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   Chapter 40 'DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE DONE '

Tracy Park By Mary Jane Holmes Characters: 10618

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Judging from the result, this question might far better have been put to rather than by Peterkin, as he stood puffing, and hot, and indignant in the Tramp House, looking down upon Jerrie, who was sitting upon the wooden bench, with her aching head resting upon a corner of the old table standing against the wall just where it stood that stormy night fifteen years ago, when death claimed the woman beside her, but left her unharmed.

After saying good-bye to Maude, Jerrie had walked very slowly through the park, stopping more than once to rest upon the seats scattered here and there, and wondering more and more at the feeling which oppressed her and the terrible pain in her head, which grew constantly worse as she went on.

'I'm afraid I'm going to be sick,' she said to herself. 'I never felt this way before; and no wonder, with all I have gone through the last few weeks. The getting ready for the commencement, the coming home, and all the excitement which followed, with three men, one after another, offering themselves to me, and the drenching that night in the rain, and then watching by Maude without a wink of sleep, it is enough to make a behemoth sick, and I am so dizzy and hot-'

She had reached the Tramp House by this time, and, feeling that she could go no farther without resting herself, she went in, and seating herself upon the bench, laid her tired, aching head upon the table, and felt again for a few moments that strange sensation as if the top of her head were rising up and up until she could not reach it with her hand, for she tried, and thought of Ann Eliza, with her hair piled so high on her head.

'The loss of an inch or two might improve me,' she said, though I'd rather keep my scalp.'

Then she seemed to be drifting away into the realms of sleep, and all around her were confusion and bewilderment. The window, across which the woodbine was growing, changed places with the door; the floor rose up and bowed to her, while the room was full of faces, beckoning to and smiling upon her. Faces like the one she knew so well, the pale face in the chair; faces like her own, as she remembered it when a child; faces like the dark woman dead so long ago and buried in the Tracy lot, and faces like Arthur's as she had seen him oftenest, when he spoke so lovingly, and called her little Cherry. Then the scene changed, and the old Tramp House was full of wondrous music, which came floating in at every crevice and through the open door and windows, while she listened intently in her dreams as the grand chorus went on. It as was if Arthur, from the top of the highest peak beyond the Rocky Mountains, and Gretchen, from her lonely grave in far-off Germany, were calling to each other across two continents, their voices meeting and mingling together in the Tramp House in a jubilistic strain, now wild and weird like the cry of the dying woman looking out into the stormy night, now soft and low as the lullaby a fond mother sings to her sleeping child, and now swelling louder and louder, and higher and higher, until the rafters rang with the joyous music, and the whole world outside was filled with the song of gladness.

Wake up, Jerrie! Wake from the dream of rapture to a reality far more rapturous, for the time is at hand, the hour has come, heralded by the shadow which falls over the floor as Peterkin's burly figure crosses the threshold and enters the silent room.

After Peterkin's conversation with his son concerning his future wife, Jerrie had grown rapidly in the old man's favor. It is true she had neither name nor money, the latter of which was scarcely necessary in this case, but he was not insensible to the fact that she possessed other qualities and advantages which would be a help to the house of Peterkin in its efforts to rise. No girl in the neighborhood was more popular or more sought after than Jerrie, or more intimate with the big-bugs, as he styled the St. Claires, and Athertons, and Tracys. Jerrie would draw; Jerry would boost; and he found himself forming many plans for the young couple, who were to occupy the south wing; and in fancy he saw Arthur at Le Bateau half the time at least, while the rest of the time the carriages from Grassy Spring, and Brier Hill, and Tracy Park, were standing under the stone arch in front of the door. How, then, was he disappointed, and enraged, too, when told by his son that Jerrie had refused him?

Peterkin had been in Springfield nearly a week, and after his return home had waited a little before broaching the subject to his son; so that it was not until the morning before the day of the lawsuit that he learned the truth by closely questioning Billy, who shielded and defended Jerrie as far as possible.

'Not have you! Refused you! Don't love you! Don't care for money! Thunderation! What does the girl mean? Is she crazy? Is she a fool? Is she in love with some other idiot?'

'I th-think so, yes; th-though it did not occur to me then,' Billy answered, very meekly; 'and if so she ca-can't care for me any mo-more that I ca-can care for any other girl.'

'And you are a fool, too,' was the affectionate rejoinder. 'I'll be dummed if you ain't a pair! Who is the lucky man? Not that dog Harold, who is goin' to swear agin' us to-morrow? If it is, I b'lieve I

'll shoot him.'

'Father,' Billy cried in alarm, 'be quiet; if I can st-stand it, you can.'

But Peterkin swore he wouldn't stand it. He'd do something, he didn't know what; and all the morning he went about the house like a madman, swearing at his wife, because she wasn't up to snuff, and couldn't hoe her own with the 'ristocrats; swearing at Billy because he was a fool, and so small that 'twas no wonder a bean-pole like Jerrie wouldn't look at him, and swearing at Ann Eliza because her hair was so red, and because she had sprained her ankle for the sake of having Tom Tracy bring her home, hoping he would keep calling to see her, and thus give her a chance to rope him in, which she never could as long as the world stood.

'Neither you nor Bill will ever marry, with all your money, unless you take up with a cobbler, and he with a washwoman,' was his farewell remark, as he finally left the house about three o'clock and started for the village, where he had some of his own witnesses to see before taking the train for Springfield at five.

His wife had ventured to suggest that he go in a carriage, as it was so warm, but he had answered, savagely:

'Go to thunder with your carriage and coat-of-arms! What good have they ever done us only to make folks laugh at us for a pack of fools? Nothing under heaven gives us a h'ist, and I'm just goin' to quit the folderol and pad it on foot, as I used to when I was cap'n of the 'Liza Ann-durn it!'

And so, with his bag in his hand, he started rapidly down the road in the direction of Shannondale. But the sun was hot, and he was hot, and his bag was heavy, and, cursing himself for a fool that he had not taken the carriage, he finally struck into the park as a cooler, if a longer, route to the station.

As he came near the Tramp House, which gave no sign of its sleeping occupant, something impelled him to look in at the door. And this he did with a thought of Jerrie in his heart, though with no suspicion that she was there; and when he saw her he started suddenly, and uttered an exclamation of surprise, which roused her from her heavy slumber.

'Oh!' she exclaimed, shedding back her golden hair from her flushed face and lifting her eyes to him; but whatever else she might have said was prevented by his outburst of passion, which began with the question:

'Do you know what you have done?'

Jerrie looked at him wonderingly, but made no reply, and he went on:

'Yes, do you know what you have done?-you, a poor, unknown girl, who, but for the Tracys, would have gone to the poor-house sure as guns, where you orter have gone! Yes, you orter. You refuse my Bill! you, who hain't a cent to your name; and all for that sneak of a Harold, who will swear agin me to-morrer. I know he's at the root on't, though Bill didn't say so, and I hate him wuss than pizen; he, who has been at the wheel in my shop and begged swill for a livin'! he to be settin' up for a gentleman and a cuttin' out my Bill, who will be wuth more'n a million,-yes, two millions, probably, and you have refused him! Do you hear me, gal?'

He yelled this last, for something in Jerry's attitude made him think Jerrie was not giving him her undivided attention, for she was still listening to the music, which seemed to swell higher and higher, louder and clearer, until it almost drowned the voice of the man demanding a second time so fiercely:

'Do you hear me, gal?'

'Yes, I hear you,' she said. 'You are talking of Harold, and saying things you shall not repeat in my presence.'

'Hoity-toity, miss! What's to hinder me repeatin' in your presence that Harold Hastings is a sneak and a snob, a hewer of wood, a drawer of water, and a-'

Jerrie had risen to her feet, and stood up so tall and straight that, it seemed to Peterkin as if she towered even above himself, while something in the flash of her blue eyes made him think of Arthur when he turned him from the house for accusing Harold of theft, and also of the little child who had attacked him so fiercely on that wintry morning when the dead woman lay stretched upon the table at the Park House, with her dark face upturned to the ceiling above.

'I shall hinder you,' she said, her voice ringing clear and distinct; 'and if you breathe another word against Harold, I'll turn you from this room. The Tramp House is mine; Mr. Arthur gave it to me, and you cannot stay in it with me.'

"Heavens and earth! hear the girl! One would s'pose she was the Queen of Sheby to hear her go on, instead of a beggar, whose father was the Lord only knows who, and whose mother was found in rags on this 'ere table. Drat the dum thing!" Peterkin roared, bringing his fist down with such force upon the poor old rickety table that it fell to pieces under the blow and went crashing to the floor.

Jerrie's face was a face to fear then, and Peterkin was afraid, and backed himself out of the room, with Jerrie close to him, never speaking a word, but motioning him to the door, through which he passed swiftly, and picking up his bag, walked rapidly away, growling to himself:

'There's the very Old Harry in that gal's eye. Bill did well to get shet of her; and yit, if she'd married him, how she would have rid over all their heads! Well, to be sure, what a dum fool she is!'

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