Copyright
Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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

. (page 2 of 20)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA maid of old New York : a romance of Peter Stuyvesant's time → online text (page 2 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


then vault over it like a bird. But his face was
thin and sombre, even sad, his hair red, and his
large brown eyes nearly always cast down. And
he spoke little and rarely, even his " yes " and
" no " were generally signified by a movement of
assent or refusal.

However, his short, speechless visit to the living
room made a change in its atmosphere. Van
Ruyven, thoroughly comfortable in his warm
house coat and slippers, forgot his irritation, and
with the utmost satisfaction sought the comfort
of his big chair on the hearth. Agratha was
shaking up its soft cushions and beaming a loving
welcome on his approach. Madame was setting
the supper table; the tinkling of china and glass
made a pleasant sound, and whenever the inner
door was opened, a delicious aroma of coffee and
hot wheat bread and cooking meat, floated in with
refreshing suggestions of good things to come.
The antique homeliness of the room, bright with
fire and candle light, was what Van Ruyven loved.
He looked at his still handsome wife moving about
between the table and the cupboards, then glanced
upward into the bright, beautiful face of his little
daughter and flung off frets of every kind, as he
would drop a garment that hurt him, as he said
with a sigh of thankfulness:

" Glad I shall be of my supper. I am a hungry
man, Ragel."

" Listen once ! " cried Ragel. " Listen once,



20 A MAID OF OLD NEW YORK

Agratha. With the Governor thy father dined
not three hours since, and he is a hungry man ! "
Then with a laugh, she asked:

" Had thou not a good dinner at the Governor's,
Paul?"

" The dinner was not bad for men who like that
kind of dinner. For me I want something I can
chew between my teeth."

" To be sure, but then Madame Stuyvesant's
dinners are always praised."

" They are good enough for women and chil
dren. How the Governor keeps up his temper
on them I know not."

" Perhaps she could not manage Peter, if she
fed him on good fat sausage meat, or red juicy
beef. Some men have to be fed low. What did
thou have to eat? "

" Eat ! The first dish was not eatable, we took
it with a spoon."

" Soup, I suppose? "

" Clear soup they called it. Very clear indeed
it was, just like the barley water thou gave me
when I had the fever."

" Many people like such soup, Paul. When
Madame Stuyvesant introduced it, everyone
thought it tasty and genteel."

" It may do for cradles, and sick beds, Ragel.
I like my soup as thou makes it ; rich and brown,
with a taste of vegetables in it, and little joints
of ox tail through it."



THE BIRTHDAY OF NEW YORK SI

" Still, Paul, Madame Stuyvesant seasons
delicately."

" Well then, season is not substance, and thy
seasoning is the best I ever tasted."

" What else did thou have? "

" Chicken done up in a French name fricassee.
I like thy chicken pot-pie better."

" Fricassee and pot-pie are much the same
thing, Paul."

" They don't taste the same, and there was
some yellowish powder on the fricassee, they called
it curry. The devil must give you the appetite
to eat it."

" Curried meats, and curried rice, are now the
fashion, Paul."

" Then God help men, if fashion is to order
their food, as well as their clothes."

" Always, Paul, thou will set the fashion for
thy own table. What was next served to thee? "

" Some cold, raw miscarriage of a dish, called
a salad leaves covered with oil. Not even in
winter weather, would a cow touch them ! "

" Fader, dear, Lady Moody always has a salad
to her dinner. She grows lettuce under glass for
it."

" Well, then, I am sorry for Lady Moody. A
woman of her rank ought to know better."

" She says the great Oliver Cromwell delights
himself in a good salad."

" Oliver Cromwell did not do his fighting on



22 A MAID OF OLD NEW YORK

oiled lettuce leaves, I will swear to that. Now,
Ragel, give me some more sausage and fried
cakes, and Agratha will tell us where she spent
her day."

" First of all, fader, I went to the Fort and the
Domine heard some of my lessons, but not all of
them. In two hours I was free to do as I wished,
and I decided to go to the Anthonys'. But as I
was going down Broad Street I met Anna de Sille,
and she asked me to go home with her. Moeder,
she is only fourteen years old, and she is the
mistress of her fader's fine house. They are going
to have a large supper party to night, and Anna
has the management of everything."

" Well, then," said Van Ruyven, " the most of
the men who were at the Governor's to dinner, will
be at de Sille's to-night. Then they will say what
they think of Director General Peter Stuyvesant ;
and some of them think as bad as they can of him.
Nicasins de Sille can talk plain enough when he
thinks it safe."

" You should say the Hon. Nicasins de Sille ;
Anna always gives her fader his title."

" Anna is a silly child. Does she think New
Amsterdam is the Hague ? "

" Anna says her fader entertains here, just as
splendidly as he did at the Hague. She showed
me their famous dinner set of blue and white china,
and their tea set brought from Pekin, with strange
figures painted on every piece; and oh, moeder,



THE BIRTHDAY OF NEW YORK 23

such silver! and such crystal! And Anna is so
bright and clever, and has so many beautiful
dresses, and is so fond of me. I am proud of her
friendship, it is a great honour to me."

" Nonsense, I say ! Her friendship is no honour
to thee! it is the other way."

" Well, then, Agratha," interrupted Van Ruy-
ven, " did thou go to the Anthonys' afterwards ? "

" No, fader. Anna and I sat a long time talk
ing and eating."

" Very foolishly, no doubt."

" No, moeder, we had a good meal, and I liked
it. We had some chocolate, and krullers, and
apple pasties, and whipped cream, and nuts and
raisins, and an orange beside."

" And I dare say, thou wilt have a headache
to-morrow."

" I think it will be fader who will have the head
ache. Poor fader, with the clear soup and raw
vegetables ! "

"Well, then, did thou go to the Anthonys'?"

" Yes, fader, but all was in confusion there, and
I felt myself in the way."

"In confusion! Why?"

" There is to be a supper and dance at the
Stillwells', and a young Scotch Lord is to be one
of the guests. Elizabeth Anthony said she had
seen him, and he was handsome as a prince ; young
and gay and beautifully dressed."

" That is too much, I believe it not."



24 A MAID OF OLD NEW YORK

" Moeder, Miss Anthony and her sister have
got such pretty gauze dresses to dance in, and
white sandals, moeder. I wish I was a young
lady ! I want to go to a real ball so much ! "

" Thy day will come, Agratha. Wish not thy
good, sweet girlhood away. Was there any talk
of the Moodys? "

" Lady Moody is at the Stillwells', fader. She
came in to meet Lord Mclvar, who is the son
of her cousin. Sir Henry is not coming, I be
lieve."

" That is strange."

** No, moeder. Sir Henry likes books better
than men and women, and I heard Mrs. Anthony
say, * Sir Henry Moody lives among the angels.'
I did not like that, for I think she was mocking
at Sir Henry."

" I hope thou kept quiet. Sir Henry Moody
can fight his own battles."

" I said only, Sir Henry is very good, and I
wish I was as good as he is. Then Elizabeth An
thony called me a little Quakeress, and I went
away."

" Elizabeth had no right to call thee such a
name. The Governor would be angry at her ; for
he likes thee, and he hates a Quaker. It is a great
pity Elizabeth is so sarcastical."

On these subjects Madame and her daughter
fell into a pleasant gossip, for Agratha had heard
a great deal of conversation between Madame



THE BIRTHDAY OF NEW YORK 35

Stuyvesant and Bayard, concerning Lord Mc-
Ivar and the hospitalities to be shown him.
" They are going to give a ball at the Fort for
him," she said softly, with a sigh, " and do you
think, moeder, the Governor will ask me? If he
does not, I shall coax Madame to do so. I only
want to look on ! "

" No doubt the Governor will ask thee. He is
always so proud to say to any stranger ' this is
my ward, Agratha Van Ruyven.' }

"Why is he proud?"

" Because God has made thee so beautiful. I
will see to it, that thy best white dress is in order."

" Moeder, I want a new dress of white gauze
with silver stars all over it, like Elizabeth An
thony's dancing dress."

" Well, then, it may be so, if I can get thy fader
in the mood to give it to thee."

They had let this conversation gradually fall
into low tones, and Van Ruyven had apparently
been lulled to sleep by the soft monotony of their
voices. But when the big Dutch clock, with its
little ships rocking on the waves every time it
ticked, struck nine, he instantly stood up, alert
and wide awake. Sharply clapping his big hands,
he threw open the door leading into the kitchen,
and immediately two men and two women entered
and ranged themselves in a row behind Madame's
chair.

Then Agratha laid upon the table a copy of the



superb and scholarly States General version of the
Bible A. D. 1619, a massive volume a foot and a
half long, one foot wide, and half a foot thick,
with its four corners ornamented by chased tri
angles of solid silver. The girl carried the book
reverently upon her outstretched hands to the
table, and then took her place between her father
and mother.

" We are standing in God's presence," said
Van Ruyven. " Listen, then, to His Words ! "
In a slow, ponderous, but very effective manner,
he read the one hundred and twenty-first Psalm,
and at its close all joined in reciting the short,
beautiful evening prayer from the liturgy of the
Dutch church: " The day is far spent, the night
is at hand, temper our hearts to good thoughts
so that our sleep itself, may be to Thy glory"
The invocation was followed by a few moments of
perfect silence; the simple rite being over the
men and maids went quietly away, and Agratha
lighted her candle, and bid her parents good-night.
Her father walked with her to the foot of the
staircase and watched her out of sight; he had
begun the practice when she was a little child, and
he could not be happy if he omitted it.

When he returned to the living room, Gus was
bringing in a little brass kettle full of boiling
water, and Madame was setting out the Hollands
and sugar and the goblet in which to mix the bed
time drink. Van Ruyven filled his pipe, and the



THE BIRTHDAY OF NEW YORK 27

man Gus took a hot coal from the fire with the
tongs and lit it for him.

" Good-night to thee, Gus," said Van Ruyven.
" Have my boots and cloak fit for me by eight
o'clock in the morning." Gus bowed assent, and
left the room.

" That boy is next door to dumb, Ragel. Can
he not talk? "

" That question I do not ask myself, Paul.
There is noise enough with the other three."

" Sit down, I want to speak to thee now."

"Why not before, then?"

" Many reasons I had for silence. I care not to
speak against Stuyvesant before Agratha that
reason will do for to-night."

" Paul, thou art learning thyself to hate the
Governor. That is unwise. While he is Gover
nor, we are as much at his disposal as the shoes
on his feet. We must walk as he wills. It were
better for thee to try and think well of him."

" There is good sense in thy words, Ragel. Also
I wish not to be unjust, for I remember well that
Isaac Allerton said to me, we ought to judge a
great man by his excellencies not by his faults."

"And surely Stuyvesant is a great man?
Many say that, Paul."

" Stuyvesant is a magtigen (mighty) man in
his own ways, but his ways are not often our
ways. Sit near me, and I will tell thee what words
he said as we eat our dinner to-day."



28 A MAID OF OLD NEW YORK

Then Ragel Van Ruyven drew her chair to her
husband's side, and after he had taken a drink,
and smoked a minute or two, he was ready for that
confidential talk, which is the prudence and solace
of all husbands worthy of a wise and loving wife.



CHAPTER TWO

THE BALL IN THE FORT

RAGEL began the conversation with a reference to
his poor dinner but Paul answered : " No, Ragel,
it was a good dinner for those who like their meat
after the French fashion. And I can tell thee, if
the food was Frenchified, the talk was straight
forward Dutch. The Governor stripped his
words naked. He left none of us any excuse to
say we did not understand him."

" So far, good. Was he handsomely dressed? "

" He wore the Company's colors as a scarf, and
the big diamond ring they gave him on his right
hand. On his head was a fine silk skull cap, with
gold leaves raised round it, and a gold cord and
tassel."

" I saw Madame making that cap. It was very
handsome."

" And though he was in his own house a
trumpeter announced his approach, and his four
halberdiers, with their axes, walked before him.
Truly, Ragel, if he had two legs instead of one, I
say plainly he would be a most majestical man.
As he entered the room, we rose, and as soon
as he was seated he began to reprove us."



30 A MAID OF OLD NEW YORK

"Well, then, for what? "

" Thou guess for what."

" The rejoicing in the city? "

" Listen once ! for our want of piety, and our
disrespect toward God,"

" Now Paul, thou art making a deceit ! "

" The truth I tell thee. He said ' if we con
sidered the occasion one to glory in, he thought
men brought up in the Kirk would have had the
decency to praise God first. But no! Even
Domine Megapolensis had not thought of that
duty. Every house in the city was open for rev
elry, every mother's child eating and drinking and
making a vile noise over it. Only God's house was
shut and silent! If the change in the govern
ment was a case for triumph, why was it not
carried into God's house,' he asked, ' and were the
citizens ashamed to take it there? He believed
they were he hoped as much,' and so on."

" What nonsense ! "

" William Beekman said the fault could be
amended on the coming Sabbath, and Stuyvesant
answered, * Please God, I will take care of that.'
Then he asked me what I thought of the change
in the government; and I told him, that it was
a steady principle with me not to meddle with
other people's business. ' The government is the
business of Director General Stuyvesant,' I added,
* it is not my business.' And he was pleased with
my words and answered : * You are right, Van



THE BALL IN THE FORT 31

Ruyven. The government is good as it is, and
those discontented men who are always complain
ing are not my friends.' "

" Well, then, if he is their enemy, they had
better go and live in another place."

" That is so, Ragel. When Stuyvesant can
pay back an injury, he does it item by item; and
usually he can pay that debt. But Ragel, there
is another side! If he is the friend of any man,
he will stand by him through thick and thin,
through fire and water, right or wrong to the very
end. I like that. A man should stick to his
friend."

" Even if he be such a one as the wicked Van
Tienhoven ? Every man, woman and child in New
Amsterdam hates Van Tienhoven, and all men
know that the spoils of the company stick to his
ribs. Yet Stuyvesant stands by him through
every evil report."

" A man must stand by his friends, that is so,
for our likes and our dislikes, Ragel, are often
beyond our understanding. And Stuyvesant is
a discerning man, yes, indeed. He knows human
beings as some persons know horses and cattle,
by just looking at them. I have seen him throw
one sharp quick glance at a stranger, and then I
am sure he knew exactly what manner of a man he
was."

" Then he ought to know Van Tienhoven."

" He does know him."



32 A MAID OF OLD NEW YORK

" Then why does he stand by him? "

" Thou ask Stuyvesant ' why.' "
,. "No; he will ask me, why I stand by thee?
Did he tell his company just what Holland has
done for us."

" Yes, he said the States General had given us
a municipal government like that of Amsterdam,
and graciously allowed us to elect our burgo
masters and schepens."

" Good ! Great ! What did Stuyvesant say to
that?"

" He said he would allow no elections. He
would appoint the city officials himself, and he
there and then appointed Arent Van Hattam and
Martin Cregier burgomasters, and Van Grist, Van
Gheel, and William Beekman schepens. When
Allard Anthony said the people would not be sat
isfied if they did not elect their officers, he stopped
him sharply, and taking the words from him said,
as he struck the table a blow that made the glass
shake and rattle, ' I will have no public elections !
I will not have the men round me playing with
fire. Public elections ! what kind of representatives
would they give us? Fools tossed to the top, on
the wheels of chance; and the electors would be
still worse. I know what popular government
means. Christus! ' he shouted as he struck the
table again, ' no country is well governed that
asks the opinion of the mob. Popular Govern
ment ! Popular idiocy ! ' "



THE BALE IN THE FORT 33

" Well then, he may be right, Paul. Did any
one answer him?"

" William Beekman, who can take more liberties
with Stuyvesant than any other man, said, * There
are exceptions, Governor,' and the Governor
shouted, * No, no, Schepen Beekman, not one.'
' Holland! Fatherland! ' came like one voice
from the men at the table, and then Stuyvesant
passionately answered : ' Holland, God bless her,
is not in the latitude of 1653! She is a few cen
turies ahead. Be silent, all of you, and answer
me one question.' Then we sat still waiting for
the question, and after he had drunk off a goblet
of Portugal wine, he said : " Do you think it is
right and wise that the vote of every fool and
knave, of every blackguard and pauper, should
be as potential and valuable as the vote of the
wisest and noblest, the most learned and wealthy
in the land? A government on such a foundation
must come to an early end ; yes, likely to a violent
end. It ought to, it deserves to. It is contrary
to nature; it is contrary to order; it is of very
necessity destructive. For God's sake, and for
your own sakes, if you have any common sense,
judge this question by it."

" And what was the answer, Paul? "

" Every man lifted his glass and took a deepi
drink. There was a sort of murmur, what it
meant I could not understand, but the Governor
took it as an assent to his opinions. For when



34 A MAID OF OLD NEW YORK

Van Hattam asked what was to be done in such
a case, he said : ' We must put our feet down fiat
on all popular government pretensions, and one
of the most powerful snubs to base, beggarly polit
ical upstarts will be to inaugurate a great and
little Burgher Society as in Holland.' Van Hat
tam said, ' I see not, Governor.' The Governor
snapped him up like a whip lash and answered:
* Then you are as blind as a bat, burgomaster !
You have lived too much in the wilderness? If
you cannot see that, the only way to keep
down and smash underfoot a beggarly low-minded,
greedy, popular government is to create over
against it an exclusive, dominant aristocracy.
That is now the first thing to be done, and I shall
move in that direction to-morrow; no later.' He
said these words and many more with his usual
sauce of Latin and Dutch oaths, and abusive
epithets."

" Paul, it is the man's way. Thou and others
should think how long he has been set over rough
soldiers, who like enough did not mind anything
he said, if it was not said in the devil's name.
Shall we be any safer or better off, because our
village has been made a city? That is the chief
thing."

" Well, then, I think not. It is a grudging
favour at the best, and I am sure Stuyvesant has
his private instructions from the West India
Company. Our dear * Hollow Land ' is so far.



THE BALL IN THE FORT S5

away, and the West India Company is at our
table, and on our hearth, and in our Kirk, and
our good or ill fortune is in its hand. Stuyvesant
told us plainly, not to imagine that a civic govern
ment had in any one lessened his power. He said
he should preside at every civic meeting if he
wished to do so, and also at all trials by the
Court; and bringing down both his hands furi
ously on the table, he advised us to remember,
that within all the bounds of New Netherland
Petrus Stuyvesant was Governor, Domine, and
Magistrate."

" So it is ! Dost thou not remember, Paul,
that about three years ago, when Holland sent
our burgher guard, arms and a stand of colours,
Stuyvesant would not allow the guard to have
them. Yes, and when they complained, he said
they had interfered with his power and pub
licly took away from them their pew in the
Kirk."

" I remember, Ragel, and I remember also that
when the guard followed him crying ' Give up
the colours ! ' he turned and faced them like a lion,
and shouted back : * I shall do as I please.' "

There was a few minutes' silence, while Paul
refilled his pipe and Ragel threw some fresh wood
on the fire. As she resumed her knitting, she
asked with a fresh curiosity: "What art thou
laughing at, Paul?"

" At Van Gheel," he answered. " He is used



36 A MAID OF OLD NEW YORK

to drink beer only, and the Governor's heavy wine
was too much for him. He fell asleep at the
table, and made some queer noises, and Stuyvesant
looked at two waiting men, and they lifted him by
head and heels and carried him into another room.
I wonder me if he be yet sleeping and snoring
there? It was hard to keep the laugh secret, but
the Governor's face was like a stone, and before
the drunken man was out of sight, he turned to
Allard Anthony with a fight on his face."

" For what reason, Paul? "

" For asking the Governor if he had met the
young Scotch lord who was paying a visit to
Lady Moody? "

"Well then, had he?"

" Who can tell ! He said almost angrily :
* Mynheer Anthony, I take leave to say we all of us
know too many English. They are a race of un
principled, malignant, brazen villains. They go
bouncing and swaggering over the earth, as if it
belonged to them; and whether you believe me
or not, we shall have all we can do in New Ams
terdam to prevent the English from lifting the
latch of every house door, and thundering at the
Fort with no runaway knock. Well I know they
are preparing to do it at this very hour.'

" * They talk of such things, Governor,' said
Van Hattam, * but words do not take forts, or
slay men.' Stuyvesant did not notice Van Hat-
tarn's opinion, he went on declaring that he could



THE BALL IN THE FORT 37

not understand why God made the English, unless
He sent them as Apollyon, to try the faith and
courage of other men ! ' Yet,' he cried out,
* Mynheer Anthony, and the best of our Dutch
families, are talking of feasting this lord and his
companions. God! If I am any judge, we shall
soon be buckling on our armour to fight them,*
and the passion in his voice, and hands, and eyes,
I can not show thee, Ragel."

" Well, then, I have seen Stuyvesant in a rage.
One does not forget that sight. What did An
thony say ? "

" There was no need for Anthony to speak.
Paul Lenaertse, looking Stuyvesant full in the
eyes, answered, ' We have had enough of talk
against the English. They are rich and respect
able. They pay their taxes without grumbling.
They always stand by the law and the government.
I intend to entertain Lord Mclvar. He is a
handsome, kindly youth, and a sort of cousin to
our general friend, Lady Moody. 5 '

" And how did Stuyvesant take those words?"

" He cooled down like a fire of straw, and sat
sulkily silent until Lenaertse ceased speaking, then
he answered in the voice of an injured man: 'I
am obstructed and doubted on the right hand and
the left, but though all should turn up their noses
and the palms of their hands at my words, I will
say again, beware of the English; for be sure, if
we let them sit in our councils and feast in our



38 A MAID OF OLD NEW YORK

homes, we are dragging the Trojan horse within
cur gates.' Nobody answered this remark, and
he stood up and said more pleasantly, ' Gentle
men, we will drink together a parting glass to the
city of New Amsterdam.' Then he looked at
Van Hattam, and Van Hattam said, * Peace and
Prosperity be within her borders ' ; and Stuyves-
ant answered : * If it be so written, so it will be.*
That was the end of the dinner and Van Derlyn
walked home with me, but to speak it plain, Ragel,
he is no friend of the Governor. He talked too
much about Lenaertse's rebuff."

" Well, then, everyone talks about the power
Paul Lenaertse has over Stuyvesant. They say
they were long together in the West Indies, and
that Stuyvesant called for him on his way to
New Amsterdam, and brought him here with him.
He has the finest house in the city, but he does no
business, and people do wonder and sigh and shake


2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 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 2 of 20)