Meet us on:
Welcome to Read Print! Sign in with
or
to get started!
 
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer."
     

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Act IV

    • Rate it:
    • Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 4 ratings
    • 3 Favorites on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode
    Chapter 5
    Previous Chapter
    SCENE

    Sitting-room at Mrs. Arbuthnot's. Large open French window at
    back, looking on to garden. Doors R.C. and L.C.

    [GERALD ARBUTHNOT writing at table.]

    [Enter ALICE R.C. followed by LADY HUNSTANTON and MRS. ALLONBY.]

    ALICE. Lady Hunstanton and Mrs. Allonby.

    [Exit L.C.]

    LADY HUNSTANTON. Good morning, Gerald.

    GERALD. [Rising.] Good morning, Lady Hunstanton. Good morning,
    Mrs. Allonby.

    LADY HUNSTANTON. [Sitting down.] We came to inquire for your dear
    mother, Gerald. I hope she is better?

    GERALD. My mother has not come down yet, Lady Hunstanton.

    LADY HUNSTANTON. Ah, I am afraid the heat was too much for her
    last night. I think there must have been thunder in the air. Or
    perhaps it was the music. Music makes one feel so romantic - at
    least it always gets on one's nerves.

    MRS. ALLONBY. It's the same thing, nowadays.

    LADY HUNSTANTON. I am so glad I don't know what you mean, dear. I
    am afraid you mean something wrong. Ah, I see you're examining
    Mrs. Arbuthnot's pretty room. Isn't it nice and old-fashioned?

    MRS. ALLONBY. [Surveying the room through her lorgnette.] It
    looks quite the happy English home.

    LADY HUNSTANTON. That's just the word, dear; that just describes
    it. One feels your mother's good influence in everything she has
    about her, Gerald.

    MRS. ALLONBY. Lord Illingworth says that all influence is bad, but
    that a good influence is the worst in the world.

    LADY HUNSTANTON. When Lord Illingworth knows Mrs. Arbuthnot better
    he will change his mind. I must certainly bring him here.

    MRS. ALLONBY. I should like to see Lord Illingworth in a happy
    English home.

    LADY HUNSTANTON. It would do him a great deal of good, dear. Most
    women in London, nowadays, seem to furnish their rooms with nothing
    but orchids, foreigners, and French novels. But here we have the
    room of a sweet saint. Fresh natural flowers, books that don't
    shock one, pictures that one can look at without blushing.

    MRS. ALLONBY. But I like blushing.

    LADY HUNSTANTON. Well, there IS a good deal to be said for
    blushing, if one can do it at the proper moment. Poor dear
    Hunstanton used to tell me I didn't blush nearly often enough. But
    then he was so very particular. He wouldn't let me know any of his
    men friends, except those who were over seventy, like poor Lord
    Ashton: who afterwards, by the way, was brought into the Divorce
    Court. A most unfortunate case.

    MRS. ALLONBY. I delight in men over seventy. They always offer
    one the devotion of a lifetime. I think seventy an ideal age for a
    man.

    LADY HUNSTANTON. She is quite incorrigible, Gerald, isn't she?
    By-the-by, Gerald, I hope your dear mother will come and see me
    more often now. You and Lord Illingworth start almost immediately,
    don't you?

    GERALD. I have given up my intention of being Lord Illingworth's
    secretary.

    LADY HUNSTANTON. Surely not, Gerald! It would be most unwise of
    you. 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 his
    secretary. But he says I am not serious enough.

    LADY HUNSTANTON. My dear, you really mustn't talk like that in
    this house. Mrs. Arbuthnot doesn't know anything about the wicked
    society in which we all live. She won't go into it. She is far
    too good. I consider it was a great honour her coming to me last
    night. It gave quite an atmosphere of respectability to the party.

    MRS. ALLONBY. Ah, that must have been what you thought was thunder
    in the air.

    LADY HUNSTANTON. My dear, how can you say that? There is no
    resemblance between the two things at all. But really, Gerald,
    what do you mean by not being suitable?

    GERALD. Lord Illingworth's views of life and mine are too
    different.

    LADY HUNSTANTON. But, my dear Gerald, at your age you shouldn't
    have any views of life. They are quite out of place. You must be
    guided by others in this matter. Lord Illingworth has made you the
    most flattering offer, and travelling with him you would see the
    world - as much of it, at least, as one should look at - under the
    best auspices possible, and stay with all the right people, which
    is so important 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 life, Mr.
    Arbuthnot. When a man says that, one knows that life has exhausted
    him.

    GERALD. I don't wish to leave my mother.

    LADY HUNSTANTON. Now, Gerald, that is pure laziness on your part.
    Not leave your mother! If I were your mother I would insist on
    your going.

    [Enter ALICE L.C.]

    ALICE. Mrs. Arbuthnot's compliments, my lady, but she has a bad
    headache, and cannot see any one this morning. [Exit R.C.]

    LADY HUNSTANTON. [Rising.] A bad headache! I am so sorry!
    Perhaps you'll bring her up to Hunstanton this afternoon, if she is
    better, Gerald.

    GERALD. I am afraid not this afternoon, Lady Hunstanton.

    LADY HUNSTANTON. Well, to-morrow, then. Ah, if you had a father,
    Gerald, he wouldn't let you waste your life here. He would send
    you off with Lord Illingworth at once. But mothers are so weak.
    They give up to their sons in everything. We are all heart, all
    heart. Come, dear, I must call at the rectory and inquire for Mrs.
    Daubeny, who, I am afraid, is far from well. It is wonderful how
    the Archdeacon bears up, quite wonderful. He is the most
    sympathetic of husbands. Quite a model. Good-bye, Gerald, give my
    fondest love to your mother.

    MRS. ALLONBY. Good-bye, Mr. Arbuthnot.

    GERALD. Good-bye.

    [Exit LADY HUNSTANTON and MRS. ALLONBY. GERALD sits down and reads
    over his letter.]

    GERALD. What name can I sign? I, who have no right to any name.
    [Signs name, puts letter into envelope, addresses it, and is about
    to seal it, when door L.C. opens and MRS. ARBUTHNOT enters. GERALD
    lays down sealing-wax. Mother and son look at each other.]

    LADY HUNSTANTON. [Through French window at the back.] Good-bye
    again, Gerald. We are taking the short cut across your pretty
    garden. Now, remember my advice to you - start at once with Lord
    Illingworth.

    MRS. ALLONBY. AU REVOIR, Mr. Arbuthnot. Mind you bring me back
    something nice from your travels - not an Indian shawl - on no
    account an Indian shawl.

    [Exeunt.]

    GERALD. Mother, I have just written to him.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. To whom?

    GERALD. To my father. I have written to tell him to come here at
    four o'clock this afternoon.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. He shall not come here. He shall not cross the
    threshold of my house.

    GERALD. He must come.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Gerald, if you are going away with Lord
    Illingworth, go at once. Go before it kills me: but don't ask me
    to meet him.

    GERALD. Mother, you don't understand. Nothing in the world would
    induce me to go away with Lord Illingworth, or to leave you.
    Surely you know me well enough for that. No: I have written to him
    to say -

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. What can you have to say to him?

    GERALD. Can't you guess, mother, what I have written in this
    letter?

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. No.

    GERALD. Mother, surely you can. Think, think what must be done,
    now, at once, within the next few days.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. There is nothing to be done.

    GERALD. I have written to Lord Illingworth to tell him that he
    must marry you.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Marry me?

    GERALD. Mother, I will force him to do it. The wrong that has
    been done you must be repaired. Atonement must be made. Justice
    may be slow, mother, but it comes in the end. In a few days you
    shall be Lord Illingworth's lawful wife.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. But, Gerald -

    GERALD. I will insist upon his doing it. I will make him do it:
    he will not dare to refuse.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. But, Gerald, it is I who refuse. I will not marry
    Lord Illingworth.

    GERALD. Not marry him? Mother!

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. I will not marry him.

    GERALD. But you don't understand: it is for your sake I am
    talking, not for mine. This marriage, this necessary marriage,
    this marriage which for obvious reasons must inevitably take place,
    will not help me, will not give me a name that will be really,
    rightly mine to bear. But surely it will be something for you,
    that you, my mother, should, however late, become the wife of the
    man who is my father. Will not that be something?

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. I will not marry him.

    GERALD. Mother, you must.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. I will not. You talk of atonement for a wrong
    done. What atonement can be made to me? There is no atonement
    possible. I am disgraced: he is not. That is all. It is the
    usual history of a man and a woman as it usually happens, as it
    always happens. And the ending is the ordinary ending. The woman
    suffers. The man goes free.

    GERALD. I don't know if that is the ordinary ending, mother: I
    hope it is not. But your life, at any rate, shall not end like
    that. The man shall make whatever reparation is possible. It is
    not enough. It does not wipe out the past, I know that. But at
    least it makes the future better, better for you, mother.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. I refuse to marry Lord Illingworth.

    GERALD. If he came to you himself and asked you to be his wife you
    would give him a different answer. Remember, he is my father.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. If he came himself, which he will not do, my
    answer would be the same. Remember I am your mother.

    GERALD. Mother, you make it terribly difficult for me by talking
    like that; and I can't understand why you won't look at this matter
    from the right, from the only proper standpoint. It is to take
    away the bitterness out of your life, to take away the shadow that
    lies on your name, that this marriage must take place. There is no
    alternative: and after the marriage you and I can go away together.
    But the marriage must take place first. It is a duty that you owe,
    not merely to yourself, but to all other women - yes: to all the
    other women in the world, lest he betray more.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. I owe nothing to other women. There is not one of
    them to help me. There is not one woman in the world to whom I
    could go for pity, if I would take it, or for sympathy, if I could
    win it. Women are hard on each other. That girl, last night, good
    though she is, fled from the room as though I were a tainted thing.
    She was right. I am a tainted thing. But my wrongs are my own,
    and I will bear them alone. I must bear them alone. What have
    women who have not sinned to do with me, or I with them? We do not
    understand each other.

    [Enter HESTER behind.]

    GERALD. I implore you to do what I ask you.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. What son has ever asked of his mother to make so
    hideous a sacrifice? None.

    GERALD. What mother has ever refused to marry the father of her
    own child? None.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Let me be the first, then. I will not do it.

    GERALD. Mother, you believe in religion, and you brought me up to
    believe in it also. Well, surely your religion, the religion that
    you taught me when I was a boy, mother, must tell you that I am
    right. You know it, you feel it.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. I do not know it. I do not feel it, nor will I
    ever stand before God's altar and ask God's blessing on so hideous
    a mockery as a marriage between me and George Harford. I will not
    say the words the Church bids us to say. I will not say them. I
    dare not. How could I swear to love the man I loathe, to honour
    him who wrought you dishonour, to obey him who, in his mastery,
    made me to sin? No: marriage is a sacrament for those who love
    each other. It is not for such as him, or such as me. Gerald, to
    save you from the world's sneers and taunts I have lied to the
    world. For twenty years I have lied to the world. I could not
    tell the world the truth. Who can, ever? But not for my own sake
    will I lie to God, and in God's presence. No, Gerald, no ceremony,
    Church-hallowed or State-made, shall ever bind me to George
    Harford. It may be that I am too bound to him already, who,
    robbing me, yet left me richer, so that in the mire of my life I
    found the pearl of price, or what I thought would be so.

    GERALD. I don't understand you now.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Men don't understand what mothers are. I am no
    different from other women except in the wrong done me and the
    wrong I did, and my very heavy punishments and great disgrace. And
    yet, to bear you I had to look on death. To nurture you I had to
    wrestle with it. Death fought with me for you. All women have to
    fight with death to keep their children. Death, being childless,
    wants our children from us. Gerald, when you were naked I clothed
    you, when you were hungry I gave you food. Night and day all that
    long winter I tended you. No office is too mean, no care too lowly
    for the thing we women love - and oh! how I loved YOU. Not Hannah,
    Samuel more. And you needed love, for you were weakly, and only
    love could have kept you alive. Only love can keep any one alive.
    And boys are careless often and without thinking give pain, and we
    always fancy that when they come to man's estate and know us better
    they will repay us. But it is not so. The world draws them from
    our side, and they make friends with whom they are happier than
    they are with us, and have amusements from which we are barred, and
    interests that are not ours: and they are unjust to us often, for
    when they find life bitter they blame us for it, and when they find
    it sweet we do not taste its sweetness with them . . . You made
    many friends and went into their houses and were glad with them,
    and I, knowing my secret, did not dare to follow, but stayed at
    home and closed the door, shut out the sun and sat in darkness.
    What should I have done in honest households? My past was ever
    with me. . . . And you thought I didn't care for the pleasant
    things of life. I tell you I longed for them, but did not dare to
    touch them, feeling I had no right. You thought I was happier
    working amongst the poor. That was my mission, you imagined. It
    was not, but where else was I to go? The sick do not ask if the
    hand that smooths their pillow is pure, nor the dying care if the
    lips that touch their brow have known the kiss of sin. It was you
    I thought of all the time; I gave to them the love you did not
    need: lavished on them a love that was not theirs . . . And you
    thought I spent too much of my time in going to Church, and in
    Church duties. But where else could I turn? God's house is the
    only house where sinners are made welcome, and you were always in
    my heart, Gerald, too much in my heart. For, though day after day,
    at morn or evensong, I have knelt in God's house, I have never
    repented of my sin. How could I repent of my sin when you, my
    love, were its fruit! Even now that you are bitter to me I cannot
    repent. I do not. You are more to me than innocence. I would
    rather be your mother - oh! much rather! - than have been always
    pure . . . Oh, don't you see? don't you understand? It is my
    dishonour that has made you so dear to me. It is my disgrace that
    has bound you so closely to me. It is the price I paid for you -
    the price of soul and body - that makes me love you as I do. Oh,
    don't ask me to do this horrible thing. Child of my shame, be
    still the child of my shame!

    GERALD. Mother, I didn't know you loved me so much as that. And I
    will be a better son to you than I have been. And you and I must
    never leave each other . . . but, mother . . . I can't help it . .
    . you must become my father's wife. You must marry him. It is
    your duty.

    HESTER. [Running forwards and embracing MRS. ARBUTHNOT.] No, no;
    you shall not. That would be real dishonour, the first you have
    ever known. That would be real disgrace: the first to touch you.
    Leave him and come with me. There are other countries than England
    . . . Oh! other countries over sea, better, wiser, and less unjust
    lands. The world is very wide and very big.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. No, not for me. For me the world is shrivelled to
    a palm's breadth, and where I walk there are thorns.

    HESTER. It shall not be so. We shall somewhere find green valleys
    and fresh waters, and if we weep, well, we shall weep together.
    Have we not both loved him?

    GERALD. Hester!

    HESTER. [Waving him back.] Don't, don't! You cannot love me at
    all, unless you love her also. You cannot honour me, unless she's
    holier to you. In her all womanhood is martyred. Not she alone,
    but all of us are stricken in her house.

    GERALD. Hester, Hester, what 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. Ah, that is nothing. I would die to save you. But you
    don't tell me what to do now!

    HESTER. Have I not thanked you for saving ME?

    GERALD. But what should I do?

    HESTER. Ask your own heart, not mine. I never had a mother to
    save, or shame.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. He is hard - he is hard. Let me go away.

    GERALD. [Rushes over and kneels down bedside his mother.] Mother,
    forgive me: I have been to blame.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Don't kiss my hands: they are cold. My heart is
    cold: something has broken it.

    HESTER, Ah, don't say that. Hearts live by being wounded.
    Pleasure may turn a heart to stone, riches may make it callous, but
    sorrow - oh, sorrow cannot break it. Besides, what sorrows have
    you now? Why, at this moment you are more dear to him than ever,
    DEAR though you have BEEN, and oh! how dear you HAVE been always.
    Ah! be kind to him.

    GERALD. You are my mother and my father all in one. I need no
    second parent. It was for you I spoke, for you alone. Oh, say
    something, mother. Have I but found one love to lose another?
    Don't tell me that. O mother, you are cruel. [Gets up and flings
    himself sobbing on a sofa.]

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. [To HESTER.] But has he found indeed another
    love?

    HESTER. You know I have loved him always.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. But we are very poor.

    HESTER. Who, being loved, is poor? Oh, no one. I hate my riches.
    They are a burden. Let him share it with me.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. But we are disgraced. We rank among the outcasts
    Gerald is nameless. The sins of the parents should be visited on
    the children. It is God's law.

    HESTER. I was wrong. God's law is only Love.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. [Rises, and taking HESTER by the hand, goes slowly
    over to where GERALD is lying on the sofa with his head buried in
    his hands. She touches him and he looks up.] Gerald, I cannot
    give you a father, but I have brought you a wife.

    GERALD. Mother, I am not worthy either of her or you.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. So she comes first, you are worthy. And when you
    are away, Gerald . . . with . . . her - oh, think of me sometimes.
    Don't forget me. And when you pray, pray for me. We should pray
    when we are happiest, and you will be happy, Gerald.

    HESTER. Oh, you don't think of leaving us?

    GERALD. Mother, you won't leave us?

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. I might bring shame upon you!

    GERALD. Mother!

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. For a little then: and if you let me, near you
    always.

    HESTER. [To MRS. ARBUTHNOT.] Come out with us to the garden.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Later on, later on. [Exeunt HESTER and GERALD.
    MRS. ARBUTHNOT goes towards door L.C. Stops at looking-glass over
    mantelpiece and looks into it. Enter ALICE R.C.]

    ALICE. A gentleman to see you, ma'am.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Say I am not at home. Show me the card. [Takes
    card from salver and looks at it.] Say I will not see him.

    [LORD ILLINGWORTH enters. MRS. ARBUTHNOT sees him in the glass and
    starts, but does not turn round. Exit ALICE.] What can you have
    to say to me to-day, George Harford? You can have nothing to say
    to me. You must leave this house.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. Rachel, Gerald knows everything about you and me
    now, so some arrangement must be come to that will suit us all
    three. I assure you, he will find in me the most charming and
    generous of fathers.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. My son may come in at any moment. I saved you
    last night. I may not be able to save you again. My son feels my
    dishonour strongly, terribly strongly. I beg you to go.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. [Sitting down.] Last night was excessively
    unfortunate. That silly Puritan girl making a scene merely because
    I wanted to kiss her. What harm is there in a kiss?

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. [Turning round.] A kiss may ruin a human life,
    George Harford. I know that. I know that too well.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. We won't discuss that at present. What is of
    importance to-day, as yesterday, is still our son. I am extremely
    fond of him, as you know, and odd though it may seem to you, I
    admired his conduct last night immensely. He took up the cudgels
    for that pretty prude with wonderful promptitude. He is just what
    I should have liked a son of mine to be. Except that no son of
    mine should ever take the side of the Puritans: that is always an
    error. Now, what I propose is this.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Lord Illingworth, no proposition of yours
    interests me.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. According to our ridiculous English laws, I
    can't legitimise Gerald. But I can leave him my property.
    Illingworth is entailed, of course, but it is a tedious barrack of
    a place. He can have Ashby, which is much prettier, Harborough,
    which has the best shooting in the north of England, and the house
    in St. James Square. What more can a gentleman require in this
    world?

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Nothing more, I am quite sure.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. As for a title, a title is really rather a
    nuisance in these democratic days. As George Harford I had
    everything I wanted. Now I have merely everything that other
    people want, which isn't nearly so pleasant. Well, my proposal is
    this.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. I told you I was not interested, and I beg you to
    go.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. The boy is to be with you for six months in the
    year, and with me for the other six. That is perfectly fair, is it
    not? You can have whatever allowance you like, and live where you
    choose. As for your past, no one knows anything about it except
    myself and Gerald. There is the Puritan, of course, the Puritan in
    white muslin, but she doesn't count. She couldn't tell the story
    without explaining that she objected to being kissed, could she?
    And all the women would think her a fool and the men think her a
    bore. And you need not be afraid that Gerald won't be my heir. I
    needn't tell you I have not the slightest intention of marrying.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. You come too late. My son has no need of you.

    You are not necessary.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. What do you mean, Rachel?

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. That you are not necessary to Gerald's career. He
    does not require you.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. I do not understand you.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Look into the garden. [LORD ILLINGWORTH rises and
    goes towards window.] You had better not let them see you: you
    bring unpleasant memories. [LORD ILLINGWORTH looks out and
    starts.] She loves him. They love each other. We are safe from
    you, and we are going away.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. Where?

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. We will not tell you, and if you find us we will
    not know you. You seem surprised. What welcome would you get from
    the girl whose lips you tried to soil, from the boy whose life you
    have shamed, from the mother whose dishonour comes from you?

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. You have grown hard, Rachel.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. I was too weak once. It is well for me that I
    have changed.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. I was very young at the time. We men know life
    too early.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. And we women know life too late. That is the
    difference between men and women. [A pause.]

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. Rachel, I want my son. My money may be of no
    use to him now. I may be of no use to him, but I want my son.
    Bring us together, Rachel. You can do it if you choose. [Sees
    letter on table.]

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. There is no room in my boy's life for you. He is
    not interested in YOU.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. Then why does he write to me?

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. What do you mean?

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. What letter is this? [Takes up letter.]

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. That - is nothing. Give it to me.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. It is addressed to ME.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. You are not to open it. I forbid you to open it.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. And in Gerald's handwriting.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. It was not to have been sent. It is a letter he
    wrote to you this morning, before he saw me. But he is sorry now
    he wrote it, very sorry. You are not to open it. Give it to me.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. It belongs to me. [Opens it, sits down and
    reads it slowly. MRS. ARBUTHNOT watches him all the time.] You
    have read this letter, I suppose, Rachel?

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. No.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. You know what is in it?

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Yes!

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. I don't admit for a moment that the boy is right
    in what he says. I don't admit that it is any duty of mine to
    marry you. I deny it entirely. But to get my son back I am ready
    - yes, I am ready to marry you, Rachel - and to treat you always
    with the deference and respect due to my wife. I will marry you as
    soon as you choose. I give you my word of honour.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. You made that promise to me once before and broke
    it.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. I will keep it now. And that will show you that
    I love my son, at least as much as you love him. For when I marry
    you, Rachel, there are some ambitions I shall have to surrender.
    High ambitions, too, if any ambition is high.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. I decline to marry you, Lord Illingworth.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. Are you serious?

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Yes.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. Do tell me your reasons. They would interest me
    enormously.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. I have already explained them to my son.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. I suppose they were intensely sentimental,
    weren't they? You women live by your emotions and for them. You
    have no philosophy of life.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. You are right. We women live by our emotions and
    for them. By our passions, and for them, if you will. I have two
    passions, Lord Illingworth: my love of him, my hate of you. You
    cannot kill those. They feed each other.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. What sort of love is that which needs to have
    hate as its brother?

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. It is the sort of love I have for Gerald. Do you
    think that terrible? Well it is terrible. All love is terrible.
    All love is a tragedy. I loved you once, Lord Illingworth. Oh,
    what a tragedy for a woman to have loved you!

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. So you really refuse to marry me?

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Yes.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. Because you hate me?

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Yes.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. And does my son hate me as you do?

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. No.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. I am glad of that, Rachel.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. He merely despises you.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. What a pity! What a pity for him, I mean.

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Don't be deceived, George. Children begin by
    loving their parents. After a time they judge them. Rarely if
    ever do they forgive them.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. [Reads letter over again, very slowly.] May I
    ask by what arguments you made the boy who wrote this letter, this
    beautiful, passionate letter, believe that you should not marry his
    father, the father of your own child?

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. It was not I who made him see it. It was another.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. What FIN-DE-SIECLE person?

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. The Puritan, Lord Illingworth. [A pause.]

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. [Winces, then rises slowly and goes over to
    table where his hat and gloves are. MRS. ARBUTHNOT is standing
    close to the table. He picks up one of the gloves, and begins
    pulling it on.] There is not much then for me to do here, Rachel?

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Nothing.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. It is good-bye, is it?

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. For ever, I hope, this time, Lord Illingworth.

    LORD ILLINGWORTH. How curious! At this moment you look exactly as
    you looked the night you left me twenty years ago. You have just
    the same expression in your mouth. Upon my word, Rachel, no woman
    ever loved me as you did. Why, you gave yourself to me like a
    flower, to do anything I liked with. You were the prettiest of
    playthings, the most fascinating of small romances . . . [Pulls out
    watch.] Quarter to two! Must be strolling back to Hunstanton.
    Don't suppose I shall see you there again. I'm sorry, I am,
    really. It's been an amusing experience to have met amongst people
    of one's own rank, and treated quite seriously too, one's mistress,
    and one's -

    [MRS. ARBUTHNOT snatches up glove and strikes LORD ILLINGWORTH
    across the face with it. LORD ILLINGWORTH starts. He is dazed by
    the insult of his punishment. Then he controls himself, and goes
    to window and looks out at his son. Sighs and leaves the room.]

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. [Falls sobbing on the sofa.] He would have said
    it. He would have said it.

    [Enter GERALD and HESTER from the garden.]

    GERALD. Well, dear mother. You never came out after all. So we
    have come in to fetch you. Mother, you have not been crying?
    [Kneels down beside her.]

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. My boy! My boy! My boy! [Running her fingers
    through his hair.]

    HESTER. [Coming over.] But you have two children now. You'll let
    me be your daughter?

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. [Looking up.] Would you choose me for a mother?

    HESTER. You of all women I have ever known.

    [They move towards the door leading into garden with their arms
    round each other's waists. GERALD goes to table L.C. for his hat.
    On turning round he sees LORD ILLINGWORTH'S glove lying on the
    floor, and picks it up.]

    GERALD. Hallo, mother, whose glove is this? You have had a
    visitor. Who was it?

    MRS. ARBUTHNOT. [Turning round.] Oh! no one. No one in
    particular. A man of no importance.

    CURTAIN
    Chapter 5
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a Oscar Wilde essay and need some advice, post your Oscar Wilde essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Finished
    Want to read
    Abandoned

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?