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Poor Miss Finch

Poor Miss Finch
THE rectory resembled, in one respect, this narrative that I am now writing. It was in
Two Parts. Part the First, in front, composed of the everlasting flint and mortar of the
neighborhood, failed to interest me. Part the Second, running back at a right angle,
asserted itself as ancient. It had been, in its time, as I afterwards heard, a convent of nuns.
Here were snug little Gothic windows, and dark ivy-covered walls of venerable stone:
repaired in places, at some past period, with quaint red bricks. I had hoped that I should
enter the house by this side of it. But no. The boy--after appearing to be at a loss what to
do with me--led the way to a door on the modern side of the building, and rang the bell.
A slovenly young maid-servant admitted me to the house.
Possibly, this person was new to the duty of receiving visitors. Possibly, she was
bewildered by a sudden invasion of children in dirty frocks, darting out on us in the hall,
and then darting away again into invisible back regions, screeching at the sight of a
stranger. At any rate, she too appeared to be at a loss what to do with me. After staring
hard at my foreign face, she suddenly opened a door in the wall of the passage, and
admitted me into a small room. Two more children in dirty frocks darted, screaming, out
of the asylum thus offered to me. I mentioned my name, as soon as I could make myself
heard. The maid appeared to be terrified at the length of it. I gave her my card. The maid
took it between a dirty finger and thumb--looked at it as if it was some extraordinary
natural curiosity--turned it round, exhibiting correct black impressions in various parts of
it of her finger and thumb--gave up understanding it in despair, and left the room. She
was stopped outside (as I gathered from the sounds) by a returning invasion of children in
the hall. There was whispering; there was giggling; there was, every now and then, a loud
thump on the door. Prompted by the children, as I suppose--pushed in by them, certainly-
-the maid suddenly reappeared with a jerk, "Oh, if you please, come this way," she said.
The invasion of children retreated again up the stairs--one of them in possession of my
card, and waving it in triumph on the first landing. We penetrated to the other end of the
passage. Again, a door was opened. Unannounced, I entered another, and a larger room.
What did I see?
Fortune had favored me at last. My lucky star had led me to the mistress of the house.
I made my best curtsey, and found myself confronting a large, light-haired, languid,
lymphatic lady--who had evidently been amusing herself by walking up and down the
room, at the moment when I appeared. If there can be such a thing as a damp woman--
this was one. There was a humid shine on her colorless white face, and an overflow of
water in her pale blue eyes. Her hair was not dressed; and her lace cap was all on one
side. The upper part of her was clothed in a loose jacket of blue merino; the lower part
was robed in a dimity dressing gown of doubtful white. In one hand, she held a dirty
dogs'-eared book, which I at once detected to be a Circulating Library novel. Her other
hand supported a baby enveloped in flannel, sucking at her breast. Such was my first
experience of Reverend Finch's Wife--destined to be also the experience of all aftertime.
Never completely dressed; never completely dry; always with a baby in one hand and a
novel in the other--such was Finch's wife.
"Oh! Madame Pratolungo? Yes. I hope somebody has told Miss Finch you are here. She
has her own establishment, and manages everything herself. Have you had a pleasant
journey?" (These words were spoken vacantly, as if her mind was occupied with