The VICOMTE DE NANJAC, a young attache known for his neckties and his Anglomania, approaches with a low bow, and enters into conversation.]
MASON. [Announcing guests from the top of the staircase.] Mr. and Lady Jane Barford. Lord Caversham.
[Enter LORD CAVERSHAM, an old gentleman of seventy, wearing the riband and star of the Garter. A fine Whig type. Rather like a portrait by Lawrence.]
LORD CAVERSHAM. Good evening, Lady Chiltern! Has my good-for- nothing young son been here?
LADY CHILTERN. [Smiling.] I don't think Lord Goring has arrived yet.
MABEL CHILTERN. [Coming up to LORD CAVERSHAM.] Why do you call Lord Goring good-for-nothing?
[MABEL CHILTERN is a perfect example of the English type of prettiness, the apple-blossom type. She has all the fragrance and freedom of a flower. There is ripple after ripple of sunlight in her hair, and the little mouth, with its parted lips, is expectant, like the mouth of a child. She has the fascinating tyranny of youth, and the astonishing courage of innocence. To sane people she is not reminiscent of any work of art. But she is really like a Tanagra statuette, and would be rather annoyed if she were told so.]
LORD CAVERSHAM. Because he leads such an idle life.
MABEL CHILTERN. How can you say such a thing? Why, he rides in the Row at ten o'clock in the morning, goes to the Opera three times a week, changes his clothes at least five times a day, and dines out every night of the season. You don't call that leading an idle life, do you?
LORD CAVERSHAM. [Looking at her with a kindly twinkle in his eyes.] You are a very charming young lady!
MABEL CHILTERN. How sweet of you to say that, Lord Caversham! Do come to us more often. You know we are always at home on Wednesdays, and you look so well with your star!
LORD CAVERSHAM. Never go anywhere now. Sick of London Society. Shouldn't mind being introduced to my own tailor; he always votes on the right side. But object strongly to being sent down to dinner with my wife's milliner. Never could stand Lady Caversham's bonnets.
MABEL CHILTERN. Oh, I love London Society! I think it has immensely improved. It is entirely composed now of beautiful idiots and brilliant lunatics. Just what Society should be.
LORD CAVERSHAM. Hum! Which is Goring? Beautiful idiot, or the other thing?
MABEL CHILTERN. [Gravely.] I have been obliged for the present to put Lord Goring into a class quite by himself. But he is developing charmingly!
LORD CAVERSHAM. Into what?
MABEL CHILTERN. [With a little curtsey.] I hope to let you know very soon, Lord Caversham!
MASON. [Announcing guests.] Lady Markby. Mrs. Cheveley.
[Enter LADY MARKBY and MRS. CHEVELEY. LADY MARKBY is a pleasant, kindly, popular woman, with gray hair e la marquise and good lace. MRS. CHEVELEY, who accompanies her, is tall and rather slight. Lips very thin and highly-coloured, a line of scarlet on a pallid face. Venetian red hair, aquiline nose, and long throat. Rouge accentuates the natural paleness of her complexion. Gray-green eyes that move restlessly. She is in heliotrope, with diamonds. She looks rather like an orchid, and makes great demands on one's curiosity. In all her movements she is extremely graceful. A work of art, on the whole, but showing the influence of too many schools.]
LADY MARKBY. Good evening, dear Gertrude! So kind of you to let me bring my friend, Mrs. Cheveley.