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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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

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their heads, and look all kinds of suspicious things.
Old Madame Van Laer said plainly one day, as she
took her long pinches of snuff : ' There will be
some counting of guilders between them. Every
wrong thing beds itself in guilders. Our
Governor is not badly off Lenaertse is rich
very well in some way it is guilders ! Guilders ! ' ;
And Ragel laughed a little, as she imitated the
snuffy interruptions.

Paul answered with decision : " Far wrong are
those that think guilders could stop Stuyvesant's



THE BALL IN THE FORT 39

rages, or stay his tongue. Lenaertse has a more
powerful weapon than guilders. All men say
that."

"Well, then?"

" Say it should be a woman. There are beau
tiful quadroons in Curacoa."

"Paul! What art thou saying?"

" Keep what I have said secret and silent.
Madame Stuyvesant hath a great spirit and a high
temper. Stuyvesant, who fears not to change
words or blows with any man, would quail to look
her in the face, if she heard some love story from
Lenaertse. And back to Holland she would go
with her boys. I make no doubt of that. Then
the Company would be making inquiries, and then,
the Governor's life would be everyway ruined."

" It is your thought that he may have a qua
droon wife in Curacoa, and perhaps a family?
Paul Van Ruyven, I believe nothing of the kind.
It is well known Peter Stuyvesant frowns on all
immoralities, and a better husband and father does
not live. That is the truth. All women say it is
a matter of guilders."

" Yet "

"Yet what?"

" Stuyvesant has been young once, and most
men have their little romance hid away in the by
gone years. But if Lenaertse should begin to tell
anything of this kind, every man in New Ams
terdam would stand with Stuyvesant. w



40 A MAID OF OLD NEW YORK

" So, so ! That is right. The pot should
call the kettle black. No, indeed ! "

" Listen to me, Ragel. What I have said on
this subject, is a secret to thee only. If thou but
whisper it to one other woman, then in a week all
the women in New Amsterdam will be whispering
it to each other, and what would come of such
whispering the devil knows best."

" Thou may safely trust me, Paul. I will tell
thee one thing the Governor will have to enter
tain the English officers and the young lord.

" He will not."

" I say he will be compelled to do so. To-day
Agratha heard Madame Stuyvesant and Madame
Bayard arranging an entertainment for them. It
is to be a ball and supper in the Fort."

" Well now, if the women have decided on it,
what can Stuyvesant do? I am sorry for him,
he has to give up so often."

" Very good that is for him. We shall be cer
tainly asked; wilt thou go?"

" I see not how to help."

" We shall have to take Agratha with us. She
has set her heart on that."

"Well, then, why not?"

" She must have a new frock and a pair of danc
ing sandals. The Governor likes to watch her
dancing, and she will want thee to step a galliard
with her."

" Not out of my own house, I am too heavy."



THE BALL 1 IN THE FORT 41

" I will go to Cornells Steenwyck's store in the
morning and get her a white dress."

" Wait until we are sure it will be wanted. I
say Stuyvesant will not have any entertainment
for the English."

" Madame Stuyvesant will ; then what can he
do?"

" He will retire he will not mate an appear
ance."

" Thou wilt see. And now it is late and we
will go to our good sleep. Very kind it is of the
Blessed One to break our lives into little portions
and give us a rest between them. I know not else
how we could bear the long years."

Paul sighed heavily, but it was a sigh of con
tent. No one enjoyed more fully the comfort of
sleep, no one respected its demands more readily,
or satisfied them with more pleasure. Madame
was of a more alert disposition, the restless mer
curial temperament of a French grandmother
had vivified the sluggish nature of her Dutch
ancestry a nature slow enough on ordi
nary occasions, though passionately prompt
and dauntless when the occasion was extraor
dinary.

The expected invitation came early on the fol
lowing day, and caused some excitement.

Agratha watched her mother's face anxiously,
as she read the note, and then asked: "Does
Madame say anything about me, moeder? "



" She says the Governor will be disappointed
unless thou art present."

" My dress, moeder! When will you buy it? "
" This morning. Put on thy hood, and I will
take thee with me."

" The Domine will not like me to miss my les
sons."

" That I cannot help ! Thy sandals must be
fit to thy feet, and I want thee to have the dress
that pleases thee."

" The gauze with the silver stars ? "
" Well, then, if there be any of it left. We will
go to Herr Steenwyck's and see what can be
found. Madame Beekman told me that he had a
wonderful stock of the latest patterns in silk
crapes, and gauzes, coloured and white, satins,
gloves, ribbons and everything beautiful."

" I like Herr Steenwyck, moeder. Everyone
likes him, and he is so handsome and dresses him
self so finely, also he is very polite."

" Well, then, he came from Haerlem, where they
have manners as fine as at the Hague."

" Last week I was in his store, and Elsie Van
Dam came in, and she was so badly dressed, I did
not notice her, but Herr Steenwyck was very
polite to her."

" Elsie Van Dam is a beautiful girl."

" Oh ! He was very polite to me also."

" That was because thy fader is a rich man."

" Elsie's moeder is poor. Herr Steenwyck



THE BALL IN THE FORT 43

showed her some cloth, and she said she could not
afford to buy such fine goods. I thought it was
improper to tell people in a store, that she was
poor. I was ashamed for Elsie."

" To be ashamed was foolishness. When people
are poor, they may say so. Poor people are
necessary to society. Come now, put on thy hood ;
we are wasting time."

So the dress was bought, and the lessons ex
cused, and Agratha went with her mother to the
dressmaker's, and freely expressed her wishes
about the fashioning of it. " I will have no ruffles,
either pleated or gathered," she said, " and no
overdress a plain, straight skirt with my broad
white sash, will be the prettiest style, and just so
long as my ankles, moeder, then my silk stockings
and white shoes will show themselves." And she
had such a charming, commanding way of express
ing her desires, that they were readily granted.

On the following Saturday, trumpeters went
through the streets proclaiming the religious
ceremonies whose omission had so offended the
Governor. There was much excitement, and a
little extra preparation in every family for the
event. From some unknown source a report had
sprung that the new city was to be named
Stuyvesant; and though this supposition was
contradicted by the very formula of the grant of
citizenship, many did not know this, and many who
did know it, considered Stuyvesant quite capable



44 A MAID OF OLD NEW YORK

of changing any name for his own. So there was
a good deal of feeling and much curiosity about
the Kirk service, and long before the appointed
hour the streets were full of a leisurely crowd, on
the look-out for anything unusual.

Fortunately it was a particularly bright and
cheerful day. The sky was blue and cloudless,
the sun shone bravely over the crow-stepped
gables, and roofs of many coloured tiles ; while
the silver-toned Porto-Rico bells rang out joy
ously, as the new City Fathers in their official robes
proceeded in solemn and stately order to the Kirk
in the Fort. A remarkable figure walked a little
in advance. It was Peter Stuyvesant, in a coat
of dark blue velvet, profusely decorated with gold
buttons and gold lace. The long skirts were
turned up at the corners to show the white satin,
lining, and parted behind to show the canary
coloured breeches ; and on his head was a hat of
soft beaver, with a thick silk cord round it. The
Beggars of the Sea had worn such a hat, and their
descendant still affected it. In one hand he held
his sword, in the other his gold headed cane, and
his wood and silver leg always appeared to be
boldly in advance.

But it was the soul of Peter Stuyvesant that
gave some extraordinary quality to his appear
ance, for no other man, though dressed exactly
like him, could have so completely dominated his
surroundings. Even those opposed to him polit-



THE BALL IN THE FORT 45

ically, were proud of him in many other ways,
and the wood and silver leg, which would have been
an impediment to most men, was to Stuyvesant a
distinction, a kind of royal order, signifying his
patriotism and his bravery.

Their march through the city to the Fort was
attended by a respectful and interested crowd ; for
it was a ceremony in which all felt themselves to
have a share. As they reached the Kirk, Madame
Stuyvesant and Madame Bayard entered it; but
Stuyvesant who was the soul of courtesy to his
lovely wife did not notice her; he wished every
one to understand that at this hour he was en
tirely devoted to the city and its interests. His
neglect, however, was not shared by the congrega
tion ; every eye was for a moment turned upon the
beautiful woman, costumed in violet cloth, bor
dered with minever, her hood and muff of the same
fur, lined and trimmed with violet satin. She
was the visible part of the government to
which all rendered a willing admiration and obe
dience.

As the little stir of seating the congregation^
ceased, Domine Megapolensis entered by the chan
cel. He stood at the foot of the pulpit stairs,
and placing his hat before his face prayed silently
for a few minutes, the congregation bowing their
heads as he did so. That morning he preached
especially to the new City Fathers, and if they
were not impressed by the importance of their



46 A MAID OF OLD NEW YORK

position and their duties, it was not the fault of
Domine Megapoiensis. Indeed his admonitions
were continued until the sand in the hour glass
was fully run out; and the clerk thought it neces
sary to rap thrice upon his desk in order to re
mind the preacher that he had spoken long
enough. Then the deacons collected the benefac
tions for the poor, the little bells on their black
silk bags making a not unpleasant tinkling
through the building. It was the first intrusion
of mortal life into the still sacredness of the scene;
for after it, there was but a verse of song and a
short benediction, and the congregation were at
liberty to hasten home to their chicken pot-pies or
roast spareribs or whatever other delicacy rep
resented their Sabbath dinner.

To Agratha the whole scene had been a little
drama. No part of it had wearied her, for her
vivid imagination had turned personalities and in
cidents into whatever she could wish them to be.
Yet she was a little disappointed when the Eng
lish officers and Lord Mclvar did not appear ; but
this disappointment had been a general one.
Even Stuyvesant commented upon their absence:

" Those English, whom I have allowed to an
chor off Nutten Island, ought to have been at
the Kirk this morning. I do not like men who
neglect divine service," he said with scornful an
ger. " They have had a hospitable welcome, and
they ought to have been courteous to our Sab-



THE BALL IN THE FORT 47

bath ; but they are a proud, insolent lot, and would
not be civil to anyone's God but their own."

" Thou art too hard, Peter. Captain Scho-
field sent me a pretty little singing bird in a gilt
cage, that he got in the Canary Islands. I have
called it * Peter,' and often I have heard that on
English men-of-war there is divine service every
Sabbath."

" Service on board a man-of-war ! Is that a
reasonable, or respectable place for worship, Ju
dith? In my judgment it is not."

" Service in a Fort, with cannon and fighting
men around, is that a more reasonable or re
spectable place, Peter? In my judgment it is
not."

" We have the true faith, Judith, that mates
the difference. Holland is Holland, because she
has the true faith. The English are Lutherans,"
and these last four words he uttered with a scorn
ful intolerance no one but Stuyvesant could trans
late into language.

" I have read the English creed."

" So have I, and I have compared it with our
grand Belgic Confession of Faith, which I learned
joyfully when it was revised in 1619. I was a
young man then, a soldier under arms, but I could
feel its beauty and I vowed my soul and body to
all it required."

" I learned it at my dear mother's knees, Peter,
and I have rested my whole life on the deep, sweet



48 A MAID OF OLD NEW YORK

harmony it sounded almost at its beginning
* God, the overflowing fountain of good.' " Large
tears of loving memory filled her soft, dark eyes.
Stuyvesant looked at her, and quieted himself like
a little child.

Yet his complaint of their English visitors was
a general one. Most of the congregation had ex
pected to see the Governor's pew brightened by
brilliant uniforms, and perhaps also by the pres
ence of Lord Mclvar in Court dress, or in the
picturesque kilt and philabeg of his native land.
The familiar City Fathers in their black silk gowns
might be official, but they were not picturesque,
or even interesting. Many supercilious remarks
were made about Captain Schofield, and Joost
Van Dorn was considered very clever because he
asked : " What else but ill-nature and bad man
ners could be expected from a man who called his
ship ' The Wasp? ' "

On Monday afternoon, however, Captain Scho
field reversed all adverse opinions. He appeared
on the Collect Pond with three of his officers and
in a few minutes had taken little Elsie Everson
by her hand and was gliding swiftly with her over
its frozen water. Then the handsome, popular
secretary of the province, Jacob Kip, began to
make introductions, and the pretty pond quickly
became a scene of happy and innocent gaiety. But
the Scotch lord came not, and finally Maria La
Montague, the lovely fiancee of Secretary Kip,



THE BALL IN THE FORT 49

asked the Captain why Lord Mclvar had not
joined his party?

" He cannot skate," was the answer. " His
mother would never allow him to go upon the ice,
for on the Scotch locks it is often thin and dan
gerous, and Mclvar is her only child."

These facts were rapidly circulated, and Cap
tain Schofield soon had the pleasure of hearing the
opinions of a group of little girls concerning them.
Elsie Everson stood in their midst, and in a voice
of childish pity and astonishment said :

" He cannot skatel "

" What an ignorant man ! " replied Jelissa Van
Pelt. " He cannot skate ! "

" His moeder would not let him go on the ice,"
continued Elsie.

" What a strange moeder ! " from a number of
voices in chorus.

" She was afraid."

" For what was she afraid ? " asked Jelissa
scornfully.

" That he might be drowned."

" Ja! Poor Lord Mclvar ! "

" But, Jelissa," answered Elsie, " he is her only
child."

" Only one child has she? Poor moeder ! Come,
we lose the time," and away they flew all together,
the wind behind and the sunshine over them ; their
merry laughter mingling with their simple con
dolences for the ignorant young lord.



50 A MAID OF OLD NEW YORK

This little incident opened the way for a week
of generous hospitality, beginning with a dance
and supper at the Fort. The invitations for this
entertainment were necessarily few in number ; not
so much from social distinctions, though social
distinctions were strictly observed in New Am
sterdam ; but chiefly because the Governor's house
in the Fort had not been built with reference to
young men and maidens meeting there for the pur
pose of dancing. There was, however, one large
public room, and Madame Stuyvesant, by opening
the living rooms into it, managed to find comfort
able space for about twenty of the most distin
guished citizens of New Amsterdam, and a very
merry company of their handsome sons and
daughters. The Beekmans came early, hoping to
be of some assistance to Madame Stuyvesant ; but
they were quickly followed by the Van Cortlandts,
Creigers, La Montagues, Anthonys, Van Ruyvens
and others.

The Fort itself was but a shabby place, but this
night the Governor's rooms, plentifully dressed
with hemlock branches and lit by many candles
and blazing fires, had a gay and comfortable ap
pearance ; while the show of silver, crystal, and of
costly clothing and jewels was almost an incred
ible one, considering the wilderness behind the little
city and the great ocean before it. But not in
credible, if we remember that a great number of
the early colonists of New Amsterdam were from



THE BALL IN THE FORT 51

Dutch families who had long been accustomed to
the luxuries and refinements of a highly civilised
life ; and that they did not relinquish these things,
because they had emigrated to a new country.
On the contrary, they regarded them as the insig
nia of their long family wealth and respectability.

The Van Ruyvens had always been remarkable
for the splendour of their clothing and household
furnishings, and also for the beauty and value of
Madame Van Ruyven's jewels and pearl orna
ments. She said they were very old, and that the
pearls had been in her family for two hundred
years ; but, even so, they still represented a con
siderable amount in current guilders, while the
gold lace, velvet and satin of their attire was a
wonderful exhibition of the value of such cloth
ing in augmenting the dignity and beauty of the
human form.

It was on this occasion that Agratha took her
first step into the fashionable world, but she had
the serene, simple aplomb of a child who has al
ways been of the first consideration in her own
little world, and never dreamed of any condition
where she would be of less importance. As soon
as she entered the lighted, crowded rooms, a great
elation inspired her; the hum of voices, and the
distant sounds of the violins blending with them
thrilled her young heart. She threw upward her
head, her feet hardly touched the floor, she for
got she was Agratha Van Ruyven. Some finer



52 A MAID OF OLD NEW YORK

essence stirred within her, some spiritual force
that made her eyes shine like stars and her face
become almost translucent. She was perfectly
happy, and she stepped as lightly at her father's
side as if she were already in some blessed world
beyond the reach of sin and sorrow. For a mo
ment everyone ceased talking, and gazed at her;
and Stuyvesant, who was standing amid a group
of which the English officers made a noticeable
part, came to meet her. It was an unusual honour,
and Paul Van Ruyven bowed proudly as they met.

For a few moments they spoke of the weather
and the company, then the Governor, taking
Agratha's hand said, " Come now, Little One, I
want to make you know some of the people who
are here to-night." Agratha stepped to his side
with a smile, and leaving her father and mother
went away with her guardian. Van Ruyven could
not hide his annoyance.

" See how he presumes ! " he said in a low, angry
voice, " he forgets too much lately, that I am
Agratha's fader."

" This night he is her host," replied Madame
Van Ruyven, " and it will be prudent and civil in
thee to remember that."

" He is taking her straight to those English
officers Sacrament! "

" Keep thy words and thy oaths until thou art
in thy own house," whispered Madame. " I will
not listen to them here. Go and talk to Martin



THE BALL IN THE FORT 53

Creiger about something, anything, hang not
around me. I am going to Mrs. Anthony," and
with these words Madame Van Ruyven rose, and
her husband following her advice, sat down by
burgomaster Creiger and said:

" If we were not at a dance, but in thy office,
Creiger, what would be thy price for the sixty
beaver skins thou received from Van Hattam yes-
terday? "

So while Martin Creiger and Paul Van Ruyven
discussed the price of beaver skins, Peter Stuy-
vesant walked slowly through the crowded room
with Agratha's little hand upon his arm. She was
in a dream of pleasure, but she knew what was
going to happen, knew that her name was blending
itself with Lord Mclvar's, and heard it as music
far, far away but sweetly personal and familiar.
And just as the introduction was in progress,
Stuyvesant was hurriedly wanted, and Mclvar
took her hand and led her to a seat.

" I am most fortunate to have heard your
name," he said, " though indeed I have known you
ever since I saw you enter the room."

" But how? Where? " She lifted her face, and
the glancing of her eyes was caught and tangled
in the steady gaze of passionate admiration with
which he regarded her. She was fascinated, held
as by a charm, there was even in her heart a slight
desire to cry out, as if the excess of her pleasure
was painful. It was only a momentary enchant-



54 A MAID OF OLD NEW YORK

ment, but very real while it lasted, for it came
from a far more vital source than mere flesh and
blood. It was, in fact, a veritable betrothal,
though neither was conscious of it. Physically,
Governor Stuyvesant had introduced them, but
what power or influence had in that one co-min
gling glance, re-incarnated the old Love, with all
its faults and failures forgotten, and all its sweet
ness and tenderness renewed?

As he did not answer her question, she asked
again : " How did you know me ? Where did you
meet me? "

" I knew you by your bright eyes and shining
hair, and by many a token I cannot name. I
knew you, and that is all about it, but where I
met you before, in faith I cannot tell. Agratha!
Agratha Van Ruyven," he said musingly. " You
must remember."

Then she looked with frank eyes into the eager,
almost boyish face regarding her. It was a hand
some face, full of the verve and passion of youth,
and again she was aware of that strange thrill of
unknown poignant pleasure, so curiously akin to
pain and tears.

But she could find no words to answer the ques
tion asked, and was relieved to see a remarkably
stately woman approaching. She was smiling,
but a little shake of her head appeared to nega
tive their companionship. Mclvar looked at her,
and laughed softly.



THE BALL IN THE FORT 55

" It is my cousin Moody," he said : " she has
come to separate us, I dare say."

" She is my friend," said Agratha with enthusi
asm. " I often stay with her. I love Lady
Moody. Everyone loves her."

" She is a Dear Delight, no doubt, but I could
wish her a half a mile away at present."

But Lady Moody came forward slowly, stop
ping continually to speak to old and young as she
passed them ; her large, fair countenance sweet
and serene ; and her head held high with more than
a courtier's dignity. She was very tall, very erect,
and very handsome, though possibly sixty years
of age. Her peculiar dress somewhat accentuated
these advantages peculiar, because its long, plain
skirt of black brocade was in absolute contradic
tion to the be-frilled and be-ruffled skirts and
underskirts on all sides of her; and she wore no
ornaments, unless the long stomacher and high
cuffs of finest Honiton, and a barb of the same
lace across her black hair, be considered such.
Others might be splendid or gay or picturesque,
but Lady Moody was distinguished, and even regal
looking. For she had been used to Courts, and
though intensely democratic, was not opposed
to paying Caesar whatever was Caesar's due
in the way of social customs and polite cere
monies.

Smiling at Mclvar, she took Agratha by the
hand. " You little Beauty ! " she said admiringly,



56 A MAID OF OLD NEW YORK

" so you have put off your bib and apron, and got
into a dancing frock. How do you like it? "

" Indeed, Lady Moody, I have not danced yet."

" But now they are calling the dance. Do you
not hear the fiddles ? How can you sit still? Run
to your mother, and she will get you a partner."

" Miss Van Ruyven will dance with me, cousin.
I have bespoken her company."

" Grant me patience ! You are expected to
dance with every marriageable woman in the room,
and you must begin with Miss Anthony, or you
will be out of fashion and favour."

" That is not a tolerable sentence, cousin. And
I have only just met Miss Van Ruyven."

" Quite half an hour ago. It grieves me to
part you so soon, but I have a remedy, and I will
make it a bargain, if so you wish."

" Terms must be good. I am not to be bought
for nothing."

" Listen ! Captain Schofield is going to bring
The Wasp to Gravesend in a few days."

"Why? Are not the West India Company's
ship builders the best in the country? The Gov
ernor told us so."

" The Company's ship builders have made The
Wasp seaworthy. It is not for repairs she will
come to Gravesend."

" We will not talk of The Wasp. It is no great


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