The Witch of Edmonton – Act Two, scene one

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Enter ELIZABETH SAWYER gathering sticks.

ELIZABETH SAWYER
And why on me?  Why should the envious world
Throw all their scandalous malice upon me?
‘Cause I am poor, deformed, and ignorant,
And like a bow buckled and bent together
By some more strong in mischiefs than myself,
Must I for that be made a common sing
For all the filth and rubbish of men’s tongues
To fall and run into?  Some call me witch,
And, being ignorant of myself, they go
About to teach me now to be one, urging
That my bad tongue, by their bad usage made so,
Forspeaks their cattle, doth bewitch their corn,
Themselves, their servants, and their babes at nurse.
This they enforce upon me, and in part
Make me to credit it.

Enter OLD BANKS.

And here comes one
Of my chief adversaries.

OLD BANKS
Out, out upon thee, witch!

MOTHER SAWYER
Dost call me witch?

OLD BANKS
I do, witch, I do; and worse I would, new I a name more hateful.  What makest thou upon my ground?

MOTHER SAWYER
Gather a few rotten sticks to warm me.

OLD BANKS
Down with them when I bid thee, quickly.  I’ll make thy bones rattle in thy skin else.

MOTHER SAWYER
You won’t, churl, cutthroat, miser!  [Puts down the sticks] There they be.  Would they stuck ‘cross thy throat, thy bowels, thy maw, thy midriff!

OLD BANKS
Sayest thou me so?  Hag, out of my ground!                                              [He hits her.

MOTHER SAWYER
Dost strike me, slave?  Curmudgeon, now thy bones aches, thy joints cramps, and convulsions stretch and crack thy sinews

OLD BANKS
Cursing, thou hag?  [He beats her.] Take that, and that!                                [Exit.

MOTHER SAWYER
Strike, do, and withered may that hand and arm
Whose bows have lames me, drop from the rotten trunk.
Abuse me!  Beat me!  Call me hag and witch!
What is the name?  Where and by what art learned?
What spells, what charms or invocations
May the thing called familiar be purchased?

Enter YOUNG BANKS and Morris Dancers.

YOUNG BANKS
A new head for the tabor, and silver tipping for the pipe.
Remember that, and forget not five leash of new bells.

FIRST DANCER
Double bells!  Crooked Lane, ye shall have ‘em straight in Crooked Lane.  Double bells all if it be possible.

YOUNG BANKS
Double bells?  Double coxcombs!  Trebles, buy me trebles, all trebles, for our purpose is to be in the altitudes.

SECOND DANCER
All trebles?  Not a mean?

YOUNG BANKS
Not one.  The morris is so cast we’ll have neither mean nor base in our company, fellow Rowland.

THIRD DANCER
What!  Nor a counter?

YOUNG BANKS
By no means, no hunting counter.  Leave that to Enfield Chase men.  All trebles, all in the altitudes.  Now or the disposing of parts in the morris, little or no labour will serve.

SECOND DANCER
If you that be minded to follow your leader, now me, an ancient honour belonging to our house, for a fore-horse in a team and fore-gallant in a morris.  My father’s table is not unfurnished.

THIRD DANCER
So much for the fore-horse, but how for a good hobby-horse?

YOUNG BANKS
For a hobby-horse?  Let me see an almanac.  [A Dancer passes him a book.] Midsummer-moon, let me see ye.  “When the moon’s in the full, then’s wit in the wane.  No more.  Use your best skill; your morris will suffer an eclipse.

FIRST DANCER
An eclipse?

YOUNG BANKS
A strange one.

SECOND DANCER
Strange?

YOUNG BANKS
Yes, and most sudden.  Remember the fore-gallant and forget the hobby-horse.  The whole body of your morris will be darkened.  There be of us—but ‘tis no matter.  Forget the hobby-horse.

FIRST DANCER
Cuddy banks, have you forgot since he paced it from Enfield Chase to Edmonton?  Cuddy, honest Cuddy, cast thy stuff.

YOUNG BANKS
Suffer may ye all.  It shall be known I can take mine ease as well as another man.  Seek your hobby-horse where you can get him.

FIRST DANCER
Cuddy, honest Cuddy, we confess, and are sorry for our neglect.

SECOND DANCER
The old horse shall have a new bridle—

THIRD DANCER
The caparisons new painted—

FOURTH DANCER
The tail repaired—

FIRST DANCER
The snaffle and the bosses new saffroned o’er.  Kind—

SECOND DANCER
Honest—

THIRD DANCER
Loving, ingenious—

FOURTH DANCER
Affable Cuddy.

YOUNG BANKS
To show I am not flint but affable, as you say, very well-stuffed, a kid of warm dough or puff-paste, I relent, I connive, most affable Jack.  Let the hobby-horse provide a strong back; he shall not want a belly when I am in ‘im.  [Sees ELIZABETH SAWYER.] But ‘uds me, Mother Sawyer!

FIRST DANCER
The old Witch of Edmonton!  If our mirth be not crossed—

SECOND DANCER
Bless us, Cuddy, and let her curse her t’other eye out.  What dost now?

YOUNG BANKS
Ungirt, unblessed, says the proverb; but my girdle shall serve a riding knot, and a fig for all the witches in Christendom.  What wouldst thou?

FIRST DANCER
The devil cannot abide to be crossed.

SECOND DANCER
And scorns to come at any man’s whistle.

THIRD DANCER
Away—

FOURTH DANCER
—with the witch!

ALL
Away with the Witch of Edmonton!

[Exeunt YOUNG BANKS and Morris Dancers in strange postures.

MOTHER SAWYER
Still vexed!  Still tortured! That curmudgeon Banks
Is ground of all my scandal.  I am shunned
And hated like a sickness, made a scorn
To all degrees and sexes.  I have heard old beldams
Talk of familiars in the shape of mice,
Rats, ferrets, weasels, and I wot not what,
That have appeared and sucked, some say, their blood.
But by what means they came acquainted with them
I’m now ignorant.  Would some power, good or bad,
Instruct me which way I might be revenged
Upon this churl, I’d go out of myself
And give this fury leave to dwell within
This ruined cottage ready to fall with age;
Abjure all goodness, be at hate with prayer,
And study curses, imprecations,
Blasphemous speeches, oaths, detested oaths,
Or anything that’s ill, so I might work
Revenge upon this miser, this black cur
That barks and bites, and sucks the very blood
Of me and my credit.  ‘Tis all one
To be a witch as to be counted one.
Vengeance, shame, ruin light upon that canker!

Enter DOG.

DOG
Ho!  Have I found thee cursing?  Now thou art mine own.

MOTHER SAWYER
Thine?  What art thou?

DOG
He thou hast so often importuned to appear to thee, the devil.

MOTHER SAWYER
Bless me!  The devil?

DOG
Come, do not fear, I love thee much too well
To hurt or frighten thee.  If I seem terrible,
It is to such as hate me.  I have found
Thy love unfeigned, have seen and pitied
Thy open wrongs, and come, out of my love,
To give thee just revenge against thy foes.

MOTHER SAWYER
May I believe thee?

DOG
To confirm’t, command me
Do any mischief unto man or beast,
And I’ll effect it, on condition
That, uncompelled, thou make a deed of gift
Of soul and body to me.

MOTHER SAWYER
Out, alas!
My soul and body!

DOG
And that instantly,
And seal it with thy blood.  If thou deniest
I’ll tear thy body in a thousand pieces.

MOTHER SAWYER
I know not where to seek relief.  But shall I
After such covenants sealed, see full revenge
On all that wrong me?

DOG
Ha, ha!  Silly woman!
The devil is no liar to such as he loves.
Didst ever know or hear the devil a liar
To such as he affects?

MOTHER SAWYER
Then I am thine, at least so much of me
As I can call my own.

DOG
Equivocations?
Art mine or no?  Speak, or I’ll tear!

MOTHER SAWYER
All thine.

DOG
Seal’t with thy blood.                           [Sucks her arm; thunder and lightning.
See, now I dare call thee mine;
For proof, command me; instantly I’ll run,
To any mischief; goodness can I none.

MOTHER SAWYER
And I desire as little.  There’s an old churl,
One Banks—

DOG
That wrong’d thee; he blamed thee; call’d thee witch.

MOTHER SAWYER
The same.  First upon him I’ld be reveng’d.

DOG
Thou shalt.  Do but name how.

MOTHER SAWYER
Go touch his life.

DOG
I cannot.

MOTHER SAWYER
Hast thou not vow’d?  Go kill the slave.

DOG
I wonnot.

MOTHER SAWYER
I’ll cancel then my gift.

DOG
Ha, ha!

MOTHER SAWYER
Dost laugh?
Why wilt not kill him?

DOG
Fool, because I cannot.
Though we have power, know, it is circumscrib’d,
And tied in limits.  Though he be curs’d to thee,
Yet of himself he is loving to the world,
And charitable to the poor.  Now, men
That, as he, love goodness, though in smallest measure,
Live without compass of our reach.  His cattle
And corn, I’ll kill and mildew, but his life,
Until I take him, as I late found thee,
Cursing and swearing, I have no power to touch.

MOTHER SAWYER
Work on his corn and cattle then.

DOG
The witch of Edmonton shall see his fall.
If she at least put credit in my power,
And in mine only; make orisons to me,
And none but me.

MOTHER SAWYER
Say how, and in what manner?

DOG
I’ll tell thee; when thou wishest ill,
Corn, man, or beast, would spoil or kill,
Turn thy back against the sun,
And mumble this short orison:
“If thou to death or shame pursue ‘em,
Sanctibicetur nomen tuum.”

MOTHER SAWYER
If thou to death or shame pursue ‘em,
Sanctibecetur nomen tuum.

DOG
Perfect.  Farewell.  Our first-made promises
We’ll put in execution against Banks.                                                      [Exit.

MOTHER SAWYER
Contaminetur nomen tuum.  I’m an expert scholar.
Speak Latin, or I know not well what language,
As well as the best of ‘em.  But who come here?

Enter YOUNG BANKS.

To son of my worst foe.  To death pursue ‘em,
Et sanctabacetur nomen tuum.

YOUNG BANKS
[Aside.] What’s that she mumbles?  The devil’s pater noster?  Would it were else.  [Aloud.] Mother Sawyer, good morrow.

MOTHER SAWYER
I’ll morrow to thee, and all the world, that flout a poor old woman.  To death pursue ‘em, and sanctabacetur nimen tuum.

YOUNG BANKS
Nay, good Gammer Sawyer, whate’re it pleases my father to call you, I know you are—

MOTHER SAWYER
A witch.

YOUNG BANKS
A witch?  Would you were else i’faith.

MOTHER SAWYER
Your father knows I am by this.

YOUNG BANKS
I would he did.

MOTHER SAWYER
And so in time may you.

YOUNG BANKS
I would I might else.  But witch or no witch, you are a motherly woman; and though my father be a kind of God-bless-us, as they say, I have an earnest suit to you; and if you’ll be so kind to ka me one good turn, I’ll be so courteous as to kob you another.

MOTHER SAWYER
What’s that?  To spurn, beat me, and call me witch, as your kind father doth?

YOUNG BANKS
My father?  I am asham’d to own him.  If he has hurt the head of thy credit, there’s money to buy thee a plaster, and a small courtesy I would require at thy hands.

MOTHER SAWYER
You seem a good young man, [Aside.] and I must dissemble, the better to accomplish my revenge.  [Aloud.] But for this silver, what wouldst have me do?  Bewitch thee?

YOUNG BANKS
No, by no means.  I am bewitch’d already.  I would have thee so good as to unwitch me, or with another with me for company.

MOTHER SAWYER
I understand thee not.  Be plain, my son.

YOUNG BANKS
As a pikestaff, mother.  You know Kate Carter?

MOTHER SAWYER
The wealthy yeoman’s daughter.  What of her?

YOUNG BANKS
That same party has bewitch’d me.

MOTHER SAWYER
Bewitch’d thee?

YOUNG BANKS
Bewitch’d me, hisce auribus.  I saw a little devil fly out her eye like a burbolt, which sticks at this hour up to the feathers in my heart.  Now, my request is, to send one of thy what-d’ye-call-‘ems, either to pluck that out, or stick another as fast in hers.  Do, and here’s my hand, I am thine for three lives.

MOTHER SAWYER
[Aside.] We shall have sport.  [Aloud.] Thou art in love with her?

YOUNG BANKS
Up to the very hilts, Mother.

MOTHER SAWYER
And thou’dst have me make her love thee too?

YOUNG BANKS
[Aside.] I think she’ll prove a witch in earnest.  [Aloud.] Yes, I could find in my heart to strike her three quarters deep in love with me too.

MOTHER SAWYER
But dost thou think that I can do’t, and I alone?

YOUNG BANKS
Truly, Mother Witch, I do verily believe so; and when I see it done, I shall be persuaded so too.

MOTHER SAWYER
It’s enough.  What art can do, be sure of.  Turn to the west, and whatsoe’er thou hearest or seest, stand silent, and be not afraid.                                      [She stamps.

Enter the DOG; he fawns and leaps upon her.

YOUNG BANKS
Afraid, Mother Witch?  Turn my face to the West?  I said I should always have a back-friend of her, and now it’s out.  And her little devil should be hungry, come sneaking behind me, like a cowardly catchpole, and clap his talents on my haunches.  ‘Tis woundy cold sure.  I dudder and shake like a aspen-leaf, every joint of me.

MOTHER SAWYER
To scandal and disgrace pursue ‘em,
Et sancabicetur nimen tuum.
How now, my son, how is’t?                                                                             [Exit DOG.

YOUNG BANKS
Scarce in a clean life, Mother Witch.  Bud did your goblin and you spout Latin together?

MOTHER SAWYER
A kind of charm I work by.  Didst thou hear me?

YOUNG BANKS
I heard I know not the devil what mumble in a scurvy base tone, like a drum that had taken cold in the head the last muster.  Very comfortable words.  What were they?  And who taught them you?

MOTHER SAWYER
A great learned man.

YOUNG BANKS
Learned man?  Learned devil it was as soon?  But what?  What comfortable news about the party?

MOTHER SAWYER
Who?  Kate Carter?  I’ll tell thee.  Thou knowest the style at the west end of thy father’s peas-field?  Be there tomorrow night after sunset, and the first live thing thou seest, be sure to follow, and she is thine own.

YOUNG BANKS
In the peas-field?  Has she a mind to codlings already?  The first living thing I meet, you say, shall bring me to her?

MOTHER SAWYER
To a sight of her, I mean.  She will seem wantonly coy and flee thee; but follow her close, and boldly.  Do but embrace her in thy arms once, and she is thine own.

YOUNG BANKS
At the style, at the west end of my father’s peas-land, the first living thing I see, follow and embrace her, and she shall be thine.  Nay, and I come to embracing one, she shall be mine.  I’ll go near to make at eaglet else.                                            [Exit.

MOTHER SAWYER
A ball well-bandied.  Now the set’s half won.
The father’s wrong I’ll wreak upon the son.                                                              [Exit.

Proceed to the next scene

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