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   Chapter 2 ARTHUR TRACY.

Tracy Park By Mary Jane Holmes Characters: 16053

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Although it was a morning in October, the grass in the park was as green as in early June, while the flowers in the beds and borders, the geraniums, the phlox, the stocks, and verbenas were handsomer, if possible, than they had been in the summer-time: for the rain, which had fallen almost continually during the month of September, had kept them fresh and bright. Here and there the scarlet and golden tints of autumn were beginning to show on the trees; but this only added a new charm to a place which was noted for its beauty, and was the pride and admiration of the town.

And yet Mrs. Frank Tracy, who stood on the wide piazza, looking after a carriage which was moving down the avenue which led through the park to the highway, did not seem as happy as the mistress of that house ought to have been, standing there in the clear, crisp morning, with a silken wrapper trailing behind her, a coquettish French cap on her head, and costly jewels on her short, fat hands, which once were not as white and soft as they were now. For Mrs. Frank Tracy, as Dorothy Smith, had known what hard labor and poverty meant, and slights, too, because of the poverty and labor. Her mother was a widow, sickly and lame, and Dorothy in her girlhood had worked in the cotton mills at Langley, and bound shoes for the firm of Newell & Brothers, and had taught a district school, 'by way of elevating herself,' but the elevation did not pay, and she went back to the mills in the day-time and her shoes at night, and rebelled at the fate which had made her so poor and seemed likely to keep her so.

But there was something better in store for her than binding shoes, or even teaching a district school, and, from the time when young Frank Tracy came to Langley as clerk in the Newell firm, Dorothy's life was changed and her star began to rise. They both sang in the choir, standing side by side, and sometimes using the same book, and once or twice their hands met as both tried to turn the leaves together. Dorothy's were red and rough, and not nearly as delicate as those of Frank, who had been in a store all his life: and still there was a magnetism in their touch which sent a thrill through the young man's veins, and made him for the first time look critically at his companion.

She was very pretty, he thought, with bright black eyes, a healthful bloom, and a smile and blush which went straight to his heart and made him her slave at once. In three months' time they were married and commenced housekeeping in a very unostentatious way, for Frank had nothing but his salary to depend upon. But he was well connected, and boasted some blue blood, which, in Dorothy's estimation, made amends for lack of money. The Tracys of Boston were his distant relatives, and he had a rich bachelor uncle who spent his winters in New Orleans and his summers in Shannondale, at Tracy Park, on which he had lavished fabulous sums of money. From this uncle Frank had expectations, though naturally the greater part of his fortune would go to his god-son and name-sake, Arthur Tracy, who was Frank's elder brother, and as unlike him as one brother could well be unlike another.

Arthur was scholarly in his tastes, quiet and gentlemanly in his manners, with a musical voice which won him friends at once, while in his soft black eyes there was a peculiar look of sadness, as if he were brooding over something which filled him with regret. Frank was very proud of his brother, and with Dorothy felt that he was honored when, six months after their marriage, he came for a day or so to visit them, and with him his intimate friend Harold Hastings, an Englishman by birth, but so thoroughly Americanized as to pass unchallenged for a native. There was a band of crape on Arthur's hat, and his manner was like one trying to be sorry, while conscious of a great inward feeling of resignation, if not content. The rich uncle was dead. He had died suddenly in Paris, where he had gone on business, and the whole of his vast fortune was left to his nephew Arthur-not a farthing to Frank, not even the mention of his name in the will: and when Dorothy heard it she put her white apron over her face, and cried as if her heart would break. They were so poor, she and Frank, and they wanted so many things, and the man who could have helped them was dead and had left them nothing. It was hard, and she might not have made the young heir very welcome if he had not ensured her that he should do something for her husband. And he kept his word, and in course of time bought out a grocery in Langley and put Frank in it, and paid the mortgage on his house, and gave him a thousand dollars, and invited them for a few days to visit him; and then it would seem as if he forgot them entirely; for with his friend Harold he settled himself at Tracy Park, and played the role of the grand gentleman to perfection.

Dinner parties and card parties, where it was said the play was for money, and where Arthur always allowed himself to lose and his friends to win; races and hunts were of frequent occurrence at Tracy Park, where matters generally were managed on a magnificent scale, and created a great deal of talk among the plain folks of Shannondale, whose only dissipation then was going to church twice on Sunday and to the cattle show once each year.

Few ladies ever graced these festivities, for Arthur was very aristocratic in his feelings, and with two or three exceptions, held himself aloof from the people of Shannondale. It was said, however, that sometimes, when he and his friend were alone, there was the sweep of a white dress and the gleam of golden hair in the parlor, where sweet Amy Crawford, daughter of the housekeeper, played and sang her simple ballads to the two gentlemen, who always treated her with as much deference as if she had been a queen, instead of a poor young girl dependent for her bread upon her own and her mother's exertions. But beyond the singing in the twilight Amy never advanced, and so far as her mother knew she had never for a single instant been alone with either of the gentlemen. How, then, was the household electrified one morning when it was found that Amy had fled, and that Harold Hastings was the companion of her flight?

'I wanted to tell you,' Amy wrote to her mother in the note left on her dressing table. 'I wanted to tell you and be married at home, but Mr. Hastings would not allow it. It would create trouble, he said, between himself and Mr. Tracy, who I may confess to you in confidence, asked me twice to be his wife, and when I refused, without giving him a reason, for I dared not tell him of my love for his friend, he was so angry and behaved so strangely, and there was such a look in his eyes, that I was afraid of him, and it was this fear, I think, which made me willing to go away secretly with Harold and be married in New York. We are going to Europe; shall sail to-morrow morning at nine o'clock in the Scotia. The marriage ceremony will be performed before we go on board. I shall write as soon as we reach Liverpool. You must forgive me, mother, and I am sure you would not blame me, if you knew how much I love Mr. Hastings. I know he is poor, and that I might be mistress of Tracy Park, but I love Harold best. It is ten o'clock, and the train, you know, passes at eleven; so I must say good-bye.

'Yours lovingly,

'Amy Crawford, now, but when you read this,

'Amy Hastings.'

This was Amy's letter which her mother found upon entering her room after waiting more than an hour for her daughter's appearance at the breakfast, which they always took by themselves. To say that she was shocked and astonished would but faintly portray the state of her mind as she read that her beautiful young daughter had gone with Harold Hastings, whom she had never liked, for though he was handsome, and agreeable, and gentlemanly as a rule, she knew him to be thoroughly selfish and indolent, and she trembled for her daughter's happiness when a little time had quench

ed the ardor of his passion. Added to this was another thought which made her brain reel for a moment an she thought what might have been. Arthur Tracy had wished to make Amy his wife, and mistress of Tracy Park, which she would have graced so well, for in all the town there was not a fairer, sweeter girl than Amy Crawford, or one better beloved.

It did not matter that she was poor, and her mother was only a housekeeper. She had never felt a slight on that account, and had been reared as carefully and tenderly as the daughters of the rich, and if away down, in her mother's heart there had been a half defined hope that some time the master of Tracy Park might turn his attention to her, it had been hidden so closely that Mrs. Crawford scarcely knew of it herself until she learned what her daughter was and what she might have been. But it was too late now. There was no turning back the wheels of fate.

Forcing herself to be as calm as possible, she took the note to Arthur, who had breakfasted alone, and was waiting impatiently in the library for the appearance of his friend.

'Lazy dog!' Mrs. Crawford heard him say, as she approached the open door. 'Does he think he has nothing to do but to sleep? We were to start by this time, and he in bed yet!'

'Are you speaking of Mr. Hastings?' Mrs. Crawford asked, as she stepped into the room.

'Yes,' was his crisp and haughty reply, as if he resented the question, and her presence there.

He could be very proud and stern when he felt like it, and one of these moods was on him now, but Mrs. Crawford did not heed it, and sinking into a chair, for she felt that she could not stand and face him, she began:

'I came to tell you of Mr. Hastings and-Amy. She did not come to breakfast, and I found this note in her room. She has gone to New York with him. They took the eleven o'clock train last night. They are to be married this morning, and sail in the Scotia for Europe.'

She had told her story, and paused for the result, which was worse than she had expected.

For a moment Arthur Tracy stood staring at her, while his face grew white as ashes, and into his dark eyes, usually so soft and mild, there came a fiery gleam like that of a madman, as he seemed for a time to be.

'Amy gone with Harold, my friend!' he said at last. 'Gone to New York! Gone to be married! Traitors! Vipers! Both of them. Curse them! If he were here I'd shoot him like a dog; and she-I believe I would kill her.'

He was walking the floor rapidly, and to Mrs. Crawford it seemed as if he really were unsettled in his mind, he talked so incoherently and acted so strangely.

'What else did she say?' he asked, suddenly, stopping and confronting her. 'You have not told me all. Did she speak of me? Let me see the note,' and he held his hand for it.

For a moment Mrs. Crawford hesitated, but as he grew more and more persistent she suffered him to take it, and then watched him as he read it, white the veins on his forehead began to swell until they stood out like a dark blue net-work against his otherwise pallid face.

'Yes,' he snapped between his white teeth. 'I did ask her to be my wife, and she refused, and with her soft, kittenish ways made me more in love with her than ever, and more her dupe. I never suspected Harold, and when I told him of my disappointment, for I never kept a thing from him-traitor that he was-he laughed at me for losing my heart to my housekeeper's daughter! I, who, he said, might marry the greatest lady in the land. I could have knocked him down for his sneer at Amy, and I wish now I had, the wretch! He will not marry your daughter, madam; and if he does not I will kill him!'

He was certainly mad, and Mrs. Crawford shrank away from him an from something dangerous, and going to her room took her bed in a fit of frightful hysterics. This was followed by a state of nervous prostration, and for a few days she neither saw, nor heard of, nor inquired for Mr. Tracy. At the end of the fourth day, however, she was told by the house-maid that he had that morning packed his valise and, without a word to any one, had taken the train for New York. A week went by, and then there came a letter from him, which ran as follows:

'New York, May --, 18-.

'Mrs. Crawford:-I am off for Europe to-morrow, and when I shall return is a matter of uncertainty. They are married; or at least I suppose so, for I found a list of the passengers who sailed in the Scotia, and the names, Mr. and Mrs. Hastings, were in it. So that saves me from breaking the sixth commandment, as I should have done if he hid played Amy false. I may not make myself known to them, but I shall follow them, and if he harms a hair of her head I shall shoot him yet. My brother Frank is to live at Tracy Park. That will suit his wife, and as you will not care to stay with her, I send you a deed of that cottage in the lane by the wood where the gardener now lives. It is a pretty little place, and Amy liked it well. We used to meet there sometimes, and more than once I have sat with her on that seat under the elm tree, and it was there I asked her to be my wife. Alas! I loved her so much, and I love her still as I can never love another woman, and I could have made her so happy; but that is past, and I can only watch her at a distance. When I have anything to communicate, I will write again.

'Yours truly, 'Arthur Tracy.'

'P.S.-Take all the furniture in your room and Amy's, and whatever else is needful for your house. I shall tell Colvin to give you a thousand dollars, and when you want more let him know, I shall never forget that you are Amy's mother.

This was Arthur's letter to Mrs. Crawford, while to his brother he wrote:

'Dear Frank:-I am going to Europe for an indefinite length of time. Why I go it matters not to you or any one. I go to suit myself, and I want you to sell out your business at Langley and live at Tracy Park, where you can see to things as if they were your own. You will find everything straight and square, for Colvin is honest and methodical. He knows all about the bonds, and mortgages, and stocks, so you cannot do better than to retain him in your service, overseeing matters yourself, of course, and drawing for your salary what you think right and necessary for your support and for keeping up the place as it ought to be kept up. I enclose a power of attorney. When I want money I shall call upon Colvin. I may be gone for years and perhaps forever.

'I shall never marry, and when I die, what I have will naturally go to you. We have not been to each other much like brothers for the past few years, but I do not forget the old home in the mountains where we were boys together, and played, and quarreled, and slept up under the roof, where the blankets were hung to keep the snow from sifting through the rafters upon our bed.

'And, Frank, do you remember the bitter mornings, when the thermometer was below zero, and we performed our ablutions in the wood-shed, and the black-eye you gave me once for telling mother that you had not washed yourself at all, it was so cold? She sent you from the table, and made you go without your breakfast, and we had ham and johnny-cake toast that morning, too. That was long ago, and our lives are different now. There are marble basins, with silver chains and stoppers, at Tracy Pack, and you can have a hot bath every day if you like, in a room which would not shame Caracalla himself. And I know you will like it all, and Dolly, too; but don't make fools of yourselves. Nothing stamps a person as a come-up from the scum so soon as airs and ostentation. Be quiet and modest, as if you had always lived at Tracy Park. Imitate Squire Harrington and Mr. St. Claire. They are the true gentlemen, and were to the manner born. Be kind to Mrs. Crawford. She is a lady in every sense of the word, for she comes of good New England stock.

'And now, good-bye. I shall write sometimes, but not often.

'Your brother,

'Arthur Tracy.'

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