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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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a servant entered with the mail. Ethel lifted her letter with an
exclamation. "It is from Dora," she said, and her voice had a tone of
annoyance in it. "Dora is in London, at the Savoy. She wants to see me
very much."

"I am so sorry. We have been so happy."

"I don't think she will interfere much, Ruth."

"My dears," said Judge Rawdon, "I have a letter from Fred Mostyn. He is
coming home. He will be in London in a day or two."

"Why is he coming, father?"

"He says he has a proposal to make about the Manor. I wish he were not
coming. No one wants his proposal." Then the breakfast-table, which had
been so gay, became silent and depressed, and presently the Judge went
away without exhibiting further interest in the London journey.

"I do wish Dora would let us alone," said Ruth. "She always brings
disappointment or worry of some kind. And I wonder what is the meaning
of this unexpected London visit. I thought she was in Holland."

"She said in her last letter that London would be impossible before
August."

"Is it an appointment - or a coincidence?"

And Ethel, lifting her shoulders sarcastically, as if in hostile
surrender to the inevitable, answered:

"It is a fatality!"



CHAPTER VIII

THREE days afterward Ethel called on Dora Stanhope at the Savoy. She
found her alone, and she had evidently been crying. Indeed, she
frankly admitted the fact, declaring that she had been "so bored and so
homesick, that she relieved she had cried her beauty away." She glanced
at Ethel's radiant face and neat fresh toilet with envy, and added, "I
am so glad to see you, Ethel. But I was sure that you would come as soon
as you knew I wanted you."

"Oh, indeed, Dora, you must not make yourself too sure of such a thing
as that! I really came to London to get some new gowns. I have been
shopping all morning."

"I thought you had come in answer to my letter. I was expecting you.
That is the reason I did not go out with Basil."

"Don't you expect a little too much, Dora? I have a great many interests
and duties - - "

"I used to be first."

"When a girl marries she is supposed to - - "

"Please don't talk nonsense. Basil does not take the place of everyone
and everything else. I think we are often very tired of each other. This
morning, when I was telling him what trouble I had with my maid, Julia,
he actually yawned. He tried to smother the yawn, but he could not, and
of course the honeymoon is over when your bridegroom yawns in your face
while you are telling him your troubles."

"I should think you would be glad it was over. Of all the words in the
English language 'honeymoon' is the most ridiculous and imbecile."

"I suppose when you get married you will take a honeymoon."

"I shall have more sense and more selfishness. A girl could hardly
enter a new life through a medium more trying. I am sure it would
need long-tested affections and the sweetest of tempers to make it
endurable."

"I cannot imagine what you mean."

"I mean that all traveling just after marriage is a great blunder.
Traveling makes the sunniest disposition hasty and peevish, for women
don't love changes as men do. Not one in a thousand is seen at her best
while traveling, and the majority are seen at their very worst. Then
there is the discomfort and desolation of European hotels - their
mysterious methods and hours, and the ways of foreigners, which are not
as our ways."

"Don't talk of them, Ethel. They are dreadful places, and such queer
people."

"Add to these troubles ignorance of language and coinage, the utter
weariness of railway travel, the plague of customs, the trunk that
won't pack, the trains that won't wait, the tiresome sight-seeing,
the climatic irritability, broiling suns, headache, loneliness,
fretfulness - consequently the pitiful boredom of the new husband."

"Ethel, what you say is certainly too true. I am weary to death of it
all. I want to be at Newport with mother, who is having a lovely time
there. Of course Basil is very nice to me, and yet there have been
little tiffs and struggles - very gentle ones - for the mastery, which
he is not going to get. To-day he wanted me to go with him and Canon
Shackleton to see something or other about the poor of London. I would
not do it. I am so lonely, Ethel, I want to see some one. I feel fit to
cry all the time. I like Basil best of anyone in the world, but - - "

"But in the solitude of a honeymoon among strangers you find out that
the person you like best in the world can bore you as badly as the
person you don't like at all. Is that so?"

"Exactly. Just fancy if we were among our friends in Newport. I should
have some pleasure in dressing and looking lovely. Why should I dress
here? There is no one to see me."

"Basil."

"Of course, but Basil spends all the time in visiting cathedrals and
clergymen. If we go out, it is to see something about the poor, or about
schools and such like. We were not in London two hours until he was off
to Westminster Abbey, and I didn't care a cent about the old place. He
says I must not ask him to go to theaters, but historical old houses
don't interest me at all. What does it matter if Cromwell slept in a
certain ancient shabby room? And as for all the palaces I have seen, my
father's house is a great deal handsomer, and more convenient, and more
comfortable, and I wish I were there. I hate Europe, and England I hate
worst of all."

"You have not seen England. We are all enraptured with its beauty and
its old houses and pleasant life."

"You are among friends - at home, as it were. I have heard all about
Rawdon Court. Fred Mostyn told me. He is going to buy it."

"When?"

"Some time this fall. Then next year he will entertain us, and that will
be a little different to this desolate hotel, I think."

"How long will you be in London?"

"I cannot say. We are invited to Stanhope Castle, but I don't want to go
there. We stayed with the Stanhopes a week when we first came over. They
were then in their London house, and I got enough of them."

"Did you dislike the family?"

"No, I cared nothing about them. They just bored me. They are extremely
religious. We had prayers night and morning, and a prayer before and
after every meal. They read only very good books, and the Honorable
Misses Stanhope sew for the poor old women and teach the poor young
ones. They work harder than anyone I ever knew, and they call it
'improving the time.' They thought me a very silly, reckless young
woman, and I think they all prayed for me. One night after they had sung
some very nice songs they asked me to play, and I began with 'My Little
Brown Rose' - you know they all adore the negro - and little by little I
dropped into the funniest coon songs I knew, and oh how they laughed!
Even the old lord stroked his knees and laughed out loud, while the
young ladies laughed into their handkerchiefs. Lady Stanhope was the
only one who comprehended I was guying them; and she looked at me with
half-shut eyes in a way that would have spoiled some girls' fun. It only
made me the merrier. So I tried to show them a cake walk, but the old
lord rose then and said 'I must be tired, and they would excuse me.'
Somehow I could not manage him. Basil was at a workman's concert, and
when he came home I think there were some advices and remonstrances, but
Basil never told me. I felt as if they were all glad when I went away,
and I don't wish to go to the Castle - and I won't go either."

"But if Basil wishes to go - - "

"He can go alone. I rather think Fred Mostyn will be here in a few
days, and he will take me to places that Basil will not - innocent places
enough, Ethel, so you need not look so shocked. Why do you not ask me to
Rawdon Court?"

"Because I am only a guest there. I have no right to ask you."

"I am sure if you told Squire Rawdon how fond you are of me, and how
lonely I am, he would tell you to send for me."

"I do not believe he would. He has old-fashioned ideas about newly
married people. He would hardly think it possible that you would be
willing to go anywhere without Basil - yet."

"He could ask Basil too."

"If Mr. Mostyn is coming home, he can ask you to Mostyn Hall. It is very
near Rawdon Court."

"Yes. Fred said as soon as he had possession of the Court he could put
both places into a ring fence. Then he would live at the Court. If he
asks us there next summer I shall be sure to beg an invitation for you
also; so I think you might deserve it by getting me one now. I don't
want to go to Mostyn yet. Fred says it needs entire refurnishing, and if
we come to the Court next summer, I have promised to give him my advice
and help in making the place pretty and up to date. Have you seen Mostyn
Hall?"

"I have passed it several times. It is a large, gloomy-looking place I
was going to say haunted-looking. It stands in a grove of yew trees."

"So you are not going to ask me to Rawdon Court?"

"I really cannot, Dora. It is not my house. I am only a guest there."

"Never mind. Make no more excuses. I see how it is. You always were
jealous of Fred's liking for me. And of course when he goes down to
Mostyn you would prefer me to be absent."

"Good-by, Dora! I have a deal of shopping to do, and there is not much
time before the ball, for many things will be to make."

"The ball! What ball?"

"Only one at Rawdon Court. The neighbors have been exceedingly kind to
us, and the Squire is going to give a dinner and ball on the first of
August."

"Sit down and tell me about the neighbors - and the ball."

"I cannot. I promised Ruth to be back at five. Our modiste is to see us
at that hour."

"So Ruth is with you! Why did she not call on me?"

"Did you think I should come to London alone? And Ruth did not call
because she was too busy."

"Everyone and everything comes before me now. I used to be first of
all. I wish I were in Newport with dad and mamma; even Bryce would be a
comfort."

"As I said before, you have Mr. Stanhope."

"Are you going to send for me to the ball?"

"I cannot promise that, Dora. Good-by."

Dora did not answer. She buried her face in the soft pillow, and Ethel
closed the door to the sound of her sobs. But they did not cause her to
return or to make any foolish promises. She divined their insincerity
and their motive, and had no mind to take any part in forwarding the
latter.

And Ruth assured her she had acted wisely. "If trouble should ever come
of this friendship," she said, "Dora would very likely complain that
you had always thrown Mostyn in her way, brought him to her house in New
York, and brought her to him at Rawdon, in England. Marriage is such a
risk, Ethel, but to marry without the courage to adapt oneself. AH!"

"You think that condition unspeakably hard?"

"There are no words for it."

"Dora was not reticent, I assure you."

"I am sorry. A wife's complaints are self-inflicted wounds; scattered
seeds, from which only misery can spring. I hope you will not see her
again at this time."

"I made no promise to do so."

"And where all is so uncertain, we had better suppose all is right than
that all is wrong. Even if there was the beginning of wrong, it needs
but an accident to prevent it, and there are so many."

"Accidents!"

"Yes, for accident is God's part in affairs. We call it accident; it
would be better to say an interposition."

"Dora told me Mostyn intended to buy Rawdon Court in September, and he
has even invited the Stanhopes to stay there next summer."

"What did you say?"

"Nothing against it."

"Very good. Do you think Mostyn is in London now?"

"I should not wonder. I am sure Dora is expecting him."

In fact, the next morning they met Dora and Basil Stanhope, driving in
Hyde Park with Mostyn, but the smiling greeting which passed between the
parties did not, except in the case of Basil Stanhope, fairly represent
the dominant feeling of anyone. As for Stanhope, his nature was so clear
and truthful that he would hardly have comprehended a smile which was
intended to veil feelings not to be called either quite friendly or
quite pleasant. After this meeting all the joy went out of Ruth and
Ethel's shopping. They wanted to get back to the Court, and they
attended strictly to business in order to do so.

Mostyn followed them very quickly. He was exceedingly anxious to see
and hear for himself how his affairs regarding Rawdon stood. They were
easily made plain to him, and he saw with a pang of disappointment that
all his hopes of being Squire of Rawdon Manor were over. Every penny he
could righteously claim was paid to him, and on the title deeds of the
ancient place he had no longer the shadow of a claim. The Squire looked
ten years younger as he affectionately laid both hands on the redeemed
parchments, and Mostyn with enforced politeness congratulated him on
their integrity and then made a hurried retreat. Of its own kind this
disappointment was as great as the loss of Dora. He could think of
neither without a sense of immeasurable and disastrous failure. One
petty satisfaction regarding the payment of the mortgage was his only
com-fort. He might now show McLean that it was not want of money that
had made him hitherto shy of "the good investments" offered him. He
had been sure McLean in their last interview had thought so, and had,
indeed, felt the half-veiled contempt with which the rich young man had
expressed his pity for Mostyn's inability to take advantage at the
right moment of an exceptional chance to play the game of beggaring his
neighbor. Now, he told himself, he would show McLean and his braggart
set that good birth and old family was for once allied with plenty
of money, and he also promised his wounded sensibilities some very
desirable reprisals, every one of which he felt fully competent to take.

It was, after all, a poor compensation, but there was also the gold. He
thanked his father that day for the great thoughtfulness and care with
which he had amassed this sum for him, and he tried to console himself
with the belief that gold answered all purposes, and that the yellow
metal was a better possession than the house and lands which he had
longed for with an inherited and insensate craving.

Two days after this event Ethel, at her father's direction, signed a
number of papers, and when that duty was completed, the Squire rose
from his chair, kissed her hands and her cheeks, and in a voice full
of tenderness and pride said, "I pay my respects to the future lady of
Rawdon Manor, and I thank God for permitting me to see this hour. Most
welcome, Lady Ethel, to the rights you inherit, and the rights you have
bought." It was a moment hardly likely to be duplicated in any life, and
Ethel escaped from its tense emotions as soon as possible. She could not
speak, her heart was too full of joy and wonder. There are souls that
say little and love much. How blessed are they!

On the following morning the invitations were sent for the dinner
and dance, but the time was put forward to the eighth of August. In
everyone's heart there was a hope that before that day Mostyn would have
left Rawdon, but the hope was barely mentioned. In the meantime he came
and went between Mostyn and Rawdon as he desired, and was received with
that modern politeness which considers it best to ignore offenses that
our grandfathers and grandmothers would have held for strict account and
punishment.

It was evident that he had frequent letters from Dora. He knew all her
movements, and spoke several times of opening Mostyn Hall and inviting
the Stanhopes to stay with him until their return to America. But as
this suggestion did not bring from any member of the Rawdon family the
invitation hoped for, it was not acted upon. He told himself the
expense would be great, and the Hall, in spite of all he could do in the
interim, would look poor and shabby compared with Rawdon Court; so he
put aside the proposal on the ground that he could not persuade his
aunt to do the entertaining necessary. And for all the irritation and
humiliations centering round his loss of Rawdon and his inabilities with
regard to Dora he blamed Ethel. He was sure if he had been more lovable
and encouraging he could have married her, and thus finally reached
Rawdon Court; and then, with all the unreason imaginable, nursed a
hearty dislike to her because she would not understand his desires, and
provide means for their satisfaction. The bright, joyous girl with her
loving heart, her abounding vitality, and constant cheerfulness, made
him angry. In none of her excellencies he had any share, consequently he
hated her.

He would have quickly returned to London, but Dora and her husband were
staying with the Stanhopes, and her letters from Stanhope Castle were
lachrymose complaints of the utter weariness and dreariness of
life there the preaching and reading aloud, the regular walking and
driving - all the innocent method of lives which recognized they were
here for some higher purpose than mere physical enjoyment. And it
angered Mostyn that neither Ruth nor Ethel felt any sympathy for Dora's
ennui, and proposed no means of releasing her from it. He considered
them both disgustingly selfish and ill-natured, and was certain that
all their reluctance at Dora's presence arose from their jealousy of her
beauty and her enchanting grace.

On the afternoon of the day preceding the intended entertainment Ruth,
Ethel, and the Squire were in the great dining-room superintending its
decoration. They were merrily laughing and chatting, and were not
aware of the arrival of any visitors until Mrs. Nicholas Rawdon's rosy,
good-natured face appeared at the open door. Everyone welcomed her
gladly, and the Squire offered her a seat.

"Nay, Squire," she said, "I'm come to ask a favor, and I won't sit
till I know whether I get it or not; for if I don't get it, I shall say
good-by as quickly as I can. Our John Thomas came home this morning and
his friend with him, and I want invitations for the young men, both of
them. My great pleasure lies that way - if you'll give it to me."

"Most gladly," answered the Squire, and Ethel immediately went for the
necessary passports. When she returned she found Mrs. Nicholas helping
Ruth and the Squire to arrange the large silver and cut crystal on the
sideboard, and talking at the same time with unabated vivacity.

"Yes," she was saying, "the lads would have been here two days ago, but
they stayed in London to see some American lady married. John Thomas's
friend knew her. She was married at the Ambassador's house. A fine
affair enough, but it bewilders me this taking up marriage without
priest or book. It's a new commission. The Church's warrant, it seems,
is out of date. It may be right' it may be legal, but I told John Thomas
if he ever got himself married in that kind of a way, he wouldn't have
father or me for witnesses."

"I am glad," said the Squire, "that the young men are home in time for
our dance. The young like such things."

"To be sure they do. John Thomas wouldn't give me a moment's rest till
I came here. I didn't want to come. I thought John Thomas should come
himself, and I told him plainly that I was ready to do anyone a favor
if I could, but if he wanted me to come because he was afraid to come
himself, I was just as ready to shirk the journey. And he laughed and
said he was not feared for any woman living, but he did want to make his
first appearance in his best clothes - and that was natural, wasn't it?
So I came for the two lads." Then she looked at the girls with a smile,
and said in a comfortable kind of way: "You'll find them very nice
lads, indeed. I can speak for John Thomas, I have taken his measure long
since; and as far as I can judge his friend, Nature went about some full
work when she made a man of him. He's got a sweet temper, and a strong
mind, and a straight judgment, if I know anything about men - which
Nicholas sometimes makes me think I don't. But Nicholas isn't an
ordinary man, he's what you call 'an exception.'" Then shaking her head
at Ethel, she continued reprovingly: "You were neither of you in
church Sunday. I know some young women who went to the parish
church - Methodists they are - specially to see your new hats. There's
some talk about them, I can tell you, and the village milliner is
pestered to copy them. She keeps her eyes open for you. You disappointed
a lot of people. You ought to go to church in the country. It's the most
respectable thing you can do."

"We were both very tired," said Ruth, "and the sun was hot, and we had a
good Sabbath at home. Ethel read the Psalms, Epistle and Gospel for
the day, and the Squire gave us some of the grandest organ music I ever
heard."

"Well, well! Everyone knows the Squire is a grand player. I don't
suppose there is another to match him in the whole world, and the old
feeling about church-going is getting slack among the young people. They
serve God now very much at their ease."

"Is not that better than serving Him on compulsion?" asked Ruth.

"I dare say. I'm no bigot. I was brought up an Independent, and went
to their chapel until I married Nicholas Rawdon. My father was a
broad-thinking man. He never taught me to locate God in any building;
and I'm sure I don't believe our parish church is His dwelling-place.
If it is, they ought to mend the roof and put a new carpet down and
make things cleaner and more respectable. Well, Squire, you have silver
enough to tempt all the rogues in Yorkshire, and there's a lot of them.
But now I've seen it, I'll go home with these bits of paper. I shall be
a very important woman to-night. Them two lads won't know how to fleech
and flatter me enough. I'll be waited on hand and foot. And Nicholas
will get a bit of a set-down. He was bragging about Miss Ethel bringing
his invitation to his hand and promising to dance with him. I wouldn't
do it if I were Miss Ethel. She'll find out, if she does, what it means
to dance with a man that weighs twenty stone, and who has never turned
hand nor foot to anything but money-making for thirty years."

She went away with a sweep and a rustle of her shimmering silk skirt,
and left behind her such an atmosphere of hearty good-nature as made
the last rush and crowd of preparations easily ordered and quickly
accomplished. Before her arrival there had been some doubt as to the
weather. She brought the shining sun with her, and when he set, he left
them with the promise of a splendid to-morrow - a promise amply redeemed
when the next day dawned. Indeed, the sunshine was so brilliant, the
garden so gay and sweet, the lawn so green and firm, the avenues so
shady and full of wandering songs, that it was resolved to hold the
preliminary reception out of doors. Ethel and Ruth were to receive on
the lawn, and at the open hall door the Squire would wait to welcome his
guests.

Soon after five o'clock there was a brilliant crowd wandering and
resting in the pleasant spaces; and Ethel, wearing a diaphanously white
robe and carrying a rush basket full of white carnations, was moving
among them distributing the flowers. She was thus the center of a
little laughing, bantering group when the Nicholas Rawdon party arrived.
Nicholas remained with the Squire, Mrs. Rawdon and the young men
went toward Ethel. Mrs. Rawdon made a very handsome appearance - "an
aristocratic Britannia in white liberty silk and old lace," whispered
Ruth, and Ethel looked up quickly, to meet her merry eyes full of some
unexplained triumph. In truth, the proud mother was anticipating a great
pleasure, not only in the presentation of her adored son, but also in
the curiosity and astonishment she felt sure would be evoked by his
friend. So, with the boldness of one who brings happy tidings, she
pressed forward. Ethel saw her approach, and went to meet her. Suddenly
her steps were arrested. An extraordinary thing was going to happen. The
Apollo of her dreams, the singer of the Holland House pavement, was at
Mrs. Rawdon's side, was talking to her, was evidently a familiar friend.
She was going to meet him, to speak to him at last. She would hear his
name in a few moments; all that she had hoped and believed was coming
true. And the clear, resonant voice of Lydia Rawdon was like music in
her ears as she said, with an air of triumph she could not hide:

"Miss Rawdon, I want you to know my son, Mr. John Thomas Rawdon, and
also John Thomas's cousin, Mr. Tyrrel Rawdon, of the United States."
Then Mr. Tyrrel Rawdon looked into Ethel's face, and in that marvelous
meeting of their eyes, swift as the firing of a gun, their pupils
dilated and flashed with recognition, and the blood rushed crimson


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe Man Between, an International Romance → online text (page 8 of 14)