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

The Dissimulation of Master Raymond.

About this time the gossips of Salem village began to remark upon the attentions that were being paid by the wealthy young Englishman, Master Ellis Raymond, to various members of the “afflicted circle.” He petted those bright and terribly precocious children of twelve, Ann Putnam and Abigail Williams; he almost courted the older girls, Mary Walcot, Mercy Lewis and Leah Herrick and had a kindly word for Mary Warren, Sarah Churchill and others, whenever he saw them. As for Mistress Ann Putnam, the mother, he always had been very respectful to her. While in Boston he had purchased quite an assortment of those little articles which the Puritan elders usually denominated “gew-gaws” and “vain adornments” and it was observed that Abigail Williams especially had been given a number of these, while the other girls had one or more of them, which they were very careful in not displaying except at those times when no grave elder or deacon was present to be shocked by them.

I will acknowledge that there was some dissimulation in this conduct of Master Raymond’s, and Joseph Putnam by no means approved of it.

“How you can go smiling around that den of big and little she-wolves, patting the head of one, and playing with the paw of another, I cannot understand, friend Raymond. I would not do it to save my life.”

“Nor I,” answered Master Raymond gravely. “But I would do it to save your life, friend Joseph, or that of your sweet young wife there or that of the baby which she holds upon her knee.”

“Or that of Mistress Dulcibel Burton!” added sweet Mistress Putnam kindly.

“Yes, or that of Dulcibel Burton.”

“You know, my dear friends, the plan I have in view may fail. If that should fail, I am laying the foundation of another so that if Dulcibel should be brought to trial, the witnesses that are relied upon may fail to testify so wantonly against her. Even little Abigail Williams has the assurance and ingenuity to save her, if she will.”

“Yes, that precocious child is a very imp of Satan,” said Joseph Putnam. “What a terrible woman she will make.”

“Oh, no, she may sink down into a very tame and commonplace woman, after this tremendous excitement is over,” rejoined his friend. “I think at times I see symptoms of it now. The strain is too great for her childish brain.”

“Well, I suppose your dissimulation is allowable if it is to save the life of your betrothed,” said Master Putnam, “but I would not do it if I could and I could not if I would.”

“Do you remember Junius Brutus playing idiot and King David playing imbecile?”

“Oh, I know you have plenty of authority for your dissimulation.”

“It seems to me,” joined in young Mistress Putnam, “that the difference between you is simply this. Joseph could not conscientiously do it; and you can.”

“Yes, that is about the gist of it,” said her young husband. “And now that I have relieved my conscience by protesting against your course, I am satisfied you should go on in your own way just the same.”

“And yet you feel no conscientious scruples against abducting the minister,” rejoined Raymond laughing; “a thing which I am rather loath to do.”

“I see,” replied Joseph, also laughing. “I scruple at taking mustard, and you at cayenne pepper. It is a matter of mental organization probably.”

“Yes and if a few or many doses of mustard will prevent my being arrested as a witch, which would put it entirely out of my power to aid Dulcibel in her affliction and perhaps turn some of the “afflicted” girls over to her side, in case she has to stand a trial for her life I shall certainly swallow them with as much grace as if they were so many spoonfuls of honey. There is a time to be over-scrupulous, friend Joseph, but not when my beloved one is in the cage of the tigers. Yes, I shall not hesitate to meet craft with craft.”

And Mistress Putnam, sweet, good woman as she was, nodded her head, woman-like, approvingly, carried away perhaps by the young man’s earnestness, and by the strength of his love.