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


I remember the whole beginning as a succession of flights and drops, a little seesaw of
the right throbs and the wrong. After rising, in town, to meet his appeal, I had at all
events a couple of very bad days-found myself doubtful again, felt indeed sure I had
made a mistake. In this state of mind I spent the long hours of bumping, swinging
coach that carried me to the stopping place at which I was to be met by a vehicle from
the house. This convenience, I was told, had been ordered, and I found, toward the
close of the June afternoon, a commodious fly in waiting for me. Driving at that hour,
on a lovely day, through a country to which the summer sweetness seemed to offer me
a friendly welcome, my fortitude mounted afresh and, as we turned into the avenue,
encountered a reprieve that was probably but a proof of the point to which it had sunk.
I suppose I had expected, or had dreaded, something so melancholy that what greeted
me was a good surprise. I remember as a most pleasant impression the broad, clear
front, its open windows and fresh curtains and the pair of maids looking out; I
remember the lawn and the bright flowers and the crunch of my wheels on the gravel
and the clustered treetops over which the rooks circled and cawed in the golden sky.
The scene had a greatness that made it a different affair from my own scant home, and
there immediately appeared at the door, with a little girl in her hand, a civil person
who dropped me as decent a curtsy as if I had been the mistress or a distinguished
visitor. I had received in Harley Street a narrower notion of the place, and that, as I
recalled it, made me think the proprietor still more of a gentleman, suggested that what
I was to enjoy might be something beyond his promise.

I had no drop again till the next day, for I was carried triumphantly through the
following hours by my introduction to the younger of my pupils. The little girl who
accompanied Mrs. Grose appeared to me on the spot a creature so charming as to make
it a great fortune to have to do with her. She was the most beautiful child I had ever
seen, and I afterward wondered that my employer had not told me more of her. I slept
little that night-I was too much excited; and this astonished me, too, I recollect,
remained with me, adding to my sense of the liberality with which I was treated. The
large, impressive room, one of the best in the house, the great state bed, as I almost felt
it, the full, figured draperies, the long glasses in which, for the first time, I could see
myself from head to foot, all struck me-like the extraordinary charm of my small
charge-as so many things thrown in. It was thrown in as well, from the first moment,
that I should get on with Mrs. Grose in a relation over which, on my way, in the coach,
I fear I had rather brooded. The only thing indeed that in this early outlook might have
made me shrink again was the clear circumstance of her being so glad to see me. I
perceived within half an hour that she was so glad-stout, simple, plain, clean,
wholesome woman-as to be positively on her guard against showing it too much. I
wondered even then a little why she should wish not to show it, and that, with
reflection, with suspicion, might of course have made me uneasy.
<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library-The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

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