“You couldn’t find it now, I suppose,” Lane suggested.
The old gentleman searched rather helplessly among the papers overflowing his desk. He did not succeed in finding what he looked for.
Kirby and Rose walked back to the court-house. They had omitted to arrange with the license clerk to forward a copy of the marriage certificate when it was filed.
The rough rider left the required fee with the clerk and a bank note to keep his memory jogged up.
“Soon as Mrs. Rankin comes home, will you call her up and remind her about lookin’ for the certificate?” he asked.
“Sure I will. I’ve got to have it, anyhow, for the records. And say, what’s the name of that fresh guy who came in here and cut the page from the register? I’m going after him right, believe you me.”
Kirby gave his cousin’s name and address. He had no animosity whatever toward him, but he thought it just as well to keep Jack’s mind occupied with troubles of his own during the next few days. Very likely then he would not get in his way so much.
They were no sooner clear of the court-house than Rose burst out with what was in her mind.
“It’s just as I thought. Your uncle married Esther and got her to keep quiet about the marriage for some reason. Your cousins are trying to destroy the evidence so that the estate won’t all go to her. I’ll bet we get an offer of a compromise right away.”
“Mebbe.” Kirby’s mind was not quite satisfied. Somehow, this affair did not seem to fit in with what he knew of his uncle. Cunningham had been always bold and audacious in his actions, a law to himself. Yet if he were going to marry the stenographer he had wronged, he might do it secretly to conceal the date on account of the unborn child.
The eyes of Rose gleamed with determination. Her jaw set. “I’m gonna get the whole story out of Esther soon as I get back to town,” she said doggedly.
But she did not—nor for many days after.
A CONFERENCE OF THREE
Kirby heard his name being paged as he entered his hotel.
“Wanted at the telephone, sir,” the bell-hop told him.
He stepped into a booth and the voice of Rose came excited and tremulous. It was less than ten minutes since he had left her at the door of her boarding-house.
“Something’s happened, Kirby. Can you come here—right away?” she begged. Then, unable to keep back any longer the cry of her heart, she broke out with her tidings. “Esther’s gone.”
“Gone where?” he asked.
“I don’t know. She left a letter for me. If you’ll come to the house—Or shall I meet you downtown?”
“I’ll come. Be there in five minutes.”
He more than kept his word. Catching a car on the run at the nearest corner, he dropped from it as it crossed Broadway and walked to Cherokee.