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   Chapter 45 WHAT FOLLOWED.

Tracy Park By Mary Jane Holmes Characters: 8220

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


'Thank God that it is out! I couldn't have borne it much longer,' leaped involuntarily from Frank's lips.

No one heard it save Jerrie, and she scarcely heeded it then; for with one bound, as it seemed to the petrified spectators, who divided right and left to let her pass, she reached the opposite door-way, and stooping over the little figure lying there so still, lifted it tenderly, and carrying it up stairs, laid it down in the room it would never leave again until other hands than hers carried it out and laid it away in the Tracy lot, where only Jack and the dark woman were lying now.

Maude had heard all Jerrie was saying, and understood it, too; and at the words, 'I am Jerrie Tracy,' she felt an electric thrill pass over her, like what she had experienced when watching the acting in some great tragedy; then all was darkness, and she knew no more until Jerrie was bending over her and she heard her mother saying:

'Leave her to me, Miss Crawford. You have done harm enough for one day. You have killed my daughter!'

'No!' Maude cried, exerting all her strength. 'She has not hurt me. She must not go, I want her; for if what she said is true, she is my own cousin. Oh, Jerrie, I am so glad!' and throwing her arms around Jerrie's neck, Maude sobbed convulsively.

As yet Maude saw only the good which had come to her, if the news were true; the evil had not yet been presented to her, and she clung tightly to Jerrie, who, nearly distraught herself, did not know what to do. She knew that Mrs. Tracy looked upon her as an intruder, and possibly a liar; but she cared little for that lady's opinion. She only thought of Frank and what he would say.

Lifting up her head at last from the pillow where she had lain it for a moment, while Maude's thin little hands caressed the golden hair, she saw him standing at the foot of the bed, taller, straighter than she had seen him in years, with a look on his face which she knew was not adverse to herself.

'Jerrie,' he said, slowly and thickly, for something choked his speech, 'I can't tell you now all I feel, only I am glad for you and Arthur, but gladder for myself.'

What did he mean? Jerrie wondered; while Maude's eyes sought his questioningly, and his wife said, sharply:

'You are talking like a lunatic! Do you propose to give up so easily to a girl's bare word! Let Jerrie prove it, before she is mistress here.'

Then into Maude's eyes there crept a look of terror and pain, and she whispered:

'Yes, Jerrie, prove it. There were papers in your hand, and a bag, and you said, "It is so written here." Bring the papers and read them to us-here in this room. I can bear it. I must hear them. I must know.' 'Better let her have her way,' Frank said; and Dolly could have knocked him down, he spoke so cheerfully; while Jerrie answered:

'I can't read them myself aloud. They are written in German.'

'But Marian can. I saw her there. Let them all come up; they will have to know,' Maude persisted.

After a moment, during which a powerful tonic had been given to his daughter, Frank went down to his guests, who were eagerly discussing the strange story, which not one of them doubted in the least.

In her haste to reach Maude, Jerrie had dropped the bag and the two papers, which Judge St. Claire picked up and held for a moment in his hand; then passing the papers to Marian, he said:

'It can be no secret now, and Jerrie will not care. What do the papers contain?'

Running her eyes rapidly over them, Marian said:

'The first is a certificate of marriage between Arthur Tracy and Marguerite Heinrich, who were married October 20th, 18-, in the English church at Wiesbaden, by the Rev. Mr. Eaton, then the officiating clergyman. The second is a certificate of the birth and baptism of Jerrine, daughter of Arthur and Marguerite Tracy, who was born at Wiesbaden, January 1st, 18-, and christened January 8th, 18-, by the Rev. Mr. Eaton.'

Then a deep silence fell upon the group, while Tom stood like one paralyzed. He understood the situation perfectly, and knew that if Jerrie was mistress th

ere, he could never hope to be master.

'May as well evacuate at once,' he said at last, with an attempt to smile as he walked slowly out of the house, which he felt was his inheritance no longer.

Just then Frank came down, saying that Maude insisted upon knowing what was in the papers which Marian was to read, while the others were to come up and listen. He did not seem at all like a man who had lost anything, but bustled about cheerily; and when the judge said to him apologetically, 'We know the contents of two of the papers. They are certificates of the marriage of Arthur with Gretchen, and of Jerrie's birth. I hope you don't mind if we read them,' he answered, briskly.

'Not at all-not in the least. Arthur and Gretchen! I thought so. Where is Tom? He must hear the papers.'

He found his son under the true where he had been sitting the morning when Jerrie came near fainting there, and in his hand was a curious bit of pine finished like a grave-stone-the same he had whittled under the pines, and on which he was now carving, 'Euchred, August -, 18-.'

'This is the monument to our downfall,' he said, as his father came up to him with something so pitiful in his face and voice that Frank gave way suddenly, and, sitting down beside him, laid his hand upon his tall son's head and cried for a moment like a child, while Tom's chin quivered, and he was mortally afraid there was something like tears in his own eyes, and he meant to be so brave and not show that he was hurt.

'I am sorry for you, my boy,' Frank said at last, 'but glad for Jerrie-so glad-and she will not be hard on us.'

'I shall ask no favors of her. I can stand it if you can, though money is a good thing to have.'

And then, without in the least knowing why, he thought of Ann Eliza, and wondered how her ankle was getting along, and if he ought not to have called upon her again.

'Marian is going to read the papers in Maude's room, and I have come for you,' Frank said.

'I don't care to hear them,' Tom replied. 'I am satisfied that we are beggars, and Jerrie the heiress.'

But Frank insisted, and Tom went with him to his sister's room, followed by their friends, for whom the dinner was waiting and spoiling in the kitchen, where as yet no hint of what was transpiring had reached, save the fact that Maude had been down stairs and fainted. She was propped upon pillows scarcely whiter than her face save where two crimson spots burned brightly, and her eyes were fixed constantly upon Jerrie, who sat beside her, holding her cold, clammy hands, which she occasionally patted, and kissed and caressed.

'Where did you find the bag?' the judge asked; and then Jerrie narrated the particulars of her interview with Peterkin, whose destruction of the table had resulted in her finding the bag with the diamonds in it. 'They were mother's,' she said, the last words almost a sob, as she turned her eyes upon Mrs. Tracy, who stood like a block of stone, with no sympathy or credulity upon her face. 'Father bought them for her at the same time with Mrs. Tracy's, which they are exactly like. It is so written in her letter. And she sent them for me. They are mine and I gave them to Harold to keep untill I could think what to do. The diamonds are mine.'

She was still looking at Mrs. Tracy, on whom all eyes were now resting as the precious stones flashed, and glittered, and shone in the sunlight in the hall in all the colors of the rainbow.

For an instant the proud woman hesitated, then, quickly unclasping the ear-rings and the pin, she laid them in Jerrie's lap.

'You are welcome to your property, if it is yours, I am sure,' she said, and was about to leave the room.

But her husband kept her back.

'No, Dolly,' he said. 'You must stay, and hear, and know. It concerns us all.'

As he had closed the door and stood against it she had no alternative except to stay, but she walked to the window and stood with her back to them all, while Marian put into English and read, in a clear, distinct voice, and without the least hesitation, that message from the dead.

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