Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA maid of old New York : a romance of Peter Stuyvesant's time → online text (page 19 of 20)
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WE spend our years like a tale that is told, but
the tale is not lost, it is in our hearts, and we
live it over and over in a faithful memory.
This is what Agratha, Lady Mclvar, was doing
one morning in early May A. D. 1664. She stood
at a window of her splendid mansion in Hyde
Park, London, looking intently outward and
westward, but seeing nothing of all that was be
fore her. A letter was in her hand, a poor look
ing letter, wanting all the insignia of her own
rank and riches ; its paper was thin, untinted and
unperfumed; its edges were not gilded, its seal
was not white or pale violet, but vulgarly red and
destitute of armorial honours. The interior was
equally meagre. The writing did not cover even
one page, it was not very legible, for the ink had
been watered, and the script itself was uncertain,
and evidently the work of unpractised and trem
bling fingers.

But it was from her mother. She dropped her
eyes upon it tenderly, and then kissed it. " I
must go to my moeder," she whispered to her
heart, and it answered her promptly, " without

Agratha had now been nearly seven years


married, her beauty had developed and perfected,
and her manner and carriage taken on a distinc
tion very different to its old simple grace and
frankness. But every year had been full of
vivid experiences, and had added some fresh love
liness, or some new attraction. Nearly two
years after her marriage was spent in a leisurely,
luxurious travel among the great capitals of
Europe, in all of which she led a life of constant
change and pleasure.

On her return from this delightful honeymoon
she received her fortune. It had been a great
fortune when first confided to the Court of Chan
cery, and in spite of wars and revolutions it had
increased in value. Her Dutch property, under
the control of Paul Van Ruyven, could proudly
show a record of usage and investments which
had nearly doubled its worth. Without any
consideration of her acres on Long Island, and
on the shores of the Hudson River, she was actu
ally at the time the richest woman in England.

Good fortune in other respects walked beside
the Mclvars, for one day as they were driving
on the outskirts of the Hague they approached a
party which Gael instantly recognised. It was
King Charles attended by a few not very well
dressed gentlemen, and in an instant the love of
the Highlander for the Stuarts flamed in his
heart. At the same time he left his carriage, and
with bared head and bent knee saluted the exiled


monarch. Charles was charmed. Beauty always
appealed to him, and Gael's beauty was splendidly
evident in a garb so distinctively allied with Scot
land and the Stuart family. It went straight to
whatever heart Charles had. Tears sprang to
his eyes, he gave Gael his hand, and after a few
minutes' conversation desired to speak with Lady
Mclvar. Agratha's loveliness completed Charles's
delight, and during their stay at the Hague he
frequently sought their company. However, the
crowning point of satisfaction in this friendship
came from a more personal reason.

One morning it happened that Gael found
Charles very depressed and anxious, and as he
was never backward in complaining of whatever
hurt him, he confessed that he was almost at the
point of beggary. " My brother of France,"
he said with a scornful laugh, " has forgotten

" Permit me, sire," said Gael, " to assume
France's duty to you."

" The King of France promised me one thou
sand silver ducats.* He has forgotten his
promise. Put not your trust in princes," and
Charles laughed again.

" I will redeem his promise with one thousand
gold guineas, if your Majesty will graciously per-
met me this honour."

" Your offer, my Lord, is a miraculous god-

*A silver ducat is worth fifty cents.


send. You have five-folded a King's gift. I
may never be able to pay you, Mclvar."

" Your Majesty's acceptance is repayment.
My heart and my sword and my purse are yours."

"I will not forget your generosity, Mclvar."

And when Charles was brought back with
tumultuous rejoicing to his throne, three years
later, he did not forget. Honours and emolu
ments of many kinds flowed from the King's good
will to the Mclvar's and the most extravagant
dreams of Agratha's girlhood came as extrav
agantly true. This morning, however, a sorrow
ful word from the Far West had found her out
in all her prosperity. Her father was dying.
She had never thought of such a calamity. To
her childish eyes he had appeared immortal, and
about her home and all pertaining to it, her
childish opinions had changed very little.

After a short reflection she said to herself:
" I must go and tell Gael," and with the slow com
posure of a goddess she walked down the long
room, her flowing garments of white lawn and
lace, making a kind of glory around her. Gael
was not far off, she found him in the library, and
the young Chief, Lord Ian Mclvar, was at his
side, listening to some instructions his father was
giving him, about the removing, or the keeping
on, of his Glengary cap:

" Always, if you should meet the King, or be
in The Presence, you must uncover your head,


Ian. To your mother, and to all other women
give the same honour, and to the aged, whether
they be rich or poor, remove your cap. But
among boys, and the commonality of men, keep
on your cap. It carries the crest of the Mc-
Ivars, and never lower it when not necessary."
The beautiful lad, though only six years old,
bowed and answered:

" I will do everything you tell me to do, father,
and to you I will always bare my head, for you
are both my father and my chief."

Then Gael dismissed the child, whom he loved
with an almost idolatrous affection, and turning
to his wife said : " My dear one, have you some
thing for me to attend to in the city ? "

" Read this letter, Gael, and tell me how I
ought to answer it."

After doing so, Gael said in a reluctant tone:
" I suppose you must answer it in person."

" I think with you. We must go to New
Amsterdam, but what must be done with the chil

"Take them also. I cannot part with Ian."

" I do not think the long voyage will be good
for them. Ian will be far better at Castle Ivar,
among the heather and with the hunters and shep
herds. His grandmother will take good care of
him, she loves him dearly."

After some discussion, which did not bring any
conclusion, Gael said, " Let us send for Ladarine,


she always knows the best way. Did you notice
that mother's letter said Lady Moody was dead ? "

" Poor Lady Moody ! Call Ladarine, it will
be odd if she does not strike the proper note at

In ten minutes Ladarine appeared. There was
no change in her appearance, unless it were that
she looked younger, healthier and far happier;
and that she had also learned her manners. For
she curtsied as she entered the room, and then
asked :

" What does my lady want? I am just going
to bathe the babies, and the water is getting cold,
and they might have more clothes on, and "

" Ladarine, Lord Mclvar and myself are go
ing to New Amsterdam immediately. What do
you say about taking the children with us ? "

" Well, my lady, if you want to kill the poor
little things, I think you could maybe find an
easier way. You must know, that the New
Amsterdam babies have a hard time every sum
mer, until they are three years or more old, and
as for those not born there, it is precious little
of a chance they get."

" Would you like to go back to New Amster
dam? We could take Lord Ian and you, and leave
the babies with their grandmother at Castle

" I will never give my sanction to any such
foolishness. Lord Ian will be far safer with his


sisters and myself at Castle Ivar. It is only
Ladarine that can manage him in his tempers."

" Then you do not wish to go back to
America? "

" No, I do not. My work is here with my
children, and there's none can fill my place. And
I'm not seeking what the fools call Liberty. If
I was, I would try the question with the Dey of
Algiers, or the Grand Turk, or the Czar of Mus

" But every soul desires Liberty, Ladarine,"
said Lord Mclvar.

" Well, then, I am suited in having it so scarce.
If every soul had Liberty, the world would be a
monstrous Bedlam ; that is my opinion, if it please
you, my Lord."

" I am sorry to tell you, Ladarine," said Lord
Mclvar, " that Lady Moody is dead."

"Poor soul! She was just martyred for that
dream you call Liberty. I always told her there
wasn't such an article nowhere in this world and
a right good thing too, that there isn't."

" Ladarine, what are you saying ! You that
have been to the Free Colonies of America."

" I beg your pardon, my Lord, but nobody I
ever saw, or ever heard tell of, found any kind
of Liberty that suited them. Lady Moody tried
Massachusetts, and there the preachers had all
there was of it, and everybody else had none ; and
in New Amsterdam, the Company and the Gover-


nor had it, and the rest of the people were always
in a fight with them for their share. Liberty,
indeed! My poor Lady Moody left all she ever
had behind her in England. But I can't stay to
talk about far-offs now, for Lady Ragel and Lady
Agratha are waiting for me, and what I say first
and last is leave the children with me at Castle
Ivar, they'll have everything there that children

" No, Lada, children always want their father's
and mother's care."

" Excuse me, my lady, the want is often a good
thing. I have seen plenty of fathers and mothers
that were most improper persons to bring up
their own children ; too fond of * them, and the
consequences bad health, bad manners, disobedi
ence, and worse still "

" Ladarine, I think I have told you before not
to call Ragel and Agratha ' Lady ' Ragel and
* Lady ' Agratha."

" My Lord, as far as I can see, the girls are as
much ' lady ' as the boy is lord. I don't believe
in down-treading girls because they are girls ; and
if you will now excuse me, both Lady Ragel and
Lady Agratha are waiting for their bath, and
cross at the waiting, no doubt, as they have every
right to be," and with these words, and a little
flourish of her white apron, Ladarine disap

The result of this conversation is evident. The


three children went to Castle Ivar under Lada-
rine's care on The Nautilus, and Gael was left
free to look for a suitable ship in which to cross
the Atlantic. On the second day of his search,
he met the Duke of York on Pall Mall, and after
a few words of conversation, they went together
to Buckingham Palace for a private lunch.
Duke James then made Gael familiar with his
plan for the taking possession of New Nether-
land, the territory which his brother, the King,
had given him, and because of Lady Mclvar's
familiarity with New Amsterdam and its principal
inhabitants, he received some sort of commission
relating to their treatment and pacification. Be
fore lunch was over, Colonel Nicolls entered and
he was introduced to the leader of the expedition.

" I was charmed with Colonel Nicolls," he told
Agratha on his return home, " to see him, is to
love him."

" Tell me, then, Gael, is he handsome ? "

" He is about forty years of age, above the
medium height, and has a fine stately presence.
His face is fair and frank, he has wonderful grey
eyes, rather deeply set, and brown hair slightly
curled at the ends. His father was a lawyer of
the Middle Temple, his mother the daughter of
Sir George Bruce. He has been splendidly edu
cated, and accustomed to all the refinements of
the highest European circles."

"For the Stuarts, of course?"


"He has shared all the fortunes of the royal
family, and spent many years in exile in Hol
land. But there he learned the Dutch language
and became familiar with Dutch literature. In
deed, 'tis said, he speaks both Dutch and French
as perfectly as English."

" There, then, that is enough of Colonel
Nicolls. I like not the man who goes to conquer
my native city."

" On my honour, he will do no harm to your

" Have you found a suitable ship ? "

" The Duke has given us the best accommoda
tion on the Agamemnon. She sails in six days.
Can you be ready ? "

" Easily. The Nautilus "

" Will be ready for sea on Saturday."

" In three days ! Oh, Gael ! "

" It is best so. Hurry Ladarine a little."

" On Saturday? "

" Positively, on Saturday the eleventh. We
must be ready for Wednesday the fifteenth, with
out fail."

These arrangements were all comfortably
carried out, and the voyage of the battleship
Agamemnon across the Atlantic was generally
fair, and unusually quick, so that she landed the
Mclvars at Gravesend on the seventh of July,
and then sailed for the Connecticut coast.

Slowly and silently they took the familiar


sandy walk to Lady Moody's home. It was no
longer a home. The doors were locked, the win
dows boarded up, and in the once pretty garden
vines and weeds had taken possession. As they
stood looking at the forlorn, deserted place,
James Hubbard came to them.

" She is gone," he said, " what can I do? "

*' We want to reach New Amsterdam as quickly
as possible, Mr. Hubbard," said Lord Mclvar.

" I bought her ladyship's boat, and I can get
you there by the middle of the afternoon."

" That will do. Thank you."

So they turned back, and in half-an-hour were
sailing in the old boat over the same watery way;
but oh how different all things seemed! Lord
Mclvar talked to Hubbard about the English
settlements on Long Island, but Agratha sat
nearly silent, until they reached the little jetty
at the foot of her father's garden. Then Lord
Mclvar went at once to the City Hotel, but
Agratha slowly climbed the steps, and took the
well-known flagged path to the Van Ruyven
house. She noticed a slight neglect in the
garden, there were fewer flowers, the growing vines
were untrained, the very flags had worn a little
away, and become looser.

But the homelike living room was just the same
The spring clearing was yet evident in the snow-
white draperies, and the polished sideboard, with
its shining pieces of silver and crystal ; and in the


spotlessness of the whole apartment. Madame
was sitting by her wheel but she was not spinning.
She looked tired and anxious, but much of her old
.activity and comeliness remained, and it needed but
a season of happiness to renew her strength and
beauty. But in Paul Van Ruyven the change
was manifest. He was sitting in his big chair
by the open window, but he was only a shadow of
his old robust, vigorous manhood. Some secret
malady, not then understood, was hourly wasting
his life. Any moment he might go away forever,.

These things Agratha noticed as she lifted the
well known latch, entered the room, and then
sank sobbing at her father's side.

It was a wonderful and joyful surprise, and
that night Agratha spent with her parents, sleep
ing in her old white room, and noticing that not
even the ribbons she had left pinned to the cushion
had been removed. They were faded, but they
were just as she left them. In a very short time
things settled to a quiet simple routine. Agratha
remained in her father's house, eating its homely
fare with enjoyment, forgetting all the cere
monies of her late life, and falling back as far as
possible into the ways of her girlhood.

Gael's first business was to look after Agratha's
property, for in the changes certain to occur, no
one could tell what the outcome might be. But
Agratha's affairs were found to be in the most
perfect order, and it took but a few days to


justify and admire the prudence with which they
had been managed. Then Agratha went to see
the Governor, and to sign the paper which re
leased him from his long charge, and he kissed her
affectionately and bid her notice that his service
had been one of love, and that he had not taken
a single doit for it.

During their compelled intercourse, Stuy-
vesant treated Gael with the most frigid tolera
tion. He noticed none of the friendly advances
made, and when the business was completed, and
Gael thanked him for the excellent manner in,
which his wife's interests had been cared for, he
refused to see Gael's offered hand, and answered:

" Lord Mclvar, you may thank a rogue for be
ing honest and honourable. Peter Stuyvesant
asks neither money nor thanks because he has
done his duty, and kept his word." Then he
turned haughtily away. And Gael felt deeply
wounded, but Van Ruyven smiled faintly, and he
said to his wife when telling her of the circum
stances : " If Gael had come here a few weeks
earlier, Stuyvesant would have given him all he
promised me the deepest dungeon and the high
est gallows in New Netherland. But now! "

"Well, then?"

** Gael is with the expedition, and as soon as
the settlement was over, he left post haste to join
Colonel Nicolls in Boston. Besides, he would
have been protected by, the English population.


and they are six to one. Stuyvesant durst not
now come to conflict with it. That is the plain
truth, Ragel."

"What did you think of the Governor,
Agratha? " asked Madame Van Ruyven.

" The Governor is much changed, moeder," an
swered Agratha ; " and Madame Stuyvesant was
too anxious and busy to talk, and I did not see
Madame Bayard at all."

" The Governor is nearly distracted by the
condition of the country, and Madame, I hear, is
moving all her household goods to the Bowery
house. As for Anna Bayard she was married to
Nicholas Varlett five years ago."

At this moment Madame Rose Roedeke en
tered, and the three ladies soon fell into a con
versation about her brother and his wife. "I
have not seen Lady McAlpine since her mar
riage," said Agratha. " Lord McAlpine broke
his parole twice, and soon after disappeared.
That was while I was on my honeymoon travel,
and the next time Lord Mclvar and I went to
Castle Ivar, the McAlpine estate had been sold
for a trifle, and I was told Lady McAlpine had
returned to her mother."

" Her mother would not receive her. She has
now only two small rooms, but she has peace, and
she wants but little money. Lady McAlpine
leads a noisy, gay life. I hear she returns to
Paris soon."


" I wonder what became of her husband ! " said
Madame Van Ruyven.

" No one knows," answered Agratha. " He
left no sign behind him. Some think he fell into
the deep, treacherous moss water ; others that he
got lost on the mountains. Nothing is cer

" I hear Madame Stuyvesant is really moving
to their country house," said Madame Van Ruy

" What else remains ? " asked Rose Roedeke.
" When the English come the Fort and the Gov
ernor's house must be surrendered or they will
be cannonaded."

" Will there be no fight made? " cried Agratha.
" Oh, I cannot believe that. I think surely that
Peter Stuyvesant will fight, if he dies fighting.
Yes, indeed he will."

" But, Lady Mclvar," asked Rose, " how can
Stuyvesant fight without soldiers and without
arms. My husband tells me that there are only
six hundred pounds of powder in the Fort, and
only four hundred men in the city able to bear
arms, and the distracted Governor durst not arm
them if he could. All of them are in favour of
the English government."

" Oh, no ! Madame Roedeke," cried Agratha.
" The Dutch will not desert their flag and their

" They do not consider it so. They are only


deserting the flag and the country of a greedy,
tyrannical Trading Company, that has robbed
and neglected them, ever since it had the power
to do so."

" But Stuyvesant is its Governor, and he is
loyal to it. He will fight. Something will hap

" The inevitable will happen. Stuyvesant is
brave as brave can be, he is also true as steel,
but he cannot work miracles."

" The people seem so indifferent," said

" No," replied Rose, " they are not indifferent.
A great many of the lower class derive great satis
faction from the fact that the captain of the
English force is called Nicolls " and Rose
laughed a little.

"But why, then?" asked Madame Van Ruy-

" Because it is the same name as their good
Saint Nicholas. They may be right, there is a
great deal in a name."

Soon after Madame Roedeke left, Paul Van
Ruyven awoke from his afternoon sleep, and came
into the room where his wife and daughter were
still talking of the English invasion. Ragel Van
Ruyven was truly a little indifferent; her hus
band's condition troubled her far more than the
English. " They are civil enough, if you let them
have their own way," she said calmly, " and it is


mostly a very successful way, as far as business
and daily comfort is concerned."

" I never liked the English," said Van Ruyven,
"but it will be hard for them to treat us worse
than the West India Company have done. I am
weary to death of this suspense."

" But it will soon be over now, fader. Gael
says so."

"He knows?"

" Yes, he knows."

" Since ever I remember, my Dear One, we
have been frightened by an English invasion, but
about a year ago the best informed citizens felt
that it was fast approaching. Hartford, Con
necticut, New England, and most of the settle
ments on Long Island, then stood plainly and
boldly for King Charles; and when Stuyvesant
spoke of the charter of the West India Company
and its right to the territory of New Netherland,
he was told that ' its charter was only a charter
of commerce, and as to New Netherland, they
knew of no such place.' '

" That was not right, fader."

" So! but in this case might rules right. In
April Stuyvesant called a Landtdag or Diet of
the twelve Dutch colonies. He tried to induce
the members to pay a tax, or enrol every sixth
man in New Netherland in the militia. They
would do neither. They would do nothing but
appeal to the Company. We had been doing


that for years. However, as we sat disputing,
we received notice that soldiers from Holland
were on their way, and Stuyvesant was instructed
to exterminate the Eusopus Indians, and severely,
punish the arrogant English."

"Well, then, fader?"

" Cornelis Beekman rose and said that it was
impossible to punish the English. They were six
to one, that Connecticut would instantly come to
their help, and New England was already wait
ing to do so. At the very time of your blessed
arrival here, Stuyvesant was at Gravesend inter
viewing Winthrop of Connecticut, who was cold
and reserved, but insisted that the English title
was indisputable. Ever since, the city has been,
as you know, in a ferment; men and women are
all on the watch, and are all so weary of watch-

" But, fader, the watch is nearly over."

" Yes, for the English squadron has left Bos
ton for New Amsterdam. In my judgment, the
end is not far off."

By the end of August, the English ships were
anchored in New Utrecht Bay. Here they were
joined by Winthrop and the Connecticut magis
trates, and by Willet of the New Plymouth
Colony. Scott was on hand with men from New
Haven, and Captain Younge with troops from
Southold and the other towns at the eastern end
of Long Island. Clarke and Pyncheon came from


Boston with a report of the military arrange
ments there, but as an overpowering force had
been collected, the Massachusetts troops were
found unnecessary. All the approaches to New
Amsterdam were blockaded, and the farmers of
Long Island were forbidden to furnish supplies
to the city.

Stuyvesant stood alone in hopeless courage,
fighting the circumstance with the pathetic pa
tience of a forlorn hope, deserted by every friend
and ally; the only man in New Amsterdam who
did not favour the peaceable surrender of the city
to the English.

It is not here that the story of the last month
of New Amsterdam's existence can be told. It
was a month of fearful looking forward to evil
of all kinds; for everyone knew what would hap
pen if the city was not surrendered at the demand
of the invaders. But against this solid back
ground of opposition, Stuyvesant went on grind
ing corn day and night, and storing it in the
Fort; and gathering in all the arms and ammuni
tion he could from the outlying Dutch settle

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA maid of old New York : a romance of Peter Stuyvesant's time → online text (page 19 of 20)