Fiction > Harvard Classics > Ben Jonson > The Alchemist
Ben Jonson (1572–1637).  The Alchemist.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Act I
Scene III
  SUB. 1  [Within.]  Come in! Good wives, I pray you forbear me now;
Troth, I can do you no good till afternoon—
[Enter SUBTLE, followed by DRUGGER]

  SUB.  What is your name, say you? Abel Drugger?
  DRUG.        Yes, sir.        4
  SUB.  A seller of tobacco?
  DRUG.        Yes, sir.
  SUB.  Umph!
Free of the grocers? 2        8
  DRUG.        Ay, an’t please you.
  SUB.        Well——
Your business, Abel?
  DRUG.        This, an’t please your worship;        12
I am a young beginner, and am building
Of a new shop, an’t like your worship, just
At corner of a street:—Here is the plot 3 on’t——
And I would know by art, sir, of your worship,        16
Which way I should make my door, by necromancy,
And where my shelves; and which should be for boxes,
And which for pots. I would be glad to thrive, sir:
And I was wish’d 4 to your worship by a gentleman,        20
One Captain Face, that says you know men’s planets,
And their good angels, and their bad.
  SUB.        I do,
If I do see ’em——        24
[Enter FACE]

  FACE.        What! my honest Abel?
Though art well met here.
  DRUG.        Troth, sir, I was speaking,
Just as your worship came here, of your worship:        28
I pray you speak for me to master doctor.
  FACE.  He shall do anything. Doctor, do you hear?
This is my friend, Abel, an honest fellow;
He lets me have good tobacco, and he does not        32
Sophisticate it with sack-lees or oil,
Nor washes it in muscadel and grains,
Nor buries it in gravel, under ground,
Wrapped up in greasy leather, or piss’d clouts:        36
But keeps it in fine lily pots, that, open’d,
Smell like conserve of roses, or French beans.
He has his maple block, 5 his silver tongs,
Winchester pipes, and fire of juniper: 6        40
A neat, spruce, honest fellow, and no goldsmith. 7
  SUB.  He’s a fortunate fellow, that I am sure on.
  FACE.  Already, sir, ha’ you found it? Lo thee, Abel!
  SUB.  And in right way toward riches——        44
  FACE.        Sir!
  SUB.        This summer.
He will be of the clothing of his company, 8
And next spring call’d to the scarlet; 9 spend what he can.        48
  FACE.  What, and so little beard?
  SUB.        Sir, you must think,
He may have a receipt to make hair come:
But he’ll be wise, preserve his youth, and fine for’t;        52
His fortune looks for him another way.
  FACE.  ’Slid, doctor, how canst thou know this so soon?
I am amus’d 10 at that.
  SUB.        By a rule, captain,        56
In metoposcopy, 11 which I do work by;
A certain star i’ the forehead, which you see not.
Your chestnut or your olive-colour’d face
Does never fail: and your long ear doth promise.        60
I knew’t, by certain spots, too, in his teeth,
And on the nail of his mercurial finger.
  FACE.        Which finger’s that?
  SUB.  His little finger. Look.        64
You were born upon a Wednesday?
  DRUG.        Yes, indeed, sir.
  SUB.  The thumb, in chiromancy, we give Venus;
The forefinger to Jove; the midst to Saturn;        68
The ring to Sol; the least to Mercury,
Who was the lord, sir, of his horoscope,
His house of life being Libra; which foreshow’d
He should be a merchant, and should trade with balance.        72
  FACE.  Why, this is strange! Is it not, honest Nab?
  SUB.  There is a ship now coming from Ormus,
That shall yield him such a commodity
Of drugs——This is the west, and this the south?  [Pointing to the plan.]        76
  DRUG.  Yes, sir.
  SUB.        And those are your two sides?
  DRUG.        Ay, sir.
  SUB.  Make me your door then, south; your broad side, west:        80
And on the east side of your shop, aloft,
Write Mathlai, Tarmiel, and Baraborat;
Upon the north part, Rael, Velel, Thiel.
They are the names of those Mercurial spirits        84
That do fright flies from boxes.
  DRUG.        Yes, sir.
  SUB.        And
Beneath your threshold, bury me a loadstone        88
To draw in gallants that wear spurs: the rest,
They’ll seem 12 to follow.
  FACE.        That’s a secret, Nab!
  SUB.  And, on your stall, a puppet, with a vice        92
And a court-fucus, 13 to call city-dames:
You shall deal much with minerals.
  DRUG.        Sir, I have.
At home, already——        96
  SUB.        Ay, I know you have arsenic,
Vitriol, sal-tartar, argaile, 14 alkali,
Cinoper: 15 I know all.—This fellow, captain,
Will come, in time, to be a great distiller,        100
And give a say 16 —I will not say directly,
But very fair—at the philosopher’s stone.
  FACE.  Why, how now, Abel! is this true?
  DRUG.        [Aside to FACE]  Good captain,        104
What must I give?
  FACE.        Nay, I’ll not counsel thee.
Thou hear’st what wealth (he says, spend what thou canst),
Thou’rt like to come to.        108
  DRUG.        I would gi’ him a crown.
  FACE.  A crown! and toward such a fortune? Heart,
Thou shalt rather gi’ him thy shop. No gold about thee?
  DRUG.  Yes, I have a portague, 17 I ha’ kept this half-year.        112
  FACE.  Out on thee, Nab! ’Slight, there was such an offer—
Shalt keep’t no longer, I’ll give’t him for thee. Doctor,
Nab prays your worship to drink this, and swears
He will appear more grateful, as your skill        116
Does raise him in the world.
  DRUG.        I would entreat
Another favour of his worship.
  FACE.        What is’t, Nab?        120
  DRUG.  But to look over, sir, my almanac,
And cross out my ill-days, 18 that I may neither
Bargain, nor trust upon them.
  FACE.        That he shall, Nab:        124
Leave it, it shall be done, ’gainst afternoon.
  SUB.  And a direction for his shelves.
  FACE.        Now, Nab,
Art thou well pleas’d, Nab?        128
  DRUG.        ’Thank, sir, both your worships.
  FACE.        Away.  [Exit DRUGGER.]
Why, now, you smoaky persecutor of nature!
Now do you see, that something’s to be done,        132
Beside your beech-coal, and your cor’sive 19 waters,
Your crosslets, 20 crucibles, and cucurbites? 21
You must have stuff, brought home to you, to work on:
And yet you think, I am at no expense        136
In searching out these veins, then following them,
Then trying ’em out. ’Fore God, my intelligence
Costs me more money than my share oft comes to,
In these rare works.        140
  SUB.        You’re pleasant, sir.—How now!
Note 1. The same. [back]
Note 2. I. e., a member of the Grocers’ Company. [back]
Note 3. Plan. [back]
Note 4. Recommended. [back]
Note 5. On which tobacco was shredded. [back]
Note 6. The coals of which were used to light pipes. [back]
Note 7. Usurer. [back]
Note 8. Wear the livery. [back]
Note 9. Be sheriff. [back]
Note 10. Amazed. [back]
Note 11. A branch of physiognomy. [back]
Note 12. Be seen. [back]
Note 13. Paint for the face. [back]
Note 14. Tartar deposited by wine. [back]
Note 15. Cinnabar, mercuric sulphid. [back]
Note 16. Assay. [back]
Note 17. A gold coin worth about three pounds twelve shillings. [back]
Note 18. Unlucky days. [back]
Note 19. Corrosive. [back]
Note 20. Crucibles. [back]
Note 21. Glass retort, shaped like a gourd. [back]


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