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


What I had said to Mrs. Grose was true enough: there were in the matter I had put
before her depths and possibilities that I lacked resolution to sound; so that when we
met once more in the wonder of it we were of a common mind about the duty of
resistance to extravagant fancies. We were to keep our heads if we should keep nothing
else-difficult indeed as that might be in the face of what, in our prodigious experience,
was least to be questioned. Late that night, while the house slept, we had another talk
in my room, when she went all the way with me as to its being beyond doubt that I had
seen exactly what I had seen. To hold her perfectly in the pinch of that, I found I had
only to ask her how, if I had “made it up,” I came to be able to give, of each of the
persons appearing to me, a picture disclosing, to the last detail, their special marks-a
portrait on the exhibition of which she had instantly recognized and named them. She
wished of course-small blame to her!- to sink the whole subject; and I was quick to
assure her that my own interest in it had now violently taken the form of a search for
the way to escape from it. I encountered her on the ground of a probability that with
recurrence-for recurrence we took for granted-I should get used to my danger,
distinctly professing that my personal exposure had suddenly become the least of my
discomforts. It was my new suspicion that was intolerable; and yet even to this
complication the later hours of the day had brought a little ease.

On leaving her, after my first outbreak, I had of course returned to my pupils,
associating the right remedy for my dismay with that sense of their charm which I had
already found to be a thing I could positively cultivate and which had never failed me
yet. I had simply, in other words, plunged afresh into Flora’s special society and there
become aware-it was almost a luxury!- that she could put her little conscious hand
straight upon the spot that ached. She had looked at me in sweet speculation and then
had accused me to my face of having “cried.” I had supposed I had brushed away the
ugly signs: but I could literally-for the time, at all events-rejoice, under this fathomless
charity, that they had not entirely disappeared. To gaze into the depths of blue of the
child’s eyes and pronounce their loveliness a trick of premature cunning was to be
guilty of a cynicism in preference to which I naturally preferred to abjure my judgment
and, so far as might be, my agitation. I couldn’t abjure for merely wanting to, but I
could repeat to Mrs. Grose-as I did there, over and over, in the small hours-that with
their voices in the air, their pressure on one’s heart, and their fragrant faces against
one’s cheek, everything fell to the ground but their incapacity and their beauty. It was a
pity that, somehow, to settle this once for all, I had equally to re-enumerate the signs of
subtlety that, in the afternoon, by the lake, had made a miracle of my show of self-
possession. It was a pity to be obliged to reinvestigate the certitude of the moment itself
and repeat how it had come to me as a revelation that the inconceivable communion I
then surprised was a matter, for either party, of habit. It was a pity that I should have
had to quaver out again the reasons for my not having, in my delusion, so much as
questioned that the little girl saw our visitant even as I actually saw Mrs. Grose herself,
<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library-The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

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