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

Master Raymond’s Little Plan Blocked.

“Our game is blocked!” said Joseph Putnam to Master Raymond as he rode up one afternoon soon after, and dismounted at the garden gate, where his guest was awaiting him, impatient to hear if anything had yet come from Captain Alden.

“What do you mean?” said his guest.

“Mean? Why, that yon she-wolf is too much for us. Captain Alden is arrested!”

“What! Captain John Alden!”

“Yes, Captain John Alden!”

“On what charge?”

Master Joseph smiled grimly, “For witchcraft!”


“Yes, devilish nonsense! but true as gospel, nevertheless.”

“And he submits to it?”

“With all around him crazy, he cannot help it. Besides, as an officer of the government, he must submit to the laws.”

“On whose complaint?”

“Oh, the she-wolf’s of course that delectable smooth-spoken wife of my brother Thomas. How any man can love a catty creature like that, beats me out.”

“I suppose she found out that I went frequently to see the Captain, when in Boston?”

“I suppose so.”

“Who could have informed her?”

“Her master, the devil, I suppose.”

“Where is the Captain to be examined?”

“Oh, here in Salem, where his accusers are. It comes off tomorrow. They lose no time you see.”

“Well, I would not have believed it possible. Whom will they attack next?”

“The Governor, I suppose,” replied Master Joseph satirically.

“Or you?”

“If she does, I’ll run my sword through her not as being a woman, but as a foul fiend. I told her so. Let her dare to touch me, or any one under this roof!”

“What did she say when you threatened her?”

“She put on an injured expression; and said she could never believe anything wrong of her dear husband’s family, if all the ‘spectres’ in the world told her so.”

“Well, I hope you are safe, but as for me ”

“Oh, you are, too. You are within my gates. To touch you, is to touch me. She fully realizes that. Besides brother Thomas is her abject tool in most things; but some things even he would not allow.”

Yes, Captain John Alden, son of that John Alden who was told by the pretty Puritan maiden, “Speak for yourself John,” when he went pleading the love-suit of his friend Captain Miles Standish; John Alden, captain of the only vessel of war belonging to the colony, a man of large property, and occupying a place in the very front rank of Boston society, had been arrested for witchcraft! What a state of insanity the religious delusion had reached, can be seen by this high-handed proceeding.

Here again we come on to ground in which the details given in the old manuscript book, are fully confirmed, in every essential particular by existing public records. Mr. Upham, whose admirable account of “Salem Witchcraft” has been of great aid to me in the preparation of this volume, is evidently puzzled to account for Captain Alden’s arrest. He is not able to see how the gallant Captain could have excited the ire of the “afflicted circle.” He seems to have been entirely ignorant of this case of Dulcibel Burton hers doubtless being one of the many cases in which the official records were purposely destroyed. If he had known of this case, he would have seen the connection between it and Captain Alden. It also might have explained the continual allusions to the “yellow bird” in so many of the trials based possibly on Dulcibel’s canary, which had been given to her by the Captain, and whose habit of kissing her lips with its little bill had appeared so mysterious and diabolical to the superstitious inhabitants of Salem village.

Master Raymond’s health, as is not to be wondered at, had improved sufficiently by the next day, to allow of his accompanying Joseph Putnam to the village, to attend Captain Alden’s examination. The meeting-house was even more crowded than usual, such was the absorbing interest taken in the case, owing to the Captain’s high standing in the province.

The veteran Captain’s own brief account of this matter, which has come down to us, does not go into many details, and is valuable mainly as showing that he regarded it very much in the same light that it is regarded now owing probably to the fact that while a church member in good standing, he doubtless was a good deal better seaman than church member. For he says he was “sent for by the Magistrates of Salem, upon the accusation of a company of poor distracted or possessed creatures or witches.” And he speaks further of them as “wenches who played their juggling tricks, falling down, crying out, and staring in people’s faces.”

The worthy Captain’s account is however, as I have said, very brief and has the tone of one who had been a participant, however unwillingly, in a grossly shameful affair, alike disgraceful to the colony and to everybody concerned in it. For some additional details, I am indebted to the manuscript volume.

Captain Alden had not been arrested in Boston. He says himself in his statement, that “he was sent to Salem by Mr. Stoughton” the Deputy Governor, and Chief-Justice of the Special Court that had condemned and executed Bridget Bishop, and which was now about to meet again.

Before the meeting of the magistrates, Master Raymond had managed to have a few words with him in private, and found that no arrangements with any skipper had yet been made. The first negotiations had fallen through, and there was no other foreign vessel at that time in port whose master possessed what Captain Alden considered the requisite trustworthiness and daring. For he wanted a skipper that would show fight if he was pursued and overtaken; not that any actual fighting would probably be necessary, for a simple show of resistance would doubtless be all that was needed.

“When I get back to Boston, I think I shall be able to arrange matters in the course of a week or two.”

“What in Boston jail?” queried Master Raymond.

“You do not suppose the magistrates will commit me on such a trumped-up nonsensical charge as this?” said the stout old captain indignantly.

“Indeed I do,” was the reply.

“Why, there is not a particle of truth in it. I never saw these girls. I never even heard of their being in existence.”

“Oh, that makes no difference.”

“The devil it doesn’t!” said the old man, hotly. My readers must remember that he was a seaman.

Here the sheriff came up and told the Captain he was wanted.