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

nothing was left but an unspeakable anxiety. “Oh, yes,” he nevertheless replied-“they
must have repeated them. To those they liked,” he added.

There was, somehow, less of it than I had expected; but I turned it over. “And these
things came round-?” “To the masters? Oh, yes!” he answered very simply. “But I
didn’t know they’d tell.” “The masters? They didn’t-they’ve never told. That’s why I
ask you.” He turned to me again his little beautiful fevered face. “Yes, it was too bad.”
“Too bad?” “What I suppose I sometimes said. To write home.” I can’t name the
exquisite pathos of the contradiction given to such a speech by such a speaker; I only
know that the next instant I heard myself throw off with homely force: “Stuff and
nonsense!” But the next after that I must have sounded stern enough. “What were these
things?” My sternness was all for his judge, his executioner; yet it made him avert
himself again, and that movement made me, with a single bound and an irrepressible
cry, spring straight upon him. For there again, against the glass, as if to blight his
confession and stay his answer, was the hideous author of our woe-the white face of
damnation. I felt a sick swim at the drop of my victory and all the return of my battle,
so that the wildness of my veritable leap only served as a great betrayal. I saw him,
from the midst of my act, meet it with a divination, and on the perception that even
now he only guessed, and that the window was still to his own eyes free, I let the
impulse flame up to convert the climax of his dismay into the very proof of his
liberation. “No more, no more, no more!” I shrieked, as I tried to press him against me,
to my visitant.

“Is she here?” Miles panted as he caught with his sealed eyes the direction of my
words. Then as his strange “she” staggered me and, with a gasp, I echoed it, “Miss
Jessel, Miss Jessel!” he with a sudden fury gave me back.

I seized, stupefied, his supposition-some sequel to what we had done to Flora, but this
made me only want to show him that it was better still than that.

“It’s not Miss Jessel! But it’s at the window-straight before us. It’s there-the coward
horror, there for the last time!” At this, after a second in which his head made the
movement of a baffled dog’s on a scent and then gave a frantic little shake for air and
light, he was at me in a white rage, bewildered, glaring vainly over the place and
missing wholly, though it now, to my sense, filled the room like the taste of poison, the
wide, overwhelming presence. “It’s he?” I was so determined to have all my proof that
I flashed into ice to challenge him. “Whom do you mean by ‘he’?” “Peter Quint-you
devil!” His face gave again, round the room, its convulsed supplication. “Where?” They
are in my ears still, his supreme surrender of the name and his tribute to my devotion.
“What does he matter now, my own?- what will he ever matter? I have you,” I
launched at the beast, “but he has lost you forever!” Then, for the demonstration of my
work, “There, there!” I said to Miles.

But he had already jerked straight round, stared, glared again, and seen but the quiet
day. With the stroke of the loss I was so proud of he uttered the cry of a creature hurled
over an abyss, and the grasp with which I recovered him might have been that of
catching him in his fall. I caught him, yes, I held him-it may be imagined with what a
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