Here, too, the windows stared at him blindly, and he saw no evidence of occupation; yet he advanced and pounded vigorously on the door. Failing to rouse any one, he paused to take a general view of the surroundings. Scattered upon every side were other winter homes, some bleaching nakedly in the open, others peeping out from luxuriant groves, some mean and poor, others really beautiful and impressive. He knew that he was in the heart of Panama’s exclusive winter colony, where her wealthy residents came to avoid the heat.
Unwilling to acknowledge himself beaten, he plodded from one place to another, calling at all the nearest houses, finding most of them locked, and begging a glass of water where he chanced to be more fortunate. Nowhere did he see the girl or the Barbadian woman, nowhere did he receive an intelligible answer to his questions. The caretakers looked upon him with suspicion, and made it known that he was unwelcome, while their women retreated at sight of him. Even the children were unfriendly. Once, indeed, he heard the name that had been ringing so steadily in his ears, and it gave him a wild thrill until he discovered that it was only a negress calling to her child. Afterward it seemed that he heard it everywhere. On his disconsolate journey home it was spoken twenty times, being applied indifferently to dogs, cats, parrots, and naked youngsters, each mention causing him to start and listen.
Whether the girl had been playing with him, or whether she had been prevented from keeping her word, was of little moment now. He loved her and he intended to have her! He shut his teeth grimly and made a vow to find her if he had to invade every home in Las Savannas, or pull apart the walls of Panama.
ALIAS JEFFERSON LOCKE
It was fortunate for Kirk, on the whole, that his last expedition had proved a failure, for his methods were none of the most discreet; and it was as well, perhaps, that his work on the railroad intervened to prevent further wild incursions.
He was detailed to ride No. 2, which left Panama at 6.35, returning on No. 7, which arrived at 7.00 P.M. For a few days he made the run in company with the train collector, whose position he was destined to fill; and, as the duties were by no means difficult, he quickly mastered them. He had quarters assigned to him, and regretfully took leave of his luxurious room and bath at the Tivoli. He also donned cap and linen uniform, and became an insignificant, brass-tagged unit in the army of Canal workers. Ordinarily he would have resented this loss of individuality, but the novelty of the thing appealed to him, and he brought a great good-nature to his work, deriving sufficient amusement from it to prevent it from growing tiresome.
For a time it offended his fastidious taste to be forced to elbow his way through superheated coaches jammed with shrieking, cackling, incoherent negroes. They were all utterly hysterical, and apparently possessed but one stubborn idea—to refuse payments of fares. But in time he grew to enjoy even this.