LORD DARLINGTON. My dear Lady Windermere!
LADY WINDERMERE. [Leaning back on the sofa.] You look on me as being behind the age. - Well, I am! I should be sorry to be on the same level as an age like this.
LORD DARLINGTON. You think the age very bad?
LADY WINDERMERE. Yes. Nowadays people seem to look on life as a speculation. It is not a speculation. It is a sacrament. Its ideal is Love. Its purification is sacrifice.
LORD DARLINGTON. [Smiling.] Oh, anything is better than being sacrificed!
LADY WINDERMERE. [Leaning forward.] Don’t say that.
LORD DARLINGTON. I do say it. I feel it - I know it.
[Enter PARKER C.]
PARKER. The men want to know if they are to put the carpets on the terrace for to-night, my lady?
LADY WINDERMERE. You don’t think it will rain, Lord Darlington, do you?
LORD DARLINGTON. I won’t hear of its raining on your birthday!
LADY WINDERMERE. Tell them to do it at once, Parker.
[Exit PARKER C.]
LORD DARLINGTON. [Still seated.] Do you think then - of course I am only putting an imaginary instance - do you think that in the case of a young married couple, say about two years married, if the husband suddenly becomes the intimate friend of a woman of - well, more than doubtful character - is always calling upon her, lunching with her, and probably paying her bills - do you think that the wife should not console herself?
LADY WINDERMERE. [Frowning] Console herself?
LORD DARLINGTON. Yes, I think she should - I think she has the right.
LADY WINDERMERE. Because the husband is vile - should the wife be vile also?
LORD DARLINGTON. Vileness is a terrible word, Lady Windermere.
LADY WINDERMERE. It is a terrible thing, Lord Darlington.
LORD DARLINGTON. Do you know I am afraid that good people do a great deal of harm in this world. Certainly the greatest harm they do is that they make badness of such extraordinary importance. It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious. I take the side of the charming, and you, Lady Windermere, can’t help belonging to them.
LADY WINDERMERE. Now, Lord Darlington. [Rising and crossing R., front of him.] Don’t stir, I am merely going to finish my flowers. [Goes to table R.C.]
LORD DARLINGTON. [Rising and moving chair.] And I must say I think you are very hard on modern life, Lady Windermere. Of course there is much against it, I admit. Most women, for instance, nowadays, are rather mercenary.
LADY WINDERMERE. Don’t talk about such people.
LORD DARLINGTON. Well then, setting aside mercenary people, who, of course, are dreadful, do you think seriously that women who have committed what the world calls a fault should never be forgiven?
LADY WINDERMERE. [Standing at table.] I think they should never be forgiven.
LORD DARLINGTON. And men? Do you think that there should be the same laws for men as there are for women?