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Chapter 8

  • In the last chapter I have given a faithful and unprejudiced account of th_rigin of that singular race of people inhabiting the country eastward of th_ieuw Nederlandts, but I have yet to mention certain peculiar habits whic_endered them exceedingly annoying to our ever-honored Dutch ancestors.
  • The most prominent of these was a certain rambling propensity with which, lik_he sons of Ishmael, they seem to have been gifted by Heaven, and whic_ontinually goads them on to shift their residence from place to place, s_hat a Yankee farmer is in a constant state of migration, tarryin_ccasionally here and there, clearing lands for other people to enjoy,
  • building houses for others to inhabit, and in a manner may be considered th_andering Arab of America.
  • His first thought, on coming to the years of manhood, is to settle himself i_he world—which means nothing more nor less than to begin his rambles. To thi_nd he takes unto himself for a wife some buxom country heiress, passing ric_n red ribbons, glass beads, and mock-tortoiseshell combs, with a white gow_nd morocco shoes for Sunday, and deeply skilled in the mystery of makin_pple sweetmeats, long sauce, and pumpkin pie.
  • Having thus provided himself, like a pedlar, with a heavy knapsack, wherewit_o regale his shoulders through the journey of life, he literally sets out o_he peregrination. His whole family, household furniture, and farming utensil_re hoisted into a covered cart; his own and his wife's wardrobe packed up i_ firkin; which done, he shoulders his axe, takes his staff in hand, whistles
  • "Yankee doodle," and trudges off to the woods, as confident of the protectio_f Providence, and relying as cheerfully upon his own resources, as did ever _atriarch of yore, when he journeyed into a strange country of the Gentiles.
  • Having buried himself in the wilderness, he builds himself a log hut, clear_way a corn-field and potato patch, and, Providence smiling upon his labors,
  • is soon surrounded by a snug farm and some half a score of flaxen-heade_rchins, who, by their size, seem to have sprung all at once out of the eart_ike a crop of toadstools.
  • But it is not the nature of this most indefatigable of speculators to res_ontented with any state of sublunary enjoyment; improvement is his darlin_assion, and having thus improved his lands, the next care is to provide _ansion worthy the residence of a landholder. A huge palace of pine board_mmediately springs up in the midst of the wilderness, large enough for _arish church, and furnished with windows of all dimensions, but so ricket_nd flimsy withal, that every blast gives it a fit of the ague.
  • By the time the outside of this mighty air castle is completed, either th_unds or the zeal of our adventurer are exhausted, so that he barely manage_o half finish one room within, where the whole family burrow together, whil_he rest of the house is devoted to the curing of pumpkins, or storing o_arrots and potatoes, and is decorated with fanciful festoons of dried apple_nd peaches. The outside, remaining unpainted, grows venerably black wit_ime; the family wardrobe is laid under contribution for old hats, petticoats,
  • and breeches, to stuff into the broken windows, while the four winds of heave_eep up a whistling and howling about this aerial palace, and play as man_nruly gambols as they did of yore in the cave of old Æolius.
  • The humble log hut which whilom nestled this improving family snugly withi_ts narrow but comfortable walls, stands hard by, in ignominious contrast,
  • degraded into a cow-house or pig-sty; and the whole scene reminds one forcibl_f a fable, which I am surprised has never been recorded, of an aspiring snai_ho abandoned his humble habitation, which he had long filled with grea_espectability, to crawl into the empty shell of a lobster, where he would n_oubt have resided with great style and splendor, the envy and the hate of al_he painstaking snails in the neighborhood, had he not perished with cold i_ne corner of his stupendous mansion.
  • Being thus completely settled, and, to use his own words, "to rights," on_ould imagine that he would begin to enjoy the comforts of his situation, t_ead newspapers, talk politics, neglect his own business, and attend to th_ffairs of the nation like a useful and patriotic citizen; but now it is tha_is wayward disposition begins again to operate. He soon grows tired of a spo_here there is no longer any room for improvement—sells his farm, air castle,
  • petticoat windows and all, reloads his cart, shoulders his axe, puts himsel_t the head of his family, and wanders away in search of new lands—again t_ell trees—again to clear corn-fields—again to build a shingle palace, an_gain to sell off and wander.
  • Such were the people of Connecticut, who bordered upon the eastern frontier o_ieuw Nederlandts, and my readers may easily imagine what uncomfortabl_eighbors this light-hearted but restless tribe must have been to our tranqui_rogenitors. If they cannot, I would ask them if they have ever known one o_ur regular, well-organized Dutch families, whom it hath pleased Heaven t_fflict with the neighborhood of a French boarding-house? The honest ol_urgher cannot take his afternoon's pipe on the bench before his door but h_s persecuted with the scraping of fiddles, the chattering of women, and th_qualling of children; he cannot sleep at night for the horrible melodies o_ome amateur, who chooses to serenade the moon, and display his terribl_roficiency in execution on the clarionet, hautboy, or some other soft-tone_nstrument; nor can he leave the street door open, but his house is defiled b_he unsavory visits of a troop of pug dogs, who even sometimes carry thei_oathsome ravages into the  _sanctum sanctorum_ , the parlor.
  • If my readers have ever witnessed the sufferings of such a family, s_ituated, they may form some idea how our worthy ancestors were distressed b_heir mercurial neighbors of Connecticut.
  • Gangs of these marauders, we are told, penetrated into the New-Netherlan_ettlements, and threw whole villages into consternation by their unparallele_olubility, and their intolerable inquisitiveness—two evil habits hithert_nknown in those parts, or only known to be abhorred; for our ancestors wer_oted as being men of truly Spartan taciturnity, and who neither knew no_ared aught about anybody's concerns but their own. Many enormities wer_ommitted on the highways, where several unoffending burghers were brought t_ stand, and tortured with questions and guesses, which outrages occasioned a_uch vexation and heart-burning as does the modern right of search on the hig_eas.
  • Great jealousy did they likewise stir up by their intermeddling and successe_mong the divine sex, for being a race of brisk, likely, pleasant-tongue_arlets, they soon seduced the light affections of the simple damsels fro_heir ponderous Dutch gallants. Among other hideous customs, they attempted t_ntroduce among them that bundling, which the Dutch lasses of the Nederlandts,
  • with that eager passion for novelty and foreign fashions natural to their sex,
  • seemed very well inclined to follow, but that their mothers, being mor_xperienced in the world, and better acquainted with men and things,
  • strenuously discountenanced all such outlandish innovations.
  • But what chiefly operated to embroil our ancestors with these strange folk wa_n unwarrantable liberty which they occasionally took of entering in horde_nto the territories of the New Netherlands, and settling themselves down,
  • without leave or license, to improve the land in the manner I have befor_oticed. This unceremonious mode of taking possession of new land wa_echnically termed squatting, and hence is derived the appellation o_quatters, a name odious in the ears of all great landholders, and which i_iven to those enterprising worthies who seize upon land first, and take thei_hance to make good their title to it afterward.
  • All these grievances, and many others which were constantly accumulating,
  • tended to form that dark and portentious cloud which, as I observed in _ormer chapter, was slowly gathering over the tranquil province of Ne_etherlands. The pacific cabinet of Van Twiller, however, as will be perceive_n the sequel, bore them all with a magnanimity that redounds to thei_mmortal credit, becoming by passive endurance inured to this increasing mas_f wrongs, like that mighty man of old, who by dint of carrying about a cal_rom the time it was born, continued to carry it without difficulty when h_ad grown to be an ox.