The Man Between, an International Romance

Contents:
Author: Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr

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 Rawdon 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 sixtyfour 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 granddaughter. 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 wellsprings 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. 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 cleanshaven 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.

* * * * * * *

Contents:

Related Resources

None available for this document.

Download Options


Title: The Man Between, an International Romance

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options


Title: The Man Between, an International Romance

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr, "Chapter II," The Man Between, an International Romance in The Man Between, an International Romance (New York: The Century Co., 1918), Original Sources, accessed February 9, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8EWMR2BGKFV36BL.

MLA: Barr, Amelia Edith Huddleston. "Chapter II." The Man Between, an International Romance, in The Man Between, an International Romance, New York, The Century Co., 1918, Original Sources. 9 Feb. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8EWMR2BGKFV36BL.

Harvard: Barr, AE, 'Chapter II' in The Man Between, an International Romance. cited in 1918, The Man Between, an International Romance, The Century Co., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 9 February 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8EWMR2BGKFV36BL.