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Can from a four-leg'd creature make a thing
So like a wife?
Rob. A bridle ; a jugling bridle, Sir.
Gen. A bridle! Hence, enchantment.
A viper were more safe within my hand,
Than this charm’d engine. —
A witch! my wife a witch!
The more I strive to unwind
Myself from this meander, I the more
Therein am intricated. Prithee, woman,
Art thou a witch ?
Wife. It cannot be denied,
I am such a curst creature.
Gen. Keep aloof :
And do not come too near me. O my trust;
Have I, since first I understood myself,
Been of my soul so chary, still to study
What best was for its health, to renounce all
The works of that black fiend with my best force;
And hath that serpent twined me so about,
That I must lie so often and so long
With a devil in my bosom ?
Wife. Pardon, Sir. [She looks down.].
Gen. Pardon! can such a thing as that be hoped ?
Lift up thine eyes, lost woman, to yon hills;
It must be thence expected : look not down
Unto that horrid dwelling; which thou hast sought
At such dear rate to purchase. Prithee tell me,
(For now I can believe) art thou a witch ?
Wife. I am.
Gen. With that word I am thunderstruck,
And know not what to answer; yet resolve me,
Hast thou made any contract with that fiend,
The enemy of mankind.
Wife. ( I have.
Gen. What? and how far ?
Wife. I have promis'd him my soul.
Gen. Ten thousand times better thy body had
Been promis’d to the stake; aye, and mine too,
To have suffer'd with thee in a hedge of flames,
Than such a compact ever had been made. Oh
Resolve me, how far doth that contract stretch ?
Wife. What interest in this Soul myself could claim,
I freely gave him ; but his part that made it
I still reserve, not being mine to give.
Gen. O cunning devil: foolish woman, know,
Where he can claim but the least little part,
He will usurp the whole. Thou ’rt a lost woman,
Wife. I hope, not so.
Gen. Why, hast thou any hope?
Wife. Yes, sir, I have.
Gen. Make it appear to me.
Wife. I hope I never bargain'd for that fire,
Further than penitent tears have power to quench.
Gen. I would see some of them.
Wife. You behold them now
(If you look on me with charitable eyes)
Tinctur'd in blood, blood issuing from the heart.
Sir, I am sorry; when I look towards heaven,
I beg a gracious pardon; when on you,
Methinks your native goodness should not be
Less pitiful than they : 'gainst both I have err’d;
From both I beg atonement.
Gen. May I presume't?
Wife. I kneel to both your mercies.
Gen. Knowest thou what
A witch is ?
Wife. Alas, none better;
Or after mature recollection can be
More sad to think on't.
Gen. Tell me, are those tears
As full of true-hearted penitence,
As mine of sorrow to behold what state,
What desperate state, thou ’rt faln in ?
Wife. Sir, they are. '
Gen. Rise; and, as I do you, so heaven pardon me; We all offend, but from such falling off
Defend us! Well, I do remember, wife,
When I first took thee, 'twas for good and bad :
O change thy bad to good, that I may keep thee
(As then we past our faiths) 'till Death us sever.
O woman, thou hast need to weep thyself
Into a fountain, such a penitent spring
As may have power to quench invisible flames;
In which my eyes shall aid : too little, all.46
Gentlemen, welcome ; 'tis a word I use ;
From me expect no further compliment;
Nor do I name it often at one meeting;
Once spoke, to those that understand me best,
And know I always purpose as I speak,
Hath ever yet sufficed: so let it you.
Nor do I love that common phrase of guests,
As, we make bold, or, we are troublesome,
We take you unprovided, and the like;
I know you understanding Gentlemen,
And knowing me, cannot persuade yourselves
With me you shall be troublesome or bold.
Nor shall you find,
Being set to meat, that I'll excuse your fare,
Or say, I am sorry it falls out so poor,
And, had I known your coming, we'd have had
Such things and such;, nor blame my Cook, to say
This dish or that hath not been sauc't with care :
Words fitting best a common hostess' mouthi,
When there's perhaps some just cause of dislike;'
But not the table of a Gentleman.
46 Compare this with a story in the Arabian Nights, where a man discovers his wife to be a goul.
A FAIR QUARREL: A COMEDY. BY THOMAS
MIDDLETON AND WM. ROWLEY.
Captain Ager in a dispute with a Colonel his friend, re
ceives from the Colonel the appellation of Son of a Whore. A challenge is given and accepted: but the Captain, before he goes to the field, is willing to be confirmed of his mother's honor from her own lips. Lady Ager, being questioned by her Son, to prevent a duel, falsely slanders herself of unchastity. The Captain, thinking that he has a bad cause, refuses to fight. But being reproached by the Colonel with cowardice, he esteems that he has now a sufficient cause for a quarrel, in the vindicating of his honor from that aspersion; and draws, and disarms his opponent.
Lady. Captain, her Son.
La. Where left you your dear friend the Colonel ?
Cap. Oh the dear Colonel, I should meet him soon.
La. Oh fail him not then, he's a Gentleman
The fame and reputation of your time
Is much engag'd to.
Cap. Yes and you knew all, mother..
Lá. I thought I'd known so much of his fair goodness, More could not have been look'd for.
* Cap. O yes, yes, Madam : And this his last exceeded all the rest.
La. For gratitude's sake let me know this I prithee.
Cap. Then thus; and I desire your censure freely, Whether it appear'd not a strange noble kindness in him.
La. Trust me, I long to hear't.
Cap. You know he's hasty;
That by the way. I.
" La. So are the best conditions :
Your father was the like.
Cap. I begin now
To doubt me more : why am not I so too then ?
Blood follows blood through forty generations ;
And I've a slow-pac'd wrath: a shrewd dilemma.- (aside.)
La. Well, as you were saying, Sir.
Cup. Marry, thus, good Madam.
There was in company a foul-mouth'd villain -
Stay, stay, --
Who should I liken him to that you have seen?
He comes so near one that I would not match him with,
Faith, just o' the Colonel's pitch: he's ne'er the worse
Usurers have been compar'd to magistrates,
Extortioners to lawyers, and the like, '
But they all prove ne'er the worse men for that.
La. That's bad enough, they need not.
Cap. This rude fellow,
A shame to all humanity and manners,
Breathes from the rottenness of his gall and malice,
The foulest stain that ever man's fame blemish'd, -
Part of which fell upon your honor, madam,
Which heighten'd my affliction.
La. Mine, my honor, Sir ?
Cap. The Colonel soon enrag'd (as he's all touchwood) Takes fire before me, makes the quarrel his, Appoints the field; my wrath could not be heard, His was so high pitcht, so gloriously mounted. Now what's the friendly fear that fights within me, Should his brave noble fury undertake A cause that were unjust in our defence, And so to lose him everlastingly, In that dark depth where all bad quarrels sink
Never to rise again, what pity 'twere, · First to die here, and never to die there! La. Why what's the quarrel, speak, Sir, that should
Such fearful doubt, my honor bearing part on't ?
The words, what e'er they were
Cap. Son of a whore.
La. Thou liest: