The Witch of Edmonton – Act Four, scene one

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Enter OLD BANKS, and two or three Countrymen.

 OLD BANKS
My horse this morning runs most piteously of the glanders, whose nose yesternight was as clean as any man’s here not coming from the barbers; and this, I’ll take my death upon’t, is long of this jadish witch, Mother Sawyer.

FIRST COUNTRYMAN
I took my wife and a servingman in our town of Edmonton thrashing in my barn together, such corn as country-wenches carry to market.  And examining my polecat why she did so, she swore in her conscience she was bewitch’d.  And what witch have we about us?  Mother Sawyer.

SECOND COUNTRYMAN
Rid the town of her, else all our wives will do nothing else but dance about other country maypoles.

THIRD COUNTRYMAN
Out cattle fall, our wives fall, our daughters fall, and maid-servants fall, and we ourselves shall not be able to stand, if this beast be suffered to graze amongst us.

Enter W. HAMLAC, with thatch and a link.

 HAMLAC
Burn the witch, the witch, the witch, the witch!

OMNES
What has got there?

HAMLAC
A handful of thatch pluck’d off a hovel of hers; and they say, when ‘tis burning, if she be a witch, she’ll come running in.

OLD BANKS
Fire it, fire it!  I’ll stand between thee and home for any danger.

As that burns, enter MOTHER SAWYER.

 MOTHER SAWYER
Diseases, plagues; the curse of an old woman follow and fall upon you!

OMNES
Are you come, you old trot?

OLD BANKS
You hot whore, must we fetch you with fire in your tail?

FIRST COUNTRYMAN
This thatch is as good as a jury to prove she is a witch.

OMNES
Out, witch!  Beat her, kick her, set fire on her!

MOTHER SAWYER
Shall I be murdered by a bed of serpents?  Help, help!

Enter SIR ARTHUR CLARINGTON and a Justice.

 OMNES
Hang her, beat her, kill her!

JUSTICE
How now?  Forbear this violence!

MOTHER SAWYER
A crew of villains, a knot of bloody hangmen set to torment me, I know not why.

JUSTICE
Alas, neighbour Banks, are you a ringleader in mischief?  Fie, to abuse an aged woman!

OLD BANKS
Woman?  A she-hell-cat, a witch!  To prove her one, we no sooner set fire on the thatch of her house, but in she came running, as if the devil had sent her in a barrel of gunpowder; which thick as surely prove her a witch, as the pox in a snuffling nose, is a sign a man is a whoremaster.

JUSTICE
Come, come.  Firing her thatch?  Ridiculous!  Take heed, sirs, what you do, unless your proofs come better arm’d, instead of turning her into a witch, you’ll prove yourselves fools.

OMNES
Fools!

JUSTICE
Arrant fools.

OLD BANKS
Pray, Master Justice, what do you call ‘em, hear me but in one thing:  this grumbling devil owes me I know no good will ever since I fell out with her.

MOTHER SAWYER
And breakst my back with beating me!

OLD BANKS
I’ll break it worse.

JUSTICE
You must not threaten her; ‘tis against law.  Go on.

OLD BANKS
So, sir, ever since, having a dun-cow tied up in my backside, let me go thither, or but cast mine eye at her, and if I should be hang’d, I cannot choose, though it be ten times in an hour, but run to the cow, and taking up her tail, kill, saving your worship’s reverence, my cow behind, that the whole town of Edmonton has been ready to bepiss themselves with laughing me to scorn.

JUSTICE
And this is long of her?

OLD BANKS
Who the devil else, for is any man such an ass to be such a baby, if he were not bewtich’d?

SIR ARTHUR
Nay, if she be a witch, and the harms she does end in such sports, she may scape burning.

JUSTICE
Go, go; pray, vex her not.  She is a subject, and you must not be judges of the law to strike her as you please.

OMNES
No, no, we’ll find cudgel enough to strike her.

OLD BANKS
Ay, no lips but to kiss my cow’s—              [Exeunt OLD BANKS and Countrymen.

MOTHER SAWYER
Rots and foul maladies eat up thee and thine!

JUSTICE
Here’s none now, Mother Sawyer, but this gentleman, myself, and you.  Let us to some mild questions, have you mild answers?  Tell us honestly, and with a free conscience—we’ll do our best to wean you from it—are you a witch or no?

MOTHER SAWYER
I am none!

JUSTICE
Be not so furious.

MOTHER SAWYER
I am none.  None but base curs so ark at me.  I am none.  Or would I were; if every poor old woman be trod on thus by slaves, revil’d, kick’d, beaten, as I am daily, she to be reveng’d had need turn witch.

SIR ARTHUR
And you to be reveng’d have sold your soul to th’devil.

MOTHER SAWYER
Keep thine own from him.

JUSTICE
You are too saucy and too bitter.

MOTHER SAWYER
Saucy?  By what commission can he send my soul on the devil’s errand, more than I can he?  Is he a landlord of my soul, to thrust it when he list out of door?

JUSTICE
Know whom you speak to.

MOTHER SAWYER
A man; perhaps no man.  Men in gay clothes, whose backs are laden with titles and honours, are withing far more crooked than I am; and if I be a witch, more witch-like.

SIR ARTHUR
Y’are a base hellhound.  And now, sir, let me tell you, far and near she’s bruited for a woman that maintains a spirit that sucks her.

MOTHER SAWYER
I defy thee.

SIR ARTHUR
Go, go, I can, if need be, bring an hundred voices e’en here in Edmonton that shall loud proclaim thee for a secret and pernicious witch.

MOTHER SAWYER
Ha, ha!

JUSTICE
Do you laugh?  Why laugh you?

MOTHER SAWYER
At my name; the brave name this knight gives me, “witch.”

JUSTICE
Is the name of witch so pleasing to thine ear?

SIR ARTHUR
Pray, sir, give way, and let her tongue gallop on.

MOTHER SAWYER
A witch?  Who is not?
Hold not that universal name in scorn then.
What are you painted things in prince’s courts?
Upon whose eyelids lust sits blowing fires
To burn men’s souls in sensual hot desires?
Upon whose naked paps a lecher’s thought
Acts sin in fouler shapes than can be wrought?

JUSTICE
But those work not as you do.

MOTHER SAWYER
No, but far worse.
These, by enchantments, can whole lordships change
To trunks of rich attire, turn ploughs and teams
To Flanders mares and coaches; and huge trains
Of servitors, to a French butterfly.
Have you not city-witches who can turn
Their husband’s wares, whole standing ships of wares,
To sumptuous tables, gardens of stol’n sin?
In one year wasting, what scarce twenty win?
Are not these witches?

JUSTICE
Yes, yes, but the law
Casts not an eye on these.

MOTHER SAWYER
Why then on me,
Or any lean old beldam?  Reverence once
Had wont to wait on age.  Now an old woman
Ill-favour’d grown with years, if she be poor,
Must be call’d bawd or witch.  Such so abus’d
Are the course witches; t’other are the fine,
Spun for the devil’s own wearing.

SIR ARTHUR
And so is thine.

MOTHER SAWYER
She on whose tongue a whirlwind sits to blow
A man out of himself, from his soft pillow,
To lean his head on rocks and fighting waves,
Is not that scold a witch?  The man of law
Whose honeyed hopes the credulous client draws,
As bees by tinkling basins, to swarm on him,
From his own hive, to work the wax in his.
He is no witch, not he.

SIR ARTHUR
But these men-witches
Are not in trading with hell’s merchandise,
Like such as you are, that for a word, a look,
Denial of a coal of fire, kill men,
Children, and cattle.

MOTHER SAWYER
Tell them, sir, that do so,
Am I accus’d for such a one?

SIR ARTHUR
Yes, ‘twill be sworn.

MOTHER SAWYER
Dare any swear I ever tempted maiden
With golden hooks flung at her chastity,
To come and lose her honour?  And being lost,
To pay not a denier for’t?  Some slaves have done it.
Men-witches can, without the fangs of law,
Drawing once one drop of blood, put counterfeit pieces
Away for true gold.

SIR ARTHUR
By one thing she speaks,
I know now she’s a witch, and dare no longer
Hold conference with the fury.

JUSTICE
Let’s then away.
Old woman, mend thy life, get home and pray.

 [Exeunt SIR ARTHUR and Justice.

MOTHER SAWYER
For his confession.

Enter DOG.

                                 My dear Tom-boy, welcome.
I am torn in pieces by a pack of curs
Clap’d all upon me, and for want of thee.
Comfort me; thou shalt have the teat anon.

DOG
Bow wow!  I’ll have it now!

MOTHER SAWYER
I am dri’d up
With cursing and with madness, and have yet
No blood to moisten these sweet lips of thine.
Stand on thy hind-legs up.  Kiss me, my Tommy,
And rub away some wrinkles on my brow,
By making my old ribs to shrug for joy
Of thy fine tricks.  What hast thou done?  Let’s tickle.
Hast thou struck the horse lame as I bid thee?

DOG
Yes, and nipp’d the sucking child.

MOTHER SAWYER
Ho, ho, my dainty,
My little pearl!  No lady loves her hound,
Monkey, or parakeet, as I do thee.

DOG
The maid has been churning butter nine hours; but it shall not come.

MOTHER SAWYER
Let ‘em eat cheese and choke.

DOG
I had rare sport
Among the clowns i’th’morris.

MOTHER SAWYER
I could dance
Out of my skin to hear thee.  But my curl-pate,
That jade, that foul-tongue’d whore, Nan Ratcliff,
Who for a little soap lick’d by my sow,
Struck, and almost had lam’d it.  Did not I charge thee,
To pinch that quean to th’heart?

DOG
Bow, wow, wow.  Look here else.

Enter ANNE RATCLIFF mad.

 ANNE
See, see, see; the Man i’th’moon has built a new windmill, and what running there’s from all quarters of the city to learn the art of grinding.

MOTHER SAWYER
Ho, ho, ho!  I thank thee, my sweet mongrel.

ANNE
Hoyda!  A pox of the devil’s false hopper!  All the golden meal runs into the rich knaves’ purses, and the poor have nothing but bran.  Hey derry down!  Are not you Mother Sawyer?

MOTHER SAWYER
No, I am a lawyer.

ANNE
Art thou?  I prithee, let me scratch thy face, for thy pen has flea’d off a great many men’s skins.  You’ll have brave doing in the vacation, for knaves and fools are at variance in every village.  I’ll sue Mother Sawyer, and her own sow shall give in evidence against her.

MOTHER SAWYER
[To DOG.] Touch her.                                                    [DOG rubs ANNE RATCLIFF.

ANNE
Oh, my ribs are made of a pain’d hose, and they break.  There’s a Lancashire hornpipe in my throat; hark how it tickles it, with doodle, doodle, doodle, doodle.  Welcome sergeants, welcome devil.  Hand, hand; hold hands, and dance around, around, around.

Enter OLD BANKS, YOUNG BANKS, OLD RATCLIFF, and Country-fellows.

 OLD RATCLIFF
She’s here.  Alas, my poor wife is here.

OLD BANKS
Catch her fast, and have her in to some close chamber; do, for she’s as many wives are, stark mad.

YOUNG BANKS
The witch, Mother Sawyer, the witch, the devil!

[OLD RATCLIFF and the Country-fellows carry off ANNE RATCLIFF.

OLD BANKS
You see your work, Mother Bumby?

MOTHER SAWYER
My work?  Should she and all you here run mad,
Is the work mine?

YOUNG BANKS
No, on my conscience, she would not hurt a devil of two years old.

Enter OLD RATCLIFF and the rest.

How now?  What’s become of her?

OLD RATCLIFF
Nothing.  She’s become nothing, but the miserable trunk of a wretched woman. We were in her hands as reeds in a mighty tempest.  Spite of our strength, away she brake, and nothing in her mouth being heard, but “The devil, the witch, the witch, the devil!”  She beat out her own brains and so died.

YOUNG BANKS
It’s any man’s case, be he never so wise, to die when his brains go a-wool-gathering.

OLD BANKS
Masters, be ruled by me.  Let’s all to a justice.  Hag, thou hast done this, and thou shalt answer it.

MOTHER SAWYER
Banks, I defy thee.

OLD BANKS
Get a warrant first to examine her, then ship her to Newgate.  Here’s enough, if all her other villainies were pardon’d, to burn her for a witch.  You have a spirit, they say, comes to you in the likeness of a dog.  We shall see your cur at one time or other.  If we do, unless it be the devil himself, he shall go howling to the gaol in one chain, and thou in another.

MOTHER SAWYER
Be hang’d thou in a third, and do thy worst.

YOUNG BANKS
How, father?  You sent the poor dumb thing howling to th’gaol?  He that makes him howl, makes me roar.

OLD BANKS
Why, foolish boy?  Dost thou know him?

YOUNG BANKS
No matter if I do or not.  He’s bailable, I am sure, by law.  But if the dog’s word will not be taken, mine shall.

OLD BANKS
Thou bail for a dog?

YOUNG BANKS
Yes, or a bitch either, being my friend.  I’ll lie by the heels myself, before Puppison shall.  His dog-days are not come yet.

OLD BANKS
What manner of dog is it?  Didst ever see him?

YOUNG BANKS
See him?  Yes, and given him a bone to gnaw twenty times.  The dog is no court-foisting hound that fills his belly full by base wagging his tail; neither is it a citizen’s water-spaniel, enticing his master to go a-ducking twice or thrice a week, whilst his wife makes ducks and drakes at him; this is no Paris-garden bandog neither, that  keeps a-bow-wow-wowing to have butchers bring their curs thither; and when all comes to all, they run away like sheep.  Neither is this the black dog of Newgate.

OLD BANKS
No, Goodman Son-fool, but the dog of hell-gate.

YOUNG BANKS
I say, Goodman Father-fool, it’s a lie.

OMNES
He’s bewitch’d!

YOUNG BANKS
A gross lie as big as myself.  The devil in St. Dunstan’s will as soon drink with this poor cur, as with any Temple-bar-laundress that washers and wrings lawyers.

Enter DOG.

DOG
Bow, wow, wow, wow!

OMNES
Oh, the dog’s here, the dog’s here!

OLD BANKS
It was the voice of a dog.

YOUNG BANKS
The voice of a dog?  If that voice were a dog’s, what voice had my mother? So am I a dog.  Bow, wow, wow!  It was I that bark’d so, father, to make coxcombs of these clowns.

OLD BANKS
However, we’ll be coxcomb’d no longer  Away, therefore, to th’justice for a warrant, and then Gammer Gurton, have at your needle of witchcraft.

MOTHER SAWYER
And prick thine own eyes out. Go, peevish fools.                                                    [Exit.

YOUNG BANKS

Ningle, you had like to have spoil’d all with your bowings.  I was glad to put ‘em off with one of my dog-tricks on a sudden.  I am bewitch’d, little cost-me-nought, to love thee—a pox, that morris makes me spit in thy mouth.  I dare not stay.  Farewell, Ningle.  You whoreson dog’s-nose.  Farewell, witch.                             [Exit

Bow, wow, wow, wow!

MOTHER SAWYER
Mind him  not.  He’s not worth thy worrying. Run at a fairer game.  That foul-mouth’d knight, scurvy Sir Arthus, fly at him, my Tommy, and pluck out’s throat.

DOG
No, there’s a dog already biting’s conscience.

MOTHER SAWYER
That’s a sure bloodhound.  Come, let’s home and play.
Our black work ended, we’ll make holiday.                                                     [Exeunt.

Proceed to the next scene

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