Read CHAPTER XLIII of Dulcibel A Tale of Old Salem , free online book, by Henry Peterson, on ReadCentral.com.

Why Thomas Putnam Went to Ipswich.

What young Master Joseph Putnam undertook to do, he was apt to do pretty thoroughly. When he had once made up his mind to keep both his brother’s wife and his brother himself, away from the examination, he had rapidly thought over various plans, and adopted two which he felt pretty certain would not fail. They all involved a little deceit, or at least double dealing and he hated both those things with a righteous hatred but it was to prevent a great injustice, and perhaps to save life.

As he rode rapidly homeward, turning over various plans, in his mind, he had passed through the village, when he saw some one approaching on what seemed to be the skeleton of an old horse. He at once recognized the rider as an odd character, a carpenter, whom he at one time had occasion to employ in doing some work on a small property he owned in Ipswich. Reining up his horse, Master Putnam stopped to have a chat with the man whose oddity mainly consisted in his taciturnity, which was broken only by brief and pithy sentences.

“A fine day Ezekiel how are things in Ipswich?”

“Grunty!”

“Ah! I am sorry to hear it. Why, what is the matter?”

“Broomsticks, chiefly.”

“You mean the witches. That is a bad business. But how shall we mend it?”

The old carpenter was too shrewd to commit himself. He glanced at Master Putnam, and then turning his head aside, and giving a little laugh, said, “Burn all the broomsticks.”

“A good idea,” replied Master Putnam, also laughing. “Oh, by the way, Ezekiel, I wonder if you could do a little errand for me?” and the young man took out his purse and began opening it. “You are not in a great hurry, are you?”

“Hurry, is for fools!”

“You know where my brother Thomas lives? Up this road?” They were just where two roads joined, one leading by his own house, and the other past his brother’s.

“I wish I knew the road to heaven as well.”

“You know how to keep silent, and how to talk also, Ezekiel especially when you are well paid for it?”

The old man laughed. “A little bullet sometimes makes a big hole,” he said.

“I want you to go to my brother Thomas, and say simply these words: Ipswich Crown and Anchor. Very important indeed. At once. Wait till he comes.”

“All right.” And he held out his hand, into which Master Joseph put as much silver as the old man could make in a whole week’s work.

“You are not to remember who sent you, or anything else than those words. Perhaps you have been drinking rather too much cider, you know. Do you understand?”

The old man’s face assumed at once a very dull and vacant expression, and he said in that impressive manner which rather too many glasses is apt to give, “Ipswich. Crown and Anchor. Very important indeed. At once. Wait till he comes.”

“That will do very well, Ezekiel. But not a word more, mind!”

“Tight as a rat-trap,” replied the old man and he turned his skeleton’s head, and went up the road towards Thomas Putnam’s.

Joseph felt certain that this would take his brother to Ipswich. Both of them were greatly interested in a lawsuit with certain of the Ipswich people, regarding the northern boundary of the Putnam farms. Thomas was managing the matter for the family; and was continually on the look-out for fresh evidence to support the Putnam claim. In fact, bright Master Raymond had once said that, between the Salem witches and the Ips-witches, Master Thomas seemed to have no peace of his life. But this was before the witch persécutions had assumed such a tragical aspect.

When Ezekiel had found Thomas Putnam and delivered his brief message, without dismounting from his skeleton steed, Master Putnam asked at once who sent the message.

“Ipswich. Crown and Anchor. Very important indeed! At once. Wait till he comes,” repeated the old man, with a face of the most impassive solemnity, and emphasizing every sentence with his long fore-finger.

And that was all Master Thomas could get out of him. That much came just as often as he wished it; but no more not a word.

Mistress Ann Putnam had come out to the gate by that time. “He has been drinking too much cider,” she said.

This gave a suggestion to Ezekiel.

“Yes, too much cider. Rum steady me!”

Mistress Putnam thought that it might produce an effect of that kind, and, going back into the house, soon reappeared with a rather stiff drink of West India rum; which the old man tossed off with no perceptible difficulty.

He smiled as he handed back the tin cup which had held it. “Yes steady now!” he said.

“Who gave you the message?” again asked Master Putnam.

Ezekiel looked solemn and thoughtful. “Who gave ’im the message,” replied Ezekiel slowly.

“Yes who sent you to me?”

“Who sent yer to me?” again repeated Ezekiel. “Ipswich. Crown and Anchor. At once. Wait till he comes.” Then the old man’s countenance cleared up, as if everything now must be perfectly satisfactory.

“Oh there is no use in trying to get any more out of him he is too much fuddled,” said Mistress Putnam impatiently.

“More rum steady me!” mumbled Ezekiel.

“No, not a drop more,” said Thomas Putnam peremptorily. “You have had too much already.”

The old man frowned and turning the skeleton steed after considerable effort, he gave his parting shot “Crown and anchor wait till he comes!” and rode off in a spasmodic trot down the lane.

“I shall have to go to Ipswich, and see about this, it may supply the missing link in our chain of evidence!”

“But how about this afternoon?” queried his wife.

“Oh, I can get to Salem by three o’clock, by fast riding. I will leave the roan horse for you.”

“Saddle the grey mare, Jehosaphat.”

And thus it was that his brother Joseph, looking out of his sitting-room window, about an hour after his arrival at home, saw Master Thomas Putnam, on his well-known grey mare, riding along the road past his house on the most direct route to Ipswich.

“He is out of the way, for one if he waits an hour or two for any person to meet him on important business at the Crown and Anchor,” thought the young man. “It is important indeed though that he should go, and keep himself out of mischief; and from helping to take any more innocent lives. And when he comes to his senses in the next world, if not in this he will thank me for deceiving him. Now let me see whether I can do as good a turn for that delectable wife of his.”