Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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

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However, when Colonel Nicolls with his four
battleships arrived at Gravesend, landed his men
and marched them to Brooklyn Ferry where the
troops from Long Island and New England were
waiting, the men of New Amsterdam knew that
further delay meant ruin. Yet Nicolls waited


two days spent in useless parleying, then, weary
of delaying, he moved with two of his ships to
Governor's Island, and the other two with full
sails set, and guns ready to open broadsides,
sailed past the Port and anchored in the East
River. New Amsterdam was then encircled round
about, without means of hope or deliverance. It
was a matter of pure desperation, rather than
soldiership, to hold the Fort, against which there
were then pointed sixty-two guns.

There was no time now for words, and about
one hundred of the principal citizens came with
desperate resolve to Stuyvesant. They were
angry men, full of threats, and determined at all
risks to prevent the firing of a gun from the
Fort. They found Stuyvesant standing by a bas
tion looking eastward for the promised troops;
his wonderful eyes so full of sorrow and disap
pointment, they could hardly bear to meet them.
He did not speak, he was dumb with grief, and
the pallor of his face was the pallor of sleepless
nights, and a heart sick, not only with deferred
hope, but with hope utterly lost.

They waited for his usual authoritative ques
tioning, but he did not move or speak, and Van
Brugh said :

" Governor, we are come to tell you that there
is not a moment to be lost. You must run
up the white flag immediately. TVe demand

"Power of God! Who are * w<? '.? " he cried
with sudden inconceivable passion.

" Let us tell you, ' we ' represent the whole city,
men, women and children. We will not suffer you
to fire on the English fleet. We will not suffer it !
Raise the white flag ! "

Then out stepped a young Zealander, and with
streaming eyes an$ pathetic eloquence reminded
Stuyvesant of the scenes that would be certain to
occur if New Amsterdam was taken by force of

" .Governor," he pleaded, " we are men, and may
fight for our lives, but will you give our women
and children to massacre and outrage? Will
you burn their homes above them, and lay our
city in ruins. Governor, can you do .these

" By the Son of God ! No ! I would rather be
carried out of here, dead ! " The words came hot
from his heart, he could no more have prevented
them, than he could have prevented his breathing.

" Then raise the white flag ! "

With unspeakable emotion he walked slowly to
the main mast, and turning to the waiting citizens

" I will raise the white flag. Holland's free
flag shall fall. Your city is not worthy of it, and
you are unworthy to stand under it."

Here speech failed him. He raised his hand,
and then let it drop heavily to his side, and the


flaa: of surrender floated over the Fort of New;



It was consonant with Stuyvesant's great char
acter that he should accept the inevitable with
manly cheerfulness. He invited Colonel Nicolls
to his beautiful Bowery home, and there the gen
erous terms of the capitulation were formed.
This was on Saturday, and on Monday, Septem
ber the eighth A. D. 1664, at eight o'clock in the
morning, Nicolls delivered the ratified articles to
Stuyvesant. This ceremony occurred at the " old
mill " on the shore of the East River, close by the
little pier at the foot of Van Ruyven's garden.
An hour afterwards New Amsterdam had become
New York.

And if the terms of capitulation were magnan
imous, Colonel Nicolls, by his fine social manner
won a still greater victory over the hearts of the
inhabitants. His handsome, cheerful face, his
friendly address, his ability to speak to the Dutch
and French and English each in their own lan
guage, his royal hospitality completed, at least
to all appearance, the desired reconciliation. In
deed, it was the rich and influential Dutchman
Van Brugh who initiated a very gay winter by^
giving the first dinner party in honour of the
English general.

Lord Mclvar, who had been the friend and
companion of Colonel Nicolls ever since they met
in Boston, now accompanied him in all his social


successes; and thus once more was honoured and
feasted in the city that had been so prominent in
his life and fortune, while Agratha also received
attentions enough to nullify a thousand-fold the
slights and suspicions of her girlhood. A month
of this gaiety was followed by a sudden hush in
the Van Ruyven house. One lovely night during
the Indian summer, Van Ruyven sat talking long
and late with his wife and daughter. He took
particular pleasure in reviewing the years when
Agratha was a little child, and in slowly following
her whole career.

" Everything was right though we did not know
it at the time," he said ; " that is God's way !
Where we cannot see Him, there we must trust
Him. That is so, Ragel. I am now tired. I will
go to sleep."

They watched him a short time, and as they
watched became aware that the silver cord that
moored him to Time was rapidly slackening. He
was drifting swiftly and silently away

"Into the eternal shadow,

That girds our Life around;
Into the infinite silence,

Wherewith Death's shore is bound."

Soon after this event the Mclvars and Madame
Van Ruyven returned to England, and the future
of the Mclvars was intimately blent with the


diplomacies and social events of the Courts, not
only of Charles, but also of James, William and
Mary, and the splendid military and literary
reign of Queen Anne. During the 'first twenty-
five years of this period they were eminently happy
and successful. The young Chief Ian fulfilled all
his parents' extravagant hopes, and the ladies
Ragel, Agratha and Ladarine, married well and
suitably :

" For Destiny that saw them so divine,
Spun all their fortunes in a silken twine."

It had been one of Stuyvesant's latest acts of
authority to inaugurate a foreign mail service,
and through this channel they heard occasionally
how events were marching in New York from Rose
Roedeke. But one morning she most unexpect
edly visited them at Castle Ivar. She was richly
dressed in the lugubrious widow's garments of that
day, but was still pretty and graceful, and she
looked with wonder on the lovely Agratha, then in
her thirty-sixth year, and the very zenith of her

For a month she remained at Ivar, and during
that time talked much of Stuyvesant, and the
people with whom Agratha had been familiar ; but
every conversation, no matter how it began, ended
with Peter Stuyvesant.

" I suppose," said Gael one day, " that the old


Governor retired from all publis affairs. Some
one told me he became a farmer, and grew quiet
and reserved."

Rose laughed heartily. " Who could have told
you such a story?" she asked. "Truly, he had
the finest farm in the country, but if you suppose
he ever became quiet and reserved, you never can
have known the man. Until the day of his death
he managed the Domine and the Kirk, and directed
all the city improvements. He became very social
and companionable; for Colonel Nicolls he had a
true friendship, and to the citizens generally he
was an ever ready adviser and helper. They had
always been proud of him, but in his private life
they learned to love and to trust him."

** Was he long sick? " asked Gael.

" If he was, he made no complaint. Yet he
must have known that the end was approaching,
for his affairs were all in the most exact order,
and he died as sweetly as a little child who is tired
with play lies down and goes to sleep. Madame
Stuyvesant told me he sat at the open window to
the last moment. He held her hand, but he kept
his eyes upon the heavens which were that sum
mer night wonderfully full of stars, and just as
Orion sank down in the west, he died."

" Peace be with him ! " said Gael. " He was a
great man, compelled to fight life in an arena far
too small for him. He had not elbow room to
compass his soul's intentions and desires. If he


had been Grand Pensioner of Holland, instead of
Governor of New Netherland, he would have been
a much greater man."

In a month Rose went away and they saw her
no more. She had come to McAlpine hoping to
be able to buy back the old home, but for many
reasons she found it impossible; so she bought a
pretty place on the outskirts of Edinburgh. In
this city she had many cousins of three and four
descents and her kind heart found kindred enough
to love and to help.

At the close of the seventeenth century Gael
and Agratha retired to Castle Ivar, and spent
among their children, grandchildren, and Clan
Ivar the last ten years of their lives. Gael was
then seventy years old, and Agratha only three
years younger. They had had full lives, and their
hearts were satisfied with the past, and hopeful
for the future. At this time the two mothers, as
well as Ladarine had, in the dialect of Lancashire,
" passed out of it." Madame Van Ruyven and
Lady Mclvar were sleeping side by side in the
lonely Mclvar cemetery, but Ladarine had utterly
refused this last hospitality.

"I must go back to Outerby, Yorkshire, my
Lord," she said to Gael. "I must be buried
there, because the Gilpins must all rise together
at the Judgment Day. We are a big family, and
we can stand by one another whatever happens.
I'm not afraid, for I've been a pious woman all


my life, though I never testified, there being no
proper church at Gravesend, and Ivar just as bad
off, and in London they were in such out-of-the-
way places, and nothing but chairs ! " She gave
a little grim laugh at the memory of the chairs
and their bearers. " So, someway or other, I
never testified; but I am not afraid. Them Above
are ready to make allowances. Anyways, I've
been told so."

" It is a long way to Outerby, Ladarine," an
swered Mclvar. " I would lay you beside
Madame Van Ruyven. You knew her for many

"I never cared much for Madame Van Ruy
ven," she answered, " and nobody knows how long
we may be dead. I could not rest in my grave,
if it was dug anywhere but Outerby churchyard.
Besides the dead and gone Mclvars might not like
a Gilpin among them. I'm sure I would feel more
than a bit lonely myself, so I will go to my own.
It is best so."

For the rest, my readers can easily write it
for themselves ; for life though it is set in an end
less variety of frames, is in reality very much the
same in all essentials we suffer and enjoy, we
love and hate, and work and wish, and the dream
is happy or sorrowful, clear or dark, as it is given
to us. A million lives would be like a million
waves of the Atlantic, all alike, and yet all dif
ferent. And, as every wave would finally reach


the shore, so all the lives would finally reach the

Gael and Agratha lived long enough to see
the entrance of that dynasty that was to an
nihilate the Highland Clans as a system of life and
government; but all their life they were facing
onward to the shadows in which their graves were
hid in those lonely acres above the stormy Minch.
For two hundred years now the great pines have
whispered and crooned above them, and there is
a granite pillar at their head on which is graven
the words:


But do they : We have a nobler hope for them,
the hope of

" The freer step, the fuller breath,

The wide horizon's grander view;
The sense of life that knows no Death,
The Life that maketh all things new."



WHILE writing of Governor Stuyvesant this thing
happened to me. I had collected from all possible
sources the facts recorded of his picturesque per
sonality, and as I began to clothe these dry bones
of history with human passions, and flesh and
blood purposes and ambitions, I became persist
ently aware of a familiarity which would not be
dismissed. One day the source of this familiarity
was suddenly revealed to me, and ever since, I
have marvelled at the likeness between a man
popularly considered dead for more than two cen
turies, and a man dwelling in our midst, and known
to all, either by personal contact, or vivid reports
and descriptions. Let any one consider the fol
lowing distinctive qualities of Stuyvesant, and in
all probability they will quickly remember a liv
ing man, who has all the fiery radiations of his
character, modified in some cases by the spirit of
a more refined age, and intensified in others by its
wider knowledge.

Stuyvesant had a thorough respect for the
ordinances of religion, and personally observed



He was a good husband, father, and brother,
and a stickler for all household virtues.

He advocated early marriage and loved chil

His private morals were unimpeachable, his
public ones equally beyond question.

He was a true friend, faithful through good
and evil report. He was also an open enemy, he
did not carry his hatred secretly. He stabbed no
man in the dark.

He detested a mob government, and passionately,
advocated centralisation and one supreme head
of public affairs.

He had a wonderfully magnetic presence. If
he chose to win the crowd, no one could resist him.

Above all, he possessed a vivid straight-forward
eloquence. His words were javelins, and he sent
them home with such scathing, picturesque ad
jectives that men were compelled to listen to

Naturally he was a soldier, had true military
instincts, and great personal courage.

He was a scholar as well as a soldier, and when
released from the cares of government, became
a great reader.

He had an inborn love of splendour, delighted
in rich clothing, fine furniture and paintings, and
a noble dwelling place.

He insisted on honouring the government with
all respectful ceremonies, such as the flying of


flags, the booming of cannon, the incitement of
trumpets and military music.

This was the man who two hundred and fifty
years ago governed New York with a strong hand,
and left behind him traditions of personal influ
ence so powerful, that neither the advent of newer
heroes, nor the crushing materialism of later times
have been able to entirely discredit them. He is
still believed to stamp about the streets laid over
his beloved Bowery farm at all hours of the night,
and unexpectedly to visit the watchmen of these
streets, if not doing their duty.

Yet this personality, so vigorous and interest
ing after the lapse of two centuries and a half, is
believed by the majority to have left this earth
forever. They are sure that

"The good Knight is dust,
His sword rust,
His soul is with the saints they trust."

^This trust is doubtful. Truly his soul, when it
dropped the fleshly garment, called Peter Stuy-
vesant, as worn out and of no further use, would
go first to those starry hostelries, which are pro
vided for the comforting and instruction of good
souls between their reincarnations.

Here it would rest until it had assimilated all
the experiences of its late life, and recollected
and reviewed the countless bodies it had made use


of, on its march onward. For the soul marches
continually between two worlds, one containing all
the memories of the past, the other all the hopes
of the future.

A strong soul like Peter Stuyvesant's would
not rest long even in Paradise; it would grow
quickly weary of quiescent repose, it would soon
recall the dear Earth, its struggles, victories and
defeats. It would desire to strive, not to rest ; to
burn, not to smoulder ; to win by merit, and never
rest while there was more to win. No Isles of the
Blest, no quiet seats of the just, no angel songs on
the golden streets would satisfy. Stuyvesant
would choose rather the wages of going on, even,
by the road of Earth's pilgrimages, battles, vic
tories and defeats, until he reached the colossal
manhood of a Son of God.

" For it is past belief, that Christ hath died
Only that we unending psalms may sing ;
That all the gain Death's awful curtains hide,
Is this eternity of antheming."

They that have ears to hear and souls to un
derstand, let them do so; they will likely find a
new Peter Stuyvesant in their midst. If they
cannot, there is no blame to them, for this faith
of supreme justice and abounding consolations
comes neither by preaching nor reading, it de
pends upon a spiritual condition. When the soul


is in that condition, the truth of reincarnation re
veals itself naturally and spontaneously, just as a
rose tree, when it has clothed its thorny branches
with living leaves finds some morning among them
the marvel of the rose.



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