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

The Arrest of Dulcibel and Antipas.

The arrest of Dulcibel had been entirely unexpected to herself and the Buckleys. Dulcibel indeed had wondered, when walking through the village in the morning, that several persons she knew had seemed to avoid meeting her. But she was too full of happiness in her recent betrothal to take umbrage or alarm at such an unimportant circumstance. A few months now, and Salem, she hoped, would see her no more forever. She knew, for Master Raymond had told her, that there were plenty of places in the world where life was reasonably gay and sunny and hopeful; not like this dull valley of the shadow of death in which she was now living. Raymond’s plan was to get married; sell her property, which might take a few months, more or less; and then sail for England, to introduce his charming wife to a large circle of relatives.

Dulcibel had been reading a book that Raymond had brought to her a volume of Shakespeare’s plays a prohibited book among the Puritan fathers, and which would have been made the text for one of Master Parris’s most denunciatory sermons if he had known that it was in the village. Having finished “Macbeth” she laid the book down upon the table and began playing with her canary, holding it to her cheek, putting its bill to her lips, and otherwise fondling it. While she was thus engaged, she began to have the uncomfortable feeling which sensitive persons often have when some one is watching them; and turning involuntarily to the window which looked out on a garden at the side of the house, she saw in the dim light that dark faces, with curious eyes, seemed nearly to fill up the lower half of the casement. In great surprise, and with a sudden tremor, she rose quickly from the seat; and, as she did so, the weird faces and glistening eyes disappeared, and two constables, attended by a crowd of the villagers, entered the room. One of these walked at once to her side, and seizing her by the arm said, “I arrest you, Dulcibel Burton, by the authority of Magistrate Hathorne. Come along with me.”

“What does all this mean, friend Herrick?” said Goodman Buckley, coming into the room.

“It means,” said the constable, “that this young woman is no better than the other witches, who have been joining hand with Satan against the peace and dignity of this province.” Then, turning to Dame Buckley, “Get her a shawl and bonnet, goodwife; if you do not wish her to go out unprotected in the night’s cold.”

“A witch what nonsense!” said Dame Buckley.

“Nonsense, is it?” said the other constable. “What is this?” taking up the book from the table. “A book of plays! profane and wicked stage plays, in Salem village! You had better hold your peace, goodwife; or you may go to prison yourself for harboring such licentious devices of Satan in your house.”

Goodwife Buckley started and grew pale. A book of wicked stage-plays under her roof! She could make no reply, but went off without speaking to pack up a bundle of the accused maiden’s clothing.

“See here!” continued the constable, opening the book, “All about witches, as I thought! He-cat and three other witches!

’Round about the cauldron go:
In the poisoned entrails throw.’

It is horrible!”

“Put the accursed book in the fire, Master Taunton,” said Herrick.

There was a small fire burning on the hearth, for the evening was a little cool, and the other constable threw the book amidst the live coals; but was surprised to see that it did not flame up rapidly.

“That is witchcraft, if there ever was witchcraft!” said Jethro Sands, who was at the front of the crowd. “See, it will not burn. The Devil looks out for his own.”

“Yes, we shall have to stay here all night, if we wait for that book to burn up,” said Master Herrick. “Now if it had been a Bible, or a Psalm-book, it would have been consumed by this time.”

“My father told me,” said one of the crowd, “that they were once six weeks trying to burn up some witch’s book in Holland, and then had to tear each leaf separately before they could burn it.”

“Where is the yellow bird her familiar that she was sending on some witch’s errand when we were watching at the window?” said another of the crowd.

“Oh, it’s not likely you will find the yellow bird,” replied Herrick. “It is halfway down to hell by this time.”

“No, there it is!” cried Jethro Sands, pointing to a ledge over the door, where the canary-bird had flown in its fright.

“Kill it! kill the familiar! Kill the devil’s imp!” came in various voices, the angry tones being not without an inflection of fear.

Several pulled out their rapiers. Jethro was the quickest. He made a desperate lunge at the little creature, and impaled it on the point of his weapon.

Dulcibel shook off the hold of the constable and sprang forward. “Oh, my pretty Cherry,” she cried, taking the dead bird from the point of the rapier. “You wretch! to harm an innocent little creature like that!” and she smoothed the feathers of the bird and kissed its little head.

“Take it from her! kill the witch!” cried some rude women in the outer circles of the crowd.

“Yes, mistress, this is more than good Christian people can be expected to endure,” said constable Herrick, sternly, snatching the bird from her and tossing it into the fire. “Let us see if the imp will burn any quicker than the book.”

“Ah, she forgot to charm it,” said the other constable, as the little feathers blazed up in a blue flame.

“Yes, but note the color,” said Jethro. “No Christian bird ever blazed in that color.”

“Neither they ever did!” echoed another, and they looked into each other’s faces and shook their heads solemnly.

At this moment Antipas Newton was led to the door of the room, in the custody of another officer. The old man seemed to be taking the whole proceeding very quietly and patiently, as the Quakers always did. But the moment he saw Dulcibel weeping, with Herrick’s grasp upon her arm, his whole demeanor changed.

“What devil’s mischief is this?” cried the demented man; and springing like an enraged lion upon Master Herrick, he dashed him against the opposite wall, tore his constable’s staff from his hands and laying the staff around him wildly and ferociously cleared the room of everybody save Dulcibel and himself in less time than I have taken to tell it.

Jethro stepped forward with his drawn rapier to cover the retreat of the constables; but shouting, “the sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” the deranged man, with the stout oaken staff, dashed the rapier from Jethro’s hand, and administered to him a sounding whack over the head, which made the blood come. Then he picked up the rapier and throwing the staff behind him, laughed wildly as he saw the crowd, constable and all, tumbling out of the door of the next room into the front garden of the house as if Satan himself in very deed, were after them.

“I will teach them how they abuse my pretty little Dulcibel,” said the now thoroughly demented man, laughing grimly. “Come on, ye imps of Satan, and I will toast you at the end of my fork,” he cried, flourishing Jethro’s rapier, whose red point, crimson with the blood of the canary-bird, seemed to act upon the mind of the old man as a spark of fire upon tow.

“Antipas,” said Dulcibel, coming forward and gazing sadly into the eyes of her faithful follower, “is it not written, ’Put up thy sword; for he that takes the sword shall perish by the sword’? Give me the weapon!”

The old man gazed into her face, at first wonderingly; then, with the instinct of old reverence and obedience, he handed the rapier to her, crossed his muscular arms over his broad breast, bowed his grisly head, and stood submissively before her.

“You can return now safely,” Dulcibel called out to the constables. They came in, at first a little warily. “He is insane; but the spell is over now for the present. But treat him tenderly, I pray you. When he is in one of these fits, he has the strength of ten men.”

The constables could not help being impressed favorably by the maiden’s conduct; and they treated her with a certain respect and tenderness which they had not previously shown, until they had delivered her, and the afterwards entirely humble and peaceful Antipas, to the keeper of Salem prison.

But the crowd said to one another as they sought their houses: “What a powerful witch she must be, to calm down that maniac with one word.” While others replied, “But he is possessed with a devil; and she does it because her power is of the devil.”

They did not remember that this was the very course of reasoning used on a somewhat similar occasion against the Savior himself in Galilee!