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The Black Robe by Wilkie Collins

Part 4 out of 7

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"I am a little tired after our long ride to-day. Do you want to
go back to the Belvidere?"

"Not without you. Shall I leave you to rest here?"

He seemed not to hear the question. There he sat, with his head
hanging down, the shadowy counterfeit of an old man. In her
anxiety, Stella approached him, and put her hand caressingly on
his head. It was burning hot. "O!" she cried, "you _are_ ill, and
you are trying to hide it from me."

He put his arm round her waist and made her sit on his knee.
"Nothing is the matter with me," he said, with an uneasy laugh.
"What have you got in
your hand? A letter?"

"Yes. Addressed to you and not opened yet." He took it out of her
hand, and threw it carelessly on a sofa near him. "Never mind
that now! Let us talk." He paused, and kissed her, before he went
on. "My darling, I think you must be getting tired of Vange?"

"Oh, no! I can be happy anywhere with you--and especially at
Vange. You don't how this noble old house interests me, and how I
admire the glorious country all round it."

He was not convinced. "Vange is very dull," he said, obstinately;
"and your friends will be wanting to see you. Have you heard from
your mother lately?"

"No. I am surprised she has not written."

"She has not forgiven us for getting married so quietly," he went
on. "We had better go back to London and make our peace with her.
Don't you want to see the house my aunt left me at Highgate?"

Stella sighed. The society of the man she loved was society
enough for her. Was he getting tired of his wife already? "I will
go with you wherever you like." She said those words in tones of
sad submission, and gently got up from his knee.

He rose also, and took from the sofa the letter which he had
thrown on it. "Let us see what our friends say," he resumed. "The
address is in Loring's handwriting."

As he approached the table on which the lamp was burning, she
noticed that he moved with a languor that was new in her
experience of him. He sat down and opened the letter. She watched
him with an anxiety which had now become intensified to
suspicion. The shade of the lamp still prevented her from seeing
his face plainly. "Just what I told you," he said; "the Lorings
want to know when they are to see us in London; and your mother
says she 'feels like that character in Shakespeare who was cut by
his own daughters.' Read it."

He handed her the letter. In taking it, she contrived to touch
the lamp shade, as if by accident, and tilted it so that the full
flow of the light fell on him. He started back--but not before
she had seen the ghastly pallor on his face. She had not only
heard it from Lady Loring, she knew from his own unreserved
confession to her what that startling change really meant. In an
instant she was on her knees at his feet. "Oh, my darling," she
cried, "it was cruel to keep _that_ secret from your wife! You
have heard it again!"

She was too irresistibly beautiful, at that moment, to be
reproved. He gently raised her from the floor--and owned the

"Yes," he said; "I heard it after you left me on the
Belvidere--just as I heard it on another moonlight night, when
Major Hynd was here with me. Our return to this house is perhaps
the cause. I don't complain; I have had a long release."

She threw her arms round his neck. "We will leave Vange
to-morrow," she said.

It was firmly spoken. But her heart sank as the words passed her
lips. Vange Abbey had been the scene of the most unalloyed
happiness in her life. What destiny was waiting for her when she
returned to London?



THERE was no obstacle to the speedy departure of Romayne and his
wife from Vange Abbey. The villa at Highgate--called Ten Acres
Lodge, in allusion to the measurement of the grounds surrounding
the house--had been kept in perfect order by the servants of the
late Lady Berrick, now in the employment of her nephew.

On the morning after their arrival at the villa, Stella sent a
note to her mother. The same afternoon, Mrs. Eyrecourt arrived at
Ten Acres--on her way to a garden-party. Finding the house, to
her great relief, a modern building, supplied with all the newest
comforts and luxuries, she at once began to plan a grand party,
in celebration of the return of the bride and bridegroom.

"I don't wish to praise myself," Mrs. Eyrecourt said; "but if
ever there was a forgiving woman, I am that person. We will say
no more, Stella, about your truly contemptible wedding--five
people altogether, including ourselves and the Lorings. A grand
ball will set you right with society, and that is the one thing
needful. Tea and coffee, my dear Romayne, in your study; Coote's
quadrille band; the supper from Gunter's, the grounds illuminated
with colored lamps; Tyrolese singers among the trees, relieved by
military music--and, if there _are_ any African or other savages
now in London, there is room enough in these charming grounds for
encampments, dances, squaws, scalps, and all the rest of it, to
end in a blaze of fireworks."

A sudden fit of coughing seized her, and stopped the further
enumeration of attractions at the contemplated ball. Stella had
observed that her mother looked unusually worn and haggard,
through the disguises of paint and powder. This was not an
uncommon result of Mrs. Eyrecourt's devotion to the demands of
society; but the cough was something new, as a symptom of

"I am afraid, mamma, you have been overexerting yourself," said
Stella. "You go to too many parties."

"Nothing of the sort, my dear; I am as strong as a horse. The
other night, I was waiting for the carriage in a draught (one of
the most perfect private concerts of the season, ending with a
delightfully naughty little French play)--and I caught a slight
cold. A glass of water is all I want. Thank you. Romayne, you are
looking shockingly serious and severe; our ball will cheer you.
If you would only make a bonfire of all those horrid books, you
don't know how it would improve your spirits. Dearest Stella, I
will come and lunch here to-morrow--you are within such a nice
easy drive from town--and I'll bring my visiting-book, and settle
about the invitations and the day. Oh, dear me, how late it is. I
have nearly an hour's drive before I get to my garden party.
Good-by, my turtle doves good-by."

She was stopped, on the way to her carriage, by another fit of
coughing. But she still persisted in making light of it. "I'm as
strong as a horse," she repeated, as soon as she could speak--and
skipped into the carriage like a young girl.

"Your mother is killing herself," said Romayne.

"If I could persuade her to stay with us a little while," Stella
suggested, "the rest and quiet might do wonders for her. Would
you object to it, Lewis?"

"My darling, I object to nothing--except giving a ball and
burning my books. If your mother will yield on these two points,
my house is entirely at her disposal."

He spoke playfully--he looked his best, since he had separated
himself from the painful associations that were now connected
with Vange Abbey. Had "the torment of the Voice" been left far
away in Yorkshire? Stella shrank from approaching the subject in
her husband's presence, knowing that it must remind him of the
fatal duel. To her surprise, Romayne himself referred to the
General's family.

"I have written to Hynd," he began. "Do you mind his dining with
us to-day?"

"Of course not!"

"I want to hear if he has anything to tell me--about those French
ladies. He undertook to see them, in your absence, and to
ascertain--" He was unable to overcome his reluctance to
pronounce the next words. Stella was quick to understand what he
meant. She finished the sentence for him.

"Yes," he said, "I wanted to hear how the boy is getting on, and
if there is any hope of curing him. Is it--" he trembled as he
put the question--"Is it hereditary madness?"

Feeling the serious importance of concealing the truth, Stella
only replied that she had hesitated to ask if there was a taint
of madness in the family. "I suppose," she added, "you would not
like to see the boy, and judge of his chances of recovery for

"You suppose?" he burst out, with sudden anger. "You might be
sure. The bare idea of seeing him turns me cold. Oh, when shall I
forget! when shall I forget! Who spoke of him first?" he said,
with renewed irritability, after a moment of silence. "You or I?"

"It was my fault, love--he is so harmless and so gentle, and he
has such a sweet face--I thought it might soothe you to see him.
Forgive me; we will never speak of him again. Have you any notes
for me to copy? You know, Lewis, I am your secretary now."

So she led Romayne away to his study and his books. When Major
Hynd arrived, she contrived to be the first to see him. "Say as
litt le as possible about the General's widow and her son," she

The Major understood her. "Don't be uneasy, Mrs. Romayne," he
answered. "I know your husband well enough to know what you mean.
Besides, the news I bring is good news."

Romayne came in before he could speak more particularly. When the
servants had left the room, after dinner, the Major made his

"I am going to agreeably surprise you," he began. "All
responsibility toward the General's family is taken off our
hands. The ladies are on their way back to France."

Stella was instantly reminded of one of the melancholy incidents
associated with her visit to Camp's Hill. "Madame Marillac spoke
of a brother of hers who disapproved of the marriage," she said.
"Has he forgiven her?"

"That is exactly what he has done, Mrs. Romayne. Naturally
enough, he felt the disgrace of his sister's marriage to such a
man as the General. Only the other day he heard for the first
time that she was a widow--and he at once traveled to England. I
bade them good-by yesterday--most happily reunited--on their
journey home again. Ah, I thought you would be glad, Mrs.
Romayne, to hear that the poor widow's troubles are over. Her
brother is rich enough to place them all in easy
circumstances--he is as good a fellow as ever lived."

"Have you seen him?" Stella asked, eagerly.

"I have been with him to the asylum."

"Does the boy go back to France?"

"No. We took the place by surprise, and saw for ourselves how
well conducted it was. The boy has taken a strong liking to the
proprietor--a bright, cheerful old man, who is teaching him some
of our English games, and has given him a pony to ride on. He
burst out crying, poor creature, at the idea of going away--and
his mother burst out crying at the idea of leaving him. It was a
melancholy scene You know what a good mother is--no sacrifice is
too great for her. The boy stays at the asylum, on the chance
that his healthier and happier life there may help to cure him.
By-the-way, Romayne, his uncle desires me to thank you--"

"Hynd! you didn't tell the uncle my name?"

"Don't alarm yourself. He is a gentleman, and when I told him I
was pledged to secrecy, he made but one inquiry--he asked if you
were a rich man. I told him you had eighteen thousand a year."


"Well, he set that matter right between us with perfect taste. He
said: 'I cannot presume to offer repayment to a person so
wealthy. We gratefully accept our obligation to our kind unknown
friend. For the future, however, my nephew's expenses must be
paid from my purse.' Of course I could only agree to that. From
time to time the mother is to hear, and I am to hear, how the boy
goes on. Or, if you like, Romayne--now that the General's family
has left England--I don't see why the proprietor might not make
his report directly to yourself."

"No!" Romayne rejoined, positively. "Let things remain as they

Very well. I can send you any letters that I may receive from the
asylum. Will you give us some music, Mrs. Romayne? Not to-night?
Then let us go to the billiard-room; and as I am the worst of bad
players, I will ask you to help me to beat your accomplished

On the afternoon of the next day, Mrs. Eyrecourt's maid arrived
at Ten Acres with a note from her mistress.

"Dearest Stella--Matilda must bring you my excuses for to-day. I
don't in the least understand it, but I seem to have turned lazy.
It is most ridiculous--I really cannot get out of bed. Perhaps I
did do just a little too much yesterday. The opera after the
garden party, and a ball after the opera, and this tiresome cough
all night after the ball. Quite a series, isn't it? Make my
apologies to our dear dismal Romayne--and if you drive out this
afternoon, come and have a chat with me. Your affectionate
mother, Emily Eyrecourt. P. S.--You know what a fidget Matilda
is. If she talks about me, don't believe a word she says to you."

Stella turned to the maid with a sinking heart.

"Is my mother very ill?" she asked.

"So ill, ma'am, that I begged and prayed her to let me send for a
doctor. You know what my mistress is. If you would please to use
your influence--"

"I will order the carriage instantly, and take you back with me."

Before she dressed to go out, Stella showed the letter to her
husband. He spoke with perfect kindness and sympathy, but he did
not conceal that he shared his wife's apprehensions. "Go at
once," were his last words to her; "and, if I can be of any use,
send for me."

It was late in the evening before Stella returned. She brought
sad news.

The physician consulted told her plainly that the neglected
cough, and the constant fatigue, had together made the case a
serious one. He declined to say that there was any absolute
danger as yet, or any necessity for her remaining with her mother
at night. The experience of the next twenty-four hours, at most,
would enable him to speak positively. In the meantime, the
patient insisted that Stella should return to her husband. Even
under the influence of opiates, Mrs. Eyrecourt was still drowsily
equal to herself. "You are a fidget, my dear, and Matilda is a
fidget--I can't have two of you at my bedside. Good-night."
Stella stooped over her and kissed her. She whispered: "Three
weeks notice, remember, for the party!"

By the next evening the malady had assumed so formidable an
aspect that the doctor had his doubts of the patient's chance of
recovery. With her husband's full approval, Stella remained night
and day at her mother's bedside.

Thus, in a little more than a month from the day of his marriage,
Romayne was, for the time, a lonely man again.

The illness of Mrs. Eyrecourt was unexpectedly prolonged. There
were intervals during which her vigorous constitution rallied and
resisted the progress of the disease. On these occasions, Stella
was able to return to her husband for a few hours--subject always
to a message which recalled her to her mother when the chances of
life or death appeared to be equally balanced. Romayne's one
resource was in his books and his pen. For the first time since
his union with Stella he opened the portfolios in which Penrose
had collected the first introductory chapters of his historical
work. Almost at every page the familiar handwriting of his
secretary and friend met his view. It was a new trial to his
resolution to be working alone; never had he felt the absence of
Penrose as he felt it now. He missed the familiar face, the quiet
pleasant voice, and, more than both, the ever-welcome sympathy
with his work. Stella had done all that a wife could do to fill
the vacant place; and her husband's fondness had accepted the
effort as adding another charm to the lovely creature who had
opened a new life to him. But where is the woman who can
intimately associate herself with the hard brain-work of a man
devoted to an absorbing intellectual pursuit? She can love him,
admire him, serve him, believe in him beyond all other men--but
(in spite of exceptions which only prove the rule) she is out of
her place when she enters the study while the pen is in his hand.
More than once, when he was at work, Romayne closed the page
bitterly; the sad thought came to him, "Oh, if I only had Penrose
here!" Even other friends were not available as a resource in the
solitary evening hours. Lord Loring was absorbed in social and
political engagements. And Major Hynd--true to the principle of
getting away as often as possible from his disagreeable wife and
his ugly children--had once more left London.

One day, while Mrs. Eyrecourt still lay between life and death,
Romayne found his historical labors suspended by the want of a
certain volume which it was absolutely necessary to consult. He
had mislaid the references written for him by Penrose, and he was
at a loss to remember whether the book was in the British Museum,
in the Bodleian Library, or in the Bibliotheque at Paris. In this
emergency a letter to his former secretary would furnish him with
the information that he required. But he was ignorant of
Penrose's present address. The Lorings might possibly know it--so
to the Lorings he resolved to apply.



R OMAYNE'S first errand in London was to see his wife, and to
make inquiries at Mrs. Eyrecourt's house. The report was more
favorable than usual. Stella whispered, as she kissed him, "I
shall soon come back to you, I hope!"

Leaving the horses to rest for a while, he proceeded to Lord
Loring's residence on foot. As he crossed a street in the
neighborhood, he was nearly run over by a cab, carrying a
gentleman and his luggage. The gentleman was Mr. Winterfield, on
his way to Derwent's Hotel.

Lady Loring very kindly searched her card-basket, as the readiest
means of assisting Romayne. Penrose had left his card, on his
departure from London, but no address was written on it. Lord
Loring, unable himself to give the required information,
suggested the right person to consult.

"Father Benwell will be here later in the day," he said. "If you
will write to Penrose at once, he will add the address. Are you
sure, before the letter goes, that the book you want is not in my

"I think not," Romayne answered; "but I will write down the
title, and leave it here with my letter."

The same evening he received a polite note from Father Benwell,
informing him that the letter was forwarded, and that the book he
wanted was not in Lord Loring's library. "If there should be any
delay or difficulty in obtaining this rare volume," the priest
added, "I only wait the expression of your wishes, to borrow it
from the library of a friend of mine, residing in the country."

By return of post the answer, affectionately and gratefully
written, arrived from Penrose. He regretted that he was not able
to assist Romayne personally. But it was out of his power (in
plain words, he had been expressly forbidden by Father Benwell)
to leave the service on which he was then engaged. In reference
to the book that was wanted, it was quite likely that a search in
the catalogues of the British Museum might discover it. He had
only met with it himself in the National Library at Paris.

This information led Romayne to London again, immediately. For
the first time he called at Father Benwell's lodgings. The priest
was at home, expecting the visit. His welcome was the perfection
of unassuming politeness. He asked for the last news of "poor
Mrs. Eyrecourt's health," with the sympathy of a true friend.

"I had the honor of drinking tea with Mrs. Eyrecourt, some little
time since," he said. "Her flow of conversation was never more
delightful--it seemed impossible to associate the idea of illness
with so bright a creature. And how well she kept the secret of
your contemplated marriage! May I offer my humble congratulations
and good wishes?"

Romayne thought it needless to say that Mrs. Eyrecourt had not
been trusted with the secret until the wedding day was close at
hand. "My wife and I agreed in wishing to be married as quietly
as possible," he answered, after making the customary

"And Mrs. Romayne?" pursued Father Benwell. "This is a sad trial
for her. She is in attendance on her mother, I suppose?"

"In constant attendance; I am quite alone now. To change the
subject, may I ask you to look at the reply which I have received
from Penrose? It is my excuse for troubling you with this visit."

Father Benwell read the letter with the closest attention. In
spite of his habitual self-control, his vigilant eyes brightened
as he handed it back.

Thus far, the priest's well-planned scheme, (like Mr. Bitrake's
clever inquiries) had failed. He had not even entrapped Mrs.
Eyrecourt into revealing the marriage engagement. Her
unconquerable small-talk had foiled him at every point. Even when
he had deliberately kept his seat after the other guests at the
tea-table had taken their departure, she rose with the most
imperturbable coolness, and left him. "I have a dinner and two
parties to-night, and this is just the time when I take my little
restorative nap. Forgive me--and do come again!" When he sent the
fatal announcement of the marriage to Rome, he had been obliged
to confess that he was indebted for the discovery to the
newspaper. He had accepted the humiliation; he had accepted the
defeat--but he was not beaten yet. "I counted on Romayne's
weakness; and Miss Eyrecourt counted on Romayne's weakness; and
Miss Eyrecourt has won. So let it be. My turn will come." In that
manner he had reconciled himself to his position. And now--he
knew it when he handed back the letter to Romayne--his turn _had_

"You can hardly go to Paris to consult the book," he said, "in
the present state of Mrs. Eyrecourt's health?"

"Certainly not!"

"Perhaps you will send somebody to search the catalogue at the
British Museum?"

"I should have done that already, Father Benwell, but for the
very kind allusion in your note to your friend in the country.
Even if the book is in the Museum Library, I shall be obliged to
go to the Reading Room to get my information. It would be far
more convenient to me to have the volume at home to consult, if
you think your friend will trust me with it."

"I am certain he will trust you with it. My friend is Mr.
Winterfield, of Beaupark House, North Devon. Perhaps you may have
heard of him?"

"No; the name is quite new to me."

"Then come and see the man himself. He is now in London--and I am
entirely at your service."

In half an hour more, Romayne was presented to a well-bred,
amiable gentleman in the prime of life, smoking, and reading the
newspaper. The bowl of his long pipe rested on the floor, on one
side of him, and a handsome red and white spaniel reposed on the
other. Before his visitors had been two minutes in the room, he
understood the motive which had brought them to consult him, and
sent for a telegraphic form.

"My steward will find the book and forward it to your address by
passenger train this afternoon," he said. "I will tell him to put
my printed catalogue of the library into the parcel, in case I
have any other books which may be of use to you."

With those words, he dispatched the telegram to the office.
Romayne attempted to make his acknowledgments. Mr. Winterfield
would hear no acknowledgments.

"My dear sir," he said, with a smile that brightened his whole
face, "you are engaged in writing a great historical work; and I
am an obscure country gentleman, who is lucky enough to associate
himself with the production of a new book. How do you know that I
am not looking forward to a complimentary line in the preface? I
am the obliged person, not you. Pray consider me as a handy
little boy who runs on errands for the Muse of History. Do you

Not even tobacco would soothe Romayne's wasted and irritable
nerves. Father Benwell--"all things to all men"--cheerfully
accepted a cigar from the box on the table.

"Father Benwell possesses all the social virtues," Mr.
Winterfield ran on. "He shall have his coffee, and the largest
sugar-basin that the hotel can produce. I can quite understand
that your literary labors have tried your nerves," he said to
Romayne, when he had ordered the coffee. "The mere title of your
work overwhelms an idle man like me. 'The Origin of
Religions'--what an immense subject! How far must we look back to
find out the first worshipers of the human family?--Where are the
hieroglyphics, Mr. Romayne, that will give you the earliest
information? In the unknown center of Africa, or among the ruined
cities of Yucatan? My own idea, as an ignorant man, is that the
first of all forms of worship must have been the worship of the
sun. Don't be shocked, Father Benwell--I confess I have a certain
sympathy with sun-worship. In the East especially, the rising of
the sun is surely the grandest of all objects--the visible symbol
of a beneficent Deity, who gives life, warmth and light to the
world of his creation."

"Very grand, no doubt," remarked Father Benwell, sweetening his
coffee. "But not to be compared with the noble sight at Rome,
when the Pope blesses the Christian world from the balcony of St.

"So much for professional feeling!" said Mr. Winterfield. "But,
surely, something depends on what sort of man the Pope is. If we
had lived in the time of Alexander the Sixth, would you have
called _him_ a part of that noble sight?"

"Certainly--at a proper distance," Father Benwell briskly
replied. "Ah, you heretics only know the worst side of that most
unhappy pontiff! Mr. Winterfield, we have every reason to believe
that he felt (privately) the truest remorse."

"I should require very good evidence to persuade me of it."

This touched Romayne on a sad side of his own personal
experience. "Perhaps," he said, "you don't believe in remorse?"

"Pardon me," Mr. Winterfield rejoined, "I only distinguish
between false remorse and true remorse. We will say no more of
Alexander the Sixth, Father Benwell. If we want an illustration,
I will supply it, and give no offense. True remorse depends, to
my mind, on a man's accurate knowledge of his own motives--far
from a common knowledge, in my experience. Say, for instance,
that I have committed some serious offense--"

Romayne could not resist interrupting him. "Say you have killed
one of your fellow-creatures," he suggested.

"Very well. If I know that I really meant to kill him, for some
vile purpose of my own; and if (which by no means always follows)
I am really capable of feeling the enormity of my own crime--that
is, as I think, true remorse. Murderer as I am, I have, in that
case, some moral worth still left in me. But if I did _not_ mean
to kill the man--if his death was my misfortune as well as
his--and if (as frequently happens) I am nevertheless troubled by
remorse, the true cause lies in my own inability fairly to
realize my own motives--before I look to results. I am the
ignorant victim of false remorse; and if I will only ask myself
boldly what has blinded me to the true state of the case, I shall
find the mischief due to that misdirected appreciation of my own
importance which is nothing but egotism in disguise."

"I entirely agree with you," said Father Benwell; "I have had
occasion to say the same thing in the confessional."

Mr. Winterfield looked at his dog, and changed the subject. "Do
you like dogs, Mr. Romayne?" he asked. "I see my spaniel's eyes
saying that he likes you, and his tail begging you to take some
notice of him."

Romayne caressed the dog rather absently.

His new friend had unconsciously presented to him a new view of
the darker aspect of his own life. Winterfield's refined,
pleasant manners, his generous readiness in placing the treasures
of his library at a stranger's disposal, had already appealed
irresistibly to Romayne's sensitive nature. The favorable
impression was now greatly strengthened by the briefly bold
treatment which he had just heard of a subject in which he was
seriously interested. "I must see more of this man," was his
thought, as he patted the companionable spaniel.

Father Benwell's trained observation followed the vivid changes
of expression on Romayne's face, and marked the eager look in his
eyes as he lifted his head from the dog to the dog's master. The
priest saw his opportunity and took it.

"Do you remain long at Ten Acres Lodge?" he said to Romayne.

"I hardly know as yet. We have no other plans at present."

"You inherit the place, I think, from your late aunt, Lady


The tone of the reply was not encouraging; Romayne felt no
interest in talking of Ten Acres Lodge. Father Benwell persisted.

"I was told by Mrs. Eyrecourt," he went on "that Lady Berrick had
some fine pictures. Are they still at the Lodge?"

"Certainly. I couldn't live in a house without pictures."

Father Benwell looked at Winterfield. "Another taste in common
between you and Mr. Romayne," he said, "besides your liking for

This at once produced the desired result. Romayne eagerly invited
Winterfield to see his pictures. "There are not many of them," he
said. "But they are really worth looking at. When will you come?"

"The sooner the better," Winterfield answered, cordially. "Will
to-morrow do--by the noonday light?"

"Whenever you please. Your time is mine."

Among his other accomplishments, Father Benwell was a
chess-player. If his thoughts at that moment had been expressed
in language, they would have said, "Check to the queen."



ON the next morning, Winterfield arrived alone at Romayne's

Having been included, as a matter of course, in the invitation to
see the pictures, Father Benwell had made an excuse, and had
asked leave to defer the proposed visit. From his point of view,
he had nothing further to gain by being present at a second
meeting between the two men--in the absence of Stella. He had it
on Romayne's own authority that she was in constant attendance on
her mother, and that her husband was alone. "Either Mrs.
Eyrecourt will get better, or she will die," Father Benwell
reasoned. "I shall make constant inquiries after her health, and,
in either case, I shall know when Mrs. Romayne returns to Ten
Acres Lodge. After that domestic event, the next time Mr.
Winterfield visits Mr. Romayne, I shall go and see the pictures."

It is one of the defects of a super-subtle intellect to trust too
implicitly to calculation, and to leave nothing to chance. Once
or twice already Father Benwell had been (in the popular phrase)
a little too clever--and chance had thrown him out. As events
happened, chance was destined to throw him out once more.

Of the most modest pretensions, in regard to numbers and size,
the pictures collected by the late Lady Berrick were masterly
works of modern art. With few exceptions, they had been produced
by the matchless English landscape painters of half a century
since. There was no formal gallery here. The pictures were so few
that they could be hung in excellent lights in the different
living-rooms of the villa. Turner, Constable, Collins, Danby,
Callcott, Linnell--the master of Beaupark House passed from one
to the other with the enjoyment of a man who thoroughly
appreciated the truest and finest landscape art that the world
has yet seen.

"You had better not have asked me here," he said to Romayne, in
his quaintly good-humored way. "I can't part with those pictures
when I say good-by to-day. You will find me calling here again
and again, till you are perfectly sick of me. Look at this sea
piece. Who thinks of the brushes and palette of _that_ painter?
There, truth to Nature and poetical feeling go hand in hand
together. It is absolutely lovely--I could kiss that picture."

They were in Romayne's study when this odd outburst of enthusiasm
escaped Winterfield. He happened to look toward the writing-table
next. Some pages of manuscript, blotted and interlined with
corrections, at once attracted his attention.

"Is that the forthcoming history?" he asked. "You are not one of
the authors who perform the process of correction mentally--you
revise and improve with the pen in your hand."

Romayne looked at him in surprise. "I suspect, Mr. Winterfield,
you have used your pen for other purposes than writing letters."

"No, indeed; you pay me an undeserved compliment. When you come
to see me in Devonshire, I can show you some manuscripts, and
corrected proofs, left by our great writers, collected by my
father. My knowledge of the secrets of the craft has been gained
by examining those literary treasures. If the public only knew
that every writer worthy of the name is the severest critic of
his own book before it ever gets into the hands of the reviewers,
how surprised they would be! The man who has worked in the full
fervor of composition yesterday is the same man who sits in
severe and merciless judgment to-day on what he has himself
produced. What a fascination there must be in the Art which
exacts and receives such double labor as this?"

Romayne thought--not unkindly--of his wife. Stella had once asked
him how long a time he was usually occupied in writing one page.
The reply had filled her with pity and wonder. "Why do you take
all that trouble?" she had gently remonstrated. "It would be just
the same to the people, darling, if you did it in half the time."

By way of changing the topic, Romayne led his visitor into
another room. "I have a picture here," he said, "which belongs to
a newer school of painting. You have been talking of hard work in
one Art; there it is in another."

"Yes," said Winterfield,
"there it is--the misdirected hard work, which has been guided
by no critical faculty, and which doesn't know where to stop. I
try to admire it; and I end in pitying the poor artist. Look at
that leafless felled tree in the middle distance. Every little
twig, on the smallest branch, is conscientiously painted--and the
result is like a colored photograph. You don't look at a
landscape as a series of separate parts; you don't discover every
twig on a tree; you see the whole in Nature, and you want to see
the whole in a picture. That canvas presents a triumph of
patience and pains, produced exactly as a piece of embroidery is
produced, all in little separate bits, worked with the same
mechanically complete care. I turn away from it to your shrubbery
there, with an ungrateful sense of relief."

He walked to the window as he spoke. It looked out on the grounds
in front of the house. At the same moment the noise of rolling
wheels became audible on the drive. An open carriage appeared at
the turn in the road. Winterfield called Romayne to the window.
"A visitor," he began--and suddenly drew back, without saying a
word more.

Romayne looked out, and recognized his wife.

"Excuse me for one moment," he said, "it is Mrs. Romayne."

On that morning an improvement in the fluctuating state of Mrs.
Eyrecourt's health had given Stella another of those
opportunities of passing an hour or two with her husband, which
she so highly prized. Romayne withdrew, to meet her at the
door--too hurriedly to notice Winterfield standing, in the corner
to which he had retreated, like a man petrified.

Stella had got out of the carriage when her husband reached the
porch. She ascended the few steps that led to the hall as slowly
and painfully as if she had been an infirm old woman. The
delicately tinted color in her face had faded to an ashy white.
She had seen Winterfield at the window.

For the moment, Romayne looked at her in speechless
consternation. He led her into the nearest room that opened out
of the hall, and took her in his arms. "My love, this nursing of
your mother has completely broken you down!" he said, with the
tenderest pity for her. "If you won't think of yourself, you must
think of me. For my sake remain here, and take the rest that you
need. I will be a tyrant, Stella, for the first time; I won't let
you go back."

She roused herself, and tried to smile--and hid the sad result
from him in a kiss. "I do feel the anxiety and fatigue," she
said. "But my mother is really improving; and, if it only
continues, the blessed sense of relief will make me strong
again." She paused, and roused all her courage, in anticipation
of the next words--so trivial and so terrible--that must, sooner
or later, be pronounced. "You have a visitor?" she said.

"Did you see him at the window? A really delightful man--I know
you will like him. Under any other circumstances, I should have
introduced him. You are not well enough to see strangers today."

She was too determined to prevent Winterfield from ever entering
the house again to shrink from the meeting. "I am not so ill as
you think, Lewis," she said, bravely. "When you go to your new
friend, I will go with you. I am a little tired--that's all."

Romayne looked at her anxiously. "Let me get you a glass of
wine," he said.

She consented--she really felt the need of it. As he turned away
to ring the bell, she put the question which had been in her mind
from the moment when she had seen Winterfield.

"How did you become acquainted with this gentleman?"

"Through Father Benwell."

She was not surprised by the answer--her suspicion of the priest
had remained in her mind from the night of Lady Loring's ball.
The future of her married life depended on her capacity to check
the growing intimacy between the two men. In that conviction she
found the courage to face Winterfield.

How should she meet him? The impulse of the moment pointed to the
shortest way out of the dreadful position in which she was
placed--it was to treat him like a stranger. She drank her glass
of wine, and took Romayne's arm. "We mustn't keep your friend
waiting any longer," she resumed. "Come!"

As they crossed the hall, she looked suspiciously toward the
house door. Had he taken the opportunity of leaving the villa? At
any other time she would have remembered that the plainest laws
of good breeding compelled him to wait for Romayne's return. His
own knowledge of the world would tell him that an act of gross
rudeness, committed by a well-bred man, would inevitably excite
suspicion of some unworthy motive--and might, perhaps, connect
that motive with her unexpected appearance at the house. Romayne
opened the door, and they entered the room together.

"Mr. Winterfield, let me introduce you to Mrs. Romayne." They
bowed to each other; they spoke the conventional words proper to
the occasion--but the effort that it cost them showed itself.
Romayne perceived an unusual formality in his wife's manner, and
a strange disappearance of Winterfield's easy grace of address.
Was he one of the few men, in these days, who are shy in the
presence of women? And was the change in Stella attributable,
perhaps, to the state of her health? The explanation might, in
either case, be the right one. He tried to set them at their

"Mr. Winterfield is so pleased with the pictures, that he means
to come and see them again," he said to his wife. "And one of his
favorites happens to be your favorite, too."

She tried to look at Winterfield, but her eyes sank. She could
turn toward him, and that was all. "Is it the sea-piece in the
study?" she said to him faintly.

"Yes," he answered, with formal politeness; "it seems to me to be
one of the painter's finest works."

Romayne looked at him in unconcealed wonder. To what flat
commonplace Winterfield's lively enthusiasm had sunk in Stella's
presence! She perceived that some unfavorable impression had been
produced on her husband, and interposed with a timely suggestion.
Her motive was not only to divert Romayne's attention from
Winterfield, but to give him a reason for leaving the room.

"The little water-color drawing in my bedroom is by the same
artist," she said. "Mr. Winterfield might like to see it. If you
will ring the bell, Lewis, I will send my maid for it."

Romayne had never allowed the servants to touch his works of art,
since the day when a zealous housemaid had tried to wash one of
his plaster casts. He made the reply which his wife had

"No! no!" he said. "I will fetch the drawing myself." He turned
gayly to Winterfield. "Prepare yourself for another work that you
would like to kiss." He smiled, and left the room.

The instant the door was closed, Stella approached Winterfield.
Her beautiful face became distorted by a mingled expression of
rage and contempt. She spoke to him in a fierce peremptory

"Have you any consideration for me left?" His look at her, as she
put that question, revealed the most complete contrast between
his face and hers. Compassionate sorrow was in his eyes, tender
forbearance and respect spoke in his tones, as he answered her.

"I have more than consideration for you, Stella--"

She angrily interrupted him. "How dare you call me by my
Christian name?"

He remonstrated, with a gentleness that might have touched the
heart of any woman. "Do you still refuse to believe that I never
deceived you? Has time not softened your heart to me yet?"

She was more contemptuous toward him than ever. "Spare me your
protestations," she said; "I heard enough of them two years
since. Will you do what I ask of you?"

"You know that I will."

"Put an end to your acquaintance with my husband. Put an end to
it," she repeated vehemently, "from this day, at once and
forever! Can I trust you to do it?"

"Do you think I would have entered this house if I had known he
was your husband?" He made that reply with a sudden change in
him--with a rising color and in firm tones of indignation. In a
moment more, his voice softened again, and his kind blue eyes
rested on her sadly and devotedly. "You may trust me to do more
than you ask," he resumed. "You have made a mistake."

"What mistake?"

"When Mr. Romayne introduced us, you met me like a stranger--and
you left me no choice but to do as you did."

"I wish you to be a stranger."

Her sharpest replies made no change in his manner. He spoke as
kindly and as patiently as ever.

"You forget that you and your mother were my guests at Beaupark,
two years ago--"

Stella understood what he meant--and more. In an instant she
remembered that Father Benwell had been at Beaupark House. Had he
heard of the visit? She clasped her hands in speechless terror.

Winterfield gently reassured her. "You must not be frightened,"
he said. "It is in the last degree unlikely that Mr. Romayne will
ever find out that you were at my house. If he does--and if you
deny it--I will do for you what I would do for no other human
creature; I will deny it too. You are safe from discovery. Be
happy--and forget me."

For the first time she showed signs of relenting--she turned her
head away, and sighed. Although her mind was full of the serious
necessity of warning him against Father Benwell, she had not even
command enough over her own voice to ask how he had become
acquainted with the priest. His manly devotion, the perfect and
pathetic sincerity of his respect, pleaded with her, in spite of
herself. For a moment she paused to recover her composure. In
that moment Romayne returned to them with the drawing in his

"There!" he said. "It's nothing, this time, but some children
gathering flowers on the outskirts of a wood. What do you think
of it?"

"What I thought of the larger work," Winterfield answered. "I
could look at it by the hour together." He consulted his watch.
"But time is a hard master, and tells me that my visit must come
to an end. Thank you, most sincerely."

He bowed to Stella. Romayne thought his guest might have taken
the English freedom of shaking hands. "When will you come and
look at the pictures again?" he asked. "Will you dine with us,
and see how they bear the lamplight?"

"I am sorry to say I must beg you to excuse me. My plans are
altered since we met yesterday. I am obliged to leave London."

Romayne was unwilling to part with him on these terms. "You will
let me know when you are next in town?" he said.


With that short answer he hurried away.

Romayne waited a little in the hall before he went back to his
wife. Stella's reception of Winterfield, though not positively
ungracious, was, nevertheless, the reverse of encouraging. What
extraordinary caprice had made her insensible to the social
attractions of a man so unaffectedly agreeable? It was not
wonderful that Winterfield's cordiality should have been chilled
by the cold welcome that he had received from the mistress of the
house. At the same time, some allowance was to be made for the
influence of Stella's domestic anxieties, and some sympathy was
claimed by the state of her health. Although her husband shrank
from distressing her by any immediate reference to her reception
of his friend, he could not disguise from himself that she had
disappointed him. When he went back to the room, Stella was lying
on the sofa with her face turned toward the wall. She was in
tears, and she was afraid to let him see it. "I won't disturb
you," he said, and withdrew to his study. The precious volume
which Winterfield had so kindly placed at his disposal was on the
table, waiting for him.

Father Benwell had lost little by not being present at the
introduction of Winterfield to Stella. He had witnessed a plainer
betrayal of emotion when they met unexpectedly in Lord Loring's
picture gallery. But if he had seen Romayne reading in his study,
and Stella crying secretly on the sofa, he might have written to
Rome by that day's post, and might have announced that he had
sown the first seeds of disunion between husband and wife.



_To the Secretary, S. J., Rome._

In my last few hasty lines I was only able to inform you of the
unexpected arrival of Mrs. Romayne while Winterfield was visiting
her husband. If you remember, I warned you not to attach any
undue importance to my absence on that occasion. My present
report will satisfy my reverend brethren that the interests
committed to me are as safe as ever in my hands.

I have paid three visits, at certain intervals. The first to
Winterfield (briefly mentioned in my last letter); the second to
Romayne; the third to the invalid lady, Mrs. Eyrecourt. In every
case I have been rewarded by important results.

We will revert to Winterfield first. I found him at his hotel,
enveloped in clouds of tobacco smoke. Having led him, with some
difficulty, into talking of his visit to Ten Acres Lodge, I asked
how he liked Romayne's pictures.

"I envy him his pictures." That was the only answer.

"And how do you like Mrs. Romayne?" I inquired next.

He laid down his pipe, and looked at me attentively. My face (I
flatter myself) defied discovery. He inhaled another mouthful of
tobacco, and began to play with his dog. "If I must answer your
question," he burst out suddenly, "I didn't get a very gracious
reception from Mrs. Romayne." There he abruptly stopped. He is a
thoroughly transparent man; you see straight into his mind,
through his eyes. I perceived that he was only telling me a part
(perhaps a very small part) of the truth.

"Can you account for such a reception as you describe?" I asked.
He answered shortly, "No."

"Perhaps I can account for it," I went on. "Did Mr. Romayne tell
his wife that I was the means of introducing you to him?"

He fixed another searching look on me. "Mr. Romayne might have
said so when he left me to receive his wife at the door."

"In that case, Mr. Winterfield, the explanation is as plain as
the sun at noonday. Mrs. Romayne is a strong Protestant, and I am
a Catholic priest."

He accepted this method of accounting for his reception with an
alacrity that would not have imposed on a child. You see I had
relieved him from all further necessity of accounting for the
conduct of Mrs. Romayne!

"A lady's religious prejudices," I proceeded in the friendliest
way, "are never taken seriously by a sensible man. You have
placed Mr. Romayne under obligations to your kindness--he is
eager to improve his acquaintance with you. You will go again to
Ten Acres Lodge?"

He gave me another short answer. "I think not."

I said I was sorry to hear it. "However," I added, "you can
always see him here, when you are in London." He puffed out a big
volume of smoke, and made no remark. I declined to be put down by
silence and smoke. "Or perhaps," I persisted, "you will honor me
by meeting him at a simple little dinner at my lodgings?" Being a
gentleman, he was of course obliged to answer this. He said, "You
are very kind; I would rather not. Shall we talk of something
else, Father Benwell?"

We talked of something else. He was just as amiable as ever--but
he was not in good spirits. "I think I shall run over to Paris
before the end of the month," he said. "To make a long stay?" I
asked. "Oh, no! Call in a week or ten days--and you will find me
here again."

When I got up to go, he returned of his own accord to the
forbidden subject. He said, "I must beg you to do me two favors.
The first is, not to let Mr. Romayne know that I am still in
London. The second is, not to ask me for any explanations."

The result of our interview may be stated in very few words. It
has advanced me one step nearer to discovery. Winterfield's
voice, look, and manner satisfied me of this--the true motive for
his sudden change of feeling toward Romayne is jealousy of the
man who has married Miss Eyrecourt. Those compromising
circumstances which baffled the inquiries of my agent are
associated, in plain English, with a love affair. Remember all
that I have told you of Romayne's peculiar disposition--and
imagine, if you can, what the consequences of such a disclosure
will be when we are in a position to enlighten the master of
Vange Abbey!

As to the present relations between the husband and wife, I have
only to tell you next what passed, when I visited Romayne a day
or two later. I did well to keep Penrose at our disposal. We
shall want him again.


On arriving at Ten Acres Lodge, I found Romayne in his study. His
manuscript lay before him--but he was not at work. He looked worn
and haggard. To this day I don't know from what precise nervous
malady he suffers; I could only guess that it had been troubling
him again since he and I last met.

My first conventional civilities were dedicated, of course, to
his wife. She is still in attendance on her mother. Mrs.
Eyrecourt is now considered to be out of danger. But the good
lady (who is ready enough to recommend doctors to other people)
persists in thinking that she is too robust a person to require
medical help herself. The physician in attendance trusts entirely
to her daughter to persuade her to persevere with the necessary
course of medicine. Don't suppose that I trouble you by
mentioning these trumpery circumstances without a reason. We
shall have occasion to return to Mrs. Eyrecourt and her doctor.

Before I had been five minutes in his company, Romayne asked me
if I had seen Winterfield since his visit to Ten Acres Lodge.

I said I had seen him, and waited, anticipating the next
question. Romayne fulfilled my expectations. He inquired if
Winterfield had left London.

There are certain cases (as I am told by medical authorities) in
which the dangerous system of bleeding a patient still has its
advantages. There are other cases in which the dangerous system
of telling the truth becomes equally judicious. I said to
Romayne, "If I answer you honestly, will you consider it as
strictly confidential? Mr. Winterfield, I regret to say, has no
intention of improving his acquaintance with you. He asked me to
conceal from you that he is still in London."

Romayne's face plainly betrayed that he was annoyed and
irritated. "Nothing that you say to me, Father Benwell, shall
pass the walls of this room," he replied. "Did Winterfield give
any reason for not continuing his acquaintance with me?"

I told the truth once more, with courteous expressions of regret.
"Mr. Winterfield spoke of an ungracious reception on the part of
Mrs. Romayne."

He started to his feet, and walked irritably up and down the
room. "It is beyond endurance!" he said to himself.

The truth had served its purpose by this time. I affected not to
have heard him. "Did you speak to me?" I asked.

He used a milder form of expression. "It is most unfortunate," he
said. "I must immediately send back the valuable book which Mr.
Winterfield has lent to me. And that is not the worst of it.
There are other volumes in his library which I have the greatest
interest in consulting--and it is impossible for me to borrow
them now. At this time, too, when I have lost Penrose, I had
hoped to find in Winterfield another friend who sympathized with
my pursuits. There is something so cheering and attractive in his
manner--and he has just the boldness and novelty of view in his
opinions that appeal to a man like me. It was a pleasant future
to look forward to; and it must be sacrificed--and to what? To a
woman's caprice."

From our point of view this was a frame of mind to be encouraged.
I tried the experiment of modestly taking the blame on myself. I
suggested that I might be (quite innocently) answerable for
Romayne's disappointment.

He looked at me thoroughly puzzled. I repeated what I had said to
Winterfield. "Did you mention to Mrs. Romayne that I was the
means of introducing you--?"

He was too impatient to let me finish the sentence. "I did
mention it to Mrs. Romayne," he said. "And what of it?"

"Pardon me for reminding you that Mrs. Romayne has Protestant
prejudices," I rejoined. "Mr. Winterfield would, I fear, not be
very welcome to her as the friend of a Catholic priest."

He was almost angry with me for suggesting the very explanation
which had proved so acceptable to Winterfield.

"Nonsense!" he cried. "My wife is far too well-bred a woman to
let her prejudices express themselves in _that_ way.
Winterfield's personal appearance must have inspired her with
some unreasonable antipathy, or--"

He stopped, and turned away thoughtfully to the window. Some
vague suspicion had probably entered his mind, which he had only
become aware of at that moment, and which he was not quite able
to realize as yet. I did my best to encourage the new train of

"What other reason _can_ there be?" I asked.

He turned on me sharply. "I don't know. Do you?"

I ventured on a courteous remonstrance. "My dear sir! if you
can't find another reason, how can I? It must have been a sudden
antipathy, as you say. Such things do happen between strangers. I
suppose I am right in assuming that Mrs. Romayne and Mr.
Winterfield are strangers?"

His eyes flashed with a sudden sinister brightness--the new idea
had caught light in his mind. "They _met_ as strangers," he said.

There he stopped again, and returned to the window. I felt that I
might lose the place I had gained in his confidence if I pressed
the subject any further. Besides, I had my reasons for saying a
word about Penrose next. As it happened, I had received a letter
from him, relating to his present employment, and sending kindest
regards to his dear friend and master in the postscript.

I gave the message. Romayne looked round, with an instant change
in his face. The mere sound of Penrose's name seemed to act as a
relief to the gloom and suspicion that had oppressed him the
moment before. "You don't know how I miss the dear gentle little
fellow," he said, sadly.

"Why not write to him?" I suggested. "He would be so glad to hear
from you again."

"I don't know where to write."

"Did I not send you his address when I forwarded your letter to


"Then let me atone for my forgetfulness at once."

I wrote down the address, and took my leave.

As I approached the door I noticed on a side table the Catholic
volumes which Penrose left with Romayne. One of them was open,
with a pencil lying beside it. I thought that a good sign--but I
said nothing.

Romayne pressed my hand at parting. "You have been very kind and
friendly, Father Benwell," he said. "I shall be glad to see you

Don't mention it in quarters where it might do me harm. Do you
know, I really pitied him. He has sacrificed everything to his
marriage--and his marriage has disappointed him. He was even
reduced to be friendly with Me.

Of course when the right time comes I shall give Penrose leave of
absence. Do you foresee, as I do, the speedy return of "the dear
gentle little fellow" to his old employment; the resumed work of
conversion advancing more rapidly than ever; and the jealousy of
the Protestant wife aggravating the false position in which she
is already placed by her equivocal reception of Winterfield? You
may answer this by reminding me of the darker side of the
prospect. An heir may be born; and the heir's mother, backed by
general opinion, may insist--if there is any hesitation in the
matter--on asserting the boy's natural right to succeed his

Patience, my reverend colleague! There is no threatening of any
such calamity yet. And, even if it happens, don't forget that
Romayne has inherited a second fortune. The Vange estate has an
estimated value. If the act of restitution represented that value
in ready money, do you think the Church would discourage a good
convert by refusing his check? You know better than that--and so
do I.


The next day I called to inquire how Mrs. Eyrecourt was getting
on. The report was favorable. Three days later I called again.
The report was still more encouraging. I was also informed that
Mrs. Romayne had returned to Ten Acres Lodge.

Much of my success in life has been achieved by never being in a
hurry. I was not in a hurry now. Time sometimes brings
opportunities--and opportunities are worth waiting for.

Let me make this clear by an example.

A man of headlong disposition, in my place, would have probably
spoken of Miss Eyrecourt's marriage to Romayne at his first
meeting with Winterfield, and would have excited their distrust,
and put them respectively on their guard, without obtaining any
useful result. I can, at any time, make the disclosure to Romayne
which informs him that his wife had been Winterfield's guest in
Devonshire, when she affected to meet her former host on the
footing of a stranger. In the meanwhile, I give Penrose ample
opportunity for innocently widening the breach between husband
and wife.

You see, I hope, that if I maintain a passive position, it is not
from indolence or discouragement. Now we may get on.

After an interval of a few days more I decided on making further
inquiries at Mrs. Eyrecourt's house. This time, when I left my
card, I sent a message, asking if the lady could receive me.
Shall I own my weakness? She possesses all the information that I
want, and she has twice baffled my inquiries. Under these
humiliating circumstances, it is part of the priestly pugnacity
of my disposition to inquire again.

I was invited to go upstairs.

The front and back drawing-rooms of the house were thrown into
one. Mrs. Eyrecourt was being gently moved backward and forward
in a chair on wheels, propelled by her maid; two gentlemen being
present, visitors like myself. In spite of rouge and loosely
folded lace and flowing draperies, she presented a deplorable
spectacle. The bodily part of her looked like a dead woman,
painted and revived--while the moral part, in the strongest
contrast, was just as lively as ever.

"So glad to see you again, Father Benwell, and so much obliged by
your kind inquiries. I am quite well, though the doctor won't
admit it. Isn't it funny to see me being wheeled about, like a
child in a perambulator? Returning to first principles, I call
it. You see it's a law of my nature that I must go about. The
doctor won't let me go about outside the house, so I go about
inside the house. Matilda is the nurse, and I am the baby who
will learn to walk some of these days. Are you tired, Matilda?
No? Then give me another turn, there's a good creature. Movement,
perpetual movement, is a law of Nature. Oh, dear no, doctor; I
didn't make that discovery for myself. Some eminent scientific
person mentioned it in a lecture. The ugliest man I ever saw. Now
back again, Matilda. Let me introduce you to my friends, Father
Benwell. Introducing is out of fashion, I know. But I am one of
the few women who can resist the tyranny of fashion. I like
introducing people. Sir John Drone--Father Benwell. Father
Benwell--Doctor Wybrow. Ah, yes, you know the doctor by
reputation? Shall I give you his character? Personally charming;
professionally detestable. Pardon my impudence, doctor, it is one
of the consequences of the overflowing state of my health.
Another turn, Matilda--and a little faster this time. Oh, how I
wish I was traveling by railway!"

There, her breath failed her. She reclined in her chair, and
fanned herself silently--for a while.

I was now able to turn my attention to the two visitors. Sir John
Drone, it was easy to see, would be no obstacle to confidential
conversation with Mrs. Eyrecourt. An excellent country gentleman,
with the bald head, the ruddy complexion, and the inexhaustible
capacity for silence, so familiar to us in English society--there
you have the true description of Sir John. But the famous
physician was quite another sort of man. I had only to look at
him, and to feel myself condemned to small talk while _he_ was in
the room.

You have always heard of it in my correspondence, whenever I have
been in the wrong. I was in the wrong again now--I had forgotten
the law of chances. Capricious Fortune, after a long interval,
was about to declare herself again in my favor, by means of the
very woman who had twice already got the better of me. What a
recompense for my kind inquiries after Mrs. Eyrecourt! She
recovered breath enough to begin talking again.

"Dear me, how dull you are!" she said to us. "Why don't you amuse
a poor prisoner confined to the house? Rest a little, Matilda, or
you will be falling ill next. Doctor! is this your last
professional visit?"

"Promise to take care of yourself, Mrs. Eyrecourt, and I will
confess that the professional visits are over. I come here to-day
only as a friend."

"You best of men! Do me another favor. Enliven our dullness. Tell
us some interesting story about a patient. These great doctors,
Sir John, pass their lives in a perfect atmosphere of romance.
Dr. Wybrow's consulting-room is like your confessional, Father
Benwell. The most fascinating sins and sorrows are poured into
his ears. What is the last romance in real life, doctor, that has
asked you to treat it medically? We don't want names and
places--we are good children; we only want a story."

Dr. Wybrow looked at me with a smile.

"It is impossible to persuade ladies," he said, "that we, too,
are father-confessors in our way. The first duty of a doctor,
Mrs. Eyrecourt--"

"Is to cure people, of course," she interposed in her smartest

The doctor answered seriously. "No, indeed. That is only the
second duty. Our first duty is invariably to respect the
confidence of our patients. However," he resumed in his easier
tone, "I happen to have seen a patient to-day, under
circumstances which the rules of professional honor do not forbid
me to mention. I don't know, Mrs. Eyrecourt, whether you will
quite like to be introduced to the scene of the story. The scene
is in a madhouse."

Mrs. Eyrecourt burst out with a coquettish little scream, and
shook her fan at the doctor. "No horrors!" she cried. "The bare
idea of a madhouse distracts me with terror. Oh, fie, fie! I
won't listen to you--I won't look at you--I positively refuse to
be frightened out of my wits. Matilda! wheel me away to the
furthest end of the room. My vivid imagination, Father Benwell,
is my rock ahead in life. I declare I can _smell_ the odious
madhouse. Go straight to the window, Matilda; I want to bury my
nose among the flowers."

Sir John, upon this, spoke for the first time. His language
consisted entirely of beginnings of sentences, mutely completed
by a smile. "Upon my word, you know. Eh, Doctor Wybrow? A man of
your experience. Horrors in madhouses. A lady in delicate health.
No, really. Upon my honor, now, I cannot. Something funny, oh
yes. But such a subject, oh no."

He rose to leave us. Dr. Wybrow gently stopped him. "I had a
motive, Sir John," he said, "but I won't trouble you with
needless explanations. There is a person, unknown to me, whom I
want to discover. You are a great deal in society when you are in
London. May I ask if you have ever met with a gentleman named

I have always considered the power of self-control as one of the
strongest points in my character. For the future I shall be more
humble. When I heard that name, my surprise so completely
mastered me that I sat self-betrayed to Dr. Wybrow as the man who
could answer his question.

In the meanwhile, Sir John took his time to consider, and
discovered that he had never heard of a person named Winterfield.
Having acknowledged his ignorance, in his own eloquent language,
he drifted away to the window-box in the next room, and gravely
contemplated Mrs. Eyrecourt, with her nose buried in flowers.

The doctor turned to me. "Am I wrong, Father Benwell, in
supposing that I had better have addressed myself to _you?"_

I admitted that I knew a gentleman named Winterfield.

Dr. Wybrow got up directly. "Have you a few minutes to spare?" he
asked. It is needless to say that I was at the doctor's disposal.
"My house is close by, and my carriage is at the door," he
resumed. "When you feel inclined to say good-by to our friend
Mrs. Eyrecourt, I have something to say to you which I think you
ought to know."

We took our departure at once. Mrs. Eyrecourt (leaving some of
the color of her nose among the flowers) patted me encouragingly
with her fan, and told the doctor that he was forgiven, on the
understanding that he would "never do it again." In five minutes
more we were in Dr. Wybrow's study.

My watch tells me that I cannot hope to finish this letter by
post time. Accept what I have written thus far--and be assured
that the conclusion of my report shall follow a day later.


The doctor began cautiously. "Winterfield is not a very common
name," he said. "But it may not be amiss, Father Benwell, to
discover, if we can, whether _your_ Winterfield is the man of
whom I am in search. Do you only know him by name? or are you a
friend of his?"

I answered, of course, that I was a friend.

Dr. Wybrow went on. "Will you pardon me if I venture on an
indiscreet question? When you are acquainted with the
circumstances, I am sure you will understand and excuse me. Are
you aware of any--what shall I call it?--any romantic incident in
Mr. Winterfield's past life?"

This time--feeling myself, in all probability, on the brink of
discovery--I was careful to preserve my composure. I said,
quietly: "Some such incident as you describe has occurred in Mr.
Winterfield's past life." There I stopped discreetly, and looked
as if I knew all about it.

The doctor showed no curiosity to hear more. "My object," he went
on, "was merely to be reasonably sure that I was speaking to the
right person, in speaking to you. I may now tell you that I have
no personal interest in trying to discover Mr. Winterfield; I
only act as the representative of an old friend of mine. He is
the proprietor of a private asylum at Sandsworth--a man whose
integrity is beyond dispute, or he would not be my friend. You
understand my motive in saying this?"

Proprietors of private asylums are, in these days, the objects of
very general distrust in England. I understood the doctor's
motive perfectly.

He proceeded. "Yesterday evening, my friend called upon me, and
said that he had a remarkable case in his house, which he
believed would interest me. The person to whom he alluded was a
French boy, whose mental powers had been imperfectly developed
from his childhood. The mischief had been aggravated, when he was
about thirteen years old, by a serious fright. When he was placed
in my asylum, he was not idiotic, and not dangerously mad--it was
a case (not to use technical language) of deficient intelligence,
tending sometimes toward acts of unreasoning mischief and petty
theft, but never approaching to acts of downright violence. My
friend was especially interested in the lad--won his confidence
and affection by acts of kindness--and so improved his bodily
health as to justify some hope of also improving the state of his
mind, when a misfortune occurred which has altered the whole
prospect. The poor creature has fallen ill of a fever, and the
fever has developed to typhus. So far, there has been little to
interest you--I am coming to a remarkable event at last. At the
stage of the fever when delirium usually occurs in patients of
sound mind, this crazy French boy has become perfectly sane and

I looked at him, when he made this amazing assertion, with a
momentary doubt of his being in earnest. Doctor Wybrow understood

"Just what I thought, too, when I first heard it!" he said. "My
friend was neither offended nor surprised. After inviting me to
go to his house, and judge for myself, he referred me to a
similar case, publicly cited in the 'Cornhill Magazine,' for the
month of April, 1879, in an article entitled 'Bodily Illness as a
Mental Stimulant.' The article is published anonymously; but the
character of the periodical in which it appears is a sufficient
guarantee of the trustworthiness of the statement. I was so far
influenced by the testimony thus cited, that I drove to
Sandsworth and examined the case myself."

"Did the examination satisfy you?"

"Thoroughly. When I saw him last night, the poor boy was as sane
as I am. There is, however, a complication in this instance,
which is not mentioned in the case related in print. The boy
appears to have entirely forgotten every event in his past life,
reckoning from the time when the bodily illness brought with it
the strange mental recovery which I have mentioned to you."

This was a disappointment. I had begun to hope for some coming
result, obtained by the lad's confession.

"Is it quite correct to call him sane, when his memory is gone?"
I ventured to ask.

"In this case there is no necessity to enter into the question,"
the doctor answered. "The boy's lapse of memory refers, as I told
you, to his past life--that is to say, his life when his
intellect was deranged. During the extraordinary interval of
sanity that has now declared itself, he is putting his mental
powers to their first free use; and none of them fail him, so far
as I can see. His new memory (if I may call it so) preserves the
knowledge of what has happened since his illness. You may imagine
how this problem in brain disease interests me; and you will not
wonder that I am going back to Sandsworth tomorrow afternoon,
when I have done with my professional visits. But you may be
reasonably surprised at my troubling _you_ with details which are
mainly interesting to a medical man."

Was he about to ask me to go with him to the asylum? I replied
very briefly, merely saying that the details were interesting to
every student of human nature. If he could have felt my pulse at
that moment, I am afraid he might have thought I was in a fair
way of catching the fever too.

"Prepare yourself," he resumed, "for another surprising
circumstance. Mr. Winterfield is, by some incomprehensible
accident, associated with one of the mischievous tricks played by
the French boy, before he was placed under my friend's care.
There, at any rate, is the only explanation by which we can
account for the discovery of an envelope (with inclosures) found
sewn up in the lining of the lad's waistcoat, and directed to Mr.
Winterfield--without any place of address."

I leave you to imagine the effect which those words produced on

"Now," said the doctor, "you will understand why I put such
strange questions to you. My friend and I are both hard-working
men. We go very little into society, as the phrase is; and
neither he nor I had ever heard the name of Winterfield. As a
certain proportion of my patients happen to be people with a
large experience of society, I undertook to make inquiries, so
that the packet might be delivered, if possible, to the right
person. You heard how Mrs. Eyrecourt (surely a likely lady to
assist me?) received my unlucky reference to the madhouse; and
you saw how I puzzled Sir John. I consider myself most fortunate,
Father Benwell, in having had the honor of meeting you? Will you
accompany me to the asylum to-morrow? And can you add to the
favor by bringing Mr. Winterfield with you?"

This last request it was out of my power--really out of my
power--to grant. Winterfield had left London that morning on his
visit to Paris. His address there was, thus far, not known to me.

"Well, you must represent your friend," the doctor said. "Time is
every way of importance in this case. Will you kindly call here
at five to-morrow afternoon?"

I was punctual to my appointment. We drove together to the

There is no need for me to trouble you with a narrative of what I
saw--favored by Doctor Wybrow's introduction--at the French boy's
bedside. It was simply a repetition of what I had already heard.
There he lay, at the height of the fever, asking, in the
intervals of relief, intelligent questions relating to the
medicines administered to him; and perfectly understanding the
answers. He was only irritable when we asked him to take his
memory back to the time before his illness; and then he answered
in French, "I haven't got a memory."

But I have something else to tell you, which is deserving of your
best attention. The envelope and its inclosures (addressed to
"Bernard Winterfield, Esqre.") are in my possession. The
Christian name sufficiently identifies the inscription with the
Winterfield whom I know.

The circumstances under which the discovery was made were related
to me by the proprietor of the asylum.

When the boy was brought to the house, two French ladies (his
mother and sister) accompanied him. and mentioned what had been
their own domestic experience of the case. They described the
wandering propensities which took the lad away from home, and the
odd concealment of his waistcoat, on the last occasion when he
had returned from one of his vagrant outbreaks.

On his first night at the asylum, he became excited by finding
himself in a strange place. It was necessary to give him a
composing draught. On goin g to bed, he was purposely not
prevented from hiding his waistcoat under the pillow, as usual.

When the sedative had produced its effect, the attendant easily
possessed himself of the hidden garment. It was the plain duty of
the master of the house to make sure that nothing likely to be
turned to evil uses was concealed by a patient. The seal which
had secured the envelope was found, on examination, to have been

"I would not have broken the seal myself," our host added. "But,
as things were, I thought it my duty to look at the inclosures.
They refer to private affairs of Mr. Winterfield, in which he is
deeply interested, and they ought to have been long since placed
in his possession. I need hardly say that I consider myself bound
to preserve the strictest silence as to what I have read. An
envelope, containing some blank sheets of paper, was put back in
the boy's waistcoat, so that he might feel it in its place under
the lining, when he woke. The original envelope and inclosures
(with a statement of circumstances signed by my assistant and
myself) have been secured under another cover, sealed with my own
seal. I have done my best to discover Mr. Bernard Winterfield. He
appears not to live in London. At least I failed to find his name
in the Directory. I wrote next, mentioning what had happened, to
the English gentleman to whom I send reports of the lad's health.
He couldn't help me. A second letter to the French ladies only
produced the same result. I own I should be glad to get rid of my
responsibility on honorable terms."

All this was said in the boy's presence. He lay listening to it
as if it had been a story told of some one else. I could not
resist the useless desire to question him. Not speaking French
myself (although I can read the language), I asked Doctor Wybrow
and his friend to interpret for me.

My questions led to nothing. The French boy knew no more about
the stolen envelope than I did.

There was no discoverable motive, mind, for suspecting him of
imposing on us. When I said, "Perhaps you stole it?" he answered
quite composedly, "Very likely; they tell me I have been mad; I
don't remember it myself; but mad people do strange things." I
tried him again. "Or, perhaps, you took it away out of mischief?"
"Yes." "And you broke the seal, and looked at the papers?" "I
dare say." "And then you kept them hidden, thinking they might be
of some use to you? Or perhaps feeling ashamed of what you had
done, and meaning to restore them if you got the opportunity?"
"You know best, sir." The same result followed when we tried to
find out where he had been, and what people had taken care of
him, during his last vagrant escape from home. It was a new
revelation to him that he had been anywhere. With evident
interest, he applied to us to tell him where he had wandered to,
and what people he had seen!

So our last attempts at enlightenment ended. We came to the final
question of how to place the papers, with the least possible loss
of time, in Mr. Winterfield's hands.

His absence in Paris having been mentioned, I stated plainly my
own position toward him at the present time.

"Mr. Winterfield has made an appointment with me to call at his
hotel, on his return to London," I said. "I shall probably be the
first friend who sees him. If you will trust me with your sealed
packet, in consideration of these circumstances, I will give you
a formal receipt for it in Doctor Wybrow's presence--and I will
add any written pledge that you may require on my part, acting as
Mr. Winterfield's representative and friend. Perhaps you would
like a reference as well?"

He made a courteous reply. "A friend of Dr. Wybrow's," he said,
"requires no other reference."

"Excuse me," I persisted. "I had the honor of meeting Doctor
Wybrow, for the first time, yesterday. Permit me to refer you to
Lord Loring, who has long known me as his spiritual director and

This account of myself settled the matter. I drew out the
necessary securities--and I have all the papers lying before me
on my desk at this moment.

You remember how seals were broken, and impressed again, at the
Roman post-office, in the revolutionary days when we were both
young men? Thanks to the knowledge then obtained, the
extraordinary events which once associated Mr. Winterfield and
Miss Eyrecourt are at last plainly revealed to me. Copies of the
papers are in my possession, and the originals are sealed again,
with the crest of the proprietor of the asylum, as if nothing had
happened. I make no attempt to excuse myself. You know our

I don't propose to make any premature use of the information
which I have obtained. The first and foremost necessity, as I
have already reminded you, is to give Penrose the undisturbed
opportunity of completing the conversion of Romayne. During this
interval, my copies of the papers are at the disposal of my
reverend brethren at headquarters.



_Number One.--From Emma Winterfield to Bernard Winterfield._

4 Maidwell Buildings, Belhaven.

How shall I address you? Dear Bernard, or Sir? It doesn't matter.
I am going to do one of the few good actions of my life: and
familiarities or formalities matter nothing to a woman who lies
on her deathbed.

Yes--I have met with another accident. Shortly after the date of
our separation, you heard, I think, of the fall in the circus
that fractured my skull? On that occasion, a surgical operation,
and a bit of silver plate in place of the bone, put me right
again. This time it has been the kick of a horse, in the stables.
Some internal injury is the consequence. I may die to-morrow, or
live till next week. Anyway--the doctor has confessed it--my time
has come.

Mind one thing. The drink--that vile habit which lost me your
love and banished me from your house--the drink is not to blame
for this last misfortune. Only the day before it happened I had
taken the pledge, under persuasion of the good rector here, the
Reverend Mr. Fennick. It is he who has brought me to make this
confession, and who takes it down in writing at my bedside. Do
you remember how I once hated the very name of a parson--and when
you proposed, in joke, to marry me before the registrar, how I
took it in downright earnest, and kept you to your word? We poor
horse-riders and acrobats only knew clergymen as the worst
enemies we had--always using their influence to keep the people
out of our show, and the bread out of our mouths. If I had met
with Mr. Fennick in my younger days, what a different woman I
might have been!

Well, regrets of that kind are useless now. I am truly sorry,
Bernard, for the evil that I have done to you; and I ask your
pardon with a contrite heart.

You will at least allow it in my favor that your drunken wife
knew she was unworthy of you. I refused to accept the allowance
that you offered to me. I respected your name. For seven years
from the time of our separation I returned to my profession under
an assumed name and never troubled you. The one thing I could not
do was to forget you. If you were infatuated by my unlucky
beauty, I loved devotedly on my side. The well-born gentleman who
had sacrificed everything for my sake, was something more than
mortal in my estimation; he was--no! I won't shock the good man
who writes this by saying what he was. Besides, what do you care
for my thoughts of you now?

If you had only been content to remain as I left you--or if I had
not found out that you were in love with Miss Eyrecourt, and were
likely to marry her, in the belief that death had released you
from me--I should have lived and died, doing you no other injury
than the first great injury of consenting to be your wife.

But I made the discovery--it doesn't matter how. Our circus was
in Devonshire at the time. My jealous rage maddened me, and I had
a wicked admirer in a man who was old enough to be my father. I
let him suppose that the way to my favor lay through helping my
revenge on the woman who was about to take my place. He found the
money to have you watched at home and abroad; he put the false
announcement of my death in the daily newspapers, to complete
your delusion; he baffled the inquiries made through your lawyers
to obtain positive proof of my death. And last, and (in those
wicked days) best service of all he took me to Brussels and
posted me at the door of the English church, so that your lawful
wife (with her marriage certificate in her hand) was the first
person who met you and the mock Mrs. Winterfield on your way from
the altar to the wedding breakfast.

I own it, to my shame. I triumphed in the mischief I had done.

But I had deserved to suffer; and I did suffer, when I heard that
Miss Eyrecourt's mother and her two friends took her away from
you--with her own entire approval--at the church door, and
restored her to society, without a stain on her reputation. How
the Brussels marriage was kept a secret, I could not find out.
And when I threatened them with exposure, I got a lawyer's
letter, and was advised in my own interests to hold my tongue.
The rector has since told me that your marriage to Miss Eyrecourt
could be lawfully declared null and void, and that the
circumstances would excuse _you_, before any judge in England. I
can now well understand that people, with rank and money to help
them, can avoid exposure to which the poor, in their places, must

One more. duty (the last) still remains to be done.

I declare solemnly, on my deathbed, that you acted in perfect
good faith when you married Miss Eyrecourt. You have not only
been a man cruelly injured by me, but vilely insulted and
misjudged by the two Eyrecourts, and by the lord and lady who
encouraged them to set you down as a villain guilty of heartless
and shameless deceit.

It is my conviction that these people might have done more than
misinterpret your honorable submission to the circumstances in
which you were placed. They might have prosecuted you for
bigamy--if they could have got me to appear against you. I am
comforted when I remember that I did make some small amends. I
kept out of their way and yours, from that day to this.

I am told that I owe it to you to leave proof of my death behind

When the doctor writes my certificate, he will mention the mark
by which I may be identified, if this reaches you (as I hope and
believe it will) between the time of my death and my burial. The
rector, who will close and seal these lines, as soon as the
breath is out of my body, will add what he can to identify me;
and the landlady of this house is ready to answer any questions
that may be put to her. This time you may be really assured that
you are free. When I am buried, and they show you my nameless
grave in the churchyard, I know your kind heart--I die, Bernard,
in the firm belief that you will forgive me.

There was one thing more that I had to ask of you, relating to a
poor lost creature who is in the room with us at this moment.
But, oh, I am so weary! Mr. Fennick will tell you what it is. Say
to yourself sometimes--perhaps when you have married some lady
who is worthy of you--There was good as well as bad in poor Emma.

_Number Two--From The Rev. Charles Fennick to Bernard

The Rectory, Belhaven.

Sir--It is my sad duty to inform you that Mrs. Emma Winterfield
died this morning, a little before five o'clock. I will add no
comment of mine to the touching language in which she has
addressed you. God has, I most sincerely believe, accepted the
poor sinner's repentance. Her contrite spirit is at peace, among
the forgiven ones in the world beyond the grave.

In consideration of her wish that you should see her in death,
the coffin will be kept open until the last moment. The medical
man in attendance has kindly given me a copy of his certificate,
which I inclose. You will see that the remains are identified by
the description of a small silver plate on the right parietal
bone of the skull.

I need hardly add that all the information I can give you is
willingly at your service.

She mentions, poor soul, something which she had to ask of you. I
prefer the request which, in her exhausted state, she was unable
to address to you in her own words.

While the performances of the circus were taking place in the
next county to ours, a wandering lad, evidently of deficient
intelligence, was discovered, trying to creep under the tent to
see what was going on. He could give no intelligible account of
himself. The late Mrs. Winterfield (who was born and brought up,
as I understand, in France) discovered that the boy was French,
and felt interested in the unfortunate creature, from former
happy association with kind friends of his nation. She took care
of him from that time to the day of her death--and he appeared to
be gratefully attached to her.

I say "appeared," because an inveterate reserve marks one of the
peculiarities of the mental affliction from which he suffers.
Even his benefactress never could persuade him to take her into
his confidence. In other respects, her influence (so far as I can
learn) had been successfully exerted in restraining certain
mischievous propensities in him, which occasionally showed
themselves. The effect of her death has been to intensify that
reserve to which I have already alluded. He is sullen and
irritable--and the good landlady at the lodgings does not
disguise that she shrinks from taking care of him, even for a few
days. Until I hear from you, he will remain under the charge of
my housekeeper at the rectory.

You have, no doubt, anticipated the request which the poor
sufferer wished to address to you but a few hours before her
death. She hoped that you might be willing to place this
friendless and helpless creature under competent protection.
Failing your assistance, I shall have no alternative, however I
may regret it, but to send him to the workhouse of this town, on
his way, probably, to the public asylum.

Believe me, sir, your faithful servant,


P.S.--I fear my letter and its inclosures may be delayed in
reaching you.

Yesterday evening, I had returned to my house, before it occurred
to me that Mrs. Winterfield had not mentioned your address. My
only excuse for this forgetfulness is, that I was very much
distressed while I was writing by her bedside. I at once went
back to the lodgings, but she had fallen asleep, and I dared not
disturb her. This morning, when I returned to the house, she was
dead. There is an allusion to Devonshire in her letter, which
suggests that your residence may be in that county; and I think
she once spoke of you as a person of rank and fortune. Having
failed to find your name in a London Directory, I am now about to
search our free library here for a county history of Devon, on
the chance that it may assist me. Let me add, for your own
satisfaction, that no eyes but mine will see these papers. For
security's sake, I shall seal them at once, and write your name
on the envelope.

_Added by Father Benwell._

How the boy contrived to possess himself of the sealed packet we
shall probably never discover. Anyhow, we know that he must have
escaped from the rectory, with the papers in his possession, and
that he did certainly get back to his mother and sister in

With such complete information as I now have at my disposal, the
prospect is as clear again as we can desire. The separation of
Romayne from his wife, and the alteration of his will in favor of
the Church, seem to be now merely questions of time.




A FORTNIGHT after Father Benwell's discovery, Stella followed her
husband one morning into his study. "Have you heard from Mr.
Penrose?" she inquired.

"Yes. He will be here to-morrow."

"To make a long visit?"

"I hope so. The longer the better."

She looked at him with a mingled expression of surprise and
reproach. "Why do you say that?" she asked. "Why do you want him
so much--when you have got Me?"

Thus far, he had been sitting at his desk, resting his head on
his hand, with his downcast eyes fixed on an open book. When she
put her last question to him he suddenly looked up. Through the
large window at his side the morning light fell on his face. The
haggard look of suffering, which Stella remembered on the day
when they met on the deck of the steamboat, was again
visible--not softened and chastened now by the touching
resignation of the bygone time, but intensified by the dogged and
despairing endurance of a man weary of himself and his life. Her
heart ached for him. She said, softly: "I don't mean to reproach

"Are you jealous of Penrose?" he asked, with a bitter smile.

She desperately told him the truth. "I am afraid of Penrose," she

He eyed her with a strange expression of suspicious surprise.
"Why are you afraid of Penrose?"

It was no time to run the risk of irritating him. The torment of
the Voice had returned in the past night. The old gnawing remorse
of the fatal day of the duel had betrayed itself in the wild
words that had escaped him, when he sank into a broken slumber as
the morning dawned. Feeling the truest pity for him, she was
still resolute to assert herself against the coming interference
of Penrose. She tried her ground by a dangerous means--the means
of an indirect reply.

"I think you might have told me," she said, "that Mr. Penrose was
a Catholic priest."

He looked down again at his book. "How did you know Penrose was a
Catholic priest?"

"I had only to look at the direction on your letters to him."

"Well, and what is there to frighten you in his being a priest?
You told me at the Loring's ball that you took an interest in
Penrose because I liked him."

"I didn't know then, Lewis, that he had concealed his profession
from us. I can't help distrusting a man who does that."

He laughed--not very kindly. "You might as well say you distrust
a man who conceals that he is an author, by writing an anonymous
book. What Penrose did, he did under orders from his
superior--and, moreover, he frankly owned to me that he was a
priest. If you blame anybody, you had better blame me for
respecting his confidence."

She drew back from him, hurt by the tone in which he spoke to
her. "I remember the time, Lewis," she said, "when you would have
been more indulgent toward my errors--even if I am wrong."

That simple appeal touched his better nature. "I don't mean to be
hard on you, Stella," he answered. "It is a little irritating to
hear you say that you distrust the most devoted and most
affectionate friend that man ever had. Why can't I love my wife,
and love my friend, too? You don't know, when I am trying to get

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