The Witch of Edmonton – Act One, scene one

Return to Prologue

Enter FRANK THORNEY and WINNIFRIDE with child.

FRANK THORNEY
Come, wench. Why here’s a business soon dispatch’d.
Thy heart, I know, is now at ease.  Thou needst not
Fear what the tattling gossips in their cups
Can speak against thy fame.  Thy child shall know
Who to call dad now.

WINNIFRIDE
You have discharg’d the true part of an honest man.
I cannot request a fuller satisfaction
Then you have freely granted.  Yet methinks
‘Tis a hard case, being lawful man and wife,
We should not live together.

FRANK THORNEY
Had I fail’d
In promise of my truth to thee, we must
Have then been ever sunder’d.  Now the longest
Of our forbearing either’s company
Is only but to gain a little time
For our continuing thrift, that so hereafter
The heir that shall be born may not have cause
To curse his hour of birth, which made him feel
The misery of beggary and want—
Two devils that are occasions to enforce
A shameful end.  My plots aim but to keep
My father’s love.

WINNIFRIDE
And that will be as difficult
To be preserved when he shall understand
How you are married, as it will be now
Should you confess it to him.

FRANK THORNEY
Fathers are
Won by degrees, not bluntly, as our masters
Or wronged friends are; and besides, I’ll use
Such dutiful and ready means, that ere
He can have notice of what’s past, th’inheritance
To which I am born heir of shall be assured.
That done, why, let him know it.  If he like it not,
Yet he shall have no power in him left
To cross the thriving of it.

WINNIFRIDE
You, who had
The conquest of my maiden-love, may easily
Conquer the fears of my distrust.  And whither
Must I be hurried?

FRANK THORNEY
Prithee, do not use
A word so much unsuitable to the constant
Affections of thy husband.  Thou shalt live
Near Waltham Abbey with thy uncle Selman.
I have acquainted him will all at large.
He’ll use thee kindly.  Thou shalt want no pleasures,
No any other fit supplies whatever
Thou canst in heart desire.

WINNIFRIDE
All these are nothing
Without your company.

FRANK THORNEY
Which thou shalt have
Once every month at least.

WINNIFRIDE
Once every month!
Is this to have a husband?

FRANK THORNEY
Perhaps oftener;
That’s as occasions serves.

WINNIFRIDE
Ay, ay, in case
No other beauty tempt your eye whom you
Like better, I may chance to be remembered,
And see you now and then.  Faith, I did hope
You’d not have used me so.  ‘Tis but my fortune.
And yet, if not for my sake, have some pity
Upon the child I go with that’s your own.
And, ‘less you’ll be a cruel-hearted father,
You cannot but remember that.
Heaven knows how—

FRANK THORNEY
To quit which fear at once,
As by the ceremony late performed,
I plighted thee a faith as free from challenge
As any double thought, once more, in hearing
Of heaven and thee, I vow that never henceforth
Disgrace, reproof, lawless affections, threats,
Or what can be suggested ‘gainst our marriage
Shall cause my falsify that bridal oath
That binds me thine, And, Winnifride, whenever
The wanton heat of youth, by subtle baits
Of beauty or what woman’s art can practise,
Draw me from only loving thee, let heaven
Inflict upon my life some fearful ruin.
I hope thou dost believe me.

WINNIFRIDE
Swear no more.
I am confirmed, and will resolve to do
What you think most behoveful for us.

FRANK THORNEY
Thus then:  make thyself ready at the fullest house
Upon the green without the town.  Your uncle
Expects you.  For a little time, farewell.

WINNIFRIDE
Sweet,
We shall meet again as soon as thou canst possibly?

FRANK THORNEY
We shall.  One kiss.  [They kiss.] Away.                                  [Exit WINNIFRIDE.

Enter SIR ARTHUR CLARINGTON.

SIR ARTHUR
Frank Thorney.

FRANK THORNEY
Here, sir.

SIR ARTHUR
Alone?  Then must I tell thee in plain terms thou hast wronged thy master’s house basely and lewdly.

FRANK THORNEY
Your house, sir?

SIR ARTHUR
Yes, sir.  If the nimble devil
That wantoned in your blood rebelled against
All rules of honest duty, you might, sir,
Have found out some more fitting place than here
To have built a stews in.  All the country whispers
How shamefully thou hast undone a maid
Approved for modest life, for civil carriage,
Till thy prevailing perjuries enticed her
To forfeit shame.  Will you be honest yet,
Make her amends and marry her?

FRANK THORNEY
So, sir,
I might bring both myself and her to beggary,
And that would be a shame worse than the other.

SIR ARTHUR
You should have thought on this before, and then
Your reason would have overswayed the passion
Of your unruly lust.  But that you may
Be left without excuse, to salve the infamy
Of my disgraced house, and ‘cause you are
A gentleman, and both of you my servants,
I’ll make the maid a portion.

FRANK THORNEY
So you promised me
Before, in case I married her.  I know
Sir Arthur Clarington deserves the credit
Report hath lent him, and presume you are
A debtor to your promise.  But upon
What certainty shall I resolve?  Excuse me
For being somewhat rude.

SIR ARTHUR
‘Tis but reason.
Well, Frank, what thinkst thou of two hundred pounds
And a continual friend?

FRANK THORNEY
Though my poor fortunes
Might happily prefer me to a choice
Of a far greater portion, yet, to right
A wronged maid and to preserve your favour,
I am content to accept your proffer.

SIR ATHUR
Art thou?

FRANK THORNEY
Sir, we shall every day have need to employ
The use of what you please to give.

SIR ARTHUR
Thou shalt have it.

FRANK THORNEY
Then I claim your promise.  We are man and wife.

SIR ARTHUR
Already?

FRANK THORNEY
And more than so; I have promised her
Free entertainment in her uncle’s house
Near Waltham Abbey, where she may securely
Sojourn, till time and my endeavours work
My father’s love and liking.

SIR ARTHUR
Honest Frank!

FRANK THORNEY
I hope, sir, you will think I cannot keep her
Without a daily charge.

SIR ARTHUR
As for the money,
‘Tis all thine own, and thought I cannot make thee
A present payment, yet thou shalt be sure
I will not fail thee.

FRANK THORNEY
But our occasions—

SIR ARTHUR
Nay, nay, talk not of your occasions.  Trust my bounty; it shall not sleep.  Hast married her, i’faith, Frank?
‘Tis well, ‘tis passing well.  Then, Winnifride,
Once more thou art an honest woman.  Frank,
Thou hast a jewel.  Love her, she’ll deserve it.
And when to Waltham?

FRANK THORNEY
She is making ready.
Her uncle stays for her.

SIR ARTHUR
Most provident speed.
Frank, I will be thy friend, and such a friend!
Thou’lt bring her thither?

FRANK THORNEY
Sir, I cannot.  Newly
My father sent me word I should come to him.

SIR ARTHUR
Marry, and do.  I know thou hast a wit
To handle him.

FRANK THORNEY
I have a suit t’ye.

SIR ARTHUR
What is’t?
Anything, Frank, command it.

FRANK THORNEY
That you’ll please
By letters to assure my father that
I am not married.

SIR ARTHUR
How?

FRANK THORNEY
Someone or other
Hath certainly informed him that I purposed
To marry Winnifride, on which he threatened
To disinherit me.  To prevent it,
Lowly I crave your letters, which he seeing,
Will credit; and I hope ere I return,
On such conditions as I’ll frame, his lands
Shall be assured.

SIR ARTHUR
But what is there to quit
My knowledge of the marriage?

FRANK THORNEY
Why, you were not
A witness to it.

SIR ARTHUR
I conceive; and then
His land confirmed, thou wilt acquaint him thoroughly
Withal that’s passed.

FRANK THORNEY
I mean no less.

SIR ARTHUR
Provided
I never was made privy to it.

FRANK THORNEY
Alas, sir,
Am I a talker?

SIR ARTHUR
Draw thyself the letter,
I’ll put my hand to it.  I commend thy policy.
Thou’rt witty, witty Frank.  Nay, nay, ‘tis fit,
Dispatch it.

FRANK THORNEY
I shall write effectually.                                                                                 [Exit.

SIR ARTHUR
Go thy way, cuckoo.  Have I caught the young man?
One trouble then is freed.  He that will feast
At others’ cost must be a bold-faced guest.

Enter WINNIFRIDE in a riding suit.

WINNIFRIDE
I have heard the news:  all now is safe;
The worst is past.

SIR ATHUR
Thy lip, wench.  [He kisses her.] I must bid
Farewell for fashion’s sake, but I will visit thee
Suddenly, girl.  This was cleanly carried,
Ha, wast not, Win?

WINNIFRIDE
Then were my happiness
That I in heart repent I did not bring him
The dower of a virginity.  Sir, forgive me;
I have been much to blame.  Had not my lewdness
Given way to you immoderate waste of virtue,
You had not with such eagerness pursued
The error of your goodness.

SIR ARTHUR
Dear, dear Win,
I hug this art of thine.  It shows how cleanly
Thou canst beguile, in case occasions serve
To practice.  It becomes thee.  Now we share
Free scope enough, without control or fear,
To interchange our pleasures.  We will surfeit
In our embraces, wench.  Come, tell me, when
Wilt thou appoint a meeting?

WINNIFRIDE
What to do?

SIR ARTHUR
Good, good, to con the lesson of our loves,
Our secret game.

WINNIFRIDE
Oh, blush to speak it further!
As you’re a noble gentleman, forget a sin so monstrous.  ‘Tis not gently done
To open a cured wound.  I know you speak
For trial.  Troth, you need not.

SIR ARTHUR
I for trial?
Not I, but this good sunshine!

WINNIFRIDE
Can you name
That syllable of good and yet not tremble
To think to what a foul and black intent
You use it for an oath?  Let me resolve you:
If you appear in any visitation
That bring not with it pity for the wrongs
One to abused Thorney, my kind husband;
If you infect mine ear with any breath
That is not thoroughly perfumed with sighs
For former deeds of lust, may I be cursed,
Even in my prayers, when I vouchsafe
To see or hear you.  I will change my life
From a loose whore to a repentant wife.

SIR ARTHUR
Wilt thou turn monster now?  Art not ashamed
After so many months to be honest at last?
Away, away!  Fie on’t!

WINNIFRIDE
My resolution
Is built upon a rock.  This very day
Young Thorney vowed, with oaths not to be doubted,
That never any change of love should cancel
The bonds in which we are to either bound
Of lasting truth.  And shall I then, for my part,
Unfile the sacred oath set on record
In heaven’s book?  Sir Arthur, do not study
To add to your lascivious lust the sin
Of sacrilege; for if you but endeavour
By any unchaste word to temp my constancy
You strive, as much as in your lies, to ruin
A temple hallowed to the purity
Of holy marriage.  I have said enough.
You may believe me.

SIR ARTHUR
Get thee to your nunnery,
There freeze in your close cloister.  This is fine!

WINNIFRIDE
Good angels, guide me!  Sir, you’ll give me leave
To weep and pray for your conversion?

SIR ARTHUR
Yes.  Away to Waltham!  Pox on your honesty!
Had you no other trick to fool me?  Well,
You may want money yet.

WINNIFRIDE
None that I’ll send for
To you for hire of a damnation.
When I am gone, think on my just complaint:
I was your devil?  O, be you my saint!                                                            [Exit.

SIR ARTHUR
Go, go thy ways.  As changeable a baggage
As ever cozened knight.  I’m glad I’m rid of her.
Honest?  Marry, hang her!  Thorney is my debtor,
I thought to have paid him too, but fools have fortune.                             [Exit.

Proceed to the next scene

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