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

loved them, and indulged, from the mere exuberance of the gift, in the most unimposed
little miracles of memory. They not only popped out at me as tigers and as Romans, but
as Shakespeareans, astronomers, and navigators. This was so singularly the case that it
had presumably much to do with the fact as to which, at the present day, I am at a loss
for a different explanation: I allude to my unnatural composure on the subject of
another school for Miles. What I remember is that I was content not, for the time, to
open the question, and that contentment must have sprung from the sense of his
perpetually striking show of cleverness. He was too clever for a bad governess, for a
parson’s daughter, to spoil; and the strangest if not the brightest thread in the pensive
embroidery I just spoke of was the impression I might have got, if I had dared to work
it out, that he was under some influence operating in his small intellectual life as a
tremendous incitement.

If it was easy to reflect, however, that such a boy could postpone school, it was at least
as marked that for such a boy to have been “kicked out” by a schoolmaster was a
mystification without end. Let me add that in their company nowand I was careful
almost never to be out of it-I could follow no scent very far.

We lived in a cloud of music and love and success and private theatricals. The musical
sense in each of the children was of the quickest, but the elder in especial had a
marvelous knack of catching and repeating. The schoolroom piano broke into all
gruesome fancies; and when that failed there were confabulations in corners, with a
sequel of one of them going out in the highest spirits in order to “come in” as
something new. I had had brothers myself, and it was no revelation to me that little
girls could be slavish idolaters of little boys. What surpassed everything was that there
was a little boy in the world who could have for the inferior age, sex, and intelligence
so fine a consideration. They were extraordinarily at one, and to say that they never
either quarreled or complained is to make the note of praise coarse for their quality of
sweetness. Sometimes, indeed, when I dropped into coarseness, I perhaps came across
traces of little understandings between them by which one of them should keep me
occupied while the other slipped away. There is a naive side, I suppose, in all
diplomacy; but if my pupils practiced upon me, it was surely with the minimum of
grossness. It was all in the other quarter that, after a lull, the grossness broke out.

I find that I really hang back; but I must take my plunge. In going on with the record of
what was hideous at Bly, I not only challenge the most liberal faith-for which I little
care; but-and this is another matter-I renew what I myself suffered, I again push my
way through it to the end. There came suddenly an hour after which, as I look back, the
affair seems to me to have been all pure suffering; but I have at least reached the heart
of it, and the straightest road out is doubtless to advance. One evening-with nothing to
lead up or to prepare it-I felt the cold touch of the impression that had breathed on me
the night of my arrival and which, much lighter then, as I have mentioned, I should
probably have made little of in memory had my subsequent sojourn been less agitated.
I had not gone to bed; I sat reading by a couple of candles. There was a roomful of old
books at Bly-lastcentury fiction, some of it, which, to the extent of a distinctly
deprecated renown, but never to so much as that of a stray specimen, had reached the
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