I won’t tell you that the world matters nothing, or the world’s voice, or the voice of society. They matter a great deal. They matter far too much. But there are moments when one has to choose between living one’s own life, fully, entirely, completely - or dragging out some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world in its hypocrisy demands. You have that moment now. Choose! Oh, my love, choose.
LADY WINDERMERE. [Moving slowly away from him, and looking at him with startled eyes.] I have not the courage.
LORD DARLINGTON. [Following her.] Yes; you have the courage. There may be six months of pain, of disgrace even, but when you no longer bear his name, when you bear mine, all will be well. Margaret, my love, my wife that shall be some day - yes, my wife! You know it! What are you now? This woman has the place that belongs by right to you. Oh! go - go out of this house, with head erect, with a smile upon your lips, with courage in your eyes. All London will know why you did it; and who will blame you? No one. If they do, what matter? Wrong? What is wrong? It’s wrong for a man to abandon his wife for a shameless woman. It is wrong for a wife to remain with a man who so dishonours her. You said once you would make no compromise with things. Make none now. Be brave! Be yourself!
LADY WINDERMERE. I am afraid of being myself. Let me think! Let me wait! My husband may return to me. [Sits down on sofa.]
LORD DARLINGTON. And you would take him back! You are not what I thought you were. You are just the same as every other woman. You would stand anything rather than face the censure of a world, whose praise you would despise. In a week you will be driving with this woman in the Park. She will be your constant guest - your dearest friend. You would endure anything rather than break with one blow this monstrous tie. You are right. You have no courage; none!
LADY WINDERMERE. Ah, give me time to think. I cannot answer you now. [Passes her hand nervously over her brow.]
LORD DARLINGTON. It must be now or not at all.
LADY WINDERMERE. [Rising from the sofa.] Then, not at all! [A pause.]
LORD DARLINGTON. You break my heart!
LADY WINDERMERE. Mine is already broken. [A pause.]
LORD DARLINGTON. To-morrow I leave England. This is the last time I shall ever look on you. You will never see me again. For one moment our lives met - our souls touched. They must never meet or touch again. Good-bye, Margaret. [Exit.]
LADY WINDERMERE. How alone I am in life! How terribly alone!
[The music stops. Enter the DUCHESS OF BERWICK and LORD PAISLEY laughing and talking. Other guests come on from ball-room.]
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. Dear Margaret, I’ve just been having such a delightful chat with Mrs. Erlynne. I am so sorry for what I said to you this afternoon about her. Of course, she must be all right if you invite her. A most attractive woman, and has such sensible views on life. Told me she entirely disapproved of people marrying more than once, so I feel quite safe about poor Augustus. Can’t imagine why people speak against her. It’s those horrid nieces of mine - the Saville girls - they’re always talking scandal. Still, I should go to Homburg, dear, I really should. She is just a little too attractive. But where is Agatha? Oh, there she is: [LADY AGATHA and MR. HOPPER enter from terrace L.U.E.] Mr. Hopper, I am very, very angry with you. You have taken Agatha out on the terrace, and she is so delicate.
HOPPER. Awfully sorry, Duchess. We went out for a moment and then got chatting together.
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. [C.] Ah, about dear Australia, I suppose?
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. Agatha, darling! [Beckons her over.]
LADY AGATHA. Yes, mamma!
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. [Aside.] Did Mr. Hopper definitely -
LADY AGATHA. Yes, mamma.
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. And what answer did you give him, dear child?
LADY AGATHA. Yes, mamma.
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. [Affectionately.] My dear one! You always say the right thing. Mr. Hopper! James! Agatha has told me everything. How cleverly you have both kept your secret.
HOPPER. You don’t mind my taking Agatha off to Australia, then, Duchess?
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. [Indignantly.] To Australia? Oh, don’t mention that dreadful vulgar place.
HOPPER. But she said she’d like to come with me.
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. [Severely.] Did you say that, Agatha?
LADY AGATHA. Yes, mamma.
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. Agatha, you say the most silly things possible. I think on the whole that Grosvenor Square would be a more healthy place to reside in. There are lots of vulgar people live in Grosvenor Square, but at any rate there are no horrid kangaroos crawling about. But we’ll talk about that to-morrow. James, you can take Agatha down. You’ll come to lunch, of course, James. At half-past one, instead of two. The Duke will wish to say a few words to you, I am sure.
HOPPER. I should like to have a chat with the Duke, Duchess. He has not said a single word to me yet.
DUCHESS OF BERWICK. I think you’ll find he will have a great deal to say to you to-morrow. [Exit LADY AGATHA with MR.