The Black Robe
Father Benwell's Correspondence
To the Secretary, S. J., Rome.
In my last few hasty lines I was only able to inform you of the unexpected
arrival of Mrs. Romayne while Winterfield was visiting her husband. If you
remember, I warned you not to attach any undue importance to my absence
on that occasion. My present report will satisfy my reverend brethren that the
interests committed to me are as safe as ever in my hands.
I have paid three visits, at certain intervals. The first to Winterfield (briefly
mentioned in my last letter); the second to Romayne; the third to the invalid
lady, Mrs. Eyrecourt. In every case I have been rewarded by important
We will revert to Winterfield first. I found him at his hotel, enveloped in
clouds of tobacco smoke. Having led him, with some difficulty, into talking of
his visit to Ten Acres Lodge, I asked how he liked Romayne's pictures.
"I envy him his pictures." That was the only answer.
"And how do you like Mrs. Romayne?" I inquired next.
He laid down his pipe, and looked at me attentively. My face (I flatter myself)
defied discovery. He inhaled another mouthful of tobacco, and began to play
with his dog. "If I must answer your question," he burst out suddenly, "I
didn't get a very gracious reception from Mrs. Romayne." There he abruptly
stopped. He is a thoroughly transparent man; you see straight into his mind,
through his eyes. I perceived that he was only telling me a part (perhaps a
very small part) of the truth.
"Can you account for such a reception as you describe?" I asked. He
answered shortly, "No."
"Perhaps I can account for it," I went on. "Did Mr. Romayne tell his wife that I
was the means of introducing you to him?"
He fixed another searching look on me. "Mr. Romayne might have said so
when he left me to receive his wife at the door."
"In that case, Mr. Winterfield, the explanation is as plain as the sun at
noonday. Mrs. Romayne is a strong Protestant, and I am a Catholic priest."
He accepted this method of accounting for his reception with an alacrity that
would not have imposed on a child. You see I had relieved him from all
further necessity of accounting for the conduct of Mrs. Romayne!