As a matter
of fact, he was not. Too poor in imagination to invent, on the spur
of the moment, charms and qualities suited to his ideal, he had,
at first unconsciously, taken as a model the girl before him; quite
unconsciously and innocently at first—then furtively, and
with a dawning perception of the almost flawless beauty he was secretly
plagiarizing. Aware, now, that something had annoyed her; aware,
too, at the same moment that there appeared to be nothing lacking
in her to satisfy his imagination of the ideal, he began to turn
redder than he had ever turned in all his life.
of sixty seconds each ensued before he ventured to stir a finger.
And it was only when she bent again very gravely over her pad that
he cautiously eased a cramped muscle or two, and drew a breath—a
long, noiseless, deep and timid respiration. He realized the enormity
of what he had been doing—how close he had come to giving
unpardonable offense by drawing a perfect portrait of her as the
person he desired to find through the good offices of Keen &
was no such person—unless she had a double: for what more
could a man desire than the ideal traits he had been able to describe
only by using her as his inspiration.
When he ventured
to look at her, one glance was enough to convince him that she,
too, had noticed the parallel—had been forced to recognize
her own features in the portrait he had constructed of an ideal.
And she had caught him in absent-minded contemplation of the hands
he had been describing. He knew that his face was the face of a
is the next question?" he stammered, eager to answer it in
a manner calculated to allay her suspicions.
next question?" She glanced at the list, then with a voice
of velvet which belied the eyes, clear as frosty brown pools in
November: "The next question requires a description of her
Oh—-they—they're rather large—why, her feet are
enormous, I believe—"
at him as though stunned; suddenly a flood of pink spread, wave
on wave, from the white nape of her neck to her hair; she bent low
over her pad and wrote something, remaining in that attitude until
her face cooled.
or other I've done it again!" he thought, horrified. "The
best thing I can do is to end it and go home."
In his distress
he began to hedge, saying: "Of course, she is rather tall and
her feet are in some sort of proportion—in fact, they are
perfectly symmetrical feet—"
his life had he encountered a pair of such angrily beautiful eyes.
Speech stopped with a dry gulp.
now come to 'General Remarks,'" she said in a voice made absolutely
steady and emotionless. "Have you any remarks of that description
to offer, Mr. Gatewood?"
willing to make remarks," he said, "if I only knew what
you wished me to say."
eyes on the sunny window, then looked up. "Where did you last
he said timidly.
the edges of her pad, wrote something and erased it, bit her scarlet
upper lip, and frowned.
of doors, of course?"
indoors," he admitted furtively.
up with a movement almost nervous.
you dare—I mean, care—to be more concise?"
rather not," he replied in a voice from which he hoped he had
expelled the tremors of alarm.
you please, Mr. Gatewood. And would you care to answer any of these
other questions: Who and what are or were her parents? Give all
particulars concerning all her relatives. Is she employed or not?
What are her social, financial, and general circumstances? Her character,
personal traits, aims, interests, desires? Has she any vices? Any
virtues? Talents? Ambitions? Caprices? Fads? Are you in love with
he said, "I am."
she in love with you?"
she hates me—I'm afraid."
she in love with anybody?"
is a very difficult—"
wrote: "He doesn't know," with a satisfaction apparently
she a relative of yours, Mr. Gatewood?" very sweetly.
Miss Southerland," very positively.
desire to marry her—you say?"
But I didn't say it."
She was silent;
is her name?" in a low voice which started several agreeable
thrills chasing one another over him.
decline to answer," he stammered.
what grounds, Mr. Gatewood?"
her full in the eyes; suddenly he bent forward and gazed at the
printed paper from which she had been apparently reading.
all those questions you are scaring me with are not there!"
he exclaimed indignantly. "You are making them up?"
know, but"—she was flushing furiously—"but
they are on the other forms—some of them. Can't you see you
are answering 'Form K'? That is a special form—"
why do you ask me questions that are not on Form K?"
it is my duty to do all I can to secure evidence which may lead
to the discovery of the person you desire to find. I—I assure
you, Mr, Gatewood, this duty is not—not always agreeable—and
some people make it harder still."
looked out of the window. Various emotions—-among them shame,
mortification, chagrin—pervaded him, and chased each other
along his nervous system, coloring his neck and ears a fiery red
for the enlightenment of any observer.
did not mean to offend you," said the girl in a low voice—such
a gently regretful voice that Gatewood swung around in his chair.
is nothing I would not be glad to tell you about the woman I have
fallen in love with," he said. "She is overwhelmingly
lovely; and—when I dare—I will tell you her name and
where I first saw her—and where I saw her last—if you
desire. Shall I?"
would be advisable. When will you do this?"
. . . not now."
wrote on her pad: "He doesn't dare tell me now." Then,
with head still bent, she lifted her mischief-making, trouble-breeding
brown eyes to his once more.
to come here, of course, to consult you?" he asked dizzily.
Keen will receive you—"
may be busy."
may be," she repeated dreamily.
ask for you."
could write you, Mr. Gatewood."
He said hastily:
"It's no trouble for me to come; I walk every morning."
there would be no use, I think, in your coming very soon. All I—all
Mr. Keen could do for a while would be to report progress—"
is all I dare look for: progress—for the present."
time that he remained—which was not very long—neither
of them spoke until he arose to take his departure.
Miss Southerland. I hope you may find the person I have been searching
Mr. Gatewood. . . . I hope we shall; . . . but I—don't—know."
And, as a
matter of fact, she did not know; she was rather excited over nothing,
apparently; and also somewhat preoccupied with several rather disturbing
emotions the species of which she was interested in determining.
But to label and catalogue each of these emotions separately required
privacy and leisure to think—and she also wished to look very
earnestly at the reflection of her own face in the mirror of her
own chamber. For it is a trifle exciting—though but an innocent
coincidence—to be compared, feature by feature, to a young
man's ideal. As far as that went, she excelled it, too; and, as
she stood by the desk, alone, gathering up her notes, she suddenly
bent over and lifted the hem of her gown a trifle—sufficient
to reassure herself that the dainty pair of shoes she wore, would
have baffled the efforts of any Venus ever sculptured. And she was
course," she thought to herself, "his ideal runaway hasn't
enormous feet. He, too, must have been struck with the similarity
between me and his ideal, and when he realized that I also noticed
it, he was frightened by my frown into saying that her feet were
enormous. How silly! . . . For I didn't mean to frighten him. .
. . He frightened me—once or twice—I mean he irritated
me—no, interested me, is what I do mean. . . . Heigho! I wonder
why she ran away? I wonder why he can't find her? . . . It's—it's
silly to run away from a man like that. . . . Heigho! . . . She
doesn't deserve to be found. There is nothing to be afraid of—nothing
to alarm anybody in a man like that."
So she gathered
up her notes and walked slowly out and across to the private office
of the Tracer of Lost Persons.
in," said the Tracer when she knocked. He was using the telephone;
she seated herself rather listlessly beside the window, where spring
sunshine lay in gilded patches on the rug and spring breezes stirred
the curtains. She was a little tired, but there seemed to be no
good reason why. Yet, with the soft wind blowing on her cheek, the
languor grew; she rested her face on one closed hand, shutting her
opened again it was to meet the fixed gaze of Mr. Keen.
beg your pardon!"
is no need of it, child. Be seated. Never mind that report just
now." He paced the length of the room once or twice, hands
clasped behind him; then, halting to confront her:
sort of a man is this young Gatewood?"
sort, Mr. Keen? Why—I think he is the—the sort—that—"
that you don't think much of him," said Keen, laughing.
indeed I did not mean that at all; I mean that he appeared to be—to
no!" she said, flushing up. "He is absolutely well-bred,
received no unpleasant impression of him?"
the contrary!" she said rather warmly—for it hurt her
sense of justice that Keen should so misjudge even a stranger in
whom she had no personal interest.
think he looks like an honest man?"
She was rosy with annoyance. "Have you any idea that he is
the slightest," she said with emphasis.
a man should set us hunting for a person who does not exist—on
our terms, which are no payment unless successful? Would that be
honest?" asked Keen gravely.
he do that?"
he couldn't do such a thing!"
he—er—couldn't, because I wouldn't allow it—not
that he tried to!" added Keen hastily as the indignant brown
eyes sparkled ominously. "Really, Miss Southerland, he must
be all you say he is, for he has a stanch champion to vouch for
I say he is? I haven't said anything about him!"
nodded. "Exactly. Let us drop him for a moment. . . . Are you
perfectly well, Miss Southerland?"
glad of it. You are a trifle pale; you seem to be a little languid.
. . . When do you take your vacation?"
suggested May, I believe," she said wistfully.
leaned back in his chair, joining the tips of his fingers reflectively.
Southerland," he said, "you have been with us a year.
I thought it might interest you to know that I am exceedingly pleased
he added, "I'm terribly afraid we're going to lose you."
she asked, startled.
he continued, ignoring her half-frightened question with a smile,
"I am going to promote you—for faithful and efficient
an agreeable increase of salary, and new duties which will take
you into the open air. . . . You ride?"
used to before—"
before you were obliged to earn your living. Please have yourself
measured for habit and boots this afternoon. I shall arrange for
horse, saddle, and groom. You will spend most of your time riding
in the Park—for the present."
Keen—am I to be one of your agents—a sort of detective?"
her absently, then crossed one leg over the other.
me your notes," he said with a smile.
them, folded them, and he took them from her, thoughtfully regarding
you know that your mother and I were children together?" he
She stared. "Is that why you sent for me that day at the school
is why . . . When I learned that my playmate—your mother—was
dead, is it not reasonable to suppose that I should wish her daughter
to have a chance?"
looked at him steadily.
was like you—when she married . . . I never married . . .
Do you wonder that I sent for you, child?"
the clock ticking there in the sunny room, and an old man staring
into two dimmed brown eyes, and the little breezes at the open window
whispering of summers past.
young man, Gatewood," said the Tracer, clearing his voice of
its hoarseness—"this young man ought to be all right,
if I did not misjudge his father—years ago, child, years ago.
And he is all right—" He half turned toward a big letter-file;
"his record is clean, so far. The trouble with him is idleness.
He ought to marry."
he trying to?" she asked.
looks like it. Miss Southerland, we must find this woman!"
but I don't see how you are going to—on such slight information—"
Child, I have all I want—all I could desire." He laughed,
passing his hands over his gray hair. "We are going to find
the girl he is in love with before the week ends!"
you really think so?" she exclaimed.
But you must do a great deal in this case."
what am I to do?"
in the Park, child! And if you see Mr. Gatewood, don't you dare
take your eyes off him for one moment. Watch him; observe everything
he does. If he should recognize you and speak to you, be as amiable
to him as though it were not by my orders."
I am to be a detective!" she faltered.
did not appear to hear her. He took up the notes, turned to the
telephone, and began to send out a general alarm, reading the description
of the person whom Gatewood had described. The vast, intricate and
delicate machinery under his control was being set in motion all
over the Union.
that I expect to find her outside the borough of Manhattan,"
he said, smiling, as he hung up the receiver and turned to her;
"but it's as well to know how many types of that species exist
in this Republic, and who they are—in case any other young
man comes here raving of brown eyes and 'gleams' in the hair."
to her own intense consternation, blushed.
you had better order that habit at once," said the Tracer carelessly.
me, Mr. Keen," she asked tremulously, "am I to spy upon
Mr. Gatewood? And report to you? . . . For I simply cannot bear
to do it—"
you need report nothing unless you desire to. And when there is
something to report, it will be about the woman I am searching for.
Don't you understand? I have already located her. You will find
her in the Park. And when you are sure she is the right one—and
if you care to report it to me—I shall be ready to listen
. . . I am always ready to listen to you."
warn you, Mr. Keen, that I have perfect faith in the honor of Mr.
Gatewood. I know that I could have nothing unworthy to report."
sure of it," said the Tracer of Lost Persons, studying her
with eyes that were not quite clear. "Now, I think you had
better order that habit . . . Your mother sat her saddle perfectly
. . . We rode very often—my lost playmate and I."
hands clasped behind his back, absently pacing the room, backward,
forward, there in the spring sunshine. Nor did he notice her lingering,
nor mark her as she stole from the room, brown eyes saddened and
thoughtful, wondering, too, that there should be in the world so
much room for sorrow.
am sure of it,' said the Tracer of Lost Persons."
"'I am sure of it,' said the Tracer of Lost Persons."