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

purpose so laudable in a young man whose only defect was an occasional excess of the
restless. His sister, on the contrary, had been alert to come out, and I strolled with her
half an hour, seeking the shade, for the sun was still high and the day exceptionally
warm. I was aware afresh, with her, as we went, of how, like her brother, she
contrived-it was the charming thing in both children-to let me alone without
appearing to drop me and to accompany me without appearing to surround. They were
never importunate and yet never listless. My attention to them all really went to seeing
them amuse themselves immensely without me: this was a spectacle they seemed
actively to prepare and that engaged me as an active admirer. I walked in a world of
their invention-they had no occasion whatever to draw upon mine; so that my time
was taken only with being, for them, some remarkable person or thing that the game of
the moment required and that was merely, thanks to my superior, my exalted stamp, a
happy and highly distinguished sinecure. I forget what I was on the present occasion; I
only remember that I was something very important and very quiet and that Flora was
playing very hard. We were on the edge of the lake, and, as we had lately begun
geography, the lake was the Sea of Azof.

Suddenly, in these circumstances, I became aware that, on the other side of the Sea of
Azof, we had an interested spectator. The way this knowledge gathered in me was the
strangest thing in the world-the strangest, that is, except the very much stranger in
which it quickly merged itself. I had sat down with a piece of work-for I was
something or other that could sit-on the old stone bench which overlooked the pond;
and in this position I began to take in with certitude, and yet without direct vision, the
presence, at a distance, of a third person. The old trees, the thick shrubbery, made a
great and pleasant shade, but it was all suffused with the brightness of the hot, still
hour. There was no ambiguity in anything; none whatever, at least, in the conviction I
from one moment to another found myself forming as to what I should see straight
before me and across the lake as a consequence of raising my eyes. They were attached
at this juncture to the stitching in which I was engaged, and I can feel once more the
spasm of my effort not to move them till I should so have steadied myself as to be able
to make up my mind what to do. There was an alien object in view-a figure whose
right of presence I instantly, passionately questioned. I recollect counting over perfectly
the possibilities, reminding myself that nothing was more natural, for instance, than the
appearance of one of the men about the place, or even of a messenger, a postman, or a
tradesmanís boy, from the village. That reminder had as little effect on my practical
certitude as I was conscious-still even without looking-of its having upon the character
and attitude of our visitor. Nothing was more natural than that these things should be
the other things that they absolutely were not.

Of the positive identity of the apparition I would assure myself as soon as the small
clock of my courage should have ticked out the right second; meanwhile, with an effort
that was already sharp enough, I transferred my eyes straight to little Flora, who, at the
moment, was about ten yards away. My heart had stood still for an instant with the
wonder and terror of the question whether she too would see; and I held my breath
while I waited for what a cry from her, what some sudden innocent sign either of
<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library-The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

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