Out of the house?
PARKER. Yes, madam - her ladyship told me she had left a letter for his lordship on the table.
MRS. ERLYNNE. A letter for Lord Windermere?
PARKER. Yes, madam.
MRS. ERLYNNE. Thank you.
[Exit PARKER. The music in the ball-room stops.] Gone out of her house! A letter addressed to her husband! [Goes over to bureau and looks at letter. Takes it up and lays it down again with a shudder of fear.] No, no! It would be impossible! Life doesn’t repeat its tragedies like that! Oh, why does this horrible fancy come across me? Why do I remember now the one moment of my life I most wish to forget? Does life repeat its tragedies? [Tears letter open and reads it, then sinks down into a chair with a gesture of anguish.] Oh, how terrible! The same words that twenty years ago I wrote to her father! and how bitterly I have been punished for it! No; my punishment, my real punishment is to-night, is now! [Still seated R.]
[Enter LORD WINDERMERE L.U.E.]
LORD WINDERMERE. Have you said good-night to my wife? [Comes C.]
MRS. ERLYNNE. [Crushing letter in her hand.] Yes.
LORD WINDERMERE. Where is she?
MRS. ERLYNNE. She is very tired. She has gone to bed. She said she had a headache.
LORD WINDERMERE. I must go to her. You’ll excuse me?
MRS. ERLYNNE. [Rising hurriedly.] Oh, no! It’s nothing serious. She’s only very tired, that is all. Besides, there are people still in the supper-room. She wants you to make her apologies to them. She said she didn’t wish to be disturbed. [Drops letter.] She asked me to tell you!
LORD WINDERMERE. [Picks up letter.] You have dropped something.
MRS. ERLYNNE. Oh yes, thank you, that is mine. [Puts out her hand to take it.]
LORD WINDERMERE. [Still looking at letter.] But it’s my wife’s handwriting, isn’t it?
MRS. ERLYNNE. [Takes the letter quickly.] Yes, it’s - an address. Will you ask them to call my carriage, please?
LORD WINDERMERE. Certainly.
[Goes L. and Exit.]
MRS. ERLYNNE. Thanks! What can I do? What can I do? I feel a passion awakening within me that I never felt before. What can it mean? The daughter must not be like the mother - that would be terrible. How can I save her? How can I save my child? A moment may ruin a life. Who knows that better than I? Windermere must be got out of the house; that is absolutely necessary. [Goes L.] But how shall I do it? It must be done somehow. Ah!
[Enter LORD AUGUSTUS R.U.E. carrying bouquet.]
LORD AUGUSTUS. Dear lady, I am in such suspense! May I not have an answer to my request?
MRS. ERLYNNE. Lord Augustus, listen to me. You are to take Lord Windermere down to your club at once, and keep him there as long as possible. You understand?
LORD AUGUSTUS. But you said you wished me to keep early hours!
MRS. ERLYNNE. [Nervously.] Do what I tell you. Do what I tell you.
LORD AUGUSTUS. And my reward?
MRS. ERLYNNE. Your reward? Your reward? Oh! ask me that to-morrow. But don’t let Windermere out of your sight to-night. If you do I will never forgive you. I will never speak to you again. I’ll have nothing to do with you. Remember you are to keep Windermere at your club, and don’t let him come back to-night.
LORD AUGUSTUS. Well, really, I might be her husband already. Positively I might. [Follows her in a bewildered manner.]
Lord Darlington’s Rooms. A large sofa is in front of fireplace R. At the back of the stage a curtain is drawn across the window. Doors L. and R. Table R. with writing materials. Table C. with syphons, glasses, and Tantalus frame. Table L. with cigar and cigarette box. Lamps lit.
LADY WINDERMERE. [Standing by the fireplace.] Why doesn’t he come? This waiting is horrible. He should be here. Why is he not here, to wake by passionate words some fire within me? I am cold - cold as a loveless thing. Arthur must have read my letter by this time. If he cared for me, he would have come after me, would have taken me back by force. But he doesn’t care. He’s entrammelled by this woman - fascinated by her - dominated by her. If a woman wants to hold a man, she has merely to appeal to what is worst in him. We make gods of men and they leave us. Others make brutes of them and they fawn and are faithful. How hideous life is! . . . Oh! it was mad of me to come here, horribly mad. And yet, which is the worst, I wonder, to be at the mercy of a man who loves one, or the wife of a man who in one’s own house dishonours one? What woman knows? What woman in the whole world? But will he love me always, this man to whom I am giving my life? What do I bring him? Lips that have lost the note of joy, eyes that are blinded by tears, chill hands and icy heart. I bring him nothing. I must go back - no; I can’t go back, my letter has put me in their power - Arthur would not take me back! That fatal letter! No! Lord Darlington leaves England to-morrow. I will go with him