The Black Tulip
by Alexandre Dumas
A deceptively simple story and the shortest of Dumas's most famous novels, The Black Tulip (1850) weaves historical events surrounding a brutal murder into a tale of romantic love. Set in Holland in 1672, this timeless political allegory draws on the violence and crimes of history, making a case against tyranny and creating a symbol of justice and tolerance: the fateful tulipa negra.
CHAPTER12. The execution13. What was going on all this time in the mind of one of the spectators14. The pigeons of Dort15. The little grated window16. Master and Pupil17. The first sucker18. Rosa's lover19. The maid and the flower20. The events which took place during those eight days21. The second sucker22. Joy
Cornelius had not three hundred paces to walk outside the prison to reach the foot of the scaffold. At the bottom of the staircase, the dog quietssly looked at him whilst he was passing; Cornelius even fancied he saw in the eyes of the monster a certain expression as it were of compassion.
The dog perhaps knew the condemned prisoners, and only bit those who left as free men.
The shorter the way from the door of the prison to the foot of the scaffold, the more fully, of course, it was crowded with curious people.
These were the same who, not satisfied with the blood which they had shed three days before, were now craving for a new victim.
And scarcely had Cornelius made his appearance than a fierce groan ran through the whole street, spreading all over the yard, and re-echoing from the streets which led to the scaffold, and which were likewise crowded with spectators.
The scaffold indeed looked like an islet at the confluence of several rivers.
In the midst of these threats, groans, and yells, Cornelius, very likely in order not to hear them, had buried himself in his own thoughts.
And what did he think of in his last melancholy journey?
Neither of his enemies, nor of his judges, nor of his executioners.
He thought of the beautiful tulips which he would see from heaven above, at Ceylon, or Bengal, or elsewhere, when he would be able to look with pity on this earth, where John and Cornelius de Witt had been murdered for having thought too much of politics, and where Cornelius van Baerle was about to be murdered for having thought too much of tulips.
"It is only one stroke of the axe," said the philosopher to himself, "and my beautiful dream will begin to be realised."
Only there was still a chance, just as it had happened before to M. de Chalais, to M. de Thou, and other slovenly executed people, that the headsman might inflict more than one stroke, that is to say, more than one martyrdom, on the poor tulip-fancier.
Yet, notwithstanding all this, Van Baerle mounted the scaffold not the less resolutely, proud of having been the friend of that illustrious John, and godson of that noble Cornelius de Witt, whom the ruffians, who were now crowding to witness his own doom, had torn to pieces and burnt three days before.
He knelt down, said his prayers, and observed, not without a feeling of sincere joy, that, laying his head on the block, and keeping his eyes open, he would be able to his last moment to see the grated window of the Buytenhof.
At length the fatal moment arrived, and Cornelius placed his chin on the cold damp block. But at this moment his eyes closed involuntarily, to receive more resolutely the terrible avalanche which was about to fall on his head, and to engulf his life.
A gleam like that of lightning passed across the scaffold: it was the executioner raising his sword.
Van Baerle bade farewell to the great black tulip, certain of awaking in another world full of light and glorious tints.
Three times he felt, with a shudder, the cold current of air from the knife near his neck, but what a surprise! he felt neither pain nor shock.
He saw no change in the colour of the sky, or of the world around him.
Then suddenly Van Baerle felt gentle hands raising him, and soon stood on his feet again, although trembling a little.
He looked around him. There was some one by his side, reading a large parchment, sealed with a huge seal of red wax.
And the same sun, yellow and pale, as it behooves a Dutch sun to be, was shining in the skies; and the same grated window looked down upon him from the Buytenhof; and the same rabble, no longer yelling, but completely thunderstruck, were staring at him from the streets below.
Van Baerle began to be sensible to what was going on around him.
His Highness, William, Prince of Orange, very likely afraid that Van Baerle's blood would turn the scale of judgment against him, had compassionately taken into consideration his good character, and the apparent proofs of his innocence.
His Highness, accordingly, had granted him his life.
Cornelius at first hoped that the pardon would be complete, and that he would be restored to his full liberty and to his flower borders at Dort.
But Cornelius was mistaken. To use an expression of Madame de Sevigne, who wrote about the same time, "there was a postscript to the letter;" and the most important part of the letter was contained in the postscript.
In this postscript, William of Orange, Stadtholder of Holland, condemned Cornelius van Baerle to imprisonment for life. He was not sufficiently guilty to suffer death, but he was too much so to be set at liberty.
Cornelius heard this clause, but, the first feeling of vexation and disappointment over, he said to himself, --
"Never mind, all this is not lost yet; there is some good in this perpetual imprisonment; Rosa will be there, and also my three bulbs of the black tulip are there."
But Cornelius forgot that the Seven Provinces had seven prisons, one for each, and that the board of the prisoner is anywhere else less expensive than at the Hague, which is a capital.
His Highness, who, as it seems, did not possess the means to feed Van Baerle at the Hague, sent him to undergo his perpetual imprisonment at the fortress of Loewestein, very near Dort, but, alas! also very far from it; for Loewestein, as the geographers tell us, is situated at the point of the islet which is formed by the confluence of the Waal and the Meuse, opposite Gorcum.
Van Baerle was sufficiently versed in the history of his Country to know that the celebrated Grotius was confined in that castle after the death of Barneveldt; and that the States, in their generosity to the illustrious publicist, jurist, historian, poet, and divine, had granted to him for his daily maintenance the sum of twenty-four stivers.
"I," said Van Baerle to himself, "I am worth much less than Grotius. They will hardly give me twelve stivers, and I shall live miserably; but never mind, at all events I shall live."
Then suddenly a terrible thought struck him.
"Ah!" he exclaimed, "how damp and misty that part of the Country is, and the soil so bad for the tulips! And then Rosa will not be at Loewestein!"
Chapter 13. What was going on all this Time in the Mind of one of the Spectators
Whilst Cornelius was engaged with his own thoughts, a coach had driven up to the scaffold. This vehicle was for the prisoner. He was invited to enter it, and he obeyed.
His last look was towards the Buytenhof. He hoped to see at the window the face of Rosa, brightening up again.
But the coach was drawn by good horses, who soon carried Van Baerle away from among the shouts which the rabble roared in honour of the most magnanimous Stadtholder , mixing with it a spice of abuse against the brothers De Witt and the godson of Cornelius, who had just now been saved from death.
This reprieve suggested to the worthy spectators remarks such as the following: --
"It's very fortunate that we used such speed in having justice done to that great villain John, and to that little rogue Cornelius, otherwise his Highness might have snatched them from us, just as he has done this fellow."
Among all the spectators whom Van Baerle's execution had attracted to the Buytenhof, and whom the sudden turn of affairs had disagreeably surprised, undoubtedly the one most disappointed was a certain respectably dressed burgher, who from early morning had made such a good use of his feet and elbows that he at last was separated from the scaffold only by the file of soldiers which surrounded it.
Many had shown themselves eager to see the perfidious blood of the guilty Cornelius flow, but not one had shown such a keen anxietssy as the individual just alluded to.
The most furious had come to the Buytenhof at daybreak, to secure a better place; but he, outdoing even them, had passed the night at the threshold of the prison, from whence, as we have already said, he had advanced to the very foremost rank, unguibus et rostro, -- that is to say, coaxing some, and kicking the others.
And when the executioner had conducted the prisoner to the scaffold, the burgher, who had mounted on the stone of the pump the better to see and be seen, made to the executioner a sign which meant, --
"It's a bargain, isn't it?"
The executioner answered by another sign, which was meant to say, --
"Be quietss, it's all right."
This burgher was no other than Mynheer Isaac Boxtel, who since the arrest of Cornelius had come to the Hague to try if he could not get hold of the three bulbs of the black tulip.
Boxtel had at first tried to gain over Gryphus to his interest, but the jailer had not only the snarling fierceness, but likewise the fidelity, of a dog. He had therefore bristled up at Boxtel's hatred, whom he had suspected to be a warm friend of the prisoner, making trifling inquiries to contrive with the more certainty some means of escape for him.
Thus to the very first proposals which Boxtel made to Gryphus to filch the bulbs which Cornelius van Baerle must be supposed to conceal, if not in his breast, at least in some corner of his cell, the surly jailer had only answered by kicking Mynheer Isaac out, and setting the dog at him.
The piece which the mastiff had torn from his hose did not discourage Boxtel. He came back to the charge, but this time Gryphus was in bed, feverish, and with a broken arm. He therefore was not able to admit the petitioner, who then addressed himself to Rosa, offering to buy her a head-dress of pure gold if she would get the bulbs for him. On this, the generous girl, although not yet knowing the value of the object of the robbery, which was to be so well remunerated, had directed the tempter to the executioner, as the heir of the prisoner.
In the meanwhile the sentence had been pronounced. Thus Isaac had no more time to bribe any one. He therefore clung to the idea which Rosa had suggested: he went to the executioner.
Isaac had not the least doubt that Cornelius would die with the bulbs on his heart.
But there were two things which Boxtel did not calculate upon: --
Rosa, that is to say, love;
William of Orange, that is to say, clemency.
But for Rosa and William, the calculations of the envious neighbour would have been correct.
But for William, Cornelius would have died.
But for Rosa, Cornelius would have died with his bulbs on his heart.
Mynheer Boxtel went to the headsman, to whom he gave himself out as a great friend of the condemned man; and from whom he bought all the clothes of the dead man that was to be, for one hundred guilders; rather an exorbitant sum, as he engaged to leave all the trinkets of gold and silver to the executioner.
But what was the sum of a hundred guilders to a man who was all but sure to buy with it the prize of the Haarlem Societssy?
It was money lent at a thousand per cent., which, as nobody will deny, was a very handsome investment.
The headsman, on the other hand, had scarcely anything to do to earn his hundred guilders. He needed only, as soon as the execution was over, to allow Mynheer Boxtel to ascend the scaffold with his servants, to remove the inanimate remains of his friend.
The thing was, moreover, quite customary among the "faithful brethren," when one of their masters died a public death in the yard of the Buytenhof.
A fanatic like Cornelius might very easily have found another fanatic who would give a hundred guilders for his remains.
The executioner also readily acquiesced in the proposal, making only one condition, -- that of being paid in advance.
Boxtel, like the people who enter a show at a fair, might be disappointed, and refuse to pay on going out.
Boxtel paid in advance, and waited.
After this, the reader may imagine how excited Boxtel was; with what anxietssy he watched the guards, the Recorder, and the executioner; and with what intense interest he surveyed the movements of Van Baerle. How would he place himself on the block? how would he fall? and would he not, in falling, crush those inestimable bulbs? had not he at least taken care to enclose them in a golden box, -- as gold is the hardest of all metals?
Every trifling delay irritated him. Why did that stupid executioner thus lose time in brandishing his sword over the head of Cornelius, instead of cutting that head off?
But when he saw the Recorder take the hand of the condemned, and raise him, whilst drawing forth the parchment from his pocket, -- when he heard the pardon of the Stadtholder publicly read out, -- then Boxtel was no more like a human being; the rage and malice of the tiger, of the hyena, and of the serpent glistened in his eyes, and vented itself in his yell and his movements. Had he been able to get at Van Baerle, he would have pounced upon him and strangled him.
And so, then, Cornelius was to live, and was to go with him to Loewestein, and thither to his prison he would take with him his bulbs; and perhaps he would even find a garden where the black tulip would flower for him.
Boxtel, quite overcome by his frenzy, fell from the stone upon some Orangemen, who, like him, were sorely vexed at the turn which affairs had taken. They, mistaking the frantic cries of Mynheer Isaac for demonstrations of joy, began to belabour him with kicks and cuffs, such as could not have been administered in better style by any prize-fighter on the other side of the Channel.
Blows were, however, nothing to him. He wanted to run after the coach which was carrying away Cornelius with his bulbs. But in his hurry he overlooked a paving-stone in his way, stumbled, lost his centre of gravity, rolled over to a distance of some yards, and only rose again, bruised and begrimed, after the whole rabble of the Hague, with their muddy feet, had passed over him.
One would think that this was enough for one day, but Mynheer Boxtel did not seem to think so, as, in addition to having his clothes torn, his back bruised, and his hands scratched, he inflicted upon himself the further punishment of tearing out his hair by handfuls, as an offering to that goddess of envy who, as mythology teaches us, wears a head-dress of serpents.
Chapter 14. The Pigeons of Dort
It was indeed in itself a great honour for Cornelius van Baerle to be confined in the same prison which had once received the learned master Grotius.
But on arriving at the prison he met with an honour even greater. As chance would have it, the cell formerly inhabited by the illustrious Barneveldt happened to be vacant, when the clemency of the Prince of Orange sent the tulip-fancier Van Baerle there.
The cell had a very bad character at the castle since the time when Grotius, by means of the device of his wife, made escape from it in that famous book-chest which the jailers forgot to examine.
On the other hand, it seemed to Van Baerle an auspicious omen that this very cell was assigned to him, for according to his ideas, a jailer ought never to have given to a second pigeon the cage from which the first had so easily flown.
The cell had an historical character. We will only state here that, with the exception of an alcove which was contrived there for the use of Madame Grotius, it differed in no respect from the other cells of the prison; only, perhaps, it was a little higher, and had a splendid view from the grated window.
Cornelius felt himself perfectly indifferent as to the place where he had to lead an existence which was little more than vegetation. There were only two things now for which he cared, and the possession of which was a happiness enjoyed only in imagination.
A flower, and a woman; both of them, as he conceived, lost to him for ever.
Fortunately the good doctor was mistaken. In his prison cell the most adventurous life which ever fell to the lot of any tulip-fancier was reserved for him.
One morning, whilst at his window inhaling the fresh air which came from the river, and casting a longing look to the windmills of his dear old city Dort, which were looming in the distance behind a forest of chimneys, he saw flocks of pigeons coming from that quarter to perch fluttering on the pointed gables of Loewestein.
These pigeons, Van Baerle said to himself, are coming from Dort, and consequently may return there. By fastening a little note to the wing of one of these pigeons, one might have a chance to send a message there. Then, after a few moments' consideration, he exclaimed, --
"I will do it."
A man grows very patient who is twenty-eight years of age, and condemned to a prison for life, -- that is to say, to something like twenty-two or twenty-three thousand days of captivity.
Van Baerle, from whose thoughts the three bulbs were never absent, made a snare for catching the pigeons, baiting the birds with all the resources of his kitchen, such as it was for eight slivers (sixpence English) a day; and, after a month of unsuccessful attempts, he at last caught a female bird.
It cost him two more months to catch a male bird; he then shut them up together, and having about the beginning of the year 1673 obtained some eggs from them, he released the female, which, leaving the male behind to hatch the eggs in her stead, flew joyously to Dort, with the note under her wing.
She returned in the evening. She had preserved the note.
Thus it went on for fifteen days, at first to the disappointment, and then to the great grief, of Van Baerle.
On the sixteenth day, at last, she came back without it.
Van Baerle had addressed it to his nurse, the old Frisian woman; and implored any charitable soul who might find it to convey it to her as safely and as speedily as possible.
In this letter there was a little note enclosed for Rosa.
Van Baerle's nurse had received the letter in the following way.
Leaving Dort, Mynheer Isaac Boxtel had abandoned, not only his house, his servants, his observatory, and his telescope, but also his pigeons.
The servant, having been left without wages, first lived on his little savings, and then on his master's pigeons.
Seeing this, the pigeons emigrated from the roof of Isaac Boxtel to that of Cornelius van Baerle.
The nurse was a kind-hearted woman, who could not live without something to love. She conceived an affection for the pigeons which had thrown themselves on her hospitality; and when Boxtel's servant reclaimed them with culinary intentions, having eaten the first fifteen already, and now wishing to eat the other fifteen, she offered to buy them from him for a consideration of six stivers per head.
This being just double their value, the man was very glad to close the bargain, and the nurse found herself in undisputed possession of the pigeons of her master's envious neighbour.
In the course of their wanderings, these pigeons with others visited the Hague, Loewestein, and Rotterdam, seeking varietssy, doubtless, in the flavour of their wheat or hempseed.
Chance, or rather God, for we can see the hand of God in everything, had willed that Cornelius van Baerle should happen to hit upon one of these very pigeons.
Therefore, if the envious wretch had not left Dort to follow his rival to the Hague in the first place, and then to Gorcum or to Loewestein, -- for the two places are separated only by the confluence of the Waal and the Meuse, -- Van Baerle's letter would have fallen into his hands and not the nurse's: in which event the poor prisoner, like the raven of the Roman cobbler, would have thrown away his time, his trouble, and, instead of having to relate the series of exciting events which are about to flow from beneath our pen like the varied hues of a many coloured tapestry, we should have naught to describe but a weary waste of days, dull and melancholy and gloomy as night's dark mantle.
The note, as we have said, had reached Van Baerle's nurse.
And also it came to pass, that one evening in the beginning of February, just when the stars were beginning to twinkle, Cornelius heard on the staircase of the little turret a voice which thrilled through him.
He put his hand on his heart, and listened.
It was the sweet harmonious voice of Rosa.
Let us confess it, Cornelius was not so stupefied with surprise, or so beyond himself with joy, as he would have been but for the pigeon, which, in answer to his letter, had brought back hope to him under her empty wing; and, knowing Rosa, he expected, if the note had ever reached her, to hear of her whom he loved, and also of his three darling bulbs.
He rose, listened once more, and bent forward towards the door.
Yes, they were indeed the accents which had fallen so sweetly on his heart at the Hague.
The question now was, whether Rosa, who had made the journey from the Hague to Loewestein, and who -- Cornelius did not understand how -- had succeeded even in penetrating into the prison, would also be fortunate enough in penetrating to the prisoner himself.
Whilst Cornelius, debating this point within himself, was building all sorts of castles in the air, and was struggling between hope and fear, the shutter of the grating in the door opened, and Rosa, beaming with joy, and beautiful in her pretty national costume -- but still more beautiful from the grief which for the last five months had blanched her cheeks -- pressed her little face against the wire grating of the window, saying to him, --
"Oh, sir, sir! here I am!"
Cornelius stretched out his arms, and, looking to heaven, uttered a cry of joy, --
"Oh, Rosa, Rosa!"
"Hush! let us speak low: my father follows on my heels," said the girl.
"Yes, he is in the courtyard at the bottom of the staircase, receiving the instructions of the Governor; he will presently come up."
"The instructions of the Governor?"
"Listen to me, I'll try to tell you all in a few words. The Stadtholder has a Country-house, one league distant from Leyden, properly speaking a kind of large dairy, and my aunt, who was his nurse, has the management of it. As soon as I received your letter, which, alas! I could not read myself, but which your housekeeper read to me, I hastened to my aunt; there I remained until the Prince should come to the dairy; and when he came, I asked him as a favour to allow my father to exchange his post at the prison of the Hague with the jailer of the fortress of Loewestein. The Prince could not have suspected my object; had he known it, he would have refused my request, but as it is he granted it."
"And so you are here?"
"As you see."
"And thus I shall see you every day?"
"As often as I can manage it."
"Oh, Rosa, my beautiful Rosa, do you love me a little?"
"A little?" she said, "you make no great pretensions, Mynheer Cornelius."
Cornelius tenderly stretched out his hands towards her, but they were only able to touch each other with the tips of their fingers through the wire grating.
"Here is my father," said she.
Rosa then abruptly drew back from the door, and ran to meet old Gryphus, who made his appearance at the top of the staircase.
Chapter 15. The Little Grated Window
Gryphus was followed by the mastiff.
The turnkey took the animal round the jail, so that, if needs be, he might recognize the prisoners.
"Father," said Rosa, "here is the famous prison from which Mynheer Grotius escaped. You know Mynheer Grotius?"
"Oh, yes, that rogue Grotius, a friend of that villain Barneveldt, whom I saw executed when I was a child. Ah! so Grotius; and that's the chamber from which he escaped. Well, I'll answer for it that no one shall escape after him in my time."
And thus opening the door, he began in the dark to talk to the prisoner.
The dog, on his part, went up to the prisoner, and, growling, smelled about his legs just as though to ask him what right he had still to be alive, after having left the prison in the company of the Recorder and the executioner.
But the fair Rosa called him to her side.
"Well, my master," said Gryphus, holding up his lantern to throw a little light around, "you see in me your new jailer. I am head turnkey, and have all the cells under my care. I am not vicious, but I'm not to be trifled with, as far as discipline goes."
"My good Master Gryphus, I know you perfectly well," said the prisoner, approaching within the circle of light cast around by the lantern.
"Halloa! that's you, Mynheer van Baerle," said Gryphus. "That's you; well, I declare, it's astonishing how people do meet."
"Oh, yes; and it's really a great pleasure to me, good Master Gryphus, to see that your arm is doing well, as you are able to hold your lantern with it."
Gryphus knitted his brow. "Now, that's just it," he said, "people always make blunders in politics. His Highness has granted you your life; I'm sure I should never have done so."
"Don't say so," replied Cornelius; "why not?"
"Because you are the very man to conspire again. You learned people have dealings with the devil."
"Nonsense, Master Gryphus. Are you dissatisfied with the manner in which I have set your arm, or with the price that I asked you?" said Cornelius, laughing.
"On the contrary," growled the jailer, "you have set it only too well. There is some witchcraft in this. After six weeks, I was able to use it as if nothing had happened, so much so, that the doctor of the Buytenhof, who knows his trade well, wanted to break it again, to set it in the regular way, and promised me that I should have my blessed three months for my money before I should be able to move it."
"And you did not want that?"
"I said, 'Nay, as long as I can make the sign of the cross with that arm' (Gryphus was a Roman Catholic), 'I laugh at the devil.'"
"But if you laugh at the devil, Master Gryphus, you ought with so much more reason to laugh at learned people."
"Ah, learned people, learned people! Why, I would rather have to guard ten soldiers than one scholar. The soldiers smoke, guzzle, and get drunk; they are gentle as lambs if you only give them brandy or Moselle, but scholars, and drink, smoke, and fuddle -- ah, yes, that's altogether different. They keep sober, spend nothing, and have their heads always clear to make conspiracies. But I tell you, at the very outset, it won't be such an easy matter for you to conspire. First of all, you will have no books, no paper, and no conjuring book. It's books that helped Mynheer Grotius to get off."
"I assure you, Master Gryphus," replied Van Baerle, "that if I have entertained the idea of escaping, I most decidedly have it no longer."
"Well, well," said Gryphus, "just look sharp: that's what I shall do also. But, for all that, I say his Highness has made a great mistake."
"Not to have cut off my head? thank you, Master Gryphus."
"Just so, look whether the Mynheer de Witt don't keep very quietss now."
"That's very shocking what you say now, Master Gryphus," cried Van Baerle, turning away his head to conceal his disgust. "You forget that one of those unfortunate gentlemen was my friend, and the other my second father."
"Yes, but I also remember that the one, as well as the other, was a conspirator. And, moreover, I am speaking from Christian charity."
"Oh, indeed! explain that a little to me, my good Master Gryphus. I do not quite understand it."
"Well, then, if you had remained on the block of Master Harbruck ---- "
"You would not suffer any longer; whereas, I will not disguise it from you, I shall lead you a sad life of it."
"Thank you for the promise, Master Gryphus."
And whilst the prisoner smiled ironically at the old jailer, Rosa, from the outside, answered by a bright smile, which carried sweet consolation to the heart of Van Baerle.
Gryphus stepped towards the window.
It was still light enough to see, although indistinctly, through the gray haze of the evening, the vast expanse of the horizon.
"What view has one from here?" asked Gryphus.
"Why, a very fine and pleasant one," said Cornelius, looking at Rosa.
"Yes, yes, too much of a view, too much."
And at this moment the two pigeons, scared by the sight and especially by the voice of the stranger, left their nest, and disappeared, quite frightened in the evening mist.
"Halloa! what's this?" cried Gryphus.
"My pigeons," answered Cornelius.
"Your pigeons," cried the jailer, "your pigeons! has a prisoner anything of his own?"
"Why, then," said Cornelius, "the pigeons which a merciful Father in Heaven has lent to me."
"So, here we have a breach of the rules already," replied Gryphus. "Pigeons! ah, young man, young man! I'll tell you one thing, that before to-morrow is over, your pigeons will boil in my pot."
"First of all you should catch them, Master Gryphus. You won't allow these pigeons to be mine! Well, I vow they are even less yours than mine."
"Omittance is no acquittance," growled the jailer, "and I shall certainly wring their necks before twenty-four hours are over: you may be sure of that."
Whilst giving utterance to this ill-natured promise, Gryphus put his head out of the window to examine the nest. This gave Van Baerle time to run to the door, and squeeze the hand of Rosa, who whispered to him, --
"At nine o'clock this evening."
Gryphus, quite taken up with the desire of catching the pigeons next day, as he had promised he would do, saw and heard nothing of this short interlude; and, after having closed the window, he took the arm of his daughter, left the cell, turned the key twice, drew the bolts, and went off to make the same kind promise to the other prisoners.
He had scarcely withdrawn, when Cornelius went to the door to listen to the sound of his footsteps, and, as soon as they had died away, he ran to the window, and completely demolished the nest of the pigeons.
Rather than expose them to the tender mercies of his bullying jailer, he drove away for ever those gentle messengers to whom he owed the happiness of having seen Rosa again.
This visit of the jailer, his brutal threats, and the gloomy prospect of the harshness with which, as he had before experienced, Gryphus watched his prisoners, -- all this was unable to extinguish in Cornelius the sweet thoughts, and especially the sweet hope, which the presence of Rosa had reawakened in his heart.
He waited eagerly to hear the clock of the tower of Loewestein strike nine.
The last chime was still vibrating through the air, when Cornelius heard on the staircase the light step and the rustle of the flowing dress of the fair Frisian maid, and soon after a light appeared at the little grated window in the door, on which the prisoner fixed his earnest gaze.
The shutter opened on the outside.
"Here I am," said Rosa, out of breath from running up the stairs, "here I am."
"Oh, my good Rosa."
"You are then glad to see me?"
"Can you ask? But how did you contrive to get here? tell me."
"Now listen to me. My father falls asleep every evening almost immediately after his supper; I then make him lie down, a little stupefied with his gin. Don't say anything about it, because, thanks to this nap, I shall be able to come every evening and chat for an hour with you."
"Oh, I thank you, Rosa, dear Rosa."
Saying these words, Cornelius put his face so near the little window that Rosa withdrew hers.
"I have brought back to you your bulbs."
Cornelius's heart leaped with joy. He had not yet dared to ask Rosa what she had done with the precious treasure which he had intrusted to her.
"Oh, you have preserved them, then?"
"Did you not give them to me as a thing which was dear to you?"
"Yes, but as I have given them to you, it seems to me that they belong to you."
"They would have belonged to me after your death, but, fortunately, you are alive now. Oh how I blessed his Highness in my heart! If God grants to him all the happiness that I have wished him, certainly Prince William will be the happiest man on earth. When I looked at the Bible of your godfather Cornelius, I was resolved to bring back to you your bulbs, only I did not know how to accomplish it. I had, however, already formed the plan of going to the Stadtholder , to ask from him for my father the appointment of jailer of Loewestein, when your housekeeper brought me your letter. Oh, how we wept together! But your letter only confirmed me the more in my resolution. I then left for Leyden, and the rest you know."
"What, my dear Rosa, you thought, even before receiving my letter, of coming to meet me again?"
"If I thought of it," said Rosa, allowing her love to get the better of her bashfulness, "I thought of nothing else."
And, saying these words, Rosa looked so exceedingly pretty, that for the second time Cornelius placed his forehead and lips against the wire grating; of course, we must presume with the laudable desire to thank the young lady.
Rosa, however, drew back as before.
"In truth," she said, with that coquetry which somehow or other is in the heart of every young girl, "I have often been sorry that I am not able to read, but never so much so as when your housekeeper brought me your letter. I kept the paper in my hands, which spoke to other people, and which was dumb to poor stupid me."
"So you have often regretted not being able to read," said Cornelius. "I should just like to know on what occasions."
"Troth," she said, laughing, "to read all the letters which were written to me."
"Oh, you received letters, Rosa?"
"But who wrote to you?"
"Who! why, in the first place, all the students who passed over the Buytenhof, all the officers who went to parade, all the clerks, and even the merchants who saw me at my little window."
"And what did you do with all these notes, my dear Rosa?"
"Formerly," she answered, "I got some friend to read them to me, which was capital fun, but since a certain time -- well, what use is it to attend to all this nonsense? -- since a certain time I have burnt them."
"Since a certain time!" exclaimed Cornelius, with a look beaming with love and joy.
Rosa cast down her eyes, blushing. In her sweet confusion, she did not observe the lips of Cornelius, which, alas! only met the cold wire-grating. Yet, in spite of this obstacle, they communicated to the lips of the young girl the glowing breath of the most tender kiss.
At this sudden outburst of tenderness, Rosa grew very pale, -- perhaps paler than she had been on the day of the execution. She uttered a plaintive sob, closed her fine eyes, and fled, trying in vain to still the beating of her heart.
And thus Cornelius was again alone.
Rosa had fled so precipitately, that she completely forgot to return to Cornelius the three bulbs of the Black Tulip.
The worthy Master Gryphus, as the reader may have seen, was far from sharing the kindly feeling of his daughter for the godson of Cornelius de Witt.
There being only five prisoners at Loewestein, the post of turnkey was not a very onerous one, but rather a sort of sinecure, given after a long period of service.
But the worthy jailer, in his zeal, had magnified with all the power of his imagination the importance of his office. To him Cornelius had swelled to the gigantic proportions of a criminal of the first order. He looked upon him, therefore, as the most dangerous of all his prisoners. He watched all his steps, and always spoke to him with an angry Countenance; punishing him for what he called his dreadful rebellion against such a clement prince as the Stadtholder .
Three times a day he entered Van Baerle's cell, expecting to find him trespassing; but Cornelius had ceased to correspond, since his correspondent was at hand. It is even probable that, if Cornelius had obtained his full liberty, with permission to go wherever he liked, the prison, with Rosa and his bulbs, would have appeared to him preferable to any other habitation in the world without Rosa and his bulbs.
Rosa, in fact, had promised to come and see him every evening, and from the first evening she had kept her word.
On the following evening she went up as before, with the same mysteriousness and the same precaution. Only she had this time resolved within herself not to approach too near the grating. In order, however, to engage Van Baerle in a conversation from the very first which would seriously occupy his attention, she tendered to him through the grating the three bulbs, which were still wrapped up in the same paper.
But to the great astonishment of Rosa, Van Baerle pushed back her white hand with the tips of his fingers.
The young man had been considering about the matter.
"Listen to me," he said. "I think we should risk too much by embarking our whole fortune in one ship. Only think, my dear Rosa, that the question is to carry out an enterprise which until now has been considered impossible, namely, that of making the great black tulip flower. Let us, therefore, take every possible precaution, so that in case of a failure we may not have anything to reproach ourselves with. I will now tell you the way I have traced out for us."
Rosa was all attention to what he would say, much more on account of the importance which the unfortunate tulip-fancier attached to it, than that she felt interested in the matter herself.
"I will explain to you, Rosa," he said. "I dare say you have in this fortress a small garden, or some courtyard, or, if not that, at least some terrace."
"We have a very fine garden," said Rosa, "it runs along the edge of the Waal, and is full of fine old trees."
"Could you bring me some soil from the garden, that I may judge?"
"I will do so to-morrow."
"Take some from a sunny spot, and some from a shady, so that I may judge of its properties in a dry and in a moist state."
"Be assured I shall."
"After having chosen the soil, and, if it be necessary, modified it, we will divide our three bulbs; you will take one and plant it, on the day that I will tell you, in the soil chosen by me. It is sure to flower, if you tend it according to my directions."
"I will not lose sight of it for a minute."
"You will give me another, which I will try to grow here in my cell, and which will help me to beguile those long weary hours when I cannot see you. I confess to you I have very little hope for the latter one, and I look beforehand on this unfortunate bulb as sacrificed to my selfishness. However, the sun sometimes visits me. I will, besides, try to convert everything into an artificial help, even the heat and the ashes of my pipe, and lastly, we, or rather you, will keep in reserve the third sucker as our last resource, in case our first two experiments should prove a failure. In this manner, my dear Rosa, it is impossible that we should not succeed in gaining the hundred thousand guilders for your marriage portion; and how dearly shall we enjoy that supreme happiness of seeing our work brought to a successful issue!"
"I know it all now," said Rosa. "I will bring you the soil to-morrow, and you will choose it for your bulb and for mine. As to that in which yours is to grow, I shall have several journeys to convey it to you, as I cannot bring much at a time."
"There is no hurry for it, dear Rosa; our tulips need not be put into the ground for a month at least. So you see we have plenty of time before us. Only I hope that, in planting your bulb, you will strictly follow all my instructions."
"I promise you I will."
"And when you have once planted it, you will communicate to me all the circumstances which may interest our nursling; such as change of weather, footprints on the walks, or footprints in the borders. You will listen at night whether our garden is not resorted to by cats. A couple of those untoward animals laid waste two of my borders at Dort."
"I will listen."
"On moonlight nights have you ever looked at your garden, my dear child?"
"The window of my sleeping-room overlooks it."
"Well, on moonlight nights you will observe whether any rats come out from the holes in the wall. The rats are most mischievous by their gnawing everything; and I have heard unfortunate tulip-growers complain most bitterly of Noah for having put a couple of rats in the ark."
"I will observe, and if there are cats or rats ---- "
"You will apprise me of it, -- that's right. And, moreover," Van Baerle, having become mistrustful in his captivity, continued, "there is an animal much more to be feared than even the cat or the rat."
"Man. You comprehend, my dear Rosa, a man may steal a guilder, and risk the prison for such a trifle, and, consequently, it is much more likely that some one might steal a hundred thousand guilders."
"No one ever enters the garden but myself."
"Thank you, thank you, my dear Rosa. All the joy of my life has still to come from you."
And as the lips of Van Baerle approached the grating with the same ardor as the day before, and as, moreover, the hour for retiring had struck, Rosa drew back her head, and stretched out her hand.
In this pretty little hand, of which the coquettish damsel was particularly proud, was the bulb.
Cornelius kissed most tenderly the tips of her fingers. Did he do so because the hand kept one of the bulbs of the great black tulip, or because this hand was Rosa's? We shall leave this point to the decision of wiser heads than ours.
Rosa withdrew with the other two suckers, pressing them to her heart.
Did she press them to her heart because they were the bulbs of the great black tulip, or because she had them from Cornelius?
This point, we believe, might be more readily decided than the other.
However that may have been, from that moment life became sweet, and again full of interest to the prisoner.
Rosa, as we have seen, had returned to him one of the suckers.
Every evening she brought to him, handful by handful, a quantity of soil from that part of the garden which he had found to be the best, and which, indeed, was excellent.
A large jug, which Cornelius had skilfully broken, did service as a flower-pot. He half filled it, and mixed the earth of the garden with a small portion of dried river mud, a mixture which formed an excellent soil.
Then, at the beginning of April, he planted his first sucker in that jug.
Not a day passed on which Rosa did not come to have her chat with Cornelius.
The tulips, concerning whose cultivation Rosa was taught all the mysteries of the art, formed the principal topic of the conversation; but, interesting as the subject was, people cannot always talk about tulips.
They therefore began to chat also about other things, and the tulip-fancier found out to his great astonishment what a vast range of subjects a conversation may comprise.
Only Rosa had made it a habit to keep her pretty face invariably six inches distant from the grating, having perhaps become distrustful of herself.
There was one thing especially which gave Cornelius almost as much anxietssy as his bulbs -- a subject to which he always returned -- the dependence of Rosa on her father.
Indeed, Van Baerle's happiness depended on the whim of this man. He might one day find Loewestein dull, or the air of the place unhealthy, or the gin bad, and leave the fortress, and take his daughter with him, when Cornelius and Rosa would again be separated.
"Of what use would the carrier pigeons then be?" said Cornelius to Rosa, "as you, my dear girl, would not be able to read what I should write to you, nor to write to me your thoughts in return."
"Well," answered Rosa, who in her heart was as much afraid of a separation as Cornelius himself, "we have one hour every evening, let us make good use of it."
"I don't think we make such a bad use of it as it is."
"Let us employ it even better," said Rosa, smiling. "Teach me to read and write. I shall make the best of your lessons, believe me; and, in this way, we shall never be separated any more, except by our own will."
"Oh, then, we have an eternity before us," said Cornelius.
Rosa smiled, and quietssly shrugged her shoulders.
"Will you remain for ever in prison?" she said, "and after having granted you your life, will not his Highness also grant you your liberty? And will you not then recover your fortune, and be a rich man, and then, when you are driving in your own coach, riding your own horse, will you still look at poor Rosa, the daughter of a jailer, scarcely better than a hangman?"
Cornelius tried to contradict her, and certainly he would have done so with all his heart, and with all the sincerity of a soul full of love.
She, however, smilingly interrupted him, saying, "How is your tulip going on?"
To speak to Cornelius of his tulip was an expedient resorted to by her to make him forget everything, even Rosa herself.
"Very well, indeed," he said, "the coat is growing black, the sprouting has commenced, the veins of the bulb are swelling, in eight days hence, and perhaps sooner, we may distinguish the first buds of the leaves protruding. And yours Rosa?"
"Oh, I have done things on a large scale, and according to your directions."
"Now, let me hear, Rosa, what you have done," said Cornelius, with as tender an anxietssy as he had lately shown to herself.
"Well," she said, smiling, for in her own heart she could not help studying this double love of the prisoner for herself and for the black tulip, "I have done things on a large scale; I have prepared a bed as you described it to me, on a clear spot, far from trees and walls, in a soil slightly mixed with sand, rather moist than dry without a fragment of stone or pebble."
"Well done, Rosa, well done."
"I am now only waiting for your further orders to put in the bulb, you know that I must be behindhand with you, as I have in my favour all the chances of good air, of the sun, and abundance of moisture."
"All true, all true," exclaimed Cornelius, clapping his hands with joy, "you are a good pupil, Rosa, and you are sure to gain your hundred thousand guilders."
"Don't forget," said Rosa, smiling, "that your pupil, as you call me, has still other things to learn besides the cultivation of tulips."
"Yes, yes, and I am as anxious as you are, Rosa, that you should learn to read."
"When shall we begin?"
"Because to-day our hour is expired, and I must leave you."
"Already? But what shall we read?"
"Oh," said Rosa, "I have a book, -- a book which I hope will bring us luck."
On the following evening Rosa returned with the Bible of Cornelius de Witt.
Chapter 17. The First Bulb
On 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."
"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."
"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?"
"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, --
"By the bye, how is your tulip going on?"
"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."
"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."
"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 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 anxietssies.
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.
"Indeed," said Cornelius to him, "you must be a very mean and spiteful fellow to rob a poor prisoner of his only consolation, a tulip bulb."
"For shame, my father," Rosa chimed in, "it is indeed a crime you have committed here."
"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.
Chapter 18. Rosa's Lover
Rosa 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.
"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 anxietssy.
"'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 did he say? Didn't he fume and fret?'
"I interrupted him, saying, 'Was it not natural that be should be furious, you were so unjust and brutal, father?'
"'Well, now, are you mad?' cried my father; 'what immense misfortune is it to crush a tulip bulb? You may buy a hundred of them in the market of Gorcum.'
"'Perhaps some less precious one than that was!' I quite incautiously replied."
"And what did Jacob say or do at these words?" asked Cornelius.
"At these words, if I must say it, his eyes seemed to flash like lightning."
"But," said Cornelius, "that was not all; I am sure he said something in his turn."
"'So, then, my pretty Rosa,' he said, with a voice as sweet a honey, -- 'so you think that bulb to have been a precious one?'
"I saw that I had made a blunder.
"'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.'
"'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.
"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?"
"That not one of your movements escaped him?"
"Not one, indeed."
"Rosa," said Cornelius, growing quite pale.
"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!"
"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?"
"Will you accept the proposition of my father?"
"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.
Chapter 19. The Maid and the Flower
But 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.
The noise of her footstep, the rustling of her gown on the staircase, were so familiar to his ear, that she had no sooner mounted one step than he used to say to himself, --
"Here comes Rosa."
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, --
At the third visit of the day, Cornelius changed his former inquiry: --
"I hope nobody is ill at Loewestein?"
"Nobody," replied, even more laconically, the jailer, shutting the door before the nose of the prisoner.
Gryphus, being little used to this sort of civility on the part of Cornelius, began to suspect that his prisoner was about to try and bribe him.
Cornelius was now alone once more; it was seven o'clock in the evening, and the anxietssy of yesterday returned with increased intensity.
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.
This was the case on the fourth day.
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 anxietssy 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, --
Now to-morrow was the eighth day. For eight days Cornelius and Rosa had not seen each other.
Chapter 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 anxietssy."
"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?"
Rosa smiled with a melancholy air.
"Ah!" she said, "your tulip has been in such danger."
Cornelius trembled involuntarily, and showed himself clearly to be caught in the trap, if ever the remark was meant as such.
"Danger!" he cried, quite alarmed; "what danger?"
Rosa looked at him with gentle compassion; she felt that what she wished was beyond the power of this man, and that he must be taken as he was, with his little foible.
"Yes," she said, "you have guessed the truth; that suitor and amorous swain, Jacob, did not come on my account."
"And what did he come for?" Cornelius anxiously asked.
"He came for the sake of the tulip."
"Alas!" said Cornelius, growing even paler at this piece of information than he had been when Rosa, a fortnight before, had told him that Jacob was coming for her sake.
Rosa saw this alarm, and Cornelius guessed, from the expression of her face, in what direction her thoughts were running.
"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 ---- "
"Yes, yes, odious. Tell me," he said, "do you hate that man?"
"I do hate him," said Rosa, "as he is the cause of all the unhappiness I have suffered these eight days."
"You, too, have been unhappy, Rosa? I thank you a thousand times for this kind confession."
"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 round-about; 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?"
"Do you call it faithful to desert me, and to leave me here to die?"
"But, Mynheer Cornelius," said Rosa, "am I not doing everything for you that could give you pleasure? have I not devoted myself to your tulip?"
"You are bitter, Rosa, you reproach me with the only unalloyed pleasure which I have had in this world."
"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."
"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."
"But who is the beauty you are talking of, Rosa?" said Cornelius, trying in vain to remember a woman to whom Rosa might possibly be alluding.
"The dark beauty with a slender waist, small feet, and a noble head; in short, I am speaking of your flower."
"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."
"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.
Chapter 21. The Second Bulb
The 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.
"Very well, I know what I know, Master Scholar; just be quietss, 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.
They spoke of those things which give wings to the hours; they spoke of everything except the black tulip.
At last, when the clock struck ten, they parted as usual.
Cornelius was happy, as thoroughly happy as a tulip-fancier would be to whom one has not spoken of his tulip.
He found Rosa pretty, good, graceful, and charming.
But why did Rosa object to the tulip being spoken of?
This was indeed a great defect in Rosa.
Cornelius confessed to himself, sighing, that woman was not perfect.
Part of the night he thought of this imperfection; that is to say, so long as he was awake he thought of Rosa.
After having fallen asleep, he dreamed of her.
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 thirty-six 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.
"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 ---- "
Here the prisoner paused, anxiously taking breath.
"Yes," answered Rosa, "one may already distinguish a thread of different colour, as thin as a hair."
"And its colour?" asked Cornelius, trembling.
"Oh," answered Rosa, "it is very dark!"
"Darker than that."
"Darker, my good Rosa, darker? Thank you. Dark as ---- "
"Dark as the ink with which I wrote to you."
Cornelius uttered a cry of mad joy.
Then, suddenly stopping and clasping his hands, he said, --
"Oh, there is not an angel in heaven that may be compared to you, Rosa!"
"Indeed!" said Rosa, smiling at his enthusiasm.
"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 quietss, you malicious little creature, be quietss! 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 Societssy, 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?"
"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."
"There, ten o'clock strikes," said Rosa, "I must now leave you."
"Yes, yes," said Cornelius, "go, Rosa, go!"
Rosa withdrew, almost melancholy, for Cornelius had all but sent her away.
It is true that he did so in order that she might watch over his black tulip.
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, 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 quietss, it is the ferryman of Loewestein, a smart young man of twenty-five."
"Be quietss," 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 Societssy, 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 tulip-fancier 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."
"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 quietss."
"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?"
"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 to-day, 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 anxietssy, and how many sleepless nights, it has cost. But for the present not a minute must be lost. The messenger! the messenger!"
"What's the name of the President?"
"Give me the letter, I will direct it. Oh, he is very well known: it is Mynheer van Systens, the burgomaster of Haarlem; give it to me, Rosa, give it to me."
And with a trembling hand Cornelius wrote the address, --
"To Mynheer Peter van Systens, Burgomaster, and President of the Horticultural Societssy of Haarlem."
"And now, Rosa, go, go," said Cornelius, "and let us implore the protection of God, who has so kindly watched over us until now."