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


It was not till late next day that I spoke to Mrs. Grose; the rigor with which I kept my
pupils in sight making it often difficult to meet her privately, and the more as we each
felt the importance of not provoking-on the part of the servants quite as much as on
that of the children-any suspicion of a secret flurry or of a discussion of mysteries. I
drew a great security in this particular from her mere smooth aspect. There was
nothing in her fresh face to pass on to others my horrible confidences. She believed me,
I was sure, absolutely: if she hadnít I donít know what would have become of me, for I
couldnít have borne the business alone. But she was a magnificent monument to the
blessing of a want of imagination, and if she could see in our little charges nothing but
their beauty and amiability, their happiness and cleverness, she had no direct
communication with the sources of my trouble. If they had been at all visibly blighted
or battered, she would doubtless have grown, on tracing it back, haggard enough to
match them; as matters stood, however, I could feel her, when she surveyed them, with
her large white arms folded and the habit of serenity in all her look, thank the Lordís
mercy that if they were ruined the pieces would still serve. Flights of fancy gave place,
in her mind, to a steady fireside glow, and I had already begun to perceive how, with
the development of the conviction that-as time went on without a public accident our
young things could, after all, look out for themselves, she addressed her greatest
solicitude to the sad case presented by their instructress.

That, for myself, was a sound simplification: I could engage that, to the world, my face
should tell no tales, but it would have been, in the conditions, an immense added strain
to find myself anxious about hers.

At the hour I now speak of she had joined me, under pressure, on the terrace, where,
with the lapse of the season, the afternoon sun was now agreeable; and we sat there
together while, before us, at a distance, but within call if we wished, the children
strolled to and fro in one of their most manageable moods. They moved slowly, in
unison, below us, over the lawn, the boy, as they went, reading aloud from a storybook
and passing his arm round his sister to keep her quite in touch.

Mrs. Grose watched them with positive placidity; then I caught the suppressed
intellectual creak with which she conscientiously turned to take from me a view of the
back of the tapestry. I had made her a receptacle of lurid things, but there was an odd
recognition of my superiority-my accomplishments and my function-in her patience
under my pain. She offered her mind to my disclosures as, had I wished to mix a
witchís broth and proposed it with assurance, she would have held out a large clean
saucepan. This had become thoroughly her attitude by the time that, in my recital of the
events of the night, I reached the point of what Miles had said to me when, after seeing
him, at such a monstrous hour, almost on the very spot where he happened now to be, I
had gone down to bring him in; choosing then, at the window, with a concentrated
need of not alarming the house, rather that method than a signal more resonant. I had
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