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   Chapter 46 THE LETTERS.

Tracy Park By Mary Jane Holmes Characters: 14742

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


There were four of them-two in Arthur's handwriting: one directed to Mrs. Arthur Tracy, Wiesbaden, postmarked Liverpool; one to Margaret Heinrich, Wiesbaden, postmarked Shannondale; one in a strange handwriting to Arthur Tracy, if living; and one to Arthur Tracy's friends if he were dead, or incapable of understanding it. And it was this last which Marian read; for as Arthur was living, she felt that with his letters strangers had nothing to do. The letter to the friends, which had evidently been written at intervals, as the writer's strength would permit, was as follows:

'WIESBADEN, December -, 18-,

'To the friends of Mr. Arthur Tracy, if he is dead, or incapable of understanding this letter, from his wife, who was Marguerite Heinrich, and whom he always called Gretchen.

'I want to tell you about it for the sake of my little Jerrie, whom, if her father is dead, I give to your care, praying God to deal with you as you are good and just to her. I was seventeen when I first saw Mr. Tracy. My father was dead. I was an only child, and my mother kept a little fancy shop in Wiesbaden. I went to school and learned what other girls like me learned-to read and write, and knit and sew, and fear God and keep His commandments. People called me pretty. I don't know that I was, but he told me so when he came to me one day as I was knitting under a tree in the park. He had a picture made of me as I was then, and it is on the wall, but I have pawned it for the rent, as I have almost everything.'

'Oh, Jerrie!' Marian exclaimed at this point.

But Jerrie's face was buried in Maude's pillow and she made no response. So Marian read on:

'He came many times, for I was always there waiting for him, I am afraid; but when he said he loved me, and wanted me for his wife I could not believe it, he was so grand, so like nobility, and I so poor and plain. Then mother died suddenly-oh, so suddenly-well to-day-dead to-morrow-with cholera, and I was left alone.

'"Gretchen we must he married now," he said to me, the night after the funeral; and I answered him, "yes, we must be married;" and we were, the next day, in the little English Church, by Mr. Eaton, the pastor. You will find the certificate with the other papers. Do you ever remember a beautiful moonlight night, when the air was soft, and warm, and sweet with many summer flowers, and there was music in the distance, and heaven seemed so near that you could almost touch the blue lining which separates it from us? Well, just like that was my life with Arthur for a few months. Oh, how I loved him, and how he loved me! It frightened me sometimes, he was so fierce and-I don't know what the word is-so something in his love. He never left me a moment. He couldn't, he said, for I was his balance-wheel, and without me he was lost. I think now he was crazy then. I know he was afterward when he did such queer things and forgot so often-sometimes the house we lived in, sometimes his own name, and at last, me, his Gretchen! That was so sad, when he went away, and stayed away for weeks, and said he had forgotten. But he was sorry, too, and made it up, and for ten day heaven came down again so I could touch it; then he went away and I have never seen him since.

'You must excuse me, his friends-if I stop a little while to cry; it makes me no lonesome to think of the long years-four and more-which have been buried with the yesterdays, under the flowers, and under the snow, since Arthur went away and left me all alone. If I had told him, he might have come back, he was so fond of children; but I was not sure, and would not tell a lie, and let him go without a hint. I wrote him once I had something to tell him when he came which would make him glad, as it did me, and he never replied to it, though he wrote two or three times more, and sent me money, but did not tell me where he was, only he was being cured, he said-that was all. In January my baby was born, and I had her christened Jerrine, by Mr. Eaton. You will find it among the papers. Then, how I longed for him, and waited, and watched; but he never came, and I knew he had forgotten; but I did not doubt his love, or that he would one day come back; and I tried to improve myself and learn what was in books, so I could mate with him better when he came home, which he never did; and the years went on, and my little Jerrine grew more lovely every day. She is standing by me now, and says, "Are you writing to him?"

'Darling Jerrie, you will be kind to her, won't you, for his sake, and for me, too, who will be dead when you yet this?'

Jerrie was sobbing now, and Maude's arm was around her neck, while Frank had walked to a window, and, like his wife, was looking out upon the lawn, which he did not see for the tears which filled his eyes.

'When the money stopped,' the letter went on, 'we grew so poor, Jerrie and I and Nannine-that is the French woman who lives with me and whom Jerrie calls Mah-nee. She will bring my child to you when I am dead; and oh, be kind to her, for a truer, more faithful woman never lived. She is such a comfort to me, except when she scolds about Arthur and calls him a bête noire, which he is not, as you will see. He was shut up, I don't know where, but think it was where they put people with bad heads, and he forget everything till he was out, and as far as Paris on his way to America. Then he remembered and wrote me from Liverpool such a letter-full of love and sorrow for the past, and sent me such lovely diamonds, just like those he had bought for his sister in America, he said-and he was going home at such a date on the Scotia, and he wished me to join him in Liverpool. I send the letter with this to prove that I write true. But it was too late, for I was too weak to travel; neither could I write to him, for he gave me no address. 'That was last September, and I have been dying ever since, for my heart broke when I thought of what was and what might have been could I have found him. The money he sent me then I am saving for Nannine and Jerrie to take them to America when I am dead. All the days and nights I prayed that Arthur might remember and write me again, and God heard, and he did; and five days ago I received his letter. So crazy it was, but just as full of love and tenderness and a desire to see me. He told me of his lovely home and the Gretchen room, where my picture is in the window; and in case there should be no one to meet me at the station when I arrived he sent me directions how to find Tracy Park, and told me just what to do when I reached New York. He would come for me himself, he said, only the sea made him so sick and he was afraid he should forget everything if he did. But you will see in his letter what he wrote and how fond he was of me; and if he is alive and too crazy to understand now, tell him, when he is better, how I loved him and prayed for him every hour that God would bring him, at last, where I am going so soon. Nannine will take him my Bible, with passages marked by me, and a photograph which I had taken a year ago, and which will tell you how I looked then. Now I am so thin and pale that Arthur would hardly know me. I send, too, a lock of Jerrie's hair, cut when she was three weeks old. Darling Jerrie! She is such a comfort to me, and so old and womanly for her years! She will remember muc

h of our life here, for she notices everything and understands it, too, and goes over, as in a play, what she sees and hears.

'We have been cold and hungry sometimes; but not often; the neighbors are so kind; and when I am dead they will see that Nannine is made ready for America, with Jerrie; and the papers, and the diamonds, which I might have pawned when our need was greatest, but I could not. I must save them for Jerrie, and may she wear them some day, and many days in the years to come, when her mother is dust and ashes in the ground, but a glorified spirit in Paradise, where I shall watch over her, and, if I can, be with her often, and keep myself in her mind, so that she will never forget my face or the old home in Germany.

'God bless my little daughter, and make her a true, noble woman; and God bless you, Arthur's friends, who read this, and incline you to be kind and just to Jerrie, and see that she has her own; for there must be money at Tracy Park; and if you are poor and Jerrie comes rich, tell her from her mother to be kind to you, and give as you have given to her. Now I must stop, I am so tired, and it is growing dark, and Nannie has opened the stove door to let the light fall on the paper in my lap, and Jerrie is standing by me and says, "Are you going to God pretty soon?"

'Yes, darling, very soon-to-night, perhaps, or to-morrow, or when He will. The air grows cold, the night is coming on, my eyes grow dim, my head is tired. I think, yes, I think it will be to-morrow.

'Good-bye.

'GRETCHEN TRACY.'

As she finished reading Marian arose, and going up to Jerrie kissed her lovingly and said to her in German:

'That was your mother's picture in our old home in Wiesbaden. I am so glad for you.'

A low sob was Jerrie's reply, and then Judge St. Claire asked:

'Is that all?'

'Yes,' Marian said; 'All except Mr. Tracy's letters to Gretchen. Oh, no,' she added; 'there is something more;' and feeling in the bag, she drew out two small papers, one crumpled and worn, as if it had been often referred to, the other folded neatly and tied with a white ribbon.

This Marian opened first, and found it to be a certificate, written in English, to the effect that Mrs. Arthur Tracy, née Marguerite Heinrich, died at such a date and was buried by the Rev. Mr. Bellows, the resident rector of the English church; the other was in Arthur's handwriting, and the directions he had written to his wife, as to what she was to do and how to find Tracy Park.

'Yes,' Judge St. Claire said, coming forward and taking the paper from her hand, 'this is what the station-master saw the poor woman examining that night in the storm. She probably dropped it into the bag without stopping to fold it. There can be no doubt.'

Then a deep silence reigned for a moment in the room, until Mrs. Tracy, who, all through the reading had stood like a block of granite by the window, turned and walking swiftly up to Jerrie, said, in a bitter tone:

'Of course there is no mistake. I do not doubt that you are mistress here, and am ready to leave at once. Shall we pack up and quit to-night?'

'Dolly!' 'Mother!' came angrily and sternly from both Tom and Frank, and 'Oh, mamma, please,' came faintly from Maude, while Jerrie lifted up her head, and looking steadily at the cruel woman, said:

'Why are you so hard with me? I cannot help it. I am not to blame. I mean to do right; only wait-a little. I am so sick now-so dizzy and blind. Oh, somebody lead me out where I can breathe. I am choking here.'

It was Tom who reached her first, and passing his arm around her, took her into the open air and to a seat under the tree where once before she had almost fainted, as she did now, with her head upon his shoulder, for he put it there, and then pushed her hair back from her face as he said lightly:

'Don't take it so hard; if we can stand it, you can!'

Then Jerrie straightened up and said:

'Oh, Tom, do you want to kill me now?'

'What do you mean?' he asked, and she replied:

'Don't you know you said under the pines that you would kill any claimant to Tracy Park who might appear against you?'

'I remember it,' Tom said, 'but I didn't think then that the claimant would be Jerrie, my cousin,' and he put his arm around her as he continued: 'I can't say that I am not awfully cut up to be turned neck and heels out of what I believed would be my own, but if it must be, I am glad it is you who do it, for I know you'll not be hard upon us, or let Uncle Arthur be, even if mother is so mean. Remember, Jerrie, that I loved you and asked you to be my wife when I believed you poor and unknown.'

Tom was very politic and was speaking good words for himself, but all the good there was in him seemed now to be on the surface and while inwardly rebelling at his misfortune, he felt a thrill of joy in knowing that Jerrie was his cousin, and would not be hard upon him.

'Shall we go back to the house?' he said at last, and they went back, meeting the people upon the piazza, where they stopped for a moment while Jerrie's hands were shaken, and she was kissed and congratulated that at last the mystery was cleared, and her rights restored to her.

'Mr. Arthur Tracy ought to be here,' Judge St. Claire said.

'Yes, I'd thought of that,' Tom replied, first, 'and shall telegraph him to-morrow,'

Then they said good night, and without going in to see either Mr. or Mrs. Tracy again, Tom and Jerry walked slowly toward the cottage, through the leafy woods, where the trees met in graceful arches overhead, and the moonlight fell in silver flecks upon the grass, and the summer air was odorous and sweet with the smell of the pines and the balm of Gilead trees scattered here and there. It was a lovely place, and Tom thought so with a keen sense of pain, as, after leaving Jerrie at her gate, he walked slowly back until he reached the four pines, where he sat down to think and wonder what he should do as a poor man, with neither business nor prospects.

'I don't suppose the governor has laid up much,' he said, 'for since Uncle Arthur came home he has done very little business, and has spent what really was his own recklessly and without a thought of saving, he was so sure to have enough at last, and Uncle Arthur was so free to give us what we asked for. But that will end when he knows he has a daughter, and as he never fancied me much, I shall either have to beg, or work, or starve, or marry a rich wife, which is not so easy for a poor dog to do. I don't suppose that Governor's daughter would look at me now, nor anyone else who is anybody. By George, I ought to have called on Ann Eliza before this time. I wonder if it's too late to go there now. I believe I'll walk round there anyway, and if I see a light, I'll go in, and if old paterfamilias-how I'd like to kick him-is there, I'll tell him the news, and that I know now he did not strike Jerrie with the table-leg, and perhaps I'll apologize for what I said when in the car. Tom Tracy, you are a scoundrel, and no mistake,' he added, with energy, as he arose, and struck into the field, through which he had dragged Ann Eliza the night of the storm.

There were lights at Le Bateau, and Tom was soon shaking hands with old paterfamilias, who was at home, and with Ann Eliza, who was now able to come down stairs.

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