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


It took of course more than that particular passage to place us together in presence of
what we had now to live with as we could-my dreadful liability to impressions of the
order so vividly exemplified, and my companion’s knowledge, henceforth-a
knowledge half consternation and half compassion-of that liability.

There had been, this evening, after the revelation that left me, for an hour, so prostrate-
there had been, for either of us, no attendance on any service but a little service of tears
and vows, of prayers and promises, a climax to the series of mutual challenges and
pledges that had straightway ensued on our retreating together to the schoolroom and
shutting ourselves up there to have everything out.

The result of our having everything out was simply to reduce our situation to the last
rigor of its elements. She herself had seen nothing, not the shadow of a shadow, and
nobody in the house but the governess was in the governess’s plight; yet she accepted
without directly impugning my sanity the truth as I gave it to her, and ended by
showing me, on this ground, an awestricken tenderness, an expression of the sense of
my more than questionable privilege, of which the very breath has remained with me
as that of the sweetest of human charities.

What was settled between us, accordingly, that night, was that we thought we might
bear things together; and I was not even sure that, in spite of her exemption, it was she
who had the best of the burden. I knew at this hour, I think, as well as I knew later,
what I was capable of meeting to shelter my pupils; but it took me some time to be
wholly sure of what my honest ally was prepared for to keep terms with so
compromising a contract. I was queer company enough-quite as queer as the company
I received; but as I trace over what we went through I see how much common ground
we must have found in the one idea that, by good fortune, could steady us. It was the
idea, the second movement, that led me straight out, as I may say, of the inner chamber
of my dread. I could take the air in the court, at least, and there Mrs. Grose could join
me. Perfectly can I recall now the particular way strength came to me before we
separated for the night.

We had gone over and over every feature of what I had seen.

“He was looking for someone else, you say-someone who was not you?” “He was
looking for little Miles.” A portentous clearness now possessed me.

“That’s whom he was looking for.” “But how do you know?” “I know, I know, I
know!” My exaltation grew. “And you know, my dear!” She didn’t deny this, but I
required, I felt, not even so much telling as that.

She resumed in a moment, at any rate: “What if he should see him?” “Little Miles?
That’s what he wants!” She looked immensely scared again. “The child?” “Heaven
forbid! The man. He wants to appear to them.” That he might was an awful conception,
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