THE ROBE OF PEACE
by O. Henry
Mysteries follow one another so closely in a great city that
the reading public and the friends of Johnny Bellchambers have
ceased to marvel at his sudden and unexplained disappearance
nearly a year ago. This particular mystery has now been cleared
up, but the solution is so strange and incredible to the mind
of the average man that only a select few who were in close
touch with Bellchambers will give it full credence.
Johnny Bellchambers, as is well known, belonged to the
intrinsically inner circle of the elite. Without any
of the ostentation of the fashionable ones who endeavor to
attract notice by eccentric display of wealth and show he
still was au fait in everything that gave deserved lustre
to his high position in the ranks of society.
Especially did he shine in the matter of dress. In this
he was the despair of imitators. Always correct, exquisitely
groomed, and possessed of an unlimited wardrobe, he was
conceded to be the best-dressed man in New York, and,
therefore, in America. There was not a tailor in Gotham
who would not have deemed it a precious boon to have been
granted the privilege of making Bellchambers' clothes
without a cent of pay. As he wore them, they would have
been a priceless advertisement. Trousers were his especial
passion. Here nothing but perfection would he notice. He
would have worn a patch as quickly as he would have
overlooked a wrinkle. He kept a man in his apartments
always busy pressing his ample supply. His friends said
that three hours was the limit of time that he would wear
these garments without exchanging.
Bellchambers disappeared very suddenly. For three days his
absence brought no alarm to his friends, and then they began
to operate the usual methods of inquiry. All of them failed.
He had left absolutely no trace behind. Then the search for
a motive was instituted, but none was found. He had no enemies,
he had no debts, there was no woman. There were several
thousand dollars in his bank to his credit. He had never
showed any tendency toward mental eccentricity; in fact, he
was of a particularly calm and well-balanced temperament.
Every means of tracing the vanished man was made use of, but
without avail. It was one of those cases--more numerous in
late years--where men seem to have gone out like the flame
of a candle, leaving not even a trail of smoke as a witness.
In May, Tom Eyres and Lancelot Gilliam, two of Bellchambers'
old friends, went for a little run on the other side. While
pottering around in Italy and Switzerland, they happened,
one day, to hear of a monastery in the Swiss Alps that
promised something outside of the ordinary tourist-beguiling
attractions. The monastery was almost inaccessible to the
average sightseer, being on an extremely rugged and precipitous
spur of the mountains. The attractions it possessed but did
not advertise were, first, an exclusive and divine cordial
made by the monks that was said to far surpass benedictine
and chartreuse. Next a huge brass bell so purely and accurately
cast that it had not ceased sounding since it was first rung
three hundred years ago. Finally, it was asserted that no
Englishman had ever set foot within its walls. Eyres and
Gilliam decided that these three reports called for
It took them two days with the aid of two guides to reach
the monastery of St. Gondrau. It stood upon a frozen,
wind-swept crag with the snow piled about it in treacherous,
drifting masses. They were hospitably received by the brothers
whose duty it was to entertain the infrequent guest. They
drank of the precious cordial, finding it rarely potent and
reviving. They listened to the great, ever-echoing bell, and
learned that they were pioneer travelers, in those gray stone
walls, over the Englishman whose restless feet have trodden
nearly every corner of the earth.
At three o'clock on the afternoon they arrived, the two
young Gothamites stood with good Brother Cristofer in the
great, cold hallway of the monastery to watch the monks march
past on their way to the refectory. They came slowly, pacing
by twos, with their heads bowed, treading noiselessly with
sandaled feet upon the rough stone flags. As the procession
slowly filed past, Eyres suddenly gripped Gilliam by the arm.
"Look," he whispered, eagerly, "at the one just opposite you
now--the one on this side, with his hand at his waist--if
that isn't Johnny Bellchambers then I never saw him!"
Gilliam saw and recognized the lost glass of fashion.
"What the deuce," said he, wonderingly, "is old Bell doing
here? Tommy, it surely can't be he! Never heard of Bell
having a turn for the religious. Fact is, I've heard him
say things when a four-in-hand didn't seem to tie up just
right that would bring him up for court-martial before any
"It's Bell, without a doubt," said Eyres, firmly, "or I'm
pretty badly in need of an oculist. But think of Johnny
Bellchambers, the Royal High Chancellor of swell togs and
the Mahatma of pink teas, up here in cold storage doing
penance in a snuff-colored bathrobe! I can't get it straight
in my mind. Let's ask the jolly old boy that's doing the
Brother Cristofer was appealed to for information. By that
time the monks had passed into the refectory. He could not
tell to which one they referred. Bellchambers? Ah, the
brothers of St. Gondrau abandoned their worldly names when
they took the vows. Did the gentlemen wish to speak with
one of the brothers? If they would come to the refectory
and indicate the one they wished to see, the reverend abbot
in authority would, doubtless, permit it.
Eyres and Gilliam went into the dining hall and pointed
out to Brother Cristofer the man they had seen. Yes, it
was Johnny Bellchambers. They saw his face plainly now,
as he sat among the dingy brothers, never looking up,
eating broth from a coarse, brown bowl.
Permission to speak to one of the brothers was granted
to the two travelers by the abbot, and they waited in a
reception room for him to come. When he did come, treading
softly in his sandals, both Eyres and Gilliam looked at him
in perplexity and astonishment. It was Johnny Bellchambers,
but he had a different look. Upon his smooth-shaven face
was an expression of ineffable peace, of rapturous attainment,
of perfect and complete happiness. His form was proudly erect,
his eyes shone with a serene and gracious light. He was as
neat and well-groomed as in the old New York days, but how
differently was he clad! Now he seemed clothed in but a single
garment--a long robe of rough brown cloth, gathered by a cord
at the waist, and falling in straight, loose folds nearly to
his feet. He shook hands with his visitors with his old ease
and grace of manner. If there was any embarrassment in that
meeting it was not manifested by Johnny Bellchambers. The
room had no seats; they stood to converse.
"Glad to see you, old man," said Eyres, somewhat awkwardly.
"Wasn't expecting to find you up here. Not a bad idea
though, after all. Society's an awful sham. Must be a
relief to shake the giddy whirl and retire to--er--contemplation
and--er--prayer and hymns, and those things.
"Oh, cut that, Tommy," said Bellchambers, cheerfully.
"Don't be afraid that I'll pass around the plate. I go
through these thing-um-bobs with the rest of these old
boys because they are the rules. I'm Brother Ambrose
here, you know. I'm given just ten minutes to talk to
you fellows. That's rather a new design in waistcoats
you have on, isn't it, Gilliam? Are they wearing those
things on Broadway now?"
"It's the same old Johnny," said Gilliam, joyfully. "What
the devil--I mean why--Oh, confound it! what did you do it
for, old man?"
"Peel the bathrobe," pleaded Eyres, almost tearfully,
"and go back with us. The old crowd'll go wild to see you.
This isn't in your line, Bell. I know half a dozen girls
that wore the willow on the quiet when you shook us in
that unaccountable way. Hand in your resignation, or get
a dispensation, or whatever you have to do to get a
release from this ice factory. You'll get catarrh here,
Johnny--and--My God! you haven't any socks on!"
Bellchambers looked down at his sandaled feet and smiled.
"You fellows don't understand," he said, soothingly. "It's
nice of you to want me to go back, but the old life will never
know me again. I have reached here the goal of all my ambitions.
I am entirely happy and contented. Here I shall remain for the
remainder of my days. You see this robe that I wear?" Bellchambers
caressingly touched the straight-hanging garment: "At last I
have found something that will not bag at the knees. I have
At that moment the deep boom of the great brass bell reverberated
through the monastery. It must have been a summons to immediate
devotions, for Brother Ambrose bowed his head, turned and left
the chamber without another word. A slight wave of his hand as
he passed through the stone doorway seemed to say a farewell
to his old friends. They left the monastery without seeing him
And this is the story that Tommy Eyres and Lancelot
Gilliam brought back with them from their latest
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~