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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
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
"I believed that you had good reasons, Father--and that was enough for
"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 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
"Then you had a reason for your silence?"
"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."
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
Father Benwell took both Romayne's hands in his, and pressed them
"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
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
"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
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
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
"You are not in the confessional," Father Benwell reminded him, with
melancholy submission to circumstances. "You are under no obligation to
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
"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
Romayne started to his feet, shaken to the soul by the solemnity of the
"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
"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
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