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The Black Robe

The Impulsive Sex
AFTER a lapse of a few days, Father Benwell was again a visitor at Ten Acres
Lodge--by Romayne's invitation. The priest occupied the very chair, by the
study fireside, in which Penrose had been accustomed to sit.
"It is really kind of you to come to me," said Romayne, "so soon after
receiving my acknowledgment of your letter. I can't tell you how I was
touched by the manner in which you wrote of Penrose. To my shame I
confess it, I had no idea that you were so warmly attached to him."
"I hardly knew it myself, Mr. Romayne, until our dear Arthur was taken away
from us."
If you used your influence, Father Benwell, is there no hope that you might
yet persuade him--?"
"To withdraw from the Mission? Oh, Mr. Romayne, don't you know Arthur's
character better than that? Even his gentle temper has its resolute side. The
zeal of the first martyrs to Christianity is the zeal that burns in that noble
nature. The Mission has been the dream of his life--it is endeared to him by
the very dangers which we dread. Persuade Arthur to desert the dear and
devoted colleagues who have opened their arms to him? I might as soon
persuade that statue in the garden to desert its pedestal, and join us in this
room. Shall we change the sad subject? Have you received the book which I
sent you with my letter?"
Romayne took up the book from his desk. Before he could speak of it some
one called out briskly, on the other side of the door: "May I come in?"--and
came in, without waiting to be asked. Mrs. Eyrecourt, painted and robed for
the morning--wafting perfumes as she moved--appeared in the study. She
looked at the priest, and lifted her many-ringed hands with a gesture of
coquettish terror.
"Oh, dear me! I had no idea you were here, Father Benwell. I ask ten
thousand pardons. Dear and admirable Romayne, you don't look as if you
were pleased to see me. Good gracious! I am not interrupting a confession,
am I?"
Father Benwell (with his paternal smile in perfect order) resigned his chair to
Mrs. Eyrecourt. The traces of her illness still showed themselves in an
intermittent trembling of her head and her hands. She had entered the room,
strongly suspecting that the process of conversion might be proceeding in the
absence of Penrose, and determined to interrupt it. Guided by his subtle
intelligence, Father Benwell penetrated her motive as soon as she opened the
door. Mrs. Eyrecourt bowed graciously, and took the offered chair. Father
Benwell sweetened his paternal smile and offered to get a footstool.