This volume comprises those inimitable stories that have given immortality to the traditions of the Hudson, and, as it were, touched the classic-chord in colonial history.
Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:
Liczba stron: 365
Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostepny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacjach Legimi na:
A Book Of The Hudson
Washington Irving – A Biographical Primer
Guests From Gibbet Island
Peter Stuyvesant's Voyage Up The Hudson
The Chronicle Of Bearn Island
The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow
Rip Van Winkle.
Wolfert Webber, or Golden Dreams
A Book Of The Hudson, W. Irving
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
Washington Irving (1783-1859), American man of letters, was born at New York on the 3rd of April 1783. Both his parents were immigrants from Great Britain, his father, originally an officer in the merchant service, but at the time of Irving's birth a considerable merchant, having come from the Orkneys, and his mother from Falmouth. Irving was intended for the legal profession, but his studies were interrupted by an illness necessitating a voyage to Europe, in the course of which he proceeded as far as Rome, and made the acquaintance of Washington Allston. He was called to the bar upon his return, but made little effort to practice, preferring to amuse himself with literary ventures. The first of these of any importance, a satirical miscellany entitled Salmagundi, or the Whim-Whams andOpinions of Launcelot Langstaff and others, written in conjunction with his brother William and J. K. Paulding, gave ample proof of his talents as a humorist. These were still more conspicuously displayed in his next attempt, A History of New York from theBeginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by “Diedrich Knickerbocker” (2 vols., New York, 1809). The satire of Salmagundi had been principally local, and the original design of “Knickerbocker's” History was only to burlesque a pretentious disquisition on the history of the city in a guidebook by Dr Samuel Mitchell. The idea expanded as Irving proceeded, and he ended by not merely satirizing the pedantry of local antiquaries, but by creating a distinct literary type out of the solid Dutch burgher whose phlegm had long been an object of ridicule to the mercurial Americans. Though far from the most finished of Irving's productions, “Knickerbocker” manifests the most original power, and is the most genuinely national in its quaintness and drollery. The very tardiness and prolixity of the story are skillfully made to heighten the humorous effect.
Upon the death of his father, Irving had become a sleeping partner in his brother's commercial house, a branch of which was established at Liverpool. This, combined with the restoration of peace, induced him to visit England in 1815, when he found the stability of the firm seriously compromised. After some years of ineffectual struggle it became bankrupt. This misfortune compelled Irving to resume his pen as a means of subsistence. His reputation had preceded him to England, and the curiosity naturally excited by the then unwonted apparition of a successful American author procured him admission into the highest literary circles, where his popularity was ensured by his amiable temper and polished manners. As an American, moreover, he stood aloof from the political and literary disputes which then divided England. Campbell, Jeffrey, Moore, Scott, were counted among his friends, and the last-named zealously recommended him to the publisher Murray, who, after at first refusing, consented (1820) to bring out The Sketch Book ofGeoffrey Crayon, Gent. (7 pts., New York, 1819-1820). The most interesting part of this work is the description of an English Christmas, which displays a delicate humor not unworthy of the writer's evident model Addison. Some stories and sketches on American themes contribute to give it variety; of these Rip van Winkle is the most remarkable. It speedily obtained the greatest success on both sides of the Atlantic. Bracebridge Hall, or the Humourists (2 vols., New York), a work purely English in subject, followed in 1822, and showed to what account the American observer had turned his experience of English country life. The humor is, nevertheless, much more English than American. Tales of a Traveller (4 pts.) appeared in 1824 at Philadelphia, and Irving, now in comfortable circumstances, determined to enlarge his sphere of observation by a journey on the continent. After a long course of travel he settled down at Madrid in the house of the American consul Rich. His intention at the time was to translate the Coleccionde los Viajes y Descubrimientos (Madrid, 1825-1837) of Martin Fernandez de Navarrete; finding, however, that this was rather a collection of valuable materials than a systematic biography, he determined to compose a biography of his own by its assistance, supplemented by independent researches in the Spanish archives. His History of the Life and Voyages ofChristopher Columbus (London, 4 vols.) appeared in 1828, and obtained a merited success. The Voyages and Discoveries ofthe Companions of Columbus (Philadelphia, 1831) followed; and a prolonged residence in the south of Spain gave Irving materials for two highly picturesque books, A Chronicle of theConquest of Granada from the MSS. of [an imaginary] FrayAntonio Agapida (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1829), and The Alhambra:a series of tales and sketches of the Moors and Spaniards (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1832). Previous to their appearance he had been appointed secretary to the embassy at London, an office as purely complimentary to his literary ability as the legal degree which he about the same time received from the university of Oxford.
Returning to the United States in 1832, after seventeen years' absence, he found his name a household word, and himself universally honored as the first American who had won for his country recognition on equal terms in the literary republic. After the rush of fêtes and public compliments had subsided, he undertook a tour in the western prairies, and returning to the neighborhood of New York built for himself a delightful retreat on the Hudson, to which he gave the name of “Sunnyside.” His acquaintance with the New York millionaire John Jacob Astor prompted his next important work — Astoria (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1836), a history of the fur-trading settlement founded by Astor in Oregon, deduced with singular literary ability from dry commercial records, and, without labored attempts at word-painting, evincing a remarkable faculty for bringing scenes and incidents vividly before the eye. TheAdventures of Captain Bonneville (London and Philadelphia, 1837), based upon the unpublished memoirs of a veteran explorer, was another work of the same class. In 1842 Irving was appointed ambassador to Spain. He spent four years in the country, without this time turning his residence to literary account; and it was not until two years after his return that Forster's life of Goldsmith, by reminding him of a slight essay of his own which he now thought too imperfect by comparison to be included among his collected writings, stimulated him to the production of his Life of Oliver Goldsmith, with Selections fromhis Writings (2 vols., New York, 1849). Without pretensions to original research, the book displays an admirable talent for employing existing material to the best effect. The same may be said of The Lives of Mahomet and his Successors (New York, 2 vols., 1840-1850). Here as elsewhere Irving correctly discriminated the biographer's province from the historian's, and leaving the philosophical investigation of cause and effect to writers of Gibbon's caliber, applied himself to represent the picturesque features of the age as embodied in the actions and utterances of its most characteristic representatives. His last days were devoted to his Life of George Washington (5 vols., 1855-1859, New York and London), undertaken in an enthusiastic spirit, but which the author found exhausting and his readers tame. His genius required a more poetical theme, and indeed the biographer of Washington must be at least a potential soldier and statesman. Irving just lived to complete this work, dying of heart disease at Sunnyside, on the 28th of November 1859.
Although one of the chief ornaments of American literature, Irving is not characteristically American. But he is one of the few authors of his period who really manifest traces of a vein of national peculiarity which might under other circumstances have been productive. “Knickerbocker's” History of NewYork, although the air of mock solemnity which constitutes the staple of its humor is peculiar to no literature, manifests nevertheless a power of reproducing a distinct national type. Had circumstances taken Irving to the West, and placed him amid a society teeming with quaint and genial eccentricity, he might possibly have been the first Western humorist, and his humor might have gained in depth and richness. In England, on the other hand, everything encouraged his natural fastidiousness; he became a refined writer, but by no means a robust one. His biographies bear the stamp of genuine artistic intelligence, equally remote from compilation and disquisition. In execution they are almost faultless; the narrative is easy, the style pellucid, and the writer's judgment nearly always in accordance with the general verdict of history. Without ostentation or affectation, he was exquisite in all things, a mirror of loyalty, courtesy and good taste in all his literary connexions, and exemplary in all the relations of domestic life. He never married, remaining true to the memory of an early attachment blighted by death.
The principal edition of Irving' s works is the “Geoffrey Crayon,” published at New York in 1880 in 26 vols. His Life and Letters was published by his nephew Pierre M. Irving (London, 1862-1864, 4 vols.; German abridgment by Adolf Laun, Berlin, 1870, 2 vols.) There is a good deal of miscellaneous information in a compilation entitled Irvingiana (New York, 1860); and W. C. Bryant's memorial oration, though somewhat too uniformly laudatory, may be consulted with advantage. It was republished in Studies of Irvine (1880) along with C. Dudley Warner's introduction to the “Geoffrey Crayon” edition, and Mr. G. P. Putnam's personal reminiscences of Irving, which originally appeared in the Atlantic Monthly. See also Washington Irving (1881), by C. D. Warner, in the “American Men of Letters” series; H. R. Haweis, American Humourists (London, 1883).
THIS collection of stories is identical with a volume that Irving himself published in the year 1849, except that the tale of Wolfert's Roost has been added. in his foreword he attributes the stories to "the late Diedrich Knickerbocker," and goes on to say: "That worthy and truthful historian was one of my earliest and most revered friends, and I owe many of the pleasant associations in my mind with this river to information derived in my youth from that venerable sage. It has recently occurred to me that it would be an acceptable homage to his venerated shade, to collect in one volume all that he has written concerning the river which he loved so well. It occurred to me also that such a volume might form an agreeable and instructive handbook to all intelligent and inquiring travellers about to explore the wonders and beauties of the Hudson. To all such I heartily recommend it, with my best wishes for a pleasant voyage, whether by steamboat or railroad."
It has been affirmed by that notable New England nature writer, Thoreau, that the property a man owns is not simply what he pays taxes on, but all which he looks on with enjoyment of its fair aspect.
In this sense Irving owned nearly all of the Hudson Valley from New York to Albany. Rarely is the name and fame of an author so closely associated with a particular region as is Washington Irving's with the Hudson River. He was born on its banks in New York City, and though he spent much of his middle life in Europe, he later became a permanent dweller near Tarrytown, almost within a stone's throw of the stream in a home of his own which he called "Sunnyside." in one of his magazine contributions he says:
"I fancy I can trace much of what is good and pleasant in my own heterogeneous compound to my early companionship with this glorious river. The Hudson is, in a manner, my first and last love, and after all my wanderings I return to it with a heartfelt preference over all other rivers in the world. I seem to catch new life as I bathe in its ample billows and inhale the pure breezes of its hills."
Irving was the literary discoverer of the river, and to a very large degree we have him to thank for the peculiar sentiment and romance that are associated with it. Until his time the wonderful beauty of the stream was uncelebrated, and its fascinating history and legends unrecorded. His pen popularized the charm of the river that he loved and glorified, and whether he was writing fiction or simply interpreting facts, in either case his lively imagination and gentle humor imparted an atmosphere that will always color the public impression of the region. Some portions of the valley appealed to him because of their connection with his own life, others on account of their scenic attraction, and still others by reason of some peculiarity of their history. The Dutch characteristics always amused him, and a Dutch village or even a farmhouse, was an incentive to delicious burlesque. Perhaps he might have found the Yankee, or French, or some other race equally inspiring to humor, but it chanced that the Dutch were in the early days dominant in his home valley.
The Dutch farms and communities are now practically extinct. They have been overrun, crowded out, or superseded by the inflow of other life. Naturally the greatest change has been in and about Manhattan Island. Irving was born in 1783 in the lower part of the present city, in a house on William Street between Fulton and John Streets. At that time the place contained less than twenty-five thousand inhabitants, and with its quaint, dormer-windowed dwellings, its straggling lanes and roads, and the water pumps in the middle of the road, its appearance was distinctly rural. Most of the buildings were clustered about the Battery, and the Irvings lived on the northern outskirts. Beyond were only country residences, orchards, and cornfields.
Although in his stories Irving often harks back to a much earlier period, there was still opportunity for him in his youth to get ample suggestions in life and nature about him for the rustic customs and the mystery of forest and lonely shores he liked to portray. Nor was his youthful knowledge of the river confined to the vicinity of Manhattan, for he was only a lad when his acquaintance began with that broad, lake-like stretch of the river known as the Tappan Sea, beside which in later life he was destined to dwell. He had relatives in Tarrytown whom he sometimes visited, and he and a boy of the family rambled with guns or rods over the hills, or rowed their boat along the river shores. Trout abounded in the tributary streams, quail piped in every cornfield, and there were partridges which whirred from every invaded thicket. He attended the little church at Sleepy Hollow; he heard the Revolutionary veterans fight their battles over at the tavern and the store; and he saw the market boat that sailed at stated intervals to New York, wind and weather permitting, tie up near his relatives' home, and the farm wagons lumber down to the landing with their produce.
When he returned in 1835 from a long sojourn abroad he bought "Sunnyside" with the desire to have rural quiet, and to indulge in the pleasures of a real home of his own. The place was merely a tenacre farm on which stood a small stone house erected by a former Dutch resident. Irving's original intention was that the place should be nothing more than a summer retreat, inexpensive and simply furnished; but he did much more than he at first had in mind doing, and it became his permanent dwelling. Yet whatever changes were made, its quaint Dutch individuality was carefully preserved, and, as the author observed, it continued to be "as full of angles and corners as an old cocked hat." He made it one of the snuggest and most picturesque residences on the river. With its sheltering groves and secluded walks and grassy glades and Its wide-reaching view of the river it was an Ideal home for such a man of letters as Irving. in a short time it had become the dearest spot on earth to him, and he always left it with reluctance, and returned to it with eager delight.
Since Irving's time the house has been greatly enlarged, but the most characteristic portion of the old residence has been retained, and is in front, so that "Sunnyside" continues to present the same general aspect. The cosiness and retirement of the house are delightful. It is like a human bird's nest. The grounds are ample, with many old and lofty trees, and Include a brook that courses down a rocky hollow and then lingers through the lush weeds and grasses of a little meadow. Between the plateau on which the house stands and the river, the railroad intervenes, but is for the most part screened from sight by a thick growth of trees.
"Sunnyside" was within the boundaries of Tarrytown until the author's very last years. Then a new town in which It was Included was set oif from the older community, and named Irvington in his honor.
Sleepy Hollow, where Ichabod Crane taught school and encountered the headless horseman, is a short distance on the other side of Tarrytown. It used to be thoroughly rustic. Now, however. It is suburban, the placid old Dutch homesteads have disappeared, and the bridge where the schoolmaster came to grief when pursued by the headless horseman, is no longer a rude wooden structure in a deep ravine overhung by trees and vines, but is a substantial arch of stone, across which runs a broad exposed highway. The most satisfying relic of the past is the little Dutch church on a knoll above the bridge, one of the quaintest and best preserved historic buildings on this continent. It is surrounded by the graves of many generations — those of the early settlers clustering thickly about the edifice, while the newer graves overspread the long slope rising beyond. Near the summit of the hill is Irving's grave, and a well-trodden path leads from the church to where he rests amid the scenes which his magic pen has made famous.
Not far to the north the Highlands begin at Peekskill, and thence for twenty miles to Cornwall the river plays hide and seek with the ancient rock-ribbed hills. The river scenery is here at its finest, and often attains to real sublimity. Irving speaks of his first sail through the Highlands, which occurred in 1800, as "a time of intense delight. I sat on the deck," he says, "and gazed with wonder and admiration at the cliffs impending far above me, crowned with forests, with eagles sailing and screaming around them; or beheld rock and tree and sky reflected in the glassy stream. And then how solemn and thrilling the scene as we anchored at night at the foot of these mountains, and everything grew dark and mysterious; and I heard the plaintive note of the whip-poor-will, or was startled now and then by the sudden leap and heavy splash of the sturgeon."
Soon after the Highlands are left behind, the voyager on the river begins to get glimpses of the Catskills, those delectable heights which were the scene of "Rip Van Winkle," Irving's most famous bit of romance. It seems reasonably certain that when he wrote he had in mind the region neighboring that charming wilderness valley, Kaaterskill Clove, and I suppose Rip slept somewhere near the crest of the precipitous South Mountain. An old road makes a zigzag ascent to a summit hotel, and half way up is a little hut which the public know as the Rip Van Winkle house. It is snugged into a wild hollow with wooded cliffs rising around on three sides, and a deep gorge dropping away on the fourth side. The hut has been there for at least fifty years, and no one seems to have any definite knowledge about its origin. Close to it is a ruinous hotel, and both are a good deal marked and scribbled with names of idling sightseers. A rude path leads up the declivity to the left, and a short scramble brings one to a great boulder inscribed "Rip's Rock" — the supposed place where Rip had his long sleep.
"Yes," said one of the local dwellers whom I questioned, "that little house was where Rip lived, and the rock was where he slept. Him and his dog Snider went up to that rock, and he tied the dog to a sapling and lay down for a nap. When he woke up he looked for his dog Snider, and he couldn't see anything of him; and he called to him but got no answer. After a while he happened to cast his eyes up in a tree and saw his dog's bones hanging there. The sapling had grown to be a big tree in twenty years, and as it had increased in height had carried the dog up into the air."
This incident is not found in living's pages, and doubtless some more recent genius with a Munchausen turn of mind has developed what he thinks is an improvement on the original.
Probably just as great a liberty is taken with Irving's work when we attempt to make his scene of action fit a particular spot. He truthfully conveys the sentiment of the region, but the details are elusive. As it is with the setting of Rip Van Winkle, so it is with that of the other Irving stories. One seldom finds all that the author depicts. Yet in spite of this indefiniteness, and in spite of all the changes wrought by the lapse of years, the valley still has in a general way the aspect that to Irving was so inspiring — and surely no one travelling through the region can afford not to be acquainted with these inimitable stories and descriptions.
IT used to be a favorite assertion of the venerable Diedrich Knickerbocker, that there was no region more rich in themes for the writer of historic novels, heroic melodramas, and roughshod epics, than the ancient province of the New Netherlands, and its quondam capital, at the Manhattoes. "We live," he used to say, "in the midst of history, mystery, and romance; he who would find these elements, however, must not seek them among the modern improvements and monied people of the monied metropolis; he must dig for them, as for Kidd the pirate's treasures, in out of the way places, and among the ruins of the past." Never did sage speak more truly. Poetry and romance received a fatal blow at the overthrow of the ancient Dutch dynasty, and have ever since been gradually withering under the growing domination of the Yankees. They abandoned our hearths when the old Dutch tiles were superseded by marble chimney pieces; when brass andirons made way for polished grates, and the crackling and blazing fire of nut wood gave place to the smoke and stench of Liverpool coal; and on the downfall of the last crow-step gables, their requiem was tolled from the tower of the Dutch church in Nassau street, by the old bell that came from Holland. But poetry and romance still lurk unseen among us, or seen only by the enlightened few who are able to contemplate the commonplace scenes and objects of the metropolis, through the medium of tradition, and clothed with the associations of foregone ages.
He who would seek these elements in the country, must avoid all turnpikes, railroads, steamboats, and other abominable inventions, by which the usurping Yankees are strengthening themselves in the land, and subduing everything to utility and commonplace. He must avoid all towns and cities of white clapboard palaces, and Grecian temples, studded with "academies," "seminaries," and "institutes," which glisten along our bays and rivers; these are the strongholds of Yankee usurpation; but should he haply light upon some rough, rambling road, winding between stone fences, grey with moss, and overgrown with elder, poke berry, mullein, and sweet brier, and here and there a low, red-roofed, whitewashed farmhouse, cowering among apple and cherry trees; an old stone church, with elms, willows, and buttonwood, as old looking as itself, and tombstones almost buried in their own graves, and peradventure a small log-built schoolhouse, at a crossroad, where the English language is still taught, with a thickness of the tongue instead of a twang of the nose, he may thank his stars that he has found one of the lingering haunts of poetry and romance.
Among these favored places, the renowned village of Communipaw was ever held by the historian of New Amsterdam in especial veneration. Here the intrepid crew of the Goede Vrouw first cast the seeds of empire. Hence proceeded the expedition under Oloffe the Dreamer to found the city of New Amsterdam, vulgarly called New York, which, inheriting the genius of its founder, has ever been a city of dreams and speculations. Communipaw, therefore, may truly be called the parent of New York, though, on comparing the lowly village with the great flaunting city which it has engendered, one is forcibly reminded of a squat little hen that has unwittingly hatched out a long-legged turkey.
It is a mirror also of New Amsterdam, as it was before the conquest. Everything bears the stamp of the days of Oloffe the Dreamer, Walter the Doubter, and the other worthies of the golden age; the same gable-fronted houses, surmounted with weathercocks, the same knee-buckles and shoe-buckles, and close quilled caps, and linsey-woolsey petticoats, and multifarious breeches. in a word, Communipaw is a little Dutch Herculaneum or Pompeii, where the reliques of the classic days of the New Netherlands are preserved in their pristine state, with the exception that they have never been buried.
The secret of all this wonderful conservation is simple. At the time that New Amsterdam was subjugated by the Yankees and their British alHes, as Spain was, in ancient days, by the Saracens, a great dispersion took place among the inhabitants. One resolute band determined never to bend their necks to the yoke of the invaders, and, led by Garret Van Home, a gigantic Dutchman, the Pelaye of the New Netherlands, crossed the bay, and buried themselves among the marshes of Communipaw, as did the Spaniards of yore among the Asturian mountains. Here they cut off all communication with the captured city, forbade the English language to be spoken in their community, kept themselves free from foreign marriage and intermixture, and have thus remained the pure Dutch seed of the Manhattoes, with which the city may be re-peopled, whenever it is effectually delivered from the Yankees.
The citadel erected by Garret Van Home exists to this day in possession of his descendants, and is known by the lordly appellation of the House of the Four Chimneys, from having a chimney perched like a turret at every corner. Here are to be seen articles of furniture which came over with the first settlers from Holland; ancient chests of drawers, and massive clothes presses, quaintly carved, and waxed and polished until they shine like mirrors. Here are old black letter volumes with brass clasps, printed of yore in Leyden, and handed down from generation to generation, but never read. Also old parchment deeds in Dutch and English, bearing the seals of the early governors of the province.
In this house the primitive Dutch Holy Days of Paas and Pinxter, are faithfully kept up, and New Year celebrated with cookies and cherry bounce; nor is the festival of the good St. Nicholas forgotten; when all the children are sure to hang up their stockings, and to have them filled according to their deserts; though it is said the good Saint is occasionally perplexed in his nocturnal visits, which chimney to descend. A tradition exists concerning this mansion, which, however dubious it may seem, is treasured up with good faith by the inhabitants. It is said that at the founding of it St. Nicholas took it under his protection, and the Dutch Dominie of the place, who was a kind of soothsayer, predicted that as long as these four chimneys stood Communipaw would flourish. Now it came to pass that some years since, during the great mania for land speculation, a Yankee speculator found his way into Communipaw; bewildered the old burghers with a project to erect their village into a great seaport; made a lithographic map, in which their oyster beds were transformed into docks and quays, their cabbage gardens laid out in town lots and squares, and the House of the Four Chimneys metamorphosed into a great bank, with granite pillars, which was to enrich the whole neighborhood with paper money.
Fortunately at this juncture there arose a high wind, which shook the venerable pile to its foundation, toppled down one of the chimneys, and blew off a weathercock, the lord knows whither. The community took the alarm, they drove the land speculator from their shores, and since that day not a Yankee has dared to show his face in Communipaw.
The following legend concerning this venerable place was found among the papers of the authentic Diedrich.
WHOEVER has visited the ancient and renowned " ' village of Communipaw, may have noticed an old stone building, of most ruinous and sinister appearance. The doors and window shutters are ready to drop from their hinges; old clothes are stuffed in the broken panes of glass, while legions of half-starved dogs prowl about the premises, and rush out and bark at every passer by; for your beggarly house in a village is most apt to swarm with profligate and ill-conditioned dogs. What adds to the sinister appearance of this mansion, is a tall frame in front, not a little resembling a gallows, and which looks as if waiting to accommodate some of the inhabitants with a well-merited airing. It is not a gallows, however, but an ancient sign-post; for this dwelling, in the golden days of Communipaw, was one of the most orderly and peaceful of village taverns, where all the public affairs of Communipaw were talked and smoked over. in fact, it was in this very building that Oloffe the Dreamer, and his companions, concerted that great voyage of discovery and colonization, in which they explored Buttermilk Channel, were nearly shipwrecked in the strait of Hell Gate, and finally landed on the Island of Manhattan, and founded the great city of New Amsterdam.
Even after the province had been cruelly wrested from the sway of their High Mightinesses, by the combined forces of the British and the Yankees, this tavern continued its ancient loyalty. It is true, the head of the Prince of Orange disappeared from the sign; a strange bird being painted over it, with the explanatory legend of "Die Wilde Gans," or The Wild Goose; but this all the world knew to be a sly riddle of the landlord, the worthy Teunis Van Gieson, a knowing man in a small way, who laid his finger beside his nose and winked, when any one studied the signification of his sign, and observed that his goose was hatching, but would join the flock whenever they flew over the water; an enigma which was the perpetual recreation and delight of the loyal but fat-headed burghers of Communipaw.
Under the sway of this patriotic, though discreet and quiet publican, the tavern continued to flourish in primeval tranquility, and was the resort of all truehearted Nederlanders, from all parts of Pavonia; who met here quietly and secretly, to smoke and drink the downfall of Briton and Yankee, and success to Admiral Von Tromp.
The only drawback on the comfort of the establishment, was a nephew of mine host, a sister's son, Yan Yost Vanderscamp by name, and a real scamp by nature. It is an old Spanish proverb, worthy of all acceptation, that "where God denies sons the devil sends nephews," and such was the case in the present instance. This unlucky whipster showed an early propensity to mischief, which he gratified in a small way, by playing tricks upon the frequenters of the Wild Goose; putting gunpowder in their pipes or squibs in their pockets, and astonishing them with an explosion, while they sat nodding round the fireplace in the barroom; and if perchance a worthy burgher from some distant part of Pavonia lingered until dark over his potation, it was odds but that young Vanderscamp would slip a brier under his horse's tail, as he mounted, and send him clattering along the road, in neck-or-nothing style, to his infinite astonishment and discomfiture.
It may be wondered at, that mine host of the Wild Goose did not turn such a graceless varlet out of doors; but Teunis Van Gieson was an easy-tempered man, and, having no child of his own, looked upon his nephew with almost parental indulgence. His patience and good nature were doomed to be tried by another inmate of his mansion. This was a cross-grained curmudgeon of a negro, named Pluto, who was a kind of enigma in Communipaw. Where he came from, nobody knew. He was found one morning after a storm, cast like a sea-monster on the strand, in front of the Wild Goose, and lay there, more dead than alive. The neighbors gathered round, and speculated on this production of the deep; whether it were fish or flesh, or a compound of both, commonly yclept a merman. The kind-hearted Teunis Van Gieson, seeing that he wore the human form, took him into his house, and warmed him into life. By degrees, he showed signs of intelligence, and even uttered sounds very much like language, but which no one in Communipaw could understand. Some thought him a negro just from Guinea, who had either fallen overboard, or escaped from a slave-ship. Nothing, however, could ever draw from him any account of his origin. When questioned on the subject, he merely pointed to Gibbet Island, a small rocky islet, which lies in the open bay just opposite to Communipaw, as if that were his native place, though everybody knew it had never been inhabited.
In the process of time, he acquired something of the Dutch language, that is to say, he learnt all its vocabulary of oaths and maledictions, with just words sufficient to string them together. "Bonder en blicksem!" (thunder and lightning) was the gentlest of his ejaculations. For years he kept about the Wild Goose, more like one of those familiar spirits, or household goblins, that we read of, than like a human being. He acknowledged allegiance to no one, but performed various domestic offices, when it suited his humor; waiting occasionally on the guests; grooming the horses, cutting wood, drawing water; and all this without being ordered. Lay any command on him, and the stubborn sea-urchin was sure to rebel. He was never so much at home, however, as when on the water, plying about in skiff or canoe, entirely alone, fishing, crabbing, or grabbing for oysters, and would bring home quantities for the larder of the Wild Goose, which he would throw down at the kitchen door with a growl. No wind nor weather deterred him from launching forth on his favorite element: indeed, the wilder the weather, the more he seemed to enjoy it.
If a storm was brewing, he was sure to put off from shore; and would be seen far out in the bay, his light skiff dancing like a feather on the waves, when sea and sky were all in a turmoil, and the stoutest ships were fain to lower their sails. Sometimes, on such occasions, he would be absent for days together. How he weathered the tempests, and how and where he subsisted, no one could divine, nor did any one venture to ask, for all had an almost superstitious awe of him. Some of the Communipaw oystermen declared that they had more than once seen him suddenly disappear, canoe and all, as if they plunged beneath the waves, and after a while come up again, in quite a different part of the bay; whence they concluded that he could live under water like that notable species of wild duck, commonly called the Hell-diver. All began to consider him in the light of a foul-weather bird, like the Mother Carey's chicken, or stormy petrel; and whenever they saw him putting far out in his skiff, in cloudy weather, made up their minds for a storm.
The only being for whom he seemed to have any liking, was Yan Yost Vanderscamp, and him he liked for his very wickedness. He in a manner took the boy under his tutelage, prompted him to all kinds of mischief, aided him in every wild harum-scarum freak, until the lad became the complete scape-grace of the village; a pest to his uncle, and to every one else. Nor were his pranks confined to the land; he soon learned to accompany old Pluto on the water. Together these worthies would cruise about the broad bay and all the neighboring straits and rivers; poking around in skiffs and canoes; robbing the set nets of the fishermen; landing on remote coasts, and laying waste orchards and watermelon patches; in short, carrying on a complete system of piracy, on a small scale. Piloted by Pluto, the youthful Vanderscamp soon became acquainted with all the bays, rivers, creeks, and Inlets of the watery world around him; could navigate from the Hook to Spiting Devil in the darkest night, and learned to set even the terrors of Hell Gate at defiance.
At length, negro and boy suddenly disappeared, and days and weeks elapsed, but without tidings of them. Some said they must have run away and gone to sea; others jocosely hinted, that old Pluto, being no other than a namesake in disguise, had spirited away the boy to the nether regions. All, however, agreed in one thing, that the village was well rid of them.
In the process of time, the good Teunis Van Gieson slept with his fathers, and the tavern remained shut up, waiting for a claimant, for the next heir was Yan Yost Vanderscamp, and he had not been heard of for years. At length, one day, a boat was seen pulling for shore, from a long, black, rakish-looking schooner, which lay at anchor in the bay. The boat's crew seemed worthy of the craft from which they debarked. Never had such a set of noisy, roistering, swaggering varlets landed in peaceful Communipaw. They were outlandish in garb and demeanor, and were headed by a rough, burly, bully ruffian, with fiery whiskers, a copper nose, a scar across his face, and a great Flaunderish beaver slouched on one side of his head, in whom, to their dismay, the quiet inhabitants were made to recognize their early pest, Yan Yost Vanderscamp. The rear of this hopeful gang was brought up by old Pluto, who had lost an eye, grown grizzly-headed, and looked more like the devil than ever. Vanderscamp renewed his acquaintance with the old burghers, much against their will, and in a manner not at all to their taste. He slapped them familiarly on the back, gave them an iron grip of the hand, and was hail fellow well met. According to his own account, he had been all the world over; had made money by the bags full; had ships in every sea, and now meant to turn the Wild Goose into a countryseat, where he and his comrades, all rich merchants from foreign parts, might enjoy themselves in the interval of their voyages.
Sure enough, in a little while there was a complete metamorphosis of the Wild Goose. From being a quiet, peaceful Dutch public house, it became a most riotous, uproarious private dwelling; a complete rendezvous for boisterous men of the seas, who came here to have what they call a "blow-out" on dry land, and might be seen at all hours lounging about the door, or lolling out of the windows; swearing among themselves, and cracking rough jokes on every passer-by. The house was fitted up, too. in so strange a manner: hammocks slung to the walls, Instead of bedsteads; odd kinds of furniture, of foreign fashion; bamboo couches, Spanish chairs; pistols, cutlasses, and blunderbusses suspended on every peg; silver crucifixes on the mantelpieces, silver candlesticks and porringers on the tables, contrasting oddly with the pewter and Delft ware of the original establishment. And then the strange amusements of these sea-monsters! Pitching Spanish dollars, instead of quoits; firing blunderbusses out of the window; shooting at a mark, or at any unhappy dog, or cat, or pig, or barn-door fowl, that might happen to come within reach.
The only being who seemed to relish their rough waggery, was old Pluto; and yet he led but a dog's life of it; for they practiced all kinds of manual jokes upon him; kicked him about like a football; shook him by his grizzly mop of wool, and never spoke to him without coupling a curse by way of adjective to his name, and consigning him to the infernal regions. The old fellow, however, seemed to like them the better, the more they cursed him, though his utmost expression of pleasure never amounted to more than the growl of a petted bear, when his ears are rubbed.
Old Pluto was the ministering spirit at the orgies of the Wild Goose; and such orgies as took place there! Such drinking, singing, whooping, swearing; with an occasional interlude of quarreling and fighting. The noisier grew the revel, the more old Pluto plied the potations, until the guests would become frantic in their merriment, smashing everything to pieces, and throwing the house out of the windows. Sometimes, after a drinking bout, they sallied forth and scoured the village, to the dismay of the worthy burghers, who gathered their women within doors, and would have shut up the house. Vanderscamp, however, was not to be rebuffed. He insisted on renewing acquaintance with his old neighbors, and on introducing his friends, the merchants, to their families; swore he was on the lookout for a wife, and meant, before he stopped, to find husbands for all their daughters. So, will-ye, nill-ye, sociable he was; swaggered about their best parlors, with his hat on one side of his head; sat on the good wife's nicely waxed mahogany table, kicking his heels against the carved and polished legs; kissed and tousled the young vrouws; and, if they frowned and pouted, gave them a gold rosary, or a sparkling cross, to put them in good humor again.
Sometimes nothing would satisfy him, but he must have some of his old neighbors to dinner at the Wild Goose. There was no refusing him, for he had got the complete upper hand of the community, and the peaceful burghers all stood in awe of him. But what a time would the quiet, worthy men have, among those rake-hells, who would delight to astound them with the most extravagant gunpowder tales, embroidered with all kinds of foreign oaths; clink the can with them; pledge them in deep potations; bawl drinking songs in their ears; and occasionally fire pistols over their heads, or under the table, and then laugh in their faces, and ask them how they liked the smell of gunpowder.
Thus was the little village of Communipaw for a time like the unfortunate wight possessed with devils; until Vanderscamp and his brother merchants would sail on another trading voyage, when the Wild Goose would be shut up, and everything relapse into quiet, only to be disturbed by his next visitation.
The mystery of all these proceedings gradually dawned upon the tardy intellects of Communipaw. These were the times of the notorious Captain Kidd, when the American harbors were the resorts of piratical adventurers of all kinds, who, under pretext of mercantile voyages, scoured the West Indies, made plundering descents upon the Spanish Main, visited even the remote Indian Seas, and then came to dispose of their booty, have their revels, and fit out new expeditions, in the English colonies.
Tysiące ebooków i audiobooków
Ich liczba ciągle rośnie, a Ty masz gwarancję niezmiennej ceny.
Napisali o nas:
Nowy sposób na e-księgarnię
Czytelnicy nie wierzą
Legimi idzie na całość
Projekt Legimi wielkim wydarzeniem
Spotify for ebooks