In the meanwhile,
at the other end of the wire, Mr. Keen, the Tracer of Lost Persons,
was preparing to trace for Mr. Kerns, against that gentleman's will,
the true happiness which Mr. Kerns had never been able to find for
He sat in his easy chair within the four walls
of his own office, inspecting a line of people who stood before
him on the carpet forming a single and attentive rank. In this rank
were five men: a policeman, a cab driver, an agent of the telephone
company, an agent of the electric company, and a reformed burglar
carrying a kit of his trade tools.
The Tracer of Lost Persons gazed at them, meditatively
joining the tips of his thin fingers.
"I want the number on 36 East Eighty-third
Street changed to No. 38, and the number 38 replaced by No. 36,"
he said to the policeman. "I want it done at once. Get a glazier
and go up there and have it finished in an hour. Mrs. Kenna, caretaker
at No. 36, is in my pay; she will not interfere. There is nobody
in No. 38: Mr. Kerns leaves there to-night and the Burglar Alarm
Company takes charge to-morrow."
And, turning to the others: "You," nodding
at the reformed burglar, "know your duty. Mike!" to the
cab driver, "don't miss Mr. Kerns at the Lenox Club. If he
calls you before eleven, drive into the park and have an accident.
And you," to the agent of the telephone company, "will
sever all telephone connection in Mrs. Stanley's house; and you,"
to the official of the electric company, "will see that the
circuit in Mrs. Stanley's house is cut so that no electric light
may be lighted and no electric bell sound."
The Tracer of Lost Persons stroked his gray mustache
thoughtfully. "And that," he ended, "will do, I think.
He rose and stood by the door as the policeman
headed the solemn file which marched out to their duty; then he
looked at his watch, and, as it was already a few minutes after
eight, he called up No. 36 East Eighty-third Street, and in a moment
more had Mrs. Stanley on the wire.
"Good evening," he said pleasantly. "I
suppose you have just arrived from Rosylyn. I may be a little late—I
may be very late, in fact, so I called you up to say so. And I wished
to say another thing; to ask you whether your servants could recollect
ever having seen a young man about the place, a rather attractive
young man with excellent address and manners, five feet eleven inches,
slim but well built, dark hair, dark eyes, and dark mustache, offering
samples of Georgia marble for sale."
"Really, Mr. Keen," replied a silvery
voice, "I have heard them say nothing about such an individual.
If you will hold the wire I will ask my maid." And, after a
pause: "No, Mr. Keen, my maid cannot remember any such person.
Do you think he was a confederate of that wretched butler of mine?"
"I am scarcely prepared to say that; in fact,"
added Mr. Keen, "I haven't the slightest idea that this young
man could have been concerned in anything of that sort. Only, if
you should ever by any chance see such a man, detain him if possible
until you can communicate with me; detain him by any pretext, by
ruse, by force if you can, only detain him until I can get there.
Will you do this?"
"Certainly, Mr. Keen, if I can. Please describe
Mr. Keen did so minutely.
"You say he sells Georgia marble by samples,
which he carries in a suit case?"
"He says that he has samples of Georgia marble
in his suit case," replied the Tracer cautiously. "It
might be well, if possible, to see what he has in his suit case."
"I will warn the servants as soon as I return
to Rosylyn. When may I expect you this evening, Mr. Keen?"
"It is impossible to say, Mrs. Stanley. If
I am not there by midnight I shall try to call next morning."
So they exchanged civil adieus; the Tracer hung
up his receiver and leaned back in his chair, smiling to himself.
"Curious," he said, "that chance
should have sent that pretty woman to me at such a time. . . . Kerns
is a fine fellow, every inch of him. It hit him hard when he crossed
with her to Southampton six years ago; it hit him harder when she
married that Englishman. I don't wonder he never cared to marry
after that brief week of her society; for she is just about the
most charming woman I have ever met—red hair and all. . .
. And if quick action is what is required, it's well to break the
ice between them at once with a dreadful misunderstanding."