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

A New Plan of Escape.

About this time a new plan of escape was suggested to Master Raymond; coming to him in a note from Dulcibel.

Master Philip English, one of the wealthiest inhabitants of Salem town, and his wife Mary, had been arrested the latter a short time previous to her husband. He was a merchant managing a large business, owning fourteen houses in the town, a wharf, and twenty-one vessels. He had one of the best dwellings in Salem situated at its eastern end, and having a fine outlook over the adjacent seas. He had probably offended some one in his business transactions; or, supposing that he was safely entrenched in his wealth and high social position, he might have expressed some decided opinions, relative to Mistress Ann Putnam and the “afflicted children.”

As for his wife, she was a lady of exalted character who had been an only child and had inherited a large property from her father. The deputy-marshall, Manning, came to arrest her in the night time, during her husband’s absence. She had retired to her bed; but he was admitted to her chamber, where he read the warrant for her apprehension. He allowed her till morning, however, placing guards around the house that she might not escape. Knowing that such an accusation generally meant conviction and death, “she arose calmly in the morning, attended the family prayers, spoke to a near relative of the best plan for the education of her children, kissed them with great composure, amid their agony of cries and tears, and then told the officer that she was ready to die.”

On her examination the usual scene ensued, and the usual falsehoods were told. Perhaps the “afflicted girls” were a little more bitter than they would have been, had she not laughed outright at a portion of their testimony. She was a very nice person in her habits, and it was testified against her, that being out one day in the streets of Salem walking around on visits to her friends during a whole morning, notwithstanding the streets were exceedingly sloppy and muddy, it could not be perceived that her shoes and white stockings were soiled in the least. As we have said, at this singular proof of her being a witch, the intelligent lady had laughed outright. And this of course brought out the additional statement, that she had been carried along on the back of an invisible “familiar” a spectral blue boar the whole way. Of course this was sufficient, and she was committed for trial.

And now wealthy Master Philip English and his wife were both in prison; and he daily concocting plans by which he might find himself on the deck of the fastest sailer of all those twenty-one vessels of his.

Uncle Robie had thought this might be also a good opportunity for Dulcibel. And it struck Master Raymond the same way; while Master English had no objection, especially as it was mainly for Dulcibel that the jailer would open the prison doors. And this was better than the violence he had at first contemplated; for, as his vessels gradually began to accumulate in port, owing to the interruption to his business caused by his arrest, he had only to give the word, and a party of his sailors would have broken open the prison some dark night, and released him from captivity.

The “Albatross,” Master English’s fastest sailer at length came into port; and the arrangements were speedily made. The first north-westerly wind, whether the night were clear or stormy though of course with such a wind it would probably be clear the attempt was to be made, immediately after midnight. Uncle Robie was to unlock the jail-doors, let them out, lock the doors again behind them, and have a plentiful supply of witch stories to account for the escape. And Master Raymond had some hopes also, that Abigail Williams would come to the jailer’s support in anything that seemed to compromise him in the least; for he had promised to send her a beautiful gift from England, when he returned home again. And with such a sharpener to the vision, the precocious child would be able to see even more wonderful things than any she had already testified to.

The favorable wind came at length, and with it an exceedingly propitious night; there being a moon just large enough to enable them to see their way, with not enough light to disclose anything sharply. Master Raymond had planned all along to take Dulcibel’s horse also with them; and if he could ride the animal, it would obviate the necessity of taking another horse also, and being plagued what to do with it when they arrived at the prison. For he was very desirous that Master Putnam should not be in the least involved in the matter.

Master Raymond therefore had been practising up in the woods for about a week, at what the minister had failed so deplorably in, the riding of the little black mare. At first he could absolutely do nothing with her; she would not be ridden by any male biped. But finally he adopted a suggestion of quick-witted Mistress Putnam. He put on a side saddle and a skirt, and rode the animal woman fashion and all without the least difficulty. The little mare seeming to say by her behavior, “Ah, now, that is sensible. Why did you not do it before?”

So, late on the evening appointed for the attempted escape, after taking an affectionate leave of his host and hostess, and putting a few necessary articles of apparel into a portmanteau strapped behind the saddle, Master Raymond started for Salem town.

Leaving the village to the right, he made good time to the town, meeting no one at that late hour. He had covered the mare with a large horse-blanket, so that she should not easily be recognized by any one who might happen to meet them. There was a night watchman in Salem town; but a party of sailors had undertaken to get him off the principal street at the appointed hour, by the offer of refreshments at one of their haunts; and by this time he was too full of Jamaica spirits to walk very steadily or see very clearly.

Arrived at the prison, Master Raymond found the Captain and mate of the “Albatross” impatiently awaiting him. It was not full time yet, but they concluded to give the signal, three hoots of an owl; which the mate gave with great force and precision. Still all seemed dark and quiet as before.

Then they waited, walking up and down to keep the blood in their veins in motion, as the nights were a little cool.

“It is full time now,” said the Captain, “give the signal again, Brady.”

Brady gave it if anything with greater force and precision than before.

But not a sign from within.

Had the jailer’s courage given away at the last moment? Or could he have betrayed them? They paced up and down for an hour longer. It was evident that, for some reason or other, the plan had miscarried.

“Well, there is no use awaiting here,” exclaimed the Captain of the “Albatross” with an oath; “I am going back to the ship.”

Master Raymond acquiesced. There was no use in waiting longer. And so he re-donned his petticoat much to the amusement of the seamen and started back to Master Putnam’s arriving there in the darkest hours of the night, just before the breaking of the day.