The Witch of Edmonton – Act One, scene two

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Enter OLD THORNEY and CARTER.

OLD THORNEY
You offer, Master Carter, like a gentleman;
I cannot find fault with it, ‘tis so fair.

OLD CARTER
No gentleman I, Master Thorney; spare the mastership, call me by my name, John Carter.  Master is a title my father, nor his before him, were acquainted with.  Honest Hertfordshire yeomen, such an one am I.  My word and my deed shall be proved one at all times.  I mean to give you no security for the marriage-money.

OLD THORNEY
How!  No security?
Although it need not so long as you live,
Yet who is he has surety of his life one hour?
Men, the proverb says, are mortal, else, for my part,
I distrust you not, were the sum double.

OLD CARTER
Double, treble, more or less, I tell you, Master Thorney, I’ll give no security.  Bonds and bills are but tarriers to catch fools and keep lazy knaves busy.  My security shall be present payment.  And we here about Edmonton hold present payment as sure as an alderman’s bond in London, Master Thorney.

OLD THORNEY
I cry you mercy, sir, I understood you not.

OLD CARTER
I like young Frank well, so does my Susan too.  The girl has a fancy to him, which makes me ready in my purse.  There be other suitors within that make much noise to little purpose.  If Frank love Sue, Sue shall have none but Frank.  ‘Tis a mannerly girl, Master Thorney, though but a homely man’s daughter.  There have worse faces looked out of black bags, man.

OLD THORNEY
You speak your mind freely and honestly.  I marvel my son comes not.  I am sure he will be here sometime today.

OLD CARTER
Today or tomorrow, when he comes he shall be welcome to bread, beer, and beef; yeoman’s fare, we have no kickshaws.  Full dishes, whole bellyfuls.  Should I diet three days at one of the slender city suppers, you might send me to Barber-Surgeons’ Hall the fourth day to hang up for an anatomy.  Here come they that—

Enter WARBEK with SUSAN, SOMERTON with KATHERINE.

How now, girls!  Every day play-day with you?  Valentine’s Day too, all by couples?  Thus will young folks do when we are laid in our graves, Master Thorney.  Here’s all the care they take.  And how do you find the wenches, gentlemen?  Have they any mind to a loose gown and a straight shoe?  Win ‘em and wear ‘em.  They shall choose for themselves by my consent.

WARBECK
You speak like a kind father. Sue, thou hearest the liberty that’s granted thee.  What sayest thou?  Wilt thou be mine?

SUSAN
Your what, sir?  I dare swear, never your wife.

WARBECK
Canst thou be so unkind, considering how dearly I affect thee, nay, dote on thy perfections?

SUSAN
You are studied too scholar-like in words I understand not.  I am too coarse for such a gallant’s love as you are.

WARBECK
By the honour of gentility—

SUSAN
Good sir, no swearing.  Yea and nay with us
Prevails above all oaths you can invent.

WARBECK
By this white hand of thine—

SUSAN
Take a false oath?
Fie, fie!  Flatter the wise, fools not regard it,
And one of these am I.

WARBECK
Dost thou despise me?

OLD CARTER
Let ‘em talk on, Master Thorney.  I know Sue’s mind.  The fly may buzz about the candle; he shall but singe his wings when all’s done.  Frank, Frank, he has her heart.

SOMERTON
But shall I live in hope, Kate?

KATHERINE
Better so than a desperate man.

SOMERTON
Perhaps thou thinkst it is thy portion
I level at. Wert thou as poor in fortunes
As thou art rich in goodness, I would rather
Be suitor for the dower of thy virtues
Than twice thy father’s whole estate.  And, prithee,
Be thou resolved so.

KATHERINE
Master Somerton,
It is an easy labour to deceive
A maid that will believe men’s subtle promises;
Yet I conceive of you as worthily
As I presume you do deserve.

SOMERTON
Which is
As worthily in loving thee sincerely
As thou art worthy to be so beloved.

KATHERINE
I shall find time to try you.

SOMERTON
Do, Kate, do.
And when I fail, may all my joys forsake me.

OLD CARTER
Warbeck and Sue are at it still.  I laugh to myself, Master Thorney, to see how earnestly he beats the bush while the bird is flown into another’s bosom.  A very unthrift, Master Thorney, one of the country roaring lads.  We have such as well as the city, and as arrant rakehells as they are, though not so nimble at their prizes of wit.  Sue knows the rascal to a hair’ breadth, and will fit him accordingly.

OLD THORNEY
What is the other gentleman?

OLD CARTER
One Somerton, the honester man of the two by five pound in every stone-weight.  A civil fellow.  He has a fine convenient estate of land in West Ham, by Essex.  Master Ranges, that dwells by Enfield, sent him hither.  He likes Kate well.  I may tell you, I think she likes him as well.  If they agree, I’ll not hinder the match for my part.  But that Warbeck is such another—I may use him kindly for Master Somerton’s sake, for he came hither first as a companion of his.  Honest men, Master Thorney, may fall into knaves’ company now and then.

WARBECK
Three hundred a year jointure, Sue.

SUSAN
Where lies it, by sea or land?  I think by sea.

WARBECK
Do I look like a captain?

SUSAN
Not a whit, sir.
Should all that use the seas be reckoned captains,
There’s not a ship should have a scullion in her
To keep her clean.

WARBECK
Do you scorn me, Mistress Susan?
Am I a subject to be jeered at?

SUSAN
Neither
Am I a property for you to use
As stale to your fond, wanton, lose discourse.
Pray, sir, be civil.

WARBECK
Wilt be angry, wasp?

OLD CARTER
God-a-mercy, Sue!  She’ll firk him, on my life, if he fumble with her.

Enter FRANK THORNEY.

Master Francis Thorney, you are welcome indeed.  Your father expected your coming.  How does the right worshipful knight, Sir Arthur Clarington, your master?

FRANK THORNEY
In health this morning.  [To OLD THORNEY.] Sir, my duty.

OLD THORNEY
Now,
You come as I could wish.

WARBECK
Frank Thorney, ha!

SUSAN
You must excuse me.

FRANK THORNEY
Virtuous Mistress Susan.                                                                            [Salutes them.
Kind Mistress Katherine.  Gentlemen both,
Good time o’th’day!

SOMERTON
The like to you.

WARBECK
‘Tis he.
[To SOMERTON.] A word, friend.  On my life, this is the man
Stands fair in crossing Susan’s love to me.

SOMERTON
[To WARBECK.] I think no less.  Be wise, and take no notice on’t.
He that can win her, best deserves her.

WARBECK
[To SOMERTON.] Marry,
A servingman?  Mew!

SOMERTON
[To WARBECK.] Prithee, friend, no more.

OLD CARTER
Gentlemen all, there’s within a slight dinner ready, if you please to taste of it.  Master Thorney, Master Francis, Master—Why girls!  What, hussies, will you spend all your forenoon in tittle-tattles?  Away!  It’s well, i’faith.  Will you go in, gentlemen?

OLD THORNEY
We’ll follow presently.  My son and I
Have a few words of business.

OLD CARTER
At your pleasure.

[Exeunt CARTER, SOMERTON, WARBECK, SUSAN and KATHERINE.

OLD THORNEY
I think you guess the reason, Frank, for which I sent for you.

FRANK THORNEY
Yes, sir.

OLD THORNEY
I need not tell you
With what a labyrinth of dangers daily
The best part of my whole estate’s encumbered.
Nor have I any clue to wind it out
But what occasions proffers me.  Wherein
If you should falter, I shall have the shame,
And you the loss.
On these two points rely
Out happiness or ruin.  If you marry
With wealthy Carter’s daughter, there’s a portion
Will free my land, all which I will instate
Upon the marriage to you.  Otherwise
I must be of necessity enforced
To make a present sale of all; and yet
For aught I know, live in as poor distress,
Or worse, than now I do.  You hear the sum:
I told you this before.  Have you considered on’t?

FRANK THORNEY
I have, sir.  And however I could wish
To enjoy the benefit of single freedom
For that I find no disposition in me
To undergo the burden of that care
That marriage brings with it; yet to secure
And settle the continuance of your credit,
I humbly yield to be directed by you
In all commands.

OLD THORNEY
You have already used
Such thriving protestations to the maid
That she is wholly yours.  And, speak the truth,
You love her, do you not?

FRANK THORNEY
‘Twere pity, sir,
I should deceive her.

OLD THORNEY
Better you’d been unborn.
But is your love so steady that you mean,
Nay, more, desire to make her your wife?

FRANK THORNEY
Else, sir,
It were a wrong not to be righted.

OLD THORNEY
True,
It were.  And you will marry her?

FRANK THORNEY
Heaven prosper it,
I do intend it.

OLD THORNEY
Oh, thou art a villain!
A devil like a man!  Wherein have I
Offended all the powers so much, to be
Father to such a graceless, godless son?

FRANK THORNEY
To me, sir, thus?  Oh, my cleft heart!

OLD THORNEY
To thee,
Son of my curse!  Speak truth and blush, thou monster.
Hast thou not married Winnifride, a maid
Was fellow-servant with thee?

FRANK THORNEY
[Aside.] Some swift spirit
Has blown this news abroad.  I must outface it.

OLD THORNEY
D’you study for excuse?  Why all the country is full on’t.

FRANK THORNEY
With your licence, ‘tis not charitable,
I am sure it is not fatherly, so much
To be o’erswayed with credulous conceit
Of mere impossibilities.  But fathers
Are privileged to think and talk at pleasure.

OLD THORNEY
Why, canst thou yet deny thou hast no wife?

FRANK THORNEY
What do you take me for?  An atheist?
One that nor hopes the blessedness of life
Hereafter, neither fears the vengeance due
To such as make the marriage-bed an inn
Which travellers day and night,
After a toilsome lodging, leave at pleasure?
Am I become so insensible of losing
The glory of creation’s work, my soul?
Oh, I have lived too long!

OLD THORNEY
Thou hast, dissembler.
Darest thou persever yet, and pull down wrath
As hot as flames of hell to strike thee quick
Into the grave of horror?  I believe thee not.
Get from my sight!

FRANK THORNEY
Sir, though mine innocence
Needs not a stronger witness than the clearness
Of an unperished conscience, yet, for that
I was informed how mainly you had been
Possessed of this untruth, to quit all scruple
Please you peruse this letter.  ‘Tis to you.                              [Gives letter to him.

OLD THORNEY
From whom?

FRANK THORNEY
Sir Arthur Clarington, my master.

OLD THORNEY
Well, sir.                                                                                                         [Reads letter.

FRANK THORNEY
[Aside.] On every side I am distracted, am waded deeper into mischief than virtue can avoid.  But on I must.  Fate leads me; I will follow. [To OLD THORNEY.] There you read what may confirm you.

OLD THORNEY
Yes, and wonder at it.  Forgive me, Frank. Credulity abused me.  My tears express my joy, and I am sorry I injured innocence.

FRANK THORNEY
Alas!  I knew your rage and grief proceeded from your love to me.  So I conceived it.

OLD THORNEY
My good son, I’ll bear with many faults in thee hereafter; bear thou with mine.

FRANK THORNEY
The peace is soon concluded.

Enter OLD CARTER and SUSAN.

OLD CARTER
Why, Master Thorney, d’ye mean to talk out your dinner?  The company attends your coming.  What must it be, “Master Frank” or “son Frank?”  I am plain Dunstable.

OLD THORNEY
Son, brother, if your daughter like to have it so.

OLD CARTER
I dare be confident she’s not altered
From what I left her at our parting last.
Are you, fair maid?

SUSAN
You took too sure possession
Of an estranged heart.

FRANK THORNEY
Which now I challenge.

OLD CARTER
Marry, and much good may it do thee, son.  Take her to thee.  Get me a brace of boys at a burden, Frank.  The nursing shall not stand thee in a pennyworth of milk.  Reach her home and spare not.  When’s the day?

OLD THORNEY
Tomorrow, if you please.  To use ceremony
Of charge and custom were to little purpose.
Their loves are married fast enough already.

OLD CARTER
A good motion.  We’ll e’en have a household dinner and let the fiddlers go scrape.  Let the bride and bridegroom dance at night together, no matter for the guests.  Tomorrow, Sue, tomorrow.  Shall’s to dinner now?

OLD THORNEY
We are on all sides pleased, I hope.

SUSAN
Pray heaven I may deserve the blessing sent me.
Now my heart is settled.

FRANK THORNEY
So is mine.

OLD CARTER
Your marriage-money shall be received before your wedding-shoes can be pulled on.  Blessing on you both!

FRANK THORNEY
[Aside.] No man can hide his shame from heaven that views him.
In vain he flees whose destiny pursues him.                                                      [Exeunt.

Proceed to the next scene

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