Miss Lulu Bett (play)

by Zona Gale

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Act III, Revised

THE SAME. Discover MRS. BETT, tidying the porch and singing. It is the following morning.

(Enter LULU with bag.)

MRS. BETT. Where you going now, for pity sakes?

LULU. Mother. Now, mother darling, listen and try to understand.

MRS. BETT. Well, I am listening, Lulie.

LULU. Mother, I can't stay here. I can't stay here any longer. I've got to get clear away from Dwight and Ina.

MRS. BETT. You want to live somewhere else, Lulie?

LULU. I can't live here and have people think Ninian left me. I can't tell the truth and bring disgrace on Ninian. And I can't stay here in Dwight's kitchen a day longer. Oh, mother! I wish you could see–

MRS. BETT. Why, Lulie, I do see that.

LULU. You do, mother?

MRS. BETT. I've often wondered why you didn't go before.

LULU. Oh, mother, you dear–

MRS. BETT. You needn't think because I'm old I don't know a thing or two.

LULU. You want me to go?

MRS. BETT. It's all I can do for you now, Lulie. Just to want you to go. I'm old and I'm weak and I can't keep care of you like when you was little.

LULU. Oh, mother, I'm so glad!

MRS. BETT. I ain't exactly glad–

LULU. Dearest, I mean I was so afraid you wouldn't understand–

MRS. BETT. Why wouldn't I understand, I'd like to know? You speak like I didn't have a brain in my skull.

LULU. No, dear, but–

MRS. BETT. You mind me, Lulie, and go on. Go on.... Say, scat's sake, you can't go. You ain't got any money.

LULU. Yes, mother, I have. I've got twelve dollars.

MRS. BETT. And I ain't got much. Only enough to bury me nice.

LULU. Don't you worry, mother. I'll be all right. I'll get work.

MRS. BETT. Mother wants to help you. Here, Lulie, you take my funeral fifty. Joke on Dwight to make him bury me.

LULU. Oh, no, mother, I couldn't.

MRS. BETT. You mind me, Lulie. Do as mother tells you.

LULU. Mother, dearest! Oh, I wish I could take you with me!

MRS. BETT. You needn't to worry about me. If I get lonesome I can give Dwight the dickens.

LULU. Good-by–dear–good-by. I'll go the back way, they won't see me. (LULU kisses her and turns away. Left.)

MRS. BETT. Lulie. Mother loves you. You know that, don't you?

LULU. Dearest, yes–yes, I do know. (She goes. MRS. BETT trembles, turns, sees her dustcloth, goes on working and begins to hum.)

(Enter DWIGHT.)

DWIGHT. Ready for breakfast, Mama Bett?

MRS. BETT. No, I ain't ready.

DWIGHT. Neither is the breakfast. Lulu must be having the tantrum.

MRS. BETT. I s'pose you think that's funny.

DWIGHT. Lulu ought to think of you–old folks ought to have regular meals–

MRS. BETT. Old? Old? Me, old?

DWIGHT. Well, you're hungry. That's what makes you so cross, Mama Bett.

MRS. BETT. All you think of is food, anyhow.

DWIGHT. Who has a better right? Who provides the food we eat?

MRS. BETT. That's all you're good for.

DWIGHT. Well, I may not amount to much in this old world of ours but I flatter myself I'm a good provider.

MRS. BETT. If I was going to brag I'd brag original.

DWIGHT. You mustn't talk like that. You know you're my best girl.

MRS. BETT. Don't you best-girl me.

DWIGHT. There, there, there....

MRS. BETT. Now look at you. Walking all over me like I wasn't here–like I wasn't nowhere.

DWIGHT. Now, Mama Bett, you're havin' the tantrum.

MRS. BETT. Am I? All right then I am. What you going to do about it? How you going to stop me?

DWIGHT. Now, now, now, now....

(Enter INA.)

INA. Dwight, I can't think what's happened to Lulu. Breakfast isn't even started.

DWIGHT. Lulu must be having a rendezvous.

(Grandma snorts.)

INA. That's randevoo, Dwightie. Not rendezvous.

DWIGHT. You two are pretty particular, seems to me.

MRS. BETT. Oh, no! We ain't used to the best.

(DI is at the door.)

DI. Hello, family! What's the matter with breakfast?

MRS. BETT. There ain't any.

INA. Di, let's you and I get breakfast just to show Aunt Lulu that we can.

MRS. BETT. Say if you two are going to get breakfast, I'll go over to Grandma Gates for a snack.

(Enter MONONA.)

MONONA. What do you s'pose? Aunt Lulu's trunk is locked and strapped in her room.

INA. Monona, stop imagining things.

MONONA. Well, it is. And I saw her going down the walk with her satchel when I was washing me.

DWIGHT. Lulu must be completely out of her mind.

MRS. BETT. First time I've known her to show good sense in years.

INA. Why, mama!

DWIGHT. Mother Bett, do you know where Lulu is?

MRS. BETT. Mother knows a-plenty.

INA. Mama, what do you mean?

MRS. BETT. I know all about Lulie being gone. She went this morning. I told her to go.

INA. Why, mama! How can you talk so! When Dwight has been so good to you and Lulu....

MRS. BETT. Good, yes, he's give us a pillow and a baked potato–

DWIGHT. So! You and Lulu presume to upset the arrangement of my household without one word to me.

MRS. BETT. Upset, upset–You cockroach!...

INA. Monona! Stop listening. Now run away and play. Di, you go and begin breakfast.

DI. Yes, mummy.

MONONA. Aw, let me stay.

INA. (Exeunt DI and MONONA.) Go at once, children. Mother, you ought not to use such language before young people.

MRS. BETT. Don't you think they're fooled. What do you suppose Di was going to run away with Bobby Larkin for, only to get away from you.

DWIGHT. Mother Bett!

MRS. BETT. What do you suppose Lulu married Ninian for–only to get shed of both of you.

INA. Oh please, please, somebody think a little bit of me. Dwight, do go after Lulu–go to the depot–she couldn't get away before the 8:37.

DWIGHT. My dear Ina, my dignity–

INA. Oh, please do go!

DWIGHT. Oh, my heavens! what a house full of women–

INA. Dwight, we can't get along without Lulu.

DWIGHT. Upsetting things about my ears. . .. (Exit.)

INA. Mama, I do think it's too bad of you–oh! now I'll try to get some breakfast. (Exit.)

MRS. BETT. Going to try to, he-e!

(Enter MONONA.)

MONONA. Oh, grandma isn't it fun with so much going on!

MRS. BETT. What's that, you little ape?

MONONA. Oh, I just love it! Everybody makes such funny faces.

MRS. BETT. Some people are born with funny faces. Monona, ain't you ever going to grow up?

MONONA. Grandma, I am grown up.

MRS. BETT. You don't act like it.

MONONA. Well, grown folks don't neither.

MRS. BETT. Sh-hh-hhh, stop talking back to me.

MONONA. Everybody shushes me. If I don't talk, how'll they know I'm there?

MRS. BETT. I guess they could bear up if they didn't know you was there.

MONONA. I'd better get in, or I'll catch it. (MONONA sings a silly song.)

MRS. BETT (rocking in rhythm with the song). Scot's sake, what am I doing! Them wicked words.

(Enter DI.)

DI. Monona, mama wants you.

MONONA. I'd better go or I'll catch it. I'll catch it anyway–(Exit.)

(Enter NINIAN.)

DI. Uncle Ninian! Well it's just about time you showed up.

NINIAN. You're right, Di. But I came as soon as I could.

DI. You might as well know. I think you're a perfect slunge.

MRS. BETT. Land sakes!

NINIAN. Mrs. Bett.

MRS. BETT. Don't you come near me! Don't you speak to me! You whited centipede!

NINIAN. That's what I expected and that's what I deserve.

MRS. BETT. Move on! Move on!

NINIAN. Let me tell you something first, Mother Bett.

MRS. BETT. Don't you "mother" me.

NINIAN. Yes, that's just what I mean, Mother Bett. I've found that the woman I married died in Rio years ago. Here's a letter from the consul.

MRS. BETT. Dead? Ain't that nice! But what ailed you all the time? A man with any get-up-and-get would have known that all along.

NINIAN. I'm not excusing myself any, Mother Bett.

MRS. BETT. Well, perhaps you're as good as you know how to be. Anyway, your mother's responsible for a good deal without counting you.

NINIAN. Mother Bett, where is Lulu?

MRS. BETT. Who, Lulie? Oh, she's run away.

NINIAN. What do you say?

MRS. BETT. She's gone off on the train this morning. I told her to go.

NINIAN. Mother Bett, Mother Bett–where has she gone?

MRS. BETT. Gone to call her soul her own, I guess.

NINIAN. But Mother Bett, where did Lulu go?

MRS. BETT. She might be at the depot.

NINIAN. Can I catch her?

MRS. BETT. You can catch her if ye can run in them white–mittens.

NINIAN. Run? Watch me. (Exit running.)

DI. Oh! Grandma, isn't it just too romantic?

MRS. BETT. What do you mean–rheumatic?

(Enter MONONA.)

MONONA. Breakfast's ready, grandma.

MRS. BETT. Breakfast! I wouldn't know coffee from flapjacks.

MONONA. I've been catching it all morning and I didn't do a thing.

MRS. BETT. What's that, little ape?

MONONA. Grandma, honestly, do you see why because Aunt Lulu ran away the whole family should pick on me?

MRS. BETT. Come here, you poor neglected child!

MONONA. Mama's getting breakfast and she's burned all over and she's so cross–m-m-m. Why here she comes now!


DI. Aunt Lulu!

(Enter LULU.)

LULU. Mother–

MONONA. Oh, goody–now they'll pick on you instead of me.

MRS. BETT (softly ) . Monona! You run down the road as tight as you can and catch your Uncle Ninian quick–Sh-sh-sh–

MONONA. Uncle Ninian! Oh–oh! (Exit.)

LULU. Mother–what do you think I've heard?

MRS. BETT. Land knows! my head's whirlin'. Who found you?

LULU. Found me?

MRS. BETT. I can count up to 'leven in this house that's went after you or went after them that went after them–Oh land!...

LULU. Mother, the station agent said to me just now when I went to buy my ticket, he said, "You just missed your husband. He went hurrying up the street." I couldn't go till I knew.

DI. Why, Aunt Lulu, haven't you heard–

MRS. BETT. Sh-h-h–Leave it burst.

(Enter DWIGHT.)

DWIGHT. So... after making me traipse all over town for you and before breakfast.... What is the meaning of this, Lulu? Answer me.

MRS. BETT. Sit down, Dwight. Take off your hat why don't you?

(Enter INA.)

INA. Forevermore.

LULU. Were you looking for me, Dwight?

DWIGHT. What about our breakfast, may I ask?

LULU. Haven't you had your breakfast, Dwight? I had mine in the bakery.

MRS. BETT. In the bakery! On expense!

INA. Lulu, where have you been?

LULU. How good of you to miss me!

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

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

DWIGHT. Lulu, let's have no more of this nonsense....

LULU. Whose nonsense, Dwight? I've left your home for good and all. I'm going somewhere else to work.

INA. Why, Lulu, what will people think of Dwight and me if we let you do that?

DWIGHT. So you thought better of the promise you made to us last evening not to tell our affairs broadcast.

LULU. Your affairs? No, Dwight, you can tell them anything you like when I'm gone.

INA. How am I ever going to keep house without you? Dwight, you've simply got to make her stay. When I think of what I went through while she was away...everything boils over, and what I don't expect to b-b-boil b-b-burns. Sister, how can you be so cruel when Dwight and I–

DWIGHT. Patience, patience, pettie...Lulu, I ask you to stay here where you belong.

LULU. No, Dwight, I'm through.

DWIGHT. So, sister mine, have you found some other man willing to run away with you?

LULU. That will do, Dwight. You've pretended so long you can't be honest with yourself, any of the time. Your whole life is a lie.

MRS. BETT. Save your breath, Lulie.

(Enter MONONA with NINIAN.)

DWIGHT. At least, Miss Lulu Bett, neither Ina nor I ever had to lie about our marriage.

MONONA. Here he is, grandma.

LULU. Oh....

NINIAN. What's that you're saying, Dwight?

INA. Forevermore!

LULU. Ninian....

NINIAN. Lulu.... So I didn't miss you.

DWIGHT. Ha! ha!...The happy bridegroom comes at last. What's the meaning of this, Ninian?

NINIAN. I'll bet he's made life beautiful for you since you got back. Anything more to say, Dwight?

DWIGHT. Yes, Lulu was planning to run away.... I was telling her she'd better stay here at home where she'd have us to stand by her.

NINIAN. Yes, I've heard how you stood by her. You're a magnificent protector, you are!

DWIGHT. Look here, Nin, don't you feel that you have to sacrifice yourself. Lulu is well enough off here.

INA. She was quite happy until you came, Ninian.

NINIAN. You hypocrites!

MRS. BETT. Hypocrites! He-e!

INA. Children, stop listening to older people.

DI. Oh, mama!...

MONONA (crying). Oh... Let me stay!

INA. Children!... (Exeunt DI and MONONA.) Ninian, how can you say such things to us!

NINIAN. Lulu has suffered as much from you as she has from me.

MRS. BETT. That's right, Ninian. Plain talk won't hurt nobody around here.

NINIAN. Lulu, can you forgive me?

LULU. But Cora Waters... what of her?

DWIGHT. Yes, what about your other wife?

NINIAN. I haven't any other wife–just Lulu.

MRS. BETT. Cora Waters is dead. I knew it all along.

LULU. Ninian, is it true?

NINIAN. Yes, it's true.

MRS. BETT. He's confided in his mother. He told me all about it.

NINIAN. Will you come back to me, Lulu?

MRS. BETT. Better take him, Lulie. You can have that fifty to furnish up the parlor.

LULU. Oh, mother! I wish we could have you with us.

NINIAN. Do you forgive me?

LULU. I forgave you in Savannah, Georgia.


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