WITH AFFECTION AND ESTEEM TO
BY THE SURVIVORS OF
John Gaunt, called “Admiral Guinea,” once Captain of the Slaver Arethusa
Arethusa Gaunt, his Daughter
David Pew, a Blind Beggar, once Boatswain of the Arethusa
Kit French, a Privateersman
Mrs. Drake, Landlady of the “Admiral Benbow” Inn
The Scene is laid in the neighbourhood of Barnstaple.
The Time is about the year 0. The Action
occupies part of a day and night
The Stage represents a room in Admiral Guinea’s house: fireplace, arm-chair, and table with Bible, L., towards the front; door C., with window on each side, the window on the R. practicable; doors R. and L., back; corner cupboard, a brass-strapped sea-chest fixed to the wall and floor, R.; cutlasses, telescopes, sextant, quadrant, a calendar, and several maps upon the wall; a ship clock; three wooden chairs; a dresser against wall, R.C.; on the chimney-piece the model of a brig and several shells. The centre bare of furniture. Through the windows and the door, which is open, green trees and a small field of sea
Arethusa is discovered, dusting
Arethusa. Ten months and a week to-day! Now for a new mark. Since the last, the sun has set and risen over the fields and the pleasant trees at home, and on Kit’s lone ship and the empty sea. Perhaps it blew, perhaps rained; (at the chart) perhaps he was far up here to the nor’ard, where the icebergs sail; perhaps at anchor among these wild islands of the snakes and buccaneers. O, you big chart, if I could see him sailing on you! North and South Atlantic; such a weary sight of water and no land; never an island for the poor lad to land upon. But still God’s there. (She takes down the telescope to dust it.) Father’s spy-glass again; and my poor Kit perhaps with such another, sweeping the great deep!
Arethusa; to her, Kit, C. He enters on tiptoe, and she does not see or hear him.
Arethusa (dusting telescope). At sea they have less dust at least: that’s so much comfort.
Kit. Sweetheart, ahoy!
Arethusa. My Kit! Home again — O my love! — home again to me!
Kit. As straight as wind and tide could carry me!
Arethusa. O Kit, my dearest. O Kit — O! O!
Kit. Hey? Steady, lass: steady, I say. For goodness’ sake, ease it off.
Arethusa. I will, Kit — I will. But you came so sudden.
Kit. I thought ten months of it about preparation enough.
Arethusa. Ten months and a week; you haven’t counted the days as I have. Another day gone, and one day nearer to Kit: that has been my almanac. How brown you are! how handsome!
Kit. A pity you can’t see yourself! Well, no, I’ll never be handsome: brown I may be, never handsome. But I’m better than that, if the proverb’s true; for I’m ten hundred thousand fathoms deep in love. I bring you a faithful sailor. What! you don’t think much of that for a curiosity? Well, that’s so: you’re right; the rarity is in the girl that’s worth it ten times over. Faithful? I couldn’t help it if I tried! No, sweetheart, and I fear nothing: I don’t know what fear is, but just of losing you. (Starting.) Lord, that’s not the Admiral?
Arethusa. Aha, Mr. Dreadnought! you see you fear my father.
Kit. That I do. But, thank goodness, it’s nobody. Kiss me: no, I won’t kiss you: kiss me. I’ll give you a present for that. See!
Arethusa. A wedding-ring!
Kit. My mother’s. Will you take it?
Arethusa. Yes, will I — and give myself for it.
Kit. Ah, if we could only count upon your father! He’s a man every inch of him; but he can’t endure Kit French.
Arethusa. He hasn’t learned to know you, Kit, as I have, nor yet do you know him. He seems hard and violent; at heart he is only a man overwhelmed with sorrow. Why else, when he looks at me and does not know that I observe him, should his face change, and fill with such tenderness, that I could weep to see him? Why, when he walks in his sleep, as he does almost every night, his eyes open and beholding nothing, why should he cry so pitifully on my mother’s name? Ah, if you could hear him then, you would say yourself: Here is a man that has loved; here is a man that will be kind to lovers.
Kit. Is that so? Ay, it’s a hard thing to lose your wife; ay, that must cut the heart indeed. But for all that, my lass, your father is keen for the doubloons.
Arethusa. Right, Kit: and small blame to him. There is only one way to be honest, and the name of that is thrift.
Kit. Well, and that’s my motto. I’ve left the ship; no more letters of marque for me. Good-bye to Kit French, privateersman’s mate; and how-d’ye-do to Christopher, the coasting skipper. I’ve seen the very boat for me: I’ve enough to buy her, too; and to furnish a good house, and keep a shot in the locker for bad luck. So far, there’s nothing to gainsay. So far it’s hopeful enough; but still there’s Admiral Guinea, you know — and the plain truth is that I’m afraid of him.
Arethusa. Admiral Guinea? Now, Kit, if you are to be true lover of mine, you shall not use that name. His name is Captain Gaunt. As for fearing him, Kit French, you’re not the man for me, if you fear anything but sin. He’s a stern man because he’s in the right.
Kit. He is a man of God; I am what he calls a child of perdition. I was a privateersman — serving my country, I say; but he calls it pirate. He is thrifty and sober; he has a treasure, they say, and it lies so near his heart that he tumbles up in his sleep to stand watch over it. What has a harum-scarum dog like me to expect from a man like him? He won’t see I’m starving for a chance to mend. “Mend,” he’ll say; “I’ll be shot if you mend at the expense of my daughter”; and the worst of it is, you see, he’ll be right.
Arethusa. Kit, if you dare to say that faint-hearted word again, I’ll take my ring off. What are we for but to grow better or grow worse? Do you think Arethusa French will be the same as Arethusa Gaunt?
Kit. I don’t want her better.
Arethusa. Ah, but she shall be!
Kit. Hark, here he is! By George, it’s neck or nothing now. Stand by to back me up.
To these, Gaunt, C.
Kit (with Arethusa’s hand). Captain Gaunt, I have come to ask you for your daughter.
Gaunt. Hum. (He sits in his chair, L.)
Kit. I love her, and she loves me, sir. I’ve left the privateering. I’ve enough to set me up and buy a tidy sloop — Jack Lee’s; you know the boat, Captain; clinker built, not four years old, eighty tons burthen, steers like a child. I’ve put my mother’s ring on Arethusa’s finger; and if you’ll give us your blessing, I’ll engage to turn over a new leaf, and make her a good husband.
Gaunt. In whose strength, Christopher French?
Kit. In the strength of my good, honest love for her: as you did for her mother, and my father for mine. And you know, Captain, a man can’t command the wind; but (excuse me, sir) he can always lie the best course possible, and that’s what I’ll do, so God help me.
Gaunt. Arethusa, you at least are the child of many prayers; your eyes have been unsealed; and to you the world stands naked, a morning watch for duration, a thing spun of cobwebs for solidity. In the presence of an angry God, I ask you: Have you heard this man?
Arethusa. Father, I know Kit, and I love him.
Gaunt. I say it solemnly, this is no Christian union. To you, Christopher French, I will speak nothing of eternal truths: I will speak to you the language of this world. You have been trained among sinners who gloried in their sin: in your whole life you never saved one farthing; and now, when your pockets are full, you think you can begin, poor dupe, in your own strength. You are a roysterer, a jovial companion; you mean no harm — you are nobody’s enemy but your own. No doubt you tell this girl of mine, and no doubt you tell yourself, that you can change. Christopher, speaking under correction, I defy you! You ask me for this child of many supplications, for this brand plucked from the burning: I look at you: I read you through and through; and I tell you — no! (Striking table with his fist.)
Kit. Captain Gaunt, if you mean that I am not worthy of her, I’m the first to say so. But, if you’ll excuse me, sir, I’m a young man, and young men are no better’n they ought to be; it’s known; they’re all like that; and what’s their chance? To be married to a girl like this! And would you refuse it to me? Why, sir, you yourself, when you came courting, you were young and rough; and yet I’ll make bold to say that Mrs. Gaunt was a happy woman, and the saving of yourself into the bargain. Well, now, Captain Gaunt, will you deny another man, and that man a sailor, the very salvation that you had yourself?
Gaunt. Salvation, Christopher French, is from above.
Kit. Well, sir, that is so; but there’s means, too; and what means so strong as the wife a man has to strive and toil for, and that bears the punishment whenever he goes wrong? Now, sir, I’ve spoke with your old shipmates in the Guinea trade. Hard as nails, they said, and true as the compass: as rough as a slaver, but as just as a judge. Well, sir, you hear me plead: I ask you for my chance; don’t you deny it to me.
Gaunt. You speak of me? In the true balances we both weigh nothing. But two things I know: the depth of iniquity, how foul it is; and the agony with which a man repents. Not until seven devils were cast out of me did I awake; each rent me as it passed. Ay, that was repentance. Christopher, Christopher, you have sailed before the wind since first you weighed your anchor, and now you think to sail upon a bow-line? You do not know your ship, young man: you will go to le’ward like a sheet of paper; I tell you so that know — I tell you so that have tried, and failed, and wrestled in the sweat of prayer, and at last, at last, have tasted grace. But, meanwhile, no flesh and blood of mine shall lie at the mercy of such a wretch as I was then, or as you are this day. I could not own the deed before the face of heaven, if I sanctioned this unequal yoke. Arethusa, pluck off that ring from off your finger. Christopher French, take it, and go hence.
Kit. Arethusa, what do you say?
Arethusa. O Kit, you know my heart. But he is alone, and I am his only comfort; and I owe all to him; and shall I not obey my father? But, Kit, if you will let me, I will keep your ring. Go, Kit; go, and prove to my father that he was mistaken; go and win me. And O, Kit, if ever you should weary, come to me — no, do not come! but send a word — and I shall know all, and you shall have your ring. (Gaunt opens his Bible and begins to read.)
Kit. Don’t say that, don’t say such things to me; I sink or swim with you. (To Gaunt.) Old man, you’ve struck me hard; give me a good word to go with. Name your time; I’ll stand the test. Give me a spark of hope, and I’ll fight through for it. Say just this — ”Prove I was mistaken,” and by George, I’ll prove it.
Gaunt (looking up). I make no such compacts. Go, and swear not at all.
Arethusa. Go, Kit! I keep the ring.
Arethusa. Father, what have we done that you should be so cruel?
Gaunt (laying down Bible, and rising). Do you call me cruel? You speak after the flesh. I have done you this day a service that you will live to bless me for upon your knees.
Arethusa. He loves me, and I love him: you can never alter that; do what you will, father, that can never change. I love him, I believe in him, I will be true to him.
Gaunt. Arethusa, you are the sole thing death has left me on this earth; and I must watch over your carnal happiness and your eternal weal. You do not know what this implies to me. Your mother — my Hester — tongue cannot tell, nor heart conceive the pangs she suffered. If it lies in me, your life shall not be lost on that same reef of an ungodly husband. (Goes out, C.)
Arethusa. I thought the time dragged long and weary when I knew that Kit was homeward bound, all the white sails a-blowing out towards England, and my Kit’s face turned this way! (She begins to dust.) Sure, if my mother were here she would understand and help us; she would understand a young maid’s heart, though her own had never an ache; and she would love my Kit. (Putting back the telescope.) To think she died: husband and child — and so much love — she was taken from them all. Ah, there is no parting but the grave! And Kit and I both live, and both love each other; and here am I cast down? O, Arethusa, shame! And your love home from the deep seas, and loving you still; and the sun shining; and the world all full of hope? O, Hope, you’re a good word!
Arethusa; to her, Pew
Pew (singing without) —
“Time for us to go!
Time for us to go!
And we’ll keep the brig three p’ints away,
For it’s time for us to go.”
Arethusa. Who comes here? a seaman by his song, and father out! (She tries the air.) “Time for us to go!” It sounds a wild kind of song. (Tap-tap; Pew passes the window.) O, what a face — and blind!
Pew (entering). Kind Christian friends, take pity on a poor blind mariner, as lost his precious sight in the defence of his native country, England, and God bless King George!
Arethusa. What can I do for you, sailor?
Pew. Good Christian lady, help a poor blind mariner to a mouthful of meat. I’ve served His Majesty in every quarter of the globe; I’ve spoke with ‘Awke and glorious Anson, as I might with you: and I’ve tramped it all night long upon my sinful feet, and with a empty belly.
Arethusa. You shall not ask bread and be denied by a sailor’s daughter and a sailor’s sweetheart; and when my father returns he shall give you something to set you on your road.
Pew. Kind and lovely lady, do you tell me that you are in a manner of speaking alone? or do my ears deceive a poor blind seaman?
Arethusa. I live here with my father, and my father is abroad.
Pew. Dear, beautiful, Christian lady, tell a poor blind man your honoured name, that he may remember it in his poor blind prayers.
Arethusa. Sailor, I am Arethusa Gaunt.
Pew. Sweet lady, answer a poor blind man one other question: Are you in a manner of speaking related to Cap’n John Gaunt? Cap’n John as in the ebony trade were known as Admiral Guinea?
Arethusa. Captain John Gaunt is my father.
Pew (dropping the blind man’s whine). Lord, think of that now! They told me this was where he lived, and so it is. And here’s old Pew, old David Pew, as was the Admiral’s own bo’sun, colloguing in his old commander’s parlour, with his old commander’s gal (seizes Arethusa). Ah, and a bouncer you are, and no mistake.
Arethusa. Let me go! how dare you?
Pew. Lord love you, don’t you struggle, now, don’t you. (She escapes into front R. corner, where he keeps her imprisoned.) Ah, well, we’ll get you again, my lovely woman. What a arm you’ve got — great god of love — and a face like a peach! I’m a judge, I am. (She tries to escape; he stops her.) No, you don’t; O, I can hear a flea jump! (But it’s here where I miss my deadlights. Poor old Pew; him as the ladies always would have for their fancy man and take no denial; here you are with your commander’s daughter close aboard, and you can’t so much as guess the colour of her lovely eyes. [Singing] —
“Be they black like ebony,
Or be they blue like to the sky.”
Black like the Admiral’s? or blue like his poor dear wife’s? Ah, I was fond of that there woman, I was; the Admiral was jealous of me.) Arethusa, my dear, — my heart, what a ‘and and arm you have got; I’ll dream o’ that ‘and and arm, I will! — but as I was a-saying, does the Admiral ever in a manner of speaking refer to his old bo’sun David Pew? him as he fell out with about the black woman at Lagos, and almost slashed the shoulder off of him one morning before breakfast?
Arethusa. You leave this house.
Pew. Hey? (he closes and seizes her again). Don’t you fight, my lovely one: now don’t make old blind Pew forget his manners before a female. What! you will? Stop that, or I’ll have the arm right out of your body. (He gives her arm a wrench.)
Arethusa. O! help, help!
Pew. Stash your patter, damn you. (Arethusa gives in.) Ah, I thought it: Pew’s way, Pew’s way. Now look you here, my lovely woman. If you sling in another word that isn’t in answer to my questions, I’ll pull your j’ints out one by one. Where’s the Commander?
Arethusa. I have said: he is abroad.
Pew. When’s he coming aboard again?
Arethusa. At any moment.
Pew. Does he keep his strength?
Arethusa. You’ll see when he returns. (He wrenches her arm again.) Ah!
Pew. Is he still on piety?
Arethusa. O, he is a Christian man!
Pew. A Christian man, is he? Where does he keep his rum?
Arethusa. Nay, you shall steal nothing by my help.
Pew. No more I shall (becoming amorous). You’re a lovely woman, that’s what you are; how would you like old Pew for a sweetheart, hey? He’s blind, is Pew, but strong as a lion; and the sex is his ‘ole delight. Ah, them beautiful, beautiful lips! A kiss! Come!
Arethusa. Leave go, leave go!
Pew. Hey? you would?
Arethusa. Ah! (She thrusts him down, and escapes to door, R.)
Pew (picking himself up). Ah, she’s a bouncer, she is! Where’s my stick? That’s the sort of female for David Pew. Didn’t she fight? and didn’t she struggle? and shouldn’t I like to twist her lovely neck for her? Pew’s way with ‘em all: the prettier they was, the uglier he were to ‘em. Pew’s way: a way he had with him; and a damned good way too. (Listens at L. door.) That’s her bedroom, I reckon; and she’s double-locked herself in. Good again: it’s a crying mercy the Admiral didn’t come in. But you always loses your ‘ed, Pew, with a female: that’s what charms ‘em. — Now for business. The front door. No bar; on’y a big lock (trying keys from his pocket). Key one; no go. Key two; no go. Key three; ah, that does it. Ah! (feeling key) him with the three wards and the little ‘un: good again! Now if I could only find a mate in this rotten country ‘amlick: one to be eyes to me; I can steer, but I can’t conn myself, worse luck! If I could only find a mate. And to-night about three bells in the middle watch, old Pew will take a little cruise, and lay aboard his ancient friend the Admiral; or, barring that, the Admiral’s old sea-chest — the chest he kept the shiners in aboard the brig. Where is it, I wonder? in his berth, or in the cabin here? It’s big enough, and the brass bands is plain to feel by. (Searching about with stick.) Dresser — chair (knocking his head on the cupboard). Ah! — O, corner cupboard. Admiral’s chair — Admiral’s table — Admiral’s — hey! what’s this? — a book — sheepskin — smells like a ‘oly Bible. Chair (his stick just avoids the chest). No sea-chest. I must have a mate to see for me, to see for old Pew: him as had eyes like a eagle! Meanwhile, rum. Corner cupboard, of course (tap-tapping). Rum — rum — rum. Hey? (He listens.) Footsteps. Is it the Admiral? (With the whine.) Kind Christian friends — —
Pew; to him, Gaunt
Gaunt. What brings you here?
Pew. Cap’n, do my ears deceive me? or is this my old commander?
Gaunt. My name is John Gaunt. Who are you, my man, and what’s your business?
Pew. Here’s the facks, so help me. A lovely female in this house was Christian enough to pity the poor blind; and lo and be’old! who should she turn out to be but my old commander’s daughter! “My dear,” says I to her, “I was the Admiral’s own particular bo’sun.” — ”La, sailor,” she says to me, “how glad he’ll be to see you!” — ”Ah,” says I, “won’t he just — that’s all.” — ”I’ll go and fetch him,” she says; “you make yourself at ‘ome.” And off she went; and, Commander, here I am.
Gaunt (sitting down). Well.
Pew. Well, Cap’n?
Gaunt. What do you want?
Pew. Well, Admiral, in a general way, what I want in a manner of speaking is money and rum. (A pause.)
Gaunt. David Pew, I have known you a long time.
Pew. And so you have; aboard the old Arethusa; and you don’t seem that cheered up as I’d looked for, with a old shipmate dropping in, one as has been seeking you two years and more — and blind at that. Don’t you remember the old chantie? —
“Time for us to go,
Time for us to go,
And when we’d clapped the hatches on,
‘Twas time for us to go.”
What a note you had to sing, what a swaller for a pannikin of rum, and what a fist for the shiners. Ah, Cap’n, they didn’t call you Admiral Guinea for nothing. I can see that old sea-chest of yours — her with the brass bands, where you kept your gold dust and doubloons: you know! — I can see her as well this minute as though you and me was still at it playing pÅt on the lid of her.... You don’t say nothing, Cap’n?... Well, here it is: I want money and I want rum. You don’t know what it is to want rum, you don’t: it gets to that p’int that you would kill a ‘ole ship’s company for just one guttle of it. What? Admiral Guinea, my old Commander, go back on poor old Pew? and him high and dry? (Not you! When we had words over the negro lass at Lagos, what did you do? fair dealings was your word: fair as between man and man; and we had it out with p’int and edge on Lagos sands. And you’re not going back on your word to me, now I’m old and blind! No, no! belay that, I say. Give me the old motto: Fair dealings, as between man and man.)
Gaunt. David Pew, it were better for you that you were sunk in fifty fathom. I know your life; and first and last, it is one broadside of wickedness. You were a porter in a school, and beat a boy to death; you ran for it, turned slaver, and shipped with me, a green hand. Ay, that was the craft for you; that was the right craft, and I was the right captain; there was none worse that sailed to Guinea. Well, what came of that? In five years’ time you made yourself the terror and abhorrence of your messmates. The worst hands detested you; your captain — that was me, John Gaunt, the chief of sinners — cast you out for a Jonah. (Who was it stabbed the Portuguese and made off inland with his miserable wife? Who, raging drunk on rum, clapped fire to the baracoons and burned the poor soulless creatures in their chains?) Ay, you were a scandal to the Guinea coast, from Lagos down to Calabar; and when at last I sent you ashore, a marooned man — your shipmates, devils as they were, cheering and rejoicing to be quit of you — by heaven, it was a ton’s weight off the brig!
Pew. Cap’n Gaunt, Cap’n Gaunt, these are ugly words.
Gaunt. What next? You shipped with Flint the Pirate. What you did then I know not; the deep seas have kept the secret; kept it, ay, and will keep against the Great Day. God smote you with blindness, but you heeded not the sign. That was His last mercy; look for no more. To your knees, man, and repent. Pray for a new heart; flush out your sins with tears; flee while you may from the terrors of the wrath to come.
Pew. Now, I want this clear: Do I understand that you’re going back on me, and you’ll see me damned first?
Gaunt. Of me you shall have neither money nor strong drink: not a guinea to spend in riot; not a drop to fire your heart with devilry.
Pew. Cap’n, do you think it wise to quarrel with me? I put it to you now, Cap’n, fairly, as between man and man — do you think it wise?
Gaunt. I fear nothing. My feet are on the Rock. Be-gone! (He opens the Bible and begins to read.)
Pew (after a pause). Well, Cap’n, you know best, no doubt; and David Pew’s about the last man, though I says it, to up and thwart an old Commander. You’ve been ‘ard on David Pew, Cap’n: ‘ard on the poor blind; but you’ll live to regret it — ah, my Christian friend, you’ll live to eat them words up. But there’s no malice here: that ain’t Pew’s way; here’s a sailor’s hand upon it.... You don’t say nothing? (Gaunt turns a page.) Ah, reading, was you? Reading, by thunder! Well, here’s my respecks. (Singing) —
“Time for us to go,
Time for us to go,
When the money’s out, and the liquor’s done,
Why, it’s time for us to go.”
(He goes tapping up to door, turns on the threshold, and listens. Gaunt turns a page. Pew, with a grimace, strikes his hand upon the pocket with the keys, and goes.)
The Stage represents the parlour of the “Admiral Benbow” inn. Fireplace, R., with high-backed settles on each side; in front of these, and facing the audience, R., a small table laid with a cloth. Tables, L., with glasses, pipes, etc. Broadside ballads on the wall. Outer door of inn, with half-door in L., corner back; door, R., beyond the fireplace; window with red half-curtains; spittoons; candles on both the front tables; night without
Pew; afterwards Mrs. Drake, out and in.
Pew (entering). Kind Christian friends — — (listening, then dropping the whine). Hey? nobody! Hey? A grog-shop not two cable-lengths from the Admiral’s back-door, and the Admiral not there? I never knew a seaman brought so low: he ain’t but the bones of the man he used to be. Bear away for the New Jerusalem, and this is what you run aground on, is it? Good again; but it ain’t Pew’s way; Pew’s way is rum. — Sanded floor. Rum is his word, and rum his motion. — Settle — chimbly — settle again — spittoon — table rigged for supper. Table — glass. (Drinks heeltap.) Brandy and water; and not enough of it to wet your eye; damn all greediness, I say. Pot (drinks), small beer — a drink that I ab’or like bilge! What I want is rum. (Calling and rapping with stick on table.) Halloa, there! House, ahoy!
Mrs. Drake (without). Coming, sir, coming. (She enters, R.) What can I do — — ? (Seeing Pew.) Well, I never did! Now, beggar-man, what’s for you?
Pew. Rum, ma’am, rum; and a bit o’ supper.
Mrs. Drake. And a bed to follow, I shouldn’t wonder!
Pew. And a bed to follow: if you please.
Mrs. Drake. This is the “Admiral Benbow,” a respectable house, and receives none but decent company; and I’ll ask you to go somewhere else, for I don’t like the looks of you.
Pew. Turn me away? Why, Lord love you, I’m David Pew — old David Pew — him as was Benbow’s own particular cox’n. You wouldn’t turn away old Pew from the sign of his late commander’s ‘ed? Ah, my British female, you’d have used me different if you’d seen me in the fight! (There laid old Benbow, both his legs shot off, in a basket, and the blessed spy-glass at his eye to that same hour: a picter, ma’am, of naval daring: when a round shot come, and took and knocked a bucketful of shivers right into my poor daylights. “Damme,” says the Admiral, “is that old Pew, my old Pew?” he says. — ”It’s old Pew, sir,” says the first lootenant, “worse luck,” he says. — ”Then damme,” says Admiral Benbow, “if that’s how they serve a lion-’arted seaman, damme if I care to live,” he says; and, ma’am, he laid down his spy-glass.)
Mrs. Drake. Blind man, I don’t fancy you, and that’s the truth; and I’ll thank you to take yourself off.
Pew. Thirty years have I fought for country and king, and now in my blind old age I’m to be sent packing from a measly public-’ouse? Mark ye, ma’am, if I go, you take the consequences. Is this a inn? Or hain’t it? If it is a inn, then by act of parleyment, I’m free to sling my ‘ammick. Don’t you forget: this is a act of parleyment job, this is. You look out.
Mrs. Drake. Why, what’s to do with the man and his acts of parliament? I don’t want to fly in the face of an act of parliament, not I. If what you say is true — —
Pew. True? If there’s anything truer than a act of parleyment — Ah! you ask the beak. True? I’ve that in my ‘art as makes me wish it wasn’t.
Mrs. Drake. I don’t like to risk it. I don’t like your looks, and you’re more sea-lawyer than seaman to my mind. But I’ll tell you what: if you can pay, you can stay. So there.
Pew. No chink, no drink? That’s your motto, is it? Well, that’s sense. Now, look here, ma’am, I ain’t beautiful like you; but I’m good, and I’ll give you warrant for it. Get me a noggin of rum, and suthin’ to scoff, and a penny pipe, and a half-a-foot of baccy; and there’s a guinea for the reckoning. There’s plenty more in the locker; so bear a hand, and be smart. I don’t like waiting; it ain’t my way. (Exit Mrs. Drake, R. Pew sits at the table, R. The settle conceals him from the upper part of the stage.)
Mrs. Drake (re-entering). Here’s the rum, sailor.
Pew (drinks). Ah, rum! That’s my sheet-anchor; rum and the blessed Gospel. Don’t you forget that, ma’am: rum and the Gospel is old Pew’s sheet-anchor. You can take for another while you’re about it; and, I say, short reckonings make long friends, hey? Where’s my change?
Mrs. Drake. I’m counting it now. There, there it is, and thank you for your custom. (She goes out, R.)
Pew (calling after her). Don’t thank me, ma’am; thank the act of parleyment! Rum, fourpence; two penny pieces and a Willi’m-and-Mary tizzy makes a shilling; and a spade half-guinea is eleven and six (re-enter Mrs. Drake with supper, pipe, etc.); and a blessed majesty George the First crown-piece makes sixteen and six; and two shilling bits is eighteen and six; and a new half-crown makes — no it don’t! O no! Old Pew’s too smart a hand to be bammed with a soft tusheroon.
Mrs. Drake (changing piece). I’m sure I didn’t know it, sailor.
Pew (trying new coin between his teeth). In course you didn’t, my dear; but I did, and I thought I’d mention it. Is that my supper, hey? Do my nose deceive me? (Sniffing and feeling.) Cold duck? sage and onions? a round of double Gloster? and that noggin o’ rum? Why, I declare if I’d stayed and took pot-luck with my old commander, Cap’n John Gaunt, he couldn’t have beat this little spread, as I’ve got by act of parleyment.
Mrs. Drake (at knitting). Do you know the captain, sailor?
Pew. Know him? I was that man’s bo’sun, ma’am. In the Guinea trade, we was known as “Pew’s Cap’n” and “Gaunt’s Bo’sun,” one for the other like. We was like two brothers, ma’am. And a excellent cold duck, to be sure; and the rum lovely.
Mrs. Drake. If you know John Gaunt, you know his daughter Arethusa.
Pew. What? Arethusa? Know her, says you? know her? Why, Lord love you, I was her godfather. (“Pew,” says Jack Gaunt to me, “Pew,” he says, “you’re a man,” he says; “I like a man to be a man,” says he, “and damme,” he says, “I like you; and sink me,” says he, “if you don’t promise and vow in the name of that new-born babe,” he says, “why, damme, Pew,” says he, “you’re not the man I take you for.”) Yes, ma’am, I named that female; with my own ‘ands I did; Arethusa I named her; that was the name I give her; so now you know if I speak true. And if you’ll be as good as get me another noggin of rum, why, we’ll drink her ‘elth with three times three. (Exit Mrs. Drake; Pew eating; Mrs. Drake re-entering with rum.)
Mrs. Drake. If what you say be true, sailor (and I don’t say it isn’t, mind!), it’s strange that Arethusa and that godly man her father have never so much as spoke your name.
Pew. Why, that’s so! And why, says you? Why, when I dropped in and paid my respecks this morning, do you think she knew me? No more’n a babe unborn! Why, ma’am, when I promised and vowed for her, I was the picter of a man-o’war’s man, I was: eye like a eagle; walked the deck in a hornpipe, foot up and foot down; v’ice as mellow as rum; ‘and upon ‘art, and all the females took dead aback at the first sight, Lord bless ‘em! Know me? Not likely. And as for me, when I found her such a lovely woman — by the feel of her ‘and and arm! — you might have knocked me down with a feather. But here’s where it is, you see: when you’ve been knocking about on blue water for a matter of two and forty year, shipwrecked here, and blown up there, and everywhere out of luck, and given over for dead by all your messmates and relations, why, what it amounts to is this: nobody knows you, and you hardly knows yourself, and there you are; and I’ll trouble you for another noggin of rum.
Mrs. Drake. I think you’ve had enough.
Pew. I don’t; so bear a hand. (Exit Mrs. Drake; Pew empties the glass.) Rum, ah, rum, you’re a lovely creature; they haven’t never done you justice. (Proceeds to fill and light pipe; re-enter Mrs. Drake with rum.) And now, ma’am, since you’re so genteel and amicable-like, what about my old commander? Is he, in a manner of speaking, on half pay? or is he living on his fortune, like a gentleman slaver ought?
Mrs. Drake. Well, sailor, people talk, you know.
Pew. I know, ma’am; I’d have been rolling in my coach, if they’d have held their tongues.
Mrs. Drake. And they do say that Captain Gaunt, for so pious a man, is little better than a miser.
Pew. Don’t say it, ma’am; not to old Pew. Ah, how often have I up and strove with him! “Cap’n, live it down,” says I. “Ah, Pew,” says he, “you’re a better man than I am,” he says; “but damme,” he says, “money,” he says, “is like rum to me.” (Insinuating.) And what about a old sea-chest, hey? a old sea-chest, strapped with brass bands?
Mrs. Drake. Why, that’ll be the chest in his parlour, where he has it bolted to the wall, as I’ve seen with my own eyes; and so might you, if you had eyes to see with.
Pew. No, ma’am, that ain’t good enough; you don’t bam old Pew. You never was in that parlour in your life.
Mrs. Drake. I never was! Well, I declare!
Pew. Well, then, if you was, where’s the chest? Beside the chimbley, hey? (Winking.) Beside the table with the ‘oly Bible?
Mrs. Drake. No, sailor, you don’t get any information out of me.
Pew. What, ma’am? Not to old Pew? Why, my god-child showed it me herself, and I told her where she’d find my name — P, E, W, Pew — cut out on the stern of it; and sure enough she did. Why, ma’am, it was his old money-box when he was in the Guinea trade; and they do say he keeps the rhino in it still.
Mrs. Drake. No, sailor, nothing out of me! And if you want to know, you can ask the Admiral himself! (She crosses, L.)
Pew. Hey? Old girl fly? Then I reckon I must have a mate, if it was the parish bull.
To these, Kit, a little drunk
Kit (looking in over half-door). Mrs. Drake! Mother! Where are you? Come and welcome the prodigal!
Mrs. Drake (coming forward to meet him as he enters; Pew remains concealed by the settle, smoking, drinking, and listening). Lord bless us and save us, if it ain’t my boy! Give us a kiss.
Kit. That I will, and twenty if you like, old girl. (Kisses her.)
Mrs. Drake. O Kit, Kit, you’ve been at those other houses, where the stuff they give you, my dear, it is poison for a dog.
Kit. Round with friends, mother: only round with friends.
Mrs. Drake. Well, anyway, you’ll take a glass just to settle it from me. (She brings the bottle and fills for him.) There, that’s pure; that’ll do you no harm. But O, Kit, Kit, I thought you were done with all this Jack-a-shoring.
Kit. What cheer, mother? I’m only a sheet in the wind; and who’s the worse for it but me?
Mrs. Drake. Ah, and that dear young lady; and her waiting and keeping single these two years for the love of you!
Kit. She, mother? she’s heart of oak, she’s true as steel, and good as gold; and she has my ring on her finger, too. But where’s the use? The Admiral won’t look at me.
Mrs. Drake. Why not? You’re as good a man as him any day.
Kit. Am I? He says I’m a devil, and swears that none of his flesh and blood — that’s what he said, mother! — should lie at my mercy. That’s what cuts me. If it wasn’t for the good stuff I’ve been taking aboard, and the jolly companions I’ve been seeing it out with, I’d just go and make a hole in the water, and be done with it, I would, by George!
Mrs. Drake. That’s like you men. Ah, we know you, we that keeps a public-house — we know you, good and bad: you go off on a frolic and forget; and you never think of the women that sit crying at home.
Kit. Crying? Arethusa cry? Why, dame, she’s the bravest-hearted girl in all broad England! Here, fill the glass! I’ll win her yet. I drink to her; here’s to her bright eyes, and here’s to the blessed feet she walks upon!
Pew (looking round the corner of the settle). Spoke like a gallant seaman, every inch. Shipmate, I’m a man as has suffered, and I’d like to shake your fist, and drink a can of flip with you.
Kit (coming down). Hullo, my hearty! who the devil are you? Who’s this, mother?
Mrs. Drake. Nay, I know nothing about him. (She goes out, R.)
Pew. Cap’n, I’m a brother seaman, and my name is Pew, old David Pew, as you may have heard of in your time, he having sailed along of ‘Awke and glorious Benbow, and a right-’and man to both.
Kit. Benbow? Steady, mate! D’ye mean to say you went to sea before you were born?
Pew. See now! The sign of this here inn was running in my ‘ed, I reckon. Benbow, says you? no, not likely! Anson, I mean; Anson and Sir Edward ‘Awke: that’s the pair: I was their right-’and man.
Kit. Well, mate, you may be all that, and more; but you’re a rum ‘un to look at, anyhow.
Pew. Right you are, and so I am. But what is looks? It’s the ‘art that does it: the ‘art is the seaman’s star; and here’s old David Pew’s a matter of fifty years at sea, but tough and sound as the British Constitootion.
Kit. You’re right there, Pew. Shake hands upon it. And you’re a man they’re down upon, just like myself, I see. We’re a pair of plain, good-hearted, jolly tars; and all these ‘longshore fellows cock a lip at us, by George. What cheer, mate?
Arethusa (without). Mrs. Drake! Mrs. Drake!
Pew. What, a female? hey? a female? Board her, board her, mate! I’m dark. (He retires again behind, to table, R., behind settle.)
Arethusa (without). Mrs. Drake!
Mrs. Drake (re-entering and running to door). Here I am, my dear; come in.
To these, Arethusa
Arethusa. Ah, Kit, I’ve found you. I thought you would lodge with Mrs. Drake.
Kit. What? are you looking for your consort? Whistle, I’m your dog; I’ll come to you. I’ve been toasting you fathom deep, my beauty; and with every glass I love you dearer.
Arethusa. Now, Kit, if you want to please my father, this is not the way. Perhaps he thinks too much of the guineas: well, gather them — if you think me worth the price. Go you to your sloop, clinker built, eighty tons burthen — you see I remember. Skipper Kit! I don’t deny I like a man of spirit; but if you care to please Captain Gaunt, keep out of taverns; and if you could carry yourself a bit more — more elderly!
Kit. Can I? Would I? Ah, just couldn’t and just won’t I, then!
Mrs. Drake. I hope, madam, you don’t refer to my house; a publican I may be, but tavern is a word that I don’t hold with; and here there’s no bad drink, and no loose company; and as for my blessedest Kit, I declare I love him like my own.
Arethusa. Why, who could help it, Mrs. Drake?
Kit. Arethusa, you’re an angel. Do I want to please Captain Gaunt? Why, that’s as much as ask whether I love you. (I don’t deny that his words cut me; for they did. But as for wanting to please him, if he was deep as the blue Atlantic, I would beat it out. And elderly, too? Aha, you witch, you’re wise! Elderly? You’ve set the course; you leave me alone to steer it. Matrimony’s my port, and love is my cargo.) That’s a likely question, ain’t it, Mrs. Drake? Do I want to please him! Elderly, says you? Why, see here: Fill up my glass, and I’ll drink to Arethusa on my knees.
Arethusa. Why, you stupid boy, do you think that would please him?
Kit. On my knees I’ll drink it! (As he kneels and drains the glass, Gaunt enters, and he scrambles to his feet.)
To these, Gaunt
Gaunt. Arethusa, this is no place for you.
Arethusa. No, father.
Gaunt. I wish you had been spared this sight; but look at him, child, since you are here; look at God’s image, so debased. And you, young man (to Kit), you have proved that I was right. Are you the husband for this innocent maid?
Kit. Captain Gaunt, I have a word to say to you. Terror is your last word; you’re bitter hard upon poor sinners, bitter hard and black — you that were a sinner yourself. These are not the true colours; don’t deceive yourself; you’re out of your course.
Gaunt. Heaven forbid that I should be hard, Christopher. It is not I; it’s God’s law that is of iron. Think! if the blow were to fall now, some cord to snap within you, some enemy to plunge a knife into your heart; this room, with its poor taper light, to vanish; this world to disappear like a drowning man into the great ocean; and you, your brain still whirling, to be snatched into the presence of the Eternal Judge: Christopher French, what answer would you make? For these gifts wasted, for this rich mercy scorned, for these high-handed bravings of your better angel — what have you to say?
Kit. Well, sir, I want my word with you, and by your leave I’ll have it out.
Arethusa. Kit, for pity’s sake!
Kit. Arethusa, I don’t speak to you, my dear: you’ve got my ring, and I know what that means. The man I speak to is Captain Gaunt. I came to-day as happy a man as ever stepped, and with as fair a lookout. What did you care? what was your reply? None of your flesh and blood, you said, should lie at the mercy of a wretch like me! Am I not flesh and blood that you should trample on me like that? Is that charity, to stamp the hope out of a poor soul?
Gaunt. You speak wildly; or the devil of drink that is in you speaks instead.
Kit. You think me drunk; well, so I am, and whose fault is it but yours? It was I that drank; but you take your share of it, Captain Gaunt: you it was that filled the can.
Gaunt. Christopher French, I spoke but for your good, your good and hers. “Woe unto him” — these are the dreadful words — ”by whom offences shall come: it were better — — ” Christopher, I can but pray for both of us.
Kit. Prayers? Now I tell you freely, Captain Gaunt, I don’t value your prayers. Deeds are what I ask; kind deeds and words — that’s the true-blue piety: to hope the best and do the best, and speak the kindest. As for you, you insult me to my face; and then you’ll pray for me? What’s that? Insult behind my back is what I call it! No, sir; you’re out of the courses; you’re no good man to my view, be you who you may.
Mrs. Drake. O Christopher! To Captain Gaunt?
Arethusa. Father, father, come away!
Kit. Ah, you see? She suffers too; we all suffer. You spoke just now of a devil; well, I’ll tell you the devil you have: the devil of judging others. And as for me, I’ll get as drunk as Bacchus.
Gaunt. Come! (Exit, with Arethusa.)
Pew, Mrs. Drake, Kit
Pew. (coming out and waving his pipe). Commander, shake! Hooray for old England! If there’s anything in the world that goes to old Pew’s ‘art, it’s argyment. Commander, you handled him like a babby, kept the weather gauge, and hulled him every shot. Commander, give it a name, and let that name be rum!
Kit. Ay, rum’s the sailor’s fancy. Mrs. Drake, a bottle and clean glasses.
Mrs. Drake. Kit French, I wouldn’t. Think better of it, there’s a dear! And that sweet girl just gone!
Pew. Ma’am, I’m not a ‘ard man; I’m not the man to up and force a act of parleyment upon a helpless female. But you see here: Pew’s friends is sacred. Here’s my friend here, a perfeck seaman, and a man with a ‘ed upon his shoulders, and a man that, damme, I admire. He give you a order, ma’am — march!
Mrs. Drake. Kit, don’t you listen to that blind man; he’s the devil wrote upon his face.
Pew. Don’t you insinuate against my friend. He ain’t a child, I hope? he knows his business? Don’t you get trying to go a-lowering of my friend in his own esteem.
Mrs. Drake. Well, I’ll bring it, Kit; but it’s against the grain. (Exit.)
Kit. I say, old boy, come to think of it, why should we? It’s been glasses round with me all day. I’ve got my cargo.
Pew. You? and you just argy’d the ‘ed off of Admiral Guinea? O stash that! I stand treat, if it comes to that!
Kit. What! Do I meet with a blind seaman and not stand him? That’s not the man I am!
Mrs. Drake (re-entering with bottle and glasses). There!
Pew. Easy does it, ma’am.
Kit. Mrs. Drake, you had better trot.
Mrs. Drake. Yes, I’ll trot; and I’ll trot with a sick heart, Kit French, to leave you drinking your wits away with that low blind man. For a low man you are — a low blind man — and your clothes they would disgrace a scarecrow. I’ll go to my bed, Kit; and O, dear boy, go soon to yours — the old room, you know; it’s ready for you — and go soon and sleep it off; for you know, dear, they, one and all, regret it in the morning; thirty years I’ve kept this house, and one and all they did regret it, dear.
Pew. Come now, you walk!
Mrs. Drake. O, it’s not for your bidding. You a seaman? The ship for you to sail in is the hangman’s cart. — Good-night, Kit, dear, and better company. (Exit.)
They sit at the other table, L.
Pew. Commander, here’s her ‘ealth!
Kit. Ay, that’s the line: her health! But that old woman there is a good old woman, Pew.
Pew. So she is, Commander. But there’s no woman understands a seaman; now you and me, being both bred to it, we splice by natur’. As for A. G., if argyment can win her, why, she’s yours. If I’d a-had your ‘ed for argyment, damme, I’d a-been a Admiral, I would! And if argyment won’t win her, well, see here, you put your trust in David Pew.
Kit. David Pew, I don’t know who are you, David Pew; I never heard of you; I don’t seem able to clearly see you. Mrs. Drake, she’s a smart old woman, Pew, and she says you’ve the devil in your face.
Pew. Ah, and why, says you? Because I up and put her in her place, when she forgot herself to you, Commander.
Kit. Well, Pew, that’s so; you stood by me like a man. Shake hands, Pew; and we’ll make a night of it, or we’ll know why, old boy!
Pew. That’s my way. That’s Pew’s way, that is. That’s Pew’s way all over. Commander, excuse the liberty; but when I was your age, making allowance for a lowlier station and less ‘ed for argyment, I was as like you as two peas. I know it by the v’ice. (Sings) —
“We hadn’t been three days at sea before we saw a sail,
So we clapped on every stitch would stand, although it blew a gale,
And we walked along full fourteen knots, for the barkie she did know,
As well as ever a soul on board, ‘twas time for us to go.”
Pew and Kit (in chorus) —
“Time for us to go,
Time for us to go,
As well as ever a soul on board
‘Twas time for us to go.”
Pew (sings) —
“We carried away the royal yard, and the stunsail boom was gone;
Says the skipper, ‘They may go or stand, I’m damned if I don’t crack on;
So the weather braces we’ll round in, and the trysail set also,
And we’ll keep the brig three p’ints away, for it’s time for us to go.”
Give it mouth, Commander!
Pew and Kit (in chorus) —
“Time for us to go,
Time for us to go,
And we’ll keep the brig three p’ints away,
For it’s time for us to go.”
Pew. I ain’t sung like that since I sang to Admiral ‘Awke, the night before I lost my eyes, I ain’t. “Sink me!” says he, says Admiral ‘Awke, my old commander (touching his hat), “sink me!” he says, “if that ain’t ‘art-of-oak,” he says: “‘art-of-oak,” says he, “and a pipe like a bloody blackbird!” Commander, here’s my respecks, and the devil fly away with Admiral Guinea!
Kit. I say, Pew, how’s this? How do you know about Admiral Guinea? I say, Pew, I begin to think you know too much.
Pew. I ax your pardon; but as a man with a ‘ed for argyment — and that’s your best p’int o’ sailing, Commander; intelleck is your best p’int — as a man with a ‘ed for argyment, how do I make it out?
Kit. Aha, you’re a sly dog, you’re a deep dog, Pew; but you can’t get the weather of Kit French. How do I make it out? I’ll tell you. I make it out like this: Your name’s Pew, ain’t it? Very well. And you know Admiral Guinea, and that’s his name, eh? Very well. Then you’re Pew; and the Admiral’s the Admiral; and you know the Admiral; and by George, that’s all. Hey? Drink about, boys, drink about!
Pew. Lord love you, if I’d a-had a ‘ed like yours! Why, the Admiral was my first cap’n. I was that man’s bo’sun, I was, aboard the Arethusa; and we was like two brothers. Did you never hear of Guinea-land and the black ivory business? (Sings) —
“A quick run to the south we had, and when we made the Bight,
We kept the offing all day long and crossed the Bar at night.
Six hundred niggers in the hold and seventy we did stow,
And when we clapped the hatches on, ‘twas time for us to go.”
Lay forward, lads!
Kit and Pew (in chorus) —
“Time for us to go,” etc.
Kit. I say, Pew, I like you; you’re a damned ugly dog; but I like you. But look ye here, Pew: fair does it, you know, or we part company this minute. If you and the Ad — — the Admirable were like brothers on the Guinea coast, why aren’t you like brothers here?
Pew. Ah, I see you coming. What a ‘ed! what a ‘ed! Since Pew is a friend of the family, says you, why didn’t he sail in and bear a hand, says you, when you was knocking the Admiral’s ship about his ears in argyment?
Kit. Well, Pew, now you put a name to it, why not?
Pew. Ah, why not? There I recko’nise you. Well, see here: argyment’s my weakness, in a manner of speaking; I wouldn’t a-borne down and spiled sport not for gold untold, no, not for rum, I wouldn’t! And besides, Commander, I put it to you as between man and man, would it have been seaman-like to let on and show myself to a old shipmate, when he was yard-arm to yard-arm with a craft not half his metal, and getting blown out of water every broadside? Would it have been ‘ansome? I put it to you, as between man and man.
Kit. Pew, I may have gifts; but I never thought of that. Why, no: not seaman-like. Pew, you’ve a heart, that’s what I like you for.
Pew. Ah, that I have: you’ll see. I wanted — now you follow me — I wanted to keep square with Admiral Guinea. Why? says you. Well, put it that I know a fine young fellow when I sees him; and put it that I wish him well; and put it, for the sake of argyment, that the father of that lovely female’s in my power. Aha? Pew’s power! Why, in my ‘ands he’s like this pocket ‘andke’cher. Now, brave boy, do you see?
Kit. No, Pew, my head’s gone; I don’t see.
Pew. Why, cheer up, Commander! You want to marry this lovely female?
Kit. Ay, that I do; but I’m not fit for her, Pew; I’m a drunken dog, and I’m not fit for her.
Pew. Now, Cap’n, you’ll allow a old seaman to be judge: one as sailed with ‘Awke and blessed Benb — — with ‘Awke and noble Anson. You’ve been open and above-board with me, and I’ll do the same by you: it being the case that you’re hard hit about a lovely woman, which many a time and oft it has happened to old Pew; and him with a feeling ‘art that bleeds for you, Commander; why, look here: I’m that girl’s godfather; promised and vowed for her, I did; and I like you; and you’re the man for her; and, by the living Jacob, you shall splice!
Kit. David Pew, do you mean what you say?
Pew. Do I mean what I say? Does David Pew? Ask Admiral ‘Awke! Ask old Admiral Byng in his coffin, where I laid him with these ‘ands! Pew does, is what those naval commanders would reply. Mean it? I reckon so.
Kit. Then, shake hands. You’re an honest man, Pew — old Pew! — and I’ll make your fortune. But there’s something else, if I could keep the run of it. Oh, ah! But can you? That’s the point. Can you? don’t you see?
Pew. Can I? You leave that to me; I’ll bring you to your moorings; I’m the man that can, and I’m him that will. But only, look here, let’s understand each other. You’re a bold blade, ain’t you? You won’t stick at a trifle for a lovely female? You’ll back me up? You’re a man, ain’t you? a man, and you’ll see me through and through it, hey? Come; is that so? Are you fair and square and stick at nothing?
Kit. Me, Pew? I’ll go through fire and water.
Pew. I’ll risk it. Well, then, see here, my son: another swallow and we jog.
Kit. No, not to-night, Pew, not to-night!
Pew. Commander, in a manner of speaking, wherefore?
Kit. Wherefore, Pew? ‘Cause why, Pew? ‘Cause I’m drunk, and be damned to you!
Pew. Commander, I ax your pardon; but, saving your presence, that’s a lie. What? drunk? a man with a ‘ed for argyment like that? Just you get up, and steady yourself on your two pins, and you’ll be as right as ninepence.
Kit. Pew, before we budge, let me shake your flipper again. You’re heart of oak, Pew, sure enough; and if you can bring the Adam — Admirable about, why, damme, I’ll make your fortune! How you’re going to do it, I don’t know; but I’ll stand by; and I know you’ll do it if anybody can. But I’m drunk, Pew, you can’t deny that; I’m as drunk as a Plymouth fiddler, Pew; and how you’re going to do it is a mystery to me.
Pew. Ah, you leave that to me. All I want is what I’ve got: your promise to stand by and bear a hand (producing a dark lantern). Now, here, you see, is my little glim; it ain’t for me, because I’m blind, worse luck! and the day and night is the blessed same to David Pew. But you watch. You put the candle near me. Here’s what there ain’t many blind men could do, take the pick o’ them! (lighting a screw of paper, and with that, the lantern). Hey? That’s it. Hey? Go and pity the poor blind!
Kit (while Pew blows out the candles). But I say, Pew, what do you want with it?
Pew. To see by, my son. (He shuts the lantern and puts it in his pocket. Stage quite dark. Moonlight at window.) All ship-shape? No sparks about? No? Come, then, lean on me and heave ahead for the lovely female. (Singing sotto voce) —
“Time for us to go,
Time for us to go,
And when we’d clapped the hatches on,
‘Twas time for us to go.”
The Stage represents the Admiral’s house, as in Act I. Gaunt, seated, is reading aloud; Arethusa sits at his feet. Candles
Gaunt (reading). “And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.” (He closes the book.) Amen.
Arethusa. Amen. Father, there spoke my heart.
Gaunt. Arethusa, the Lord in His mercy has seen right to vex us with trials of many kinds. It is a little matter to endure the pangs of the flesh, the smart of wounds, the passion of hunger and thirst, the heaviness of disease; and in this world I have learned to take thought for nothing save the quiet of your soul. It is through our affections that we are smitten with the true pain, even the pain that kills.
Arethusa. And yet this pain is our natural lot. Father, I fear to boast, but I know that I can bear it. Let my life, then, flow like common lives, each pain rewarded with some pleasure, each pleasure linked with some pain: nothing pure whether for good or evil: and my husband, like myself and all the rest of us, only a poor, kind-hearted sinner, striving for the better part. What more could any woman ask?
Gaunt. Child, child, your words are like a sword. What would she ask? Look upon me whom, in the earthly sense, you are commanded to respect. Look upon me: do I bear a mark? is there any outward sign to bid a woman avoid and flee from me?
Arethusa. I see nothing but the face I love.
Gaunt. There is none: nor yet on the young man Christopher, whose words still haunt and upbraid me. Yes, I am hard; I was born hard, born a tyrant, born to be what I was, a slaver captain. But to-night, and to save you, I will pluck my heart out of my bosom. You shall know what makes me what I am; you shall hear, out of my own life, why I dread and deprecate this marriage. Child, do you remember your mother?
Arethusa. Remember her? Ah, if she had been here to-day!
Gaunt. It is thirteen years since she departed, and took with her the whole sunshine of my life. Do you remember the manner of her departure? You were a child, and cannot; but I can and do. Remember? shall I ever forget? Here or hereafter, ever forget! Ten years she was my wife, and ten years she lay a-dying. Arethusa, she was a saint on earth; and it was I that killed her.
Arethusa. Killed her? my mother? You?
Gaunt. Not with my hand; for I loved her. I would not have hurt one hair upon her head. But she got her death by me, as sure as by a blow.
Arethusa. I understand — I can see; you brood on trifles, misunderstandings, unkindnesses you think them; though my mother never knew of them, or never gave them a second thought. It is natural when death has come between.
Gaunt. I married her from Falmouth. She was comely as the roe; I see her still — her dove’s eyes and her Smile! I was older than she; and I had a name for hardness, a hard and wicked man; but she loved me — my Hester! — and she took me as I was. O how I repaid her trust! Well, our child was born to us; and we named her after the brig I had built and sailed, the old craft whose likeness — older than you, girl — stands there above our heads. And so far, that was happiness. But she yearned for my salvation; and it was there I thwarted her. My sins were a burden upon her spirit, a shame to her in this world, her terror in the world to come. She talked much and often of my leaving the devil’s trade I sailed in. She had a tender and a Christian heart, and she would weep and pray for the poor heathen creatures that I bought and sold and shipped in misery, till my conscience grew hot within me. I’ve put on my hat, and gone out and made oath that my next cargo should be my last; but it never was, that oath was never kept. So I sailed again and again for the Guinea coast, until the trip came that was to be my last indeed. Well, it fell out that we had good luck trading, and I stowed the brig with these poor heathen as full as she would hold. We had a fair run westward till we were past the line; but one night the wind rose, and there came a hurricane, and for seven days we were tossed on the deep seas, in the hardest straits, and every hand on deck. For several days they were battened down: all that time we heard their cries and lamentations, but worse at the beginning; and when at last, and near dead myself, I crept below — O, some they were starved, some smothered, some dead of broken limbs; and the hold was like a lazar-house in the time of the anger of the Lord!
Gaunt. It was two hundred and five that we threw overboard: two hundred and five lost souls that I had hurried to their doom. I had many die with me before; but not like that — not such a massacre as that; and I stood dumb before the sight. For I saw I was their murderer — body and soul their murderer and, Arethusa, my Hester knew it. That was her death-stroke: it felled her. She had long been dying slowly; but from the hour she heard that story, the garment of the flesh began to waste and perish, the fountains of her life dried up; she faded before my face; and in two months from my landing — O Hester, Hester, would God I had died for thee!
Arethusa. Mother! O poor soul! O poor father! O father, it was hard on you.
Gaunt. The night she died, she lay there, in her bed. She took my hand. “I am going,” she said, “to heaven. For Christ’s sake,” she said, “come after me, and bring my little maid. I’ll be waiting and wearying till you come”; and she kissed my hand, the hand that killed her. At that I broke out, calling on her to stop, for it was more than I could bear. But no, she said she must still tell me of my sins, and how the thought of them had bowed down her life. “And O!” she said, “if I couldn’t prevail on you alive, let my death.”... Well, then, she died. What have I done since then? I’ve laid my course for Hester. Sin, temptation, pleasure, all this poor shadow of a world, I saw them not; I saw my Hester waiting, waiting and wearying. I have made my election sure; my sins I have cast them out. Hester, Hester, I will come to you, poor waiting one; and I’ll bring your little maid: ay, dearest soul, I’ll bring your little maid safe with me!
Arethusa. O teach me how! Show me the way! only show me. — O mother, mother! — If it were paved with fire, show me the way, and I will walk it barefoot!
Gaunt. They call me a miser. They say that in this sea-chest of mine I hoard my gold. (He passes R. to chest, takes out key and unlocks it.) They think my treasure and my very soul are locked up here. They speak after the flesh, but they are right. See!
Arethusa. Her watch? the wedding ring? O father, forgive me!
Gaunt. Ay, her watch that counted the hours when I was away; they were few and sorrowful, my Hester’s hours; and this poor contrivance numbered them. The ring — with that I married her. This chain, it’s of Guinea gold; I brought it home for her, the year before we married, and she wore it to her wedding. It was a vanity: they are all vanities; but they are the treasure of my soul. Below here, see, her wedding dress. Ay, the watch has stopped: dead, dead. And I know that my Hester died of me; and day and night, asleep and awake, my soul abides in her remembrance.
Arethusa. And you come in your sleep to look at them. O, poor father! I understand — I understand you now.
Gaunt. In my sleep? Ay? do I so? My Hester!
Arethusa. And why, why did you not tell me? I thought — I was like the rest! — I feared you were a miser. O, you should have told me; I should have been so proud — so proud and happy. I knew you loved her; but not this, not this.
Gaunt. Why should I have spoken? It was all between my Hester and me.
Arethusa. Father, may I speak? May I tell you what my heart tells me? You do not understand about my mother. You loved her — O, as few men can love. And she loved you: think how she loved you! In this world, you know — you have told me — there is nothing perfect. All we men and women have our sins; and they are a pain to those that love us, and the deeper the love, the crueller the pain. That is life; and it is life we ask, not heaven; and what matter for the pain, if only the love holds on? Her love held: then she was happy. Her love was immortal; and when she died, her one grief was to be parted from you, her one hope to welcome you again.
Gaunt. And you, Arethusa: I was to bring her little maid.
Arethusa. God bless her, yes, and me! But, father, can you not see that she was blessed among women?
Gaunt. Child, child, you speak in ignorance; you touch upon griefs you cannot fathom.
Arethusa. No, dearest, no. She loved you, loved you and died of it. Why else do women live? What would I ask but just to love my Kit, and die for him, and look down from heaven, and see him keep my memory holy and live the nobler for my sake?
Gaunt. Ay, do you so love him?
Arethusa. Even as my mother loved my father.
Gaunt. Ay? Then we will see. What right have I — — You are your mother’s child: better, tenderer, wiser than I. Let us seek guidance in prayer. Good-night, my little maid.
Arethusa. O father, I know you at last.
Gaunt and Arethusa go out L., carrying the candles. Stage dark. A distant clock chimes the quarters, and strikes one. Then the tap-tapping of Pew’s stick is heard without; the key is put into the lock; and enter Pew, C.; he pockets key, and is followed by Kit, with dark lantern
Pew. Quiet, you lubber! Can’t you foot it soft, you that has daylights and a glim?
Kit. All right, old boy. How the devil did we get through the door? Shall I knock him up?
Pew. Stow your gab (seizing his wrist). Under your breath!
Kit. Avast that! You’re a savage dog, aren’t you?
Pew. Turn on that glim.
Kit. It’s as right as a trivet, Pew. What next? By George, Pew, I’ll make your fortune.
Pew. Here, now, look round this room, and sharp. D’ye see a old sea-chest?
Kit. See it, Pew? why, d’ye think I’m blind?
Pew. Take me across, and let me feel of her. Mum; catch my hand. Ah, that’s her (feeling the chest), that’s the Golden Mary. Now, see here, my bo, if you’ve the pluck of a weevil in a biscuit, this girl is yours; if you hain’t, and think to sheer off, I’m blind, but I’m deadly.
Kit. You’ll keep a civil tongue in your head all the same. I’ll take threats from nobody, blind or not. Let’s knock up the Admiral and be done with it. What I want is to get rid of this dark lantern. It makes me feel like a housebreaker, by George.
Pew (seated on chest). You follow this. I’m sick of drinking bilge, when I might be rolling in my coach, and I’m dog-sick of Jack Gaunt. Who’s he to be wallowing in gold, when a better man is groping crusts in the gutter and spunging for rum? Now, here, in this blasted chest, is the gold to make men of us for life: gold, ay, gobs of it; and writin’s too — things that if I had the proof of ‘em I’d hold Jack Gaunt to the grindstone till his face was flat. I’d have done it single-handed; but I’m blind, worse luck: I’m all in the damned dark here, poking with a stick — Lord, burn up with lime the eyes that saw it! That’s why I raked up you. Come, out with your iron, and prise the lid off. You shall touch your snack, and have the wench for nothing; ay, and fling her in the street, when done.
Kit. So you brought me here to steal, did you?
Pew. Ay did I; and you shall. I’m a biter: I bring blood.
Kit. Now, Pew, you came here on my promise, or I’d kill you like a rat. As it is, out of that door! One, two, three (drawing his cutlass), and off!
Pew (leaping at his throat and with a great voice). Help! murder! thieves!
To these, Arethusa, Gaunt, with lights. Stage light, Pew has Kit down, and is throttling him
Pew. I’ve got him, Cap’n. What, kill my old commander, and rob him of his blessed child? Not with old Pew!
Gaunt. Get up, David; can’t you see you’re killing him? Unhand, I say.
Arethusa. In heaven’s name, who is it?
Pew. It’s a damned villain, my pretty; and his name, to the best of my belief, is French.
Arethusa. Kit? Kit French? Never.
Kit (rising). He’s done for me. (Falls on chest.)
Pew. Don’t you take on about him, ducky; he ain’t worth it. Cap’n Gaunt, I took him and I give him up. You was ‘ard on me this morning, Cap’n: this is my way — Pew’s way, this is — of paying of you out.
Arethusa. Father, this is the blind man that came while you were abroad. Sure you’ll not listen to him. And you, Kit, you, what is this?
Kit. Captain Gaunt, that blind devil has half-throttled me. He brought me here — I can’t speak — he has almost killed me — and I’d been drinking too.
Gaunt. And you, David Pew, what do you say?
Pew. Cap’n, the rights of it is this. Me and that young man there was partaking in a friendly drop of rum at the “Admiral Benbow” inn; and I’d just proposed his blessed Majesty, when the young man he ups and says to me: “Pew,” he says, “I like you, Pew: you’re a true seaman,” he says; “and I’m one as sticks at nothing; and damme, Pew,” he says, “I’ll make your fortune.” (Can he deny as them was his words? Look at him, you as has eyes: no, he cannot. “Come along of me,” he says, “and, damme, I’ll make your fortune.”) Well, Cap’n, he lights a dark lantern (which you’ll find it somewhere on the floor, I reckon), and out we goes, me follerin’ his lead, as I thought was ‘art-of-oak and a true-blue mariner; and the next I knows is, here we was in here, and him a-askin’ me to ‘old the glim, while he prised the lid off of your old sea-chest with his cutlass.
Gaunt. The chest? (He leaps, R., and examines chest.) Ah!
Pew. Leastways, I was to ‘elp him, by his account of it, while he nailed the rhino, and then took and carried off that lovely maid of yours; for a lovely maid she is, and one as touched old Pew’s ‘art. Cap’n, when I ‘eard that, my blood biled. “Young man,” I says, “you don’t know David Pew,” I says; and with that I ups and does my dooty by him, cutlass and all, like a lion-’arted seaman, though blind. (And then in comes you, and I gives him up: as you know for a fack is true, and I’ll subscribe at the Assizes. And that, if you was to cut me into junks, is the truth, the ‘ole truth, and nothing but the truth, world without end, so help me, amen; and if you’ll ‘and me over the ‘oly Bible, me not having such a thing about me at the moment, why, I’ll put a oath upon it like a man.)
Arethusa. Father, have you heard?
Gaunt. I know this man, Arethusa, and the truth is not in him.
Arethusa. Well, and why do we wait? We know Kit, do we not?
Kit. Ay, Captain, you know the pair of us, and you can see his face and mine.
Gaunt. Christopher, the facts are all against you. I find you here in my house at midnight: you who at least had eyes to see, and must have known whither you were going. It was this man, not you, who called me up: and when I came in, it was he who was uppermost and who gave you up to justice. This unsheathed cutlass is yours; there hangs the scabbard, empty; and as for the dark lantern, of what use is light to the blind? and who could have trimmed and lighted it but you?
Pew. Ah, Cap’n, what a ‘ed for argyment!
Kit. And now, sir, now that you have spoken, I claim the liberty to speak on my side.
Gaunt. Not so. I will first have done with this man. David Pew, it were too simple to believe your story as you tell it; but I can find no testimony against you. From whatever reason, assuredly you have done me service. Here are five guineas to set you on your way. Begone at once; and while it is yet time, think upon your repentance.
Pew. Cap’n, here’s my respecks. You’ve turned a pious man, Cap’n; it does my ‘art good to ‘ear you. But you ain’t the only one. O no! I came about and paid off on the other tack before you, I reckon: you ask the Chaplain of the Fleet else, as called me on the quarter-deck before old Admiral ‘Awke himself (touching his hat), my old commander. (“David Pew,” he says, “five-and-thirty year have I been in this trade, man and boy,” that chaplain says, “and damme, Pew,” says he, “if ever I seen the seaman that could rattle off his catechism within fifty mile of you. Here’s five guineas out of my own pocket,” he says; “and what’s more to the p’int,” he says, “I’ll speak to my reverend brother-in-law, the Bishop of Dover,” he says; “and if ever you leave the sea, and wants a place as beadle, why, damme,” says he, “you go to him, for you’re the man for him and him for you.”)
Gaunt. David Pew, you never set your foot on a King’s ship in all your life. There lies the road.
Pew. Ah, you was always a ‘ard man, Cap’n, and a ‘ard man to believe, like Didymus the ‘Ebrew prophet. But it’s time for me to go, and I’ll be going. My service to you, Cap’n: and I kiss my ‘and to that lovely female. (Singing) —
“Time for us to go,
Time for us to go,
And when we’d clapped the hatches on,
‘Twas time for us to go.”
Kit, Arethusa, Gaunt
Arethusa. Now, Kit?
Kit. Well, sir, and now?
Gaunt. I find you here in my house at this untimely and unseemly hour; I find you there in company with one who, to my assured knowledge, should long since have swung in the wind at Execution Dock. What brought you? Why did you open my door while I slept to such a companion? Christopher French, I have two treasures. One (laying his hand on Arethusa’s shoulder) I know you covet: Christopher, is this your love?
Kit. Sir, I have been fooled and trapped. That man declared he knew you, declared he could make you change your mind about our marriage. I was drunk, sir, and I believed him: heaven knows I am sober now, and can see my folly; but I believed him then, and followed him. He brought me here, he told me your chest was full of gold that would make men of us for life. At that I saw my fault, sir, and drew my cutlass; and he, in the wink of an eye, roared out for help, leaped at my throat like a weasel, and had me rolling on the floor. He was quick, and I, as I tell you, sir, was off my balance.
Gaunt. Is this man, Pew, your enemy?
Kit. No, sir; I never saw him till to-night.
Gaunt. Then, if you must stand the justice of your country, come to the proof with a better plea. What? lantern and cutlass yours; you the one that knew the house; you the one that saw; you the one overtaken and denounced; and you spin me a galley yarn like that? If that is all your defence, you’ll hang, sir, hang.
Arethusa. Ah!... Father, I give him up: I will never see him, never speak to him, never think of him again; I take him from my heart; I give myself wholly up to you and to my mother; I will obey you in every point — O, not at a word merely — at a finger raised! I will do all this; I will do anything — anything you bid me; I swear it in the face of heaven. Only — Kit! I love him, father, I love him. Let him go.
Arethusa. You let the other. Open the door again for my sake, father — in my mother’s name — O, open the door and let him go.
Kit. Let me go? My girl, if you had cast me out this morning, good and well: I would have left you, though it broke my heart. But it’s a changed story now; now I’m down on my luck, and you come and stab me from behind. I ask no favour, and I’ll take none; I stand here on my innocence, and God helping me I’ll clear my good name, and get your love again, if it’s love worth having. Now, Captain Gaunt, I’ve said my say, and you may do your pleasure. I am my father’s son, and I never feared to face the truth.
Gaunt. You have spoken like a man, French, and you may go. I leave you free.
Kit. Nay, sir, not so: not with my will. I’m accused and counted guilty; the proofs are against me; the girl I love has turned upon me. I’ll accept no mercy at your hands. Captain Gaunt, I am your prisoner.
Arethusa. Kit, dear Kit — —
Gaunt. Silence! Young man, I have offered you liberty without bond or condition. You refuse. You shall be judged. Meanwhile (opening the door, R.), you will go in here. I keep your cutlass. The night brings counsel: to-morrow shall decide. (He locks Kit in, leaving the key in the door.)
Gaunt, Arethusa, afterwards Pew
Arethusa. Father, you believe in him; you do; I know you do.
Gaunt. Child, I am not given to be hasty. I will pray and sleep upon this matter. (A knocking at the door, C.) Who knocks so late? (He opens.)
Pew (entering). Cap’n, shall I fetch the constable?
Pew. No? Have ye killed him?
Gaunt. My man, I’ll see you into the road. (He takes Pew by the arm, and goes out with him.)
Arethusa. (Listens; then running to door, R.) Kit — dearest Kit! wait! I will come to you soon. (Gaunt re-enters, C., as the drop falls.)
The Stage represents the Admiral’s house, as in Acts I. and III. A chair, L., in front. As the curtain rises, the Stage is dark. Enter Arethusa, L., with candle; she lights another; and passes to door, R., which she unbolts. Stage light
Arethusa. Come, dear Kit, come!
Kit. Well, I’m here.
Arethusa. O Kit, you are not angry with me.
Kit. Have I reason to be pleased?
Arethusa. Kit, I was wrong. Forgive me.
Kit. O yes. I forgive you. I suppose you meant it kindly; but there are some kindnesses a man would rather die than take a gift of. When a man is accused, Arethusa, it is not that he fears the gallows — it’s the shame that cuts him. At such a time as that, the way to help was to stand to your belief. You should have nailed my colours to the mast, not spoke of striking them. If I were to be hanged to-morrow, and your love there, and a free pardon and a dukedom on the other side — which would I choose?
Arethusa. Kit, you must judge me fairly. It was not my life that was at stake, it was yours. Had it been mine — mine, Kit — what had you done, then?
Kit. I am a downright fool; I saw it inside out. Why, give you up, by George!
Arethusa. Ah, you see! Now you understand. It was all pure love. When he said that word — O! death and that disgrace!... But I know my father. He fears nothing so much as the goodness of his heart; and yet it conquers. He would pray, he said; and to-night, and by the kindness of his voice, I knew he was convinced already. All that is wanted is that you should forgive me.
Kit. Arethusa, if you looked at me like that I’d forgive you piracy on the high seas. I was only sulky; I was boxed up there in the black dark, and couldn’t see my hand. It made me pity that blind man, by George.
Arethusa. O, that blind man! The fiend! He came back, Kit: did you hear him? he thought we had killed you — you!
Kit. Well, well, it serves me right for keeping company with such a swab.
Arethusa. One thing puzzles me: how did you get in? I saw my father lock the door.
Kit. Ah, how? That’s just it. I was a sheet in the wind, you see. How did we? He did it somehow.... By George, he had a key! He can get in again.
Arethusa. Again? that man!
Kit. Ay can he! Again! When he likes!
Arethusa. Kit, I am afraid. O Kit, he will kill my father.
Kit. Afraid. I’m glad of that. Now, you’ll see I’m worth my salt at something. Ten to one he’s back to Mrs. Drake’s. I’ll after, and lay him aboard.
Arethusa. O Kit, he is too strong for you.
Kit. Arethusa, that’s below the belt! Never you fear; I’ll give a good account of him.
Arethusa (taking cutlass from wall). You’ll be none the worse for this, dear.
Kit. That’s so (making cuts). All the same, I’m half ashamed to draw on a blind man; it’s too much odds. (He leans suddenly against the table.) Ah!
Arethusa. Kit! are you ill?
Kit. My head’s like a humming top; it serves me right for drinking.
Arethusa. Oh, and the blind man! (She runs, L., to the corner cupboard, brings a bottle and glass, and fills and offers glass.) Here, lad, drink that.
Kit. To you! That’s better. (Bottle and glass remain on Gaunt’s table.)
Arethusa. Suppose you miss him?
Kit. Miss him! The road is straight; and I can hear the tap-tapping of that stick a mile away.
Arethusa (listening). ‘St! my father stirring in his room!
Kit. Let me get clear; tell him why when I’m gone. The door — — ?
Kit. The window!
Arethusa. Quick, quick! (She unfastens R. window, by which Kit goes out.)
Arethusa, Gaunt entering L.
Arethusa. Father, Kit is gone.... He is asleep.
Gaunt. Waiting, waiting and wearying. The years, they go so heavily, my Hester still waiting! (He goes R. to chest, which he opens.) That is your chain; it’s of Guinea gold; I brought it you from Guinea. (Taking out chain.) You liked it once; it pleased you long ago; O, why not now — why will you not be happy now?... I swear this is my last voyage; see, I lay my hand upon the Holy Book and swear it. One more venture — for the child’s sake, Hester; you don’t think upon your little maid.
Arethusa. Ah, for my sake, it was for my sake!
Gaunt. Ten days out from Lagos. That’s a strange sunset, Mr. Yeo. All hands shorten sail! Lay aloft there, look smart!... What’s that? Only the negroes in the hold.... Mr. Yeo, she can’t live long at this; I have a wife and child in Barnstaple.... Christ, what a sea! Hold on, for God’s sake — hold on fore and aft! Great God! (as though the sea were making a breach over the ship at the moment).
Gaunt. They seem quieter down below there.... No water — no light — no air — seven days battened down, and the seas mountain high, and the ship labouring hell-deep! Two hundred and five, two hundred and five, two hundred and five — all to eternal torture!
Arethusa. O pity him, pity him! Let him sleep, let him forget! Let her prayers avail in heaven, and let him rest!
Gaunt. Hester, no, don’t smile at me. Rather tears! I have seen you weep — often, often; two hundred and five times. Two hundred and five! (With ring.) Hester, here is your ring (he tries to put the ring on his finger). How comes it in my hand? Not fallen off again? O no, impossible! it was made smaller, dear, it can’t have fallen off! Ah, you waste away. You must live, you must, for the dear child’s sake, for mine, Hester, for mine! Ah, the child. Yes. Who am I to judge? Poor Kit French! And she, your little maid, she’s like you, Hester, and she will save him! How should a man be saved without a wife?
Arethusa. O father, if you could but hear me thank and bless you! (The tapping of Pew’s stick is heard approaching. Gaunt passes L. front and sits.)
Gaunt (beginning to count the taps). One — two — two hundred and five — —
Arethusa (listening). God help me, the blind man! (She runs to door, C.; the key is put into the lock from without, and the door opens.)
Arethusa (at back of stage by the door); Gaunt (front L.); to these, Pew, C.
Pew (sotto voce). All snug. (Coming down.) So that was you, my young friend Christopher, as shot by me on the road; and so you was hot foot after old Pew? Christopher, my young friend, I reckon I’ll have the bowels out of that chest, and I reckon, you’ll be lagged and scragged for it. (At these words Arethusa locks the door, and takes the key.) What’s that? All still. There’s something wrong about this room. Pew, my ‘art of oak, you’re queer to-night; brace up and carry on. Where’s the tool? (Producing knife.) Ah, here she is; and now for the chest; and the gold; and rum — rum — rum. What! Open?... old clothes, by God!... He’s done me; he’s been before me; he’s bolted with the swag; that’s why he ran: Lord wither and waste him forty year for it! O Christopher, if I had my fingers on your throat! Why didn’t I strangle the soul out of him? I heard the breath squeak in his weasand; and Jack Gaunt pulled me off. Ah, Jack, that’s another I owe you. My pious friend, if I was God Almighty for five minutes! (Gaunt rises and begins to pace the stage like a quarter-deck, L.) What’s that? A man’s walk. He don’t see me, thank the blessed dark! But it’s time to slip, my bo. (He gropes his way stealthily till he comes to Gaunt’s table, where he burns his hand in the candle.) A candle — lighted — then it’s bright as day! Lord God, doesn’t he see me? It’s the horrors come alive. (Gaunt draws near and turns away.) I’ll go mad, mad! (He gropes to the door, stopping and starting.) Door. (His voice rising for the first time, sharp with terror.) Locked? Key gone? Trapped! Keep off — keep off of me — keep away! (Sotto voce again.) Keep your head, Lord have mercy, keep your head. I’m wet with sweat. What devil’s den is this? I must out — out! (He shakes the door vehemently.) No? Knife it is, then — knife — knife — knife! (He moves with the knife raised towards Gaunt, intently listening and changing his direction as Gaunt changes his position on the stage.)
Arethusa (rushing to intercept him). Father, father, wake!
Gaunt. Hester, Hester! (He turns, in time to see Arethusa grapple Pew in the centre of the stage, and Pew force her down.)
Arethusa. Kit! Kit!
Pew (with the knife raised). Pew’s way!
To these, Kit
(He leaps through window, R., and cuts Pew down. At the same moment, Gaunt, who has been staring helplessly at his daughter’s peril, fully awakes.)
Gaunt. Death and blood! (Kit, helping Arethusa, has let fall the cutlass. Gaunt picks it up and runs on Pew.) Damned mutineer, I’ll have your heart out! (He stops, stands staring, drops cutlass, falls upon his knees.) God forgive me! Ah, foul sins, would you blaze forth again? Lord, close your ears! Hester, Hester, hear me not! Shall all these years and tears be unavailing?
Arethusa. Father, I am not hurt.
Gaunt. Ay, daughter, but my soul — my lost soul!
Pew (rising on his elbow). Rum? You’ve done me. For God’s sake, rum. (Arethusa pours out a glass, which Kit gives to him.) Rum? This ain’t rum; it’s fire! (With great excitement.) What’s this? I don’t like rum? (Feebly.) Ay, then, I’m a dead man, and give me water.
Gaunt. Now even his sins desert him.
Pew (drinking water). Jack Gaunt, you’ve always been my rock ahead. It’s thanks to you I’ve got my papers, and this time I’m shipped for Fiddler’s Green. Admiral, we ain’t like to meet again, and I’ll give you a toast; Here’s Fiddler’s Green, and damn all lubbers! (Seizing Gaunt’s arm.) I say — fair dealings, Jack! — none of that heaven business: Fiddler’s Green’s my port, now, ain’t it?
Gaunt. David, you’ve hove short up, and God forbid that I deceive you. Pray, man, pray; for in the place to which you are bound there is no mercy and no hope.
Pew. Ay, my lass, you’re black, but your blood’s red, and I’m all a-muck with it. Pass the rum, and be damned to you (Trying to sing) —
“Time for us to go,
Time for us — — ”
Gaunt. But for the grace of God, there lies John Gaunt! Christopher, you have saved my child; and I, I, that was blinded with self-righteousness, have fallen. Take her, Christopher; but O, walk humbly!