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

Mistress Ann’s Opinion of the Matter.

While the foregoing conversation was taking place, one of a very different kind was passing between Mistress Ann and her worthy husband. He had gathered up all the particulars he could of the examination and had brought them home to his wife for her instruction.

After listening to all that he had to tell, with at least outward calmness, she said bitterly: “The whole thing was a trick, you see, to keep you and me away from Salem.”

“Do you think so? Do you think then, that no man really wanted to see me at Ipswich?”

“It is as plain as the nose on your face,” replied his wife. “You were to be decoyed off to Ipswich, my horse sent out of the way, and then Joseph’s madcap horse offered to me, they knowing well that the worthless creature would not behave himself with any woman on his back.”

“Oh, pshaw, Ann; you do not mean that my simple-hearted brother, Joseph Putnam, ever planned and carried out a subtle scheme of that kind?” said honest Thomas, with an older brother’s undervaluation of the capabilities of a mere boy like Joseph.

“I do not say that Joseph thought it all out, for very probably he did not; doubtless that Master Raymond put him up to it for he seems cunning and unprincipled enough for anything, judging, by what you have told me of his ridiculous doings.”

“You may call them ridiculous, Ann; but they impressed everybody very much indeed. Dr. Griggs, told me that he had no doubt whatever that an ‘evil hand’ was on him.”

“Dr. Griggs is an old simpleton,” said his wife crossly.

“And even Squire Hathorne says that he never saw a stronger case of spectral persecution. Why, when one of the young men thrust the point of his rapier at the yellow bird, some of its feathers were cut off and came fluttering to the ground. Squire Hathorne says he never saw anything more wonderful.”

“Nonsense it is all trickery!”

“Trickery? Why, my dear wife, the Squire has the feathers! and he means to send them at once to Master Cotton Mather by a special messenger, to confute all the scoffers and unbelievers in Boston and Plymouth!”

A scornful reply was at the end of his wife’s tongue but, on second thought, she did not allow it to get any farther. Suppose that she did convince her husband and Squire Hathorne that they had been grossly deceived and imposed upon and that Master Raymond’s apparent afflictions and spectral appearance were the result of skilful juggling, what then? Would their enlightenment stop there? How about the pins that the girls had concealed around their necks, and taken up with their mouths? How about Mary Walcot secretly biting herself, and then screaming out that good Rebecca Nurse had bitten her? How about the little prints on the arms of the “afflicted girls,” which they allowed were made by the teeth of little Dorcas Good, that child not five years old; and which Mistress Ann knew were made by the girls themselves? How about the bites and streaks and bruises which she herself had shown as the visible proof that the spectre of good Rebecca Nurse, then lying in jail, was biting her and beating her with her chains? For Edward Putnam had sworn: “I saw the marks both of bite and chains.”

Perhaps it was safer to let Master Raymond’s juggling go unexposed, considering that she herself and the “afflicted girls” had done so very much of it.

Therefore she said, “I have no faith in Master Raymond nevertheless; no more than Moses had in King Pharaoh’s sorcerers, when they did the very same miracles before the king that he had done. I believe him now to be a cunning and a very bad young man, and I think if I had been on the spot, instead of his being at this very moment as I have very little doubt, over at brother’s, where they are congratulating each other on the success of their unprincipled plans, Master Raymond would now be lying in Salem jail.”

“Probably you are correct, my dear,” responded her husband meekly; “and I think it not unlikely that Master Raymond may have thought the same, and planned to keep you away but it was evident to me, that if the ‘afflicted girls’ had taken one side or the other in the matter, it would not have been yours. Why, even our own daughter Ann, was laughing and joking with him when I entered the court room.”

“Yes,” said his wife disdainfully “that is girl-nature, all over the earth! Just put a handsome young man before them, who has seen the world, and is full of his smiles and flatteries and cajolements, and the wisest of women can do nothing with them. But the cold years bring them out of that!” she added bitterly. “They find what they call love, is a folly and a snare.”

Her husband looked out of the window into the dark night, and made no reply to this outburst. He had always loved his wife, and he thought, when he married her, that she loved him although he was an excellent match, so far as property and family were concerned. Still she would occasionally talk in this way; and he hoped and trusted that it did not mean much.

“I think myself,” he said at length, “that it is quite as much the pretty gifts he has made them, and has promised to send them from England, as his handsome face and pleasant manners.”

“Oh, of course, it all goes together. They are a set of mere giggling girls; and that is all you can make of them. And our daughter Ann is as bad as any of the lot. I wish she did not take so much after your family, Thomas.”

This roused her husband a little. “I am sure, Ann, that our family are much stronger and healthier than your own are. And as to Ann’s being like the other girls, I wish she was. She is about the only delicate and nervous one among them.”

“Well, Thomas, if you have got at last upon that matter of the superiority of the Putnams to everybody else in the Province, I think I shall go to bed,” retorted his wife. “That is the only thing that you are thoroughly unreasonable about. But I do not think you ever had a single minister, or any learned scholar, in your family, or ever owned a whole island, in the Merrimack river as my family, the Harmons, always have done, since the country was first settled and probably always shall, for the next five hundred years.”

To this Thomas Putnam had no answer. He knew well that he had no minister and no island in his family and those two things, in his wife’s estimation, were things that no family of any reputation should be without. He had not brought on the discussion, although his wife had accused him of so doing, and had only asserted what he thought the truth in stating that the Putnams were the stronger and sturdier race.

“I do not wish to hurt your feelings, Thomas, in reminding you of these things,” continued his wife, finding he was not intending to reply; “I will admit that your family is a very reputable and worthy one, even if it is not especially gifted with intellect like the Harmons, else you may be sure that I should not have married into it. But I have a headache, and do not wish to continue this discussion any longer, as it is unpleasant to me, and besides in very bad taste.”

And so, taking the hint, Master Putnam, like a dutiful husband, who really loved his somewhat peevish and fretful wife, acknowledged by his silence in the future that the Harmons were much superior to any family that could not boast of possessing a minister and an island; the latter for five hundred years!