Fiction > Harvard Classics > Philip Massinger > A New Way to Pay Old Debts
Philip Massinger (1583–1640).  A New Way to Pay Old Debts.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Act II
Scene I

  OVER.  He’s gone, I warrant thee; this commission crush’d him.
  MAR.  Your worships have the way on’t, and ne’er miss
To squeeze these unthrifts into air; and yet,
The chapfallen 2 justice did his part, returning        4
For your advantage the certificate,
Against his conscience, and his knowledge too,
With your good favour, to the utter ruin
Of the poor farmer.        8
  OVER.        ’Twas for these good ends
I made him a justice; he that bribes his belly,
Is certain to command his soul.
  MAR.        I wonder,        12
Still with your license, why, your worship having
The power to put this thin-gut in commission,
You are not in’t yourself?
  OVER.        Thou art a fool;        16
In being out of office I am out of danger;
Where, if a were a justice, besides the trouble,
I might or out of wilfulness or error
Run myself finely into a premunire, 3        20
And so become a prey to the informer.
No, I’ll have none of’t; ’tis enough I keep
Greedy at my devotion; so he serve
My purposes, let him hang or damn, I care not;        24
Friendship is but a word.
  MAR.        You are all wisdom.
  OVER.  I would be worldly wise; for the other wisdom,
That does prescribe us a well govern’d life,        28
And to do right to others as ourselves,
I value not an atom.
  MAR.        What course take you,
With your good patience, to hedge in the manor        32
Of your neighbour, Master Frugal? as ’tis said
He will nor sell, nor borrow, nor exchange;
And his land, lying in the midst of your many lordships,
Is a foul blemish.        36
  OVER.        I have thought on’t, Marrall,
And it shall take. I must have all men sellers,
And I the only purchaser.
  MAR.        ’Tis most fit, sir.        40
  OVER.  I’ll therefore buy some cottage near his manor,
Which done, I’ll make my men break ope his fences,
Ride o’er his standing corn, and in the night
Set fire on his barns, or break his cattle’s legs.        44
These trespasses draw on suits, and suits’ expenses,
Which I can spare, but will soon beggar him.
When I have harried him thus two or three year,
Though he sue in forma pauperis, in spite        48
Of all his thrift and care, he’ll grow behindhand.
  MAR.  The best I ever heard! I could adore you.
  OVER.  Then, with the favour of my man of law,
I will pretend some title. Want will force him        52
To put it to arbitrement; then, if he sell
For half the value, he shall have ready money,
And I possess his land.
  MAR.        ’Tis above wonder!        56
Wellborn was apt to sell, and needed not
These fine arts, sir, to hook him in.
  OVER.        Well thought on.
This varlet, Marrall, lives too long, to upbraid me        60
With my close cheat put upon him. Will nor cold
Nor hunger kill him?
  MAR.        I know not what to think on’t.
I have us’d all means; and the last night I caus’d        64
His host, the tapster, to turn him out of doors;
And have been since with all your friends and tenants,
And, on the forfeit of your favour, charg’d them,
Though a crust of mouldy bread would keep him from starving,        68
Yet they should not relieve him. This is done, sir.
  OVER.  That was something, Marrall; but thou must go further,
And suddenly, Marrall.
  MAR.        Where, and when you please, sir.        72
  OVER.  I would have thee seek him out, and, if thou canst,
Persuade him that ’tis better steal than beg;
Then, if I prove he has but robb’d a henroost,
Not all the world shall save him from the gallows.        76
Do any thing to work him to despair;
And ’tis thy masterpiece.
  MAR.        I will do my best, sir.
  OVER.  I am now on my main work with the Lord Lovell,        80
The gallant-minded, popular Lord Lovell,
The minion of the people’s love. I hear
He’s come into the country, and my aims are
To insinuate myself into his knowledge,        84
And then invite him to my house.
  MAR.        I have you;
This points at my young mistress.
  OVER.        She must part with        88
That humble title, and write honourable,
Right honourable, Marrall, my right honourable daughter,
If all I have, or e’er shall get, will do it.
I’ll have her well attended; there are ladies        92
Of errant knights decay’d and brought so low,
That for cast clothes and meat will gladly serve her.
And ’tis my glory, though I come from the city,
To have their issue whom I have undone,        96
To kneel to mine as bondslaves.
  MAR.        ’Tis fit state, sir.
  OVER.  And therefore, I’ll not have a chambermaid
That ties her shoes, or any meaner office,        100
But such whose fathers were right worshipful.
’Tis a rich man’s pride! there having ever been
More than a feud, a strange antipathy,
Between us and true gentry.        104

  MAR.        See, who’s here, sir.
  OVER.  Hence, monster! prodigy!
  WELL.        Sir, your wife’s nephew.
  OVER.  Avoid my sight! thy breath’s infectious, rogue!        108
I shun thee as a leprosy, or the plague.
Come hither, Marrall  [Aside.]—this is the time to work him.  Exit.
  MAR.  I warrant you, sir.
  WELL.        By this light I think he’s mad.        112
  MAR.  Mad! had you ta’en compassion on yourself,
You long since had been mad.
  WELL.        You have ta’en a course
Between you and my venerable uncle,        116
To make me so.
  MAR.        The more pale-spirited you.
That would not be instructed. I swear deeply——
  WELL.  By what?        120
  MAR.        By my religion.
  WELL.        Thy religion!
The devil’s creed:—but what would you have done?
  MAR.  Had there been but one tree in all the shire,        124
Nor any hope to compass a penny halter,
Before, like you, I had outliv’d my fortunes,
A withe had serv’d my turn to hang myself.
I am zealous in you cause; pray you hang yourself,        128
And presently, 4 as you love your credit.
  WELL.        I thank you.
  MAR.  Will you stay till you die in a ditch, or lice devour you?——
Or, if you dare not do the feat yourself,        132
But that you’ll put the state to charge and trouble,
Is there no purse to be cut, house to be broken,
Or market-woman with eggs, that you may murder,
And so dispatch the business?        136
  WELL.        Here’s variety,
I must confess; but I’ll accept of none
Of all your gentle offers, I assure you.
  MAR.  Why, have you hope ever to eat again,        140
Or drink? or be the master of three farthings?
If you like not hanging, drown yourself! Take some course
For your reputation.
  WELL.        ’Twill not do, dear tempter,        144
With all the rhetoric the fiend hath taught you.
I am as far as thou art from despair;
Nay, I have confidence, which is more than hope,
To live, and suddenly, better than ever.        148
  MAR.  Ha! ha! these castles you build in the air
Will not persuade me to give or lend
A token to you.
  WELL.        I’ll be more kind to thee:        152
Come, thou shalt dine with me.
  MAR.        With you!
  WELL.        Nay more, dine gratis.
  MAR.  Under what hedge, I pray you? or a whose cost?        156
Are they padders 5 or abram-men 6 that are your consorts?
  WELL.  Thou art incredulous; but thou shalt dine
Not alone at her house, but with a gallant lady;
With me, and with a lady.        160
  MAR.        Lady! what lady?
With the Lady of the Lake, or queen of fairies?
For I know it must be an enchanted dinner.
  WELL.  With the Lady Allworth, knave.        164
  MAR.        Nay, now there’s hope
Thy brain is crack’d.
  WELL.        Mark there, with what respect
I am entertain’d.        168
  MAR.        With choice, no doubt, of dog-whips.
Why, dost thou ever hope to pass her porter?
  WELL.  ’Tis not far off, go with me; trust thine own eyes.
  MAR.  Troth, in my hope, or my assurance rather,        172
To see thee curvet 7 and mount like a dog in a blanket,
If ever thou presume to cross her threshold,
I will endure thy company.
  WELL.        Come along then.  Exeunt.        176
Note 1. A room in Overreach’s house. [back]
Note 2. Hollow-cheeked. [back]
Note 3. A writ issued for the offense of acknowledging foreign authority within the realm, or some offense with the same penalties. [back]
Note 4. At once. [back]
Note 5. Footpads. [back]
Note 6. Beggars pretending lunacy. [back]
Note 7. Bound. The reference is to the game of tossing in a blanket. [back]


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