The Black Robe
Mrs. Eyreco Urt's Discovery
THE leaves had fallen in the grounds at Ten Acres Lodge, and stormy winds
told drearily that winter had come.
An unchanging dullness pervaded the house. Romayne was constantly absent
in London, attending to his new religious duties under the guidance of Father
Benwell. The litter of books and manuscripts in the study was seen no more.
Hideously rigid order reigned in the unused room. Some of Romayne's papers
had been burned; others were imprisoned in drawers and cupboards--the
history of the Origin of Religions had taken its melancholy place among the
suspended literary enterprises of the time. Mrs. Eyrecourt (after a superficially
cordial reconciliation with her son-in-law) visited her daughter every now and
then, as an act of maternal sacrifice. She yawned perpetually; she read
innumerable novels; she corresponded with her friends. In the long dull
evenings, the once-lively lady sometimes openly regretted that she had not
been born a man--with the three masculine resources of smoking, drinking,
and swearing placed at her disposal. It was a dreary existence, and happier
influences seemed but little likely to change it. Grateful as she was to her
mother, no persuasion would induce Stella to leave Ten Acres and amuse
herself in London. Mrs. Eyrecourt said, with melancholy and metaphorical
truth, "There is no elasticity left in my child."
On a dim gray morning, mother and daughter sat by the fireside, with
another long day before them.
"Where is that contemptible husband of yours?" Mrs. Eyrecourt asked, looking
up from her book.
"Lewis is staying in town," Stella answered listlessly.
"In company with Judas Iscariot?"
Stella was too dull to immediately understand the allusion. "Do you mean
Father Benwell?" she inquired.
"Don't mention his name, my dear. I have re-christened him on purpose to
avoid it. Even his name humiliates me. How completely the fawning old
wretch took me in--with all my knowledge of the world, too! He was so nice
and sympathetic--such a comforting contrast, on that occasion, to you and
your husband--I declare I forgot every reason I had for not trusting him. Ah,
we women are poor creatures--we may own it among ourselves. If a man
only has nice manners and a pleasant voice, how many of us can resist him?
Even Romayne imposed upon me--assisted by his property, which in some
degree excuses my folly. There is nothing to be done now, Stella, but to
humor him. Do as that detestable priest does, and trust to your beauty (there
isn't as much of it left as I could wish) to turn the scale in your favor. Have