I caught a dirt-train to Balboa. There the very town at which I had landed on the Zone five months before was being razed to give place to the permanent, reenforced-concrete city that is to be the canal headquarters. Balboa police station was only a pile of lumber, with a band of negroes drilling away the very rock on which it had stood. I took a last view of the Pacific and her islands to far Taboga, where Uncle Sam sends his recuperating children to enjoy the sea baths, hill climbs, and unrivaled pine-apples. It was never my good fortune to get to Taboga. With thirty days’ sick leave a year and countless ailments of which I might have been cured free of charge and with the best of care, I could not catch a thing. I had not even the luck of my friend—who, by dint of cross-country runs in the jungle at noonday and similar industrious efforts, worked up at last a temperature of 99 degrees and got his week at Taboga. I stuck immovable at 98.6 degrees.
Soon after five I had bidden Ancon farewell and set off on the last ride across the Isthmus. There was a memory tucked away in every corner. Corozal hotel was still rattling with dishes, Paraiso peeped out from its lap of hills, Culebra with its penitentiary where burglarizing negroes go, sunk away into the past. Railroad Avenue in Empire was still lined with my “enumerated” tags; through an open door I caught a glimpse of a familiar short figure, one foot resting lightly and familiarly on a misapplied gas-pipe, the elbow crooked as if something were held between the fingers. At Bas Obispo I strained my eyes in vain to make out a familiar face in the familiar uniform, there was a glimpse of “Old Fritz” water-gauge as we rumbled across the Chagres, and the train churned away into the heavy green uninhabited night.
Only once more was I aroused, as the lights of Gatun flashed up; then we rolled past the noisy glaring corner of New Gatun and on to Colon. In Cristobal police station I put badge and passes into a heavy envelope and dropped them into the train-guard’s box; then turned in for my last night on the Zone. For the steamer already had her fires up that would bear me, and him who was the studious corporal of Miraflores, away in the morning to South America. My police days were ended.
Then a last hand to you all, oh, Z. P. May you live long and continue to do your duty frankly and unafraid. I found you men when I expected only policemen. I reckon my days among you time well spent and I left you regretting that I could stay no longer with you—and when I leave any place with regret it must be possessed of some exceeding subtle charm. But though the world is large, it is also small.
“So I’ll meet
you later on,
In the place where you have gone,
Well, say at San Francisco in 1915, anyway, Hasta luego.