The first part of this screenplay can be read here…
INT. – DINING ROOM. EVENING.
The same gathering of people sits around the table, setting down forks and napkins. A gas-lit chandelier glows softly overhead, assuring continued light, despite the dwindling candles. Wait staff glide in and out from between the dinners, gathering plates. Eliza nods politely at a waiter, before looking at Douglas across the table. He returns her gaze and smiles politely.
DOUGLAS: So, Mr. Griffin informs me he has pressing business to attend to back in the city, Mrs. Griffin. Such a shame you will be missing the rest of the season.
MRS. GRIFFIN: Well, Eliza and I were planning on returning with Mr. Griffin, but now that our curiosity has been so piqued by the submission of your enticingly postponed ghost story, we simply had to stay. So Mr. Griffin agreed to go on without us, poor thing. We did promise to relate the whole ghastly story in perfect detail upon our return however. It was the only way he was willing to depart!
DOUGLAS: Yes…quite a shame.
He looks again at young Eliza.
INT. – PARLOR. EVENING. FIRELIGHT
Douglas stands, as he did the night before, in front of the fireplace. Henry stands beside him. Eliza sits beside another young woman, by the light of a small gas lamp, needlework in their laps.
HENRY: So, you sent your man with the key to unlock the manuscript?
DOUGLAS: Yes. I did. He should reach my home by tomorrow morning and be returning here around this time tomorrow evening.
MRS. GRIFFIN: Do tell us some of the particulars before then! Tell us a little of the lady who entrusted it to you.
HENRY: Yes. Give us a prologue of sorts.
DOUGLAS: Yes. I do suppose it would be right to give you a little information about the lady and the particulars of the case. The story itself begins at a point after it had already started, when the woman was hired by a gentleman to care for his niece and nephew at his country estate. You see, they were orphans, left to him by his dear sister and her military husband at their death in India two years before. His being a bachelor in the prime of life, he was naturally disinclined to care personally for the upbringing of two small and formerly unknown children and, so, wished to entrust them to the care of one who could more easily submit to raising the children. The lady in question, who wrote the manuscript I have agreed to relate to you, wrote in answer to his advertisement for a governess and agreed after a brief correspondence with the gentlemen.
FLASHBACK- EXT. DAY. BUSY STREET OUTSIDE LONDON HOUSES
A young woman in homespun white dress wanders slowly down the sidewalk, glancing at the numbers outside the row of houses. Seeing the one she wants, she ascends the stairs to ring at the door and is immediately admitted within by a tidy housekeeper.
HOUSEKEEPER: Come in, miss. The master has been expecting you, if you will just wait in the parlor, please.
The housekeeper indicates a room off to the side, brightly lit by the sun shining in from the front window. The girl walks in and looking around at all the refined furnishings. She doesn’t touch anything. Rather, she looks out the window at the street. A man (TOM HARLEY) the master of the house knocks softly on the door.
HARLEY(O. C.): Hello.
HARLEY (cont’d.): You must be the young lady I’ve been waiting for.
LADY (startled, she turns): Sir! Yes! It’s a pleasure to meet you.
Harley walks towards her with a graceful nonchalance. They smile in silence as they shake hands.
HARLEY: Well. Then, I suppose we should be getting on with business.
LADY: Oh. Yes. I suppose so.
HARLEY: What drew you to answer my advertisement? Surely an accomplished woman such as you would have plenty of opportunities waiting for her. Why a governess, for my wards?
LADY: Well, I have yet to be tried, as a governess, I mean. I am just staring out, but I’m very eager to gain some experience, and I would work tirelessly to help raise your niece and nephew, sir. I promise you.
HARLEY: Oh, not at all. I am completely convinced of your being a qualified and competent young woman. Our short correspondence has informed me well enough. I would be honored to have you and entirely grateful.
LADY: Oh, sir, I believe I would enjoy it very much. I am sure they must be wonderful children if your care of their well being is any indication.
HARLEY: Yes…Indeed. There is however, something I would ask you that may appear…not only a little peculiar. You see I wish to remain undisturbed. I, in fact, mean to have you care for me.
HARLEY: It is my express wish that you never trouble me about anything. You see, my affairs, here in town take up a considerable measure of my time, and I have neither the patience nor experience to deal with the trifles that seem always to arise around small children. I simply wish for you to use your considerable intelligence and niceness to manage everything at Bly in my stead.
LADY: Oh! I see, sir.
HARLEY: Do you? Because I do not wish to receive any letters from you of complaint, nor questions or concerns directed to me, no hesitant appeals for my opinion. I don’t want for you to write to me at all, in fact. Do you understand? I want not to be troubled.
LADY: Yes, sir.
HARLEY (cont’d): I very much feel the weight of my lack of understanding when it comes to children. I want simply to find someone who can best do for them. They are not alone there, of course. I have the greater half of my servants to Bly with them. There was a young woman who did care for them, some time ago, but I had the misfortune to lose her.
LADY: Oh! And what was the reason for her dismissal.
HARLEY: Oh, she was not dismissed. She died. Not to worry, she did not perish in the course of her duties. No. She was a most respectable and lovely young woman and she did beautifully for us up until her death. Since then, I have been forced to send little Miles off to school while my housekeeper, dear Mrs. Grose watches over Flora in the meantime. But it will soon be summer holiday, and young Miles will be returning to Bly, so I find myself in desperate need of a new governess for them.
LADY: I’m relieved to hear her…having left…would have had little effect on the children.
HARLEY: Yes…Well, I understand that the seriousness of this particular position might be considered slightly more constrictive than many, so I understand if you need time to think it over. I would be counting on you, to be in supreme authority for me.
LADY: I believe I would…
HARLEY: I would like to remind you, also, that besides my utmost dependence upon your judgement, the position does offer a salary that much exceeds more modest situations.
LADY: Of course, Mr. Harley. I think I should be very glad to accept.
The man gathers up her hands in his own.
HARLEY: Tom, please. I hope you don’t take that as uncivil, since we seem to understand each other so well. You have no idea the kindness and warmth of feeling you have bestowed on me. I feel most delighted to have found you, dear lady.
LADY: It is my pleasure, really, sir.
LADY: Tom. I feel I have already been rewarded by your trust in me.
EXT. – DAY. OUTSIDE FRONT DOOR.
The girl exits the house, looking back behind her once or twice.
ELIZA (V.O.): Did she not wonder how the other young woman died?
As a group of lively young gentlemen walk up to the door behind her and gain entrance shortly after ringing the bell.
FADE IN TO PARLOR FIRESIDE – NIGHT
DOUGLAS: Yes. She told me, later, she did. But his smooth flattery of her capabilities and, moreover, the generous salary, quite overwhelmed her misgivings. And besides, the late governess had died not in the care of her duties, as would be gruesome, indeed, but outside.
ELIZA: Did she ever learn the history of the young woman that came before her?
DOUGLAS: Doubtless, the story will tell. But, I’m afraid that is all I can relate to you this evening. I suggest we all turn in for the night.
HENRY: Hear. Hear. We will be in for a long night, full of suspense, by this time tomorrow night, I suspect.
The party of listeners gathers quietly, heading for their separate rooms.