Roistering Dirck Van Dara





In the days when most of New York stood below Grand Street, a roistering

fellow used to make the rounds of the taverns nightly, accompanied by a

friend named Rooney. This brave drinker was Dirck Van Dara, one of the

last of those swag-bellied topers that made merry with such solemnity

before the English seized their unoffending town. It chanced that Dirck

and his chum were out later than usual one night, and by eleven o'clock,

when all good people were abed, a drizzle set in that drove the watch to

sleep in doorways and left Broadway tenantless. As the two choice spirits

reeled out of a hostelry near Wall Street and saw the lights go out in

the tap-room windows they started up town to their homes in Leonard

Street, but hardly had they come abreast of old St. Paul's when a strange

thing stayed them: crying was heard in the churchyard and a

phosphorescent light shone among the tombs. Rooney was sober in a moment,

but not so Dirck Van Dara, who shouted, Here is sport, friend Rooney.

Let's climb the wall. If the dead are for a dance, we will take partners

and show them how pigeons' wings are cut nowadays.



No, exclaimed the other; those must perish who go among the dead when

they come out of their graves. I've heard that if you get into their

clutches, you must stay in purgatory for a hundred years, and no priest

can pray you out.



Bah! old wives' tales! Come on! And pulling his friend with him, they

were over the fence. Hello! what have we here? As he spoke a haggard

thing arose from behind a tombstone, a witchlike creature, with rags

falling about her wasted form and hair that almost hid her face. The

twain were set a-sneezing by the fumes of sulphur, and Rooney swore

afterwards that there were little things at the end of the yard with

grinning faces and lights on the ends of their tails. Old Hollands are

heady. Dirck began to chaff the beldam on her dilapidation, but she

stopped his talk by dipping something from a caldron behind her and

flinging it over both of her visitors. Whatever it was, it burned

outrageously, and with a yell of pain they leaped the wall more briskly

than they had jumped it the other way, and were soon in full flight. They

had not gone far when the clock struck twelve.



Arrah! there's a crowd of them coming after, panted Rooney. Ave Mary!

I've heard that if you die with witch broth being thrown over you, you're

done for in the next world, as well as this. Let us get to Father

Donagan's. Wow!



As he made this exclamation the fugitives found their way opposed by a

woman, who looked at them with immodest eyes and said, Dirck Van Dara,

your sire, in wig and bob, turned us Cyprians out of New York, after

ducking us in the Collect. But we forgive him, and to prove it we ask you

to our festival.



At the stroke of midnight the street before the church had swarmed with a

motley throng, that now came onward, waving torches that sparkled like

stars. They formed a ring about Dirck and began to dance, and he, nothing

loth, seized the nymph who had addressed him and joined in the revel. Not

a soul was out or awake except themselves, and no words were said as the

dance went wilder to strains of weird and unseen instruments. Now and

then one would apply a torch to the person of Dirck, meanly assailing him

in the rear, and the smart of the burn made him feet it the livelier. At

last they turned toward the Battery as by common consent, and went

careering along the street in frolic fashion. Rooney, whose senses had

thus far been pent in a stupor, fled with a yell of terror, and as he

looked back he saw the unholy troop disappearing in the mist like a

moving galaxy. Never from that night was Dirck Van Data seen or heard of

more, and the publicans felt that they had less reason for living.





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