I went so far, in the evening,
as to make a beginning. The weather had changed back, a great wind was
abroad, and beneath the lamp, in my room, with Flora at
peace beside me, I sat for a
long time before a blank sheet of paper and listened to the lash of the
rain and the batter of the gusts. Finally I went out, taking a candle;
I crossed the passage and listened
a minute at Miles's door. What, under my endless obsession, I had been
impelled to listen for was some betrayal of his not being
at rest, and I presently caught
one, but not in the form I had expected. His voice tinkled out. "I say,
you there— come in." It was a gaiety in the gloom!
I went in with my light and found
him, in bed, very wide awake, but very much at his ease. "Well, what are
you up to?" he asked with a grace of sociability in which it
occurred to me that Mrs. Grose,
had she been present, might have looked in vain for proof that anything
I stood over him with my candle.
"How did you know I was there?"
"Why, of course I heard you.
Did you fancy you made no noise? You're like a troop of cavalry!" he beautifully
"Then you weren't asleep?"
"Not much! I lie awake and think."
I had put my candle, designedly,
a short way off, and then, as he held out his friendly old hand to me,
had sat down on the edge of his bed. "What is it," I asked,
"that you think of?"
"What in the world, my dear,
"Ah, the pride I take in your
appreciation doesn't insist on that! I had so far rather you slept."
"Well, I think also, you know,
of this queer business of ours."
I marked the coolness of his
firm little hand. "Of what queer business, Miles?"
"Why, the way you bring me up.
And all the rest!"
I fairly held my breath a minute,
and even from my glimmering taper there was light enough to show how he
smiled up at me from his pillow. "What do you mean by
all me rest?"
"Oh, you know, you know!"
I could say nothing for a minute,
though I felt, as I held his hand and our eyes continued to meet, that
my silence had all the air of admitting his charge and that nothing
in the whole world of reality
was perhaps at that moment so fabulous as our actual relation. "Certainly
you shall go back to school," I said, "if it be that that troubles
you. But not to the old place—
we must find another, a better. How could I know it did trouble you, this
question, when you never told me so, never spoke of it at
all?" His dear, listening face,
framed in its smooth whiteness, made him for the minute as appealing as
some wistful patient in a children's hospital; and I would have
given, as the resemblance came
to me, all I possessed on earth really to be the nurse or the sister of
charity who might have helped to cure him. Well, even as it was,
I perhaps might help! "Do you
know you've never said a word to me about your school— I mean the old one;
never mentioned it in any way?"
He seemed to wonder; he smiled
with the same loveliness. But he clearly gained time; he waited, he called
for guidance. "Haven't I?" It wasn't for me to help him— it
was for the thing I had met!
Something in his tone and the
expression of his face, as I got this from him, set my heart aching with
such a pang as it had never yet known; so unutterably touching
was it to see his little brain
puzzled and his little resources taxed to play, under the spell laid on
him, a part of innocence and consistency. "No, never— from the hour
you came back, You've never
mentioned to me one of your masters, one of your comrades, nor the least
little thing that ever happened to you at school. Never, little
Miles— no, never— have you given
me an inkling of anything that may have happened there. Therefore you can
fancy how much I'm in the dark. Until you came
out, that way, this morning,
you had, since the first hour I saw you, scarce even made a reference to
anything in your previous life. You seemed so perfectly to
accept the present." It was
extraordinary how my absolute conviction of his secret precocity (or whatever
I might call the poison of an influence that I dared but half
to phrase) made him, in spite
of the faint breath of his inward trouble, appear as accessible as an older
person— imposed him almost as an intellectual equal. "I
thought you wanted to go on
as you are."
It struck me that at this he
just faintly colored. He gave, at any rate, like a convalescent slightly
fatigued, a languid shake of his head. "I don't— I don't. I want to get
"You're tired of Bly?"
"Oh, no, I like Bly."
"Oh, you know what a boy wants!"
I felt that I didn't know so
well as Miles, and I took temporary refuge. "You want to go to your uncle?"
Again, at this, with his sweet
ironic face, he made a movement on the pillow. "Ah, you can't get off with
I was silent a little, and it
was I, now, I think, who changed color. "My dear, I don't want to get off!"
"You can't, even if you do. You
can't, you can't!"— he lay beautifully staring. "My uncle must come down,
and you must completely settle things."
"If we do," I returned with some
spirit, "you may be sure it will be to take you quite away."
"Well, don't you understand that
that's exactly what I'm working for? You'll have to tell him— about the
way you've let it all drop: you'll have to tell him a tremendous
The exultation with which he
uttered this helped me somehow, for the instant, to meet him rather more.
"And how much will you, Miles, have to tell him? There are
things he'll ask you!"
He turned it over. "Very likely.
But what things?"
"The things you've never told
me. To make up his mind what to do with you. He can't send you back——"
"Oh, I don't want to go back!"
he broke in. "I want a new field."
He said it with admirable serenity,
with positive unimpeachable gaiety; and doubtless it was that very note
that most evoked for me the poignancy, the unnatural
childish tragedy, of his probable
reappearance at the end of three months with all this bravado and still
more dishonor. It overwhelmed me now that I should never
be able to bear that, and it
made me let myself go. I threw myself upon him and in the tenderness of
my pity I embraced him. "Dear little Miles, dear little
My face was close to his, and
he let me kiss him, simply taking it with indulgent good humor. "Well,
"Is there nothing— nothing at
all that you want to tell me?"
He turned off a little, facing
round toward the wall and holding up his hand to look at as one had seen
sick children look. "I've told you— I told you this morning."
Oh, I was sorry for him! "That
you just want me not to worry you?"
He looked round at me now, as
if in recognition of my understanding him; then ever so gently, "To let
me alone," he replied.
There was even a singular little
dignity in it, something that made me release him, yet, when I had slowly
risen, linger beside him. God knows I never wished to harass
him, but I felt that merely,
at this, to turn my back on him was to abandon or, to put it more truly,
to lose him "I've just begun a letter to your uncle," I said.
"Well, then, finish it!"
I waited a minute. "What happened
He gazed up at me again. "Before
"Before you came back. And before
you went away "
For some time he was silent,
but he continued to meet my eyes. "What happened?"
It made me, the sound of the
words, in which it seemed to me that I caught for the very first time a
small faint quaver of consenting consciousness— it made me drop
on my knees beside the bed and
seize once more the chance of possessing him. "Dear little Miles, dear
little Miles, if you knew how I want to help you! It's only that,
it's nothing but that, and I'd
rather die than give you a pain or do you a wrong— I'd rather die than
hurt a hair of you. Dear little Miles"— oh, I brought it out now
even if I should go too far—
"I just want you to help me to save you!" But I knew in a moment after
this that I had gone too far. The answer to my appeal was
instantaneous, but it came in
the form of an extraordinary blast and chill, a gust of frozen air, and
a shake of the room as great as if, in the wild wind, the casement
had crashed in. The boy gave
a loud, high shriek, which, lost in the rest of the shock of sound, might
have seemed, indistinctly, though I was so close to him, a note
either of jubilation or of terror.
I jumped to my feet again and was conscious of darkness. So for a moment
we remained, while I stared about me and saw mat the
drawn curtains were unstirred
and the window tight. "Why, the candle's out!" I then cried.
"It was I who blew it, dear!"
The next day, after lessons,
Mrs. Grose found a moment to say to me quietly: "Have you written, miss?"
"Yes— I've written." But I didn't
add— for the hour— that my letter, sealed and directed, was still in my
pocket. There would be time enough to send it before the
messenger should go to the village.
Meanwhile there had been, on the part of my pupils, no more brilliant,
more exemplary morning. It was exactly as if they had both
had at heart to gloss over any
recent little friction. They performed the dizziest feats of arithmetic,
soaring quite out of my feeble range, and perpetrated, in higher
spirits than ever, geographical
and historical jokes. It was conspicuous of course in Miles in particular
that he appeared to wish to show how easily he could let me
down. This child, to my memory,
really lives in a setting of beauty and misery that no words can translate;
there was a distinction all his own in every impulse he
revealed; never was a small
natural creature, to the uninitiated eye all frankness and freedom, a more
ingenious, a more extraordinary little gentleman. I had
perpetually to guard against
the wonder of contemplation into which my initiated view betrayed me; to
check the irrelevant gaze and discouraged sigh in which I
constantly both attacked and
renounced the enigma of what such a little gentleman could have done that
deserved a penalty. Say that, by the dark prodigy I knew,
the imagination of all evil
had been opened up to him: all the justice within me ached for the proof
that it could ever have flowered into an act.
He had never, at any rate, been
such a little gentleman as when, after our early dinner on this dreadful
day, he came round to me and asked if I shouldn't like him, for
half an hour, to play to me.
David playing to Saul could never have shown a finer sense of the occasion.
It was literally a charming exhibition of tact, of magnanimity,
and quite tantamount to his
saying outright: "The true knights we love to read about never push an
advantage too far. I know what you mean now: you mean that—
to be let alone yourself and
not followed up— you'll cease to worry and spy upon me, won't keep me so
close to you, will let me go and come. Well, I 'come,' you
see— but I don't go! There'll
be plenty of time for that. I do really delight in your society, and I
only want to show you that I contended for a principle." It may be
imagined whether I resisted
this appeal or failed to accompany him again, hand in hand, to the schoolroom.
He sat down at the old piano and played as he had never
played; and if there are those
who think he had better have been kicking a football I can only say that
I wholly agree with them. For at the end of a time that under
his influence I had quite ceased
to measure, I started up with a strange sense of having literally slept
at my post. It was after luncheon, and by the schoolroom fire,
and yet I hadn't really, in
the least, slept: I had only done something much worse— I had forgotten.
Where, all this time, was Flora? When I put the question to
Miles, he played on a minute
before answering and then could only say: "Why, my dear, how do I know?"—
breaking moreover into a happy laugh which,
immediately after, as if it
were a vocal accompaniment, he prolonged into incoherent, extravagant song.
I went straight to my room, but
his sister was not there; then, before going downstairs, I looked into
several others. As she was nowhere about she would surely be
with Mrs. Grose, whom, in the
comfort of that theory, I accordingly proceeded in quest of. I found her
where I had found her the evening before, but she met my
quick challenge with blank,
scared ignorance. She had only supposed that, after the repast, I had carried
off both the children; as to which she was quite in her right,
for it was the very first time
I had allowed the little girl out of my sight without some special provision.
Of course now indeed she might be with the maids, so that the
immediate thing was to look
for her without an air of alarm. This we promptly arranged between us;
but when, ten minutes later and in pursuance of our arrangement,
we met in the hall, it was only
to report on either side that after guarded inquiries we had altogether
failed to trace her. For a minute there, apart from observation,
we exchanged mute alarms, and
I could feel with what high interest my friend returned me all those I
had from the first given her.
"She'll be above," she presently
said— "in one of the rooms you haven't searched."
"No; she's at a distance." I
had made up my mind. "She has gone out."
Mrs. Grose stared. "Without a
I naturally also looked volumes.
"Isn't that woman always without one?"
"She's with her?"
"She's with her!" I declared.
"We must find them."
My hand was on my friend's arm,
but she failed for the moment, confronted with such an account of the matter,
to respond to my pressure. She communed, on the
contrary, on the spot, with
her uneasiness. "And where's Master Miles?"
"Oh, he's with Quint. They're
in the schoolroom."
"Lord, miss!" My view, I was
myself aware— and therefore I suppose my tone— had never yet reached so
calm an assurance.
"The trick's played," I went
on; "they've successfully worked their plan. He found the most divine little
way to keep me quiet while she went off."
"'Divine'?" Mrs. Grose bewilderedly
"Infernal, then!" I almost cheerfully
rejoined. "He has provided for himself as well. But come!"
She had helplessly gloomed at
the upper regions. "You leave him——?"
"So long with Quint? Yes— I don't
mind that now."
She always ended, at these moments,
by getting possession of my hand, and in this manner she could at present
still stay me. But after gasping an instant at my
sudden resignation, "Because
of your letter?" she eagerly brought out.
I quickly, by way of answer,
felt for my letter, drew it forth, held it up, and then, freeing myself,
went and laid it on the great hall table. "Luke will take it," I said as
carne back. I reached the house
door and opened it; I was already on the steps.
My companion still demurred:
the storm of the night and the early morning had dropped, but the afternoon
was damp and gray. I came down to the drive while she
stood in the doorway. "You go
with nothing on?"
"What do I care when the child
has nothing? I can't wait to dress," I cried, "and if you must do so, I
leave you. Try meanwhile, yourself, upstairs."
"With them?" Oh, on this, the
poor woman promptly joined me!
We went straight to the lake,
as it was called at Bly, and I daresay rightly called, though I reflect
that it may in fact have been a sheet of water less remarkable than it
appeared to my untraveled eyes.
My acquaintance with sheets of water was small, and the pool of Bly, at
all events on the few occasions of my consenting, under
the protection of my pupils,
to affront its surface in the old flat-bottomed boat moored there for our
use, had impressed me both with its extent and its agitation. The
usual place of embarkation was
half a mile from the house, but I had an intimate conviction that, wherever
Flora might be, she was not near home. She had not given
me the slip for any small adventure,
and, since the day of the very great one that I had shared with her by
the pond, I had been aware, in our walks, of the quarter to
which she most inclined. This
was why I had now given to Mrs. Grose's steps so marked a direction— a
direction that made her, when she perceived it, oppose a
resistance that showed me she
was freshly mystified. "You're going to the water, Miss?.— you think she's
"She may be, though the depth
is, I believe, nowhere very great. But what I judge most likely is that
she's on the spot from which, the other day, we saw together
what I told you."
"When she pretended not to see——?"
"With that astounding self-possession?
I've always been sure she wanted to go back alone. And now her brother
has managed it for her."
Mrs. Grose still stood where
she had stopped. "You suppose they really talk of them?"
I could meet this with a confidence!
"They say things that, if we heard them, would simply appal us."
"And if she is there——?"
"Then Miss Jessel is?"
"Beyond a doubt. You shall see."
"Oh, thank you!" my friend cried,
planted so firm that, taking it in, I went straight on without her. By
the time I reached the pool, however,— she was close behind
me, and I knew that, whatever,
to her apprehension, might befall me, the exposure of my society struck
her as her least danger. She exhaled a moan of relief as we
at last came in sight of the
greater part of the water without a sight of the child. There was no trace
of Flora on that nearer side of the bank where my observation of
her had been most startling,
and none on the opposite edge, where, save for a margin of some twenty
yards, a thick copse came down to the water. The pond,
oblong in shape, had a width
so scant compared to its length that, with its ends out of view, it might
have been taken for a scant river. We looked at the empty
expanse, and then I felt the
suggestion of my friend's eyes. I knew what she meant and I replied with
a negative headshake.
"No, no; wait! She has taken
My companion stared at the vacant
mooring place and then again across the lake. "Then where is it?"
"Our not seeing it is the strongest
of proofs. She has used it to go over, and then has managed to hide it."
"All alone— that child?"
"She's not alone, and at such
times she's not a child: she's an old, old woman." I scanned all the visible
shore while Mrs. Grose took again, into the queer element I
offered her, one of her plunges
of submission; then I pointed out that the boat might perfectly be in a
small refuge formed by one of the recesses of the pool, an
indentation masked, for the
hither side, by a projection of the bank and by a clump of trees growing
close to the water.
"But if the boat's there, where
on earth's she?" my colleague anxiously asked.
"That's exactly what we must
learn." And I started to walk further.
"By going all the way round?"
"Certainly, far as it is. It
will take us but ten minutes, but it's far enough to have made the child
prefer not to walk. She went straight over."
"Laws!" cried my friend again;
the chain of my logic was ever too much for her. It dragged her at my heels
even now, and when we had got halfway round— a
devious, tiresome process, on
ground much broken and by a path choked with overgrowth— I paused to give
her breath. I sustained her with a grateful arm,
assuring her that she might
hugely help me; and this started us afresh, so that in the course of but
few minutes more we reached a point from which we found the boat
to be where I had supposed it.
It had been intentionally left as much as possible out of sight and was
tied to one of the stakes of a fence that came, just there, down
to the brink and that had been
an assistance to disembarking. I recognized, as I looked at the pair of
short, thick oars, quite safely drawn up, the prodigious
character of the feat for a
little girl; but I had lived, by this time, too long among wonders and
had panted to too many livelier measures. There was a gate in the
fence, through which we passed,
and that brought us, after a trifling interval, more into the open. Then,
"There she is!" we both exclaimed at once.
Flora, a short way off, stood
before us on the grass and smiled as if her performance was now complete.
The next thing she did, however, was to stoop straight
down and pluck— quite as if
it were all she was there for— a big, ugly spray of withered fern. I instantly
became sure she had just come out of the copse. She
waited for us, not herself taking
a step, and I was conscious of the rare solemnity with which we presently
approached her. She smiled and smiled, and we met; but it
was all done in a silence by
this time flagrantly ominous. Mrs. Grose was the first to break the spell:
she threw herself on her knees and, drawing the child to her
breast, clasped in a long embrace
the little tender, yielding body. While this dumb convulsion lasted I could
only watch it— which I did the more intently when I saw
Flora's face peep at me over
our companion's shoulder. It was serious now— the flicker had left it;
but it strengthened the pang with which I at that moment envied
Mrs. Grose the simplicity of
her relation. Still, all this while, nothing more passed between us save
that Flora had let her foolish fern again drop to the ground. What
she and I had virtually said
to each other was that pretexts were useless now. When Mrs. Grose finally
got up she kept the child's hand, so that the two were still
before me; and the singular
reticence of our communion was even more marked in the frank look she launched
me. "I'll be hanged," it said, "if I'll speak!"
It was Flora who, gazing all
over me in candid wonder, was the first. She was struck with our bareheaded
aspect. "Why, where are your things?"
"Where yours are, my dear!" I
She already got back her gaiety,
and appeared to take this as an answer quite sufficient, "And where's Miles?"
she went on.
There was something in the small
valor of it that quite finished me: these three words from her were, in
a flash like the glitter of a drawn blade, the jostle of the cup
that my hand, for weeks and
weeks, had held high and full to the brim and that now, even before speaking,
I felt overflow in a deluge. "I'll tell you if you'll tell
me——" I heard myself say, then
heard the tremor in which it broke.
Mrs. Grose's suspense blazed
at me, but it was too late now, and I brought the thing out handsomely.
"Where, my pet, is Miss Jessel?"
Just as in the churchyard with
Miles, the whole thing was upon us. Much as I had made of the fact that
this name had never once, between us, been sounded, the
quick, smitten glare with which
the child's face now received it fairly likened my breach of the silence
to the smash of a pane of glass. It added to the interposing cry,
as if to stay the blow, that
Mrs. Grose, at the same instant, uttered over my violence— the shriek of
a creature scared, or rather wounded, which, in turn, within a
few seconds, was completed by
a gasp of my own. I seized my colleague's arm. "She's there, she's there!"
Miss Jessel stood before us on
the opposite bank exactly as she had stood the other time, and I remember,
strangely, as the first feeling now produced in me, my
thrill of joy at having brought
on a proof. She was there, and I was justified; she was there, and I was
neither cruel nor mad. She was there for poor scared Mrs.
Grose, but she was mere most
for Flora; and no moment of my monstrous time was perhaps so extraordinary
as that in which I consciously threw out to her— with
the sense that, pale and ravenous
demon as she was, she would catch and understand it— an inarticulate message
of gratitude. She rose erect on the spot my friend
and I had lately quitted, and
mere was not, in all the long reach of her desire, an inch of her evil
that fell short. This first vividness of vision and emotion were things
a few seconds, during which
Mrs. Grose's dazed blink across to where I pointed struck me as a sovereign
sign that she too at last saw, just as it carried my own
eyes precipitately to the child.
The revelation then of the manner in which Flora was affected startled
me, in truth, far more than it would have done to find her also
merely agitated, for direct
dismay was of course not what I had expected. Prepared and on her guard
as our pursuit had actually made her, she would repress every
betrayal; and I was therefore
shaken, on the spot, by my first glimpse of the particular one for which
I had not allowed. To see her, without a convulsion of her small
pink face, not even feign to
glance in the direction of the prodigy I announced, but only, instead of
that, turn at me an expression of hard, still gravity, am expression
absolutely new and unprecedented
and that appeared to read and accuse and judge me— this was a stroke that
somehow converted the little girl herself into the
very presence that could make
me quail. I quailed even though my certitude that she thoroughly saw was
never greater than at that instant, and in the immediate need
to defend myself I called it
passionately to witness. "She's there, you little unhappy thing— there,
there, there, and you see her as well as you see me!" I had said
shortly before to Mrs. Grose
that she was not at these times a child, but an old, old woman, and that
description of her could not have been more strikingly
confirmed than in the way in
which, for all answer to this, she simply showed me, without a concession,
an admission, of her eyes, a countenance of deeper and
deeper, of indeed suddenly quite
fixed, reprobation. I was by this time— if I can put the whole thing at
all together— more appalled at what I may properly call her
manner than at anything else,
though it was simultaneously with this that I became aware of having Mrs.
Grose also, and very formidably, to reckon with. My elder
companion, the next moment,
at any rate, blotted out everything but her own flushed face and her loud,
shocked protest, a burst of high disapproval. "What a
dreadful turn, to be sure, miss!
Where on earth do you see anything?"
I could only grasp her more quickly
yet, for even while she spoke the hideous plain presence stood undimmed
and undaunted. It had already lasted a minute, and it
lasted while I continued, seizing
my colleague, quite thrusting her at it and presenting her to it, to insist
with my pointing hand. "You don't see her exactly as we
see?— you mean to say you don't
now— now? She's as big as a blazing fire! Only look, dearest woman, look——!"
She looked, even as I did, and gave me, with
her deep groan of negation,
repulsion, compassion— the mixture with her pity of her relief at her exemption—
a sense, touching to me even then, that she would
have backed me up if she could.
I might well have needed that, for with this hard blow of the proof that
her eyes were hopelessly sealed I felt my own situation
horribly crumble, I felt— I
saw— my livid predecessor press, from her position, on my defeat, and I
was conscious, more than all, of what I should have from this
instant to deal with in the
astounding little attitude of Flora. Into this attitude Mrs. Grose immediately
and violently entered, breaking, even while there pierced through
my sense of ruin a prodigious
private triumph, into breathless reassurance.
"She isn't there, little lady,
and nobody's there and you never see nothing, my sweet! How can poor Miss
Jessel— when poor Miss Jessel's dead and buried? We
know, don't we, love?"— and
she appealed, blundering in, to the child. "It's all a mere mistake and
a worry and a joke— and we'll go home as fast as we can!"
Our companion, on this, had responded
with a strange, quick primness of propriety, and they were again, with
Mrs. Grose on her feet, united, as it were, in pained
opposition to me. Flora continued
to fix me with her small mask of reprobation, and even at that minute I
prayed God to forgive me for seeming to see that, as she
stood there holding tight to
our friend's dress, her incomparable childish beauty had suddenly failed,
had quite vanished. I've said it already— she was literally, she
was hideously, hard; she had
turned common and almost ugly. "I don't know what you mean. I see nobody.
I see nothing. I never have. I think you're cruel. I don't
like you!" Then, after this
deliverance, which might have been that of a vulgarly pert little girl
in the street, she hugged Mrs. Grose more closely and buried in her
skirts the dreadful little face.
In this position she produced an almost furious wail. "Take me away, take
me away— oh, take me away from her!"
"From me?" I panted.
"From you— from you!" she cried.
Even Mrs. Grose looked across
at me dismayed, while I had nothing to do but communicate again with the
figure that, on the opposite bank, without a movement, as
rigidly still as if catching,
beyond the interval, our voices, was as vividly there for my disaster as
it was not there for my service. The wretched child had spoken
exactly as if she had got from
some outside source each of her stabbing little words, and I could therefore,
in the full despair of all I had to accept, but sadly shake
my head at her. "If I had ever
doubted, all my doubt would at present have gone. I've been living with
the miserable truth, and now it has only too much closed round
me. Of course I've lost you:
I've interfered, and you've seen— under her dictation"— with which I faced,
over the pool again, our infernal witness— "the easy and
perfect way to meet it. I've
done my best, but I've lost you. Goodbye." For Mrs. Grose I had am imperative,
am almost frantic "Go, go!" before which, in infinite
distress, but mutely possessed
of the little girl and clearly convinced, in spite of her blindness, that
something awful had occurred and some collapse engulfed us, she
retreated, by the way we had
come, as fast as she could move.
Of what first happened when I
was left alone I had no subsequent memory. I only knew that at the end
of, I suppose, a quarter of an hour, an odorous dampness
and roughness, chilling and
piercing my trouble, had made me understand that I must have thrown myself,
on my face, on the ground and given way to a wildness of
grief. I must have lain there
long and cried and sobbed, for when I raised my head the day was almost
done. I got up and looked a moment, through the twilight, at
the gray pool and its blank,
haunted edge, and then I took, back to the house, my dreary and difficult
course. When I reached the gate in the fence the boat, to my
surprise, was gone, so that
I had a fresh reflection to make on Flora's extraordinary command of the
situation. She passed that night, by the most tacit, and I should
add, were not the word so grotesque
a false note, the happiest of arrangements, with Mrs. Grose. I saw neither
of them on my return, but, on the other hand, as by
an ambiguous compensation, I
saw a great deal of Miles. I saw— I can use no other phrase— so much of
him that it was as if it were more than it had ever been.
No evening I had passed at Bly
had the portentous quality of this one; in spite of which— and in spite
also of the deeper depths of consternation that had opened
beneath my feet— there was literally,
in the ebbing actual, an extraordinarily sweet sadness. On reaching the
house I had never so much as looked for the boy; I had
simply gone straight to my room
to change what I was wearing and to take in, at a glance, much material
testimony to Flora's rupture. Her little belongings had all
been removed. When later, by
the schoolroom fire, I was served with tea by the usual maid, I indulged,
on the article of my other pupil, in no inquiry whatever. He
had his freedom now— he might
have it to the end! Well, he did have it; and it consisted— in part at
least— of his coming in at about eight o'clock and sitting down
with me in silence. On the removal
of the tea things I had blown out the candles and drawn my chair closer:
I was conscious of a mortal coldness and felt as if I
should never again be warm.
So, when he appeared, I was sitting in the glow with my thoughts. He paused
a moment by the door as if to look at me; then— as if to
share them came to the other
side of the hearth and sank into a chair. We sat there in absolute stillness,
yet he wanted, I felt, to be with me.
End of Part Five - Go to Part