"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?"
"The Spaniards," said Ben. "The Dutch had stood out for months. Not a man would yield nor a woman, either, for that matter. They shouldered arms and fought gallantly beside their husbands and fathers. Three hundred of them did duty under Kanau Hesselaer, a great woman, and brave as Joan of Arc. All this time the city was surrounded by the Spaniards under Frederic of Toledo, son of that beauty, the Duke of Alva. Cut off from all possible help from without, there seemed to be no hope for the inhabitants, but they shouted defiance over the city walls. They even threw bread into the enemy's camps to show that they were not afraid of starvation. Up to the last they held out bravely, waiting for the help that never could come--growing bolder and bolder until their provisions were exhausted. Then it was terrible. In time, hundreds of famished creatures fell dead in the streets, and the living had scarcely strength to bury them. At last they made the desperate resolution that, rather than perish by lingering torture, the strongest would form a square, placing the weakest in the center, and rush in a body to their death, with the faint chance of being able to fight their way through the enemy. The Spaniards received a hint of this, and believing that there was nothing the Dutch would not dare to do, they concluded to offer terms."
"Yes, with falsehood and treachery they soon obtained an entrance into the city, promising protection and forgiveness to all except those whom the citizens themselves would acknowledge as deserving of death."