The Black Tulip
6. The Hatred Of A Tulip-Fancier
From that moment Boxtel's interest in tulips was no longer a stimulus to his exertions,
but a deadening anxiety. Henceforth all his thoughts ran only upon the injury which his
neighbour would cause him, and thus his favourite occupation was changed into a
constant source of misery to him.
Van Baerle, as may easily be imagined, had no sooner begun to apply his natural
ingenuity to his new fancy, than he succeeded in growing the finest tulips. Indeed; he
knew better than any one else at Haarlem or Leyden -- the two towns which boast the
best soil and the most congenial climate -- how to vary the colours, to modify the shape,
and to produce new species.
He belonged to that natural, humorous school who took for their motto in the
seventeenth century the aphorism uttered by one of their number in 1653, -- "To
despise flowers is to offend God."
From that premise the school of tulip-fanciers, the most exclusive of all schools, worked
out the following syllogism in the same year: --
"To despise flowers is to offend God.
"The more beautiful the flower is, the more does one offend God in despising it.
"The tulip is the most beautiful of all flowers.
"Therefore, he who despises the tulip offends God beyond measure."
By reasoning of this kind, it can be seen that the four or five thousand tulip-growers of
Holland, France, and Portugal, leaving out those of Ceylon and China and the Indies,
might, if so disposed, put the whole world under the ban, and condemn as schismatics
and heretics and deserving of death the several hundred millions of mankind whose
hopes of salvation were not centred upon the tulip.
We cannot doubt that in such a cause Boxtel, though he was Van Baerle's deadly foe,
would have marched under the same banner with him.
Mynheer van Baerle and his tulips, therefore, were in the mouth of everybody; so much
so, that Boxtel's name disappeared for ever from the list of the notable tulip-growers in
Holland, and those of Dort were now represented by Cornelius van Baerle, the modest
and inoffensive savant.