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Chapter 4

  • It was not that I didn't wait, on this occasion, for more, for I was rooted a_eeply as I was shaken. Was there a "secret" at Bly—a mystery of Udolpho or a_nsane, an unmentionable relative kept in unsuspected confinement? I can't sa_ow long I turned it over, or how long, in a confusion of curiosity and dread,
  • I remained where I had had my collision; I only recall that when I re-entere_he house darkness had quite closed in. Agitation, in the interval, certainl_ad held me and driven me, for I must, in circling about the place, hav_alked three miles; but I was to be, later on, so much more overwhelmed tha_his mere dawn of alarm was a comparatively human chill. The most singula_art of it, in fact—singular as the rest had been—was the part I became, i_he hall, aware of in meeting Mrs. Grose. This picture comes back to me in th_eneral train—the impression, as I received it on my return, of the wide whit_anelled space, bright in the lamplight and with its portraits and red carpet,
  • and of the good surprised look of my friend, which immediately told me she ha_issed me. It came to me straightway, under her contact, that, with plai_eartiness, mere relieved anxiety at my appearance, she knew nothing whateve_hat could bear upon the incident I had there ready for her. I had no_uspected in advance that her comfortable face would pull me up, and I someho_easured the importance of what I had seen by my thus finding myself hesitat_o mention it. Scarce anything in the whole history seems to me so odd as thi_act that my real beginning of fear was one, as I may say, with the instinc_f sparing my companion. On the spot, accordingly, in the pleasant hall an_ith her eyes on me, I, for a reason that I couldn't then have phrased,
  • achieved an inward resolution—offered a vague pretext for my lateness and,
  • with the plea of the beauty of the night and of the heavy dew and wet feet,
  • went as soon as possible to my room.
  • Here it was another affair; here, for many days after, it was a queer affai_nough. There were hours, from day to day—or at least there were moments,
  • snatched even from clear duties—when I had to shut myself up to think. It wa_ot so much yet that I was more nervous than I could bear to be as that I wa_emarkably afraid of becoming so; for the truth I had now to turn over was,
  • simply and clearly, the truth that I could arrive at no account whatever o_he visitor with whom I had been so inexplicably and yet, as it seemed to me,
  • so intimately concerned. It took little time to see that I could sound withou_orms of inquiry and without exciting remark any domestic complications. Th_hock I had suffered must have sharpened all my senses; I felt sure, at th_nd of three days and as the result of mere closer attention, that I had no_een practiced upon by the servants nor made the object of any "game." O_hatever it was that I knew, nothing was known around me. There was but on_ane inference: someone had taken a liberty rather gross. That was what,
  • repeatedly, I dipped into my room and locked the door to say to myself. We ha_een, collectively, subject to an intrusion; some unscrupulous traveler,
  • curious in old houses, had made his way in unobserved, enjoyed the prospec_rom the best point of view, and then stolen out as he came. If he had give_e such a bold hard stare, that was but a part of his indiscretion. The goo_hing, after all, was that we should surely see no more of him.
  • This was not so good a thing, I admit, as not to leave me to judge that what,
  • essentially, made nothing else much signify was simply my charming work. M_harming work was just my life with Miles and Flora, and through nothing coul_ so like it as through feeling that I could throw myself into it in trouble.
  • The attraction of my small charges was a constant joy, leading me to wonde_fresh at the vanity of my original fears, the distaste I had begun b_ntertaining for the probable gray prose of my office. There was to be no gra_rose, it appeared, and no long grind; so how could work not be charming tha_resented itself as daily beauty? It was all the romance of the nursery an_he poetry of the schoolroom. I don't mean by this, of course, that we studie_nly fiction and verse; I mean I can express no otherwise the sort of interes_y companions inspired. How can I describe that except by saying that instea_f growing used to them—and it's a marvel for a governess: I call th_isterhood to witness!—I made constant fresh discoveries. There was on_irection, assuredly, in which these discoveries stopped: deep obscurit_ontinued to cover the region of the boy's conduct at school. It had bee_romptly given me, I have noted, to face that mystery without a pang. Perhap_ven it would be nearer the truth to say that—without a word—he himself ha_leared it up. He had made the whole charge absurd. My conclusion bloome_here with the real rose flush of his innocence: he was only too fine and fai_or the little horrid, unclean school world, and he had paid a price for it. _eflected acutely that the sense of such differences, such superiorities o_uality, always, on the part of the majority—which could include even stupid,
  • sordid headmasters—turn infallibly to the vindictive.
  • Both the children had a gentleness (it was their only fault, and it never mad_iles a muff) that kept them—how shall I express it?—almost impersonal an_ertainly quite unpunishable. They were like the cherubs of the anecdote, wh_ad—morally, at any rate—nothing to whack! I remember feeling with Miles i_special as if he had had, as it were, no history. We expect of a small chil_ scant one, but there was in this beautiful little boy somethin_xtraordinarily sensitive, yet extraordinarily happy, that, more than in an_reature of his age I have seen, struck me as beginning anew each day. He ha_ever for a second suffered. I took this as a direct disproof of his havin_eally been chastised. If he had been wicked he would have "caught" it, and _hould have caught it by the rebound—I should have found the trace. I foun_othing at all, and he was therefore an angel. He never spoke of his school,
  • never mentioned a comrade or a master; and I, for my part, was quite too muc_isgusted to allude to them. Of course I was under the spell, and th_onderful part is that, even at the time, I perfectly knew I was. But I gav_yself up to it; it was an antidote to any pain, and I had more pains tha_ne. I was in receipt in these days of disturbing letters from home, wher_hings were not going well. But with my children, what things in the worl_attered? That was the question I used to put to my scrappy retirements. I wa_azzled by their loveliness.
  • There was a Sunday—to get on—when it rained with such force and for so man_ours that there could be no procession to church; in consequence of which, a_he day declined, I had arranged with Mrs. Grose that, should the evening sho_mprovement, we would attend together the late service. The rain happil_topped, and I prepared for our walk, which, through the park and by the goo_oad to the village, would be a matter of twenty minutes. Coming downstairs t_eet my colleague in the hall, I remembered a pair of gloves that had require_hree stitches and that had received them—with a publicity perhaps no_difying—while I sat with the children at their tea, served on Sundays, b_xception, in that cold, clean temple of mahogany and brass, the "grown-up"
  • dining room. The gloves had been dropped there, and I turned in to recove_hem. The day was gray enough, but the afternoon light still lingered, and i_nabled me, on crossing the threshold, not only to recognize, on a chair nea_he wide window, then closed, the articles I wanted, but to become aware of _erson on the other side of the window and looking straight in. One step int_he room had sufficed; my vision was instantaneous; it was all there. Th_erson looking straight in was the person who had already appeared to me. H_ppeared thus again with I won't say greater distinctness, for that wa_mpossible, but with a nearness that represented a forward stride in ou_ntercourse and made me, as I met him, catch my breath and turn cold. He wa_he same—he was the same, and seen, this time, as he had been seen before,
  • from the waist up, the window, though the dining room was on the ground floor,
  • not going down to the terrace on which he stood. His face was close to th_lass, yet the effect of this better view was, strangely, only to show me ho_ntense the former had been. He remained but a few seconds—long enough t_onvince me he also saw and recognized; but it was as if I had been looking a_im for years and had known him always. Something, however, happened this tim_hat had not happened before; his stare into my face, through the glass an_cross the room, was as deep and hard as then, but it quitted me for a momen_uring which I could still watch it, see it fix successively several othe_hings. On the spot there came to me the added shock of a certitude that i_as not for me he had come there. He had come for someone else.
  • The flash of this knowledge—for it was knowledge in the midst o_read—produced in me the most extraordinary effect, started as I stood there,
  • a sudden vibration of duty and courage. I say courage because I was beyond al_oubt already far gone. I bounded straight out of the door again, reached tha_f the house, got, in an instant, upon the drive, and, passing along th_errace as fast as I could rush, turned a corner and came full in sight. Bu_t was in sight of nothing now—my visitor had vanished. I stopped, I almos_ropped, with the real relief of this; but I took in the whole scene—I gav_im time to reappear. I call it time, but how long was it? I can't speak t_he purpose today of the duration of these things. That kind of measure mus_ave left me: they couldn't have lasted as they actually appeared to me t_ast. The terrace and the whole place, the lawn and the garden beyond it, al_ could see of the park, were empty with a great emptiness. There wer_hrubberies and big trees, but I remember the clear assurance I felt that non_f them concealed him. He was there or was not there: not there if I didn'_ee him. I got hold of this; then, instinctively, instead of returning as _ad come, went to the window. It was confusedly present to me that I ought t_lace myself where he had stood. I did so; I applied my face to the pane an_ooked, as he had looked, into the room. As if, at this moment, to show m_xactly what his range had been, Mrs. Grose, as I had done for himself jus_efore, came in from the hall. With this I had the full image of a repetitio_f what had already occurred. She saw me as I had seen my own visitant; sh_ulled up short as I had done; I gave her something of the shock that I ha_eceived. She turned white, and this made me ask myself if I had blanched a_uch. She stared, in short, and retreated on just my lines, and I knew she ha_hen passed out and come round to me and that I should presently meet her. _emained where I was, and while I waited I thought of more things than one.
  • But there's only one I take space to mention. I wondered why she should b_cared.