Poor Miss Finch
IN four or five days more, Lucilla's melancholy doubts about Oscar were confirmed. He
was attacked by a second fit.
The promised consultation with the physician from Brighton took place. Our new doctor
did not encourage us to hope. The second fit following so close on the first was, in his
opinion, a bad sign. He gave general directions for the treatment of Oscar; and left him to
decide for himself whether he would or would not try change of scene. No change, the
physician appeared to think, would exert any immediate influence on the recurrence of
the epileptic attacks. The patient's general health might be benefited, and that was all. As
for the question of the marriage, he declared without hesitation that we must for the
present dismiss all consideration of it from our minds.
Lucilla received the account of what passed at the visit of the doctors with a stubborn
resignation which it distressed me to see. "Remember what I told you when the first
attack seized him," she said. "Our summer-time is ended; our winter is come."
Her manner, while she spoke, was the manner of a person who is waiting without hope--
who feels deliberately that calamity is near. She only roused herself when Oscar came in.
He was, naturally enough, in miserable spirits, under the sudden alteration in all his
prospects. Lucilla did her best to cheer him, and succeeded. On my side, I tried vainly to
persuade him to leave Browndown and amuse himself in some gayer place. He shrank
from new faces and new scenes. Between these two unelastic young people, I felt even
my native good spirits beginning to sink. If we had been all three down in the bottom of a
dry well in a wilderness, we could hardly have surveyed a more dismal prospect than the
prospect we were contemplating now. By good luck, Oscar, like Lucilla, was passionately
fond of music. We turned to the piano as our best resource in those days of our adversity.
Lucilla and I took it in turns to play, and Oscar listened. I have to report that we got
through a great deal of music. I have also to acknowledge that we were very dull.
As for Reverend Finch, he talked his way through his share of the troubles that were
trying us now, at the full compass of his voice.
If you had heard the little priest in those days, you would have supposed that nobody
could feel our domestic misfortunes as he felt them, and grieve over them as he grieved.
He was a sight to see, on the day of the medical consultation; strutting up and down his
wife's sitting-room, and haranguing his audience--composed of his wife and myself. Mrs.
Finch sat in one corner, with the baby and the novel, and the petticoat and the shawl. I
occupied the other corner; summoned to "consult with the rector." In plain words,
summoned to hear Mr. Finch declare that he was the person principally overshadowed by
the cloud which hung on the household.
"I despair, Madame Pratolungo--I assure you, I despair--of conveying any idea of how I
feel under this most melancholy state of things. You have been very good; you have
shown the sympathy of a true friend. But you cannot possibly understand how this blow
has fallen on Me. I am crushed. Madame Pratolungo!" (he appealed to me, in my corner);
"Mrs. Finch!" (he appealed to his wife, in her corner)--"I am crushed. There is no other
word to express it but the word I have used. Crushed." He stopped in the middle of the
room. He looked expectantly at me--he looked expectantly at his wife. His face and
manner said plainly, "If both these women faint, I shall consider it a natural and