The next day Mrs. Grose asks the governess if she has written the letter. The governess affirms this but does not mention that the letter has not yet been sent. That morning her pupils perform brilliantly at their tasks. After dinner, Miles approaches the governess to ask if she would like him to play the piano for her. She is delighted, and he plays remarkably for some time, until the governess realizes the length of time that has passed and realizes that Flora is nowhere to be seen. She asks Miles where his sister is. He asks how he should know and laughs.
To no avail, the governess searches for Flora in her bedroom upstairs and in other rooms downstairs. She then looks for Mrs. Grose, but Flora is not with her, nor is she with the maids. The governess has a feeling that Flora is “at a distance” and insinuates the she must be with Miss Jessel. Horrified, Mrs. Grose asks where Miles is. The governess deduces he is with Quint in the schoolroom. She then declares that “the trick’s played” and informs Mrs. Grose that Miles had distracted her. Mrs. Grose asks about the letter, and the governess draws it from her pocket and leaves it on the table for a servant named Luke to take. Although Mrs. Grose is loathe to leave Miles, the governess persuades her to accompany her outside to search for Flora.
The governess and Mrs. Grose head to the lake, the governess convinced that Flora has fled to where she had seen the image of Miss Jessel. Flora is neither there nor seen on the opposite bank. The governess determines that Flora must have taken the boat, which is missing from its usual resting place. She leads Mrs. Grose to the other side of the lake. Soon they find the boat and shortly thereafter come upon Flora, who is smiling.
Flora plucks a spray of fern and waits for the governess and Mrs. Grose to approach. As Mrs. Grose embraces Flora passionately, Flora glances at the governess from over Mrs. Grose’s shoulder with a grave expression. Mrs. Grose lets the child go. Flora speaks first, asking where their “things” are, as they are all without hats. She then asks where Miles is. The governess says she will tell her if Flora will tell the governess where Miss Jessel is.
Flora glares at the governess, and Mrs. Grose cries out. The governess grasps Mrs. Grose’s arm and points out Miss Jessel on the opposite bank, delighted at having “brought on a proof.” The governess is surprised by Flora’s reaction, for she looks not in the direction of Miss Jessel but at the governess, glaring accusingly. Mrs. Grose protests, asking what the governess sees. Astonished, the governess points out Miss Jessel again, and Mrs. Grose, seeing nothing, pleads with the governess to return to the house.
Flora, who has turned “almost ugly,” exclaims she has never seen anything and demands that Mrs. Grose take her away from the governess. Convinced that Miss Jessel is speaking through Flora, the governess declares Flora “lost” and tells Mrs. Grose to go. The governess gives in to long moments of grief before returning home, noting that the boat is in its usual position. At the house, she finds Flora her usual self and is joined by Miles in silence.