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   Chapter 35 THE GARDEN PARTY.

Tracy Park By Mary Jane Holmes Characters: 18338

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Jerrie went on very rapidly toward home, almost running at times, and not at all conscious of the absence of her parasol, or that the noonday sun was beating hot upon her head, conscious only of a bitter feeling of pain and vexation, the latter that she had allowed herself to speak so angrily to Tom, and of pain because of what he had said to her of Maude and Harold. Do what she might, she could not forget the tone of Harold's voice, or the look in his eyes when he bade her good-bye that morning, or that his whole manner since her return had been more like that of a lover than of a brother. And still there was that little throb of jealousy tugging at her heart-strings, notwithstanding that he had said to herself in substance not more than an hour before that she believed she could give Harold to Maude, whose love for him she could not doubt.

'And I'll do it now,' she said, at last, to herself. 'I'll fight it down, this something which makes me hate myself. If Harold loves Maude he shall never know from me of that horrible pain which cuts me like a knife and makes me forget to be indignant at Tom for talking so much of his money and his position, as if they could buy me! Poor Tom! I said some sharp things to him, but he deserved them, the prig! Let him marry that governor's daughter if he can. I am sure I wish him success.'

She had reached home by this time, and found their simple dinner waiting for her. 'Oh, grandma, why did you do it? Why didn't you wait for me?' she said, as she took her seat at the table where the dishes were all so plain, and the cloth, though white and clean, so coarse and cheap.

Jerrie was as fond of luxury and elegance as any one, and Tracy Park, with its appurtenances, would have suited her taste better than the cottage.

'But not with Tom, not with Tom,' she kept on repeating to herself, as she cleared the table and washed the dishes, and then brought in and folded the clothes for the morrow's ironing.

By this time she was very tired, and going to her cool, pretty room, she threw herself upon the lounge and slept soundly for three hours or more. Sleep is a wonderful tonic, and Jerrie rose refreshed and quite herself again. Not even a thought of Maude and Harold disturbed her as she went whistling and singing around her room, hanging up her dresses one by one, and wondering which she should wear at the garden party. Deciding at last upon a simple white muslin, which, although two years old, was still in fashion, and very becoming, she arranged her wavy hair in a fluffy mass at the back of her head, brushed her bangs into short, soft curls upon her forehead, pinned a cluster of roses on the bosom of her dress, and was ready for the party.

'Tell Harold, if he is not too tired, I want him very much to come for me,' she said, to Mrs. Crawford, and then about five o'clock started for Grassy Spring, where she found the guests all assembled in the pleasant, shady grounds, which surrounded the house.

Tom was there in his character of a fine city dandy, and the moment he saw Jerry, he hastened to meet her, greeting her with perfect self-possession, as if nothing had happened.

'You are late,' he said, going up to her. 'We are waiting for you to complete our eight hand croquet, and I claim you as my partner.'

'I c-c call that mean, T-t-tom. I was g-g-going to ask J-jerrie to pl-play with m-me,' little Billy said, hopping around them, while Dick's face showed that he, too, would like the pleasure of playing with Jerrie, who was known to be an expert and seldom missed a ball.

Naturally, however, Marian Raymond, as a stranger, would fall to him, and they were soon paired off, Dick and Marian, Tom and Jerrie, Nina and Billy, Fred Raymond and Ann Eliza, who wore diamonds enough for a full dress party, and whose red hair was piled on the top of her head so loosely that the ends of it stuck out here and there like the streamers on a boat on gala days. This careless style of dressing her hair, Ann Eliza affected, thinking it gave individuality to her appearance; and it certainly did attract general observation, her hair was so red and bushy. Dick had stumbled and stammered dreadfully when confessing to his sister that he had invited the Peterkins, while Nina had drawn a long breath of dismay as she thought of presenting Ann Eliza and Billy to Marian Raymond, with her culture and aristocratic ideas. Then she burst into a laugh and said, with her usual sweetness:

'Never mind, Dickie. You could not do otherwise. I'll prepare Marian, and the Peterkins will really enjoy it.'

So Marian, who, with all her accomplishments and foreign air, was a kind-hearted, sensible girl, was prepared, and received the Peterkins very graciously, and seemed really pleased with Billy, whose big, kind heart shone through his diminutive body and always won him friends. He was very happy to be there, because he liked society, and because he knew Jerrie was coming; and Ann Eliza was very glad because she felt it an honor to be at Grassy Spring, and because she knew Tom was coming, and when he came she fastened upon him with a tenacity which he could not well shake off; and when croquet was proposed she was the first to respond.

'Oh, yes, that will be nice, and I know our side will beat,' and she looked at Tom as it were a settled thing that she should play with him.

But Tom was not in a mood to be gracious. He had come to the entertainment, which he mentally called a bore, partly because he would not let Jerrie think he was taking her refusal to heart, and partly because he must see her again, even if she never could be his wife. All the better nature of Tom was concentrated in his love for Jerrie, and had she married him he would probably have made her as happy as a wholly selfish man can make happy the woman he loves. But she had declined his offer, and wounded him deeper than she supposed.

A hundred times he had said to himself that afternoon, as he sat alone in the lovely park-of which he had once said to Harold, he was to be the hare, and of whose possession in the future he had boasted to Jerrie-that he did not care a sou, that he was glad she had refused him, for after all it was only an infatuation on his part; that the girl of the carpet-bag was not the wife for a Tracy; but the twinge of pain in his heart belied his words, and he knew he did love Jerrie Crawford better than he should ever again love any girl, whether the daughter of a governor or of the president.

'And I go to the party, too, just to show her that I don't care, and for the sake of looking at her,' he said. 'She can't help that, and it is a pleasure to look at a woman so grandly developed and perfectly formed as she is. By Jove! Hal Hastings is a lucky dog; but I shall hate him forever.'

So Tom pulled himself together, and went to Grassy Spring in a frame of mind not the most amiable; and when croquet was proposed, he sneered at it as something quite too passé, citing lawn tennis as the only decent outdoor amusement.

'Why, then, don't you set it up on your grounds, where you have plenty of room, and ask us all over there?' Dick asked, good-humoredly, as he began to get out the mallets and balls.

To this Tom did not reply, but said, instead:

'Count me out. I don't like the game, and there are enough without me.'

Just then Jerry appeared at the gate, and he added quickly:

'Still, I don't wish to be ungracious; and now Jerrie has come, we can have an eight hand.'

Hastening toward her, he met her as we have recorded, and claimed her for his partner.

'Thank you, Tom,' Jerrie said, with a bright smile on her face, which made the young man's heart beat fast with both pleasure and pain, as he gave her the mallet and told her she was to play first.

Tom was making himself master of ceremonies, and Dick kept quiet and let him, and watched Jerrie admiringly as she made the two arches, and the third, and fourth, and then sent her ball out of harm's way. It was a long and closely contested game, for all were skilful players, except poor Ann Eliza, who was always behind and required a great deal of attention from her partner especially when it came to croqueting a ball. She did not know exactly what to do, and kept her foot so long upon the ball that less amiable girls than Nina and Jerrie would have said she did it on purpose, to show how small and pretty it looked in her closely fitting French boot. But Jerrie's side beat, as it usually did. She had become a 'rover' the second round, had rescued Tom from many a difficulty, and taken Ann Eliza through four or five wickets, besides doing good service to her other friends.

'I p-p-propose three ch-cheers for Jerrie,' Billy said, standing on his tiptoes and nearly splitting his throat with his own hurrah.

After the game was over they repaired to the piazza, where the little tables were laid for tea, and where Jerrie found herself vis-à-vis with Marian Raymond, of whom she had thought she might stand a little in awe, she had heard so much of her. But the mesmeric power which Jerrie possessed drew the Kentucky girl to her at once, an

d they were soon in a most animated conversation.

'You do not seem like a stranger to me,' Marian said, 'and I should almost say I had seen you before, you are so like a picture in Germany.'

'Yes,' Jerrie answered, with a gasp, and a feeling such as she always experienced when the spell was upon her and she saw things as in a dream.

'Was it in a gallery?'

'Oh, no; it was in a house we rented in Wiesbaden. You know, perhaps, that I was there at school for a long time. Then, when mamma came out, and I was through school, we stayed there for months, it was so lovely, and we rented a house which an Englishman had bought and made over. Such a pretty house it was, too, with so many flowers and vines around it.'

'And the picture-did it belong to the Englishman?' Jerrie asked.

'Oh, no,' Marian replied: 'it did not seem to belong to anybody. Mr. Carter-that was the name of our landlord-said it was there in the wall when he took the house, which was then very small and low, with only two or three rooms. He bought it because of the situation, which, though very quiet and pleasant, was so near the Kursaal that we could always hear the music without going to the garden.

'Yes,' Jerrie said again, with her head on one side, and her ear turned up, as if she were listening to some far-off, forgotten strains. 'Yes; and the picture was like me, you say-how like me?'

'Every way like you,' Marian replied; 'except that the original must have been younger when it was taken-sixteen, perhaps-and she was smaller than you, and wore a peasant's dress, and was knitting on a bench under a tree, with the sunshine falling around her, and at a little distance a gentleman stood watching her. But what is the matter, Miss Crawford? Are you sick?' Marian asked, suddenly, as she saw the bright color fade for an instant from Jerrie's face, leaving it deathly white, while Tom and Dick knocked their heads together in their efforts to get her a glass of water, which they succeeded in spilling into her lap.

'It is nothing,' Jerrie said, recovering herself quickly. 'I have been in the hot sun a good deal to-day, and perhaps that affected me and made me a little faint. 'It has passed now;' and she looked up as brightly as ever.

'It's that confounded washing!' Tom thought; but Jerrie could have told him differently.

As Marian had talked to her of the house in Wiesbaden and the picture on the wall-of the peasant girl knitting in the sunshine-she had seen, as by revelation, through a rift in the clouds which separated her from the past-the picture on the wall, in its pretty Florentine frame, and knew that it resembled the pale, sweet face which came to her so often and was so real to her. Was it her old home Marian was describing? Had she lived there once, when the house consisted of only two or three rooms? and was that a picture of her mother, left there she knew not how or why? These were the thoughts crowding each other so fast in her brain when the faintness and pallor crept over her and the objects about her began to seem unreal. But the cold water revived her, and she was soon herself again, listening while Marian talked of heat and sun-strokes, with an evident forgetfulness of the peasant girl knitting in the sunshine; but Jerrie soon recurred to the subject and asked, rather abruptly: 'Was there a stove in that house-a tall, white stove, in a corner of one of the old rooms-say the kitchen-and a high-backed settee?'

Marian stared at her a moment in surprise, and then replied:

'Oh, I know what you mean-those unwieldy things in which they sometimes put the wood from the hall. No; there was nothing of that kind, though there was an old settee by the kitchen fire-place, but not a tall stove. Mr. Carter had modernized the house, and set up a real Yankee stove-Stewart's, I think they called it.'

'Was the picture in the kitchen?' Jerrie asked next.

'No,' Marian replied, 'it was in a little, low apartment which must once have been the best room.'

'And was there no theory with regard to it! It seems strange that any one should leave it there if he cared for it,' Jerrie said.

'Yes, it does,' Marian replied; 'but all Mr. Carter knew was that the people of whom he bought the house said the portrait was there when they took possession, and that it had been left to apply on the back rent; also that the original was dead. He (Mr. Carter) had bought the picture with the house, and offered to take it down, but I would not let him. It was such a sweet, sunny, happy face that it did me good to look at it, and wonder who the young girl was, and if her life were ever linked with that of the stranger watching her.'

Again the faintness came upon Jerrie, for she could see so plainly on the sombre wall the picture of the sweet-faced girl, with the long stocking in her lap-a very long stocking she felt sure it was, but dared not ask, lest they should think her question a strange one. Of the stranger in the back yard watching the young girl she had no recollection, but her heart beat wildly as she thought:

'Was that Mr. Arthur, and was the young girl Gretchen?'

How fast the lines touching her past had widened about her since she first saw the likeness in the mirror, and her confused memories of the past began to take shape and assume a tangible form.

'I will find that house, and that picture, and that Mr. Carter, and the people who lived there before him,' she said to herself; and then again, addressing Marian, she asked:

'What was the street, and the number of that house?'

Marian told her the street, but could not remember the number, while Tom said, laughingly:

'Why, Jerrie, what makes you so much interested in an old German house? Do you expect to go there and live in it?'

'Yes,' Jerrie replied, in the same light tone. 'I am going to Germany sometime-going to Wiesbaden, and I mean to find that house and the picture which Miss Raymond says I am so much like; then I shall know how I look to others. You remember the couplet:

'"Oh, wad some power the giftie gie us,

To see ourselfs as others see us!"

'Look in the glass there, the best one you can find, and you'll see yourself as others see you,' Dick said, gallantly.

Before Jerrie could reply, a servant appeared on the piazza, saying there was some one at the telephone asking for Mr. Peterkin.

It proved to be Billy's father, who was in the village, and had received a telegram from Springfield concerning a lawsuit which was pending between himself and a rival firm, which claimed that he had infringed upon their patents. Before replying to the telegram he wished to confer with his son, who was to come at once to the hotel, and, if necessary, go to Springfield that night.

'B-by Jove,' Billy said, as he returned to the piazza and explained the matter, 'it's t-t-too bad that I must g-go, when I'm enjoying m-myself t-t-tip-top. I wish that lawsuit was in Gu-Guinea.'

Then turning to Ann Eliza he asked how she would get home if he did nut return.

'Oh, don't trouble about me. I can take care of myself,' Ann Eliza said, with a bounce up in her chair, which set every loose hair of her frowzy head to flying.

'M-m-maybe they'll send the ca-carriage,' Billy went on, 'and if they do-don't, m-may be you can g-go with T-Tom as far as his house, and then you wo-wont be afraid.'

Tom could have killed the little man for having thus made it impossible for him not to see his sister safely home. He had fully intended to forestall Dick, and go with Jerrie if Harold did not come, for though she had refused him, he wished to keep her as a friend, hoping that in time she might be led to reconsider. He liked to hear her voice-to look into her face-to be near her, and the walk in the moonlight, with her upon his arm, had been something very pleasant to contemplate, and now it was snatched from him by Billy's ill-advised speech, and old Peterkin's red-haired daughter thrust upon him. It was rather hard, and Tom's face was very gloomy and dark for the remainder of the evening, while they sat upon the piazza and laughed, and talked, and said the little nothings so pleasant to the young and so meaningless to the old who have forgotten their youth.

Jerrie was the first to speak of going. She had hoped that Harold might possibly come for her, but as the time passed on, and he did not appear, she knew he was not coming, and at last arose to say good-night to Nina, while Dick hastened forward and announced his intention to accompany her.

'No, Dick, no; please don't,' she said. 'I am not a bit afraid, and I would rather you did not go.'

But Dick was persistent.

'You know you accepted my services this morning,' he said, and his face, as he went down the steps with Jerrie on his arm, wore a very different expression from that of poor Tom, who, with Ann Eliza coming about to his elbow, stalked moodily along the road, scarcely hearing and not always replying to the commonplace remarks of his companion, who had never been so happy in her life, because never before had she been out alone in the evening with Tom Tracy as her escort.

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