The Black Robe
Father Benwell's Correspondence
To the Secretary, S. J., Rome.
WHEN I wrote last, I hardly thought I should trouble you again so soon. The
necessity has, however, arisen. I must ask for instructions, from our Most
Reverend General, on the subject of Arthur Penrose.
I believe that I informed you that I decided to defer my next visit to Ten
Acres Lodge for two or three days, in order that Winterfield (if he intended to
do so) might have time to communicate with Mrs. Romayne, after his return
from the country. Naturally enough, perhaps, considering the delicacy of the
subject, he has not taken me into his confidence. I can only guess that he has
maintained the same reserve with Mrs. Romayne.
My visit to the Lodge was duly paid this afternoon.
I asked first, of course, for the lady of the house, and hearing she was in the
grounds, joined her there. She looked ill and anxious, and she received me
with rigid politeness. Fortunately, Mrs. Eyrecourt (now convalescent) was
staying at Ten Acres, and was then taking the air in her chair on wheels. The
good lady's nimble and discursive tongue offered me an opportunity of
referring, in the most innocent manner possible, to Winterfield's favorable
opinion of Romayne's pictures. I need hardly say that I looked at Romayne's
wife when I mentioned the name. She turned pale--probably fearing that I
had some knowledge of her letter warning Winterfield not to trust me. If she
had already been informed that he was not to be blamed, but to be pitied, in
the matter of the marriage at Brussels, she would have turned red. Such, at
least, is my experience, drawn from recollections of other days. *
The ladies having served my purpose, I ventured into the house, to pay my
respects to Romayne.
He was in the study, and his excellent friend and secretary was with him.
After the first greetings Penrose left us. His manner told me plainly that there
was something wrong. I asked no questions--waiting on the chance that
Romayne might enlighten me.
"I hope you are in better spirits, now that you have your old companion with
you," I said.
"I am very glad to have Penrose with me," he answered. And then he
frowned and looked out of the window at the two ladies in the grounds.
It occurred to me that Mrs. Eyrecourt might be occupying the customary false
position of a mother-in-law. I was mistaken. He was not thinking of his wife's
mother--he was thinking of his wife.