Roxane, Christian. In the distance cadets coming and going. Carbon and De Guiche give orders.
ROXANE (running up to Christian):
Ah, Christian, at last!. . .
CHRISTIAN (taking her hands):
Now tell me why--
Why, by these fearful paths so perilous--
Across these ranks of ribald soldiery,
You have come?
Love, your letters brought me here!
What say you?
'Tis your fault if I ran risks!
Your letters turned my head! Ah! all this month,
How many!--and the last one ever bettered
The one that went before!
What!--for a few
Hold your peace!
Ah! you cannot conceive it! Ever since
That night, when, in a voice all new to me,
Under my window you revealed your soul--
Ah! ever since I have adored you! Now
Your letters all this whole month long!--meseemed
As if I heard that voice so tender, true,
Sheltering, close! Thy fault, I say! It drew me,
The voice o' th' night! Oh! wise Penelope
Would ne'er have stayed to broider on her hearthstone,
If her Ulysses could have writ such letters!
But would have cast away her silken bobbins,
And fled to join him, mad for love as Helen!
But. . .
I read, read again--grew faint for love;
I was thine utterly. Each separate page
Was like a fluttering flower-petal, loosed
From your own soul, and wafted thus to mine.
Imprinted in each burning word was love
Sincere, all-powerful. . .
A love sincere!
Can that be felt, Roxane!
Ay, that it can!
You come. . .?
O, Christian, my true lord, I come--
(Were I to throw myself, here, at your knees,
You would raise me--but 'tis my soul I lay
At your feet--you can raise it nevermore!)
--I come to crave your pardon. (Ay, 'tis time
To sue for pardon, now that death may come!)
For the insult done to you when, frivolous,
At first I loved you only for your face!
And later, love--less frivolous--
Like a bird that spreads its wings, but can not fly--
Arrested by your beauty, by your soul
Drawn close--I loved for both at once!
Ah! you yourself have triumphed o'er yourself,
And now, I love you only for your soul!
CHRISTIAN (stepping backward):
Be happy. To be loved for beauty--
A poor disguise that time so soon wears threadbare--
Must be to noble souls--to souls aspiring--
A torture. Your dear thoughts have now effaced
That beauty that so won me at the outset.
Now I see clearer--and I no more see it!
Oh!. . .
You are doubtful of such victory?
I see you cannot yet believe it.
Such love. . .?
I do not ask such love as that!
I would be loved more simply; for. . .
Which they have all in turns loved in thee?--
Oh! be loved henceforth in a better way!
No! the first love was best!
Ah! how you err!
'Tis now that I love best--love well! 'Tis that
Which is thy true self, see!--that I adore!
Were your brilliance dimmed. . .
I should love still!
Ay, if your beauty should to-day depart. . .
Say not so!
Ay, I say it!
Ugly! I swear I'd love you still!
Are you content at last?
CHRISTIAN (in a choked voice):
Ay!. . .
What is wrong?
CHRISTIAN (gently pushing her away):
Nothing. . .I have two words to say:--one second. . .
But?. . .
CHRISTIAN (pointing to the cadets):
Those poor fellows, shortly doomed to death,--
My love deprives them of the sight of you:
Go,--speak to them--smile on them ere they die!
ROXANE (deeply affected):
Dear Christian!. . .
(She goes up to the cadets, who respectfully crowd round her.)