'Gold' An alchemical adventure.A play by Andrew Dallmeyer
Act I. Scene 6.
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SCENE 6. (In the middle of the Black Forest. Night. Distant howling of wolves. Meg and Seton sit by the fire.) SETON Meg. MEG Aye. SETON How can you be sure that we are going in the right direction? MEG By the arc of the sun in the sky Alexander. SETON But we have not seen the sight of the sun for well nigh a week. MEG No, we have not. But he is there none the less. (Pause) If the sun be directly ahead of us in the forenoon and to the right of us in the afternoon then we are headit East South East and that is the right direction. SETON I only wish that I could share your certainty. MEG It can be no other. Put your mind at rest. (Pause) SETON Meg! MEG Aye. SETON How far have we travellit upon this day? MEG Eight mile perhaps. SETON Surely more! MEG Possibly, possibly. SETON And are we yet half way to Prague? MEG Indeed we are. More than halfway. SETON It seems an eternity since we left Amsterdam. MEG Alexander, what ails you man for your humour is mighty melancholic? SETON Indeed it is for I am cold, Meg. Cold and hungry, and greatly affeart. MEG Your hunger and cold I can appreciate, for I too am cold and hungry. So hungry indeed that I could eat a whole horse, but as to being greatly affeart, well, that I do not understand. What is it that makes you affeart Alexander? Is it the howling of wolves? They will not come near because of the fire. Besides, I have something for that. (She rummages in her sack) SETON What is it Meg? MEG The very substance. Wolfsbain. SETON Wolfsbain? MEG Aye. Look ye here. (She sprinkles the dried leaves around the fire in a circle, muttering the incantation 'Ave, cane lapsus lupii') There! That should keep the beasts at bay! SETON I thank you Meg, but to be quite truthful I am not greatly convinvit of the veracity of your methods. MEG No? Then I have a better idea. What if I were to remove my boots? That would assuredly keep away all living creatures in the vicinity. SETON Aye. Myself includit! MEG Please Alexander! I beseech you! For my feet are like raw hams and are sorely in need of a breath of air. SETON Oh, Meg! MEG I beg of you! SETON Well... if you must. Things could scarcely be worse than they are already. MEG God bless you sir! Bless you! I cannot tell you how much this means to me. SETON Aye. And I fear it will mean much to me also! (Meg starts to remove her right boot) SETON Oh Meg! That is truly disgusting! MEG But you are a farmer Alexander. You must be familiar with animal smells. (Meg wiggles the toes of her right foot. Her feet are filthy.) Now for the other. (She removes her left boot. Wiggles her toes) Ah! What paradise! I will not air them long. SETON I am thankfull for that! MEG The night is too cold. SETON I fear that I may be overcome by the fumes! MEG Maybe so, maybe so. But see how the stench takes your mind from your other troubles and woes. SETON Tis too drastic a remedy! MEG Did I ever tell you about the way in which I cam to discover these boots? SETON No, I do not believe that you did. MEG One day I was walking in Umbria, when I saw an old man lying in a ditch. He was lying in a ditch at the side of the walkway. At first I imagined that he was dead for he was lying as still as stone and a trickle of blood came out from his nose and ran along his chin and his cheek. As I movit in closer I could also see wounds in his ribs the size of gold pieces. To my greatest surprise I saw that he still had breath in his body, so I decidit to make for him a potion of herbs. I had just sat down to attend to his wounds, when all of a sudden he sat bolt upright and, what is more, he shoutit and rageit as if I myself was guilty of bringing about his suffering. I was naturally most disturbit by this and went on my way, his curses still ringing in my ears. I was just reflecting on how very often a good Samaritan is unjustly abusit and had not procedit for more than a furlong when there on the pathway I came across a beautifull pair of pin-new boots. I took them to be my just reward, but to this very day I cannot imagine how or why they came to be there. It is, however, a certain fact that I have worn them ever since. SETON Aye. But for the odd occasion! MEG See! I will be as good as my word. But I will tell you what I will do Alexander. I will smoke a pipe and I will quell the smell. That is what I will do. SETON Smoke a pipe? And what pray is that? I have heard pipes playit but never smokit. MEG Then watch and attend and you will see. There is a remedy for everything! (She rummages in her sack) Smoking is the latest fashion in England, though God knows I am loath to adopt any fashion that goes by the name of English. SETON Why so? MEG Why so? Because I hate the English. When I was but a slip of a lass I saw my father hackit to pieces by English soldiers and he unarmit too. But enough of that. SETON What have you in your hand? MEG This is a pipe. SETON I await the melody with interest. MEG It soothes the nerves and causes a pleasant light-headed feeling. But mainly it has a powerful odour. (She lights the pipe from a stick from the fire. She blows smoke from her mouth. Seton is greatly alarmed.) SETON Meg! You are lightit! (She blows more smoke from her mouth. Seton picks up the water bottle and pours it over her head.) MEG Christ's bones! Are you mad? It is the purpose of the exercise! SETON And what exercise is that? MEG Smoking you numbskull! SETON That others should seek to set you alight is believeable though unfortunate but that you should seek to do it to yourself is nothing short of insanity! MEG This shawl is now soakit! SETON This is witchcraft indeed! MEG And so is my smock too! SETON Unadulteratit witchcraft! MEG Now will I have to remove both of them. SETON I cannot understand your desire for self destruction. MEG I am soakit to the skin. I cannot sit here. I cannot and what is more I will not either. I shall have to remove them. (She removes her outer layers. There are more layers beneath) SETON (giving her his cloak) Here! Take this! MEG I will not deprive you. SETON Take it! It is warm! MEG And what of yourself? SETON There is room there for both of us. I will build up the fire. (He does so. Meg sits. Seton sits beside her, somewhat tentatively. They huddle together. Enter a woman with three children. Because it is dark they are scarcely visible. They stand in silence for a while. Seton is the first to sense their presence. He jumps to his feet.) SETON Hah! What are you? Robbers? Phantoms? Make yourselves known! What are you? (The woman steps slowly forward. She is pale and pathetic.) WOMAN We saw the fire. Do you mind if we sit by the fire? MEG No. Not at all. WOMAN I thank you. I thank you very much. May I bring the children over as well? MEG The more the merrier as far as I am concernit. What say you Alexander? SETON I am in full accord. WOMAN Thank you. I thank you. (She goes back to the children) Yes. We may sit by the fire. (The woman and the children move to the fire. They are a pathetic sight.) The children are cold. (They all sit down). MEG What is wrong with the children? What troubles them so? WOMAN The children are ill. They all feel unwell. They are suffering with fever. MEG Ah! I see! Then your troubles are over for I have the very thing for fever. (Meg rummages in her sack) Best apple water! But a few drops remaining. A drop for each of you applied to the forehead will work wonders in no time at all. Here. One for you. (she places her hand on their foreheads to wipe in the drops). One for you and one for you. (The children are alarmed by Meg's manner. One of them starts to cry, then another, then the third.) SETON So much for your remedies Meg!. MEG Do not be harsh with me Alexander! I was but attempting to help. WOMAN We have had no food for well nigh a week. That is why the children cry. We are all very hungry. MEG And so are we. We cannot help you as far as that is concernit. But I have here something which might be of use. WOMAN What is it? MEG A curl of birch bark. When chewit in the mouth it is a well known fact that it will keep hunger at bay. SETON But you cannot give them birchbark to eat. MEG It is better than nothing. SETON I am not so certain. MEG Here! Please take it! It is not much but it is all that we have. Keep it in the mouth for as long as possible before swallowing it down my poor little starlings. (One of the children takes the bark eagerly. He puts it in his mouth and starts to chew. His face crumbles slowly. He starts to cry. The others soon follow.) MEG What troubles them now? WOMAN They are all so cold. Let us give the poor little starlings your cloak! Do I have your consent? SETON Indeed you do. But they must all sit close to one another and thus will all three be benefitit. MEG Here! Take this! (Meg hands the woman the cloak). WOMAN. I cannot take it. MEG We want you to have it. WOMAN No. no. I cannot. MEG Go on! WOMAN Thank you madam. Thank you sir. (She takes the cloak) Now, children, please sit closer together! (The children obey. The woman puts the cloak around the children.) MEG At last they are silent! SETON Not for long I fear. MEG What makes you say that? SETON They are suffering greatly. MEG Have you children of your own? SETON I have, Meg. I have. MEG How I would have lovit to have children myself. How kindly would I have treatit them all. Honey in the morning, laughter at table, walks in the countryside, stories at bedtime. But it is too late now. Aye. Far too late. (One of the children starts to cry.) Now there! Stop it! There is nothing to cry about! (Meg stands up and pulls a funny face. This has the opposite effect to the one intended. All three children start to cry.) Look! Watch you here! (Meg tries an outlandish pose. The children are alarmed and cry louder than ever. She sits down defeated. The children cry on.) SETON (suddenly) This pierces me to the very heart! I can no longer abide it! Give me your earthenware pot Meg! MEG For why? SETON Do not ask. Just give it to me! (She brings the bowl from the sack. Seton places it over the fire.) MEG What are you doing man? What are you doing? Have you taken leave of your senses? SETON I can assure you that I know exactly what I am doing. Give me your brooch! MEG What? SETON Give me your brooch! MEG No I will not. SETON (With great force) Give it to me! MEG This brooch is of worth. SETON I will make it of more worth. Give it to me! (Reluctantly, she gives him the brooch. He puts it into the pot.) MEG What! How dare you! The brooch will be meltit. SETON That is my intention. MEG I cannot allow it. SETON Stay where you are Meg! MEG This is true madness. SETON I will stop you with force! (Meg sees that he means it) Wait and see what will become of your brooch. MEG That brooch means much to me. It was given as a present. A Franciscan friar. In the town of Bordeaux. I did him a service. I curit him of the pox. A charming man too. I swathit him in dung and dippit him in flour and then washit his body all over in dew. And so it was that he gave me a pin. A pin and clasp and a brooch. Now all that remains is the brooch! And that too will soon cease to exist! (Seton adds the powder of projection.) SETON I must not use all but must save some for Prague. MEG Save some? Some what? SETON Soon all will be plain. MEG Ignorant Scotchman! I should never have trustit you! SETON (Stirring the potion) Oh mighty phoenix From your flame May my soul Be born again And like our Savoir Jesus Christ Be born not once But twice. MEG What? What is this? SETON Go gentle! Go gentle! (The crucible starts to glow. The children stop crying. They are transfixed.) MEG What Alexander? Do my eyes deceive me? (The glow grows brighter. The forest is lit up. The wolves cease to howl.) MEG Christ's bones! Tis a miracle! (All are transfixed. Seton takes the pot from the fire. He pours the water over it. There is a hissing sound. He picks a lump of gold from the pot.) SETON (To the woman) Here. Take this. Sell it if you wish. It will provide warmth, food and shelter for you and your family for the rest of your days. WOMAN But.... SETON Please! It is yours! WOMAN But I cannot take it. SETON You can and you must. WOMAN Gold! It is gold children! Gold! We have gold! Now we are rich! May god be praisit! MEG I thank God that I have livit to see this day. I never thought to see such a heavenly miracle. I have heard of such things but I have never thought to see them. Not with my own two eyes. Tell me! Tell me, who are you pray? SETON I am Alexander Seton. MEG You are more than that (she kneels) I kneel at your feet. SETON Pray stand up Meg! Such behaviour is unseemly. MEG It is as if dawn had broken in the middle of the night. (The forest is transformed from threatening to beautiful. The birds start singing) WOMAN Gold! We have gold! We are rich, children. Rich! (The children start laughing.)
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