Miss Lulu Bett (play)

by Zona Gale

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Act II, Scene I

SIDE PORCH, wicker furnished. At the back are two windows, attractively curtained and revealing shaded lamps; between the windows a door, of good lines, set in white clapboards The porch is raised but a step or two. Low greenery, and a path leading off sharply left. It is evening, a month after LULU'S marriage. (Discover INA, DWIGHT, MRS. BETT and MONONA.)

INA. Dwight dear, the screen has never been put on that back window.

DWIGHT. Now, why can't my puss remind me of that in the morning instead of the only time I have to take my ease with my family.

INA. But, Dwight, in the mornings you are so busy–

DWIGHT. What an argumentative puss you are. By Jove! look at that rambler rosebush. It's got to be sprayed.

INA. You've said that every night for a week, Dwight....

DWIGHT. Don't exaggerate like that, Ina. It's bad for Monona.

INA. Dwight, look, quick. There go our new neighbors. They have a limousine–Perhaps I have been a little slow about calling. Look at them, Dwight!

DWIGHT. My dear Ina, I see them. Do you want me to pat them on the back?

INA. Well, I think you might be interested. (MONONA chants softly.) Dwight, I wonder if Monona really has a musical gift.

DWIGHT. She's a most unusual child. Do you know it? (Enter DI, from house.)

INA. Oh, they both are. Where are you going, I'd like to know?

DI. Mama, I have to go down to the liberry.

INA. It seems to me you have to go to the library every evening. Dwight, do you think she ought to go?

DWIGHT. Diana, is it necessary that you go?

DI. Well, everybody else goes, and–

INA. I will not have you downtown in the evenings.

DI. But you let me go last night.

INA. All the better reason why you should not go to-night.

MONONA. Mama, let me go with her.

INA. Very well, Di, you may go and take your sister.

MONONA. Goody, goody! last time you wouldn't let me go.

INA. That's why mama's going to let you go to-night.

DWIGHT. I thought you said the child must go to bed half an hour earlier because she wouldn't eat her egg.

INA. Yes, that's so, I did. Monona, you can't go.

MONONA. But I didn't want my egg–honest I didn't.

INA. Makes no difference. You must eat or you'll get sick. Mama's going to teach you to eat. Go on, Di, to the library if it's necessary.

DWIGHT. I suppose Bobby Larkin has to go to the library to-night, eh?

INA. Dwight, I wouldn't joke her about him. Scold her about him, the way you did this morning.

DI. But papa was cross about something else this morning. And to-night he isn't. Goody-by, Dwight and Ina! (Exit DI.)

MONONA. I hate the whole family.

MRS. BETT. Well, I should think she would.

INA. Why, mama! Why, Pettie Deacon! (MONONA weeps silently.)

DWIGHT (to INA). Say no more, my dear. It's best to overlook. Show a sweet spirit...

MRS. BETT. About as much like a father and mother as a cat and dog.

DWIGHT. We've got to learn–

MRS. BETT. Performin' like a pair of weathercocks. (Both talking at once.)

DWIGHT. Mother Bett! Are you talking, or am I?

MRS. BETT. I am. But you don't seem to know it.

DWIGHT. Let us talk, pussy, and she'll simmer down. Ah–nothing new from the bride and groom?

INA. No, Dwight. And it's been a week since Lulu wrote. She said he'd bought her a new red dress–and a hat. Isn't it too funny–to think of Lulu–

DWIGHT. I don't understand why they plan to go straight to Oregon without coming here first.

INA. It isn't a bit fair to mama, going off that way. Leaving her own mother–why, she may never see mama again.

MRS. BETT. Oh I'm going to last on quite a while yet.

DWIGHT. Of course you are, Mama Bett. You're my best girl. That reminds me, Ina, we must run up to visit Aunt Mollie. We ought to run up there next week. She isn't well.

INA. Let's do that. Dear me, I wish Lulu was here to leave in charge. I certainly do miss Lulu–lots of ways.

MRS. BETT. 'Specially when it comes mealtime.

INA. Is that somebody coming here?

DWIGHT. Looks like it–yes, so it is. Some caller, as usual. (Enter LULU.) Well, if it isn't Miss Lulu Bett!

INA. Why, sister!

MRS. BETT. Lulie. Lulie. Lulie.

LULU. How did you know?

INA. Know what?

LULU. That it isn't Lulu Deacon.

DWIGHT. What's this?

INA. Isn't Lulu Deacon. What are you talking?

LULU. Didn't he write to you?

DWIGHT. Not a word. All we've had we had from you–the last from Savannah, Georgia.

LULU. Savannah, Georgia....

DWIGHT. Well, but he's here with you, isn't he?

INA. Where is he? Isn't he here?

LULU. Must be most to Oregon by this time.

DWIGHT. Oregon?

LULU. You see, he had another wife.

INA. Another wife!

DWIGHT. Why, he had not!

LULU. Yes, another wife. He hasn't seen her for fifteen years and he thinks she's dead. But he isn't sure.

DWIGHT. Nonsense. Why of course she's dead if he thinks so.

LULU. I had to be sure.

INA. Monona! Go upstairs to bed at once.

MONONA. It's only quarter of.

INA. Do as mama tells you.


INA. Monona! (She goes, kissing them all good-night and taking her time about it. Everything is suspended while she kisses them and departs, walking slowly backward.)

MRS. BETT. Married? Lulie, was your husband married?

LULU. Yes, my husband was married, mother.

INA. Mercy, think of anything like that in our family.

DWIGHT. Well, go on–go on. Tell us about it.

LULU. We were going to Oregon. First down to New Orleans and then out to California and up the coast.... Well, then at Savannah, Georgia, he said he thought I better know first. So then he told me.

DWIGHT. Yes–well, what did he say?

LULU. Cora Waters. Cora Waters. She married him down in San Diego eighteen years ago. She went to South America with him.

DWIGHT. Well, he never let us know of it, if she did.

LULU. No. She married him just before he went. Then in South America, after two years, she ran away. That's all he knows.

DWIGHT. That's a pretty story.

LULU. He says if she was alive she'd be after him for a divorce. And she never has been so he thinks she must be dead. The trouble is he wasn't sure. And I had to be sure.

INA. Well, but mercy! Couldn't he find out now?

LULU. It might take a long time and I didn't want to stay and not know.

INA. Well then why didn't he say so here?

LULU. He would have. But you know how sudden everything was. He said he thought about telling us right here that afternoon when–when it happened, but of course that'd been hard, wouldn't it? And then he felt so sure she was dead.

INA. Why did he tell you at all then?

DWIGHT. Yes. Why indeed?

LULU. I thought that just at first but only just at first. Of course that wouldn't have been right. And then you see he gave me my choice.

DWIGHT. Gave you your choice?

LULU. Yes. About going on and taking the chances. He gave me my choice when he told me, there in Savannah, Georgia.

DWIGHT. What made him conclude by then that you ought to be told?

LULU. Why, he'd got to thinking about it. (A silence.) The only thing as long as it happened I kind of wish he hadn't told me till we got to Oregon.

INA. Lulu! Oh, you poor poor thing.... (MRS. BETT suddenly joins INA in tears, rocking her body.)

LULU. Don't, mother. Oh, Ina, don't. . . He felt bad too.

DWIGHT. He! He must have.

INA. It's you. It's you. My sister!

LULU. I never thought of it making you both feel bad. I knew it would make Dwight feel bad. I mean, it was his brother–

INA. Thank goodness! nobody need know about it.

LULU. Oh, yes. People will have to know.

DWIGHT. I do not see the necessity.

LULU. Why, what would they think?

DWIGHT. What difference does it make what they think?

LULU. Why, I shouldn't like–you see they might–why, Dwight, I think we'll have to tell them.

DWIGHT. You do. You think the disgrace of bigamy in this family is something the whole town will have to know about.

LULU. Say. I never thought about it being that.

DWIGHT. What did you think it was? And whose disgrace is it, pray?

LULU. Mine. And Ninian's.

DWIGHT. Ninian's. Well, he's gone. But you're here. And I'm here–and my family. Folks'll feel sorry for you. But this disgrace, that would reflect on me.

LULU. But if we don't tell what'll they think?

DWIGHT. They'll think what they always think when a wife leaves her husband. They'll think you couldn't get along. That's all.

LULU. I should hate that. I wouldn't want them to think I hadn't been a good wife to Ninian.

DWIGHT. Wife? You never were his wife. That's just the point.


DWIGHT. Don't you realize the position he's in?...See here–do you intend–Are you going to sue Ninian?

LULU. Oh! no! no! no!

INA. Why, Lulu, any one would think you loved him.

LULU. I do love him. And he loved me. Don't you think I know? He loved me.

INA. Lulu.

LULU. I love him–I do, and I'm not ashamed to tell you.

MRS. BETT. Lulie, Lulie, was his other wife–was she there?

LULU. No, no, mother. She wasn't there.

MRS. BETT. Then it ain't so bad. I was afraid maybe she turned you out.

LULU. No, no. It wasn't that bad, mother.

DWIGHT. In fact I simply will not have it, Lulu. You expect, I take it, to make your home with us in the future on the old terms.

LULU. Well–

DWIGHT. I mean did Ninian give you any money?

LULU. No. He didn't give me any money–only enough to get home on. And I kept my suit and the other dress–why! I wouldn't have taken any money.

DWIGHT. That means that you will have to continue to live here on the old terms and of course I'm quite willing that you should. Let me tell you, however, that this is on condition–on condition that this disgraceful business is kept to ourselves.

INA. Truly, Lulu, wouldn't that be best? They'll talk anyway. But this way they'll only talk about you and the other way it'll be about all of us.

LULU. But the other way would be the truth.

DWIGHT. My dear Lulu, are you sure of that?

LULU. Sure?

DWIGHT. Yes. Did he give you any proofs?

LULU. Proofs?

DWIGHT. Letters–documents of any sort? Any sort of assurance that he was speaking the truth?

LULU. Why–no. Proofs–no. He told me.

DWIGHT. He told you!

LULU. That was hard enough to have to do. It was terrible for him to have to do. What proofs–

DWIGHT. I may as well tell you that I myself have no idea that Ninian told you the truth. He was always imagining things, inventing things–you must have seen that. I know him pretty well–have been in touch with him more or less the whole time. In short I haven't the least idea he was ever married before.

LULU. I never thought of that.

DWIGHT. Look here–hadn't you and he had some little tiff when he told you?

LULU. No–no! Not once. He was very good to me. This dress–and my shoes–and my hat. And another dress, too. (She takes off her hat.) He liked the red wing–I wanted black–oh, Dwight! He did tell me the truth!

DWIGHT. As long as there's any doubt about it–and I feel the gravest doubts–I desire that you should keep silent and protect my family from this scandal. I have taken you into my confidence about these doubts for your own profit.

LULU. My own profit! (Moves toward the door.)

INA. Lulu–You see! We just couldn't have this known about Dwight's own brother, could we now?

DWIGHT. You have it in your own hands to repay me, Lulu, for anything that you feel I may have done for you in the past. You also have it in your hands to decide whether your home here continues. This is not a pleasant position for me to find myself in. In fact it is distinctly unpleasant I may say. But you see for yourself. (LULU goes into the house.)

MRS. BETT. Wasn't she married when she thought she was?

INA. Mama, do please remember Monona. Yes–Dwight thinks now she's married all right and that it was all right, all the time.

MRS. BETT. Well, I hope so, for pity sakes.

MONONA'S VOICE (from upstairs). Mama! Come on and hear me say my prayers, why don't you?


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