Mrs Erlynne No—no—

Lady windermere Yes! he shall. Had he come himself, I admit I would have gone back to the life of degradation you and he had prepared for me—I was going back—but to stay himself at home, and to send you as his messenger—oh! it was infamous—infamous.

Mrs Erlynne (C.) Lady Windermere, you wrong me horribly—you wrong your husband horribly. He doesn’t know you are here—he thinks you are safe in your own house. He thinks you are asleep in your own room. He never read the mad letter you wrote to him!

Lady windermere (R.) Never read it!

Mrs Erlynne No—he knows nothing about it.

Lady windermere How simple you think me! (Going to her) You are lying to me!

Mrs Erlynne (restraining herself) I am not. I am telling you the truth.

Lady windermere If my husband didn’t read my letter, how is it that you are here? Who told you I had left the house you were shameless enough to enter? Who told you where I had gone to? My husband told you, and sent you to decoy me back. (Crosses L.)

Mrs Erlynne (R.C.) Your husband has never seen the letter. I—saw it, I opened it. I—read it.

Lady windermere (turning to her) You opened a letter of mine to my husband? You wouldn’t dare!

Mrs Erlynne Dare! Oh! to save you from the abyss into which you are falling, there is nothing in the world I would not dare, nothing in the whole world. Here is the letter. Your husband has never read it. He never shall read it. (Going to fireplace) It should never have been written.

Tears it and throws it into the fire°

Lady windermere (with infinite contempt in her voice and look) How do I know that that was my letter after all? You seem to think the commonest device can take me in!

Mrs Erlynne Oh! why do you disbelieve everything I tell you? What object do you think I have in coming here, except to save you from utter ruin, to save you from the consequence of a hideous mistake? That letter that is burnt now was your letter. I swear it to you!

Lady windermere (slowly) You took good care to burn it before I had examined it. I cannot trust you. You, whose whole life is a lie, how could you speak the truth about anything? (Sits down)

Mrs Erlynne (hurriedly) Think as you like about me—say what you choose against me, but go back, go back to the husband you love.

Lady windermere (sullenly) I do not love him!

Mrs Erlynne You do, and you know that he loves you.

Lady windermere He does not understand what love is. He understands it as little as you do—but I see what you want. It would be a great advantage for you to get me back. Dear Heaven! what a life I would have then! Living at the mercy of a woman who has neither mercy nor pity in her, a woman whom it is an infamy to meet, a degradation to know, a vile woman, a woman who comes between husband and wife!

Mrs Erlynne (with a gesture of despair) Lady Windermere, Lady Windermere, don’t say such terrible things. You don’t know how terrible they are, how terrible and how unjust. Listen, you must listen! Only

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