“I could never marry anyone but you, Peter,” she whispered to me, as we sat together on the terrace of the palace by the Zuider Zee, after she had confided to me her anxieties, “but I find it hard to keep up the deception that I am heart-whole and fancy-free, and yet indifferent to Count Hendrick’s attentions. Indeed, my father openly upbraids me with being fickle, inconstant, unmaidenly, and I know not what besides, until I am driven to my wit’s end to keep the peace between us. Yet I doubt not, if he knew the truth, he would marry me willy-nilly to Count Hendrick Luitken by force.”
“Then it would be to a corpse he would marry you,” I cried, “for sooner than see you wedded to Count Luitken I would strangle him with my bare hands if he refused to meet me as an equal in fair fight.”
“Dear Peter,” whispered Anna, as she nestled closer to me, “if I cannot marry you I’ll marry none other, and the Church does not now sanction marriage vows given unwillingly. If they drive me to it I can at least seek the cloister or the grave.”
“Do not speak so, dear Anna,” I entreated. “We are both young, and by patience and industry I may yet win a place in the world.”
But although I spoke hopefully I could see but little prospect of my advancement at Amsterdam. My master, De Decker, the merchant, in whose house I was employed, told me plainly that I need expect nothing more than a clerkship so long as I remained in his service. His son, then a boy at school, would inherit his business, and it might be many years before I could hope to buy a partnership in it. De Decker’s business at this time, moreover, was not in a very flourishing condition. It seemed, therefore, not improbable that I would lose my clerkship unless it improved.
In these circumstances I was approached by Dirk Hartog some twelve months after the return of the “Endraght”, who offered to take me as first officer on the “Arms of Amsterdam”, a new vessel upon which he was about to make a second voyage of discovery to the South.
“It is not because we met no luck with the ‘Endraght’ that there is nothing to be gained, Peter,” he said. “There is an island I have heard of which, if we can strike it, will make us rich men. Nothing venture, nothing win, and there is little prospect here for a man like you to make money by quill-driving.”
His words impressed me, as well they might, for the love of adventure was strong within me, and I reflected that in my present calling of a merchant’s clerk I could not hope to obtain an independence for many years—perhaps not at all. De Decker, also, appeared anxious that I should go. The sale of the pearls which the king of Pearl Island had given Hartog had more than repaid the merchants for sending out the “Endraght”, and with the “Arms of Amsterdam” they hoped to accumulate further treasure. I was influenced also by Hartog’s description of the Island of Gems, and the more I thought of the offer he had made me the more I liked it. Finally, I agreed to sign on for this second voyage, and, taking leave of Anna and my parents, I embarked upon the “Arms of Amsterdam”, and set sail once more for southern seas.