'Gold' An alchemical adventure.A play by Andrew Dallmeyer
Act I. Scene 1.
Back to play main page . Back to literary works.
SCENE 1 Autumn 1601. A room in Alexander Seton's house in Port Seton, Scotland. Large fireplace surrounded by pots, jars and chemicals. A crucible over the fire, which is burning low. Alexander Seton is asleep at the fireplace. Enter Ann, Seton's wife. ANN Alexander! Alexander! (She moves to him) Stir yourself man! (She shakes him) Stir yourself! (Alexander groans) Do you not know the hour of the day? SETON Mm? ANN Tis near enough the middle of the morning. SETON Oh! Forgive me Ann. Pray forgive me. I fear that I have driftit into slumber. ANN Indeed you have. Meanwhile the dogs howl with hunger, the sheep have wanderit into the kale field and John Robertson awaits a reply to his request for firewood. SETON Then I fear that I am guilty of the dereliction of my duties. ANN That would be to state it mildly. SETON But I can assure you that I have not been idle. In fact quite to the contrary. I have spent many hours at the fire and have workit right throughout the night. ANN Work indeed! So that is what you call it! SETON Oh. And what else should I call it? ANN What I call work is what brings in money which then buys bread to feed hungry mouths. SETON But cannot you understand Ann? This work could make us all rich beyond our wildest dreams. ANN Aye, dreams! Dreams indeed! For that is what they are, the dreams of one who ought to know better. SETON I see. So that is what you think. ANN And what am I supposit to think? More and more of your precious time is taken up in this unholy pursuit. The children have startit to complain that their father has become a total stranger to them. These days you are absent even at mealtimes and you come to our bedchamber but briefly and then in the early hours of the morning. Do you want to know something Alexander? I am become a widow! SETON No! ANN Aye! A widow. And well before my time. What was once a passtime with you is now become an obsession. SETON I am heartily sorry. ANN Sorry indeed! Fine to be sorry, but what remedies do you intend? Eh? That is what I wish to know. Look at the turmoil in this room! SETON Pray do not touch the vessels Ann! ANN Is not that my best crosslet you have taken from the kitchen? SETON Aye, but I will return it. Please do not touch. I will clear everything away. ANN When? SETON Tomorrow. ANN How often have I heard that said! SETON But this time I mean it. One more night. I beg of you. I feel that I am closer to my goal than I have ever been. Thy only last night did I observe the peacock's tail. ANN The peacock's tail! And what pray is that? SETON It is the many colourit flame that precedeth transmutation. ANN Transmutation! Enough o' this! SETON Do not chastise me Ann! Pray leave the fireplace! ANN Is not that my flower vase? SETON You will undo many hours of work. ANN I shall require it back. SETON The arrangement is concise. ANN Concise? It appears chaotic. SETON Pray desist! I cannot let you! (he grabs her wrist) ANN Unhand me! SETON I cannot allow it. ANN Let me go! (he lets her go - there is a pause) SETON I am sorry Ann. Pray forgive me. ANN Well, well, well. You do surprise me Alexander. SETON Truth be told I do surprise myself. But I cannot stand bye and see hour upon hour of painstaking labour overturnit in an instant. ANN That is plain enough to see. SETON What troubles you about my work? Why do you dislike it so? Tell me, Ann. Tell me! ANN What if the meenister should chance to call? SETON Ah! So now we have it. ANN You are taking a grave risk. He could make serious trouble for you. SETON I am not afraid of that old scrunt. Besides, he is unlikely to call round. When last we met we quarrelit. ANN The more reason then to be afraid. He is not without influence in the neighbourhood, and you know how folk live to tittle-tattle. Already the villagers are talking Alexander. SETON Oh. And what pray are they saying? ANN Well... nothing to my face. SETON You see! Besides, I care not. ANN You care not, eh? And what about your children? How would they be affectit to see their father haulit away for a common criminal and brought to trial? Answer me that! SETON I cannot. ANN No! You cannot. SETON Perhaps there remains nothing left for me but to travel to foreign parts. ANN What do you mean? SETON Across the ocean. To Prague. ANN Prague! Always Prague! SETON And why not indeed? ANN You imagine that conditions would be any different in Prague? SETON I do not imagine, Ann, I know. The practice of alchemy is toleratit in Prague. The King himself is said to be an adept. Not only toleratit but appreciatit also. ANN And what is to become pray of your family while you seek refuge in this earthly paradise of yours? How are we expectit to survive? On what are we expectit to live? (Pause) SETON Give me another day Ann. ANN Oh Alexander! SETON It surely is not too much to ask. ANN Not again. SETON If nothing comes about this time I swear to you that I shall cease to practice. ANN I have heard all this before. SETON This time I mean it. I know that I have been most negligent and am resolvit to reform. ANN Well... at least let me in to sweep this floor for it has not been swepit in weeks. SETON Swear to me that you will take care not to disturb these vessels. ANN Oh. very well. I swear. (She exits, returning with a broom. She starts to sweep) SETON Ann, dearest.... ANN What now? SETON Will this take long? ANN No, not long. (She sweeps on) SETON Forgive me, but.... ANN Excuse me but I cannot be expectit to sweep right through your feet. SETON Then I must go. ANN Go where? SETON Outside. I must go outside. Such rude activity is too abrasive for me. I cannot stay here. ANN Go then! SETON I will. (Exit Seton) (Ann goes to the fireplace and runs her finger along the mantlepiece). ANN I see no gold, but I see dust aplenty. (She fetches a duster and runs it along the shelf, tipping a pile of dust into one of the pots. It is the pot containing Seton's 'powder of projection'.) Oh Alexander! What is to become of us. (She continues to work as the lights fade)
If you have problems understanding these alchemical texts, Adam McLean now provides a study course entitled How to read alchemical texts : a guide for the perplexed.