There was nothing to do therefore but to ramble out armed with a lead pencil into a virtually unknown town riotous with liquor and negroes and the combination of Saturday night, circus time, and the aftermath of pay-day, and to strut back and forth in a way to suggest that I was a perambulating arsenal. But though I wandered a long two hours into every hole and corner where trouble might have its breeding-place, nothing but noise took place in my sight and hearing. I turned disgustedly away toward the tents pitched in a grassy valley between the two Gatuns. At least there was a faint hope that the equestrienne might assault the ring-master.
I approached the tent flap with a slightly quickening pulse. World-wide and centuries old as is the experience, personally I was about to “spring my badge” for the first time. Suppose the doortender should refuse to honor it and force me to impress upon him the importance of the Z. P.—without a gun? Outwardly nonchalant I strolled in between the two ropes. Proprietor Shipp looked up from counting his winnings and opened his mouth to shout “ticket!” I flung back my coat, and with a nod and a half-wink of wisdom he fell back again to computing his lawful gains.
By the way, are not you who read curious to know, even as I for long years wondered, where a detective wears his badge? Know then that long and profound investigation among the Z. P. seems to prove conclusively that as a general and all but invariable rule he wears it pinned to the lining of his coat, or under his lapel, or on the band of his trousers, or on the breast of his shirt, or in his hip pocket, or up his sleeve, or at home on the piano, or riding around at the end of a string in the baby’s nursery; though as in the case of all rules this one too has its exceptions.
Entertainments come rarely to Gatun. The one-ringed circus was packed with every grade of society from gaping Spanish laborers to haughty wives of dirt-train conductors, among whom it was not hard to distinguish in a far corner the uniformed sergeant in command of Gatun and the long lean corporal tied in a bow-line knot at the alleged wit of the versatile but solitary clown who changed his tongue every other moment from English to Spanish. But the end was already near; excitement was rising to the finale of the performance, a wrestling match between a circus man and “Andy” of Pedro Miguel locks. By the time I had found a leaning-place it was on—and the circus man of course was conquered, amid the gleeful howling of “rough-necks,” who collected considerable sums of money and went off shouting into the black night, in quest of a place where it might be spent quickly. It would be strange indeed if among all the thousands of men in the prime of life who are digging the canal at least one could not be found who could subjugate any champion a wandering circus could carry among its properties. I took up again the random tramping in the dark unknown night; till it was two o’clock of a Sunday morning when at last I dropped my report-card in the train-guard box and climbed upstairs to the cot opposite “Davie,” sleeping the silent, untroubled sleep of a babe.