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The Black Robe

The Introduction To Romayne
"EXCEPTING my employment here in the library," Father Benwell began, "and
some interesting conversation with Lord Loring, to which I shall presently
allude, I am almost as great a stranger in this house, Arthur, as yourself.
When the object which we now have in view was first taken seriously into
consideration, I had the honor of being personally acquainted with Lord
Loring. I was also aware that he was an intimate and trusted friend of
Romayne. Under these circumstances, his lordship presented himself to our
point of view as a means of approaching the owner of Vange Abbey without
exciting distrust. I was charged accordingly with the duty of establishing
myself on terms of intimacy in this house. By way of making room for me, the
spiritual director of Lord and Lady Loring was removed to a cure of souls in
Ireland. And here I am in his place! By-the-way, don't treat me (when we are
in the presence of visitors) with any special marks of respect. I am not
Provincial of our Order in Lord Loring's house--I am one of the inferior
Penrose looked at him with admiration. "It is a great sacrifice to make,
Father, in your position and at your age."
"Not at all, Arthur. A position of authority involves certain temptations to
pride. I feel this change as a lesson in humility which is good for me. For
example, Lady Loring (as I can plainly see) dislikes and distrusts me. Then,
again, a young lady has recently arrived here on a visit. She is a Protestant,
with all the prejudices incident to that way of thinking--avoids me so carefully,
poor soul, that I have never seen her yet. These rebuffs are wholesome
reminders of his fallible human nature, to a man who has occupied a place of
high trust and command. Besides, there have been obstacles in my way
which have had an excellent effect in rousing my energies. How do you feel,
Arthur, when you encounter obstacles?"
"I do my best to remove them, Father. But I am sometimes conscious of a
sense of discouragement."
"Curious," said Father Benwell. "I am only conscious, myself, of a sense of
impatience. What right has an obstacle to get in my way?--that is how I look
at it. For example, the first thing I heard, when I came here, was that
Romayne had left England. My introduction to him was indefinitely delayed; I
had to look to Lord Loring for all the information I wanted relating to the man
and his habits. There was another obstacle! Not living in the house, I was
obliged to find an excuse for being constantly on the spot, ready to take
advantage of his lordship's leisure moments for conversation. I sat down in
this room, and I said to myself, 'Before I get up again, I mean to brush these
impertinent obstacles out of my way!' The state of the books suggested the
idea of which I was in search. Before I left the house, I was charged with the