Perplexed in the extreme, William the Testy sent for all the soothsayers and fortune tellers and wise men of the Manhattoes, but none could interpret the mysterious reply of Nicholas Koorn. The council broke up in sore perplexity. The matter got abroad; Anthony Van Corlear was stopped at every corner to repeat the signal to a knot of anxious newsmongers, each of whom departed with his thumb to his nose and his fingers in the air, to carry the story home of his family. For several days all business was neglected in New Amsterdam; nothing was talked of but the diplomatic mission of Anthony the Trumpeter, nothing was to be seen but knots of politicians with their thumbs to their noses. In the meantime the fierce feud between William the Testy and Killian Van Rensellaer, which at first had menaced deadly warfare, gradually cooled off, like many other war questions, in the prolonged delays of diplomacy.
Still, to this early affair of Rensellaersteen may be traced the remote origin of those windy wars in modern days which rage in the bowels of the Helderberg, and have well nigh shaken the great patroonship of the Van Rensellaers to its foundation: for we are told that the bully boys of the Helderberg, who served under Nicholas Koorn, the wacht-meester, carried back to their mountains the hieroglyphic sign which had so sorely puzzled Anthony Van Corlear and the sages of the Manhattoes; so that to the present day, the thumb to the nose and the fingers in the air is apt to be the reply of the Helderbergers whenever called upon for any long arrears of rent.
It was asserted by the wise men of ancient times who had a nearer opportunity of ascertaining the fact, that at the gate of Jupiter’s palace lay two huge tuns, one filled with blessings, the other with misfortunes; and it would verily seem as if the latter had been completely overturned, and left to deluge the unlucky province of Nieuw Nederlandts; for about this time, while harassed and annoyed from the south and the north, incessant forays were made by the border chivalry of Connecticut upon the pig-sties and hen-roosts of the Nederlanders. Every day or two some broad-bottomed express rider, covered with mud and mire, would come floundering into the gate of New Amsterdam, freighted with some new tale of aggression from the frontier; whereupon Anthony Van Corlear, seizing his trumpet, the only substitute for a newspaper in those primitive days, would sound the tidings from the ramparts with such doleful notes and disastrous cadence, as to throw half the old women in the city into hysterics; all which tended greatly to increase his popularity, there being nothing for which the public are more grateful than being frequently treated to a panic—a secret well known to modern editors.