The Black Tulip
16. Master and Pupil
The worthy Master Gryphus, as the reader may have seen, was far from sharing the
kindly feeling of his daughter for the godson of Cornelius de Witt.
There being only five prisoners at Loewestein, the post of turnkey was not a very
onerous one, but rather a sort of sinecure, given after a long period of service.
But the worthy jailer, in his zeal, had magnified with all the power of his imagination the
importance of his office. To him Cornelius had swelled to the gigantic proportions of a
criminal of the first order. He looked upon him, therefore, as the most dangerous of all
his prisoners. He watched all his steps, and always spoke to him with an angry
countenance; punishing him for what he called his dreadful rebellion against such a
clement prince as the Stadtholder.
Three times a day he entered Van Baerle's cell, expecting to find him trespassing; but
Cornelius had ceased to correspond, since his correspondent was at hand. It is even
probable that, if Cornelius had obtained his full liberty, with permission to go wherever
he liked, the prison, with Rosa and his bulbs, would have appeared to him preferable to
any other habitation in the world without Rosa and his bulbs.
Rosa, in fact, had promised to come and see him every evening, and from the first
evening she had kept her word.
On the following evening she went up as before, with the same mysteriousness and the
same precaution. Only she had this time resolved within herself not to approach too
near the grating. In order, however, to engage Van Baerle in a conversation from the
very first which would seriously occupy his attention, she tendered to him through the
grating the three bulbs, which were still wrapped up in the same paper.
But to the great astonishment of Rosa, Van Baerle pushed back her white hand with the
tips of his fingers.
The young man had been considering about the matter.
"Listen to me," he said. "I think we should risk too much by embarking our whole fortune
in one ship. Only think, my dear Rosa, that the question is to carry out an enterprise
which until now has been considered impossible, namely, that of making the great black
tulip flower. Let us, therefore, take every possible precaution, so that in case of a failure
we may not have anything to reproach ourselves with. I will now tell you the way I have
traced out for us."