Peter blushed and gave a slight cough as Carl answered for him.
"Ah, mevrouw, he is swift, but all the Broek boys are fine skaters--even the rag pickers," and he thought bitterly of poor Hans.
The lady laughed. "That will make the race all the more exciting," she said. "But I shall wish each of you to be the winner."
At this moment her husband Mynheer van Gend came in, and the enchantment falling upon the boys was complete.
The invisible fairies of the household at once clustered about them, whispering that Jasper van Gend had a heart as young and fresh as their own, and if he loved anything in this world more than industry, it was sunshine and frolic. They hinted also something about his having a hearty full of love and a head full of wisdom and finally gave the boys to understand that when mynheer said a thing, he meant it.
Therefore his frank "Well, now, this is pleasant," as he shook hands with them all, made the boys feel quite at home and as happy as squirrels.
There were fine paintings in the drawing room and exquisite statuary, and portfolios filled with rare Dutch engravings, besides many beautiful and curious things from China and Japan. The boys felt that it would require a month to examine all the treasures of the apartment.
Ben noticed with pleasure English books lying upon the table. He saw also over the carved upright piano, life-sized portraits of William of Orange and his English queen, a sight that, for a time, brought England and Holland side by side in his heart. William and Mary have left a halo round the English throne to this day, he the truest patriot that ever served an adopted country, she the noblest wife that ever sat upon a British throne, up to the time of Victoria and Albert the Good. As Ben looked at the pictures he remembered accounts he had read of King William's visit to The Hague in the winter of 1691. He who sang the Battle of Ivry had not yet told the glowing story of that day, but Ben knew enough of it to fancy that he could almost hear the shouts of the delighted populace as he looked from the portraits to the street, which at this moment was aglow with a bonfire, kindled in a neighboring square.