Poor Miss Finch
Madame Pratolungo Returns to Dimchurch
I REACHED London in the last week of Lucilla's residence under her aunt's roof, and
waited in town until it was time to take her back to Dimchurch.
As soon as it had become obviously too late for Oscar to risk the dreaded meeting with
Lucilla before strangers, his correspondence had, as a matter of course, assumed a
brighter tone. She was in high spirits once more, poor thing, when we met--and full of
delight at having me near her again. We thoroughly enjoyed our few days in London--and
took our fill of music at operas and concerts. I got on excellently well with the aunt until
the last day, when something happened which betrayed me into an avowal of my political
The old lady's consternation, when she discovered that I looked hopefully forward to a
coming extermination of kings and priests, and a general re-distribution of property all
over the civilized globe, is unutterable in words. On that occasion, I made one more
aristocrat tremble. I also closed Miss Batchford's door on me for the rest of my life. No
matter! The day is coming when the Batchford branch of humanity will not possess a
door to close. All Europe is drifting nearer and nearer to the Pratolungo programme.
Cheer up, my brothers without land, and my sisters without money in the Funds! We will
have it out with the infamous rich yet. Long live the Republic!
Early in the month of April, Lucilla and I took leave of the Metropolis, and went back to
As we drew nearer and nearer to the rectory, as Lucilla began to flush and fidget in eager
anticipation of her re-union with Oscar, that uneasiness of mind which I had so readily
dismissed while I was in Italy, began to find its way back to me again. My imagination
now set to work at drawing pictures--startling pictures of Oscar as a changed being, as a
Medusa's head too terrible to be contemplated by mortal eyes. Where would he meet us?
At the entrance to the village? No. At the rectory gate? No. In the quieter part of the
garden which was at the back of the house? Yes! There he stood waiting for us--alone!
Lucilla flew into his arms with a cry of delight. I stood behind and looked at them.
Ah, how vividly I remember--at the moment when she embraced him--the first shock of
seeing the two faces together! The drug had done its work. I saw her fair cheek laid
innocently against the livid blackish blue of his discolored skin. Heavens, how cruelly
that first embrace marked the contrast between what he had been when I left him, and
what he had changed to when I saw him now! His eyes turned from her face to mine, in
silent appeal to me while he held her in his arms. Their look told me the thought in him,
as eloquently as if he had put it into words. "You, who love her, say--can we ever be
cruel enough to tell her of this?"
I approached to take his hand. At the same moment, Lucilla suddenly drew back from
him, laid her left hand on his shoulder, and passed her right hand rapidly over his face.
For an instant I felt my heart stand still. Her miraculous sensitiveness of touch had
detected the dark color of my dress, on the day when we first met. Would it serve her,
this time, as truly as it had served her then?