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   Chapter 19 ARTHUR'S PLAN

Tracy Park By Mary Jane Holmes Characters: 12808

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


'Why, the madam is going to drive, too, and I've come to harness; there'll be a row somewhere,' John said.

'Can't help it,' Charles replied, 'Mr. Arthur wants the phaeton, and will have it for all of Madam.'

'Yes, I s'p'o' so. Wall, I'll go and tell her,' was John's rejoinder, as he started for the house, where Mrs. Tracy was just drawing on her long driving gloves, and admiring her new hat and feather before the glass.

Dolly looked almost as young, and far prettier, than when the came to the park, eleven years before. A life of luxury suited her. She had learned to take things easily, and the old woman with the basket might now come every day to her kitchen door without her knowing it. She aped Mrs. Atherton of Brier Hill, in everything, and had the satisfaction of knowing that she was on all occasions quite as stylish-looking and well-dressed as that aristocratic lady whom she called her intimate friend. She had also grown very proud and very exclusive in her ideas, and when poor Mrs. Peterkin, who was growing, too, with her million, ventured to call at the park, the call was returned with a card which Doily's coachman left at the door. Since the night of her party, and the election which followed when Frank was defeated, she had ignored the Peterkins, and laughed at what she called their vulgar imitation of people above them, and when she heard that Mary Jane hail hired a governess for her two children, Bill and Ann Eliza, she scoffed at the airs assumed by come-up people, and wondered if Mrs. Peterkin had forgotten that she was one of Grace Atherton's hired girls. Dolly had certainly forgotten the Langley life, and was to all intents and purposes the great lady of the park, who held herself aloof from the common herd, and taught her children to do the same.

She had seen Jerry enter the house that morning with a feeling of disapprobation, which had not diminished as the day wore on and still the child staid, and what was worse, Maude was not sent for to join her.

'Not that I would have allowed it, if she had been,' she said to herself, for she did not wish her daughter intimate with one of whose antecedents nothing was known, but Arthur might at least have invited her. He had never noticed her children much, and this she deeply resented. Maude, who knew of Jerry's presence in the house had cried to go in and play with her, but Mrs. Tracy had refused, and promised as an equivalent a drive in the phaeton around the town. And it was for this drive Dolly was preparing herself, when John came with the message that she could not have the phaeton, as Mr. Arthur was going to take Jerry home in it.

Usually Arthur's slightest wish was a law in the household, for that was Frank's order; but on this occasion Dolly felt herself justified in rebelling.

'Not have the phaeton! That's smart, I must say,' she exclaimed. 'Can't that child walk home, I'd like to know? Tell Mr. Tracy Maude has had the promise of a drive all day, and I am ready, with my things on. Ask him to take the Victoria; he never drives.'

All this in substance was repeated to Arthur, who answered, quietly:

'Let Mrs. Tracy take the victoria. I prefer the phaeton myself.'

That settled it, and in few moments Jerry was seated at Arthur's side, and skimming along through the park, and out upon the highway which skirted the river for miles.

'This is not going home, and grandma will scold,' Jerry said.

'Never mind the grandma-I will make it right with her. I am going to show you the country,' Arthur replied, as he chirruped to the fleet pony who seemed to fly along the smooth road.

No one who saw the tall, elegant-looking man, who sat so erect, and handled the reins so skilfully, would ever have suspected him of insanity, and more than one stopped to gaze after him and the little girl whose face, with the golden hair blowing about it, looked out from the white sun bonnet with so joyous an expression. On the homeward route they met the victoria, with John upon the box, and Mrs. Tracy and Maude inside.

'There's Maude! Hallo, Maude-see me! I'm riding!' Jerry called out, cheerily, while Maude answered back:

'Hallo, Jerry!'

But Mrs. Tracy gave no sign of recognition, and only rebuked her daughter for her vulgarity in saying 'Hallo,' which was second class and low.

'Then Nina St. Claire is second class and low, for she says "Hallo,"' was Maude's reply, to which her mother had no answer.

Meanwhile the phaeton was going swiftly on toward the cottage, which it reached a few minutes after the furnace whistle blew for six, and Harold, who had been working there, came up the lane. There were soiled spots on his hands and on his face, and his clothes showed marks of toil, all of which Arthur noted, while he was explaining to Mrs. Crawford that he had taken Jerry for a drive, and kept her beyond the prescribed hour. Then, turning to Harold, he said:

'And so you work in the furnace?'

'Yes, sir, during vacation, when I can get a job there,' Harold answered, and Mr. Tracy continued:

'How much do you get a day?'

'Fifty cents in dull times,' was the reply, and Arthur went on:

'Fifty cents from seven in the morning to six at night, and board yourself. A magnificent sum truly. Pray, how do you manage to spend so much? You must be getting rich.'

The words were sarcastic, but the tone belied the words, and Harold was about to speak, when his grandmother interrupted him, and said,

'What he does not spend for us he puts aside. He is trying to save enough to go to the High School, but it's slow work. I can do but little myself, and it all falls upon Harold.'

'But I like it, grandma. I like to work for you and Jerry, and I have almost twenty dollars saved,' Harold said, 'and in a year or two I can go away to school, and work somewhere for my board. Lots of boys do that.'

Arthur was hitching his pony to the fence, while a new idea was dawning in his mind.

'Fifty cents a day,' he said to himself, 'and he has twenty dollars saved, and thinks himself rich. Why, I've spent more than that on one bottle of wine, and here is this boy, Amy's son, wanting an education, and working to support his grandmother like a common laborer. I believe I am crazy.'

He was in the cottage by this time-in the clean, cool kitchen where the supper table was laid with its plain fair, most unlike the costly

viands which daily loaded his board.

'Don't wait for me, Harold must be hungry,' he said, adding quickly: 'Or stay, if you will permit me, I will take a cup of tea with you. The drive has given me an appetite, and your tea smells very inviting.'

It was a great honor to have Arthur Tracy at her table, and Mrs. Crawford felt it as such, and was very sorry, too, that she had nothing better to offer him than bread and butter and radishes, with milk, and a dish of cold beans, and chopped beets, and a piece of apple pie saved for Harold from dinner. But she made him welcome, and Jerry, delighted to return the hospitality she had received, brought him a clean plate and cup and saucer, and asked if she might get the best sugar-bowl and the white sugar. Then, remembering the beautiful flowers which had adorned the table at Tracy Park, she ran out and gathering a bunch of June pinks, put them in a little glass by his plate.

When all was ready and they had taken their seats at the table, Mrs. Crawford closed her eyes reverently and asked the accustomed blessing which in that house preceded every meal. Jerry's amen was a good deal louder and more emphatic than usual, while she nodded her head to Arthur, with an expression which he understood to mean, 'You know now what you ought to say, instead of that long prayer,' and he nodded back that he did so understand it.

Arthur enjoyed the supper immensely, or pretended that he did. He ate three slices of bread and butter; he drank three cups of tea; he even tried the beans and the beets, but declined the radishes, which, he said, would give him the nightmare.

When supper was over and the table cleared away, he still showed no signs of going, but asking Mrs. Crawford to take a seat near him, he plunged at once into the business which had brought him there, and which, since he had seen Harold in his working-dress and heard what he was trying to do, had grown to be of a two-fold nature. He was very lonely, he said, and all the elegance and luxuriousness of his handsome house failed to give him pleasure or to make him forget the past. He wanted some one to love who would love him in return, and the little taste he had had of Jerry's society had made him wish for more, and he must have her with him a part at least of every day.

'In short,' he said, 'I should like to undertake her education myself until she is older, when I shall see that she has the proper finishing. She tells me she hates the district school, with Bill Peterkin and his warts-'

'Trying to kiss me,' Jerry interrupted, as open-eyed and open-mouthed, she stood, with her hand on his shoulder, listening to him.

'Yes, trying to kiss you, though I do not blame him much for that,' Arthur said, with a smile, and then continued: 'She is ambitious enough to want a governess like Ann Eliza Peterkin and my brother's daughter, but I am better than a dozen governesses. I can teach her all the rudiments of an English education, with French and German, and Latin, too, if she likes; and my plan is, that she come to me every day except Saturdays and Sundays-come at ten in the morning, get her lessons and her lunch with me, and return home at four in the afternoon. Would you like it, Cherry?'

'Oh-h-oh!' was all the answer Jerry could make for a moment, but her cheeks were scarlet, and tears of joy stood in her eyes, until she glanced at Harold; then all the brightness faded from her face, for how could she accept this great good and leave him to drudge and toil alone?

'What is it, Cherry?' Mr. Tracy asked; and, with a half sob, she replied:

'I can't go without Harold. If I get learning, he must get learning, too,' and leaving Arthur, the crossed over to the boy, and putting her arm around him, looked up at him with a look which in after years he would have given half his life to win.

She was a little girl now and did not care if he did know how much she loved him, and that for him she would sacrifice everything. But in this case the sacrifice was not required, for Arthur hastened to say:

'I shall not forget Harold. I have something better in store for him than reciting his lessons to me. When the High School opens in September, he is going there, and if he does well he shall go to Andover in time, and perhaps to Harvard. It will all depend upon himself, and how he improves his opportunities. What! crying? Don't you like it?' Arthur asked, as he saw the great tears gathering in Harold's eyes and rolling down his cheeks.

'Yes, oh, yes; but it don't seem real, and-and-I guess it makes me kind of sick,' Harold gasped, as, freeing himself from Jerry's encircling arm, he hurried from the room, to think over this great and unexpected joy which had come so suddenly to him.

With his naturally refined tastes and instincts the dirty furnace work had not been pleasant to him, and he had shrunk with inexpressible loathing from the swill cart and the other menial duties he had been obliged to perform for the sake of those he loved. How to get an education was the problem he was earnestly trying to solve, and lo! it was now solved for him. For a moment the suddenness of the thing overcame him, and he sat down upon a table in the yard, faint and bewildered, while Arthur made his plan clear to Mrs. Crawford, saying that what he meant to do was partly for Jerry's sake and partly for the sake of the young girl who had been his early love.

'I always intended to take care of you,' he said; 'but things go from my mind, and I forget the past as completely as if it had never been. But this will stay by me, for I shall have Cherry as a reminder, and if I am in danger of forgetting she will jog my memory.'

Fur a moment Mrs. Crawford could not speak, so great was her surprise and joy that the good she had thought unattainable was to be Harold's at last. And yet something in her proud, sensitive nature rebelled against receiving so much from a stranger, even if that stranger were Arthur Tracy. It seemed like charity, she said, when at last she spoke at all. But Arthur overruled her with that persuasive way he had of converting people to his views; and when at last he left the cottage it was with the understanding that Jerry should commence her lessons with him the first week in September, and that Harold should enter the High School in Shannondale when it opened in the autumn.

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