小说搜索     点击排行榜   最新入库
首页 » 经典英文小说 » Susan Proudleigh » CHAPTER VI SAMUEL JOSIAH JONES
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
That afternoon Susan made special preparations for the great event of the morrow. Hairdressing being a very important part of her toilet, she literally sat at Catherine’s feet, who, armed with a strong comb and a pot of scented castor oil, bent over her sister’s head and spent fully three-quarters of an hour in combing out the hair, oiling it, plaiting it, and twisting the plaits into the shape dictated by the latest fashion. That done, Susan tied up her hair very carefully in a towel, so that it should not become disarranged. Then she took out her blue dress and hung it up over the head of her bed. She polished her shoes, carefully looked over her hat, and fished out a fan from the bottom of her trunk. When all this work was over, she untied her head, dressed hurriedly and went to church, her sister going with her. Both her parents strongly approved of church-going; and though the old man himself never went out on Sunday, he would not allow the day to pass without reading aloud the first Psalm, laying special stress on the opening words which proclaim a blessing on those who walk not in the way of the ungodly.

Susan and her sisters enjoyed the service. They usually did. The large church, nearly filled with people dressed in their multi-coloured best, the deep-toned organ, the hearty singing in which they joined, the bright light from the electric lamps—all this was a weekly source of pleasure to girls who had nice dresses to wear on the Sabbath day. The sermon might consist of denunciations of the popular way of living. They listened to it with interest and agreed that the parson was, from his point of view, perfectly right. But he, so to speak, was looking at life theoretically, while they were compelled to regard it from the practical standpoint of daily bread. If he expounded doctrine, they appeared engrossed in his words, and followed his meaning with a fair degree of understanding. What they liked best were the hymns; and when the service was over, and they mingled with the contented home-going crowds, they felt that they were, after all, not very far from the Kingdom.

Susan went to bed immediately after going home, not omitting to bind up her head once more. She wished to be up early in the morning. Her father talked to her for a while from his part of the room, a cloth partition placing no obstacles in the way of conversation; but though he was very anxious to hear about the sermon, so that he might give his opinion on the parson’s theology, she soon shut him up by saying she wished to go to sleep. Then silence reigned unbroken, but for the barking of the dogs in the lane; for by nine o’clock practically all the inmates of the yard had retired, after a day spent for the most part in lolling about and avoiding any unnecessary work.

At half-past four in the morning Susan was awake. She hurried out of the hot, stifling room to wash her face under the water-pipe, then went in again to dress. She was ready by five o’clock. Her dress fitted her nicely; and though blue was perhaps not the colour that best suited her complexion, it was more striking than white would have been, and she wanted to attract attention. She wore a pink sash, and her hat was trimmed with pink roses and ribbons. Her high-heeled shoes were gorgeous with buckles. When fully arrayed, and after she had gulped down her cup of coffee, she turned herself round and round to be admired. Catherine and Eliza surveyed her critically.

“You is all right, Sue,” said the first, and her younger sister agreed. Her mother smiled, then went about her business. Her father was vocal in his praise.

“Ef I was a young man,” he said approvingly, “I would fall in love wid you. Dat frock suit you’ figure. Everybody gwine to dance wid you, an’ you mustn’t fo’got to bring somet’ing nice fo’ me.”

Susan, satisfied with this appreciation, promised to bring home for him a part of whatever she might get; and Letitia coming in just then, both girls went out to catch the electric car that should take them to the railway station.

It was not yet six o’clock, so the air was still comparatively cool. It was a public holiday, consequently they met numbers of other pleasure-seekers like themselves, all gaily dressed. They caught the car, and it took them by a circuitous route to the station, going first towards the north of the city for nearly a mile, then south again, then east to where the railway station stands. On the way they passed handsome villas; those were the houses, they thought, where the rich people lived, people so much above their own station in life that they never dreamt of envying them. The white and the higher classes of fair coloured people belonged to one world. They belonged to another. But envy and hatred did not embitter the relations of one class with another, though their interests in life were superficially as different as was the yard-room or little front house from the spacious-looking residence with its garden of tropical shrubs and flowers blooming in front of it.

They alighted at the railway station, and found it crowded. Every colour of the rainbow was represented in the dresses of the women and the neckties of the men; and a stranger not accustomed to a West Indian crowd might well have thought that there could have been no greater confusion at the Tower of Babel. Everybody talked and nobody listened. Everybody gesticulated. Laughing, pushing, screaming, scrambling through the iron gates, the good-humoured picnickers made towards the platform, and then began to fight their way into the train. In vain the guards shouted. In vain they tried to direct the passengers. Discipline and order were thrown to the winds on this holiday morning, when the chief thought of every one was to obtain all the fun and excitement that the day could afford.

In the struggle for a good seat Susan was nearly separated from her friend. But by a vigorous use of their elbows they managed to keep together; and when at last, breathless but triumphant, they were seated, they began to look about them to see if any of their friends were near. Susan saw many persons whom she knew. Amongst these was Hezekiah, and him she stared out of countenance. She nodded to the others, and commenced with lively anticipation to discuss the prospects of the picnic with Letitia, when the train, with a sudden jerk, pulled out of the station.

Slowly at first, then quickly, and crowded to its utmost capacity, it ran out of the city and into the open, sunlit country. The transition was abrupt. Within a minute Kingston had been left behind, and broad fields and forests soon appeared on either side, all steeped in the early morning light and still green and fresh with the dews of the night. The hot and dusty city lay baking in the sun behind the pleasure-seekers; the country, with its wonderful beauty of deep blue skies, giant trees, and variegated green; with its dark-gleaming rivulets, placid streams and leaping waterfalls, unrolled itself before them. Peeping out of the windows, they could see the cattle and horses browsing in the pastures, the distant skyline broken by a long chain of dream-like verdure-clothed mountains, the long, delicate tendrils of parasitic plants waving gently in the breeze, and clumps of water-hyacinths glowing in the ponds or in some quiet backwater of a stream. All, all was beautiful. A majestic peace pervaded the spacious countryside, and the great yellow sun of the tropics lighted it up with splendour. There was something alluring, enticing about it all; something enervating too in its luscious appealing beauty. But Susan and Letitia gave no thought to it all, nor did many of the people in the train. Their minds were centred upon one subject—this picnic to which they were speeding and which was to afford them a whole day’s intensest pleasure.

“Cumberland Pen!” The guard shouted the name of the station, the train slowed down and stopped, the doors of the carriages were thrown open, and then the scramble and hubbub began once more. Parcels were grabbed at and secured, and then—a phenomenon which one observes in every country and on every occasion among passengers on a train—every one pushed forward to alight as quickly as possible, and as though a second longer spent upon the train would lead to the most unpleasant results.

The siding was soon crowded, and already a straggling stream of human beings was pouring towards the Cumberland Pen gate, where stood two men who collected the tickets and indulged in arguments with those who pretended to be scandalized at the amount they were called upon to pay as entrance fee. It was quick work at this gate in spite of the chaffing and arguing; then other trains came in from Kingston, and soon more than a thousand persons were assembled on a grassy sward, spacious and fairly smooth, and shaded here and there by leafy trees that grew singly or in cool inviting clumps. But shade trees were not in demand just now, except as convenient places for the storing of parcels and baskets filled with refreshments, which some of the more prudent or more fastidious picnickers had brought with them. These impedimenta put away for the present, the pleasure-lovers broke into groups, and a loud cry for music arose.

Then rose the piercing squeal of the clarionettes, the squeak of fiddles, the blare of cornets and the bang of a big drum. There was noise enough, and the dancers called it music. The young men took off their jackets and waved them wildly in the air to show their appreciation of the band. Girls with arms akimbo swayed their bodies to and fro, keeping time with the tune. Thus encouraged, the musicians redoubled their efforts and the discord was infernal; but partners were rapidly selected, places taken, and in a few minutes there were nearly five hundred couples dancing on the sward and under the now burning, blistering rays of the forenoon sun.

Susan was in her element. Quadrilles followed lancers, polkas followed quadrilles, and mentoes, a sublimated West African, phallic dance, followed the polkas and were the most popular with a certain section of the people. The girls danced these, swaying on their hips. Some of the women, however, and amongst these was Susan, did not care to dance these mentoes, on the ground that they were not quite proper. So while mentoes were being danced, Susan sat at the foot of a tree fanning herself, and trying to mop up with her wet handkerchief the flood of perspiration that streamed from her face.

Gazing intently at the dancers during one of these intervals, she did not notice that a man had approached her, till she heard herself addressed.

“Young lady,” said the stranger, “you not dancing?”

“No,” she answered shortly, without looking round to see who the speaker might be.


“I don’t dance mento.”

“But why you don’t?”

The persistency of her questioner annoyed her; it was common enough for girls to be accosted by strangers at a picnic; but she did not want to make any more acquaintances that day, for the simple reason that she was tired. The stranger, however, was not to be denied. He deliberately sat down near her, and resumed the conversation.

“Well,” said he, “allow me to introduce meself. My name is Samuel Josiah Jones from Spanish Town. I been watchin’ you all the time you been sitting here; an’ when I see a beautiful young female not enjoying herself, I think I ought to do the consequential.”

Susan had not the faintest idea of what the consequential might be, but the word pleased her. Besides, Samuel Josiah Jones had called her beautiful, and such a compliment predisposed her to be kind. As she did not exactly know what to reply, she looked at him with an inquiring air; but that did not in the least disconcert Mr. Jones, who blandly went on.

“My name,” he repeated, “is Samuel Josiah Jones.” (He plainly expected the repetition of his name to have a talismanic effect.) “Spanish Town is my paternity. Where you come from?”

“Kingston,” said Susan briefly; then she added, “What is that to you?”

“Oh, don’t be vex,” said Jones appealingly. “Don’t expostulate with me. I don’t ask you for nothing. But you didn’t introduce you’self properly, so I interrogated you. You angry?”

Susan saying nothing in reply, Jones’s voice became more confidential.

“I wouldn’t tell you a lie. I have had a few good drinks to-day. But me head is strong, an’ when I see a young lady like you, I would rather die than disgrace meself.

“If a young man can’t behave himself in the company of ladies,” he continued, still speaking confidentially, “he ought not to frequent their company. Don’t you think I am right?”

Susan was obliged to nod her agreement.

Pleased with this, his voice took on a triumphant ring.

“Quite so,” he resumed. “As I tell these boys here, sobriety is the great thing; sobriety an’ temperance. Take a drink when y’u want one; but don’t disgrace you’self—like me.”

“But you not disgracin’ you’self,” said Susan, flattered by the respect he professed for her, but a little puzzled by his last sentence.

“No,” said Jones, “that is what I say. I don’t disgrace meself. I set a good example. I don’t want no man to say that Samuel Josiah Jones disgrace himself in public.”

Mr. Jones leaned back against the tree, obviously proud of the example he was setting, and quite as obviously pleased with the world and himself. Susan looked at him curiously. He was a young man of her own complexion; that is to say, dark brown. His features were good, his face frank and lively, and when he spoke two big gold teeth gleamed brightly, showing that Mr. Jones did not belong to the common classes. He was tall, and flashily dressed, his necktie reminding one of a Scotch plaid of the most pronounced pattern. A gorgeous fob hung out of the trousers pocket in which he kept his watch. It was plain to Susan that he was a young man of some importance, and by the words he used she judged him to be a man of considerable education. She was pleased too he had recognized that she was a young lady, for some “fast and forward young men” of her acquaintance had not always been ready to do that. She was rather glad now that he had persisted in talking to her. His preference for her company was a distinct compliment.

She saw that his sobriety had been tempered with a fair quantity of strong drink. He had himself said so. But temperance folk were held in strong contempt by her, and she had always heard her aunt quote with great approval Paul’s advice to Timothy, that he should take a little wine for his stomach’s sake. Miss Proudleigh faithfully followed this advice herself: every night before going to bed she drank, not a little wine, but a little rum and water; and Susan’s parents would have done the same had they been able to afford it. So she thought more highly of Mr. Jones for being able to enjoy himself in the free and independent manner which his appearance denoted. She was about to continue the conversation when Letitia came up.

The latter stared at Jones, not exactly surprised, for on such a day a girl might pick up half a dozen new acquaintances. Susan introduced her, and Jones, rising with great dignity, assured her that his name was Samuel Josiah Jones, and asked her to take a seat.

“I not sitting down,” said Letitia, shaking her head. “I came to henquire if Sue are going to ’ave her lunch.” (Letitia was very careful of her diction in company.)

“Lunch?” said Jones; “lunch? Of course! The inner man must be replenished. We will have lunch immediate. Miss Susan, arise!”

Miss Susan arose, as bidden, and seeing that Letitia showed no objection to accepting Mr. Jones’s hospitality, she followed the young man to the spot where refreshments were being sold.

Under a tree, and protected by a barricade of dealboard tables and low wooden benches, were a number of women and a man, retailers of refreshments, and all busy attending to the crowd of customers that surrounded them. Quick-tempered and aggressive, the women bustled about with their sleeves drawn up above their elbows, and the upper part of their skirts tucked up into bundles around their waists. Within the enclosure, huge pots steamed and bubbled on improvised fireplaces; and barrels and boxes containing aerated waters, and beer and whisky and Jamaica rum, stood invitingly open.

The smell of stewed beef mingled with that of stewed salt-fish, and the heavy odour of cocoa-nut oil rose from two five-gallon cans in which rice and red peas were boiling. The women ladled the food into coarse earthenware and enamelled plates as it was ordered, and the man served the liquors.

Jones and the girls sat down to a lunch of stewed fish and rice-and-peas. He ordered whisky for himself, and asked his companions what they would have. After some hesitation, they decided on beer, this being a luxury they did not often enjoy. He called for two glasses of “the best beer,” and the girls gulped the stuff down, declaring with grimaces that it tasted bitter.

Letitia noticed that Jones paid a good deal of attention to Susan. “I wonder if him speaking ’er up?” was her thought, but presently she ceased to think, the beer having set her head a-swimming. Susan felt dizzy too, and had to cling to Jones for support when they rose from the table.

He offered an arm to each of the girls, and gallantly escorted them back to the tree. They sat there for a little while, Jones talking, Susan and Letitia hearing nothing.

The pipes still screamed, and the fiddles squeaked, and the dancers continued dancing. A good many persons had strolled down to the river that ran through the pen, to bathe. Here and there some sat on stones or logs of wood, resting; contented-looking cows cropped the grass within a stone’s throw of the picnickers, no longer frightened by the unusual noise; children climbed the trees to hunt for mangoes; big green lizards pursued their prey among the stones and leaves; and down on men and beasts and trees came the fiery rays of the now vertical sun, scorching, blistering, burning, but powerless to exhaust the energy of the musicians or to put an end to the dance.

“This sun,” remarked Jones, “is the hottest sun I feel for a long time. It make me sweat like a bull. But I come to dance, an’ I must dance. What you say?”

His words were addressed to Susan, who faintly murmured in reply, “Too hot.”

Two or three minutes passed in silence, and then the beer, acting in conjunction with the heat and the exertion of the morning, completed its work. Reclining against the tree, Susan slept. Letitia, who was not so easily affected by strong drinks as her friend, laughed at first; then, finding it dull sitting there, asked Jones what he intended to do.

“Remain here,” he said. “A gentleman must behave gentlemanly. Can’t leave this female alone when she is not in her senses.”

“All right,” said Letitia; “I goin’ to dance. I will come back later. Tell Susan so when she ’wake.”.

Jones nodded, then stretched his legs out more comfortably, covered his face with his handkerchief, and disposed himself to reflect on his own superior manners, while Letitia walked away.

He dozed, and for an hour both of them lay there, recumbent in the sun.

Jones woke first. Although desiring to be gentlemanly, his first impulse was to go and join the dancers; for a chance meeting at a picnic did not, he felt, compel him to remain constantly in attendance upon one young woman. Instead of doing so, however, he bent over and shook Susan slightly. She opened her eyes, yawned loudly, stretched her arms above her head, yawned again, then remarked, “I seems to ’ave been sleepin’, Mr. Jones.”

“Yes,” he said. “You been sleepin’ all the time. An’ I been watching you, in case any of these common young men wanted to take any liberty with you. I wouldn’t move a foot while you reposed.”

“Thank you,” said Susan; “but I mustn’t keep y’u back from dancin’.”

“Don’t mention,” said Jones; “it would be preposterous to leave you in a somnolescent state. Will you take some more beer?”

She shook her head firmly. “It make me giddy,” she confessed.

“All right, then, you stay here till I come. I am goin’ for a rum; I soon be back.”

He went off to the refreshment stand, and Susan followed him with her eyes. He was showing her a lot of attention: did he mean anything? She quickly persuaded herself that he did; otherwise why should he have remained with her all the time? It might be her good fortune to get another intended in place of Tom. She thought of the yard-room and the shop with disgust. This fellow was evidently well off, decent looking, generous. . . . She smiled when he returned, and readily rose when he suggested that they should take a little walk and then have a dance.

“Y’u like Spanish Town, Mr. Jones?” she asked him as they moved away.

“So, so,” he replied; “but I been living in Kingston these last ten years—up in Allman Town.”

“Funny I never see y’u,” said Susan, though there seemed nothing really funny in her not having before met one particular person in a city of over sixty thousand souls.

“That is so,” Jones agreed; “it is a peculiar incident. And here we have become acquainted just when I am goin’ away.”

“Goin’ away?” Susan asked, surprised. “Where?”

“Panama. They wants mechanics down there. An’ Mr. Hewet, an American man that was down here three months ago hiring labourers, send for me. They wants a man like me to help them dig the canal,” he proceeded grandiloquently. “Fifteen dollars a week, an’ quarters. Here I can’t earn much more than thirty shillin’s, an’ I have so many people to boss me that sometimes I don’t know what to do.

“This is a worthless country,” he continued. “No prospects at all. It is much better foreign. I don’t think I will bother come back to Jamaica.”

So he wasn’t “speaking her up” after all! The disappointment she felt was keener than she would have thought possible. Her hastily constructed castle in the air came toppling down, and only the shop and the yard-room remained in their sordid reality.

Tom had gone to Panama. Jones was going. She knew that every week scores and hundreds of other people went, and that the dream of almost everybody she had met was to go to Colon or Port Limon, or “anywhere,” as one man told the steamship clerk to whom he applied for a decker’s ticket. “Anywhere.” Anywhere outside of Jamaica. That was the wish of thousands of persons in all classes and ranks of society, and she had caught the general infection.

She too wanted to go away. She had heard of the riches of Panama and Costa Rica, and had often talked about those places with her friends. Life there, they believed, was free as air; money almost to be had for the asking. True, returning emigrants told of fearful fevers, and unsympathetic policemen, and months of continuous rain, and the dark impenetrable jungle; but the bright fantastic picture painted by imagination cast no shadow in spite of all these dreadful tales. The emigrants who returned to Jamaica almost invariably went back. The fascination of the semi-civilized Central American countries, once felt, was too often irresistible. Hundreds of forgotten graves in Central America contained the bones of men and women who had gone thither with high hopes of enriching themselves; but still the exodus continued. The restless longing for change, for new scenes, for a new life, acted as a spur to discontent.

Susan had become silent and depressed. Jones noticed this and asked her:

“You tired?”

“No,” she said, “I was thinkin’!”

“What was you thinkin’ about?”

She hesitated, then said quite frankly:

“I would like to go to Colon.”

Jones pushed back his jippi jappa hat and stared at her. So she was dissatisfied with Jamaica also! Half-jestingly he asked her:

“You want to go with me?”

She, on her part, surprised by the question, looked at him with eager eyes. Her heart beat quickly, her face lit up with excitement.

“But y’u don’t mean it?” she asked.

Now he really did not know whether he meant it or not. He was a very impulsive man, who did most things on the spur of the moment. He was also a very gallant man, and wasted much of his substance on “females.” He had no permanent connexion with any one of them just then, however; and on Susan asking him whether he really wanted to take her with him or not, it occurred to him that it might be a very fine thing indeed to land in Colon with so attractive a companion.

The idea was worth playing with. “A man,” he answered Susan, “say a lot of things he don’t mean. But y’u don’t answer me question yet. You would like to come with me?”

She made up her mind to a straightforward reply. “I wouldn’t mind, if——”

“If what?”

“If y’u would treat me good.”

“Oh,” he remonstrated. “Do you think a gentlemanly man like me would treat y’u bad? I never do such a thing in me life!”

“I don’t think y’u would,” Susan graciously replied. “You don’t look like those sort of young men at all.”

This compliment pleased Jones immensely. “You are intrinsically correct,” he assured her. “Not a female have a word to say against Samuel Josiah Jones. An’ you will find when you get to Colon what sort of man I am.”

“Then you goin’ to take me?” Susan asked quickly.

“Of course! Don’t y’u want to go?”

Her heart gave one great bound. Here was the opportunity come to her at last!

“All right,” she exclaimed. “I will come. When you goin’?”

“Three weeks’ time. I give notice at the Railway already, but I have to fix up me business. Where y’u live in Kingston?”

“Luke Lane. Y’u must come wid me to-night, let me introduce you to me parents. The place don’t too nice, but you mustn’t mind dat.”

“Certainly not. You are nice, an’ that is enough.”

He felt that something more was required of him—something that a lover in one of the novels he had read would have thought appropriate to the occasion. At the moment only one thing in the way of what he called poetry came to his memory; but still it was poetry, and therefore suitable. He repeated it, standing still and looking fondly in Susan’s face:

“Fleecy looks and black complexion

?Do not alter Nature’s claim,

?Skin may differ, but affection

?Dwells in white and black the same.”

He expected applause. As Susan did not know what the verse was intended for, she simply answered, “Yes.”

“Let us go and tell Letitia,” she added, catching hold of his arm and dragging him with her in her excitement. Nothing loth, he followed, and soon they found Letitia, to whom the good tidings were told. Hezekiah heard it too. He was standing near by when Susan was speaking to her friend, and Susan spoke loudly on purpose that he might hear.

“I goin’ in three weeks’ time. I not comin’ back to Jamaica at all! Sam going to get three pounds a week! What a good luck, eh, Letitia? What a luck!”

Hezekiah heard it all, and saw Jones in the flesh, smiling with the consciousness of irresistible masculine attractions and great potential wealth. Hezekiah could not doubt, and so that night he did exactly what Susan had calculated on his doing. Not only Maria and her mother, but everybody else that he met in Blake Lane was told that Susan had got another intended with plenty of money, and was going to Colon.

“Dis world don’t level,”[1] was Maria’s bitter comment on Susan’s undeserved good fortune.

Fortune is not fair.


©英文小说网 2005-2010

有任何问题,请给我们留言,管理员邮箱:tinglishi@gmail.com  站长QQ :点击发送消息和我们联系56065533