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


Yet it was when she had got off-and I missed her on the spot-that the great pinch
really came. If I had counted on what it would give me to find myself alone with Miles,
I speedily perceived, at least, that it would give me a measure. No hour of my stay in
fact was so assailed with apprehensions as that of my coming down to learn that the
carriage containing Mrs. Grose and my younger pupil had already rolled out of the
gates. Now I was, I said to myself, face to face with the elements, and for much of the
rest of the day, while I fought my weakness, I could consider that I had been supremely
rash. It was a tighter place still than I had yet turned round in; all the more that, for the
first time, I could see in the aspect of others a confused reflection of the crisis. What had
happened naturally caused them all to stare; there was too little of the explained, throw
out whatever we might, in the suddenness of my colleague’s act. The maids and the
men looked blank; the effect of which on my nerves was an aggravation until I saw the
necessity of making it a positive aid. It was precisely, in short, by just clutching the
helm that I avoided total wreck; and I dare say that, to bear up at all, I became, that
morning, very grand and very dry. I welcomed the consciousness that I was charged
with much to do, and I caused it to be known as well that, left thus to myself, I was
quite remarkably firm. I wandered with that manner, for the next hour or two, all over
the place and looked, I have no doubt, as if I were ready for any onset. So, for the
benefit of whom it might concern, I paraded with a sick heart.

The person it appeared least to concern proved to be, till dinner, little Miles himself.
My perambulations had given me, meanwhile, no glimpse of him, but they had tended
to make more public the change taking place in our relation as a consequence of his
having at the piano, the day before, kept me, in Flora’s interest, so beguiled and
befooled. The stamp of publicity had of course been fully given by her confinement and
departure, and the change itself was now ushered in by our nonobservance of the
regular custom of the schoolroom. He had already disappeared when, on my way
down, I pushed open his door, and I learned below that he had breakfasted-in the
presence of a couple of the maids-with Mrs. Grose and his sister. He had then gone
out, as he said, for a stroll; than which nothing, I reflected, could better have expressed
his frank view of the abrupt transformation of my office. What he would now permit
this office to consist of was yet to be settled: there was a queer relief, at all events-I
mean for myself in especial-in the renouncement of one pretension. If so much had
sprung to the surface, I scarce put it too strongly in saying that what had perhaps
sprung highest was the absurdity of our prolonging the fiction that I had anything
more to teach him. It sufficiently stuck out that, by tacit little tricks in which even more
than myself he carried out the care for my dignity, I had had to appeal to him to let me
off straining to meet him on the ground of his true capacity. He had at any rate his
freedom now; I was never to touch it again; as I had amply shown, moreover, when, on
his joining me in the schoolroom the previous night, I had uttered, on the subject of the
interval just concluded, neither challenge nor hint. I had too much, from this moment,
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