He was thirty-three,
agreeable to look at, equipped with as much culture and intelligence
as is tolerated east of Fifth Avenue and west of Madison. He had
a couple of elaborate rooms at the Lenox Club, a larger income than
seemed to be good for him, and no profession. It follows that he
was a pessimist before breakfast. Besides, it's a bad thing for
a man at thirty-three to come to the conclusion that he has seen
all the most attractive girls in the world and that they have been
vastly overrated. So, when a club servant with gilt buttons on his
coat tails knocked at the door, the invitation to enter was not
very cordial. He of the buttons knocked again to take the edge off
before he entered; then opened the door and unburdened himself as
Gatewood, sir, Mr. Kerns's compliments, and wishes to know if 'e
may 'ave 'is coffee served at your tyble, sir."
before the mirror, gave a vicious twist to his tie, inserted a pearl
scarf pin, and regarded the effect with gloomy approval.
to Mr. Kerns that I am—flattered," he replied morosely;
"and tell Henry I want him."
sir? Yes, sir."
left; one of the sleek club valets came in, softly sidling.
wear a white waistcoat, if you don't object."
laid out half a dozen.
one do you usually wear when I'm away, Henry? Which is your favorite?"
it out and don't look injured, and don't roll up your eyes. I merely
desire to borrow it for one day."
Henry, hereafter always help yourself to my best cigars. Those I
smoke may injure you. I've attempted to conceal the keys, but you
will, of course, eventually discover them under that loose tile
on the hearth."
sir; thanky', sir," returned the valet gravely.
with martyred dignity.
you are tired of searching for my olivine and opal pin, just find
it, for a change. I'd like to wear that pin for a day or two if
it would not inconvenience you."
good, sir; I will 'unt it hup, sir."
put on his coat, took hat and gloves from the unabashed valet, and
sauntered down to the sunny breakfast room, where he found Kerns
inspecting a morning paper and leisurely consuming grapefruit with
a cocktail on the side.
observed Kerns briefly.
not on the telephone," snapped Gatewood.
your pardon; how are you, dear friend?"
know how I am," retorted Gatewood irritably; "how the
devil should a man know how he is?"
going to the bowwows, as usual, dear friend?"
usual. Oh, read your paper, Tommy! You know well enough I'm not
one of those tail-wagging imbeciles who wakes up in the morning
singing like a half-witted lark. Why should I, with this taste in
my mouth, and the laundress using vitriol, and Henry sneering at
my cigars?" He yawned and cast his eyes toward the ceiling.
"Besides, there's too much gilt all over this club! There's
too much everywhere. Half the world is stucco, the rest rococo.
Where's that Martini I bid for?"
applied himself to cocoa and toasted muffins. Grapefruit and an
amber-tinted accessory were brought for the other and sampled without
mirth. However, a little later Gatewood said: "Well, are you
going to read your paper all day?"
you need," said Kerns, laying the paper aside, "is a job—any
old kind would do, dear friend."
want to make any more money."
want you to. I mean a job where you'd lose a lot and be scared into
thanking Heaven for carfare. You're a nice object for the breakfast
I will be amiable enough by noon time."
you're endurable by noon time, as a rule. When you're forty you
may be tolerated after five o'clock; when you're fifty your wife
and children might even venture to emerge from the cellar after
wife," replied Kerns, as he calmly watched his man.
He had managed
it well, so far, and he was wise enough not to overdo it. An interval
of silence was what the situation required.
I had a wife," muttered Gatewood after a long pause.
haven't you said that every day for five years? Wife! Look at the
willing assortment of dreams playing Sally Waters around town. Isn't
this borough a bower of beauty—a flowery thicket where the
prettiest kind in all the world grow under glass or outdoors? And
what do you do? You used to pretend to prowl about inspecting the
yearly crop of posies, growling, cynical, dissatisfied; but you've
even given that up. Now you only point your nose skyward and squall
for a mate, and yowl mournfully that you never have seen your ideal.
I know you."
have seen my ideal," retorted Gatewood sulkily, "but I
know she exists—somewhere between heaven and Hoboken."
sure, are you?"
I'm sure. And, rich or poor, good or bad, she was fashioned for
me alone. That's a theory of mine; you needn't accept it; in fact,
it's none of your business, Tommy."
the same," insisted Kerns, "did you ever consider that
if your ideal does exist somewhere, it is morally up to you to find
I inspected every débutante for ten years? You don't expect
me to advertise for an ideal, do you—object, matrimony?"
him intently. "Now, I'm going to make a vivid suggestion, Jack.
In fact, that's why I subjected myself to the ordeal of breakfasting
with you. It's none of my business, as you so kindly put it, but—shall
I suggest something?"
ahead," replied Gatewood, tranquilly lighting a cigarette.
"I know what you'll say."
you don't. Firstly, you are having such a good time in this world
that you don't really enjoy yourself—isn't that so?"
I—well, let it go at that."
with all your crimes and felonies, you have one decent trait left:
you really would like to fall in love. And I suspect you'd even
are grounds," said Gatewood guardedly, "for your suspicions.
Then there's a way! I know—"
don't tell me you 'know a girl,' or anything like that!" began
Gatewood sullenly. "I've heard that before, and I won't meet
want you to; I don't know anybody. All I desire to say is this:
I do know a way. The other day I noticed a sign on Fifth Avenue:
KEEN & CO.
TRACERS OF LOST PERSONS
It was a most extraordinary sign; and having
a little unemployed imagination I began to speculate on how Keen
& Co. might operate, and I wondered a little, too, that, the
conditions of life in this city could enable a firm to make a living
by devoting itself exclusively to the business of hunting up missing
partly to light a cigarette, partly for diplomatic reasons.
has all this to do with me?" inquired Gatewood curiously; and
diplomacy scored one.
not try Keen & Co.?"
them? Why? I haven't lost anybody, have I?"
haven't, precisely lost anybody, but the fact remains that you can't
find somebody," returned Kerns coolly. "Why not employ
Keen & Co. to look for her?"
for whom, in Heaven's name?"
for—for my ideal! Kerns, you're crazy. How the mischief can
anybody hunt for somebody who doesn't exist?"
say that she does exist."
I can't prove it, man."
don't have to; it's up to Keen & Co. to prove it. That's why
you employ them."
wild nonsense you talk! Keen & Co. might, perhaps, be able to
trace the concrete, but how are they going to trace and find the
isn't abstract; she is a lovely, healthy, and youthful concrete
object—if, as you say, she does exist."
can I prove she exists?"
don't have to; they do that."
here," said Gatewood almost angrily, "do you suppose that
if I were ass enough to go to these people and tell them that I
wanted to find my ideal—"
tell them that!"
is no necessity for going into such trivial details. All you need
say is: 'I am very anxious to find a young lady'—and then
describe her as minutely as you please. Then, when they locate a
girl of that description they'll notify you; you will go, judge
for yourself whether she is the one woman on earth—and, if
disappointed, you need only shake your head and murmur: 'Not the
same!' And it's for them to find another."
do it!" said Gatewood hotly.
not? At least, it would be amusing. You haven't many mental resources,
and it might occupy you for a week or two."
have a pleasant way of putting things this morning, haven't you?"
want to be pleasant: I want to jar you. Don't I care enough about
you to breakfast with you? Then I've a right to be pleasantly unpleasant.
I can't bear to watch your mental and spiritual dissolution—a
man like you, with all your latent ability and capacity for being
nobody in particular—which is the sort of man this nation
needs. Do you want to turn into a club-window gazer like Van Bronk?
Do you want to become another Courtlandt Allerton and go rocking
down the avenue—a grimacing, tailor-made sepulcher?—the
pompous obsequies of a dead intellect?—a funeral on two wavering
legs, carrying the corpse of all that should be deathless in a man?
Why, Jack, I'd rather see you in bankruptcy—I'd rather see
you trying to lead a double life in a single flat on seven dollars
and a half a week—I'd almost rather see you every day at breakfast
than have it come to that!
up and get jocund with life! Why, you could have all good citizens
stung to death if you chose. It isn't that I want you to make money;
but I want you to worry over somebody besides yourself—not
in Wall Street—a pool and its money are soon parted. But in
your own home, where a beautiful wife and seven angel children have
you dippy and close to the ropes; where the housekeeper gets a rake
off, and the cook is red-headed and comes from Sligo, and the butler's
cousin will bear watching, and the chauffeur is a Frenchman, and
the coachman's uncle is a Harlem vet, and every scullion in the
establishment lies, drinks, steals, and supports twenty satiated
relatives at your expense. That would mean the making of you; for,
after all, Jack, you are no genius—you're a plain, non-partisan,
uninspired, clean-built, wholesome citizen, thank God!—the
sort whose unimaginative mission is to pitch in with eighty-odd
millions of us and, like the busy coral creatures, multiply with
all your might, and make this little old Republic the greatest,
biggest, finest article that an overworked world has ever yet put
up! . . . Now you can call for help if you choose."
breath returned slowly. In an intimacy of many years he had never
suspected that sort of thing from Kerns. That is why, no doubt,
the opinions expressed by Kerns stirred him to an astonishment too
innocent to harbor anger or chagrin.
Kerns stood up with an unembarrassed laugh, saying, "I'm going
to the office; see you this evening?" Gatewood replied rather
vacantly: "Oh, yes; I'm dining here. Good-by, Tommy."
at his watch, lingering. "Was there anything you wished to
ask me, Jack?" he inquired guilelessly.
you? No, I don't think so."
I had an idea you might care to know where Keen & Co. were to
said Gatewood firmly, "is foolish."
write the address for you, anyway," rejoined Kerns, scribbling
it and handing the card to his friend.
Then he went
down the stairs, several at a time, eased in conscience, satisfied
that he had done his duty by a friend he cared enough for to breakfast
course," he ruminated as he crawled into a hansom and lay back
buried in meditation—"of course there may be nothing
in this Keen & Co. business. But it will stir him up and set
him thinking; and the longer Keen & Co. take to hunt up an imaginary
lady that doesn't exist, the more anxious and impatient poor old
Jack Gatewood will become, until he'll catch the fever and go cantering
about with that one fixed idea in his head. And," added Kerns
softly, "no New Yorker in his right mind can go galloping through
these five boroughs very long before he's roped, tied, and marked
by the 'only girl in the world'—the only girl—if you
don't care to turn around and look at another million girls precisely
like her. O Lord!—precisely like her!"
a nice exhorter to incite others to matrimony.