MILDRED. True love.
TRESHAM. I mean, and should have said, whose love is best Of all that love or that profess to love?
MILDRED. The list's so long: there's father's, mother's, husband's...
TRESHAM. Mildred, I do believe a brother's love For a sole sister must exceed them all. For see now, only see! there's no alloy Of earth that creeps into the perfect'st gold Of other loves--no gratitude to claim; You never gave her life, not even aught That keeps life--never tended her, instructed, Enriched her--so, your love can claim no right O'er her save pure love's claim: that's what I call Freedom from earthliness. You'll never hope To be such friends, for instance, she and you, As when you hunted cowslips in the woods, Or played together in the meadow hay. Oh yes--with age, respect comes, and your worth Is felt, there's growing sympathy of tastes, There's ripened friendship, there's confirmed esteem: --Much head these make against the newcomer! The startling apparition, the strange youth-- Whom one half-hour's conversing with, or, say, Mere gazing at, shall change (beyond all change This Ovid ever sang about) your soul ...Her soul, that is,--the sister's soul! With her 'Twas winter yesterday; now, all is warmth, The green leaf's springing and the turtle's voice, "Arise and come away!" Come whither?--far Enough from the esteem, respect, and all The brother's somewhat insignificant Array of rights! All which he knows before, Has calculated on so long ago! I think such love, (apart from yours and mine,) Contented with its little term of life, Intending to retire betimes, aware How soon the background must be placed for it, --I think, am sure, a brother's love exceeds All the world's love in its unworldliness.
TRESHAM. This, Mildred, is it for! Or, no, I cannot go to it so soon! That's one of many points my haste left out-- Each day, each hour throws forth its silk-slight film Between the being tied to you by birth, And you, until those slender threads compose A web that shrouds her daily life of hopes And fears and fancies, all her life, from yours: So close you live and yet so far apart! And must I rend this web, tear up, break down The sweet and palpitating mystery That makes her sacred? You--for you I mean, Shall I speak, shall I not speak?
TRESHAM. I will. Is there a story men could--any man Could tell of you, you would conceal from me? I'll never think there's falsehood on that lip. Say "There is no such story men could tell," And I'll believe you, though I disbelieve The world--the world of better men than I, And women such as I suppose you. Speak! [After a pause.] Not speak? Explain then! Clear it up then! Move Some of the miserable weight away That presses lower than the grave. Not speak? Some of the dead weight, Mildred! Ah, if I Could bring myself to plainly make their charge Against you! Must I, Mildred? Silent still? [After a pause.] Is there a gallant that has night by night Admittance to your chamber? [After a pause.] Then, his name! Till now, I only had a thought for you: But now,--his name!
MILDRED. Thorold, do you devise Fit expiation for my guilt, if fit There be! 'Tis nought to say that I'll endure And bless you,--that my spirit yearns to purge Her stains off in the fierce renewing fire: But do not plunge me into other guilt! Oh, guilt enough! I cannot tell his name.