A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
THEPERSONS OF THE PLAY
The Ven.Archdeacon DaubenyD.D.
THESCENES OF THE PLAY
TIME: The Present.PLACE: The Shires.
The actionof the play takes place within twenty-four hours.
Lessee andManager: Mr. H Beerbohm Tree
Sir JohnPontefractMr. E. Holman Clark
LordAlfred RuffordMr. Ernest Lawford
Mr.KelvilM.P.Mr. Charles Allan
The Ven.Archdeacon DaubenyD.D.Mr. Kemble
LadyHunstantonMiss Rose Leclercq
LadyCaroline PontefractMiss Le Thiere
LadyStutfieldMiss Blanche Horlock
MissHester WorsleyMiss Julia Neilson
SCENE -Lawn in front of the terrace at Hunstanton.
[SIRJOHN and LADY CAROLINE PONTEFRACTMISS WORSLEYon chairsunderlarge yew tree.]
LADYCAROLINE. I believe this is the first English country houseyou havestayed atMiss Worsley?
HESTER. YesLady Caroline.
LADYCAROLINE. You have no country housesI am toldin America?
HESTER. We have not many.
LADYCAROLINE. Have you any country? What we should callcountry?
HESTER. [Smiling.] We have the largest country in the worldLadyCaroline. They used to tell us at school that some of our statesare as bigas France and England put together.
LADYCAROLINE. Ah! you must find it very draughtyI should fancy.[To SIRJOHN.] Johnyou should have your muffler. What istheuse of myalways knitting mufflers for you if you won't wear them?
SIR JOHN. I am quite warmCarolineI assure you.
LADYCAROLINE. I think notJohn. Wellyou couldn't come to amorecharming place than thisMiss Worsleythough the house isexcessivelydampquite unpardonably dampand dear Lady Hunstantonissometimes a little lax about the people she asks down here. [ToSIRJOHN.] Jane mixes too much. Lord Illingworthofcourseis aman ofhigh distinction. It is a privilege to meet him. And thatmember ofParliamentMr. Kettle -
SIR JOHN. Kelvilmy loveKelvil.
LADYCAROLINE. He must be quite respectable. One has neverheardhis namebefore in the whole course of one's lifewhich speaksvolumesfor a mannowadays. But Mrs. Allonby is hardly a verysuitableperson.
HESTER. I dislike Mrs. Allonby. I dislike her more than I cansay.
LADYCAROLINE. I am not sureMiss Worsleythat foreigners likeyourselfshould cultivate likes or dislikes about the people theyareinvited to meet. Mrs. Allonby is very well born. She is aniece ofLord Brancaster's. It is saidof coursethat she ranaway twicebefore she was married. But you know how unfair peopleoftenare. I myself don't believe she ran away more than once.
HESTER. Mr. Arbuthnot is very charming.
LADYCAROLINE. Ahyes! the young man who has a post in a bank.LadyHunstanton is most kind in asking him hereand LordIllingworthseems to have taken quite a fancy to him. I am notsurehoweverthat Jane is right in taking him out of hisposition. In my young daysMiss Worsleyone never met any one insocietywho worked for their living. It was not considered thething.
HESTER. In America those are the people we respect most.
LADYCAROLINE. I have no doubt of it.
HESTER. Mr. Arbuthnot has a beautiful nature! He is so simplesosincere. He has one of the most beautiful natures I have ever comeacross. It is a privilege to meet HIM.
LADYCAROLINE. It is not customary in EnglandMiss Worsleyfor ayoung ladyto speak with such enthusiasm of any person of theoppositesex. English women conceal their feelings till after theyaremarried. They show them then.
HESTER. Do youin Englandallow no friendship to exist between ayoung manand a young girl?
[EnterLADY HUNSTANTONfollowed by Footman with shawls and acushion.]
LADYCAROLINE. We think it very inadvisable. JaneI was justsayingwhat a pleasant party you have asked us to meet. You have awonderfulpower of selection. It is quite a gift.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Dear Carolinehow kind of you! I think wealldo fit invery nicely together. And I hope our charming Americanvisitorwill carry back pleasant recollections of our Englishcountrylife. [To Footman.] The cushionthereFrancis. And myshawl. The Shetland. Get the Shetland. [Exit Footman forshawl.]
GERALD. Lady HunstantonI have such good news to tell you. LordIllingworthhas just offered to make me his secretary.
LADYHUNSTANTON. His secretary? That is good news indeedGerald.It means avery brilliant future in store for you. Your dearmotherwill be delighted. I really must try and induce her to comeup hereto-night. Do you think she wouldGerald? I know howdifficultit is to get her to go anywhere.
GERALD. Oh! I am sure she wouldLady Hunstantonif she knewLordIllingworth had made me such an offer.
[EnterFootman with shawl.]
LADYHUNSTANTON. I will write and tell her about itand ask herto come upand meet him. [To Footman.] Just waitFrancis.[Writesletter.]
LADYCAROLINE. That is a very wonderful opening for so young a manas youareMr. Arbuthnot.
GERALD. It is indeedLady Caroline. I trust I shall be able toshowmyself worthy of it.
LADYCAROLINE. I trust so.
GERALD. [To HESTER.] YOU have not congratulated me yetMissWorsley.
HESTER. Are you very pleased about it?
GERALD. Of course I am. It means everything to me - things thatwere outof the reach of hope before may be within hope's reachnow.
HESTER. Nothing should be out of the reach of hope. Life is ahope.
LADYHUNSTANTON. I fancyCarolinethat Diplomacy is what LordIllingworthis aiming at. I heard that he was offered Vienna. Butthat maynot be true.
LADYCAROLINE. I don't think that England should be representedabroad byan unmarried manJane. It might lead to complications.
LADYHUNSTANTON. You are too nervousCaroline. Believe meyouare toonervous. BesidesLord Illingworth may marry any day. Iwas inhopes he would have married lady Kelso. But I believe hesaid herfamily was too large. Or was it her feet? I forgetwhich. I regret it very much. She was made to be an ambassador'swife.
LADYCAROLINE. She certainly has a wonderful faculty ofrememberingpeople's namesand forgetting their faces.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Wellthat is very naturalCarolineis it not?[ToFootman.] Tell Henry to wait for an answer. I havewritten aline toyour dear motherGeraldto tell her your good newsandto say shereally must come to dinner.
GERALD. That is awfully kind of youLady Hunstanton. [ToHESTER.] Will you come for a strollMiss Worsley?
HESTER. With pleasure [Exit with GERALD.]
LADYHUNSTANTON. I am very much gratified at Gerald Arbuthnot'sgoodfortune. He is quite a PROTEGE of mine. And I amparticularlypleased that Lord Illingworth should have made theoffer ofhis own accord without my suggesting anything. Nobodylikes tobe asked favours. I remember poor Charlotte Pagden makingherselfquite unpopular one seasonbecause she had a Frenchgovernessshe wanted to recommend to every one.
LADYCAROLINE. I saw the governessJane. Lady Pagden sent hertome. It was before Eleanor came out. She was far too good-lookingto be inany respectable household. I don't wonder Lady Pagden wasso anxiousto get rid of her.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Ahthat explains it.
LADYCAROLINE. Johnthe grass is too damp for you. You hadbetter goand put on your overshoes at once.
SIR JOHN. I am quite comfortableCarolineI assure you.
LADYCAROLINE. You must allow me to be the best judge of thatJohn. Pray do as I tell you.
[SIRJOHN gets up and goes off.]
LADYHUNSTANTON. You spoil himCarolineyou do indeed!
[EnterMRS. ALLONBY and LADY STUTFIELD.]
[ToMRS. ALLONBY.] WelldearI hope you like the park. It issaid to bewell timbered.
MRS.ALLONBY. The trees are wonderfulLady Hunstanton.
LADYSTUTFIELD. Quitequite wonderful.
MRS.ALLONBY. But somehowI feel sure that if I lived in thecountryfor six monthsI should become so unsophisticated that noone wouldtake the slightest notice of me.
LADYHUNSTANTON. I assure youdearthat the country has not thateffect atall. Whyit was from Melthorpewhich is only two milesfrom herethat Lady Belton eloped with Lord Fethersdale. Irememberthe occurrence perfectly. Poor Lord Belton died threedaysafterwards of joyor gout. I forget which. We had alargepartystaying here at the timeso we were all very much interestedin thewhole affair.
MRS.ALLONBY. I think to elope is cowardly. It's running awayfromdanger. And danger has become so rare in modern life.
LADYCAROLINE. As far as I can make outthe young women of thepresentday seem to make it the sole object of their lives to bealwaysplaying with fire.
MRS.ALLONBY. The one advantage of playing with fireLadyCarolineis that one never gets even singed. It is the people whodon't knowhow to play with it who get burned up.
LADYSTUTFIELD. Yes; I see that. It is veryvery helpful.
LADYHUNSTANTON. I don't know how the world would get on with sucha theoryas thatdear Mrs. Allonby.
LADYSTUTFIELD. Ah! The world was made for men and not forwomen.
MRS.ALLONBY. Ohdon't say thatLady Stutfield. We have amuchbettertime than they have. There are far more things forbidden tous thanare forbidden to them.
LADYSTUTFIELD. Yes; that is quitequite true. I had notthoughtof that.
[EnterSIR JOHN and MR. KELVIL.]
LADYHUNSTANTON. WellMr. Kelvilhave you got through your work?
KELVIL. I have finished my writing for the dayLady Hunstanton.It hasbeen an arduous task. The demands on the time of a publicman arevery heavy nowadaysvery heavy indeed. And I don't thinkthey meetwith adequate recognition.
LADYCAROLINE. Johnhave you got your overshoes on?
SIR JOHN. Yesmy love.
LADYCAROLINE. I think you had better come over hereJohn. Itismoresheltered.
SIR JOHN. I am quite comfortableCaroline.
LADYCAROLINE. I think notJohn. You had better sit besideme.[SIRJOHN rises and goes across.]
LADYSTUTFIELD. And what have you been writing about this morningMr.Kelvil?
KELVIL. On the usual subjectLady Stutfield. On Purity.
LADYSTUTFIELD. That must be such a veryvery interesting thingto writeabout.
KELVIL. It is the one subject of really national importancenowadaysLady Stutfield. I purpose addressing my constituents onthequestion before Parliament meets. I find that the poorerclasses ofthis country display a marked desire for a higherethicalstandard.
LADYSTUTFIELD. How quitequite nice of them.
LADYCAROLINE. Are you in favour of women taking part in politicsMr.Kettle?
SIR JOHN. Kelvilmy loveKelvil.
KELVIL. The growing influence of women is the one reassuring thingin ourpolitical lifeLady Caroline. Women are always on the sideofmoralitypublic and private.
LADYSTUTFIELD. It is so veryvery gratifying to hear you saythat.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Ahyes! - the moral qualities in women - that istheimportant thing. I am afraidCarolinethat dear LordIllingworthdoesn't value the moral qualities in women as much ashe should.
LADYSTUTFIELD. The world says that Lord Illingworth is veryverywicked.
LORDILLINGWORTH. But what world says thatLady Stutfield? Itmust bethe next world. This world and I are on excellent terms.[Sitsdown beside MRS. ALLONBY.]
LADYSTUTFIELD. Every one I know says you are veryvery wicked.
LORDILLINGWORTH. It is perfectly monstrous the way people goaboutnowadayssaying things against one behind one's back thatareabsolutely and entirely true.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Dear Lord Illingworth is quite hopelessLadyStutfield. I have given up trying to reform him. It would take aPublicCompany with a Board of Directors and a paid Secretary to dothat. But you have the secretary alreadyLord Illingworthhaven'tyou? Gerald Arbuthnot has told us of his good fortune; itis reallymost kind of you.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Ohdon't say thatLady Hunstanton. Kind isadreadfulword. I took a great fancy to young Arbuthnot the momentI met himand he'll be of considerable use to me in something I amfoolishenough to think of doing.
LADYHUNSTANTON. He is an admirable young man. And his motherisone of mydearest friends. He has just gone for a walk with ourprettyAmerican. She is very prettyis she not?
LADYCAROLINE. Far too pretty. These American girls carry offallthe goodmatches. Why can't they stay in their own country? Theyare alwaystelling us it is the Paradise of women.
LORDILLINGWORTH. It isLady Caroline. That is whylike Evethey areso extremely anxious to get out of it.
LADYCAROLINE. Who are Miss Worsley's parents?
LORDILLINGWORTH. American women are wonderfully clever inconcealingtheir parents.
LADYHUNSTANTON. My dear Lord Illingworthwhat do you mean? MissWorsleyCarolineis an orphan. Her father was a very wealthymillionaireor philanthropistor bothI believewho entertainedmy sonquite hospitablywhen he visited Boston. I don't know howhe madehis moneyoriginally.
KELVIL. I fancy in American dry goods.
LADYHUNSTANTON. What are American dry goods?
LORDILLINGWORTH. American novels.
LADYHUNSTANTON. How very singular! . . . Wellfrom whateversource herlarge fortune cameI have a great esteem for MissWorsley. She dresses exceedingly well. All Americans do dresswell. They get their clothes in Paris.
MRS.ALLONBY. They sayLady Hunstantonthat when good Americansdie theygo to Paris.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Indeed? And when bad Americans diewhere dothey goto?
LORDILLINGWORTH. Ohthey go to America.
KELVIL. I am afraid you don't appreciate AmericaLordIllingworth. It is a very remarkable countryespeciallyconsideringits youth.
LORDILLINGWORTH. The youth of America is their oldest tradition.It hasbeen going on now for three hundred years. To hear themtalk onewould imagine they were in their first childhood. As farascivilisation goes they are in their second.
KELVIL. There is undoubtedly a great deal of corruption inAmericanpolitics. I suppose you allude to that?
LORDILLINGWORTH. I wonder.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Politics are in a sad way everywhereI am told.Theycertainly are in England. Dear Mr. Cardew is ruining thecountry. I wonder Mrs. Cardew allows him. I am sureLordIllingworthyou don't think that uneducated people should beallowed tohave votes?
LORDILLINGWORTH. I think they are the only people who should.
KELVIL. Do you take no side then in modern politicsLordIllingworth?
LORDILLINGWORTH. One should never take sides in anythingMr.Kelvil. Taking sides is the beginning of sincerityandearnestnessfollows shortly afterwardsand the human being becomesa bore. Howeverthe House of Commons really does very littleharm. You can't make people good by Act of Parliament- that issomething.
KELVIL. You cannot deny that the House of Commons has always showngreatsympathy with the sufferings of the poor.
LORDILLINGWORTH. That is its special vice. That is thespecialvice ofthe age. One should sympathise with the joythe beautythe colourof life. The less said about life's sores the betterMr.Kelvil.
KELVIL. Still our East End is a very important problem.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Quite so. It is the problem of slavery. And weare tryingto solve it by amusing the slaves.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Certainlya great deal may be done by means ofcheapentertainmentsas you sayLord Illingworth. Dear Dr.Daubenyour rector hereprovideswith the assistance of hiscuratesreally admirable recreations for the poor during thewinter. And much good may be done by means of a magic lanternoramissionaryor some popular amusement of that kind.
LADYCAROLINE. I am not at all in favour of amusements for thepoorJane. Blankets and coals are sufficient. There is toomuchlove ofpleasure amongst the upper classes as it is. Health iswhat wewant in modern life. The tone is not healthynot healthyat all.
KELVIL. You are quite rightLady Caroline.
LADYCAROLINE. I believe I am usually right.
MRS.ALLONBY. Horrid word 'health.'
LORDILLINGWORTH. Silliest word in our languageand one knows sowell thepopular idea of health. The English country gentlemangallopingafter a fox - the unspeakable in full pursuit of theuneatable.
KELVIL. May I askLord Illingworthif you regard the House ofLords as abetter institution than the House of Commons?
LORDILLINGWORTH. A much better institutionof course. We intheHouse ofLords are never in touch with public opinion. That makesus acivilised body.
KELVIL. Are you serious in putting forward such a view?
LORDILLINGWORTH. Quite seriousMr. Kelvil. [To MRS.ALLONBY.]Vulgarhabit that is people have nowadays of asking oneafter onehas giventhem an ideawhether one is serious or not. Nothing isseriousexcept passion. The intellect is not a serious thingandnever hasbeen. It is an instrument on which one playsthat isall. The only serious form of intellect I know is the Britishintellect. And on the British intellect the illiterates play thedrum.
LADYHUNSTANTON. What are you sayingLord Illingworthabout thedrum?
LORDILLINGWORTH. I was merely talking to Mrs. Allonby about theleadingarticles in the London newspapers.
LADYHUNSTANTON. But do you believe all that is written in thenewspapers?
LORDILLINGWORTH. I do. Nowadays it is only the unreadablethatoccurs. [Rises with MRS. ALLONBY.]
LADYHUNSTANTON. Are you goingMrs. Allonby?
MRS.ALLONBY. Just as far as the conservatory. LordIllingworthtold methis morning that there was an orchid there m beautiful asthe sevendeadly sins.
LADYHUNSTANTON. My dearI hope there is nothing of the kind. Iwillcertainly speak to the gardener.
[ExitMRS. ALLONBY and LORD ILLINGWORTH.]
LADYCAROLINE. Remarkable typeMrs. Allonby.
LADYHUNSTANTON. She lets her clever tongue run away with hersometimes.
LADYCAROLINE. Is that the only thingJaneMrs. Allonby allowsto runaway with her?
LADYHUNSTANTON. I hope soCarolineI am sure.
Dear LordAlfreddo join us. [LORD ALFRED sits down beside LADYSTUTFIELD.]
LADYCAROLINE. You believe good of every oneJane. It is agreatfault.
LADYSTUTFIELD. Do you reallyreally thinkLady Carolinethatone shouldbelieve evil of every one?
LADYCAROLINE. I think it is much safer to do soLady Stutfield.Untilofcoursepeople are found out to be good. But thatrequires agreat deal of investigation nowadays.
LADYSTUTFIELD. But there is so much unkind scandal in modernlife.
LADYCAROLINE. Lord Illingworth remarked to me last night atdinnerthat the basis of every scandal is an absolutely immoralcertainty.
KELVIL. Lord Illingworth isof coursea very brilliant manbuthe seemsto me to be lacking in that fine faith in the nobility andpurity oflife which is so important in this century.
LADYSTUTFIELD. Yesquitequite importantis it not?
KELVIL. He gives me the impression of a man who does notappreciatethe beauty of our English home-life. I would say thathe wastainted with foreign ideas on the subject.
LADYSTUTFIELD. There is nothingnothing like the beauty of home-lifeisthere?
KELVIL. It is the mainstay of our moral system in EnglandLadyStutfield. Without it we would become like our neighbours.
LADYSTUTFIELD. That would be soso sadwould it not?
KELVIL. I am afraidtoothat Lord Illingworth regards womansimply asa toy. NowI have never regarded woman as a toy. Womanis theintellectual helpmeet of man in public as in private life.Withouther we should forget the true ideals. [Sits down besideLADYSTUTFIELD.]
LADYSTUTFIELD. I am so veryvery glad to hear you say that.
LADYCAROLINE. You a married manMr. Kettle?
SIR JOHN. KelvildearKelvil.
KELVIL. I am marriedLady Caroline.
LADYCAROLINE. How many?
[LADYSTUTFIELD turns her attention to LORD ALFRED.]
LADYCAROLINE. Mrs. Kettle and the children areI supposeat theseaside? [SIR JOHN shrugs his shoulders.]
KELVIL. My wife is at the seaside with the childrenLadyCaroline.
LADYCAROLINE. You will join them later onno doubt?
KELVIL. If my public engagements permit me.
LADYCAROLINE. Your public life must be a great source ofgratificationto Mrs. Kettle.
SIR JOHN. Kelvilmy loveKelvil.
LADYSTUTFIELD. [To LORD ALFRED.] How veryverycharming thosegold-tippedcigarettes of yours areLord Alfred.
LORDALFRED. They are awfully expensive. I can only affordthemwhen I'min debt.
LADYSTUTFIELD. It must be terriblyterribly distressing to be indebt.
LORDALFRED. One must have some occupation nowadays. If Ihadn'tmy debts Ishouldn't have anything to think about. All the chaps Iknow arein debt.
LADYSTUTFIELD. But don't the people to whom you owe the moneygive you agreatgreat deal of annoyance?
LORDALFRED. Ohnothey write; I don't.
LADYSTUTFIELD. How veryvery strange.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Ahhere is a letterCarolinefrom dear Mrs.Arbuthnot. She won't dine. I am so sorry. But she will come intheevening. I am very pleased indeed. She is one of thesweetestof women. Writes a beautiful handtooso largeso firm. [Handsletterto LADY CAROLINE.]
LADYCAROLINE. [Looking at it.] A little lacking infemininityJane. Femininity is the quality I admire most in women.
LADYHUNSTANTON. [Taking back letter and leaving it on table.]Oh! she isvery feminineCarolineand so good too. You shouldhear whatthe Archdeacon says of her. He regards her as his righthand inthe parish. [Footman speaks to her.] In the YellowDrawing-room. Shall we all go in? Lady Stutfieldshall we go into tea?
LADYSTUTFIELD. With pleasureLady Hunstanton. [They riseandproceedto go off. SIR JOHN offers to carry LADY STUTFIELD'Scloak.]
LADYCAROLINE. John! If you would allow your nephew to lookafterLadyStutfield's cloakyou might help me with my workbasket.
[EnterLORD ILLINGWORTH and MRS. ALLONBY.]
SIR JOHN. Certainlymy love. [Exeunt.]
MRS.ALLONBY. Curious thingplain women are always jealous oftheirhusbandsbeautiful women never are!
LORDILLINGWORTH. Beautiful women never have time. They arealways sooccupied in being jealous of other people's husbands.
MRS.ALLONBY. I should have thought Lady Caroline would have growntired ofconjugal anxiety by this time! Sir John is her fourth!
LORDILLINGWORTH. So much marriage is certainly not becoming.Twentyyears of romance make a woman look like a ruin; but twentyyears ofmarriage make her something like a public building.
MRS.ALLONBY. Twenty years of romance! Is there such a thing?
LORDILLINGWORTH. Not in our day. Women have become toobrilliant. Nothing spoils a romance so much as a sense of humourin thewoman.
MRS.ALLONBY. Or the want of it in the man.
LORDILLINGWORTH. You are quite right. In a Temple every oneshould beseriousexcept the thing that is worshipped.
MRS.ALLONBY. And that should be man?
LORDILLINGWORTH. Women kneel so gracefully; men don't.
MRS.ALLONBY. You are thinking of Lady Stutfield!
LORDILLINGWORTH. I assure you I have not thought of LadyStutfieldfor the last quarter of an hour.
MRS.ALLONBY. Is she such a mystery?
LORDILLINGWORTH. She is more than a mystery - she is a mood.
MRS.ALLONBY. Moods don't last.
LORDILLINGWORTH. It is their chief charm.
[EnterHESTER and GERALD.]
GERALD. Lord Illingworthevery one has been congratulating meLadyHunstanton and Lady Carolineand . . . every one. I hope Ishall makea good secretary.
LORDILLINGWORTH. You will be the pattern secretaryGerald.[Talksto him.]
MRS.ALLONBY. You enjoy country lifeMiss Worsley?
HESTER. Very much indeed.
MRS.ALLONBY. Don't find yourself longing for a London dinner-party?
HESTER. I dislike London dinner-parties.
MRS.ALLONBY. I adore them. The clever people never listenandthe stupidpeople never talk.
HESTER. I think the stupid people talk a great deal.
MRS.ALLONBY. AhI never listen!
LORDILLINGWORTH. My dear boyif I didn't like you I wouldn'thave madeyou the offer. It is because I like you so much that Iwant tohave you with me.
[ExitHESTER with GERALD.]
MRS.ALLONBY. He is very nice; very nice indeed. But I can'tstand theAmerican young lady.
MRS.ALLONBY. She told me yesterdayand in quite a loud voicetoothatshe was only eighteen. It was most annoying.
LORDILLINGWORTH. One should never trust a woman who tells one herreal age. A woman who would tell one thatwould tell oneanything.
MRS.ALLONBY. She is a Puritan besides -
LORDILLINGWORTH. Ahthat is inexcusable. I don't mind plainwomenbeing Puritans. It is the only excuse they have for beingplain. But she is decidedly pretty. I admire her immensely.[Lookssteadfastly at MRS. ALLONBY.]
MRS.ALLONBY. What a thoroughly bad man you must be!
LORDILLINGWORTH. What do you call a bad man?
MRS.ALLONBY. The sort of man who admires innocence.
LORDILLINGWORTH. And a bad woman?
MRS.ALLONBY. Oh! the sort of woman a man never gets tired of.
LORDILLINGWORTH. You are severe - on yourself.
MRS.ALLONBY. Define us as a sex.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Sphinxes without secrets.
MRS.ALLONBY. Does that include the Puritan women?
LORDILLINGWORTH. Do you knowI don't believe in the existence ofPuritanwomen? I don't think there is a woman in the world whowould notbe a little flattered if one made love to her. It isthat whichmakes women so irresistibly adorable.
MRS.ALLONBY. You think there is no woman in the world who wouldobject tobeing kissed?
LORDILLINGWORTH. Very few.
MRS.ALLONBY. Miss Worsley would not let you kiss her.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Are you sure?
LORDILLINGWORTH. What do you think she'd do if I kissed her?
MRS.ALLONBY. Either marry youor strike you across the face withherglove. What would you do if she struck you across the facewith herglove?
LORDILLINGWORTH. Fall in love with herprobably.
MRS.ALLONBY. Then it is lucky you are not going to kiss her!
LORDILLINGWORTH. Is that a challenge?
MRS.ALLONBY. It is an arrow shot into the air.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Don't you know that I always succeed in whateverI try?
MRS.ALLONBY. I am sorry to hear it. We women adore failures.They leanon us.
LORDILLINGWORTH. You worship successes. You cling to them.
MRS.ALLONBY. We are the laurels to hide their baldness.
LORDILLINGWORTH. And they need you alwaysexcept at the momentoftriumph.
MRS.ALLONBY. They are uninteresting then.
LORDILLINGWORTH. How tantalising you are! [A pause.]
MRS.ALLONBY. Lord Illingworththere is one thing I shall alwayslike youfor.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Only one thing? And I have so many badqualities.
MRS.ALLONBY. Ahdon't be too conceited about them. You maylosethem asyou grow old.
LORDILLINGWORTH. I never intend to grow old. The soul is bornold butgrows young. That is the comedy of life.
MRS.ALLONBY. And the body is born young and grows old. Thatislife'stragedy.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Its comedy alsosometimes. But what is themysteriousreason why you will always like me?
MRS.ALLONBY. It is that you have never made love to me.
LORDILLINGWORTH. I have never done anything else.
MRS.ALLONBY. Really? I have not noticed it.
LORDILLINGWORTH. How fortunate! It might have been a tragedyforboth ofus.
MRS.ALLONBY. We should each have survived.
LORDILLINGWORTH. One can survive everything nowadaysexceptdeathandlive down anything except a good reputation.
MRS.ALLONBY. Have you tried a good reputation?
LORDILLINGWORTH. It is one of the many annoyances to which I havenever beensubjected.
MRS.ALLONBY. It may come.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Why do you threaten me?
MRS.ALLONBY. I will tell you when you have kissed the Puritan.
FRANCIS. Tea is served in the Yellow Drawing-roommy lord.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Tell her ladyship we are coming in.
FRANCIS. Yesmy lord.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Shall we go in to tea?
MRS.ALLONBY. Do you like such simple pleasures?
LORDILLINGWORTH. I adore simple pleasures. They are the lastrefuge ofthe complex. Butif you wishlet us stay here. Yeslet usstay here. The Book of Life begins with a man and a womanin agarden.
MRS.ALLONBY. It ends with Revelations.
LORDILLINGWORTH. You fence divinely. But the button has comeofyour foil.
MRS.ALLONBY. I have still the mask.
LORDILLINGWORTH. It makes your eyes lovelier.
MRS.ALLONBY. Thank you. Come.
LORDILLINGWORTH. [Sees MRS. ARBUTHNOT'S letter on tableandtakesit up and looks at envelope.] What a curious handwriting!It remindsme of the handwriting of a woman I used to know yearsago.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Oh! no one. No one in particular. Awoman ofnoimportance. [Throws letter downand passes up the steps oftheterracewith MRS. ALLONBY. They smile at each other.]
SCENE -Drawing-room at Hunstantonafter dinnerlamps lit. DoorL.C.DoorR.C.
[Ladiesseated on sofas.]
MRS.ALLONBY. What a comfort it is to have got rid of the men fora little!
LADYSTUTFIELD. Yes; men persecute us dreadfullydon't they?
MRS.ALLONBY. Persecute us? I wish they did.
LADYHUNSTANTON. My dear!
MRS.ALLONBY. The annoying thing is that the wretches can beperfectlyhappy without us. That is why I think it is everywoman'sduty never to leave them alone for a single momentexceptduringthis short breathing space after dinner; without which Ibelieve wepoor women would be absolutely worn to shadows.
[EnterServants with coffee.]
LADYHUNSTANTON. Worn to shadowsdear?
MRS.ALLONBY. YesLady Hunstanton. It is such a strainkeepingmen up tothe mark. They are always trying to escape from us.
LADYSTUTFIELD. It seems to me that it is we who are always tryingto escapefrom them. Men are so veryvery heartless. They knowtheirpower and use it.
LADYCAROLINE. [Takes coffee from Servant.] What stuffandnonsenseall this about men is! The thing to do is to keep men intheirproper place.
MRS.ALLONBY. But what is their proper placeLady Caroline?
LADYCAROLINE. Looking after their wivesMrs. Allonby.
MRS.ALLONBY. [Takes coffee from Servant.] Really? And ifthey'renot married?
LADYCAROLINE. If they are not marriedthey should be lookingafter awife. It's perfectly scandalous the amount of bachelorswho aregoing about society. There should be a law passed tocompelthem all to marry within twelve months.
LADYSTUTFIELD. [Refuses coffee.] But if they're inlove withsome onewhoperhapsis tied to another?
LADYCAROLINE. In that caseLady Stutfieldthey should bemarriedoff in a week to some plain respectable girlin order toteach themnot to meddle with other people's property.
MRS.ALLONBY. I don't think that we should ever be spoken of asotherpeople's property. All men are married women's property.That isthe only true definition of what married women's propertyreallyis. But we don't belong to any one.
LADYSTUTFIELD. OhI am so veryvery glad to hear you say so.
LADYHUNSTANTON. But do you really thinkdear Carolinethatlegislationwould improve matters in any way? I am told thatnowadaysall the married men live like bachelorsand all thebachelorslike married men.
MRS.ALLONBY. I certainly never know one from the other.
LADYSTUTFIELD. OhI think one can always know at once whether aman hashome claims upon his life or not. I have noticed a veryvery sadexpression in the eyes of so many married men.
MRS.ALLONBY. Ahall that I have noticed is that they arehorriblytedious when they are good husbandsand abominablyconceitedwhen they are not.
LADYHUNSTANTON. WellI suppose the type of husband hascompletelychanged since my young daysbut I'm bound to state thatpoor dearHunstanton was the most delightful of creaturesand asgood asgold.
MRS.ALLONBY. Ahmy husband is a sort of promissory note; I'mtired ofmeeting him.
LADYCAROLINE. But you renew him from time to timedon't you?
MRS.ALLONBY. Oh noLady Caroline. I have only had onehusbandas yet. I suppose you look upon me as quite an amateur.
LADYCAROLINE. With your views on life I wonder you married atall.
MRS.ALLONBY. So do I.
LADYHUNSTANTON. My dear childI believe you are really veryhappy inyour married lifebut that you like to hide yourhappinessfrom others.
MRS.ALLONBY. I assure you I was horribly deceived in Ernest.
LADYHUNSTANTON. OhI hope notdear. I knew his mother quitewell. She was a StrattonCarolineone of Lord Crowland'sdaughters
LADYCAROLINE. Victoria Stratton? I remember her perfectly. Asillyfair-haired woman with no chin.
MRS.ALLONBY. AhErnest has a chin. He has a very strongchinasquarechin. Ernest's chin is far too square.
LADYSTUTFIELD. But do you really think a man's chin can be toosquare? I think a man should look veryvery strongand that hischinshould be quitequite square.
MRS.ALLONBY. Then you should certainly know ErnestLadyStutfield. It is only fair to tell you beforehand he has got noconversationat all.
LADYSTUTFIELD. I adore silent men.
MRS.ALLONBY. OhErnest isn't silent. He talks the wholetime.But he hasgot no conversation. What he talks about I don't know.I haven'tlistened to him for years.
LADYSTUTFIELD. Have you never forgiven him then? How sad thatseems! But all life is veryvery sadis it not?
MRS.ALLONBY. LifeLady Stutfieldis simply a MAUVAIS QUARTD'HEUREmade up of exquisite moments.
LADYSTUTFIELD. Yesthere are momentscertainly. But was itsomethingveryvery wrong that Mr. Allonby did? Did he becomeangry withyouand say anything that was unkind or true?
MRS.ALLONBY. Oh dearno. Ernest is invariably calm. That isone of thereasons he always gets on my nerves. Nothing is soaggravatingas calmness. There is something positively brutalabout thegood temper of most modern men. I wonder we women standit as wellas we do.
LADY STUTFIELD. Yes; men's good temper shows they are not sosensitiveas we arenot so finely strung. It makes a greatbarrieroften between husband and wifedoes it not? But I wouldso muchlike to know what was the wrong thing Mr. Allonby did.
MRS.ALLONBY. WellI will tell youif you solemnly promise totelleverybody else.
LADYSTUTFIELD. Thank youthank you. I will make a point ofrepeatingit.
MRS.ALLONBY. When Ernest and I were engagedhe swore to mepositivelyon his knees that he had never loved any one before inthe wholecourse of his life. I was very young at the timeso Ididn'tbelieve himI needn't tell you. UnfortunatelyhoweverImade noenquiries of any kind till after I had been actuallymarriedfour or five months. I found out then that what he hadtold mewas perfectly true. And that sort of thing makes a man soabsolutelyuninteresting.
LADYHUNSTANTON. My dear!
MRS.ALLONBY. Men always want to be a woman's first love. Thatistheirclumsy vanity. We women have a more subtle instinct aboutthings. What we like is to be a man's last romance.
LADYSTUTFIELD. I see what you mean. It's veryverybeautiful.
LADYHUNSTANTON. My dear childyou don't mean to tell me that youwon'tforgive your husband because he never loved any one else?Did youever hear such a thingCaroline? I am quite surprised.
LADYCAROLINE. Ohwomen have become so highly educatedJanethatnothing should surprise us nowadaysexcept happy marriages.Theyapparently are getting remarkably rare.
MRS.ALLONBY. Ohthey're quite out of date.
LADYSTUTFIELD. Except amongst the middle classesI have beentold.
MRS.ALLONBY. How like the middle classes!
LADYSTUTFIELD. Yes - is it not? - veryvery like them.
LADYCAROLINE. If what you tell us about the middle classes istrueLadyStutfieldit redounds greatly to their credit. It ismuch to beregretted that in our rank of life the wife should be sopersistentlyfrivolousunder the impression apparently that it isthe properthing to be. It is to that I attribute the unhappinessof so manymarriages we all know of in society.
MRS.ALLONBY. Do you knowLady CarolineI don't think thefrivolityof the wife has ever anything to do with it. Moremarriagesare ruined nowadays by the common sense of the husbandthan byanything else. How can a woman be expected to be happywith a manwho insists on treating her as if she were a perfectlyrationalbeing?
LADYHUNSTANTON. My dear!
MRS.ALLONBY. Manpoorawkwardreliablenecessary man belongsto a sexthat has been rational for millions and millions of years.He can'thelp himself. It is in his race. The History of Woman isverydifferent. We have always been picturesque protests againstthe mereexistence of common sense. We saw its dangers from thefirst.
LADYSTUTFIELD. Yesthe common sense of husbands is certainlymostmosttrying. Do tell me your conception of the IdealHusband. I think it would be so veryvery helpful.
MRS.ALLONBY. The Ideal Husband? There couldn't be such athing.Theinstitution is wrong.
LADYSTUTFIELD. The Ideal Manthenin his relations to US.
LADYCAROLINE. He would probably be extremely realistic.
MRS.CAROLINE. The Ideal Man! Ohthe Ideal Man should talk tousas if wewere goddessesand treat us as if we were children. Heshouldrefuse all our serious requestsand gratify every one ofourwhims. He should encourage us to have capricesand forbid usto havemissions. He should always say much more than he meansand alwaysmean much more than he says.
LADYHUNSTANTON. But how could he do bothdear?
MRS.ALLONBY. He should never run down other pretty women. Thatwould showhe had no tasteor make one suspect that he had toomuch. No; he should be nice about them allbut say that somehowthey don'tattract him.
LADYSTUTFIELD. Yesthat is always veryvery pleasant to hearaboutother women.
MRS.ALLONBY. If we ask him a question about anythinghe shouldgive us ananswer all about ourselves. He should invariably praiseus forwhatever qualities he knows we haven't got. But he shouldbepitilessquite pitilessin reproaching us for the virtues thatwe havenever dreamed of possessing. He should never believe thatwe knowthe use of useful things. That would be unforgiveable.But heshould shower on us everything we don't want.
LADYCAROLINE. As far as I can seehe is to do nothing but paybills andcompliments.
MRS.ALLONBY. He should persistently compromise us in publicandtreat uswith absolute respect when we are alone. And yet heshould bealways ready to have a perfectly terrible scenewheneverwe wantoneand to become miserableabsolutely miserableat amoment'snoticeand to overwhelm us with just reproaches in lessthantwenty minutesand to be positively violent at the end ofhalf anhourand to leave us for ever at a quarter to eightwhenwe have togo and dress for dinner. And whenafter thatone hasseen himfor really the last timeand he has refused to take backthe littlethings he has given oneand promised never tocommunicatewith one againor to write one any foolish lettersheshould beperfectly broken-heartedand telegraph to one all daylongandsend one little notes every half-hour by a privatehansomand dine quite alone at the clubso that every one shouldknow howunhappy he was. And after a whole dreadful weekduringwhich onehas gone about everywhere with one's husbandjust toshow howabsolutely lonely one washe may be given a third lastpartingin the eveningand thenif his conduct has been quiteirreproachableand one has behaved really badly to himhe shouldbe allowedto admit that he has been entirely in the wrongandwhen hehas admitted thatit becomes a woman's duty to forgiveand onecan do it all over again from the beginningwithvariations.
LADYHUNSTANTON. How clever you aremy dear! You never mean asingleword you say.
LADYSTUTFIELD. Thank youthank you. It has been quitequiteentrancing. I must try and remember it all. There are such anumber ofdetails that are so veryvery important.
LADYCAROLINE. But you have not told us yet what the reward of theIdeal Manis to be.
MRS.ALLONBY. His reward? Ohinfinite expectation. Thatisquiteenough for him.
LADYSTUTFIELD. But men are so terriblyterribly exactingarethey not?
MRS.ALLONBY. That makes no matter. One should neversurrender.
LADYSTUTFIELD. Not even to the Ideal Man?
MRS.ALLONBY. Certainly not to him. Unlessof courseonewantsto growtired of him.
LADYSTUTFIELD. Oh! . . . yes. I see that. It is veryveryhelpful. Do you thinkMrs. AllonbyI shall ever meet the IdealMan? Or are there more than one?
MRS.ALLONBY. There are just four in LondonLady Stutfield.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Ohmy dear!
MRS.ALLONBY. [Going over to her.] What has happened? Do tellme.
LADYHUNSTANTON [in a low voice] I had completely forgottenthattheAmerican young lady has been in the room all the time. I amafraidsome of this clever talk may have shocked her a little.
MRS.ALLONBY. Ahthat will do her so much good!
LADYHUNSTANTON. Let us hope she didn't understand much. IthinkI hadbetter go over and talk to her. [Rises and goes across toHESTERWORSLEY.] Welldear Miss Worsley. [Sitting down besideher.] How quiet you have been in your nice little corner all thistime! I suppose you have been reading a book? There are so manybooks herein the library.
HESTER. NoI have been listening to the conversation.
LADYHUNSTANTON. You mustn't believe everything that was saidyouknowdear.
HESTER. I didn't believe any of it
LADYHUNSTANTON. That is quite rightdear.
HESTER. [Continuing.] I couldn't believe that any women couldreallyhold such views of life as I have heard to-night from someof yourguests. [An awkward pause.]
LADYHUNSTANTON. I hear you have such pleasant society in America.Quite likeour own in placesmy son wrote to me.
HESTER. There are cliques in America as elsewhereLadyHunstanton. But true American society consists simply of all thegood womenand good men we have in our country.
LADYHUNSTANTON. What a sensible systemand I dare say quitepleasanttoo. I am afraid in England we have too many artificialsocialbarriers. We don't see as much as we should of the middleand lowerclasses.
HESTER. In America we have no lower classes.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Really? What a very strange arrangement!
MRS.ALLONBY. What is that dreadful girl talking about?
LADYSTUTFIELD. She is painfully naturalis she not?
LADYCAROLINE. There are a great many things you haven't got inAmericaIam toldMiss Worsley. They say you have no ruinsandnocuriosities.
MRS.ALLONBY. [To LADY STUTFIELD.] What nonsense! They havetheirmothers and their manners.
HESTER. The English aristocracy supply us with our curiositiesLadyCaroline. They are sent over to us every summerregularlyin thesteamersand propose to us the day after they land. As forruinsweare trying to build up something that will last longerthan brickor stone. [Gets up to take her fan from table.]
LADYHUNSTANTON. What is thatdear? Ahyesan ironExhibitionis it notat that place that has the curious name?
HESTER. [Standing by table.] We are trying to build up lifeLadyHunstantonon a bettertruerpurer basis than life rests onhere. This sounds strange to you allno doubt. How could itsoundother than strange? You rich people in Englandyou don'tknow howyou are living. How could you know? You shut out fromyoursociety the gentle and the good. You laugh at the simple andthe pure. Livingas you all doon others and by themyou sneeratself-sacrificeand if you throw bread to the poorit is merelyto keepthem quiet for a season. With all your pomp and wealth andart youdon't know how to live - you don't even know that. Youlove thebeauty that you can see and touch and handlethe beautythat youcan destroyand do destroybut of the unseen beauty oflifeofthe unseen beauty of a higher lifeyou know nothing. Youhave lostlife's secret. Ohyour English society seems to meshallowselfishfoolish. It has blinded its eyesand stoppedits ears. It lies like a leper in purple. It sits like a deadthingsmeared with gold. It is all wrongall wrong.
LADYSTUTFIELD. I don't think one should know of these things. Itis notveryvery niceis it?
LADYHUNSTANTON. My dear Miss WorsleyI thought you liked Englishsociety somuch. You were such a success in it. And you were somuchadmired by the best people. I quite forget what Lord HenryWestonsaid of you - but it was most complimentaryand you knowwhat anauthority he is on beauty.
HESTER. Lord Henry Weston! I remember himLady Hunstanton. Aman with ahideous smile and a hideous past. He is askedeverywhere. No dinner-party is complete without him. What ofthosewhose ruin is due to him? They are outcasts. They arenameless. If you met them in the street you would turn your headaway. I don't complain of their punishment. Let all women whohavesinned be punished.
[MRS.ARBUTHNOT enters from terrace behind in a cloak with a laceveilover her head. She hears the last words and starts.]
LADYHUNSTANTON. My dear young lady!
HESTER. It is right that they should be punishedbut don't letthem bethe only ones to suffer. If a man and woman have sinnedlet themboth go forth into the desert to love or loathe each otherthere. Let them both be branded. Set a markif you wishoneachbutdon't punish the one and let the other go free. Don'thave onelaw for men and another for women. You are unjust towomen inEngland. And till you count what is a shame in a woman tobe aninfamy in a manyou will always be unjustand Rightthatpillar offireand Wrongthat pillar of cloudwill be made dimto youreyesor be not seen at allor if seennot regarded
LADYCAROLINE. Might Idear Miss Worsleyas you are standing upask youfor my cotton that is just behind you? Thank you.
LADYHUNSTANTON. My dear Mrs. Arbuthnot! I am so pleased youhavecome up. But I didn't hear you announced.
MRS.ALLONBY. OhI came straight in from the terraceLadyHunstantonjust as I was. You didn't tell me you had a party.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Not a party. Only a few guests who arestayingin thehouseand whom you must know. Allow me. [Tries tohelpher. Rings bell.] Carolinethis is Mrs. Arbuthnotone of mysweetestfriends. Lady Caroline PontefractLady StutfieldMrs.Allonbyand my young American friendMiss Worsleywho has justbeentelling us all how wicked we are.
HESTER. I am afraid you think I spoke too stronglyLadyHunstanton. But there are some things in England -
LADYHUNSTANTON. My dear young ladythere was a great deal oftruthIdare sayin what you saidand you looked very prettywhile yousaid itwhich is much more importantLord Illingworthwould tellus. The only point where I thought you were a littlehard wasabout Lady Caroline's brotherabout poor Lord Henry. Heis reallysuch good company.
Take Mrs.Arbuthnot's things.
[ExitFootman with wraps.]
HESTER. Lady CarolineI had no idea it was your brother. I amsorry forthe pain I must have caused you - I -
LADYCAROLINE. My dear Miss Worsleythe only part of your littlespeechifI may so term itwith which I thoroughly agreedwasthe partabout my brother. Nothing that you could possibly saycould betoo bad for him. I regard Henry as infamousabsolutelyinfamous. But I am bound to stateas you were remarkingJanethat he isexcellent companyand he has one of the best cooks inLondonand after a good dinner one can forgive anybodyeven one'sownrelations.
LADYHUNSTANTON [to MISS WORSLEY] Nowdo comedearandmakefriendswith Mrs. Arbuthnot. She is one of the goodsweetsimplepeople youtold us we never admitted into society. I am sorry tosay Mrs.Arbuthnot comes very rarely to me. But that is not myfault.
MRS.ALLONBY. What a bore it is the men staying so long afterdinner! I expect they are saying the most dreadful things aboutus.
LADYSTUTFIELD. Do you really think so?
MRS.ALLONBY. I was sure of it.
LADYSTUTFIELD. How veryvery horrid of them! Shall we goontotheterrace?
MRS.ALLONBY. Ohanything to get away from the dowagers and thedowdies. [Rises and goes with LADY STUTFIELD to door L.C.] We areonly goingto look at the starsLady Hunstanton.
LADYHUNSTANTON. You will find a great manydeara great many.But don'tcatch cold. [To MRS. ARBUTHNOT.] We shall all missGerald somuchdear Mrs. Arbuthnot.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. But has Lord Illingworth really offered to makeGerald hissecretary?
LADYHUNSTANTON. Ohyes! He has been most charming about it. Hehas thehighest possible opinion of your boy. You don't know LordIllingworthI believedear.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I have never met him.
LADYHUNSTANTON. You know him by nameno doubt?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I am afraid I don't. I live so much out of theworldandsee so few people. I remember hearing years ago of anold LordIllingworth who lived in YorkshireI think.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Ahyes. That would be the last Earl but one.He was avery curious man. He wanted to marry beneath him. Orwouldn'tI believe. There was some scandal about it. The presentLordIllingworth is quite different. He is very distinguished. Hedoes -wellhe does nothingwhich I am afraid our pretty Americanvisitorhere thinks very wrong of anybodyand I don't know that hecares muchfor the subjects in which you are so interesteddearMrs.Arbuthnot. Do you thinkCarolinethat Lord Illingworth isinterestedin the Housing of the Poor?
LADYCAROLINE. I should fancy not at allJane.
LADYHUNSTANTON. We all have our different tasteshave we not?But LordIllingworth has a very high positionand there is nothinghecouldn't get if he chose to ask for it. Of coursehe iscomparativelya young man stilland he has only come to his titlewithin -how long exactly is itCarolinesince Lord Illingworthsucceeded?
LADYCAROLINE. About four yearsI thinkJane. I know it wasthesame yearin which my brother had his last exposure in the eveningnewspapers.
LADYHUNSTANTON. AhI remember. That would be about fouryearsago. Of coursethere were a great many people between the presentLordIllingworth and the titleMrs. Arbuthnot. There was - whowas thereCaroline?
LADYCAROLINE. There was poor Margaret's baby. You rememberhowanxiousshe was to have a boyand it was a boybut it diedandherhusband died shortly afterwardsand she married almostimmediatelyone of Lord Ascot's sonswhoI am toldbeats her.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Ahthat is in the familydearthat is in thefamily. And there was alsoI remembera clergyman who wanted tobe alunaticor a lunatic who wanted to be a clergymanI forgetwhichbutI know the Court of Chancery investigated the matteranddecided that he was quite sane. And I saw him afterwards atpoor LordPlumstead's with straws in his hairor something veryodd abouthim. I can't recall what. I often regretLadyCarolinethat dear Lady Cecilia never lived to see her son get thetitle.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Lady Cecilia?
LADY HUNSTANTON. Lord Illingworth's motherdear Mrs. Arbuthnotwas one ofthe Duchess of Jerningham's pretty daughtersand shemarriedSir Thomas Harfordwho wasn't considered a very good matchfor her atthe timethough he was said to be the handsomest man inLondon. I knew them all quite intimatelyand both the sonsArthur andGeorge.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. It was the eldest son who succeededof courseLadyHunstanton?
LADYHUNSTANTON. Nodearhe was killed in the hunting field. Orwas itfishingCaroline? I forget. But George came in foreverything. I always tell him that no younger son has ever hadsuch goodluck as he has had.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Lady HunstantonI want to speak to Gerald atonce. Might I see him? Can he be sent for?
LADYHUNSTANTON. Certainlydear. I will send one of theservantsinto thedining-room to fetch him. I don't know what keeps thegentlemenso long. [Rings bell.] When I knew LordIllingworthfirst asplain George Harfordhe was simply a very brilliant youngman abouttownwith not a penny of money except what poor dearLadyCecilia gave him. She was quite devoted to him. ChieflyIfancybecause he was on bad terms with his father. Ohhere isthe dearArchdeacon. [To Servant.] It doesn't matter.
[EnterSIR JOHN and DOCTOR DAUBENY. SIR JOHN goes over to LADYSTUTFIELDDOCTOR DAUBENY to LADY HUNSTANTON.]
THEARCHDEACON. Lord Illingworth has been most entertaining. Ihave neverenjoyed myself more. [Sees MRS. ARBUTHNOT.] AhMrs.Arbuthnot.
LADYHUNSTANTON. [To DOCTOR DAUBENY.] You see I havegot Mrs.Arbuthnotto come to me at last.
THEARCHDEACON. That is a great honourLady Hunstanton. Mrs.Daubenywill be quite jealous of you.
LADYHUNSTANTON. AhI am so sorry Mrs. Daubeny could not comewith youto-night. Headache as usualI suppose.
THEARCHDEACON. YesLady Hunstanton; a perfect martyr. Butsheishappiest alone. She is happiest alone.
LADYCAROLINE. [To her husband.] John! [SIRJOHN goes over tohiswife. DOCTOR DAUBENY talks to LADY HUNSTANTON and MRS.ARBUTHNOT.]
[MRS.ARBUTHNOT watches LORD ILLINGWORTH the whole time. He haspassedacross the room without noticing herand approaches MRS.ALLONBYwho with LADY STUTFIELD is standing by the door looking onto theterrace.]
LORDILLINGWORTH. How is the most charming woman in the world?
MRS.ALLONBY. [Taking LADY STUTFIELD by the hand.] Weare bothquitewellthank youLord Illingworth. But what a short time youhave beenin the dining-room! It seems as if we had only justleft.
LORDILLINGWORTH. I was bored to death. Never opened my lipsthewholetime. Absolutely longing to come in to you.
MRS.ALLONBY. You should have. The American girl has beengivingus alecture.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Really? All Americans lectureI believe. Isuppose itis something in their climate. What did she lectureabout?
MRS.ALLONBY. OhPuritanismof course.
LORDILLINGWORTH. I am going to convert heram I not? Howlongdo yougive me?
MRS.ALLONBY. A week.
LORDILLINGWORTH. A week is more than enough.
[EnterGERALD and LORD ALFRED.]
GERALD. [Going to MRS. ARBUTHNOT.] Dear mother!
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. GeraldI don't feel at all well. See me homeGerald. I shouldn't have come.
GERALD. I am so sorrymother. Certainly. But you must know LordIllingworthfirst. [Goes across room.]
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Not to-nightGerald.
GERALD. Lord IllingworthI want you so much to know my mother.
LORDILLINGWORTH. With the greatest pleasure. [To MRS.ALLONBY.]I'll beback in a moment. People's mothers always bore me todeath. All women become like their mothers. That is theirtragedy.
MRS.ALLONBY. No man does. That is his.
LORDILLINGWORTH. What a delightful mood you are in to-night![Turnsround and goes across with GERALD to MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Whenhe seesherhe starts back in wonder. Then slowly his eyes turntowardsGERALD.]
GERALD. Motherthis is Lord Illingworthwho has offered to takeme as hisprivate secretary. [MRS. ARBUTHNOT bows coldly.] It isawonderful opening for meisn't it? I hope he won't bedisappointedin methat is all. You'll thank Lord Illingworthmotherwon't you?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Lord Illingworth in very goodI am suretointeresthimself in you for the moment.
LORDILLINGWORTH. [Putting his hand on GERALD's shoulder.] OhGerald andI are great friends alreadyMrs . . . Arbuthnot.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. There can be nothing in common between you and mysonLordIllingworth.
GERALD. Dear motherhow can you say so? Of course LordIllingworthis awfully clever and that sort of thing. There isnothingLord Illingworth doesn't know.
LORDILLINGWORTH. My dear boy!
GERALD. He knows more about life than any one I have ever met. Ifeel anawful duffer when I am with youLord Illingworth. OfcourseIhave had so few advantages. I have not been to Eton orOxfordlike other chaps. But Lord Illingworth doesn't seem to mindthat. He has been awfully good to memother.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Lord Illingworth may change his mind. He maynotreallywant you as his secretary.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. You must rememberas you said yourselfyou havehad so fewadvantages.
MRS.ALLONBY. Lord IllingworthI want to speak to you for amoment. Do come over.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Will you excuse meMrs. Arbuthnot? Nowdon'tlet yourcharming mother make any more difficultiesGerald. Thething isquite settledisn't it?
GERALD. I hope so. [LORD ILLINGWORTH goes across to MRS.ARBUTHNOT.]
MRS.ALLONBY. I thought you were never going to leave the lady inblackvelvet.
LORDILLINGWORTH. She is excessively handsome. [Looks atMRS.ARBUTHNOT.]
LADYHUNSTANTON. Carolineshall we all make a move to the music-room? Miss Worsley is going to play. You'll come toodear Mrs.Arbuthnotwon't you? You don't know what a treat is in store foryou. [To DOCTOR DAUBENY.] I must really take Miss Worsleydownsomeafternoon to the rectory. I should so much like dear Mrs.Daubeny tohear her on the violin. AhI forgot. Dear Mrs.Daubeny'shearing is a little defectiveis it not?
THEARCHDEACON. Her deafness is a great privation to her. Shecan't evenhear my sermons now. She reads them at home. But shehas manyresources in herselfmany resources.
LADYHUNSTANTON. She reads a good dealI suppose?
THEARCHDEACON. Just the very largest print. The eyesight israpidlygoing. But she's never morbidnever morbid.
GERALD. [To LORD ILLINGWORTH.] Do speak to my motherLordIllingworthbefore you go into the music-room. She seems tothinksomehowyou don't mean what you said to me.
MRS.ALLONBY. Aren't you coming?
LORDILLINGWORTH. In a few moments. Lady Hunstantonif Mrs.Arbuthnotwould allow meI would like to say a few words to herand wewill join you later on.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Ahof course. You will have a great deal tosayto herand she will have a great deal to thank you for. It is notevery sonwho gets such an offerMrs. Arbuthnot. But I know youappreciatethatdear.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Nowdon't keep Mrs. Arbuthnot too longLordIllingworth. We can't spare her.
[Exitfollowing the other guests. Sound of violin heard frommusic-room.]
LORDILLINGWORTH. So that is our sonRachel! WellI am veryproud ofhim. He in a Harfordevery inch of him. By the waywhyArbuthnotRachel?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. One name is as good as anotherwhen one has noright toany name.
LORDILLINGWORTH. I suppose so - but why Gerald?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. After a man whose heart I broke - after my father.
LORDILLINGWORTH. WellRachelwhat in over is over. All Ihavegot to saynow in that I am veryvery much pleased with our boy.The worldwill know him merely as my private secretarybut to mehe will besomething very nearand very dear. It is a curiousthingRachel; my life seemed to be quite complete. It was not so.It lackedsomethingit lacked a son. I have found my son nowIam glad Ihave found him.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. You have no right to claim himor the smallestpart ofhim. The boy is entirely mineand shall remain mine.
LORDILLINGWORTH. My dear Rachelyou have had him to yourself forovertwenty years. Why not let me have him for a little now? Heis quiteas much mine as yours.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Are you talking of the child you abandoned? Ofthe childwhoas far as you are concernedmight have died ofhunger andof want?
LORDILLINGWORTH. You forgetRachelit was you who left me. Itwas not Iwho left you.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I left you because you refused to give the child aname. Before my son was bornI implored you to marry me.
LORDILLINGWORTH. I had no expectations then. And besidesRachelIwasn't much older than you were. I was only twenty-two.I wastwenty-oneI believewhen the whole thing began in yourfather'sgarden.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. When a man is old enough to do wrong he should beold enoughto do right also.
LORDILLINGWORTH. My dear Rachelintellectual generalities arealwaysinterestingbut generalities in morals mean absolutelynothing. As for saying I left our child to starvethatofcourseisuntrue and silly. My mother offered you six hundred ayear. But you wouldn't take anything. You simply disappearedandcarriedthe child away with you.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I wouldn't have accepted a penny from her. Yourfather wasdifferent. He told youin my presencewhen we were inParisthat it was your duty to marry me.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Ohduty is what one expects from othersit isnot whatone does oneself. Of courseI was influenced by mymother. Every man is when he is young.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I am glad to hear you say so. Gerald shallcertainlynot go away with you.
LORDILLINGWORTH. What nonsenseRachel!
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Do you think I would allow my son -
LORDILLINGWORTH. OUR son.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. My son [LORD ILLINGWORTH shrugs his shoulders]-to go awaywith the man who spoiled my youthwho ruined my lifewho hastainted every moment of my days? You don't realise what mypast hasbeen in suffering and in shame.
LORDILLINGWORTH. My dear RachelI must candidly say that I thinkGerald'sfuture considerably more important than your past.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Gerald cannot separate his future from my past.
LORDILLINGWORTH. That is exactly what he should do. That isexactlywhat you should help him to do. What a typical woman youare! You talk sentimentallyand you are thoroughly selfish thewholetime. But don't let us have a scene. RachelI want youtolook atthis matter from the common-sense point of viewfrom thepoint ofview of what is best for our sonleaving you and me outof thequestion. What is our son at present? An underpaid clerkin a smallProvincial Bank in a third-rate English town. If youimagine heis quite happy in such a positionyou are mistaken. Heisthoroughly discontented.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. He was not discontented till he met you. Youhavemade himso.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Of courseI made him so. Discontent is thefirst stepin the progress of a man or a nation. But I did notleave himwith a mere longing for things he could not get. NoImade him acharming offer. He jumped at itI need hardly say.Any youngman would. And nowsimply because it turns out that Iam theboy's own father and he my own sonyou propose practicallyto ruinhis career. That is to sayif I were a perfect strangeryou wouldallow Gerald to go away with mebut as he is my ownflesh andblood you won't. How utterly illogical you are!
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I will not allow him to go.
LORDILLINGWORTH. How can you prevent it? What excuse can yougive tohim for making him decline such an offer as mine? I won'ttell himin what relations I stand to himI need hardly say. Butyoudaren't tell him. You know that. Look how you havebroughthim up.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I have brought him up to be a good man.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Quite so. And what is the result? Youhaveeducatedhim to be your judge if he ever finds you out. And abitteranunjust judge he will be to you. Don't be deceivedRachel. Children begin by loving their parents. After a time theyjudgethem. Rarelyif everdo they forgive them.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Georgedon't take my son away from me. I havehad twentyyears of sorrowand I have only had one thing to lovemeonlyone thing to love. You have had a life of joyandpleasureand success. You have been quite happyyou have neverthought ofus. There was no reasonaccording to your views oflifewhyyou should have remembered us at all. Your meeting uswas a mereaccidenta horrible accident. Forget it. Don't comenowandrob me of . . . of all I have in the whole world. You areso rich inother things. Leave me the little vineyard of my life;leave methe walled-in garden and the well of water; the ewe-lambGod sentmein pity or in wrathoh! leave me that. Georgedon'ttakeGerald from me.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Rachelat the present moment you are notnecessaryto Gerald's career; I am. There is nothing more to besaid onthe subject.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I will not let him go.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Here is Gerald. He has a right to decide forhimself.
GERALD. Welldear motherI hope you have settled it all withLordIllingworth?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I have notGerald.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Your mother seems not to like your coming withmeforsome reason.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I thought you were quite happy here with meGerald. I didn't know you were so anxious to leave me.
GERALD. Motherhow can you talk like that? Of course I have beenquitehappy with you. But a man can't stay always with his mother.No chapdoes. I want to make myself a positionto do something.I thoughtyou would have been proud to see me Lord Illingworth'ssecretary.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I do not think you would be suitable as a privatesecretaryto Lord Illingworth. You have no qualifications.
LORDILLINGWORTH. I don't wish to seem to interfere for a momentMrs.Arbuthnotbut as far as your last objection is concernedIsurely amthe best judge. And I can only tell you that your sonhas allthe qualifications I had hoped for. He has morein factthan I hadeven thought of. Far more. [MRS. ARBUTHNOT remainssilent.] Have you any other reasonMrs. Arbuthnotwhy you don'twish yourson to accept this post?
GERALD. Have youmother? Do answer.
LORDILLINGWORTH. If you haveMrs. Arbuthnotpraypray say it.We arequite by ourselves here. Whatever it isI need not say Iwill notrepeat it.
LORDILLINGWORTH. If you would like to be alone with your sonIwill leaveyou. You may have some other reason you don't wish meto hear.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I have no other reason.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Thenmy dear boywe may look on the thing assettled. Comeyou and I will smoke a cigarette on the terracetogether. And Mrs. Arbuthnotpray let me tell youthat I thinkyou haveacted veryvery wisely.
[Exitwith GERALD. MRS. ARBUTHNOT is left alone. She standsimmobilewith a look of unutterable sorrow on her face.]
SCENE -The Picture Gallery at Hunstanton. Door at back leading ontoterrace.
[LORDILLINGWORTH and GERALDR.C. LORD ILLINGWORTH lolling on asofa. GERALD in a chair.]
LORDILLINGWORTH. Thoroughly sensible womanyour motherGerald.I knew shewould come round in the end.
GERALD. My mother is awfully conscientiousLord IllingworthandI know shedoesn't think I am educated enough to be your secretary.She isperfectly righttoo. I was fearfully idle when I was atschooland I couldn't pass an examination now to save my life.
LORDILLINGWORTH. My dear Geraldexaminations are of no valuewhatsoever. If a man is a gentlemanhe knows quite enoughand ifhe is nota gentlemanwhatever he knows is bad for him.
GERALD. But I am so ignorant of the worldLord Illingworth.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Don't be afraidGerald. Remember thatyou'vegot onyour side the most wonderful thing in the world - youth!There isnothing like youth. The middle-aged are mortgaged toLife. The old are in life's lumber-room. But youth is the Lord ofLife. Youth has a kingdom waiting for it. Every one is born akingandmost people die in exilelike most kings. To win backmy youthGeraldthere is nothing I wouldn't do - except takeexerciseget up earlyor be a useful member of the community.
GERALD. But you don't call yourself oldLord Illingworth?
LORDILLINGWORTH. I am old enough to be your fatherGerald.
GERALD. I don't remember my father; he died years ago.
LORDILLINGWORTH. So Lady Hunstanton told me.
GERALD. It is very curiousmy mother never talks to me about myfather. I sometimes think she must have married beneath her.
LORDILLINGWORTH. [Winces slightly.] Really? [Goes over and putshishand on GERALD'S shoulder.] You have missed not having afatherIsupposeGerald?
GERALD. Ohno; my mother has been so good to me. No one ever hadsuch amother as I have had.
LORDILLINGWORTH. I am quite sure of that. Still I shouldimaginethat mostmothers don't quite understand their sons. Don'trealiseImeanthat a son has ambitionsa desire to see lifetomakehimself a name. After allGeraldyou couldn't be expectedto passall your life in such a hole as Wrockleycould you?
GERALD. Ohno! It would be dreadful!
LORDILLINGWORTH. A mother's love is very touchingof coursebutit isoften curiously selfish. I meanthere is a good deal ofselfishnessin it.
GERALD. [Slowly.] I suppose there is.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Your mother is a thoroughly good woman. Butgood womenhave such limited views of lifetheir horizon is sosmalltheir interests are so pettyaren't they?
GERALD. They are awfully interestedcertainlyin things we don'tcare muchabout.
LORDILLINGWORTH. I suppose your mother is very religiousandthat sortof thing.
GERALD. Ohyesshe's always going to church.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Ah! she is not modernand to be modern is theonly thingworth being nowadays. You want to be moderndon't youGerald? You want to know life as it really is. Not to be put ofwith anyold-fashioned theories about life. Wellwhat you have todo atpresent is simply to fit yourself for the best society. Aman whocan dominate a London dinner-table can dominate the world.The futurebelongs to the dandy. It is the exquisites who aregoing torule.
GERALD. I should like to wear nice things awfullybut I havealwaysbeen told that a man should not think too much about hisclothes.
LORDILLINGWORTH. People nowadays are so absolutely superficialthat theydon't understand the philosophy of the superficial. Bythe wayGeraldyou should learn how to tie your tie better.Sentimentis all very well for the button-hole. But the essentialthing fora necktie is style. A well-tied tie is the first seriousstep inlife.
GERALD. [Laughing.] I might be able to learn how to tie a tieLordIllingworthbut I should never be able to talk as you do. Idon't knowhow to talk.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Oh! talk to every woman as if you loved herandto everyman as if he bored youand at the end of your firstseason youwill have the reputation of possessing the most perfectsocialtact.
GERALD. But it is very difficult to get into society isn't it?
LORDILLINGWORTH. To get into the best societynowadaysone haseither tofeed peopleamuse peopleor shock people - that is all!
GERALD. I suppose society is wonderfully delightful!
LORDILLINGWORTH. To be in it is merely a bore. But to be outofit simplya tragedy. Society is a necessary thing. No man has anyrealsuccess in this world unless he has got women to back himandwomen rulesociety. If you have not got women on your side you arequiteover. You might just as well be a barristeror astockbrokeror a journalist at once.
GERALD. It is very difficult to understand womenis it not?
LORDILLINGWORTH. You should never try to understand them. Womenarepictures. Men are problems. If you want to know what awomanreallymeans - whichby the wayis always a dangerous thing to do- look atherdon't listen to her.
GERALD. But women are awfully cleveraren't they?
LORDILLINGWORTH. One should always tell them so. Butto thephilosophermy dear Geraldwomen represent the triumph of matterover mind- just as men represent the triumph of mind over morals.
GERALD. How then can women have so much power as you say theyhave?
LORDILLINGWORTH. The history of women is the history of the worstform oftyranny the world has ever known. The tyranny of the weakover thestrong. It is the only tyranny that lasts.
GERALD. But haven't women got a refining influence?
LORDILLINGWORTH. Nothing refines but the intellect.
GERALD. Stillthere are many different kinds of womenaren'tthere?
LORDILLINGWORTH. Only two kinds in society: the plain and thecoloured.
GERALD. But there are good women in societyaren't there?
LORDILLINGWORTH. Far too many.
GERALD. But do you think women shouldn't be good?
LORDILLINGWORTH. One should never tell them sothey'd all becomegood atonce. Women are a fascinatingly wilful sex. Every womanis arebeland usually in wild revolt against herself.
GERALD. You have never been marriedLord Illingworthhave you?
LORDILLINGWORTH. Men marry because they are tired; women becausethey arecurious. Both are disappointed.
GERALD. But don't you think one can be happy when one is married?
LORDILLINGWORTH. Perfectly happy. But the happiness of amarriedmanmydear Geralddepends on the people he has not married.
GERALD. But if one is in love?
LORDILLINGWORTH. One should always be in love. That is thereason oneshould never marry.
GERALD. Love is a very wonderful thingisn't it?
LORDILLINGWORTH. When one is in love one begins by deceivingoneself. And one ends by deceiving others. That is what the worldcalls aromance. But a really GRANDE PASSION is comparatively rarenowadays. It is the privilege of people who have nothing to do.That isthe one use of the idle classes in a countryand the onlypossibleexplanation of us Harfords.
GERALD. HarfordsLord Illingworth?
LORDILLINGWORTH. That is my family name. You should study thePeerageGerald. It is the one book a young man about town shouldknowthoroughlyand it is the best thing in fiction the Englishhave everdone. And nowGeraldyou are going into a perfectlynew lifewith meand I want you to know how to live. [MRS.ARBUTHNOTappears on terrace behind.] For the world has been madeby foolsthat wise men should live in it!
[EnterL.C. LADY HUNSTANTON and DR. DAUBENY.]
LADYHUNSTANTON. Ah! here you aredear Lord Illingworth. WellIsupposeyou have been telling our young friendGeraldwhat hisnew dutiesare to beand giving him a great deal of good adviceover apleasant cigarette.
LORDILLINGWORTH. I have been giving him the best of adviceLadyHunstantonand the best of cigarettes.
LADYHUNSTANTON. I am so sorry I was not here to listen to youbut Isuppose I am too old now to learn. Except from youdearArchdeaconwhen you are in your nice pulpit. But then I alwaysknow whatyou are going to sayso I don't feel alarmed. [SeesMRS.ARBUTHNOT.] Ah! dear Mrs. Arbuthnotdo come and join us.Comedear. [Enter MRS. ARBUTHNOT.] Gerald has beenhaving such along talkwith Lord Illingworth; I am sure you must feel very muchflatteredat the pleasant way in which everything has turned outfor him. Let us sit down. [They sit down.] And how is yourbeautifulembroidery going on?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I am always at workLady Hunstanton.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Mrs. Daubeny embroiders a littletoodoesn'tshe?
THEARCHDEACON. She was very deft with her needle oncequite aDorcas. But the gout has crippled her fingers a good deal. Shehas nottouched the tambour frame for nine or ten years. But shehas manyother amusements. She is very much interested in her ownhealth.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Ah! that is always a nice distractionin it not?Nowwhatare you talking aboutLord Illingworth? Do tell us.
LORDILLINGWORTH. I was on the point of explaining to Gerald thatthe worldhas always laughed at its own tragediesthat being theonly wayin which it has been able to bear them. And thatconsequentlywhatever the world has treated seriously belongs tothe comedyside of things.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Now I am quite out of my depth. I usually amwhen LordIllingworth says anything. And the Humane Society ismostcareless. They never rescue me. I am left to sink. I have adim ideadear Lord Illingworththat you are always on the side ofthesinnersand I know I always try to be on the side of thesaintsbut that is as far as I get. And after allit may bemerely thefancy of a drowning person.
LORDILLINGWORTH. The only difference between the saint and thesinner isthat every saint has a pastand every sinner has afuture.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Ah! that quite does for me. I haven't a wordtosay. You and Idear Mrs. Arbuthnotare behind the age. We can'tfollowLord Illingworth. Too much care was taken with oureducationI am afraid. To have been well brought up is a greatdrawbacknowadays. It shuts one out from so much.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I should be sorry to follow Lord Illingworth inany of hisopinions.
LADYHUNSTANTON. You are quite rightdear.
[GERALDshrugs his shoulders and looks irritably over at hismother. Enter LADY CAROLINE.]
LADYCAROLINE. Janehave you seen John anywhere?
LADYHUNSTANTON. You needn't be anxious about himdear. He iswith LadyStutfield; I saw them some time agoin the YellowDrawing-room. They seem quite happy together. You are not goingCaroline? Pray sit down.
LADYCAROLINE. I think I had better look after John.
LADYHUNSTANTON. It doesn't do to pay men so much attention. AndCarolinehas really nothing to be anxious about. Lady Stutfield isverysympathetic. She is just as sympathetic about one thing asshe isabout another. A beautiful nature.
[EnterSIR JOHN and MRS. ALLONBY.]
Ah! hereis Sir John! And with Mrs. Allonby too! I suppose it wasMrs.Allonby I saw him with. Sir JohnCaroline has been lookingeverywherefor you.
MRS.ALLONBY. We have been waiting for her in the Music-roomdearLadyHunstanton.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Ah! the Music-roomof course. I thought itwasthe YellowDrawing-roommy memory is getting so defective. [TotheARCHDEACON.] Mrs. Daubeny has a wonderful memoryhasn'tshe?
THEARCHDEACON. She used to be quite remarkable for her memorybut sinceher last attack she recalls chiefly the events of herearlychildhood. But she finds great pleasure in suchretrospectionsgreat pleasure.
[EnterLADY STUTFIELD and MR. KELVIL.]
LADYHUNSTANTON. Ah! dear Lady Stutfield! and what has Mr. Kelvilbeentalking to you about?
LADYSTUTFIELD. About Bimetallismas well as I remember.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Bimetallism! Is that quite a nice subject?HoweverIknow people discuss everything very freely nowadays.What didSir John talk to you aboutdear Mrs. Allonby?
MRS.ALLONBY. About Patagonia.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Really? What a remote topic! But veryimprovingI have no doubt.
MRS.ALLONBY. He has been most interesting on the subject ofPatagonia. Savages seem to have quite the same views as culturedpeople onalmost all subjects. They are excessively advanced.
LADYHUNSTANTON. What do they do?
MRS.ALLONBY. Apparently everything.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Wellit is very gratifyingdear Archdeaconisit nottofind that Human Nature is permanently one. - On thewholetheworld is the same worldis it not?
LORDILLINGWORTH. The world is simply divided into two classes -those whobelieve the incrediblelike the public - and those whodo theimprobable -
MRS.ALLONBY. Like yourself?
LORDILLINGWORTH. Yes; I am always astonishing myself. It istheonly thingthat makes life worth living.
LADYSTUTFIELD. And what have you been doing lately thatastonishesyou?
LORDILLINGWORTH. I have been discovering all kinds of beautifulqualitiesin my own nature.
MRS.ALLONBY. Ah! don't become quite perfect all at once. Doitgradually!
LORDILLINGWORTH. I don't intend to grow perfect at all. AtleastIhope I shan't. It would be most inconvenient. Women loveus for ourdefects. If we have enough of themthey will forgiveuseverythingeven our gigantic intellects.
MRS.ALLONBY. It is premature to ask us to forgive analysis. Weforgiveadoration; that is quite as much as should be expected fromus.
[EnterLORD ALFRED. He joins LADY STUTFIELD.]
LADYHUNSTANTON. Ah! we women should forgive everythingshouldn'twedearMrs. Arbuthnot? I am sure you agree with me in that.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I do notLady Hunstanton. I think there aremanythingswomen should never forgive.
LADYHUNSTANTON. What sort of things?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. The ruin of another woman's life.
[Movesslowly away to back of stage.]
LADY HUNSTANTON. Ah! those things are very sadno doubtbut Ibelievethere are admirable homes where people of that kind arelookedafter and reformedand I think on the whole that the secretof life isto take things veryvery easily.
MRS.ALLONBY. The secret of life is never to have an emotion thatisunbecoming.
LADYSTUTFIELD. The secret of life is to appreciate the pleasureof beingterriblyterribly deceived.
KELVIL. The secret of life is to resist temptationLadyStutfield.
LORDILLINGWORTH. There is no secret of life. Life's aimifithas oneis simply to be always looking for temptations. There arenot nearlyenough. I sometimes pass a whole day without comingacross asingle one. It is quite dreadful. It makes one sonervousabout the future.
LADYHUNSTANTON. [Shakes her fan at him.] I don't knowhow it isdear LordIllingworthbut everything you have said to-day seems tomeexcessively immoral. It has been most interestinglistening toyou.
LORDILLINGWORTH. All thought is immoral. Its very essence isdestruction. If you think of anythingyou kill it. Nothingsurvivesbeing thought of.
LADYHUNSTANTON. I don't understand a wordLord Illingworth. ButI have nodoubt it is all quite true. PersonallyI have verylittle toreproach myself withon the score of thinking. I don'tbelieve inwomen thinking too much. Women should think inmoderationas they should do all things in moderation.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Moderation is a fatal thingLady Hunstanton.Nothingsucceeds like excess.
LADYHUNSTANTON. I hope I shall remember that. It sounds anadmirablemaxim. But I'm beginning to forget everything. It's agreatmisfortune.
LORDILLINGWORTH. It is one of your most fascinating qualitiesLadyHunstanton. No woman should have a memory. Memory in awomanis thebeginning of dowdiness. One can always tell from a woman'sbonnetwhether she has got a memory or not.
LADYHUNSTANTON. How charming you aredear Lord Illingworth. Youalwaysfind out that one's most glaring fault is one's mostimportantvirtue. You have the most comforting views of life.
FARQUHAR. Doctor Daubeny's carriage!
LADYHUNSTANTON. My dear Archdeacon! It is only half-past ten.
THEARCHDEACON. [Rising.] I am afraid I must goLadyHunstanton.Tuesday isalways one of Mrs. Daubeny's bad nights.
LADYHUNSTANTON. [Rising.] WellI won't keep you fromher.[Goeswith him towards door.] I have told Farquhar to put a braceofpartridge into the carriage. Mrs. Daubeny may fancy them.
THEARCHDEACON. It is very kind of youbut Mrs. Daubeny nevertouchessolids now. Lives entirely on jellies. But she iswonderfullycheerfulwonderfully cheerful. She has nothing tocomplainof.
[Exitwith LADY HUNSTANTON.]
MRS.ALLONBY. [Goes over to LORD ILLINGWORTH.] There isabeautifulmoon to-night.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Let us go and look at it. To look atanythingthat isinconstant is charming nowadays.
MRS.ALLONBY. You have your looking-glass.
LORDILLINGWORTH. It is unkind. It merely shows me mywrinkles.
MRS.ALLONBY. Mine is better behaved. It never tells me thetruth.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Then it is in love with you.
[ExeuntSIR JOHNLADY STUTFIELDMR. KELVIL and LORD ALFRED.]
GERALD. [To LORD ILLINGWORTH] May I come too?
LORDILLINGWORTH. Domy dear boy. [Moves towards with MRS.ALLONBYand GERALD.]
[LADYCAROLINE enterslooks rapidly round and goes off in oppositedirectionto that taken by SIR JOHN and LADY STUTFIELD.]
[ExitLORD ILLINGWORTH with MRS. ALLONBY.]
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. It is getting late. Let us go home.
GERALD. My dear mother. Do let us wait a little longer. LordIllingworthis so delightfulandby the waymotherI have agreatsurprise for you. We are starting for India at the end ofthismonth.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Let us go home.
GERALD. If you really want toof coursemotherbut I must bidgood-byeto Lord Illingworth first. I'll be back in five minutes.[Exit.]
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Let him leave me if he choosesbut not with him -not withhim! I couldn't bear it. [Walks up and down.]
HESTER. What a lovely night it isMrs. Arbuthnot.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Is it?
HESTER. Mrs. ArbuthnotI wish you would let us be friends. Youare sodifferent from the other women here. When you came into theDrawing-roomthis eveningsomehow you brought with you a sense ofwhat isgood and pure in life. I had been foolish. There arethingsthat are right to saybut that may be said at the wrongtime andto the wrong people.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I heard what you said. I agree with itMissWorsley.
HESTER. I didn't know you had heard it. But I knew you wouldagree withme. A woman who has sinned should be punishedshouldn'tshe?
HESTER. She shouldn't be allowed to come into the society of goodmen andwomen?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. She should not.
HESTER. And the man should be punished in the same way?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. In the same way. And the childrenif therearechildrenin the same way also?
HESTER. Yesit is right that the sins of the parents should bevisited onthe children. It is a just law. It is God's law.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. It is one of God's terrible laws.
[Movesaway to fireplace.]
HESTER. You are distressed about your son leaving youMrs.Arbuthnot?
HESTER. Do you like him going away with Lord Illingworth? Ofcoursethere is positionno doubtand moneybut position andmoney arenot everythingare they?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. They are nothing; they bring misery.
HESTER. Then why do you let your son go with him?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. He wishes it himself.
HESTER. But if you asked him he would staywould he not?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. He has set his heart on going.
HESTER. He couldn't refuse you anything. He loves you too much.Ask him tostay. Let me send him in to you. He is on the terraceat thismoment with Lord Illingworth. I heard them laughingtogetheras I passed through the Music-room.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Don't troubleMiss WorsleyI can wait. It isofnoconsequence.
HESTER. NoI'll tell him you want him. Do - do ask him to stay.[ExitHESTER.]
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. He won't come - I know he won't come.
[EnterLADY CAROLINE. She looks round anxiously. Enter GERALD.]
LADYCAROLINE. Mr. Arbuthnotmay I ask you is Sir John anywhereon theterrace?
GERALD. NoLady Carolinehe is not on the terrace.
LADYCAROLINE. It is very curious. It is time for him toretire.
GERALD. Dear motherI am afraid I kept you waiting. I forgot allabout it. I am so happy to-nightmother; I have never been sohappy.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. At the prospect of going away?
GERALD. Don't put it like thatmother. Of course I am sorry toleaveyou. Whyyou are the best mother in the whole world. Butafter allas Lord Illingworth saysit is impossible to live insuch aplace as Wrockley. You don't mind it. But I'm ambitions;Iwantsomething more than that. I want to have a career. I wanttodosomething that will make you proud of meand Lord Illingworthis goingto help me. He is going to do everything for me.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Geralddon't go away with Lord Illingworth. Iimploreyou not to. GeraldI beg you!
GERALD. Motherhow changeable you are! You don't seem to knowyour ownmind for a single moment. An hour and a half ago in theDrawing-roomyou agreed to the whole thing; now you turn round andmakeobjectionsand try to force me to give up my one chance inlife. Yesmy one chance. You don't suppose that men like LordIllingworthare to be found every daydo youmother? It is verystrangethat when I have had such a wonderful piece of good luckthe oneperson to put difficulties in my way should be my ownmother. Besidesyou knowmotherI love Hester Worsley. Whocould helploving her? I love her more than I have ever told youfar more. And if I had a positionif I had prospectsI could - Icould askher to - Don't you understand nowmotherwhat it meansto me tobe Lord Illingworth's secretary? To start like that is tofind acareer ready for one - before one - waiting for one. If Iwere LordIllingworth's secretary I could ask Hester to be my wife.As awretched bank clerk with a hundred a year it would be animpertinence.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I fear you need have no hopes of Miss Worsley. Iknow herviews on life. She has just told them to me. [Apause.]
GERALD. Then I have my ambition leftat any rate. That issomething- I am glad I have that! You have always tried to crushmyambitionmother - haven't you? You have told me that the worldis awicked placethat success is not worth havingthat societyisshallowand all that sort of thing - wellI don't believe itmother. I think the world must be delightful. I think societymust beexquisite. I think success is a thing worth having. Youhave beenwrong in all that you taught memotherquite wrong.LordIllingworth is a successful man. He is a fashionable man. Heis a manwho lives in the world and for it. WellI would giveanythingto be just like Lord Illingworth.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I would sooner see you dead.
GERALD. Motherwhat is your objection to Lord Illingworth? Tellme - tellme right out. What is it?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. He is a bad man.
GERALD. In what way bad? I don't understand what you mean.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I will tell you.
GERALD. I suppose you think him badbecause he doesn't believethe samethings as you do. Wellmen are different from womenmother. It is natural that they should have different views.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. It is not what Lord Illingworth believesor whathe doesnot believethat makes him bad. It is what he is.
GERALD. Motheris it something you know of him? Something youactuallyknow?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. It is something I know.
GERALD. Something you are quite sure of?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Quite sure of.
GERALD. How long have you known it?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. For twenty years.
GERALD. Is it fair to go back twenty years in any man's career?And whathave you or I to do with Lord Illingworth's early life?Whatbusiness is it of ours?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. What this man has beenhe is nowand will bealways.
GERALD. Mothertell me what Lord Illingworth did? If he didanythingshamefulI will not go away with him. Surely you know mewellenough for that?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Geraldcome near to me. Quite close to measyou usedto do when you were a little boywhen you were mother'sown boy. [GERALD sits down betide his mother. She runs herfingersthrough his hairand strokes his hands.] Geraldtherewas a girlonceshe was very youngshe was little over eighteenat thetime. George Harford - that was Lord Illingworth's namethen -George Harford met her. She knew nothing about life. He -kneweverything. He made this girl love him. He made her lovehimso muchthat she left her father's house with him one morning. Sheloved himso muchand he had promised to marry her! He hadsolemnlypromised to marry herand she had believed him. She wasveryyoungand - and ignorant of what life really is. But he putthemarriage off from week to weekand month to month. - Shetrusted inhim all the while. She loved him. - Before her childwas born -for she had a child - she implored him for the child'ssake tomarry herthat the child might have a namethat her sinmight notbe visited on the childwho was innocent. He refused.After thechild was born she left himtaking the child awayandher lifewas ruinedand her soul ruinedand all that was sweetand goodand pure in her ruined also. She suffered terribly - shesuffersnow. She will always suffer. For her there is no joynopeacenoatonement. She is a woman who drags a chain like aguiltything. She is a woman who wears a masklike a thing thatis aleper. The fire cannot purify her. The waters cannotquenchheranguish. Nothing can heal her! no anodyne can give her sleep!no poppiesforgetfulness! She is lost! She is a lost soul! - Thatis why Icall Lord Illingworth a bad man. That is why I don't wantmy boy tobe with him.
GERALD. My dear motherit all sounds very tragicof course. ButI dare saythe girl was just as much to blame as Lord Illingworthwas. -After allwould a really nice girla girl with any nicefeelingsat allgo away from her home with a man to whom she wasnotmarriedand live with him as his wife? No nice girl would.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. [After a pause.] GeraldI withdraw allmyobjections. You are at liberty to go away with Lord Illingworthwhen andwhere you choose.
GERALD. Dear motherI knew you wouldn't stand in my way. You arethe bestwoman God ever made. Andas for Lord IllingworthIdon'tbelieve he is capable of anything infamous or base. I can'tbelieve itof him - I can't.
HESTER. [Outside.] Let me go! Let me go! [EnterHESTER interrorand rushes over to GERALD and flings herself in his arms.]
HESTER. Oh! save me - save me from him!
GERALD. From whom?
HESTER. He has insulted me! Horribly insulted me! Save me!
GERALD. Who? Who has dared - ?
[LORDILLINGWORTH enters at back of stage. HESTER breaks fromGERALD'Sarms and points to him.]
GERALD [He is quite beside himself with rage and indignation.]LordIllingworthyou have insulted the purest thing on God'searthathing as pure as my own mother. You have insulted thewoman Ilove most in the world with my own mother. As there is aGod inHeavenI will kill you!
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. [Rushing across and catching hold of him] No! no!
GERALD. [Thrusting her back.] Don't hold memother. Don'tholdme - I'llkill him!
GERALD. Let me goI say!
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. StopGeraldstop! He is your own father!
[GERALDclutches his mother's hands and looks into her face. Shesinksslowly on the ground in shame. HESTER steals towards thedoor. LORD ILLINGWORTH frowns and bites his lip. After a timeGERALDraises his mother upputs his am round herand leads herfromthe room.]
SCENE -Sitting-room at Mrs. Arbuthnot's. Large open French windowatbacklooking on to garden. Doors R.C. and L.C.
[GERALDARBUTHNOT writing at table.]
[EnterALICE R.C. followed by LADY HUNSTANTON and MRS. ALLONBY.]
ALICE. Lady Hunstanton and Mrs. Allonby.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Good morningGerald.
GERALD. [Rising.] Good morningLady Hunstanton. GoodmorningMrs.Allonby.
LADYHUNSTANTON. [Sitting down.] We came to inquire foryour dearmotherGerald. I hope she is better?
GERALD. My mother has not come down yetLady Hunstanton.
LADY HUNSTANTON. AhI am afraid the heat was too much for herlastnight. I think there must have been thunder in the air. Orperhaps itwas the music. Music makes one feel so romantic - atleast italways gets on one's nerves.
MRS.ALLONBY. It's the same thingnowadays.
LADYHUNSTANTON. I am so glad I don't know what you meandear. Iam afraidyou mean something wrong. AhI see you're examiningMrs.Arbuthnot's pretty room. Isn't it nice and old-fashioned?
MRS.ALLONBY. [Surveying the room through her lorgnette.] Itlooksquite the happy English home.
LADYHUNSTANTON. That's just the worddear; that just describesit. One feels your mother's good influence in everything she hasabout herGerald.
MRS.ALLONBY. Lord Illingworth says that all influence is badbutthat agood influence is the worst in the world.
LADYHUNSTANTON. When Lord Illingworth knows Mrs. Arbuthnot betterhe willchange his mind. I must certainly bring him here.
MRS.ALLONBY. I should like to see Lord Illingworth in a happyEnglishhome.
LADYHUNSTANTON. It would do him a great deal of gooddear. Mostwomen inLondonnowadaysseem to furnish their rooms with nothingbutorchidsforeignersand French novels. But here we have theroom of asweet saint. Fresh natural flowersbooks that don'tshock onepictures that one can look at without blushing.
MRS.ALLONBY. But I like blushing.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Wellthere IS a good deal to be said forblushingif one can do it at the proper moment. Poor dearHunstantonused to tell me I didn't blush nearly often enough. Butthen hewas so very particular. He wouldn't let me know any of hismenfriendsexcept those who were over seventylike poor LordAshton:who afterwardsby the waywas brought into the DivorceCourt. A most unfortunate case.
MRS.ALLONBY. I delight in men over seventy. They always offerone thedevotion of a lifetime. I think seventy an ideal age for aman.
LADYHUNSTANTON. She is quite incorrigibleGeraldisn't she?By-the-byGeraldI hope your dear mother will come and see memore oftennow. You and Lord Illingworth start almost immediatelydon't you?
GERALD. I have given up my intention of being Lord Illingworth'ssecretary.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Surely notGerald! It would be most unwiseofyou. What reason can you have?
GERALD. I don't think I should be suitable for the post.
MRS.ALLONBY. I wish Lord Illingworth would ask me to be hissecretary. But he says I am not serious enough.
LADYHUNSTANTON. My dearyou really mustn't talk like that inthishouse. Mrs. Arbuthnot doesn't know anything about the wickedsociety inwhich we all live. She won't go into it. She is fartoo good. I consider it was a great honour her coming to me lastnight. It gave quite an atmosphere of respectability to the party.
MRS.ALLONBY. Ahthat must have been what you thought was thunderin theair.
LADYHUNSTANTON. My dearhow can you say that? There is noresemblancebetween the two things at all. But reallyGeraldwhat doyou mean by not being suitable?
GERALD. Lord Illingworth's views of life and mine are toodifferent.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Butmy dear Geraldat your age you shouldn'thave anyviews of life. They are quite out of place. You must beguided byothers in this matter. Lord Illingworth has made you themostflattering offerand travelling with him you would see theworld - asmuch of itat leastas one should look at - under thebestauspices possibleand stay with all the right peoplewhichis soimportant at this solemn moment in your career.
GERALD. I don't want to see the world: I've seen enough of it.
MRS.ALLONBY. I hope you don't think you have exhausted lifeMr.Arbuthnot. When a man says thatone knows that life has exhaustedhim.
GERALD. I don't wish to leave my mother.
LADYHUNSTANTON. NowGeraldthat is pure laziness on your part.Not leaveyour mother! If I were your mother I would insist onyourgoing.
ALICE. Mrs. Arbuthnot's complimentsmy ladybut she has a badheadacheand cannot see any one this morning. [Exit R.C.]
LADYHUNSTANTON. [Rising.] A bad headache! I amso sorry!Perhapsyou'll bring her up to Hunstanton this afternoonif she isbetterGerald.
GERALD. I am afraid not this afternoonLady Hunstanton.
LADYHUNSTANTON. Wellto-morrowthen. Ahif you had afatherGeraldhewouldn't let you waste your life here. He would sendyou offwith Lord Illingworth at once. But mothers are so weak.They giveup to their sons in everything. We are all heartallheart. ComedearI must call at the rectory and inquire for Mrs.DaubenywhoI am afraidis far from well. It is wonderful howtheArchdeacon bears upquite wonderful. He is the mostsympatheticof husbands. Quite a model. Good-byeGeraldgive myfondestlove to your mother.
MRS.ALLONBY. Good-byeMr. Arbuthnot.
[ExitLADY HUNSTANTON and MRS. ALLONBY. GERALD sits down and readsoverhis letter.]
GERALD. What name can I sign? Iwho have no right to any name.[Signsnameputs letter into envelopeaddresses itand is aboutto sealitwhen door L.C. opens and MRS. ARBUTHNOT enters. GERALDlaysdown sealing-wax. Mother and son look at each other.]
LADYHUNSTANTON. [Through French window at the back.] Good-byeagainGerald. We are taking the short cut across your prettygarden. Nowremember my advice to you - start at once with LordIllingworth.
MRS.ALLONBY. AU REVOIRMr. Arbuthnot. Mind you bring me backsomethingnice from your travels - not an Indian shawl - on noaccount anIndian shawl.
GERALD. MotherI have just written to him.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. To whom?
GERALD. To my father. I have written to tell him to come here atfouro'clock this afternoon.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. He shall not come here. He shall not cross thethresholdof my house.
GERALD. He must come.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Geraldif you are going away with LordIllingworthgo at once. Go before it kills me: but don't ask meto meethim.
GERALD. Motheryou don't understand. Nothing in the world wouldinduce meto go away with Lord Illingworthor to leave you.Surely youknow me well enough for that. No: I have written to himto say -
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. What can you have to say to him?
GERALD. Can't you guessmotherwhat I have written in thisletter?
GERALD. Mothersurely you can. Thinkthink what must be donenowatoncewithin the next few days.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. There is nothing to be done.
GERALD. I have written to Lord Illingworth to tell him that hemust marryyou.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Marry me?
GERALD. MotherI will force him to do it. The wrong that hasbeen doneyou must be repaired. Atonement must be made. Justicemay beslowmotherbut it comes in the end. In a few days youshall beLord Illingworth's lawful wife.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. ButGerald -
GERALD. I will insist upon his doing it. I will make him do it:he willnot dare to refuse.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. ButGeraldit is I who refuse. I will notmarryLordIllingworth.
GERALD. Not marry him? Mother!
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I will not marry him.
GERALD. But you don't understand: it is for your sake I amtalkingnot for mine. This marriagethis necessary marriagethismarriage which for obvious reasons must inevitably take placewill nothelp mewill not give me a name that will be reallyrightlymine to bear. But surely it will be something for youthat youmy mothershouldhowever latebecome the wife of theman who ismy father. Will not that be something?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I will not marry him.
GERALD. Motheryou must.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I will not. You talk of atonement for a wrongdone. What atonement can be made to me? There is no atonementpossible. I am disgraced: he is not. That is all. It is theusualhistory of a man and a woman as it usually happensas italwayshappens. And the ending is the ordinary ending. The womansuffers. The man goes free.
GERALD. I don't know if that is the ordinary endingmother: Ihope it isnot. But your lifeat any rateshall not end likethat. The man shall make whatever reparation is possible. It isnotenough. It does not wipe out the pastI know that. Butatleast itmakes the future betterbetter for youmother.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I refuse to marry Lord Illingworth.
GERALD. If he came to you himself and asked you to be his wife youwould givehim a different answer. Rememberhe is my father.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. If he came himselfwhich he will not domyanswerwould be the same. Remember I am your mother.
GERALD. Motheryou make it terribly difficult for me by talkinglike that;and I can't understand why you won't look at this matterfrom therightfrom the only proper standpoint. It is to takeaway thebitterness out of your lifeto take away the shadow thatlies onyour namethat this marriage must take place. There is noalternative:and after the marriage you and I can go away together.But themarriage must take place first. It is a duty that you owenot merelyto yourselfbut to all other women - yes: to all theotherwomen in the worldlest he betray more.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I owe nothing to other women. There is not oneofthem tohelp me. There is not one woman in the world to whom Icould gofor pityif I would take itor for sympathyif I couldwin it. Women are hard on each other. That girllast nightgoodthough sheisfled from the room as though I were a tainted thing.She wasright. I am a tainted thing. But my wrongs are my ownand I willbear them alone. I must bear them alone. What havewomen whohave not sinned to do with meor I with them? We do notunderstandeach other.
GERALD. I implore you to do what I ask you.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. What son has ever asked of his mother to make sohideous asacrifice? None.
GERALD. What mother has ever refused to marry the father of herownchild? None.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Let me be the firstthen. I will not do it.
GERALD. Motheryou believe in religionand you brought me up tobelieve init also. Wellsurely your religionthe religion thatyou taughtme when I was a boymothermust tell you that I amright. You know ityou feel it.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I do not know it. I do not feel itnor will Iever standbefore God's altar and ask God's blessing on so hideousa mockeryas a marriage between me and George Harford. I will notsay thewords the Church bids us to say. I will not say them. Idare not. How could I swear to love the man I loatheto honourhim whowrought you dishonourto obey him whoin his masterymade me tosin? No: marriage is a sacrament for those who loveeachother. It is not for such as himor such as me. Geraldtosave youfrom the world's sneers and taunts I have lied to theworld. For twenty years I have lied to the world. I could nottell theworld the truth. Who canever? But not for my own sakewill I lieto Godand in God's presence. NoGeraldno ceremonyChurch-hallowedor State-madeshall ever bind me to GeorgeHarford. It may be that I am too bound to him alreadywhorobbingmeyet left me richerso that in the mire of my life Ifound thepearl of priceor what I thought would be so.
GERALD. I don't understand you now.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Men don't understand what mothers are. I am nodifferentfrom other women except in the wrong done me and thewrong Ididand my very heavy punishments and great disgrace. Andyettobear you I had to look on death. To nurture you I had towrestlewith it. Death fought with me for you. All women have tofight withdeath to keep their children. Deathbeing childlesswants ourchildren from us. Geraldwhen you were naked I clothedyouwhenyou were hungry I gave you food. Night and day all thatlongwinter I tended you. No office is too meanno care too lowlyfor thething we women love - and oh! how I loved YOU. Not HannahSamuelmore. And you needed lovefor you were weaklyand onlylove couldhave kept you alive. Only love can keep any one alive.And boysare careless often and without thinking give painand wealwaysfancy that when they come to man's estate and know us betterthey willrepay us. But it is not so. The world draws them fromour sideand they make friends with whom they are happier thanthey arewith usand have amusements from which we are barredandintereststhat are not ours: and they are unjust to us oftenforwhen theyfind life bitter they blame us for itand when they findit sweetwe do not taste its sweetness with them . . . You mademanyfriends and went into their houses and were glad with themand Iknowing my secretdid not dare to followbut stayed athome andclosed the doorshut out the sun and sat in darkness.Whatshould I have done in honest households? My past was everwith me. .. . And you thought I didn't care for the pleasantthings oflife. I tell you I longed for thembut did not dare totouchthemfeeling I had no right. You thought I was happierworkingamongst the poor. That was my missionyou imagined. Itwas notbut where else was I to go? The sick do not ask if thehand thatsmooths their pillow is purenor the dying care if thelips thattouch their brow have known the kiss of sin. It was youI thoughtof all the time; I gave to them the love you did notneed:lavished on them a love that was not theirs . . . And youthought Ispent too much of my time in going to Churchand inChurchduties. But where else could I turn? God's house is theonly housewhere sinners are made welcomeand you were always inmy heartGeraldtoo much in my heart. Forthough day after dayat morn orevensongI have knelt in God's houseI have neverrepentedof my sin. How could I repent of my sin when youmylovewereits fruit! Even now that you are bitter to me I cannotrepent. I do not. You are more to me than innocence. I wouldrather beyour mother - oh! much rather! - than have been alwayspure . . .Ohdon't you see? don't you understand? It is mydishonourthat has made you so dear to me. It is my disgrace thathas boundyou so closely to me. It is the price I paid for you -the priceof soul and body - that makes me love you as I do. Ohdon't askme to do this horrible thing. Child of my shamebestill thechild of my shame!
GERALD. MotherI didn't know you loved me so much as that. And Iwill be abetter son to you than I have been. And you and I mustneverleave each other . . . butmother . . . I can't help it . .. you mustbecome my father's wife. You must marry him. It isyour duty.
HESTER. [Running forwards and embracing MRS. ARBUTHNOT.] Nono;you shallnot. That would be real dishonourthe first you haveeverknown. That would be real disgrace: the first to touch you.Leave himand come with me. There are other countries than England. . . Oh!other countries over seabetterwiserand less unjustlands. The world is very wide and very big.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Nonot for me. For me the world is shrivelledtoa palm'sbreadthand where I walk there are thorns.
HESTER. It shall not be so. We shall somewhere find green valleysand freshwatersand if we weepwellwe shall weep together.Have wenot both loved him?
HESTER. [Waving him back.] Don'tdon't! You cannot loveme atallunless you love her also. You cannot honour meunless she'sholier toyou. In her all womanhood is martyred. Not she alonebut all ofus are stricken in her house.
GERALD. HesterHesterwhat shall I do?
HESTER. Do you respect the man who is your father?
GERALD. Respect him? I despise him! He is infamous.
HESTER. I thank you for saving me from him last night.
GERALD. Ahthat is nothing. I would die to save you. But youdon't tellme what to do now!
HESTER. Have I not thanked you for saving ME?
GERALD. But what should I do?
HESTER. Ask your own heartnot mine. I never had a mother tosaveorshame.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. He is hard - he is hard. Let me go away.
GERALD. [Rushes over and kneels down bedside his mother.] Motherforgiveme: I have been to blame.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Don't kiss my hands: they are cold. My heartiscold:something has broken it.
HESTER Ahdon't say that. Hearts live by being wounded.Pleasuremay turn a heart to stoneriches may make it callousbutsorrow -ohsorrow cannot break it. Besideswhat sorrows haveyou now? Whyat this moment you are more dear to him than everDEARthough you have BEENand oh! how dear you HAVE been always.Ah! bekind to him.
GERALD. You are my mother and my father all in one. I need nosecondparent. It was for you I spokefor you alone. Ohsaysomethingmother. Have I but found one love to lose another?Don't tellme that. O motheryou are cruel. [Gets up and flingshimselfsobbing on a sofa.]
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. [To HESTER.] But has he found indeedanotherlove?
HESTER. You know I have loved him always.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. But we are very poor.
HESTER. Whobeing lovedis poor? Ohno one. I hate my riches.They are aburden. Let him share it with me.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. But we are disgraced. We rank among theoutcastsGerald isnameless. The sins of the parents should be visited onthechildren. It is God's law.
HESTER. I was wrong. God's law is only Love.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. [Risesand taking HESTER by the handgoesslowlyover towhere GERALD is lying on the sofa with his head buried inhishands. She touches him and he looks up.] GeraldIcannotgive you afatherbut I have brought you a wife.
GERALD. MotherI am not worthy either of her or you.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. So she comes firstyou are worthy. And whenyouare awayGerald . . . with . . . her - ohthink of me sometimes.Don'tforget me. And when you praypray for me. We should praywhen weare happiestand you will be happyGerald.
HESTER. Ohyou don't think of leaving us?
GERALD. Motheryou won't leave us?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I might bring shame upon you!
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. For a little then: and if you let menear youalways.
HESTER. [To MRS. ARBUTHNOT.] Come out with us to the garden.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Later onlater on. [Exeunt HESTER andGERALD.MRS.ARBUTHNOT goes towards door L.C. Stops at looking-glassovermantelpieceand looks into it. Enter ALICE R.C.]
ALICE. A gentleman to see youma'am.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Say I am not at home. Show me the card. [Takescardfrom salver and looks at it.] Say I will not see him.
[LORDILLINGWORTH enters. MRS. ARBUTHNOT sees him in the glass andstartsbut does not turn round. Exit ALICE.] What can youhaveto say tome to-dayGeorge Harford? You can have nothing to sayto me. You must leave this house.
LORDILLINGWORTH. RachelGerald knows everything about you and menowsosome arrangement must be come to that will suit us allthree. I assure youhe will find in me the most charming andgenerousof fathers.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. My son may come in at any moment. I saved youlastnight. I may not be able to save you again. My son feelsmydishonourstronglyterribly strongly. I beg you to go.
LORDILLINGWORTH. [Sitting down.] Last night wasexcessivelyunfortunate. That silly Puritan girl making a scene merely becauseI wantedto kiss her. What harm is there in a kiss?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. [Turning round.] A kiss may ruin ahuman lifeGeorgeHarford. I know that. I know that too well.
LORDILLINGWORTH. We won't discuss that at present. What is ofimportanceto-dayas yesterdayis still our son. I am extremelyfond ofhimas you knowand odd though it may seem to youIadmiredhis conduct last night immensely. He took up the cudgelsfor thatpretty prude with wonderful promptitude. He is just whatI shouldhave liked a son of mine to be. Except that no son ofmineshould ever take the side of the Puritans: that is always anerror. Nowwhat I propose is this.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Lord Illingworthno proposition of yoursinterestsme.
LORDILLINGWORTH. According to our ridiculous English lawsIcan'tlegitimise Gerald. But I can leave him my property.Illingworthis entailedof coursebut it is a tedious barrack ofa place. He can have Ashbywhich is much prettierHarboroughwhich hasthe best shooting in the north of Englandand the housein St.James Square. What more can a gentleman require in thisworld?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Nothing moreI am quite sure.
LORDILLINGWORTH. As for a titlea title is really rather anuisancein these democratic days. As George Harford I hadeverythingI wanted. Now I have merely everything that otherpeoplewantwhich isn't nearly so pleasant. Wellmy proposal isthis.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I told you I was not interestedand I beg you togo.
LORDILLINGWORTH. The boy is to be with you for six months in theyearandwith me for the other six. That is perfectly fairis itnot? You can have whatever allowance you likeand live where youchoose. As for your pastno one knows anything about it exceptmyself andGerald. There is the Puritanof coursethe Puritan inwhitemuslinbut she doesn't count. She couldn't tell the storywithoutexplaining that she objected to being kissedcould she?And allthe women would think her a fool and the men think her abore. And you need not be afraid that Gerald won't be my heir. Ineedn'ttell you I have not the slightest intention of marrying.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. You come too late. My son has no need of you.You arenot necessary.
LORDILLINGWORTH. What do you meanRachel?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. That you are not necessary to Gerald's career. Hedoes notrequire you.
LORDILLINGWORTH. I do not understand you.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Look into the garden. [LORD ILLINGWORTHrises andgoestowards window.] You had better not let them see you: youbringunpleasant memories. [LORD ILLINGWORTH looks out andstarts.] She loves him. They love each other. We are safe fromyouandwe are going away.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. We will not tell youand if you find us we willnot knowyou. You seem surprised. What welcome would you get fromthe girlwhose lips you tried to soilfrom the boy whose life youhaveshamedfrom the mother whose dishonour comes from you?
LORDILLINGWORTH. You have grown hardRachel.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I was too weak once. It is well for me that Ihavechanged.
LORDILLINGWORTH. I was very young at the time. We men knowlifetoo early.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. And we women know life too late. That is thedifferencebetween men and women. [A pause.]
LORDILLINGWORTH. RachelI want my son. My money may be of nouse to himnow. I may be of no use to himbut I want my son.Bring ustogetherRachel. You can do it if you choose. [Seesletteron table.]
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. There is no room in my boy's life for you. Heisnotinterested in YOU.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Then why does he write to me?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. What do you mean?
LORDILLINGWORTH. What letter is this? [Takes up letter.]
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. That - is nothing. Give it to me.
LORDILLINGWORTH. It is addressed to ME.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. You are not to open it. I forbid you to openit.
LORDILLINGWORTH. And in Gerald's handwriting.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. It was not to have been sent. It is a letterhewrote toyou this morningbefore he saw me. But he is sorry nowhe wroteitvery sorry. You are not to open it. Give it to me.
LORDILLINGWORTH. It belongs to me. [Opens itsits downandreadsit slowly. MRS. ARBUTHNOT watches him all the time.] Youhave readthis letterI supposeRachel?
LORDILLINGWORTH. You know what is in it?
LORDILLINGWORTH. I don't admit for a moment that the boy is rightin what hesays. I don't admit that it is any duty of mine tomarryyou. I deny it entirely. But to get my son back I amready- yesIam ready to marry youRachel - and to treat you alwayswith thedeference and respect due to my wife. I will marry you assoon asyou choose. I give you my word of honour.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. You made that promise to me once before and brokeit.
LORDILLINGWORTH. I will keep it now. And that will show youthatI love mysonat least as much as you love him. For when I marryyouRachelthere are some ambitions I shall have to surrender.Highambitionstooif any ambition is high.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I decline to marry youLord Illingworth.
LORDILLINGWORTH. Are you serious?
LORDILLINGWORTH. Do tell me your reasons. They would interestmeenormously.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. I have already explained them to my son.
LORDILLINGWORTH. I suppose they were intensely sentimentalweren'tthey? You women live by your emotions and for them. Youhave nophilosophy of life.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. You are right. We women live by our emotionsandfor them. By our passionsand for themif you will. I have twopassionsLord Illingworth: my love of himmy hate of you. Youcannotkill those. They feed each other.
LORDILLINGWORTH. What sort of love is that which needs to havehate asits brother?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. It is the sort of love I have for Gerald. Doyouthink thatterrible? Well it is terrible. All love is terrible.All loveis a tragedy. I loved you onceLord Illingworth. Ohwhat atragedy for a woman to have loved you!
LORDILLINGWORTH. So you really refuse to marry me?
LORDILLINGWORTH. Because you hate me?
LORDILLINGWORTH. And does my son hate me as you do?
LORDILLINGWORTH. I am glad of thatRachel.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. He merely despises you.
LORDILLINGWORTH. What a pity! What a pity for himI mean.
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. Don't be deceivedGeorge. Children begin bylovingtheir parents. After a time they judge them. Rarely ifever dothey forgive them.
LORDILLINGWORTH. [Reads letter over againvery slowly.] May Iask bywhat arguments you made the boy who wrote this letterthisbeautifulpassionate letterbelieve that you should not marry hisfatherthe father of your own child?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. It was not I who made him see it. It wasanother.
LORDILLINGWORTH. What FIN-DE-SIECLE person?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. The PuritanLord Illingworth. [A pause.]
LORDILLINGWORTH. [Wincesthen rises slowly and goes over totablewhere his hat and gloves are. MRS. ARBUTHNOT is standingcloseto the table. He picks up one of the glovesand beginspullingit on.] There is not much then for me to do hereRachel?
LORDILLINGWORTH. It is good-byeis it?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. For everI hopethis timeLord Illingworth.
LORDILLINGWORTH. How curious! At this moment you look exactlyasyou lookedthe night you left me twenty years ago. You have justthe sameexpression in your mouth. Upon my wordRachelno womanever lovedme as you did. Whyyou gave yourself to me like aflowertodo anything I liked with. You were the prettiest ofplaythingsthe most fascinating of small romances . . . [Pulls outwatch.] Quarter to two! Must be strolling back to Hunstanton.Don'tsuppose I shall see you there again. I'm sorryI amreally. It's been an amusing experience to have met amongst peopleof one'sown rankand treated quite seriously tooone's mistressand one's-
[MRS.ARBUTHNOT snatches up glove and strikes LORD ILLINGWORTHacrossthe face with it. LORD ILLINGWORTH starts. He is dazed bytheinsult of his punishment. Then he controls himselfand goestowindow and looks out at his son. Sighs and leaves the room.]
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. [Falls sobbing on the sofa.] He wouldhave saidit. He would have said it.
[EnterGERALD and HESTER from the garden.]
GERALD. Welldear mother. You never came out after all. So wehave comein to fetch you. Motheryou have not been crying?[Kneelsdown beside her.]
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. My boy! My boy! My boy! [Runningher fingersthroughhishair.]
HESTER. [Coming over.] But you have two children now. You'll letme be yourdaughter?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. [Looking up.] Would you choose me for amother?
HESTER. You of all women I have ever known.
[Theymove towards the door leading into garden with their armsroundeach other's waists. GERALD goes to table L.C. for his hat.Onturning round he sees LORD ILLINGWORTH'S glove lying on thefloorand picks it up.]
GERALD. Hallomotherwhose glove is this? You have had avisitor. Who was it?
MRS.ARBUTHNOT. [Turning round.] Oh! no one. Noone inparticular. A man of no importance.