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Oscar Wilde: A Woman of No Importance
2. SECOND ACT (continued)
[MRS. ARBUTHNOT enters from terrace behind in a cloak with a lace veil over her head. She hears the last words and starts.]
LADY HUNSTANTON. My dear young lady!
HESTER. It is right that they should be punished, but don't let them be the only ones to suffer. If a man and woman have sinned, let them both go forth into the desert to love or loathe each other there. Let them both be branded. Set a mark, if you wish, on each, but don't punish the one and let the other go free. Don't have one law for men and another for women. You are unjust to women in England. And till you count what is a shame in a woman to be an infamy in a man, you will always be unjust, and Right, that pillar of fire, and Wrong, that pillar of cloud, will be made dim to your eyes, or be not seen at all, or if seen, not regarded
LADY CAROLINE. Might I, dear Miss Worsley, as you are standing up, ask you for my cotton that is just behind you? Thank you.
LADY HUNSTANTON. My dear Mrs. Arbuthnot! I am so pleased you have come up. But I didn't hear you announced.
MRS. ALLONBY. Oh, I came straight in from the terrace, Lady Hunstanton, just as I was. You didn't tell me you had a party.
LADY HUNSTANTON. Not a party. Only a few guests who are staying in the house, and whom you must know. Allow me. [Tries to help her. Rings bell.] Caroline, this is Mrs. Arbuthnot, one of my sweetest friends. Lady Caroline Pontefract, Lady Stutfield, Mrs. Allonby, and my young American friend, Miss Worsley, who has just been telling us all how wicked we are.
HESTER. I am afraid you think I spoke too strongly, Lady Hunstanton. But there are some things in England -
LADY HUNSTANTON. My dear young lady, there was a great deal of truth, I dare say, in what you said, and you looked very pretty while you said it, which is much more important, Lord Illingworth would tell us. The only point where I thought you were a little hard was about Lady Caroline's brother, about poor Lord Henry. He is really such good company.
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