ACT 2, SCENE 2 – TOM: Birth of a Legend. December 16, 2019.

by admin on December 16, 2019


Autumn, Algonquin park Autumn, Algonquin park



 (The platform structure is now the inside of another cabin. An easel is set up with an old armchair downstage of it. TOM is sorting through piles of sketch boards, holding each up in turn and putting some in one pile and distributing the rest face outwards around the stage. WINNIE enters upstage, unseen and watches him for a minute, then sneaks up behind him and covers his eyes. He stands still for a moment then reaches round behind him to touch her with both hands.)

TOM:                                                                                      You’re early. I wasn’t expecting you yet. (He turns around to embrace her then stops in surprise.) Winnie! – what are you doing here?

WINNIE:                                                                                 Taking you by surprise, obviously. Sorry to disappoint you.

TOM:                                                                                           No, no… this is a nice surprise. Why aren’t you in school?

WINNIE:                                                                                  You’re a poor liar, Tom. Who were you expecting, if not me?

TOM:                                                                           Lawren Harris. He telegraphed me to say he’s coming on the noon train.

WINNIE:                                                                                   And that’s how you welcome him. With a kiss? Very bohemian.

TOM:                                                                                                  Harris says he wants to take a bunch of my new paintings for a show he’s mounting in Toronto. He said he’s found me a patron. Going to tell me all about it when he gets here.

WINNIE:                                                                                            A patron? Let me guess. One of his wealthy women friends that he’s told about you. You’re quite in demand, Tom. Here and Toronto.

TOM:                                                                                                  It’s some gallery owner he knows. You still haven’t told me why you’re here, Winnie. (Tries to embrace her but she holds him off.)

WINNIE:                                                                                               And you haven’t told me who you’re expecting – besides Lawren.

TOM:                                                                                          Just… Edie – I’ve been giving her lessons.

WINNIE:                                                                                     I’ll bet you have.

TOM:                                                                                  Painting lessons, Winnie.

WINNIE:                                                                                 That’s not what I hear.

TOM:                                                                              More gossip. What’s O’Hara’s wife been spreading around the lodge now?

WINNIE:                                                                                      Not Beatrice this time. Edie. That’s why I’m here. She said she had something important to talk to me about. So, I took the day off school and caught the early milk train from Huntsville.

TOM:                                                                                  What’s so important you’d skip school?

WINNIE:                                                                                           She wouldn’t say. Just to meet her here at Dad’s cabin.

TOM:                                                                                             And you’ve no idea what she wants?

WINNIE:                                                                                    I’ve got a hunch it’s about us.

TOM:                                                                                         What about us? Stop talking in riddles. Say what you mean.

WINNIE:                                                                                  The baby. Our baby.

TOM:                                                                Your baby, Winnie. I don’t know if it’s mine.

WINNIE:                                                                                     Well, I do. So quit trying to wriggle out of it. It’s your problem as well as mine, Tom.

TOM:                                                                                           I said I’ll help pay for it, and I will.

WINNIE:                                                                              And where will you get the money from?

TOM:                                                                                                  From these paintings, if what Harris says is true. We’ll know today when he arrives. And from this big one, if I finish it. (He holds up the half-finished nude portrait of Winnie.) We’ve got time to work on it now while we wait. It’s in your best interests, Winnie. Nudes always sell well. Even pregnant ones. Are you showing yet? Let me see.

(He pulls he old armchair round for her to sit facing him upstage as he sets up his easel. She turns her back to him so he can unbutton her dress and slip it off. He slips his arms around her from behind and kisses her neck as she stands in her undergarments, motionless at first, then gives in to his embrace.)

WINNIE:                                                                                    Not showing too much, but there’s still almost two more months before school ends, Tom. I’m worried someone will notice.

TOM:                                                                                                 Good thing I’m a fast painter, my love. Get your drawers off so I can get started.

WINNIE:                                                                                 (Sits in armchair with her back to audience to remove the rest of her clothes.) It’s all a big joke to you. You’re not the one who’s pregnant.

TOM:                                                                          I’m not joking. This will make serious money. A.Y. showed me some photos of Renoir’s nudes. He brought them back when he went to Paris. Renoir painted dozens of them, he says and they sold like hotcakes. We’ll see what Harris thinks when he comes.

WINNIE:                                                                                   You’re not going to show him, Tom. I don’t want Lawren looking at me naked. (She pulls chair cover over her shoulders.)

TOM:                                                                                         I hope everyone’s going to see it, not just Harris. Stop covering yourself up, my love. You’re not naked, you’re nude. There’s a difference. It’s a genre. People have been painting nudes since the cavemen.

WINNIE:                                                                                     I still don’t like the idea of Lawren seeing me undressed. He’s a friend. It gives me a funny feeling.

TOM:                                                                                      I’ll give you a funny feeling, if you keep pulling that cover over you.

(WINNIE pulls the cover right over her head and TOM drops his brush and makes a dive for her under the cover. He tickles her until she shrieks with laughter and pulls the cover over them.)

WINNIE:                                                                                Stop. I won’t do it again. It’s chilly with no clothes on.

TOM:                                                                                        I’ll warm you up. (He tussles with her under the cover for a few moments.)

(A knock at the door. They freeze. The door opens.)

EDIE:                                                                                     Hello… I’m here, Tom.

(TOM’s head pops up from beneath the cover.)

TOM:                                                                                                       Edie…

EDIE:                                                                                               I came early so we could… what are you doing?

(WINNIE’S head slowly appears beside TOM’s)

EDIE:                                                                                    Winnie? (She begins to laugh).

WINNIE:                                                                                Hullo, Edie.

TOM:                                                                                          I was painting her.

EDIE:                                                                                    Under a blanket?

TOM:                                                                                         In the nude. She was cold.

WINNIE:                                                                               We were having an argument.

TOM:                                                                                    About Renoir’s nudes.

EDIE:                                                                                                            It looked like Tom was winning.

WINNIE:                                                                                               We weren’t finished. You interrupted. (She pulls the cover around her, gathers up her clothes from the floor and goes behind a curtain to change.)

TOM:                                                                                           I’m afraid we won’t have time for our… session today, Edie. I’m expecting Lawren Harris to arrive on the noon train. With a V.I.P.

EDIE:                                                                                      What sort of V.I.P?

TOM:                                                                                             A patron. He says she likes my work.

WINNIE:                                                                                                  (calls from behind curtain) I told Tom it will be one of Lawren’s wealthy women friends. His family is awash with money. They own half the town of Brantford. He’s part of the idle rich.

TOM:                                                                                                      I don’t care who she is, if she wants to buy some of my paintings for her gallery.

WINNIE:                                                                                      You’ll end up being her tame artist on the end of a leash. To trot out at her show openings.

EDIE:                                                                                                      I don’t see Tom on anyone’s leash from what I know of him, Winnie.

WINNIE:                                                                                  (emerges in dressing gown doing up her hair) That’s because you don’t know him as well as I do. Tom enjoys the high life when he’s in Toronto, despite his backwoods appearance when he’s up north here. A great favourite with all the women.

TOM:                                                                                       (resumes painting while they talk) I appreciate women. Women like parties. So I go to parties – purely as an artist, of course.

EDIE:                                                                                      It works both ways. Women appreciate art. So they hold parties to attract artists – purely for art’s sake, of course.

WINNIE:                                                                                         One big mutual admiration society. We all love Tom and Tom loves all of us. When he can find the time. (She sits again in armchair facing upstage as TOM positions her and slips off her dressing gown.) Has he found time for you, Edie?

EDIE:                                                                    That’s what I wanted to talk about with you, Winnie.

WINNIE:                                                                                        About sharing Tom? Join the queue.

EDIE:                                                                                                 Not exactly.

WINNIE:                                                                                You mean he wants to paint you in the nude?

EDIE:                                                                                             We haven’t discussed that, yet. He made me a proposition and –

WINNIE:                                                                                                        Yes, Tom prefers propositioning women, rather than proposing to them.

TOM:                                                                                                            Let her speak, Winnie. You’ve come all this way, now listen to what she has to say.

WINNIE:                                                                                    Okay. I’m listening.

EDIE:                                                                                                    Remember when you told me you were pregnant and I said I wanted to get pregnant, but that Fitz was impotent because of his wounds? You said something that got me thinking of a solution to my problem. About Tom.

WINNIE:                                                                                   About our agreement – Tom’s and mine?

EDIE:                                                                                             Yes.

WINNIE:                                                                       Are you asking my permission to sleep with Tom?

TOM:                                                                                                   She doesn’t need your permission, sweetheart. She needs mine.

EDIE:                                                                                Tom agreed. I’ve been talking it over with Fitz…

WINNIE:                                                                                You told Fitz you wanted to sleep with Tom?

EDIE:                                                                                                 Of course. He’s my husband. I love him. I would never do it without his consent.

WINNIE:                                                                               My God – you Toronto people…

EDIE:                                                                                                   I don’t want to have an affair with Tom, Winnie. I want him to get me pregnant.

WINNIE:                                                                                     And he agreed. Very magnanimous of him.

TOM:                                                                              Damned decent of me. Only a cad would refuse.

EDIE:                                                                                 He agreed. With one condition.

TOM:                                                                    Pay attention, Winnie. This is where it gets interesting.

EDIE:                                                                                    Would you like to tell her, Tom?

TOM:                                                                         No, no. You have a way with words, Edie. I’m only a blunt backwoodsman.

WINNIE:                                                                                     Not too blunt to get me up the stump…

EDIE:                                                                                               He agreed to get me pregnant – if I would agree to adopt your baby.

WINNIE:                                                                        (beat) I don’t believe it – what arrogance – Playing God with us.

EDIE:                                                                                                 I told him you said he was a bastard.

WINNIE:                                                            “He needs a long spoon who sups with the devil.”

TOM:                                                                                           When you two stop feeling outraged, you’ll see it’s an ideal plan. For us all, including Fitz.

EDIE:                                                                                          That’s what Fitz said, when I told him. And I have to agree, now that I’ve had time to think it over. That’s what I asked you to come up here for, Winnie. What do you think?

WINNIE:                                                                                              I’m dumbfounded. It’s another one of Tom’s hare-brained excuses for refusing to accept responsibility for our child.

TOM:                                                                                       Nothing hare-brained about it. It’s an elegant solution that allows everyone to get what they want.

WINNIE:                                                      Except me. What do I get besides heartbreak and betrayal?

EDIE:                                                                                    That’s the way I felt at first, Winnie. Till I stopped reacting and started thinking. Look – you won’t have to have an abortion. You become a mother, with a child from the man you love. You won’t have to hand her over to strangers, but to me, and Fitz – friends you can trust to give her everything she needs. You can see her whenever you like. Your reputation and respect in the community is intact. You become her godmother and loving aunt. Have I left anything out, Tom?

TOM:                                                                        And you make us all happy instead of miserable, including you and the baby. There’s only one thing. You can’t guarantee it’s a girl, Edie.

EDIE:                                                                                 Believe me, only a girl will be able to handle all the emotional turmoil her birth will create.

WINNIE:                                                                                    That’s one thing I agree with you about… Would I be allowed to name her?

EDIE:                                                                                      Wouldn’t you let me and Fitz help choose?

TOM:                                                                      Give her a middle name, then you both get your wish.

WINNIE:                                                                        And if you have a boy, Edie, will Tom have a say?

TOM:                                                                As long as it’s not called Tom. Might give the game away.

WINNIE:                                                                                  It’s all a game with you, isn’t it? My mother says that if men had to have the babies, the human race would be extinct by now.

EDIE:                                                                                    Think it over, Winnie. Only don’t wait too long. If you decide on an abortion, it should be soon.

WINNIE:                                                                                   Why do you want my baby, if you’re having one of your own?

EDIE:                                                                                             Fitz and I always planned to have a large family. When the war was over.

WINNIE:                                                                         So did I.

TOM:                                                                                               You chose the wrong man for the job, Winnie. All I want to do is to paint.

WINNIE:                                                                                                                  I didn’t have much choice around here. You were the best of a bad lot.

TOM:                                                                                   Bockmann is still waiting his chance.

WINNIE:                                                                                He’ll wait a long time if he thinks I’d ever consider him.

EDIE:                                                                                     Fitz says he’s a drunkard. Always getting into fights about the war.

WINNIE:                                                                               Tom’s no saint either. He’s as bad as Bockmann when he’s drinking.

TOM:                                                                                                      You’ve heard her offer, Winnie. It’s your choice. Meantime, unless you want Harris and his V.I.P. to see you ‘au naturel’ you’d better put your clothes back on. The noon train arrived ten minutes ago. Not that Harris would mind. As an artist, of course.

EDIE:                                                                                       Or as a man.

TOM:                                                                                  According to A.Y., in Paris, the famous painters would invite their friends and fellow artists to watch them paint their nude models. You could be part of a noble tradition…

WINNIE:                                                                                     (She puts on dressing gown as she goes behind curtain to dress.) You’re not famous yet, so until that distant day arrives, I prefer to meet people with my clothes on.

TOM:                                                                               Chaque à son goût, as A.Y. would say.

EDIE:                                                                                  (Looking out the window offstage) I think I see Harris and a woman coming up the lane. What do you call a female patron – a matron? Would you like me to leave, Tom?

TOM:                                                                                          No, stay and meet her. Harris will be pleased to see you again. (Goes to the door offstage to meet them. Calls. V/O) Just in time, Lawren. Come on up.

(HARRIS and WOMAN enter. They are wearing fashionable city clothes, HARRIS in plus fours and soft fedora, WOMAN in cloche hat and chic dress.)

TOM:                                                                                             You met my pupil – Edie. And Winnie is just putting her clothes back on.

WINNIE:                                                                              (Off, warning) Tom…

HARRIS:                                                                             Pleasure to meet you again, Mrs Fitzgerald. This is my friend and colleague, Mrs. Wallace.

EDIE:                                                                                         Edie, please.

AGNES:                                                                                                   And I’m Agnes. I believe our husbands knew each other, Edie. The same regiment, Lawren says.

WINNIE:                                                                                                   (Emerges, fully dressed and hugs HARRIS) Lawren. I didn’t expect to see you for awhile.

(They shake hands all round – j’do, j’do.)

HARRIS:                                                                                           I was sent out west on an officers’ training course. While I was there, I took the opportunity to go hiking and sketching in the Rockies. Breathtaking. You must come and see them with me, Tom.

TOM:                                                                                    After the war?

TAYLOR:                                                                                          No, now. I persuaded my father to use his influence. He got me seconded for further training, in Alberta, before I go overseas. What do you say?

TOM:                                                                            Tempting. But I couldn’t afford it, Lawren.

HARRIS:                                                                                       You can now. Tell him, Aggie. Aggie represents me now, so I took the liberty of showing her some of your work. I remembered you’d met at one of my family’s formal dinner parties, before the war.

AGNES:                                                                                          I wasn’t married at the time. I was Agnes Millington then. Do you remember, Tom? Everyone called me Millie.

TOM:                                                                         Good god – Millie? Of course I remember.

AGNES:                                                                              Surprised to see me? I’ve been wanting to meet you again for some time. You’ve become quite a legend among your colleagues in Toronto. Lawren showed me some of your painting sketches and finished pieces at his studio.

TOM:                                                                                          You look very – different…

AGNES:                                                                                          More matronly? I’m a mother now, Tom. With a daughter – Mandy. Five years old.

TOM:                                                                                          Mandy. Lovely – my favourite name.

AGNES:                                                                                              Yes, I remembered. Edgar wanted to call her Victoria, after the queen, and I wanted Emmeline, after Mrs Pankhurst, whom he loathed. He relented when I suggested Mandy instead…

HARRIS:                                                                                         You must remember Edgar Wallace, Tom. The Wallace Furniture people? He and I went to Upper Canada College together.

TOM:                                                                                           Eddie Wallace. Sure I do. He commissioned me and A.Y. to do his spring catalogue when we were working for Grip’s Design Studio. Eddie was a terrible rake, as I recall. And you married him, Millie?

AGNES:                                                                                    After you left. To go out west to Seattle. I never heard from you again, so I married Edgar. Rather suddenly.

HARRIS:                                                              Caught her on the rebound, lucky devil. I was best man.

TOM:                                                                                   Captain of industry by now, I expect.

AGNES:                                                                                     Captain in the 2nd Highlanders Regiment, actually.

TOM:                                                                                   Highlanders? Of course. ‘Scots wha’ hae wi’ Wallace bled’… Where is he – on extended officer training like Lawren, here?

AGNES:                                                                               Killed. At Vimy Ridge.

TOM:                                                                                        God. I’m sorry, Millie. That was a stupid thing to say….

AGNES:                                                                                    But before he went to France, he told me that if he died, he hoped I’d re-marry. And when Lawren told me you needed a patron, I thought why not? I’ve got pots of money now. Edgar always liked me supporting the arts. Good for business.

TOM:                                                                                 You sound cynical, Millie.

AGNES:                                                                                    As opposed to naive, you mean?

TOM:                                                                                         No. I …

AGNES:                                                                                       The war. Makes people grow up fast.

EDIE:                                                                                      Fitz – my husband, was badly wounded.  He’s a terrible cynic since he came home. He denies it, though. Says he’s just realistic.

WINNIE:                                                                                   Too bad they both had to learn that lesson the hard way.

TOM:                                                                                                  Winnie’s a rabid pacifist surrounded by rabid patriots up here, Millie.

AGNES:                                                                                                      Lawren thinks you’re going to open everyone’s eyes at this show I’m planning. At my new gallery on Bloor Street, Tom. It’s a big space, so I need lots of paintings.

TOM:                                                                                         I’ve been setting them out for Lawren. These ones here, are what I’ve done this season so far. All those over there, are from last year. Take your pick. Take the lot if you want them.

  (HARRIS and AGNES pore over the sketch boards displayed around the room as they talk.)

HARRIS:                                                                                                                  This stuff looks a lot different from your work last year, Tom. You’re developing a whole new style. Do you like them, Aggie?

AGNES:                                                                            Much more stylised and non-naturalistic. I call it Canadian post-impressionist to clients. This is exciting work, Tom. I’m prepared to give you a major advance on sales and do a retrospective show of your paintings. Based on what I’ve seen at Lawren’s studio in Toronto and what we’re looking at here.

TOM:                                                                                       What kind of advance did you have in mind?

AGNES:                                                                                                   Enough to live on for the next year so you won’t have to take a job. Plus travel money to go out west to the Rockies with Lawren. Providing I get your paintings from the trip, for my gallery. I’d act as your agent and take a percentage of the sales…. If you don’t mind having a woman agent.

HARRIS:                                                                                                    How’s that sound, Tom?  Aggie’s a hard-nosed businesswoman, as well as a Suffragette these days.

TOM:                                                                                            I could design Votes for Women posters, too, to earn the money, Millie.

AGNES:                                                                                      Only if you want to. (Opening her handbag) If you agree to my proposal, I’ll give you a cheque right now.

HARRIS:                                                                                     So. Ready to come with me to the Rockies?

TOM:                                                                         I’ll need time for some unfinished paintings I’m working on here.

AGNES:                                                                                           Is this one of them? (She goes to look at easel but WINNIE quickly blocks her way.)

WINNIE:                                                                                  It’s a private commission – Not ready yet.

HARRIS:                                                                                       I’d like to have a look at it, anyway.

WINNIE:                                                                             No, Lawren. Don’t…

TOM:                                                                                               Let them see, Winnie.

WINNIE:                                                                                 It’s too embarrassing.

EDIE:                                                                                 Don’t force her, Tom, if she doesn’t want to…

HARRIS:                                                                                      Is this what you were working on in Toronto when Fred and A.Y. came to say goodbye?

AGNES:                                                                                        Now you’ve got me curious. I want to see, too, as I’m your agent.

TOM:                                                                                      It’s a portrait of Winnie.

WINNIE:                                                                             Naked. I don’t want Lawren to see me.

HARRIS:                                                                                       A nude? Not your usual thing, Tom.

TOM:                                                                                                                                                A.Y. told me they sell very well. And I need the money.

HARRIS:                                                                                                     I like doing nude studies, too. But if you’d rather not show me, I respect Winnie’s decision.

AGNES:                                                                                          My Suffragette friends don’t like me to handle nudes – but perhaps I can place it with another gallery, Tom.

TOM:                                                                                             What do you say, Winnie? Nobody in Toronto will recognise you. It’s only an anonymous nude.

WINNIE:                                                                                       I don’t care what you do, Tom. I’m sick of you always ignoring my feelings.

(She storms out and TOM hesitates, then runs after her. The others watch them go, then turn to gather round the easel. A few moments later, TOM returns.)

TOM:                                                                                                She’ll come back, once she cools off. Winnie likes to make a scene.

EDIE:                                                                                              You shouldn’t tease her, Tom. Not when she’s feeling vulnerable.

HARRIS:                                                                                        Why?

EDIE:                                                                                                  She doesn’t like posing in the nude.

HARRIS:                                                                                                         Because she’s another feminist suffragette like Aggie? My god, (declaims)“Dost think because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?”

EDIE:                                                                                       Tom pressured her into doing it.

TOM:                                                                                        I said, I need the money. I promised her half, if it sells.

AGNES:                                                                                        Oh it will sell.  And if Winnie won’t pose for you in the nude you can always ask me.(She takes out her chequebook and hands TOM a cheque).Here’s your advance, Tom.

HARRIS:                                                                                  Tut, tut. Double standards, Aggie.

TOM:                                                                                                          (reads it) ...Christ! – this calls for a celebration. Let’s all go to the Lodge tonight. The drinks are on me…Edie, go and tell Fitz. Wait till Winnie sees this.

(CROSSFADE with music segue into SCENE 3)

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