On the thirteenth
day of March, 1906, Kerns received the following cable from an old
"Is there anybody in New York who
can find two criminals for me? I don't want to call in the police.
To which Kerns replied promptly:
"Wire Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons,
And a day or two later, being on his honeymoon,
he forgot all about his old friend Jack Burke.
On the fifteenth
day of March, 1906, Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons, received the
following cablegram from Alexandria, Egypt:
"Keen, Tracer, New York:—Locate
Joram Smiles, forty, stout, lame, red hair, ragged red mustache,
cast in left eye, pallid skin; carries one crutch; supposed
to have arrived in America per S. S. Scythian Queen, with man
known as Emanuel Gandon, swarthy, short, fat, light bluish eyes,
will call on you at your office as soon as my steamer, Empress
of Babylon, arrives. If you discover my men, keep them under
surveillance, but on no account call in police. Spare no expense.
Dundas, Gray & Co. are my bankers and reference.
On Monday, April 2d, a few minutes after
eight o'clock in the morning, the card of Mr. John Templeton Burke
was brought to Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons, and a moment later
a well-built, wiry, sun-scorched young man was ushered into Mr.
Keen's private office by a stenographer prepared to take minutes
of the interview.
thing that the Tracer of Lost Persons noted in his visitor was his
mouth; the next his eyes. Both were unmistakably good—the
eyes which his Creator had given him looked people squarely in the
face at every word; the mouth, which a man's own character fashions
agreeably or mars, was pleasant, but firm when the trace of the
smile lurking in the corners died out.
dozens of other external characteristics which Mr. Keen always looked
for in his clients; and now the rapid exchange of preliminary glances
appeared to satisfy both men, for they advanced toward each other
and exchanged a formal hand clasp.
you any news for me?" asked Burke.
said the Tracer. "There are cigars on the table beside you—matches
in that silver case. No, I never smoke; but I like the aroma—and
I like to watch men smoke. Do you know, Mr. Burke, that no two men
smoke in the same fashion? There is as much character in the manner
of holding a cigar as there is difference in the technic of artists."
amused, but, catching sight of the busy stenographer, his bronzed
features became serious, and he looked at Mr. Keen inquiringly.
is my custom," said the Tracer. "Do you object to my stenographer?"
at the slim young girl in her black gown and white collar and cuffs.
Then, very simply, he asked her pardon for objecting to her presence,
but said that he could not discuss his case if she remained. So
she rose, with a humorous glance at Mr. Keen; and the two men stood
up until she had vanished, then reseated themselves vis-a-vis. Mr.
Keen calmly dropped his elbow on the concealed button which prepared
a hidden phonograph for the reception of every word that passed
news have you for me, Mr. Keen?" asked the younger man with
that same directness which the Tracer had already been prepared
for, and which only corroborated the frankness of eyes and voice.
news is brief," he said. "I have both your men under observation."
exclaimed Burke, plainly unprepared. "Do you actually mean
that I can see these men whenever I desire to do so? Are these scoundrels
in this town—within pistol shot?"
face hardened as he snapped out his last word, like the crack of
know how far your pistol carries," said Mr. Keen. "Do
you wish to swear out a warrant?"
I do not. I merely wish their addresses. You have not used the police
in this matter, have you, Mr. Keen?"
Your cable was explicit," said the Tracer. "Had you permitted
me to use the police it would have been much less expensive for
help that," said the young man. "Besides, in a matter
of this sort, a man cannot decently consider expense."
of what sort?" asked the Tracer blandly.
Yet even now I do not understand. You must remember, Mr. Burke,
that you have not told me anything concerning the reasons for your
quest of these two men, Joram Smiles and Emanuel Gandon. Besides,
this is the first time you have mentioned pistol range."
steadily, looked at the Tracer through the blue fog of his cigar.
he said, "I have not told you anything about them."
waited a moment; then, smiling quietly to himself, he wrote down
the present addresses of Joram Smiles and Emanuel Gandon, and, tearing
off the leaf, handed it to the younger man, saying: "I omit
the pistol range, Mr. Burke."
very grateful to you," said Burke. "The efficiency of
your system is too famous for me to venture to praise it. All I
can say is 'Thank you'; all I can do in gratitude is to write my
check—if you will be kind enough to suggest the figures."
you sure that my services are ended?"
you, quite sure."
So the Tracer
of Lost Persons named the figures, and his client produced a check
book and filled in a check for the amount. This was presented and
received with pleasant formality. Burke rose, prepared to take his
leave, but the Tracer was apparently busy with the combination lock
of a safe, and the young man lingered a moment to make his adieus.
As he stood
waiting for the Tracer to turn around he studied the writing on
the sheet of paper which he held toward the light:
Smiles, no profession, 613 West 24th Street.
Emanuel Gandon, no profession, same address.
Very dangerous men.
It occurred to him that these three lines
of pencil-writing had cost him a thousand dollars—and at the
same instant he flushed with shame at the idea of measuring the
money value of anything in such a quest as this.
yet he had already spent a great deal of money in his brief quest,
and—was he any nearer the goal—even with the penciled
addresses of these two men in his possession? Even with these men
almost within pistol shot!
there, immersed in frowning retrospection, the room, the Tracer,
the city seemed to fade from his view. He saw the red sand blowing
in the desert; he heard the sickly squealing of camels at the El
Teb Wells; he saw the sun strike fire from the rippling waters of
Saïs; he saw the plain, and the ruins high above it; and the
odor of the Long Bazaar smote him like a blow, and he heard the
far call to prayer from the minarets of Sa-el-Hagar, once Saïs,
the mysterious—Saïs of the million lanterns, Saïs
of that splendid festival where the Great Triad's worship swayed
dynasty after dynasty, and where, through the hot centuries, Isis,
veiled, impassive, looked out upon the hundredth king of kings,
Meris, the Builder of Gardens, dragged dead at the chariot of Upper
and Lower Egypt.
visions faded; into his remote eyes crept the consciousness of the
twentieth century again; he heard the river whistles blowing, and
the far dissonance of the streets—that iron undertone vibrating
through the metropolis of the West from river to river and from
the Palisades to the sea.
wandered about the room, from telephone desk to bookcase, from the
table to the huge steel safe, door ajar, swung outward like the
polished breech of a twelve-inch gun.
vacant eyes met the eyes of the Tracer of Lost Persons, almost helplessly.
And for the first time the full significance of this quest he had
undertaken came over him like despair—this strange, hopeless,
fantastic quest, blindly, savagely pursued from the sand wastes
of Saïs to the wastes of this vast arid city of iron and masonry,
ringing to the sky with the menacing clamor of its five monstrous
weary of a sudden, he sat down, resting his head on one hand. The
Tracer watched him, bent partly over his desk. From moment to moment
he tore minute pieces from the blotter, or drew imaginary circles
and arabesques on his pad with an inkless pen.
I could help you, after all—if you'd let me try," he
you mean—me?" asked Burke, without raising his head.
you like—yes, you—or any man in trouble—in perplexity—in
the uncertain deductions which arise from an attempt at self-analysis."
is true; I am trying to analyze myself. I believe that I don't know
how. All has been mere impulse—so far. No, I don't know how
to analyze it all."
said the Tracer.
his level, unbelieving eyes.
are in love," said the Tracer.
After a long
time Burke looked up again. "Do you think so?"
Can I help you?" asked the Tracer pleasantly.
man sat silent, frowning into space; then:
you plainly enough that I have come here to argue with two men at
the end of a pistol; and—you tell me I'm in love. By what
is written in your face, Mr. Burke—in your eyes, in every
feature, every muscle's contraction, every modulation of your voice.
My tables, containing six hundred classified superficial phenomena
peculiar to all human emotions, have been compiled and scientifically
arranged according to Bertillon's system. It is an absolutely accurate
key to every phase of human emotion, from hate, through all its
amazingly paradoxical phenomena, to love, with all its genera under
the suborder—all its species, subspecies, and varieties."
back, surveying the young man with kindly amusement.
talk of pistol range, but you are thinking of something more fatal
than bullets, Mr. Burke. You are thinking of love—of the first,
great, absorbing, unreasoning passion that has ever shaken you,
blinded you, seized you and dragged you out of the ordered path
of life, to push you violently into the strange and unexplored!
That is what stares out on the world through those haunted eyes
of yours, when the smile dies out and you are off your guard; that
is what is hardening those flat, clean bands of muscle in jaw and
cheek; that is what those hints of shadow mean beneath the eye,
that new and delicate pinch to the nostril, that refining, almost
to sharpness, of the nose, that sensitive edging to the lips, and
the lean delicacy of the chin."
He bent slightly
forward in his chair.
is all that there, Mr. Burke, and something else—the glimmering
dawn of desperation."
said the other, "that is there. I am desperate."
Also you wear two revolvers in a light, leather harness strapped
up under your armpits," said the Tracer, laughing. "Take
them off, Mr. Burke. There is nothing to be gained in shooting up
Mr. Smiles or converting Mr. Gandon into nitrates."
it is a matter where one man can help another," the Tracer
added simply, "it would give me pleasure to place my resources
at your command—without recompense—"
Keen!" said Burke, astonished.
are very amiable; I had not wished—had not expected anything
except professional interest from you."
not? I like you, Mr. Burke."
disarming candor of this quiet, elderly gentleman silenced the younger
man with a suddenness born of emotions long crushed, long relentlessly
mastered, and which now, in revolt, shook him fiercely in every
fiber. All at once he felt very young, very helpless in the world—that
same world through which, until within a few weeks, he had roved
so confidently, so arrogantly, challenging man and the gods themselves
in the pride of his strength and youth.
halting, bewildered, lost amid the strange maze of byways whither
impulse had lured and abandoned him, he looked out into a world
of wilderness and unfamiliar stars and shadow shapes undreamed of,
and he knew not which way to turn—not even how to return along
the ways his impetuous feet had trodden in this strange and hopeless
quest of his.
can you help me?" he said bluntly, while the quivering undertone
rang in spite of him. "Yes, I am in love; but how can any living
man help me?"
you in love with the dead?" asked the Tracer gravely. "For
that only is hopeless. Are you in love with one who is not living?"
love one whom you know to be dead?"
do you know that she is dead?"
is not the question. I knew that when I fell in love with her. It
is not that which appals me; I ask nothing more than to live my
life out loving the dead. I—I ask very little."
his unsteady hand across his dry lips, across his eyes and forehead,
then laid his clinched fist on the table.
men remain constant to a memory; some to a picture—sane, wholesome,
normal men. Some men, with a fixed ideal, never encounter its facsimile,
and so never love. There is nothing strange, after all, in this;
nothing abnormal, nothing unwholesome. Grünwald loved the marble
head and shoulders of the lovely Amazon in the Munich Museum; he
died unmarried, leaving the charities and good deeds of a blameless
life to justify him. Sir Henry Guest, the great surgeon who worked
among the poor without recompense, loved Gainsborough's 'Lady Wilton.'
The portrait hangs above his tomb in St. Clement's Hundreds. D'Epernay
loved Mlle. Jeanne Vacaresco, who died before he was born. And I—I
love in my own fashion."
His low voice
rang with the repressed undertone of excitement; he opened and closed
his clinched hand as though controlling the lever of his emotions.
can you do for a man who loves the shadow of Life?" he asked.
you love the shadow because the substance has passed away—if
you love the soul because the dust has returned to the earth as
has not!" said the younger man.
said very gravely: "It is written that whenever 'the Silver
Cord' is loosed, 'then shall the dust return unto the earth as it
was, and the spirit shall return unto Him who gave it.'"
spirit—yes; that has taken its splendid flight—"
choked up, died out; he strove to speak again, but could not. The
Tracer let him alone, and bent again over his desk, drawing imaginary
circles on the stained blotter, while moment after moment passed
under the tension of that fiercest of all struggles, when a man
sits throttling his own soul into silence.
a long time, Burke lifted a haggard face from the cradle of his
crossed arms and shook his shoulders, drawing a deep, steady breath.
to me!" he said in an altered voice.
And the Tracer
of Lost Persons nodded.