Act II The
Drawing-room at Hunstanton Chase
Drawing-room at Hunstanton, after dinner, lamps lit.
[Ladies seated on sofas.]
MRS. ALLONBY. What a comfort it is to have got rid of
the men for
LADY STUTFIELD. Yes; men persecute us dreadfully, don't
MRS. ALLONBY. Persecute us? I wish they did.
LADY HUNSTANTON. My dear!
MRS. ALLONBY. The annoying thing is that the wretches
perfectly happy without us. That is why I think it is
woman's duty never to leave them alone for a single
during this short breathing space after dinner; without
believe we poor women would be absolutely worn to
[Enter Servants with coffee.]
LADY HUNSTANTON. Worn to shadows, dear?
MRS. ALLONBY. Yes, Lady Hunstanton. It is such a strain
men up to the mark. They are always trying to escape
LADY STUTFIELD. It seems to me that it is we who are
to escape from them. Men are so very, very heartless.
their power and use it.
LADY CAROLINE. [Takes coffee from Servant.] What stuff
nonsense all this about men is! The thing to do is to
keep men in
their proper place.
MRS. ALLONBY. But what is their proper place, Lady
LADY CAROLINE. Looking after their wives, Mrs. Allonby.
MRS. ALLONBY. [Takes coffee from Servant.] Really? And
they're not married?
LADY CAROLINE. If they are not married, they should be
after a wife. It's perfectly scandalous the amount of
who are going about society. There should be a law
compel them all to marry within twelve months.
LADY STUTFIELD. [Refuses coffee.] But if they're in love
some one who, perhaps, is tied to another?
LADY CAROLINE. In that case, Lady Stutfield, they should
married off in a week to some plain respectable girl, in
teach them not to meddle with other people's property.
MRS. ALLONBY. I don't think that we should ever be
spoken of as
other people's property. All men are married women's
That is the only true definition of what married women's
really is. But we don't belong to any one.
LADY STUTFIELD. Oh, I am so very, very glad to hear you
LADY HUNSTANTON. But do you really think, dear Caroline,
legislation would improve matters in any way? I am told
nowadays, all the married men live like bachelors, and
bachelors like married men.
MRS. ALLONBY. I certainly never know one from the other.
LADY STUTFIELD. Oh, I think one can always know at once
man has home claims upon his life or not. I have noticed
very sad expression in the eyes of so many married men.
MRS. ALLONBY. Ah, all that I have noticed is that they
horribly tedious when they are good husbands, and
conceited when they are not.
LADY HUNSTANTON. Well, I suppose the type of husband has
completely changed since my young days, but I'm bound to
poor dear Hunstanton was the most delightful of
creatures, and as
good as gold.
MRS. ALLONBY. Ah, my husband is a sort of promissory
tired of meeting him.
LADY CAROLINE. But you renew him from time to time,
MRS. ALLONBY. Oh no, Lady Caroline. I have only had one
as yet. I suppose you look upon me as quite an amateur.
LADY CAROLINE. With your views on life I wonder you
MRS. ALLONBY. So do I.
LADY HUNSTANTON. My dear child, I believe you are really
happy in your married life, but that you like to hide
happiness from others.
MRS. ALLONBY. I assure you I was horribly deceived in
LADY HUNSTANTON. Oh, I hope not, dear. I knew his mother
well. She was a Stratton, Caroline, one of Lord
LADY CAROLINE. Victoria Stratton? I remember her
silly fair-haired woman with no chin.
MRS. ALLONBY. Ah, Ernest has a chin. He has a very
strong chin, a
square chin. Ernest's chin is far too square.
LADY STUTFIELD. But do you really think a man's chin can
square? I think a man should look very, very strong, and
chin should be quite, quite square.
MRS. ALLONBY. Then you should certainly know Ernest,
Stutfield. It is only fair to tell you beforehand he has
conversation at all.
LADY STUTFIELD. I adore silent men.
MRS. ALLONBY. Oh, Ernest isn't silent. He talks the
But he has got no conversation. What he talks about I
I haven't listened to him for years.
LADY STUTFIELD. Have you never forgiven him then? How
seems! But all life is very, very sad, is it not?
MRS. ALLONBY. Life, Lady Stutfield, is simply a MAUVAIS
D'HEURE made up of exquisite moments.
LADY STUTFIELD. Yes, there are moments, certainly. But
something very, very wrong that Mr. Allonby did? Did he
angry with you, and say anything that was unkind or
MRS. ALLONBY. Oh dear, no. Ernest is invariably calm.
one of the reasons he always gets on my nerves. Nothing
aggravating as calmness. There is something positively
about the good temper of most modern men. I wonder we
it as well as we do.
LADY STUTFIELD. Yes; men's good temper shows they are
sensitive as we are, not so finely strung. It makes a
barrier often between husband and wife, does it not? But
so much like to know what was the wrong thing Mr.
MRS. ALLONBY. Well, I will tell you, if you solemnly
tell everybody else.
LADY STUTFIELD. Thank you, thank you. I will make a
MRS. ALLONBY. When Ernest and I were engaged, he swore
positively on his knees that he had never loved any one
the whole course of his life. I was very young at the
time, so I
didn't believe him, I needn't tell you. Unfortunately,
made no enquiries of any kind till after I had been
married four or five months. I found out then that what
told me was perfectly true. And that sort of thing makes
a man so
LADY HUNSTANTON. My dear!
MRS. ALLONBY. Men always want to be a woman's first
love. That is
their clumsy vanity. We women have a more subtle
things. What we like is to be a man's last romance.
LADY STUTFIELD. I see what you mean. It's very, very
LADY HUNSTANTON. My dear child, you don't mean to tell
me that you
won't forgive your husband because he never loved any
Did you ever hear such a thing, Caroline? I am quite
LADY CAROLINE. Oh, women have become so highly educated,
that nothing should surprise us nowadays, except happy
They apparently are getting remarkably rare.
MRS. ALLONBY. Oh, they're quite out of date.
LADY STUTFIELD. Except amongst the middle classes, I
MRS. ALLONBY. How like the middle classes!
LADY STUTFIELD. Yes - is it not? - very, very like them.
LADY CAROLINE. If what you tell us about the middle
true, Lady Stutfield, it redounds greatly to their
credit. It is
much to be regretted that in our rank of life the wife
should be so
persistently frivolous, under the impression apparently
that it is
the proper thing to be. It is to that I attribute the
of so many marriages we all know of in society.
MRS. ALLONBY. Do you know, Lady Caroline, I don't think
frivolity of the wife has ever anything to do with it.
marriages are ruined nowadays by the common sense of the
than by anything else. How can a woman be expected to be
with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a
LADY HUNSTANTON. My dear!
MRS. ALLONBY. Man, poor, awkward, reliable, necessary
to a sex that has been rational for millions and
millions of years.
He can't help himself. It is in his race. The History of
very different. We have always been picturesque protests
the mere existence of common sense. We saw its dangers
LADY STUTFIELD. Yes, the common sense of husbands is
most, most trying. Do tell me your conception of the
Husband. I think it would be so very, very helpful.
MRS. ALLONBY. The Ideal Husband? There couldn't be such
The institution is wrong.
LADY STUTFIELD. The Ideal Man, then, in his relations to
LADY CAROLINE. He would probably be extremely realistic.
MRS. CAROLINE. The Ideal Man! Oh, the Ideal Man should
talk to us
as if we were goddesses, and treat us as if we were
should refuse all our serious requests, and gratify
every one of
our whims. He should encourage us to have caprices, and
to have missions. He should always say much more than he
and always mean much more than he says.
LADY HUNSTANTON. But how could he do both, dear?
MRS. ALLONBY. He should never run down other pretty
would show he had no taste, or make one suspect that he
much. No; he should be nice about them all, but say that
they don't attract him.
LADY STUTFIELD. Yes, that is always very, very pleasant
about other women.
MRS. ALLONBY. If we ask him a question about anything,
give us an answer all about ourselves. He should
us for whatever qualities he knows we haven't got. But
be pitiless, quite pitiless, in reproaching us for the
we have never dreamed of possessing. He should never
we know the use of useful things. That would be
But he should shower on us everything we don't want.
LADY CAROLINE. As far as I can see, he is to do nothing
bills and compliments.
MRS. ALLONBY. He should persistently compromise us in
treat us with absolute respect when we are alone. And
should be always ready to have a perfectly terrible
we want one, and to become miserable, absolutely
miserable, at a
moment's notice, and to overwhelm us with just
reproaches in less
than twenty minutes, and to be positively violent at the
half an hour, and to leave us for ever at a quarter to
we have to go and dress for dinner. And when, after
that, one has
seen him for really the last time, and he has refused to
the little things he has given one, and promised never
communicate with one again, or to write one any foolish
should be perfectly broken-hearted, and telegraph to one
long, and send one little notes every half-hour by a
hansom, and dine quite alone at the club, so that every
know how unhappy he was. And after a whole dreadful
which one has gone about everywhere with one's husband,
show how absolutely lonely one was, he may be given a
parting, in the evening, and then, if his conduct has
irreproachable, and one has behaved really badly to him,
be allowed to admit that he has been entirely in the
when he has admitted that, it becomes a woman's duty to
and one can do it all over again from the beginning,
LADY HUNSTANTON. How clever you are, my dear! You never
single word you say.
LADY STUTFIELD. Thank you, thank you. It has been quite,
entrancing. I must try and remember it all. There are
number of details that are so very, very important.
LADY CAROLINE. But you have not told us yet what the
reward of the
Ideal Man is to be.
MRS. ALLONBY. His reward? Oh, infinite expectation. That
quite enough for him.
LADY STUTFIELD. But men are so terribly, terribly
MRS. ALLONBY. That makes no matter. One should never
LADY STUTFIELD. Not even to the Ideal Man?
MRS. ALLONBY. Certainly not to him. Unless, of course,
to grow tired of him.
LADY STUTFIELD. Oh! . . . yes. I see that. It is very,
helpful. Do you think, Mrs. Allonby, I shall ever meet
Man? Or are there more than one?
MRS. ALLONBY. There are just four in London, Lady
LADY HUNSTANTON. Oh, my dear!
MRS. ALLONBY. [Going over to her.] What has happened? Do
LADY HUNSTANTON [in a low voice] I had completely
the American young lady has been in the room all the
time. I am
afraid some of this clever talk may have shocked her a
MRS. ALLONBY. Ah, that will do her so much good!
LADY HUNSTANTON. Let us hope she didn't understand much.
I had better go over and talk to her. [Rises and goes
HESTER WORSLEY.] Well, dear Miss Worsley. [Sitting down
her.] How quiet you have been in your nice little corner
time! I suppose you have been reading a book? There are
books here in the library.
HESTER. No, I have been listening to the conversation.
LADY HUNSTANTON. You mustn't believe everything that was
HESTER. I didn't believe any of it
LADY HUNSTANTON. That is quite right, dear.
HESTER. [Continuing.] I couldn't believe that any women
really hold such views of life as I have heard to-night
of your guests. [An awkward pause.]
LADY HUNSTANTON. I hear you have such pleasant society
Quite like our own in places, my son wrote to me.
HESTER. There are cliques in America as elsewhere, Lady
Hunstanton. But true American society consists simply of
good women and good men we have in our country.
LADY HUNSTANTON. What a sensible system, and I dare say
pleasant too. I am afraid in England we have too many
social barriers. We don't see as much as we should of
and lower classes.
HESTER. In America we have no lower classes.
LADY HUNSTANTON. Really? What a very strange
MRS. ALLONBY. What is that dreadful girl talking about?
LADY STUTFIELD. She is painfully natural, is she not?
LADY CAROLINE. There are a great many things you haven't
America, I am told, Miss Worsley. They say you have no
MRS. ALLONBY. [To LADY STUTFIELD.] What nonsense! They
their mothers and their manners.
HESTER. The English aristocracy supply us with our
Lady Caroline. They are sent over to us every summer,
in the steamers, and propose to us the day after they
land. As for
ruins, we are trying to build up something that will
than brick or stone. [Gets up to take her fan from
LADY HUNSTANTON. What is that, dear? Ah, yes, an iron
is it not, at that place that has the curious name?
HESTER. [Standing by table.] We are trying to build up
Hunstanton, on a better, truer, purer basis than life
here. This sounds strange to you all, no doubt. How
sound other than strange? You rich people in England,
know how you are living. How could you know? You shut
your society the gentle and the good. You laugh at the
the pure. Living, as you all do, on others and by them,
at self-sacrifice, and if you throw bread to the poor,
it is merely
to keep them quiet for a season. With all your pomp and
art you don't know how to live - you don't even know
love the beauty that you can see and touch and handle,
that you can destroy, and do destroy, but of the unseen
life, of the unseen beauty of a higher life, you know
have lost life's secret. Oh, your English society seems
shallow, selfish, foolish. It has blinded its eyes, and
its ears. It lies like a leper in purple. It sits like a
thing smeared with gold. It is all wrong, all wrong.
LADY STUTFIELD. I don't think one should know of these
is not very, very nice, is it?
LADY HUNSTANTON. My dear Miss Worsley, I thought you
society so much. You were such a success in it. And you
much admired by the best people. I quite forget what
Weston said of you - but it was most complimentary, and
what an authority he is on beauty.
HESTER. Lord Henry Weston! I remember him, Lady
man with a hideous smile and a hideous past. He is asked
everywhere. No dinner-party is complete without him.
those whose ruin is due to him? They are outcasts. They
nameless. If you met them in the street you would turn
away. I don't complain of their punishment. Let all
have sinned be punished.
[MRS. ARBUTHNOT enters from terrace behind in a cloak
with a lace
veil over her head. She hears the last words and
LADY HUNSTANTON. My dear young lady!
HESTER. It is right that they should be punished, but
them be the only ones to suffer. If a man and woman have
let them both go forth into the desert to love or loathe
there. Let them both be branded. Set a mark, if you
each, but don't punish the one and let the other go
have one law for men and another for women. You are
women in England. And till you count what is a shame in
a woman to
be an infamy in a man, you will always be unjust, and
pillar of fire, and Wrong, that pillar of cloud, will be
to your eyes, or be not seen at all, or if seen, not
LADY CAROLINE. Might I, dear Miss Worsley, as you are
ask you for my cotton that is just behind you? Thank
LADY HUNSTANTON. My dear Mrs. Arbuthnot! I am so pleased
come up. But I didn't hear you announced.
MRS. ALLONBY. Oh, I came straight in from the terrace,
Hunstanton, just as I was. You didn't tell me you had a
LADY HUNSTANTON. Not a party. Only a few guests who are
in the house, and whom you must know. Allow me. [Tries
her. Rings bell.] Caroline, this is Mrs. Arbuthnot, one
sweetest friends. Lady Caroline Pontefract, Lady
Allonby, and my young American friend, Miss Worsley, who
been telling us all how wicked we are.
HESTER. I am afraid you think I spoke too strongly, Lady
Hunstanton. But there are some things in England -
LADY HUNSTANTON. My dear young lady, there was a great
truth, I dare say, in what you said, and you looked very
while you said it, which is much more important, Lord
would tell us. The only point where I thought you were a
hard was about Lady Caroline's brother, about poor Lord
is really such good company.
Take Mrs. Arbuthnot's things.
[Exit Footman with wraps.]
HESTER. Lady Caroline, I had no idea it was your
brother. I am
sorry for the pain I must have caused you - I -
LADY CAROLINE. My dear Miss Worsley, the only part of
speech, if I may so term it, with which I thoroughly
the part about my brother. Nothing that you could
could be too bad for him. I regard Henry as infamous,
infamous. But I am bound to state, as you were
that he is excellent company, and he has one of the best
London, and after a good dinner one can forgive anybody,
LADY HUNSTANTON [to MISS WORSLEY] Now, do come, dear,
friends with Mrs. Arbuthnot. She is one of the good,
people you told us we never admitted into society. I am
say Mrs. Arbuthnot comes very rarely to me. But that is
MRS. ALLONBY. What a bore it is the men staying so long
dinner! I expect they are saying the most dreadful
LADY STUTFIELD. Do you really think so?
MRS. ALLONBY. I was sure of it.
LADY STUTFIELD. How very, very horrid of them! Shall we
MRS. ALLONBY. Oh, anything to get away from the dowagers
dowdies. [Rises and goes with LADY STUTFIELD to door
L.C.] We are
only going to look at the stars, Lady Hunstanton.
LADY HUNSTANTON. You will find a great many, dear, a
But don't catch cold. [To MRS. ARBUTHNOT.] We shall all
Gerald so much, dear Mrs. Arbuthnot.
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. But has Lord Illingworth really offered
Gerald his secretary?
LADY HUNSTANTON. Oh, yes! He has been most charming
about it. He
has the highest possible opinion of your boy. You don't
Illingworth, I believe, dear.
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. I have never met him.
LADY HUNSTANTON. You know him by name, no doubt?
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. I am afraid I don't. I live so much out
world, and see so few people. I remember hearing years
ago of an
old Lord Illingworth who lived in Yorkshire, I think.
LADY HUNSTANTON. Ah, yes. That would be the last Earl
He was a very curious man. He wanted to marry beneath
wouldn't, I believe. There was some scandal about it.
Lord Illingworth is quite different. He is very
does - well, he does nothing, which I am afraid our
visitor here thinks very wrong of anybody, and I don't
know that he
cares much for the subjects in which you are so
Mrs. Arbuthnot. Do you think, Caroline, that Lord
interested in the Housing of the Poor?
LADY CAROLINE. I should fancy not at all, Jane.
LADY HUNSTANTON. We all have our different tastes, have
But Lord Illingworth has a very high position, and there
he couldn't get if he chose to ask for it. Of course, he
comparatively a young man still, and he has only come to
within - how long exactly is it, Caroline, since Lord
LADY CAROLINE. About four years, I think, Jane. I know
it was the
same year in which my brother had his last exposure in
LADY HUNSTANTON. Ah, I remember. That would be about
ago. Of course, there were a great many people between
Lord Illingworth and the title, Mrs. Arbuthnot. There
was - who
was there, Caroline?
LADY CAROLINE. There was poor Margaret's baby. You
anxious she was to have a boy, and it was a boy, but it
her husband died shortly afterwards, and she married
immediately one of Lord Ascot's sons, who, I am told,
LADY HUNSTANTON. Ah, that is in the family, dear, that
is in the
family. And there was also, I remember, a clergyman who
be a lunatic, or a lunatic who wanted to be a clergyman,
which, but I know the Court of Chancery investigated the
and decided that he was quite sane. And I saw him
poor Lord Plumstead's with straws in his hair, or
odd about him. I can't recall what. I often regret, Lady
Caroline, that dear Lady Cecilia never lived to see her
son get the
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Lady Cecilia?
LADY HUNSTANTON. Lord Illingworth's mother, dear Mrs.
was one of the Duchess of Jerningham's pretty daughters,
married Sir Thomas Harford, who wasn't considered a very
for her at the time, though he was said to be the
handsomest man in
London. I knew them all quite intimately, and both the
Arthur and George.
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. It was the eldest son who succeeded, of
LADY HUNSTANTON. No, dear, he was killed in the hunting
was it fishing, Caroline? I forget. But George came in
everything. I always tell him that no younger son has
such good luck as he has had.
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Lady Hunstanton, I want to speak to
once. Might I see him? Can he be sent for?
LADY HUNSTANTON. Certainly, dear. I will send one of the
into the dining-room to fetch him. I don't know what
gentlemen so long. [Rings bell.] When I knew Lord
first as plain George Harford, he was simply a very
man about town, with not a penny of money except what
Lady Cecilia gave him. She was quite devoted to him.
fancy, because he was on bad terms with his father. Oh,
the dear Archdeacon. [To Servant.] It doesn't matter.
[Enter SIR JOHN and DOCTOR DAUBENY. SIR JOHN goes over
STUTFIELD, DOCTOR DAUBENY to LADY HUNSTANTON.]
THE ARCHDEACON. Lord Illingworth has been most
have never enjoyed myself more. [Sees MRS. ARBUTHNOT.]
LADY HUNSTANTON. [To DOCTOR DAUBENY.] You see I have got
Arbuthnot to come to me at last.
THE ARCHDEACON. That is a great honour, Lady Hunstanton.
Daubeny will be quite jealous of you.
LADY HUNSTANTON. Ah, I am so sorry Mrs. Daubeny could
with you to-night. Headache as usual, I suppose.
THE ARCHDEACON. Yes, Lady Hunstanton; a perfect martyr.
is happiest alone. She is happiest alone.
LADY CAROLINE. [To her husband.] John! [SIR JOHN goes
his wife. DOCTOR DAUBENY talks to LADY HUNSTANTON and
[MRS. ARBUTHNOT watches LORD ILLINGWORTH the whole time.
passed across the room without noticing her, and
ALLONBY, who with LADY STUTFIELD is standing by the door
to the terrace.]
LORD ILLINGWORTH. How is the most charming woman in the
MRS. ALLONBY. [Taking LADY STUTFIELD by the hand.] We
quite well, thank you, Lord Illingworth. But what a
short time you
have been in the dining-room! It seems as if we had only
LORD ILLINGWORTH. I was bored to death. Never opened my
whole time. Absolutely longing to come in to you.
MRS. ALLONBY. You should have. The American girl has
us a lecture.
LORD ILLINGWORTH. Really? All Americans lecture, I
suppose it is something in their climate. What did she
MRS. ALLONBY. Oh, Puritanism, of course.
LORD ILLINGWORTH. I am going to convert her, am I not?
do you give me?
MRS. ALLONBY. A week.
LORD ILLINGWORTH. A week is more than enough.
[Enter GERALD and LORD ALFRED.]
GERALD. [Going to MRS. ARBUTHNOT.] Dear mother!
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Gerald, I don't feel at all well. See me
Gerald. I shouldn't have come.
GERALD. I am so sorry, mother. Certainly. But you must
Illingworth first. [Goes across room.]
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Not to-night, Gerald.
GERALD. Lord Illingworth, I want you so much to know my
LORD ILLINGWORTH. With the greatest pleasure. [To MRS.
I'll be back in a moment. People's mothers always bore
death. All women become like their mothers. That is
MRS. ALLONBY. No man does. That is his.
LORD ILLINGWORTH. What a delightful mood you are in
[Turns round and goes across with GERALD to MRS.
he sees her, he starts back in wonder. Then slowly his
GERALD. Mother, this is Lord Illingworth, who has
offered to take
me as his private secretary. [MRS. ARBUTHNOT bows
coldly.] It is
a wonderful opening for me, isn't it? I hope he won't be
disappointed in me, that is all. You'll thank Lord
mother, won't you?
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Lord Illingworth in very good, I am
interest himself in you for the moment.
LORD ILLINGWORTH. [Putting his hand on GERALD's
Gerald and I are great friends already, Mrs . . .
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. There can be nothing in common between
you and my
son, Lord Illingworth.
GERALD. Dear mother, how can you say so? Of course Lord
Illingworth is awfully clever and that sort of thing.
nothing Lord Illingworth doesn't know.
LORD ILLINGWORTH. My dear boy!
GERALD. He knows more about life than any one I have
ever met. I
feel an awful duffer when I am with you, Lord
course, I have had so few advantages. I have not been to
Oxford like other chaps. But Lord Illingworth doesn't
seem to mind
that. He has been awfully good to me, mother.
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Lord Illingworth may change his mind. He
really want you as his secretary.
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. You must remember, as you said yourself,
had so few advantages.
MRS. ALLONBY. Lord Illingworth, I want to speak to you
moment. Do come over.
LORD ILLINGWORTH. Will you excuse me, Mrs. Arbuthnot?
let your charming mother make any more difficulties,
thing is quite settled, isn't it?
GERALD. I hope so. [LORD ILLINGWORTH goes across to MRS.
MRS. ALLONBY. I thought you were never going to leave
the lady in
LORD ILLINGWORTH. She is excessively handsome. [Looks at
LADY HUNSTANTON. Caroline, shall we all make a move to
room? Miss Worsley is going to play. You'll come too,
Arbuthnot, won't you? You don't know what a treat is in
you. [To DOCTOR DAUBENY.] I must really take Miss
some afternoon to the rectory. I should so much like
Daubeny to hear her on the violin. Ah, I forgot. Dear
Daubeny's hearing is a little defective, is it not?
THE ARCHDEACON. Her deafness is a great privation to
can't even hear my sermons now. She reads them at home.
has many resources in herself, many resources.
LADY HUNSTANTON. She reads a good deal, I suppose?
THE ARCHDEACON. Just the very largest print. The
rapidly going. But she's never morbid, never morbid.
GERALD. [To LORD ILLINGWORTH.] Do speak to my mother,
Illingworth, before you go into the music-room. She
think, somehow, you don't mean what you said to me.
MRS. ALLONBY. Aren't you coming?
LORD ILLINGWORTH. In a few moments. Lady Hunstanton, if
Arbuthnot would allow me, I would like to say a few
words to her,
and we will join you later on.
LADY HUNSTANTON. Ah, of course. You will have a great
deal to say
to her, and she will have a great deal to thank you for.
It is not
every son who gets such an offer, Mrs. Arbuthnot. But I
appreciate that, dear.
LADY CAROLINE. John!
LADY HUNSTANTON. Now, don't keep Mrs. Arbuthnot too
Illingworth. We can't spare her.
[Exit following the other guests. Sound of violin heard
LORD ILLINGWORTH. So that is our son, Rachel! Well, I am
proud of him. He in a Harford, every inch of him. By the
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. One name is as good as another, when one
right to any name.
LORD ILLINGWORTH. I suppose so - but why Gerald?
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. After a man whose heart I broke - after
LORD ILLINGWORTH. Well, Rachel, what in over is over.
All I have
got to say now in that I am very, very much pleased with
The world will know him merely as my private secretary,
but to me
he will be something very near, and very dear. It is a
thing, Rachel; my life seemed to be quite complete. It
was not so.
It lacked something, it lacked a son. I have found my
son now, I
am glad I have found him.
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. You have no right to claim him, or the
part of him. The boy is entirely mine, and shall remain
LORD ILLINGWORTH. My dear Rachel, you have had him to
over twenty years. Why not let me have him for a little
is quite as much mine as yours.
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Are you talking of the child you
the child who, as far as you are concerned, might have
hunger and of want?
LORD ILLINGWORTH. You forget, Rachel, it was you who
left me. It
was not I who left you.
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. I left you because you refused to give
the child a
name. Before my son was born, I implored you to marry
LORD ILLINGWORTH. I had no expectations then. And
Rachel, I wasn't much older than you were. I was only
I was twenty-one, I believe, when the whole thing began
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. When a man is old enough to do wrong he
old enough to do right also.
LORD ILLINGWORTH. My dear Rachel, intellectual
always interesting, but generalities in morals mean
nothing. As for saying I left our child to starve, that,
course, is untrue and silly. My mother offered you six
year. But you wouldn't take anything. You simply
carried the child away with you.
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. I wouldn't have accepted a penny from
father was different. He told you, in my presence, when
we were in
Paris, that it was your duty to marry me.
LORD ILLINGWORTH. Oh, duty is what one expects from
others, it is
not what one does oneself. Of course, I was influenced
mother. Every man is when he is young.
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. I am glad to hear you say so. Gerald
certainly not go away with you.
LORD ILLINGWORTH. What nonsense, Rachel!
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Do you think I would allow my son -
LORD ILLINGWORTH. OUR son.
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. My son [LORD ILLINGWORTH shrugs his
to go away with the man who spoiled my youth, who ruined
who has tainted every moment of my days? You don't
realise what my
past has been in suffering and in shame.
LORD ILLINGWORTH. My dear Rachel, I must candidly say
that I think
Gerald's future considerably more important than your
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. Gerald cannot separate his future from
LORD ILLINGWORTH. That is exactly what he should do.
exactly what you should help him to do. What a typical
are! You talk sentimentally, and you are thoroughly
whole time. But don't let us have a scene. Rachel, I
want you to
look at this matter from the common-sense point of view,
point of view of what is best for our son, leaving you
and me out
of the question. What is our son at present? An
in a small Provincial Bank in a third-rate English town.
imagine he is quite happy in such a position, you are
is thoroughly discontented.
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. He was not discontented till he met you.
made him so.
LORD ILLINGWORTH. Of course, I made him so. Discontent
first step in the progress of a man or a nation. But I
leave him with a mere longing for things he could not
get. No, I
made him a charming offer. He jumped at it, I need
Any young man would. And now, simply because it turns
out that I
am the boy's own father and he my own son, you propose
to ruin his career. That is to say, if I were a perfect
you would allow Gerald to go away with me, but as he is
flesh and blood you won't. How utterly illogical you
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. I will not allow him to go.
LORD ILLINGWORTH. How can you prevent it? What excuse
give to him for making him decline such an offer as
mine? I won't
tell him in what relations I stand to him, I need hardly
you daren't tell him. You know that. Look how you have
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. I have brought him up to be a good man.
LORD ILLINGWORTH. Quite so. And what is the result? You
educated him to be your judge if he ever finds you out.
bitter, an unjust judge he will be to you. Don't be
Rachel. Children begin by loving their parents. After a
judge them. Rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. George, don't take my son away from me.
had twenty years of sorrow, and I have only had one
thing to love
me, only one thing to love. You have had a life of joy,
pleasure, and success. You have been quite happy, you
thought of us. There was no reason, according to your
life, why you should have remembered us at all. Your
was a mere accident, a horrible accident. Forget it.
now, and rob me of . . . of all I have in the whole
world. You are
so rich in other things. Leave me the little vineyard of
leave me the walled-in garden and the well of water; the
God sent me, in pity or in wrath, oh! leave me that.
take Gerald from me.
LORD ILLINGWORTH. Rachel, at the present moment you are
necessary to Gerald's career; I am. There is nothing
more to be
said on the subject.
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. I will not let him go.
LORD ILLINGWORTH. Here is Gerald. He has a right to
GERALD. Well, dear mother, I hope you have settled it
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. I have not, Gerald.
LORD ILLINGWORTH. Your mother seems not to like your
me, for some reason.
GERALD. Why, mother?
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. I thought you were quite happy here with
Gerald. I didn't know you were so anxious to leave me.
GERALD. Mother, how can you talk like that? Of course I
quite happy with you. But a man can't stay always with
No chap does. I want to make myself a position, to do
I thought you would have been proud to see me Lord
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. I do not think you would be suitable as
secretary to Lord Illingworth. You have no
LORD ILLINGWORTH. I don't wish to seem to interfere for
Mrs. Arbuthnot, but as far as your last objection is
surely am the best judge. And I can only tell you that
has all the qualifications I had hoped for. He has more,
than I had even thought of. Far more. [MRS. ARBUTHNOT
silent.] Have you any other reason, Mrs. Arbuthnot, why
wish your son to accept this post?
GERALD. Have you, mother? Do answer.
LORD ILLINGWORTH. If you have, Mrs. Arbuthnot, pray,
pray say it.
We are quite by ourselves here. Whatever it is, I need
not say I
will not repeat it.
LORD ILLINGWORTH. If you would like to be alone with
your son, I
will leave you. You may have some other reason you don't
MRS. ARBUTHNOT. I have no other reason.
LORD ILLINGWORTH. Then, my dear boy, we may look on the
settled. Come, you and I will smoke a cigarette on the
together. And Mrs. Arbuthnot, pray let me tell you, that
you have acted very, very wisely.
[Exit with GERALD. MRS. ARBUTHNOT is left alone. She
immobile with a look of unutterable sorrow on her face.]