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 anyone 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, tomorrow, then. Ah, if you had a father, Gerald, he wouldn’t let you waste your life here. He would send you off to 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.

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