PLEASE NOTE: this site is a free educational resource, set up to share the creative process of play-creation. This is not the last draft of the play and should not be performed. Kim Morrissey's play, Mrs. Ruskin, will be published by Aark Books, London UK, and a copyscript of the play, suitable for production, will be available from Playwrights Guild of Canada.
(September 2003; changes during the production)
ACT ONE SCENE 1. 11:40 p.m. 31.12.1852 (NEW YEAR'S EVE FOR 1853). JOHN AND EFFIE RUSKIN'S BEDROOM, 30 HERNE HILL.
[JOHN RUSKIN, FACING A MIRROR, PUTTING ON A NEW BLUE CRAVAT. HIS MOTHER MARGARET IS WATCHING].
JOHN: Effie tells me people change. Looking back upon myself, I find I was always the same. Much wiser, of course, but I feel my essential character was fixed from a child.... Don't you agree?
MARGARET: John, you're a disgrace! What would your father say?
[MARGARET UNTIES THE CRAVAT COMPLETELY AND, AS SHE SPEAKS, RETIES IT]
MARGARET: Bend down. You were always the same. Now watch closely.
[JOHN WATCHES HIMSELF IN THE MIRROR. MARGARET TIES CRAVAT]
MARGARET: Over. Half Twist. Around. Through. Straighten. Don't-Pull-Tight. Do you see?
JOHN: Perfect! Thank you.
MARGARET: Good. [MARGARET UNDOES CRAVAT COMPLETELY] And mind you remember: [MARGARET COUNTS THE THINGS OFF ON HER FINGERS] Over. Half Twist. Around. Through. Straighten. And .... what?
[MARGARET SLAPS JOHN]
MARGARET: Don't-Pull-Tight. We must start the year as we mean to go on. Effie has the candle, your father has Cook's shortbread and a lovely lump of coal. Now, if you feel you don't have time to dress yourself properly, don't be proud, ask Crawley to do it for you.
JOHN: Crawley isn't here this evening. We have given him the week off.
MARGARET: You're too good! [MARGARET FONDLY BRUSHES THE FABRIC ON JOHN'S SHOULDERS.]
[A DISTANT CLOCK CHIMES A THREE QUARTER TONE]
MARGARET: Almost time for First Footing. Oh no! I have forgotten the coin!
[JOHN WATCHES HIMSELF IN THE MIRROR AS HE TRIES TYING THE CRAVAT AGAIN]
JOHN: Over and Half-twist and Around and Looking back -- I find no change in myself from a boy -- except the natural changes wrought by age. At thirty-three, I am exactly the same creature -- in temper -- in likings -- in weaknesses. Much wiser -- knowing more and thinking more; but in character precisely the same. Precisely the same.
And so is Effie.
ACT ONE SCENE 2. JOHN RUSKIN AT WRITING DESK IN BEDROOM, WRITING. 3x5 INCH CARDS SCATTERED ABOUT. GEOLOGICAL ROCK SAMPLES ON DESK.
EFFIE: Shall I play for you?
JOHN: Please don't. It disturbs my thoughts.
EFFIE: You used to love my playing. You said it made you think.
JOHN: Yes. It made me think I didn't like Mendelssohn.
EFFIE: May I help, then?
JOHN: Don't you have other things to do? Perhaps you could help my mother.
EFFIE: I want to help you.
EFFIE: Because I love you.
JOHN: Poor Effie!
EFFIE: What shall I do?
JOHN: Nothing. There is nothing to do.
EFFIE: Very well. Then I shall sit at your feet, and adore you.
[EFFIE SITS AT JOHN'S FEET]
JOHN: You'll catch cold.
EFFIE: Then you will be very sorry you didn't let me play.
JOHN: Funny thing!
[EFFIE IS TICKLING HIS KNEE]
JOHN: Stop that!
EFFIE: You used to let me help with everything.
JOHN: Very well. I am preparing the index.
EFFIE: What shall I do?
[JOHN HANDS EFFIE A SHEAF OF MANUSCRIPT PAGES]
JOHN: List the topics alphabetically. List the page number on these cards. [JOHN SHOWS EFFIE HOW TO DO IT] One Subject. One card. Name of Subject on top. In the middle. Underlined. Yes?
JOHN: When you come across the subject again, add the new page number.
EFFIE WRITES ON A NEW 3 x 5 CARD]
EFFIE: 'Greek Architecture.'
JOHN: No! I have that already.
EFFIE: Not to worry. We will need more than one. And If I misplace the card, I shall just make a new one and we can gather them together.
JOHN: I told you I have that one already.
EFFIE: We can put them all into order at the end.
JOHN: No. [JOHN HANDS HER A 3x5 CARD] This is 'Greek Architecture.'
EFFIE: Thank you.
[JOHN TEARS UP THE 3 x 5 CARD EFFIE HAS STARTED]
[EFFIE ADDS THE INFORMATION TO THE CARD. EFFIE LOOKS BACK AT HER PART OF THE MANUSCRIPT, AND STARTS ANOTHER CARD, THEN PICKS UP ANOTHER CARD]
JOHN: You look puzzled.
EFFIE: I see how a stone can be beautiful, but how can it be 'tender' and 'pure?' And do we put it in the index under 'pure' or 'tender' or 'beautiful' or all three?
JOHN: No. Just index a location or architectural form. And mind! Do it neatly.
EFFIE: I won prizes for my calligraphy.
[JOHN LOOKS CRITICALLY AT EFFIE'S WRITING ON THE CARD]
JOHN: Yes. It's very beautiful and artistic, but ....
JOHN: Perhaps you could go back to adoring me.
[JOHN TEARS UP EFFIE:S CARD]
EFFIE: Very well. [EFFIE WATCHES HIM] It's very easy, adoring you.
JOHN: Why is that?
EFFIE: You expect it.
JOHN: I'm very fond of you, too.
EFFIE: After all these years! Do you adore me?
JOHN: That would be blasphemy.
[JOHN GOES BACK TO INDEXING]
EFFIE: I adore you.... Call that what you will. If that is blasphemy, then I don't care. God can strike me dead..... I said: God can strike me dead.
EFFIE: You like Sophie being here, don't you?
JOHN: I like Sophie. Yes. She's very pretty.
EFFIE: And you liked me, when I was a child.
JOHN: You were beautiful.
EFFIE: All the Grays are always alike. All the Gray children. We look alike, talk alike, are alike. Even The Boys. For those who don't know us, we are Simply Indistinguishable. So I think, since you like all of us, you might like to have our own child.
EFFIE: So, John! So we won't wait!
EFFIE: We will have our own baby.
JOHN: I hate babies. Disgusting things. They look like putty. This house is too small for a child.
EFFIE: It's exactly the same as the home you were brought up in!
JOHN: Effie, I don't want to discuss this now. When you are twenty-five, I promise we will talk of it again. You know my grandfather went mad....
EFFIE: Your father is completely sane and sensible. And your mother is over 70. It would give them such pleasure. It's unnatural to go on as we have started. Other writers have children.
JOHN: Would you rather have someone more ordinary? Are you tired of me?
EFFIE: No! I want you.
JOHN: Then you must wait. Learn to be patient. Let us see how we get on with Sophie. We may both change our minds. Now come along, if you are helping me ....
[JOHN HANDS EFFIE A CARD] I need your help.
ACT ONE SCENE 3. MARCH 2, 1853. JOHN AND EFFIE'S BEDROOM, 30 HERNE HILL. EARLY MORNING (BEFORE BREAKFAST).
[EFFIE IS TAKING THE CURLING RAGS OUT OF HER SISTER SOPHIE'S HAIR. EFFIE HAS A HEADACHE]
EFFIE: From where we left off. Top of the page, please. Page 145.
[SOPHIE'S LESSON IS READING ALOUD FROM TENNYSON'S In Memorium]
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-.....
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 MIMIC]
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 Zoë.
EFFIE: Zoë 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 done roman numerals. That's Arithmetic. And it's very late. Perhaps I could just write a letter. To Mama? I think Mama would be very pleased. I could tell her all about the walk with Mr Ruskin yesterday and everything he said to me and what I said, too. I would write very quietly.
EFFIE: Very well.
SOPHIE: Effie.... How do you spell the word 'beautiful?'
ACT ONE SCENE 4. LATER THAT MORNING, STILL BEFORE BREAKFAST. JOHN AND EFFIE'S BEDROOM.
[JOHN STANDS BEFORE A MIRROR, SHAVING AND LECTURING TO HIMSELF]
JOHN: 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 told Effie I don't care what people say about me or about her. 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 Effie said it was merely my notion ... [OUTRAGED] "merely my notion" ... and that I could sketch stones anywhere. Extraordinary! I tell her Effie--
[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: Effie. You know if I am talking, I am working.
EFFIE: But I heard my name.
JOHN: Yes. I have been considering 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. 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 REMAINS ON THE BED]
JOHN: And what about Sophie?
EFFIE: Sophie can take care of herself.
JOHN: A nice sentiment! Sophie is only a child. 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. In the words of Bishop Wordsworth, 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 5. LATER THAT MORNING. JOHN AND EFFIE'S BEDROOM
JOHN: 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."
ACT ONE SCENE 6. MID-AFTERNOON. JOHN AND EFFIE'S DINING ROOM.
[MARGARET IS WRAPPING SOPHIE IN A COAT AND SCARF].
MARGARET: [TO SOPHIE] 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 Downes Wharf, to the boat, so you'll be safely away, bless you. And tell Effie if you miss it, just come home again. Don't go on to the train. You can try again next week. 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 for a proper visit. But Effie won't be told anything, as you know.
And you know why she won't be coming to stay?
SOPHIE: Because she feels poorly?
MARGARET: It's not because she feels 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]
MARGARET: Stand still, Sophie.
[MARGARET HANDS SOPHIE THE BUTTON]
MARGARET: Hold this. 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!
SOPHIE: No, you're not!
[MARGARET ENTERS WITH SEWING KIT]
MARGARET: Sophie, what is this nonsense? I told you to stand still.
MARGARET: Yes, what?
SOPHIE: Yes, Mother Ruskin.
MARGARET: Do you have the button?
SOPHIE: No, Mother Ruskin.
MARGARET: Yes you do. [TO JOHN] Thread this for me, dear.
EFFIE: [TO MARGARET] Would you like me to do it for you?
MARGARET: John does it better. I used to be able to see anything I liked .... It's very hard growing old.
JOHN: You're not old.
MARGARET: I feel old. Old and ugly. Old and ugly and useless. I can't even thread my own needle. And who will do it for me after I'm gone?
JOHN: Here. Done.
MARGARET: My Beloved!
ACT ONE SCENE 7. THREE WEEKS LATER (END OF MARCH, 1853). LATE AFTERNOON. JOHN AND EFFIE'S DRAWING ROOM.
[JOHN EVERETT MILLAIS WORKING ON 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 "Firm" Head a little higher, please.
EFFIE: I don't think so. I think he meant "Stubborn."
JOHNNY: "Proud." .... "Steadfast"
EFFIE: May I talk? Rigid. Inflexible. Uncompromising.
EFFIE: No. Just Stubborn.
JOHNNY: But stunning!
[JOHN ENTERS, STANDS BEHIND JOHNNY]
JOHNNY: Not yet.
JOHN: You are using a Roberson canvas, aren't you?
JOHN: I thought so. Unmistakable.
JOHNNY: Tell me, do you see anything wrong? Does the drawing look right to you?
JOHN: It is splendid in every way.
JOHNNY: Even the arm round the child? It doesn't look quite right to me.
JOHN: It is beautifully painted.
JOHNNY: It doesn't matter how beautifully a thing is painted, it is no good if it isn't right. Is it right?
JOHN: It's very clever.
JOHNNY: You're right. It's damned clever.... It's a damned sight too clever!
[JOHNNY RUBS OUT THE PIECE OF THE 'ARM' WITH A TURPENTINE CLOTH]
JOHNNY: That's enough for today. Next Tuesday, Mrs. Ruskin?
EFFIE: Whenever you wish.
[JOHNNY PUTS AWAY PAINTS AND PUTS THE PAINTING IN A WOODEN BOX AS:]
JOHN: Will you stay to dinner, Mr. Millais?
JOHNNY: I'm so sorry. My parents are expecting me home.
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?
JOHNNY: Yes, 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: A great many things about me?
JOHN: You used to think only of me. What could be more important?
EFFIE: I was thinking ... about Jacobites and wives ... and ... a great many things.
JOHN: And what conclusions did you come to?
JOHN: None because the subjects were too great?
JOHN: None because I interrupted you?
EFFIE: No, just none.
JOHN: None. How extraordinary!
EFFIE: Yes. I was thinking perhaps I am extraordinary.
JOHN: Perhaps you could be a little less extraordinary to my mother.
EFFIE: What have I done?
JOHN: Nothing. Nothing to please her, at any rate. You have missed every breakfast she has come to in the last three months. My mother is very unhappy.
EFFIE: I can't help feeling ill.
JOHN: Only when she visits? And not so ill you can't sit to Mr Millais.
EFFIE: He doesn't ask me to eat. And besides, she talks only to you. Or of you. Or your father. I'm sorry. Your mother is very odd.
JOHN: That isn't the point. She thinks you are keeping secrets from her.
[EFFIE MIMICS MARGARET]
EFFIE: Keeping what?
EFFIE: What did you say, John? I said what did you say? Speak louder. Repeat it to me.
JOHN: You are wicked.
EFFIE: No, I am sorry. I will try very hard to please her, for your sake.
JOHN: 'What did you say?'
EFFIE: I will try very hard.
JOHN: "What did you say? Speak louder."
ACT ONE SCENE 8. NEXT TUESDAY. EARLY MORNING. EFFIE AND JOHN'S KITCHEN TABLE.
[MARGARET HAS ALL THE INGREDIENTS 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 dress ....
MARGARET: What did you say? Speak louder!
EFFIE: My dress ....
[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. You will be the third Mrs. Ruskin to pass on the secret. 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.
MARGARET: No. John .... or Margaret, perhaps.
[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 make up some mugwort tea and 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 when I married. Thirty-six. Everyone thought I was a fool: eight years engagement 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 precious 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.
EFFIE: Thank you for the lesson. I must get ready for Mr. Millais.
[EFFIE STARTS TO LEAVE]
MARGARET: Where are you going?
EFFIE: Aren't we done?
MARGARET: I want to leave this kitchen spotless.
EFFIE: Isn't that Cook's job?
MARGARET: When one cooks, one cleans. Hard work never hurt anyone. 'Tis good to begin well, but better to end well. You should have learned that when you were young.
[SHE STARTS TO CLEAN THE KITCHEN. EFFIE RELUCTANTLY JOINS IN]
ACT ONE SCENE 9. LATER THAT AFTERNOON. JOHN AND EFFIE'S DRAWING ROOM.
[JOHNNY IS PAINTING EFFIE, FROM A DISTANCE. JOHN IS TALKING TO JOHNNY]
JOHN: If you could only have painted Effie as a child. She was exquisite at thirteen.
JOHNNY: She must have been lovely.
JOHN: She was an Angel. So innocent. So tender and simple and pure. So loving. Such hard little bones. It's such a shame. The bloom had gone off by fifteen. And lines had begun around the eyes.
JOHNNY: She has a very expressive face.
JOHN: She has a terrible temper.
JOHNNY: Surely not. She is charming.
JOHN: Yes. To strangers. I tell her that a wife's duty is to praise her husband. That a husband must feel not just praised but ... cherished. And when I tell her so, she says she doesn't know the meaning of the word.
JOHNNY: I'm sorry. I have no experience in such matters ....
JOHN: She used to know the meaning. She used to follow me about like a little dog. 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: Perhaps she simply needs a rest. A trip somewhere quiet.. Somewhere peaceful, where she can enjoy the fellowship of like-minded spirits.
JOHNNY: Forgive me. It's much later than I thought. [TO EFFIE] Thank you. That will be all for today. I must start to come daily, if we are to finish it in time.
JOHN: Stay the night, if you wish. My study is always free and it would give us great pleasure to have such a guest.
JOHN: It is the only way to assure the painting is finished for Varnishing Day. Don't worry about interruptions. I am away during the day, so it would be of great assistance for you to be here with my wife.
EFFIE: But John ?
JOHN: My wife thinks I am always too generous - she is worried 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.
JOHNNY: Tomorrow, then, Mrs. Ruskin? I am late. I must go.
JOHN: Go? But you are staying to dinner.
JOHNNY: I'm sorry. There must be some misunderstanding.
JOHN: But you said you would stay. Last Tuesday. My father is away, but my mother is expected, and she would be so disappointed, not to meet you.
JOHNNY: I'm so sorry. Next time. I promise.
JOHN: Surely I can convince you to stay for dinner. I am very persuasive. My friend Carlyle would stay. He loves to stay. And I will show you my Turners after dinner .... We were great friends, you know. He was very fond of me. Yes. You must. I insist. Do stay!
ACT ONE SCENE 10. DINNER THAT EVENING. JOHN AND EFFIE'S DINING ROOM.
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: The Master of the House should offer Grace to our Lord.
JOHN: The Master of the House has asked Effie.
"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.
MARGARET: And who is Mrs. Liddell?
JOHN: Mrs. Henry Liddell. She's very clever.
MARGARET: I don't call that 'clever.' I call it slovenly and irreverent.
JOHN: Are you quite certain it is one of hers? I don't recall it.
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.
EFFIE: I think it's charming.
MARGARET: Grace isn't meant to be "charming." It is about redemption .... Well, too late now. Far be it from me, as a guest in my only son's house, to speak against his customs. It will have to do. But your father would say it's said to hear yourself speak ... not to give proper 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? Before Soup?
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. You are just like all the other Grays from here to Kingdom Come. Shiftless.
EFFIE: Be quiet!
JOHN: How dare you speak to my mother like that! Have you gone mad?
EFFIE: Have you? How can you sit there and listen to this silly old goose say one more word against my family?
EFFIE: Will you let your mother speak to me like that?
MARGARET: How dare she speak to your mother like that! There's Scotch manners for you!
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. She was always very rude, even as a girl. Well, I always say, 'Least said, soonest mended.' What a shame. Food for four and only two at table. At least the servants will be pleased.
JOHN: She will come back.
[MARGARET AND JOHN WAIT]
MARGARET: It appears not.
JOHN: This is outrageous! .... She deserves to be beaten with a common stick!
MARGARET: Don't upset yourself, John. We don't need her. We can enjoy the Lord's bounty on our own. Together.
[MARGARET BOWS HER HEAD]
MARGARET: "We know, O Lord, the bounty of Thy loving-kindness towards us .... " I am sorry. You will think me an old fool, but ... would you offer Grace?
JOHN: "We know, O Lord, the bounty of Thy loving-kindness towards us; and therefore we more confidently implore that those whom, though undeserving, Thou dost not cease to feed, Thou wilt cause to serve Thee worthily, and with gifts yet more abounding wilt enrich them, through Jesus Christ our Lord."
[MARGARET HOLDS OUT HER GLASS FOR MORE WINE]
MARGARET: I never liked her.
JOHN: You said you did.
MARGARET: What could I say? You fought for her--
JOHN: But father fought his father for you --
MARGARET: His father made us wait eight years. Do you really think Effie would wait? And having waited, would you still want her? In eight years, only the true soul remains. What sort of true soul could Effie have, given her temper? Yes, she is beautiful. Is she worthy of being Mrs. John Ruskin?
That is what I ask myself every day. Am I worthy? Call me old-fashioned, but I would rather die than speak to your father as she has spoken to you. And where are your children? Five years of marriage, and not even the whiff of an heir?
JOHN: I don't want an heir.
MARGARET: Speak as plain as you like. I'm your mother. My shoulders are broad. I can't be shocked. Is it her? Is she too vain to want babies? She will do herself damage, it that is so. It will block up her natural energy and then where will she be? Dead. Perhaps it would be all for the best.
JOHN: Things can't go on as they are. I can't bear it. I must speak with Effie.
MARGARET: What did you say, John?
JOHN: I said I must speak with Effie.
[MARGARET GOES TO JOHN, AND CARESSES HIM]
MARGARET: You must not blame yourself. It is her choice. God must be her judge.
Whatever you do, you must not sink to her level. Eternal Damnation will be punishment enough.
ACT ONE SCENE 11. MUCH LATER THAT EVENING. JOHN AND EFFIE'S BEDROOM
[EFFIE IS LYING ON THE BED]
JOHN: Effie. Euphemia.
[EFFIE PRETENDS TO BE ASLEEP]
JOHN: Listen carefully. I know you are annoyed, but you have made my poor mother very upset. It is very bad for her heart. I want you to apologise, no matter the cost. Apologise, and in three months time I will take you back to your beloved Highlands for the whole of the summer, and possibly through the autumn. Just us. Alone. Together. I had meant to tell you earlier.
I will ask Millais to come.
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.
Effie. You are making me very angry.
[THERE IS A PAUSE]
How can I be angry? You look such a child.
You know, Pet, it seems almost a dream to me that we have been married so long.
As if I had never held you in my arms.
Apologise to my mother and then come with me, this summer.
We can look forward to our true bridal night.
I will make you completely mine. I will come to our bedchamber ... and find you there -- sleeping. Hidden ....
Drawing your dress from your shoulders ... innocent and fresh and tender and pure .
drawing your dress from your shoulders ....
drawing the string .
[JOHN TURNS AWAY TO MASTURBATE]
[EFFIE STARES STRAIGHT AHEAD]
ACT ONE SCENE 12. NEXT MORNING. JOHN AND EFFIE'S KITCHEN
[MARGARET IS SHAVING JOHN]
MARGARET: Don't move. How is that?
JOHN: That's lovely. Better than Crawley.
MARGARET: It just needs a woman's touch.
[JOHN SEES EFFIE]
JOHN: Good morning. I must go.
EFFIE: Shall I see you at dinner?
JOHN: I am staying over with Mother at Denmark Hill tonight. I shall just gather my books, Mother, and then we can go.
[JOHN KISSES MARGARET AND THEN EXITS]
MARGARET: You're up early.
EFFIE: I am sorry. Forgive me. Forgive me.
MARGARET: I will never forgive you.
EFFIE: John says I have a terrible temper.
MARGARET: John's Grandfather used to fall into rages, over nothing at all. You remind me of him. [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 own garden to yours? But that isn't enough. You must have Pine Apples, of course, at three shillings an apple.
EFFIE: I am so very, very sorry if I have upset you. 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 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. Every day your temper grows worse and worse. You can only be a burden to such a man.
EFFIE: But what can I do?
MARGARET: Stand aside. Stand aside and let him have the life and the children and the wife a man of greatness should have.
EFFIE: But how can I? We are married.
MARGARET: Yes, and he cannot divorce. It would ruin him. But he is a Great Man. A Great Thinker. 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.
EFFIE: What are you saying?
MARGARET: I am asking you to have the courage to choose the right course, even though the whole world may tell you it is wrong. It IS wrong, but you have a greater duty to your husband, to yourself, to the future. You are mad, Effie. You must not have children.
[MARGARET HANDS EFFIE THE OLD STRAIGHT-BACK RAZOR SHE WAS USING TO SHAVE JOHN]
MARGARET: Be a Ruskin, for once in your life.
END OF ACT ONE
JULY 1853 SCHOOLMASTER'S COTTAGE, BRIG O'TURK, SCOTLAND
THE RUSKINS AND MILLAIS ON HOLIDAY
ACT TWO SCENE 1. INSIDE THE BRIG O' TURK COTTAGE.
[AS LIGHTS COME UP, WE SEE EFFIE WITH THE RAZOR IN HAND . EFFIE IS SHAVING JOHN. 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.
JOHN: [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. 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! Shall we go sketching?
[SKY DARKENS FOR RAIN]
ACT TWO SCENE 2. RUSKIN ON THE ROCKS
[JOHN RUSKIN IS STANDING IN POSITION ON THE ROCKS FOR THE 'JOHN RUSKIN' PORTRAIT. JOHNNY IS NOTING HIS POSITION]
JOHN: And at this point, I intend to throw down my papers as if in disgust-
JOHNNY: May I just stop you? Just stand in the position while I mark out my paper.... and the rock.
[JOHNNY DOES A ROUGH GRAPH IN PENCIL TO FIX THE POSITION OF RUSKIN ON THE CANVAS]
JOHNNY: Excellent. Well done. Stand still. Don't talk.
[JOHNNY GOES OVER TO RUSKIN AND MARKS WHERE RUSKIN'S FEET SHOULD BE POSITIONED].
JOHNNY: And fix your gaze, so that you look upon the same thing every time. I want the angle of the head to stay the same. Make it something that will be here next year, if we can't finish this season.... [JOHNNY CONSIDERS THE ANGLE OF JOHN'S CHIN] Make it something else, a little lower. Good. You may talk now, if you please, but don't move. Do go on.
JOHN: And at this point, I shall fling down my papers and books, as if in disgust, and stare down the first row with a fierce expression, and tell the audience not be so foolish as to assume things they have been told all their lives to be true.
JOHNNY: Bravo! That should shake them up, if they are followers of Sir Sloshua.
JOHN: Yes, I will ask them to look closely at any work of art they choose, and where it is a great artist, they will see that he represents 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 think I must have always have thought so. I remember thinking so as a boy, observing the action of oil on a small stream by my house.
JOHNNY: I'm so pleased we agree.
[JOHNNY SMOKES TO KEEP AWAY THE MIDGES]
JOHN: Great minds think alike. You are a great painter, Millais. Better than Turner at your age. I can't tell you how much pleasure being with you has brought me. Not just that I am human subject of one of the greatest paintings of animated water ever conceived, but that you are willing to share your experiences, and I mine, in the spirit of the Brotherhood.
JOHNNY: But you must find it difficult as well. Even the best of friends must sometimes seem annoying.
JOHN: Not at all. And we will always remember this summer. We will see this painting, when it is finished, or our books or sketches or my lectures, or happen to catch sight of the words Glenfinlas or Ben Ledi or Scotland ....
JOHNNY: Or see a bog, or endless rain or scratch our midge bites .....
JOHN: Yes, every memory will be precious.
JOHNNY: And yet .... the cottage is very small. I keep thinking surely you would like some time alone.
JOHN: Of course. That is why your evening walk with my wife is such a treat. It gives me time to get on with my indexing.
JOHNNY: Surely you must miss those pleasures marriage holds.
JOHN: Marriage holds very few pleasures, after five years.
JOHNNY: If I went back to the Hotel, we would have fishing rights ....
JOHN: But why? It is 13 pounds for one at the hotel; here it is 3 pounds among three. At a pound a person, we could easily stay into the autumn if the weather holds. Yes, the cottage is small, but we are away all day, we eat our meals on the rocks, we are half a mile closer to Glenfinlas staying here, you have the use of my man Crawley whenever you please, and Cook is excellent. What more could we possibly need?
JOHNNY: But we are always together. I know you are very polite, but surely you would prefer to spend more time with your wife.
JOHN: I would prefer to be here alone. With you.
JOHNNY: How so?
JOHN: With a man, it is simple. One knows where one stands. With a man, there are no greys, it is just black or white: I like you, you like me, and that's the end of the matter. We simply enjoy our time together and get on with our work. We don't worry about whether we love, how much we love, whether we still love, whether we love more or less or as much or much more than the person before, or how or why they love us. We don't give a damn what we wear. You have no idea the secret raging torrents of emotion in a woman.
JOHNNY: Surely not every woman. Mrs Ruskin seems delightful.
JOHN: Today. And to you. I assure you, Glenfinlas is nothing to a woman's changing moods. One false step and you bring forth floods of tears. It came as a complete surprise to me, when I married. I had always assumed all women were like my mother, who is a saint.
JOHNNY: You look like a saint, standing there. You look very sweet-tempered.
JOHN: What a shame. I was trying to look like a prophet.
ACT TWO SCENE 3. INSIDE THE BRIG 'O TURK COTTAGE. THE MOUNTAIN BEN LEDI OVERSHADOWS THE COTTAGE. IT IS RAINING.
[JOHN AND JOHNNY ARE READING. EFFIE IS SKETCHING]
EFFIE: It's very quiet.
JOHNNY: Yes, it's lovely.
EFFIE: It's such a pleasure to be able to hear one-self think.
JOHNNY: What are you reading, Ruskin?
JOHNNY: Oh yes. Good?
JOHN: He is a genius.
JOHNNY: Oh yes, Heaven. Hell ...
EFFIE: I love Dante. Undying Love. Never Told.
JOHN: [TO JOHNNY] I am always astonished at Effie's ability to reduce Great Literature to the level of a Penny Dreadful.
EFFIE: She was nine when he fell in love with her.
JOHNNY: How shocking!
JOHN: Not really. He was also nine at the time.
EFFIE: I don't think so. Wasn't he eighteen? I thought he was older.
JOHN: I don't think so.
[EFFIE TAKES THE BOOK FROM JOHN, LOSING JOHN'S PAGE]
EFFIE: Yes, here it is .... from "La Vita Nuova"... "Nine times the heaven of the light had revolved in its own movement since my birth" ... No. You're absolutely right .... "she had not long passed the beginning of her ninth year when she appeared to me and I was almost at the end of mine when I beheld her. "
.... I used to love this bit .... "Apparuit iam beatitudo vestra! (Now your source of joy has been revealed!)"
"From then on indeed Love ruled over my soul . He often commanded me to go where perhaps I might see this angelic child and so ... I often went in search of her."
JOHN: I think I can read my own book, thank you Effie. You have lost my place and you are disturbing Mr. Millais.
JOHNNY: Not at all. No harm done.
[JOHN AND JOHNNY GO BACK TO READING. EFFIE PICKS UP HER OWN BOOK TO READ]
EFFIE: Are you enjoying your book, Mr. Millais?
JOHNNY: It's very jolly.
[JOHN SHOWS HER THE COVER OF THE BOOK]
EFFIE: Oh yes, "The Lady of the Lake."
JOHN: It takes place here. I had hoped you might find its subject inspiring.
JOHNNY: Yes, it makes me want to fish and shoot stag.
[THEY ALL READ]
JOHNNY: What are you reading, Mrs. Ruskin?
EFFIE: Modern Cookery .... 'Working Men's Pudding' looks interesting.
JOHNNY: And what does that consist of?
EFFIE (AND JOHN): (THE JOKE OCCURS TO JOHN AND EFFIE AT THE SAME TIME) Working Men!
JOHNNY: Is it a sweet or a savoury dish?
[EFFIE USES HER CRUMPLED PAPER AS A SHUTTLECOCK, AND HER BOOK AS THE BATTLEDORE, OR RAQUET, TO HIT TH SHUTTLECOCK TO JOHNNY. JOHNNY HITS IT BACK. EFFIE HITS IT, AIMING FOR JOHNNY THEY PLAY UNTIL THE "SHUTTLECOCK" LANDS NEAR (OR PREFERABLY ON) JOHN]
[JOHN SOLEMNLY PICKS UP THE SHUTTLECOCK]
JOHN: May anyone play?
JOHNNY: I shall take that as a challenge. Stand to the line, Sir. The Jersey Stunner has never been defeated .... But has he met his match with the Herne Hill Gamecock?
[THEY PLAY 'BATTLEDORE AND SHUTTLECOCK' UNTIL SOMEONE MISSES THE SHUTTLECOCK]
EFFIE: I don't think so .... I don't think that is how you play it.
JOHNNY: How else could you play?
EFFIE: I seem to remember something about counting ....
EFFIE: Yes ... and they were large numbers ... very large ...
JOHNNY: So it isn't who drops the cock who loses ...
JOHN: .... through no fault of their own ...
EFFIE: It's whomever makes the other miss the shot.
JOHNNY: Unless they miss it completely ...
JOHN: I see.
EFFIE: And then we all lose.
JOHNNY: Shall we try?
[THEY PLAY FOR A BIT. THE CONTINUE PLAYING THROUGHOUT]
JOHN: Effie, you count. [EFFIE COUNTS AS THEY PLAY]
JOHNNY: Ah, well counted ... We shall call you The Countess! Shall we stay for the summer?
JOHN: What about the rain?
JOHNNY: Oh, damn the rain!
ACT TWO SCENE 4. NEAR 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 in the first square ....
EFFIE: One ... two ... three .... four.
JOHNNY: Now dry point to smooth the four shadings into one. ... Excellent! Well done. You are better than I was at your age!
EFFIE: Hardly. I'm older than you are.
JOHNNY: Touché. 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 a 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. My feet are wet. And I itch all over. And I have no feelings in my left foot.
[JOHNNY JUMPS UP AND DOWN TO GET THE CIRCULATION MOVING AGAIN]
JOHNNY [SINGS 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.
EFFIE: It is a Jacobite ballad. 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 us, 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 THE BASKET]
EFFIE: Please stop. You will make me cry. Shall we start without John? Salmon or Cucumber? It is your own salmon.
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? Ruskin calls me Millais, of course, but that's just for chaps.
JOHNNY: No. No one uses that. It sounds too ... formal.
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] four 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 7 isn't 4. 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]
JOHN: Shall we go to Loch Lomond tomorrow?
JOHNNY: Only if we take the High Road ....
EFFIE: And if it doesn't rain.
JOHNNY: And if it doesn't rain.
ACT TWO SCENE 5. NEAR THE BOG AND STREAM BY GLENFINLAS. IT IS RAINING.
[EFFIE AND JOHNNY SHELTERED UNDER THE PICNIC CLOTH]
JOHNNY: We must move.
EFFIE: It is very treacherous!
JOHNNY: Mind how you go!
[EFFIE SLIPS OR FALTERS IN THE MUD OF THE BOG]
JOHNNY: Stand still. Let me see if there are some larger stones.
EFFIE: John has moved them all to build his channel, I'm afraid.
JOHNNY: Then we shall move them back.
[HE GOES AWAY AND COMES BACK WITH A LARGE STONE]
JOHNNY: Here's a start. It isn't just the mud ... the path is too narrow, at the moment. If you can step from stone to stone ... and I can place this here ...
[JOHNNY TRIES TO PLACE THE STONE. IN DOING SO, HE TRAPS OR HITS HIS THUMB]
EFFIE: Are you all right?
JOHNNY: I don't think so.
EFFIE: Let me see.
JOHNNY: Not to worry. I will just put it in the stream.
EFFIE: No. Pass me your handkerchief.
[EFFIE BINDS UP THE THUMB LOVINGLY]
JOHNNY: Let me help.
[JOHNNY HOLDS HER ELBOW IN PLACE]
JOHNNY: Much better.
[EFFIE WITHDRAWS HER HAND]
EFFIE: The rain has stopped.
JOHNNY: Excellent. Two or three more stones, and we can manage a safe path, if it doesn't rain.
[EFFIE AND JOHNNY BUILD THE PATH]
JOHNNY: Well done! When we come again next summer, we can bring dressed marble for our path. Our Countess Path.
EFFIE: Next summer?
JOHNNY: Yes, I can't possibly finish John's painting this season. I must finish it on site, in season, for the light.
EFFIE: I can't be here next summer.
JOHNNY: You're quite right. I will finish it in my studio, as soon as we get home.
EFFIE: We are away until the New Year.
JOHNNY: Excellent. You could come up with John three times a week from the British Museum and we could have tea.
EFFIE: I can't be there either.
JOHNNY: What, never?
EFFIE: I am John Ruskin's wife. I am Mrs. John Ruskin.
JOHN: Thief! You are taking my stones.
JOHNNY: We need them for the path.
EFFIE: I have forgotten something. I must go back to the cottage.
[JOHN TRIES TO TAKE A STONE FROM JOHNNY]
JOHN: Unhand my stones, Duke Stunner. I need them for my new stream, to drain the fields.
JOHNNY: Our need is greater. We are helping women and children cross safely.
JOHN: Very well. But you must find your own rocks tomorrow. I need all mine to keep the water in check...
JOHNNY: Every one?
JOHN: Every one. Look at us! We are like children. I can't tell you how happy this summer has been. And the lectures are going very well. They are almost finished.
JOHNNY: I'm so pleased.
JOHN: I intend to champion the Brotherhood in my last lecture.
JOHNNY: That's very kind.
JOHN: Oh, I won't be kind. I am never kind. I will be discussing your faults as well. In the past, you and Hunt have concentrated too much on the foreground. You don't see the background or context at all, and that is a great weakness. That is why this painting is so important. I am teaching you to see. And I am teaching myself, as well.
[JOHN STANDS ON THE ROCK, ASSUMING THE POSE FOR THE GLENFINLAS PAINTING]
JOHNNY: Perhaps you will tire of seeing what is there.
JOHN: After this summer, my father will have the two greatest paintings of moving water in the world. Turner's. And your Glenfinlas. Undertaken just to please me. I could never tire of it.
JOHNNY: You will have to stand for a long time, if you want most of it finished this season.
JOHN: If you wanted, I feel I could stand here forever.
ACT TWO , SCENE 6. JANUARY 1853, LONDON. RUSKIN ON THE ROCKS, 83 GOWER STREET STUDIO.
[JOHN IS POSING, BUT HE IS ON 'ROCKS' IN MILLAIS' STUDIO]
[JOHNNY, JOHN AND SOPHIE]
[SOPHIE IS SINGING WITH FEELING, WHILE SKETCHING. LET SOPHIE GO ON SINGING UNTIL JOHNNY CAN'T STAND IT ANY MORE]
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
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
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
Ohhhh ye'll tak the---
JOHNNY: That's enough, Sophie. You will disturb my parents.
SOPHIE: Do you live here, then?
JOHNNY: With my parents, yes.
SOPHIE: Even though you're so old!
JOHNNY: Yes, I am, rather. To be living in the house of my parents.
SOPHIE: How old are you?
JOHN: That's very rude. I am sorry, Everett.
SOPHIE: What would you like me to draw now?
JOHNNY: Draw me a square.
SOPHIE: And ....
JOHNNY: Draw Mr. Ruskin inside it.
SOPHIE: My paper's not big enough.
JOHNNY: Draw him smaller, then.
SOPHIE: It's hard work ....
JOHNNY: Good. Then you are doing it correctly.
SOPHIE: Is that why your picture takes so long?
JOHNNY: Yes, I have to paint until it is perfect.
SOPHIE: And when can you tell it is perfect?
JOHN: Don't ask stupid questions.
JOHNNY: Not at all. You look closely, and take all the false things away, and when you have only the things that are true, you are done.
SOPHIE: And are you done?
JOHNNY: Not yet. There's still something not quite right about Mr Ruskin ....
JOHN: It may be your subject. Best to paint me out entirely.
JOHNNY: It would certainly solve the problem .... but no, then I'd have to begin again with my rocks. And your father wouldn't buy.
JOHN: So long as it is finished by Varnishing Day ....
JOHNNY: It may not be finished. I am still unhappy about the head ....
JOHN: You are very good. It would be a great shame to miss this year's Exhibition.
SOPHIE: Why doesn't Effie ever come to the studio?
JOHNNY: The studio is too small. And she wanted you painted, for your Mama.
JOHN: You look tired, Everett.
[SOPHIE LOOKS AT THE RUSKIN ON THE ROCKS GLENFINLAS PAINTING AS JOHNNY PAINTS]
SOPHIE: It's not really very big, though, is it? When I close my eyes and remember - it looks enormous, but when I open both eyes, you're like a wee Scotch brownie standing on a rock at the bottom of the garden. [TO JOHNNY] My sister's new painting is enormous.
JOHNNY: I'm so pleased. What is she painting.
SOPHIE: Me. Well, it's some girl called Agnes, but it's not really, it's me, but she looks more like Effie, and she's very, very sad. It's the middle of the night, and it's winter, and she is leaning out the window, which I think is very bad. And there are angels. And she's exactly the same size as me and the window is the same size as our window at home at Bowerswell. And that's all I know.
JOHNNY: [TO JOHN] It sounds very ambitious. Is it good?.
JOHN: I haven't seen it. I have been working, most days. When I leave, Effie is sleeping, and when I come home, she is asleep.
JOHNNY: I'm done for today..
SOPHIE: I'm done, too!
JOHN: But you're not finished. If you have started, you have to finish.
JOHN: People expect it. My friend Everett can't just stop, because he doesn't like the painting, or the person. He has to go on, whether he likes them or not
SOPHIE: But if I go on, without liking it, I will just make it worse.
JOHN: But if you continue, you may learn to like it better.
[JOHN STRIKES THE POSE AGAIN]
JOHN: Carry on.
SOPHIE: I don't want to-.
JOHN: You must do what I tell you. With good will. I always know best.
[SOPHIE GOES BACK TO DRAWING]
[SOPHIE IS ABOUT TO SING 'LOCH LOMOND']
SOPHIE: ... Ohhhhh .....
JOHNNY: Sophie. Please. Please. You must be quiet, if you are going to be an artist. All great artists work in silence.
[SOPHIE WORKS IN SILENCE]
[JOHNNY CLEANS HIS BRUSHES IN SILENCE]
[JOHN STANDS IN SILENCE]
SOPHIE: I thought you liked that song. My sister loves it. I sing it all the time for her when she is working and she cries and cries. And cries. It's very sad.
JOHNNY: Why does she cry?
SOPHIE: Well, Effie says it's not about her at all, it's about Scotland, but if you ask me ....
JOHNNY: I am asking you.
SOPHIE: Well, I agree with Mr Tennyson. I think she weeps because her own true love is slighting her simple heart. Of course, it's not his fault, really; as a man, he's too busy thridding the labyrinth of the mind to notice ... that's what I think. [TO JOHN] But your mother says-
JOHN: Be quiet, Sophie.
JOHNNY: What does she say?
SOPHIE: Mrs Ruskin says 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.
SOPHIE: 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 7. MID-AFTERNOON. EFFIE AND JOHN'S BEDROOM. EFFIE IS DOING SOME SEWING ALTERATIONS TO SOPHIE'S DRESS
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 it is natural for everyone to love people who are beautiful. It must be very hard on people who aren't, though. That's why I think Crawley don't like Mrs. Ruskin; because she is ugly.
[EFFIE MOTIONS SOPHIE. SOPHIE STANDS ON A CHAIR]
EFFIE: 'Doesn't.' 'Crawley doesn't like Mrs. Ruskin.'
SOPHIE: Exactly. But Mrs. Ruskin said he don't like -
SOPHIE: - Doesn't like her because he is lazy... and that's the plain fact pure and simple. But then Cook 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 Mrs Ruskin says. And Old Annie and Cook say so too. Why just this morning, Old Annie went to iron the shirts, just to help, 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 GETS DOWN FROM THE CHAIR]
SOPHIE: That's exactly what Cook says. And Old Annie agreed. He 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 because Crawley was too lazy to wash. And then Crawley said something and Old Annie called him a dirty slut! And Cook said men couldn't be sluts, although some were dirty dogs. And then Mrs. Ruskin came in and saw the shirts 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!
EFFIE: What were you doing in the Kitchen.
SOPHIE: Sucking eggs for Mrs. Ruskin.
EFFIE: I don't want you in the Kitchen with Cook and Old Annie.
EFFIE: It doesn't matter why. You are not to spend time with Cook and Old Annie.
SOPHIE: Why not? They are my friends.
EFFIE: From now on, they are not your friends. They are servants, and they should not be using such language in front of a young lady.
SOPHIE: But Mrs. Ruskin says ....
EFFIE: I don't care what Mrs. Ruskin says.
[SOPHIE GETS BACK ON THE CHAIR AND HOLD OUT HER DRESS FOR INSPECTION. EFFIE HAS FINISHED HER SEWING ALTERATIONS ON SOPHIE'S DRESS]
EFFIE: There, that will have to do.
[EFFIE HELPS SOPHIE DOWN FROM THE CHAIR]
SOPHIE: But Mrs Ruskin ...
EFFIE: I will speak to Mrs. Ruskin. Find Mr Ruskin, and ask him to take your lesson.
ACT TWO SCENE 8. FOLLOWS ON FROM LAST SCENE. STILL MID-MORNING. JOHN AND EFFIE'S KITCHEN
MARGARET: [SINGS OR HUMS TO HERSELF AS SHE CHOPS APPLES]
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee!
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me ...
EFFIE: I wish to speak with you.
MARGARET: Yes, I think Bishop Wordsworth of Lincoln was right. Of the Seven Last Words, John's are surely the most important. They offer the possibility of redemption through our own actions.
EFFIE: Sophie is falling behind in her lessons.
MARGARET: 'Woman, behold your son ...Behold your mother.' Not just redemption. Responsibility.
EFFIE: Exactly. I am responsible for Sophie. From now on, John and I will have sole charge of her lessons. All her lessons. Please tell Cook and Old Annie.
MARGARET: Old Annie has always been Nanny for our family.
EFFIE: Sophie isn't your family. She is mine. I am responsible for Sophie and I will not have her being used as a servant.
[EFFIE TURNS TO LEAVE, THEN TURNS BACK]
EFFIE: Where is Cook?
MARGARET: Cook is ... ill.
EFFIE: Again? And where is Old Annie? Very well.
[EFFIE, ANNOYED, TAKES MARGARET'S PLACE AND BEGINS TO CUT APPLES]
MARGARET: You'll need to dip that in vinegar.
EFFIE: I don't want Old Annie to visit any more. She isn't suitable company for a child. Please tell her so.
MARGARET: Why? What has Old Annie done? How has she offended you? She's a little rough, but she's very obliging. And she's a saint! She's always happy to help Cook ...
EFFIE: Drink our sherry.
MARGARET: For shame! How can you? She has always loved you, even from the time you were a child, the Lord knows why. She is very fond of you. And now, to punish us for our generosity in taking you in without a penny, you ask me to tell her she is not wanted. Not suitable. John's own nanny! After years of blameless service to us. Is this is how you thank her?
EFFIE: She is a bad influence.
MARGARET: You are the bad influence. You. With your sulks and your "head-aches" and your lying about on the sofa all undressed as if you were still posing for some ungodly painter. Not like a proper lady at all.
EFFIE: I am a proper lady.
MARGARET: You are only a proper lady because you married my son. And you have an income from my husband. You can't even keep proper accounts.
EFFIE: My books are balanced completely.
MARGARET: You have been several hundred pounds astray.
MARGARET: And now, now you can't spend our money fast enough on fancy dresses and pine apples and jewellery, you want to gobble it up and squander it on Pictures as well. Yes, Pictures. Not just Pictures -- Pictures of You. That's money well spent! Dirtyfooted. Looking no better than you ought. For everyone to see. Do you think that Milly fellow would find you so attractive, if you weren't Mrs John Ruskin, and John James didn't buy?
EFFIE: John James didn't buy.
MARGARET: Flaunting yourself like a common seamstress. What must Society think of you?
EFFIE: It is for Art!
MARGARET: For Art! Is that what they call it? Just say the word 'Art' and it's easy enough, to fool an ignorant, silly Scotch girl. And for what? Well, what can we expect from a Gray. Your mother was just the same.
I've seen the way John looks at you. And I've seen the way my John James looks as well. Who would blame them? And now you are losing your looks, you are having Sophie painted instead. Teaching her to be an artful little minx as well. No doubt having her done up like some Jezebel, not a child, for some old man with more money than sense.
[EFFIE IS FURIOUSLY CHOPPING APPLES]
EFFIE: Your son ordered the painting.
MARGARET: To please you. And won't your mother and father be delighted. To see their ten year old daughter hung on the wall for all time as a slut. Thank God you have no children.
[EFFIE RAISES THE KNIFE TO THROW AT MARGARET.]
[THEY BOTH LOOK SURPRISED]
ACT TWO SCENE 9. RUSKIN AND SOPHIE TOGETHER.
[SOPHIE IS READING HIS BOOK, THE KING OF THE GOLDEN RIVER, ALOUD TO HIM. HE IS SITTING WITH HER, OR DRAWING HER]
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 --"
JOHN: What is wrong?
SOPHIE: He swore.
JOHN: Don't be silly. It means... to confuse ....to spoil ... to ruin .... to destroy. It's not bad. I wouldn't let anyone use bad language.
SOPHIE: Crawley uses bad language all the time. Mostly about your mother. Effie says 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 about Easter and Cook told him that old Annie told HER that ...
JOHN: From where you left off, please. In the book.
SOPHIE: "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 her 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: Make it "Sisters". 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.
SOPHIE: Will you write a story for me one day?
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 Scottish 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 UP JOHN'S SHIRT]
[EFFIE NOTICES SOMETHING ABOUT JOHN'S 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?
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 to your father's. He begged us to let Sophie come. The way he begged for you to come, when you were thirteen.
EFFIE: Not knowing this.
JOHN: You are beginning to bore me.
EFFIE: Not knowing this.
JOHN: Do you really think he can afford to keep her? And we can. It does her no harm.
EFFIE: I will take her away. I will tell people why.
JOHN: And what a great piece of work you will be for your Father, if I take all the blame. 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, and her sister Alice may well join her. Secure in the knowledge that she is loved.
JOHN: Oh, yes, Mrs. Ruskin. Yes.
ACT TWO SCENE 10. HERNE HILL, BEDROOM
[MARGARET ENTERS WITH EFFIE'S LETTER AND KEYS].
MARGARET: John! John! She has gone! Effie has gone!
JOHN: I know. I saw her off.
MARGARET: No. She's gone for good.
JOHN: She'll be back.
MARGARET: She has sent back her keys and her House-book, and she's gone! She says she doesn't intend to be married.
JOHN: It's not up to her. Surely she can not believe I would grant her a divorce.
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! Who would ever believe that?
MARGARET: She has sent back her ring. She says: "you will find enclosed my marriage ring which I return by this means to your son, with whom I can never hold farther intercourse or communication." .... I was married on the 10th of April 1848. From that day to this, your son has never made me his wife ...."
JOHN: Confound the woman.
JOHNNY: [JOHNNY'S LETTER] April 23d. 1854. Gower Street. My Dear Mrs. Gray,
I must repeat the delight it gives me to think that the Countess is likely soon to have an "Order of release" for herself .. .
MARGARET: She says she quoted you Scriptures!
JOHN: The Scriptures say clearly there can never be any grounds for a wife leaving her husband.
MARGARET: "Even showing him the words of Scripture, did not cause him to change his opinions in the least."
JOHNNY: "When you get back to Perth, the poor ill-used Countess must return to her former happy life, playing, dancing, and drawing, and never for a moment permit her thought to rest upon the tragic farce in which she has so patiently played a suffering part."
MARGARET: ... "I hear that our affairs are perfectly known in London society; and nothing more will be said, since the fact of our marriage was known to many ... " No, that's wrong. "The fact of our marriage NOT BEING CONSUMMATED was known to many" ... "known to many." Is this true?
JOHN: No. No one knew.
MARGARET: John. What have you done?
MARGARET: Oh, John ...
[MARGARET EMBRACES JOHN AND ROCKS HIM IN HER ARMS]
MARGARET: Not to worry. Not to worry. Your father will know what to do.
ACT TWO SCENE 11 EFFIE'S PARENT'S HOME, BOWERSWELL, PERTH, SCOTLAND
[EFFIE IS READING A LETTER, WHICH IS HIDDEN BEHIND HER SKETCHPAD, SO IT MIGHT LOOK AS IF SHE IS JUST SKETCHING. SOPHIE IS QUIETLY READING A BOOK. EFFIE READS JOHNNY'S LETTER AND SMILES]
JOHNNY: " Friday, June 23d, Brig o'Turk.
Tomorrow will be my last day on the rocks"
SOPHIE: Effie - what's 'thrids'
EFFIE: As in?
SOPHIE: "he thrids the labyrinth of the mind ..."
EFFIE: You should know that by now. It's a very old word. It means 'threads.' Like a needle and thread. Pulling everything together.
SOPHIE: [DISAPPOINTED] Oh.
EFFIE: What did you think it meant?
SOPHIE: I thought it must be something exciting.
EFFIE: You mean rude.
SOPHIE: What are you sketching? Is it me? Would you like me to pose?
EFFIE: No. Go on with your reading, please.
JOHNNY: Tomorrow will be my last day on the rocks, and on Tuesday or Wednesday I am going to see Loch Lomond, if it doesn't rain.
SOPHIE: You aren't sketching at all! What are you reading? Let me see! Let me!
EFFIE: No. It is private.
JOHNNY: OH, Countess...
SOPHIE: Read some of it to me, then. Please.
EFFIE: It's from Mr. Millais. He says: Oh Countess, I must see you again before returning to London if you will invite me.
JOHNNY: Oh Countess, I must see you again before returning to London if you will invite me. 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 TRIES TO CATCH SIGHT OF THE LETTER. EFFIE CLOSES HER BOOK DECISIVELY]
EFFIE: That's enough reading. Would you like to play a game?
Take your book in two hands .... excellent.
[EFFIE TEARS A PIECE OF PAPER OUT OF HER SKETCH BOOK AND SCREWS IT UP TIGHT TO FORM A SHUTTLECOCK]
EFFIE: The object of the game is to work together to keep this in the air, and every time we do, we both win a point. We either win, or we lose, together. Ready?
[EFFIE HITS THE SHUTTLECOCK TO SOPHIE]
EFFIE: One ... two .... three .....
SOPHIE: And will you invite him?
SOPHIE: Oh ... ye;ll take the high road ....
SLOW FADE AS THEY EXIT
ACT TWO SCENE 12. FOLLOWING ON FROM SCENE 10
[JOHN LIES ACROSS MARGARET'S LAP, THE POSE SLIGHTLY ECHOING A PIETÁ SUCH AS MICHAELANGELO' S PIETÁ ]
[MARGARET STROKES JOHN'S HAIR]
JOHN: 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 then I thought it best to abstain for her own health, and through no fault of my own. Tell Papa to tell Mr Rutter that of course I could prove what he wishes but I do not choose to do so. That if she is seeking to destroy my reputation, by making me seem ridiculous in Society's eyes she will fail. I am a man.
I am the same man I was before she betrayed me. Exactly the same. Her accusations are false.
I do not want her back. It is my wish not to have her back. I do not choose to receive back in this house a woman who could make such a charge ... who could allow Society to hold her husband up to such insinuations and vile sarcasm. I do not choose. I am a Great Man, Mama. My words and my books and my drawings will live on. And she is nothing.
Tell Papa --
MARGARET: Sh ... Try to sleep. You are a Great Man. Yes.
JOHN: Yes. I am John Ruskin.
MARGARET: Shh ... Shh.
© Kim Morrissey, 2003
DRAFT 10 of Mrs Ruskin
was first performed
NOTE: Wherever it occurs, Jacqui Sommerville is a typo for Jacqui Somerville