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Full Online Book HomePlaysGiles Corey, Yeoman - Act 5
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Giles Corey, Yeoman - Act 5 Post by :prospertogether Category :Plays Author :Mary E Wilkins Freeman Date :May 2012 Read :1840

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Giles Corey, Yeoman - Act 5

Act V

_Six weeks later. Giles Corey's _cell in Salem jail. It is early morning. Giles, _heavily chained, is sleeping upon his bed. A noise is heard at the door. Giles _stirs and raises himself._

Giles. Yes, Martha, I'm coming. (_Noise continues._) I'm coming, Martha. (_Stares around the cell._) God help me, but I thought 'twas Martha calling me to supper, and 'tis a month since she died on Gallows Hill. I verily thought that I smelt the pork frying and the pan-cakes.

_The door is opened and the Guard, _bringing a dish of porridge, enters; he sets it on the floor beside the bed, then examines Giles's _chains._

Giles. Make sure they be strong, else it will verily go hard with the hussies. They will screech louder yet, and be more like pin-cushions than ever. Art sure they be strong? 'Twere a pity such guileless and tender maids should suffer, and old Giles Corey's hands be rough. He hath hewn wood and handled the plough for nigh eighty years with them, and now these pretty maids say he hurts their soft flesh. In truth, they must be sore afflicted. Prithee are the chains well riveted? I thought last night one link seemed somewhat loose as though it might be forced, and old Giles Corey hath still some strength; and hath he witchcraft, as they say, it might well make him stronger. Be wary about the chains for the sake of those godly and tender maids.

(_Exit Guard. Giles _takes the dish of porridge and eats._

Giles (_making a wry face_). This be rare porridge; it be rare enough to charge the cook on't with witchcraft. It might well have been scorched in some hell-fire. I trow Martha would have flung it to the pigs. I verily thought 'twas Martha calling me to supper, and I smelt the good food cooking, and Martha hung a month since on Gallows Hill. Who's that at the door now?

Guard _opens the door and Paul Bayley _enters. Giles _takes another spoonful of porridge._

Paul. Good-day, Goodman Corey.

Giles. Taste this porridge, will ye.

Paul (_tastes the porridge_). 'Tis burned.

Giles. It be rare food to keep up the soul of an old man who hath set himself to undergo what I have set myself to undergo. But it matters not. I trow old Giles Corey may well have eat all his life unknowingly to this end, and hath now somewhat of strength to fall back upon. He needs no dainty fare to make him strong to undergo what he hath set himself. How fares my daughter?

Paul. As well as she can fare, poor lass! I saw her last evening. She is now calmer in her mind, and she goeth about the house like her mother.

Giles. Her mother set great store by her. She would often strive in prayer that she should not make an idol of her before the Lord.

Paul. Goodman, it goes hard to tell you, but I had an audience yesterday again with Governor Phipps, an' 'twas in vain.

Giles (_laughing_). In vain, say ye 'twas in vain? Why, I looked to see the pardon sticking out of your waistcoat pocket! Why went ye again to Boston? Know ye not that this whole land is now a bedlam, and the Governors and the magistrates swell the ravings? Seek ye in bedlam for justice of madmen? It is not now pardon or justice that we have to think on, but death, and the best that can be made out on't. Know ye that my trial will be held this afternoon?

Paul. Yes, Goodman Corey.

Giles. Sit ye down on this stool. I have much I would say to ye.

(Paul _seats himself on a stool. Giles _sits on his bed._)

Giles. Master Bayley, ye have been long a-courting my daughter. Do ye propose in good faith to take her to wife?

Paul. With the best faith that be in me.

Giles. Then I tell ye, man, take her speedily--take her within three weeks.

Paul. I would take her with all my heart, goodman, would she be willing.

Giles. She must needs be willing. Why, devil take it! be ye not smart enough to make her willing? It will all go for naught if she be not willing. Tell her her father bids her. She hath ever minded her father.

Paul. I will tell her so, goodman.

Giles. Tell her 'tis the last command her father gives her. If she say no, hear it yes. Do not ye give it up if ye have to drag her to 't. Why, she must not be left alone in the world. It be a hard world. Old Giles hath gone far in it, and found it ever a hard world. Verily it be not cleared any more than the woods of Massachusetts. It be hard enough for a man; a young maid must needs have somebody to hold aside the boughs for her. Wed her, if she will or no. I have somewhat to show ye, Master Bayley. (_Draws a document from his waistcoat._) See ye this?

(Paul _takes the document and examines it._

Giles. See ye what 'tis?

Paul. It is a deed whereby you convey all your property to me, so I be Olive's husband. Wherefore?

Giles. It be drawn up in good form. It be duly witnessed. You see that it be all in good form, Paul.

Paul. I see. But wherefore?

Giles. It will stand in law; there will be no getting loose from it. It be a good and trusty document. But--so be it that this afternoon I stand trial for witchcraft, and plead guilty or not guilty, this same good and trusty document will be worth less than the parchment 'tis writ on. 'Tis so with the law. There will be an attainder on't. My sons-in-law that testified to the undoing of Martha and me will have their share, and thou and Olive perchance have naught in this bedlam. I bear no ill will toward my sons-in-law and my daughters, who have been put up by them to deal falsely with Martha and me, but I would not that they have my goods. I bear no ill will; it becometh not a man so near death to bear ill will. But they shall not have my goods; I say they shall not. There shall be no attainder on this document. I will stand mute at my trial.

Paul. Goodman Corey, know you the penalty?

Giles. I trow I know it better than the catechism. 'Tis to be pressed beneath stone weights until I be dead.

Paul. I say you shall not do this thing. What think you I care for your goods? I'll have naught to do with them, nor will Olive. This is madness!

Giles. 'Tis not all for the goods. I would Olive had them, and not those foul traitors; but 'tis not all. Were there no goods and no attainder, I would still do this thing. Paul, they say that Martha spake fair words when they had her there on Gallows Hill.

Paul. She spake like a martyr at the door of heaven.

Giles. Did they let her speak long?

Paul. They cut her short, Minister Parris saying, "Let not this firebrand of hell burn longer."

Giles. Then they put the rope to her neck. Martha had a fair neck when she was a maid. Did she struggle much?

Paul. Not much.

Giles. Then they left her hanging there a space. It was a wet day, and the rain pelted on her. I remember it was a wet day. The rain pelted on her, and the wind blew, and she swung in it. I swear to thee, lass, I will make amends! I will suffer twenty pangs for thy one.

Paul. 'Tis not you who should make amends.

Giles. I tell ye I did Martha harm. When she chid my folly and the folly of others, I did bawl out at her, and say among folk things to her undoing, though I meant it not as they took it. Now I will make amends, and the King himself shall not stop me. Martha was a good wife. I know not how I shall make myself seemly for the court this afternoon. My coat has many stitches loose in it. She was a good wife. I will make amends to thee, lass; I swear I shall make amends to thee! I will come where thou art by a harder road than the one I made thee go.

Paul. It was not you, goodman. You overblame yourself. Those foul-mouthed jades did it, and those bloodthirsty magistrates.

Giles. I tell ye I did part on't. I was wroth with her that she made light of this witch-work over which I was so mightily wrought up, and I said words that they twisted to her undoing. Verily, words can be made to fit all fancies. 'Twere safer to be mute--as I'll be this afternoon.

Paul. Goodman Corey, you must not think of this thing. There is still some hope from the trial. They will not dare murder you too.

Giles. There be some things in this world folks may not bear, but there be no wickedness they'll stick at when they get started on the way to 't. 'Tis death in any case, and what would ye have me do? Stand before their mad worships and those screeching jades, and plead as though I were before folk of sound mind and understanding? Think ye I would so humble myself for naught?

Paul. But Olive! I tell you 'twill kill her! There may be a chance yet, and you should throw not away however small a one for Olive's sake. She can bear no more.

Giles. There is no chance, and if there were--I tell ye if I had a hundred daughters, and every one such a maid as she, and every one were to break her heart, I would do this thing I have set myself to do. There be that which is beyond human ties to force a man, there be that which is at the root of things.

Paul. We will have none of your goods, I tell you that, Giles Corey!

Giles. Goods. The goods be the least of it! Old Giles Corey be not a deep man. I trow he hath had a somewhat hard skull, but when a man draws in sight of death he hath a better grasp at his wits than he hath dreamed of. This be verily a mightier work than ye think. It shall be not only old Giles Corey that lies pressed to death under the stones, but the backbone of this great evil in the land shall be broke by the same weight. I tell ye it will be so. I have clearer understanding, now I be so near the end on't. They will dare no more after me. To-day shall I stand mute at my trial, but my dumbness shall drown out the clamor of my accusers. Old Giles Corey will have the best on't. 'Tis for this, and not for the goods, I will stand mute; for this, and to make amends to Martha.

Paul. Giles Corey, you shall not die this dreadful death. If death it must be, and it may yet not be, choose the easier one.

Giles. Think ye I cannot do it? (_Rises._) Master Paul Bayley, you see before you Giles Corey. He be verily an old man, he be over eighty years old, but there be somewhat of the first of him left. He hath never had much power of speech; his words have been rough, and not given to pleasing. He hath been a rude man, an unlettered man, and a sinner. He hath brawled and blasphemed with the worst of them in his day. He hath given blow for blow, and I trow the other man's cheek smarted sorer than old Giles's. Now he be a man of the covenant, but he be still stiff with his old ways, and hath no nimbleness to shunt a blow. Old Giles Corey hath no fine wisdom to save his life, and no grace of tongue, but he hath power to die as he will, and no man hath greater.

Paul. Goodman Corey, I-- (Guard _opens the door._

Guard. Here is your daughter to see you, Goodman Corey.

Giles. Tell her I will see her not. What brought her here? I know. Minister Parris hath sent her, thinking to tempt me from my plan. I will see her not.

Olive (_from without_). Father, you cannot send me away.

Giles. Why come you here? Go home and mind the house.

Olive. Father, I pray you not to send me away.

Paul. If you be hard with her, you will kill her.

Giles. Come in.

(Enter Olive.)

Olive. What is this you will do, father?

Giles. My duty, lass.

Olive. Father, you will not die this dreadful death?

Giles. That will I, lass.

Olive. Then I say to you, father, so will I also. The stones will press you down a few hours' space, and they will press me down so long as I may live. You will be soon dead and out of the pains, but you will leave your death with the living.

Giles. Then must the living bear it.

Olive. Father, you may yet be acquitted. Plead at your trial.

Giles. Work the bellows in the face of the north wind. Oh, lass, why came you here? 'Tis worse than the stones. Talk no more to me, good lass; womenkind should meddle not with men's plans. But promise me you will wed with Paul here within three weeks.

Olive. I will never wed.

Giles. Ye will not, hey? Ye will wed with Master Paul Bayley within three weeks. 'Tis the last command your father gives thee.

Olive. Think you I can wed when you--

Giles. Ay, I do think so, lass, and so ye will.

Olive. Father, I will not. But if you plead I will, I promise you I will.

Giles. I will not, and you will. Lass, since you be here, I pray you set a stitch in this seam in my coat. I would look tidy at the trial, for thy mother's sake. Hast thou thy huswife with thee?

Olive. Yes, father.

(Olive _threads a needle, and standing beside her father, sets the stitch; weeps as she does so._

Giles. Know you every tear adds weight to the stones, lass?

Olive. Then will I weep not. (_Mends._

Giles. Be the child and the old woman well?

Olive. Yes, father.

Giles. Look out for them as you best can. And see to 't the little maid's linen chest is well filled, as your mother would have.

(Olive _breaks off the thread._

Giles. Be the stitch set strong?

Olive. Yes, father.

Giles (_turning and folding her to his arms_). Oh, my good lass, the stones be naught, but this cometh hard, this cometh hard! Could they not have spared me this?

Olive. Father, listen to me, listen to me--

Giles. Lass, I must listen to naught but the voice of God. 'Tis that speaks, and bids me do this thing. Thou must come not betwixt thy father and his God.

Olive. Father! father!

Giles. Go, Olive, I can bear no more. Tell me thou wilt wed as I command you.

Olive. As thou wilt, father! father! but I will love no man as I love thee.

Giles. Go, lass. Give me a kiss. There, now go! I command thee to go! Paul, take her hence. I charge ye do by her when her father be dead and gone, as ye would were he at thy elbow. Take her hence. I would go to prayer.

(_Exeunt Paul _and Olive.)

Olive (_as the door closes_). Father! father!

Giles Corey _stands alone in cell. Curtain falls.

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