“Take the 10:55 to Gatun,” said the Inspector one morning, without looking up from his filing case, “Corporal Macey will tell you about it when you get there,”
“Why, the fact is,” said Corporal Macey, lighting his meerschaum pipe until the match burned down to his fingers,” several little burglary stunts have been pulling themselves off since the sergeant went on vacation. But the most aggrayvaatin’ is this new one of twinty-two quarts of good Canadian Club bein’ maliciously extracted from St. Martin’s saloon last night.”
From which important beginning I fell quickly back into the old life again, derelicting about Gatun and vicinity by day, wandering the nights away in black, noisy New Gatun and along the winding back road under the cloud-scudding sky. Yet it was a different life. Gatun had changed. Even her concrete light-house was winking all night now up among the I. C. C. dwellings. The breeze from off the Caribbean was heavy and lifeless. The landscape looked wet and lush and rampant, of a deep-seated green, and instead of the china-blue skies the dull, leaden-gray heavens seemed to hang low and heavy overhead, like a portending fate. On the winding back road the jungle trees still stood out against the night sky, at times, too, there was a moon, but only a pale silver one that peered weakly here and there through the scudding gray clouds. The air grew more thick and sultry day by day, the heat was sticky, the weather dripping, with the sun only an irregular whitish blotch in the sky. Through the open windows the heavy, damp night came miasmically floating in, the very cigarettes mildewed in my pockets. Earth and air seemed heavy and toil-bowed by comparison with other days. The jungle still hummed busily, yet, it seemed, a bit mournfully as if preparing for production and unhilarious with the task before it, like a woman first learning of her pregnancy. Life seemed to hang more heavily even on humanity; “Zoners” looked less gay and carefree than in the sunny dry season, though still far more so than in the north. One could not shake off a premonition of impending disaster in I know not what form—like that of Teufelsdroeck before he entered the “Center of Indifference.”
Dr. O—– of the Sanitary Department had gone up into the interior along the Trinidad river to hunt mosquitoes. Why he went so far away for them in this season was hard to understand. There he was, however, and the order had come to bring him back to civilization. The execution thereof fell, of course, to my friend B—–, who to the world at large is merely Policeman No.——, to the force “Admiral of the Inland Fleet,” and in the general scheme of things is a luckier man than Vanderchild to have for his task in life the patrolling of Gatun Lake. B—– invited me to go along. There was nothing particular doing in the criminal line around Gatun just then; moreover the doctor was known to be well armed and there was no telling just how much resistance he might offer a single policeman. I accepted.