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

Master Raymond Goes to Boston.

Whatever the immediate effect of Dulcibel’s prediction had been, Mistress Ann Putnam was now about again, as full of wicked plans, and as dangerous as ever. She knew, for everybody knew, that Master Ellis Raymond had gone to Boston. In a village like Salem at that time, such fact could hardly be concealed.

“What had he gone for?

“To see a friend,” Joseph Putnam had said.

“What friend?” queried Mistress Ann. That seemed important for her to know.

She had accused Dulcibel in the first place as a means of hurting Joseph Putnam. But now since the trial, she hated her for herself. It was not so much on account of the prediction, as on account of Dulcibel’s terrific arraignment of her. The accusation that her husband was her dupe and tool was, on account of its palpable truth, that which gave her perhaps the greatest offence. The charge being once made, others might see its truth also. Thus all the anger of her cunning, revengeful nature was directed against Dulcibel.

And just at this time she heard from a friend in Boston, who sent her a budget of news, that Master Raymond had taken dinner with Captain Alden. “Ah,” she thought, “I see it now.” The name was a clue to her. Captain Alden was an old friend of Captain Burton. He it was, so Dulcibel had said, from whom she had the gift of the “yellow bird.”

She knew Captain Alden by reputation. Like the other seamen of the time he was superstitious in some directions, but not at all in others. He would not for the world leave port on a Friday or kill a mother Carey’s chicken or whistle at sea; but as to seeing witches in pretty young girls, or sweet old ladies, that was entirely outside of the average seaman’s thoughts. Toward all women in fact, young or old, pretty or ugly, every sailor’s heart at that day, as in this, warmed involuntarily.

She also knew that the seamen as a class were rather inclined to what the godly called license in their religious opinions. Had not the sea-captains in Boston Harbor, some years before, unanimously refused to carry the young Quakeress, Cassandra Southwick, and her brother, to the West Indies and sell them there for slaves, to pay the fines incurred by their refusal to attend church regularly? Had not one answered for the rest, as paraphrased by a gifted descendant of the Quakers?

“Pile my ship with bars of silver pack with coins of Spanish gold,
From keelpiece up to deck-plank the roomage of her hold,
By the living God who made me! I would sooner in your bay
Sink ship and crew and cargo, than bear this child away!”

And so Master Raymond, who it was rumored had been a great admirer of Dulcibel Burton, was on a visit to Boston, to see her father’s old friend, Captain John Alden! Mistress Putnam thought she could put two and two together, if any woman could. She would check-mate that game and with one of her boldest strokes, too that should strike fear into the soul of even Joseph Putnam himself, and teach him that no one was too high to be above the reach of her indignation.

The woman was so fierce in this matter, that I sometimes have questioned, could she ever have loved and been scorned by Joseph Putnam?