MRS. ERLYNNE. My name is Margaret too.
LADY WINDERMERE. Indeed!
MRS. ERLYNNE. Yes. [Pause.] You are devoted to your mother’s memory, Lady Windermere, your husband tells me.
LADY WINDERMERE. We all have ideals in life. At least we all should have. Mine is my mother.
MRS. ERLYNNE. Ideals are dangerous things. Realities are better. They wound, but they’re better.
LADY WINDERMERE. [Shaking her head.] If I lost my ideals, I should lose everything.
MRS. ERLYNNE. Everything?
LADY WINDERMERE. Yes. [Pause.]
MRS. ERLYNNE. Did your father often speak to you of your mother?
LADY WINDERMERE. No, it gave him too much pain. He told me how my mother had died a few months after I was born. His eyes filled with tears as he spoke. Then he begged me never to mention her name to him again. It made him suffer even to hear it. My father - my father really died of a broken heart. His was the most ruined life know,
MRS. ERLYNNE. [Rising.] I am afraid I must go now, Lady Windermere.
LADY WINDERMERE. [Rising.] Oh no, don’t.
MRS. ERLYNNE. I think I had better. My carriage must have come back by this time. I sent it to Lady Jedburgh’s with a note.
LADY WINDERMERE. Arthur, would you mind seeing if Mrs. Erlynne’s carriage has come back?
MRS. ERLYNNE. Pray don’t trouble, Lord Windermere.
LADY WINDERMERE. Yes, Arthur, do go, please.
[LORD WINDERMERE hesitated for a moment and looks at MRS. ERLYNNE. She remains quite impassive. He leaves the room.]
[To MRS. ERLYNNE.] Oh! What am I to say to you? You saved me last night? [Goes towards her.]
MRS. ERLYNNE. Hush - don’t speak of it.
LADY WINDERMERE. I must speak of it. I can’t let you think that I am going to accept this sacrifice. I am not. It is too great. I am going to tell my husband everything. It is my duty.
MRS. ERLYNNE. It is not your duty - at least you have duties to others besides him. You say you owe me something?
LADY WINDERMERE. I owe you everything.
MRS. ERLYNNE. Then pay your debt by silence. That is the only way in which it can be paid. Don’t spoil the one good thing I have done in my life by telling it to any one. Promise me that what passed last night will remain a secret between us. You must not bring misery into your husband’s life. Why spoil his love? You must not spoil it. Love is easily killed. Oh! how easily love is killed. Pledge me your word, Lady Windermere, that you will never tell him. I insist upon it.
LADY WINDERMERE. [With bowed head.] It is your will, not mine.
MRS. ERLYNNE. Yes, it is my will. And never forget your child - I like to think of you as a mother. I like you to think of yourself as one.
LADY WINDERMERE. [Looking up.] I always will now. Only once in my life I have forgotten my own mother - that was last night. Oh, if I had remembered her I should not have been so foolish, so wicked.
MRS. ERLYNNE. [With a slight shudder.] Hush, last night is quite over.
[Enter LORD WINDERMERE.]
LORD WINDERMERE. Your carriage has not come back yet, Mrs. Erlynne.
MRS. ERLYNNE. It makes no matter. I’ll take a hansom. There is nothing in the world so respectable as a good Shrewsbury and Talbot. And now, dear Lady Windermere, I am afraid it is really good-bye. [Moves up C.] Oh, I remember. You’ll think me absurd, but do you know I’ve taken a great fancy to this fan that I was silly enough to run away with last night from your ball. Now, I wonder would you give it to me? Lord Windermere says you may. I know it is his present.
LADY WINDERMERE. Oh, certainly, if it will give you any pleasure. But it has my name on it. It has ‘Margaret’ on it.
MRS. ERLYNNE. But we have the same Christian name.
LADY WINDERMERE. Oh, I forgot. Of course, do have it. What a wonderful chance our names being the same!
MRS. ERLYNNE. Quite wonderful. Thanks - it will always remind me of you. [Shakes hands with her.]
PARKER. Lord Augustus Lorton. Mrs. Erlynne’s carriage has come.
[Enter LORD AUGUSTUS.]
LORD AUGUSTUS. Good morning, dear boy. Good morning, Lady Windermere. [Sees MRS. ERLYNNE.] Mrs. Erlynne!
MRS. ERLYNNE. How do you do, Lord Augustus? Are you quite well this morning?
LORD AUGUSTUS. [Coldly.] Quite well, thank you, Mrs. Erlynne.
MRS. ERLYNNE. You don’t look at all well, Lord Augustus. You stop up too late - it is so bad for you. You really should take more care of yourself. Good-bye, Lord Windermere. [Goes towards door with a bow to LORD AUGUSTUS. Suddenly smiles and looks back at him.] Lord Augustus! Won’t you see me to my carriage? You might carry the fan.
LORD WINDERMERE. Allow me!
MRS. ERLYNNE. No; I want Lord Augustus. I have a special message for the dear Duchess. Won’t you carry the fan, Lord Augustus?
LORD AUGUSTUS. If you really desire it, Mrs. Erlynne.
MRS. ERLYNNE. [Laughing.] Of course I do. You’ll carry it so gracefully. You would carry off anything gracefully, dear Lord Augustus.
[When she reaches the door she looks back for a moment at LADY WINDERMERE. Their eyes meet. Then she turns, and exit C. followed by LORD AUGUSTUS.]
LADY WINDERMERE. You will never speak against Mrs. Erlynne again, Arthur, will you?
LORD WINDERMERE. [Gravely.] She is better than one thought her.
LADY WINDERMERE. She is better than I am.
LORD WINDERMERE. [Smiling as he strokes her hair.] Child, you and she belong to different worlds. Into your world evil has never entered.
LADY WINDERMERE. Don’t say that, Arthur. There is the same world for all of us, and good and evil, sin and innocence, go through it hand in hand. To shut one’s eyes to half of life that one may live securely is as though one blinded oneself that one might walk with more safety in a land of pit and precipice.
LORD WINDERMERE. [Moves down with her.] Darling, why do you say that?
LADY WINDERMERE. [Sits on sofa.] Because I, who had shut my eyes to life, came to the brink. And one who had separated us -
LORD WINDERMERE. We were never separated.
LADY WINDERMERE. We never must be again. O Arthur, don’t love me less, and I will trust you more. I will trust you absolutely. Let us go to Selby. In the Rose Garden at Selby the roses are white and red.
[Enter LORD AUGUSTUS C.]
LORD AUGUSTUS. Arthur, she has explained everything!
[LADY WINDERMERE looks horribly frightened at this. LORD WINDERMERE starts. LORD AUGUSTUS takes WINDERMERE by the arm and brings him to front of stage. He talks rapidly and in a low voice. LADY WINDERMERE stands watching them in terror.] My dear fellow, she has explained every demmed thing. We all wronged her immensely. It was entirely for my sake she went to Darlington’s rooms. Called first at the Club - fact is, wanted to put me out of suspense - and being told I had gone on - followed - naturally frightened when she heard a lot of us coming in - retired to another room - I assure you, most gratifying to me, the whole thing. We all behaved brutally to her. She is just the woman for me. Suits me down to the ground. All the conditions she makes are that we live entirely out of England. A very good thing too. Demmed clubs, demmed climate, demmed cooks, demmed everything. Sick of it all!
LADY WINDERMERE. [Frightened.] Has Mrs. Erlynne - ?
LORD AUGUSTUS. [Advancing towards her with a low bow.] Yes, Lady Windermere - Mrs. Erlynne has done me the honour of accepting my hand.
LORD WINDERMERE. Well, you are certainly marrying a very clever woman!
LADY WINDERMERE. [Taking her husband’s hand.] Ah, you’re marrying a very good woman!