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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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.