Tracer of Lost Persons entered Captain Harren's room at the Hotel
Vice-Regent that afternoon he found the young man standing at a
center table, pencil in hand, studying a sheet of paper which was
covered with letters and figures.
The two men
eyed one another in silence for a moment, then Harren pointed grimly
to the confusion of letters and figures covering dozens of scattered
sheets lying on the table.
part of my madness," he said with a short laugh. "Can
you make anything of such lunatic work?"
picked up a sheet of paper covered with letters of the alphabet
and Roman and Arabic numerals. He dropped it presently and picked
up another comparatively blank sheet, on which were the following
He studied it for a while, then glanced
interrogatively at Harren.
nothing," said Harren. "I've been groping for three years—but
it's no use. That's lunatics' work." He wheeled squarely on
his heels, looking straight at the Tracer. "Do you think I've
had a touch of the sun?"
said Mr. Keen, drawing a chair to the table. "Saner men than
you or I have spent a lifetime over this so-called Seal of Solomon."
He laid his finger on the two symbols—
Then, looking across the table at Harren:
"What," he asked, "has the Seal of Solomon to do
with your case?"
muttered Harren, and fell silent.
waited; Harren said nothing.
is the photograph?"
a drawer in the table, hesitated, looked strangely at the Tracer.
Keen," he said, "there is nothing on earth I hold more
sacred than this. There is only one thing in the world that could
justify me in showing it to a living soul—my—my desire
said Keen coolly, "that is not enough to justify you—the
mere desire to find the living original of this apparition. Nothing
could justify your showing it unless you love her."
the picture tightly, staring full at the Tracer. A dull flush mounted
to his forehead, and very slowly he laid the picture before the
Tracer of Lost Persons.
minute sped while the Tracer bent above the photograph, his finely
modeled features absolutely devoid of expression. Harren had drawn
his chair beside him, and now sat leaning forward, bronzed cheek
resting in his hand, staring fixedly at the picture.
was this—this photograph taken?" asked the Tracer quietly.
day after I arrived in New York. I was here, alone, smoking my pipe
and glancing over the evening paper just before dressing for dinner.
It was growing rather dark in the room; I had not turned on the
electric light. My camera lay on the table—there it is!—that
kodak. I had taken a few snapshots on shipboard; there was one film
more heavily on his elbow, eyes fixed upon the picture.
was almost dark," he repeated. "I laid aside the evening
paper and stood up, thinking about dressing for dinner, when my
eyes happened to fall on the camera. It occurred to me that I might
as well unload it, let the unused film go, and send the roll to
be developed and printed; and I picked up the camera—"
said the Tracer softly.
it up and was starting toward the window where there remained enough
daylight to see by—"
I saw her!" said Harren under his breath.
by that window. You can see the window and curtain in the photograph."
gazed intently at the picture.
looked at me," said Harren, steadying his voice. "She
was as real as you are, and she stood there, smiling faintly, her
dark, lovely eyes meeting mine."
long did she remain there?"
know—time seemed to stop—the world—everything
grew still. . . . Then, little by little, something began to stir
under my stunned senses—that germ of misgiving, that dreadful
doubt of my own sanity. . . . I scarcely knew what I was doing when
I took the photograph; besides, it had grown quite dark, and I could
scarcely see her." He drew himself erect with a nervous movement.
"How on earth could I have obtained that photograph of her
in the darkness?" he demanded.
said the Tracer coolly. "It has been done in France."
from living people, but—"
the N-ray is in living organisms, we must call, for lack of a better
term, the subaura in the phantom."
over the photograph together. Presently the Tracer said: "She
is very, very beautiful?"
dry lips unclosed, but he uttered no sound.
is beautiful, is she not?" repeated the Tracer, turning to
look at the young man.
you not see she is?" he asked impatiently.
said the Tracer.
Harren," continued the Tracer, "I can see nothing upon
this bit of paper that resembles in the remotest degree a human
face or figure."
that I doubt that you can see it," pursued the Tracer calmly.
"I simply repeat that I see absolutely nothing on this paper
except a part of a curtain, a window pane, and—and—"
for God's sake!" cried Harren hoarsely.
know yet. Wait; let me study it."
you not see her face, her eyes? Don't you see that exquisite slim
figure standing there by the curtain?" demanded Harren, laying
his shaking finger on the photograph. "Why, man, it is as clear,
as clean cut, as distinct as though the picture had been taken in
sunlight! Do you mean to say that there is nothing there—that
I am crazy?"
How can I wait when you sit staring at her picture and telling me
that you can't see it, but that it is doubtless there? Are you deceiving
me, Mr. Keen? Are you trying to humor me, trying to be kind to me,
knowing all the while that I'm crazy—"
man! You are no more crazy than I am. I tell you that I can see
something on the window pane—"
sprang up and walked to the window, leaning close and examining
the glass. Harren followed and laid his hand lightly over the pane.
you see any marks on the glass?" demanded Keen.
you a magnifying glass?" asked the Tracer.
back to the table, and they returned to the photograph, the Tracer
bending over it and examining it through the glass.
I see," he said, still studying the photograph, "is a
corner of a curtain and a window on which certain figures seem to
have been cut. . . . Look, Captain Harren, can you see them?"
some marks—some squares."
can't see anything written on that pane—as though cut by a
you see her?"
thought a moment: "Does she wear a ring?"
can't you see?"
it for me."
themselves side by side, and Harren drew a rough sketch of the ring
which he insisted was so plainly visible on her hand:
"Oh," observed the Tracer, "she
wears the Seal of Solomon on her ring."
up at him. "That symbol has haunted me persistently for three
years," he said. "I have found it everywhere—on
articles that I buy, on house furniture, on the belts of dead ladrones,
on the hilts of creeses, on the funnels of steamers, on the headstalls
of horses. If they put a laundry mark on my linen it's certain to
be this! If I buy a box of matches the sign is on it. Why, I've
even seen it on the brilliant wings of tropical insects. It's got
on my nerves. I dream about it."
"And you buy books about it and try
to work out its mystical meaning?" suggested the Tracer, smiling.
gray eyes were serious. He said: "She never comes to me without
that symbol somewhere about her. . . . I told you she never spoke
to me. That is true; yet once, in a vivid dream of her, she did
speak. I—I was almost ashamed to tell you of that."
dream? Do you wish to know what I dreamed?"
it was a dream."
was. I was asleep on the deck of the Mindinao, dead tired after
a fruitless hike. I dreamed she came toward me through a young woodland
all lighted by the sun, and in her hands she held masses of that
wild flower we call Solomon's Seal. And she said—in the voice
I know must be like hers: 'If you could only read! If you would
only understand the message I send you! It is everywhere on earth
for you to read, if you only would!'
'Is the message in the seal? Is that the key to it?'
nodded, laughing, burying her face in the flowers, and said:
I can write it more plainly for you some day; I will try very, very
after that she went away—not swiftly—for I saw her at
moments far away in the woods; but I must have confused her with
the glimmering shafts of sunlight, and in a little while the woodland
grew dark and I woke with the racket of a Colt's automatic in my
his sun-bronzed hand over his face, hesitated, then leaned over
the photograph once more, which the Tracer was studying intently
through the magnifying glass.
is something on that window in the photograph which I'm going to
copy," he said. "Please shove a pad and pencil toward
the photograph through the glass which he held in his right hand,
Mr. Keen picked up the pencil and, feeling for the pad, began very
slowly to form the following series of symbols:
"What on earth are you doing?"
muttered Captain Harren, twisting his short mustache in perplexity.
copying what I see through this magnifying glass written on the
window pane in the photograph," said the Tracer calmly. "Can't
you see those marks?"
do now; I never noticed them before particularly—only that
there were scratches there."
When at length
the Tracer had finished his work he sat, chin on hand, examining
it in silence. Presently he turned toward Harren, smiling.
inquired the younger man impatiently; "do those scratches representing
Solomon's Seal mean anything?"
the strangest cipher I ever encountered," said Mr. Keen—"the
strangest I ever heard of. I have seen hundreds of ciphers—hundreds—secret
codes of the State Department, secret military codes, elaborate
Oriental ciphers, symbols used in commercial transactions, symbols
used by criminals and every species of malefactor. And every one
of them can be solved with time and patience and a little knowledge
of the subject. But this"—he sat looking at it with eyes
half closed—"this is too simple."
It's so simple that it's baffling."
you mean to say you are going to be able to find a meaning in squares
don't believe it is going to be so very difficult to translate them."
guns!" said the Captain. "Do you mean to say that you
can ultimately translate that cipher?"
smiled. "Let's examine it for repetitions first. Here we have
five times. It's likely to be the letter E. I think—"
His voice ceased; for a quarter of an hour he pored over the symbols,
pencil in hand, checking off some, substituting a letter here and
he said; "the usual doesn't work in this case. It's an absurdly
simple cipher. I have a notion that numbers play a part in it—you
see where these crossed squares are bracketed—those must be
numbers requiring two figures—"
He fell silent
again, and for another quarter of an hour he remained motionless,
immersed in the problem before him, Harren frowning at the paper
over his shoulder.