The Tracer of Lost Persons

Robert W. Chambers


He was "What we want to do," said Gatewood over the telephone, "is to give you a corking little dinner at the Santa Regina. There'll be Mr. and Mrs. Tommy Kerns, Captain and Mrs. Harren, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Burke, Mrs. Gatewood, and myself. We want you to set the date for it, Mr. Keen, and we also wish you to suggest one more deliriously happy couple whom you have dragged out of misery and flung head-first into terrestrial paradise."
"Do you young people really care to do this for me?" asked the Tracer, laughing.
"Of course we do. We're crazy about it. We want one more couple, and you to set the date."
There was the slightest pause; then the Tracer's voice, with the same undertone of amusement ringing through it:
"How would your cousin, Victor Carden, do?"
"He's all right, only he isn't married. We want two people whom you have joined together after hazard has put them asunder and done stunts with them."
"Very well; Victor Carden and his very lovely wife will be just the people."
"Is Victor married?" demanded Gatewood, astonished.
"No," said the Tracer demurely, "but he will be in time for that dinner." And he set the date for the end of the week in an amused voice, and rang off.
Then he glanced at the clock, touched an electric bell, and again unhooking the receiver of the telephone, called up the Sherwood Studios and asked for Mr. Carden.
"Is this Mr. Carden? Oh, good morning, Mr. Carden! This is Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons. Could you make it convenient to call—say in course of half an hour? Thank you. . . . What? . . . Well, speaking with that caution and reserve which we are obliged to employ in making any preliminary statements to our clients, I think I may safely say that you have every reason to feel moderately encouraged."
"You mean," said Carden's voice, "that you have actually solved the proposition?"
"It has been a difficult proposition, Mr. Carden; I will not deny that it has taxed our resources to the uttermost. Over a thousand people, first and last, have been employed on this case. It has been a slow and tedious affair, Mr. Carden—tedious for us all. We seldom have a case continue as long as this has; it is a year ago to-day since you placed the matter in our hands. . . . What? Well, without committing myself, I think that I may venture to express a carefully qualified opinion that the solution of the case is probably practically in the way of being almost accomplished! . . . Yes, I shall expect you in half an hour. Good-by!"
The Tracer of Lost Persons' eyes were twinkling as he hung up the receiver and turned in his revolving chair to meet the pretty young woman who had entered in response to his ring.
"The Carden case, if you please, Miss Smith," he said, smiling to himself.
The young woman also smiled; the Carden case had become a classic in the office. Nobody except Mr. Keen had believed that the case could ever be solved.
"Safe-deposit box 108923!" said Miss Smith softly, pressing a speaking tube to her red lips. In a few moments there came a hissing thud from the pneumatic tube; Miss Smith unlocked it and extracted a smooth, steel cylinder.
"The combination for that cylinder is A-4-44-11-X," observed the Tracer, consulting a cipher code, "which, translated," he added, "gives us the setting combination, One, D, R-R,-J-'24."
Miss Smith turned the movable disks at the end of the cylinder until the required combination appeared. Then she unscrewed the cylinder head and dumped out the documents in the famous Carden case.
"As Mr. Carden will be here in half an hour or so I think we had better run over the case briefly," nodded the Tracer, leaning back in his chair and composing himself to listen. "Begin with my preliminary memorandum, Miss Smith."
"Case 108923," began the girl. Then she read the date, Carden's full name, Victor Carden, a terse biography of the same gentleman, and added: "Case accepted. Contingent fee, $5,000."
"Quite so," said Mr. Keen; "now, run through the minutes of the first interview."
And Miss Smith unrolled a typewritten scroll and read:
"Victor Carden, Esquire, the well-known artist, called this evening at 6.30. Tall, well-bred, good appearance, very handsome; very much embarrassed. Questioned by Mr. Keen he turned pink, and looked timidly at the stenographer (Miss Colt). Asked if he might not see Mr. Keen alone, Miss Colt retired. Mr. Keen set the recording phonograph in motion by dropping his elbow on his desk."
A brief résumé of the cylinder records followed:
"Mr. Carden asked Mr. Keen if he (Mr. Keen) knew who he (Mr. Carden) was. Mr. Keen replied that everybody knew Mr. Carden, the celebrated painter and illustrator who had created the popular type of beauty known as the 'Carden Girl.' Mr. Carden blushed and fidgeted. (Notes from. Mr. Keen's Observation Book, pp. 291-297.) Admitted that he was the creator of the 'Carden Girl.' Admitted he had drawn and painted that particular type of feminine beauty many times. Fidgeted some more. (Keen's O.B., pp. 298-299.) Volunteered the statement that this type of beauty, known as the 'Carden Girl,' was the cause of great unhappiness to himself. Questioned, turned pinker and fidgeted. (K.O.B., page 300.) Denied that his present trouble was caused by the model who had posed for the 'Carden Girl.' Explained that a number of assorted models had posed for that type of beauty. Further explained that none of them resembled the type; that the type was his own creation; that he used models merely for the anatomy, and that he always idealized form and features.
"Questioned again, admitted that the features of the 'Carden Girl' were his ideal of the highest and loveliest type of feminine beauty. Did not deny that he had fallen in love with his own creation. Turned red and tried to smoke. (K.O.B., page 303.) Admitted he had been fascinated himself with his own rendering of a type of beauty which he had never seen anywhere except as rendered by his own pencil on paper or on canvas. Fidgeted. (K.O.B., page 304.) Admitted that he could easily fall in love with a woman who resembled the 'Carden Girl.' Didn't believe she ever really existed. Confessed he had hoped for years to encounter her, but had begun to despair. Admitted that he had ventured to think that Mr. Keen might trace such a girl for him. Doubted Mr. Keen's success. Fidgeted (K.O.B., page 306), and asked Mr. Keen to take the case. Promised to send to Mr. Keen a painting in oil which embodied his loftiest ideal of the type known as the 'Carden Girl.' (Portrait received; lithographs made and distributed to our agents according to routine, from Canada to Mexico and from the Atlantic to the Pacific.)
"Mr. Keen terminated the interview with characteristic tact, accepting the case on the contingent fee of $5,000."
"Very well," said the Tracer, as Miss Smith rolled up the scroll and looked at him for further instructions. "Now, perhaps you had better run over the short summary of proceedings to date. I mean the digest which you will find attached to the completed records."
Miss Smith found the paper, unrolled it, and read:
"During the twelve months' investigation and search (in re Carden) seven hundred and nine young women were discovered who resembled very closely the type sought for. By process of elimination, owing to defects in figure, features, speech, breeding, etc., etc., this list was cut down to three. One of these occasionally chewed gum, but otherwise resembled the type. The second married before the investigation of her habits could be completed. The third is apparently a flawless replica of Mr. Carden's original in face, figure, breeding, education, moral and mental habits. (See Document 23, A.)"
"Read Document 23, A," nodded Mr. Keen.
And Miss Smith read:


Age . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

Height . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 feet 9 inches

Weight . . . . . . . . . . . . 160 pounds

                                   Thick, bright, ruddy
Hair . . . . . . . . . . . . . . golden, and inclined
                                    to curl.

Teeth . . . . . . . . . . . . . Perfect

Eyes . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Dark violet-blue

Mouth . . . . . . . . . . . . Perfect

Color . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fair. An ivory-tinted

Figure . . . . . . . . . . . . .Perfect

Health . . . . . . . . . . . . .Perfect

Temper . . . . . . . . . . . Feminine

                                   Austere, with a
Habits . . . . . . . . . . . . .resolutely suppressed
                                   capacity for romance.

Business . . . . . . . . . . . None

Profession . . . . . . . . .  Physician

Mania . . . . . . . . . . . . . A Mission

      "NOTE.—Dr. Rosalind Hollis was presented to society in her eighteenth year. At the end of her second season she withdrew from society with the determination to devote her entire life to charity. Settlement work and the study of medicine have occupied her constantly. Recently admitted to practice, she spends her mornings in visiting the poor, whom she treats free of all charge; her afternoons and evenings are devoted to what she expects is to be her specialty: the study of the rare malady known as Lamour's Disease. (See note on second page.)
"It is understood that Dr. Hollis has abjured the society of all men other than her patients and such of her professional confrères as she is obliged to consult or work with. Her theory is that of the beehive: drones for mates, workers for work. She adds, very decidedly, that she belongs to the latter division, and means to remain there permanently.
"NOTE (Mr. Keen's O.B., pp. 916-18).—Her eccentricity is probably the result of a fine, wholesome, highly strung young girl taking life and herself too seriously. The remedy will be the Right Man."
"Exactly," nodded Mr. Keen, joining the tips of his thin fingers and partly closing his eyes. "Now, Miss Smith, the disease which Dr. Hollis intends to make her specialty—have you any notes on that?"
"Here they are," said Miss Smith; and she read: "Lamour's Disease; the rarest of all known diseases; first discovered and described by Ero S. Lamour, M.D., M.S., F.B.A., M.F.H., in 1861. Only a single case has ever been observed. This case is fully described in Dr. Lamour's superb and monumental work in sixteen volumes. Briefly, the disease appears without any known cause, and is ultimately supposed to result fatally. The first symptom is the appearance of a faintly bluish circle under the eyes, as though the patient was accustomed to using the eyes too steadily at times. Sometimes a slight degree of fever accompanies this manifestation; pulse and temperature vary. The patient is apparently in excellent health, but liable to loss of appetite, restlessness, and a sudden flushing of the face. These symptoms are followed by others unmistakable: the patient becomes silent at times; at times evinces a weakness for sentimental expressions; flushes easily; is easily depressed; will sit for hours looking at one person; and, if not checked, will exhibit impulsive symptoms of affection for the opposite sex. The strangest symptom of all, however, is the physical change in the patient, whose features and figure, under the trained eye of the observer, gradually from day to day assume the symmetry and charm of a beauty almost unearthly, sometimes accompanied by a spiritual pallor which is unmistakable in confirming the diagnosis, and which, Dr. Lamour believes, presages the inexorable approach of immortality.
"There is no known remedy for Lamour's Disease. The only case on record is the case of the young lady described by Dr. Lamour, who watched her for years with unexampled patience and enthusiasm; finally, in the interest of science, marrying his patient in order to devote his life to a study of her symptoms. Unfortunately, some of these disappeared early—within a week—but the curious manifestation of physical beauty remained, and continued to increase daily to a dazzling radiance, with no apparent injury to the patient. Dr. Lamour, unfortunately, died before his investigations, covering over forty years, could be completed; his widow survived him for a day or two only, leaving sixteen children.
"Here is a wide and unknown field for medical men to investigate. It is safe to say that the physician who first discovers the bacillus of Lamour's Disease and the proper remedy to combat it will reap as his reward a glory and renown imperishable. Lamour's Disease is a disease not yet understood—a disease whose termination is believed to be fatal—a strange disease which seems to render radiant and beautiful the features of the patient, brightening them with the forewarning of impending death and the splendid resurrection of immortality."
The Tracer of Lost Persons caressed his chin reflectively. "Exactly, Miss Smith. So this is the disease which Dr. Hollis has chosen for her specialty. And only one case on record. Exactly. Thank you."
Miss Smith replaced the papers in the steel cylinder, slipped it into the pneumatic tube, sent it whizzing below to the safe-deposit vaults, and, saluting Mr. Keen with a pleasant inclination of her head, went out of the room.
The Tracer turned in his chair, picked up the daily detective report, and scanned it until he came to the name Hollis. It appeared that the daily routine of Rosalind Hollis had not varied during the past three weeks. In the mornings she was good to the poor with bottles and pills; in the afternoons she tucked one of Lamour's famous sixteen volumes under her arm and walked to Central Park, where, with democratic simplicity, she sat on a secluded bench and pored over the symptoms of Lamour's Disease. About five she retired to her severely simple apartments in the big brownstone office building devoted to physicians, corner of Fifty-eighth Street and Madison Avenue. Here she took tea, read a little, dined all alone, and retired about nine. This was the guileless but determined existence of Rosalind Hollis, M.D., according to McConnell, the detective assigned to observe her.
The Tracer refolded the report of his chief of detectives and pigeonholed it just as the door opened and a tall, well-built, attractive young man entered.
Shyness was written all over him; he offered his hand to Mr. Keen with an embarrassed air and seated himself at that gentleman's invitation.
"I'm almost sorry I ever began this sort of thing," he blurted out, like a big schoolboy appalled at his own misdemeanors. "The truth is, Mr. Keen, that the prospect of actually seeing a 'Carden Girl' alive has scared me through and through. I've a notion that my business with that sort of a girl ends when I've drawn her picture."
"But surely," said the Tracer mildly, "you have some natural curiosity to see the living copy of your charming but inanimate originals, haven't you, Mr. Carden?"
"Yes—oh, certainly. I'd like to see one of them alive—say out of a window, or from a cab. I should not care to be too close to her."
"But merely seeing her does not commit you," interposed Mr. Keen, smiling. "She is far too busy, too much absorbed in her own affairs to take any notice of you. I understand that she has something of an aversion for men."
"Well, she excludes them as unnecessary to her existence."
"Why?" asked Carden.
"Because she has a mission in life," said Mr. Keen gravely.
Carden looked out of the window. It was pleasant weather—June in all its early loveliness—the fifth day of June. The sixth was his birthday.
"I've simply got to marry somebody before the day after to-morrow," he said aloud—"that is, if I want my legacy."
"What!" demanded the Tracer sharply.
Carden turned, pink and guilty. "I didn't tell you all the circumstances of my case," he said. "I suppose I ought to have done so."
"Exactly," said the Tracer severely. "Why is it necessary that you marry somebody before the day after to-morrow?"
"Well, it's my twenty-fifth birthday—"
"Somebody has left you money on condition that you marry before your twenty-fifth birthday? Is that it, Mr. Carden? An uncle? An imbecile grandfather? A sentimental aunt?"
"My Aunt Tabby Van Beekman."
"Where is she?"
"In Trinity churchyard. It's too late to expostulate with her, you see. Besides, it wouldn't have done any good when she was alive."
The Tracer knitted his brows, musing, the points of his slim fingers joined.
"She was very proud, very autocratic," said Carden. "I am the last of my race and my aunt was determined that the race should not die out with me. I don't want to marry and increase, but she's trying to make me. At all events, I am not going to marry any woman inferior to the type I have created with my pencil—what the public calls the 'Carden Girl.' And now you see that your discovery of this living type comes rather late. In two days I must be legally married if I want my Aunt Tabby's legacy; and to-day for the first time I hear of a girl who, you assure me, compares favorably to my copyrighted type, but who has a mission and an aversion to men. So you see, Mr. Keen, that the matter is perfectly hopeless."
"I don't see anything of the kind," said Mr. Keen firmly.
"What?—do you believe there is any chance—"
"Of your falling in love within the next hour or so? Yes, I do. I think there is every chance of it. I am sure of it. But that is not the difficulty. The problem is far more complicated."
"You mean—"
"Exactly; how to marry that girl before day after to-morrow. That's the problem, Mr. Carden!—not whether you are capable of falling in love with her. I have seen her; I know you can't avoid falling in love with her. Nobody could. I myself am on the verge of it; and I am fifty: you can't avoid loving her."
"If that were so," said Carden gravely; "if I were really going to fall in love with her—I would not care a rap about my Aunt Tabby and her money—"
"You ought to care about it for this young girl's sake. That legacy is virtually hers, not yours. She has a right to it. No man can ever give enough to the woman he loves; no man has ever done so. What she gives and what he gives are never a fair exchange. If you can balance the account in any measure, it is your duty to do it. Mr. Carden, if she comes to love you she may think it very fine that you bring to her your love, yourself, your fame, your talents, your success, your position, your gratifying income. But I tell you it's not enough to balance the account. It is never enough—no, not all your devotion to her included! You can never balance the account on earth—all you can do is to try to balance it materially and spiritually. Therefore I say, endow her with all your earthly goods. Give all you can in every way to lighten as much as possible man's hopeless debt to all women who have ever loved."
"You talk about it as though I were already committed," said Carden, astonished.
"You are, morally. For a month I have, without her knowledge, it is true, invaded the privacy of a very lovely young girl—studied her minutely, possessed myself of her history, informed myself of her habits. What excuse had I for this unless I desired her happiness and yours? Nobody could offer me any inducement to engage in such a practice unless I believed that the means might justify a moral conclusion. And the moral conclusion of this investigation is your marriage to her."
"Certainly," said Carden uneasily, "but how are we going to accomplish it by to-morrow? How is it going to be accomplished at all?"
The Tracer of Lost Persons rose and began to pace the long rug, clasping his hands behind his back. Minute after minute sped; Carden stared alternately at Mr. Keen and at the blue sky through the open window.
"It is seldom," said Mr. Keen with evident annoyance, "that I personally take any spectacular part in the actual and concrete demonstrations necessary to a successful conclusion of a client's case. But I've got to do it this time."
He went to a cupboard, picked out a gray wig and gray side whiskers and deliberately waved them at Carden.
"You see what these look like?" he demanded.
"Very well. It is now noon. Do you know the Park? Do you happen to recollect a shady turn in the path after you cross the bridge over the swan lake? Here; I'll draw it for you. Now, here is the lake; here's the esplanade and fountain, you see. Here's the path. You follow it—so!—around the lake, across the bridge, then following the lake to the right—so!—then up the wooded slope to the left—so! Now, here is a bench. I mark it Number One. She sits there with her book—there she is!"
"If she looks like that—" began Carden. And they both laughed with the slightest trace of excitement.
"Here is Bench Number Two!" resumed the Tracer. "Here you sit—and there you are!"


      "Thanks," said Carden, laughing again.
"Now," continued the Tracer, "you must be there at one o'clock. She will be there at one-thirty, or earlier perhaps. A little later I will become benignly visible. Your part is merely a thinking part; you are to do nothing, say nothing, unless spoken to. And when you are spoken to you are to acquiesce in whatever anybody says to you, and you are to do whatever anybody requests you to do. And, above all, don't be surprised at anything that may happen. You'll be nervous enough; I expect that. You'll probably color up and flush and fidget; I expect that; I count on that. But don't lose your nerve entirely; and don't think of attempting to escape."
"Escape! From what? From whom?"
"From her."
"Are you going to follow my instructions?" demanded the Tracer of Lost Persons.
"I—y-yes, of course."
"Very well, then, I am going to rub some of this under your eyes." And Mr. Keen produced a make-up box and, walking over to Carden, calmly darkened the skin under his eyes.
"I look as though I had been on a bat!" exclaimed Carden, surveying himself in a mirror. "Do you think any girl could find any attraction in such a countenance?"
"She will," observed the Tracer meaningly. "Now, Mr. Carden, one last word: The moment you find yourself in love with her, and the first moment you have the chance to do so decently, make love to her. She won't dismiss you; she will repulse you, of course, but she won't let you go. I know what I am saying; all I ask of you is to promise on your honor to carry out these instructions. Do you promise?"
"I do."
"Then here is the map of the rendezvous which I have drawn. Be there promptly. Good morning."


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