that Kerns had planned for himself and Gatewood was an ingenious
one, cunningly contrived to discontent Gatewood with home fare and
lure him by its seductive quality into frequent revisits to the
club which was responsible for such delectable wines and viands.
glow already enveloped Gatewood and pleasantly suffused Kerns. From
time to time they held some rare vintage aloft, squinting through
the crystal-imprisoned crimson with deep content.
that my word is necessarily the last word concerning Burgundy,"
said Gatewood modestly; "but I venture to doubt that any club
in America can match this bottle, Kerns."
Jack," wheedled Kerns, "isn't it pleasant to dine here
once in a while? Be frank, man! Look about at the other tables—at
all the pleasant, familiar faces—the same fine fellows, bless
'em—the same smoky old ceiling, the same bum portraits of
dead governors, the same old stag heads on the wall. Now, Jack,
isn't it mighty pleasant, after all? Be a gentleman and admit it!"
confessed Gatewood, "it's all right for me once in a while,
because I know that I am presently going back to my own home—a
jolly lamplit room and the prettiest girl in Manhattan curled up
in an armchair—"
fortunate," said Kerns shortly. And for the first time there
remained no lurking mockery in his voice; for the first time his
retort was tinged with bitterness. But the next instant his eyes
glimmered with the same gay malice, and the unbelieving smile twitched
at his clean-cut lips, and he raised his hand, touching the short
ends of his mustache with that careless, amused cynicism which rather
that you picture so entrancingly is forbidden the true believer,"
he said; and began to repeat:
"'O weaver! weave the flowers
Into the fabric that thy birth began;
Iris, narcissus, tulips cloud-band tied,
These thou shalt picture for the eye of Man;
Henna, Herati, and the Jhelums tide
In Sarraband and Saruk be thy guide,
And the red dye of Ispahan beside
The checkered Chinese fret of ancient gold;
—So heed the ban, old as the law is old,
Nor weave into thy warp the laughing face,
Nor limb, nor body, nor one line of grace,
Nor hint, nor tint, nor any veiled device
Of Woman who is barred from Paradise!'"
"A nice sentiment!" said Gatewood
help it; you see I'm forbidden to monkey with the eternal looms
or weave the forbidden into the pattern of my life."
sat silent for a moment, then looked up at Kerns with something
so closely akin to a grin that his friend became interested in its
scarcely veiled significance, and grinned in reply.
you really expect that your friend, Mr. Keen, is going to marry
me to somebody, nolens volens?" asked Kerns.
That's what I dream of, Tommy."
poor friend, dream on!"
Tommy, you're lost! I mean you're as good as married now!"
it! There you sit, savoring your Burgundy, idling over a cigar,
happy, care free, fancy free, at liberty, as you believe, to roam
off anywhere at any time and continue the eternal hunt for pleasure!
That's what you think! Ha! Tommy, I know better! That's not the
sort of man I see sitting on the same chair where you are now sprawling
in such content! I see a doomed man, already in the shadow of the
altar, wasting his time unsuspiciously while Chance comes whirling
into the city behind a Long Island locomotive, and Fate, the footman,
sits outside ready to follow him, and Destiny awaits him no matter
what he does, what he desires, where he goes, wherever he turns
to-night! Destiny awaits him at his journey's end!"
fine," said Kerns admiringly. "Too bad it's due to the
mind what my eloquence is due to," retorted Gatewood, "the
fact remains that this is probably your last bachelor dinner. Kerns,
old fellow! Here's to her! Bless her! I—I wish sincerely that
we knew who she is and where to send those roses. Anyway, here's
to the bride!"
up very gravely and drank the toast, then, reseating himself, tapped
the empty glass gently against the table's edge until it broke.
are certainly doing your part well," said Kerns admiringly.
Then he swallowed the remainder of his Burgundy and looked up at
the club clock.
he said with regret. "I've about time to go to Eighty-third
Street, get my suit case, and catch my train at 125th Street."
To a servant he said, "Call a hansom," then rose and sauntered
downstairs to the cloakroom, where presently both men stood, hatted
and gloved, swinging their sticks.
was a fool bet you made," began Kerns; "I'll release you,
but I must insist on holding you," replied Gatewood, laughing.
"You're going to your doom. Come on! I'll see you as far as
the cab door."
out, and Kerns gave the cabby the street and number and entered
said Gatewood, "you're in for it! You're done for! You can't
help yourself! I've won my twelve-gauge trap gun already, and I'll
have to set you up in table silver, anyway, so it's an even break.
You're all in, Tommy! The Tracer is on your trail!"
In the beginning
of a flippant retort Kerns experienced a curious sensation of hesitation.
Something in Gatewood's earnestness, in his jeering assurance and
delighted certainty, made him, for one moment, feel doubtful, even
nonsense you talk," he said, recovering his equanimity. "Nothing
on earth can prevent me driving to 38 East Eighty-third Street,
getting my luggage, and taking the Boston express. Your Tracer doesn't
intend to stop my hansom and drag me into a cave, does he? You haven't
put knock-outs into that Burgundy, have you? Then what in the dickens
are you laughing at?"
on the sidewalk under the lamplight, was still laughing as Kerns
drove away, for he had recognized in the cab driver a man he had
seen in Mr. Kern's office, and he knew that the Tracer of Lost Persons
had Kerns already well in hand.
drove on through the summer darkness between rows of electric globes
drooping like huge white moon flowers from their foliated bronze
stalks, on up the splendid avenue, past the great brilliantly illuminated
hotels, past the white cathedral, past clubs and churches and the
palaces of the wealthy; on, on along the park wall edged by its
double rows of elms under which shadowy forms moved—lovers
strolling in couples.
sniffed Kerns, "the whole world has gone love mad, and I'm
the only sane man left."
But he leaned
back in his cab and fell a-thinking of a thin girl with red hair
and great gray eyes—a thin, frail creature, scarcely more
than a child, who had held him for a week in a strange sorcery only
to release him with a frightened smile, leaving her indelible impression
upon his life forever.
he looked up, realizing that the cab had stopped in East Eighty-third
Street before one of a line of brownstone houses, all externally
Then he leaned
out and saw that the house number was thirty-eight. That was the
number of the Lees' house; he descended, bade the cabman await him,
and, producing his latch key, started up the steps, whistling gayly.
But he didn't
require his key, for, as he reached the front door, he found, to
his surprise and concern, that it swung partly open—just a
mischief!" he muttered; "could I have failed to close
it? Could anybody have seen it and crept in?"
the hallway hastily and pressed the electric knob. No light appeared
in the sconces.
the deuce!" he murmured; "something wrong with the switch!"
And he hurriedly lighted a match and peered into the darkness. By
the vague glimmer of the burning match he could distinguish nothing.
He listened intently, tried the electric switch again without success.
The match burned his fingers and he dropped it, watching the last
red spark die out in the darkness.
about the shadowy hallway seemed unfamiliar; he went to the door,
stepped out on the stoop, and looked up at the number on the transom.
It was thirty-eight; no doubt about the house. Hesitating, he glanced
around to see that his hansom was still there. It had disappeared.
an idiot that cabman is!" he exclaimed, intensely annoyed at
the prospect of lugging his heavy suit case to a Madison Avenue
car and traveling with it to Harlem.
up and down the dimly lighted street; east, an electric car glided
down Madison Avenue; west, the lights of Fifth Avenue glimmered
against the dark foliage of the Park. He stood a moment, angry at
the desertion of his cabman, then turned and reëntered the
dark hall, closing the door behind him.
Up the staircase
he felt his way to the first landing, and, lighting a match, looked
for the electric button.
I crazy, or was there no electric button in this hall?" he
thought. The match burned low; he had to drop it. Perplexed, he
struck another match and opened the door leading into the front
room, and stood on the threshold a moment, looking about him at
the linen-shrouded furniture and pictures. This front room, closed
for the summer, he had not before entered, but he stepped in now,
poking about for any possible intruder, lighting match after match.
I ought to go over this confounded house inch by inch," he
murmured. "What could have possessed me to leave the front
door ajar this morning?"
For an instant
he thought that perhaps Mrs. Nolan, the woman who came in the morning
to make his bed, might have left the door open, but he knew that
couldn't be so, because he always waited for her to finish her work
and leave before he went out. So either he must have left the door
open, or some marauder had visited the house—was perhaps at
that moment in the house! And it was his duty to find out.
better be about it, too," he thought savagely, "or I'll
never make my train."
his last match, looked around, and, seeing gas jets among the clustered
electric bulbs of the sconces, tried to light one and succeeded.
He had left
his suit case in the passageway between the front and rear rooms,
and now, cautiously, stick in hand, he turned toward the dim corridor
leading to the bedroom. There was his suit case, anyway! He picked
it up and started to push open the door of the rear room; but at
the same time, and before he could lay his hand on the knob, the
door before him opened suddenly in a flood of light, and a woman
stood there, dark against the gas-lit glare, a pistol waveringly
extended in the general direction of his head.