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The Black Robe

The Priest Or The Woman
LORD LORING hurried away to his dressing room. "I won't be more than ten
minutes," he said--and left Romayne and Stella together.
She was attired with her customary love of simplicity. White lace was the only
ornament on her dress of delicate silvery gray. Her magnificent hair was left
to plead its own merits, without adornment of any sort. Even the brooch
which fastened her lace pelerine was of plain gold only. Conscious that she
was showing her beauty to the greatest advantage in the eyes of a man of
taste, she betrayed a little of the embarrassment which Romayne had already
noticed at the moment when she gave him her hand. They were alone, and it
was the first time she had seen him in evening dress.
It may be that women have no positive appreciation of what is beautiful in
form and color--or it may be that they have no opinions of their own when
the laws of fashion have spoken. This at least is certain, that not one of them
in a thousand sees anything objectionable in the gloomy and hideous evening
costume of a gentleman in the nineteenth century. A handsome man is, to
their eyes, more seductive than ever in the contemptible black coat and the
stiff white cravat which he wears in common with the servant who waits on
him at table. After a stolen glance at Romayne, Stella lost all confidence in
herself--she began turning over the photographs on the table.
The momentary silence which followed their first greeting became intolerable
to her. Rather than let it continue, she impulsively confessed the uppermost
idea in her mind when she entered the room.
"I thought I heard my name when I came in," she said. "Were you and Lord
Loring speaking of me?"
Romayne owned without hesitation that they had been speaking of her.
She smiled and turned over another photograph. But when did sun-pictures
ever act as a restraint on a woman's curiosity? The words passed her lips in
spite of her. "I suppose I mustn't ask what you were saying?"
It was impossible to answer this plainly without entering into explanations
from which Romayne shrank. He hesitated.
She turned over another photograph. "I understand," she said. "You were
talking of my faults." She paused, and stole another look at him. "I will try to
correct my faults, if you will tell me what they are."
Romayne felt that he had no alternative but to tell the truth--under certain
reserves. "Indeed you are wrong," he said. "We were talking of the influence
of a tone or a look on a sensitive person."
 
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