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

The good thing, after all, was that we should surely see no more of him.

This was not so good a thing, I admit, as not to leave me to judge that what, essentially,
made nothing else much signify was simply my charming work. My charming work
was just my life with Miles and Flora, and through nothing could I so like it as through
feeling that I could throw myself into it in trouble. The attraction of my small charges
was a constant joy, leading me to wonder afresh at the vanity of my original fears, the
distaste I had begun by entertaining for the probable gray prose of my office. There
was to be no gray prose, it appeared, and no long grind; so how could work not be
charming that presented itself as daily beauty? It was all the romance of the nursery
and the poetry of the schoolroom. I don’t mean by this, of course, that we studied only
fiction and verse; I mean I can express no otherwise the sort of interest my companions
inspired. How can I describe that except by saying that instead of growing used to
them-and it’s a marvel for a governess: I call the sisterhood to witness!- I made
constant fresh discoveries. There was one direction, assuredly, in which these
discoveries stopped: deep obscurity continued to cover the region of the boy’s conduct
at school. It had been promptly given me, I have noted, to face that mystery without a
pang. Perhaps even it would be nearer the truth to say that-without a word-he himself
had cleared it up. He had made the whole charge absurd. My conclusion bloomed there
with the real rose flush of his innocence: he was only too fine and fair for the little
horrid, unclean school world, and he had paid a price for it. I reflected acutely that the
sense of such differences, such superiorities of quality, always, on the part of the
majority-which could include even stupid, sordid headmasters-turns infallibly to the

Both the children had a gentleness (it was their only fault, and it never made Miles a
muff) that kept them-how shall I express it?- almost impersonal and certainly quite
unpunishable. They were like the cherubs of the anecdote, who hadmorally, at any
rate-nothing to whack! I remember feeling with Miles in especial as if he had had, as it
were, no history. We expect of a small child a scant one, but there was in this beautiful
little boy something extraordinarily sensitive, yet extraordinarily happy, that, more
than in any creature of his age I have seen, struck me as beginning anew each day. He
had never for a second suffered. I took this as a direct disproof of his having really been
chastised. If he had been wicked he would have “caught” it, and I should have caught
it by the rebound-I should have found the trace. I found nothing at all, and he was
therefore an angel. He never spoke of his school, never mentioned a comrade or a
master; and I, for my part, was quite too much disgusted to allude to them. Of course I
was under the spell, and the wonderful part is that, even at the time, I perfectly knew I
was. But I gave myself up to it; it was an antidote to any pain, and I had more pains
than one. I was in receipt in these days of disturbing letters from home, where things
were not going well. But with my children, what things in the world mattered? That
was the question I used to put to my scrappy retirements. I was dazzled by their

There was a Sunday-to get on-when it rained with such force and for so many hours
that there could be no procession to church; in consequence of which, as the day
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