Support the Monkey! Tell All your Friends and Teachers

Help / FAQ

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

sequestered home and appealed to the unavowed curiosity of my youth. I remember
that the book I had in my hand was Fielding’s Amelia; also that I was wholly awake. I
recall further both a general conviction that it was horribly late and a particular
objection to looking at my watch. I figure, finally, that the white curtain draping, in the
fashion of those days, the head of Flora’s little bed, shrouded, as I had assured myself
long before, the perfection of childish rest. I recollect in short that, though I was deeply
interested in my author, I found myself, at the turn of a page and with his spell all
scattered, looking straight up from him and hard at the door of my room. There was a
moment during which I listened, reminded of the faint sense I had had, the first night,
of there being something undefinably astir in the house, and noted the soft breath of
the open casement just move the half-drawn blind. Then, with all the marks of a
deliberation that must have seemed magnificent had there been anyone to admire it, I
laid down my book, rose to my feet, and, taking a candle, went straight out of the room
and, from the passage, on which my light made little impression, noiselessly closed and
locked the door.

I can say now neither what determined nor what guided me, but I went straight along
the lobby, holding my candle high, till I came within sight of the tall window that
presided over the great turn of the staircase. At this point I precipitately found myself
aware of three things. They were practically simultaneous, yet they had flashes of
succession. My candle, under a bold flourish, went out, and I perceived, by the
uncovered window, that the yielding dusk of earliest morning rendered it unnecessary.
Without it, the next instant, I saw that there was someone on the stair. I speak of
sequences, but I required no lapse of seconds to stiffen myself for a third encounter
with Quint. The apparition had reached the landing halfway up and was therefore on
the spot nearest the window, where at sight of me, it stopped short and fixed me
exactly as it had fixed me from the tower and from the garden. He knew me as well as I
knew him; and so, in the cold, faint twilight, with a glimmer in the high glass and
another on the polish of the oak stair below, we faced each other in our common
intensity. He was absolutely, on this occasion, a living, detestable, dangerous presence.
But that was not the wonder of wonders; I reserve this distinction for quite another
circumstance: the circumstance that dread had unmistakably quitted me and that there
was nothing in me there that didn’t meet and measure him.

I had plenty of anguish after that extraordinary moment, but I had, thank God, no
terror. And he knew I had not-I found myself at the end of an instant magnificently
aware of this. I felt, in a fierce rigor of confidence, that if I stood my ground a minute I
should cease-for the time, at least-to have him to reckon with; and during the minute,
accordingly, the thing was as human and hideous as a real interview: hideous just
because it was human, as human as to have met alone, in the small hours, in a sleeping
house, some enemy, some adventurer, some criminal. It was the dead silence of our
long gaze at such close quarters that gave the whole horror, huge as it was, its only note
of the unnatural. If I had met a murderer in such a place and at such an hour, we still at
least would have spoken.
<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library-The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

All Contents Copyright © All rights reserved.
Further Distribution Is Strictly Prohibited.

About Us | Advertising | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Home Page

In Association with