WINDERMERE. I slept very badly.
LORD WINDERMERE. [Sitting on sofa with her.] I am so sorry. I came in dreadfully late, and didn’t like to wake you. You are crying, dear.
LADY WINDERMERE. Yes, I am crying, for I have something to tell you, Arthur.
LORD WINDERMERE. My dear child, you are not well. You’ve been doing too much. Let us go away to the country. You’ll be all right at Selby. The season is almost over. There is no use staying on. Poor darling! We’ll go away to-day, if you like. [Rises.] We can easily catch the 3.40. I’ll send a wire to Fannen. [Crosses and sits down at table to write a telegram.]
LADY WINDERMERE. Yes; let us go away to-day. No; I can’t go to-day, Arthur. There is some one I must see before I leave town - some one who has been kind to me.
LORD WINDERMERE. [Rising and leaning over sofa.] Kind to you?
LADY WINDERMERE. Far more than that. [Rises and goes to him.] I will tell you, Arthur, but only love me, love me as you used to love me.
LORD WINDERMERE. Used to? You are not thinking of that wretched woman who came here last night? [Coming round and sitting R. of her.] You don’t still imagine - no, you couldn’t.
LADY WINDERMERE. I don’t. I know now I was wrong and foolish.
LORD WINDERMERE. It was very good of you to receive her last night - but you are never to see her again.
LADY WINDERMERE. Why do you say that? [A pause.]
LORD WINDERMERE. [Holding her hand.] Margaret, I thought Mrs. Erlynne was a woman more sinned against than sinning, as the phrase goes. I thought she wanted to be good, to get back into a place that she had lost by a moment’s folly, to lead again a decent life. I believed what she told me - I was mistaken in her. She is bad - as bad as a woman can be.
LADY WINDERMERE. Arthur, Arthur, don’t talk so bitterly about any woman. I don’t think now that people can be divided into the good and the bad as though they were two separate races or creations. What are called good women may have terrible things in them, mad moods of recklessness, assertion, jealousy, sin. Bad women, as they are termed, may have in them sorrow, repentance, pity, sacrifice. And I don’t think Mrs. Erlynne a bad woman - I know she’s not.
LORD WINDERMERE. My dear child, the woman’s impossible. No matter what harm she tries to do us, you must never see her again. She is inadmissible anywhere.
LADY WINDERMERE. But I want to see her. I want her to come here.
LORD WINDERMERE. Never!
LADY WINDERMERE. She came here once as your guest. She must come now as mine. That is but fair.
LORD WINDERMERE. She should never have come here.
LADY WINDERMERE. [Rising.] It is too late, Arthur, to say that now. [Moves away.]
LORD WINDERMERE. [Rising.] Margaret, if you knew where Mrs. Erlynne went last night, after she left this house, you would not sit in the same room with her. It was absolutely shameless, the whole thing.
LADY WINDERMERE. Arthur, I can’t bear it any longer. I must tell you. Last night -
[Enter PARKER with a tray on which lie LADY WINDERMERE’S fan and a card.]
PARKER. Mrs. Erlynne has called to return your ladyship’s fan which she took away by mistake last night. Mrs. Erlynne has written a message on the card.
LADY WINDERMERE. Oh, ask Mrs. Erlynne to be kind enough to come up. [Reads card.] Say I shall be very glad to see her. [Exit PARKER.] She wants to see me, Arthur.
LORD WINDERMERE. [Takes card and looks at it.] Margaret, I beg you not to. Let me see her first, at any rate. She’s a very dangerous woman. She is the most dangerous woman I know. You don’t realise what you’re doing.
LADY WINDERMERE. It is right that I should see her.
LORD WINDERMERE. My child, you may be on the brink of a great sorrow. Don’t go to meet it. It is absolutely necessary that I should see her before you do.
LADY WINDERMERE. Why should it be necessary?
PARKER. Mrs. Erlynne.
[Enter MRS. ERLYNNE.]
MRS. ERLYNNE. How do you do, Lady Windermere? [To LORD WINDERMERE.] How do you do? Do you know, Lady Windermere, I am so sorry about your fan. I can’t imagine how I made such a silly mistake. Most stupid of me. And as I was driving in your direction, I thought I would take the opportunity of returning your property in person with many apologies for my carelessness, and of bidding you good-bye.
LADY WINDERMERE. Good-bye? [Moves towards sofa with MRS. ERLYNNE and sits down beside her.] Are you going away, then, Mrs. Erlynne?
MRS. ERLYNNE. Yes; I am going to live abroad again. The English climate doesn’t suit me. My - heart is affected here, and that I don’t like. I prefer living in the south. London is too full of fogs and - and serious people, Lord Windermere. Whether the fogs produce the serious people or whether the serious people produce the fogs, I don’t know, but the whole thing rather gets on my nerves, and so I’m leaving this afternoon by the Club Train.
LADY WINDERMERE. This afternoon? But I wanted so much to come and see you.
MRS. ERLYNNE. How kind of you! But I am afraid I have to go.
LADY WINDERMERE. Shall I never