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CHAPTER I. BOSTON “DICKERS” WITH THE DUTCHMEN.
Down the Connecticut, not many miles from the city of Hartford, in the early days of the State of Wooden Nutmegs, stood an ancient fort, known by the name of “The House of Good Hope.” By reference to that veracious chronicle known as “Knickerbocker’s History of New York,” you will find that it was built by the good people of New Netherlands, to prevent further encroachment on the part of a race which has since taken the generic name of Yankee. Although the history mentioned may be correct, it might be open to censure on the ground that the writer was biased in favor of his own people. Be that as it may, the people of Good Hope had planted themselves upon the river, determined to keep back, as far as possible, the domineering race which had intruded upon the happy valley.

Although honest Diedrich may have been somewhat angry at our ancestors, the Puritans, still we are forced to say that they were not very far wrong in their estimate of character. The stolid Dutchmen were poorly suited to contend with them in an encounter in which wit was the weapon used. Placed face to face, each with a stout oak cudgel in his hand, perhaps no Dutchman would have feared to meet one of the hated race. But when it came to the commodity in which they did not deal, namely, cunning, the Puritans had the advantage.

The New Netherlanders claimed all the land extending from the banks of the Hudson to the Connecticut; and certainly, if any white man could claim the soil at all, their claim was prior to that of the English. But, with the wholesome proviso that “might makes right,” the Puritans pushed their settlements to the side of the Happy River, under the very nose of the Dutch commandant at Good Hope.

[10]

What that worthy thought, when the first members of the hardy band, who pushed their way through the trackless wilderness to this spot, made their appearance, is not fully set down. We only know, by the history before mentioned, that they became obnoxious to the Dutch from their desire to teach the damsels the absurd custom of “bundling,” in which no true Dutchman would indulge. Besides, they had begun, even at this early period, to show that sharpness in making bargains which since has distinguished them above other nations in the world. Certain of them made a practice of “swapping horses” with the men of Good Hope; and, although the beasts they brought for “dicker” were, to all appearance, good ones, yet no sooner was the bargain completed than the horses begun to show traits which had not been “set down in the bill.” Indeed, it begun to be proverbial that horse-trading with the Windsor people meant a transaction in which a Dutchman gave a very good beast and some gelt for a very poor one and no gelt at all. Moreover, the English were addicted to the practice of overreaching the spouses of absent Hans and Yawcop with transactions for small articles, such as constitute a peddler’s pack in our day. Some will go so far as to say that, under the mask of perfect disinterestedness of purpose, these Yankees would almost break up housekeeping on the part of a couple possessed of considerable means, in a single visit—so much were they ahead of the tramps of the present day. Indeed, it is averred that the main cause of hostility on the part of the Dutchmen against the English was the fact of the influence of these profane wanderers over the partners of their phlegmatic joys and stolid sorrows.

But, be that as it may, the inhabitants of Hartford were not in very good order with those of Good Hope. On whose side the blame lay, we will leave to historians to decide—if they can—while we proceed with our narrative.

Good Hope was an awkward structure of mud and logs, such as the Dutch built in that day; strong enough, however, for the purpose for which it was built, if it had been in different hands. It faced upon the river, was armed with some of the clumsy ordnance common to the period, and was garrisoned by about forty men from the settlement at New York, who were somewhat overfed, and inclined to smoke all the[11] time they were not eating or drinking. Their leader, Van Curter, was one of those fiery, self-willed men sometimes found in his nation, who mistake pig-headed obstinacy for firmness of heart. An old soldier, trained under the unhappy Prince of Orange, he thought no people like his own, and no soldier like himself. He had seen, with ill-disguised jealousy, that a people were growing up about him who were ahead of his own in acuteness, and who were daily outstripping them in matters of business. He had written a dispatch to Wouter Von Twiller, Governor of New Netherlands, acquainting him with the inroad of these Windsor people, and of the absolute incapacity of his men to compete with them. The governor thereupon issued a proclamation, commanding the English to withdraw from land which was the property of the Dutch East India Company.

The Yankees’ answer was very much to the same effect as that of the worthy Master Nicholas, when he defied the trumpeter of William Kieft, applying his thumb to the tip of his nose, and spreading out the fingers like a fan. At least, they paid no attention to the proclamation, but continued to take up land, and increase the limits of their colony. The only reply they did vouchsafe to the demand of the governor was that they claimed the land in the right of possession, and would not give it up. The New Netherlanders had no desire to make a quarrel with their neighbors, who were, for the most part, strong men, who would not hesitate to use manual persuasion in case it became necessary. Hence the Dutchmen resorted to all manner of threats, entreaties—any thing but violence.

There was one person, in particular, who was a source of constant annoyance to the people of Good Hope. This was a hawker of small trinkets, known in the settlements as Boston Bainbridge. A sharp, business-like fellow, not a bad prototype of the Down-Easter of our day, he made his way into every house from Boston to the City of Brotherly Love. His pack was welcomed in the houses of his own countrymen, who, being as sharp in buying as he was in selling, seldom allowed him to get the better of them. But the Dutchmen were not so cunning, and were overreached in many a bargain. Boston did not confine himself entirely to dealing in[12] small wares, but sold many articles of greater value; bought and sold horses, or, as he expressed himself, was a “mighty man on a dicker.”

Boston came into Good Hope on a bright morning in the early part of the month of June. His pack had been replenished in Hartford, and he hoped to diminish its contents among the Dutch. He was a middle-sized, active-looking man, about forty years of age, clad in a suit of gray homespun. His pack was, as usual strapped upon his back, while he led a forlorn-looking Narragansett pony, which paced slowly along behind its master, like a captive led to the stake. Boston had some misgivings that certain things sold to these people must have come to grief since his last visit. But this was not by any means the first time he had been tackled by them for selling bad wares, and he never was at a loss for an answer.

The families of the Dutch had built up a little village about the fort, and he entered boldly. The first man he met was an unmistakable Teuton, with a broad, bulky figure, built after the manner of Wouter Von Twiller, then Governor of New Netherlands. This individual at once rushed upon the Yankee, exhibiting the blade of a knife, severed from the handle.

“Ah-ha, Yankee! You see dat, eh? You sell dat knife to me; you sheat me mit dat knife.”

“You git eout,” replied the Yankee. “I never sold you that knife!”

“Yaw! Dat ish von lie; dat ish von pig lie! You vas sell dat knife mit me.”

Boston lowered the pack from his shoulder and took the despised blade in his hand.

“Now then, Dutchy, what’s the matter with this knife, I should like to know?”

“Donner unt blitzen! Das ish von big sheat knife. Goot for nix. Das knife not coot preat, py Shoseph!”

“How did you break it?” asked the peddler, fitting the pieces of the knife together and taking a wire from his pocket. “This is a good knife, I reckon. You broke the rivet. Now look at me, and see how far we are in advance of you in the arts and sciences. I tell you, Hans Drinker, you don’t know any thing about these matters—blamed if you do.”

[13]

As he spoke, he took out a pair of pincers, riveted the blade in, pounded it, and held up the knife for inspection.

“Look at that, neow, Hans Drinker. Any one but a Dutchman would have done that long ago, instead of waiting for a poor fellow who sold you the knife at a sacrifice.”

“Vat ish dat, eh? I no care for dat? I says de knife vill not cut preat,” cried Hans.

“See here—where have you had this knife? You put it in hot water, I know. Tell the truth and shame the adversary—didn’t you, now?”

“Vell, I did; but dat no hurt.”

“All you know. Of course it hurts! What do you expect a knife to be that you can buy for a shilling, English money? It took the temper out of it, I allow.”

“Vat ish demper?”

“Never you mind. That knife is spoiled, and I know how. I wouldn’t give an English penny for it to-day. For why? A Dutchman don’t know how to use a knife. Consequence—he spoils it.”

Hans paused in some doubt, seeing the blame of the failure of the knife laid so fully upon his guiltless shoulders. Boston gave him no time to think, but threw open his pack.

“Now, I’ll tell you what I mean to do. You don’t deserve it; but I will do a violence to my conscience, and do something for you. Keep your fingers to yourself and feast your eyes upon that.” Here he produced a knife somewhat better than the one which Hans had returned. “Now, I’ll tell you what I will do. ’Tisn’t right, I know it; ’tisn’t behaving properly to those who bought the last lot I had, but you may have that knife for four shillings sterling. You stare. I don’t wonder, for that knife ought to bring fully ten shillings. It’s worth it, if it’s worth a farthing; but what can I do? I must put my goods down to you fellows or you won’t look at them. I am making myself a poor man for your sakes.”

“Vour shilling. Dat ish too mooch, by Shoseph!”

“Too much! I tell you I am giving the knife away—absolutely giving it away. That knife you bought before was a cheap knife, I allow that; but it was sold cheap; but I lose on this knife if I sell it at six shillings, and here I offer it to you at four. Many a time I am tempted to shut up my pack and[14] tramp through the woods no more; but when I think that it will be impossible for you to get along without me, I repent, and sacrifice my own interests for your good. I can’t help it, if I am soft-hearted, it’s one of my little failings. I sell below cost because I hate to be hard upon poor men.”

Hans took the knife in his hands and begun to open and shut the bright blade. He had been beaten again and again by this same peddler, and did not care to be taken in once more. The polished blade shone like glass in the sunlight.

“Dat ish goot knife, eh?”

“Good! You’d better believe it’s good. Why, I know a man down to Hartford has got one of them there knives, and what do you reckon he does with it? You can’t tell, scarcely. No, ’tain’t probable you can. Then I’ll tell you. He uses it for an ax, and he can cut down a good-sized maple with it about as soon as you cut a cat-tail down with one of your clumsy axes. I don’t say that this is as good a knife as that. Probably ’tain’t; but it came out of the same mold.”

“Big price, dat. Sure dis is goot knife, eh? You sell me bad knife two, t’ree, vour dimes. Dat ish pad—dat is worser as pad. Vour shillings?”

“Four. But see here. I ain’t given you inducement to buy, it seems. Rot me ef I don’t think you are about the toughest tree I ever tried to climb. Now look at me, and see a man always ready to sacrifice himself for the good of the people. Here are a pair of combs. They are worth money—they are good combs. I throw them into the pile, and what else? Here is a good pair of shoe-buckles. I throw them in, and beg you to take the pile away for six shillings. You won’t? I thought so. You ain’t capable of it, more’s the pity. I’ll again hurt my own feelings by saying five-and-six. If you don’t take them at that I must shut up my pack. Hans Drinker, you were born to good luck. I don’t think, upon my word and honor, that any one ever had such a chance since the days of Noah. I don’t, sart’inly.”

“You talk so fast dat I has nottings to zay mitout speaking. Vell, I takes dem. Py Shoseph, if tey ish not goot, I kills you mit a mistake, shure!”

“I’ve half a mind to take it back. I think—”

[15]

“Nix, splitzen, nean; I puys dem goots. Dey ish mine. Vive-unt-sax; dere it ish.”

“Well, take them,” said Boston, with a sigh of resignation. “I lose by you, but I gave you my word, and you may have them.”

Having thus effected a sale of the articles, which were dear at eighteen pence, Boston lifted his pack and proceeded blithely on his way, while Hans Drinker hurried away to display his treasures, and chuckle over his bargain. Boston was not fated to proceed far, when he was arrested by a yell from a house by the roadside.

“Holt on, dere! you sleutzen Yankee, holt on!”

“He-he,” chuckled Boston, “That’s old Swedlepipe. Now he will give me rats about that horse.”

As he spoke, the person who had stopped him threw open the door of his cottage, and rushed out into the road. He was a stout-built old man, very red in the face, and flourishing a staff over his head.

“Dear me,” cried Boston. “Is it possible that I see my dear friend Mynheer Swedlepipe? Give me your hand, mynheer. This is, indeed, a sight for sore eyes.”

“It vill be a sight for sore heads, pefore you go, or else my name is not Paul Swedlepipe. Vat you do, you Yankee rascal? You comes to Good Hope mid your flimpsy goots, unt sell dem to honest Dootchmen. I vill preak every pone in your skin.”

“Now, Mynheer Swedlepipe, my dear mynheer, what have I done? Just tell me what I have done? Shake hands.”

“You dry to shake hands mit me unt I preak your head. Vat you done to your tear Mynheer Swedlepipe, eh? Vell, den, I dells you. You prings to dish place von old hoss dat ish not vorth von guilder. Hein, you curry him unt you comb him, unt you make him look ver’ nice. I dinks it ish von ver’ goot horse, unt I pays you von hunder guilders! Sturm unt wetter! Ish dat nottings, eh? Hagel! I kills you deat ash von schmoke-herring.”

The stick flourished about in dangerous proximity to Boston’s ears, who sat upon his pack with an immovable countenance, watching every motion on the part of the other with[16] his sharp eyes. There was something in his face which deterred the Dutchman from striking.

“What’s the matter with the horse, mynheer, I should like to know?”

“Matter! Dere ish not von disease vich a horse can have dat he hash not.”

“Let me know one.”

“He hash de heaves.”

“Yes.”

“And de ring-bone.”

“Yes.”

“And he ish bone-spavined.”

“Yes.”

“And he sprained-shoulder.”

“Yes.”

“Donner! Ton’t sit dere unt say yes, yes, yes! S’all I dell you one more t’ing? Vell, here it ish. He has nix toot’ in his head!”

“No?” cried Boston, in surprise. “He had when I brought him here. How did he lose them?”

“Dey shoost dropped out in his manger te first times I feed him. Ton’t lie to me. You put his teet’ in to sell him. You tied dem in mit strings, you pig, pig rogue!”

“Gracious, mynheer! Is it possible that you consider me capable of such business?”

“Yaw!”

“Oh, you do? Now you are wrong. I bought that horse of a friend in Hartford. He is not the man I took him for, nor the horse is not what you took him for. Well, who is to blame? I take it, that it is the man who sold me the horse first. I didn’t think he’d a-done it, mynheer; I didn’t think he’d a-done it.”

Mynheer looked at him in a species of indignant admiration. He had thought that the peddler would not certainly have the surpassing effrontery to deny the fact of his knowledge of the various diseases by which the poor animal was afflicted.

“You means to dell me, den, dat you don’t know dat dis horse ish plind?”

“Is he?”

[17]

“Yaw; he ish plind ash a pat. He ish teaf. You not knows dat, either?”

“That explains it! Now, I fired off a gun close to his ear, one day, and he didn’t even jump. That was because he was deaf. Well now!”

“Dere ish one t’ing more. You didn’t know dat de nice tail he carried pelonged to some nodder horse?”

“You don’t say! Not his own tail? If I ain’t beat! Well, mynheer, the rascal has beat us both this time. He has got the money, and we can’t help ourselves. I didn’t tell you that I gave a hundred and ten guilders for the beast, did I? No? Well, you see by that I lost on the trade with you. I always lose, most years.”

Swedlepipe shook his head, and dropped his stick dejectedly. He would have understood the pleasant little fiction on the part of Boston if he had known that a farmer near Hartford had lost a horse by drowning. Boston had taken possession of his tail and teeth, and by the aid of the two had so contrived to patch up an ancient steed which he picked up in the woods, where it had been turned out to die, as to sell him to poor Swedlepipe at an exorbitant rate.

Old Swedlepipe scratched his head. He had sworn by the name of his patron saint, worthy Nicholas, that he would give Boston Bainbridge a taste of wholesome Dutch cudgel, if he ever dared to set foot in Good Hope again. And yet here he was, and had purged himself of all stain, by saddling the guilt upon some unfortunate third person.

“I’ll tell you, squire,” said he, “I’m sorry for this. If I had only known that the horse was a bad one, I would have brought you another from Windsor. Oh, you better believe they have horses there.”

“Yaw, dey must have dem dere, for dey never prings dem here.”

“Ha,” said the other. “There are some sharp people down to Windsor. There’s Holmes, now. You know Holmes? He is the man who wouldn’t stop when you threatened to blow his sloop out of water. Of course they don’t send away their best horses often. Sometimes they do. You see this pony? If I had known that you would want a horse you might have had him. You know Ten Eyck?”

[18]

“Yaw. Pig rascal he is!”

“Yes. Just so. Wal, that hoss is for him.”

“For Ten Eyck?”

“Yes.”

“’Tain’t a very pig hoss.”

“No, ’tain’t. But it’s the best hoss of its kind in the country. He ain’t very fast, to be sure. But, for all that, if he ran a race against a red deer, I should know which to put my money on. That’s the same hoss, mynheer, that went from Providence to Salem in jist tew days. You don’t believe it? Wal, I don’t ask it of you. Don’t take my word for it. I don’t say that the hoss has got a good eye. ’Twouldn’t do me any good; you wouldn’t believe me. Look for yourself.”

“Did Ten Eyck send for dat hoss?”

“Oh, never mind,” replied Boston, in high dudgeon. “’Tain’t no use for you to ask. You can’t have this hoss.”

“Not if I gif’s you money?”

“Hey?”

“Not if I gif’s you more money as Ten Eyck?”

“You wouldn’t.”

“How much he gif’s?”

“Fifty guilders.”

“Hein!”

“Fifty guilders.”

“Der tuyvel!”

“But what’s the use talking? I must go on and leave the hoss. Want any thing in my line, mynheer?”

“Holt on. Ten Eyck shan’t hav’ dat hoss. I gif’s you sixty guilders for him.”

“Do you think I’d break my word for ten guilders?” cried Boston, taking up his pack.

“Seventy.”

“Say eighty.”

“No; seventy.”

“Seventy-five. Come, git up, Lightfoot!”

“Vell, I gif’s it. I gets de money.”

“All right. I’ll stay here. By the way, where is that other hoss?”

“Turned him out to commons.”

[19]

“I’ll give you five guilders for him.”

“Dake him. He not wort two kreutzers.”

“Not to you,” replied the Yankee; “but to me he may be of use. Git the money.”

Swedlepipe plunged into the cabin, and reappeared a moment after, and counted the money into Boston’s hand.

“Any thing else I can do for you, mynheer?”

“Yaw.”

“What is it?”

“Vell, I dells you. Shoost you sheat Ten Eyck so bad ash you sheat me, unt I gif’s you den guilders!”

“Is that a bargain, squire?”

“Yaw! He vound out dat you selt me dat hoss, unt he laughs von whole day. Now, you sheat him. Vill you do it?”

“Yes. I’ll cheat him for the ten guilders, for your sake. You know I don’t often do it; but, to please a good friend, I will do a violence to my conscience, particularly in a case like this.”

“Ven will you do it?”

“Oh, I don’t know; pretty soon. When I have done it, you shall hear from me. I shall want that old hoss, howsumdever.”

“Send for him ven you wants him. How you sheat Ten Eyck, eh?”

“I don’t know now. I’ll tell you when I do it.”

He took up his pack and trudged courageously down the little street toward the fort. The stolid sentry made some demur against his entrance; but he got through at last. Swedlepipe gazed after him, with open mouth, until his form was concealed from view. Then, slowly replacing the pipe between his teeth, he ejaculated: “Dat ish ter tuyvel’s poy, I dinks.”
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