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|The Turn of the Screw||Henry James|
|Page 1 of 2||
I had so perfectly expected that the return of my pupils would be marked by a demonstration that I was freshly upset at having to take into account that they were dumb about my absence. Instead of gaily denouncing and caressing me, they made no allusion to my having failed them, and I was left, for the time, on perceiving that she too said nothing, to study Mrs. Grose's odd face. I did this to such purpose that I made sure they had in some way bribed her to silence; a silence that, however, I would engage to break down on the first private opportunity. This opportunity came before tea: I secured five minutes with her in the housekeeper's room, where, in the twilight, amid a smell of lately baked bread, but with the place all swept and garnished, I found her sitting in pained placidity before the fire. So I see her still, so I see her best: facing the flame from her straight chair in the dusky, shining room, a large clean image of the "put away"-- of drawers closed and locked and rest without a remedy.
"Oh, yes, they asked me to say nothing; and to please them-- so long as they were there--of course I promised. But what had happened to you?"
"I only went with you for the walk," I said. "I had then to come back to meet a friend."
She showed her surprise. "A friend--YOU?"
"Oh, yes, I have a couple!" I laughed. "But did the children give you a reason?"
"For not alluding to your leaving us? Yes; they said you would like it better. Do you like it better?"
My face had made her rueful. "No, I like it worse!" But after an instant I added: "Did they say why I should like it better?"
"No; Master Miles only said, "We must do nothing but what she likes!"
"I wish indeed he would. And what did Flora say?"
"Miss Flora was too sweet. She said, `Oh, of course, of course!'-- and I said the same."
I thought a moment. "You were too sweet, too--I can hear you all. But nonetheless, between Miles and me, it's now all out."
"All out?" My companion stared. "But what, miss?"
"Everything. It doesn't matter. I've made up my mind. I came home, my dear," I went on, "for a talk with Miss Jessel."
I had by this time formed the habit of having Mrs. Grose literally well in hand in advance of my sounding that note; so that even now, as she bravely blinked under the signal of my word, I could keep her comparatively firm. "A talk! Do you mean she spoke?"
"It came to that. I found her, on my return, in the schoolroom."
"And what did she say?" I can hear the good woman still, and the candor of her stupefaction.
"That she suffers the torments--!"
It was this, of a truth, that made her, as she filled out my picture, gape. "Do you mean," she faltered, "--of the lost?"
"Of the lost. Of the damned. And that's why, to share them-" I faltered myself with the horror of it.
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