Poor Miss Finch
LUCILLA was at the piano when I entered the sitting-room.
"I wanted you of all things," she said. "I have sent all over the house in search of you.
Where have you been?"
I told her. She sprang to her feet with a cry of delight.
"You have persuaded him to trust you--you have discovered everything. You only said 'I
have been at Browndown'--and I heard it in your voice. Out with it! out with it!"
She never moved--she seemed hardly to breathe--while I was telling her all that had
passed at the interview between Oscar and me. As soon as I had done, she got up in a
violent hurry--flushed and eager--and made straight for her bedroom door.
"What are you going to do?" I asked.
"I want my hat and my stick," she answered.
"You are going out?"
"Can you ask the question? To Browndown of course!"
I begged her to wait a moment, and hear a word or two that I had to say. It is, I suppose,
almost needless to add that my object in speaking to her was to protest against the glaring
impropriety of her paying a second visit, in one day, to a man who was a stranger to her. I
declared, in the plainest terms, that such a proceeding would be sufficient, in the
estimation of any civilized community, to put her reputation in peril. The result of my
interference was curious and interesting in the extreme. It showed me that the virtue
called Modesty (I am not speaking of Decency, mind) is a virtue of purely artificial
growth; and that the successful cultivation of it depends in the first instance, not on the
influence of the tongue, but on the influence of the eye.
Suppose the case of an average young lady (conscious of feeling a first love) to whom I
might have spoken in the sense that I have just mentioned--what would she have done?
She would assuredly have shown some natural and pretty confusion, and would, in all
human probability, have changed color more or less while she was listening to me.
Lucilla's charming face revealed but one expression--an expression of disappointment,
slightly mixed perhaps with surprise. I believed her to be then, what I knew her to be
afterwards, as pure a creature as ever walked the earth. And yet, of the natural and
becoming confusion, of the little inevitable feminine changes of color which I had
expected to see, not so much as a vestige appeared--and this, remember, in the case of a
person of unusually sensitive and impulsive nature: quick, on the most trifling occasions,
to feel and to express its feeling in no ordinary degree.