lord windermere. what do you mean by coming here this morning? what is your object? [crossing l.c. and sitting.]
mrs. erlynne. [with a note of irony in her voice.] to bid good-bye to my dear daughter, of course. [lord windermere bites his under lip in anger. mrs. erlynne looks at him, and her voice and manner become serious. in her accents at she talks there is a note of deep tragedy. for a moment she reveals herself.] oh, don't imagine i am going to have a pathetic scene with her, weep on her neck and tell her who i am, and all that kind of thing. i have no ambition to play the part of a mother. only once in my life have i known a mother's feelings. that was last night. they were terrible--they made me suffer--they made me suffer too much. for
twenty years, as you say, i have lived childless,--i want to live childless still. [hiding her feelings with a trivial laugh.]
besides, my dear windermere, how on earth could i pose as a mother with a grown-up daughter? margaret is twenty-one, and i have never admitted that i am more than twenty-nine, or thirty at the most. twenty-nine when there are pink shades, thirty when there are not. so you see what difficulties it would involve. no, as far as i am concerned, let your wife cherish the memory of this dead, stainless mother. why should i interfere with her illusions? i find it hard enough to keep my own. i lost one illusion last night. i thought i had no heart. i find i have, and a heart doesn't suit me, windermere. somehow it doesn't go with modern dress. it makes one look old. [takes up hand-mirror from table and looks into it.] and it spoils one's career at critical moments.
lord windermere. you fill me with horror--with absolute horror.
the sooner he got into the road the better. he remembered having crossed the road and seen the finger-post only a little while before wildfire broke down; so, buttoning his coat, twisting the lash of his hunting-whip compactly round the handle, and rapping the tops of his boots with a self-possessed air, as if to assure himself that he was not at all taken by surprise, he set off with the sense that he was undertaking a remarkable feat of bodily exertion, which somehow and at some time he should be able to dress up and magnify to the admiration of a select circle at the rainbow. when a young gentleman like dunsey is reduced to so exceptional a mode of locomotion as walking, a whip in his hand is a a whip in his hand is a desirable corrective to a too bewildering dreamy sense of unwontedness in his position; and dunstan, as he went along through the gathering mist, was always rapping his whip somewhere. it was godfrey's whip, which he had chosen to take without leave because it had a gold handle ; of course no one could see, when dunstan held it, that the name godfrey cass was cut in deep letters on that gold handle they could only see that it was a very handsome whip. dunsey was not without fear that he might meet some acquaintance in whose eyes he would cut a pitiable figure, for mist is no screen when people get close to each other; but when he at last found himself in the well-known raveloe lanes without having met a soul, he silently remarked that that was part of his usual good-luck. but now the mist, helped by the evening darkness, was more of a screen than he desired, for it hid the ruts into which his feet were liable to slip hid everything, so that he had to guide his steps by dragging bis whip along the low bushes in advance of the hedgerow.
he lapsed into his old grimness, while rose, eating quickly, confined her remarks to her determination to go to town in search of a job. had martin not talked as he had to his wife he would have been able, undoubtedly, to disregard her and to continue the line of chatter which he had hit upon so happily and which he had never suspected was in him. but the fact, not so much that she knew, but that from this vantage point of knowledge she was ridiculing him, was too much for even his self-possession. it made the light banter impossible. especially, as there was no doubt that rose did not seem anxious for it.