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   Chapter 43 HAROLD AND JERRIE.

Tracy Park By Mary Jane Holmes Characters: 14195

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


The news which so electrified all Shannondale was slow in reaching Mrs. Crawford, but it did reach her at last, crushing and overwhelming her with a sense of shame and anguish, until as the day wore on, Grace Atherton, and Mrs. St. Claire, and Nina, and many others came to reassure her, and to say that it was all a mistake, which would be soon cleared up.

Thus comforted and consoled, she tried to be calm, and wait patiently for the train. But there was a great pity for her boy in her heart as she sat by Jerrie's bedside and watched her in all her varying moods, now perfectly quiet, with her wide open eyes staring up at the ceiling as if she were seeing something there, now talking of Peterkin, and the Tramp House, and the table, and the blow, and again of the bag, which she said was lost, and which her grandmother must find.

Thinking she meant the carpet bag, Mrs. Crawford brought that to her, but she tossed it aside impatiently saying:

'No, no; the other one, which tells it all. Where is it! I must have lost it. Find it, find it. To be so near, and yet so far. What did it say? Why can't I think? Am I like Mr. Arthur-crazy, like him?'

Mrs. Crawford thought her crazier than Arthur, and waited still more impatiently for Harold, until she heard his step outside, and knew that he had come.

'Harold!'

'Grandma!' was all they said for a moment while the poor old lady was sobbing on his neck, and then he comforted her as best he could, telling her that it was all over now-that no one but Peterkin had accused him-that everybody was ready to defend him, and that after a little he could explain everything.

'And now I must see Jerrie,' he continued, starting for the stairs, and glad that his grandmother did not attempt to follow him.

Jerrie had heard his voice, and had raised herself in bed, and as he came in, met him with the question:

'Have you brought them? Has any one seen them?'

The strange light in her eyes should have told Harold how utterly incapable she was of giving any rational answers to his questions, but he did not think of that, and instead of trying to quiet her, he plunged at once into the subject she had broached:

'Do you mean the diamonds?' he asked.

'Yes,' she replied, 'the diamonds! the diamonds! Where are they?'

'Mrs. Tracy has them by this time,' Harold replied.

'Mrs. Tracy!' Jerrie exclaimed. 'What has she to do with them? They are not hers. They are mine-they are mine! Bring them to me-bring them to me.'

She was terribly excited, and for a time Harold bent all his energies to soothe her, and at last when from sheer exhaustion she became quiet he said to her:

'Jerrie, where did you find the diamonds?'

She looked at him curiously, but made no reply, and he continued:

'You must tell me where you found them: it is necessary I should know.'

Still she did not reply, but stared at him, as if not fully comprehending what he meant.

'Jerrie,' he said again, 'do you love me?'

Quickly her eyes filled with tears, and she replied:

'Love you, Harold! Yes, more than you ever dreamed of; more than you love me.'

Instantly Harold had his arms around her, for she had risen to a sitting posture, and pillowing her head upon his breast, he said:

'No, darling, that is impossible, for I love you better than my life,' and his lips pressed hers passionately. He felt that this was their betrothal, for he did not take into consideration the state of her mind; but she undeceived him quickly, for although she kissed him back, she said, with a tinge of sarcasm in her voice:

'Aren't you afraid they will see you?'

'Who are they?' he asked, and she replied

'The people, and the Harvard boys and Maude.'

He did not know at all what she meant, but at the mention of Maude he groaned involuntarily, as the white face came up before him again and the eyes looked into his, fuller far of love and tenderness than those confronting him so steadily, with no consciousness of his real meaning in them.

'Those diamonds have caused me a great deal of trouble,' he began again, 'and will cause me more unless you tell me where you found them. Try and think. Was it in the Tramp House?'

That started her at once, and she began to rave of the Tramp House, and the rat-hole, and the table, and Peterkin, who dealt the blow. The bruise on her head had not proved so serious as was at first feared, and with her tangled hair falling over her face Harold had not noticed it. But he looked at it now and questioned her of it, and asking if Peterkin had struck her there.

'No,' she said, and began the senseless babbling of rat-holes, and table-legs and bags, and diamonds until Harold became alarmed and went for his grandmother.

There was nothing to be learned from Jerrie in her present condition, and so Harold started for the Tramp House to see what that would tell him. The table was still upon the floor, with the three legs piled upon it, while the fourth one was missing. But Harold found it at last; for, remembering what Jerrie had said of the rat-hole, he investigated that spot, and from its enlarged appearance drew his own conclusion. Jerrie had found the diamonds there; he had no doubt of it, and he told Tom Tracy so; for, as if there was a fascination about the place for him, Tom appeared in the door-way just as Harold was leaving it. Sitting down upon the bench where Jerrie had sat that day when Peterkin attacked her, the two young men who had been enemies all their lives, but who were now drawn together by a common sympathy and love for the same girl, talked the matter over again, each arriving at the same theory as the most probable one they could accept.

'Arthur, in a crazy fit, had secreted the diamonds, and Jerrie knew it, but possibly not where he had put them. This accounted for her strange sickness when a child, while her finding them later on, added to other causes, would account for her sickness now. Peterkin owns that he was blowing her up for something, and that he knocked the table down with his fist, but he swears he didn't touch her,' Tom said, repeating in substance all Peterkin had said to him in the train when shaking with fear of a writ.

'And do you still mean to keep silent with regard to Jerrie?' Tom asked.

'Yes,' Harold replied; 'her name must not be mentioned in connection with the diamonds. I can't have the slightest breath of suspicion touching Jerrie, my sister.'

'Sister be hanged!' Tom began savagely, then checked himself, and added with a sneering laugh: 'Don't try to deceive me, Hal, with your sister business. You love Jerrie, and she loves you, and that is one reason why I hate you, or shall, when this miserable business is cleared up. Just now we must pull together and find out where she found the diamonds, and who put them there. To write to Uncle Arthur would do no good, though seeing him might; the last we heard he was thinking of taking the coast voyage from San Francisco to Tacoma.'

'Tom,' Harold exclaimed, with great energy, as he sprang to his feet, 'that decides me;' a

nd then he told of the offer Billy had made him on the car. 'When I saw how sick Jerrie was, I made up my mind not to accept it, although I need the money badly. But now, if Jerrie gets no worse, I shall start for Tacoma in a few days and shall find your uncle Arthur, if he is to be found.'

It was growing dark when the two young men finally emerged from the house and stood for a moment outside, while Harold inquired for Maude.

'She is not very well, that's a fact,' Tom said, gloomily; 'and no wonder, when mother keeps her cooped up in one room, without enough fresh air, and lets nobody see her except the family and the doctor, for fear they will excite her. She knows nothing about the diamonds, nor that Jerrie is sick. I did tell her, though, that you had come home; and, by Jove! I pretty near forgot it. She wants to see you bad; but, Lord! mother won't let you in. No use to try. She's like a she-wolf guarding its cub. Good-night.'

And Tom walked away, while Harold went back to the cottage, where he found Jerrie sleeping very quietly, with a look on her face so like that it had worn in her babyhood, when he called her his little girl, that he involuntarily stooped down and kissed it as one would kiss a beautiful baby.

The next morning Jerrie was very restless, and talked wildly of the Tramp House and the diamonds, insisting that they were hers and must be brought to her.

'Why did you tell her about them?' Mrs. Crawford asked, reproachfully.

But Harold did not reply, his mind was so torn with distracting doubts as to whether he ought to take the western trip or not.

If he went, he must go at once, and to leave Jerrie in her present state seemed impossible. He would consult the physician first, and Judge St. Claire next. The doctor gave it as his opinion that Jerrie was in no danger, if she were only kept quiet. She had taken a severe cold and overtaxed her strength, while most likely she had inherited from some one a tendency to be flighty when anything was the matter, and he thought Harold might venture to leave her.

'Yes, I'd go if I were you,' he added, looking intently at the young man; for, like Billy, he too thought it might be pleasanter for him to be out of the way for a time, although he did not say so.

And this was the view the judge took of it, after a few moments' conversation. His first question had been:

'Well, my boy, can you tell me now who gave them to you?'

'No, I can't,' was Harold's reply; and then, acting upon a sudden impulse, he burst out impetuously: 'Yes, I will tell you, for I can trust you, and I want your advice so badly.'

So he repeated rapidly all he knew, and his theory with regard to Arthur, whom he wished so much to find, and of Billy's proposition that he should go on his business to Tacoma. For a few moments the judge seemed perplexed and undecided, for he was balancing in his mind the pros and cons for going from the people, or staying to face them. If he stayed he might have some unpleasant things to bear and hear, for there were those who would talk, in spite of their protestations of the young man's innocence; while to go might look like running away from the storm, with the matter unexplained. On the whole, however, he decided that it was better to go.

'Jerrie's interests are safe with me,' he said, 'and by the time you return everything will be explained; but find Mr. Tracy as soon as possible. I am inclined to think your theory with regard to him correct.'

So it was decided that Harold should go, and the next night was appointed for him to start. Had he known that Peterkin, and even Mrs. Tracy, were each in his or her own way insinuating that he was running from public opinion, nothing could have induced him to leave. But he did not know it, and went about his preparations with as brave a heart as he could command under the circumstances. Jerrie was more quiet now, though every effort on his part to learn anything from her concerning the diamonds brought on a fit of raving, when she would insist that the jewels were hers, and must be brought to her at once.

'But you told me they were Mrs. Tracy's,' he said to her once.

With a cunning gleam in her eyes, she replied:

'So they are, or were; but oh, how little you know!'

And this was all he could get from her.

He told her he was going away, but that did not seem to affect her, and she only began to talk of Maude, who, she said, must not be harmed.

'Have you seen her? have you seen her?' she kept saying.

'Not yet,' he replied, 'but I am going to say good-bye;' and on the day of his departure he went to the Park House and asked if he could see Maude.

'Of course not,' was Mrs. Tracy's prompt reply, when the request was taken to her. 'No one sees her, and I certainly shall not allow him to enter her room.'

'But, Dolly,' Frank began, protestingly, but was cut short by the lady, who said:

'You needn't "Dolly" me, or try to take his part, either. I have my opinion, and always shall. He cannot see Maude, and you may tell him so,' turning now to the servant who had brought Harold's message, and who softened it as much as possible.

Harold had half expected a refusal, and was prepared for it. Taking a card from his pocket, he wrote upon it:

'DEAR MAUDE,-I am going away for a few weeks, and am very sorry that I cannot see you; but your mother knows best, of course, and I must not do anything to make you worse. I shall think of you very often, and hope to find you much better when I return.

'HAROLD.'

'Will you give this to her?' he said to the girl, who answered that she would, and who, of course, read every word before she took it to her young mistress, late in the afternoon, while the family were at dinner, and she was left in charge of the invalid.

'Mr. Hastings sent you this,' she said, handing the card to Maude, into whose face the bright color rushed, but left it instantly as she read the few hurried lines.

'Going away! Gone! and I didn't see him!' she exclaimed, regardless of consequences. 'And mother did it. I know she did. I will talk till I spit blood; then see what she'll say!' she continued, as the frightened girl tried to stop her, and as she could not, ran for Mrs. Tracy, who came in much alarm, asking what was the matter.

'You sent Harold away. You didn't let him see me, and he is-'

Maude gasped, but could get no farther, for the paroxysm of coughing which came on, together with a hemorrhage which made her so weak that they thought her dying all night, she lay so white, and still, and insensible, save at times when her lips moved, and her mother, bending over her, heard her whisper:

'Send for Harold.'

But it was too late now; the train had come and gone, and taken Harold with it, away from the girl he loved and from, the girls who loved him so devotedly, and both of whom, for a few days after his departure, went down very near to the gates of death, and whose first enquiry, when they at last came back to life and consciousness, was for Harold and why he stayed away.

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