The Black Robe
A Christian Jesuit
ON the next day Penrose arrived on his visit to Romayne.
The affectionate meeting between the two men tested Stella's self-control as
it had never been tried yet. She submitted to the ordeal with the courage of a
woman whose happiness depended on her outward graciousness of manner
toward her husband's friend. Her reception of Penrose, viewed as an act of
refined courtesy, was beyond reproach. When she found her opportunity of
leaving the room, Romayne gratefully opened the door for her. "Thank you!"
he whispered, with a look which was intended to reward her.
She only bowed to him, and took refuge in her own room.
Even in trifles, a woman's nature is degraded by the falsities of language and
manner which the artificial condition of modern society exacts from her.
When she yields herself to more serious deceptions, intended to protect her
dearest domestic interests, the mischief is increased in proportion. Deceit,
which is the natural weapon of defense used by the weak creature against
the strong, then ceases to be confined within the limits assigned by the sense
of self-respect and by the restraints of education. A woman in this position
will descend, self- blinded, to acts of meanness which would be revolting to
her if they were related of another person.
Stella had already begun the process of self-degradation by writing secretly to
Winterfield. It was only to warn him of the danger of trusting Father Benwell--
but it was a letter, claiming him as her accomplice in an act of deception.
That morning she had received Penrose with the outward cordialities of
welcome which are offered to an old and dear friend. And now, in the safe
solitude of her room, she had fallen to a lower depth still. She was
deliberately considering the safest means of acquainting herself with the
confidential conversation which Romayne and Penrose would certainly hold
when she left them together. "He will try to set my husband against me; and
I have a right to know what means he uses, in my own defense." With that
thought she reconciled herself to an action which she would have despised if
she had heard of it as the action of another woman.
It was a beauti ful autumn day, brightened by clear sunshine, enlivened by
crisp air. Stella put on her hat and went out for a stroll in the grounds.
While she was within view from the windows of the servants' offices she
walked away from the house. Turning the corner of a shrubbery, she entered
a winding path, on the other side, which led back to the lawn under
Romayne's study window. Garden chairs were placed here and there. She
took one of them, and seated herself--after a last moment of honorable