Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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

. (page 14 of 20)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA maid of old New York : a romance of Peter Stuyvesant's time → online text (page 14 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

thumping the table with his powerful hand, and
flinging his stinging adjectives pell-mell at all,
and sundry. At these Stuyvesant signs and
symbols, they looked at each other and smiled.
They understood from them, that Peter was un
changed, that he had taken failure and disaster as
mere contingencies of his position as lord and
master of the burghers of New Netherland. And
after all, they wanted him just as he was. " He
does things," said Johan Willimsen, the baker,
" and he would rather they failed, than not do
them at all. That is his way."

Van Ruyven wrote for a private interview,
" in order to discuss some personal matters," and
received permission to be at the Fort at six
o'clock that evening. The hour set pleased Van


Ruyven. Stuyvesant would have had his sup
per, and they could smoke and quietly discuss the
trouble that had come to him ; " and I make no
doubt, Ragel," said the distracted man, " but
what he will give me good help and counsel."

On the contrary, Stuyvesant was in an irate
temper. He did not remove the pipe from his
lips, but gazing with a frowning intentness at
Van Ruyven, pointed to the chair he wished him
to occupy.

" I am thankful to see thee back, Governor,"
said Van Ruyven, " we have needed thee much."

" I think that is plain. What, for instance,
hast thou been doing to thyself and all concern
ing thee? What hast thou been doing? Thou
hast become an old man. I hear thy wife is
dying. Thy beautiful daughter is lost. Thy,
business is out of ' thy hands. Thine home is
rented to strangers. Man! Into whose hands
hast thou fallen? "

" Into the same hands that Job fell. But I
am not yet ready to curse God and die. I want
you to help me find my daughter. If I had her,
if I only knew where she was, all the rest would
come right."

" That is insane balderdash. Things can
never be the same again."

" Oh, my God, that is the truth ! "

" What do you know about Agratha? Tell me
the last fragment of certainty you have."


" I know certainly, that she ran away with
Lord Mclvar."

" You lie ! " cried Stuyvesant. " You lie twen
ty-fold, Paul Van Ruyven. What an unworthy,
perfidious, treasonable father you are! It passes
my understanding why God gives his sweet little
daughters to cruel, selfish men like you, and
leaves Peter Stuyvesant hungry and thirsty for a
little daughter to love and cherish, for His sake.
Alas ! for the dear beautiful Agratha ! "

" You asked me, Governor, for some reality
about her loss. I know that Mclvar was in
Gravesend early on the morning of her disappear
ance. In four hours, he and his ship, Agratha
and Ladarine, were all gone away. They went
together, no doubt of it."

" I do not believe that Agratha, wise and lov
ing as she was, would leave all dear to her at a
moment's notice, for that be-feathered, be-petti-
coated Jack-a-Dandy. What a sap-headed fool
you must be, to think so! Lord! And you had
the loveliest daughter in all the land. And poor
Peter! Humff f f. What the devil next?"

" My wife and I are going to Holland and

"God's sake. For what?"

" To see if we can hear anything of her."

" A villain like Mclvar would not go to either

"But why?"


" Because kidnapping women, both in Holland
and England, ends on the gallows, and I tell you,
sir, if Mclvar puts his foot in New Netherland,
he will get the deepest dungeon in the Fort, and
the highest gallows that can be built for him.
We don't have everything we ought to have, but,
thank God, we do have Holland'.; laws, and Peter
Stuyvesant to see them carried out ! "

"Where would you look for him, Governor?"

" Where, but in his own wild country. There
they admire a man who kidnaps his wife, are in
deed as proud of the dastardly feat, as English
milords are of fighting duels."

" You know everything, Governor."

" I know this, because while I was away, I
stayed a week in the house of a Highland Scot.
There were just two books in his library, a Bible
and a History of the Scottish clans. From the
latter I learned that the father of this young
blackguard Mclvar carried off the daughter of
a rich border gentleman, that his uncle ran away
with the Lord of Jura's daughter, and his grand
father with the heiress of Breadalbane. It is in
their blood. They ' lift ' desirable women, as
they lift cattle, or any other commodity they

" Is there no law against kidnapping in Scot
land? "

" I should say not. If there was, the Chiefs
would keep the Law Lords busy."


" If I could only believe that my Agratha
was taken by force, and could not help her

" You are a poor, mean father, if you cannot.
You would make the devil blush, sir, if he had any
blushing faculty in him; for he is kind and com
plimentary to the children who serve him well.
He believes in his own, and gives them their
hearts' desire. I have seen him do it all my life
long. But I tell you, Paul Van Ruyven, if ever
you say a word disparaging my dear, innocent
ward Agratha, I will denounce you, even in the
Kirk, I will call you a liar."

" Governor Stuyvesant, you make yourself too
hot about my affairs. Have you considered that
Agratha had Ladarine Gilpin with her, and that
an appeal to the men on the boat might have
gained their help? "

" Not a man on Mclvar's boat would have lis
tened to her, or even understood her. I had a
talk this morning with Chris Jansen. He told
me that every man on the ship was a Mclvar.
Even the one woman was a Mclvar, and the wife
of the boatswain. Only the woman spoke any
English, and even if they had understood Agra-
tha's entreaties, they would not have regarded
them. He said they adored Mclvar as their Cap
tain and Chief, and would have been chopped to
pieces, rather than disobey him."

" I love Agratha ! Oh, how I love her ! " cried


Van Ruyven pitifully, and he knew not that he
trembled, and that his face was wet with tears.

Stuyvesant looked at him with a pitying con
tempt, not unmixed with wonder. " You love
yourself better," he answered.

" No ! No ! Governor ! I do not."

" If you had not loved yourself best, you would
not have seen Agratha pine and sicken for a few
letters and trinkets."

" I did not know ! I did not know ! Say no
more to me. I have borne all I can. I came to
remind you, that on Agratha's twenty-first birth
day, there will be a final settlement in the Eng
lish Court of Chancery, regarding the property
in their charge If any action is required about
the American property, I might spare you some
trouble if you will empower me to act for you."

" No, Van Ruyven, I will keep my own hand,
on my own business, and to speak it plain, I do
not like your way of doing business. And I will
not put it in the power of any English Court to
pass verdict or opinion on American land. They
would find out, and swear to it, that the land
originally and finally belonged to some old Eng
lishman dead and buried a hundred years ago.
When do you sail ? "

" To-morrow."

Then a great compassion filled the heart of
Stuyvesant, and he put out his hand, and clasped
Yan Ruyven's. " I am sorry for you. I am


sorry with all my heart for you, Van Ruyven. It
is the plain truth. Such a barefaced piece of
blackguardism as that Scot has wrought you, is
enough to make men wonder and tremble, but if
the man comes into my power, I will leave noth
ing for you to pay."

Van Ruyven clasped the hand offered, and
stood a moment silent with his full eyes cast
down. The uncertainty surrounding his trouble
made him irresolute and hopeless. If he knew
what he had to face, he would not shirk the worst
of it, but at that time it was only the desperate
patience of a brave heart that kept him fighting
for a hope forlorn and dying.

After Van Ruyven had left the room, Stuy-
vesant sat still a few moments and the look on
his face was like that of a man who prays. Cer
tainly his compassion for Van Ruyven, and his
fervent desire for some relief to his anxiety, had
all the spirit of the prayer most acceptable to
the Merciful One. When he returned to his wife
and sister, they regarded his subdued manner
with astonishment. They had heard his angry
voice accompanied by that emphatic beat of his
big hand which generally intimated angry discus
sion, and they had told, each other that "Peter
was giving Van Ruyven some little of what he

But when Anna Bayard said, "Brother, I am
glad thou hast had the courage to reprove Van


Ruyven for his wickedness to his child. None of
the citizens have dared to speak to him on that
subject, not even the Domine " Stuyvesant an
swered :

" Then the Domine ought to be reproved for
neglecting his duty. Day by day, he should have
gone to comfort Van Ruyven and his wife."

" Art thou taking Van Ruyven's part, dear
Peter? " asked Madame Stuyvesant.

" I am, Judith. And if anyone says a word
against any of the Van Ruyvens in my presence,
they will quickly wonder what has happened."

" They will also think thou hast lost thy
senses, Peter," said Anna Bayard. " I might
think so myself. What is the matter with thy
judgment to-day?"

Then Stuyvesant recapitulated shortly Van
Ruyven's side of the question and reminded the
ladies that Ragel had been as much to blame as
her husband. He also, in some measure, extenu
ated Gael, on account of inherited tendencies and
popular customs, though he was much harder on
Gael than on any of the Van Ruyvens. In his
opinion, Van Ruyven's rude and scornful treat
ment of Gael when the youth came open-handed
and honourably to seek Agratha in marriage, was
the great and unpardonable fault.

" Gael meant to do right in every respect," he
said, "but when he was scoffed at, and his offer
treated with contempt, it roused the devil in the


young fool, and he could think of nothing but

" A very natural result, Peter," said Mrs.
Bayard. " Did he tell you himself about his be
haviour? "

" Yes, but Jansen told me more particularly.
He described to me the young lord's rage as he
stood by his side at the wheel all night with him.
Well then, he has punished Van Ruyven cruelly,
but he has also punished four innocent people
with him, for I hear Lady Moody is suffering
much from the loss of Ladarine. Anna, as you
go about, make people see this affair justly
as I do it may save them more trouble than
they dream of."

" People will talk, Peter ; and they will talk
as they think."

" Remind them that our laws for punishing
slander are very severe, and by heaven and earth,
I will not curtail a word of them, not for the fin
est lady in New Amsterdam ! Tell Stanley to
order my guard. I am going to the City Hall."

"To-night, Peter? It is late and dark."

" The burghers are sitting there, Anna, and
they must be wanting, or at least needing, a word
or two from me."

" And they will get them, no doubt," said Anna
to her sister-in-law, as Stuyvesant was putting
on his coat and hat. In a few minutes the guard
with lanterns in their left hands and axes in their


right appeared, and Stuyvesant walked rapidly
to the City Hall. In the Council Chamber the
burgomasters and other citizens were sitting,
and they were not expecting Stuyvesant. Dur
ing his six months' absence, they had forgotten
their fear of him, so when he entered the room,
they gave him a hearty cheer, and the chairman
rose and offered his seat, which Stuyvesant took
without thanks or apologies.

For a moment there was silence, for Stuy
vesant was looking round the assembled company
with those wonderfully clear, penetrating eyes,
which are even yet subjects of tradition. He
saw men there who had no right to be in the
Council Chamber, and he judged instantly that in
some way or other they were attending to the
private ceremony, so naively called " watering
the pigeons." It was a momentary picture of
great interest, for this Dutch Governor, sitting
among typical Dutchmen, was totally unlike
them both physically and mentally.

They were large, fair men, hiding very cau
tious natures behind an apparent very attrac
tive artlessness and simplicity. They had no
physical angles, all their joints were well padded
with flesh, to resist the buffets of the world.
They were slow in speech, prudent in action, and
their minds were wholly bent on the money ques
tions they were present to discuss. Stuyvesant
was physically like a Spanish grandee. He had


the same clear olive skin, and long straight black
hair, the same haughty manner and dignified
bearing. He was in all respects an angular,
aquiline man, spare, strong, and energetic, an
autocrat both by nature and training. He knew
nothing about cautious speech, his words were his
thoughts made vocal, and though they were full
of a colossal egotism, it was an egotism of strong
individuality. And all men present knew that
with a high sense of personal honour, his honesty
in public matters was beyond reproach.

This dark, spare man dressed in black cloth
and black velvet, with his long black hair sur
mounted by a black silk skull cap, was a remark
able contrast to the large fair men surrounding
him, and the piercing glances with which he re
garded the company lawfully and unlawfully
there had the effect upon all of a momentary
shock. The unseated chairman broke the sensi
tive silence.

" We are all glad to see you, Governor, and to
see you looking so well."

Stuyvesant bowed, and again flashed his keen,
searching eyes around the table.

" And what have you to tell us about the ex
pedition, Governor?" asked burgomaster Ten

" It was a complete failure. The gentlemen
present ought to know why. It was their fault
their fault entire and altogether," and he


struck the table passionately, and sent his star
tling, malefic glance around the Council table.

" We see not," began Ten Eyck.

" No, you are blind as bats, about everything
not touching your own interests. If you can't
see, then listen: You kept me waiting eight
months for money to fit out the ships, and dur
ing that time Oliver Cromwell stepped into my
plans, and took all there was to take. You gave
me money when it was too late, and sent me on a
fool's errand. And from all I can at present
judge, having got me out of your way, you rep
resentatives of popular government have been
behaving in a manner abominable to all honest
men, though you may be able to prove that it
was without animus furandi."

" Governor ! "

" Be quiet. At present it is your place to
listen. I gave to your requests and promises the
excise income. You ought to have immediately
paid the Domine's income out of it. Not one of
you thought of the poor man. You have not
paid him a stiver, and he and his wife and chil
dren slept on the floor all through the winter,
and you on your feather beds. God! I am
ashamed of you, and I will have the secretary of
this meeting make out an order on the City
Treasury for seven months' salary. Let him
write it at once."

" There is only six months due, Governor."


" There is six months and twenty-one days
due, and for the future I intend the Domine to
have his salary every month in advance. Seven
months are due, and it is just as well to pay the
eighth month now, as ten days later. To squab
ble about ten days' advance for the Domine is
a beggarly, low, abject, sordid, niggardly brawl
is infra dignitatem."

He waited in silence until he saw the Secretary
draw his quill and inkhorn closer, and begin writ
ing. Then he said:

" Mr. Secretary, you will give that order to
me. I will attend to its collection and payment.
And, gentlemen," he continued, as he rose and
looked angrily around, " I have been examining
these papers," and he took a package from his
pocket. " They are all signed, sealed, and dock
eted as correct and paid. You have put most of
the money in ypur own pockets, by crediting
yourselves with items which I will not allow. I'll
see you all hanged first! You have borrowed
money to complete the work on the Fort, and
you have spent it for purposes where the per
quisites and commissions were larger and safer.
But the men who loaned you the money are now
clamouring for payment. I know it, for I
talked with them this morning. How are you go
ing to pay them? I gave you no authority to
borrow the gold. It was not used for the Conv-
pany, and the Company will look to you to sat-


isfy the lenders. I will not help you to one
stiver. Indeed I will not. Such indescribable
transactions are damnable and detestable. I
want also to know why you paid Francois de
Bleue's passage money to Amsterdam? I won't
allow such a bill. Look after it yourselves ! "

" Governor "

" Sit down, burgomaster, I have not finished
yet. You have failed to contribute your quota
to the public works. You have failed to furnish
the subsidies you promised. I shall resume the
control of the excise. You are not fit to trust
with it. You say in your report to me that the
city has never been so prosperous. You lie.
The city is full of hunger, and want and beggary,
but I grant you the City Officials are wallowing
in prosperity. More shame to them! I will al
low you one week to look for, or to invent ex
cuses for these and other mistakes. I will call
them * mistakes ' in the meantime, lest you say I
have a mania for finding fault. That you may be
able to prove yourselves lovers of your city, and
honest guardians of her wealth is my desire. In
one week, gentlemen, Volente Deo."

With these words Stuyvesant left the meet
ing, and no one spoke until he was well beyond
hearing their remarks. Then the chairman took
the vacated chair and said : " Brothers, I fear
we shall have some trouble in satisfying the Gov
ernor ; " and Schepen Volckmaars asked, " Why


does he use words no one understands; there is
always trouble when he gets to his Latin."

" Because," answered the little tailor Oothout,
who had as yet no share in the city's spoil, " be
cause he threatens things he does not care, just
yet, to promise you in Dutch or even English."

An explanation which gave no comfort to the
anxious City Fathers.



TIME and the hour run through the roughest
day, but to the two abducted women on The
Nautilus the days were without end, and full to
the brim of pain and sorrow. For Agratha had
grasped in the first moments of her calamity all
the ruin it included, and her paroxysms of weep
ing, alternating with long periods of almost
breathless coma, were its first results. Until
they reached Bermuda there was no alleviation
of this condition, and when the coma became
shorter and less frequent, the change only length
ened the hours of her more acute suffering. Dur
ing their stay in Bermuda, Lord Mclvar sent on
board all the materials necessary for making
clothing, and a number of other articles, which
Ladarine said were required for comfort. But
she would not suffer Mclvar to pay for what she
kept; she insisted on a bill from the merchant
made out to Miss Gilpin, and this bill Miss Gil-
pin discharged.

Agratha was too ill even then to take any in
terest in the purchases, but as the weather was


delightful, and they were sailing in a southerly
direction across the Atlantic, she was carried by
the boatswain every fine day to the deck, where
a sort of canvas tent was prepared for her.

" Thou must keep thy distance, my Lord," said
'Ladarine to Mclvar, " for if she sees thee, it
will be the last of her."

" I am sorry, Ladarine."

" Sorry ! Thou may well be sorry."

How is "

" More dead than alive. Thy dirk in her heart
would have been an easier death."

" I have suffered also, Ladarine."

" I hope to goodness thou will suffer a deal
more yet ! "

" If she will not notice me, I shall kill my

" I'm not sure but what killing thyself is the
best thing thou can do."

" Oh, Ladarine, pity me ! The wrong was done
in a moment of passion."

" I can't pity thee, not I ! When I look at
the ruin thou hast made of yon little girl's life,
I hate thee."

" I deserve to be hated."

" Thou does."

" But I am suffering with her."

"I see that. Thou looks ten years older."

" Will she ever speak to me again? "

" I should say, no. How can thou expect it?


What art thou going to do with us? Where are
we going? "

" To the Mediterranean. The garrison doctor
in Bermuda, whom I consulted about her case,
told me she must be kept on deck, and have con
stant change of scene."

" Send us home, and ease thy soul a bit."
" Then the hangman would dog my steps."
" To be sure, but it is what thou deserves."
At these words Mclvar walked away, looking
so utterly miserable, that Ladarine, in spite of
herself, was touched with pity. She was vexed
at this symptom of weakness, and immediately
turned the emotion into one of anger against Van

" A stubborn, selfish old man, and proud as
Lucifer ! " she said angrily. " I wish I had the
sorting of him. I'd bring him down to his right

The next few weeks were the bitterest of Ag-
ratha's sorrow, for she had reached a full realisa
tion of its irrevocable wrong. Oh, the useless re
grets that came too late! Oh, the cries uttered
to an unheeding silence ! Oh, the shame, the loss,
the anguish, the prostration worse than death!
Oh, the desolate nights peopled with the phan
toms of her imagination and memory! Oh, the
fearful second-sight of dreams! It did not seem
possible that she could deserve such sorrow. She
had gone out one morning smiling and happy for


a walk, and had met an irreparable misfortune
that had ruined her life.

Active grief, full of lamentations, settled down
to a despairing quiet, and no one can be so hope
less as the young. Agratha was sure her calam
ity was destined and inevitable. " It is my fate,
Ladarine," she murmured, " it was put into my
life, it had to happen, no one could help it ! " So
she easily fell into that deaf and dumb indiffer
ence, which benumbs those whose grief is greater
than they can bear.

But God has ordained Time to cure all griefs.
The days disintegrate them, the years carry them
away, and thus all excess in life is curbed; for no
pendulum swings in one direction only. This
process was aided by the sunshine and the fresh,
buoyant air, and when they reached the Eu
ropean coast, Agratha was beginning to think:
there might be a future before her, and to won
der what it could be.

" Do you suppose he will take us to Algiers
and sell us for slaves ? " she asked Ladarine one
day in a voice full of anxiety and terror.

" No, he will not," was the decisive answer*
" He is bad enough, but not quite devil enough 1
for that."

One lovely summer night, just after they
passed Gibraltar, Agratha lay sleeping in her
little tent, and Ladarine sat on the deck beside
her. She was restless and unhappy, and won-

dering how long this existence was to last, when
Lord Mclvar stepped softly to her side. He did
not speak, but stood watching the sleeping girl.
She lay motionless, the moonlight just touching
her scattered hair, and her small, thin hands,
which were clasped above her breast.

" How lovely she is ! " he said softly. " Oh,
Ladarine, if she would only speak to me! only
look at me ! "

" Why don't you let us go home ? What do
you expect to make by keeping us in this floating
prison, Lord Mclvar? " answered Ladarine.

" I expect to make my life, and my wife," he

" You are a soft lot to be so feared for your
life, and your wife; suppose you had the spirit
to try and win her over again."

" If I had any hope "

" Old love is a dangerous thing for women folk
to touch. They forgive as easy as God does
if there is any love left to build on."

" Lada, if I could get her to marry me, we
should still have to keep in hiding until she is
twenty-one years old. Before it, her father
could take her from me on sight."

" I never heard of such a thing, and I don't
believe it."

" And if she should happen to have money, or
was a Chancery ward, and I ran away with her
as I have done I would be tried for kidnap-


ping, and hung, unless I could prove that she
was a willing partner to the kidnapping."

" Thou couldn't prove anything of that kind.
We came on board thy ship as innocent as babes,

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA maid of old New York : a romance of Peter Stuyvesant's time → online text (page 14 of 20)