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heart and her comprehension, and she had a natural reluctance to subject
it to the details of the social and religious ceremonies necessary, Such
things permitted others to participate in her joy, and she resented the
idea. For a time she wished to keep her lover in a world where no other
thought might trouble the thought of Dora.

Ethel understood her friend's mood, and was rather relieved when her
carriage arrived. She felt that her presence was preventing Dora's
absolute surrender of herself to thoughts of her lover, and all the way
home she marveled at the girl's infatuation, and wondered if it would
be possible for her to fall into such a dotage of love for any man. She
answered this query positively - "No, if I should lose my heart, I shall
not therefore lose my head" - and then, before she could finish assuring
herself of her determinate wisdom, some mocking lines she had often
quoted to love-sick girls went laughing through her memory -

"O Woman! Woman! O our frail, frail sex!
No wonder tragedies are made from us!
Always the same - nothing but loves and cradles."


She found Ruth Bayard dressed for dinner, but her father was not
present. That was satisfactory, for he was always a little impatient
when the talk was of lovers and weddings; and just then this topic was
uppermost in Ethel's mind.

"Ruth," she said, "Dora is engaged," and then in a few sentences she
told the little romance Dora had lived for the past year, and its happy
culmination. "Setting money aside, I think he will make a very suitable
husband. What do you think, Ruth?"

"From what I know of Mr. Stanhope, I should doubt it. I am sure he
will put his duties before every earthly thing, and I am sure Dora will
object to that. Then I wonder if Dora is made on a pattern large enough
to be the moneyed partner in matrimony. I should think Mr. Stanhope was
a proud man."

"Dora says he is connected with the English noble family of Stanhopes."

"We shall certainly have all the connections of the English nobility in
America very soon now - but why does he marry Dora? Is it her money?"

"I think not. I have heard from various sources some fine things of
Basil Stanhope. There are many richer girls than Dora in St. Jude's. I
dare say some one of them would have married him."

"You are mistaken. Do you think Margery Starey, Jane Lewes, or any of
the girls of their order would marry a man with a few thousands a
year? And to marry for love is beyond the frontiers of such women's
intelligence. In their creed a husband is a banker, not a man to be
loved and cared for. You know how much of a banker Mr. Stanhope could
be."

"Bryce Denning is very angry at what he evidently considers his sister's
mesalliance."

"If Mr. Stanhope is connected with the English Stanhopes, the
mesalliance must be laid to his charge."

"Indeed the Dennings have some pretenses to good lineage, and Bryce
spoke of his sister 'disgracing his family by her contemplated
marriage.'"

"His family! My dear Ethel, his grandfather was a manufacturer of
tin tacks. And now that we have got as far away as the Denning's
grandfather, suppose we drop the subject."

"Content; I am a little tired of the clan Denning - that is their
original name Dora says. I will go now and dress for dinner."

Then Ruth rose and looked inquisitively around the room. It was as she
wished it to be - the very expression of elegant comfort - warm and light,
and holding the scent of roses: a place of deep, large chairs with no
odds and ends to worry about, a room to lounge and chat in, and where
the last touch of perfect home freedom was given by a big mastiff who,
having heard the door-bell ring, strolled in to see who had called.



CHAPTER II

DURING dinner both Ruth and Ethel were aware of some sub-interest in the
Judge's manner; his absent-mindedness was unusual, and once Ruth saw a
faint smile that nothing evident could have induced. Unconsciously also
he set a tone of constraint and hurry; the meal was not loitered over,
the conversation flagged, and all rose from the table with a sense of
relief; perhaps, indeed, with a feeling of expectation.

They entered the parlor together, and the mastiff rose to meet them,
asking permission to remain with the little coaxing push of his nose
which brought the ready answer:

"Certainly, Sultan. Make yourself comfortable."

Then they grouped themselves round the fire, and the Judge lit his cigar
and looked at Ethel in a way that instantly brought curiosity to the
question:

"You have a secret, father," she said. "Is it about grandmother?"

"It is news rather than a secret, Ethel. And grandmother has a good deal
to do with it, for it is about her family - the Mostyns."

"Oh!"

The tone of Ethel's "Oh!" was not encouraging, and Ruth's look of
interest held in abeyance was just as chilling. But something like this
attitude had been expected, and Judge Rawdon was not discouraged by it;
he knew that youth is capable of great and sudden changes, and that its
ability to find reasonable motives for them is unlimited, so he calmly
continued:

"You are aware that your grandmother's name before marriage was Rachel
Mostyn?"

"I have seen it a thousand times at the bottom of her sampler, father,
the one that is framed and hanging in her morning room - Rachel Mostyn,
November, Anno Domini, 1827."

"Very well. She married George Rawdon, and they came to New York in
1834. They had a pretty house on the Bowling Green and lived very
happily there. I was born in 1850, the youngest of their children. You
know that I sign my name Edward M. Rawdon; it is really Edward Mostyn
Rawdon."

He paused, and Ruth said, "I suppose Mrs. Rawdon has had some news from
her old home?"

"She had a letter last night, and I shall probably receive one
to-morrow. Frederick Mostyn, her grand-nephew, is coming to New York,
and Squire Rawdon, of Rawdon Manor, writes to recommend the young man to
our hospitality."

"But you surely do not intend to invite him here, Edward. I think that
would not do."

"He is going to the Holland House. But he is our kinsman, and therefore
we must be hospitable."

"I have been trying to count the kinship. It is out of my reckoning,"
said Ethel. "I hope at least he is nice and presentable."

"The Mostyns are a handsome family. Look at your grandmother. And Squire
Rawdon speaks very well of Mr. Mostyn. He has taken the right side
in politics, and is likely to make his mark. They were always great
sportsmen, and I dare say this representative of the family is a
good-looking fellow, well-mannered, and perfectly dressed."

Ethel laughed. "If his clothes fit him he will be an English wonder. I
have seen lots of Englishmen; they are all frights as to trousers and
vests. There was Lord Wycomb, his broadcloths and satins and linen were
marvels in quality, but the make! The girls hated to be seen walking
with him, and he would walk - 'good for the constitution,' was his
explanation for all his peculiarities. The Caylers were weary to death
of them."

"And yet," said Ruth, "they sang songs of triumph when Lou Cayler
married him."

"That was a different thing. Lou would make him get 'fits' and stop
wearing sloppy, baggy arrangements. And I do not suppose the English
lord has now a single peculiarity left, unless it be his constitutional
walk - that, of course. I have heard English babies get out of their
cradles to take a constitutional."

During this tirade Ruth had been thinking. "Edward," she asked, "why
does Squire Rawdon introduce Mr. Mostyn? Their relationship cannot be
worth counting."

"There you are wrong, Ruth." He spoke with a little excitement.
"Englishmen never deny matrimonial relationships, if they are worthy
ones. Mostyn and Rawdon are bound together by many a gold wedding ring;
we reckon such ties relationships. Squire Raw-don lost his son and his
two grandsons a year ago. Perhaps this young man may eventually stand
in their place. The Squire is nearly eighty years old; he is the last of
the English Rawdons - at least of our branch of it."

"You suppose this Mr. Mostyn may become Squire of Rawdon Manor?"

"He may, Ruth, but it is not certain. There is a large mortgage on the
Manor."

"Oh!"

Both girls made the ejaculation at the same moment, and in both voices
there was the same curious tone of speculation. It was a cry after
truth apprehended, but not realized. Mr. Rawdon remained silent; he was
debating with himself the advisability of further confidence, but
he came quickly to the conclusion that enough had been told for the
present. Turning to Ethel, he said: "I suppose girls have a code of
honor about their secrets. Is Dora Denning's 'extraordinary news' shut
up in it?"

"Oh, no, father. She is going to be married. That is all."

"That is enough. Who is the man?"

"Reverend Mr. Stanhope."

"Nonsense!"

"Positively."

"I never heard anything more ridiculous. That saintly young priest! Why,
Dora will be tired to death of him in a month. And he? Poor fellow!"

"Why poor fellow? He is very much in love with her."

"It is hard to understand. St. Jerome's love 'pale with midnight prayer'
would be more believable than the butterfly Dora. Goodness, gracious!
The idea of that man being in love! It pulls him down a bit. I thought
he never looked at a woman."

"Do you know him, father?"

"As many people know him - by good report. I know that he is a clergyman
who believes what he preaches. I know a Wall Street broker who left St.
Jude's church because Mr. Stanhope's sermons on Sunday put such a fine
edge on his conscience that Mondays were dangerous days for him to do
business on. And whatever Wall Street financiers think of the Bible
personally, they do like a man who sticks to his colors, and who holds
intact the truth committed to him. Stanhope does this emphatically; and
he is so well trusted that if he wanted to build a new church he could
get all the money necessary, from Wall Street men in an hour. And he is
going to marry! Going to marry Dora Denning! It is 'extraordinary news,'
indeed!"

Ethel was a little offended at such unusual surprise. "I think you don't
quite understand Dora," she said. "It will be Mr. Stanhope's fault
if she is not led in the right way; for if he only loves and pets her
enough he may do all he wishes with her. I know, I have both coaxed and
ordered her for four years - sometimes one way is best, and sometimes the
other."

"How is a man to tell which way to take? What do her parents think of
the marriage?"

"They are pleased with it."

"Pleased with it! Then I have nothing more to say, except that I hope
they will not appeal to me on any question of divorce that may arise
from such an unlikely marriage."

"They are only lovers yet, Edward," said Ruth. "It is not fair, or kind,
to even think of divorce."

"My dear Ruth, the fashionable girl of today accepts marriage with the
provision of divorce."

"Dora is hardly one of that set."

"I hope she may keep out of it, but marriage will give her many
opportunities. Well, I am sorry for the young priest. He isn't fit to
manage a woman like Dora Denning. I am afraid he will get the worst of
it."

"I think you are very unkind, father. Dora is my friend, and I know her.
She is a girl of intense feelings and very affectionate. And she has
dissolved all her life and mind in Mr. Stanhope's life and mind, just as
a lump of sugar is dissolved in water."

Ruth laughed. "Can you not find a more poetic simile, Ethel?"

"It will do. This is an age of matter; a material symbol is the proper
thing."

"I am glad to hear she has dissolved her mind in Stanhope's," said Judge
Rawdon. "Dora's intellect in itself is childish. What did the man see in
her that he should desire her?"

"Father, you never can tell how much brains men like with their beauty.
Very little will do generally. And Dora has beauty - great beauty; no one
can deny that. I think Dora is giving up a great deal. To her, at least,
marriage is a state of passing from perfect freedom into the comparative
condition of a slave, giving up her own way constantly for some one
else's way."

"Well, Ethel, the remedy is in the lady's hands. She is not forced to
marry, and the slavery that is voluntary is no hardship. Now, my dear, I
have a case to look over, and you must excuse me to-night. To-morrow we
shall know more concerning Mr. Mostyn, and it is easier to talk about
certainties than probabilities."

But if conversation ceased about Mr. Mostyn, thought did not; for, a
couple of hours afterwards, Ethel tapped at her aunt's door and said,
"Just a moment, Ruth."

"Yes, dear, what is it?"

"Did you notice what father said about the mortgage on Rawdon Manor"'

"Yes."

"He seemed to know all about it."

"I think he does know all about it."

"Do you think he holds it?"

"He may do so - it is not unlikely."

"Oh! Then Mr. Fred Mostyn, if he is to inherit Rawdon, would like the
mortgage removed?"

"Of course he would."

"And the way to remove it would be to marry the daughter of the holder
of the mortgage?"

"It would be one way."

"So he is coming to look me over. I am a matrimonial possibility. How do
you like that idea, Aunt Ruth?"

"I do not entertain it for a moment. Mr. Mostyn may not even know of the
mortgage. When men mortgage their estates they do not make confidences
about the matter, or talk it over with their friends. They always
conceal and hide the transaction. If your father holds the mortgage, I
feel sure that no one but himself and Squire Rawdon know anything about
it. Don't look at the wrong side of events, Ethel; be content with the
right side of life's tapestry. Why are you not asleep? What are you
worrying about?"

"Nothing, only I have not heard all I wanted to hear."

"And perhaps that is good for you."

"I shall go and see grandmother first thing in the morning."

"I would not if I were you. You cannot make any excuse she will not see
through. Your father will call on Mr. Mostyn to-morrow, and we shall get
unprejudiced information."

"Oh, I don't know that, Ruth. Father is intensely American three hundred
and sixty-four days and twenty-three hours in a year, and then in the
odd hour he will flare up Yorkshire like a conflagration."

"English, you mean?"

"No. Yorkshire IS England to grandmother and father. They don't think
anything much of the other counties, and people from them are just
respectable foreigners. You may depend upon it, whatever grandmother
says of Mr. Fred Mostyn, father will believe it, too."

"Your father always believes whatever your grandmother says. Good night,
dear."

"Good night. I think I shall go to grandmother in the morning. I
know how to manage her. I shall meet her squarely with the truth, and
acknowledge that I am dying with curiosity about Mr. Mostyn."

"And she will tease and lecture you, say you are 'not sweetheart high
yet, only a little maid,' and so on. Far better go and talk with Dora.
To-morrow she will need you, I am sure. Ethel, I am very sleepy. Good
night again, dear."

"Good night!" Then with a sudden animation, "I know what to do, I shall
tell grandmother about Dora's marriage. It is all plain enough now.
Good night, Ruth." And this good night, though dropping sweetly into the
minor third, had yet on its final inflection something of the
pleasant hopefulness of its major key - it expressed anticipation and
satisfaction.

What happened in the night session she could not tell, but she awoke
with a positive disinclination to ask a question about Mr. Mostyn. "I
have received orders from some one," she said to Ruth; "I simply do not
care whether I ever see or hear of the man again. I am going to Dora,
and I may not come home until late. You know they will depend upon me
for every suggestion."

In fact, Ethel did not return home until the following day, for a
snowstorm came up in the afternoon, and the girl was weary with planning
and writing, and well inclined to eat with Dora the delicate little
dinner served to them in Dora's private parlor. Then about nine o'clock
Mr. Stanhope called, and Ethel found it pleasant enough to watch the
lovers and listen to Mrs. Denning's opinions of what had been already
planned. And the next day she seemed to be so absolutely necessary
to the movement of the marriage preparations, that it was nearly dark
before she was permitted to return home.

It was but a short walk between the two houses, and Ethel was resolved
to have the refreshment of the exercise. And how good it was to feel the
pinch of the frost and the gust of the north wind, and after it to come
to the happy portal of home, and the familiar atmosphere of the cheerful
hall, and then to peep into the firelit room in which Ruth lay dreaming
in the dusky shadows.

"Ruth, darling!"

"Ethel! I have just sent for you to come home." Then she rose and took
Ethel in her arms. "How delightfully cold you are! And what rosy cheeks!
Do you know that we have a little dinner party?"

"Mr. Mostyn?"

"Yes, and your grandmother, and perhaps Dr. Fisher - the Doctor is not
certain."

"And I see that you are already dressed. How handsome you look! That
black lace dress, with the dull gold ornaments, is all right."

"I felt as if jewels would be overdress for a family dinner."

"Yes, but jewels always snub men so completely. It is not altogether
that they represent money; they give an air of royalty, and a woman
without jewels is like an uncrowned queen - she does not get the homage.
I can't account for it, but there it is. I shall wear my sapphire
necklace. What did father say about our new kinsman?"

"Very little. It was impossible to judge from his words what he thought.
I fancied that he might have been a little disappointed."

"I should not wonder. We shall see."

"You will be dressed in an hour?"

"In less time. Shall I wear white or blue?"

"Pale blue and white flowers. There are some white violets in the
library. I have a red rose. We shall contrast each other very well."

"What is it all about? Do we really care how we look in the eyes of this
Mr. Mostyn?"

"Of course we care. We should not be women if we did not care. We must
make some sort of an impression, and naturally we prefer that it should
be a pleasant one."

"If we consider the mortgage - - "

"Nonsense! The mortgage is not in it."

"Good-by. Tell Mattie to bring me a cup of tea upstairs. I will be
dressed in an hour."

The tea was brought and drank, and Ethel fell asleep while her maid
prepared every item for her toilet. Then she spoke to her mistress, and
Ethel awakened, as she always did, with a smile; nature's surest sign of
a radically sweet temper. And everything went in accord with the smile;
her hair fell naturally into its most becoming waves, her dress into its
most graceful folds; the sapphire necklace matched the blue of her happy
eyes, the roses of youth were on her cheeks, and white violets on her
breast. She felt her own beauty and was glad of it, and with a laughing
word of pleasure went down to the parlor.

Madam Rawdon was standing before the fire, but when she heard the door
open she turned her face toward it.

"Come here, Ethel Rawdon," she said, "and let me have a look at you."
And Ethel went to her side, laid her hand lightly on the old lady's
shoulder and kissed her cheek. "You do look middling well," she
continued, "and your dress is about as it should be. I like a girl to
dress like a girl - still, the sapphires. Are they necessary?"

"You would not say corals, would you, grandmother? I have those you gave
me when I was three years old."

"Keep your wit, my dear, for this evening. I should not wonder but you
might need it. Fred Mostyn is rather better than I expected. It was a
great pleasure to see him. It was like a bit of my own youth back again.
When you are a very old woman there are few things sweeter, Ethel."

"But you are not an old woman, grandmother."

Nor was she. In spite of her seventy-five years she stood erect at the
side of her grand-daughter. Her abundant hair was partly gray, but the
gray mingled with the little oval of costly lace that lay upon it, and
the effect was soft and fair as powdering. She had been very handsome,
and her beauty lingered as the beauty of some flowers linger, in fainter
tints and in less firm outlines; for she had never fallen from that
"grace of God vouchsafed to children," and therefore she had kept not
only the enthusiasms of her youth, but that sweet promise of the "times
of restitution" when the child shall die one hundred years old, because
the child-heart shall be kept in all its freshness and trust. Yes, in
Rachel Rawdon's heart the well-springs of love and life lay too deep for
the frosts of age to touch. She would be eternally young before she grew
old.

She sat down as Ethel spoke, and drew the girl to her side. "I hear your
friend is going to marry," she said.

"Dora? Yes."

"Are you sorry?"

"Perhaps not. Dora has been a care to me for four years. I hope her
husband may manage her as well as I have done."

"Are you afraid he will not?"

"I cannot tell, grandmother. I see all Dora's faults. Mr. Stanhope is
certain that she has no faults. Hitherto she has had her own way in
everything. Excepting myself, no one has ventured to contradict her.
But, then, Dora is over head and ears in love, and love, it is said,
makes all things easy to bear and to do."

"One thing, girls, amazes me - it is how readily women go to church and
promise to love, honor, and obey their husbands, when they never intend
to do anything of the kind."

"There is a still more amazing thing, Madam," answered Ruth; "that is
that men should be so foolish as to think, or hope, they perhaps might
do so."

"Old-fashioned women used to manage it some way or other, Ruth. But the
old-fashioned woman was a very soft-hearted creature, and, maybe, it was
just as well that she was."

"But Woman's Dark Ages are nearly over, Madam; and is not the New Woman
a great improvement on the Old Woman?"

"I haven't made up my mind yet, Ruth, about the New Woman. I notice one
thing that a few of the new kind have got into their pretty heads, and
that is, that they ought to have been men; and they have followed up
that idea so far that there is now very little difference in their
looks, and still less in their walk; they go stamping along with the
step of an athlete and the stride of a peasant on fresh plowed fields.
It is the most hideous of walks imaginable. The Grecian bend, which
you cannot remember, but may have heard of, was a lackadaisical, vulgar
walking fad, but it was grace itself compared with the hideous stride
which the New Woman has acquired on the golf links or somewhere else."

"But men stamp and stride in the same way, grandmother."

"A long stride suits a man's anatomy well enough; it does not suit a
woman's - she feels every stride she takes, I'll warrant her."

"If she plays golf - - "

"My dear Ethel, there is no need for her to play golf. It is a man's
game and was played for centuries by men only. In Scotland, the home of
golf, it was not thought nice for women to even go to the links, because
of the awful language they were likely to hear."

"Then, grandmother, is it not well for ladies to play golf if it keeps
men from using 'awful language' to each other?"

"God love you, child! Men will think what they dare not speak."

"If we could only have some new men!" sighed Ethel. "The lover of to-day
is just what a girl can pick up; he has no wit and no wisdom and no
illusions. He talks of his muscles and smells of cigarettes - perhaps
of whisky" - and at these words, Judge Rawdon, accompanied by Mr. Fred
Mostyn, entered the room.

The introductions slipped over easily, they hardly seemed to be
necessary, and the young man took the chair offered as naturally as
if he had sat by the hearth all his life. There was no pause and no
embarrassment and no useless polite platitudes; and Ethel's first
feeling about her kinsman was one of admiration for the perfect ease and
almost instinctive at-homeness with which he took his place. He had come
to his own and his own had received him; that was the situation, a very
pleasant one, which he accepted with the smiling trust that was at once
the most perfect and polite of acknowledgments.

"So you do not enjoy traveling?" said Judge Rawdon as if continuing a
conversation.

"I think it the most painful way of taking pleasure, sir - that is the
actual transit. And sleeping cars and electric-lighted steamers and
hotels do not mitigate the suffering. If Dante was writing now he might
depict a constant round of personally conducted tours in Purgatory.


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe Man Between, an International Romance → online text (page 2 of 14)