Copyright
Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The Man Between, an International Romance online

. (page 4 of 14)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe Man Between, an International Romance → online text (page 4 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


"Who directed Dora's dress this evening?"

"Herself or her maid. I had nothing to do with it. The effect was
stunning."

"Fred thought so. In fact, Fred Hostyn - - "

"Fell in love with her."

"Exactly. 'Fell,' that is the word - fell prostrate. Usually the lover
of to-day walks very timidly and carefully into the condition, step
by step, and calculating every step before he takes it. Fred
plunged headlong into the whirling vortex. I am very sorry. It is a
catastrophe."

"I never witnessed the accident before. I have heard of men getting
wounds and falls, and developing new faculties in consequence, but we
saw the phenomenon take place this evening."

"Love, if it be love, is known in a moment. Man who never saw the
sun before would know it was the sun. In Fred's case it was an
instantaneous, impetuous passion, flaming up at the sight of such
unexpected beauty - a passion that will probably fade as rapidly as it
rose."

"Fred is not that kind of a man, aunt. He does not like every one and
everything, but whoever or whatever he does like becomes a lasting part
of his life. Even the old chairs and tables at Mostyn are held as sacred
objects by him, though I have no doubt an American girl would trundle
them off to the garret. It is the same with the people. He actually
regards the Rawdons as belonging in some way to the Mostyns; and I do
not believe he has ever been in love before."

"Nonsense!"

"He was so surprised by the attack. If it had been the tenth or
twentieth time he would have taken it more philosophically; besides, if
he had ever loved any woman, he would have gone on loving her, and we
should have known all about her perfections by this time."

"Dora is nearly a married woman, and Mostyn knows it."

"Nearly may make all the difference. When Dora is married he will be
compelled to accept the inevitable and make the best of it."

"When Dora is married he will idealize her, and assure himself that her
marriage is the tragedy of both their lives."

"Dora will give him no reason to suppose such a thing. I am sure she
will not. She is too much in love with Mr. Stanhope to notice any other
lover."

"You are mistaken, Ethel. Swiftly as Fred was vanquished she noticed
it, and many times - once even while leaning on Mr. Stanhope's arm - she
turned the arrow in the heart wound with sweet little glances and
smiles, and pretty appeals to the blind adoration of her new lover. It
was, to me, a humiliating spectacle. How could she do it?"

"I am sure Dora meant no wrong. It is so natural for a lovely girl to
show off a little. She will marry and forget Fred Mostyn lives."

"And Fred will forget?"

"Fred will not forget."

"Then I shall be very sorry for your father and grandmother."

"What have they to do with Fred marrying?"

"A great deal. Fred has been so familiar and homely the last two or
three weeks, that they have come to look upon him as a future member
of the family. It has been 'Cousin Ethel' and 'Aunt Ruth' and even
'grandmother' and 'Cousin Fred,' and no objections have been made to the
use of such personal terms. I think your father hopes for a closer tie
between you and Fred Mostyn than cousinship."

"Whatever might have been is over. Do you imagine I could consent to be
the secondary deity, to come after Dora - Dora of all the girls I have
ever known? The idea is an insult to my heart and my intelligence.
Nothing on earth could make me submit to such an indignity."

"I do not suppose, Ethel, that any wife is the first object of her
husband's love."

"At least they tell her she is so, swear it an inch deep; and no woman
is fool enough to look beyond that oath, but when she is sure that she
is a second best! AH! That is not a position I will ever take in any
man's heart knowingly."

"Of course, Fred Mostyn will have to marry."

"Of course, he will make a duty of the event. The line of Mostyns must
be continued. England might go to ruin if the Mostyns perished off the
English earth; but, Aunt Ruth, I count myself worthy of a better fate
than to become a mere branch in the genealogical tree of the Mostyns.
And that is all Fred Mostyn's wife will ever be to him, unless he
marries Dora."

"But that very supposition implies tragedy, and it is most unlikely."

"Yes, for Dora is a good little thing. She has never been familiar
with vice. She has even a horror of poor women divorced from impossible
husbands. She believes her marriage will be watched by the angels, and
recorded in heaven. Basil has instructed her to regard marriage as a
holy sacrament, and I am sure he does the same."

"Then why should we forecast evil to their names? As for Cousin Fred, I
dare say he is comfortably asleep."

"I am sure he is not. I believe he is smoking and calling himself names
for not having come to New York last May, when father first invited him.
Had he done so things might have been different."

"Yes, they might. When Good Fortune calls, and the called 'will not when
they may,' then, 'when they will' Good Fortune has become Misfortune.
Welcome a pleasure or a gain at once, or don't answer it at all. It was
on this rock, Ethel, the bark that carried my love went to pieces. I
know; yes, I know!"

"My dear aunt!"

"It is all right now, dear; but things might have been that are not. As
to Dora, I think she may be trusted with Basil Stanhope. He is one of
the best and handsomest men I ever saw, and he has now rights in Dora's
love no one can tamper with. Mostyn is an honorable man."

"All right, but -

"Love will venture in,
Where he daurna well be seen;
O Love will venture in,
Where Wisdom once has been -

and then, aunt, what then?"




PART SECOND - PLAYING WITH FIRE



CHAPTER V

THE next day after lunch Ethel said she was going to walk down to
Gramercy Park and spend an hour or two with her grandmother, and "Will
you send the carriage for me at five o'clock?" she asked.

"Your father has ordered the carriage to be at the Holland House at five
o'clock. It can call for you first, and then go to the Holland House.
But do not keep your father waiting. If he is not at the entrance give
your card to the outside porter; he will have it sent up to Fred's
apartments."

"Then father is calling on Fred? What for? Is he sick?"

"Oh, no, business of some kind. I hope you will have a pleasant walk."

"There is no doubt of it."

Indeed, she was radiant with its exhilaration when she reached Gramercy
Park. As she ran up the steps of the big, old-fashioned house she saw
Madam at the window picking up some dropped stitches in her knitting.
Madam saw her at the same moment, and the old face and the young face
both alike kindled with love, as well as with happy anticipation of
coveted intercourse.

"I am so glad to see you, darling Granny. I could not wait until
to-morrow."

"And why should you, child? I have been watching for you all morning. I
want to hear about the Denning dinner. I suppose you went?"

"Yes, we went; we had to. Dinners in strange houses are a common
calamity; I can't expect to be spared what everyone has to endure."

"Don't be affected, Ethel. You like going out to dinner. Of course, you
do! It is only natural, considering."

"I don't, Granny. I like dances and theaters and operas, but I don't
like dinners. However, the Denning dinner was a grand exception. It gave
me and the others a sensation."

"I expected that."

"It was beautifully ordered. Majordomo Parkinson saw to that. If he had
arranged it for his late employer, the Duke of Richmond, it could not
have been finer. There was not a break anywhere."

"How many were present?"

"Just a dozen."

"Mr. Denning and Bryce, of course. Who were the others?"

"Mr. Stanhope, of course. Granny, he wore his clerical dress. It made
him look so remarkable."

"He did right. A clergyman ought to look different from other men. I
do not believe Basil Stanhope, having assumed the dress of a servant of
God, would put it off one hour for any social exigency. Why should he?
It is a grander attire than any military or naval uniform, and no court
dress is comparable, for it is the court dress of the King of kings."

"All right, dear Granny; you always make things clear to me, yet I meet
lots of clergymen in evening dress."

"Then they ought not to be clergymen. They ought not to wear coats in
which they can hold any kind of opinions. Who was your companion?"

"Jamie Sayer."

"I never heard of the man."

"He is an artist, and is painting Dora's likeness. He is getting on now,
but in the past, like all artists, he has suffered a deal."

"God's will be done. Let them suffer. It is good for genius to suffer.
Is he in love with you?"

"Gracious, Granny! His head is so full of pictures that no woman could
find room there, and if one did, the next new picture would crowd her
out."

"End that story, it is long enough."

"Do you know Miss Ullman?"

"I have heard of her. Who has not?"

"She has Bryce Denning on trial now. If he marries her I shall pity
him."

"Pity him! Not I, indeed! He would have his just reward. Like to like,
and Amen to it."

"Then there was Claudine Jeffrys, looking quite ethereal, but very
lovely."

"I know. Her lover was killed in Cuba, and she has been the type of
faithful grief ever since. She looks it and dresses it to perfection."

"And feels it?"

"Perhaps she does. I am not skilled in the feelings of pensive,
heart-broken maidens. But her case is a very common one. Lovers are
nowhere against husbands, yet how many thousands of good women lose
their husbands every year? If they are poor, they have to hide their
grief and work for them-selves and their families; if they are rich,
very few people believe that they are really sorry to be widows. Are
any poor creatures more jeered at than widows? No man believes they
are grieving for the loss of their husbands. Then why should they all
sympathize with Claudine about the loss of a lover?"

"Perhaps lovers are nicer than husbands."

"Pretty much all alike. I have known a few good husbands. Your
grandfather was one, your father another. But you have said nothing
about Fred. Did he look handsome? Did he make a sensation? Was he a
cousin to be proud of?"

"Indeed, Granny, Fred was the whole party. He is not naturally handsome,
but he has distinction, and he was well-dressed. And I never heard
anyone talk as he did. He told the most delightful stories, he was full
of mimicry and wit, and said things that brought everyone into the
merry talk; and I am sure he charmed and astonished the whole party.
Mr. Denning asked me quietly afterwards 'what university he was educated
at.' I think he took it all as education, and had some wild ideas of
finishing Bryce in a similar manner."

Madam was radiant. "I told you so," she said proudly. "The Mostyns have
intellect as well as land. There are no stupid Mostyns. I hope you asked
him to play. I think his way of handling a piano would have taught them
a few things Russians and Poles know nothing about. Poor things! How can
they have any feelings left?"

"There was no piano in the room, Granny, and the company separated very
soon after dinner."

"Somehow you ought to have managed it, Ethel." Then with a touch of
anxiety, "I hope all this cleverness was natural - I mean, I hope it
wasn't champagne. You know, Ethel, we think as we drink, and Fred isn't
used to those frisky wines. Mostyn cellars are full of old sherry and
claret, and Fred's father was always against frothing, sparkling wines."

"Granny, it was all Fred. Wine had nothing to do with it, but a certain
woman had; in fact, she was the inspirer, and Fred fell fifty fathoms
deep in love with her the very moment she entered the room. He heard
not, felt not, thought not, so struck with love was he. Ruth got him
to a window for a few moments and so hid his emotion until he could get
himself together."

"Oh, what a tale! What a cobweb tale! I don't believe a word of it," and
she laughed merrily.

"'Tis true as gospel, Granny."

"Name her, then. Who was the woman?"

"Dora."

"It is beyond belief, above belief, out of all reason. It cannot be,
and it shall not be, and if you are making up a story to tease me, Ethel
Rawdon - - "

"Grandmother, let me tell you just how it came about. We were all in the
room waiting for Dora, and she suddenly entered. She was dressed in soft
amber silk from head to feet; diamonds were in her black hair, and on
the bands across her shoulders, on her corsage, on her belt, her hands,
and even her slippers. Under the electric lights she looked as if she
was in a golden aura, scintillating with stars. She took Fred's breath
away. He was talking to Ruth, and he could not finish the word he was
saying. Ruth thought he was going to faint - - "

"Don't tell me such nonsense."

"Well, grandmother, this nonsense is truth. As I said before, Ruth
took him aside until he got control of himself; then, as he was Dora's
escort, he had to go to her. Ruth introduced them, and as she raised her
soft, black eyes to his, and put her hand on his arm, something happened
again, but this time it was like possession. He was the courtier in a
moment, his eyes flashed back her glances, he gave her smile for smile,
and then when they were seated side by side he became inspired and
talked as I have told you. It is the truth, grandmother."

"Well, there are many different kinds of fools, but Fred Mostyn is the
worst I ever heard tell of. Does he not know that the girl is engaged?"

"Knows it as well as I do."

"None of our family were ever fools before, and I hope Fred will come
round quickly. Do you think Dora noticed the impression she made?"

"Yes, Aunt Ruth noticed Dora; and Ruth says Dora 'turned the arrow in
the heart wound' all the evening."

"What rubbish you are talking! Say in good English what you mean."

"She tried every moment they, were together to make him more and more
in love with her."

"What is her intention? A girl doesn't carry on that way for nothing."

"I do not know. Dora has got beyond me lately. And, grandmother, I
am not troubling about the event as it regards Dora or Fred or Basil
Stanhope, but as it regards Ethel."

"What have you to do with it?"

"That is just what I want to have clearly understood. Aunt Ruth told me
that father and you would be disappointed if I did not marry Fred."

"Well?"

"I am sorry to disappoint you, but I never shall marry Fred Mostyn.
Never!"

"I rather think you will have to settle that question with your father,
Ethel."

"No. I have settled it with myself. The man has given to Dora all the
love that he has to give. I will have a man's whole heart, and not
fragments and finger-ends of it."

"To be sure, that is right. But I can't say much, Ethel, when I only
know one side of the case, can I? I must wait and hear what Fred has
to say. But I like your spirit and your way of bringing what is wrong
straight up to question. You are a bit Yorkshire yet, whatever you think
gets quick to your tongue, and then out it comes. Good girl, your heart
is on your lips."

They talked the afternoon away on this subject, but Madam's last words
were not only advisory, they were in a great measure sympathetic. "Be
straight with yourself, Ethel," she said, "then Fred Mostyn can do as he
likes; you will be all right."

She accepted the counsel with a kiss, and then drove to the Holland
House for her father. He was not waiting, as Ruth had supposed he would
be, but then she was five minutes too soon. She sent up her card, and
then let her eyes fall upon a wretched beggar man who was trying to play
a violin, but was unable by reason of hunger and cold. He looked as if
he was dying, and she was moved with a great pity, and longed for her
father to come and give some help. While she was anxiously watching, a
young man was also struck with the suffering on the violinist's face.
He spoke a few words to him, and taking the violin, drew from it such
strains of melody, that in a few moments a crowd had gathered within the
hotel and before it. First there was silence, then a shout of delight;
and when it ceased the player's voice thrilled every heart to passionate
patriotism, as he sang with magnificent power and feeling -

There is not a spot on this wide-peopled earth
So dear to our heart as the Land of our Birth, etc.


A tumult of hearty applause followed, and then he cried, "Gentlemen,
this old man fought for the land of our birth. He is dying of hunger,"
and into the old man's hat he dropped a bill and then handed it round to
millionaire and workingman alike. Ethel's purse was in her hand. As
he passed along the curb at which her carriage stood, he looked at
her eager face, and with a smile held out the battered hat. She, also
smiling, dropped her purse into it. In a few moments the hat was nearly
full; the old man and the money were confided to the care of an hotel
officer, the stream of traffic and pleasure went on its usual way, and
the musician disappeared.

All that evening the conversation turned constantly to this event.
Mostyn was sure he was a member of some operatic troupe. "Voices of
such rare compass and exceptional training were not to be found among
non-professional people," he said, and Judge Rawdon was of his opinion.

"His voice will haunt me for many days," he said. "Those two lines, for
instance -

'Tis the home of our childhood, that beautiful spot
Which memory retains when all else is forgot.

The melody was wonderful. I wish we could find out where he is singing.
His voice, as I said, haunts my ear."

Ethel might have made the same remark, but she was silent. She had
noticed the musician more closely than her father or Fred Mostyn, and
when Ruth Bayard asked her if his personality was interesting, she was
able to give a very clear description of the man.

"I do not believe he is a professional singer; he is too young," she
answered. "I should think he was about twenty-five years old, tall,
slender, and alert. He was fashionably dressed, as if he had been, or
was going, to an afternoon reception. Above all things, I should say he
was a gentleman."

Oh, why are our hearts so accessible to our eyes? Only a smiling glance
had passed between Ethel and the Unknown, yet his image was prisoned
behind the bars of her eyelids. On this day of days she had met Love on
the crowded street, and he had

"But touched his lute wherein was audible
The certain secret thing he had to tell;
Only their mirrored eyes met silently";

and a sweet trouble, a restless, pleasing curiosity, had filled her
consciousness. Who was he? Where had he gone to? When should they meet
again? Ah, she understood now how Emmeline Labiche had felt constrained
to seek her lover from the snows of Canada to the moss-veiled oaks of
Louisiana.

But her joyous, hopeful soul could not think of love and disappointment
at the same moment. "I have seen him, and I shall see him again. We met
by appointment. Destiny introduced us. Neither of us will forget, and
somewhere, some day, I shall be waiting, and he will come."

Thus this daughter of sunshine and hope answered herself; and why not?
All good things come to those who can wait in sweet tranquillity for
them, and seldom does Fortune fail to bring love and heart's-ease upon
the changeful stream of changeful days to those who trust her for them.

On the following morning, when the two girls entered the parlor, they
found the Judge smoking there. He had already breakfasted, and looked
over the three or four newspapers whose opinions he thought worthy of
his consideration. They were lying in a state of confusion at his side,
and Ethel glanced at them curiously.

"Did any of the papers speak of the singing before the Holland House?"
she asked.

"Yes. I think reporters must be ubiquitous. All my papers had some sort
of a notice of the affair."

"What do they say?"

"One gave the bare circumstances of the case; another indulged in what
was supposed to be humorous description; a third thought it might have
been the result of a bet or dare; a fourth was of the opinion that
conspiracy between the old beggar and the young man was not unlikely,
and credited the exhibition as a cleverly original way of obtaining
money. But all agreed in believing the singer to be a member of some
opera company now in the city."

Ethel was indignant. "It was neither 'bet' nor 'dare' nor 'conspiracy,'"
she said. "I saw the singer as he came walking rapidly down the avenue,
and he looked as happy and careless as a boy whistling on a country
lane. When his eyes fell on the old man he hesitated, just a moment,
and then spoke to him. I am sure they were absolute strangers to each
other."

"But how can you be sure of a thing like that, Ethel?"

"I don't know 'how,' Ruth, but all the same, I am sure. And as for it
being a new way of begging, that is not correct. Not many years ago, one
of the De Reszke brothers led a crippled soldier into a Paris cafe, and
sang the starving man into comfort in twenty minutes."

"And the angelic Parepa Rosa did as much for a Mexican woman, whom she
found in the depths of sorrow and poverty - brought her lifelong comfort
with a couple of her songs. Is it not likely, then, that the gallant
knight of the Holland House is really a member of some opera company,
that he knew of these examples and followed them?"

"It is not unlikely, Ruth, yet I do not believe that is the
explanation."

"Well," said the Judge, throwing his cigarette into the fire, "if the
singer had never heard of De Reszke and Parepa Rosa, we may suppose him
a gentleman of such culture as to be familiar with the exquisite Greek
legend of Phoebus Apollo - that story would be sufficient to inspire any
man with his voice. Do you know it?"

Both girls answered with an enthusiastic entreaty for its recital, and
the Judge went to the library and returned with a queer-looking little
book, bound in marbled paper.

"It was my father's copy," he said, "an Oxford edition." And he turned
the leaves with loving carefulness until he came to the incident. Then
being a fine reader, the words fell from his lips in a stately measure
better than music:

"After Troy fell there came to Argos a scarred soldier seeking alms.
Not deigning to beg, he played upon a lyre; but the handling of arms had
robbed him of his youthful power, and he stood by the portico hour after
hour, and no one dropped him a lepton. Weary, hungry and thirsty, he
leaned in despair against a pillar. A youth came to him and asked, 'Why
not play on, Akeratos?' And Akeratos meekly answered, 'I am no longer
skilled.' 'Then,' said the stranger, 'hire me thy lyre; here is a
didrachmon. I will play, and thou shalt hold out thy cap and be dumb.'
So the stranger took the lyre and swept the strings, and men heard,
as it were, the clashing of swords. And he sang the fall of Troy - how
Hector perished, slain by Achilles, the rush of chariots, the ring of
hoofs, the roar of flames - and as he sang the people stopped to listen,
breathless and eager, with rapt, attentive ear. And when the singer
ceased the soldier's cap was filled with coins, and the people begged
for yet another song. Then he sang of Venus, till all men's hearts were
softly stirred, and the air was purple and misty and full of the scent
of roses. And in their joy men cast before Akeratos not coins only, but
silver bracelets and rings, and gems and ornaments of gold, until the
heap had to its utmost grown, making Akeratos rich in all men's sight.
Then suddenly the singer stood in a blaze of light, and the men of Argos
saw their god of song, Phoebus Apollo, rise in glory to the skies."

The girls were delighted; the Judge pleased both with his own rendering
of the legend and the manifest appreciation with which it had been
received. For a moment or two all felt the exquisite touch of the
antique world, and Ethel said, in a tone of longing,

"I wish that I had been a Greek and lived in Argos."

"You would not have liked it as well as being an American and living in
New York," said her father.

"And you would have been a pagan," added Ruth.

"They were such lovely pagans, Ruth, and they dreamed such beautiful
dreams of life. Leave the book with me, father; I will take good care of
it."

Then the Judge gave her the book, and with a sigh looked into the modern
street. "I ought to be down at Bowling Green instead of reading
Greek stories to you girls," he said rather brusquely. "I have a very
important railway case on my mind, and Phoebus Apollo has nothing to
do with it. Good morning. And, Ethel, do not deify the singer on the


1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe Man Between, an International Romance → online text (page 4 of 14)