by Kim Morrissey
to be produced by
Artistic Directors: Amy Oliver, Michael Yale
directed by Jacqui Somerville
In order that people may be happy in their work, these
three things are needed: They must be fit for it: They must not do too much
of it: And they must have a sense of success in it.
actors involved in the
Other Drafts of Kim Morrissey's Mrs. Ruskin
première : Warehouse Theatre, Croydon UK September 12th - October 2 2003
CAST in March 1853 :
Euphemia Chalmers Ruskin (Effie) 24
John Ruskin 34
John Everett Millais (Johnny) 23
Margaret Ruskin (John's mother) 71
Sophie Gray (Effie's sister) 9
DRAFT FIVE 17.06.2003
ACT ONE SCENE ONE. 1853. THE RUSKIN'S BEDROOM.
John Ruskin stands before a mirror, shaving.
JOHN: [LECTURING TO HIMSELF, MID-LECTURE]
.... She said 'people would think me extraordinary to make such a proposal.' I said ' I am extraordinary .... I am extraordinary and if you did not know it before you were well to know it now! I don't care what people say. I need to work at Mama and Papa's every day. I need to work there for the light, and if I am there, I can not be here. And then she said it was merely my notion ... [OUTRAGED] "merely my notion" ... and that I could sketch stones anywhere. Extraordinary!
[EFFIE KNOCKS AT HER OWN BEDROOM DOOR AND ENTERS]
EFFIE: Forgive me. Did you call?
JOHN: [COLDLY] No.
EFFIE: I thought I heard my name.
JOHN: I have been making notes towards a Model Marriage.
EFFIE: [WITH PLEASURE] Using me as a model?
JOHN: Of a sort. [PAUSE] My parents are an ideal couple, perfectly suited. From the start, no one could imagine otherwise.
EFFIE: Your grandfather cut his throat.
JOHN: It might well have been an accident. He was alone at the time.
EFFIE: With your mother.
JOHN: What are you insinuating?
EFFIE: Nothing. He was alone with your mother. Everyone knows that.
JOHN: Why would everyone know? Why would anyone care?
EFFIE: No one cares. It's just fact.
JOHN: Hasn't my poor mother suffered enough?
[EFFIE DOESN'T ANSWER. IT'S OBVIOUS THAT HER ANSWER WOULD NOT NECESSARILY BE 'YES.']
JOHN: This really must stop, Effie. You are sick. You're insane. It's unseemly. No proper wife would be jealous of a man's mother.
EFFIE: No proper husband would give his wife grounds.
JOHN: Your insolence is intolerable!
EFFIE: How dare you speak to me so. I am your wife.
JOHN: Exactly. And she is my mother.
EFFIE: But I am your wife. Your first duty is to me.
JOHN: No. Your first duty is to me.
EFFIE: Why must you have the last word every time?
JOHN: I am your husband.
EFFIE: I have such a head-ache.
[EFFIE LIES DOWN ON THE BED]
EFFIE: Please forgive me. Please, let's not quarrel.
[JOHN WATCHES WITH GROWING OUTRAGE]
JOHN: Surely you are not going to lie down. Not now.
EFFIE: Just a little.
JOHN: But it is breakfast. Mother will be expecting us.
EFFIE: I don't feel very special, this morning.
JOHN: And what about Sophie?
EFFIE: Sophie can take care of herself.
JOHN: A nice sentiment! Sophie is only ten. What will her mother say, when she hears of it?
EFFIE: Mother will say 'I'm so sorry you're feeling poorly, Effie. Please don't worry. Your sister can take care of herself.'
JOHN: No she won't. She will say, 'Effie promised to take care of her as if she were her own child and she didn't. What sort of mother could she possibly be, were she to have a child of her own? And why should I allow Sophie to come again.'
EFFIE: She will say 'Lie down, Effie, until you feel better. Don't eat, if you feel unwell. Trust your own judgement. You know what is best.' that is what my mother will say.
JOHN: And what about my mother? She has come all this way to join in Sophie's breakfast-farewell. It is my wish that you join them.
EFFIE: Your wish!
JOHN: Yes, my wish.
EFFIE: And what about my wishes?
JOHN: Your wish should be to please me. A wife should obey her husband in everything but what is against God's commands.
EFFIE: I think you will find the sentence reads: A wife should obey her husband in everything reasonable.
JOHN: It does not.
EFFIE: Then it should.
JOHN: Effie! I command you!
[EFFIE CONTINUES TO LIE ON THE BED]
JOHN: You are insane.
ACT ONE SCENE TWO. Later that morning.
[EFFIE IS TAKING THE CURLING RAGS OUT OF HER SISTER SOPHIE'S HAIR. SOPHIE IS READING ALOUD FROM TENNYSON'S In Memorium. EFFIE STILL HAS HER HEADACHE]
EFFIE: From where we left off. Top of the page, please. Page 145.
SOPHIE: XCVII ... X .C.V.I..I.
EFFIE: No. In English....
SOPHIE: But I go home today!
EFFIE: XC is .... [IMPATIENTLY] XC is 90.
SOPHIE: 90 ...V 1...2.... 97!
EFFIE: Go on.
SOPHIE: [BEGINS AGAIN] Number Ninety-Seven.
My love has talk'd with rocks and trees;
He finds on misty mountain-ground
His own vast shadow glory-crow ... N... d ....
EFFIE: [Looking at the text] "Crowned"
His own vast shadow glory-crown'd;....
He sees himself in all he sees.
It's like Mr Ruskin!
Two partners of a married life --
EFFIE: Skip to the next page, please.
SOPHIE [TURNS PAGE]:
Her life is lone, he sits apart,
He loves her, yet she will not weep,
EFFIE: He loves her yet, she will not weep,
SOPHIE: [A PERFECT MIMICK]
He loves her yet, she will not weep,
Tho' rapt in matters dark and deep
He seems to slight her simple heart!.
He thrids the labyrinth of the mind ... !
He reads the secret of the star ...!
EFFIE: Not so much feeling, please. You're not on the stage.
SOPHIE: What's 'thrids?'
EFFIE: [DOESN'T KNOW] It doesn't matter. Go on.
SOPHIE: What's 'thrids?'
EFFIE: Ask Mr Ruskin.
SOPHIE: But how can I tell what it means if I don't know the word?
EFFIE: Go on!
He seems so near and yet so far,
He looks so cold: she thinks him kind.
She keeps the gift of years before,
A wither'd violet is her bliss:
She knows not what his greatness is,
For that, for all, she loves him more.
That's lovely! It is about Mr Ruskin, isn't it?
EFFIE: No. Everything written is not about Mr. Ruskin.
SOPHIE: Unless he writes it himself.
EFFIE: Sophie! Who told you that?
SOPHIE: Tell me again. If you are my sister ...
EFFIE: I am your sister.
SOPHIE: Yes. Exactly. So does that mean Mr Ruskin is my brother?
EFFIE: In Law. Brother-in-law.
SOPHIE: Even though he's so old! And brothers can't marry sisters. But he married you.
EFFIE: Yes. But he wasn't my brother. He is my husband, which means he is your brother-in-law. By law. Not by blood.
SOPHIE: So he can't marry me, even if he wanted to?
EFFIE: He is already married. To me.
SOPHIE: And you are my sister. So Old Mrs. Ruskin ... is .... my ....?
EFFIE: She is just Mrs. Ruskin.
SOPHIE: Then why do you call her 'Mother.'
EFFIE: Mr Ruskin likes it.
SOPHIE: She says I'm much prettier than you.
SOPHIE: She says you're an imbecile.
EFFIE: That's not very nice.
SOPHIE: Oh, she's very nice about it. She says to me 'Sophie' she says, 'Poor Effie can't help it.'
EFFIE: And what is her proof I'm an imbecile?
SOPHIE: The way you eat your soup. She says I shouldn't do the same, or make the noise with my teeth, or people will think me a rude and ignorant Scotch girl, too. She says it's not your fault. You can't help it. You're too old to change.
EFFIE: Finish the poem.
She knows not what his greatness is ...
EFFIE: We've done that bit.
For him she plays, to him she sings
Of early faith and plighted vows;
She knows but matters of the house,
And he, he knows a thousand things.
Her faith is fixt and cannot move,
She darkly feels him great and wise,
She dwells on him with faithful eyes,
"I cannot understand: I love."
SOPHIE: 'I cannot understand. I love.' It's lovely, isn't it? She reminds me of Towser.
EFFIE: Towser is a dog.
SOPHIE: What I don't understand is why the man knows so much. Are all men like that?
EFFIE: That's enough Tennyson for today. Arithmetic. You don't want to go home a rude ignorant Scotch girl, do you?
SOPHIE: We've already done roman numerals. That's Arithmetic. Perhaps I could just write a letter. To Mama? I could tell her all about the walk with Mr Ruskin yesterday and everything he said to me and what I said, too. I think Mama would be very pleased. I would write very quietly.
EFFIE: Very well.
[SOPHIE BEGINS TO WRITE, PAUSES]
SOPHIE: Effie.... How do you spell the word 'beautiful?'
THE RUSKIN'S BEDROOM.
John Ruskin stands before a mirror, tying his blue neckcloth cravat.
JOHN: [LECTURING TO HIMSELF, MID-LECTURE]
I married my wife, thinking her so young and affectionate that I imagined that I could change HER. She married, thinking she could change ME. Such a marriage is impossible. Imagine a wife, rather than loving, respecting, and admiring, her husband ... and cherishing his parents- Imagine instead, her speaking of her husband - his mother - and his father - as the "Batch of Ruskins."
How could one even consider having a child with such an ungrateful woman? What sort of mother could she be?
ACT ONE SCENE THREE. Later that morning. Margaret Ruskin, wrapping Sophie in coat and scarf.
MARGARET: [TO SOPHIA] Stand still. To my eternal surprise, your sister was out of bed before nine, so there's a first! She must love you very much. Not enough to have breakfast with you, of course. Now, tell Effie to tell Crawley to go directly to Kings Cross up Gray's Inn Road, and not past new St. Pancras Church with the ladies, so you'll be safely away, bless you. And if you miss the train, just come home again. Don't wait for a later one. You can try again tomorrow. And tell your Mama to let you come back as soon as you are able, for we love you and think of you as our own. Stand Still! You must decide whether you are going to try to be a Ruskin, like us, or be a fool .....
[MARGARET TIES THE SCARF, SOPHIE MAKES A MUFFLED PROTEST]
MARGARET Too tight?
[SOPHIE EITHER NODS YES OR NO]
MARGARET: It would have been better for your sister to go with you, all the way to your Mama and Papa's. But Effie won't be told anything, as you know.
And you know why she won't be coming with you? It's not because she's feeling poorly. It's because John has asked her to be posing for pictures for some fellow called Milly. What sort of name that is for a gentleman, I don't know, but John says he is a genius, so I have determined to say nothing at all as I know I am too old to understand Art. Mind you, I don't know why his blessed Mr. Turner didn't get himself a proper pair of spectacles so he could see things proper.
[SOPHIE'S BUTTON COMES OFF HER COAT AS MARGARET TRIES TO BUTTON IT UP]
MARGARET: Now look what you've done.
[MARGARET SLAPS SOPHIE SHARPLY]
MARGARET: Stand still, Sophie. And don't move, while I get my needle and thread.
[SOPHIE STANDS SOLEMNLY]
JOHN: Sophie. What are you doing?
SOPHIE: Standing still.
JOHN: Standing still, you wee girlie-girl . Come to di pa [dear papa]
SOPHIE: I can't. I'm to stand still. Mrs. Ruskin said.
JOHN: Mrs. Ruskin your sister or Mrs Ruskin my Mama?
SOPHIE: Mrs. Ruskin your Mama.
JOHN: Then I'll have to come to you, little donkey girl! Standing still. Aren't you clever!
[SOPHIE CONTINUES TO STAND, STARING STRAIGHT AHEAD]
JOHN: You look just like your sister .... Are you standing still? .... Are you .... are you?
[JOHN TICKLES HER]
SOPHIE: Yes ... yes .... yes!
JOHN: Are you now?
[JOHN KISSES HER]
SOPHIE: No! No!
SOPHIE: [LAUGHING] No!
EFFIE: Sophie, what are you doing?
SOPHIE: Standing still.
EFFIE: John, what are you doing?
JOHN: Kissing, Effie!
ACT ONE SCENE FOUR. Next morning. The Ruskins.
[John Everett Millais is working on his painting The Order of Release. Everything has been painted except for the Jacobite Wife figure, being modelled by Effie].
JOHNNY: Lower .... too low .... a little higher .... a straighter line with the arm, please. Turn towards me. Not too far. Chin higher, please..... Forgive me ... if I could just show you what I want ......
[JOHNNY GOES TO EFFIE AND ADJUSTS THE ANGLE OF HER HEAD]
JOHNNY: Stunning. You are a model wife
[HE RETURNS TO THE PAINTING]
EFFIE: It's hard work, being a Jacobite. You should have had John pose instead.
JOHNNY: As the husband?
EFFIE: As whatever you like. He's very fond of you. Why didn't you use your Ophelia?
JOHNNY: Too thin. You make a better Jacobite. You have the proper Scottish air of purpose and determination.
EFFIE: How charming. John would call me stubborn.
JOHNNY: Perhaps he meant "Resolute." Head a little higher, please.
EFFIE: I don't think so. I think he meant "Stubborn."
JOHNNY: " Proud." .... "Firm"
EFFIE: May I talk? Rigid. Inflexible. Obstinate. Thrawn.
[JOHN ENTERS, STANDS BEHIND JOHNNY]
JOHNNY: That's enough for today.
JOHN: Will you stay to dinner, Mr. Millais?
JOHNNY: I'm so sorry. Perhaps another time.
JOHN: We had hoped you might stay.
EFFIE: We should not have presumed.
JOHNNY: Not at all. You have simply presumed too soon. Ask me again.
JOHN: Perhaps the next time you come?
JOHN: Perhaps even the night, if you wish. And whenever you wish. Whole weeks at a time, if you like. We thought it might save on the journey.
EFFIE: But John-
JOHN: My wife thinks that people might talk. She says people would think me extraordinary, inviting a young gentleman to stay in the house when I am away so often. I told her I was extraordinary and if she did not know it before, she would be well to know it now. It is no trouble. No trouble at all. Please say you will stay. Next Tuesday?
JOHN: And stay the night ? Stay the week!
JOHNNY: Perhaps. [TO EFFIE] Practise being resolute.
[JOHN AND JOHNNY EXIT]
[EFFIE RESUMES THE EXPRESSION REQUIRED FOR 'THE ORDER OF RELEASE.' JOHN RETURNS]
JOHN: What are you thinking of, Effie?
EFFIE: A great many things.
JOHN: Tell me what they are.
EFFIE: I was thinking of ... a great many things.
JOHN: And what conclusions did you come to?
JOHN: None. How extraordinary!
ACT ONE SCENE FIVE. KITCHEN TABLE
[MARGARET HAS ALL THE INGREDIENTS READY, TO SHOW EFFIE HOW TO MAKE BREAD]
MARGARET: You are late.
EFFIE: Forgive me .....
MARGARET: There will hardly be time. No matter. I've started the yeast ... we can save time there. Don't just stand there ....
[EFFIE CLEARLY DOESN'T KNOW WHAT SHE SHOULD BE DOING]
MARGARET: Did your mother teach you nothing? Apron.
[MARGARET PASSES AN APRON TO EFFIE, PUTS ON ONE HERSELF]
EFFIE: But my cuffs....
[MARGARET MAKES HER OWN BREAD DOUGH ALONGSIDE EFFIE]
MARGARET: Now Flour. Heap and then dig a well.... A well, not a ditch! In the middle! Good. Salt. Sugar. Yeast started in sugar and water. Egg. Five ingredients. Five. Tick them off on your fingers to remember .... Well?
EFFIE: .... Flour, Salt, Sugar, Yeast, Egg.
MARGARET: Flour, Salt, Sugar, Yeast, Egg. Now add Water. What sort of water? Come on. What sort of water? Think!
[PAUSE. EFFIE DOESN'T KNOW. THE PAUSE SHOULD BE LONG ENOUGH FOR SOME OF THE AUDIENCE TO FEEL THEY DON'T KNOW EITHER, AND FEEL SHAME.]
MARGARET: Blood-warm. Do you feel it? Blood-warm. Too cold and you ruin the bread. Add it A Little at a Time. Too much.
MARGARET: Add more flour. Pull it in and around. In and around .... You'll have to do better than that.
MARGARET: A man likes home-made bread. Not just bread made by Cook.
EFFIE: Cook doesn't make our bread. We have a perfectly good baker down the hill.
MARGARET: A baker! You pay a baker to make bread. Do you really think you can afford it?
EFFIE: John likes the French style.
MARGARET: Men don't know what they like. The French style is all very well, but you will need to save your pennies, soon. French costs more than English.
EFFIE: I would give anything to please John.
MARGARET: It's all very well, giving anything with other people's money. Boughten bread! The very idea. John loves my bread. He will love yours as well. And at a quarter of the cost. There, do you see the change in your dough?
EFFIE: Not really..
[MARGARET TAKES OVER EFFIE'S DOUGH, AND ADJUSTS IT]
MARGARET: You're too wet, you fool.
MARGARET: Ah, well. No harm done. You'll be teaching this to the little one, soon enough.
[EFFIE SHOWS THE MARGARET THE DOUGH]
EFFIE: How is it?
MARGARET: No matter. It's all brown when it's baked.
EFFIE: It's hard work.
MARGARET: Most women's work is. It's a lovely smell, isn't it? Like a baby's head. When it looks like a baby's wee bottie, you're done.
EFFIE: Am I done?
[MARGARET LOOKS AT THE DOUGH]
MARGARET: No. Enjoy it while you can. You'll know soon enough.
EFFIE: Sorry, I don't quite understand.
MARGARET: Early to bed, late to rise. Always poorly in the mornings. Crying for no reason. And even fly-paper water can't bring colour to your cheeks. No need to say anything, my dear. A woman knows.
EFFIE: I think you may be mistaken.
MARGARET: While the bread is proving, we'll mix a batch of blood-tonic to build bones.
EFFIE: No thank you. My bones don't need building.
MARGARET: Maybe yes. Maybe no. I was talking about the baby's.
EFFIE: It's impossible. There is no baby.
[MARGARET CUPS EFFIE'S BELLY]
MARGARET: Are you telling me that's not a baby.
MARGARET: Don't you want a child?
EFFIE: With all my heart. It's just ... it's impossible. It would have to be a miracle, for me to be with child.
MARGARET: Every woman thinks that. I thought that. You're still young. I was thirty-six. Thirty-six. Everyone thought I was a fool: eight years engagement and not a wedding in sight, and my handsome John James gone to London. But then, as luck would have it, John James and I did marry, and our own John was born, and we have worshipped him for the pecious miracle that he was ever since.
EFFIE: I love him, too.
MARGARET: Who wouldn't.
EFFIE: He isn't ... ordinary, though.
MARGARET: Of course he's not. I didn't raise my miracle-baby to be ordinary. He's not like other men. Great men have great thoughts. It's left to us women to do the work.
ACT ONE SCENE SIX. EFFIE, JOHN AND JOHNNY, DRAWING ROOM
[JOHNNY IS CLEANING HIS PAINT BRUSH AND HANDS]
JOHN: I married my wife, thinking her so young and affectionate that I might influence her as I chose. I imagined that I could change HER. And she married, thinking she could change ME. It seems we were both mistaken.
JOHNNY: Still, you seem very happy.
JOHN: If you could only have painted Effie at thirteen. She was an Angel.
JOHNNY: She is very beautiful woman.
JOHN: She was exquisite as a child. So innocent. So tender and simple. So loving. And such hard little bones. She used to cherish me, you know. She used to follow me about like a little dog. She once told me she thought of me whenever she was alone. I would come upon her in the garden, hidden away, smiling, and I would say: "What are you thinking of, Pet?" and she would say "I was thinking only of You." - "Only of you!" I miss her. I miss that child. I look at her sometimes, and I wonder: how did she grow so old?
JOHNNY: I'm sorry. I must go.
JOHN: But you'll stay to dinner? You'll stay. I would give anything for you to stay. My mother would be so disappointed, not to meet you. Please. Stay.
ACT ONE SCENE SEVEN. DINNER THAT EVENING
[Effie, John and Margaret Ruskin. No Johnny Millais}.
[John is looking very bad-tempered; MARGARET is looking very bad-tempered. Effie is trying to be resolutely good-tempered]
MARGARET: [TO JOHN] Sit up straight.
JOHN: Effie, shall you give thanks?
MARGARET: Your Father says a man's voice is better.
JOHN: Father isn't here.
MARGARET: Exactly. And why, we might ask. Why?
"Lord, we thank you,
Lord we pray,
To live to thank another day."
MARGARET: I don't call that Grace.
EFFIE: It is one of Mrs. Liddell's. For her children.
MARGARET: FOR her children?
EFFIE: Or perhaps it's by her children. I think it's charming.
MARGARET: It's not a proper Grace. It's too short. [TO JOHN] I can't believe your father would approve. It doesn't seem to be said to our Lord for his sake, but for vanities' sake. It's said to hear yourself speak..... not to properly give thanks at all. [LOOKS AT THE TABLE] There seems to have been a great deal to give thanks for, tonight. Do you always have so much at table?
EFFIE: We were expecting Mr Millais, the painter.
MARGARET: And what are these things?
EFFIE: They are called Pine Apples.
MARGARET: Pine Apples. For dinner?
EFFIE: It is the fashion.
MARGARET: And what are wrong with good English Apples?
EFFIE: We thought you might like to try something new.
MARGARET: I suppose they are very dear.
EFFIE: We would give anything to give you new pleasure, Mother Ruskin.
MARGARET: It's all very well, giving anything. And easy as well, when one gives with other people's money. Will you still be giving me Pine Apples when you are my age? Or is it that you think John's father will still be travelling to keep you in Pine Apples all your days? If so, he'll have to keep you and the whole Gray clan, who have never had scrap of sense or fortune between them. Thank God you have no children.
EFFIE: Be quiet!
JOHN: How dare you speak to my mother like that!
EFFIE: Be quiet, too!
JOHN: Have you gone mad?
EFFIE: Have you? How can you sit there and listen to this silly old goose say one more word?
EFFIE: Will you let your mother speak to me like that?
MARGARET: How dare she speak to your mother like that!
EFFIE: I am your wife! .... John.... Very well. If you will not speak for me.... I will not stay here to be insulted. Please excuse me.
MARGARET: She's very rude.
ACT ONE SCENE EIGHT. JOHN RUSKIN TO HIMSELF
JOHN: Who could believe, of a woman who to all strangers behaves with grace and pleasantness, that in her domestic life, for every question asked - every answer is given with a snap : Who could believe her utter ingratitude. This is only one instance:
[JOHN READS FROM HIS NOTEBOOK]
JOHN: Effie is looking abstractedly out of the window.
John. Kindly. What are you thinking of, Effie?
- A great many things.
John. Amiably. Tell me some of them.
- I was thinking of operas - and excitement - and - Angrily - a great many things.
John. Fondly. And what conclusions did you come to.
- None - because YOU interrupted me.
And that continuing the whole day in that insolent tone of voice. Imagine! A woman should obey her husband in all commands, I tell her. I tell her it is my wish, and what I wish must be respected. That one must feel not just respected, but ... cherished.
ACT ONE SCENE NINE. THAT EVENING. THE RUSKIN'S BEDROOM
[EFFIE IS LYING ON THE BED]
JOHN: Effie. Euphemia.
[EFFIE PRETENDS TO BE ASLEEP]
JOHN: Listen carefully. I know you are angry, but if you apologise, like a good little girl, I will take you back to the Highlands in three months time for the whole of the summer. Just us. Alone. Together. I had meant to tell you earlier.
Millais says he will come too.
And his brother.
And possibly Hunt.
It's for you to decide. You can come with me if you wish ...
... unless you would rather spend the summer here with my parents.
[THERE IS A PAUSE]
You know, Pet, in this light, it seems almost a dream to me that we have been married. As if I had never held you in my arms. Come with me, this summer, and we can look forward to our next bridal night .... as if we had never been together at all ... and you will finally be mine. Drawing your dress from your snowy shoulders, leaning my cheek upon them, as if you were my betrothed ... my only betrothed ... my betrothed only ... innocent and fresh and tender . drawing your dress from your shoulders .... Pet ..
[JOHN TURNS AWAY TO MASTURBATE]
[EFFIE STARES STRAIGHT AHEAD]
ACT ONE SCENE TEN. MORNING THE RUSKIN'S KITCHEN
[MARGARET IS IN THE KITCHEN]
MARGARET: You're up early.
EFFIE: Mother Ruskin. I felt so ill, last night. I couldn't sleep with the worry.
MARGARET: Or the wine.
EFFIE: I am sorry. Forgive me. Forgive me.
MARGARET: I will never forgive you. You are mad.
EFFIE: I must be. John says I have a terrible temper. Forgive me. Tell me what I can do to make things right.
MARGARET: There is only one thing you can do. My son is the last of the Ruskins. John Thomas, John James, and now John. He should have children. Proper children. Children to make their father proud.
EFFIE: And he will.
MARGARET: How? How could he take the risk? With a mother who is mad?
EFFIE: You're not mad....
MARGARET: I meant you. How can he have children ... for fear the bad blood will out. Look at you: No money, no wits, no sense. You are just like all the other Grays from here to Kingdom Come. You are only fit to spend money that you haven't earned, going into Society you can't pay for, drawing your poor husband and his father deeper and deeper into debt so that you shall have an Allowance to fritter away as you please.
EFFIE: John says nothing about this.
MARGARET: He says nothing, because he loves you. But if you loved him, truly loved him, you would see there can be only one way to put things right, to let him live as he should. As he was destined to be. Look at you, Effie. You can only be a burden to such a man. Stand aiside. Stand aside and let him have the life and the children and the wife a man of greatness should have.
EFFIE: But we are married.
MARGARET: Yes, and he cannot divorce. It would ruin him. But it is the duty of such a man to have children. He must not have them with you. Search your soul and find the courage to stand aside, for his sake. Be a Ruskin, for once in your life. Take your time. Choose your moment. You will have to be clever about it. Think of him and do what you think best.
[MARGARET HANDS EFFIE AN OLD STRAIGHT-BACK RAZOR]
END OF ACT ONE
JULY 1853 BRIG O'TURK, SCOTLAND; THE RUSKINS AND MILLAIS
ACT TWO SCENE ONE.
[AS LIGHTS COME UP, WE SEE EFFIE WITH THE RAZOR IN HAND . EFFIE IS SHAVING JOHN WHILE JOHNNY IS SKETCHING EFFIE]]
EFFIE: There. Hold still.
JOHN: But I don't like ....
EFFIE: Don't talk!
JOHN: But I am wet ....
EFFIE: Don't move! ... up .... good .....
JOHNNY: Don't move!
[EFFIE PAUSES, RAZOR IN HAND, POSING AMIABLY, BEHIND JOHN, AS THOUGH SHE WERE ABOUT TO CUT HIS THROAT]
JOHN: My mother used to do this for my grandfather ....
EFFIE: Even after he went mad ... it must have been very tiring.... they say he was a very demanding man, all his life. I can't imagine how she managed to keep him still ....
JOHN: My mother is an extraordinary woman.
EFFIE: She must have been extraordinarily strong, as well. John's grandfather used to tear off his clothes, and fight with people through the night.
JOHNNY: What fun! As a bet?
EFFIE: The servants said it was terrible, taking care of him. They say he was neat and clean-shaven, though, to the end ...
JOHN: Like my father, he was a handsome man, and always very proud of his appearance.
EFFIE: I think he must have been very selfish - to let someone go to all this bother, and THEN cut your throat. I was born in the room where it happened. [TO JOHNNY] May I continue?
JOHNNY: By all means. I am losing the light.
[EFFIE SHAVES JOHN]
EFFIE: Gaining it, you mean.
JOHNNY: How perceptive! You would make a good artist.
EFFIE: I was given prizes at school for my Art.
JOHN: Fools reward fools.
JOHNNY: [TO EFFIE] I'm very impressed.
JOHN: She can't even draw a circle.
JOHNNY: [TO EFFIE] I'm very impressed. It takes a true artist to not draw a circle.
JOHN: There's no point praising her for things she can't do. You might as well praise the way she breathes.
JOHNNY: You breathe beautifully, Mrs. Ruskin. Neither too fast nor too slow. You are a perfect model, as well as an artist.
JOHN: Nonsense. An artist who can't draw a circle is no artist at all.
JOHNNY: There are no perfect circles in nature.
JOHN: But surely, as artists, we must strive for perfection.
JO)HN: [OUTRAGED] No!
EFFIE: [TO JOHN] Keep still.
JOHNNY: We must learn to see things as they are, not as others tell us they are. That is the first lesson for a Pre-Raphaelite painter. To see things as they are.
EFFIE: Do you think you could teach me?
JOHNNY: With pleasure.
JOHNNY: Now, if you like. All you need is pencil and paper.
[EFFIE PUTS DOWN THE RAZOR AND STARTS TO LOOK FOR PAPER]
[JOHN FEELS HIS FACE]
JOHN: I don't call this finished.
EFFIE: Oh, John, forgive me.
[EFFIE SNATCHES UP RAZOR TO FINISH SHAVING JOHN]
JOHN: Take care!
JOHNNY: Lesson TWO. Every stroke must be deliberate. And controlled .... slowly ... slower ... slow ... Well done!
[SKY DARKENS FOR RAIN]
ACT TWO SCENE TWO.
INSIDE THE BRIG 'O TURK COTTAGE. THE MOUNTAIN BEN LEDI IN BACKGROUND. IT IS RAINING.
[JOHNNY AND EFFIE ARE PLAYING BATTLEDORE AND SHUTTLECOCK. THEY PLAY UNTIL JOHNNY WINS A POINT]
JOHNNY: Victory! The Jersey Stunner defeats you yet again, Madam! Hand your weapon to the Herne Hill Gamecock and Stand Aside! This is a Sport for Men.
JOHN: En guard! Duke Stunner. I accept your challenge.
[THEY PLAY; BEST OF THREE POINTS]
EFFIE: It's my turn. Let me play the winner.
WINNER: But you can't. The winner is Master and shall nevermore be challenged.
EFFIE: Then let me play the loser.
LOSER: Impossible. It was a fight to the death.
JOHNNY: Besides, Fair Lady, we fought for you!
EFFIE: I think you will find, Duke Stunner, I can fight for myself.
ACT THREE SCENE THREE.
THE WATERFALL AT GLENFINLAS
[EFFIE AND JOHNNY ARE IN THE SAME POSITION AS THE MILLAIS SKETCH "THE MASTER AND HIS PUPILS" JOHN IS POSING ON THE ROCKS FOR HIS PORTRAIT]
JOHNNY INSTRUCTS EFFIE, WHILE PAINTING JOHN
JOHNNY: [TO EFFIE] Good. now draw me three more squares.
EFFIE: One ...two ....three!
JOHNNY: Well done! Now. Square one .... four stages to the shading graduation ....
EFFIE: One ... two ... three .... four.
JOHNNY: Now dry point to smooth all four graduations into one. ... Excellent! Well done. You are better than I was at your age!
EFFIE: I'm older than you are.
JOHNNY: I'd forgotten. Square Two. Draw a smooth, round rock.
[JOHN NEEDS TO PISS; HE MOVES OUT OF POSITION]
JOHNNY: [TO JOHN] Don't move.
JOHN: I must. You're painting the rocks ... you don't need me.
JOHNNY: It isn't you I need, it is the shadows reflecting from you onto the rocks.
JOHN: There must be some rock which doesn't reflect me. Paint that one. Just for the moment.
JOHNNY: I can't. I need the colour of you, in position, to do them properly.
JOHN: I must move. I must ....
JOHNNY: Do you want this to be done properly, or not?
JOHN: Forgive me. Five minutes.
EFFIE: John, are you going back to the cottage?
JOHN: [COLDLY] No.
EFFIE: Forgive him.
JOHNNY: Nonsense. It is one of the pleasures of being in the outdoors for a man.
EFFIE: Shall I continue?
JOHNNY: As you please.
JOHNNY [SINGING CHEERFULLY]
Oh, you take the High Road
And I'll take the Low Road
And I'll be in Scotland Afore Ye.
EFFIE: Not so cheerfully, please. It is a lament.
JOHNNY: A tragedy, perhaps. That everyone ends up in Scotland. I have never been so wet.
EFFIE: One Jacobite is being released. One will be executed.
JOHNNY: But they say they will both be in Scotland.
EFFIE: The 'Low Road' is death.
JOHNNY: Forgive me. I had no idea. I thought it was only a love song. I didn't know it had meaning.
EFFIE: For the Scotch, all songs have meaning.
O ye'll tak' the high road and I'll tak' the low road,
And I'll be in Scotland afore ye.
But me and my true love will never meet again,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond.
[EFFIE OPENS BASKET WHICH HAS A PACKED LUNCH]
EFFIE: Salmon or Cucumber?
JOHNNY: Salmon, please, Mrs. Ruskin.
EFFIE: Perhaps you could call me Effie.
JOHNNY: Perhaps. Could you call me John?
EFFIE: I'm sorry. It would be too confusing. Two Johns. You wouldn't know which one I wanted.
JOHNNY: Johnny then, or Jack. My friends call me Johnny.
EFFIE: It would be like calling Michael Angelo 'Mike.'
JOHNNY: But what else could I be called?
EFFIE: Perhaps I could call you ... Everett.
JOHNNY: No. No one uses that. It sounds too ... formal. I'm not old enough to be an 'Everett.'
EFFIE: We could call you 'Evvie.'
JOHNNY: Call me Everett.
EFFIE: Another sandwich, Everett? We have ... [under her breath] six, seven .... three into seven ... [TO JOHNNY] three more for you, if you like.
JOHNNY: I shall call you The Countess.
EFFIE: Because I'm noble and beautifully-mannered?
JOHNNY: Because you count very badly. 3 into 9 is 3. Salmon again, please. Cucumber is only fit for ladies and saints. Thank you.
EFFIE: Salmon or Cucumber, John?
JOHN: Cucumber, of course.
[EFFIE AND JOHNNY SMILE]
EFFIE: Of course.
[SKY DARKENS FOR RAIN]
JOHNNY: Shall we go to Loch Lomond tomorrow?
EFFIE: If it doesn't rain.
JOHNNY: If it doesn't rain.
ACT TWO SCENE FOUR. RUSKIN ON THE ROCKS
JOHN: And then I will put down my papers and tell them great artists represent curves with straight lines. There are no perfect circles in nature, and should be none in art. Where there are, you find a bad artist.
JOHNNY: When did you come to this decision?
JOHN: I have always thought so.
JOHNNY: I'm so pleased we agree.
JOHN: I can't tell you how much pleasure being with you has brought me, this summer.
JOHNNY: But you must find it difficult as well, my being always with you.
JOHN: I would rather be with you, than anyone.
JOHNNY: Even Effie?
JOHN: You are a great artist, Everett. Better than Turner was, at your age! It is an honour to work alongside you. And you will always remember this sumer. You will see our books or sketches or paintings or lectures, or a catch sight of the words Scotland or Ben Ledi or Loch Lomond, and think always of me.
JOHNNY: Surely you would like some time alone.
JOHN: Of course. That is why your evening walk with Effie is such a treat. It gives me time to get on with my work
JOHNNY: Perhaps I should move to the hotel, all the same.
JOHN: But why? Why pay more, when we can live together for less. It is 13 pounds for one at the hotel, and 3 pounds among three, here, .and you have the use of Crawley whenever you please. And Cook is excellent. Even if the cottage is small.
JOHNNY: Very small. Surely you must miss those pleasures marriage holds.
JOHN: Marriage holds very few pleasures, after six years.
JOHNNY: But surely you would prefer some privacy with the Countess.
JOHN: I would prefer to be here alone. With you. The true friendship of men is nobler than that between men and women.
JOHNNY: How so?
JOHN: With a man, it is simple. One knows where one stands.
ACT TWO SCENE FIVE.
RUSKIN ON 'ROCKS' IN MILLAIS' STUDIO; January 1853.
[JOHNNY, JOHN AND SOPHIE IN STUDIO. SOPHIE DRAWING AND SINGING, JOHNNY IS PAINTING JOHN]
[LET SOPHIE GO ON SINGING UNTIL JOHNNY CAN'T STAND IT ANY MORE]
[SOPHIE IS SINGING WITH FEELING, WHILE SKETCHING]
O ye'll tak' the high road and I'll tak' the low road,
And I'll be in Scotland afore ye.
But me and my true love will never meet again,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond
The wee birdies sing and the wild flowers spring,
And in sunshine the waters are sleeping:
JOHNNY: That's enough, Sophie.
SOPHIE: I thought you liked that song. Effie loves it. She sings it all the time and cries and cries. And cries. It's very sad.
JOHN: Why does she cry?
SOPHIE: Well, I think it's because you are slighting her simple heart. Of course, it's not your fault; you're too busy thridding the labyrinth of the mind to notice .... But your mother says-
JOHN: Be quiet, Sophie.
SOPHIE: Mrs Ruskin says its only natural. She wants a child. [TO JOHN] She wants yours. She wants your child.
JOHN: That will never happen. But you mustn't tell her, Sophie.
EFFIE: Because she will think you are bad?
JOHN: Because she will think you are an evil, wicked girl for telling tales and send you away.
ACT TWO SCENE SIX.
THE NEXT MORNING. SOPHIE IN EFFIE'S ROOM, HAVING HER CURLING RAGS TAKEN OUT OF HER HAIR.
SOPHIE: And then he said 'she will think you an evil, wicked girl and send you away, but you wouldn't, would you.
EFFIE: I would sooner go myself.
SOPHIE: Because you love me.
EFFIE: Because you are my sister ... and I love you.
SOPHIE: And what about Mr Ruskin? I think he must love me too.
EFFIE: I'm certain he does.
SOPHIE: Mr Millais says that when people are beautiful, everyone loves them. And that's why I think Crawley don't like Mrs. Ruskin; because she is ugly.
EFFIE: 'Doesn't.' 'Crawley doesn't like Mrs. Ruskin.'
SOPHIE: Exactly. But Old Mrs. Ruskin says he don't -
SOPHIE: - Doesn't like her because he is lazy... and that's the plain fact pure and simple. But then he says Old Annie is lazy too, and Mrs. Ruskin says that isn't the point. Old Annie has always been lazy, but his laziness seems to be improving.
EFFIE: Surely not. How could it be improving? That's the wrong word altogether.
SOPHIE: Well, that's what Old Mrs Ruskin says. And Old Annie and Cook say so too. Why just this morning, Old Annie went to iron his washed shirts, and what does she find but that Crawley hadn't washed them at all, and when she put the hot iron on them such nasty marks came out and they were all spoiled. And when she asked him about it, Crawley lied and said Mr Ruskin had spilled milk.
EFFIE: Surely not.
SOPHIE: That's exactly what Cook says. And Old Annie agreed. Mr. Ruskin don't even drink milk. He never liked it. So that could never have been. And then Crawley flew into a rage and said it was his job to take care of Master John's shirts and his alone and it was none of her business. So Old Annie said Master John had always been her business and hadn't she taken care of him since he was a wee baern himself and she wouldn't stand by and see him wearing soiled shirts that a dirty slut like Crawley was too lazy to wash. And then Mrs Ruskin came along and made a terrible face when she heard that and said 'language!' and said that Crawley's laziness was improving day by day. And that's when, when she had gone, Old Annie said Crawley don't like Mrs Ruskin. And those were her words, exact!
ACT TWO SCENE SEVEN.
IN THE KITCHEN
[MARGARET IS PEELING APPLES]
EFFIE: I wish to speak with you.
MARGARET: Do you love God?
EFFIE: Sophie is falling behind in her lessons.
MARGARET: I don't love God. Do you?
EFFIE: There are many different kinds of love.
MARGARET: There is only one.
[MARGARET HANDS EFFIE THE KNIFE AND AN APPLE]
MARGARET: There can be no perhaps. I don't love God because it is an arrogance of any creature daring to say such a thing about the Creator, so great and so far above us.
[EFFIE STARTS TO PEEL THE APPLE]
EFFIE: I don't believe that anymore.
MARGARET: You don't believe. Who are you, not to believe.
EFFIE: We are each responsible for ourselves. And I am responsible for Sophie. I want to have sole charge of her lessons. Please tell Old Annie.
MARGARET: Old Annie has always been Nanny.
EFFIE: She is a bad influence.
MARGARET: You are the bad influence. With your sulks and your "head-aches" and your lying about on the sofa all undressed as if you were still posing for some painter. Not like a proper lady at all. I've seen the way John looks at you. And I've seen the way John James does as well. [PAUSE] Why don't you do some proper work?
EFFIE: There is nothing to do.
MARGARET: Nothing but spend Ruskin money. Totting up to town three times a week. Wasting money on a hired carriage, because you are too proud to take our own.
EFFIE: I am helping John with his work.
MARGARET: Helping John. What sort of help could you be?
EFFIE: More help than you have ever been.
MARGARET: I have raised him to be a good man.
EFFIE: John is more than a good man. He is a great man. And a great man also requires social graces and a wife who can move in society.
MARGARET: At £25 a quarter. And what expenses could you have, with John James paying the ground rent and butter and eggs and preserves coming straight from our garden? Pine Apples, of course, at three shillings. And Paintings. Yes, Paintings. You and John. Do you think that Milly fellow would find you so attractive, if John James didn't buy? And now you're having Sophie painted as well. No doubt done up like some Jezabel, not a child. That's money well spent! That's all I can say
EFFIE: And as for your sneaking, sliding, sly sluggish totting up of ever penny spent and every word spoken, weighing and telling tales, I loathe it. I loathe you. And I would rather be an ignorant silly Scotch girl than the sort of twisted, mean-minded, mean-spirited ugly old witch you've become.
MARGARET: Well, what can we expect from an ignorant Scotch girl.
[EFFIE THROWS A KNIFE AT MARGARET. IT JUST MISSES HER.]
[THEY BOTH LOOK SURPRISED]
ACT TWO SCENE EIGHT.
RUSKIN AND SOPHIE TOGETHER.
[SHE IS READING THE KING OF THE GOLDEN RIVER ALOUD TO HIM. HE IS SITTING WITH HER, OR DRAWING HER]
SOPHIE: And Effie said that was why Crawley DOESN'T like Mrs Ruskin, because she is so very, very ugly, just like Mr. Hans and Mr Schwatz in your book.
JOHN: Please go on.
SOPHIE: Well, Crawley was asking after the tea and Cook told him Old Annie said ...
JOHN: From where you left off, please. In the book.
SOPHIE: [READING] "Poor beastie," said Gluck, "it'll be dead when I come down again, if I don't help it." Then he looked closer and closer at it, and its one eye turned on him so mournfully that he could not stand it. "Confound the King and his gold too" said Gluck; and he opened the flask and poured all the water into the dog's mouth.
The dog sprang up and stood on its hind legs. Its tail disappeared, its ears became long, longer, silky, golden; its nose became very red, its eyes became very twinkling; in three seconds the dog was gone, and before Gluck stood his old acquaintance, the King of the Golden River.
"Thank you," said the monarch; "but don't be frightened, it's all right;" for Gluck showed manifest symptoms of consternation at this unlooked for reply to his observation. "Why didn't you come before," continued the dwarf, "instead of sending me those rascally brothers of yours-"
SOPHIE: [CHECKING THE TEXT] "brothers"
JOHN: When I first wrote it for Effie, I thought it should be 'brothers.' But now I think it should be 'Sisters.' Please correct it, for me.
SOHPIE: Will you write something for me?
JOHN: Perhaps. If you are as pretty and as obliging as your sister. Start from "Why didn't you come before."
SOPHIE: "Why didn't you come before, "continued the dwarf," instead of sending me those rascally ... sisters .... of yours, for me to have the trouble of turning into stones? Very hard stones they make, too!" -- What sort of stones were they?
JOHN: Very hard. Very, very hard. Hard as granite. Hard as this.
[JOHN PINCHES SOPHIE]
SOPHIE: No, hard as this!
[SOPHIE PINCHES JOHN]
JOHN: Stop! ..... Stop!
SOPHIE: Hard as this ... and this and this ....
JOHN: I said Stop.
[SOPHIE CARRIES ON PINCHING, AND PULLS HIS SHIRT UP]
[ EFFIE NOTICES SOMETHING ABOUT HIS PERSON]
EFFIE: John, may I speak with you?
JOHN: Sophie has not finished her lesson.
EFFIE: She can finish later. Sophie. Find Old Annie, and ask her if the eggs from Denmark Hill have come.
SOPHIE: For my very own tea!
EFFIE: For your very own tea.
EFFIE: I understand there has been some misunderstanding about your shirts.
JOHN: So I believe. They were left in a heap, and Old Annie thought they were washed, and when she went to iron them, found them ... soiled.
EFFIE: The way your shirt today is soiled?
JOHN: Perhaps. It was just a misunderstanding. It won't happen again.
EFFIE: I will send her away.
JOHN: I don't think so.
EFFIE: I will take her away. You will never see either of us again.
JOHN: Where would you go? Not your father's. He begged us to let Sophie come.
EFFIE: Not knowing this.
JOHN: Knowing everything. Do you really think he can afford to keep her. And we can. It does her no harm. What a child doesn't notice, it doesn't know. As you know.
EFFIE: I will take her away.
JOHN: You have no money, no prospects, no position if you are not my wife. You are my wife. You are Mrs.John Ruskin. You will stay here, and Sophie will grow older, here, with us, secure in the knowledge that she is loved.
JOHN: Oh, yes, Mrs. Ruskin. Yes.
ACT TWO SCENE NINE.
[MARGARET ENTERS WITH EFFIE'S LETTER AND KEYS].
MARGARET: John! John! She has gone! Effie has gone! she has sent back her keys and her house-keeping book, and she's gone!
JOHN: I know. I saw her off.
MRS RUSKIN: No. She's gone for good. She says she doesn't intend to be married.
JOHN: Surely she can not believe I would grant her a divorce. After all that she has put me through.
MRS RUSKIN: Worse. She says she has never been married. And you married six years this April. How can she say such a thing?
JOHN: The sheer cheek of it! She deserves to be beaten with a common stick.
MRS RUSKIN: How can that be?
JOHN: I don't know, Mother.
MRS. RUSKIN: She says "I don't believe I have ever been married at all." How can that be?
ACT TWO SCENE TEN
EFFIE'S PARENT'S HOME, BOWERSWELL, PERTH, SCOTLAND.
[EFFIE IS READING A LETTER, SOPHIE IS SITTING QUIETLY, SEWING]
JOHNNY: Friday, June 23d
I have delayed writing until I could tell you that at last my work is over. Tomorrow will be my last day on the rocks, and on Tuesday or Wednesday Collins and I are going to see Loch Lomond, if it doesn't rain.
SOPHIE: Let me see! Let me!
JOHNNY: Every man, woman and child here recognise the portrait at once. One said he was the queerest looking man he ever saw and not like other people. He seems to have left a very odd impression in everybody's eyes.
SOPHIE: Read it to me, then. Please.
EFFIE: I must see you again before returning to London if you will invite me.
JOHNNY: I must see you again before returning to London if you will invite me. Oh Countess, how glad I shall be to see you again, this is all I can say now, and you must imagine the rest.
[EFFIE SMILES AND PUTS THE LETTER AWAY]
SOPHIE: And will you? Will you invite him?
ACT TWO SCENE ELEVEN.
[JOHN LIES ACROSS HIS MOTHER'S LAP]
[MARGARET STROKES HIS HAIR]
JOHN: I do not want her back. I do not wish her back. It is my wish not to have her back. Tell Papa to tell Mr. Rutter the truth: that I did not consumate the marriage because she did not please me, and then because I feared she was mad, and unfit to have children, and I thought it best to abstain for her own health, and through no fault of my own. And of course I could prove what he wishes - her accusations are false - but she has gone too far. I do not wish to receive back in this house a woman who could make such a charge. I am a Great Man, Mama. I am John Ruskin. I am Ruskin.
MARGARET: There, there ..... There, there.
draft 5 © Kim Morrissey, 2003
BACKGROUND MATERIAL: The Order of Release
"The Order of Release 1746", oil on canvas, 103 x 74 cm, 1852-1853, Effie Ruskin (née Gray, later Millais) as model, The Tate Gallery, London