Rose opened the house door when he rang the bell and drew him into the parlor. With a catch of the breath she blurted out again the news.
“She was gone when I got home. I found—this letter.” Her eyes sought his for comfort. He read what Esther had written.
I can’t stand it any longer, dearest. I’m going away where I won’t disgrace you. Don’t look for me. I’ll be taken care of till—afterward.
And, oh, Rose, don’t hate me, darling. Even if I am wicked, love me. And try some time to forgive your little sister.
“Did anybody see her go?” Lane asked.
“I don’t know. I haven’t talked with anybody but the landlady. She hasn’t seen Esther this afternoon, she said. I didn’t let on I was worried.”
“What does she mean that she’ll be taken care of till afterward? Who’ll take care of her?”
“I don’t know.”
“Have you any idea where she would be likely to go—whether there is any friend who might have offered her a temporary home?”
“No.” Rose considered. “She wouldn’t go to any old friend. You see she’s—awf’ly sensitive. And she’d have to explain. Besides, I’d find out she was there.”
“I ought never to have left her last spring. I should have found work here and not gone gallumpin’ all over the country.” Her chin trembled. She was on the verge of tears.
“Nonsense. You can’t blame yourself. We each have to live our own life. How could you tell what was comin’? Betcha we find her right away. Mebbe she let out somethin’ to Cole. She doesn’t look to me like a girl who could play out a stiff hand alone.”
“She isn’t. She’s dependent—always has leaned on some one.” Rose had regained control of herself quickly. She stood straight and lissom, mistress of her emotions, but her clear cheeks were colorless. “I’m worried, Kirby, dreadfully. Esther hasn’t the pluck to go through alone. She—she might—”
No need to finish the sentence. Her friend understood.
His strong hand went out and closed on hers. “Don’t you worry, pardner. It’ll be all right. We’ll find her an’ take her somewhere into the country where folks don’t know.”
Faintly she smiled. “You’re such a comfort.”
“Sho! We’ll get busy right away. Denver ain’t such a big town that we can’t find one li’l’ girl muy pronto.” His voice was steady and cheerful, almost light. “First off, we’ll check up an’ see if any one saw her go. What did she take with her?”
“How much money? Can you make a guess?”
“She had only a dollar or two in her purse. She had money in the bank. I’ll find out if she drew any.”
“Lemme do that. I’ll find Cole, too. You make some inquiries round the house here, kinda easy-like. Meet you here at six o’clock. Or mebbe we’d better meet downtown. Say at the Boston Chop House.”