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Chapters 4, 5, and 6


The shocked governess rushes back to the house and runs into Mrs. Grose. The governess at once feels very frightened and at the same time wants to spare her companion her fears-so she offers a vague pretext for her lateness and goes to bed without mentioning anything.

She feels nervous and very observant for the next few days, but can tell that none of the servants is playing a joke on her and assumes the man was some bold unscrupulous traveler. She throws herself into her work with the children, who are unremittingly charming and who teach her the freedom to be amused and to amuse. There's only one area that remains a dark mystery to her: Miles' bad conduct at school. She feels as though he himself has wordlessly made the charge absurd by his overwhelming innocence. Both children are so cherubic that they are almost impersonal. She suspects that the horrid school-world was the problem, not little Miles. In fact the children look so innocent that she feels as though they have no history and have never suffered in their lives. She finds no emotional trace of Miles ever having been punished at school. She knows she is under the children's spell, but gives herself up to it.

One evening she goes into the dining room to look for a pair of gloves. She sees them, and on the other side of a window directly behind them she sees the unknown man again. She turns cold, and both recognize each other. She understands that he has not come for her but for someone else. This gives her courage as it reminds her to protect the children. She runs outdoors to find the man, but he has vanished. She looks in the window where he looked, and gives Mrs. Grose the same shock she had received earlier. As Mrs. Grose hurries out to join her outside, the governess wonders why this has scared Mrs. Grose so much.


Mrs. Grose is worried because the governess is white as a sheet. The governess decides to finally tell her about the strange apparition of a man that she has seen. She describes him for Mrs. Grose: red-haired, pale, with queer whiskers as red as his hair. He looks like an actor, and doesn't wear a hat. He's dressed in smart clothes which don't look like his own. Mrs. Grose groans in recognition, and exclaims that it's Peter Quint, the master's former valet. Quint and the dead governess were both at Bly at the same time, but when the former governess left for the holiday he remained in charge. Quint is now dead.


She and Mrs. Grose run to the schoolroom and passionately talk about their course of action, now that they know that the governess is susceptible to seeing these ghosts and Mrs. Grose isn't. The governess thinks that Quint is looking for Miles, and finds it funny that the little boy has never mentioned this old friend to her. Mrs. Grose explains that Quint was the one who took a great fancy to Miles, and hints that Quint was "too free." When the governess exclaims: "too free with my boy?" Mrs. Grose answers: "Too free with everyone!" The implication seems to be sexual. The governess asks how Mrs. Grose could have allowed the two little children to remain in such danger, and she explains that Quint was technically in charge and the master abhorred complaints of any kind. It comes out that Quint was discovered stone-dead with a wound to the head by the side of a village road-everyone presumed that he slipped and fell in the dark, perhaps after drinking. The governess feels called on to heroically protect the children from Quint-she wishes to be a screen and stand before them. The idea of such difficult and heroic service excites her.

One afternoon soon after she has left Miles reading a book in the house and taken Flora out for a walk. They stop by a small lake where Flora begins to play in a way that includes the governess but doesn't require her to participate actively. The governess sews. Suddenly she feels she a third person is present, and screws her courage to look up. First she looks to little Flora, who is making some sticks into a boat and has her back to the lake. Then she shifts her eyes and "faced what I had to face."

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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