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

Bridget Bishop Condemned to Die.

Salem, the habitation of peace, had become, by this time a pandemonium. The “afflicted children” were making accusations in every direction, and Mistress Ann Putnam, and many others, were imitating their example.

To doubt was to be accused; but very few managed to keep their heads sufficiently in the whirlwind of excitement, even to be able to doubt. With the exception of Joseph Putnam, and his visitor, Ellis Raymond, there were very few, if any, open and outspoken doubters, and indignant censurers of the whole affair. Dulcibel Burton also, though in a gentler and less emphatic way, sided naturally with them, but, although she was much less violent in her condemnation, she provoked even more anger from the orthodox believers in the delusion.

For Joseph Putnam, as belonging to one of the most influential and wealthy families in Salem, seemed to have some right to have an opinion. And Master Raymond was visiting at his house, and naturally would be influenced by him.

Besides, he was only a stranger at the best; and therefore, not entirely responsible to them for his views. But Dulcibel was a woman, and it was outrageous that she, at her years, should set up her crude opinions against the authority of the ministers and the elders.

Besides, Joseph Putnam was known to be a determined and even rather desperate young man when his passions were aroused, as they seldom were though, save in some just cause; and he had let it be known that it would be worth any person’s life to attempt to arrest him. It was almost the universal habit of that day, to wear the belt and sword; and Messrs. Putnam and Raymond went thus constantly armed. Master Putnam also kept two horses constantly saddled in his stable, day and night, to escape with if necessary, into the forest, through which they might make their way to New York. For the people of that province, who did not admire their Puritan neighbors very much, received all such fugitives gladly, and gave them full protection.

As for Master Raymond, although he saw that his position was becoming dangerous, he determined to remain, notwithstanding the period which he had fixed for his departure had long before arrived. His avowed reason given to Joseph Putnam, was that he was resolved to see the crazy affair through. His avowed reason, which Master Putnam perfectly understood, was to prosecute his suit to Dulcibel, and see her safely through the dangerous excitement also.

“They have condemned Bridget Bishop to death,” said Master Putnam, coming into the house one morning from a conversation with a neighbor.

“I supposed they would,” replied Master Raymond. “But how nobly she bore herself against such a mass of stupid and senseless testimony. Did you know her?”

“I have often stopped at her Inn. A fine, free-spoken woman; a little bold in her manners, but nothing wrong about her.”

“Did you ever hear such nonsense as that about her tearing down a part of the meeting-house simply by looking at it? And yet there sat the best lawyers in the colony on the bench as her judges, and swallowed it all down as if it had been gospel.”

“And then those other stories of her appearing in people’s bed-rooms, and vanishing away suddenly; and of her being responsible for the illness and death of her neighbors’ children; what could be more absurd?”

“And of the finding of puppets, made of rags and hogs’ bristles, in the walls and crevices of her cellar! Really, it would be utterly contemptible if it were not so horrible.”

“Yes, she is to be executed on Gallows Hill; and next week! I can scarcely believe it, Master Raymond. If I could muster a score or two of other stout fellows, I would carry her off from the very foot of the gallows.”

“Oh, the frenzy has only begun, my friend,” replied Raymond. “You know whose trial comes on next?”

“How any one can say a word against Mistress Nurse that lovely and venerable woman passeth my comprehension,” said Joseph Putnam’s young wife, who had been a listener to the conversation, while engaged in some household duties.

“My sister-in-law, Ann Putnam, seems to have a spite against that woman. I went to see her yesterday, and she almost foams at the mouth while talking of her.”

“The examination of Mistress Nurse before the magistrate comes off to-day. Shall we not attend it?”

“Of course, but be careful of thy language, Friend Raymond. Do not let thy indignation run away with thy discretion.”

Raymond laughed outright, as did young Mistress Putnam. “This advice from you, Master Joseph! who art such a very model of prudence and cold-bloodedness! If thou wilt be only half as cautious and discreet as I am, we shall give no offence even to the craziest of them.”