Before us spread the reposing, powerful, sun-shimmering Pacific. Across the bay, clear as an etching, lay Panama backed by Ancon hill. In regular cadence the ocean swept in with a hoarse, resistless roll on the sands.
We dived in, keeping an eye out for the sharks we knew never come so far in and probably wouldn’t bite if they did. The sun blazed down white hot from a cloudless sky. This time the Lieutenant and Sergeant Jack had not been able to come, but we arranged the races and jumps on the sand for all that, and went into them with a will and—
A rain-drop fell. Nor was it long lonesome. Before we had finished the hundred-yard dash we were in the midst of——it was undeniably raining. Half a moment later “bucketsful” would have been a weak simile. All the pent up four months of an extra long rainy season seemed to have been loosed without warning. The blanket of water blotted out Panama and Ancon hill across the bay, blotted out the distant American bathers, then the light-brown ones, then the chocolate-tinted, then even the jet black ones close at hand.
We remained under water for a time to keep dry. But the rain whipped our faces as with thousands of stinging lashes. We crawled out and dashed blindly up the bank toward the saw-mill, the rain beating on our all but bare skins, feeling as it might to stand naked in Miraflores locks and let the sand pour down upon us from sixty feet above. When at last we stumbled under cover and up the stairs to where our clothing hung, it was as if a weight of many tons had been lifted from our shoulders.
The saw-mill was without side-walls; consisted only of a sheet-iron roof and floors, on the former of which the storm pounded with a roar that made only the sign language feasible. It was now as if we were surrounded on all sides by solid walls of water and forever shut off from the outer world—if indeed that had survived. Sheets of water slashed in further and further across the floor. We took to huddling behind beams and under saw-benches —the militant storm hunted us out and wetted us bit by bit. “The Admiral” and I tucked ourselves away on the 45-degree eye-beams up under the roaring roof. The angry water gathered together in columns and swept in and up to soak us.
At the end of an hour the downpour had increased some hundred per cent. It was as if an express train going at full speed had gradually doubled its rapidity. That was the day when little harmless streams tore themselves apart into great gorges and left their pathetic little bridges alone and deserted out in the middle of the gulf. That was the famous May twelfth, 1912, when Ancon recorded the greatest rainfall in her history,—7.23 inches, virtually all within three hours. Three of us were ready to surrender and swim home through it. But there was “the Admiral” to consider. He was dressed clear to his scarf-pin—and Panama tailors tear horrible holes in a police salary. So we waited and dodged and squirmed into closer holes for another hour; and grew steadily wetter.