Jane’s Career: A Story of Jamaica

Chapter 10

Boundless was Cecil’s joy when he saw Amanda disappear through the gate. Here indeed was revenge, and not that only, but opportunity as well. He whistled merrily as he walked about the house, and when, a little later on, he heard one of his sisters call Jane and give her instructions about some purchase she was being sent to make, he hurried out into the street and stationed himself at a corner which he knew the girl would have to pass. He purposed having a little conversation with her there; he was of opinion that she was as pleased as he was that such an obstacle and hindrance as Amanda had at last been removed.

He had not been waiting for more than a minute or two before he saw her coming, and he hastened forward to meet her. She gave no sign of having noticed him, though she not only saw him but clearly divined his purpose. Glancing hastily round to see if anyone who knew his people were in the vicinity, and satisfied that there was none, he boldly stopped Jane and opened the conversation by asking her where she was going to.

“De shop,” she answered laconically.

“It’s a long time since I have a talk with you, Jane,” he remarked, “an’ I have been wanting to say something to you for over two months.”

“What can y’u have to say to me, Mr Cecil?” she inquired, making as if she would move off.

The question disconcerted him. Her manner was not encouraging. He hesitated to plunge into the subject which he had in mind.

“So Amanda is off,” he said, by way of keeping up the conversation. “You glad, eh?”

“I doan’t see why I should be glad,” she replied; “Amanda didn’t interfere wid me.”

The youth felt angry and insulted. After all, Jane was only his aunt’s servant, and she had no right to treat him as if he were an equal. Still, conciliatory methods were the only ones he could employ with her.

“What’s the matter with y’u?” he asked in an appealing tone of voice. “You vex with me?”

“Why I should vex wid y’u, Mr Cecil, or please wid y’u?” the girl retorted.

“You getting rude!” he said hotly.

“Rude to you?” she flung back, and flounced past him, leaving him standing amazed and humiliated in the street.

Cecil shared to the full the contemptuous opinion which his aunt and sisters had of servants, and now he had been flouted and insulted by one who was only a schoolgirl and to whom, not very long ago, he had been able to speak as he pleased. He would very much have liked to order her never to return to the house again, and was bitterly chagrined because he knew he had no power to do so, and could not even complain of her to Mrs Mason, lest that sagacious lady should immediately discover the reason of his annoyance. He thought the situation over in his mind. He had enough penetration to perceive that the Jane he was now dealing with was a very different kind of being from the Jane who had come, a shy and somewhat stupid girl, from the country. “Kingston spoils these gurls,” was his comment on the evil influence of the city upon character.

It was very annoying to find in how short a time the simple, unsophisticated child from the country had become a worldly-wise young woman; and Cecil was all for primitive simplicity and the innocence of rural life. If Jane were always going to treat him like this… but no. That was hardly likely. “She is only forming,” he said to himself. “She want me to fool around her.” He had read or heard somewhere that faint heart never won fair lady, and the proverb encouraged him to perseverance. He decided upon a plan of campaign which he felt could not but end successfully.

The next day, though he had many opportunities of speaking to Jane, he magnificently ignored her presence. He stalked about the yard smoking cigarettes, he made her see him, he rattled coppers in his pocket, he did everything he could to attract her attention, while pretending to be unaware of her very existence. This, he thought, could not fail to affect her; it would bring her to her senses. But, young as she was, she understood it all. She understood it instinctively. This was the male animal spreading out and ruffling its adornments to fascinate her, but it was an animal for which she had formed a very hearty dislike and contempt. She laughed to herself as she went about her work. She now and then observed him furtively through the corner of her eye. It had been his determination to keep up this acting at least for a week, but towards evening he got thoroughly tired of it. Why should he wait? That very evening he would return to the attack, having sufficiently shown her how he should treat her if she were foolish enough to continue obdurate to his attentions.

His sisters went to church a little before seven o’clock, and his aunt went out to see a friend who lived near by. Cecil regarded this exodus as due to a special stroke of luck; he would not have hesitated to say that Providence itself was interposing in his behalf. Jane was left in charge of the house and yard, he having informed his aunt that he too was going out a little later. When he felt sure that Mrs Mason had gone a fair distance from home, he sauntered up to Jane, who, as was usual with her in her moments of leisure, was sitting at the threshold of her room.

This time Cecil did not accost her with anything like the assurance he had shown on the previous evening. He was by no means certain, now that he was actually about to renew his advances, that they would be any more successful than they had been in the street the night before. Perhaps he should have waited a little longer… anyhow, he would see.

He began in a light and airy manner.

“How’s things, Jane?”

“All right, Mr Cecil.”

“Glad to hear. I was wondering last night what was the matter with you. I wanted to give y’u this, but you walk off so quick that you didn’t give me time.” He handed her a shilling as he spoke, with a spasm of regret as he did so at having to make such a tremendous pecuniary sacrifice. It was a considerable present. She took it, and Cecil felt sure that a good understanding was established between them.

“I am glad Amanda is gone,” he said confidently, leaning over her. “I was wishing she would go long ago. I never had a chance to talk to you while she was here. Don’t you was sorry?”

“No,” replied Jane positively. The youth thought of his shilling with a feeling of dismay. Such an answer after his outlay!

“What y’u mean?” he demanded.

“What I say. Why should I sorry, Mr Cecil?”

This was a poser. “But I thought you liked me?” he answered, as the best way of meeting her question.

“I doan’t dislike y’u.”

“But that is not what I ask you. I thought you said you like me when you came here first, an’ now you wouldn’t talk to me last night, and you tell me you only don’t dislike me. I don’t understand you!”

“Doan’t bother try, then,” she answered in a cheeky tone.

“But I must try. Don’t you know I love you?”

She laughed. “Love me for what?”

“You makin’ fun, Jane!” he exclaimed irritably. “You treat a fellow bad. Didn’t you love me when you came to Kingston?”

“No. But I didn’t have no sense, an’ I was new. Dat is why y’u could do as you like wid me. But now dat I learn fo’ meself, it’s just as well I tell y’u de trute.”

Here was plain speaking with a vengeance, and Cecil felt that there was no pretence about it. Here was disappointment, here was humiliation. He became savage. “What the devil y’u take me money for, then?” he demanded.

“I didn’t beg y’u for it; you come an’ give it to me. Ef y’u did know y’u couldn’t spare it, what y’u give it to me for?”

“You are a damn little thief!” the youth blurted out, in quite his aunt’s best manner.

Jane rose quickly. “If y’u call me a tief I will meck noise in de yard,” she loudly replied. “What I tief fram y’u? Because… because—”

“What is that?” called out a voice from the house, and Cecil with a sinking heart recognised it to be that of his aunt!

Mrs Mason had met in the street the friend she had gone to visit. This lady was on her way to pay a sick call, and had walked back with Mrs Mason to the latter’s house, promising to drop in later and have a chat. Cecil had not calculated upon anything of the sort occurring, hence the discovery. “What you doing there, Cecil?” Mrs Mason asked menacingly. “What are you raising you’ voice about, Jane?”

Cecil could think of no answer at the moment, and Jane herself was dumbfounded. Mrs Mason understood the situation perfectly, for, though she always blamed her schoolgirls wherever Cecil was concerned, looking to them and not to him to set a good example in moral conduct, she knew that young gentleman’s ways and habits well enough. “Cecil, you ought to be ashamed of you’self, talking to a servant gud like that!” she exclaimed indignantly. “What sort of respect you think them can ‘ave for you if you mix up you’self with them? And ‘avent I told y’u, Jane, that never on any account must y’u raise you’ voice in me yard?”

She discreetly refrained from giving expression in a more explicit manner to what she felt. First, because the new servant who was coming in the morning might not prove satisfactory, and next because she could more conveniently blame Jane for her obviously loose behaviour when she had her alone.

“Please to walk into you’ room, Jane,” she commanded, adding, “I might ‘ave expected it.” Jane quietly obeyed, while Cecil slunk off, inwardly cursing Jane and his luck and his aunt.

The next morning Mrs Mason was amazed to find that Jane was not up and attending to her duties as early as usual. After calling for some time and receiving no answer, she went herself to the girl’s room. It was empty. Jane had disappeared.


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This work (Jane's Career: A Story of Jamaica by Herbert G. de Lisser) is free of known copyright restrictions.