The Black Robe
In The Small Hours
WHEN Stella left the conservatory, the attraction of the ball for Romayne was
at an end. He went back to his rooms at the hotel.
Penrose was waiting to speak to him. Romayne noticed signs of suppressed
agitation in his secretary's face. "Has anything happened?" he inquired.
"Nothing of any importance," Penrose answered, in sad subdued tones. "I
only wanted to ask you for leave of absence."
"Certainly. Is it for a long time?"
Penrose hesitated. "You have a new life opening before you," he said. "If your
experience of that life is--as I hope and pray it may be--a happy one, you will
need me no longer; we may not meet again." His voice began to tremble; he
could say no more.
"Not meet again?" Romayne repeated. "My dear Penrose, if you forget how
many happy days I owe to your companionship, my memory is to be trusted.
Do you really know what my new life is to be? Shall I tell you what I have
said to Stella to-night?"
Penrose lifted his hand with a gesture of entreaty.
"Not a word!" he said, eagerly. "Do me one more kindness--leave me to be
prepared (as I am prepared) for the change that is to come, without any
confidence on your part to enlighten me further. Don't think me ungrateful. I
have reasons for saying what I have just said--I cannot mention what they
are--I can only tell you they are serious reasons. You have spoken of my
devotion to you. If you wish to reward me a hundred-fold more than I
deserve, bear in mind our conversations on religion, and keep the books I
asked you to read as gifts from a friend who loves you with his whole heart.
No new duties that you can undertake are incompatible with the higher
interests of your soul. Think of me sometimes. When I leave you I go back to
a lonely life. My poor heart is full of your brotherly kindness at this last
moment when I may be saying good-by forever. And what is my one
consolation? What helps me to bear my hard lot? The Faith that I hold!
Remember that, Romayne. If there comes a time of sorrow in the future,
Romayne was more than surprised, he was shocked. "Why must you leave
me?" he asked.
"It is best for you and for her," said Penrose, "that I should withdraw myself
from your new life."