A faint, sphinxlike smile touched his face. “No use worryin’. That doesn’t help any. I’ll go as easy as I can. We’ll meet in two hours at James’s office.”
He turned and left the room.
THE MILLS OF THE GODS
Kirby Lane did not waste the two hours that lay before the appointment he had made for a meeting at the office of his cousin James. He had a talk with the Hulls and another with the Chief of Police. He saw Olson and Rose McLean. He even found the time to forge two initials at the foot of a typewritten note on the stationery of James Cunningham, and to send the note to its destination by a messenger.
Rose met him by appointment at the entrance to the Equitable Building and they rode up in the elevator together to the office of his cousin. Miss Harriman, as she still called herself in public, was there with Jack and her husband.
James was ice-cold. He bowed very slightly to Rose. Chairs were already placed.
For a moment Kirby was embarrassed. He drew James aside. Cunningham murmured an exchange of sentences with his wife, then escorted her to the door. Rose was left with the three cousins.
“I suppose Jack has told you of the marriage of Esther McLean,” Kirby said as soon as the door had been closed.
James bowed, still very stiffly.
Kirby met him, eye to eye. He spoke very quietly and clearly. “I want to open the meetin’ by tellin’ you on behalf of this young woman an’ myself that we think you an unmitigated cur. We are debarred from sayin’ so before your wife, but it’s a pleasure to tell you so in private. Is that quite clear?”
The oil broker flushed darkly. He made no answer. “You not only took advantage of a young woman’s tender heart. You were willin’ our dead uncle should bear the blame for it. Have you any other word than the one I have used to suggest as a more fittin’ one?” the Wyoming man asked bitingly.
Jack answered for his brother. “Suppose we pass that count of the indictment, unless you have a practical measure to suggest in connection with it. We plead guilty.”
There wag a little gleam of mirth in Kirby’s eyes. “You an’ I have discussed the matter already, Jack. I regret I expressed my opinion so vigorously then. We have nothin’ practical to suggest, if you are referrin’ to any form of compensation. Esther is happily married, thank God. All we want is to make it perfectly plain what we think of Mr. James Cunningham.”
James acknowledged this and answered. “That is quite clear. I may say that I entirely concur in your estimate of my conduct. I might make explanations, but I can make none that justify me to myself.”
“In that case we may consider the subject closed, unless Miss McLean has something to say.”
Kirby turned to Rose. She looked at James Cunningham, and he might have been the dirt under her feet. “I have nothing whatever to say, Kirby. You express my sentiments exactly.”