Poor Miss Finch
Candlelight View of the Man
THERE had been barely light enough left for me to read by. Zillah lit the candles and
drew the curtains. The silence which betokens a profound disappointment reigned in the
"Who can he be?" repeated Lucilla, for the hundredth time. "And why should your
looking at him have distressed him? Guess, Madame Pratolungo!"
The last sentence in the gazetteer's description of Exeter hung a little on my mind--in
consequence of there being one word in it which I did not quite understand--the word
"Assizes." I have, I hope, shown that I possess a competent knowledge of the English
language, by this time. But my experience fails a little on the side of phrases consecrated
to the use of the law. I inquired into the meaning of "Assizes," and was informed that it
signified movable Courts, for trying prisoners at given times, in various parts of England.
Hearing this, I had another of my inspirations. I guessed immediately that the interesting
stranger was a criminal escaped from the Assizes.
Worthy old Zillah started to her feet, convinced that I had hit him off (as the English
saying is) to a T. "Mercy preserve us!" cried the nurse, "I haven't bolted the garden door!"
She hurried out of the room to defend us from robbery and murder, before it was too late.
I looked at Lucilla. She was leaning back in her chair, with a smile of quiet contempt on
her pretty face. "Madame Pratolungo," she remarked, "that is the first foolish thing you
have said, since you have been here."
"Wait a little, my dear," I rejoined. "You have declared that nothing is known of this man.
Now you mean by that--nothing which satisfies you. He has not dropped down from
Heaven, I suppose? The time when he came here, must be known. Also, whether he came
alone, or not. Also, how and where he has found a lodging in the village. Before I admit
that my guess is completely wrong, I want to hear what general observation in
Dimchurch has discovered on the subject of this gentleman. How long has he been here?"
Lucilla did not, at first, appear to be much interested in the purely practical view of the
question which I had just placed before her.
"He has been here a week," she answered carelessly.
"Did he come, as I came, over the hills?"
"With a guide, of course?"
Lucilla suddenly sat up in her chair.
"With his brother," she said. "His twin brother, Madame Pratolungo."
I sat up in my chair. The appearance of his twin-brother in the story was a complication
in itself. Two criminals escaped from the Assizes, instead of one!