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

Bringing Affairs to a Crisis.

The next morning a note came to Master Raymond from Joseph Putnam, brought by one of the farm-hands.

It was important. Abigail Williams had called upon Goodwife Buckley, and told her in confidence that it was in contemplation, as she had learned from Ann Putnam, to bring Dulcibel Burton back to Salem jail again. The escape of Captain Alden and the Englishes from the Bridewell in Boston, had caused a doubt in Salem as to its security. Besides, Lady Phips had taken ground so openly against the witch prosecutions, that there was no knowing to how great an extent she might not go to aid any prisoner in whom she took an interest.

Abigail Williams further said that Mistress Ann Putnam had become very bitter both against her brother-in-law Joseph and his friend Master Raymond. She was busy combatting the idea that the latter really ever had been afflicted and was endeavoring to rouse Squire Hathorne’s indignation against him as being a deceiver.

As the young man read this last, he wondered what effect would be produced upon the credulous magistrate, when he received word from Master Mather as to what had occurred in the Governor’s presence. Would he be so angry as to take very arbitrary measures; or so ashamed as to let it all pass, rather than expose the extent to which he had been duped? He feared the former knowing in which way Mistress Ann Putnam’s great influence with him would be directed.

Master Joseph advised immediate action if peaceable means would not serve, then the use of violent ones. If Captain Tolley could not find among his sailors those who would undertake the job, he, Master Joseph, would come down any night with three stout men, overpower the keepers, and carry off Mistress Dulcibel, with the requisite amount of violence to keep her promise unbroken.

Master Raymond wrote a note in return. He was much obliged for the information. It was evident that the time had come for action; and that it was dangerous to delay much longer. Of course peaceable means were to be preferred; and it was possible he might be able either to bribe the keeper, or to get a release from the Governor; but, if force had to be resorted to, Captain Tolley could command his whole crew for such a service, as they were the kind of men who would like nothing better. In fact, they would not hesitate to open fire upon the town, if he ordered it and even run up the flag of a French privateer.

After dispatching this business, Master Raymond went out on the porch of the Red Lion, and began an examination of the clouds and the weather-cocks. It had been raining slightly for a day or two, with the wind from the southeast; but though the vanes still pointed to the southeast, and the light lower clouds were moving from the same point of the compass, he caught glimpses through the scud of higher clouds that were moving in an entirely opposite direction.

“How do you make it out?” said a well-known voice. He had heard some one approaching, but had supposed it to be a stranger.

“I am not much of a sailor; but I should say it would clear up, with a brisk wind from the west or the northwest by afternoon.”

“Aye!” said Captain Tolley, for it was he; “and a stiff nor’wester by night. If it isn’t I’ll give my head for a foot-ball. Were I bound out of the harbor, I would not whistle for a better wind than we shall have before six hours are over.”

Master Raymond glanced around; no one was near them. “Are you certain of that, Captain? Would it do to bet upon?

“You may bet all you are worth, and your sweetheart into the bargain,” replied the Captain laughing, with a significant look out of his eyes.

“When are you going, Captain?”

“Oh, to-night, perhaps if I can get all my live stock on board.

“To-night then let it be,” said the young man in a whisper; “by fair means, or by foul. I may succeed by fair means; have a boat waiting at the wharf for me. It will be light enough to get out of the harbor?”

“There is a gibbous moon plenty. Once past the castle, and we are safe. We can easily break open the keeper’s house and quiet him with a pistol at his head.”

“You must not harm him he has been a good friend to her.”

“Of course only scare him a little. Besides, he is not a good friend, if he makes a noise.”

“Well, I will see you by ten o’clock with her or without her Yes, I will bet you a gold piece, Captain, that the wind gets around to the west by four o’clock.” This last was in Master Raymond’s usual tones the previous conversation having been in whispers.

“You will be safe enough in that, Master Raymond,” said the landlord of the Red Lion, whose steps the young Englishman had heard approaching.

“Do you think so? I do not want to take the young man’s money, he is only a landsman you know, Mate; but I will bet you a piece of eight that the wind will not get around till a half hour after that time. And we will take it all out in drinks at your bar, at our leisure.”

“Done!” said the landlord. “And now let us go in, and take a drink all around in advance.”