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Tracy Park, 4/11

March 31, 2007

links to parts one, two, three.

So now Jerry has been living with Harold and Mrs. Crawford for two years. They’re poor, but they’re happy, and with Frank’s three dollars a week, they manage okay and Mrs. Crawford doesn’t have to work so much anymore, which is good because she’s getting old and her rheumatism is pretty bad. Harold is twelve and Jerry is six, and they adore each other. Jerry is a beautiful little girl, and Harold and the other twelve year old boys in the neighborhood want to kiss her all the time. She lets Harold and Dick St. Claire kiss her, but she avoids Tom Tracy and Billy Peterkin.

Aside from Tom and Frank, who visits the cottage sometimes, Jerry doesn’t really know that Tracys well, but that doesn’t stop Dolly from hating her. And sure, Frank is using their money to support Jerry, but it isn’t like the Tracy family is being deprived of anything.

When Frank is at the cottage, he sometimes sees Jerry acting out the death scene of a woman who holds a baby — Jerry’s doll — and is waited on by a nurse. Jerry is a clever mimic, and when the woman in the scene dies, she makes noises that sound like a woman and a baby crying together. The first time Frank sees this, he has a feeling that he has just seen Gretchen die. Also, the first time Jerry hears the name “Gretchen” she asks for it to be repeated and then names her doll that. She has never met Arthur, but she’s heard from Harold that he’s crazy.

One day Harold gets permission to pick cherries for his grandmother at Tracy Park and Jerry goes with him. She’s really excited, and wants to wear her best dress, but Mrs. Crawford points out that cherry picking isn’t the cleanest of activities, and that might not be such a great idea. So Jerry has to wear her ordinary calico dress and high-necked apron, which she hates because it’s ugly.

When they reach the park, they run into Jack and Maude. Jerry has seen Maude before, and admired her face and her pretty clothes, but it’s the first time they have met, and it’s really funny — they’re like dogs sniffing each other to get acquainted. Their conversation goes like this:

Jerry: My hair is curly and yours isn’t.

Maude: Yeah, but my hair is black and yours is yellow.

There’s a pause.

Maude: Hey, aren’t you Jerry Crawford?

And just like that, they’re friends. Soon Harold and Jerry go off the pick their cherries, and after a while, Jerry notices that there’s a ladder standing against Arthur’s window, which she recognizes because of the stained glass. So before Harold can stop her, she climbs, up, looks in the window, and says, “Mr. Crazyman, Mr. Crazyman, don’t you want some cherries?”

Arthur’s feeling kind of sick and depressed, and who can blame him? He misses Gretchen, he feels like he has bees in his head, and he never leaves his room. Jerry surprises him, but he takes a liking to her. She makes him laugh for the first time in ages, and he feels sort of drawn to her without knowing why. He doesn’t think about whether she resembles anyone — probably the stupidest thing about this book is that Arthur never picks up on the numerous hints that Jerry is his daughter. But maybe that’s just because he’s crazy. On this first visit he does discover that she can speak a little bit of German, although she’s forgotten most of it, and this intrigues him even more.

The next day he has a horrible headache, and since Jerry made him feel so much better before, he sends Charles, his manservant, to the cottage for her. She manages to make his headache go away, so I guess Jerry:Arthur::Fred Astaire:me. They have lunch together, and he hears all about her life with Mrs. Crawford and Harold. She even acts out that death scene with Arthur as the sick person and herself as the nurse.

At the end of the day he escorts her home, and has a chat with Mrs. Crawford. He likes Jerry, and he sees that she’s a sharp kid, so he’s decided to educate her. She’ll come to see him at the park house every day and he’ll be her tutor. When the time comes, he’ll send her to college. He also wants to do something for Harold, mostly because he’s Amy Crawford’s son, and offers to send him to the local high school and then to Andover and possibly Harvard.

So Jerry starts going to Arthur for lessons, and things go well. Jerry is very clever and makes good progress. She even becomes fluent in German again. Eventually Maude joins them, and although she’s not nearly as smart, Arthur does grow to like her. Tom is attending Andover by this time, and Jack, who is developmentally disabled or something, has a special tutor. Harold is attending the town high school at Arthur’s expense, and the other boys tease him about that sometimes.

One day, as Jerry is going to meet Harold in the hay-fields, where he works sometimes, she stops by the Tramp House and finds Frank there. They talk for a little while, and then Frank brings up Gretchen, because he’s completely incapable of leaving the subject alone. It’s like picking at a scab, or something. Anyway, Jerry tells him that Arthur plans to write a letter to Gretchen’s friends in Wiesbaden, where she lived, inquiring for news of her. Frank is alarmed, and tells Jerry that a letter to Gretchen’s friends might cause great harm to him and to Maude, so if Arthur ever give her a letter like that to post, she should show it to Frank. Jerry would do anything for Maude — they’re close friends by this time, and “to her Maude was a queen who had a right to tyrannize over and command her if she pleased; and as the tyranny was never very severe, and was usually followed by some generous act of contrition, she did not mind it at all” — so she agrees, although she feels a little weird about it.

After that she continues on her way to see Harold, who she finds looking very unhappy. Tom Tracy and his school friend Fred Raymond, who is visiting Tracy Park, have just passed by him without acknowledging him at all. It’s no fault of Fred’s, because he and Harold have never met, but Harold and Tom have known each other since they were toddlers.

A few days later, Harold is at Grassy Spring, the St. Claire home, hanging out with Dick. They go into the billiard-room and find that Tom and Fred Raymond have come over for a game. Dick introduces Fred and Harold, much to Tom’s chagrin, and the two of them get along pretty well. Fred is a nice guy, and either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care that Harold is poor. Tom is not so nice, so when Fred says, later that he thinks Harold is pretty cool, Tom says, “Oh, that’s Hal Hastings, a poor boy, who does chores for us and the St. Claires. His grandmother used to work at the park house, and so uncle Arthur pays for his schooling, and Hal allows it, which I think right small in him. I wouldn’t be a charity student, anyway, if I never knew anything. Besides that, what’s the use of education to chaps like him. Better stay as he was born. I don’t believe in educating the masses, do you?”

Harold overhears him, and is absolutely furious, but he really does dislike being dependent on Arthur. He decides to go to Arthur and promise to pay back everything that’s been spent on his education. He also tells the story to Jerry, who is indignant on his behalf. She agrees that the plan is a good one, but tells him to put it off until the next day because Arthur is going to a party Dolly is having that night, and Jerry is afraid that if Harold worries him he’ll act crazy in front of the guests.

Arthur doesn’t usually attend Dolly’s parties, but some old friends of his are at this one, so he makes an exception. He behaves nicely (i.e. not like a crazy person), but he gets tired pretty quickly, and Dolly’s diamonds — the ones he gave her — seem to be hurting his eyes, so he excuses himself and goes to bed.

The next day, Dolly goes to put on her diamonds for a lunch party at Brier Hill, Grace Atherton’s place, and finds them missing. During the search for them, she questions the servants, and Charles mentions having seen Harold in the house that morning. Everyone figures that he was going to see Arthur, but Arthur doesn’t remember having seen him for a couple of weeks. That’s when Dolly begins to suspect him of the theft. They send someone to bring him over to the park house and then they question him about what he was doing there, and Tom is like, “yeah, you’d better return those diamonds.”

Jerry, who has come along with Harold, starts yelling at Tom and telling him she hates him. The noise brings Arthur to the scene, and when he asks what’s going on, Jerry tells him about the missing diamonds and explains why Harold was coming to see Arthur, and how he knocked on Arthur’s door and left after getting no response.

Arthur gets really angry and threatens to turn Tom out of the house if he dares to accuse Harold. Then he starts babbling in German, and at this point, everyone seems to be like, “okay, that’s dealt with. Let’s get back to work,” which is odd, because it’s not like Harold’s been properly cleared of suspicion. Harold and Jerry are allowed to go home, but Jerry seems kind of troubled and withdrawn.

I suppose it’s pretty self-indulgent of me to spend so much time on this one book, but this blog is all about self-indulgence, and anyway, writing about it keeps me from feeling bad about the book being over. So. Coming up next: Jerry cuts all her hair off and sleeps on the floor.

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2 comments

  1. Tom does sound rather dreadful….


  2. But he’s not! Well,okay, he is. Most of the time. But I like him anyway.



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