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Contents   Prologue   I   II   III  Epilogue


ACT ONE

SCENE—The living room of the Ashleighs' home in the neighborhood of Gramercy Park, New York City. It is a large, high-ceilinged room furnished in sober, old-fashioned good taste with here and there a quaint, half-humourously protesting modern touch. Dingy portraits of severely-sedate ancestors are hung on the walls. There are well-filled bookcases, sufficient in size and the number of volumes contained to denote a creditable amount of sound classic culture on the part of the occupants.

  In the center of the rear wall, a doorway leading to the main hall. On the right, two large open double windows looking out on the street. At left, an open doorway hidden by heavy portieres.

  The time is the present. It is about eight-thirty of a warm June evening.

  MR. and MRS. ASHLEIGH are discovered sitting by the ponderous oak table in the center of the room. MRS. ASHLEIGH is a handsome, white-haired woman of fifty, calm, unruffled, with a charmingly-girlish smile and dark eyes dancing with a keen sense of humour. ASHLEIGH is sixty and rather bald. He is tall and portly, and suggests by his clothes and demeanor the retired banker whose life has been uneventful and prosperous. Inefficiently pompous, he becomes easily aroused to nervous irritability when his own respectable dogmas are questioned.

  ASHLEIGH(rustling the evening paper he is pretending to read—irritably) This has simply got to stop! (He turns to his wife.) I won't put up with it any longer.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(looking up from the book she is reading—quietly) Won't put up with what?

  ASHLEIGH—With Lucy's continual attacks of insane faddism.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(with a smile) So it's Lucy again.

  ASHLEIGH—Yes, it's Lucy again! (indignantly) You simply won't realize how serious the situation is. Why her conduct for the past year since she left college has been—there is no other word for it—absolutely indecent!

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(calmly) Don't take it so seriously. It's just her youth—effervescence of an active mind striving to find itself, needing an outlet somewhere.

  ASHLEIGH(obstinately) But a healthy outlet—not a lot of half-baked theories.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH(teasingly) Lucy's new theories are very interesting. (ASHLEIGH looks shocked at this remark. MRS. ASHLEIGH laughs at him.) No, you needn't be alarmed. I'm not catching the fever. Our daughter has hopelessly outdistanced me, and you are far behind. She is tomorrow, I am today, and you, my dear Dick, are yesterday. (She leans across the table and pats his hand.) Don't worry about Lucy. I understand her better than you do, and she's just her mother over again. (a trace of sadness creeping into her tones) Besides, you won't have her at home to plague you into tempers—after tomorrow.

  ASHLEIGH(slowly) Tomorrow. Our little Lucy married tomorrow! It doesn't seem possible. Why it seems only yesterday she was running around in short skirts, singing at the top of her lungs and raising the devil generally. (with a smile) She's always had a will of her own, that little lady. (after a pause—slowly) It's going to be lonely here at home without her.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—We must try to accept it philosophically. It's simply the law of nature—when the little birds learn to fly, they fly away.

  ASHLEIGH—It's a cruel law.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—No, it's a just law. Lucy would stagnate here. Our desire to keep her is selfish. She must go out into the sunlight and the shadow and accumulate her little store of memories just as you and I have done, just as her children will do after her. (ASHLEIGH sighs.) And I think we ought to be as cheerful as two about-to-be-bereaved parents can be under the circumstances. Lucy is fortunate in her choice. Tom Drayton is a rare type—the clean, wholesome young American.

  ASHLEIGH—Yes, Tom's a fine fellow, right enough; a splendid young chap with plenty of go to him. That's why I can't understand why he doesn't put a stop to all this foolishness of hers. It's ridiculous to see a man of his stamp play the meek little lamb. Why the way she twists him around her finger is—is disgusting.

  ASHLEIGH—Perhaps Tom has seen enough of our family life to hope that the meek lamb will succeed where the(she smiles over at him) roaring lion has failed.

  ASHLEIGH—Well, even you'll admit I've good cause to roar tonight, when I tell you her latest escapade.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH(smiling) What was it this time? Did she buy another Futurist painting and bring it home to show you?

  ASHLEIGH—No.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Has she written another five-act tragedy in free verse?

  ASHLEIGH—No.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Has she bought another Greenwich eucalalie which she can't play?

  ASHLEIGH—No!

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Did she bring home a tramp poet to live in our garret?

  ASHLEIGH—No!

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Not even a long-haired sculptor smelling of absinthe?

  ASHLEIGH(exasperated) No, no, no, I tell you!

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—This must have been one of Lucy's idle days. (her eyes dancing with merriment) Has she gone in for psychoanalysis again?

  ASHLEIGH—No!

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Don't tell me she has disinterred another Yogi mystic in a cerise turban!

  ASHLEIGH(huffed) If you'll stop questioning me for a moment, my dear, I might be able to enlighten you. (MRS. ASHLEIGH puts her finger on her lips.) You remember last night when she said she and Tom were going to the theatre?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—I thought she merely said they were going out.

  ASHLEIGH(crossly) Well, anyway, I thought she must be going to the theatre. Where else do normal people go when they don't stay at home? (Receiving no answer, he continues with impressive slowness) Do—you—know where she—did go?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—No; not to—? Oh, I forgot. I mustn't guess. Well, then, where—did—she—go?

  ASHLEIGH—To an Anarchist lecture!

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—And dragged Tom along with her?

  ASHLEIGH—Yes; the idiot!

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Did Tom tell you?

  ASHLEIGH—No. Lucy coolly informed me that I ought to go and hear it.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Well, I can't see the enormity of her going.

  ASHLEIGH—I tell you the woman who gave the lecture was an Anarchist. Most of the audience were Anarchists. And do you know what the subject was?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Yes.

  ASHLEIGH(astonished) What? Did Lucy tell—

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—No. She's been too busy talking trousseau to me. I meant to say I can guess what the lecture was about.

  ASHLEIGH—What?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Birth control, of course. Everyone is lecturing on that subject now, judging from the papers. It's quite the rage.

  ASHLEIGH—And you don't think it's infamous?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—On the contrary I'm enough of a radical myself on that question to quite approve of it.

  ASHLEIGH—Well, be—

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Damned! There, I said it for you. (Then as he rises from his chair and gets ready to crush her with the weight of his eloquence, she shakes her finger at him.) Now Dick! Now Dick! Every time you've read the words "birth control" in the newspapers you've condemned them at length and in detail, and I've listened with wifely patience. (coming over to him still shaking her finger) So I know all you're going to say beforehand. So don't say it. (as he is going to speak) Don't say it! (She laughingly puts a finger over his lips.)

  ASHLEIGH(mollified—with a sigh) All right, I won't; but—

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(kissing him) That's a dear. (A ring of the bell is heard.) There's the bell. I wonder who it can be. (A moment later the maid appears at the door.)

  THE MAID—It's Miss. Barnes, m'am. She has a picture for Miss. Lucy, she says, m'am.

  ASHLEIGH—(with a groan) Another painting! Good heavens!

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(to the maid) Show her in here, please. (The maid goes out.) Now, Dick, you run up and make your peace with Lucy. You know you'll have it on your conscience and be miserable if you don't. (She kisses him. He goes toward the door on left.) And don't loose your temper again.

  ASHLEIGH—I won't. (He goes out. LEONORA BARNES enters from the doorway in rear. She is a tiny bit of a person, rather pretty, but pale and aenemic looking with great dark circles in under her bright, restless eyes. She is dressed in a pink painter's smock, dark skirt, and wears sandals on her bare feet. Immediately on entering she throws aside her queer hat revealing thick blond hair bobbed in a Dutch clip.)

  LEONORA—(breezily) Hello. (She stands the small canvas she is carrying against the wall near the door.)

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(shaking hands with her) How do you do, Leonora.

  LEONORA—(flitting nervously about the room with quick, bird-like movements) Oh, I'm fair. Terribly bored with everything, though. (She squints scornfully at the portraits.) Now I ask you, aren't those rotten daubs! Never been in this room before. Who are they?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Only a few ancestors.

  LEONORA—Oh. (Then she says to herself not realizing she is talking out loud) Philistines! Chinese ancestor worship!

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(amused) Won't you sit down?.

  LEONORA—(throwing herself into an easy chair) Thanks. (She takes a bag of tobacco and cigarette papers from the pocket of her smock and starts to roll a cigarette—then stops and looks questioningly at MRS. ASHLEIGH.) Oh, I forgot where I was. You don't mind?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Not at all.

  LEONORA—(finishes rolling her cigarette, takes a long ivory cigarette holder from her pocket, and fixes the cigarette in it) I didn't think you would, being Lucy's mother, but you never can tell. Most of the older generation do object, you know.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(with a smile) Yes, we're dreadfully behind the times, I'm afraid.

  LEONORA—(flitting to the table to light her cigarette—philosophically) It's hard to live out of one's period, I dare say. (musingly) I suppose even I'll be respectable when I'm too old to be anything else. (throwing herself back in the chair) Where's Lucy?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—She's resting. You know tomorrow

  LEONORA(exhaling a cloud of smoke) Oh yes, the marriage! Don't blame her for resting up. Frightful ordeal—I imagine. Too bad. Lucy has talent and temperament. What does she want to marry for?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(gently) Perhaps because she is in love.

  LEONORA—(airily) Mid-Victorian sentimentality! Love is no excuse. Marriage is for propagation, and artists shouldn't propagate. Takes up too much of their time.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—But artists fall in love the same as ordinary people—so I've heard.

  LEONORA—Oh, love, of course; but free love! I'd argue with you about it only I'm not much on sociology. That's more in Lucy's line. I'm only interested in it superficially. Art takes up all my time. (her eyes falling on the canvas she brought in) Oh, I was forgetting. (She jumps up and goes over to it.) Here's something of mine I brought for Lucy. (making a wry face) You may call it a wedding present, if you like. Lucy admired it when she was up at the studio and I thought she might like to have it.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—That's very sweet of you, my dear. I know Lucy will be delighted. May I see it?

  LEONORA—(bringing over the canvas) It's good, I think. It expresses something of what I tried to put into it. (She holds the painting on the table in front of MRS. ASHLEIGH. The audience can see MRS. ASHLEIGH's face but not the painting.)

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(trying to conceal the look of blank amazement on her face) Er—what wonderful colors.

  LEONORA(complacently) Yes, the color is rather fine. Everyone agrees on that. It's much more effective in daylight, though.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Has it—er—any title?

  LEONORA—I call it the Great Blond Beast—you know, Nietzsche. (raptly) It is the expression of my passion to create something or someone great and noble—the Superman or the work of great art.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(with perfect  courtesy) Hm—yes—I can feel that in it.

  LEONORA(delighted) Oh, can you? How wonderful! I knew you couldn't be as Mid-Victorian as your environment. (She indicates the room with a disdainful gesture.)

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(smiling) I'm afraid I am.

  LEONORA(enthusiastically) Nonsense! You're not at all. You're one of us. (She throws her arms around MRS. ASHLEIGH and kisses her.) You're an old dear. (suddenly standing off and regarding MRS. ASHLEIGH critically) Why don't you dye your hair red? You'd be splendidly decorative. (without waiting for an answer) I'll put this out of the way. (She stands the canvas against the wall near the window. As she is doing this, TOM DRAYTON enters. He is a tall, blond, finely-built man of about thirty with large, handsome features.)

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Hello, Tom.

  TOM—Hello, mother. (He comes over and kisses her.)

  LEONORA—(waving her hand to him from the window) Hello-hello! (as he turns to her with a puzzled expression) I've met you. You needn't be shocked. You came to my studio with Lucy. Remember?

  TOM—Oh, yes, of course; I remember now. How do you do, Miss.—er—

  LEONORA—Never mind the Miss. Call me Leo. They all do. (She comes forward and shakes his hand.) Are you interested in any form of art? What are you—I mean what do you do?

  TOM—I'm afraid I'm merely a—business man.

  LEONORA(disdainfully) Hmm! (suddenly) You see you attract me physically. (TOM is stunned. MRS. ASHLEIGH smiles at his confusion.)

  TOM—(at last) Oh, yes, I see. You're a painter, aren't you?

  LEONORA—I don't mean I want you for a model. I mean you have all the outward appearance of my ideal of what the Great Blond Beast should look like. (scrutinizing him closely) Ever read Nietzsche? No, business men don't, do they? They go to the Follies. (measuring him with a searching glance) Maybe there is something more to you than you realize yourself. (decisively) Some day I'm going to find out. (She carelessly tosses the butt of her cigarette on the rug and stamps on it, much to MRS. ASHLEIGH's consternation.) I'll have to be getting along. (puts on her hat) You two must have no end of details to fuss over and chatter about.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—You're surely coming to the wedding?

  LEONORA—No, I think not. Too much stir over nothing. Tell Lucy I'll see her when she gets back. And tell her I think she's a fool to marry. And don't forget the painting. Ta-ta! (She runs out the doorway in the rear.)

  TOM(smiling) A breezy sprite, isn't she? Where's Lucy?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Upstairs—resting, I hope. I'll send for her in a moment. But now, sit down (pointing to the chair opposite her) for I have something (she smiles) very serious to say to you!

  TOM—You may fire when you are ready.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—I ask permission to play the mother-in-law before the fact, promising in return to forever hold my peace after the ceremony.

  TOM(affectionately) Oh come now, you mustn't say that. Your advice will always be invaluable. It would be downright unkind of you to keep any such promise.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Well, then, in extremis you may call on me. Now for what I was going to say to you. You've known Lucy now for two years and yet I'm afraid you may not know her at all.

  TOM—I think I understand her.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Let me ask you a question then. How do you accept her wild ideas about society and the world in general?

  TOM—I attribute them to youth and inexperience and an active mind and body. They are part of Lucy—and I love Lucy.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—And their startling manifestations don't annoy you?

  TOM—Annoy? Good heavens, no. (smiling) But the outbreaks are a trifle disconcerting at times, I must confess.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—That means you don't take them seriously. (thoughtfully) That's where you're both right and very wrong. (TOM looks at her with a puzzled expression.) Right in believing that beneath the high-strung girl of flighty impulses there exists the woman whose sense of humour will soon awake and make her laugh at all her present extravagant poses. (warningly) But you must not expect a drastic change immediately. Lucy has been our spoiled child all her life and is used to having her whims respected.

  TOM—Oh, I know that a period of transition—(boyishly) Besides, hang it all, her poses are adorable. I don't want her ever to lose them—all of them, at least.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—You may love them for a time, but they're hard to live with—even after one has become inured.

  TOM(smiling) Perhaps I've become acclimated already. (MRS. ASHLEIGH shakes her head doubtfully.) But you said a moment ago I was also very wrong in my attitude. How?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—In not pretending to take Lucy seriously. That's the most important thing of all.

  TOM—But I do pretend.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Not very successfully. I've been observing you.

  TOM(protestingly) But haven't I gone to impossible lectures, impossible exhibitions, listened to impossible poems, met millions of impossible lunatics of every variety? Haven't I done all this gladly, nay, even enthusiastically?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Yes, you've done all of that, I must acknowledge; but, seriously, Tom, don't you know that your attitude has been that of kindly tolerance—the kindly tolerance of an elder brother toward an irresponsible child?

  TOM—But Lucy is a child in such things.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—A child feels lack of sympathy with its dreams more keenly than anything else.

  TOM—But everyone around her, her father, even you—

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—We've all been wrong and it's too late for us to change. You're just beginning and you must profit by our mistakes. That's why I wanted this talk with you—because the most vital thing left to me in life is that you and Lucy should be happy together.

  TOM(gratefully) I know that, Mrs. Ashleigh, and I'll do whatever you suggest.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Then try to feel something of the spirit of Lucy's rainbow chasing, and show her you feel it. It's the old, ever young, wild spirit of youth which tramples rudely on the grave-mound of the Past to see more clearly to the future dream. We are all thrilled by it sometime, in someway or another. In most of us it flickers out, more's the pity. In some of us it becomes tempered to a fine, sane, progressive ideal which is of infinite help to the race. I think Lucy will develope into one of those rare ones.

  TOM(impulsively) I'm sure of it.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(warningly) If she is not goaded into wilder and wilder revolts by the lack of sympathetic understanding in those around her. (seeing TOM's troubled frown) Don't be alarmed, though. Lucy looks on you as a promising neophyte. That's one reason why she's marrying you.

  TOM—To convert me? All right then, I'm converted. (with a wild gesture) Down with everything!

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(approvingly) That's the spirit! See that you stay converted. Agree with her. Encourage her. Be earnest with her, and—(she smiles) trust to your wife's dormant sense of humour to eventually end your agony. You won't have long to suffer. Lucy has advanced to the ridiculous stage even now. It's only a step to the return to reason. Now I'm through lecturing and you may breathe easier. I'll send for Lucy. Will you ring for the maid? (TOM goes over and pushes the button.) Do smoke. You look so unoccupied.

  TOM(laughing) Thank you. (He lights a cigarette.)

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(as the maid comes in) Annie, will you tell Lucy that Mr. Drayton is here?

  THE MAID—Yes, m'am. (She goes out.)

  TOM(wandering around the room, stops on seeing the canvas against the wall) Is this the painting our little Leo was urging you not to forget?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Yes. Bring it over to the light. You'll enjoy it. It's a wedding present for Lucy. (TOM brings it to the table and holds it in the light. It is an orgy of colors done in the wildest Synchromist manner. TOM looks at it with an expression of amused contempt. MRS. ASHLEIGH watches his face with a smile. ASHLEIGH enters from the left. He appears wildly excited, and his face is red with indignant rage.)

  ASHLEIGH—What do you suppose—? (He sees TOM and comes and shakes hands with him warmly.) Hello, Tom. It's lucky you're here to put a stop to—(He turns to his wife.) Mary, what do you suppose—?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—SSShh! Don't interrupt our mood. Come and look at this work of art. It's a wedding present for Lucy. (He comes and stands beside TOM and looks at it blankly.)

  ASHLEIGH—What in the name of—Who made it?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—That little Miss. Barnes; you know; you met her the other day with Lucy.

  ASHLEIGH—(growling) Oh, that short-haired lunatic! I might have guessed it. (indignantly) Does she call that a picture of something? What tommyrot! It's blithering idiocy, eh, Tom?

  TOM—I can't even get mad at them any more. I've been to too many exhibitions. I'm hardened.

  ASHLEIGH(disgustedly) What's it supposed to be, I'd like to know? (He peers at it sideways.) You must have it upside down. (MRS. ASHLEIGH turns it around.)

  MRS. ASHLEIGH(oratorically) Approach it with an open mind and soul freed from all conventional prejudices and categorical judgments, and tell me what emotion it arouses in you, what feeling you get from it.

  ASHLEIGH—You're beginning to talk as absurdly as the craziest of them. I'll be going mad myself the next thing.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(insisting) But, Dick, tell me what you think it is, just for curiosity.

  ASHLEIGH—Tommyrot! Tommyrot! That's what I know it is.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—And you, Tom?

  TOM—I can't make out whether it's the Aurora Borealis or an explosion in a powder mill. (ASHLEIGH laughs.)

  MRS. ASHLEIGH(impressively) You are both wrong. It is the longing of the soul for the Great Blond Beast.

  ASHLEIGH—Great Blond Rot! (to TOM) Never mind that thing. Listen to me for a moment. Mary, do you know what Lucy was doing when I went up to her room (sarcastically) where you thought she was resting.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Reading, I suppose.

  ASHLEIGH—Yes; reading some trashy novel by some damn Russian; and she insisted on reading it out loud to me—a lot of nonsense condemning marriage—on the night before her wedding. (He appeals to the ceiling.) Trying to convert me to free love—at my age! Then she said she'd decided not to marry Tom after all and—

  TOM(appalled) What!

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Remember what you promised me, Tom. (He immediately smiles and becomes composed again.)

  ASHLEIGH—Yes, that's what she said. (LUCY appears in the doorway on left.) Here she is now. (with grim satisfaction as he sits down in a chair) Now you can listen to her for a while!

  (LUCY comes slowly into the room. She is slender, dark, beautiful, with large eyes which she attempts to keep always mysterious and brooding, smiling lips which she resolutely compresses to express melancholy determination, a healthy complexion subdued by powder to a proper prison pallor, a vigorous, lithe body which frets restlessly beneath the restriction of studied, artificial movements. In short, LUCY is an intelligent, healthy American girl suffering from an overdose of undigested reading, and has mistaken herself for the heroine of a Russian novel. She is dressed in a dark, somber kimono, and Turkish slippers.)

  LUCY—Good evening, Tom. (She comes to the center of the room and gives him her hand with a drooping gesture. TOM stares at her in embarrassment. LUCY glides into a chair near her mother, rests her chin on her hand, and gazes into the immensities. There is a long silence.)

  ASHLEIGH—(drums on the arm of his chair in extreme irritation) Well? (then as LUCY gives no sign of having heard him, in a louder tone) Well?

  LUCY(coming out of her dream—slowly) I beg your pardon. I'm afraid I interrupted you. You must keep on talking as if I were not here. I'm so distrait this evening. There is so much turmoil in my soul. (appealing to them with a sad smile) Strindberg's daughter of Indra discovered the truth. Life is horrible, is it not?

  ASHLEIGH—(fuming) Bosh! Bosh! You know very well what we were discussing, Miss., and you're trying to avoid the subject.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH(interrupting quickly) We were discussing the meaning of this painting Leonora brought for you.

  LUCY(abandoning her pose for an unguarded moment—with real, girlish pleasure) A painting? From Leo? How charming of her! (She goes quickly to the table and looks at the painting. While she is doing so she remembers herself and resumes her pose.)

  TOM—(feeling bound to say something) Beautiful, isn't it?

  ASHLEIGH—(looking at TOM scornfully) Beautiful! Why you just said—(MRS. ASHLEIGH makes violent signs to him to be silent. He grunts disgustedly.)

  LUCY(holding the painting at arm's length and examining it critically) Beautiful? Yes, perhaps as a photograph is beautiful. The technique is perfect, but—is that the meaning of Art? (She lays the canvas down with an expression of mild disdain and resumes her chair.) I am somewhat disappointed in Leonora. She seems to have little to express after all.

  ASHLEIGH—(with satisfaction) Hmm!

  LUCY(with a glance at her father) She is too old-fashioned. Her methods are those of yesterday.

  ASHLEIGH—What?

  LUCY—(not noticing his interruption) I once thought she would soar to the heights but I see now it is hopeless. The wings of her soul are weighed down by the dust of too many dead yesterdays.

  ASHLEIGH—I don't know what you're talking about but I'm glad to learn you've sense enough to know that thing is tommyrot. (He points scornfully at the canvas.)

  LUCY—(with real indignation) I never said such a thing. As usual you misunderstand me. I think it's fine and I deeply appreciate her giving it to me.

  ASHLEIGH(sarcastically) Then maybe you can tell us what it represents? (He winks at TOM who pretends not to see him and wears a face of deadly seriousness.)

  LUCY(glances doubtfully at the painting—then lightly) What would be the use? You would only misinterpret what I said, Besides, Art is not to be limited by definitions.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(as ASHLEIGH is about to answer) It was very thoughtful of her to give Lucy a wedding present. She doesn't look any too prosperous, poor child, and it must have taken up a lot of her time.

  LUCY(slowly) Wedding present?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Yes. She said you might regard it as such.

  LUCY—(after a pause—turning to her father accusingly) Then you haven't told them?

  ASHLEIGH—I haven't had a chance; and, anyway, I refuse to believe that rubbish you were telling me.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—What rubbish?

  ASHLEIGH(indicating LUCY who is gazing moodily into space) I will leave it to our lady anarchist to explain.

  LUCY(slowly—after a pause) There will be no wedding.

  ASHLEIGH(looking at the others with an I-told-you-so air of satisfaction) There! Now you know!

  MRS. ASHLEIGH(with the utmost calm) You mean you want it postponed?

  LUCY(firmly) I mean there will be no wedding—ever! (TOM squirms in his chair and seems about to protest but catches MRS. ASHLEIGH's meaning glance and stops abruptly. LUCY revels in the impression she knows she has made. Wearing her best Russian heroine pose she comes slowly over to TOM's chair and takes his hand.) I am sorry, Tom. I would not hurt you for anything in the world, but this—must be! My highest duty is toward myself, and my ego demands freedom, wide horizons to develope in, (she makes a sweeping gesture) Castles in the air, not homes for human beings! (tenderly) You understand, don't you Tom?

  TOM(with an elfin—matter-of-factedly) Yes, Lucy, I understand.

  ASHLEIGH—What's that?

  LUCY(a trace of disappointment in her manner in spite of herself) You mean you will give up the idea of our marriage, tomorrow or at any future time?

  TOM—Since it's your wish, yes, Lucy.

  LUCY(showing her hurt) Oh. (She tries to speak calmly.) I knew you would understand. (She goes back and sits down. This time her eyes are full of a real emotion as she stares before her.)

  ASHLEIGH—(to TOM—angrily) So! It's your turn to play the damn fool, is it? I thought you had some sense. (He snatches a paper from the table and pretends to read.)

  TOM—I love Lucy. I'll do whatever she thinks necessary to her happiness.

  ASHLEIGH—Humph! She doesn't know what she thinks.

  LUCY(agonizingly) Oh, I've thought and thought and thought until my brain seemed bursting. I've lain awake in the still, long hours and struggled with myself. I've fought against it. I've tried to force myself to submit—for Tom's sake. But I cannot. I cannot play the hypocrite to the extent of binding myself by a pact which means nothing to me. It would be the meanest form of slavery—to marry when I am convinced marriage is the most despicable of all the laws of society. (ASHLEIGH rustles his paper angrily—LUCY continues scornfully) What is it Nietzsche says of marriage? "Ah, the poverty of soul in the twain! Ah, the filth of soul in the twain! Ah, the pitiable self-complacency in the twain!"

  ASHLEIGH(enraged) There! That's the stuff she was reading to me. Look here, young lady! Don't you know that all the invitations are sent out and everything is arranged? Do you want to make all this infernal mess at the last moment? Think what people will say.

  LUCY(scornfully) As if I cared for the opinion of the mob—the much-too-many!

  ASHLEIGH—They're not mob. They're my friends

  LUCY—Stupid bourgeois!

  MRS. ASHLEIGH(hastily—foreseeing a row) I can quite sympathize with your objections to marriage as an institution, Lucy,—

  ASHLEIGH(bursting out) Mary!

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Even if your father cannot. (spiritedly) It's high time women should refuse to be treated like dumb beasts with no souls of their own.

  LUCY(surprised but triumphant) Thank you, mother.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—When we have the right to make our own laws we ought to abolish marriage the first thing. (violently) It's an outrage against decency, that's what it is. (catching LUCY's look of amazement) I see you're surprised, Lucy, but you shouldn't be. I know more of the evils of marriage than you do. You've escaped it so far, but you must remember I've been in the toils for over twenty years.

  LUCY(a bit shocked in spite of herself) Why, mother—I never—(She hesitates, at a loss to account for her mother's outburst.)

  ASHLEIGH—Well, I'll be damned! (He hurries his nose in the paper, choking with suppressed rage.)

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(with a great sigh—hopelessly) But in the present we are hopeless—for we must still fall in love in spite of ourselves. You love Tom, don't you, Lucy?

  LUCY—I do.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—And Tom loves you. Then, notwithstanding, the fact that your decision is just, it is bound to make both of you unhappy.

  LUCY(resolutely) No, not if Tom agrees to the plan I have in mind.

  ALL(astonished) Plan?

  LUCY(going over to TOM) You are sure you love me, Tom?

  TOM—How can you ask, Lucy!

  LUCY—And you will dare anything that we may be together?

  TOM—Anything!

  LUCY(fervidly) Then why this useless formality of marriage? Let us go forth into the world together, not shackled for better or for worse, but as free spirits, comrades who have no other claims upon each other than what our hearts dictate. (All are overwhelmed. Even MRS. ASHLEIGH is evidently taken off her feet for a moment. LUCY looks from one to the other to enjoy the effect she is producing and then continues calmly) We need not change one of our plans. Let the marriage only be omitted and I will go with you.

  ASHLEIGH(turning to his wife) The girl's out of her head!

  LUCY—I was never saner in my life than at this moment.

  ASHLEIGH(exasperated beyond endurance) But don't you see, can't you understand that what you're proposing is nothing more or less than—than—than free love!

  LUCY—Yes, free! free! free love!

  ASHLEIGH—Have you no shame?

  LUCY(grandly) None where my liberty is concerned.

  ASHLEIGH—(furiously—to TOM) And you—why don't you say something and put a stop to this disgusting nonsense?

  TOM—I must—Give me time. I—I want to think it over.

  ASHLEIGH(indignantly) Think it over! (LUCY turns away from TOM who looks questioningly at MRS. ASHLEIGH. She nods at him approvingly.)

  LUCY(seeming to be reassured after the moment's suspense—triumphantly) That means you are afraid to go with me in free comradeship, afraid of what people will say, afraid of your conventional conscience. Well, perhaps you are right from your light, but—

  TOM—One moment, Lucy. I didn't say I refused. On the contrary, I see your way is the one way out for both of us. (He stands up and takes LUCY's hand. She seems bewildered by his acceptance.)

  ASHLEIGH(white with rage) So you—a gentleman—encourage this infamous proposal?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH(calmly) Be reasonable, Dick. It seems the only thing they can do.

  ASHLEIGH—(wildly) I won't listen to you any longer. This is all a filthy joke or—or—my God, you're all insane! (He rushes out of the door in rear.)

  LUCY(to TOM—evidently trying to dissuade him) I want you to think deeply over your decision. It probably involves greater sacrifice for you than it does for me. We will have to go far away and start again together, or else, remain—

  TOM(quickly) Yes, it will be braver to remain.

  LUCY—Then you'll have to face the stupid sneers and snubs of all your associates. It will be hard. You're not accustomed—

  TOM—It's all right. I'll manage somehow.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Lucy, how can you ask such a sacrifice of Tom—if you really love him as you say?

  LUCY(sees a way out and eagerly clutches at this straw. She stands for a moment as if a tremendous mental conflict were taking place within her, then turns to TOM sadly.) No, Tom, mother is right. I cannot be so selfish. I cannot tear your life to pieces. No, you are free. Time heals everything—you will forget.

  TOM(putting his arm around her) No, Lucy, I could never forget. (firmly) So tomorrow we'll start life together as you desire it.

  LUCY(releasing herself—with infinite sadness) No—for your sake—I cannot.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Why not sacrifice yourself, Lucy? You might marry Tom as you intended to do. (with a pretence of annoyance) Where is your sense of humour, you two? Why all this seriousness? Good heavens, the marriage ceremony is merely a formula which you can take with as many grains of salt as you please. You needn't live up to it in any way. Few people do. You can have your own private understanding—and divorce is easy enough.

  LUCY—(feeling bound to protest) But, mother, that would be hypocritical—ignoble!

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Ignoble, fudge! Hypocritical, rats! Be sensible! What is the use of butting your heads against a stone wall? You have work to do in this world and you can't afford to leave yourselves open to the malicious badgering and interference of all the moral busy-bodies if you expect to accomplish your purpose in life. Now I would have nothing to say against free love if it could be free. I object to it because it's less free than marriage.

  LUCY(tragically) There must be martyrs for every step of progress.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Martyrs are people with no imaginations. No; make your marriage a model of all that's best in free love, if you must set an example. True progress lies along those lines.

  LUCY(vaguely) But—

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—But nothing. You agree with me, don't you, Tom?

  TOM—Perfectly. I never intended to regard our marriage in any other way.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH(hustling LUCY) Then make out your own wedding contract and sign it yourselves without the sanction of church or state or anything. You're willing that Lucy should draw up the terms of your mutual agreement, aren't you, Tom? She's the chief objector.

  TOM—I repeat again for the hundredth time—anything Lucy wishes I will agree to.

  LUCY(embarrassed) I believe I've already written down what I thought—I was going to ask Tom—

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Have you it with you? No? Then run and get it. I'll keep Tom company while you're gone. (LUCY hesitates a moment; then goes out left. After she has gone TOM comes over to MRS. ASHLEIGH and takes her hand. They both commence to laugh.)

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—There! I've given you the best example of how to manage Lucy. See that you profit by it.

  TOM—I won't forget, I promise you. Do you think I'm learning to be a better actor?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—My dear boy, you were splendid. Poor Lucy! She was frightened to death when you decided to accept her in unshackled free love.

  TOM(with a laugh) But where did you learn all this radical rigmarole? You had me fooled at times. I didn't know whether you were serious or not.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Oh, Lucy has sown me with tracts on the sex problem and I'm commencing to yield a harvest of wild words.

  TOM(with a comic groan) I can imagine the terms of this agreement Lucy has written out.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Pooh! Keep up your courage, agree to anything, be married tomorrow, and live happy ever after. It's simple enough. (LUCY enters from the left with the paper in her hand. She has regained her composure and wears a serious, purposeful expression. She lays the paper on the table.)

  MRS. ASHLEIGH(getting up) And now I'll leave you to yourselves. Your poor father must have torn out his few remaining hairs by this time. I'll go and reassure him. (She goes out, rear. TOM sits down at the table.)

  LUCY(standing by him—impressively) I wrote this out last night. It is my idea of what the ideal relationship between a free man and woman should be. Of course, it's tentative, and you can suggest any changes you think proper. One thing I must insist on. It is mutually agreed there shall be no children by our union. (directing a searching look at TOM) I know you're far too intelligent not to believe in birth control.

  TOM—Er—for the very poor I consider it desirable.

  LUCY—We of the well-to-do class must devote all our time to caring for the children of the poor instead of pampering our own. To do this effectively and unselfishly we must remain childless. The little proletarians will take the place of our own flesh and blood. (seeing the badly-concealed look of disapproval on TOM's face) Don't think I wish to shirk the burden of motherhood. You know how I love children.

  TOM(hastily) Of course. I understand, Lucy.

  LUCY—And you agree to the provision?

  TOM—I do.

  LUCY—Then read the whole contract and tell me what you think.

  TOM(reading) Our union is to be one of mutual help and individual freedom. Agreed. Under no conditions shall I ever question any act of yours or attempt to restrict the expression of your ego in any way. Agreed. I will love you as long as my heart dictates, and not one second longer. Agreed. I will honor you only in so far as you prove yourself worthy of it in my eyes. Agreed. I will not obey you. (with a smile) According to the old formula it isn't necessary for me to promise that, Lucy.

  LUCY—The slips are identical. I made a carbon copy of mine to save time. Here. (She takes his slip from him.) You can scratch out what doesn't apply to you. (She takes a pencil and scratches out the sentence and bands the slip back to him.)

  TOM(reading) For sociological reasons I shall have no children. That hardly applies to me either. (He takes the pencil from her and scratches it out.) In our economic relations we shall be strictly independent of each other. Hmm. Agreed. I may have lovers without causing jealousy or in any way breaking our compact as herein set forth. Lovers? Hmm, that must be your part, too. (He pauses and sits looking down at the paper with a frown.)

  LUCY—But you agree that I may, don't you? (as TOM still hesitates—with sudden indignation) Why, you seem to suspect I desire to have them!

  TOM(hastily) Indeed I don't! I was only thinking—

  LUCY—It's only a clause to show you I am free.

  TOM—I know, Lucy, I know; and I agree. (He marks off the clause on his sheet and continues his reading.) Under the above conditions I will live with you in the true comradeship of a free man and woman. Agreed, emphatically! (He looks up at her.) And now, what?

  LUCY—We exchange slips after we've both signed our names to them. (They write down their names and pass over each other's slaps.)

  TOM—And now, what?

  LUCY—(with a smile) Now you may kiss me. (He jumps to his feet and takes her in his arms and kisses her.)

  LUCY—And now run along home like a dear. I'm so worn out. I'm going upstairs.

  TOM(anxiously) I wouldn't sit up any more tonight reading the books. It—er—it might hurt your eyes, (He goes toward door in rear.)

  LUCY—(yawning) I promise. I'm too sleepy.

  TOM(turning at the door—uncertainly) You'll be sure to be at the church, dear?

  LUCY(resuming her pose as if by magic at the word "church") I will be there, but—(she looks at him questioningly) it's absolutely meaningless, remember!

  TOM—(moving back toward her) Oh, absolutely!

  LUCY—And a terrible bore, isn't it?

  TOM—(very near her again) Terrible! (He catches her in his arms and kisses her.) Good-night. (He runs out of the door in rear.)

  LUCY—Good-night. (looking after him with a smile) Silly!

(The Curtain Falls)


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