The story is about a young girl who is employed as a governess to two orphan children by their rich uncle. The man is described as “a gentleman, a bachelor in the prime of life”, and the “young, untried, nervous girl” is immediately attracted to him. The two children, Flora and Miles, are absolutely charming, and the young governess is delighted wih them, but soon she learns that little Miles has been expelled from school from mysterious reasons, which are not mentioned.
She likes walking in the grounds, and during her solitary walks she indulges in romantic fantasies about the man who has impressed her so much and is always in her thoughts. One day, while she is fancying how charming it would be if he appeared at the turn of a path and smiled at her, she sees a man at the very top of one of the two towers of the house. She is shocked, and for a moment she thinks that her imaginings have become reality. Then she realizes that the man is not the children’s fascinating uncle; at that very moment there is a strange in nature; the sounds are hushed, as if everything was “stricken with death”.
More apparitions and strange events follow – not noticed by the others – and the governess becomes convinced that the ghosts want to claim the children’s souls. She feels sure that, if she gets Flora and Miles confess that they are in contact with the ghosts, they will be saved. But the children continue to deny this, and little Flora has nervous breakdown.
The governess does not give up. If she cannot obtain an admission from Flora, she will try to get Miles to confess to why he was expelled from school, and the little boy admits that he “said things”. The woman presses him more firmly; and the cross-examination becomes a form of psychological torte for the boy. It is at this dramatic moment that she again sees the apparition of the mysterious man at the window. The governess clutches Miles in a desperate attempt to defend him, but discovers that the child’s heart has stopped.