"Vell, it ish no matter," replied Jacob, trudging on beside Ben in perfect good humor. "Vait till you hit mit cheese--dat ish
Soon he added pathetically, "Penchamin, I no likes to be call Tuch--dat ish no goot. I bees a Hollander."
Just as Ben was apologizing, Lambert hailed him.
"Hold up! Ben, here is the fish market. There is not much to be seen at this season. But we can take a look at the storks if you wish."
Ben knew that storks were held in peculiar reverence in Holland and that the bird figured upon the arms of the capital. He had noticed cart wheels placed upon the roofs of Dutch cottages to entice storks to settle upon them; he had seen their huge nests, too, on many a thatched gable roof from Broek to The Hague. But it was winter now. The nests were empty. No greedy birdlings opened their mouths--or rather their heads--at the approach of a great white-winged thing, with outstretched neck and legs, bearing a dangling something for their breakfast. The long-bills were far away, picking up food on African shores, and before they would return in the spring, Ben's visit to the land of dikes would be over.
Therefore he pressed eagerly forward, as Van Mounen led the way through the fish market, anxious to see if storks in Holland were anything like the melancholy specimens he had seen in the Zoological Gardens of London.
It was the same old story. A tamed bird is a sad bird, say what you will. These storks lived in a sort of kennel, chained by the feet like felons, though supposed to be honored by being kept at the public expense. In summer they were allowed to walk about the market, where the fish stalls were like so many free dining saloons to them. Untasted delicacies in the form of raw fish and butcher's offal lay about their kennels now, but the city guests preferred to stand upon one leg, curving back their long necks and leaning their heads sidewise, in a blinking reverie. How gladly they would have changed their petted state for the busy life of some hardworking stork mother or father, bringing up a troublesome family on the roof of a rickety old building where flapping wind-mills frightened them half to death every time they ventured forth on a frolic!
Ben soon made up his mind, and rightly, too, that The Hague with its fine streets and public parks shaded with elms, was a magnificent city. The prevailing costume was like that of London or Paris, and his British ears were many a time cheered by the music of British words. The shops were different in many respects from those on Oxford Street and the Strand, but they often were illumined by a printed announcement that English was "spoken within." Others proclaimed themselves to have London stout for sale, and one actually promised to regale its customers with English roast beef.