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<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library-The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

extravagant-saw him all in a glow of high fashion, of good looks, of expensive habits,
of charming ways with women. He had for his own town residence a big house filled
with the spoils of travel and the trophies of the chase; but it was to his country home,
an old family place in Essex, that he wished her immediately to proceed.

He had been left, by the death of their parents in India, guardian to a small nephew
and a small niece, children of a younger, a military brother, whom he had lost two
years before. These children were, by the strangest of chances for a man in his position-
a lone man without the right sort of experience or a grain of patience-very heavily on
his hands. It had all been a great worry and, on his own part doubtless, a series of
blunders, but he immensely pitied the poor chicks and had done all he could; had in
particular sent them down to his other house, the proper place for them being of course
the country, and kept them there, from the first, with the best people he could find to
look after them, parting even with his own servants to wait on them and going down
himself, whenever he might, to see how they were doing. The awkward thing was that
they had practically no other relations and that his own affairs took up all his time. He
had put them in possession of Bly, which was healthy and secure, and had placed at the
head of their little establishment-but below stairs only-an excellent woman, Mrs.
Grose, whom he was sure his visitor would like and who had formerly been maid to
his mother.

She was now housekeeper and was also acting for the time as superintendent to the
little girl, of whom, without children of her own, she was, by good luck, extremely
fond. There were plenty of people to help, but of course the young lady who should go
down as governess would be in supreme authority. She would also have, in holidays,
to look after the small boy, who had been for a term at schoolyoung as he was to be
sent, but what else could be done?- and who, as the holidays were about to begin,
would be back from one day to the other. There had been for the two children at first a
young lady whom they had had the misfortune to lose. She had done for them quite
beautifully-she was a most respectable person-till her death, the great awkwardness of
which had, precisely, left no alternative but the school for little Miles. Mrs. Grose, since
then, in the way of manners and things, had done as she could for Flora; and there
were, further, a cook, a housemaid, a dairy-woman, an old pony, an old groom, and an
old gardener, all likewise thoroughly respectable.

So far had Douglas presented his picture when someone put a question. “And what did
the former governess die of?- of so much respectability?” Our friend’s answer was
prompt. “That will come out. I don’t anticipate.

“Excuse me-I thought that was just what you are doing.” “In her successor’s place,” I
suggested, “I should have wished to learn if the office brought with it-” “Necessary
danger to life?” Douglas completed my thought. “She did wish to learn, and she did
learn. You shall hear tomorrow what she learned. Meanwhile, of course, the prospect
struck her as slightly grim. She was young, untried, nervous: it was a vision of serious
duties and little company, of really great loneliness. She hesitated-took a couple of
days to consult and consider. But the salary offered much exceeded her modest
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