University of Virginia Library


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“All torment, trouble, wonder, and amazement,
Inhabit here! Some heavenly power guide us
Out of this fearful country.”

The hour appointed for Kisel's execution drew
nigh. The premonitory bell was already sounding,
when a countryman, who had come from the
other side of the Hudson, sheltering his little boat
in a nook under some cedars growing where Warren-street
now terminates, was proceeding towards
the city with a market-basket, containing butter,
eggs, &c. As he was destined to enact an important
part in the drama of that day, it may not
be superfluous to describe the homely habiliments in
which he appeared. He had on a coarse dark-gray
overcoat, a sort of dreadnaught, of domestic manufacture,
double-breasted, and fastened with black
mohair buttons, as large as dollars, up to his throat;
his cravat was a blue and white linen handkerchief—an
enduring article, then manufactured by
all thrifty housewives; his stockings were blue and
white yarn, ribbed; his shoes cowhide, and tied
with leather thongs. A young man is rarely without
a dash of coxcombry, and our humble swain's
was betrayed in a fox-skin cap, with straps of the fur


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that decorated his cheek, much in the mode of the
brush-whisker of our own day. The cap was
drawn so close over his brow as nearly to hide
his dark pomatumed hair; and finally, his hands
were covered by scarlet and white mittens, full
fringed, and with his name, Harmann Van Zandt,
knit in on their backs.

The storm of the morning had passed over.
The sun was shining out clear and warm for the
season; and as every one is eager to enjoy the last
smiles of our stinted autumn, the countryman
must have wondered, as he passed the few habitations
on his way to the populous part of the town,
not to see the usual group—the good man with
his pipe, the matron knitting, and the buxom Dutch
damsel leaning over the lower portal of the door.
As he approached Broadway, however, the sounds
of life and busy movement reached his ear, and he
saw half a dozen young lads and lasses issue from
a house on his left, dressed in their Sunday gear,
their faces full of eager expectation, and each
hurrying the other.

The good vrow, who stood on the door-step, was
giving them a last charge to hear every thing and
see every thing to tell her; for she “always had to
stay at home when any thing lively was going on.”
As she turned from them, her housewife eye fell on
the countryman's market-basket. “Stop, neighbour,”
said she, “and tell us the price of your butter
and eggs.”


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“Butter one dollar the pound, eggs three for a

“That's the prettiest price asked yet; but—”

“Ay, mother; but live and let live, you know.”

Let live, truly. You Bergen people are turning
your grass into gold.”

“We must make hay while the sun shines.”

“While the sun shines! Ah, it does shine as
through a knot-hole on a few, but the rest of us
are in solid darkness. Go your ways, friend; you'll
find lords and generals, admirals, commandants,
and jail-keepers, to buy your butter and eggs;
honest people must eat their bread without butter
now-a-days. The hawks have come over the water
to protect the doves, forsooth, and the doves' food,
doves and all, are like to be devoured.”

This was a sort of figurative railing much indulged
in by those who were secretly well-affected
to the country's cause, but who were constrained,
by motives of prudence, to remain within the British

It seemed to have struck a sympathetic chord in
the countryman; for drawing near the good woman,
whose exterior expressed very little resemblance
to the gentle emblem by which she had chosen to
personify herself, he said, kindly smiling, “Bring
me a knife, mother, and I'll give you a slice of
butter to garnish your tea-table when your comely
lasses come home.”

“This is kind and neighbourlike,” said the woman,


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hastily bringing the knife and plate; “I
thought, the first minute you opened your lips, you
were freehearted. This an't the common way of
the Bergen people—they sell the cat and her skin
too—you have not their tongue, neither—mine is
more broken than yours, and I'm only Dutch on
the mother's side.”

“Ah, mother, trading with gentlefolks, and such
fair-spoken people as you, gets the mitten off one's
tongue. But I must be going. Can you direct
me to Lizzy Bengin's? our Lida wants a pink
riband against Christmas.”

“Now don't say you come to market, and don't
know where Lizzy Bengin lives! Did you never
take notice of the little one-story building at the
very lower end of Queen-street, with the stoop
even with the ground, and plenty of cochinia, and
cookey horses, and men and women, in the window,
and a parrot hanging outside that beats the world
for talking?” The man gave the expected assent,
and his informant proceeded—“That is Lizzy's;
and without going a step out of your way, you may
turn your butter and eggs into silver before you get
there. Call at the Provost—Cunningham starves
the prisoners, and eats the fat of the land himself—
or at Admiral Digby's, who has the young prince
William under his roof, and therefore a warrant for
the best in the land—or at Tryon's, or Robertson's,
or any of the quality; their bread is buttered both
sides; but the time is coming—”


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“When the bread shall be fairly spread for all.
I think so, mother; but I must be going—so good-day.”

“Good-day, and good luck to you—a nice youth
and a well-spoken is that,” said she, looking after
him; “and if butter must be a dollar a pound, I'm
glad the money finds its way into the pockets of
the like of him.”

Meanwhile, the subject of her approbation pursued
his way, and soon found himself in the midst
of a throng, who were hurrying forward to the
place of execution. The usual place for military
executions was in an apple orchard, where East
Broadway now runs; but the condemned having
to suffer as one of the infamous band of skinners,
was not thought worthy to swing on a gallows devoted
to military men. Accordingly, a gallows was
erected in a field just above St. Paul's church.
Our friend of the butter and eggs found himself, on
reaching Broadway, retarded and encompassed by
the crowd. “Hold your basket up, fellow, and let
me pass,” said a gentleman, who seemed eager to
get beyond the crowd. The countryman obeyed,
but turned his back upon the speaker, as if from
involuntary resentment at his authoritative tone.

“Whither are you hastening, Meredith?” asked
another voice.

“Ah, St. Clair, how are you? I am trying to get
through this abominable crowd to join my mother
and Lady Anne, who have gone to take a drive:


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my servant is waiting with my horse beyond the

“Your mother, Lady Anne, and Miss Linwood!
An opening now before the countryman would have
allowed him to pass on, but he did not move.
“Upon my honour, St. Clair, I did not know that
Miss Linwood was with them. They talked of
asking Helen Ruthven.”

“And so they did. Lady Anne sent me to her,
but Miss Ruthven said, not very civilly I think, she
had no inclination for a drive, and begged me to
stop while she wrote you this note.”

Meredith opened the note, sealed with an anchor,
and containing only these two lines, exquisitely
written in pencil:—“Could I endure any thing
called pleasure on the same day with my tête-à-tête
walk with you this morning? Oh, no—there is
no next best.—H. R.”

“You seem pleased, Meredith,” resumed St.
Clair, as he saw Meredith's eye kindle and his
cheek brighten. Meredith made no reply, but
thrust the note into his pocket. He was pleased.
He felt much like a musician, whose ears have
been tormented by discords, when the keys are
rightly struck. “Lady Anne had hard work,”
continued St. Clair, “to persuade Miss Lindwood
to go with her. It seems she has got up her
nerves for this poor devil of a skinner. Lady Anne
persuaded her at last; indeed, I believe she was
glad to get beyond the tolling of the bell till the
rumpus is over.”


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“Women are riddles,” thought Meredith; “they
feel without reason, and will not feel when reason
bids them.” He had lost his desire to go alone to
join the ladies; and he offered St. Clair his horse,
saying he would himself ride his servant's. St.
Clair eagerly accepted his courtesy, and the two
gentleman elbowed their way through the crowd.
The countryman turned to gaze after them; and
while his eye followed Meredith with its keenest
glance, the wave of the multitude had set towards
him, and so completely hedged his way in front,
that, not being able to proceed, he thought best to
retreat a few yards to where the crowd was less
dense, and wait till the pressure was past, which
must be soon, as the procession with the prisoner
had already moved from the Provost. In the
meanwhile he secured the occupation of a slightly
elevated platform, an entrance to a house, where,
setting down his basket, he folded his arms, and
while detained, had the benefit of the various remarks
of the passers-by.

“What a disgrace it is,” said a British subaltern
to his companion, “that those rebels,” pointing to
some American officers, prisoners on parole, “are
permitted to walk the streets in uniform. It is too
annoying—I hate the sight of them.”

“Yes,” retorted his companion, laughing, “and
so you have ever since they distanced you skating
on the Kolch last winter.”

“A crying shame is it,” said an honest burgher


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to a fellow-vestryman, “that a human creature is
going to his doom, and but one bell tolling. But
the Lord's temples are turned aside from all holy
uses—our own sanctuary is a prison for soldiers,
and the Middle Dutch a riding-school!”

“A soul's a soul,” returned his companion;
“but the lordly English bells may not toll for the
parting of this poor wretch's; only the tinkling bell
of the Methodist Chapel, that's kept open, forsooth,
because John Wesley and his followers are loyal.”

“We shall have our pains for our trouble,” said
a fellow, who seemed to have come to the spectacle
en amateur: “the boys say he never will stand it
to get to the gallows.”

“Move on—move on,” cried a voice that heralded
the procession; and the crowd was driven
forward, in order to leave an open space around the
prisoner and his assistants.

It is impossible for a benevolent man to look on
a fellow-creature about to suffer a violent death (be
his doom ever so well merited), without a feeling of
intense interest. The days of the culprits' youth,
of his innocence, of his parents' love and hope; the
tremendous present, and the possible future, all
rush upon the mind. It would appear that our
country friend was a man of reflection and sentiment;
for, as he gazed at the prisoner, his cheek
was blanched, his brow contracted, and the exclamation,
“Oh, God! oh, God!” burst from lips that
never lightly uttered that holy name.


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Poor Kisel appeared as if nature would fain
save him from the executioner's touch. His head
had fallen on his bosom, his knees were bent and
trembling, and his step as wavering and uncertain
as that of a blind man. He was supported and
helped forward by a stout man on his right. When
he was within a few feet of the countryman, a ray of
consciousness seemed to shoot athwart his mind.
He raised his head, shook back his shaggy locks,
cast a wild inquiring glance around him, when his
eye encountering the stranger, he seemed electrified,
his joints to be reset, his nerves restrung.
He drew up his person, uttered a piercing shriek,
sprang forward like a cat, and, sinking at his feet,
sobbed out, “Misser Eliot, hey!”

The multitude were for an instant palsied; not
a sound—not a breath escaped them: and then a
rush, and a shout, and cries of “Seize him!” and
shrieks from those who were trodden under foot.

“Stand back—back—back, monsters!” cried
Eliot, himself almost wild with amazement and
grief—“give him air, space, breath, he is dying!”
He raised Kisel's head, and rested it on his breast,
and bent his face over him, murmuring, “Kisel,
my poor fellow!”

Kisel's eye, gleaming with preternatural joy,
was riveted to Eliot's face. A slight convulsion
passed over his frame; drops of sweat, like rain,
gushed from every pore; and, while his quivering,
half-smiling lips murmured inaudibly, “Misser


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Eliot!—Misser Eliot!” they stiffened, his eyes
rolled up, and his released, exulting spirit fled.

Eliot was but for one instant unmanned; but for
one instant did he lose the self-possession on which
even at this moment of consternation he was conscious
that much more than his own individual
safety depended. He made no effort to escape
from observation; that would have excited suspicion;
but said, calmly, still supporting Kisel's
head, “The poor man, I think, is gone; is there
not some physician here who can tell whether he be
or not?” A doctor was called for; and, while one
was bustling through the crowd, there were various
conjectures, surmises, and assertions. Some said
“he looked as good as dead when he came out of
the prison;” some asked “if he could have hoped
to have got away;” and others believed that the
excitement of the scene had maddened his brain.
Eliot said he had fallen at his feet like a spent
ball; and, while he was internally blessing God
that his poor follower had escaped all father suffering,
the medical man announced, with the authority
of his art, that life was extinct. The body
was conveyed to the prison for interment. The
crowd dispersed; and Eliot, feeling that Heaven
had conferred its best boon on Kisel, and extended
a shield over him, pursued his way to Lizzy Bengin's