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Historic Boys by Elbridge Streeter Brooks

And General Ten Broek came to the children crowded staircase


"Oh,

Margery!" exclaimed Stephen, "you wouldn't have a Hessian for good old Saint Claes, would you?"

"Why not?" said Mistress Margery, with a toss of her pretty head. "Do you think you are the only patroon, my lord Stephen?"

For Santa Claus was known among the boys and girls of those old Dutch days as "the children's patroon" (_De Patroon van Kinder-vreugd_).

"I saw the Hessian baron t' other night, Margarita," said Stephen's best boy-friend, Abram Van Vechten; "he never could play at Santa Claus. He's not the right shape at all. And then a Hessian! Why, I'd sooner have old Balthazar!"

"Oh, dear, what a Saint Claes he'd make!" cried all the girls and boys, for old Balthazar Lydius was the terror of the Albany children in those days--"a tall, spare Dutchman, with a bullet head," a sort of Bluebeard to their imaginations, living in his "big mahogany house with carved beams," near the old _Kerk_, and scowling and growling at every _Kind_ who passed his door.

"No, no, Abram," protested Margery, "I'd rather have the baron, even if he is a Hessian. Only imagine old Balthazar playing at Saint Claes, girls! Why, he's as sour as a ladle of Aunt Schuyler's _kool-slaa_. Show us how he looks, Stephen; you can, you know."

"Yes, do, do!" shouted all the girls and boys. "Show us Abram's sour

face. Let's see which is the best patroon."

[Illustration: "SUPPAWN AND MALCK AND RULLICHES, WITH CHOCOLATE AND SOFT WAFFLES, YOU KNOW," SAID MISTRESS MARGERY.]

So the boy lengthened down his face and pulled in his cheeks and looked so ferociously sour that the children fairly shrieked with delight at the caricature, and Abram cried: "That's it; that's old Balthazar as sure as you live! That's just the way he looked at me last winter when I almost ran into him as I was sliding down the long coast at Fort hill. My! I was so scared that I ran as fast as my legs could carry me from way below the _Kerk_ clear past the Van der Hayden palace."[AP]

But, in the midst of the laughter, a quick step sounded in the hall, and General Ten Broek came to the children-crowded staircase. "The Helderberg farmers are here, lad," he said to his nephew; and the young patroon, bidding his guests keep up the fun while he left them awhile, followed his uncle through the door-way and across the broad court-yard to where, just south of the manor-house, stood the rent-office. As the boy emerged from the mansion, the throng of tenants who had gathered there at his invitation gazed admiringly at the manly-looking little lad, resplendent in blue and yellow, and gold lace, and greeted him with a rousing birthday cheer--a loyal welcome to their boy patroon, their young _Opperhoofdt_, or chief.

"My friends," the lad said, acknowledging their greeting with a courtly bow, "I have asked you to come to the manor-house on this, my birthday, so that I might thank you for what you did for me before the Saratoga fight, when you sent so much of your stock and produce to the army simply on my order. But I wish also to give you something besides thanks. And so, that you may know how much I value your friendship and fealty, I have, with my guardian's approval, called you here to present to each one of you a free and clear title to all the lands you have, until now, held in fee from me as the patroon of Rensselaerswyck. General Ten Broek will give you the papers before you leave the office, and Pedrom has a goodly spread waiting for you in the lower hall. Take this from me, my friends, with many thanks for what you have already done for me."


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