Holland Mania

Wooing and Wedding,
page 5 of 12

She demurely offered to return to the Court, as compensation and mollification, the pocket-handkerchief which was her husband’s wedding-gift to her. Two years later, Elsje (already a widow) appeared as plaintiff in a breach-of-promise suit; and offered, as proof of her troth-plight, a shilling-piece which was her second lover’s not more magnificent gift. Though not so stated in the chronicle, this handkerchief was doubtless given in a “marriage-knot,”— a handkerchief in which was tied a gift of money. If the girl to whom it was given untied the knot, it was a sign of consent to be speedily married. This fashion of marriage-knots still exists in parts of Holland. Sometimes the knot bears a motto; one reads when translated, “Being in love does no harm if love finds its recompense in love; but if love has ceased, all labor is in vain. Praise God.”

Though second and third marriages were common enough among the early settlers of New Netherland, I find that usually attempts at restraint of the wife were made through wills ordering sequent loss of property if she married again. Nearly all the wills are more favorable to the children than to the wife. Old Cornelius Van Catts, of Bushwick, who died In 1726, devised his estate to his wife Annetje with this gruff condition: “If she happen to marry again, then I geff her nothing of my estate, real or personal. But my wife can be master of all by bringing up to good learning my two children. But if she comes to marry again, then her husband can take her away from the farm.” John Burroughs, of Newtown, Long general feeling of husbands towards their prospective widows when he said, “If my wife marry again, then her husband must provide for her as I have.”

Often joint-wills were made by husband and wife, each with equal rights if survivor. This was peculiarly a Dutch fashion. In Fordham in 1670 and 1673, Claude de Maistre and his wife Hester du Bois, Pierre Cresson and his wife Rachel Cloos, Gabriel Carboosie and Brieta Wolferts, all made joint-wills. The last-named husband in his half of the will enjoined loss of property if Brieta married again. Perhaps he thought there had been enough marrying and giving in marriage already in that family, for Brieta had had three husbands, — a Dane, a Frieslander, and a German, — and his first wife had had four, and he — well, several, I guess; and there were a number of children; and you couldn’t expect any poor Dutchman to find it easy to make a will in all that confusion.


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