Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A maid of old New York : a romance of Peter Stuyvesant's time online

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hardly to be expected. And if not, her father and
mother would alone be to blame. These, and
kindred thoughts, kept her keenly alive to the
wrong she felt had been done to her, and she rose
while the servant was still busy about the hearth,
and went upstairs to her own room.

It was thought best not to disturb her again
that night, but morning brought no relief to the
unhappy tension. Van Ruyven glanced at the
face of his daughter, and felt it useless to offer
her either courtesy or explanation. He remained
silent, and after a poor meal put on his top coat
and hat preparatory to going to his business.
Ragel followed him to the outer door, and he said
angrily :

"Let her alone! We have done nothing more
than our duty. We will not make concessions.
It is not our place. No, indeed ! "

" Right or wrong, Paul, what thou did was
done for the best. Grieve not thyself about it."


" For that strange man she will make us both
miserable. And at the Christmas! It is beyond
reason! I am very unhappy, Ragel."

" She will find some good sense soon, or I will
help her to do so."

" Listen to me ! Be not hard with her. She
believes she has been badly used. That, I must

" Tut! She is not fretting about her own
trouble, not she! She is fretting because that
man has not been, as she thinks, treated properly.
It is not for herself she is angry, it is for Gael

" There it is, Ragel. That is the sore point.
I cannot bear it."

" Thou go to thy business and put the man out
of thy mind. I will uphold thy end of the quarrel.
Leave it with me." Paul nodded his head and
went rather drearily to look after his invoices and
bills of lading. And it was Christmas week, and
he ought to have been so happy! He felt bit
terly, that his life was being plundered at one of
its most beautiful and affluent points.

Madame sympathised with him keenly. She
went back to the breakfast table where Agratha
was slowly breaking her bread into her coffee.
" Make some haste, Agratha," she said, and as
Agratha did not answer, she glanced at her
daughter, and noticed a thin gold chain about her


Instantly she had an instinctive knowledge as
to its use, but she was determined to make Agratha
confess it. So she asked:

"What hast thou round thy neck, Agratha?"

" A gold chain, moeder."

" Where did thou get it? "

" Gael sent it to me."

" What does the chain hold? "

" Gael's likeness."

" I knew it ! " she exclaimed in a tone of extreme
contempt. " If a man wishes to give a girl a
present, he can think of nothing in all the world
so beautiful, and so precious, as his own face.
I'll vow it will be set round with diamonds or
pearls, nothing else would be good enough for

"Moeder, what is the matter with thee? I
thought thou would certainly stand by me in this

" What sorrow ! Thy good fader took charge
of some silly letters and presents, not fit for thee
to have, and lo and behold ! thou art making thy
self ugly and ill, and thy home wretched, and the
happy Christmas feast dark and heavy, because
of thy disappointment about three or four letters.
At thy age, it is a shame for thee to be receiving
love letters at all. Very forward, thou must have
been with that man Mclvar, to warrant him
in "

" Moeder ! Moeder ! Say not such wicked


words! Well thou knowest I was not forward.
Oh wee! Oh tsoeel It is cruel ! "

" Wearing his picture in thy bosom, too 1
What am I to think of thee?"

Then with a pitiful cry, Agratha rose and fled
like a hunted thing to her room. And all day
she stayed there. And all day she was permitted
to stay there, without one word of dissent from
her mother. When Van Ruyven returned in
the evening he asked immediately " Where is
Agratha? " and Madame answered " She is keep
ing Mclvar's picture company in her own room.
I think it is the best place for her. Yes, indeed ! "

The next day Angus McAlpine and Elsie Van
Dam were married, and Madame was precisely in
the proper temper to send an excuse for her ab
sence. Van Ruyven attended the religious cere
mony, but left immediately after the signing of
the marriage certificate. He pleaded important
business; but he did not return to his warehouse,
he went straight home. He found Ragel at her
spinning wheel, but Paul knew from its fitful
movements that Ragel, though looking outwardly
calm, was inwardly insurgent.

" Is the wedding over? " she asked.

" Yes."

" Well then, what hast thou to tell? Did any
one ask after me? "

" No, the rooms were crowded. Thou wert not


" Nor Agratha, either ? "

" I am sure no one thought of her."

" How did Elsie look? "

" Beautiful."

" In white, of course? "

" Yes, but she had blue flowers in her

" That is strange, I never heard the like."

" There will be dancing and a supper. Stuy-
vesant signed the certificate, and gave Angus a
silver goblet."

" Well, I hope they may be happy."

" They seemed much in love with each other.
They saw no one else, and cared for no one else.
Ragel, this is what I think, of all the sorrows com
mon to this mortal life, the saddest of all is Lov
ing. See here, we put our heart in the hand of
a child, and then ten to one, it crushes it like an
empty egg shell."

Ragel looked into her husband's face, and
sighed, and Paul continued : " Not one of our
children married as we wished. And now,
Agratha! Oh the bitter, bitter pleasure of chil
dren! Ragel, I am unhappy. I can not add a
little line of figures. I sent an order this morn
ing to Philadelphia, instead of to Boston. I am
unhappy, Ragel."

" And she is crying in her room."

" Thou must not be hard to her."

" What dost thou think of me? Agratha is


dearer than life to me. I am glad thou went to
see Angus married. How did he look? "

" Like a very prince. He was in full kilt and

"Did thou see Rose?"

" Yes. She looked very handsome, and very
unhappy. I noticed that the rich Hollander, Paul
Roedeke, kept close to her."

" They also may make a marriage. I suppose
Madame was in all her airs and graces, and called
Elsie, Lady McAlpine, on every occasion."

"Madame Vam Dam? She was not present.
She was said to have a rheumatic attack. She
had a broken heart more likely. Elsie was her
very life, she is leaving her forever, no doubt."

" Well then, Paul, are we not foolish to build
our lives on our children girls especially. The
foundation is too uncertain. Come then, Dear
One, let us talk of something else. We cannot
alter things, and what cannot be cured, must be
endured. What hast thou heard about the
Governor's journey to the West Indies?"

" It is a settled matter. He leaves on Christ
mas Eve. The McAlpines go with him. I saw
a notice put out by the burgomasters and schepens
saying : * They will compliment the Right Hon
ourable Peter Stuyvesant before he takes his gal
lant voyage, by providing a gay repast in the
Council Chamber of the City Hall.' "

" Well then, wilt thou be there? "


" Yes ; my interest lies that way."

But the conversation about the Governor's
" gay repast " soon languished, and they found
themselves constantly reverting to their child's
stubborn rebellion. This subject they had gone
over in every conceivable way of looking at it
many times, yet it was the only one that could
tempt them to conversation.

" Agratha might have trusted her fader," said
Van Ruyven. And he said it so often, that its
tiresome iteration at length irritated Ragel, and
she answered, and with some reproach in her
voice :

" Perhaps then, her fader might have trusted

Van Ruyen looked up in astonishment, and
just then the door opened and- Agratha came
quickly towards them. She had dressed herself
in the pretty Dutch costume her father liked, her
eyes shone, her face beamed and she held out both
her hands, and in a low tender voice she pleaded:

" Fader, moeder, I am sorry ! Kiss me once,
and I will always be good."

Then so gladly they kissed her, and the mother
said : " Now this trouble is all over. We will
bury it forever. We will talk of it no more;
we will not even think of it."

" If thou had only trusted thy fader, Agratha,"
and Ragel immediately repeated her unsympa
thetic :


" If them had only trusted thy daughter, Paul.
Perhaps it is our fault and not hers."

" Yes, fader," said Agratha, " if thou had only
trusted me, there would have been no secrets. I
should have taken Gael's first letter and the ring
that came with it to my moeder at once. Nothing
would I have written to Gael without her knowl

" Suppose now, Agratha, that this man should
come back here, and ask thee to marry him, what
would thou do ? "

" To thee, fader, I would send him, and I would
say to thee, ' Remember, dear fader, that Agratha
loves Gael, and would like to marry him."

"But thou would not marry him without thy
fader's and moeder's permission."

" Never. I am thy daughter."

" Swear it to me."

" I need not to swear. God hears what I say.
I will not go behind my promise. No man will I
marry without thine, and my moeder's good will
to it."

" That is enough, Dear One. Thou hast made
me happy."

" Now moeder, may I set the table for thee ?
I have not eat much good food for three days,
and I am hungry."

So according to Ragel's desire the affair was
buried. But if we bury a wrong that is alive, it
does not lie quietly ; and the dispute though never


named lay, crouching in each heart, and at any
unforeseen moment it might come to resurrection.
We know that the scar that closes a physical
wound can never be obliterated, by any means
known to man fire nor water nor the knife, nor
the lapse of years, nor the wear and tear of life;
and the scar left by a wound on the heart, has
a like, if not a greater, endurance. It may last
for eternity, if likelihoods rule. So, though the
offense was said to be forgiven and forgotten, it
was not forgotten. It was only bound by silence.
A word or two might release and give it a fresh
power of inflicting suspicion and sorrow. But
of this contingency no one thought a good thing,
since the feeling must be rare indeed, which can
bear analysing and remain thoroughly respect

The supper was a happy meal. Perhaps the
slight restraint of a recent reconciliation was
evident to all, but it was well ignored. In honour
of the circumstances, Ragel took out her besti
sweetmeats and also placed a dish of Nativity;
pies on the table, though it was unusual to serve
them until Christmas Eve. They talked of the
Governor, and of the dinner to be given him,
of the full dress suit Van Ruyven would wear,
and a little wearily of the relief it would be when
the Governor's party were safely on board The
Abraham's Sacrifice. And after supper Agratha
brought her mandolin, and sang to her father the


songs he loved best, especially two or three by
Jacob Steendam the famous Dutch poet living
near them. Steendam wrote fine sea verses, and
when Agratha came to the following, Van Ruyven
roused himself, and his strong sweet voice led
Agratha's in its ringing realities.

" Ye ploughers of the ocean,

And harrowers of the sea,

The ship Deventer goes before,

And with the Roe sail we,

And the Swan and Hind we see.

To the Guinea coast of Africa we hie,

To the golden Moorish land,

Wherein God's mighty hand,

Hath planted our dominion far and nigh."

" I met Steendam to-day," said Van Ruyven,
when the music ceased. " He is a good song
writer, but he is a good trader for all that."

" Dear Rose McAlpine admired him very
much," answered Agratha. " She set many of his
songs to music, even the one we have just sung.
She said also that he looked like a poet, with his
fine hair parted in the centre, his large white brow,
splendid eyes, and sweet expression. And then
I always reminded her of his pretty falling collar,
with its double cord and tassels."

" All the same, little girl," said Van Ruyven,
" he is a wise, profitable trader, and he stands


high with the Company. And surely the sea is
what he ought to write of. For he was born at
Eukhuysen, a city standing at the entrance of the
Zuyder Zee, in a world of waters. I have been
there, Agratha. It is a pleasant city of great
stone houses, filled with ship builders, pilots, sea
men and fishermen. In 1572 it was the first city
in Holland to raise the standard of liberty against
the Spanish oppression. The ships built there
find their way to every part of the world, there
was one in our harbour a month ago called * The
Maid of Eukhuysen.' *

In such reminiscent conversation, the evening
passed, and the next day was one of pleasant
preparation in every house. Van Ruyven went
to his business as usual, but for that he had two
good reasons. First, he did not wish to appear
either to his family or the public excited or anx
ious about " the great and gay repast." He pre
ferred to treat the affair as an ordinary event.
Second, he knew that he could depend on his wife
having everything for his dignity and personal
fitness in thorough preparation. Ragel would
forget nothing.

And it would have been difficult to say what
could have been added to his appearance as he left
his home for the Council Chamber. A veryj
handsome and majestic figure he made, in his
black velvet suit, fine Flemish laces, and his full
bottomed curled white wig. His wife and daugh-


ter watched him away with infinite affection and
complacency and were sure there would not be
another guest at the feast to compare with him.

But of course they had not seen the Governor
in his canary-coloured breeches, white satin vest,
and purple velvet coat, the Company's colours
across his breast, the Company's diamonds on his
hand, and a purple silk cap embroidered with gold
stars upon his head. Everyone, however, wore
their finest clothing, and in those days the two
words meant all they suggested. It did not then
take a room full of women to make a kaleidoscope
of colour and splendid effects, a room full of men
in full dress could make the same impression of
magnificence perhaps even a greater one.

Soon after Van Ruyven had left them, Ragel
and her daughter had the comfortable cup of tea
so welcome as an accompaniment to conversation.
But though they talked of many things, they
never spoke of Gael Mclvar, and Agratha thought
her mother always changed a subject, which she
feared might lead to a recollection of the young
man. This feeling finally made her weary, she
could not take any interest in what interested her
mother, and when ten o'clock struck, and her
father had not returned, she pleaded fatigue and
received a ready permission to go to her room.
For her lassitude and half-concealed ennui had
infected Madame, and she was glad to be free from
an influence so dispiriting.


Very soon afterwards Van Ruyven came home,
and according to his usual custom, he sat down
to smoke a pipe before retiring. " Ragel," he
said, " wine does not take its place," and he
touched his pipe affectionately ; " as for company,
the more there is of it, the more you want your
pipe. That is so."

" Did you have a good feast, Paul? "

" Thou could have made a better one."

" There is little doubt of that, Paul, for I heard
that old Margery Fairborn had the cooking of it.
What does she know about the dishes Dutchmen

" Well then, we had some good English dishes
a fine chine of roast beef, and the most deliciously y
cooked sucking pig ever I tasted."

" Now Paul, mind thy words. I have roasted
thee a good many sucking pigs, and no one, no one,
can roast one better than Ragel Van Ruyven."

" I will tell thee how Margery Fairborn's was
better. It was roasted as thou never roasted one.
Every man present spoke of its peculiar flavour,
and it was well two pigs had been prepared, or
some of us would not have had enough. The
Governor wanted to drink a toast to it, and so we
did, every man of us."

" And by that time, you must all have had
enough of whatever you were drinking. Such
foolishness ! "

" The rest was like all other feasts."


" But thou hast not told me how the pig was

" I thought it was not in thy care, or pleasure."

" Paul, I always like to hear what changes can
be made. That belongs to a good housewife."

" So! Well then, it was roasted before a fire
made of juniper wood and rosemary branches,
and it was lifted the moment the eyes fell out, for
then it was done to a turn, and another moment
would have reduced its fine flavour. That is what
we were told. Some of the English women are
good cooks."

" It may be so. I have never seen one. Let
it pass, the subject is not interesting. Did thow
hear why the Governor goes to the West Indies ? "

" Abraham Blaankaert asked him that question,
and for a moment he looked annoyed and angry
but he finally answered : ' I am going, Blaan
kaert, to establish a commerce between the Span
ish Plantations and the city of New Amsterdam.
There is a rich traffic there, and we ought to have

" ' The Spanish Plantations ! ' replied Blaan
kaert. ' Will you trade with the men our fore
fathers fought with to the death? '

" ' They are the very men to trade with. This
is a great trade, it may be made to yield one hun
dred or more per cent. wines, spirits, gunpowder,
slaves and the like. We can charge at our will,
or according to the circumstances of the men who


purchase such things. It is a trade to be done
only with enemies, no man would like to do it with
his friends. So here is to the trade with our old
Spanish enemies ! ' and I really think we all drank
Jo the toast."

" Oh, Paul, any toast would warrant your
glasses, when you got that far."

" Then Stuyvesant said, * We can get even
with them by the balance, as well as the sword,
and the balance is good enough for such murder
ing, malignant, papistical souls ! ' "

" Was the McAlpine there? "

" Chief of the Company. After supper he
fiddled like an angel."

"Paul, what art thou saying? Too many
toasts of all kinds thou hast drunk. Dost thou
believe there will be fiddles in heaven ? "

" Well, then, I will say McAlpine fiddled like a

" Which is more likely ! "

" And Jacob Steendam sang, and there was
much story telling."

"What kind of stories?"
, " Not worth repeating to thee foolish stories."

"That is likely who told them?"

"Everybody, the Governor in particular. He
tells a good story, and he sang also, and was very
jovial indeed. And finally he sang himself into
such good humour, that he gave the City Council
the City Seal, they have so long waited for."


"What is it like?"

" Nearly like the City Seal of old Amsterdam,
only we have a beaver for the crest, and the letters
C. W. C. for the West India Company. Every
one was delighted, and they cheered the old man
all the way home to the Fort."

"He sails to-morrow, I hope?"

" To-morrow at three o'clock, the tide serves,
and he will drop down the river with it."

" Thank goodness ! A great fuss has been
made about eating and drinking, and some talk,
that is not worth repeating."

" Well then, Ragel, there was one thing said
worth repeating, and I shall always think the bet
ter of Stuyvesant for the saying of it."

" I wonder! What was it? "

" That old bachelor, Sibout Winckel, began to
tell a story that put women on a low level his
own level likely and as soon as the Governor sus
pected its meaning, he said a very peremptory
'Hush h A-.' ' There are no women present,'
said Winckel, and Stuyvesant answered, * There
are fathers, and husbands and brothers, and sons
present, and gentlemen all, I hope.' Then he
stood up, and continued ' I am a man of years,
and experience, and I swear by the Almighty, that
in my judgment of men, I have never gone wrong
if I judge a man as he judged women. To all
the women in New Amsterdam ! ' he cried, ' and
fill your glasses, gentlemen.' And as soon as the


toast was drunk, McAlpine started that old Eng
lish song, about the blushing maiden of fifteen,
and the widow of fifty thou knowest it and we
all joined in the singing even Winckel himself.
So when it was over, he had had some grace given
him, and he stood up, and made his excuses to
the Governor and all present and promised he
would prove his conversion, by taking a wife
within one month."

" Sibout Winckel will never do it."

" We shall see. I think he will ; any way there
was a great shouting and laughter, when Stuyves-
ant answered * If thou, Winckel, can get a decent
woman to have thee, keep thy word ; and thou may
tell thy wife, when thou hast got her that I,
Peter Stuyvesant, will bring her from the West
Indies, a rattan cradle for a wedding gift.' '

" Now then," said Ragel, " he has called his
own marriage, and that nice little girl he has
been hot and cold with for ten years, may get
some justice done her."

" So! It is right."

" It is the best thing I ever heard of Stuyves

" Well then, nobody could make him sit still,
and be silent, and listen to what was honourable
made dishonourable, or what was pure made filthy.
There was much loose talking, but no one else said
such things as are sometimes said when Stuyves
ant is not there."


The next morning it seemed as if the city had
given itself a holiday. There were no attempts
at business, unless where necessity demanded it.
The streets were busy with people hastening here
and there, with hands and arms full of baskets
or evergreens, and continually calling out Christ
mas greetings to passers-by. As the day ad
vanced, the English settlers were seen in merry
groups dragging home their Yule logs, and carol
ling joyfully as they did so ; while the uncurtained
windows of the Dutch houses showed the women
setting out the Christmas trees, and filling their
pleasant rooms with fire and candle light.

In the misty afternoon the Governor and his
party went on board The Abraham's Sacrifice
amid the ringing of bells, and the booming of can
non, the beating of drums and the blare of trum
pets. The fog gathered quickly and there was
snow on the wind's wet wings as the stately old
man lifted his hat in a mute farewell to the crowd.
He was answered by a ringing cheer of good-will
and good wishes, and then the throng scattered
quickly to their happy homes in all the pleasant
streets of New Amsterdam. For it was

"Christmas Day in the Morning! 9 '



IT was an unusually gay Christmas, and Lady
Moody and Madame Van Ruyven made up their
difference of opinion over a gold chatelaine, which
Lady Moody presented to her friend on Christ
mas morning.

" It is the ornament I have wanted for years,
idear Deborah," she exclaimed, " the thing I longed
for, but never hoped to get until I went to Hol
land or England. How did you manage it? "

" I sent my chatelaine to Boston, where there
is a good goldsmith, and told him to make a
chatelaine exactly like it. He has done it well,
I think.

"Oh, my dear friend!"

" Yes, Ragel, we are friends. A few cross
words do not count eh, my dear ? "

" No indeed ! Also, when you and I come to
cross words, we are both right, and both wrong.
That is the way of it."

So the winter momths passed very gaily, but
as Spring approached everyone appeared to be
tired of their holiday. Men went back gladly to
their stores, and ships, and handicrafts, and on
every hand the women were grumbling at the



wastrie and extravagance, the constant use of
their best parlours, and their best clothing, and
the discomfort of the men loitering so much about
the house.

And as soon as business became brisk again,
men began to grumble, first cautiously, but grad
ually with a firmer note. They did not like the
Vice Governor De Sille, they wanted their scold
ing, scoffing, dictatorial Stuyvesant back again.
A City Council meeting was no longer an event to
be anticipated with excitement and pleasure. De
Sille was suave and polite. No one could get an
altercation out of him. If opposition was made,
he smiled and shrugged his shoulders, and who
could quarrel with smiles and shrugs?

Yet there were circumstances in which De Sille
could have indulged himself with smiles and shrugs

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA maid of old New York : a romance of Peter Stuyvesant's time → online text (page 11 of 20)