every afternoon and all - well, all - since she has known poor dear Windermere.
LADY WINDERMERE. Oh, I can’t believe it!
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. But it’s quite true, my dear. The whole of London knows it. That is why I felt it was better to come and talk to you, and advise you to take Windermere away at once to Homburg or to Aix, where he’ll have something to amuse him, and where you can watch him all day long. I assure you, my dear, that on several occasions after I was first married, I had to pretend to be very ill, and was obliged to drink the most unpleasant mineral waters, merely to get Berwick out of town. He was so extremely susceptible. Though I am bound to say he never gave away any large sums of money to anybody. He is far too high-principled for that!
LADY WINDERMERE. [Interrupting.] Duchess, Duchess, it’s impossible! [Rising and crossing stage to C.] We are only married two years. Our child is but six months old. [Sits in chair R. of L. table.]
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. Ah, the dear pretty baby! How is the little darling? Is it a boy or a girl? I hope a girl - Ah, no, I remember it’s a boy! I’m so sorry. Boys are so wicked. My boy is excessively immoral. You wouldn’t believe at what hours he comes home. And he’s only left Oxford a few months - I really don’t know what they teach them there.
LADY WINDERMERE. Are all men bad?
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. Oh, all of them, my dear, all of them, without any exception. And they never grow any better. Men become old, but they never become good.
LADY WINDERMERE. Windermere and I married for love.
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. Yes, we begin like that. It was only Berwick’s brutal and incessant threats of suicide that made me accept him at all, and before the year was out, he was running after all kinds of petticoats, every colour, every shape, every material. In fact, before the honeymoon was over, I caught him winking at my maid, a most pretty, respectable girl. I dismissed her at once without a character. - No, I remember I passed her on to my sister; poor dear Sir George is so short-sighted, I thought it wouldn’t matter. But it did, though - it was most unfortunate. [Rises.] And now, my dear child, I must go, as we are dining out. And mind you don’t take this little aberration of Windermere’s too much to heart. Just take him abroad, and he’ll come back to you all right.
LADY WINDERMERE. Come back to me? [C.]
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. [L.C.] Yes, dear, these wicked women get our husbands away from us, but they always come back, slightly damaged, of course. And don’t make scenes, men hate them!
LADY WINDERMERE. It is very kind of you, Duchess, to come and tell me all this. But I can’t believe that my husband is untrue to me.
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. Pretty child! I was like that once. Now I know that all men are monsters. [LADY WINDERMERE rings bell.] The only thing to do is to feed the wretches well. A good cook does wonders, and that I know you have. My dear Margaret, you are not going to cry?
LADY WINDERMERE. You needn’t be afraid, Duchess, I never cry.
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. That’s quite right, dear. Crying is the refuge of plain women but the ruin of pretty ones. Agatha, darling!
LADY AGATHA. [Entering L.] Yes, mamma. [Stands back of table L.C.]
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. Come and bid good-bye to Lady Windermere, and thank her for your charming visit. [Coming down again.] And by the way, I must thank you for sending a card to Mr. Hopper - he’s that rich young Australian people are taking such notice of just at present. His father made a great fortune by selling some kind of food in circular tins - most palatable, I believe - I fancy it is the thing the servants always refuse to eat. But the son is quite interesting. I think he’s attracted by dear Agatha’s clever talk. Of course, we should be very sorry to lose her, but I think that a mother who doesn’t part with a daughter every season has no real affection. We’re coming to-night, dear. [PARKER opens C. doors.] And remember my advice, take the poor fellow out of town at once, it is the only thing to do. Good-bye, once more; come, Agatha.
[Exeunt DUCHESS and LADY AGATHA C.]
LADY WINDERMERE. How horrible! I understand now what Lord Darlington meant by the imaginary instance of the couple not two years married. Oh! it can’t be true - she spoke of enormous sums of money paid to this woman. I know where Arthur keeps his bank book - in one of the drawers of that desk. I might find out by that. I will find out. [Opens drawer.] No, it is some hideous mistake. [Rises and goes C.] Some silly scandal! He loves me! He loves me! But why should I not look? I am his wife, I have a right to look! [Returns to bureau, takes out book and examines it page by page, smiles and gives a sigh of relief.] I knew it! there is not a word of truth in this stupid story. [Puts book back in dranver. As the does so, starts and takes out another book.] A second book - private - locked! [Tries to open it, but