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Chapter 22

  • Yet it was when she had got off—and I missed her on the spot—that the grea_inch really came. If I had counted on what it would give me to find mysel_lone with Miles, I speedily perceived, at least, that it would give me _easure. No hour of my stay in fact was so assailed with apprehensions as tha_f my coming down to learn that the carriage containing Mrs. Grose and m_ounger pupil had already rolled out of the gates. Now I was, I said t_yself, face to face with the elements, and for much of the rest of the day,
  • while I fought my weakness, I could consider that I had been supremely rash.
  • It was a tighter place still than I had yet turned round in; all the mor_hat, for the first time, I could see in the aspect of others a confuse_eflection of the crisis. What had happened naturally caused them all t_tare; there was too little of the explained, throw out whatever we might, i_he suddenness of my colleague's act. The maids and the men looked blank; th_ffect of which on my nerves was an aggravation until I saw the necessity o_aking it a positive aid. It was precisely, in short, by just clutching th_elm that I avoided total wreck; and I dare say that, to bear up at all, _ecame, that morning, very grand and very dry. I welcomed the consciousnes_hat I was charged with much to do, and I caused it to be known as well that,
  • left thus to myself, I was quite remarkably firm. I wandered with that manner,
  • for the next hour or two, all over the place and looked, I have no doubt, a_f I were ready for any onset. So, for the benefit of whom it might concern, _araded with a sick heart.
  • The person it appeared least to concern proved to be, till dinner, littl_iles himself. My perambulations had given me, meanwhile, no glimpse of him,
  • but they had tended to make more public the change taking place in ou_elation as a consequence of his having at the piano, the day before, kept me,
  • in Flora's interest, so beguiled and befooled. The stamp of publicity had o_ourse been fully given by her confinement and departure, and the chang_tself was now ushered in by our nonobservance of the regular custom of th_choolroom. He had already disappeared when, on my way down, I pushed open hi_oor, and I learned below that he had breakfasted—in the presence of a coupl_f the maids—with Mrs. Grose and his sister. He had then gone out, as he said,
  • for a stroll; than which nothing, I reflected, could better have expressed hi_rank view of the abrupt transformation of my office. What he would not permi_his office to consist of was yet to be settled: there was a queer relief, a_ll events—I mean for myself in especial—in the renouncement of on_retension. If so much had sprung to the surface, I scarce put it too strongl_n saying that what had perhaps sprung highest was the absurdity of ou_rolonging the fiction that I had anything more to teach him. It sufficientl_tuck out that, by tacit little tricks in which even more than myself h_arried out the care for my dignity, I had had to appeal to him to let me of_training to meet him on the ground of his true capacity. He had at any rat_is freedom now; I was never to touch it again; as I had amply shown,
  • moreover, when, on his joining me in the schoolroom the previous night, I ha_ttered, on the subject of the interval just concluded, neither challenge no_int. I had too much, from this moment, my other ideas. Yet when he at las_rrived, the difficulty of applying them, the accumulations of my problem,
  • were brought straight home to me by the beautiful little presence on whic_hat had occurred had as yet, for the eye, dropped neither stain nor shadow.
  • To mark, for the house, the high state I cultivated I decreed that my meal_ith the boy should be served, as we called it, downstairs; so that I had bee_waiting him in the ponderous pomp of the room outside of the window of whic_ had had from Mrs. Grose, that first scared Sunday, my flash of something i_ould scarce have done to call light. Here at present I felt afresh—for I ha_elt it again and again—how my equilibrium depended on the success of my rigi_ill, the will to shut my eyes as tight as possible to the truth that what _ad to deal with was, revoltingly, against nature. I could only get on at al_y taking "nature" into my confidence and my account, by treating my monstrou_rdeal as a push in a direction unusual, of course, and unpleasant, bu_emanding, after all, for a fair front, only another turn of the screw o_rdinary human virtue. No attempt, nonetheless, could well require more tac_han just this attempt to supply, one's self, all the nature. How could I pu_ven a little of that article into a suppression of reference to what ha_ccurred? How, on the other hand, could I make reference without a new plung_nto the hideous obscure? Well, a sort of answer, after a time, had come t_e, and it was so far confirmed as that I was met, incontestably, by th_uickened vision of what was rare in my little companion. It was indeed as i_e had found even now—as he had so often found at lessons—still some othe_elicate way to ease me off. Wasn't there light in the fact which, as w_hared our solitude, broke out with a specious glitter it had never yet quit_orn?—the fact that (opportunity aiding, precious opportunity which had no_ome) it would be preposterous, with a child so endowed, to forego the hel_ne might wrest from absolute intelligence? What had his intelligence bee_iven him for but to save him? Mightn't one, to reach his mind, risk th_tretch of an angular arm over his character? It was as if, when we were fac_o face in the dining room, he had literally shown me the way. The roas_utton was on the table, and I had dispensed with attendance. Miles, before h_at down, stood a moment with his hands in his pockets and looked at th_oint, on which he seemed on the point of passing some humorous judgment. Bu_hat he presently produced was: "I say, my dear, is she really very awfull_ll?"
  • "Little Flora? Not so bad but that she'll presently be better. London will se_er up. Bly had ceased to agree with her. Come here and take your mutton."
  • He alertly obeyed me, carried the plate carefully to his seat, and, when h_as established, went on. "Did Bly disagree with her so terribly suddenly?"
  • "Not so suddenly as you might think. One had seen it coming on."
  • "Then why didn't you get her off before?"
  • "Before what?"
  • "Before she became too ill to travel."
  • I found myself prompt. "She's not too ill to travel: she only might hav_ecome so if she had stayed. This was just the moment to seize. The journe_ill dissipate the influence"—oh, I was grand!—"and carry it off."
  • "I see, I see"—Miles, for that matter, was grand, too. He settled to hi_epast with the charming little "table manner" that, from the day of hi_rrival, had relieved me of all grossness of admonition. Whatever he had bee_riven from school for, it was not for ugly feeding. He was irreproachable, a_lways, today; but he was unmistakably more conscious. He was discernibl_rying to take for granted more things than he found, without assistance,
  • quite easy; and he dropped into peaceful silence while he felt his situation.
  • Our meal was of the briefest—mine a vain pretense, and I had the thing_mmediately removed. While this was done Miles stood again with his hands i_is little pockets and his back to me—stood and looked out of the wide windo_hrough which, that other day, I had seen what pulled me up. We continue_ilent while the maid was with us—as silent, it whimsically occurred to me, a_ome young couple who, on their wedding journey, at the inn, feel shy in th_resence of the waiter. He turned round only when the waiter had left us.
  • "Well—so we're alone!"