The Turn of the Screw by Henry James - VII
After a little she turned round. "The person was in black, you say?"
"In mourning--rather poor, almost shabby. But--yes--with extraordinary beauty." I now recognized to what I had at last, stroke by stroke, brought the victim of my confidence, for she quite visibly weighed this. "Oh, handsome--very, very," I insisted; "wonderfully handsome. But infamous."
She slowly came back to me. "Miss Jessel--WAS infamous." She once more took my hand in both her own, holding it as tight as if to fortify me against the increase of alarm I might draw from this disclosure. "They were both infamous," she finally said.
So, for a little, we faced it once more together; and I found absolutely a degree of help in seeing it now so straight. "I appreciate," I said, "the great decency of your not having hitherto spoken; but the time has certainly come to give me the whole thing." She appeared to assent to this, but still only in silence; seeing which I went on: "I must have it now. Of what did she die? Come, there was something between them."
"There was everything."
"In spite of the difference--?"
"Oh, of their rank, their condition"--she brought it woefully out. "SHE was a lady."
I turned it over; I again saw. "Yes--she was a lady."
"And he so dreadfully below," said Mrs. Grose.
I felt that I doubtless needn't press too hard, in such company, on the place of a servant in the scale; but there was nothing to prevent an acceptance of my companion's own measure of my predecessor's abasement. There was a way to deal with that, and I dealt; the more readily for my full vision--on the evidence--of our employer's late clever, good-looking "own" man; impudent, assured, spoiled, depraved. "The fellow was a hound."
Mrs. Grose considered as if it were perhaps a little a case for a sense of shades. "I've never seen one like him. He did what he wished."
"With them all."
It was as if now in my friend's own eyes Miss Jessel had again appeared. I seemed at any rate, for an instant, to see their evocation of her as distinctly as I had seen her by the pond; and I brought out with decision: "It must have been also what SHE wished!"
Mrs. Grose's face signified that it had been indeed, but she said at the same time: "Poor woman--she paid for it!"
"Then you do know what she died of?" I asked.
"No--I know nothing. I wanted not to know; I was glad enough I didn't; and I thanked heaven she was well out of this!"
"Yet you had, then, your idea--"
"Of her real reason for leaving? Oh, yes--as to that. She couldn't have stayed. Fancy it here--for a governess! And afterward I imagined--and I still imagine. And what I imagine is dreadful."
"Not so dreadful as what _I_ do," I replied; on which I must have shown her--as I was indeed but too conscious--a front of miserable defeat. It brought out again all her compassion for me, and at the renewed touch of her kindness my power to resist broke down. I burst, as I had, the other time, made her burst, into tears; she took me to her motherly breast, and my lamentation overflowed. "I don't do it!" I sobbed in despair; "I don't save or shield them! It's far worse than I dreamed--they're lost!"