Jane’s Career: A Story of Jamaica

Chapter 12

“A young man is comin’ here dis evening to see me,” Sathyra casually remarked one morning to Jane, as both of them were going down to work. “I expect him ’bout seven o’clock.”

“Him is a stranger?” inquired Jane.

“Yes; I meet him about a week ago when I was comin’ home from me work; but we didn’t have much talk since dat time I see him two times, and last night him ask me where I live, and say him would like to make de acquaintance of a young lady like me, as him thinkin’ of getten married. So I laugh, an’ tell him that where I live was too poor to receive visitor, and dat I didn’t believe him could fall in love with a plain-lookin’ gurl like me. But him swear him never love anybody like me before, and, as him press me hard, I tell him to come here, but that I have a frien’ living wid me, so him must behave himself.”

“That is good,” said Jane heartily. “Y’u think him really gwine to married you?”

“Tcho! That’s what them all say; but it only go t’rough one ear and come out t’rough the other when them say it to me. Who getten married now? De best t’ing a gurl can do, when a young man want to be friendly with her, is to “eat him out” as much as she can. Teck all you can get, for all of them is alike. However, him coming this evening. Seven o’clock.” Then Sathyra went her way.

Had Jane possessed more worldly wisdom, she would have seen in this piece of information a hint that that evening two would be company and three a crowd. She would even have guessed that the time might be approaching when she might have to seek new quarters. Nothing suspecting; however, she was on the scene when the young man arrived. He was rather tall and pleasant looking; he had a loud laugh, a big mouth, no hair on his face, and a habit of agreeing with everyone. He was received in the room by the girls, and was duly and formally introduced as “Mr Sampson” to Jane.

“Pleased to know you, Miss Burrell,” he said, as he shook hands; then he seated himself carefully on the strongest-looking of the three chairs Sathyra owned, and placed his feet where his new boots could be seen to the greatest advantage.

“Very pleased to know anyone from de country. Your friend told me you are from Mount Salas, an’ I have a cousin who know Mount Salas.” He laughed loudly as he concluded this little speech, and Sathyra, all smiles, observed:—

“Didn’t think you was coming again.”

“No, don’t say that!” protested Sampson in an aggrieved tone of voice. “When I say I are goin’ to do a thing, mark ten! This is an unexpected pleasure, Miss Morrison, an’ I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.”

He had no difficulty in reconciling a carefully arranged visit with his declaration as to the accidental character of it; he meant a compliment, and his words were taken as such.

Sathyra was genuinely pleased. It was some months since she had had a beau, and admiration was the very breath of life to her.

“Y’u had any difficulty in finding de place?” she asked him, secretly wishing at the same time that Jane would find some reason for going out.

“None at all; dere is no part of Kingston I don’t know, from de East to de West, and from de Nort’ to de Sout’. I am use to walkin’ about, especially at night time. If it is a dance, I am there; if it is a wake, I am ditto. All y’u have to do is to give me a number, an’ if it is twelve o’clock, and de night is dark as pitch, I am finding my way.

“Besides,” he continued, “I wouldn’t lose dis opportunity of comin’ to see you, don’t care where you live. If a man can go to sport, him can pay a sociable visit, especially when his affection pull him all de time. There isn’t man who wouldn’t walk till him is foot-tired to see a young lady like you, Miss Morrison!”

“Tcho! y’u talkin’ stupidness!” briskly returned Sathyra, though Sampson easily saw that his flattery had touched her keenly. “Dat is all words, an’ I know dat when a man say a thing to a gurl, him don’t meant it. Him only say it to sweet her up for a time; an’ she will find out her mistake ef she foolish enough to believe him. Whether you say good or say bad, it’s all de same to me, Mr Sampson. I am use to it.”

“I know y’u use to it,” said Sampson positively; “you must be receive a lot o’ compliments every day. But what I say I mean, an’ it’s not everybody can say de same.”

“Dat is true enough,” said Sathyra, and glanced again at Jane. The latter showed no signs of leaving, not being, as a matter of fact, in the habit of going out in the evenings by herself, and not yet realising that her company was not desired by Sathyra.

“An’ how y’u like Kingston, Miss Burrell,” asked Sampson, turning to Jane; “how y’u like everything?”

“Pretty well, Mr Sampson,” she answered; “I doan’t been here too very long yet, but as I go on, I get used to de place. You born here?”

“But y’u don’t tell us what’s de news, Mr Sampson,” interrupted Sathyra. “You go about a lot, so y’u must be hear all that’s goin’ on. What is strange?”

An invitation like this commended itself to Sampson. Immediately he opened an animated conversation on a divorce case he had been reading of that day in one of the city’s newspapers.

“I con’t understand why husban’ an’ wife don’t get on together in Jamaica,” he said, addressing Sathyra. “Marriage is a very holy an’ sacred state; but if people con’t get on, then I say, why them married?”

“Ask me, no!” agreed Sathyra. “But what you to expect, me dear sir? Everybody run an’ get married after de earthquake, because them hear more earthquake was coming. An’ now them is in it, an’ can’t get out of it, them is getten divorce. All those fool that was frighten because de ground shake an’ kill a few people, is frighten about somet’ing else now! Them have enough to frighten about!”

“Then stop!” exclaimed Sampson admiringly; “y’u mean to tell me you didn’t frighten for de disaster?”

It was Sathyra’s pride to be considered a sceptic. She was a sinner who did not wish to be saved by grace or by anything else. She often described herself as “a hard woman,” and had even been known to express doubts about the existence of a hell. She answered calmly:—

“The earthquake kill who it was to kill, an’ whether y’u ‘fraid for it, or didn’t ‘fraid for it, couldn’t stop it.”

“Well, to be sure!” protested Sampson, “I never meet anybody like you yet!”

It was not long since one-half of Kingston had been destroyed; evidences of its destruction were still plainly visible in the lower section of the city; consequently many persons talked of the recent earthquake as of something that could hear what was said and take action accordingly. To Sampson and many others like him, the earthquake was a living, -personal malignant enemy to be feared. Sathyra was more rationalistic; she had imbibed the modern spirit. She dreaded an earthquake while it was happening, but regarded it with no deeply superstitious feelings. Sampson was one of those who had become converted during the earthquake period, and he, too, would have married could he but have selected one lady who, more than the others, had a claim to his name and a part of his earnings (which for some time before then had been nil). As it was, he could not make a conscientious choice; and after a month or so had passed, and no other destructive shock had occurred, he made up his mind that celibacy and not marriage should be his portion. This laudable determination was much honoured in the breach, and at least thrice since the 7th January, 1907, he had been “engaged.” He now wished to become “engaged” once more; but he had to confess to himself as he listened to Sathyra that her scepticism bordered on the blasphemous; and he, though much given to the use of profane language, when in a temper or in a jocular mood, never talked lightly of sacred things like earthquakes, which he looked upon as being of an extremely revengeful nature.

The earthquake had to be respected, for he had seen its handiwork, and had even benefited by it. By representing himself as one of those who had lost heavily in the disaster, he had managed to get gratis a set of carpenter’s tools from a committee which gave assistance to all and sundry with a charming lack of discrimination.

He had also secured some clothes and been fed for a few weeks at the expense of the Assistance Fund. All this duly considered, it might seem that Sampson had excellent reasons for wishing for another earthquake. But he knew that two of his friends had been killed in the last one, that another friend had been severely injured, and that an acquaintance had been arrested on a charge of looting, and sentenced to prison. This last happening had convinced him of the utter injustice of all human tribunals, the others were to him a warning of what might be his own fate should another earthquake occur. Consequently, while he admired Sathyra’s superb courage, he felt that he was running a great risk to be sitting in the same room with her while she thus glibly consigned the earthquake to the realms of natural phenomena. He was not sure that it might not vindicate its power and majesty at any moment.

“You bold for true, Miss Satyr!” he exclaimed, after a pause. “You talk like those people that read books. But I don’t think it is good to study too much, like them. What is man compared to God? What you say, Miss Burrell?”

“I doan’t read at all,” Jane answered quite simply and truthfully. “I wasn’t in Kingstown when de ‘quake was killin’ people; but I feel it in de country too, an’ it was bad. I ‘fraid for it,” she added emphatically.

“Me, too,” said Sampson heartily. He was pleased to find such support. Perhaps, too, the humble avowal of both of them would avert any possible danger.

“Well, every man to his own order,” said Sathyra a little contemptuously. “But y’u can’t deny that all them people who was ‘fraid for earthquake is the same ones that married an’ begin to get divorce already. You watch! You will find plenty more divorce before long.”

“What was to-day case about?” asked Jane, who had as yet no knowledge of the proceedings of the local courts.

Sampson laughed. Nothing would have pleased him better than to have gone fully into details. Had he been talking with only one of the girls he would have ventured, comparative stranger though he was, to do so. But he had come in the capacity of suitor for Sathyra’s hand, and, company being present, he did not like to be too explicit in conversation. It might not be appreciated where more than two were gathered together.

“Jealousy was the cause of de whole t’ing,” he explained. “De man was jealous an’ him meck a rowan’ beat de woman, an’ she leave him an’ went to somebody else. Instead of tryin’ to live loving and like man an’ wife, them live like puss an’ dog. Now if I was to get married, I know how I would live. Don’t y’u agree wid me, Miss Burrell?”

Sathyra was quick to notice that Sampson had addressed his question to Jane and not to her. It was Jane, too, who had agreed with him as to the terrible nature of earthquakes. And Jane persisted in remaining in the room. She drew in her lips sharply, her usual method of showing annoyance.

“Jane will agree wid you, yes!” she said, and something in her tone gave the other girl a touch of surprise.

“I don’t know how you would live, Mr Sampson, so I can’t very well agree wid you,” was Jane’s reply to his question, the only obvious one in the circumstances.

“But you should agree wid him; him want you to agree wid him,” said Sathyra; “Isn’t that so, Mr Sampson?”

Sampson had sufficient experience to realise that Sathyra had become jealous of his attentions to Jane. The latter, he saw clearly, was still a simple, straight-forward girl, while Sathyra had little left to learn of the world to which both she and he belonged. A man like Sampson would try to make love to half a dozen young women at once; the number of his conquests was a matter of pride with him. He had not been trying to interest Jane without an object. Sathyra knew this quite well; and as she had determined to “eat him out,” knowing that marriage was a million miles away from his mind, as too it wounded her vanity to see that covert attentions were being paid to a girl who lived with her almost on sufferance, she was beginning to get angry and did not care who saw it. Timidity was not one of Sathyra’s weaknesses.

Sampson was something of a diplomat in his way, so he sought to give an answer that should satisfy Sathyra and not displease Jane.

“Well, so to observe, I are glad when anybody agree wid me,” he replied. “I likes you to agree wid me, Miss Morrison, an’ I likes Miss Burrell to agree wid me also. Everybody have an opinion, an’ we suppose to give our opinion. Oderwise—”

“Tcho! Dat is all foolishness!” interrupted Sathyra, with brutal frankness. “Why not say that y’u like Jane? She will be pleased to hear.”

Jane scented a serious quarrel, and wished to avoid it. “I doan’t want Mr Sampson to like me,” she declared sharply. “I can walk for meself.”

“We all can walk for ourself,” said Sathyra, “but sometimes we want other people to walk for us. Anyhow, I think I am gwine out, an’ I will leave you two to enjoy you’self togather.”

Sampson saw that she had no intention of leaving the room, even for a moment; but Jane was not so sophisticated. She got up.

“Mr Sampson come to see you, not me,” she said; “so I better go. I couldn’t meek y’u leave you’ room on my account.”

She swung out of the room indignantly, and went through the gate. Sathyra made her go without the pretence of an effort to prevent her. That was what she desired. She was even more direct with Sampson.

“Y’u told me,” she said to him, as soon as Jane had disappeared, “that y’u wanted to come an’ talk to me, an’ now I see that y’u want to talk to that gurl. It must be either one thing or the other. Y’u can’t come to my place an’ carry on wid anybody else. It mus’ be me, or you mus’ keep out. Just as well we understand one another.”

“I am surprise af y’u!” protested Sampson. “Y’u think a big man like me could bodder wid a little gal who can’t even live by herself? What y’u teck me for? Well! if it wasn’t fo’ one thing, I would say you insult me. You shouldn’t say them sort o’ funny things to me; I don’t like it.”

Thus volubly, and with an appearance of indignation, did he protest his innocence of any intention of playing her false, feeling all the while that she would not believe him. Nor did she. But being worldly-wise, she looked upon him as a possible (if temporary) financial proposition, and she was not prepared to admit a partner in such a business. She affected, therefore, to be satisfied with his explanation, and turned the talk to other things. on his part, hoped to meet Jane again. Sathyra guessed this, and was determined that he should not meet Jane. At games of this sort she was at least as skilful as and she did not think it would be at all difficult to deal with Jane.

. . . . .

Jane did not return until about ten o’clock that night, having wandered about the streets quite aimlessly and miserably. She was deeply offended with Sathyra, especially as Sampson did not in the least “fill her eye,” as she put it to herself. He was still with Sathyra when she returned, but rose and said good-night as she came in; this with a view of intimating to Sathyra that Jane’s presence had no attractions for him whatever. not wishing for an open breach with her room companion, said nothing about the disagreement which had taken place a couple of hours before. Sathyra did not mention it either, but quietly proceeded to undress for bed. sang, “They all shall sweetly obey Thy Will,” through her clenched teeth as she took off her clothes, and her manner of singing would have been interpreted some one of a similar disposition as a declaration of unending war.

There was no conversation between the two girls. Jane felt the electricity in the air. She lay awake for some time; then, just as she was falling asleep, Sathyra quietly said: “Mr Sampson wants to come an’ stop here, and as it is my room, an’ it can’t hold three people, y’u must try an’ find somewhere else to go to to-morrow.”

She deliberately told a lie when she said that Sampson wanted to stay at the same place with her. Such a thing would have been quite alien to his habits. Visit her often? yes; as often as he wished to see her; but stay with her?—oh, no! Sampson had made it the rule of his life never to be directly responsible for the paying of anybody’s rent save his own. As it was, he found it irksome enough to be compelled to pay his own.

To have been held legally liable to pay some one else’s rent, then, would have been regarded by him as a position intolerable. But the excuse was an admirable one for Sathyra to give Jane—the best imaginable. She was angry too and wished to be brutal, wished to make things as unpleasant as she possibly could for Jane. The latter felt that, and answered with spirit.

“Mr Sampson will has to wait, for I payin’ half de rent for dis room, an’ I have more right to it dan him. When I get a place I wi’ move, but I not goin’ to sleep in de street or to go anywhere to please anybody.”

“Oh, yes?” asked Sathyra bitterly. “So y’u think that because I teck you in when you didn’t have bread or a shelter, an’ because I get a job for you, y’u have a claim to me premises! Well, we will see!”

At the moment she felt inclined to fall upon Jane, give her a good beating then and there, and turn her, bag and baggage, into the street. But she could restrain her temper and act deliberately; besides it, was by no means certain that she could easily get the better of Jane in a physical encounter. She was bigger than the girl, but Jane was well-set-up and strong. Sathyra said nothing more that night except: “Those who laugh last laugh best of all.”

She woke betimes the next morning, dressed, and went out of the room. After Jane had got up and dressed, Sathyra stood at some distance from the door and loudly called out to her,—

“Jane, beg you look under the glass mug on de table and teck up that three shillin’s and sixpence I put there a little while ago.”

Jane was a little surprised at the friendly tone of Sathyra’s voice; but still feeling indignant, she hesitated to do what she was asked. She returned no answer; and again Sathyra called out: “Jane, y’u find de money?”

This time Jane thought that she might as well oblige the young woman she was staying with, and who, perhaps, now wished to be friendly once more. She went to the table, lifted the jug, and found nothing. She answered shortly: “No money is here.”

“Hi! But how can y’u say no money is there when y’u saw me put it there?” called back Sathyra loudly, with astonishment in her voice. “And why y’u teck so long to answer me?”

As was to be expected, this conversation had attracted the attention of some of the people in the yard, and these now paused in what they were doing to hear what Jane would say in answer. She flared up at once.

“When did I see y’u put any money anywhere? You must be crazy.”

“Hum!” exclaimed Sathyra. “Dis look funny. I mus’ go look after me money.”

“Y’u right, ma’am,” sympathetically observed one of her neighbours, who was quite prepared to convict Jane of thieving on the evidence of her own predilections for other people’s property.

Sathyra marched ostentatiously into the room, went up to the table, and began with much clatter to move the jugs and glasses on it. She searched diligently, while Jane looked on; naturally she found nothing.

“Miss Burrell,” she said in a loud voice, “could y’u please tell me where me money gone to?”

“What I know ’bout you’ money?” demanded Jane quite as loudly. “Y’u forward to ask me such a question! I don’t believe you had a farden on de table.”

“Den you mean to tell me I are a liar, after y’u tief me money?” asked Sathyra, edging dangerously up to Jane. Her gesture as well as her words were provocative, and it flashed upon Jane that Sathyra’s deliberate intention was to accuse her of theft and possibly provoke her to an assault.

She felt frightened, terribly frightened. To be accused of theft was almost synonymous with being sentenced to prison. Already she saw herself being dragged off by a policeman, and dashed to the door to escape Sathyra, not because she was afraid of her personally, but because she wanted to have witnesses and wished to protest her innocence in the open. As she moved towards the door, Sathyra threw herself against the table, and sent one or two cups and plates crashing to the floor.

Jane got outside, but Sathyra had achieved her object.

“Look how dis gal assault me!” she screamed out to the assembled people, “and how she mash up me things!” Then she too flounced out of the room and called upon everybody within a radius of five hundred yards to witness the wretched and mean advantage that had been taken of her. Jane in the meantime was crying and sobbing, and calling upon God to be her witness that she had done Sathyra nothing and had not even seen the colour of her money.

Most of the folk in the yard sympathised with her. They knew Sathyra from of old, and had no love for that lady. But one or two, wishing to win the favour of Sathyra, or simply because they desired to condemn some one much better than themselves, twisted their lips, pursed them up, looked at Jane as one who had passed the limits of human wickedness, sighed aloud, then declared that they would not interfere, that it was not their business, that they had nothing to do with the matter, but that they would not like anyone to touch a penny of their money.

Still it was clear that the sympathy of the yard was with Jane. She was a decent, polite, decorous girl, and the elderly men especially regarded her with approval. It was one of these (popularly known as Father Daniel, and not without some authority amongst those who knew him) who now came up to Jane and told her to cease her crying and go down to her work.

“I don’t believe you tief anybody money, me chile,” he said with genuine sympathy; “you just go down to you’ work, an’ try an’ get anoder place to sleep to-night. If y’u can’t, I will give you a cotch[1] when you come home.”

“Yes,” agreed some of the women standing by; “doan’t cry, but go down to you’ work in peace.” Jane mechanically prepared to do as they advised.

Sathyra, seeing that Jane was not friendless, decided to say nothing more just then.

But she was of a revengeful nature. She was determined that Jane should not come back to the yard, and that Mr Sampson should have no opportunity of meeting her. Getting leave from her employer during the forenoon, therefore, she went to the police station in Sutton Street, and asked to see the sergeant-major of the detective force.

She was shown into the room where that functionary sat in the seat of authority, surrounded by the lesser satellites of the detective department. He looked up at her, taking her measure in a glance or two.

“What you want, ma’am?” was his direct and simple question.

She launched out upon her tale, told how Jane had seen her put the money down, how Jane had denied all knowledge of it, how Jane had “backed against her,” smashed her things, and thus added assault and destruction of property to barefaced theft.

“Then this gud,” she was continuing, when the sergeant-major interrupted, “Why not say she was your friend, and that you quarrel?” he asked. “About some young man, no?”

Sathyra started. She did not know that cases like hers had very often come before this detective, who knew that such stories as she told were very often lies.

She answered boldly. “It don’t matter whether she was me friend or not. She had no business to tief me money.”

“No,” agreed the sergeant-major, grimly. “Private Dickson,” he called to a subordinate, “just take a walk to where this young woman live, and inquire into this case for me. You want us to take your friend in charge, I suppose?”

“Yes. She is working at No. 201 Lower Orange Street.”

“All right, missis; let me take you’ statement first.”

He began to cross-examine her. Had she and Jane had any words lately?

She wished to say no, but remembered that Sampson might be subpoenaed to give evidence in the case, and that he would probably be compelled to give a truthful version of the episode of the night before. She hesitated for a moment while trying to frame a suitable answer, and in that moment of hesitation was lost.

“What did the two of you quarrel about?” asked the detective; “about your sweetheart, no?”

“We didn’t have any quarrel.”

“But there was a disagreement?”

“Well, if you want to put it like that.”

“When did it take place?”

“Last night we had a few words, but that have nothing to do wid what I come to you about.”

“Oh, no, missis? But you see, it look funny that after the two of you have a row, you should charge a girl that is living in the same room with you stealing your money. Who saw you put the money on the table, and how are you going to identify it?”

This was a poser. Sathyra had no answer.

“I see how it is,” remarked the sergeant-major laughing. “Well, tell me what you want me to do. If you take my advice you would go home quietly and leave your friend alone; for I don’t see how you are going to prove your case.”

He looked at her keenly, knowing beforehand what her answer would be.

“Since you say that, I can have noten more to say,” replied Sathyra morosely. “I know I miss my money, but I suppose I mus’ lose it, since you say so. All right; you needn’t bother arrest her.”

She turned and left the room. As she went out one of the detectives called after her: “Don’t make any more row with you’ friend!” She was now aware that they had seen through her concocted story, and great was her respect for their wonderful ability. But greater still was her annoyance with them. And more bitter than ever was her dislike of Jane.

  1. A bed for the night.


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