A NIGHT AT TABOGA
Despite his great contentment in Mrs. Cortlandt’s society, Kirk found himself waiting with growing impatience for his active duties to begin. There was a restlessness in his mood, moreover, which his desire to escape from a situation of rather humiliating dependence could not wholly explain. Curiously enough, this feeling was somehow connected with the thought of Edith herself. Why this should be so, he did not trouble to inquire. They had become the best of good friends, he told himself—a consummation for which he had devoutly wished—yet, for some indefinable reason, he was dissatisfied. He did not know that their moment of perfect, unspoiled companionship had come and gone that evening in the Plaza.
Every relation into which sentiment enters at all has its crisis or turning-point, though it may pass unobserved. Perhaps they are happiest who heed it least. Certainly, morbid self-analysis was the last fault of which Kirk could be accused. If he had a rule of action, it was simply to behave naturally, and, so far, experience had justified him in the belief that behaving naturally always brought him out right in the end.
He decided that he needed exercise, and determined to take a tramp through the country; but on the evening before the day he had set for his excursion his plans were upset by a note from Mrs. Cortlandt, which the clerk handed him. It ran:
Dear Kirk,—Stephen has arranged an outing for all three of us, and we are counting on you for to-morrow. It will be a really, truly picnic, with all the delightful discomforts of such affairs. You are not to know where we are going until we call for you at eight.
Faithfully and mysteriously yours, Edith Cortlandt.
The recipient of this kind invitation tossed it aside with a gesture of impatience. For the moment he experienced a kind of boyish resentment at having his intentions thwarted that seemed out of proportion to the cause. Whether he would have felt the same if Edith’s husband were not to be one of the party was a question that did not occur to him. At all events, the emotion soon passed, and he rose the next morning feeling that an outing with the Cortlandts would be as pleasant a diversion for the day as any other.
Promptly at eight Edith appeared upon the hotel porch. She was alone.
“Where’s Mr. Cortlandt?” he inquired.
“Oh, some men arrived last night from Bocas del Toro and telephoned that they must see him to-day on a matter of importance.”
“Then he’s coming later?”
“I hardly think so. I was terribly disappointed, so he told me to go without him. Now, I shall have to make up to you for his absence, if I am able.”
“That’s the sort of speech,” Kirk laughed, “that doesn’t leave a fellow any nice answer. I’m sorry he couldn’t come, of course, and awfully glad you did. Now, where is to be the scene of our revel?”