Read CHAPTER II of Dulcibel A Tale of Old Salem , free online book, by Henry Peterson, on

In Which Some Necessary Information is Given.

Dulcibel Burton was an orphan. Her father becoming a little unsound in doctrine, and being greatly pleased with the larger liberty of conscience offered by William Penn to his colonists in Pennsylvania, had leased his house and lands to a farmer by the name of Buckley, and departed for Philadelphia. This was some ten years previous to the opening of our story. After living happily in Philadelphia for about eight years he died suddenly, and his wife decided to return to her old home in Salem village, having arranged to board with Goodman Buckley, whose lease had not yet expired. But in the course of the following winter she also died, leaving this only child, Dulcibel, now a beautiful girl of eighteen years. Dulcibel, as was natural, went on living with the Buckleys, who had no children of their own, and were very good-hearted and affectionate people.

Dulcibel therefore was an heiress, in a not very large way, besides having wealthy relatives in England, from some of whom in the course of years more or less might reasonably be expected. And as our Puritan ancestors were by no means blind to their worldly interests, believing that godliness had the promise of this world as well as that which is to come the bereaved maiden became quite an object of interest to the young men of the vicinity.

I have called her beautiful, and not without good reason. With the old manuscript volume a family heirloom of some Quaker friends of mine from which I have drawn the facts of this narrative, came also an old miniature, the work of a well-known English artist of that period. The colors have faded considerably, but the general contour and the features are well preserved. The face is oval, with a rather higher and fuller forehead than usual; the hair, which was evidently of a rather light brown, being parted in the center, and brought down with a little variation from the strict Madonna fashion. The eyes are large, and blue. The lips rather full. A snood or fillet of blue ribbon confined her luxuriant hair. In form she was rather above the usual height of women, and slender as became her age; though with a perceptible tendency towards greater fullness with increasing years.

There is rather curiously a great resemblance between this miniature, and a picture I have in my possession of the first wife of a celebrated New England poet. He himself being named for one of the Judges who sat in the Special Court appointed for the trial of the alleged witches, it would be curious if the beautiful and angelic wife of his youth were allied by blood to one of those who had the misfortune to come under the ban of witchcraft.

Being both beautiful and an heiress, Dulcibel naturally attracted the attention of her near neighbor in the village, Jethro Sands. Jethro was quite a handsome young man after a certain style, though, as his life proved, narrow minded, vindictive and avaricious. Still he had a high reputation as a young man with the elders of the village; for he had early seen how advantageous it was to have a good standing in the church, and was very orthodox in his faith, and very regular in his attendance at all the church services. Besides, he was a staunch champion of the Reverend Mr. Parris in all his difficulties with the parish, and in return was invariably spoken of by the minister as one of the most promising young men in that neighborhood.

Jethro resided with his aunt, the widow Sands. She inherited from her husband the whole of his property. His deed for the land narrated that the boundary line ran “from an old dry stump, due south, to the southwest corner of his hog-pen, then east by southerly to the top of the hill near a little pond, then north by west to the highway side, and thence along the highway to the old dry stump again aforesaid.” There is a tradition in the village that by an adroit removal of his hog-pen to another location, and the uprooting and transplanting of the old dry stump, at a time when nobody seemed to take a very active interest in the adjoining land, owing to its title being disputed in successive lawsuits, Jethro, who inherited at the death of his aunt, became the possessor of a large tract of land that did not originally belong to him. But then such stories are apt to crop up after the death of every man who has acquired the reputation of being crafty and close in his dealings.

We left Jethro, after his interview with Dulcibel, walking on in order that he might avoid her further company. After going a short distance he turned and saw that she was riding rapidly homeward. Then he began to retrace his steps.

“It was bound to come,” he muttered. “I have seen she was getting cold and thought it was Leah’s work, but it seems she was true to her promise after all. Well, Leah is poor, and not of so good a family, but she is worth a dozen of such as Dulcibel Burton.”

Then after some minutes’ silent striding, “I hate her though for it, all the same. Everybody will know she has thrown me off. But nobody shall get ahead of Jethro Sands in the long run. I’ll make her sorry for it before she dies, the spoiled brat of a Quaker infidel!”