The town hall, as well as the Egyptian Museum, is on the Breedstraat, the longest and finest street in Leyden. It has no canal running through it, and the houses, painted in every variety of color, have a picturesque effect as they stand with their gable ends to the street; some are very tall with half their height in their step-like roofs; others crouch before the public edifices and churches. Being clean, spacious, well-shaded, and adorned with many elegant mansions, it compares favorably with the finery portions of Amsterdam. It is kept scrupulously neat. Many of the gutters are covered with boards that open like trapdoors, and it is supplied with pumps surmounted with shining brass ornaments kept scoured and bright at the public cost. The city is intersected by numerous water roads formed by the river Rhine, there grown sluggish, fatigued by its long travel, but more than one hundred and fifty stone bridges reunite the dissevered streets. The same world-renowned river, degraded from the beautiful, free-flowing Rhine, serves as a moat from the rampart that surrounds Leyden and is crossed by drawbridges at the imposing gateways that give access to the city. Fine broad promenades, shaded by noble trees, border the canals and add to the retired appearance of the houses behind, heightening the effect of scholastic seclusion that seems to pervade the place.
Ben, as he scanned the buildings on the Rapenburg Canal, was somewhat disappointed in the appearance of the great University of Leyden. But when he recalled its history--how, attended with all the pomp of a grand civic display, it had been founded by the Prince of Orange as a tribute to the citizens for the bravery displayed during the siege; when he remembered the great men in religion, learning, and science who had once studied there and thought of the hundreds of students now sharing the benefits of its classes and its valuable scientific museums--he was quite willing to forego architectural beauty, though he could not help feeling that no amount of it could have been misplaced on such an institution.
Peter and Jacob regarded the building with an even deeper, more practical interest, for they were to enter it as students in the course of a few months.
"Poor Don Quixote would have run a hopeless tilt in this part of the world," said Ben after Lambert had been pointing out some of the oddities and beauties of the suburbs. "It is all windmills. You remember his terrific contest with one, I suppose."
"Well, I don't, either, that is, not definitely. But there was something of that kind in his adventures, and if there wasn't, there should have been. Look at them, how frantically they whirl their great arms--just the thing to excite the crazy knight to mortal combat. It bewilders one to look at them. Help me to count all those we can see, Van Mounen. I want a big item for my notebook." And after a careful reckoning, superintended by all the party, Master Ben wrote in pencil, "Saw, Dec., 184--, ninety-eight windmills within full view of Leyden."
He would have been glad to visit the old brick mill in which the painter Rembrandt was born, but he abandoned the project upon learning that it would take them out of their way. Few boys as hungry as Ben was by this time would hesitate long between Rembrandt's home a mile off and tiffin close by. Ben chose the latter.
After tiffin, they rested awhile, and then took another, which, for form's sake, they called dinner. After dinner the boys sat warming themselves at the inn; all but Peter, who occupied the time in another fruitless search for Dr. Boekman.
This over, the party once more prepared for skating. They were thirteen miles from The Hague and not as fresh as when they had left Broek early on the previous day, but they were in good spirits and the ice was excellent.