NUMBER 53. MR. JOHN VAN KOON. NEW YORK CITY, U.S.A.
THE YOUNG MAN WHO LED PUGS
Allerdyke, with a gesture peculiar to him, thrust his hands in the pockets of his trousers, strolled away from the desk on which the register lay open, and going over to the hall door stood there a while, staring out on the tide of life that rolled by, and listening to the subdued rattle of the traffic in its ceaseless traverse of the Strand. And as he stood in this apparently idle and purposeless lounging attitude, he thought—thought of a certain birthday of his, a good thirty years before, whereon a kind, elderly aunt had made him a present of a box of puzzles. There were all sorts of puzzles in that box—things that you had to put together, things that had to be arranged, things that had to be adjusted. But there was one in particular which had taken his youthful fancy, and had at the same time tried his youthful temper—a shallow tray wherein were a vast quantity of all sorts and sizes of bits of wood, gaily coloured. There were quite a hundred of those bits, and you had to fit them one into the other. When, after much trying of temper, much exercise of patience, you had accomplished the task, there was a beautiful bit of mosaic work, a picture, a harmonious whole, lovely to look upon, something worthy of the admiring approbation of uncles and aunts, grandmothers and grandfathers. But—the doing of it!
“Naught, however, to this confounded thing!” mused Allerdyke, gazing at and not seeing the folk on the broad sidewalk. “When all the bits of this puzzle have been fitted into place I daresay one’ll be able to look down on it as a whole and say it looks simple enough when finished, but, egad, they’re of so many sorts and shapes and queer angles that they’re more than a bit difficult to fit at present. Now who the deuce is this Van Koon, and what was that Mrs. Marlow, alias Miss Slade, doing in his rooms last night when he was out?”
He was exercising his brains over a possible solution of this problem when Fullaway suddenly appeared in the hall behind him, accompanied by a man whom Allerdyke at once took to be the very individual about whom he was speculating. He was a man of apparently forty years of age, of average height and build, of a full countenance, sallow in complexion, clean-shaven, wearing gold-rimmed spectacles over a pair of sapphire blue eyes—a shrewd, able-looking man, clad in the loose fitting, square-cut garments just then affected by his fellow-countrymen, and having a low-crowned, soft straw hat pulled down over his forehead. His hands were thrust into the pockets of his jacket; a long, thin, black cigar stuck out of a corner of his humorous-looking lips; he cocked an intelligent eye at Allerdyke as he and Fullaway advanced to the door.
“Hullo, Allerdyke!” said Fullaway in his usual vivacious fashion. “Viewing the prospect o’er, eh? Allow me to introduce Mr. Van Koon, whom I don’t think you’ve met, though he’s under the same roof. Van Koon, this is the Mr. Allerdyke I’ve mentioned to you.”