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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Mission of Antony the Trumpeter

By Washington Irving (1783–1859)

[From A History of New York. By Diedrich Knickerbocker. 1809.]

WE are told that, in the year 1651, the great confederacy of the east accused the immaculate Peter, the soul of honor and heart of steel, of secretly endeavoring, by gifts and promises, to instigate the Narroheganset, Mohaque, and Pequot Indians, to surprise and massacre the Yankee settlements. “For,” as the grand council observed, “the Indians round about for divers hundred miles cercute seeme to have drunk deepe of an intoxicating cupp, att or from the Manhattoes against the English, whoe have sought their good, both in bodily and spirituall respects.”

This charge they pretended to support by the evidence of divers Indians, who were probably moved by that spirit of truth which is said to reside in the bottle, and who swore to the fact as sturdily as though they had been so many Christian troopers.

Though descended from a family which suffered much injury from the losel Yankees of those times, my great-grandfather having had a yoke of oxen and his best pacer stolen, and having received a pair of black eyes and a bloody nose in one of these border wars; and my grandfather, when a very little boy tending pigs, having been kidnapped and severely flogged by a long-sided Connecticut schoolmaster—yet I should have passed over all these wrongs with forgiveness and oblivion—I could even have suffered them to have broken Everet Ducking’s head; to have kicked the doughty Jacobus Van Curlet and his ragged regiment out of doors; to have carried every hog into captivity, and depopulated every hen-roost on the face of the earth with perfect impunity—but this wanton attack upon one of the most gallant and irreproachable heroes of modern times, is too much even for me to digest; and has overset, with a single puff, the patience of the historian, and the forbearance of the Dutchman….

The first measure of Peter Stuyvesant, on hearing of this slanderous charge, would have been worthy of a man who had studied for years in the chivalrous library of Don Quixote. Drawing his sword and laying it across the table, to put him in proper tune, he took pen in hand and indited a proud and lofty letter to the council of the league, reproaching them with giving ear to the slanders of heathen savages against a Christian, a soldier, and a cavalier; declaring that whoever charged him with the plot in question, lied in his throat; to prove which he offered to meet the president of the council or any of his compeers; or their champion, Captain Alicxsander Partridg, that mighty man of Rhodes, in single combat; wherein he trusted to vindicate his honor by the prowess of his arm.

This missive was intrusted to his trumpeter and squire, Antony Van Corlear, that man of emergencies, with orders to travel night and day, sparing neither whip nor spur, seeing that he carried the vindication of his patron’s fame in his saddle-bags.

The loyal Antony accomplished his mission with great speed and considerable loss of leather. He delivered his missive with becoming ceremony, accompanying it with a flourish of defiance on his trumpet to the whole council, ending with a significant and nasal twang full in the face of Captain Partridg, who nearly jumped out of his skin in an ecstasy of astonishment.

The grand council was composed of men too cool and practical to be put readily in a heat, or to indulge in knight-errantry; and above all to run a tilt with such a fiery hero as Peter the Headstrong. They knew the advantage, however, to have always a snug, justifiable cause of war in reserve with a neighbor, who had territories worth invading; so they devised a reply to Peter Stuyvesant, calculated to keep up the “raw” which they had established.

On receiving this answer, Antony Van Corlear remounted the Flanders mare which he always rode, and trotted merrily back to the Manhattoes, solacing himself by the way according to his wont—twanging his trumpet like a very devil, so that the sweet valleys and banks of the Connecticut resounded with the warlike melody—bringing all the folks to the windows as he passed through Hartford and Pyquag, and Middletown, and all the other border towns, ogling and winking at the women, and making aerial windmills from the end of his nose at their husbands—and stopping occasionally in the villages to eat pumpkin-pies, dance at country frolics, and bundle with the Yankee lasses—whom he rejoiced exceedingly with his soul-stirring instrument.