SCENE: Morning-room in Algernon's flat in Half-Moon Street. The room is luxuriously and artistically furnished. The sound of a piano is heard in the adjoining room. LANE is arranging afternoon tea on the table, and after the music has ceased, ALGERNON enters. ALGERNON Did you hear what I was playing, Lane? LANE I didn't think it polite to listen, sir. ALGERNON I'm sorry for that, foryour sake. I don't play accurately -any one can play accurately -- but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life. Yes, sir. LANE
ALGERNON And, speaking of the science of Life, have you got the cucumber sandwiches cut for Lady Bracknell? Yes, sir. (Hands them on a salver) LANE
ALGERNON (inspects them, takes two, andsits down on the sofa) Oh!... by the way, Lane, I see from your book that on Thursday night, when Lord Shoreman and Mr. Worthing were dining with me, eight bottles of champagne are entered as having been consumed.
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LANE Yes, sir; eight bottles and a pint. ALGERNON Why is it that at a bachelor's establishment the servants invariably drink the champagne? I askmerely for information. LANE I attribute it to the superior quality of the wine, sir. I have often observed that in married households the champagne is rarely of a first-rate brand. ALGERNON Good heavens! Is marriage so demoralising as that? LANE I believe it IS a very pleasant state, sir. I have had very little experience of it myself up to the present. I have only been married once. That was inconsequence of a misunderstanding between myself and a young person. ALGERNON (languidly) I don't know that I am much interested in your family life, Lane. LANE No, sir; it is not a very interesting subject. I never think of it myself. ALGERNON Very natural, I am sure. That will do, Lane, thank you. Thank you, sir. LANE goes out. ALGERNON Lanes views on marriage seem somewhat lax. Really, if thelower orders don't set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them? They seem, as a class, to have absolutely no sense of moral responsibility. Enter LANE. Mr. Ernest Worthing. Enter JACK. LANE goes out. LANE LANE
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ALGERNON How are you, my dear Ernest? What brings you up to town? JACK Oh, pleasure, pleasure! What else should bring one anywhere?Eating as usual, I see, Algy! ALGERNON (stiffly) I believe it is customary in good society to take some slight refreshment at five o'clock. Where have you been since last Thursday? JACK (sitting down on the sofa) In the country. ALGERNON What on earth do you do there? JACK (pulling off his gloves) When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other people. It isexcessively boring. ALGERNON And who are the people you amuse? (airily) Oh, neighbours, neighbours. JACK
ALGERNON Got nice neighbours in your part of Shropshire? JACK Perfectly horrid! Never speak to one of them. ALGERNON How immensely you must amuse them! (Goes over and takes sandwich) By the way, Shropshire is your county, is it not? JACK Eh? Shropshire? Yes, of course. Hallo! Why all these cups?Why cucumber sandwiches? Why such reckless extravagance in one so young? Who is coming to tea? ALGERNON Oh! merely Aunt Augusta and Gwendolen. How perfectly delightful! JACK
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ALGERNON Yes, that is all very well; but I am afraid Aunt Augusta won't quite approve of your being here. May I ask why? JACK
ALGERNON My dear fellow, the way you flirt withGwendolen is perfectly disgraceful. It is almost as bad as the way Gwendolen flirts with you. JACK I am in love with Gwendolen. I have come up to town expressly to propose to her. ALGERNON I thought you had come up for pleasure?... I call that business. JACK How utterly unromantic you are! ALGERNON I really don't see anything romantic in proposing. It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing...