Lydie Breeze opens at dawn at the Hickman house, on Nantucket. The “very sparsely furnished” parlor and stairs leading to a landing are visible; there is also a porch and a beach with an upended rowboat buried in the sand. Lydie enters, carrying a candle, and kneels in prayer, followed by Beaty, who leads her through a strange ritual that tells of the suicide of Lydie’s mother, Lydie Breeze. The two invoke the dead woman’s spirit to “keep her alive.” It becomes clear that Beaty has been in charge of the girl’s spotty education. She is attempting to inculcate in the girl a hatred of men and a fear of her own sexuality. Lydie has been injured in the eye, wears a pair of dark glasses, and frequently refers to herself as blind, though it is clear that the injury is minor.
Some references are made in this scene to Aipotu (Utopia backward), a tiny community founded by Lydie Breeze and three Civil War veterans: her husband, Joshua Hickman; Dan Grady; and Amos Mason. Young Lydie and Joshua are all that remain of Aipotu. Lydie Breeze and Dan Grady are dead, and Amos Mason is now a senator running for the presidency with the backing of William Randolph Hearst.
In scene 2, Lydie’s older sister, Gussie, sweeps into the house, full of modern talk and attitudes. She is Amos’s secretary—his “whore,” as Beaty immediately surmises—and has persuaded Amos and Hearst to pay a visit to Joshua. Joshua reacts with typical sarcasm to her attempts to draw him into the spirit of Amos’s visit:“’The Senator from Wall Street’ sails back to Old Nantucket to light up a corn cob pipe with an old scarecrow from the old, old past. ’Why, look at him! Amos Mason is a man of the people. He gets my vote!’” Gussie, hurt but undaunted, regales Lydie with stories of her new life, their father’s killing of Dan Grady, his time in prison, and their mother’s suicide “because she was still in love with the other man.”
When a young bird-bander turns up with...
(The entire section is 820 words.)