In a word, my jewels had brought me the only true happiness which wealth can give—the power of making others happy.
I now resolved to bring Count Hendrick Luitken to account for his treatment of Anna, though I did not desire that Anna’s name should appear in the matter, so that gossip might be avoided. I therefore bided my time, and waited an opportunity which soon came.
The Count of Holstein had resigned the governorship of Urk, and now kept a fine establishment at Amsterdam, to which he frequently invited company, and at one of his banquets I met, as I expected, Count Hendrick Luitken.
As a merchant’s clerk, and afterwards as a seaman, the Count had taken no notice of me, but now that I was rich and betrothed to Anna, he could do no less than treat me with consideration when he met me at her father’s house.
The banquet was sumptuous, and no effort was spared to make it worthy of the late Governor’s hospitality. Only men were invited, no women being present, so that free scope was given for the gluttony and drunkenness which usually prevailed at such entertainments. Great joints of beef and venison vanished like melting snow before the keen-set appetites of the diners, and goblets of wine disappeared down thirsty throats until all present were more or less under the influence of liquor. Toward the end of the entertainment, some horse-play was indulged in by the younger guests, among whom Count Hendrick Luitken was conspicuous. I could see he was the worse for liquor, and as often happens to those under the influence of strong drink, his veneer gave place to a quarrelsome arrogance in which his true disposition was displayed. Accompanied by some of his friends as boisterous as himself, he came over to where I was sitting, and, planting himself in a vacant chair on the other side of the table in front of me, he asked rudely how the fishing trade prospered at Urk.
I felt the blood mount to my face as I answered that for all I knew to the contrary it prospered well enough, although I had for some years past been away from Urk, and could therefore not answer the question as fully as I might otherwise have done.
“You’ve been a pirate since you gave up the fishing,” sneered the Count, “and to some purpose if report speaks true.”
For answer I threw the wine which stood in a half-emptied goblet at my elbow in his face.
The Count sprang to his feet, the red wine dripping from his handsome doublet, while his face worked with passion.
“Insolent!” he cried, when he had mastered himself sufficiently to articulate. “My rank will not let me fight you, but I have influence enough to punish you as you deserve.”
“No difference in rank exists between us, my lord,” I answered, “and I claim the right to cross swords in an affair of honour with all save those of royal blood. Grant me the satisfaction I demand, or I will brand you as a braggart and a coward throughout every town of the Netherlands.”