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The Black Robe

The Breach Is Widened
A FORTNIGHT after Father Benwell's discovery, Stella followed her husband
one morning into his study. "Have you heard from Mr. Penrose?" she
inquired.
"Yes. He will be here to-morrow."
"To make a long visit?"
"I hope so. The longer the better."
She looked at him with a mingled expression of surprise and reproach. "Why
do you say that?" she asked. "Why do you want him so much--when you have
got Me?"
Thus far, he had been sitting at his desk, resting his head on his hand, with
his downcast eyes fixed on an open book. When she put her last question to
him he suddenly looked up. Through the large window at his side the morning
light fell on his face. The haggard look of suffering, which Stella remembered
on the day when they met on the deck of the steamboat, was again visible--
not softened and chastened now by the touching resignation of the bygone
time, but intensified by the dogged and despairing endurance of a man weary
of himself and his life. Her heart ached for him. She said, softly: "I don't
mean to reproach you."
"Are you jealous of Penrose?" he asked, with a bitter smile.
She desperately told him the truth. "I am afraid of Penrose," she answered.
He eyed her with a strange expression of suspicious surprise. "Why are you
afraid of Penrose?"
It was no time to run the risk of irritating him. The torment of the Voice had
returned in the past night. The old gnawing remorse of the fatal day of the
duel had betrayed itself in the wild words that had escaped him, when he
sank into a broken slumber as the morning dawned. Feeling the truest pity for
him, she was still resolute to assert herself against the coming interference of
Penrose. She tried her ground by a dangerous means--the means of an
indirect reply.
"I think you might have told me," she said, "that Mr. Penrose was a Catholic
priest."
He looked down again at his book. "How did you know Penrose was a
Catholic priest?"
 
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