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

left her meanwhile in little doubt of my small hope of representing with success even to
her actual sympathy my sense of the real splendor of the little inspiration with which,
after I had got him into the house, the boy met my final articulate challenge. As soon as
I appeared in the moonlight on the terrace, he had come to me as straight as possible;
on which I had taken his hand without a word and led him, through the dark spaces,
up the staircase where Quint had so hungrily hovered for him, along the lobby where I
had listened and trembled, and so to his forsaken room.

Not a sound, on the way, had passed between us, and I had wondered-oh, how I had
wondered!- if he were groping about in his little mind for something plausible and not
too grotesque. It would tax his invention, certainly, and I felt, this time, over his real
embarrassment, a curious thrill of triumph. It was a sharp trap for the inscrutable! He
couldn’t play any longer at innocence; so how the deuce would he get out of it? There
beat in me indeed, with the passionate throb of this question, an equal dumb appeal as
to how the deuce I should. I was confronted at last, as never yet, with all the risk
attached even now to sounding my own horrid note. I remember in fact that as we
pushed into his little chamber, where the bed had not been slept in at all and the
window, uncovered to the moonlight, made the place so clear that there was no need of
striking a match-I remember how I suddenly dropped, sank upon the edge of the bed
from the force of the idea that he must know how he really, as they say, “had” me. He
could do what he liked, with all his cleverness to help him, so long as I should continue
to defer to the old tradition of the criminality of those caretakers of the young who
minister to superstitions and fears. He “had” me indeed, and in a cleft stick; for who
would ever absolve me, who would consent that I should go unhung, if, by the faintest
tremor of an overture, I were the first to introduce into our perfect intercourse an
element so dire? No, no: it was useless to attempt to convey to Mrs.

Grose, just as it is scarcely less so to attempt to suggest here, how, in our short, stiff
brush in the dark, he fairly shook me with admiration. I was of course thoroughly kind
and merciful; never, never yet had I placed on his little shoulders hands of such
tenderness as those with which, while I rested against the bed, I held him there well
under fire. I had no alternative but, in form at least, to put it to him.

“You must tell me now-and all the truth. What did you go out for? What were you
doing there?” I can still see his wonderful smile, the whites of his beautiful eyes, and
the uncovering of his little teeth shine to me in the dusk. “If I tell you why, will you
understand?” My heart, at this, leaped into my mouth. Would he tell me why? I found
no sound on my lips to press it, and I was aware of replying only with a vague,
repeated, grimacing nod. He was gentleness itself, and while I wagged my head at him
he stood there more than ever a little fairy prince. It was his brightness indeed that
gave me a respite. Would it be so great if he were really going to tell me? “Well,” he
said at last, “just exactly in order that you should do this.” “Do what?” “Think me-for
a change-bad!” I shall never forget the sweetness and gaiety with which he brought
out the word, nor how, on top of it, he bent forward and kissed me. It was practically
the end of everything. I met his kiss and I had to make, while I folded him for a minute
in my arms, the most stupendous effort not to cry. He had given exactly the account of
<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library-The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

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