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worse even than this!- must have occurred. There could have been no such justification
for me as the plain assent of her experience to whatever depth of depravity I found
credible in our brace of scoundrels. It was in obvious submission of memory that she
brought out after a moment: “They were rascals! But what can they now do?” she
“Do?” I echoed so loud that Miles and Flora, as they passed at their distance, paused an
instant in their walk and looked at us. “Don’t they do enough?” I demanded in a lower
tone, while the children, having smiled and nodded and kissed hands to us, resumed
their exhibition. We were held by it a minute; then I answered: “They can destroy
them!” At this my companion did turn, but the inquiry she launched was a silent one,
the effect of which was to make me more explicit.
“They don’t know, as yet, quite how-but they’re trying hard. They’re seen only across,
as it were, and beyond-in strange places and on high places, the top of towers, the roof
of houses, the outside of windows, the further edge of pools; but there’s a deep design,
on either side, to shorten the distance and overcome the obstacle; and the success of the
tempters is only a question of time. They’ve only to keep to their suggestions of
danger.” “For the children to come?” “And perish in the attempt!” Mrs. Grose slowly
got up, and I scrupulously added: “Unless, of course, we can prevent!”
Standing there before me while I kept my seat, she visibly turned things over.
“Their uncle must do the preventing. He must take them away.” “And who’s to make
him?” She had been scanning the distance, but she now dropped on me a foolish face.
“You, miss.” “By writing to him that his house is poisoned and his little nephew and
niece mad?” “But if they are, miss?” “And if I am myself, you mean? That’s charming
news to be sent him by a governess whose prime undertaking was to give him no
worry.” Mrs. Grose considered, following the children again. “Yes, he do hate worry.
That was the great reason-” “Why those fiends took him in so long? No doubt, though
his indifference must have been awful. As I’m not a fiend, at any rate, I shouldn’t take
him in.” My companion, after an instant and for all answer, sat down again and
grasped my arm. “Make him at any rate come to you.” I stared. “To me?” I had a
sudden fear of what she might do. “’Him’?” “He ought to be here-he ought to help.” I
quickly rose, and I think I must have shown her a queerer face than ever yet.
“You see me asking him for a visit?” No, with her eyes on my face she evidently
couldn’t. Instead of it even-as a woman reads another-she could see what I myself
saw: his derision, his amusement, his contempt for the breakdown of my resignation at
being left alone and for the fine machinery I had set in motion to attract his attention to
my slighted charms. She didn’t know-no one knew-how proud I had been to serve
him and to stick to our terms; yet she nonetheless took the measure, I think, of the
warning I now gave her. “If you should so lose your head as to appeal to him for me-”
She was really frightened. “Yes, miss?” “I would leave, on the spot, both him and you.”