Like as an assemblage of belligerent cats, gibbering and caterwauling, eyeing one another with hideous grimaces and contortions, spitting in each other’s faces, and on the point of a general clapper-clawing, are suddenly put to scampering rout and confusion by the appearance of a house-dog, so was the no less vociferous council of New Amsterdam amazed, astounded, and totally dispersed by the sudden arrival of the enemy. Every member waddled home as fast as his short legs could carry him, wheezing as he went with corpulency and terror. Arrived at his castle, he barricaded the street-door, and buried himself in the cider-cellar, without venturing to peep out, lest he should have his head carried off by a cannon ball.
The sovereign people crowded into the marketplace, herding together with the instinct of sheep, who seek safety in each other’s company when the shepherd and his dog are absent, and the wolf is prowling round the fold. Far from finding relief, however, they only increased each other’s terrors. Each man looked ruefully in his neighbor’s face, in search of encouragement, but only found in its woebegone lineaments a confirmation of his own dismay. Not a word now was to be heard of conquering Great Britain, not a whisper about the sovereign virtues of economy—while the old women heightened the general gloom by clamorously bewailing their fate, and calling for protection on St. Nicholas and Peter Stuyvesant.
Oh, how did they bewail the absence of the lion-hearted Peter! and how did they long for the comforting presence of Antony Van Corlear! Indeed a gloomy uncertainty hung over the fate of these adventurous heroes. Day after day had elapsed since the alarming message from the governor without bringing any further tidings of his safety. Many a fearful conjecture was hazarded as to what had befallen him and his loyal squire. Had they not been devoured alive by the cannibals of Marblehead and Cape Cod? Had they not been put to the question by the great council of Amphictyons? Had they not been smothered in onions by the terrible men of Pyquag? In the midst of this consternation and perplexity, when horror, like a mighty nightmare, sat brooding upon the little, fat, plethoric city of New Amsterdam, the ears of the multitude were suddenly startled by the distant sound of a trumpet;—it approached—it grew louder and louder—and now it resounded at the city gate. The public could not be mistaken in the well-known sound; a shout of joy burst from their lips as the gallant Peter, covered with dust, and followed by his faithful trumpeter, came galloping into the marketplace.