The narrative continues to the afternoon following this lakeside encounter with the new visitor. The governess tells Mrs. Grose that she believes the children see the visitors but are not telling her about their encounters with them. She is convinced that Flora saw the ghost by the lake, but that for some reason she stayed quiet about what she’d seen.
The governess’s suspicion that Flora and Miles could see the visitors shows that her impression of these children as innocent of any flaws is shifting. Earlier she saw their seeming innocence as making any bad behavior on their part impossible to conceive. Now, with Flora, she sees her seeming "innocence" as a mask to hide non-innocent behavior.But it is unclear whether the governess has misread the situation: nobody’s corroborated her visions of these ghosts.
The governess describes the visitor she’d seen to Mrs. Grose. She says she was an “infamous” looking woman dressed in black, and Mrs. Grose concludes that she was Miss Jessel, the children’s former governess. Mrs. Grose calls Miss Jessel a dubious character, and she says that Quint “did what he wished” with her, which the governess interprets to mean that the two had had a sexual relationship. To the governess’s horror and dismay, Mrs. Grose says that in fact Quint “did what he wished” with everyone at Bly, not only with Miss Jessel. This causes the governess to break down, considering herself as she does the children’s protector.
The governess’s strong reaction to Mrs. Grose’s description of the relationship between Quint, Miss Jessel, and Bly, seems excessive. Mrs. Grose never explicitly says that anything sexual or threatening had taken place between Quint, Miss Jessel, and the children, but the governess reads this into Mrs. Grose’s account. This suggests that the governess’s zealous approach to protecting the children may be distorting her perception of reality. It is also worth noting how common perception is that sexuality corrupts innocence.