I felt quite sorry for him. He had been
warned often enough by the district physicians (very humane chaps), but
poor Beebe took no notice, not caring, I presume. At last he got in the
habit of drinking some beastly stuff they sell in the Chino shops. Last
night he took an overdose of the poison. He died to-day at 12 o’clock. I
have been trying to get him an American flag for a winding sheet. Did I
get one? No, indeed, my dear lady. I have asked numbers of his former
friends, but not one of them seemed to care. They had no sympathy for
him, nor could they condone his mode of life, and its squalid ending.
But I am different, you know. I’ve been a devil of a fellow in my time,
even though I do come from a long line of clergymen. My word! we
Comstocks are the very devils. You see, Beebe’s motto is mine also: ‘As
we journey through life, let us live by the way,’ and I may add: ‘Never
put up the night’s share for the morning.’ I went to one of poor Beebe’s
friends, who just laughed, and said. ‘You’d better put the wench’s
petticoat on him for a shroud.’ Another one said he had too much respect
for the flag to ‘see that mutt’ wrapped in it. The brutes!

“Would you like to come with me and view the remains? Then we’d better
go right along, or those bounders will have buried the poor chap. You
will buy him a winding sheet? How good of you! Poor old Beebe would have
appreciated that.”

Beebe’s kind-hearted friend led me through many winding streets to a
most dismal neighborhood in that region of the city which, until lately,
had been known as the underworld; and in a dingy tenement above a Chino
shop I was shown the remains of “poor Beebe.” In a cheap, rough coffin,
laid upon boards stretched between two barrels, he looked very handsome
in his peacefulness. There was no evidence now of his nose ever having
been red. The hand of death had eliminated the disfigurement, which his
friend had so deplored. He was clothed in a striped shirt, with a collar
and red tie. Something white covered the lower part of his body. After a
minute I discerned that it was a woman’s voluminous petticoat. “Why!
what iniquity is this?” said Mr. Comstock, tugging at the unseemly
garment. “Why, Beebe would turn in his grave if he was buried in this!
My word! How he would laugh if he were here looking at some one else.
Beebe, old boy, you’re in a better world now--a world where you’ll be
understood,” he continued, as he divested the silent Beebe of the
objectionable covering.

Meantime, several persons came into the room and stood about as though
waiting for something to happen. There were several swagger black men in
long black coats, carrying tall hats, and some white men rather shabbily
dressed, very seedy and with very red noses--derelicts in this black
Sargasso Sea. One of the negroes brought a box and asked me to sit down,
but the black women looked upon me with evident displeasure, plainly
showing that they regarded me as an intruder, until a boy arrived with
the shroud for the dead man. Then they smiled upon me, and set to work
to prepare it. Now, a young man, who might have been Irish, came into
the room and asked for Comstock. “Here I am,” said the Englishman,
stepping forward, and bowing courteously. “What do you wish?” “‘Blinky’
says he ain’t got no American flag, but he sends you this, an’ he says
that it will be good enough, an’ too good for the likes o’ him.” So
saying, he threw down a green bundle into the lap of one of the women.
“My word! It’s an Irish flag!” exclaimed Comstock, “and Beebe had no use
whatever for the Irish. It was his only prejudice. What irony?”

Judging from Beebe’s face, there was no doubt but what he had descended
from a long line of New England ancestors, all of whom had a fine scorn,
doubtless, for everything Irish. The white shroud was now wrapped about
“poor Beebe,” and then, ye shades of the Pilgrim Fathers! the coffin was
draped in the folds of what once had been Erin’s glory.

    “The harp that once through Tara’s halls,
     The soul of music shed,”

quoted Mr. Comstock, as he arranged the folds so that the golden harp
would show in bold relief on Beebe’s breast. It was the only touch of
respectability in Beebe’s last earthly trappings; and a drop of Irish
stirred somewhere within me and burned hot at the thought that the flag
was considered of no better use than to cover the remains of an outcast,
who had disgraced his own flag.

A black clergyman now arriving, a hush fell upon the little gathering.
The black men tiptoed into positions behind the white mourners, who
tried their best to look solemn. The minister (“a blooming Dissenter,”
whispered Mr. Comstock to me), carrying a prayer-book and a Bible,
advanced in a most reverential manner. He opened the Bible and read as
follows:

“Malachi, fourth chapter, first verse: ‘For behold, the day cometh that
shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do
wickedness, shall be stubble, and the day that cometh shall burn them
up, saith the Lord of Hosts; that it shall leave them neither root nor
branch.’”

He then repeated the regular burial service. As he raised his eyes from
the prayer-book they fell upon a woman who hung over the silent form of
Beebe. In her arms she held a pretty, golden-haired child, whose wistful
blue eyes looked in wonderment at the motley group about her. “Who is
this?” asked the minister, closing the book and pointing to the child.
“This is the woman and child,” answered Mr. Comstock. “Do you mean his
wife?” “Well--so to speak, sah,” said the woman between her sobs. The
minister sighed, and continued with calmness: “I knew that this man had
died from drink, but I did not know that he had left this curse behind
him. All you white men and black women mark well what I am about to
say.” The white men looked uneasily at each other. The black ones
retreated to the background, while the women stared at the speaker with
mouths wide open. “Do you know,” said he “that the crime which this man
has committed cries to God for vengeance? Look at that beautiful,
golden-haired, blue-eyed child, who is fated to be an outcast on the
face of the earth. Think of what her future must be, with the Caucasian
in her veins running riot with the African! Oh, you white men and black
women who abide together in sin, and bring these innocent ones into the
world--the curse of God is upon you.”

Some of the white men turned pale at this, and several of the women sank
upon their knees and cried aloud for mercy. It appeared that “poor
Beebe” was not the only one who was married, “so to speak.”

“Let us pray,” said the minister. The men fell upon their knees and
echoed the words which fell from the lips of God’s anointed. While they
were praying, the black woman cried aloud, and I noticed with some
horror that her tears fell upon the golden head of the child. “May God
have mercy upon your soul,” said the minister, as the last of “poor
Beebe” was borne from the room. He appeared to be true to his calling
and to feel with intensity the enormity of that crime which, if not
checked, will eventually result in a widespread corruption of both
races. I came away. The last I saw of it was Mr. Comstock trudging
behind the hearse, which was now bearing “poor Beebe” to an unnamed
pauper’s grave marked only by a number.

       *       *       *       *       *

Not long ago, during a conversation with Beebe’s faithful friend, he
confided in me that the clergyman’s religious sincerity had not only
caused him to alter his own mode of life, but had changed his ethical
view of Beebe’s conduct to his wife and friends and to his unfortunate
child.



THE BOUNDER.


What abominable bounders there are, to be sure! And what shocking
conditions must exist to produce them and to tolerate them. Really, I am
amazed at times, to think that I, a scion of the house of Comstock (the
Surrey Comstocks, my dear lady), should know so many of the blighters.
As you know, my ancestors were great churchmen, and, although we
Comstocks of the present generation are perfect devils, especially my
Uncle Percival, there are times when a little voice within me speaks up
rudely, and I am carried back in fancy to the long-regretted days of my
innocent youth in dear, charming old Chickingham. My word! Fancy the
Bishop of Hounslow seeing his own nephew in the company of such cads.
You cannot imagine how dreadfully difficult it is for a chap to keep in
the straight and narrow path of rectitude; even if he is a bounder he
will find it difficult to resist some of the temptations.

“Every day of my life I am brought into contact with chaps who are
always lamenting their pasts, and making excuses for their present way
of living, but have fallen too low to ever return to the old life, and
will, I have no doubt, come to an end like poor old Beebe’s. Some of
these chaps are a good sort; others are quite likely to be bounders.

“I have just heard something quite distressing. You have heard of
Skilford, no doubt? No? How remarkable! I fancied everybody knew him. At
all events, he is a countryman of yours--a Yankee chap. He came from
Georgia, I believe. Well, the poor fellow is in quod at New Orleans, all
on account of being a bit too good-hearted. Like the rest of us, he was
a bit wild while here on the Isthmus, and was a great favorite with his
boss, who was a married man; also, a great bounder, sly as a red Indian,
and horribly unprincipled. But, just wait until I have finished, and you
will fairly gasp for breath.

“This other Johnnie--the married one--it seems, was liv--er, er--excuse
me, my dear lady; it’s terribly embarrassing--in fact, he had a sort of
semi-detached alliance with a young female from Martinique, an
Afro-Franco, as it were. By Jove! What a bally combination! The young
Afro-Franco, however, was not at all bad-looking, and, as only natural
in those times, (the alliance was formed in the early days,) she was
much ‘sought after,’ as they say in the provincial journals when
describing the marriage of the village belle to the leading grocer’s
son. The chaps, you see, were lonely in those days, and were not to be
blamed so much, you know, for having fancies they would never dream of
at home. Really, now, I must confess, I almost succumbed to her charms
myself. Fancy! I, grandson of the Dean of Oldtop, Shropshire.”

“You are moralizing again, Mr. Comstock.”

“Upon my word, so I am, my dear lady. A thousand pardons. We Comstocks
are all great moralizers. Well, then, as the Afro-Franco would say,
‘revenous le mouton.’ She preferred the beastly married cad to whom I
have already alluded. The blooming ass fancied he had made a conquest,
and flaunted her in our eyes. Spent more money than he could really
afford, to buy finery for her. Things went on so for quite a time, until
he wearied of her, and, as his holiday was about due, he resolved to go
home, when, bless your eyes, the blooming Bacchante cooly announced to
him that he would take a vacation over her dead body. Now, the bounder
was in a quandary--fairly stumped. He really needed a vacation, and
wished to take it to prevent his wife, a very estimable woman, from
communicating with Culebra, which he fancied she might do, which would
be the means of his losing his job. He had a very good job. Fear of
exposure quite upset him, and what do you think the bounder did? The
little brute! He actually came to me, Algernon Comstock, of Comstock
Lodge, Surrey. ‘Algy,’ said he (the infamous vagabond), ‘how would you
like to earn five hundred dollars gold?’ ‘I should like it very much,’ I
replied, quite innocently. ‘Come with me,’ said he. I followed the
blighter, and what do you think? He took me to the lodgings he had
provided for the Afro-Franco, and very hospitably set out some excellent
cognac (the Comstocks are all great chaps for the B. and S.), and after
we had some little conversation the scoundrel had the effrontery to
suggest to me, in an insinuating way, that I make myself agreeable to
the hussy--he, in the meantime, to absent himself, to return at an
opportune moment, create a scene, and then, having ‘something on her,’
as it were, he expected to screw up courage enough to drive the baggage
from him. He was most assuredly afraid of her, and knew that, lacking
friendly moral support, he could never have it out with her in any way
satisfactory to himself. What a serpent! I was struck quite
dumb--speechless with indignation, and for reply I gave the bounder a
blow that sent him sprawling. Then, with a heavy heart--the affair had
given me quite a turn--I went to my quarters and sat down to think. I
marveled at myself for having sunk so low. Fancy me being asked to take
part in such an iniquitous scheme!

“Well, I fully expected to lose my berth over the affair, as the cad was
supposed to have considerable influence. In the event of my dismissal I
would have nothing but my personal effects, as I had lived up to every
penny paid for my services. However, don’t be alarmed, my dear lady; I
was not fired for that. Some other time I’ll tell you how I happened to
be ‘let out.’ Just now I was in one of my periodically penitent moods,
and resolved, on the spot, after earnestly praying, to lead a better
life, a life more worthy of a Comstock. I did, upon my word! I reasoned
that I must have appeared low in the eyes of the bounder, else he would
not have asked me to help him trick such a creature. As I thought thus,
my dear lady, the old Comstock blood fairly boiled in every blooming
vein in my body. Really, I wished to die.”

“But who is Mr. Skilford, Mr. Comstock, and what has he to do with the
case? And who is this old bounder--the married one?” I asked.

“Wait, I am coming to that presently,” replied Mr. Comstock, as he
lighted his pipe, which went out a great many times when he grew
excited. “Skilford is a good chap--nothing but a boy, extremely
good-natured, honest, and all that--well liked, you know--but utterly
without that fine discrimination which should always prevent a Comstock
from doing anything off-color. He worked under the other one. The
bounder was an elderly cad, a noisy brute when in his cups, which was
very often, I can assure you. Very common sort. Loves to sit in a
tap-room, pounding the table, telling every one who will listen what a
clever chap he is--Poor old Beebe knew him well. I remember one night we
were carousing at the ‘Oriole,’ Beebe and I at one table and the bounder
with his audience at another nearby. He was a bit squiffy, as usual, and
seemed in rare form. Beebe was quite vexed at the brute, and what do you
suppose he did? Blessed, if he didn’t call for pad and pencil and
scratch off some doggerel which, I fancy, pretty well describes the
bounder. Poor Beebe was clever at that sort of thing. The first verse
went something like this:

    “‘At every midnight session,
         Or surreptitious spree,
     Wherever Gringoes gather
         For discussion loud and free;
     Where eloquence is measured
         By capacity for sound--
     A raucous voice insistent,
         Is heard for blocks around.’

“Then, old Beebe had a lot more verses describing the bounder’s antics.
Really, I’m getting very forgetful. It’s the beastly climate, I fancy;
but one other verse went on thus:

    “‘Then he fiercely pounds the table
         And glares around the room,
     In his eye a waiting challenge,
         Which none there dare presume
     To accept, for they are thirsty--
         These gents are always dry.
     To neglect the fellow’s ego,
         Might cut off their supply.’

“I cannot remember any more, but some day I will let you have a copy of
the thing.

“Well, at any rate, my beating the brute did not deter him from making
the same proposition to others, as is well known, but all refused, until
he approached young Skilford. He fell. Not for the money. Oh, dear no!
He’s too decent a sort for that. As you may have already surmised,
Skilford was a rather weak, complacent sort of a chap; and then,
perhaps, the bounder, being his boss, influenced him in a way. At any
rate, Charley agreed to his proposal, and the scene was set as before,
with a new villain in place of your humble servant. This time, however,
everything came off as prearranged. Charley went through his part
beautifully. You see, he didn’t have to act very hard; in fact, the
situation quite pleased the silly fellow, and he played up to the
bounder’s leads marvelously. The bounder, being pretty well primed up
when he burst upon the scene, did not have to strain for effect, either.
As to the Afro-Franco, she, strangely enough, did not seem a bit upset.
My word, what a farce! The bounder got shut of her and departed on his
holiday with a light heart, unmolested, save for a few patois curses,
which he didn’t understand, and poor Skilford, victim of his own good
nature, stayed on to carry out in earnest the part he had essayed to act
for a few minutes only, in order to oblige his boss.

“The bounder never returned. His wife saw to that, I fancy. Charley
seemed quite infatuated with the little brown parley-vouz, and she
thought a great deal more of him than she had of the bounder. My word!
She used to swear ferociously that she would cut his heart out if he
ever tried to leave her. What a savage! But it’s laughable, too, if it
were not so sad. Mind you, all of this time Charley was engaged to a
fine young woman in the States. Before long, the infatuation wearing
off, and wishing to leave the Isthmus for good, anyway, he began to cast
about for ways and means (like the bounder) of getting away alive. He
was mindful of the hussy’s threats, and dared take no chances. However,
with the connivance of friends, he was enabled (as he fancied) to make
his plans for departure without the hussy’s knowledge. When everything
was ready, transportation procured, etc., and she all the while happily
unconscious (as he fancied), he told her he was being sent down the line
for a few days to do a little job. She said nothing, and Charley started
off, as usual, in his working clothes. He took no luggage, of course.
The poor chap sacrificed everything--everything but his Canal medal,
which she allowed him to carry attached to his dollar watch.

“I went to Colon to see him off, and we had a few nips on board in the
smoking-room. I breathed a great sigh of relief as the ship pulled out
from the wharf, and on Charley’s face was a most beatific expression.
The old chap waved his hand to me, when--oh, horrors! What did I see?
The girl. I grew sick at heart as I beheld her. She laid one of her
hands upon Charley’s shoulder. I saw him turn quietly, and then they
passed out of sight. It made me quite ill. As it now appears, she had
‘beaten Charley to it,’ as it were, and had booked a passage for herself
to New Orleans. Poor Charley, to avoid a scene, had quieted her, by the
Lord knows what promises. At any rate, they say that there was no
disturbance on the trip up. The denouement came when the ship berthed
at New Orleans. There, waiting to welcome him home, were his parents and
the young lady to whom I alluded. Imagine the poor chap’s position.
Well, to make a long story short, while Charley was being fondly
welcomed by his intended, the brown girl rushed into the midst of the
little group, flourishing a revolver and screaming at the top of her
voice that she was Charley’s wife. Charley grabbed her, they say, to
wrest away the revolver. During the scuffle the gun went off, and the
creature was shot through the lungs. Poor Charley’s locked up,
temporarily, of course; the Afro-Franco’s in the hospital, going to
recover, I believe. And the poor young lady. Ah, my dear lady, it is
indeed shocking. I wonder how many poor young ladies there are at home?
Iniquitous!

“Well, good-day. I must really go and have a B. and S.”



HIGGINS’ LADY.


(PART I.)

“I mind the day,” said the story-teller, “when Higgins blew into Havana.
We was workin’ in the corral then, an’ the troops was nearly all
mustered out, an’, say, there was as fine a bunch of guys there as you’d
find in a day’s walk. But, anyhow, Higgins was not of their class, we
could all see that; and, say, his name wasn’t Higgins any more than mine
is Daniel Webster.

“He was as good-lookin’ young chap as ever lived, and, say, couldn’t he
sing, and play, and act, and recite pieces of poetry to beat the band!
Well, sir, he went to board with a young, so to speak, married couple,
an’ that was the end of his peace of mind. The woman was a darn fool and
the man was a darn brute. He was a French Haitian, and she was the
daughter of a Cuban woman, who was then married to an American man.
Well, the husband used to get drunk and beat her up, to beat sense into
her head, but it didn’t do much good. All she cared about was clothes
and flattery.

“Several of the fellers kind a took a shine to her, but she always
tricked ’em in some way; if she didn’t get money out of ’em she’d frame
up some story about ’em to her man, and he’d come around with a shotgun
and ’ud scare the wits out of ’em. So, after a while, they let the
baggage alone. Young Higgins, however, kep’ her at arms’ length, but he
used to take her part whenever she was bein’ badly used by the man she
was livin’ with. Well, once Higgins rolled up his sleeves and gave the
brute a beating such as he never got before. His face looked like a
jellyfish when Higgins got through with him. We all stood around in a
ring and watched to see fair play. The bully was big enough to eat
Higgins, but he sure got the worst of it. When ’twas all over he was
removed to the hospital, and the woman’s father came forward and told
Higgins that the man was goin’ back to Hayti and never intended to live
with his daughter again; that she would have to go on the town, etc.
Well, anyway, it fell upon Higgins to take care of her, and he did it
like a man. But there was no love business. Higgins signed an agreement
that he would take care of the woman until such time as she would get a
man who would marry her, because she wasn’t really married to the
Haitian, anyway.

“Soon after this Higgins left Havana and came here to the Isthmus. He
sent her a check every month, and she lived with her mother and father,
and was respectable; but I’m doggoned if she didn’t come to the Isthmus
last week, and she’s now living in Panama, while Higgins is gone to the
other end of the line to live. She’s a fine lookin’ woman, but she ain’t
got a grain of sense, and she’s stuck on herself, an’ I come around to
ye fellers to see if ye couldn’t do somethin’ to get her took off of
Higgins’ hands.”

“I know Higgins, an’, with his fine notions of right and wrong, he’d
never stand for any scheme against a woman,” said one of the listeners.
“Why, Higgins wouldn’t let us fellers talk about a woman. When we’d
start to talk, he’d start to play the fiddle, an’ then, of course, we’d
shut up.”

“But why not get a line on her and send some soft guy around who’ll fall
for her, an’ that’ll let Higgins out?” asked the story-teller. “And, if
she don’t fall, why, there would be no harm done.”

“Two sleuths were sent out to sound Higgins and two were sent out to get
a line on the lady, and, after a week, the four made a report as
follows: Higgins is morose and peevish; refused to talk of the lady.
Lady is a good-looker, but is lonesome and needs a home. Never sees
Higgins, and says that if it was not for him she’d still be in with her
husband.”

“Well, doggone her!” exclaimed Higgins’ friends in chorus.

“I’ll tell ye, boys,” said one of the oldest men present. “I know a man
that’ll take her for better or worse on sight if she’s a good-looker,
and I’ll bring him around in a few minutes, and we’ll get to talkin’ her
up to him--kind of advertisin’ her.”

“The friends, very much interested, agreed, and the man departed in
search of Bill Wiley, for that was the name of the unsuspecting man who
was so soon to be made a victim on the altar of the Higgins. Bill
Wiley’s sentiments were well known to the men in that bachelor house. If
he had a weakness in the world it was for ladies that were, from his
stand-point, good-lookers, large, florid, beefy, ladies that showed
their keep. Bill made two hundred and twenty-five dollars a month, and
was lonesome for a mate and a home. He was not handsome nor elegant, but
he had a taking way with him, a bank account of ten thousand dollars and
a house and twenty acres of land in Florida. A note was made of this for
the lady’s benefit, and when Bill came to the house that night, being
led there by John Hogan, each man made a mental note that Higgins would
be soon a free man.

“‘What do you think of the Goethal’s gateway?’ asked John Hogan, as he
handed Bill a cigar.

“‘It’s a good idea.’

“‘The finest lookin’ woman that ever came to the Isthmus,’ floated to
Bill’s ears, ‘an’, as for style, she beats any one you ever saw.’

“‘I guess I’ll go over there an’ hear about that girl the fellers are
talkin’ about,’ said Bill. ‘Who is she?’

“‘She’s a widow lady that lives in Panama an’ complains of being
lonely.’

“‘Poor thing,’ said Bill, ‘I know what that means. I’m lonely myself
most of the time.’

“‘She’s a fine woman,’ said John Hogan, in a musing tone. ‘I wish to
gawd she’d care for me. She’s pink an’ white, with black hair and black
eyes, and is nice and plump.’

“‘Maybe she’d care for you,’ said Bill.

“‘Not likely; she said she wouldn’t marry the best man that ever lived
unless she loved him, and even then he’d have to have ten thousand
dollars.’

“‘You might give a fellow an introduction to her,’ said Bill Wiley at
the mention of this sum, which he possessed.”



HIGGINS’ LADY.


(PART II.)

When Bill Wiley again presented himself before his friends he was very
much changed as to personal appearance. His face was clean and smooth,
his hair carefully brushed, he wore a shining pair of shoes and a new
white duck suit.

“You’ll make a hit,” said John Hogan, looking him over critically.

“If she’s as good looking as you say she is, I’ll marry her right away,
if she’ll have me,” said Bill, with a faraway look in his eyes.

“She’ll have you,” said several men in chorus.

“Well, I think we’d better be goin’,” said Bill. “I’d like to get the
meeting over.”

One of the sleuths was detailed to conduct Bill to the house of the fair
lady, and there was much speculation as to whether the lady would take
to Bill, or whether Bill would take to the lady. About midnight the
sleuth and Bill returned. They were both overjoyed at the reception
which they received from Higgins’ lady.

“She certainly is a sweet lady,” said Bill, with fervor, “so round and
plump and rosy. It must be an awful thing for a man to have to die and
leave a woman as sweet as that alone in the world.”

The listeners coughed in a meaning way, but said nothing.

“Well, I guess I’ll be goin’. I sure do thank ye for puttin’ me next to
the lady.”

“Don’t mention it,” said John Hogan. “We feel sorry for people that are
lonely. I know. I meself believe that every one should have a mate in
this world. I want some one to love me, meself, but I haven’t ten
thousand dollars, like you, Bill.”

“Well, I guess I’ll be goin’ home to go to bed,” said Bill. “I’ll take a
little run over to-morrow night, and I’ll have to get some rest
to-night. Good-night, boys.”

“Good-night, Bill,” said the boys in chorus.

Bill ran down the steps, whistling, and until his footsteps died away in
the distance no one spoke. Finally the sleuth said:

“Poor Bill; the poor devil.”

“He fell,” said the story-teller.

“Fell worse than Adam did,” answered the sleuth. “I first got her ear
and told her about Bill’s job, and the ten thousand dollars, an’, say,
you’d ought to see the way she fawned upon him. Bill swallowed it all,
and gave away that he was stuck on her, the blamed fool. Say, a man is a
funny animal. He can be as sensible as the colonel himself in
everything; as hard as nails when dealin’ with men, but be as mushy as a
tallow candle with some darned woman that ain’t got more character than
a mosquito. That woman’ll have Bill inside of a month, an’ when she
bleeds him good an’ proper she’ll light out with some other guy that
she’ll love, an’ leave poor Bill in the lurch.”

“Now, boys,” said the story-teller, “I want to give ye a tip. Ye all
know Higgins’ fine, high feelings about honor, an’ if he hears that Bill
Wiley is goin’ around to see his lady he’ll come to Bill an’ tell him
the truth about her, an’ it’ll be all off. Bill ain’t goin’ to marry a
woman that lived with a man that she wasn’t married to. I know Bill.”

“Yes, you know Bill, but you don’t know human nature,” said John Hogan.
“If Higgins goes to Bill an’ tells him about that woman’s past, Bill’ll
think that Higgins wants the woman himself, an’ it’ll make him, more
keen to marry her. He knows that he isn’t a circumstance to Higgins on
looks, an’ he knows that Higgins is a real lady’s man; so, anyway, you
take it, poor Bill is doomed.”

Bill was doomed. In less than a week he had showered presents of silk
garments, necklaces, diamond rings, bracelets and other articles of
adornment to the value of a thousand dollars upon Higgins’ lady. He
refurnished her rooms in fine style and gave her five hundred dollars
for pocket money. It was at this juncture that Higgins called upon Bill
Wiley and asked him all about it.

“I love the lady; I adore her,” said Bill, in ecstacy.

It was then that Higgins told him of the woman’s past. They sat together
on the veranda of the bachelor house, while John Hogan, the sleuths, the
story-teller and some other bachelors sat huddled together awaiting the
outcome. All believed that Bill would give the woman up, except John
Hogan. He knew men, and, as he predicted, Higgins’ revelation made Bill
more determined than ever to become attached to the lady by the bonds of
holy wedlock. So, when the boys heard Bill say to Higgins, “Man, you’re
only sore,” they coughed in unison.

“It’s none of your business. You’re a liar. You’re jealous,” etc.

“Poor Higgins is gettin’ it in the neck,” said the story-teller, “and it
serves him darn well right.”

“Yes, here are us fellers, trying to get her took off his hands, an’,
because of his fine notion of honor, he can’t keep his mouth shut. ’Tis
goin’ to hurry things up, an’ in a week the lady will be tied up to
Bill. Bill’ll be as happy as a big sunflower, an’ we’ll have young
Higgins back with his fiddle and banjo to make things a bit lively for
us.”



HIGGINS’ LADY.


(PART III.)

About a week after Higgins had had his heart-to-heart talk with Bill
Wiley a wedding took place, which was attended by the story-teller, the
sleuths, young Higgins and John Hogan. It was he who gave the bride
away. When the final words were spoken which made Anita Calafain Mrs.
William Wiley a sigh of relief went up from the assembled witnesses.
Higgins’ face was alight with joy as he handed the bride into a
carriage. Bill Wiley was a benedict. The bride wore a white satin gown,
trimmed with Italian lace, and a very beautiful white hat that had been
imported at much cost for the occasion of the wedding. They were whirled
away to the strains of a full string band, and then Higgins said
something that was strange for him to say. “Boys,” said he, “there is a
God, after all, and he has heard my prayers. I have paid dearly for one
hour’s frolic in my life, but I am glad to-night that I have done the
right thing, according to my code, for that vain, miserable, wretched
woman. I tried to save Bill, but he wouldn’t listen, so I have done
everything according to the dictates of my conscience.”

“Bill is the happiest man alive, so what matter what will turn up
later?” said John Hogan.

“Something will surely turn up,” said Higgins, “for that woman was born
to torment her fellow-beings.”

“She’ll lead Bill around by the nose, poor devil, and he won’t know a
thing about what will be going on when his back is turned,” said one of
the sleuths.

“What the eyes can’t see, the heart can’t feel,” said the story-teller.

“Come, boys,” said Higgins, with sudden hilarity, “let us get drunk. I
have never been drunk in my life, so I want to feel what the sensation
is like.”

So young Higgins got drunk for the first time in his life, and Bill
Wiley, on wings of love, went on his honeymoon. Six weeks later the big
bachelor house was in a blaze of light. Every one was happy. It was
Saturday night, and pay-night. The village ladies and their husbands
wandered through the quiet streets, especially near to the house where
the bachelors dwelt, for Higgins was playing the violin, and that meant
something to that village.

“My! What a change there has been in the lad since that baggage got
married,” whispered the story-teller to one of the sleuths.

“Looks like a different man,” put in John Hogan.

“I wonder how poor Bill is making out with her?” asked the story-teller.

“Gawd to tell,” said the sleuth.

“I bet she’s leadin’ him a devil of a race,” said the other sleuth.

“They ought to be here now. They went away six weeks ago to-day,” said
John Hogan.

Just now Bill Wiley entered that bachelor quarter and walked slowly and
painfully toward the group of men that were talking about him.

“Speak of the devil, and he’ll appear,” said John Hogan.

“Why, you’re looking all in, Bill,” said the story-teller.

“All in?” echoed Bill. “I’m worse than that, boys.”

“How is the lady?” asked one of the sleuths.

“I don’t know how she is now, and I don’t care.”

“You don’t care? You don’t?” said the group, in chorus.

“Why, Bill, what’s happened?”

“Why, that lady is a she-devil. She and her brother fleeced me of five
thousand dollars. I ain’t had a night’s rest since I left the Isthmus
with her. She never give me a lovin’ word nor a lovin’ look, nor a
minute’s peace of mind.”

“And where is she now, Bill?” asked John Hogan.

“Gawd knows. I lit out and left her with the man that she said was her
brother in Havana.”

“What sort of a looking man was he?” asked Higgins, becoming interested.

“He was the goldurndest lookin-pirate that I ever seen in all my life,”
answered Bill, becoming very red in the face.

“Tell us all about it, Bill,” said Higgins, drawing his chair very near,
and speaking in a kindly tone.

“Well, the night we left ye fellers and went to Colon, the pirate showed
up for the first time, an’ he come with us to the hotel; so the lady
said that she wanted a room all to herself, an’ I took a room for
myself. In the morning I went and paid the bills, but I didn’t pay his,
and he pulled a gun on me; he carried four all ready for use. Then I
went an’ bought our ticket an’ she said she wouldn’t go unless I took
her dear brother; so, for peace sake, I bought a ticket for him. Then
she said she wanted her dear brother to have a stateroom next ours, an’
for peace sake I had to let him have it. Well, sir, they treated me like
a nigger waiter during the trip, an’, for peace sake, I couldn’t say
nothin’. All the men on the ship was in love with her, but they said
that the pirate wan’t her brother at all; that he was a guy that she was
in love with, an’ I had to stand for it. They said I was a fool for
puttin’ up with things the way I did, an’, say, I sure was; but what
could I do, when that guy had a gun in every pocket an’ didn’t think it
was any more harm to use one on me than if I was a rat? Well, to make a
long story short, they got me in a room in the hotel in Havana the night
before I left, an’ they cleaned me out of every cent I had, then he
pointed a gun at me an’ told me to leave the hotel without sayin’
anythin’, or he’d riddle me with bullets. I pretended to swaller the
diamond ring, an’ they fell for that bluff, so I pawned it the next day
to pay my passage down here; an’ here I am. Five thousand of me money is
gone, an’ all me clothes, me gold watch and chain, an’ I’m feelin’ like
a damn fool. My stomach ain’t workin’ any more, an’ the first thing I’ll
have to do will be to see Dr. Deeks, for I’m feelin’ bum.”

During this narration the group exchanged meaning glances. Higgins
looked like a man dazed, and beads of perspiration fell from his
forehead. For five minutes there was silence, and then the story-teller
said, with calmness: “No good ever yet come out of a man bein’ as
honorable as Higgins. It ain’t right. If he hadn’t been so darned
honorable about that lady he’d a sent her about her business, an’ poor
Bill wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“My life is spoiled,” said Bill, with a sob. “I never could trust
another lady in this world, an’ besides, I’m married to her now, anyway.
Here’s the situation: I’m a ruined an’ broken man, an’ it’s all on
account of Higgins.”

“Yes, you’re right, Bill,” said Higgins. “I’m the cause of all your
troubles. The lady put it all over us for fair. She got about three
thousand dollars out of me, and her bluff prevented me from marrying the
best little girl in the U. S. A.”

“‘Tis no use talkin’, a woman can make a monkey of a man,” said John
Hogan.

“But life is no good without ’em,” said the story-teller.

“I don’t see how I’m goin’ to live without her,” said Bill. “I can’t
forget her.”

“You will have to, I’m afraid,” said Higgins, “for that man whom she
called her brother was the fellow she used to call husband in the old
war days.”

Some months later Bill Wiley was called to the great tribunal at
Culebra. When he arrived there he was requested to support his wife,
whom he had wilfully abandoned in Havana. Complaint had been made by the
American Consul that the wife of Bill Wiley, of the Canal Zone, was
suffering for the necessities of life.

“Well, here’s where I’ll take a hand,” said Higgins. “Gawd bless you,”
said Bill Wiley, “for I sure am in bad.”

So Higgins took passage for Havana, and, some few days after, Bill Wiley
received the following cablegram:

           “Our lady and the pirate are in the penitentiary.

                                                     “HIGGINS.”



THE GANG IN NUMBER 10.


The highbrows of Number 10 were having an argument as they sat in the
dim light of the veranda of the big bachelor house.

It was Saturday night, and the less intellectual inmates were in the
city seeing the sights.

“I guess I’ll play a tune,” said Higgins, who was one of the group.

That was just what had happened every Saturday night since fate had
brought the men together.

Iky Gillstein, who had formerly been a Jew, but who now read
Schopenhauer and quoted him on every occasion, and John Hogan, who read
such books as A. Kempis’ “Life of Christ,” and who quoted him whenever
Iky quoted his favorite philosopher, had the argument, as was their
custom, and when Higgins found that it had gone far enough he played his
violin until the Celtic and Semetic tempers had cooled down to normal.

In the gang were Bill Wiley, who had been disappointed in love, and,
later, in marriage, and had taken to reading deep books as an antidote
for the poison of love, and George Toby, who read the books that John
Hogan read, in order to criticize and argue about them; then there was
Fuller, who stepped in with a final word that always put an end to the
argument.

Fuller was, according to John Hogan, the “most knowledgable” man on the
Isthmus of Panama, except, of course, the Colonel himself.

The men of Number 10 were nicknamed “The Highbrows” because of their
studious habits and intellectual conversation. Higgins had reorganized
that bachelor house and brought peace and harmony out of chaos. The
clerks, or penpushers, he had segregated to one end of the building, and
the men who were engaged in work of a more strenuous nature he placed
farthest from the dude clerks, and because of this there was less
ill-feeling than in most other habitations of the kind on the Isthmus.

As I said before, the highbrows were smoking on the dimly lit veranda,
and Higgins had just started to play the violin.

“I’m glad to see you all, boys,” said a voice from somewhere outside.
“Who’s that?” asked John Hogan, peering through the wire netting.

“‘Tis only me, boys,” answered the voice.

“It’s that damm fool Percy again,” said Iky, under his breath.

“Come in, Percy,” said Higgins, in a cordial tone.

“Well, she’s gone for good this time, boys, and I’m all in.” The
listeners groaned.

“Have you tried to get her back?” asked Higgins.

“I’ve tried in every way, but she hides from me, and says she hates me.
Oh, God! What shall I do? I can’t get along without my queen. I love
her, boys. I love her more than my soul, and God knows I treated her
well,” said Percy, dropping into a chair and mopping his brow; “but I
won’t live long, boys. I feel the last string of my heart giving way.
I’m a goner. I don’t want to live. I have a little bottle of poison in
my pocket right now, and if my heart don’t break soon, I’ll take it and
shuffle off.”

“How long have you been married to the lady?” asked John Hogan.

“Three years,” said Percy, with a long-drawn sigh.

“You ought to be pretty tired of her by this time,” said Iky Gillstein.
“If I had a woman around the house with me for three years I’d be darned
glad to get rid of her.”

“You’re a brute, Iky,” said Bill Wiley, “and you ain’t got no more heart
than a woman. I kin put myself in your place, Percy; I’ve been through
it, boy. Why, when that lady that I married throwed me down, two years
ago, I couldn’t eat, sleep, nor think. If it hadn’t been for Higgins an’
Hogan, I’d ‘a’ gone mad, an’ took poison, an’ God knows I had poison
enough in my system. What’s love but poison?”

“Love is a loco germ, Bill,” said Percy dramatically, “an’ when it
enters a fellow’s system it ain’t any use squirmin’. He might as well
take his medicine.”

“Love left many a man in a darned bad stew,” said John Hogan, “an’ a guy
that ’ud fall in love twice ought to be put in the bughouse.”

“I’ve been there many a time,” said Percy. “That time I was in the
Jameson raid in South Africa. I wouldn’t have been in it if I hadn’t
been bad stuck on a girl that threw me down.” The listeners coughed and
exchanged glances. They had heard many times of the Jameson raiders from
Percy, and they had even seen the marks on his feet where he had been
tied up by his heels.

“Schopenhauer says that women are--” “Shut up about that old Dutch
heathen, for God’s sake,” said John Hogan, testily.

“There is a good deal of truth in what he says about women,” put in
Toby.

“How in God’s name could a heathen tell the truth?” asked Hogan, as he
refilled his pipe.

“Do you know,” said Fuller, “that I’ve been reading A. Kempis’ ‘Life of
Christ,’ and it is the best life of Him that I ever read. He was a
humorist, wasn’t He?”

“He was that, as well as every other thing,” said John Hogan,
approvingly.

“I have never heard Him spoken of as a humorist before,” put in Higgins.
Iky Gillstein grunted.

“Wasn’t it humorous of Him that time the Sheenies were going to stone
that Merry Widow to death, when He said, ‘Prepare,’ and they all got
ready with their little pile of rocks, and they stood scratching their
heads, waiting for Christ to speak, and when He spoke He said, as the
Merry Widow knelt at His feet, ‘Let ye that are without fault throw the
first stone,’ and the devil a rock they threw, and the Merry Widow went
her way in peace and behaved herself ever after?”

“The Merry Widow gave the gang the wink,” said Iky, cynically.

“That’s like something the Colonel would do,” said Percy. “In fact, he
done something slick like that to me once. It was when I was living at
Empire with my first wife, before she got the divorce and I married my
darling that has just left me.

“I was an inspector then, and my job was to look after women that were
supposed to be a little bit shady. My wife was jealous of me, and I had
to pretend that I didn’t like the work.

“Well, anyway, there was one particular woman who was a little beauty,
and I got kind of stuck on her, but there was nothing doing with me. She
loved the guy that her husband was suspicious of, but she gave me an
introduction to a woman who was almost as good-looking, but who didn’t
have her charms.

“About this time her husband went on night duty, and he sent in to
Culebra to have his wife watched, so I was sent out to do the watching.
I prolonged the case all I could, and reported that I couldn’t find any
clew, while all the time I was havin’ a howling time at her house
nights. She used to have stuff to drink, and she and the guy I was
supposed to shadow and the woman that she introduced me to would eat and
drink, play cards and love.

“Finally the neighbors began to catch on, and I was afraid that they
might come around with some other gumshoe man who’d report, and then the
jig would be up, so I sent in a report that there was nothing wrong in
the conduct of the woman.

“A copy of this letter was sent to her husband, and he was so tickled
and so sorry that he had suspected her that he told her that she might
have a vacation for three months, and he gave her five hundred dollars,
and she went away to her home in the South; and the petted gink who
didn’t have a cent to his name went on the next boat, met her in Kansas
City, and they went to Quebec and stayed there till the five hundred was
used up. Then she wrote to her husband that she couldn’t live any longer
away from him, so he sent her a couple of hundred more to bring her back
to the Isthmus.

“Meantime my affair was hot stuff with the other one, and I used to meet
her in town three times a week. I was kept pretty busy, because the
women were cutting up scandalously all along the line, and we deported a
lot of them.

“To make a long story shorter, I had made a date to meet my loving kid
in town one Saturday, but my wife said that she wanted to come in with
me. I telephoned a guy who knew everything about me, a friend he was,
and he sent me a telegram and signed it with the name of the Captain of
Police. When my wife saw that she said she’d wait and go some other day,
because she didn’t want to interfere with my duty.

“Right then a message came from the Colonel stating that he wanted to
see me. I suspected that it was another case for me to go out on, so I
hurried down to the station, jumped on to a hand-car and got to Culebra
in time to have the interview over and catch the 1 p. m. train for
Panama.

“I’ll never forget the look in the Colonel’s eyes when I went in and
stood before him.

“‘What cases have you on hand now?’ says he, looking me over, from the
crown of my head to the tops of my shoes.

“‘Women cases, Colonel,’ says I.

“‘That’s well,’ says he, kind of mild, and he gave me that funny look
again. ‘You like to hunt them down?’

“I didn’t like his voice, but he turned away and began to sign some
papers. He had said it, however, in that calm, even tone of his, and I
thought he meant it, so I said, ‘I try to do my duty, Colonel.’

“Then he gave me a very funny look, and, says he, with awful calmness,
as he picked up a big, fat envelope from the desk, ‘Take this and report
to me Monday afternoon.’

“He turned again to his papers, and I tiptoed out. There was something
strange about the atmosphere of that office that affected me, but I put
the envelope in my inside pocket, and as I had to run like mad to catch
the train, I forgot all about it.

“It wouldn’t be fair to the woman to tell about the good time I had in
town that afternoon, and I didn’t get back home that night till the
last train. The wife was waiting up for me, and she had some good grub
ready for me to eat, a club sandwich, some salad and a bottle of cold
beer. She chatted and laughed and said she was getting a new dress made
and she wanted a couple of dollars to buy some lace for the sleeves and
neck, but I told her I couldn’t give her any more money until after next
pay day. When I told her that she gave me a funny look that made me feel
like I felt when the Colonel looked at me in such a queer way that
forenoon. She didn’t say another word, but went off to bed, and I took
the envelope from my pocket and tore it open. I was going to read what
was inside that night, but the lights went out and didn’t come on again,
so I laid it on the sideboard in the dining-room, and turned in myself.

“In the morning I got up to eat my breakfast, but there was no breakfast
ready, no wife in sight, and no fire. Thinks I, I’ll go to the mess hall
an’ get my breakfast, so I went to put on my coat, and I found the big
envelope pinned to the sleeve. When I opened it my wife’s wedding ring
fell out. Tied to this was a bit of paper, and on this was written, in
my wife’s handwriting, ‘If you had been honorable about the secrets of
others, your own secrets would not have been betrayed to me.’

“I sat down then and read the papers. Everything that I had ever done on
the Isthmus since I came was known to the Colonel.

“‘My God!’ says I to myself, ‘what am I going to do? There’s going to be
about ten husbands around with shotguns, so I’d better get away.’

“I went to Culebra on Monday, though I hated to do it. I saw it was all
over with me, so I put on a bold front when I went into the Colonel’s
office. ‘Well,’ I says, when I was inside the door, ‘I guess I’m
through.’

“‘Yes,’ says the Colonel calmly, ‘your wife will go to-morrow afternoon.
Better prepare to follow her soon.’

“Well the wife went, and I have not seen her since. She got a divorce
from me, and then I married my queen, who is gone astray now.”

The listeners coughed, and Gillstein, who had listened attentively
during the whole of the recital, said: “But you didn’t tell us how you
got back here.”

“I never went away,” said Percy. “I resigned from the Commission, but
after a time I went to the Colonel again and told him I was hard up and
my wife was sick in the States, and he gave me, for her sake, the dump
foreman’s job. It was after that that I married again.”

“Where did you meet your second wife?” asked John Hogan.

“Suppose we change the subject,” said Higgins quickly.

Gillstein winked at Hogan, and there was a pause, which was finally
broken by Percy, who said calmly: “I met her in a resort on Cash Street,
Colon, and I’m afraid she’ll go back there now, and that’s what’s eatin’
my heart out.... Well, I must go out to Panama now. It’s nearly ten
o’clock. I spend my nights watching her. Good night, fellows. Thanks for
talking to me and trying to cheer me up.”

“Good night,” said the Highbrows in chorus.

Percy tiptoed out softly, and his stealthy footsteps had died away in
the distance before the silence was broken, again by Gillstein, who
said: “It can’t be true, after all, that all men are just dead, and that
there’s no more about ’em. There’s a special little Hell somewhere for
Percy Beckle.”

“Now you’re talking like a Christian,” said John Hogan. “Play us ‘The
Wearing of the Green,’ Higgins.”



THE MAN FROM NUMBER 9.


“The fellows in Number 9 are all upset over that new man,” said Bill
Wiley, as he filled his pipe and prepared to settle himself to read
“Three Weeks,” a book that very much interested him.

“What new man?” asked John Hogan.

“A new man that the Colonel sent over. He’s a timekeeper, and is getting
only about $75 a month,” answered Bill.

“What’s the matter with him?” quickly asked Higgins.

“The fellers say that he’s been a jailbird, an’ they don’t want him in
the house. Some of ’em telephoned to the Colonel, but he did not give
’em any satisfaction, only said that he desired the man to stay in
Number 9; that he sent him to Balboa, and that if any of the men
complained about living with him they could get out themselves.”

“That’s just like the Colonel,” said Higgins. “What business is it of
that bunch of mutts if the poor devil has been in jail, if he’s behaving
himself now?”

“Schopenhauer says that all men are--” began Ikey.

“For the love of Mike, don’t spring him on us again,” said Wiley. “I
thought you had given up reading his book, anyway,” he continued.

“He says some darn good things,” said Ikey.

“But not about his fellow-creatures, an’ the person under discussion is
a man, an’ not a dawg,” said Hogan, tersely.

“Let’s hear more about this new man, Bill,” said Higgins.

“He’s a sickly-looking guy that drags one leg after him when he walks,
an’ he’s got a funny habit of looking over his shoulder whenever he goes
to speak about anything. He’s got a dry sort of cough that gives me the
creeps, and the boys say he’s always a prayin’ when he’s in his room.”

“Poor devil, he’s got all the marks of the jailbird about him. I wonder
what he was in for,” mused Hogan, more to himself than to the others.
“I’ll send ‘A. Kempis’ down to him; it might give him some consolation.”

“I don’t believe he’ll get a chance to read it,” said Bill, “because the
fellers say that there’s a gang goin’ in town to-night to get drunk, an’
they’re goin’ to put him out, bag and baggage, when they come back. In
the morning no one will know who done it, an’ the Colonel can’t fire
them all, for there’s about ninety of them in the house.”

There was silence now, but Hogan looked at Ikey, Ikey looked at Higgins,
and a glance full of meaning passed between the three men.

“What’s the man’s name?” asked Higgins, breaking the silence at last.

“I didn’t ask his name,” answered Bill. “I only know what the boys have
been telling me. I’m glad the mutt ain’t in this house.”

“Why?” asked Hogan. “What would a roughneck like you be afraid of?”

“Well, I have some good clothes an’ a fine gold watch, some few trinkets
an’ little things that I’d like to keep,” he replied.

“Who’d take ’em?” asked Hogan.

“Ignorance is an awful thing,” put in Ikey. “‘Twould do you good to read
Schopenhauer.”

“’Pon me soul, it would,” agreed Hogan, with spirit.

“I’m going out for a few minutes,” suddenly exclaimed Higgins, and he
glanced meaningly at Ikey.

“I’ll move that trunk out,” said Ikey, “and put up that other bedstead,
an’ then I’ll only have one mattress to sleep on, but that’s more than
many people have.”

“True enough,” said Hogan. “Why don’t the Colonel put a guy like that
off in a place by himself, and build a little house for him? It wouldn’t
cost the Commission much, an’ it would save the men a lot of trouble,”
put in Bill.

“If the Colonel was to build a house for all the jailbirds on the
Isthmus,” said Ikey, “it would cost the Commission more than the diggin’
of the canal.”

At this point in the conversation Higgins put on his hat and went out,
and Ikey went to his room. Hogan walked restlessly to and fro, while
Wiley, stretching himself luxuriously, once more picked up “Three Weeks”
and became deeply interested. More than an hour passed, during which
time not a word was spoken by the men on the veranda.

Finally Ikey came back and sat down, with the air of a man who has been
working, and in a few minutes Higgins came in, whistling. Accompanying
Higgins was a tall, gaunt man, who had wild, staring eyes, a pale,
refined face, and white hair.

“Mr. Frayer, meet Mr. Hogan, Mr. Wiley and Mr. Gillstein,” said Higgins,
leading the man forward.

Bill Wiley nodded his head coldly and grunted, but Hogan and Ikey
extended their hands, and then they pushed forward toward the stranger a
rocking-chair.

“Mr. Frayer is tired,” said Higgins, as he himself sat down. “He has
been on the Isthmus only two weeks, and he has had very little sleep
since he came.”

“I have the bed all ready for him,” said Ikey. “It’s got clean sheets on
it, and he can turn in whenever he likes.”

“Thank you,” said the man, quietly, “but I’d rather sit here and smoke a
little before turning in.”

“Help yourself,” said Hogan, pushing a box of tobacco toward him; “and
here’s matches.”

For some moments the men smoked in silence, Bill Wiley eyeing the
stranger meanwhile.

“You men are mighty civil to me,” suddenly spoke up the stranger. “I did
not think there was any one on the Isthmus that had any heart. I’ll take
that back, though, for there is one man who has been pretty nice to me.
He had trouble himself once, poor fellow.”

“They used you purty rough over in 9, didn’t they?” asked Bill Wiley,
speaking for the first time.

“They surely did. They didn’t let me sleep nights. My roommate would not
let me stay in the room nights with him. When I’d manage to doze off for
a few minutes he would throw things at me and wake me up.

“I’ve seen some rough men in the course of twenty-five years in Sing
Sing, but none of them could beat that crowd for viciousness and
general all-around cussedness.

“For a while I lived on the stuff I could get from the Chinese shops,
because they said that I would not be allowed to go into the mess hall,
but when my little hoard of money was used up I went hungry.”

“Poor devil,” muttered Hogan, under his breath.

“How did you happen to get into Sing Sing?” asked Bill Wiley,
suspiciously.

“I was convicted of killing a girl,” said the man from Number 9, with a
shudder.

“But you didn’t do it, I know,” said Ikey, who had been an interested
listener to the conversation which had gone on before.

“Since you men are so kind as to take me in, I will tell you about it if
you will listen,” said the new man, hesitatingly.

“Go ahead,” said Wiley. “I’m anxious to hear about it. I came near
killing a lady myself once.”

The men filled their pipes, drew their chairs close to the man from
Number 9, and waited expectantly.

“I was sentenced to be hanged twenty-five years ago for murdering a girl
who is to-day alive and happy,” he began. As he spoke, he dropped his
voice to a low, intense whisper, and looked over his shoulder in such a
horrified way as to make Higgins and Hogan each grasp one of his hands
and hold it firmly.

“Why didn’t they hang you?” asked Ikey, childishly.

“While I was in the death house,” went on the man, as though he had not
heard the question, but answering it, nevertheless, “some women got
interested in me, and they engaged one of the best criminal lawyers in
New York State to take up my case, and he finally had the sentence
commuted to life imprisonment.

“To go back,” he went on, “I was a printer by trade, and when my father
died he left me enough money to buy a little printing plant that would
have made me independently rich. It was in one of the biggest towns in
the western part of New York State, and I was making money.

“I had a fine saddle horse, and in summer I used to ride out about
twenty miles to a cottage that my father bought before he died. It was
in a very lonely place, with nothing about it but woods.

“About three miles away from the cottage was the summer home of some
people from New York City, and five miles away the Sheriff lived. My
habit was to ride out to the house, sleep there all night on a cot bed,
and ride back to town in the morning about sunrise.

“I used to meet a girl on horseback sometimes when riding in the early
mornings, and she would ride along with me to a branch road, where she
would turn and leave me.

“I met her every morning that was fine for about three months, and at
times she would chat and laugh pleasantly, but she never allowed me to
become very well acquainted with her. I told her all about myself, but
when I would ask her her name and something about herself, she would
frown and turn the conversation.

“Finally I found myself in love with her, and one morning I told her so.
Then she looked very serious, and said she was sorry, but she loved
another man, and that her love for the man had brought nothing but
trouble into her life. When we came to the cross-roads she reached out
her hand to me and said, ‘Goodbye.’

“I felt something like a shot in my side, right under my heart, as I
turned away from her, and the touch of her hand thrilled me, so I
stopped the horse and looked after her.

“She had a peculiar, mysterious face that appealed strangely to me that
morning, and although I felt hurt and resentful, I galloped after her,
overtook her, and said: ‘Girl, if you ever need a friend, call on me,’
and I handed her a card, which had my town address on it. The only
answer she made was to rein in her horse and look searchingly into my
face.

“I could see that something was moving her strangely, and I said: ‘What
is the matter? I feel that you are in some trouble. What can I do to
help you now?’

“‘Give me the keys to your cottage,’ she said finally, ‘and don’t ride
out here for a few days. I want to hide there until my husband comes for
me.’

“‘You have a husband?’ I blurted out in surprise.

“‘Yes,’ said she, ‘I was married a year ago, but no one must know it
now. I live with my father and stepmother.’

“While she was speaking the tears were running down her cheeks, and I
was too hurt to speak, but I handed her the key, and rode away as
quickly as I could. I never saw her again until three months ago.

“Two weeks later I was arrested for having murdered her. I was in my
office one morning, when the sheriff came and took me to view the spot
where the deed was supposed to have been committed. She was supposed to
have been killed by me while in her bed. The cottage door was locked,
and the key to it was in my vest pocket. I had had two keys to the
front door of the place, the one I gave her and the one which helped to
convict me.

“Her trinkets were found in a bedroom, some clothing, a pair of
slippers, and my business card. There was blood on the straw matting in
the bedroom which the girl had occupied; there was blood on the chairs,
on the dresser, and on the stairs; in the front hall as far as the front
door, and on the front porch, as if some one bleeding had walked or had
been carried down the stairs and out upon the front veranda. Every door
and window was carefully bolted, so it was evident that the murderer had
entered through the door with the help of a key, and had carefully
locked the door behind him in going out. A sheet had been torn to
shreds, and some of it was missing.

“I told my story, but it had no weight in court. The girl had never been
away from home, according to her father and the servants, except
mornings for a short ride, when it was proven that she had met me. More
than twenty people testified that I had been to the cottage every night.
They had seen me riding out, according to my custom, and they had seen
me ride back in the morning.

“As a matter of fact, I had taken a ride on horseback every night and
every morning, but never in the direction of the cottage while she was
there.

“At the trial there were people who testified in my behalf, and many
people believed in my innocence. Among them was a black servant, who
said that the lady had had a secret lover before she ever saw me, and
the girl’s stepmother testified that the girl had acted queerly for many
months; that she used to ride to the postoffice every morning and night,
because she feared that her letters would fall into the hands of her
father.

“In spite of all this, my guilt was made to appear perfectly clear, and
the jury brought in a verdict of murder in the first degree, and, as I
told you before, I was sentenced to be hanged.

“The Sheriff had had a horse taken a few nights before when they
searched my cottage, and when his dogs had begun to bark and give the
alarm, he said to the court, he had fired the contents of his shotgun at
a man who was galloping away from his barn. He told the court that the
man he had fired at was me. In the morning the horse was found in the
Sheriff’s field, with blood on its side and mane. The prosecuting
attorney brought out at the trial that the horse was used to convey the
body of the murdered girl to the place which I had secured as a grave
for her.

“No motive was ever given for my having killed her. If I had ruined her,
there would even then have been no motive, as the girl was of a higher
class of society than I, and as her father had lots of money, it would
have been to his advantage to hush the matter up, rather than to try to
make trouble for me.

“That was the argument of my lawyer. He showed that I had everything to
gain by having the girl alive, if she had liked me well enough to meet
me in that lonely cottage, and I had everything to lose by making away
with her.”

“A darned queer thing. I remember readin’ all about it,” interrupted
John Hogan, while the man from Number 9 moistened his dry lips with his
tongue, and looked over his shoulder in the frightened way he had.

“Well,” said Bill Wiley, “if the woman was alive, why didn’t she show up
and clear you? If it was in the papers, she should have seen it.”

“It was in the papers,” said Hogan, “and a picture of him was in the New
York World.”

“I have that right here,” said the man, touching his breast.

“How did you get out of Sing Sing after twenty-five years, when you got
life?” asked Ikey, as he wiped the perspiration from his forehead.

“The woman came back, I suppose,” put in Higgins.

“Look at these,” said the man from Number 9. The four men bent eagerly
forward, each with his hand outstretched to take the packet of papers
which the man held in his trembling hands. “Look at this
postmark--‘1885, Panama.’”

John Hogan gently took the yellow letter and unfolded it, while the
other men bent forward, their eyes fairly bulging from their sockets. It
read: ‘My Dear Mr. Frayer; Please forgive us for the condition in which
you found your house. My husband came for me on the night of the 21st of
September, and he stopped to take a horse for me to ride from the
Sheriff’s place. The Sheriff shot at him, and he was wounded in the
arm--a very bad scratch. Did you think that some one had been killed?
The wound bled a great deal, but I bound it up so well that he was all
right until he could see a doctor in New York City. He says I would make
a good surgeon. We left New York on the following Monday and came on one
of the Panama Railroad steamers to Panama. Our destination is Chile.
Please accept this trifle from my husband and me.’

“This is it,” said the man, with a harsh laugh, and he drew from the
faded envelope a slip of paper.

“A check for one thousand dollars,” said the four listeners in turn,
and as each man looked at the check the man from Number 9 gave another
harsh laugh.

“This is the key to the cottage,” said he, drawing from the envelope a
rusty Yale lock latchkey. Then John Hogan read on: “I trust to you to
keep my whereabouts a secret. I am never coming back to New York again.
Let us hear from you. We expect to live at No. 12 Sacramento Street,
Valparaiso, Chile.

“I know my people will make a search for me, but I feel sure that you
will keep silent about me. I am very happy. Your grateful friend, Ada
Bermugues.”

John Hogan threw the letter to Ikey and looked into space for some time,
while the man from Number 9 drew a table toward him and placed upon it
some other papers which he took from the inside pocket of his coat. The
four men bent forward and watched him as, one by one, he unfolded the
various letters and papers which were in some way connected with the
story of his life. One was a pretentious-looking document with two red
seals. It was his acquittal from the Governor of New York for the crime
he had never committed, and was dated May 1st, 1910. Another was the
petition which Ada Bermugues had presented to the Governor in behalf of
the man who had been imprisoned for her supposed murder. There was not a
word spoken while the papers were being perused. One would read a letter
or newspaper clipping, and in silence hand it to another, until all were
read and reread. The men made a weird picture in the soft moonlight, as
they sat, with anxious, set faces. “You see,” the man from Number 9
continued, when the last paper was read and folded by Higgins, from
whose forehead great beads of perspiration dropped, “the woman came back
after a few years and lived in New York City. She didn’t know that I had
ever been put in jail, because she never went about any one she had ever
known before. About three months ago her father died, and she read of
his death in the newspapers. Then she went to their family lawyer and
made herself known to him, and when he told her about me she went
straight to the Governor and had the case opened, and, after a lot of
red tape, I was released. I found that letter which she wrote me from
Panama twenty-five years ago in the pocket of the rain coat that I wore
just before the sheriff arrested me. As I look back now, I remember that
these three letters were handed to me just before the Sheriff put his
hand on my shoulder to tell me I was under arrest.”

The man from Number 9 picked up the three letters indicated. “One,” he
went on, “is, you will see, a bill from a horseshoer; one is from a
tailor, and the other from her. I left the raincoat in my office that
morning and forgot all about the letters. When I was let out of Sing
Sing a cousin of mine took me to his home in my old home town. He told
me that he had all the things that were in the office at the time of my
arrest, and among them was the raincoat, with the letters in the pocket
that might have gained me my freedom. My cousin had never looked in the
pockets, and, therefore, didn’t know that they were there.”

“My God!” said John Hogan; “and the Bible says that not even a sparrow
shall fall to the ground without His knowledge.” “Bible, your foot!”
grunted Ikey. “If God knows everything, why didn’t he make this man
think about the three letters in the pocket of the rain coat? Why didn’t
He put it into the Sheriff’s mind to hunt for evidence the way they do
in the story-books? He never did anything to God that most other men
ain’t doing every day. He tried to do a good act. There was a girl in
some trouble, and he helped her out by giving her the key of his house.
It helped her, because she got away from her folks. They must have been
cussed mean, like mine were when I got away from them. God can’t give
back to this man his youth and health. He can’t give him the sons and
daughters that he might have had if he had been left his freedom. He
can’t give him anything now that will compensate for the twenty-five
years in Sing Sing.” “But there’s another life,” said the man from
Number 9 with awful calmness. “I have had visions of it, and have prayed
to God on my bare knees, and asked Him to bring the girl back, and He
brought her, didn’t He?” “Yes,” said John Hogan, “He did after
twenty-five years.” “I prayed that she’d come back and tell me that she
regretted that she hadn’t loved me, and she did.” “And she just said
that because she thought it would make you feel good. She was sorry for
you. Women can feel sorry for their worst enemies if they are in
trouble,” said Ikey, cynically. “I prayed to God for peace, and He gave
me peace; and I got used to Sing Sing, and would have been content to
live there the rest of my life, if the girl hadn’t come back,” went on
the man from Number 9.

“God can’t do more for a man than give him contentment, and I had that
for many years. I had no desires like I used to have when I was a young
man. I had nothing to lose. There was nothing around me that I would
want to covet. I envied no human being, and no one envied me. Why, I
used to lie in my narrow cell at night and wonder to myself why I was
ever foolish enough to covet the silly things that I used to covet
before I went to jail, and gradually everything that was most dear to me
became only a memory, and the simple things of my prison life became
dear to me. I was a sort of leader among the prisoners, and the worst
ones among them believed that I was innocent.” “That was the potency of
right and truth,” said Higgins, interrupting him for the first time.

“Schopenhauer says that truth is the only God there is, and that’s all I
believe in,” said Ikey.

“After what we guys heard to-night,” said John Hogan, “I’m beginning to
think that old Schuppy was more of a prophet than we give him credit
for.” “You have invited me over here from Number 9,” said the man, “and
I must ask you men not to say things that might have a tendency to kill
my faith, because that’s all I have left.” “You have more than we have,”
said Higgins, “and we are going to try to strengthen your faith, rather
than weaken it.”

“We’ll try to,” said Ikey. “Better go to bed now,” said John Hogan; “you
look tired. Ikey’s room is the coolest in the house. Show him his bed.”
“Good night. Thank you for your kindness, men,” said the man from Number
9, as he followed Ikey to his room. “Good night,” said Higgins and
Hogan. “Poor devil!” said Bill Wiley, as the man disappeared into Ikey’s
room.

“He’s got the right dope on religion,” said John Hogan, “and is happy in
it.” “He bears no ill-feeling for the woman who ruined his life,” said
Higgins. “Why pity him? He’s happy because he believes in a living God.”
“That check he’s got must be worth good money by now,” said Ikey,
returning. “Why don’t the darn fool cash it in?”



THE CANAL ZONE ARCHITECT’S WEDDING


In Germany, before the days of the American occupation at Panama, there
lived with her mother a beautiful, golden-haired, blue-eyed girl named
Hulda Schneider. The Schneiders were very poor, but they had held their
own, for they had been fighters. But of what use are fighters there
nowadays, except as bodyguards to the Kaiser’s numerous off-spring?
Hulda had tastes inherent in such people, and, having no means of
gratifying them, she chafed in her environment. “I’ll tell you what to
do,” said a sophisticated girl friend, who had lived for a time at
Hoboken, N. J. “Put an ad in a New York City newspaper, saying that you
are young and pretty and just dying to make some good American happy.”

“Shall I get a millionaire, do you think?” asked the innocent Hulda.

“You may,” said her adviser. “If you don’t, you may get a Jew, and
that’s almost the same thing.”

“But I don’t want a Jew,” said Hulda. “I want an American who is rich,
young and handsome.”

Accordingly, an advertisement was sent to a New York Sunday paper
announcing that a good-looking girl in Germany was pining to marry a
rich American. Meanwhile, blue-eyed, golden-haired Hulda settled down to
await a reply.

Now we must go back about seven hundred years, to the time when the
Danes invaded Ireland. There was one Dane in particular, named
Vickenstadt, who married a descendant of Brian Boru. It so happened that
a descendant of this Dane and the great Brian read Hulda’s advertisement
and decided to answer it. He was an ambitious man, of temperate habits
and aesthetic tastes. He studied hard, for he was wont to say, “If
there’s one thing in the world that I like better than another, it is
intelligence.” He was a draftsman by profession, but he called himself
“architect of the Canal Zone.” To use his own words, he was “well
fixed,” and what he most desired was a golden-haired, blue-eyed, slender
young girl to share his fortune and his ancient name. As a matter of
fact, his name had undergone some radical changes during the intervening
years, and was now written Brian McVickins. His associates called him
“Mickey” Vickens for short, and by this cognomen he was generally known.
He was an American citizen, but first saw the light of day in a little
town in County Clare fifty years before the incidents in this story
occurred.

‘Tis a far cry from Hulda’s home town on the Rhine to Ancon, C. Z., but
the finger of fate is ever pointing this way and that, else “Mickey”
Vickins would never have seen her advertisement on that unlucky Sunday
morning. “Be jabers,” said he, “here’s the last thing I want now. I’ll
answer this ad this very day, or my name is not Brian Boru Vickingstadt.
If the others object to me Irish accint, divil a bit the difference ’ill
this one know, and by the toime she gets to know the ropes she’ll be so
attached to me that she’ll hate to leave me. The German wimmin do be
that way. I’ll write under me right and proper name, an’ shure they’ll
know I’m Danish anyway.” So he sat down and wrote that he was of Danish
descent, an architect, an American, well fixed financially, and
thirty-four years of age.

“I’d better tell her what sort of a complected man I am whilst I’m about
it,” so he wrote, “dark-complected, with blue eyes an’ fair skin.” “Me
hair is turnin’ fast,” said he to himself, as he gazed at his reflection
in the looking-glass, “but,” he added, “if she objects, a bit of dye
will fix that all right.” He told her that it would be six months before
he would be able to procure “married quarters,” and he advised her to
go to school where English was being taught so that she might be able to
converse with him should she decide to accept him as her future husband.
“An’ bedad! I haven’t been with the Jews in Chicago for nothing,” said
the scheming wooer, “an’ me plan ought to be to ask her to give me the
address of the schoolmaster, an’ I’ll send the old blaguard the money in
checks. Thin I’ll have a hold upon the creature in case she has some
young lads to meet her. Shure a man can never be after thinkin’ what a
young heifer might be havin’ in her mind.” At length the letter was
finished and was duly dispatched to the waiting Hulda. There was a
clipping enclosed which read that Brian Boru Vickingstadt had lectured
to a large audience on the Panama Canal at Hoboken, N. J. There was a
postscript added, to the effect that the writer wished to communicate
with the mother of the fair Hulda. That he had persuasive powers may be
inferred from the fact that Hulda’s mother answered the letter as soon
as it was received. The schoolmaster wrote that Hulda could begin her
studies at once, and that great pains would be taken to fit her to
become the wife of so prominent a person as the “architect of the Canal
Zone.” There was a picture of the girl included.

“I like the man already,” said Hulda’s mother. “He is too old,” said
Hulda. “Just think, thirty-four, while I am only twenty.” “It is the
right age, just,” said the mother. “The husband should have the age
already when the wife is that young and foolish like you are.” Hulda,
however, had sent her picture and a long letter to another applicant. He
wrote that he was a farmer, and lived near Montclair, N. J.; that he had
one thousand dollars saved, was twenty-six years old, sober, and a
church member.

After some weeks the schoolmaster received twenty-five dollars from the
“architect of the Canal Zone” for Hulda’s instruction, and Hulda’s
mother received a sum of money, all of which was duly acknowledged in
the most legal manner on legal-looking paper. Now the Vickingstadt
exulted in having won the prize. He took the girl’s picture and visited
the places where “the boys” were in the habit of assembling. “What do ye
think of that for a colleen?” asked he of one and all. “By Jove, she is
a perfect Juno,” said one. “Say! she’s all right; a good-looker, and
some style,” spoke up another. “Where did you pick it up?” queried a
third. “That picture does not belong to none of your relatives,” another
boldly asserted, “she’s too refined-lookin’.” “Divil a bit,”
acknowledged the “architect;” she’s the gurrl I’m goin’ to marry whin I
go on me vacation in September. Shure, that’s why I come across the
Isthmus. I’m gittin’ a house here to bring me bride to.” “How could an
old mug like you get a good-looker like that to marry you? ‘Mickey
Vickins’ is a romancer,” declared one of the highbrows. “That must be
the picture of some young lady in whose family he worked when he first
came from Ireland,” spoke up another highbrow. And so the matter
furnished food for discussion for some time. The “architect” was now
living at Cristobal, where he had an extensive acquaintance among “the
boys.” He knew every one of the dry-dock gang by name, and to each one
in turn he showed the picture of the fair Hulda. The members of the
dry-dock gang became greatly interested in the Vickingstadt’s wooing,
and discussed the affair among themselves in the following manner:
“‘Mickey Vickins’ is goin’ to be married, all right.” “Shure thing; got
his name in for married quarters! An’ say, she shure is a peach.” “Yes,
he’ll bring some old biddy down with him from New York. No one else
would marry an old mutt like him.” “He stole that picture from one of
them penpushers that he used to room with over at Ancon,” etc., etc.

Meanwhile the “architect” winked foxily and tucked away the letters from
Hulda’s mother and the schoolmaster with his choicest treasures, which
consisted of his discharge from the United States Army and his
correspondence school diploma. Unknown to her mother, Hulda received
money from two other men, which she acknowledged in the following
manner:

“I received your letter and its contents. I long to see you. I know I
shall love you, and I hope to make you a good wife. Good night,
sweetheart.”

She had a dream of her landing at New York that was very rosy. She
decided to have her three lovers meet her at the dock; she could then
pick out the one she liked best, and say “Guten nacht” to the others.
She did not know, poor girl, with what she would have to contend on
arriving in the “land of the free and home of the brave.” Neither did
two of the applicants for her hand. The Vickingstadt knew, however, from
past experience, and he said to himself: “I’m goin’ about it in the
right way, for many’s the young heifer from the ould dart I’ve helped to
get out of the pin on Ellis Island.”



THE CANAL ZONE ARCHITECT’S WEDDING.


(PART II.)

When the big liner docked which brought Hulda from the port of Hamburg
one might have seen three anxious-looking men standing on the pier.
Hulda had been the pet of the ship during the trip. She booked a passage
second class, but, because of her good looks and varied accomplishments,
she was invited to the saloon to play and sing. There was a halo of
romance about her, as she was on her way to New York to become a bride,
and it was said that a young scion of a wealthy family or board had
fallen desperately in love with her--a circumstance which greatly
enhanced her importance in the minds of the other passengers.

Hulda appeared on the dock a few minutes after the big steamer had tied
up, with two trunks filled to overflowing with finery and $8 in her
pocket-book. Like the majority of the fair sex, Hulda, when questioned
by the immigration inspector, fibbed about her age, saying she was but
17, instead of 20. This at once led to complications, for, when two of
her lovers lined up to claim her, each was confronted with a grave
problem. Neither of them knew how to get a 17-year-old girl past the
immigration authorities. The farmer from New Jersey was first to assert
his claim to the fair Hulda, but he did not come prepared to have the
knot tied; he brought no aged mother or aunt, so his claim was
disregarded. He shook his head sadly and said, “Well, here’s where I’m
out $284, but perhaps ’tis just as well, for I think she is a little too
fine for a farm in Jersey, anyhow.”

The next applicant, a Southern gentleman from Savannah, now stepped
forward. He showed many letters he had received from Hulda and displayed
an earnestness, too, which would have helped him anywhere in the world
except on that pier. It was evident that Hulda admired him greatly, and
when he told the interpreter he had property which had been valued for
taxes at $60,000 it was with difficulty that the girl could keep herself
from running into his arms. But he was obliged to leave without her, and
Ellis Island stared her in the face.

It was at this juncture that the “architect of the Canal Zone” came
forward to claim her. “I think this young lady belongs to me,” he told
the immigration inspector, with a thin little smile. “I have been
taking an interest in her for several months, and I’ve her mother’s
consent to marry her.” The papers were carefully examined, and the
interpreter told Hulda that this was the man who had the proper claim
upon her. “According to your mother’s letters,” he said, “he is your
guardian, and if you do not marry him he has the right to send you back
to Germany.”

“Gott in Himmel! I must go back now?” said poor Hulda, bursting into
tears.

“The neighbors would say that the man in New York didn’t like you and
turned you down,” said the wily interpreter, “so if I were you I’d stay
and marry this nice, clean-looking old man. He has a good position down
where the Americans are digging the canal, and I bet you he has plenty
of money. Get some of it away from him, and in a few weeks, if you want
to, you can get a divorce. Over here in America, if a man and his wife
can’t agree, they go to a judge and get a divorce.”

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” said Hulda, her face brightening, “I’ll go
up to the big city of New York with him and will then run away.”

“Oh, but you will have to marry him right here in the presence of these
men, and I shall have to stay and interpret the ceremony.”

During this conversation the “architect” stood apart, quietly awaiting
the verdict. There were many interested spectators, who gazed admiringly
upon the graceful girl and wondered what it was all about.

Hulda wept copiously, and, the heart of the Vickingstadt being touched,
he made an attempt to console her, saying, “Darling thrish, I’ll make
you happy. I’ll give you jewels and laces galore. What makes you take on
so?”

“Go away, you old devil,” said Hulda. “If you attempt to kiss me I’ll
jump into the water.”

“The Lord be praised and glorified,” ejaculated the Vickingstadt, taken
all aback. “Is that the English that was taught you by the blaguard
schoolmaster, after me payin’ me good money for you?”

Hulda, red in the face, showed plainly that the fighting blood of the
Schneiders was up. The interpreter interposed and said to Hulda, “You
must smile and look pleased, or you will be sent back. The minister is
waiting, and you will have to look as if you were tickled to death over
it.”

Thereupon he took Hulda by the arm and led her to where the “architect”
stood with the Lutheran clergyman.

“Shall I have to say to him I love him?” queried Hulda of the
interpreter.

“You sure will,” was the rejoinder.

“I can’t,” said Hulda, “it will be a lie; I hate him already,” she added
desperately.

In the end, however, they were married, and in accordance with the rites
of the Lutheran Church, to which Hulda belonged.

It will have been noticed that she did not like to swear to a lie, which
was a point in her favor. It will also be seen that the holy institution
of matrimony was being used for fraudulent purposes. If it had been the
United States mail that had been used in a like manner Hulda, the
“architect,” the interpreter and all concerned would have been found
guilty of a misdemeanor, and the immigration authorities would have had
to account for compounding a felony. Both of the contracting parties
swore to unseeming lies, and the Lord’s anointed was in attendance to
see that no word was left out or substituted to make the lies less
patent. The bridegroom swore to endow Hulda with all his worldly goods,
when, as a matter of fact, he only intended to give her a few dollars
now and then. The bride swore, between sobs, that she would love, honor
and obey her husband until death should them part, notwithstanding that
the uppermost thought in her mind was to run away from him as soon as
she should enter the city. Hulda’s feelings can better be imagined than
described when the final words were said. She was married according to
the laws of the universe and to the satisfaction of the immigration
authorities.

It is certain that fate plays strange pranks with some people, for, no
sooner than Hulda and the Vickingstadt had been pronounced man and wife,
than there appeared on the scene the man from Savannah, accompanied by
two prominent New Yorkers and the German Consul.

“Too late,” said a bystander.

“That’s a damn shame,” said a sailor, who had witnessed the whole
tragedy.

Hulda was so overwhelmed by the turn of events that when she saw her
true beloved return she ran to him, clasped him about the neck and then
fainted. The young man naturally looked embarrassed, but he, with
others, assisted her to regain consciousness. The bridegroom adopted a
martyr-like pose, and when the girl had recovered sufficiently to sit in
a chair he addressed the interpreter as follows:

“Tell that crazy gurl that it is a very ondutiful wife she is after
makin’ herself. Tell her that from now until the ind of me life she must
cut all feelin’s of love from her heart for that man or any other man.
Tell her that I have houses in three cities and property in Panama. Tell
her that my income is $3,000 gold a year, besides what I make by me
lectures. Tell her that I neither drink, smoke nor chew. An’, thin, in
the name of Hivin! what more does she want? Tell her I’ll take her to
Colon to-morrow, there be a ship sailin’.”

This was related to the bewildered girl, and she was requested to go
with her husband.

“Be jabbers, ’tis a policeman that I’ll be after gittin’ to watch her
to-night,” he said to himself as he half led, half pulled her to a
coach. “If I don’t, ’tis elope she will with that blaguard Southern
gintleman. An’, after me spindin’ so much money upon her, an’ ’tis
ashamed I’d be to show me face on the Zone if I didn’t take the colleen
back with me.”

After much discussion and interpreting, Hulda was prevailed upon to
accompany her husband to a hotel. Here people were paid to watch her,
while the bridegroom went to dispatch a telegram to the steamship
agency, which read: “reserve bridal soute on ship sailing to-morrow for
Colon.”

When Hulda was taken on board the next day she had been outwardly
appeased by a present from her husband of a diamond ring and $100 in
bright gold pieces, but a fire of hatred, fed by a vanquished purpose,
smoldered in her breast.



THE CANAL ZONE ARCHITECT’S WEDDING.


(PART III.)

It was a Sunday afternoon when the ship on which this ill-assorted pair
took passage reached its dock at Cristobal. “The boys” were out in force
to see what “Mickey” Vickins’ bride looked like. There was a murmur of
suppressed admiration when she walked down the ladder, and each took a
long breath when he saw the “architect” walking behind the fair girl
with every appearance of ownership. “The Vickingstadt has put it all
over us,” said one man, laughing. “She certainly is a beautiful girl,”
exclaimed another. “‘Mickey Vickins’ never told the truth before, but he
told it this time,” said one of the dry-dock gang, “so I am out $25, for
I bet a feller last night that ‘Mickey’ ’ud bring back a kitchen
mechanic. The joke is on me, all right.”

And then “the boys,” with one voice, shouted, “What’s the matter with
‘Mickey’ Vickins? He’s all right!”

They gave three hearty cheers for “Mickey” Vickins and his bride, and
then something happened. The much-admired Hulda, not understanding what
it was all about, and in her haste to get ashore, did not notice where
she was going, and ran into the arms of a man from her own country, who,
upon looking at her closely, embraced her and tenderly kissed her.

“God be praised and glorified! What am I up against now?” exclaimed the
astounded and disgusted Vickingstadt. The man proved to be Hulda’s
brother-in-law, who, when her sister had died, left Germany for parts
unknown.

“Who is that old man?” he asked fiercely, pointing to the unfortunate
“architect.” Hulda talked at some length in her own tongue, wrung her
hands, cried and begged her brother-in-law to take her away from her
husband.

“Come, darlint,” said the unsuspecting “Mickey” Vickins, “come along.
Shure, I’m not understanding what you do be sayin’ to your Dutch friend,
but I won’t have the dry-dock gang hear it, or they’ll harrish the life
out of me, the blaguards.”

“Go away, you old devil!” said Hulda, in very good English, which was
readily understood by the crowd.

“Praises be, ’tis call the polis I’ll be after doin’ if you don’t come
with me to our beautiful home that’s all ready for us.”

“You scoundrel, you kidnapped her from her own lover on the dock in New
York City,” shouted the brother-in-law.

“I did not,” said the husband.

“You did,” said Hulda.

At this the little man became angry and tried to pull her away from her
countryman. In the meantime, the crowd having closed in about the angry
trio, shouted, “Go to it, ‘Mickey,’” when several policemen interfered.

“‘Mickey’ kidnapped her, all right,” said one of his friends, laughing.

“Who’d ever thought it?” said another.

“He’ll have to go to jail for it, poor devil,” smilingly spoke a third.

Meanwhile, the “architect” was busy showing his marriage certificate to
a policeman, who, upon examining it, ordered Hulda to go home with her
husband, at the same time telling the brother-in-law to go about his
business or he would arrest him. Then the Vickingstadt seized the arm of
the sulky Hulda and, amid cheers of the crowd, walked off the dock in
triumph.

       *       *       *       *       *

One Sunday morning about three months after her arrival Hulda ordered
her servant to prepare sauerkraut for dinner. “Mickey” Vickins ordered
corned beef and cabbage, and threw the sauerkraut out with his own
hands. After Hulda had given the order she went for a walk, and came
back with an appetite for the good old German dish, to find the Irish
substitute awaiting her. She flew into a rage at once, and, unknown to
the Vickingstadt, sent for her brother-in-law. When he arrived she
poured the whole terrible tale of woe into his willing ear. After the
“architect” had finished his nice boiled dinner he tiptoed to his wife’s
bedroom and found it deserted. “The Lord be praised,” he said to
himself, “where did the colleen go to?”

A small window opened from Hulda’s room on to the back veranda, and he
was just in time to witness the condolences of the brother-in-law, along
with certain other little tendernesses which made him feel sick at
heart. As this is not a novel, I must refrain from summing up his
feelings, and shall confine myself to facts. I happened to look through
my window just as he tiptoed from his front door, after having looked at
his wife conversing with her brother-in-law. He looked as if he wished
me to speak, and I bade him a “good morning.”

“I am your neighbor beyant, ma’am,” said he, coming close to the window
and speaking in a whisper. “I want for you to come with me an’ see a
sight that’ll freeze the blood in your veins, if you’re an honest woman,
which I think ye are.”

Without saying a word I opened the door and stepped lightly upon the
sidewalk beside him.

“What has happened?” I asked.

“Somethin’ fierce,” he replied. “Shure the blood is curdlin’ in the
veins of me; but don’t open your mouth, for I don’t want the blaguards
disturbed.”

“Ah! there are thieves in your house,” said I, in a whisper.

“Worse nor that,” said he.

A shiver went through me. “Has some one been murdered?” I queried,
halting at the threshold of his door.

“Yis,” he answered in a husky voice, and relapsing completely into the
vernacular, “the sowl in me is murthered.”

I walked behind him mechanically. He entered the bedroom on tiptoe, and
bade me follow him. It did not occur to me then that I had, rather
unconsciously, been lured from my own domicile to the bedroom of a man
to whom I had never spoken before. It seemed perfectly proper that I
should follow this little old man, just as if it had been a little old
white-haired woman. He tiptoed to the little window and pointed to
something outside. I fully believed that I was to see something awful,
so I closed my eyes, almost involuntarily, it would seem, as I walked to
where he stood. When I opened them they looked upon the lovely Hulda and
the brother-in-law. Her cheek was close to his cheek; she was looking
into his eyes, and both were smiling. I smiled, too, and looked on
approvingly, for I had believed for three months that my neighbors were
father and daughter.

“Isn’t that purty conduct for a well-brought-up Dutch gurl, an’ the wife
of as good a man as ever wore shoe leather?” he asked. His voice sounded
hollow and strange. At the word “wife” I turned and fled, for the full
significance burst upon me.

“Come back,” he called, “an’ tell me what you think of it.”

I paid no attention to the request, and gained my own apartment very
much out of breath, but in a few minutes the little man returned and
said that the girl was having a fit. So I followed him again, This time
there was no mystery; I knew only too well that there had been a
quarrel. When I returned to the bedroom the fair Hulda lay stretched
upon the floor in what appeared to be a swoon. There was a black girl
bathing her forehead with bayrum, and all about was dire confusion.

“You had no right to tell me to cook that cabbage, and you had no right
to throw away that sauerkraut,” said the negro servant, as she helped
me to lift her mistress from the floor to the bed.

“Shure, there’s nothing in the world as bad for a woman in her condition
as sauerkraut,” answered the little man, meekly.

On hearing the words “sauerkraut” Hulda became quite hysterical and
began to kick and to abuse the “architect.”

“What am I to do at all, at all?” said he, as he endeavored to stroke
her head, in return for which she pinched and tried to bite him. “God be
praised and glorified,” ejaculated the husband. “I thry to plaze the
creature, an’ she has everything that I can get for her. Say, Hulda, is
it your brother-in-law you want?”



THE CANAL ZONE ARCHITECT’S WEDDING


(PART IV.)

At this point there came an interruption in the person of the doctor who
had been called. He was very red in the face, and as he prepared to take
Hulda’s temperature he asked of her husband, “What is all this ruction
about? How many more times must I witness these scenes? Why don’t you
give the girl up? Some day she’ll stick a knife in your back, and then
she will be sent to prison for life.”

“Glory be to God!” shouted the “architect”. “Ain’t the woman me wife?”

“You ought to be ashamed to tell it,” said the doctor. “You, with one
leg in the grave and the other on the brink. I am going to send her to
the hospital now, and you are to leave her there. The girl is too young
to be married to an old fellow like you.”

“I’m only 34,” replied the Vickingstadt.

“You’re a cheerful idiot of a liar,” retorted the doctor.

In the end two men came with a stretcher, and Hulda was taken from her
husband’s house, never to return to live with him again. The medico
followed, banging the door behind him.

“He’s of me own race,” said “Mickey” Vickins, “an’ he do be mad to see
how young me wife is, because ‘blood is thicker than water’ an’ he hates
to hear the lads laughin’ at me misfortunes. We of the Irish race do be
very outspoken with each other, an’ that’s why we get the name of being
such fighters; but I observe that we can’t beat the Dutch, bad luck to
them. Well, she’s gone, and ’tis a rest I’ll be after havin’ now,” said
he, “for the floor is that hard that me bones ache.”

He had peace in his home after this, but he received letters from
Culebra telling him he must support his wife. One day Hulda returned and
rifled his boxes in the hope of procuring the deeds to his property,
but, instead, she found his citizenship papers, correspondence school
diploma and an honorable discharge from the United States Army. These
she tore into shreds and left them where her husband could readily find
them. She had taken up her residence at the home of her brother-in-law
in Colon, and many evil tongues were wagging. The “boys” teased the
Vickingstadt, and he was terribly crushed as a result, for he disliked
to hear Hulda criticised. “God forgive her,” he would say, “I tried to
be an ideal man. I was lovin’, an’ she said I was too lovin’. I never
tasted a drop of liquor, an’ she said that wasn’t natural. I never
smoked or chewed tobacco, an’ she said she’d rather have me do both,
because smokin’ and chewin’ was good for the breath. Now, what do you
think of that? ’Tis a hard thing to understand the ladies, bad cess to
them. I never could understand them.”

I had been given an opportunity to review this international marriage
exhaustively, and I decided that neither Hulda nor the “architect” were
to blame. It was poverty that forced the girl to seek a husband in a
foreign land, and it was an undeveloped sense of the artistic and
romantical that lured the Vickingstadt from his proper sphere.
Circumstances helped, as you will have perceived. Hulda’s one aim now
was to have her husband dismissed from the service, so she wrote letters
to Culebra accusing him of having starved her. He sent canceled checks
to prove that he gave her more money than the average man gives his
wife, and it became necessary for an inspector to investigate the affair
for the good of every one. The latter was wise in his day and
generation, and he reported to Culebra that Mrs. Brian McVickins did not
love her husband. Two clerks had been kept busy attending to the
contradictory reports of the pair, and, in order to lighten expenses for
the Canal Commission, Brian McVickins was requested to resign.

About this time he came to me and informed me that he was the father of
a little girl. “But, shure, ’tis pots and pans they threw at me whin I
wint to see the little creature. May the Lord forgive them. The doctor
tells me that she’s the dead spit of me, an’ ’tis take her away I would,
only poor Hulda won’t have anything else to love after I’m gone.”

He spoke with that assurance with which married men are apt to speak
when referring to their wives, and he appeared to think that I thought
him much beloved by Hulda. He hated to acknowledge defeat in the game of
love, because he possessed the vanity common to his sex. I made no
comment, and he rambled on: “The law doesn’t expect me to do anything
for her at all, at all, but I’ll always be after sindin’ a little money
for the poor child, an’ ’tis glad I am that she looks like me, instead
of like the Dutch, bad luck to them. It’s the Lord that will bless you
for the kind words you said about the matter, and ’tis never a word you
said against the poor, misguided gurl. The poor gurl ain’t been to blame
at all, at all; ’twas the vanity of me in middle age wantin’ a young
colleen with golden hair and a slim figure for a wife. May the Lord
forgive me.”

With that, he thanked me for the counsel I had given him, which, as a
matter of fact, he had never taken, and, after wringing my hand until it
hurt, went his way with bowed head. Six months before, he was a dapper
little man, with a quick, light step, and he did not look a day older
than fifty, but now his eyes were sunken, his cheeks were wrinkled, and
he had the general air of a man who was terribly tired. I have not heard
from him since.

Soon after this, Hulda departed for the United States. Unaccompanied and
carrying her baby and a suitcase, she walked up the steamer’s ladder
with tired tread and an air that suggested trouble. Friends of her
husband who stood upon the pier shook their heads and said sadly, “‘Tis
a goldurned shame, for she shure was a good-looker when “Mickey” brought
her down.”

Her eyes were now red and tired-looking, her cheeks were hollow and her
mouth had the expression of bitterness that comes from disappointment.
One might easily picture her looking for a cheap room and having the
rooming-house women conjecture that she had never been married. She
would look for work, too, and, notwithstanding her accomplishments, she
would probably find it in some one’s kitchen. In her shabby maternity
dress of cheap gingham she was a sorry contrast to the gay passengers
who ran hither and thither, frantically waving farewells to their
friends on the dock. She alone sat apart and hugged her child to her
breast. “A tragic figure,” observed a man with a pitying smile. As the
ship pulled out, a kindly sunbeam fell upon her, and for a moment
lighted up the golden tints in her still beautiful hair.



GRAFT.


A few years ago, on one of the dingy streets of Panama, I occupied a
room furnished with a canvas cot, a chair, a very shaky little table for
the kerosene lamp, and a dry goods box, which I used for a desk. One day
a young widowed friend, who was employed by the Canal Commission, called
upon me and invited me to visit her. She lived in a beautiful house,
with other female employees, some distance from the city. “I have a
large room,” she said, “and if you can succeed in keeping the ‘gumshoe’
men from knowing that you are there, you will be able to save a great
deal of money by it. Think of it! Fifty dollars in two months! You will
be able to get that picture hat which you wanted so badly, and we shall
be glad to have you with us.”

After giving the matter some serious thought I decided to accept the
invitation of my kind-hearted friend, the young widow. The inmates of
the house consisted of five young girls, my friend, the young widow; a
still younger widow, and a widow by courtesy. I was assigned to a small
bed in a corner of the widow’s room, and warned by all to ’ware the
“gumshoes.” The local sleuth was described to me circumstantially, and I
was enjoined to explain my presence--should such a person come prowling
around--by pretending that I was a seamstress.

Except for the fear of the above-mentioned gentleman, my life at this
time was very peaceful. The atmosphere of the house was almost heavenly,
the ladies appearing to live in the utmost amity--until the arrival of
the man--not the “gumshoe,” but one from Rockland, Maine, named Luther
M. Pettingill, called “Pet” for short. He came to court the fairest of
the younger girls, Adelaide, who could cook fish-cakes a la Bangor, and
other Down East delicacies in a way calculated to touch the toughest
Yankee heart. Though “Pet” was not handsome, Adelaide grew to be very
fond of him, and in time she announced that they were engaged. This
announcement took, the household rather by surprise, naturally, and one
night while the lovers were out riding the matter was discussed at
length in the widow’s room. It then first became apparent to me that
“Pet’s” visits--who came morning, noon and night--were not greatly
relished by the other girls. It appeared that he came around early, not
only to eat breakfast, but to help prepare it. Before his advent,
Sunday morning was a time of delightful relaxation, when the ladies
would sit around in their kimonos and “just talk.” Every one helped in
the preparation of the breakfast and indulged in pleasantries while they
worked, which greatly lightened the labor. Now, all this was changed.
The table in the dining-room (fixed up with the widow’s things) would be
spread for Adelaide and her lover, and they sat long over the fish-cakes
and beans, while we waited on the veranda like “hired help.” They would
talk at great length of the folks “down our way”; of “Pet’s” Uncle
Henry; of old Cap’n Eli; of the “Grange,” and many other thrilling
topics, to say nothing of Aunt Patience, who, it seemed, had taken Mr.
Pettingill when he was a cute little darling and had raised him to man’s
estate. It appeared as though the lovers were absolutely unconscious of
the fact that eight half-starved females were waiting to break their
fast.

I tried my best to smooth things over; for, on account of my own
peculiar position in the household, I had a fellow-feeling for “Pet.”
Some of the younger girls proposed going to the Quartermaster and
demanding that Mr. P. be requested, through his chief, to discontinue
his visits to the house. But the others did not approve of this course,
because there were other beaux who came and went at reasonable hours,
and who might cease their visits altogether on account of the utter
tactlessness of Mr. Pettingill. So, it was decided to suffer in silence.
This pleased me immensely, as my graft from the taxpayers of the U. S.
A. would most likely end if an investigation was made into the affairs
of that household. Then, too, there were casual escorts to
Saturday-night dances, who also might be affected if an inquiry was
called for.

Meanwhile Adelaide continued to produce her culinary masterpieces, with
the able assistance of “Pet,” who waxed fatter and merrier, happily
unconscious of the storm that was brewing. Adelaide had now engaged the
services of a young female from Jamaica who, in appropriate livery, held
sway in the kitchen, almost to the exclusion of all others. Gwendoline
(for that was her name) waited upon the lovers in the most approved
fashion, while we--when we were given the chance--waited upon ourselves
in a way that was truly Bohemian. In procession, we conveyed the various
dishes to the table, and between courses we laid the plates on the
crex-covered floor. Gradually my fear of detection wore away, as the
time approached when I was to realize my dream of a picture hat.

On the last Monday of my stay with the young ladies my hat was brought
home. This day also marked a radical change in the affairs of the
household, “graft,” and in Mr. Pettingill, who was obliged to seek a new
course of diet among his less favored bachelor acquaintances. On this
morning the girls went about their business as usual. “Pet” had
breakfasted, as was his wont, and had departed whistling, as his
digestion was good and his heart light in consequence. I spent some time
“trying on” the hat, and, naturally, failed to observe the doings of
Gwendoline, until at almost eleven o’clock I noticed that the
clothes-lines were filled to overflowing with snow-white garments. I
noted some dainty lingerie dresses, but I was too busy with my own
thoughts to take particular interest in a mere clothes-line. Soon,
however, I was startled by my friend, the young widow, who burst into
the room like a cyclone. She threw herself upon the couch and burst into
tears.

“What is the matter?” I asked in bewilderment.

“Why, we’re the laughing stock of the whole town,” she replied. “Those
men over there in the bachelor quarters are laughing to kill themselves,
and making all kinds of jokes at our expense. Adelaide is an awful girl
to bring this ridicule upon us.”

Just then the young widow and two of the girls burst in. “Isn’t that a
disgraceful exhibition?” questioned one of them. “Why, one of those
awful men asked me who owned them, and then all the others laughed. I’m
ashamed to pass by them on the way to the office this afternoon.”

Having now a hint at the cause of the tempest, I took a good look
through the window at the clothes-line--and, lo! there burst upon my
view an array of faded khaki trousers, gingham shirts and balbriggan
undergarments--all in an advanced state of patches--merrily dancing to
the light tropical zephyrs which filled them and caused them to act in
quite a human manner.

“Did you ever see anything so disgusting?” asked the young widow. Of
course, I tried to make light, and suggested to the ladies a picture of
Aunt Patience patiently patching the offensive garments, but they shook
their heads in disgust and chided me for my levity. Adelaide was called
in and requested to take the horrid things from the line. She listened
to what the ladies had to say, and then, without replying, turned to
leave the room.

“If the clothing was not so terribly patched it would not seem so
vulgar,” said one of the girls.

“I cannot imagine anyone of refinement caring for a man who could wear
such rags,” said the younger widow. “My husband never wore anything but
silk.”

Adelaide heard the comments in silence and quietly left the room.

“I am going to complain about this,” said the young widow.

“You had better use the telephone,” said some one. “You can say more
that way.”

She dashed down to the telephone and the following dialogue took place,
afterward repeated to me by a friend:

Widow--“Hello! Is this the Quartermaster?”

Q. M.--“Yes. What can I do for you?”

Widow--“Please send a man over to take the clothes in.”

Q. M. (stuttering)--“Wha-at?--what’s the matter with the clothes?”

Widow?--“Just take a look at the line--LOOK at it.”

Q. M. (after a pause)--“I don’t see anything wrong with it--it looks
good to me.”

Widow--“Heavens! But look at those awful clothes on the line, will you?”

Q. M.--“There DOES seem to be a discordant note in that line, but I can
do nothing for you. If I were seen monkeying around that finery I might
be deported.”

Widow--“Well, you needn’t make fun of me.”

Q. M.--“I would like to oblige you, but I cannot meddle with such
matters.”

Widow--“Well, perhaps you can tell me this: Have such clothes any right
on our line?”

Q. M.--“Certainly not. They look terribly out of place, as the house is
a home for young lady employees and charming widows like yourself.”

Now, this was more than the widow could stand, and, hanging up the
receiver, she rushed back to us with many complaints of the Q. M.’s
discourtesy.

“We’ll take it up with Culebra,” chorused the girls, whereupon I
proceeded to pack my suitcase, thinking the time propitious for my
departure. But, too late. The news of the flutter in the dovecote had
already reached the ears of a certain vigilant person, whose business it
was to report on and to adjust all matters of such weighty importance.
This gentleman now appeared before us and gravely proceeded to question
each one in turn. His manner was solemn and ponderous, as to almost make
us fancy ourselves on the witness stand in a murder trial. Adelaide, the
offending one, was questioned last, and, strange to say, culprit though
she was, bore the inquisition with less embarrassment than any of the
others, fortified, perhaps, by the knowledge of the steadfast affection
of the husky Mr. Pettingill. At any rate, she came through the ordeal
with much credit to herself, without adding any laurels to the brow of
her inquisitor.

“Pending the verdict of Culebra,” he said pompously, as he finished his
notes, “I would suggest that the gentleman cease his visits for a
while.” He also suggested that the clothes be removed from the line.
This was done immediately by Gwendoline, amidst the jeers of the
bachelors next door. After these directions were given he stalked out
with measured, judicial tread, and a sigh of relief went up as the door
closed behind him.

At six o’clock that night I came away with a deep feeling of regret. As
I was riding to the station I observed the disconsolate form of “Pet”
seated upon the steps of his quarters, with his face buried in his
hands, the setting sun forming a lustrous halo about his bowed head,
while faintly on the evening air was wafted o’er him, unnoticed, the
distant rattle of the knives and plates of the I. C. C. Hotel.



THE STORY OF VERE DE VERE.


We know not in our poor philosophy what hidden chords are touched by
unseen hands.

More than a hundred years ago there lived in the Sunny South a handsome
cavalier, who was noted for his riches, daring and cruelty. It is
recorded that, whenever a man opposed him, he coolly ran him through
with his broadsword; and whenever a female repulsed him he disgraced
her, if he had an opportunity, or else some one who was near and dear to
her.

The greatest artist of his time painted his portrait, and it hangs
to-day in one of the public institutions of his native State. Tradition
has it that he once killed a gypsy lad who happened to win the love of a
young gypsy girl with whom he imagined himself to be in love, and that a
gypsy woman cursed him for the deed and wrote his horoscope with the
blood of the murdered youth as follows: “That his line would cease with
one girl, who would live long enough to disgrace his name; that many
years of her life would be spent in a vile prison among negroes in a
foreign land for a crime like the one he had then committed.”

This view behind the curtain seems to have had a strong effect upon the
cruel cavalier, for he decided to marry and settle down like the people
around him. His wife was a woman of gentle character, and her influence
wrought a great change in the morals of her husband, for it was said
that he became quite religious, and, when a little girl was born to him,
with many tears and prayers he dedicated the child to God.

Meantime the years rolled on. The cavalier died, and, as daughter after
daughter was born of his line, his name became extinct. Then, too,
poverty, the great leveler, had come upon the family. His portrait, his
signature to a famous document, and the tale of the gypsy’s curse were
all that remained of the cavalier. Those who watched for the fulfillment
of the curse died and were forgotten; and at last a daughter was born,
fifth in line from him. Her mother departed this world at her birth; her
father, some months later, and it devolved upon the neighbors to care
for the orphaned child. As she grew to womanhood people remarked that
she bore a strong resemblance to the portrait of her great-grandfather
on her mother’s side, and by a special act of the Legislature she was
given his name.

At 17, being pretty, gracious, sensible and womanly, with a genius for
music, a great future was predicted for her; but, in the parlance of the
day, “she went wrong.” Her betrayer was the son of one of the most
opulent families in the State, and, at his mother’s request, the girl
was sent to a distant Southern city. Here, after a few months, necessity
compelled her to take up a residence in the underworld, and the friends
of her childhood thenceforth knew her no more. She had been the ward of
every one at home, and was, therefore, the ward of no one; and her
disappearance was only a nine days’ wonder.

In spite of her degraded calling, men admired her, and, because of a
certain haughtiness in her bearing toward them, she was called “Vere de
Vere,” and it was known that she was sought with honest intention by men
who declared that they loved her for her womanliness and the music of
her laugh. The creatures of the world stood in awe of her, because of
her dignity, and they feared her because of her violent temper. So, she
lived her scarlet life, apparently without regret, until one day an old
man from her native State happened in and amused his listeners by
telling weird stories which, he said, had been told him by his
grandmother. He related the story of Vere de Vere’s ancestor, without
knowing that one of his listeners was the only person upon whom the
curse might fall. Nor did he know that when Vere de Vere fainted he had
touched a chord of sensibility rarely found in the nature of women of
her sort.

On the morning of the following day Vere de Vere told her associates
that she desired to go to work and earn an honest living. “This is not
the right life for me,” said she to her incredulous auditors. “I was
born to a higher life. I shall be good; I shall marry, and I shall have
children,” with which announcement she left them, to begin life anew.

How fresh and beautiful the morning seemed to her as she hurried toward
a park! What do you know of fresh, green, delightful mornings? she said
to herself as she sat down and took a deep breath. A bird twittering in
a branch above her head, and a pair of squirrels playing in the grass
beside her, made her smile and forget. A man in passing leered at her
and attempted to speak, but she checked him abruptly with the
information that he had made a mistake. “I shall wear black for a time,”
she thought. Then she began to wonder what she could do. She could sew
beautifully. A light came into her eyes at the thought of the creations
that she had designed for her underworld revels. She could embroider,
paint china and play the violin.

She bought a newspaper and looked through the list of advertisements.
The following attracted her attention:

     “WANTED--A lady violinist and seven other lady musicians to make up
     a lady orchestra for a first-class hotel in Panama.”

Her heart leaped for joy. “This is my chance. I shall go to Panama. It
is far away, and no one will recognize me there,” said the poor girl as
she hastened to answer the advertisement.

At noon on the following day she was standing on the ship’s deck on her
way to Colon, and as New Orleans receded from view her lips moved in
prayer; she was asking God to give her strength to lead a better life.

The man who had engaged her had complimented her upon her skill at
playing. “You may not like Panama,” said he, “for the life down there is
rough, and I see you are a lady.”

In a few days she was walking the streets of Colon in glorious freedom.
Men eyed her furtively from some safe retreat, but no one ventured to
accost her. There was no one to lift an eyebrow or to give a scornful
glance. “Safe, thank God!” she said. “I shall not be the victim of that
curse.” She was thinking of what she should wear that night. A simple
white muslin dress; a white rose in her hair. No paint, no jewelry, no
more bright colors. “I shall save my money and buy a little home,” she
thought.

“It is time to dress,” said one of her girl friends, breaking in upon
her reverie. “We are to go to the hotel at seven.” But it was not an
hotel--it was a barroom where employes of the Canal Commission and the
riff-raff of God’s great universe assembled nightly to drink to excess
and discuss the slanderous gossip of the Isthmus.

When Vere de Vere arrived at the entrance she faltered and refused to go
in. “It is a low barroom,” said she to her companions, “and there are
drunkards inside who will say vile things to us.”

“But we must play there, or else we won’t be able to live,” said one of
the girls.

So they walked in, single file, through the rows of leering men, leaving
the frightened girl on the sidewalk.

“Aw, come on in, kid,” said the manager, whose name was “Blinkey.” “This
is an all-right place; the best in town. There ain’t no first-class
hotels in this God-forsaken place. What ’ud support ’em? Not the I. C.
C. roughnecks an’ P. R. R. pen-pushers. Not on your life, kid. Why did I
say that the place was a first-class hotel? Because I’m a liar, of
course. Come on in.”

“I want to live a good life,” replied the girl, with the calmness of
despair in her voice.

“Well, that’s up to you, my girl. I ain’t askin’ you not to lead a good
life. You can be as good as Saint Cecelia an’ play here every night. The
better you are, the greater attraction you’ll be for this joint, for
good ladies are doggoned scarce on the Isthmus. I’ll tell the boys all
about you, an’ when I get through I bet you they’ll respect you. You
must play that ‘Good Night’ solo when you see that they’re about
half-shot. Come on in; I’ll lead you. My! you are shiverin’ an’ your
hand is as cold as ice. You bet the boys’ll know when they see a real
lady. You look like a little girl in that simple white dress.”

So she allowed “Blinkey” to lead her by the hand into the reeking
barroom, and onto the balcony, where her girl companions awaited her.
Then the manager announced, in the unmistakable voice of the
professional barker: “Gen-tle-men: I wish to introduce to your favorable
notice Miss Merriam Leigh, the famous violinist. She has medals which
were presented to her by the Emperors of Germany, Austria and Japan;
medals that are worth a fortune, and the little lady is too modest to
wear ’em. This is the lady who entranced with her violin solos the late
King Edward the Seventh, and made him exclaim, a few moments before he
died, ‘To endow with such genius a poor human being, there must be a
God!’ I presume you have all read of the rope of pearls that he gave to
this little lady before he died; an account of ’em was in all the
papers. I presume you all read about when Queen Alexandra wanted to keep
her in her household to play for her in her widowhood. This is the
modest little lady who comes here to-night to let the P. R. R.’s and the
I. C. C.’s hear her play. You can see that she’s a lady. Treat her as
such.”

“Come forward, now,” said “Blinkey,” in an aside that only the girl
could hear, “and bow to the blokes while there’s a sentimental fit on
’em, an’ you’ll be a darned sight safer here than you’d have been in old
King Eddie’s quarters.”

The harangue was news to the poor girl, and the humor of it made her
smile as she stepped forward to bow to the waiting throng. Each man
raised his glass to toast the celebrity, when a harsh voice somewhere
among the drinkers said: “Well, I’ll be gorldurned if it ain’t Vere de
Vere, from Mixed Ale Lizzie’s place in N’Yawlins.”

Vere de Vere heard the ominous words, and felt a faintness overpower
her, but, with that spirit for which men had admired, she seized her
violin and played, while her cheeks flamed and her eyes sparkled,
“Lead, Kindly Light, Lead Thou Me On.”

“She’s mad, all right,” said a maudlin voice in the crowd.

“That makes a feller think of things that Gawd has to do with,” spoke up
another.

A hush fell upon the assembly, and the black waiters stood still and
bowed their heads. The bartender, an old tropical tramp, used his towel
to wipe his teardrops from the marble. The last time he had heard that
hymn it was being sung at the funeral of his wife away back on the farm
in Missouri. There were many wet eyes as the girl frantically played to
the finish. Then, with one wild bound, she rushed through the reeking
saloon, out into the street to a nearby park, where she sat down and
cried it out.

No one spoke after she had left the barroom, but one by one the men
tiptoed out, leaving unfinished glasses on the tables behind them. At
nine o’clock the place was deserted and the doors were closed. Habitues,
who came too late, said to one another, “I wonder what’s the matter with
‘Blinkey’s’ place. He advertised a lady orchestra and a big night
to-night.”

“Say, ain’t he the liar, though?”

“Well, he ain’t doin’ business, that’s a cinch. Wonder what’s up.”

One man remained in “Blinkey’s” place; it was the informer. He told the
manager all he knew of the violinist; it was, that he had seen her in a
disreputable house in New Orleans.

“You’re a pretty rotten specimen of manhood to go giving her away like
that,” said “Blinkey.” “If you had any sense you might have known that
she was trying to do right, the poor little devil. ’Twas a rotten deal
to hand out to me; spoiled a good night’s business, an’ made a liar of
me.”

“But half of ’em didn’t hear what I said,” protested the offender.

“No,” said “Blinkey,” “they didn’t hear you, but she did, an’ she played
that to get ’em to thinkin’ of their pasts as she was made to remember
hers. I bet every man of ’em left off livin’ right soon after the last
time they heard that played; I know I did. ’Twas when poor Maggie died,
Gawd rest her soul! There’s ginger in that girl; there’s soul an’
feelin’ in her, an’ pride. I had to coax her to come in, an’ she said
somethin’ about wantin’ to lead a good life.”

“That’s the way in this darned old world,” put in the bartender. “Step a
little bit askew, an’ down you go; but, when you try to buck up, some
gink comes along that hain’t got sense enough to get in when it rains,
an’ he blows on you an’ every one’ll believe him, an’ you either get in
jail or into a crooked poker game. I know; I been there. That girl’ll
either commit suicide or go back to the life that she’s been tryin’ to
git away from now.”

“Yes,” said “Blinkey,” shaking his head. “An’ I’ll have it all on my
soul, and Gawd knows I have enough to answer for now. I’ll get out of
this business, by heck; I will.”

“Well, I guess I’ll be goin’,” said the informer. “I’m fed up on
moralizin’. I’m sorry I squealed on the merry widow. Good-night, boys. I
guess you’re troublin’ more about it than she is.”

“Say! you didn’t tell any of ’em on the q. t., did you?” asked
“Blinkey,” anxiously.

“A couple of ’em, but they were too darned drunk to remember,” the
informer replied.

“Well, say! you’d better tell them fellers to-morrow night that you made
a mistake; that she ain’t the one you thought she was,” said “Blinkey,”
in a persuasive tone.

“If I think of it,” said the informer, as he walked leisurely through
the doorway with the air and manner of one with nothing to regret.

“All the fire in purgatory wouldn’t clean up that feller’s soul,” said
the bartender, as the door closed behind the man.

“That mut ain’t got no soul. ‘Lead, Kindly Light,’ wasn’t wrote for
such spawn as him. I guess I’ll take a ride out into the savannahs to
get a breath of Gawd’s pure air, for, I’ll tell you what, the stink of
this booze joint is gittin’ on my nerves,” said “Blinkey,” in disgust.

On the following day Vere de Vere looked for work, but failed to find
it, and at night she went back to the barroom and played, without
looking at the drinkers. When her violin solo was finished she sought a
remote corner of the balcony and hid herself behind the other players.

“That girl is afraid of us fellers,” said a man, laughing.

“It takes some nerve for a young lady like her to play in a place like
this for a bunch of roughnecks like us,” said another man, in a kindly
tone.

“Better lookout, girl, you’ll lose your virtue here among us fellers,”
said the informer of the night before, in a high-pitched voice. This
coarse jest was greeted with roars of laughter.

“Put that mut out!” shouted “Blinkey” to the negro attendants, “an’ if
he puts up a kick, call in the ‘spiggotty’ police and tell ’em that he’s
a crook, and let ’em put the guy in jail.”

The informer was led to the street, but it was too late. The habitues of
“Blinkey’s” place knew that the pretty violinist had led a disreputable
life in a low resort in New Orleans. Several of the less hardened
didn’t believe the story, and one young business man of Colon was very
much in love with her and said that he would marry her; so now it was
rumored that there was going to be a wedding, and that free drinks were
to be served gratis on that night at “Blinkey’s” place.

The story of Vere de Vere became generally known and was freely
discussed, even in that quarter of the city known as “the district.” The
rumor reached the ears of a woman of ill-repute who had designs upon
Vere de Vere’s lover. Jealousy is a destructive element, when it takes
root, in the most respectable bosom, and surely, when in force in the
disordered mind of an outcast woman, it must be doubly dangerous. This
one, it seems, had known Vere de Vere in New Orleans, and there was an
old score that she was anxious to settle, so she circulated a horrible
story of the girl’s past, which not only shocked Vere de Vere’s lover,
but the hardest characters at “Blinkey’s” place.

All this greatly distressed poor Vere de Vere, for it seems there are
depths of degradation to which some women of the underworld refuse to
sink, and there are crimes so abhorrent as to shock even their paralyzed
sense of morality.

“I shall see that girl,” said poor Vere de Vere. “I used to know her,
and she was not a bad-hearted person.” So, while her companions went to
“Blinkey’s” place as usual, she made her way to the house of her
slanderer. When she entered, the wretched woman came toward her,
staggering and hiccoughing; she was followed by a negro porter.

“Beat her up,” she shouted, “she’s trying to take my man from me.”

The negro advanced threateningly, and the defenceless girl, seeing a
be-ribboned dagger hanging on the wall above her head, seized it. The
negro, in a sudden frenzy, threw the drunken woman upon the weapon, and
in a moment she fell to the floor fatally injured.

“It is the curse,” said Vere de Vere, as she rushed from the house. Her
white dress was spattered with blood, and, unconsciously, she held the
dagger clutched tightly in one hand while she ran through the streets of
Colon to “Blinkey’s” place.

“What in the name of God have you been doin’, kid?” asked “Blinkey,” as
he took the blood-stained dagger from her hand.

“It is the curse,” she moaned; and “Blinkey” afterward said that the
hurt look in the girl’s eyes made him feel ill. To the bewilderment of
the awe-struck drinkers, Vere de Vere took her violin in her
blood-stained hands and played “Dixie.” Amid a tumult of applause the
police came in and tore her from her violin.

“And the sins of the parents shall be visited upon the children,” said
the girl, as she was led to the street, where a hooting mob stood ready
to offer her indignities.

So the last descendant of a great cavalier leads the life of a
malefactor among negroes in the penitentiary at Panama, and the curse
written in the life-blood of the poor gypsy boy has had its
fulfillment.



AN AWFUL MYSTERY.


The Fairfaxes were married at Trinity Church, Boston, and the Bishop of
Boston performed the ceremony. The Governor of Massachusetts gave the
bride away, and there was no one present at the affair but Mayflower
descendants and a few noblemen from Europe, who came by way of
Washington to grace the affair.

The Boston newspapers were filled to overflowing with accounts of the
wedding, a description of the presents and the life history of the
contracting parties. They told in detail the genealogy of both the bride
and groom.

The bride was an heiress in a moderate way, but the groom, who was an F.
F. V., was poor, so that he positively refused to have his wife touch a
penny of the money she inherited. “I am going to work,” said he to the
relatives and friends of the bride. “I have secured a position as a
clerk on the Panama Canal, and we shall sail to-morrow.”

“Bravo!” said every one.

Mrs. Fairfax packed her costly wedding presents away and stored them
among other family treasures in the attic of her great-aunt in
Cambridge, and with only about twelve trunks of dainty clothing and
household things she departed with her wedded love.

She was a graduate of Wellesley College, and she had, in addition,
studied domestic economy, so she gave out for publication that she
intended doing her own housework on the Canal Zone.

“A sensible and model woman,” said the newspapers. Mothers talked about
the model Mrs. Fairfax to their daughters, in the hope that it would
influence their own futures; so, you see, gentle reader, what a heroine
Mrs. Fairfax was in her native city.

Among Mrs. Fairfax’s wedding presents was one of such a kind as to
preclude all possibility of its being left at home in the attic on
Brattle street, so a ticket was purchased for it and, attached to a
silver chain, this present was led by Mrs. Fairfax to the Pullman palace
car which was to convey the newlyweds to New York, from which they
embarked for Colon. “Ferdinand De Lesseps” was the name of the present.
It was the finest of bull terriers, and Mrs. Fairfax was almost as proud
of it as she was of her new husband.

On the ship there were, from the Fairfax point of view, a strange
assortment of persons who did not speak the English language as it was
spoken in the world to which the pair belonged, but who, strange to say,
considered themselves as good, if not better, than the young couple.

It is needless to say that both had led a most sheltered life, and their
knowledge of common people was limited to persons of the domestic
servant class and railroad porters. Being just out of college, they, of
course, knew it all, and did not see that a wider experience was being
thrust upon them. They were very exclusive, and before the ship arrived
at port they had shown such antipathy for their fellow-passengers that
they were anything but popular.

When the ship docked there was no one to meet them, although Mr. Fairfax
had sent a wireless message to the man who was to give him information
regarding his new position in some office or other on the Zone.

They were, therefore, obliged to find a room for themselves on a dingy
street in Panama, and in a house where many negroes lived. No one
appeared to know that the blooded ones had arrived.

After many weeks of disgusting hardships, through the influence of Mr.
Fairfax’s boss, a vulgar, unlettered man who had been a simple carpenter
in Boston, the young couple were assigned to two non-housekeeping rooms
in one corner of a big house occupied by a Swedish family named Svenska,
and, although Mr. Svenska had only been in the United States long enough
to acquire a knowledge of railroading and citizenship papers, his
privileges and wages far exceeded those of Mr. Fairfax, who was a
descendant of a cavalier who had signed the Declaration of Independence.

It was the proud boast of the Swedish lady that she had landed at Ellis
Island in her bare feet five years before, and when Mrs. Fairfax was a
sweet undergraduate, shining as a drawing-room butterfly, Mrs. Svenska
was dusting drawing-rooms.

Now, she kept a hired girl, and had A No. 1 furniture, while Mrs.
Fairfax had the sort that was specially brought to the Isthmus for
clerks who received only $100 a month.

The Svenska wash was always hanging on the front porch, and the mangy
cur dog of the Svenskas was ever seeking social intercourse with the
blooded terrier of the Fairfaxes.

Mr. and Mrs. Svenska always addressed Mrs. Fairfax as Mrs. Penpusher--a
term which Mrs. F. could not understand.

Being a newcomer and unsophisticated, Mrs. Fairfax decided to move into
the pretty cottage across the way, which had been vacant since her
arrival. Accordingly, one day she started for the Quartermaster’s
office to arrange for a transfer. The Quartermaster, however, saw her
coming, and very prudently withdrew, leaving his assistant to deal with
her. This gentleman, after hearing Mrs. Fairfax’s complaints and request
for new quarters, indignantly replied: “You ain’t got no kick coming.
Why, them quarters you want belong to two-hundred-and-fifty-dollar men.
They ain’t for no one-hundred-dollar people.”

“Why, what do you mean?” said poor Mrs. Fairfax, aghast. “I shall see
that you are reported for your insolence. My husband’s grandfather was a
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.”

“That don’t cut no ice down here,” was the reply. “If he was the son of
the Colonel himself, he wouldn’t get them quarters with his salary.
You’re in the same house now with a high-priced man, so I don’t see what
yer kickin’ about.”

“It is evident you don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Mrs.
Fairfax in bewilderment. “Why, the people who occupy the other part of
the house are common--positively vulgar. I must get another house; I
cannot live there. I shall come again when the Quartermaster is in.”

So, without even a good-afternoon, she hurried home to find that
“Prosit,” Svenska’s dog, had picked a quarrel with “Ferdinand De
Lesseps,” the Boston terrier. In the combat the plebian “Prosit,” having
no fine sense of honor nor any regard for the rules of war, had
treacherously nipped off “Ferdinand’s” tail. “Ferdinand,” though a
courageous beast, could not bear this indignity, so had left the field
in possession of his vulgar antagonist. Then, too, Mrs. Svenska’s
much-patched clothing was hanging, as usual, on the porch. There was an
array of socks of huge dimensions, hickory shirts and piebald khaki
trousers, all of which greatly offended the aesthetic taste of the
dainty Mrs. Fairfax. So she sought Mrs. Svenska, and requested that lady
to take her clothing from the line and to chain up that brute “Prosit.”
“I beg pardon,” began Mrs. Fairfax, when her neighbor appeared at the
door, “that dog of yours has bitten off my dog Ferdinand’s’ tail.”

“Veil,” answered Mrs. Svenska, “dat bane a gude yob. My Oscar, he bane
pay two dollar gold to a faller in Sout’ Brooklyn fer trimmin’ up our
own bulldog’s tail. Such dogs ain’t in style mid tails. Anyhow, vy you
not stay home an’ mind yer dog? You ain’t got no bizness in dese
quarters--your man is nuttin’ but a penpusher mit a hundred
dollars, and my Oscar, he make two hundred, an’ you tink you are better
as we are.”

As Mrs. Svenska finished speaking she shook her fist in Mrs. Fairfax’s
face, which belligerent gesture so frightened the latter that she rushed
from the door and fell on her own doorstep in a dead faint. This, of
course, attracted the attention of a passer-by, and soon a curious crowd
assembled. In the crowd there chanced to be one of that slick class of
individuals known as “gumshoe” men. He stood and looked on and said
nothing, but what he thought would fill a big book. Mrs. Svenska did not
appear to make an explanation, and no one in the crowd made a move to
help the unfortunate woman. The “gumshoe” man pulled a little notebook
from his inside pocket and jotted down the following: “Woman found on
doorstep of House No. ---- in stupefied condition * * *.”

Now, the district physician put in an appearance, and in a few minutes
Mrs. Fairfax had revived sufficiently to sit up and take notice. Her
first thought was of her poor maimed dog, and she said, with what voice
she could muster: “Oh, where did he go?”

“Who?” said the “gumshoe” man, stepping forward eagerly.

“‘Ferdinand,’” weakly replied the poor woman, sinking down upon the step
and bursting into sobs.

The physician, with a sad expression on his face, ordered an officer to
escort Mrs. Fairfax to her rooms, and the “gumshoe” man wrote: “Drugged
by some one named ‘Ferdinand’--a lover, probably--drinking together.
Husband, clerk--decent fellow. Mystery here--woman needs watching--got
no friends among the women--keeps to herself.”

Carefully tucking his little book in the inside pocket, near his heart
(for there is nothing dearer to these gentry than to get “something on”
a married woman), he joined the policeman as the latter came from the
house, shaking his head mysteriously.

All this had its due effect on the bystanders, and each one went on his
or her way with an idea that Mrs. Fairfax had some awful secret. Each
man cautioned his wife to have nothing to do with her, because she had a
sweetheart unknown to her husband--a guy named “Ferdinand,” an Eyetalian
or a dago of some kind. So, as a matter of course, the village people
went out of their way and took special pains not only to shun Mrs.
Fairfax, but to let her see that she was being shunned. The “gumshoe”
man’s notes were now being put into circulation through the medium of
one of his confidants, a notorious male gossip whose calling took him
almost daily to every village on the line. This mode of disseminating
slander is equalled, perhaps, only by the New York yellow journals.

Meantime Mr. and Mrs. Fairfax took their evening walks together, happily
unconscious of the awful slander that threatened to engulf them. Mrs.
Svenska kept “Prosit” chained up, so that he could not play with the
Fairfax dog, fearing that people would think that she was friendly with
Mrs. Fairfax. The Quartermaster’s assistant held his head high, in a way
which plainly said, “Nothin’ doin’,” when the lady went to the office
for anything. Even the dusky commissary attendants tossed their woolly
heads when she gave them an order. Then a rumor was started that Mr.
Fairfax was not married to Mrs. Fairfax. This story gained in popularity
from day to day, and at last assumed such truthful proportions that an
agent was sent out to investigate the matter. This gentleman’s name was
Gilhooly, a descendant, so ’tis said, of one of the royal lines of Erin.
He was a native of Boston.

He started his investigation with the knowledge that he was to hunt down
a cultivated woman. After a couple of weeks Gilhooly sent his notebook
to the great tribunal of justice. Were you so fortunate as to get a
glimpse of this little book the following might attract your eye:

“Mr. and Mrs. Fairfax are married, all right, tho’ you’d never think it
from the loving way they live. When Mr. and Mrs. Fairfax are at home
they hold hands and they read Shakespeare and Thomas a Kempis. When Mr.
Fairfax ain’t at home Mrs. Fairfax does her housework, except the
washin’ and scrubbin’, which ain’t in her line. When she ain’t doin’ her
housework she’s paintin’ pictures and writin’ for college papers. The
lad ‘Ferdinand’ is not a dago, at all, but an ugly brute of a Boston
bull terrier with a pedigree. He loves his mistress, and it was on
account of Svenska’s ‘mutt’ havin’ chewed off his tail that the ruction
started. Let them that are without fault throw the first stone. So, I
guess it is up to the Colonel himself to set matters right.”



A NIGHT OFF.


I see by the papers that the government of the ‘Land of the free and
home of the brave’ has made another law. It is that no contract be given
for government work to any firm that compels its employes to work more
than eight hours a day, an’ the government has turned down a
shipbuildin’ firm’s bid on the two new battleships because the firm
didn’t have the eight-hour law in force in its shipyard. Now, wouldn’t
that jar you, when right here on this government job there’s five
hundred men that work from twelve to sixteen hours a day an’ never get a
cent of overtime pay, not even a ‘thank you’?

“Who are the twelve-and sixteen-hour men? We are. I’m one of ’em. Am I a
steam-shovel man? No; not on your life. If I was I’d be curlin’ my
mustache an’ polishin’ my finger-nails right now. But, instead of that,
I’m hustlin’ into the mess hall to swallow a bite of cold grub before
they shut the doors for the night. It’s now three hours after
knockin’-off time. I’m a marine engineer, an’ I’ve seen as much of this
terrestrial globe as any man of my age on this job, an’ I can say with
conviction that this is the blamedest job for workin’ overtime that I
ever struck, or ever expect to strike.

“You say that you thought we all worked eight hours down here. Not the
floating equipment, no, m’am; but, say! a more intelligent or finer
bunch of fellows never struck the Isthmus than they are. Why, some of
’em are veterans of the Spanish-American War. They done the work that
got the glory for Dewey an’ that beauty Hobson, when the petted darlin’s
of the Commission--the steam-shovel men, the shop guys and the
like--were milkin’ cows an’ feedin’ hens down on the farm. But, wait,
we’ll come in handy again some day, maybe right here, where we’re
sweatin’ away from four to six hours a day for nothin’. Here in Balboa
we ain’t got no more gumption than a bunch of dog-robbers. Why, in
Cristobal, they have formed an association to fight for back pay for
overtime since the Canal started, an’ for an eight-hour day.

“A committee of ten of ‘the boys’ waited upon a bunch of hayseeds that
were down here lookin’ around an’ botherin’ the Colonel. ’Twas last fall
an’ they stopped at the Tivoli. The Colonel attended the meetin’
himself, an’ showed the fellers that he was with them for a square deal.
He’s always on deck when there’s need of justice, the Colonel is. Well,
anyhow, old Uncle Joe was in the gang from the U. S. A., smilin’ from
ear to ear an’ smokin’ a big cigar that made him look top heavy. He told
‘the boys’ that he was feelin’ fine; that he was gittin’ to be a bit
overfed, an’ that he was just pinin’ to do something for the floating
equipment of the Canal Commission; but when a couple of ‘the boys’ told
him that they had nearly $9,000 for back pay comin’ to ’em his face
froze, the cigar fell from his lips an’ he looked as if he was goin’ to
drop dead. I was there lookin’ on an’ takin’ it all in.

“I attended the association supper at Cristobal after that, an’, say! it
was some feast. It looked more like a meetin’ of the floating equipment
of the New York Yacht Club than it did of the overworked and underpaid
live ones of the Isthmian Canal Commission. Every man was dressed to
kill in correct evening togs except me, but, of course, I didn’t count,
bein’ from Balboa, an’ not bein’ a member, nohow. Anyway, I enjoyed
myself an’ drunk it all in. Did I get drunk? Yes, I think I did get
drunk. A saint would have got drunk there. The first sight that met the
eye on entering the hall was--what do you think? Twelve barrels of beer
all packed in ice an’ ready to quench thirst. There was all kinds of
whiskies and wines, and even champagne.

“How did they get away to get to the supper? Oh, they just struck.
‘Where are you fellers goin’ to?’ said the boss that night, when the
last of the gang was walkin’ off the dock to go home an’ dress. ‘We are
goin’ to get drunk,’ spoke up old Cap. Bartin, who isn’t so old, but is
as sassy as they make ’em. ‘Get drunk?’ said the boss, in amazement;
‘well, you’ve got your nerve with you.’ ‘You bet,’ replied the Captin;
‘if I didn’t have considerable nerve I wouldn’t have been able to keep
up an’ work all of this overtime. Me an’ the boys,’ said he, ‘need to
wet our whistles this blessed Sunday night, after workin’ from twelve to
eighteen hours a day for the past week.’ ‘You can’t get off now,’ said
the boss, ‘because there’s that derelict out there that’s got to be
attended to.’ ‘I ain’t responsible for the derelict,’ retorted the
Captain; ‘why don’t you get your launch an’ go out an’ hang a dinner
bell on it, or else get a couple of niggers to rig up a jury mast for
it? The boys an’ me have an important engagement,’ an’ he winked at his
friends in a foxy way. ‘I’m through with the briny deep until Monday
mornin’.’ ‘You’ll lose your job for this,’ said the boss, tryin’ to keep
a straight face. ‘Hurrah!’ said Captin Bartin, ‘back to the Bowery for
mine. There’s a few boats sailin’ in and out around old Liberty. Do you
know where Liberty is? We have almost forgot, we get so little of it in
this outfit.’ After dancin’ a few steps of the ‘Sailors’ Hornpipe’ he
marches off the dock, followed by the fellows, all of them singin’, ‘We
Won’t Go Home Till Mornin’.’

“Just after the boys had gone, a time inspector hove into sight an’ the
boss said to him, in that dry way of his, ‘There ain’t nothin’ for you
to do to-night. The bunch has quit, an’ I don’t blame ’em. They’re
havin’ a banquet.’ ‘You don’t say,’ said the inspector. ‘Sure,’ said the
boss, ‘an’ ’tis kind of tough on me. I’ve got to go out to that derelict
an’ hang a scarecrow on it to keep the mosquitoes from breedin’ in it.
I’m blamed if I know what else to do with the darned thing.’ ‘Nor I,’
says the time inspector. ‘I been on a farm in Connecticut all my life,
an’ it makes me sicker’n a dog to go out in that launch to take the
men’s time. This ain’t no job for me, nohow. I’ guess I’ll write to Ma
an’ tell her to see our Congressman, an’ tell him to have me transferred
to some inland place out of sight an’ smell of this blamed old ocean.’
‘Yes,’ said the boss, dryly, ‘you’re too good a farmer to be fussin’
about this dock. Suppose,’ he went on, ‘we go over to Buildin’ Number
One an’ watch the boys gittin’ drunk.’ ‘I’m on,’ said the inspector,
without hesitancy. ‘You may,’ said he, ‘meet one of ’em that’s half
soused an’ good-natured, that ’ud go out in the launch with you an’ show
you what to do with that machine you have jest been talkin’ about.’
‘Well, say, you are a farmer from Jones’s woods,’ replied the boss,
laughin’, an’ walkin’ off the dock.

“Well, sir, I walked off that dock and follered ’em, for I had been
there takin’ it all in. When we got to that hall, say! of all the fun
and good fellowship! There was Captin Bartin dancin’ the Highlan’ Fling
to the tune of ‘Lass of Killiecrankie.’ Every one was feelin’ good, an’
I was welcomed as heartily as the boss an’ the inspector, though they
didn’t know any of us from Adam, they were so drunk. But, anyhow, I soon
felt at home, an’ it seemed as if I had known the bunch all my life. The
place was decorated with palms an’ plants an’ flags, an’ the supper
tables showed up fine, with cut glass an’ silver from Major Falstaff’s
own house an’ the houses of the married members, for the committee said
they wouldn’t stand for three-pronged forks an’ black-handled knives
from the I. C. C. mess hall (they call it an hotel over there), not at
that spread.

“Well, I met an old friend, an’ he pointed out the different ones that
were the leaders. A merry-lookin’ little devil got up to make a speech,
an’, say! he sure could talk. Bryan, as an orator, couldn’t hold a
candle to him. ‘Who’s the orator?’ I asked. ‘He’s one of the fleet,’
said my friend. ‘He’s German, but an American citizen.’ ‘He’s away up on
English,’ said I. ‘Yes,’ said he. ‘Shorty is a bright fellow, a graduate
of Heidelberg, an’ his brother is a professor there right now.’ ‘Why,’ I
spoke up, ‘this is not only a dredgin’ outfit you have here, but ’tis a
floatin’ university as well.’ He was tickled to death at this, an’ said,
‘We fellows ain’t nobody’s fools over here. Do you see that
good-lookin’, inoffensive-appearin’ chap over there?’ he asked, pointin’
toward a youngster that sure did look inoffensive. ‘Yes,’ I says, ‘who
is he?’ ‘He’s the real thing in the manly art of boxin’,’ was the reply.
‘He could lick any man in this hall to-night. The boys call him the
Prince.’ ‘He looks like a kid,’ I says. ‘We call him that, too,’ said
he. ‘The feller he’s talkin’ to is a Danish nobleman, with an Eyetalian
name; he was once an officer in the Danish Navy.’ ‘By gum!’ said I, ‘we
guys at Balboa never’ll get in on this association. We ain’t grand
enough.’

“At this point the voice of the orator rang out loud and clear. ‘You men
of the floatin’ equipment are just as important to the great work of
buildin’ this Canal as those whose professions are of a higher order an’
whose education is of the higher criticism. English, German, Danish and
Scotch by descent, your veins reek with the wholesome blood of the
Viking.’ Then Captin Barton yelled, ‘Come along, all ye Irish that ain’t
in on that Viking blood, an’ we’ll hit up the whiskey.’ Then there were
cheers, an’ maybe we didn’t! Well, we ate an’ we drank, an’ told
stories; some of ’em was true an’ some of ’em darned lies, but we all
felt good an’ noble an’ brave, an’ along toward mornin’ an Eyetalian
Prince came in to take the photograph of the bunch. I was in it, though
I hadn’t ought to be, seein’ I belong in Balboa, where we ain’t got more
gumption than a lot of dog-robbers, because we’re afraid of Tam
O’Shanter, as canny a Scot as ever sailed out of Glasgow.

“I been told since that when the gang showed up on the dock Monday
mornin’ to go to work the boss was fit to be tied. ‘Why didn’t you
fellers show up yesterday?’ said he. There was no response, but all
grinned kind of sheepish. ‘And you,’ he said to Captin Bartin, ‘you
didn’t show up yesterday. Were you sick?’ The Captin took three steps to
the right an’ three steps to the left, an’ broke down two or three steps
of the ‘Sailors’ Hornpipe.’ Then he said in the boss’ ear, ‘I was
drunk.’ ‘Drunk?’ said the boss, in amazement. ‘Well, say! you’ve an
awful nerve. Give me your doctor’s certificate,’ he added, with a sigh.
‘Shure, you wouldn’t have me compound a felony like that, would you?’
said the Captin. Then the boss coughed kind of funny and said, ‘Get
aboard an’ stop chewin’ the rag.’

“An’ me. I got back to Balboa half an hour too late to get on the job,
and, thinks I, there’s other jobs in the universe, so I’m goin’ to take
a day off an’ get some rest. An’ maybe I got the rest. Not on your life,
for old Tam O’Shanter was on the job lookin’ me up. He gumshoed up to my
room, an’ hearin’ me snorin’, yelled out, ‘Hoot, mon, get ye up and pit
on yer cloes an’ come down on the job the noo.’ I was savage. ‘To h--l
with the job,’ I says, ‘I’m sick.’ ‘Dinna ye fash wid yer clatter, or
I’ll pit me fist in yer eye,’ says he. Well, I got up an’ dressed an’
went on the dredge, an’ I’m on it yet. Tam O’Shanter likes me about as
well as the devil likes holy water, but I don’t care a rap for that old
kilt, for he’s one Scot with a yellow streak runnin’ right through him
from the top of his head to the top of his toes. He says there ain’t
talent enough in the U. S. A. to hold down his job, an’ that’s why he
got it. It must be so; he ain’t got no citizenship papers; if he has,
they ain’t bona fidy. See! Well, I’ll have to be gittin back to the
dock, or he’ll be around peepin’ an’ reportin’ that I have an affinity.
So long, lady; I’m glad to have met you. The boys here in Balboa are all
right, only they’re a little short on gumption, that’s all.”



THE DISTRICT QUARTERMASTERS.


Of the vast number of men employed on the Isthmus in an official way, no
men have quite as much to endure as the District Quartermasters. They
are the men who keep their hands on the pulse of things. They know
what’s what and who’s who, regardless of the fact that the grandson of a
Chief Justice of the United States takes second place in precedence to
some horny-handed immigrant who, a few years ago, landed at Ellis
Island. If you want to see human nature in its most primitive and
unadorned vulgarity, just take a look in at the District Quartermaster’s
office any morning, or take a back seat and look on. Mrs. Jones has
three children and she would like to move away from House 642 into the
house across the way, because Mrs. Rickey has an affinity and she
doesn’t want that example for her children.

“The house across from you is assigned,” says the Quartermaster.

“But what difference is that? The people that you gave it to can get
assigned to ours,” Mrs. Jones answers.

“We can’t do that now,” says the Q. M. “The people wouldn’t like it.”

“All right. I’ll see the Colonel.”

So Mrs. Jones goes out, and in comes Mr. Smith. You can tell that he is
important, for his trappings are the most up-to-date mode, a la Canal
Zone. He wants to move into class quarters. His salary is two dollars
and eighty cents more than Higam’s, and Mrs. Higam laughed at Mrs. Smith
this morning and said, as she rolled her eyes, “You’re not moving, I
see.”

“That woman ain’t goin’ to lord it over my wife, let me tell you. I’m
sick to death of this business of favoritism, an’ my wife’ll have it
fixed up this afternoon,” says Smith. After which speech he goes out,
caressing that mounted shark’s tooth.

The Quartermaster sighs and looks resigned.

Now comes in a sunbeam of radiance, dressed in coolie lace and all the
other coolie adornment. The Quartermaster looks attentive.

“Prout,” she begins, exactly in a Mrs. Princely Belmont tone, “I want my
kitchen painted. To-morrow morning they will start working at it.”

“It was painted last winter,” says the Quartermaster, getting red in the
face, and you see that he is stung by the impudent tone of the woman’s
voice.

“Well, I want it done again, an’ I don’t want to have to come here
another time to talk about it. I’m not used to dirt.”

“You can be as clean as you like, but you can’t get that done again this
year.”

“Then I want a married dresser. The one I have is a bachelor one.”

“How is that?” gasps the Quartermaster. “Haven’t you been here two
years? Why haven’t you told us before? Melbourne,” he calls, and a shiny
black gentleman appears promptly. “Why hasn’t this lady been given a
married dresser, when single ones are so scarce? She says she has only a
single one. Didn’t I tell you last week to round up all the single
dressers and give the married folks married ones?”

“She didn’t have room for the married one, so she said, sir,” said
Melbourne. “She’s got three that she brought from the States with her,
an’ she said she is tryin’ to sell ’em.”

“Take a married dresser to that lady’s house to-morrow morning at 8
o’clock. Good morning, madam.”

“I want a new garbage can, a larger ice chest and two old rockers taken
away and new ones put in their place.”

“It will be impossible to make all those changes, madam. You will have
to keep the rockers until later. We are short on rockers.”

“Short on rockers?” echoes the coolie-clad lady, “and you gave that
thing next door two rockers, but I’m of better family than she is, and I
have to go without rockers.”

“Her rockers were broken,” says the Q. M.

“You’re a liar,” says the coolie-clad lady.

At this the Quartermaster makes a hasty retreat and the coolie-clad lady
leaves to take the next train to Culebra.

Next comes a quiet little lady with a soft voice and engaging manners,
who says that she would like to move into the pretty cottage across the
street from her house. The Quartermaster has vanished with a hurt heart,
and his assistant has taken his place, with a keen edge on for business
for crisp females. “What’s the trouble?” he asks, with a terrifying
squint in his eye.

“Oh, my gracious! It will be impossible for me to live in the house with
my neighbors.”

“Why, what’s the matter with ’em?”

“They are simply impossible. I cannot endure them. The woman hangs her
clothes on the front porch to dry, and I feel horribly ashamed whenever
my friends come; and it is extremely disagreeable to walk in and out
under them.”

“Well,” says the assistant, “the lady must hang her clothes where
they’ll dry. Is that all?”

“The woman is horribly insulting, and refers to me as Mrs. Penpusher. I
shall have to move into the little cottage, I fear.”

“That’s a good, cool house that you’re in, and them people are first
class.”

“Oh, you are mistaken; they are Swedish peasants. It is a mistake that
we were ever put into the house with such people. My husband’s father is
a Supreme Court Judge.”

“That don’t cut no ice down here; if he was the son of the Colonel
himself he couldn’t get them quarters with his salary. Why, them is $225
quarters, and your husband is only a penpusher, like myself, an’ only
gettin’ $100 per, with a small ice chest an’ wooden-seated chairs in the
dinin’ room. The quarters you’re after is class quarters.”

“What class, for pity sake?” asks the lady.

“Class of Canal Zone, of course,” grinned the assistant, “an’ that’s
sayin’ something. Ferinstance, the people you’re tryin’ to get away from
are class, with a big C. He gits $250 per, an’ he ought to have that
house to himself, anyway.”

The little woman, struggling to keep back her tears, left the place,
after having bowed gracefully to the assistant.

“There,” said that gentleman, “that’s what I call the cream de la cream
of gentility, an’ she’s stuck in a house with a bunch of rough devils
that ain’t got no use for her. Say, ain’t this class quarter business
the limit, though? That lady is a graduate of Vasser College, an’ the
one she’s in with is a squarehead. She used to be a porteress in a
Kansas City hotel. She has a voice on her like the sound of the drunk
special, and when she wants anything she cusses us out for fair. I have
her measured to an inch, and I sure feel sorry for that little lady that
just went out. But what can we do?”

Now, there enters class, if there ever was class in this world. A woman
clad in old rose satin, over which is draped black Spanish lace. Her hat
and accessories are perfect. She is the wife of a carpenter and is about
fifty years old. She tells in a calm, even voice that she wishes to move
into class quarters, and that a woman whom she knows and likes wants the
same house. They have decided to see the Quartermaster, and, as one is
as much entitled to the house as the other, they’ll leave it to the
Quartermaster to decide.

“He ain’t goin’ to decide any more things to-day; he’s fed up on
quarters. I guess you folks had better go to Culebra. Where’s the other
one?”

“She’s coming now,” said the woman, whereupon there burst upon our
vision the most Juno-like woman that we had ever seen. Tall and stately
was she, with a figure that ’ud put Lillian Russell in the shade, with a
pair of eyes that were not made for the good of the souls of
Quartermasters’ assistants, either.

“I mean to get that house,” said she, smiling, and showing a set of
beautiful white teeth. “My husband was on the Isthmus seven days before
hers,” said the Juno.

“He was not!” said the lace and roses.

“I know better!” said Juno, hotly. “There’s only two of you, and a Type
14 house is good enough for you; but we have got to have a larger one,
because our family is larger.”

“Well, there, don’t fight about it,” said the Quartermaster’s assistant.
“Go to Culebra, and it’ll be settled all right by the Colonel.”

“That’s what I’m going to do,” said Juno. “This ain’t no place to get
justice.”

“Well, you will have to hurry,” said the assistant, looking at his
watch. “Better run now; the train is coming.”

Both women ran, and snarled at each other as they reached the street.

“The tall one’ll get the house, if I know human nature,” said the
assistant. “And, say! ain’t she the grandest thing that ever came down
the pike!”

The Quartermaster came in, flustered, and said, as he dropped into his
chair, “Those damned class quarters will be the death of us all.
Branigan, you’ll have to stay here to-morrow and face the bunch. I’m all
in.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Q. M. Branigan was luxuriously smoking what, from its aroma, might be
called a good cigar; his office chair was tilted backward and his neat
white canvas shoes were resting on the orderly desk. He wore a flaring
red necktie, and that was the only note not in harmony with the peace
prevailing in that calm, cool emporium. A look over his shoulder
revealed the fact that he was reading “Barrack Room Ballads.” It was
twenty minutes before the time for opening. But a timid knock on the
door, which was repeated many times, caused Mr. Branigan to frown and
call out in a rather gruff tone, “What do you want?”

“To come in, of course,” said a sweet voice through the keyhole. At
this, Q. M. B. dropped the book and sprang to his feet, saying as he did
so, with the sweetest smile imaginable, “Say, ’tis her, all right, and
this is where I get it put all over me for fair.” He smoothed his hair,
pulled down his cuffs and, straightening his necktie, he hastily brushed
the wrinkles out of his trousers. Then, and not until then, did he open
the door. The audience felt a bit flustered, too, for who could enter
that office but the Juno?

“Good morning,” said she, with a merry flash of her fine eyes and a
brilliant smile.

“Good morning,” said Q. M. B. with a short cough.

“Did they telephone from Culebra that I was to be moved to-day?”

“Yes, indeed,” said Q. M. B. “They telephoned that I was to put you into
the most comfortable quarters in town.”

“Class quarters, I suppose?”

“Well, no; ’er not now, but later you’ll get ’em all right, if I’m on
the job.”

“But at Culebra they said I was to get them,” stormed the Juno, getting
very red in the face.

“Well, there, don’t go to gettin’ fussy about it. You ain’t the only one
that’s got to put up with a house that ain’t good enough; but, I’ll tell
you what: you won’t have to go without it long, for I’ll see to that.”

“Oh, shucks!” said the Juno disgustedly, “you’re a big bluff, that’s
what you are.”

“My Gawd! I’m a bluff, am I?” exclaimed Q. M. Branigan, getting red in
the face. “Well, say, the way I’ve worked for you about that class house
is a caution.”

“You can’t bluff me; I’m on to you,” answered the Juno, drawing on her
gloves.



OLD PANAMA’S RENAISSANCE.


Old Panama is again becoming a scene of romance. Nothing can be more
delightful than an automobile trip by moonlight to the scene of Morgan’s
piratical invasion. When your machine rounds the corner on the road to
the ocean a warm wave is wafted to you on the breezes from the seawall.
You take your fan and you fan and you fan yourself vigorously, but, as
you draw nearer, the air becomes still warmer. The ruins stare you in
the face, and your mind wanders back to the days when black-eyed
senoritas strolled upon the bridge and through the lanes and byways, now
overgrown with jungle weeds. You think to yourself, as the machine
speeds on, how deserted the lovely spot is in the weird moonlight. You
are nearing the beach, and, oh! the warmth, the delightful breeze, the
moonlight, the odor of tropical lilies, and then your eyes behold a
scene that makes you feel young again. Hand in hand, strolling in pairs,
you behold lovers in the ecstacy of abandonment on the white sands.
Lovers are kissing each other, right under your middle-aged eyes.
Lovers are sitting on the sands holding hands, cheek to cheek, without
any apparent fear of criticism.

“There’s an automobile full of old folks,” says a masculine voice, “so I
guess I’d better let go of your hand.”

“Who cares?” says the sweet voice of a girl. “We’re not in Panama now.
Let the old frumps stare.”

There is a merry hum of voices, and a clinking of glasses under the
rustic shed. Two men are busy making sandwiches, two others are busy
serving cool drinks, the young people, and some that are not so awfully
young, wander to and fro, arms entwined, or else they sit in the shadow
of a rock and spoon. Dapper couples, black, white and brown, meander
around in that warm, affectionate atmosphere without getting in the way
of one another, because each couple is so absorbed in itself that it has
no eyes for its neighbor. You look on approvingly, even though you are
old, almost grey, and unloved. You forget your neighbors, who are like
yourself, up in years and alone.

There are men swearing under their breath and mending tires that have
been punctured on the rocky, unfinished roads of the Zone. There are
voices singing “Casey Jones.” There are voices singing “I Love You, I
Love You, I Love You.” There are voices singing “In the gloaming, oh, my
darling, when the lights are dim and low,” and this song of songs takes
you back to a sea beach that is far away, to where “rosy dreams were
dreamed when everything was what it seemed and every dream came true.”

You hate to tear yourself away, but it is almost midnight and the
machine is hired by the hour. So you step in and are whirled back to
Panama, where the atmosphere is cooler, the scenes far less romantic,
and where you are rudely awakened from your balmy dream in a sudden
realization of fast-fleeting time by the price the garage empresario
says you must pay. But, after all, the dream was worth the time, and
money is of secondary consideration in a trip by moonlight to Old
Panama.



ABE LINCOLN’S FOUNDLING.


Some months ago some American prospectors, while traveling in the
interior of Panama, found, at some distance from human habitation, a
pretty Indian boy. He appeared to be about three and a half years of
age. The gentlemen asked him questions, but it appeared that he was
unable to speak. Upon arriving in Panama they bought a goodly supply of
clothing for the little lad, and before taking their departure for some
other part of the interior they found a home for him with a native woman
in the Chiriqui district, to whom they gave enough money to provide for
the child until they should return, at which time it was thought that
some one of the men would return to the States with the child and would
put him in a school for mutes in New York. Physicians who were consulted
agreed that the child was deaf and dumb, and plans were formulated to
have him instructed in the language of the deaf and dumb by a competent
teacher right away.

He was named Abe Lincoln, on account of a certain brightness of
expression about his eyes, which reminded his benefactors of the great
martyr. They had become very fond of the child, and had taught him many
little tricks, which he would display for their amusement.

One of the gentlemen persisted in saying that the boy was not a mute,
but that he had been twisted up in the English and Spanish languages;
that he had been accustomed to some unknown patois, etc. The persons
laughed at this who had declared the boy was unmistakably a deaf mute,
and a teacher worked diligently, and with good results. The boy, being
imitative, soon knew the motions of the mute alphabet, and his foster
mother was so delighted that she went about telling every one of the
neighbors.

The child is a general favorite, and has been playing with American
children as much as with the Spanish boys of the neighborhood. Yesterday
afternoon Abe was sitting on the door-step, whittling a stick, and,
being bothered by a fly which hummed about his head, he said, with
calmness, “Darn that fly!”

His adopted mother ran and called the other inmates of the house to hear
Abe talk, and with delight a boy who spoke English said that he was
talking Gringo, all right. On being asked if he was speaking English,
he said, in clear accents, “I guess so. Sure!”

To-day scores of people are going back and forth to see the wonder. The
physicians who pronounced the boy a mute appear to look upon him as a
phenomenon, and one of the men, who rather likes the little chap, said
to him, “Who taught you to speak?” The boy answered, “Americans. Sure!”

Hurrah! Much excitement prevails in the neighborhood, and Abe Lincoln is
the hero of the hour.



STRANGER THAN FICTION.


Thirty-five years ago a whaling ship dropped anchor in the Bay of Panama
and the captain and crew came ashore to see the sights. The mate of the
ship, one Cyrus Pratt, a native of New Bedford, Mass., fell in love with
a beautiful senorita named Marie Bennares. They were married, and soon
after this Cyrus was obliged to sail away. With many tears and much
love, the couple parted, with vows to become reunited in the near
future. Cyrus intended to leave the ship at San Francisco and come back
in haste to his darling Marie. But circumstances played strange freaks
with the pair. In less than a year Cyrus returned, with a light of
expectation in his eyes and love of a burning sort in his heart.

Marie had gone to live with relatives in Bogota. He set out for that
distant city, but fell ill with fever and spent many months among
Indians, who were kind to him and nursed him through the period of
weakness incidental to such an illness. When he reached Bogota it was to
find that Marie had gone to Jamaica. He followed, to find that she had
returned to Panama. Then he followed her to Panama, to find that his
sweet Marie had gone to Darien to live with an aunt. By about this time
he was “broke,” so he shipped on a barque that was bound for San
Francisco. On arriving in that city he was obliged to take a ship bound
for China, where he fell in with Chinese pirates. In one way and another
he was tossed about the world, but by no possible chance did he get
anywhere near Panama until a few weeks ago, when a ship on which he had
taken passage from Rio de Janeiro cast anchor in the harbor of Colon. He
crossed the Isthmus on the wings of love, to again pursue the bride of
his youth. She had taken so strong a hold upon his imagination that he
still pictured her as the winsome girl whom he married thirty-five years
ago.

On arriving at Panama he wended his way to the old dwelling in the
Chiriqui district, where the lovely Marie used to live. He found the
house exactly as it looked in the old days. A large, good-natured,
smiling, unkempt matron lounged in the doorway. She was surrounded by
many children who played about her knees, and upon whom she smiled
indulgently. Cyrus Pratt looked at the house from a safe retreat, in the
hope of seeing his beautiful Marie emerge, at some time or other, when
he expected to clasp her to his bosom, etc. He was sure that the stout
woman in the doorway was Marie’s aunt, who had grown larger and fatter
in the days that had gone. Day after day he paced at a distance from the
dwelling and anxiously watched for his old-time love. Toward evening he
observed that a rather dark-skinned man would take a seat near the stout
woman, who sat eternally in that doorway. The man would smoke and smoke
in silence. At last Cyrus decided to address the smoker and make
inquiries about his Marie. He was greeted coolly by the smoker, and on
throwing out some hints he discovered that his Marie and the ample
unkempt female who sat with folded arms amid the ninas were one and the
same.

“Everything happens for the best,” said Cyrus, as he hastened away from
the spot. “Who would ever think that my beautiful Marie would look like
that at fifty years? How in thunder will she look at sixty?”

“She thinks I died,” said Cyrus to a friend; “or did she think at all?”

“I guess she didn’t think much about you,” consoled his confidante.

Cyrus, unlike Enoch Arden, is having a good time in Panama, and is
happily forgetful of that awful tragedy that would have engulfed most
men. Marie believes that the husband of her girlhood is dead, and she
is happy in the thought that she has another man, that she is the mother
of five children and the grandmother of ten. So, after all, every one is
in the right. Cyrus at fifty-seven years is apparently in the prime of
life; he has $10,000 in his pocket or near at hand, and he is seeing the
sights, and incidentally inspecting the balconies, in the hope of seeing
another senorita who resembles the lost love of his youth. He says he
will take another venture, and his friends are anxiously watching for
the event, for Cyrus says that in all his rambles about the world he has
never seen any girls as beautiful as the senoritas of Panama.



FACTION FIGHTS.


It is proverbial that the Irish and Scotch will quarrel whenever they
happen to cross the path of each other, just as they quarreled at the
battle of the Boyne. There is less bloodshed, of course, but a fierce
fire of antagonism burns in the breast of each, and words are exchanged
that mean nothing beyond the out-pouring of that temperamental lava for
which both races are justly renowned. There has been friction many times
between the Irish and Scotch on the Isthmus, especially at Balboa,
where, according to rumor, two men, bold, brave and strong, are ever “at
it.”

In this particular case the Scotchman is forever crossing the border
into the territory over which the Irishman holds sway, and vice-versa.
The men on the job have no little amusement listening to the faction
fight. “Bad luck to him; he’s been dumpin’ his truck right here in me
way agin. Go over an’ tell him to have that road cleared or I’ll be
after callin’ up Culebra, so I will,” says the Irishman.

“Go back and tell him that I’ll have it cleared the noo if he’ll keep
his muts from sassin’ me when I’m talkie’ to ’em for their own good when
they put them piles right where I have to go down to the boat,” answers
the Scotchman.

It is needless to say that these messages lose nothing while being
carried back and forth. Sometimes verbal messages, when repeated, sound
something like this:

“Go over an’ tell that fellow not to fash me wi’ his clather, that I’m
takin’ no back talk, the noo from the Irish. May the duvvil take ’em!”

The message heatedly flashed back reads this way: “Ah tell him that ’tis
only a man of Irish discint that he’s tryin’ to bully, a man that was
born under the Stars and Stripes an’ knows no other flag; a man that
fought for the government that he’s now workin’ under.”

And the Scotchman wittily replies: “He’d melt like a snowball in heaven
if he was fightin’ under some flags.”

“Say! when is it ever goin’ to stop?” ask their respective clans. “You’d
ought to see that Irishman’s eyes rollin’ when he was spittin’ fire this
morning. And the Scotchman’s hair was standin’ on end an’ he talked some
lingo that no one could understand.”

“That was broad Scotch, sir,” puts in an English subject who knows
something of the British Isles.

Sometimes they meet face to face, and the scrap is heated and amusing.
With their factions ranged behind them trying to suppress their mirth at
so much free fun, they jaw each other to their heart’s content.

“What are all them niggers running for?” asked a man a few days ago.
“Are they blasting up there?”

“No, there ain’t no blastin up there. The niggers like to take a run
down to the dock to hear the jaw, and, say, they’re eatin’ each other up
to-day.”

“Say, boss, the Colonel’s car is comin’,” says a trusted African to his
Scottish chief.

“Wull, let it come, an’ dinna ye bother me.”

But an observing person can see that the lava ceases to flow as the
noise of the wheels reach the ears of the warring ones.

“Get busy, there, ye fellows, an’ move them piles. Don’t ye see that the
Colonel’ll be along here in a minute? There he is now.”



SECOND PART



                      THE WOES OF THE MANLY ONES.


    Say! it’s a limit, the way a guy has got to get through this life;
    He gets in a scrape if he’s single, and it’s hell to get on with a wife.
    I’m just like one of a thousand that are into a tangle now,
    I’d like to get out of it, Gawd knows, yes, but really I don’t know how.
    In two little rooms on Fourteenth street, things are away askew,
    Two little brown kiddies their daddy meet, an’ a brown girl
       white clear through,
    Wait at the door and wonder why I ain’t like I used to be,
    While on my heart there’s an awful load, that I try not to let her see.
    The Colonel says that we guys must go; we ain’t needed here no more;
    Dredges now are doin’ the work that the shovels done before.
    An’ I ain’t got a cent of the money saved; I sent it all to the wife,
    Who went out West with a guy she loved; ’twas that one blighted my life.
    Five years ago I landed here; I was broke an’ feelin’ sick,
    An’ the brown girl took an’ loved me up, an’ stuck to me like a brick;
    An’ now I find it an effort to stick to her likewise;
    Say! any kind of a female is better than us male guys.
    Say, lady! don’t you remember them words that Shakespeare said
    About a feller’s sex settin’ boldly on his head?
    Why didn’t Gawd make us different when He put us here below;
    Why did He give me a conscience? That’s what I’d like to know.
    There’s Loring, an’ Ives an’ Phelan, in the same sort of mess as me;
    Loring is handsome an’ bad clear through, an’ he laughs an’
       says it’s a spree.
    He laughed last night when he came to the park, an’ sat with
       me on a bench,
    An’ he said: “Cut out that mopin’, kid; she’s only a nigger wench.”
    “But what about them kids?” says I, “ain’t they part of my
       flesh and blood?”
    “It’s been that way with us guys,” says he, “since the time
       of the ark an’ flood.
    If you take the bunch to New Orleans, you’ll all get landed in gaol
    For a crime that ain’t no crime at all, an’ ye can’t get out on bail.
    Leave her on Fourteenth street,” says he, with a laugh that
       was loud an’ rude,
    “An’ some old Dutch guy will blow in some day an’ will take
       care of the whole darn brood.”
    But I know that she’ll curse me if I go, an’ I know that them curses fall;
    God knows in my life there’s enough of woe; an’ she’s human, after all.



                     THE FLIGHT OF THE MANLY ONES.


    Loring and Ives and Phelan went off to Colon last night,
    And the women on Fourteenth street are sad, and the kids
       are filled with fright!
    At eight last evening Loring came to bid his child “good-bye”;
    He picked her up and he kissed her, and you ought to hear him sigh.
    “Gee! you’re a pretty kid,” says he, in a tone of voice that was sad;
    “Your lips and your skin are mighty good; it’s a pity your hair is bad.”
    Then he looked in the baby’s eyes a while, and he says in
       a voice of despair:
    “I hate to leave this poor little child; there’s my mother’s
       image there!”

    The brown one was crying to beat the band,
      And Loring, he looked wild,
    And says he to her, a kind of off-hand,
      “Woman! look after your child!
    This is no time for sentiment; bring the money you’ve kept for me;
    And God help you if you have it spent,” says he, as he winked at me.

    He counted the money out to her--five hundred and forty-five,
    And says he, “If you divvy this up with a guy I’ll come and
       skin you alive.
    Take the kid from this place of stench, for I’m coming back some day--
    Not to see you, you doggone wench--to take my child away.”

    Two Voodoos were sitting and looking on; they intended to give him
       some dope
    That would make him sleep till the train had gone, After that
       there’d be little hope
    That he’d ever wake to things again--that are wholesome and
       clean and good.
    He’d thirst for low life without twinge of pain, if the Voodoos
       got dope to his blood.

    Well, then we went out to Corozal, where the others were
       taking the train,
    And a white girl waited for Loring there, and her tears fell
       down like rain.
    He didn’t seem to mind it at all; in fact, he looked rather proud,
    When a married woman ran up to him and kissed him before the crowd.
    Then Phelan and Ives, in an awful fright, got into the
       train mighty quick,
    For their women from Fourteenth street were there, and each
       had a gun and a brick.
    Gee! it’s the limit, the way we guys will tamper with women’s lives,
    When we have nothing in mind but to leave them behind, like
       Loring and Phelan and Ives.



                     A WORD TO THE SLANDERED ONES.


    Gee! girl, you’re looking sad, but it’s hardly worth your while;
    You’ve heard the slander; it’s mighty bad, but hold up your
       head and smile.
    Keep cool, lest your hair turns grey; no matter how keen your sorrow,
    The man who slandered you so to-day will slander some other to-morrow.
    He is only a tiny atom of dirt, like the rest of his kind of earth;
    His slanderous words may rankle and hurt, but ’twas envy
       that gave them birth.
    If you have no brother or kindred man, why expect to see fun?
    Seek your retreat where no vultures meet, and lead your life like a nun.
    You’re only a sex, and your presence vex the things that as man you know;
    You’ve lost your good name, though you’re not to blame--a
       vulture would have it so.
    More than two thousand miles away is the class into which you were born;
    The class where a man is a man each day, and your kind is
       not subject of scorn.
    The things called men, who bandied your name over their glasses of booze,
    Who made you the butt of their poker game, have nothing
       themselves to lose.
    They of female kind, whom they happen to meet, do not to
       your sphere;
    And most of the guys that you see on the street are subject
       to fits that are queer.



         MRS. WITH’S AFFINITY.


    A Man named Mike Maginity
    Was Mrs. With’s affinity,
      And Mrs. Brown moved out of town,
      Away from that vicinity.

    Then a mut named Jim O’Flarity,
    In a burst of fool garality,
      Told Mr. With there was no mith
    In Mrs. With’s hilarity.

    Mr. With was watchful then;
    He polished up his gun, and when
      The soul mate came he fired to maim,
    Like many other foolish men.

    With is in the penitentiary,
    Without the least retrenchery,
      And calm and still, on Monkey Hill,
    Poor Mike will spend the century.

    Mrs. With, in fetch array,
    And many kinds of wretchery,
      Was sent away one summer day--
    Deported home through treachery.



THE TANGO SKIRT AND THE WOMAN.


We had a jolly holdup in the Central house last night, and the way that
Tango skirt was hung put the women in a fright. A preacher took a
snapshot of that violent expose, and sent it off to Comstock, to New
York, U. S. A. ’Twas fun to see the women steer their husbands out the
door, and Murtha said, “We’ll be doggoned if we’ll dance here any more.”
---- bowed his head and blushed, and wore a look of shame, and the
management felt awful, and said we’re not to blame. The captains and
lieutenants said that Tango was a sin, while the roughnecks and the
vultures sat ’round and wore a grin. The learned judges from the Zone
to the balconies went to look, and the only baldhead not around was that
of Colonel Took. Poor Deeps and Jimmy Terry came in to take a squint;
the dancers acted merry, but finally took a hint that their dancing was
unseeming, as the females all were hurt, and Deeps put on his glasses to
diagnose that skirt. He said ’twas sixteen inches wide, and just above
the knee there’s nothing but horizon, as every one can see; there’s not
a bit of cotton cloth, nor a tiny bit of lace--nothing but the electric
light a-shining through the space. Then he turned to order drinks up,
for the waiter came to him, and Terry he got busy and diagnosed a limb.
There were shouts and shrieks of feeling and echoes of applause; men
were drunk and reeling, went forth with loud haw-haws. The persons we
call human, when all is said and done, at the antics of a woman looked
on and called it fun.



AN EPIC OF THE ZONE.


Percy Beckle went out walking in the silent hours of night; the
neighbors all were talking, and his wife was filled with fright. She
would sit beside the window, her lone watch to keep, and would tell her
friends and children he was walking in his sleep. She married him in
Pottsville, for better or for worse; he was a hard-shell Baptist, and
didn’t smoke or curse; but he entered in the service of the U. S.
Government, passed examination and to Panama was sent.

When the doctors looked him over it was found he had no brain, so they
put him as a gumshoe on an early morning train, and there he met a
charmer whose skin was very brown; for a year she took his coin away,
and then she turned him down.

He then became a Redman, a thing he shouldn’t do, and later thought it
better to become a Kangaroo. He started chasing petticoats wherever one
he saw, and the Kangaroos got after him; ’twas so against their law(?).
Meantime his wife was hungry and his babies had no shoes; the Redmen
took and threw him out, he didn’t pay his dues; his poor wife took to
drinking, to while the time away, and Mrs. C. L. E. sent her to
Brooklyn, U. S. A.

Now, Percy kept the chase up for nigh another year; his business was to
ascertain if females acted queer. The women feared to speak or look,
they hated him so much, but Percy knew them like a book, being
Pennsylvania Dutch.

He would go to Sam’s on Sundays, and to the Central, too, and would sit
and tell the vultures of the many things he knew. If he saw a female
passing he would bow and scrape and smile, and if she turned her nose
up he would criticize her style. (The brute!)

At last he went and sickened, he was feeling very sad; the plots he made
had thickened, and the women all were mad. Decks said he had nephritis.
They all pronounced him ill. But he died of feminitis, and he lies on
Money Hill.



THE VULTURES ON THE ZONE.


To all the jolly roughnecks and pushers of the pen, a short and pungent
lecture I will give. Just take this bit of doggerel, and read it if
you’re men, and use it as a lesson while you live. If you go to Sam’s on
Sunday, and you meet a smirking guy with commissary silk hose on his
feet, if he smiles from ear to ear, make up your mind to hear a story
that is anything but sweet. He will say I met last night Bill Smith’s
wife, that’s right, an’, say, that woman, she just follers me around,
while poor Bill is all alone, for she never is at home, and any guy can
get her if he’s sound. If your blood is red, my son, you will take and
draw your gun, and aim it at the gizzard of the brute, or you’ll punch
his booby head till he wishes he was dead and make of him a spectacle
that’s cute.

A chump that talks of women is nothing that is human; make up your mind
he’s just a low-down liar, who wouldn’t stand a chance to win a passing
glance from women who just live for men to hire. By the hundreds on the
Zone this class of vultures roam; they are ever on the watch to pick a
flaw; they covet neighbors’ wives who are living decent lives, and to
save their coin they’d break the moral law.

Now I hope you all are wise to the lying, boastful spies, who criticize
their betters in the street, who pretend they’re looking sly and who
wink the other eye at every decent woman that they meet. When some
vulture tries this chaff, just say, “You make me laugh,” and hold him up
to ridicule, the guy; you may bet your bottom dollar ’tis some gink that
doesn’t holler, that gets the precious favors on the sly.



A FAKER’S FAREWELL.


Farewell, O thou land of sweet sunshine, where I walked with
non-sweatable pace; I was fed, I was clothed, and I humbugged; my lady I
decked out with grace. From the cake with sugary frosting all covered
with raisins I go, to the land where the natives are often addicted to
shoveling snow, where I shan’t have a coon right before me to run when I
bid for a thing, I go from the land of sweet loafing, where our Uncle
George is the king.

Farewell, thou dear land of the Aztec, O, pulga, farewell, to thy sting,
to the hum of the social mosquito, that Gorgas could trap while a-wing.
Farewell to the nights of gay doing, to the mirth which I had on the
sly, some kinds that I now am a-rueing, while our uncle just winked on
the sly. When into a new job I sidle, somewhere in Nebraska’s broad
space, I ain’t got enough to live idle, but I pray that the Lord give me
grace, to find such a cinch unmolested, where no dictator ever shall
say: “Your job I’m about to have vested, in a man who will work for his
pay.” O! politics, where are the graces the Irish have seen in thy wake?
I’ve dropped into many soft places, and was ousted out just for your
sake. But no job was ever as downy as this one, the truth here I tell.
My bald brow is wrinkled and frowny; dear land of the Aztec, farewell!



IT’S GOT ’EM.


It’s got ’em, yes, it’s got ’em; they’re loco, one and all. There has
never been as many since the time of Adam’s fall. The man that lives
across the way, the loved one of your soul; the guy who owes you money,
all are loco on the whole. Yes, it’s got ’em. Some are off on trotting,
and some on love and wine; some are off on politics, and some are off on
coin. It’s got ’em; yes, it’s got ’em, in many different ways; the
women’s skirts like trousers are, the men are wearing stays. It’s got
’em.

While alighting from the train at night in your grimy khaki pants, don’t
wince to see your heart’s delight all togged out for a dance; don’t
raise your eyes to look at her; be workmanlike and meek. She smiles on
Major Dickelfer, she fears you’re goin’ to speak. For it’s got her.

You’ll find your kids a-cryin’ ’round the brown-skinned hired girl, the
neighbors all a-pryin’, and your cassa in a whirl; with rats and bits of
finery, with old stockings and old shoes. Don’t go to geetin’ squiffy;
‘twas just the thing you choose. And it’s got you. Don’t fret and fume
about it; take your commissary book, go down and get your groceries, and
bring them to the cook. Then take your kids an’ wash ’em up an’ change
their little frocks; see they get their suppers, then mend your pants
and socks. And don’t let it get you.

If your wife throws cups and saucers about your head at night, don’t
shriek and call the neighbors in to put ’em in a fright. Don’t call on
poor Johannes, and put him in a rage, but fold your arms about your
breast, like a hero on the stage. She’s got it.

If your neighbor’s wife is flirting, don’t run to call police, just
flirt a little bit yourself or go your way in peace. Don’t go to Sam’s
and sit and tell the vultures all she said when you took her for the
auto ride to Panama with “Red.” Or she’ll get you.



IT’S HELL.


Ingersoll said that hell would be where men played tag and harps all
day, but just a few lines here will tell about some miseries that made a
hell. When you work like a brute from morning to night, the result but
another man’s joy and delight; when your wife growls late and early,
too, and never speaks well of what you do: That’s hell!

When she runs away with another man, though she knows you are doing the
best you can, you know it’s because your pay ain’t high, but you make up
your mind that it’s best to lie; so when folks ask you the reason why,
you say her old mother is going to die. Then, lo! the old woman turns up
that night, and your neighbors say: “He’s a liar, all right.” That’s
hell.

When some one you wouldn’t let wipe your feet tells to the vultures in
the street that to gain your affections they needn’t try, that he’s the
petted gink on the sly, and some old gossip who this has heard comes
round and tells you every word, your mind and soul are filled with
dismay, but because you’re a lady there’s nothing to say. And it’s hell.

When your dress and your hat cost you five, and you sewed on them nights
when half alive, but when you wear them the neighbors smile, and say to
each other, “just see that style--catch on to the Paris gown and hat;
where did she get coin to dress like that? That rig is a mighty costly
one--and I wonder her husband don’t catch on.” You smile as you trip
through the merry throng, smarting under an awful wrong. And it’s hell!

When you marry some mother’s angel pet, who away from coddling you
cannot get, just make up your mind to find a way to bear your burden day
by day. And when his misdoings are laid to you, you’ll say this old
world is all askew. And it’s hell!



THE LOCO GERM.


When it enters your system, don’t try to squirm; just take your
medicine, it’s a loco germ. It may not come till you’re old and gray,
but every guy takes it on some day. It cuts no ice if her feet are big,
and if in your heart you don’t like her rig; if her hands are coarse and
a little bit red, and horse-hair rats are in her head. You will see the
defects and will says, “By Jove! She’s the one for me.” You’re in love.

She’ll be indifferent, it’s just their way; a little bit selfish, a
little bit gay, but she touched your hand and she makes you thrill; then
lookout, old chap, you are losing your will. You’ll notice the paint if
she uses such, but you’ll never think she has on too much. You’ll see
she ain’t real, where she ought to be, and a thousand other defects
you’ll see. But, no matter, you only think of the bliss, of getting from
her the fatal kiss. You’re in love.

All your traditions are quite upset; what your mother taught you, you’ll
quite forget; you’ll get suspicious of those you knew, and you’ll think
your pals are in love with her, too. You’ll spend your coin, and you’ll
spend it well, on the richest things the Chinks have to sell, and you’ll
lay them down on the floor at her feet, and your heart will throb when
her glance you meet. You’re in love.

You may have cherished a grand ideal all your former days, but there’s
nothing real; the ones you knew in the days gone by will fade from your
mind, and you will not sigh. The loved one’s voice may be rather strong,
her chin may be weak and her nose too long; her manners, too, are a
little crude, and she isn’t herself when she plays the prude. The
grammar she uses is not in tone with the district school ma’am away back
home. You’re in love.

You are caught in a net she has woven for you--a net from which have
escaped a few; and if on the whole she offends your taste, being
forty-five inches about the waist, and if you don’t fancy that seven
shoe, never mind; she’s the one for you. You’ll forget and forgive if
she has a past; you think you’re her first real love, and her last. You
are hot all over, your heart beats fast. You’re in love.



AN ISTHMIAN WOOER.


Say, girl, I admire your shape, an’ I want to take you to ride. I’m
goin’ to get a coach closed in, so they won’t know who’s inside. An’,
say, I wish you lived down the line, but you live like a speakitty.
Wouldn’t you like a little time with a lovin’ guy like me? Straight
goods, I like your style; I told a feller so; I admired you for quite a
while, an’ I bet you didn’t know. I said to a guy, “I’m goin’ around an’
I’ll bet I’ll make a hit.” I won’t never breathe a dog gone sound--let
me love you up a bit. How could I squeal, when I have a wife that thinks
me the finest thing that ever drew the breath of life, an angel without
a wing? I’d like to bring you a bottle of jam, some day from the
commissary, livin’ alone without a man.

Say, kid, ain’t you free to marry? Class! What’s that got to do with us?
Say, that puts me on the bum. Education, your foot! Don’t make such a
fuss; see, I brought you some chewin’ gum. You’re just a little too
touchy, see! I don’t understand your way. The wimmin I know are easy an’
free, an’ just a little bit gay. If I was just a man about town, don’t
you believe I’d look it? I like you, girl; don’t wear such a frown! Do
you think I’m a guy that’s crooked? I’m not of your class? Oh, that’s
it, eh? Some chump that pushes a pen, that gets but a hundred a month
for pay, is more in your line of men. Do you know what the Colonel said
to me? an’ I think he’s always right. Education ain’t worth a darn, says
he; ’tis a man that puts up the fight. Well, so long, kid, since you
prefer a guy that pushes a pen, who has his little hundred per, but
ain’t my class of men.



PRESERVED PEACHES.


The chumps in Panama were glad to do the turkey trot, and other stunts
not quite so bad that folks call tommy rot. When Morton with his peaches
came, the cavaliers made bids, preserved them up in dry champagne, and
acted just like kids. A banker now is bankrupt, and the guy in the Elite
is selling out his socks and pants to put him on his feet. Raul E. has a
broken limb, he capered so each night. The peaches all looked up to him
because his heart was light.

We hoary heads came from the Zone, in force, to see it done, and spent
our coin, lest it be thought we didn’t like the fun. Our wives and
mothers thought that we were at a mission church, listening to a sermon
by the Rev. Baldhead Birch. And when we sought our peaceful homes with
sanctimonious airs, and knelt beside our babies’ cots and taught them
little prayers, we felt a sort of sneakish, like other hypocrites, and
worried lest our wives hear, and have a thousand fits. But now these
spasms are all gone; we’re quite ourselves again; our wives have never
yet caught on, and therefore have felt no pain. The Morton Peaches were
so wise, they took our coin away, and told us we were silly guys, like
those along Broadway.



EUGENICS.


Catch on to the girl with a dog on a string--a dog that was bred for the
eye of a king--and she a pathetic figure to see, is proud that the mut
has a pedigree. She studied eugenics for many a year, and lectured on
institutions queer, but she was poor, and she feared to get old, so she
sold herself for a pot of gold.

Ain’t that life?

She married a guy whose toes turn in, when he opens his mouth he has no
chin, no lobes to his ears and he stutters some, and chews on opium as
if ’twas gum. But she says she is proud to be that man’s wife, and calls
him her dearest--

Say! Ain’t that life?

On a little farther a chap you’ll see, who is just as straight as a
poplar tree; his chin is normal, his forehead is high; see, his face
turns red as he passes her by, for down in his heart there’s a tiny
spot, where her image will ever lie unforgot, and a restless longing has
he for her. If the neighborhood knew it he’d be called a cur.

Ain’t that life?

As they pass each other they never speak. He looks indifferent, while
she looks meek. And they drop their eyes when they chance to meet, and
look at each other from some retreat. And she pretends that she doesn’t
care, though in her face you can see despair. Her heart beats high; it’s
an awful sin, but she’d like a son the image of him.

Ain’t that life?

In her home there’s a bundle of bone and skin; it has its father’s ears
and chin, and the neighbors say, with voices glad, “Isn’t he cute? He
looks like his dad!” But on her heart there’s an awful load, for she
sees that her baby’s legs are bowed. She sees in his eyes a peculiar
light, that keeps her awake in the dead of night. And she kneels on her
knees and she breathes a prayer, for she knows that old Nature has
gotten square.

That’s life!



TABOGA.


The latest order given out has made the chumps feel blue; they don’t
know what it’s all about, but let me tell you, they’ve lost their graft,
for when they go to the Isle across the bay they have to take their
wallets, because they have to pay.

Some blame it all on Uncle Sam, and some on Uncle George, and others say
he’s not to blame, because his heart is large; but a guy told me, in
confidence, who seldom ever speaks, that he isn’t blaming any one but
poor old baldhead Meeks.

Before that guy came back, said he, we could spend a little more on
drinks and turkey trottings at Jones’s by the short. There’s one good
thing about it, though, if you get a little tight, you’re not an orphan
chap no more; you can stay away all night. And if you stay out after
nine, your time they cannot dock, since we began to pay our way we stay
till twelve o’clock.

But, say! the wife won’t let me go to the Isle across the bay, because
she says we can’t afford to pay two plunks a day. Should hubby rest, the
wife will stay to mend the socks and pants; it cost too much to go with
hub to learn the latest dance. To give good coin for rent and light and
rest she can’t endure; the future isn’t looking bright, our graft is
slipping sure.



OUR UNCLE GEORGE.


Our Uncle George is wide awake to things that are not so; he’s weeding
out for pity’s sake the guys that ought to go. The vultures all are
talking, they say he’s acting queer, because he’s on to faking ones that
passed for highbrows here.

Our little faker daddy, with the whiskers on his chin, has gone to get a
better job; now, isn’t that a sin? He was the king of fakers, all
whiskers and no soul; he didn’t fake a single day when Uncle got
control.

We hear that in Nebraska some folks are sawing wood that used to live in
splendor here when faking times were good. If it was not for our Uncle
they’d all be living still, in mansions fit for harem girls on Slyvan
Ancon Hill. They say his nerve is getting weak, but he’s only getting
wise; he’s handing out a line of dope that takes them by surprise. He
has his wits about him yet, and his love for all things just, so when he
says get up and get, the fakers know they must. Our Uncle has the helm,
and he’s steering mighty well; he fears no politicians, they all can go
to heaven.

The fawners and the cringers think the Zone is all askew, but Uncle
never did have use for that that was not true.





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