Summary and Analysis
As soon as the governess sees young Miles, she thinks him to possess the same exceptional qualities, with the "same positive fragrance of purity" that characterizes young Flora. She soon lets Mrs. Grose know that Miles' dismissal must have been a cruel charge. Furthermore, she has decided to ignore the letter and will not even write to the boy's uncle about the incident.
In the first weeks of her duties, the children are wonderful; "they were of a gentleness so extraordinary." But in spite of the pleasure the governess has in the presence of the two children, she still treasures her free time, which falls late in the afternoon, between daylight and darkness. She often strolls through the grounds and meditates on the beauty of her surroundings. Sometimes, she thinks that it would be charming to suddenly meet someone on the path who would stand before her "and smile and approve." In fact, she wishes her employer could know how much she enjoys the place and how well she is executing her duties.
One evening during her stroll, she does perceive the figure of a strange man on top of one of the old towers of the house. He appears rather indistinct, but she is aware that he keeps his eyes on her. She feels rather disturbed without knowing why.
The innocence of both children is further emphasized in this section. The governess perhaps makes her first mistake in refusing to investigate the causes of Miles' dismissal. The mystery connected with this suspension will later allow the governess to attribute a duplicity to Miles' actions. The governess' refusal to investigate stems from her overzealous desire to exercise complete control over her wards and to view them in her own way.
Note how carefully James sets up the machinery for the governess' first sight of the "ghosts." Her free time falls at dusk, and at this time she usually likes to wander around alone. Furthermore, on her walks, she wishes that her employer could see her in this environment and would commend her upon her excellent performance with the children. In other words, it seems obvious that the governess is attracted or infatuated by her employer. Whether or not this infatuation is strong enough or psychotic enough to allow the governess to "create" the ghosts must be determined by each individual reader. Many critics have suggested that the ghosts are only creations of the governess' imagination, evoked to compel her employer to come to the country house. Whatever the circumstances, the governess' wish to meet someone on her walks is soon fulfilled, since she sees in the distance some strange figure standing and observing her.