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

Why the Plan Failed.

The reason of the failure of the plan of escape may be gathered from a little conversation that took place between Squire Hathorne and Thomas Putnam the morning of the day fixed upon by Master Philip English.

Thomas Putnam had called to see the magistrate at the suggestion of that not very admirable but certainly very sharp-witted wife of his. I do not suppose that Thomas Putnam was at all a bad man, but it is a lamentable sight to see, as we so often do, a good kind honest-hearted man made a mere tool of by some keen-witted and unscrupulous woman; in whose goodness he believes, in a kind of small-minded and yet not altogether ignoble spirit of devotion, mainly because she is a woman. Being a woman, she cannot be, as he foolishly supposes, the shallow-hearted, mischievous being that she really is.

“Do you know, Squire, how Master English’s sailors are talking around the wharves?”

“No! What are the rascals saying?”

“Well, Mistress Putnam has been told by a friend of hers in the town, that he heard a half-drunken sailor, belonging to one of Master English’s vessels, say that they meant to tear down the jail some night, hang the jailers, and carry off their Master and Mistress.”

“Ah,” said the Squire, “this must be looked into.”

“Another of the sailors is reported to have said, that if the magistrates attempted to hang Mistress English they would hang Squire Hathorne, and Squire Gedney, if they could catch him, by the side of her.”

“The impudent varlets!” exclaimed Squire Hathorne, his wine-red face growing redder. “Master English shall sweat for this. How many of his sailors are in port now?”

“Oh, I suppose there are fifty of them; and all reckless, unprincipled men. To my certain knowledge, there is not a member of church among them.”

“The godless knaves!” cried the magistrate. “I should like to set the whole lot of them in the stocks, and then whip them out of the town at the cart’s tail.”

“Yes, that is what they deserve, but then we cannot forget that they are necessary to the interests of the town unless Salem is to give up all her shipping business and these sailors are so clannish that if you strike one of them, you strike all. No, it seems to me, Squire, we had better take no public notice of their vaporing; but simply adopt means to counteract any plans they may be laying.”

“Well, what would you suggest, Master Putnam? Has Mistress Putnam any ideas upon the subject? I have always found her a very sensible woman.”

“Yes, my wife is a very remarkable woman if I do say it,” replied Master Putnam. “Her plan is to send Master English and his wife off at once to Boston that will save us all further trouble with them and their sailors.”

“A capital idea! It shall be carried out this very day,” said the magistrate.

“And she also suggests that the young witch woman, Dulcibel Burton, should be sent with them. That friend of my brother Joseph, is still staying around here; and Mistress Putnam does not exactly comprehend his motives for so long a visit.”

“Ah, indeed what motive has he?” And Squire Hathorne rubbed his broad forehead.

“There was some talk at one time of his keeping company with Mistress Burton.”

“What, the witch! that is too bad. For he seems like a rather pleasant young gentleman; and I hear he is the heir of a large estate in the old country.”

“Of course there may be nothing in it but Mistress Putnam also heard from one of her female cronies the other day, that jailer Foster was at one time a mate on board Captain Burton’s vessel.”


“And you know how very handsome that Mistress Dulcibel is; and, being besides a witch of great power, it seems to Mistress Putnam that it is exposing jailer Foster to very great temptation.”

“Mistress Putnam is quite correct,” said Squire Hathorne. “Mistress Dulcibel had better be transferred to Boston also. There the worshipful Master Haughton has the power and the will to see that all these imps of Satan are kept safely.”

“As the seamen may be lying around and make a disturbance if the removal comes to their knowledge, Mistress Putnam suggested that it had better not be done until evening. It would be a night ride; but then, as Mistress Putnam said, witches rather preferred to make their journeys in the night time so that it would be a positive kindness to the prisoners.”

“Very true! very well thought of!” replied Squire Hathorne, with a grim smile. “And no doubt they will be very thankful that we furnish them with horses instead of broomsticks. Though as for Mistress Dulcibel, I suppose she would prefer her familiar, the black mare, to any other animal.”

“That was very marvelous. Abigail Williams says that she is certain that the mare, after jumping the gate, never came down to earth again, but flew straight on up into the thundercloud.”

“And it thundered when the black beast entered the cloud, did it not?” said the magistrate in a sobered tone. He evidently saw nothing unreasonable in the story.

“Yes it thundered but not the common kind of thunder it was enough to make your flesh creep. The minister says he is only too thankful that the Satanic beast did throw him off. He might have been carried off to hell with her.”

“Yes, it was a very foolish thing to get on the back of a witch’s familiar,” said the magistrate. “It was tempting Providence. And Master Parris has cause for thankfulness that only such a mild reproof as a slight wetting, was allowed to be inflicted upon him. These are perilous times, Master Putnam. Satan is truly going about like a roaring lion, seeking what he may devour. Against this chosen seed, this little remnant of God’s people left upon the whole earth no wonder that he is tearing and raging.”

“Ah me, my Christian friend, it is too true! And no wonder that he is so bold, and full of joyful subtlety. For is he not prevailing, in spite of all our efforts? You know there are at least four hundred members of what rightly calls itself the Church of England for certainly it is not the church of Christ in Boston alone! When the royal Governor made the town authorities give up the South Church even our own Church, built with our own money to their so-called Rector to hold their idolatrous services in, we might have known that Satan was at our doors!”

“Oh, that such horrible things should happen in the godly town of Boston!” responded Squire Hathorne. “But when the King interfered between Justice and the Quakers, and forbade the righteous discipline we were exercising upon them, of course a door was opened for all other latitudinarianism and false doctrine. Why, I am told that there are now quite a number of Quakers in Boston; and that they even had the assurance to apply to the magistrates the other day, for permission to erect a meeting-house!”

“Impossible!” exclaimed Master Putnam. “They ought to have been whipped out of their presence.”

“Yes,” continued the worthy Magistrate irefully; “but when the King ordered that the right of voting for our rulers should no longer be restricted to church-members; but that every man of fair estate and good moral character, as he phrases it, should be allowed to vote, even if he is not a member at all, he aimed a blow at the very Magistracy itself.”

“Yes, that is worse than heresy! And how can a man possess a good moral character, without being a member of the true church?”

“Of course that is self-evident. But it shows how the righteous seed is being over-flooded with iniquity, even in its last chosen house; how our Canaan is being given up to the Philistines. And therefore it is, doubtless, that Satan, in the pride of his success, is introducing his emissaries into the very house of the Lord itself; and promising great rewards to them who will bow down and sign their names in his red book, and worship him. Ah! we have fallen on evil times, Master Putnam.”

And so the two worthy Puritans condoled with each other, until, Master Putnam, bethinking himself that he had some worldly business to attend to, Squire Hathorne proceeded to give the necessary directions for the removal of the three prisoners from Salem to Boston jail.

This was accomplished that very night, as Mistress Putnam had suggested; Deputy Marshall Herrick and a constable guarding the party. Dulcibel occupied a pillion behind jailer Foster; Master English and his wife rode together; while Master Herrick and the constable each had a horse to himself.

The original plan was for Dulcibel to ride behind Master Herrick; but upon jailer Foster representing that there might be some danger of a rescue, and offering to join the party, it was arranged that he should have special charge of Mistress Dulcibel, whom he represented to Herrick as being in his opinion a most marvelous witch.

Uncle Robie’s true reason for going, however, was that the jailer in Boston was an old friend of his, and he wished to speak a secret word to him that might insure Dulcibel kinder treatment than was usually given in Boston jail to any alleged transgressor.