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´╗┐Title: The Black Robe
Author: Collins, Wilkie, 1824-1889
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Black Robe" ***

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THE BLACK ROBE

by Wilkie Collins



BEFORE THE STORY.



FIRST SCENE.--BOULOGNE-SUR-MER.--THE DUEL.

I.

THE doctors could do no more for the Dowager Lady Berrick.

When the medical advisers of a lady who has reached seventy years of age
recommend the mild climate of the South of France, they mean in plain
language that they have arrived at the end of their resources. Her
ladyship gave the mild climate a fair trial, and then decided (as
she herself expressed it) to "die at home." Traveling slowly, she had
reached Paris at the date when I last heard of her. It was then the
beginning of November. A week later, I met with her nephew, Lewis
Romayne, at the club.

"What brings you to London at this time of year?" I asked.

"The fatality that pursues me," he answered grimly. "I am one of the
unluckiest men living."

He was thirty years old; he was not married; he was the enviable
possessor of the fine old country seat, called Vange Abbey; he had no
poor relations; and he was one of the handsomest men in England. When I
add that I am, myself, a retired army officer, with a wretched income, a
disagreeable wife, four ugly children, and a burden of fifty years on
my back, no one will be surprised to hear that I answered Romayne, with
bitter sincerity, in these words:

"I wish to heaven I could change places with you!"

"I wish to heaven you could!" he burst out, with equal sincerity on his
side. "Read that."

He handed me a letter addressed to him by the traveling medical
attendant of Lady Berrick. After resting in Paris, the patient had
continued her homeward journey as far as Boulogne. In her suffering
condition, she was liable to sudden fits of caprice. An insurmountable
horror of the Channel passage had got possession of her; she positively
refused to be taken on board the steamboat. In this difficulty, the lady
who held the post of her "companion" had ventured on a suggestion. Would
Lady Berrick consent to make the Channel passage if her nephew came to
Boulogne expressly to accompany her on the voyage? The reply had been
so immediately favorable, that the doctor lost no time in communicating
with Mr. Lewis Romayne. This was the substance of the letter.

It was needless to ask any more questions--Romayne was plainly on his
way to Boulogne. I gave him some useful information. "Try the oysters,"
I said, "at the restaurant on the pier."

He never even thanked me. He was thinking entirely of himself.

"Just look at my position," he said. "I detest Boulogne; I cordially
share my aunt's horror of the Channel passage; I had looked forward to
some months of happy retirement in the country among my books--and what
happens to me? I am brought to London in this season of fogs, to travel
by the tidal train at seven to-morrow morning--and all for a woman with
whom I have no sympathies in common. If I am not an unlucky man--who
is?"

He spoke in a tone of vehement irritation which seemed to me, under the
circumstances, to be simply absurd. But _my_ nervous system is not the
irritable system--sorely tried by night study and strong tea--of my
friend Romayne. "It's only a matter of two days," I remarked, by way of
reconciling him to his situation.

"How do I know that?" he retorted. "In two days the weather may be
stormy. In two days she may be too ill to be moved. Unfortunately, I am
her heir; and I am told I must submit to any whim that seizes her. I'm
rich enough already; I don't want her money. Besides, I dislike all
traveling--and especially traveling alone. You are an idle man. If you
were a good friend, you would offer to go with me." He added, with the
delicacy which was one of the redeeming points in his wayward character.
"Of course as my guest."

I had known him long enough not to take offense at his reminding me,
in this considerate way, that I was a poor man. The proposed change
of scene tempted me. What did I care for the Channel passage? Besides,
there was the irresistible attraction of getting away from home. The end
of it was that I accepted Romayne's invitation.

II.

SHORTLY after noon, on the next day, we were established at
Boulogne--near Lady Berrick, but not at her hotel. "If we live in the
same house," Romayne reminded me, "we shall be bored by the companion
and the doctor. Meetings on the stairs, you know, and exchanging bows
and small talk." He hated those trivial conventionalities of society,
in which, other people delight. When somebody once asked him in what
company he felt most at ease? he made a shocking answer--he said, "In
the company of dogs."

I waited for him on the pier while he went to see her ladyship. He
joined me again with his bitterest smile. "What did I tell you? She
is not well enough to see me to-day. The doctor looks grave, and the
companion puts her handkerchief to her eyes. We may be kept in this
place for weeks to come."

The afternoon proved to be rainy. Our early dinner was a bad one. This
last circumstance tried his temper sorely. He was no gourmand; the
question of cookery was (with him) purely a matter of digestion. Those
late hours of study, and that abuse of tea to which I have already
alluded, had sadly injured his stomach. The doctors warned him of
serious consequences to his nervous system, unless he altered his
habits. He had little faith in medical science, and he greatly overrated
the restorative capacity of his constitution. So far as I know, he had
always neglected the doctors' advice.

The weather cleared toward evening, and we went out for a walk. We
passed a church--a Roman Catholic church, of course--the doors of which
were still open. Some poor women were kneeling at their prayers in the
dim light. "Wait a minute," said Romayne. "I am in a vile temper. Let me
try to put myself into a better frame of mind."

I followed him into the church. He knelt down in a dark corner by
himself. I confess I was surprised. He had been baptized in the Church
of England; but, so far as outward practice was concerned, he belonged
to no religious community. I had often heard him speak with sincere
reverence and admiration of the spirit of Christianity--but he never,
to my knowledge, attended any place of public worship. When we met
again outside the church, I asked if he had been converted to the Roman
Catholic faith.

"No," he said. "I hate the inveterate striving of that priesthood
after social influence and political power as cordially as the fiercest
Protestant living. But let us not forget that the Church of Rome has
great merits to set against great faults. Its system is administered
with an admirable knowledge of the higher needs of human nature. Take
as one example what you have just seen. The solemn tranquillity of that
church, the poor people praying near me, the few words of prayer by
which I silently united myself to my fellow-creatures, have calmed
me and done me good. In _our_ country I should have found the church
closed, out of service hours." He took my arm and abruptly changed the
subject. "How will you occupy yourself," he asked, "if my aunt receives
me to-morrow?"

I assured him that I should easily find ways and means of getting
through the time. The next morning a message came from Lady Berrick,
to say that she would see her nephew after breakfast. Left by myself,
I walked toward the pier, and met with a man who asked me to hire his
boat. He had lines and bait, at my service. Most unfortunately, as the
event proved, I decided on occupying an hour or two by sea fishing.

The wind shifted while we were out, and before we could get back to
the harbor, the tide had turned against us. It was six o'clock when I
arrived at the hotel. A little open carriage was waiting at the door.
I found Romayne impatiently expecting me, and no signs of dinner on the
table. He informed me that he had accepted an invitation, in which I was
included, and promised to explain everything in the carriage.

Our driver took the road that led toward the High Town. I subordinated
my curiosity to my sense of politeness, and asked for news of his aunt's
health.

"She is seriously ill, poor soul," he said. "I am sorry I spoke so
petulantly and so unfairly when we met at the club. The near prospect
of death has developed qualities in her nature which I ought to have
seen before this. No matter how it may be delayed, I will patiently wait
her time for the crossing to England."

So long as he believed himself to be in the right, he was, as to his
actions and opinions, one of the most obstinate men I ever met with.
But once let him be convinced that he was wrong, and he rushed into the
other extreme--became needlessly distrustful of himself, and needlessly
eager in seizing his opportunity of making atonement. In this latter
mood he was capable (with the best intentions) of committing acts of
the most childish imprudence. With some misgivings, I asked how he had
amused himself in my absence.

"I waited for you," he said, "till I lost all patience, and went out
for a walk. First, I thought of going to the beach, but the smell of the
harbor drove me back into the town; and there, oddly enough, I met with
a man, a certain Captain Peterkin, who had been a friend of mine at
college."

"A visitor to Boulogne?" I inquired.

"Not exactly."

"A resident?"

"Yes. The fact is, I lost sight of Peterkin when I left Oxford--and
since that time he seems to have drifted into difficulties. We had
a long talk. He is living here, he tells me, until his affairs are
settled."

I needed no further enlightenment--Captain Peterkin stood as plainly
revealed to me as if I had known him for years. "Isn't it a little
imprudent," I said, "to renew your acquaintance with a man of that sort?
Couldn't you have passed him, with a bow?"

Bolnayne smiled uneasily. "I daresay you're right," he answered. "But,
remember, I had left my aunt, feeling ashamed of the unjust way in
which I had thought and spoken of her. How did I know that I mightn't
be wronging an old friend next, if I kept Peterkin at a distance? His
present position may be as much his misfortune, poor fellow, as his
fault. I was half inclined to pass him, as you say--but I distrusted
my own judgment. He held out his hand, and he was so glad to see me. It
can't be helped now. I shall be anxious to hear your opinion of him."

"Are we going to dine with Captain Peterkin?"

"Yes. I happened to mention that wretched dinner yesterday at our hotel.
He said, 'Come to my boarding-house. Out of Paris, there isn't such a
table d'hote in France.' I tried to get off it--not caring, as you know,
to go among strangers--I said I had a friend with me. He invited you
most cordially to accompany me. More excuses on my part only led to a
painful result. I hurt Peterkin's feelings. 'I'm down in the world,'
he said, 'and I'm not fit company for you and your friends. I beg your
pardon for taking the liberty of inviting you!' He turned away with the
tears in his eyes. What could I do?"

I thought to myself, "You could have lent him five pounds, and got rid
of his invitation without the slightest difficulty." If I had returned
in reasonable time to go out with Romayne, we might not have met the
captain--or, if we had met him, my presence would have prevented the
confidential talk and the invitation that followed. I felt I was to
blame--and yet, how could I help it? It was useless to remonstrate: the
mischief was done.

We left the Old Town on our right hand, and drove on, past a little
colony of suburban villas, to a house standing by itself, surrounded by
a stone wall. As we crossed the front garden on our way to the door,
I noticed against the side of the house two kennels, inhabited by two
large watch-dogs. Was the proprietor afraid of thieves?

III.

THE moment we were introduced to the drawing-room, my suspicions of the
company we were likely to meet with were fully confirmed.

"Cards, billiards, and betting"--there was the inscription legibly
written on the manner and appearance of Captain Peterkin. The
bright-eyed yellow old lady who kept the boarding-house would have been
worth five thousand pounds in jewelry alone, if the ornaments which
profusely covered her had been genuine precious stones. The younger
ladies present had their cheeks as highly rouged and their eyelids
as elaborately penciled in black as if they were going on the stage,
instead of going to dinner. We found these fair creatures drinking
Madeira as a whet to their appetites. Among the men, there were two who
struck me as the most finished and complete blackguards whom I had ever
met with in all my experience, at home and abroad. One, with a brown
face and a broken nose, was presented to us by the title of "Commander,"
and was described as a person of great wealth and distinction in
Peru, traveling for amusement. The other wore a military uniform and
decorations, and was spoken of as "the General." A bold bullying manner,
a fat sodden face, little leering eyes, and greasy-looking hands, made
this man so repellent to me that I privately longed to kick him. Romayne
had evidently been announced, before our arrival, as a landed gentleman
with a large income. Men and women vied in servile attentions to him.
When we went into the dining-room, the fascinating creature who sat next
to him held her fan before her face, and so made a private interview of
it between the rich Englishman and herself. With regard to the dinner,
I shall only report that it justified Captain Peterkin's boast, in some
degree at least. The wine was good, and the conversation became gay to
the verge of indelicacy. Usually the most temperate of men, Romayne
was tempted by his neighbors into drinking freely. I was unfortunately
seated at the opposite extremity of the table, and I had no opportunity
of warning him.

The dinner reached its conclusion, and we all returned together, on
the foreign plan, to coffee and cigars in the drawing-room. The women
smoked, and drank liqueurs as well as coffee, with the men. One of them
went to the piano, and a little impromptu ball followed, the ladies
dancing with their cigarettes in their mouths. Keeping my eyes and
ears on the alert, I saw an innocent-looking table, with a surface of
rosewood, suddenly develop a substance of green cloth. At the same time,
a neat little roulette-table made its appearance from a hiding-place
in a sofa. Passing near the venerable landlady, I heard her ask the
servant, in a whisper, "if the dogs were loose?" After what I had
observed, I could only conclude that the dogs were used as a patrol, to
give the alarm in case of a descent of the police. It was plainly high
time to thank Captain Peterkin for his hospitality, and to take our
leave.

"We have had enough of this," I whispered to Romayne in English. "Let us
go."

In these days it is a delusion to suppose that you can speak
confidentially in the English language, when French people are within
hearing. One of the ladies asked Romayne, tenderly, if he was tired of
her already. Another reminded him that it was raining heavily (as we
could all hear), and suggested waiting until it cleared up. The hideous
General waved his greasy hand in the direction of the card table, and
said, "The game is waiting for us."

Romayne was excited, but not stupefied, by the wine he had drunk. He
answered, discreetly enough, "I must beg you to excuse me; I am a poor
card player."

The General suddenly looked grave. "You are speaking, sir, under a
strange misapprehension," he said. "Our game is lansquenet--essentially
a game of chance. With luck, the poorest player is a match for the whole
table."

Romayne persisted in his refusal. As a matter of course, I supported
him, with all needful care to avoid giving offense. The General took
offense, nevertheless. He crossed his arms on his breast, and looked at
us fiercely.

"Does this mean, gentlemen, that you distrust the company?" he asked.

The broken-nosed Commander, hearing the question, immediately joined us,
in the interests of peace--bearing with him the elements of persuasion,
under the form of a lady on his arm.

The lady stepped briskly forward, and tapped the General on the shoulder
with her fan. "I am one of the company," she said, "and I am sure Mr.
Romayne doesn't distrust _me_." She turned to Romayne with her most
irresistible smile. "A gentleman always plays cards," she resumed,
"when he has a lady for a partner. Let us join our interests at the
table--and, dear Mr. Romayne, don't risk too much!" She put her pretty
little purse into his hand, and looked as if she had been in love with
him for half her lifetime.

The fatal influence of the sex, assisted by wine, produced the
inevitable result. Romayne allowed himself to be led to the card table.
For a moment the General delayed the beginning of the game. After what
had happened, it was necessary that he should assert the strict sense of
justice that was in him. "We are all honorable men," he began.

"And brave men," the Commander added, admiring the General.

"And brave men," the General admitted, admiring the Commander.
"Gentlemen, if I have been led into expressing myself with unnecessary
warmth of feeling, I apologize, and regret it.

"Nobly spoken!" the Commander pronounced. The General put his hand on
his heart and bowed. The game began.

As the poorest man of the two I had escaped the attentions lavished
by the ladies on Romayne. At the same time I was obliged to pay for my
dinner, by taking some part in the proceedings of the evening. Small
stakes were allowed, I found, at roulette; and, besides, the heavy
chances in favor of the table made it hardly worth while to run the
risk of cheating in this case. I placed myself next to the least
rascally-looking man in the company, and played roulette.

For a wonder, I was successful at the first attempt. My neighbor handed
me my winnings. "I have lost every farthing I possess," he whispered to
me, piteously, "and I have a wife and children at home." I lent the poor
wretch five francs. He smiled faintly as he looked at the money. "It
reminds me," he said, "of my last transaction, when I borrowed of that
gentleman there, who is betting on the General's luck at the card table.
Beware of employing him as I did. What do you think I got for my note
of hand of four thousand francs? A hundred bottles of champagne, fifty
bottles of ink, fifty bottles of blacking, three dozen handkerchiefs,
two pictures by unknown masters, two shawls, one hundred maps,
_and_--five francs."

We went on playing. My luck deserted me; I lost, and lost, and lost
again. From time to time I looked round at the card table. The "deal"
had fallen early to the General, and it seemed to be indefinitely
prolonged. A heap of notes and gold (won mainly from Romayne, as I
afterward discovered) lay before him. As for my neighbor, the unhappy
possessor of the bottles of blacking, the pictures by unknown masters,
and the rest of it, he won, and then rashly presumed on his good
fortune. Deprived of his last farthing, he retired into a corner of the
room, and consoled himself with a cigar. I had just arisen, to follow
his example, when a furious uproar burst out at the card table.

I saw Romayne spring up, and snatch the cards out of the General's hand.
"You scoundrel!" he shouted, "you are cheating!" The General started to
his feet in a fury. "You lie!" he cried. I attempted to interfere,
but Romayne had already seen the necessity of controlling himself. "A
gentleman doesn't accept an insult from a swindler," he said, coolly.
"Accept this, then!" the General answered--and spat on him. In an
instant Romayne knocked him down.

The blow was dealt straight between his eyes: he was a gross big-boned
man, and he fell heavily. For the time he was stunned. The women ran,
screaming, out of the room. The peaceable Commander trembled from head
to foot. Two of the men present, who, to give them their due, were
no cowards, locked the doors. "You don't go," they said, "till we see
whether he recovers or not." Cold water, assisted by the landlady's
smelling salts, brought the General to his senses after a while. He
whispered something to one of his friends, who immediately turned to me.
"The General challenges Mr. Romayne," he said. "As one of his seconds,
I demand an appointment for to-morrow morning." I refused to make any
appointment unless the doors were first unlocked, and we were left free
to depart. "Our carriage is waiting outside," I added. "If it returns
to the hotel without us, there will be an inquiry." This latter
consideration had its effect. On their side, the doors were opened. On
our side, the appointment was made. We left the house.

IV.

IN consenting to receive the General's representative, it is needless to
say that I merely desired to avoid provoking another quarrel. If those
persons were really impudent enough to call at the hotel, I had arranged
to threaten them with the interference of the police, and so to put an
end to the matter. Romayne expressed no opinion on the subject, one way
or the other. His conduct inspired me with a feeling of uneasiness. The
filthy insult of which he had been made the object seemed to be rankling
in his mind. He went away thoughtfully to his own room. "Have you
nothing to say to me?" I asked. He only answered: "Wait till to-morrow."

The next day the seconds appeared.

I had expected to see two of the men with whom we had dined. To my
astonishment, the visitors proved to be officers of the General's
regiment. They brought proposals for a hostile meeting the next morning;
the choice of weapons being left to Romayne as the challenged man.

It was now quite plain to me that the General's peculiar method of
card-playing had, thus far, not been discovered and exposed. He might
keep doubtful company, and might (as I afterward heard) be suspected in
certain quarters. But that he still had, formally-speaking, a reputation
to preserve, was proved by the appearance of the two gentlemen present
as his representatives. They declared, with evident sincerity, that
Romayne had made a fatal mistake; had provoked the insult offered to
him; and had resented it by a brutal and cowardly outrage. As a man and
a soldier, the General was doubly bound to insist on a duel. No apology
would be accepted, even if an apology were offered.

In this emergency, as I understood it, there was but one course to
follow. I refused to receive the challenge.

Being asked for my reasons, I found it necessary to speak within certain
limits. Though we knew the General to be a cheat, it was a delicate
matter to dispute his right to claim satisfaction, when he had found
two officers to carry his message. I produced the seized cards (which
Romayne had brought away with him in his pocket), and offered them as a
formal proof that my friend had not been mistaken.

The seconds--evidently prepared for this circumstance by their
principal--declined to examine the cards. In the first place, they said,
not even the discovery of foul play (supposing the discovery to have
been really made) could justify Romayne's conduct. In the second
place, the General's high character made it impossible, under any
circumstances, that he could be responsible. Like ourselves, he had
rashly associated with bad company; and he had been the innocent victim
of an error or a fraud, committed by some other person present at the
table.

Driven to my last resource, I could now only base my refusal to receive
the challenge on the ground that we were Englishmen, and that the
practice of dueling had been abolished in England. Both the seconds at
once declined to accept this statement in justification of my conduct.

"You are now in France," said the elder of the two, "where a duel is
the established remedy for an insult, among gentlemen. You are bound
to respect the social laws of the country in which you are for the time
residing. If you refuse to do so, you lay yourselves open to a public
imputation on your courage, of a nature too degrading to be more
particularly alluded to. Let us adjourn this interview for three hours
on the ground of informality. We ought to confer with _two_ gentlemen,
acting on Mr. Romayne's behalf. Be prepared with another second to meet
us, and reconsider your decision before we call again."

The Frenchmen had barely taken their departure by one door, when Romayne
entered by another.

"I have heard it all," he said, quietly. "Accept the challenge."

I declare solemnly that I left no means untried of opposing my friend's
resolution. No man could have felt more strongly convinced than I did,
that nothing could justify the course he was taking. My remonstrances
were completely thrown away. He was deaf to sense and reason, from the
moment when he had heard an imputation on his courage suggested as a
possible result of any affair in which he was concerned.

"With your views," he said, "I won't ask you to accompany me to the
ground. I can easily find French seconds. And mind this, if you attempt
to prevent the meeting, the duel will take place elsewhere--and our
friendship is at an end from that moment."

After this, I suppose it is needless to add that I accompanied him to
the ground the next morning as one of his seconds.

V.

WE were punctual to the appointed hour--eight o'clock.

The second who acted with me was a French gentleman, a relative of one
of the officers who had brought the challenge. At his suggestion, we had
chosen the pistol as our weapon. Romayne, like most Englishmen at
the present time, knew nothing of the use of the sword. He was almost
equally inexperienced with the pistol.

Our opponents were late. They kept us waiting for more than ten minutes.
It was not pleasant weather to wait in. The day had dawned damp and
drizzling. A thick white fog was slowly rolling in on us from the sea.

When they did appear, the General was not among them. A tall,
well-dressed young man saluted Romayne with stern courtesy, and said to
a stranger who accompanied him: "Explain the circumstances."

The stranger proved to be a surgeon. He entered at once on the necessary
explanation. The General was too ill to appear. He had been attacked
that morning by a fit--the consequence of the blow that he had received.
Under these circumstances, his eldest son (Maurice) was now on the
ground to fight the duel on his father's behalf; attended by the
General's seconds, and with the General's full approval.

We instantly refused to allow the duel to take place, Romayne loudly
declaring that he had no quarrel with the General's son. Upon this,
Maurice broke away from his seconds; drew off one of his gloves; and
stepping close up to Romayne, struck him on the face with the glove.
"Have you no quarrel with me now?" the young Frenchman asked. "Must
I spit on you, as my father did?" His seconds dragged him away, and
apologized to us for the outbreak. But the mischief was done. Romayne's
fiery temper flashed in his eyes. "Load the pistols," he said. After
the insult publicly offered to him, and the outrage publicly threatened,
there was no other course to take.

It had been left to us to produce the pistols. We therefore requested
the seconds of our opponent to examine and to load them. While this was
being done, the advancing sea-fog so completely enveloped us that the
duelists were unable to see each other. We were obliged to wait for the
chance of a partial clearing in the atmosphere. Romayne's temper had
become calm again. The generosity of his nature spoke in the words which
he now addressed to his seconds. "After all," he said, "the young man is
a good son--he is bent on redressing what he believes to be his father's
wrong. Does his flipping his glove in my face matter to me? I think I
shall fire in the air."

"I shall refuse to act as your second if you do," answered the French
gentleman who was assisting us. "The General's son is famous for his
skill with the pistol. If you didn't see it in his face just now, I
did--he means to kill you. Defend your life, sir!" I spoke quite as
strongly, to the same purpose, when my turn came. Romayne yielded--he
placed himself unreservedly in our hands.

In a quarter of an hour the fog lifted a little. We measured the
distance, having previously arranged (at my suggestion) that the two
men should both fire at the same moment, at a given signal. Romayne's
composure, as they faced each other, was, in a man of his irritable
nervous temperament, really wonderful. I placed him sidewise, in a
position which in some degree lessened his danger, by lessening the
surface exposed to the bullet. My French colleague put the pistol into
his hand, and gave him the last word of advice. "Let your arm hang
loosely down, with the barrel of the pistol pointing straight to the
ground. When you hear the signal, only lift your arm as far as the
elbow; keep the elbow pressed against your side--and fire." We could do
no more for him. As we drew aside--I own it--my tongue was like a cinder
in my mouth, and a horrid inner cold crept through me to the marrow of
my bones.

The signal was given, and the two shots were fired at the same time.

My first look was at Romayne. He took off his hat, and handed it to me
with a smile. His adversary's bullet had cut a piece out of the brim of
his hat, on the right side. He had literally escaped by a hair-breadth.

While I was congratulating him, the fog gathered again more thickly than
ever. Looking anxiously toward the ground occupied by our adversaries,
we could only see vague, shadowy forms hurriedly crossing and recrossing
each other in the mist. Something had happened! My French colleague took
my arm and pressed it significantly. "Leave _me_ to inquire," he said.
Romayne tried to follow; I held him back--we neither of us exchanged a
word.

The fog thickened and thickened, until nothing was to be seen. Once we
heard the surgeon's voice, calling impatiently for a light to help him.
No light appeared that _we_ could see. Dreary as the fog itself, the
silence gathered round us again. On a sudden it was broken, horribly
broken, by another voice, strange to both of us, shrieking hysterically
through the impenetrable mist. "Where is he?" the voice cried, in the
French language. "Assassin! Assassin! where are you?" Was it a woman?
or was it a boy? We heard nothing more. The effect upon Romayne was
terrible to see. He who had calmly confronted the weapon lifted to kill
him, shuddered dumbly like a terror-stricken animal. I put my arm round
him, and hurried him away from the place.

We waited at the hotel until our French friend joined us. After a brief
interval he appeared, announcing that the surgeon would follow him.

The duel had ended fatally. The chance course of the bullet, urged by
Romayne's unpracticed hand, had struck the General's son just above
the right nostril--had penetrated to the back of his neck--and had
communicated a fatal shock to the spinal marrow. He was a dead man
before they could take him back to his father's house.

So far, our fears were confirmed. But there was something else to tell,
for which our worst presentiments had not prepared us.

A younger brother of the fallen man (a boy of thirteen years old) had
secretly followed the dueling party, on their way from his father's
house--had hidden himself--and had seen the dreadful end. The seconds
only knew of it when he burst out of his place of concealment, and fell
on his knees by his dying brother's side. His were the frightful cries
which we had heard from invisible lips. The slayer of his brother
was the "assassin" whom he had vainly tried to discover through the
fathomless obscurity of the mist.

We both looked at Romayne. He silently looked back at us, like a man
turned to stone. I tried to reason with him.

"Your life was at your opponent's mercy," I said. "It was _he_ who was
skilled in the use of the pistol; your risk was infinitely greater than
his. Are you responsible for an accident? Rouse yourself, Romayne! Think
of the time to come, when all this will be forgotten."

"Never," he said, "to the end of my life."

He made that reply in dull, monotonous tones. His eyes looked wearily
and vacantly straight before him. I spoke to him again. He remained
impenetrably silent; he appeared not to hear, or not to understand me.
The surgeon came in, while I was still at a loss what to say or do
next. Without waiting to be asked for his opinion, he observed Romayne
attentively, and then drew me away into the next room.

"Your friend is suffering from a severe nervous shock," he said. "Can
you tell me anything of his habits of life?"

I mentioned the prolonged night studies and the excessive use of tea.
The surgeon shook his head.

"If you want my advice," he proceeded, "take him home at once. Don't
subject him to further excitement, when the result of the duel is known
in the town. If it ends in our appearing in a court of law, it will be a
mere formality in this case, and you can surrender when the time comes.
Leave me your address in London."

I felt that the wisest thing I could do was to follow his advice. The
boat crossed to Folkestone at an early hour that day--we had no time to
lose. Romayne offered no objection to our return to England; he seemed
perfectly careless what became of him. "Leave me quiet," he said;
"and do as you like." I wrote a few lines to Lady Berrick's medical
attendant, informing him of the circumstances. A quarter of an hour
afterward we were on board the steamboat.

There were very few passengers. After we had left the harbor, my
attention was attracted by a young English lady--traveling, apparently,
with her mother. As we passed her on the deck she looked at Romayne with
compassionate interest so vividly expressed in her beautiful face that
I imagined they might be acquainted. With some difficulty, I prevailed
sufficiently over the torpor that possessed him to induce him to look at
our fellow passenger.

"Do you know that charming person?" I asked.

"No," he replied, with the weariest indifference. "I never saw her
before. I'm tired--tired--tired! Don't speak to me; leave me by myself."

I left him. His rare personal attractions--of which, let me add, he
never appeared to be conscious--had evidently made their natural appeal
to the interest and admiration of the young lady who had met him by
chance. The expression of resigned sadness and suffering, now visible
in his face, added greatly no doubt to the influence that he had
unconsciously exercised over the sympathies of a delicate and sensitive
woman. It was no uncommon circumstance in his past experience of the
sex--as I myself well knew--to be the object, not of admiration only,
but of true and ardent love. He had never reciprocated the passion--had
never even appeared to take it seriously. Marriage might, as the phrase
is, be the salvation of him. Would he ever marry?

Leaning over the bulwark, idly pursuing this train of thought, I was
recalled to present things by a low sweet voice--the voice of the lady
of whom I had been thinking.

"Excuse me for disturbing you," she said; "I think your friend wants
you."

She spoke with the modesty and self-possession of a highly-bred woman.
A little heightening of her color made her, to my eyes, more beautiful
than ever. I thanked her, and hastened back to Romayne.

He was standing by the barred skylight which guarded the machinery. I
instantly noticed a change in him. His eyes wandering here and there, in
search of me, had more than recovered their animation--there was a wild
look of terror in them. He seized me roughly by the arm and pointed down
to the engine-room.

"What do you hear there?" he asked.

"I hear the thump of the engines."

"Nothing else?"

"Nothing. What do _you_ hear?"

He suddenly turned away.

"I'll tell you," he said, "when we get on shore."



SECOND SCENE.--VANGE ABBEY.--THE FOREWARNINGS

VI.

As we approached the harbor at Folkestone, Romayne's agitation appeared
to subside. His head drooped; his eyes half closed--he looked like a
weary man quietly falling asleep.

On leaving the steamboat, I ventured to ask our charming
fellow-passenger if I could be of any service in reserving places in the
London train for her mother and herself. She thanked me, and said they
were going to visit some friends at Folkestone. In making this reply,
she looked at Romayne. "I am afraid he is very ill," she said, in gently
lowered tones. Before I could answer, her mother turned to her with an
expression of surprise, and directed her attention to the friends whom
she had mentioned, waiting to greet her. Her last look, as they took
her away, rested tenderly and sorrowfully on Romayne. He never returned
it--he was not even aware of it. As I led him to the train he leaned
more and more heavily on my arm. Seated in the carriage, he sank at once
into profound sleep.

We drove to the hotel at which my friend was accustomed to reside when
he was in London. His long sleep on the journey seemed, in some degree,
to have relieved him. We dined together in his private room. When the
servants had withdrawn, I found that the unhappy result of the duel was
still preying on his mind.

"The horror of having killed that man," he said, "is more than I can
bear alone. For God's sake, don't leave me!"

I had received letters at Boulogne, which informed me that my wife
and family had accepted an invitation to stay with some friends at
the sea-side. Under these circumstances I was entirely at his service.
Having quieted his anxiety on this point, I reminded him of what
had passed between us on board the steamboat. He tried to change
the subject. My curiosity was too strongly aroused to permit this; I
persisted in helping his memory.

"We were looking into the engine-room," I said; "and you asked me what I
heard there. You promised to tell me what _you_ heard, as soon as we got
on shore--"

He stopped me, before I could say more.

"I begin to think it was a delusion," he answered. "You ought not to
interpret too literally what a person in my dreadful situation may say.
The stain of another man's blood is on me--"

I interrupted him in my turn. "I refuse to hear you speak of yourself
in that way," I said. "You are no more responsible for the Frenchman's
death than if you had been driving, and had accidentally run over him in
the street. I am not the right companion for a man who talks as you do.
The proper person to be with you is a doctor." I really felt irritated
with him--and I saw no reason for concealing it.

Another man, in his place, might have been offended with me. There was a
native sweetness in Romayne's disposition, which asserted itself even in
his worst moments of nervous irritability. He took my hand.

"Don't be hard on me," he pleaded. "I will try to think of it as you
do. Make some little concession on your side. I want to see how I get
through the night. We will return to what I said to you on board the
steamboat to-morrow morning. Is it agreed?"

It was agreed, of course. There was a door of communication between our
bedrooms. At his suggestion it was left open. "If I find I can't sleep,"
he explained, "I want to feel assured that you can hear me if I call
to you."

Three times in the night I woke, and, seeing the light burning in his
room, looked in at him. He always carried some of his books with him
when he traveled. On each occasion when I entered the room, he was
reading quietly. "I suppose I forestalled my night's sleep on the
railway," he said. "It doesn't matter; I am content. Something that I
was afraid of has not happened. I am used to wakeful nights. Go back to
bed, and don't be uneasy about me."

The next morning the deferred explanation was put off again.

"Do you mind waiting a little longer?" he asked.

"Not if you particularly wish it."

"Will you do me another favor? You know that I don't like London. The
noise in the streets is distracting. Besides, I may tell you I have a
sort of distrust of noise, since--" He stopped, with an appearance of
confusion.

"Since I found you looking into the engine-room?" I asked.

"Yes. I don't feel inclined to trust the chances of another night in
London. I want to try the effect of perfect quiet. Do you mind going
back with me to Vange? Dull as the place is, you can amuse yourself.
There is good shooting, as you know."

In an hour more we had left London.

VII.

VANGE ABBEY is, I suppose, the most solitary country house in England.
If Romayne wanted quiet, it was exactly the place for him.

On the rising ground of one of the wildest moors in the North Riding of
Yorkshire, the ruins of the old monastery are visible from all points of
the compass. There are traditions of thriving villages clustering about
the Abbey, in the days of the monks, and of hostleries devoted to the
reception of pilgrims from every part of the Christian world. Not a
vestige of these buildings is left. They were deserted by the pious
inhabitants, it is said, at the time when Henry the Eighth suppress ed
the monasteries, and gave the Abbey and the broad lands of Vange to his
faithful friend and courtier, Sir Miles Romayne. In the next generation,
the son and heir of Sir Miles built the dwelling-house, helping himself
liberally from the solid stone walls of the monastery. With some
unimportant alterations and repairs, the house stands, defying time and
weather, to the present day.

At the last station on the railway the horses were waiting for us. It
was a lovely moonlight night, and we shortened the distance considerably
by taking the bridle path over the moor. Between nine and ten o'clock we
reached the Abbey.

Years had passed since I had last been Romayne's guest. Nothing, out of
the house or in the house, seemed to have undergone any change in the
interval. Neither the good North-country butler, nor his buxom Scotch
wife, skilled in cookery, looked any older: they received me as if I
had left them a day or two since, and had come back again to live
in Yorkshire. My well-remembered bedroom was waiting for me; and
the matchless old Madeira welcomed us when my host and I met in the
inner-hall, which was the ordinary dining-room of the Abbey.

As we faced each other at the well-spread table, I began to hope that
the familiar influences of his country home were beginning already to
breathe their blessed quiet over the disturbed mind of Romayne. In
the presence of his faithful old servants, he seemed to be capable of
controlling the morbid remorse that oppressed him. He spoke to them
composedly and kindly; he was affectionately glad to see his old friend
once more in the old house.

When we were near the end of our meal, something happened that startled
me. I had just handed the wine to Romayne, and he had filled his
glass--when he suddenly turned pale, and lifted his head like a man
whose attention is unexpectedly roused. No person but ourselves was
in the room; I was not speaking to him at the time. He looked round
suspiciously at the door behind him, leading into the library, and rang
the old-fashioned handbell which stood by him on the table. The servant
was directed to close the door.

"Are you cold?" I asked.

"No." He reconsidered that brief answer, and contradicted himself.
"Yes--the library fire has burned low, I suppose."

In my position at the table, I had seen the fire: the grate was heaped
with blazing coals and wood. I said nothing. The pale change in his
face, and his contradictory reply, roused doubts in me which I had hoped
never to feel again.

He pushed away his glass of wine, and still kept his eyes fixed on the
closed door. His attitude and expression were plainly suggestive of the
act of listening. Listening to what?

After an interval, he abruptly addressed me. "Do you call it a quiet
night?" he said.

"As quiet as quiet can be," I replied. "The wind has dropped--and even
the fire doesn't crackle. Perfect stillness indoors and out."

"Out?" he repeated. For a moment he looked at me intently, as if I had
started some new idea in his mind. I asked as lightly as I could if I
had said anything to surprise him. Instead of answering me, he sprang to
his feet with a cry of terror, and left the room.

I hardly knew what to do. It was impossible, unless he returned
immediately to let this extraordinary proceeding pass without notice.
After waiting for a few minutes I rang the bell.

The old butler came in. He looked in blank amazement at the empty chair.
"Where's the master?" he asked.

I could only answer that he had left the table suddenly, without a word
of explanation. "He may perhaps be ill," I added. "As his old servant,
you can do no harm if you go and look for him. Say that I am waiting
here, if he wants me."

The minutes passed slowly and more slowly. I was left alone for so long
a time that I began to feel seriously uneasy. My hand was on the bell
again, when there was a knock at the door. I had expected to see the
butler. It was the groom who entered the room.

"Garthwaite can't come down to you, sir," said the man. "He asks, if you
will please go up to the master on the Belvidere."

The house--extending round three sides of a square--was only two stories
high. The flat roof, accessible through a species of hatchway, and still
surrounded by its sturdy stone parapet, was called "The Belvidere," in
reference as usual to the fine view which it commanded. Fearing I knew
not what, I mounted the ladder which led to the roof. Romayne received
me with a harsh outburst of laughter--that saddest false laughter which
is true trouble in disguise.

"Here's something to amuse you!" he cried. "I believe old Garthwaite
thinks I am drunk--he won't leave me up here by myself."

Letting this strange assertion remain unanswered, the butler withdrew.
As he passed me on his way to the ladder, he whispered: "Be careful of
the master! I tell you, sir, he has a bee in his bonnet this night."

Although not of the north country myself, I knew the meaning of the
phrase. Garthwaite suspected that the master was nothing less than mad!

Romayne took my arm when we were alone--we walked slowly from end to end
of the Belvidere. The moon was, by this time, low in the heavens; but
her mild mysterious light still streamed over the roof of the house and
the high heathy ground round it. I looked attentively at Romayne. He was
deadly pale; his hand shook as it rested on my arm--and that was all.
Neither in look nor manner did he betray the faintest sign of mental
derangement. He had perhaps needlessly alarmed the faithful old servant
by something that he had said or done. I determined to clear up that
doubt immediately.

"You left the table very suddenly," I said. "Did you feel ill?"

"Not ill," he replied. "I was frightened. Look at me--I'm frightened
still."

"What do you mean?"

Instead of answering, he repeated the strange question which he had put
to me downstairs.

"Do you call it a quiet night?"

Considering the time of year, and the exposed situation of the house,
the night was almost preternaturally quiet. Throughout the vast open
country all round us, not even a breath of air could be heard. The
night-birds were away, or were silent at the time. But one sound was
audible, when we stood still and listened--the cool quiet bubble of a
little stream, lost to view in the valley-ground to the south.

"I have told you already," I said. "So still a night I never remember on
this Yorkshire moor."

He laid one hand heavily on my shoulder. "What did the poor boy say of
me, whose brother I killed?" he asked. "What words did we hear through
the dripping darkness of the mist?"

"I won't encourage you to think of them. I refuse to repeat the words."

He pointed over the northward parapet.

"It doesn't matter whether you accept or refuse," he said, "I hear the
boy at this moment--there!"

He repeated the horrid words--marking the pauses in the utterance of
them with his finger, as if they were sounds that he heard:

"Assassin! Assassin! where are you?"

"Good God!" I cried. "You don't mean that you really _hear_ the voice?"

"Do you hear what I say? I hear the boy as plainly as you hear me. The
voice screams at me through the clear moonlight, as it screamed at me
through the sea-fog. Again and again. It's all round the house. _That_
way now, where the light just touches on the tops of the heather. Tell
the servants to have the horses ready the first thing in the morning. We
leave Vange Abbey to-morrow."

These were wild words. If he had spoken them wildly, I might have shared
the butler's conclusion that his mind was deranged. There was no
undue vehemence in his voice or his manner. He spoke with a melancholy
resignation--he seemed like a prisoner submitting to a sentence that
he had deserved. Remembering the cases of men suffering from nervous
disease who had been haunted by apparitions, I asked if he saw any
imaginary figure under the form of a boy.

"I see nothing," he said; "I only hear. Look yourself. It is in the last
degree improbable--but let us make sure that nobody has followed me from
Boulogne, and is playing me a trick."

We made the circuit of the Belvidere. On its eastward side the house
wall was built against one of the towers of the old Ab bey. On the
westward side, the ground sloped steeply down to a deep pool or tarn.
Northward and southward, there was nothing to be seen but the open moor.
Look where I might, with the moonlight to make the view plain to me, the
solitude was as void of any living creature as if we had been surrounded
by the awful dead world of the moon.

"Was it the boy's voice that you heard on the voyage across the
Channel?" I asked.

"Yes, I heard it for the first time--down in the engine-room; rising and
falling, rising and falling, like the sound of the engines themselves."

"And when did you hear it again?"

"I feared to hear it in London. It left me, I should have told you, when
we stepped ashore out of the steamboat. I was afraid that the noise of
the traffic in the streets might bring it back to me. As you know, I
passed a quiet night. I had the hope that my imagination had deceived
me--that I was the victim of a delusion, as people say. It is no
delusion. In the perfect tranquillity of this place the voice has come
back to me. While we were at table I heard it again--behind me, in the
library. I heard it still, when the door was shut. I ran up here to try
if it would follow me into the open air. It _has_ followed me. We may as
well go down again into the hall. I know now that there is no escaping
from it. My dear old home has become horrible to me. Do you mind
returning to London tomorrow?"

What I felt and feared in this miserable state of things matters little.
The one chance I could see for Romayne was to obtain the best medical
advice. I sincerely encouraged his idea of going back to London the next
day.

We had sat together by the hall fire for about ten minutes, when he took
out his handkerchief, and wiped away the perspiration from his forehead,
drawing a deep breath of relief. "It has gone!" he said faintly.

"When you hear the boy's voice," I asked, "do you hear it continuously?"

"No, at intervals; sometimes longer, sometimes shorter."

"And thus far, it comes to you suddenly, and leaves you suddenly?"

"Yes."

"Do my questions annoy you?"

"I make no complaint," he said sadly. "You can see for yourself--I
patiently suffer the punishment that I have deserved."

I contradicted him at once. "It is nothing of the sort! It's a nervous
malady, which medical science can control and cure. Wait till we get to
London."

This expression of opinion produced no effect on him.

"I have taken the life of a fellow-creature," he said. "I have closed
the career of a young man who, but for me, might have lived long and
happily and honorably. Say what you may, I am of the race of Cain. _He_
had the mark set on his brow. I have _my_ ordeal. Delude yourself,
if you like, with false hopes. I can endure--and hope for nothing.
Good-night."

VIII.

EARLY the next morning, the good old butler came to me, in great
perturbation, for a word of advice.

"Do come, sir, and look at the master! I can't find it in my heart to
wake him."

It was time to wake him, if we were to go to London that day. I went
into the bedroom. Although I was no doctor, the restorative importance
of that profound and quiet sleep impressed itself on me so strongly,
that I took the responsibility of leaving him undisturbed. The event
proved that I had acted wisely. He slept until noon. There was no return
of "the torment of the voice"--as he called it, poor fellow. We passed
a quiet day, excepting one little interruption, which I am warned not to
pass over without a word of record in this narrative.

We had returned from a ride. Romayne had gone into the library to
read; and I was just leaving the stables, after a look at some recent
improvements, when a pony-chaise with a gentleman in it drove up to the
door. He asked politely if he might be allowed to see the house. There
were some fine pictures at Vange, as well as many interesting relics of
antiquity; and the rooms were shown, in Romayne's absence, to the very
few travelers who were adventurous enough to cross the heathy desert
that surrounded the Abbey. On this occasion, the stranger was informed
that Mr. Romayne was at home. He at once apologized--with an appearance
of disappointment, however, which induced me to step forward and speak
to him.

"Mr. Romayne is not very well," I said; "and I cannot venture to ask you
into the house. But you will be welcome, I am sure, to walk round the
grounds, and to look at the ruins of the Abbey."

He thanked me, and accepted the invitation. I find no great difficulty
in describing him, generally. He was elderly, fat and cheerful;
buttoned up in a long black frockcoat, and presenting that closely
shaven face and that inveterate expression of watchful humility about
the eyes, which we all associate with the reverend personality of a
priest.

To my surprise, he seemed, in some degree at least, to know his way
about the place. He made straight for the dreary little lake which I
have already mentioned, and stood looking at it with an interest which
was so incomprehensible to me, that I own I watched him.

He ascended the slope of the moorland, and entered the gate which led
to the grounds. All that the gardeners had done to make the place
attractive failed to claim his attention. He walked past lawns, shrubs,
and flower-beds, and only stopped at an old stone fountain, which
tradition declared to have been one of the ornaments of the garden
in the time of the monks. Having carefully examined this relic of
antiquity, he took a sheet of paper from his pocket, and consulted it
attentively. It might have been a plan of the house and grounds, or it
might not--I can only report that he took the path which led him, by the
shortest way, to the ruined Abbey church.

As he entered the roofless inclosure, he reverently removed his hat. It
was impossible for me to follow him any further, without exposing
myself to the risk of discovery. I sat down on one of the fallen stones,
waiting to see him again. It must have been at least half an hour before
he appeared. He thanked me for my kindness, as composedly as if he had
quite expected to find me in the place that I occupied.

"I have been deeply interested in all that I have seen," he said. "May I
venture to ask, what is perhaps an indiscreet question on the part of a
stranger?"

I ventured, on my side, to inquire what the question might be.

"Mr. Romayne is indeed fortunate," he resumed, "in the possession of
this beautiful place. He is a young man, I think?"

"Yes."

"Is he married?"

"No."

"Excuse my curiosity. The owner of Vange Abbey is an interesting person
to all good antiquaries like myself. Many thanks again. Good-day."

His pony-chaise took him away. His last look rested--not on me--but on
the old Abbey.

IX.

MY record of events approaches its conclusion.

On the next day we returned to the hotel in London. At Romayne's
suggestion, I sent the same evening to my own house for any letters
which might be waiting for me. His mind still dwelt on the duel; he was
morbidly eager to know if any communication had been received from the
French surgeon.

When the messenger returned with my letters, the Boulogne postmark was
on one of the envelopes. At Romayne's entreaty, this was the letter that
I opened first. The surgeon's signature was at the end.

One motive for anxiety--on my part--was set at rest in the first lines.
After an official inquiry into the circumstances, the French authorities
had decided that it was not expedient to put the survivor of the
duelists on his trial before a court of law. No jury, hearing the
evidence, would find him guilty of the only charge that could be
formally brought against him--the charge of "homicide by premeditation."
Homicide by misadventure, occurring in a duel, was not a punishable
offense by the French law. My correspondent cited many cases in proof
of it, strengthened by the publicly-expressed opinion of the illustrious
Berryer himself. In a word, we had nothing to fear.

The next page of the letter informed us that the police had surprised
the card playing community with whom we had spent the evening at
Boulogne, and that the much-bejeweled old landlady had been sent to
prison for the offense of keeping a gambling-house. It was suspected
in the town that the General was more or less directly connected with
certain disreputable circumstances discovered by the authorities. In any
case, he had retired from active service.

He and his wife and family had left Boulogne, and had gone away in debt.
No investigation had thus far succeeded in discovering the place of
their retreat.

Reading this letter aloud to Romayne, I was interrupted by him at the
last sentence.

"The inquiries must have been carelessly made," he said. "I will see to
it myself."

"What interest can you have in the inquiries?" I exclaimed.

"The strongest possible interest," he answered. "It has been my one hope
to make some little atonement to the poor people whom I have so cruelly
wronged. If the wife and children are in distressed circumstances
(which seems to be only too likely) I may place them beyond the reach of
anxiety--anonymously, of course. Give me the surgeon's address. I shall
write instructions for tracing them at my expense--merely announcing
that an Unknown Friend desires to be of service to the General's
family."

This appeared to me to be a most imprudent thing to do. I said so
plainly--and quite in vain. With his customary impetuosity, he wrote the
letter at once, and sent it to the post that night.

X.

ON the question of submitting himself to medical advice (which I
now earnestly pressed upon him), Romayne was disposed to be equally
unreasonable. But in this case, events declared themselves in my favor.

Lady Berrick's last reserves of strength had given way. She had been
brought to London in a dying state while we were at Vange Abbey. Romayne
was summoned to his aunt's bedside on the third day of our residence at
the hotel, and was present at her death. The impression produced on his
mind roused the better part of his nature. He was more distrustful of
himself, more accessible to persuasion than usual. In this gentler frame
of mind he received a welcome visit from an old friend, to whom he was
sincerely attached. The visit--of no great importance in itself--led,
as I have since been informed, to very serious events in Romayne's later
life. For this reason, I briefly relate what took place within my own
healing.

Lord Loring--well known in society as the head of an old English
Catholic family, and the possessor of a magnificent gallery of
pictures--was distressed by the change for the worse which he perceived
in Romayne when he called at the hotel. I was present when they met, and
rose to leave the room, feeling that the two friends might perhaps be
embarrassed by the presence of a third person. Romayne called me back.
"Lord Loring ought to know what has happened to me," he said. "I have no
heart to speak of it myself. Tell him everything, and if he agrees with
you, I will submit to see the doctors." With those words he left us
together.

It is almost needless to say that Lord Loring did agree with me. He
was himself disposed to think that the moral remedy, in Romayne's case,
might prove to be the best remedy.

"With submission to what the doctors may decide," his lordship said,
"the right thing to do, in my opinion, is to divert our friend's mind
from himself. I see a plain necessity for making a complete change in
the solitary life that he has been leading for years past. Why shouldn't
he marry? A woman's influence, by merely giving a new turn to his
thoughts, might charm away that horrible voice which haunts him.
Perhaps you think this a merely sentimental view of the case? Look at it
practically, if you like, and you come to the same conclusion. With that
fine estate--and with the fortune which he has now inherited from his
aunt--it is his duty to marry. Don't you agree with me?"

"I agree most cordially. But I see serious difficulties in your
lordship's way. Romayne dislikes society; and, as to marrying, his
coldness toward women seems (so far as I can judge) to be one of the
incurable defects of his character."

Lord Loring smiled. "My dear sir, nothing of that sort is incurable, if
we can only find the right woman."

The tone in which he spoke suggested to me that he had got "the right
woman"--and I took the liberty of saying so. He at once acknowledged
that I had guessed right.

"Romayne is, as you say, a difficult subject to deal with," he resumed.
"If I commit the slightest imprudence, I shall excite his suspicion--and
there will be an end of my hope of being of service to him. I shall
proceed carefully, I can tell you. Luckily, poor dear fellow, he is fond
of pictures! It's quite natural that I should ask him to see some recent
additions to my gallery--isn't it? There is the trap that I set! I have
a sweet girl to tempt him, staying at my house, who is a little out
of health and spirits herself. At the right moment, I shall send word
upstairs. She may well happen to look in at the gallery (by the merest
accident) just at the time when Romayne is looking at my new pictures.
The rest depends, of course, on, the effect she produces. If you knew
her, I believe you would agree with me that the experiment is worth
trying."

Not knowing the lady, I had little faith in the success of the
experiment. No one, however, could doubt Lord Loring's admirable
devotion to his friend--and with that I was fain to be content.

When Romayne returned to us, it was decided to submit his case to a
consultation of physicians at the earliest possible moment. When Lord
Loring took his departure, I accompanied him to the door of the hotel,
perceiving that he wished to say a word more to me in private. He had,
it seemed, decided on waiting for the result of the medical consultation
before he tried the effect of the young lady's attractions; and he
wished to caution me against speaking prematurely of visiting the
picture gallery to our friend.

Not feeling particularly interested in these details of the worthy
nobleman's little plot, I looked at his carriage, and privately admired
the two splendid horses that drew it. The footman opened the door for
his master, and I became aware, for the first time, that a gentleman
had accompanied Lord Loring to the hotel, and had waited for him in the
carriage. The gentleman bent forward, and looked up from a book that
he was reading. To my astonishment, I recognized the elderly, fat and
cheerful priest who had shown such a knowledge of localities, and such
an extraordinary interest in Vange Abbey!

It struck me as an odd coincidence that I should see the man again in
London, so soon after I had met with him in Yorkshire. This was all I
thought about it, at the time. If I had known then, what I know now, I
might have dreamed, let us say, of throwing that priest into the lake
at Vange, and might have reckoned the circumstance among the
wisely-improved opportunities of my life.

To return to the serious interests of the present narrative, I may now
announce that my evidence as an eye-witness of events has come to an
end. The day after Lord Loring's visit, domestic troubles separated me,
to my most sincere regret, from Romayne. I have only to add, that the
foregoing narrative of personal experience has been written with a due
sense of responsibility, and that it may be depended on throughout as an
exact statement of the truth.

JOHN PHILIP HYND, (late Major, 110th Regiment).



THE STORY.



BOOK THE FIRST.



CHAPTER I.

THE CONFIDENCES.

IN an upper room of one of the palatial houses which are situated on the
north side of Hyde Park, two ladies sat at breakfast, and gossiped over
their tea.

The elder of the two was Lady Loring--still in the prime of
life; possessed of the golden hair and the clear blue eyes, the
delicately-florid complexion, and the freely developed figure, which are
among the favorite attractions popularly associated with the beauty
of Englishwomen. Her younger companion was the unknown lady admired by
Major Hynd on the sea passage from France to England. With hair and eyes
of the darkest brown; with a pure pallor of complexion, only changing to
a faint rose tint in moments of agitation; with a tall graceful figure,
incompletely developed in substance and strength--she presented an
almost complete contrast to Lady Loring. Two more opposite types of
beauty it would have been hardly possible to place at the same table.

The servant brought in the letters of the morning. Lady Loring ran
through her correspondence rapidly, pushed away the letters in a heap,
and poured herself out a second cup of tea.

"Nothing interesting this morning for me," she said. "Any news of your
mother, Stella?"

The young lady handed an open letter to her hostess, with a faint smile.
"See for yourself, Adelaide," she answered, with the tender sweetness of
tone which made her voice irresistibly charming--"and tell me if there
were ever two women so utterly unlike each other as my mother and
myself."

Lady Loring ran through the letter, as she had run through her own
correspondence. "Never, dearest Stella, have I enjoyed myself as I do in
this delightful country house--twenty-seven at dinner every day, without
including the neighbors--a little carpet dance every evening--we play
billiards, and go into the smoking room--the hounds meet three times
a week--all sorts of celebrities among the company, famous beauties
included--such dresses! such conversation!--and serious duties, my
dear, not neglected--high church and choral service in the town on
Sundays--recitations in the evening from Paradise Lost, by an amateur
elocutionist--oh, you foolish, headstrong child! why did you make
excuses and stay in London, when you might have accompanied me to this
earthly Paradise?--are you really ill?--my love to Lady Loring--and of
course, if you _are_ ill, you must have medical advice--they ask after
you so kindly here--the first dinner bell is ringing, before I have half
done my letter--what _am_ I to wear?--why is my daughter not here to
advise me," etc., etc., etc.

"There is time to change your mind and advise your mother," Lady Loring
remarked with grave irony as she returned the letter.

"Don't even speak of it!" said Stella. "I really know no life that I
should not prefer to the life that my mother is enjoying at this moment.
What should I have done, Adelaide, if you had not offered me a happy
refuge in your house? _My_ 'earthly Paradise' is here, where I am
allowed to dream away my time over my drawings and my books, and to
resign myself to poor health and low spirits, without being dragged
into society, and (worse still) threatened with that 'medical advice'
in which, when she isn't threatened with it herself, my poor dear mother
believes so implicitly. I wish you would hire me as your 'companion,'
and let me stay here for the rest of my life."

Lady Loring's bright face became grave while Stella was speaking.

"My dear," she said kindly, "I know well how you love retirement, and
how differently you think and feel from other young women of your age.
And I am far from forgetting what sad circumstances have encouraged the
natural bent of your disposition. But, since you have been staying with
me this time, I see something in you which my intimate knowledge of your
character fails to explain. We have been friends since we were together
at school--and, in those old days, we never had any secrets from each
other. You are feeling some anxiety, or brooding over some sorrow, of
which I know nothing. I don't ask for your confidence; I only tell you
what I have noticed--and I say with all my heart, Stella, I am sorry for
you."

She rose, and, with intuitive delicacy, changed the subject. "I am going
out earlier than usual this morning," she resumed. "Is there anything
I can do for you?" She laid her hand tenderly on Stella's shoulder,
waiting for the reply. Stella lifted the hand and kissed it with
passionate fondness.

"Don't think me ungrateful," she said; "I am only ashamed." Her head
sank on her bosom; she burst into tears.

Lady Loring waited by her in silence. She well knew the girl's
self-contained nature, always shrinking, except in moments of violent
emotion, from the outward betrayal of its trials and its sufferings to
others. The true depth of feeling which is marked by this inbred modesty
is most frequently found in men. The few women who possess it are
without the communicative consolations of the feminine heart. They are
the noblest---and but too often the unhappiest of their sex.

"Will you wait a little before you go out?" Stella asked softly.

Lady Loring returned to the chair that she had left--hesitated for a
moment--and then drew it nearer to Stella. "Shall I sit by you?" she
said.

"Close by me. You spoke of our school days just now Adelaide. There was
some difference between us. Of all the girls I was the youngest--and you
were the eldest, or nearly the eldest, I think?"

"Quite the eldest, my dear. There is a difference of ten years between
us. But why do you go back to that?"

"It's only a recollection. My father was alive then. I was at first
home-sick and frightened in the strange place, among the big girls. You
used to let me hide my face on your shoulder, and tell me stories. May I
hide in the old way and tell _my_ story?"

She was now the calmest of the two. The elder woman turned a little
pale, and looked down in silent anxiety at the darkly beautiful head
that rested on her shoulder.

"After such an experience as mine has been," said Stella, "would you
think it possible that I could ever again feel my heart troubled by a
man--and that man a stranger?"

"My dear! I think it quite possible. You are only now in your
twenty-third year. You were innocent of all blame at that wretched
by-gone time which you ought never to speak of again. Love and be happy,
Stella--if you can only find the man who is worthy of you. But you
frighten me when you speak of a stranger. Where did you meet with him?"

"On our way back from Paris."

"Traveling in the same carriage with you?"

"No--it was in crossing the Channel. There were few travelers in the
steamboat, or I might never have noticed him."

"Did he speak to you?"

"I don't think he even looked at me."

"That doesn't say much for his taste, Stella."

"You don't understand. I mean, I have not explained myself properly.
He was leaning on the arm of a friend; weak and worn and wasted, as
I supposed, by some long and dreadful illness. There was an angelic
sweetness in his face--such patience! such resignation! For heaven's
sake keep my secret. One hears of men falling in love with women
at first sight. But a woman who looks at a man, and feels--oh, it's
shameful! I could hardly take my eyes off him. If he had looked at me in
return, I don't know what I should have done--I burn when I think of
it. He was absorbed in his suffering and his sorrow. My last look at his
beautiful face was on the pier, before they took me away. The perfect
image of him has been in my heart ever since. In my dreams I see him as
plainly as I see you now. Don't despise me, Adelaide!"

"My dear, you interest me indescribably. Do you suppose he was in our
rank of life? I mean, of course, did he look like a gentleman?"

"There could be no doubt of it."

"Do try to describe him, Stella. Was he tall and well dressed?"

"Neither tall nor short--rather thin--quiet and graceful in all his
movements--dressed plainly, in perfect taste. How can I describe him?
When his friend brought him on board, he stood at the side of the
vessel, looking out thoughtfully toward the sea. Such eyes I never saw
before, Adelaide, in any human face--so divinely tender and sad--and the
color of them that dark violet blue, so uncommon and so beautiful--too
beautiful for a man. I may say the same of his hair. I saw it
completely. For a minute or two he removed his hat--his head was
fevered, I think--and he let the sea breeze blow over it. The pure light
brown of his hair was just warmed by a lovely reddish tinge. His beard
was of the same color; short and curling, like the beards of the Roman
heroes one sees in pictures. I shall never see him again--and it is
best for me that I shall not. What can I hope from a man who never once
noticed me? But I _should_ like to hear that he had recovered his health
and his tranquillity, and that his life was a happy one. It has been
a comfort to me, Adelaide, to open my heart to you. I am get ting bold
enough to confess everything. Would you laugh at me, I wonder, if I--?"

She stopped. Her pale complexion softly glowed into color; her grand
dark eyes brightened--she looked her loveliest at that moment.

"I am far more inclined, Stella, to cry over you than to laugh at you,"
said Lady Loring. "There is something, to my mind, very sad about this
adventure of yours. I wish I could find out who the man is. Even the
best description of a person falls so short of the reality!"

"I thought of showing you something," Stella continued, "which
might help you to see him as I saw him. It's only making one more
acknowledgment of my own folly."

"You don't mean a portrait of him!" Lady Loring exclaimed.

"The best that I could do from recollection," Stella answered sadly.

"Bring it here directly!"

Stella left the room and returned with a little drawing in pencil. The
instant Lady Loring looked at it, she recognized Romayne and started
excitedly to her feet.

"You know him!" cried Stella.

Lady Loring had placed herself in an awkward position. Her husband had
described to her his interview with Major Hynd, and had mentioned his
project for bringing Romayne and Stella together, after first exacting
a promise of the strictest secrecy from his wife. She felt herself
bound--doubly bound, after what she had now discovered--to respect the
confidence placed in her; and this at the time when she had betrayed
herself to Stella! With a woman's feline fineness of perception, in all
cases of subterfuge and concealment, she picked a part of the truth out
of the whole, and answered harmlessly without a moment's hesitation.

"I have certainly seen him," she said--"probably at some party. But I
see so many people, and I go to so many places, that I must ask for time
to consult my memory. My husband might help me, if you don't object to
my asking him," she added slyly.

Stella snatched the drawing away from her, in terror. "You don't mean
that you will tell Lord Loring?" she said.

"My dear child! how can you be so foolish? Can't I show him the drawing
without mentioning who it was done by? His memory is a much better one
than mine. If I say to him, 'Where did we meet that man?'--he may tell
me at once--he may even remember the name. Of course, if you like to be
kept in suspense, you have only to say so. It rests with you to decide."

Poor Stella gave way directly. She returned the drawing, and
affectionately kissed her artful friend. Having now secured the means of
consulting her husband without exciting suspicion, Lady Loring left the
room.

At that time in the morning, Lord Loring was generally to be found
either in the library or the picture gallery. His wife tried the library
first. On entering the room, she found but one person in it--not the
person of whom she was in search. There, buttoned up in his long frock
coat, and surrounded by books of all sorts and sizes, sat the plump
elderly priest who had been the especial object of Major Hynd's
aversion.

"I beg your pardon, Father Benwell," said Lady Loring; "I hope I don't
interrupt your studies?"

Father Benwell rose and bowed with a pleasant paternal smile. "I am only
trying to organize an improved arrangement of the library," he said,
simply. "Books are companionable creatures--members, as it were, of his
family, to a lonely old priest like myself. Can I be of any service to
your ladyship?"

"Thank you, Father. If you can kindly tell me where Lord Loring is--"

"To be sure! His lordship was here five minutes since--he is now in the
picture gallery. Pray permit me!"

With a remarkably light and easy step for a man of his age and size, he
advanced to the further end of the library, and opened a door which led
into the gallery.

"Lord Loring is among the pictures," he announced. "And alone." He laid
a certain emphasis on the last word, which might or might not (in
the case of a spiritual director of the household) invite a word of
explanation.

Lady Loring merely said, "Just what I wanted; thank you once more,
Father Benwell"--and passed into the picture gallery.

Left by himself again in the library, the priest walked slowly to and
fro, thinking. His latent power and resolution began to show themselves
darkly in his face. A skilled observer would now have seen plainly
revealed in him the habit of command, and the capacity for insisting
on his right to be obeyed. From head to foot, Father Benwell was one of
those valuable soldiers of the Church who acknowledge no defeat, and who
improve every victory.

After a while, he returned to the table at which he had been writing
when Lady Loring entered the room. An unfinished letter lay open on
the desk. He took up his pen and completed it in these words: "I have
therefore decided on trusting this serious matter in the hands of Arthur
Penrose. I know he is young--but we have to set against the drawback of
his youth, the counter-merits of his incorruptible honesty and his true
religious zeal. No better man is just now within my reach--and there
is no time to lose. Romayne has recently inherited a large increase of
fortune. He will be the object of the basest conspiracies--conspiracies
of men to win his money, and (worse still) of women to marry him. Even
these contemptible efforts may be obstacles in the way of our righteous
purpose, unless we are first in the field. Penrose left Oxford last
week. I expect him here this morning, by my invitation. When I have
given him the necessary instructions, and have found the means of
favorably introducing him to Romayne, I shall have the honor of
forwarding a statement of our prospects so far."

Having signed these lines, he addressed the letter to "The Reverend
the Secretary, Society of Jesus, Rome." As he closed and sealed the
envelope, a servant opened the door communicating with the hall, and
announced:

"Mr. Arthur Penrose."



CHAPTER II.

THE JESUITS.

FATHER BENWELL rose, and welcomed the visitor with his paternal smile.
"I am heartily glad to see you," he said--and held out his hand with a
becoming mixture of dignity and cordiality. Penrose lifted the offered
hand respectfully to his lips. As one of the "Provincials" of the Order,
Father Benwell occupied a high place among the English Jesuits. He was
accustomed to acts of homage offered by his younger brethren to their
spiritual chief. "I fear you are not well," he proceeded gently. "Your
hand is feverish, Arthur."

"Thank you, Father--I am as well as usual."

"Depression of spirits, perhaps?" Father Benwell persisted.

Penrose admitted it with a passing smile. "My spirits are never very
lively," he said.

Father Benwell shook his head in gentle disapproval of a depressed
state of spirits in a young man. "This must be corrected," he remarked.
"Cultivate cheerfulness, Arthur. I am myself, thank God, a naturally
cheerful man. My mind reflects, in some degree (and reflects
gratefully), the brightness and beauty which are part of the great
scheme of creation. A similar disposition is to be cultivated--I know
instances of it in my own experience. Add one more instance, and you
will really gratify me. In its seasons of rejoicing, our Church is
eminently cheerful. Shall I add another encouragement? A great trust is
about to be placed in you. Be socially agreeable, or you will fail to
justify the trust. This is Father Benwell's little sermon. I think it
has a merit, Arthur--it is a sermon soon over."

Penrose looked up at his superior, eager to hear more.

He was a very young man. His large, thoughtful, well-opened gray eyes,
and his habitual refinement and modesty of manner, gave a certain
attraction to his personal appearance, of which it stood in some need.
In stature he was little and lean; his hair had become prematurely thin
over his broad forehead; there were hollows already in his cheeks, and
marks on either side of his thin, delicate lips. He looked like a person
who had passed many miserable hours in needlessly despairing of
himself and his prospects. With all this, there was something in him so
irresistibly truthful and sincere--so suggestive, even where he might
be wrong, of a purely conscientious belief in his own errors--that he
attached people to him without an effort, and often without being aware
of it himself. What would his friends have said if they had been
told that the religious enthusiasm of this gentle, self-distrustful,
melancholy man, might, in its very innocence of suspicion and
self-seeking, be perverted to dangerous uses in unscrupulous hands? His
friends would, one and all, have received the scandalous assertion with
contempt; and Penrose himself, if he had heard of it, might have failed
to control his temper for the first time in his life.

"May I ask a question, without giving offense?" he said, timidly.

Father Benwell took his hand. "My dear Arthur, let us open our minds to
each other without reserve. What is your question?"

"You have spoken, Father, of a great trust that is about to be placed in
me."

"Yes. You are anxious, no doubt, to hear what it is?"

"I am anxious to know, in the first place, if it requires me to go back
to Oxford."

Father Benwell dropped his young friend's hand. "Do you dislike Oxford?"
he asked, observing Penrose attentively.

"Bear with me, Father, if I speak too confidently. I dislike the
deception which has obliged me to conceal that I am a Catholic and a
priest."

Father Benwell set this little difficulty right, with the air of a man
who could make benevolent allowance for unreasonable scruples. "I think,
Arthur, you forget two important considerations," he said. "In the first
place, you have a dispensation from your superiors, which absolves
you of all responsibility in respect of the concealment that you have
practiced. In the second place, we could only obtain information of
the progress which our Church is silently making at the University by
employing you in the capacity of--let me say, an independent observer.
However, if it will contribute to your ease of mind, I see no objection
to informing you that you will _not_ be instructed to return to Oxford.
Do I relieve you?"

There could be no question of it. Penrose breathed more freely, in every
sense of the word.

"At the same time," Father Benwell continued, "let us not misunderstand
each other. In the new sphere of action which we design for you, you
will not only be at liberty to acknowledge that you are a Catholic,
it will be absolutely necessary that you should do so. But you will
continue to wear the ordinary dress of an English gentleman, and to
preserve the strictest secrecy on the subject of your admission to the
priesthood, until you are further advised by myself. Now, dear Arthur,
read that paper. It is the necessary preface to all that I have yet to
say to you."

The "paper" contained a few pages of manuscript relating the early
history of Vange Abbey, in the days of the monks, and the circumstances
under which the property was confiscated to lay uses in the time of
Henry the Eighth. Penrose handed back the little narrative, vehemently
expressing his sympathy with the monks, and his detestation of the King.

"Compose yourself, Arthur," said Father Benwell, smiling pleasantly.
"We don't mean to allow Henry the Eighth to have it all his own way
forever."

Penrose looked at his superior in blank bewilderment. His superior
withheld any further information for the present.

"Everything in its turn," the discreet Father resumed; "the turn of
explanation has not come yet. I have something else to show you first.
One of the most interesting relics in England. Look here."

He unlocked a flat mahogany box, and displayed to view some writings on
vellum, evidently of great age.

"You have had a little sermon already," he said. "You shall have a
little story now. No doubt you have heard of Newstead Abbey--famous
among the readers of poetry as the residence of Byron? King Henry
treated Newstead exactly as he treated Vange Abbey! Many years since,
the lake at Newstead was dragged, and the brass eagle which had served
as the lectern in the old church was rescued from the waters in which it
had lain for centuries. A secret receptacle was discovered in the body
of the eagle, and the ancient title-deeds of the Abbey were found in it.
The monks had taken that method of concealing the legal proof of their
rights and privileges, in the hope--a vain hope, I need hardly say--that
a time might come when Justice would restore to them the property
of which they had been robbed. Only last summer, one of our bishops,
administering a northern diocese, spoke of these circumstances to
a devout Catholic friend, and said he thought it possible that the
precaution taken by the monks at Newstead might also have been taken by
the monks at Vange. The friend, I should tell you, was an enthusiast.
Saying nothing to the bishop (whose position and responsibilities he
was bound to respect), he took into his confidence persons whom he could
trust. One night--in the absence of the present proprietor, or, I should
rather say, the present usurper, of the estate--the lake at Vange was
privately dragged, with a result that proved the bishop's conjecture to
be right. Read those valuable documents. Knowing your strict sense of
honor, my son, and your admirable tenderness of conscience, I wish you
to be satisfied of the title of the Church to the lands of Vange, by
evidence which is beyond dispute."

With this little preface, he waited while Penrose read the title-deeds.
"Any doubt on your mind?" he asked, when the reading had come to an end.

"Not the shadow of a doubt."

"Is the Church's right to the property clear?"

"As clear, Father, as words can make it."

"Very good. We will lock up the documents. Arbitrary confiscation,
Arthur, even on the part of a king, cannot override the law. What the
Church once lawfully possessed, the Church has a right to recover. Any
doubt about that in your mind?"

"Only the doubt of _how_ the Church can recover. Is there anything in
this particular case to be hoped from the law?"

"Nothing whatever."

"And yet, Father, you speak as if you saw some prospect of the
restitution of the property. By what means can the restitution be made?"

"By peaceful and worthy means," Father Benwell answered. "By honorable
restoration of the confiscated property to the Church, on the part of
the person who is now in possession of it."

Penrose was surprised and interested. "Is the person a Catholic?" he
asked, eagerly.

"Not yet." Father Benwell laid a strong emphasis on those two little
words. His fat fingers drummed restlessly on the table; his vigilant
eyes rested expectantly on Penrose. "Surely you understand me, Arthur?"
he added, after an interval.

The color rose slowly in the worn face of Penrose. "I am afraid to
understand you," he said.

"Why?"

"I am not sure that it is my better sense which understands. I am
afraid, Father, it may be my vanity and presumption."

Father Benwell leaned back luxuriously in his chair. "I like that
modesty," he said, with a relishing smack of his lips as if modesty was
as good as a meal to him. "There is power of the right sort, Arthur,
hidden under the diffidence that does you honor. I am more than ever
satisfied that I have been right in reporting you as worthy of this
most serious trust. I believe the conversion of the owner of Vange Abbey
is--in your hands--no more than a matter of time."

"May I ask what his name is?"

"Certainly. His name is Lewis Romayne."

"When do you introduce me to him?"

"Impossible to say. I have not yet been introduced myself."

"You don't know Mr. Romayne?"

"I have never even seen him."

These discouraging replies were made with the perfect composure of a man
who saw his way clearly before him. Sinking from one depth of perplexity
to another, Penrose ventured on putting one last question. "How am I to
approach Mr. Romayne?" he asked.

"I can only answer that, Arthur, by admitting you still further into my
confidence. It is disagreeable to me," said the reverend gentleman, with
the most becoming humility, "to speak of myself. But it must be done.
Shall we have a little coffee to help us through the coming extract from
Father Benwell's autobiography? Don't look so serious, my son! When the
occasion justifies it, let us take life lightly." He rang the bell and
ordered the coffee, as if he was the master of the house. The servant
treated him with the most scrupulous respect. He hummed a little tune,
and talked at intervals of the weather, while they were waiting. "Plenty
of sugar, Arthur?" he inquired, when the coffee was brought in. "No!
Even in trifles, I should have been glad to feel that there was perfect
sympathy between us. I like plenty of sugar myself."

Having sweetened his coffee with the closest attention to the process,
he was at liberty to enlighten his young friend. He did it so easily
and so cheerfully that a far less patient man than Penrose would have
listened to him with interest.



CHAPTER III.

THE INTRODUCTION TO ROMAYNE.

"EXCEPTING my employment here in the library," Father Benwell began,
"and some interesting conversation with Lord Loring, to which I shall
presently allude, I am almost as great a stranger in this house, Arthur,
as yourself. When the object which we now have in view was first taken
seriously into consideration, I had the honor of being personally
acquainted with Lord Loring. I was also aware that he was an intimate
and trusted friend of Romayne. Under these circumstances, his lordship
presented himself to our point of view as a means of approaching
the owner of Vange Abbey without exciting distrust. I was charged
accordingly with the duty of establishing myself on terms of intimacy in
this house. By way of making room for me, the spiritual director of Lord
and Lady Loring was removed to a cure of souls in Ireland. And here I am
in his place! By-the-way, don't treat me (when we are in the presence of
visitors) with any special marks of respect. I am not Provincial of our
Order in Lord Loring's house--I am one of the inferior clergy."

Penrose looked at him with admiration. "It is a great sacrifice to make,
Father, in your position and at your age."

"Not at all, Arthur. A position of authority involves certain
temptations to pride. I feel this change as a lesson in humility which
is good for me. For example, Lady Loring (as I can plainly see) dislikes
and distrusts me. Then, again, a young lady has recently arrived here on
a visit. She is a Protestant, with all the prejudices incident to that
way of thinking--avoids me so carefully, poor soul, that I have never
seen her yet. These rebuffs are wholesome reminders of his fallible
human nature, to a man who has occupied a place of high trust and
command. Besides, there have been obstacles in my way which have had an
excellent effect in rousing my energies. How do you feel, Arthur, when
you encounter obstacles?"

"I do my best to remove them, Father. But I am sometimes conscious of a
sense of discouragement."

"Curious," said Father Benwell. "I am only conscious, myself, of a sense
of impatience. What right has an obstacle to get in _my_ way?--that
is how I look at it. For example, the first thing I heard, when I came
here, was that Romayne had left England. My introduction to him
was indefinitely delayed; I had to look to Lord Loring for all the
information I wanted relating to the man and his habits. There was
another obstacle! Not living in the house, I was obliged to find an
excuse for being constantly on the spot, ready to take advantage of his
lordship's leisure moments for conversation. I sat down in this room,
and I said to myself, 'Before I get up again, I mean to brush these
impertinent obstacles out of my way!' The state of the books suggested
the idea of which I was in search. Before I left the house, I was
charged with the rearrangement of the library. From that moment I came
and went as often as I liked. Whenever Lord Loring was disposed for a
little talk, there I was, to lead the talk in the right direction. And
what is the result? On the first occasion when Romayne presents himself
I can place you in a position to become his daily companion. All due,
Arthur, in the first instance, to my impatience of obstacles. Amusing,
isn't it?"

Penrose was perhaps deficient in the sense of humor. Instead of being
amused, he appeared to be anxious for more information.

"In what capacity am I to be Mr. Romayne's companion?" he asked.

Father Benwell poured himself out another cup of coffee.

"Suppose I tell you first," he suggested, "how circumstances present
Romayne to us as a promising subject for conversion. He is young; still
a single man; not compromised by any illicit connection; romantic,
sensitive, highly cultivated. No near relations are alive to influence
him; and, to my certain knowledge, his estate is not entailed. He has
devoted himself for years past to books, and is collecting materials
for a work of immense research, on the Origin of Religions. Some great
sorrow or remorse--Lord Loring did not mention what it was--has told
seriously on his nervous system, already injured by night study. Add to
this, that he is now within our reach. He has lately returned to London,
and is living quite alone at a private hotel. For some reason which I am
not acquainted with, he keeps away from Vange Abbey--the very place, as
I should have thought, for a studious man."

Penrose began to be interested. "Have you been to the Abbey?" he said.

"I made a little excursion to that part of Yorkshire, Arthur, not
long since. A very pleasant trip--apart from the painful associations
connected with the ruin and profanation of a sacred place. There is no
doubt about the revenues. I know the value of that productive part of
the estate which stretches southward, away from the barren region round
the house. Let us return for a moment to Romayne, and to your position
as his future companion. He has had his books sent to him from Vange,
and has persuaded himself that continued study is the one remedy for
his troubles, whatever they may be. At Lord Loring's suggestion, a
consultation of physicians was held on his case the other day."

"Is he so ill as that?" Penrose exclaimed.

"So it appears," Father Benwell replied. "Lord Loring is mysteriously
silent about the illness. One result of the consultation I extracted
from him, in which you are interested. The doctors protested against his
employing himself on his proposed work. He was too obstinate to listen
to them. There was but one concession that they could gain from him--he
consented to spare himself, in some small degree, by employing an
amanuensis. It was left to Lord Loring to find the man. I was consulted
by his lordship; I was even invited to undertake the duty myself. Each
one in his proper sphere, my son! The person who converts Romayne must
be young enough and pliable enough to be his friend and companion.
Your part is there, Arthur--you are the future amanuensis. How does the
prospect strike you now?"

"I beg your pardon, Father! I fear I am unworthy of the confidence which
is placed in me."

"In what way?"

Penrose answered with unfeigned humility.

"I am afraid I may fail to justify your belief in me," he said, "unless
I can really feel that I am converting Mr. Romayne for his own soul's
sake. However righteous the cause may be, I cannot find, in the
restitution of the Church property, a sufficient motive for persuading
him to change his religious faith. There is something so serious in the
responsibility which you lay on me, that I shall sink under the burden
unless my whole heart is in the work. If I feel attracted toward Mr.
Romayne when I first see him; if he wins upon me, little by little,
until I love him like a brother--then, indeed, I can promise that his
conversion shall be the dearest object of my life. But if there is not
this intimate sympathy between us--forgive me if I say it plainly--I
implore you to pass me over, and to commit the task to the hands of
another man."

His voice trembled; his eyes moistened. Father Benwell handled his young
friend's rising emotion with the dexterity of a skilled angler humoring
the struggles of a lively fish.

"Good Arthur!" he said. "I see much--too much, dear boy--of self-seeking
people. It is as refreshing to me to hear you, as a draught of water to
a thirsty man. At the same time, let me suggest that you are innocently
raising difficulties, where no difficulties exist. I have already
mentioned as one of the necessities of the case that you and Romayne
should be friends. How can that be, un less there is precisely that
sympathy between you which you have so well described? I am a sanguine
man, and I believe you will like each other. Wait till you see him."

As the words passed his lips, the door that led to the picture gallery
was opened. Lord Loring entered the library.

He looked quickly round him--apparently in search of some person who
might, perhaps, be found in the room. A shade of annoyance showed itself
in his face, and disappeared again, as he bowed to the two Jesuits.

"Don't let me disturb you," he said, looking at Penrose. "Is this the
gentleman who is to assist Mr. Romayne?"

Father Benwell presented his young friend. "Arthur Penrose, my lord. I
ventured to suggest that he should call here to-day, in case you wished
to put any questions to him."

"Quite needless, after your recommendation," Lord Loring answered,
graciously. "Mr. Penrose could not have come here at a more appropriate
time. As it happens, Mr. Romayne has paid us a visit today--he is now in
the picture gallery."

The priests looked at each other. Lord Loring left them as he spoke. He
walked to the opposite door of the library--opened it--glanced round the
hall, and at the stairs--and returned again, with the passing
expression of annoyance visible once more. "Come with me to the gallery,
gentlemen," he said; "I shall be happy to introduce you to Mr. Romayne."

Penrose accepted the proposal. Father Benwell pointed with a smile to
the books scattered about him. "With permission, I will follow your
lordship," he said.

"Who was my lord looking for?" That was the question in Father Benwell's
mind, while he put some of the books away on the shelves, and collected
the scattered papers on the table, relating to his correspondence
with Rome. It had become a habit of his life to be suspicious of any
circumstances occurring within his range of observation, for which he
was unable to account. He might have felt some stronger emotion on this
occasion, if he had known that the conspiracy in the library to convert
Romayne was matched by the conspiracy in the picture gallery to marry
him.

Lady Loring's narrative of the conversation which had taken place
between Stella and herself had encouraged her husband to try his
proposed experiment without delay. "I shall send a letter at once to
Romayne's hotel," he said.

"Inviting him to come here to-day?" her ladyship inquired.

"Yes. I shall say I particularly wish to consult him about a picture.
Are we to prepare Stella to see him? or would it be better to let the
meeting take her by surprise?"

"Certainly not!" said Lady Loring. "With her sensitive disposition, I am
afraid of taking Stella by surprise. Let me only tell her that Romayne
is the original of her portrait, and that he is likely to call on you to
see the picture to-day--and leave the rest to me."

Lady Loring's suggestion was immediately carried out. In the first
fervor of her agitation, Stella had declared that her courage was not
equal to a meeting with Romayne on that day. Becoming more composed, she
yielded to Lady Loring's persuasion so far as to promise that she would
at least make the attempt to follow her friend to the gallery. "If I go
down with you," she said, "it will look as if we had arranged the
thing between us. I can't bear even to think of that. Let me look in by
myself, as if it was by accident." Consenting to this arrangement, Lady
Loring had proceeded alone to the gallery, when Romayne's visit was
announced. The minutes passed, and Stella did not appear. It was quite
possible that she might shrink from openly presenting herself at the
main entrance to the gallery, and might prefer--especially if she was
not aware of the priest's presence in the room--to slip in quietly by
the library door. Failing to find her, on putting this idea to the test,
Lord Loring had discovered Penrose, and had so hastened the introduction
of the younger of the two Jesuits to Romayne.



Having gathered his papers together, Father Benwell crossed the
library to the deep bow-window which lighted the room, and opened his
dispatch-box, standing on a small table in the recess. Placed in this
position, he was invisible to any person entering the room by the hall
door. He had secured his papers in the dispatch-box, and had just closed
and locked it, when he heard the door cautiously opened.

The instant afterward the rustling of a woman's dress over the carpet
caught his ear. Other men might have walked out of the recess and shown
themselves. Father Benwell stayed where he was, and waited until the
lady crossed his range of view.

The priest observed with cold attention her darkly-beautiful eyes and
hair, her quickly-changing color, her modest grace of movement. Slowly,
and in evident agitation, she advanced to the door of the picture
gallery--and paused, as if she was afraid to open it. Father Benwell
heard her sigh to herself softly, "Oh, how shall I meet him?" She turned
aside to the looking-glass over the fire-place. The reflection of her
charming face seemed to rouse her courage. She retraced her steps, and
timidly opened the door. Lord Loring must have been close by at the
moment. His voice immediately made itself heard in the library.

"Come in, Stella--come in! Here is a new picture for you to see; and a
friend whom I want to present to you, who must be your friend too--Mr.
Lewis Romayne."

The door was closed again. Father Benwell stood still as a statue in
the recess, with his head down, deep in thought. After a while he roused
himself, and rapidly returned to the writing table. With a roughness
strangely unlike his customary deliberation of movement, he snatched a
sheet of paper out of the case, and frowning heavily, wrote these lines
on it:--"Since my letter was sealed, I have made a discovery which must
be communicated without the loss of a post. I greatly fear there may be
a woman in our way. Trust me to combat this obstacle as I have combated
other obstacles. In the meantime, the work goes on. Penrose has received
his first instructions, and has to-day been presented to Romayne."

He addressed this letter to Rome, as he had addressed the letter
preceding it. "Now for the woman!" he said to himself--and opened the
door of the picture gallery.



CHAPTER IV.

FATHER BENWELL HITS.

ART has its trials as well as its triumphs. It is powerless to assert
itself against the sordid interests of everyday life. The greatest book
ever written, the finest picture ever painted, appeals in vain to minds
preoccupied by selfish and secret cares. On entering Lord Loring's
gallery, Father Benwell found but one person who was not looking at the
pictures under false pretenses.

Innocent of all suspicion of the conflicting interests whose struggle
now centered in himself, Romayne was carefully studying the picture
which had been made the pretext for inviting him to the house. He had
bowed to Stella, with a tranquil admiration of her beauty; he had
shaken hands with Penrose, and had said some kind words to his future
secretary--and then he had turned to the picture, as if Stella and
Penrose had ceased from that moment to occupy his mind.

"In your place," he said quietly to Lord Loring, "I should not buy this
work."

"Why not?"

"It seems to me to have the serious defect of the modern English school
of painting. A total want of thought in the rendering of the subject,
disguised under dexterous technical tricks of the brush. When you have
seen one of that man's pictures, you have seen all. He manufactures--he
doesn't paint."

Father Benwell came in while Romayne was speaking. He went through the
ceremonies of introduction to the master of Vange Abbey with perfect
politeness, but a little absently. His mind was bent on putting his
suspicion of Stella to the test of confirmation. Not waiting to be
presented, he turned to her with the air of fatherly interest and
chastened admiration which he well knew how to assume in his intercourse
with women.

"May I ask if you agree with Mr. Romayne's estimate of the picture?" he
said, in his gentlest tones.

She had heard of him, and of his position in the house. It was quite
needless for Lady Loring to whisper to her, "Father Benwell, my dear!"
Her antipathy identified him as readily as her sympathy might have
identified a man who had produced a favorable impression on her. "I have
no pretension to be a critic," she answered, with frigid politeness. "I
only know what I personally like or dislike."

The reply exactly answered Father Benwell's purpose. It diverted
Romayne's attention from the picture to Stella. The priest had secured
his opportunity of reading their faces while they were looking at each
other.

"I think you have just stated the true motive for all criticism,"
Romayne said to Stella. "Whether we only express our opinions of
pictures or books in the course of conversation or whether we assert
them at full length, with all the authority of print, we are really
speaking, in either case, of what personally pleases or repels us. My
poor opinion of that picture means that it says nothing to Me. Does it
say anything to You?"

He smiled gently as he put the question to her, but there was no
betrayal of emotion in his eyes or in his voice. Relieved of anxiety, so
far as Romayne was concerned, Father Benwell looked at Stella.

Steadily as she controlled herself, the confession of her heart's secret
found its way into her face. The coldly composed expression which had
confronted the priest when she spoke to him, melted away softly under
the influence of Romayne's voice and Romayne's look. Without any
positive change of color, her delicate skin glowed faintly, as if it
felt some animating inner warmth. Her eyes and lips brightened with a
new vitality; her frail elegant figure seemed insensibly to strengthen
and expand, like the leaf of a flower under a favoring sunny air. When
she answered Romayne (agreeing with him, it is needless to say), there
was a tender persuasiveness in her tones, shyly inviting him still to
speak to her and still to look at her, which would in itself have told
Father Benwell the truth, even if he had not been in a position to see
her face. Confirmed in his doubts of her, he looked, with concealed
suspicion, at Lady Loring next. Sympathy with Stella was undisguisedly
expressed to him in the honest blue eyes of Stella's faithful friend.

The discussion on the subject of the unfortunate picture was resumed by
Lord Loring, who thought the opinions of Romayne and Stella needlessly
severe. Lady Loring, as usual, agreed with her husband. While the
general attention was occupied in this way, Father Benwell said a word
to Penrose--thus far, a silent listener to the discourse on Art.

"Have you seen the famous portrait of the first Lady Loring, by
Gainsborough?" he asked. Without waiting for a reply, he took Penrose
by the arm, and led him away to the picture--which had the additional
merit, under present circumstances, of hanging at the other end of the
gallery.

"How do you like Romayne?" Father Benwell put the question in low
peremptory tones, evidently impatient for a reply.

"He interests me already," said Penrose. "He looks so ill and so sad,
and he spoke to me so kindly--"

"In short," Father Benwell interposed, "Romayne has produced a favorable
impression on you. Let us get on to the next thing. You must produce a
favorable impression on Romayne."

Penrose sighed. "With the best will to make myself agreeable to people
whom I like," he said, "I don't always succeed. They used to tell me
at Oxford that I was shy--and I am afraid that is against me. I wish I
possessed some of your social advantages, Father!"

"Leave it to me, son! Are they still talking about the picture?"

"Yes."

"I have something more to say to you. Have you noticed the young lady?"

"I thought her beautiful--but she looks a little cold."

Father Benwell smiled. "When you are as old as I am," he said, "you will
not believe in appearances where women are concerned. Do you know what I
think of her? Beautiful, if you like--and dangerous as well."

"Dangerous! In what way?"

"This is for your private ear, Arthur. She is in love with Romayne.
Wait a minute! And Lady Loring--unless I am entirely mistaken in what
I observed--knows it and favors it. The beautiful Stella may be the
destruction of all our hopes, unless we keep Romayne out of her way."

These words were whispered with an earnestness and agitation which
surprised Penrose. His superior's equanimity was not easily overthrown.
"Are you sure, Father, of what you say?" he asked.

"I am quite sure--or I should not have spoken."

"Do you think Mr. Romayne returns the feeling?"

"Not yet, luckily. You must use your first friendly influence over
him--what is her name? Her surname, I mean."

"Eyrecourt. Miss Stella Eyrecourt."

"Very well. You must use your influence (when you are quite sure that it
_is_ an influence) to keep Mr. Romayne away from Miss Eyrecourt."

Penrose looked embarrassed. "I am afraid I should hardly know how to do
that," he said "But I should naturally, as his assistant, encourage him
to keep to his studies."

Whatever Arthur's superior might privately think of Arthur's reply, he
received it with outward indulgence. "That will come to the same thing,"
he said. "Besides, when I get the information I want--this is strictly
between ourselves--I may be of some use in placing obstacles in the
lady's way."

Penrose started. "Information!" he repeated. "What information?"

"Tell me something before I answer you," said Father Benwell. "How old
do you take Miss Eyrecourt to be?"

"I am not a good judge in such matters. Between twenty and twenty-five,
perhaps?"

"We will take her age at that estimate, Arthur. In former years, I have
had opportunities of studying women's characters in the confessional.
Can you guess what my experience tells me of Miss Eyrecourt?"

"No, indeed!"

"A lady is not in love for the first time when she is between twenty and
twenty-five years old--that is my experience," said Father Benwell. "If
I can find a person capable of informing me, I may make some valuable
discoveries in the earlier history of Miss Eyrecourt's life. No more,
now. We had better return to our friends."



CHAPTER V.

FATHER BENWELL MISSES.

THE group before the picture which had been the subject of dispute
was broken up. In one part of the gallery, Lady Loring and Stella were
whispering together on a sofa. In another part, Lord Loring was speaking
privately to Romayne.

"Do you think you will like Mr. Penrose?" his lordship asked.

"Yes--so far as I can tell at present. He seems to be modest and
intelligent."

"You are looking ill, my dear Romayne. Have you again heard the voice
that haunts you?"

Romayne answered with evident reluctance. "I don't know why," he
said--"but the dread of hearing it again has oppressed me all this
morning. To tell you the truth, I came here in the hope that the change
might relieve me."

"Has it done so?"

"Yes--thus far."

"Doesn't that suggest, my friend, that a greater change might be of use
to you?"

"Don't ask me about it, Loring! I can go through my ordeal--but I hate
speaking of it."

"Let us speak of something else then," said Lord Loring. "What do you
think of Miss Eyrecourt?"

"A very striking face; full of expression and character. Leonardo would
have painted a noble portrait of her. But there is something in her
manner--" He stopped, unwilling or unable to finish the sentence.

"Something you don't like?" Lord Loring suggested.

"No; something I don't quite understand. One doesn't expect to find any
embarrassment in the manner of a well-bred woman. And yet she seemed to
be embarrassed when she spoke to me. Perhaps I produced an unfortunate
impression on her."

Lord Loring laughed. "In any man but you, Romayne, I should call that
affectation."

"Why?" Romayne asked, sharply.

Lord Loring looked unfeignedly surprised. "My dear fellow, do you really
think you are the sort of man who impresses a woman unfavorably at first
sight? For once in your life, indulge in the amiable weakness of
doing yourself justice--and find a better reason for Miss Eyrecourt's
embarrassment."

For the first time since he and his friend had been talking together,
Romayne turned toward Stella. He innocently caught her in the act of
looking at him. A younger woman, or a woman of weaker character, would
have looked away again. Stella's noble head drooped; her eyes sank
slowly, until they rested on her long white hands crossed upon her lap.
For a moment more Romayne looked at her with steady attention.

He roused himself, and spoke to Lord Loring in lowered tones.

"Have you known Miss Eyrecourt for a long time?"

"She is my wife's oldest and dearest friend. I think, Romayne, you would
feel interested in Stella, if you saw more of her."

Romayne bowed in silent submission to Lord Loring's prophetic remark.
"Let us look at the pictures," he said, quietly.

As he moved down the gallery, the two priests met him. Father
Benwell saw his opportunity of helping Penrose to produce a favorable
impression.

"Forgive the curiosity of an old student, Mr. Romayne," he said in
his pleasant, cheerful way. "Lord Loring tells me you have sent to the
country for your books. Do you find a London hotel favorable to study?"

"It is a very quiet hotel," Romayne answered, "and the people know my
ways." He turned to Arthur. "I have my own set of rooms, Mr. Penrose,"
he continued--"with a room at your disposal. I used to enjoy
the solitude of my house in the country. My tastes have lately
changed--there are times now when I want to see the life in the streets,
as a relief. Though we are in a hotel, I can promise that you will not
be troubled by interruptions, when you kindly lend me the use of your
pen."

Father Benwell answered before Penrose could speak. "You may perhaps
find my young friend's memory of some use to you, Mr. Romayne, as well
as his pen. Penrose has studied in the Vatican Library. If your
reading leads you that way, he knows more than most men of the rare old
manuscripts which treat of the early history of Christianity."

This delicately managed reference to the projected work on "The Origin
of Religions" produced its effect.

"I should like very much, Mr. Penrose, to speak to you about those
manuscripts," Romayne said. "Copies of some of them may perhaps be
in the British Museum. Is it asking too much to inquire if you are
disengaged this morning?"

"I am entirely at your service, Mr. Romayne."

"If you will kindly call at my hotel in an hour's time, I shall have
looked over my notes, and shall be ready for you with a list of titles
and dates. There is the address."

With those words, he advanced to take his leave of Lady Loring and
Stella.

Father Benwell was a man possessed of extraordinary power of
foresight--but he was not infallible. Seeing that Romayne was on the
point of leaving the house, and feeling that he had paved the way
successfully for Romayne's amanuensis, he too readily assumed that there
was nothing further to be gained by remaining in the gallery. Moreover,
the interval before Penrose called at the hotel might be usefully filled
up by some wise words of advice, relating to the religious uses to which
he might turn his intercourse with his employer. Making one of his
ready and plausible excuses, he accordingly returned with Penrose to the
library--and so committed (as he himself discovered at a later time) one
of the few mistakes in the long record of his life.

In the meanwhile, Romayne was not permitted to bring his visit to a
conclusion without hospitable remonstrance on the part of Lady Loring.
She felt for Stella, with a woman's enthusiastic devotion to the
interests of true love; and she had firmly resolved that a matter so
trifling as the cultivation of Romayne's mind should not be allowed to
stand in the way of the far more important enterprise of opening his
heart to the influence of the sex.

"Stay and lunch with us," she said, when he held out his hand to bid her
good-by.

"Thank you, Lady Loring, I never take lunch."

"Well, then, come and dine with us--no party; only ourselves. Tomorrow,
and next day, we are disengaged. Which day shall it be?"

Romayne still resisted. "You are very kind. In my state of health, I am
unwilling to make engagements which I may not be able to keep."

Lady Loring was just as resolute on her side. She appealed to Stella.
"Mr. Romayne persists, my dear, in putting me off with excuses. Try if
you can persuade him."

"_I_ am not likely to have any influence, Adelaide."

The tone in which she replied struck Romayne. He looked at her. Her
eyes, gravely meeting his eyes, held him with a strange fascination. She
was not herself conscious how openly all that was noble and true in
her nature, all that was most deeply and sensitively felt in her
aspirations, spoke at that moment in her look. Romayne's face changed:
he turned pale under the new emotion that she had roused in him. Lady
Loring observed him attentively.

"Perhaps you underrate your influence, Stella?" she suggested.

Stella remained impenetrable to persuasion. "I have only been introduced
to Mr. Romayne half an hour since," she said. "I am not vain enough to
suppose that I can produce a favorable impression on any one in so short
a time."

She had expressed, in other words, Romayne's own idea of himself, in
speaking of her to Lord Loring. He was struck by the coincidence.

"Perhaps we have begun, Miss Eyrecourt, by misinterpreting one another,"
he said. "We may arrive at a better understanding when I have the honor
of meeting you again."

He hesitated and looked at Lady Loring. She was not the woman to let
a fair opportunity escape her. "We will say to-morrow evening," she
resumed, "at seven o'clock."

"To-morrow," said Romayne. He shook hands with Stella, and left the
picture gallery.

Thus far, the conspiracy to marry him promised even more hopefully than
the conspiracy to convert him. And Father Benwell, carefully instructing
Penrose in the next room, was not aware of it!

But the hours, in their progress, mark the march of events as surely as
they mark the march of time. The day passed, the evening came--and, with
its coming, the prospects of the conversion brightened in their turn.

Let Father Benwell himself relate how it happened--in an extract from
his report to Rome, written the same evening.

"... I had arranged with Penrose that he should call at my lodgings,
and tell me how he had prospered at the first performance of his duties
as secretary to Romayne.

"The moment he entered the room the signs of disturbance in his face
told me that something serious had happened. I asked directly if there
had been any disagreement between Romayne and himself.

"He repeated the word with every appearance of surprise. 'Disagreement?'
he said. 'No words can tell how sincerely I feel for Mr. Romayne. I
cannot express to you, Father, how eager I am to be of service to him!'

"Relieved, so far, I naturally asked what had happened. Penrose betrayed
a marked embarrassment in answering my question.

"'I have innocently surprised a secret,' he said, 'on which I had no
right to intrude. All that I can honorably tell you, shall be told. Add
one more to your many kindnesses--don't command me to speak, when it is
my duty toward a sorely-tried man to be silent, even to you.'

"It is needless to say that I abstained from directly answering this
strange appeal. 'Let me hear what you can tell,' I replied, 'and then we
shall see.'

"Upon this, he spoke. I need hardly recall to your memory how careful
we were, in first planning the attempt to recover the Vange property, to
assure ourselves of the promise of success which the peculiar character
of the present owner held out to us. In reporting what Penrose said, I
communicate a discovery, which I venture to think will be as welcome to
you, as it was to me.

"He began by reminding me of what I had myself told him in speaking of
Romayne. 'You mentioned having heard from Lord Loring of a great sorrow
or remorse from which he was suffering,' Penrose said. 'I know what he
suffers and why he suffers, and with what noble resignation he submits
to his affliction. We were sitting together at the table, looking over
his notes and memoranda, when he suddenly dropped the manuscript from
which he was reading to me. A ghastly paleness overspread his face. He
started up, and put both his hands to his ears as if he heard something
dreadful, and was trying to deafen himself to it. I ran to the door
to call for help. He stopped me; he spoke in faint, gasping tones,
forbidding me to call any one in to witness what he suffered. It was not
the first time, he said; it would soon be over. If I had not courage to
remain with him I could go, and return when he was himself again. I so
pitied him that I found the courage to remain. When it was over he took
me by the hand, and thanked me. I had stayed by him like a friend, he
said, and like a friend he would treat me. Sooner or later (those were
his exact words) I must be taken into his confidence--and it should be
now. He told me his melancholy story. I implore you, Father, don't ask
me to repeat it! Be content if I tell you the effect of it on myself.
The one hope, the one consolation for him, is in our holy religion. With
all my heart I devote myself to his conversion--and, in my inmost soul,
I feel the conviction that I shall succeed!'

"To this effect, and in this tone, Penrose spoke. I abstained from
pressing him to reveal Romayne's confession. The confession is of no
consequence to us. You know how the moral force of Arthur's earnestness
and enthusiasm fortifies his otherwise weak character. I, too, believe
he will succeed.

"To turn for a moment to another subject. You are already informed that
there is a woman in our way. I have my own idea of the right method of
dealing with this obstacle when it shows itself more plainly. For the
present, I need only assure you that neither this woman nor any woman
shall succeed in her designs on Romayne, if I can prevent it."

Having completed his report in these terms, Father Benwell reverted to
the consideration of his proposed inquiries into the past history of
Stella's life.

Reflection convinced him that it would be unwise to attempt, no matter
how guardedly, to obtain the necessary information from Lord Loring
or his wife. If he assumed, at his age, to take a strong interest in
a Protestant young lady, who had notoriously avoided him, they
would certainly feel surprise--and surprise might, in due course of
development, turn to suspicion.

There was but one other person under Lord Loring's roof to whom he could
address himself--and that person was the housekeeper. As an old servant,
possessing Lady Loring's confidence, she might prove a source of
information on the subject of Lady Loring's fair friend; and, as a
good Catholic, she would feel flattered by the notice of the spiritual
director of the household.

"It may not be amiss," thought Father Benwell, "if I try the
housekeeper."



CHAPTER VI.

THE ORDER OF THE DISHES.

WHEN Miss Notman assumed the post of housekeeper in Lady Loring's
service, she was accurately described as "a competent and respectable
person"; and was praised, with perfect truth, for her incorruptible
devotion to the interests of her employers. On its weaker side, her
character was represented by the wearing of a youthful wig, and the
erroneous conviction that she still possessed a fine figure. The ruling
idea in her narrow little mind was the idea of her own dignity.
Any offense offered in this direction oppressed her memory for days
together, and found its way outward in speech to any human being whose
attention she could secure.

At five o'clock, on the day which followed his introduction to Romayne,
Father Benwell sat drinking his coffee in the housekeeper's room--to all
appearance as much at his ease as if he had known Miss Notman from the
remote days of her childhood. A new contribution to the housekeeper's
little library of devotional works lay on the table; and bore silent
witness to the means by which he had made those first advances which had
won him his present position. Miss Notman's sense of dignity was doubly
flattered. She had a priest for her guest, and a new book with the
reverend gentleman's autograph inscribed on the title-page.

"Is your coffee to your liking, Father?"

"A little more sugar, if you please."

Miss Notman was proud of her hand, viewed as one of the meritorious
details of her figure. She took up the sugar-tongs with suavity and
grace; she dropped the sugar into the cup with a youthful pleasure in
ministering to the minor desires of her illustrious guest. "It is
so good of you, Father, to honor me in this way," she said--with the
appearance of sixteen super-induced upon the reality of sixty.

Father Benwell was an adept at moral disguises of all kinds. On this
occasion he wore the disguise of pastoral simplicity. "I am an idle old
man at this hour of the afternoon," he said. "I hope I am not keeping
you from any household duties?"

"I generally enjoy my duties," Miss Notman answered. "To-day, they have
not been so agreeable as usual; it is a relief to me to have done with
them. Even my humble position has its trials."

Persons acquainted with Miss Notman's character, hearing these last
words, would have at once changed the subject. When she spoke of "her
humble position," she invariably referred to some offense offered to
her dignity, and she was invariably ready to state the grievance at full
length. Ignorant of this peculiarity, Father Benwell committed a fatal
error. He inquired, with courteous interest, what the housekeeper's
"trials" might be.

"Oh, sir, they are beneath your notice!" said Miss Notman modestly. "At
the same time, I should feel it an honor to have the benefit of your
opinion--I should so like to know that you do not altogether disapprove
of my conduct, under some provocation. You see, Father, the whole
responsibility of ordering the dinners falls on me. And, when there is
company, as there is this evening, the responsibility is particularly
trying to a timid person like myself."

"A large dinner party, Miss Notman?"

"Oh, dear, no! Quite the reverse. Only one gentleman--Mr. Romayne."

Father Benwell set down his cup of coffee, half way to his lips. He at
once drew the correct conclusion that the invitation to Romayne must
have been given and accepted after he had left the picture gallery. That
the object was to bring Romayne and Stella together, under circumstances
which would rapidly improve their acquaintance, was as plain to him as
if he had heard it confessed in so many words. If he had only remained
in the gallery, he might have become acquainted with the form of
persuasion used to induce a man so unsocial as Romayne to accept an
invitation. "I have myself to blame," he thought bitterly, "for being
left in the dark."

"Anything wrong with the coffee?" Miss Notman asked anxiously.

He rushed on his fate. He said, "Nothing whatever. Pray go on."

Miss Notman went on.

"You see, Father, Lady Loring was unusually particular about the dinner
on this occasion. She said, 'Lord Loring reminds me that Mr. Romayne is
a very little eater, and yet very difficult to please in what he does
eat.' Of course I consulted my experience, and suggested exactly the
sort of dinner that was wanted under the circumstances. I wish to do
her ladyship the utmost justice. She made no objection to the dinner in
itself. On the contrary, she complimented me on what she was pleased to
call my ready invention. But when we came next to the order in which
the dishes were to be served--" Miss Notman paused in the middle of
the sentence, and shuddered over the private and poignant recollections
which the order of the dishes called up.

By this time Father Benwell had discovered his mistake. He took a mean
advantage of Miss Notman's susceptibilities to slip his own private
inquiries into the interval of silence.

"Pardon my ignorance," he said; "my own poor dinner is a matter of ten
minutes and one dish. I don't understand a difference of opinion on a
dinner for three people only; Lord and Lady Loring, two; Mr. Romayne,
three--oh! perhaps I am mistaken? Perhaps Miss Eyrecourt makes a
fourth?"

"Certainly, Father!"

"A very charming person, Miss Notman. I only speak as a stranger. You,
no doubt, are much better acquainted with Miss Eyrecourt?"

"Much better, indeed--if I may presume to say so," Miss Notman replied.
"She is my lady's intimate friend; we have often talked of Miss
Eyrecourt during the many years of my residence in this house. On
such subjects, her ladyship treats me quite on the footing of a humble
friend. A complete contrast to the tone she took, Father, when we came
to the order of the dishes. We agreed, of course, about the soup and the
fish; but we had a little, a very little, divergence of opinion, as I
may call it, on the subject of the dishes to follow. Her ladyship said,
'First the sweetbreads, and then the cutlets.' I ventured to suggest
that the sweetbreads, as white meat, had better not immediately follow
the turbot, as white fish. 'The brown meat, my lady,' I said, 'as
an agreeable variety presented to the eye, and then the white meat,
recalling pleasant remembrances of the white fish.' You see the point,
Father?"

"I see, Miss Notman, that you are a consummate mistress of an art
which is quite beyond poor me. Was Miss Eyrecourt present at the little
discussion?"

"Oh, no! Indeed, I should have objected to her presence; I should have
said she was a young lady out of her proper place."

"Yes; I understand. Is Miss Eyrecourt an only child?"

"She had two sisters, Father Benwell. One of them is in a convent."

"Ah, indeed?"

"And the other is dead."

"Sad for the father and mother, Miss Notman!"

"Pardon me, sad for the mother, no doubt. The father died long since."

"Aye? aye? A sweet woman, the mother? At least, I think I have heard
so."

Miss Notman shook her head. "I should wish to guard myself against
speaking unjustly of any one," she said; "but when you talk of 'a
sweet woman,' you imply (as it seems to me) the domestic virtues. Mrs.
Eyrecourt is essentially a frivolous person."

A frivolous person is, in the vast majority of cases, a person easily
persuaded to talk, and not disposed to be reticent in keeping
secrets. Father Benwell began to see his way already to the necessary
information. "Is Mrs. Eyrecourt living in London?" he inquired.

"Oh, dear, no! At this time of year she lives entirely in other people's
houses--goes from one country seat to another, and only thinks of
amusing herself. No domestic qualities, Father. _She_ would know nothing
of the order of the dishes! Lady Loring, I should have told you, gave
way in the matter of the sweetbread. It was only at quite the latter
part of my 'Menoo' (as the French call it) that she showed a spirit of
opposition--well! well! I won't dwell on that. I will only ask _you,_
Father, at what part of a dinner an oyster-omelet ought to be served?"

Father Benwell seized his opportunity of discovering Mrs. Eyrecourt's
present address. "My dear lady," he said, "I know no more when the
omelet ought to be served than Mrs. Eyrecourt herself! It must be very
pleasant, to a lady of her way of thinking, to enjoy the beauties of
Nature inexpensively--as seen in other people's houses, from the point
of view of a welcome guest. I wonder whether she is staying at any
country seat which I happen to have seen?"

"She may be in England, Scotland, or Ireland, for all I know," Miss
Notman answered, with an unaffected ignorance which placed her good
faith beyond doubt. "Consult your own taste, Father. After eating
jelly, cream, and ice-pudding, could you even _look_ at an oyster-omelet
without shuddering? Would you believe it? Her ladyship proposed to serve
the omelet with the cheese. Oysters, after sweets! I am not (as yet) a
married woman--"

Father Benwell made a last desperate effort to pave the way for one more
question before he submitted to defeat. "That must be _your_ fault, my
dear lady!" he interposed, with his persuasive smile.

Miss Notman simpered. "You confuse me, Father!" she said softly.

"I speak from inward conviction, Miss Notman. To a looker-on, like
myself, it is sad to see how many sweet women who might be angels in
the households of worthy men prefer to lead a single life. The Church,
I know, exalts the single life to the highest place. But even the Church
allows exceptions to its rule. Under this roof, for example, I think I
see two exceptions. One of them my unfeigned respect" (he bowed to Miss
Notman) "forbids me to indicate more particularly. The other seems, to
my humble view, to be the young lady of whom we have been speaking. Is
it not strange that Miss Eyrecourt has never been married?"

The trap had been elaborately set; Father Benwell had every reason
to anticipate that Miss Notman would walk into it. The disconcerting
housekeeper walked up to it--and then proved unable to advance a step
further.

"I once made the same remark myself to Lady Loring," she said.

Father Benwell's pulse began to quicken its beat. "Yes?" he murmured, in
tones of the gentlest encouragement.

"And her ladyship," Miss Notman proceeded, "did not encourage me to
go on. 'There are reasons for not pursuing that subject,' she said;
'reasons into which, I am sure, you will not expect me to enter.'
She spoke with a flattering confidence in my prudence, which I felt
gratefully. Such a contrast to her tone when the omelet presented itself
in the order of the dishes! As I said just now I am not a married woman.
But if I proposed to my husband to give him an oyster-omelet after his
puddings and his pies, I should not be surprised if he said to me, 'My
dear, have you taken leave of your senses?' I reminded Lady Loring (most
respectfully) that a _cheese_-omelette might be in its proper place if
it followed the sweets. 'An _oyster_-omelet,' I suggested, 'surely comes
after the birds?' I should be sorry to say that her ladyship lost her
temper--I will only mention that I kept mine. Let me repeat what she
said, and leave you, Father, to draw your own conclusions. She said,
'Which of us is mistress in this house, Miss Notman? I order the
oyster-omelet to come in with the cheese.' There was not only
irritability, there was contempt--oh, yes! contempt in her tone. Out of
respect for myself, I made no reply. As a Christian, I can forgive; as a
wounded gentlewoman, I may not find it so easy to forget."

Miss Notman laid herself back in her easy chair--she looked as if
she had suffered martyrdom, and only regretted having been obliged to
mention it. Father Benwell surprised the wounded gentlewoman by rising
to his feet.

"You are not going away already, Father?"

"Time flies fast in your society, dear Miss Notman. I have an
engagement--and I am late for it already."

The housekeeper smiled sadly. "At least let me hear that you don't
disapprove of my conduct under trying circumstances," she said.

Father Benwell took her hand. "A true Christian only feels offenses to
pardon them," he remarked, in his priestly and paternal character. "You
have shown me, Miss Notman, that _you_ are a true Christian. My evening
has indeed been well spent. God bless you!"

He pressed her hand; he shed on her the light of his fatherly smile;
he sighed, and took his leave. Miss Notman's eyes followed him out with
devotional admiration.

Father Benwell still preserved his serenity of temper when he was out of
the housekeeper's sight. One important discovery he had made, in spite
of the difficulties placed in his way. A compromising circumstance had
unquestionably occurred in Stella's past life; and, in all probability,
a man was in some way connected with it. "My evening has not been
entirely thrown away," he thought, as he ascended the stairs which led
from the housekeeper's room to the hall.



CHAPTER VII.

THE INFLUENCE OF STELLA.

ENTERING the hall, Father Benwell heard a knock at the house door.
The servants appeared to recognize the knock--the porter admitted Lord
Loring.

Father Benwell advanced and made his bow. It was a perfect obeisance of
its kind--respect for Lord Loring, unobtrusively accompanied by respect
for himself. "Has your lordship been walking in the park?" he inquired.

"I have been out on business," Lord Loring answered; "and I should like
to tell you about it. If you can spare me a few minutes, come into the
library. Some time since," he resumed, when the door was closed, "I
think I mentioned that my friends had been speaking to me on a
subject of some importance--the subject of opening my picture gallery
occasionally to the public."

"I remember," said Father Benwell. "Has your lordship decided what to
do?"

"Yes. I have decided (as the phrase is) to 'go with the times,' and
follow the example of other owners of picture g alleries. Don't suppose
I ever doubted that it is my duty to extend, to the best of my ability,
the civilizing influences of Art. My only hesitation in the matter arose
from a dread of some accident happening, or some injury being done, to
the pictures. Even now, I can only persuade myself to try the experiment
under certain restrictions."

"A wise decision, undoubtedly," said Father Benwell. "In such a city as
this, you could hardly open your gallery to anybody who happens to pass
the house-door."

"I am glad you agree with me, Father. The gallery will be open for
the first time on Monday. Any respectably-dressed person, presenting a
visiting card at the offices of the librarians in Bond Street and Regent
Street, will receive a free ticket of admission; the number of tickets,
it is needless to say, being limited, and the gallery being only open
to the public two days in the week. You will be here, I suppose, on
Monday?"

"Certainly. My work in the library, as your lordship can see, has only
begun."

"I am very anxious about the success of this experiment," said Lord
Loring. "Do look in at the gallery once or twice in the course of the
day, and tell me what your own impression is."

Having expressed his readiness to assist "the experiment" in every
possible way, Father Benwell still lingered in the library. He was
secretly conscious of a hope that he might, at the eleventh hour, be
invited to join Romayne at the dinner-table. Lord Loring only looked at
the clock on the mantel-piece: it was nearly time to dress for dinner.
The priest had no alternative but to take the hint, and leave the house.

Five minutes after he had withdrawn, a messenger delivered a letter for
Lord Loring, in which Father Benwell's interests were directly involved.
The letter was from Romayne; it contained his excuses for breaking his
engagement, literally at an hour's notice.

"Only yesterday," he wrote, "I had a return of what you, my dear friend,
call 'the delusion of the voice.' The nearer the hour of your dinner
approaches, the more keenly I fear that the same thing may happen in
your house. Pity me, and forgive me."

Even good-natured Lord Loring felt some difficulty in pitying and
forgiving, when he read these lines. "This sort of caprice might be
excusable in a woman," he thought. "A man ought really to be capable of
exercising some self-control. Poor Stella! And what will my wife say?"

He walked up and down the library, with Stella's disappointment and
Lady Loring's indignation prophetically present in his mind. There was,
however, no help for it--he must accept his responsibility, and be the
bearer of the bad news.

He was on the point of leaving the library, when a visitor appeared.
The visitor was no less a person than Romayne himself. "Have I arrived
before my letter?" he asked eagerly.

Lord Loring showed him the letter.

"Throw it into the fire," he said, "and let me try to excuse myself for
having written it. You remember the happier days when you used to call
me the creature of impulse? An impulse produced that letter. Another
impulse brings me here to disown it. I can only explain my strange
conduct by asking you to help me at the outset. Will you carry your
memory back to the day of the medical consultation on my case? I want
you to correct me, if I inadvertently misrepresent my advisers. Two of
them were physicians. The third, and last, was a surgeon, a personal
friend of yours; and _he_, as well as I recollect, told you how the
consultation ended?"

"Quite right, Romayne--so far."

"The first of the two physicians," Romayne proceeded, "declared my case
to be entirely attributable to nervous derangement, and to be curable by
purely medical means. I speak ignorantly; but, in plain English, that, I
believe, was the substance of what he said?"

"The substance of what he said," Lord Loring replied, "and the substance
of his prescriptions--which, I think, you afterward tore up?"

"If you have no faith in a prescription," said Romayne, "that is, in my
opinion, the best use to which you can put it. When it came to the turn
of the second physician, he differed with the first, as absolutely
as one man can differ with another. The third medical authority, your
friend the surgeon, took a middle course, and brought the consultation
to an end by combining the first physician's view and the second
physician's view, and mingling the two opposite forms of treatment in
one harmonious result?"

Lord Loring remarked that this was not a very respectful way of
describing the conclusion of the medical proceedings. That it was the
conclusion, however, he could not honestly deny.

"As long as I am right," said Romayne, "nothing else appears to be
of much importance. As I told you at the time, the second physician
appeared to me to be the only one of the three authorities who really
understood my case. Do you mind giving me, in few words, your own
impression of what he said?"

"Are you sure that I shall not distress you?"

"On the contrary, you may help me to hope."

"As I remember it," said Lord Loring, "the doctor did not deny the
influence of the body over the mind. He was quite willing to admit that
the state of your nervous system might be one, among other predisposing
causes, which led you--I really hardly like to go on."

"Which led me," Romayne continued, finishing the sentence for his
friend, "to feel that I never shall forgive myself--accident or no
accident--for having taken that man's life. Now go on."

"The delusion that you still hear the voice," Lord Loring proceeded,
"is, in the doctor's opinion, the moral result of the morbid state of
your mind at the time when you really heard the voice on the scene of
the duel. The influence acts physically, of course, by means of certain
nerves. But it is essentially a moral influence; and its power over you
is greatly maintained by the self-accusing view of the circumstances
which you persist in taking. That, in substance, is my recollection of
what the doctor said."

"And when he was asked what remedies he proposed to try," Romayne
inquired, "do you remember his answer? 'The mischief which moral
influences have caused, moral influences alone can remedy.'"

"I remember," said Lord Loring. "And he mentioned, as examples of what
he meant, the occurrence of some new and absorbing interest in
your life, or the working of some complete change in your habits of
thought--or perhaps some influence exercised over you by a person
previously unknown, appearing under unforeseen circumstances, or in
scenes quite new to you."

Romayne's eyes sparkled.

"Now you are coming to it!" he cried. "Now I feel sure that I recall
correctly the last words the doctor said: 'If my view is the right one,
I should not be surprised to hear that the recovery which we all wish to
see had found its beginning in such apparently trifling circumstances
as the tone of some other person's voice or the influence of some other
person's look.' That plain expression of his opinion only occurred to my
memory after I had written my foolish letter of excuse. I spare you
the course of other recollections that followed, to come at once to the
result. For the first time I have the hope, the faint hope, that the
voice which haunts me has been once already controlled by one of the
influences of which the doctor spoke--the influence of a look."

If he had said this to Lady Loring, instead of to her husband, she
would have understood him at once. Lord Loring asked for a word more of
explanation.

"I told you yesterday," Romayne answered, "that a dread of the return of
the voice had been present to me all the morning, and that I had come to
see the picture with an idea of trying if change would relieve me. While
I was in the gallery I was free from the dread, and free from the voice.
When I returned to the hotel it tortured me--and Mr. Penrose, I grieve
to say, saw what I suffered. You and I attributed the remission to the
change of scene. I now believe we were both wrong. Where was the change?
In seeing you and Lady Loring, I saw the two oldest friends I have.
In visiting your gallery, I only revived the familiar associations of
hundreds of other visits. To what influence was I really indebted for
my respite? Don't try to dismiss the question by laughing at my morbid
fancies. Morbid fancies are realities to a man like me. Remember the
doctor's words, Loring. Think of a new face, seen in your house! Think
of a look that searched my heart for the first time!"

Lord Loring glanced once more at the clock on the mantel-piece. The
hands pointed to the dinner hour.

"Miss Eyrecourt?" he whispered.

"Yes; Miss Eyrecourt."

The library door was thrown open by a servant. Stella herself entered
the room.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE PRIEST OR THE WOMAN?

LORD LORING hurried away to his dressing room. "I won't be more than ten
minutes," he said--and left Romayne and Stella together.

She was attired with her customary love of simplicity. White lace was
the only ornament on her dress of delicate silvery gray. Her magnificent
hair was left to plead its own merits, without adornment of any sort.
Even the brooch which fastened her lace pelerine was of plain gold only.
Conscious that she was showing her beauty to the greatest advantage in
the eyes of a man of taste, she betrayed a little of the embarrassment
which Romayne had already noticed at the moment when she gave him her
hand. They were alone, and it was the first time she had seen him in
evening dress.

It may be that women have no positive appreciation of what is beautiful
in form and color--or it may be that they have no opinions of their own
when the laws of fashion have spoken. This at least is certain, that not
one of them in a thousand sees anything objectionable in the gloomy
and hideous evening costume of a gentleman in the nineteenth century.
A handsome man is, to their eyes, more seductive than ever in the
contemptible black coat and the stiff white cravat which he wears in
common with the servant who waits on him at table. After a stolen glance
at Romayne, Stella lost all confidence in herself--she began turning
over the photographs on the table.

The momentary silence which followed their first greeting became
intolerable to her. Rather than let it continue, she impulsively
confessed the uppermost idea in her mind when she entered the room.

"I thought I heard my name when I came in," she said. "Were you and Lord
Loring speaking of me?"

Romayne owned without hesitation that they had been speaking of her.

She smiled and turned over another photograph. But when did sun-pictures
ever act as a restraint on a woman's curiosity? The words passed her
lips in spite of her. "I suppose I mustn't ask what you were saying?"

It was impossible to answer this plainly without entering into
explanations from which Romayne shrank. He hesitated.

She turned over another photograph. "I understand," she said. "You were
talking of my faults." She paused, and stole another look at him. "I
will try to correct my faults, if you will tell me what they are."

Romayne felt that he had no alternative but to tell the truth--under
certain reserves. "Indeed you are wrong," he said. "We were talking of
the influence of a tone or a look on a sensitive person."

"The influence on Me?" she asked.

"No. The influence which You might exercise on another person."

She knew perfectly well that he was speaking of himself. But she was
determined to feel the pleasure of making him own it.

"If I have any such influence as you describe," she began, "I hope it is
for good?"

"Certainly for good."

"You speak positively, Mr. Romayne. Almost as positively--only that can
hardly be--as if you were speaking from experience."

He might still have evaded a direct reply, if she had been content with
merely saying this. But she looked at him while she spoke. He answered
the look.

"Shall I own that you are right?" he said. "I was thinking of my own
experience yesterday."

She returned to the photographs. "It sounds impossible," she rejoined,
softly. There was a pause. "Was it anything I said?" she asked.

"No. It was only when you looked at me. But for that look, I don't think
I should have been here to-day."

She shut up the photographs on a sudden, and drew her chair a little
away from him.

"I hope," she said, "you have not so poor an opinion of me as to think I
like to be flattered?"

Romayne answered with an earnestness that instantly satisfied her.

"I should think it an act of insolence to flatter you," he said. "If
you knew the true reason why I hesitated to accept Lady Loring's
invitation--if I could own to you the new hope for myself that has
brought me here--you would feel, as I feel, that I have been only
speaking the truth. I daren't say yet that I owe you a debt of gratitude
for such a little thing as a look. I must wait till time puts certain
strange fancies of mine to the proof."

"Fancies about me, Mr. Romayne?"

Before he could answer, the dinner bell rang. Lord and Lady Loring
entered the library together.



The dinner having pursued its appointed course (always excepting the
case of the omelet), the head servant who had waited at table was
graciously invited to rest, after his labors, in the housekeeper's room.
Having additionally conciliated him by means of a glass of rare liqueur,
Miss Notman, still feeling her grievance as acutely as ever, ventured
to inquire, in the first place, if the gentlefolks upstairs had enjoyed
their dinner. So far the report was, on the whole, favorable. But the
conversation was described as occasionally flagging. The burden of the
talk had been mainly borne by my lord and my lady, Mr. Romayne and
Miss Eyrecourt contributing but little to the social enjoyment of the
evening. Receiving this information without much appearance of interest,
the housekeeper put another question, to which, judging by her
manner, she attached a certain importance. She wished to know if the
oyster-omelet (accompanying the cheese) had been received as a welcome
dish, and treated with a just recognition of its merits. The answer to
this was decidedly in the negative. Mr. Romayne and Miss Eyrecourt
had declined to taste it. My lord had tried it, and had left it on his
plate. My lady alone had really eaten her share of the misplaced dish.
Having stated this apparently trivial circumstance, the head servant was
surprised by the effect which it produced on the housekeeper. She leaned
back in her chair and closed her eyes, with an appearance of unutterable
enjoyment. That night there was one supremely happy woman in London. And
her name was Miss Notman.

Ascending from the housekeeper's room to the drawing-room, it is to be
further reported that music was tried, as a means of getting through the
time, in the absence of general conversation. Lady Loring sat down at
the piano, and played as admirably as usual. At the other end of the
room Romayne and Stella were together, listening to the music. Lord
Loring, walking backward and forward, with a restlessness which was far
from being characteristic of him in his after-dinner hours, was stopped
when he reached the neighborhood of the piano by a private signal from
his wife.

"What are you walking about for?" Lady Loring asked in a whisper,
without interrupting her musical performance.

"I'm not quite easy, my dear."

"Turn over the music. Indigestion?"

"Good heavens, Adelaide, what a question!"

"Well, what is it, then?"

Lord Loring looked toward Stella and her companion. "They don't seem to
get on together as well as I had hoped," he said.

"I should think not--when you are walking about and disturbing them! Sit
down there behind me."

"What am I to do?"

"Am I not playing? Listen to me."

"My dear, I don't understand modern German music."

"Then read the evening paper."

The evening paper had its attractions. Lord Loring took his wife's
advice.

Left entirely by themselves, at the other end of the room, Romayne and
Stella justified Lady Loring's belief in the result of reducing her
husband to a state of repose. Stella ventured to speak first, in a
discreet undertone.

"Do you pass most of your evenings alone, Mr. Romayne?"

"Not quite alone. I have the company of my books."

"Are your books the companions that you like best?"

"I have been true to those companions, Miss Eyrecourt, for many years.
If the doctors are to be believed, my books have not treated me very
well in return. They have broken down my health, and have made me, I am
afraid, a very unsocial man." He seemed about to say more, and suddenly
checked the impulse. "Why am I talking of myself?" he resumed with a
smile. "I never do it at other times. Is this another result of your
influence over me?"

He put the question with an assumed gayety. Stella made no effort, on
her side, to answer him in the same tone.

"I almost wish I really had some influence over you," she said, gravely
and sadly.

"Why?"

"I should try to induce you to shut up your books, and choose some
living companion who might restore you to your happier self."

"It is already done," said Romayne; "I have a new companion in Mr.
Penrose."

"Penrose?" she repeated. "He is the friend--is he not--of the priest
here, whom they call Father Benwell?"

"Yes."

"I don't like Father Benwell."

"Is that a reason for disliking Mr. Penrose?"

"Yes," she said, boldly, "because he is Father Benwell's friend."

"Indeed, you are mistaken, Miss Eyrecourt. Mr. Penrose only entered
yesterday on his duties as my secretary, and I have already had reason
to think highly of him. Many men, after _that_ experience of me," he
added, speaking more to himself than to her, "might have asked me to
find another secretary."

Stella heard those last words, and looked at him in astonishment. "Were
you angry with Mr. Penrose?" she asked innocently. "Is it possible that
_you_ could speak harshly to any person in your employment?"

Romayne smiled. "It was not what I said," he answered. "I am subject to
attacks--to sudden attacks of illness. I am sorry I alarmed Mr. Penrose
by letting him see me under those circumstances."

She looked at him; hesitated; and looked away again. "Would you be angry
with me if I confessed something?" she said timidly.

"It is impossible I can be angry with you!"

"Mr. Romayne, I think I have seen what your secretary saw. I know how
you suffer, and how patiently you bear it."

"You!" he exclaimed.

"I saw you with your friend, when you came on board the steamboat at
Boulogne. Oh, no, you never noticed me! You never knew how I pitied you.
And afterward, when you moved away by yourself, and stood by the place
in which the engines work--you are sure you won't think the worse of me,
if I tell it?"

"No! no!"

"Your face frightened me--I can't describe it--I went to your friend and
took it on myself to say that you wanted him. It was an impulse--I meant
well."

"I am sure you meant well." As he spoke, his face darkened a little,
betraying a momentary feeling of distrust. Had she put indiscreet
questions to his traveling companion; and had the Major, under the
persuasive influence of her beauty, been weak enough to answer them?
"Did you speak to my friend?" he asked.

"Only when I told him that he had better go to you. And I think I said
afterward I was afraid you were very ill. We were in the confusion of
arriving at Folkestone--and, even if I had thought it right to say more,
there was no opportunity."

Romayne felt ashamed of the suspicion by which he had wronged her. "You
have a generous nature," he said earnestly. "Among the few people whom I
know, how many would feel the interest in me that you felt?"

"Don't say that, Mr. Romayne! You could have had no kinder friend than
the gentleman who took care of you on your journey. Is he with you now
in London?"

"No."

"I am sorry to hear it. You ought to have some devoted friend always
near you."

She spoke very earnestly. Romayne shrank, with a strange shyness, from
letting her see how her sympathy affected him. He answered lightly.
"You go almost as far as my good friend there reading the newspaper," he
said. "Lord Loring doesn't scruple to tell me that I ought to marry. I
know he speaks with a sincere interest in my welfare. He little thinks
how he distresses me."

"Why should he distress you?"

"He reminds me--live as long as I may--that I must live alone. Can I
ask a woman to share such a dreary life as mine? It would be selfish, it
would be cruel; I should deservedly pay the penalty of allowing my wife
to sacrifice herself. The time would come when she would repent having
married me."

Stella rose. Her eyes rested on him with a look of gentle remonstrance.
"I think you hardly do women justice," she said softly. "Perhaps some
day a woman may induce you to change your opinion." She crossed the
room to the piano. "You must be tired of playing, Adelaide," she said,
putting her hand caressingly on Lady Loring's shoulder.

"Will you sing, Stella?"

She sighed, and turned away. "Not to-night," she answered.

Romayne took his leave rather hurriedly. He seemed to be out of spirits
and eager to get away. Lord Loring accompanied his guest to the door.
"You look sad and careworn," he said. "Do you regret having left your
books to pass an evening with us?"

Romayne looked up absently, and answered, "I don't know yet."

Returning to report this extraordinary reply to his wife and Stella,
Lord Loring found the drawing-room empty. Eager for a little private
conversation, the two ladies had gone upstairs.



"Well?" said Lady Loring, as they sat together over the fire. "What did
he say?"

Stella only repeated what he had said before she rose and left him.
"What is there in Mr. Romayne's life," she asked, "which made him say
that he would be selfish and cruel if he expected a woman to marry him?
It must be something more than mere illness. If he had committed a crime
he could not have spoken more strongly. Do you know what it is?"

Lady Loring looked uneasy. "I promised my husband to keep it a secret
from everybody," she said.

"It is nothing degrading, Adelaide--I am sure of that."

"And you are right, my dear. I can understand that he has surprised and
disappointed you; but, if you knew his motives--" she stopped and looked
earnestly at Stella. "They say," she went on, "the love that lasts
longest is the love of slowest growth. This feeling of yours for Romayne
is of sudden growth. Are you very sure that your whole heart is given to
a man of whom you know little?"

"I know that I love him," said Stella simply.

"Even though he doesn't seem as yet to love you?" Lady Loring asked.

"All the more _because_ he doesn't. I should be ashamed to make
the confession to any one but you. It is useless to say any more.
Good-night."

Lady Loring allowed her to get as far as the door, and then suddenly
called her back. Stella returned unwillingly and wearily. "My head aches
and my heart aches," she said. "Let me go away to my bed."

"I don't like you to go away, wronging Romayne perhaps in your
thoughts," said Lady Loring. "And, more than that, for the sake of your
own happiness, you ought to judge for yourself if this devoted love of
yours may ever hope to win its reward. It is time, and more than time,
that you should decide whether it is good for you to see Romayne again.
Have you courage enough to do that?"

"Yes--if I am convinced that it ought to be done."

"Nothing would make me so happy," Lady Loring resumed, "as to know
that you were one day, my dear, to be his wife. But I am not a prudent
person--I can never look, as you can, to consequences. You won't betray
me, Stella? If I am doing wrong in telling a secret which has been
trusted to me, it is my fondness for you that misleads me. Sit down
again. You shall know what the misery of Romayne's life really is."

With those words, she told the terrible story of the duel, and of all
that had followed it.

"It is for you to say," she concluded, "whether Romayne is right. Can
any woman hope to release him from the torment that he suffers, with
nothing to help her but love? Determine for yourself."

Stella answered instantly.

"I determine to be his wife!"

With the same pure enthusiasm, Penrose had declared that he too devoted
himself to the deliverance of Romayne. The loving woman was not more
resolved to give her whole life to him, than the fanatical man was
resolved to convert him. On the same common battle-ground the two were
now to meet in unconscious antagonism. Would the priest or the woman win
the day?



CHAPTER IX.

THE PUBLIC AND THE PICTURES.

ON the memorable Monday, when the picture gallery was opened to the
public for the first time, Lord Loring and Father Benwell met in the
library.

"Judging by the number of carriages already at the door," said Father
Benwell, "your lordship's kindness is largely appreciated by the lovers
of Art."

"All the tickets were disposed of in three hours," Lord Loring answered.
"Everybody (the librarians tell me) is eager to see the pictures. Have
you looked in yet?"

"Not yet. I thought I would get on first with my work among the books."

"I have just come from the gallery," Lord Loring continued. "And here I
am, driven out of it again by the remarks of some of the visitors. You
know my beautiful copies of Raphael's Cupid and Psyche designs? The
general impression, especially among the ladies, is that they are
disgusting and indecent. That was enough for me. If you happen to meet
Lady Loring and Stella, kindly tell them that I have gone to the club."

"Do the ladies propose paying a visit to the gallery?"

"Of course--to see the people! I have recommended them to wait until
they are ready to go out for their drive. In their indoor costume they
might become the objects of general observation as the ladies of the
house. I shall be anxious to hear, Father, if you can discover
the civilizing influences of Art among my guests in the gallery.
Good-morning."

Father Benwell rang the bell when Lord Loring had left him.

"Do the ladies drive out to-day at their usual hour?" he inquired, when
the servant appeared. The man answered in the affirmative. The carriage
was ordered at three o'clock.

At half-past two Father Benwell slipped quietly into the gallery. He
posted himself midway between the library door and the grand entrance;
on the watch, not for the civilizing influences of Art, but for the
appearance of Lady Loring and Stella. He was still of opinion that
Stella's "frivolous" mother might be turned into a source of valuable
information on the subject of her daughter's earlier life. The first
step toward attaining this object was to discover Mrs. Eyrecourt's
present address. Stella would certainly know it--and Father Benwell felt
a just confidence in his capacity to make the young lady serviceable, in
this respect, to the pecuniary interests of the Church.

After an interval of a quarter of an hour, Lady Loring and Stella
entered the gallery by the library door. Father Benwell at once advanced
to pay his respects.

For some little time he discreetly refrained from making any attempt to
lead the conversation to the topic that he had in view. He was too well
acquainted with the insatiable interest of women in looking at other
women to force himself into notice. The ladies made their remarks on
the pretensions to beauty and to taste in dress among the throng of
visitors--and Father Benwell waited by them, and listened with the
resignation of a modest young man. Patience, being a virtue, is
sometimes its own reward. Two gentlemen, evidently interested in
the pictures, approached the priest. He drew back, with his ready
politeness, to let them see the picture before which he happened to be
standing.

The movement disturbed Stella. She turned sharply--noticed one of the
gentlemen, the taller of the two--became deadly pale--and instantly
quitted the gallery. Lady Loring, looking where Stella had looked,
frowned angrily and followed Miss Eyrecourt into the library. Wise
Father Benwell let them go, and concentrated his attention on the person
who had been the object of this startling recognition.

Unquestionably a gentleman--with light hair and complexion--with a
bright benevolent face and keen intelligent blue eyes--apparently still
in the prime of life. Such was Father Benwell's first impression of the
stranger. He had evidently seen Miss Eyrecourt at the moment when she
first noticed him; and he too showed signs of serious agitation. His
face flushed deeply, and his eyes expressed, not merely surprise, but
distress. He turned to his friend. "This place is hot," he said; "let us
get out of it!"

"My dear Winterfield!" the friend remonstrated, "we haven't seen half
the pictures yet."

"Excuse me if I leave you," the other replied. "I am used to the free
air of the country. Let us meet again this evening. Come and dine with
me. The same address as usual--Derwent's Hotel."

With those words he hurried out, making his way, without ceremony,
through the crowd in the picture gallery.

Father Benwell returned to the library. It was quite needless to trouble
himself further about Mrs. Eyrecourt or her address. "Thanks to Lord
Loring's picture gallery," he thought, "I have found the man!"

He took up his pen and made a little memorandum--"Winterfield. Derwent's
Hotel."



CHAPTER X.

FATHER BENWELL'S CORRESPONDENCE.

I.

_To Mr. Bitrake. Private and Confidential._

SIR--I understand that your connection with the law does not exclude
your occasional superintendence of confidential inquiries, which are not
of a nature to injure your professional position. The inclosed letter
of introduction will satisfy you that I am incapable of employing your
experience in a manner unbecoming to you, or to myself.

The inquiry that I propose to you relates to a gentleman named
Winterfield. He is now staying in London, at Derwent's Hotel, and is
expected to remain there for a week from the present date. His place of
residence is on the North Devonshire coast, and is well known in that
locality by the name of Beaupark House.

The range of my proposed inquiry dates back over the last four or five
years--certainly not more. My object is to ascertain, as positively as
may be, whether, within this limit of time, events in Mr. Winterfield's
life have connected him with a young lady named Miss Stella Eyrecourt.
If this proves to be the case it is essential that I should be made
acquainted with the whole of the circumstances.

I have now informed you of all that I want to know. Whatever the
information may be, it is most important that it shall be information
which I can implicitly trust. Please address to me, when you write,
under cover to the friend whose letter I inclose.

I beg your acceptance--as time is of importance--of a check for
preliminary expenses, and remain, sir, your faithful servant,

AMBROSE BENWELL.

II.

_To the Secretary, Society of Jesus, Rome._

I inclose a receipt for the remittance which your last letter confides
to my care. Some of the money has been already used in prosecuting
inquiries, the result of which will, as I hope and believe, enable me to
effectually protect Romayne from the advances of the woman who is bent
on marrying him.

You tell me that our Reverend Fathers, lately sitting in council on the
Vange Abbey affair, are anxious to hear if any positive steps have
yet been taken toward the conversion of Romayne. I am happily able to
gratify their wishes, as you shall now see.

Yesterday, I called at Romayne's hotel to pay one of those occasional
visits which help to keep up our acquaintance. He was out, and Penrose
(for whom I asked next) was with him. Most fortunately, as the event
proved, I had not seen Penrose, or heard from him, for some little time;
and I thought it desirable to judge for myself of the progress that he
was making in the confidence of his employer. I said I would wait.
The hotel servant knows me by sight. I was shown into Romayne's
waiting-room.

This room is so small as to be a mere cupboard. It is lighted by a glass
fanlight over the door which opens from the passage, and is supplied
with air (in the absence of a fireplace) by a ventilator in a second
door, which communicates with Romayne's study. Looking about me, so far,
I crossed to the other end of the study, and discovered a dining-room
and two bedrooms beyond--the set of apartments being secluded, by means
of a door at the end of the passage, from the other parts of the hotel.
I trouble you with these details in order that you may understand the
events that followed.

I returned to the waiting-room, not forgetting of course to close the
door of communication.

Nearly an hour must have passed before I heard footsteps in the passage.
The study door was opened, and the voices of persons entering the room
reached me through the ventilator. I recognized Romayne, Penrose--and
Lord Loring.

The first words exchanged among them informed me that Romayne and his
secretary had overtaken Lord Loring in the street, as he was approaching
the hotel door. The three had entered the house together--at a time,
probably, when the servant who had admitted me was out of the
way. However it may have happened, there I was, forgotten in the
waiting-room!

Could I intrude myself (on a private conversation perhaps) as an
unannounced and unwelcome visitor? And could I help it, if the talk
found its way to me through the ventilator, along with the air that I
breathed? If our Reverend Fathers think I was to blame, I bow to any
reproof which their strict sense of propriety may inflict on me. In the
meantime, I beg to repeat the interesting passages in the conversation,
as nearly word for word as I can remember them.

His lordship, as the principal personage in social rank, shall be
reported first. He said: "More than a week has passed, Romayne, and we
have neither seen you nor heard from you. Why have you neglected us?"

Here, judging by certain sounds that followed, Penrose got up
discreetly, and left the room. Lord Loring went on.

He said to Romayne: "Now we are alone, I may speak to you more freely.
You and Stella seemed to get on together admirably that evening when you
dined with us. Have you forgotten what you told me of her influence over
you? Or have you altered your opinion--and is that the reason why you
keep away from us?"

Romayne answered: "My opinion remains unchanged. All that I said to you
of Miss Eyrecourt, I believe as firmly as ever."

His lordship remonstrated, naturally enough. "Then why remain away from
the good influence? Why--if it really _can_ be controlled--risk another
return of that dreadful nervous delusion?"

"I have had another return."

"Which, as you yourself believe, might have been prevented! Romayne, you
astonish me."

There was a time of silence, before Romayne answered this. He was a
little mysterious when he did reply. "You know the old saying, my good
friend--of two evils, choose the least. I bear my sufferings as one of
two evils, and the least of the two."

Lord Loring appeared to feel the necessity of touching a delicate
subject with a light hand. He said, in his pleasant way: "Stella isn't
the other evil, I suppose?"

"Most assuredly not."

"Then what is it?"

Romayne answered, almost passionately: "My own weakness and selfishness!
Faults which I must resist, or become a mean and heartless man. For
me, the worst of the two evils is there. I respect and admire Miss
Eyrecourt--I believe her to be a woman in a thousand--don't ask me to
see her again! Where is Penrose? Let us talk of something else."

Whether this wild way of speaking offended Lord Loring, or only
discouraged him, I cannot say. I heard him take his leave in these
words: "You have disappointed me, Romayne. We will talk of something
else the next time we meet." The study door was opened and closed.
Romayne was left by himself.

Solitude was apparently not to his taste just then. I heard him call to
Penrose. I heard Penrose ask: "Do you want me?"

Romayne answered: "God knows I want a friend--and I have no friend near
me but you! Major Hynd is away, and Lord Loring is offended with me."

Penrose asked why.

Romayne, thereupon, entered on the necessary explanation. As a priest
writing to priests, I pass over details utterly uninteresting to us. The
substance of what he said amounted to this: Miss Eyrecourt had produced
an impression on him which was new to him in his experience of women.
If he saw more of her, it might end--I ask your pardon for repeating
the ridiculous expression--in his "falling in love with her." In this
condition of mind or body, whichever it may be, he would probably be
incapable of the self-control which he had hitherto practiced. If
she consented to devote her life to him, he might accept the cruel
sacrifice. Rather than do this, he would keep away from her, for her
dear sake--no matter what he might suffer, or whom he might offend.

Imagine any human being, out of a lunatic asylum, talking in this
way. Shall I own to you, my reverend colleague, how this curious
self-exposure struck me? As I listened to Romayne, I felt grateful to
the famous Council which definitely forbade the priests of the Catholic
Church to marry. _We_ might otherwise have been morally enervated by
the weakness which degrades Romayne--and priests might have become
instruments in the hands of women.

But you will be anxious to hear what Penrose did under the
circumstances. For the moment, I can tell you this, he startled me.

Instead of seizing the opportunity, and directing Romayne's mind to the
consolations of religion, Penrose actually encouraged him to reconsider
his decision. All the weakness of my poor little Arthur's character
showed itself in his next words.

He said to Romayne: "It may be wrong in me to speak to you as freely
as I wish to speak. But you have so generously admitted me to your
confidence--you have been so considerate and so kind toward me--that I
feel an interest in your happiness, which perhaps makes me over bold.
Are you very sure that some such entire change in your life as your
marriage might not end in delivering you from your burden? If such a
thing could be, is it wrong to suppose that your wife's good influence
over you might be the means of making your marriage a happy one? I
must not presume to offer an opinion on such a subject. It is only my
gratitude, my true attachment to you that ventures to put the question.
Are you conscious of having given this matter--so serious a matter for
you--sufficient thought?"

Make your mind easy, reverend sir! Romayne's answer set everything
right.

He said: "I have thought of it till I could think no longer. I still
believe that sweet woman might control the torment of the voice. But
could she deliver me from the remorse perpetually gnawing at my heart? I
feel as murderers feel. In taking another man's life--a man who had not
even injured me!--I have committed the one unatonable and unpardonable
sin. Can any human creature's influence make me forget that? No more of
it--no more. Come! Let us take refuge in our books."

Those words touched Penrose in the right place. Now, as I understand his
scruples, he felt that he might honorably speak out. His zeal more than
balanced his weakness, as you will presently see.

He was loud, he was positive, when I heard him next. "No!" he burst
out, "your refuge is not in books, and not in the barren religious forms
which call themselves Protestant. Dear master, the peace of mind, which
you believe you have lost forever, you will find again in the divine
wisdom and compassion of the holy Catholic Church. There is the remedy
for all that you suffer! There is the new life that will yet make you a
happy man!"

I repeat what he said, so far, merely to satisfy you that we can trust
his enthusiasm, when it is once roused. Nothing will discourage,
nothing will defeat him now. He spoke with all the eloquence of
conviction--using the necessary arguments with a force and feeling which
I have rarely heard equaled. Romayne's silence vouched for the effect on
him. He is not the man to listen patiently to reasoning which he thinks
he can overthrow.

Having heard enough to satisfy me that Penrose had really begun the good
work, I quietly slipped out of the waiting-room and left the hotel.

To-day being Sunday, I shall not lose a post if I keep my letter open
until to-morrow. I have already sent a note to Penrose, asking him to
call on me at his earliest convenience. There may be more news for you
before post time.

Monday, 10 A.M..

There _is_ more news. Penrose has just left me.

His first proceeding, of course, was to tell me what I had already
discovered for myself. He is modest, as usual, about the prospect of
success which awaits him. But he has induced Romayne to suspend his
historical studies for a few days, and to devote his attention to the
books which we are accustomed to recommend for perusal in such cases as
his. This is un questionably a great gain at starting.

But my news is not at an end yet. Romayne is actually playing our
game--he has resolved definitely to withdraw himself from the influence
of Miss Eyrecourt! In another hour he and Penrose will have left London.
Their destination is kept a profound secret. All letters addressed to
Romayne are to be sent to his bankers.

The motive for this sudden resolution is directly traceable to Lady
Loring.

Her ladyship called at the hotel yesterday evening, and had a private
interview with Romayne. Her object, no doubt, was to shake his
resolution, and to make him submit himself again to Miss Eyrecourt's
fascinations. What means of persuasion she used to effect this purpose
is of course unknown to us. Penrose saw Romayne after her ladyship's
departure, and describes him as violently agitated. I can quite
understand it. His resolution to take refuge in secret flight (it is
really nothing less) speaks for itself as to the impression produced on
him, and the danger from which, for the time at least, we have escaped.

Yes! I say "for the time at least." Don't let our reverend fathers
suppose that the money expended on my private inquiries has been money
thrown away. Where these miserable love affairs are concerned, women are
daunted by no adverse circumstances and warned by no defeat. Romayne has
left London, in dread of his own weakness--we must not forget that. The
day may yet come when nothing will interpose between us and failure but
my knowledge of events in Miss Eyrecourt's life.

For the present, there is no more to be said.



CHAPTER XI.

STELLA ASSERTS HERSELF.

Two days after Father Benwell had posted his letter to Rome, Lady Loring
entered her husband's study, and asked eagerly if he had heard any news
of Romayne.

Lord Loring shook his head. "As I told you yesterday," he said, "the
proprietor of the hotel can give me no information. I went myself this
morning to the bankers, and saw the head partner. He offered to
forward letters, but he could do no more. Until further notice, he was
positively enjoined not to disclose Romayne's address to anybody. How
does Stella bear it?"

"In the worst possible way," Lady Loring answered. "In silence."

"Not a word even to you?"

"Not a word."

At that reply, the servant interrupted them by announcing the arrival of
a visitor, and presenting his card. Lord Loring started, and handed it
to his wife. The card bore the name of "Major Hynd," and this line was
added in pencil: "On business connected with Mr. Romayne."

"Show him in directly!" cried Lady Loring.

Lord Loring remonstrated. "My dear! perhaps I had better see this
gentleman alone?"

"Certainly not--unless you wish to drive me into committing an act of
the most revolting meanness! If you send me away I shall listen at the
door."

Major Hynd was shown in, and was duly presented to Lady Loring. After
making the customary apologies, he said: "I returned to London last
night, expressly to see Romayne on a matter of importance. Failing to
discover his present address at the hotel, I had the hope that your
lordship might be able to direct me to our friend."

"I am sorry to say I know no more than you do," Lord Loring replied.
"Romayne's present address is a secret confided to his bankers, and to
no one else. I will give you their names, if you wish to write to him."

Major Hynd hesitated. "I am not quite sure that it would be discreet to
write to him, under the circumstances."

Lady Loring could no longer keep silence. "Is it possible, Major Hynd,
to tell us what the circumstances are?" she asked. "I am almost as old a
friend of Romayne as my husband--and I am very anxious about him."

The Major looked embarrassed. "I can hardly answer your ladyship," he
said, "without reviving painful recollections--"

Lady Loring's impatience interrupted the Major's apologies. "Do you mean
the duel?" she inquired.

Lord Loring interposed. "I should tell you, Major Hynd, that Lady Loring
is as well informed as I am of what happened at Boulogne, and of the
deplorable result, so far as Romayne is concerned. If you still wish
to speak to me privately, I will ask you to accompany me into the next
room."

Major Hynd's embarrassment vanished. "After what you tell me," he said,
"I hope to be favored with Lady Loring's advice. You both know that
Romayne fought the fatal duel with a son of the French General who had
challenged him. When we returned to England, we heard that the
General and his family had been driven away from Boulogne by pecuniary
difficulties. Romayne, against my advice, wrote to the surgeon who had
been present at the duel, desiring that the General's place of retreat
might be discovered, and expressing his wish to assist the family
anonymously, as their Unknown Friend. The motive, of course, was, in his
own words, 'to make some little atonement to the poor people whom he had
wronged.' I thought it a rash proceeding at the time; and I am confirmed
in my opinion by a letter from the surgeon, received yesterday. Will you
kindly read it to Lady Loring?"

He handed the letter to Lord Loring. Translated from the French, it ran
as follows:



"SIR--I am at last able to answer Mr. Romayne's letter definitely,
with the courteous assistance of the French Consul in London, to whom I
applied when other means of investigation had produced no result.

"A week since the General died, circumstances connected with the
burial expenses informed the Consul that he had taken refuge from his
creditors, not in Paris as we supposed, but in London. The address is,
Number 10, Camp's Hill, Islington. I should also add that the General,
for obvious reasons, lived in London under the assumed name of Marillac.
It will be necessary, therefore, to inquire for his widow by the name of
Madame Marillac.

"You will perhaps be surprised to find that I address these lines to
you, instead of to Mr. Romayne. The reason is soon told.

"I was acquainted with the late General--as you know--at a time when I
was not aware of the company that he kept, or of the deplorable errors
into which his love of gambling had betrayed him. Of his widow and
his children I know absolutely nothing. Whether they have resisted the
contaminating influence of the head of the household--or whether poverty
and bad example combined have hopelessly degraded them--I cannot say.
There is at least a doubt whether they are worthy of Mr. Romayne's
benevolent intentions toward them. As an honest man, I cannot feel
this doubt, and reconcile it to my conscience to be the means, however
indirectly, of introducing them to Mr. Romayne. To your discretion I
leave it to act for the best, after this warning."



Lord Loring returned the letter to Major Hynd. "I agree with you," he
said. "It is more than doubtful whether you ought to communicate this
information to Romayne."

Lady Loring was not quite of her husband's opinion. "While there is a
doubt about these people," she said, "it seems only just to find out
what sort of character they bear in the neighborhood. In your place,
Major Hynd, I should apply to the person in whose house they live, or to
the tradespeople whom they have employed."

"I am obliged to leave London again to-day," the Major replied; "but on
my return I will certainly follow your ladyship's advice."

"And you will let us know the result?"

"With the greatest pleasure."

Major Hynd took his leave. "I think you will be responsible for wasting
the Major's time," said Lord Loring, when the visitor had retired.

"I think not," said Lady Loring.

She rose to leave the room. "Are you going out?" her husband asked.

"No. I am going upstairs to Stella."

Lady Loring found Miss Eyrecourt in her own room. The little portrait
of Romayne which she had drawn from recollection lay on the table before
her. She was examining it with the closest attention.

"Well, Stella, and what does the portrait tell you?"

"What I knew before, Adelaide. There is nothing false and nothing cruel
in that face."

"And does the discovery satisfy you? For my part, I despise Romayne for
hiding himself from us. Can you excuse him?"

Stella locked up the portrait in her writing-case. "I can wait," she
said quietly.

This assertion of patience seemed to irritate Lady Loring "What is the
matter with you this morning?" she asked. "You are more reserved than
ever."

"No; I am only out of spirits, Adelaide. I can't help thinking of that
meeting with Winterfield. I feel as if some misfortune was hanging over
my head."

"Don't speak of that hateful man!" her ladyship exclaimed. "I have
something to tell you about Romayne. Are you completely absorbed in your
presentiments of evil? or do you think you can listen to me?"

Stella's face answered for her. Lady Loring described the interview with
Major Hynd in the minutest detail--including, by way of illustration,
the Major's manners and personal appearance. "He and Lord Loring," she
added, "both think that Romayne will never hear the last of it if he
allows these foreigners to look to him for money. Until something more
is known about them, the letter is not to be forwarded."

"I wish I had the letter," cried Stella.

"Would you forward it to Romayne?"

"Instantly! Does it matter whether these poor French people are worthy
of his generosity? If it restores his tranquillity to help them, who
cares whether they deserve the help? They are not even to know who it is
that assists them--Romayne is to be their unknown friend. It is he, not
they, whom we have to think of--his peace of mind is everything; their
merit is nothing. I say it's cruel to _him_ to keep him in ignorance of
what has happened. Why didn't you take the letter away from Major Hynd?"

"Gently, Stella! The Major is going to make inquiries about the widow
and children when he returns to London."

"When he returns!" Stella repeated indignantly. "Who knows what the poor
wretches may be suffering in the interval, and what Romayne may feel
if he ever hears of it? Tell me the address again--it was somewhere in
Islington, you said."

"Why do you want to know it?" Lady Loring asked. "You are not going to
write to Romayne yourself?"

"I am going to think, before I do anything. If you can't trust my
discretion, Adelaide, you have only to say so!"

It was spoken sharply. Lady Loring's reply betrayed a certain loss
of temper on her side. "Manage your own affairs, Stella--I have done
meddling with them." Her unlucky visit to Romayne at the hotel had been
a subject of dispute between the two friends--and this referred to it.
"You shall have the address," my lady added in her grandest manner. She
wrote it on a piece of paper, and left the room.

Easily irritated, Lady Loring had the merit of being easily appeased.
That meanest of all vices, the vice of sulkiness, had no existence
in her nature. In five minutes she regretted her little outburst of
irritability. For five minutes more she waited, on the chance that
Stella might be the first to seek a reconciliation. The interval passed,
and nothing happened. "Have I really offended her?" Lady Loring asked
herself. The next moment she was on her way back to Stella. The room was
empty. She rang the bell for the maid.

"Where is Miss Eyrecourt?"

"Gone out, my lady."

"Did she leave no message?"

"No, my lady. She went away in a great hurry."

Lady Loring at once drew the conclusion that Stella had rashly taken the
affair of the General's family into her own hands. Was it possible to
say how this most imprudent proceeding might end? After hesitating and
reflecting, and hesitating again, Lady Loring's anxiety got beyond her
control. She not only decided on following Stella, but, in the excess of
her nervous apprehension, she took one of the men-servants with her, in
case of emergency!



CHAPTER XII.

THE GENERAL'S FAMILY.

NOT always remarkable for arriving at just conclusions, Lady Loring had
drawn the right inference this time. Stella had stopped the first cab
that passed her, and had directed the driver to Camp's Hill, Islington.

The aspect of the miserable little street, closed at one end, and
swarming with dirty children quarreling over their play, daunted her for
the moment. Even the cabman, drawing up at the entrance to the street,
expressed his opinion that it was a queer sort of place for a young lady
to venture into alone. Stella thought of Romayne. Her firm persuasion
that she was helping him to perform an act of mercy, which was (to
his mind) an act of atonement as well, roused her courage. She boldly
approached the open door of No. 10, and knocked on it with her parasol.

The tangled gray hair and grimy face of a hideous old woman showed
themselves slowly at the end of the passage, rising from the
strong-smelling obscurity of the kitchen regions. "What do you want?"
said the half-seen witch of the London slums. "Does Madame Marillac live
here?" Stella asked. "Do you mean the foreigner?" "Yes." "Second door."
With those instructions the upper half of the witch sank and vanished.
Stella gathered her skirts together, and ascended a filthy flight of
stairs for the first time in her life.

Coarse voices, shameless language, gross laughter behind the closed
doors of the first floor hurried her on her way to the rooms on the
higher flight. Here there was a change for the better--here, at least,
there was silence. She knocked at the door on the landing of the second
floor. A gentle voice answered, in French; "Entrez!"--then quickly
substituted the English equivalent, "Come in!" Stella opened the door.

The wretchedly furnished room was scrupulously clean. Above the
truckle-bed, a cheap little image of the Virgin was fastened to the
wall, with some faded artificial flowers arranged above it in the form
of a wreath. Two women, in dresses of coarse black stuff, sat at a small
round table, working at the same piece of embroidery. The elder of the
two rose when the visitor entered the room. Her worn and weary face
still showed the remains of beauty in its finely proportioned parts--her
dim eyes rested on Stella with an expression of piteous entreaty. "Have
you come for the work, madam?" she asked, in English, spoken with a
strong foreign accent. "Pray forgive me; I have not finished it yet."

The second of the two workwomen suddenly looked up.

She, too, was wan and frail; but her eyes were bright; her movements
still preserved the elasticity of youth. Her likeness to the elder
woman proclaimed their relationship, even before she spoke. "Ah! it's my
fault!" she burst out passionately in French. "I was hungry and tired,
and I slept hours longer than I ought. My mother was too kind to wake me
and set me to work. I am a selfish wretch--and my mother is an angel!"
She dashed away the tears gathering in her eyes, and proudly, fiercely,
resumed her work.

Stella hastened to reassure them, the moment she could make herself
heard. "Indeed, I have nothing to do with the work," she said, speaking
in French, so that they might the more readily understand her. "I came
here, Madame Marillac--if you will not be offended with me, for plainly
owning it--to offer you some little help."

"Charity?" asked the daughter, looking up again sternly from her needle.

"Sympathy," Stella answered gently.

The girl resumed her work. "I beg your pardon," she said; "I shall learn
to submit to my lot in time."

The quiet long-suffering mother placed a chair for Stella. "You have
a kind beautiful face, miss," she said; "and I am sure you will make
allowances for my poor girl. I remember the time when I was as quick to
feel as she is. May I ask how you came to hear of us?"

"I hope you will excuse me," Stella replied. "I am not at liberty to
answer that question."

The mother said nothing. The daughter asked sharply, "Why not?"

Stella addressed her answer to the mother. "I come from a person who
desires to be of service to you as an unknown friend," she said.

The wan face of the widow suddenly brightened. "Oh!" she exclaimed,
"has my brother heard of the General's death? and has he forgiven me my
marriage at last?"

"No, no!" Stella interposed; "I must not mislead you. The person whom I
represent is no relation of yours."

Even in spite of this positive assertion, the poor woman held
desperately to the hope that had been roused in her. "The name by which
you know me may mislead you," she suggested anxiously. "My late husband
assumed the name in his exile here. Perhaps, if I told you--"

The daughter stopped her there. "My dear mother, leave this to me." The
widow sighed resignedly, and resumed her work. "Madame Marillac will do
very well as a name," the girl continued, turning to Stella, "until we
know something more of each other. I suppose you are well acquainted
with the person whom you represent?"

"Certainly, or I should not be here."

"You know the person's family connections, in that case? and you can say
for certain whether they are French connections or not?"

"I can say for certain," Stella answered, "that they are English
connections. I represent a friend who feels kindly toward Madame
Marillac; nothing more."

"You see, mother, you were mistaken. Bear it as bravely, dear, as you
have borne other trials." Saying this very tenderly, she addressed
herself once more to Stella, without attempting to conceal the
accompanying change in her manner to coldness and distrust. "One of us
must speak plainly," she said. "Our few friends are nearly as poor as
we are, and they are all French. I tell you positively that we have no
English friends. How has this anonymous benefactor been informed of
our poverty? You are a stranger to us--_you_ cannot have given the
information?"

Stella's eyes were now open to the awkward position in which she had
placed herself. She met the difficulty boldly, still upheld by the
conviction that she was serving a purpose cherished by Romayne. "You had
good reasons, no doubt, mademoiselle, when you advised your mother to
conceal her true name," she rejoined. "Be just enough to believe that
your 'anonymous benefactor' has good reasons for concealment too."

It was well said, and it encouraged Madame Marillac to take Stella's
part. "My dear Blanche, you speak rather harshly to this good young
lady," she said to her daughter. "You have only to look at her, and to
see that she means well."

Blanche took up her needle again, with dogged submission. "If we _are_
to accept charity, mother, I should like to know the hand that gives
it," she answered. "I will say no more."

"When you are as old as I am, my dear," rejoined Madame Marillac, "you
will not think quite so positively as you think now. I have learned some
hard lessons," she proceeded, turning to Stella, "and I hope I am the
better for them. My life has not been a happy one--"

"Your life has been a martyrdom!" said the girl, breaking out again in
spite of herself. "Oh, my father! my father!" She pushed aside the work
and hid her face in her hands.

The gentle mother spoke severely for the first time. "Respect your
father's memory!" she said. Blanche trembled and kept silence. "I have
no false pride," Madame Marillac continued. "I own that we are miserably
poor; and I thank you, my dear young lady, for your kind intentions
toward us, without embarrassing you by any inquiries. We manage to
live. While my eyes last, our work helps to support us. My good eldest
daughter has some employment as a teacher of music, and contributes her
little share to assist our poor household. I don't distrust you--I only
say, let us try a little longer if we cannot help ourselves."

She had barely pronounced the last words, when a startling interruption
led to consequences which the persons present had not foreseen. A
shrill, wailing voice suddenly pierced through the flimsy partition
which divided the front room and the back room. "Bread!" cried the voice
in French; "I'm hungry. Bread! bread!"

The daughter started to her feet. "Think of his betraying us at this
moment!" she exclaimed indignantly. The mother rose in silence, and
opened a cupboard. Its position was opposite to the place in which
Stella was sitting. She saw two or three knives and forks, some cups and
saucers and plates, and a folded table-cloth. Nothing else appeared on
the shelves; not even the stray crust of bread for which the poor woman
had been looking. "Go, my dear, and quiet your brother," she said--and
closed the cupboard door again as patiently as ever.

Stella opened her pocketbook when Blanche had left the room. "For
God's sake, take something!" she cried. "I offer it with the sincerest
respect--I offer it as a loan."

Madame Marillac gently signed to Stella to close the pocketbook again.
"That kind heart of yours must not be distressed about trifles," she
said. "The baker will trust us until we get the money for our work--and
my daughter knows it. If you can tell me nothing else, my dear, will you
tell me your Christian name? It is painful to me to speak to you quite
as a stranger."

Stella at once complied with the request. Madame Marillac smiled as she
repeated the name.

"There is almost another tie between us," she said. "We have your name
in France--it speaks with a familiar sound to me in this strange place.
Dear Miss Stella, when my poor boy startled you by that cry for food, he
recalled to me the saddest of all my anxieties. When I think of him, I
should be tempted if my better sense did not restrain me--No! no!
put back the pocketbook. I am incapable of the shameless audacity of
borrowing a sum of money which I could never repay. Let me tell you what
my trouble is, and you will understand that I am in earnest. I had two
sons, Miss Stella. The elder--the most lovable, the most affectionate of
my children--was killed in a duel."

The sudden disclosure drew a cry of sympathy from Stella, which she was
not mistress enough of herself to repress. Now for the first time she
understood the remorse that tortured Romayne, as she had not understood
it when Lady Loring had told her the terrible story of the duel.
Attributing the effect produced on her to the sensitive nature of a
young woman, Madame Marillac innocently added to Stella's distress by
making excuses.

"I am sorry to have frightened you, my dear," she said. "In your happy
country such a dreadful death as my son's is unknown. I am obliged
to mention it, or you might not understand what I have still to say.
Perhaps I had better not go on?"

Stella roused herself. "Yes! yes!" she answered, eagerly. "Pray go on!"

"My son in the next room," the widow resumed, "is only fourteen years
old. It has pleased God sorely to afflict a harmless creature. He
has not been in his right mind since--since the miserable day when he
followed the duelists, and saw his brother's death. Oh! you are turning
pale! How thoughtless, how cruel of me! I ought to have remembered that
such horrors as these have never overshadowed your happy life!"

Struggling to recover her self-control, Stella tried to reassure Madame
Marillac by a gesture. The voice which she had heard in the next room
was--as she now knew--the voice that haunted Romayne. Not the words
that had pleaded hunger and called for bread--but those other words,
"Assassin! assassin! where are you?"--rang in her ears. She entreated
Madame Marillac to break the unendurable interval of silence. The
widow's calm voice had a soothing influence which she was eager to feel.
"Go on!" she repeated. "Pray go on!"

"I ought not to lay all the blame of my boy's affliction on the duel,"
said Madame Marillac. "In childhood, his mind never grew with his bodily
growth. His brother's death may have only hurried the result which was
sooner or later but too sure to come. You need feel no fear of him. He
is never violent--and he is the most beautiful of my children. Would you
like to see him?"

"No! I would rather hear you speak of him. Is he not conscious of his
own misfortune?"

"For weeks together, Stella--I am sure I may call you Stella?--he is
quite calm; you would see no difference outwardly between him and other
boys. Unhappily, it is just at those times that a spirit of impatience
seems to possess him. He watches his opportunity, and, however careful
we may be, he is cunning enough to escape our vigilance."

"Do you mean that he leaves you and his sisters?"

"Yes, that is what I mean. For nearly two months past he has been away
from us. Yesterday only, his return relieved us from a state of suspense
which I cannot attempt to describe. We don't know where he has been, or
in the company of what persons he has passed the time of his absense. No
persuasion will induce him to speak to us on the subject. This morning
we listened while he was talking to himself."

"Was it part of the boy's madness to repeat the words which still
tormented Romayne?" Stella asked if he ever spoke of the duel.

"Never! He seems to have lost all memory of it. We only heard, this
morning, one or two unconnected words--something about a woman, and then
more that appeared to allude to some person's death. Last night I was
with him when he went to bed, and I found that he had something to
conceal from me. He let me fold all his clothes, as usual, except his
waistcoat--and that he snatched away from me, and put it under his
pillow. We have no hope of being able to examine the waistcoat without
his knowledge. His sleep is like the sleep of a dog; if you only
approach him, he wakes instantly. Forgive me for troubling you with
these trifling details, only interesting to ourselves. You will at least
understand the constant anxiety that we suffer."

"In your unhappy position," said Stella, "I should try to resign myself
to parting with him--I mean to placing him under medical care."

The mother's face saddened. "I have inquired about it," she answered.
"He must pass a night in the workhouse before he can be received as a
pauper lunatic in a public asylum. Oh, my dear, I am afraid there is
some pride still left in me! He is my only son now; his father was a
General in the French army; I was brought up among people of good blood
and breeding--I can't take my own boy to the workhouse!"

Stella understood her. "I feel for you with all my heart," she said.
"Place him privately, dear Madame Marillac, under skillful and kind
control--and let me, do let me, open the pocketbook again."

The widow steadily refused even to look at the pocketbook. "Perhaps,"
Stella persisted, "you don't know of a private asylum that would satisfy
you?"

"My dear, I do know of such a place! The good doctor who attended my
husband in his last illness told me of it. A friend of his receives a
certain number of poor people into his house, and charges no more than
the cost of maintaining them. An unattainable sum to _me!_ There is the
temptation that I spoke of. The help of a few pounds I might accept,
if I fell ill, because I might afterward pay it back. But a larger
sum--never!"

She rose, as if to end the interview. Stella tried every means of
persuasion that she could think of, and tried in vain. The friendly
dispute between them might have been prolonged, if they had not both
been silenced by another interruption from the next room.

This time, it was not only endurable, it was even welcome. The poor boy
was playing the air of a French vaudeville on a pipe or flageolet. "Now
he is happy!" said the mother. "He is a born musician; do come and see
him!" An idea struck Stella. She overcame the inveterate reluctance in
her to see the boy so fatally associated with the misery of Romayne's
life. As Madame Marillac led the way to the door of communication
between the rooms, she quickly took from her pocketbook the bank-notes
with which she had provided herself, and folded them so that they could
be easily concealed in her hand.

She followed the widow into the little room.

The boy was sitting on his bed. He laid down his flageolet and bowed to
Stella. His long silky hair flowed to his shoulders. But one betrayal
of a deranged mind presented itself in his delicate face--his large soft
eyes had the glassy, vacant look which it is impossible to mistake. "Do
you like music, mademoiselle?" he asked, gently. Stella asked him to
play his little vaudeville air again. He proudly complied with the
request. His sister seemed to resent the presence of a stranger. "The
work is at a standstill," she said--and passed into the front room.
Her mother followed her as far as the door, to give her some necessary
directions. Stella seized her opportunity. She put the bank-notes into
the pocket of the boy's jacket, and whispered to him: "Give them to your
mother when I have gone away." Under those circumstances, she felt sure
that Madame Marillac would yield to the temptation. She could resist
much--but she could not resist her son.

The boy nodded, to show that he understood her. The moment after he
laid down his flageolet with an expression of surprise.

"You are trembling!" he said. "Are you frightened?"

She _was_ frightened. The mere sense of touching him had made her
shudder. Did she feel a vague presentiment of some evil to come from
that momentary association with him?

Madame Marillac, turning away again from her daughter, noticed Stella's
agitation. "Surely, my poor boy doesn't alarm you?" she said. Before
Stella could answer, some one outside knocked at the door. Lady Loring's
servant appeared, charged with a carefully-worded message. "If you
please, miss, a friend is waiting for you below." Any excuse for
departure was welcome to Stella at that moment. She promised to call
at the house again in a few days. Madame Marillac kissed her on the
forehead as she took leave. Her nerves were still shaken by that
momentary contact with the boy. Descending the stairs, she trembled so
that she was obliged to hold by the servant's arm. She was not naturally
timid. What did it mean?



Lady Loring's carriage was waiting at the entrance of the street,
with all the children in the neighborhood assembled to admire it. She
impulsively forestalled the servant in opening the carriage door. "Come
in!" she cried. "Oh, Stella, you don't know how you have frightened me!
Good heavens, you look frightened yourself! From what wretches have I
rescued you? Take my smelling bottle, and tell me all about it."

The fresh air, and the reassuring presence of her old friend, revived
Stella. She was able to describe her interview with the General's
family, and to answer the inevitable inquiries which the narrative
called forth. Lady Loring's last question was the most important of the
series: "What are you going to do about Romayne?"

"I am going to write to him the moment we get home."

The answer seemed to alarm Lady Loring. "You won't betray me?" she said.

"What do you mean?"

"You won't let Romayne discover that I have told you about the duel?"

"Certainly not. You shall see my letter before I send it to be
forwarded."

Tranquilized so far, Lady Loring bethought herself next of Major Hynd.
"Can we tell him what you have done?" her ladyship asked.

"Of course we can tell him," Stella replied. "I shall conceal nothing
from Lord Loring, and I shall beg your good husband to write to the
Major. He need only say that I have made the necessary inquiries, after
being informed of the circumstances by you, and that I have communicated
the favorable result to Mr. Romayne."

"It's easy enough to write the letter, my dear. But it's not so easy to
say what Major Hynd may think of you."

"Does it matter to me what Major Hynd thinks?"

Lady Loring looked at Stella with a malicious smile. "Are you equally
indifferent," she said, "to what Romayne's opinion of your conduct may
be?"

Stella's color rose. "Try to be serious, Adelaide, when you speak to
me of Romayne," she answered, gravely. "His good opinion of me is the
breath of my life."

An hour later, the important letter to Romayne was written. Stella
scrupulously informed him of all that had happened--with two necessary
omissions. In the first place, nothing was said of the widow's reference
to her son's death, and of the effect produced by it on his younger
brother. The boy was simply described as being of weak intellect, and
as requiring to be kept under competent control. In the second place,
Romayne was left to infer that ordinary motives of benevolence were the
only motives, on his part, known to Miss Eyrecourt.

The letter ended in these lines:

"If I have taken an undue liberty in venturing, unasked, to appear as
your representative, I can only plead that I meant well. It seemed to me
to be hard on these poor people, and not just to you in your absence, to
interpose any needless delays in carrying out those kind intentions
of yours, which had no doubt been properly considered beforehand. In
forming your opinion of my conduct, pray remember that I have been
careful not to com promise you in any way. You are only known to Madame
Marillac as a compassionate person who offers to help her, and who
wishes to give that help anonymously. If, notwithstanding this, you
disapprove of what I have done, I must not conceal that it will grieve
and humiliate me--I have been so eager to be of use to you, when others
appeared to hesitate. I must find my consolation in remembering that I
have become acquainted with one of the sweetest and noblest of women,
and that I have helped to preserve her afflicted son from dangers in the
future which I cannot presume to estimate. You will complete what I have
only begun. Be forbearing and kind to me if I have innocently offended
in this matter--and I shall gratefully remember the day when I took it
on myself to be Mr. Romayne's almoner."

Lady Loring read these concluding sentences twice over.

"I think the end of your letter will have its effect on him," she said.

"If it brings me a kind letter in reply," Stella answered, "it will have
all the effect I hope for."

"If it does anything," Lady Loring rejoined, "it will do more than
that."

"What more can it do?"

"My dear, it can bring Romayne back to you."

Those hopeful words seemed rather to startle Stella than to encourage
her.

"Bring him back to me?" she repeated "Oh, Adelaide, I wish I could think
as you do!"

"Send the letter to the post," said Lady Loring, "and we shall see."



CHAPTER XIII

FATHER BENWELL'S CORRESPONDENCE.

I.

_Arthur Penrose to Father Benwell._

REVEREND AND DEAR FATHER--When I last had the honor of seeing you,
I received your instructions to report, by letter, the result of my
conversations on religion with Mr. Romayne.

As events have turned out, it is needless to occupy your time by
dwelling at any length on this subject, in writing. Mr. Romayne has been
strongly impressed by the excellent books which I have introduced to his
notice. He raises certain objections, which I have done my best to meet;
and he promises to consider my arguments with his closest attention,
in the time to come. I am happier in the hope of restoring his
mental tranquillity--in other and worthier words, of effecting his
conversion--than I can tell you in any words of mine. I respect and
admire, I may almost say I love, Mr. Romayne.

The details which are wanting in this brief report of progress I shall
have the privilege of personally relating to you. Mr. Romayne no longer
desires to conceal himself from his friends. He received a letter
this morning which has changed all his plans, and has decided him on
immediately returning to London. I am not acquainted with the contents
of the letter, or with the name of the writer; but I am pleased, for Mr.
Romayne's sake, to see that the reading of it has made him happy.

By to-morrow evening I hope to present my respects to you.

II.

_Mr. Bitrake to Father Benwell._

SIR--The inquiries which I have instituted at your request have proved
successful in one respect.

I am in a position to tell you that events in Mr. Winterfield's life
have unquestionably connected him with the young lady named Miss Stella
Eyrecourt.

The attendant circumstances, however, are not so easy to discover.
Judging by the careful report of the person whom I employ, there must
have been serious reasons, in this case, for keeping facts secret and
witnesses out of the way. I mention this, not to discourage you, but to
prepare you for delays that may occur on our way to discovery.

Be pleased to preserve your confidence in me, and to give me time--and I
answer for the result.



BOOK THE SECOND.



CHAPTER I.

THE SANDWICH DANCE.

A FINE spring, after a winter of unusual severity, promised well for the
prospects of the London season.

Among the social entertainments of the time, general curiosity was
excited, in the little sphere which absurdly describes itself under the
big name of Society, by the announcement of a party to be given by Lady
Loring, bearing the quaint title of a Sandwich Dance. The invitations
were issued at an unusually early hour; and it was understood that
nothing so solid and so commonplace as the customary supper was to be
offered to the guests. In a word, Lady Loring's ball was designed as a
bold protest against late hours and heavy midnight meals. The younger
people were all in favor of the proposed reform. Their elders declined
to give an opinion beforehand.

In the small inner circle of Lady Loring's most intimate friends, it
was whispered that an innovation in the matter of refreshments was
contemplated, which would put the tolerant principles of the guests to
a severe test. Miss Notman, the housekeeper, politely threatening
retirement on a small annuity, since the memorable affair of the
oyster-omelet, decided on carrying out her design when she heard that
there was to be no supper. "My attachment to the family can bear a
great deal," she said. "But when Lady Loring deliberately gives a ball,
without a supper, I must hide my head somewhere--and it had better be
out of the house!" Taking Miss Notman as representative of a class,
the reception of the coming experiment looked, to say the least of it,
doubtful.

On the appointed evening, the guests made one agreeable discovery when
they entered the reception rooms. They were left perfectly free to amuse
themselves as they liked.

The drawing-rooms were given up to dancing; the picture gallery was
devoted to chamber music. Chess-players and card-players found remote
and quiet rooms especially prepared for them. People who cared for
nothing but talking were accommodated to perfection in a sphere of
their own. And lovers (in earnest or not in earnest) discovered, in a
dimly-lighted conservatory with many recesses, that ideal of discreet
retirement which combines solitude and society under one roof.

But the ordering of the refreshments failed, as had been foreseen, to
share in the approval conferred on the arrangement of the rooms. The
first impression was unfavorable. Lady Loring, however, knew enough of
human nature to leave results to two potent allies--experience and time.

Excepting the conservatory, the astonished guests could go nowhere
without discovering tables prettily decorated with flowers, and bearing
hundreds of little pure white china plates, loaded with nothing but
sandwiches. All varieties of opinion were consulted. People of
ordinary tastes, who liked to know what they were eating, could choose
conventional beef or ham, encased in thin slices of bread of a delicate
flavor quite new to them. Other persons, less easily pleased,
were tempted by sandwiches of _pate de fois gras_ and by exquisite
combinations of chicken and truffles, reduced to a creamy pulp which
clung to the bread like butter. Foreigners, making experiments, and not
averse to garlic, discovered the finest sausages of Germany and Italy
transformed into English sandwiches. Anchovies and sardines appealed,
in the same unexpected way, to men who desired to create an artificial
thirst--after having first ascertained that the champagne was something
to be fondly remembered and regretted, at other parties, to the end
of the season. The hospitable profusion of the refreshments was
all-pervading and inexhaustible. Wherever the guests might be, or
however they were amusing themselves, there were the pretty little
white plates perpetually tempting them. People eat as they had never eat
before, and even the inveterate English prejudice against anything new
was conquered at last. Universal opinion declared the Sandwich Dance to
be an admirable idea, perfectly carried out.

Many of the guests paid their hostess the compliment of arriving at the
early hour mentioned in the invitations. One of them was Major Hynd.
Lady Loring took her first opportunity of speaking to him apart.

"I hear you were a little angry," she said, "when you were told that
Miss Eyrecourt had taken your inquiries out of your hands."

"I thought it rather a bold proceeding, Lady Loring," the Major replied.
"But as the General's widow turned out to be a lady, in the best sense
of the word, Miss Eyrecourt's romantic adventure has justified itself. I
wouldn't recommend her to run the same risk a second time."

"I suppos e you know what Romayne thinks of it?"

"Not yet. I have been too busy to call on him since I have been in
town. Pardon me, Lady Loring, who is that beautiful creature in the pale
yellow dress? Surely I have seen her somewhere before?"

"That beautiful creature, Major, is the bold young lady of whose conduct
you don't approve."

"Miss Eyrecourt?"

"Yes."

"I retract everything I said!" cried the Major, quite shamelessly. "Such
a woman as that may do anything. She is looking this way. Pray introduce
me."

The Major was introduced, and Lady Loring returned to her guests.

"I think we have met before, Major Hynd," said Stella.

Her voice supplied the missing link in the Major's memory of events.
Remembering how she had looked at Romayne on the deck of the steamboat,
he began dimly to understand Miss Eyrecourt's otherwise incomprehensible
anxiety to be of use to the General's family. "I remember perfectly,"
he answered. "It was on the passage from Boulogne to Folkestone--and my
friend was with me. You and he have no doubt met since that time?" He
put the question as a mere formality. The unexpressed thought in him
was, "Another of them in love with Romayne! and nothing, as usual,
likely to come of it."

"I hope you have forgiven me for going to Camp's Hill in your place,"
said Stella.

"I ought to be grateful to you," the Major rejoined. "No time has been
lost in relieving these poor people--and your powers of persuasion have
succeeded, where mine might have failed. Has Romayne been to see them
himself since his return to London?"

"No. He desires to remain unknown; and he is kindly content, for the
present, to be represented by me."

"For the present." Major Hynd repeated.

A faint flush passed over her delicate complexion. "I have succeeded,"
she resumed, "in inducing Madame Marillac to accept the help
offered through me to her son. The poor creature is safe, under kind
superintendence, in a private asylum. So far, I can do no more."

"Will the mother accept nothing?"

"Nothing, either for herself or her daughter, so long as they can work.
I cannot tell you how patiently and beautifully she speaks of her hard
lot. But her health may give way--and it is possible, before long, that
I may leave London." She paused; the flush deepened on her face. "The
failure of the mother's health may happen in my absence," she continued;
"and Mr. Romayne will ask you to look after the family, from time to
time, while I am away."

"I will do it with pleasure, Miss Eyrecourt. Is Romayne likely to be
here to-night?"

She smiled brightly, and looked away. The Major's curiosity was
excited--he looked in the same direction. There was Romayne, entering
the room, to answer for himself.

What was the attraction which drew the unsocial student to an evening
party? Major Hynd's eyes were on the watch. When Romayne and Stella
shook hands, the attraction stood self-revealed to him, in Miss
Eyrecourt. Recalling the momentary confusion which she had betrayed,
when she spoke of possibly leaving London, and of Romayne's plans for
supplying her place as his almoner, the Major, with military impatience
of delays, jumped to a conclusion. "I was wrong," he thought; "my
impenetrable friend is touched in the right place at last. When the
splendid creature in yellow leaves London, the name on her luggage will
be Mrs. Romayne."

"You are looking quite another man, Romayne!" he said mischievously,
"since we met last."

Stella gently moved away, leaving them to talk freely. Romayne took no
advantage of the circumstance to admit his old friend to his confidence.
Whatever relations might really exist between Miss Eyrecourt and himself
were evidently kept secret thus far. "My health has been a little better
lately," was the only reply he made.

The Major dropped his voice to a whisper.

"Have you not had any return--?" he began.

Romayne stopped him there. "I don't want my infirmities made public," he
whispered back irritably. "Look at the people all round us! When I tell
you I have been better lately, _you_ ought to know what it means."

"Any discoverable reason for the improvement?" persisted the
Major, still bent on getting evidence in support of his own private
conclusions.

"None!" Romayne answered sharply.

But Major Hynd was not to be discouraged by sharp replies. "Miss
Eyrecourt and I have been recalling our first meeting on board the
steamboat," he went on. "Do you remember how indifferent you were to
that beautiful person when I asked you if you knew her? I'm glad to see
that you show better taste to-night. I wish I knew her well enough to
shake hands as you did."

"Hynd! When a young man talks nonsense, his youth is his excuse. At your
time of life, you have passed the excusable age--even in the estimation
of your friends."

With those words Romayne turned away. The incorrigible Major instantly
met the reproof inflicted on him with a smart answer. "Remember," he
said, "that I was the first of your friends to wish you happiness!" He,
too, turned away--in the direction of the champagne and the sandwiches.

Meanwhile, Stella had discovered Penrose, lost in the brilliant
assemblage of guests, standing alone in a corner. It was enough for her
that Romayne's secretary was also Romayne's friend. Passing by titled
and celebrated personages, all anxious to speak to her, she joined the
shy, nervous, sad-looking little man, and did all she could to set him
at his ease.

"I am afraid, Mr. Penrose, this is not a very attractive scene to you."
Having said those kind words, she paused. Penrose was looking at her
confusedly, but with an expression of interest which was new to her
experience of him. "Has Romayne told him?" she wondered inwardly.

"It is a very beautiful scene, Miss Eyrecourt," he said, in his low
quiet tones.

"Did you come here with Mr. Romayne?" she asked.

"Yes. It was by his advice that I accepted the invitation with which
Lady Loring has honored me. I am sadly out of place in such an assembly
as this--but I would make far greater sacrifices to please Mr. Romayne."

She smiled kindly. Attachment so artlessly devoted to the man she loved,
pleased and touched her. In her anxiety to discover a subject which
might interest him, she overcame her antipathy to the spiritual director
of the household. "Is Father Benwell coming to us to-night?" she
inquired.

"He will certainly be here, Miss Eyrecourt, if he can get back to London
in time."

"Has he been long away?"

"Nearly a week."

Not knowing what else to say, she still paid Penrose the compliment of
feigning an interest in Father Benwell.

"Has he a long journey to make in returning to London?" she asked.

"Yes--all the way from Devonshire."

"From South Devonshire?"

"No. North Devonshire--Clovelly."

The smile suddenly left her face. She put another question--without
quite concealing the effort that it cost her, or the anxiety with which
she waited for the reply.

"I know something of the neighborhood of Clovelly," she said. "I wonder
whether Father Benwell is visiting any friends of mine there?"

"I am not able to say, Miss Eyrecourt. The reverend Father's letters are
forwarded to the hotel--I know no more than that."

With a gentle inclination of her head, she turned toward other
guests--looked back--and with a last little courteous attention offered
to him, said, "If you like music, Mr. Penrose, I advise you to go to the
picture gallery. They are going to play a Quartet by Mozart."

Penrose thanked her, noticing that her voice and manner had become
strangely subdued. She made her way back to the room in which the
hostess received her guests. Lady Loring was, for the moment, alone,
resting on a sofa. Stella stooped over her, and spoke in cautiously
lowered tones.

"If Father Benwell comes here to-night," she said, "try to find out what
he has been doing at Clovelly."

"Clovelly?" Lady Loring repeated. "Is that the village near
Winterfield's house?"

"Yes."



CHAPTER II.

THE QUESTION OF MARRIAGE.

As Stella answered Lady Loring, she was smartly tapped on the shoulder
by an eager guest with a fan.

The guest was a very little woman, with twinkling eyes and a perpetual
smile. Nature, corrected by powder and paint, was liber ally displayed
in her arms, her bosom, and the upper part of her back. Such clothes
as she wore, defective perhaps in quantity, were in quality absolutely
perfect. More adorable color, shape, and workmanship never appeared,
even in a milliner's picture-book. Her light hair was dressed with a
fringe and ringlets, on the pattern which the portraits of the time of
Charles the Second have made familiar to us. There was nothing exactly
young or exactly old about her except her voice, which betrayed a faint
hoarseness, attributable possibly to exhaustion produced by untold years
of incessant talking. It might be added that she was as active as a
squirrel and as playful as a kitten. But the lady must be treated with
a certain forbearance of tone, for this good reason--she was Stella's
mother.

Stella turned quickly at the tap of the fan. "Mamma!" she exclaimed,
"how you startle me!"

"My dear child," said Mrs. Eyrecourt, "you are constitutionally
indolent, and you want startling. Go into the next room directly. Mr.
Romayne is looking for you."

Stella drew back a step, and eyed her mother in blank surprise. "Is it
possible that you know him?" she asked.

"Mr. Romayne doesn't go into Society, or we should have met long since,"
Mrs. Eyrecourt replied. "He is a striking person--and I noticed him
when he shook hands with you. That was quite enough for me. I have just
introduced myself to him as your mother. He was a little stately and
stiff, but most charming when he knew who I was. I volunteered to find
you. He was quite astonished. I think he took me for your elder sister.
Not the least like each other--are we, Lady Loring? She takes after her
poor dear father. _He_ was constitutionally indolent. My sweet child,
rouse yourself. You have drawn a prize in the great lottery at last. If
ever a man was in love, Mr. Romayne is that man. I am a physiognomist,
Lady Loring, and I see the passions in the face. Oh, Stella, what a
property! Vange Abbey. I once drove that way when I was visiting in the
neighborhood. Superb! And another fortune (twelve thousand a year and a
villa at Highgate) since the death of his aunt. And my daughter may
be mistress of this if she only plays her cards properly. What
a compensation after all that we suffered through that monster,
Winterfield!"

"Mamma! Pray don't--!"

"Stella, I will _not_ be interrupted, when I am speaking to you for your
own good. I don't know a more provoking person, Lady Loring, than my
daughter--on certain occasions. And yet I love her. I would go through
fire and water for my beautiful child. Only last week I was at a
wedding, and I thought of Stella. The church was crammed to the doors!
A hundred at the wedding breakfast! The bride's lace--there; no language
can describe it. Ten bridesmaids, in blue and silver. Reminded me of
the ten virgins. Only the proportion of foolish ones, this time, was
certainly more than five. However, they looked well. The Archbishop
proposed the health of the bride and bridegroom; so sweetly pathetic.
Some of us cried. I thought of my daughter. Oh, if I could live to see
Stella the central attraction, so to speak, of such a wedding as that.
Only I would have twelve bridesmaids at least, and beat the blue and
silver with green and gold. Trying to the complexion, you will say. But
there are artificial improvements. At least, I am told so. What a house
this would be--a broad hint, isn't it, dear Lady Loring?--what a house
for a wedding, with the drawing-room to assemble in and the picture
gallery for the breakfast. I know the Archbishop. My darling, he
shall marry you. Why _don't_ you go into the next room? Ah, that
constitutional indolence. If you only had my energy, as I used to say to
your poor father. _Will_ you go? Yes, dear Lady Loring, I should like a
glass of champagne, and another of those delicious chicken sandwiches.
If you don't go, Stella, I shall forget every consideration of
propriety, and, big as you are, I shall push you out."

Stella yielded to necessity. "Keep her quiet, if you can," she whispered
to Lady Loring, in the moment of silence that followed. Even Mrs.
Eyrecourt was not able to talk while she was drinking champagne.

In the next room Stella found Romayne. He looked careworn and irritable,
but brightened directly when she approached him.

"My mother has been speaking to you," she said. "I am afraid--"

He stopped her there. "She _is_ your mother," he interposed, kindly.
"Don't think that I am ungrateful enough to forget that."

She took his arm, and looked at him with all her heart in her eyes.
"Come into a quieter room," she whispered.

Romayne led her away. Neither of them noticed Penrose as they left the
room.

He had not moved since Stella had spoken to him. There he remained in
his corner, absorbed in thought--and not in happy thought, as his face
would have plainly betrayed to any one who had cared to look at him.
His eyes sadly followed the retiring figures of Stella and Romayne. The
color rose on his haggard cheeks. Like most men who are accustomed to
live alone, he had the habit, when he was strongly excited, of speaking
to himself. "No," he said, as the unacknowledged lovers disappeared
through the door, "it is an insult to ask me to do it!" He turned the
other way, escaped Lady Loring's notice in the reception-room, and left
the house.

Romayne and Stella passed through the card-room and the chess-room,
turned into a corridor, and entered the conservatory.

For the first time the place was a solitude. The air of a newly-invented
dance, faintly audible through the open windows of the ballroom above,
had proved an irresistible temptation. Those who knew the dance were
eager to exhibit themselves. Those who had only heard of it were
equally anxious to look on and learn. Even toward the latter end of the
nineteenth century the youths and maidens of Society can still be in
earnest--when the object in view is a new dance.

What would Major Hynd have said if he had seen Romayne turn into one of
the recesses of the conservatory, in which there was a seat which just
held two? But the Major had forgotten his years and his family, and he
too was one of the spectators in the ballroom.

"I wonder," said Stella, "whether you know how I feel those kind words
of yours when you spoke of my mother. Shall I tell you?"

She put her arm round his neck and kissed him. He was a man new to love,
in the nobler sense of the word. The exquisite softness in the touch of
her lips, the delicious fragrance of her breath, intoxicated him.
Again and again he returned the kiss. She drew back; she recovered her
self-possession with a suddenness and a certainty incomprehensible to
a man. From the depths of tenderness she passed to the shallows of
frivolity. In her own defense she was almost as superficial as her
mother, in less than a moment.

"What would Mr. Penrose say if he saw you?" she whispered.

"Why do you speak of Penrose? Have you seen him to-night?"

"Yes--looking sadly out of his element, poor man. I did my best to set
him at his ease--because I know _you_ like him."

"Dear Stella!"

"No, not again! I am speaking seriously now. Mr. Penrose looked at me
with a strange kind of interest--I can't describe it. Have you taken him
into our confidence?"

"He is so devoted--he has such a true interest in me," said Romayne--"I
really felt ashamed to treat him like a stranger. On our journey to
London I did own that it was your charming letter which had decided
me on returning. I did say, 'I must tell her myself how well she has
understood me, and how deeply I feel her kindness.' Penrose took my
hand, in his gentle, considerate way. 'I understand you, too,' he
said--and that was all that passed between us."

"Nothing more, since that time?"

"Nothing."

"Not a word of what we said to each other when we were alone last week
in the picture gallery?"

"Not a word. I am self-tormentor enough to distrust myself, even now.
God knows I have concealed nothing from you; and yet--Am I not selfishly
thinking of my own happiness, Stella, when I ought to be thinking only
of you? You know, my angel, with what a life you must associate yourself
if you marry me. Are you really sure that you have love enough and
courage enough to be my wife?"

She rested her head caressingly on his shoulder, and looked up at him
with her charming smile.

"How many times must I say it," she asked, "before you will believe me?
Once more--I have love enough and courage enough to be your wife; and I
knew it, Lewis, the first time I saw you! Will _that_ confession satisfy
your scruples? And will you promise never again to doubt yourself or
me?"

Romayne promised, and sealed the promise--unresisted this time--with a
kiss. "When are we to be married?" he whispered.

She lifted her head from his shoulder with a sigh. "If I am to answer
you honestly," she replied, "I must speak of my mother, before I speak
of myself."

Romayne submitted to the duties of his new position, as well as he
understood them. "Do you mean that you have told your mother of our
engagement?" he said. "In that case, is it my duty or yours--I am very
ignorant in these matters--to consult her wishes? My own idea is, that
I ought to ask her if she approves of me as her son-in-law, and that you
might then speak to her of the marriage."

Stella thought of Romayne's tastes, all in favor of modest retirement,
and of her mother's tastes, all in favor of ostentation and display.
She frankly owned the result produced in her own mind. "I am afraid to
consult my mother about our marriage," she said.

Romayne looked astonished. "Do you think Mrs. Eyrecourt will disapprove
of it?" he asked.

Stella was equally astonished on her side. "Disapprove of it?" she
repeated. "I know for certain that my mother will be delighted."

"Then where is the difficulty?"

There was but one way of definitely answering that question. Stella
boldly described her mother's idea of a wedding--including the
Archbishop, the twelve bridesmaids in green and gold, and the hundred
guests at breakfast in Lord Loring's picture gallery. Romayne's
consternation literally deprived him, for the moment, of the power of
speech. To say that he looked at Stella, as a prisoner in "the condemned
cell" might have looked at the sheriff, announcing the morning of his
execution, would be to do injustice to the prisoner. He receives _his_
shock without flinching; and, in proof of his composure, celebrates
his wedding with the gallows by a breakfast which he will not live to
digest.

"If you think as your mother does," Romayne began, as soon as he had
recovered his self-possession, "no opinion of mine shall stand in the
way--" He could get no further. His vivid imagination saw the Archbishop
and the bridesmaids, heard the hundred guests and their dreadful
speeches: his voice faltered, in spite of himself.

Stella eagerly relieved him. "My darling, I don't think as my mother
does," she interposed, tenderly. "I am sorry to say we have very few
sympathies in common. Marriages, as I think, ought to be celebrated as
privately as possible--the near and dear relations present, and no
one else. If there must be rejoicings and banquets, and hundreds of
invitations, let them come when the wedded pair are at home after the
honeymoon, beginning life in earnest. These are odd ideas for a woman to
have--but they _are_ my ideas, for all that."

Romayne's face brightened. "How few women possess your fine sense and
your delicacy of feeling!" he exclaimed "Surely your mother must give
way, when she hears we are both of one mind about our marriage."

Stella knew her mother too well to share the opinion thus expressed.
Mrs. Eyrecourt's capacity for holding to her own little ideas, and for
persisting (where her social interests were concerned) in trying to
insinuate those ideas into the minds of other persons, was a capacity
which no resistance, short of absolute brutality, could overcome. She
was perfectly capable of worrying Romayne (as well as her daughter) to
the utmost limits of human endurance, in the firm conviction that she
was bound to convert all heretics, of their way of thinking, to the
orthodox faith in the matter of weddings. Putting this view of the case
with all possible delicacy, in speaking of her mother, Stella expressed
herself plainly enough, nevertheless, to enlighten Romayne.

He made another suggestion. "Can we marry privately," he said, "and tell
Mrs. Eyrecourt of it afterward?"

This essentially masculine solution of the difficulty was at once
rejected. Stella was too good a daughter to suffer her mother to be
treated with even the appearance of disrespect. "Oh," she said, "think
how mortified and distressed my mother would be! She _must_ be present
at my marriage."

An idea of a compromise occurred to Romayne. "What do you say," he
proposed, "to arranging for the marriage privately--and then telling
Mrs. Eyrecourt only a day or two beforehand, when it would be too late
to send out invitations? If your mother would be disappointed--"

"She would be angry," Stella interposed.

"Very well--lay all the blame on me. Besides, there might be two other
persons present, whom I am sure Mrs. Eyrecourt is always glad to meet.
You don't object to Lord and Lady Loring?"

"Object? They are my dearest friends, as well as yours!"

"Any one else, Stella?"

"Any one, Lewis, whom _you_ like.

"Then I say--no one else. My own love, when may it be? My lawyers can
get the settlements ready in a fortnight, or less. Will you say in a
fortnight?"

His arm was round her waist; his lips were touching her lovely neck. She
was not a woman to take refuge in the commonplace coquetries of the sex.
"Yes," she said, softly, "if you wish it." She rose and withdrew herself
from him. "For my sake, we must not be here together any longer, Lewis."
As she spoke, the music in the ballroom ceased. Stella ran out of the
conservatory.

The first person she encountered, on returning to the reception-room,
was Father Benwell.



CHAPTER III.

THE END OF THE BALL.

THE priest's long journey did not appear to have fatigued him. He was
as cheerful and as polite as ever--and so paternally attentive to Stella
that it was quite impossible for her to pass him with a formal bow.

"I have come all the way from Devonshire," he said. "The train has been
behind time as usual, and I am one of the late arrivals in consequence.
I miss some familiar faces at this delightful party. Mr. Romayne, for
instance. Perhaps he is not one of the guests?"

"Oh, yes."

"Has he gone away?"

"Not that I know of."

The tone of her replies warned Father Benwell to let Romayne be. He
tried another name.

"And Arthur Penrose?" he inquired next.

"I think Mr. Penrose has left us."

As she answered she looked toward Lady Loring. The hostess was the
center of a circle of ladles and gentlemen. Before she was at liberty,
Father Benwell might take his departure. Stella resolved to make the
attempt for herself which she had asked Lady Loring to make for her. It
was better to try, and to be defeated, than not to try at all.

"I asked Mr. Penrose what part of Devonshire you were visiting," she
resumed, assuming her more gracious manner. "I know something myself of
the north coast, especially the neighborhood of Clovelly."

Not the faintest change passed over the priest's face; his fatherly
smile had never been in a better state of preservation.

"Isn't it a charming place?" he said with enthusiasm. "Clovelly is the
most remarkable and most beautiful village in England. I have so enjoyed
my little holiday--excursions by sea and excursions by land--you know I
feel quite young again?"

He lifted his eyebrows playfully, and rubbed his plump hands one over
the other with such an intolerably innocent air of enjoyment that Stella
positively hated him. She felt her capacity for self-restraint failing
her. Under the influence of strong emotion her thoughts lost their
customary discipline. In attempting to fathom Father Benwell, she was
conscious of having undertaken a task which required more pliable moral
qualities than she possessed. To her own unutterable annoyance, she was
at a loss what to say next.

At that critical moment her mother appeared--eager for news of the
conquest of Romayne.

"My dear child, how pale you look!" said Mrs. Eyrecourt. "Come with me
directly--you must have a glass of wine."

This dexterous device for entrapping Stella into a private conversation
failed. "Not now, mamma, thank you," she said.

Father Benwell, on the point of discreetly withdrawing, stopped, and
looked at Mrs. Eyrecourt with an appearance of respectful interest. As
things were, it might not have been worth his while to take the trouble
of discovering her. But when she actually placed herself in his way, the
chance of turning Mrs. Eyrecourt to useful account was not a chance to
be neglected. "Your mother?" he said to Stella. "I should feel honored
if you will introduce me."

Having (not very willingly) performed the ceremony of presentation,
Stella drew back a little. She had no desire to take any part in the
conversation that might follow--but she had her own reasons for waiting
near enough to hear it.

In the meanwhile, Mrs. Eyrecourt turned on her inexhaustible flow
of small-talk with her customary facility. No distinction of persons
troubled her; no convictions of any sort stood in her way. She was
equally ready (provided she met him in good society) to make herself
agreeable to a Puritan or a Papist.

"Delighted to make your acquaintance, Father Benwell. Surely I met you
at that delightful evening at the Duke's? I mean when we welcomed the
Cardinal back from Rome. Dear old man--if one may speak so familiarly
of a Prince of the Church. How charmingly he bears his new honors.
Such patriarchal simplicity, as every one remarked. Have you seen him
lately?"

The idea of the Order to which he belonged feeling any special interest
in a Cardinal (except when they made him of some use to them) privately
amused Father Benwell. "How wise the Church was," he thought, "in
inventing a spiritual aristocracy. Even this fool of a woman is
impressed by it." His spoken reply was true to his assumed character as
one of the inferior clergy. "Poor priests like me, madam, see but little
of Princes of the Church in the houses of Dukes." Saying this with
the most becoming humility, he turned the talk in a more productive
direction, before Mrs. Eyrecourt could proceed with her recollections of
"the evening at the Duke's."

"Your charming daughter and I have been talking about Clovelly,"
he continued. "I have just been spending a little holiday in that
delightful place. It was a surprise to me, Mrs. Eyrecourt, to see
so many really beautiful country seats in the neighborhood. I was
particularly struck--you know it, of course?--by Beaupark House."

Mrs. Eyrecourt's little twinging eyes suddenly became still and steady.
It was only for a moment. But that trifling change boded ill for the
purpose which the priest had in view. Even the wits of a fool can be
quickened by contact with the world. For many years Mrs. Eyrecourt had
held her place in society, acting under an intensely selfish sense of
her own interests, fortified by those cunning instincts which grow best
in a barren intellect. Perfectly unworthy of being trusted with secrets
which only concerned other people, this frivolous creature could be the
unassailable guardian of secrets which concerned herself. The instant
the priest referred indirectly to Winterfield, by speaking of Beaupark:
House, her instincts warned her, as if in words:--Be careful for
Stella's sake!

"Oh, yes," said Mrs. Eyrecourt. "I know Beaupark House; but--may I make
a confession?" she added, with her sweetest smile.

Father Benwell caught her tone, with his customary tact. "A confession
at a ball is a novelty, even in my experience," he answered with _his_
sweetest smile.

"How good of you to encourage me!" proceeded Mrs. Eyrecourt. "No, thank
you, I don't want to sit down. My confession won't take long--and I
really must give that poor pale daughter of mine a glass of wine. A
student of human nature like you--they say all priests are students of
human nature; accustomed of course to be consulted in difficulties,
and to hear _real_ confessions--must know that we poor women are sadly
subject to whims and caprices. We can't resist them as men do; and the
dear good men generally make allowances for us. Well, do you know that
place of Mr. Winterfield's is one of my caprices? Oh, dear, I speak
carelessly; I ought to have said the place represents one of my
caprices. In short. Father Benwell, Beaupark House is perfectly odious
to me, and I think Clovelly the most overrated place in the world. I
haven't the least reason to give, but so it is. Excessively foolish of
me. It's like hysterics, I can't help it; I'm sure you will forgive me.
There isn't a place on the habitable globe that I am not ready to feel
interested in, except detestable Devonshire. I am so sorry you went
there. The next time you have a holiday, take my advice. Try the
Continent."

"I should like it of all things," said Father Benwell. "Only I don't
speak French. Allow me to get Miss Eyrecourt a glass of wine."

He spoke with the most perfect temper and tranquillity. Having paid his
little attention to Stella, and having relieved her of the empty glass,
he took his leave, with a parting request thoroughly characteristic of
the man.

"Are you staying in town, Mrs. Eyrecourt?" he asked.

"Oh, of course, at the height of the season!"

"May I have the honor of calling on you--and talking a little more about
the Continent?"

If he had said it in so many words he could hardly have informed Mrs.
Eyrecourt more plainly that he thoroughly understood her, and that he
meant to try again. Strong in the worldly training of half a lifetime,
she at once informed him of her address, with the complimentary phrases
proper to the occasion. "Five o'clock tea on Wednesdays, Father Benwell.
Don't forget!"

The moment he was gone, she drew her daughter into a quiet corner.
"Don't be frightened, Stella. That sly old person has some interest in
trying to find out about Winterfield. Do you know why?"

"Indeed I don't, mamma. I hate him!"

"Oh, hush! hush! Hate him as much as you like; but always be civil to
him. Tell me--have you been in the conservatory with Romayne?"

"Yes."

"All going on well?"

"Yes."

"My sweet child! Dear, dear me, the wine has done you no good; you're as
pale as ever. Is it that priest? Oh, pooh, pooh, leave Father Benwell to
me."



CHAPTER IV.

IN THE SMALL HOURS.

WHEN Stella left the conservatory, the attraction of the ball for
Romayne was at an end. He went back to his rooms at the hotel.

Penrose was waiting to speak to him. Romayne noticed signs of suppressed
agitation in his secretary's face. "Has anything happened?" he inquired.

"Nothing of any importance," Penrose answered, in sad subdued tones. "I
only wanted to ask you for leave of absence."

"Certainly. Is it for a long time?"

Penrose hesitated. "You have a new life opening before you," he said.
"If your experience of that life is--as I hope and pray it may be--a
happy one, you will need me no longer; we may not meet again." His voice
began to tremble; he could say no more.

"Not meet again?" Romayne repeated. "My dear Penrose, if _you_ forget
how many happy days I owe to your companionship, _my_ memory is to be
trusted. Do you really know what my new life is to be? Shall I tell you
what I have said to Stella to-night?"

Penrose lifted his hand with a gesture of entreaty.

"Not a word!" he said, eagerly. "Do me one more kindness--leave me to be
prepared (as I am prepared) for the change that is to come, without
any confidence on your part to enlighten me further. Don't think me
ungrateful. I have reasons for saying what I have just said--I cannot
mention what they are--I can only tell you they are serious reasons.
You have spoken of my devotion to you. If you wish to reward me a
hundred-fold more than I deserve, bear in mind our conversations on
religion, and keep the books I asked you to read as gifts from a friend
who loves you with his whole heart. No new duties that you can undertake
are incompatible with the higher interests of your soul. Think of me
sometimes. When I leave you I go back to a lonely life. My poor heart is
full of your brotherly kindness at this last moment when I may be saying
good-by forever. And what is my one consolation? What helps me to bear
my hard lot? The Faith that I hold! Remember that, Romayne. If there
comes a time of sorrow in the future, remember that."

Romayne was more than surprised, he was shocked. "Why must you leave
me?" he asked.

"It is best for you and for _her,_" said Penrose, "that I should
withdraw myself from your new life."

He held out his hand. Romayne refused to let him go. "Penrose!" he said,
"I can't match your resignation. Give me something to look forward to. I
must and will see you again."

Penrose smiled sadly. "You know that my career in life depends wholly
on my superiors," he answered. "But if I am still in England--and if you
have sorrows in the future that I can share and alleviate--only let me
know it. There is nothing within the compass of my power which I will
not do for your sake. God bless and prosper you! Good-by!"

In spite of his fortitude, the tears rose in his eyes. He hurried out of
the room.

Romayne sat down at his writing-table, and hid his face in his hands.
He had entered the room with the bright image of Stella in his mind.
The image had faded from it now--the grief that was in him not even the
beloved woman could share. His thoughts were wholly with the brave
and patient Christian who had left him--the true man, whose spotless
integrity no evil influence could corrupt. By what inscrutable fatality
do some men find their way into spheres that are unworthy of them? Oh,
Penrose, if the priests of your Order were all like you, how easily I
should be converted! These were Romayne's thoughts, in the stillness of
the first hours of the morning. The books of which his lost friend had
spoken were close by him on the table. He opened one of them, and turned
to a page marked by pencil lines. His sensitive nature was troubled to
its inmost depths. The confession of that Faith which had upheld Penrose
was before him in words. The impulse was strong in him to read those
words, and think over them again.



He trimmed his lamp, and bent his mind on his book. While he was still
reading, the ball at Lord Loring's house came to its end. Stella and
Lady Loring were alone together, talking of him, before they retired to
their rooms.

"Forgive me for owning it plainly," said Lady Loring--"I think you and
your mother are a little too ready to suspect Father Benwell without
any discoverable cause. Thousands of people go to Clovelly, and Beaupark
House is one of the show-places in the neighborhood. Is there a little
Protestant prejudice in this new idea of yours?"

Stella made no reply; she seemed to be lost in her own thoughts.

Lady Loring went on.

"I am open to conviction, my dear. If you will only tell me what
interest Father Benwell can have in knowing about you and Winterfield--"

Stella suddenly looked up. "Let us speak of another person," she said;
"I own I don't like Father Benwell. As you know, Romayne has concealed
nothing from me. Ought I to have any concealments from _him?_ Ought I
not to tell him about Winterfield?"

Lady Loring started. "You astonish me," she said. "What right has
Romayne to know it?"

"What right have I to keep it a secret from him?"

"My dear Stella! if you had been in any way to blame in that miserable
matter, I should be the last person in the world to advise you to keep
it a secret. But you are innocent of all blame. No man--not even the
man who is soon to be your husband--has a right to know what you have
so unjustly suffered. Think of the humiliation of even speaking of it to
Romayne!"

"I daren't think of it," cried Stella passionately. "But if it is my
duty--"

"It is your duty to consider the consequences," Lady Loring interposed.
"You don't know how such things sometimes rankle in a man's mind. He may
be perfectly willing to do you justice--and yet, there may be moments
when he would doubt if you had told him the whole truth. I speak with
the experience of a married woman. Don't place yourself in _that_
position toward your husband, if you wish for a happy married life."

Stella was not quite convinced yet. "Suppose Romayne finds it out?" she
said.

"He can't possibly find it out. I detest Winterfield, but let us do him
justice. He is no fool. He has his position in the world to keep up--and
that is enough of itself to close his lips. And as for others, there are
only three people now in England who _could_ betray you. I suppose you
can trust your mother, and Lord Loring, and me?"

It was needless to answer such a question as that. Before Stella could
speak again, Lord Loring's voice was audible outside the door. "What!
talking still," he exclaimed. "Not in bed yet?"

"Come in!" cried his wife. "Let us hear what my husband thinks," she
said to Stella.

Lord Loring listened with the closest attention while the subject under
discussion was communicated to him. When the time came to give his
opinion, he sided unhesitatingly with his wife.

"If the fault was yours, even in the slightest degree," he said to
Stella, "Romayne would have a right to be taken into your confidence.
But, my dear child, we, who know the truth, know you to be a pure and
innocent woman. You go to Romayne in every way worthy of him, and you
know that he loves you. If you did tell him that miserable story, he
could only pity you. Do you want to be pitied?"

Those last unanswerable words brought the debate to an end. From that
moment the subject was dropped.



There was still one other person among the guests at the ball who
was waking in the small hours of the morning. Father Benwell,
wrapped comfortably in his dressing gown, was too hard at work on his
correspondence to think of his bed. With one exception, all the letters
that he had written thus far were closed, directed and stamped for the
post. The letter that he kept open he was now engaged in reconsidering
and correcting. It was addressed as usual to the Secretary of the Order
at Rome; and, when it had undergone the final revision, it contained
these lines:

My last letter informed you of Romayne's return to London and to Miss
Eyrecourt. Let me entreat our reverend brethren to preserve perfect
tranquillity of mind, in spite of this circumstance. The owner of Vange
Abbey is not married yet. If patience and perseverance on my part win
their fair reward, Miss Eyrecourt shall never be his wife.

But let me not conceal the truth. In the uncertain future that lies
before us, I have no one to depend on but myself. Penrose is no longer
to be trusted; and the exertions of the agent to whom I committed my
inquiries are exertions that have failed.

I will dispose of the case of Penrose first.

The zeal with which this young man has undertaken the work of conversion
intrusted to him has, I regret to say, not been fired by devotion to
the interests of the Church, but by a dog-like affection for Romayne.
Without waiting for my permission, Penrose has revealed himself in his
true character as a priest. And, more than this, he has not only
refused to observe the proceedings of Romayne and Miss Eyrecourt--he has
deliberately closed his ears to the confidence which Romayne wished to
repose in him, on the ground that I might have ordered him to repeat
that confidence to me.

To what use can we put this poor fellow's ungovernable sense of honor
and gratitude? Under present circumstances, he is clearly of little use
to us. I have therefore given him time to think. That is to say, I have
not opposed his leaving London, to assist in the spiritual care of a
country district. It will be a question for the future, whether we may
not turn his enthusiasm to good account in a foreign mission. However,
as it is always possible that his influence may still be of use to us,
I venture to suggest keeping him within our reach until Romayne's
conversion has actually taken place. Don't suppose that the present
separation between them is final; I will answer for their meeting again.



I may now proceed to the failure of my agent, and to the course of
action that I have adopted in consequence.

The investigations appear to have definitely broken down at the seaside
village of Clovelly, in the neighborhood of Mr. Winterfield's country
seat. Knowing that I could depend upon the information which associated
this gentleman with Miss Eyrecourt, under compromising circumstances of
some sort, I decided on seeing Mr. Winterfield, and judging for myself.

The agent's report informed me that the person who had finally baffled
his inquiries was an aged Catholic priest, long resident at Clovelly.
His name is Newbliss, and he is much respected among the Catholic gentry
in that part of Devonshire. After due consideration, I obtained a
letter of introduction to my reverend colleague, and traveled to
Clovelly--telling my friends here that I was taking a little holiday, in
the interests of my health.

I found Father Newbliss a venerable and reticent son of the Church--with
one weak point, however, to work on, which was entirely beyond the reach
of the otherwise astute person charged with my inquiries. My reverend
friend is a scholar, and is inordinately proud of his learning. I am a
scholar too. In that capacity I first found my way to his sympathies,
and then gently encouraged his pride. The result will appear in certain
discoveries, which I number as follows:

1. The events which connect Mr. Winterfield with Miss Eyrecourt happened
about two years since, and had their beginning at Beaupark House.

2. At this period, Miss Eyrecourt and her mother were staying at
Beaupark House. The general impression in the neighborhood was that Mr.
Winterfield and Miss Eyrecourt were engaged to be married.

3. Not long afterward, Miss Eyrecourt and her mother surprised the
neighborhood by suddenly leaving Beaupark House. Their destination was
supposed to be London.

4. Mr. Winterfield himself next left his country seat for the Continent.
His exact destination was not mentioned to any one. The steward, soon
afterward, dismissed all the servants, and the house was left empty for
more than a year.

5. At the end of that time Mr. Winterfield returned alone to Beaupark
House, and told nobody how, or where, he had passed the long interval of
his absence.

6. Mr. Winterfield remains, to the present day, an unmarried man.

Having arrived at these preliminary discoveries, it was time to try what
I could make of Mr. Winterfield next.

Among the other good things which this gentleman has inherited is a
magnificent library collected by his father. That one learned man
should take another learned man to see the books was a perfectly natural
proceeding. My introduction to the master of the house followed my
introduction to the library almost as a matter of course.

I am about to surprise you, as I was myself surprised. In all my long
experience, Mr. Winterfield is, I think, the most fascinating person
I ever met with. Genial, unassuming manners, a prepossessing personal
appearance, a sweet temper, a quaint humor delightfully accompanied by
natural refinement--such are the characteristic qualities of the man
from whom I myself saw Miss Eyrecourt (accidentally meeting him in
public) recoil with dismay and disgust! It is absolutely impossible to
look at him, and to believe him to be capable of a cruel or dishonorable
action. I never was so puzzled in my life.

You may be inclined to think that I am misled by a false impression,
derived from the gratifying welcome that I received as a friend of
Father Newbliss. I will not appeal to my knowledge of human nature--I
will refer to the unanswerable evidence of Mr. Winterfield's poorer
neighbors. Wherever I went, in the village or out of it, if I mentioned
his name, I produced a universal outburst of admiration and gratitude.
"There never was such a friend to poor people, and there never can
be such another to the end of the world." Such was a fisherman's
description of him; and the one cry of all the men and women near us
answered, "That's the truth!"

And yet there is something wrong--for this plain reason, that there is
something to be concealed in the past lives of Mr. Winterfield and Miss
Eyrecourt.

Under these perplexing circumstances, what use have I made of my
opportunities? I am going to surprise you again--I have mentioned
Romayne's name to Mr. Winterfield; and I have ascertained that they are,
so far, perfect strangers to one another--and that is all.

The little incident of mentioning Romayne arose out of my examination of
the library. I discovered certain old volumes, which may one day be
of use to him, if he continues his contemplated work on the Origin of
Religions. Hearing me express myself to this effect, Mr. Winterfield
replied with the readiest kindness:

"I can't compare myself to my excellent father," he said; "but I have
at least inherited his respect for the writers of books. My library is a
treasure which I hold in trust for the interests of literature. Pray say
so, from me, to your friend Mr. Romayne."

And what does this amount to?--you will ask. My reverend friend,
it offers me an opportunity, in the future, of bringing Romayne and
Winterfield together. Do you see the complications which may ensue? If
I can put no other difficulty in Miss Eyrecourt's way, I think there
is fruitful promise of a scandal of some kind arising out of the
introduction to each other of those two men. You will agree with me that
a scandal may prove a valuable obstacle in the way of a marriage.

Mr. Winterfield has kindly invited me to call on him when he is next in
London. I may then have opportunities of putting questions which I could
not venture to ask on a short acquaintance.

In the meantime, I have obtained another introduction since my return to
town. I have been presented to Miss Eyrecourt's mother, and I am invited
to drink tea with her on Wednesday. My next letter may tell you--what
Penrose ought to have discovered--whether Romayne has been already
entrapped into a marriage engagement or not.

Farewell for the present. Remind the Reverend Fathers, with my respects,
that I possess one of the valuable qualities of an Englishman--I never
know when I am beaten.



BOOK THE THIRD.



CHAPTER I.

THE HONEYMOON.

MORE than six weeks had passed. The wedded lovers were still enjoying
their honeymoon at Vange Abbey.

Some offense had been given, not only to Mrs. Eyrecourt, but to friends
of her way of thinking, by the strictly private manner in which the
marriage had been celebrated. The event took everybody by surprise when
the customary advertisement appeared in the newspapers. Foreseeing the
unfavorable impression that might be produced in some quarters, Stella
had pleaded for a timely retreat to the seclusion of Romayne's country
house. The will of the bride being, as usual, the bridegroom's law, to
Vange they retired accordingly.

On one lovely moonlight night, early in July, Mrs. Romayne left her
husband on the Belvidere, described in Major Hynd's narrative, to give
the housekeeper certain instructions relating to the affairs of the
household. Half an hour later, as she was about to ascend again to the
top of the house, one of the servants informed her that "the master had
just left the Belvidere, and had gone into his study."

Crossing the inner hall, on her way to the study, Stella noticed an
unopened letter, addressed to Romayne, lying on a table in a corner. He
had probably laid it aside and forgotten it. She entered his room with
the letter in her hand.

The only light was a reading lamp, with the shade so lowered that the
corners of the study were left in obscurity. In one of these corners
Romayne was dimly visible, sitting with his head sunk on his breast. He
never moved when Stella opened the door. At first she thought he might
be asleep.

"Do I disturb you, Lewis?" she asked softly.

"No, my dear."

There was a change in the tone of his voice, which his wife's quick ear
detected. "I am afraid you are not well," she said anxiously.

"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 truth.

"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?



CHAPTER II.

EVENTS AT TEN ACRES.

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 exhaustion.

"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 yourself?"

"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 whispered.

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 report.

"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?"

"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 are."

"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 husband."


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.



CHAPTER III.

FATHER BENWELL AND THE BOOK.

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 library?"

"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 acknowledgments.

"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_ come!

"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 smoke?"

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. Peter's."

"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 Berrick?"

"Yes."

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 dogs."

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."



CHAPTER IV.

THE END OF THE HONEYMOON.

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

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 ease.

"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 anticipated.

"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 whisper.

"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 hand.

"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.

"Certainly!"

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.



CHAPTER V.

FATHER BENWELL'S CORRESPONDENCE.

_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 thought.

"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 him?"

"No."

"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 again."

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 father.

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 manner.

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 Winterfield?"

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.

II.

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 reasonable!"

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

"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 me.

"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 asylum.

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
going 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 broken.

"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 friend."

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 motto:--THE END JUSTIFIES THE MEANS.

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.

*****

THE STOLEN PAPERS.--(COPIES.)

_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 submit.

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 me.

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. Farewell.

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

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,

CHARLES FENNICK.

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 London.

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.



BOOK THE FOURTH.



CHAPTER I.

THE BREACH IS WIDENED.

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 you."

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

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

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 on with my book, how I miss the help and
sympathy of Penrose. The very sound of his voice used to encourage me.
Come, Stella, give me a kiss--and let us, as the children say, make it
up!"

He rose from his writing-table. She met him more than half way, and
pressed all her love--and perhaps a little of her fear--on his lips.
He returned the kiss as warmly as it was given; and then, unhappily for
both of them, he went back to the subject.

"My own love," he said, "try to like my friend for my sake; and be
tolerant of other forms of Christianity besides the form which happens
to be yours."

Her smiling lips closed; she turned from him. With the sensitive
selfishness of a woman's love, she looked on Penrose as a robber who had
stolen the sympathies which should have been wholly hers. As she moved
away, her quick observation noticed the open book on the desk, with
notes and lines in pencil on the margin of the page. What had Romayne
been reading which interested him in _that_ way? If he had remained
silent, she would have addressed the inquiry to him openly. But he was
hurt on his side by the sudden manner of her withdrawal from him. He
spoke--and his tone was colder than ever.

"I won't attempt to combat your prejudices," he said. "But one thing I
must seriously ask of you. When my friend Penrose comes here to-morrow,
don't treat him as you treated Mr. Winterfield."

There was a momentary paleness in her face which looked like fear, but
it passed away again. She confronted him firmly with steady eyes.

"Why do you refer again to that?" she asked. "Is--" (she hesitated
and recovered herself)--"Is Mr. Winterfield another devoted friend of
yours?"

He walked to the door, as if he could hardly trust his temper if he
answered her--stopped--and, thinking better of it, turned toward her
again.

"We won't quarrel, Stella," he rejoined; "I will only say I am sorry you
don't appreciate my forbearance. Your reception of Mr. Winterfield has
lost me the friendship of a man whom I sincerely liked, and who might
have assisted my literary labors. You were ill at the time, and anxious
about Mrs. Eyrecourt. I respected your devotion to your mother. I
remembered your telling me, when you first went away to nurse her, that
your conscience accused you of having sometimes thoughtlessly neglected
your mother in her days of health and good spirits, and I admired the
motive of atonement which took you to her bedside. For those reasons
I shrank from saying a word that might wound you. But, because I was
silent, it is not the less true that you surprised and disappointed me.
Don't do it again! Whatever you may privately think of Catholic priests,
I once more seriously request you not to let Penrose see it."

He left the room.

She stood, looking after him as he closed the door, like a woman
thunderstruck. Never yet had he looked at her as he looked when he spoke
his last warning words. With a heavy sigh she roused herself. The
vague dread with which his tone rather than his words had inspired her,
strangely associated itself with the momentary curiosity which she had
felt on noticing the annotated book that lay on his desk.

She snatched up the volume and looked at the open page. It contained
the closing paragraphs of an eloquent attack on Protestantism, from the
Roman Catholic point of view. With trembling hands she turned back to
the title-page. It presented this written inscription: "To Lewis Romayne
from his attached friend and servant, Arthur Penrose."

"God help me!" she said to herself; "the priest has got between us
already!"



CHAPTER II.

A CHRISTIAN JESUIT.

ON the next day Penrose arrived on his visit to Romayne.

The affectionate meeting between the two men tested Stella's
self-control as it had never been tried yet. She submitted to the ordeal
with the courage of a woman whose happiness depended on her outward
graciousness of manner toward her husband's friend. Her reception of
Penrose, viewed as an act of refined courtesy, was beyond reproach. When
she found her opportunity of leaving the room, Romayne gratefully opened
the door for her. "Thank you!" he whispered, with a look which was
intended to reward her.

She only bowed to him, and took refuge in her own room.

Even in trifles, a woman's nature is degraded by the falsities of
language and manner which the artificial condition of modern society
exacts from her. When she yields herself to more serious deceptions,
intended to protect her dearest domestic interests, the mischief is
increased in proportion. Deceit, which is the natural weapon of defense
used by the weak creature against the strong, then ceases to be confined
within the limits assigned by the sense of self-respect and by the
restraints of education. A woman in this position will descend,
self-blinded, to acts of meanness which would be revolting to her if
they were related of another person.

Stella had already begun the process of self-degradation by writing
secretly to Winterfield. It was only to warn him of the danger of
trusting Father Benwell--but it was a letter, claiming him as her
accomplice in an act of deception. That morning she had received Penrose
with the outward cordialities of welcome which are offered to an old and
dear friend. And now, in the safe solitude of her room, she had fallen
to a lower depth still. She was deliberately considering the safest
means of acquainting herself with the confidential conversation which
Romayne and Penrose would certainly hold when she left them together.
"He will try to set my husband against me; and I have a right to know
what means he uses, in my own defense." With that thought she reconciled
herself to an action which she would have despised if she had heard of
it as the action of another woman.

It was a beautiful autumn day, brightened by clear sunshine, enlivened
by crisp air. Stella put on her hat and went out for a stroll in the
grounds.

While she was within view from the windows of the servants' offices
she walked away from the house. Turning the corner of a shrubbery, she
entered a winding path, on the other side, which led back to the lawn
under Romayne's study window. Garden chairs were placed here and
there. She took one of them, and seated herself--after a last moment of
honorable hesitation--where she could hear the men's voices through the
open window above her.

Penrose was speaking at the time.

"Yes. Father Benwell has granted me a holiday," he said; "but I don't
come here to be an idle man. You must allow me to employ my term of
leave in the pleasantest of all ways. I mean to be your secretary
again."

Romayne sighed. "Ah, if you knew how I have missed you!"

(Stella waited, in breathless expectation, for what Penrose would say to
this. Would he speak of _her?_ No. There was a natural tact and delicacy
in him which waited for the husband to introduce the subject.)

Penrose only said, "How is the great work getting on?"

The answer was sternly spoken in one word--"Badly!"

"I am surprised to hear that, Romayne."

"Why? Were you as innocently hopeful as I was? Did you expect my
experience of married life to help me in writing my book?"

Penrose replied after a pause, speaking a little sadly. "I expected your
married life to encourage you in all your highest aspirations," he said.

(Stella turned pale with suppressed anger. He had spoken with perfect
sincerity. The unhappy woman believed that he lied, for the express
purpose of rousing irritation against her, in her husband's irritable
mind. She listened anxiously for Romayne's answer.)

He made no answer. Penrose changed the subject. "You are not looking
very well," he gently resumed. "I am afraid your health has interfered
with your work. Have you had any return--?"

It was still one of the characteristics of Romayne's nervous
irritability that he disliked to hear the terrible delusion of the Voice
referred to in words. "Yes," he interposed bitterly, "I have heard it
again and again. My right hand is as red as ever, Penrose, with the
blood of a fellow-creature. Another destruction of my illusions when I
married!"

"Romayne! I don't like to hear you speak of your marriage in that way."

"Oh, very well. Let us go back to my book. Perhaps I shall get on better
with it now you are here to help me. My ambition to make a name in the
world has never taken so strong a hold on me (I don't know why, unless
other disappointments have had something to do with it) as at this time,
when I find I can't give my mind to my work. We will make a last effort
together, my friend! If it fails, we will put my manuscripts into the
fire, and I will try some other career. Politics are open to me. Through
politics, I might make my mark in diplomacy. There is something in
directing the destinies of nations wonderfully attractive to me in
my present state of feeling. I hate the idea of being indebted for my
position in the world, like the veriest fool living, to the accidents
of birth and fortune. Are _you_ content with the obscure life that you
lead? Did you not envy that priest (he is no older than I am) who was
sent the other day as the Pope's ambassador to Portugal?"

Penrose spoke out at last without hesitation. "You are in a thoroughly
unwholesome state of mind," he said.

Romayne laughed recklessly. "When was I ever in a healthy state of
mind?" he asked.

Penrose passed the interruption over without notice. "If I am to do you
any good," he resumed, "I must know what is really the matter with you.
The very last question that I ought to put, and that I wish to put, is
the question which you force me to ask."

"What is it?"

"When you speak of your married life," said Penrose, "your tone is the
tone of a disappointed man. Have you any serious reason to complain of
Mrs. Romayne?"

(Stella rose to her feet, in her eagerness to hear what her husband's
answer would be.)

"Serious reason?" Romayne repeated. "How can such an idea have entered
your head? I only complain of irritating trifles now and then. Even the
best of women is not perfect. It's hard to expect it from any of them."

(The interpretation of this reply depended entirely on the tone in which
it was spoken. What was the animating spirit in this case? Irony or
Indulgence? Stella was ignorant of the indirect methods of irritation,
by means of which Father Benwell had encouraged Romayne's doubts of
his wife's motive for the reception of Winterfield. Her husband's tone,
expressing this state of mind, was new to her. She sat down again,
divided between hope and fear, waiting to hear more. The next words,
spoken by Penrose, astounded her. The priest, the Jesuit, the wily
spiritual intruder between man and wife, actually took the wife's side!)

"Romayne," he proceeded quietly, "I want you to be happy."

"How am I to be happy?"

"I will try and tell you. I believe your wife to be a good woman. I
believe she loves you. There is something in her face that speaks for
her--even to an inexperienced person like myself. Don't be impatient
with her! Put away from you that besetting temptation to speak in
irony--it is so easy to take that tone, and sometimes so cruel. I am
only a looker-on, I know. Domestic happiness can never be the
happiness of _my_ life. But I have observed my fellow-creatures of all
degrees--and this, I tell you, is the result. The largest number of
happy men are the husbands and fathers. Yes; I admit that they have
terrible anxieties--but they are fortified by unfailing compensations
and encouragements. Only the other day I met with a man who had suffered
the loss of fortune and, worse still, the loss of health. He endured
those afflictions so calmly that he surprised me. 'What is the secret
of your philosophy?' I asked. He answered, 'I can bear anything while I
have my wife and my children.' Think of that, and judge for yourself how
much happiness you may have left yet ungathered in your married life."

(Those words touched Stella's higher nature, as the dew touches the
thirsty ground. Surely they were nobly spoken! How would her husband
receive them?)

"I must think with your mind, Penrose, before I can do what you ask of
me. Is there any method of transformation by which I can change natures
with you?" That was all he said--and he said it despondingly.

Penrose understood, and felt for him.

"If there is anything in my nature, worthy to be set as an example
to you," he replied, "you know to what blessed influence I owe
self-discipline and serenity of mind. Remember what I said when I left
you in London, to go back to my friendless life. I told you that I
found, in the Faith I held, the one sufficient consolation which helped
me to bear my lot. And--if there came a time of sorrow in the future--I
entreated you to remember what I had said. Have you remembered it?"

"Look at the book here on my desk--look at the other books, within easy
reach, on that table--are you satisfied?"

"More than satisfied. Tell me--do you feel nearer to an understanding of
the Faith to which I have tried to convert you?"

There was a pause. "Say that I do feel nearer," Romayne resumed--"say
that some of my objections are removed--are you really as eager as ever
to make a Catholic of me, now that I am a married man?"

"I am even more eager," Penrose answered. "I have always believed that
your one sure way to happiness lay through your conversion. Now, when
I know, from what I have seen and heard in this room, that you are not
reconciled, as you should be, to your new life, I am doubly confined in
my belief. As God is my witness, I speak sincerely. Hesitate no longer!
Be converted, and be happy."

"Have you not forgotten something, Penrose?"

"What have I forgotten?"

"A serious consideration, perhaps. I have a Protestant wife."

"I have borne that in mind, Romayne, throughout our conversation."

"And you still say--what you have just said?"

"With my whole heart, I say it! Be converted, and be happy. Be happy,
and you will be a good husband. I speak in your wife 's interest as well
as in yours. People who are happy in each other's society, will yield
a little on either side, even on questions of religious belief. And
perhaps there may follow a more profitable result still. So far as I
have observed, a good husband's example is gladly followed by his wife.
Don't think that I am trying to persuade you against your will! I am
only telling you, in my own justification, from what motives of love
for yourself, and of true interest in your welfare, I speak. You implied
just now that you had still some objections left. If I can remove
them--well and good. If I fail--if you cannot act on purely
conscientious conviction--I not only advise, I entreat you, to remain as
you are. I shall be the first to acknowledge that you have done right."

(This moderation of tone would appeal irresistibly, as Stella well knew,
to her husband's ready appreciation of those good qualities in others
which he did not himself possess. Once more her suspicion wronged
Penrose. Had he his own interested motives for pleading her cause?
At the bare thought of it, she left her chair and, standing under the
window, boldly interrupted the conversation by calling to Romayne.)

"Lewis!" she cried, "why do you stay indoors on this beautiful day? I am
sure Mr. Penrose would like a walk in the grounds."

Penrose appeared alone at the window. "You are quite right, Mrs.
Romayne," he said; "we will join you directly."

In a few minutes he turned the corner of the house, and met Stella on
the lawn. Romayne was not with him. "Is my husband not coming with us?"
she asked. "He will follow us," Penrose answered. "I believe he has some
letters to write."

Stella looked at him, suspecting some underhand exercise of influence on
her husband.

If she had been able to estimate the noble qualities in the nature
of Penrose, she might have done him the justice to arrive at a truer
conclusion. It was he who had asked leave (when Stella had interrupted
them) to take the opportunity of speaking alone with Mrs. Romayne. He
had said to his friend, "If I am wrong in my anticipation of the
effect of your change of religion on your wife, let me find it out from
herself. My one object is to act justly toward you and toward her. I
should never forgive myself if I made mischief between you, no matter
how innocent of any evil intention I might be." Romayne had understood
him. It was Stella's misfortune ignorantly to misinterpret everything
that Penrose said or did, for the all-sufficient reason that he was
a Catholic priest. She had drawn the conclusion that her husband had
deliberately left her alone with Penrose, to be persuaded or deluded
into giving her sanction to aid the influence of the priest. "They shall
find they are mistaken," she thought to herself.

"Have I interrupted an interesting conversation?" she inquired abruptly.
"When I asked you to come out, were you talking to my husband about his
historical work?"

"No, Mrs. Romayne; we were not speaking at that time of the book."

"May I ask an odd question, Mr. Penrose?"

"Certainly!"

"Are you a very zealous Catholic?"

"Pardon me. I am a priest. Surely my profession speaks for me?"

"I hope you are not trying to convert my husband?"

Penrose stopped and looked at her attentively.

"Are you strongly opposed to your husband's conversion?" he asked.

"As strongly," she answered, "as a woman can be."

"By religious conviction, Mrs. Romayne?"

"No. By experience."

Penrose started. "Is it indiscreet," he said gently, "to inquire what
your experience may have been?"

"I will tell you what my experience has been," Stella replied. "I am
ignorant of theological subtleties, and questions of doctrine are quite
beyond me. But this I do know. A well-meaning and zealous Catholic
shortened my father's life, and separated me from an only sister whom
I dearly loved. I see I shock you--and I daresay you think I am
exaggerating?"

"I hear what you say, Mrs. Romayne, with very great pain--I don't
presume to form any opinion thus far."

"My sad story can be told in a few words," Stella proceeded. "When
my elder sister was still a young girl, an aunt of ours (my mother's
sister) came to stay with us. She had married abroad, and she was, as
I have said, a zealous Catholic. Unknown to the rest of us, she held
conversations on religion with my sister--worked on the enthusiasm which
was part of the girl's nature--and accomplished her conversion. Other
influences, of which I know nothing, were afterward brought to bear on
my sister. She declared her intention of entering a convent. As she
was under age, my father had only to interpose his authority to prevent
this. She was his favorite child. He had no heart to restrain her by
force--he could only try all that the kindest and best of fathers could
do to persuade her to remain at home. Even after the years that have
passed, I cannot trust myself to speak of it composedly. She persisted;
she was as hard as stone. My aunt, when she was entreated to interfere,
called her heartless obstinacy 'a vocation.' My poor father's loving
resistance was worn out; he slowly drew nearer and nearer to death, from
the day when she left us. Let me do her justice, if I can. She has not
only never regretted entering the convent--she is so happily absorbed
in her religious duties that she has not the slightest wish to see her
mother or me. My mother's patience was soon worn out. The last time I
went to the convent, I went by myself. I shall never go there again.
She could not conceal her sense of relief when I took my leave of her.
I need say no more. Arguments are thrown away on me, Mr. Penrose,
after what I have seen and felt. I have no right to expect that the
consideration of my happiness will influence you--but I may perhaps ask
you, as a gentleman, to tell me the truth. Do you come here with the
purpose of converting my husband?"

Penrose owned the truth, without an instant's hesitation.

"I cannot take your view of your sister's pious devotion of herself to
a religious life," he said. "But I can, and will, answer you truly. From
the time when I first knew him, my dearest object has been to convert
your husband to the Catholic Faith."

Stella drew back from him, as if he had stung her, and clasped her hands
in silent despair.

"But I am bound as a Christian," he went on, "to do to others as I would
they should do to me."

She turned on him suddenly, her beautiful face radiant with hope, her
hand trembling as it caught him by the arm.

"Speak plainly!" she cried.

He obeyed her to the letter.

"The happiness of my friend's wife, Mrs. Romayne, is sacred to me
for his sake. Be the good angel of your husband's life. I abandon the
purpose of converting him."

He lifted her hand from his arm and raised it respectfully to his lips.
Then, when he had bound himself by a promise that was sacred to him,
the terrible influence of the priesthood shook even that brave and lofty
soul. He said to himself, as he left her, "God forgive me if I have done
wrong!"



CHAPTER III.

WINTERFIELD RETURNS.

TWICE Father Benwell called at Derwent's Hotel, and twice he was
informed that no news had been received there of Mr. Winterfield. At the
third attempt, his constancy was rewarded. Mr. Winterfield had written,
and was expected to arrive at the hotel by five o'clock.

It was then half-past four. Father Benwell decided to await the return
of his friend.

He was as anxious to deliver the papers which the proprietor of the
asylum had confided to him, as if he had never broken a seal or used a
counterfeit to hide the betrayal of a trust. The re-sealed packet
was safe in the pocket of his long black frockcoat. His own future
proceedings depended, in some degree, on the course which Winterfield
might take, when he had read the confession of the unhappy woman who had
once been his wife.

Would he show the letter to Stella, at a private interview, as an
unanswerable proof that she had cruelly wronged him? And would it
in this case be desirable--if the thing could be done--so to handle
circumstances as that Romayne might be present, unseen, and might
discover the truth for himself? In the other event--that is to say, if
Winterfield abstained from communicating the confession to Stella--the
responsibility of making the necessary disclosure must remain with the
priest.

Father Benwell walked softly up and down the room, looking about him
with quietly-observant eye. A side table in a corner was covered with
letters, waiting Winterfield's return. Always ready for information of
any sort, he even looked at the addresses on the letters.

The handwritings presented the customary variety of character. All but
three of the envelopes showed the London district postmarks. Two of
the other letters (addressed to Winterfield at his club) bore foreign
postmarks; and one, as the altered direction showed, had been forward
from Beaupark House to the hotel.

This last letter especially attracted the priest's attention.

The address was apparently in a woman's handwriting. And it was worthy
of remark that she appeared to be the only person among Winterfield's
correspondents who was not acquainted with the address of his hotel or
of his club. Who could the person be? The subtly inquiring intellect
of Father Benwell amused itself by speculating even on such a trifling
problem as this. He little thought that he had a personal interest in
the letter. The envelope contained Stella's warning to Winterfield to
distrust no less a person than Father Benwell himself!

It was nearly half-past five before quick footsteps were audible
outside. Winterfield entered the room.

"This is friendly indeed!" he said. "I expected to return to the worst
of all solitudes--solitude in a hotel. You will stay and dine with me?
That's right. You must have thought I was going to settle in Paris. Do
you know what has kept me so long? The most delightful theater in the
world--the Opera Comique. I am so fond of the bygone school of music,
Father Benwell--the flowing graceful delicious melodies of the composers
who followed Mozart. One can only enjoy that music in Paris. Would you
believe that I waited a week to hear Nicolo's delightful Joconde for the
second time. I was almost the only young man in the stalls. All round
me were the old men who remembered the first performances of the
opera, beating time with their wrinkled hands to the tunes which were
associated with the happiest days of their lives. What's that I hear? My
dog! I was obliged to leave him here, and he knows I have come back!"

He flew to the door and called down the stairs to have the dog set
free. The spaniel rushed into the room and leaped into his master's
outstretched arms. Winterfield returned his caresses, and kisses him as
tenderly as a woman might have kissed her pet.

"Dear old fellow! it's a shame to have left you--I won't do it again.
Father Benwell, have you many friends who would be as glad to see you as
_this_ friend? I haven't one. And there are fools who talk of a dog as
an inferior being to ourselves! _This_ creature's faithful love is mine,
do what I may. I might be disgraced in the estimation of every human
creature I know, and he would be as true to me as ever. And look at his
physical qualities. What an ugly thing, for instance--I won't say your
ear--I will say, my ear is; crumpled and wrinkled and naked. Look at the
beautiful silky covering of _his_ ear! What are our senses of smelling
and hearing compared to his? We are proud of our reason. Could we find
our way back, if they shut us up in a basket, and took us to a strange
place away from home? If we both want to run downstairs in a hurry,
which of us is securest against breaking his neck--I on my poor two
legs, or he on his four? Who is the happy mortal who goes to bed without
unbuttoning, and gets up again without buttoning? Here he is, on my lap,
knowing I am talking about him, and too fond of me to say to himself,
'What a fool my master is!'"

Father Benwell listened to this rhapsody--so characteristic of the
childish simplicity of the man--with an inward sense of impatience,
which never once showed itself on the smiling surface of his face.

He had decided not to mention the papers in his pocket until some
circumstance occurred which might appear to remind him naturally that
he had such things about him. If he showed any anxiety to produce
the envelope, he might expose himself to the suspicion of having some
knowledge of the contents. When would Winterfield notice the side table,
and open his letters?

The tick-tick of the clock on the mantel-piece steadily registered the
progress of time, and Winterfield's fantastic attentions were still
lavished on his dog.

Even Father Benwell's patience was sorely tried when the good country
gentleman proceeded to mention not only the spaniel's name, but the
occasion which had suggested it. "We call him Traveler, and I will
tell you why. When he was only a puppy he strayed into the garden at
Beaupark, so weary and footsore that we concluded he had come to us from
a great distance. We advertised him, but he was never claimed--and here
he is! If you don't object, we will give Traveler a treat to-day. He
shall have dinner with us."

Perfectly understanding those last words, the dog jumped off his
master's lap, and actually forwarded the views of Father Benwell in
less than a minute more. Scampering round and round the room, as an
appropriate expression of happiness, he came into collision with the
side table and directed Winterfield's attention to the letters by
scattering them on the floor.

Father Benwell rose politely, to assist in picking up the prostrate
correspondence. But Traveler was beforehand with him. Warning the
priest, with a low growl, not to interfere with another person's
business, the dog picked up the letters in his mouth, and carried
them by installments to his master's feet. Even then, the exasperating
Winterfield went no further than patting Traveler. Father Benwell's
endurance reached its limits. "Pray don't stand on ceremony with me," he
said. "I will look at the newspaper while you read your letters."

Winterfield carelessly gathered the letters together, tossed them on the
dining table at his side, and took the uppermost one of the little heap.

Fate was certainly against the priest on that evening. The first letter
that Winterfield opened led him off to another subject of conversation
before he had read it to the end. Father Benwell's hand, already in his
coat pocket, appeared again--empty.

"Here's a proposal to me to go into Parliament," said the Squire. "What
do you think of representative institutions, Father Benwell? To my mind,
representative institutions are on their last legs. Honorable Members
vote away more of our money every year. They have no alternative between
suspending liberty of speech, or sitting helpless while half a dozen
impudent idiots stop the progress of legislation from motives of the
meanest kind. And they are not even sensitive enough to the national
honor to pass a social law among themselves which makes it as
disgraceful in a gentleman to buy a seat by bribery as to cheat at
cards. I declare I think the card-sharper the least degraded person of
the two. _He_ doesn't encourage his inferiors to be false to a public
trust. In short, my dear sir, everything wears out in this world--and
why should the House of Commons be an exception to the rule?"

He picked up the next letter from the heap. As he looked at the address,
his face changed. The smile left his lips, the gayety died out of his
eyes. Traveler, entreating for more notice with impatient forepaws
applied to his master's knees, saw the alteration, and dropped into a
respectfully recumbent position. Father Benwell glanced sidelong off the
columns of the newspaper, and waited for events with all the discretion,
and none of the good faith, of the dog.

"Forwarded from Beaupark," Winterfield said to himself. He opened the
letter--read it carefully to the end--thought over it--and read it
again.

"Father Benwell!" he said suddenly.

The priest put down the newspaper. For a few moments more nothing was
audible but the steady tick-tick of the clock.

"We have not been very long acquainted," Winterfield resumed. "But our
association has been a pleasant one, and I think I owe to you the duty
of a friend. I don't belong to your Church; bu t I hope you will believe
me when I say that ignorant prejudice against the Catholic priesthood is
not one of _my_ prejudices."

Father Benwell bowed, in silence.

"You are mentioned," Winterfield proceeded, "in the letter which I have
just read."

"Are you at liberty to tell me the name of your correspondent?" Father
Benwell asked.

"I am not at liberty to do that. But I think it due to you, and to
myself, to tell you what the substance of the letter is. The writer
warns me to be careful in my intercourse with you. Your object (I am
told) is to make yourself acquainted with events in my past life, and
you have some motive which my correspondent has thus far failed to
discover. I speak plainly, but I beg you to understand that I also speak
impartially. I condemn no man unheard--least of all, a man whom I have
had the honor of receiving under my own roof."

He spoke with a certain simple dignity. With equal dignity, Father
Benwell answered. It is needless to say that he now knew Winterfield's
correspondent to be Romayne's wife.

"Let me sincerely thank you, Mr. Winterfield, for a candor which does
honor to us both," he said. "You will hardly expect me--if I may
use such an expression--to condescend to justify myself against an
accusation which is an anonymous accusation so far as I am concerned.
I prefer to meet that letter by a plain proof; and I leave you to judge
whether I am still worthy of the friendship to which you have so kindly
alluded."

With this preface he briefly related the circumstances under which
he had become possessed of the packet, and then handed it to
Winterfield--with the seal uppermost.

"Decide for yourself," he concluded, "whether a man bent on prying into
your private affairs, with that letter entirely at his mercy, would have
been true to the trust reposed in him."

He rose and took his hat, ready to leave the room, if his honor was
profaned by the slightest expression of distrust. Winterfield's
genial and unsuspicious nature instantly accepted the offered proof as
conclusive. "Before I break the seal," he said, "let me do you justice.
Sit down again, Father Benwell, and forgive me if my sense of duty has
hurried me into hurting your feelings. No man ought to know better than
I do how often people misjudge and wrong each other."

They shook hands cordially. No moral relief is more eagerly sought than
relief from the pressure of a serious explanation. By common consent,
they now spoke as lightly as if nothing had happened. Father Benwell set
the example.

"You actually believe in a priest!" he said gayly. "We shall make a good
Catholic of you yet."

"Don't be too sure of that," Winterfield replied, with a touch of
his quaint humor. "I respect the men who have given to humanity the
inestimable blessing of quinine--to say nothing of preserving learning
and civilization--but I respect still more my own liberty as a free
Christian."

"Perhaps a free thinker, Mr. Winterfield?"

"Anything you like to call it, Father Benwell, so long as it _is_ free."

They both laughed. Father Benwell went back to his newspaper.
Winterfield broke the seal of the envelope and took out the inclosures.

The confession was the first of the papers at which he happened to look.
At the opening lines he turned pale. He read more, and his eyes filled
with tears. In low broken tones he said to the priest, "You have
innocently brought me most distressing news. I entreat your pardon if I
ask to be left alone."

Father Benwell said a few well-chosen words of sympathy, and immediately
withdrew. The dog licked his master's hand, hanging listlessly over the
arm of the chair.

Later in the evening, a note from Winterfield was left by messenger at
the priest's lodgings. The writer announced, with renewed expressions of
regret, that he would be again absent from London on the next day,
but that he hoped to return to the hotel and receive his guest on the
evening of the day after.

Father Benwell rightly conjectured that Winterfield's destination was
the town in which his wife had died.

His object in taking the journey was not, as the priest supposed, to
address inquiries to the rector and the landlady, who had been present
at the fatal illness and the death--but to justify his wife's last
expression of belief in the mercy and compassion of the man whom she had
injured. On that "nameless grave," so sadly and so humbly referred to in
the confession, he had resolved to place a simple stone cross, giving to
her memory the name which she had shrunk from profaning in her lifetime.
When he had written the brief inscription which recorded the death of
"Emma, wife of Bernard Winterfield," and when he had knelt for a while
by the low turf mound, his errand had come to its end. He thanked the
good rector; he left gifts with the landlady and her children, by which
he was gratefully remembered for many a year afterward; and then, with a
heart relieved, he went back to London.

Other men might have made their sad little pilgrimage alone. Winterfield
took his dog with him. "I must have something to love," he said to the
rector, "at such a time as this."



CHAPTER IV.

FATHER BENWELL'S CORRESPONDENCE.

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

WHEN I wrote last, I hardly thought I should trouble you again so soon.
The necessity has, however, arisen. I must ask for instructions, from
our Most Reverend General, on the subject of Arthur Penrose.

I believe that I informed you that I decided to defer my next visit to
Ten Acres Lodge for two or three days, in order that Winterfield (if
he intended to do so) might have time to communicate with Mrs.
Romayne, after his return from the country. Naturally enough, perhaps,
considering the delicacy of the subject, he has not taken me into his
confidence. I can only guess that he has maintained the same reserve
with Mrs. Romayne.

My visit to the Lodge was duly paid this afternoon.

I asked first, of course, for the lady of the house, and hearing she was
in the grounds, joined her there. She looked ill and anxious, and she
received me with rigid politeness. Fortunately, Mrs. Eyrecourt (now
convalescent) was staying at Ten Acres, and was then taking the air
in her chair on wheels. The good lady's nimble and discursive tongue
offered me an opportunity of referring, in the most innocent manner
possible, to Winterfield's favorable opinion of Romayne's pictures. I
need hardly say that I looked at Romayne's wife when I mentioned the
name. She turned pale--probably fearing that I had some knowledge of
her letter warning Winterfield not to trust me. If she had already been
informed that he was not to be blamed, but to be pitied, in the matter
of the marriage at Brussels, she would have turned red. Such, at least,
is my experience, drawn from recollections of other days. *

The ladies having served my purpose, I ventured into the house, to pay
my respects to Romayne.

He was in the study, and his excellent friend and secretary was with
him. After the first greetings Penrose left us. His manner told me
plainly that there was something wrong. I asked no questions--waiting on
the chance that Romayne might enlighten me.

"I hope you are in better spirits, now that you have your old companion
with you," I said.

"I am very glad to have Penrose with me," he answered. And then he
frowned and looked out of the window at the two ladies in the grounds.

It occurred to me that Mrs. Eyrecourt might be occupying the customary
false position of a mother-in-law. I was mistaken. He was not thinking
of his wife's mother--he was thinking of his wife.

"I suppose you know that Penrose had an idea of converting me?" he said,
suddenly.

I was perfectly candid with him--I said I knew it, and approved of it.
"May I hope that Arthur has succeeded in convincing you?" I ventured to
add.

"He might have succeeded, Father Benwell, if he had chosen to go on."

This reply, as you may easily imagine, took me by surprise.

"Are you really so obdurate that Arthur despairs of your conversion?" I
asked.

"Nothing of the sort! I have thought and thought of it--and I can tell
you I was more than ready to meet him half way."

"Then where is the obstacle?" I exclaimed.

He pointed thro ugh the window to his wife. "There is the obstacle," he
said, in a tone of ironical resignation.

Knowing Arthur's character as I knew it, I at last understood what had
happened. For a moment I felt really angry. Under these circumstances,
the wise course was to say nothing, until I could be sure of speaking
with exemplary moderation. It doesn't do for a man in my position to
show anger.

Romayne went on.

"We talked of my wife, Father Benwell, the last time you were here. You
only knew, then, that her reception of Mr. Winterfield had determined
him never to enter my house again. By way of adding to your information
on the subject of 'petticoat government,' I may now tell you that Mrs.
Romayne has forbidden Penrose to proceed with the attempt to convert
me. By common consent, the subject is never mentioned between us."
The bitter irony of his tone, thus far, suddenly disappeared. He spoke
eagerly and anxiously. "I hope you are not angry with Arthur?" he said.

By this time my little fit of ill-temper was at an end. I answered--and
it was really in a certain sense true--"I know Arthur too well to be
angry with him."

Romayne seemed to be relieved. "I only troubled you with this last
domestic incident," he resumed, "to bespeak your indulgence for Penrose.
I am getting learned in the hierarchy of the Church, Father Benwell! You
are the superior of my dear little friend, and you exercise authority
over him. Oh, he is the kindest and best of men! It is not his fault.
He submits to Mrs. Romayne--against his own better conviction--in the
honest belief that he consults the interests of our married life."

I don't think I misinterpret the state of Romayne's mind, and mislead
you, when I express my belief that this second indiscreet interference
of his wife between his friend and himself will produce the very result
which she dreads. Mark my words, written after the closest observation
of him--this new irritation of Romayne's sensitive self-respect will
hasten his conversion.

You will understand that the one alternative before me, after what
has happened, is to fill the place from which Penrose has withdrawn. I
abstained from breathing a word of this to Romayne. It is he, if I can
manage it, who must invite me to complete the work of conversion--and,
besides, nothing can be done until the visit of Penrose has come to an
end. Romayne's secret sense of irritation may be safely left to develop
itself, with time to help it.

I changed the conversation to the subject of his literary labors.

The present state of his mind is not favorable to work of that exacting
kind. Even with the help of Penrose to encourage him, he does not get on
to his satisfaction--and yet, as I could plainly perceive, the ambition
to make a name in the world exercises a stronger influence over him than
ever. All in our favor, my reverend friend--all in our favor!

I took the liberty of asking to see Penrose alone for a moment; and,
this request granted, Romayne and I parted cordially. I can make most
people like me, when I choose to try. The master of Vange Abbey is no
exception to the rule. Did I tell you, by-the-by, that the property has
a little declined of late in value? It is now not worth more than six
thousand a year. _We_ will improve it when it returns to the Church.

My interview with Penrose was over in two minutes. Dispensing with
formality, I took his arm, and led him into the front garden.

"I have heard all about it," I said; "and I must not deny that you have
disappointed me. But I know your disposition, and I make allowances. You
have qualities, dear Arthur, which perhaps put you a little out of place
among us. I shall be obliged to report what you have done--but you may
trust me to put it favorably. Shake hands, my son, and, while we are
still together, let us be as good friends as ever."

You may think that I spoke in this way with a view to my indulgent
language being repeated to Romayne, and so improving the position which
I have already gained in his estimation. Do you know, I really believe
I meant it at the time! The poor fellow gratefully kissed my hand when I
offered it to him--he was not able to speak. I wonder whether I am weak
about Arthur? Say a kind word for him, when his conduct comes under
notice--but pray don't mention this little frailty of mine; and don't
suppose I have any sympathy with his weak-minded submission to Mrs.
Romayne's prejudices. If I ever felt the smallest consideration for
_her_ (and I cannot call to mind any amiable emotion of that sort), her
letter to Winterfield would have effectually extinguished it. There is
something quite revolting to me in a deceitful woman.

In closing this letter, I may quiet the minds of our reverend brethren,
if I assure them that my former objection to associating myself directly
with the conversion of Romayne no longer exists.

Yes! even at my age, and with my habits, I am now resigned to hearing,
and confuting, the trivial arguments of a man who is young enough to
be my son. I shall write a carefully-guarded letter to Romayne, on the
departure of Penrose; and I shall send him a book to read, from
the influence of which I expect gratifying results. It is not a
controversial work (Arthur has been beforehand with me there)--it is
Wiseman's "Recollections of the Popes." I look to that essentially
readable book to excite Romayne's imagination, by vivid descriptions
of the splendors of the Church, and the vast influence and power of the
higher priesthood. Does this sudden enthusiasm of mine surprise you? And
are you altogether at a loss to know what it means?

It means, my friend, that I see our position toward Romayne in a new
light. Forgive me, if I say no more for the present. I prefer to be
silent, until my audacity is justified by events.

     * Father Benwell's experience had, in this case, not misled
     him. If Stella had remained unmarried, Winterfield might have
     justified himself. But he was honorably unwilling to disturb her
     relations with her husband, by satisfying her that he had never
     been unworthy of the affection which had once united them.



CHAPTER V.

BERNARD WINTERFIELD'S CORRESPONDENCE.

I.

_From Mrs. Romayne to Mr. Winterfield._

HAS my letter failed to reach you? I directed it (as I direct this) to
Beaupark, not knowing your London address.

Yesterday, Father Benwell called at Ten Acres Lodge. He first saw my
mother and myself and he contrived to mention your name. It was done
with his usual adroitness, and I might perhaps have passed it over if
he had not looked at me. I hope and pray it may be only my fancy--but
I thought I saw, in his eyes, that he was conscious of having me in his
power, and that he might betray me to my husband at any moment.

I have no sort of claim on you. And, Heaven knows, I have little
reason to trust you. But I thought you meant fairly by me when we spoke
together at this house. In that belief, I entreat you to tell me if
Father Benwell has intruded himself into your confidence--or even if you
have hinted anything to him which gives him a hold over me.

II.

_From Mr. Winterfield to Mrs. Romayne._

Both your letters have reached me.

I have good reason for believing that you are entirely mistaken in your
estimate of Father Benwell's character. But I know, by sad experience,
how you hold to your opinions when they are once formed; and I am eager
to relieve you of all anxiety, so far as I am concerned. I have not
said one word--I have not even let slip the slightest hint--which could
inform Father Benwell of that past event in our lives to which your
letter alludes. Your secret is a sacred secret to me; and it has been,
and shall be, sacredly kept.

There is a sentence in your letter which has given me great pain. You
reiterate the cruel language of the bygone time. You say, "Heaven knows
I have little reason to trust you."

I have reasons, on my side, for not justifying myself--except under
certain conditions. I mean under conditions which might place me in a
position to serve and advise you as a friend or brother. In that case,
I undertake to prove, even to you, that it was a cruel injustice ever
to have doubted me, and that there is no man living whom you can more
implicitly trust than myself.

My address, when I am in London, is at the head of this page.

III.

_From Dr. Wybrow to Mr. Winterfield._

Dear Sir--I have received your letter, mentioning that you wish to
accompany me, at my next visit to the asylum, to see the French boy, so
strangely associated with the papers delivered to you by Father Benwell.

Your proposal reaches me too late. The poor creature's troubled life
has come to an end. He never rallied from the exhausting effect of the
fever. To the last he was attended by his mother.

I write with true sympathy for that excellent lady--but I cannot conceal
from you or from myself that this death is not to be regretted. In a
case of the same extraordinary kind, recorded in print, the patient
recovered from the fever, and his insanity returned with his returning
health.

Faithfully yours, JOSEPH WYBROW.



CHAPTER VI.

THE SADDEST OF ALL WORDS.

ON the tenth morning, dating from the dispatch of Father Benwell's last
letter to Rome, Penrose was writing in the study at Ten Acres Lodge,
while Romayne sat at the other end of the room, looking listlessly at a
blank sheet of paper, with the pen lying idle beside it. On a sudden
he rose, and, snatching up paper and pen, threw them irritably into the
fire.

"Don't trouble yourself to write any longer," he said to Penrose. "My
dream is over. Throw my manuscripts into the waste paper basket, and
never speak to me of literary work again."

"Every man devoted to literature has these fits of despondency," Penrose
answered. "Don't think of your work. Send for your horse, and trust to
fresh air and exercise to relieve your mind."

Romayne barely listened. He turned round at the fireplace and studied
the reflection of his face in the glass.

"I look worse and worse," he said thoughtfully to himself.

It was true. His flesh had fallen away; his face had withered and
whitened; he stooped like an old man. The change for the worse had been
steadily proceeding from the time when he left Vange Abbey.

"It's useless to conceal it from me!" he burst out, turning toward
Penrose. "I believe I am in some way answerable--though you all deny
it--for the French boy's death. Why not? His voice is still in my ears,
and the stain of his brother's blood is on me. I am under a spell! Do
you believe in the witches--the merciless old women who made wax images
of the people who injured them, and stuck pins in their mock likenesses,
to register the slow wasting away of their victims day after day? People
disbelieve it in these times, but it has never been disproved." He
stopped, looked at Penrose, and suddenly changed his tone. "Arthur!
what is the matter with you? Have you had a bad night? Has anything
happened?"

For the first time in Romayne's experience of him, Penrose answered
evasively.

"Is there nothing to make me anxious," he said, "when I hear you talk as
you are talking now? The poor French boy died of a fever. Must I remind
you again that he owed the happiest days of his life to you and your
good wife?"

Romayne still looked at him without attending to what he said.

"Surely you don't think I am deceiving you?" Penrose remonstrated.

"No; I was thinking of something else. I was wondering whether I really
know you as well as I thought I did. Am I mistaken in supposing that you
are not an ambitious man?"

"My only ambition is to lead a worthy life, and to be as useful to my
fellow-creatures as I can. Does that satisfy you?"

Romayne hesitated. "It seems strange--" he began.

"What seems strange?"

"I don't say it seems strange that you should be a priest," Romayne
explained. "I am only surprised that a man of your simple way of
thinking should have attached himself to the Order of the Jesuits."

"I can quite understand that," said Penrose. "But you should remember
that circumstances often influence a man in his choice of a vocation. It
has been so with me. I am a member of a Roman Catholic family. A Jesuit
College was near our place of abode, and a near relative of mine--since
dead--was one of the resident priests." He paused, and added in a lower
tone: "When I was little more than a lad I suffered a disappointment,
which altered my character for life. I took refuge in the College, and
I have found patience and peace of mind since that time. Oh, my friend,
you might have been a more contented man--" He stopped again. His
interest in the husband had all but deceived him into forgetting his
promise to the wife.

Romayne held out his hand. "I hope I have not thoughtlessly hurt you?"
he said.

Penrose took the offered hand, and pressed it fervently. He tried to
speak--and suddenly shuddered, like a man in pain. "I am not very well
this morning," he stammered; "a turn in the garden will do me good."

Romayne's doubts were confirmed by the manner in which Penrose left
him. Something had unquestionably happened, which his friend shrank from
communicating to him. He sat down again at his desk and tried to read.
The time passed--and he was still left alone. When the door was at last
opened it was only Stella who entered the room.

"Have you seen Penrose?" he asked.

The estrangement between them had been steadily widening of late.
Romayne had expressed his resentment at his wife's interference between
Penrose and himself by that air of contemptuous endurance which is
the hardest penalty that a man can inflict on the woman who loves him.
Stella had submitted with a proud and silent resignation--the most
unfortunate form of protest that she could have adopted toward a man
of Romayne's temper. When she now appeared, however, in her husband's
study, there was a change in her expression which he instantly noticed.
She looked at him with eyes softened by sorrow. Before she could answer
his first question, he hurriedly added another. "Is Penrose really ill?"

"No, Lewis. He is distressed."

"About what?"

"About you, and about himself."

"Is he going to leave us?"

"Yes."

"But he will come back again?"

Stella took a chair by her husband's side. "I am truly sorry for you,
Lewis," she said. "It is even a sad parting for Me. If you will let me
say it, I have a sincere regard for dear Mr. Penrose."

Under other circumstances, this confession of feeling for the man who
had sacrificed his dearest aspiration to the one consideration of her
happiness, might have provoked a sharp reply. But by this time Romayne
had really become alarmed. "You speak as if Arthur was going to leave
England," he said.

"He leaves England this afternoon," she answered, "for Rome."

"Why does he tell this to you, and not to me?" Romayne asked.

"He cannot trust himself to speak of it to you. He begged me to prepare
you--"

Her courage failed her. She paused. Romayne beat his hand impatiently on
the desk before him. "Speak out!" he cried. "If Rome is not the end of
the journey--what is?"

Stella hesitated no longer.

"He goes to Rome," she said "to receive his instructions, and to become
personally acquainted with the missionaries who are associated with him.
They will leave Leghorn in the next vessel which sets sail for a port
in Central America. And the dangerous duty intrusted to them is to
re-establish one of the Jesuit Missions destroyed by the savages years
since. They will find their church a ruin, and not a vestige left of the
house once inhabited by the murdered priests. It is not concealed from
them that they may be martyred, too. They are soldiers of the Cross; and
they go--willingly go--to save the souls of the Indians, at the peril of
their lives."

Romayne rose, and advanced to the door. There, he turned, and spoke to
Stella. "Where is Arthur?" he said.

Stella gently detained him.

"There was one word more he entreated me to say--pray wait and hear
it," she pleaded. "His one grief is at leaving You. Apart from that, he
devotes himself gladly to the dreadful service which claims him. He has
long looked forward to it, and has long prepared himself for it. Those,
Lewis, are his own words."

There was a knock at the door. The servant appeared, to announce that
the carriage was waiting.

Penrose entered the room as the man left it.

"Have you spoken for me?" he said to Stella. She could only answer him
by a gesture. He turned to Romayne with a faint smile.

"The saddest of all words must be spoken," he said. "Farewell!"

Pale and trembling, Romayne took his hand. "Is this Father Benwell's
doing?" he asked.

"No!" Penrose answered firmly. "In Father Benwell's position it might
have been his doing, but for his goodness to me. For the first time
since I have known him he has shrunk from a responsibility. For my sake
he has left it to Rome. And Rome has spoken. Oh, my more than friend--my
brother in love--!"

His voice failed him. With a resolution which was nothing less than
heroic in a man of his affectionate nature, he recovered his composure.

"Let us make it as little miserable as it _can_ be," he said. "At every
opportunity we will write to each other. And, who knows--I may yet come
back to you? God has preserved his servants in dangers as great as any
that I shall encounter. May that merciful God bless and protect you!
Oh, Romayne, what happy days we have had together!" His last powers of
resistance were worn out. Tears of noble sorrow dimmed the friendly
eyes which had never once looked unkindly on the brother of his love. He
kissed Romayne. "Help me out!" he said, turning blindly toward the hall,
in which the servant was waiting. That last act of mercy was not left
to a servant. With sisterly tenderness, Stella took his hand and led him
away. "I shall remember you gratefully as long as I live," she said to
him when the carriage door was closed. He waved his hand at the window,
and she saw him no more.

She returned to the study.

The relief of tears had not come to Romayne. He had dropped into a chair
when Penrose left him. In stony silence he sat there, his head down,
his eyes dry and staring. The miserable days of their estrangement were
forgotten by his wife in the moment when she looked at him. She knelt
by his side and lifted his head a little and laid it on her bosom. Her
heart was full--she let the caress plead for her silently. He felt it;
his cold fingers pressed her hand thankfully; but he said nothing. After
a long interval, the first outward expression of sorrow that fell from
his lips showed that he was still thinking of Penrose.

"Every blessing falls away from me," he said. "I have lost my best
friend."

Years afterward Stella remembered those words, and the tone in which he
had spoken them.



CHAPTER VII.

THE IMPULSIVE SEX.

AFTER a lapse of a few days, Father Benwell was again a visitor at
Ten Acres Lodge--by Romayne's invitation. The priest occupied the very
chair, by the study fireside, in which Penrose had been accustomed to
sit.

"It is really kind of you to come to me," said Romayne, "so soon after
receiving my acknowledgment of your letter. I can't tell you how I
was touched by the manner in which you wrote of Penrose. To my shame I
confess it, I had no idea that you were so warmly attached to him."

"I hardly knew it myself, Mr. Romayne, until our dear Arthur was taken
away from us."

"If you used your influence, Father Benwell, is there no hope that you
might yet persuade him--?"

"To withdraw from the Mission? Oh, Mr. Romayne, don't you know Arthur's
character better than that? Even his gentle temper has its resolute
side. The zeal of the first martyrs to Christianity is the zeal that
burns in that noble nature. The Mission has been the dream of his
life--it is endeared to him by the very dangers which we dread. Persuade
Arthur to desert the dear and devoted colleagues who have opened their
arms to him? I might as soon persuade that statue in the garden to
desert its pedestal, and join us in this room. Shall we change the sad
subject? Have you received the book which I sent you with my letter?"

Romayne took up the book from his desk. Before he could speak of it
some one called out briskly, on the other side of the door: "May I come
in?"--and came in, without waiting to be asked. Mrs. Eyrecourt, painted
and robed for the morning--wafting perfumes as she moved--appeared in
the study. She looked at the priest, and lifted her many-ringed hands
with a gesture of coquettish terror.

"Oh, dear me! I had no idea you were here, Father Benwell. I ask ten
thousand pardons. Dear and admirable Romayne, you don't look as if
you were pleased to see me. Good gracious! I am not interrupting a
confession, am I?"

Father Benwell (with his paternal smile in perfect order) resigned
his chair to Mrs. Eyrecourt. The traces of her illness still showed
themselves in an intermittent trembling of her head and her hands. She
had entered the room, strongly suspecting that the process of conversion
might be proceeding in the absence of Penrose, and determined to
interrupt it. Guided by his subtle intelligence, Father Benwell
penetrated her motive as soon as she opened the door. Mrs. Eyrecourt
bowed graciously, and took the offered chair. Father Benwell sweetened
his paternal smile and offered to get a footstool.

"How glad I am," he said, "to see you in your customary good spirits!
But wasn't it just a little malicious to talk of interrupting a
confession? As if Mr. Romayne was one of Us! Queen Elizabeth herself
could hardly have said a sharper thing to a poor Catholic priest."

"You clever creature!" said Mrs. Eyrecourt. "How easily you see through
a simple woman like me! There--I give you my hand to kiss and I will
never try to deceive you again. Do you know, Father Benwell, a most
extraordinary wish has suddenly come to me. Please don't be offended. I
wish you were a Jew."

"May I ask why?" Father Benwell inquired, with an apostolic suavity
worthy of the best days of Rome.

Mrs. Eyrecourt explained herself with the modest self-distrust of a
maiden of fifteen. "I am really so ignorant, I hardly know how to put
it. But learned persons have told me that it is the peculiarity of the
Jews--may I say, the amiable peculiarity?--never to make converts. It
would be so nice if you would take a leaf out of their book, when we
have the happiness of receiving you here. My lively imagination pictures
you in a double character. Father Benwell everywhere else; and--say, the
patriarch Abraham at Ten Acres Lodge."

Father Benwell lifted his persuasive hands in courteous protest. "My
dear lady! pray make your mind easy. Not one word on the subject of
religion has passed between Mr. Romayne and myself--"

"I beg your pardon," Mrs. Eyrecourt interposed, "I am afraid I fail to
follow you. My silent son-in-law looks as if he longed to smother me,
and my attention is naturally distracted. You were about to say--?"

"I was about to say, dear Mrs. Eyrecourt, that you are alarming yourself
without any reason. Not one word, on any controversial subject, has
passed--"

Mrs. Eyrecourt cocked her head, with the artless vivacity of a bird.
"Ah, but it might, though!" she suggested, slyly.

Father Benwell once more remonstrated in dumb show, and Romayne lost his
temper.

"Mrs. Eyrecourt!" he cried, sternly.

Mrs. Eyrecourt screamed, and lifted her hands to her ears. "I am
not deaf, dear Romayne, and I am not to be put down by any ill-timed
exhibition of, what I may call, domestic ferocity. Father Benwell sets
you an example of Christian moderation. Do, please, follow it."

Romayne refused to follow it.

"Talk on any other topic that you like, Mrs. Eyrecourt. I request
you--don't oblige me to use a harder word--I request you to spare
Father Benwell and myself any further expression of your opinion on
controversial subjects."

A son-in-law may make a request, and a mother-in-law may decline to
comply. Mrs. Eyrecourt declined to comply.

"No, Romayne, it won't do. I may lament your unhappy temper, for my
daughter's sake--but I know what I am about, and you can't provoke me.
Our reverend friend and I understand each other. He will make allowances
for a sensitive woman, who has had sad experience of conversions in
her own household. My eldest daughter, Father Benwell--a poor foolish
creature--was converted into a nunnery. The last time I saw her (she
used to be sweetly pretty; my dear husband quite adored her)--the last
time I saw her she had a red nose, and, what is even more revolting at
her age, a double chin. She received me with her lips pursed up, and
her eyes on the ground, and she was insolent enough to say that she
would pray for me. I am not a furious old man with a long white
beard, and I don't curse my daughter and rush out into a thunderstorm
afterward--but _I_ know what King Lear felt, and _I_ have struggled with
hysterics just as he did. With your wonderful insight into human nature,
I am sure you will sympathize with and forgive me. Mr. Penrose, as my
daughter tells me, behaved in the most gentleman-like manner. I make
the same appeal to your kind forbearance. The bare prospect of our dear
friend here becoming a Catholic--"

Romayne's temper gave way once more.

"If anything can make me a Catholic," he said, "your interference will
do it."

"Out of sheer perversity, dear Romayne?"

"Not at all, Mrs. Eyrecourt. If I became a Catholic, I might escape from
the society of ladies, in the refuge of a monastery."

Mrs. Eyrecourt hit him back again with the readiest dexterity.

"Remain a Protestant, my dear, and go to your club. There is a refuge
for you from the ladies--a monastery, with nice little dinners, and all
the newspapers and periodicals." Having launched this shaft, she got
up, and recovered her easy courtesy of look and manner. "I am so much
obliged to you, Father Benwell. I have not offended you, I hope and
trust?"

"You have done me a service, dear Mrs. Eyrecourt. But for your salutory
caution, I _might_ have drifted into controversial subjects. I shall be
on my guard now."

"How very good of you! We shall meet again, I hope, under more agreeable
circumstances. After that polite allusion to a monastery, I understand
that my visit to my son-in-law may as well come to an end. Please don't
forget five o'clock tea at my house."

As she approached the door, it was opened from the outer side. Her
daughter met her half-way. "Why are you here, mamma?" Stella asked.

"Why, indeed, my love! You had better leave the room with me. Our
amiable Romayne's present idea is to relieve himself of our society by
retiring to a monastery. Don't you see Father Benwell?"

Stella coldly returned the priest's bow--and looked at Romayne. She felt
a vague forewarning of what had happened. Mrs. Eyrecourt proceeded to
enlighten her, as an appropriate expression of gratitude. "We are indeed
indebted to Father Benwell, my dear. He has been most considerate and
kind--"

Romayne interrupted her without ceremony. "Favor me," he said,
addressing his wife, "by inducing Mrs. Eyrecourt to continue her
narrative in some other room."

Stella was hardly conscious of what her mother or her husband had
said. She felt that the priest's eyes were on her. Under any other
circumstances, Father Benwell's good breeding and knowledge of the world
would have impelled him to take his departure. As things were, he knew
perfectly well that the more seriously Romayne was annoyed, in his
presence, the better his own private interests would be served.
Accordingly, he stood apart, silently observant of Stella. In spite
of Winterfield's reassuring reply to her letter, Stella instinctively
suspected and dreaded the Jesuit. Under the spell of those watchful
eyes she trembled inwardly; her customary tact deserted her; she made an
indirect apology to the man whom she hated and feared.

"Whatever my mother may have said to you, Father Benwell, has been
without my knowledge."

Romayne attempted to speak, but Father Benwell was too quick for him.

"Dear Mrs. Romayne, nothing has been said which needs any disclaimer on
your part."

"I should think not!" Mrs. Eyrecourt added. "Really, Stella, I don't
understand you. Why may I not say to Father Benwell what you said to Mr.
Penrose? You trusted Mr. Penrose as your friend. I can tell you this--I
am quite sure you may trust Father Benwell."

Once more Romayne attempted to speak. And, once more, Father Benwell was
beforehand with him.

"May I hope," said the priest, with a finely ironical smile, "that Mrs.
Romayne agrees with her excellent mother?"

With all her fear of him, the exasperating influence of his tone and his
look was more than Stella could endure. Before she could restrain them,
the rash words flew out of her lips.

"I am not sufficiently well acquainted with you, Father Benwell, to
express an opinion."

With that answer, she took her mother's arm and left the room.

The moment they were alone, Romayne turned to the priest, trembling
with anger. Father Benwell, smiling indulgently at the lady's little
outbreak, took him by the hand, with peace-making intentions, "Now
don't--pray don't excite yourself!"

Romayne was not to be pacified in that way. His anger was trebly
intensified by the long-continued strain on his nerves of the effort to
control himself.

"I must, and will, speak out at last!" he said. "Father Benwell, the
ladies of my household have inexcusably presumed on the consideration
which is due to women. No words can say how ashamed I am of what has
happened. I can only appeal to your admirable moderation and patience to
accept my apologies, and the most sincere expression of my regret."

"No more, Mr. Romayne! As a favor to Me, I beg and entreat you will say
no more. Sit down and compose yourself."

But Romayne was impenetrable to the influence of friendly and forgiving
demonstrations. "I can never expect you to enter my house again!" he
exclaimed.

"My dear sir, I will come and see you again, with the greatest pleasure,
on any day that you may appoint--the earlier day the better. Come!
come! let us laugh. I don't say it disrespectfully, but poor dear Mrs.
Eyrecourt has been more amusing than ever. I expect to see our excellent
Archbishop to-morrow, and I must really tell him how the good lady felt
insulted when her Catholic daughter offered to pray for her. There is
hardly anything more humorous, even in Moliere. And the double chin, and
the red nose--all the fault of those dreadful Papists. Oh, dear me,
you still take it seriously. How I wish you had my sense of humor! When
shall I come again, and tell you how the Archbishop likes the story of
the nun's mother?"

He held out his hand with irresistible cordiality. Romayne took it
gratefully--still bent, however, on making atonement.

"Let me first do myself the honor of calling on You," he said. "I am
in no state to open my mind--as I might have wished to open it to
you--after what has happened. In a day or two more--"

"Say the day after to-morrow," Father Benwell hospitably suggested. "Do
me a great favor. Come and eat your bit of mutton at my lodgings. Six
o'clock, if you like--and some remarkably good claret, a present from
one of the Faithful. You will? That's hearty! And do promise me to
think no more of our little domestic comedy. Relieve your mind. Look at
Wiseman's 'Recollections of the Popes.' Good-by--God bless you!"

The servant who opened the house door for Father Benwell was agreeably
surprised by the Papist's cheerfulness. "He isn't half a bad fellow,"
the man announced among his colleagues. "Give me half-a-crown, and went
out humming a tune."



CHAPTER VIII.

FATHER BENWELL'S CORRESPONDENCE

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

I.

I BEG to acknowledge the receipt of your letter. You mention that our
Reverend Fathers are discouraged at not having heard from me for more
than six weeks, since I reported the little dinner given to Romayne at
my lodgings.

I am sorry for this, and more than sorry to hear that my venerated
brethren are beginning to despair of Romayne's conversion. Grant me a
delay of another week--and, if the prospects of the conversion have
not sensibly improved in that time, I will confess myself defeated.
Meanwhile, I bow to superior wisdom, without venturing to add a word in
my own defense.

II.

The week's grace granted to me has elapsed. I write with humility. At
the same time I have something to say for myself.

Yesterday, Mr. Lewis Romayne, of Vange Abbey, was received into the
community of the Holy Catholic Church. I inclose an accurate newspaper
report of the ceremonies which attended the conversion.

Be pleased to inform me, by telegraph, whether our Reverend Fathers wish
me to go on, or not.



BOOK THE FIFTH.



CHAPTER I.

MRS. EYRECO URT'S DISCOVERY.

THE leaves had fallen in the grounds at Ten Acres Lodge, and stormy
winds told drearily that winter had come.

An unchanging dullness pervaded the house. Romayne was constantly absent
in London, attending to his new religious duties under the guidance of
Father Benwell. The litter of books and manuscripts in the study was
seen no more. Hideously rigid order reigned in the unused room. Some of
Romayne's papers had been burned; others were imprisoned in drawers
and cupboards--the history of the Origin of Religions had taken its
melancholy place among the suspended literary enterprises of the time.
Mrs. Eyrecourt (after a superficially cordial reconciliation with
her son-in-law) visited her daughter every now and then, as an act of
maternal sacrifice. She yawned perpetually; she read innumerable novels;
she corresponded with her friends. In the long dull evenings, the
once-lively lady sometimes openly regretted that she had not been born
a man--with the three masculine resources of smoking, drinking, and
swearing placed at her disposal. It was a dreary existence, and happier
influences seemed but little likely to change it. Grateful as she was
to her mother, no persuasion would induce Stella to leave Ten Acres
and amuse herself in London. Mrs. Eyrecourt said, with melancholy and
metaphorical truth, "There is no elasticity left in my child."

On a dim gray morning, mother and daughter sat by the fireside, with
another long day before them.

"Where is that contemptible husband of yours?" Mrs. Eyrecourt asked,
looking up from her book.

"Lewis is staying in town," Stella answered listlessly.

"In company with Judas Iscariot?"

Stella was too dull to immediately understand the allusion. "Do you mean
Father Benwell?" she inquired.

"Don't mention his name, my dear. I have re-christened him on purpose
to avoid it. Even his name humiliates me. How completely the fawning old
wretch took me in--with all my knowledge of the world, too! He was so
nice and sympathetic--such a comforting contrast, on that occasion,
to you and your husband--I declare I forgot every reason I had for
not trusting him. Ah, we women are poor creatures--we may own it among
ourselves. If a man only has nice manners and a pleasant voice, how
many of us can resist him? Even Romayne imposed upon me--assisted by his
property, which in some degree excuses my folly. There is nothing to be
done now, Stella, but to humor him. Do as that detestable priest does,
and trust to your beauty (there isn't as much of it left as I could
wish) to turn the scale in your favor. Have you any idea when the new
convert will come back? I heard him ordering a fish dinner for himself,
yesterday--because it was Friday. Did you join him at dessert-time,
profanely supported by meat? What did he say?"

"What he has said more than once already, mama. His peace of mind
is returning, thanks to Father Benwell. He was perfectly gentle and
indulgent--but he looked as if he lived in a different world from mine.
He told me he proposed to pass a week in, what he called, Retreat. I
didn't ask him what it meant. Whatever it is, I suppose he is there
now."

"My dear, don't you remember your sister began in the same way? _She_
retreated. We shall have Romayne with a red nose and a double chin,
offering to pray for us next! Do you recollect that French maid of
mine--the woman I sent away, because she would spit, when she was out
of temper, like a cat? I begin to think I treated the poor creature
harshly. When I hear of Romayne and his Retreat, I almost feel inclined
to spit, myself. There! let us go on with your reading. Take the first
volume--I have done with it."

"What is it, mama?"

"A very remarkable work, Stella, in the present state of light
literature in England--a novel that actually tells a story. It's quite
incredible, I know. Try the book. It has another extraordinary merit--it
isn't written by a woman."

Stella obediently received the first volume, turned over the leaves, and
wearily dropped the wonderful novel on her lap. "I can't attend to it,"
she said. "My mind is too full of my own thoughts."

"About Romayne?" said her mother.

"No. When I think of my husband now, I almost wish I had his confidence
in Priests and Retreats. The conviction grows on me, mama, that my worst
troubles are still to come. When I was younger, I don't remember being
tormented by presentiments of any kind. Did I ever talk of presentiments
to you, in the bygone days?"

"If you had done anything of the sort, my love (excuse me, if I speak
plainly), I should have said, 'Stella, your liver is out of order'; and
I should have opened the family medicine-chest. I will only say now send
for the carriage; let us go to a morning concert, dine at a restaurant,
and finish the evening at the play."

This characteristic proposal was entirely thrown away on Stella. She was
absorbed in pursuing her own train of thought. "I almost wish I had told
Lewis," she said to herself absently.

"Told him of what, my dear?"

"Of what happened to me with Winterfield."

Mrs. Eyrecourt's faded eyes opened wide in astonishment.

"Do you really mean it?" she asked.

"I do, indeed."

"Are you actually simple enough, Stella, to think that a man of
Romayne's temper would have made you his wife if you had told him of the
Brussels marriage?"

"Why not?"

"Why not! Would Romayne--would any man--believe that you really did part
from Winterfield at the church door? Considering that you are a married
woman, your innocence, my sweet child, is a perfect phenomenon! It's
well there were wiser people than you to keep your secret."

"Don't speak too positively, mama. Lewis may find it out yet."

"Is that one of your presentiments?"

"Yes."

"How is he to find it out, if you please?"

"I am afraid, through Father Benwell. Yes! yes! I know you only think
him a fawning old hypocrite--you don't fear him as I do. Nothing will
persuade me that zeal for his religion is the motive under which that
man acts in devoting himself to Romayne. He has some abominable object
in view, and his eyes tell me that I am concerned in it."

Mrs. Eyrecourt burst out laughing.

"What is there to laugh at?" Stella asked.

"I declare, my dear, there is something absolutely provoking in your
utter want of knowledge of the world! When you are puzzled to account
for anything remarkable in a clergyman's conduct (I don't care, my
poor child, to what denomination he belongs) you can't be wrong in
attributing his motive to--Money. If Romayne had turned Baptist or
Methodist, the reverend gentleman in charge of his spiritual welfare
would not have forgotten--as you have forgotten, you little goose--that
his convert was a rich man. His mind would have dwelt on the chapel, or
the mission, or the infant school, in want of funds; and--with no more
abominable object in view than I have, at this moment, in poking the
fire--he would have ended in producing his modest subscription list
and would have betrayed himself (just as our odious Benwell will betray
himself) by the two amiable little words, Please contribute. Is there
any other presentiment, my dear, on which you would like to have your
mother's candid opinion?"

Stella resignedly took up the book again.

"I daresay you are right," she said. "Let us read our novel."

Before she had reached the end of the first page, her mind was far
away again from the unfortunate story. She was thinking of that "other
presentiment," which had formed the subject of her mother's last
satirical inquiry. The vague fear that had shaken her when she had
accidentally touched the French boy, on her visit to Camp's Hill, still
from time to time troubled her memory. Even the event of his death
had failed to dissipate the delusion, which associated him with some
undefined evil influence that might yet assert itself. A superstitious
forewarning of this sort was a weakness new to her in her experience of
herself. She was heartily ashamed of it--and yet it kept its hold. Once
more the book dropped on her lap. She laid it aside, and walked wearily
to the window to look at the weather.

Almost at the same moment Mrs. Eyrecourt's maid disturbed her mistress
over the second volume of the novel by entering the room with a letter.

"For me?" Stella asked, looking round from the window.

"No, ma'am--for Mrs. Eyrecourt."

The letter had been brought to the house by one of Lady Loring's
servants. In delivering it he had apparently given private instructions
to the maid. She laid her finger significantly on her lips when she gave
the letter to her mistress.

In these terms Lady Loring wrote:

"If Stella happens to be with you, when you receive my note, don't say
anything which will let her know that I am your correspondent. She has
always, poor dear, had an inveterate distrust of Father Benwell; and,
between ourselves, I am not sure that she is quite so foolish as I once
thought. The Father has unexpectedly left us--with a well-framed excuse
which satisfied Lord Loring. It fails to satisfy Me. Not from any
wonderful exercise of penetration on my part, but in consequence of
something I have just heard in course of conversation with a Catholic
friend. Father Benwell, my dear, turns out to be a Jesuit; and, what is
more, a person of such high authority in the Order, that his concealment
of his rank, while he was with us, must have been a matter of necessity.
He must have had some very serious motive for occupying a position so
entirely beneath him as his position in our house. I have not the shadow
of a reason for associating this startling discovery with dear Stella's
painful misgivings--and yet there is something in my mind which makes me
want to hear what Stella's mother thinks. Come and have a talk about it
as soon as you possibly can."

Mrs. Eyrecourt put the letter in her pocket smiling quietly to herself.

Applying to Lady Loring's letter the infallible system of solution which
she had revealed to her daughter, Mrs. Eyrecourt solved the mystery of
the priest's conduct without a moment's hesitation. Lord Loring's check,
in Father Benwell's pocket, representing such a liberal subscription
that my lord was reluctant to mention it to my lady--there was the
reading of the riddle, as plain as the sun at noonday! Would it be
desirable to enlighten Lady Loring as she had already enlightened
Stella? Mrs. Eyrecourt decided in the negative. As Roman Catholics,
and as old friends of Romayne, the Lorings naturally rejoiced in his
conversion. But as old friends also of Romayne's wife, they were bound
not to express their sentiments too openly. Feeling that any discussion
of the priest's motives would probably lead to the delicate subject of
the conversion, Mrs. Eyrecourt prudently determined to let the matter
drop. As a consequence of this decision, Stella was left without the
slightest warning of the catastrophe which was now close at hand.

Mrs. Eyrecourt joined her daughter at the window.

"Well, my dear, is it clearing up? Shall we take a drive before
luncheon?"

"If you like, mama."

She turned to her mother as she answered.

The light of the clearing sky, at once soft and penetrating, fell
full on her. Mrs. Eyrecourt, looking at her as usual, suddenly became
serious: she studied her daughter's face with an eager and attentive
scrutiny.

"Do you see any extraordinary change in me?" Stella asked, with a faint
smile.

Instead of answering, Mrs. Eyrecourt put her arm round Stella with a
loving gentleness, entirely at variance with any ordinary expression
of her character. The worldly mother's eyes rested with a lingering
tenderness on the daughter's face. "Stella!" she said softly--and
stopped, at a loss for words for the first time in her life.

After a while, she began again. "Yes; I see a change in you," she
whispered--"an interesting change which tells me something. Can you
guess what it is?"

Stella's color rose brightly, and faded again.

She laid her head in silence on her mother's bosom. Worldly, frivolous,
self-interested, Mrs. Eyrecourt's nature was the nature of a woman--and
the one great trial and triumph of a woman's life, appealing to her as a
trial and a triumph soon to come to her own child, touched fibers under
the hardened surface of her heart which were still unprofaned. "My poor
darling," she said, "have you told the good news to your husband?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"He doesn't care, now, for anything that I can tell him."

"Nonsense, Stella! You may win him back to you by a word--and do you
hesitate to say the word? _I_ shall tell him!"

Stella suddenly drew herself away from her mother's caressing arm. "If
you do," she cried, "no words can say how inconsiderate and how cruel I
shall think you. Promise--on your word of honor--promise you will leave
it to me!"

"Will you tell him, yourself--if I leave it to you?"

"Yes--at my own time. Promise!"

"Hush, hush! don't excite yourself, my love; I promise. Give me a kiss.
I declare I am agitated myself!" she exclaimed, falling back into her
customary manner. "Such a shock to my vanity, Stella--the prospect of
becoming a grandmother! I really must ring for Matilda, and take a few
drops of red lavender. Be advised by me, my poor dear, and we will
turn the priest out of the house yet. When Romayne comes back from his
ridiculous Retreat--after his fasting and flagellation, and Heaven knows
what besides--_then_ bring him to his senses; then is the time to tell
him. Will you think of it?"

"Yes; I will think of it."

"And one word more, before Matilda comes in. Remember the vast
importance of having a male heir to Vange Abbey. On these occasions you
may practice with perfect impunity on the ignorance of the men. Tell him
you're sure it's going to be a boy!"



CHAPTER II.

THE SEED IS SOWN.

SITUATED in a distant quarter of the vast western suburb of London,
the house called The Retreat stood in the midst of a well-kept garden,
protected on all sides by a high brick wall. Excepting the grand
gilt cross on the roof of the chapel, nothing revealed externally the
devotional purpose to which the Roman Catholic priesthood (assisted by
the liberality of "the Faithful") had dedicated the building.

But the convert privileged to pass the gates left Protestant England
outside, and found himself, as it were, in a new country. Inside
The Retreat, the paternal care of the Church took possession of him;
surrounded him with monastic simplicity in his neat little bedroom; and
dazzled him with devotional splendor when his religious duties called
him into the chapel. The perfect taste--so seldom found in the modern
arrangement and decoration of convents and churches in southern
countries--showed itself here, pressed into the service of religion,
in every part of the house. The severest discipline had no sordid
and hideous side to it in The Retreat. The inmates fasted on spotless
tablecloths, and handled knives and forks (the humble servants of
half-filled stomachs) without a speck on their decent brightness.
Penitents who kissed the steps of the altar (to use the expressive
Oriental phrase), "eat no dirt." Friends, liberal friends, permitted to
visit the inmates on stated days, saw copies of famous Holy Families in
the reception-room which were really works of Art; and trod on a carpet
of studiously modest pretensions, exhibiting pious emblems beyond
reproach in color and design. The Retreat had its own artesian well; not
a person in the house drank impurity in his water. A faint perfume of
incense was perceptible in the corridors. The soothing and mysterious
silence of the place was intensified rather than disturbed by soft
footsteps, and gentle opening and closing of doors. Animal life was
not even represented by a cat in the kitchen. And yet, pervaded by some
inscrutable influence, the house was not dull. Heretics, with lively
imaginations, might have not inappropriately likened it to an enchanted
castle. In one word, the Catholic system here showed to perfection
its masterly knowledge of the weakness of human nature, and its
inexhaustible dexterity in adapting the means to the end.

On the morning when Mrs. Eyrecourt and her daughter held their memorable
interview by the fireside at Ten Acres, Father Benwell entered one of
the private rooms at The Retreat, devoted to the use of the priesthood.
The demure attendant, waiting humbly for instructions, was sent
to request the presence of one of the inmates of the house, named
Mortleman.

Father Benwell's customary serenity was a little ruffled, on this
occasion, by an appearance of anxiety. More than once he looked
impatiently toward the door, and he never even noticed the last new
devotional publications laid invitingly on the table.

Mr. Mortleman made his appearance--a young man and a promising convert.
The wild brightness of his eyes revealed that incipient form of brain
disease which begins in fanaticism, and ends not infrequently in
religious madness. His manner of greeting the priest was absolutely
servile. He cringed before the illustrious Jesuit.

Father Benwell took no notice of these demonstrations of humility.
"Be seated, my son," he said. Mr. Mortleman looked as if he would have
preferred going down on his knees, but he yielded, and took a chair.

"I think you have been Mr. Romayne's companion for a few days, in the
hours of recreation?" the priest began.

"Yes, Father."

"Does he appear to be at all weary of his residence in this house?"

"Oh, far from it! He feels the benign influence of The Retreat; we have
had some delightful hours together."

"Have you anything to report?"

Mr. Mortleman crossed his hands on his breast and bowed profoundly.
"I have to report of myself, Father, that I have committed the sin of
presumption. I presumed that Mr. Romayne was, like myself, not married."

"Have I spoken to you on that subject?"

"No, Father."

"Then you have committed no sin. You have only made an excusable
mistake. How were you led into error?"

"In this way, Father. Mr. Romayne had been speaking to me of a book
which you had been so good as to send to him. He had been especially
interested by the memoir therein contained of the illustrious
Englishman, Cardinal Acton. The degrees by which his Eminence rose to
the rank of a Prince of the Church seemed, as I thought, to have aroused
in my friend a new sense of vocation. He asked me if I myself aspired
to belong to the holy priesthood. I answered that this was indeed my
aspiration, if I might hope to be found worthy. He appeared to be deeply
affected. I ventured to ask if he too had the same prospect before him.
He grieved me indescribably. He sighed and said, 'I have no such hope; I
am married.' Tell me Father, I entreat you, have I done wrong?"

Father Benwell considered for a moment. "Did Mr. Romayne say anything
more?" he asked.

"No, Father."

"Did you attempt to return to the subject?"

"I thought it best to be silent."

Father Benwell held out his hand. "My young friend, you have not only
done no wrong--you have shown the most commendable discretion. I will
detain you no longer from your duties. Go to Mr. Romayne, and say that I
wish to speak with him."

Mr. Mortleman dropped on one knee, and begged for a blessing. Father
Benwell lifted the traditional two fingers, and gave the blessing.
The conditions of human happiness are easily fulfilled if we rightly
understand them. Mr. Mortleman retired perfectly happy.

Left by himself again, Father Benwell paced the room rapidly from end to
end. The disturbing influence visible in his face had now changed from
anxiety to excitement. "I'll try it to-day!" he said to himself--and
stopped, and looked round him doubtfully. "No, not here," he decided;
"it may get talked about too soon. It will be safer in every way at my
lodgings." He recovered his composure, and returned to his chair.

Romayne opened the door.

The double influence of the conversion, and of the life in The Retreat,
had already changed him. His customary keenness and excitability of look
had subsided, and had left nothing in their place but an expression of
suave and meditative repose. All his troubles were now in the hands of
his priest. There was a passive regularity in his bodily movements and a
beatific serenity in his smile.

"My dear friend," said Father Benwell, cordially shaking hands, "you
were good enough to be guided by my advice in entering this house. Be
guided by me again, when I say that you have been here long enough. You
can return, after an interval, if you wish it. But I have something to
say to you first--and I beg to offer the hospitality of my lodgings."

The time had been when Romayne would have asked for some explanation of
this abrupt notice of removal. Now, he passively accepted the advice of
his spiritual director. Father Benwell made the necessary communication
to the authorities, and Romayne took leave of his friends in The
Retreat. The great Jesuit and the great landowner left the place, with
becoming humility, in a cab.

"I hope I have not disappointed you?" said Father Benwell.

"I am only anxious," Romayne answered, "to hear what you have to say."



CHAPTER III.

THE HARVEST IS REAPED.

ON their way through the streets, Father Benwell talked as persistently
of the news of the day as if he had nothing else in his thoughts.
To keep his companion's mind in a state of suspense was, in certain
emergencies, to exert a useful preparatory influence over a man of
Romayne's character. Even when they reached his lodgings, the priest
still hesitated to approach the object that he had in view. He made
considerate inquiries, in the character of a hospitable man.

"They breakfast early at The Retreat," he said. "What may I offer you?"

"I want nothing, thank you," Romayne answered, with an effort to control
his habitual impatience of needless delay.

"Pardon me--we have a long interview before us, I fear. Our bodily
necessities, Romayne (excuse me if I take the friendly liberty of
suppressing the formal 'Mr.')--our bodily necessities are not to be
trifled with. A bottle of my famous claret, and a few biscuits, will not
hurt either of us." He rang the bell, and gave the necessary directions
"Another damp day!" he went on cheerfully. "I hope you don't pay the
rheumatic penalties of a winter residence in England? Ah, this glorious
country would be too perfect if it possessed the delicious climate of
Rome!"

The wine and biscuits were brought in. Father Benwell filled the glasses
and bowed cordially to his guest.

"Nothing of this sort at The Retreat!" he said gayly. "Excellent water,
I am told--which is a luxury in its way, especially in London. Well, my
dear Romayne, I must begin by making my apologies. You no doubt thought
me a little abrupt in running away with you from your retirement at a
moment's notice?"

"I believed that you had good reasons, Father--and that was enough for
me."

"Thank you--you do me justice--it was in your best interests that I
acted. There are men of phlegmatic temperament, over whom the wise
monotony of discipline at The Retreat exercises a wholesome influence--I
mean an influence which may be prolonged with advantage. You are not one
of those persons. Protracted seclusion and monotony of life are morally
and mentally unprofitable to a man of your ardent disposition. I
abstained from mentioning these reasons, at the time, out of a feeling
of regard for our excellent resident director, who believes unreservedly
in the institution over which he presides. Very good! The Retreat has
done all that it could usefully do in your case. We must think next of
how to employ that mental activity which, rightly developed, is one of
the most valuable qualities that you possess. Let me ask, first, if you
have in some degree recovered your tranquillity?"

"I feel like a different man, Father Benwell."

"That's right! And your nervous sufferings--I don't ask what they are; I
only want to know if you experience a sense of relief?"

"A most welcome sense of relief," Romayne answered, with a revival of
the enthusiasm of other days. "The complete change in all my thoughts
and convictions which I owe to you--"

"And to dear Penrose," Father Benwell interposed, with the prompt sense
of justice which no man could more becomingly assume. "We must not
forget Arthur."

"Forget him?" Romayne repeated. "Not a day passes without my thinking
of him. It is one of the happy results of the change in me that my mind
does not dwell bitterly on the loss of him now. I think of Penrose
with admiration, as of one whose glorious life, with all its dangers, I
should like to share!"

He spoke with a rising color and brightening eyes. Already, the
absorbent capacity of the Roman Church had drawn to itself that
sympathetic side of his character which was also one of its strongest
sides. Already, his love for Penrose--hitherto inspired by the virtues
of the man--had narrowed its range to sympathy with the trials and
privileges of the priest. Truly and deeply, indeed, had the physician
consulted, in bygone days, reasoned on Romayne's case! That "occurrence
of some new and absorbing influence in his life," of which the doctor
had spoken--that "working of some complete change in his habits of
thought"--had found its way to him at last, after the wife's simple
devotion had failed, through the subtler ministrations of the priest.

Some men, having Father Benwell's object in view, would have taken
instant advantage of the opening offered to them by Romayne's unguarded
enthusiasm. The illustrious Jesuit held fast by the wise maxim which
forbade him to do anything in a hurry.

"No," he said, "your life must not be the life of our dear friend. The
service on which the Church employs Penrose is not the fit service for
you. You have other claims on us."

Romayne looked at his spiritual adviser with a momentary change of
expression--a relapse into the ironical bitterness of the past time.

"Have you forgotten that I am, and can be, only a layman?" he asked.
"What claims can I have, except the common claim of all faithful members
of the Church on the good offices of the priesthood?" He paused for a
moment, and continued with the abruptness of a man struck by a new idea.
"Yes! I have perhaps one small aim of my own--the claim of being allowed
to do my duty."

"In what respect, dear Romayne?"

"Surely you can guess? I am a rich man; I have money lying idle,
which it is my duty (and my privilege) to devote to the charities and
necessities of the Church. And, while I am speaking of this, I must own
that I am a little surprised at your having said nothing to me on the
subject. You have never yet pointed out to me the manner in which I
might devote my money to the best and noblest uses. Was it forgetfulness
on your part?"

Father Benwell shook his head. "No," he replied; "I can't honestly say
that."

"Then you had a reason for your silence?"

"Yes."

"May I not know it?"

Father Benwell got up and walked to the fireplace. Now there are various
methods of getting up and walking to a fireplace, and they find their
way to outward expression through the customary means of look and
manner. We may feel cold, and may only want to warm ourselves. Or we may
feel restless, and may need an excuse for changing our position. Or
we may feel modestly confused, and may be anxious to hide it. Father
Benwell, from head to foot, expressed modest confusion, and polite
anxiety to hide it.

"My good friend," he said, "I am afraid of hurting your feelings."

Romayne was a sincere convert, but there were instincts still left in
him which resented this expression of regard, even when it proceeded
from a man whom he respected and admired. "You will hurt my feelings,"
he answered, a little sharply, "if you are not plain with me."

"Then I _will_ be plain with you," Father Benwell rejoined. "The
Church--speaking through me, as her unworthy interpreter--feels a
certain delicacy in approaching You on the subject of money."

"Why?"

Father Benwell left the fireplace without immediately answering. He
opened a drawer and took out of it a flat mahogany box. His gracious
familiarity became transformed, by some mysterious process of
congelation, into a dignified formality of manner. The priest took the
place of the man.

"The Church, Mr. Romayne, hesitates to receive, as benevolent
contributions, money derived from property of its own, arbitrarily taken
from it, and placed in a layman's hands. No!" he cried, interrupting
Romayne, who instantly understood the allusion to Vange Abbey--"no!
I must beg you to hear me out. I state the case plainly, at your
own request. At the same time, I am bound to admit that the lapse of
centuries has, in the eye of the law, sanctioned the deliberate act of
robbery perpetrated by Henry the Eighth. You have lawfully inherited
Vange Abbey from your ancestors. The Church is not unreasonable enough
to assert a merely moral right against the law of the country. It
may feel the act of spoliation--but it submits." He unlocked the flat
mahogany box, and gently dropped his dignity: the man took the place of
the priest. "As the master of Vange," he said, "you may be interested in
looking at a little historical curiosity which we have preserved.
The title-deeds, dear Romayne, by which the monks held your present
property, in _their_ time. Take another glass of wine."

Romayne looked at the title-deeds, and laid them aside unread.

Father Benwell had roused his pride, his sense of justice, his wild
and lavish instincts of generosity. He, who had always despised
money--except when it assumed its only estimable character, as a means
for the attainment of merciful and noble ends--_he_ was in possession of
property to which he had no moral right: without even the poor excuse of
associations which attached him to the place.

"I hope I have not offended you?" said Father Benwell.

"You have made me ashamed of myself," Romayne answered, warmly. "On the
day when I became a Catholic, I ought to have remembered Vange. Better
late than never. I refuse to take shelter under the law--I respect the
moral right of the Church. I will at once restore the property which I
have usurped."

Father Benwell took both Romayne's hands in his, and pressed them
fervently.

"I am proud of you!" he said. "We shall all be proud of you, when I write
word to Rome of what has passed between us. But--no, Romayne!--this
must not be. I admire you, feel with you; and I refuse. On behalf of the
Church, I say it--I refuse the gift."

"Wait a little, Father Benwell! You don't know the state of my affairs.
I don't deserve the admiration which you feel for me. The loss of the
Vange property will be no pecuniary loss, in my case. I have inherited
a fortune from my aunt. My income from that source is far larger than my
income from the Yorkshire property."

"Romayne, it must not be!"

"Pardon me, it must be. I have more money than I can spend--without
Vange. And I have painful associations with the house which disincline
me ever to enter it again."

Even this confession failed to move Father Benwell. He obstinately
crossed his arms, obstinately tapped his foot on the floor. "No!" he
said. "Plead as generously as you may, my answer is, No."

Romayne only became more resolute on his side. "The property is
absolutely my own," he persisted. "I am without a near relation in the
world. I have no children. My wife is already provided for at my
death, out of the fortune left me by my aunt. It is downright
obstinacy--forgive me for saying so--to persist in your refusal."

"It is downright duty, Romayne. If I gave way to you, I should be the
means of exposing the priesthood to the vilest misinterpretation. I
should be deservedly reprimanded, and your proposal of restitution--if
you expressed it in writing--would, without a moment's hesitation, be
torn up. If you have any regard for me, drop the subject."

Romayne refused to yield, even to this unanswerable appeal.

"Very well," he said, "there is one document you can't tear up. You
can't interfere with my making another will. I shall leave the Vange
property to the Church, and I shall appoint you one of the trustees. You
can't object to that."

Father Benwell smiled sadly.

"The law spares me the ungracious necessity of objecting, in this case,"
he answered. "My friend, you forget the Statutes of Mortmain. They
positively forbid you to carry out the intention which you have just
expressed."

Romayne dismissed this appeal to the law irritably, by waving his hand.
"The Statutes of Mortmain," he rejoined, "can't prevent my bequeathing
my property to an individual. I shall leave Vange Abbey to You. Now,
Father Benwell! have I got the better of you at last?"

With Christian humility the Jesuit accepted the defeat, for which he had
paved the way from the outset of the interview. A t the same time,
he shuffled all personal responsibility off his own shoulders. He had
gained the victory for the Church--without (to do him justice) thinking
of himself.

"Your generosity has conquered me," he said. "But I must be allowed to
clear myself of even the suspicion of an interested motive. On the day
when your will is executed, I shall write to the General of our Order at
Rome, leaving my inheritance to him. This proceeding will be followed by
a deed, in due form, conveying the property to the Church. You have
no objection to my taking that course? No? My dear Romayne, words are
useless at such a time as this. My acts shall speak for me. I am too
agitated to say more. Let us talk of something else--let us have some
wine."

He filled the glasses; he offered more biscuits.--he was really, and
even perceptibly, agitated by the victory that he had won. But one
last necessity now confronted him--the necessity of placing a serious
obstacle in the way of any future change of purpose on the part of
Romayne. As to the choice of that obstacle, Father Benwell's mind had
been made up for some time past.

"What _was_ it I had to say to you?" he resumed "Surely, I was speaking
on the subject of your future life?"

"You are very kind, Father Benwell. The subject has little interest
for me. My future life is shaped out--domestic retirement, ennobled by
religious duties."

Still pacing the room, Father Benwell stopped at that reply, and put his
hand kindly on Romayne's shoulder.

"We don't allow a good Catholic to drift into domestic retirement, who
is worthy of better things," he said. "The Church, Romayne wishes to
make use of you. I never flattered any one in my life, but I may say
before your face what I have said behind your back. A man of your strict
sense of honor--of your intellect--of your high aspirations--of your
personal charm and influence--is not a man whom we can allow to run to
waste. Open your mind, my friend, fairly to me, and I will open my
mind fairly to you. Let me set the example. I say it with authority; an
enviable future is before you."

Romayne's pale cheeks flushed with excitement. "What future?" he asked,
eagerly. "Am I free to choose? Must I remind you that a man with a wife
cannot think only of himself?"

"Suppose you were _not_ a man with a wife."

"What do you mean?"

"Romayne, I am trying to break my way through that inveterate reserve
which is one of the failings in your character. Unless you can prevail
on yourself to tell me those secret thoughts, those unexpressed regrets,
which you can confide to no other man, this conversation must come to an
end. Is there no yearning, in your inmost soul, for anything beyond the
position which you now occupy?"

There was a pause. The flush on Romayne's face faded away. He was
silent.

"You are not in the confessional," Father Benwell reminded him, with
melancholy submission to circumstances. "You are under no obligation to
answer me."

Romayne roused himself. He spoke in low, reluctant tones. "I am afraid
to answer you," he said.

That apparently discouraging reply armed Father Benwell with the
absolute confidence of success which he had thus far failed to feel. He
wound his way deeper and deeper into Romayne's mind, with the delicate
ingenuity of penetration, of which the practice of years had made him
master.

"Perhaps I have failed to make myself clearly understood," he said. "I
will try to put it more plainly. You are no half-hearted man, Romayne.
What you believe, you believe fervently. Impressions are not dimly and
slowly produced on _your_ mind. As the necessary result, your conversion
being once accomplished, your whole soul is given to the Faith that is
in you. Do I read your character rightly?"

"So far as I know it--yes."

Father Benwell went on.

"Bear in mind what I have just said," he resumed; "and you will
understand why I feel it my duty to press the question which you have
not answered yet. You have found in the Catholic Faith the peace of mind
which you have failed to obtain by other means. If I had been dealing
with an ordinary man, I should have expected from the change no happier
result than this. But I ask You, has that blessed influence taken no
deeper and nobler hold on your heart? Can you truly say to me, 'I am
content with what I have gained; I wish for no more'?"

"I cannot truly say it," Romayne answered.

The time had now come for speaking plainly. Father Benwell no longer
advanced to his end under cover of a cloud of words.

"A little while since," he said, "you spoke of Penrose as of a man whose
lot in life you longed to share. The career which has associated him
with an Indian mission is, as I told you, only adapted to a man of his
special character and special gifts. But the career which has carried
him into the sacred ranks of the priesthood is open to every man who
feels the sense of divine vocation, which has made Penrose one of Us."

"No, Father Benwell! Not open to every man."

"I say, Yes!"

"It is not open to Me!"

"I say it is open to You. And more--I enjoin, I command, you to dismiss
from your mind all merely human obstacles and discouragements. They are
beneath the notice of a man who feels himself called to the priesthood.
Give me your hand, Romayne! Does your conscience tell you that you are
that man?"

Romayne started to his feet, shaken to the soul by the solemnity of the
appeal.

"I can't dismiss the obstacles that surround me!" he cried,
passionately. "To a man in my position, your advice is absolutely
useless. The ties that bind me are beyond the limit of a priest's
sympathies."

"Nothing is beyond the limit of a priest's sympathies."

"Father Benwell, I am married!"

Father Benwell folded his arms over his breast--looked with immovable
resolution straight in Romayne's face--and struck the blow which he had
been meditating for months past.

"Rouse your courage," he said sternly. "You are no more married than I
am."



CHAPTER IV.

ON THE ROAD TO ROME.

THERE was not a sound in the room. Romayne stood, looking at the priest

"Did you hear what I said?" Father Benwell asked.

"Yes."

"Do you understand that I really mean what I said?"

He made no reply--he waited, like a man expecting to hear more.

Father Benwell was alive to the vast importance, at such a moment, of
not shrinking from the responsibility which he had assumed. "I see how
I distress you," he said; "but, for your sake, I am bound to speak out.
Romayne! the woman whom you have married is the wife of another man.
Don't ask me how I know it--I do know it. You shall have positive proof,
as soon as you have recovered. Come! rest a little in the easy-chair."

He took Romayne's arm, and led him to the chair, and made him drink some
wine. They waited a while. Romayne lifted his head, with a heavy sigh.

"The woman whom I have married is the wife of another man." He slowly
repeated the words to himself--and then looked at Father Benwell.

"Who is the man?" he asked.

"I introduced you to him, when I was as ignorant of the circumstances as
you are," the priest answered. "The man is Mr. Bernard Winterfield."

Romayne half raised himself from the chair. A momentary anger glittered
in his eyes, and faded out again, extinguished by the nobler emotions of
grief and shame. He remembered Winterfield's introduction to Stella.

"Her husband!" he said, speaking again to himself. "And she let me
introduce him to her. And she received him like a stranger." He paused,
and thought of it. "The proofs, if you please, sir," he resumed, with
sudden humility. "I don't want to hear any particulars. It will be
enough for me if I know beyond all doubt that I have been deceived and
disgraced."

Father Benwell unlocked his desk and placed two papers before Romayne.
He did his duty with a grave indifference to all minor considerations.
The time had not yet come for expressions of sympathy and regret.

"The first paper," he said, "is a certified copy of the register of the
marriage of Miss Eyrecourt to Mr. Winterfield, celebrated (as you
will see) by the English chaplain at Brussels, and witnessed by three
persons. Look at the names."

The bride's mother was the first witness. The two names t hat followed
were the names of Lord and Lady Loring. "_They_, too, in the conspiracy
to deceive me!" Romayne said, as he laid the paper back on the table.

"I obtained that piece of written evidence," Father Benwell proceeded,
"by the help of a reverend colleague of mine, residing at Brussels.
I will give you his name and address, if you wish to make further
inquiries."

"Quite needless. What is this other paper?"

"This other paper is an extract from the short-hand writer's notes
(suppressed in the reports of the public journals) of proceedings in an
English court of law, obtained at my request by my lawyer in London."

"What have I to do with it?"

He put the question in a tone of passive endurance--resigned to the
severest moral martyrdom that could be inflicted on him.

"I will answer you in two words," said Father Benwell. "In justice to
Miss Eyrecourt, I am bound to produce her excuse for marrying you."

Romayne looked at him in stern amazement.

"Excuse!" he repeated.

"Yes--excuse. The proceedings to which I have alluded declare Miss
Eyrecourt's marriage to Mr. Winterfield to be null and void--by the
English law--in consequence of his having been married at the time to
another woman. Try to follow me. I will put it as briefly as possible.
In justice to yourself, and to your future career, you must understand
this revolting case thoroughly, from beginning to end."

With those prefatory words, he told the story of Winterfield's first
marriage; altering nothing; concealing nothing; doing the fullest
justice to Winterfield's innocence of all evil motive, from first to
last. When the plain truth served his purpose, as it most assuredly did
in this case, the man has never yet been found who could match Father
Benwell at stripping himself of every vestige of reserve, and exhibiting
his naked heart to the moral admiration of mankind.

"You were mortified, and I was surprised," he went on, "when Mr.
Winterfield dropped his acquaintance with you. We now know that he acted
like an honorable man."

He waited to see what effect he had produced. Romayne was in no state of
mind to do justice to Winterfield or to any one. His pride was mortally
wounded; his high sense of honor and delicacy writhed under the outrage
inflicted on it.

"And mind this," Father Benwell persisted, "poor human nature has
its right to all that can be justly conceded in the way of excuse and
allowance. Miss Eyrecourt would naturally be advised by her friends,
would naturally be eager, on her own part, to keep hidden from you
what happened at Brussels. A sensitive woman, placed in a position so
horribly false and degrading, must not be too severely judged, even when
she does wrong. I am bound to say this--and more. Speaking from my own
knowledge of all the parties, I have no doubt that Miss Eyrecourt and
Mr. Winterfield did really part at the church door."

Romayne answered by a look--so disdainfully expressive of the most
immovable unbelief that it absolutely justified the fatal advice by
which Stella's worldly-wise friends had encouraged her to conceal the
truth. Father Benwell prudently closed his lips. He had put the case
with perfect fairness--his bitterest enemy could not have denied that.

Romayne took up the second paper, looked at it, and threw it back again
on the table with an expression of disgust.

"You told me just now," he said, "that I was married to the wife of
another man. And there is the judge's decision, releasing Miss
Eyrecourt from her marriage to Mr. Winterfield. May I ask you to explain
yourself?"

"Certainly. Let me first remind you that you owe religious allegiance to
the principles which the Church has asserted, for centuries past, with
all the authority of its divine institution. You admit that?"

"I admit it."

"Now, listen! In _our_ church, Romayne, marriage is even more than a
religious institution--it is a sacrament. We acknowledge no human laws
which profane that sacrament. Take two examples of what I say. When the
great Napoleon was at the height of his power, Pius the Seventh refused
to acknowledge the validity of the Emperor's second marriage to Maria
Louisa--while Josephine was living, divorced by the French Senate.
Again, in the face of the Royal Marriage Act, the Church sanctioned the
marriage of Mrs. Fitzherbert to George the Fourth, and still declares,
in justice to her memory, that she was the king's lawful wife. In one
word, marriage, to _be_ marriage at all, must be the object of a purely
religious celebration--and, this condition complied with, marriage
is only to be dissolved by death. You remember what I told you of Mr.
Winterfield?"

"Yes. His first marriage took place before the registrar."

"In plain English, Romayne, Mr. Winterfield and the woman-rider in the
circus pronounced a formula of words before a layman in an office. That
is not only no marriage, it is a blasphemous profanation of a holy
rite. Acts of Parliament which sanction such proceedings are acts of
infidelity. The Church declares it, in defense of religion."

"I understand you," said Romayne. "Mr. Winterfield's marriage at
Brussels--"

"Which the English law," Father Benwell interposed, "declares to
be annulled by the marriage before the registrar, stands good,
nevertheless, by the higher law of the Church. Mr. Winterfield is Miss
Eyrecourt's husband, as long as they both live. An ordained priest
performed the ceremony in a consecrated building--and Protestant
marriages, so celebrated, are marriages acknowledged by the Catholic
Church. Under those circumstances, the ceremony which afterward united
you to Miss Eyrecourt--though neither you nor the clergyman were to
blame--was a mere mockery. Need I to say any more? Shall I leave you for
a while by yourself?"

"No! I don't know what I may think, I don't know what I may do, if you
leave me by myself."

Father Benwell took a chair by Romayne's side. "It has been my hard duty
to grieve and humiliate you," he said. "Do you bear me no ill will?" He
held out his hand.

Romayne took it--as an act of justice, if not as an act of gratitude.

"Can I be of any use in advising you?" Father Benwell asked.

"Who can advise a man in my position?" Romayne bitterly rejoined.

"I can at least suggest that you should take time to think over your
position."

"Time? take time? You talk as if my situation was endurable."

"Everything is endurable, Romayne!"

"It may be so to you, Father Benwell. Did you part with your humanity
when you put on the black robe of the priest?"

"I parted, my son, with those weaknesses of _our_ humanity on which
women practice. You talk of your position. I will put it before you at
its worst."

"For what purpose?"

"To show you exactly what you have now to decide. Judged by the law of
England, Mrs. Romayne is your wife. Judged by the principles held sacred
among the religious community to which you belong, she is not Mrs.
Romayne--she is Mrs. Winterfield, living with you in adultery. If you
regret your conversion--"

"I don't regret it, Father Benwell."

"If you renounce the holy aspirations which you have yourself
acknowledged to me, return to your domestic life. But don't ask us,
while you are living with that lady, to respect you as a member of our
communion."

Romayne was silent. The more violent emotions aroused in him had, with
time, subsided into calm. Tenderness, mercy, past affection, found their
opportunity, and pleaded with him. The priest's bold language had missed
the object at which it aimed. It had revived in Romayne's memory the
image of Stella in the days when he had first seen her. How gently her
influence had wrought on him for good! how tenderly, how truly, she had
loved him. "Give me some more wine!" he cried. "I feel faint and giddy.
Don't despise me, Father Benwell--I was once so fond of her!"

The priest poured out the wine. "I feel for you," he said. "Indeed,
indeed, I feel for you."

It was not all a lie--there were grains of truth in that outburst
of sympathy. Father Benwell was not wholly merciless. His far-seeing
intellect, his daring duplicity, carried him straight on to his end in
view. But, that end once gained--and, let it be remembered, not gained,
in this case, wholly for himself--there were compassionate impulses
left in him which sometimes forced their way to the surface. A man of
high intelligence--however he may misuse it, however unworthy he may
be of it--has a gift from Heaven. When you want to see unredeemed
wickedness, look for it in a fool.

"Let me mention one circumstance," Father Benwell proceeded, "which may
help to relieve you for the moment. In your present state of mind, you
cannot return to The Retreat."

"Impossible!"

"I have had a room prepared for you in this house. Here, free from any
disturbing influence, you can shape the future course of your life. If
you wish to communicate with your residence at Highgate--"

"Don't speak of it!"

Father Benwell sighed. "Ah, I understand!" he said, sadly. "The house
associated with Mr. Winterfield's visit--"

Romayne again interrupted him--this time by gesture only. The hand that
had made the sign clinched itself when it rested afterward on the
table. His eyes looked downward, under frowning brows. At the name of
Winterfield, remembrances that poisoned every better influence in him
rose venomously in his mind. Once more he loathed the deceit that had
been practiced on him. Once more the detestable doubt of that asserted
parting at the church door renewed its stealthy torment, and reasoned
with him as if in words: She has deceived you in one thing; why not in
another?

"Can I see my lawyer here?" he asked, suddenly.

"My dear Romayne, you can see any one whom you like to invite."

"I shall not trouble you by staying very long, Father Benwell."

"Do nothing in a hurry, my son. Pray do nothing in a hurry!"

Romayne paid no attention to this entreaty. Shrinking from the momentous
decision that awaited him, his mind instinctively took refuge in
the prospect of change of scene. "I shall leave England," he said,
impatiently.

"Not alone!" Father Benwell remonstrated.

"Who will be my companion?"

"I will," the priest answered.

Romayne's weary eyes brightened faintly. In his desolate position,
Father Benwell was the one friend on whom he could rely. Penrose was far
away; the Lorings had helped to keep him deceived; Major Hynd had openly
pitied and despised him as a victim to priestcraft.

"Can you go with me at any time?" he asked. "Have you no duties that
keep you in England?"

"My duties, Romayne, are already confided to other hands."

"Then you have foreseen this?"

"I have thought it possible. Your journey may be long, or it may be
short--you shall not go away alone."

"I can think of nothing yet; my mind is a blank," Romayne confessed
sadly. "I don't know where I shall go."

"I know where you ought to go--and where you _will_ go," said Father
Benwell, emphatically.

"Where?"

"To Rome."

Romayne understood the true meaning of that brief reply. A vague sense
of dismay began to rise in his mind. While he was still tortured by
doubt, it seemed as if Father Benwell had, by some inscrutable process
of prevision, planned out his future beforehand. Had the priest foreseen
events?

No--he had only foreseen possibilities, on the day when it first
occurred to him that Romayne's marriage was assailable, before the court
of Romayne's conscience, from the Roman Catholic point of view. By
this means, the misfortune of Romayne's marriage having preceded his
conversion might be averted; and the one certain obstacle in the way of
any change of purpose on his part--the obstacle of the priesthood--might
still be set up, by the voluntary separation of the husband from the
wife. Thus far the Jesuit had modestly described himself to his reverend
colleagues, as regarding his position toward Romayne in a new light. His
next letter might boldly explain to them what he had really meant. The
triumph was won. Not a word more passed between his guest and himself
that morning.



Before post-time, on the same day, Father Benwell wrote his last report
to the Secretary of the Society of Jesus, in these lines:

"Romayne is free from the domestic ties that bound him. He leaves it to
me to restore Vange Abbey to the Church; and he acknowledges a vocation
for the priesthood. Expect us at Rome in a fortnight's time."

AFTER THE STORY.

EXTRACTS FROM BERNARD WINTERFIELD'S DIARY.

I.

WINTERFIELD DEFENDS HIMSELF.

Beaupark House, June 17th, 18--.

You and I, Cousin Beeminster, seldom meet. But I occasionally hear of
you, from friends acquainted with both of us.

I have heard of you last at Sir Philip's rent-day dinner a week since.
My name happened to be mentioned by one of the gentlemen present, a
guest like yourself. You took up the subject of your own free will, and
spoke of me in these terms:

"I am sorry to say it of the existing head of the family--but Bernard is
really unfit for the position which he holds. He has, to say the least
of it, compromised himself and his relatives on more than one occasion.
He began as a young man by marrying a circus-rider. He got into some
other scrape, after that, which he has contrived to keep a secret from
us. We only know how disgraceful it must have been by the results--he
was a voluntary exile from England for more than a year. And now,
to complete the list, he has mixed himself up in that miserable and
revolting business of Lewis Romayne and his wife."

If any other person had spoken of me in this manner, I should have set
him down as a mischievous idiot--to be kicked perhaps, but not to be
noticed in any other way.

With you, the case is different. If I die without male offspring, the
Beaupark estate goes to you, as next heir.

I don't choose to let a man in this position slander me, and those dear
to me, without promptly contradicting him. The name I bear is precious
to me, in memory of my father. Your unanswered allusion to my relations
with "Lewis Romayne and his wife," coming from a member of the family,
will be received as truth. Rather than let this be, I reveal to you,
without reserve, some of the saddest passages of my life. I have nothing
to be ashamed of--and, if I have hitherto kept certain events in the
dark, it has been for the sake of others, not for my own sake. I know
better now. A woman's reputation--if she is a good woman--is not easily
compromised by telling the truth. The person of whom I am thinking, when
I write this, knows what I am going to do--and approves of it.

You will receive, with these lines, the most perfectly candid statement
that I can furnish, being extracts cut out of my own private Diary.
They are accompanied (where plain necessity seems to call for it) by the
written evidence of other persons.

There has never been much sympathy between us. But you have been brought
up like a gentleman--and, when you have read my narrative, I expect that
you will do justice to me, and to others--even though you think we acted
indiscreetly under trying and critical circumstances.

B. W.

II.

WINTERFIELD MAKES EXTRACTS.

First Extract.

April 11th, 1869.--Mrs. Eyrecourt and her daughter have left Beaupark
to-day for London. Have I really made any impression on the heart of the
beautiful Stella? In my miserable position--ignorant whether I am free
or not--I have shrunk from formally acknowledging that I love her.

12th.--I am becoming superstitious! In the Obituary of to-day's _Times_
the death is recorded of that unhappy woman whom I was mad enough to
marry. After hearing nothing of her for seven years--I am free! Surely
this is a good omen? Shall I follow the Eyrecourts to London, and
declare myself? I have not confidence enough in my own power of
attraction to run the risk. Better to write first, in strictest
confidence, to Mrs. Eyrecourt.

14th.--An enchanting answer from my angel's mother, written in great
haste. They are on the point of leaving for Paris. Stella is restless
and dissatisfied; she wants change of scene; and Mrs. Eyrecourt adds,
in so many words--"It is you who have upset her; why did you not speak
while we were at Beaupark?" I am to hear again from Paris. Good old
Father Newbliss said all along that she was fond of me, and wondered,
like Mrs. Eyrecourt, why I failed to declare myself. How could I tell
them of the hideous fetters which bound me in those days?

18th, Paris.--She has accepted me! Words are useless to express my
happiness.

19th.--A letter from my lawyer, full of professional subtleties and
delays. I have no patience to enumerate them. We move to Belgium
to-morrow. Not on our way back to England--Stella is so little desirous
of leaving the Continent that we are likely to be married abroad. But
she is weary of the perpetual gayety and glitter of Paris, and wants
to see the old Belgian cities. Her mother leaves Paris with regret. The
liveliest woman of her age that I ever met with.

Brussels, May 7.--My blessing on the old Belgian cities. Mrs. Eyrecourt
is so eager to get away from them that she backs me in hurrying the
marriage, and even consents, sorely against the grain, to let the
wedding be celebrated at Brussels in a private and unpretending way.
She has only stipulated that Lord and Lady Loring (old friends) shall be
present. They are to arrive tomorrow, and two days afterward we are to
be married.

*****

(An inclosure is inserted in this place. It consists of the death-bed
confession of Mr. Winterfield's wife, and of the explanatory letter
written by the rector of Belhaven. The circumstances related in
these documents, already known to the reader, are left to speak for
themselves, and the Extracts from the Diary are then continued.)

*****

Bingen, on the Rhine, May 19.--Letters from Devonshire at last, which
relieve my wretchedness in some small degree. The frightful misfortune
at Brussels will at least be kept secret, so far as I am concerned.
Beaupark House is shut up, and the servants are dismissed, "in
consequence of my residence abroad." To Father Newbliss I have privately
written. Not daring to tell him the truth, I leave him to infer that
my marriage engagement has been broken off, he writes back a kind and
comforting letter. Time will, I suppose, help me to bear my sad lot.
Perhaps a day may come when Stella and her friends will know how cruelly
they have wronged me.

London, November 18,1860.--The old wound has been opened again. I met
her accidentally in a picture gallery. She turned deadly pale, and left
the place. Oh, Stella! Stella!

London, August 12, 1861.--Another meeting with her. And another shock
to endure, which I might not have suffered if I had been a reader of the
marriage announcements in the newspapers. Like other men, I am in the
habit of leaving the marriage announcements to the women.

I went to visit an agreeable new acquaintance, Mr. Romayne. His wife
drove up to the house while I was looking out of window. I recognized
Stella! After two years, she has made use of the freedom which the law
has given to her. I must not complain of that, or of her treating me
like a stranger, when her husband innocently introduced us. But when are
were afterward left together for a few minutes--no! I cannot write down
the merciless words she said to me. Why am I fool enough to be as fond
of her as ever?

Beaupark, November 16.--Stella's married life is not likely to be a
happy one. To-day's newspaper announces the conversion of her husband to
the Roman Catholic Faith. I can honestly say I am sorry for her, knowing
how she has suffered, among her own relatives, by these conversions.
But I so hate him, that this proof of his weakness is a downright
consolation to me.

Beaupark, January 27, 1862.--A letter from Stella, so startling and
deplorable that I cannot remain away from her after reading it. Her
husband has deliberately deserted her. He has gone to Rome, to serve
his term of probation for the priesthood. I travel to London by to-day's
train.

London, January 27.--Short as it is, I looked at Stella's letter again
and again on the journey. The tone of the closing sentences is still
studiously cold. After informing me that she is staying with her mother
in London, she concludes her letter in these terms:

"Be under no fear that the burden of my troubles will be laid on your
shoulders. Since the fatal day when we met at Ten Acres, you have shown
forbearance and compassion toward me. I don't stop to inquire if you are
sincere--it rests with you to prove that. But I have some questions to
ask, which no person but you can answer. For the rest, my friendless
position will perhaps plead with you not to misunderstand me. May I
write again?"

Inveterate distrust in every sentence! If any other woman had treated me
in this way, I should have put her letter into the fire, and should not
have stirred from my comfortable house.

January 29.--A day missed out of my Diary. The events of yesterday
unnerved me for the time.

Arriving at Derwent's Hotel on the evening of the 27th, I sent a line to
Stella by messenger, to ask when she could receive me.

It is strange how the merest trifles seem to touch women! Her note in
reply contains the first expression of friendly feeling toward me
which has escaped her since we parted at Brussels. And this expression
proceeds from her ungovernable surprise and gratitude at my taking the
trouble to travel from Devonshire to London on her account!

For the rest, she proposed to call on me at the hotel the next morning.
She and her mother, it appeared, differed in opinion on the subject of
Mr. Romayne's behavior to her; and she wished to see me, in the first
instance, unrestrained by Mrs. Eyrecourt's interference.

There was little sleep for me that night. I passed most of the time in
smoking and walking up and down the room. My one relief was afforded by
Traveler--he begged so hard to go to London with me, I could not resist
him. The dog always sleeps in my room. His surprise at my extraordinary
restlessness (ending in downright anxiety and alarm) was expressed in
his eyes, and in his little whinings and cries, quite as intelligibly
as if he had put his meaning into words. Who first called a dog a dumb
creature? It must have been a man, I think--and a thoroughly unlovable
man, too, from a dog's point of view.

Soon after ten, on the morning of the 28th, she entered my sitting-room.

In her personal appearance, I saw a change for the worse: produced, I
suppose, by the troubles that have tried her sorely, poor thing.
There was a sad loss of delicacy in her features, and of purity in her
complexion. Even her dress--I should certainly not have noticed it in
any other woman--seemed to be loose and slovenly. In the agitation of
the moment, I forgot the long estrangement between us; I half lifted my
hand to take hers, and checked myself. Was I mistaken in supposing that
she yielded to the same impulse, and resisted it as I did? She concealed
her embarrassment, if she felt any, by patting the dog.

"I am ashamed that you should have taken the journey to London in this
wintry weather--" she began.

It was impossible, in her situation, to let her assume this commonplace
tone with me. "I sincerely feel for you," I said, "and sincerely wish to
help you, if I can."

She looked at me for the first time. Did she believe me? or did she
still doubt? Before I could decide, she took a letter from her pocket,
opened it, and handed it to me.

"Women often exaggerate their troubles," she said. "It is perhaps an
unfair trial of your patience--but I should like you to satisfy yourself
that I have not made the worst of my situation. That letter will place
it before you in Mr. Romayne's own words. Read it, except where the page
is turned down."

It was her husband's letter of farewell.

The language was scrupulously delicate and considerate. But to my
mind it entirely failed to disguise the fanatical cruelty of the man's
resolution, addressed to his wife. In substance, it came to this:--

"He had discovered the marriage at Brussels, which she had deliberately
concealed from him when he took her for his wife. She had afterward
persisted in that concealment, under circumstances which made it
impossible that he could ever trust her again." (This no doubt referred
to her ill-advised reception of me, as a total stranger, at Ten Acres
Lodge.) "In the miserable break-up of his domestic life, the Church to
which he now belonged offered him no t only her divine consolation,
but the honor, above all earthly distinctions, of serving the cause of
religion in the sacred ranks of the priesthood. Before his departure
for Rome he bade her a last farewell in this world, and forgave her the
injuries that she had inflicted on him. For her sake he asked leave to
say some few words more. In the first place, he desired to do her every
justice, in a worldly sense. Ten Acres Lodge was offered to her as a
free gift for her lifetime, with a sufficient income for all her wants.
In the second place, he was anxious that she should not misinterpret his
motives. Whatever his opinion of her conduct might be, he did not rely
on it as affording his only justification for leaving her. Setting
personal feeling aside, he felt religious scruples (connected with his
marriage) which left him no other alternative than the separation on
which he had resolved. He would briefly explain those scruples, and
mention his authority for entertaining them, before he closed his
letter."

There the page was turned down, and the explanation was concealed from
me.

A faint color stole over her face as I handed the letter back to her.

"It is needless for you to read the end," she said. "You know, under his
own hand, that he has left me; and (if such a thing pleads with you
in his favor) you also know that he is liberal in providing for his
deserted wife."

I attempted to speak. She saw in my face how I despised him, and stopped
me.

"Whatever you may think of his conduct," she continued, "I beg that you
will not speak of it to me. May I ask your opinion (now you have read
his letter) on another matter, in which my own conduct is concerned? In
former days--"

She paused, poor soul, in evident confusion and distress.

"Why speak of those days?" I ventured to say.

"I must speak of them. In former days, I think you were told that my
father's will provided for my mother and for me. You know that we have
enough to live on?"

I had heard of it, at the time of our betrothal--when the marriage
settlement was in preparation. The mother and daughter had each a little
income of a few hundreds a year. The exact amount had escaped my memory.

After answering her to this effect, I waited to hear more.

She suddenly became silent; the most painful embarrassment showed itself
in her face and manner. "Never mind the rest," she said, mastering her
confusion after an interval. "I have had some hard trials to bear; I
forget things--" she made an effort to finish the sentence, and gave it
up, and called to the dog to come to her. The tears were in her eyes,
and that was the way she took to hide them from me.

In general, I am not quick at reading the minds of others--but I thought
I understood Stella. Now that we were face to face, the impulse to trust
me had, for the moment, got the better of her caution and her pride;
she was half ashamed of it, half inclined to follow it. I hesitated no
longer. The time for which I had waited--the time to prove, without any
indelicacy on my side, that I had never been unworthy of her--had surely
come at last.

"Do you remember my reply to your letter about Father Benwell?" I asked.

"Yes--every word of it."

"I promised, if you ever had need of me, to prove that I had never been
unworthy of your confidence. In your present situation, I can honorably
keep my promise. Shall I wait till you are calmer? or shall I go on at
once?"

"At once!"

"When your mother and your friends took you from me," I resumed, "if you
had shown any hesitation--"

She shuddered. The image of my unhappy wife, vindictively confronting us
on the church steps, seemed to be recalled to her memory. "Don't go back
to it!" she cried. "Spare me, I entreat you."

I opened the writing-case in which I keep the papers sent to me by
the Rector of Belhaven, and placed them on the table by which she was
sitting.. The more plainly and briefly I spoke now, the better I thought
it might be for both of us.

"Since we parted at Brussels," I said, "my wife has died. Here is a copy
of the medical certificate of her death."

Stella refused to look at it. "I don't understand such things," she
answered faintly. "What is this?"

She took up my wife's death-bed confession.

"Read it," I said.

She looked frightened. "What will it tell me?" she asked.

"It will tell you, Stella, that false appearances once led you into
wronging an innocent man."

Having said this, I walked away to a window behind her, at the further
end of the room, so that she might not see me while she read.

After a time--how much longer it seemed to be than it really was!--I
heard her move. As I turned from the window, she ran to me, and fell on
her knees at my feet. I tried to raise her; I entreated her to believe
that she was forgiven. She seized my hands, and held them over her
face--they were wet with her tears. "I am ashamed to look at you," she
said. "Oh, Bernard, what a wretch I have been!"

I never was so distressed in my life. I don't know what I should have
said, what I should have done, if my dear old dog had not helped me out
of it. He, too, ran up to me, with the loving jealousy of his race, and
tried to lick my hands, still fast in Stella's hold. His paws were
on her shoulder; he attempted to push himself between us. I think I
successfully assumed a tranquillity which I was far from really feeling.
"Come, come!" I said, "you mustn't make Traveler jealous." She let me
raise her. Ah, if she could have kissed _me_--but that was not to be
done; she kissed the dog's head, and then she spoke to me. I shall not
set down what she said in these pages. While I live, there is no fear of
my forgetting those words.

I led her back to her chair. The letter addressed to me by the Rector
of Belhaven still lay on the table, unread. It was of some importance
to Stella's complete enlightenment, as containing evidence that the
confession was genuine. But I hesitated, for her sake, to speak of it
just yet.

"Now you know that you have a friend to help and advise you--" I began.

"No," she interposed; "more than a friend; say a brother."

I said it. "You had something to ask of me," I resumed, "and you never
put the question."

She understood me.

"I meant to tell you," she said, "that I had written a letter of refusal
to Mr. Romayne's lawyers. I have left Ten Acres, never to return; and
I refuse to accept a farthing of Mr. Romayne's money. My mother--though
she knows that we have enough to live on--tells me I have acted with
inexcusable pride and folly. I wanted to ask if you blame me, Bernard,
as she does?"

I daresay I was inexcusably proud and foolish too. It was the second
time she had called me by my Christian name since the happy bygone time,
never to come again. Under whatever influence I acted, I respected and
admired her for that refusal, and I owned it in so many words. This
little encouragement seemed to relieve her. She was so much calmer that
I ventured to speak of the Rector's letter.

She wouldn't hear of it. "Oh, Bernard, have I not learned to trust you
yet? Put away those papers. There is only one thing I want to know. Who
gave them to you? The Rector?"

"No."

"How did they reach you, then?"

"Through Father Benwell."

She started at that name like a woman electrified.

"I knew it!" she cried. "It _is_ the priest who has wrecked my married
life--and he got his information from those letters, before he put them
into your hands." She waited a while, and recovered herself. "That was
the first of the questions I wanted to put to you," she said. "I am
answered. I ask no more."

She was surely wrong about Father Benwell? I tried to show her why.

I told her that my reverend friend had put the letters into my hand,
with the seal which protected them unbroken. She laughed disdainfully.
Did I know him so little as to doubt for a moment that he could break
a seal and replace it again? This view was entirely new to me; I was
startled, but not convinced. I never desert my friends--even when they
are friends of no very long standing--and I still tried to defend Father
Benwell. The only result was to make her alter her intention of asking
me no more questions. I innocently roused in her a ne w curiosity. She
was eager to know how I had first become acquainted with the priest, and
how he had contrived to possess himself of papers which were intended
for my reading only.

There was but one way of answering her.

It was far from easy to a man like myself, unaccustomed to state
circumstances in their proper order--but I had no other choice than
to reply, by telling the long story of the theft and discovery of the
Rector's papers. So far as Father Benwell was concerned, the narrative
only confirmed her suspicions. For the rest, the circumstances which
most interested her were the circumstances associated with the French
boy.

"Anything connected with that poor creature," she said, "has a dreadful
interest for me now."

"Did you know him?" I asked, with some surprise.

"I knew him and his mother--you shall hear how, at another time.
I suppose I felt a presentiment that the boy would have some evil
influence over me. At any rate, when I accidentally touched him,
I trembled as if I had touched a serpent. You will think me
superstitious--but, after what you have said, it is certainly true that
he has been the indirect cause of the misfortune that has fallen on me.
How came he to steal the papers? Did you ask the Rector, when you went
to Belhaven?"

"I asked the Rector nothing. But he thought it his duty to tell me all
that he knew of the theft."

She drew her chair nearer to me. "Let me hear every word of it!" she
pleaded eagerly.

I felt some reluctance to comply with the request.

"Is it not fit for me to hear?" she asked.

This forced me to be plain with her. "If I repeat what the Rector told
me," I said, "I must speak of my wife."

She took my hand. "You have pitied and forgiven her," she answered.
"Speak of her, Bernard--and don't, for God's sake, think that my heart
is harder than yours."

I kissed the hand that she had given to me--even her "brother" might do
that!

"It began," I said, "in the grateful attachment which the boy felt for
my wife. He refused to leave her bedside on the day when she dictated
her confession to the Rector. As he was entirely ignorant of the English
language, there seemed to be no objection to letting him have his own
way. He became inquisitive as the writing went on. His questions annoyed
the Rector--and as the easiest way of satisfying his curiosity, my wife
told him that she was making her will. He knew just enough, from what
he had heard at various times, to associate making a will with gifts of
money--and the pretended explanation silenced and satisfied him."

"Did the Rector understand it?" Stella asked.

"Yes. Like many other Englishmen in his position, although he was not
ready at speaking French, he could read the language, and could fairly
well understand it, when it was spoken. After my wife's death, he kindly
placed the boy, for a few days, under the care of his housekeeper. Her
early life had been passed in the island of Martinique, and she was able
to communicate with the friendless foreigner in his own language. When
he disappeared, she was the only person who could throw any light on his
motive for stealing the papers. On the day when he entered the house,
she caught him peeping through the keyhole of the study door. He
must have seen where the confession was placed, and the color of the
old-fashioned blue paper, on which it was written, would help him to
identify it. The next morning, during the Rector's absence, he brought
the manuscript to the housekeeper, and asked her to translate it into
French, so that he might know how much money was left to him in 'the
will.' She severely reproved him, made him replace the paper in the desk
from which he had taken it, and threatened to tell the Rector if his
misconduct was repeated. He promised amendment, and the good-natured
woman believed him. On that evening the papers were sealed, and locked
up. In the morning the lock was found broken, and the papers and the boy
were both missing together."

"Do you think he showed the confession to any other person?" Stella
asked. "I happen to know that he concealed it from his mother."

"After the housekeeper's reproof," I replied, "he would be cunning
enough, in my opinion, not to run the risk of showing it to strangers.
It is far more likely that he thought he might learn English enough to
read it himself."

There the subject dropped. We were silent for a while. She was thinking,
and I was looking at her. On a sudden, she raised her head. Her eyes
rested on me gravely.

"It is very strange!" she said

"What is strange?"

"I have been thinking of the Lorings. They encouraged me to doubt you.
They advised me to be silent about what happened at Brussels. And they
too are concerned in my husband's desertion of me. He first met Father
Benwell at their house." Her head drooped again; her next words were
murmured to herself. "I am still a young woman," she said. "Oh, God,
what is my future to be?"

This morbid way of thinking distressed me. I reminded her that she had
dear and devoted friends.

"Not one," she answered, "but you."

"Have you not seen Lady Loring?" I asked.

"She and her husband have written most kindly, inviting me to make their
house my home. I have no right to blame them--they meant well. But after
what has happened, I can't go back to them."

"I am sorry to hear it," I said.

"Are you thinking of the Lorings?" she asked.

"I don't even know the Lorings. I can think of nobody but you."

I was still looking at her--and I am afraid my eyes said more than my
words. If she had doubted it before, she must have now known that I was
as fond of her as ever. She looked distressed rather than confused. I
made an awkward attempt to set myself right.

"Surely your brother may speak plainly," I pleaded.

She agreed to this. But nevertheless she rose to go--with a friendly
word, intended (as I hoped) to show me that I had got my pardon for that
time. "Will you come and see us to-morrow?" she said. "Can you forgive
my mother as generously as you have forgiven me? I will take care,
Bernard, that she does you justice at last."

She held out her hand to take leave. How could I reply? If I had been a
resolute man, I might have remembered that it would be best for me not
to see too much of her. But I am a poor weak creature--I accepted her
invitation for the next day.

January 30.--I have just returned from my visit.

My thoughts are in a state of indescribable conflict and confusion--and
her mother is the cause of it. I wish I had not gone to the house. Am I
a bad man, I wonder? and have I only found it out now?

Mrs. Eyrecourt was alone in the drawing-room when I went in. Judging by
the easy manner in which she got up to receive me, the misfortune that
has befallen her daughter seemed to have produced no sobering change in
this frivolous woman.

"My dear Winterfield," she began, "I have behaved infamously. I won't
say that appearances were against you at Brussels--I will only say I
ought not to have trusted to appearances. You are the injured person;
please forgive me. Shall we go on with the subject? or shall we shake
hands, and say no more about it?"

I shook hands, of course. Mrs. Eyrecourt perceived that I was looking
for Stella.

"Sit down," she said; "and be good enough to put up with no more
attractive society than mine. Unless I set things straight, my good
friend, you and my daughter--oh, with the best intentions!--will
drift into a false position. You won't see Stella to-day. Quite
impossible--and I will tell you why. I am the worldly old mother; I
don't mind what I say. My innocent daughter would die before she would
confess what I am going to tell you. Can I offer you anything? Have you
had lunch?"

I begged her to continue. She perplexed--I am not sure that she did not
even alarm me.

"Very well," she proceeded. "You may be surprised to hear it--but
I don't mean to allow things to go on in this way. My contemptible
son-in-law shall return to his wife."

This startled me, and I suppose I showed it.

"Wait a little," said Mrs. Eyrecourt. "There is nothing to be alarmed
about. Romayne is a weak fool; and Father Benwell's greedy hands are (of
course) in both his pockets. But he has, unless I am entirely mistaken,
some small sense of shame, and some little human feeling still
left. After the manner in which he has behaved, these are the merest
possibilities, you will say. Very likely. I have boldly appealed to
those possibilities nevertheless. He has already gone away to Rome; and
I need hardly add--Father Benwell would take good care of that--he
has left us no address. It doesn't in the least matter. One of the
advantages of being so much in society as I am is that I have nice
acquaintances everywhere, always ready to oblige me, provided I don't
borrow money of them. I have written to Romayne, under cover to one of
my friends living in Rome. Wherever he may be, there my letter will find
him."

So far, I listened quietly enough, naturally supposing that Mrs.
Eyrecourt trusted to her own arguments and persuasions. I confess it
even to myself, with shame. It was a relief to me to feel that the
chances (with such a fanatic as Romayne) were a hundred to one against
her.

This unworthy way of thinking was instantly checked by Mrs. Eyrecourt's
next words.

"Don't suppose that I am foolish enough to attempt to reason with him,"
she went on. "My letter begins and ends on the first page. His wife has
a claim on him, which no newly-married man can resist. Let me do him
justice. He knew nothing of it before he went away. My letter--my
daughter has no suspicion that I have written it--tells him plainly what
the claim is."

She paused. Her eyes softened, her voice sank low--she became quite
unlike the Mrs. Eyrecourt whom I knew.

"In a few months more, Winterfield," she said, "my poor Stella will be a
mother. My letter calls Romayne back to his wife--_and his child."_

Mrs. Eyrecourt paused, evidently expecting me to offer an opinion of
some sort. For the moment I was really unable to speak. Stella's mother
never had a very high opinion of my abilities. She now appeared to
consider me the stupidest person in the circle of her acquaintance.

"Are you a little deaf, Winterfield?" she asked.

"Not that I know of."

"Do you understand me?"

"Oh, yes."

"Then why can't you say something? I want a man's opinion of our
prospects. Good gracious, how you fidget! Put yourself in Romayne's
place, and tell me this. If _you_ had left Stella--"

"I should never have left her, Mrs. Eyrecourt."

"Be quiet. You don't know what you would have done. I insist on your
supposing yourself to be a weak, superstitious, conceited, fanatical
fool. You understand? Now, tell me, then. Could you keep away from your
wife, when you were called back to her in the name of your firstborn
child? Could you resist that?"

"Most assuredly not!"

I contrived to reply with an appearance of tranquillity. It was not
very easy to speak with composure. Envious, selfish, contemptible--no
language is too strong to describe the turn my thoughts now took. I
never hated any human being as I hated Romayne at that moment. "Damn
him, he will come back!" There was my inmost feeling expressed in words.

In the meantime, Mrs. Eyrecourt was satisfied. She dashed at the next
subject as fluent and as confident as ever.

"Now, Winterfield, it is surely plain to your mind that you must not see
Stella again--except when I am present to tie the tongue of scandal. My
daughter's conduct must not allow her husband--if you only knew how
I detest that man!--must not, I say, allow her husband the slightest
excuse for keeping away from her. If we give that odious old Jesuit the
chance, he will make a priest of Romayne before we know where we are.
The audacity of these Papists is really beyond belief. You remember how
they made Bishops and Archbishops here, in flat defiance of our
laws? Father Benwell follows that example, and sets our other laws at
defiance--I mean our marriage laws. I am so indignant I can't express
myself as clearly as usual. Did Stella tell you that he actually shook
Romayne's belief in his own marriage? Ah, I understand--she kept that to
herself, poor dear, and with good reason, too."

I thought of the turned-down page in the letter. Mrs. Eyrecourt
readily revealed what her daughter's delicacy had forbidden me to
read--including the monstrous assumption which connected my marriage
before the registrar with her son-in-law's scruples.

"Yes," she proceeded, "these Catholics are all alike. My daughter--I
don't mean my sweet Stella; I mean the unnatural creature in the
nunnery--sets herself above her own mother. Did I ever tell you she was
impudent enough to say she would pray for me? Father Benwell and the
Papal Aggression over again! Now tell me, Winterfield, don't you think,
taking the circumstances into consideration--that you will act like a
thoroughly sensible man if you go back to Devonshire while we are in
our present situation? What with foot-warmers in the carriage, and
newspapers and magazines to amuse you, it isn't such a very long
journey. And then Beaupark--dear Beaupark--is such a remarkably
comfortable house in the winter; and you, you enviable creature, are
such a popular man in the neighborhood. Oh, go back! go back!"

I got up and took my hat. She patted me on the shoulder. I could have
throttled her at that moment. And yet she was right.

"You will make my excuses to Stella?" I said.

"You dear, good fellow, I will do more than make your excuses; I will
sing your praises--as the poet says." In her ungovernable exultation at
having got rid of me, she burst into extravagant language. "I feel like
a mother to you," she went on, as we shook hands at parting. "I declare
I could almost let you kiss me."

There was not a single kissable place about Mrs. Eyrecourt, unpainted,
undyed, or unpowdered. I resisted temptation and opened the door. There
was still one last request that I could not help making.

"Will you let me know," I said, "when you hear from Rome?"

"With the greatest pleasure," Mrs. Eyrecourt answered, briskly.
"Good-by, you best of friends--good-by."

I write these lines while the servant is packing my portmanteau.
Traveler knows what that means. My dog is glad, at any rate, to get away
from London. I think I shall hire a yacht, and try what a voyage round
the world will do for me. I wish to God I had never seen Stella!

Second Extract.

Beaupark, February 10.--News at last from Mrs. Eyrecourt.

Romayne has not even read the letter that she addressed to him--it has
actually been returned to her by Father Benwell. Mrs. Eyrecourt writes,
naturally enough, in a state of fury. Her one consolation, under
this insulting treatment, is that her daughter knows nothing of the
circumstances. She warns me (quite needlessly) to keep the secret--and
sends me a copy of Father Benwell's letter:

"Dear Madam--Mr. Romayne can read nothing that diverts his attention
from his preparation for the priesthood, or that recalls past
associations with errors which he has renounced forever. When a letter
reaches him, it is his wise custom to look at the signature first.
He has handed your letter to me, _unread_--with a request that I will
return it to you. In his presence, I instantly sealed it up. Neither he
nor I know, or wish to know, on what subject you have addressed him. We
respectfully advise you not to write again."

This is really too bad; but it has one advantage, so far as I am
concerned. It sets my own unworthy doubts and jealousies before me in a
baser light than ever. How honestly I defended Father Benwell! and how
completely he has deceived me! I wonder whether I shall live long enough
to see the Jesuit caught in one of his own traps?

11th.--I was disappointed at not hearing from Stella, yesterday. This
morning has made amends; it has brought me a letter from her.

She is not well; and her mother's conduct sadly perplexes her. At one
time, Mrs. Eyrecourt's sense of injury urges her to indulge in violent
measures--she is eager to place her deserted daughter under the
protection of the law; to insist on a restitution of conjugal rights
or on a judicial separation. At another time she sinks into a state of
abject depression; declares that it is impossible for her, in Stella's
deplorable situation, to face society; and recommends immediate
retirement to some place on the Continent in which they can live
cheaply. This latter suggestion Stella is not only ready, but eager, to
adopt. She proves it by asking for my advice, in a postscript; no doubt
remembering the happy days when I courted her in Paris, and the many
foreign friends of mine who called at our hotel.

The postscript gave me the excuse that I wanted. I knew perfectly well
that it would be better for me not to see her--and I went to London, for
the sole purpose of seeing her, by the first train.

London, February 12.--I found mother and daughter together in the
drawing-room. It was one of Mrs. Eyrecourt's days of depression. Her
little twinkling eyes tried to cast on me a look of tragic reproach; she
shook her dyed head and said, "Oh. Winterfield, I didn't think you would
have done this!--Stella, fetch me my smelling bottle."

But Stella refused to take the hint. She almost brought the tears into
my eyes, she received me so kindly. If her mother had not been in the
room--but her mother _was_ in the room; I had no other choice than to
enter on my business, as if I had been the family lawyer.

Mrs. Eyrecourt began by reproving Stella for asking my advice, and then
assured me that she had no intention of leaving London. "How am I to get
rid of my house?" she asked, irritably enough. I knew that "her house"
(as she called it) was the furnished upper part of a house belonging
to another person, and that she could leave it at a short notice. But I
said nothing. I addressed myself to Stella.

"I have been thinking of two or three places which you might like," I
went on. "The nearest place belongs to an old French gentleman and his
wife. They have no children, and they don't let lodgings; but I believe
they would be glad to receive friends of mine, if their spare rooms are
not already occupied. They live at St. Germain--close to Paris."

I looked at Mrs. Eyrecourt as I said those last words--I was as sly as
Father Benwell himself. Paris justified my confidence: the temptation
was too much for her. She not only gave way, but actually mentioned
the amount of rent which she could afford to pay. Stella whispered her
thanks to me as I went out. "My name is not mentioned, but my misfortune
is alluded to in the newspapers," she said. "Well-meaning friends are
calling and condoling with me already. I shall die, if you don't help me
to get away among strangers!"

I start for Paris by the mail train, to-night.

Paris, February 13.--It is evening. I have just returned from St.
Germain. Everything is settled--with more slyness on my part. I begin to
think I am a born Jesuit; there must have been some detestable sympathy
between Father Benwell and me.

My good friends, Monsieur and Madame Villeray, will be only too glad
to receive English ladies, known to me for many years. The spacious
and handsome first floor of their house (inherited from once wealthy
ancestors by Madame Villeray) can be got ready to receive Mrs. Eyrecourt
and her daughter in a week's time. Our one difficulty related to the
question of money. Monsieur Villeray, living on a Government pension,
was modestly unwilling to ask terms; and I was too absolutely ignorant
of the subject to be of the slightest assistance to him. It ended in our
appealing to a house-agent at St. Germain. His estimate appeared to me
to be quite reasonable. But it exceeded the pecuniary limit mentioned by
Mrs. Eyrecourt. I had known the Villerays long enough to be in no danger
of offending them by proposing a secret arrangement which permitted me
to pay the difference. So that difficulty was got over in due course of
time.

We went into the large garden at the back of the house, and there I
committed another act of duplicity.

In a nice sheltered corner I discovered one of those essentially French
buildings called a "pavilion," a delightful little toy house of three
rooms. Another private arrangement made me the tenant of this place.
Madame Villeray smiled. "I bet you," she said to me in her very best
English, "one of these ladies is in her fascinating first youth." The
good lady little knows what a hopeless love affair mine is. I must see
Stella sometimes--I ask, and hope for, no more. Never have I felt how
lonely my life is, as I feel it now.

Third Extract.

London, March 1.--Stella and her mother have set forth on their journey
to St. Germain this morning, without allowing me, as I had hoped and
planned, to be their escort.

Mrs. Eyrecourt set up the old objection of the claims of propriety. If
that were the only obstacle in my way, I should have set it aside by
following them to France. Where is the impropriety of my seeing Stella,
as her friend and brother--especially when I don't live in the same
house with her, and when she has her mother, on one side, and Madame
Villeray, on the other, to take care of her?

No! the influence that keeps me away from St. Germain is the influence
of Stella herself.

"I will write to you often," she said; "but I beg you, for my sake, not
to accompany us to France." Her look and tone reduced me to obedience.
Stupid as I am I think (after what passed between me and her mother) I
can guess what she meant.

"Am I never to see you again?" I asked.

"Do you think I am hard and ungrateful?" she answered. "Do you doubt
that I shall be glad, more than glad, to see you, when--?"

She turned away from me and said no more.

It was time to take leave. We were under her mother's superintendence;
we shook hands and that was all.

Matilda (Mrs. Eyrecourt's maid) followed me downstairs to open the door.
I suppose I looked, as I felt, wretchedly enough. The good creature
tried to cheer me. "Don't be anxious about them," she said; "I am used
to traveling, sir--and I'll take care of them." She is a woman to be
thoroughly depended on, a faithful and attached servant. I made her a
little present at parting, and I asked her if she would write to me from
time to time.

Some people might consider this to be rather an undignified proceeding
on my part. I can only say it came naturally to me. I am not a dignified
man; and, when a person means kindly toward me, I don't ask myself
whether that person is higher or lower, richer or poorer, than I am.
We are, to my mind, on the same level when the same sympathy unites us.
Matilda was sufficiently acquainted with all that had passed to foresee,
as I did, that there would be certain reservations in Stella's letters
to me. "You shall have the whole truth from Me, sir, don't doubt it,"
she whispered. I believed her. When my heart is sore, give me a woman
for my friend. Whether she is lady or lady's-maid, she is equally
precious to me.

Cowes, March 2.--I am in treaty with an agent for the hire of a yacht.

I must do something, and go somewhere. Returning to Beaupark is out
of the question. People with tranquil minds can find pleasure in the
society of their country neighbors. I am a miserable creature, with a
mind in a state of incessant disturbance. Excellent fathers of families
talking politics to me; exemplary mothers of families offering me
matrimonial opportunities with their daughters--that is what society
means, if I go back to Devonshire. No. I will go for a cruise in the
Mediterranean; and I will take one friend with me whose company I never
weary of--my dog.

The vessel is discovered--a fine schooner of three hundred tons, just
returned from a cruise to Madeira. The sailing-master and crew only ask
for a few days on shore. In that time the surveyor will have examined
the vessel, and the stores will be on board.

March 3.--I have written to Stella, with a list of addresses at which
letters will reach me; and I have sent another list to my faithful ally
the maid. When we leave Gibraltar, our course will be to Naples--thence
to Civita Vecchia, Leghorn, Genoa, Marseilles. From any of those places,
I am within easy traveling distance of St. Germain.

March 7. At Sea.--It is half-past six in the evening. We have just
passed the Eddystone Lighthouse, with the wind abeam. The log registers
ten knots an hour.

Fourth Extract.

_Naples, May_ 10.--The fair promise at the beginning of my voyage has
not been fulfilled. Owing to contrary winds, storms, and delays at Cadiz
in repairing damages, we have only arrived at Naples this evening. Under
trying circumstances of all sorts, the yacht has behaved admirably. A
stouter and finer sea-boat never was built.

We are too late to find the post-office open. I shall send ashore for
letters the first thing tomorrow morning. My next movements will depend
entirely on the news I get from St. Germain. If I remain for any length
of time in these regions, I shall give my crew the holiday they have
well earned at Civita Vecchia. I am never weary of Rome--but I always
did, and always shall, dislike Naples.

May 11--. My plans are completely changed. I am annoyed and angry; the
further I get away from France, the better I shall be pleased.

I have heard from Stella, and heard from the maid. Both letters inform
me that the child is born, and that it is a boy. Do they expect me to
feel any interest in the boy? He is my worst enemy before he is out of
his long-clothes.

Stella writes kindly enough. Not a line in her letter, however, invites
me, or holds out the prospect of inviting me, to St. Germain. She refers
to her mother very briefly, merely informing me that Mrs. Eyrecourt is
well, and is already enjoying the gayeties of Paris. Three-fourths of
the letter are occupied with the baby. When I wrote to her I signed
myself "yours affectionately." Stella signs "yours sincerely." It is a
trifle, I daresay--but I feel it, for all that.

Matilda is faithful to her engagement; Matilda's letter tells me the
truth.

"Since the birth of the baby," she writes, "Mrs. Romayne has never once
mentioned your name; she can talk of nothing, and think of nothing, but
her child. I make every allowance, I hope, for a lady in her melancholy
situation. But I do think it is not very grateful to have quite
forgotten Mr. Winterfield, who has done so much for her, and who only
asks to pass a few hours of his day innocently in her society. Perhaps,
being a single woman, I write ignorantly about mothers and babies. But
I have my feelings; and (though I never liked Mr. Romayne) I feel for
_you,_ sir--if you will forgive the familiarity. In my opinion this new
craze about the baby will wear out. He is already a cause of difference
of opinion. My good mistress, who possesses knowledge of the world, and
a kind heart as well, advises that Mr. Romayne should be informed of
the birth of a son and heir. Mrs. Eyrecourt says, most truly, that the
hateful old priest will get possession of Mr. Romayne's property, to the
prejudice of the child, unless steps are taken to shame him into doing
justice to his own son. But Mrs. Romayne is as proud as Lucifer; she
will not hear of making the first advances, as she calls it. 'The man
who has deserted me,' she says, 'has no heart to be touched either by
wife or child.' My mistress does not agree with her. There have been
hard words already, and the nice old French gentleman and his wife
try to make peace. You will smile when I tell you that they offer
sugar-plums as a sort of composing gift. My mistress accepts the gift,
and has been to the theater at Paris, with Monsieur and Madame Villeray
more than once already. To conclude, sir, if I might venture to advise
you, I should recommend trying the effect on Mrs. R. of absence and
silence."

A most sensibly written letter. I shall certainly take Matilda's advice.
My name is never mentioned by Stella--and not a day has passed without
my thinking of her!

Well, I suppose a man can harden his heart if he likes. Let me harden
_my_ heart, and forget her.

The crew shall have three days ashore at Naples, and then we sail for
Alexandria. In that port the yacht will wait my return. I have not yet
visited the cataracts of the Nile; I have not yet seen the magnificent
mouse-colored women of Nubia. A tent in the desert, and a dusky daughter
of Nature to keep house for me--there is a new life for a man who is
weary of the vapid civilization of Europe! I shall begin by letting my
beard grow.

Fifth Extract.

Civita Vecchia, February 28, 1863.--Back again on the coast of
Italy--after an absence, at sea and ashore, of nine months!

What have my travels done for me? They have made me browner and thinner;
they have given me a more patient mind, and a taste for mild tobacco.
Have they helped me to forget Stella? Not the least in the world--I am
more eager than ever to see her again. When I look back at my diary I
am really ashamed of my own fretfulness and impatience. What miserable
vanity on my part to expect her to think of me, when she was absorbed
in the first cares and joys of maternity; especially sacred to her, poor
soul, as the one consolation of her melancholy life! I withdraw all that
I wrote about her--and from the bottom of my heart I forgive the baby.

Rome, March 1.--I have found my letters waiting for me at the office of
my banker.

The latest news from St. Germain is all that I could wish. In
acknowledging the receipt of my last letter from Cairo (I broke my rash
vow of silence when we got into port, after leaving Naples) Stella sends
me the long desired invitation. "Pray take care to return to us, dear
Bernard, before the first anniversary of my boy's birthday, on
the twenty-seventh of March." After those words she need feel no
apprehension of my being late at my appointment. Traveler--the dog has
well merited his name by this time--will have to bid good-by to the
yacht (which he loves), and journey homeward by the railway (which he
hates). No more risk of storms and delays for me. Good-by to the sea for
one while.

I have sent the news of my safe return from the East, by telegraph. But
I must not be in too great a hurry to leave Rome, or I shall commit a
serious error--I shall disappoint Stella's mother.

Mrs. Eyrecourt writes to me earnestly, requesting, if I return by way of
Italy, that I will get her some information about Romayne. She is eager
to know whether they have made him a priest yet. I am also to discover,
if I can, what are his prospects--whether he is as miserable as he
deserves to be--whether he has been disappointed in his expectations,
and is likely to be brought back to his senses in that way--and, above
all, whether Father Benwell is still at Rome with him. My idea is that
Mrs. Eyrecourt has not given up her design of making Romayne acquainted
with the birth of his son.

The right person to apply to for information is evidently my banker. He
has been a resident in Rome for twenty years--but he is too busy a man
to be approached, by an idler like myself, in business hours. I have
asked him to dine with me to-morrow.

March 2.--My guest has just left me. I am afraid Mrs. Eyrecourt will be
sadly disappointed when she hears what I have to tell her.

The moment I mentioned Romayne's name, the banker looked at me with an
expression of surprise. "The man most talked about in Rome," he said;
"I wonder you have not heard of him already."

"Is he a priest?"

"Certainly! And, what is more, the ordinary preparations for the
priesthood were expressly shortened by high authority on his account.
The Pope takes the greatest interest in him; and as for the people, the
Italians have already nicknamed him 'the young cardinal.' Don't suppose,
as some of our countrymen do, that he is indebted to his wealth for the
high position which he has already attained. His wealth is only one of
the minor influences in his favor. The truth is, he unites in himself
two opposite qualities, both of the greatest value to the Church, which
are very rarely found combined in the same man. He has already made a
popular reputation here, as a most eloquent and convincing preacher--"

"A preacher!" I exclaimed. "And a popular reputation! How do the
Italians understand him?"

The banker looked puzzled.

"Why shouldn't they understand a man who addresses them in their own
language?" he said. "Romayne could speak Italian when he came here--and
since that time he has learned by constant practice to think in Italian.
While our Roman season lasts, he preaches alternately in Italian and in
English. But I was speaking of the two opposite accomplishments which
this remarkable man possesses. Out of the pulpit, he is capable of
applying his mind successfully to the political necessities of the
Church. As I am told, his intellect has had severe practical training,
by means of historical studies, in the past years of his life. Anyhow,
in one of the diplomatic difficulties here between the Church and the
State, he wrote a memorial on the subject, which the Cardinal-Secretary
declared to be a model of ability in applying the experience of the past
to the need of the present time. If he doesn't wear himself out, his
Italian nickname may prove prophetically true. We may live to see the
new convert, Cardinal Romayne."

"Are you acquainted with him yourself?" I asked.

"No Englishman is acquainted with him," the banker answered. "There is
a report of some romantic event in his life which has led to his leaving
England, and which makes him recoil from intercourse with his own
nation. Whether this is true or false, it is certain that the English
in Rome find him unapproachable. I have even heard that he refuses to
receive letters from England. If you wish to see him, you must do what
I have done--you must go to church and look at him in the pulpit. He
preaches in English--I think for the last time this season--on Thursday
evening next. Shall I call here and take you to the church?"

If I had followed my inclinations, I should have refused. I feel no sort
of interest in Romayne--I might even say I feel a downright antipathy
toward him. But I have no wish to appear insensible to the banker's
kindness, and my reception at St. Germain depends greatly on the
attention I show to Mrs. Eyrecourt's request. So it was arranged that
I should hear the great preacher--with a mental reservation on my part,
which contemplated my departure from the church before the end of his
sermon.

But, before I see him, I feel assured of one thing--especially after
what the banker has told me. Stella's view of his character is the right
one. The man who has deserted her has no heart to be touched by wife or
child. They are separated forever.

March 3.--I have just seen the landlord of the hotel; he can help me
to answer one of Mrs. Eyrecourt's questions. A nephew of his holds
some employment at the Jesuit headquarters here, adjoining their famous
church _Il Gesu_. I have requested the young man to ascertain if Father
Benwell is still in Rome--without mentioning me. It would be no small
trial to my self-control if we met in the street.

March 4.--Good news this time for Mrs. Eyrecourt, as far as it goes.
Father Benwell has long since left Rome, and has returned to his regular
duties in England. If he exercises any further influence over Romayne,
it must be done by letter.

March 5.--I have returned from Romayne's sermon. This double
renegade--has he not deserted his religion and his wife?--has failed
to convince my reason. But he has so completely upset my nerves that I
ordered a bottle of champagne (to the great amusement of my friend the
banker) the moment we got back to the hotel.

We drove through the scantily lighted streets of Rome to a small church
in the neighborhood of the Piazza Navona. To a more imaginative man
than myself, the scene when we entered the building would have been too
impressive to be described in words--though it might perhaps have been
painted. The one light in the place glimmered mysteriously from a
great wax candle, burning in front of a drapery of black cloth, and
illuminating dimly a sculptured representation, in white marble, of the
crucified Christ, wrought to the size of life. In front of this ghastly
emblem a platform projected, also covered with black cloth. We could
penetrate no further than to the space just inside the door of the
church. Everywhere else the building was filled with standing, sitting
and kneeling figures, shadowy and mysterious, fading away in far corners
into impenetrable gloom. The only sounds were the low, wailing notes
of the organ, accompanied at intervals by the muffled thump of fanatic
worshipers penitentially beating their breasts. On a sudden the organ
ceased; the self-inflicted blows of the penitents were heard no more. In
the breathless silence that followed, a man robed in black mounted
the black platform, and faced the congregation. His hair had become
prematurely gray; his face was of the ghastly paleness of the great
crucifix at his side. The light of the candle, falling on him as he
slowly turned his head, cast shadows into the hollows of his cheeks, and
glittered in his gleaming eyes. In tones low and trembling at first, he
stated the subject of his address. A week since, two noteworthy persons
had died in Rome on the same day. One of them was a woman of exemplary
piety, whose funeral obsequies had been celebrated in that church. The
other was a criminal charged with homicide under provocation, who had
died in prison, refusing the services of the priest--impenitent to
the last. The sermon followed the spirit of the absolved woman to its
eternal reward in heaven, and described the meeting with dear ones who
had gone before, in terms so devout and so touching that the women near
us, and even some of the men, burst into tears. Far different was the
effect produced when the preacher, filled with the same overpowering
sincerity of belief which had inspired his description of the joys
of heaven, traced the downward progress of the lost man, from his
impenitent death-bed to his doom in hell. The dreadful superstition
of everlasting torment became doubly dreadful in the priest's fervent
words. He described the retributive voices of the mother and the brother
of the murdered man ringing incessantly in the ears of the homicide. "I,
who speak to you, hear the voices," he cried. "Assassin! assassin! where
are you? I see him--I see the assassin hurled into his place in the
sleepless ranks of the damned--I see him, dripping with the flames that
burn forever, writhing under the torments that are without respite and
without end." The climax of this terrible effort of imagination was
reached when he fell on his knees and prayed with sobs and cries of
entreaty--prayed, pointing to the crucifix at his side--that he and all
who heard him might die the death of penitent sinners, absolved in the
divinely atoning name of Christ. The hysterical shrieks of women rang
through the church. I could endure it no longer. I hurried into the
street, and breathed again freely, when I looked up at the cloudless
beauty of the night sky, bright with the peaceful radiance of the stars.

And this man was Romayne! I had last met with him among his delightful
works of art; an enthusiast in literature; the hospitable master of a
house filled with comforts and luxuries to its remotest corner. And now
I had seen what Rome had made of him.

"Yes," said my companion, "the Ancient Church not only finds out the men
who can best serve it, but develops qualities in those men of which
they have been themselves unconscious. The advance which Roman Catholic
Christianity has been, and is still, making has its intelligible reason.
Thanks to the great Reformation, the papal scandals of past centuries
have been atoned for by the exemplary lives of servants of the Church,
in high places and low places alike. If a new Luther arose among us,
where would he now find abuses sufficiently wicked and widely spread
to shock the sense of decency in Christendom? He would find them
nowhere--and he would probably return to the respectable shelter of the
Roman sheepfold."

I listened, without making any remark. To tell the truth, I was thinking
of Stella.

March 6.--I have been to Civita Vecchia, to give a little farewell
entertainment to the officers and crew before they take the yacht back
to England.

In a few words I said at parting, I mentioned that it was my purpose to
make an offer for the purchase of the vessel, and that my guests should
hear from me again on the subject. This announcement was received with
enthusiasm. I really like my crew--and I don't think it is vain in me
to believe that they return the feeling, from the sailing-master to the
cabin-boy. My future life, after all that has passed, is likely to be a
roving life, unless--No! I may think sometimes of that happier prospect,
but I had better not put my thoughts into w ords. I have a fine vessel;
I have plenty of money; and I like the sea. There are three good reasons
for buying the yacht.

Returning to Rome in the evening, I found waiting for me a letter from
Stella.

She writes (immediately on the receipt of my telegram) to make a similar
request to the request addressed to me by her mother. Now that I am at
Rome, she too wants to hear news of a Jesuit priest. He is absent on
a foreign mission, and his name is Penrose. "You shall hear what
obligations I owe to his kindness," she writes, "when we meet. In
the meantime, I will only say that he is the exact opposite of Father
Benwell, and that I should be the most ungrateful of women if I did not
feel the truest interest in his welfare."

This is strange, and, to my mind, not satisfactory. Who is Penrose? and
what has he done to deserve such strong expressions of gratitude? If
anybody had told me that Stella could make a friend of a Jesuit, I
am afraid I should have returned a rude answer. Well, I must wait for
further enlightenment, and apply to the landlord's nephew once more.

March 7.--There is small prospect, I fear, of my being able to
appreciate the merits of Mr. Penrose by personal experience. He is
thousands of miles away from Europe, and he is in a situation of peril,
which makes the chance of his safe return doubtful in the last degree.

The Mission to which he is attached was originally destined to find its
field of work in Central America. Rumors of more fighting to come,
in that revolutionary part of the world, reached Rome before the
missionaries had sailed from the port of Leghorn. Under these
discouraging circumstances, the priestly authorities changed the
destination of the Mission to the territory of Arizona, bordering on New
Mexico, and recently purchased by the United States. Here, in the valley
of Santa Cruz, the Jesuits had first attempted the conversion of
the Indian tribes two hundred years since, and had failed. Their
mission-house and chapel are now a heap of ruins, and the ferocious
Apache Indians keep the fertile valley a solitude by the mere terror
of their name. To this ill-omened place Penrose and his companions have
made their daring pilgrimage; and they are now risking their lives in
the attempt to open the hearts of these bloodthirsty savages to the
influence of Christianity. Nothing has been yet heard of them. At the
best, no trustworthy news is expected for months to come.

What will Stella say to this? Anyhow, I begin to understand her interest
in Penrose now. He is one of a company of heroes. I am already anxious
to hear more of him.

To-morrow will be a memorable day in my calendar. To-morrow I leave Rome
for St. Germain.

If any further information is to be gained for Mrs. Eyrecourt and her
daughter, I have made the necessary arrangements for receiving it. The
banker has promised to write to me, if there is a change in Romayne's
life and prospects. And my landlord will take care that I hear of it, in
the event of news reaching Rome from the Mission at Arizona.

Sixth Extract.

St. Germain, March 14.--I arrived yesterday. Between the fatigue of the
journey and the pleasurable agitation caused by seeing Stella again, I
was unfit to make the customary entry in my diary when I retired for the
night.

She is more irresistibly beautiful than ever. Her figure (a little too
slender as I remember it) has filled out. Her lovely face has lost its
haggard, careworn look; her complexion has recovered its delicacy; I see
again in her eyes the pure serenity of expression which first fascinated
me, years since. It may be due to the consoling influence of the
child--assisted, perhaps, by the lapse of time and the peaceful life
which she now leads--but this at least is certain, such a change for the
better I never could have imagined as the change I find in Stella after
a year's absence.

As for the baby, he is a bright, good-humored little fellow; and he has
one great merit in my estimation--he bears no resemblance to his father.
I saw his mother's features when I first took him on my knee, and
looked at his face, lifted to mine in grave surprise. The baby and I are
certain to get on well together.

Even Mrs. Eyrecourt seems to have improved in the French air, and under
the French diet. She has a better surface to lay the paint on; her
nimble tongue runs faster than ever; and she has so completely recovered
her good spirits, that Monsieur and Madame Villeray declare she must
have French blood in her veins. They were all so unaffectedly glad to
see me (Matilda included), that it was really like returning to one's
home. As for Traveler, I must interfere (in the interests of his figure
and his health) to prevent everybody in the house from feeding him with
every eatable thing, from plain bread to _pate de foie gras._

My experience of to-day will, as Stella tells me, be my general
experience of the family life at St. Germain.

We begin the morning with the customary cup of coffee. At eleven
o'clock I am summoned from my "pavilion" of three rooms to one of those
delicious and artfully varied breakfasts which are only to be found in
France and in Scotland. An interval of about three hours follows, during
which the child takes his airing and his siesta, and his elders occupy
themselves as they please. At three o'clock we all go out--with a pony
chaise which carries the weaker members of the household--for a ramble
in the forest. At six o'clock we assemble at the dinner-table. At coffee
time, some of the neighbors drop in for a game at cards. At ten, we all
wish each other good-night.

Such is the domestic programme, varied by excursions in the country
and by occasional visits to Paris. I am naturally a man of quiet
stay-at-home habits. It is only when my mind is disturbed that I get
restless and feel longings for change. Surely the quiet routine at St.
Germain ought to be welcome to me now? I have been looking forward to
this life through a long year of travel. What more can I wish for?

Nothing more, of course.

And yet--and yet--Stella has innocently made it harder than ever to play
the part of her "brother." The recovery of her beauty is a subject for
congratulation to her mother and her friends. How does it affect Me?

I had better not think of my hard fate. Can I help thinking of it? Can I
dismiss from memory the unmerited misfortunes which have taken from me,
in the prime of her charms, the woman whom I love? At least I can try.

The good old moral must be _my_ moral: "Be content with such things as
ye have."

March 15.--It is eight in the morning--and I hardly know how to employ
myself. Having finished my coffee, I have just looked again at my diary.

It strikes me that I am falling into a bad habit of writing too much
about myself. The custom of keeping a journal certainly has this
drawback--it encourages egotism. Well, the remedy is easy. From this
date, I lock up my book--only to open it again when some event has
happened which has a claim to be recorded for its own sake. As for
myself and my feelings, they have made their last appearance in these
pages.

Seventh Extract.

June 7.--The occasion for opening my diary once more has presented
itself this morning.

News has reached me of Romayne, which is too important to be passed over
without notice. He has been appointed one of the Pope's Chamberlains. It
is also reported, on good authority, that he will be attached to a Papal
embassy when a vacancy occurs. These honors, present and to come, seem
to remove him further than ever from the possibility of a return to his
wife and child.

June 8.--In regard to Romayne, Mrs. Eyrecourt seems to be of my opinion.

Being in Paris to-day, at a morning concert, she there met with her old
friend, Doctor Wybrow. The famous physician is suffering from overwork,
and is on his way to Italy for a few months of rest and recreation. They
took a drive together, after the performance, in the Bois de Boulogne;
and Mrs. Eyrecourt opened her mind to the doctor, as freely as usual, on
the subject of Stella and the child. He entirely agreed (speaking in
the future interests of the boy) that precious time has been lost in
informing Romayne of the birth of an heir; and he has promised, no
matter what obstacles may be placed in his way, to make the announcement
himself, when he reaches Rome.

June 9.--Madame Villeray has been speaking to me confidentially on a
very delicate subject.

I am pledged to discontinue writing about myself. But in these private
pages I may note the substance of what my good friend said to me. If
I only look back often enough at this little record, I may gather the
resolution to profit by her advice. In brief, these were her words:

"Stella has spoken to me in confidence, since she met you accidentally
in the garden yesterday. She cannot be guilty of the poor affectation of
concealing what you must have already discovered for yourself. But
she prefers to say the words that must be said to you, through me. Her
husband's conduct to her is an outrage that she can never forget.
She now looks back with sentiments of repulsion, which she dare not
describe, to that 'love at first sight' (as you call it in England),
conceived on the day when they first met--and she remembers regretfully
that other love, of years since, which was love of steadier and slower
growth. To her shame she confesses that she failed to set you the
example of duty and self-restraint when you two happened to be alone
yesterday. She leaves it to my discretion to tell you that you must see
her for the future, always in the presence of some other person. Make no
reference to this when you next meet; and understand that she has only
spoken to me instead of to her mother, because she fears that Mrs.
Eyrecourt might use harsh words, and distress you again, as she once
distressed you in England. If you will take my advice, you will ask
permission to go away again on your travels."

It matters nothing what I said in reply. Let me only relate that we were
interrupted by the appearance of the nursemaid at the pavilion door.

She led the child by the hand. Among his first efforts at speaking,
under his mother's instruction, had been the effort to call me Uncle
Bernard. He had now got as far as the first syllable of my Christian
name, and he had come to me to repeat his lesson. Resting his little
hands on my knees, he looked up at me with his mother's eyes, and said,
"Uncle Ber'." A trifling incident, but, at that moment, it cut me to
the heart. I could only take the boy in my arms, and look at Madame
Villeray. The good woman felt for me. I saw tears in her eyes.

No! no more writing about myself. I close the book again.

Eighth Extract.

July 3.--A letter has reached Mrs. Eyrecourt this morning, from Doctor
Wybrow. It is dated, "Castel Gandolpho, near Rome." Here the doctor
is established during the hot months--and here he has seen Romayne,
in attendance on the "Holy Father," in the famous summer palace of the
Popes. How he obtained the interview Mrs. Eyrecourt is not informed. To
a man of his celebrity, doors are no doubt opened which remain closed to
persons less widely known.

"I have performed my promise," he writes "and I may say for myself that
I spoke with every needful precaution. The result a little startled me.
Romayne was not merely unprepared to hear of the birth of his child--he
was physically and morally incapable of sustaining the shock of the
disclosure. For the moment, I thought he had been seized with a fit of
catalepsy. He moved, however, when I tried to take his hand to feel the
pulse--shrinking back in his chair, and feebly signing to me to leave
him. I committed him to the care of his servant. The next day I received
a letter from one of his priestly colleagues, informing me that he was
slowly recovering after the shock that I had inflicted, and requesting
me to hold no further communication with him, either personally or
by letter. I wish I could have sent you a more favorable report of my
interference in this painful matter. Perhaps you or your daughter may
hear from him."

July 4-9.--No letter has been received. Mrs. Eyrecourt is uneasy.
Stella, on the contrary, seems to be relieved.

July 10.--A letter has arrived from London, addressed to Stella by
Romayne's English lawyers. The income which Mrs. Romayne has refused
for herself is to be legally settled on her child. Technical particulars
follow, which it is needless to repeat here.

By return of post, Stella has answered the lawyers, declaring that,
so long as she lives, and has any influence over her son, he shall
not touch the offered income. Mrs. Eyrecourt, Monsieur and Madame
Villeray--and even Matilda--entreated her not to send the letter. To my
thinking, Stella acted with becoming spirit. Though there is no entail,
still Vange Abbey is morally the boy's birthright--it is a cruel wrong
to offer him anything else.

July 11.--For the second time I have proposed to leave St. Germain. The
presence of the third person, whenever I am in her company, is becoming
unendurable to me. She still uses her influence to defer my departure.
"Nobody sympathizes with me," she said, "but you."

I am failing to keep my promise to myself, not to write about myself.
But there is some little excuse this time. For the relief of my own
conscience, I may surely place it on record that I have tried to do what
is right. It is not my fault if I remain at St. Germain, insensible to
Madame Villeray's warning.

Ninth Extract.

September 13.--Terrible news from Rome of the Jesuit Mission to Arizona.

The Indians have made a night attack on the new mission-house. The
building is burned to the ground, and the missionaries have been
massacred--with the exception of two priests, carried away captive.
The names of the priests are not known. News of the atrocity has been
delayed four months on its way to Europe, owing partly to the civil war
in the United States, and partly to disturbances in Central America.

Looking at the _Times_ (which we receive regularly at St. Germain), I
found this statement confirmed in a short paragraph--but here also the
names of the two prisoners failed to appear.

Our one present hope of getting any further information seems to me to
depend on our English newspaper. The _Times_ stands alone as the
one public journal which has the whole English nation for volunteer
contributors. In their troubles at home, they appeal to the Editor. In
their travels abroad, over civilized and savage regions alike, if they
meet with an adventure worth mentioning they tell it to the Editor. If
any one of our countrymen knows anything of this dreadful massacre, I
foresee with certainty where we shall find the information in print.

Soon after my arrival here, Stella had told me of her memorable
conversation with Penrose in the garden at Ten Acres Lodge. I was well
acquainted with the nature of her obligation to the young priest, but
I was not prepared for the outbreak of grief which escaped her when she
had read the telegram from Rome. She actually went the length of saying,
"I shall never enjoy another happy moment till I know whether Penrose is
one of the two living priests!"

The inevitable third person with us, this morning, was Monsieur
Villeray. Sitting at the window with a book in his hand--sometimes
reading, sometimes looking at the garden with the eye of a fond
horticulturist--he discovered a strange cat among his flower beds.
Forgetful of every other consideration, the old gentleman hobbled out to
drive away the intruder, and left us together.

I spoke to Stella, in words which I would now give everything I possess
to recall. A detestable jealousy took possession of me. I meanly hinted
that Penrose could claim no great merit (in the matter of Romayne's
conversion) for yielding to the entreaties of a beautiful woman who
had fascinated him, though he might be afraid to own it. She protested
against my unworthy insinuation--but she failed to make me ashamed
of myself. Is a woman ever ignorant of the influence which her beauty
exercises over a man? I went on, like the miserable creature that I was,
from bad to worse.

"Excuse me," I said, "if I have unintentionally made you angry. I ought
to have known that I was treading on delicate ground. Your interest in
Penrose may be due to a warmer motive than a sense of obligation."

She turned away from me--sadly, not angrily--intending, as it appeared,
to leave the room in silence. Arrived at the door, she altered her mind,
and came back.

"Even if you insult me, Bernard, I am not able to resent it," she said,
very gently. "_I_ once wronged _you_--I have no right to complain of your
now wronging me. I will try to forget it."

She held out her hand. She raised her eyes--and looked at me.

It was not her fault; I alone am to blame. In another moment she was in
my arms. I held her to my breast--I felt the quick beating of her heart
on me--I poured out the wild confession of my sorrow, my shame, my
love--I tasted again and again and again the sweetness of her lips. She
put her arms round my neck and drew her head back with a long sigh. "Be
merciful to my weakness," she whispered. "We must meet no more."

She pushed me back from her, with a trembling hand, and left the room.

I have broken my resolution not to write about myself--but there is no
egotism, there is a sincere sense of humiliation in me, when I record
this confession of misconduct. I can make but one atonement--I must at
once leave St. Germain. Now, when it is too late, I feel how hard for me
this life of constant repression has been.

Thus far I had written, when the nursemaid brought me a little note,
addressed in pencil. No answer was required.

The few lines were in Stella's handwriting: "You must not leave us
too suddenly, or you may excite my mother's suspicions. Wait until
you receive letters from England, and make them the pretext for your
departure.--S."

I never thought of her mother. She is right. Even if she were wrong, I
must obey her.

September 14.--The letters from England have arrived. One of them
presents me with the necessary excuse for my departure, ready made. My
proposal for the purchase of the yacht is accepted. The sailing-master
and crew have refused all offers of engagement, and are waiting at Cowes
for my orders. Here is an absolute necessity for my return to England.

The newspaper arrived with the letters. My anticipations have been
realized. Yesterday's paragraph has produced another volunteer
contributor. An Englishman just returned from Central America, after
traveling in Arizona, writes to the _Times._ He publishes his name
and address--and he declares that he has himself seen the two captive
priests.

The name of this correspondent carries its own guarantee with it. He is
no less a person than Mr. Murthwaite--the well-known traveler in India,
who discovered the lost diamond called "the Moonstone," set in the
forehead of a Hindoo idol. He writes to the editor as follows:

"Sir--I can tell you something of the two Jesuit priests who were the
sole survivors of the massacre in the Santa Cruz Valley four months
since.

"I was traveling at the time in Arizona, under the protection of an
Apache chief, bribed to show me his country and his nation (instead
of cutting my throat and tearing off my scalp) by a present tribute of
whisky and gunpowder, and by the promise of more when our association
came to an end.

"About twelve miles northward of the little silver-mining town of Tubac
we came upon an Apache encampment. I at once discovered two white men
among the Indians These were the captive priests.

"One of them was a Frenchman, named L'Herbier. The other was an
Englishman, named Penrose. They owed their lives to the influence of two
powerful considerations among the Indians. Unhappy L'Herbier lost his
senses under the horror of the night massacre. Insanity, as you may have
heard, is a sacred thing in the estimation of the American savages;
they regard this poor madman as a mysteriously inspired person The other
priest, Penrose, had been in charge of the mission medicine-chest, and
had successfully treated cases of illness among the Apaches. As a
'great medicine-man,' he too is a privileged person--under the strong
protection of their interest in their own health. The lives of the
prisoners are in no danger, provided they can endure the hardship of
their wandering existence among the Indians. Penrose spoke to me with
the resignation of a true hero. 'I am in the hands of God,' he said;
'and if I die, I die in God's service.'

"I was entirely unprovided with the means of ransoming the
missionaries--and nothing that I could say, or that I could promise, had
the smallest effect on the savages. But for severe and tedious illness,
I should long since have been on my way back to Arizona with the
necessary ransom. As it is, I am barely strong enough to write this
letter. But I can head a subscription to pay expenses; and I can give
instructions to any person who is willing to attempt the deliverance of
the priests."

So the letter ended.

Before I had read it, I was at a loss to know where to go, or what
to do, when I leave St. Germain. I am now at no loss. I have found an
object in life, and a means of making atonement to Stella for my own
ungracious and unworthy words. Already I have communicated by telegraph
with Mr. Murthwaite and with my sailing-master. The first is informed
that I hope to be with him, in London, to-morrow morning. The second is
instructed to have the yacht fitted out immediately for a long voyage.
If I can save these men--especially Penrose--I shall not have lived in
vain.

London, September 15.--No. I have resolution enough to go to Arizona,
but I have no courage to record the parting scene when it was time to
say good-by.

I had intended to keep the coming enterprise a secret, and only to make
the disclosure in writing when the vessel was ready to sail. But, after
reading the letter to the _Times,_ Stella saw something in my face (as
I suppose) that betrayed me. Well, it's over now. I do my best to
keep myself from thinking of it--and, for this reason, I abstain from
dwelling on the subject here.

Mr. Murthwaite has not only given me valuable instructions--he has
provided me with letters of introduction to persons in office, and to
the _padres_ (or priests) in Mexico, which will be of incalculable use
in such an expedition as mine. In the present disturbed condition of the
United States, he recommends me to sail for a port on the eastern coast
of Mexico, and then to travel northward overland, and make my first
inquiries in Arizona at the town of Tubac. Time is of such importance,
in his opinion, that he suggests making inquiries in London and
Liverpool for a merchant vessel under immediate sailing orders for Vera
Cruz or Tampico. The fitting out of the yacht cannot be accomplished,
I find, in less than a fortnight or three weeks. I have therefore taken
Mr. Murthwaite's advice.

September 16.--No favorable answer, so far as the port of London is
concerned. Very little commerce with Mexico, and bad harbors in that
country when you do trade. Such is the report.

September 17.--A Mexican brig has been discovered at Liverpool, under
orders for Vera Cruz. But the vessel is in debt, and the date of
departure depends on expected remittances! In this state of things I
may wait, with my conscience at ease, to sail in comfort on board my own
schooner.

September 18-30.--I have settled my affairs; I have taken leave of my
friends (good. Mr. Murthwaite included); I have written cheerfully to
Stella; and I sail from Portsmouth to-morrow, well provided with the
jars of whisky and the kegs of gunpowder which will effect the release
of the captives.

It is strange, considering the serious matters I have to think of, but
it is also true, that I feel out of spirits at the prospect of leaving
England without my traveling companion, the dog. I am afraid to take the
dear old fellow with me, on such a perilous expedition as mine may be.
Stella takes care of him--and, if I don't live to return, she will never
part with him, for his master's sake. It implies a childish sort of
mind, I suppose--but it is a comfort to me to remember that I have never
said a hard word to Traveler, and never lifted my hand on him in anger.

All this about a dog! And not a word about Stella? Not a word. _Those_
thoughts are not to be written.

I have reached the last page of my diary. I shall lock it, and leave it
in charge of my bankers, on my way to the Portsmouth train. Shall I ever
w ant a new diary? Superstitious people might associate this coming to
the end of the book with coming to an end of another kind. I have no
imagination, and I take my leap in the dark hopefully--with Byron's
glorious lines in my mind:

     "Here's a sigh to those who love me,
     And a smile to those that hate;
     And whatever sky's above met
     Here's heart for every fate."

*****

(An inclosure is inserted here, marking a lapse of seven months, before
the entries in the diary are resumed. It consists of two telegrams,
dispatched respectively on the 1st and 2d of May, 1864.)

1. "From Bernard Winterfield, Portsmouth, England. To Mrs. Romayne care
of M. Villeray, St. Germain, near Paris.--Penrose is safe on board
my yacht. His unfortunate companion has died of exhaustion, and he
is himself in a feeble state of health. I at once take him with me to
London for medical advice. We are eager for news of you. Telegraph to
Derwent's Hotel."

2. "From Mrs. Eyrecourt, St. Germain. To Bernard Winterfield, Derwent's
Hotel, London.--Your telegram received with joy, and sent on to Stella
in Paris. All well. But strange events have happened. If you cannot come
here at once, go to Lord Loring. He will tell you everything."

Tenth Extract.

London, 2d May, 1864.--Mrs. Eyrecourt's telegram reached me just after
Doctor Wybrow had paid his first professional visit to Penrose, at the
hotel. I had hardly time to feel relieved by the opinion of the case
which he expressed, before my mind was upset by Mrs. Eyrecourt. Leaving
Penrose under the charge of our excellent landlady, I hurried away to
Lord Loring.

It was still early in the day: his lordship was at home. He maddened
me with impatience by apologizing at full length for "the inexcusable
manner in which he had misinterpreted my conduct on the deplorable
occasion of the marriage ceremony at Brussels." I stopped his flow of
words (very earnestly spoken, it is only right to add), and entreated
him to tell me, in the first place, what Stella was doing in Paris.

"Stella is with her husband," Lord Loring replied.

My head turned giddy, my heart beat furiously. Lord Loring looked at
me--ran to the luncheon table in the next room--and returned with a
glass of wine. I really don't know whether I drank the wine or not. I
know I stammered out another inquiry in one word.

"Reconciled?" I said.

"Yes, Mr. Winterfield--reconciled, before he dies."

We were both silent for a while.

What was he thinking of? I don't know. What was I thinking of? I daren't
write it down.

Lord Loring resumed by expressing some anxiety on the subject of my
health. I made the best excuse for myself that I could, and told him of
the rescue of Penrose. He had heard of my object in leaving England, and
heartily congratulated me. "This will be welcome news indeed," he said,
"to Father Benwell."

Even the name of Father Benwell now excites my distrust. "Is _he_ in
Paris too?" I inquired.

"He left Paris last night," Lord Loring answered; "and he is now in
London, on important business (as I understand) connected with Romayne's
affairs."

I instantly thought of the boy.

"Is Romayne in possession of his faculties?" I asked.

"In complete possession."

"While justice is in his power, has he done justice to his son?"

Lord Loring looked a little confused. "I have not heard," was all he
said in reply.

I was far from satisfied. "You are one of Romayne's oldest friends," I
persisted. "Have you not seen him yourself?"

"I have seen him more than once. But he has never referred to his
affairs." Having said this he hastily changed the subject. "Is there any
other information that I can give you?" he suggested.

I had still to learn under what circumstances Romayne had left Italy for
France, and how the event of his illness in Paris had been communicated
to his wife. Lord Loring had only to draw on his own recollections to
enlighten me.

"Lady Loring and I passed the last winter in Rome," he said. "And,
there, we saw Romayne. You look surprised. Perhaps you are aware that
we had offended him, by advice which we thought it our duty to offer to
Stella before her marriage?"

I was certainly thinking of what Stella had said of the Lorings on the
memorable day when she visited me at the hotel.

"Romayne would probably have refused to receive us," Lord Loring
resumed, "but for the gratifying circumstance of my having been admitted
to an interview with the Pope. The Holy Father spoke of him with the
most condescending kindness; and, hearing that I had not yet seen him,
gave instructions, commanding Romayne to present himself. Under these
circumstances it was impossible for him to refuse to receive Lady Loring
and myself on a later occasion. I cannot tell you how distressed we were
at the sad change for the worse in his personal appearance. The Italian
physician, whom he occasionally consulted, told me that there was a
weakness in the action of his heart, produced, in the first instance, by
excessive study and the excitement of preaching, and aggravated by the
further drain on his strength due to insufficient nourishment. He
would eat and drink just enough to keep him alive, and no more; and he
persistently refused to try the good influence of rest and change of
scene. My wife, at a later interview with him, when they were alone,
induced him to throw aside the reserve which he had maintained with
me, and discovered another cause for the deterioration in his health.
I don't refer to the return of a nervous misery, from which he has
suffered at intervals for years past; I speak of the effect produced
on his mind by the announcement--made no doubt with best intentions
by Doctor Wybrow--of the birth of his child. This disclosure (he was
entirely ignorant of his wife's situation when he left her) appears to
have affected him far more seriously than the English doctor supposed.
Lady Loring was so shocked at what he said to her on the subject, that
she has only repeated it to me with a certain reserve. 'If I could
believe I did wrong,' he said, 'in dedicating myself to the service of
the Church, after the overthrow of my domestic happiness, I should also
believe that the birth of this child was the retributive punishment of
my sin, and the warning of my approaching death. I dare not take this
view. And yet I have it not in me, after the solemn vows by which I am
bound, to place any more consoling interpretation on an event which,
as a priest, it disturbs and humiliates me even to think of.' That one
revelation of his tone of thought will tell you what is the mental state
of this unhappy man. He gave us little encouragement to continue our
friendly intercourse with him. It was only when we were thinking of our
return to England that we heard of his appointment to the vacant place
of first attache to the Embassy at Paris. The Pope's paternal anxiety on
the subject of Romayne's health had chosen this wise and generous method
of obliging him to try a salutary change of air as well as a relaxation
from his incessant employments in Rome. On the occasion of his departure
we met again. He looked like a worn-out old man. We could now only
remember his double claim on us--as a priest of our religion, and as a
once dear friend--and we arranged to travel with him. The weather at
the time was mild; our progress was made by easy stages. We left him at
Paris, apparently the better for his journey."

I asked if they had seen Stella on that occasion.

"No," said Lord Loring. "We had reason to doubt whether Stella would
be pleased to see us, and we felt reluctant to meddle, unasked, with a
matter of extreme delicacy. I arranged with the Nuncio (whom I have the
honor to know) that we should receive written information of Romayne's
state of health, and on that understanding we returned to England. A
week since, our news from the Embassy was so alarming that Lady Loring
at once returned to Paris. Her first letter informed me that she had
felt it her duty to tell Stella of the critical condition of Romayne's
health. She expressed her sense of my wife's kindness most gratefully
and feelingly and at once removed to Paris, to be on the spot if her
husband expressed a wish to see her. The two ladies are now staying
at the same hotel. I have thus far been detained in London by family
affairs. But, unless I hear of a change for the better before evening, I
follow Lady Loring to Paris by the mail train."

It was needless to trespass further on Lord Loring's time. I thanked
him, and returned to Penrose. He was sleeping when I got to the hotel.

On the table in the sitting-room I found a telegram waiting for me. It
had been sent by Stella, and it contained these lines:

"I have just returned from his bedside, after telling him of the rescue
of Penrose. He desires to see you. There is no positive suffering--he is
sinking under a complete prostration of the forces of life. That is what
the doctors tell me. They said, when I spoke of writing to you, 'Send a
telegram; there is no time to lose.'"

Toward evening Penrose awoke. I showed him the telegram. Throughout
our voyage, the prospect of seeing Romayne again had been the uppermost
subject in his thoughts. In the extremity of his distress, he declared
that he would accompany me to Paris by the night train. Remembering
how severely he had felt the fatigue of the short railway journey from
Portsmouth, I entreated him to let me go alone. His devotion to Romayne
was not to be reasoned with. While we were still vainly trying to
convince each other, Doctor Wybrow came in.

To my amazement he sided with Penrose.

"Oh, get up by all means," he said; "we will help you to dress." We took
him out of bed and put on his dressing-gown. He thanked us; and saying
he would complete his toilet by himself, sat down in an easy chair. In
another moment he was asleep again, so soundly asleep that we put him
back in his bed without waking him. Doctor Wybrow had foreseen this
result: he looked at the poor fellow's pale peaceful face with a kindly
smile.

"There is the treatment," he said, "that will set our patient on his
legs again. Sleeping, eating, and drinking--let that be his life for
some weeks to come, and he will be as good a man as ever. If your
homeward journey had been by land, Penrose would have died on the way. I
will take care of him while you are in Paris."

At the station I met Lord Loring. He understood that I too had received
bad news, and gave me a place in the _coupe_ carriage which had been
reserved for him. We had hardly taken our seats when we saw Father
Benwell among the travelers on the platform, accompanied by a
gray-haired gentleman who was a stranger to both of us. Lord Loring
dislikes strangers. Otherwise, I might have found myself traveling to
Paris with that detestable Jesuit for a companion.

Paris, May 3.--On our arrival at the hotel I was informed that no
message had yet been received from the Embassy.

We found Lady Loring alone at the breakfast-table, when we had rested
after our night journey.

"Romayne still lives," she said. "But his voice has sunk to a whisper,
and he is unable to breathe if he tries to rest in bed. Stella has gone
to the Embassy; she hopes to see him to-day for the second time."

"Only for the second time!" I exclaimed.

"You forget, Mr. Winterfield, that Romayne is a priest. He was only
consecrated on the customary condition of an absolute separation from
his wife. On her side--never let her know that I told you this--Stella
signed a formal document, sent from Rome, asserting that she consented
of her own free will to the separation. She was relieved from the
performance of another formality (which I need not mention
more particularly) by a special dispensation. Under these
circumstances--communicated to me while Stella and I have been together
in this house--the wife's presence at the bedside of her dying husband
is regarded by the other priests at the Embassy as a scandal and a
profanation. The kind-hearted Nuncio is blamed for having exceeded his
powers in yielding (even under protest) to the last wishes of a dying
man. He is now in communication with Rome, waiting for the final
instructions which are to guide him."

"Has Romayne seen his child?" I asked.

"Stella has taken the child with her to-day. It is doubtful in the last
degree whether the poor little boy will be allowed to enter his father's
room. _That_ complication is even more serious than the other. The dying
Romayne persists in his resolution to see the child. So completely has
his way of thinking been altered by the approach of death, and by the
closing of the brilliant prospect which was before him, that he even
threatens to recant, with his last breath, if his wishes are not
complied with. How it will end I cannot even venture to guess.

"Unless the merciful course taken by the Nuncio is confirmed," said Lord
Loring, "it may end in a revival of the protest of the Catholic priests
in Germany against the prohibition of marriage to the clergy. The
movement began in Silesia in 1826, and was followed by unions (or
Leagues, as we should call them now) in Baden, Wurtemburg, Bavaria,
and Rhenish Prussia. Later still, the agitation spread to France and
Austria. It was only checked by a papal bull issued in 1847, reiterating
the final decision of the famous Council of Trent in favor of the
celibacy of the priesthood. Few people are aware that this rule has been
an institution of slow growth among the clergy of the Church of Rome.
Even as late as the twelfth century, there were still priests who set
the prohibition of marriage at defiance."

I listened, as one of the many ignorant persons alluded to by Lord
Loring. It was with difficulty that I fixed my attention on what he was
saying. My thoughts wandered to Stella and to the dying man. I looked at
the clock.

Lady Loring evidently shared the feeling of suspense that had got
possession of me. She rose and walked to the window.

"Here is the message!" she said, recognizing her traveling servant as he
entered the hotel door.

The man appeared, with a line written on a card. I was requested to
present the card at the Embassy, without delay.

May 4.--I am only now able to continue my record of the events of
yesterday.

A silent servant received me at the Embassy, looked at the card, and
led the way to an upper floor of the house. Arrived at the end of a long
passage, he opened a door, and retired.

As I crossed the threshold Stella met me. She took both my hands in
hers and looked at me in silence. All that was true and good and noble
expressed itself in that look.

The interval passed, and she spoke--very sadly, very quietly.

"One more work of mercy, Bernard. Help him to die with a heart at rest."

She drew back--and I approached him.

He reclined, propped up with pillows, in a large easy-chair; it was
the one position in which he could still breathe with freedom. The ashy
shades of death were on his wasted face. In the eyes alone, as they
slowly turned on me, there still glimmered the waning light of life. One
of his arms hung down over the chair; the other was clasped round his
child, sitting on his knee. The boy looked at me wonderingly, as I stood
by his father. Romayne signed to me to stoop, so that I might hear him.

"Penrose?" he asked, faintly whispering. "Dear Arthur! Not dying, like
me?"

I quieted _that_ anxiety. For a moment there was even the shadow of a
smile on his face, as I told him of the effort that Penrose had vainly
made to be the companion of my journey. He asked me, by another gesture,
to bend my ear to him once more.

"My last grateful blessing to Penrose. And to you. May I not say it? You
have saved Arthur"--his eyes turned toward Stella--"you have been _her_
best friend." He paused to recover his feeble breath; looking round
the large room, without a creature in it but ourselves. Once more the
melancholy shadow of a smile passed over his face--and vanished. I
listened, nearer to him still.

"Christ took a child on His knee. The priests call themselves ministers
of Christ. They have left me, because of _this_ child, here on my knee.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Winterfield, Death is a great teacher. I know how
I have erred--what I have lost. Wife and child. How poor and barren all
the rest of it looks now!"

He was silent for a while. Was he thinking? No: he seemed to be
listening--and yet there was no sound in the room. Stella, anxiously
watching him, saw the listening expression as I did. Her face showed
anxiety, but no surprise.

"Does it torture you still?" she asked.

"No," he said; "I have never heard it plainly, since I left Rome. It has
grown fainter and fainter from that time. It is not a Voice now. It
is hardly a whisper: my repentance is accepted, my release is
coming.--Where is Winterfield?"

She pointed to me.

"I spoke of Rome just now. What did Rome remind me of?" He slowly
recovered the lost recollection. "Tell Winterfield," he whispered to
Stella, "what the Nuncio said when he knew that I was going to die. The
great man reckoned up the dignities that might have been mine if I had
lived. From my place here in the Embassy--"

"Let me say it," she gently interposed, "and spare your strength for
better things. From your place in the Embassy you would have mounted a
step higher to the office of Vice-Legate. Those duties wisely performed,
another rise to the Auditorship of the Apostolic Chamber. That office
filled, a last step upward to the highest rank left, the rank of a
Prince of the Church."

"All vanity!" said the dying Romayne. He looked at his wife and his
child. "The true happiness was waiting for me here. And I only know it
now. Too late. Too late."

He laid his head back on the pillow and closed his weary eyes. We
thought he was composing himself to sleep. Stella tried to relieve him
of the boy. "No," he whispered; "I am only resting my eyes to look at
him again." We waited. The child stared at me, in infantine curiosity.
His mother knelt at his side, and whispered in his ear. A bright smile
irradiated his face; his clear brown eyes sparkled; he repeated the
forgotten lesson of the bygone time, and called me once more, "Uncle
Ber'."

Romayne heard it. His heavy eyelids opened again. "No," he said. "Not
uncle. Something better and dearer. Stella, give me your hand."

Still kneeling, she obeyed him. He slowly raised himself on the chair.
"Take her hand," he said to me. I too knelt. Her hand lay cold in mine.
After a long interval he spoke to me. "Bernard Winterfield," he said,
"love them, and help them, when I am gone." He laid his weak hand on our
hands, clasped together. "May God protect you! may God bless you!" he
murmured. "Kiss me, Stella."

I remember no more. As a man, I ought to have set a better example; I
ought to have preserved my self-control. It was not to be done. I turned
away from them--and burst out crying.

The minutes passed. Many minutes or few minutes, I don't know which.

A soft knock at the door aroused me. I dashed away the useless tears.
Stella had retired to the further end of the room. She was sitting by
the fireside, with the child in her arms. I withdrew to the same part of
the room, keeping far enough away not to disturb them.

Two strangers came in and placed themselves on either side of Romayne's
chair. He seemed to recognize them unwillingly. From the manner in
which they examined him, I inferred that they were medical men. After a
consultation in low tones, one of them went out.

He returned again almost immediately, followed by the gray-headed
gentleman whom I had noticed on the journey to Paris--and by Father
Benwell.

The Jesuit's vigilant eyes discovered us instantly, in our place near
the fireside. I thought I saw suspicion as well as surprise in his face.
But he recovered himself so rapidly that I could not feel sure. He bowed
to Stella. She made no return; she looked as if she had not even seen
him.

One of the doctors was an Englishman. He said to Father Benwell:
"Whatever your business may be with Mr. Romayne, we advise you to enter
on it without delay. Shall we leave the room?"

"Certainly not," Father Benwell answered. "The more witnesses are
present, the more relieved I shall feel." He turned to his traveling
companion. "Let Mr. Romayne's lawyer," he resumed, "state what our
business is."

The gray-headed gentleman stepped forward.

"Are you able to attend to me, sir?" he asked.

Romayne, reclining in his chair, apparently lost to all interest in what
was going on, heard and answered. The weak tones of his voice failed
to reach my ear at the other end of the room. The lawyer, seeming to be
satisfied so far, put a formal question to the doctors next. He inquired
if Mr. Romayne was in full possession of his faculties.

Both the physicians answered without hesitation in the affirmative.
Father Benwell added _his_ attestation. "Throughout Mr. Romayne's
illness," he said firmly, "his mind has been as clear as mine is."

While this was going on, the child had slipped off his mother's lap,
with the natural restlessness of his age. He walked to the fireplace
and stopped--fascinated by the bright red glow of the embers of burning
wood. In one corner of the low fender lay a loose little bundle of
sticks, left there in case the fire might need relighting. The
boy, noticing the bundle, took out one of the sticks and threw it
experimentally into the grate. The flash of flame, as the stick caught
fire, delighted him. He went on burning stick after stick. The new game
kept him quiet: his mother was content to be on the watch, to see that
no harm was done.

In the meantime, the lawyer briefly stated his case.

"You remember, Mr. Romayne, that your will was placed, for safe keeping,
in our office," he began. "Father Benwell called upon us, and presented
an order, signed by yourself, authorizing him to convey the will from
London to Paris. The object was to obtain your signature to a codicil,
which had been considered a necessary addition to secure the validity of
the will.--Are you favoring me with your attention, sir?"

Romayne answered by a slight bending of his head. His eyes were fixed
on the boy--still absorbed in throwing his sticks, one by one, into the
fire.

"At the time when your will was executed," the lawyer went on, "Father
Benwell obtained your permission to take a copy of it. Hearing of your
illness, he submitted the copy to a high legal authority. The written
opinion of this competent person declares the clause, bequeathing the
Vange estate to Father Benwell, to be so imperfectly expressed, that the
will might be made a subject of litigation after the testator's death.
He has accordingly appended a form of codicil amending the defect, and
we have added it to the will. I thought it my duty, as one of your legal
advisers, to accompany Father Benwell on his return to Paris in charge
of the will--in case you might feel disposed to make any alteration."
He looked toward Stella and the child as he completed that sentence.
The Jesuit's keen eyes took the same direction. "Shall I read the will,
sir?" the lawyer resumed; "or would you prefer to look at it yourself?"

Romayne held out his hand for the will, in silence. He was still
watching his son. There were but few more sticks now left to be thrown
in the fire.

Father Benwell interfered, for the first time.

"One word, Mr. Romayne, before you examine that document," he said. "The
Church receives back from you (through me) the property which was once
its own. Beyond that it authorizes and even desires you to make any
changes which you or your trusted legal adviser may think right. I
refer to the clauses of the will which relate to the property you have
inherited from the late Lady Berrick--and I beg the persons present to
bear in memory the few plain words that I have now spoken."

He bowed with dignity and drew back. Even the lawyer was favorably
impressed. The doctors looked at each other with silent approval. For
the first time, the sad repose of Stella's face was disturbed--I could
see that it cost her an effort to repress her indignation. The one
unmoved person was Romayne. The sheet of paper on which the will was
written lay unregarded upon his lap; his eyes were still riveted on the
little figure at the fireplace.

The child had thrown his last stick into the glowing red embers. He
looked about him for a fresh supply, and found nothing. His fresh young
voice rose high through the silence of the room.

"More!" he cried. "More!"

His mother held up a warning finger. "Hush!" she whispered. He shrank
away from her as she tried to take him on her knee, and looked across
the room at his father. "More!" he burst out louder than ever. Romayne
beckoned to me, and pointed to the boy.

I led him across the room. He was quite willing to go with me--he
reiterated his petition, standing at his father's knees.

"Lift him to me," said Romayne.

I could barely hear the words: even his strength to whisper seemed to be
fast leaving him. He kissed his son--with a panting fatigue under that
trifling exertion, pitiable to see. As I placed the boy on his feet
again, he looked up at his dying father, with the one idea still in his
mind.

"More, papa! More!"

Romayne put the will into his hand.

The child's eyes sparkled. "Burn?" he asked, eagerly.

"Yes!"

Father Benwell sprang forward with outstretched hands. I stopped him. He
struggled with me. I forgot the privilege of the black robe. I took him
by the throat.

The boy threw the will into the fire. "Oh!" he shouted, in high delight,
and clapped his chubby hands as the bright little blaze flew up the
chimney. I released the priest.

In a frenzy of rage and despair, he looked round at the persons in
the room. "I take you all to witness," he cried; "this is an act of
madness!"

"You yourself declared just now," said the lawyer, "that Mr. Romayne was
in perfect possession of his faculties."

The baffled Jesuit turned furiously on the dying man. They looked at
each other.

For one awful moment Romayne's eyes brightened, Romayne's voice rallied
its power, as if life was returning to him. Frowning darkly, the priest
put his question.

"What did you do it for?"

Quietly and firmly the answer came:

"Wife and child."

The last long-drawn sigh rose and fell. With those sacred words on his
lips, Romayne died.

London, 6th May.--At Stella's request, I have returned to Penrose--with
but one fellow-traveler. My dear old companion, the dog, is coiled up,
fast asleep at my feet, while I write these lines. Penrose has gained
strength enough to keep me company in the sitting-room. In a few days
more he will see Stella again.

What instructions reached the Embassy from Rome--whether Romayne
received the last sacrament at the earlier period of his illness--we
never heard. No objection was made, when Lord Loring proposed to remove
the body to England, to be buried in the family vault at Vange Abbey.

I had undertaken to give the necessary directions for the funeral, on my
arrival in London. Returning to the hotel, I met Father Benwell in the
street. I tried to pass on. He deliberately stopped me.

"How is Mrs. Romayne?" he asked, with that infernal suavity which he
seems always to have at command. "Fairly well I hope? And the boy? Ah,
he little thought how he was changing his prospects for the better, when
he made that blaze in the fire! Pardon me, Mr. Winterfield, you don't
seem to be quite so cordial as usual. Perhaps you are thinking of your
inconsiderate assault on my throat? Let us forgive and forget. Or,
perhaps, you object to my having converted poor Romayne, and to my being
ready to accept from him the restoration of the property of the Church.
In both cases I only did my duty as a priest. You are a liberal-minded
man. Surely I deserve a favorable construction of my conduct?"

I really could not endure this. "I have my own opinion of what you
deserve," I answered. "Don't provoke me to mention it."

He eyed me with a sinister smile.

"I am not so old as I look," he said; "I may live another twenty years!"

"Well?" I asked.

"Well," he answered, "much may happen in twenty years!"

With that he left me. If he means any further mischief, I can tell him
this--he will find Me in his way.

To turn to a more pleasant subject. Reflecting on all that had passed
at my memorable interview with Romayne, I felt some surprise that one
of the persons present had made no effort to prevent the burning of the
will. It was not to be expected of Stella--or of the doctors, who had
no interest in the matter--but I was unable to understand the passive
position maintained by the lawyer. He enlightened my ignorance in two
words.

"The Vange property and the Berrick property were both absolutely at the
disposal of Mr. Romayne," he said. "If he died without leaving a will,
he knew enough of the law to foresee that houses, lands, and money would
go to his 'nearest of kin.' In plainer words, his widow and his son."

When Penrose can travel, he accompanies me to Beaupark. Stella and her
little son and Mrs. Eyrecourt will be the only other guests in my house.
Time must pass, and the boy will be older, before I may remind Stella
of Romayne's last wishes on that sad morning when we two knelt on either
side of him. In the meanwhile, it is almost happiness enough for me to
look forward to the day--


NOTE.--The next leaf of the Diary is missing. By some accident, a
manuscript page has got into its place, bearing a later date, and
containing elaborate instructions for executing a design for a wedding
dress. The handwriting has since been acknowledged as her own, by no
less a person than--Mrs. Eyrecourt.





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