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   Chapter 10 ARTHUR SETTLES HIMSELF.

Tracy Park By Mary Jane Holmes Characters: 14847

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


They did try it on, but not until after the November election, at which Frank was defeated by a large majority, for Peterkin worked against him and brought all the 'heft of his powerful disapprobation' to bear upon him. Although Frank had had no part in turning him from the door that morning after the party, he had not tried to prevent it by a word, and this the low, brutal man resented, and swearing vengeance upon the whole Tracy tribe, declared his intention to defeat Frank if it cost him half his fortune to do so. And it did cost him at least two thousand dollars, for Frank Tracy was popular with both parties; many of the Democrats voted for him, but the rabble, the scum, those who could be bought on both sides, went against him, even to the Widow Shipley's four sons; and when all was over, Frank found himself defeated by just as many votes as old Peterkin had paid for, not only in Shannondale, but in the adjoining towns, where his money carried 'heft,' as he expressed it.

It was a terrible disappointment to Frank and his wife, who had looked forward to enjoying a winter in Washington, where they intended to take a house and enjoy all society had to offer them in the national metropolis. Particularly were they anxious for the change now that Arthur had come home, for it was not altogether pleasant to be ruled where they had so long been rulers, and to see the house turned upside down without the right to protest.

'I can't stand it, and I won't,' Frank said to his wife in the first flush of his bitter disappointment. 'Ever since he came home he has raised Cain generally, with his carpenters, and masons, and painters, and stewing about water-pipes, and sewer-gas, and smells. He's mad as a March hare, and if I can't get rid of him by going to Washington, I'll do it in some other way. You know he is crazy, and so do I, and I'll swear to it on a stack of Bibles as high as the house.'

And Frank did swear to it, not on a stack of Bibles, but before two or three physicians and Mr. St. Claire, who, at his solicitation, came to Tracy Park, and were closeted with him for an hour or more, while he related his grievances, asserting finally that he considered his brother dangerous, and did not think his family safe with him, citing as proof that he had on one occasion threatened to kill his son Tom for accusing Harold Hastings of theft.

How the matter would have terminated is doubtful, if Arthur himself had not appeared upon the scene, calm, dignified, and courtly in his manner, which insensibly won upon his hearers, as in a few well-chosen and eloquent words, he proceeded to prove that though he might be peculiar in some respects, he was not mad, and that a man might repair his own house, and cut off his own water-pipes, and take up his sewer, and detect a bad smell, and still not be a subject for a lunatic asylum.

'And,' he continued, addressing his brother, 'it ill becomes you to take this course against me-you, who have enriched yourself at my expense, while I have held my peace. Suppose I require you to give an account of all the money which you have considered necessary for your support and salary-would you like to do it? Would the world consider you strictly honorable, or would they call you a lunatic on the subject of money and not responsible for your acts? But I have no wish to harm you. I have money enough, and cannot forget that you are my brother. But molest me, and I shall molest you. If I go to the asylum you will leave Tracy Park. If I am allowed to stay here in peace, you can do so, too-at least, until Gretchen comes, when it will, perhaps, be better for us to separate. Two masters may manage to scramble along in the same house, but two mistresses never can, and Dora and Gretchen would not be congenial. Good morning, gentlemen!' and he bowed himself from the room, leaving Frank covered with confusion and shame as he felt that he was beaten.

The physicians did not think it a case in which they were warranted to interfere. Neither could conscientiously sign a certificate which should declare Arthur a lunatic, and their advice to Frank was that he should suffer his brother to have his own way in his own house, and when he felt that he could not bear with his idiosyncracies he could go elsewhere. But it was this going elsewhere which Frank did not fancy; and, after a consultation with his wife, he decided to let matters take their course for a time at least, or until Gretchen came, if she ever did.

Arthur's allusion to the sums of money his brother had appropriated to his own use had warned Frank that he was not quite so indifferent or ignorant of his business affairs as he had seemed, and this of itself served to keep him quiet and patient during the confusion which ensued, as walls were torn down, and doors and windows cut, while the house was filled with workmen, and the sound of the hammer and saw was heard from morning till night.

It was in the middle of October when Arthur fairly commenced his repairs, but so many men did he employ, and so rapidly was the work pushed on, that the first of January found everything finished and Arthur installed in his suite of rooms, which a prince might have envied, so richly and tastefully were they fitted up. Beautiful pictures and rich tapestry covered the walls in the first room, where the floor was inlaid with colored woods in lovely Mosaic designs, and the centre was covered with a costly Oriental rug, which Arthur had bought at a fabulous price in Paris, where it had once adorned a room in the Tuileries. But the gem of the whole was the library, where the statuary stood in the niches, and where, from the large bow-window at the south, a young girl's face looked upon the scene with an expression of shy surprise and half regret in the soft blue eyes, as if their owner wondered how she came there, and was always thinking of the fields and forests of far-away Germany. For it was decidedly a German face of the higher type, and such as is seldom found among the lower or even middle classes. And yet you instinctively felt that it belonged to the latter, notwithstanding the richness of the dress, from the pearl-embroidered cap set jauntily on the reddish golden hair to the velvet bodice and the satin peasant waist. The hands, small and dimpled like those of a child, were clasped around a prayer-book and a bunch of wild flowers which had evidently just been gathered. It was a marvelously beautiful face, pure and sweet as that of a Madonna, and the workmen involuntarily bowed their heads before it, calling it, not without some reason, a memorial window, for the name Gretchen was under the picture, and one unconsciously found himself looking for the date of birth and death. But only the one word 'Gretchen' was there, with no sign to tell who she was, or where, if living, she was now, or what relation she bore to the strange man who often stood before her whispering to himself:

'Poor little Gretchen! Will you never come?'

For a few days after the rooms were completed, they were thrown open to such of Arthur's friends as cared to see them, and the question 'Who is Gretchen?' was often asked, but the answer was always the same: 'She is Gretchen. I am expecting her every day.'

But if he were expecting her, he no longer asked that the carriage be sent to meet her. That had been one of the proofs of his insanity as alleg

ed by his brother, and Arthur was sane enough and cunning enough to avoid a repetition of that offence, but he often went himself to the station, when the New York trains were due, for it was from the west rather than the east that he was now looking for her.

Frank, who watched him nervously, with all his senses sharpened, guessed what had caused the change and grew more nervous and morbid on the subject of Gretchen than ever. At first his brother, who was greatly averse to going out, had asked him to post his letters; business letters they seemed to be, for they were addressed to business firms in New York, London, and Paris, with all of which Arthur had relations. But one morning when Frank went as usual to his brother's room asking if there was any mail to be taken to the office, Arthur, who was just finishing a letter, replied:

'No, thank you, I will post this myself. I have been writing to Gretchen.'

'Yes, to Gretchen?' Frank said, quickly, as he advanced nearer to the writing desk, hoping to see the address on the envelope.

But Arthur must have suspected his motive, for he at once turned over the envelope and kept his hand upon it, while Frank said to him:

'Is she in London now?'

'No; she was never in London,' was the curt reply, and then, turning suddenly, Arthur faced his brother and said: 'Why are you so curious about Gretchen? It is enough for you to know that the is the sweetest, truest little girl that ever lived. When she comes I shall tell you everything, but not before. You have tried to prove me crazy; have said I was full of cranks; perhaps I am, and Gretchen is one of them, but it does not harm you, so leave me in peace, if you wish for peace yourself.'

There was a menacing look in Arthur's eyes which Frank did not like, and he retreated from the room, resolved to say no more to him of Gretchen, whose arrival he again began to look for and dread. But Gretchen did not come, or any tidings of her, and Christmas came and went, and the lovely bracelets which Arthur brought from the trunk he said was hers, and into which no one had ever looked but himself, remained unclaimed upon his table, as did the costly inlaid work-box, and the cut-glass bottles with the gold stoppers. All these were to have been Gretchen's Christmas presents; but when she did not come they disappeared from view and were not seen again, while Arthur seemed to be settling into a state of great depression, caring nothing for the outside world, but spending all his time in the lovely rooms he had prepared for himself and one who never came.

As far as was possible he continued his foreign habits, having his coffee and rolls at eight in the morning, his breakfast, as he called it, at half-past twelve, and his dinner at half-past six. All these meals were served in his room as elaborately, and with as much ceremony, as if lords and ladies sat at the table instead of one lone man, who never let himself down a particle, but required the utmost subservience and care in the waiting. The finest of linen, and china, and glass, and silver adorned his table, with bits of fanciful crockery gathered here and there in his extended wanderings, and always flowers for a centre-piece-roses mostly, if he could get them-tea roses and Marshal Neils, for Gretchen, he said, was fond of these, and, as she might surprise him at any moment, he wished to be ready for her, and show that he was expecting her.

Opposite him, at the end of the table, was always an empty plate with its surroundings, and the curiously-carved chair, which had seen the lion at Lucerne. But no one ever sat in it. No one ever used the decorated plate, or the glass mug at its side, with its twisted handle and the letter 'G.' on the silver cover. Just what this mug was for none of the household knew until Grace Atherton, who had travelled in Europe, and to whom Mrs. Tracy showed it one day when Arthur was out, said:

'Why, it is a beer-mug, such as is used in Germany, though more particularly among the Bavarian Alps and in the Tyrol. This Gretchen is probably a tippler, with a red nose and a double chin. I wish to goodness she would come and satisfy our curiosity.'

This wish of Grace's was not shared by Mrs. Tracy, who felt an uneasy sense of relief as the days went on, and the beer-drinking Gretchen did not appear, while Arthur became more and more depressed and remained altogether in his room, seeing no one and holding no intercourse with the outside world. He had returned no calls, and had been but once to the cottage in the lane to see Mrs. Crawford. That interview had been a long and sad one, and when they talked of Amy, whose grave Arthur had visited on his way to the cottage, both had cried together, and Gretchen seemed for the time forgotten. They talked of Amy's husband, who, Arthur said, had died at Monte Carlo; and then he spoke of Amy's son, who was not present, and whom he seemed to have forgotten entirely, for when Mrs. Crawford said to him, 'You saw him on the night of your return home,' he looked at her in a perplexed kind of way, and if trying to recall something which had gone almost entirely from his mind. It was this utter forgetfulness of people and events which was a marked feature of his insanity, if insane he were, and he knew it and struggled against it; and when Mrs. Crawford told him he had seen Harold he tried to recall him, and could not until the boy came in, flushed and excited from a race with Dick St. Claire through the crisp November wind, which had brought a bright color to his cheek and a sparkle to his eye. Then Arthur remembered everything, and something of his old prejudice came back to him, and his manner was a little constrained as he talked to the boy, whose only fault was that Harold Hastings had been his father and that he bore his name.

Arthur did not stay long after Harold came in, but said good-morning to Mrs. Crawford and walked slowly away, going again to Amy's grave, and taking from it a few leaves of the ivy which was growing around the monument. And this was all the intercourse he held with Mrs. Crawford, except to send her at Christmas a hundred dollars, which he said was for the boy Harold, to whom he had done an injustice.

After this he seldom went out, but gave himself heart and soul to the completion of his rooms, and when they were finished he settled down into the life of a recluse, seeing very few and talking but little, except occasionally to himself, when he seemed to be carrying on a conversation with some unseen visitant, who must have spoken in a foreign tongue or tongues, for sometimes it was French, sometimes Italian, and oftener German, in which he addressed his fancied guest, and neither Frank nor Dolly could understand a word of the strange jargon. On the whole, however, he was very quiet and undemonstrative, and but for the habit of talking to himself and smelling odors where there were none, he would not have seemed very different from many peculiar people who are never suspected of being crazy.

If he were still expecting Gretchen, he gave no sign of it, except the place at his table always laid for her, and Frank was beginning to breathe freely, and to look upon his brother's presence in the house as not altogether unbearable, when an event occurred which excited all Shannondale, and for a time made Frank almost as crazy as his brother.

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