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About this time, the testy little governor of the New Netherlands appears to have had his hands full, and with one annoyance and the other to have been kept continually on the bounce. He was on the very point of following up the expedition of Jan Jansen Alpendam by some belligerent measures against the marauders of Merryland, when his attention was suddenly called away by belligerent troubles springing up in another quarter, the seeds of which had been sown in the tranquil days of Walter the Doubter.
The reader will recollect the deep doubt into which that most pacific governor was thrown on Killian Van Rensellaer's taking possession of Bearn Island by wapen recht. While the governor doubted and did nothing, the lordly Killian went on to complete his sturdy little castellum of Rensellaersteen, and to garrison it with a number of his tenants from the Helderberg, a mountain region famous for the hardest heads and hardest fists in the province. Nicholas Koorn, a faithful squire of the patroon, accustomed to strut at his heels, wear his cast-off clothes, and imitate his lofty bearing, was established in this post as wacht-meester. His duty it was to keep an eye on the river, and oblige every vessel that passed, unless on the service of their High Mightinesses, to strike its flag, lower its peak, and pay toll to the Lord of Rensellaersteen.
This assumption of sovereign authority within the territories of the Lords States General, however it might have been tolerated by Walter the Doubter, had been sharply contested by William the Testy, on coming into office and many written remonstrances had been addressed by him to Killian Van Rensellaer, to which the latter never deigned a reply. Thus by degrees a sore place, or, in Hibernian parlance, a raw, had been established in the irritable soul of the little governor, insomuch that he winced at the very name of Rensellaersteen.
Now it came to pass that, on a fine sunny day, the company's yacht, the Half Moon, having been on one of its stated visits to Fort Aurania, was quietly tiding it down the Hudson; the commander, Govert Lockerman, a veteran Dutch skipper of few words but great bottom, was seated on the high poop, quietly smoking his pipe, under the shadow of the proud flag of Orange, when, on arriving abreast of Bearn Island, he was saluted by a stentorian voice from the shore, "Lower thy flag, and be d----d to thee!"
Govert Lockerman, without taking his pipe out of his mouth, turned up his eye from under his broad-brimmed hat to see who hailed him thus discourteously. There, on the ramparts of the forts, stood Nicholas Koorn, armed to the teeth, flourishing a brass-hilted sword, while a steeple-crowned hat and cock's tail-feather, formerly worn by Killian Van Rensellaer himself, gave an inexpressible loftiness to his demeanor.
Govert Lockerman eyed the warrior from top to toe, but was not to be dismayed. Taking the pipe slowly out of his mouth, "To whom should I lower my flag?" demanded he. "To the high and mighty Killian Van Rensellaer, the lord of Rensellaersteen!" was the reply.
"I lower it to none but the Prince Orange and my masters, the Lords States General." So saying, he resumed his pipe and smoked with an air of dogged determination.
Bang! went a gun from the fortress; the ball cut both sail and rigging. Govert Lockerman said nothing, but smoked the more doggedly.
Bang! went another gun; the shot whistling close astern.
"Fire, and be d----d," cried Govert Lockerman, cramming a new charge of tobacco into his pipe, and smoking with still increasing vehemence.
Bang! went a third gun. The shot passed over his head, tearing a hole in the "princely flag of Orange."
This was the hardest trial of all for the pride and patience of Govert Lockerman; he maintained a stubborn though swelling silence, but his smothered rage might be perceived by the short vehement puffs of smoke emitted from his pipe, by which he might be tracked for miles, as he slowly floated out of shot and out of sight of Bearn Island. In fact, he never gave vent to his passion until he got fairly among the Highlands of the Hudson, when he let fly whole volleys of Dutch oaths, which are said to linger to this very day among the echoes of the Dunderberg, and to give particular effect to the thunder-storms in that neighborhood.
It was the sudden apparition of Govert Lockerman at Dog's Misery, bearing in his hand the tattered flag of Orange, that arrested the attention of William the Testy, just as he was devising a new expedition against the marauders of Merryland. I will not pretend to describe the passion of the little man when he heard of the outrage of Rensellaersteen. Suffice it to say, in the first transports of his fury, he turned Dog's Misery topsy-turvy, kicked every cur out of doors, and threw the cats out of the window; after which, his spleen being in some measure relieved, he went into a council of war with Govert Lockerman, the skipper, assisted by Anthony Van Corlear, the trumpeter.
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