Poor Miss Finch HTML version
The Hero of the Trial
"You have forced it out of me. Now you have had your way, never mind my feelings--
Those were the first words the Hero of the Trial said to me, when he was able to speak
again! He withdrew with a curious sullen resignation to the farther end of the room.
There he stood looking at me, as a man might have looked who carried some contagion
about him, and who wished to preserve a healthy fellow-creature from the peril of
"Why should I go?" I asked.
"You are a bold woman," he said, "to remain in the same room with a man who has been
pointed at as a murderer, and who has been tried for his life."
The same unhealthy state of mind which had brought him to Dimchurch, and which had
led him to speak to me as he had spoken on the previous evening, was, as I understood it,
now irritating him against me as a person who had made his own quick temper the means
of entrapping him into letting out the truth. How was I to deal with a man in this
condition? I decided to perform the feat which you call in England, "taking the bull by
"I see but one man here," I said. "A man honorably acquitted of a crime which he was
incapable of committing. A man who deserves my interest, and claims my sympathy.
Shake hands, Mr. Dubourg."
I spoke to him in a good hearty voice, and I gave him a good hearty squeeze. The poor,
weak, lonely, persecuted young fellow dropped his head on my shoulder like a child, and
burst out crying.
"Don't despise me!" he said, as soon as he had got his breath again. "It breaks a man
down to have stood in the dock, and to have had hundreds of hard-hearted people staring
at him in horror--without his deserving it. Besides, I have been very lonely, ma'am, since
my brother left me."
We sat down again, side by side. He was the strangest compound of anomalies I had ever
met with. Throw him into one of those passions in which he flamed out so easily--and
you would have said, This is a tiger. Wait till he had cooled down again to his customary
mild temperature--and you would have said with equal truth, This is a lamb.
"One thing rather surprises me, Mr. Dubourg," I went on. "I can't quite understand----"
"Don't call me "Mr. Dubourg," he interposed. "You remind me of the disgrace which has
forced me to change my name. Call me by my Christian name. It's a foreign name. You
are a foreigner by your accent--you will like me all the better for having a foreign name. I
was christened "Oscar"--after my mother's brother: my mother was a Jersey woman. Call
me "Oscar."--What is it you don't understand?"
"In your present situation," I resumed, "I don't understand your brother leaving you here
all by yourself."