"No! No! No! I said he defended the city LIKE a brick. That is very high praise, I would have you understand. We English call even the Duke of Wellington a brick."
Jacob looked puzzled, but his indignation was already on the ebb.
"Vell, it ish no matter. I no tink, before, soltyer mean breek, but it ish no matter."
Ben laughed good-naturedly, and seeing that his cousin was tired of talking in English, he turned to his friend of the two languages.
"Van Mounen, they say the very carrier pigeons that brought news of relief to the besieged city are somewhere here in Leyden. I really should like to see them. Just think of it! At the very height of the trouble, if the wind didn't turn and blow in the waters, and drown hundreds of Spaniards and enable the Dutch boats to sail in right over the land with men and provisions to the very gates of the city. The pigeons, you know, did great service, in bearing letters to and fro. I have read somewhere that they were reverently cared for from that day, and when they died, they were stuffed and placed for safekeeping in the town hall. We must be sure to have a look at them."
Van Mounen laughed. "On that principle, Ben, I suppose when you go to Rome you'll expect to see the identical goose who saved the capitol. But it will be easy enough to see the pigeons. They are in the same building with Van der Werf's portrait. Which was the greater defense, Ben, the siege of Leyden or the siege of Haarlem?"
"Well," replied Ben thoughtfully, "Van der Werf is one of my heroes. We all have our historical pets, you know, but I really think the siege of Haarlem brought out a braver, more heroic resistance even, than the Leyden one; besides, they set the Leyden sufferers an example of courage and fortitude, for their turn came first."
"I don't know much about the Haarlem siege," said Lambert, "except that it was in 1573. Who beat?"