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


It was not that I didn’t wait, on this occasion, for more, for I was rooted as deeply as I
was shaken. Was there a “secret” at Bly-a mystery of Udolpho or an insane, an
unmentionable relative kept in unsuspected confinement? I can’t say how long I turned
it over, or how long, in a confusion of curiosity and dread, I remained where I had had
my collision; I only recall that when I re-entered the house darkness had quite closed
in. Agitation, in the interval, certainly had held me and driven me, for I must, in
circling about the place, have walked three miles; but I was to be, later on, so much
more overwhelmed that this mere dawn of alarm was a comparatively human chill.
The most singular part of it, in factsingular as the rest had been-was the part I became,
in the hall, aware of in meeting Mrs. Grose. This picture comes back to me in the
general train-the impression, as I received it on my return, of the wide white panelled
space, bright in the lamplight and with its portraits and red carpet, and of the good
surprised look of my friend, which immediately told me she had missed me. It came to
me straightway, under her contact, that, with plain heartiness, mere relieved anxiety at
my appearance, she knew nothing whatever that could bear upon the incident I had
there ready for her. I had not suspected in advance that her comfortable face would
pull me up, and I somehow measured the importance of what I had seen by my thus
finding myself hesitate to mention it. Scarce anything in the whole history seems to me
so odd as this fact that my real beginning of fear was one, as I may say, with the instinct
of sparing my companion. On the spot, accordingly, in the pleasant hall and with her
eyes on me, I, for a reason that I couldn’t then have phrased, achieved an inward
resolution-offered a vague pretext for my lateness and, with the plea of the beauty of
the night and of the heavy dew and wet feet, went as soon as possible to my room.

Here it was another affair; here, for many days after, it was a queer affair enough.
There were hours, from day to day-or at least there were moments, snatched even from
clear duties-when I had to shut myself up to think. It was not so much yet that I was
more nervous than I could bear to be as that I was remarkably afraid of becoming so;
for the truth I had now to turn over was, simply and clearly, the truth that I could
arrive at no account whatever of the visitor with whom I had been so inexplicably and
yet, as it seemed to me, so intimately concerned. It took little time to see that I could
sound without forms of inquiry and without exciting remark any domestic
complication. The shock I had suffered must have sharpened all my senses; I felt sure,
at the end of three days and as the result of mere closer attention, that I had not been
practiced upon by the servants nor made the object of any “game.” Of whatever it was
that I knew, nothing was known around me. There was but one sane inference:
someone had taken a liberty rather gross. That was what, repeatedly, I dipped into my
room and locked the door to say to myself. We had been, collectively, subject to an
intrusion; some unscrupulous traveler, curious in old houses, had made his way in
unobserved, enjoyed the prospect from the best point of view, and then stolen out as he
came. If he had given me such a bold hard stare, that was but a part of his indiscretion.
<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library-The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

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