Miss Lulu Bett (play)

by Zona Gale

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Act II, Scene II

INA seated. MONONA jumping on and off the porch, chanting. (Enter DWIGHT.)

DWIGHT. Ah, this is great...no place like home after all, is there?

INA. Now Monona, sit down and be quiet. You've played enough for one day. (Enter MRS. BETT.)

MONONA. How do you know I have?

DWIGHT. Ah, Mama Bett. Coming out to enjoy the evening air?

MRS. BETT. No, I thank you.

DWIGHT. Well, well, well, let's see what's new in the great press of our country.... (They are now seated in the approximate positions assumed at the opening of SCENE I.)

INA. Dwight dear, nothing has been done about that screen for the back window.

DWIGHT. Now why couldn't my puss have reminded me of that this morning instead of waiting for the only time I have to take my ease with my family.

INA. But Dwightie, in the mornings you're so busy–

DWIGHT. You are argumentative, pussy–you certainly are. And you ought to curb it. For that matter I haven't sprayed that rambler rosebush.

INA. Every single night for a month you've spoken of spraying that rosebush.

DWIGHT. Ina, will you cease your exaggerations on Monona's account if not on mine. Exaggeration, my pet, is one of the worst of female faults. Exaggeration–

INA. Look, Dwight! our new neighbors have got a dog. Great big brute of a thing. He's going to tear up every towel I spread on our grass.... (Enter DI, from the house.) Now, Di, where are you going?

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

INA. Now, Di–

DI. You let me go last night.

MONONA. Mama, I can go, can't I? Because you wouldn't let me go last night.

INA. No, Monona, you may not go.

MONONA. Oh, why not?

INA. Because mama says so. Isn't that enough?

MRS. BETT. Anybody'd think you was the king–layin' down the law en' layin' down the law en' layin' down–Where's Lulie?

DI. Mama, isn't Uncle Ninian coming back?

INA. Hush.... No. Now don't ask mama any more questions.

DI. But supposing people ask me. What'll I say?

INA. Don't say anything at all about Aunt Lulu.

DI. But, mama, what has she done?

INA. Di! Don't you think mama knows best?

DI (softly ). No, I don't.... Well anyway Aunt Lulu's got on a perfectly beautiful dress to-night....

INA. And you know, Dwight, Lulu's clothes give me the funniest feeling. As if Lulu was wearing things bought for her by some one that wasn't–that was–

DWIGHT. By her husband who has left her.

DI. Is that what it is, papa?

DWIGHT. That's what it is, my little girl.

DI. Well, I think it's a shame. And I think Uncle Ninian is a slunge.

INA. Di Deacon!

DI. I do! And I'd be ashamed to think anything else. I'd like to tell everybody.

DWIGHT. There's no need for secrecy now.

INA. Dwight, really–do you think we ought–

DWIGHT. No need whatever for secrecy. The truth is Lulu's husband has tired of her and sent her home. We may as well face it.

INA. But Dwight–how awful for Lulu...

DWIGHT. Lulu has us to stand by her. (Enter LULU.)

LULU. That sounds good. That I have you to stand by me.

DWIGHT. My dear Lulu, the family bond is the strongest bond in the world. Family. Tribe. The–er–pack. Standing up for the family honor, the family reputation is the highest nobility. (Exit DI by degrees. Left.) I tell you of all history the most beautiful product is the family tie. Of it are born family consideration–

INA. Why, you don't look like yourself...is it your hair, Lulu? You look so strange.

LULU. Don't you like it? Ninian liked it.

DWIGHT. In that case I think you'd show more modesty if you arranged your hair in the old way.

LULU. Yes, you would think so. Dwight, I want you to give me Ninian's Oregon address.

DWIGHT. You want what?

LULU. Ninian's Oregon address. It's a funny thing but I haven't it.

DWIGHT. It would seem that you have no particular need for that particular address.

LULU. Yes I have. I want it. You have it haven't you, Dwight?

DWIGHT. Certainly I have it.

LULU. Won't you please write it down for me? (She offers him tablet.)

DWIGHT. My dear Lulu, now why revive anything? No good can come by–

LULU. But why shouldn't I have his address?

DWIGHT. If everything is over between you why should you?

LULU. But you say he's still my husband.

DWIGHT. If my brother has shown his inclination as plainly as I judge that he has it is certainly not my place to put you in touch with him again.

LULU. I don't know whose place it is. But I've got to know more–I've got to know more, Dwight. This afternoon I went to the post office to ask for his address–it seemed so strange to be doing that, after all that's been–They didn't know his address–I could see how they wondered at my asking. And I knew how the others wondered–Mis' Martin, Mis' Curtis, Mis' Grove. "Where you hiding that handsome husband of yours?" they said. All I could say was that he isn't here. Dwight! I won't live like that. I want to know the truth. You give me Ninian's address.

DWIGHT. My dear Lulu! My dear Lulu! You are not the one to write to him. Have you no delicacy?

LULU. So much delicacy that I want to be sure whether I'm married or not.

DWIGHT. Then I myself will take this up with my brother. I will write to him about it.

LULU Here's everything–if you're going to write him, do it now.

DWIGHT. My dear Lulu! don't be absurd.

LULU. Ina! Help me! If this was Dwight–and they didn't know whether he had another wife or not and you wanted to ask him and you didn't know where he was–oh, don't you see? Help me.

INA. Well of course. I see it all, Lulu. And yet–why not let Dwight do it in his own way? Wouldn't that be better?

LULU. Mother!

MRS. BETT. Lulie. Set down. Set down, why don't you?

LULU. Dwight, you write that letter to Ninian. And you make him tell you so that you'll understand. I know he spoke the truth. But I want you to know.

DWIGHT. M–m. And then I suppose as soon as you have the proofs you're going to tell it all over town.

LULU. I'm going to tell it all over town just as it is–unless you write to him.

INA. Lulu! Oh, you wouldn't!

LULU. I would. I will.

DWIGHT. And get turned out of the house as you would be?

INA. Dwight. Oh, you wouldn't!

DWIGHT. I would. I will. Lulu knows it.

LULU. I shall tell what I know and then leave your house anyway unless you get Ninian's word. And you're going to write to him now.

DWIGHT. You would leave your mother? And leave Ina?

LULU. Leave everything.

INA. Oh, Dwight! We can't get along without Lulu.

DWIGHT. Isn't this like a couple of women?...Rather than let you in for a show of temper, Lulu, I'd do anything. ( Writes.)

MONONA (behind INA). Mama, can I write Uncle Ninian a little letter, too?

INA. For pity sakes, aren't you in bed yet?

MONONA. It's only quarter of.

INA. Well you may go to bed now because you have sat there listening. How often must mama tell you not to listen to grown people.

MONONA. Do they always say something bad?

INA. Monona, you are to go up to bed at once. (She makes her leisurely rounds for kisses )

MONONA. Papa, it's your turn to hear me say my prayers to-night.

DWIGHT. Very well, pettie. When you're ready call me. (Exit MONONA.) There Lulu. The deed is done. Now I hope you're satisfied. (Places the letter in his pocket.)

LULU. I want you to give me the letter to mail, please.

DWIGHT. Why this haste, sister mine? I'll mail it in the morning.

LULU. I'll mail it now. Now.

DWIGHT. I may take a little stroll before bedtime–I'll mail it then. There's nothing like a brisk walk to induce sound restful sleep.

LULU. I'll mail the letter now.

DWIGHT. I suppose I'll have to humor your sister, Ina. Purely on your account you understand. (Hands the letter.)

INA. Oh, Dwight, how good you are!

LULU. There's–there's one thing more I want to speak about. If–if you and Ina go to your Aunt Mollie's then Ninian's letter might come while you're away.

DWIGHT. Conceivably. Letters do come while a man's away.

LULU. Yes. And I thought if you wouldn't mind if I opened it–

DWIGHT. Opened it? Opened my letter?

LULU. Yes, you see it'll be about me mostly. You wouldn't mind if I did open it?

DWIGHT. But you say you know what will be in it, Miss Bett?

LULU. I did know till you–I've got to see that letter, Dwight.

DWIGHT. And so you shall. But not until I show it to you. My dear Lulu, you know how I hate having my mail interfered with. You shall see the letter all in good time when Ina and I return.

LULU. You wouldn't want to let me–just see what he says?

DWIGHT. I prefer always to open my own letters.

LULU. Very well, Dwight. (She moves away. Right.)

INA. And Lulu, I meant to ask you: Don't you think it might be better if you–if you kept out of sight for a few days?

LULU. Why?

INA. Why set people wondering till we have to?

LULU. They don't have to wonder as far as I'm concerned. (Exit.)

MRS. BETT. I'm going through the kitchen to set with Grandma Gates. She always says my visits are like a dose of medicine. (Exit MRS. BETT.)

INA. It certainly has changed Lulu–a man coming into her life. She never spoke to me like that before.

DWIGHT. I saw she wasn't herself. I'd do anything to avoid having a scene–you know that.... You do know that, don't you?

INA. But I really think you ought to have written to Ninian. It's–it's not a nice position for Lulu.

DWIGHT. Nice! But whom has she got to blame for it?

INA. Why, Ninian.

DWIGHT. Herself! To tell you the truth, I was perfectly amazed at the way she snapped him up here that afternoon.

INA. Why, but Dwight–

DWIGHT. Brazen. Oh, it was brazen.

INA. It was just fun in the first place.

DWIGHT. But no really nice woman–

INA. Dwightie–what did you say in the letter?

DWIGHT. What did I say? I said, I said: "DEAR BROTHER, I take it that the first wife story was devised to relieve you of a distasteful situation. Kindly confirm. Family well as usual. Business fair." Covers it, don't it?

INA. Oh, Dwightie–how complete that is.

DWIGHT. I'm pretty good at writing brief concise letters–that say the whole thing, eh?

INA. I've often noticed that....

DWIGHT. My precious pussy.... Oh, how unlike Lulu you are! (Right. DI and BOBBY appear, walking very slowly and very near.) (DWIGHT rises, holds out his arms.)

INA. Poor dear foolish Lulu! oh, Dwight–what if it was Di in Lulu's place?

DWIGHT. Such a thing couldn't happen to Di. Di was born with ladylike feelings. (They enter the house. INA extinguishes a lamp. DWIGHT turns down the hall gas. Pause. DI and BOBBY come to the veranda.)

DI. Bobby dear! You don't kiss me as if you really wanted to kiss me to-night....


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