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'Gold' An alchemical adventure.

A play by Andrew Dallmeyer
Act I. Scene 6.
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(In the middle of the Black Forest. Night. Distant
howling of wolves. Meg and Seton sit by the fire.)

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.


	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. 


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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