The Importance of Being Earnest By Oscar Wilde Act II: Part 1

MISS PRISM.
What a lesson for him! I trust he will profit by it.

CHASUBLE.
Mr. Worthing, I offer you my sincere condolence. You have at least the consolation of knowing that you were always the most generous and forgiving of brothers.

JACK.
Poor Ernest! He had many faults, but it is a sad, sad blow.

CHASUBLE.
Very sad indeed. Were you with him at the end?

JACK.
No. He died abroad; in Paris, in fact. I had a telegram last night from the manager of the Grand Hotel.

CHASUBLE.
Was the cause of death mentioned?

JACK.
A severe chill, it seems.

MISS PRISM.
As a man sows, so shall he reap.

CHASUBLE.
[Raising his hand.] Charity, dear Miss Prism, charity! None of us are perfect. I myself am peculiarly susceptible to draughts. Will the interment take place here?

JACK.
No. He seems to have expressed a desire to be buried in Paris.

CHASUBLE.
In Paris! [Shakes his head.] I fear that hardly points to any very serious state of mind at the last. You would no doubt wish me to make some slight allusion to this tragic domestic affliction next Sunday. [Jack presses his hand convulsively.] My sermon on the meaning of the manna in the wilderness can be adapted to almost any occasion, joyful, or, as in the present case, distressing. [All sigh.] I have preached it at harvest celebrations, christenings, confirmations, on days of humiliation and festal days. The last time I delivered it was in the Cathedral, as a charity sermon on behalf of the Society for the Prevention of Discontent among the Upper Orders. The Bishop, who was present, was much struck by some of the analogies I drew.

JACK.
Ah! that reminds me, you mentioned christenings I think, Dr. Chasuble? I suppose you know how to christen all right? [Dr. Chasuble looks astounded.] I mean, of course, you are continually christening, aren't you?

MISS PRISM.
It is, I regret to say, one of the Rector's most constant duties in this parish. I have often spoken to the poorer classes on the subject. But they don't seem to know what thrift is.

CHASUBLE.
But is there any particular infant in whom you are interested, Mr. Worthing? Your brother was, I believe, unmarried, was he not?

JACK.
Oh yes.

MISS PRISM.
[Bitterly.] People who live entirely for pleasure usually are.

JACK.
But it is not for any child, dear Doctor. I am very fond of children. No! the fact is, I would like to be christened myself, this afternoon, if you have nothing better to do.

CHASUBLE.
But surely, Mr. Worthing, you have been christened already?

JACK.
I don't remember anything about it.

CHASUBLE.
But have you any grave doubts on the subject?

JACK.
I certainly intend to have. Of course I don't know if the thing would bother you in any way, or if you think I am a little too old now.

CHASUBLE.
Not at all. The sprinkling, and, indeed, the immersion of adults is a perfectly canonical practice.

JACK.
Immersion!

CHASUBLE.
You need have no apprehensions. Sprinkling is all that is necessary, or indeed I think advisable. Our weather is so changeable. At what hour would you wish the ceremony performed?

JACK.
Oh, I might trot round about five if that would suit you.

CHASUBLE.
Perfectly, perfectly! In fact I have two similar ceremonies to perform at that time. A case of twins that occurred recently in one of the outlying cottages on your own estate. Poor Jenkins the carter, a most hard-working man.

JACK.
Oh! I don't see much fun in being christened along with other babies. It would be childish. Would half-past five do?

CHASUBLE.
Admirably! Admirably! [Takes out watch.] And now, dear Mr. Worthing, I will not intrude any longer into a house of sorrow. I would merely beg you not to be too much bowed down by grief. What seem to us bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.

MISS PRISM.
This seems to me a blessing of an extremely obvious kind.

[Enter Cecily from the house.]

CECILY.
Uncle Jack! Oh, I am pleased to see you back. But what horrid clothes you have got on! Do go and change them.

MISS PRISM.
Cecily!

CHASUBLE.
My child! my child! [Cecily goes towards Jack; he kisses her brow in a melancholy manner.]

CECILY.
What is the matter, Uncle Jack? Do look happy! You look as if you had toothache, and I have got such a surprise for you. Who do you think is in the dining-room? Your brother!

JACK.
Who?

CECILY.
Your brother Ernest. He arrived about half an hour ago.

JACK.
What nonsense! I haven't got a brother.

CECILY.
Oh, don't say that. However badly he may have behaved to you in the past he is still your brother. You couldn't be so heartless as to disown him. I'll tell him to come out. And you will shake hands with him, won't you, Uncle Jack? [Runs back into the house.]

CHASUBLE.
These are very joyful tidings.

MISS PRISM.
After we had all been resigned to his loss, his sudden return seems to me peculiarly distressing.

JACK.
My brother is in the dining-room? I don't know what it all means. I think it is perfectly absurd.

[Enter Algernon and Cecily hand in hand. They come slowly up to Jack.]

JACK.
Good heavens! [Motions Algernon away.]

ALGERNON.
Brother John, I have come down from town to tell you that I am very sorry for all the trouble I have given you, and that I intend to lead a better life in the future. [Jack glares at him and does not take his hand.]

CECILY.
Uncle Jack, you are not going to refuse your own brother's hand?

JACK.
Nothing will induce me to take his hand. I think his coming down here disgraceful. He knows perfectly well why.

CECILY.
Uncle Jack, do be nice. There is some good in every one. Ernest has just been telling me about his poor invalid friend Mr. Bunbury whom he goes to visit so often. And surely there must be much good in one who is kind to an invalid, and leaves the pleasures of London to sit by a bed of pain.

JACK.
Oh! he has been talking about Bunbury, has he?

CECILY.
Yes, he has told me all about poor Mr. Bunbury, and his terrible state of health.

JACK.
Bunbury! Well, I won't have him talk to you about Bunbury or about anything else. It is enough to drive one perfectly frantic.

ALGERNON.
Of course I admit that the faults were all on my side. But I must say that I think that Brother John's coldness to me is peculiarly painful. I expected a more enthusiastic welcome, especially considering it is the first time I have come here.

CECILY.
Uncle Jack, if you don't shake hands with Ernest I will never forgive you.

JACK.
Never forgive me?

CECILY.
Never, never, never!

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