[Richard running after Mary on a dark country road]
Richard: Beloved, wait!
I would speak with thee!
There are bleak half-truths abiding
In the space between us,
And their incompletion will undo us
Lest thou would let me speak!
[Mary stops and turns to face him]
Mary: Do you still have words?
Even now? Even here?
Richard, our son is dead.
[Breaks into sobs]
Richard: I know, Mary, I know.
I have known no greater sorrow,
Nor ever shall, I think,
Than the passing of my boy.
Charles! Whom I loved—
Yes, I too, loved him, Mary!—
All I can see now, against the wind and darkness,
Is a vision of his smile, his winsome eyes,
His cheeks alight with laughter
When I dandled him on my knee.
I see him strong and true,
A man of such beatified virtue
That it put his father to shame, yes!
And now, to have that light, that laughter,
The glory of all he is,
Torn away in one heartless night—
It dismembers my very soul…
I am unmade with sorrow.
Yet even in the valley of the shadow of death
I see another vale before me,
Fulsome, clear, unshadowed,
And there I know, I know, I know,
My son Charles waits for me,
And these unsanctified eyes,
After many long purgations,
Will see him once again.
But Mary! Mary!
This night thou hast daggered my corpse,
Driving sorrow upon endless sorrow,
And I do not know the reason why.
Charles I have lost, yet Charles I will gain again;
But how have I lost thee?
Whence comes this flood of dark reproach,
Surmounting our darkest moment
With oceans of trouble still darker yet?
In this one night, the consolation of thine embrace
Has abandoned me—
That consolation had been for me a steady pillar
Grounded deep and true in the boundless love of God—
In this one night, thou hast played the Samson to my life
And torn the temple down.
Why? Speak to me something, anything…
Mary: I cannot speak.
Thou sayest sorrow unmakes thee—
It has already unwritten the record
Of my very life.
Behold the vapor of a woman who beforehand was,
Yet soon to vanish in the wind.
Why have I hated thee,
In this, our final moment?
Neither have I any answers, save this:
In the face of black injustice,
That ascends unreasoned from the abyss,
Justice would demand a victim’s anger.
And who else is there left for me to hate?
[Richard moves closer and takes her by the hands]
Richard: I know that thou art angry, Mary.
That I can understand.
But let not thine anger shatter the foundations
Of the only refuge that remains….
Mary…Mary, what is this?
These marks upon thy arm?
Oh, ungracious God, say not that this can be!
Not here! Not to thee! And no, not now!
Has heaven truly hated me?
And thee! Why thee, my beloved, to suffer so?
Thou didst not tell me this!
Mary: I only knew today.
Perhaps my anger was not toward thee at all,
Perhaps it was the echo of a traitorized faith,
That had trusted vainly the word which the ancient book had spoke:
“Thou shalt not fear the pestilence that stalks in darkness.”
Richard: Thou has it, then—the plague!
Mary: Aye, the plague.
Unhand me now, lest this divine malice,
This serpent of hell’s wrath,
Make deadly strike at thee.
Richard: How can I let thee go?
Mary: Go, Richard. Fly from my side,
And let this Samson destroy the temple of our lives,
That thou may have space to build another.
Richard: But where shall I go?
Mary: Go back to hallowed ground,
And seek the answer to thy question.
Perhaps the wisdom of the cell,
Of a martyrdom chosen in the midst of life,
Might grant thee some reprieve
From the scourgings of the living death
Thine eyes must now behold.
Go, and be blessed.