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The Tracer of Lost Persons by Robert W. Chambers

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excuse for asking an immediate interview; and if it's not a good enough
excuse I must cancel this appointment, that is all."

The darky stood, irresolute, inclined to argue, but something in the
steel-gray eyes of the man set him in involuntary motion, and he went
away once more with the young man's message. Harren turned and walked
back to his seat. The old woman with the faded shawl was explaining
volubly to a handsomely gowned woman beside her that she was looking for
her boy, Danny; that her name was Mrs. Regan, and that she washed for
the aristocracy of Hunter's Point at a liberal price per dozen, using no
deleterious substances in the suds as Heaven was her witness.

The German truck driver, moved by this confidence, was stirred to begin
an endless account of his domestic misfortunes, and old Mrs. Regan,
becoming impatient, had already begun to interrupt with an account of
Regan's recent hoisting on the wings of a premature petard, when the
dark servant reappeared.

"Mistuh Keen will receive you, suh," he whispered, leading the way into
a large room where dozens of attractive young girls sat very busily
engaged at typewriting machines. Door after door they passed, all
numbered on the ground-glass panes, then swung to the right, where the
darky bowed him into a big, handsomely furnished room flooded with the
morning sun. A tall, gray man, faultlessly dressed in a gray frock suit
and wearing white spats, turned from the breezy, open window to inspect
him; the lean, well groomed, rather lank type of gentleman suggesting a
retired colonel of cavalry; unmistakably well bred from the ends of his
drooping gray mustache to the last button on his immaculate spats.

"Captain Harren?" he said pleasantly.

"Mr. Keen?"

They bowed. Young Harren drew from his pocket a card. It was the
business card of Keen & Co., and, glancing up at Mr. Keen, he read it
aloud, carefully:

KEEN & CO.

TRACERS OF LOST PERSONS

Keen & Co. are prepared to locate the whereabouts of anybody on
earth. No charges will be made unless the person searched for is
found.

_Blanks on Application._

WESTREL KEEN, Manager.

Harren raised his clear, gray eyes. "I assume this statement to be
correct, Mr. Keen?"

"You may safely assume so," said Mr. Keen, smiling.

"Does this statement include _all_ that you are prepared to undertake?"

The Tracer of Lost Persons inspected him coolly. "What more is there,
Captain Harren? I undertake to find lost people. I even undertake to
find the undiscovered ideals of young people who have failed to meet
them. What further field would you suggest?" Harren glanced at the card
which he held in his gloved hand; then, very slowly, he re-read, "the
whereabouts of anybody _on earth_," accenting the last two words
deliberately as he encountered Keen's piercing gaze again.

"Well?" asked Mr. Keen laughingly, "is not that sufficient? Our clients
could scarcely expect us to invade heaven in our search for the
vanished."

"There are other regions," said Harren.

"_Ex_actly. Sit down, sir. There is a row of bookcases for your
amusement. Please help yourself while I clear decks for action."

Harren stood fingering the card, his gray eyes lost in retrospection;
then he sauntered over to the bookcases, scanning the titles. The
Searcher for Lost Persons studied him for a moment or two, turned, and
began to pace the room. After a moment or two he touched a bell. A
sweet-faced young girl entered; she was gowned in black and wore a white
collar, and cuffs turned back over her hands.

"Take this memorandum," he said. The girl picked up a pencil and pad,
and Mr. Keen, still pacing the room, dictated in a quiet voice as he
walked to and fro:

"Mrs. Regan's Danny is doing six months in Butte, Montana. Break it to
her as mercifully as possible. He is a bad one. We make no charge. The
truck driver, Becker, can find his wife at her mother's house, Leonia,
New Jersey. Tell him to be less pig-headed or she'll go for good some
day. Ten dollars. Mrs. M., No. 36001, can find her missing butler in
service at 79 Vine Street, Hartford, Connecticut. She may notify the
police whenever she wishes. His portrait is No. 170529, Rogues' Gallery.
Five hundred dollars. Miss K. (No. 3679) may send her letter, care of
Cisneros & Co., Rio, where the person she is seeking has gone into the
coffee business. If she decides that she really does love him, he'll
come back fast enough. Two hundred and fifty dollars. Mr. W. (No. 3620)
must go to the morgue for further information. His repentance is too
late; but he can see that there is a decent burial. The charge: one
thousand dollars to the Florence Mission. You may add that we possess
his full record."

The Tracer paused and waited for the stenographer to finish. When she
looked up: "Who else is waiting?" he asked.

The girl read over the initials and numbers.

"Tell that policeman that Kid Conroy sails on the _Carania_ to-morrow.
Fifty dollars. There is nothing definite in the other cases. Report
progress and send out a general alarm for the cashier inquired for by
No. 3608. You will find details in vol. xxxix under B."

"Is that all, Mr. Keen?"

"Yes. I'm going to be very busy with"--turning slowly toward
Harren--"with Captain Harren, of the Philippine Scouts, until
to-morrow--a very complicated case, Miss Borrow, involving cipher codes
and photography--"

CHAPTER VIII

Harren started, then walked slowly to the center of the room as the
pretty stenographer passed out with a curious level glance at him.

"Why do you say that photography plays a part in my case?" he asked.

"Doesn't it?"

"Yes. But how--"

"Oh, I only guessed it," said Keen with a smile. "I made another guess
that your case involved a cipher code. Does it?"

"Y-es," said the young man, astonished, "but I don't see--"

"It also involves the occult," observed Keen calmly. "We may need Miss
Borrow to help us."

Almost staggered, Harren stared at the Tracer out of his astonished gray
eyes until that gentleman laughed outright and seated himself, motioning
Harren to do likewise.

"Don't be surprised, Captain Harren," he said. "I suppose you have no
conception of our business, no realization of its scope--its network of
information bureaus all over the civilized world, its myriad sources of
information, the immensity of its delicate machinery, the endless data
and the infinitesimal details we have at our command. You, of course,
have no idea of the number of people of every sort and condition who are
in our employ, of the ceaseless yet inoffensive surveillance we
maintain. For example, when your letter came last week I called up the
person who has charge of the army list. There you were, Kenneth Harren,
Captain Philippine Scouts, with the date of your graduation from West
Point. Then I called up a certain department devoted to personal detail,
and in five minutes I knew your entire history. I then touched another
electric button, and in a minute I had before me the date of your
arrival in New York, your present address, and"--he looked up
quizzically at Harren--"and several items of general information, such
as your peculiar use of your camera, and the list of books on Psychical
Phenomena and Cryptograms which you have been buying--"

Harren flushed up. "Do you mean to say that I have been spied upon, Mr.
Keen?"

"No more than anybody else who comes to us as a client. There was
nothing offensive in the surveillance." He shrugged his shoulders and
made a deprecating gesture. "Ours is a business, my dear sir, like any
other. We, of course, are obliged to know about people who call on us.
Last week you wrote me, and I immediately set every wheel in motion; in
other words, I had you under observation from the day I received your
letter to this very moment."

"You learned much concerning me?" asked Harren quietly.

"_Ex_actly, my dear sir."

"But," continued Harren with a touch of malice, "you didn't learn that
my leave is up to-morrow, did you?"

"Yes, I learned that, too."

"Then why did you give me an appointment for the day after to-morrow?"
demanded the young man bluntly.

The Tracer looked him squarely in the eye. "Your leave is to be
extended," he said.

"What?"

"_Ex_actly. It has been extended one week."

"How do you know that?"

"You applied for extension, did you not?"

"Yes," said Harren, turning red, "but I don't see how you knew that I--"

"By cable?"

"Y-yes."

"There's a cablegram in your rooms at this very moment," said the
Tracer carelessly. "You have the extension you desired. And now, Captain
Harren," with a singularly pleasant smile, "what can I do to help you to
a pursuit of that true happiness which is guaranteed for all good
citizens under our Constitution?"

Captain Harren crossed his long legs, dropping one knee over the other,
and deliberately surveyed his interrogator.

"I really have no right to come to you," he said slowly. "Your
prospectus distinctly states that Keen & Co. undertake to find _live_
people, and I don't know whether the person I am seeking is alive
or--or--"

His steady voice faltered; the Tracer watched him curiously.

"Of course, that is important," he said. "If she _is_ dead--"

"_She_!"

"Didn't you say 'she,' Captain?"

"No, I did not."

"I beg your pardon, then, for anticipating you," said the Tracer
carelessly.

"Anticipating? _How_ do you know it is not a man I am in search of?"
demanded Harren.

"Captain Harren, you are unmarried and have no son; you have no father,
no brother, no sister. Therefore I infer--several things--for example,
that you are in love."

"I? In love?"

"Desperately, Captain."

"Your inferences seem to satisfy you, at least," said Harren almost
sullenly, "but they don't satisfy me--clever as they appear to be."

"_Ex_actly. Then you are _not_ in love?"

"I don't know whether I am or not."

"I do," said the Tracer of Lost Persons.

"Then you know more than I," retorted Harren sharply.

"But that is my business--to know more than you do," returned Mr. Keen
patiently. "Else why are you here to consult me?" And as Harren made no
reply: "I have seen thousands and thousands of people in love. I have
reduced the superficial muscular phenomena and facial symptomatic aspect
of such people to an exact science founded upon a schedule approximating
the Bertillon system of records. And," he added, smiling, "out of the
twenty-seven known vocal variations your voice betrays twenty-five
unmistakable symptoms; and out of the sixteen reflex muscular symptoms
your face has furnished six, your hands three, your limbs and feet six.
Then there are other superficial symptoms--"

"Good heavens!" broke in Harren; "how can you prove a man to be in love
when he himself doesn't know whether he is or not? If a man isn't in
love no Bertillon system can make him so; and if a man doesn't know
whether or not he is in love, who can tell him the truth?"

"I can," said the Tracer calmly.

"What! When I tell you I myself don't know?"

"_That_," said the Tracer, smiling, "is the final and convincing
symptom. _You_ don't know. _I_ know because you _don't_ know. That is
the easiest way to be sure that you are in love, Captain Harren, because
you always are when you are not sure. You'd know if you were _not_ in
love. Now, my dear sir, you may lay your case confidently before me."

Harren, unconvinced, sat frowning and biting his lip and twisting his
short, crisp mustache which the tropical sun had turned straw color and
curly.

"I feel like a fool to tell you," he said. "I'm not an imaginative man,
Mr. Keen; I'm not fanciful, not sentimental. I'm perfectly healthy,
perfectly normal--a very busy man in my profession, with no time and no
inclination to fall in love."

"Just the sort of man who does it," commented Keen. "Continue."

Harren fidgeted about in his chair, looked out of the window, squinted
at the ceiling, then straightened up, folding his arms with sudden
determination.

"I'd rather be boloed than tell you," he said. "Perhaps, after all, I
_am_ a lunatic; perhaps I've had a touch of the Luzon sun and don't know
it."

"I'll be the judge," said the Tracer, smiling.

"Very well, sir. Then I'll begin by telling you that I've seen a ghost."

"There are such things," observed Keen quietly.

"Oh, I don't mean one of those fabled sheeted creatures that float about
at night; I mean a phantom--a real phantom--in the sunlight--standing
before my very eyes in broad day! . . . Now do you feel inclined to go
on with my case, Mr. Keen?"

"Certainly," replied the Tracer gravely. "Please continue, Captain
Harren."

"All right, then. Here's the beginning of it: Three years ago, here in
New York, drifting along Fifth Avenue with the crowd, I looked up to
encounter the most wonderful pair of eyes that I ever beheld--that any
living man ever beheld! The most--wonderfully--beautiful--"

He sat so long immersed in retrospection that the Tracer said: "I am
listening, Captain," and the Captain woke up with a start.

"What was I saying? How far had I proceeded?"

"Only to the eyes."

"Oh, I see! The eyes were dark, sir, dark and lovely beyond any power of
description. The hair was also dark--very soft and thick and--er--wavy
and dark. The face was extremely youthful, and ornamental to the
uttermost verges of a beauty so exquisite that, were I to attempt to
formulate for you its individual attractions, I should, I fear,
transgress the strictly rigid bounds of that reticence which becomes a
gentleman in complete possession of his senses."

"_Ex_actly," mused the Tracer.

"Also," continued Captain Harren, with growing animation, "to attempt to
describe her figure would be utterly useless, because I am a practical
man and not a poet, nor do I read poetry or indulge in futile novels or
romances of any description. Therefore I can only add that it was a
figure, a poise, absolutely faultless, youthful, beautiful, erect,
wholesome, gracious, graceful, charmingly buoyant and--well, I cannot
describe her figure, and I shall not try."

"_Ex_actly; don't try."

"No," said Harren mournfully, "it is useless"; and he relapsed into
enchanted retrospection.

"Who was she?" asked Mr. Keen softly.

"I don't know."

"You never again saw her?"

"Mr. Keen, I--I am not ill-bred, but I simply could not help following
her. She was so b-b-beautiful that it hurt; and I only wanted to look at
her; I didn't mind being hurt. So I walked on and on, and sometimes I'd
pass her and sometimes I'd let her pass me, and when she wasn't looking
I'd look--not offensively, but just because I _couldn't_ help it. And
all the time my senses were humming like a top and my heart kept jumping
to get into my throat, and I hadn't a notion where I was going or what
time it was or what day of the week. She didn't see me; she didn't dream
that I was looking at her; she didn't know me from any of the thousand
silk-hatted, frock-coated men who passed and repassed her on Fifth
Avenue. And when she went into St. Berold's Church, I went, too, and I
stood where I could see her and where she couldn't see me. It was like a
touch of the Luzon sun, Mr. Keen. And then she came out and got into a
Fifth Avenue stage, and I got in, too. And whenever she looked away I
looked at her--without the slightest offense, Mr. Keen, until, once, she
caught my eye--"

He passed an unsteady hand over his forehead.

"For a moment we looked full at one another," he continued. "I got red,
sir; I felt it, and I couldn't look away. And when I turned color like a
blooming beet, she began to turn pink like a rosebud, and she looked
full into my eyes with such a wonderful purity, such exquisite
innocence, that I--I never felt so near--er--heaven in my life! No, sir,
not even when they ambushed us at Manoa Wells--but that's another
thing--only it is part of this business."

He tightened his clasped hands over his knee until the knuckles
whitened.

"_That's_ my story, Mr. Keen," he said crisply.

"All of it?"

Harren looked at the floor, then at Keen: "No, not all. You'll think me
a lunatic if I tell you all."

"Oh, you saw her again?"

"N-never! That is--"

"Never?"

"Not in--in the flesh."

"Oh, in dreams?"

Harren stirred uneasily. "I don't know what you call them. I have seen
her since--in the sunlight, in the open, in my quarters in Manila,
standing there perfectly distinct, looking at me with such strange,
beautiful eyes--"

"Go on," said the Tracer, nodding.

"What else is there to say?" muttered Harren.

"You saw her--or a phantom which resembled her. Did she speak?"

"No."

"Did you speak to her?"

"N-no. Once I held out my--my arms."

"What happened?"

"She wasn't there," said Harren simply.

"She vanished?"

"No--I don't know. I--I didn't see her any more."

"Didn't she fade?"

"No. I can't explain. She--there was only myself in the room."

"How many times has she appeared to you?"

"A great many times."

"In your room?"

"Yes. And in the road under a vertical sun; in the forest, in the paddy
fields. I have seen her passing through the hallway of a friend's
house--turning on the stair to look back at me! I saw her standing just
back of the firing-line at Manoa Wells when we were preparing to rush
the forts, and it scared me so that I jumped forward to draw her back.
But--she wasn't there, Mr. Keen. . . .

"On the transport she stood facing me on deck one moonlit evening for
five minutes. I saw her in 'Frisco; she sat in the Pullman twice between
Denver and this city. Twice in my room at the Vice-Regent she has sat
opposite me at midday, so clear, so beautiful, so real that--that I
could scarcely believe she was only a--a--" He hesitated.

"The apparition of her own subconscious self," said the Tracer quietly.
"Science has been forced to admit such things, and, as you know, we are
on the verge of understanding the alphabet of some of the unknown forces
which we must some day reckon with."

Harren, tense, a trifle pale, gazed at him earnestly.

"Do _you_ believe in such things?"

"How can I avoid believing?" said the Tracer. "Every day, in my
profession, we have proof of the existence of forces for which we have
as yet no explanation--or, at best, a very crude one. I have had case
after case of premonition; case after case of dual and even multiple
personality; case after case where apparitions played a vital part in
the plot which was brought to me to investigate. I'll tell you this,
Captain: I, personally, never saw an apparition, never was obsessed by
premonitions, never received any communications from the outer void. But
I have had to do with those who undoubtedly did. Therefore I listen with
all seriousness and respect to what you tell me."

"Suppose," said Harren, growing suddenly red, "that I should tell you I
have succeeded in photographing this phantom."

The Tracer sat silent. He was astounded, but, he did not betray it.

"You have that photograph, Captain Harren?"

"Yes."

"Where is it?"

"In my rooms."

"You wish me to see it?"

Harren hesitated. "I--there is--seems to be--something almost sacred to
me in that photograph. . . . You understand me, do you not? Yet, if it
will help you in finding her--"

"Oh," said the Tracer in guileless astonishment, "you desire to find
this young lady. Why?"

Harren stared. "Why? Why do I want to find her? Man, I--I can't live
without her!"

"I thought you were not certain whether you really could be in love."

The hot color in the Captain's bronzed cheeks mounted to his hair.

"_Ex_actly," purred the Tracer, looking out of the window. "Suppose we
walk around to your rooms after luncheon. Shall we?"

Harren picked up his hat and gloves, hesitating, lingering on the
threshold. "You _don't_ think she is--a--dead?" he asked unsteadily.

"No," said Mr. Keen, "I don't."

"Because," said Harren wistfully, "her apparition is so superbly healthy
and--and glowing with youth and life--"

"That is probably what sent it half the world over to confront you,"
said the Tracer gravely; "youth and life aglow with spiritual health. I
think, Captain, that she has been seeing you, too, during these three
years, but probably only in her dreams--memories of your encounters with
her subconscious self floating over continents and oceans in a quest of
which her waking intelligence is innocently unaware."

The Captain colored like a schoolboy, lingering at the door, hat in
hand. Then he straightened up to the full height of his slim but
powerful figure.

"At three?" he inquired bluntly.

"At three o'clock in your room, Hotel Vice-Regent. Good morning,
Captain."

"Good morning," said Harren dreamily, and walked away, head bent, gray
eyes lost in retrospection, and on his lean, bronzed, attractive face an
afterglow of color wholly becoming.

CHAPTER IX

When the Tracer of Lost Persons entered Captain Harren's room at the
Hotel Vice-Regent that afternoon he found the young man standing at a
center table, pencil in hand, studying a sheet of paper which was
covered with letters and figures.

The two men eyed one another in silence for a moment, then Harren
pointed grimly to the confusion of letters and figures covering dozens
of scattered sheets lying on the table.

"That's part of my madness," he said with a short laugh. "Can you make
anything of such lunatic work?"

The Tracer picked up a sheet of paper covered with letters of the
alphabet and Roman and Arabic numerals. He dropped it presently and
picked up another comparatively blank sheet, on which were the following
figures:

[Illustration: Cryptographic symbols]

He studied it for a while, then glanced interrogatively at Harren.

"It's nothing," said Harren. "I've been groping for three years--but
it's no use. That's lunatics' work." He wheeled squarely on his heels,
looking straight at the Tracer. "_Do_ you think I've had a touch of the
sun?"

"No," said Mr. Keen, drawing a chair to the table. "Saner men than you
or I have spent a lifetime over this so-called Seal of Solomon." He laid
his finger on the two symbols--

[Illustration: Cryptographic symbols]

Then, looking across the table at Harren: "What," he asked, "has the
Seal of Solomon to do with your case?"

"_She_--" muttered Harren, and fell silent.

The Tracer waited; Harren said nothing.

"Where is the photograph?"

Harren unlocked a drawer in the table, hesitated, looked strangely at
the Tracer.

"Mr. Keen," he said, "there is nothing on earth I hold more sacred than
this. There is only one thing in the world that could justify me in
showing it to a living soul--my--my desire to find--her--"

"No," said Keen coolly, "that is not enough to justify you--the mere
desire to find the living original of this apparition. Nothing could
justify your showing it unless you love her."

Harren held the picture tightly, staring full at the Tracer. A dull
flush mounted to his forehead, and very slowly he laid the picture
before the Tracer of Lost Persons.

Minute after minute sped while the Tracer bent above the photograph, his
finely modeled features absolutely devoid of expression. Harren had
drawn his chair beside him, and now sat leaning forward, bronzed cheek
resting in his hand, staring fixedly at the picture.

"When was this--this photograph taken?" asked the Tracer quietly.

"The day after I arrived in New York. I was here, alone, smoking my pipe
and glancing over the evening paper just before dressing for dinner. It
was growing rather dark in the room; I had not turned on the electric
light. My camera lay on the table--there it is!--that kodak. I had taken
a few snapshots on shipboard; there was one film left."

He leaned more heavily on his elbow, eyes fixed upon the picture.

"It was almost dark," he repeated. "I laid aside the evening paper and
stood up, thinking about dressing for dinner, when my eyes happened to
fall on the camera. It occurred to me that I might as well unload it,
let the unused film go, and send the roll to be developed and printed;
and I picked up the camera--"

"Yes," said the Tracer softly.

"I picked it up and was starting toward the window where there remained
enough daylight to see by--"

The Tracer nodded gently.

"Then I saw _her_!" said Harren under his breath.

"Where?"

"There--standing by that window. You can see the window and curtain in
the photograph."

The Tracer gazed intently at the picture.

"She looked at me," said Harren, steadying his voice. "She was as real
as you are, and she stood there, smiling faintly, her dark, lovely eyes
meeting mine."

"Did you speak?"

"No."

"How long did she remain there?"

"I don't know--time seemed to stop--the world--everything grew still.
. . . Then, little by little, something began to stir under my stunned
senses--that germ of misgiving, that dreadful doubt of my own sanity.
. . . I scarcely knew what I was doing when I took the photograph;
besides, it had grown quite dark, and I could scarcely see her." He drew
himself erect with a nervous movement. "How on earth could I have
obtained that photograph of her in the darkness?" he demanded.

"N-rays," said the Tracer coolly. "It has been done in France."

"Yes, from living people, but--"

"What the N-ray is in living organisms, we must call, for lack of a
better term, the subaura in the phantom."

They bent over the photograph together. Presently the Tracer said: "She
is very, very beautiful?"

Harren's dry lips unclosed, but he uttered no sound.

"She is beautiful, is she not?" repeated the Tracer, turning to look at
the young man.

"Can you not see she is?" he asked impatiently.

"No," said the Tracer.

Harren stared at him.

"Captain Harren," continued the Tracer, "I can see nothing upon this bit
of paper that resembles in the remotest degree a human face or figure."

Harren turned white.

"Not that I doubt that _you_ can see it," pursued the Tracer calmly. "I
simply repeat that I see absolutely nothing on this paper except a part
of a curtain, a window pane, and--and--"

"What! for God's sake!" cried Harren hoarsely.

"I don't know yet. Wait; let me study it."

"Can you not see her face, her eyes? _Don't_ you see that exquisite slim
figure standing there by the curtain?" demanded Harren, laying his
shaking finger on the photograph. "Why, man, it is as clear, as clean
cut, as distinct as though the picture had been taken in sunlight! Do
you mean to say that there is nothing there--that I am crazy?"

"No. Wait."

"Wait! How can I wait when you sit staring at her picture and telling me
that you can't see it, but that it is doubtless there? Are you deceiving
me, Mr. Keen? Are you trying to humor me, trying to be kind to me,
knowing all the while that I'm crazy--"

"Wait, man! You are no more crazy than I am. I tell you that I can see
something on the window pane--"

He suddenly sprang up and walked to the window, leaning close and
examining the glass. Harren followed and laid his hand lightly over the
pane.

"Do you see any marks on the glass?" demanded Keen.

Harren shook his head.

"Have you a magnifying glass?" asked the Tracer.

Harren pointed back to the table, and they returned to the photograph,
the Tracer bending over it and examining it through the glass.

"All I see," he said, still studying the photograph, "is a corner of a
curtain and a window on which certain figures seem to have been cut.
. . . Look, Captain Harren, can you see them?"

"I see some marks--some squares."

"You can't see anything written on that pane--as though cut by a
diamond?"

"Nothing distinct."

"But you see _her_?"

"Perfectly."

"In minute detail?"

"Yes."

The Tracer thought a moment: "Does she wear a ring?"

"Yes; can't you see?"

"Draw it for me."

They seated themselves side by side, and Harren drew a rough sketch of
the ring which he insisted was so plainly visible on her hand:

[Illustration: Ring with an X]

"Oh," observed the Tracer, "she wears the Seal of Solomon on her ring."

Harren looked up at him. "That symbol has haunted me persistently for
three years," he said. "I have found it everywhere--on articles that I
buy, on house furniture, on the belts of dead ladrones, on the hilts of
creeses, on the funnels of steamers, on the headstalls of horses. If
they put a laundry mark on my linen it's certain to be this! If I buy a
box of matches the sign is on it. Why, I've even seen it on the
brilliant wings of tropical insects. It's got on my nerves. I dream
about it."

[Illustration: Cryptographic symbol]

"And you buy books about it and try to work out its mystical meaning?"
suggested the Tracer, smiling.

But Harren's gray eyes were serious. He said: "_She_ never comes to me
without that symbol somewhere about her. . . . I told you she never
spoke to me. That is true; yet once, in a vivid dream of her, she did
speak. I--I was almost ashamed to tell you of that."

"Tell me."

"A--a dream? Do you wish to know what I dreamed?"

"Yes--if it was a dream."

"It was. I was asleep on the deck of the _Mindinao_, dead tired after a
fruitless hike. I dreamed she came toward me through a young woodland
all lighted by the sun, and in her hands she held masses of that wild
flower we call Solomon's Seal. And she said--in the voice I know must be
like hers: 'If you could only read! If you would only understand the
message I send you! It is everywhere on earth for you to read, if you
only would!'

"I said: 'Is the message in the seal? Is that the key to it?'

"She nodded, laughing, burying her face in the flowers, and said:

"'Perhaps I can write it more plainly for you some day; I will try very,
very hard.'

"And after that she went away--not swiftly--for I saw her at moments far
away in the woods; but I must have confused her with the glimmering
shafts of sunlight, and in a little while the woodland grew dark and I
woke with the racket of a Colt's automatic in my ears."

He passed his sun-bronzed hand over his face, hesitated, then leaned
over the photograph once more, which the Tracer was studying intently
through the magnifying glass.

"There is something on that window in the photograph which I'm going to
copy," he said. "Please shove a pad and pencil toward me."

Still examining the photograph through the glass which he held in his
right hand, Mr. Keen picked up the pencil and, feeling for the pad,
began very slowly to form the following series of symbols:

[Illustration: Cryptographic symbols]

"What on earth are you doing?" muttered Captain Harren, twisting his
short mustache in perplexity.

"I am copying what I see through this magnifying glass written on the
window pane in the photograph," said the Tracer calmly. "Can't you see
those marks?"

"I--I do now; I never noticed them before particularly--only that there
were scratches there."

When at length the Tracer had finished his work he sat, chin on hand,
examining it in silence. Presently he turned toward Harren, smiling.

"Well?" inquired the younger man impatiently; "do those scratches
representing Solomon's Seal mean anything?"

"It's the strangest cipher I ever encountered," said Mr. Keen--"the
strangest I ever heard of. I have seen hundreds of
ciphers--hundreds--secret codes of the State Department, secret military
codes, elaborate Oriental ciphers, symbols used in commercial
transactions, symbols used by criminals and every species of malefactor.
And every one of them can be solved with time and patience and a little
knowledge of the subject. But this"--he sat looking at it with eyes half
closed--"this is _too_ simple."

"Simple!"

"Very. It's so simple that it's baffling."

"Do you mean to say you are going to be able to find a meaning in
squares and crosses?"

"I--I don't believe it is going to be so very difficult to translate
them."

"Great guns!" said the Captain. "Do you mean to say that you can
ultimately translate that cipher?"

The Tracer smiled. "Let's examine it for repetitions first. Here we have
this symbol

[Illustration: Cryptographic symbol]

repeated five times. It's likely to be the letter E. I think--" His
voice ceased; for a quarter of an hour he pored over the symbols, pencil
in hand, checking off some, substituting a letter here and there.

"No," he said; "the usual doesn't work in this case. It's an absurdly
simple cipher. I have a notion that numbers play a part in it--you see
where these crossed squares are bracketed--those must be numbers
requiring two figures--"

He fell silent again, and for another quarter of an hour he remained
motionless, immersed in the problem before him, Harren frowning at the
paper over his shoulder.

CHAPTER X

"Come!" said the Tracer suddenly; "this won't do. There are too few
symbols to give us a key; too few repetitions to furnish us with any key
basis. Come, Captain, let us use our intellects; let us talk it over
with that paper lying there between us. It's a simple cipher--a
childishly simple one if we use our wits. Now, sir, what I see repeated
before us on this sheet of paper is merely one of the forms of a symbol
known as Solomon's Seal. The symbol is, as we see, repeated a great many
times. Every seal has been dotted or crossed on some one of the lines
composing it; some seals are coupled with brackets and armatures."

[Illustration: Cryptographic symbol]

"What of it?" inquired Harren vacantly.

"Well, sir, in the first place, that symbol is supposed to represent the
spiritual and material, as you know. What else do you know about it?"

[Illustration: Cryptographic symbol]

"Nothing. I bought a book about it, but made nothing of it."

"Isn't it supposed," asked Mr. Keen, "to contain within itself the nine
numerals, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and even the zero symbol?"

"I believe so."

"_Ex_actly. Here's the seal

[Illustration: Cryptographic symbol]

Now I'll mark the one, two, and three by crossing the lines, like this:

one,

[Illustration: Cryptographic symbol]

two,

[Illustration: Cryptographic symbol]

three,

[Illustration: Cryptographic symbol]

Now, eliminating all lines not crossed there remains

the one,

[Illustration: Cryptographic symbol]

the two,

[Illustration: Cryptographic symbol]

the three,

[Illustration: Cryptographic symbol]

And here is the entire series:

[Illustration: Cryptographic symbols]

and the zero--"

[Illustration: Cryptographic symbol]

A sudden excitement stirred Harren; he leaned over the paper, gazing
earnestly at the cipher; the Tracer rose and glanced around the room as
though in search of something.

"Is there a telephone here?" he asked.

"For Heaven's sake, don't give this up just yet," exclaimed Harren.
"These things mean numbers; don't you see? Look at that!" pointing to a
linked pair of seals,

[Illustration: Cryptographic symbol]

"That means the number nineteen! You can form it by using only the
crossed lines of the seal.

[Illustration: Cryptographic symbol]

Don't you see, Mr. Keen?"

"Yes, Captain Harren, the cipher is, as you say, very plain; quite as
easy to read as so much handwriting. That is why I wish to use your
telephone--at once, if you please."

"It's in my bedroom; you don't mind if I go on working out this cipher
while you're telephoning?"

"Not in the least," said the Tracer blandly. He walked into the
Captain's bedroom, closing the door behind him; then he stepped over to
the telephone, unhooked the receiver, and called up his own
headquarters.

"Hello. This is Mr. Keen. I want to speak to Miss Borrow."

In a few moments Miss Borrow answered: "I am here, Mr. Keen."

"Good. Look up the name Inwood. Try New York first--Edith Inwood is the
name. Look sharp, please; I am holding the wire."

He held it for ten full minutes; then Miss Borrow's low voice called him
over the wire.

"Go ahead," said the Tracer quietly.

"There is only one Edith Inwood in New York, Mr. Keen--Miss Edith
Inwood, graduate of Barnard, 1902--left an orphan 1903 and obliged to
support herself--became an assistant to Professor Boggs of the Museum of
Inscriptions. Is considered an authority upon Arabian cryptograms. Has
written a monograph on the Herati symbol--a short treatise on the
Swastika. She is twenty-four years of age. Do you require further
details?"

"No," said the Tracer; "please ring off."

Then he called up General Information. "I want the Museum of
Inscriptions. Get me their number, please." After a moment: "Is this the
Museum of Inscriptions?"

* * * * *

"Is Professor Boggs there?"

* * * * *

"Is this Professor Boggs?"

* * * * *

"Could you find time to decipher an inscription for me at once?"

* * * * *

"Of course I know you are extremely busy, but have you no assistant who
could do it?"

* * * * *

"What did you say her name is? Miss Inwood?"

* * * * *

"Oh! And will the young lady translate the inscription at once if I send
a copy of it to her by messenger?"

* * * * *

"Thank you very much, Professor. I will send a messenger to Miss Inwood
with a copy of the inscription. Good-by."

He hung up the receiver, turned thoughtfully, opened the door again, and
walked into the sunlit living room.

"Look here!" cried the Captain in a high state of excitement. "I've got
a lot of numbers out of it already."

"Wonderful!" murmured the Tracer, looking over the young man's broad
shoulders at a sheet of paper bearing these numbers:

9--14--5--22--5--18--19--1--23--25--15--21--2--21--20--15--14--3--5--
9--12--15--22--5--25--15--21--5--4--9--20--8--9--14--23--15--15--4.

"Marvelous!" repeated the Tracer, smiling. "Now what _do_ you suppose
those numbers can stand for?"

"Letters!" announced the Captain triumphantly. "Take the number nine,
for example. The ninth letter in the alphabet is I! Mr. Keen, suppose we
try writing down the letters according to that system!"

"Suppose we do," agreed the Tracer gravely.

So, counting under his breath, the young man set down the letters in the
following order, not attempting to group them into words:

INEVERSAWYOUBUTONCEILOVEYOUEDITHINWOOD.

Then he leaned back, excited, triumphant.

"There you are!" he said; "only, of course, it makes no sense." He
examined it in silence, and gradually a hopeless expression effaced the
animation. "How the deuce am I going to separate that mass of letters
into words?" he muttered.

"This way," said the Tracer, smilingly taking the pencil from his
fingers, and he wrote: I--NEVER--SAW--YOU--BUT--ONCE. I--LOVE--YOU.
EDITH INWOOD.

Then he laid the pencil on the table and walked to the window.

Once or twice he fancied that he heard incoherent sounds behind him.
And after a while he turned, retracing his steps leisurely. Captain
Harren, extremely pink, stood tugging at his short mustache and studying
the papers on the desk.

"Well?" inquired the Tracer, amused.

The young man pointed to the translation with unsteady finger. "W-what
on earth does that mean?" he demanded shakily. "Who is Edith Inwood?
W-what on earth does that cryptogram mean on the window pane in the
photograph? How did it come there? It isn't on my window pane, you see!"

The Tracer said quietly: "That is not a photograph of your window."

"What!"

"No, Captain. Here! Look at it closely through this glass. There are
sixteen small panes in that sash; now count the panes in your
window--eight! Besides, look at that curtain. It is made of some figured
stuff like chintz. Now, look at your own curtain yonder! It is of plain
velour."

"But--but I took that photograph! She stood there--there by that very
window!"

The Tracer leaned over the photograph, examining it through the glass.
And, studying it, he said: "Do you still see _her_ in this photograph,
Captain Harren?"

"Certainly. Can you not see her?"

"No," murmured the Tracer, "but I see the window which she really stood
by when her phantom came here seeking you. And that is sufficient. Come,
Captain Harren, we are going out together."

The Captain looked at him earnestly; something in Mr. Keen's eyes seemed
to fascinate him.

"You think that--that it's likely we are g-going to see--_her_!" he
faltered.

"If I were you," mused the Tracer of Lost Persons, joining the tips of
his lean fingers meditatively--"If I were you I should wear a silk hat
and a frock coat. It's--it's afternoon, anyhow," he added deprecatingly,
"and we are liable to make a call."

Captain Harren turned like a man in a dream and entered his bedroom. And
when he emerged he was dressed and groomed with pathetic precision.

"Mr. Keen," he said, "I--I don't know why I am d-daring to hope for all
s-sorts of things. Nothing you have said really warrants it. But somehow
I'm venturing to cherish an absurd notion that I may s-see her."

"Perhaps," said the Tracer, smiling.

"Mr. Keen! You wouldn't say that if--if there was no chance, would you?
You wouldn't dash a fellow's hopes--"

"No, I wouldn't," said Mr. Keen. "I tell you frankly that I expect to
find her."

"To-day?"

"We'll see," said Mr. Keen guardedly. "Come, Captain, don't look that
way! Courage, sir! We are about to execute a turning movement; but you
look like a Russian general on his way to the south front."

Harren managed to laugh; they went out, side by side, descended the
elevator, and found a cab at the _porte-cochere_. Mr. Keen gave the
directions and followed the Captain into the cab.

"Now," he said, as they wheeled south, "we are first going to visit the
Museum of Inscriptions and have this cipher translation verified. Here
is the cipher as I copied it. Hold it tightly, Captain; we've only a few
blocks to drive."

Indeed they were already nearly there. The hansom drew up in front of a
plain granite building wedged in between some rather elaborate private
dwelling-houses. Over the door were letters of dull bronze:

AMERICAN MUSEUM OF INSCRIPTIONS

and the two men descended and entered a wide marble hall lined with
glass-covered cabinets containing plaster casts of various ancient
inscriptions and a few bronze and marble originals. Several female
frumps were nosing the exhibits.

An attendant in livery stood in the middle distance. The Tracer walked
over to him. "I have an appointment to consult Miss Inwood," he
whispered.

"This way, sir," nodded the attendant, and the Tracer signaled the
Captain to follow.

They climbed several marble stairways, crossed a rotunda, and entered a
room--a sort of library. Beyond was a door which bore the inscription:

ASSISTANT CURATOR

"Now," said the Tracer of Lost Persons in a low voice to Captain Harren,
"I am going to ask you to sit here for a few minutes while I interview
the assistant curator. You don't mind, do you?"

"No, I don't mind," said Harren wearily, "only, when are we going to
begin to search for--_her_?"

"Very soon--I may say extremely soon," said Mr. Keen gravely. "By the
way, I think I'll take that sheet of paper on which I copied the cipher.
Thank you. I won't be long."

The attendant had vanished. Captain Harren sat down by a window and
gazed out into the late afternoon sunshine. The Tracer of Lost Persons,
treading softly across the carpeted floor, approached the sanctuary,
turned the handle, and walked in, carefully closing the door behind him.

There was a young girl seated at a desk by an open window; she looked up
quietly as he entered, then rose leisurely.

"Miss Inwood?"

"Yes."

She was slender, dark-eyed, dark-haired--a lovely, wholesome young
creature; gracious and graceful. And that was all--for the Tracer of
Lost Persons could not see through the eyes of Captain Harren, and
perhaps that is why he was not able to discern a miracle of beauty in
the pretty girl who confronted him--no magic and matchless marvel of
transcendent loveliness--only a quiet, sweet-faced, dark-eyed young girl
whose features and figure were attractive in the manner that youth is
always attractive. But then it is a gift of the gods to see through eyes
anointed by the gods.

The Tracer touched his gray mustache and bowed; the girl bowed very
sweetly.

"You are Mr. Keen," she said; "you have an inscription for me to
translate."

"A mystery for young eyes to interpret," he said, smiling. "May I sit
here--and tell my story before I show you my inscription?"

"Please do," she said, seating herself at her desk and facing him, one
slender white hand supporting the oval of her face.

The Tracer drew his chair a little forward. "It is a curious matter," he
said. "May I give you a brief outline of the details?"

"By all means, Mr. Keen."

"Then let me begin by saying that the inscription of which I have a copy
was probably scratched upon a window pane by means of a diamond."

"Oh! Then--then it is not an ancient inscription, Mr. Keen."

"The theme is ancient--the oldest theme in the world--love! The cipher
is old--as old as King Solomon." She looked up quickly. The Tracer,
apparently engrossed in his own story, went on with it. "Three years ago
the young girl who wrote this inscription upon the window pane of
her--her bedroom, I think it was--fell in love. Do you follow me, Miss
Inwood?"

Miss Inwood sat very still--wide, dark eyes fixed on him.

"Fell in love," repeated the Tracer musingly, "not in the ordinary way.
That is the point, you see. No, she fell in love at first sight; fell
in love with a young man whom she never before had seen, never again
beheld--and never forgot. Do you still follow me, Miss Inwood?"

She made the slightest motion with her lips.

"No," mused the Tracer of Lost Persons, "she never forgot him. I am not
sure, but I think she sometimes dreamed of him. She dreamed of him
awake, too. Once she inscribed a message to him, cutting it with the
diamond in her ring on the window pane--"

A slight sound escaped from Miss Inwood's lips. "I beg your pardon,"
said the Tracer, "did you say something?"

The girl had risen, pale, astounded, incredulous.

"Who are you?" she faltered. "What has this--this story to do with me?"

"Child," said the Tracer of Lost Persons, "the Seal of Solomon is a
splendid mystery. All of heaven and earth are included within its
symbol. And more, more than you dream of, more than I dare fathom; and I
am an old man, my child--old, alone, with nobody to fear for, nothing to
dread, not even the end of all--because I am ready for that, too. Yet I,
having nothing on earth to dread, dare not fathom what that symbol may
mean, nor what vast powers it may exert on life. God knows. It may be
the very signet of Fate itself; the sign manual of Destiny."

He drew the paper from his pocket, unrolled it, and spread it out under
her frightened eyes.

"_That!_" she whispered, steadying herself blindly against the arm he
offered. She stood a moment so, then, shuddering, covered her eyes with
both hands. The Tracer of Lost Persons looked at her, turned and opened
the door.

"Captain Harren!" he called quietly. Harren, pacing the anteroom, turned
and came forward. As he entered the door he caught sight of the girl
crouching by the window, her face hidden in her hands, and at the same
moment she dropped her hands and looked straight at him.

"_You!_" she gasped.

The Tracer of Lost Persons stepped out, closing the door. For a moment
he stood there, tall, gaunt, gray, staring vacantly into space.

"She _was_ beautiful--when she looked at him," he muttered.

For another minute he stood there, hesitating, glancing backward at the
closed door. Then he went away, stooping slightly, his top hat held
close against the breast of his tightly buttoned frock coat.

CHAPTER XI

During his first year of wedded bliss, Gatewood cut the club. When Kerns
wanted to see him he had to call like other people or, like other
people, accept young Mrs. Gatewood's invitations.

"Why," said Gatewood scornfully, "should I, thirty-four years of age and
safely married, go to a club? Why should I, at my age, idle with a lot
of idlers and listen to stuffy stories from stuffier individuals? Do you
think that stale tobacco smoke, and the idiotically reiterated click of
billiard balls, and the vacant stare of the fashionably brainless, and
the meaningless exchange of banalities with the intellectually aimless
have any attractions for me?"

Mrs. Gatewood raised her pretty eyes in silence; Kerns returned her
amused gaze rather blankly.

"Clubs!" sniffed Gatewood. "What are clubs but pretexts for wasting
time? What mental, what spiritual stimulus can a man expect to find in a
club? Why, Kerns, when I look back a year and think what I was, and when
I look at you and think what you still are--"

"John," said Mrs. Gatewood softly.

"Oh, he knows it!" insisted her husband, "don't you, Tommy? You know the
sort of life you're leading, don't you? You know what a miserable,
aimless, selfish, unambitious, pitiable existence an unmarried man leads
who lives at his club; don't you?"

"Certainly," said Kerns, blinking into the smiling gaze of Mrs.
Gatewood.

"Then why don't you marry?"

But Kerns had risen and was making his adieus with cheerful decision;
and Mrs. Gatewood was laughing as she gave him her slender hand.

"Now I know a girl--" began Gatewood; but his wife was still speaking to
Kerns, so he circled around them, politely suppressing the excitement of
a sudden idea struggling for utterance.

Mrs. Gatewood was saying: "I do wish John would go to his clubs
occasionally. Because a man is married is no reason for his losing touch
with his clubs--"

"I know a girl," broke in Gatewood excitedly, laying his arm on Kerns's
to detain him; but Kerns slid sideways through the door with a smile so
noncommittal that Mrs. Gatewood laughed again and, linking her arm in
her husband's, faced partly toward him. This maneuver, and the
slightest pressure of her shoulder, obliged her husband to begin a
turning movement, so that Kerns might reasonably make his escape in the
middle of Gatewood's sentence; which he did with nimble and circumspect
agility.

"I--I know a--" began Gatewood desperately, twisting his head over his
shoulder, only to hear the deadened patter of his friend's feet over the
velvet stair carpet and the subdued clang of the front door.

"Isn't it extraordinary?" he said to his wife. "I've been trying to tell
Tommy, every time he comes here, about a girl I know--just the very girl
he ought to marry; and something prevents him from listening every
time."

The attractive young matron beside him turned her face so that her eyes
were directly in line with his.

"Did you ever know any people named Manners?" she asked.

"No. Why?"

"You never knew a girl named Marjorie Manners, did you, John?"

"No. What about her?"

"You never heard Mr. Kerns speak of her, did you, dear?"

"No, never. Tommy doesn't talk about girls."

"You never heard him speak of a Mrs. Stanley?"

"Never. Who are these two women?"

"One and the same, dear. Marjorie Manners married an Englishman named
Stanley six years ago. Do you happen to recollect that Mr. Kerns took
his vacation in England six years ago?"

"Yes. What of it?"

"He crossed to Southampton with Marjorie and her mother. He didn't know
she was going over to be married, and she didn't tell him. She wrote to
me about it, though. I was in school at Farmington; she left school to
marry--a mere child of eighteen, undeveloped for her age, thin, almost
scrawny, with pipe-stem arms and neck, red hair, a very sweet,
full-lipped mouth, and gray eyes that were too big for her face."

"Well," said Gatewood with a short laugh, "what about it? You don't
think Kerns fell in love with an insect of that genus, do you?"

"Yes, I do," smiled Mrs. Gatewood.

"Nonsense. Besides, what of it? She's married, you say."

"Her husband died of enteric at Ladysmith. She wrote me. She has never
remarried. Think of it, John--in all these years she has never
remarried!"

"Oh!" said Gatewood pityingly; "do you really suppose that Tommy Kerns
has been nursing a blighted affection all these years without ever
giving _me_ an inkling? Besides, men don't do that; men don't curl up
and blight. Besides, men don't take any stock in big-eyed, flat-chested,
red-headed pipe stems. Why do you think that Kerns ever cared for her?"

"I know he did."

"How do you know it?"

"From Marjorie's letters."

"The conceited kid! Well, of all insufferable nerve! A man like Kerns--a
man--one of the finest, noblest characters--spiritually, intellectually,
physically--a practically faultless specimen of manhood! And a
red-headed, spindle-legged--Oh, my! Oh, fizz! Dearest, men don't worship
a cage of bones with an eighteen-year-old soul in it--like a nervous
canary pecking out at the world!"

"She created a furor in England," observed his wife, smiling.

"Oh, I dare say she might over there. Besides, she's doubtless fattened
up since then. But if you suppose for one moment that Tommy could even
remember a girl like that--"

Mrs. Gatewood smiled again--the wise, sweet smile of a young matron in
whom her husband's closest friend had confided. And after a moment or
two the wise smile became more thoughtful and less assured; for that
very day the Tracer of Lost Persons had called on her to inquire about a
Mrs. Stanley--a new client of his who had recently bought a town house
in East Eighty-third Street and a country house on Long Island; and who
had applied to him to find her fugitive butler and a pint or two of
family jewels. And, after her talk with the Tracer of Lost Persons, Mrs.
Gatewood knew that her favorite among all her husband's friends, Mr.
Kerns, would never of his own volition go near that same Marjorie
Manners who had flirted with him to the very perilous verge before she
told him why she was going to England--and who, now a widow, had
returned with her five-year-old daughter to dwell once more in the city
of her ancestors.

Kerns had said very simply: "She has spoiled women for me--all except
you, Mrs. Gatewood. And if Jack hadn't married you--"

"I understand, Mr. Kerns. I'm awfully sorry."

"Don't feel sorry; only, if you can, call Jack off. He's been perfectly
possessed to marry me to somebody ever since he married you. And if I
told him why I don't care to consider the matter he wouldn't believe
me--he'd spend his life in trying to bring me around. Besides, I
couldn't ever tell him about--Marjorie Manners. Anyhow, nothing on earth
could ever induce me to look at her again. . . . You say she is now a
widow?"

"Yes, Mr. Kerns, and very beautiful."

"Never again," muttered Kerns. "Never! She was homely enough when I
asked her to marry me. I don't want to see her; I don't want to know
what she looks like. I'm glad she has changed so I wouldn't recognize
her, for that means the end of it all--the final elimination of the girl
I remember on the ship. . . . It was probably a sort of diseased
infatuation, wasn't it, Mrs. Gatewood? Think of it! A few days on
shipboard and--and I asked her to marry me! . . . I don't blame her,
after all, for letting me dangle. It was an excellent opportunity for
her to study a rare species of idiot. She was justified and I am
satisfied. Only, do call Jack off with a hint or two."

"I shall try," said young Mrs. Gatewood thoughtfully--very thoughtfully,
for already every atom and fiber of her femininity was aroused in behalf
of these two estranged young people whom Providence certainly had not
meant to put asunder.

CHAPTER XII

"Nothing," said Gatewood firmly, "can make me believe that Kerns ought
not to marry somebody; and I'm never going to let up on him until he
does. I'll bet I could fix him for life if I called in the Tracer to
help me. Isn't it extraordinary how Kerns has kept out of it all these
years?"

The attractive girl beside him turned her face once more so that her
clear, sweet eyes were directly in line with his.

"It _is_ extraordinary," she said seriously. "I think you ought to drop
in at the club some day when you can corner him and bully him."

"I don't want to go to the club," said the infatuated man.

"Why, dear?"

He looked straight at her and she flushed prettily, while a tint of
color touched his own face. Which was very nice of him. So she didn't
say what she was going to say--that it would be perhaps better for them
both if he practiced on her an artistic absence now and then. Younger in
years, she was more mature than he. She knew. But she was too much in
love with him to salt their ambrosia with common sense or suggest
economy in their use of the nectar bottle.

However, the gods attend to that, and she knew they would, and she let
them. So one balmy evening late in May, when the new moon's ghost
floated through the upper haze, and the golden Diana above Manhattan
turned flame color, and the electric lights began to glimmer along Fifth
Avenue, and the first faint scent of the young summer freshened the
foliage in square and park, Kerns, stopping at the club for a moment,
found Gatewood seated at the same window they both were wont to haunt in
earlier and more flippant days.

"Are you dining here?" inquired Kerns, pushing the electric button with
enthusiasm. "Well, that's the first glimmer of common sense you've
betrayed since you've been married!"

"Dining _here_!" repeated Gatewood. "I should hope not! I am just going
home--"

"He's thoroughly cowed," commented Kerns; "every married man you meet at
the club is just going home." But he continued to push the button,
nevertheless.

Gatewood leaned back in his chair and gazed about him, nose in the air.
"What a life!" he observed virtuously. "It's all I can do to stand it
for ten minutes. You're here for the evening, I suppose?" he added
pityingly.

"No," said Kerns; "I'm going uptown to Billy Lee's house to get my suit
case. His family are out of town, and he is at Seabright, so he let me
camp there until the workmen finish papering my rooms upstairs. I'm to
lock up the house and send the key to the Burglar Alarm Company
to-night. Then I go to Boston on the 12.10. Want to come? There'll be a
few doing."

"To Boston! What for?"

"Contracts! We can go out to Cambridge when I've finished my business.
There'll be _etwas_ doing."

"_Can't_ you ever recover from being an undergraduate?" asked Gatewood,
disgusted.

"Well--is there anything the matter with a man getting next to a little
amusement in life?" asked Kerns. "Do you object to my being happy?"

"Amusement? You don't know how to amuse yourself. You don't know how to
be happy. Here you sit, day after day, swallowing Martinis--" He paused
to finish his own, then resumed: "Here you sit, day after day,
intellectually stultified, unemotionally ignorant of the higher and
better life--"

"No, I don't. I've a book upstairs that tells all about that. I read it
when I have holdovers--"

"Kerns, I wish to speak seriously. I've had it on my mind ever since I
married. May I speak frankly?"

"Well, when I come back from Boston--"

"Because I know a girl," interrupted Gatewood--"wait a moment,
Tommy!"--as Kerns rose and sauntered toward the door--"you've plenty of
time to catch your train and be civil, too! I mean to tell you about
that girl, if you'll listen."

Kerns halted and turned upon his friend a pair of eyes, unwinking in
their placid intelligence.

"I was going to say that I know a girl," continued Gatewood, "who is
just the sort of a girl you--"

"No, she isn't!" said Kerns, wheeling to resume his progress toward the
cloakroom.

"Tom!"

Kerns halted.

"_You're_ a fine specimen!" commented Gatewood scornfully. "You spent
the best years of your life in persuading me to get married, and the
first time I try to do the same for you, you make for the tall timber!"

"I know it," admitted Kerns, unashamed; "I'm bashful. I'm a chipmunk for
shyness, so I'll say good night--"

"Come back," said Gatewood coldly.

"But my suit case--"

"You left it at the Lee's, didn't you? Well, you've time enough to go
there, get it, make your train, and listen to me, too. Look here, Kerns,
have you any of the elements of decency about you?"

"No," said Kerns, "not a single element." He seated himself defiantly in
the club window facing Gatewood and began to button his gloves. When he
had finished he settled his new straw hat more comfortably on his head,
and, leaning forward and balancing his malacca walking stick across his
knees, gazed at Gatewood with composure.

"Crank up!" he said pleasantly; "I'm going in less than three minutes."
He pushed the electric knob as an afterthought, and when the gilt
buttons of the club servant glimmered through the dusk, "Two more," he
explained briskly. After a few moments' silence, broken by the tinkle of
ice in thin glassware, Gatewood leaned forward, menacing his friend with
an impressive forefinger:

"Did you or didn't you once tell me that a decent citizen ought to
marry?"

"I did, dear friend."

"Did I or didn't I do it?"

"In the words of the classic, you _done_ it," admitted Kerns.

"Was I or wasn't I going to the devil before I had the sense to marry?"
persisted Gatewood.

"You was! You _was_, dear friend!" said Kerns with enthusiasm. "You had
almost went there ere I appeared and saved you."

"Then why shouldn't you marry and let me save you?"

"But I'm not going to the bowwows. _I'm_ all right. I'm a decent
citizen. I awake in the rosy dawn with a song on my lips; I softly
whistle rag time as I button my collar; I warble a few delicious vagrant
notes as I part my sparse hair; I'm not murderous before breakfast; I go
down town, singing, to my daily toil; I fish for fat contracts in
Georgia marble; I return uptown immersed in a holy calm and the evening
paper. I offer myself a cocktail; I bow and accept; I dress for dinner
with the aid of a rascally valet, but--_do_ I swear at him? No, dear
friend; I say, 'Henry, I have known far, far worse scoundrels than you.
Thank you for filling up my bay rum with water. Bless you for wearing
my imported hosiery! I deeply regret that my new shirts do not fit you,
Henry!' And my smile is a benediction upon that wayward scullion. Then,
dear friend, why, why do you desire to offer me up upon the altar of
unrest? What is a little wifey to me or I to any wifey?"

"Because," said Gatewood irritated, "you offered me up. I'm happy and I
want you to be--you great, hulking, self-satisfied symbol of supreme
self-centered selfishness--"

"Oh, splash!" said Kerns feebly.

"Yes, you are. What do you do all day? Grub for money and study how to
make life agreeable to yourself! Every minute of the day you are
occupied in having a good time! You've admitted it! You wake up singing
like a fool canary; you wear imported hosiery; you've made a soft, warm
wallow for yourself at this club, and here you bask your life away,
waddling downtown to nail contracts and cut coupons, and uptown to
dinners and theaters, only to return and sprawl here in luxury without
one single thought for posterity. _Your_ crime is race suicide!"

"I--my--_what_!"

"Certainly. Some shirk taxes, some jury duty. _You_ shirk fatherhood,
and all its happy and sacred obligations! You deny posterity! You strike
a blow at it! You flout it! You menace the future of this Republic!
Your inertia is a crime against the people! Instead of _pro bono
publico_ your motto is _pro bono tempo_--for a good time! And, dog Latin
or not, it's the truth, and our great President"

"Splash!" said Kerns, rising.

"I've a good mind," said Gatewood indignantly, "to put the Tracer of
Lost Persons on your trail. He'd rope you and tie you in record time!"

Kerns's smile was a provocation.

"I'll do it, too!" added Gatewood, losing his temper, "if you dare give
me the chance."

"Seriously," inquired Kerns, delighted, "_do_ you think your friend, Mr.
Keen, could encompass my matrimony against my better sense and the full
enjoyment of my unimpaired mental faculties?"

"Didn't he--fortunately for me--force me into matrimony when I had never
seen a woman I would look at twice? Didn't you put him up to it? Very
well, why can't I put him on your trail then? Why can't _he_ do the same
for you?"

"Try it, dear friend," retorted Kerns courteously.

"Do you mean that you are not afraid? Do you mean you give me full
liberty to set him on you? And do you realize what that means? No, you
don't; for you haven't a notion of what that man, Westrel Keen, can
accomplish. You haven't the slightest idea of the machinery which he
controls with a delicacy absolutely faultless; with a perfectly
terrifying precision. Why, man, the Pinkerton system itself has become
merely a detail in the immense complexity of the system of control which
the Tracer of Lost Persons exercises over this entire continent. The
urban police, the State constabulary of Pennsylvania, the rural systems
of surveillance, the Secret Service, all municipal, provincial, State,
and national organizations form but a few strands in the universal web
he has woven. Custom officials, revenue officers, the militia of the
States, the army, the navy, the personnel of every city, State, and
national legislative bodies form interdependent threads in the mesh he
is master of; and, like a big beneficent spider, he sits in the center
of his web, able to tell by the slightest tremor of any thread exactly
where to begin investigations!"

Flushed, earnest, a trifle out of breath with his own eloquence,
Gatewood waved his hand to indicate a Ciceronian period, adding, as
Kerns's incredulous smile broadened: "Say splash again, and I'll put you
at his mercy!"

"Ker-splash! dear friend," observed Kerns pleasantly. "If a man doesn't
want to marry, the army, the navy, the Senate, the white wings, and the
great White Father at Washington can't make him."

"I tell you I want to see you happy!" said Gatewood angrily.

"Then gaze upon me. I'm it!"

"You're not! You don't know what happiness is."

"Don't I? Well, I don't miss it, dear friend--"

"But if you've never had it, and therefore don't miss it, it's time
somebody found some real happiness for you. Kerns, I simply can't bear
to see you missing so much happiness--"

"Why grieve?"

"Yes, I will! I do grieve--in spite of your grinning skepticism and your
bantering attitude. See here, Tom; I've started about a thousand times
to say that I knew a girl--"

"Do you want to hear that splash again?"

Gatewood grew madder. He said: "I could easily lay your case before Mr.
Keen and have you in love and married and happy whether you like it or
not!"

"If I were not going to Boston, my son, I should enjoy your misguided
efforts," returned Kerns blandly.

"Your going to Boston makes no difference. The Tracer of Lost Persons
doesn't care where you go or what you do. If he starts in on your case,
Tommy, you can't escape."

"You mean he can catch me now? Here? At my own club? Or on the public
highway? Or on the classic Boston train?"

"He _could_. Yes, I firmly believe he could land you before you ever saw
the Boston State House. I tell you he can work like lightning, Kerns. I
know it; I am so absolutely convinced of it that I--I almost hesitate--"

"Don't feel delicate about it," laughed Kerns; "you may call him on the
telephone while I go uptown and get my suit case. Perhaps I'll come back
a blushing bridegroom; who knows?"

"If you'll wait here I'll call him up now," said Gatewood grimly.

"Oh, very well. Only I left my suit case in Billy's room, and it's full
of samples of Georgia marble, and I've got to get it to the train."

"You've plenty of time. If you'll wait until I talk to Mr. Keen I'll
dine with you here. Will you?"

"What? Dine in this abandoned joint with an outcast like me? Dear
friend, are you dippy this lovely May evening?"

"I'll do it if you'll wait. Will you? And I'll bet you now that I'll
have you in love and sprinting toward the altar before we meet again at
this club. Do you dare bet?"

"The terms of the wager, kind friend?" drawled Kerns, delighted; and he
fished out a notebook kept for such transactions.

"Let me see," reflected Gatewood; "you'll need a silver service when
you're married. . . . Well, say, forks and spoons and things against an
imported trap gun--twelve-gauge, you know."

"Done. Go and telephone to your friend, Mr. Keen." And Kerns pushed the
electric button with a jeering laugh, and asked the servant for a dinner
card.

CHAPTER XIII

Gatewood, in the telephone booth, waited impatiently for Mr. Keen; and
after a few moments the Tracer of Lost Persons' agreeable voice sounded
in the receiver.

"It's about Mr. Kerns," began Gatewood; "I want to see him happy, and
the idiot won't be. Now, Mr. Keen, you know what happiness you and he
brought to me! You know what sort of an idle, selfish, aimless,
meaningless life you saved me from? I want you to do the same for Mr.
Kerns. I want to ask you to take up his case at once. Besides, I've a
bet on it. Could you attend to it at once?"

"To-night?" asked the Tracer, laughing.

"Why--ah--well, of course, that would be impossible. I suppose--"

"My profession is to overcome the impossible, Mr. Gatewood. Where is Mr.
Kerns?"

"Here, in this club, defying me and drinking cocktails. He won't get
married, and I want you to make him do it."

"Where is he spending the evening?" asked the Tracer, laughing again.

"Why, he's been stopping at the Danforth Lees' in Eighty-third Street
until the workmen at the club here finish putting new paper on his
walls. The Lees are out of town. He left his suit case at their house
and he's going up to get it and catch the 12.10 train for Boston."

"He goes from the Lenox Club to the residence of Mr. W. Danforth Lee,
East Eighty-third Street, to get a suit case," repeated the Tracer. "Is
that correct?"

"Yes."

"What is in the suit case?"

"Samples of that new marble he's quarrying in Georgia."

"Is it an old suit case? Has it Mr. Kerns's initials on it?"

"Hold the wire; I'll find out."

And Gatewood left the telephone and walked into the great lounging room,
where Kerns sat twirling his stick and smiling to himself.

"All over, dear friend?" inquired Kerns, starting to rise. "I've ordered
a corking dinner."

"Wait!" returned Gatewood ominously. "What sort of a suit case is that
one you're going after?"

"What sort? Oh, just an ordinary--"

"Is it old or new?"

"Brand new. Why?"

"Is your name on it?"

"No; why? Would that thicken the plot, dear friend? Or is the Tracer
foiled, ha! ha!"

Gatewood turned on his heel, went back to the telephone, and, carefully
shutting the door of the booth, took up the receiver.

"It's a new suit case, Mr. Keen," he said; "no initials on it--just an
ordinary case."

"Mr. Lee's residence is 38 East Eighty-third Street, between Madison and
Fifth, I believe."

"Yes," replied Gatewood.

"And the family are out of town?"

"Yes."

"Is there a caretaker there?"

"No; Mr. Kerns camped there. When he leaves to-night he will send the
key to the Burglar Alarm Company."

"Very well. Please hold the wire for a while."

For ten full minutes Gatewood sat gleefully cuddling the receiver
against his ear. His faith in Mr. Keen was naturally boundless; he
believed that whatever the Tracer attempted could not result in failure.
He desired nothing in the world so ardently as to see Kerns safely
married. His own happiness may have been the motive power which had set
him in action in behalf of his friend--that and a certain indefinable
desire to practice a species of heavenly revenge, of grateful
retaliation upon the prime mover and _collaborateur_, if not the sole
author, of his own wedded bliss. Kerns had made him happy.

"And I'm hanged if I don't pay him off and make him happy, too!"
muttered Gatewood. "Does he think I'm going to sit still and see him go
tearing and gyrating about town with no responsibility, no moral check
to his evolutions, no wholesome home duties to limit his acrobatics, no
wife to clip his wings? It's time he had somebody to report to; time he
assumed moral burdens and spiritual responsibilities. A man is just as
happy when he is certain where he is going to sleep. A man can find just
as much enjoyment in life when he feels it his duty to account for his
movements. I don't care whether Kerns is comparatively happy or
not--there's nothing either sacred or holy in that kind of happiness,
and I'm not going to endure the sort of life he likes any longer!"

Immersed in moral reflections, inspired by affectionate obligations to
violently inflict happiness upon Kerns, the minutes passed very
agreeably until the amused voice of the Tracer of Lost Persons sounded
again in the receiver.

"Mr. Gatewood?"

"Yes, I am here, Mr. Keen."

"Do you really think it best for Mr. Kerns to fall in love?"

"I do, certainly!" replied Gatewood with emphasis.

"Because," continued the Tracer of Lost Persons, "I see little chance
for him to do otherwise if I take up this case. Fate itself, in the
shape of a young lady, is already on the way here in a railroad train."

"Good! Good!" exclaimed Gatewood. "Don't let him escape, Mr. Keen! I beg
of you to take up his case! I urge you most seriously to do so. Mr.
Kerns is now exactly what I was a year ago--an utterly useless member of
the community--a typical bachelor who lives at his clubs, shirking the
duties of a decent citizen."

"_Ex_actly," said the Tracer. "Do you insist that I take this case? That
I attempt to trace and find for Mr. Kerns a sort of happiness he himself
has never found?"

"I implore you to do so, Mr. Keen."

"_Ex_actly. If I do--if I carry it out as it has been arranged--or
rather as the case seems to have already arranged itself, for it is
rather a simple matter, I fancy--I do not exactly see how Mr. Kerns can
avoid experiencing a--ahem--a tender sentiment for the very charming
young lady whom I--and chance--have designed for him as a partner
through life."

"Excellent! Splendid!" shouted Gatewood through the telephone. "Can I do
anything to aid you in this?"

"Yes," replied the Tracer, laughing. "If you can keep him amused for an
hour or two before he goes after his suit case it might make it easier
for me. This young lady is due to arrive in New York at eight o'clock--a
client of mine--coming to consult me. Her presence plays an important
part in Mr. Kerns's future. I wish you to detain Mr. Kerns until she is
ready to receive him. But of this he must know nothing. Good-by, Mr.
Gatewood, and would you be kind enough to present my compliments to Mrs.
Gatewood?"

"Indeed I will! We never can forget what you have done for us. Good-by."

"Good-by, Mr. Gatewood. Try to keep Mr. Kerns amused for two or three
hours. Of course, if you can't do this, there are other methods I may
employ--a dozen other plans already partly outlined in my mind; but the
present plan, which accident and coincidence make so easy, is likely to
work itself out to your entire satisfaction within a few hours. We are
already weaving a web around Mr. Kerns; we already have taken exclusive
charge of his future movements after he leaves the Lenox Club. I do not
believe he can escape us, or his charming destiny. Good night!"

Gatewood, enchanted, hung up the receiver. Song broke softly from his
lips as he started in search of Kerns; his step was springy,
buoyant--sort of subdued and modest prance.

"Now," he said to himself, "Tommy must take out his papers. The time is
ended when he can issue letters of marque to himself, hoist sail, square
away, and go cruising all over this metropolis at his own sweet will."

CHAPTER XIV

In the meanwhile, at the other end of the wire, Mr. Keen, the Tracer of
Lost Persons, was preparing to trace for Mr. Kerns, against that
gentleman's will, the true happiness which Mr. Kerns had never been able
to find for himself.

He sat in his easy chair within the four walls of his own office,
inspecting a line of people who stood before him on the carpet forming a
single and attentive rank. In this rank were five men: a policeman, a
cab driver, an agent of the telephone company, an agent of the electric
company, and a reformed burglar carrying a kit of his trade tools.

The Tracer of Lost Persons gazed at them, meditatively joining the tips
of his thin fingers.

"I want the number on 36 East Eighty-third Street changed to No. 38, and
the number 38 replaced by No. 36," he said to the policeman. "I want it
done at once. Get a glazier and go up there and have it finished in an
hour. Mrs. Kenna, caretaker at No. 36, is in my pay; she will not
interfere. There is nobody in No. 38: Mr. Kerns leaves there to-night
and the Burglar Alarm Company takes charge to-morrow."

And, turning to the others: "You," nodding at the reformed burglar,
"know your duty. Mike!" to the cab driver, "don't miss Mr. Kerns at the
Lenox Club. If he calls you before eleven, drive into the park and have
an accident. And you," to the agent of the telephone company, "will
sever all telephone connection in Mrs. Stanley's house; and you," to the
official of the electric company, "will see that the circuit in Mrs.
Stanley's house is cut so that no electric light may be lighted and no
electric bell sound."

The Tracer of Lost Persons stroked his gray mustache thoughtfully. "And
that," he ended, "will do, I think. Good night."

He rose and stood by the door as the policeman headed the solemn file
which marched out to their duty; then he looked at his watch, and, as it
was already a few minutes after eight, he called up No. 36 East
Eighty-third Street, and in a moment more had Mrs. Stanley on the wire.

"Good evening," he said pleasantly. "I suppose you have just arrived
from Rosylyn. I may be a little late--I may be very late, in fact, so I
called you up to say so. And I wished to say another thing; to ask you
whether your servants could recollect ever having seen a young man
about the place, a rather attractive young man with excellent address
and manners, five feet eleven inches, slim but well built, dark hair,
dark eyes, and dark mustache, offering samples of Georgia marble for
sale."

"Really, Mr. Keen," replied a silvery voice, "I have heard them say
nothing about such an individual. If you will hold the wire I will ask
my maid." And, after a pause: "No, Mr. Keen, my maid cannot remember any
such person. Do you think he was a confederate of that wretched butler
of mine?"

"I am scarcely prepared to say that; in fact," added Mr. Keen, "I
haven't the slightest idea that this young man could have been concerned
in anything of that sort. Only, if you should ever by any chance see
such a man, detain him if possible until you can communicate with me;
detain him by any pretext, by ruse, by force if you can, only detain him
until I can get there. Will you do this?"

"Certainly, Mr. Keen, if I can. Please describe him again?"

Mr. Keen did so minutely.

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