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“The boss of the gang orders us to work. I tramps off with the Dagoes, and I hears the distinguished patriot and kidnapper laughin' hearty as
“ 'Tis a sorrowful fact, for eight weeks I built railroads for that misbehavin' country. I filibustered twelve hours a day with a heavy pick and a spade, choppin' away the luxurious landscape that grew upon the right of way. We worked in swamps that smelled like there was a leak in the gas mains, trampin' down a fine assortment of the most expensive hothouse plants and vegetables. The scene was tropical beyond the wildest imagination of the geography
The trees was all sky-scrapers; the underbrush was full of needles and pins; there was monkeys jumpin' around and crocodiles and pink-tailed mockin’-birds, and ye stood knee-deep in the rotten water and grabbled roots for the liberation of Guatemala. Of nights we would build smudges in camp to discourage the mosquitoes, and sit in the smoke, with the guards pacin' all around us.
There was two hundred men workin' on the road — mostly Dagoes, nigger-men, Spanish-men and Swedes. Three or four were Irish. “One old man named Halloran
a man of Hibernian entitlements and discretions, explained it to me.
He had been workin' on the road a year. Most of them died in less than six months. He was dried up to gristle and bone, and shook with chills every third night.
"When you first come,' says he, 'ye think ye'll leave right away.
But they hold out your first month's
your passage over, and by that time the tropics has its grip on ye.
Ye're surrounded by a ragin' forest full of disreputable beasts --- lions and baboons and anacondas — waitin' to devour ye. The sun strikes ye hard, and melt's the marrow in your bones. Ye get similar to the lettuce-caters the poetry-book speaks about. Ye forget the elevated sintiments of life, such as patriotism, revenge, disturbances of the peace and the dacint. love of a clane shirt. Ye do your work, and ye swallow the kerosene ile and rubber pipestems dished up to ye by the Dago cook for food. Ye light your pipeful, and say to yoursilf, “Nixt week I'll break away,” and ye go to sleep and call yersilf a liar, for know ye'll never do it.'
“Who is this general man,' asks I, 'that calls himself De Vega?'
66'Tis the man,' says Halloran, 'who is tryin' to complete the finishin' of the railroad. 'Twas the project of a private corporation, but it busted, and
then the government took it up. De Vegy is a big politician, and wants to be prisident. The people want the railroad completed, as they're taxed mighty on account of it. The De Vegy man is pushin' it along as a campaign move.'
Tis not my way,' says I, 'to make threats against any man, but there's an account to be settled between the railroad
and James O'Dowd Clancy.'
“.'Twas that way I thought, mesilf, at first,' Halloran says, with a big sigh, ‘until I got to be a lettuce-eater. The fault's wid these tropics. They rejuices a man's system. 'Tis a land, as the poet says, “Where it always seems to be after dinner.” I does me work and smokes me pipe and sleeps. There's little else in life, anyway. Ye'll get that way yersilf, mighty soon. Don't be harbourin' any sintiments at all, Clancy'
“'I can't help it,' says I; ‘I'm full of 'em. I enlisted in the revolutionary army of this dark country in good faith to fight for its liberty, honours and silver candlesticks ; instead of which I am set to amputatin' its scenery and grubbin' its roots. 'Tis the general man will have to pay for it.'
“Two months I worked on that railroad before I found a chance to get away. One day a gang of us
I've lost my
was sent back to the end of the completed line to fetch some picks that had been sent down to Port Barrios to be sharpened. They were brought on a hand-car, and I noticed, when I started away, that the car was left there on the track.
“That night, about twelve, I woke up Halloran and told him
scheme. “ 'Run away?' says Halloran. 'Good Lord, Clancy, do ye mean it? Why, I ain't got the nerve. It's too chilly, and I ain't slept enough. . Run away? I told you, Clancy, I've eat the lettuce. grip. 'Tis the tropics that's done it. 'Tis like the poet says: "Forgotten are our friends that we have left behind; in the hollow lettuce-land we will live and lay reclined.” You better go on, Clancy. I'll stay, I guess. It's too early and cold, and I'm sleepy.'
“So I had to leave Halloran. I dressed quiet, and slipped out of the tent we were in. When the guard came along I knocked him over, like a ninepin, with a green cocoanut I had, and made for the railroad. I got on that hand-car and made it fly. 'Twas yet a while before daybreak when I saw the lights of Port Barrios about a mile away. I stopped the hand-car there and walked to the town. I stepped inside the corporations of that town with care and hesitations. I was not afraid of the army of Guatemala, but ine soul
quaked at the prospect of a hand-to-hand struggle with its employment bureau. "Tis a country that hires its help easy and keeps 'em long. Sure I can fancy Missis America and Missis Guatemala passin' a bit of gossip some fine, still night across the mountains. “Oh, dear,” says Missis America, “and it's a lot of trouble I'm havin' ag'in with the help, señora, ma'am.' 'Laws, now!' says Missis Guatemala, 'you don't say so, ma'am! Now, mine never think of leavin' me-te-he! ma'am,' snickers Missis Guatemala.
“I was wonderin' how I was goin' to move away from them tropics without bein' hired again. Dark as it was, I could see a steamer ridin' in the harbour, with smoke emergin' from her stacks. I turned down a little grass street that run down to the water. On the beach I found a little brown nigger-man just about to shove off in a skiff.
“ 'Hold on, Sambo,' says I, 'savve English?' “ 'Heap plenty, yes,' says he, with a pleasant grin.
“'What steamer is that?" I asks him, and where is it going? And what's the news, and the good word and the time of day?'
““That steamer the Conchita,' said the brown man, affable and easy, rollin' a cigarette. 'Him come from New Orleans for load banana. load last night. I think him sail in one, two hour.