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Novel to Film | Gwendolen meets Mrs. Glasher

Novel | Script | Film


The Novel

Gwendolen meets Mrs. Glasher
From Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
Book Two: Meeting Streams, Chapter 11

...When there was a general move to prepare for starting, it appeared that the bows had all been put under the charge of Lord Brackenshaw's valet, and Mr Lush was concerned to save ladies the trouble of fetching theirs from the carriage where they were propped. He did not intend to bring Gwendolen's, but she, fearful lest he should do so, hurried to fetch it herself. The valet seeing her approach met her with it, and in giving it into her hand gave also a letter addressed to her. She asked no question about it, perceived at a glance that the address was in a lady's handwriting (of the delicate kind which used to be esteemed feminine before the present uncial period), and moving away with her bow in her hand, saw Mr Lush coming to fetch other bows. To avoid meeting him she turned aside and walked with her back towards the stand of carriages, opening the letter. It contained these words -

"If Miss Harleth is in doubt whether she should accept Mr. Grandcourt, let her break from her party after they have passed the Whispering Stones and return to that spot. She will then hear something to decide her, but she can only hear it by keeping this letter a strict secret from every one. If she does not act according to this letter, she will repent, as the woman who writes it has repented. The secrecy Miss Harleth will feel herself bound in honour to guard."

Gwendolen felt an inward shock, but her immediate thought was, "It is come in time." It lay in her youthfulness that she was absorbed by the idea of the revelation to be made, and had not even a momentary suspicion of contrivance that could justify her in showing the letter. Her mind gathered itself up at once into the resolution that she would manage to go unobserved to the Whispering Stones; and thrusting the letter into her pocket she turned back to rejoin the company, with that sense of having something to conceal which to her nature had a bracing quality and helped her to be mistress of herself.

It was a surprise to every one that Grandcourt was not, like the other smokers, on the spot in time to set out roving with the rest. "We shall alight on him by-and-by," said Lord Brackenshaw; "he can't be gone far." At any rate, no man could be waited for. This apparent forgetfulness might be taken for the distraction of a lover so absorbed in thinking of the beloved object as to forget an appointment, which would bring him into her actual presence. And the good-natured Earl gave Gwendolen a distant jocose hint to that effect, which she took with suitable quietude. But the thought in her own mind was, 'Can he too be starting away from a decision?' It was not exactly a pleasant thought to her; but it was near the truth. 'Starting away,' however, was not the right expression for the languor of intention that came over Grandcourt, like a fit of diseased numbness, when an end seemed within easy reach: to desist then, when all expectation was to the contrary, became another gratification of mere will, sublimely independent of definite motive. At that moment he had begun a second large cigar in a vague, hazy obstinacy which, if Lush or any other mortal who might be insulted with impunity had interrupted by overtaking him with a request for his return, would have expressed itself by a slow removal of his cigar to say, in an under-tone, "You'll be kind enough to go to the devil, will you?"

But he was not interrupted, and the rovers set off without any visible depression of spirits, leaving behind only a few of the less vigorous ladies, including Mrs. Davilow, who preferred a quiet stroll free from obligation to keep up with others. The enjoyment of the day was soon at its highest pitch, the archery getting more spirited and the changing scenes of the forest from roofed grove to open glade growing lovelier with the lengthening shadows, and the deeply felt but undefinable gradations of the mellowing afternoon. It was agreed that they were playing an extemporised "As you like it;" and when a pretty compliment had been turned to Gwendolen about her having the part of Rosalind, she felt the more compelled to be surpassing in liveliness. This was not very difficult to her, for the effect of what had happened to-day was an excitement which needed a vent, a sense of adventure rather than alarm, and a straining towards the management of her retreat so as not to be impeded.

The roving had been lasting nearly an hour before the arrival at the Whispering Stones, two tall conical blocks that leaned towards each other like gigantic grey-mantled figures. They were soon surveyed and passed by with the remark that they would be good ghosts on a starlit night. But a soft sunlight was on them now, and Gwendolen felt daring. The stones were near a fine grove of beeches where the archers found plenty of marks.

"How far are we from Green Arbour now?" said Gwendolen, having got in front by the side of the warden.

"Oh, not more than half a mile, taking along the avenue we're going to cross up there: but I shall take round a couple of miles, by the High Cross."

She was falling back among the rest, when suddenly they seemed all to be hurrying obliquely forward under the guidance of Mr. Lush, and lingering a little where she was, she perceived her opportunity of slipping away. Soon she was out of sight, and without running she seemed to herself to fly along the ground and count the moments nothing till she found herself back again at the Whispering Stones. They turned their blank grey sides to her: what was there on the other side? If there were nothing after all? That was her only dread now - to have to turn back again in mystification; and walking round the right-hand stone without pause, she found herself in front of some one whose large dark eyes met hers at a foot's distance. In spite of expectation she was startled and shrank back, but in doing so she could take in the whole figure of this stranger and perceive that she was unmistakably a lady, and one who must once have been exceedingly handsome. She perceived, also, that a few yards from her were two children seated on the grass.

"Miss Harleth?" said the lady.

"Yes. " All Gwendolen's consciousness was wonder.

"Have you accepted Mr Grandcourt?"

"No."

"I have promised to tell you something. And you will promise to keep my secret. However you may decide, you will not tell Mr Grandcourt, or any one else, that you have seen me?"

"I promise."

"My name is Lydia Glasher. Mr Grandcourt ought not to marry any one but me. I left my husband and child for him nine years ago. Those two children are his, and we have two others girls - who are older. My husband is dead now, and Mr Grandcourt ought to marry me. He ought to make that boy his heir. "

She looked towards the boy as she spoke, and Gwendolen's eyes followed hers. The handsome little fellow was puffing out his cheeks in trying to blow a tiny trumpet, which remained dumb. His hat hung backward by a string, and his brown curls caught the sunrays. He was a cherub.

The two women's eyes met again, and Gwendolen said proudly, "I will not interfere with your wishes." She looked as if she were shivering, and her lips were pale.

"You are very attractive, Miss Harleth. But when he first knew me, I too was young. Since then my life has been broken up and embittered. It is not fair that he should be happy and I miserable, and my boy thrust out of sight for another."

These words were uttered with a biting accent, but with a determined abstinence from anything violent in tone or manner. Gwendolen, watching Mrs Glasher's face while she spoke, felt a sort of terror: it was as if some ghastly vision had come to her in a dream and said, "I am a woman's life."

"Have you anything more to say to me?" she asked in a low tone, but still proudly and coldly. The revulsion within her was not tending to soften her. Every one seemed hateful.

"Nothing. You know what I wished you to know. You can inquire about me if you like. My husband was Colonel Glasher."

'Then I will go," said Gwendolen, moving away with a ceremonious inclination, which was returned with equal grace.

In a few minutes Gwendolen was in the beech grove again, but her party had gone out of sight and apparently had not sent in search of her, for all was solitude till she had reached the avenue pointed out by the warden. She determined to take this way back to Green Arbour, which she reached quickly; rapid movements seeming to her just now a means of suspending the thoughts which might prevent her from behaving with due calm. She had already made up her mind what step she would take.

Mrs. Davilow was of course astonished to see Gwendolen returning alone, and was not without some uneasiness, which the presence of other ladies hindered her from showing. In answer to her words of surprise Gwendolen said, "Oh, I have been rather silly. I lingered behind to look at the Whispering Stones, and the rest hurried on after something, so I lost sight of them. I thought it best to come home by the short way - the avenue that the warden had told me of. I'm not sorry after all. I had had enough walking."

"Your party did not meet Mr. Grandcourt, I presume," said Mrs Arrowpoint, not without intention.

"No," said Gwendolen, with a little flash of defiance and a light laugh. "And we didn't see any carvings on the trees either. Where can he be? I should think he has fallen into the pool or had an apoplectic fit."

With all Gwendolen's resolve not to betray any agitation, she could not help it that her tone was unusually high and hard, and her mother felt sure that something unpropitious had happened.

Mrs. Arrowpoint thought that the self-confident young lady was much piqued, and that Mr. Grandcourt was probably seeing reason to change his mind.

'If you have no objection, mamma, I will order the carriage,' said Gwendolen. 'I am tired. And every one will be going soon.'


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The Script

Gwendolen meets Mrs. Glasher
From the screenplay by Andrew Davies

Gwendolen is sitting in the bustle of lunch -- we keep sight of her, talking. Grandcourt apparently blandly oblivious of anything... it's a very sumptuous picnic, cloths spread out under the trees, and tables for the older and distinguished guests.

The elegant picnickers, the servants working their socks off, glasses lifted to lips, peals of girlish laughter, the watchful eyes of the dowagers, the men lighting cigars... at a discreet distance, a group of men pissing against a tree... in a different secluded dell, women settling like nesting birds to water the bracken... and then a huntsman raises his horn to his lips... it's a sign to move off.


Lush: Miss Harleth.

Lush moves to Gwendolen, and hands her a folded note.

Gwendolen: Thank you.

She moves off and opens the note, reads it.

Gwendolen: (V/O) Please break from your party at the Whispering Stones...

She looks over to Grandcourt, but he's not looking. She is assuming that he has arranged a tryst in a suitable spot so that he can propose. All right, she thinks, let him propose, and I'll accept him, and let him take care of me in wealth and luxury for the rest of my life.

Gwendolen: (V/O Cont'd) You will hear something of great interest.

Ext. woods, valleys, dells. Flashback
The ladies including Gwendolen and Catherine flitter through the trees. There are a group of stones, man-sized, a bit like dolmens, standing on a flat bit of ground.


Catherine: They look dreadfully ominous, don't they? One imagines all sorts of... pagan rites.

Gwendolen: Human sacrifice?

Catherine: Oh, don't, Gwendolen.

Gwendolen: (merrily) I'm sorry! I haven't your delicate sensibility Catherine.

Young Clintock, already making his way up the slope, walks in between Catherine and Gwendolen and calls:

Clintock: High Cross! This way, ladies! And then to Fortress Oaks.

As Catherine moves to follow the rest of the party, Gwendolen moves to the side and lets everyone pass.

Gwendolen: Don't wait. I'll catch you up.

Her finger to her lips, she implies it's a call of nature. Gwendolen stands and waits till the party are out of sight -- we can still hear the shouts and laughter, and then follows the path round a few yards till it emerges by the Whispering Stones again. No one there. She stands still for a few moments. Now all we hear is the rustling of the trees.

Gwendolen (Cont'd): Are you there?

Lydia Glasher steps out into the clearing from behined one of the stones. She has her three children -- Henleigh, behind her, and two girls who come out from another stone.

Lydia: Miss Harleth?

Gwendolen: Yes?

She's completely baffled.

Lydia: I have something to tell you about Mallinger Grandcourt.

Gwendolen: What? What do you know of him? How do you know my name?

Lydia: Before I tell you, I want your word that you won't tell him or anyone else that you've seen me today. He doesn't know I'm here.

Gwendolen: Yes -- go on, please.

Lydia: My name is Lydia Glasher. I left my husband for Grandcourt nine years ago. These children are his. Now my husband is dead Grandcourt should marry me --

She pulls Henleigh in front of her.

Lydia: (Cont'd): and make my son his heir.

Gwendolen is staring at her, shocked. Completely lost for words.

Lydia: (Cont'd): You are very beautiful, Miss Harleth, and very young. When he first knew me, I was beautiful and young.

Gwendolen: I am -- very sorry for you. But what can I do? I can't make him marry you.

Lydia: You could promise me you won't stand between him and me -- you won't ruin me and my children.

Gwendolen: How could I ruin you?

Lydia: By marrying him yourself.

Gwendolen: Then I shan't.

Lydia: You promise.

Gwendolen: Yes -- I promise!

Lydia: Thank you.

Gwendolen turns away from her, and then finds herself breaking into a run, down slopes, through the wooded paths...finally bursting out into the picnic area, where her mother sees her distress and goes to her. Lush also notices as we are aware of his watchful gaze.

Mrs. Davilow: Gwendolen! What's the matter? Mr Grandcourt was looking for you.

Gwendolen is already on her way but finally stops by a tree.

Gwendolen: He may look if he likes, I don't wish to be found. Not by him, at all events!

She's carrying it off very well in her usual brittle style. Lush is in earshot, though, and he allows himself a little smile as he notes her distress with satisfaction. His plan has worked.


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The Film

Gwendolen meets Mrs. Glasher
From episode 1 as directed by Tom Hooper

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