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   Chapter 27 'HE COMETH NOT,' SHE SAID.

Tracy Park By Mary Jane Holmes Characters: 15433

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

The she was Jerrie, who, the night before commencement, was shaking hands with Dick St. Claire, Fred Raymond, Tom Tracy, and Billy Peterkin, all of whom had arrived on the evening train, and after dinner had come to pay their respects to the young ladies from Shannondale. The he way Harold, for whom Jerrie asked at once.

'Where is Harold? Is he coming in the morning?' she said, as she stood, tall, and straight, and queen-like, before the four young men, who glanced at each other with a significance in their looks, which she did not understand.

It was Dick St. Claire who took it upon himself to explain.

'No, Hal is not coming,' he said, 'and he is awfully cut up about it. He thought he might manage it until yesterday when he found it impossible to do so. You see, he has taken a job which must be done at a certain time.'

'Taken a job!' Jerrie repeated. 'What job? What do you mean?' and her blue eyes flashed upon each of the young men, falling last upon Tom Tracy, as if she expected him to answer, which he did in the half sneering, half satirical tone which made her hate him and long to box his ears.

'Why, it's a sort of carpenter's job,' he said; 'and I heard his hammer going this morning before sunrise, for I was up early for once and out in the park. Sounded as if he were shingling a roof, and that's work, you know, which must be done in fair weather. It might rain and spoil the plastering.'

'Thank you,' Jerrie answered, curtly. 'Harold is shingling a roof, and cannot come. But where is Maude? Is she shingling a roof, too?'

'Yes, b-b-by Jove. You've h-hit it. Maude's sh-shingling a roof, too: the b-best joke out,' Billy Peterkin chimed in, glad of an opportunity to join in the conversation, and so get some attention from Jerrie.

He was a little man, only four feet five with heels, and he wore the light clothes of which Maude had written, and a stove-pipe hat, and dove colored gloves, and carried a little cane, which he constantly nibbled at, when he was not beating his little boot with it. But he was good-natured and inoffensive and kind-hearted, with nothing low or mean in his nature; and Jerrie, who looked as if she could have picked him up and thrown him over the house, liked him far better than she did the 'elegant Tom,' as she had nicknamed him, who stood six feet without heels, and who knew exactly what shade of color to choose, from his neck-tie to his hose, which were always silk of the finest quality. Tom was faultlessly gotten up, and he knew it, and carried himself as if he knew it, and knew, too, that he was Tom Tracy, the future heir of Tracy Park, if he were fortunate enough to outlive both his uncle and his father. Jerrie had disliked him when he was a boy and she disliked him now, and turning her back upon him pretended to be interested in 'little Billy,' as she was in the habit of calling him; he was so short and she was so tall.

He was speaking of Harold, and he said:

'It's a dused shame he co-couldn't come, b-but he sent some money by Dick to buy you a b-basket in New York, and by George, we've got you a st-stunner down to the h-hotel; only I'm a-a-fraid it'll be w-wilted some b-before to-morrow.

'Yes,' Dick said, coming forward, 'I should not have told you now, if Billy had not let it out; Hal did give me some money to buy a basket of flowers for you; the very best I could find, he said, and I got a big one; but I'm afraid it was not very fresh, for it begins to look wilted now. You must blame Tom, though; he pretends to be up in flowers, and advised my getting this one in New York, because it was so handsome and cheap.'

'Oh, it is all right,' Tom drawled, in that affected voice he had adopted since his return from Europe. 'It was the best, any way, we could get for the money. Hal, you know, isn't very flush in the pocket.'

It was a mean speech to make, and all Tom's audience felt it to be so, while Jerry crimsoned with resentment and answered hotly:

'Faded or not, I shall care more for Harold's flowers than for all the rest which may be given me.'

This was not very encouraging to three at least of the young men who were intending to make the finest floral offering they could find, to the girl whom in their secret hearts they admired more than any girl they had ever seen, and who, had she made the slightest sign, might have been installed at Grassy Spring, or Tracy Park, or Le Bateau, within less than a month. But Jerry had never made a sign, and had laughed and chatted and flirted with them all, not excepting Tom, who had long ago dropped his supercilious air of superiority and patronage when talking with her, and treated her with a gentleness and consideration almost lover-like. Horribly jealous of Harold, whom he still felt infinitely above, although he did not now often openly show it, he had encouraged the visits of the latter to Tracy Park, and by jokes and hints and innuendoes had fed the flame which he knew was burning in his sister's heart.

'There will be a jolly row when mother finds it out,' he said to Maude one day; 'for you know she holds her head a great deal higher than Hal Hastings, who isn't the chap I'd choose for a brother-in-law. But if you like him, all right. Stick to him, and I'll stand by you to the death.'

This was to Maude; while to his mother, when, she complained that Harold came there quite too often, and that Maude was running after him too much, he said:

'Nonsense, mother! let Maude alone. She knows what she is about, and would not wipe her shoes on Hal Hastings, much less marry him. She is lonely without Nina and Jerry, and not strong enough to read much herself, and Hal amuses her; that's all. I know. I have talked with her. I am keeping watch, and the moment I see any indications of love-making on either side I will give you warning, and together we will put my fine chap in his proper place in a jiffy.'

Tom was a young man now of twenty-seven, tall, and finely-formed, with all his mother's good looks, and his Uncle Arthur's courtliness of manner when he felt that his companions were worthy of his notice, but proud, and arrogant, and self-asserting with his inferiors, or those whom he thought such. He had never overcome his unwarrantable dislike of Harold, whom he considered far beneath him; but Harold was too popular to be openly treated with contempt, and so there was a show of friendship and civility between them, without any real liking on either side. Tom could not tell just when he began to look upon Jerrie as the loveliest girl he had ever seen, and to contemplate the feasibility of making her Mrs. Tom Tracy. His admiration for her had been of slow growth, for she was worse than a nobody-a child of the Tramp House, of whose antecedents nothing was known, while he was a Tracy, of Tracy Park, whom a duchess might be proud to wed. But he had succumbed at last to Jerrie's beauty, and sprightliness, and originality, and now his love for her had become the absorbing passion of his life, and he would have made her his wife at any moment, in the face of all his mother's opposition. By some subtle intuition, he felt that Harold was his rival, though he could not fathom the nature of Harold's feeling for Jerrie, so carefully did the latter conceal it.

'He must regard her as something more than a sister,' he thought; 'he cannot see her every day without loving her, and by-and-by he will tell her so, and then my cake is dough. If I can only get him committed to Maude while Jerrie is away, my way is clear, for I am quite sure she does not care for Dick, and she would be a fool not to take Tracy Park if she could get it. And why shouldn't Hal love Maude? She is pret

ty, and sweet, and winning, and will some day be an heiress. Hal may thank his stars to get her, though I hate him as I do poison.'

It was Tom who had insisted that Harold's basket should be bought in New York, where there was a better chance, he said, and he had himself selected flowers which he knew were not fresh, and would be still worse twenty-four hours later.

'Why don't you get yours here, if it is the be-best place?' Will Peterkin had asked him, and he replied:

'Oh, we can't be bothered with more than one basket in the train. I can find something there.'

He did not say what he intended to find, or that baskets were quite too common for him. But after leaving the young ladies in the evening, he went to a florist's and ordered for Jerrie a book of white daisies, with a rack of purple pansies for it to rest upon.

'That will certainly be unique, and show her that I have taste,' he thought.

For Nina a bouquet was sufficient, while for Ann Eliza Peterkin he ordered nothing. Tom could be lavish of his money where his own interest was concerned, but where he had no interest he was stingy and even mean, and so poor little red-haired Ann Eliza, who would have prized a leaf from him more than all the florist's garden from another, was to get nothing from him.

'What business has old Peterkin's daughter to graduate with ladies, any way?' he thought, and he looked on with a sneer, while Billy ordered five baskets, one of which was to be of white roses, with a heart of blue forget-me-nots in the centre.

'What, under heaven, are you going to do with five baskets?' he asked; but Billy was non committal, for he would not own that three were intended for Jerrie, whom he wished to carry off the palm so far as flowers were concerned.

And she did; for of all the young ladies who the next day passed in review before the multitude, no one attracted so much attention or received so much praise as Jerrie. For clearness of reasoning, depth of thought, and purity of language, her essay, though a little too metaphysical, perhaps, was accounted the best, and listened to with rapt attention. And when the musical voice ceased, and the young girl, who had never looked more beautiful than she did then, with the sparkle in her eyes and the flush on her cheeks, bowed to the audience, bouquets of flowers fell around her like hailstones, while basket after basket was handed up to her, Tom Tracy's book showing conspicuously from the rest and attracting unusual admiration.

But, alas for poor Harold's gift! Dick had watered it the last thing before going to bed and the first thing in the morning, but the flowers were limp and faded, and gave forth a sickly odor, while the leaves of the roses were dropping off, and only the size, which was immense, remained to tell what it once had been. But Jerrie singled it out from all the rest, and held it in her hands until the exercises were over; and that night, at a reception given to the graduates, she wore in her bosom two faded pink roses, the only ones she could make hold together, and which Nina told her smelled a little old. But Jerrie did not care. They were Harold's roses, which he had sent to her, and she prized them more than all the rest she had received. At little Billy's heart she had laughed till she cried, and then had given it to a young girl, not a graduate, who admired it exceedingly. Tom's book she knew was exquisite, and placed it with others, and thanked him for it, and told him it was lovely, and then gave it to Ann Eliza, whose offerings had been so few. A bouquet from Dick St. Claire and Fred Raymond, a basket from her brother, and one more from herself, were all, and the little red-haired girl, who, with her heavy gold chain and locket, and diamond ear-rings, and three bracelets, and five finger-rings, had looked like a jeweller's shop, felt aggrieved and neglected, and Jerrie found her sobbing in her room as if her heart was broken.

'Only four snipping things,' she said, 'and you had twenty-five, and mother will be so disappointed, and father too, when he knows just how few I got. I wish I was popular like you.'

'Never mind,' Jerrie said, cheerfully. 'It was only a happen so-my getting so many. You are just as nice as I am, and I'll give you part of mine to take home to your mother. I can never carry them all. I should have to charter a car,' and in a few moments six of Jerrie's baskets were transferred to Ann Eliza's room, including Tom Tracy's book.

'Oh, I can't take that, Ann Eliza said; he didn't mean it for me; he didn't give me anything, and I-I-'

Here she began to sob again, and laying her hand pityingly upon the bowed head, Jerrie said:

'Yes, I know; I understand. Something from Tom Tracy would have pleased you more than from anyone; but listen to me, Annie. Tom is not worth your tears.'

'Don't you care for him?' the girl asked, lifting her head suddenly.

'Not a particle, as you mean. You have nothing to fear from me,' Jerrie replied.

This was a grain of comfort to the girl who had been weak enough to waste her affections upon Tom Tracy, and who, fearing Jerrie was a rival, was weak enough to hope that with her out of the way she might eventually succeed in bringing him to her feet, for she knew his fondness for money, and knew, too, that she should in all probability be one day the heiress to a million. So great was her infatuation for the man who had never shown her the slightest attention, that even his flowers, though second-hand, and not intended for her, were everything to her, and when she packed her trunk that night she put them carefully away in many wrappings of paper, to be brought out at home in the privacy of her own room, and kept as long as the least beauty or perfume remained.

It was a merry party which the New York train carried to Shannondale the next day, and Jerrie was the merriest and gayest of them all, bandying jokes and jests, and coquetting pretty equally with the young men, until neither Tom, nor Dick, nor Billy quite knew what he was doing or saying. But always in her gayest moods, when her eyes were brightest and her wit the keenest, there was in Jerrie's heart a thought of Harold, who had so disappointed her, and a wonder as to the nature of the job which had been of sufficient importance to keep him from Vassar.

'Shingling a roof, and Maude is helping him,' Billy said, 'I wonder what he meant?' she was thinking, when she heard Ann Eliza cry out, that the towers of 'Le Bateau' were visible.

As she had not seen that wonderful structure since its completion, she arose from her seat, and going to the window, looked out upon the massive pile in the distance, looking, with its turrets, and towers, and round projections, like some old castle rather than a home where people could live and be happy.

'It is very grand,' she said to Ann Eliza; and Billy, who was leaning toward her, replied:

'Yes, too grand for a Pe-Peterkin. It wants you, there, Jerrie, as its m-m-master-p-p-piece, and, by Jove, you can b-be there, too, if you will!'

No one heard this attempt at an offer but Jerrie, who, with a saucy toss of the head, replied, laughingly:

'Thank you, Billy. I'll think of it, and let you know when I make up my mind to come. Just now I prefer the cottage in the lane to any spot on earth. Oh, here, we are at the station,' she cried, as the train shot round a curve and Shannondale was reached.

There was a scrambling for bundles, and flowers, and wraps. Fred Raymond gathering up Nina's, while Dick, and Tom, and Billy, almost fought over Jerrie's, and poor little Ann Eliza would have carried hers alone if Jerrie had not helped her.

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