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 may not be performed without permission.  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.



MRS RUSKIN
a play-in-progress

by Kim Morrissey
DRAFT TWELVE 31.11.2008

history of the project
actors involved in the workshops

OTHER DRAFTS  2002 - 2004

(please note: all drafts, including this one, are protected by copyright)

(changes after the production)

MRS. RUSKIN
by Kim Morrissey
DRAFT TWELVE 31.11.2008
Copyright © 2008
Running Time: 120 Minutes

CAST:
(1853)
Effie (Euphemia) Ruskin, 24
John Ruskin, 33
Margaret Ruskin, 71
Johnny (John Everett) Millais, 23
Sophie Gray, 9

world première
produced by Theatre Metropolis
September 12th to October 5th 2003
The Warehouse Theatre,
Dingwall Road, East Croydon

grants and support:
Peggy Ramsay Foundation (writing grant for playwright, Kim Morrissey)
Rose Bruford College (directing grant for director, Jacqui Somerville)
Canada House, London producers grant for original producers, Theatre Metropolis)
Royal Victoria Hall Foundation
The Warehouse Theatre, East Croydon


MRS RUSKIN

ACT ONE

Scene One

1853. JOHN and EFFIE Ruskin's bedroom at their home, 30 Herne Hill.

JOHN RUSKIN is facing a mirror, putting on a new blue cravat.

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
I have been composing 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. A perfect union. 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 EFFIE'S 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
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? And my father. They have come all this way, to please us and Sophie. 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.

Distant clock strikes three quarter chime.

JOHN
This is not a theological debate. My parents and Sophie are waiting. Come down with me now, Effie.

Effie!

Effie, I command you!

EFFIE continues to lie on the bed.

JOHN
You are insane.

Scene Two.

March 2, 1853. The bedroom. 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"

SOPHIE
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.

SOPHIE
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!

EFFIE starts to work on her ring of embroidery


SOPHIE:
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.

EFFIE
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!

SOPHIE
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.

EFFIE
Oh?

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.

SOPHIE
She knows not what his greatness is ...

EFFIE
We've done that bit.

SOPHIE
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."

'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 writes and then pauses.

SOPHIE
Effie.... How do you spell the word 'beautiful?'

Scene Three

Later that morning. JOHN at writing desk in the 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
Perhaps you could help my mother.

EFFIE
I want to help you.

JOHN
Why?

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 JOHN's 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?

EFFIE
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 card.] This is 'Greek Architecture.'

EFFIE Thank you.

JOHN tears up the 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 ....

EFFIE
But?

JOHN
Perhaps you could go back to adoring me.

JOHN tears up EFFIE'S card.

EFFIE
Very well.

EFFIE watches JOHN.

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
Don't be silly. That would be blasphemy.

JOHN goes back to indexing.

EFFIE
I adore you. If that is blasphemy, then God can strike me dead..... I said: God can strike me dead.

JOHN
Mmm?

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. You are beautiful. That is why Millais wants you to pose.

EFFIE
All the Grays are 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.

JOHN
Mmm.

EFFIE
So, John! So we won't wait!

JOHN
Sorry?

EFFIE
We will have our own baby.

JOHN
I hate babies. Disgusting things. They look like putty. And this house is too small.

EFFIE
It's exactly the same as the home you were brought up in!

JOHN
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.

Scene Four

JOHN making notes in his notebook.

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, of Effie speaking of her husband - his mother - and his father - as the "Batch of Ruskins."

Scene Five

Mid-afternoon. The dining room.

MARGARET is dressing SOPHIE in a coat and scarf (or coat and hat).

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 nods either '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.

MARGARET exits.

SOPHIE stands solemnly.

JOHN enters.


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 SOPHIE.

SOPHIE
Yes ... yes .... yes!

JOHN Are you now?

JOHN kisses SOPHIE.

SOPHIE
No! No!

JOHN
Yes!

SOPHIE
[Laughing.] No!

EFFIE enters.

EFFIE
Sophie, what are you doing?

SOPHIE
Standing still.

EFFIE
John, what are you doing?

JOHN
Kissing Effie!

SOPHIE
No, you're not!

EFFIE
Sophie!

MARGARET enters with sewing kit.

MARGARET
Sophie, what is this nonsense? I told you to stand still.

SOPHIE
Yes.

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!

Scene Six

Three weeks later (end of March, 1853). Late afternoon. The drawing room.

[JOHNNY (John Everett Millais is painting "The Order of Release." Everything has been painted except for the Jacobite wife, 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

JOHNNY 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.

JOHNNY
Unfaltering.

EFFIE
Obstinate.

JOHNNY
Constant.

EFFIE
Pig-headed.

JOHNNY
But stunning!

JOHN enters, stands behind JOHNNY.

JOHN
Perfect!

JOHNNY
Not yet.

JOHN
You are using a Roberson canvas, aren't you?

JOHNNY
Yes.

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 '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.

Clock strikes three quarter chimes.

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 next time?

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?

EFFIE
No.

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?

EFFIE
None.

JOHN
None because the subjects were too great?

EFFIE
No.

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? What did you say?

JOHN
Secrets.

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."

Scene Seven

The next Tuesday. Early morning. The kitchen.

MARGARET has all the ingredients to show EFFIE how to make bread.

EFFIE enters.

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
Nonsense.

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.

EFFIE
Sorry.

MARGARET
Add more flour. Pull it in and around. In and around .... You'll have to do better than that.

EFFIE
Sorry.

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.

EFFIE
Sorry.

MARGARET
Ah, well. No harm done. You'll be teaching this to the little one, soon enough.

EFFIE
Sophie?

MARGARET
No. John .... or Margaret, perhaps.

EFFIE shows 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 EFFIE's 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.

EFFIE
No!

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.

MARGARET starts to clean the kitchen. EFFIE reluctantly joins in.

SCENE EIGHT

Later that afternoon. The 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.

Clock chimes half tone.

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.

JOHNNY
Perhaps.

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
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!

Scene Nine

Dinner that evening. The dining room.

EFFIE, JOHN and MARGARET are seated at the dining table. There is no JOHNNY.

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.

EFFIE
[Quickly.]

"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. [MARGARET 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 is 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?

MARGARET
Maniac!

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.

EFFIE exits.

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.

No EFFIE.


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.

Scene Ten

Much later that evening. The bedroom.

EFFIE is lying on the bed.

JOHN enters.

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.

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.

Scene Eleven

Next morning. The kitchen.

MARGARET is shaving JOHN.

EFFIE enters.


MARGARET
[To JOHN.] 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
[Coldly.] 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 straight-back razor.

MARGARET
Be a Ruskin, for once in your life.

Blackout. End of Act One



ACT TWO


Scene One

July 1853. EFFIE, JOHN and JOHNNY on holiday.

Inside the schoolmaster's cottage, Brig O'Turk, Scotland. The mountain Ben Ledi in the background.

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 poses, razor in hand,, as though she were about to cut JOHN's throat.

JOHNNY
Perfect!

JOHN
My mother used to do this for my grandfather ....

EFFIE
Yes, 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?

JOHN
No.

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.

JOHN
Hardly.

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.

JOHNNY
No.

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.

EFFIE
When?

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.

Scene Two

RUSKIN ON THE ROCKS

JOHN is standing in position on the rocks for the 'John Ruskin at Glenfinlas' portrait. JOHNNY is noting JOHN's 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 JOHN on the canvas.

JOHNNY
Excellent. Well done. Stand still. Don't talk.

JOHNNY goes over to JOHN and marks where JOHN'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.

Sky darkens for rain.

Scene Three

Inside the cottage. The mountain Ben Ledi overshadows the cottage. It is raining.

JOHN and JOHNNY are reading. EFFIE is sketching.EFFIE crumples up a paper and begins again.

EFFIE
It's very quiet.

JOHNNY
Yes, it's lovely.

EFFIE
It's such a pleasure to be able to hear one-self think.

JOHN
Shhh.

EFFIE
Sorry.

JOHNNY
What are you reading, Ruskin?

JOHN
Dante.

JOHNNY
Oh yes. Good?

JOHN
He is a genius. You're familiar with him, aren't you?

JOHNNY
Oh yes. Rossetti's quite keen. 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.

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.

EFFIE
Sorry.

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.

JOHNNY shows her the book.

EFFIE
Oh yes, "The Lady of the Lake."

JOHN
It takes place here. I had hoped you might find it inspiring.

JOHNNY
Yes, it makes me want to fish and shoot stag.

JOHN
Mmm.

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?

The joke occurs to JOHN and EFFIE at the same time.

EFFIE AND JOHN
Working Men!

JOHNNY
Is it a sweet or a savoury dish?

Pause.

EFFIE uses her crumpled paper as a shuttlecock, and her book as a battledore, or raquet, to hit the paper shuttlecock to JOHNNY. JOHNNY hits it back. EFFIE hits it, aiming for JOHNNY and 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. I shall be The Jersey Stunner .... and you - The Herne Hill Gamecock.

They play 'Battledore And Shuttlecock' until someone misses the shuttlecock.

JOHNNY
Victory!

EFFIE
I don't think so .... not if we are playing proper rules. I seem to remember something about counting ....

JOHN
Counting?

EFFIE
Yes ... and they were large numbers ... very large ...

JOHNNY
Counting ... Shall we try?

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!

EFFIE
And the cottage is too small. And we have no room at all for the servants. And the midge bites are terrible.

JOHNNY
Damn it all!

Scene Four.

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 and 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.

JOHN exits.

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. You must be a saint! My feet are wet. 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.

JOHNNY
[Sings, with 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.

EFFIE
Everett.

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.

JOHN enters.

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.



Scene Five

Near the bog and stream by Glenfinlas. It is raining.

EFFIE and JOHNNY sheltered under the picnic cloth, resembling the Millais sketch..

JOHNNY
We must move.

EFFIE
It is very treacherous!

JOHNNY
Mind how you go!

EFFIE slips or falters in the mud of the bog.

EFFIE
No!

JOHNNY catches EFFIE and supports her.

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.

JOHNNY 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 JOHNNY'S thumb lovingly.

JOHNNY
Let me help.

JOHNNY holds EFFIE's 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 enters.

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.

EFFIE exits.

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 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.

LEADING INTO:

Scene Six

January 1853, London.

JOHN is posing, but he is on fake 'rocks' in JOHNNY's studio (83 Gower Street)

SOPHIE is singing with feeling, while sketching. let SOPHIE go on singing until JOHNNY can't stand it any more.

SOPHIE
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

Pause.


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 silly 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 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
[To SOPHIE.] But you're not finished. If you have started, you have to finish.

SOPHIE
Why?

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.

Scene Seven

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 to stand on a chair.

EFFIE
'Doesn't.' 'Crawley doesn't like Mrs. Ruskin.'

SOPHIE
Exactly. But Mrs. Ruskin said he don't like -

EFFIE
"Doesn't"

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. For Easter.

EFFIE
I don't want you in the Kitchen with Cook and Old Annie.

SOPHIE
Why.

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.



SCENE EIGHT

Leading on from last scene. Still mid-morning. The kitchen.

MARGARET
[Sings 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 enters.

EFFIE
I wish to speak with you.

MARGARET
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. 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 it at MARGARET.

They both look surprised.


Scene Nine

Leading on to the lesson in the dining room.

SOPHIE is reading Ruskin's book, "The King Of The Golden River" aloud to JOHN]

SOPHIE
"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 --"

SOPHIE gasps.

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-"

JOHN "Sisters."

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.

EFFIE ENTERS.

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.

SOPHIE exits.


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.

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.

EFFIE
No.

JOHN
Oh, yes, Mrs. Ruskin. Yes.



Scene Ten

The 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.

MARGARET
Worse. The letter 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: [READING EFFIE'S LETTER]  "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.


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  [QUOTING FROM EFFIE'S LETTER]
... "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?

JOHN
Nothing.

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.

JOHNNY [APART FROM THE SCENE]:
[JOHNNY'S letter.]   ... April 23d. 1854. Gower Street. My Dear Mrs. Gray, ....

My Dear, Dear Mrs. Gray ....

.... Dearest Effie ...

..... 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 .. .


JOHN lies across MARGARET's lap, the pose slightly echoing 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.

MARGARET
Sh ... Try to sleep. You are a Great Man. Shh...  Shh...

JOHN
Yes. John Ruskin. I am John Ruskin.

MARGARET
Sh ..

JOHNNY  [APART FROM THE SCENE]:
[JOHNNY'S letter.]   ... April 23d. 1854. .... Gower Street......  My Dear Mrs. Gray ....


SCENE ELEVEN

EFFIE'S parent's home, Bowerswell, Perth, Scotland

SOPHIE is quietly reading a book.
EFFIE is reading a letter, hidden, so it might look as if she is just sketching.


JOHNNY
[JOHNNY'S LETTER] 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.

EFFIE laughs.

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. Who is it from?

EFFIE reads aloud.


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.


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.

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  paper shuttlecock to SOPHIE.

EFFIE
One ... two .... three .....

SOPHIE
And will you invite him?

EFFIE
Perhaps....

SOPHIE
Oh ... ye'll take the high road ....

Slow Fade as EFFIE AND SOPHIE exit.
.



THE END

© Kim Morrissey, 2008

THIS IS NOT THE FINAL VERSION OF THIS PLAY (draft 12)

MRS RUSKIN by Kim Morrissey. Caution: this play is fully protected under the copyright laws of Canada and all other countries of The Copyright Union, and is subject to royalty. Those interested in production rights are requested to apply to Playwrights Guild of Canada, Mailing Address 215 Spadina Ave.Suite #210,  Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5T 2C7 telephone (416) 703-0201; fax (416) 703-0059. e-mail: info@playwrightsguild.ca