Fiction > Harvard Classics > Ben Jonson > The Alchemist
Ben Jonson (1572–1637).  The Alchemist.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Act II
Scene VI
SUBTLE  [Enter]  FACE  [in his uniform, followed by]  DRUGGER 1

  FACE.  He’s busy with his spirits, but we’ll upon him.
  SUB.  How now! What mates, what Bayards 2 ha’ we here?
  FACE.  I told you he would be furious.—Sir, here’s Nab
Has brought you another piece of gold to look on;        4
—We must appease him. Give it me,—and prays you,
You would devise—what is it, Nab?
  DRUG.        A sign, sir.
  FACE.  Ay, a good lucky one, a thriving sign, doctor.        8
  SUB.  I was devising now.
  FACE.        [Aside to SUB.]  ’Slight, do not say so,
He will repent he ga’ you any more—
What say you to his constellation, doctor,        12
The Balance?
  SUB.        No, that way is stale and common.
A townsman born in Taurus, gives the bull,
Or the bull’s head: in Aries, the ram,        16
A poor-device! No, I will have his name
Form’d in some mystic character; whose radii,
Striking the senses of the passers-by,
Shall, by a virtual 3 influence, breed affections,        20
That may result upon the party owns it:
As thus——
  FACE.  Nab!
  SUB.        He first shall have a bell, that’s Abel;        24
And by it standing one whose name is Dee, 4
In a rug 5 gown, there’s D, and Rug, that’s drug:
And right anenst him a dog snarling er;
There’s Drugger, Abel Drugger. That’s his sign.        28
And here’s now mystery and hieroglyphic!
  FACE.  Abel, thou art made.
  DRUG.        Sir, I do thank his worship.
  FACE.  Six o’ thy legs 6 more will not do it, Nab.        32
He has brought you a pipe of tobacco, doctor.
  DRUG.        Yes, sir;
I have another thing I would impart——
  FACE.  Out with it, Nab.        36
  DRUG.        Sir, there is lodg’d, hard by me,
A rich young widow——
  FACE.        Good! a bona roba? 7
  DRUG.  But nineteen at the most.        40
  FACE.        Very good, Abel.
  DRUG.  Marry, she’s not in fashion yet; she wears
A hood, but ’t stands a cop. 8
  FACE.        No matter, Abel.        44
  DRUG.  And I do now and then give her a fucus 9——
  FACE.  What! dost thou deal, Nab?
  SUB.        I did tell you, captain
  DRUG.  And physic too, sometime, sir; for which she trusts me        48
With all her mind. She’s come up here of purpose
To learn the fashion.
  FACE.        Good (his match too!)—On, Nab.
  DRUG.  And she does strangely long to know her fortune.        52
  FACE.  ’Ods lid, Nab, send her to the doctor, hither.
  DRUG.  Yes, I have spoke to her of his worship already;
But she’s afraid it will be blown abroad,
And hurt her marriage.        56
  FACE.        Hurt it! ’tis the way
To heal it, if ’twere hurt; to make it more
Follow’d and sought. Nab, thou shalt tell her this.
She’ll be more known, more talk’d of; and your widows        60
are ne’er of any price till they be famous;
Their honour is their multitude of suitors.
Send her, it may be thy good fortune. What!
Thou dost not know.        64
  DRUG.        No, sir, she’ll never marry
Under a knight: her brother has made a vow.
  FACE.  What! and dost thou despair, my little Nab,
Knowing what the doctor has set down for thee,        68
And seeing so many o’ the city dubb’d?
One glass o’ thy water, with a madam I know,
Will have it done, Nab. What’s her brother, a knight?
  DRUG.  No, sir, a gentleman newly warm in’s land, sir,        72
Scarce cold in his one and twenty, that does govern
His sister here; and is a man himself
Of some three thousand a year, and is come up
To learn to quarrel, and to live by his wits,        76
And will go down again, and die i’ the country.
  FACE.  How! to quarrel?
  DRUG.        Yes, sir, to carry quarrels,
As gallants do; to manage ’em by line.        80
  FACE.  ’Slid, Nab, the doctor is the only man
In Christendom for him. He has made a table,
With mathematical demonstrations,
Touching the art of quarrels: he will give him        84
An instrument to quarrel by. Go, bring ’em both,
Him and his sister. And, for thee, with her
The doctor happ’ly may persuade. Go to:
’Shalt give his worship a new damask suit        88
Upon the premises.
  SUB.        O, good captain!
  FACE.        He shall;
He is the honestest fellow, doctor. Stay not,        92
No offers; bring the damask, and the parties.
  DRUG.  I’ll try my power, sir.
  FACE.        And thy will too, Nab.
  SUB.  ’Tis good tobacco, this! What is’t an ounce?        96
  FACE.  He’ll send you a pound, doctor.
  SUB.        O no.
  FACE.        He will do’t.
It is the goodest soul!—Abel, about it.        100
Thou shalt know more anon. Away, be gone.  [Exit ABEL.]
A miserable rogue, and lives with cheese,
And has the worms. That was the cause, indeed,
Why he came now: he dealt with me in private,        104
To get a med’cine for ’em.
  SUB.        And shall, sir. This works.
  FACE.  A wife, a wife for one on us, my dear Subtle!
We’ll e’en draw lots, and he that fails, shall have        108
The more in goods.
  SUB.  Faith, best let’s see her first, and then determine.
  FACE.  Content: but Dol must ha’ no breath on’t.
  SUB.        Mum.        112
Away you, to your Surly yonder, catch him.
  FACE.  Pray God I ha’ not staid too long.
  SUB.        I fear it.  [Exeunt.]
Note 1. The same. [back]
Note 2. Blind horses. [back]
Note 3. Due to the virtue or power of the device. [back]
Note 4. A reference to Dr. Dee, the famous magician and astrologer, who died in 1608. [back]
Note 5. Of coarse frieze. [back]
Note 6. Bows. [back]
Note 7. Handsome girl. [back]
Note 8. Peaked (?) or straight on the top of her head, instead of tilted (?). [back]
Note 9. Paint for the face. [back]


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