'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.