Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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An International Romance

By Amelia E. Barr




THE thing that I know least about is my beginning. For it is possible
to introduce Ethel Rawdon in so many picturesque ways that the choice
is embarrassing, and forces me to the conclusion that the actual
circumstances, though commonplace, may be the most suitable. Certainly
the events that shape our lives are seldom ushered in with pomp or
ceremony; they steal upon us unannounced, and begin their work without
giving any premonition of their importance.

Consequently Ethel had no idea when she returned home one night from
a rather stupid entertainment that she was about to open a new and
important chapter of her life. Hitherto that life had been one of the
sweetest and simplest character - the lessons and sports of childhood
and girlhood had claimed her nineteen years; and Ethel was just at that
wonderful age when, the brook and the river having met, she was feeling
the first swell of those irresistible tides which would carry her day by
day to the haven of all days.

It was Saturday night in the January of 1900, verging toward twelve
o'clock. When she entered her room, she saw that one of the windows was
open, and she stood a moment or two at it, looking across the straight
miles of white lights, in whose illumined shadows thousands of sleepers
were holding their lives in pause.

"It is not New York at all," she whispered, "it is some magical city
that I have seen, but have never trod. It will vanish about six o'clock
in the morning, and there will be only common streets, full of common
people. Of course," and here she closed the window and leisurely removed
her opera cloak, "of course, this is only dreaming, but to dream waking,
or to dream sleeping, is very pleasant. In dreams we can have men as we
like them, and women as we want them, and make all the world happy and

She was in no hurry of feeling or movement. She had been in a crowd for
some hours, and was glad to be quite alone and talk to herself a little.
It was also so restful to gradually relinquish all the restraining gauds
of fashionable attire, and as she leisurely performed these duties, she
entered into conversation with her own heart - talked over with it the
events of the past week, and decided that its fretless days, full of
good things, had been, from the beginning to the end, sweet as a cup of
new milk. For a woman's heart is very talkative, and requires little to
make it eloquent in its own way.

In the midst of this intimate companionship she turned her head, and
saw two letters lying upon a table. She rose and lifted them. One was an
invitation to a studio reception, and she let it flutter indeterminately
from her hand; the other was both familiar and appealing; none of her
correspondents but Dora Denning used that peculiar shade of blue paper,
and she instantly began to wonder why Dora had written to her.

"I saw her yesterday afternoon," she reflected, "and she told me
everything she had to tell - and what does she-mean by such a tantalizing
message as this? 'Dearest Ethel: I have the most extraordinary news.
Come to me immediately. Dora.' How exactly like Dora!" she commented.
"Come to me im-mediately - whether you are in bed or asleep - whether
you are sick or well - whether it is midnight or high noon - come to
me immediately. Well, Dora, I am going to sleep now, and to-morrow is
Sunday, and I never know what view father is going to take of Sunday. He
may ask me to go to church with him, and he may not. He may want me to
drive in the afternoon, and again he may not; but Sunday is father's
home day, and Ruth and I make a point of obliging him in regard to it.
That is one of our family principles; and a girl ought to have a few
principles of conduct involving self-denial. Aunt Ruth says, 'Life
cannot stand erect without self-denial,' and aunt is usually right - but
I do wonder what Dora wants! I cannot imagine what extraordinary news
has come. I must try and see her to-morrow - it may be difficult - but I
must make the effort" - and with this satisfying resolution she easily
fell asleep.

When she awoke the church bells were ringing and she knew that her
father and aunt would have breakfasted. The feet did not trouble her. It
was an accidental sleep-over; she had not planned it, and circumstances
would take care of themselves. In any case, she had no fear of rebuke.
No one was ever cross with Ethel. It was a matter of pretty general
belief that whatever Ethel did was just right. So she dressed herself
becomingly in a cloth suit, and, with her plumed hat on her head, went
down to see what the day had to offer her.

"The first thing is coffee, and then, all being agreeable, Dora. I shall
not look further ahead," she thought.

As she entered the room she called "Good morning!" and her voice was
like the voice of the birds when they call "Spring!"; and her face was
radiant with smiles, and the touch of her lips and the clasp of her hand
warm with love and life; and her father and aunt forgot that she was
late, and that her breakfast was yet to order.

She took up the reproach herself. "I am so sorry, Aunt Ruth. I only want
a cup of coffee and a roll."

"My dear, you cannot go without a proper breakfast. Never mind the hour.
What would you like best?"

"You are so good, Ruth. I should like a nice breakfast - a breast of
chicken and mushrooms, and some hot muffins and marmalade would do.
How comfortable you look here! Father, you are buried in newspapers. Is
anyone going to church?"

Ruth ordered the desired breakfast and Mr. Rawdon took out his watch - "I
am afraid you have delayed us too long this morning, Ethel."

"Am I to be the scapegoat? Now, I do not believe anyone wanted to go to
church. Ruth had her book, you, the newspapers. It is warm and pleasant
here, it is cold and windy outside. I know what confession would be
made, if honesty were the fashion."

"Well, my little girl, honesty is the fashion in this house. I believe
in going to church. Religion is the Mother of Duty, and we should all
make a sad mess of life without duty. Is not that so, Ruth?"

"Truth itself, Edward; but religion is not going to church and listening
to sermons. Those who built the old cathedrals of Europe had no idea
that sitting in comfortable pews and listening to some man talking was
worshiping God. Those great naves were intended for men and women to
stand or kneel in before God. And there were no high or low standing
or kneeling places; all were on a level before Him. It is our modern
Protestantism which has brought in lazy lolling in cushioned pews; and
the gallery, which makes a church as like a playhouse as possible!"

"What are you aiming at, Ruth?"

"I only meant to say, I would like going to church much better if we
went solely to praise God, and entreat His mercy. I do not care to hear

"My dear Ruth, sermons are a large fact in our social economy. When a
million or two are preached every year, they have a strong claim on
our attention. To use a trade phrase, sermons are firm, and I believe a
moderate tax on them would yield an astonishing income."

"See how you talk of them, Edward; as if they were a commercial
commodity. If you respected them - - "

"I do. I grant them a steady pneumatic pressure in the region of morals,
and even faith. Picture to yourself, Ruth, New York without sermons. The
dear old city would be like a ship without ballast, heeling over with
every wind, and letting in the waters of immorality and scepticism.
Remove this pulpit balance just for one week from New York City, and
where should we be?"

"Well then," said Ethel, "the clergy ought to give New York a first-rate
article in sermons, either of home or foreign manufacture. New York
expects the very best of everything; and when she gets it, she opens her
heart and her pocketbook enjoys it, and pays for it."

"That is the truth, Ethel. I was thinking of your grandmother Rawdon.
You have your hat on - are you going to see her?"

"I am going to see Dora Denning. I had an urgent note from her last
night. She says she has 'extraordinary news' and begs me to 'come to
her immediately.' I cannot imagine what her news is. I saw her Friday

"She has a new poodle, or a new lover, or a new way of crimping her
hair," suggested Ruth Bayard scornfully. "She imposes on you, Ethel; why
do you submit to her selfishness?"

"I suppose because I have become used to it. Four years ago I began
to take her part, when the girls teased and tormented her in the
schoolroom, and I have big-sistered her ever since. I suppose we get to
love those who make us kind and give us trouble. Dora is not perfect,
but I like her better than any friend I have. And she must like me, for
she asks my advice about everything in her life."

"Does she take it?"

"Yes - generally. Sometimes I have to make her take it."

"She has a mother. Why does she not go to her?"

"Mrs. Denning knows nothing about certain subjects. I am Dora's social
godmother, and she must dress and behave as I tell her to do. Poor Mrs.
Denning! I am so sorry for her - another cup of coffee, Ruth - it is not
very strong."

"Why should you be sorry for Mrs. Denning, Her husband is enormously
rich - she lives in a palace, and has a crowd of men and women servants
to wait upon her - carriages, horses, motor cars, what not, at her

"Yet really, Ruth, she is a most unhappy woman. In that little Western
town from which they came, she was everybody. She ran the churches, and
was chairwoman in all the clubs, and President of the Temperance Union,
and manager of every religious, social, and political festival; and her
days were full to the brim of just the things she liked to do. Her dress
there was considered magnificent; people begged her for patterns, and
regarded her as the very glass of fashion. Servants thought it a great
privilege to be employed on the Denning place, and she ordered her house
and managed her half-score of men and maids with pleasant autocracy.
NOW! Well, I will tell you how it is, NOW. She sits all day in her
splendid rooms, or rides out in her car or carriage, and no one knows
her, and of course no one speaks to her. Mr. Denning has his Wall Street
friends - - "

"And enemies," interrupted Judge Rawdon.

"And enemies! You are right, father. But he enjoys one as much as the
other - that is, he would as willingly fight his enemies as feast his
friends. He says a big day in Wall Street makes him alive from head to
foot. He really looks happy. Bryce Denning has got into two clubs, and
his money passes him, for he plays, and is willing to love prudently.
But no one cares about Mrs. Denning. She is quite old - forty-five, I
dare say; and she is stout, and does not wear the colors and style she
ought to wear - none of her things have the right 'look,' and of course
I cannot advise a matron. Then, her fine English servants take her house
out of her hands. She is afraid of them. The butler suavely tries to
inform her; the housekeeper removed the white crotcheted scarfs
and things from the gilded chairs, and I am sure Mrs. Denning had a
heartache about their loss; but she saw that they had also vanished from
Dora's parlor, so she took the hint, and accepted the lesson. Really,
her humility and isolation are pitiful. I am going to ask grandmother
to go and see her. Grandmother might take her to church, and get Dr.
Simpson and Mrs. Simpson to introduce her. Her money and adaptability
would do the rest. There, I have had a good breakfast, though I was
late. It is not always the early bird that gets chicken and mushrooms.
Now I will go and see what Dora wants" - and lifting her furs with a
smile, and a "Good morning!" equally charming, she disappeared.

"Did you notice her voice, Ruth?" asked Judge Rawdon. "What a tone there
is in her 'good morning!'"

"There is a tone in every one's good morning, Edward. I think people's
salutations set to music would reveal their inmost character. Ethel's
good morning says in D major 'How good is the day!' and her good
night drops into the minor third, and says pensively 'How sweet is the

"Nay, Ruth, I don't understand all that; but I do understand the voice.
It goes straight to my heart."

"And to my heart also, Edward. I think too there is a measured music,
a central time and tune, in every life. Quick, melodious natures like
Ethel's never wander far from their keynote, and are therefore joyously
set; while slow, irresolute people deviate far, and only come back after
painful dissonances and frequent changes."

"You are generally right, Ruth, even where I cannot follow you. I hope
Ethel will be home for dinner. I like my Sunday dinner with both of you,
and I may bring my mother back with me."

Then he said "Good morning" with an intentional cheerfulness, and Ruth
was left alone with her book. She gave a moment's thought to the value
of good example, and then with a sigh of content let her eyes rest on
the words Ethel's presence had for awhile silenced:

"I am filled with a sense of sweetness and wonder that such, little
things can make a mortal so exceedingly rich. But I confess that the
chiefest of all my delights is still the religious." (Theodore Parker.)
She read the words again, then closed her eyes and let the honey of some
sacred memory satisfy her soul. And in those few minutes of reverie,
Ruth Bayard revealed the keynote of her being. Wanderings from it,
caused by the exigencies and duties of life, frequently occurred; but
she quickly returned to its central and controlling harmony; and
her serenity and poise were therefore as natural as was her niece's
joyousness and hope. Nor was her religious character the result of
temperament, or of a secluded life. Ruth Bayard was a woman of thought
and culture, and wise in the ways of the world, but not worldly. Her
personality was very attractive, she had a good form, an agreeable face,
speaking gray eyes, and brown hair, soft and naturally wavy. She was a
distant cousin of Ethel's mother, but had been brought up with her in
the same household, and always regarded her as a sister, and Ethel never
remembered that she was only her aunt by adoption. Ten years older than
her niece, she had mothered her with a wise and loving patience, and
her thoughts never wandered long or far from the girl. Consequently,
she soon found herself wondering what reason there could be for Dora
Denning's urgency.

In the meantime Ethel had reached her friend's residence a new building
of unusual size and very ornate architecture. Liveried footmen and
waiting women bowed her with mute attention to Miss Denning's suite, an
absolutely private arrangement of five rooms, marvelously furnished
for the young lady's comfort and delight. The windows of her parlor
overlooked the park, and she was standing at one of them as Ethel
entered the room. In a passion of welcoming gladness she turned to her,
exclaiming: "I have been watching for you hours and hours, Ethel. I have
the most wonderful thing to tell you. I am so happy! So happy! No one
was ever as happy as I am."

Then Ethel took both her hands, and, as they stood together, she looked
intently at her friend. Some new charm transfigured her face; for her
dark, gazelle eyes were not more lambent than her cheeks, though in
a different way; while her black hair in its picturesquely arranged
disorder seemed instinct with life, and hardly to be restrained. She was
constantly pushing it back, caressing or arranging it; and her white,
slender fingers, sparkling with jewels, moved among the crimped and wavy
locks, as if there was an intelligent sympathy between them.

"How beautiful you are to-day, Dora! Who has worked wonders on you?"

"Basil Stanhope. He loves me! He loves me! He told me so last night - in
the sweetest words that were ever uttered. I shall never forget one
of them - never, as long as I live! Let us sit down. I want to tell you

"I am astonished, Dora!"

"So was mother, and father, and Bryce. No one suspected our affection.
Mother used to grumble about my going 'at all hours' to St. Jude's
church; but that was because St. Jude's is so very High Church, and
mother is a Methodist Episcopal. It was the morning and evening prayers
she objected to. No one had any suspicion of the clergyman. Oh, Ethel,
he is so handsome! So good! So clever! I think every woman in the church
is in love with him."

"Then if he is a good man, he must be very unhappy."

"Of course he is quite ignorant of their admiration, and therefore quite
innocent. I am the only woman he loves, and he never even remembers me
when he is in the sacred office. If you could see him come out of the
vestry in his white surplice, with his rapt face and prophetic eyes. So
mystical! So beautiful! You would not wonder that I worship him."

"But I do not understand - how did you meet him socially?"

"I met him at Mrs. Taylor's first. Then he spoke to me one morning as I
came out of church, and the next morning he walked through the park with
me. And after that - all was easy enough."

"I see. What does your father and mother think - or rather, what do they

"Father always says what he thinks, and mother thinks and says what I
do. This condition simplified matters very much. Basil wrote to father,
and yesterday after dinner he had an interview with him. I expected
it, and was quite prepared for any climax that might come. I wore my
loveliest white frock, and had lilies of the valley in my hair and on
my breast; and father called me 'his little angel' and piously wondered
'how I could be his daughter.' All dinner time I tried to be angelic,
and after dinner I sang 'Little Boy Blue' and some of the songs he
loves; and I felt, when Basil's card came in, that I had prepared the
proper atmosphere for the interview."

"You are really very clever, Dora."

"I tried to continue singing and playing, but I could not; the notes all
ran together, the words were lost. I went to mother's side and put my
hand in hers, and she said softly: 'I can hear your father storming a
little, but he will settle down the quicker for it. I dare say he will
bring Mr. Stanhope in here before long."

"Did he?"

"No. That was Bryce's fault. How Bryce happened to be in the house at
that hour, I cannot imagine; but it seems to be natural for him to drop
into any interview where he can make trouble. However, it turned out all
for the best, for when mother heard Bryce's voice above all the other
sounds, she said, 'Come Dora, we shall have to interfere now.' Then
I was delighted. I was angelically dressed, and I felt equal to the

"Do you really mean that you joined the three quarreling men?"

"Of course. Mother was quite calm - calm enough to freeze a tempest - but
she gave father a look he comprehended. Then she shook hands with
Basil, and would have made some remark to Bryce, but with his usual
impertinence he took the initiative, and told he: very authoritatively
to 'retire and take me with her' - calling me that 'demure little flirt'
in a tone that was very offensive. You should have seen father blaze
into anger at his words. He told Bryce to remember that 'Mr. Ben Denning
owned the house, and that Bryce had four or five rooms in it by his
courtesy.' He said also that the 'ladies present were Mr. Ben Denning's
wife and daughter, and that it was impertinent in him to order them out
of his parlor, where they were always welcome.' Bryce was white with
passion, but he answered in his affected way - 'Sir, that sly girl with
her pretended piety and her sneak of a lover is my sister, and I shall
not permit her to disgrace my family without making a protest.'"

"And then?"

"I began to cry, and I put my arms around father's neck and said he must
defend me; that I was not 'sly,' and Basil was not 'a sneak,' and father
kissed me, and said he would settle with any man, and every man, who
presumed to call me either sly or a flirt."

"I think Mr. Denning acted beautifully. What did Bryce say?"

"He turned to Basil, and said: 'Mr. Stanhope, if you are not a cad, you
will leave the house. You have no right to intrude yourself into family
affairs and family quarrels.' Basil had seated mother, and was
standing with one hand on the back of her chair, and he did not answer
Bryce - there was no need, father answered quick enough. He said Mr.
Stanhope had asked to become one of the family, and for his part he
would welcome him freely; and then he asked mother if she was of his
mind, and mother smiled and reached her hand backward to Basil. Then
father kissed me again, and somehow Basil's arm was round me, and I know
I looked lovely - almost like a bride! Oh, Ethel, it was just heavenly!"

"I am sure it was. Did Bryce leave the room then?"

"Yes; he went out in a passion, declaring he would never notice me
again. This morning at breakfast I said I was sorry Bryce felt so hurt,
but father was sure Bryce would find plenty of consolation in the fact
that his disapproval of my choice would excuse him from giving me a
wedding present. You know Bryce is a mean little miser!"

"On the contrary, I thought he was very; luxurious and extravagant."

"Where Bryce is concerned, yes; toward everyone else his conduct is too
mean to consider. Why, father makes him an allowance of $20,000 a year
and he empties father's cigar boxes whenever he can do so without - - "

"Let us talk about Mr. Stanhope he is far more interesting. When are you
going to marry him?"

"In the Spring. Father is going to give me some money and I have the
fortune Grandmother Cahill left me. It has been well invested, and
father told me this morning I was a fairly rich little woman. Basil has
some private fortune, also his stipend - we shall do very well. Basil's
family is one of the finest among the old Boston aristocrats, and he is
closely connected with the English Stanhopes, who rank with the greatest
of the nobility."

"I wish Americans would learn to rely on their own nobility. I am tired
of their everlasting attempts to graft on some English noble family.
No matter how great or clever a man may be, you are sure to read of his
descent from some Scottish chief or English earl."

"They can't help their descent, Ethel."

"They need not pin all they have done on to it. Often father frets me in
the same way. If he wins a difficult case, he does it naturally, because
he is a Rawdon. He is handsome, gentlemanly, honorable, even a perfect
horseman, all because, being a Rawdon, he was by nature and inheritance
compelled to such perfection. It is very provoking, Dora, and if I
were you I would not allow Basil to begin a song about 'the English
Stanhopes.' Aunt Ruth and I get very tired often of the English Rawdons,
and are really thankful for the separating Atlantic."

"I don't think I shall feel in that way, Ethel. I like the nobility; so
does father, he says the Dennings are a fine old family."

"Why talk of genealogies when there is such a man as Basil Stanhope to
consider? Let us grant him perfection and agree that he is to marry
you in the Spring; well then, there is the ceremony, and the wedding
garments! Of course it is to be a church wedding?"

"We shall be married in Basil's own church. I can hardly eat or sleep
for thinking of the joy and the triumph of it! There will be women there
ready to eat their hearts with envy - I believe indeed, Ethel, that every
woman in the church is in love with Basil."

"You have said that before, and I am sure you are wrong. A great many of
them are married and are in love with their own husbands; and the kind
of girls who go to St. Jude's are not the kind who marry clergymen. Mr.
Stanhope's whole income would hardly buy their gloves and parasols."

"I don't think you are pleased that I am going to marry. You must not be
jealous of Basil. I shall love you just the same."

"Under no conditions, Dora, would I allow jealousy to trouble my life.
All the same, you will not love me after your marriage as you have loved
me in the past. I shall not expect it."

Passionate denials of this assertion, reminiscences of the past,
assurances for the future followed, and Ethel accepted them without
dispute and without faith. But she understood that the mere circumstance
of her engagement was all that Dora could manage at present; and
that the details of the marriage merged themselves constantly in the
wonderful fact that Basil Stanhope loved her, and that some time, not
far off, she was going to be his wife. This joyful certainty filled her

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe Man Between, an International Romance → online text (page 1 of 14)