In spite of his bodily misery, that night ride impressed itself strongly upon Anthony’s mind. The black mystery of the jungles, the half-suggested glimpses of river and hill, the towns that flashed past in an incandescent blaze and were buried again in the velvet blackness, the strange odors of a new land riotous in its time of growth, all combined to excite his curiosity and desire for closer knowledge. And then the crowning luxury of a bath, clean clothes, and a good meal on white linen and china! As he dropped asleep that night he reflected contentedly that, after all, things have a way of coming right in this world for those who accept them cheerfully as they come.
A CHANGE OF PLAN
On the following morning Kirk despatched a long letter to his father, explaining, as well as he could, how he came to be in Panama, and giving a detailed account of the events that had befallen him since his arrival. He would have preferred to cable this message collect, but Mrs. Cortlandt convinced him that he owed a fuller explanation than could well be sent over the wires. Although he took this means of relieving his father’s anxiety, he was far from resigning himself to a further delay of his return. On the contrary, he at once began an inquiry as to sailing dates, discovering, to his intense disgust, that no ship was scheduled to leave for New York within several days. He planned to borrow the passage money from his friends, when the time came, and accompany his letter northward. Meanwhile he devoted his time to sight-seeing with his hostess.
The city was old, there were many places of historic interest, and, although Kirk cared little for such things, he found it easy to assume the virtue he did not possess. Moreover, there was something contagious in his companion’s enthusiasm. Almost against his will he felt his appreciation growing, as he listened to her casual comments on the scenes they visited. Her husband, who seemed busily engaged in work that barely allowed him time for his meals, seldom accompanied them on their excursions, and the two were thrown much into each other’s society.
Edith Cortlandt was a woman very sure of herself in most things. A situation that might have proved embarrassing to one less tactful she accepted quite as a matter of course, rather enjoying the exercise of her influence, and never doubting her power to keep the friendship on any footing she chose. Kirk’s frank, boyish gratitude for the favors he had received made it easy for her to encourage the growth of an intimacy that she acknowledged charming, while she sincerely believed that he would be helped by it. Finding him responsive, she deliberately set herself to please him. She studied him covertly and set her moods to match his—not a difficult task, since he was merely a normal, healthy young man. Always faultless in her attire, she took even more than ordinary pains with her appearance, and it was not long before Kirk was naively surprised to find that she no longer seemed older than he —that she was, in fact, an exceedingly handsome woman. This gradual metamorphosis depended more than anything else, perhaps, upon the girlish humor that now possessed her. She was no longer brilliant and chilly, but gay, smiling, and unaffected.