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


Before a new day, in my room, had fully broken, my eyes opened to Mrs. Grose, who
had come to my bedside with worse news. Flora was so markedly feverish that an
illness was perhaps at hand; she had passed a night of extreme unrest, a night agitated
above all by fears that had for their subject not in the least her former, but wholly her
present, governess. It was not against the possible reentrance of Miss Jessel on the scene
that she protested-it was conspicuously and passionately against mine. I was promptly
on my feet of course, and with an immense deal to ask; the more that my friend had
discernibly now girded her loins to meet me once more. This I felt as soon as I had put
to her the question of her sense of the child’s sincerity as against my own. “She persists
in denying to you that she saw, or has ever seen, anything?” My visitor’s trouble, truly,
was great. “Ah, miss, it isn’t a matter on which I can push her! Yet it isn’t either, I must
say, as if I much needed to. It has made her, every inch of her, quite old.” “Oh, I see her
perfectly from here. She resents, for all the world like some high little personage, the
imputation on her truthfulness and, as it were, her respectability. ‘Miss Jessel indeed-
she!’ Ah, she’s ‘respectable,’ the chit! The impression she gave me there yesterday was,
I assure you, the very strangest of all; it was quite beyond any of the others. I did put
my foot in it! She’ll never speak to me again.”

Hideous and obscure as it all was, it held Mrs. Grose briefly silent; then she granted my
point with a frankness which, I made sure, had more behind it. “I think indeed, miss,
she never will. She do have a grand manner about it!” “And that manner”- I summed it
up-“is practically what’s the matter with her now!” Oh, that manner, I could see in my
visitor’s face, and not a little else besides! “She asks me every three minutes if I think
you’re coming in.” “I see-I see.” I, too, on my side, had so much more than worked it
out. “Has she said to you since yesterday-except to repudiate her familiarity with
anything so dreadful-a single other word about Miss Jessel?” “Not one, miss. And of
course you know,” my friend added, “I took it from her, by the lake, that, just then and
there at least, there was nobody.” “Rather! And, naturally, you take it from her still.” “I
don’t contradict her. What else can I do?” “Nothing in the world! You’ve the cleverest
little person to deal with.

They’ve made them-their two friends, I mean-still cleverer even than nature did; for it
was wondrous material to play on! Flora has now her grievance, and she’ll work it to
the end.” “Yes, miss; but to what end?” “Why, that of dealing with me to her uncle.
She’ll make me out to him the lowest creature-!” I winced at the fair show of the scene
in Mrs. Grose’s face; she looked for a minute as if she sharply saw them together. “And
him who thinks so well of you!” “He has an odd way-it comes over me now,” I
laughed, “-of proving it! But that doesn’t matter. What Flora wants, of course, is to get
rid of me.” My companion bravely concurred. “Never again to so much as look at you.”
“So that what you’ve come to me now for,” I asked, “is to speed me on my way?”
Before she had time to reply, however, I had her in check. “I’ve a better idea-the result
of my reflections. My going would seem the right thing, and on Sunday I was terribly
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