Knickerbocker's History of New York/Book V/Chapter VI

Chapter VIEdit

The reply of the grand council to Peter Stuyvesant was couched in the coolest and most diplomatic language. They assured him that "his confident denials of the barbarous plot alleged against him would weigh little against the testimony of divers sober and respectable Indians;" that "his guilt was proved to their perfect satisfaction," so that they must still require and seek due satisfaction and security; ending with--"so we rest, sir--Yours in ways of righteousness."

I forbear to say how the lion-hearted Peter roared and ramped at finding himself more and more entangled in the meshes thus artfully drawn round him by the knowing Yankees. Impatient, however, of suffering so gross an aspersion to rest upon his honest name, he sent a second messenger to the council, reiterating his denial of the treachery imputed to him, and offering to submit his conduct to the scrutiny of a court of honor. His offer was readily accepted; and now he looked forward with confidence to an august tribunal to be assembled at the Manhattoes, formed of high-minded cavaliers, peradventure governors and commanders of the confederate plantations, where the matter might be investigated by his peers in a manner befitting his rank and dignity.

While he was awaiting the arrival of such high functionaries, behold, one sunshiny afternoon there rode into the great gate of the Manhattoes two lean, hungry-looking Yankees, mounted on Narraganset pacers, with saddle-bags under their bottoms, and green satchels under their arms, who looked marvelously like two pettifogging attorneys beating the hoof from one county court to another in quest of lawsuits; and, in sooth, though they may have passed under different names at the time, I have reason to suspect they were the identical varlets who had negotiated the worthy Dutch commissioners out of the Connecticut river.

It was a rule with these indefatigable missionaries never to let the grass grow under their feet. Scarce had they, therefore, alighted at the inn and deposited their saddle-bags, than they made their way to the residence of the governor. They found him, according to custom, smoking his afternoon pipe on the "stoop," or bench at the porch of his house, and announced themselves at once as commissioners sent by the grand council of the east to investigate the truth of certain charges advanced against him.

The good Peter took his pipe from his mouth, and gazed at them for a moment in mute astonishment. By way of expediting business, they were proceeding on the spot to put some preliminary questions; asking him, peradventure, whether he pleaded guilty or not guilty; considering him something in the light of a culprit at the bar; when they were brought to a pause by seeing him lay down his pipe and begin to fumble with his walking-staff. For a moment those present would not have given half a crown for both the crowns of the commissioners; but Peter Stuyvesant repressed his mighty wrath and stayed his hand; he scanned the varlets from head to foot, satchels and all, with a look of ineffable scorn; then strode into the house, slammed the door after him, and commanded that they should never again be admitted to his presence.

The knowing commissioners winked to each other and made a certificate on the spot that the governor had refused to answer their interrogatories or to submit to their examination. They then proceeded to rummage about the city for two or three days, in quest of what they called evidence, perplexing Indians and old women with their cross-questioning until they had stuffed their satchels and saddle-bags with all kinds of apocryphal tales, rumors, and calumnies; with these they mounted their Narraganset pacers, and travelled back to the grand council. Neither did the proud-hearted Peter trouble himself to hinder their researches nor impede their departure; he was too mindful of their sacred character as envoys; but I warrant me had they played the same tricks with William the Testy, he would have had them tucked up by the waistband, and treated to an aerial gambol on his patent gallows.