Tracy Park, 2/11March 30, 2007
So, it’s 7:30, and the Peterkins are the first to show up because they’re uncultured and don’t understand the concept of being fashionably late. Harold does his job, which is to stand at the top of the stairs and say “ladies this way, and gentlemen that way,” but, again, the Peterkins are uncultured and don’t understand, and so Mrs. Peterkin goes the wrong way and Harold has to go take her wraps out of the mens’ dressing-room and put them in the women’s, leading to an accusation of theft later on. Harold is suspected of stealing diamonds three separate times during this book, which is kind of excessive, I think.
Anyway, the party is a big success, and it’s in full swing when Arthur Tracy shows up. He’s wearing a cloak and a big hat, and Harold thinks he looks like a pirate. When one of the servants asks Arthur if anyone came with him, he’s like, “No. Yes! Hey, where is she?” giving us the first indication that he may not be in his right mind. The servant suggests that maybe whoever it was forgot to get off the train, and Arthur agrees immediately. When Frank comes out to greet him, he says that the carriage will have to be sent to the train again the next day to meet Gretchen. When asked who Gretchen is, he won’t say more than “Gretchen is Gretchen.”
On his way into the party, Arthur meets Harold, and when he recognizes him as the son of his former best friend, he almost throws him over the stair railing. Then he apologizes and joins the party. That’s pretty much the end of the events of the evening, except that when the Peterkins go to leave, Mrs. Peterkin’s diamond pin is missing and Harold, who is at home in bed by that point, is suspected of stealing it. Also, Arthur declares his intention of going to meet Gretchen at the train to Frank and Dolly, but still won’t say who she is.
Arthur meets every train the next day, but Gretchen does not arrive. He also starts making plans to alter his suite of rooms and gives out some presents, including one to Dolly: a magnificent set of diamonds in an unusual setting.
When Peterkin comes back to the house to investigate the theft of the pin, Arthur defends Harold, causing Peterkin to declare himself the enemy of the Tracy family. Harold is removed from suspicion, but Arthur isn’t, altogether. Not that he’s thought to have stolen the pin, but the people who see him blow up at Peterkin begin to suspect that he’s crazy. Frank consults Mr. St. Claire on the proper steps to get Arthur declared insane, but St. Claire thinks he’d better not do it unless Arthur becomes dangerous, which he doesn’t. Arthur continues to meet every train for a week, and at the end of it he admits that, although there is a Gretchen, he must have imagined that she was with him on the ship and the train. Things get mixed up in his head sometimes, he says, and he was in an asylum for a while, but it didn’t do him any good.
Some time passes. Frank loses the election because Peterkin is against him. Arthur settles in. Frank tries to have him committed, but fails when the doctors he’s brought in find Arthur to be personable and urbane. Arthur and Frank agree to live and let live. By January, Arthur’s rooms have been altered and beautifully redecorated. The main feature is a stained-glass portrait of Gretchen set into one of the windows. She turns out to be a beautiful German girl with a pure face, blonde hair, and blue eyes. Arthur has never really stopped expecting her, and he sets a place for her at his table every night.
One day in February — and Arthur arrived home during the summer — it gets very cold and there’s a big snowstorm. Arthur gets an idea into his head that Gretchen will be arriving that night — after he realized that she hadn’t been with him on the ship he wrote to her — and he asks Frank to send the coachman to the station to meet her. It’s really awful out, so when John the coachman pleads bad weather and an aching back, Frank tells him not to bother going and then lies to Arthur about it. But that evening, Frank and Arthur are talking together in Arthur’s rooms and Frank hears what sounds like a wail for help. He’s pretty sure it’s his imagination, but still, he worries.