The color flushed the young woman’s cheeks. “We’re friends, he and I. If he guessed I was the one that struck him he wouldn’t tell.”
“How would he guess it?” asked James.
“He knew I meant to see your uncle—meant to make him do justice to Esther. I suppose I’d made wild threats. Besides, I left my glove there—on the table, I think. I’d taken it off with some notion of writing a note telling your uncle I had been there and that he had to see me next day.”
“The police didn’t find a woman’s glove in the room, did they?” James asked his brother.
“Didn’t hear of it if they did,” Jack replied.
“That’s it, you see,” explained Rose. “Kirby would know my glove. It was a small riding-gauntlet with a rose embroidered on it. He probably took it with him when he left. He kept still about the whole thing because I was the woman and he was afraid of gettin’ me into trouble.”
“Sounds reasonable,” agreed James.
“That’s how it was. Kirby’s a good friend. He’d never tell on me if they hanged him for it.”
“They won’t do that, Miss McLean,” the older brother assured her. “We’re going to find who did this thing. Kirby and I have shaken hands on that. But about your story. I don’t quite see how we’re going to use it. We must protect your sister, too, as well as my cousin. If we go to the police with your evidence and ask them to release Kirby, they’ll want to arrest you.”
“I know,” she nodded wisely, “and of course they’d find out about Esther then and the papers would get it and scatter the story everywhere.”
“Exactly. We must protect her first. Kirby wouldn’t want anything done that would hurt her. Suppose we put it up to him and see what he wants to do.”
“But we can’t have him kept in jail,” she protested.
“I’ll get him out on bond; if not to-day, tomorrow.”
“Well,” she agreed reluctantly. “If that’s the best we can do.”
Rose would have liked to have paid back Kirby’s generosity in kind. If her sister had not been a factor of the equation she would have gone straight to the police with her story and suffered arrest gladly to help her friend. But the circumstances did not permit a heroic gesture. She had to take and not give.
THE LADY WITH THE VIOLET PERFUME
“I won’t have it,” Kirby said flatly. “If Miss McLean tells her story to the district attorney he’ll probably arrest her. It’ll come out about her sister an’ the papers will run scare-heads. No need of it a-tall. Won’t hurt me to stay here a few days if I have to.”
Jack, dapper and trim, leaned on his cane and watched his cousin. He felt a reluctant admiration for this virile cousin so picturesquely competent, so clean-cut and four-square of mind. Was he in love with the Wild Rose from Wyoming, whose spirit also was like a breath from the sweet hill pines? Or was his decision only the expression of a native chivalry that went out to all his friends and perhaps to all women?