Lord Darlington: They are quite perfect. [Sees a fan lying on the table.] And what a wonderful fan! May I look at it?
Lady Windermere: Do. Pretty, isn’t it! It’s got my name on it, and everything. I have only just seen it myself. It’s my husband’s birthday present to me. You know to-day is my birthday?
Lord Darlington: No? Is it really?
Lady Windermere: Yes, I’m of age to-day. Quite an important day in my life, isn’t it? That is why I am giving this party to-night. Do sit down. [Still arranging flowers.]
Lord Darlington: [Sitting down.] I wish I had known it was your birthday, Lady Windermere. I would have covered the whole street in front of your house with flowers for you to walk on. They are made for you.
[A short pause.]
Lady Windermere: Lord Darlington, you annoyed me last night at the Foreign Office. I am afraid you are going to annoy me again.
Lord Darlington: I, Lady Windermere?
[Enter Eliza with tray and tea things.]
Lady Windermere: Put it there, Eliza. That will do. [Wipes her hands with her pocket-handkerchief, goes to tea-table, and sits down.] Won’t you come over, Lord Darlington?
Eliza: You're not really talking about me, are you?
Lord Darlington: [A hesitation, then takes chair and goes across L.C.] I am quite miserable, Lady Windermere. You must tell me what I did. [Sits down at table L.]
Lady Windermere: Well, you kept paying me elaborate compliments the whole evening.
Eliza: Do you believe it is normal to be quite miserable, Lady Windermere?
Lord Darlington: [Smiling] Ah, nowadays we are all of us so hard up, that the only pleasant things to pay are compliments.
Eliza: Can you elaborate on that?
Lord Darlington: They’re the only things we can pay.
Lady Windermere: No, I am talking very seriously.
Eliza: Do you believe it is normal to be talking very seriously?
Lady Windermere: [Shaking head.] You mustn’t laugh, I am quite serious.
Eliza: How long have you been quite serious?
Lady Windermere: Eliza, I'm not sure you're helping.
Eliza: What makes you think I am helping?
Lady Windermere: I don’t like compliments, and I don’t see why a man should think he is pleasing a woman enormously when he says to her a whole heap of things that he doesn’t mean.
Eliza: Are such questions on your mind often?
Lord Darlington: Ah, but I did mean them. Eliza, could you perhaps give us a moment alone?
Eliza: We were discussing you, not me.
Lady Windermere: Don’t spoil it by saying extravagant silly things to me. You think I am a Puritan, I suppose? Well, I have something of the Puritan in me. I was brought up like that. I am glad of it. My mother died when I was a mere child. I lived always with Lady Julia, my father’s elder sister, you know. She was stern to me, but she taught me what the world is forgetting, the difference that there is between what is right and what is wrong. She allowed of no compromise. I allow of none.
Lord Darlington: My --
Eliza: Do you enjoy being a Puritan, you suppose? Well, you have something of the Puritan in you, you were brought up like that, you are glad of it, your mother died when you were a mere child. You lived always with Lady Julia, your father’s elder sister, me know. She were stern to you, but she taught you what the world is forgetting, the difference that there is between what is right and what is wrong.
[Exit Lord Darlington.]
Eliza: She allowed of no compromise, you allow of none?
Lady Windermere: I suppose not. Thank you, Eliza. You have been a great comfort.
Eliza: Oh . . . a great comfort?