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

“Having to do with you?” I asked. “My dear child, how can I help minding? Though
I’ve renounced all claim to your company-you’re so beyond me-I at least greatly enjoy
it. What else should I stay on for?” He looked at me more directly, and the expression
of his face, graver now, struck me as the most beautiful I had ever found in it. “You
stay on just for that?” “Certainly. I stay on as your friend and from the tremendous
interest I take in you till something can be done for you that may be more worth your
while. That needn’t surprise you.” My voice trembled so that I felt it impossible to
suppress the shake. “Don’t you remember how I told you, when I came and sat on your
bed the night of the storm, that there was nothing in the world I wouldn’t do for you?”
“Yes, yes!” He, on his side, more and more visibly nervous, had a tone to master; but he
was so much more successful than I that, laughing out through his gravity, he could
pretend we were pleasantly jesting. “Only that, I think, was to get me to do something
for you!” “It was partly to get you to do something,” I conceded. “But, you know, you
didn’t do it.” “Oh, yes,” he said with the brightest superficial eagerness, “you wanted
me to tell you something.” “That’s it. Out, straight out. What you have on your mind,
you know.” “Ah, then, is that what you’ve stayed over for?”

He spoke with a gaiety through which I could still catch the finest little quiver of
resentful passion; but I can’t begin to express the effect upon me of an implication of
surrender even so faint. It was as if what I had yearned for had come at last only to
astonish me. “Well, yes-I may as well make a clean breast of it. It was precisely for
that.” He waited so long that I supposed it for the purpose of repudiating the
assumption on which my action had been founded; but what he finally said was: “Do
you mean now-here?” “There couldn’t be a better place or time.” He looked round him
uneasily, and I had the rare-oh, the queer!- impression of the very first symptom I had
seen in him of the approach of immediate fear. It was as if he were suddenly afraid of
mewhich struck me indeed as perhaps the best thing to make him. Yet in the very pang
of the effort I felt it vain to try sternness, and I heard myself the next instant so gentle as
to be almost grotesque. “You want so to go out again?” “Awfully!” He smiled at me
heroically, and the touching little bravery of it was enhanced by his actually flushing
with pain. He had picked up his hat, which he had brought in, and stood twirling it in
a way that gave me, even as I was just nearly reaching port, a perverse horror of what I
was doing. To do it in any way was an act of violence, for what did it consist of but the
obtrusion of the idea of grossness and guilt on a small helpless creature who had been
for me a revelation of the possibilities of beautiful intercourse? Wasn’t it base to create
for a being so exquisite a mere alien awkwardness? I suppose I now read into our
situation a clearness it couldn’t have had at the time, for I seem to see our poor eyes
already lighted with some spark of a prevision of the anguish that was to come. So we
circled about, with terrors and scruples, like fighters not daring to close. But it was for
each other we feared! That kept us a little longer suspended and unbruised.

“I’ll tell you everything,” Miles said-“I mean I’ll tell you anything you like.

You’ll stay on with me, and we shall both be all right, and I will tell you-I will.
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