The Black Robe
The Public And The Pictures
ON the memorable Monday , when the picture gallery was opened to the
public for the first time, Lord Loring and Father Benwell met in the library.
"Judging by the number of carriages already at the door," said Father
Benwell, "your lordship's kindness is largely appreciated by the lovers of Art."
"All the tickets were disposed of in three hours," Lord Loring answered.
"Everybody (the librarians tell me) is eager to see the pictures. Have you
looked in yet?"
"Not yet. I thought I would get on first with my work among the books."
"I have just come from the gallery," Lord Loring continued. "And here I am,
driven out of it again by the remarks of some of the visitors. You know my
beautiful copies of Raphael's Cupid and Psyche designs? The general
impression, especially among the ladies, is that they are disgusting and
indecent. That was enough for me. If you happen to meet Lady Loring and
Stella, kindly tell them that I have gone to the club."
"Do the ladies propose paying a visit to the gallery?"
"Of course--to see the people! I have recommended them to wait until they
are ready to go out for their drive. In their indoor costume they might
become the objects of general observation as the ladies of the house. I shall
be anxious to hear, Father, if you can discover the civilizing influences of Art
among my guests in the gallery. Good-morning."
Father Benwell rang the bell when Lord Loring had left him.
"Do the ladies drive out to-day at their usual hour?" he inquired, when the
servant appeared. The man answered in the affirmative. The carriage was
ordered at three o'clock.
At half-past two Father Benwell slipped quietly into the gallery. He posted
himself midway between the library door and the grand entrance; on the
watch, not for the civilizing influences of Art, but for the appearance of Lady
Loring and Stella. He was still of opinion that Stella's "frivolous" mother might
be turned into a source of valuable information on the subject of her
daughter's earlier life. The first step toward attaining this object was to
discover Mrs. Eyrecourt's present address. Stella would certainly know it--and
Father Benwell felt a just confidence in his capacity to make the young lady
serviceable, in this respect, to the pecuniary interests of the Church.