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

Master Raymond Visits Lady Mary.

When Master Raymond returned to Boston, he found that an important event had taken place in his absence. Captain Alden and Master Philip English and his wife, had all escaped from prison, and were nowhere to be found. How Captain Alden had managed things with the jailer the young man was not able to ascertain probably however, by a liberal use of money. As for Master English and his wife, they were, as I have already said, at liberty in the day time, under heavy bonds; and had nothing to do but walk off sometime between sunrise and sundown. As Master English’s ship, “The Porcupine,” had been lying for a week or two in Boston harbor, and left with a brisk northwest wind early in the morning of the day when they were reported missing, it was not difficult for anyone to surmise as to their mode of escape. As to Captain Alden, he might or might not have gone with them.

As was natural, there was a good deal of righteous indignation expressed by all in authority. The jailer was reprimanded for his carelessness in the case of Captain Alden, and warned that if another prisoner escaped, he would forfeit his, of late, very profitable position. And the large properties of both gentlemen were attached and held as being subject to confiscation.

But while the magistrates and officials usually were in earnest in these proceedings, it was generally believed that the Governor, influenced by Lady Mary, had secretly favored the escaping parties. The two ministers of South Church Masters Willard and Moody were also known to have frequently visited the Captain and Master English in their confinement, and to have expressed themselves very freely in public, relative to the absurdity of the charges which had been made against them. Master Moody had even gone so far as to preach a sermon on the text, ’When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another,’ which was supposed by many to have a direct bearing on the case of the accused. And it is certain that soon afterwards, the Reverend Master Moody found it expedient to resign his position in South Church and go back to his old home in Portsmouth.

Anxious to learn the true inwardness of all this matter, Master Raymond called a few days after his return to see Lady Mary. Upon sending in his name, a maid immediately appeared, and he was taken as before to the boudoir where he found her ladyship eagerly awaiting him.

“And so you are safely out of the lion’s den, Master Raymond,” said she, laughing. “I heard you had passed through securely.”

The young man smiled. “Yes, thanks to Providence, and to a good friend of mine in Salem.”

“Tell me all about it,” said the lady. “I have had the magisterial account already, and now wish to have yours.”

“Will your ladyship pardon me if I ask a question first? I am so anxious to hear about Mistress Dulcibel. Have you seen her lately and is she well?”

“As well and as blooming as ever. The keeper and his wife treat her very kindly and I think would continue to do so even if the supply of British gold pieces were to fail. By the way, she might be on the high seas now or rather in New York if she had so chosen.”

“I wish she had. Why did she not go with them?”

“Because your arrest complicated things so. She would not go and leave you in the hands of the Philistines.”

“Oh, that was foolish.”

“I think so, too; but I do not think that you are exactly the person to say so,” responded the lady, a little offended at what seemed a want of appreciation of the sacrifice that Dulcibel had made on his account.

But Master Raymond appeared not to notice the rebuke. He simply added: “If I could have been there to counsel her, I would have convinced her that I was in no serious danger for, even if imprisoned, I do not think there is a jail in the Province that could hold me.”

“Well, there was a difficulty with the Keeper also for she had given her word, you know, not to escape, when she was taken into his house.”

“But Captain Alden had also given his word. How did he manage it?”

“I do not know,” replied the lady. “But, to a hint dropped by Dulcibel, the jailer shook his head resolutely, and said that no money would tempt him.”

“The difficulty in her case then remains the same as ever,” said the young man thoughtfully, and a little gloomily. “She might go into the prison. But that would be to give warning that she had planned to escape. Besides, it is such a vile place, that I hate the idea of her passing a single night in one of its sickening cells.”

“Perhaps I can wring a pardon out of Sir William,” said the lady musing.

“Oh, Lady Mary, if you only could, we should both forever worship you!”

The lady smiled at the young man’s impassioned language and manner he looked as if he would throw himself at her feet.

“I should be too glad to do it. But Sir William just now is more rigid than ever. He had a call yesterday from his pastor, Master Cotton Mather, and a long talk from him about the witches. Master Mather, it seems, has had further evidence and of the most convincing character, of the reality of these spectral appearances.”

“Indeed!” said Master Raymond showing great interest for he had an idea of what was coming.

“Yes, in a recent examination at Salem before Squire Hathorne, a young man struck with his sword at a spectral yellow bird which was tormenting an afflicted person; and several small yellow feathers were cut off by the thrust, and floated down to the floor. Squire Hathorne writes to Master Mather that he would not have believed it, if he had not seen it; but, as it was, he would be willing to take his oath before any Court in Christendom, that this wonderful thing really occurred.”

Master Raymond could not help laughing.

“I see you have no more faith in the story than I have,” continued Lady Mary. “But it had a great effect upon Sir William, coming from a man of such wonderful learning and wisdom as Master Cotton Mather. Especially as he said that he had seen the yellow feathers himself; which had since been sent to him by Squire Hathorne, and which had a singular smell of sulphur about them.”

The young man broke into a heartier laugh than before. Then he said scornfully, “It seems to me that no amount of learning, however great, can make a sensible man out of a fool.”

“Why, you know something about this then? Did it happen while you were in Salem?”

“I know everything about it,” said Master Raymond, “I am the very man that worked the miracle.” And he proceeded to give Lady Mary a detailed account of the whole affair, substantially as it is known to the reader.

“By the way, as to the feathers smelling of sulphur,” concluded the young man, “I think that it is very probable, inasmuch as I observed the jailer’s wife that very morning giving the younger chickens powdered brimstone to cure them of the pip.”

“I think you are a marvelously clever young man,” was the lady’s first remark as he concluded his account.

“Thank your ladyship!” replied Master Raymond smiling. “I hope I shall always act so as to deserve such a good opinion.”

“I would have given my gold cup which the Duke of Albemarle gave me to have been there; especially when the yellow bird’s feathers came floating down to Squire Hathorne’s reverential amazement,” said Lady Mary, laughing heartily. “You must come up here tomorrow morning at noon. Master Mather is to bring his feathers to show the Governor, and to astound the Governor’s skeptical wife. You are not afraid to come, are you?”

“I shall enjoy it very much that is, if the Governor will promise that I shall not suffer for my disclosures. I am free now, and I do not wish to be arrested again.”

“Oh, I will see to that. The Governor will be so curious to hear your story, that he will promise all that you desire as to your safety. Besides, he will not be sorry to take down Master Mather a little; these Puritan ministers presume on their vocation too much. They all think they are perfectly capable of governing not only Provinces, but Kingdoms; while the whole history of the world proves their utter incapacity to govern even a village wisely.”

“That is true as the gospel, Lady Mary. But one thing I have always noticed. That while every minister thinks this, he would himself far rather be governed even by one of the world’s people, than by a minister of any other belief than his own. So you see they really do think the same as we do about it; only they do not always know it.”

“You are a bright young man,” Lady Mary replied pleasantly, “and I think almost good enough to wear such a sweet rose next your heart as Mistress Dulcibel.”