Act Two, SCENE FOUR – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – (age 44)
May 1909, Roadside near High Bridge. Paul stands painting at his easel. Female voices are heard approaching, Rose Stoddard and two other young women enter.
1st Woman …and he didn’t know we were standing right behind him.
2nd Woman You should have seen him blush! He looked like a ripe tomato!
[giggling, general hilarity] Hello, who’s this painting pictures beside the road?
[The three surround Paul, examining his easel. He says nothing, continues painting]
1st Woman Prithee, good sir, tell us what you’re painting.
2nd Woman Yes, tell us. [she gazes afar, hand over eyes] I see nothing of that color on yonder hillside!
1st Woman That hillside is green! I see no purple! Why, sir, do you use purple?
Paul It highlights the shadows.
Rose Are we bothering you, sir?
Paul I was rather enjoying this quiet spot.
Rose Then my friends and I shall apologize for invading your quiet and move on. Have you seen enough, ladies? Come, let us leave.
[She moves to turn away. He stops painting and looks at her]
Paul Wait. Please…forgive my bad manners. I should be welcoming you to this beautiful spot. It is too lovely, it needs to be shared.
2nd Woman O-h-h, a genuine artist for sure!
Rose We are honored to share the beauty of this spot with you, sir – before we move on toward home. We must get to the ferry before it stops running for the day.
Paul And where will you go home to? For that matter, where did you come from? What brings you here? The stranger requesting this information, sometimes called an artist, is named Paul Sawyier. And you are…?
Rose Rose Stoddard. [She extends arm, they clasp hands] A pleasure to meet you, Mister Sawyier. We’ve been to Shakertown, and we’re returning to the town of High Bridge. I live there with the Doughertys. They moved here from Cincinnati so Mister Dougherty can supervise building a new railroad bridge, right… [she points] …there, over the coming year. I’m from Cincinnati too. I accompany Missus Dougherty as her traveling companion and general assistant. These ladies [they giggle] are High Bridge residents who befriended me and today showed me the way to Shakertown. Now then. You have the advantage of us, for you know all about us but we know nothing of you. For instance, where are you from, where will you go home to, and what brings you here?
Paul A-ha! A woman who’s not shy about speaking up. Well, since you’ve earned good answers I’ll give them to you. I live on that houseboat you may have seen down near the ferry landing. I towed it up the river from Frankfort last year so I could paint the beautiful palisades along this stretch of river. And that’s what brings me here.
Rose Will you be staying a while then, or going back to Frankfort?
Paul That rather depends. There’s a lot of very beautiful scenes around here that need painting. I’ve always wanted to spend a while living on the river. I like the people here, too. So far I’ve liked everyone I’ve met. Including today.
Rose That’s a very positive thing to hear. So far I’ve had the very same experience. Including today.
Paul Do you pass this way often? You would certainly be welcome to receive the grand tour of the houseboat sometime, if you’re interested.
[The other two women exchange meaningful grins]
I get a lot of drop-in guests who are curious about what it’s like living on the river. My houseboat has no piano, but it holds everything else I need.
Rose Such a grand tour would be a treat. Do you play the piano?
Paul I do, if special occasions arise and I’m invited. Do you like Chopin?
Rose Oh! Missus Dougherty is having a social this coming Saturday and you are hereby invited! There’ll be many guests, and I know several who would love to hear Chopin. Some also like to sing around the piano, if you’re willing. The Doughertys appreciate good art, too. I know they both would like to meet a practicing artist, and see some of your art. May I tell them you’ll come?
Paul You may! This is wonderful! I love singing and making new friends!
Rose You’ve already made one. Come about five o’clock.
Paul I’ll be there!
[lights fade; the two women exit as spotlight follows Rose across stage “to Doughertys’ house”; Paul enters spotlight; Rose’s music plays once through as they waltz and talk]
Rose Well, Mister Sawyier, you certainly were a hit at the piano tonight.
Paul Only because your singing made me sound good. You have a beautiful voice, Rose. I should like to hear it again. As often as possible.
Rose Paul, the Doughertys have already told me to make sure you’re invited any time we’re having a social occasion. And they host a lot of socials. And I have a lot of free time. May I join you sometimes when you go painting?
Paul Of course! I’m out somewhere painting the river and palisades just about every day it’s not raining. Bring a picnic basket if you like. Have you ever tried singing on the river? It’s just amazing how the cliffs echo your voice back. I have a canoe…
Rose A canoe! I’ll bring food and sing if you’ll promise me a ride!
Paul Would tomorrow morning be too soon?
Rose Missus Dougherty has already said she doesn’t need me tomorrow. I’ll come early. Grand tour of the houseboat too?
Paul I promise!