"It is needless to add that they did come quickly and that--"
"Jenny Dobbs," said the teacher, rather impatiently, "if you cannot control your feelings so as to read distinctly, we will wait until you recover yourself."
"Yes, sir!" said Jenny, quite startled.
It was strange, but at that very moment, Ben, far over the sea, was saying to Lambert, "The noble little fellow! I have frequently met with an account of the incident, but I never knew, till now, that it was really true."
"True! Of course it is," said Lambert. "I have given you the story just as Mother told it to me, years ago. Why, there is not a child in Holland who does not know it. And, Ben, you may not think so, but that little boy represents the spirit of the whole country. Not a leak can show itself anywhere either in its politics, honor, or public safety, that a million fingers are not ready to stop it, at any cost."
"Whew!" cried Master Ben. "Big talking that!"
"It's true talk anyway," rejoined Lambert, so very quietly that Ben wisely resolved to make no further comment.
The skating season had commenced unusually early; our boys were by no means alone upon the ice. The afternoon was so fine that men, women, and children, bent upon enjoying the holiday, had flocked to the grand canal from far and near. Saint Nicholas had evidently remembered the favorite pastime; shining new skates were everywhere to be seen. Whole families were skimming their way to Haarlem or Leyden or the neighboring villages. The ice seemed fairly alive. Men noticed the erect, easy carriage of women, and their picturesque variety of costume. There were the latest fashions, fresh from Paris, floating past dingy, moth-eaten garments that had seen service through two generations; coal-scuttle bonnets perched over freckled faces bright with holiday smiles; stiff muslin caps with wings at the sides, flapping beside cheeks rosy with health and contentment; furs, too, encircling the whitest of throats; and scanty garments fluttering below faces ruddy with exercise. In short, every quaint and comical mixture of dry goods and flesh that Holland could furnish seemed sent to enliven the scene.