Oscar Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest

3. THIRD ACT (continued)

JACK. I am.

CECILY. [To ALGERNON.] To please me you are ready to face this fearful ordeal?


GWENDOLEN. How absurd to talk of the equality of the sexes! Where questions of self-sacrifice are concerned, men are infinitely beyond us.

JACK. We are. [Clasps hands with ALGERNON.]

CECILY. They have moments of physical courage of which we women know absolutely nothing.

GWENDOLEN. [To JACK.] Darling!

ALGERNON. [To CECILY.] Darling! [They fall into each other's arms.]

[Enter MERRIMAN. When he enters he coughs loudly, seeing the situation.]

MERRIMAN. Ahem! Ahem! Lady Bracknell!

JACK. Good heavens!

[Enter LADY BRACKNELL. The couples separate in alarm. Exit MERRIMAN.]

LADY BRACKNELL. Gwendolen! What does this mean?

GWENDOLEN. Merely that I am engaged to be married to Mr. Worthing, mamma.

LADY BRACKNELL. Come here. Sit down. Sit down immediately. Hesitation of any kind is a sign of mental decay in the young, of physical weakness in the old. [Turns to JACK.] Apprised, sir, of my daughter's sudden flight by her trusty maid, whose confidence I purchased by means of a small coin, I followed her at once by a luggage train. Her unhappy father is, I am glad to say, under the impression that she is attending a more than usually lengthy lecture by the University Extension Scheme on the Influence of a permanent income on Thought. I do not propose to undeceive him. Indeed I have never undeceived him on any question. I would consider it wrong. But of course, you will clearly understand that all communication between yourself and my daughter must cease immediately from this moment. On this point, as indeed on all points, I am firm.

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