Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Tracer of Lost Persons by Robert W. Chambers

Part 4 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

office. Nobody except Mr. Keen had believed that the case could ever be

"Safe-deposit box 108923!" said Miss Smith softly, pressing a speaking
tube to her red lips. In a few moments there came a hissing thud from
the pneumatic tube; Miss Smith unlocked it and extracted a smooth, steel

"The combination for that cylinder is A-4-44-11-X," observed the Tracer,
consulting a cipher code, "which, translated," he added, "gives us the
setting combination, One, D, R-R,-J-'24."

Miss Smith turned the movable disks at the end of the cylinder until
the required combination appeared. Then she unscrewed the cylinder head
and dumped out the documents in the famous Carden case.

"As Mr. Carden will be here in half an hour or so I think we had better
run over the case briefly," nodded the Tracer, leaning back in his chair
and composing himself to listen. "Begin with my preliminary memorandum,
Miss Smith."

"Case 108923," began the girl. Then she read the date, Carden's full
name, Victor Carden, a terse biography of the same gentleman, and added:
"Case accepted. Contingent fee, $5,000."

"Quite so," said Mr. Keen; "now, run through the minutes of the first

And Miss Smith unrolled a typewritten scroll and read:

"Victor Carden, Esquire, the well-known artist, called this evening at
6.30. Tall, well-bred, good appearance, very handsome; very much
embarrassed. Questioned by Mr. Keen he turned pink, and looked timidly
at the stenographer (Miss Colt). Asked if he might not see Mr. Keen
alone, Miss Colt retired. Mr. Keen set the recording phonograph in
motion by dropping his elbow on his desk."

A brief _resume_ of the cylinder records followed:

"Mr. Carden asked Mr. Keen if he (Mr. Keen) knew who he (Mr. Carden)
was. Mr. Keen replied that everybody knew Mr. Carden, the celebrated
painter and illustrator who had created the popular type of beauty known
as the 'Carden Girl.' Mr. Carden blushed and fidgeted. (_Notes from. Mr.
Keen's Observation Book, pp. 291-297._) Admitted that he was the creator
of the 'Carden Girl.' Admitted he had drawn and painted that particular
type of feminine beauty many times. Fidgeted some more. (_Keen's O.B.,
pp. 298-299._) Volunteered the statement that this type of beauty, known
as the 'Carden Girl,' was the cause of great unhappiness to himself.
Questioned, turned pinker and fidgeted. (_K.O.B., page 300._) Denied
that his present trouble was caused by the model who had posed for the
'Carden Girl.' Explained that a number of assorted models had posed for
that type of beauty. Further explained that none of them resembled the
type; that the type was his own creation; that he used models merely for
the anatomy, and that he always idealized form and features.

"Questioned again, admitted that the features of the 'Carden Girl' were
his ideal of the highest and loveliest type of feminine beauty. Did not
deny that he had fallen in love with his own creation. Turned red and
tried to smoke. (_K.O.B., page 303._) Admitted he had been fascinated
himself with his own rendering of a type of beauty which he had never
seen anywhere except as rendered by his own pencil on paper or on
canvas. Fidgeted. (_K.O.B., page 304._) Admitted that he could easily
fall in love with a woman who resembled the 'Carden Girl.' Didn't
believe she ever really existed. Confessed he had hoped for years to
encounter her, but had begun to despair. Admitted that he had ventured
to think that Mr. Keen might trace such a girl for him. Doubted Mr.
Keen's success. Fidgeted (_K.O.B., page 306_), and asked Mr. Keen to
take the case. Promised to send to Mr. Keen a painting in oil which
embodied his loftiest ideal of the type known as the 'Carden Girl.'
(_Portrait received; lithographs made and distributed to our agents
according to routine, from Canada to Mexico and from the Atlantic to the

"Mr. Keen terminated the interview with characteristic tact, accepting
the case on the contingent fee of $5,000."

"Very well," said the Tracer, as Miss Smith rolled up the scroll and
looked at him for further instructions. "Now, perhaps you had better run
over the short summary of proceedings to date. I mean the digest which
you will find attached to the completed records."

Miss Smith found the paper, unrolled it, and read:

"During the twelve months' investigation and search (_in re Carden_)
seven hundred and nine young women were discovered who resembled very
closely the type sought for. By process of elimination, owing to defects
in figure, features, speech, breeding, etc., etc., this list was cut
down to three. One of these occasionally chewed gum, but otherwise
resembled the type. The second married before the investigation of her
habits could be completed. The third is apparently a flawless replica of
Mr. Carden's original in face, figure, breeding, education, moral and
mental habits. (_See Document 23, A._)"

"Read Document 23, A," nodded Mr. Keen.

And Miss Smith read:


Age . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

Height . . . . . . 5 feet 9 inches

Weight . . . . . . . . 160 pounds

Thick, bright, ruddy
Hair . . . . . . golden, and inclined
to curl.

Teeth . . . . . . . . . Perfect

Eyes . . . . . . . Dark violet-blue

Mouth . . . . . . . . . Perfect

Color . . . . Fair. An ivory-tinted

Figure . . . . . . . . . Perfect

Health . . . . . . . . . Perfect

Temper . . . . . . . . . Feminine

Austere, with a
Habits . . . . resolutely suppressed
capacity for romance.

Business . . . . . . . . . None

Profession . . . . . . . Physician

Mania . . . . . . . . A Mission

"NOTE.--Dr. Rosalind Hollis was presented to society in her eighteenth
year. At the end of her second season she withdrew from society with the
determination to devote her entire life to charity. Settlement work and
the study of medicine have occupied her constantly. Recently admitted to
practice, she spends her mornings in visiting the poor, whom she treats
free of all charge; her afternoons and evenings are devoted to what she
expects is to be her specialty: the study of the rare malady known as
Lamour's Disease. (_See note on second page._)

"It is understood that Dr. Hollis has abjured the society of all men
other than her patients and such of her professional _confreres_ as she
is obliged to consult or work with. Her theory is that of the beehive:
drones for mates, workers for work. She adds, very decidedly, that she
belongs to the latter division, and means to remain there permanently.

"NOTE (_Mr. Keen's O.B., pp. 916-18_).--Her eccentricity is probably the
result of a fine, wholesome, highly strung young girl taking life and
herself too seriously. The remedy will be the _Right Man_."

"_Ex_actly," nodded Mr. Keen, joining the tips of his thin fingers and
partly closing his eyes. "Now, Miss Smith, the disease which Dr. Hollis
intends to make her specialty--have you any notes on that?"

"Here they are," said Miss Smith; and she read: "Lamour's Disease; the
rarest of all known diseases; first discovered and described by Ero S.
Lamour, M.D., M.S., F.B.A., M.F.H., in 1861. Only a single case has ever
been observed. This case is fully described in Dr. Lamour's superb and
monumental work in sixteen volumes. Briefly, the disease appears without
any known cause, and is ultimately supposed to result fatally. The first
symptom is the appearance of a faintly bluish circle under the eyes, as
though the patient was accustomed to using the eyes too steadily at
times. Sometimes a slight degree of fever accompanies this
manifestation; pulse and temperature vary. The patient is apparently in
excellent health, but liable to loss of appetite, restlessness, and a
sudden flushing of the face. These symptoms are followed by others
unmistakable: the patient becomes silent at times; at times evinces a
weakness for sentimental expressions; flushes easily; is easily
depressed; will sit for hours looking at one person; and, if not
checked, will exhibit impulsive symptoms of affection for the opposite
sex. The strangest symptom of all, however, is the physical change in
the patient, whose features and figure, under the trained eye of the
observer, gradually from day to day assume the symmetry and charm of a
beauty almost unearthly, sometimes accompanied by a spiritual pallor
which is unmistakable in confirming the diagnosis, and which, Dr. Lamour
believes, presages the inexorable approach of immortality.

"There is no known remedy for Lamour's Disease. The only case on record
is the case of the young lady described by Dr. Lamour, who watched her
for years with unexampled patience and enthusiasm; finally, in the
interest of science, marrying his patient in order to devote his life
to a study of her symptoms. Unfortunately, some of these disappeared
early--within a week--but the curious manifestation of physical beauty
remained, and continued to increase daily to a dazzling radiance, with
no apparent injury to the patient. Dr. Lamour, unfortunately, died
before his investigations, covering over forty years, could be
completed; his widow survived him for a day or two only, leaving sixteen

"Here is a wide and unknown field for medical men to investigate. It is
safe to say that the physician who first discovers the bacillus of
Lamour's Disease and the proper remedy to combat it will reap as his
reward a glory and renown imperishable. Lamour's Disease is a disease
not yet understood--a disease whose termination is believed to be
fatal--a strange disease which seems to render radiant and beautiful the
features of the patient, brightening them with the forewarning of
impending death and the splendid resurrection of immortality."

The Tracer of Lost Persons caressed his chin reflectively. "_Ex_actly,
Miss Smith. So this is the disease which Dr. Hollis has chosen for her
specialty. And only one case on record. _Ex_actly. Thank you."

Miss Smith replaced the papers in the steel cylinder, slipped it into
the pneumatic tube, sent it whizzing below to the safe-deposit vaults,
and, saluting Mr. Keen with a pleasant inclination of her head, went out
of the room.

The Tracer turned in his chair, picked up the daily detective report,
and scanned it until he came to the name Hollis. It appeared that the
daily routine of Rosalind Hollis had not varied during the past three
weeks. In the mornings she was good to the poor with bottles and pills;
in the afternoons she tucked one of Lamour's famous sixteen volumes
under her arm and walked to Central Park, where, with democratic
simplicity, she sat on a secluded bench and pored over the symptoms of
Lamour's Disease. About five she retired to her severely simple
apartments in the big brownstone office building devoted to physicians,
corner of Fifty-eighth Street and Madison Avenue. Here she took tea,
read a little, dined all alone, and retired about nine. This was the
guileless but determined existence of Rosalind Hollis, M.D., according
to McConnell, the detective assigned to observe her.

The Tracer refolded the report of his chief of detectives and
pigeonholed it just as the door opened and a tall, well-built,
attractive young man entered.

Shyness was written all over him; he offered his hand to Mr. Keen with
an embarrassed air and seated himself at that gentleman's invitation.

"I'm almost sorry I ever began this sort of thing," he blurted out, like
a big schoolboy appalled at his own misdemeanors. "The truth is, Mr.
Keen, that the prospect of actually seeing a 'Carden Girl' alive has
scared me through and through. I've a notion that my business with that
sort of a girl ends when I've drawn her picture."

"But surely," said the Tracer mildly, "you have some natural curiosity
to see the living copy of your charming but inanimate originals, haven't
you, Mr. Carden?"

"Yes--oh, certainly. I'd like to see one of them alive--say out of a
window, or from a cab. I should not care to be too close to her."

"But merely seeing her does not commit you," interposed Mr. Keen,
smiling. "She is far too busy, too much absorbed in her own affairs to
take any notice of you. I understand that she has something of an
aversion for men."


"Well, she excludes them as unnecessary to her existence."

"Why?" asked Carden.

"Because she has a mission in life," said Mr. Keen gravely.

Carden looked out of the window. It was pleasant weather--June in all
its early loveliness--the fifth day of June. The sixth was his birthday.

"I've simply got to marry somebody before the day after to-morrow," he
said aloud--"that is, if I want my legacy."

"What!" demanded the Tracer sharply.

Carden turned, pink and guilty. "I didn't tell you all the circumstances
of my case," he said. "I suppose I ought to have done so."

"_Ex_actly," said the Tracer severely. "Why is it necessary that you
marry somebody before the day after to-morrow?"

"Well, it's my twenty-fifth birthday--"

"Somebody has left you money on condition that you marry before your
twenty-fifth birthday? Is that it, Mr. Carden? An uncle? An imbecile
grandfather? A sentimental aunt?"

"My Aunt Tabby Van Beekman."

"Where is she?"

"In Trinity churchyard. It's too late to expostulate with her, you see.
Besides, it wouldn't have done any good when she was alive."

The Tracer knitted his brows, musing, the points of his slim fingers

"She was very proud, very autocratic," said Carden. "I am the last of
my race and my aunt was determined that the race should not die out with
me. I don't want to marry and increase, but she's trying to make me. At
all events, I am not going to marry any woman inferior to the type I
have created with my pencil--what the public calls the 'Carden Girl.'
And now you see that your discovery of this living type comes rather
late. In two days I must be legally married if I want my Aunt Tabby's
legacy; and to-day for the first time I hear of a girl who, you assure
me, compares favorably to my copyrighted type, but who has a mission and
an aversion to men. So you see, Mr. Keen, that the matter is perfectly

"I don't see anything of the kind," said Mr. Keen firmly.

"What?--do you believe there is any chance--"

"Of your falling in love within the next hour or so? Yes, I do. I think
there is every chance of it. I am sure of it. But that is not the
difficulty. The problem is far more complicated."

"You mean--"

"_Ex_actly; how to marry that girl before day after to-morrow. That's
the problem, Mr. Carden!--not whether you are capable of falling in
love with her. I have seen her; I _know_ you can't avoid falling in
love with her. Nobody could. I myself am on the verge of it; and I am
fifty: you can't avoid loving her."

"If that were so," said Carden gravely; "if I were really going to fall
in love with her--I would not care a rap about my Aunt Tabby and her

"You ought to care about it for this young girl's sake. That legacy is
virtually hers, not yours. She has a right to it. No man can ever give
enough to the woman he loves; no man has ever done so. What _she_ gives
and what _he_ gives are never a fair exchange. If you can balance the
account in any measure, it is your duty to do it. Mr. Carden, if she
comes to love you she may think it very fine that you bring to her your
love, yourself, your fame, your talents, your success, your position,
your gratifying income. But I tell you it's not enough to balance the
account. It is never enough--no, not all your devotion to her included!
You can never balance the account on earth--all you can do is to try to
balance it materially and spiritually. Therefore I say, endow her with
_all_ your earthly goods. Give all you can in every way to lighten as
much as possible man's hopeless debt to all women who have ever loved."

"You talk about it as though I were already committed," said Carden,

"You are, morally. For a month I have, without her knowledge, it is
true, invaded the privacy of a very lovely young girl--studied her
minutely, possessed myself of her history, informed myself of her
habits. What excuse had I for this unless I desired her happiness and
yours? Nobody could offer me any inducement to engage in such a practice
unless I believed that the means might justify a moral conclusion. And
the moral conclusion of this investigation is your marriage to her."

"Certainly," said Carden uneasily, "but how are we going to accomplish
it by to-morrow? How is it going to be accomplished at all?"

The Tracer of Lost Persons rose and began to pace the long rug, clasping
his hands behind his back. Minute after minute sped; Carden stared
alternately at Mr. Keen and at the blue sky through the open window.

"It is seldom," said Mr. Keen with evident annoyance, "that I personally
take any spectacular part in the actual and concrete demonstrations
necessary to a successful conclusion of a client's case. But I've got to
do it this time."

He went to a cupboard, picked out a gray wig and gray side whiskers and
deliberately waved them at Carden.

"You see what these look like?" he demanded.


"Very well. It is now noon. Do you know the Park? Do you happen to
recollect a shady turn in the path after you cross the bridge over the
swan lake? Here; I'll draw it for you. Now, here is the lake; here's the
esplanade and fountain, you see. Here's the path. You follow
it--so!--around the lake, across the bridge, then following the lake to
the right--so!--then up the wooded slope to the left--so! Now, here is a
bench. I mark it Number One. _She_ sits there with her book--there she

"If she looks like _that_--" began Carden. And they both laughed with
the slightest trace of excitement.

"Here is Bench Number Two!" resumed the Tracer. "Here you sit--and there
you are!"


"Thanks," said Carden, laughing again.

"Now," continued the Tracer, "you must be there at one o'clock. She will
be there at one-thirty, or earlier perhaps. A little later I will become
benignly visible. Your part is merely a thinking part; you are to do
nothing, say nothing, unless spoken to. And when you are spoken to you
are to acquiesce in whatever anybody says to you, and you are to do
whatever anybody requests you to do. And, above all, don't be surprised
at _anything_ that may happen. You'll be nervous enough; I expect that.
You'll probably color up and flush and fidget; I expect that; I count on
that. But don't lose your nerve entirely; and don't think of attempting
to escape."

"Escape! From what? From whom?"

"From her."


"Are you going to follow my instructions?" demanded the Tracer of Lost

"I--y-yes, of course."

"Very well, then, I am going to rub some of this under your eyes." And
Mr. Keen produced a make-up box and, walking over to Carden, calmly
darkened the skin under his eyes.

"I look as though I had been on a bat!" exclaimed Carden, surveying
himself in a mirror. "Do you think any girl could find any attraction in
such a countenance?"

"_She_ will," observed the Tracer meaningly. "Now, Mr. Carden, one last
word: The moment you find yourself in love with her, and the first
moment you have the chance to do so decently, make love to her. She
won't dismiss you; she will repulse you, of course, but she won't let
you go. I know what I am saying; all I ask of you is to promise on your
honor to carry out these instructions. Do you promise?"

"I do."

"Then here is the map of the rendezvous which I have drawn. Be there
promptly. Good morning."


At one o'clock that afternoon a young man earnestly consulting a map
might have been seen pursuing his solitary way through Central Park.
Fresh green foliage arched above him, flecking the path with fretted
shadow and sunlight; the sweet odor of flowering shrubs saturated the
air; the waters of the lake sparkled where swans swept to and fro, snowy
wings spread like sails to the fitful June wind.

"This," he murmured, pausing at a shaded bend in the path, "must be
Bench Number One. I am not to sit on that. This must be Bench Number
Two. I _am_ to sit on that. So here I am," he added nervously, seating
himself and looking about him with the caution of a cat in a strange
back yard.

There was nobody in sight. Reassured, he ventured to drop one knee over
the other and lean upon his walking stick. For a few minutes he remained
in this noncommittal attitude, alert at every sound, anxious,
uncomfortable, dreading he knew not what. A big, fat, gray squirrel
racing noisily across the fallen leaves gave him a shock. A number of
birds came to look at him--or so it appeared to him, for in the
inquisitive scrutiny of a robin he fancied he divined sardonic meaning,
and in the blank yellow stare of a purple grackle, a sinister
significance out of all proportion to the size of the bird.

"What an absurd position to be in!" he thought. And suddenly he was
seized with a desire to flee.

He didn't because he had promised not to, but the desire persisted to
the point of mania. Oh, how he could run if he only hadn't promised not
to! His entire being tingled with the latent possibilities of a burst of
terrific speed. He wanted to scuttle away like a scared rabbit. The pace
of the kangaroo would be slow in comparison. What a record he could make
if he hadn't promised not to.

He crossed his knees the other way and brooded. The gray squirrel
climbed the bench and nosed his pockets for possible peanuts, then
hopped off hopefully toward a distant nursemaid and two children.

Growing more alarmed every time he consulted his watch Carden attempted
to stem his rising panic with logic and philosophy, repeating: "Steady!
my son! Don't act like this! You're not obliged to marry her if you
don't fall in love with her; and if you do, you won't mind marrying her.
That is philosophy. That is logic. Oh, I wonder what will have happened
to me by this time to-morrow! I wish it _were_ this time to-morrow! I
wish it were this time next month! Then it would be all over. Then it
would be--"

His muttering speech froze on his lips. Rooted to his bench he sat
staring at a distant figure approaching--the figure of a young girl in a
summer gown.

Nearer, nearer she came, walking with a free-limbed, graceful step, head
high, one arm clasping a book.

That was the way the girls he drew would have walked had they ever
lived. Even in the midst of his fright his artist's eyes noted that:
noted the perfect figure, too, and the witchery of its grace and
contour, and the fascinating poise of her head, and the splendid color
of her hair; noted mechanically the flowing lines of her gown, and the
dainty modeling of arm and wrist and throat and ear.

Then, as she reached her bench and seated herself, she raised her eyes
and looked at him. And for the first time in his life he realized that
ideal beauty was but the pale phantom of the real and founded on
something more than imagination and thought; on something of vaster
import than fancy and taste and technical skill; that it was founded on
Life itself--on breathing, living, palpitating, tremulous Life!--from
which all true inspiration must come.

Over and over to himself he was repeating: "Of course, it is perfectly
impossible that I can be in love already. Love doesn't happen between
two ticks of a watch. I am merely amazed at that girl's beauty; that is
all. I am merely astounded in the presence of perfection; that is all.
There is nothing more serious the matter with me. It isn't necessary for
me to continue to look at her; it isn't vital to my happiness if I never
saw her again. . . . That is--of course, I should like to see her,
because I never did see living beauty such as hers in any woman. Not
even in my pictures. What superb eyes! What a fascinately delicate nose!
_What_ a nose! By Heaven, that nose _is_ a nose! I'll draw noses _that_
way in future. My pictures are all out of drawing; I must fit arms into
their sockets the way hers fit! I must remember the modeling of her
eyelids, too--and that chin! and those enchanting hands--"

She looked up leisurely from her book, surveyed him calmly, absent-eyed,
then bent her head again to the reading.

"There _is_ something the matter with me," he thought with a suppressed
gulp. "I--if she looks at me again--with those iris-hued eyes of a
young goddess--I--I think I'm done for. I believe I'm done for anyway.
It seems rather mad to think it. But there _is_ something the matter--"

She deliberately looked at him again.

"It's all wrong for them to let loose a girl like that on people," he
thought to himself, "all wrong. Everybody is bound to go mad over her.
I'm going now. I'm mad already. I know I am, which proves I'm no
lunatic. It isn't her beauty; it's the way she wears it--every motion,
every breath of her. I know exactly what her voice is like. Anybody who
looks into her eyes can see what her soul is like. She isn't out of
drawing anywhere--physically or spiritually. And when a man sees a girl
like that, why--why there's only one thing that can happen to him as far
as I can see. And it doesn't take a year either. Heavens! How awfully
remote from me she seems to be."

She looked up again, calmly, but not at him. A kindly, gray-whiskered
old gentleman came tottering and rocking into view, his rosy, wrinkled
face beaming benediction on the world as he passed through it--on the
sunshine dappling the undergrowth, on the furry squirrels sitting up on
their hind legs to watch him pass, on the stray dickybird that hopped
fearlessly in his path, at the young man sitting very rigid there on
his bench, at the fair, sweet-faced girl who met his aged eyes with the
gentlest of involuntary smiles. And Carden did not recognize him!

Who could help smiling confidently into that benign face, with its gray
hair and gray whiskers? Goodness radiated from every wrinkle.

"Dr. Atwood!" exclaimed the girl softly as she rose to meet this
marvelous imitation of Dr. Austin Atwood, the great specialist on
children's diseases.

The old man beamed weakly at her, halted, still beaming, fumbled for his
eyeglasses, adjusted them, and peered closely into her face.

"Bless my soul," he smiled, "our pretty Dr. Hollis!"

"I--I did not suppose you would remember me," she said, rosy with

"Remember you? Surely, surely." He made her a quaint, old-fashioned bow,
turned, and peeped across the walk at Carden. And Carden, looking
straight into his face, did not know the old man, who turned to Dr.
Hollis again with many mysterious nods of his doddering head.

"You're watching him, too, are you?" he chuckled, leaning toward her.

"Watching whom, Dr. Atwood?" she asked surprised.

"Hush, child! I thought you had noticed that unfortunate and afflicted
young man opposite."

Dr. Hollis looked curiously at Carden, then at the old gentleman with
gray whiskers.

"Please sit down, Dr. Atwood, and tell me," she murmured. "I have
noticed nothing in particular about the young man on the bench there."
And she moved to give him room; and the young man opposite stared at
them both as though bereft of reason.

"A heavy book for small hands, my child," said the old gentleman in his
quaintly garrulous fashion, peering with dimmed eyes at the volume in
her lap.

She smiled, looking around at him.

"My, my!" he said, tremblingly raising his eyeglasses to scan the title
on the page; "Dr. Lamour's famous works! Are _you_ studying Lamour,

"Yes," she said with that charming inflection youth reserves for age.

"Astonishing!" he murmured. "The coincidence is more than remarkable. A
physician! And studying Lamour's Disease! Incredible!"

"Is there anything strange in that, Dr. Atwood?" she smiled.

"Strange!" He lowered his voice, peering across at Carden. "Strange,
did you say? Look across the path at that poor young man sitting there!"

"Yes," she said, perplexed, "I see him."

"_What_ do you see?" whispered the old gentleman in a shakily portentous
voice. "Here you sit reading about what others have seen; now what do
_you_ see?"

"Why, only a man--rather young--"

"No _symptoms_?"

"Symptoms? Of what?"

The old gentleman folded his withered hands over his cane. "My child,"
he said, "for a year I have had that unfortunate young man under secret
observation. He was not aware of it; it never entered his mind that I
could be observing _him_ with minutest attention. He may have supposed
there was nothing the matter with him. He was in error. I have studied
him carefully. Look closer! _Are_ there dark circles under his eyes--or
are there not?" he ended in senile triumph.

"There are," she began, puzzled, "but I--but of what interest to me--"

"Compare his symptoms with the symptoms in that book you are studying,"
said the old gentleman hoarsely.

"Do you mean--do you suppose--" she stammered, turning her eyes on
Carden, who promptly blushed to his ears and began to fidget.

"_Every symptom_," muttered the old gentleman. "Poor, poor young man!"

She had seen Carden turn a vivid pink; she now saw him fidget with his
walking stick; she discovered the blue circles under his eyes. Three
symptoms at once!

"Do you believe it _possible_?" she whispered excitedly under her breath
to the old gentleman beside her. "It seems incredible! Such a rare
disease! Only one single case ever described and studied! It seems
impossible that I could be so fortunate as actually to see a case! Tell
me, Dr. Atwood, do you believe that young man is really afflicted with
Lamour's Disease?"

"There is but one way to be absolutely certain," said the old gentleman
in a solemn voice, "and that is to study him; corroborate your
suspicions by observing his pulse and temperature, as did Dr. Lamour."

"But--how can I?" she faltered. "I--he would probably object to becoming
a patient of mine--"

"Ask him, child! Ask him."

"I have not courage--"

"Courage should be the badge of your profession," said the old
gentleman gravely. "When did a good physician ever show the white
feather in the cause of humanity?"

"I--I know, but this requires a different sort of courage."

"How," persisted the old gentleman, "can you confirm your very natural
suspicions concerning this unfortunate young man unless you corroborate
your observations by studying him at close range? Besides, already it
seems to me that certain unmistakable signs are visible; I mean that
strange physical phase which Dr. Lamour dwells on: the symmetry of
feature and limb, the curiously spiritual beauty. Do you not notice
these? Or is my sight so dim that I only imagine it?"

"He is certainly symmetrical--and--in a certain way--almost handsome in
regard to features," she admitted, looking at Carden.

"Poor, poor boy!" muttered the old gentleman, wagging his gray whiskers.
"I am too old to help him--too old to dream of finding a remedy for the
awful malady which I am now convinced has seized him. I shall study him
no more. It is useless. All I can do now is to mention his case to some
young, vigorous, ambitious physician--some specialist--"

"Don't!" she whispered almost fiercely, "don't do that, Dr. Atwood! I
want him, please! I--you helped me to discover him, you see. And his
malady is to be my specialty. Please, do you mind if I keep him all to
myself and study him?"

"But you refused, child."

"I didn't mean to. I--I didn't exactly see how I was to study him. But I
must study him! Oh, I _must_! There will surely be some way. Please let
me. You discovered him, I admit, but I will promise you faithfully to
devote my entire life to studying him, as the great Lamour devoted his
life for forty years to his single patient."

"But Dr. Lamour married his patient," said the Tracer mildly.

"He--I--that need not be necessary--"

"But if it should prove necessary?"


"Answer me, child."

She stared across at Carden, biting her red lips. He turned pink
promptly and fidgeted.

"He _has_ got it!" she whispered excitedly. "Oh, _do_ you mind if I take
him for mine? I am perfectly wild to begin on him!"

"You have not yet answered my question," said the old gentleman gravely.
"Do you lack the courage to marry him if it becomes necessary to do so
in order to devote your entire life to studying him?"

"Oh--it _cannot_ be necessary--"

"You lack the courage."

She was silent.

"Braver things have been done by those of your profession who have gone
among lepers," said the old gentleman sadly.

She flushed up instantly; her eyes sparkled; her head proudly high,
delicate nostrils dilated.

"I am not afraid!" she said. "If it ever becomes necessary, I _can_ show
courage and devotion, as well as those of my profession who minister to
the lepers of Molokai! Yes; I do promise you to marry him if I cannot
otherwise study him. And I promise you solemnly to devote my entire life
to observing his symptoms and searching for proper means to combat them.
My one ambition in life is personally to observe and study a case of
Lamour's Disease, and to give my entire life to investigating its
origin, its course, and its cure."

The old gentleman rose, bowing with that quaintly obsolete courtesy
which was in vogue in his youth.

"I am contented to leave him exclusively to you, Dr. Hollis. And I wish
you happiness in your life's work--and success in your cure of this
unhappy young man."

Hat in hand, he bowed again as he tottered past her, muttering and
smiling to himself and shaking his trembling head as he went rocking on
unsteady legs out into the sunshine, where the nursemaids and children
flocked along the lake shore throwing peanuts to the waterfowl and
satiated goldfish.

Dr. Hollis looked after him, her small hand buried among the pages of
her open book. Carden viewed his disappearing figure with guileless
emotions. He was vaguely aware that something important was about to
happen to him. And it did before he was prepared.


When Rosalind Hollis found herself on her feet again a slight sensation
of fright checked her for a moment. Then, resolutely suppressing such
unworthy weakness, the lofty inspiration of her mission in life
dominated her, and she stepped forward undaunted. And Carden, seeing her
advance toward him, arose in astonishment to meet her.

For a second they stood facing each other, he astounded, she a trifle
pale but firm. Then in a low voice she asked his pardon for disturbing

"I am Rosalind Hollis, a physician," she said quietly, "and physicians
are sometimes obliged to do difficult things in the interest of their
profession. It is dreadfully difficult for me to speak to you in this
way. But"--she looked fearlessly at him--"I am confident you will not
misinterpret what I have done."

He managed to assure her that he did not misinterpret it.

She regarded him steadily; she examined the dark circles under his eyes;
she coolly observed his rising color under her calm inspection; she saw
him fidgeting with his walking stick. She _must_ try his pulse!

"Would you mind if I asked you a few questions in the interest of
science?" she said earnestly.

"As a m-m-matter of fact," he stammered, "I don't know much about
science. Awfully glad to do anything I can, you know."

"Oh, I don't mean it that way," she reassured him. A hint of a smile
tinted her eyes with brilliant amethyst. "Would you mind if I sat here
for a few moments? _Could_ you overlook this horrid unconventionality
long enough for me to explain why I have spoken to you?"

"I could indeed!" he said, so anxiously cordial that her lovely face
grew serious and she hesitated. But he was standing aside, hat off,
placing the bench at her disposal, and she seated herself, placing her
book on the bench beside her.

"Would you mind sitting here for a few moments?" she asked him gravely.

Dazed, scarcely crediting the evidence of his senses, he took possession
of the end of the bench with the silent obedience of a schoolboy. His
attitude was irreproachable. She was grateful for this, and her
satisfaction with herself for not having misjudged him renewed her
confidence in him, in herself, and in the difficult situation.

She began, quietly, by again telling him her name and profession; where
she lived, and that she was studying to be a specialist, though she did
not intimate what that specialty was to be.

Outwardly composed and attentively deferential, his astonishment at
times dominated a stronger sentiment that seemed to grow and expand with
her every word, seizing him in a fierce possession absolutely and
hopelessly complete.

The bewildering fascination of her mastered him. No cool analysis of
what his senses were confirming could be necessary to convince him of
his condition. Every word of hers, every gesture, every inflection of
her sweet, clear voice, every lifting of her head, her eyes, her
perfectly gloved hands, only repeated to him what he knew was a
certainty. Never had he looked upon such physical loveliness; never had
he dreamed of such a voice.

She had asked him a question, and, absorbed in the pure delight of
looking at her, he had not comprehended or answered. She flushed
sensitively, accepting his silence as refusal, and he came out of his
trance hastily.

"I beg your pardon; I did not quite understand your question, Miss
Hollis--I mean, Dr. Hollis."

"I asked you if you minded my noting your pulse," she said.

He stretched out his right hand; she stripped off her glove, laid the
tip of her middle finger on his wrist, and glanced down at the gold
watch which she held.

"I am wondering," he said, laughing uncertainly, "whether you believe me
to be ill. Of course it is easy to see that you have found something
unusual about me--something of particular interest to a physician. Is
there anything very dreadful going to happen to me, Dr. Hollis? I feel
perfectly well."

"Are you sure you feel well?" she asked, so earnestly that the smile on
his lips faded out.

"Absolutely. Is my pulse queer?"

"It is not normal."

He could easily account for that, but he said nothing.

She questioned him for a few minutes, noted his pulse again, looked
closely at the bluish circles under his eyes. Naturally he flushed up
and grew restless under the calm, grave, beautiful eyes.

"I--I have an absolutely new and carefully sterilized thermometer--" She
drew it from a tiny gold-initialed pocket case, and looked wistfully at

"You want to put that into my mouth?" he asked, astonished.

"If you don't mind."

She held it up, shook it once or twice, and deliberately inserted it
between his lips. And there he sat, round-eyed, silent, the end of the
thermometer protruding at a rakish angle from the corner of his mouth.
And he grew redder and redder.

"I _don't_ wish to alarm you," she was saying, "but all this is so
deeply significant, so full of vital interest to me--to the world, to

"_What_ have I got, in Heaven's name?" he said thickly, the thermometer
wiggling in his mouth.

"Ah!" she exclaimed with soft enthusiasm, clasping her pretty ungloved
hands, "I cannot be sure yet--I dare not be too sanguine--"

"Do you mean that you _want_ me to have something queer?" he blurted
out, while the thermometer wiggled with every word he uttered.

"N-no, of course, I don't _want_ you to be ill," she said hastily.
"Only, if you _are_ ill it will be a wonderful thing for me. I
mean--a--that I am intensely interested in certain symptoms which--"

She gently withdrew the glass tube from his lips and examined it

"_Is_ there anything the matter?" he insisted, looking at the instrument
over her shoulder.

She did not reply; pure excitement rendered her speechless.

"I seem to _feel_ all right," he added uneasily. "If you really believe
that there's anything wrong with me, I'll stop in to see my doctor."

"Your doctor!" she repeated, appalled.

"Yes, certainly. Why not?"

"Don't do that! Please don't do that! I--why _I_ discovered this case. I
beg you most earnestly to let me observe it. You don't understand the
importance of it! You don't begin to dream of the rarity of this case!
How much it means to me!"

He flushed up. "Do you intend to intimate that I am afflicted with some
sort of rare and s-s-trange d-d-disease?" he stammered.

"I dare not pronounce upon it too confidently," she said with
enthusiasm; "I have not yet absolutely determined the nature of the
disease. But, oh, I am beginning to hope--"

"Then I _am_ diseased!" he faltered. "I've got _something_ anyhow; is
that it? Only you are not yet perfectly sure what it is called! Is that
the truth, Miss Hollis?"

"How can I answer positively until I have had time to observe these
symptoms? It requires time to be certain. I do not wish to alarm you,
but it is my duty to say to you that you should immediately place
yourself under medical observation."

"You think that?"

"I do; I am convinced of it. Please understand me; I do not pronounce
upon these visible symptoms; I do not express an unqualified opinion;
but I could be in a position to do so if you consent to place yourself
under my observations and care. For these suspicious symptoms are not
only very plainly apparent to me, but were even noted by that old
gentleman whom you may perhaps have observed conversing with me."

"Yes, I saw him. Who is he?"

"Dr. Austin Atwood," said the girl solemnly.

"Oh! And you say he also observed something queer about me? What did he
see? Are there spots on me? Am I turning any remarkable color? Am I--"
And in the very midst of his genuine alarm he suddenly remembered the
make-up box and what the Tracer of Lost Persons had done to his eyes.
Was _that_ it? Where was the Tracer, anyway? He had promised to appear.
And then Carden recollected the gray wig and whiskers that the Tracer
had waved at him from the cupboard, bidding him note them well. _Could_
that beaming, benignant, tottering old gentleman have been the Tracer of
Lost Persons himself? And the same instant Carden was sure of it, spite
of the miraculous change in the man.

Then logic came to his aid; and, deducing with care and patience, an
earnest conviction grew within him that the dark circles under his eyes
and the tottering old gentleman resembling Dr. Austin Atwood had a great
deal to do with this dreadful disease which Dr. Hollis desired to study.

He looked at the charming girl beside him, and she looked back at him
very sweetly, very earnestly, awaiting his decision.

For a moment he realized that she had really scared him, and in the
reaction of relief an overwhelming desire to laugh seized him. He
managed to suppress it, to compose himself. Then he remembered the
Tracer's admonition to acquiesce in everything, do what he was told to
do, not to run away, and to pay his court at the first decent

He had no longer any desire to escape; he was quite willing to do
anything she desired.

"Do you really want to study me, Dr. Hollis?" he asked, feeling like a

"Indeed I do," she replied fervently.

"You believe me worth studying?"

"Oh, truly, truly, you are! You don't suspect--you cannot conceive how
important you have suddenly become to me."

"Then I think you had better take my case, Dr. Hollis," he said
seriously. "I begin now to realize that you believe me to be a sort of
freak--an afflicted curiosity, and that, in the interest of medicine, I
ought to go to an asylum or submit myself to the ceaseless observation
of a competent private physician."

"I--I think it best for you to place yourself in my care," she said.
"Will you?"

"Yes," he said, "I will. I'll do anything in the world you ask."

"That is very--very generous, very noble of you!" she exclaimed,
flushing with excitement and delight. "It means a great deal to me--it
means, perhaps, a fame that I scarcely dared dream of even in my most
enthusiastic years. I am too grateful to express my gratitude
coherently; I am trying to say to you that I thank you; that I recognize
in you those broad, liberal, generous qualities which, from your
appearance and bearing, I--I thought perhaps you must possess."

She colored again very prettily; he bowed, and ventured to remind her
that she had not yet given him the privilege of naming himself.

"That is true!" she said, surprised. "I had quite forgotten it." But
when he named himself she raised her head, startled.

"Victor Carden!" she repeated. "You are the _artist_, Victor Carden!"

"Yes," he said, watching her dilated eyes like two violet-tinted jewels.

For a minute she sat looking at him; and imperceptibly a change came
into her face, and its bewildering beauty softened as the vivid tints
died out, leaving her cheeks almost pale.

"It is--a pity," she said under her breath. All the excitement, all the
latent triumph, all the scarcely veiled eager enthusiasm had gone from
her now.

"A pity?" he repeated, smiling.

"Yes. I wish it had been only an ordinary man. I--why should this happen
to you? You have done so much for us all--made us forget ourselves in
the beauty of what you offer us. Why should this happen to _you_!"

"But you have not told me yet what has happened to me, Miss Hollis."

She looked up, almost frightened.

"_Are_ you our Victor Carden? I do not wish to believe it! You have done
so much for the world--you have taught us to understand and desire all
that is noble and upright and clean and beautiful!--to desire it, to
aspire toward it, to venture to live the good, true, wholesome lives
that your penciled creations must lead--_must_ lead to wear such
beautiful bodies and such divine eyes!"

"Do _you_ care for my work?" he asked, astonished and moved.

"I? Yes, of course I do. Who does not?"

"Many," he replied simply.

"I am sorry for them," she said.

They sat silent for a long while.

At first his overwhelming desire was to tell her of the deception
practiced upon her; but he could not do that, because in exposing
himself he must fail in loyalty to the Tracer of Lost Persons. Besides,
she would not believe him. She would think him mad if he told her that
the old gentleman she had taken for Dr. Atwood was probably Mr. Keen,
the Tracer of Lost Persons. Also, he himself was not absolutely certain
about it. He had merely deduced as much.

"Tell me," he said very gently, "what is the malady from which you
believe I am suffering?"

For a moment she remained silent, then, face averted, laid her finger on
the book beside her.

"That," she said unsteadily.

He read aloud: "Lamour's Disease. A Treatise in sixteen volumes by Ero
S. Lamour, M.D., M.S., F.B.A., M.F.H."

"All that?" he asked guiltily.

"I don't know, Mr. Carden. Are you laughing at me? Do you not believe
me?" She had turned suddenly to confront him, surprising a humorous
glimmer in his eyes.

"I really do not believe I am seriously ill," he said, laughing in spite
of her grave eyes.

"Then perhaps you had better read a little about what Lamour describes
as the symptoms of this malady," she said sadly.

"Is it fatal?" he inquired.

"Ultimately. That is why I desire to spend my life in studying means to
combat it. That is why I desire you so earnestly to place yourself under
my observation and let me try."

"Tell me one thing," he said; "is it contagious? Is it infectious? No?
Then I don't mind your studying me all you wish, Dr. Hollis. You may
take my temperature every ten minutes if you care to. You may observe my
pulse every five minutes if you desire. Only please tell me how this is
to be accomplished; because, you see, I live in the Sherwood Studio
Building, and you live on Madison Avenue."

"I--I have a ward--a room--fitted up with every modern surgical
device--every improvement," she said. "It adjoins my office. _Would_ you
mind living there for a while--say for a week at first--until I can be
perfectly certain in my diagnosis?"

"Do you intend to put me to bed?" he asked, appalled.

"Oh, no! Only I wish to watch you carefully and note your symptoms from
moment to moment. I also desire to try the effects of certain medicines
on you--"

"What kind of medicines?" he asked uneasily.

"I cannot tell yet. Perhaps antitoxin; I don't know; perhaps formalin
later. Truly, Mr. Carden, this case has taken on a graver, a more
intimate significance since I have learned who you are. I would have
worked hard to save any life; I shall put my very heart and soul into my
work to save you, who have done so much for us all."

The trace of innocent emotion in her voice moved him.

"I am really not ill," he said unsteadily. "I cannot let you think I

"Don't speak that way, Mr. Carden. I--I am perfectly miserable over it;
I don't feel any happiness in my discovery now--not the least bit. I had
rather live my entire life without seeing one case of Lamour's Disease
than to believe you are afflicted with it."

"But I'm not, Miss Hollis!--really, I am not--"

She looked at him compassionately for a moment, then rose.

"It is best that you should be informed as to your probable condition,"
she said. "In Lamour's works, volume nine, you had better read exactly
what Lamour says. Do you mind coming to the office with me, Mr. Carden?"


"Yes. The book is there. Do you mind coming?"

"No--no, of course not." And, as they turned away together under the
trees: "You don't intend to begin observing me this afternoon, do you?"
he ventured.

"I think it best if you can arrange your affairs. Can you, Mr. Carden?"

"Why, yes, I suppose I can. Did you mean for me to begin to occupy that
surgical bedroom at once?"

"Do you mind?"

"N-no. I'll telephone my servants to pack a steamer trunk and send it
around to your apartment this evening. And--where am I to board?"

"I have a dining room," she said simply. "My apartment consists of the
usual number of servants and rooms, including my office, and my
observation ward which you will occupy."

He walked on, troubled.

"I only w-want to ask one or two things, Dr. Hollis. Am I to be placed
on a diet? I hate diets!"

"Not at once."

"May I smoke?"

"Certainly," she said, smiling.

"And you won't p-put me--send me to bed too early?"

"Oh, no! The later you sit up the better, because I shall wish to take
your temperature every ten minutes and I shall feel very sorry to arouse

"You mean you are coming in to wake me up every ten minutes and put that
tube in my mouth?" he asked, aghast.

"Only every half-hour, Mr. Carden. Can't you stand it for a week?"

"Well," he said, "I--I suppose I can if _you_ can. Only, upon my honor,
there is really nothing the matter with me, and I'll prove it to you out
of your own book."

"I wish you could, Mr. Carden. I should be only too happy to give you
back to the world with a clear bill of health if you can convince me I
am wrong. Do you not believe me? Indeed, indeed I am not selfish and
wicked enough to wish you this illness, no matter how rare it is!"

"The rarer a disease is the madder it makes people who contract it," he
said. "I should be the maddest man in Manhattan if I really did have
Lamour's malady. But I haven't. There is only one malady afflicting me,
and I am waiting for a suitable opportunity to tell you all about it,

"Tell me now," she said, raising her eyes to his.

"Not now."


"I hope so. I will if I can, Miss Hollis."

"But you must not fear to tell a physician about anything which troubles
you, Mr. Carden."

"I'll remember that," he said thoughtfully, as they emerged from the
Park and crossed to Madison Avenue.

A moment later he hailed a car and they both entered.


No, there could be no longer any doubt in her mind as she went into her
bedroom, closed the door, and, unhooking the telephone receiver, called
up the great specialist in rare diseases, Dr. Austin Atwood, M.S.,
F.B.A., M.F.H.

"Dr. Atwood," she said with scarcely concealed emotion, "this is Dr.
Rosalind Hollis."

"How-de-do?" squeaked the aged specialist amiably.

"Oh, I am well enough, thank you, doctor--except in spirits. Dr. Atwood,
you were right! He _has_ got it, and I am perfectly wretched!"

"_Who_ has got _what_?" retorted the voice of Atwood.

"The unfortunate young gentleman we saw to-day in the Park."

"What park?"

"Why, Central Park, doctor."

"Central Park! _I_ haven't been in Central Park for ten years, my

"Why, Dr. Atwood!--A--_is_ this Dr. Austin Atwood with whom I am

"Not the least doubt! And you are that pretty Dr. Hollis--Rosalind
Hollis, who consulted me in those charity cases, are you not?"

"I certainly am. And I wanted to say to you that I have the unfortunate
patient now under closest observation here in my own apartment. I have
given him the room next to the office. And, doctor, you were perfectly
right. He shows every symptom of the disease--he is even inclined to
sentimentalism; he begins to blush and fidget and look at me--a--in that
unmistakable manner--not that he isn't well-bred and charming--indeed he
is most attractive, and it grieves me dreadfully to see that he already
is beginning to believe himself in love with the first person of the
opposite sex he encounters--I mean that he--that I cannot mistake his
attitude toward me--which is perfectly correct, only one cannot avoid
seeing the curious infatuation--"

"_What_ the dickens is all this?" roared the great specialist, and Dr.
Hollis jumped.

"I was only confirming your diagnosis, doctor," she explained meekly.

"What diagnosis?"

"Yours, doctor. I have confirmed it, I fear. And the certainty has made
me perfectly miserable, because his is such a valuable life to the
world, and he himself is such a splendid, wholesome, noble specimen of
youth and courage, that I cannot bear to believe him incurably

"Good Heavens!" shouted the doctor, "_what_ has he got and _who_ is he?"

"He is Victor Carden, the celebrated artist, and he has Lamour's
Disease!" she gasped.

There was a dead silence; then: "Keep him there until I come! Chloroform
him if he attempts to escape!"

And the great specialist rang off excitedly.

So Rosalind Hollis went back to the lamp-lit office where, in a
luxurious armchair, Carden was sitting, contentedly poring over the
ninth volume of Lamour's great treatise and smoking his second cigar.

"Dr. Atwood is coming here," she said in a discouraged voice, as he rose
with alacrity to place her chair.

"Oh! What for?"

"T-to see you, Mr. Carden."

"Who? Me? Great Scott! I don't want to be slapped and pinched and polled
by a man! I didn't expect that, you know. I'm willing enough to have you
observe me in the interest of humanity--"

"But, Mr. Carden, he is only called in for consultation. I--I have a
dreadful sort of desperate hope that perhaps I may have made a mistake;
that possibly I am in error."

"No doubt you are," he said cheerfully. "Let me read a few more pages,
Dr. Hollis, and then I think I shall be all ready to dispute my
symptoms, one by one, and convince you what really is the trouble with
me. And, by the way, did Dr. Atwood seem a trifle astonished when you
told him about me?"

"A trifle--yes," she said uncertainly. "He is a very, very old man; he
forgets. But he is coming."

"Oh! And didn't he appear to recollect seeing me in the Park?"

"N-not clearly. He is very old, you know. But he is coming here."

"_Ex_actly--as a friend of mine puts it," smiled Carden. "May I be
permitted to use your telephone a moment?"

"By all means, Mr. Carden. You will find it there in my bedroom."

So he entered her pretty bedroom and, closing the door tightly, called
up the Tracer of Lost Persons.

"Is that you, Mr. Keen? This is Mr. Carden. I'm head over heels in love.
I simply must win her, and I'm going to try. If I don't--if she will
not listen to me--I'll certainly go to smash. And what I want you to do
is to prevent Atwood from butting in. Do you understand? . . . Yes, Dr.
Austin Atwood. Keep him away somehow. . . . Yes, I'm here, at Dr.
Hollis's apartments, under anxious observation. . . . She is the _only_
woman in the world! I'm mad about her--and getting madder every moment!
She is the most perfectly splendid specimen of womanhood--_what_? Oh,
yes; I rang you up to ask you whether it was _you_ in the Park
to-day?--that old gentleman--_What!_ Yes, in Central Park. Yes, this
afternoon! No, he didn't resemble you; and Dr. Hollis took him for Dr.
Atwood. . . . What are you laughing about? . . . I can _hear_ you
laughing. . . . _Was_ it you? . . . What do I think? Why, I don't know
exactly what to think, but I suppose it must have been you. Was it?
. . . Oh, I see. You don't wish me to know. Certainly, you are quite
right. Your clients have no business behind the scenes. I only asked out
of curiosity. . . . All right. Good-by."

He came back to the lamp-lit office, which was more of a big, handsome,
comfortable living room than a physician's quarters, and for a moment or
two he stood on the threshold, looking around.

In the pleasant, subdued light of the lamp Rosalind Hollis looked up
and around, smiling involuntarily to see him standing there; then,
serious, silent, she dropped her eyes to the pages of the volume he had
discarded--volume nine of Lamour's great works.

Even with the evidence before her, corroborated in these inexorably
scientific pages which she sat so sadly turning, she found it almost
impossible to believe that this big, broad-shouldered, attractive young
man could be fatally stricken.

Twice her violet eyes stole toward him; twice the thick lashes veiled
them, and the printed pages on her knee sprang into view, and the cold
precision of the type confirmed her fears remorselessly:

"The trained scrutiny of the observer will detect in the victim of this
disease a peculiar and indefinable charm--a strange symmetry which, on
closer examination, reveals traces of physical beauty almost

Again her eyes were lifted to Carden; again she dropped her white lids.
Her worst fears were confirmed.

Meanwhile he stood on the threshold looking at her, his pulses racing,
his very soul staring through his eyes; and, within him, every sense
clamoring out revolt at the deception, demanding confession and its

"I can't stand this!" he blurted out; and she looked up quickly, her
face blanched with foreboding.

"Are you in pain?" she asked.

"No--not that sort of pain! I--_won't_ you please believe that I am not
ill? I'm imposing on you. I'm an impostor! There's nothing whatever the
trouble with me except--something that I want to tell you--if you'll let

"Why should you hesitate to confide in a physician, Mr. Carden?"

He came forward slowly. She laid her small hand on the empty chair which
faced hers and he sank into it, clasping his restless hands under his

"You are feeling depressed," she said gently. Depression was a
significant symptom. Three chapters were devoted to it.

"I'm depressed, of course. I'm horribly depressed and ashamed of myself,
because there is nothing on earth the matter with me, and I've let you
think there is."

She smiled mournfully; this was another symptom of a morbid state. She
turned, unconsciously, to page 379 to verify her observation.

"See here, Miss Hollis," he broke out, "haven't I any chance to
convince you that I am not ill? I want to be honest without involving
a--a friend of mine. I can't endure this deception. Won't you let me
prove to you that these symptoms are--are only significant of something

She looked straight at him, considering him in silence.

"Let us begin with those dark circles under my eyes," he said
desperately. "I found some cold-cream in my room and--look! They are
practically gone! At any rate, if there is a sort of shadow left it's
because I use my eyes in my profession."

"Dr. Lamour says that the dark circles disappear, anyway," said the
girl, unconvinced. "Cold-cream had nothing to do with it."

"But it _did_! Really it did. And as for the other symptoms, I--well, I
can't help my pulses when y-you t-t-touch me."

"Please, Mr. Carden."

"I don't mean to be impertinent. I am trying my hardest to tell the
truth. And my pulses _do_ gallop when you test them; they're galloping
now! This very moment!"

"Let me try them," she said coolly, laying her hand on his wrist.

"Didn't I say so!" he insisted grimly. "And I'm turning red, too. But
those symptoms mean something else; they mean _you_!"

"Mr. Carden!"

"I can't help saying so--"

"I know it," she said soothingly; "these sentimental outbursts are part
of the disease--"

"Good Heavens! _Won't_ you try to believe me! There's nothing in the
world the matter with me except that I am--am--p-p-perfectly

"You must struggle against it, Mr. Carden. That is only part of the--"

"It isn't! It isn't! It's you! It's your mere presence, your
personality, your charm, your beauty, your loveliness, your--"

"Mr. Carden, I beg of you! I--it is part of my duty to observe symptoms,
but--but you are making it very hard for me--very difficult--"

"I am only proving to you that it isn't Lamour's Disease which does
stunts with my pulses, my temperature, my color. I'm not morbid except
when I realize my deception. I'm not depressed except when I think how
far you are from me--how far above me--how far out of reach of such a
man as I am--how desperately I--I--"

"D-don't you think I had better administer a s-s-sedative, Mr. Carden?"
she said, distressed.

"I don't care. I'll take anything you give me--as long as _you_ give it
to me. I'll swallow pint after pint of pills! I'll fletcherize 'em! I'll
luxuriate in poison--anything--"

She was hastily running through the pages of the ninth volume to see
whether the symptoms of sentimental excitement ever turned into frenzy.

"What can you learn from that book?" he insisted, leaning forward to see
what she was reading. "Anyway, Dr. Lamour married his patient so early
in the game that all the symptoms disappeared. And I believe the trouble
with his patient was my trouble. She had every symptom of it until he
married her! She was in love with him, that is absolutely all!"

Rosalind Hollis raised her beautiful, incredulous eyes.

"What do you mean, Mr. Carden?"

"I mean that, in my opinion, there's no such disease as Lamour's
Disease. That young girl was in love with him. Then he married her at
last, and--presto!--all the symptoms vanished--the pulse, the
temperature, the fidgets, the blushes, the moods, the whole business!"

"W-what about the strangely curious manifestations of physical
beauty--superhuman symmetry, Mr. Carden?"

"Do you notice them in _me_?" he gasped.

"A--yes--in a m-modified measure--"

"In _me_?"

"Certainly!" she said firmly; but the slow glow suffusing her cheeks was
disconcerting her. Then his own face began to reflect the splendid color
in hers; their eyes met, dismayed.

"There are sixteen volumes about this disease," she said. "There _must_
be such a disease!"

"There is," he said. "I have it badly. But I never had it before I first
saw you in the Park!"

"Mr. Carden--this is the wildest absurdity--"

"I know it. Wildness is a symptom. I'm mad as a hatter. I've got every
separate symptom, and I wish it was infectious and contagious and
catching and fatal!"

She made an effort to turn the pages to the chapter entitled "Manias and
Illusions," but he laid his hand across the book and his clear eyes
defied her.

"Mr. Carden--"

Her smooth hand trembled under his, then, suddenly nerveless, relaxed.
With an effort she lifted her head; their eyes met, spellbound.

"_You_ have _every_ symptom," he said unsteadily--"every one! What have
you to say?"

Her fascinated eyes held his.

"What have you to say?" he repeated under his breath--"you, with every
symptom, and your heavenly radiant beauty to confirm them--that splendid
youthful loveliness which blinds and stuns me as I look--as I speak--as
I tell you that I love you. That is my malady; that is the beginning and
the end of it; love!"

She sat speechless, immovable, as one under enchantment.

"All my life," he said, "I have spent in painting shadows. But the
shadows were those dim celestial shapes cast by your presence in the
world. You tell me that the world is better for my work; that I have
offered my people beauty and a sort of truth, which they had never
dreamed of until I revealed it? Yet what inspired me was the shadow
only, for I had never seen the substance; I had never believed I should
ever see the living source of the shadows which inspired me. And now I
see; now I have seen with my own eyes. Now the confession of faith is no
longer a blind creed, born of instinct. You live! You are you! What I
believed from necessity I find proved in fact. The occult no longer can
sway one who has seen. And you, who, without your knowledge or mine,
have always been the one and only source of any good in me or in my
work--why is it strange that I loved you at first sight?--that I
worshiped you at first breath?--I, who, like him who raises his altar to
'the unknown god,' raised my altar to truth and beauty? And a miracle
has answered me."

She rose, the beautiful dazed eyes meeting his, both hands clasping the
ninth volume of Lamour's great monograph to her breast as though to
protect it from him--from him who was threatening her, enthralling her,
thrilling her with his magic voice, his enchanted youth, the masterful
mystery of his eyes. What was he saying to her? What was this mounting
intoxication sweeping her senses--this delicious menace threatening her
very will? What did he want with her? What was he asking? What was he
doing now--with both her hands in his, and her gaze deeply lost in
his--and the ninth volume of Lamour on the floor between them, sprawling
there, abandoned, waving its helpless, discredited leaves in
air--discredited, abandoned, obsolete as her own specialty--her life's
work! He had taken that, too--taken her life's work from her. And in
return she was holding nothing!--nothing except a young man's
hands--strong, muscular hands which, after all, were holding her own
imprisoned. So she had nothing in exchange for the ninth volume of
Lamour; and her life's work had been annihilated by a smile; and she was
very much alone in the world--very isolated and very youthful.

After a while she emerged from the chaos of attempted reflection and
listened to what he was saying. He spoke very quietly, very distinctly,
not sparing himself, laying bare every deception without involving
anybody except himself.

He told her the entire history of his case, excluding Mr. Keen in
person; he told her about his aunt, about his birthday, about his
determination to let the legacy go. Then in a very manly way he told her
that he had never before loved a woman; and fell silent, her hands a
dead weight in his.

She was surprised that she could experience no resentment. A curious
inertia crept over her. She was tired of expectancy, tired of effort,
weary of the burden of decision. Life and its problems overweighted her.
Her eyes wandered to his broad young shoulders, then were raised to his

"What shall we do?" she asked innocently.

Unresisting, she suffered him to explain. His explanation was not
elaborate; he only touched his lips to her hands and straightened up, a
trifle pale.

After a moment they walked together to the door and he took his hat and
gloves from the rack.

"Will you come to-morrow morning?" she asked.


"Come early. I am quite certain of how matters are with me. Everything
has gone out of my life--everything I once cared for--all the familiar
things. So come early, for I am quite alone without you."

"And I without you, Rosalind."

"That is only right," she said simply. "I shall cast no more shadows for
you. . . . Are you going? . . . Oh, I know it is best that you should
go, but--"

He halted. She laid both hands in his.

"We both have it," she faltered--"every symptom. And--you will come
early, won't you?"


Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest