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 is excessively boring.
Algernon: And who are the people you amuse?
Jack: [Airily.] Oh, neighbours, neighbours.
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.
Jack: How perfectly delightful!
Algernon: Yes, that is all very well; but I am afraid Aunt Augusta won’t quite approve of your being here.
Jack: May I ask why?
Algernon: My dear fellow, the way you flirt with Gwendolen 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 romantic about a definite proposal. Why, one may be accepted. One usually is, I believe. Then the excitement is all over. The very essence of romance is uncertainty. If ever I get married, I’ll certainly try to forget the fact.
Jack: I have no doubt about that, dear Algy. The Divorce Court was specially invented for people whose memories are so curiously constituted.
Algernon: Oh! there is no use speculating on that subject. Divorces are made in Heaven—[Jack puts out his hand to take a sandwich. Algernon at once interferes.] Please don’t touch the cucumber sandwiches. They are ordered specially for Aunt Augusta. [Takes one and eats it.]
Jack: Well, you have been eating them all the time.
Algernon: That is quite a different matter. She is my aunt. [Takes plate from below.] Have some bread and butter. The bread and butter is for Gwendolen. Gwendolen is devoted to bread and butter.
Jack: [Advancing to table and helping himself.] And very good bread and butter it is too.
Algernon: Well, my dear fellow, you need not eat as if you were going to eat it all. You behave as if you were married to her already. You are not married to her already, and I don’t think you ever will be.
Jack: Why on earth do you say that?
Algernon: Well, in the first place girls never marry the men they flirt with.