The Black Tulip
12. The Execution
Cornelius had not three hundred paces to walk outside the prison to reach the foot of
the scaffold. At the bottom of the staircase, the dog quietly looked at him whilst he was
passing; Cornelius even fancied he saw in the eyes of the monster a certain expression
as it were of compassion.
The dog perhaps knew the condemned prisoners, and only bit those who left as free
The shorter the way from the door of the prison to the foot of the scaffold, the more fully,
of course, it was crowded with curious people.
These were the same who, not satisfied with the blood which they had shed three days
before, were now craving for a new victim.
And scarcely had Cornelius made his appearance than a fierce groan ran through the
whole street, spreading all over the yard, and re-echoing from the streets which led to
the scaffold, and which were likewise crowded with spectators.
The scaffold indeed looked like an islet at the confluence of several rivers.
In the midst of these threats, groans, and yells, Cornelius, very likely in order not to hear
them, had buried himself in his own thoughts.
And what did he think of in his last melancholy journey?
Neither of his enemies, nor of his judges, nor of his executioners.
He thought of the beautiful tulips which he would see from heaven above, at Ceylon, or
Bengal, or elsewhere, when he would be able to look with pity on this earth, where John
and Cornelius de Witt had been murdered for having thought too much of politics, and
where Cornelius van Baerle was about to be murdered for having thought too much of
"It is only one stroke of the axe," said the philosopher to himself, "and my beautiful
dream will begin to be realised."
Only there was still a chance, just as it had happened before to M. de Chalais, to M. de
Thou, and other slovenly executed people, that the headsman might inflict more than
one stroke, that is to say, more than one martyrdom, on the poor tulip-fancier.