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   Chapter 28 IN SHANNONDALE.

Tracy Park By Mary Jane Holmes Characters: 25147

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Nine years of change in Shannondale, and the green hill-side, which stretched from the common down to the river where, when our story opened, sheep and cows were feeding in the pasture land, is thickly covered with houses of every kind of architecture, from the Mansard roof to the Queen Anne style, just coming into fashion, while the meadow lands are dotted over with the small houses of the men who work in the large furnace, or manufactory, which Peterkin had bought and enlarged, as a monument, he said, and where he sometimes employed as many as four hundred men, and had set up a whistle which could be heard for miles and miles, and nearly blew off the chimney-tops when it sounded in the morning at six o'clock, it was so loud and shrill. A screecher, Peterkin called it, and he always listened with a smile of pride and satisfaction on his face when he heard the first indications of its blowing, and knew that four hundred men were quickening their stops on account of it, lest they should be a few minutes late and have their wages docked.

Peterkin counted two millions now, and boasted the finest, or at least, the most expensive house in the county, not even excepting Tracy Park, which still held its own for solidity and old-fashioned dignity, and was the show place to the strangers visiting in Shannondale.

When Peterkin made $20,000 in one day from some speculation in stocks, he said to Mr. St. Claire, who was now a judge, and with whom he pretended to be on terms of great familiarity:

'I say, judge, I'm goin' to build a buster, and whip the crowd. I've lived about long enough in that little nine-by-ten hole, and I'll be dumbed if I don't show 'em what I can do. I'll have towers, and bay-windows, and piazzers, with checkered work all 'round 'em, and a preservatory, and all kinds of new fangled doin's. May Jane and Ann 'Liza want that Queen Anny style, but I tell 'em no such squatty things for me. They can have all the little winder panes and stained glass, cart loads on't, if they want; but I'll have the rooms big and high, so a feller won't bump his head. Yes, sir! I'm in for a smasher!'

And he built 'a smasher' on the site of the old house, behind which the 'Liza Ann,' or what there was left of it, was lying; and when the house was done, and furnished with the most gaudy and expensive furniture he could find in Boston and New York, he said it had just as good a right to a name as any body. There was Tracy Park, and Grassy Springs, and Brier Hill, and Collingwood, and he'd be dumbed if he'd be outdone by any of 'em.

'He'd like to call it 'Liza Ann,' he said to Arthur, whom he met one day in the park, and to whom he began to talk of his new house. 'He'd like to call it 'Liza Ann, after the old boat, for that craft was the beginnin' of his bein' any body; but May Jane and Ann 'Liza wouldn't hear to it. They wanted some new-frangled foreign name; could Mr. Tracy suggest something?'

'How would "Le Bateau" do? It is the French for "the boat," and might cover your difficulty,' Arthur said, without a thought that his suggestion would be adopted.

But it was, immediately.

'That's jest the checker. 'Liza Ann with a new name, Lub-lub-what d'ye call her?' Peterkin said, and Arthur replied:

'Le Bateau.'

'Yes, yes-Lubber-toe; that'll suit May Jane tip-top. Beats all what high notions she's got! Why, I don't s'pose she any more remembers that she used to wash Miss Atherton's stun steps than you remember somethin' that never happened. Do you?'

Arthur thought very likely that she did not, and Peterkin went on:

'You say it means a boat in French; canal, do you s'pose?'

Arthur did not think it mattered what boat, and Peterkin continued:

'Lubber-toe! Sounds droll, but I like it, I'll see an engraver to-day but how do you spell the plaguy thing!'

Arthur wrote it on a slip of paper, which he handed Peterkin, who began slowly:

L-e le, b-a-t-bat; le-bat. Why, what in thunder! That ain't Lubbertoe. 'Tain't nothin'!'

With an amused smile Arthur explained that the pronunciation of French words had very little to do with the way they were spelled; then, very carefully pronouncing the name several times, and making Peterkin repeat it after him, he said good-bye, and walked away, thinking to himself:

'There are bigger lunatics outside the asylum than I am, but it is not possible the fool will adopt that name.'

But the fool did. May Jane approved, and Billy did not care, provided his father would pronounce it right, and so in less than a week, 'Le Bateau' was on Peterkin's door-plate, and on the two gate-posts of the entrance to his grounds, and May Jane's visiting cards bore the words:

'Mrs. Peterkin. Le Bateau. Fridays.'

She had her days now, like Mrs. Atherton, and Mrs. St. Claire, and Mrs. Tracy, and had her butler, too, and her maid, and her carriage; and after the house was furnished, and furnished in style which reminded one of a theatre, it was so gorgeous and gay, Peterkin concluded to have a coat of arms for his carriage; and remembering how Arthur had helped him in a former dilemma he sought him again and told him his trouble.

'That Lubber-too (he called it too now) 'went down like hot cakes, and was just the thing,' he said, 'and now I want some picter for my carriage door to kinder mark me, and show who I am. You know what I mean.'

Arthur thought a puff-ball would represent Peterkin better than anything else, but he replied:

'Yes, I know. You want a coat of arms, which shall suggest your early days-'

'When I was a flounderin' to get up-jess so,' Peterkin interrupted him. 'You've hit it, square. Now I'd like a picter of the Lizy Ann, as she was, but May Jane won't hear to't. What do you say, square?'

Arthur tingled to his finger tips at this familiarity from a man whom he detested, and whom he would like to turn from his door, but the man was in his house and in his private room, tilting back in a delicate Swiss chair, which Arthur expected every moment to see broken to pieces, and which finally did go down with a crash as the burly figure settled itself a little more firmly upon the frail thing.

'I'll be dumbed if I hain't, broke it all to shivers!' the terrified Peterkin exclaimed, as he struggled to his feet, and looked with dismay upon the débris. 'What's the damage?' he continued, taking out his pocket-book and ostentatiously showing a fifty-dollar bill.

'Money cannot replace the chair, which once adorned the salon of Madame De Stael,' Arthur said, 'Put up your purse, but for Heaven's sake, never again tip back in your chair. It is a vulgar trick, of which no gentleman would be guilty.'

Ordinarily, Peterkin would have resented language like this, but he was just now too anxious to curry favor with Arthur to show any anger, and he answered, meekly:

'That's so, square. 'Tain't good manners, and I know it, as well as the next one. I'm awful sorry about the chair, and think mebby I could get it mended. I'd like to try.'

'Never mind the chair,' Arthur said, with an impatient gesture. 'Try another and a stronger one, and let's go back to business. You want a painted panel for your carriage. How will this do?' and he rapidly sketched a green, pleasant meadow, with a canal running through it, and on the canal a boat, drawn by one horse, which a barefoot, elfish-looking boy was driving.

'I swow, square, you're a trump, you be,' Peterkin exclaimed, slapping him on the back, 'You've hit it to a dot. That's the 'Lizy Ann, and that there boy is Bije Jones, drivin the old spavin hoss. You or'to hev me somewhere in sight, cussin' the hands as I generally was, and May Jane on deck, hangin' her clothes to dry. Could you manage that?'

Arthur thought he could, but suggested that Mrs. Peterkin might not like to be made so conspicuous.

'Possibly she will not like this drawing at all. She may think it too suggestive of other days.'

'That's so,' Peterkin assented, a little sadly; 'and if she don't take to it, the old Harry can't make her. She used to be the meekest of wives them days she dried her clothes on the 'Lizy Ann, but she don't knock under wuth a cent sense we riz in the world, and Ann Lizy is wus than her mother. But I'll show this to the old woman and let you know.'

May Jane did not approve, neither did Billy. No use, they said, to flaunt the canal, horse, driver, and all in people's faces; and so the discomfited Peterkin went to Arthur again and told him, 'the fat was all in the fire, and May Jane on a rampage.'

'Try again, squire; but give us some kind of water and craft.'

So Arthur good-humoredly changed the canal into a gracefully flowing river, in a bend of which, in the distance, there was just visible a boat, which was a cross between a gondola and one of those little dangerous things so common on the lakes of Wisconsin. Standing in the bow of the boat, with folded arms, as if calmly contemplating the scenery, was the figure of a man-suppositively Peterkin-who swore 'he'd keep this picter in spite of 'em;' and as his wife did not seriously object, the sketch was transferred in oil to a pannel and inserted in the carriage, which, when drawn by two shining bays and driven by a colored man in long coat and tall hat, with Peterkin sitting back in it with all the pride and pompousness of a two-millionaire, and May Jane at his side, covered with diamonds, attracted general attention and comment. Billy seldom patronized the carriage, but frequently rode beside it, talking to his mother, of whom he was very fond, and taking off his hat to every person he met, whether old or young, rich or poor.

'Billy is an idiot, but very kind-hearted,' people said of him, and in truth he was popular with everybody, especially with the men in his father's employ, who all went to him for favors, or for an increase of wages; for if Billy had any business it was in his father's office, where he pretended to look after matters and keep the books straight. Such had been the growth of Peterkin during the past nine years. 'He had got clean to the front,' he said, 'and was hob-nobbin' with Squire Harrenton, and Judge St. Claire, and the Tracys,' all of whom shrugged their shoulders and laughed at him in secret, but treated him civilly to his face, for, deny it as we may, money has a mighty power, and will open many a door which nothing else could move.

'Coarse and ignorant as a horse, but not so bad after all' was what people said of him now; and in fact Peterkin had improved and softened a good deal with the accession of wealth. Nobody gave so largely, or lavishly either, to everything, as he did, while to his employees he was always generous and considerate. Once he thought to join the church, thinking that would add to his respectability; but when talked with by his clergyman he showed himself so lamentably deficient in every necessary qualification that he was advised to wait a while, which he did; but he rented the most expensive pew he could find, and carried the largest prayer-book of any one, and read the loudest, stumbling over the words frightfully, and kept his head down the longest, so long, indeed, that he once went to sleep, and had quite a little nap before his wife nudged him and told him to get up.

'Good Lord deliver us!' Was his ejaculation, as he sprang to his feet, and, adjusting his glasses, looked fiercely round at the amused congregation.

So far as money and display were concerned, the St. Claires and Mrs. Atherton had not kept up with Peterkin. On the contrary, as he grew into society they gradually withdrew, until at last Dolly Tracy had it all her own way and looked upon herself as the lady par excellence of the town. She had been to Europe. She had seen the queen; she had had some dresses made at Worth's; she had picked up a few French words which she used on all occasions, with but little regard to their appropriateness. She had decorated a tea set, and was as unlike the Dolly Tracy, who once did her own work and ate griddle cakes from her own kitchen stove, as a person well could be. Everything had gone well with her, and scarcely a sorrow had touched her, for though poor, stupid Jack had slept for five years in the Tracy lot with only the woman of the Tramp House for company, he was so near an imbecile when he died that his death was a blessing rather than otherwise. Tom, with his fine figure, his fastidious tastes, and aristocratic notions, was the apple of her eye, and tout à fait au fait, she said, when her French fever was at i

ts height and she wished to impress her hearers with her knowledge of the language; while, except for her ill-health, and the bad taste she manifested in her liking for Harold's society, Maude was tout à fait au fait, too. She had no dread of Gretchen, now; even Arthur had ceased to talk of her, and was as a rule very quiet and contented.

Only her husband troubled her, for with the passing years his silence and abstraction had increased, until now it was nothing remarkable for him to go days without speaking to any one unless he were first spoken to. His hair was white as snow, and made him look years older than he really was; while the habit he had of always walking with his head down, and a stoop in his shoulders, added to his apparent years.

During the time Maude was in Europe he grew old very fast, for Maude was all that made life endurable. To see her in her young beauty, flitting about the house and grounds like a bright bird, whose nest is high up in some sheltered spot where the storms never come, was some compensation for what he had done; but when she was gone there came over him such a sense of loneliness and desolation that at times he feared lest he should become crazier than his brother, who really appeared to be improving, although the strange forgetfulness of past events still clung to and increased upon him. He did not now remember ever to have said that Gretchen was with him in the ship or on the train, or that he had sent the carriage so many times to meet her; and when be spoke of her, which he seldom did to any one except to Jerrie, it was as of one who had died years ago. Occasionally, in the winter, when a wild storm was raging like that which had shaken the house and bent the evergreens the night Jerrie came, he would tie a knot of crape upon the picture, but would give no reason for it when questioned except to say, 'Can't you see it is a badge of mourning?'

For a week or more it would remain there, and then he would put it carefully away, to be again brought out when the night was wild and stormy.

It was during Maude's absence that the two brothers became more intimate than they had been before since Arthur first came home, and it happened in this wise. Every day, for months after Maude and his wife went away, Frank spent hours alone in his private room, sometimes doing nothing, but oftener looking at the photograph of Gretchen, and the Bible with the marked passages and the handwriting around it. Then he would take out the letter about which Jerrie had been so anxious, and examine it carefully, studying the address, which he knew by heart, and beginning at last to arrange the letters in alphabetical order as far as he could, and try to imitate them. It was a difficult process, but little by little, with the assistance of a German text book of Maude's which he found, he learned the alphabet, and began to form words, then to put them together, and then to read. Gradually the work began to have a great fascination for him, and he went to Arthur one day and asked for some assistance.

'Never too old to learn,' he said, 'and as the house is like a tomb without Maude, I have actually taken up German, but find it up-hill business without a teacher. Will you help me?'

'To be sure, to be sure,' Arthur cried, brightening up at once, and bringing out on the instant such a pile of books as appalled Frank and made him wish to withdraw his proposition.

But Arthur was eager, and persistent, and patient, and had never respected his brother one half as much as when he was stammering over the German pronunciation, which he could not well master. But he learned to read with a tolerable degree of fluency, and to speak a little, too, while he could understand nearly all Arthur said to him.

'Do you think I could get along in Germany?' he asked his brother, one day.

'Certainly you could,' Arthur replied. Do you think of going there? If you do, go to Wiesbaden, and inquire for Gretchen-how she died, and where she was buried. I should have gone long ago only I dreaded the ocean voyage so confoundedly, and then I forget so badly. When are you going?'

'Oh, I don't know-I don't know as ever,' Frank answered quickly; and yet in his heart there was the firm resolve to go to Wiesbaden and hunt up Marguerite Heinrich's friends, if possible.

'And if I find them, and find my suspicions correct, what shall I do then?' he asked himself over and over again; and once made answer to his question: 'I will either make restitution, or drown myself in the Rhine.'

Jerrie was a constant source of misery to Frank, and yet when she was at home he was always managing to have her at the park house, where he could see her, and watch her, as she moved like a young queen though the handsome rooms, or frolicked with Maude upon the lawn.

'She is surely Gretchen's daughter, and Arthur's, too,' he would say to himself, as he, too, detected in her face the likeness to his brother, which had so startled Jerrie in the mirror.

He was always exceedingly kind to her, and almost as proud of her success at Vassar as Arthur himself; and on the day when she was expected home he went two or three times to the cottage in the lane, carrying fruit and flowers, and even offering things more substantial, which, however, were promptly declined by Mrs. Crawford, who had signified her intention to take nothing more for Jerrie's board.

'The girl pays for herself, or will,' she said, 'and it is Harold's wish and mine to be independent.'

But she accepted the fruit and the flowers and wondered a little to see Frank so excited, and nervous, and anxious that every thing should be done to make Jerrie's final home-coming as pleasant as possible.

It was a lovely July afternoon when the young ladies from Vassar were expected, but the train was half an hour late, and the carriage from Grassy Spring and the carriage from Le Bateau had waited so long that both coachmen were asleep upon their respective boxes, when at last the whistle was heard among the hills telling that the cars were coming. The Tracy carriage was not there, though twenty minutes before train time Maude had come down in the victoria, and on learning of the delay had been driven rapidly to the cottage in the lane, from which she had not returned when at last the cars stopped before the station and the young people alighted upon the platform, which, with their luggage, seemed at once to be full.

'Your checks, miss,' the coachman from Grassy Spring said to Nina, as he touched his hat regretfully to her, and his words were repeated to Ann Eliza by the servant from Le Bateau.

But Jerrie held hers in her hand with a rueful look of disappointment on her face as she looked in vain for Harold or Maude to greet her. For a single moment the difference between her position and that of Nina and Ann Eliza struck her like a blow, and she thought to herself:

'For them everything, for me nothing.'

Then she rallied, and passing her checks to the baggage master, said to him:

'If there is a boy here with a cart or a wheelbarrow, let him take my trunks, otherwise send them by express. I see there is no one to meet me.'

'Yes'm, but they's comin',' the man replied, with a significant nod in the direction where a cloud of dust was visible, as the Tracy victoria came rapidly up to the station, with Maude and Harold in it.

The former was standing up and waving her parasol to the party upon the platform, while, almost before the carriage stopped, Harold sprang out, and had both of Jerrie's hands in his, and held them, as he told her how glad he was to welcome her home again. He looked tired and flurried, and did not seem quite himself, but there could be no doubt that he was glad, for the gladness shone in his eyes and in his face, and Jerrie felt it in the warm clasp of his hands, which she noticed with a pang were brown, and calloused, and bruised in some places as if they had of late been used to harder toil than usual. But she had not much time for thought before Maude's arms were around her neck and Maude was standing on tiptoe and drawing down her face which she covered with kisses; and, between laughing and crying, exclaimed:

'You darling old Jerrie, how glad I am to see you again! and how tall and grand you have grown! Why, I don't much more than come to your shoulder. See, Harold, how Jerrie outshines me,' and she lifted her sparkling face to Harold, who looked down at her as a brother might have looked at an only sister of whom he was very fond.

How pretty and piquant she was with her brilliant complexion and her black eyes, and how stylish she looked in the Paris gown of embroidered linen, which fitted her perfectly, and the big hat, which turned up just enough on the side to give her a saucy, coquettish air, as she flitted from one to another, kissing Nina twice, Ann Eliza once, and shaking hands with all the young men except Tom, who put his in his pockets out of her way.

He could not stand Maude's gush, he said, and he watched her with a half-sneering smile as she tiptoed around, for it always seemed as if she walked upon her toes, courtesying as she walked.

'I meant to have been here before the train,' she said to Jerrie, 'and I was here about an hour ago; but when I found the cars were late I drove over to tell Harold, as time with him was everything. How we did drive, though, when we heard the whistle. Come, jump in,' she continued, as she herself stepped into the victoria. 'Jump in, and I will take you home in a jiffy. It won't hurt Hal to walk, although he is awful tired.'

'But I would rather walk; take Harold, if he is so tired,' Jerrie said, in a tone she did not quite intend.

'Oh, Jerrie,' Harold exclaimed, in a low, pained voice, 'I am not tired, let us both walk,' and going to Maude he said something to her which Jerrie could not hear, except the words, 'Don't you think it better so?'

'Of course I do; it was stupid in me not to see it before,' was Maude's reply, as she laid her hand on Harold's arm where it rested a moment, while she said her good-byes.

And Jerrie saw the little, ungloved hand touching Harold so familiarly, and thought how small, and white and thin it was, with the full, blue veins showing so distinctly upon it, and then she looked more closely at Maude herself, and saw with a pang how tired and sick she looked in spite of the bright color in her cheeks which came and went so fast. There was a pallor about her lips and about her nose, while her ears were almost transparent, and her neck was so small that Jerrie felt she could have clasped it with one hand.

'Maude,' she cried, pressing close to the young girl, as Harold stepped aside, 'Maude, are you sick? You are so pale everywhere except your cheeks, which are like roses.'

'No, no,' Maude answered quickly, as if she did not like the question. 'Not sick a bit, only a little tired. We have been at work real hard, Hal and I; but he will tell you about it, and now good-bye again, for I must go, I shall be round in the morning. Good-bye. Oh, Tom, I forgot! We have company to dinner to-night-a Mr. and Mrs. Hart, who are friends of Mrs. Atherton, and have just returned from Germany, bringing Fred's sister, Marian, with them. She has been abroad at school for years, and is very nice. I ought to have told Fred and Nina. How stupid in me! But they will find their invitations when they get home. Now hop in, quick, and don't tear my flounces. You are so awkward.'

'I suppose Hal never tears your flounces,' Tom said, as he took his seat beside his sister, and gave Jerrie a look which sent the blood in great waves to her face and neck, for it seemed to imply that he understood the case and supposed she did too.

The St. Claire carriage had driven away with Nina and Dick, and Fred, and the carriage from Le Bateau had gone, too, when at last Jerrie and Harold started down the road and along the highway to the gate through which the strange woman had once passed with the baby Jerrie in her arms. The baby was a young woman now, tall and erect, with her head set high as she walked silently by Harold's side, until the gate was reached and they passed into the shaded lane, where they were hidden from the sight of anyone upon the main road leading to the park house. Then stopping suddenly, she faced squarely toward her companion, and said:

'Why didn't you come to commencement? Tom Tracy said you were shingling a roof, and Billy Peterkin said Maude was helping you.'

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