“I’ve scarcely seen you lately,” she said, at the first opportunity. “You’re a very neglectful young man.”
“I knew you were getting settled in your house, and we’ve been tremendously busy at the office.”
“I began to think you were avoiding us.”
“You must know better than that.”
She regarded him shrewdly over her shoulder. “You’re not still thinking of—that night at Taboga? You haven’t seemed the same since.”
He blushed, and nodded frankly. “I can’t help thinking about it. You were mighty nice to overlook a break like that, but—” Unconsciously his eyes shifted to Cortlandt, who was conversing politely with a giggly old lady from Gatun.
She tapped his cheek lightly with her fan. “Just to show you how forgiving I am, I am going to ask you to go riding with me. The late afternoons are lovely now, and I’ve found a good horse for you. I suppose you ride?”
“I love it.”
“Wednesday, at five, then.” She turned to another guest, and Kirk leaned back to take in the scene about him.
Like most Latin-American cities, Panama prides herself upon her government theatre, which is in truth very beautiful. Although it remains dark most of the year, its brief period of opera is celebrated by a notable outpouring. To-night the magnificent white-and-gold auditorium was filled to the topmost gallery, and the two circles of boxes were crowded with the flower of Panamanian society, tourists from the North, and Americans from the whole length of the Canal Zone. Kirk himself had seen to running a theatre special from Colon, and recognized all six of the Commissioners, with their families. It was an exceedingly well-dressed audience, and although the pit was plentifully sprinkled with men in white, the two lower galleries were in solid full-dress. Bejewelled women in elaborate gowns lent the affair almost the elegance of a night at the Metropolitan, while the flash of many uniforms made the scene colorful.
Suddenly the orchestra broke into the national air, and with a great rustling and turning of heads the audience rose to its feet. In the centre box of the first tier, ornately hung with flags and a coat of arms, Anthony beheld a giant black man of majestic appearance, drawn to his full height and flanked by a half-dozen aides in uniform, all at a stiff military salute.
“That is President Galleo,” Edith told him.
“Jove! He’s a regal-looking chap,” Kirk exclaimed.
“He’s very much of a man, too, yet even here there is a color line. Nobody acknowledges it, but the old Castilian families are keenly aware of it just the same.”