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

succumbing I sprang again to my feet, looked at her bed, and took a helpless middle
way. “Why did you pull the curtain over the place to make me think you were still
there?” Flora luminously considered; after which, with her little divine smile: “Because
I don’t like to frighten you!” “But if I had, by your idea, gone out-?” She absolutely
declined to be puzzled; she turned her eyes to the flame of the candle as if the question
were as irrelevant, or at any rate as impersonal, as Mrs. Marcet or nine-times-nine. “Oh,
but you know,” she quite adequately answered, “that you might come back, you dear,
and that you have!” And after a little, when she had got into bed, I had, for a long time,
by almost sitting on her to hold her hand, to prove that I recognized the pertinence of
my return.

You may imagine the general complexion, from that moment, of my nights. I
repeatedly sat up till I didn’t know when; I selected moments when my roommate
unmistakably slept, and, stealing out, took noiseless turns in the passage and even
pushed as far as to where I had last met Quint. But I never met him there again; and I
may as well say at once that I on no other occasion saw him in the house. I just missed,
on the staircase, on the other hand, a different adventure. Looking down it from the top
I once recognized the presence of a woman seated on one of the lower steps with her
back presented to me, her body half-bowed and her head, in an attitude of woe, in her
hands. I had been there but an instant, however, when she vanished without looking
round at me. I knew, nonetheless, exactly what dreadful face she had to show; and I
wondered whether, if instead of being above I had been below, I should have had, for
going up, the same nerve I had lately shown Quint. Well, there continued to be plenty
of chance for nerve. On the eleventh night after my latest encounter with that
gentleman-they were all numbered now-I had an alarm that perilously skirted it and
that indeed, from the particular quality of its unexpectedness, proved quite my
sharpest shock. It was precisely the first night during this series that, weary with
watching, I had felt that I might again without laxity lay myself down at my old hour. I
slept immediately and, as I afterward knew, till about one o’clock; but when I woke it
was to sit straight up, as completely roused as if a hand had shook me. I had left a light
burning, but it was now out, and I felt an instant certainty that Flora had extinguished
it. This brought me to my feet and straight, in the darkness, to her bed, which I found
she had left. A glance at the window enlightened me further, and the striking of a
match completed the picture.

The child had again got up-this time blowing out the taper, and had again, for some
purpose of observation or response, squeezed in behind the blind and was peering out
into the night. That she now saw-as she had not, I had satisfied myself, the previous
time-was proved to me by the fact that she was disturbed neither by my reillumination
nor by the haste I made to get into slippers and into a wrap. Hidden, protected,
absorbed, she evidently rested on the sill-the casement opened forward-and gave
herself up. There was a great still moon to help her, and this fact had counted in my
quick decision. She was face to face with the apparition we had met at the lake, and
could now communicate with it as she had not then been able to do. What I, on my
side, had to care for was, without disturbing her, to reach, from the corridor, some
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