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

An Interview with Lady Mary.

Master Raymond, having obtained an introduction to the Governor’s wife, Lady Mary, lost no time in endeavoring to “cultivate the amenities of life,” so far as that very influential person was concerned. He had paid the most deferential court to her on several occasions where he had been able to meet her socially; and had impressed the Governor’s lady very favorably, as being an unusually handsome, well-bred and highly cultivated young man. A comely and high-spirited lady of forty, she was better pleased to be the recipient of the courteous and deferential attentions of a young Englishman of good connections like Master Raymond, than even to listen to the wise and weighty counsel of so learned a man as Master Cotton Mather.

Only in the last minutes of their last meeting however, when handing her ladyship to her carriage, did Master Raymond feel at liberty to ask her if he could have a short private interview with her the next morning. She looked a little surprised, and then said, “Of course, Master Raymond.”

“At what hour will it suit your ladyship?”

“At twelve, precisely, I have an engagement at one;” and the carriage drove off.

A minute or two before twelve, Master Raymond was at the Governor’s house in Green lane; and was duly admitted, as one expected, and shown into her ladyship’s boudoir.

“Now, come right to the point, Master Raymond; and tell me what I can do for you,” said her ladyship smiling. “If I can help you, I will; if I cannot, or must not, I shall say so at once and you must continue to be just as good a friend to me as ever.”

“I promise that to your ladyship,” replied the young man earnestly. He really liked and admired Lady Mary very much.

“Is it love, or money? young men always want one of these.”

“Your ladyship is as quick-witted in this as in everything else.”

“Well, which is it?”


“Ah who?”

“Mistress Dulcibel Burton.”

“What! not the girl with the snake-mark?”

Raymond bowed his head very low in answer.

Lady Mary laughed. “She is a witch then, it seems; for she has bewitched you.”

“We were betrothed to each other only a few days before that absurd and lying charge was made against her.”

“And her horse her black mare that upset the Reverend Master Parris into the duck pond; and then went up into the clouds; and, as Master Cotton Mather solemnly assured me, has never been seen or heard of since what of it where is it, really?”

“In an out-of-the-way place, up in Master Joseph Putnam’s woods,” replied the young man smiling.

“And you are certain of it?”

“As certain as riding the mare for about ten miles will warrant.”

“Master Mather assured me that no man except perhaps Satan or one of his imps could ride her.”

“Then I must be Satan or one of his imps, I suppose.”

“How did you manage it?”

“I put a side-saddle on the beast; and a woman’s skirt on myself.”

The lady laughed outright. “Oh, that is too good! It reminds me of what Sir William often says, ’Anything can be done, if you know how to do it!’ I must tell it to him he will enjoy it so much. And it will be a good thing to plague Master Mather with.”

“Please do not tell anyone just now,” protested the young man earnestly. “It may bring my good friend, Joseph Putnam, into trouble. And it would only make them all angrier than they are with Dulcibel.”

“Dulcibel that is a strange name. It is Italian is it not.”

“I judge so. It is a family name. I suppose there is Italian blood in the family. At least Mistress Dulcibel looks it.”

“She does. She is very beautiful of a kind of strange, fascinating beauty. I do not wonder she bewitched you. Was that serpent mark too from Italy?”

“I think it very likely.”

“Perhaps she is descended from Cleopatra and that is the mark left by the serpent on the famous queen’s breast.”

“I think it exceedingly probable,” said Master Raymond. My readers will have observed before this, that he was an exceedingly polite and politic young man.

“Well, and so you want me to get Mistress Dulcibel, this witch descendant of that famous old witch, Cleopatra, out of prison?”

“I hoped that, from the well-known kindness of heart of your ladyship, you would be able to do something for us.”

“You see the difficulty is simply here. I know that all these charges of witchcraft against such good, nice people as Captain Alden, Master and Mistress English, your betrothed Dulcibel, and a hundred others, are mere bigotry and superstition at the best, and sheer spite and maliciousness at the worst but what can I do? Sir William owes his position to the Reverend Increase Mather and, besides, not being a greatly learned man himself, is more impressed than he ought to be by the learning of the ministers and the lawyers. I tell him that a learned fool is the greatest fool alive; but still he is much puzzled. If he does not conform to the wishes of the ministers and the judges, who are able to lead the great majority of the people in any direction they choose, he will lose his position as Governor. Now, while this is not so much in itself, it will be a bar to his future advancement for preferment does not often seek the men who fail, even when they fail from having superior wisdom and nobleness to the multitude.”

It was evident that Sir William and Lady Mary had talked over this witchcraft matter, and its bearing upon his position, a good many times. And Master Raymond saw very clearly the difficulties of the case.

“And still, if the robe of the Governor can only continue to be worn by dyeing it with innocent blood, I think that a man of the natural greatness and nobility of Sir William, would not hesitate as to his decision.”

“But a new Governor in his place might do worse.”

“Yes, he might easily do that.”

“When it comes to taking more lives by his order, then he will decide upon his course. So far he is temporizing,” said the lady.

“And Dulcibel?”

“She is not suffering,” was the reply. “Oh, if I only could say the same of the poor old women, and poor young women, now lying in those cold and loathsome cells innocent of any crime whatever either against God or against man I should not feel it all here so heavily,” and Lady Mary pressed her hand against her heart. “But we are not responsible for it! I have taken off every chain and do all I dare; while Sir William shuts his eyes to my unlawful doings.”

“Will you aid her to escape, should her life be in danger? You told me to speak out frankly and to the point.”

The lady hesitated only for a moment. “I will do all I can even to putting my own life in peril. When something must be done, come to me again. And now judge me and Sir William kindly; knowing that we are not despots, but compelled to rule somewhat in accordance with the desires of those whom we have been sent here to govern.”

Lady Mary extended her hand; the young man took it, as he might have taken the hand of his sovereign Queen, and pressed it with his lips. Then he bowed himself out of the boudoir.