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ACT THE FIRST.
Enter BARABAS in his counting-house, with heaps of gold before him.
Bar. So that of thus much that return was made:
Tell that which may maintain him all his life.
1 Old ed. "Samintes," for which the modern editors give "Samnites." Between the "Samnites" and the "men of Uz" there can be no possible connection. My emendation suits the context. We have Saba for Sabæa in Faustus, xii. 25, &c.
2 Old ed. "silverbings." Dyce observes that the word "silverling" occurs in Isaiah (vii. 23):—“A thousand vines at a thousand silverlings."
Would make a miracle of thus much coin:
But he whose steel-barred coffers are crammed full,
And of a carat of this quantity,
May serve in peril of calamity
To ransom great kings from captivity.
But now how stands the wind?
Into what corner peers my halcyon's 1 bill?
1 It was a common belief that a stuffed halcyon (i.e., kingfisher), suspended by the bill, showed from what quarter the wind blew. Shakespeare alludes to the superstition in Lear, ii. 2,—
Ha! to the east? yes: see how stands the vanes?
Loaden with spice and silks, now under sail,
Enter a Merchant.
Merch. Barabas, thy ships are safe,
Riding in Malta Road: and all the merchants
And have sent me to know whether yourself
Bar. Why then go bid them come ashore,
Bar. The ships are safe thou say'st, and richly fraught. Merch. They are.
Renege, affirm, and turn their halcyon beaks
Sir Thomas Browne, who discusses the subject in Vulgar Errors (iii. 10),
says that "the eldest custom of hanging up these birds was founded upon a tradition that they would renew their feathers every year as though they were alive."
1 Pay the duty on them.
And twenty waggons to bring up the ware.
Merch. The very custom barely comes to more
Bar. Go tell 'em the Jew of Malta sent thee, man: Tush! who amongst 'em knows not Barabas ?
Merch. I go.
Bar. So then, there's somewhat come.
Sirrah, which of my ships art thou master of?
Bar. And saw'st thou not
Mine argosy at Alexandria?
Thou could'st not come from Egypt, or by Caire,
Where Nilus pays his tribute to the main,
Merch. I neither saw them, nor inquired of them :
Bar. Tush, they are wise! I know her and her strength.
But go, go thou thy ways, discharge thy ship,
1 Old ed. "By" (which might perhaps be defended, as meaning 66 good-bye." Cf. Shirley's Constant Maid, i. 1,—" Buoy, Close, buoy, honest Close: we are blanks, blanks.")
Enter a second Merchant.
2 Merch. Thine argosy from Alexandria,
Bar. How chance you came not with those other ships That sailed by Eygpt?
2 Merch. Sir, we saw 'em not.
Bar. Belike they coasted round by Candy shore
But 'twas ill done of you to come so far
2 Merch. Sir, we were wafted by a Spanish fleet,
Bar. O-they were going up to Sicily:Well, go,
And bid the merchants and my men despatch And come ashore, and see the fraught discharged. 2 Merch. I go.
Bar. Thus trowls our fortune in by land and sea,