May 30 2003 - DRAFT  - 5 pm

MRS RUSKIN

by Kim Morrissey

THIS DRAFT

x draft 4
other drafts
actors involved in the workshops
planned première : Croydon Warehouse Theatre UK September 5- 26 2003

(later changed to September 12 - October  2003)
to be produced by
Theatre Metropolis
in 2003

Artistic Directors: Amy Oliver, Michael Yale
directed by Jacqui Somerville



BACKGROUND MATERIAL: The Order of Release
"The Order of Release 1746", oil on canvas, 103 x 74 cm, 1852-1853, Effie Ruskin (née Gray, later Millais) as model, The Tate Gallery, London


MRS RUSKIN

ACT ONE

SCENE ONE. 1853. THE RUSKIN'S BEDROOM.

John Ruskin stands before a mirror, shaving.

JOHN: [LECTURING TO HIMSELF, MID-LECTURE]

I married my wife, thinking her so young and affectionate that I might influence her as I chose. I imagined that I could change HER. 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 as the progenitors of her most precious possession, - Imagine instead, her speaking of her husband - his mother - and his father - as the "Batch of Ruskins."

How could one even consider having a child with such an ungrateful woman? What sort of mother could she be? One longs to say to her: [TRIES OUT VARIOUS TONES]

Effie .... Effie .... Yes, one ought to say: "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: I have been making notes towards a Model Marriage.



EFFIE: [WITH PLEASURE] Using me as a model?



JOHN: Of a sort. [PAUSE] I was thinking more of my parents. An ideal couple, perfectly suited. From the start, no one could imagine otherwise.



EFFIE: Your grandfather cut his throat.



JOHN: It might well have been an accident. He was alone at the time.



EFFIE: With your mother.



JOHN: What are you insinuating?



EFFIE: Nothing. He was alone with your mother. Everyone knows that.



JOHN: Why would everyone know? Why would anyone care?



EFFIE: No one cares. It's just fact.



JOHN: Hasn't my poor mother suffered enough?



[EFFIE DOESN'T ANSWER. IT'S OBVIOUS THAT HER ANSWER WOULD NOT NECESSARILY BE 'YES.']



JOHN: This really must stop, Effie. You are sick. You're insane. It's unseemly. No proper wife would be jealous of a man's mother.



EFFIE: No proper husband would give his wife grounds.



JOHN: Your insolence is intolerable!



EFFIE: How dare you speak to me so. I am your wife.



JOHN: Exactly. And she is my mother.



EFFIE: But I am your wife. Your first duty is to me.



JOHN: No. Your first duty is to me.



EFFIE: Why must you have the last word every time?



JOHN: I am your husband.



EFFIE: I am sorry. I have such a head-ache. [LIES DOWN ON THE BED] Please forgive me. Please, let's not quarrel.



JOHN: [WATCHING WITH GROWING OUTRAGE] Surely you are not going to lie down. Not now.



EFFIE: Just a little.



JOHN: But it is breakfast. Mother will be expecting us.



EFFIE: I don't feel very special, this morning.



JOHN: What will I tell Mother? And what about Sophie?



EFFIE: Sophie can take care of herself.



JOHN: A nice sentiment! Sophie is only ten. What will her mother say, when she hears of it?



EFFIE: Mother will say 'I'm so sorry you're feeling poorly, Effie. Please don't worry. Your sister can take care of herself.'



JOHN: No she won't. She will say, 'Effie promised to take care of her as if she were her own child and she didn't. What sort of mother could she possible 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.'



JOHN: She will blame us.



EFFIE: I don't think so.



JOHN: You don't think at all. : It is my wish that you breakfast with my mother. She has come all this way, to join in Sophie's breakfast-farewell.



EFFIE: Lie down with me.



JOHN: It is my wish that you join them.



EFFIE: Your wish!



JOHN: Yes, my wish.



EFFIE: And what about my wishes?



JOHN: Your wish should be to please me. A wife should obey her husband in everything but what is against God's commands.



EFFIE: I think you will find the sentence reads: A wife should obey her husband in everything reasonable.



JOHN: It does not.



EFFIE: Then it should.



JOHN: Effie.... Effie! I command you!



[EFFIE CONTINUES TO LIE ON THE BED]



JOHN: You are insane.



BLACKOUT



SCENE TWO. Later that morning.

Effie is taking the curling papers out of her sister Sophie's hair and brushing it. Sophie is reading aloud from Tennyson's In Memorium; Effie still has her headache.



EFFIE: From where we left off. Top of the page, please. Page 145.



SOPHIE: XCVII ... X .C.V.I..I.



EFFIE: No. In English....



SOPHIE: But I go home today!



EFFIE: XC is .... [IMPATIENTLY] … XC is 90.



SOPHIE: 90 ...V 1...2.... 97!



EFFIE: Go on.



SOPHIE: [BEGINS AGAIN] Number Ninety-Seven.



My love has talk'd with rocks and trees;

He finds on misty mountain-ground

His own vast shadow glory-crow ... N... d ....



EFFIE: [Looking at the text] "Crowned"



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]:

Her life is lone, he sits apart,

He loves her, yet she will not weep,



EFFIE: He loves her yet, she will not weep,



SOPHIE: [A PERFECT MIMICK]

He loves her yet, she will not weep,

Tho' rapt in matters dark and deep

He seems to slight her simple heart!.



He thrids the labyrinth of the mind ... !

He reads the secret of the star ...!





EFFIE: Not so much feeling, please. You're not on the stage.



SOPHIE: What's 'thrids?'



EFFIE: [DOESN'T KNOW] It doesn't matter. Go on.



SOPHIE: What's 'thrids?'



EFFIE: Ask Mr Ruskin.



SOPHIE: But how can I tell what it means if I don't know the word?



EFFIE: Go on!



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."



SOPHIE: 'I cannot understand. I love.' It's lovely, isn't it? She reminds me of Towser.



EFFIE: Towser is a dog.



SOPHIE: What I don't understand is why the man knows so much. Are all men like that?



EFFIE: That's enough Tennyson for today. Arithmetic. You don't want to go home a rude ignorant Scotch girl, do you?



SOPHIE: We've already done roman numerals. That's Arithmetic. Perhaps I could just write a letter. To Mama? I could tell her all about the walk with Mr Ruskin yesterday and everything he said to me and what I said, too. I think Mama would be very pleased. I would write very quietly.



EFFIE: Very well.



[SOPHIE BEGINS TO WRITE, PAUSES]



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



THE RUSKIN'S BEDROOM.

John Ruskin stands before a mirror, tying his blue neckcloth cravat.

JOHN: [LECTURING TO HIMSELF, MID-LECTURE]

She said 'people would think me extraordinary to make such a proposal.' I said ' I am extraordinary .... I am extraordinary and if you did not know it before you were well to know it now! I don't care what people say. I need to work at Mama and Papa's every day. I need to work there for the light, and if I am there, I can not be here. And then she said it was merely my notion ... [OUTRAGED] "merely my notion" ... and that I could sketch stones anywhere. Extraordinary!



SCENE THREE. Later that morning. Margaret Ruskin, wrapping Sophie in coat and scarf.



MARGARET: [TO SOPHIA] Stand still. To my eternal surprise, your sister was out of bed before nine, so there's a first! She must love you very much. Not enough to have breakfast with you, of course. Now, tell Effie to tell Crawley to go directly to Kings Cross up Gray's Inn Road, and not past new St. Pancras Church with the ladies, so you'll be safely away, bless you. And if you miss the train, just come home again. Don't wait for a later one. You can try again tomorrow. And tell your Mama to let you come back as soon as you are able, for we love you and think of you as our own. Stand Still! You must decide whether you are going to try to be a Ruskin, like us, or be a fool .....



[MARGARET TIES THE SCARF, SOPHIE MAKES A MUFFLED PROTEST]



MARGARET Too tight?



[SOPHIE EITHER NODS YES OR NO]



MARGARET: It would have been better for your sister to go with you, all the way to your Mama and Papa's. But Effie won't be told anything, as you know.



And you know why she won't be coming with you? It's not because she's feeling poorly. It's because John has asked her to be posing for pictures for some fellow called Milly. What sort of name that is for a gentleman, I don't know, but John says he is a genius, so I have determined to say nothing at all as I know I am too old to understand Art. Mind you, I don't know why his blessed Mr. Turner didn't get himself a pair of spectacles so he could see things proper.



[SOPHIE'S BUTTON COMES OFF HER COAT AS MRS RUSKIN TRIES TO BUTTON IT UP]



MARGARET: Now look what you've done.

[SLAPS SOPHIE SHARPLY] Stand still, Sophie. And don't move, while I get my needle and thread.



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, when she was a wee baern as well .... Are you standing still? .... Are you .... are you? [TICKLING HER]



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



JOHN: Are you now? [KISSING HER, COMIC KISSES]



SOPHIE: No! No!



JOHN: Yes!



SOPHIE: [LAUGHING] No!



EFFIE: [ENTERING, TO SOPHIE] Sophie, what are you doing?



SOPHIE: Standing still.



EFFIE: John, what are you doing?



JOHN: Kissing Effie!



SCENE FOUR. Next morning.

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. You are a model wife .... Forgive me ... if I could just show you what I want ......



[JOHNNY GOES TO EFFIE AND ADJUSTS THE ANGLE OF HER HEAD]



JOHNNY: Stunning.



[HE RETURNS TO THE PAINTING]



EFFIE: It's hard work, being a Jacobite. You should have had John pose instead.



JOHNNY: As the husband?



EFFIE: As whatever you like. He's very fond of you. Why didn't you use your Ophelia?



JOHNNY: Too thin. You make a better Jacobite. You have the proper Scottish air of purpose and determination.



EFFIE: How charming. John would call me stubborn.



JOHNNY: Perhaps he meant "Resolute." Head a little higher, please.



EFFIE: May I talk? I don't think so. I think he meant "Stubborn."



JOHNNY: " Proud." .... "Firm"



EFFIE: Rigid. Inflexible. Obstinate.



JOHNNY: Constant.



EFFIE: Contumacious.



JOHNNY: Stunning.



[JOHN ENTERS, STANDS BEHIND JOHNNY]



JOHN: Perfect!



JOHNNY: That's enough for today.



JOHN: Will you stay to dinner, Mr. Millais?



JOHNNY: I'm so sorry. Perhaps another time.



JOHN: We had hoped you might stay.



EFFIE: We should not have presumed.



JOHNNY: Not at all. You have simply presumed too soon. I'm afraid I have made other arrangements. Ask me again.



JOHN: Perhaps the next time you come?



JOHNNY: Perhaps.



EFFIE: Tuesday?



JOHNNY: Perhaps.



JOHN: Perhaps even the night, if you wish. And whenever you wish. Whole weeks at a time, if you like. We thought it would save on journeys.



EFFIE: But John-



JOHN: My wife thinks that people might talk. She says people would think me extraordinary, inviting a handsome young gentleman to stay in the house with her when I am away so often. I told her I was extraordinary and if she did not know it before, she would be well to know it now. It would be no trouble. No trouble at all. Please say you will stay.



JOHNNY: Perhaps. [TO EFFIE] Practise being resolute.



[JOHN AND JOHNNY EXIT]



[EFFIE RESUMES THE EXPRESSION REQUIRED FOR 'THE ORDER OF RELEASE.' JOHN RETURNS]



JOHN: What are you thinking of, Effie?



EFFIE: A great many things.



JOHN: Tell me what they are.



EFFIE: I was thinking of ... a great many things.



JOHN: And what conclusions did you come to?



EFFIE: None.... None.



JOHN: None. How extraordinary!

SCENE FIVE. KITCHEN TABLE

[MARGARET HAS ALL THE INGREDIENTS READY, TO SHOW EFFIE HOW TO MAKE BREAD]



MARGARET: You are late.



EFFIE: Forgive me .....



MARGARET: There will hardly be time. No matter. I've started the yeast ... we can save time there. Don't just stand there ....



[EFFIE CLEARLY DOESN'T KNOW WHAT SHE SHOULD BE DOING]



MARGARET: Did your mother teach you nothing? Apron.



[PASSES APRON TO EFFIE, PUTS ON ONE HERSELF]



EFFIE: But my cuffs....



MARGARET: Nonsense.



[SHE 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 warter. 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 Warter. What sort of warter? Come on. What sort of warter? 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 want. The French style is all very well, but you will need to save your pennies, soon. French costs more than English.



EFFIE: I would give anything to please John.



MARGARET: It's all very well, giving anything with other people's money. Boughten bread! The very idea. John loves my bread. He will love yours as well. And at a quarter of the cost. There, do you see the change in your dough?



EFFIE: Not really..



MARGARET: [TAKES OVER EFFIE'S DOUGH, AND ADJUSTS IT] 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.



EFFIE: [SHOWING THE LOAF] 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] No. Enjoy it while you can. You'll know soon enough.



EFFIE: Sorry, I don't quite understand.



MARGARET: Early to bed, early to rise. Always poorly in the mornings before breakfast. Looking so pale, even fly-paper warter can't bring colour to your cheeks. No need to say anything at all. A woman knows.



EFFIE: I think you may be mistaken.



MARGARET: While the bread is proving, we'll mix a batch of blood-tonic to build bones.



EFFIE: No thank you. My bones don't need building.



MARGARET: Maybe yes. Maybe no. I was talking about the baby's.



EFFIE: It's impossible. There is no baby.



MARGARET: Are you telling me that's not a baby [CUPS EFFIE'S BELLY].



EFFIE: No!



MARGARET: No. Don't you want it. Don't you want the child?



EFFIE: With all my heart. It's just ... it's impossible. It would have to be a miracle, for me to be with child.



MARGARET: Every woman thinks that. I thought that. You're still young. I was thirty-six. Thirty-six. Everyone thought I was a fool: eight years engagement and not a wedding in sight, and John James down in London and me in Bowerswell looking after the old man. But then, as luck would have it, the old man dies, and John James and I did marry, and our own John was born, and we have worshipped him for the pecious miracle that he was ever since.



EFFIE: I love him, too.



MARGARET: Who wouldn't.



EFFIE: He isn't ... ordinary, though.



MARGARET: Of course he's not. I didn't raise my miracle-baby to be ordinary. He's not like other men. Great men have great thoughts. It's left to us women to do the work.



SCENE SIX. EFFIE, JOHN AND JOHNNY, DRAWING ROOM

[JOHNNY IS CLEANING HIS PAINT BRUSH AND HANDS]

JOHN: My mother always says Great Art demands Great Sacrifice.

JOHNNY: I don't think your wife would agree.

JOHN: I married my wife, thinking her so young and affectionate that I might influence her as I chose. I imagined that I could change HER. And she married, thinking she could change ME.

JOHNNY: And what happened?

JOHN: It seems we were both mistaken.

JOHNNY: Still, you seem very happy.

JOHN: In our way. But if you could only have met Effie when I first knew her. She was an Angel Child at thirteen.



JOHNNY: She is very beautiful.



JOHN: She was exquisite. So innocent. So tender and simple. So loving. And such hard little bones. Always younger than she was. At thirteen, she was as small as Sophie is now.

She used to cherish me, you know. She used to follow me about like a little dog. She once told me she thought of me whenever she was alone. I would come upon her in the garden, hidden away, smiling, and I would say: "What are you thinking of, Pet?" and she would say "I was thinking only of You." - "Only of you!" I miss her. I miss that child. I see her sometimes in Effie, and then the light changes and I think: how did she grow so old?



JOHNNY: I'm sorry. I must go.



JOHN: But you'll stay to dinner? You'll stay. I would give anything for you to stay. My mother would be so disappointed, not to meet you. Please. Stay.



SCENE SEVEN. DINNER THAT EVENING



Effie, John and Margaret Ruskin. No Johnny Millais.

[John is looking very bad-tempered; MARGARET is looking very bad-tempered. Effie is trying to be resolutely good-tempered]



MARGARET: [TO JOHN] Sit up straight.



JOHN: Effie, shall you give thanks?



MARGARET: Your Father says a man's voice is better.



JOHN: Father isn't here.



MARGARET: Exactly. And why, we might ask. Why?



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. I think it's charming.



MARGARET: It's not a proper Grace. It's too short. [TO JOHN] I can't believe your father would approve. It doesn't seem to be said to our Lord for his sake, but for vanities' sake. It's said to hear yourself speak..... not to properly give thanks at all. [LOOKS AT THE TABLE] There seems to have been a great deal to give thanks for, tonight. Do you always have so much at table?



EFFIE: We were expecting the painter, Mr Millais.



MARGARET: And what are these things?



EFFIE: They are called Pine Apples.



MARGARET: Pine Apples. For dinner?



EFFIE: It is the fashion.



MARGARET: And what are wrong with good English Apples?



EFFIE: We thought you might like to try something new.



MARGARET: I suppose they are very dear.



EFFIE: We would give anything to give you new pleasure, Mother Ruskin.



MARGARET: It's all very well, giving anything. And easy as well, when one gives with other people's money. Will you still be giving me Pine Apples when you are my age? Or is it that you think John's father will still be travelling to keep you in Pine Apples all your days? If so, he'll have to keep you and the whole Gray clan, who have never had scrap of sense or fortune between them. Thank God you have no children.



EFFIE: Be quiet!



JOHN: How dare you speak to my mother like that!



EFFIE: Be quiet, too!



JOHN: Have you gone mad?



EFFIE: Have you? How can you sit there and listen to this silly old goose say one more word?



MARGARET: Maniac!



EFFIE: Will you let your mother speak to me like that?



MARGARET: How dare she speak to your mother like that!



EFFIE: I am your wife! .... John.... Very well. If you will not speak for me.... I will not stay here to be insulted. Please excuse me.



[EFFIE EXITS]



MARGARET: She's very rude.



SCENE EIGHT. JOHN RUSKIN

JOHN: Who could believe, of a woman who to all strangers behaves with grace and pleasantness, that in her domestic life, for every question asked - every answer is given with a snap : Who could believe her utter ingratitude. This is only one instance: [READS]

Effie is looking abstractedly out of the window.

John. Kindly. What are you thinking of, Effie?

- A great many things.

John. Amiably. Tell me some of them.

- I was thinking of operas - and excitement - and - Angrily - a great many things.

John. Fondly. And what conclusions did you come to.

- None - because YOU interrupted me.

And that continuing the whole day in that insolent tone of voice. Imagine! A woman should obey her husband in all commands, I tell her. I tell her it is my wish, and what I wish must be respected. That if she will not respect me, then we can never have peace. I tell her if she loved me, she would know that . That one must feel not just respected, but ... cherished.



SCENE NINE. THAT EVENING. THE RUSKIN'S BEDROOM

JOHN: Effie. Euphemia.

[EFFIE PRETENDS TO BE ASLEEP]

JOHN: Listen carefully. I know you are angry, but if you apologise, like a good little girl, I will take you back to the Highlands in three months time for the whole of the summer. Just us. Alone. Together. I had meant to tell you earlier.

Millais says he will come too.

And his brother.

And possibly Hunt.

It's for you to decide. You can come with me if you wish ...

... unless you would rather spend the summer here with my parents.

Effie.

[THERE IS A PAUSE]

You know, Pet, in this light, it seems almost a dream to me that we have been married. As if I had never held you in my arms. Come with me, this summer, and we can look forward to our next bridal night .... as if we had never been together at all ... and you will finally be mine. Drawing your dress from your snowy shoulders, leaning my cheek upon them, as if you were my betrothed ... my only betrothed ... my betrothed only ... innocent and fresh and tender …. drawing your dress from your shoulders .... Pet …..

[JOHN TURNS AWAY. WE HEAR HIM MASTURBATING]

[EFFIE STARES STRAIGHT AHEAD]

SCENE TEN. MORNING THE RUSKIN'S KITCHEN


MARGARET: You're up early.

EFFIE: Mother Ruskin. I felt so ill, last night. I couldn't sleep with the worry.

MARGARET: Or the wine.

EFFIE: I am sorry. Forgive me. Forgive me.

MARGARET: I will never forgive you. You are mad.

EFFIE: I must be. John says I have a terrible temper. Forgive me. Tell me what I can do to make things right.



MARGARET: There is only one thing you can do. My son is the last of the Ruskins. John Thomas, John James, and now John. He should have children. Proper children. Children to make their father proud.



EFFIE: And he will.



MARGARET: How? How could he take the risk? With a mother who is mad?



EFFIE: You're not mad....



MARGARET: I meant you. How can he have children ... for fear the bad blood will out. And how can he divorce and still go into society. It would ruin him. And for what? Look at you: No money, no wits, no sense. You are just like all the other Grays from here to Kingdom Come. You are only fit to spend money that you haven't earned, going into Society you can't pay for, drawing your poor husband and his father deeper and deeper into debt so that you shall have an Allowance to fritter away as you please.

EFFIE: John says nothing about this.

MARGARET: He says nothing, because he loves you. But if you loved him, truly loved him, you would see there can be only one way to put things right, to let him live as he should. As he was destined to be. Sacrifice yourself, Effie. For once in your life, think of someone other than yourself. You can only be a burden. Sacrifice, and let him have the life and the children and the wife a man of greatness should have.



EFFIE: But we are married.



[MARGARET HANDS EFFIE THE STRAIGHT-BACK RAZOR]



MARGARET: It is the duty of such a man to have children. He must not have them with you. Search your soul and find the courage to stand aside, for his sake. Be a Ruskin, for once in your life. Think of him and do what you think best.



END OF ACT ONE


ACT TWO

JULY 1853 BRIG O'TURK, SCOTLAND

THE RUSKINS AND MILLAIS ON HOLIDAY



SCENE ONE.

[AS LIGHTS COME UP, WE SEE EFFIE, RAZOR IN HAND (LIGHTING FROM ABOVE, FROM COMPLETE DARKNESS, SO WE SEE EFFIE AND THE RAZOR CATCHING THE LIGHT, BEFORE WE SEE WHAT SHE IS DOING.) AS THE LIGHT GRADUALLY GROWS, IT REVEALS A GLORIOUS SUNRISE IN SCOTLAND . LIGHTS UP COMPLETELY ON 'I am losing the light.']



EFFIE: [SHAVING JOHN] There. Hold still.



JOHN: But I don't want ....



EFFIE: Don't talk!



JOHN: But I don't like ....



EFFIE: Don't move! ... up .... good .....



JOHNNY: [TO EFFIE, SKETCHING HER] Don't move!



EFFIE: [PAUSES, RAZOR IN HAND, POSING AMIABLY, BEHIND JOHN, AS THOUGH SHE WERE ABOUT TO CUT HIS THROAT]



JOHNNY: Perfect!



EFFIE: John's mother used to do this for his grandfather, 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. [TO JOHNNY] John's grandfather used to tear off his clothes, and fight with people through the night.



JOHNNY: What fun! As a bet?



JOHN: No, with whomever was around.



EFFIE: The servants said it was a terrible strain, taking care of him.



JOHN: They say he was clean-shaven, though, to the end ... like my father, he was a handsome man, and always very proud of his appearance.



EFFIE: I think he must have been a very selfish man - to let someone go to all this bother, and THEN cut your throat. [TO JOHNNY] May I continue?



JOHNNY: By all means. I am losing the light.



EFFIE: [ CONTINUING TO SHAVE JOHN] 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. It makes drawing you a delight. 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.



JO)HN: [OUTRAGED] No!



EFFIE: [TO JOHN] Keep still.



JOHNNY: We must learn to see things as they are, not as other people tell us they are. That is the first lesson for a Pre-Raphaelite painter. To see things as they are.



EFFIE: Do you think you could teach me?



JOHNNY: With pleasure. And you, too, John, if you like.



EFFIE: But when?



JOHNNY: Why not now? All you need is pencil and paper.



[EFFIE PUTS DOWN CUT THROAT RAZOR AND STARTS TO LOOK FOR PAPER]



JOHN: [FEELING HIS FACE] I don't call this finished.



EFFIE: Oh, John, forgive me. [SNATCHES UP RAZOR TO FINISH SHAVING]



JOHN: Take care!



JOHNNY: Lesson TWO. Every stroke must be deliberate. And controlled .... slowly ... slower .... Well done!



[SKY DARKENS FOR RAIN]



SCENE TWO.

INSIDE THE BRIG 'O TURK COTTAGE. THE MOUNTAIN BEN LEDI IN BACKGROUND. RAIN.


[JOHNNY AND EFFIE ARE PLAYING BATTLEDORE AND SHUTTLECOCK. THEY PLAY UNTIL JOHNNY WINS A POINT]



JOHNNY: Victory! The Jersey Stunner defeats you yet again, Madam! Hand your weapon to the Herne Hill Gamecock and Stand Aside! This is a Sport for Men.



JOHN: En guard! Duke Stunner. I accept your challenge.



[THEY PLAY; BEST OF THREE POINTS]



EFFIE: It's my turn. Let me play the winner.



JOHNNY: But you can't. The winner is Master and shall nevermore be challenged.



EFFIE: Then let me play the loser.



RUSKIN: Impossible. It was a fight to the death.



JOHNNY: Besides, Fair Lady, we fought for you!



EFFIE: I think you will find, Duke Stunner, I can fight for myself.



SCENE THREE.

THE WATERFALL AT GLENFINLAS

[EFFIE AND JOHNNY ARE IN THE SAME POSITION AS THE MILLAIS SKETCH "THE MASTER AND HIS PUPILS" JOHN IS HOVERING. THERE IS A PACKED LUNCH NEARBY.]



JOHNNY: [TO EFFIE] Good. now draw me three more squares.



EFFIE: One ...two ....three!



JOHNNY: Well done! Now. Square one: shade in graduations again .... four stages to the square ....



EFFIE: One ... two ... three .... four.



JOHNNY: Now dry point to smooth the graduations into one. ... Excellent! You are better than I was, at your stage! You are better than I was after six years of instruction.



EFFIE: Perhaps I have a better teacher.



JOHNNY: Square Two. Draw a smooth, round rock.



[JOHN NEEDS TO PISS; HE MOVES OUT OF POSITION]



JOHNNY: [TO JOHN] Don't move.



JOHN: But you aren't doing me at all! You're painting rocks.



JOHNNY: It isn't you I need, it is the shadows reflecting from you onto the rock. I need the colour of you, in position, to do them properly.



JOHN: But there must be rocks which don't reflect me. Just for a moment.



JOHNNY: Do you want this to be done properly, or not?



JOHN: I must move. I must .... Forgive me. Five minutes.



EFFIE: 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 OPENS BASKET]



EFFIE: Salmon or Cucumber?



JOHNNY: Salmon, please, Mrs. Ruskin.



EFFIE: Perhaps you could call me Effie.



JOHNNY: Perhaps. Could you call me John?



EFFIE: I'm sorry. It would be too confusing. Two Johns. You wouldn't know which one I wanted.



JOHNNY: Johnny then, or Jack. My friends call me Johnny.



EFFIE: It would be like calling Michael Angelo 'Mike.'



JOHNNY: But what else could I be called?



EFFIE: Perhaps I could call you ... Everett.



JOHNNY: No one uses that.



EFFIE: No one but me....



JOHNNY: It sounds too ... formal. I'm not old enough to be an 'Everett.'



EFFIE: We could call you 'Evvie.'



JOHNNY: Call me Everett.



EFFIE: Another sandwich, Everett? We have ... [under her breath] six, seven .... three into seven ... [TO JOHNNY] three more for you, if you like.



JOHNNY: I shall call you The Countess.



EFFIE: Because I'm noble and beautifully-mannered?



JOHNNY: Because you count very badly. 3 into 9 is 3. Salmon again, please. Cucumber is only fit for ladies and saints. Thank you.



[JOHN RETURNS]



EFFIE: Salmon or Cucumber, John?



JOHN: Cucumber, of course.



EFFIE AND JOHNNY SMILE.



EFFIE: Of course.



[SKY DARKENS FOR RAIN]



SCENE FOUR.

EFFIE AND JOHNNY SHELTERING FROM RAIN, UNDER A PLAID TARTAN

JOHNNY [SINGING CHEERFULLY]


Oh, you take the High Road

And I'll take the Low Road

And I'll be in Scotland Afore Ye.



EFFIE: Not so cheerfully, please. It is a lament.



JOHNNY: A tragedy, perhaps. That both end up in Scotland. I have never been so wet.



EFFIE: It is a Jacobite ballad, you know. One prisoner is being released. One will be executed the next day. The 'Low Road' is death.



JOHNNY: Forgive me. I had no idea. I thought it was only a love song. I didn't know it had meaning.



EFFIE: For the Scotch, all songs have meaning.

[SINGS]

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.



SCENE FIVE. RUSKIN ON ROCKS



JOHN: I intend to tell them that, of course, the greatest artists are those who represent curves with straight lines. There are no perfect circles in nature, and should be none in art. Where there are, you find a bad artist.



JOHNNY: When did you come to this decision?



JOHN: I have always thought so.



JOHNNY: I'm so pleased we agree.



JOHN: I can't tell you how much pleasure being with you has brought me, this summer.



JOHNNY: But you must find it difficult as well, my being always with you.



JOHN: I would rather be with you, than anyone.



JOHNNY: Even Effie?



JOHN: It is a privilege to be with you, and to have you all to myself. You are a great artist, Everett. Better than Turner was, at your age! It is an honour to watch you work, and to work alongside you. And you will always remember this sumer. You will see our books or sketches or paintings, or a catch sight of the words Ben Ledi or Loch Lomond, and think always of me.



JOHNNY: Surely you would like some time alone.



JOHN: Of course. That is why your evening walk with Effie is such a treat. It gives me time to get on with my work, without her always about, chattering and laughing and asking questions and wanting to give cups of tea.



JOHNNY: But perhaps I should move to the hotel, all the same.



JOHN: But why? Why pay more, when we can live together for less. It is 13 pounds for one at the hotel, and 3 pounds among three, here.and you have the use of Crawley whenever you please. And the Cooking is excellent. Even if the cottage is small.



JOHHNY: Very small. Surely you must miss those pleasures marriage holds.



JOHN: Marriage holds very few pleasures, after six years. We enjoy the company of others more than ourselves. Just for this moment, stay with us.



JOHNNY: But surely you would prefer some privacy with the Countess.



JOHN: I would prefer to be here alone. With you. The true friendship of men is nobler than that between men and women.



JOHNNY: How so?



JOHN: Because, manly love is pure love. We know we cherish each other for our company and our mind, not for earthly pleasures we might bring. With a man, it is simple. One knows where one stands.





LEADING INTO:

SCENE SIX.

RUSKIN ON 'ROCKS' IN MILLAIS' STUDIO; January 1853.

[JOHNNY, JOHN AND SOPHIE]


SOPHIE And then she put down the brush and she said:

She wants a child.

She wants yours.

She wants your child.



JOHN: That will never happen. But you mustn't tell her, Sophie.



EFFIE: Because she will be sad?



JOHN: Because she will think you are an evil, wicked girl for telling tales and send you away.



SCENE SEVEN.

THE NEXT MORNING. SOPHIE IN EFFIE'S ROOM, HAVING HER RAGS TAKEN OUT OF HER HAIR.



SOPHIE: And then he said 'she will think you an evil, wicked girl and send you away, but you wouldn't, would you.



EFFIE: I would sooner go myself.



SOPHIE: Because you love me.



EFFIE: Because you are my sister ... and I love you.



SOPHIE: And what about Mr Ruskin? I think he must love me too.



EFFIE: I'm certain he does.



SOPHIE: He tells me he never wants me to go. Mr Millais says that when people are beautiful, everyone loves them. And that's why I think Crawley don't like Mrs. Ruskin; because she is ugly.



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



SOPHIE: Exactly. But Old Mrs. Ruskin says he don't -



EFFIE: "Doesn't"



SOPHIE: - Doesn't like her because he is lazy... and that's the plain fact pure and simple. But then he says Old Annie is lazy too, and Mrs. Ruskin says that isn't the point. Old Annie has always been lazy, but his laziness seems to be improving.



EFFIE: Surely not. How could it be improving? That's the wrong word altogether.



SOPHIE: Well, that's what Old Mrs Ruskin says. And Old Annie and Cook say so too. Why just the Tuesday week morning, Old Annie went to iron his washed shirts, and what does she find but that Crawley hadn't washed them at all, and when she put the hot iron on them such nasty marks came out on the front and the bottom that she had to go wash them all again. And it wasn't just one. It was several. And they were all spoiled by such a nasty spilled stain. And she asked him and Crawley lied and said Mr Ruskin had spilled milk.



EFFIE: Surely not.



SOPHIE: That's exactly what cook says. He don't even like it. So that could never have been. And Old Annie agreed. 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 she said Master John had always been her business and always would be and hadn't she taken care of him since he was a wee baern himself and she wouldn't stand by and see him wearing soiled shirts that a dirty oaf like Crawley was too lazy to wash. And then Mrs Ruskin came along and made a terrible face and said that Crawley's laziness was improving day by day. And that's when, after Old Mrs. Ruskin left the kitchen, Crawley said she was ugly and he don't like Mrs Ruskin,



SCENE EIGHT.

IN THE KITCHEN


MARGARET: What can we expect from an ignorant Scotch girl.



EFFIE: And as for your sneaking, sliding, sly sluggish totting up of ever penny spent and every word spoken, weighing and telling tales, I loathe it. I loathe you. And I would rather be an ignorant silly Scotch girl than the sort of twisted, mean-minded, mean-spirited ugly old witch you've become.

[EFFIE THROWS A KNIFE AT MRS RUSKIN. IT JUST MISSES HER.]

[THEY BOTH LOOK SURPRISED]



SCENE NINE.

RUSKIN AND SOPHIE TOGETHER.

[SHE IS READING THE KING OF THE GOLDEN RIVER ALOUD TO HIM (THE FAIRY TALE HE WROTE FOR EFFIE WHEN SHE WAS THIRTEEN).HE IS SITTING WITH HER, OR DRAWING HER]




SOPHIE: And Effie said that was why Crawley DOESN'T like Mrs Ruskin, because she is so very, very ugly, just like Mr. Hans and Mr Schwatz in your book.



JOHN: Please go on.



SOPHIE: Well, Crawley was asking after the tea and Cook told him Old Annie said ...



JOHN: From where you left off, please. In the book.



SOPHIE: [READING] "Poor beastie," said Gluck, "it'll be dead when I come down again, if I don't help it." Then he looked closer and closer at it, and its one eye turned on him so mournfully that he could not stand it. "Confound the King and his gold too" said Gluck; and he opened the flask and poured all the water into the dog's mouth.



The dog sprang up and stood on its hind legs. Its tail disappeared, its ears became long, longer, silky, golden; its nose became very red, its eyes became very twinkling; in three seconds the dog was gone, and before Gluck stood his old acquaintance, the King of the Golden River.



"Thank you," said the monarch; "but don't be frightened, it's all right;" for Gluck showed manifest symptoms of consternation at this unlooked for reply to his observation. "Why didn't you come before," continued the dwarf, "instead of sending me those rascally brothers of yours-"



JOHN: "Sisters."



SOPHIE: [CHECKING THE TEXT] "brothers"



JOHN: "Sisters".



SOPHIE: Brothers.



JOHN: When I first wrote it for Effie, I thought it should be 'brothers.' But now I think it should be 'Sisters.' Please correct it, for me.



SOHPIE: Will you write something for me?



JOHN: If you are as pretty and as obliging as your sister. Start from "Why didn't you come before."



SOPHIE: "Why didn't you come before, "continued the dwarf," instead of sending me those rascally ... sisters .... of yours, for me to have the trouble of turning into stones? Very hard stones they make, too!" -- What sort of stones were they?



JOHN: Very hard. Very, very hard. Hard as granite. Hard as this.



[HE PINCHES HER]



SOPHIE: No, hard as this! [SHE PINCHES HIM]



JOHN: Stop! ..... Stop!



SOPHIE: Hard as this ... and this and this [SHE CARRIES ON PINCHING]



JOHN: I said Stop.

[AS HE STANDS, EFFIE NOTICES SOMETHING ABOUT HIS PERSON]



EFFIE: John, may I speak with you?



JOHN: Sophie has not finished her lesson.



EFFIE: She can finish later. Sophie. Find Old Annie, and ask her if the eggs from Denmark Hill have come.



SOPHIE: For my very own tea!



EFFIE: For your very own tea.



[SOPHIE EXITS]



EFFIE: I understand there has been some misunderstanding about your shirts.



JOHN: So I believe. I told Old Annie I'd told Crawley, not Old Annie to wash them. They were left in a heap, and Old Annie thought they were washed, and when she went to iron them, found them ... soiled.



EFFIE: The way your shirt today is soiled?



JOHN: Perhaps. It was just a misunderstanding. It won't happen again.



EFFIE: I will send her away.



JOHN: I don't think so.



EFFIE: I will take her away. You will never see either of us again.



JOHN: Where would you go? Not your father's. He begged us to let Sophie come.



EFFIE: Not knowing this.



JOHN: Knowing everything. It does her no harm. What a child doesn't notice, it doesn't know. As you know.



EFFIE: I will take her away.



JOHN: No. You will not. You have no money, no position, no prospects if you are not my wife. You are my wife. You are Mrs.Ruskin. Until you die, you will always be Mrs. John Ruskin. You will stay here, and Sophie will grow older, here, with us, secure in the knowledge that she is loved.



EFFIE: No.



JOHN: Oh, yes, Mrs. Ruskin. Yes.



SCENE TEN.



MRS. RUSKIN READS EFFIE'S LETTER, RETURNING THE KEYS.



MRS. RUSKIN: John! John! She has gone! Effie has gone! she has sent back her keys and her house-keeping book, and she's gone!



JOHN: I know. I saw her off.



MRS RUSKIN: No. She's gone for good.



JOHN: She will come back. Where else could she go?



MRS. RUSKIN: She says she doesn't intend to be married.



JOHN: Surely she can not believe I would grant her a divorce. After all that she has put me through.



MRS RUSKIN: Worse. She says you have never been married. And you married six years this April. How can she say such a thing?



JOHN: The sheer cheek of it! She deserves to be beaten with a common stick.



MRS RUSKIN: How can that be?



JOHN: I don't know, Mother.



MRS. RUSKIN: How can that be?





EPILOGUE

[JOHN LIES, LIKE A GROWN PIETÀ, WITH HIS MOTHER SITTING BESIDE HIM, STROKING HIS HAIR]

JOHN: I do not want her back. I do not wish her back. It is my wish not to have her back. Tell Papa to tell Mr. Rutter the truth: that I did not consumate the marriage because she did not please me, and because I feared she was mad, and unfit to have children, and I thought it best to abstain for her sake, and through no fault of my own. And of course I could prove what he wishes; - her accusations are false, but she has gone too far. I do not wish to receive back in this house this woman who has made such a charge. This woman who would have the small minded ignorance and malice, ingratitude and insolence, to try to taint my name and my reputation. She will not succeed. I am a Great Man, Mama. I am John Ruskin. I am John Ruskin..



MARGARET: There, there. There, there.



THE END


© Kim Morrissey, 2003


THIS IS NOT THE FINAL VERSION OF THIS PLAY (draft    xdraft4)

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

MRS RUSKIN

significant dates

8th February 1819 John's birthday (Monday)

7th May, 1828 Effie's birthday (Wednesday)

8th June 1829 John Everett Millais' birthday (Monday)

28th October 1843 Sophia Gray's birthday (Saturday)

10th April, 1848 marriage of Effie and John



(1854 Easter Monday, April the 24th, had been the coldest April night within living memory
( - 17° Fahrenheit). On that Monday, Rossetti dined ,for the first time, with Ruskin at Denmark Hill.
Effie wasn't present.


Tuesday, 25th April 1854 Effie leaves John (Tuesday)


3d July, 1855 Effie and John Everett Millais' marriage