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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library-The Turn of the Screw by Henry James


Someone would appear there at the turn of a path and would stand before me and
smile and approve. I didnít ask more than that-I only asked that he should know; and
the only way to be sure he knew would be to see it, and the kind light of it, in his
handsome face. That was exactly present to me-by which I mean the face was-when,
on the first of these occasions, at the end of a long June day, I stopped short on
emerging from one of the plantations and coming into view of the house. What arrested
me on the spot-and with a shock much greater than any vision had allowed for-was
the sense that my imagination had, in a flash, turned real. He did stand there!- but high
up, beyond the lawn and at the very top of the tower to which, on that first morning,
little Flora had conducted me. This tower was one of a pair-square, incongruous,
crenelated structures-that were distinguished, for some reason, though I could see little
difference, as the new and the old. They flanked opposite ends of the house and were
probably architectural absurdities, redeemed in a measure indeed by not being wholly
disengaged nor of a height too pretentious, dating, in their gingerbread antiquity, from
a romantic revival that was already a respectable past. I admired them, had fancies
about them, for we could all profit in a degree, especially when they loomed through
the dusk, by the grandeur of their actual battlements; yet it was not at such an elevation
that the figure I had so often invoked seemed most in place.

It produced in me, this figure, in the clear twilight, I remember, two distinct gasps of
emotion, which were, sharply, the shock of my first and that of my second surprise. My
second was a violent perception of the mistake of my first: the man who met my eyes
was not the person I had precipitately supposed. There came to me thus a
bewilderment of vision of which, after these years, there is no living view that I can
hope to give. An unknown man in a lonely place is a permitted object of fear to a young
woman privately bred; and the figure that faced me was-a few more seconds assured
me-as little anyone else I knew as it was the image that had been in my mind. I had not
seen it in Harley Street-I had not seen it anywhere. The place, moreover, in the
strangest way in the world, had, on the instant, and by the very fact of its appearance,
become a solitude. To me at least, making my statement here with a deliberation with
which I have never made it, the whole feeling of the moment returns. It was as if, while
I took inwhat I did take in-all the rest of the scene had been stricken with death. I can
hear again, as I write, the intense hush in which the sounds of evening dropped.

The rooks stopped cawing in the golden sky, and the friendly hour lost, for the minute,
all its voice. But there was no other change in nature, unless indeed it were a change
that I saw with a stranger sharpness. The gold was still in the sky, the clearness in the
air, and the man who looked at me over the battlements was as definite as a picture in a
frame. Thatís how I thought, with extraordinary quickness, of each person that he
might have been and that he was not. We were confronted across our distance quite
long enough for me to ask myself with intensity who then he was and to feel, as an
effect of my inability to say, a wonder that in a few instants more became intense.

The great question, or one of these, is, afterward, I know, with regard to certain
matters, the question of how long they have lasted. Well, this matter of mine, think
what you will of it, lasted while I caught at a dozen possibilities, none of which made a
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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library-The Turn of the Screw by Henry James



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