The Black Robe
TWICE Father Benwell called at Derwent's Hotel, and twice he was informed
that no news had been received there of Mr. Winterfield. At the third attempt,
his constancy was rewarded. Mr. Winterfield had written, and was expected
to arrive at the hotel by five o'clock.
It was then half-past four. Father Benwell decided to await the return of his
He was as anxious to deliver the papers which the proprietor of the asylum
had confided to him, as if he had never broken a seal or used a counterfeit to
hide the betrayal of a trust. The re-sealed packet was safe in the pocket of
his long black frockcoat. His own future proceedings depended, in some
degree, on the course which Winterfield might take, when he had read the
confession of the unhappy woman who had once been his wife.
Would he show the letter to Stella, at a private interview, as an unanswerable
proof that she had cruelly wronged him? And would it in this case be
desirable--if the thing could be done--so to handle circumstances as that
Romayne might be present, unseen, and might discover the truth for himself?
In the other event--that is to say, if Winterfield abstained from
communicating the confession to Stella--the responsibility of making the
necessary disclosure must remain with the priest.
Father Benwell walked softly up and down the room, looking about him with
quietly-observant eye. A side table in a corner was covered with letters,
waiting Winterfield's return. Always ready for information of any sort, he even
looked at the addresses on the letters.
The handwritings presented the customary variety of character. All but three
of the envelopes showed the London district postmarks. Two of the other
letters (addressed to Winterfield at his club) bore foreign postmarks; and one,
as the altered direction showed, had been forward from Beaupark House to
This last letter especially attracted the priest's attention.
The address was apparently in a woman's handwriting. And it was worthy of
remark that she appeared to be the only person among Winterfield's
correspondents who was not acquainted with the address of his hotel or of
his club. Who could the person be? The subtly inquiring intellect of Father
Benwell amused itself by speculating even on such a trifling problem as this.
He little thought that he had a personal interest in the letter. The envelope
contained Stella's warning to Winterfield to distrust no less a person than
Father Benwell himself!