The Black Robe
FATHER BENWELL rose, and welcomed the visitor with his paternal smile. "I
am heartily glad to see you," he said--and held out his hand with a becoming
mixture of dignity and cordiality. Penrose lifted the offered hand respectfully
to his lips. As one of the "Provincials" of the Order, Father Benwell occupied a
high place among the English Jesuits. He was accustomed to acts of homage
offered by his younger brethren to their spiritual chief. "I fear you are not
well," he proceeded gently. "Your hand is feverish, Arthur."
"Thank you, Father--I am as well as usual."
"Depression of spirits, perhaps?" Father Benwell persisted.
Penrose admitted it with a passing smile. "My spirits are never very lively," he
Father Benwell shook his head in gentle disapproval of a depressed state of
spirits in a young man. "This must be corrected," he remarked. "Cultivate
cheerfulness, Arthur. I am myself, thank God, a naturally cheerful man. My
mind reflects, in some degree (and reflects gratefully), the brightness and
beauty which are part of the great scheme of creation. A similar disposition is
to be cultivated--I know instances of it in my own experience. Add one more
instance, and you will really gratify me. In its seasons of rejoicing, our Church
is eminently cheerful. Shall I add another encouragement? A great trust is
about to be placed in you. Be socially agreeable, or you will fail to justify the
trust. This is Father Benwell's little sermon. I think it has a merit, Arthur--it is
a sermon soon over."
Penrose looked up at his superior, eager to hear more.
He was a very young man. His large, thoughtful, well-opened gray eyes, and
his habitual refinement and modesty of manner, gave a certain attraction to
his personal appearance, of which it stood in some need. In stature he was
little and lean; his hair had become prematurely thin over his broad forehead;
there were hollows already in his cheeks, and marks on either side of his thin,
delicate lips. He looked like a person who had passed many miserable hours
in needlessly despairing of himself and his prospects. With all this, there was
something in him so irresistibly truthful and sincere--so suggestive, even
where he might be wrong, of a purely conscientious belief in his own errors--
that he attached people to him wit hout an effort, and often without being
aware of it himself. What would his friends have said if they had been told
that the religious enthusiasm of this gentle, self-distrustful, melancholy man,
might, in its very innocence of suspicion and self-seeking, be perverted to
dangerous uses in unscrupulous hands? His friends would, one and all, have
received the scandalous assertion with contempt; and Penrose himself, if he