While tramping on foot through the city, Ben often longed for a good English sidewalk. Here, as in the other towns, there was no curb, no raised pavement for foot travelers, but the streets were clean and even, and all vehicles were kept scrupulously within a certain tract. Strange to say, there were nearly as many sleds as wagons to be seen, though there was not a particle of snow. The sleds went scraping over the bricks or cobblestones, some provided with an apparatus in front for sprinkling water, to diminish the friction, and some rendered less musical by means of a dripping oil rag, which the driver occasionally applied to the runners.
Ben was surprised at the noiseless way in which Dutch laborers do their work. Even around the warehouses and docks there was no bustle, no shouting from one to another. A certain twitch of the pipe, or turn of the head, or, at most, a raising of the hand, seemed to be all the signal necessary. Entire loads of cheeses or herrings are pitched from cart or canalboat into the warehouses without a word; but the passerby must take his chance of being pelted, for a Dutchman seldom looks before or behind him while engaged at work.
Poor Jacob Poot, who seemed destined to bear all the mishaps of the journey, was knocked nearly breathless by a great cheese, which a fat Dutchman was throwing to a fellow laborer, but he recovered himself, and passed on without evincing the least indignation. Ben professed great sympathy upon the occasion, but Jacob insisted that it was "notting."
"Then why did you screw your face so when it hit you?"
"What for screw mine face?" repeated Jacob soberly. "Vy, it vash de--de--"
"That what?" insisted Ben maliciously.
"Vy, de-de-vat you call dis, vat you taste mit de nose?"
Ben laughed. "Oh, you mean the smell."