The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas, Pere - HTML preview
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17. The First BulbOn the following evening, as we have said, Rosa returned with the Bible of Cornelius de Witt. Then began between the master and the pupil one of those charming scenes which are the delight of the novelist who has to describe them.
The grated window, the only opening through which the two lovers were able to communicate, was too high for conveniently reading a book, although it had been quite convenient for them to read each other's faces.
Rosa therefore had to press the open book against the grating edgewise, holding above it in her right hand the lamp, but Cornelius hit upon the lucky idea of fixing it to the bars, so as to afford her a little rest. Rosa was then enabled to follow with her finger the letters and syllables, which she was to spell for Cornelius, who with a straw pointed out the letters to his attentive pupil through the holes of the grating.
The light of the lamp illuminated the rich complexion of Rosa, her blue liquid eyes, and her golden hair under her head-dress of gold brocade, with her fingers held up, and showing in the blood, as it flowed downwards in the veins that pale pink hue which shines before the light owing to the living transparency of the flesh tint.
Rosa's intellect rapidly developed itself under the animating influence of Cornelius, and when the difficulties seemed too arduous, the sympathy of two loving hearts seemed to smooth them away.
And Rosa, after having returned to her room, repeated in her solitude the reading lessons, and at the same time recalled all the delight which she had felt whilst receiving them.One evening she came half an hour later than usual. This was too extraordinary an instance not to call forth at once Cornelius's inquiries after its cause.
"Oh! do not be angry with me," she said, "it is not my fault. My father has renewed an acquaintance with an old crony who used to visit him at the Hague, and to ask him to let him see the prison. He is a good sort of fellow, fond of his bottle, tells funny stories, and moreover is very free with his money, so as always to be ready to stand a treat."
"You don't know anything further of him?" asked Cornelius, surprised.
"No," she answered; "it's only for about a fortnight that my father has taken such a fancy to this friend who is so assiduous in visiting him."
"Ah, so," said Cornelius, shaking his head uneasily as every new incident seemed to him to forebode some catastrophe; "very likely some spy, one of those who are sent into jails to watch both prisoners and their keepers.""I don't believe that," said Rosa, smiling; "if that worthy person is spying after any one, it is certainly not after my father." "After whom, then?" "Me, for instance." "You?" "Why not?" said Rosa, smiling. "Ah, that's true," Cornelius observed, with a sigh. "You will not always have suitors in vain; this man may become your husband." "I don't say anything to the contrary." "What cause have you to entertain such a happy prospect?" "Rather say, this fear, Mynheer Cornelius." "Thank you, Rosa, you are right; well, I will say then, this fear?" "I have only this reason ---- " "Tell me, I am anxious to hear."
"This man came several times before to the Buytenhof, at the Hague. I remember now, it was just about the time when you were confined there. When I left, he left too; when I came here, he came after me. At the Hague his pretext was that he wanted to see you.""See me?"
"Yes, it must have undoubtedly been only a pretext for now, when he could plead the same reason, as you are my father's prisoner again, he does not care any longer for you; quite the contrary, -- I heard him say to my father only yesterday that he did not know you."
"Go on, Rosa, pray do, that I may guess who that man is, and what he wants." "Are you quite sure, Mynheer Cornelius, that none of your friends can interest himself for you?"
"I have no friends, Rosa; I have only my old nurse, whom you know, and who knows you. Alas, poor Sue! she would come herself, and use no roundabout ways. She would at once say to your father, or to you, 'My good sir, or my good miss, my child is here; see how grieved I am; let me see him only for one hour, and I'll pray for you as long as I live.' No, no," continued Cornelius; "with the exception of my poor old Sue, I have no friends in this world."
"Then I come back to what I thought before; and the more so as last evening at sunset, whilst I was arranging the border where I am to plant your bulb, I saw a shadow gliding between the alder trees and the aspens. I did not appear to see him, but it was this man. He concealed himself and saw me digging the ground, and certainly it was me whom he followed, and me whom he was spying after. I could not move my rake, or touch one atom of soil, without his noticing it.""Oh, yes, yes, he is in love with you," said Cornelius. "Is he young? Is he handsome?" Saying this he looked anxiously at Rosa, eagerly waiting for her answer.
"Young? handsome?" cried Rosa, bursting into a laugh. "He is hideous to look at; crooked, nearly fifty years of age, and never dares to look me in the face, or to speak, except in an undertone.""And his name?" "Jacob Gisels." "I don't know him." "Then you see that, at all events, he does not come after you." "At any rate, if he loves you, Rosa, which is very likely, as to see you is to love you, at least you don't love him." "To be sure I don't." "Then you wish me to keep my mind easy?" "I should certainly ask you to do so." "Well, then, now as you begin to know how to read you will read all that I write to you of the pangs of jealousy and of absence, won't you, Rosa?"
"I shall read it, if you write with good big letters."
Then, as the turn which the conversation took began to make Rosa uneasy, she asked,
"Oh, Rosa, only imagine my joy, this morning I looked at it in the sun, and after having moved the soil aside which covers the bulb, I saw the first sprouting of the leaves. This small germ has caused me a much greater emotion than the order of his Highness which turned aside the sword already raised at the Buytenhof.""You hope, then?" said Rosa, smiling. "Yes, yes, I hope." "And I, in my turn, when shall I plant my bulb?"
"Oh, the first favourable day I will tell you; but, whatever you do, let nobody help you, and don't confide your secret to any one in the world; do you see, a connoisseur by merely looking at the bulb would be able to distinguish its value; and so, my dearest Rosa, be careful in locking up the third sucker which remains to you."
"It is still wrapped up in the same paper in which you put it, and just as you gave it me. I have laid it at the bottom of my chest under my point lace, which keeps it dry, without pressing upon it. But good night, my poor captive gentleman.""How? already?" "It must be, it must be." "Coming so late and going so soon." "My father might grow impatient not seeing me return, and that precious lover might suspect a rival." Here she listened uneasily. "What is it?" asked Van Baerle. "I thought I heard something." "What, then?" "Something like a step, creaking on the staircase." "Surely," said the prisoner, "that cannot be Master Gryphus, he is always heard at a distance" "No, it is not my father, I am quite sure, but ---- " "But?" "But it might be Mynheer Jacob." Rosa rushed toward the staircase, and a door was really heard rapidly to close before the young damsel had got down the first ten steps. Cornelius was very uneasy about it, but it was after all only a prelude to greater anxieties.
The flowing day passed without any remarkable incident. Gryphus made his three visits, and discovered nothing. He never came at the same hours as he hoped thus to discover the secrets of the prisoner. Van Baerle, therefore, had devised a contrivance, a sort of pulley, by means of which he was able to lower or to raise his jug below the ledge of tiles and stone before his window. The strings by which this was effected he had found means to cover with that moss which generally grows on tiles, or in the crannies of the walls.
Gryphus suspected nothing, and the device succeeded for eight days. One morning, however, when Cornelius, absorbed in the contemplation of his bulb, from which a germ of vegetation was already peeping forth, had not heard old Gryphus coming upstairs as a gale of wind was blowing which shook the whole tower, the door suddenly opened.Gryphus, perceiving an unknown and consequently a forbidden object in the hands of his prisoner, pounced upon it with the same rapidity as the hawk on its prey.
As ill luck would have it, his coarse, hard hand, the same which he had broken, and which Cornelius van Baerle had set so well, grasped at once in the midst of the jug, on the spot where the bulb was lying in the soil."What have you got here?" he roared. "Ah! have I caught you?" and with this he grabbed in the soil. "I? nothing, nothing," cried Cornelius, trembling. "Ah! have I caught you? a jug and earth in it There is some criminal secret at the bottom of all this." "Oh, my good Master Gryphus," said Van Baerle, imploringly, and anxious as the partridge robbed of her young by the reaper. In fact, Gryphus was beginning to dig the soil with his crooked fingers. "Take care, sir, take care," said Cornelius, growing quite pale. "Care of what? Zounds! of what?" roared the jailer. "Take care, I say, you will crush it, Master Gryphus." And with a rapid and almost frantic movement he snatched the jug from the hands of Gryphus, and hid it like a treasure under his arms.
But Gryphus, obstinate, like an old man, and more and more convinced that he was discovering here a conspiracy against the Prince of Orange, rushed up to his prisoner, raising his stick; seeing, however, the impassible resolution of the captive to protect his flower-pot he was convinced that Cornelius trembled much less for his head than for his jug.He therefore tried to wrest it from him by force. "Halloa!" said the jailer, furious, "here, you see, you are rebelling." "Leave me my tulip," cried Van Baerle. "Ah, yes, tulip," replied the old man, "we know well the shifts of prisoners." "But I vow to you ---- " "Let go," repeated Gryphus, stamping his foot, "let go, or I shall call the guard." "Call whoever you like, but you shall not have this flower except with my life."
Gryphus, exasperated, plunged his finger a second time into the soil, and now he drew out the bulb, which certainly looked quite black; and whilst Van Baerle, quite happy to have saved the vessel, did not suspect that the adversary had possessed himself of its precious contents, Gryphus hurled the softened bulb with all his force on the flags, where almost immediately after it was crushed to atoms under his heavy shoe.
Van Baerle saw the work of destruction, got a glimpse of the juicy remains of his darling bulb, and, guessing the cause of the ferocious joy of Gryphus, uttered a cry of agony, which would have melted the heart even of that ruthless jailer who some years before killed Pelisson's spider.
The idea of striking down this spiteful bully passed like lightning through the brain of the tulip-fancier. The blood rushed to his brow, and seemed like fire in his eyes, which blinded him, and he raised in his two hands the heavy jug with all the now useless earth which remained in it. One instant more, and he would have flung it on the bald head of old Gryphus.
But a cry stopped him; a cry of agony, uttered by poor Rosa, who, trembling and pale, with her arms raised to heaven, made her appearance behind the grated window, and thus interposed between her father and her friend.
Gryphus then understood the danger with which he had been threatened, and he broke out in a volley of the most terrible abuse.
"Ah, is that you, my little chatter-box?" the old man cried, boiling with rage and turning towards her; "don't you meddle with what don't concern you, but go down as quickly as possible.""Unfortunate me," continued Cornelius, overwhelmed with grief.
"After all, it is but a tulip," Gryphus resumed, as he began to be a little ashamed of himself. "You may have as many tulips as you like: I have three hundred of them in my loft."
"To the devil with your tulips!" cried Cornelius; "you are worthy of each other: had I a hundred thousand millions of them, I would gladly give them for the one which you have just destroyed."
"Oh, so!" Gryphus said, in a tone of triumph; "now there we have it. It was not your tulip you cared for. There was in that false bulb some witchcraft, perhaps some means of correspondence with conspirators against his Highness who has granted you your life. I always said they were wrong in not cutting your head off.""Father, father!" cried Rosa.
"Yes, yes! it is better as it is now," repeated Gryphus, growing warm; "I have destroyed it, and I'll do the same again, as often as you repeat the trick. Didn't I tell you, my fine fellow, that I would make your life a hard one?"
"A curse on you!" Cornelius exclaimed, quite beyond himself with despair, as he gathered, with his trembling fingers, the remnants of that bulb on which he had rested so many joys and so many hopes.
"We shall plant the other to-morrow, my dear Mynheer Cornelius," said Rosa, in a low voice, who understood the intense grief of the unfortunate tulip-fancier, and who, with the pure sacred love of her innocent heart, poured these kind words, like a drop of balm, on the bleeding wounds of Cornelius.
18. Rosa's LoverRosa had scarcely pronounced these consolatory words when a voice was heard from the staircase asking Gryphus how matters were going on. "Do you hear, father?" said Rosa. "What?" "Master Jacob calls you, he is uneasy." "There was such a noise," said Gryphus; "wouldn't you have thought he would murder me, this doctor? They are always very troublesome fellows, these scholars." Then, pointing with his finger towards the staircase, he said to Rosa: "Just lead the way, Miss." After this he locked the door and called out: "I shall be with you directly, friend Jacob." Poor Cornelius, thus left alone with his bitter grief, muttered to himself, -- "Ah, you old hangman! it is me you have trodden under foot; you have murdered me; I shall not survive it." And certainly the unfortunate prisoner would have fallen ill but for the counterpoise which Providence had granted to his grief, and which was called Rosa. In the evening she came back. Her first words announced to Cornelius that henceforth her father would make no objection to his cultivating flowers. "And how do you know that?" the prisoner asked, with a doleful look. "I know it because he has said so." "To deceive me, perhaps." "No, he repents." "Ah yes! but too late." "This repentance is not of himself." "And who put it into him?" "If you only knew how his friend scolded him!" "Ah, Master Jacob; he does not leave you, then, that Master Jacob?" "At any rate, he leaves us as little as he can help." Saying this, she smiled in such a way that the little cloud of jealousy which had darkened the brow of Cornelius speedily vanished. "How was it?" asked the prisoner. "Well, being asked by his friend, my father told at supper the whole story of the tulip, or rather of the bulb, and of his own fine exploit of crushing it." Cornelius heaved a sigh, which might have been called a groan.
"Had you only seen Master Jacob at that moment!" continued Rosa. "I really thought he would set fire to the castle; his eyes were like two flaming torches, his hair stood on end, and he clinched his fist for a moment; I thought he would have strangled my father.""'You have done that,' he cried, 'you have crushed the bulb?' "'Indeed I have.' "'It is infamous,' said Master Jacob, 'it is odious! You have committed a great crime!' "My father was quite dumbfounded. "'Are you mad, too?' he asked his friend." "Oh, what a worthy man is this Master Jacob!" muttered Cornelius, -- "an honest soul, an excellent heart that he is." "The truth is, that it is impossible to treat a man more rudely than he did my father; he was really quite in despair, repeating over and over again, -- "'Crushed, crushed the bulb! my God, my God! crushed!' "Then, turning toward me, he asked, 'But it was not the only one that he had?'" "Did he ask that?" inquired Cornelius, with some anxiety. "'You think it was not the only one?' said my father. 'Very well, we shall search for the others.'
"'You will search for the others?' cried Jacob, taking my father by the collar; but he immediately loosed him. Then, turning towards me, he continued, asking 'And what did that poor young man say?'
"I did not know what to answer, as you had so strictly enjoined me never to allow any one to guess the interest which you are taking in the bulb. Fortunately, my father saved me from the difficulty by chiming in, --
"'What do I know?' I said, negligently; 'do I understand anything of tulips? I only know -- as unfortunately it is our lot to live with prisoners -- that for them any pastime is of value. This poor Mynheer van Baerle amused himself with this bulb. Well, I think it very cruel to take from him the only thing that he could have amused himself with.'"'But, first of all,' said my father, 'we ought to know how he has contrived to procure this bulb.' "I turned my eyes away to avoid my father's look; but I met those of Jacob. "It was as if he had tried to read my thoughts at the bottom of my heart. "Some little show of anger sometimes saves an answer. I shrugged my shoulders, turned my back, and advanced towards the door. "But I was kept by something which I heard, although it was uttered in a very low voice only. "Jacob said to my father, - "'It would not be so difficult to ascertain that.' "'How so?' "'You need only search his person: and if he has the other bulbs, we shall find them, as there usually are three suckers!'" "Three suckers!" cried Cornelius. "Did you say that I have three?"
"The word certainly struck me just as much as it does you. I turned round. They were both of them so deeply engaged in their conversation that they did not observe my movement."'But,' said my father, 'perhaps he has not got his bulbs about him?' "'Then take him down, under some pretext or other and I will search his cell in the meanwhile.'" "Halloa, halloa!" said Cornelius. "But this Mr. Jacob of yours is a villain, it seems." "I am afraid he is." "Tell me, Rosa," continued Cornelius, with a pensive air. "What?" "Did you not tell me that on the day when you prepared your borders this man followed you?" "So he did." "That he glided like a shadow behind the elder trees?" "Certainly." "That not one of your movements escaped him?" "Not one, indeed." "Rosa," said Cornelius, growing quite pale. "Well?" "It was not you he was after." "Who else, then?" "It is not you that he was in love with!" "But with whom else?" "He was after my bulb, and is in love with my tulip!" "You don't say so! And yet it is very possible," said Rosa. "Will you make sure of it?" "In what manner?" "Oh, it would be very easy!" "Tell me."
"Go to-morrow into the garden; manage matters so that Jacob may know, as he did the first time, that you are going there, and that he may follow you. Feign to put the bulb into the ground; leave the garden, but look through the keyhole of the door and watch him.""Well, and what then?" "What then? We shall do as he does." "Oh!" said Rosa, with a sigh, "you are very fond of your bulbs." "To tell the truth," said the prisoner, sighing likewise, "since your father crushed that unfortunate bulb, I feel as if part of my own self had been paralyzed." "Now just hear me," said Rosa; "will you try something else?" "What?" "Will you accept the proposition of my father?" "Which proposition?" "Did not he offer to you tulip bulbs by hundreds?" "Indeed he did." "Accept two or three, and, along with them, you may grow the third sucker." "Yes, that would do very well," said Cornelius, knitting his brow; "if your father were alone, but there is that Master Jacob, who watches all our ways." "Well, that is true; but only think! you are depriving yourself, as I can easily see, of a very great pleasure."
She pronounced these words with a smile, which was not altogether without a tinge of irony.
Cornelius reflected for a moment; he evidently was struggling against some vehement desire.
"No!" he cried at last, with the stoicism of a Roman of old, "it would be a weakness, it would be a folly, it would be a meanness! If I thus give up the only and last resource which we possess to the uncertain chances of the bad passions of anger and envy, I should never deserve to be forgiven. No, Rosa, no; to-morrow we shall come to a conclusion as to the spot to be chosen for your tulip; you will plant it according to my instructions; and as to the third sucker," -- Cornelius here heaved a deep sigh, -- "watch over it as a miser over his first or last piece of gold; as the mother over her child; as the wounded over the last drop of blood in his veins; watch over it, Rosa! Some voice within me tells me that it will be our saving, that it will be a source of good to us.""Be easy, Mynheer Cornelius," said Rosa, with a sweet mixture of melancholy and gravity, "be easy; your wishes are commands to me."
"And even," continued Van Baerle, warming more and more with his subject, "if you should perceive that your steps are watched, and that your speech has excited the suspicion of your father and of that detestable Master Jacob, -- well, Rosa, don't hesitate for one moment to sacrifice me, who am only still living through you, -- me, who have no one in the world but you; sacrifice me, -- don't come to see me any more."Rosa felt her heart sink within her, and her eyes were filling with tears. "Alas!" she said. "What is it?" asked Cornelius. "I see one thing." "What do you see?" "I see," said she, bursting out in sobs, "I see that you love your tulips with such love as to have no more room in your heart left for other affections." Saying this, she fled. Cornelius, after this, passed one of the worst nights he ever had in his life. Rosa was vexed with him, and with good reason. Perhaps she would never return to see the prisoner, and then he would have no more news, either of Rosa or of his tulips.
We have to confess, to the disgrace of our hero and of floriculture, that of his two affections he felt most strongly inclined to regret the loss of Rosa; and when, at about three in the morning, he fell asleep overcome with fatigue, and harassed with remorse, the grand black tulip yielded precedence in his dreams to the sweet blue eyes of the fair maid of Friesland.
19. The Maid And The FlowerBut poor Rosa, in her secluded chamber, could not have known of whom or of what Cornelius was dreaming. From what he had said she was more ready to believe that he dreamed of the black tulip than of her; and yet Rosa was mistaken. But as there was no one to tell her so, and as the words of Cornelius's thoughtless speech had fallen upon her heart like drops of poison, she did not dream, but she wept.
The fact was, that, as Rosa was a high-spirited creature, of no mean perception and a noble heart, she took a very clear and judicious view of her own social position, if not of her moral and physical qualities.
Cornelius was a scholar, and was wealthy, -- at least he had been before the confiscation of his property; Cornelius belonged to the merchant-bourgeoisie, who were prouder of their richly emblazoned shop signs than the hereditary nobility of their heraldic bearings. Therefore, although he might find Rosa a pleasant companion for the dreary hours of his captivity, when it came to a question of bestowing his heart it was almost certain that he would bestow it upon a tulip, -- that is to say, upon the proudest and noblest of flowers, rather than upon poor Rosa, the jailer's lowly child.Thus Rosa understood Cornelius's preference of the tulip to herself, but was only so much the more unhappy therefor.
During the whole of this terrible night the poor girl did not close an eye, and before she rose in the morning she had come to the resolution of making her appearance at the grated window no more.
But as she knew with what ardent desire Cornelius looked forward to the news about his tulip; and as, notwithstanding her determination not to see any more a man her pity for whose fate was fast growing into love, she did not, on the other hand, wish to drive him to despair, she resolved to continue by herself the reading and writing lessons; and, fortunately, she had made sufficient progress to dispense with the help of a master when the master was not to be Cornelius.
Rosa therefore applied herself most diligently to reading poor Cornelius de Witt's Bible, on the second fly leaf of which the last will of Cornelius van Baerle was written. "Alas!" she muttered, when perusing again this document, which she never finished without a tear, the pearl of love, rolling from her limpid eyes on her pale cheeks -- "alas! at that time I thought for one moment he loved me."
Poor Rosa! she was mistaken. Never had the love of the prisoner been more sincere than at the time at which we are now arrived, when in the contest between the black tulip and Rosa the tulip had had to yield to her the first and foremost place in Cornelius's heart.But Rosa was not aware of it. Having finished reading, she took her pen, and began with as laudable diligence the by far more difficult task of writing.
As, however, Rosa was already able to write a legible hand when Cornelius so uncautiously opened his heart, she did not despair of progressing quickly enough to write, after eight days at the latest, to the prisoner an account of his tulip.
She had not forgotten one word of the directions given to her by Cornelius, whose speeches she treasured in her heart, even when they did not take the shape of directions.
He, on his part, awoke deeper in love than ever. The tulip, indeed, was still a luminous and prominent object in his mind; but he no longer looked upon it as a treasure to which he ought to sacrifice everything, and even Rosa, but as a marvellous combination of nature and art with which he would have been happy to adorn the bosom of his beloved one.
Yet during the whole of that day he was haunted with a vague uneasiness, at the bottom of which was the fear lest Rosa should not come in the evening to pay him her usual visit. This thought took more and more hold of him, until at the approach of evening his whole mind was absorbed in it.
How his heart beat when darkness closed in! The words which he had said to Rosa on the evening before and which had so deeply afflicted her, now came back to his mind more vividly than ever, and he asked himself how he could have told his gentle comforter to sacrifice him to his tulip, -- that is to say, to give up seeing him, if need be,
- whereas to him the sight of Rosa had become a condition of life.
In Cornelius's cell one heard the chimes of the clock of the fortress. It struck seven, it struck eight, it struck nine. Never did the metal voice vibrate more forcibly through the heart of any man than did the last stroke, marking the ninth hour, through the heart of Cornelius.
All was then silent again. Cornelius put his hand on his heart, to repress as it were its violent palpitation, and listened.
This evening none of those little noises broke the silence of the lobby, the clock struck nine, and a quarter; the half-hour, then a quarter to ten, and at last its deep tone announced, not only to the inmates of the fortress, but also to all the inhabitants of Loewestein, that it was ten.This was the hour at which Rosa generally used to leave Cornelius. The hour had struck, but Rosa had not come. Thus then his foreboding had not deceived him; Rosa, being vexed, shut herself up in her room and left him to himself. "Alas!" he thought, "I have deserved all this. She will come no more, and she is right in staying away; in her place I should do just the same." Yet notwithstanding all this, Cornelius listened, waited, and hoped until midnight, then he threw himself upon the bed, with his clothes on. It was a long and sad night for him, and the day brought no hope to the prisoner.
At eight in the morning, the door of his cell opened; but Cornelius did not even turn his head; he had heard the heavy step of Gryphus in the lobby, but this step had perfectly satisfied the prisoner that his jailer was coming alone.Thus Cornelius did not even look at Gryphus.
And yet he would have been so glad to draw him out, and to inquire about Rosa. He even very nearly made this inquiry, strange as it would needs have appeared to her father. To tell the truth, there was in all this some selfish hope to hear from Gryphus that his daughter was ill.
Except on extraordinary occasions, Rosa never came during the day. Cornelius therefore did not really expect her as long as the day lasted. Yet his sudden starts, his listening at the door, his rapid glances at every little noise towards the grated window, showed clearly that the prisoner entertained some latent hope that Rosa would, somehow or other, break her rule.
At the second visit of Gryphus, Cornelius, contrary to all his former habits, asked the old jailer, with the most winning voice, about her health; but Gryphus contented himself with giving the laconical answer, --
But another time the hours passed away without bringing the sweet vision which lighted up, through the grated window, the cell of poor Cornelius, and which, in retiring, left light enough in his heart to last until it came back again.
Van Baerle passed the night in an agony of despair. On the following day Gryphus appeared to him even more hideous, brutal, and hateful than usual; in his mind, or rather in his heart, there had been some hope that it was the old man who prevented his daughter from coming.In his wrath he would have strangled Gryphus, but would not this have separated him for ever from Rosa?
The evening closing in, his despair changed into melancholy, which was the more gloomy as, involuntarily, Van Baerle mixed up with it the thought of his poor tulip. It was now just that week in April which the most experienced gardeners point out as the precise time when tulips ought to be planted. He had said to Rosa, --"I shall tell you the day when you are to put the bulb in the ground."
He had intended to fix, at the vainly hoped for interview, the following day as the time for that momentous operation. The weather was propitious; the air, though still damp, began to be tempered by those pale rays of the April sun which, being the first, appear so congenial, although so pale. How if Rosa allowed the right moment for planting the bulb to pass by, -- if, in addition to the grief of seeing her no more, he should have to deplore the misfortune of seeing his tulip fail on account of its having been planted too late, or of its not having been planted at all!
These two vexations combined might well make him leave off eating and drinking.
It was pitiful to see Cornelius, dumb with grief, and pale from utter prostration, stretch out his head through the iron bars of his window, at the risk of not being able to draw it back again, to try and get a glimpse of the garden on the left spoken of by Rosa, who had told him that its parapet overlooked the river. He hoped that perhaps he might see, in the light of the April sun, Rosa or the tulip, the two lost objects of his love.In the evening, Gryphus took away the breakfast and dinner of Cornelius, who had scarcely touched them. On the following day he did not touch them at all, and Gryphus carried the dishes away just as he had brought them. Cornelius had remained in bed the whole day. "Well," said Gryphus, coming down from the last visit, "I think we shall soon get rid of our scholar." Rosa was startled. "Nonsense!" said Jacob. "What do you mean?" "He doesn't drink, he doesn't eat, he doesn't leave his bed. He will get out of it, like Mynheer Grotius, in a chest, only the chest will be a coffin." Rosa grew pale as death. "Ah!" she said to herself, "he is uneasy about his tulip." And, rising with a heavy heart, she returned to her chamber, where she took a pen and paper, and during the whole of that night busied herself with tracing letters. On the following morning, when Cornelius got up to drag himself to the window, he perceived a paper which had been slipped under the door.
He pounced upon it, opened it, and read the following words, in a handwriting which he could scarcely have recognized as that of Rosa, so much had she improved during her short absence of seven days, --"Be easy; your tulip is going on well."
Although these few words of Rosa's somewhat soothed the grief of Cornelius, yet he felt not the less the irony which was at the bottom of them. Rosa, then, was not ill, she was offended; she had not been forcibly prevented from coming, but had voluntarily stayed away. Thus Rosa, being at liberty, found in her own will the force not to come and see him, who was dying with grief at not having seen her.
Cornelius had paper and a pencil which Rosa had brought to him. He guessed that she expected an answer, but that she would not come before the evening to fetch it. He therefore wrote on a piece of paper, similar to that which he had received, --"It was not my anxiety about the tulip that has made me ill, but the grief at not seeing you."
After Gryphus had made his last visit of the day, and darkness had set in, he slipped the paper under the door, and listened with the most intense attention, but he neither heard Rosa's footsteps nor the rustling of her gown.He only heard a voice as feeble as a breath, and gentle like a caress, which whispered through the grated little window in the door the word, -- "To-morrow!" Now to-morrow was the eighth day. For eight days Cornelius and Rosa had not seen each other.
20. The Events Which Took Place During Those Eight Days
On the following evening, at the usual hour, Van Baerle heard some one scratch at the grated little window, just as Rosa had been in the habit of doing in the heyday of their friendship.Cornelius being, as may easily be imagined, not far off from the door, perceived Rosa, who at last was waiting again for him with her lamp in her hand. Seeing him so sad and pale, she was startled, and said, -- "You are ill, Mynheer Cornelius?" "Yes, I am," he answered, as indeed he was suffering in mind and in body.
"I saw that you did not eat," said Rosa; "my father told me that you remained in bed all day. I then wrote to calm your uneasiness concerning the fate of the most precious object of your anxiety.""And I," said Cornelius, "I have answered. Seeing your return, my dear Rosa, I thought you had received my letter." "It is true; I have received it." "You cannot this time excuse yourself with not being able to read. Not only do you read very fluently, but also you have made marvellous progress in writing." "Indeed, I have not only received, but also read your note. Accordingly I am come to see whether there might not be some remedy to restore you to health." "Restore me to health?" cried Cornelius; "but have you any good news to communicate to me?" Saying this, the poor prisoner looked at Rosa, his eyes sparkling with hope. Whether she did not, or would not, understand this look, Rosa answered gravely, -- "I have only to speak to you about your tulip, which, as I well know, is the object uppermost in your mind."
Rosa pronounced those few words in a freezing tone, which cut deeply into the heart of Cornelius. He did not suspect what lay hidden under this appearance of indifference with which the poor girl affected to speak of her rival, the black tulip.
"Oh!" muttered Cornelius, "again! again! Have I not told you, Rosa, that I thought but of you? that it was you alone whom I regretted, you whom I missed, you whose absence I felt more than the loss of liberty and of life itself?"
"Oh, pardon me, Rosa!" he said, "I know you, and I am well aware of the kindness and sincerity of your heart. To you God has given the thought and strength for defending yourself; but to my poor tulip, when it is in danger, God has given nothing of the sort."Rosa, without replying to this excuse of the prisoner, continued, --
"From the moment when I first knew that you were uneasy on account of the man who followed me, and in whom I had recognized Jacob, I was even more uneasy myself. On the day, therefore, after that on which I saw you last, and on which you said -- "Cornelius interrupted her.
"Once more, pardon me, Rosa!" he cried. "I was wrong in saying to you what I said. I have asked your pardon for that unfortunate speech before. I ask it again: shall I always ask it in vain?"
"On the following day," Rosa continued, "remembering what you had told me about the stratagem which I was to employ to ascertain whether that odious man was after the tulip, or after me ---- "
"Well, on the day after that unfortunate one, I went down into the garden and proceeded towards the border where I was to plant your tulip, looking round all the while to see whether I was again followed as I was last time.""And then?" Cornelius asked. "And then the same shadow glided between the gate and the wall, and once more disappeared behind the elder-trees." "You feigned not to see him, didn't you?" Cornelius asked, remembering all the details of the advice which he had given to Rosa. "Yes, and I stooped over the border, in which I dug with a spade, as if I was going to put the bulb in." "And he, -- what did he do during all this time?" "I saw his eyes glisten through the branches of the tree like those of a tiger." "There you see, there you see!" cried Cornelius. "Then, after having finished my make-believe work, I retired." "But only behind the garden door, I dare say, so that you might see through the keyhole what he was going to do when you had left?"
"He waited for a moment, very likely to make sure of my not coming back, after which he sneaked forth from his hiding-place, and approached the border by a long roundabout; at last, having reached his goal, that is to say, the spot where the ground was newly turned, he stopped with a careless air, looking about in all directions, and scanning every corner of the garden, every window of the neighbouring houses, and even the sky; after which, thinking himself quite alone, quite isolated, and out of everybody's sight, he pounced upon the border, plunged both his hands into the soft soil, took a handful of the mould, which he gently frittered between his fingers to see whether the bulb was in it, and repeated the same thing twice or three times, until at last he perceived that he was outwitted. Then, keeping down the agitation which was raging in his breast, he took up the rake, smoothed the ground, so as to leave it on his retiring in the same state as he had found it, and, quite abashed and rueful, walked back to the door, affecting the unconcerned air of an ordinary visitor of the garden."
"Oh, the wretch!" muttered Cornelius, wiping the cold sweat from his brow. "Oh, the wretch! I guessed his intentions. But the bulb, Rosa; what have you done with it? It is already rather late to plant it.""The bulb? It has been in the ground for these six days."
"Where? and how?" cried Cornelius. "Good Heaven, what imprudence! What is it? In what sort of soil is it? It what aspect? Good or bad? Is there no risk of having it filched by that detestable Jacob?""There is no danger of its being stolen," said Rosa, "unless Jacob will force the door of my chamber."
"Oh! then it is with you in your bedroom?" said Cornelius, somewhat relieved. "But in what soil? in what vessel? You don't let it grow, I hope, in water like those good ladies of Haarlem and Dort, who imagine that water could replace the earth?""You may make yourself comfortable on that score," said Rosa, smiling; "your bulb is not growing in water." "I breathe again."
"It is in a good, sound stone pot, just about the size of the jug in which you had planted yours. The soil is composed of three parts of common mould, taken from the best spot of the garden, and one of the sweepings of the road. I have heard you and that detestable Jacob, as you call him, so often talk about what is the soil best fitted for growing tulips, that I know it as well as the first gardener of Haarlem.""And now what is the aspect, Rosa?"
"At present it has the sun all day long, -- that is to say when the sun shines. But when it once peeps out of the ground, I shall do as you have done here, dear Mynheer Cornelius: I shall put it out of my window on the eastern side from eight in the morning until eleven and in my window towards the west from three to five in the afternoon.""That's it! that's it!" cried Cornelius; "and you are a perfect gardener, my pretty Rosa.
But I am afraid the nursing of my tulip will take up all your time."
"Yes, it will," said Rosa; "but never mind. Your tulip is my daughter. I shall devote to it the same time as I should to a child of mine, if I were a mother. Only by becoming its mother," Rosa added, smilingly, "can I cease to be its rival."
"My kind and pretty Rosa!" muttered Cornelius casting on her a glance in which there was much more of the lover than of the gardener, and which afforded Rosa some consolation.Then, after a silence of some moments, during which Cornelius had grasped through the openings of the grating for the receding hand of Rosa, he said, -- "Do you mean to say that the bulb has now been in the ground for six days?" "Yes, six days, Mynheer Cornelius," she answered. "And it does not yet show leaf" "No, but I think it will to-morrow."
"Well, then, to-morrow you will bring me news about it, and about yourself, won't you, Rosa? I care very much for the daughter, as you called it just now, but I care even much more for the mother.""To-morrow?" said Rosa, looking at Cornelius askance. "I don't know whether I shall be able to come to-morrow." "Good heavens!" said Cornelius, "why can't you come to-morrow?" "Mynheer Cornelius, I have lots of things to do." "And I have only one," muttered Cornelius. "Yes," said Rosa, "to love your tulip." "To love you, Rosa." Rosa shook her head, after which followed a pause.
"Well," -- Cornelius at last broke the silence, -- "well, Rosa, everything changes in the realm of nature; the flowers of spring are succeeded by other flowers; and the bees, which so tenderly caressed the violets and the wall-flowers, will flutter with just as much love about the honey-suckles, the rose, the jessamine, and the carnation.""What does all this mean?" asked Rosa.
"You have abandoned me, Miss Rosa, to seek your pleasure elsewhere. You have done well, and I will not complain. What claim have I to your fidelity?"
"My fidelity!" Rosa exclaimed, with her eyes full of tears, and without caring any longer to hide from Cornelius this dew of pearls dropping on her cheeks, "my fidelity! have I not been faithful to you?"
"I reproach you with nothing, Mynheer Cornelius, except, perhaps, with the intense grief which I felt when people came to tell me at the Buytenhof that you were about to be put to death.""You are displeased, Rosa, my sweet girl, with my loving flowers." "I am not displeased with your loving them, Mynheer Cornelius, only it makes me sad to think that you love them better than you do me."
"Oh, my dear, dear Rosa! look how my hands tremble; look at my pale cheek, hear how my heart beats. It is for you, my love, not for the black tulip. Destroy the bulb, destroy the germ of that flower, extinguish the gentle light of that innocent and delightful dream, to which I have accustomed myself; but love me, Rosa, love me; for I feel deeply that I love but you.""Yes, after the black tulip," sighed Rosa, who at last no longer coyly withdrew her warm hands from the grating, as Cornelius most affectionately kissed them. "Above and before everything in this world, Rosa." "May I believe you?" "As you believe in your own existence." "Well, then, be it so; but loving me does not bind you too much." "Unfortunately, it does not bind me more than I am bound; but it binds you, Rosa, you." "To what?" "First of all, not to marry."
"That's your way," she said; "you are tyrants all of you. You worship a certain beauty, you think of nothing but her. Then you are condemned to death, and whilst walking to the scaffold, you devote to her your last sigh; and now you expect poor me to sacrifice to you all my dreams and my happiness."
"That is an imaginary lady love, at all events; whereas, without counting that amorous Jacob, you by your own account are surrounded with all sorts of swains eager to make love to you. Do you remember Rosa, what you told me of the students, officers, and clerks of the Hague? Are there no clerks, officers, or students at Loewestein?""Indeed there are, and lots of them." "Who write letters?" "They do write." "And now, as you know how to read ---- " Here Cornelius heaved a sigh at the thought, that, poor captive as he was, to him alone Rosa owed the faculty of reading the love-letters which she received.
"As to that," said Rosa, "I think that in reading the notes addressed to me, and passing the different swains in review who send them to me, I am only following your instructions.""How so? My instructions?"
"Indeed, your instructions, sir," said Rosa, sighing in her turn; "have you forgotten the will written by your hand on the Bible of Cornelius de Witt? I have not forgotten it; for now, as I know how to read, I read it every day over and over again. In that will you bid me to love and marry a handsome young man of twenty-six or eight years. I am on the look-out for that young man, and as the whole of my day is taken up with your tulip, you must needs leave me the evenings to find him.""But, Rosa, the will was made in the expectation of death, and, thanks to Heaven, I am still alive." "Well, then, I shall not be after the handsome young man, and I shall come to see you." "That's it, Rosa, come! come!" "Under one condition." "Granted beforehand!" "That the black tulip shall not be mentioned for the next three days." "It shall never be mentioned any more, if you wish it, Rosa." "No, no," the damsel said, laughing, "I will not ask for impossibilities." And, saying this, she brought her fresh cheek, as if unconsciously, so near the iron grating, that Cornelius was able to touch it with his lips. Rosa uttered a little scream, which, however, was full of love, and disappeared.
21. The Second BulbThe night was a happy one, and the whole of the next day happier still.
During the last few days, the prison had been heavy, dark, and lowering, as it were, with all its weight on the unfortunate captive. Its walls were black, its air chilling, the iron bars seemed to exclude every ray of light.
But when Cornelius awoke next morning, a beam of the morning sun was playing about those iron bars; pigeons were hovering about with outspread wings, whilst others were lovingly cooing on the roof or near the still closed window.
Cornelius ran to that window and opened it; it seemed to him as if new life, and joy, and liberty itself were entering with this sunbeam into his cell, which, so dreary of late, was now cheered and irradiated by the light of love.When Gryphus, therefore, came to see his prisoner in the morning, he no longer found him morose and lying in bed, but standing at the window, and singing a little ditty. "Halloa!" exclaimed the jailer. "How are you this morning?" asked Cornelius. Gryphus looked at him with a scowl. "And how is the dog, and Master Jacob, and our pretty Rosa?" Gryphus ground his teeth, saying. -- "Here is your breakfast." "Thank you, friend Cerberus," said the prisoner; "you are just in time; I am very hungry." "Oh! you are hungry, are you?" said Gryphus. "And why not?" asked Van Baerle. "The conspiracy seems to thrive," remarked Gryphus. "What conspiracy?" "Very well, I know what I know, Master Scholar; just be quiet, we shall be on our guard." "Be on your guard, friend Gryphus; be on your guard as long as you please; my conspiracy, as well as my person, is entirely at your service." "We'll see that at noon." Saying this, Gryphus went out. "At noon?" repeated Cornelius; "what does that mean? Well, let us wait until the clock strikes twelve, and we shall see." It was very easy for Cornelius to wait for twelve at midday, as he was already waiting for nine at night. It struck twelve, and there were heard on the staircase not only the steps of Gryphus, but also those of three or four soldiers, who were coming up with him. The door opened. Gryphus entered, led his men in, and shut the door after them. "There, now search!" They searched not only the pockets of Cornelius, but even his person; yet they found nothing. They then searched the sheets, the mattress, and the straw mattress of his bed; and again they found nothing.
Now, Cornelius rejoiced that he had not taken the third sucker under his own care. Gryphus would have been sure to ferret it out in the search, and would then have treated it as he did the first.And certainly never did prisoner look with greater complacency at a search made in his cell than Cornelius. Gryphus retired with the pencil and the two or three leaves of white paper which Rosa had given to Van Baerle, this was the only trophy brought back from the expedition.
At six Gryphus came back again, but alone; Cornelius tried to propitiate him, but Gryphus growled, showed a large tooth like a tusk, which he had in the corner of his mouth, and went out backwards, like a man who is afraid of being attacked from behind.Cornelius burst out laughing, to which Gryphus answered through the grating, -- "Let him laugh that wins." The winner that day was Cornelius; Rosa came at nine.
She was without a lantern. She needed no longer a light, as she could now read. Moreover, the light might betray her, as Jacob was dogging her steps more than ever. And lastly, the light would have shown her blushes.
Of what did the young people speak that evening? Of those matters of which lovers speak at the house doors in France, or from a balcony into the street in Spain, or down from a terrace into a garden in the East.
But the Rosa of his dreams was by far more perfect than the Rosa of real life. Not only did the Rosa of his dreams speak of the tulip, but also brought to him a black one in a china vase.Cornelius then awoke, trembling with joy, and muttering, -- "Rosa, Rosa, I love you." And as it was already day, he thought it right not to fall asleep again, and he continued following up the line of thought in which his mind was engaged when he awoke.
Ah! if Rosa had only conversed about the tulip, Cornelius would have preferred her to Queen Semiramis, to Queen Cleopatra, to Queen Elizabeth, to Queen Anne of Austria; that is to say, to the greatest or most beautiful queens whom the world has seen.
But Rosa had forbidden it under pain of not returning; Rosa had forbidden the least mention of the tulip for three days. That meant seventy-two hours given to the lover to be sure; but it was seventy-two hours stolen from the horticulturist.
There was one consolation: of the seventy-two hours during which Rosa would not allow the tulip to be mentioned, thirty-six had passed already; and the remaining thirtysix would pass quickly enough: eighteen with waiting for the evening's interview, and eighteen with rejoicing in its remembrance.Rosa came at the same hour, and Cornelius submitted most heroically to the pangs which the compulsory silence concerning the tulip gave him.
His fair visitor, however, was well aware that, to command on the one point, people must yield on another; she therefore no longer drew back her hands from the grating, and even allowed Cornelius tenderly to kiss her beautiful golden tresses.
Poor girl! she had no idea that these playful little lovers' tricks were much more dangerous than speaking of the tulip was; but she became aware of the fact as she returned with a beating heart, with glowing cheeks, dry lips, and moist eyes.
And on the following evening, after the first exchange of salutations, she retired a step, looking at him with a glance, the expression of which would have rejoiced his heart could he but have seen it."Well," she said, "she is up." "She is up! Who? What?" asked Cornelius, who did not venture on a belief that Rosa would, of her own accord, have abridged the term of his probation. "She? Well, my daughter, the tulip," said Rosa. "What!" cried Cornelius, "you give me permission, then?" "I do," said Rosa, with the tone of an affectionate mother who grants a pleasure to her child. "Ah, Rosa!" said Cornelius, putting his lips to the grating with the hope of touching a cheek, a hand, a forehead, -- anything, in short. He touched something much better, -- two warm and half open lips. Rosa uttered a slight scream. Cornelius understood that he must make haste to continue the conversation. He guessed that this unexpected kiss had frightened Rosa. "Is it growing up straight?" "Straight as a rocket," said Rosa. "How high?" "At least two inches." "Oh, Rosa, take good care of it, and we shall soon see it grow quickly." "Can I take more care of it?" said she. "Indeed, I think of nothing else but the tulip." "Of nothing else, Rosa? Why, now I shall grow jealous in my turn."
"Oh, you know that to think of the tulip is to think of you; I never lose sight of it. I see it from my bed, on awaking it is the first object that meets my eyes, and on falling asleep the last on which they rest. During the day I sit and work by its side, for I have never left my chamber since I put it there.""You are right Rosa, it is your dowry, you know." "Yes, and with it I may marry a young man of twenty-six or twenty-eight years, whom I shall be in love with." "Don't talk in that way, you naughty girl."
That evening Cornelius was one of the happiest of men. Rosa allowed him to press her hand in his, and to keep it as long as he would, besides which he might talk of his tulip as much as he liked.From that hour every day marked some progress in the growth of the tulip and in the affection of the two young people. At one time it was that the leaves had expanded, and at another that the flower itself had formed. Great was the joy of Cornelius at this news, and his questions succeeded one another with a rapidity which gave proof of their importance. "Formed!" exclaimed Cornelius, "is it really formed?" "It is," repeated Rosa. Cornelius trembled with joy, so much so that he was obliged to hold by the grating. "Good heavens!" he exclaimed. Then, turning again to Rosa, he continued his questions. "Is the oval regular? the cylinder full? and are the points very green?" "The oval is almost one inch long, and tapers like a needle, the cylinder swells at the sides, and the points are ready to open."
Two days after Rosa announced that they were open.
"Open, Rosa!" cried Cornelius. "Is the involucrum open? but then one may see and already distinguish ---- "
"Rosa, you have worked with such ardour, -- you have done so much for me! Rosa, my tulip is about to flower, and it will flower black! Rosa, Rosa, you are the most perfect being on earth!""After the tulip, though."
"Ah! be quiet, you malicious little creature, be quiet! For shame! Do not spoil my pleasure. But tell me, Rosa, -- as the tulip is so far advanced, it will flower in two or three days, at the latest?""To-morrow, or the day after."
"Ah! and I shall not see it," cried Cornelius, starting back, "I shall not kiss it, as a wonderful work of the Almighty, as I kiss your hand and your cheek, Rosa, when by chance they are near the grating."Rosa drew near, not by accident, but intentionally, and Cornelius kissed her tenderly.
"Faith, I shall cull it, if you wish it." "Oh, no, no, Rosa! when it is open, place it carefully in the shade, and immediately send a message to Haarlem, to the President of the Horticultural Society, that the grand black tulip is in flower. I know well it is far to Haarlem, but with money you will find a messenger. Have you any money, Rosa?"Rosa smiled. "Oh, yes!" she said. "Enough?" said Cornelius. "I have three hundred guilders." "Oh, if you have three hundred guilders, you must not send a messenger, Rosa, but you must go to Haarlem yourself." "But what in the meantime is to become of the flower?" "Oh, the flower! you must take it with you. You understand that you must not separate from it for an instant." "But whilst I am not separating from it, I am separating from you, Mynheer Cornelius."
"Ah! that's true, my sweet Rosa. Oh, my God! how wicked men are! What have I done to offend them, and why have they deprived me of my liberty? You are right, Rosa, I cannot live without you. Well, you will send some one to Haarlem, -- that's settled; really, the matter is wonderful enough for the President to put himself to some trouble. He will come himself to Loewestein to see the tulip."Then, suddenly checking himself, he said, with a faltering voice, -- "Rosa, Rosa, if after all it should not flower black!" "Oh, surely, surely, you will know to-morrow, or the day after." "And to wait until evening to know it, Rosa! I shall die with impatience. Could we not agree about a signal?" "I shall do better than that." "What will you do?"
"If it opens at night, I shall come and tell you myself. If it is day, I shall pass your door, and slip you a note either under the door, or through the grating, during the time between my father's first and second inspection."
"Yes, Rosa, let it be so. One word of yours, announcing this news to me, will be a double happiness."
22. The Opening Of The Flower
The night passed away very sweetly for Cornelius, although in great agitation. Every instant he fancied he heard the gentle voice of Rosa calling him. He then started up, went to the door, and looked through the grating, but no one was behind it, and the lobby was empty.
Rosa, no doubt, would be watching too, but, happier than he, she watched over the tulip; she had before her eyes that noble flower, that wonder of wonders. which not only was unknown, but was not even thought possible until then.What would the world say when it heard that the black tulip was found, that it existed and that it was the prisoner Van Baerle who had found it? How Cornelius would have spurned the offer of his liberty in exchange for his tulip! Day came, without any news; the tulip was not yet in flower. The day passed as the night. Night came, and with it Rosa, joyous and cheerful as a bird. "Well?" asked Cornelius. "Well, all is going on prosperously. This night, without any doubt, our tulip will be in flower." "And will it flower black?" "Black as jet." "Without a speck of any other colour." "Without one speck." "Good Heavens! my dear Rosa, I have been dreaming all night, in the first place of you," (Rosa made a sign of incredulity,) "and then of what we must do." "Well?" "Well, and I will tell you now what I have decided on. The tulip once being in flower, and it being quite certain that it is perfectly black, you must find a messenger." "If it is no more than that, I have a messenger quite ready." "Is he safe?" "One for whom I will answer, -- he is one of my lovers." "I hope not Jacob." "No, be quiet, it is the ferryman of Loewestein, a smart young man of twenty-five." "By Jove!" "Be quiet," said Rosa, smiling, "he is still under age, as you have yourself fixed it from twenty-six to twenty-eight." "In fine, do you think you may rely on this young man?" "As on myself; he would throw himself into the Waal or the Meuse if I bade him."
"Well, Rosa, this lad may be at Haarlem in ten hours; you will give me paper and pencil, and, perhaps better still, pen and ink, and I will write, or rather, on second thoughts, you will, for if I did, being a poor prisoner, people might, like your father, see a conspiracy in it. You will write to the President of the Horticultural Society, and I am sure he will come.""But if he tarries?"
"Well, let us suppose that he tarries one day, or even two; but it is impossible. A tulipfancier like him will not tarry one hour, not one minute, not one second, to set out to see the eighth wonder of the world. But, as I said, if he tarried one or even two days, the tulip will still be in its full splendour. The flower once being seen by the President, and the protocol being drawn up, all is in order; you will only keep a duplicate of the protocol, and intrust the tulip to him. Ah! if we had been able to carry it ourselves, Rosa, it would never have left my hands but to pass into yours; but this is a dream, which we must not entertain," continued Cornelius with a sigh, "the eyes of strangers will see it flower to the last. And above all, Rosa, before the President has seen it, let it not be seen by any one. Alas! if any one saw the black tulip, it would be stolen.""Oh!" "Did you not tell me yourself of what you apprehended from your lover Jacob? People will steal one guilder, why not a hundred thousand?" "I shall watch; be quiet." "But if it opened whilst you were here?" "The whimsical little thing would indeed be quite capable of playing such a trick," said Rosa. "And if on your return you find it open?" "Well?" "Oh, Rosa, whenever it opens, remember that not a moment must be lost in apprising the President." "And in apprising you. Yes, I understand." Rosa sighed, yet without any bitter feeling, but rather like a woman who begins to understand a foible, and to accustom herself to it. "I return to your tulip, Mynheer van Baerle, and as soon as it opens I will give you news, which being done the messenger will set out immediately." "Rosa, Rosa, I don't know to what wonder under the sun I shall compare you." "Compare me to the black tulip, and I promise you I shall feel very much flattered. Good night, then, till we meet again, Mynheer Cornelius." "Oh, say 'Good night, my friend.'" "Good night, my friend," said Rosa, a little consoled. "Say, 'My very dear friend.'" "Oh, my friend -- " "Very dear friend, I entreat you, say 'very dear,' Rosa, very dear." "Very dear, yes, very dear," said Rosa, with a beating heart, beyond herself with happiness. "And now that you have said 'very dear,' dear Rosa, say also 'most happy': say 'happier and more blessed than ever man was under the sun.' I only lack one thing, Rosa." "And that is?" "Your cheek, -- your fresh cheek, your soft, rosy cheek. Oh, Rosa, give it me of your own free will, and not by chance. Ah!"
The prisoner's prayer ended in a sigh of ecstasy; his lips met those of the maiden, -- not by chance, nor by stratagem, but as Saint-Preux's was to meet the lips of Julie a hundred years later.Rosa made her escape. Cornelius stood with his heart upon his lips, and his face glued to the wicket in the door.
He was fairly choking with happiness and joy. He opened his window, and gazed long, with swelling heart, at the cloudless vault of heaven, and the moon, which shone like silver upon the two-fold stream flowing from far beyond the hills. He filled his lungs with the pure, sweet air, while his brain dwelt upon thoughts of happiness, and his heart overflowed with gratitude and religious fervour.
"Oh Thou art always watching from on high, my God," he cried, half prostrate, his glowing eyes fixed upon the stars: "forgive me that I almost doubted Thy existence during these latter days, for Thou didst hide Thy face behind the clouds, and wert for a moment lost to my sight, O Thou merciful God, Thou pitying Father everlasting! But today, this evening, and to-night, again I see Thee in all Thy wondrous glory in the mirror of Thy heavenly abode, and more clearly still in the mirror of my grateful heart."He was well again, the poor invalid; the wretched captive was free once more. During part of the night Cornelius, with his heart full of joy and delight, remained at his window, gazing at the stars, and listening for every sound. Then casting a glance from time to time towards the lobby, --
"Down there," he said, "is Rosa, watching like myself, and waiting from minute to minute; down there, under Rosa's eyes, is the mysterious flower, which lives, which expands, which opens, perhaps Rosa holds in this moment the stem of the tulip between her delicate fingers. Touch it gently, Rosa. Perhaps she touches with her lips its expanding chalice. Touch it cautiously, Rosa, your lips are burning. Yes, perhaps at this moment the two objects of my dearest love caress each other under the eye of Heaven."At this moment, a star blazed in the southern sky, and shot through the whole horizon, falling down, as it were, on the fortress of Loewestein. Cornelius felt a thrill run through his frame. "Ah!" he said, "here is Heaven sending a soul to my flower."
And as if he had guessed correctly, nearly at that very moment the prisoner heard in the lobby a step light as that of a sylph, and the rustling of a gown, and a well-known voice, which said to him, --"Cornelius, my friend, my very dear friend, and very happy friend, come, come quickly." Cornelius darted with one spring from the window to the door, his lips met those of Rosa, who told him, with a kiss, -- "It is open, it is black, here it is." "How! here it is?" exclaimed Cornelius. "Yes, yes, we ought indeed to run some little risk to give a great joy; here it is, take it." And with one hand she raised to the level of the grating a dark lantern, which she had lit in the meanwhile, whilst with the other she held to the same height the miraculous tulip. Cornelius uttered a cry, and was nearly fainting.
"Oh!" muttered he, "my God, my God, Thou dost reward me for my innocence and my captivity, as Thou hast allowed two such flowers to grow at the grated window of my prison!"
The tulip was beautiful, splendid, magnificent; its stem was more than eighteen inches high; it rose from out of four green leaves, which were as smooth and straight as iron lance-heads; the whole of the flower was as black and shining as jet."Rosa," said Cornelius, almost gasping, "Rosa, there is not one moment to lose in writing the letter." "It is written, my dearest Cornelius," said Rosa. "Is it, indeed?" "Whilst the tulip opened I wrote it myself, for I did not wish to lose a moment. Here is the letter, and tell me whether you approve of it." Cornelius took the letter, and read, in a handwriting which was much improved even since the last little note he had received from Rosa, as follows: --
"Mynheer President, -- The black tulip is about to open, perhaps in ten minutes. As soon as it is open, I shall send a messenger to you, with the request that you will come and fetch it in person from the fortress at Loewestein. I am the daughter of the jailer, Gryphus, almost as much of a captive as the prisoners of my father. I cannot, therefore, bring to you this wonderful flower. This is the reason why I beg you to come and fetch it yourself."It is my wish that it should be called Rosa Barlaensis. "It has opened; it is perfectly black; come, Mynheer President, come. "I have the honour to be your humble servant,
"That's it, dear Rosa, that's it. Your letter is admirable! I could not have written it with such beautiful simplicity. You will give to the committee all the information that will be required of you. They will then know how the tulip has been grown, how much care and anxiety, and how many sleepless nights, it has cost. But for the present not a minute must be lost. The messenger! the messenger!"
23. The RivalAnd in fact the poor young people were in great need of protection. They had never been so near the destruction of their hopes as at this moment, when they thought themselves certain of their fulfilment.
The reader cannot but have recognized in Jacob our old friend, or rather enemy, Isaac Boxtel, and has guessed, no doubt, that this worthy had followed from the Buytenhof to Loewestein the object of his love and the object of his hatred, -- the black tulip and Cornelius van Baerle.
What no one but a tulip-fancier, and an envious tulip-fancier, could have discovered, -- the existence of the bulbs and the endeavours of the prisoner, -- jealousy had enabled Boxtel, if not to discover, at least to guess.
We have seen him, more successful under the name of Jacob than under that of Isaac, gain the friendship of Gryphus, which for several months he cultivated by means of the best Genievre ever distilled from the Texel to Antwerp, and he lulled the suspicion of the jealous turnkey by holding out to him the flattering prospect of his designing to marry Rosa.
Besides thus offering a bait to the ambition of the father, he managed, at the same time, to interest his zeal as a jailer, picturing to him in the blackest colours the learned prisoner whom Gryphus had in his keeping, and who, as the sham Jacob had it, was in league with Satan, to the detriment of his Highness the Prince of Orange.
At first he had also made some way with Rosa; not, indeed, in her affections, but inasmuch as, by talking to her of marriage and of love, he had evaded all the suspicions which he might otherwise have excited.
We have seen how his imprudence in following Rosa into the garden had unmasked him in the eyes of the young damsel, and how the instinctive fears of Cornelius had put the two lovers on their guard against him.
The reader will remember that the first cause of uneasiness was given to the prisoner by the rage of Jacob when Gryphus crushed the first bulb. In that moment Boxtel's exasperation was the more fierce, as, though suspecting that Cornelius possessed a second bulb, he by no means felt sure of it.
From that moment he began to dodge the steps of Rosa, not only following her to the garden, but also to the lobbies.
Only as this time he followed her in the night, and bare-footed, he was neither seen nor heard except once, when Rosa thought she saw something like a shadow on the staircase.
Taken in by the stratagem of Rosa, who had feigned to put it in the ground, and entertaining no doubt that this little farce had been played in order to force him to betray himself, he redoubled his precaution, and employed every means suggested by his crafty nature to watch the others without being watched himself.
He saw Rosa conveying a large flower-pot of white earthenware from her father's kitchen to her bedroom. He saw Rosa washing in pails of water her pretty little hands, begrimed as they were with the mould which she had handled, to give her tulip the best soil possible.
And at last he hired, just opposite Rosa's window, a little attic, distant enough not to allow him to be recognized with the naked eye, but sufficiently near to enable him, with the help of his telescope, to watch everything that was going on at the Loewestein in Rosa's room, just as at Dort he had watched the dry-room of Cornelius.He had not been installed more than three days in his attic before all his doubts were removed.
From morning to sunset the flower-pot was in the window, and, like those charming female figures of Mieris and Metzys, Rosa appeared at that window as in a frame, formed by the first budding sprays of the wild vine and the honeysuckle encircling her window.Rosa watched the flower-pot with an interest which betrayed to Boxtel the real value of the object enclosed in it. This object could not be anything else but the second bulb, that is to say, the quintessence of all the hopes of the prisoner. When the nights threatened to be too cold, Rosa took in the flower-pot. Well, it was then quite evident she was following the instructions of Cornelius, who was afraid of the bulb being killed by frost. When the sun became too hot, Rosa likewise took in the pot from eleven in the morning until two in the afternoon.
Another proof: Cornelius was afraid lest the soil should become too dry. But when the first leaves peeped out of the earth Boxtel was fully convinced; and his telescope left him no longer in any uncertainty before they had grown one inch in height.Cornelius possessed two bulbs, and the second was intrusted to the love and care of Rosa. For it may well be imagined that the tender secret of the two lovers had not escaped the prying curiosity of Boxtel. The question, therefore, was how to wrest the second bulb from the care of Rosa. Certainly this was no easy task. Rosa watched over her tulip as a mother over her child, or a dove over her eggs. Rosa never left her room during the day, and, more than that, strange to say, she never left it in the evening. For seven days Boxtel in vain watched Rosa; she was always at her post. This happened during those seven days which made Cornelius so unhappy, depriving him at the same time of all news of Rosa and of his tulip. Would the coolness between Rosa and Cornelius last for ever? This would have made the theft much more difficult than Mynheer Isaac had at first expected.
We say the theft, for Isaac had simply made up his mind to steal the tulip; and as it grew in the most profound secrecy, and as, moreover, his word, being that of a renowned tulip-grower, would any day be taken against that of an unknown girl without any knowledge of horticulture, or against that of a prisoner convicted of high treason, he confidently hoped that, having once got possession of the bulb, he would be certain to obtain the prize; and then the tulip, instead of being called Tulipa nigra Barlaensis, would go down to posterity under the name of Tulipa nigra Boxtellensis or Boxtellea.Mynheer Isaac had not yet quite decided which of these two names he would give to the tulip, but, as both meant the same thing, this was, after all, not the important point. The point was to steal the tulip. But in order that Boxtel might steal the tulip, it was necessary that Rosa should leave her room.
Great therefore was his joy when he saw the usual evening meetings of the lovers resumed.
He first of all took advantage of Rosa's absence to make himself fully acquainted with all the peculiarities of the door of her chamber. The lock was a double one and in good order, but Rosa always took the key with her.
Boxtel at first entertained an idea of stealing the key, but it soon occurred to him, not only that it would be exceedingly difficult to abstract it from her pocket, but also that, when she perceived her loss, she would not leave her room until the lock was changed, and then Boxtel's first theft would be useless.
He thought it, therefore, better to employ a different expedient. He collected as many keys as he could, and tried all of them during one of those delightful hours which Rosa and Cornelius passed together at the grating of the cell.Two of the keys entered the lock, and one of them turned round once, but not the second time. There was, therefore, only a little to be done to this key.
Boxtel covered it with a slight coat of wax, and when he thus renewed the experiment, the obstacle which prevented the key from being turned a second time left its impression on the wax.It cost Boxtel two days more to bring his key to perfection, with the aid of a small file. Rosa's door thus opened without noise and without difficulty, and Boxtel found himself in her room alone with the tulip.
The first guilty act of Boxtel had been to climb over a wall in order to dig up the tulip; the second, to introduce himself into the dry-room of Cornelius, through an open window; and the third, to enter Rosa's room by means of a false key.Thus envy urged Boxtel on with rapid steps in the career of crime. Boxtel, as we have said, was alone with the tulip. A common thief would have taken the pot under his arm, and carried it off. But Boxtel was not a common thief, and he reflected.
It was not yet certain, although very probable, that the tulip would flower black; if, therefore, he stole it now, he not only might be committing a useless crime, but also the theft might be discovered in the time which must elapse until the flower should open.
He therefore -- as being in possession of the key, he might enter Rosa's chamber whenever he liked -- thought it better to wait and to take it either an hour before or after opening, and to start on the instant to Haarlem, where the tulip would be before the judges of the committee before any one else could put in a reclamation.Should any one then reclaim it, Boxtel would in his turn charge him or her with theft. This was a deep-laid scheme, and quite worthy of its author.
Thus, every evening during that delightful hour which the two lovers passed together at the grated window, Boxtel entered Rosa's chamber to watch the progress which the black tulip had made towards flowering.
On the evening at which we have arrived he was going to enter according to custom; but the two lovers, as we have seen, only exchanged a few words before Cornelius sent Rosa back to watch over the tulip.Seeing Rosa enter her room ten minutes after she had left it, Boxtel guessed that the tulip had opened, or was about to open.
During that night, therefore, the great blow was to be struck. Boxtel presented himself before Gryphus with a double supply of Genievre, that is to say, with a bottle in each pocket.Gryphus being once fuddled, Boxtel was very nearly master of the house.
At eleven o'clock Gryphus was dead drunk. At two in the morning Boxtel saw Rosa leaving the chamber; but evidently she held in her arms something which she carried with great care.He did not doubt that this was the black tulip which was in flower. But what was she going to do with it? Would she set out that instant to Haarlem with it? It was not possible that a young girl should undertake such a journey alone during the night. Was she only going to show the tulip to Cornelius? This was more likely. He followed Rosa in his stocking feet, walking on tiptoe. He saw her approach the grated window. He heard her calling Cornelius. By the light of the dark lantern he saw the tulip open, and black as the night in which he was hidden.
He heard the plan concerted between Cornelius and Rosa to send a messenger to Haarlem. He saw the lips of the lovers meet, and then heard Cornelius send Rosa away.
He saw Rosa extinguish the light and return to her chamber. Ten minutes after, he saw her leave the room again, and lock it twice.
Boxtel, who saw all this whilst hiding himself on the landing-place of the staircase above, descended step by step from his story as Rosa descended from hers; so that, when she touched with her light foot the lowest step of the staircase, Boxtel touched with a still lighter hand the lock of Rosa's chamber.And in that hand, it must be understood, he held the false key which opened Rosa's door as easily as did the real one. And this is why, in the beginning of the chapter, we said that the poor young people were in great need of the protection of God.
24. The Black Tulip changes MastersCornelius remained standing on the spot where Rosa had left him. He was quite overpowered with the weight of his twofold happiness.
Half an hour passed away. Already did the first rays of the sun enter through the iron grating of the prison, when Cornelius was suddenly startled at the noise of steps which came up the staircase, and of cries which approached nearer and nearer.Almost at the same instant he saw before him the pale and distracted face of Rosa. He started, and turned pale with fright. "Cornelius, Cornelius!" she screamed, gasping for breath. "Good Heaven! what is it?" asked the prisoner. "Cornelius! the tulip ---- " "Well?" "How shall I tell you?" "Speak, speak, Rosa!" "Some one has taken -- stolen it from us." "Stolen -- taken?" said Cornelius. "Yes," said Rosa, leaning against the door to support herself; "yes, taken, stolen!" And saying this, she felt her limbs failing her, and she fell on her knees. "But how? Tell me, explain to me." "Oh, it is not my fault, my friend." Poor Rosa! she no longer dared to call him "My beloved one." "You have then left it alone," said Cornelius, ruefully. "One minute only, to instruct our messenger, who lives scarcely fifty yards off, on the banks of the Waal."
"And during that time, notwithstanding all my injunctions, you left the key behind, unfortunate child!"
"No, no, no! this is what I cannot understand. The key was never out of my hands; I clinched it as if I were afraid it would take wings."
"That's what I cannot make out. I had given the letter to my messenger; he started before I left his house; I came home, and my door was locked, everything in my room was as I had left it, except the tulip, -- that was gone. Some one must have had a key for my room, or have got a false one made on purpose."She was nearly choking with sobs, and was unable to continue. Cornelius, immovable and full of consternation, heard almost without understanding, and only muttered, -- "Stolen, stolen, and I am lost!" "O Cornelius, forgive me, forgive me, it will kill me!" Seeing Rosa's distress, Cornelius seized the iron bars of the grating, and furiously shaking them, called out, --
"Rosa, Rosa, we have been robbed, it is true, but shall we allow ourselves to be dejected for all that? No, no; the misfortune is great, but it may perhaps be remedied. Rosa, we know the thief!""Alas! what can I say about it?"
"But I say that it is no one else but that infamous Jacob. Shall we allow him to carry to Haarlem the fruit of our labour, the fruit of our sleepless nights, the child of our love? Rosa, we must pursue, we must overtake him!"
"But how can we do all this, my friend, without letting my father know we were in communication with each other? How should I, a poor girl, with so little knowledge of the world and its ways, be able to attain this end, which perhaps you could not attain yourself?""Rosa, Rosa, open this door to me, and you will see whether I will not find the thief, -- whether I will not make him confess his crime and beg for mercy." "Alas!" cried Rosa, sobbing, "can I open the door for you? have I the keys? If I had had them, would not you have been free long ago?" "Your father has them, -- your wicked father, who has already crushed the first bulb of my tulip. Oh, the wretch! he is an accomplice of Jacob!" "Don't speak so loud, for Heaven's sake!" "Oh, Rosa, if you don't open the door to me," Cornelius cried in his rage, "I shall force these bars, and kill everything I find in the prison." "Be merciful, be merciful, my friend!"
"I tell you, Rosa, that I shall demolish this prison, stone for stone!" and the unfortunate man, whose strength was increased tenfold by his rage, began to shake the door with a great noise, little heeding that the thunder of his voice was re-echoing through the spiral staircase.Rosa, in her fright, made vain attempts to check this furious outbreak. "I tell you that I shall kill that infamous Gryphus?" roared Cornelius. "I tell you I shall shed his blood as he did that of my black tulip." The wretched prisoner began really to rave. "Well, then, yes," said Rosa, all in a tremble. "Yes, yes, only be quiet. Yes, yes, I will take his keys, I will open the door for you! Yes, only be quiet, my own dear Cornelius." She did not finish her speech, as a growl by her side interrupted her. "My father!" cried Rosa. "Gryphus!" roared Van Baerle. "Oh, you villain!" Old Gryphus, in the midst of all the noise, had ascended the staircase without being heard. He rudely seized his daughter by the wrist.
"So you will take my keys?" he said, in a voice choked with rage. "Ah! this dastardly fellow, this monster, this gallows-bird of a conspirator, is your own dear Cornelius, is he? Ah! Missy has communications with prisoners of state. Ah! won't I teach you -won't I?"Rosa clasped her hands in despair.
"Ah!" Gryphus continued, passing from the madness of anger to the cool irony of a man who has got the better of his enemy, -- "Ah, you innocent tulip-fancier, you gentle scholar; you will kill me, and drink my blood! Very well! very well! And you have my daughter for an accomplice. Am I, forsooth, in a den of thieves, -- in a cave of brigands? Yes, but the Governor shall know all to-morrow, and his Highness the Stadtholder the day after. We know the law, -- we shall give a second edition of the Buytenhof, Master Scholar, and a good one this time. Yes, yes, just gnaw your paws like a bear in his cage, and you, my fine little lady, devour your dear Cornelius with your eyes. I tell you, my lambkins, you shall not much longer have the felicity of conspiring together. Away with you, unnatural daughter! And as to you, Master Scholar, we shall see each other again. Just be quiet, -- we shall."Rosa, beyond herself with terror and despair, kissed her hands to her friend; then, suddenly struck with a bright thought, she rushed toward the staircase, saying, -- "All is not yet lost, Cornelius. Rely on me, my Cornelius." Her father followed her, growling.
As to poor Cornelius, he gradually loosened his hold of the bars, which his fingers still grasped convulsively. His head was heavy, his eyes almost started from their sockets, and he fell heavily on the floor of his cell, muttering, --"Stolen! it has been stolen from me!"
During this time Boxtel had left the fortress by the door which Rosa herself had opened. He carried the black tulip wrapped up in a cloak, and, throwing himself into a coach, which was waiting for him at Gorcum, he drove off, without, as may well be imagined, having informed his friend Gryphus of his sudden departure.And now, as we have seen him enter his coach, we shall with the consent of the reader, follow him to the end of his journey. He proceeded but slowly, as the black tulip could not bear travelling post-haste.
But Boxtel, fearing that he might not arrive early enough, procured at Delft a box, lined all round with fresh moss, in which he packed the tulip. The flower was so lightly pressed upon all sides, with a supply of air from above, that the coach could now travel full speed without any possibility of injury to the tulip.
He arrived next morning at Haarlem, fatigued but triumphant; and, to do away with every trace of the theft, he transplanted the tulip, and, breaking the original flower-pot, threw the pieces into the canal. After which he wrote the President of the Horticultural Society a letter, in which he announced to him that he had just arrived at Haarlem with a perfectly black tulip; and, with his flower all safe, took up his quarters at a good hotel in the town, and there he waited.
25. The President Van SystensRosa, on leaving Cornelius, had fixed on her plan, which was no other than to restore to Cornelius the stolen tulip, or never to see him again. She had seen the despair of the prisoner, and she knew that it was derived from a double source, and that it was incurable. On the one hand, separation became inevitable, -- Gryphus having at the same time surprised the secret of their love and of their secret meetings. On the other hand, all the hopes on the fulfilment of which Cornelius van Baerle had rested his ambition for the last seven years were now crushed.
Rosa was one of those women who are dejected by trifles, but who in great emergencies are supplied by the misfortune itself with the energy for combating or with the resources for remedying it.
She went to her room, and cast a last glance about her to see whether she had not been mistaken, and whether the tulip was not stowed away in some corner where it had escaped her notice. But she sought in vain, the tulip was still missing; the tulip was indeed stolen.
Rosa made up a little parcel of things indispensable for a journey; took her three hundred guilders, -- that is to say, all her fortune, -- fetched the third bulb from among her lace, where she had laid it up, and carefully hid it in her bosom; after which she locked her door twice to disguise her flight as long as possible, and, leaving the prison by the same door which an hour before had let out Boxtel, she went to a stable-keeper to hire a carriage.
The man had only a two-wheel chaise, and this was the vehicle which Boxtel had hired since last evening, and in which he was now driving along the road to Delft; for the road from Loewestein to Haarlem, owing to the many canals, rivers, and rivulets intersecting the country, is exceedingly circuitous.
Not being able to procure a vehicle, Rosa was obliged to take a horse, with which the stable-keeper readily intrusted her, knowing her to be the daughter of the jailer of the fortress.
Rosa hoped to overtake her messenger, a kind-hearted and honest lad, whom she would take with her, and who might at the same time serve her as a guide and a protector.
And in fact she had not proceeded more than a league before she saw him hastening along one of the side paths of a very pretty road by the river. Setting her horse off at a canter, she soon came up with him.
The honest lad was not aware of the important character of his message; nevertheless, he used as much speed as if he had known it; and in less than an hour he had already gone a league and a half.
Rosa took from him the note, which had now become useless, and explained to him what she wanted him to do for her. The boatman placed himself entirely at her disposal, promising to keep pace with the horse if Rosa would allow him to take hold of either the croup or the bridle of her horse. The two travellers had been on their way for five hours, and made more than eight leagues, and yet Gryphus had not the least suspicion of his daughter having left the fortress.The jailer, who was of a very spiteful and cruel disposition, chuckled within himself at the idea of having struck such terror into his daughter's heart.
But whilst he was congratulating himself on having such a nice story to tell to his boon companion, Jacob, that worthy was on his road to Delft; and, thanks to the swiftness of the horse, had already the start of Rosa and her companion by four leagues.And whilst the affectionate father was rejoicing at the thought of his daughter weeping in her room, Rosa was making the best of her way towards Haarlem. Thus the prisoner alone was where Gryphus thought him to be.
Rosa was so little with her father since she took care of the tulip, that at his dinner hour, that is to say, at twelve o'clock, he was reminded for the first time by his appetite that his daughter was fretting rather too long.He sent one of the under-turnkeys to call her; and, when the man came back to tell him that he had called and sought her in vain, he resolved to go and call her himself. He first went to her room, but, loud as he knocked, Rosa answered not. The locksmith of the fortress was sent for; he opened the door, but Gryphus no more found Rosa than she had found the tulip. At that very moment she entered Rotterdam.
Gryphus therefore had just as little chance of finding her in the kitchen as in her room, and just as little in the garden as in the kitchen.
The reader may imagine the anger of the jailer when, after having made inquiries about the neighbourhood, he heard that his daughter had hired a horse, and, like an adventuress, set out on a journey without saying where she was going.
Gryphus again went up in his fury to Van Baerle, abused him, threatened him, knocked all the miserable furniture of his cell about, and promised him all sorts of misery, even starvation and flogging.
Cornelius, without even hearing what his jailer said, allowed himself to be ill-treated, abused, and threatened, remaining all the while sullen, immovable, dead to every emotion and fear.
After having sought for Rosa in every direction, Gryphus looked out for Jacob, and, as he could not find him either, he began to suspect from that moment that Jacob had run away with her.
The damsel, meanwhile, after having stopped for two hours at Rotterdam, had started again on her journey. On that evening she slept at Delft, and on the following morning she reached Haarlem, four hours after Boxtel had arrived there.Rosa, first of all, caused herself to be led before Mynheer van Systens, the President of the Horticultural Society of Haarlem. She found that worthy gentleman in a situation which, to do justice to our story, we must not pass over in our description. The President was drawing up a report to the committee of the society. This report was written on large-sized paper, in the finest handwriting of the President. Rosa was announced simply as Rosa Gryphus; but as her name, well as it might sound, was unknown to the President, she was refused admittance. Rosa, however, was by no means abashed, having vowed in her heart, in pursuing her cause, not to allow herself to be put down either by refusal, or abuse, or even brutality. "Announce to the President," she said to the servant, "that I want to speak to him about the black tulip." These words seemed to be an "Open Sesame," for she soon found herself in the office of the President, Van Systens, who gallantly rose from his chair to meet her.
He was a spare little man, resembling the stem of a flower, his head forming its chalice, and his two limp arms representing the double leaf of the tulip; the resemblance was rendered complete by his waddling gait which made him even more like that flower when it bends under a breeze."Well, miss," he said, "you are coming, I am told, about the affair of the black tulip." To the President of the Horticultural Society the Tulipa nigra was a first-rate power, which, in its character as queen of the tulips, might send ambassadors. "Yes, sir," answered Rosa; "I come at least to speak of it." "Is it doing well, then?" asked Van Systens, with a smile of tender veneration. "Alas! sir, I don't know," said Rosa. "How is that? could any misfortune have happened to it?" "A very great one, sir; yet not to it, but to me." "What?" "It has been stolen from me." "Stolen! the black tulip?" "Yes, sir." "Do you know the thief?" "I have my suspicions, but I must not yet accuse any one." "But the matter may very easily be ascertained." "How is that?" "As it has been stolen from you, the thief cannot be far off." "Why not?" "Because I have seen the black tulip only two hours ago." "You have seen the black tulip!" cried Rosa, rushing up to Mynheer van Systens. "As I see you, miss." "But where?" "Well, with your master, of course." "With my master?" "Yes, are you not in the service of Master Isaac Boxtel?" "I?" "Yes, you." "But for whom do you take me, sir?" "And for whom do you take me?" "I hope, sir, I take you for what you are, -- that is to say, for the honorable Mynheer van Systens, Burgomaster of Haarlem, and President of the Horticultural Society." "And what is it you told me just now?" "I told you, sir, that my tulip has been stolen." "Then your tulip is that of Mynheer Boxtel. Well, my child, you express yourself very badly. The tulip has been stolen, not from you, but from Mynheer Boxtel." "I repeat to you, sir, that I do not know who this Mynheer Boxtel is, and that I have now heard his name pronounced for the first time." "You do not know who Mynheer Boxtel is, and you also had a black tulip?" "But is there any other besides mine?" asked Rosa, trembling. "Yes, -- that of Mynheer Boxtel." "How is it?" "Black, of course." "Without speck?" "Without a single speck, or even point." "And you have this tulip, -- you have it deposited here?" "No, but it will be, as it has to be exhibited before the committee previous to the prize being awarded." "Oh, sir!" cried Rosa, "this Boxtel -- this Isaac Boxtel -- who calls himself the owner of the black tulip ---- " "And who is its owner?" "Is he not a very thin man?" "Bald?" "Yes." "With sunken eyes?" "I think he has." "Restless, stooping, and bowlegged?" "In truth, you draw Master Boxtel's portrait feature by feature." "And the tulip, sir? Is it not in a pot of white and blue earthenware, with yellowish flowers in a basket on three sides?" "Oh, as to that I am not quite sure; I looked more at the flower than at the pot." "Oh, sir! that's my tulip, which has been stolen from me. I came here to reclaim it before you and from you." "Oh! oh!" said Van Systens, looking at Rosa. "What! you are here to claim the tulip of Master Boxtel? Well, I must say, you are cool enough." "Honoured sir," a little put out by this apostrophe, "I do not say that I am coming to claim the tulip of Master Boxtel, but to reclaim my own." "Yours?" "Yes, the one which I have myself planted and nursed."
"Well, then, go and find out Master Boxtel, at the White Swan Inn, and you can then settle matters with him; as for me, considering that the cause seems to me as difficult to judge as that which was brought before King Solomon, and that I do not pretend to be as wise as he was, I shall content myself with making my report, establishing the existence of the black tulip, and ordering the hundred thousand guilders to be paid to its grower. Good-bye, my child.""Oh, sir, sir!" said Rosa, imploringly.
"Only, my child," continued Van Systens, "as you are young and pretty, and as there may be still some good in you, I'll give you some good advice. Be prudent in this matter, for we have a court of justice and a prison here at Haarlem, and, moreover, we are exceedingly ticklish as far as the honour of our tulips is concerned. Go, my child, go, remember, Master Isaac Boxtel at the White Swan Inn."
And Mynheer van Systens, taking up his fine pen, resumed his report, which had been interrupted by Rosa's visit.
26. A Member Of The Horticultural Society
Rosa, beyond herself and nearly mad with joy and fear at the idea of the black tulip being found again, started for the White Swan, followed by the boatman, a stout lad from Frisia, who was strong enough to knock down a dozen Boxtels single-handed.He had been made acquainted in the course of the journey with the state of affairs, and was not afraid of any encounter; only he had orders, in such a case, to spare the tulip.
But on arriving in the great market-place Rosa at once stopped, a sudden thought had struck her, just as Homer's Minerva seizes Achilles by the hair at the moment when he is about to be carried away by his anger.
"Good Heaven!" she muttered to herself, "I have made a grievous blunder; it may be I have ruined Cornelius, the tulip, and myself. I have given the alarm, and perhaps awakened suspicion. I am but a woman; these men may league themselves against me, and then I shall be lost. If I am lost that matters nothing, -- but Cornelius and the tulip!"She reflected for a moment.
"If I go to that Boxtel, and do not know him; if that Boxtel is not my Jacob, but another fancier, who has also discovered the black tulip; or if my tulip has been stolen by some one else, or has already passed into the hands of a third person; -- if I do not recognize the man, only the tulip, how shall I prove that it belongs to me? On the other hand, if I recognise this Boxtel as Jacob, who knows what will come out of it? whilst we are contesting with each other, the tulip will die."
In the meanwhile, a great noise was heard, like the distant roar of the sea, at the other extremity of the market-place. People were running about, doors opening and shutting, Rosa alone was unconscious of all this hubbub among the multitude."We must return to the President," she muttered. "Well, then, let us return," said the boatman. They took a small street, which led them straight to the mansion of Mynheer van Systens, who with his best pen in his finest hand continued to draw up his report.
Everywhere on her way Rosa heard people speaking only of the black tulip, and the prize of a hundred thousand guilders. The news had spread like wildfire through the town.
Rosa had not a little difficulty is penetrating a second time into the office of Mynheer van Systens, who, however, was again moved by the magic name of the black tulip.
"For Heaven's sake, sir, do not turn me away; listen to what I have to tell you, and if it be not possible for you to do me justice, at least you will not one day have to reproach yourself before God for having made yourself the accomplice of a bad action."
Van Systens stamped his foot with impatience; it was the second time that Rosa interrupted him in the midst of a composition which stimulated his vanity, both as a burgomaster and as President of the Horticultural Society."But my report!" he cried, -- "my report on the black tulip!"
"Mynheer van Systens," Rosa continued, with the firmness of innocence and truth, "your report on the black tulip will, if you don't hear me, be based on crime or on falsehood. I implore you, sir, let this Master Boxtel, whom I assert to be Master Jacob, be brought here before you and me, and I swear that I will leave him in undisturbed possession of the tulip if I do not recognise the flower and its holder.""Well, I declare, here is a proposal," said Van Systens. "What do you mean?" "I ask you what can be proved by your recognising them?"
"After all," said Rosa, in her despair, "you are an honest man, sir; how would you feel if one day you found out that you had given the prize to a man for something which he not only had not produced, but which he had even stolen?"
Rosa's speech seemed to have brought a certain conviction into the heart of Van Systens, and he was going to answer her in a gentler tone, when at once a great noise was heard in the street, and loud cheers shook the house."What is this?" cried the burgomaster; "what is this? Is it possible? have I heard aright?" And he rushed towards his anteroom, without any longer heeding Rosa, whom he left in his cabinet.
Scarcely had he reached his anteroom when he cried out aloud on seeing his staircase invaded, up to the very landing-place, by the multitude, which was accompanying, or rather following, a young man, simply clad in a violet-coloured velvet, embroidered with silver; who, with a certain aristocratic slowness, ascended the white stone steps of the house.In his wake followed two officers, one of the navy, and the other of the cavalry. Van Systens, having found his way through the frightened domestics, began to bow, almost to prostrate himself before his visitor, who had been the cause of all this stir. "Monseigneur," he called out, "Monseigneur! What distinguished honour is your Highness bestowing for ever on my humble house by your visit?"
"Dear Mynheer van Systens," said William of Orange, with a serenity which, with him, took the place of a smile, "I am a true Hollander, I am fond of the water, of beer, and of flowers, sometimes even of that cheese the flavour of which seems so grateful to the French; the flower which I prefer to all others is, of course, the tulip. I heard at Leyden that the city of Haarlem at last possessed the black tulip; and, after having satisfied myself of the truth of news which seemed so incredible, I have come to know all about it from the President of the Horticultural Society.""Oh, Monseigneur, Monseigneur!" said Van Systens, "what glory to the society if its endeavours are pleasing to your Highness!" "Have you got the flower here?" said the Prince, who, very likely, already regretted having made such a long speech. "I am sorry to say we have not." "And where is it?" "With its owner." "Who is he?" "An honest tulip-grower of Dort." "His name?" "Boxtel." "His quarters?"
"At the White Swan; I shall send for him, and if in the meanwhile your Highness will do me the honour of stepping into my drawing-room, he will be sure -- knowing that your Highness is here -- to lose no time in bringing his tulip."
"Very well, send for him."
"Question her, Mynheer van Systens, question her. I am the first magistrate of the country; I will hear the case and administer justice."
"I have found my King Solomon," said Van Systens, bowing, and showing the way to the Prince.
All her attention, as may be easily imagined, was fixed on that important person who was called Van Systens, so that she had no time to notice the humble stranger who was following the master of the house, and who, for aught she knew, might be somebody or nobody.The humble stranger took a book down from the shelf, and made Van Systens a sign to commence the examination forthwith. Van Systens, likewise at the invitation of the young man in the violet coat, sat down in his turn, and, quite happy and proud of the importance thus cast upon him, began, -- "My child, you promise to tell me the truth and the entire truth concerning this tulip?" "I promise." "Well, then, speak before this gentleman; this gentleman is one of the members of the Horticultural Society." "What am I to tell you, sir," said Rosa, "beside that which I have told you already." "Well, then, what is it?" "I repeat the question I have addressed to you before." "Which?"
"That you will order Mynheer Boxtel to come here with his tulip. If I do not recognise it as mine I will frankly tell it; but if I do recognise it I will reclaim it, even if I go before his Highness the Stadtholder himself, with my proofs in my hands."
"You have, then, some proofs, my child?"
Van Systens exchanged a look with the Prince, who, since the first words of Rosa, seemed to try to remember her, as if it were not for the first time that this sweet voice rang in his ears.An officer went off to fetch Boxtel, and Van Systens in the meanwhile continued his examination. "And with what do you support your assertion that you are the real owner of the black tulip?" "With the very simple fact of my having planted and grown it in my own chamber." "In your chamber? Where was your chamber?" "At Loewestein." "You are from Loewestein?" "I am the daughter of the jailer of the fortress." The Prince made a little movement, as much as to say, "Well, that's it, I remember now." And, all the while feigning to be engaged with his book, he watched Rosa with even more attention than he had before. "And you are fond of flowers?" continued Mynheer van Systens. "Yes, sir." "Then you are an experienced florist, I dare say?" Rosa hesitated a moment; then with a tone which came from the depth of her heart, she said, -- "Gentlemen, I am speaking to men of honor." There was such an expression of truth in the tone of her voice, that Van Systens and the Prince answered simultaneously by an affirmative movement of their heads.
"Well, then, I am not an experienced florist; I am only a poor girl, one of the people, who, three months ago, knew neither how to read nor how to write. No, the black tulip has not been found by myself."
"But by whom else?"
"This cannot signify anything to the members of the Horticultural Society; they have to judge on the black tulip, and have no cognizance to take of political offences. Go on, young woman, go on."Van Systens, by means of an eloquent glance, offered, in the name of the tulip, his thanks to the new member of the Horticultural Society.
Rosa, reassured by this sort of encouragement which the stranger was giving her, related all that had happened for the last three months, all that she had done, and all that she had suffered. She described the cruelty of Gryphus; the destruction of the first bulb; the grief of the prisoner; the precautions taken to insure the success of the second bulb; the patience of the prisoner and his anxiety during their separation; how he was about to starve himself because he had no longer any news of his tulip; his joy when she went to see him again; and, lastly, their despair when they found that the tulip which had come into flower was stolen just one hour after it had opened.All this was detailed with an accent of truth which, although producing no change in the impassible mien of the Prince, did not fail to take effect on Van Systens. "But," said the Prince, "it cannot be long since you knew the prisoner." Rosa opened her large eyes and looked at the stranger, who drew back into the dark corner, as if he wished to escape her observation. "Why, sir?" she asked him. "Because it is not yet four months since the jailer Gryphus and his daughter were removed to Loewestein." "That is true, sir." "Otherwise, you must have solicited the transfer of your father, in order to be able to follow some prisoner who may have been transported from the Hague to Loewestein." "Sir," said Rosa, blushing. "Finish what you have to say," said William. "I confess I knew the prisoner at the Hague." "Happy prisoner!" said William, smiling.
At this moment the officer who had been sent for Boxtel returned, and announced to the Prince that the person whom he had been to fetch was following on his heels with his tulip.
27. The Third Bulb
Boxtel's return was scarcely announced, when he entered in person the drawing-room of Mynheer van Systens, followed by two men, who carried in a box their precious burden and deposited it on a table.
The Prince, on being informed, left the cabinet, passed into the drawing-room, admired the flower, and silently resumed his seat in the dark corner, where he had himself placed his chair.Rosa, trembling, pale and terrified, expected to be invited in her turn to see the tulip. She now heard the voice of Boxtel. "It is he!" she exclaimed. The Prince made her a sign to go and look through the open door into the drawingroom. "It is my tulip," cried Rosa, "I recognise it. Oh, my poor Cornelius!" And saying this she burst into tears. The Prince rose from his seat, went to the door, where he stood for some time with the full light falling upon his figure. As Rosa's eyes now rested upon him, she felt more than ever convinced that this was not the first time she had seen the stranger. "Master Boxtel," said the Prince, "come in here, if you please." Boxtel eagerly approached, and, finding himself face to face with William of Orange, started back. "His Highness!" he called out. "His Highness!" Rosa repeated in dismay. Hearing this exclamation on his left, Boxtel turned round, and perceived Rosa. At this sight the whole frame of the thief shook as if under the influence of a galvanic shock. "Ah!" muttered the Prince to himself, "he is confused." But Boxtel, making a violent effort to control his feelings, was already himself again. "Master Boxtel," said William, "you seem to have discovered the secret of growing the black tulip?" "Yes, your Highness," answered Boxtel, in a voice which still betrayed some confusion. It is true his agitation might have been attributable to the emotion which the man must have felt on suddenly recognising the Prince. "But," continued the Stadtholder, "here is a young damsel who also pretends to have found it." Boxtel, with a disdainful smile, shrugged his shoulders. William watched all his movements with evident interest and curiosity. "Then you don't know this young girl?" said the Prince. "No, your Highness!" "And you, child, do you know Master Boxtel?" "No, I don't know Master Boxtel, but I know Master Jacob." "What do you mean?" "I mean to say that at Loewestein the man who here calls himself Isaac Boxtel went by the name of Master Jacob." "What do you say to that, Master Boxtel?" "I say that this damsel lies, your Highness." "You deny, therefore, having ever been at Loewestein?" Boxtel hesitated; the fixed and searching glance of the proud eye of the Prince prevented him from lying. "I cannot deny having been at Loewestein, your Highness, but I deny having stolen the tulip." "You have stolen it, and that from my room," cried Rosa, with indignation. "I deny it."
"Now listen to me. Do you deny having followed me into the garden, on the day when I prepared the border where I was to plant it? Do you deny having followed me into the garden when I pretended to plant it? Do you deny that, on that evening, you rushed after my departure to the spot where you hoped to find the bulb? Do you deny having dug in the ground with your hands -- but, thank God! in vain, as it was a stratagem to discover your intentions. Say, do you deny all this?"Boxtel did not deem it fit to answer these several charges, but, turning to the Prince, continued, --
"I have now for twenty years grown tulips at Dort. I have even acquired some reputation in this art; one of my hybrids is entered in the catalogue under the name of an illustrious personage. I have dedicated it to the King of Portugal. The truth in the matter is as I shall now tell your Highness. This damsel knew that I had produced the black tulip, and, in concert with a lover of hers in the fortress of Loewestein, she formed the plan of ruining me by appropriating to herself the prize of a hundred thousand guilders, which, with the help of your Highness's justice, I hope to gain.""Yah!" cried Rosa, beyond herself with anger. "Silence!" said the Prince. Then, turning to Boxtel, he said, -- "And who is that prisoner to whom you allude as the lover of this young woman?" Rosa nearly swooned, for Cornelius was designated as a dangerous prisoner, and recommended by the Prince to the especial surveillance of the jailer. Nothing could have been more agreeable to Boxtel than this question.
"This prisoner," he said, "is a man whose name in itself will prove to your Highness what trust you may place in his probity. He is a prisoner of state, who was once condemned to death.""And his name?" Rosa hid her face in her hands with a movement of despair. "His name is Cornelius van Baerle," said Boxtel, "and he is godson of that villain Cornelius de Witt." The Prince gave a start, his generally quiet eye flashed, and a death-like paleness spread over his impassible features. He went up to Rosa, and with his finger, gave her a sign to remove her hands from her face. Rosa obeyed, as if under mesmeric influence, without having seen the sign. "It was, then to follow this man that you came to me at Leyden to solicit for the transfer of your father?" Rosa hung down her head, and, nearly choking, said, -- "Yes, your Highness." "Go on," said the Prince to Boxtel.
"I have nothing more to say," Isaac continued. "Your Highness knows all. But there is one thing which I did not intend to say, because I did not wish to make this girl blush for her ingratitude. I came to Loewestein because I had business there. On this occasion I made the acquaintance of old Gryphus, and, falling in love with his daughter, made an offer of marriage to her; and, not being rich, I committed the imprudence of mentioning to them my prospect of gaining a hundred thousand guilders, in proof of which I showed to them the black tulip. Her lover having himself made a show at Dort of cultivating tulips to hide his political intrigues, they now plotted together for my ruin. On the eve of the day when the flower was expected to open, the tulip was taken away by this young woman. She carried it to her room, from which I had the good luck to recover it at the very moment when she had the impudence to despatch a messenger to announce to the members of the Horticultural Society that she had produced the grand black tulip. But she did not stop there. There is no doubt that, during the few hours which she kept the flower in her room, she showed it to some persons whom she may now call as witnesses. But, fortunately, your Highness has now been warned against this impostor and her witnesses."
"Oh, my God, my God! what infamous falsehoods!" said Rosa, bursting into tears, and throwing herself at the feet of the Stadtholder, who, although thinking her guilty, felt pity for her dreadful agony.
"You have done very wrong, my child," he said, "and your lover shall be punished for having thus badly advised you. For you are so young, and have such an honest look, that I am inclined to believe the mischief to have been his doing, and not yours.""Monseigneur! Monseigneur!" cried Rosa, "Cornelius is not guilty." William started. "Not guilty of having advised you? that's what you want to say, is it not?"
"What I wish to say, your Highness, is that Cornelius is as little guilty of the second crime imputed to him as he was of the first."
"Of the first? And do you know what was his first crime? Do you know of what he was accused and convicted? Of having, as an accomplice of Cornelius de Witt, concealed the correspondence of the Grand Pensionary and the Marquis de Louvois."
"Well, sir, he was ignorant of this correspondence being deposited with him; completely ignorant. I am as certain as of my life, that, if it were not so, he would have told me; for how could that pure mind have harboured a secret without revealing it to me? No, no, your Highness, I repeat it, and even at the risk of incurring your displeasure, Cornelius is no more guilty of the first crime than of the second; and of the second no more than of the first. Oh, would to Heaven that you knew my Cornelius; Monseigneur!""He is a De Witt!" cried Boxtel. "His Highness knows only too much of him, having once granted him his life." "Silence!" said the Prince; "all these affairs of state, as I have already said, are completely out of the province of the Horticultural Society of Haarlem." Then, knitting his brow, he added, -- "As to the tulip, make yourself easy, Master Boxtel, you shall have justice done to you." Boxtel bowed with a heart full of joy, and received the congratulations of the President.
"You, my child," William of Orange continued, "you were going to commit a crime. I will not punish you; but the real evil-doer shall pay the penalty for both. A man of his name may be a conspirator, and even a traitor, but he ought not to be a thief."
"A thief!" cried Rosa. "Cornelius a thief? Pray, your Highness, do not say such a word, it would kill him, if he knew it. If theft there has been, I swear to you, Sir, no one else but this man has committed it.""Prove it," Boxtel coolly remarked. "I shall prove it. With God's help I shall." Then, turning towards Boxtel, she asked, -- "The tulip is yours?" "It is." "How many bulbs were there of it?"
Boxtel hesitated for a moment, but after a short consideration he came to the conclusion that she would not ask this question if there were none besides the two bulbs of which he had known already. He therefore answered, --
"You lie!" cried Rosa. "Monseigneur," she continued, whilst turning round to the Prince, "I will tell you the true story of these three bulbs. The first was crushed by my father in the prisoner's cell, and this man is quite aware of it, for he himself wanted to get hold of it, and, being balked in his hope, he very nearly fell out with my father, who had been the cause of his disappointment. The second bulb, planted by me, has produced the black tulip, and the third and last" -- saying this, she drew it from her bosom -- "here it is, in the very same paper in which it was wrapped up together with the two others. When about to be led to the scaffold, Cornelius van Baerle gave me all the three. Take it, Monseigneur, take it."And Rosa, unfolding the paper, offered the bulb to the Prince, who took it from her hands and examined it.
"But, Monseigneur, this young woman may have stolen the bulb, as she did the tulip," Boxtel said, with a faltering voice, and evidently alarmed at the attention with which the Prince examined the bulb; and even more at the movements of Rosa, who was reading some lines written on the paper which remained in her hands.
Her eyes suddenly lighted up; she read, with breathless anxiety, the mysterious paper over and over again; and at last, uttering a cry, held it out to the Prince and said, "Read, Monseigneur, for Heaven's sake, read!"William handed the third bulb to Van Systens, took the paper, and read.
No sooner had he looked at it than he began to stagger; his hand trembled, and very nearly let the paper fall to the ground; and the expression of pain and compassion in his features was really frightful to see.
It was that fly-leaf, taken from the Bible, which Cornelius de Witt had sent to Dort by Craeke, the servant of his brother John, to request Van Baerle to burn the correspondence of the Grand Pensionary with the Marquis de Louvois.
"Burn the parcel which I have intrusted to you. Burn it without looking at it, and without opening it, so that its contents may for ever remain unknown to yourself. Secrets of this description are death to those with whom they are deposited. Burn it, and you will have saved John and Cornelius de Witt."Farewell, and love me. Cornelius de Witt. "August 20, 1672." This slip of paper offered the proofs both of Van Baerle's innocence and of his claim to the property of the tulip. Rosa and the Stadtholder exchanged one look only. That of Rosa was meant to express, "Here, you see yourself." That of the Stadtholder signified, "Be quiet, and wait."
The Prince wiped the cold sweat from his forehead, and slowly folded up the paper, whilst his thoughts were wandering in that labyrinth without a goal and without a guide, which is called remorse and shame for the past.Soon, however, raising his head with an effort, he said, in his usual voice, -- "Go, Mr. Boxtel; justice shall be done, I promise you." Then, turning to the President, he added, -- "You, my dear Mynheer van Systens, take charge of this young woman and of the tulip. Good-bye." All bowed, and the Prince left, among the deafening cheers of the crowd outside.
Boxtel returned to his inn, rather puzzled and uneasy, tormented by misgivings about that paper which William had received from the hand of Rosa, and which his Highness had read, folded up, and so carefully put in his pocket. What was the meaning of all this?
Rosa went up to the tulip, tenderly kissed its leaves and, with a heart full of happiness and confidence in the ways of God, broke out in the words, --
28. The Hymn Of The Flowers
Whilst the events we have described in our last chapter were taking place, the unfortunate Van Baerle, forgotten in his cell in the fortress of Loewestein, suffered at the hands of Gryphus all that a prisoner can suffer when his jailer has formed the determination of playing the part of hangman.
Gryphus, not having received any tidings of Rosa or of Jacob, persuaded himself that all that had happened was the devil's work, and that Dr. Cornelius van Baerle had been sent on earth by Satan.The result of it was, that, one fine morning, the third after the disappearance of Jacob and Rosa, he went up to the cell of Cornelius in even a greater rage than usual.
The latter, leaning with his elbows on the window-sill and supporting his head with his two hands, whilst his eyes wandered over the distant hazy horizon where the windmills of Dort were turning their sails, was breathing the fresh air, in order to be able to keep down his tears and to fortify himself in his philosophy.The pigeons were still there, but hope was not there; there was no future to look forward to. Alas! Rosa, being watched, was no longer able to come. Could she not write? and if so, could she convey her letters to him?
No, no. He had seen during the two preceding days too much fury and malignity in the eyes of old Gryphus to expect that his vigilance would relax, even for one moment. Moreover, had not she to suffer even worse torments than those of seclusion and separation? Did this brutal, blaspheming, drunken bully take revenge on his daughter, like the ruthless fathers of the Greek drama? And when the Genievre had heated his brain, would it not give to his arm, which had been only too well set by Cornelius, even double force?The idea that Rosa might perhaps be ill-treated nearly drove Cornelius mad.
He then felt his own powerlessness. He asked himself whether God was just in inflicting so much tribulation on two innocent creatures. And certainly in these moments he began to doubt the wisdom of Providence. It is one of the curses of misfortune that it thus begets doubt.
Van Baerle had proposed to write to Rosa, but where was she?
He also would have wished to write to the Hague to be beforehand with Gryphus, who, he had no doubt, would by denouncing him do his best to bring new storms on his head.
He had thought of an attempt to escape, a thing which never entered his head whilst he could see Rosa every day; but the more he thought of it, the more clearly he saw the impracticability of such an attempt. He was one of those choice spirits who abhor everything that is common, and who often lose a good chance through not taking the way of the vulgar, that high road of mediocrity which leads to everything.
"How is it possible," said Cornelius to himself, "that I should escape from Loewestein, as Grotius has done the same thing before me? Has not every precaution been taken since? Are not the windows barred? Are not the doors of double and even of treble strength, and the sentinels ten times more watchful? And have not I, besides all this, an Argus so much the more dangerous as he has the keen eyes of hatred? Finally, is there not one fact which takes away all my spirit, I mean Rosa's absence? But suppose I should waste ten years of my life in making a file to file off my bars, or in braiding cords to let myself down from the window, or in sticking wings on my shoulders to fly, like Daedalus? But luck is against me now. The file would get dull, the rope would break, or my wings would melt in the sun; I should surely kill myself, I should be picked up maimed and crippled; I should be labelled, and put on exhibition in the museum at the Hague between the blood-stained doublet of William the Taciturn and the female walrus captured at Stavesen, and the only result of my enterprise will have been to procure me a place among the curiosities of Holland.
"But no; and it is much better so. Some fine day Gryphus will commit some atrocity. I am losing my patience, since I have lost the joy and company of Rosa, and especially since I have lost my tulip. Undoubtedly, some day or other Gryphus will attack me in a manner painful to my self-respect, or to my love, or even threaten my personal safety. I don't know how it is, but since my imprisonment I feel a strange and almost irresistible pugnacity. Well, I shall get at the throat of that old villain, and strangle him."
Cornelius at these words stopped for a moment, biting his lips and staring out before him; then, eagerly returning to an idea which seemed to possess a strange fascination for him, he continued, --
"Well, and once having strangled him, why should I not take his keys from him, why not go down the stairs as if I had done the most virtuous action, why not go and fetch Rosa from her room, why not tell her all, and jump from her window into the Waal? I am expert enough as a swimmer to save both of us. Rosa, -- but, oh Heaven, Gryphus is her father! Whatever may be her affection for me, she will never approve of my having strangled her father, brutal and malicious as he has been.
"I shall have to enter into an argument with her; and in the midst of my speech some wretched turnkey who has found Gryphus with the death-rattle in his throat, or perhaps actually dead, will come along and put his hand on my shoulder. Then I shall see the Buytenhof again, and the gleam of that infernal sword, -- which will not stop half-way a second time, but will make acquaintance with the nape of my neck."It will not do, Cornelius, my fine fellow, -- it is a bad plan. But, then, what is to become of me, and how shall I find Rosa again?" Such were the cogitations of Cornelius three days after the sad scene of separation from Rosa, at the moment when we find him standing at the window. And at that very moment Gryphus entered.
He held in his hand a huge stick, his eyes glistening with spiteful thoughts, a malignant smile played round his lips, and the whole of his carriage, and even all his movements, betokened bad and malicious intentions.Cornelius heard him enter, and guessed that it was he, but did not turn round, as he knew well that Rosa was not coming after him. There is nothing more galling to angry people than the coolness of those on whom they wish to vent their spleen. The expense being once incurred, one does not like to lose it; one's passion is roused, and one's blood boiling, so it would be labour lost not to have at least a nice little row. Gryphus, therefore, on seeing that Cornelius did not stir, tried to attract his attention by a loud -- "Umph, umph!" Cornelius was humming between his teeth the "Hymn of Flowers," -- a sad but very charming song, --
"We are the daughters of the secret fire Of the fire which runs through the veins of the earth; We are the daughters of Aurora and of the dew; We are the daughters of the air; We are the daughters of the water; But we are, above all, the daughters of heaven."This song, the placid melancholy of which was still heightened by its calm and sweet melody, exasperated Gryphus. He struck his stick on the stone pavement of the cell, and called out, -- "Halloa! my warbling gentleman, don't you hear me?" Cornelius turned round, merely saying, "Good morning," and then began his song again: --
"Men defile us and kill us while loving us, We hang to the earth by a thread; This thread is our root, that is to say, our life, But we raise on high our arms towards heaven.""Ah, you accursed sorcerer! you are making game of me, I believe," roared Gryphus. Cornelius continued: --
"For heaven is our home, Our true home, as from thence comes our soul, As thither our soul returns, -- Our soul, that is to say, our perfume."Gryphus went up to the prisoner and said, -- "But you don't see that I have taken means to get you under, and to force you to confess your crimes." "Are you mad, my dear Master Gryphus?" asked Cornelius. And, as he now for the first time observed the frenzied features, the flashing eyes, and foaming mouth of the old jailer, he said, -- "Bless the man, he is more than mad, he is furious." Gryphus flourished his stick above his head, but Van Baerle moved not, and remained standing with his arms akimbo. "It seems your intention to threaten me, Master Gryphus." "Yes, indeed, I threaten you," cried the jailer. "And with what?" "First of all, look at what I have in my hand." "I think that's a stick," said Cornelius calmly, "but I don't suppose you will threaten me with that." "Oh, you don't suppose! why not?" "Because any jailer who strikes a prisoner is liable to two penalties, -- the first laid down in Article 9 of the regulations at Loewestein: -- "'Any jailer, inspector, or turnkey who lays hands upon any prisoner of State will be dismissed.'" "Yes, who lays hands," said Gryphus, mad with rage, "but there is not a word about a stick in the regulation." "And the second," continued Cornelius, "which is not written in the regulation, but which is to be found elsewhere: -- "'Whosoever takes up the stick will be thrashed by the stick.'"
Gryphus, growing more and more exasperated by the calm and sententious tone of Cornelius, brandished his cudgel, but at the moment when he raised it Cornelius rushed at him, snatched it from his hands, and put it under his own arm.Gryphus fairly bellowed with rage. "Hush, hush, my good man," said Cornelius, "don't do anything to lose your place." "Ah, you sorcerer! I'll pinch you worse," roared Gryphus. "I wish you may." "Don't you see my hand is empty?" "Yes, I see it, and I am glad of it." "You know that it is not generally so when I come upstairs in the morning."
"It's true, you generally bring me the worst soup, and the most miserable rations one can imagine. But that's not a punishment to me; I eat only bread, and the worse the bread is to your taste, the better it is to mine.""How so?" "Oh, it's a very simple thing." "Well, tell it me," said Gryphus. "Very willingly. I know that in giving me bad bread you think you do me harm." "Certainly; I don't give it you to please you, you brigand."
"Well, then, I, who am a sorcerer, as you know, change your bad into excellent bread, which I relish more than the best cake; and then I have the double pleasure of eating something that gratifies my palate, and of doing something that puts you in a rage.Gryphus answered with a growl. "Oh! you confess, then, that you are a sorcerer." "Indeed, I am one. I don't say it before all the world, because they might burn me for it, but as we are alone, I don't mind telling you." "Well, well, well," answered Gryphus. "But if a sorcerer can change black bread into white, won't he die of hunger if he has no bread at all?" "What's that?" said Cornelius. "Consequently, I shall not bring you any bread at all, and we shall see how it will be after eight days." Cornelius grew pale.
"And," continued Gryphus, "we'll begin this very day. As you are such a clever sorcerer, why, you had better change the furniture of your room into bread; as to myself, I shall pocket the eighteen sous which are paid to me for your board.""But that's murder," cried Cornelius, carried away by the first impulse of the very natural terror with which this horrible mode of death inspired him. "Well," Gryphus went on, in his jeering way, "as you are a sorcerer, you will live, notwithstanding." Cornelius put on a smiling face again, and said, -- "Have you not seen me make the pigeons come here from Dort?" "Well?" said Gryphus. "Well, a pigeon is a very dainty morsel, and a man who eats one every day would not starve, I think."
"And how about the fire?" said Gryphus. "Fire! but you know that I'm in league with the devil. Do you think the devil will leave me without fire? Why, fire is his proper element.""A man, however healthy his appetite may be, would not eat a pigeon every day. Wagers have been laid to do so, and those who made them gave them up." "Well, but when I am tired of pigeons, I shall make the fish of the Waal and of the Meuse come up to me." Gryphus opened his large eyes, quite bewildered. "I am rather fond of fish," continued Cornelius; "you never let me have any. Well, I shall turn your starving me to advantage, and regale myself with fish." Gryphus nearly fainted with anger and with fright, but he soon rallied, and said, putting his hand in his pocket, -- "Well, as you force me to it," and with these words he drew forth a clasp-knife and opened it. "Halloa! a knife?" said Cornelius, preparing to defend himself with his stick.
29. Before Leaving LoewesteinIn Which Van Baerle, Before Leaving Loewestein, Settles Accounts With Gryphus. The two remained silent for some minutes, Gryphus on the offensive, and Van Baerle on the defensive.
Then, as the situation might be prolonged to an indefinite length, Cornelius, anxious to know something more of the causes which had so fiercely exasperated his jailer, spoke first by putting the question, --"Well, what do you want, after all?" "I'll tell you what I want," answered Gryphus; "I want you to restore to me my daughter Rosa." "Your daughter?" cried Van Baerle. "Yes, my daughter Rosa, whom you have taken from me by your devilish magic. Now, will you tell me where she is?" And the attitude of Gryphus became more and more threatening. "Rosa is not at Loewestein?" cried Cornelius. "You know well she is not. Once more, will you restore her to me?" "I see," said Cornelius, "this is a trap you are laying for me." "Now, for the last time, will you tell me where my daughter is?" "Guess it, you rogue, if you don't know it." "Only wait, only wait," growled Gryphus, white with rage, and with quivering lips, as his brain began to turn. "Ah, you will not tell me anything? Well, I'll unlock your teeth!" He advanced a step towards Cornelius, and said, showing him the weapon which he held in his hands, -- "Do you see this knife? Well, I have killed more than fifty black cocks with it, and I vow I'll kill their master, the devil, as well as them." "But, you blockhead," said Cornelius, "will you really kill me?" "I shall open your heart to see in it the place where you hide my daughter."
Saying this, Gryphus in his frenzy rushed towards Cornelius, who had barely time to retreat behind his table to avoid the first thrust; but as Gryphus continued, with horrid threats, to brandish his huge knife, and as, although out of the reach of his weapon, yet, as long as it remained in the madman's hand, the ruffian might fling it at him, Cornelius lost no time, and availing himself of the stick, which he held tight under his arm, dealt the jailer a vigorous blow on the wrist of that hand which held the knife.The knife fell to the ground, and Cornelius put his foot on it.
Then, as Gryphus seemed bent upon engaging in a struggle which the pain in his wrist, and shame for having allowed himself to be disarmed, would have made desperate, Cornelius took a decisive step, belaboring his jailer with the most heroic selfpossession, and selecting the exact spot for every blow of the terrible cudgel.
It was not long before Gryphus begged for mercy. But before begging for mercy, he had lustily roared for help, and his cries had roused all the functionaries of the prison. Two turnkeys, an inspector, and three or four guards, made their appearance all at once, and found Cornelius still using the stick, with the knife under his foot.At the sight of these witnesses, who could not know all the circumstances which had provoked and might justify his offence, Cornelius felt that he was irretrievably lost. In fact, appearances were sadly against him.
In one moment Cornelius was disarmed, and Gryphus raised and supported; and, bellowing with rage and pain, he was able to count on his back and shoulders the bruises which were beginning to swell like the hills dotting the slopes of a mountain ridge.
A protocol of the violence practiced by the prisoner against his jailer was immediately drawn up, and as it was made on the depositions of Gryphus, it certainly could not be said to be too tame; the prisoner being charged with neither more nor less than with an attempt to murder, for a long time premeditated, with open rebellion.
Whilst the charge was made out against Cornelius, Gryphus, whose presence was no longer necessary after having made his depositions, was taken down by his turnkeys to his lodge, groaning and covered with bruises.
During this time, the guards who had seized Cornelius busied themselves in charitably informing their prisoner of the usages and customs of Loewestein, which however he knew as well as they did. The regulations had been read to him at the moment of his entering the prison, and certain articles in them remained fixed in his memory. Among other things they told him that this regulation had been carried out to its full extent in the case of a prisoner named Mathias, who in 1668, that is to say, five years before, had committed a much less violent act of rebellion than that of which Cornelius was guilty. He had found his soup too hot, and thrown it at the head of the chief turnkey, who in consequence of this ablution had been put to the inconvenience of having his skin come off as he wiped his face.
Mathias was taken within twelve hours from his cell, then led to the jailer's lodge, where he was registered as leaving Loewestein, then taken to the Esplanade, from which there is a very fine prospect over a wide expanse of country. There they fettered his hands, bandaged his eyes, and let him say his prayers.
Hereupon he was invited to go down on his knees, and the guards of Loewestein, twelve in number, at a sign from a sergeant, very cleverly lodged a musket-ball each in his body.In consequence of this proceeding, Mathias incontinently did then and there die. Cornelius listened with the greatest attention to this delightful recital, and then said, -- "Ah! ah! within twelve hours, you say?" "Yes, the twelfth hour had not even struck, if I remember right," said the guard who had told him the story. "Thank you," said Cornelius.
The guard still had the smile on his face with which he accompanied and as it were accentuated his tale, when footsteps and a jingling of spurs were heard ascending the stair-case.The guards fell back to allow an officer to pass, who entered the cell of Cornelius at the moment when the clerk of Loewestein was still making out his report. "Is this No. 11?" he asked. "Yes, Captain," answered a non-commissioned officer. "Then this is the cell of the prisoner Cornelius van Baerle?" "Exactly, Captain." "Where is the prisoner?"
"Here I am, sir," answered Cornelius, growing rather pale, notwithstanding all his courage.
"You are Dr. Cornelius van Baerle?" asked he, this time addressing the prisoner himself.
"Oh! oh!" said Cornelius, whose heart felt oppressed by the first dread of death. "What quick work they make here in the fortress of Loewestein. And the rascal talked to me of twelve hours!""Ah! what did I tell you?" whispered the communicative guard in the ear of the culprit. "A lie." "How so?" "You promised me twelve hours."
"Ah, yes, but here comes to you an aide-de-camp of his Highness, even one of his most intimate companions Van Deken. Zounds! they did not grant such an honour to poor Mathias."
"Come, come!" said Cornelius, drawing a long breath. "Come, I'll show to these people that an honest burgher, godson of Cornelius de Witt, can without flinching receive as many musket-balls as that Mathias."Saying this, he passed proudly before the clerk, who, being interrupted in his work, ventured to say to the officer, -- "But, Captain van Deken, the protocol is not yet finished." "It is not worth while finishing it," answered the officer. "All right," replied the clerk, philosophically putting up his paper and pen into a greasy and well-worn writing-case.
"It was written," thought poor Cornelius, "that I should not in this world give my name either to a child to a flower, or to a book, -- the three things by which a man's memory is perpetuated."
Repressing his melancholy thoughts, he followed the officer with a resolute heart, and carrying his head erect.
Cornelius counted the steps which led to the Esplanade, regretting that he had not asked the guard how many there were of them, which the man, in his official complaisance, would not have failed to tell him.
What the poor prisoner was most afraid of during this walk, which he considered as leading him to the end of the journey of life, was to see Gryphus and not to see Rosa. What savage satisfaction would glisten in the eyes of the father, and what sorrow dim those of the daughter!
How Gryphus would glory in his punishment! Punishment? Rather savage vengeance for an eminently righteous deed, which Cornelius had the satisfaction of having performed as a bounden duty.But Rosa, poor girl! must he die without a glimpse of her, without an opportunity to give her one last kiss, or even to say one last word of farewell? And, worst of all, must he die without any intelligence of the black tulip, and regain his consciousness in heaven with no idea in what direction he should look to find it?
In truth, to restrain his tears at such a crisis the poor wretch's heart must have been encased in more of the aes triplex -- "the triple brass" -- than Horace bestows upon the sailor who first visited the terrifying Acroceraunian shoals.In vain did Cornelius look to the right and to the left; he saw no sign either of Rosa or Gryphus.
On reaching the Esplanade, he bravely looked about for the guards who were to be his executioners, and in reality saw a dozen soldiers assembled. But they were not standing in line, or carrying muskets, but talking together so gayly that Cornelius felt almost shocked.
All at once, Gryphus, limping, staggering, and supporting himself on a crooked stick, came forth from the jailer's lodge; his old eyes, gray as those of a cat, were lit up by a gleam in which all his hatred was concentrated. He then began to pour forth such a torrent of disgusting imprecations against Cornelius, that the latter, addressing the officer, said, -"I do not think it very becoming sir, that I should be thus insulted by this man, especially at a moment like this." "Well! hear me," said the officer, laughing, "it is quite natural that this worthy fellow should bear you a grudge, -- you seem to have given it him very soundly."
"But, sir, it was only in self-defence."
"Never mind," said the Captain, shrugging his shoulders like a true philosopher, "let him talk; what does it matter to you now?"
The cold sweat stood on the brow of Cornelius at this answer, which he looked upon somewhat in the light of brutal irony, especially as coming from an officer of whom he had heard it said that he was attached to the person of the Prince.The unfortunate tulip-fancier then felt that he had no more resources, and no more friends, and resigned himself to his fate. "God's will be done," he muttered, bowing his head; then, turning towards the officer, who seemed complacently to wait until he had finished his meditations he asked, -- "Please, sir, tell me now, where am I to go?"
The officer pointed to a carriage, drawn by four horses, which reminded him very strongly of that which, under similar circumstances, had before attracted his attention at Buytenhof."Enter," said the officer. "Ah!" muttered Cornelius to himself, "it seems they are not going to treat me to the honours of the Esplanade." He uttered these words loud enough for the chatty guard, who was at his heels, to overhear him.
That kind soul very likely thought it his duty to give Cornelius some new information; for, approaching the door of the carriage, whilst the officer, with one foot on the step, was still giving some orders, he whispered to Van Baerle, --
"Condemned prisoners have sometimes been taken to their own town to be made an example of, and have then been executed before the door of their own house. It's all according to circumstances."Cornelius thanked him by signs, and then said to himself, -- "Well, here is a fellow who never misses giving consolation whenever an opportunity presents itself. In truth, my friend, I'm very much obliged to you. Goodbye." The carriage drove away.
"Ah! you villain, you brigand," roared Gryphus, clinching his fists at the victim who was escaping from his clutches, "is it not a shame that this fellow gets off without having restored my daughter to me?"
"If they take me to Dort," thought Cornelius, "I shall see, in passing my house, whether my poor borders have been much spoiled."
30. To GuessWherein The Reader Begins To Guess The Kind Of Execution That Was Awaiting Van Baerle
The carriage rolled on during the whole day; it passed on the right of Dort, went through Rotterdam, and reached Delft. At five o'clock in the evening, at least twenty leagues had been travelled.
Cornelius addressed some questions to the officer, who was at the same time his guard and his companion; but, cautious as were his inquiries, he had the disappointment of receiving no answer.Cornelius regretted that he had no longer by his side the chatty soldier, who would talk without being questioned.
That obliging person would undoubtedly have given him as pleasant details and exact explanations concerning this third strange part of his adventures as he had done concerning the first two.
The travellers passed the night in the carriage. On the following morning at dawn Cornelius found himself beyond Leyden, having the North Sea on his left, and the Zuyder Zee on his right.Three hours after, he entered Haarlem. Cornelius was not aware of what had passed at Haarlem, and we shall leave him in ignorance of it until the course of events enlightens him. But the reader has a right to know all about it even before our hero, and therefore we shall not make him wait. We have seen that Rosa and the tulip, like two orphan sisters, had been left by Prince William of Orange at the house of the President van Systens. Rosa did not hear again from the Stadtholder until the evening of that day on which she had seen him face to face. Toward evening, an officer called at Van Systen's house. He came from his Highness, with a request for Rosa to appear at the Town Hall.
There, in the large Council Room into which she was ushered, she found the Prince writing.
He was alone, with a large Frisian greyhound at his feet, which looked at him with a steady glance, as if the faithful animal were wishing to do what no man could do, -- read the thoughts of his master in his face.
She raised her moist and beautiful eyes, and looked at William with a glance full of meaning, which was calculated to stir up in the recesses of his heart the clemency which was slumbering there."Ah, I understand you," he said. Rosa, with a smile, clasped her hands. "You hope in me?" said the Prince. "Yes, Monseigneur." "Umph!" The Prince sealed the letter which he had just written, and summoned one of his officers, to whom he said, -- "Captain van Deken, carry this despatch to Loewestein; you will read the orders which I give to the Governor, and execute them as far as they regard you." The officer bowed, and a few minutes afterwards the gallop of a horse was heard resounding in the vaulted archway.
"My child," continued the Prince, "the feast of the tulip will be on Sunday next, that is to say, the day after to-morrow. Make yourself smart with these five hundred guilders, as I wish that day to be a great day for you.""How does your Highness wish me to be dressed?" faltered Rosa. "Take the costume of a Frisian bride." said William; "it will suit you very well indeed."
Haarlem, whither, three days ago, we conducted our gentle reader, and whither we request him to follow us once more in the footsteps of the prisoner, is a pleasant city, which justly prides itself on being one of the most shady in all the Netherlands.
While other towns boast of the magnificence of their arsenals and dock-yards, and the splendour of their shops and markets, Haarlem's claims to fame rest upon her superiority to all other provincial cities in the number and beauty of her spreading elms, graceful poplars, and, more than all, upon her pleasant walks, shaded by the lovely arches of magnificent oaks, lindens, and chestnuts.
Haarlem, -- just as her neighbour, Leyden, became the centre of science, and her queen, Amsterdam, that of commerce, -- Haarlem preferred to be the agricultural, or, more strictly speaking, the horticultural metropolis.
In fact, girt about as she was, breezy and exposed to the sun's hot rays, she seemed to offer to gardeners so many more guarantees of success than other places, with their heavy sea air, and their scorching heat.
On this account all the serene souls who loved the earth and its fruits had gradually gathered together at Haarlem, just as all the nervous, uneasy spirits, whose ambition was for travel and commerce, had settled in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, and all the politicians and selfish worldlings at the Hague.
We have observed that Leyden overflowed with scholars. In like manner Haarlem was devoted to the gentle pursuits of peace, -- to music and painting, orchards and avenues, groves and parks. Haarlem went wild about flowers, and tulips received their full share of worship.
Haarlem offered prizes for tulip-growing; and this fact brings us in the most natural manner to that celebration which the city intended to hold on May 15th, 1673 in honour of the great black tulip, immaculate and perfect, which should gain for its discoverer one hundred thousand guilders!
Haarlem, having placed on exhibition its favourite, having advertised its love of flowers in general and of tulips in particular, at a period when the souls of men were filled with war and sedition, -- Haarlem, having enjoyed the exquisite pleasure of admiring the very purest ideal of tulips in full bloom, -- Haarlem, this tiny town, full of trees and of sunshine, of light and shade, had determined that the ceremony of bestowing the prize should be a fete which should live for ever in the memory of men.
So much the more reason was there, too, in her determination, in that Holland is the home of fetes; never did sluggish natures manifest more eager energy of the singing and dancing sort than those of the good republicans of the Seven Provinces when amusement was the order of the day.
In the first place, the black tulip had been produced; secondly, the Prince William of Orange, as a true Hollander, had promised to be present at the ceremony of its inauguration; and, thirdly, it was a point of honour with the States to show to the French, at the conclusion of such a disastrous war as that of 1672, that the flooring of the Batavian Republic was solid enough for its people to dance on it, with the accompaniment of the cannon of their fleets.
The Horticultural Society of Haarlem had shown itself worthy of its fame by giving a hundred thousand guilders for the bulb of a tulip. The town, which did not wish to be outdone, voted a like sum, which was placed in the hands of that notable body to solemnise the auspicious event.
And indeed on the Sunday fixed for this ceremony there was such a stir among the people, and such an enthusiasm among the townsfolk, that even a Frenchman, who laughs at everything at all times, could not have helped admiring the character of those honest Hollanders, who were equally ready to spend their money for the construction of a man-of-war -- that is to say, for the support of national honour -- as they were to reward the growth of a new flower, destined to bloom for one day, and to serve during that day to divert the ladies, the learned, and the curious.At the head of the notables and of the Horticultural Committee shone Mynheer van Systens, dressed in his richest habiliments.
The worthy man had done his best to imitate his favourite flower in the sombre and stern elegance of his garments; and we are bound to record, to his honour, that he had perfectly succeeded in his object.
Dark crimson velvet, dark purple silk, and jet-black cloth, with linen of dazzling whiteness, composed the festive dress of the President, who marched at the head of his Committee carrying an enormous nosegay, like that which a hundred and twenty-one years later, Monsieur de Robespierre displayed at the festival of "The Supreme Being." There was, however, a little difference between the two; very different from the French tribune, whose heart was so full of hatred and ambitious vindictiveness, was the honest President, who carried in his bosom a heart as innocent as the flowers which he held in his hand.
Behind the Committee, who were as gay as a meadow, and as fragrant as a garden in spring, marched the learned societies of the town, the magistrates, the military, the nobles and the boors.The people, even among the respected republicans of the Seven Provinces, had no place assigned to them in the procession; they merely lined the streets.
This is the place for the multitude, which with true philosophic spirit, waits until the triumphal pageants have passed, to know what to say of them, and sometimes also to know what to do.
This time, however, there was no question either of the triumph of Pompey or of Caesar; neither of the defeat of Mithridates, nor of the conquest of Gaul. The procession was as placid as the passing of a flock of lambs, and as inoffensive as a flight of birds sweeping through the air.Haarlem had no other triumphers, except its gardeners. Worshipping flowers, Haarlem idolised the florist. In the centre of this pacific and fragrant cortege the black tulip was seen, carried on a litter, which was covered with white velvet and fringed with gold.
The handles of the litter were supported by four men, who were from time to time relieved by fresh relays, -- even as the bearers of Mother Cybele used to take turn and turn about at Rome in the ancient days, when she was brought from Etruria to the Eternal City, amid the blare of trumpets and the worship of a whole nation.
This public exhibition of the tulip was an act of adoration rendered by an entire nation, unlettered and unrefined, to the refinement and culture of its illustrious and devout leaders, whose blood had stained the foul pavement of the Buytenhof, reserving the right at a future day to inscribe the names of its victims upon the highest stone of the Dutch Pantheon.
It was arranged that the Prince Stadtholder himself should give the prize of a hundred thousand guilders, which interested the people at large, and it was thought that perhaps he would make a speech which interested more particularly his friends and enemies. For in the most insignificant words of men of political importance their friends and their opponents always endeavour to detect, and hence think they can interpret, something of their true thoughts.As if your true politician's hat were not a bushel under which he always hides his light!
At length the great and long-expected day -- May 15, 1673 -- arrived; and all Haarlem, swelled by her neighbours, was gathered in the beautiful tree-lined streets, determined on this occasion not to waste its applause upon military heroes, or those who had won notable victories in the field of science, but to reserve their applause for those who had overcome Nature, and had forced the inexhaustible mother to be delivered of what had theretofore been regarded as impossible, -- a completely black tulip.
Nothing however, is more fickle than such a resolution of the people. When a crowd is once in the humour to cheer, it is just the same as when it begins to hiss. It never knows when to stop.
It therefore, in the first place, cheered Van Systens and his nosegay, then the corporation, then followed a cheer for the people; and, at last, and for once with great justice, there was one for the excellent music with which the gentlemen of the town councils generously treated the assemblage at every halt.Every eye was looking eagerly for the heroine of the festival, -- that is to say, the black tulip, -- and for its hero in the person of the one who had grown it.
In case this hero should make his appearance after the address we have seen worthy Van Systens at work on so conscientiously, he would not fail to make as much of a sensation as the Stadtholder himself.
But the interest of the day's proceedings for us is centred neither in the learned discourse of our friend Van Systens, however eloquent it might be, nor in the young dandies, resplendent in their Sunday clothes, and munching their heavy cakes; nor in the poor young peasants, gnawing smoked eels as if they were sticks of vanilla sweetmeat; neither is our interest in the lovely Dutch girls, with red cheeks and ivory bosoms; nor in the fat, round mynheers, who had never left their homes before; nor in the sallow, thin travellers from Ceylon or Java; nor in the thirsty crowds, who quenched their thirst with pickled cucumbers; -- no, so far as we are concerned, the real interest of the situation, the fascinating, dramatic interest, is not to be found here.
Our interest is in a smiling, sparkling face to be seen amid the members of the Horticultural Committee; in the person with a flower in his belt, combed and brushed, and all clad in scarlet, -- a colour which makes his black hair and yellow skin stand out in violent contrast.
This hero, radiant with rapturous joy, who had the distinguished honour of making the people forget the speech of Van Systens, and even the presence of the Stadtholder, was Isaac Boxtel, who saw, carried on his right before him, the black tulip, his pretended daughter; and on his left, in a large purse, the hundred thousand guilders in glittering gold pieces, towards which he was constantly squinting, fearful of losing sight of them for one moment.
Now and then Boxtel quickened his step to rub elbows for a moment with Van Systens. He borrowed a little importance from everybody to make a kind of false importance for himself, as he had stolen Rosa's tulip to effect his own glory, and thereby make his fortune.
Another quarter of an hour and the Prince will arrive and the procession will halt for the last time; after the tulip is placed on its throne, the Prince, yielding precedence to this rival for the popular adoration, will take a magnificently emblazoned parchment, on which is written the name of the grower; and his Highness, in a loud and audible tone, will proclaim him to be the discoverer of a wonder; that Holland, by the instrumentality of him, Boxtel, has forced Nature to produce a black flower, which shall henceforth be called Tulipa nigra Boxtellea.
From time to time, however, Boxtel withdrew his eyes for a moment from the tulip and the purse, timidly looking among the crowd, for more than anything he dreaded to descry there the pale face of the pretty Frisian girl.She would have been a spectre spoiling the joy of the festival for him, just as Banquo's ghost did that of Macbeth.
And yet, if the truth must be told, this wretch, who had stolen what was the boast of man, and the dowry of a woman, did not consider himself as a thief. He had so intently watched this tulip, followed it so eagerly from the drawer in Cornelius's dry-room to the scaffold of the Buytenhof, and from the scaffold to the fortress of Loewestein; he had seen it bud and grow in Rosa's window, and so often warmed the air round it with his breath, that he felt as if no one had a better right to call himself its producer than he had; and any one who would now take the black tulip from him would have appeared to him as a thief.Yet he did not perceive Rosa; his joy therefore was not spoiled.
In the centre of a circle of magnificent trees, which were decorated with garlands and inscriptions, the procession halted, amidst the sounds of lively music, and the young damsels of Haarlem made their appearance to escort the tulip to the raised seat which it was to occupy on the platform, by the side of the gilded chair of his Highness the Stadtholder.
And the proud tulip, raised on its pedestal, soon overlooked the assembled crowd of people, who clapped their hands, and made the old town of Haarlem re-echo with their tremendous cheers.
32. A Last Request
At this solemn moment, and whilst the cheers still resounded, a carriage was driving along the road on the outskirts of the green on which the scene occurred; it pursued its way slowly, on account of the flocks of children who were pushed out of the avenue by the crowd of men and women.
This carriage, covered with dust, and creaking on its axles, the result of a long journey, enclosed the unfortunate Van Baerle, who was just beginning to get a glimpse through the open window of the scene which we have tried -- with poor success, no doubt -- to present to the eyes of the reader.The crowd and the noise and the display of artificial and natural magnificence were as dazzling to the prisoner as a ray of light flashing suddenly into his dungeon.
Notwithstanding the little readiness which his companion had shown in answering his questions concerning his fate, he ventured once more to ask the meaning of all this bustle, which at first sight seemed to be utterly disconnected with his own affairs."What is all this, pray, Mynheer Lieutenant?" he asked of his conductor. "As you may see, sir," replied the officer, "it is a feast." "Ah, a feast," said Cornelius, in the sad tone of indifference of a man to whom no joy remains in this world. Then, after some moments, silence, during which the carriage had proceeded a few yards, he asked once more, -- "The feast of the patron saint of Haarlem? as I see so many flowers." "It is, indeed, a feast in which flowers play a principal part." "Oh, the sweet scents! oh, the beautiful colours!" cried Cornelius. "Stop, that the gentleman may see," said the officer, with that frank kindliness which is peculiar to military men, to the soldier who was acting as postilion.
"Oh, thank you, Sir, for your kindness," replied Van Baerle, in a melancholy tone; "the joy of others pains me; please spare me this pang."
"Just as you wish. Drive on! I ordered the driver to stop because I thought it would please you, as you are said to love flowers, and especially that the feast of which is celebrated to-day."
"Alas! sir," he said, "all these good people will be as unfortunate as myself, for they will not see the solemnity which they have come to witness, or at least they will see it incompletely.""What is it you mean to say?" "I mean to say." replied Cornelius, throwing himself back in the carriage, "that the black tulip will not be found, except by one whom I know."
"In this case," said the officer, "the person whom you know has found it, for the thing which the whole of Haarlem is looking at at this moment is neither more nor less than the black tulip.""The black tulip!" replied Van Baerle, thrusting half his body out of the carriage window. "Where is it? where is it?" "Down there on the throne, -- don't you see?" "I do see it." "Come along, sir," said the officer. "Now we must drive off."
"Oh, have pity, have mercy, sir!" said Van Baerle, "don't take me away! Let me look once more! Is what I see down there the black tulip? Quite black? Is it possible? Oh, sir, have you seen it? It must have specks, it must be imperfect, it must only be dyed black. Ah! if I were there, I should see it at once. Let me alight, let me see it close, I beg of you.""Are you mad, Sir? How could I allow such a thing?" "I implore you." "But you forget that you are a prisoner." "It is true I am a prisoner, but I am a man of honour, and I promise you on my word that I will not run away, I will not attempt to escape, -- only let me see the flower." "But my orders, Sir, my orders." And the officer again made the driver a sign to proceed. Cornelius stopped him once more.
"Oh, be forbearing, be generous! my whole life depends upon your pity. Alas! perhaps it will not be much longer. You don't know, sir, what I suffer. You don't know the struggle going on in my heart and mind. For after all," Cornelius cried in despair, "if this were my tulip, if it were the one which has been stolen from Rosa! Oh, I must alight, sir! I must see the flower! You may kill me afterwards if you like, but I will see it, I must see it."
"Be quiet, unfortunate man, and come quickly back into the carriage, for here is the escort of his Highness the Stadtholder, and if the Prince observed any disturbance, or heard any noise, it would be ruin to me, as well as to you."
Van Baerle, more afraid for his companion than himself, threw himself back into the carriage, but he could only keep quiet for half a minute, and the first twenty horsemen had scarcely passed when he again leaned out of the carriage window, gesticulating imploringly towards the Stadtholder at the very moment when he passed.
William, impassible and quiet as usual, was proceeding to the green to fulfil his duty as chairman. He held in his hand the roll of parchment, which, on this festive day, had become his baton.Seeing the man gesticulate with imploring mien, and perhaps also recognising the officer who accompanied him, his Highness ordered his carriage to stop. In an instant his snorting steeds stood still, at a distance of about six yards from the carriage in which Van Baerle was caged.
"What is this?" the Prince asked the officer, who at the first order of the Stadtholder had jumped out of the carriage, and was respectfully approaching him.
"Monseigneur," he cried, "this is the prisoner of state whom I have fetched from Loewestein, and whom I have brought to Haarlem according to your Highness's command."
"To see the black tulip, Monseigneur," said Van Baerle, clasping his hands, "and when I have seen it, when I have seen what I desire to know, I am quite ready to die, if die I must; but in dying I shall bless your Highness's mercy for having allowed me to witness the glorification of my work."
It was, indeed, a curious spectacle to see these two men at the windows of their several carriages; the one surrounded by his guards, and all powerful, the other a prisoner and miserable; the one going to mount a throne, the other believing himself to be on his way to the scaffold.William, looking with his cold glance on Cornelius, listened to his anxious and urgent request. Then addressing himself to the officer, he said, -- "Is this person the mutinous prisoner who has attempted to kill his jailer at Loewestein?"
Cornelius heaved a sigh and hung his head. His good-tempered honest face turned pale and red at the same instant. These words of the all-powerful Prince, who by some secret messenger unavailable to other mortals had already been apprised of his crime, seemed to him to forebode not only his doom, but also the refusal of his last request.
He did not try to make a struggle, or to defend himself; and he presented to the Prince the affecting spectacle of despairing innocence, like that of a child, -- a spectacle which was fully understood and felt by the great mind and the great heart of him who observed it."Allow the prisoner to alight, and let him see the black tulip; it is well worth being seen once."
"Thank you, Monseigneur, thank you," said Cornelius, nearly swooning with joy, and staggering on the steps of his carriage; had not the officer supported him, our poor friend would have made his thanks to his Highness prostrate on his knees with his forehead in the dust.After having granted this permission, the Prince proceeded on his way over the green amidst the most enthusiastic acclamations. He soon arrived at the platform, and the thunder of cannon shook the air.
Van Baerle, led by four guards, who pushed their way through the crowd, sidled up to the black tulip, towards which his gaze was attracted with increasing interest the nearer he approached to it.
He saw it at last, that unique flower, which he was to see once and no more. He saw it at the distance of six paces, and was delighted with its perfection and gracefulness; he saw it surrounded by young and beautiful girls, who formed, as it were, a guard of honour for this queen of excellence and purity. And yet, the more he ascertained with his own eyes the perfection of the flower, the more wretched and miserable he felt. He looked all around for some one to whom he might address only one question, but his eyes everywhere met strange faces, and the attention of all was directed towards the chair of state, on which the Stadtholder had seated himself.
William rose, casting a tranquil glance over the enthusiastic crowd, and his keen eyes rested by turns on the three extremities of a triangle formed opposite to him by three persons of very different interests and feelings.At one of the angles, Boxtel, trembling with impatience, and quite absorbed in watching the Prince, the guilders, the black tulip, and the crowd. At the other, Cornelius, panting for breath, silent, and his attention, his eyes, his life, his heart, his love, quite concentrated on the black tulip.
And thirdly, standing on a raised step among the maidens of Haarlem, a beautiful Frisian girl, dressed in fine scarlet woollen cloth, embroidered with silver, and covered with a lace veil, which fell in rich folds from her head-dress of gold brocade; in one word, Rosa, who, faint and with swimming eyes, was leaning on the arm of one of the officers of William.
The Prince then slowly unfolded the parchment, and said, with a calm clear voice, which, although low, made itself perfectly heard amidst the respectful silence, which all at once arrested the breath of fifty thousand spectators. --"You know what has brought us here? "A prize of one hundred thousand guilders has been promised to whosoever should grow the black tulip. "The black tulip has been grown; here it is before your eyes, coming up to all the conditions required by the programme of the Horticultural Society of Haarlem. "The history of its production, and the name of its grower, will be inscribed in the book of honour of the city. "Let the person approach to whom the black tulip belongs." In pronouncing these words, the Prince, to judge of the effect they produced, surveyed with his eagle eye the three extremities of the triangle. He saw Boxtel rushing forward. He saw Cornelius make an involuntary movement; and lastly he saw the officer who was taking care of Rosa lead, or rather push her forward towards him. At the sight of Rosa, a double cry arose on the right and left of the Prince. Boxtel, thunderstruck, and Cornelius, in joyful amazement, both exclaimed, -- "Rosa! Rosa!" "This tulip is yours, is it not, my child?" said the Prince. "Yes, Monseigneur," stammered Rosa, whose striking beauty excited a general murmur of applause.
"Oh!" muttered Cornelius, "she has then belied me, when she said this flower was stolen from her. Oh! that's why she left Loewestein. Alas! am I then forgotten, betrayed by her whom I thought my best friend on earth?""Oh!" sighed Boxtel, "I am lost."
"This tulip," continued the Prince, "will therefore bear the name of its producer, and figure in the catalogue under the title, Tulipa nigra Rosa Barlaensis, because of the name Van Baerle, which will henceforth be the name of this damsel."
And at the same time William took Rosa's hand, and placed it in that of a young man, who rushed forth, pale and beyond himself with joy, to the foot of the throne saluting alternately the Prince and his bride; and who with a grateful look to heaven, returned his thanks to the Giver of all this happiness.At the same moment there fell at the feet of the President van Systens another man, struck down by a very different emotion. Boxtel, crushed by the failure of his hopes, lay senseless on the ground. When they raised him, and examined his pulse and his heart, he was quite dead.
This incident did not much disturb the festival, as neither the Prince nor the President seemed to mind it much.
Cornelius started back in dismay, when in the thief, in the pretended Jacob, he recognised his neighbour, Isaac Boxtel, whom, in the innocence of his heart, he had not for one instant suspected of such a wicked action.
Then, to the sound of trumpets, the procession marched back without any change in its order, except that Boxtel was now dead, and that Cornelius and Rosa were walking triumphantly side by side and hand in hand.On their arriving at the Hotel de Ville, the Prince, pointing with his finger to the purse with the hundred thousand guilders, said to Cornelius, --
"It is difficult to say by whom this money is gained, by you or by Rosa; for if you have found the black tulip, she has nursed it and brought it into flower. It would therefore be unjust to consider it as her dowry; it is the gift of the town of Haarlem to the tulip."Cornelius wondered what the Prince was driving at. The latter continued, --
"I give to Rosa the sum of a hundred thousand guilders, which she has fairly earned, and which she can offer to you. They are the reward of her love, her courage, and her honesty. As to you, Sir -- thanks to Rosa again, who has furnished the proofs of your innocence ---- "And, saying these words, the Prince handed to Cornelius that fly-leaf of the Bible on which was written the letter of Cornelius de Witt, and in which the third bulb had been wrapped, -
"As to you, it has come to light that you were imprisoned for a crime which you had not committed. This means, that you are not only free, but that your property will be restored to you; as the property of an innocent man cannot be confiscated. Cornelius van Baerle, you are the godson of Cornelius de Witt and the friend of his brother John. Remain worthy of the name you have received from one of them, and of the friendship you have enjoyed with the other. The two De Witts, wrongly judged and wrongly punished in a moment of popular error, were two great citizens, of whom Holland is now proud."The Prince, after these last words, which contrary to his custom, he pronounced with a voice full of emotion, gave his hands to the lovers to kiss, whilst they were kneeling before him. Then heaving a sigh, he said, --
"Alas! you are very happy, who, dreaming only of what perhaps is the true glory of Holland, and forms especially her true happiness, do not attempt to acquire for her anything beyond new colours of tulips."And, casting a glance towards that point of the compass where France lay, as if he saw new clouds gathering there, he entered his carriage and drove off.
Cornelius started on the same day for Dort with Rosa, who sent her lover's old housekeeper as a messenger to her father, to apprise him of all that had taken place.
Those who, thanks to our description, have learned the character of old Gryphus, will comprehend that it was hard for him to become reconciled to his son-in-law. He had not yet forgotten the blows which he had received in that famous encounter. To judge from the weals which he counted, their number, he said, amounted to forty-one; but at last, in order, as he declared, not to be less generous than his Highness the Stadtholder, he consented to make his peace.
As he had heard Boxtel's story, and was furious at having been the dupe of the pretended Jacob, he destroyed the sycamore behind which the envious Isaac had spied into the garden; for the plot of ground belonging to him had been bought by Cornelius, and taken into his own garden.
Rosa, growing not only in beauty, but in wisdom also, after two years of her married life, could read and write so well that she was able to undertake by herself the education of two beautiful children which she had borne in 1674 and 1675, both in May, the month of flowers.As a matter of course, one was a boy, the other a girl, the former being called Cornelius, the other Rosa.
Van Baerle remained faithfully attached to Rosa and to his tulips. The whole of his life was devoted to the happiness of his wife and the culture of flowers, in the latter of which occupations he was so successful that a great number of his varieties found a place in the catalogue of Holland.
The two principal ornaments of his drawing-room were those two leaves from the Bible of Cornelius de Witt, in large golden frames; one of them containing the letter in which his godfather enjoined him to burn the correspondence of the Marquis de Louvois, and the other his own will, in which he bequeathed to Rosa his bulbs under condition that she should marry a young man of from twenty-six to twenty-eight years, who loved her and whom she loved, a condition which was scrupulously fulfilled, although, or rather because, Cornelius did not die.And to ward off any envious attempts of another Isaac Boxtel, he wrote over his door the lines which Grotius had, on the day of his flight, scratched on the walls of his prison: -- "Sometimes one has suffered so much that he has the right never to be able to say, 'I am too happy.'"