There came the day early in April when the Inspector must go north on his forty-two days’ vacation. I bade him bon voyage on board the 8:41 between the two Gatuns and soon afterward was throwing together my belongings and leaving “Davie” to enjoy his room alone. For Corporal Castillo was to be head of the subterranean department ad interim, and how could the digging of the canal continue with no detective in all the wilderness of morals between the Pacific and Culebra? Thus it was that the afternoon train bore me away to the southward. It was a tourist train. A New York steamer had docked that morning, and the first-class cars were packed with venturesome travelers in their stout campaign outfits in which to rough it—in the Tivoli and the sight-seeing motors— in their roof-like cork helmets and green veils for the terrible Panama heat—which is sometimes as bad as in northern New York.
The P.R.R. is one of the few railroads whose passengers may drop off for a stroll, let the train go on without them, and still take it to their destination. They have only to descend, as I did, at Gamboa cabin and wander down into the “cut,” climb leisurely out to Bas Obispo, and chat with their acquaintances among the Marines lolling about the station until the trains puffs in from its shuttle-back excursion to Gorgona. The Zone landscape had lost much of its charm. For days past jungle fires had been sweeping over it, doing the larger growths small harm but leaving little of the greenness and rank clinging life of other seasons. Everywhere were fires along the way, even in the towns. For quartermasters— to the rage of Zone house-wives were sending up in clouds of smoke the grass and bushes that quickly turn to breeding-places of mosquitoes and disease with the first rains. Night closed down as we emerged from Miraflores tunnel; soon we swung around toward the houses, row upon row and all alight, climbed the lower slope of Ancon hill, and at seven I descended in familiar, cab-crowded, bawling Panama.
It might be worth the ink to say a word about socialism on the Canal Zone. To begin with, there isn’t any of course. No man would dream of looking for socialism in an undertaking set in motion by the Republican party and kept on the move by the regular army. But there are a number of little points in the management of this private government strip of earth that savors more or less faintly of the Socialist’s program, and the Zone offers perhaps as good a chance as we shall ever have to study some phases of those theories in practice.