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

Master Raymond Goes Again to Boston.

Master Raymond had agreed to keep his friend Joseph Putnam informed by letter of his movements for there had been a postal system established a number of years before through the Massachusetts colony but of course he had to be very careful as to what he put upon paper; the Puritan official mind not being over-scrupulous as to the means it took of attaining its ends.

He had brought excellent letters to persons of the highest character in Boston, and had received invitations from many of them to make his home in their houses for the Boston people of all classes, and especially the wealthy, obeyed the Scriptural injunction, and were “given to hospitality;” which I believe is true to the present day. But Master Raymond, considering the errand he was on, thought it wisest to take up his abode at an Inn lest he might involve his entertainers in the peril attending his unlawful but righteous designs. So he took a cheery room at the Red Lion, in the northern part of the town, which was quite a reputable house, and convenient for many purposes not the least being its proximity to the harbor, which made it a favorite resort for the better class of sea-captains.

Calling around upon the families to which he had presented letters on his first visit, immediately after his arrival in the colony, he speedily established very pleasant social relations with a good many very different circles. And he soon was able to sum up the condition of affairs in the town as follows:

First, there was by far the most numerous and the ruling sect, the Puritans. The previous Governor, shut out by King James, Sir Edmund Andros, had been an Episcopalian; but the present one sent out on the accession of William and Mary, Sir William Phips, was himself a Puritan, sitting under the weekly teachings of the Reverend Master Cotton Mather at the North church.

Then there was an Episcopal circle, composed of about four hundred people in all, meeting at King’s Chapel, built about three years before, with the Reverend Master Robert Ratcliffe as Rector.

Besides these, there was a small number of Quakers, now dwelling in peace, so far as personal manifestations were concerned, being protected by the King’s mandate. These had even grown so bold of late, as to be seeking permission to erect a meeting-house; which almost moved the Puritan divines to prophesy famine, earthquakes and pestilence as the results of such an ungodly toleration of heresy.

Then there were a number of Baptists, who also now dwelt in peace, under the King’s protection.

Adding to the foregoing the people without any religion to speak of, who principally belonged to or were connected with the seafaring class, and Master Raymond found that he had a pretty clear idea of the inhabitants of Boston.

In relation to the Witchcraft prosecutions, the young Englishman ascertained that the above classes seemed to favor the prosecutions just in proportion to the extent of their Puritan orthodoxy. The great majority of the Puritans believed devoutly in witches, and in the duty of obeying the command, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” And generally in proportion to a Puritan church-member’s orthodoxy, was the extent of his belief in witchcraft, and the fierceness of his exterminating zeal.

The Episcopalians and the Baptists were either very lukewarm, or else in decided opposition to the prosecutions looking upon them as simply additional proofs of Puritan narrowness, intolerance and bigotry.

The Quakers held to the latter opinion even more firmly than the liberal Episcopalians and Baptists: adding to it the belief that it was a judgment allowed to come upon the Puritans, to punish them for their cruelty to God’s chosen messengers.

As for the seafaring class, they looked upon the whole affair as a piece of madness, which could only overtake people whose contracted notions were a result of perpetually living in one place, and that on the land. And since the arrest of a man so well thought of, and of their own class as Captain Alden, the vocabulary allowed by the law in Boston was entirely too limited to embrace adequately a seaman’s emphatic sense of the iniquitous proceedings. As one of them forcibly expressed himself to Master Raymond: “He would be condemned, if he wouldn’t like to see the condemned town of Boston, and all its condemned preachers, buried like Port Royal, ten condemned fathoms deep, under the condemned soil upon which it was built!” He used another emphatic word of course, in the place of the word condemned; but that doubtless was because at that time they had not our “revised version” of the New Testament.

The sea-captain who expressed himself in this emphatic way to Master Raymond, was the captain in whose vessel he had come over from England, and who had made another voyage back and forth since that time. The young man was strolling around the wharves, gazing at the vessels when he had been accosted by the aforesaid captain. At that particular moment however, he had come to a stand, earnestly regarding, as he had several times before, a vessel that was lying anchored out in the stream.

After passing some additional words with the captain upon various matters, and especially upon the witches, a subject that every conversation at that time was apt to be very full of, he turned towards the water and said:

“That seems to be a good craft out there.”

It was a vessel of two masts, slender and raking, and with a long, low hull something of the model which a good many years later, went by the name of the Baltimore clipper.

“Yes, she is a beauty!” replied the captain.

“She looks as if she might be a good sailer.”

“Good! I reckon she is. The Storm King can show her heels to any vessel that goes out of this port or out of London either, for that matter.”

“What is she engaged in?”

Here the captain gave a low whistle, and followed it up with a wink.

“Buccaneers occasionally, I suppose?”

“Oh, Captain Tolley is not so very condemned particular what he does so that of course it is entirely lawful,” and the captain winked again. “He owns his vessel, you see carries her in his pocket and has no condemned lot of land-lubber owners on shore who cannot get away if there is any trouble, from the condemned magistrates and constables.”

“That is an advantage sometimes,” said the young man. He was thinking of his own case probably.

“Of course it is. Law is a very good thing in its place. But if I buy a bag of coffee in the East Indies or in South America, why should I have to pay a lot of money on it, before I am allowed to sell it to the people that like coffee in some other country? Condemn it! There’s no justice in it.”

Master Raymond was in no mood just then to argue great moral questions. So he answered by asking:

“Captain Tolley does not make too many inquiries then when a good offer is made him?”

“Do not misunderstand me, young man,” replied the captain gravely. “My friend, Captain Tolley, would be the last man to commit piracy, or anything of that kind. But just look at the case. Here Captain Tolley is, off at sea, attending to his proper business. Well, he comes into some condemned port, just to get a little water perhaps, and some fresh provisions; and hears that while he has been away, these condemned land-lubbers have been making some new rules and regulations, without even asking any of us seafaring men anything about it. Then, if we do not obey their foolish rules, they nab us when we come into port again, and fine us perhaps put us in the bilboes. Now, as a fair man, do you call that justice?”

Master Raymond laughed good-humoredly. “I see it has its unfair side,” said he. “By the way, I should like to look over that vessel of his. Could you give me a line of introduction to him?”

“Of course I can nothing pleases Tolley more than to have people admire his vessel even though a landsman’s admiration, you know, really cannot seem of much account to a sailor. But I cannot write here; let us adjourn to the Lion.”