At one o'clock
that afternoon a young man earnestly consulting a map might have
been seen pursuing his solitary way through Central Park. Fresh
green foliage arched above him, flecking the path with fretted shadow
and sunlight; the sweet odor of flowering shrubs saturated the air;
the waters of the lake sparkled where swans swept to and fro, snowy
wings spread like sails to the fitful June wind.
"This," he murmured,
pausing at a shaded bend in the path, "must be Bench Number
One. I am not to sit on that. This must be Bench Number Two. I am
to sit on that. So here I am," he added nervously, seating
himself and looking about him with the caution of a cat in a strange
There was nobody in sight. Reassured,
he ventured to drop one knee over the other and lean upon his walking
stick. For a few minutes he remained in this noncommittal attitude,
alert at every sound, anxious, uncomfortable, dreading he knew not
what. A big, fat, gray squirrel racing noisily across the fallen
leaves gave him a shock. A number of birds came to look at him—or
so it appeared to him, for in the inquisitive scrutiny of a robin
he fancied he divined sardonic meaning, and in the blank yellow
stare of a purple grackle, a sinister significance out of all proportion
to the size of the bird.
"What an absurd position to
be in!" he thought. And suddenly he was seized with a desire
He didn't because he had promised
not to, but the desire persisted to the point of mania. Oh, how
he could run if he only hadn't promised not to! His entire being
tingled with the latent possibilities of a burst of terrific speed.
He wanted to scuttle away like a scared rabbit. The pace of the
kangaroo would be slow in comparison. What a record he could make
if he hadn't promised not to.
He crossed his knees the other
way and brooded. The gray squirrel climbed the bench and nosed his
pockets for possible peanuts, then hopped off hopefully toward a
distant nursemaid and two children.
Growing more alarmed every time
he consulted his watch Carden attempted to stem his rising panic
with logic and philosophy, repeating: "Steady! my son! Don't
act like this! You're not obliged to marry her if you don't fall
in love with her; and if you do, you won't mind marrying her. That
is philosophy. That is logic. Oh, I wonder what will have happened
to me by this time to-morrow! I wish it were this time to-morrow!
I wish it were this time next month! Then it would be all over.
Then it would be—"
His muttering speech froze on his
lips. Rooted to his bench he sat staring at a distant figure approaching—the
figure of a young girl in a summer gown.
Nearer, nearer she came, walking
with a free-limbed, graceful step, head high, one arm clasping a
That was the way the girls he drew
would have walked had they ever lived. Even in the midst of his
fright his artist's eyes noted that: noted the perfect figure, too,
and the witchery of its grace and contour, and the fascinating poise
of her head, and the splendid color of her hair; noted mechanically
the flowing lines of her gown, and the dainty modeling of arm and
wrist and throat and ear.
Then, as she reached her bench
and seated herself, she raised her eyes and looked at him. And for
the first time in his life he realized that ideal beauty was but
the pale phantom of the real and founded on something more than
imagination and thought; on something of vaster import than fancy
and taste and technical skill; that it was founded on Life itself—on
breathing, living, palpitating, tremulous Life!—from which
all true inspiration must come.
Over and over to himself he was
repeating: "Of course, it is perfectly impossible that I can
be in love already. Love doesn't happen between two ticks of a watch.
I am merely amazed at that girl's beauty; that is all. I am merely
astounded in the presence of perfection; that is all. There is nothing
more serious the matter with me. It isn't necessary for me to continue
to look at her; it isn't vital to my happiness if I never saw her
again. . . . That is—of course, I should like to see her,
because I never did see living beauty such as hers in any woman.
Not even in my pictures. What superb eyes! What a fascinately delicate
nose! What a nose! By Heaven, that nose is a nose! I'll draw noses
that way in future. My pictures are all out of drawing; I must fit
arms into their sockets the way hers fit! I must remember the modeling
of her eyelids, too—and that chin! and those enchanting hands—"
She looked up leisurely from her
book, surveyed him calmly, absent-eyed, then bent her head again
to the reading.
"There is something the matter
with me," he thought with a suppressed gulp. "I—if
she looks at me again—with those iris-hued eyes of a young
goddess—I—I think I'm done for. I believe I'm done for
anyway. It seems rather mad to think it. But there is something
She deliberately looked at him
"It's all wrong for them to
let loose a girl like that on people," he thought to himself,
"all wrong. Everybody is bound to go mad over her. I'm going
now. I'm mad already. I know I am, which proves I'm no lunatic.
It isn't her beauty; it's the way she wears it—every motion,
every breath of her. I know exactly what her voice is like. Anybody
who looks into her eyes can see what her soul is like. She isn't
out of drawing anywhere—physically or spiritually. And when
a man sees a girl like that, why—why there's only one thing
that can happen to him as far as I can see. And it doesn't take
a year either. Heavens! How awfully remote from me she seems to
She looked up again, calmly, but
not at him. A kindly, gray-whiskered old gentleman came tottering
and rocking into view, his rosy, wrinkled face beaming benediction
on the world as he passed through it—on the sunshine dappling
the undergrowth, on the furry squirrels sitting up on their hind
legs to watch him pass, on the stray dickybird that hopped fearlessly
in his path, at the young man sitting very rigid there on his bench,
at the fair, sweet-faced girl who met his aged eyes with the gentlest
of involuntary smiles. And Carden did not recognize him!
Who could help smiling confidently
into that benign face, with its gray hair and gray whiskers? Goodness
radiated from every wrinkle.
"Dr. Atwood!" exclaimed
the girl softly as she rose to meet this marvelous imitation of
Dr. Austin Atwood, the great specialist on children's diseases.
The old man beamed weakly at her,
halted, still beaming, fumbled for his eyeglasses, adjusted them,
and peered closely into her face.
"Bless my soul," he smiled,
"our pretty Dr. Hollis!"
"I—I did not suppose
you would remember me," she said, rosy with pleasure.
"Remember you? Surely, surely."
He made her a quaint, old-fashioned bow, turned, and peeped across
the walk at Carden. And Carden, looking straight into his face,
did not know the old man, who turned to Dr. Hollis again with many
mysterious nods of his doddering head.
"You're watching him, too,
are you?" he chuckled, leaning toward her.
"Watching whom, Dr. Atwood?"
she asked surprised.
"Hush, child! I thought you
had noticed that unfortunate and afflicted young man opposite."
Dr. Hollis looked curiously at
Carden, then at the old gentleman with gray whiskers.
"Please sit down, Dr. Atwood,
and tell me," she murmured. "I have noticed nothing in
particular about the young man on the bench there." And she
moved to give him room; and the young man opposite stared at them
both as though bereft of reason.
"A heavy book for small hands,
my child," said the old gentleman in his quaintly garrulous
fashion, peering with dimmed eyes at the volume in her lap.
She smiled, looking around at him.
"My, my!" he said, tremblingly
raising his eyeglasses to scan the title on the page; "Dr.
Lamour's famous works! Are you studying Lamour, child?"
"Yes," she said with
that charming inflection youth reserves for age.
"Astonishing!" he murmured.
"The coincidence is more than remarkable. A physician! And
studying Lamour's Disease! Incredible!"
"Is there anything strange
in that, Dr. Atwood?" she smiled.
"Strange!" He lowered
his voice, peering across at Carden. "Strange, did you say?
Look across the path at that poor young man sitting there!"
"Yes," she said, perplexed,
"I see him."
"What do you see?" whispered
the old gentleman in a shakily portentous voice. "Here you
sit reading about what others have seen; now what do you see?"
"Why, only a man—rather
"Symptoms? Of what?"
The old gentleman folded his withered
hands over his cane. "My child," he said, "for a
year I have had that unfortunate young man under secret observation.
He was not aware of it; it never entered his mind that I could be
observing him with minutest attention. He may have supposed there
was nothing the matter with him. He was in error. I have studied
him carefully. Look closer! Are there dark circles under his eyes—or
are there not?" he ended in senile triumph.
"There are," she began,
puzzled, "but I—but of what interest to me—"
"Compare his symptoms with
the symptoms in that book you are studying," said the old gentleman
"Do you mean—do you
suppose—" she stammered, turning her eyes on Carden,
who promptly blushed to his ears and began to fidget.
"Every symptom," muttered
the old gentleman. "Poor, poor young man!"
She had seen Carden turn a vivid
pink; she now saw him fidget with his walking stick; she discovered
the blue circles under his eyes. Three symptoms at once!
"Do you believe it possible?"
she whispered excitedly under her breath to the old gentleman beside
her. "It seems incredible! Such a rare disease! Only one single
case ever described and studied! It seems impossible that I could
be so fortunate as actually to see a case! Tell me, Dr. Atwood,
do you believe that young man is really afflicted with Lamour's
"There is but one way to be
absolutely certain," said the old gentleman in a solemn voice,
"and that is to study him; corroborate your suspicions by observing
his pulse and temperature, as did Dr. Lamour."
"But—how can I?"
she faltered. "I—he would probably object to becoming
a patient of mine—"
"Ask him, child! Ask him."
"I have not courage—"
"Courage should be the badge
of your profession," said the old gentleman gravely. "When
did a good physician ever show the white feather in the cause of
"I—I know, but this
requires a different sort of courage."
"How," persisted the
old gentleman, "can you confirm your very natural suspicions
concerning this unfortunate young man unless you corroborate your
observations by studying him at close range? Besides, already it
seems to me that certain unmistakable signs are visible; I mean
that strange physical phase which Dr. Lamour dwells on: the symmetry
of feature and limb, the curiously spiritual beauty. Do you not
notice these? Or is my sight so dim that I only imagine it?"
"He is certainly symmetrical—and—in
a certain way—almost handsome in regard to features,"
she admitted, looking at Carden.
"Poor, poor boy!" muttered
the old gentleman, wagging his gray whiskers. "I am too old
to help him—too old to dream of finding a remedy for the awful
malady which I am now convinced has seized him. I shall study him
no more. It is useless. All I can do now is to mention his case
to some young, vigorous, ambitious physician—some specialist—"
"Don't!" she whispered
almost fiercely, "don't do that, Dr. Atwood! I want him, please!
I—you helped me to discover him, you see. And his malady is
to be my specialty. Please, do you mind if I keep him all to myself
and study him?"
"But you refused, child."
"I didn't mean to. I—I
didn't exactly see how I was to study him. But I must study him!
Oh, I must! There will surely be some way. Please let me. You discovered
him, I admit, but I will promise you faithfully to devote my entire
life to studying him, as the great Lamour devoted his life for forty
years to his single patient."
"But Dr. Lamour married his
patient," said the Tracer mildly.
not be necessary—"
"But if it should prove necessary?"
"Answer me, child."
She stared across at Carden, biting
her red lips. He turned pink promptly and fidgeted.
"He has got it!" she
whispered excitedly. "Oh, do you mind if I take him for mine?
I am perfectly wild to begin on him!"
"You have not yet answered
my question," said the old gentleman gravely. "Do you
lack the courage to marry him if it becomes necessary to do so in
order to devote your entire life to studying him?"
"Oh—it cannot be necessary—"
"You lack the courage."
She was silent.
"Braver things have been done
by those of your profession who have gone among lepers," said
the old gentleman sadly.
She flushed up instantly; her eyes
sparkled; her head proudly high, delicate nostrils dilated.
"I am not afraid!" she
said. "If it ever becomes necessary, I can show courage and
devotion, as well as those of my profession who minister to the
lepers of Molokai! Yes; I do promise you to marry him if I cannot
otherwise study him. And I promise you solemnly to devote my entire
life to observing his symptoms and searching for proper means to
combat them. My one ambition in life is personally to observe and
study a case of Lamour's Disease, and to give my entire life to
investigating its origin, its course, and its cure."
The old gentleman rose, bowing
with that quaintly obsolete courtesy which was in vogue in his youth.
"I am contented to leave him
exclusively to you, Dr. Hollis. And I wish you happiness in your
life's work—and success in your cure of this unhappy young
Hat in hand, he bowed again as
he tottered past her, muttering and smiling to himself and shaking
his trembling head as he went rocking on unsteady legs out into
the sunshine, where the nursemaids and children flocked along the
lake shore throwing peanuts to the waterfowl and satiated goldfish.
Dr. Hollis looked after him, her
small hand buried among the pages of her open book. Carden viewed
his disappearing figure with guileless emotions. He was vaguely
aware that something important was about to happen to him. And it
did before he was prepared.