I waited and waited, and the
days, as they elapsed, took something from my consternation. A very few
of them, in fact, passing, in constant sight of my pupils,
without a fresh incident sufficed
to give to grievous fancies and even to odious memories a kind of brush
of the sponge. I have spoken of the surrender to their
extraordinary childish grace
as a thing I could actively cultivate, and it may be imagined if I neglected
now to address myself to this source for whatever it would
yield. Stranger than I can express,
certainly, was the effort to struggle against my new lights; it would doubtless
have been, however, a greater tension still had it not
been so frequently successful.
I used to wonder how my little charges could help guessing that I thought
strange things about them; and the circumstance that these
things only made them more interesting
was not by itself a direct aid to keeping them in the dark. I trembled
lest they should see that they were so immensely more
interesting. Putting things
at the worst, at all events, as in meditation I so often did, any clouding
of their innocence could only be— blameless and foredoomed as
they were— a reason the more
for taking risks. There were moments when, by an irresistible impulse,
I found myself catching them up and pressing them to my
heart. As soon as I had done
so I used to say to myself: "What will they think of that? Doesn't it betray
too much?" It would have been easy to get into a sad, wild
tangle about how much I might
betray; but the real account, I feel, of the hours of peace that I could
still enjoy was that the immediate charm of my companions was
a beguilement still effective
even under the shadow of the possibility that it was studied. For if it
occurred to me that I might occasionally excite suspicion by the little
outbreaks of my sharper passion
for them, so too I remember wondering if I mightn't see a queerness in
the traceable increase of their own demonstrations.
They were at this period extravagantly
and preternaturally fond of me; which, after all, I could reflect, was
no more than a graceful response in children perpetually
bowed over and hugged. The homage
of which they were so lavish succeeded, in truth, for my nerves, quite
as well as if I never appeared to myself, as I may say,
literally to catch them at a
purpose in it. They had never, I think, wanted to do so many things for
their poor protectress; I mean— though they got their lessons
better and better, which was
naturally what would please her most— in the way of diverting, entertaining,
surprising her; reading her passages, telling her stories,
acting her charades, pouncing
out at her, in disguises, as animals and historical characters, and above
all astonishing her by the "pieces" they had secretly got by heart
and could interminably recite.
I should never get to the bottom— were I to let myself go even now— of
the prodigious private commentary, all under still more
private correction, with which,
in these days, I overscored their full hours. They had shown me from the
first a facility for everything, a general faculty which, taking a
fresh start, achieved remarkable
flights. They got their little tasks as if they loved them, and indulged,
from the mere exuberance of the gift, in the most unimposed
little miracles of memory. They
not only popped out at me as tigers and as Romans, but as Shakespeareans,
astronomers, and navigators. This was so singularly the
case that it had presumably
much to do with the fact as to which, at the present day, I am at a loss
for a different explanation: I allude to my unnatural composure on
the subject of another school
for Miles. What I remember is that I was content not, for the time, to
open the question, and that contentment must have sprung from
the sense of his perpetually
striking show of cleverness. He was too clever for a bad governess, for
a parson's daughter, to spoil; and the strangest if not the brightest
thread in the pensive embroidery
I just spoke of was the impression I might have got, if I had dared to
work it out, that he was under some influence operating in his
small intellectual life as a
If it was easy to reflect, however,
that such a boy could postpone school, it was at least as marked that for
such a boy to have been "kicked out" by a school master
was a mystification without
end. Let me add that in their company now— and I was careful almost never
to be out of it— I could follow no scent very far. We lived
in a cloud of music and love
and success and private theatricals. The musical sense in each of the children
was of the quickest, but the elder in especial had a
marvelous knack of catching
and repeating. The schoolroom piano broke into all gruesome fancies; and
when that failed there were confabulations in corners, with a
sequel of one of them going
out in the highest spirits in order to "come in" as something new. I had
had brothers myself, and it was no revelation to me that little girls
could be slavish idolaters of
little boys. What surpassed everything was that there was a little boy
in the world who could have for the inferior age, sex, and
intelligence so fine a consideration.
They were extraordinarily at one, and to say that they never either quarreled
or complained is to make the note of praise coarse
for their quality of sweetness.
Sometimes, indeed, when I dropped into coarseness, I perhaps came across
traces of little understandings between them by which one
of them should keep me occupied
while the other slipped away. There is a naive side, I suppose, in all
diplomacy; but if my pupils practiced upon me, it was surely
with the minimum of grossness.
It was all in the other quarter that, after a lull, the grossness broke
I find that I really hang back;
but I must take my plunge. In going on with the record of what was hideous
at Bly, I not only challenge the most liberal faith— for
which I little care; but— and
this is another matter— I renew what I myself suffered, I again push my
way through it to the end. There came suddenly an hour after
which, as I look back, the affair
seems to me to have been all pure suffering; but I have at least reached
the heart of it, and the straightest road out is doubtless to
advance. One evening— with nothing
to lead up or to prepare it— I felt the cold touch of the impression that
had breathed on me the night of my arrival and which,
much lighter then, as I have
mentioned, I should probably have made little of in memory had my subsequent
sojourn been less agitated. I had not gone to bed; I sat
reading by a couple of candles.
There was a roomful of old books at Bly— last-century fiction, some of
it, which, to the extent of a distinctly deprecated renown, but
never to so much as that of
a stray specimen, had reached the sequestered home and appealed to the
unavowed curiosity of my youth. I remember that the book I
had in my hand was Fielding's
Amelia, also that I was wholly awake. I recall further both a general conviction
that it was horribly late and a particular objection to
looking at my watch. I figure,
finally, that the white curtain draping, in the fashion of those days,
the head of Flora's little bed, shrouded, as I had assured myself long
before, the perfection of childish
rest. I recollect in short that, though I was deeply interested in my author,
I found myself, at the turn of a page and with his spell all
scattered, looking straight
up from him and hard at the door of my room. There was a moment during
which I listened, reminded of the faint sense I had had, the first
night, of there being something
undefinably astir in the house, and noted the soft breath of the open casement
just move the half-drawn blind. Then, with all the marks
of a deliberation that must
have seemed magnificent had there been anyone to admire it, I laid down
my book, rose to my feet, and, taking a candle, went straight out
of the room and, from the passage,
on which my light made little impression, noiselessly closed and locked
I can say now neither what determined
nor what guided me, but I went straight along the lobby, holding my candle
high, till I came within sight of the tall window that
presided over the great turn
of the staircase. At this point I precipitately found myself aware of three
things. They were practically simultaneous, yet they had flashes
of succession. My candle, under
a bold flourish, went out, and I perceived, by the uncovered window, that
the yielding dusk of earliest morning rendered it
unnecessary. Without it, the
next instant, I saw that there was someone on the stair. I speak of sequences,
but I required no lapse of seconds to stiffen myself for a
third encounter with Quint.
The apparition had reached the landing halfway up and was therefore on
the spot nearest the window, where at sight of me, it stopped
short and fixed me exactly as
it had fixed me from the tower and from the garden. He knew me as well
as I knew him; and so, in the cold, faint twilight, with a
glimmer in the high glass and
another on the polish of the oak stair below, we faced each other in our
common intensity. He was absolutely, on this occasion, a living,
detestable, dangerous presence.
But that was not the wonder of wonders; I reserve this distinction for
quite another circumstance: the circumstance that dread had
unmistakably quitted me and
that there was nothing in me there that didn't meet and measure him.
I had plenty of anguish after
that extraordinary moment, but I had, thank God, no terror. And he knew
I had not— I found myself at the end of an instant
magnificently aware of this.
I felt, in a fierce rigor of confidence, that if I stood my ground a minute
I should cease— for the time, at least— to have him to reckon
with; and during the minute,
accordingly, the thing was as human and hideous as a real interview: hideous
just because it was human, as human as to have met alone,
in the small hours, in a sleeping
house, some enemy, some adventurer, some criminal. It was the dead silence
of our long gaze at such close quarters that gave the
whole horror, huge as it was,
its only note of the unnatural. If I had met a murderer in such a place
and at such an hour, we still at least would have spoken.
Something would have passed,
in life, between us; if nothing had passed, one of us would have moved.
The moment was so prolonged that it would have taken but
little more to make me doubt
if even I were in life. I can't express what followed it save by saying
that the silence itself— which was indeed in a manner an attestation
of my strength— became the element
into which I saw the figure disappear; in which I definitely saw it turn
as I might have seen the low wretch to which it had once
belonged turn on receipt of
an order, and pass, with my eyes on the villainous back that no hunch could
have more disfigured, straight down the staircase and into the
darkness in which the next bend
I remained awhile at the top
of the stair, but with the effect presently of understanding that when
my visitor had gone, he had gone: then I returned to my room. The
foremost thing I saw there by
the light of the candle I had left burning was that Flora's little bed
was empty; and on this I caught my breath with all the terror that, five
minutes before, I had been able
to resist. I dashed at the place in which I had left her lying and over
which (for the small silk counterpane and the sheets were
disarranged) the white curtains
had been deceivingly pulled forward; then my step, to my unutterable relief,
produced an answering sound: I perceived an agitation of
the window blind, and the child,
ducking down, emerged rosily from the other side of it. She stood there
in so much of her candor and so little of her nightgown, with
her pink bare feet and the golden
glow of her curls. She looked intensely grave, and I had never had such
a sense of losing an advantage acquired (the thrill of which
had just been so prodigious)
as on my consciousness that she addressed me with a reproach. "You naughty:
where have you been?"— instead of challenging her
own irregularity I found myself
arraigned and explaining. She herself explained, for that matter, with
the loveliest, eagerest simplicity. She had known suddenly, as she
lay there, that I was out of
the room, and had jumped up to see what had become of me. I had dropped,
with the joy of her reappearance, back into my chair—
feeling then, and then only,
a little faint; and she had pattered straight over to me, thrown herself
upon my knee, given herself to be held with the flame of the candle
full in the wonderful little
face that was still flushed with sleep. I remember closing my eyes an instant,
yieldingly, consciously, as before the excess of something
beautiful that shone out of
the blue of her own. "You were looking for me out of the window?" I said.
"You thought I might be walking in the grounds?"
"Well, you know, I thought someone
was"— she never blanched as she smiled out that at me.
Oh, how I looked at her now!
"And did you see anyone?"
"Ah, no!" she returned, almost
with the full privilege of childish inconsequence, resentfully, though
with a long sweetness in her little drawl of the negative.
At that moment, in the state
of my nerves, I absolutely believed she lied; and if I once more closed
my eyes it was before the dazzle of the three or four possible
ways in which I might take this
up. One of these, for a moment, tempted me with such singular intensity
that, to withstand it, I must have gripped my little girl with a
spasm that, wonderfully, she
submitted to without a cry or a sign of fright. Why not break out at her
on the spot and have it all over?— give it to her straight in her
lovely little lighted face?
"You see, you see, you know that you do and that you already quite suspect
I believe it; therefore, why not frankly confess it to me, so that
we may at least live with it
together and learn perhaps, in the strangeness of our fate, where we are
and what it means?" This solicitation dropped, alas, as it came: if I
could immediately have succumbed
to it I might have spared myself— well, you'll see what. Instead of succumbing
I sprang again to my feet, looked at her bed, and
took a helpless middle way.
"Why did you pull the curtain over the place to make me think you were
Flora luminously considered,
after which, with her little divine smile: "Because I don't like to frighten
"But if I had, by your idea,
She absolutely declined to be
puzzled, she turned her eyes to the name of the candle as if the question
were as irrelevant, or at any rate as impersonal, as Mrs.
Marcet or nine-times-nine. "Oh,
but you know," she quite adequately answered, "that you might come back,
you dear, and that you have!" And after a little, when
she had got into bed, I had,
for a long time, by almost sitting on her to hold her hand, to prove that
I recognized the pertinence of my return.
You may imagine the general complexion,
from that moment, of my nights. I repeatedly sat up till I didn't know
when; I selected moments when my roommate
unmistakably slept, and, stealing
out, took noiseless turns in the passage and even pushed as far as to where
I had last met Quint. But I never met him there again,
and I may as well say at once
that I on no other occasion saw him in the house. I just missed, on the
staircase, on the other hand, a different adventure. Looking
down it from the top I once
recognized the presence of a woman seated on one of the lower steps with
her back presented to me, her body half-bowed and her
head, in an attitude of woe,
in her hands. I had been there but an instant, however, when she vanished
without looking round at me. I knew, nonetheless, exactly
what dreadful face she had to
show; and I wondered whether, if instead of being above I had been below,
I should have had, for going up, the same nerve I had
lately shown Quint. Well, there
continued to be plenty of chance for nerve. On the eleventh night after
my latest encounter with that gentleman— they were all
numbered now— I had an alarm
that perilously skirted it and that indeed, from the particular quality
of its unexpectedness, proved quite my sharpest shock. It was
precisely the first night during
this series that, weary with watching, I had felt that I might again without
laxity lay myself down at my old hour. I slept immediately and,
as I afterward knew, till about
one o'clock; but when I woke it was to sit straight up, as completely roused
as if a hand had shook me. I had left a light burning, but it
was now out, and I felt an instant
certainty that Flora had extinguished it. This brought me to my feet and
straight, in the darkness, to her bed, which I found she had
left. A glance at the window
enlightened me further, and the striking of a match completed the picture.
The child had again got up— this
time blowing out the taper, and had again, for some purpose of observation
or response, squeezed in behind the blind and was
peering out into the night.
That she now saw— as she had not, I had satisfied myself, the previous
time— was proved to me by the fact that she was disturbed
neither by my reillumination
nor by the haste I made to get into slippers and into a wrap. Hidden, protected,
absorbed, she evidently rested on the sill— the casement
opened forward— and gave herself
up. There was a great still moon to help her, and this fact had counted
in my quick decision. She was face to face with the
apparition we had met at the
lake, and could now communicate with it as she had not then been able to
do. What I, on my side, had to care for was, without
disturbing her, to reach, from
the corridor, some other window in the same quarter. I got to the door
without her hearing me; I got out of it, closed it, and listened,
from the other side, for some
sound from her. While I stood in the passage I had my eyes on her brother's
door, which was but ten steps off and which,
indescribably, produced in me
a renewal of the strange impulse that I lately spoke of as my temptation.
What if I should go straight in and march to his window?—
what if, by risking to his boyish
bewilderment a revelation of my motive, I should throw across the rest
of the mystery the long halter of my boldness?
This thought held me sufficiently
to make me cross to his threshold and pause again. I preternaturally listened;
I figured to myself what might portentously be; I
wondered if his bed were also
empty and he too were secretly at watch. It was a deep, soundless minute,
at the end of which my impulse failed. He was quiet; he
might be innocent; the risk
was hideous; I turned away. There was a figure in the grounds— a figure
prowling for a sight, the visitor with whom Flora was engaged;
but it was not the visitor most
concerned with my boy. I hesitated afresh, but on other grounds and only
a few seconds; then I had made my choice. There were
empty rooms at Bly, and it was
only a question of choosing the right one. The right one suddenly presented
itself to me as the lower one— though high above the
gardens— in the solid corner
of the house that I have spoken of as the old tower. This was a large,
square chamber, arranged with some state as a bedroom, the
extravagant size of which made
it so inconvenient that it had not for years, though kept by Mrs. Grose
in exemplary order, been occupied. I had often admired it and
I knew my way about in it; I
had only, after just faltering at the first chill gloom of its disuse,
to pass across it and unbolt as quietly as I could one of the shutters.
Achieving this transit, I uncovered
the glass without a sound and, applying my face to the pane, was able,
the darkness without being much less than within, to see
that I commanded the right direction.
Then I saw something more. The moon made the night extraordinarily penetrable
and showed me on the lawn a person,
diminished by distance, who
stood there motionless and as if fascinated, looking up to where I had
appeared— looking, that is, not so much straight at me as at
something that was apparently
above me. There was clearly another person above me— there was a person
on the tower; but the presence on the lawn was not in
the least what I had conceived
and had confidently hurried to meet. The presence on the lawn— I felt sick
as I made it out— was poor little Miles himself.
It was not till late next day
that I spoke to Mrs. Grose; the rigor with which I kept my pupils in sight
making it often difficult to meet her privately, and the more as we
each felt the importance of
not provoking— on the part of the servants quite as much as on that of
the children— any suspicion of a secret flurry or of a discussion of
mysteries. I drew a great security
in this particular from her mere smooth aspect. There was nothing in her
fresh face to pass on to others my horrible confidences.
She believed me, I was sure,
absolutely: if she hadn't I don't know what would have become of me, for
I couldn't have borne the business alone. But she was a
magnificent monument to the
blessing of a want of imagination, and if she could see in our little charges
nothing but their beauty and amiability, their happiness and
cleverness, she had no direct
communication with the sources of my trouble. If they had been at all visibly
blighted or battered, she would doubtless have grown, on
tracing it back, haggard enough
to match them; as matters stood, however, I could feel her, when she surveyed
them, with her large white arms folded and the habit
of serenity in all her look,
thank the Lord's mercy that if they were ruined the pieces would still
serve. Flights of fancy gave place, in her mind, to a steady fireside
glow, and I had already begun
to perceive how, with the development of the conviction that— as time went
on without a public accident— our young things could,
after all, look out for themselves,
she addressed her greatest solicitude to the sad case presented by their
instructress. That, for myself, was a sound simplification: I
could engage that, to the world,
my face should tell no tales, but it would have been, in the conditions,
an immense added strain to find myself anxious about hers.
At the hour I now speak of she
had joined me, under pressure, on the terrace, where, with the lapse of
the season, the afternoon sun was now agreeable; and we sat
there together while, before
us, at a distance, but within call if we wished,— the children strolled
to and fro in one of their most manageable moods. They moved
slowly, in unison, below us,
over the lawn, the boy, as they went, reading aloud from a storybook and
passing his arm round his sister to keep her quite in touch.
Mrs. Grose watched them with
positive placidity; then I caught the suppressed intellectual creak with
which she conscientiously turned to take from me a view of the
back of the tapestry. I had
made her a receptacle of lurid things, but there was an odd recognition
of my superiority— my accomplishments and my function— in her
patience under my pain. She
offered her mind to my disclosures as, had I wished to mix a witch's broth
and proposed it with assurance, she would have held out a
large clean saucepan. This had
become thoroughly her attitude by the time that, in my recital of the events
of the night, I reached the point of what Miles had said to
me when, after seeing him, at
such a monstrous hour almost on the very spot where he happened now to
be, I had gone down to bring him in; choosing then, at the
window, with a concentrated
need of not alarming the house, rather that method than a signal more resonant
I had left her meanwhile in little doubt of my small hope
of representing with success
even to her actual sympathy my sense of the real splendor of the little
inspiration with which, after I had got him into the house, the boy
met my final articulate challenge.
As soon as I appeared in the moonlight on the terrace, he had come to me
as straight as possible; on which I had taken his hand
without a word and led him,
through the dark spaces, up the staircase where Quint had so hungrily hovered
for him, along the lobby where I had listened and
trembled, and so to his forsaken
Not a sound, on the way, had
passed between us, and I had wondered— oh, how I had wondered!— if he were
groping about in his little mind for something
plausible and not too grotesque.
It would tax his invention, certainly, and I felt, this time, over his
real embarrassment, a curious thrill of triumph. It was a sharp trap
for the inscrutable! He couldn't
play any longer at innocence; so how the deuce would he get out of it?
There beat in me indeed, with the passionate throb of this
question, an equal dumb appeal
as to how the deuce I should. I was confronted at last, as never yet, with
all the risk attached even now to sounding my own horrid
note. I remember in fact that
as we pushed into his little chamber, where the bed had not been slept
in at all and the window, uncovered to the moonlight, made the
place so clear that there was
no need of striking a match— I remember how I suddenly dropped, sank upon
the edge of the bed from the force of the idea that he
must know how he really, as
they say, "had" me. He could do what he liked, with all his cleverness
to help him, so long as I should continue to defer to the old
tradition of the criminality
of those caretakers of the young who minister to superstitions and fears.
He "had" me indeed, and in a cleft stick; for who would ever
absolve me, who would consent
that I should go unhung, if, by the faintest tremor of an overture, I were
the first to introduce into our perfect intercourse an element
so dire? No, no: it was useless
to attempt to convey to Mrs. Grose, just as it is scarcely less so to attempt
to suggest here, how, in our short, stiff brush in the dark,
he fairly shook me with admiration.
I was of course thoroughly kind and merciful; never, never yet had I placed
on his little shoulders hands of such tenderness as
those with which, while I rested
against the bed, I held him there well under fire. I had no alternative
but, in form at least, to put it to him.
"You must tell me now— and all
the truth. What did you go out for? What were you doing there?"
I can still see his wonderful
smile, the whites of his beautiful eyes, and the uncovering of his little
teeth shine to me in the dusk. "If I tell you why, will you understand?"
My heart, at this, leaped into
my mouth. Would he tell me why? I found no sound on my lips to press it,
and I was aware of replying only with a vague, repeated,
grimacing nod. He was gentleness
itself, and while I wagged my head at him he stood there more than ever
a little fairy prince. It was his brightness indeed that gave
me a respite. Would it be so
great if he were really going to tell me? "Well," he said at last, "just
exactly in order that you should do this."
"Think me— for a change— bad!"
I shall never forget the sweetness and gaiety with which he brought out
the word, nor how, on top of it, he bent forward and
kissed me. It was practically
the end of everything. I met his kiss and I had to make, while I folded
him for a minute in my arms, the most stupendous effort not to
cry. He had given exactly the
account of himself that permitted least of my going behind it, and it was
only with the effect of confirming my acceptance of it that, as I
presently glanced about the
room, I could say—
"Then you didn't undress at all?"
He fairly glittered in the gloom.
"Not at all. I sat up and read."
"And when did you go down?"
"At midnight. When I'm bad I
"I see, I see it's charming.
But how could you be sure I would know it?"
"Oh, I arranged that with Flora."
His answers rang out with a readiness! "She was to get up and look out."
"Which is what she did do." It
was I who fell into the trap!"
"So she disturbed you, and, to
see what she was looking at, you also looked— you saw."
"While you," I concurred, "caught
your death in the night air!"
He literally bloomed so from
this exploit that he could afford radiantly to assent. "How otherwise should
I have been bad enough?" he asked. Then, after another
embrace, the incident and our
interview dosed on my recognition of all the reserves of goodness that,
for his joke, he had been able to draw upon.
The particular impression I had
received proved in the morning light, I repeat, not quite successfully
presentable to Mrs. Grose, though I reinforced it with the
mention of still another remark
that he had made before we separated. "It all lies in half a dozen words,"
I said to her, "words that really settle the matter. 'Think, you
know, what I might do!' He threw
that off to show me how good he is. He knows down to the ground what he
'might' do. That's what he gave them a taste of at
"Lord, you do change!" cried
"I don't change— I simply make
it out. The four, depend upon it, perpetually meet. If on either of these
last nights you had been with either child, you would clearly
have understood. The more I've
watched and waited the more I've felt that if there were nothing else to
make it sure it would be made so by the systematic silence of
each. Never, by a slip of the
tongue, have they so much as alluded to either of their old friends, any
more than Miles has alluded to his expulsion. Oh, yes, we may sit
here and look at them, and they
may show off to us there to their fill; but even while they pretend to
be lost in their fairytale they're steeped in their vision of the dead
restored. He's not reading to
her," I declared; "they're talking of them— they're talking horrors! I
go on, I know, as if I were crazy; and it's a wonder I'm not. What
I've seen would have made you
so; but it has only made me more lucid, made me get hold of still other
My lucidity must have seemed
awful, but the charming creatures who were victims of it, passing and repassing
in their interlocked sweetness, gave my colleague
something to hold on by; and
I felt how tight she held as, without stirring in the breath of my passion,
she covered them still with her eyes. "Of what other things have
you got hold?"
"Why, of the very things that
have delighted, fascinated, and yet, at bottom, as I now so strangely see,
mystified and troubled me. Their more than earthly beauty,
their absolutely unnatural goodness.
It's a game," I went on; "it's a policy and a fraud!"
"On the part of little darlings—?"
"As yet mere lovely babies? Yes,
mad as that seems!" The very act of bringing it out really helped me to
trace it— follow it all up and piece it all together. "They
haven't been good— they've only
been absent. It has been easy to live with them, because they're simply
leading a life of their own. They're not mine— they're not
ours. They're his and they're
"Quint's and that woman's?"
"Quint's and that woman's. They
want to get to them."
Oh, how, at this, poor Mrs. Grose
appeared to study them! "But for what?"
"For the love of all the evil
that, in those dreadful days, the pair put into them. And to ply them with
that evil still, to keep up the work of demons, is what brings the
"Laws!" said my friend under
her breath. The exclamation was homely, but it revealed a real acceptance
of my further proof of what, in the bad time— for there had
been a worse even than this!—
must have occurred. There could have been no such justification for me
as the plain assent of her experience to whatever depth of
depravity I found credible in
our brace of scoundrels. It was in obvious submission of memory that she
brought out after a moment: "They were rascals! But what
can they now do?" she pursued.
"Do?" I echoed so loud that Miles
and Flora, as they passed at their distance, paused an instant in their
walk and looked at us. "Don't they do enough?" I demanded
in a lower tone, while the children,
having smiled and nodded and kissed hands to us, resumed their exhibition.
We were held by it a minute; then I answered: "They
can destroy them!" At this my
companion did turn, but the inquiry she launched was a silent one, the
effect of which was to make me more explicit. "They don't
know, as yet, quite how— but
they're trying hard. They're seen only across, as it were, and beyond—
in strange places and on high places, the top of towers, the
roof of houses, the outside
of windows, the further edge of pools; but there's a deep design, on either
side, to shorten the distance and overcome the obstacle; and
the success of the tempters
is only a question of time. They've only to keep to their suggestions of
"For the children to come?"
"And perish in the attempt!"
Mrs. Grose slowly got up, and I scrupulously added: "Unless, of course,
we can prevent!"
Standing there before me while
I kept my seat, she visibly turned things over. "Their uncle must do the
preventing. He must take them away."
"And who's to make him?"
She had been scanning the distance,
but she now dropped on me a foolish face. "You, miss."
"By writing to him that his house
is poisoned and his little nephew and niece mad?"
"But if they are, miss?"
"And if I am myself, you mean?
That's charming news to be sent him by a governess whose prime undertaking
was to give him no worry."
Mrs. Grose considered, following
the children again. "Yes, he do hate worry. That was the great reason——"
"Why those fiends took him in
so long? No doubt, though his indifference must have been awful. As I'm
not a fiend, at any rate, I shouldn't take him in."
My companion, after an instant
and for all answer, sat down again and grasped my arm. "Make him at any
rate come to you."
I stared. "To me?" I had a sudden
fear of what she might do. "'Him'?"
"He ought to be here— he ought
I quickly rose, and I think I
must have shown her a queerer face than ever yet. "You see me asking him
for a visit?" No, with her eyes on my face she evidently
couldn't. Instead of it even—
as a woman reads another— she could see what I myself saw: his derision,
his amusement, his contempt for the breakdown of my
resignation at being left alone
and for the fine machinery I had set in motion to attract his attention
to my slighted charms. She didn't know— no one knew— how
proud I had been to serve him
and to stick to our terms; yet she nonetheless took the measure, I think,
of the warning I now gave her. "If you should so lose your
head as to appeal to him for
She was really frightened. "Yes,
"I would leave, on the spot,
both him and you."
End of Part Three - Go to Part