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

and yet, somehow, I could keep it at bay; which, moreover, as we lingered there, was
what I succeeded in practically proving. I had an absolute certainty that I should see
again what I had already seen, but something within me said that by offering myself
bravely as the sole subject of such experience, by accepting, by inviting, by
surmounting it all, I should serve as an expiatory victim and guard the tranquility of
my companions. The children, in especial, I should thus fence about and absolutely
save. I recall one of the last things I said that night to Mrs. Grose.

“It does strike me that my pupils have never mentioned-” She looked at me hard as I
musingly pulled up. “His having been here and the time they were with him?” “The
time they were with him, and his name, his presence, his history, in any way.” “Oh, the
little lady doesn’t remember. She never heard or knew.” “The circumstances of his
death?” I thought with some intensity. “Perhaps not. But Miles would remember-Miles
would know.” “Ah, don’t try him!” broke from Mrs. Grose.

I returned her the look she had given me. “Don’t be afraid.” I continued to think. “It is
rather odd.” “That he has never spoken of him?” “Never by the least allusion. And you
tell me they were ‘great friends’?” “Oh, it wasn’t him!” Mrs. Grose with emphasis
declared. “It was Quint’s own fancy. To play with him, I mean-to spoil him.” She
paused a moment; then she added: “Quint was much too free.” This gave me, straight
from my vision of his face-such a face!- a sudden sickness of disgust. “Too free with
my boy?” “Too free with everyone!” I forbore, for the moment, to analyze this
description further than by the reflection that a part of it applied to several of the
members of the household, of the half-dozen maids and men who were still of our
small colony. But there was everything, for our apprehension, in the lucky fact that no
discomfortable legend, no perturbation of scullions, had ever, within anyone’s memory
attached to the kind old place. It had neither bad name nor ill fame, and Mrs. Grose,
most apparently, only desired to cling to me and to quake in silence. I even put her, the
very last thing of all, to the test. It was when, at midnight, she had her hand on the
schoolroom door to take leave. “I have it from you then-for it’s of great importance-
that he was definitely and admittedly bad?” “Oh, not admittedly. I knew it-but the
master didn’t.” “And you never told him?” “Well, he didn’t like tale-bearing-he hated
complaints. He was terribly short with anything of that kind, and if people were all
right to him-” “He wouldn’t be bothered with more?” This squared well enough with
my impression of him: he was not a trouble-loving gentleman, nor so very particular
perhaps about some of the company he kept. All the same, I pressed my interlocutress.
“I promise you I would have told!” She felt my discrimination. “I daresay I was wrong.
But, really, I was afraid.” “Afraid of what?” “Of things that man could do. Quint was
so clever-he was so deep.” I took this in still more than, probably, I showed. “You
weren’t afraid of anything else? Not of his effect-?” “His effect?” she repeated with a
face of anguish and waiting while I faltered.

“On innocent little precious lives. They were in your charge.” “No, they were not in
mine!” she roundly and distressfully returned. “The master believed in him and placed
him here because he was supposed not to be well and the country air so good for him.
So he had everything to say. Yes”- she let me have it-“even about them.” “Them-that
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