DUCHESS OF BERWICK. Oh, men don’t matter. With women it is different. We’re good. Some of us are, at least. But we are positively getting elbowed into the corner. Our husbands would really forget our existence if we didn’t nag at them from time to time, just to remind them that we have a perfect legal right to do so.
LORD DARLINGTON. It’s a curious thing, Duchess, about the game of marriage - a game, by the way, that is going out of fashion - the wives hold all the honours, and invariably lose the odd trick.
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. The odd trick? Is that the husband, Lord Darlington?
LORD DARLINGTON. It would be rather a good name for the modern husband.
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. Dear Lord Darlington, how thoroughly depraved you are!
LADY WINDERMERE. Lord Darlington is trivial.
LORD DARLINGTON. Ah, don’t say that, Lady Windermere.
LADY WINDERMERE. Why do you talk so trivially about life, then?
LORD DARLINGTON. Because I think that life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it. [Moves up C.]
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. What does he mean? Do, as a concession to my poor wits, Lord Darlington, just explain to me what you really mean.
LORD DARLINGTON. [Coming down back of table.] I think I had better not, Duchess. Nowadays to be intelligible is to be found out. Good-bye! [Shakes hands with DUCHESS.] And now - [goes up stage] Lady Windermere, good-bye. I may come to-night, mayn’t I? Do let me come.
LADY WINDERMERE. [Standing up stage with LORD DARLINGTON.] Yes, certainly. But you are not to say foolish, insincere things to people.
LORD DARLINGTON. [Smiling.] Ah! you are beginning to reform me. It is a dangerous thing to reform any one, Lady Windermere. [Bows, and exit C.]
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. [Who has risen, goes C.] What a charming, wicked creature! I like him so much. I’m quite delighted he’s gone! How sweet you’re looking! Where do you get your gowns? And now I must tell you how sorry I am for you, dear Margaret. [Crosses to sofa and sits with LADY WINDERMERE.] Agatha, darling!
LADY AGATHA. Yes, mamma. [Rises.]
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. Will you go and look over the photograph album that I see there?
LADY AGATHA. Yes, mamma. [Goes to table up L.]
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. Dear girl! She is so fond of photographs of Switzerland. Such a pure taste, I think. But I really am so sorry for you, Margaret
LADY WINDERMERE. [Smiling.] Why, Duchess?
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. Oh, on account of that horrid woman. She dresses so well, too, which makes it much worse, sets such a dreadful example. Augustus - you know my disreputable brother - such a trial to us all - well, Augustus is completely infatuated about her. It is quite scandalous, for she is absolutely inadmissible into society. Many a woman has a past, but I am told that she has at least a dozen, and that they all fit.
LADY WINDERMERE. Whom are you talking about, Duchess?
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. About Mrs. Erlynne.
LADY WINDERMERE. Mrs. Erlynne? I never heard of her, Duchess. And what has she to do with me?
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. My poor child! Agatha, darling!
LADY AGATHA. Yes, mamma.
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. Will you go out on the terrace and look at the sunset?
LADY AGATHA. Yes, mamma. [Exit through window, L.]
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. Sweet girl! So devoted to sunsets! Shows such refinement of feeling, does it not? After all, there is nothing like Nature, is there?
LADY WINDERMERE. But what is it, Duchess? Why do you talk to me about this person?
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. Don’t you really know? I assure you we’re all so distressed about it. Only last night at dear Lady Jansen’s every one was saying how extraordinary it was that, of all men in London, Windermere should behave in such a way.
LADY WINDERMERE. My husband - what has he got to do with any woman of that kind?
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. Ah, what indeed, dear? That is the point. He goes to see her continually, and stops for hours at a time, and while he is there she is not at home to any one. Not that many ladies call on her, dear, but she has a great many disreputable men friends - my own brother particularly, as I told you - and that is what makes it so dreadful about Windermere. We looked upon him as being such a model husband, but I am afraid there is no doubt about it. My dear nieces - you know the Saville girls, don’t you? - such nice domestic creatures - plain, dreadfully plain, but so good - well, they’re always at the window doing fancy work, and making ugly things for the poor, which I think so useful of them in these dreadful socialistic days, and this terrible woman has taken a house in Curzon Street, right opposite them - such a respectable street, too! I don’t know what we’re coming to! And they tell me that Windermere goes there four and five times a week - they see him. They can’t help it - and although they never talk scandal, they - well, of course - they remark on it to every one. And the worst of it all is that I have been told that this woman has got a great deal of money out of somebody, for it seems that she came to London six months ago without anything at all to speak of, and now she has this charming house in Mayfair, drives her ponies in the Park