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Chapters 16, 17, and 18


The governess is taken aback that no-one mentions her absence. On talking to Mrs. Grose later, she discovers that Miles had asked Mrs. Grose and Flora to say nothing, in order to please her. The governess explains to Mrs. Grose that she had returned to meet "a friend," and says that everything between her and Miles is out. She now says that she had come home for a talk with Miss Jessel, and that Miss Jessel had told her that she suffers the torments of the damned, and she wants Flora with her to share them. The governess then says that she's decided to write to their uncle. Mrs. Grose is extremely relieved. The governess says that she can't be expected to deal with a child who has been expelled from school. Mrs. Grose points out that they don't know why Miles was expelled, but the governess counters that he's not stupid, or untidy, or ill-natured, but in fact exquisite, so the reason must have been that Miles was wicked. She also says that it's really the uncle's fault, for leaving the children alone with such unfit caretakers previously. Mrs. Grose offers to write so that the governess doesn't have to. (Since she's illiterate, Mrs. Grose dictates her letters to the bailiff.) The governess asks with sarcasm if she would like the bailiff to write down their full story. Mrs. Grose is upset and tells the governess to write.


The governess begins her letter to the uncle, but instead of finishing it she goes and stands outside Miles' door. H hears her even though she thinks she is silent, and calls to her to come in. She asks what he is lying awake thinking about. He says he is thinking about the governess and "this queer business of ours," but won't explain what he means by that. She tells him that he can certainly go back to school, but points out how odd it is that he's never once mentioned anything about the school to her, and says she thought he wanted to stay on at Bly. He says he wants her to make his uncle come down so that she can completely settle things, and so that she'll have to tell him how she's "let it all drop," as he says with a note of triumph. She answers that Miles will also have to tell things, and asks him if he is sure he has nothing to tell her. He says no, he just wants to be let alone. Finally, she tells him that she has begun a letter and she asks him what happened before he left school. He meets her eyes but is silent. She drops on her knees and tells him how much she wants to help him, if he will only let her-how much she wants him to help her save him. As she says it she knows she's gone too far; the room shakes, a huge blast of chill air sweeps through and blows out the candle, and Miles utters a loud high shriek of jubilation or terror. She looks over and sees that the window is shut and the curtains unruffled. Miles claims it was he who blew the candle out.


The next day the governess tells Mrs. Grose that she has written the letter, but doesn't mention that she hasn't mailed it yet. Her pupils are unusually brilliant in the schoolroom that morning. After lunch, as if to reconcile with the governess and show that he was only vying for his independence to make a point, Miles offers to play for her on the piano. He plays beautifully, until the governess realizes she has forgotten about Flora. She asks him where Flora is, but he says he has no idea and breaks into a happy laugh. Flora is not with Mrs. Grose (who thought the governess had her) and cannot be found anywhere. The governess realizes that she is outdoors with Miss Jessel, and Miles is in the schoolroom with Quint. She and Mrs. Grose rush out without hats to look for Flora. On the way, the governess is reminded to take the letter for the uncle out of her pocket and leave it on the hallway table for a servant to mail.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Framing Scene
Chapters 1, 2, and 3
Chapters 4, 5, and 6
Chapters 7, 8, and 9
Chapters 10, 11, and 12
Chapters 13, 14, and 15
Chapters 16, 17, and 18
Chapters 19, 20, and 21
Chapters 22, 23, and 24


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