Poor Miss Finch
Discoveries at Browndown
IT is needless to tell you at what conclusion I arrived, as soon as I was sufficiently myself
to think at all.
Thanks to my adventurous past life, I have got the habit of deciding quickly in serious
emergencies of all sorts. In the present emergency--as I saw it--there were two things to
be done. One, to go instantly with help to Browndown: the other, to keep the knowledge
of what had happened from Lucilla until I could get back again, and prepare her for the
I looked at Mrs. Finch. She had dropped helplessly into a chair. "Rouse yourself!" I said--
and shook her. It was no time for sympathizing with swoons and hysterics. The child was
still in my arms; fast yielding, poor little thing, to the exhaustion of fatigue and terror. I
could do nothing until I had relieved myself of the charge of her. Mrs. Finch looked up at
me, trembling and sobbing. I put the child in her lap. Jicks feebly resisted being parted
from me; but soon gave up, and dropped her weary little head on her mother's bosom.
"Can you take off her frock?" I asked, with another shake--a good one, this time. The
prospect of a domestic occupation (of any sort) appeared to rouse Mrs. Finch. She looked
at the baby, in its cradle in one corner of the room, and at the novel, reposing on a chair
in another corner of the room. The presence of these two familiar objects appeared to
encourage her. She shivered, she swallowed a sob, she recovered her breath, she began to
undo the frock.
"Put it away carefully," I said; "and say nothing to anybody of what has happened, until I
come back. You can see for yourself that the child is not hurt. Soothe her, and wait here.
Is Mr. Finch in the study?"
Mrs. Finch swallowed another sob, and said, "Yes." The child made a last effort. "Jicks
will go with you," said the indomitable little Arab faintly. I ran out of the room, and left
the three babies--big, little, and least--together.
After knocking at the study door without getting any reply, I opened it and went in.
Reverend Finch, comfortably prostrate in a large arm-chair (with his sermon-paper spread
out in fair white sheets by his side), started up, and confronted me in the character of a
clergyman that moment awakened from a sound sleep.
The rector of Dimchurch instantly recovered his dignity.
"I beg your pardon, Madame Pratolungo, I was deep in thought. Please state your
business briefly." Saying those words, he waved his hand magnificently over his empty
sheets of paper, and added in his deepest bass: "Sermon-day."
I told him in the plainest words what I had seen on his child's frock, and what I feared
had happened at Browndown. He turned deadly pale. If I ever yet set my two eyes on a
man thoroughly frightened, Reverend Finch was that man.
"Do you anticipate danger?" he inquired. "Is it your opinion that criminal persons are in,
or near, the house?"