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   Chapter 3 MR. AND MRS. FRANK TRACY.

Tracy Park By Mary Jane Holmes Characters: 11988

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Mr. Frank, in his small grocery store at Langley, was weighing out a pound of butter for the Widow Simpson, who was haggling with him about the price, when his brother's letter was brought to him by the boy who swept his store and did errands for him. But Frank was too busy just then to read it. There was a circus in the village that day, and it brought the country people into the town in larger numbers than usual. Naturally, many of them paid Frank a visit in the course of the morning, so that it was not until he went home to his dinner that be even thought of the letter, which was finally brought to his mind by his wife's asking if there was any news.

Mrs. Frank was always inquiring for and expecting news, but she was not prepared for what this day brought her. Neither was her husband, and when he read his brother's letter, which he did twice to assure himself that he was not mistaken, he sat for a moment perfectly bewildered, and staring at his wife, who was putting his dinner upon the table.

'Dolly,' he gasped at last, when he could speak at all-'Dolly, what do you think? Just listen. Arthur is going to Europe, to stay forever, perhaps, and has left us Tracy Park. We are going there to live, and you will be as grand a lady as Mrs. Atherton, of Brier Hill; or that young girl at Collingwood.'

Dolly had a platter of ham and eggs in her hand, and she never could tell, though she often tried to do so, what prevented her from dropping the whole upon the floor. She did spill some of the fat upon her clean tablecloth, she put the dish down so suddenly, and sinking into a chair, demanded what her husband meant. Was he crazy, or what?

'Not a bit of it,' he replied, recovering himself and beginning to realize the good fortune which had come to him. 'We are rich people, Dolly. Read for yourself;' and he passed her the letter, which she seemed to understand better than he had done.

'Why, yes,' she said. 'We are going to Tracy Park to live; but that doesn't make us rich. It is not ours.'

'I know that,' her husband replied. 'But we shall enjoy it all the same, and hold our heads with the best of them. Besides, don't you see, Arthur gives me carte blanche as to pay for my services, and, though I shall do right, it is not in human nature that I should not feather my nest when I have a chance. Some of that money ought to have been mine. I shall sell out at once if I can find a purchaser, and if I cannot, I shall rent the grocery and move out of this hole double quick.'

His ideas were growing faster than those of his wife, who was attached to Langley and its people, and shrank a little from the grander opening before her. She had once spent a few days at Tracy Park, as Arthur's guest, and had felt great restraint even in the presence of Mrs. Crawford and Amy, whom she recognized as ladies notwithstanding their position in the house. On that occasion she had, with her brother-in-law, been invited to dine at Brier Hill, the country-seat of Mrs. Grace Atherton, a gay widow, whose dash and style had completely overawed the plain, matter-of-fact Dolly, who did not know what half the dishes were, or what she was expected to do. But, by watching Arthur, and declining some things which she felt sure were beyond her comprehension, she managed tolerably well, though when the dinner was over, and she could breathe freely again, she found that the back of her new silk gown was wet with perspiration, which had oozed from every pore during the hour and a half she had sat at the table. And even then her troubles were not ended, for coffee was served in the drawing-room, and as Arthur took his clear, she did not know whether she was expected to do the same or not, but finally ventured to say she would have hers with 'trimmin's.' There was a mischievous twinkle in Mrs. Atherton's eyes which disconcerted her so much that she spilled her coffee in her lap, and felt, as she afterward told a friend to whom she was describing the dinner, as if she could have been knocked down with a feather.

'Such folderol!' she said. 'Changing your plates all the time-eating peas in the winter greener than grass, with nothing under the sun with them, and drinking coffee out of a cup about as big as a thimble. Give me the good old-fashioned way, I say, with peas and potatoes, and meat, and things, and cups that will hold half a pint and have some thickness that you can feel in your mouth.'

And now she was to exchange the good, old-fashioned way for what she termed 'folderol,' and for a time she did not like it. But her husband was so delighted and eager that he succeeded in impressing her with some of his enthusiasm, and after he had returned to his grocery, and her dishes were washed, she removed her large kitchen apron, and pulling down the sleeves of her dress, went and stood before the mirror, where she examined herself critically and not without some degree of complacency.

Her hair was black and glossy, or would be if she had time to care for it as it ought to be cared for; her eyes were bright, and perhaps in time she might learn to use them as Mrs. Atherton used hers.

Mrs. Atherton stood as the criterion for everything elegant and fashionable, and naturally it was with her that she compared herself.

'She is older than I am,' she said to herself; 'there are crow-tracks around her eyes, and her complexion is not a bit better than mine was before I spoiled it with soap-suds, and stove heat, and everything else.'

Then she looked at her hands, but they were red and rough, and the nails were broken and not at all like the nails which an expert has polished for an hour or more. Mrs. Atherton's diamond rings would be sadly out of place on Dolly's fingers, but time and abstinence from work would do much for them, she reflected, and after all it would be nice to live in a grand house, ride in a handsome carriage, and keep a hired girl to do the heavy work. So, on the whole, she began to feel quite r

econciled to her change of situation, and to wonder how she ought to conduct herself in view of her future position. She had intended going to the circus that night, but she gave that up, telling her husband that it was a second-class amusement any way, and she did not believe that either Mrs. Atherton or the young lady at Collingwood patronized such places. So they staid at home and talked together of what they should do at Tracy Park, and wondered if it was their duty to ask all their Langley friends to visit them. Mrs. Frank, as the more democratic of the two, decided that it was. She was not going to begin by being stuck up, she said, and when at last she left Langley four weeks later, every man, woman, and child of her familiar acquaintance in town had been heartily invited to call upon her at Tracy Park if ever they came that way.

Frank had disposed of his business at a reasonable price, and had rented his house with all the furniture, except such articles as his wife insisted upon taking with her. The bureau, and bedstead, and chairs which she and Frank had bought together in Springfield just before their marriage, the Boston rocker her mother had given her, and in which the old mother had sat until the day she died, the cradle in which she had rocked her first baby boy who was lying in the Langley grave-yard, were dear to the wife and mother, and though her husband told her she could have no use for them at Tracy Park, where the furniture was of the costliest kind, and that she would probably put them in the servants' rooms or attic, there was enough of sentiment in her nature to make her cling to them as something of the past, and so they were boxed up and forwarded by freight to Tracy Park, whither Mr. and Mrs. Tracy followed them a week later.

The best dressmaker in Langley had been employed upon the wardrobe of Mrs. Frank, who, in her travelling dress of some stuff goods of a plaided pattern, too large and too bright to be quite in good taste, felt herself perfectly au fait as the mistress of Tracy Park, until she reached Springfield, where Mrs. Grace Atherton, accompanied by a tall, elegant looking young lady, entered the car and took a seat in front of her. Neither of the ladies noticed her, but she recognized Mrs. Atherton at once and guessed that her companion was the young lady from Collingwood, who, rumor said, was soon to marry her guardian, Mr. Richard Harrington, although he was old enough to be her father.

Dolly scanned both the ladies very closely, noting every article of their costumes from their plain linen collars and cuffs to their quiet dresses of gray, which seemed so much more in keeping with the dusty cars than her buff and purple plaid.

'I ain't like them, and never shall be,' she said to herself, with a bitter sense of her inferiority pressing upon her. 'I ain't like them, and never shall be, if I live to be a hundred. I wish we were not going to be grand. I shall never get used to it,' and the hot tears sprang to her eyes as she longed to be back in the kitchen where she had worked so hard.

But Dolly did not know then how readily people can forget the life of toil behind them and adapt themselves to one of luxury and ease; and with her the adaptability commenced in some degree the moment Shannondale station was reached, and she saw the handsome carriage waiting for them. A carriage finer far and more modern than the one from Collingwood, in which Mrs. Atherton and the young lady took their seats, laughing and chatting so gayly that they did not see the woman in the big plaid who stood watching them with a rising feeling of jealousy and resentment as she thought of Mrs. Atherton, 'She does not even notice me.'

But when the Tracy carriage drew up, Grace Atherton saw and recognized her, and whispered, in an aside to her companion:

'For goodness' sake, Edith, look! There are the Tracys, our new neighbors.' Then she bowed to Mrs. Tracy, and said: 'Ah, I did not know you were on the train.'

'I sat right behind you,' was Mrs. Tracy's rather ungracious reply: and then, not knowing whether she ought to do it or not, she introduced her husband.

'Yes, Mr. Tracy-how do you do?' was Mrs. Atherton's response; but she did not in return introduce the young girl, whose dark eyes were scanning the strangers so curiously, and this Dolly took as a slight and inwardly resented it.

But Mrs. Atherton had spoken to her and that was something, and helped to keep her spirits up as she was driven along the turnpike to the entrance of the park.

On the occasion of Mrs. Frank's first and only visit to her brother-in-law it was winter, and everything was covered with snow. But it was summer now, the month of roses, and fragrance, and beauty, and as the carriage passed up the broad, smooth avenue which led to the house, Dolly's eyes wandered over the well-kept lawn, sweet with the scent of newly-mown grass, the parteries of flowers and shrubs, the winding walks and clumps of evergreens here and there formed into fancy rooms, with rustic seats and tables under the over-hanging boughs; and when she reflected that all this was hers to enjoy for many years, and perhaps for her life-time, she felt the first stirring of that pride, and satisfaction, and self-assertion which was to grow upon her so rapidly and transform her from the plain, unpretentious woman who had washed, and ironed, and baked, and mended in the small house in Langley into the arrogant, haughty lady of fashion, who courted only the rich and looked down upon her less fortunate neighbors. Now, however, she was very meek and humble, and trembled as she alighted from the carriage before the great stone house which was to be her home.

'Isn't this grand, Dolly?' her husband said, rubbing his hands together and looking about him complacently.

'Yes, very grand,' Dolly answered him; but somehow it makes me feel weaker than water. I suppose, though, I shall get accustomed to it.'

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