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HOME > Short Stories > The Peddler Spy > CHAPTER IV. BOSTON “SHEATS” THE LEAN DUTCHMAN, AND TURNS UP IN HIS REAL CHARACTER.
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CHAPTER IV. BOSTON “SHEATS” THE LEAN DUTCHMAN, AND TURNS UP IN HIS REAL CHARACTER.
Boston found Paul Swedlepipe exercising the horse which he had so lately bought from him. Beyond a strong desire to get his hind feet higher than his head when hard pressed, and a tendency to roll upon his rider when spurred, Paul had no fault to find with his purchase. He found that the little beast really possessed great powers of endurance, and was tolerably swift. The truth of the matter was, Boston[35] had purchased the pony for his own use, and not to sell. The pleasant little fiction on his part, in regard to his having been purchased for Mynheer Ten Eyck, was made up on the spur of the moment, to induce Swedlepipe to buy, for Boston never missed any opportunity for a trade.

Not being cheated so badly as he expected, Swedlepipe was in good humor, and received the peddler with a smile, even while he restrained an attempt to kick on the part of the Narragansett.

“Ah-ha! Boston. Dat you, eh? Dis pretty goot hoss; glad dat you not sheat me too mooch dis time. You come for dem guilders, eh?”

“Not yet, mynheer. You see I’ve been pesky busy sense I left you. But I’ll keep my word. There comes Ten Eyck now.”

“Yaw, dat is goot. Let me stant by vile you sheat him.”

“I am only going to begin to-day. To-morrow I will finish,” replied Boston.

The ancestor of that famous race, the Ten Eyck’s of our country, rode up at this moment. It may be well to mention that this man and Swedlepipe were hereditary foes, and lost no opportunity for inflicting loss upon each other. Ten Eyck had rather the best of the encounter, as he had heard the story of the horse sold to Swedlepipe a few months before, which had caused the quarrel between the peddler and Swedlepipe.

In person, the two Dutchmen were at variance. Swedlepipe was short and stout; Ten Eyck was tall and lank. Swedlepipe’s hair was black; Ten Eyck’s was yellow, nearly approaching to red. Swedlepipe’s voice was pitched in a high treble; Ten Eyck had a deep, resounding bass. In an encounter with cudgels, the battle would have been to the strong, in the person of Swedlepipe. The acute Ten Eyck knew this right well, and likewise knew that he had the advantage in the use of harsh words and taunts. He had been especially hard upon poor Paul in the matter of the horse-trade.

The steed which Ten Eyck himself bestrode would not have been selected as an object of admiration upon Broadway[36] or Rotten Row. In spite of the food which his master crammed into him, he would not grow fat. His bones protruded in a highly objectionable manner. His head was nearly double the size of that of any ordinary horse, and his neck being very long, he found it extremely difficult to hold it up. In consequence, a line drawn from the ears to the tail would have touched the back at every point. Boston hailed the appearance of this remarkable beast with a yell of delight.

“Oh, Lord! What a hoss—what a hoss!”

Swedlepipe joined at once in the cry.

“Whose hoss you laughing at, you Yankee? Dat hoss you sell to Swedlepipe a little worse, I guess.”

“I calculate you are wrong there, Mister Longshanks. Why, I know that hoss you are riding. He is forty years old. Some say that he was brought over in the Mayflower; some say not. A man like you oughtn’t to ride such a horse. Look at Mynheer Swedlepipe, and see what a hoss he rides! I s’pose you have heard how I sold the other one to him. That was all a mistake, and I have made it all right. Haven’t I, Mynheer Swedlepipe?”

“Yaw;” said Paul. “Dat ish goot now; dat vash bad hoss, dis ish goot von.”

Ten Eyck looked at the prancing pony with infinite disgust. Such was the nature of the two men, that one could not bear to have the other possess any thing which he could not get. Every prance of the Narragansett, every shake of his long tail, went to the tall man’s very heart. As for Swedlepipe, his face fairly beamed with exultation, and he stuttered in his joy, when he attempted to speak.

“The fact is, Mynheer Ten Eyck,” said Boston, “you don’t know who to buy a horse of, and you get cheated. Now I will tell you, in confidence, that there are several men in Windsor who would not hesitate to cheat you, upon any occasion. But, I have a character to lose; I must deal in a good article. If I sell you bad goods or a bad hoss, you will not buy of me again. Do you see?”

Ten Eyck saw.

“Very good, then. If you had bought a horse from me, it would have been a good one, if you paid me a good price.[37] Of course you wouldn’t expect a very good horse for a very poor price. That’s plain enough, is it not?”

“You got long tongue, Boston,” said Ten Eyck. “Have you got a hoss to sell?”

“I can’t rightly say that I have a hoss just now. But I know where I can put my hand upon one within five hours.”

“Steal him?”

“You say that again, and I’ll drive your long legs four feet into the ground,” cried Boston, turning upon the Dutchman in sudden wrath. “Hark ye, sir. I am a plain man, and I speak plain language. In the way of trade I’ll get as much out of a man for as little in return, as any man in the five colonies. But, I won’t take ‘thief’ from any man. So look out.”

Ten Eyck almost fell from his horse in fear, and hastened to disclaim any personal allusion in his question.

“All right. Now I’ll answer your question. This hoss is where I can get him easily. All you have got to do is to ride home, and come again about five this evening to Paul Swedlepipe’s. You can see the hoss there.”

Turning up his nose at Paul Swedlepipe, and applying his heels to the sides of the remarkable courser he bestrode, Ten Eyck rode away, bobbing up and down in his saddle like a dancing-Jack.

“Now, Paul,” said Boston, “I want your help. Where is this hoss I sold you the other day?”

“Out in de bush.”

“Send for him.”

“What you want of him?”

“Never you mind; he is mine, and I want him. And mind, I also want the teeth and tail I sold with him. Them I must have.”

Paul called to one of his boys, and sent him after the horse, while he himself produced the tail and teeth which he had carefully preserved. The boy returned in about an hour, during which Paul and the hawker imbibed large quantities of apple-jack, not strong enough, however, to unsettle their ideas. When the boy appeared, Boston took the bridle of the horse, and led him away, closely followed by Swedlepipe.

[38]

Reaching an open glade in the forest, the peddler stopped, and tethered the horse to a swaying limb. He then took from his pack a keen lancet, with which he made a small incision in the skin under the shoulder of the beast. In this slit he inserted a quill, and begun to blow. Those accustomed to the management of a horse know the effect of this. In a few moments Paul, who stood looking on in open-mouthed wonder, did not know the horse, who seemed to grow fat under the hands of the skillful jockey.

After he had blown the animal up to a wholesome plumpness, Boston nicely and tightly sewed up the small incision. Then taking from his pack a small vial, he filled a large gourd which he had brought from the house with water from the spring, and poured into it the contents of the vial. The water at once assumed a greenish hue. With this mixture he now washed the horse thoroughly in every part, keeping him carefully in the shade. This done, he led him out into the sunlight, and, to the intense astonishment of Paul Swedlepipe, by some chemical action of the sun upon the mixture, the horse changed at once from a dirty white to a delicate shade of brown. Raising his hands upward, as if calling witnesses to his astonishment, the Dutchman cried:

“Der tuyvel is upon earth. You ish der tuyvel!”

“No, Paul. A lineal descendant of the old fellow, though. Do you think I could sell that horse to Ten Eyck?”

“Yaw. He is so goot changed he would sheat me again. I never puys nottings from you no more.”

“He must stand in the sun for a couple of hours, to let the color fasten, and then we will take him up to the house. Now let me put you up to a wrinkle. When Ten Eyck comes for the horse, I want you to bid against him.”

“Vat ish dat?”

“If he offers forty guilders for him, you must offer fifty.”

“For dat hoss? I no wants dat hoss.”

“You needn’t have him. Of course Ten Eyck will bid sixty. You will then say seventy.”

“Yaw, put I ton’t vant dat hoss.”

“I tell you I only want you to bid, and when I think he has offered enough, I shall wink to you, and you must stop bidding.”

[39]

“Put I needn’t have te hoss, eh?”

“No, you blockhead! Do as I tell you, if you want him to buy the horse.”

All this while, however, the Yankee was at work putting on the alien tail and putting in the ejected teeth, which, instead of being tied in, as Paul had said, were, in truth wired together with a skill which a modern dentist might have envied. It must have cost Boston time and patience to have produced such a double row of horse-incisors and molars; but he accomplished the task quite to his satisfaction—“good enough to deceive a dumb Dutchman,” he ejaculated.

It took some time to drum into Swedlepipe’s head that he was only required to make Peter Funk bids against the destined victim. Boston knew full well that if he sold Ten Eyck he would make a powerful enemy, as the tall man was high in power in the House of Good Hope. But, the events which he knew were on the march made him careless of consequences. Ten Eyck came at the appointed time, and found the two seated amicably over some long pipes and a goodly measure of apple-jack.

“Vere is dat hoss?” he said.

“Outside,” said Boston. “Let’s go out and see him. Oh, by the way, since you were here my friend Swedlepipe has seen this horse and has taken a fancy to it. I am afraid he will bid against you.”

“You promised him to me.”

“I promised to show you a hoss, and I will keep my word. Come, mynheer, let us go together.”

The horse was now tied in a little inclosure at the back of the house, whither the party now wended their way. Boston’s jockey-training had not been in vain, and it was really a handsome beast to look at!

“Now, den,” said Ten Eyck, taking out a plethoric purse, “vat you ask for dat hoss?”

“I don’t set any price for him,” replied Boston. “What do you think he is worth.”

“I gif’s you vifty guilders.”

“What do you say, Mynheer Swedlepipe? Shall I let it go for that? I leave it entirely to you.”

“No,” said Paul. “I gif’s sixty.”

[40]

“You try to git dat hoss, pudding-head,” cried the other; “I gif’s seventy guilders.”

It is needless to follow the course of the trade—to give the words which passed between the bidders—how Paul, forgetting that he was only bidding in jest, refused to stop when Boston winked at him, but bid higher! Affairs trembled in the balance. Ten Eyck looked at the horse and his rival, and swore in his inmost soul to have the beast, if it took every guilder from his purse. He bid higher, and while he cogitated, Boston had winked Paul into submission.

“One hundred and fifty guilders,” said Boston. “It’s a good pile. You don’t go any higher, Mynheer Swedlepipe?”

“Nein,” said Paul.

“Then you may have him, Ten Eyck. It’s as good a sell as you ever heard on, I guess.”

The last named individual counted out the money, bestrode the transformed beast, and rode away to his home, while Paul, falling prostrate upon the earth, hugged himself, and shouted with laughter. Boston, chinking the money in his purse, uttered a satisfied chuckle, and went his way.

The hawker did not stay in the settlement, though the sun was low in the forest, and the Indians were thick as the deer, and bloody as the panther. Once in the woods, and out of sight of the village, he deftly hid his pack beside a fallen tree, drew out a beautiful gun from its place of concealment, and assumed an active, erect attitude, much unlike the slouching gait which had marked his course in the village. He cast a keen glance about him, and begun to load his piece before he set forward on the trail. This done, he tightened his belt, took a hasty glance at the sky, and buried himself in the woods.

The forest path along which he journeyed was tangled, and covered by fallen leaves, in which his feet fell with a slight rustle. At times the deer started up from a thicket, and went crashing away. At others the brown bear went lumbering over the path, casting a surly glance over her shoulder at the strange intruder upon her native woods. The warning rattle of the venomous snake sounded in his ear; the howl of a distant panther was heard. Such were the sights and sounds of a Connecticut forest, in those early times.

[41]

The change in the man who trod the forest path was wonderful. No longer the peddler keen for a trade, and seeing only the main chance, but a sharp, vigilant woodman, ready for any emergency which might arise.

As he passed through a thick part of the woods, a confused sound came to his ears, as of a struggle among the dry leaves. Dashing aside the branches, with a hasty step he broke into an open place in the forest, and looked in upon a strange scene.

The glade was not empty. Two men lay upon the ground, engaged in a struggle for life or death. Their quick, panting breaths came to Boston’s ears. Drawing his knife, he rushed forward, shouting:

“Hold your hands! He who strikes another stroke will have me to fight.”

The two men rose slowly and sullenly to their feet, casting looks of hate at each other. One, however, recognizing Boston, extended a hand, giving him a cheerful welcome.

“But what means this, William Barlow? How is it that I find you brawling like a boy with a stranger, when you have weighty affairs to attend to? By my faith, I did not look for this at your hands!”

The person he addressed was young, and clad in the uniform of the early Connecticut soldiery. His form was erect, and his bearing that of a soldier. He bent down his eyes, wonderful as it may seem, at the words of the peddler.

“You are right, Boston, in saying that I had no right to quarrel. But it was forced upon me against my will. Yonder man will tell you that this quarrel is none of my seeking.”

The person of whom he spoke had stood upon his guard, drawing his sword, and expecting to fight both men when they had done with their conference. He, too, had the erect bearing of the soldier, and his dress was that of captain of the soldiers at Manhattan. His face was a study. Seen in repose, it was beautiful, for a man. But now, with his anger fresh upon him, it seemed the face of a fiend. This was Joseph Van Zandt, captain in the army of the governor at New Netherlands, a brave soldier, but an unscrupulous foe.

[42]

“If it will aid you,” said he, “I do not hesitate to say that I forced this quarrel upon Lieutenant Barlow.”

“So sure as my name is Boston Bainbridge,” said that worthy, “I could give you no worse punishment than to leave you in the hands of Willie Barlow. I have not the least doubt he would give a good account of you. But, it may not be. How came this quarrel about?”

“I met him here,” said Barlow, “and he talked in a friendly tone at first; but when I gave my name he drew upon me with the utmost fury.”

“Why was this, sir?” asked Boston, turning to the captain. “Can not men meet in the forest, but they must fight like dogs?”

“Ask me no questions. I do not recognize your right to do so. It is enough for me to know that the name of the man who stands by your side is so hateful to me that I am his enemy to the death.”

“You are over bold, sir,” said Boston, setting his teeth hard. “What hope have you, if we two set upon you together.”

“The hope of a man and a soldier,” replied Captain Van Zandt, quickly. “I may fall, or I may conquer. Set on!”

“I did not say we would attack you. We are peaceful men, and do not pick quarrels with every man whose name does not suit us.”

“Let him ask me why I hate the name he bears,” replied the other, “and I will tell him. That is, if he cares to know.”

“If you choose to tell,” said Willie, “I should like to hear; for, by my faith, I never offended you in the slightest degree.”

“I will tell you. Because you took advantage of your position as ambassador from the Plymouth Colony, and tried to win away from me my affianced wife, Theresa Van Curter.”

Willie took a forward step, and addressed the young man boldly:

“I am glad you have spoken,” said he. “We now understand each other. While I fought with you a few moments since, I was angry at myself, because I fought with a man with whom I had no quarrel. I am best pleased that you[43] have told me what cause we have to be bad friends. And yet, I can not feel that it is necessary to fight. Let the one who can win the heart of Theresa Van Curter take her for a wife, and let the other do as best he may. If you win her, I shall bid you God-speed. If I win, you may do the same. Is not this the nobler way?”

“Such sickly philosophy may do for you Englishmen,” answered the other, coldly. “As for me, I am not of such blood. I love Theresa. She has been a guide to me through life—my leading star. I will not lose her now, when the time has come when she was promised to me. Will you give her up?”

“Not I. If I have any place in her heart, I would not yield it for any living man.”

“Be it so then. We are enemies from this hour. When we fight again it shall be where no man can come between. Do you intend to detain me, sir? I do not know your name.”

“Not at all. Go your way and leave us to go ours,” said Boston.

The captain turned hastily away, for it was now quite dark in the forest, and made his way to the river-side, where he expected to meet a party from the House of Good Hope, sent to meet him by Van Curter. The two men, being left alone in the forest, did not remain in the place where they stood, but hastened away to the river-side, by a different route. Here they entered one of the limestone caves, found on the river’s bank. The peddler lighted a pine torch. Then the two sat down to talk.
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