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


The next day, after lessons, Mrs. Grose found a moment to say to me quietly: “Have
you written, miss?” “Yes-I’ve written.” But I didn’t add-for the hour-that my letter,
sealed and directed, was still in my pocket. There would be time enough to send it
before the messenger should go to the village. Meanwhile there had been, on the part of
my pupils, no more brilliant, more exemplary morning. It was exactly as if they had
both had at heart to gloss over any recent little friction. They performed the dizziest
feats of arithmetic, soaring quite out of my feeble range, and perpetrated, in higher
spirits than ever, geographical and historical jokes. It was conspicuous of course in
Miles in particular that he appeared to wish to show how easily he could let me down.
This child, to my memory, really lives in a setting of beauty and misery that no words
can translate; there was a distinction all his own in every impulse he revealed; never
was a small natural creature, to the uninitiated eye all frankness and freedom, a more
ingenious, a more extraordinary little gentleman. I had perpetually to guard against the
wonder of contemplation into which my initiated view betrayed me; to check the
irrelevant gaze and discouraged sigh in which I constantly both attacked and
renounced the enigma of what such a little gentleman could have done that deserved a
penalty. Say that, by the dark prodigy I knew, the imagination of all evil had been
opened up to him: all the justice within me ached for the proof that it could ever have
flowered into an act.

He had never, at any rate, been such a little gentleman as when, after our early dinner
on this dreadful day, he came round to me and asked if I shouldn’t like him, for half an
hour, to play to me. David playing to Saul could never have shown a finer sense of the
occasion. It was literally a charming exhibition of tact, of magnanimity, and quite
tantamount to his saying outright: “The true knights we love to read about never push
an advantage too far. I know what you mean now: you mean that-to be let alone
yourself and not followed up-you’ll cease to worry and spy upon me, won’t keep me
so close to you, will let me go and come.

Well, I ‘come’ you see-but I don’t go! There’ll be plenty of time for that. I do really
delight in your society, and I only want to show you that I contended for a principle.” It
may be imagined whether I resisted this appeal or failed to accompany him again,
hand in hand, to the schoolroom. He sat down at the old piano and played as he had
never played; and if there are those who think he had better have been kicking a
football I can only say that I wholly agree with them. For at the end of a time that under
his influence I had quite ceased to measure, I started up with a strange sense of having
literally slept at my post. It was after luncheon, and by the schoolroom fire, and yet I
hadn’t really, in the least, slept: I had only done something much worse-I had
forgotten. Where, all this time, was Flora? When I put the question to Miles, he played
on a minute before answering and then could only say: “Why, my dear, how do I
know?”- breaking moreover into a happy laugh which, immediately after, as if it were
a vocal accompaniment, he prolonged into incoherent, extravagant song.
<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library-The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

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