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The Black Robe

The Influence Of Stella
ENTERING the hall, Father Benwell heard a knock at the house door. The
servants appeared to recognize the knock--the porter admitted Lord Loring.
Father Benwell advanced and made his bow. It was a perfect obeisance of its
kind--respect for Lord Loring, unobtrusively accompanied by respect for
himself. "Has your lordship been walking in the park?" he inquired.
"I have been out on business," Lord Loring answered; "and I should like to
tell you about it. If you can spare me a few minutes, come into the library.
Some time since," he resumed, when the door was closed, "I think I
mentioned that my friends had been speaking to me on a subject of some
importance--the subject of opening my picture gallery occasionally to the
public."
"I remember," said Father Benwell. "Has your lordship decided what to do?"
"Yes. I have decided (as the phrase is) to 'go with the times,' and follow the
example of other owners of picture g alleries. Don't suppose I ever doubted
that it is my duty to extend, to the best of my ability, the civilizing influences
of Art. My only hesitation in the matter arose from a dread of some accident
happening, or some injury being done, to the pictures. Even now, I can only
persuade myself to try the experiment under certain restrictions."
"A wise decision, undoubtedly," said Father Benwell. "In such a city as this,
you could hardly open your gallery to anybody who happens to pass the
house-door."
"I am glad you agree with me, Father. The gallery will be open for the first
time on Monday. Any respectably-dressed person, presenting a visiting card
at the offices of the librarians in Bond Street and Regent Street, will receive a
free ticket of admission; the number of tickets, it is needless to say, being
limited, and the gallery being only open to the public two days in the week.
You will be here, I suppose, on Monday?"
"Certainly. My work in the library, as your lordship can see, has only begun."
"I am very anxious about the success of this experiment," said Lord Loring.
"Do look in at the gallery once or twice in the course of the day, and tell me
what your own impression is."
Having expressed his readiness to assist "the experiment" in every possible
way, Father Benwell still lingered in the library. He was secretly conscious of a
hope that he might, at the eleventh hour, be invited to join Romayne at the
dinner-table. Lord Loring only looked at the clock on the mantel-piece: it was
 
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