Part 3 out of 4
"You say he sells Georgia marble by samples, which he carries in a suit
"He _says_ that he has samples of Georgia marble in his suit case,"
replied the Tracer cautiously. "It might be well, if possible, to see
what he has in his suit case."
"I will warn the servants as soon as I return to Rosylyn. When may I
expect you this evening, Mr. Keen?"
"It is impossible to say, Mrs. Stanley. If I am not there by midnight I
shall try to call next morning."
So they exchanged civil adieus; the Tracer hung up his receiver and
leaned back in his chair, smiling to himself.
"Curious," he said, "that chance should have sent that pretty woman to
me at such a time. . . . Kerns _is_ a fine fellow, every inch of him. It
hit him hard when he crossed with her to Southampton six years ago; it
hit him harder when she married that Englishman. I don't wonder he never
cared to marry after that brief week of her society; for she is just
about the most charming woman I have ever met--red hair and all. . . .
And if quick action is what is required, it's well to break the ice
between them at once with a dreadful misunderstanding."
The dinner that Kerns had planned for himself and Gatewood was an
ingenious one, cunningly contrived to discontent Gatewood with home fare
and lure him by its seductive quality into frequent revisits to the club
which was responsible for such delectable wines and viands.
A genial glow already enveloped Gatewood and pleasantly suffused Kerns.
From time to time they held some rare vintage aloft, squinting through
the crystal-imprisoned crimson with deep content.
"Not that _my_ word is necessarily the _last_ word concerning Burgundy,"
said Gatewood modestly; "but I venture to doubt that any club in America
can match this bottle, Kerns."
"Now, Jack," wheedled Kerns, "isn't it pleasant to dine here once in a
while? Be frank, man! Look about at the other tables--at all the
pleasant, familiar faces--the same fine fellows, bless 'em--the same
smoky old ceiling, the same bum portraits of dead governors, the same
old stag heads on the wall. Now, Jack, isn't it mighty pleasant, after
all? Be a gentleman and admit it!"
"Y-yes," confessed Gatewood, "it's all right for me once in a while,
because I know that I am presently going back to my own home--a jolly
lamplit room and the prettiest girl in Manhattan curled up in an
"You're fortunate," said Kerns shortly. And for the first time there
remained no lurking mockery in his voice; for the first time his retort
was tinged with bitterness. But the next instant his eyes glimmered with
the same gay malice, and the unbelieving smile twitched at his clean-cut
lips, and he raised his hand, touching the short ends of his mustache
with that careless, amused cynicism which rather became him.
"All that you picture so entrancingly is forbidden the true believer,"
he said; and began to repeat:
"'O weaver! weave the flowers of Feraghan
Into the fabric that thy birth began;
Iris, narcissus, tulips cloud-band tied,
These thou shalt picture for the eye of Man;
Henna, Herati, and the Jhelums tide
In Sarraband and Saruk be thy guide,
And the red dye of Ispahan beside
The checkered Chinese fret of ancient gold;
--So heed the ban, old as the law is old,
Nor weave into thy warp the laughing face,
Nor limb, nor body, nor one line of grace,
Nor hint, nor tint, nor any veiled device
Of Woman who is barred from Paradise!'"
"A nice sentiment!" said Gatewood hotly.
"Can't help it; you see I'm forbidden to monkey with the eternal looms
or weave the forbidden into the pattern of my life."
Gatewood sat silent for a moment, then looked up at Kerns with something
so closely akin to a grin that his friend became interested in its
scarcely veiled significance, and grinned in reply.
"So you really expect that your friend, Mr. Keen, is going to marry me
to somebody, _nolens volens_?" asked Kerns.
"I do. That's what I dream of, Tommy."
"My poor friend, dream on!"
"I am. Tommy, you're lost! I mean you're as good as married now!"
"You think so?"
"I _know_ it! There you sit, savoring your Burgundy, idling over a
cigar, happy, care free, fancy free, at liberty, as you believe, to roam
off anywhere at any time and continue the eternal hunt for pleasure!
That's what you _think_! Ha! Tommy, I know better! That's not the sort
of man _I_ see sitting on the same chair where you are now sprawling in
such content! I see a doomed man, already in the shadow of the altar,
wasting his time unsuspiciously while Chance comes whirling into the
city behind a Long Island locomotive, and Fate, the footman, sits
outside ready to follow him, and Destiny awaits him no matter what he
does, what he desires, where he goes, wherever he turns to-night!
Destiny awaits him at his journey's end!"
"Very fine," said Kerns admiringly. "Too bad it's due to the Burgundy."
"Never mind what my eloquence is due to," retorted Gatewood, "the fact
remains that this is probably your last bachelor dinner. Kerns, old
fellow! Here's to her! Bless her! I--I wish sincerely that we knew who
she is and where to send those roses. Anyway, here's to the bride!"
He stood up very gravely and drank the toast, then, reseating himself,
tapped the empty glass gently against the table's edge until it broke.
"You are certainly doing your part well," said Kerns admiringly. Then he
swallowed the remainder of his Burgundy and looked up at the club clock.
"Eleven," he said with regret. "I've about time to go to Eighty-third
Street, get my suit case, and catch my train at 125th Street." To a
servant he said, "Call a hansom," then rose and sauntered downstairs to
the cloakroom, where presently both men stood, hatted and gloved,
swinging their sticks.
"That was a fool bet you made," began Kerns; "I'll release you, Jack."
"Sorry, but I must insist on holding you," replied Gatewood, laughing.
"You're going to your doom. Come on! I'll see you as far as the cab
They walked out, and Kerns gave the cabby the street and number and
entered the hansom.
"Now," said Gatewood, "you're in for it! You're done for! You can't help
yourself! I've won my twelve-gauge trap gun already, and I'll have to
set you up in table silver, anyway, so it's an even break. You're all
in, Tommy! The Tracer is on your trail!"
In the beginning of a flippant retort Kerns experienced a curious
sensation of hesitation. Something in Gatewood's earnestness, in his
jeering assurance and delighted certainty, made him, for one moment,
feel doubtful, even uncomfortable.
"What nonsense you talk," he said, recovering his equanimity. "Nothing
on earth can prevent me driving to 38 East Eighty-third Street, getting
my luggage, and taking the Boston express. Your Tracer doesn't intend to
stop my hansom and drag me into a cave, does he? You haven't put
knock-outs into that Burgundy, have you? Then what in the dickens are
you laughing at?"
But Gatewood, on the sidewalk under the lamplight, was still laughing as
Kerns drove away, for he had recognized in the cab driver a man he had
seen in Mr. Kern's office, and he knew that the Tracer of Lost Persons
had Kerns already well in hand.
The hansom drove on through the summer darkness between rows of electric
globes drooping like huge white moon flowers from their foliated bronze
stalks, on up the splendid avenue, past the great brilliantly
illuminated hotels, past the white cathedral, past clubs and churches
and the palaces of the wealthy; on, on along the park wall edged by its
double rows of elms under which shadowy forms moved--lovers strolling in
"Pooh," sniffed Kerns, "the whole world has gone love mad, and I'm the
only sane man left."
But he leaned back in his cab and fell a-thinking of a thin girl with
red hair and great gray eyes--a thin, frail creature, scarcely more than
a child, who had held him for a week in a strange sorcery only to
release him with a frightened smile, leaving her indelible impression
upon his life forever.
And, thinking, he looked up, realizing that the cab had stopped in East
Eighty-third Street before one of a line of brownstone houses, all
Then he leaned out and saw that the house number was thirty-eight. That
was the number of the Lees' house; he descended, bade the cabman await
him, and, producing his latch key, started up the steps, whistling
But he didn't require his key, for, as he reached the front door, he
found, to his surprise and concern, that it swung partly open--just a
"The mischief!" he muttered; "could I have failed to close it? Could
anybody have seen it and crept in?"
He entered the hallway hastily and pressed the electric knob. No light
appeared in the sconces.
"What the deuce!" he murmured; "something wrong with the switch!" And he
hurriedly lighted a match and peered into the darkness. By the vague
glimmer of the burning match he could distinguish nothing. He listened
intently, tried the electric switch again without success. The match
burned his fingers and he dropped it, watching the last red spark die
out in the darkness.
Something about the shadowy hallway seemed unfamiliar; he went to the
door, stepped out on the stoop, and looked up at the number on the
transom. It was thirty-eight; no doubt about the house. Hesitating, he
glanced around to see that his hansom was still there. It had
"What an idiot that cabman is!" he exclaimed, intensely annoyed at the
prospect of lugging his heavy suit case to a Madison Avenue car and
traveling with it to Harlem.
He looked up and down the dimly lighted street; east, an electric car
glided down Madison Avenue; west, the lights of Fifth Avenue glimmered
against the dark foliage of the Park. He stood a moment, angry at the
desertion of his cabman, then turned and reentered the dark hall,
closing the door behind him.
Up the staircase he felt his way to the first landing, and, lighting a
match, looked for the electric button.
"Am I crazy, or was there no electric button in this hall?" he thought.
The match burned low; he had to drop it. Perplexed, he struck another
match and opened the door leading into the front room, and stood on the
threshold a moment, looking about him at the linen-shrouded furniture
and pictures. This front room, closed for the summer, he had not before
entered, but he stepped in now, poking about for any possible intruder,
lighting match after match.
"I suppose I ought to go over this confounded house inch by inch," he
murmured. "What could have possessed me to leave the front door ajar
For an instant he thought that perhaps Mrs. Nolan, the woman who came in
the morning to make his bed, might have left the door open, but he knew
that couldn't be so, because he always waited for her to finish her work
and leave before he went out. So either he must have left the door open,
or some marauder had visited the house--was perhaps at that moment in
the house! And it was his duty to find out.
"I'd better be about it, too," he thought savagely, "or I'll never make
He struck his last match, looked around, and, seeing gas jets among the
clustered electric bulbs of the sconces, tried to light one and
He had left his suit case in the passageway between the front and rear
rooms, and now, cautiously, stick in hand, he turned toward the dim
corridor leading to the bedroom. There was his suit case, anyway! He
picked it up and started to push open the door of the rear room; but at
the same time, and before he could lay his hand on the knob, the door
before him opened suddenly in a flood of light, and a woman stood there,
dark against the gas-lit glare, a pistol waveringly extended in the
general direction of his head.
"Good heavens!" he said, appalled, and dropped his suit case with a
"W-what are you d-doing--" She controlled her voice and the wavering
weapon with an effort. "What are you doing in this house?"
"Doing? In _this_ house?" he repeated, his eyes protruding in the
direction of the unsteady pistol muzzle. "What are _you_ doing in this
house--if you don't mind saying!"
"I--I m-must ask you to put up your hands," she said. "If you move I
shall certainly s-shoot off this pistol."
"It will go off, anyway, if you handle it like that!" he said,
exasperated. "What do you mean by pointing it at me?"
"I mean to fire it off in a few moments if you don't raise your hands
above your head!"
He looked at the pistol; it was new and shiny; he looked at the athletic
young figure silhouetted against the brilliant light.
"Well, if you make a point of it, of course." He slowly held up both
hands, higher, then higher still. "Upon my word!" he breathed. "Held up
by a woman!" And he said aloud, bitterly: "No doubt you have assistance
close at hand."
"No doubt," she said coolly. "What have you been packing into that
"P-packing into _what_? Oh, into that suit case? That is my suit case."
"Of course it is," she said quietly, "but what have you inside it?"
"Nothing _you_ or your friends would care for," he said meaningly.
"I must be the judge of that," she retorted. "Please open that suit
"How can I if my hands are in the air?" he expostulated, now intensely
interested in the novelty of being held up by this graceful and vaguely
"You may lower your arms to unpack the suit case," she said.
"I--I had rather not if you are going to keep me covered with your
"Of course I shall keep you covered. Unpack your booty at once!"
"Madam, do you take _me_ for a thief? Have you, by chance, entered the
wrong house? I--I cannot reconcile your voice with what I am forced to
consider you--a housebreaker--"
"We will discuss that later. Unpack that bag!" she insisted.
"But--but there is nothing in it except samples of marble--"
"What!" she exclaimed nervously. "_What_ did you say? Samples of
"Marble, madam! Georgia marble!"
"Oh! So _you_ are the young man who goes about pretending to peddle
Georgia marble from samples! Are you? The famous marble man I have heard
"I? Madam, I don't know what you mean!"
"Come!" she said scornfully; "let me see the contents of that suit case.
I--I am not afraid of you; I am not a bit afraid of you. And I shall
catch your accomplice, too."
"Madam, you speak like an honest woman! You _must_ have managed to enter
the wrong house. This is number thirty-eight, where I live."
"It is number thirty-six; my house!"
"But I _know_ it is number thirty-eight; Mr. Lee's house," he protested
hopefully. "This is some dreadful mistake."
"Mr. Lee's house is next door," she said. "Do you not suppose I know my
own house? Besides, I have been warned against a plausible young man who
pretends he has Georgia marble to sell--"
"There is a dreadful mistake somewhere," he insisted. "Please p-p-put up
your p-pistol and aid me to solve it. I am no robber, madam. I thought
at first that you were. I'm living in Mr. Lee's house, No. 38 East
Eighty-third Street, and I've looked carefully at the number over the
door of this house and the number is thirty-eight, and the street is
East Eighty-third. So I naturally conclude that I am in Mr. Lee's
"Your arguments and your conclusions are very plausible," she said,
"but, fortunately for me, I have been expressly warned against a young
man of your description. _You_ are the marble man!"
"It's a mistake! A very dreadful one."
"Then how did you enter this house?"
"I have a key--I mean I found the front door unlatched. Please don't
misunderstand me; I know it sounds unconvincing, but I really have a key
to number thirty-eight."
He attempted to reach for his pocket and the pistol glittered in his
"Won't you let me prove my innocence?" he asked.
"You can't prove it by showing me a key. Besides, it's probably a
weapon. Anyhow, if, as you pretend, you have managed to get into the
wrong house, why did you bring that suit case up here?"
"It was here. It's mine. I left it here in this passageway."
"In _my_ house?" she asked incredulously.
"In number thirty-eight; that is all I know. I'll open the suit case if
you will let me. I have already described its contents. If it has
samples of marble in it you _must_ be convinced!"
"It will convince me that it is your valise. But what of that? I know it
is yours already," she said defiantly. "I know, at least, that you are
the marble man--if nothing worse!"
"But malefactors don't go about carrying samples of Georgia marble," he
protested, dropping on one knee under the muzzle of her revolver and
tugging at the straps and buckles. In a second or two he threw open the
case--and the sight of the contents staggered him. For there, thrown in
pellmell among small square blocks of polished marble was a complete kit
of burglar's tools, including also a mask, a dark lantern, and a
"What--w--w--what on earth is this?" he stammered. "These things don't
belong to me. I won't have them! I don't want them. Who put them into my
suit case? How the deuce--"
"You _are_ the marble man!" she said with a shudder. "Your crimes are
known! Your wretched accomplice will be caught! You are the marble
man--or something worse!"
Kneeling there, aghast, bewildered, he passed his hand across his eyes
as though to clear them from some terrible vision. But the suit case was
still there with its incriminating contents when he looked again.
"I am sorry for you," she said tremulously. "I--if it were not for the
marble--I would let you go. But you are the marble man!"
"Yes, and I'm probably a madman, too. I don't know what I am! I don't
know what is happening to me. I ought to be going, that is all I know--"
"I cannot let you go."
"But I must! I've got to catch a train."
The feebleness of his excuse chilled her pity.
"I shall not let you go," she said, resting the hand which held the
pistol on her hip, but keeping him covered. "I know you came to rob my
house; I know you are a thoroughly bad and depraved young man, but for
all that I could find it in my heart to let you go if you were not also
the _marble man_!"
"What on earth is the marble man?" he asked, exasperated.
"I don't know. I have been earnestly warned against him. Probably he is
a relative of my butler--"
"I'm not a relative of anybody's butler!"
"You _say_ you are not. How do I know? I--I will make you an offer. I
will give you one last chance. If you will return to me the jewels that
my butler took--"
"Good heavens, madam! Do you really take me for a professional burglar?"
"How can I help it?" she said indignantly. "Look at your suit case full
of lanterns and masks--full of _marble_, too!"
Speechless, he stared at the burglar's kit.
"I am sorry--" Her voice had altered again to a tremulous sweetness. "I
can't help feeling sorry for you. You do not seem to be hardened; your
voice and manner are not characteristically criminal. I--I can't see
your face very clearly, but it does not seem to be a brutally inhuman
An awful desire to laugh seized Kerns; he struggled against it;
hysteria lay that way; and he covered his face with both hands and
She probably mistook the action for the emotion of shame and despair
born of bitter grief; perhaps of terror of the law. It frightened her a
little, but pity dominated. She could scarcely endure to do what she
"This is dreadful, dreadful!" she faltered. "If you only would give me
back my jewels--"
Sounds, hastily smothered, escaped him. She believed them to be groans,
and it made her slightly faint.
"I--I've simply got to telephone for the police," she said pityingly. "I
must ask you to sit down there and wait--there is a chair. Sit
there--and please don't move, for I--this has unnerved me--I am not
accustomed to doing cruel things; and if you should move too quickly or
attempt to run away I feel certain that this pistol would explode."
"Are you going to telephone?" he asked.
"Yes, I am."
She backed away, cautiously, pistol menacing him, reached for the
receiver, and waited for Central. She waited a long time before she
realized that the telephone as well as the electric light was out of
"Did _you_ cut all these wires?" she demanded angrily.
"I? What wires?"
She reached out and pressed the electric button which should have rung a
bell in her maid's bedroom on the top floor. She kept her finger on the
button for ten minutes. It was useless.
"You laid deliberate plans to rob this house," she said, her cheeks pink
with indignation. "I am not a bit sorry for you. I shall _not_ let you
go! I shall sit here until somebody comes to my assistance, if I have to
sit here for weeks and weeks!"
"If you'd let me telephone to my club--" he began.
"Your club! You are very plausible. You didn't offer to call up any club
until you found that the telephone was not working!"
He thought a moment. "I don't suppose you would trust me to go out and
get a policeman?"
"Or go into the front room and open a window and summon some passer-by?"
"How do I know you haven't confederates waiting outside?"
"That's true," he said seriously.
There was a silence. Her nerves seemed to trouble her, for she began to
pace to and fro in front of the passageway where he sat comfortably on
his chair, arms folded, one knee dropped over the other.
The light being behind her he could not as yet distinguish her features
very clearly. Her figure was youthful, slender, yet beautifully rounded;
her head charming in contour. He watched her restlessly walking on the
floor, small hand clutching the pistol resting on her hip.
The ruddy burnished glimmer on the edges of her hair he supposed, at
first, was caused by the strong light behind her.
"This is atrocious!" she murmured, halting to confront him. "How dared
you sever every electric connection in my house?"
As she spoke she stepped backward a pace or two, resting herself for a
moment against the footboard of the bed--full in the gaslight. And he
saw her face.
For a moment he studied her; an immense wave of incredulity swept over
him--of wild unbelief, slowly changing to the astonishment of dawning
conviction. Astounded, silent, he stared at her from his shadowy corner;
and after a while his pulses began to throb and throb and hammer, and
the clamoring confusion of his senses seemed to deafen him.
[Illustration: "'This is atrocious,' she murmured, halting to confront
She rested a moment or two against the footboard of the bed, her big
gray eyes fixed on his vague and shadowy form.
"This won't do," she said.
"No," he said, "it won't do."
He spoke very quietly, very gently. She detected the alteration in his
voice and started slightly, as though the distant echo of a familiar
voice had sounded.
"What did you say?" she asked, coming nearer, pistol glittering in
"I said 'It won't do.' I don't know what I meant by it. If I meant
anything I was wrong. It _will_ do. The situation is perfectly agreeable
"Insolence will not help you," she said sharply. And under the sharpness
he detected the slightest quaver of a new alarm.
"I am going to free myself," he said coolly.
"If you move I shall certainly shoot!" she retorted.
"I am going to move--but only my lips. I have only to move my lips to
"I should scarcely advise you to trust to your eloquence. I have been
duly warned, you see."
"Who warned you?" he asked curiously. And, as she disdained to reply:
"Never mind. We can clear that up later. Now let me ask you something."
"You are scarcely in a position to ask questions," she said.
"May I not speak to you?"
"Is it necessary?"
He thought a moment. "No, not necessary. Nothing is in this life, you
know. I thought differently once. Once--when I was younger--six years
younger--I thought happiness was necessary. I found that a man might
live without it."
She stood gazing at him through the shadows, pistol on hip.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"I mean that happiness is not necessary to life. Life goes on all the
same. My life has continued for six years without that happiness which
some believe to be essential."
After a silence she said: "I can tell by the way you speak that you are
well born. I--I dread to do what I simply must do."
He, too, sat silent a long time--long enough for an utterly perverse and
whimsical humor to take complete possession of him.
"_Won't_ you let me go--_this_ time?" he pleaded.
"You had better let me go while you can," he said, "because, perhaps,
you may find it difficult to get rid of me later."
Affronted, she shrank back from the doorway and stood in the center of
her room, angry, disdainful, beautiful, under the ruddy glory of her
His perverse mood changed, too; he leaned forward, studying her
minutely--the splendid gray eyes, the delicate mouth and nose, the full,
sweet lips, the witchery of wrist and hand, and the flowing, rounded
outline of limb and body under the pretty gown. Could this be _she_?
This lovely, mature woman, wearing scarcely a trace of the young girl he
had never forgotten--scarcely a trace save in the beauty of her eyes and
hair--save in the full, red mouth, sweet and sensitive even in its
"Once," he said, and his voice sounded to him like voices heard in
dreams--"once, years and years ago, there was a steamer, and a man and a
young girl on board. Do you mind my telling you about it?"
She stood leaning against the footboard of the bed, not even deigning to
raise her eyes in reply. So he made the slightest stir in his chair; and
then she looked up quickly enough, pistol poised.
"The steamer," said Kerns slowly, "was coming into Southampton--six
years ago. On deck these two people stood--a man of twenty-eight, a girl
of eighteen--six years ago. The name of the steamer was the _Carnatic_.
Did you ever hear of that ship?"
She was looking at him attentively. He waited for her reply; she made
none; and he went on.
"The man had asked the girl something--I don't know what--I don't know
why her gray eyes filled with tears. Perhaps it was because she could
not do what the man asked her to do. It may have been to love him; it
may have been that he was asking her to marry him and that she couldn't.
Perhaps that is why there were tears in her eyes--because she may have
been sorry to cause him the pain of refusal--sorry, perhaps, perhaps a
little guilty. Because she must have seen that he was falling in love
with her, and she--she let him--knowing all the time that she was to
marry another man. Did you ever hear of that man before?"
She had straightened up, quivering, wide eyed, lips parted. He rose and
walked slowly into her room, confronting her under the full glare of
Her pistol fell clattering to the floor. It did not explode because it
was not loaded.
"Now," he said unsteadily, "will you give me my freedom? I have waited
for it--not minutes--but years--six years. I ask it now--the freedom I
enjoyed before I ever saw you. Can you give it back to me? Can you
restore to me a capacity for happiness? Can you give me a heart to love
with--love some woman, as other men love? Is it very much I ask of
you--to give me a chance in life--the chance I had before I ever saw
Her big gray eyes seemed fascinated; he looked deep into them, smiling;
and she turned white.
"Will you give me what I ask?" he said, still smiling.
She strove to speak; she could not, but her eyes never faltered.
Suddenly the color flooded her neck and cheeks to the hair, and the
quick tears glimmered.
"I--I did not understand; I was too young to be cruel," she faltered.
"How could I know what I was doing? Or what--what you did?"
"I? To _you_?"
"Y-yes. Did you think that I escaped heart free? Do you realize what
_my_ punishment was--to--to marry--and _remember_! If I was too young,
too inexperienced to know what I was doing, I was not too young to
suffer for it!"
"You mean--" He strove to control his voice, but the sweet, fearless
gray eyes met his; the old flame leaped in his veins. He reached out to
steady himself and his hand touched hers--that soft, white hand that had
held him all these years in the hollow of its palm.
"Did you _ever_ love me?" he demanded.
Her eyes, wet with tears, met his straight as the starry gaze of a
"Yes," she said.
His hand tightened over hers; she swayed a moment, quivering from head
to foot; then drawing a quick, sobbing breath, closed her eyes,
imprisoned in his arms; and, after a long while, aroused, she looked up
at him, her divine eyes unclosing dreamily.
"Somebody is hammering at the front door," he breathed. "Listen!"
"I hear. I believe it must be the Tracer of Lost Persons."
"Only a Mr. Keen."
"O Lord!" said Kerns faintly, and covered his face with her fragrant
Very tenderly, very gravely, she drew her hands away, and, laying them
on his shoulders, looked up at him.
"You--you know what there is in your suit case," she faltered; "_are_
you a burglar, dear?"
"Ask the Tracer of Lost Persons," said Kerns gently, "what sort of a
criminal I am!"
They stood together for one blissful moment listening to the loud
knocking below, then, hand in hand, they descended the dark stairway to
admit the Tracer of Lost Persons.
On the thirteenth day of March, 1906, Kerns received the following cable
from an old friend:
"Is there anybody in New York who can find two criminals for me? I
don't want to call in the police.
To which Kerns replied promptly:
"Wire Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons, N.Y."
And a day or two later, being on his honeymoon, he forgot all about his
old friend Jack Burke.
On the fifteenth day of March, 1906, Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons,
received the following cablegram from Alexandria, Egypt:
"_Keen, Tracer, New York:_--Locate Joram Smiles, forty, stout,
lame, red hair, ragged red mustache, cast in left eye, pallid skin;
carries one crutch; supposed to have arrived in America per S. S.
_Scythian Queen_, with man known as Emanuel Gandon, swarthy, short,
fat, light bluish eyes, Eurasian type.
"I will call on you at your office as soon as my steamer, _Empress
of Babylon_, arrives. If you discover my men, keep them under
surveillance, but on no account call in police. Spare no expense.
Dundas, Gray & Co. are my bankers and reference.
"JOHN TEMPLETON BURKE."
On Monday, April 2d, a few minutes after eight o'clock in the morning,
the card of Mr. John Templeton Burke was brought to Mr. Keen, Tracer of
Lost Persons, and a moment later a well-built, wiry, sun-scorched young
man was ushered into Mr. Keen's private office by a stenographer
prepared to take minutes of the interview.
The first thing that the Tracer of Lost Persons noted in his visitor was
his mouth; the next his eyes. Both were unmistakably good--the eyes
which his Creator had given him looked people squarely in the face at
every word; the mouth, which a man's own character fashions agreeably or
mars, was pleasant, but firm when the trace of the smile lurking in the
corners died out.
There were dozens of other external characteristics which Mr. Keen
always looked for in his clients; and now the rapid exchange of
preliminary glances appeared to satisfy both men, for they advanced
toward each other and exchanged a formal hand clasp.
"Have you any news for me?" asked Burke.
"I have," said the Tracer. "There are cigars on the table beside
you--matches in that silver case. No, I never smoke; but I like the
aroma--and I like to watch men smoke. Do you know, Mr. Burke, that no
two men smoke in the same fashion? There is as much character in the
manner of holding a cigar as there is difference in the technic of
Burke nodded, amused, but, catching sight of the busy stenographer, his
bronzed features became serious, and he looked at Mr. Keen inquiringly.
"It is my custom," said the Tracer. "Do you object to my stenographer?"
Burke looked at the slim young girl in her black gown and white collar
and cuffs. Then, very simply, he asked her pardon for objecting to her
presence, but said that he could not discuss his case if she remained.
So she rose, with a humorous glance at Mr. Keen; and the two men stood
up until she had vanished, then reseated themselves _vis-a-vis_. Mr.
Keen calmly dropped his elbow on the concealed button which prepared a
hidden phonograph for the reception of every word that passed between
"What news have you for me, Mr. Keen?" asked the younger man with that
same directness which the Tracer had already been prepared for, and
which only corroborated the frankness of eyes and voice.
"My news is brief," he said. "I have both your men under observation."
"Already?" exclaimed Burke, plainly unprepared. "Do you actually mean
that I can see these men whenever I desire to do so? Are these
scoundrels in this town--within pistol shot?"
His youthful face hardened as he snapped out his last word, like the
crack of a whip.
"I don't know how far your pistol carries," said Mr. Keen. "Do you wish
to swear out a warrant?"
"No, I do not. I merely wish their addresses. You have not used the
police in this matter, have you, Mr. Keen?"
"No. Your cable was explicit," said the Tracer. "Had you permitted me to
use the police it would have been much less expensive for you."
"I can't help that," said the young man. "Besides, in a matter of this
sort, a man cannot decently consider expense."
"A matter of what sort?" asked the Tracer blandly.
"Of _this_ sort."
"Oh! Yet even now I do not understand. You must remember, Mr. Burke,
that you have not told me anything concerning the reasons for your quest
of these two men, Joram Smiles and Emanuel Gandon. Besides, this is the
first time you have mentioned pistol range."
Burke, smoking steadily, looked at the Tracer through the blue fog of
"No," he said, "I have not told you anything about them."
Mr. Keen waited a moment; then, smiling quietly to himself, he wrote
down the present addresses of Joram Smiles and Emanuel Gandon, and,
tearing off the leaf, handed it to the younger man, saying: "I omit the
pistol range, Mr. Burke."
"I am very grateful to you," said Burke. "The efficiency of your system
is too famous for me to venture to praise it. All I can say is 'Thank
you'; all I can do in gratitude is to write my check--if you will be
kind enough to suggest the figures."
"Are you sure that my services are ended?"
"Thank you, quite sure."
So the Tracer of Lost Persons named the figures, and his client produced
a check book and filled in a check for the amount. This was presented
and received with pleasant formality. Burke rose, prepared to take his
leave, but the Tracer was apparently busy with the combination lock of a
safe, and the young man lingered a moment to make his adieus.
As he stood waiting for the Tracer to turn around he studied the writing
on the sheet of paper which he held toward the light:
Joram Smiles, no profession, 613 West 24th Street. Emanuel Gandon,
no profession, same address. Very dangerous men.
It occurred to him that these three lines of pencil-writing had cost him
a thousand dollars--and at the same instant he flushed with shame at the
idea of measuring the money value of anything in such a quest as this.
And yet--and yet he had already spent a great deal of money in his brief
quest, and--_was_ he any nearer the goal--even with the penciled
addresses of these two men in his possession? Even with these men almost
within pistol shot!
Pondering there, immersed in frowning retrospection, the room, the
Tracer, the city seemed to fade from his view. He saw the red sand
blowing in the desert; he heard the sickly squealing of camels at the El
Teb Wells; he saw the sun strike fire from the rippling waters of Sais;
he saw the plain, and the ruins high above it; and the odor of the Long
Bazaar smote him like a blow, and he heard the far call to prayer from
the minarets of Sa-el-Hagar, once Sais, the mysterious--Sais of the
million lanterns, Sais of that splendid festival where the Great Triad's
worship swayed dynasty after dynasty, and where, through the hot
centuries, Isis, veiled, impassive, looked out upon the hundredth king
of kings, Meris, the Builder of Gardens, dragged dead at the chariot of
Upper and Lower Egypt.
Slowly the visions faded; into his remote eyes crept the consciousness
of the twentieth century again; he heard the river whistles blowing, and
the far dissonance of the streets--that iron undertone vibrating through
the metropolis of the West from river to river and from the Palisades to
His gaze wandered about the room, from telephone desk to bookcase, from
the table to the huge steel safe, door ajar, swung outward like the
polished breech of a twelve-inch gun.
Then his vacant eyes met the eyes of the Tracer of Lost Persons, almost
helplessly. And for the first time the full significance of this quest
he had undertaken came over him like despair--this strange, hopeless,
fantastic quest, blindly, savagely pursued from the sand wastes of Sais
to the wastes of this vast arid city of iron and masonry, ringing to the
sky with the menacing clamor of its five monstrous boroughs.
Curiously weary of a sudden, he sat down, resting his head on one hand.
The Tracer watched him, bent partly over his desk. From moment to moment
he tore minute pieces from the blotter, or drew imaginary circles and
arabesques on his pad with an inkless pen.
"Perhaps I could help you, after all--if you'd let me try," he said
"Dou you mean--_me_?" asked Burke, without raising his head.
"If you like--yes, you--or any man in trouble--in perplexity--in the
uncertain deductions which arise from an attempt at self-analysis."
"It is true; I am trying to analyze myself. I believe that I don't know
how. All has been mere impulse--so far. No, I don't know how to analyze
"I do," said the Tracer.
Burke raised his level, unbelieving eyes.
"You are in love," said the Tracer.
After a long time Burke looked up again. "Do you think so?"
"Yes. Can I help you?" asked the Tracer pleasantly.
The young man sat silent, frowning into space; then:
"I tell you plainly enough that I have come here to argue with two men
at the end of a pistol; and--you tell me I'm in love. By what logic--"
"It is written in your face, Mr. Burke--in your eyes, in every feature,
every muscle's contraction, every modulation of your voice. My tables,
containing six hundred classified superficial phenomena peculiar to all
human emotions, have been compiled and scientifically arranged according
to Bertillon's system. It is an absolutely accurate key to every phase
of human emotion, from hate, through all its amazingly paradoxical
phenomena, to love, with all its genera under the suborder--all its
species, subspecies, and varieties."
He leaned back, surveying the young man with kindly amusement.
"You talk of pistol range, but you are thinking of something more fatal
than bullets, Mr. Burke. You are thinking of love--of the first, great,
absorbing, unreasoning passion that has ever shaken you, blinded you,
seized you and dragged you out of the ordered path of life, to push you
violently into the strange and unexplored! That is what stares out on
the world through those haunted eyes of yours, when the smile dies out
and you are off your guard; that is what is hardening those flat, clean
bands of muscle in jaw and cheek; that is what those hints of shadow
mean beneath the eye, that new and delicate pinch to the nostril, that
refining, almost to sharpness, of the nose, that sensitive edging to the
lips, and the lean delicacy of the chin."
He bent slightly forward in his chair.
"There is all that there, Mr. Burke, and something else--the glimmering
dawn of desperation."
"Yes," said the other, "that is there. I am desperate."
"_Ex_actly. Also you wear two revolvers in a light, leather harness
strapped up under your armpits," said the Tracer, laughing. "Take them
off, Mr. Burke. There is nothing to be gained in shooting up Mr. Smiles
or converting Mr. Gandon into nitrates."
"If it is a matter where one man can help another," the Tracer added
simply, "it would give me pleasure to place my resources at your
"Mr. Keen!" said Burke, astonished.
"You are very amiable; I had not wished--had not expected anything
except professional interest from you."
"Why not? I like you, Mr. Burke."
The utter disarming candor of this quiet, elderly gentleman silenced the
younger man with a suddenness born of emotions long crushed, long
relentlessly mastered, and which now, in revolt, shook him fiercely in
every fiber. All at once he felt very young, very helpless in the
world--that same world through which, until within a few weeks, he had
roved so confidently, so arrogantly, challenging man and the gods
themselves in the pride of his strength and youth.
But now, halting, bewildered, lost amid the strange maze of byways
whither impulse had lured and abandoned him, he looked out into a world
of wilderness and unfamiliar stars and shadow shapes undreamed of, and
he knew not which way to turn--not even how to return along the ways his
impetuous feet had trodden in this strange and hopeless quest of his.
"How can you help me?" he said bluntly, while the quivering undertone
rang in spite of him. "Yes, I am in love; but how can any living man
"Are you in love with the dead?" asked the Tracer gravely. "For that
only is hopeless. Are you in love with one who is not living?"
"You love one whom you know to be dead?"
"How do you know that she is dead?"
"That is not the question. I knew that when I fell in love with her. It
is not that which appals me; I ask nothing more than to live my life out
loving the dead. I--I ask very little."
He passed his unsteady hand across his dry lips, across his eyes and
forehead, then laid his clinched fist on the table.
"Some men remain constant to a memory; some to a picture--sane,
wholesome, normal men. Some men, with a fixed ideal, never encounter its
facsimile, and so never love. There is nothing strange, after all, in
this; nothing abnormal, nothing unwholesome. Gruenwald loved the marble
head and shoulders of the lovely Amazon in the Munich Museum; he died
unmarried, leaving the charities and good deeds of a blameless life to
justify him. Sir Henry Guest, the great surgeon who worked among the
poor without recompense, loved Gainsborough's 'Lady Wilton.' The
portrait hangs above his tomb in St. Clement's Hundreds. D'Epernay loved
Mlle. Jeanne Vacaresco, who died before he was born. And I--I love in
my own fashion."
His low voice rang with the repressed undertone of excitement; he opened
and closed his clinched hand as though controlling the lever of his
"What can you do for a man who loves the shadow of Life?" he asked.
"If you love the shadow because the substance has passed away--if you
love the soul because the dust has returned to the earth as it was--"
"It has _not_!" said the younger man.
The Tracer said very gravely: "It is written that whenever 'the Silver
Cord' is loosed, 'then shall the dust return unto the earth as it was,
and the spirit shall return unto Him who gave it.'"
"The spirit--yes; _that_ has taken its splendid flight--"
His voice choked up, died out; he strove to speak again, but could not.
The Tracer let him alone, and bent again over his desk, drawing
imaginary circles on the stained blotter, while moment after moment
passed under the tension of that fiercest of all struggles, when a man
sits throttling his own soul into silence.
And, after a long time, Burke lifted a haggard face from the cradle of
his crossed arms and shook his shoulders, drawing a deep, steady breath.
"Listen to _me_!" he said in an altered voice.
And the Tracer of Lost Persons nodded.
"When I left the Point I was assigned to the colored cavalry. They are
good men; we went up Kettle Hill together. Then came the Philippine
troubles, then that Chinese affair. Then I did staff duty, and could not
stand the inactivity and resigned. They had no use for me in Manchuria;
I tired of waiting, and went to Venezuela. The prospects for service
there were absurd; I heard of the Moorish troubles and went to Morocco.
Others of my sort swarmed there; matters dragged and dragged, and the
Kaiser never meant business, anyway.
"Being independent, and my means permitting me, I got some shooting in
the back country. This all degenerated into the merest nomadic
wandering--nothing but sand, camels, ruins, tents, white walls, and blue
skies. And at last I came to the town of Sa-el-Hagar."
His voice died out; his restless, haunted eyes became fixed.
"Sa-el-Hagar, once ancient Sais," repeated the Tracer quietly; and the
young man looked at him.
"You know _that_?"
"Yes," said the Tracer.
For a while Burke remained silent, preoccupied, then, resting his chin
on his hand and speaking in a curiously monotonous voice, as though
repeating to himself by rote, he went on:
"The town is on the heights--have you a pencil? Thank you. Here is the
town of Sa-el-Hagar, here are the ruins, here is the wall, and somewhere
hereabouts should be the buried temple of Neith, which nobody has
found." He shifted his pencil. "Here is the lake of Sais; here, standing
all alone on the plain, are those great monolithic pillars stretching
away into perspective--four hundred of them in all--a hundred and nine
still upright. There were one hundred and ten when I arrived at El Teb
He looked across at the Tracer, repeating: "One hundred and ten--when I
arrived. One fell the first night--a distant pillar far away on the
horizon. Four thousand years had it stood there. And it fell--the first
night of my arrival. I heard it; the nights are cold at El Teb Wells,
and I was lying awake, all a-shiver, counting the stars to make me
sleep. And very, very far away in the desert I heard and felt the shock
of its fall--the fall of forty centuries under the Egyptian stars."
His eyes grew dreamy; a slight glow had stained his face.
"Did you ever halt suddenly in the Northern forests, listening, as
though a distant voice had hailed you? Then you understand why that far,
dull sound from the dark horizon brought me to my feet, bewildered,
listening, as though my own name had been spoken.
"I heard the wind in the tents and the stir of camels; I heard the reeds
whispering on Sais Lake and the yap-yap of a shivering jackal; and
always, always, the hushed echo in my ears of my own name called across
the star-lit waste.
"At dawn I had forgotten. An Arab told me that a pillar had fallen; it
was all the same to me, to him, to the others, too. The sun came out
hot. I like heat. My men sprawled in the tents; some watered, some went
up to the town to gossip in the bazaar. I mounted and cast bridle on
neck--you see how much I cared where I went! In two hours we had
completed a circle--like a ruddy hawk above El Teb. And my horse halted
beside the fallen pillar."
As he spoke his language had become very simple, very direct, almost
without accent, and he spoke slowly, picking his way with that lack of
inflection, of emotion characteristic of a child reading a new reader.
"The column had fallen from its base, eastward, and with its base it had
upheaved another buried base, laying bare a sort of cellar and a flight
of stone steps descending into darkness.
"Into this excavation the sand was still running in tiny rivulets.
Listening, I could hear it pattering far, far down into the shadows.
"Sitting there in the saddle, the thing explained itself as I looked.
The fallen pillar had been built upon older ruins; all Egypt is that
way, ruin founded on the ruin of ruins--like human hopes.
"The stone steps, descending into the shadow of remote ages, invited me.
I dismounted, walked to the edge of the excavation, and, kneeling,
peered downward. And I saw a wall and the lotus-carved rim of a vast
stone-framed pool; and as I looked I heard the tinkle of water. For the
pillar, falling, had unbottled the ancient spring, and now the
stone-framed lagoon was slowly filling after its drought of centuries.
"There was light enough to see by, but, not knowing how far I might
penetrate, I returned to my horse, pocketed matches and candles from
the saddlebags, and, returning, started straight down the steps of
"Fountain, wall, lagoon, steps, terraces half buried--all showed what
the place had been: a water garden of ancient Egypt--probably
royal--because, although I am not able to decipher hieroglyphics, I have
heard somewhere that these picture inscriptions, when inclosed in a
cartouch like this"--he drew rapidly--
indicate that the subject of the inscription was once a king.
"And on every wall, every column, I saw the insignia of ancient royalty,
and I saw strange hawk-headed figures bearing symbols engraved on
stone--beasts, birds, fishes, unknown signs and symbols; and everywhere
the lotus carved in stone--the bud, the blossom half-inclosed, the
His dreamy eyes met the gaze of the Tracer, unseeing; he rested his
sunburned face between both palms, speaking in the same vague monotone:
"Everywhere dust, ashes, decay, the death of life, the utter
annihilation of the living--save only the sparkle of reborn waters
slowly covering the baked bed of the stone-edged pool--strange, luminous
water, lacking the vital sky tint, enameled with a film of dust, yet,
for all that, quickening with imprisoned brilliancy like an opal.
"The slow filling of the pool fascinated me; I stood I know not how long
watching the thin film of water spreading away into the dimness beyond.
At last I turned and passed curiously along the wall where, at its base,
mounds of dust marked what may have been trees. Into these I probed with
my riding crop, but discovered nothing except the depths of the dust.
"When I had penetrated the ghost of this ancient garden for a thousand
yards the light from the opening was no longer of any service. I lighted
a candle; and its yellow rays fell upon a square portal into which led
another flight of steps. And I went down.
"There were eighteen steps descending into a square stone room. Strange
gleams and glimmers from wall and ceiling flashed dimly in my eyes under
the wavering flame of the candle. Then the flame grew still--still as
death--and Death lay at my feet--there on the stone floor--a man, square
shouldered, hairless, the cobwebs of his tunic mantling him, lying face
downward, arms outflung.
"After a moment I stooped and touched him, and the entire prostrate
figure dissolved into dust where it lay, leaving at my feet a shadow
shape in thin silhouette against the pavement--merely a gray layer of
finest dust shaped like a man, a tracery of impalpable powder on the
"Upward and around me I passed the burning candle; vast figures in blue
and red and gold grew out of the darkness; the painted walls sparkled;
the shadows that had slept through all those centuries trembled and
shrank away into distant corners.
"And then--and then I saw the gold edges of her sandals sparkle in the
darkness, and the clasped girdle of virgin gold around her slender waist
glimmered like purest flame!"
Burke, leaning far across the table, interlocked hands tightening,
stared and stared into space. A smile edged his mouth; his voice grew
"Why, she was scarcely eighteen--this child--there so motionless, so
lifelike, with the sandals edging her little upturned feet, and the
small hands of her folded between the breasts. It was as though she
had just stretched herself out there--scarcely sound asleep as yet, and
her thick, silky hair--cut as they cut children's hair in these days,
you know--cradled her head and cheeks.
[Illustration: "'As though . . . scarcely sound asleep as yet.'"]
"So marvelous the mimicry of life, so absolute the deception of
breathing sleep, that I scarce dared move, fearing to awaken her.
"When I did move I forgot the dusty shape of the dead at my feet, and
left, full across his neck, the imprint of a spurred riding boot. It
gave me my first shudder; I turned, feeling beneath my foot the soft,
yielding powder, and stood aghast. Then--it is absurd!--but I felt as a
man feels who has trodden inadvertently upon another's foot--and in an
impulse of reparation I stooped hastily and attempted to smooth out the
mortal dust which bore the imprint of my heel. But the fine powder
flaked my glove, and, looking about for something to compose the ashes
with, I picked up a papyrus scroll. Perhaps he himself had written on
it; nobody can ever know, and I used it as a sort of hoe to scrape him
together and smooth him out on the stones."
The young man drew a yellowish roll of paper-like substance from his
pocket and laid it on the table.
"This is the same papyrus," he said. "I had forgotten that I carried it
away with me until I found it in my shooting coat while packing to sail
for New York."
The Tracer of Lost Persons reached over and picked up the scroll. It was
flexible still, but brittle; he opened it with great care, considered
the strange figures upon it for a while, then turned almost sharply on
"Go on," he said.
And Burke went on:
"The candle was burning low; I lighted two more, placing them at her
head and feet on the edges of the stone couch. Then, lighting a third
candle, I stood beside the couch and looked down at the dead girl under
her veil-like robe, set with golden stars."
He passed his hand wearily over his hair and forehead.
"I do not know what the accepted meaning of beauty may be if it was not
there under my eyes. Flawless as palest amber ivory and rose, the
smooth-flowing contours melted into exquisite symmetry; lashes like
darkest velvet rested on the pure curve of the cheeks; the closed lids,
the mouth still faintly stained with color, the delicate nose, the full,
childish lips, sensitive, sweet, resting softly upon each other--if
these were not all parts of but one lovely miracle, then there is no
beauty save in a dream of Paradise. . . .
"A gold band of linked scarabs bound her short, thick hair straight
across the forehead; thin scales of gold fell from a necklace, clothing
her breasts in brilliant discolored metal, through which ivory-tinted
skin showed. A belt of pure, soft gold clasped her body at the waist;
gold-edged sandals clung to her little feet.
"At first, when the stunned surprise had subsided, I thought that I was
looking upon some miracle of ancient embalming, hitherto unknown. Yet,
in the smooth skin there was no slit to prove it, no opening in any vein
or artery, no mutilation of this sculptured masterpiece of the Most
High, no cerements, no bandages, no gilded carven case with painted face
to stare open eyed through the wailing cycles.
"This was the image of sleep--of life unconscious--not of death. Yet is
was death--death that had come upon her centuries and centuries ago; for
the gold had turned iridescent and magnificently discolored; the sandal
straps fell into dust as I bent above them, leaving the sandals clinging
to her feet only by the wired silver core of the thongs. And, as I
touched it fearfully, the veil-like garment covering her, vanished into
thin air, its metal stars twinkling in a shower around her on the stone
The Tracer, motionless, intent, scarcely breathed; the younger man moved
restlessly in his chair, the dazed light in his eyes clearing to sullen
"What more is there to tell?" he said. "And to what purpose? All this is
time wasted. I have my work cut out for me. What more is there to tell?"
"What you have left untold," said the Tracer, with the slightest ring of
authority in his quiet voice.
And, as though he had added "Obey!" the younger man sank back in his
chair, his hands contracting nervously.
"I went back to El Teb," he said; "I walked like a dreaming man. My
sleep was haunted by her beauty; night after night, when at last I fell
asleep, instantly I saw her face, and her dark eyes opening into mine in
childish bewilderment; day after day I rode out to the fallen pillar and
descended to that dark chamber where she lay alone. Then there came a
time when I could not endure the thought of her lying there alone. I had
never dared to touch her. Horror of what might happen had held me aloof
lest she crumble at my touch to that awful powder which I had trodden
"I did not know what to do; my Arabs had begun to whisper among
themselves, suspicious of my absences, impatient to break camp, perhaps,
and roam on once more. Perhaps they believed I had discovered treasure
somewhere; I am not sure. At any rate, dread of their following me,
determination to take my dead away with me, drove me into action; and
that day when I reached her silent chamber I lighted my candle, and,
leaning above her for one last look, I touched her shoulder with my
"It was a strange sensation. Prepared for a dreadful dissolution,
utterly unprepared for cool, yielding flesh, I almost dropped where I
stood. For her body was neither cold nor warm, neither dust-dry nor
moist; neither the skin of the living nor the dead. It was firm, almost
stiff, yet not absolutely without a certain hint of flexibility.
"The appalling wonder of it consumed me; fear, incredulity, terror,
apathy succeeded each other; then slowly a fierce shrinking happiness
swept me in every fiber.
"This marvelous death, this triumph of beauty over death, was mine.
Never again should she lie here alone through the solitudes of night and
day; never again should the dignity of Death lack the tribute demanded
of Life. Here was the appointed watcher--I, who had found her alone in
the wastes of the world--all alone on the outermost edges of the
world--a child, dead and unguarded. And standing there beside her I knew
that I should never love again."
He straightened up, stretching out his arm: "I did not intend to carry
her away to what is known as Christian burial. How could I consign her
to darkness again, with all its dreadful mockery of marble, all its
"This lovely stranger was to be my guest forever. The living should be
near her while she slept so sweetly her slumber through the centuries;
she should have warmth, and soft hangings and sunlight and flowers; and
her unconscious ears should be filled with the pleasant stir of living
things. . . . I have a house in the country, a very old house among
meadows and young woodlands. And I--I had dreamed of giving this child a
His voice broke; he buried his head in his hands a moment; but when he
lifted it again his features were hard as steel.
"There was already talk in the bazaar about me. I was probably followed,
but I did not know it. Then one of my men disappeared. For a week I
hesitated to trust my Arabs; but there was no other way. I told them
there was a mummy which I desired to carry to some port and smuggle out
of the country without consulting the Government. I knew perfectly well
that the Government would never forego its claim to such a relic of
Egyptian antiquity. I offered my men too much, perhaps. I don't know.
They hesitated for a week, trying by every artifice to see the treasure,
but I never let them out of my sight.
"Then one day two white men came into camp; and with them came a
government escort to arrest me for looting an Egyptian tomb. The white
men were Joram Smiles and that Eurasian, Emanuel Gandon, who was partly
white, I suppose. I didn't comprehend what they were up to at first.
They escorted me forty miles to confront the official at Shen-Bak. When,
after a stormy week, I was permitted to return to Sais, my Arabs and the
white men were gone. And the stone chamber under the water garden wall
was empty as the hand I hold out to you!"
He opened his palm and rose, his narrowing eyes clear and dangerous.
"At the bazaar I learned enough to know what had been done. I traced the
white men to the coast. They sailed on the _Scythian Queen_, taking
with them all that I care for on earth or in heaven! And you ask me why
I measure their distance from me by a bullet's flight!"
The Tracer also rose, pale and grave.
"Wait!" he said. "There are other things to be done before you prepare
to face a jury for double murder."
"It is for them to choose," said Burke. "They shall have the choice of
returning to me my dead, or of going to hell full of lead."
"_Ex_actly, my dear sir. That part is not difficult," said the Tracer
quietly. "There will be no occasion for violence, I assure you. Kindly
leave such details to me. I know what is to be done. You are outwardly
very calm, Mr. Burke--even dangerously placid; but though you maintain
an admirable command over yourself superficially, you are laboring under
terrible excitement. Therefore it is my duty to say to you at once that
there is no cause for your excitement, no cause for your apprehension as
to results. I feel exceedingly confident that you will, in due time,
regain possession of all that you care for most--quietly, quietly, my
dear sir! You are not yet ready to meet these men, nor am I ready to go
with you. I beg you to continue your habit of self-command for a
little while. There is no haste--that is to say, there is every reason
to make haste slowly. And the quickest method is to seat yourself. Thank
you. And I shall sit here beside you and spread out this papyrus scroll
for your inspection."
Burke stared at the Tracer, then at the scroll.
"What has that inscription to do with the matter in hand?" he demanded
"I leave you to judge," said the Tracer. A dull tint of excitement
flushed his lean cheeks; he twisted his gray mustache and bent over the
unrolled scroll which was now held flat by weights at the four corners.
"Can you understand any of these symbols, Mr. Burke?" he asked.
"Curious," mused the Tracer. "Do you know it was fortunate that you put
this bit of papyrus in the pocket of your shooting coat--so fortunate
that, in a way, it approaches the miraculous?"
"What do you mean? Is there anything in that scroll bearing on this
"And you can read it? Are you versed in such learning, Mr. Keen?"
"I am an Egyptologist--among other details," said the Tracer calmly.
The young man gazed at him, astonished. The Tracer of Lost Persons
picked up a pencil, laid a sheet of paper on the table beside the
papyrus, and slowly began to copy the first symbol:
"The ancient Egyptian word for the personal pronoun 'I' was _anuk_,"
said the Tracer placidly. "The phonetic for _a_ was the hieroglyph
a reed; for _n_ the water symbol
for _u_ the symbols
Therefore this hieroglyphic inscription begins with the personal pronoun
or _I_. That is very easy, of course.
"Now, the most ancient of Egyptian inscriptions read vertically in
columns; there are only two columns in this papyrus, so we'll try it
vertically and pass downward to the next symbol, which is inclosed in a
sort of frame or cartouch. That immediately signifies that royalty is
mentioned; therefore, we have already translated as much as 'I, the king
(or queen).' Do you see?"
"Yes," said Burke, staring.
"Very well. Now this symbol, number two,
spells out the word '_Meris_,' in this way: M (pronounced _me_) is
phonetically symbolized by the characters
(a mouth) and the comma
and the hieroglyph
_i_ by two reeds
and two oblique strokes,
and _s_ by
This gives us Meris, the name of that deposed and fugitive king of
Egypt who, after a last raid on the summer palace of Mer-Shen, usurping
ruler of Egypt, was followed and tracked to Sais, where, with an arrow
through his back, he crawled to El Teb and finally died there of his
wound. All this Egyptologists are perfectly familiar with in the
translations of the boastful tablets and inscriptions erected near Sais
by Mer-Shen, the three hundred and twelfth sovereign after Queen
He looked up at Burke, smiling. "Therefore," he said, "this papyrus
scroll was written by Meris, ex-king, a speculative thousands of years
before Christ. And it begins: 'I, Meris the King.'"
"How does all this bear upon what concerns me?" demanded Burke.
Something in the quiet significance of the Tracer's brief command sent a
curious thrill through the younger man. He leaned stiffly forward,
studying the scroll, every faculty concentrated on the symbol which the
Tracer had now touched with the carefully sharpened point of his pencil:
"That," said Mr. Keen, "is the ancient Egyptian word for 'little,'
'_Ket_.' The next, below, written in two lines, is 'Samaris,' a proper
name--the name of a woman. Under that, again, is the symbol for the
number 18; the decimal sign,
and eight vertical strokes,
Under that, again, is a hieroglyph of another sort, an ideograph
representing a girl with a harp; and, beneath that, the symbol which
always represented a dancing girl
and also the royal symbol inclosed in a cartouch,
which means literally 'the Ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt.' Under that
is the significant symbol
representing an arm and a hand holding a stick. This always means
_force_--to take forcibly or to use violence. Therefore, so far, we have
the following literal translation: 'I, Meris the King, little Samaris,
eighteen, a harpist, dancing girl, the Ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt,
to take by violence--'"
"What does that make?" broke in Burke impatiently.
"_Wait!_ Wait until we have translated everything literally. And, Mr.
Burke, it might make it easier for us both if you would remember that I
have had the pleasure of deciphering many hundreds of papyri before you
had ever heard that there were such things."
"I beg your pardon," said the young man in a low voice.
"I beg yours for my impatience," said the Tracer pleasantly. "This
deciphering always did affect my nerves and shorten my temper. And, no
doubt, it is quite as hard on you. Shall we go on, Mr. Burke?"
"If you please, Mr. Keen."
So the Tracer laid his pencil point on the next symbol
"That is the symbol for night," he said; "and that
is the water symbol again, as you know; and that
is the ideograph, meaning a ship. The five reversed crescents
record the number of days voyage; the sign
means a house, and is also the letter H in the Egyptian alphabet.
"Under it, again, we have a repetition of the first symbol meaning _I_,
and a repetition of the second symbol, meaning 'Meris, the King.' Then,
below that cartouch, comes a new symbol,
which is the feminine personal pronoun, _sentus_, meaning '_she_'; and
the first column is completed with the symbol for the ancient Egyptian
verb, _nehes_, 'to awake,'
"And now we take the second column, which begins with the jackal
ideograph expressing slyness or cleverness. Under it is the hieroglyph
meaning 'to run away,' 'to escape.' And under that, Mr. Burke, is one of
the rarest of all Egyptian symbols; a symbol seldom seen on stone or
except in rare references to the mysteries of Isis. The meaning of it,
so long in dispute, has finally been practically determined through a
new discovery in the cuneiform inscriptions. It is the symbol of two
hands holding two _closed_ eyes; and it signifies power."
"You mean that those ancients understood hypnotism?" asked Burke,
"Evidently their priests did; evidently hypnotism was understood and
employed in certain mysteries. And there is the symbol of it; and under
it the hieroglyphs
meaning 'a day and a night,' with the symbol
as usual present to signify force or strength employed. Under that,
again, is a human figure stretched upon a typical Egyptian couch. And
now, Mr. Burke, _note carefully_ three modifying signs: first, that it
is a _couch_ or _bed_ on which the figure is stretched, not the funeral
couch, not the embalming slab; second, there is no mummy mask covering
the face, and no mummy case covering the body; third, that under the
recumbent figure is pictured an _open_ mouth, not a _closed_ one.
"All these modify the ideograph, apparently representing death. But the
sleep symbol is not present. Therefore it is a sound inference that all
this simply confirms the symbol of hypnotism."
Burke, intensely absorbed, stared steadily at the scroll.
"Now," continued Mr. Keen, "we note the symbol of force again, always
present; and, continuing horizontally, a cartouch quite empty except for
the midday sun. That is simply translated; the midday sun illuminates
nothing. Meris, deposed, is king only in name; and the sun no longer
shines on him as 'Ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt.' Under that despairing
symbol, 'King of Nothing,' we have
the phonetics which spell _sha_, the word for garden. And, just beyond
this, horizontally, the modifying ideograph meaning 'a _water_ garden';
a design of lotus and tree alternating on a terrace. Under that is the
symbol for the word '_aneb_,'
a 'wall.' Beyond that, horizontally, is the symbol for 'house.' It
should be placed under the wall symbol, but the Egyptians were very apt
to fill up spaces instead of continuing their vertical columns. Now,
beneath, we find the imperative command
'arise!' And the Egyptian personal pronoun '_entuten_,'
which means 'you' or 'thou.'
"Under that is the symbol
which means 'priest,' or, literally, 'priest man.' Then comes the
imperative 'awake to life!'
After that, our first symbol again, meaning '_I_,' followed horizontally
by the symbol
signifying 'to go.'
"Then comes a very important drawing--you see?--the picture of a man
with a jackal's head, not a dog's head. It is not accompanied by the
phonetic in a cartouch, as it should be. Probably the writer was in
desperate haste at the end. But, nevertheless, it is easy to translate
that symbol of the man with a jackal's head. It is a picture of the
Egyptian god, Anubis, who was supposed to linger at the side of the
dying to conduct their souls. Anubis, the jackal-headed, is the courier,
the personal escort of departing souls. And this is he.
"And now the screed ends with the cry 'Pray for me!'
the last symbol on this strange scroll--this missive written by a
deposed, wounded, and dying king to an unnamed priest. Here is the
literal translation in columns:
Meris the King escape
Samaris King of Nothing
eighteen place forcibly
a harpist garden
a dancing girl--Ruler of water garden
Upper and Lower wall
took forcibly--night Arise. Do
by water Thou
five days Priest Man
house To life
I I go
Meris the King Anubis
"And this is what that letter, thousands of years old, means in this
language of ours, hundreds of years young: 'I, Meris the King, seized
little Samaris, a harpist and a dancing girl, eighteen years of age,
belonging to the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, and carried her away at
night on shipboard--a voyage of five days--to my house. I, Meris the
King, lest she lie awake watching cunningly for a chance to escape,
hypnotized her (or had her hypnotized) so that she lay like one dead or
asleep, but breathing, and I, King no longer of Upper and Lower Egypt,
took her and placed her in my house under the wall of the water garden.
Arise! therefore, O thou priest; (go) and awaken her to life. I am dying
(I go with Anubis!). Pray for me!'"
For a full minute the two men sat there without moving or speaking. Then
the Tracer laid aside his pencil.
"To sum up," he said, opening the palm of his left hand and placing the
forefinger of his right across it, "the excavation made by the falling
pillar raised in triumph above the water garden of the deposed king,
Meris, by his rival, was the subterranean house of Meris. The prostrate
figure which crumbled to powder at your touch may have been the very
priest to whom this letter or papyrus was written. Perhaps the bearer of
the scroll was a traitor and stabbed the priest as he was reading the
missive. Who can tell how that priest died? He either died or betrayed
his trust, for he never aroused the little Samaris from her suspended
animation. And the water garden fell into ruins and she slept; and the
Ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt raised his columns, lotus crowned, above
the ruins; and she slept on. Then--_you_ came."
Burke stared like one stupefied.
"I do not know," said the Tracer gravely, "what balm there may be in a
suspension of sensation, perhaps of vitality, to protect the human body
from corruption after death. I do not know how soon suspended animation
or the state of hypnotic coma, undisturbed, changes into death--whether
it comes gradually, imperceptibly freeing the soul; whether the soul
hides there, asleep, until suddenly the flame of vitality is
extinguished. I do not know how long she lay there with life in her."
He leaned back and touched an electric bell, then, turning to Burke:
"Speaking of pistol range," he said, "unstrap those weapons and pass
them over, if you please."
And the young man obeyed as in a trance.
"Thank you. There are four men coming into this room. You will keep your
seat, if you please, Mr. Burke."
After a moment the door opened noiselessly. Two men handcuffed together
entered the room; two men, hands in their pockets, sauntered carelessly
behind the prisoners and leaned back against the closed door.
"That short, red-haired, lame man with the cast in his eye--do you
recognize him?" asked the Tracer quietly.
Burke, grasping the arms of his chair, had started to rise, fury fairly
blazing from his eyes; but, at the sound of the Tracer's calm, even
voice, he sank back into his chair.
"That is Joram Smiles? You recognize him?" continued Mr. Keen.
"_Ex_actly--alias Limpy, alias Red Jo, alias Big Stick Joram, alias
Pinky; swindler, international confidence man, fence, burglar, gambler;
convicted in 1887, and sent to Sing Sing for forgery; convicted in 1898,
and sent to Auburn for swindling; arrested by my men on board the S. S.
_Scythian Queen_, at the cabled request of John T. Burke, Esquire, and
held to explain the nature of his luggage, which consisted of the
contents of an Egyptian vault or underground ruin, declared at the
customhouse as a mummy, and passed as such."
The quiet, monotonous voice of the Tracer halted, then, as he glanced at
the second prisoner, grew harder:
"Emanuel Gandon, general international criminal, with over half a
hundred aliases, arrested in company with Smiles and held until Mr.
Turning to Burke, the Tracer continued: "Fortunately, the _Scythian
Queen_ broke down off Brindisi. It gave us time to act on your cable;
we found these men aboard when she was signaled off the Hook. I went out
with the pilot myself, Mr. Burke."
Smiles shot a wicked look at Burke; Gandon scowled at the floor.
"Now," said the Tracer pleasantly, meeting the venomous glare of Smiles,
"I'll get you that warrant you have been demanding to have exhibited to
you. Here it is--charging you and your amiable friend Gandon with
breaking into and robbing the Metropolitan Museum of ancient Egyptian
gold ornaments, in March, 1903, and taking them to France, where they
were sold to collectors. It seems that you found the business good
enough to go prowling about Egypt on a hunt for something to sell here.
A great mistake, my friends--a very great mistake, because, after the
Museum has finished with you, the Egyptian Government desires to
extradite you. And I rather suspect you'll have to go."
He nodded to the two quiet men leaning against the door.
"Come, Joram," said one of them pleasantly.
But Smiles turned furiously on the Tracer. "You lie, you old gray rat!"
he cried. "That ain't no mummy; that's a plain dead girl! And there
ain't no extrydition for body snatchin', so I guess them niggers at
Cairo won't get us, after all!"
"Perhaps," said the Tracer, looking at Burke, who had risen, pale and
astounded. "Sit down, Mr. Burke! There is no need to question these men;
no need to demand what they robbed you of. For," he added slowly, "what
they took from the garden grotto of Sais, and from you, I have under my
The Tracer rose, locked the door through which the prisoners and their
escorts had departed; then, turning gravely on Burke, he continued:
"That panel, there, is a door. There is a room beyond--a room facing to
the south, bright with sunshine, flowers, soft rugs, and draperies of
the East. _She_ is there--like a child asleep!"
Burke reeled, steadying himself against the wall; the Tracer stared at
space, speaking very slowly:
"Such death I have never before heard of. From the moment she came under
my protection I have dared to doubt--many things. And an hour ago you
brought me a papyrus scroll confirming my doubts. I doubt still--Heaven
knows what! Who can say how long the flame of life may flicker within
suspended animation? A week? A month? A year? Longer than that? Yes;
the Hindoos have proved it. How long? The span of a normal life? Or
longer? Can the life flame burn indefinitely when the functions are
absolutely suspended--generation after generation, century after
Burke, ghastly white, straightened up, quivering in every limb; the
Tracer, as pale as he, laid his hand on the secret panel.
"If--if you dare say it--the phrase is this: '_O Ket Samaris,
Nehes!_'--'O Little Samaris, awake!'"
"I--dare. In Heaven's name, open that door!"
Then, averting his head, the Tracer of Lost Persons swung open the
A flood of sunshine flashed on Burke's face; he entered; and the paneled
door closed behind him without a sound.
Minute after minute passed; the Tracer stood as though turned to stone,
gray head bent.
Then he heard Burke's voice ring out unsteadily:
"O Ket Samaris--Samaris! O Ket Samaris--_Nehes!_"
And again: "Samaris! Samaris! O beloved, awake!"
And once more: "_Nehes!_ O Samaris!"
Silence, broken by a strange, sweet, drowsy plaint--like a child
awakened at midnight by a dazzling light.
Then, through the stillness, a little laugh, and a softly tremulous
"_Ari un aha, O Entuk sen!_"
"What we want to do," said Gatewood over the telephone, "is to give you
a corking little dinner at the Santa Regina. There'll be Mr. and Mrs.
Tommy Kerns, Captain and Mrs. Harren, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Burke, Mrs.
Gatewood, and myself. We want you to set the date for it, Mr. Keen, and
we also wish you to suggest one more deliriously happy couple whom you
have dragged out of misery and flung head-first into terrestrial
"Do you young people really care to do this for me?" asked the Tracer,
"Of course we do. We're crazy about it. We want one more couple, and you
to set the date."
There was the slightest pause; then the Tracer's voice, with the same
undertone of amusement ringing through it:
"How would your cousin, Victor Carden, do?"
"He's all right, only he isn't married. We want two people whom you have
joined together after hazard has put them asunder and done stunts with
"Very well; Victor Carden and his very lovely wife will be just the
"Is Victor married?" demanded Gatewood, astonished.
"No," said the Tracer demurely, "but he will be in time for that
dinner." And he set the date for the end of the week in an amused voice,
and rang off.
Then he glanced at the clock, touched an electric bell, and again
unhooking the receiver of the telephone, called up the Sherwood Studios
and asked for Mr. Carden.
"Is _this_ Mr. Carden? Oh, good morning, Mr. Carden! This is Mr. Keen,
Tracer of Lost Persons. Could you make it convenient to call--say in
course of half an hour? Thank you. . . . What? . . . Well, speaking with
that caution and reserve which we are obliged to employ in making any
preliminary statements to our clients, I think I may safely say that you
have every reason to feel moderately encouraged."
"You mean," said Carden's voice, "that you have actually solved the
"It has been a difficult proposition, Mr. Carden; I will not deny that
it has taxed our resources to the uttermost. Over a thousand people,
first and last, have been employed on this case. It has been a slow and
tedious affair, Mr. Carden--tedious for us all. We seldom have a case
continue as long as this has; it is a year ago to-day since you placed
the matter in our hands. . . . What? Well, without committing myself, I
think that I may venture to express a carefully qualified opinion that
the solution of the case is probably practically in the way of being
almost accomplished! . . . Yes, I shall expect you in half an hour.
The Tracer of Lost Persons' eyes were twinkling as he hung up the
receiver and turned in his revolving chair to meet the pretty young
woman who had entered in response to his ring.
"The Carden case, if you please, Miss Smith," he said, smiling to
The young woman also smiled; the Carden case had become a classic in the