Obi Melodrama: Act I, Scene 3

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SCENE III.—Interior of OBI WOMAN's hut. A fire—a bench before it having figure—covered with a white cloth on it. Wand for OBI WOMAN—charms, and a handful of feathers in OBI WOMAN's wallet. The fire under an iron pot, suspended by three sticks as in Guy Mannering.

OBI WOMAN discovered, sitting near fire, forming an Obi. After performing several incantations, she speaks.

Magic fire duly placed
In square within a circle traced,
Boil the mystic herbs I've brought,
Till the Obi charm be wrought;

Bones I've raked from the burial ground,
When night and the storm were black around;
Give strength to my work, till I've fixed my dart,
Like a cankerous thorn in the white man's heart—
Till I pierce him and wring him in nerve and spleen
By the arrows felt, but never seen.

Then by flame unbodied burn him,
Then on racking windlass turn him,

Till his sinews quiver and ache anew,
And the cold sweat falls like drops of dew,
Toil him and moil him again and again,
Sicken his heart and madden his brain;
Till strength, and sense, and life depart,
As I tear the last pulse from the white man's heart.

(Music.—As the OBI WOMAN completes her charm, three loud knocks are heard, she trembles, and advancing cautiously to the door, demands, "Who's there?"A voice answers, "Karfa!" She immediately unlocks the door and THREE-FINGERED JACK enters.)

JACK. Well, mother, how work our charms? do they hasten to an end! or still, tortoise-like, so creep to their completion, that the white man's breath is more like to waste with age than be stopped by my revenge?

OBI WOMAN. Son! thy impatience—

JACK. Impatience—impatience, hag! The gods of my fathers frown my delay. Years have elapsed since I sacrificed the wife of the white man, a victim to the memory of my beloved Olinda, whom they tore lifeless from these arms as they dragged me from my native land; can I forget? can I forgive? Never. And long ere this should vengeance have been satisfied, had not a mistaken faith in thy mummery restrained my arm.

OBI WOMAN. Mummery! ha! sayst thou? Rail not on Obi, lest thou feel its power.

JACK. Power? thy power is in the fear of thy votaries—and fear I know not. As Africa receded from my gaze I swore that the first white man who purchased Karfa's services should also feel his hate. Ormond was that man. The wife of his bosom was my first victim, and long ere this should his bones have been mouldering in the grave, but that you promised a sweeter, though a slower vengeance.

OBI WOMAN. And I will perform my promise; Ormond shall die. He but hovers round me for a time, as the fluttering bird struggles to avoid the fascinations of the serpent. But here have I his image made in wax, and as it is molten by a blue fire kindled with dead men's eyes, so shall he waste, waste, waste. (throws in coloured fire.)

JACK. In what time, pry' thee?

OBI WOMAN. Perchance a month.

JACK. A month! A day shall not elapse ere the blow be struck! 'Tis the anniversary of his daughter's birth—'tis the anniversary of that, when blasting their revelry, I struck my first strong blow against his peace. Now, 'tis the day on which he purposes to give his daughter's hand in marriage to her lover; and 'tis the day when, bursting like a whirlwind on him, I will sacrifice his every remaining joy to the memory of my broken-hearted wife, my helpless infants, and the wrongs of my poor country. (crosses to L.H.—distant horns heard, as of sporting party.) Hark, hark! ere night those instruments shall sound a sadder note. Quick! Quick! (giving horn.) More of your charms, which in the eye of superstition make me invisible—and let me to my work. (crosses to R.)

OBI WOMAN. Here, my son. (puts a handful of feathers into horn.) Yet be not rash, and trust that Obi—

JACK. Obi! Here is the charm I trust. (showing a dagger.—Horns recommence.) No more, no more; they come.

August 2002

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Praxis Series