Summary of Section III
When little Miles arrives from school during the summer break, the governess feels it is monstrous to assume he is bad, for he has the “same positive fragrance of purity” as his little sister (p. 13). The governess declares to Mrs. Grose that she will say and do nothing about the charges against Miles to the school, the uncle, or to Miles himself. Mrs. Grose says she will stand by that. Looking back on this, the narrator declares she was under a “great wave of infatuation and pity” (p. 14). She does not know why she was so confident to undertake the education of a young boy, thinking she could be his tutor. During the summer, she learned to how not to think about tomorrow and just enjoy the freedom of playing with the children. In this way, she was off guard.
During these long summer days and evenings, she likes best her own hour after the children are in bed, when she can be alone for walks or reading. She likes to think romantically how she is serving her employer by being exemplary. She feels in control. Just then, coming home, she sees someone standing on one of the towers of the house. At first she feels it is the man she is thinking of, her employer, on whom she has a crush. Then, she sees it is not him. She has a feeling of death. The man wears no hat and is staring at her. Then he moves but never takes his eyes from her.
Commentary on Section III
There is a shift toward complacency as the governess relaxes, deciding the children are blameless and wonderful. She gives herself up to a summer of enjoyment with them, not paying attention to the future and what will become of Miles's schooling. She assumes she will tutor him.
The summer evening after the children are in bed when she is alone is the time she first sees one of the ghosts, though she thinks it is a strange man standing on the tower watching her. There is a feeling of death associated with his presence, and this is a shock since she had been thinking in terms of love and pleasant possibilities of the future. James takes his time describing this first encounter and its effect on the governess. She seems to be recording an objective scene without interpretation. She wanted it to be her employer of whom she was having fantasies, but the figure is clearly seen to be someone else.