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

Considering New Plans.

“Well, what now?” said Master Joseph Putnam to his guest, as they rode homeward. “You might give up the sea-route and try a push through the wilderness to the Hudson River.”

“Rather dangerous that.”

“Yes, unless you could secure the services of some heathen savages to pilot you through.”

“Could we trust them?”

“Twenty years ago, according to my father’s old stories, we could; but they are very bitter now they do not keep much faith with white men.

“Perhaps the white men have not kept much faith with them.”

“Of course not. You know they are the heathen; and we have a Bible communion to exterminate them, and drive them out of our promised land.”

“Do you believe that?”

“Well, not exactly,” and Master Joseph laughed. “Besides, I think the Quaker plan both cheaper in the end and a great deal safer. Not that I believe they have any more right to the land than we have.”

“Penn and the Quakers think differently.”

“I know they do but they are a set of crazy enthusiasts.”

“What is your view? That of your ministers? The earth is the Lord’s. He has given it to His saints. We are the saints.”

Master Joseph laughed again. “Well, something like that. The earth is the Lord’s. He has intended it for the use of His children. We are His children quite as much as the savages. Therefore we have as much right to it as they have.”

“Only they happen to be in possession,” replied Master Raymond, drily.

“Are they in possession? So far as they are actually in possession, I admit their right. But do you seriously mean that a few hundred or thousand of wild heathen, have a right to prior occupancy to the whole North American continent? It seems to me absurd?”

“A relative of mine has ten square miles in Scotland that he never occupies, in your sense of the word any more than your red-men do; and yet he is held to have a valid right to it, against the hundreds of peasants who would like to enter in and take possession.”

“Oh, plenty of things are done wrong in the old world,” replied Master Putnam; “that is why we Puritans are over here. But still the fact remains that the earth is the Lord’s and that He intended it for His children’s use; and no merely legal or personal right can be above that. If ever the time comes that your relative’s land is really needed by the people at large, why then some way will have to be contrived to get hold of it for them.”

“The Putnam family have a good many broad acres too,” said Master Raymond, with a smile, looking around him.

“Oh, you cannot scare me,” replied his friend, also smiling. “What is sauce for the Campbell goose is sauce for the Putnam gander. If the time ever comes when the public good requires that the broad lands of the Putnams if there be any Putnams at that time have to be appropriated to meet the wants of their fellow men, then the broad Putnam lands will have to go like the rest, I imagine. We have taken them from the Indians, just as the Normans took them from the Saxons and as the Saxons took them from the Danes and the ancient inhabitants by the strong hand. But the sword can give no right save as the claim of the public good is behind it. Show me that the public good requires it, and I am willing that the title-deeds for my own share of the broad Putnam lands shall be burnt up tomorrow.”

“I believe you, my dear friend,” said Master Raymond, gazing with admiration upon the manly, glowing face of this nature’s nobleman. “And I am inclined to think that your whole view of the matter is correct. But, coming back to our first point, do you know of any savage that we could trust to guide us safely to the settlements on the Hudson?”

“If old king Philip, whose head has been savagely exposed to all weathers on the gibbet at Plymouth for the last sixteen years, were alive, something perhaps might be done. His safeguard would have carried you through.”

“Is there not another chief, called Nucas?”

“Oh, old Nucas, of the Mohegans. He was a character! But he died ten years ago. Lassacus, too, was killed. There are a couple of Pequod settlements down near New Haven I believe; but they are too far off.”

“And then you could not tell me where to put my hand on some dozen or so of the Indians, whom I might engage as a convoy.”

“Not now. A roving party may pass in the woods at any time. But they would not be very reliable. If they could make more by selling your scalps than by keeping them safely on your heads, they would be pretty sure to sell them.”

“Then I see nothing to do, but to go again to Boston, and arrange another scheme on the old plan.”

“You ought not to travel long in Dulcibel’s company without being married,” said Master Putnam bluntly.

“Very true but we can not well be married without giving our names to the minister; and to do that, would be to deliver ourselves up to the authorities.”

“Mistress Putnam and myself might accompany you to New York we should not mind a little trip.”

“And thus make yourselves parties to Dulcibel’s escape? No, no, my good friend that would be to put you both in prison in her place.”

“It is not likely there would be any other woman on board the vessel that is of any reputation. You must try to get some one to go with you.”

“And incur the certainty of punishment when she returns?”

“Perhaps you could find some one who would like to settle permanently in New York. I should like to go myself if I could, and get out of this den of wild beasts.”

“Yes, I may be able to do that though I shall not dare to try that until the last day almost for the women always have some man to consult, and thus our secret plan would get blown about, to our great peril.”

“I have a scheme!” cried Master Joseph in exultation. “It is the very thing,” and he burst out laughing. “Kidnap Cotton Mather, or one of the other Boston ministers, and take him with you.”

“That would be a bold stroke,” replied Master Raymond, also laughing heartily. “But, like belling the cat, it is easier said than done. Ministers are apt to be cautious and wary. They are timid folk.”

“Not when a wedding is to be solemnized, and a purse of gold-pieces is shaken before them,” returned Master Putnam. “Have everything ready to sail. Then decoy the minister on board, to marry a wealthy foreign gentleman, a friend of the skipper’s and do not let him go again. Pay him enough and the skipper will think it a first rate joke.”

“But he might be so angry that he would refuse to marry us after all our trouble.”

“Oh, do not you believe that if you make the fee large enough. Treat him kindly, represent to him the absolute necessity of the case, say that you never would have thought of such a thing if it could in any way have been avoided, and I’ll warrant he will do the job before you reach New York.”

“I wish I felt as certain as you do.”

“Well, suppose he will not be mollified. What then? Your end is attained. He has acted as chaperon, and involuntary master of propriety whether he would or not. A minister is just as good as a matron to chaperon the maiden. Of course he will have his action for damages against you, and you will be willing to pay him fairly, but if he brings you before a jury of New Yorkers, and you simply relate the facts, and the necessity of the case, little will he get of damages beyond a plentiful supply of jokes and laughter. You know there is very little love lost between the people of the two colonies; and that the Manhattan people have no more respect for all the witchcraft business, than you and I have.”

Master Raymond made no reply. He did not want to kidnap a minister, if it could be in any way avoided. With Master Putnam, however, that seemed to be one of the most desirable features of the proposed plan, only he was tenfold more sorry now than ever, that such weighty prudential reasons prevented his taking any active share in the enterprise. To kidnap a minister especially if it could be the Reverend Cotton Mather seemed to him something which was worth almost the risking of his liberty and property in which to take a hand.