Lady Hunstanton is most kind in asking him here, and Lord Illingworth seems to have taken quite a fancy to him. I am not sure, however, that Jane is right in taking him out of his position. In my young days, Miss Worsley, one never met any one in society who worked for their living. It was not considered the thing.
HESTER. In America those are the people we respect most.
LADY CAROLINE. I have no doubt of it.
HESTER. Mr. Arbuthnot has a beautiful nature! He is so simple, so sincere. He has one of the most beautiful natures I have ever come across. It is a privilege to meet HIM.
LADY CAROLINE. It is not customary in England, Miss Worsley, for a young lady to speak with such enthusiasm of any person of the opposite sex. English women conceal their feelings till after they are married. They show them then.
HESTER. Do you, in England, allow no friendship to exist between a young man and a young girl?
[Enter LADY HUNSTANTON, followed by Footman with shawls and a cushion.]
LADY CAROLINE. We think it very inadvisable. Jane, I was just saying what a pleasant party you have asked us to meet. You have a wonderful power of selection. It is quite a gift.
LADY HUNSTANTON. Dear Caroline, how kind of you! I think we all do fit in very nicely together. And I hope our charming American visitor will carry back pleasant recollections of our English country life. [To Footman.] The cushion, there, Francis. And my shawl. The Shetland. Get the Shetland. [Exit Footman for shawl.]
[Enter GERALD ARBUTHNOT.]
GERALD. Lady Hunstanton, I have such good news to tell you. Lord Illingworth has just offered to make me his secretary.
LADY HUNSTANTON. His secretary? That is good news indeed, Gerald. It means a very brilliant future in store for you. Your dear mother will be delighted. I really must try and induce her to come up here to-night. Do you think she would, Gerald? I know how difficult it is to get her to go anywhere.
GERALD. Oh! I am sure she would, Lady Hunstanton, if she knew Lord Illingworth had made me such an offer.
[Enter Footman with shawl.]
LADY HUNSTANTON. I will write and tell her about it, and ask her to come up and meet him. [To Footman.] Just wait, Francis. [Writes letter.]
LADY CAROLINE. That is a very wonderful opening for so young a man as you are, Mr. Arbuthnot.
GERALD. It is indeed, Lady Caroline. I trust I shall be able to show myself worthy of it.
LADY CAROLINE. I trust so.
GERALD. [To HESTER.] YOU have not congratulated me yet, Miss Worsley.
HESTER. Are you very pleased about it?
GERALD. Of course I am. It means everything to me - things that were out of the reach of hope before may be within hope's reach now.
HESTER. Nothing should be out of the reach of hope. Life is a hope.
LADY HUNSTANTON. I fancy, Caroline, that Diplomacy is what Lord Illingworth is aiming at. I heard that he was offered Vienna. But that may not be true.
LADY CAROLINE. I don't think that England should be represented abroad by an unmarried man, Jane. It might lead to complications.
LADY HUNSTANTON. You are too nervous, Caroline. Believe me, you are too nervous. Besides, Lord Illingworth may marry any day. I was in hopes he would have married lady Kelso. But I believe he said her family was too large. Or was it her feet? I forget which. I regret it very much.