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.