Act Two, SCENE NINE – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – (age 51-52)
1916-17, Fleischmanns, New York.
[Schaeffer answers a knock on the door and meets Paul]
Paul Good day, sir. I’m looking for Mister Philip Schaeffer.
Schaeffer And you have found him! How can I help you?
Paul My name is Sawyier. Paul Sawyier. I heard you sell art supplies.
Schaeffer As indeed I do! At least in the summer, when artists are around. Are you an artist?
Paul Some have said so. I need to buy some oils. I also heard you might have rooms to rent?
Schaeffer Mister Sawyier, you have come to the right place at the right time. Here in the springtime we have no boarders yet, but it won’t be long. Our rooms always fill up with young artists before summer gets here. Let me introduce you to my wife. She handles that side of our commercial empire here in Fleischmanns.
Paul Please, call me Paul. Mister Sawyier was my father.
[Mrs Schaeffer enters, she and Paul mime talking as Schaeffer speaks to audience]
Schaeffer In the spring of 1916 one of my neighbors had told me two men were sketching in the neighborhood – one an “old man,” the other younger, as he described them. A few days later I met Paul. No spring chicken, but he wasn’t “old” – around fifty, I’d say. I liked him immediately, and I would learn he usually had that effect when people met him. We were both Masons – plus, as an amateur painter, I had always benefited from having real artists renting our rooms. Paul rented our attic space – a studio and adjacent bedroom. Ideal for a single fellow like him.
[Spotlight up on Mary Campbell at far side of stage; she over-dramatizes]
Mary Campbell His bedroom, with artistic slanting ceiling, had but one picture on it… and it was ve-ry small…a watercolor…. an exquisite snow scene, depicting utter desolation. This he had hung, UN-framed, over his bed—at the head of it. It spoke volumes. Such was his life… without that ONE he had loved… better than his life. All Frankfort had known of that lovely affair between Mayme and Paul. The members of her family were contemporaries of ours for generations, be assured.
[spotlight down, Mary C, Paul and Mrs Schaeffer all exit]
Schaeffer Well, Paul became like a member of our family during the year and a half he was with us. We all loved him and could not have done more for him had he been one of our own. That summer he held a one-man show at the Grand Hotel in Highmount. That’s just two miles down the road from our little village of Fleischmanns. A few times he went away to show his art in other cities, but that was the only time he ever exhibited around here.
[spotlight up on Marie writing a check]
The summer of 1916 ended and all the summer people went home like they always do, sad to say, and sales of Paul’s paintings just stopped. With no income, he couldn’t pay his room and board bills my wife gave him. We didn’t say anything. We found out later he just dropped the bills in his dresser drawer, and that’s where they stayed. One day that fall a lady friend of Paul’s stopped by to see him but he was gone to Cincinnati. A Missus Marie Myer she was, a sister of Missus Emery down at Highmount. When she found out how things were, she paid his bill. Nobody ever told Paul about that.
[Marie hands check to Schaeffer, he and she exit, lights down;
Lights up on Paul and Rose at other side of stage; Rose’s music plays once through]
Paul Ah Rose, it is so good to see you! This is turning out to be one of the most beautiful Octobers I can remember.
Rose Cincinnati is a lovely city when the leaves are turning. But I wish we were at High Bridge again, Paul. What are your plans for this visit?
Paul I’ll be working at my easel a lot. I want to drop by the Art School and see some old friends. And of course I hope to spend as much time as possible with you.
Rose Ah… I hope you won’t be disappointed if we can’t meet every day, Paul. I have a job now, at Children’s Hospital. …and some of my evenings are committed…
Paul That’s all right. My commission for Doctor Kimler’s portrait will get done all the quicker if I’m not constantly distracted by you. You always did distract me.
Rose Well, you’ll be here two weeks, so we’ll have time together. Just like the good old days. And you’re coming back again next month? What’s that all about?
Paul I got a commmission through an agent to do some landscapes for a Doctor Davis. He lives in Pennsylvania, but he spent his boyhood in Keene, Kentucky. That’s down south of Lexington, not far from High Bridge. Davis has a farm at Keene, and I’ll go there to sketch the scenes he wants painted. And I need to drop by Brower’s in Lexington. So, since I’ll be traveling between Pennsylvania in the north to Keene in the south, I thought it would be nice to split the middle and stay here in Cincinnati again. I can finish that whole deal in a few days, but I’ll get to spend more time with you before I go back to Fleischmanns.
Rose There’ll be an art exhibit downtown next month. We could see that… But, once again, Paul, I’m afraid much of my time will be already committed. I have a gentleman friend… Edward Grimes… we met at the hospital… I hope you understand.
Paul Oh, sure, Rose. …I understand…
Rose Isn’t it a coincidence that you’re painting for two medical doctors, practically at the same time!
Paul Yes. Just a coincidence.
[lights down, Rose exits; Spotlight up on Paul and white-coated Doctor at other side of stage]
Doctor Describe your symptoms Paul.
Paul I get these sharp pains that just grab my whole chest and squeeze. They really hurt.
Doctor How’s your breathing when this happens?
Paul I feel like I’m suffocating!
Doctor Do you notice any emotion or apprehension along with these episodes?
Paul Yes! I get really nervous. They scare me.
Doctor Do you have emotional stress in your life? Does anything worry you?
Paul Uh… no… I wouldn’t say so…
Doctor Paul, you have a heart condition called angina pectoris. You’re going to have to take better care of your heart.
Paul I was afraid you’d say that. What’s causing it?
[spotlight down, Doctor exits; lights up on Schaeffer and Marie at other side of stage]
Schaeffer I’m sorry you’ve missed Paul again, Missus Myer. He’s been traveling quite a bit the last couple of months, pursuing commissions and such. This time he’s in Kentucky – gone to visit a friend in Frankfort who owns a hotel and hangs a lot of Paul’s art in it. Paul is hopeful of getting a new commission from him.
Marie That would be a Mister J.J. King. Paul has mentioned him to me.
Schaeffer I hope he gets the commission. Paul has had a pretty hard time this winter, financially.
Marie Mister Schaeffer, does Paul… has he paid any of his bills he owes you?
Schaeffer Well… he’s behind on his room and board again. Nothing since the last time you paid us.
Marie You know my sister and I are patrons of the arts. We consider it something of a moral duty to help artists when the need appears. Especially such a master painter as Paul.
Schaeffer Oh I quite understand, Missus Myer. And I agree on the quality of Paul’s work. You may not know – he’s now renting my little studio next door to my store.
Marie Oh. Is that rent is in arrears too?
Schaeffer Afraid so, yes ma’am. We don’t press him on hid bills. We let things go on as long as we can. But sooner or later we have to face the fact that we don’t make much money up here except int he summer, when the place is full of tourists. Of course that means Paul doesn’t have many sales about nine months of the year. But, he wanted to rent the studio. I advised him not to expect any customers till about June.
Marie Give me a receipt for the total amount he owes, please.
[Schaeffer gets/signs a paper, hands it to her, she writes him a check, all as they keep talking]
Schaeffer Paul likes to paint scenes here in the village. [pause] You know, Missus Myer… Paul says it’s ironic that he’s best known back home for his watercolors, while up here he’s working mostly in oils. He tells me he’s come to regard watercolor as a lesser art, while he now considers oils the medium of the great masters.
Marie Has he given up his watercolors?
Schaeffer Oh no. The studio is full of watercolors. He does them from photographs of scenes in Kentucky. I think he still does so many watercolors because he can paint them fast and sell them cheaper. Especially in Kentucky. But he tells me he’s concerned that he’ll always be known in Kentucky as a watercolorist, despite his own intentions.
Marie I wish things were better financially for Paul. He is a great artist. He has so many exhibitions this year and next. His art will probably be exhibited from Boston to Denver, Colorado. And many cities in between. Does anyone know that?
Schaeffer My goodness! I sure didn’t!
[lights down, they exit; spotlight up on Paul writing a letter; he reads aloud]
Paul Mister J.J. King, Frankfort, Kentucky. March 8, 1917. Dear JJ, Thank you so much for the two hundred dollar check, which has banished the wolves that were circling my door. You have a great knack for timeliness, which I always appreciate. Taking a look ahead, if you have any photographs of your camps or outings on the river that you would care to use for paintings, I’ll be glad to try my hand at them. Just let me know, or simply drop your photos in the mail. All warmest regards, Paul
[he folds the letter into an envelope, takes fresh paper and starts another letter]
Mister Leo Oberworth, Frankfort, Kentucky. March 8, 1917. Dear Leo, I have just acknowledged receipt of Mister King’s check for the entire bunch of paintings, and feel that I owe you too my acknowledgment for boosting the game. I have three or four pieces here for you, in a more or less finished state, and I will send them at the earliest possible date.
I have a little business proposition I’m going to place before you, and trust you will think it over favorably. Without going into details, I will say that I am out with Brower and Company at Lexington, and am under no obligation to them either through contract or courtesy. The occasion for this change is the Pennsylvania commission, which took me to Kentucky to sketch views of Doctor Davis’s boyhood home near Keene, Kentucky. When Brower handed the commission to me, they did all they could, through peculiar methods, to tear it to shreds. My only solution was to cut loose from them. As you consider my proposition, I will give you more details – if it’s necessary.
[Spotlight up on Schaeffer at other side of stage]
Schaeffer Through an agent in Kentucky, Paul received a commission to paint a few pictures for a doctor who resided in Pennsylvania, but was a Kentucky native who owned a farm there. Paul took the train down to Kentucky, made sketches, and finally finished the paintings up here. He told me didn’t realize much money from the deal, because the agent gobbled up a goodly share – as agents sometimes do.
[Schaeffer exits spotlight; Brower enters, clearly irritated]
Brower What’s unfair about it? I don’t care if he got mad like a schoolgirl, he still owes me money! If he’s willing to leave an unpaid loan on my books, I think it’s fair to insist on my cut of the commission so I can deduct it from his delinquent bill. Hell’s bells, he wouldn’t even have this commission if I hadn’t gotten it for him! I still say he ought to just get a job and pay his bills like everybody else has to!
[Spotlight down, Brower exits, Paul continues letter to Leo]
Paul Anyway… I find I can get so much more out of oil paint than I can with watercolor. And keep a stronger variety. Between now and November I can have about 25 canvases, 24 inches by 20 inches, complete even to varnish, and will furnish enough frames to show several of them at a time. Right now I have about a dozen canvases and will have more before warm weather sets in. They will dry all summer, and in October will be in fine shape to finish up.
Do you think you could take these and show them to a few people in the Bluegrass region? Of course you would get your rakeoff. It would be necessary to do this in the right way. No exhibitions. Instead, just pick out certain people and have them meet you by appointment. I would write to certain prospects. I can also put you in touch with people who would give you assistance in spotting genuine interested buyers.
The initial cost of this is no small matter, then comes the framing, packing and handling. But a sale will put you on easy street, and I really think we can both make some coin. Right now is the ideal time to arrange this, and if you think favorably of it I’ll coach you on all the latest modern methods of handling pictures as a salesman. You should avoid the exhibition stunt as you would the devil. Exhibitions are all right in a way, but in my experience there is no money in them, and no chance to talk business in a crowd.
You will have responsibilities and it will take your time, so you are entitled to a liberal commission. We have a good long time to arrange details, so let’s hear what you think about my proposal. Yours as ever, Sawyier
[spotlight down on Paul, up on Schaeffer at other side of stage]
Schaeffer That summer Paul became ill after several bad teeth finally got pulled. He suffered agony. His way of dealing with it was to camp out in the fresh air a few weeks.
[spotlight up across stage on Paul and young man laying around drinking in front of a pup tent]
He persuaded a young fellow in the neighborhood to join him for painting lessons down on the Delaware River. They lived in a tent… fished… drank strong coffee… had insufficient food… and perhaps too much spiritus fermenti... he told me later…
I personally think the camping trip was “bad medicine.” I believe the infected teeth had already spread poison throughout his body, and he began to go down. Paul had always been a hard worker at his easel, so I couldn’t help but notice that in those last months he spent a good amount of time nonproductively:
[spotlight fades on Paul clutching his chest; he and the young man exit]
When it got to where he couldn’t hide the pains in his chest, he told me his little secret. What the doctor had said about his heart. Said I was the only person he meant to tell about it. I asked if I shouldn’t at least let his sisters know. He was adamant in saying that “I should not tell them of all people.” I heard that one of his sisters had a studio in the artist colony just over at Woodstock, but I don’t think he ever went to see her. I know she never came here. I’m not sure they were on the best of terms, but who knows? Paul was always real private about his personal affairs.
[spotlight down on Schaeffer, up on Paul writing a letter; he reads aloud]
Paul September 5, 1917. Dearest sister Mary Campbell, To save my life, I can’t seem to locate myself anywhere except right next to the grindstone for the next six weeks, maybe longer. These things spring up and I never can tell just where I’m at. Detroit Publishing Co, who have been selling my stuff for a long time, have arranged a string of exhibitions across the country. They begin in Boston about Oct 1st, and continue until January, taking in towns as far west as Denver. As there are about 15 towns, and they’ve allotted ten days to two weeks in each town, these shows will lap up each other.
This fair prospect of doing some business makes it necessary for me to produce the stuff to exhibit. I have about thirty-five pieces on hand, but I’m under contract to furnish fifty – plus as many more as possible by November. During the past two months I’ve been almost idle, and what little was done through the summer is not suitable for showing. So, I’ve got my hands full and there is nothing for it but to buckle down. I’ve been hoping the Detroit Co would cut the program, but it seems this can’t be done. Up to a month ago I had every idea of moving farther south, but under the circumstances the move would be disastrous and put me clear out of the game. I’m getting kinder tired of this place here and would welcome anything in the way of a change.
I didn’t go down to New York on the occasion of the last “round up” of the remnants of the family, and had to content myself with sending my blessing. Its been an awful long time since I’ve had a glimpse of you. I’ve been looking forward to being with you and Edwin since you mentioned my visiting you. You see, I’m always my own boss until I undertake something I want to do – then it’s different! I shan’t rest easy until I hear you haven’t lopped off that extra room and dragged in the latch-string. Some of these fine mornings I’ll step on the train and wire you to look out!
Love to you both, Your off brother Paul
[spotlight down on Paul, up on Mary Campbell who is dramatic]
Mary Campbell Just a month after I got his letter – on the evening of Saturday, November 3rd – Paul went to the Schaeffer’s piano and played the hymn Now the Day is Over. He left the book open at this hymn, and it remained so during that sweet, simple last service a few days afterward – as he had left it! The very next night, Sunday, November 4th, when he was entirely alone in the quiet house, he wrote to us – all three of his sisters. That letter was delivered only after we received the telegram announcing his passing. In it he told us of his malady; of his readiness to go at any hour, any minute. All was well with him!, he wrote.
[Lights fully up; Paul, dressed casually, enters and joins Schaeffers at dining table]
The following evening, Monday November 5th, he had casually dressed …no… he had fully dressed… for dinner… [pause] …not to be able to return. In the dining room of the Schaeffers, he asked to be helped upstairs…
Schaeffer Paul complained of pains in his chest, and had trouble breathing, so I called in Dr Champlin. [Dr. Champlin enters, examines Paul, performs Schaeffer’s words] When he came he saw that Paul was too weak to walk up to his bedroom, so we helped get him to bed. The Doctor could give only slight relief. Poor Paul was stricken with angina pectoris. I recall he suffered agony, but no complaints.
Mary Campbell To his dear friend Schaeffer, he said, as he labored to make the stairs, “Oh Schaeffer, this is death!” [Mary Campbell exits, hand to forehead]
[Mrs Schaffer performs Schaeffer’s words]
Schaeffer On Tuesday, November 6th, my wife went up to see if she could do anything to relieve Paul’s suffering. She had made innumerable visits to his room, but this time she noticed he was having trouble breathing. When he saw her he whispered “Please raise the pillow.” Bending down, she gently lifted his head a little and arranged the pillow. With evident effort, Paul said in a low voice, “Thank you.” These were his last words. His eyes closed, there was an intake of air, his head dropped back, and Paul Sawyier had passed to the bourne from which no traveler returns.
[Schaeffers freeze in position as lights s-l-o-w-l-y black out; all exit;
Lights up on Schaeffer standing near a few headstones]
Schaeffer Poor Paul; a good painter who deserved recognition, who did notable work, but died at age fifty-two, almost penniless. Within a year after his death Paul’s name would be listed in the “Who’s Who in Art” section of the American Art Annual.
[All three sisters enter and stand solemnly, Mary C softly weeping]
Two days later – a Thursday it was – Paul was buried in Covesville Cemetery, just about a mile from where he died. The arrangements were made by his elder sister, Lillian Hill. The brief graveside service was attended by Missus Hill, and his other two sisters Natalie Bentz and Mary Campbell.Neiss-Waner. I couldn’t help but notice – of the three sisters at the funeral, only the youngest wept. [pause] After the funeral the sisters came back up to the house and went through everything in Paul’s room. All his personal letters, which were in a trunk, were burned by Missus Hill.
Mary Campbell [melodramatic] Bundles of letters, he had carefully kept, we put into a flaming furnace. Immediately. NO EYES but his ever saw them…
Lillian has the one he wrote last – that Sunday night, November the 4th, 1917… But it is so VERY intimate – that for other eyes to see it is simply an unthinkable thing. I am sure you understand.
Natalie When – after Paul died – I showed up Lillian or Mary Campbell in the natural course of settling his affairs, then they recoiled on me with defamations whose compass you can hardly know. Lillian took full charge – thus had unlimited opportunity. I should have declined to participate in settling Paul’s little affairs, and thus I would have escaped the penalty for exposing him.
Lillian [stony faced] I have sent a telegram to our cousin Russell McRery stating that our brother Paul has died suddenly in the Catskill Mountains of New York.