A band was playing in the plaza when he came back—a very good band, too—and, finding a bench, he allowed his mind the relief of idly listening to the music. The square was filling with Spanish people, who soon caught and held his attention, recalling Mrs. Cortlandt’s words regarding the intermixture of bloods in this country; for every imaginable variety of mongrel breed looked out from the loitering crowd. But no matter what the racial blend, black was the fundamental tone. Undeniably the Castilian strain was running out; not one passer-by in ten seemed really white. Naturally, there was no color line. Well-dressed girls, evidently white, or nearly so, went arm and arm with wenches as black as night; men of every shade fraternized freely.
It was a picturesque and ever-changing scene. Kirk saw dark-faced girls wearing their unfailing badge of maidenhood—a white mantilla—followed invariably at a distance by respectful admirers who never presumed to walk beside them; wives whom marriage had forced to exchange the white shawl for the black, escorted by their husbands; huge, slouching Jamaican negroes of both sexes; silent-footed, stately Barbadians who gave a touch of savagery to the procession. Some of the women wore giant firebugs, whose glowing eyes lent a ghostly radiance to hair or lace, at once weird and beautiful. Round and round the people walked to the strains of their national music, among them dozens upon dozens of the ever-present little black-and-tan policemen, who constitute the republic’s standing army.
As the evening drew on, Kirk became conscious of an unwonted sensation. Once before he had had the same feeling—while on a moose-trail in Maine. But now there was no guide, with a packful of food, to come to his relief, and he could not muster up the spirit that enables men to bear vacation hardships with cheerfulness.
He began to wonder whether a fast of twenty-four hours would seriously weaken a man, and, rather than make the experiment, he again called up the Tivoli, rejoicing anew in the fact that there was no toll on Isthmian messages. But again he was disappointed. This time he was told that the Cortlandts were doubtless spending the night out of town with friends.
Soon after his second return to the park, the concert ended, the crowd melted away, and he found himself occupying a bench with a negro of about the same age as himself. For perhaps an hour the two sat there hearkening to the dying noises of the city; then Kirk, unable to endure the monotony longer, turned sharply on his companion and said:
“Why don’t you go home?”
The negro started, his eyes flew open, then he laughed: “Oh, boss, I got no home.”
Kirk reflected that he had found not only the right place, but also fitting company, for his vigil.
“What does a person do in that case?” he asked.
“Oh, he goes to work, sar.”