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

Dulcibel in Danger.

The terrible excitement of these days was enough to drive the more excitable portion of the inhabitants of Salem almost crazy. The work of the house and of the farm was neglected; a large number of suspected persons and their relatives were sunk in the deepest grief, the families of some of the imprisoned knew not where to get their daily food; for their property was generally taken possession of by the officers of the law at the time of the arrest, the accused being considered guilty until they were proved to be innocent. Upon conviction of a capital offence the property of the condemned was attainted, being confiscated by the state; and the constables took possession at once, in order that it might not be spirited away.

And no one outside of the circle of the accusers knew whose turn might come next. Neither sex, nor age, nor high character, as we have seen, was a bar against the malice, or the wantonness of the “afflicted.” The man or woman who had lived a righteous life for over eighty years, the little child who wondered what it all meant, the maiden whose only fault might be to have a jealous rival, all were alike in danger.

Especially were those in peril, however, who dared to take the side of any of the accused, and express even the faintest disbelief in the justice of the legal proceedings, or the honesty of the witnesses. These would be surely singled out for punishment. Again and again, had this been done until the voices of all but the very boldest were effectually silenced. Those arrested now, as a general thing, would confess at once to the truthfulness of all the charges brought against them, and even invent still more improbable stories of their own, as this mollified the accusers, and they often would be let off with a solemn reprimand by the magistrates.

Joseph Putnam and his male servants went constantly armed; and two horses were kept saddled day and night, in his stable. He never went to the village unaccompanied; and made no secret of his determination to resist the arrest of himself or, as he had phrased it, “any one within his gates,” to the last drop of his blood.

Living with the Goodman Buckley who had leased the Burton property, was a hired man named Antipas Newton. He was a good worker though now getting old, and had in one sense been leased with the place by Dulcibel’s father.

Antipas’s history had been a sad one. Adopted when left an orphan by a benevolent farmer who had no children, he managed by diligence and strict economy to acquire by the age of thirty, quite a comfortable property of his own. Then the old couple that he called Father and Mother became converts to Quakerism. Fined and imprisoned, deprived of their property, and, after the expiration of their term of imprisonment, ordered to leave the colony, they had been “harbored” by the man for whom they had done so much in his early years.

Antipas was a person of limited intelligence, but of strong affections and wide sympathies. Again and again, he harbored these persecuted ones, who despite their whippings and banishment would persist in returning to Salem. Finally, Antipas himself was heavily fined, and his property sold to pay the fines. His wife had died early, but a young daughter who kept his house in order, and who had failed in her attendance at the church which was engaged in persecuting her father, was also fined heavily. As her father’s property was all gone, and she had no money of her own, she could not pay the fine, and was put in prison, to be sent to Barbados, and sold as a slave, that thus the fine might be collected. But the anguish, and the exposure of her prison, were too much for the young girl; and she died before means of transportation could be found.

As a result of these persécutions, Antipas became demented. As his insanity grew evident, the prosecutions ceased; but he was still in danger of starvation, so few would give him employment, both on account of his impaired mind, and of the odium which attached to any friend of the abhorred Quakers.

Captain Burton, Dulcibel’s father, came to the village at this time. He had been one of the sea-captains who had indignantly refused to take the Southwick children, or any other of the Salem children, to Barbados; and he pitied the poor insane man, and gave him employment. Not only did he do this, but, as we have said, made it an article of the lease of his property, that the Buckleys should also keep Antipas as a farm servant.

Antipas, to the general surprise of the villagers had proved to be an excellent servant, notwithstanding his insanity. Only on training days and other periods of excitement, did his insanity obtrude itself. At all other times he seemed to be a cheerful, simple-hearted, and very capable and industrious “hand.”

To Dulcibel, as was natural, Antipas always manifested the greatest devotion. Her little black mare was always groomed to perfection, he never being satisfied until he took a white linen handkerchief that he kept for the purpose, and, passing it over the mare’s shining coat, saw that no stain or loose black hair remained on it.

“You think that Mistress Dulcibel is an angel, do you not?” said one of the female servants to him about this time, a little scornfully.

“No, I know what she is,” he replied. “Shall I tell you but if I do, you will not believe” and he looked at the girl a little doubtfully.

“Oh, yes, I will,” said the girl.

“Come here then and I will whisper it to you. I heard the minister read about her once, she is the woman that is ’clothed with the sun and has the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.’”

“That is wicked, Antipas. If Master Parris heard that you said things like that, he would have you whipped and put in the stocks.”

“Master Parris? you mean Beelzebub! I know Beelzebub when I see him.” And Antipas gave one of his unnatural, insane laughs, which were getting very frequent of late.

For the general excitement was proving too much for Antipas. Fie stopped frequently in his work, and muttered to himself; and then laughed wildly, or shed tears. He talked about the witches and the Devil and evil spirits, and the strange things that he saw at night, in the insane fashion that characterized the “afflicted children.”

As for Dulcibel in these times, she kept pretty much to herself, going out very little. As she could not sympathize with the general gossip of the neighborhood, she remained at home, and consequently had very few visitors. Joseph Putnam called whenever he came to the village, which, as I have stated, was but seldom; and Ellis Raymond came every few days.

Yes, it was a courtship, I suppose; but one of a very grave and serious character. The conversation generally turned upon the exciting events continually occurring, some new arrest, some new confession, some new and outrageously absurd charges.

Master Raymond’s hand, if anyone accosted him suddenly, instinctively sought the hilt of his rapier. He was better skilled in the use of that weapon than was usual, and had no fear that he should be unable to escape from the constables, if not taken at a disadvantage. Still, as that would compel him to fly into the woods, and as it would separate him from Dulcibel, he had been very careful not to express in public his abhorrence of all the recent proceedings. I am afraid that he was guilty of considerable dissimulation, even paying his court to some of the “afflicted” maidens when he had the opportunity, with soft words and handsome presents; and trying in this way to enlist a party in his behalf, in case he or any of his friends should need supporters.

Joseph Putnam censured him one day for his double dealing, which was a thing not only out of Master Joseph’s line, but one which his frank and outspoken nature rendered it very difficult for him to practise. But Raymond with his references to King David’s behavior towards Achish, King of Gath, and to certain other scripture, especially Paul’s being “all things to all men that he might save all,” was rather too weighty for Joseph, whose forte was sensible assertion rather than ingenious argument. And so Master Raymond persevered in his course, feeling no more compunction in deceiving the Salemites, as he said to himself, than he would in deceiving and cheating a pack of savage wolves, who were themselves arrayed in sheep’s clothing.

Jethro Sands had of late shown a disposition to renew his attentions to Dulcibel; but, after two or three visits, in the last of which he had given the maiden the desired opportunity, she had plainly intimated to him that the old state of affairs between them could never be restored.

“I know the reason too,” said Jethro, angrily “it is all owing to that English popinjay, who rides about as if we colonists were not fit to dust his pretty coat for him.”

“He is a gentleman, and a friend of mine,” replied Dulcibel warmly.

“Why do you not say a lover of yours, at once?”

“You have no right to talk to me in that manner. I will not endure it.”

“You will not how will you help it?” He was now thoroughly angry, and all his native coarseness came to the surface.

“I will show you,” said Dulcibel, the Norse blood of her father glowing in her face. “Good evening, Sir!” and she left the room.

Jethro had not expected such a quiet, but effective answer. He sat twirling his thumbs, for awhile, hoping that she would return. But realizing at last that she would not, he took his departure in a towering anger. Of course this was the last of his visits. But Dulcibel had made a deadly enemy.

It was unfortunate, for the maiden already had many who disliked her among the young people of the village. She was a superior person for one thing, and “gave herself airs,” as some said. To be superior, without having wealth or an acknowledged high social position, is always to be envied, and often to be hated. Then again, Dulcibel dressed with more richness and variety of costume than was usual in the Puritan villages. This set many of the women, both young and old, against her. Her scarlet bodice, especially, was a favorite theme for animadversion; some even going so far as to call her ironically “the scarlet woman.” It is curious how unpopular a perfectly amiable, sweet-tempered and sweet-tongued maiden may often become, especially with her own sex, because of their innate feeling that she is not, in spite of all her courteous endeavors, really one of them. It is an evil day for the swan when she finds herself the only swan among a large flock of geese.

Dulcibel’s antecedents also were not as orthodox as they might be. Her mother, it was granted, was “pious,” and of a “godly” connection; but her father, as he had himself once said, “had no religion to speak of.” He had further replied to the question, asked him when he first came to Salem, as to whether he was “a professor of religion,” that he was “only a sea captain, and had no other profession.” And a certain freedom of thought characterized Dulcibel, that she could scarcely have derived from her pious mother. In fact, it was something like the freedom of the winds and of the clouds, blowing where they liked; and had been probably caught up by her father in his many voyages over the untrammeled seas.

At first Dulcibel had been rather impressed by the sermons of Master Parris and Master Noyes and the other ministers, to the effect that Satan was making a deadly assault upon the “saints,” in revenge for their interference with his hitherto undisputed domination of the new world. But the longer she thought about it, the more she was inclined to adopt Joseph Putnam’s theory, that his sister-in-law and niece and the other “afflicted” persons were possessed by devils.

She inclined to this view in preference even to what she knew was Ellis Raymond’s real conviction, that they were a set of hysterical and vicious girls and women who had rendered themselves half-insane by tampering for a whole winter with their nervous and spiritual organizations; until they could scarcely now distinguish the true from the untrue, the real from the unreal, good from evil, or light from darkness.

“They have become reprobates and given over to an evil mind,” said Master Raymond to her one day; clothing his thought as nearly as he could in scriptural language, in order to commend it to her.

“Yes, this seems to be a reasonable explanation of their wicked conduct,” replied Dulcibel. “But I think after all, that it amounts to about the same thing as Joseph Putnam says, only that his is the stronger and more satisfactory statement.”

And thinking of it, Master Raymond had to come to the same conclusion. His own view and that of his friends were about the same, only they had expressed themselves in different phrases.