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Novel to Film | The engagement

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The engagement
From the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell

excerpted from Chapter 32, A Lover's Mistake:

...The front door was easily opened from the outside, and Molly was out of the clear light of the open air and in the shadow of the hall; she saw a face peep out of the dining-room before she quite recognized who it was; and then Mrs. Gibson came softly out, sufficiently at least to beckon her into the room. When Molly had entered Mrs. Gibson closed the door. Poor Molly expected a reprimand for her torn gown and untidy appearance, but was soon relieved by the expression of Mrs. Gibson's face - mysterious and radiant.

'I have been watching for you, dear. Don't go upstairs into the drawing-room, love. It might be a little interruption just now. Roger Hamley is there with Cynthia; and I've reason to think, - in fact I did open the door unawares, but I shut it again softly, and I don't think they heard me. Is not it charming? Young love, you know, ah, how sweet it is!'

'Do you mean that Roger has proposed to Cynthia?' asked Molly.

'Not exactly that. But I don't know; of course I know nothing. Only I did hear him say that he had meant to leave England without speaking of his love, but that the temptation of seeing her alone had been too great for him. It was symptomatic, was it not, my dear? And all I wanted was to let it come to a crisis without interruption. So I've been watching for you to prevent your going in and disturbing them.'

'But I may go to my room, mayn't I,' pleaded Molly.

'Of course,' said Mrs. Gibson, a little testily. 'Only I had expected sympathy from you at such an interesting moment.'

But Molly did not hear these last words. She had escaped upstairs, and had shut her door. Instinctively she had carried her leaf full of blackberries - what would blackberries be to Cynthia now? She felt as if she could not understand it all; but as for that matter, what could she understand? Nothing. For a few minutes her brain seemed in too great a whirl to comprehend anything but that she was being carried on in earth's diurnal course, with rocks, and stones, and trees, with as little volition on her part as if she were dead. Then the room grew stifling, and instinctively she went to the open casement window, and leant out, gasping for breath. Gradually the consciousness of the soft peaceful landscape stole into her mind, and stilled the buzzing confusion. There, bathed in the almost level rays of the autumn sunlight, lay the landscape she had known and loved from childhood; as quiet, as full of low humming life as it had been at this hour for many generations. The autumn flowers blazed out in the garden below, the lazy cows were in the meadow beyond, chewing their cud in the green aftermath; the evening fires had just been made up in the cottages beyond, in preparation for the husband's homecoming, and were sending up soft curls of blue smoke into the still air; the children, let loose from school, were shouting merrily in the distance, and she -- Just then she heard nearer sounds; an opened door, steps on the lower flight of stairs, He could not have gone without even seeing her. He never, never would have done so cruel a thing - never would have forgotten poor little Molly, however happy he might be. No! there were steps and voices, and the drawing-room door was opened and shut once more. She laid down her head on her arms that rested on the window-sill, and cried, - she had been so distrustful as to have let the idea enter her mind that he could go without wishing her good-by; her, whom his mother had so loved, and called by the name of his little dead sister. And as she thought of the tender love Mrs. Hamley had borne her she cried the more, for the vanishing of such love for her off the face of the earth. Suddenly the drawing-room door opened, and some one was heard coming upstairs; it was Cynthia's step. Molly hastily wiped her eyes, and stood up and tried to look unconcerned; it was all she had time to do before Cynthia, after a little pause at the closed door, had knocked; and on an answer being given, had said, without opening the door, - 'Molly! Mr. Roger Hamley is here, and wants to wish you good-by before he goes.' Then she went downstairs again, as if anxious just at that moment to avoid even so short a tête-à-tête with Molly. With a gulp and a fit of resolution, as a child makes up its mind to swallow a nauseous dose of medicine, Molly went instantly downstairs.

Roger was talking earnestly to Mrs. Gibson in the bay of the window when Molly entered; Cynthia was standing near, listening, but taking no part in the conversation. Her eyes were downcast, and she did not look up as Molly drew shyly near.

Roger was saying, - 'I could never forgive myself if I had accepted a pledge from her. She shall be free until my return; but the hope, the words, her sweet goodness, have made me happy beyond description. Oh, Molly!' suddenly becoming aware of her presence, and turning to her, and taking her hand in both of his, - 'I think you have long guessed my secret, have you not? I once thought of speaking to you before I left, and confiding it all to you. But the temptation has been too great, I have told Cynthia how fondly I love her, as far as words can tell; and she says -- ' then he looked at Cynthia with passionate delight and seemed to forget in that gaze that he had left his sentence to Molly half finished.

Cynthia did not seem inclined to repeat her saying, whatever it was, but her mother spoke for her.

'My dear sweet girl values your love as it ought to be valued, I am sure. And I believe,' looking at Cynthia and Roger with intelligent archness, 'I could tell tales as to the cause of her indisposition in the spring.'

'Mother,' said Cynthia suddenly, 'you know it was no such thing. Pray don't invent stories about me. I have engaged myself to Mr. Roger Hamley, and that is enough.'

'Enough! more than enough!' said Roger. 'I will not accept your pledge. I am bound, but you are free. I like to feel bound, it makes me happy and at peace, but with all the chances involved in the next two years, you must not shackle yourself by promises.'

Cynthia did not speak at once; she was evidently revolving something in her own mind. Mrs. Gibson took up the word.

'You are very generous, I am sure. Perhaps it will be better not to mention it.'

'I would much rather have it kept a secret,' said Cynthia, interrupting.

'Certainly, my dear love. That was just what I was going to say. I once knew a young lady who heard of the death of a young man in America, whom she had known pretty well; and she immediately said she had been engaged to him, and even went so far as to put on weeds; and it was a false report, for he came back well and merry, and declared to everybody he had never so much as thought about her. So it was very awkward for her. These things had much better be kept secret until the proper time has come for divulging them.'

Even then and there Cynthia could not resist the temptation of saying, - 'Mamma, I will promise you I won't put on weeds, whatever reports come of Mr. Roger Hamley.'

'Roger, please!' she put in, in a tender whisper.

'And you will all be witnesses that he has professed to think of me, if he is tempted afterwards to deny the fact. But at the same time I wish it to be kept a secret until his return - and I am sure you will all be so kind as to attend to my wish. Please, Roger! Please, Molly! Mamma! I must especially beg it of you!'

Roger would have granted anything when she asked him by that name, and in that tone. He took her hand in silent pledge of his reply. Molly felt as if she could never bring herself to name the affair as a common piece of news. So it was only Mrs. Gibson answered aloud, -

'My dear child! why "especially" to poor me! You know I'm the most trustworthy person alive!'

The little pendule on the chimney-piece struck the half-hour.

'I must go!' said Roger, in dismay. 'I had no idea it was so late. I shall write from Paris. The coach will be at the "George" by this time, and will only stay five minutes. Dearest Cynthia -- ' he took her hand, and then, as if the temptation was irresistible, he drew her to him and kissed her. 'Only remember you are free!' said he, as he released her and passed on to Mrs. Gibson.

'If I had considered myself free,' said Cynthia, blushing a little, but ready with her repartee to the last, - 'if I had thought myself free, do you think I would have allowed that?'

Then Molly's turn came; and the old brotherly tenderness came back into his look, his voice, his bearing.

'Molly! you won't forget me, I know; I shall never forget you, nor your goodness to - her.' His voice began to quiver, and it was best to be gone. Mrs. Gibson was pouring out, unheard and unheeded, words of farewell; Cynthia was rearranging some flowers in a vase on the table, the defects in which had caught her artistic eye, without the consciousness penetrating to her mind. Molly stood, numb to the heart; neither glad nor sorry, nor anything but stunned. She felt the slackened touch of the warm grasping hand; she looked up - for till now her eyes had been downcast, as if there were heavy weights to their lids - and the place was empty where he had been ; his quick step was heard on the stair, the front door was opened and shut; and then as quick as lightning Molly ran up to the front attic - the lumber-room, whose window commanded the street down which he must pass. The window-clasp was unused and stiff, Molly tugged at it - unless it was open, and her head put out, that last chance would be gone.

'I must see him again; I must! I must!' she wailed out, as she was pulling. There he was, running hard to catch the London coach; his luggage had been left at the 'George' before he came up to wish the Gibsons good-by. In all his hurry, Molly saw him turn round and shade his eyes from the level rays of the westering sun, and rake the house with his glances - in hopes, she knew, of catching one more glimpse of Cynthia. But apparently he saw no one, not even Molly at the attic casement. for she had drawn back when he had turned, and kept herself in shadow; for she had no right to put herself forward as the one to watch and yearn for farewell signs. None came - another moment - he was out of sight for years.

She shut the window softly, and shivered all over.


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The engagement
From the screenplay by Andrew Davies


Int. Gibson house. Stairs. Day.
Mrs. Gibson turns, hurries down stairs as Molly approaches.
Music continues.


Mrs. Gibson: I've been watching for you, dear. Don't go in the drawing room, love. Roger Hamley is in there with Cynthia and I have every reason to think ... Oh, isn't it charming? Young love, so sweet.

Molly: Do you mean that Roger has proposed to Cynthia?

Mrs. Gibson: Well, no, no, not exactly that, but I did hear him say that he had meant to leave England without speaking of his love, but the temptation of being alone with her had been too great. And all I wanted was to let it come to a crisis without interruption.

Molly slowly climbs stairs.
Mrs. Gibson follows.
They stop.


So, you see, my dear, that's why I've been watching out for you, so that you wouldn't go in and disturb them.

Molly: But I may go to my own room?

Mrs. Gibson: Yes, yes, of course. But...

Molly glances at drawing room as she passes.

well, I had expected more sympathy from you at such an interesting moment.

Int. Gibson house. Molly's room - day
Molly closes door


Molly: (Sobs - puts down blackberries, hurries to window - - opens it, leans out.)

FX: Footsteps
Molly continues
FX: Birdsong
FX: Knock at door


Cynthia: (Outside) Oh, Molly. Um, Roger Hamley is here and he wants to say goodbye before he goes.

She turns - wipes her eyes, breathes deeply.

Int. Gibson house. Landing. Day.
Molly steps from bedroom -


Roger: Cynthia. You've made me happy beyond description.

- closes door, composes herself -

Mrs. Gibson: Oh, my dear boy, what a delightful outcome. It's what I've always dreamed of.

- stops in doorway to reveal Roger, Mrs. Gibson and Cynthia in drawing room - Roger steps to her, takes her hand.

Roger: Oh, Molly. I think you have long guessed my secret. Well, now it's out. I've told Cynthia how fondly I love her and she...

Mrs. Gibson: My dear, sweet girl values your love, I am sure. And I do believe that I could tell tales as to the cause of her low spirits in the spring.

Mrs. Gibson: (Chuckles)

Cynthia: Mother, you know no such thing. Pray don't invent stories about me. I have engaged myself to Roger Hamley, and that is enough.

He steps to Cynthia, takes her hand -

Roger: Enough. (Chuckles) More than enough. I am bound, you are free. Two years is a long time.

Intercut as Molly's eyes fill with tears.

Mrs. Gibson: Oh, that's so generous of you.

Cynthia: But I must insist that it be kept secret until Roger returns.

(To Molly) Molly.

(To Mrs. Gibson) Mamma, I must especially beg it of you.

Mrs. Gibson: Why so especially of poor me? You know I'm the most trustworthy person alive.

Roger looks at clock - FX: Clock chimes

Roger: I, I must go. I had no idea it was so late. The coach will be at the George, and it only waits five minutes.

Mrs. Gibson: (Chuckles)

Roger: Dearest Cynthia ...

- kisses Cynthia -

Cynthia/Roger: (Chuckle)

Roger: Only remember -- you are free.

Cynthia: (Chuckles) If I'd considered myself free, do you think I would have permitted that?

FX: laughter
- stops by Molly -


Roger: Oh, Molly, you won't forget me, I know, and I shall never forget you, nor your goodness to my mother. Goodbye.

- hurries down stairs.

Roger: (Calls) Goodbye.

Molly turns, runs along landing into Cynthia's room - looks through window, sees Roger hurry through main gateway - he waves to her -

Intercut as she turns, hurries to attic window - watches him as he waves, moves to exit.

Continue to intercut as she sits on to attic stairs, looks at her dishevelled reflection in mirror.



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The engagement
From the film


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