Miss Lulu Bett (play)

by Zona Gale

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Act III, Original

THE PIANO STORE: empty, bare, three or four upright pianos with bright plush spreads and plush-covered stools. Back, a dark green sateen curtain. It is the following morning.

(Discover CORNISH at a little table, on which is opened a large black book. Enter MONONA, carrying basket of parcels.)

MONONA: Oh, Mr. Cornish...

CORNISH: Hello, there Monona! How's everything?

MONONA: Everything's perfectly awful up to our house.

CORNISH: Miss Lulu's all right, I hope?

MONONA: Aunt Lulu is–

CORNISH: There! I knew it. I knew this thing was going to wind up in a fit of sickness–

MONONA: Sick... No. She s gone.

CORNISH: Gone! Miss Lulu gone?

MONONA: Run away.

CORNISH: Oh, with who?

MONONA: Nobody, I guess. She skipped out of the house early this morning. It was me saw her going down the walk with her bag. It was me told everybody. It was me found her trunk packed and locked in her room. That's all.

CORNISH: This is terrible, terrible–and your people not home yet?

MONONA: I should say they are. Came last night.

CORNISH: But what are they doing to find her?

MONONA: Papa said he wouldn't do a thing. Mamma's been getting breakfast and she's burned all over, and she's so cross–m-m!

CORNISH: Yes, but aren't they trying to find Lulu–your Aunt Lulu–

MONONA: Grandma says she knows she's dead. Probably she's drowned in the river and they'll get her out with her hair all stringy–

CORNISH: See here. I think I'll come up to your house. I'll put a little notice on my door–

MONONA: I better go now. I'll catch it anyhow. I've been catching it all the morning and I didn't do a thing. Mr. Cornish, honestly, do you see why, because Aunt Lulu ran away, the whole family should pick on me?

CORNISH: Well, we must all help as much as we can, Monona–

MONONA: Up to our house, honestly, you'd think I was the one that had done it. And I may!

(Exit, running)

CORNISH: I'll be right there, as soon as I can lock up.

(He disappears behind the green curtain. Pause. Enter LULU.)

LULU: Mr. Cornish. Mr. Cornish.

(CORNISH appears.)


LULU: Well!

CORNISH: You're out early.

LULU: Oh, no!

CORNISH: My, but I'm glad to see you. Won't you sit down?

LULU: I can only stay a minute. Wasn't that Monona just went out of here?

CORNISH: Yes, that was Monona.

LULU: Did she say anything about me?

CORNISH: She–she said you'd run away. She–she must have been mistaken.

LULU: No, she wasn't. I have.

CORNISH: Why, Miss Lulu!

LULU: Or I'm going on the 10:10. My bag's in the bakery. I had my breakfast in the bakery.... I've left them for good.

CORNISH: Then I suppose he cut up like a hyena over that letter being opened.

LULU: Oh, he forgave me that.

CORNISH: Forgave you!

LULU: Overlooked it, rather.

CORNISH: Anyway he's convinced now about that other Mrs. Ninian Deacon?

LULU: Yes, but you mustn't say anything about that, please, ever.

CORNISH: Even now? Well, I'll be jumped up. Even now? Then–I guess I see why you're going.

LULU: It isn't only that. I'm going... I'm going!

CORNISH: I see. Would–would you tell me where?

LULU: Maybe. After a while.

CORNISH: I do want you to. Because I–I think you're a brick.

LULU: Oh, no!

CORNISH: Yes, you are. By George! you don't find very many married women with as good sense as you've got. That is, I mean–

LULU: All right. I know. Thank you.

CORNISH: You've been a jewel in their home–I know that. They're going to miss you no end.

LULU: They'll miss my cooking.

CORNISH: They'll miss more than that. I've watched you there....

LULU: You have?

CORNISH: You made the whole place go.

LULU: You don't mean just the cooking?


LULU: I never had but one compliment before that wasn't for my cooking. He told me I done up my hair nice.... That was after I took notice how the ladies in Savannah, Georgia, done up theirs.

CORNISH: Well, well, well!...

LULU: I must go now. I wanted to say good-by to you....

CORNISH: I hate to have you go. I–I hate to have you go.

LULU: Oh, well!

CORNISH: Look here, I wish–I wish you weren't going.

LULU: Do you? Good-by.

CORNISH: Can't I come to the depot with you?

LULU: You can't leave the store alone.

CORNISH: Yes. I'll put a little notice on the door....

LULU: No. That would be bad for the business. Good-by.

CORNISH: Good-by, Miss Lulu! Good-by, good-by, good-by!...

LULU: There's something else. I'm going to tell you–I don't care what Dwight says. (Takes letter from her handbag) As long as I told you the other part, I'm going to tell you this.

CORNISH: I want to know everything you'll let me know.

LULU: See–at the office this morning was this. It's from Ninian.

CORNISH: Well, I should think he'd better write.

LULU: Nobody must know. It was bad enough for the family before, but now... here it is:

"... just want you to know you're actually rid of me. I've heard from her, in Brazil. She ran out of money and thought of me, and her lawyer wrote to me...." ... He incloses the lawyer's letter.

"I've never been any good–Dwight would tell you that if his pride would let him tell the truth once in a while. But there isn't anything in my life makes me feel as bad as this...."

... well, that part doesn't matter. But you see. He didn't lie to get rid of me–and she was alive just as he thought she might be!

CORNISH: And you're free now.

LULU: That's so–I am. I hadn't thought of that.... It's late. Now I'm really going. Good-by..

CORNISH: Don t say good-by.

LULU: It's nearly train time.

CORNISH: Don't you go.... Do you think you could possibly stay here with me?

LULU: Oh!...

CORNISH: I haven't got anything. I guess maybe you've heard something about a little something I'm supposed to inherit. Well, it's only five hundred dollars.... That little Warden house–it don't cost much–you'd be surprised. Rent, I mean. I can get it now. I went and looked at it the other day but then I didn't think... well, I mean, it don't cost near as much as this store. We could furnish up the parlor with pianos... that is, if you could ever think of such a thing as marrying me.

LULU: But–you know! Why, don't the disgrace–

CORNISH: What disgrace?

LULU: Oh, you–you–

CORNISH: There's only this about that. Of course, if you loved him very much then I ought not to be talking this way to you. But I didn't think–

LULU: You didn't think what?

CORNISH: That you did care so very much about him. I don't know why.

LULU: I wanted somebody of my own. That's the reason I done what I done. I know that now.

CORNISH: I figured that way.... Look here, I ought to tell you. I'm not–I'm awful lonesome myself. This is no place to live. Look–look here. (He draws the green curtain revealing the mean little cot and washstand.) I guess living so is one reason why I want to get married. I want some kind of a home.

LULU: Of course.

CORNISH: I ain't never lived what you might say private.

LULU: I've lived too private.


CORNISH: Then there's another thing. I–I don't believe I'm ever going to be able to do anything with the law.

LULU: I don't see how anybody does.

CORNISH: And I'm not much good in a business way. Sometimes I think that I may never be able to make any money.

LULU: Lots of men don't.

CORNISH: Well, there it is. I'm no good at business. I'll never be a lawyer. And–and everything I say sounds wrong to me. And yet I do believe that I'd know enough not to bully a woman. Not to make her unhappy. Maybe–even, I could make her a little happy.

LULU: Lots of men do.

(Voices. Enter INA, DWIGHT and MRS. BETT.)

INA: Oh, Dwight! she's still here.

DWIGHT: So this is where we find our Lulu!

LULU: Did you want me, Dwight?

INA: Want you? Why, Lulu! are you crazy? Of course we want you. Why aren't you home?

(Nursing her wrist, which is bandaged, with the other hand, which is bandaged, too)

MRS. BETT: Lulie, Lulie, we thought you'd gone off again.

LULU: Mother, darling...

DWIGHT: Here am I kept home from the office, trying my best to take your place. You're a most important personage, Miss Lulu Bett.

LULU: What did you want of me?

INA: Want of you? Why, my goodness...

DWIGHT: If you had tasted bacon fried as the bacon was fried which I have tasted this day–

INA: Oh, Dwight, that's not funny!

DWIGHT: No. And the muffins were not funny either. Yes they were!

LULU: How good of you to miss me!

INA: Lulu, you don't act like yourself.

LULU: That was the way I heard the women talk in Savannah, Georgia. "So good of you to miss me."

DWIGHT: Lulu, what does this mean? No more of this nonsense.

LULU: Whose nonsense, Dwight?

DWIGHT: We know that your trunk is locked and strapped in your room and you were seen going down the street with a bag. You have flown here, presumably to discuss your situation with an outsider. Is this fair to us?

LULU: What do you want me to do, Dwight?

INA: Do? Why, we want you to come home.

LULU: Home!

DWIGHT: Also to explain your amazing behavior.

CORNISH: May I do that, Miss Lulu?

LULU: No–no thank you. I think I'd like to speak for myself. Dwight, I've left your home for good and all.

INA: Sister...

MRS. BETT: Lulie... Lulie!...

DWIGHT: Ah-ha! You have thought better of the promise you made to Ina and me last evening not to tell our affairs broadcast.

LULU: I've thought no better of it–and no worse. I couldn't. But I've been thinking of something else. Of you, Dwight.

DWIGHT: Ah–I'm flattered.

LULU:... Let it go at that.... In any case, I've left your home.

INA: But where are you going?

LULU: I meant to go somewhere else and work.

INA: Go somewhere else and work. Cook? Lulu, have you no consideration for Dwight and me at all? What would people think if we let you do that....

DWIGHT: Patience, patience, pettie. Let's have no more of this, Lulu. I imagine you're not quite well. Come home with us, now, there's a good girl.

LULU: No, Dwight.

INA: Lulu, I simply can't keep house without you. When I think of going through with what I went through this summer while you were away.... Everything b-boils over and what I don't expect to b-boil b-burns.... (Sobs) Dwightie, you've got to make her stay.

DWIGHT: Pettie–control yourself.... Lulu, I ask you, I implore you, to come back home with us.

CORNISH: Miss Lulu...

LULU: Yes?

CORNISH: May I tell them?

LULU: What is there to tell them?

CORNISH: I think Miss Lulu and I are going to–arrange.

LULU: O but not yet–not yet.

DWIGHT: What–you? You and Cornish? I should think not. How can you?

LULU: Cora Waters is alive. Ninian's heard from her. There's her lawyer's letter.

INA: Forevermore!

MRS. BETT: What you talking–what you talking. I want to know but I ain't got something in my head.... Lulie, you ain't going to get married again, are you–after waiting so long?

DWIGHT: Don't be disturbed, Mother Bett. She wasn't married that first time. No marriage about it.

INA: Dwight! If Lulu marries Mr. Cornish then everybody'll have to know about Ninian and his other wife.

LULU: That's so. You would have to tell, wouldn't you? I never thought of that. Well–you can get used to the idea while I'm gone.


INA: Gone where?

MRS. BETT: Where you goin' now, for pity sakes?

LULU: Away. I thought I wanted somebody of my own. Well, maybe it was just myself.

DWIGHT: What ridiculous talk is this?

CORNISH: Lulu–couldn't you stay with me–

LULU: Sometime, maybe. I don't know. But first I want to see out of my own eyes. For the first time in my life. Good-by, mother.

MRS. BETT: Lulie, Lulie...

LULU: (At the door) Good-by. Good-by, all of you. I'm going I don't know where–to work at I don't know what. But I'm going from choice!

(Exit. CORNISH follows her.)

MRS. BETT: Who's going to do your work now, I'd like to know?


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