Third Act

Scene: The picture gallery at Hunstanton. Door at back leading on to terrace. Lord Illingworth and Gerald, R.C. Lord Illingworth lolling on a sofa. Gerald in a chair

Lord Illingworth Thoroughly sensible woman, your mother, Gerald. I knew she would come round in the end.

Gerald My mother is awfully conscientious, Lord Illingworth, and I know she doesn’t think I am educated enough to be your secretary. She is perfectly right, too. I was fearfully idle when I was at school, and I couldn’t pass an examination now to save my life.

Lord Illingworth My dear Gerald, examinations are of no value whatsoever. If a man is a gentleman, he knows quite enough, and if he is not a gentleman, whatever he knows is bad for him.

Gerald But I am so ignorant of the world, Lord Illingworth.

Lord Illingworth Don’t be afraid, Gerald. Remember that you’ve got on your side the most wonderful thing in the world— youth! There is nothing like youth. The middle-aged are mortgaged to Life. The old are in Life’s lumber-room. But youth is the Lord of Life. Youth has a kingdom waiting for it. Everyone is born a king, and most people die in exile, like most kings. To win back my youth, Gerald, there is nothing I wouldn’t do—except take exercise, get up early, or be a useful member of the community.

Gerald But you don’t call yourself old, Lord Illingworth?

Lord Illingworth I am old enough to be your father, Gerald.

Gerald I don’t remember my father; he died years ago.

Lord Illingworth So Lady Hunstanton told me.

Gerald It is very curious, my mother never talks to me about my father. I sometimes think she must have married beneath her.

Lord Illingworth (winces slightly) Really? (Goes over and puts his hand on Gerald’s shoulder)° You have missed not having a father, I suppose, Gerald?

Gerald Oh, no; my mother has been so good to me. No one ever had such a mother as I have had.

Lord Illingworth I am quite sure of that. Still I should imagine that most mothers don’t quite understand their sons. Don’t realize, I mean, that a son has ambitions, a desire to see life, to make himself a name. After all, Gerald, you couldn’t be expected to pass all your life in such a hole as Wrockley, could you?

Gerald Oh, no! It would be dreadful!

Lord Illingworth A mother’s love is very touching, of course, but it is often curiously selfish. I mean, there is a good deal of selfishness in it.

Gerald (slowly) I suppose there is.

Lord Illingworth Your mother is a thoroughly good woman. But good women have such limited views of life, their horizon is so small, their interests are so petty, aren’t they?

Gerald They are awfully interested, certainly, in things we don’t care much about.

Lord Illingworth I suppose your mother is very religious, and that sort of thing.

Gerald Oh, yes, she’s always going to church.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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