Tracy Park, 11/11April 26, 2007
I don’t know why Jerrie and Harold think everyone will be surprised that they’re engaged. They’re the only two characters in the book that didn’t realize they were in love with each other, and when they announce that they’re going to be married, everyone tells them so. And everyone’s happy about it, too, except for Mrs. Tracy, who is having fun being spiteful, and Tom, Dick, and Billy — for obvious reasons. Arthur is particularly pleased, not only because he knew that they were in love with each other, but also because Colvin kind of wants to retire and Harold can take over for him. They get married very soon, with just a few friends present. Billy Peterkin doesn’t attend, but sends a nice present along with a melodramatic note about how he thinks seeing Jerrie as Harold’s wife would kill him.
Then we begin a sort of mass emigration to Europe that encompasses most of the major characters: Jerrie and Harold go to Germany for their wedding trip, and they bring Arthur with. Then Dick and Nina St. Claire go abroad as well, to meet up with the Raymond family. Then comes my favorite match of the book:
Tom Tracy has been visiting the Peterkins at Le Bateau on a regular basis, and finally Peterkin takes him aside and tells him that, with all the attention he’s been paying to Ann Eliza, if TOm doesn’t marry her soon Peterkin is going to shoot him. Given the choice between a nice girl who adores him and whose father will give her a million dollars when she marries, and death, Tom chooses Ann Eliza. And they too immediately set out for Europe, Tom declaring that he won’t come back to America until Peterkin drops dead of apoplexy or something.
Two years later, Jerrie, Arthur, and Harold are still in Germany. Jerrie and Harold have a son now, a baby boy named Frank Tracy, and Arthur has bought Gretchen’s old house and turned it into an orphanage. Arthur, with his usual entertaining nuttiness, insists that any anonymous children abandoned there must be named either Gretchen, Jerrie, Arthur, Maude, Harold, or Frank. Jerrie convinces him to add Tom, Ann Eliza, and Billy to the list. I love the idea of little German orphans being named after Billy Peterkin.
Meanwhile, the Raymonds and the St. Claires have been intermarrying: Fred marries Nina, and Dick, who has gotten over Jerrie, marries Marian, who has some story of thwarted love in her own past. They’re in France somewhere, as are Tom and Ann Eliza, who are doing well. Ann Eliza’a style has improved, and Tom sort of dotes on her. I think they’re completely adorable.
Back home, Frank is pleased to hear about Jerrie’s son being named after him, but he never gets to see the kid — all that self-flagellation has taken its toll, and one night he dies in his sleep. Dolly moves to a small house near Tracy Park, but spends most of her time in Florida. Eventually Jerrie, Harold and Arthur come home, and soon Jerrie has another child, a girl named Gretchen. Arthur dotes on his grandchildren, and the Tracy-Hastings family lives happily ever after. By this point, I don’t much care — I just want to hear more about Tom and Ann Eliza and maybe Billy. Maybe that’s why finishing this book is always a little bit dissatisfying. Even so, I love it. I’ll probably reread it again within the year.