The Black Tulip
14. The Pigeons of Dort
It was indeed in itself a great honour for Cornelius van Baerle to be confined in the
same prison which had once received the learned master Grotius.
But on arriving at the prison he met with an honour even greater. As chance would have
it, the cell formerly inhabited by the illustrious Barneveldt happened to be vacant, when
the clemency of the Prince of Orange sent the tulip-fancier Van Baerle there.
The cell had a very bad character at the castle since the time when Grotius, by means
of the device of his wife, made escape from it in that famous book-chest which the
jailers forgot to examine.
On the other hand, it seemed to Van Baerle an auspicious omen that this very cell was
assigned to him, for according to his ideas, a jailer ought never to have given to a
second pigeon the cage from which the first had so easily flown.
The cell had an historical character. We will only state here that, with the exception of
an alcove which was contrived there for the use of Madame Grotius, it differed in no
respect from the other cells of the prison; only, perhaps, it was a little higher, and had a
splendid view from the grated window.
Cornelius felt himself perfectly indifferent as to the place where he had to lead an
existence which was little more than vegetation. There were only two things now for
which he cared, and the possession of which was a happiness enjoyed only in
A flower, and a woman; both of them, as he conceived, lost to him for ever.
Fortunately the good doctor was mistaken. In his prison cell the most adventurous life
which ever fell to the lot of any tulip-fancier was reserved for him.
One morning, whilst at his window inhaling the fresh air which came from the river, and
casting a longing look to the windmills of his dear old city Dort, which were looming in
the distance behind a forest of chimneys, he saw flocks of pigeons coming from that
quarter to perch fluttering on the pointed gables of Loewestein.
These pigeons, Van Baerle said to himself, are coming from Dort, and consequently
may return there. By fastening a little note to the wing of one of these pigeons, one
might have a chance to send a message there. Then, after a few moments'
consideration, he exclaimed, --