Kirby laughed in sardonic mirth. He had fought the wrong man.
It was James Cunningham, not Jack. And, of course, Jack had known it all the time and been embarrassed by it. He had stuck loyally to his brother and had taken the whaling of his life rather than betray him.
Kirby took off his hat to Jack. He had stood pat to a fighting finish. He was one good square sport.
Even as he was thinking this, Kirby was moving toward the telephone booth. He had promised to report progress. For once he had considerable to report.
OLSON TELLS A STORY
When Rose heard from Esther next day she and Kirby took the Interurban for Golden. Esther had written that she wanted to see her sister because Cole was going to take her back to Wyoming at once.
The sisters wept in each other’s arms and then passed together into Esther’s bedroom for an intimate talk. The younger sister was still happy only in moments of forgetfulness, though she had been rescued from death in life. Cole had found her comfortably situated at a farmhouse a mile or two back from the canon. She had gone there under the urge of her need, at the instigation of James Cunningham, who could not afford to have the scandal of his relations with her become public at the same time as the announcement of his marriage to Phyllis Harriman. The girl loved Cole and trusted him. Her heart went out to him in a warm glow of gratitude. But the shadow of her fault was a barrier in her mind between them, and would be long after his kindness had melted the ice in her bosom.
“We’ve got it all fixed up to tell how we was married when I come down to Denver last April only we kep’ it quiet because she wanted to hold her job awhile,” Cole explained to his friend. “Onct I get her back there in God’s hills she’ll sure enough forget all about this trouble. The way I look at it she was jus’ like a li’l’ kid that takes a mis-step in the dark an’ falls an’ hurts itself. You know how a wounded deer can look at a fellow so sorrowful an’ hurt. Well, that’s how her brown eyes looked at me when I come round the corner o’ the house up Platte Canon an’ seen her sittin’ there starin’ at hell.”
Kirby shook hands with him in a sudden stress of emotion. “You’ll do to take along, old alkali, you sure enough will.”
“Oh, shucks!” retorted Cole, between disgust and embarrassment. “I always claimed to be a white man, didn’t I? You can’t give a fellow credit for doin’ the thing he’d rather do than anything else. But prod a peg in this. I’m gonna make that li’l’ girl plumb happy. She thinks she won’t be, that she’s lost the right to be. She’s ’way off, I can see her perkin’ up already. I got a real honest-to-God laugh outa her this mo’nin’.”
Kirby knew the patience, the steadiness, and the kindliness of his friend. Esther had fallen into the best of hands. She would find again the joy of life. He had no doubt of that. Gayety and laughter were of her heritage.