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Contents   Prologue   I   II   III  Epilogue


ACT TWO

SCENEThe library of the Drayton's home in a fashionable New York suburb. The room is light and airy, furnished unpretentiously but in perfect  taste. The only jarring note is supplied by two incredible paintings in the Synchromist manner which are hung in conspicuous places, and not to be ignored.

  In the rear, french windows looking out on the driveway which runs from the road to the front of the house, and the stretch of lawn beyond. On the left, a doorway leading into the main hall. On the right, rear, a window opening on the garden. Farther forward, a doorway, screened by heavy portieres, leading into another room. In the center, a table with books, periodicals, and an electric reading lamp on it.

  Three months have elapsed since Act One. It is about noon on a warm day in September.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH and LUCY are discovered. MRS. ASHLEIGH is seated by the table reading a magazine. LUCY is standing by the windows looking out over the grounds. She sighs fretfully and comes forward to where her mother is sitting; picks up a magazine, turns over the pages disgustedly, and throws it back on the table with an exclamation of contempt.

  LUCY—Pah, what silly, shallow stuff! How can you waste your time reading it, mother?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(laying down her magazine resignedly) I find it pleasant these warm days. It's light and frivolous, to be sure, but it serves to while away the hours.

  LUCY—(scornfully) While away the hours! That's because your mind is unoccupied. Now, if you had a vital purpose—

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(hurriedly) Stop right there, my dear Lucy. I suffered from an overdose of your vital purposes when you were my daughter and I had to submit to keep peace in the family; but now that you are Mrs. Drayton, I rebel!

  LUCY(laughing, sits down on the arm of her mother's chair and puts her arm around her—girlishly) But I still am your daughter, mother. (She kisses her.) Unless you've disowned me.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(fondly) Indeed I haven't; but I'm determined to shun your stern principles. They're too rigorous for a lazy old lady.

  LUCY—You're nothing of the kind. Only if you're going to read why don't you read something worth while? Have you looked over that copy of the new radical monthly, The Crash, I loaned you?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—No. My brain perspired at the sight of it.

  LUCY(laughing) Mother, you're incorrigible. You must read it. There's a wonderful poem by Gabriel—

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Now, Lucy, you know I think Gabriel's poetry is—well—unmentionable.

  LUCY(loftily) That's blind prejudice, mother. You don't like Gabriel and you won't see the beauty of his work on that account.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH(with a sigh) Have it your own way, my dear. As you say, I don't like him overmuch. I can't for the life of me imagine what you find interesting in him.

  LUCY—(in the same lofty manner) You don't understand him.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(with a trace of irritation) Perhaps not. Certainly I don't understand why he should be always hanging around here. You never used to see much of him, did you?

  LUCY—I used to run into him around the Square quite frequently.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Where did you first meet him?

  LUCY—Leo introduced me to him. He and she have a studio together.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(raising her eyebrows a trifle) And I suppose they—live together?

  LUCY(assertively) Yes. They do. In free comradship!

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Hmm!

  LUCY—Don't be bourgeois, mother.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Oh, I wasn't belittling their morals. They're free to do as they please, of course. I was only thinking of little Leo. I like her quite well, and I didn't think she had such bad taste in the matter of companions.

  LUCY(indignantly) Mother! (The front door is opened and shut, and TOM appears in the doorway on the left.)

  TOM—Ah, here you are. (He comes over and kisses LUCY who submits rather constrainedly and walks away from him to the windows where she stands with her back toward him. TOM looks at her with a puzzled expression; then turns quickly to MRS. ASHLEIGH.) This is an unexpected pleasure, mother. (He bends down and kisses her.) I didn't think I'd find you out here.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—It was so warm and sunshiny, I just couldn't bear to remain in the city.

  TOM(with boyish enthusiasm) Bully out here, isn't it? I don't regret the half-hour train trip. One breath of this air after all those sultry streets puts new life into you. (turning to LUCY) Eh, Lucy?

  LUCY—(without enthusiasm) Yes, it's very nice.

  TOM—You don't say that as if you meant it. Do you know, Mother, I think Lucy still pines for the stuffy studios of Greenwich Village.

  LUCY(coldly) You're mistaken.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—I can hardly believe that of her. Anyway, she can motor in whenever she feels homesick. She has the car. You seem hardly ever to use it.

  TOM—No, that's Lucy's plaything. The old train is good enough for a hard-working business slave who can't afford to take chances on blow-outs.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—But you used to be such an enthusiastic motor fiend.

  TOM—Married life has had it's sobering effect. I'm less frivolous.

  LUCY(turning to him abruptly) I suppose you forgot the tickets I asked you to get for the concert this afternoon?

  TOM(looking at her for a moment—gently) Do I usually forget anything you ask me?

  LUCY(abashed) No—I—I didn't mean it that way, Tom. I merely wanted to know if you had them.

  TOM—I sure have. (He takes the tickets out of his pocket and holds them up for her to see.) Just to show you I'm a man of my word.

  LUCY—Thank you. What time does it begin?

  TOM—Two-thirty, I believe. We'll have to leave a little before two if we want to make it in the car. (He takes a bundle of papers from his pocket.) I've got to run over these papers. I'll have time before lunch, I guess. (He goes out left. LUCY stands staring moodily out of the windows. Her mother looks at her searchingly.)

  MRS. ASHLEIGH(after a pause) Come, Lucy, what's the matter? It's ungrateful of you to be blue on a beautiful day like this.

  LUCY—(with a sigh—fretfully) I don't like weather which is so glaring and sunshiny. Nature makes too vulgar a display of it's kind intentions. (with a toss of her head) Besides, the weather can't heal my mood. (with exaggerated melancholy) My blue devils live deep down in my soul.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Don't you like it out here any more? You seemed so enthusiastic when you first came.

  LUCY—Oh, I knew it was what Tom wanted, and, well, I'd never had the experience before so how could I know?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Experience? Why, you've only been here three weeks.

  LUCY—That's long enough—to realize. But, Mother, it doesn't make any difference where I am, the conditions are the same. I feel—cramped in. (with an affected yawn, throwing herself into a chair) And I'm mortally bored.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH(with a sigh) Ever since you saw that play the other night you've done nothing but talk and act Hedda Gabler; so I suppose it's no use trying to argue with her.

  LUCY(irritated at having her pose seen through) I'm not talking Hedda Gabler. I'm simply telling you how I feel. (somberly) Though I'll confess there are times when General Gabler's pistols have their fascination.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH(with a smile) Tut-tut, Lucy. You're too morbid today. You'll be longing next for someone to come "with vine leaves in his hair."

  LUCY(maliciously) And perhaps he will come.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Hmm; well, it won't be our friend Gabriel, to be sure. I'm certain he's one of your precise modern poets who drowns his sorrows in unfermented grape juice, and goes in for scientific eating—counts his calories and proteins over one by one, so to speak.

  LUCY(not deigning to smile at this) There's much more to Gabriel than you have any idea of.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH(with a smile) As Leonora said to Tom once.

  LUCY(with affected carelessness) What did she say?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—She began by saying she was attracted to him physically! Imagine! Tom was flabbergasted. He hardly knew her at that time.

  LUCY(stiffly) She is rather rude.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—It would have been impossible in anyone else, but Leonora has a way with her. Tom didn't mind. Then she went on to make it worse—said he had more to him than he dreamed of and she was determined to find it out some day.

  LUCY—(with a short laugh) Perhaps she will.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—I think Tom was inclined to regard her as a freak at first but he likes her quite well now. Does she come out here much?

  LUCY—Quite often—with Gabriel.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Leonora is a charming little elf.

  LUCY(frowning) She gets on my nerves at times now, and bores me with her chatter.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(in surprise) Why I thought you and she were—Oh, well, this is one of your days, Miss. Hedda Gabler, to be bored with everything and everybody.

  LUCY(vexed) Do stop calling me Hedda Gabler, Mother. What has that to do with it? Leo wearies me with her silly talk of the Great Blond Beast.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—That's what she said Tom reminded her of.

  LUCY(with a sneer) She must be imaginative.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(after a pause) When you came back from your honeymoon you were so full of healthy good spirits; and now you're falling back into the old morbid rut again.

  LUCY—I'm not morbid. Is it morbid to look the truth in the face? (pettishly) I suppose it's all my own fault. I was never intended for a hausfrau. I should never have allowed myself to be bullied into marrying when all my instincts were against it.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(astonished) Bullied into marrying? Why, Lucy!

  LUCY—(peevishly) Yes, you did. You and father and Tom were all so set on it. What could I do? If I had only known—And now—(dramatically) Oh, I want air! I want freedom to love and dream beyond all these deadly commonplaces!

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—It seems to me you're perfectly free to do as you please.

  LUCY—(scornfully) Do you call this freedom—this bourgeois paradise?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(with asperity) I certainly call it as lovely a home as anyone could wish for.

  LUCY—Home? I don't want a home. I want a space to grow in.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(with a sigh of vexation) I believe all this talk of yours comes from your association with Gabriel.

  LUCY—(excitedly) He's the only real sympathetic human being who comes into this house. He understands me. He can talk to me in terms of the things I love. You and Tom—you take me for granted.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(seeing LUCY's excitement, comes over and puts her arm around her) I'm sure we try our best to be sympathetic, dear. (She kisses her.) But let's not talk any more about it now. The humidity is too oppressive for argument. Let's go out in the garden for awhile.

  LUCY—(getting up) I can only stay a moment, Mother. I'm expecting Gabriel and Leo any minute. I asked them out for lunch before I knew about the concert. (with a defiant glance at her mother) Gabriel promised to read some new poems to me.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(eagerly—much to LUCY's surprise) I'd like to hear them, if I may. You see I want to know Gabriel more intimately. I'm afraid, after what you've told me, I must be wrongly prejudiced against him.

  LUCY—I assure you you are, Mother. (They walk together to the windows in rear.)

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—How beautiful everything looks! Let's walk around in back where those lovely, shady maple trees are. (They go out and walk off right. A moment later the hall door is heard being opened and shut and GABRIEL and LEONORA enter from the doorway on the left. GABRIEL has rather long black hair and big soulful eyes. His face is thin and intelligent, with irregular large features. He wears clothes sufficiently unconventional to attract attention. His manner is that of a spoiled child who is used to being petted and enjoys every moment of it. LEONORA is dressed in her usual bizarre fashion.)

  LEONORA—Now I ask you, why didn't you ring, you impossible person?

  GABRIEL—(throwing himself into the easiest chair) I don't need to. I belong with the Lares and Penates of this house. In fact, I am them. I am more than they are. I am the great god, persona grata.

  LEONORA—(peering around) There isn't a soul here.

  GABRIEL—I quite agree with you. If there is one thing this home could harbor without fear of overcrowding, it's a soul.

  LEONORA—(throwing herself into a chair) I say! Why do you trot out here so much, then?

  GABRIEL—(reproachfully) And you have the naivete to ask me that? (He takes a box of cigarettes from his pocket and lights one.)

  LEONORA—Give me one. (She takes a cigarette.) And a light. (She lights her cigarette from his.) Yes, I do ask you that.

  GABRIEL—(shaking his head) You who are familiar with the asininity of editors and the emaciated condition of my form and purse. You, whose cooking will eventually make a Carlyle out of me—

  LEONORA—I don't pretend to be a cook.

  GABRIEL—Because the most unworldly stomach would see through such a pretence. No, my adored Leonora, your cooking is very much akin to your painting—difficult to absorb.

  LEONORA—(with outraged dignity) You know nothing at all about painting.

  GABRIEL—But I have a sensitive appreciation where true Art is concerned, Leo, my own; and as I have told you so many times, your paintings are rubbish.

  LEONORA—(her face flushing with rage) And your verse is nonsense.

  GABRIEL—(airily) You're speaking of something you're too small of soul to understand.

  LEONORA—(judicially) I understand the beauty of real poetry. That's why I've always told you your stuff is only sentimental journalism.

  GABRIEL—(outraged) What! (sputtering) Your opinion is worthless. No, by God, it's even flattering, considering the source.

  LEONORA—It's worth as much as your criticism of my Art.

  GABRIEL—(with a sneering laugh) Your Art? Good heavens, do you call that stuff Art?

  LEONORA—(bursting forth) Conceited ass!

  GABRIEL—Idiot!

  LEONORA—Fool!

  GABRIEL—Imbecile!

  LEONORA—Bourgeois rhymster!

  GABRIEL—(quivering with fury) Have the last word, you little simpleton! (He springs to his feet and, picking a book from the table, appears about to hurl it on the floor.)

  LEONORA—Now I ask you, what are you doing with that book? This isn't our place. You can't work out your rage by smashing things here.

  GABRIEL—I won't endure this relationship a moment longer!

  LEONORA—You've said that before. Ta-ta! Go! You know none else would put up with you—and you can't take care of yourself.

  GABRIEL—(crashing the book on the floor) Damn! (He strides up and down holding his head.)

  LEONORA—(calmly) Shall I ring and have the maid pick up that book for you?

  GABRIEL—(picking the book up and putting it back on the table with a great show of dignity) I don't desire menial service. It's abhorrent to my love of freedom.

  LEONORA—So I've observed. Certainly there have never been any menials around the studio since I arrived. (as she sees GABRIEL is about to give vent to his anger again) Now don't fly off into another tantrum, Gab.

  GABRIEL—Don't call me Gab. It's vulgar, and it makes me ridiculous. How often must I tell you?

  LEONORA—Very well, then—Gabriel. (suddenly bursting into peals of laughter) Now I ask you, wasn't that a lovely brawl?

  GABRIEL—(with a sigh) Well, it's over for today, at any rate. You know what we swore to each other?

  LEONORA—Only one row a day.

  GABRIEL—(smiling) What if the Philistines had heard us! They would perish with the rapture of a revelation—at last, Bohemia!

  LEONORA—We must be careful. The dignity of free love is at stake. (laughing) If they only knew—

  GABRIEL—Ssshh! Someone'll hear you. Do you want to ruin us? Remember the high cost of eating.

  LEONORA—Where are they all, I wonder—and more important, where is lunch? I'm as hungry as a tiger. (turning to him—suddenly) How is your affair coming on with the Blessed Damozel, Lucy?

  GABRIEL—Too well.

  LEONORA—I've noticed she's been cool to me lately. You must have been making love to her.

  GABRIEL—I haven't; I've simply been reading my poems; but I'm afraid the time has come to be prosy.

  LEONORA—Poor Lucy! I like her so much, but she's such a nut.

  GABRIEL—She's exceeding fair to look upon, at least, and that's something. If she only knew the wisdom of silence, the charm of vocal inaction in the female—but no, I must listen to all her brainstorms. It's a bit thick, you know. She's just been to see Hedda Gabler for the Nth time, and she's obsessed by it. So I have to play the drunken gentleman with the vine leaves in his hair, whatever his name is.

  LEONORA—If she saw you on some of your nights she wouldn't doubt your ability to fill the bill. I'm afraid she's becoming quite impossible—Ibsen, in this advanced age! Imagine a modern husband living with an old-fashioned Ibsen woman! I begin to pity the Blond Beast.

  GABRIEL—There, you're wrong. After all, with all her fits, Lucy is delightful. I see nothing in her husband but an overgrown clod.

  LEONORA—Ah, so? You don't know him. There's more than you dream of beneath his boyish exterior.

  GABRIEL—How do you know? (indignantly) Have you been flirting with him?

  LEONORA—(airily) Perhaps. Attend to your own love affairs and I'll attend to mine.

  GABRIEL—Great Blond Beast! Great Big Imbecile!

  LEONORA—It seems you're getting jealous again. Why, Gabriel, how refreshing! Kiss me!

  GABRIEL—I won't; don't be an idiot! (angrily) I tell you I won't stand—

  LEONORA—Don't.

  GABRIEL—I won't endure being made a fool of behind my back.

  LEONORA—(calmly) Don't.

  GABRIEL—If I thought for one second—I'd leave you instantly.

  LEONORA—Do.

  GABRIEL—What? (They are interrupted by the entrance of the maid. GABRIEL strides around the room fuming. LEONORA turns to the maid.)

  LEONORA—Is Mrs. Drayton around anywhere?

  THE MAID—Yes, Miss, in the garden, I think. Shall I tell her you're here?

  LEONORA—Yes, do, will you? (The maid goes out rear.)

  GABRIEL—(stands in front of LEONORA with his arms folded) Remember. I've warned you.

  LEONORA—Pooh! (She snaps her fingers.) That for your warning. When I brought Lucy to our studio you didn't hesitate to start right in casting your spells in under my nose.

  GABRIEL—But she's necessary to my work.

  LEONORA—Stuff! The old excuse! You've said that about every one of them. It's your own love of being adored, that's the real reason. Don't think I'm jealous. Go right ahead and amuse yourself. I don't mind.

  GABRIEL—(incredulously) You don't?

  LEONORA—Not a bit; but you've got to let me have my own little fling.

  GABRIEL—Little fling! You mean that lout, Drayton?

  LEONORA—Perhaps. He appeals to me terrifically—physically; and I'm sure he has a good mind, too.

  GABRIEL—(with an attempt at superior disdain) I must say your tastes are very low. (furiously) And am I to submit while you make a monkey of me in this fashion?

  LEONORA—I've had to. It'll do you good to find out how a monkey feels.

  GABRIEL—I tell you I'll leave you flat at the first inkling—

  LEONORA—Run along, then. (He turns away from her and strides toward the windows.) Farewell, my beloved! Aren't you going to kiss me good'bye?

  GABRIEL—(coming back to her—intensely) You're an empty-headed nincompoop!

  LEONORA—(gets up and dances around him singing) Empty-headed nincompoop! But I do not give a hoop! (LUCY appears at the windows in the rear. LEONORA sees her and runs and flings her arms around her as she enters.) What a dear you look today! (She kisses her effusively. GABRIEL stands biting his lips, trying to subdue his ill temper.)

  LUCY—(embarrassed by LEONORA's reception) Have you been here long? I went for a stroll in the garden with mother.

  LEONORA—Where is she? Never mind, I'll find her. I must see her. She's a dear. Ta-ta! (She runs out into the garden.)

  GABRIEL—(is himself again. He comes and takes LUCY's hand and looks into her eyes ardently.) Leo was right. You are beautiful today—as ever. (He kisses her hand passionately.)

  LUCY—(embarrassed; taking her hand away, hurriedly) Have you brought your poems? (She comes forward and sits down on the lounge. He pulls up a chair close to her.)

  GABRIEL—Yes; but I won't bore you with them yet awhile.

  LUCY—(reproachfully) Bore? It isn't kind of you to say that when you know how deeply I admire them.

  GABRIEL—Life is the most beautiful poem of all, if we can make it so. Let me simply breathe, live, here in the same room with you for an eternal moment or so. That will be a more wonderful poem than any I could read.

  LUCY—(haltingly) I'm afraid you'd soon find it—very tiresome.

  GABRIEL—It would be heaven! I am weary of reading, writing, thinking. I want to feel, to live a poem. I want to sit and let my soul drink in your beauty, and forget everything else.

  LUCY—(archly) Ah, sir poet, but you mustn't. If you don't feel in the mood for reading, then you must talk. I am lonely, and you are the only one who can understand my solitude. I cannot talk to the others. They live in another world. You are the only one who loves the things I love.

  GABRIEL—(kissing her hand) How can I thank you for feeling that? (She allows him to keep her hand in both of his.)

  LUCY—No, it is I who should thank you.

  GABRIEL—Ah no, no, Princess!

  LUCY—But yes. You do not mock my dreams, my longings, with the old thread-bare platitudes. (then wearily with a great sigh) My life appeared so futilely hopeless; I was so alone, until you came; and I was mortally bored with everything.

  GABRIEL—(hastily) I know how you feel—crushed in, tied down by the petty round of family life. (with affected melancholy) Do you think I haven't mentally rebelled against the same bonds, suffered from the same irritating restraints as you? Ah, you don't know.

  LUCY—But you—you're not married. It's hardly the same.

  GABRIEL—(hurriedly) Of course—in that sense, you're right. Nevertheless—(He heaves a great, unhappy sigh.)

  LUCY—(with awakened curiosity) But I thought your relationship with Leonora was ideally happy.

  GABRIEL—(with a scornful smile) What is ideal in this miserable existence? I was born to be unhappy, I suppose. All poets are; and I must achieve my punishment with the rest!

  LUCY—(softly) Then you aren't—happy?

  GABRIEL—(bitterly) Happiness? What is it? A mirage? A reality? I don't know. (looking at her meaningly) I see it before me now, within my reach, and yet so far from me; guarded, withheld by every damnable convention in the world. (She drops her eyes before his intense gaze. He laughs shortly.) But I'm talking about myself. What do I matter? "Dear God, what means a poet more or less?" I am used to suffering, but you, you must not! You are too good, too wonderful, too beautiful to know anything but joy. Your life should express itself only in beauty, in growth, like a flower.

  LUCY—(immensely pleased) I'm afraid you have much too high an opinion of me. I'm not what you would believe—(with a sad smile) Simply a discontented, morbid, spoiled child, perhaps, as my mother thinks.

  GABRIEL—(indignantly) How can she misunderstand you so? Why shouldn't your fine spiritual inner nature revolt against all this sordidness? (With a sweeping gesture he indicates the room and the grounds outside.) All this bourgeois sty! At least, I understand you. (with tender appeal in his voice) Do I not?

  LUCY—(slowly) Yes, you do. You are the only one who does.

  GABRIEL—Ah, if you would only let me help you!

  LUCY—You have—so much, already.

  GABRIEL—If you only felt that someone from without could come into your life and take you away, to the mountain tops, to the castles in the air, to the haunt of brave dreams where life is free, and joyous, and noble! If you only felt the need of such a person—(He looks at her questioningly.)

  LUCY—(hesitatingly) Perhaps—I do.

  GABRIEL—(impulsively) Then let me be the one! Your very presence fills me with strength. For you I could do anything, everything! (LUCY grows ill at ease at this excited outburst and casts an anxious look toward the door on left. GABRIEL continues passionately) Can't you read the secret in my heart? Don't you hear the song my soul has been singing ever since I first looked into your eyes? (He kisses her hand ardently. She is frightened and attempts to withdraw it.) I love you, Lucy! Don't you know that I love you? (TOM appears in the doorway at the left. He stands there looking at them, an expression of anger coming over his face. LUCY suddenly catches sight of him and tears her hand from GABRIEL's grasp with a little cry. GABRIEL turns around and jumps to his feet when he sees TOM.)

  TOM—(icily) I beg your pardon! (Then, overcome by his anger he advances toward GABRIEL threateningly. The latter shrinks away from him, and looks around wildly for some place of escape.)

  LUCY—(stepping in between them) Tom!

  TOM—(recovering himself with an effort, forces a smile, and holds out his hand to GABRIEL) Hello, Adams. I didn't know you were here.

  GABRIEL—(looks at the outstretched hand uncertainly—finally takes it) Er—just got here—Leo and I—a moment ago. (He pulls away his hand hurriedly.) Er—where is Leo, by the way? (He looks around as if he had thought she was in the same room.) She was here a second ago. She's always running away like that. Must be in the garden. I'll go and find her—if you'll excuse me.

  TOM—(ironically) Oh, certainly. (GABRIEL makes his escape. TOM comes over and stands before LUCY who is sitting down on the lounge again, staring at the floor, her cheek resting on her hand.) Lucy!

  LUCY—(raising her head slowly) Yes?

  TOM—(awkwardly) Isn't this—going a bit too far?

  LUCY—(calmly) What?

  TOM—I mean—you know—in my own house

  LUCY—(coldly) I'm glad you recognize the fact that it's your house and not mine.

  TOM—You know I didn't mean that.

  LUCY—But I mean it.

  TOM—But—what I meant was—I don't understand—

  LUCY—No, that's the tragedy of it—you don't understand.

  TOM—(hurt) You're not fair, Lucy.

  LUCY—Fair? And do you think you're fair after the scene you created a minute ago?

  TOM—I don't see that I made any scene. I think I held myself in pretty well, considering the circumstances.

  LUCY—(lifting her eyebrows—haughtily) Considering the circumstances!

  TOM—Yes. (wrathfully) Dirty little cad!

  LUCY—What circumstances are you referring to?

  TOM—Now, Lucy, you must acknowledge it's rather hard on me to come down here and find that little puppy licking your hand.

  LUCY—Don't be vulgar!

  TOM—Well, then, kissing your hand.

  LUCY—And what of that? Gabriel is one of my dearest friends, and—

  TOM—You can't deny he was making love to you, right here in under my nose, the insolent scribbler!

  LUCY—(stiffly) I deny your right to talk to me in this manner.

  TOM—(hurriedly) Oh, I'm not blaming you; I know you don't realize what he really is or you wouldn't stand for him a minute. I know his kind—making love to every woman he sees, getting off a lot of poetic slush which sounds good to them; and the worst part of it is all the romantic fools think it's genuine!

  LUCY—(jumping to her feet in angry indignation) So that's what you consider me—a romantic fool!

  TOM—(realizing he has put his foot in it) I didn't say you were one of them. I only said—

  LUCY—I don't care to hear your excuses. Besides, what does it matter? I tell you quite frankly: Gabriel was making love to me.

  TOM—Of course he was. He does to everyone. I've heard all about him.

  LUCY—(wincing) Don't try to revenge yourself by repeating all the cheap scandal of your stupid friends. How could they ever know the real Gabriel?

  TOM—But that's just what they do know—the real Gabriel.

  LUCY—(stiffly) I prefer to rely on my own judgment, not on theirs. I believe, not his words, but my own intuition.

  TOM—And, thinking he was serious, you permitted it?

  LUCY—(defiantly) Yes.

  TOM—But why? Why? (fearfully) Don't you—love me?

  LUCY—(rising to the occasion—moodily) I don't know.

  TOM—You don't know! Surely you don't—you can't—you don't love him?

  LUCY—I don't know.

  TOM—(furiously) The measly little shrimp! I've a good notion to break him in half.

  LUCY(scornfully) Leonora should see you now. She would think you were the blond beast. (TOM subsides a bit at this.) You've no right to ask me if I love Gabriel or anyone else. You should rely on my frankness to tell you of my own free will. I won't be forced.

  TOM—(with a hollow laugh) No right. No, I'm only your husband!

  LUCY—(with a lofty disdain) Husband? You know that word has no meaning for me.

  TOM—Well, it has for me. (pathetically) You see I love you.

  LUCY—(continuing as if she hadn't heard) You are honorably bound by our agreement—

  TOM—(roughly) That was all foolishness!

  LUCY—(angrily) You may think so but I do not. For me it's the only thing which is binding. Our being married in the regular sense means nothing to me at all. If I find I love Gabriel I'll leave with him that instant.

  TOM—(suffering) Lucy! Please! (He tries to take her hand but she holds it away from him.)

  LUCY—No, it's no use being sentimental about it. I advise you to reread the agreement you signed as a man of honor, and you'll have a clearer idea of the conditions of our life together. You seem to have forgotten. Until your misconceptions are cleared up I prefer not to discuss the matter with you further. (She starts to sweep past him out into the garden.)

  TOM—(bitterly) I remember I'm allowed the same liberty of action as you are by that agreement. I haven't forgotten that.

  LUCY—(stopping) Certainly you are. What do you mean?

  TOM—(with a hard laugh) I mean it's about time I made use of some of my—freedom.

  LUCY—(trying to appear indifferent—coldly) You may do as you please. (She goes out. TOM throws himself into a chair, lights a cigarette, throws it away, gets up and walks up and down irritably. MRS. ASHLEIGH enters from the garden and stands for a moment looking at TOM who does not see her. She comes forward.)

  TOM—(trying to conceal his irritation) Ah, Mother, too hot for you outside? (He arranges an easy chair for her and she sits down.)

  MRS. ASHLEIGH (smiling at him—gently) What's the matter, Tom? Even if I couldn't read you like a book, I've seen Gabriel, and I've seen Lucy, and I know something unpleasant has occurred. What was it?

  TOM—(hesitatingly) Oh—nothing much—only I came to get something in here, and I found that little insect—(He stops, frowning.)

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Yes?

  TOM—(blurting it out) Holding her hand and kissing it.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(with a smile) Oh, is that all? That's a favorite mannerism of Gabriel's, I believe. It's so romantic, and it gives one such an air. Why, he kissed my hand out in the garden not ten minutes ago.

  TOM—(angrily) It was the way he did it.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—And what happened afterward?

  TOM—Oh—nothing.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Now, Tom! Surely you can confide in me.

  TOM—Oh, well, he ran away as soon as he could; and then Lucy and I had a regular row. (He throws himself into a chair and frowns fiercely.)

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(smiling) Your first row?

  TOM—Yes.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—What? Not one on your honeymoon?

  TOM—No.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—The first row is always a blow. I can remember mine—the day after my marriage. So you see you're lucky. The tenth one won't be so bad, and the hundredth—not to mention the thousandth—poof! Mere puffs of wind ruffling the surface.

  TOM—(indignantly) It's serious to me.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Then I'll be serious, too; but you must answer my questions. Did you tell Lucy you objected to this Gabriel?

  TOM—Certainly I did! I've stood it long enough. He's around the house more than the cat is. Wherever I go I find him. If I start to sit down in a chair I discover he's in it. I can't see Lucy alone for a minute. I have to sit and listen to his everlasting poems. It's got to stop.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—You're on the wrong tack. I made the same mistake myself this morning—became irritated because Lucy kept quoting his banal epigrams—on this hot day! So I allowed myself a few disparaging remarks about the gentleman. (shaking her head) It's foolish. I shouldn't have done it. You shouldn't either. We ought to know better.

  TOM—Oh, I know what you preached to me the night before we were married, and I've tried to follow your plan religiously. Lot of good it's done!

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—You're ungrateful. If it wasn't for my advice I think your first quarrel would have taken place ten minutes after leaving the church instead of four months later.

  TOM—It's too humiliating. I can't give in all the time.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—You must—if you want to have your own way.

  TOM—There's a limit to everything. Why last evening I went to the bathroom and found him there shaving—with my razor!

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(laughs—then becomes serious) It seems we've both made a frightful mess of things today. Lucy will make Gabriel the leading issue after this, out of pure defiance.

  TOM—Well, I can't knuckle down now—after our row.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—What did Lucy have to say in answer to your objections?

  TOM—Referred me to that silly agreement I was foolish enough to sign.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(horrified) You didn't put it that way to her?

  TOM—(with a great show of manliness) Yes, I did—only stronger.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Oh, this is frightful! Why did you do it? The agreement of agreements, Lucy's masterpiece of free, unfettered radicalism—and you dared to cast slurs on it! What did you say, in heaven's name?

  TOM—I told her if she was going to use her guaranteed-by-agreement liberty in the way she's been doing, it was about time I began to use some of mine along the same lines.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(aghast at first) You did! (then thoughtfully) Hmm. (her face suddenly lighting up) Why, Tom, it's an inspiration! I have underestimated your wiles.

  TOM—(modestly) I only meant it as a bluff.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Bluff? Indeed not! It's exactly what you must do.

  TOM—What do you mean?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—And now I remember something which ought to be valuable to us. It's right in line with your idea.

  TOM—(puzzled) My idea? You don't think I've any intention of carrying out that foolish threat of mine?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—But you must! (as TOM shakes his head decisively) Of course I mean you must pretend to, you great baby!

  TOM—(commencing to smile) Oh, I see.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Did Lucy act taken back when you asserted your right to bestow your affections elsewhere?

  TOM—(grinning) She didn't look very pleased.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Then it will be all plain sailing. (She leans back in her chair with a sigh of relief) So that's settled.

  TOM—Yes; but what's settled?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Why, that you're to fall in love with Leo.

  TOM—(astonished) Leo?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Leo—Leonora—the little Nietzsche lady—Gabriel's Leo. You shall be her Great Blond Beast.

  TOM—But I don't see—why Leo?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—For many reasons. First, you like her, don't you?

  TOM—Yes; but I never thought of her in that light.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Of course you didn't, silly boy. I assure you I've no suspicions regarding you whatever. The second reason is—revenge! You'll be getting back at Gabriel. It will hurt his pride dreadfully and I know he'll be infernally jealous.

  TOM—I'd like to make him sweat.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—And the third reason I'm not going to tell you. You wouldn't believe it, and I've no proof to offer you. It's just what you'd call a hunch of mine, but I know it will turn out to be the best reason of all.

  TOM—Well, granting my willingness to carry out my part, how do you know Leo will fall in with this idea?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Why she's just perishing to start a flirtation with you. Are you blind? She'll think it's the greatest lark.

  TOM—(uncertainly) But is all this fair to Lucy?

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(with a sigh) It's the only way I can see to bring her back to earth and get her to take up the business of married life seriously. She'll never realize the worth of her good fortune until she sees it slipping from her.

  TOM—Well—if you think it's best—I'll try it.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—Do; and I'll let you know from the inside how things are developing. (She gets up from her chair.) I need fresh air after all this intrigue. It must be nearly lunch time. I'll go and tell them.

  TOM—(going over with her to the windows) Here comes my light-of-love now. (LEONORA comes running breathlessly into the room. She stops suddenly on seeing them.)

  LEONORA—I'm not interrupting anything, am I? Every where I go I seem to be one too many.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(putting her arm around her) Certainly not, dear.

  LEONORA—Gab's in the garden doing the book-reading scene from Francesca da Rimini with Lucy, and they treated me as if I were a contagious disease. (TOM frowns.) What time is it? How long before lunch?

  TOM—Oh, ten minutes or so?

  LEONORA—Then I'll have time to take a bath! (She dances around gleefully, snapping her fingers.)

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—A bath? In ten minutes?

  LEONORA—Oh, I just hop in and out. There's never any hot water where we live. (to TOM) Is there plenty of hot water here?

  TOM—(with a smile) I think so.

  LEONORA—And towels?

  TOM—I hope so.

  LEONORA—Now I say, I forgot! I should have asked you, shouldn't I? May I, please, use your honorable bath tub?

  TOM—(making a deep bow) It is at your disposal.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(with a significant glance at TOM) I'll walk out and tell them how late it's getting to be. If Lucy's going to the concert with you she ought to get ready.

  TOM—(after a moment's hesitation—as MRS. ASHLEIGH is going out) Perhaps you'd better tell Lucy I'm not sure whether I can go with her or not.

  MRS. ASHLEIGH—(with a comprehending smile) Very well, I'll tell her. (She goes into the garden and off right.)

  LEONORA—That's right, you are going to a concert, aren't you? Don't you think they're a bore on a day like this?

  TOM—Yes, I emphatically do.

  LEONORA—Then don't go.

  TOM—But I've practically promised Lucy.

  LEONORA—She won't mind. Let her take Gab. He pretends he just dotes on the new music. There'll be a pair of them. One ought to suffer for one's poses, don't you think?

  TOM—I sure do. But how will I spend the afternoon?

  LEONORA—Come with me.

  TOM—Where to?

  LEONORA—Oh, I have to drop in at an exhibition for a few minutes but I won't be longer than that. You like paintings, anyway, don't you?

  TOM—Some paintings.

  LEONORA—Now I say, don't be bourgeois! Come down with me and you'll see enough art to talk about with the country folk for years. Don't look so glum. I won't keep you there long. You can take me to the Lafayette afterwards and we'll have an absinthe together. I'll blow you. I've got seventy cents. We can get quite squiffy on that.

  TOM—(after a moment's hesitation) It's a go. I'm with you.

  LEONORA—Ta-ta, then. I'm off for my dip. (She looks up at him scrutinizingly for a moment.) Bend down your head. (He obediently does so. LUCY appears at the windows in the rear and stands looking at them. LEONORA runs her fingers through his hair, and squints her eye at it.) I say, you have got nice hair, haven't you? Well, au revoir, Blond Beast. See you later. (She skips laughingly out of the room. LUCY walks into the room.)

  TOM—(turning to her—with a forced laugh) Leo's the devil of a tease, isn't she?

  LUCY—(coldly) Yes? (trying to conceal her irritation) I can remember when you considered her a freak.

  TOM—Yes; strange how erroneous one's first impressions sometimes are. Now that I know her better I like her more than any of your friends.

  LUCY—So I perceive.

  TOM—Eh?

  LUCY—Nothing. Mother said you didn't know whether you'd go to the concert or not. Isn't it rather late to back out?

  TOM—You can easily find a substitute. Take Gab along. He'll pretend to enjoy that stuff better than I could. (He takes the tickets out of his pocket and hands them to her.) Here's the tickets. (She masters her impulse to fly into a rage, and takes them from him.)

  LUCY—Do you have to go back to the office?

  TOM—Oh, no. I'm through with work for the day.

  LUCY—Then why do you break this engagement with me?

  TOM—You know I don't care about concerts. I'd only be bored to death if I went.

  LUCY—(insistently) Won't it be just as much of a bore to stay in—(scornfully) this place?

  TOM—(warmly) For you it might. You see our tastes differ. Anyway, I don't intend to remain here. I feel like a little relaxation.

  LUCY—(scornfully) The baseball game?

  TOM—(regretfully) No.

  LUCY—Then what, if I'm not too inquisitive?

  TOM—(playing his part—jubilantly) A regular lark—with Leo. I'm going to take her to an exhibition of paintings someplace, and—

  LUCY—(laughing sarcastically) That will be interesting—for you.

  TOM—Yes, it will. Leo promises to explain them all to me. I've often wanted to get a clear comprehension of what some of those chaps were driving at; and she being one of them herself can put me on to all the inside stuff.

  LUCY—You must have changed to take such a sudden interest in Art.

  TOM—I have.

  LUCY—(with a sneer) Strange I haven't noticed it.

  TOM—I haven't let you see it. I was sure you'd misunderstand me.

  LUCY—(flushing) Are you trying to be humourous at my expense?

  TOM—Heaven forbid! I mean what I say. Don't think you're the only misunderstood person about this house. I have my own aspirations which you will never understand; only I'm resigned to my fate.

  LUCY—(caustically) You are trying to be funny, aren't you?

  TOM—Please forgive me for feeling cheerful. I can't help it. You see Leo has promised to take me to the Lafayette, blow me to absinthe, tea me at her studio, and I feel lightheaded at the prospect of such a bust-up. (MRS. ASHLEIGH and GABRIEL enter from the rear. GABRIEL keeps as far away from TOM as he can.)

  LUCY—Would you like to go with me to the concert, Gabriel?

  GABRIEL—(looking at TOM) Why—er—you see—I'm not sure—

  TOM—(heartily) You've got to go. I can't; and Lucy insists on someone being bored with her.

  GABRIEL—Oh, in that case, I'd love to, Lucy—Mrs. Drayton.

  TOM—Then that's fixed, and Leo and I can have our bust-up.

  GABRIEL(frowning) Leo?

  TOM—Yes; she and I are going to have a real party together.

  GABRIEL—(looking angrily round the room) Where is Leo?

  TOM—Upstairs, taking a bath.

  LUCY(indignantly) Bath!

  TOM—Yes, I gave her the freedom of the tub. (to GABRIEL) You know there's never any hot water at your place.

  THE MAID—(entering from the right) Lunch is served.

  LUCY—(petulantly) We'll be late for the concert if we wait for her. I'd better run up and tell her to hurry.

  GABRIEL(furiously) I'll go up and tell her.

  TOM—(stepping before him) Oh no, we couldn't think of putting you to the trouble. You three go in and start lunch. I'll run up and tell her. (LUCY and GABRIEL both show very apparent disapproval of this proposition. While all are standing in hesitation, LEONORA enters hurriedly from the left. She has on TOM's bathrobe which trails in a long train in back of her, her bare feet peeping out from beneath the front of it.)

  LEONORA—(calmly critical and absolutely unembarrassed) Now I must say, this is a nice home! Why there isn't any soap up there! I want some soap!

(The Curtain Falls)


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