MILDRED. Yes-- Proceed! All's truth. Go from me!
TRESHAM. All is truth, She tells you! Well, you know, or ought to know, All this I would forgive in her. I'd con Each precept the harsh world enjoins, I'd take Our ancestors' stern verdicts one by one, I'd bind myself before then to exact The prescribed vengeance--and one word of hers, The sight of her, the bare least memory Of Mildred, my one sister, my heart's pride Above all prides, my all in all so long, Would scatter every trace of my resolve. What were it silently to waste away And see her waste away from this day forth, Two scathed things with leisure to repent, And grow acquainted with the grave, and die Tired out if not at peace, and be forgotten? It were not so impossible to bear. But this--that, fresh from last night's pledge renewed Of love with the successful gallant there, She calmly bids me help her to entice, Inveigle an unconscious trusting youth Who thinks her all that's chaste and good and pure, --Invites me to betray him... who so fit As honour's self to cover shame's arch-deed? --That she'll receive Lord Mertoun--(her own phrase)-- This, who could bear? Why, you have heard of thieves, Stabbers, the earth's disgrace, who yet have laughed, "Talk not to me of torture--I'll betray No comrade I've pledged faith to!"--you have heard Of wretched women--all but Mildreds--tied By wild illicit ties to losels vile You'd tempt them to forsake; and they'll reply "Gold, friends, repute, I left for him, I find In him, why should I leave him then, for gold, Repute or friends?"--and you have felt your heart Respond to such poor outcasts of the world As to so many friends; bad as you please, You've felt they were God's men and women still, So, not to be disowned by you. But she That stands there, calmly gives her lover up As means to wed the Earl that she may hide Their intercourse the surelier: and, for this, I curse her to her face before you all. Shame hunt her from the earth! Then Heaven do right To both! It hears me now--shall judge her then! [AS MILDRED faints and falls, TRESHAM rushes out.]
AUSTIN. Stay, Tresham, we'll accompany you!
GUENDOLEN. We? What, and leave Mildred? We? Why, where's my place But by her side, and where yours but by mine? Mildred--one word! Only look at me, then!
AUSTIN. No, Guendolen! I echo Thorold's voice. She is unworthy to behold...
GUENDOLEN. Us two? If you spoke on reflection, and if I Approved your speech--if you (to put the thing At lowest) you the soldier, bound to make The king's cause yours and fight for it, and throw Regard to others of its right or wrong, --If with a death-white woman you can help, Let alone sister, let alone a Mildred, You left her--or if I, her cousin, friend This morning, playfellow but yesterday, Who said, or thought at least a thousand times, "I'd serve you if I could," should now face round And say, "Ah, that's to only signify I'd serve you while you're fit to serve yourself: So long as fifty eyes await the turn Of yours to forestall its yet half-formed wish, I'll proffer my assistance you'll not need-- When every tongue is praising you, I'll join The praisers' chorus--when you're hemmed about With lives between you and detraction--lives To be laid down if a rude voice, rash eye, Rough hand should violate the sacred ring Their worship throws about you,--then indeed, Who'll stand up for you stout as I?" If so We said, and so we did,--not Mildred there Would be unworthy to behold us both, But we should be unworthy, both of us. To be beheld by--by--your meanest dog, Which, if that sword were broken in your face Before a crowd, that badge torn off your breast, And you cast out with hooting and contempt, --Would push his way thro' all the hooters, gain Your side, go off with you and all your shame To the next ditch you choose to die in! Austin, Do you love me? Here's Austin, Mildred,--here's Your brother says he does not believe half-- No, nor half that--of all he heard! He says, Look up and take his hand!
AUSTIN. Look up and take My hand, dear Mildred!
MILDRED. I--I was so young! Beside, I loved him, Thorold--and I had No mother; God forgot me: so, I fell.