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|The Turn of the Screw||Henry James|
|Page 1 of 3||
Oh, she let me know as soon as, round the corner of the house, she loomed again into view. "What in the name of goodness is the matter--?" She was now flushed and out of breath.
I said nothing till she came quite near. "With me?" I must have made a wonderful face. "Do I show it?"
"You're as white as a sheet. You look awful."
I considered; I could meet on this, without scruple, any innocence. My need to respect the bloom of Mrs. Grose's had dropped, without a rustle, from my shoulders, and if I wavered for the instant it was not with what I kept back. I put out my hand to her and she took it; I held her hard a little, liking to feel her close to me. There was a kind of support in the shy heave of her surprise. "You came for me for church, of course, but I can't go."
"Has anything happened?"
"Yes. You must know now. Did I look very queer?"
"Through this window? Dreadful!"
"Well," I said, "I've been frightened." Mrs. Grose's eyes expressed plainly that SHE had no wish to be, yet also that she knew too well her place not to be ready to share with me any marked inconvenience. Oh, it was quite settled that she MUST share! "Just what you saw from the dining room a minute ago was the effect of that. What I saw--just before--was much worse."
Her hand tightened. "What was it?"
"An extraordinary man. Looking in."
"What extraordinary man?"
"I haven't the least idea."
Mrs. Grose gazed round us in vain. "Then where is he gone?"
"I know still less."
"Have you seen him before?"
"Yes--once. On the old tower."
She could only look at me harder. "Do you mean he's a stranger?"
"Oh, very much!"
"Yet you didn't tell me?"
"No--for reasons. But now that you've guessed--"
Mrs. Grose's round eyes encountered this charge. "Ah, I haven't guessed!" she said very simply. "How can I if YOU don't imagine?"
"I don't in the very least."
"You've seen him nowhere but on the tower?"
"And on this spot just now."
Mrs. Grose looked round again. "What was he doing on the tower?"
"Only standing there and looking down at me."
She thought a minute. "Was he a gentleman?"
I found I had no need to think. "No." She gazed in deeper wonder. "No."
"Then nobody about the place? Nobody from the village?"
"Nobody--nobody. I didn't tell you, but I made sure."
She breathed a vague relief: this was, oddly, so much to the good. It only went indeed a little way. "But if he isn't a gentleman--"
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