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CHAPTER VI SAMUEL’S DETERMINATION
Catherine had come by one of the afternoon trains; as she had calculated, she found Susan alone.

“I bet you you don’t tell me why I come here to-day?” she said to her sister, dropping her voice as though she had an important secret to impart.

Susan expressed her inability to guess, but, with the anonymous letter always in her mind, became feverishly curious to know what had brought Catherine up to Culebra. Was some scandal about her being circulated in Colon?

Catherine produced a sealed, unaddressed envelope and placed it in her sister’s hand; Susan broke the seal; the letter was from Jones.

Catherine observed Susan’s start of surprise and alarm. She hastened to explain that Jones had not posted the letter because he would not take the risk of its falling into any other hands except those of Susan. He had not even addressed the envelope, lest, inadvertently, the handwriting should be seen and recognized.

“Samuel pay my trainage from Colon to up here, an’ back again,” said Catherine. “I didn’t want to come, but he beg me hard, an’ I thought it was better I bring the letter than that him should ask anybody else.”

She looked inquiringly at Susan, anxious to learn what Jones had written about.

Susan said nothing. She was reading and re-reading the letter. It was written in Samuel’s most grandiloquent style, and opened with a declaration of his intention to poison himself, throw himself on a railway track to be run over by a train, drown himself, or commit suicide in some other unpleasant manner if he were compelled to endure much longer his present agony of mind. He wanted to see Susan to tell her “something very important.” He had to see her, and he begged her to go to Colon as early as she could. He ended by saying that he was leaving for Jamaica in a week’s time, wishing as he did to die in his own country, and that she would never cease to regret it if she let him leave Panama without seeing her. She must tell Catherine if she would go to Colon, and when.

There was a postscript: “And when I am departed hence, forlorn and forsaken, you will eventually come to find that your desertation of me was a catastrophe worse than ever you have known; but alas! it will be too late.”

“You know what Sam write to me about?” said Susan, searching Catherine’s face with her eyes.

Catherine shook her head negatively. “Him want you to leave Mackenzie?”

“Not exactly. Him want to see me, but I can’t go to Colon just now at all.”

“Why? No harm can be done. Nobody will know why y’u go.”

“Wait till I tell you something,” said Susan, and she told Catherine of her conversation with Jones on the night of the fire, of their accidental meeting with Tom, and of how Tom had acted. She had intended to keep all this secret, but now was glad to have some one to whom she could confide her cares.

Catherine listened, breathless, but not surprised at what she heard about Jones. She had never been deceived by the formal conversations he had carried on with Susan on the two occasions they had met at the house in Colon. But with Tom’s treachery she was disgusted. She had once entertained a kindly feeling for him; now she felt contempt. All her sympathies were with her sister, and she agreed that it might indeed be a risk for Susan to go just then to Colon; she had better wait for some time longer.

She proposed to return to Colon the next morning, and she promised to explain to Samuel why Susan could not see him just then; she also promised to warn him against Tom, at the same time impressing upon him that any rash action on his part could do no good but might merely create an unpleasant scandal. All this agreed upon, Susan professed herself satisfied, then immediately added, “But suppose Sam go away without I see him?”

That was possible. She did not take seriously his threats of suicide; they were merely intended to frighten her. But that he was thinking of returning to Jamaica she could well believe. His restlessness and impatience might easily cause him to do that, and quickly, and . . . and she wanted to see him again.

“Tell him,” she said to Catherine after a pause, “that he must ’ave patience.”

“But patience for what?” asked Catherine, and Susan could give no answer.

The following morning Catherine returned to Colon. That evening, when Jones came round to the house as agreed, she quietly took him out on the veranda and told him the result of her mission.

When they went back into Mr. Proudleigh’s room, Jones solemnly walked up to Mr. Proudleigh and shook hands with him.

“Old massa, you have nothing to do with it,” he said—“nothing at all.”

Mr. Proudleigh immediately agreed that he hadn’t, and then anxiously inquired what it was with which he was so entirely unconnected.

“You know that I loved your daughter, didn’t you?” asked Jones.

“In course!” agreed Mr. Proudleigh briskly. “Dat is what I always say. I ’ave seen many a young man all in love all times, but I never see one like you. Your love is true love, Mister Jones, like mine when I was young an’ good-lookin’. I remember I was in love wid three different young lady at one time, an’ I couldn’t say which one I love de most. One day——”

“Very well,” said Jones, who was more anxious to air his grievances than to listen to the youthful idylls of Mr. Proudleigh. “Y’u know that I take her away from Kingston, Jamaica, an’ bring her here?”

“Sartinly. I was down at de wharf de day you leave. Sun was hot that day, me friend!”

“Very well. And y’u know that I bring her here an’ look after her kindly, an’ nearly went to prison for her?”

“Yes, y’u tell me all about it. But she say it was your fault; but, as I tell her, a young man——”

“Very well. Now tell me fair an’ square: do you think Susan acted right to leave me in ruinate in the manner visible?”

“Well, to tell y’u de truth, Mister Jones, you is looking very well just now. Ef I was you, I wouldn’t bodder me head about a young lady that act so foolish as to leave me an’ go an’ married. De same thing happen to me once, but it didn’t make a tooth in me head ache. An’ if you want another han’some intended, there is Miss Catherine——”

“Please to leave me out of you’ conversation, pupa!” came peremptorily from Catherine, and Mr. Proudleigh halted promptly in the midst of his matchmaking endeavour.

“It don’t matter how I look,” said Jones angrily: “it’s how I feel. If it wasn’t for one thing, I would throw meself in the sea this very night.”

“That would not be Christianlike, Mister Jones,” said Miss Proudleigh, who had been listening attentively to the conversation. “We must patiently bear our crosses. Besides, I don’t see what you worrying you’self about, for there is some things that is a good riddance. Y’u don’t see it now, but you will see it later on.”

“That may be true, but I am speaking of now an’ not of later on,” said Jones. “I want you all to understand that I have been driven like a lamb to the slaughter by Susan Mackenzie. She get married without my knowledge; she took away all the money I give her, an’ what she used to take from me when she thought I didn’t know; an’ now she is living like a king at Culebra. If it wasn’t for me she might have been in Jamaica to-day keeping a little shop, without an extra five shillin’s. Yet when I send her sister to ask her——”

“What y’u going to say now?” cried Catherine, seeing he was on the verge of blurting out what he had agreed should be kept a secret.

“What I am going to say I am going to say,” replied Jones impetuously. “I am goin’ away to Jamaica, an’ I send an’ ask Susan to come an’ tell me good-bye and have a talk before I go. What she do? She say she can’t come! Is that a decent way to treat a man, especially a man like me? When she left me I bear it in silence, though I might have been very disagreeable. Yet now she treat me like if I was a dog!”

This angry outburst was received in silence by those who heard it. They had never seen Jones in a temper before.

“You know what I am going to do now?” he asked after a moment’s pause. “I am going straight up to Culebra to tell Susan what I think of her!”

“Y’u can’t do that at all, Mr. Jones,” said Catherine firmly. “I told you already why Sue can’t come now, an’ you must remember she is married an’ dat her husband wouldn’t like y’u to bring no confusion into his house.”

“Her husband can go to the devil!” exclaimed Jones. “Who is her husband?”

“But suppose him meet you an’ have a fight?” said Mr. Proudleigh, thinking that such a prospect might have a deterrent effect upon Jones.

“If Mackenzie can fight, I can fight too,” replied the young man. “If he don’t interfere with me, I won’t interfere with him. But I am going to Culebra.”

“Well, Mister Jones,” said Mr. Proudleigh, “if you determine to go, I can’t stop y’u. But do, I beg you, don’t say dat we know anyt’ing at all about it. You see, I don’t ’fraid of any man in de world, but quarrel is a thing I keep out of. Mackenzie is me son-in-law, so I can’t say nothing against him, but y’u know what I think; an’ if you take my foolish advice you wouldn’t go to Culebra.”

“Don’t call my name, whatever you do,” said Catherine. “I sorry I have anything to do wid your business, for I can see you going to act like a fool. And after all, what can y’u expect Susan to do? If you go an’ make any trouble now, her husband will believe what that liar, Tom, write an’ tell him.”

“What is dat?” asked Mr. Proudleigh quickly, but Catherine refused to reply. Her reticence, coming after her allusion to Tom and Mackenzie, caused the old man to feel that the situation was more perilous than he had thought it was.

As for Miss Proudleigh, she loudly lifted up her voice in denunciation of sin and its consequences, this time with a good deal of sincerity born of fear.

“Susan have much to answer for,” she cried; “she bring all this trouble on herself an’ her husband an’ Mr. Jones. Your sin will find you out, an’ who shall flee from the wrath to come! I have nothing to do with it. She is me niece, but she never treat me respectfully. She deserve all she going to suffer, and she going to suffer for true! But I sympathize wid her, for we are told not to bear any malice.”

As the old lady seemed to be trying to qualify for the position of a modern Jeremiah, Catherine brusquely demanded if she wanted all the people in the house to hear what she was saying.

“They will all hear soon enough,” replied Miss Proudleigh grimly. “There is going to be war an’ rumours of war.”

“An’ I am going to make the war,” said Jones fiercely. “I make up my mind to die.”

“Don’t do that, me son,” implored Mr. Proudleigh. “Death is not a thing to meck fun with. Wait an’ have patience.”

“Patience for what?”

As Mr. Proudleigh could not say, he merely suggested that Jones had better not act rashly, but Samuel would not allow his mind to be affected by such advice.

He took his hat.

“When you goin’ to Culebra?” asked Catherine, wondering if she would have time to warn Susan.

“Why you want to know?”

“Never mind, if y’u don’t want to tell me!” she snapped, “but take care what you doin’.”

“I know what I am doing,” answered Jones, and left the room.

“You think him will really go?” Mr. Proudleigh inquired anxiously of Catherine, after the door had closed behind Jones.

Catherine pondered a moment.

“If him could go to-night, him would go,” she said; “but he can’t go to-night. To-morrow him may change his mind. Jones is a man that will do a thing in a temper, but not otherwise.”

Catherine’s estimate of Samuel’s character was shrewd. But it is not always possible to foresee the actions of any human being.


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