Contents Prologue I
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
The time is the present. It is about
eight-thirty of a warm June evening.
are discovered sitting by the ponderous oak table in the center of the
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.
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?
continual attacks of insane faddism.
MRS. ASHLEIGH—(with a smile) So it's Lucy again.
ASHLEIGH—Yes, it's Lucy again!
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!
Don't take it so seriously. It's just her youth—effervescence of an
active mind striving to find itself, needing an outlet somewhere.
But a healthy outlet—not a lot of half-baked theories.
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.
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.
pause—slowly) It's going to be lonely here at home
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
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
(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.
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
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
ASHLEIGH—Well, even you'll
admit I've good cause to roar tonight, when I tell you her latest
What was it this time? Did she buy another Futurist painting and bring
it home to show you?
MRS. ASHLEIGH—Has she written
another five-act tragedy in free verse?
MRS. ASHLEIGH—Has she bought
another Greenwich eucalalie which she can't play?
MRS. ASHLEIGH—Did she bring home a
tramp poet to live in our garret?
MRS. ASHLEIGH—Not even a
long-haired sculptor smelling of absinthe?
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?
MRS. ASHLEIGH—Don't tell me she
has disinterred another Yogi mystic in a cerise turban!
you'll stop questioning me for a moment, my dear, I might be able to
(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.
Well, anyway, I thought she must be going to the theatre. Where else do
normal people go when they don't stay at home?
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?
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?
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.
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
MRS. ASHLEIGH—On the contrary I'm
enough of a radical myself on that question to quite approve of it.
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
(She laughingly puts a finger over his lips.)
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.
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
MRS. ASHLEIGH—(shaking hands
with her) How do you do, Leonora.
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
LEONORA—Oh. (Then she says to
herself not realizing she is talking out loud) Philistines!
Chinese ancestor worship!
MRS. ASHLEIGH—(amused) Won't you
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.
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,
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.
I suppose even I'll be respectable when I'm too old to be anything else.
herself back in the chair) Where's Lucy?
resting. You know tomorrow—
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
MRS. ASHLEIGH—(gently) Perhaps
because she is in love.
Mid-Victorian sentimentality! Love is no excuse. Marriage is for
propagation, and artists shouldn't propagate. Takes up too much of their
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?
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
MRS. ASHLEIGH—(trying to
conceal the look of blank amazement on her face) Er—what wonderful
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?
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.
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
Nonsense! You're not at all. You're one of us. (She throws her arms
and kisses her.)
You're an old dear. (suddenly standing off and
Why don't you dye your hair red? You'd be splendidly
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,
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
TOM—I'm afraid I'm
merely a—business man.
Hmm! (suddenly) You see you attract me physically. (TOM
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.
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.
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.)
A breezy sprite, isn't she? Where's Lucy?
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
I know that, Mrs. Ashleigh, and I'll do whatever you suggest.
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
I'm sure of it.
If she is not goaded into wilder and wilder revolts by the lack
of sympathetic understanding in those around her.
troubled frown) Don't be alarmed, though. Lucy looks on you as a
promising neophyte. That's one reason why she's marrying you.
convert me? All right then, I'm converted. (with
a wild gesture)
Down with everything!
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.
Thank you. (He lights a cigarette.)
the maid comes in)
Annie, will you tell Lucy that Mr. Drayton is
THE MAID—Yes, m'am. (She
around the room, stops on seeing the canvas against the wall)
Is this the painting our little Leo was urging you not to forget?
Bring it over to the light. You'll enjoy it. It's a wedding present for
brings it to the table and holds it in the light. It is an orgy of colors
done in the wildest Synchromist manner.
looks at it with an expression of amused contempt.
watches his face with a smile.
enters from the left. He appears wildly excited, and his face is red
with indignant rage.)
do you suppose—? (He sees
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
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.
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.)
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.
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.
Tommyrot! That's what I know it is.
MRS. ASHLEIGH—And you, Tom?
can't make out whether it's the Aurora Borealis or an explosion in a
powder mill. (ASHLEIGH
You are both wrong. It is the longing of the soul for the Great
Blond Rot! (to
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
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!
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,
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
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?
out of her dream—slowly)
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
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.
quickly) We were discussing the meaning of this painting Leonora
brought for you.
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.)
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
a glance at her father)
She is too old-fashioned. Her
methods are those of yesterday.
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.)
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.
Then maybe you can tell us what it represents?
(He winks at
who pretends not to see him and wears a face of deadly seriousness.)
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.
MRS. ASHLEIGH—Yes. She said you
might regard it as such.
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
MRS. ASHLEIGH—What rubbish?
ASHLEIGH—(indicating LUCY who is gazing
I will leave it to our lady anarchist to explain.
pause) There will be no wedding.
ASHLEIGH—(looking at the
others with an I-told-you-so air of
There! Now you know!
MRS. ASHLEIGH—(with the utmost
calm) You mean you want it postponed?
I mean there will be no wedding—ever! (TOM
squirms in his chair and seems about to protest but catches
meaning glance and stops abruptly.
revels in the impression she knows she has made. Wearing her best
Russian heroine pose she comes slowly over to
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?
Yes, Lucy, I
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
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.
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
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!"
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.
As if I cared for the opinion of the mob—the much-too-many!
ASHLEIGH—They're not mob.
They're my friends
a row) I can quite sympathize with your objections to marriage as an
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.
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
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?
MRS. ASHLEIGH—And Tom loves you.
Then, notwithstanding, the fact that your decision is just, it is bound
to make both of you unhappy.
No, not if Tom agrees to the plan I have in mind.
LUCY—(going over to
TOM) You are sure
you love me, Tom?
TOM—How can you ask,
LUCY—And you will dare
anything that we may be together?
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
is evidently taken off her feet for a moment.
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.
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!
ASHLEIGH—Have you no shame?
None where my liberty is concerned.
TOM) And you—why
don't you say something and put a stop to this
TOM—I must—Give me
time. I—I want to think it over.
Think it over! (LUCY turns away
who looks questioningly at
She nods at him approvingly.)
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.
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—
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
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.
his arm around her)
No, Lucy, I could never forget. (firmly) So tomorrow we'll start
life together as you desire it.
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
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
TOM—I repeat again for
the hundredth time—anything Lucy wishes I will agree to.
I believe I've already written down what I thought—I was going to ask
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.)
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.
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
TOM—(with a comic groan) I can imagine the terms of this agreement Lucy has written
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
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
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.
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
face) Don't think I wish to shirk the burden of motherhood. You know
how I love children.
Of course. I understand, Lucy.
LUCY—And you agree to the
LUCY—Then read the whole
contract and tell me what you think.
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.)
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
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!
Indeed I don't! I was only thinking—
LUCY—It's only a clause to show you I
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.)
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.
wouldn't sit up any more tonight reading the books. It—er—it might hurt
your eyes, (He goes toward door in rear.)
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,
toward her) Oh, absolutely!
LUCY—And a terrible bore,
TOM—(very near her
(He catches her in
his arms and kisses her.) Good-night. (He runs out of the door in rear.)
after him with a smile) Silly!
(The Curtain Falls)