“And suppose,” he asked at length, “that the city were starving and still untaken, so that its inhabitants must either fall into the hands of the enemy or burn the place over their heads, what would you do then?”
“Then, Mynheer, if I were a small man I should yield to the clamour of the starving folk and surrender——”
“And if you were a big man, captain?”
“If I were a big man—ah! if I were a big man, why then—I should cut the dykes and let the sea beat once more against the walls of Leyden. An army cannot live in salt water, Mynheer.”
“That would drown out the farmers and ruin the land for twenty years.”
“Quite so, Mynheer, but when the corn has to be saved, who thinks of spoiling the straw?”
“I follow you, Senor, your proverb is good, although I have never heard it.”
“Many good things come from Spain, Mynheer, including this red wine. One more glass with you, for, if you will allow me to say it, you are a man worth meeting over a beaker—or a blade.”
“I hope that you will always retain the same opinion of me,” answered Van de Werff as he drank, “at the trencher or in the trenches.”
Then Pieter went home, and before he slept that night made careful notes of all the Spaniard’s suggested military dispositions, both of attackers and attacked, writing underneath them the proverb about the corn and the straw. There existed no real reason why he should have done so, as he was only a civilian engaged in business, but Pieter van de Werff chanced to be a provident young man who knew many things might happen which could not precisely be foreseen. As it fell out in after years, a time came when he was able to put Montalvo’s advice to good use. All readers of the history of the Netherlands know how the Burgomaster Pieter van de Werff saved Leyden from the Spanish.
As for Dirk van Goorl, he sought his lodging rather tipsy, and arm-in-arm with none other than Captain the Count Don Juan de Montalvo.
There were three persons in Leyden whose reflections when they awoke on the morning after the sledge race are not without interest, at any rate to the student of their history. First there was Dirk van Goorl, whose work made an early riser of him—to say nothing of a splitting headache which on this morning called him into consciousness just as the clock in the bell tower was chiming half-past four. Now there are few things more depressing than to be awakened by a bad headache at half-past four in the black frost of a winter dawn. Yet as Dirk lay and thought a conviction took hold of him that his depression was not due entirely to the headache or to the cold.