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

ALGERNON.
Oh, I don't care about Jack. I don't care for anybody in the whole world but you. I love you, Cecily. You will marry me, won't you?

CECILY.
You silly boy! Of course. Why, we have been engaged for the last three months.

ALGERNON.
For the last three months?

CECILY.
Yes, it will be exactly three months on Thursday.

ALGERNON.
But how did we become engaged?

CECILY.
Well, ever since dear Uncle Jack first confessed to us that he had a younger brother who was very wicked and bad, you of course have formed the chief topic of conversation between myself and Miss Prism. And of course a man who is much talked about is always very attractive. One feels there must be something in him, after all. I daresay it was foolish of me, but I fell in love with you, Ernest.

ALGERNON.
Darling! And when was the engagement actually settled?

CECILY.
On the 14th of February last. Worn out by your entire ignorance of my existence, I determined to end the matter one way or the other, and after a long struggle with myself I accepted you under this dear old tree here. The next day I bought this little ring in your name, and this is the little bangle with the true lover's knot I promised you always to wear.

ALGERNON.
Did I give you this? It's very pretty, isn't it?

CECILY.
Yes, you've wonderfully good taste, Ernest. It's the excuse I've always given for your leading such a bad life. And this is the box in which I keep all your dear letters. [Kneels at table, opens box, and produces letters tied up with blue ribbon.]

ALGERNON.
My letters! But, my own sweet Cecily, I have never written you any letters.

CECILY.
You need hardly remind me of that, Ernest. I remember only too well that I was forced to write your letters for you. I wrote always three times a week, and sometimes oftener.

ALGERNON.
Oh, do let me read them, Cecily?

CECILY.
Oh, I couldn't possibly. They would make you far too conceited. [Replaces box.] The three you wrote me after I had broken off the engagement are so beautiful, and so badly spelled, that even now I can hardly read them without crying a little.

ALGERNON.
But was our engagement ever broken off?

CECILY.
Of course it was. On the 22nd of last March. You can see the entry if you like. [Shows diary.] 'To-day I broke off my engagement with Ernest. I feel it is better to do so. The weather still continues charming.'

ALGERNON.
But why on earth did you break it off? What had I done? I had done nothing at all. Cecily, I am very much hurt indeed to hear you broke it off. Particularly when the weather was so charming.

CECILY.
It would hardly have been a really serious engagement if it hadn't been broken off at least once. But I forgave you before the week was out.

ALGERNON.
[Crossing to her, and kneeling.] What a perfect angel you are, Cecily.

CECILY.
You dear romantic boy. [He kisses her, she puts her fingers through his hair.] I hope your hair curls naturally, does it?

ALGERNON.
Yes, darling, with a little help from others.

CECILY.
I am so glad.

ALGERNON.
You'll never break off our engagement again, Cecily?

CECILY.
I don't think I could break it off now that I have actually met you. Besides, of course, there is the question of your name.

ALGERNON.
Yes, of course. [Nervously.]

CECILY.
You must not laugh at me, darling, but it had always been a girlish dream of mine to love some one whose name was Ernest. [Algernon rises, Cecily also.] There is something in that name that seems to inspire absolute confidence. I pity any poor married woman whose husband is not called Ernest.

ALGERNON.
But, my dear child, do you mean to say you could not love me if I had some other name?

CECILY.
But what name?

ALGERNON.
Oh, any name you like — Algernon — for instance . . .

CECILY.
But I don't like the name of Algernon.

ALGERNON.
Well, my own dear, sweet, loving little darling, I really can't see why you should object to the name of Algernon. It is not at all a bad name. In fact, it is rather an aristocratic name. Half of the chaps who get into the Bankruptcy Court are called Algernon. But seriously, Cecily . . . [Moving to her] . . . if my name was Algy, couldn't you love me?

CECILY.
[Rising.] I might respect you, Ernest, I might admire your character, but I fear that I should not be able to give you my undivided attention.

ALGERNON.
Ahem! Cecily! [Picking up hat.] Your Rector here is, I suppose, thoroughly experienced in the practice of all the rites and ceremonials of the Church?

CECILY.
Oh, yes. Dr. Chasuble is a most learned man. He has never written a single book, so you can imagine how much he knows.

ALGERNON.
I must see him at once on a most important christening — I mean on most important business.

CECILY.
Oh!

ALGERNON.
I shan't be away more than half an hour.

CECILY.
Considering that we have been engaged since February the 14th, and that I only met you to-day for the first time, I think it is rather hard that you should leave me for so long a period as half an hour. Couldn't you make it twenty minutes?

ALGERNON.
I'll be back in no time.

[Kisses her and rushes down the garden.]

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