Patem's Salmagundi by E. S. Brooks

New York boys, especially, will enjoy this tale of the doings of a group of Dutch schoolboys in old New Amsterdam.
LITTLE Patem Onderdonk meant mischief. There was a snap in his eyes and a look on his face that were certain proof of this. I am bound to say, however, that there was nothing new or strange in this, for little Patem Onderdonk generally did mean mischief. Whenever any one's cow was found astray beyond the limits, or any one's bark gutter laid askew so that the roof-water dripped on the passer's head, or whenever the dominie's dog ran howling down the Heeren Graaft with a battered pypken cover tied to his suffering tail, the goode vrouws in the neighbourhood did not stop to wonder who could have done it; they simply raised both hands in a sort of injured resignation and exclaimed:

"Ach so; what's gone of Patem's Elishamet's Patem?"

So you see little Patem Onderdonk was generally at the bottom of whatever mischief was afoot in those last Dutch days of New Amsterdam on the island of Manhattan.

But this time he was conjuring a more serious bit of mischief than even he usually attempted. This was plain from the appearance of the startled but deeply interested faces of the half-dozen boys gathered around him on the bridge.

"But I say, Patem," queried young Teuny Vanderbreets, who was always ready to second any of Patem's plans, "how can we come it over the dominie as you would have us?"

"So then, Teuny," cried Patem, in his highest key of contempt, "did your wits blow away with your hat out of Heer Snediker's nut tree yesterday? Do not you know that the Heer Governor is at royal odds with Dominie Curtius because the skinflint old dominie will not pay the taxes due the town? Why, lad, the Heer Governor will back us up!"

"And why will he not pay the taxes, Patem?" asked Jan Hooglant, the tanner's son.

"Because he's a skinflint, I tell you," asserted Patem, "though I do believe he says that he was brought here from Holland as one of the Company's men, and ought not therefore pay taxes to the Company. That's what I did hear them say at the Stadt Huys this morning, and Heer Vanderveer, the schepen, said there, too, that Dominie Curtius was not worth one of the five hundred guilders which he doth receive for our teaching. And sure, if the burgomaster and schepens will have none of the old dominie, why then no more will we who know how stupid are his lessons, and how his switch doth sting. So, hoy, lads, let's turn him out."

And with that little Patem Onderdonk gave Teuny Vanderbreets' broad back a sounding slap with his battered horn book and crying, "Come on, lads," headed his mutinous companions on a race for the rickety little schoolhouse near the fort.

It was hard lines for Dominie Curtius all that day at school. The boys had never been so unruly; the girls never so inattentive. Rebellion seemed in the air, and the dominie, never a patient or gentle-mannered man, grew harsher and more exacting as the session advanced. His reign as master of the Latin School of New Amsterdam had not been a successful one, and his dispute with the town officers as to his payment of taxes had so angered him that, as Patem declared, "he seemed moved to avenge himself upon the town's children."

This being the state of affairs, Dominie Curtius's mood this day was not a pleasant one, and the school exercises had more to do with the whipping horse and the birch twigs than with the horn book and the Latin conjugations.

The boys, I regret to say, were hardened to this, because of much practice, but when the dominie, enraged at some fresh breach of rigid discipline, glared savagely over his big spectacles and then swooped down upon pretty little Antje Adrianse who had done nothing whatever, the whole school broke into open rebellion. Horn books, and every possible missile that the boys had at hand, went flying at the master's head, and the young rebels, led on by Patem and Teuny, charged down upon the unprepared dominie, rescued trembling little Antje from his clutch, and then one and all rushed pell-mell from the school with shouts of triumph and derision.

But when the first flush of their victory was over, the boys realized that they had done a very daring and risky thing. It was no small matter in those days of stern authority and strict home government for girls and boys to resist the commands of their elders; and to run away from school was one of the greatest of crimes. So they all looked at Patem in much anxiety.

"Well," cried several of the boys almost in a breath, "and now what shall we do, Patem? You have us in a pretty fix."

Patem waved his hand like a young Napoleon.

"Ach! ye are all cowards," he cried shrilly. "What will we do? Why, then we will but do as if we were burgomasters and schepens—as we will be some day. We will to the Heer Governor straight, and lay our demands before him."

Well, well; this was bold talk! The Heer Governor! Not a boy in all New Amsterdam but would sooner face a gray wolf in the Sapokanican woods than the Heer Governor Stuyvesant.

"So then, Patem Onderdonk," they cried, "you may do it yourself, for, good faith, we will not."

"Why," said Jan Hooglant, "why, Patem, the Heer Governor will have us rated soundly over the ears for daring such a thing; and we will all catch more of it when we get home. Demand of the Heer Governor indeed! Why, boy, you must be crazy!"

But Patem was not crazy. He was simply determined; and at last, by threats and arguments and coaxing words, he gradually won over a half-dozen of the boldest spirits to his side and, without more ado, started with them to interview the Heer Governor.

But, quickly as they acted, the schoolmaster was still more prompt in action. Defeated and deserted by his scholars, Dominie Curtius had raged about the schoolroom for a while, spluttering angrily in mingled Dutch and Polish, and then, clapping his broad black hat upon his head, marched straight to the fort to lay his grievance before the Heer Governor.

The Heer Petrus Stuyvesant, Director General for the Dutch West India Company in their colony of New Netherlands, walked up and down the Governor's chamber in the fort at New Amsterdam wofully perplexed. The Heer Governor was not a patient man, and a combination of annoyances was hedging him about and making his government of his island province anything but pleasant work.

The "malignant English" of the Massachusetts and Hartford colonies were pressing their claim to the ownership of the New Netherlands, just as, to the south, the settlers on Lord De La Ware's patent were also doing; the "people called Quakers," whom the Heer Governor had publicly whipped for heresy and sent a-packing, were spreading their "pernicious doctrine" through Long Island and other outer edges of the colony, and the Indians around Esopus, the little settlement which the province had planted midway on the Hudson between New Amsterdam and Beaverwyck (now Albany), were growing restless and defiant. Thump, thump, thump, across the floor went the wooden leg with its silver bands, and with every thump the Heer Governor grew still more puzzled and angered. For the Heer Governor could not bear to have things go wrong.

Suddenly, with scant ceremony and but the apology of a request for admittance, there came into the Heer Governor's presence the Dominie Doctor Alexander Carolus Curtius, master of the Latin School.

"Here is a pretty pass, Heer Governor!" he cried excitedly. "My pupils of the Latin School have turned upon me in revolt and have deserted me in a body."

"Ach; then you are rightly served for a craven and a miser, sir!" burst out the angry Governor, turning savagely upon the surprised schoolmaster.

This was a most unexpected reception for Doctor and Dominie Curtius. But, as it happened, the Heer Governor Stuyvesant was just now particularly vexed with the objectionable Dominie. At much trouble and after much solicitation on his part the Heer Governor had prevailed upon his superiors and the proprietors of the province, the Dutch West India Company, to send from Holland a schoolmaster or "rector" for the children of their town of New Amsterdam, and the Company had sent over Dominie Curtius.

The Heer Governor had entertained great hopes of what the new schoolmaster was to do, and now to find him a subject of complaint from both the parents of the scholars and the officials of the town made the hasty Governor doubly dissatisfied. The Dominie's intrusion, therefore, at just this stage of all his perplexities gave the Heer Governor a most convenient person on whom to vent his bad feelings.

"Yes, sirrah, a craven and a miser!" continued the angry Governor, stamping upon the floor with both wooden leg and massive cane. "You, who can neither govern our children nor pay your just dues to the town, can be no fit master for our youth. No words, sirrah, no words," he added, as the poor dominie tried to put in a word in his defence, "no words, sir; you are discharged from further labour in this province. I will see that one who can rule wisely and pay his just dues shall be placed here in your stead."

Protests and appeals, explanations and arguments, were of no avail. When the Heer Governor Stuyvesant said a thing, he meant it, and it was useless for any one to hope for a change. The unpopular Dominie Curtius must go—and go he did.

But, as he left, the delegation of boys, headed by young Patem Onderdonk, came into the fort and sought to interview the Heer Governor.

The sentry at the door would have sent them off without further ado, but, hearing their noise, the Heer Governor came to the door.

"So, so, young rapscallions," he cried, "you, too, must needs disturb the peace and push yourself forward into public quarrels! Get you gone! I will have none of your words. Is it not enough that I must needs send the schoolmaster a-packing, without being worried by graceless young varlets as you?"

"And hath the Dominie Curtius gone indeed, Heer Governor?" Patem dared to ask.

"Hath he, hath he, boy?" echoed the Governor, turning upon his audacious young questioner with uplifted cane. "Said I not so, and will you dare doubt my word, rascal? Begone from the fort, all of you, ere I do put you all in limbo, or send word to your good folk to give you the floggings you do no doubt all so richly deserve."

Discretion is the better part of valour, and the boyish delegation hastily withdrew. But when once they were safely out of hearing of the Heer Governor, beyond the Land Gate at the Broad Way, they took breath and indulged in a succession of boyish shouts.

"And that doth mean no school, too!" cried young Patem Onderdonk, flinging his cap in air. "Huzzoy for that, lads; huzzoy for that!"

And the "huzzoys" came with right good-will from every boy of the group.

Within less than a week the whole complexion of affairs in that little island city was entirely changed. Both the Massachusetts and the Maryland claimants ceased, for a time at least, their unfounded demands. A treaty at Hartford settled the disputed question of boundary-lines, and the Maryland governor declared "that he had not intended to meddle with the government of Manhattan." Added to this, Sewackenamo, chief of the Esopus Indians, came to the fort at New Amsterdam and "gave the right hand of friendship" to the Heer Governor, and by the interchange of presents a treaty of peace was ratified. So, one by one, the troubles of the Heer Governor melted away, his brow became clear and, "partaking of the universal satisfaction," so says the historian, "he proclaimed a day of general thanksgiving."

Thanksgiving in the colonies was a matter of almost yearly occurrence. Since the first Thanksgiving Day on American shores, when, in 1621, the Massachusetts colony, at the request of Governor Bradford, rejoiced, "after a special manner after we had gathered the fruit of our labours," the observance of days of thanksgiving for mercies and benefits had been frequent. But the day itself dates still further back. The States of Holland after establishing their freedom from Spain had, in the year 1609, celebrated their deliverance from tyranny "by thanksgiving and hearty prayers," and had thus really first instituted the custom of an official thanksgiving. And the Dutch colonists in America followed the customs of the Fatherland quite as piously and fervently as did the English colonists.

So, when the proclamation of the Heer Governor Stuyvesant for a day of thanksgiving was made known, in this year of mercies, 1659, all the townfolk of New Amsterdam made ready to keep it.

But young people are often apt to think that the world moves for them alone. The boys of this little Dutch town at the mouth of the Hudson were no different from other boys, and cared less for treaties and Indians and boundary questions than for their own matters. They, therefore, concluded that the Heer Governor had proclaimed a thanksgiving because, as young Patem Onderdonk declared, "he had gotten well rid of Dominie Curtius and would have no more schoolmasters in the colony."

"And so, lads," cried the exuberant young Knickerbocker, "let us wisely celebrate the Thanksgiving. I will even ask the mother to make for me a rare salmagundi which we lads, who were so rated by the Heer Governor, will ourselves give to him as our Thanksgiving offering, for the Heer Governor, so folk do say, doth rarely like the salmagundi."

Now the salmagundi was (to some palates) a most appetizing mixture, compounded of salted mackerel, or sometimes of chopped meat, seasoned with oil and vinegar, pepper and raw onions—not an altogether attractive dish to read of, but welcome to and dearly loved by many an old Knickerbocker even up to a recent date. Its name, too, as most of you bright boys and girls doubtless know, furnished the title for one of the works of Washington Irving, best loved of all the Knickerbockers.

Thanksgiving Day came around, and so did Patem's salmagundi, as highly seasoned and appetizing a one as the Goode Vrouw Onderdonk could make.

The lengthy prayers and lengthier sermon of good Dominie Megapolensis in the Fort Church were over and the Thanksgiving dinners were very nearly ready when up to the Heer Governor's house came a half-dozen boys, with Patem Onderdonk at their head bearing a neatly covered dish.

Patem had well considered and formed in his mind what he deemed just the speech of presentation to please the Heer Governor, but when the time came to face that awful personage his valour and his eloquence alike began to ooze away.

And, it must be confessed, the Heer Governor Stuyvesant did not understand boys, nor did he particularly favour them. He was hasty and overbearing though high-minded, loyal, and brave, but he never could "get on" with the ways and pranks of boys.

And as for the boys themselves, when once they stood in the presence of the greatest dignitary in the province, Patem's ready tongue seemed to cleave to the roof of his mouth, and he hummed and hawed and hesitated until the worthy Heer Governor lost patience and broke in:

"Well, well, boys; what is the stir? Speak quick if at all, for when a man's dinner waiteth he hath scant time for stammering boys."

Then Patem spoke up.

"Heer Governor," he said, "the boys hereabout, remembering your goodness in sending away our most pestilential master, the Dominie Curtius, and in proclaiming a Thanksgiving for his departure and for the ending of our schooling——"

"What, what, boy!" cried the Heer Governor, "art crazy then, or would you seek to make sport of me, your governor? Thanksgiving for the breaking up of school! Out on you for a set of malapert young knaves! Do you think the world goeth but for your pleasures alone? Why, this is ribald talk! I made no Thanksgiving for your convenience, rascals, but because that the Lord in His grace hath relieved the town from danger——"

"Of which, Heer Governor," broke in the most impolitic Patem, "we did think the Dominie Curtius and his school were part. And so we have brought to you this salmagundi as our Thanksgiving offering to you for thus freeing us of a pest and a sorrow——"

"How now, how now, sirrah!" again came the interruption from the scandalized Heer Governor when he could recover from his surprise, "do you then dare to call your schooling a pest and a sorrow? Why, you graceless young varlets, I do not seek to free you from schooling. I do even now seek to bring you speedily the teaching you do so much stand in need of. Even now, within the week forthcoming, the good Dominie Luyck, the tutor of mine own household, will see to the training and teaching of this town, and so I will warrant to the flogging, too, of all you sad young rapscallions who even now by this your wicked talk do show your need both of teaching and of flogging."

And then, forgetful of the boys' Thanksgiving offering and in high displeasure at what he deemed their wilful and deliberate ignorance, the Heer Governor turned the delegation into the street and hastened back to his waiting dinner.

"Ach, so," cried young Teuny Vanderbreets, as the disgusted and disconsolate six gathered in the roadway and looked at one another ruefully. "Here is a fine mix-up—a regular salmagundi, Patem Onderdonk, and no question. And you did say that this Thanksgiving was all our work. Out upon you, say I! Here are we to be saddled with a worse master than before. Hermanus Smeeman did tell me that Nick Stuyvesant did tell him that Dominie Luyck is a most hard and worryful master."

There was a universal groan of disappointment and disgust, and then Patem said philosophically:

"Well, lads, what's done is done and what is to be will be. Let us eat the salmagundi anyhow and cry, 'Confusion to Dominie Luyck.'"

And they did eat it, then and there, for indigestion had no terror to those lads of hardy stomachs.

But as for the toast of "Confusion to Dominie Luyck," that came to naught. For Dominie Aegidius Luyck proved a most efficient and skilful teacher. Under his rule the Latin School of New Amsterdam became famous throughout the colonies, so that scholars came to it for instruction from Beaverwyck and South River and even from distant Virginia.

So the Thanksgiving of the boys of New Amsterdam became a day of mourning, and Patem's influence as a leader and an oracle suffered sadly for a while.

Five years after, on a sad Monday morning in September, 1664, the little city was lost to the Dutch West India Company and, spite of the efforts and protests of its sturdy Governor, the red, white, and blue banner of the Netherlands gave place to the flag of England. And when that day came the young fellows who then saw the defeat and disappointment of the Heer Governor Stuyvesant were not so certain that Patem Onderdonk was wrong when he claimed that it was all a just and righteous judgment on the Heer Governor for his refusal of the boys' request for no school, and for his treatment of them on that sad Thanksgiving Day when he so harshly rebuked their display of gratitude and lost forever his chance to partake of Patem's Salmagundi.