BASED ON THE NOVELLA BY HENRY JAMES
INT. – PARLOR. EVENING. FIRELIGHT.
A gathering of people sit in comfort around a large, ornate fireplace. Logs crackle and pop ominously, which seems out of place considering the lighthearted atmosphere. A middle aged woman (MRS. GRIFFIN), rings loudly above the general murmur of conversation.
MRS. GRIFFIN: Tell us a story, Douglas.
DOUGLAS: Mrs. Griffin, your husband’s ghost, or whatever it was, adds a particular touch to his story, having revealed itself to the little boy first. But, you know, it is not the first occurrence of that kind I have heard. If the child in his story gives the effect of the apparition another turn of the screw, I wonder what you would say to its appearing to two children.
MRS. GRIFFIN: Well, I would say, that makes it two turns of the screw, wouldn’t you?
DOUGLAS: I suppose you would want to hear the story, then, wouldn’t you.
MRS. GRIFFIN: Of course!
DOUGLAS: No one has heard the tale, but me, before now.
A murmur of interest bubbles up from the group. Another man (HENRY) shifts in his seat, his eyes never moving from Douglas’s face which stands hovering above him. A young woman (ELIZA GRIFFIN) stares at the standing form of Douglas, outlined by the firelight.
HENRY: Has it been kept secret for its sheer horridness?
ELIZA: Oh, how delicious!
DOUGLAS: (looking directly at Henry): It is truly, dreadful! And it has been kept secret for its uncanny terror and horrible pain.
Smiles of excitement follow the statement.
HENRY: Well, I guess you’d better sit down and begin it.
DOUGLAS: Not tonight.
A well-spring of disappointed looks appears on many of the faces in the group. A few voices call out to question Douglas’s reasons for deferment.
DOUGLAS: The story is one that has been written down. It’s in a drawer, locked away. I would have to get my man to send it out to us in the next available post.
HENRY: Well, by all means, then, let’s have it done.
DOUGLAS: I will then, if you all would be patient enough to wait for the most truly terror raising stories I have ever heard.
HENRY: So it is not your story?
DOUGLAS: No, thank God. It was written down by the person who experienced it and given to me by hands of the woman who wrote it.
HENRY: A woman, you say?
DOUGLAS: Yes, a most charming woman.
A few of the ladies in the room smile and chatter.
DOUGLAS: She was ten years my senior. The governess to my younger sister, I met her only twice.
YOUNG WOMAN: Twice was, evidently, enough to make quite the impression.
DOUGLAS: Yes, indeed. She was the most agreeable woman I ever met in her position, and would have been worthy of any. She has been now, these past five years.
A hush followed the clear reverence Douglas felt for the woman writer.
DOUGLAS: (staring at the flames in the fireplace) I met her on a return from my first year at Trinity College. It was summer then, and quite the most beautiful season I ever enjoyed. She was a lovely person. We had some very nice walks through my family’s gardens together. I will admit we got on well. Don’t smirk. Yes, we got on very well. And very gladly too, because she would never have confided her story if we hadn’t.
HENRY: Had she ever told anyone her gruesome tale before?
DOUGLAS: No. Never.
HENRY: Is that was she told you?
DOUGLAS: She didn’t have to. I could simply tell. She had never told a soul about it before.
HENRY: Due to the trauma of that event?
DOUGLAS: (looking directly at HENRY): You will easily judge.
HENRY: Oh, I see. She had been in love.
DOUGLAS: (looking back at the fire) Yes. Indeed, she had been.
HENRY: Well…go on.
DOUGLAS: It was a warm and sleepy day when she told me. One wouldn’t think to shiver in that heat, but oh…what a shudder she left me with that day.
HENRY: So, her manuscript should arrive within the next few days, then?
DOUGLAS: Most likely by the evening post.
The group starts to disperse, the young woman lingering near the far arm at the edge of the sofa, gazing at Douglas. He seems not to notice her as he leans in to whisper in Henry’s ear.
DOUGLAS: Will some of them be leaving, do you think?
HENRY: If they had thought to leave before, I doubt not, that they will postpone it if they can now.
DOUGLAS: More’s the pity, that.
Douglas walks abruptly away and leaves the room, looking back at the doorway where the young woman exited and leaving Henry alone in the room.
INT. – STAIRCASE. NIGHT.
Mrs. Griffin and Mr. Griffin walk in front of Eliza Griffin, each holding a candlestick.
ELIZA: Do you think we’ll find out who the woman was in love with?
MRS. GRIFFIN: Well, if we don’t find out who she is in love with, we know who he was.
ELIZA: But she was ten years his senior!
MR. GRIFFIN: Raison de plus at that age, if I recall.
Mrs. Griffin and Mr. Griffin giggle and enter their room, leaving Eliza to enter her room alone.