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I should think the punishment adequate for any offense. But I like
arriving at places. New York has given me a lot of new sensations
to-day, and I have forgotten the transit troubles already."

He talked well and temperately, and yet Ethel could not avoid the
conclusion that he was a man of positive character and uncompromising
prejudices. And she also felt a little disappointed in his personality,
which contradicted her ideal of a Yorkshire squire. For he was small and
slender in stature, and his face was keen and thin, from the high
cheek bones to the sharp point of the clean-shaven chin. Yet it was
an interesting face, for the brows were broad and the eyes bright
and glancing. That his nature held the opposite of his qualities was
evident from the mouth, which was composed and discreet and generally
clothed with a frank smile, negatived by the deep, sonorous voice which
belongs to the indiscreet and quarrelsome. His dress was perfect. Ethel
could find no fault in it, except the monocle which he did not use once
during the evening, and which she therefore decided was a quite idle and
unhandsome adjunct.

One feature of his character was definite - he was a home-loving man.
He liked the society of women with whom he could be familiar, and
he preferred the company of books and music to fashionable social
functions. This pleasant habit of domesticity was illustrated during
the evening by an accidental incident - a noisy, mechanical street
organ stopped before the windows, and in a blatant manner began its
performance. Conversation was paralyzed by the intrusion and when it
was removed Judge Rawdon said: "What a democratic, leveling, aggressive
thing music is! It insists on being heard. It is always in the way,
it thrusts itself upon you, whether you want it or not. Now art is
different. You go to see pictures when you wish to."

Mostyn did not notice the criticism on music itself, but added in a
soft, disapproving way: "That man has no music in him. Do you know that
was one of Mendelssohn's delicious dreams. This is how it should have
been rendered," and he went impulsively to the piano and then the sweet
monotonous cadences and melodious reveries slipped from his long white
fingers till the whole room was permeated with a delicious sense of
moonlit solitude and conversation was stilled in its languor. The young
man had played his own dismissal, but it was an effective one, and
he complimented himself on his readiness to seize opportunities for
display, and on his genius in satisfying them.

"I think I astonished them a little," he mused, "and I wonder what that
pretty, cousin of mine thought of the music and the musician. I fancy we
shall be good friends; she is proud - that is no fault; and she has very
decided opinions - which might be a great fault; but I think I rather
astonished them."

To such reflections he stepped rather pompously down the avenue, not at
all influenced by any premonition that his satisfactory feelings
might be imperfectly shared. Yet silence was the first result of his
departure. Judge Rawdon took out his pocketbook and began to study its
entries. Ruth Bayard rose and closed the piano. Ethel lifted a magazine,
while it was Madam who finally asked in an impatient tone:

"What do you think of Frederick? I suppose, Edward, you have an opinion.
Isn't he a very clever man?"

"I should not wonder if he were, mother, clever to a fault."

"I never heard a young man talk better."

"He talked a great deal, but then, you know, he was not on his oath."

"I'll warrant every word he said."

"Your warrant is fine surety, mother, but I am not bound to believe all
I hear. You women can please yourselves."

And with these words he left the women to find out, if they could, what
manner of man their newly-found kinsman might be.


* * * * *



CHAPTER III

ONE of the most comfortable things about Frederick Mostyn was his almost
boyish delight in the new life which New York opened to him. Every phase
of it was so fresh, so unusual, that his Yorkshire existence at Mostyn
Hall gave him no precedents and no experiences by which to measure
events. The simplest things were surprising or interesting. He was never
weary of taking those exciting "lifts" to the top of twenty-three story
buildings and admiring the wonderful views such altitudes gave him. He
did not perhaps comprehend how much he was influenced by the friction
of two million wills and interests; did not realize how they evoked
an electric condition that got behind the foreground of existence and
stirred something more at the roots of his being than any previous
experience had ever done. And this feeling was especially entrancing
when he saw the great city and majestic river lying at his feet in the
white, uncanny light of electricity, all its color gone, its breath
cold, its life strangely remote and quiet, men moving like shadows,
and sounds hollow and faint and far off, as if they came from a distant
world. It gave him a sense of dreamland quite as much as that of
reality. The Yorkshire moors and words grew dull and dreary in his
memory; even the thought of the hunting field could not lure his desire.
New York was full of marvelous novelties; its daily routine, even in the
hotel and on the streets, gripped his heart and his imagination; and he
confessed to himself that New York was life at first hand; fresh drawn,
its very foam sparkling and intoxicating. He walked from the Park to the
Battery and examined all that caught his eye. He had a history of
the city and sought out every historical site; he even went over to
Weehawken, and did his best to locate the spot where Burr and Hamilton
fought. He admired Hamilton, but after reading all about the two men,
gave his sympathy to Burr, "a clever, unlucky little chap," he said.
"Why do clever men hate each other?" and then he smiled queerly as he
remembered political enemies of great men in his own day and his own
country; and concluded that "it was their nature to do so."

But in these outside enthusiasms he did not forget his personal
relations. It took him but a few days to domesticate himself in both the
Rawdon houses. When the weather drove him off the streets, he found a
pleasant refuge either with Madam or with Ethel and Miss Bayard. Ethel
he saw less frequently than he liked; she was nearly always with Dora
Denning, but with Ruth Bayard he contracted a very pleasant friendship.
He told her all his adventures and found her more sympathetic than Madam
ever pretended to be. Madam thought him provincial in his tastes, and
was better pleased to hear that he had a visiting entry at two good
clubs, and had hired a motor ear, and was learning how to manage it.
Then she told herself that if he was good to her, she would buy him one
to be proud of before he returned to Yorkshire.

It was at the Elite Club Bryce Denning first saw him. He came in with
Shaw McLaren, a young man whose acquaintance was considered as most
definitely satisfactory. Vainly Bryce Denning had striven to obtain any
notice whatever from McLaren, whose exclusiveness was proverbial. Who
then was this stranger he appeared so anxious to entertain? His look of
supreme satisfaction, his high-bred air, and peculiar intonation quickly
satisfied Bryce as to his nationality.

"English, of course," he reflected, "and probably one of the aristocrats
that Shaw meets at his recently ennobled sister's place. He is forever
bragging about them. I must find out who Shaw's last British lion is,"
and just as he arrived at this decision the person appeared who could
satisfy him.

"That man!" was the reply to the inevitable question - "why, he is some
relative of the old lady Rawdon. He is staying at the Holland House,
but spends his time with the Rawdons, old and young; the young one is a
beauty, you know."

"Do you think so? She is a good deal at our house. I suppose the fellow
has some pretentions. Judge Rawdon will be a man hard to satisfy with a
son-in-law."

"I fancy his daughter will take that subject in her own hand. She
looks like a girl of spirit; and this man is not as handsome as most
Englishmen."

"Not if you judge him by bulk, but women want more than mere bulk; he
has an air of breeding you can't mistake, and he looks clever."

"His name is Mostyn. I have heard him spoken of. Would you like to know
him?"

"I could live without that honor" - then Bryce turned the conversation
upon a recent horse sale, and a few moments later was sauntering up the
avenue. He was now resolved to make up his quarrel with Dora. Through
Dora he could manage to meet Mostyn socially, and he smiled in
anticipation of that proud moment when he should parade in his own
friendly leash McLaren's new British lion. Besides, the introduction to
Mr. Mostyn might, if judiciously managed, promote his own acquaintance
with Shaw McLaren, a sequence to be much desired; an end he had
persistently looked for.

He went straight to his sister's apartments and touched the bell quite
gently. Her maid opened the door and looked annoyed and uncertain. She
knew all about the cruelly wicked opposition of Miss Denning's brother
to that nice young man, Basil Stanhope; and also the general attitude of
the Denning household, which was a comprehensive disapproval of all that
Mr. Bryce said and did.

Dora had, however, talked all her anger away; she wished now to be
friends with her brother. She knew that his absence from her wedding
would cause unpleasant notice, and she had other reasons, purely
selfish, all emphasizing the advantages of a reconciliation. So she went
to meet Bryce with a pretty, pathetic air of injury patiently endured,
and when Bryce put out his hands and said, "Forgive me, Dodo! I cannot
bear your anger any longer!" she was quite ready for the next act, which
was to lay her pretty head on his shoulder and murmur, "I am not angry,
Bryce - I am grieved, dear."

"I know, Dodo - forgive me! It was all my fault. I think I was jealous of
you; it was hard to find that you loved a stranger better than you loved
me. Kiss me, and be my own sweet, beautiful sister again. I shall try to
like all the people you like - for your sake, you know."

Then Dora was charming. She sat and talked and planned and told him
all that had been done and all that was yet to do. And Bryce never
once named either Ethel or Mr. Mostyn. He knew Dora was a shrewd little
woman, and that he would have to be very careful in introducing the
subject of Mr. Mostyn, or else she would be sure to reach the central
truth of his submission to her. But, somehow, things happen for those
who are content to leave their desires to contingencies and accidentals.
The next morning he breakfasted with the family and felt himself
repaid for his concession to Dora by the evident pleasure their renewed
affection gave his father and mother; and though the elder Denning
made no remark in the renewed family solidarity, Bryce anticipated many
little favors and accommodations from his father's satisfaction.

After breakfast he sat down, lit his cigar and waited. Both his mother
and Dora had much to tell him, and he listened, and gave them such
excellent advice that they were compelled to regret the arrangements
already made had lacked the benefit of his counsels.

"But you had Ethel Rawdon," he said. "I thought she was everybody rolled
into one."

"Oh, Ethel doesn't know as much as she thinks she does," said Mrs.
Denning. "I don't agree with lots of things she advises."

"Then take my advice, mother."

"Oh, Bryce, it is the best of all."

"Bryce does not know about dress and such things, mother. Ethel finds
out what she does not know. Bryce cannot go to modistes and milliners
with me."

"Well, Ethel does not pay as much attention as she might - she is
always going somewhere or other with that Englishman, that she says is a
relative - for my part, I doubt it."

"Oh, mother!"

"Girls will say anything, Dora, to hide a love affair. Why does she
never bring him here to call?"

"Because I asked her not. I do not want to make new friends, especially
English ones, now. I am so busy all day, and of course my evenings
belong to Basil."

"Yes, and there is no one to talk to me. Ethel and the Englishman
would pass an hour or two very nicely, and your father is very fond of
foreigners. I think you ought to ask Ethel to introduce him to us;
then we could have a little dinner for him and invite him to our opera
box - don't you agree with me, Bryce?"

"If Dora does. Of course, at this time, Dora's wishes and engagements
are the most important. I have seen the young man at the club with Shaw
McLaren and about town with Judge Rawdon and others. He seems a nice
little fellow. Jack Lacy wanted to introduce me to him yesterday, but I
told him I could live without the honor. Of course, if Dora feels
like having him here that is a very different matter. He is certainly
distinguished looking, and would give an air to the wedding."

"Is he handsome, Bryce?"

"Yes - and no. Women would rave about him; men would think him finical
and dandified. He looks as if he were the happiest fellow in the
world - in fact, he looked to me so provokingly happy that I disliked
him; but now that Dodo is my little sister again, I can be happy enough
to envy no one."

Then Dora slipped her hand into her brother's hand, and Bryce knew that
he might take his way to his little office in William Street, the advent
of Mr. Mostyn into his life being now as certain as anything in this
questionable, fluctuating world could be. As he was sauntering down
the avenue he met Ethel and he turned and walked back with her to the
Denning house. He was so good-natured and so good-humored that Ethel
could not avoid an inquisitive look at the usually glum young man, and
he caught it with a laugh and said, "I suppose you wonder what is the
matter with me, Miss Rawdon?"

"You look more than usually happy. If I suppose you have found a wife or
a fortune, shall I be wrong?"

"You come near the truth; I have found a sister. Do you know I am very
fond of Dora and we have made up our quarrel?"

Then Ethel looked at him again. She did not believe him. She was sure
that Dora was not the only evoker of the unbounded satisfaction in
Bryce Denning's face and manner. But she let the reason pass; she had
no likely arguments to use against it. And that day Mrs. Denning, with a
slight air of injury, opened the subject of Mr. Mostyn's introduction to
them. She thought Ethel had hardly treated the Dennings fairly. Everyone
was wondering they had not met him. Of course, she knew they were not
aristocrats and she supposed Ethel was ashamed of them, but, for her
part, she thought they were as good as most people, and if it came to
money, they could put down dollar for dollar with any multi-millionaire
in America, or England either, for that matter.

When the reproach took this tone there seemed to be only one thing for
Ethel to say or to do; but that one thing was exactly what she did not
say or do. She took up Mrs. Denning's reproach and complained that "her
relative and friend had been purposely and definitely ignored. Dora had
told her plainly she did not wish to make Mr. Mostyn's acquaintance;
and, in accord with this feeling, no one in the Denning family had
called on Mr. Mostyn, or shown him the least courtesy. She thought the
whole Rawdon family had the best of reasons for feeling hurt at the
neglect."

This view of the case had not entered Mrs. Denning's mind. She was
quickly sorry and apologetic for Dora's selfishness and her own
thoughtlessness, and Ethel was not difficult to pacify. There was then
no duty so imperative as the arrangement of a little dinner for Mr.
Mostyn. "We will make it quite a family affair," said Mrs. Denning,
"then we can go to the opera afterwards. Shall I call on Mr. Mostyn at
the Holland House?" she asked anxiously.

"I will ask Bryce to call," said Dora. "Bryce will do anything to please
me now, mother."

In this way, Bryce Denning's desires were all arranged for him, and that
evening Dora made her request. Bryce heard it with a pronounced pout of
his lips, but finally told Dora she was "irresistible," and as his time
for pleasing her was nearly out, he would even call on the Englishman at
her request.

"Mind!" he added, "I think he is as proud as Lucifer, and I may get
nothing for my civility but the excuse of a previous engagement."

But Bryce Denning expected much more than this, and he got all that he
expected. The young men had a common ground to meet on, and they quickly
became as intimate as ever Frederick Mostyn permitted himself to be with
a stranger. Bryce could hardly help catching enthusiasm from Mostyn on
the subject of New York, and he was able to show his new acquaintance
phases of life in the marvelous city which were of the greatest interest
to the inquisitive Yorkshire squire - Chinese theaters and opium dives;
German, Italian, Spanish, Jewish, French cities sheltering themselves
within the great arms of the great American city; queer restaurants,
where he could eat of the national dishes of every civilized country
under the sun; places of amusement, legal and illegal, and the vast
under side of the evident life - all the uncared for toiling of the
thousands who work through the midnight hours. In these excursions the
young men became in a way familiar, though neither of them ever told the
other the real feelings of their hearts or the real aim of their lives.

The proposed dinner took place ten days after its suggestion. There was
nothing remarkable in the function itself; all millionaires have
the same delicacies and the same wines, and serve these things with
precisely the same ceremonies. And, as a general thing, the company
follow rigidly ordained laws of conversation. Stories about public
people, remarks about the weather and the opera, are in order; but
original ideas or decided opinions are unpardonable social errors.
Yet even these commonplace events may contain some element that shall
unexpectedly cut a life in two, and so change its aims and desires as
to virtually create a new character. It was Frederick Mostyn who in
this instance underwent this great personal change; a change totally
unexpected and for which he was absolutely unprepared. For the people
gathered in Mrs. Denning's drawing-room were mostly known to him, and
the exceptions did not appear to possess any remarkable traits, except
Basil Stanhope, who stood thoughtfully at a window, his pale, lofty
beauty wearing an air of expectation. Mostyn decided that he was
naturally impatient for the presence of his fiancee, whose delayed
entrance he perceived was also annoying Ethel. Then there was a slight
movement, a sudden silence, and Mostyn saw Stanhope's face flush and
turn magically radiant. Mechanically he followed his movement and the
next moment his eyes met Fate, and Love slipped in between. Dora was
there, a fairy-like vision in pale amber draperies, softened with silk
lace. Diamonds were in her wonderfully waved hair and round her fair
white neck. They clasped her belt and adorned the instep of her little
amber silk slippers. She held a yellow rose in her hand, and yellow
rosebuds lay among the lace at her bosom, and Mostyn, stupefied by her
undreamed-of loveliness, saw golden emanations from the clear pallor of
her face. He felt for a moment or two as if he should certainly faint;
only by a miracle of stubborn will did he drag his consciousness from
that golden-tinted, sparkling haze of beauty which had smitten him like
an enchantment. Then the girl was looking at him with her soft, dark,
gazelle eyes; she was even speaking to him, but what she said, or what
reply he made, he could never by any means remember. Miss Bayard was
to be his companion, and with some effort and a few indistinct words he
gave her his arm. She asked if he was ill, and when a shake of the head
answered the query, she covered the few minutes of his disconcertion
with her conversation. He looked at her gratefully and gathered his
personality together. For Love had come to him like a two-edged sword,
dividing the flesh and the spirit, and he longed to cry aloud and
relieve the sweet torture of the possession.

Reaction, however, came quickly, and with it a wonderful access of
all his powers. The sweet, strong wine of Love went to his brain like
celestial nectar. All the witty, amusing things he had ever heard came
trooping into his memory, and the dinner was long delayed by his fine
humor, his pleasant anecdotes, and the laughing thoughts which others
caught up and illustrated in their own way.

It was a feast full of good things, but its spirit was not able to bear
transition. The company scattered quickly when it was over to the opera
or theater or to the rest of a quiet evening at home, for at the end
enthusiasm of any kind has a chilling effect on the feelings. None
of the party understood this result, and yet all were, in their way,
affected by the sudden fall of mental temperature. Mr. Denning went
to his library and took out his private ledger, a penitential sort of
reading which he relished after moods of any kind of enjoyment. Mrs.
Denning selected Ethel Rawdon for her text of disillusion. She "thought
Ethel had been a little jealous of Dora's dress," and Dora said, "It was
one of her surprises, and Ethel thought she ought to know everything."
"You are too obedient to Ethel," continued Mrs. Denning and Dora looked
with a charming demureness at her lover, and said, "She had to be
obedient to some one wiser than herself," and so slipped her hand
into Basil's hand. And he understood the promise, and with a look of
passionate affection raised the little jeweled pledge and kissed it.

Perhaps no one was more affected by this chill, critical after-hour
than Miss Bayard and Ethel. Mostyn accompanied them home, but he was
depressed, and his courtesy had the air of an obligation. He said he
had a sudden headache, and was not sorry when the ladies bid him "good
night" on the threshold. Indeed, he felt that he must have refused any
invitation to lengthen out the hours with them or anybody. He wanted
one thing, and he wanted that with all his soul - solitude, that he might
fill it with images of Dora, and with passionate promises that either by
fair means or by foul, by right or by wrong, he would win the bewitching
woman for his wife.



CHAPTER IV

"WHAT do you think of the evening, Aunt Ruth?" Ethel was in her
aunt's room, comfortably wrapped in a pink kimono, when she asked this
question.

"What do you think of it, Ethel?"

"I am not sure."

"The dinner was well served."

"Yes. Who was the little dark man you talked with, aunt?"

"He was a Mr. Marriot, a banker, and a friend of Bryce Denning's. He is
a fresh addition to society, I think. He had the word 'gold' always on
his lips; and he believes in it as good men believe in God. The general
conversation annoyed him; he could not understand men being entertained
by it."

"They were, though, for once Jamie Sayer forgot to talk about his
pictures."

"Is that the name of your escort?"

"Yes."

"And is he an artist?"

"A second-rate one. He is painting Dora's picture, and is a great
favorite of Mrs. Denning's."

"A strange, wild-looking man. When I saw him first he was lying,
dislocated, over his ottoman rather than sitting on it."

"Oh, that is a part of his affectations. He is really a childish,
self-conscious creature, with a very decided dash of vulgarity. He only
tries to look strange and wild, and he would be delighted if he knew you
had thought him so."

"I was glad to see Claudine Jeffrys. How slim and graceful she is! And,
pray, who is that Miss Ullman?"

"A very rich woman. She has Bryce under consideration. Many other men
have been in the same position, for she is sure they all want her money
and not her. Perhaps she is right. I saw you talking to her, aunt."

"For a short time. I did not enjoy her company. She is so mercilessly
realistic, she takes all the color out of life. Everything about her,
even her speech, is sharp-lined as the edge of a knife. She could make
Bryce's life very miserable."

"Perhaps it might turn out the other way. Bryce Denning has capacities
in the same line. How far apart, how far above every man there, stood
Basil Stanhope!"

"He is strikingly handsome and graceful, and I am sure that his luminous
serenity does not arise from apathy. I should say he was a man of very
strong and tender feelings."

"And he gives all the strength and tenderness of his feelings to Dora.
Men are strange creatures."



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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe Man Between, an International Romance → online text (page 3 of 14)