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.
CHAPTER23. The Rival24. The black tulip changes master25. The president Van Herysen26. A member of the horticultural societssy27. The third sucker28. The hymn of the flowers29. In which Van Baerle, before leaving Loevestein, settles account with Gryphus30. Wherein the reader begins to guess the kind of execution that is awaiting Cornelius Van Baerle31. Haarlem32. A last request33. Conclusion
And in fact the poor young people were in great need of protection.
They had never been so near the destruction of their hopes as at this moment, when they thought themselves certain of their fulfilment.
The reader cannot but have recognized in Jacob our old friend, or rather enemy, Isaac Boxtel, and has guessed, no doubt, that this worthy had followed from the Buytenhof to Loewestein the object of his love and the object of his hatred, -- the black tulip and Cornelius van Baerle.
What no one but a tulip-fancier, and an envious tulip-fancier, could have discovered, -- the existence of the bulbs and the endeavours of the prisoner, -- jealousy had enabled Boxtel, if not to discover, at least to guess.
We have seen him, more successful under the name of Jacob than under that of Isaac, gain the friendship of Gryphus, which for several months he cultivated by means of the best Genievre ever distilled from the Texel to Antwerp, and he lulled the suspicion of the jealous turnkey by holding out to him the flattering prospect of his designing to marry Rosa.
Besides thus offering a bait to the ambition of the father, he managed, at the same time, to interest his zeal as a jailer, picturing to him in the blackest colours the learned prisoner whom Gryphus had in his keeping, and who, as the sham Jacob had it, was in lerudence in following Rosa into the garden had unmasked him in the eyes of the young damsel, and how the instinctive fears of Cornelius had put the two lovers on their guard against him.
The reader will remember that the first cause of uneasiness was given to the prisoner by the rage of Jacob when Gryphus crushed the first bulb. In that moment Boxtel's exasperation was the more fierce, as, though suspecting that Cornelius possessed a second bulb, he by no means felt sure of it.
From that moment he began to dodge the steps of Rosa, not only following her to the garden, but also to the lobbies.
Only as this time he followed her in the night, and bare-footed, he was neither seen nor heard except once, when Rosa thought she saw something like a shadow on the staircase.
Her discovery, however, was made too late, as Boxtel had heard from the mouth of the prisoner himself that a second bulb existed.
Taken in by the stratagem of Rosa, who had feigned to put it in the ground, and entertaining no doubt that this little farce had been played in order to force him to betray himself, he redoubled his precaution, and employed every means suggested by his crafty nature to watch the others without being watched himself.
He saw Rosa conveying a large flower-pot of white earthenware from her father's kitchen to her bedroom. He saw Rosa washing in pails of water her pretty little hands, begrimed as they were with the mould which she had handled, to give her tulip the best soil possible.
And at last he hired, just opposite Rosa's window, a little attic, distant enough not to allow him to be recognized with the naked eye, but sufficiently near to enable him, with the help of his telescope, to watch everything that was going on at the Loewestein in Rosa's room, just as at Dort he had watched the dry-room of Cornelius.
He had not been installed more than three days in his attic before all his doubts were removed.
From morning to sunset the flower-pot was in the window, and, like those charming female figures of Mieris and Metzys, Rosa appeared at that window as in a frame, formed by the first budding sprays of the wild vine and the honeysuckle encircling her window.
Rosa watched the flower-pot with an interest which betrayed to Boxtel the real value of the object enclosed in it.
This object could not be anything else but the second bulb, that is to say, the quintessence of all the hopes of the prisoner.
When the nights threatened to be too cold, Rosa took in the flower-pot.
Well, it was then quite evident she was following the instructions of Cornelius, who was afraid of the bulb being killed by frost.
When the sun became too hot, Rosa likewise took in the pot from eleven in the morning until two in the afternoon.
Another proof: Cornelius was afraid lest the soil should become too dry.
But when the first leaves peeped out of the earth Boxtel was fully convinced; and his telescope left him no longer in any uncertainty before they had grown one inch in height.
Cornelius possessed two bulbs, and the second was intrusted to the love and care of Rosa.
For it may well be imagined that the tender secret of the two lovers had not escaped the prying curiosity of Boxtel.
The question, therefore, was how to wrest the second bulb from the care of Rosa.
Certainly this was no easy task.
Rosa watched over her tulip as a mother over her child, or a dove over her eggs.
Rosa never left her room during the day, and, more than that, strange to say, she never left it in the evening.
For seven days Boxtel in vain watched Rosa; she was always at her post.
This happened during those seven days which made Cornelius so unhappy, depriving him at the same time of all news of Rosa and of his tulip.
Would the coolness between Rosa and Cornelius last for ever?
This would have made the theft much more difficult than Mynheer Isaac had at first expected.
We say the theft, for Isaac had simply made up his mind to steal the tulip; and as it grew in the most profound secrecy, and as, moreover, his word, being that of a renowned tulip-grower, would any day be taken against that of an unknown girl without any knowledge of horticulture, or against that of a prisoner convicted of high treason, he confidently hoped that, having once got possession of the bulb, he would be certain to obtain the prize; and then the tulip, instead of being called Tulipa nigra Barlaensis, would go down to posterity under the name of Tulipa nigra Boxtellensis or Boxtellea.
Mynheer Isaac had not yet quite decided which of these two names he would give to the tulip, but, as both meant the same thing, this was, after all, not the important point.
The point was to steal the tulip. But in order that Boxtel might steal the tulip, it was necessary that Rosa should leave her room.
Great therefore was his joy when he saw the usual evening meetings of the lovers resumed.
He first of all took advantage of Rosa's absence to make himself fully acquainted with all the peculiarities of the door of her chamber. The lock was a double one and in good order, but Rosa always took the key with her.
Boxtel at first entertained an idea of stealing the key, but it soon occurred to him, not only that it would be exceedingly difficult to abstract it from her pocket, but also that, when she perceived her loss, she would not leave her room until the lock was changed, and then Boxtel's first theft would be useless.
He thought it, therefore, better to employ a different expedient. He collected as many keys as he could, and tried all of them during one of those delightful hours which Rosa and Cornelius passed together at the grating of the cell.
Two of the keys entered the lock, and one of them turned round once, but not the second time.
There was, therefore, only a little to be done to this key.
Boxtel covered it with a slight coat of wax, and when he thus renewed the experiment, the obstacle which prevented the key from being turned a second time left its impression on the wax.
It cost Boxtel two days more to bring his key to perfection, with the aid of a small file.
Rosa's door thus opened without noise and without difficulty, and Boxtel found himself in her room alone with the tulip.
The first guilty act of Boxtel had been to climb over a wall in order to dig up the tulip; the second, to introduce himself into the dry-room of Cornelius, through an open window; and the third, to enter Rosa's room by means of a false key.
Thus envy urged Boxtel on with rapid steps in the career of crime.
Boxtel, as we have said, was alone with the tulip.
A common thief would have taken the pot under his arm, and carried it off.
But Boxtel was not a common thief, and he reflected.
It was not yet certain, although very probable, that the tulip would flower black; if, therefore, he stole it now, he not only might be committing a useless crime, but also the theft might be discovered in the time which must elapse until the flower should open.
He therefore -- as being in possession of the key, he might enter Rosa's chamber whenever he liked -- thought it better to wait and to take it either an hour before or after opening, and to start on the instant to Haarlem, where the tulip would be before the judges of the committee before any one else could put in a reclamation.
Should any one then reclaim it, Boxtel would in his turn charge him or her with theft.
This was a deep-laid scheme, and quite worthy of its author.
Thus, every evening during that delightful hour which the two lovers passed together at the grated window, Boxtel entered Rosa's chamber to watch the progress which the black tulip had made towards flowering.
On the evening at which we have arrived he was going to enter according to custom; but the two lovers, as we have seen, only exchanged a few words before Cornelius sent Rosa back to watch over the tulip.
Seeing Rosa enter her room ten minutes after she had left it, Boxtel guessed that the tulip had opened, or was about to open.
During that night, therefore, the great blow was to be struck. Boxtel presented himself before Gryphus with a double supply of Genievre, that is to say, with a bottle in each pocket.
Gryphus being once fuddled, Boxtel was very nearly master of the house.
At eleven o'clock Gryphus was dead drunk. At two in the morning Boxtel saw Rosa leaving the chamber; but evidently she held in her arms something which she carried with great care.
He did not doubt that this was the black tulip which was in flower.
But what was she going to do with it? Would she set out that instant to Haarlem with it?
It was not possible that a young girl should undertake such a journey alone during the night.
Was she only going to show the tulip to Cornelius? This was more likely.
He followed Rosa in his stocking feet, walking on tiptoe.
He saw her approach the grated window. He heard her calling Cornelius. By the light of the dark lantern he saw the tulip open, and black as the night in which he was hidden.
He heard the plan concerted between Cornelius and Rosa to send a messenger to Haarlem. He saw the lips of the lovers meet, and then heard Cornelius send Rosa away.
He saw Rosa extinguish the light and return to her chamber. Ten minutes after, he saw her leave the room again, and lock it twice.
Boxtel, who saw all this whilst hiding himself on the landing-place of the staircase above, descended step by step from his story as Rosa descended from hers; so that, when she touched with her light foot the lowest step of the staircase, Boxtel touched with a still lighter hand the lock of Rosa's chamber.
And in that hand, it must be understood, he held the false key which opened Rosa's door as easily as did the real one.
And this is why, in the beginning of the chapter, we said that the poor young people were in great need of the protection of God.
Chapter 24. The Black Tulip changes Masters
Cornelius remained standing on the spot where Rosa had left him. He was quite overpowered with the weight of his twofold happiness.
Half an hour passed away. Already did the first rays of the sun enter through the iron grating of the prison, when Cornelius was suddenly startled at the noise of steps which came up the staircase, and of cries which approached nearer and nearer.
Almost at the same instant he saw before him the pale and distracted face of Rosa.
He started, and turned pale with fright.
"Cornelius, Cornelius!" she screamed, gasping for breath.
"Good Heaven! what is it?" asked the prisoner.
"Cornelius! the tulip ---- "
"How shall I tell you?"
"Speak, speak, Rosa!"
"Some one has taken -- stolen it from us."
"Stolen -- taken?" said Cornelius.
"Yes," said Rosa, leaning against the door to support herself; "yes, taken, stolen!"
And saying this, she felt her limbs failing her, and she fell on her knees.
"But how? Tell me, explain to me."
"Oh, it is not my fault, my friend."
Poor Rosa! she no longer dared to call him "My beloved one."
"You have then left it alone," said Cornelius, ruefully.
"One minute only, to instruct our messenger, who lives scarcely fifty yards off, on the banks of the Waal."
"And during that time, notwithstanding all my injunctions, you left the key behind, unfortunate child!"
"No, no, no! this is what I cannot understand. The key was never out of my hands; I clinched it as if I were afraid it would take wings."
"But how did it happen, then?"
"That's what I cannot make out. I had given the letter to my messenger; he started before I left his house; I came home, and my door was locked, everything in my room was as I had left it, except the tulip, -- that was gone. Some one must have had a key for my room, or have got a false one made on purpose."
She was nearly choking with sobs, and was unable to continue.
Cornelius, immovable and full of consternation, heard almost without understanding, and only muttered, --
"Stolen, stolen, and I am lost!"
"O Cornelius, forgive me, forgive me, it will kill me!"
Seeing Rosa's distress, Cornelius seized the iron bars of the grating, and furiously shaking them, called out, --
"Rosa, Rosa, we have been robbed, it is true, but shall we allow ourselves to be dejected for all that? No, no; the misfortune is great, but it may perhaps be remedied. Rosa, we know the thief!"
"Alas! what can I say about it?"
"But I say that it is no one else but that infamous Jacob. Shall we allow him to carry to Haarlem the fruit of our labour, the fruit of our sleepless nights, the child of our love? Rosa, we must pursue, we must overtake him!"
"But how can we do all this, my friend, without letting my father know we were in communication with each other? How should I, a poor girl, with so little knowledge of the world and its ways, be able to attain this end, which perhaps you could not attain yourself?"
"Rosa, Rosa, open this door to me, and you will see whether I will not find the thief, -- whether I will not make him confess his crime and beg for mercy."
"Alas!" cried Rosa, sobbing, "can I open the door for you? have I the keys? If I had had them, would not you have been free long ago?"
"Your father has them, -- your wicked father, who has already crushed the first bulb of my tulip. Oh, the wretch! he is an accomplice of Jacob!"
"Don't speak so loud, for Heaven's sake!"
"Oh, Rosa, if you don't open the door to me," Cornelius cried in his rage, "I shall force these bars, and kill everything I find in the prison."
"Be merciful, be merciful, my friend!"
"I tell you, Rosa, that I shall demolish this prison, stone for stone!" and the unfortunate man, whose strength was increased tenfold by his rage, began to shake the door with a great noise, little heeding that the thunder of his voice was re-echoing through the spiral staircase.
Rosa, in her fright, made vain attempts to check this furious outbreak.
"I tell you that I shall kill that infamous Gryphus?" roared Cornelius. "I tell you I shall shed his blood as he did that of my black tulip."
The wretched prisoner began really to rave.
"Well, then, yes," said Rosa, all in a tremble. "Yes, yes, only be quietss. Yes, yes, I will take his keys, I will open the door for you! Yes, only be quietss, my own dear Cornelius."
She did not finish her speech, as a growl by her side interrupted her.
"My father!" cried Rosa.
"Gryphus!" roared Van Baerle. "Oh, you villain!"
Old Gryphus, in the midst of all the noise, had ascended the staircase without being heard.
He rudely seized his daughter by the wrist.
"So you will take my keys?" he said, in a voice choked with rage. "Ah! this dastardly fellow, this monster, this gallows-bird of a conspirator, is your own dear Cornelius, is he? Ah! Missy has communications with prisoners of state. Ah! won't I teach you -- won't I?"
Rosa clasped her hands in despair.
"Ah!" Gryphus continued, passing from the madness of anger to the cool irony of a man who has got the better of his enemy, -- "Ah, you innocent tulip-fancier, you gentle scholar; you will kill me, and drink my blood! Very well! very well! And you have my daughter for an accomplice. Am I, forsooth, in a den of thieves, -- in a cave of brigands? Yes, but the Governor shall know all to-morrow, and his Highness the Stadtholder the day after. We know the law, -- we shall give a second edition of the Buytenhof, Master Scholar, and a good one this time. Yes, yes, just gnaw your paws like a bear in his cage, and you, my fine little lady, devour your dear Cornelius with your eyes. I tell you, my lambkins, you shall not much longer have the felicity of conspiring together. Away with you, unnatural daughter! And as to you, Master Scholar, we shall see each other again. Just be quietss, -- we shall."
Rosa, beyond herself with terror and despair, kissed her hands to her friend; then, suddenly struck with a bright thought, she rushed toward the staircase, saying, --
"All is not yet lost, Cornelius. Rely on me, my Cornelius."
Her father followed her, growling.
As to poor Cornelius, he gradually loosened his hold of the bars, which his fingers still grasped convulsively. His head was heavy, his eyes almost started from their sockets, and he fell heavily on the floor of his cell, muttering, --
"Stolen! it has been stolen from me!"
During this time Boxtel had left the fortress by the door which Rosa herself had opened. He carried the black tulip wrapped up in a cloak, and, throwing himself into a coach, which was waiting for him at Gorcum, he drove off, without, as may well be imagined, having informed his friend Gryphus of his sudden departure.
And now, as we have seen him enter his coach, we shall with the consent of the reader, follow him to the end of his journey.
He proceeded but slowly, as the black tulip could not bear travelling post-haste.
But Boxtel, fearing that he might not arrive early enough, procured at Delft a box, lined all round with fresh moss, in which he packed the tulip. The flower was so lightly pressed upon all sides, with a supply of air from above, that the coach could now travel full speed without any possibility of injury to the tulip.
He arrived next morning at Haarlem, fatigued but triumphant; and, to do away with every trace of the theft, he transplanted the tulip, and, breaking the original flower-pot, threw the pieces into the canal. After which he wrote the President of the Horticultural Societssy a letter, in which he announced to him that he had just arrived at Haarlem with a perfectly black tulip; and, with his flower all safe, took up his quarters at a good hotel in the town, and there he waited.
Chapter 25. The President van Systens
Rosa, on leaving Cornelius, had fixed on her plan, which was no other than to restore to Cornelius the stolen tulip, or never to see him again.
She had seen the despair of the prisoner, and she knew that it was derived from a double source, and that it was incurable.
On the one hand, separation became inevitable, -- Gryphus having at the same time surprised the secret of their love and of their secret meetings.
On the other hand, all the hopes on the fulfilment of which Cornelius van Baerle had rested his ambition for the last seven years were now crushed.
Rosa was one of those women who are dejected by trifles, but who in great emergencies are supplied by the misfortune itself with the energy for combating or with the resources for remedying it.
She went to her room, and cast a last glance about her to see whether she had not been mistaken, and whether the tulip was not stowed away in some corner where it had escaped her notice. But she sought in vain, the tulip was still missing; the tulip was indeed stolen.
Rosa made up a little parcel of things indispensable for a journey; took her three hundred guilders, -- that is to say, all her fortune, -- fetched the third bulb from among her lace, where she had laid it up, and carefully hid it in her bosom; after which she locked her door twice to disguise her flight as long as possible, and, leaving the prison by the same door which an hour before had let out Boxtel, she went to a stable-keeper to hire a carriage.
The man had only a two-wheel chaise, and this was the vehicle which Boxtel had hired since last evening, and in which he was now driving along the road to Delft; for the road from Loewestein to Haarlem, owing to the many canals, rivers, and rivulets intersecting the Country, is exceedingly circuitous.
Not being able to procure a vehicle, Rosa was obliged to take a horse, with which the stable-keeper readily intrusted her, knowing her to be the daughter of the jailer of the fortress.
Rosa hoped to overtake her messenger, a kind-hearted and honest lad, whom she would take with her, and who might at the same time serve her as a guide and a protector.
And in fact she had not proceeded more than a league before she saw him hastening along one of the side paths of a very pretty road by the river. Setting her horse off at a canter, she soon came up with him.
The honest lad was not aware of the important character of his message; nevertheless, he used as much speed as if he had known it; and in less than an hour he had already gone a league and a half.
Rosa took from him the note, which had now become useless, and explained to him what she wanted him to do for her. The boatman placed himself entirely at her disposal, promising to keep pace with the horse if Rosa would allow him to take hold of either the croup or the bridle of her horse. The two travellers had been on their way for five hours, and made more than eight leagues, and yet Gryphus had not the least suspicion of his daughter having left the fortress.
The jailer, who was of a very spiteful and cruel disposition, chuckled within himself at the idea of having struck such terror into his daughter's heart.
But whilst he was congratulating himself on having such a nice story to tell to his boon companion, Jacob, that worthy was on his road to Delft; and, thanks to the swiftness of the horse, had already the start of Rosa and her companion by four leagues.
And whilst the affectionate father was rejoicing at the thought of his daughter weeping in her room, Rosa was making the best of her way towards Haarlem.
Thus the prisoner alone was where Gryphus thought him to be.
Rosa was so little with her father since she took care of the tulip, that at his dinner hour, that is to say, at twelve o'clock, he was reminded for the first time by his appetite that his daughter was fretting rather too long.
He sent one of the under-turnkeys to call her; and, when the man came back to tell him that he had called and sought her in vain, he resolved to go and call her himself.
He first went to her room, but, loud as he knocked, Rosa answered not.
The locksmith of the fortress was sent for; he opened the door, but Gryphus no more found Rosa than she had found the tulip.
At that very moment she entered Rotterdam.
Gryphus therefore had just as little chance of finding her in the kitchen as in her room, and just as little in the garden as in the kitchen.
The reader may imagine the anger of the jailer when, after having made inquiries about the neighbourhood, he heard that his daughter had hired a horse, and, like an adventuress, set out on a journey without saying where she was going.
Gryphus again went up in his fury to Van Baerle, abused him, threatened him, knocked all the miserable furniture of his cell about, and promised him all sorts of misery, even starvation and flogging.
Cornelius, without even hearing what his jailer said, allowed himself to be ill-treated, abused, and threatened, remaining all the while sullen, immovable, dead to every emotion and fear.
After having sought for Rosa in every direction, Gryphus looked out for Jacob, and, as he could not find him either, he began to suspect from that moment that Jacob had run away with her.
The damsel, meanwhile, after having stopped for two hours at Rotterdam, had started again on her journey. On that evening she slept at Delft, and on the following morning she reached Haarlem, four hours after Boxtel had arrived there.
Rosa, first of all, caused herself to be led before Mynheer van Systens, the President of the Horticultural Societssy of Haarlem.
She found that worthy gentleman in a situation which, to do justice to our story, we must not pass over in our description.
The President was drawing up a report to the committee of the societssy.
This report was written on large-sized paper, in the finest handwriting of the President.
Rosa was announced simply as Rosa Gryphus; but as her name, well as it might sound, was unknown to the President, she was refused admittance.
Rosa, however, was by no means abashed, having vowed in her heart, in pursuing her cause, not to allow herself to be put down either by refusal, or abuse, or even brutality.
"Announce to the President," she said to the servant, "that I want to speak to him about the black tulip."
These words seemed to be an "Open Sesame," for she soon found herself in the office of the President, Van Systens, who gallantly rose from his chair to meet her.
He was a spare little man, resembling the stem of a flower, his head forming its chalice, and his two limp arms representing the double leaf of the tulip; the resemblance was rendered complete by his waddling gait which made him even more like that flower when it bends under a breeze.
"Well, miss," he said, "you are coming, I am told, about the affair of the black tulip."
To the President of the Horticultural Societssy the Tulipa nigra was a first-rate power, which, in its character as queen of the tulips, might send ambassadors.
"Yes, sir," answered Rosa; "I come at least to speak of it."
"Is it doing well, then?" asked Van Systens, with a smile of tender veneration.
"Alas! sir, I don't know," said Rosa.
"How is that? could any misfortune have happened to it?"
"A very great one, sir; yet not to it, but to me."
"It has been stolen from me."
"Stolen! the black tulip?"
"Do you know the thief?"
"I have my suspicions, but I must not yet accuse any one."
"But the matter may very easily be ascertained."
"How is that?"
"As it has been stolen from you, the thief cannot be far off."
"Because I have seen the black tulip only two hours ago."
"You have seen the black tulip!" cried Rosa, rushing up to Mynheer van Systens.
"As I see you, miss."
"Well, with your master, of course."
"With my master?"
"Yes, are you not in the service of Master Isaac Boxtel?"
"But for whom do you take me, sir?"
"And for whom do you take me?"
"I hope, sir, I take you for what you are, -- that is to say, for the honorable Mynheer van Systens, Burgomaster of Haarlem, and President of the Horticultural Societssy."
"And what is it you told me just now?"
"I told you, sir, that my tulip has been stolen."
"Then your tulip is that of Mynheer Boxtel. Well, my child, you express yourself very badly. The tulip has been stolen, not from you, but from Mynheer Boxtel."
"I repeat to you, sir, that I do not know who this Mynheer Boxtel is, and that I have now heard his name pronounced for the first time."
"You do not know who Mynheer Boxtel is, and you also had a black tulip?"
"But is there any other besides mine?" asked Rosa, trembling.
"Yes, -- that of Mynheer Boxtel."
"How is it?"
"Black, of course."
"Without a single speck, or even point."
"And you have this tulip, -- you have it deposited here?"
"No, but it will be, as it has to be exhibited before the committee previous to the prize being awarded."
"Oh, sir!" cried Rosa, "this Boxtel -- this Isaac Boxtel -- who calls himself the owner of the black tulip ---- "
"And who is its owner?"
"Is he not a very thin man?"
"With sunken eyes?"
"I think he has."
"Restless, stooping, and bowlegged?"
"In truth, you draw Master Boxtel's portrait feature by feature."
"And the tulip, sir? Is it not in a pot of white and blue earthenware, with yellowish flowers in a basket on three sides?"
"Oh, as to that I am not quite sure; I looked more at the flower than at the pot."
"Oh, sir! that's my tulip, which has been stolen from me. I came here to reclaim it before you and from you."
"Oh! oh!" said Van Systens, looking at Rosa. "What! you are here to claim the tulip of Master Boxtel? Well, I must say, you are cool enough."
"Honoured sir," a little put out by this apostrophe, "I do not say that I am coming to claim the tulip of Master Boxtel, but to reclaim my own."
"Yes, the one which I have myself planted and nursed."
"Well, then, go and find out Master Boxtel, at the White Swan Inn, and you can then settle matters with him; as for me, considering that the cause seems to me as difficult to judge as that which was brought before King Solomon, and that I do not pretend to be as wise as he was, I shall content myself with making my report, establishing the existence of the black tulip, and ordering the hundred thousand guilders to be paid to its grower. Good-bye, my child."
"Oh, sir, sir!" said Rosa, imploringly.
"Only, my child," continued Van Systens, "as you are young and pretty, and as there may be still some good in you, I'll give you some good advice. Be prudent in this matter, for we have a court of justice and a prison here at Haarlem, and, moreover, we are exceedingly ticklish as far as the honour of our tulips is concerned. Go, my child, go, remember, Master Isaac Boxtel at the White Swan Inn."
And Mynheer van Systens, taking up his fine pen, resumed his report, which had been interrupted by Rosa's visit.
Chapter 26. A Member of the Horticultural Societssy
Rosa, beyond herself and nearly mad with joy and fear at the idea of the black tulip being found again, started for the White Swan, followed by the boatman, a stout lad from Frisia, who was strong enough to knock down a dozen Boxtels single-handed.
He had been made acquainted in the course of the journey with the state of affairs, and was not afraid of any enCounter; only he had orders, in such a case, to spare the tulip.
But on arriving in the great market-place Rosa at once stopped, a sudden thought had struck her, just as Homer's Minerva seizes Achilles by the hair at the moment when he is about to be carried away by his anger.
"Good Heaven!" she muttered to herself, "I have made a grievous blunder; it may be I have ruined Cornelius, the tulip, and myself. I have given the alarm, and perhaps awakened suspicion. I am but a woman; these men may league themselves against me, and then I shall be lost. If I am lost that matters nothing, -- but Cornelius and the tulip!"
She reflected for a moment.
"If I go to that Boxtel, and do not know him; if that Boxtel is not my Jacob, but another fancier, who has also discovered the black tulip; or if my tulip has been stolen by some one else, or has already passed into the hands of a third person; -- if I do not recognize the man, only the tulip, how shall I prove that it belongs to me? On the other hand, if I recognise this Boxtel as Jacob, who knows what will come out of it? whilst we are contesting with each other, the tulip will die."
In the meanwhile, a great noise was heard, like the distant roar of the sea, at the other extremity of the market-place. People were running about, doors opening and shutting, Rosa alone was unconscious of all this hubbub among the multitude.
"We must return to the President," she muttered.
"Well, then, let us return," said the boatman.
They took a small street, which led them straight to the mansion of Mynheer van Systens, who with his best pen in his finest hand continued to draw up his report.
Everywhere on her way Rosa heard people speaking only of the black tulip, and the prize of a hundred thousand guilders. The news had spread like wildfire through the town.
Rosa had not a little difficulty is penetrating a second time into the office of Mynheer van Systens, who, however, was again moved by the magic name of the black tulip.
But when he recognised Rosa, whom in his own mind he had set down as mad, or even worse, he grew angry, and wanted to send her away.
Rosa, however, clasped her hands, and said with that tone of honest truth which generally finds its way to the hearts of men, --
"For Heaven's sake, sir, do not turn me away; listen to what I have to tell you, and if it be not possible for you to do me justice, at least you will not one day have to reproach yourself before God for having made yourself the accomplice of a bad action."
Van Systens stamped his foot with impatience; it was the second time that Rosa interrupted him in the midst of a composition which stimulated his vanity, both as a burgomaster and as President of the Horticultural Societssy.
"But my report!" he cried, -- "my report on the black tulip!"
"Mynheer van Systens," Rosa continued, with the firmness of innocence and truth, "your report on the black tulip will, if you don't hear me, be based on crime or on falsehood. I implore you, sir, let this Master Boxtel, whom I assert to be Master Jacob, be brought here before you and me, and I swear that I will leave him in undisturbed possession of the tulip if I do not recognise the flower and its holder."
"Well, I declare, here is a proposal," said Van Systens.
"What do you mean?"
"I ask you what can be proved by your recognising them?"
"After all," said Rosa, in her despair, "you are an honest man, sir; how would you feel if one day you found out that you had given the prize to a man for something which he not only had not produced, but which he had even stolen?"
Rosa's speech seemed to have brought a certain conviction into the heart of Van Systens, and he was going to answer her in a gentler tone, when at once a great noise was heard in the street, and loud cheers shook the house.
"What is this?" cried the burgomaster; "what is this? Is it possible? have I heard aright?"
And he rushed towards his anteroom, without any longer heeding Rosa, whom he left in his cabinet.
Scarcely had he reached his anteroom when he cried out aloud on seeing his staircase invaded, up to the very landing-place, by the multitude, which was accompanying, or rather following, a young man, simply clad in a violet-coloured velvet, embroidered with silver; who, with a certain aristocratic slowness, ascended the white stone steps of the house.
In his wake followed two officers, one of the navy, and the other of the cavalry.
Van Systens, having found his way through the frightened domestics, began to bow, almost to prostrate himself before his visitor, who had been the cause of all this stir.
"Monseigneur," he called out, "Monseigneur! What distinguished honour is your Highness bestowing for ever on my humble house by your visit?"
"Dear Mynheer van Systens," said William of Orange, with a serenity which, with him, took the place of a smile, "I am a true Hollander, I am fond of the water, of beer, and of flowers, sometimes even of that cheese the flavour of which seems so grateful to the French; the flower which I prefer to all others is, of course, the tulip. I heard at Leyden that the city of Haarlem at last possessed the black tulip; and, after having satisfied myself of the truth of news which seemed so incredible, I have come to know all about it from the President of the Horticultural Societssy."
"Oh, Monseigneur, Monseigneur!" said Van Systens, "what glory to the societssy if its endeavours are pleasing to your Highness!"
"Have you got the flower here?" said the Prince, who, very likely, already regretted having made such a long speech.
"I am sorry to say we have not."
"And where is it?"
"With its owner."
"Who is he?"
"An honest tulip-grower of Dort."
"At the White Swan; I shall send for him, and if in the meanwhile your Highness will do me the honour of stepping into my drawing-room, he will be sure -- knowing that your Highness is here -- to lose no time in bringing his tulip."
"Very well, send for him."
"Yes, your Highness, but ----
"What is it?"
"Oh, nothing of any consequence, Monseigneur."
"Everything is of consequence, Mynheer van Systens."
"Well, then, Monseigneur, if it must be said, a little difficulty has presented itself."
"This tulip has already been claimed by usurpers. It's true that it is worth a hundred thousand guilders."
"Yes, Monseigneur, by usurpers, by forgers."
"This is a crime, Mynheer van Systens."
"So it is, your Highness."
"And have you any proofs of their guilt? '
"No, Monseigneur, the guilty woman ---- "
"The guilty woman, Sir?"
"I ought to say, the woman who claims the tulip, Monseigneur, is here in the room close by."
"And what do you think of her?"
"I think, Monseigneur, that the bait of a hundred thousand guilders may have tempted her."
"And so she claims the tulip?"
"And what proof does she offer?"
"I was just going to question her when your Highness came in."
"Question her, Mynheer van Systens, question her. I am the first magistrate of the Country; I will hear the case and administer justice."
"I have found my King Solomon," said Van Systens, bowing, and showing the way to the Prince.
His Highness was just going to walk ahead, but, suddenly recollecting himself he said --
"Go before me, and call me plain Mynheer."
The two then entered the cabinet.
Rosa was still standing at the same place, leaning on the window, and looking through the panes into the garden.
"Ah! a Frisian girl," said the Prince, as he observed Rosa's gold brocade headdress and red petticoat.
At the noise of their footsteps she turned round, but scarcely saw the Prince, who seated himself in the darkest corner of the apartment.
All her attention, as may be easily imagined, was fixed on that important person who was called Van Systens, so that she had no time to notice the humble stranger who was following the master of the house, and who, for aught she knew, might be somebody or nobody.
The humble stranger took a book down from the shelf, and made Van Systens a sign to commence the examination forthwith.
Van Systens, likewise at the invitation of the young man in the violet coat, sat down in his turn, and, quite happy and proud of the importance thus cast upon him, began, --
"My child, you promise to tell me the truth and the entire truth concerning this tulip?"
"Well, then, speak before this gentleman; this gentleman is one of the members of the Horticultural Societssy."
"What am I to tell you, sir," said Rosa, "beside that which I have told you already."
"Well, then, what is it?"
"I repeat the question I have addressed to you before."
"That you will order Mynheer Boxtel to come here with his tulip. If I do not recognise it as mine I will frankly tell it; but if I do recognise it I will reclaim it, even if I go before his Highness the Stadtholder himself, with my proofs in my hands."
"You have, then, some proofs, my child?"
"God, who knows my good right, will assist me to some."
Van Systens exchanged a look with the Prince, who, since the first words of Rosa, seemed to try to remember her, as if it were not for the first time that this sweet voice rang in his ears.
An officer went off to fetch Boxtel, and Van Systens in the meanwhile continued his examination.
"And with what do you support your assertion that you are the real owner of the black tulip?"
"With the very simple fact of my having planted and grown it in my own chamber."
"In your chamber? Where was your chamber?"
"You are from Loewestein?"
"I am the daughter of the jailer of the fortress."
The Prince made a little movement, as much as to say, "Well, that's it, I remember now."
And, all the while feigning to be engaged with his book, he watched Rosa with even more attention than he had before.
"And you are fond of flowers?" continued Mynheer van Systens.
"Then you are an experienced florist, I dare say?"
Rosa hesitated a moment; then with a tone which came from the depth of her heart, she said, --
"Gentlemen, I am speaking to men of honor."
There was such an expression of truth in the tone of her voice, that Van Systens and the Prince answered simultaneously by an affirmative movement of their heads.
"Well, then, I am not an experienced florist; I am only a poor girl, one of the people, who, three months ago, knew neither how to read nor how to write. No, the black tulip has not been found by myself."
"But by whom else?"
"By a poor prisoner of Loewestein."
"By a prisoner of Loewestein?" repeated the Prince.
The tone of his voice startled Rosa, who was sure she had heard it before.
"By a prisoner of state, then," continued the Prince, "as there are none else there."
Having said this he began to read again, at least in appearance.
"Yes," said Rosa, with a faltering voice, "yes, by a prisoner of state."
Van Systens trembled as he heard such a confession made in the presence of such a witness.
"Continue," said William dryly, to the President of the Horticultural Societssy.
"Ah, sir," said Rosa, addressing the person whom she thought to be her real judge, "I am going to incriminate myself very seriously."
"Certainly," said Van Systens, "the prisoner of state ought to be kept in close confinement at Loewestein."
"And from what you tell me you took advantage of your position, as daughter of the jailer, to communicate with a prisoner of state about the cultivation of flowers."
"So it is, sir," Rosa murmured in dismay; "yes, I am bound to confess, I saw him every day."
"Unfortunate girl!" exclaimed Van Systens.
The Prince, observing the fright of Rosa and the pallor of the President, raised his head, and said, in his clear and decided tone, --
"This cannot signify anything to the members of the Horticultural Societssy; they have to judge on the black tulip, and have no cognizance to take of political offences. Go on, young woman, go on."
Van Systens, by means of an eloquent glance, offered, in the name of the tulip, his thanks to the new member of the Horticultural Societssy.
Rosa, reassured by this sort of encouragement which the stranger was giving her, related all that had happened for the last three months, all that she had done, and all that she had suffered. She described the cruelty of Gryphus; the destruction of the first bulb; the grief of the prisoner; the precautions taken to insure the success of the second bulb; the patience of the prisoner and his anxietssy during their separation; how he was about to starve himself because he had no longer any news of his tulip; his joy when she went to see him again; and, lastly, their despair when they found that the tulip which had come into flower was stolen just one hour after it had opened.
All this was detailed with an accent of truth which, although producing no change in the impassible mien of the Prince, did not fail to take effect on Van Systens.
"But," said the Prince, "it cannot be long since you knew the prisoner."
Rosa opened her large eyes and looked at the stranger, who drew back into the dark corner, as if he wished to escape her observation.
"Why, sir?" she asked him.
"Because it is not yet four months since the jailer Gryphus and his daughter were removed to Loewestein."
"That is true, sir."
"Otherwise, you must have solicited the transfer of your father, in order to be able to follow some prisoner who may have been transported from the Hague to Loewestein."
"Sir," said Rosa, blushing.
"Finish what you have to say," said William.
"I confess I knew the prisoner at the Hague."
"Happy prisoner!" said William, smiling.
At this moment the officer who had been sent for Boxtel returned, and announced to the Prince that the person whom he had been to fetch was following on his heels with his tulip.
Chapter 27. The Third Bulb
Boxtel's return was scarcely announced, when he entered in person the drawing-room of Mynheer van Systens, followed by two men, who carried in a box their precious burden and deposited it on a table.
The Prince, on being informed, left the cabinet, passed into the drawing-room, admired the flower, and silently resumed his seat in the dark corner, where he had himself placed his chair.
Rosa, trembling, pale and terrified, expected to be invited in her turn to see the tulip.
She now heard the voice of Boxtel.
"It is he!" she exclaimed.
The Prince made her a sign to go and look through the open door into the drawing-room.
"It is my tulip," cried Rosa, "I recognise it. Oh, my poor Cornelius!"
And saying this she burst into tears.
The Prince rose from his seat, went to the door, where he stood for some time with the full light falling upon his figure.
As Rosa's eyes now rested upon him, she felt more than ever convinced that this was not the first time she had seen the stranger.
"Master Boxtel," said the Prince, "come in here, if you please."
Boxtel eagerly approached, and, finding himself face to face with William of Orange, started back.
"His Highness!" he called out.
"His Highness!" Rosa repeated in dismay.
Hearing this exclamation on his left, Boxtel turned round, and perceived Rosa.
At this sight the whole frame of the thief shook as if under the influence of a galvanic shock.
"Ah!" muttered the Prince to himself, "he is confused."
But Boxtel, making a violent effort to control his feelings, was already himself again.
"Master Boxtel," said William, "you seem to have discovered the secret of growing the black tulip?"
"Yes, your Highness," answered Boxtel, in a voice which still betrayed some confusion.
It is true his agitation might have been attributable to the emotion which the man must have felt on suddenly recognising the Prince.
"But," continued the Stadtholder , "here is a young damsel who also pretends to have found it."
Boxtel, with a disdainful smile, shrugged his shoulders.
William watched all his movements with evident interest and curiosity.
"Then you don't know this young girl?" said the Prince.
"No, your Highness!"
"And you, child, do you know Master Boxtel?"
"No, I don't know Master Boxtel, but I know Master Jacob."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean to say that at Loewestein the man who here calls himself Isaac Boxtel went by the name of Master Jacob."
"What do you say to that, Master Boxtel?"
"I say that this damsel lies, your Highness."
"You deny, therefore, having ever been at Loewestein?"
Boxtel hesitated; the fixed and searching glance of the proud eye of the Prince prevented him from lying.
"I cannot deny having been at Loewestein, your Highness, but I deny having stolen the tulip."
"You have stolen it, and that from my room," cried Rosa, with indignation.
"I deny it."
"Now listen to me. Do you deny having followed me into the garden, on the day when I prepared the border where I was to plant it? Do you deny having followed me into the garden when I pretended to plant it? Do you deny that, on that evening, you rushed after my departure to the spot where you hoped to find the bulb? Do you deny having dug in the ground with your hands -- but, thank God! in vain, as it was a stratagem to discover your intentions. Say, do you deny all this?"
Boxtel did not deem it fit to answer these several charges, but, turning to the Prince, continued, --
"I have now for twenty years grown tulips at Dort. I have even acquired some reputation in this art; one of my hybrids is entered in the catalogue under the name of an illustrious personage. I have dedicated it to the King of Portugal. The truth in the matter is as I shall now tell your Highness. This damsel knew that I had produced the black tulip, and, in concert with a lover of hers in the fortress of Loewestein, she formed the plan of ruining me by appropriating to herself the prize of a hundred thousand guilders, which, with the help of your Highness's justice, I hope to gain."
"Yah!" cried Rosa, beyond herself with anger.
"Silence!" said the Prince.
Then, turning to Boxtel, he said, --
"And who is that prisoner to whom you allude as the lover of this young woman?"
Rosa nearly swooned, for Cornelius was designated as a dangerous prisoner, and recommended by the Prince to the especial surveillance of the jailer.
Nothing could have been more agreeable to Boxtel than this question.
"This prisoner," he said, "is a man whose name in itself will prove to your Highness what trust you may place in his probity. He is a prisoner of state, who was once condemned to death."
"And his name?"
Rosa hid her face in her hands with a movement of despair.
"His name is Cornelius van Baerle," said Boxtel, "and he is godson of that villain Cornelius de Witt."
The Prince gave a start, his generally quietss eye flashed, and a death-like paleness spread over his impassible features.
He went up to Rosa, and with his finger, gave her a sign to remove her hands from her face.
Rosa obeyed, as if under mesmeric influence, without having seen the sign.
"It was, then to follow this man that you came to me at Leyden to solicit for the transfer of your father?"
Rosa hung down her head, and, nearly choking, said, --
"Yes, your Highness."
"Go on," said the Prince to Boxtel.
"I have nothing more to say," Isaac continued. "Your Highness knows all. But there is one thing which I did not intend to say, because I did not wish to make this girl blush for her ingratitude. I came to Loewestein because I had business there. On this occasion I made the acquaintance of old Gryphus, and, falling in love with his daughter, made an offer of marriage to her; and, not being rich, I committed the imprudence of mentioning to them my prospect of gaining a hundred thousand guilders, in proof of which I showed to them the black tulip. Her lover having himself made a show at Dort of cultivating tulips to hide his political intrigues, they now plotted together for my ruin. On the eve of the day when the flower was expected to open, the tulip was taken away by this young woman. She carried it to her room, from which I had the good luck to recover it at the very moment when she had the impudence to despatch a messenger to announce to the members of the Horticultural Societssy that she had produced the grand black tulip. But she did not stop there. There is no doubt that, during the few hours which she kept the flower in her room, she showed it to some persons whom she may now call as witnesses. But, fortunately, your Highness has now been warned against this impostor and her witnesses."
"Oh, my God, my God! what infamous falsehoods!" said Rosa, bursting into tears, and throwing herself at the feet of the Stadtholder , who, although thinking her guilty, felt pity for her dreadful agony.
"You have done very wrong, my child," he said, "and your lover shall be punished for having thus badly advised you. For you are so young, and have such an honest look, that I am inclined to believe the mischief to have been his doing, and not yours."
"Monseigneur! Monseigneur!" cried Rosa, "Cornelius is not guilty."
"Not guilty of having advised you? that's what you want to say, is it not?"
"What I wish to say, your Highness, is that Cornelius is as little guilty of the second crime imputed to him as he was of the first."
"Of the first? And do you know what was his first crime? Do you know of what he was accused and convicted? Of having, as an accomplice of Cornelius de Witt, concealed the correspondence of the Grand Pensionary and the Marquis de Louvois."
"Well, sir, he was ignorant of this correspondence being deposited with him; completely ignorant. I am as certain as of my life, that, if it were not so, he would have told me; for how could that pure mind have harboured a secret without revealing it to me? No, no, your Highness, I repeat it, and even at the risk of incurring your displeasure, Cornelius is no more guilty of the first crime than of the second; and of the second no more than of the first. Oh, would to Heaven that you knew my Cornelius; Monseigneur!"
"He is a De Witt!" cried Boxtel. "His Highness knows only too much of him, having once granted him his life."
"Silence!" said the Prince; "all these affairs of state, as I have already said, are completely out of the province of the Horticultural Societssy of Haarlem."
Then, knitting his brow, he added, --
"As to the tulip, make yourself easy, Master Boxtel, you shall have justice done to you."
Boxtel bowed with a heart full of joy, and received the congratulations of the President.
"You, my child," William of Orange continued, "you were going to commit a crime. I will not punish you; but the real evil-doer shall pay the penalty for both. A man of his name may be a conspirator, and even a traitor, but he ought not to be a thief."
"A thief!" cried Rosa. "Cornelius a thief? Pray, your Highness, do not say such a word, it would kill him, if he knew it. If theft there has been, I swear to you, Sir, no one else but this man has committed it."
"Prove it," Boxtel coolly remarked.
"I shall prove it. With God's help I shall."
Then, turning towards Boxtel, she asked, --
"The tulip is yours?"
"How many bulbs were there of it?"
Boxtel hesitated for a moment, but after a short consideration he came to the conclusion that she would not ask this question if there were none besides the two bulbs of which he had known already. He therefore answered, --
"What has become of these bulbs?"
"Oh! what has become of them? Well, one has failed; the second has produced the black tulip."
"And the third?
"The third, -- where is it?"
"I have it at home," said Boxtel, quite confused.
"At home? Where? At Loewestein, or at Dort?"
"At Dort," said Boxtel.
"You lie!" cried Rosa. "Monseigneur," she continued, whilst turning round to the Prince, "I will tell you the true story of these three bulbs. The first was crushed by my father in the prisoner's cell, and this man is quite aware of it, for he himself wanted to get hold of it, and, being balked in his hope, he very nearly fell out with my father, who had been the cause of his disappointment. The second bulb, planted by me, has produced the black tulip, and the third and last" -- saying this, she drew it from her bosom -- "here it is, in the very same paper in which it was wrapped up together with the two others. When about to be led to the scaffold, Cornelius van Baerle gave me all the three. Take it, Monseigneur, take it."
And Rosa, unfolding the paper, offered the bulb to the Prince, who took it from her hands and examined it.
"But, Monseigneur, this young woman may have stolen the bulb, as she did the tulip," Boxtel said, with a faltering voice, and evidently alarmed at the attention with which the Prince examined the bulb; and even more at the movements of Rosa, who was reading some lines written on the paper which remained in her hands.
Her eyes suddenly lighted up; she read, with breathless anxietssy, the mysterious paper over and over again; and at last, uttering a cry, held it out to the Prince and said, "Read, Monseigneur, for Heaven's sake, read!"
William handed the third bulb to Van Systens, took the paper, and read.
No sooner had he looked at it than he began to stagger; his hand trembled, and very nearly let the paper fall to the ground; and the expression of pain and compassion in his features was really frightful to see.
It was that fly-leaf, taken from the Bible, which Cornelius de Witt had sent to Dort by Craeke, the servant of his brother John, to request Van Baerle to burn the correspondence of the Grand Pensionary with the Marquis de Louvois.
This request, as the reader may remember, was couched in the following terms: --
"My Dear Godson, --
"Burn the parcel which I have intrusted to you. Burn it without looking at it, and without opening it, so that its contents may for ever remain unknown to yourself. Secrets of this description are death to those with whom they are deposited. Burn it, and you will have saved John and Cornelius de Witt.
"Farewell, and love me.
Cornelius de Witt.
"August 20, 1672."
This slip of paper offered the proofs both of Van Baerle's innocence and of his claim to the property of the tulip.
Rosa and the Stadtholder exchanged one look only.
That of Rosa was meant to express, "Here, you see yourself."
That of the Stadtholder signified, "Be quietss, and wait."
The Prince wiped the cold sweat from his forehead, and slowly folded up the paper, whilst his thoughts were wandering in that labyrinth without a goal and without a guide, which is called remorse and shame for the past.
Soon, however, raising his head with an effort, he said, in his usual voice, --
"Go, Mr. Boxtel; justice shall be done, I promise you."
Then, turning to the President, he added, --
"You, my dear Mynheer van Systens, take charge of this young woman and of the tulip. Good-bye."
All bowed, and the Prince left, among the deafening cheers of the crowd outside.
Boxtel returned to his inn, rather puzzled and uneasy, tormented by misgivings about that paper which William had received from the hand of Rosa, and which his Highness had read, folded up, and so carefully put in his pocket. What was the meaning of all this?
Rosa went up to the tulip, tenderly kissed its leaves and, with a heart full of happiness and confidence in the ways of God, broke out in the words, --
"Thou knowest best for what end Thou madest my good Cornelius teach me to read."
Chapter 28. The Hymn of the Flowers
Whilst the events we have described in our last chapter were taking place, the unfortunate Van Baerle, forgotten in his cell in the fortress of Loewestein, suffered at the hands of Gryphus all that a prisoner can suffer when his jailer has formed the determination of playing the part of hangman.
Gryphus, not having received any tidings of Rosa or of Jacob, persuaded himself that all that had happened was the devil's work, and that Dr. Cornelius van Baerle had been sent on earth by Satan.
The result of it was, that, one fine morning, the third after the disappearance of Jacob and Rosa, he went up to the cell of Cornelius in even a greater rage than usual.
The latter, leaning with his elbows on the window-sill and supporting his head with his two hands, whilst his eyes wandered over the distant hazy horizon where the windmills of Dort were turning their sails, was breathing the fresh air, in order to be able to keep down his tears and to fortify himself in his philosophy.
The pigeons were still there, but hope was not there; there was no future to look forward to.
Alas! Rosa, being watched, was no longer able to come. Could she not write? and if so, could she convey her letters to him?
No, no. He had seen during the two preceding days too much fury and malignity in the eyes of old Gryphus to expect that his vigilance would relax, even for one moment. Moreover, had not she to suffer even worse torments than those of seclusion and separation? Did this brutal, blaspheming, drunken bully take revenge on his daughter, like the ruthless fathers of the Greek drama? And when the Genievre had heated his brain, would it not give to his arm, which had been only too well set by Cornelius, even double force?
The idea that Rosa might perhaps be ill-treated nearly drove Cornelius mad.
He then felt his own powerlessness. He asked himself whether God was just in inflicting so much tribulation on two innocent creatures. And certainly in these moments he began to doubt the wisdom of Providence. It is one of the curses of misfortune that it thus begets doubt.
Van Baerle had proposed to write to Rosa, but where was she?
He also would have wished to write to the Hague to be beforehand with Gryphus, who, he had no doubt, would by denouncing him do his best to bring new storms on his head.
But how should he write? Gryphus had taken the paper and pencil from him, and even if he had both, he could hardly expect Gryphus to despatch his letter.
Then Cornelius revolved in his mind all those stratagems resorted to by unfortunate prisoners.
He had thought of an attempt to escape, a thing which never entered his head whilst he could see Rosa every day; but the more he thought of it, the more clearly he saw the impracticability of such an attempt. He was one of those choice spirits who abhor everything that is common, and who often lose a good chance through not taking the way of the vulgar, that high road of mediocrity which leads to everything.
"How is it possible," said Cornelius to himself, "that I should escape from Loewestein, as Grotius has done the same thing before me? Has not every precaution been taken since? Are not the windows barred? Are not the doors of double and even of treble strength, and the sentinels ten times more watchful? And have not I, besides all this, an Argus so much the more dangerous as he has the keen eyes of hatred? Finally, is there not one fact which takes away all my spirit, I mean Rosa's absence? But suppose I should waste ten years of my life in making a file to file off my bars, or in braiding cords to let myself down from the window, or in sticking wings on my shoulders to fly, like Daedalus? But luck is against me now. The file would get dull, the rope would break, or my wings would melt in the sun; I should surely kill myself, I should be picked up maimed and crippled; I should be labelled, and put on exhibition in the museum at the Hague between the blood-stained doublet of William the Taciturn and the female walrus captured at Stavesen, and the only result of my enterprise will have been to procure me a place among the curiosities of Holland.
"But no; and it is much better so. Some fine day Gryphus will commit some atrocity. I am losing my patience, since I have lost the joy and company of Rosa, and especially since I have lost my tulip. Undoubtedly, some day or other Gryphus will attack me in a manner painful to my self-respect, or to my love, or even threaten my personal safety. I don't know how it is, but since my imprisonment I feel a strange and almost irresistible pugnacity. Well, I shall get at the throat of that old villain, and strangle him."
Cornelius at these words stopped for a moment, biting his lips and staring out before him; then, eagerly returning to an idea which seemed to possess a strange fascination for him, he continued, --
"Well, and once having strangled him, why should I not take his keys from him, why not go down the stairs as if I had done the most virtuous action, why not go and fetch Rosa from her room, why not tell her all, and jump from her window into the Waal? I am expert enough as a swimmer to save both of us. Rosa, -- but, oh Heaven, Gryphus is her father! Whatever may be her affection for me, she will never approve of my having strangled her father, brutal and malicious as he has been.
"I shall have to enter into an argument with her; and in the midst of my speech some wretched turnkey who has found Gryphus with the death-rattle in his throat, or perhaps actually dead, will come along and put his hand on my shoulder. Then I shall see the Buytenhof again, and the gleam of that infernal sword, -- which will not stop half-way a second time, but will make acquaintance with the nape of my neck.
"It will not do, Cornelius, my fine fellow, -- it is a bad plan. But, then, what is to become of me, and how shall I find Rosa again?"
Such were the cogitations of Cornelius three days after the sad scene of separation from Rosa, at the moment when we find him standing at the window.
And at that very moment Gryphus entered.
He held in his hand a huge stick, his eyes glistening with spiteful thoughts, a malignant smile played round his lips, and the whole of his carriage, and even all his movements, betokened bad and malicious intentions.
Cornelius heard him enter, and guessed that it was he, but did not turn round, as he knew well that Rosa was not coming after him.
There is nothing more galling to angry people than the coolness of those on whom they wish to vent their spleen.
The expense being once incurred, one does not like to lose it; one's passion is roused, and one's blood boiling, so it would be labour lost not to have at least a nice little row.
Gryphus, therefore, on seeing that Cornelius did not stir, tried to attract his attention by a loud --
Cornelius was humming between his teeth the "Hymn of Flowers," -- a sad but very charming song, --
"We are the daughters of the secret fire Of the fire which runs through the veins of the earth; We are the daughters of Aurora and of the dew; We are the daughters of the air; We are the daughters of the water; But we are, above all, the daughters of heaven."
This song, the placid melancholy of which was still heightened by its calm and sweet melody, exasperated Gryphus.
He struck his stick on the stone pavement of the cell, and called out, --
"Halloa! my warbling gentleman, don't you hear me?"
Cornelius turned round, merely saying, "Good morning," and then began his song again: --
"Men defile us and kill us while loving us, We hang to the earth by a thread; This thread is our root, that is to say, our life, But we raise on high our arms towards heaven."
"Ah, you accursed sorcerer! you are making game of me, I believe," roared Gryphus.
Cornelius continued: --
"For heaven is our home, Our true home, as from thence comes our soul, As thither our soul returns, -- Our soul, that is to say, our perfume."
Gryphus went up to the prisoner and said, --
"But you don't see that I have taken means to get you under, and to force you to confess your crimes."
"Are you mad, my dear Master Gryphus?" asked Cornelius.
And, as he now for the first time observed the frenzied features, the flashing eyes, and foaming mouth of the old jailer, he said, --
"Bless the man, he is more than mad, he is furious."
Gryphus flourished his stick above his head, but Van Baerle moved not, and remained standing with his arms akimbo.
"It seems your intention to threaten me, Master Gryphus."
"Yes, indeed, I threaten you," cried the jailer.
"And with what?"
"First of all, look at what I have in my hand."
"I think that's a stick," said Cornelius calmly, "but I don't suppose you will threaten me with that."
"Oh, you don't suppose! why not?"
"Because any jailer who strikes a prisoner is liable to two penalties, -- the first laid down in Article 9 of the regulations at Loewestein: --
"'Any jailer, inspector, or turnkey who lays hands upon any prisoner of State will be dismissed.'"
"Yes, who lays hands," said Gryphus, mad with rage, "but there is not a word about a stick in the regulation."
"And the second," continued Cornelius, "which is not written in the regulation, but which is to be found elsewhere: --
"'Whosoever takes up the stick will be thrashed by the stick.'"
Gryphus, growing more and more exasperated by the calm and sententious tone of Cornelius, brandished his cudgel, but at the moment when he raised it Cornelius rushed at him, snatched it from his hands, and put it under his own arm.
Gryphus fairly bellowed with rage.
"Hush, hush, my good man," said Cornelius, "don't do anything to lose your place."
"Ah, you sorcerer! I'll pinch you worse," roared Gryphus.
"I wish you may."
"Don't you see my hand is empty?"
"Yes, I see it, and I am glad of it."
"You know that it is not generally so when I come upstairs in the morning."
"It's true, you generally bring me the worst soup, and the most miserable rations one can imagine. But that's not a punishment to me; I eat only bread, and the worse the bread is to your taste, the better it is to mine."
"Oh, it's a very simple thing."
"Well, tell it me," said Gryphus.
"Very willingly. I know that in giving me bad bread you think you do me harm."
"Certainly; I don't give it you to please you, you brigand."
"Well, then, I, who am a sorcerer, as you know, change your bad into excellent bread, which I relish more than the best cake; and then I have the double pleasure of eating something that gratifies my palate, and of doing something that puts you in a rage.
Gryphus answered with a growl.
"Oh! you confess, then, that you are a sorcerer."
"Indeed, I am one. I don't say it before all the world, because they might burn me for it, but as we are alone, I don't mind telling you."
"Well, well, well," answered Gryphus. "But if a sorcerer can change black bread into white, won't he die of hunger if he has no bread at all?"
"What's that?" said Cornelius.
"Consequently, I shall not bring you any bread at all, and we shall see how it will be after eight days."
Cornelius grew pale.
"And," continued Gryphus, "we'll begin this very day. As you are such a clever sorcerer, why, you had better change the furniture of your room into bread; as to myself, I shall pocket the eighteen sous which are paid to me for your board."
"But that's murder," cried Cornelius, carried away by the first impulse of the very natural terror with which this horrible mode of death inspired him.
"Well," Gryphus went on, in his jeering way, "as you are a sorcerer, you will live, notwithstanding."
Cornelius put on a smiling face again, and said, --
"Have you not seen me make the pigeons come here from Dort?"
"Well?" said Gryphus.
"Well, a pigeon is a very dainty morsel, and a man who eats one every day would not starve, I think."
"And how about the fire?" said Gryphus.
"Fire! but you know that I'm in league with the devil. Do you think the devil will leave me without fire? Why, fire is his proper element."
"A man, however healthy his appetite may be, would not eat a pigeon every day. Wagers have been laid to do so, and those who made them gave them up."
"Well, but when I am tired of pigeons, I shall make the fish of the Waal and of the Meuse come up to me."
Gryphus opened his large eyes, quite bewildered.
"I am rather fond of fish," continued Cornelius; "you never let me have any. Well, I shall turn your starving me to advantage, and regale myself with fish."
Gryphus nearly fainted with anger and with fright, but he soon rallied, and said, putting his hand in his pocket, --
"Well, as you force me to it," and with these words he drew forth a clasp-knife and opened it.
"Halloa! a knife?" said Cornelius, preparing to defend himself with his stick.
Chapter 29. In which Van Baerle, before leaving Loewestein, settles accounts with Gryphus
The two remained silent for some minutes, Gryphus on the offensive, and Van Baerle on the defensive.
Then, as the situation might be prolonged to an indefinite length, Cornelius, anxious to know something more of the causes which had so fiercely exasperated his jailer, spoke first by putting the question, --
"Well, what do you want, after all?"
"I'll tell you what I want," answered Gryphus; "I want you to restore to me my daughter Rosa."
"Your daughter?" cried Van Baerle.
"Yes, my daughter Rosa, whom you have taken from me by your devilish magic. Now, will you tell me where she is?"
And the attitude of Gryphus became more and more threatening.
"Rosa is not at Loewestein?" cried Cornelius.
"You know well she is not. Once more, will you restore her to me?"
"I see," said Cornelius, "this is a trap you are laying for me."
"Now, for the last time, will you tell me where my daughter is?"
"Guess it, you rogue, if you don't know it."
"Only wait, only wait," growled Gryphus, white with rage, and with quivering lips, as his brain began to turn. "Ah, you will not tell me anything? Well, I'll unlock your teeth!"
He advanced a step towards Cornelius, and said, showing him the weapon which he held in his hands, --
"Do you see this knife? Well, I have killed more than fifty black cocks with it, and I vow I'll kill their master, the devil, as well as them."
"But, you blockhead," said Cornelius, "will you really kill me?"
"I shall open your heart to see in it the place where you hide my daughter."
Saying this, Gryphus in his frenzy rushed towards Cornelius, who had barely time to retreat behind his table to avoid the first thrust; but as Gryphus continued, with horrid threats, to brandish his huge knife, and as, although out of the reach of his weapon, yet, as long as it remained in the madman's hand, the ruffian might fling it at him, Cornelius lost no time, and availing himself of the stick, which he held tight under his arm, dealt the jailer a vigorous blow on the wrist of that hand which held the knife.
The knife fell to the ground, and Cornelius put his foot on it.
Then, as Gryphus seemed bent upon engaging in a struggle which the pain in his wrist, and shame for having allowed himself to be disarmed, would have made desperate, Cornelius took a decisive step, belaboring his jailer with the most heroic self-possession, and selecting the exact spot for every blow of the terrible cudgel.
It was not long before Gryphus begged for mercy. But before begging for mercy, he had lustily roared for help, and his cries had roused all the functionaries of the prison. Two turnkeys, an inspector, and three or four guards, made their appearance all at once, and found Cornelius still using the stick, with the knife under his foot.
At the sight of these witnesses, who could not know all the circumstances which had provoked and might justify his offence, Cornelius felt that he was irretrievably lost.
In fact, appearances were sadly against him.
In one moment Cornelius was disarmed, and Gryphus raised and supported; and, bellowing with rage and pain, he was able to Count on his back and shoulders the bruises which were beginning to swell like the hills dotting the slopes of a mountain ridge.
A protocol of the violence practiced by the prisoner against his jailer was immediately drawn up, and as it was made on the depositions of Gryphus, it certainly could not be said to be too tame; the prisoner being charged with neither more nor less than with an attempt to murder, for a long time premeditated, with open rebellion.
Whilst the charge was made out against Cornelius, Gryphus, whose presence was no longer necessary after having made his depositions, was taken down by his turnkeys to his lodge, groaning and covered with bruises.
During this time, the guards who had seized Cornelius busied themselves in charitably informing their prisoner of the usages and customs of Loewestein, which however he knew as well as they did. The regulations had been read to him at the moment of his entering the prison, and certain articles in them remained fixed in his memory.
Among other things they told him that this regulation had been carried out to its full extent in the case of a prisoner named Mathias, who in 1668, that is to say, five years before, had committed a much less violent act of rebellion than that of which Cornelius was guilty. He had found his soup too hot, and thrown it at the head of the chief turnkey, who in consequence of this ablution had been put to the inconvenience of having his skin come off as he wiped his face.
Mathias was taken within twelve hours from his cell, then led to the jailer's lodge, where he was registered as leaving Loewestein, then taken to the Esplanade, from which there is a very fine prospect over a wide expanse of Country. There they fettered his hands, bandaged his eyes, and let him say his prayers.
Hereupon he was invited to go down on his knees, and the guards of Loewestein, twelve in number, at a sign from a sergeant, very cleverly lodged a musket-ball each in his body.
In consequence of this proceeding, Mathias incontinently did then and there die.
Cornelius listened with the greatest attention to this delightful recital, and then said, --
"Ah! ah! within twelve hours, you say?"
"Yes, the twelfth hour had not even struck, if I remember right," said the guard who had told him the story.
"Thank you," said Cornelius.
The guard still had the smile on his face with which he accompanied and as it were accentuated his tale, when footsteps and a jingling of spurs were heard ascending the stair-case.
The guards fell back to allow an officer to pass, who entered the cell of Cornelius at the moment when the clerk of Loewestein was still making out his report.
"Is this No. 11?" he asked.
"Yes, Captain," answered a non-commissioned officer.
"Then this is the cell of the prisoner Cornelius van Baerle?"
"Where is the prisoner?"
"Here I am, sir," answered Cornelius, growing rather pale, notwithstanding all his courage.
"You are Dr. Cornelius van Baerle?" asked he, this time addressing the prisoner himself.
"Then follow me."
"Oh! oh!" said Cornelius, whose heart felt oppressed by the first dread of death. "What quick work they make here in the fortress of Loewestein. And the rascal talked to me of twelve hours!"
"Ah! what did I tell you?" whispered the communicative guard in the ear of the culprit.
"You promised me twelve hours."
"Ah, yes, but here comes to you an aide-de-camp of his Highness, even one of his most intimate companions Van Deken. Zounds! they did not grant such an honour to poor Mathias."
"Come, come!" said Cornelius, drawing a long breath. "Come, I'll show to these people that an honest burgher, godson of Cornelius de Witt, can without flinching receive as many musket-balls as that Mathias."
Saying this, he passed proudly before the clerk, who, being interrupted in his work, ventured to say to the officer, --
"But, Captain van Deken, the protocol is not yet finished."
"It is not worth while finishing it," answered the officer.
"All right," replied the clerk, philosophically putting up his paper and pen into a greasy and well-worn writing-case.
"It was written," thought poor Cornelius, "that I should not in this world give my name either to a child to a flower, or to a book, -- the three things by which a man's memory is perpetuated."
Repressing his melancholy thoughts, he followed the officer with a resolute heart, and carrying his head erect.
Cornelius Counted the steps which led to the Esplanade, regretting that he had not asked the guard how many there were of them, which the man, in his official complaisance, would not have failed to tell him.
What the poor prisoner was most afraid of during this walk, which he considered as leading him to the end of the journey of life, was to see Gryphus and not to see Rosa. What savage satisfaction would glisten in the eyes of the father, and what sorrow dim those of the daughter!
How Gryphus would glory in his punishment! Punishment? Rather savage vengeance for an eminently righteous deed, which Cornelius had the satisfaction of having performed as a bounden duty.
But Rosa, poor girl! must he die without a glimpse of her, without an opportunity to give her one last kiss, or even to say one last word of farewell?
And, worst of all, must he die without any intelligence of the black tulip, and regain his consciousness in heaven with no idea in what direction he should look to find it?
In truth, to restrain his tears at such a crisis the poor wretch's heart must have been encased in more of the aes triplex -- "the triple brass" -- than Horace bestows upon the sailor who first visited the terrifying Acroceraunian shoals.
In vain did Cornelius look to the right and to the left; he saw no sign either of Rosa or Gryphus.
On reaching the Esplanade, he bravely looked about for the guards who were to be his executioners, and in reality saw a dozen soldiers assembled. But they were not standing in line, or carrying muskets, but talking together so gayly that Cornelius felt almost shocked.
All at once, Gryphus, limping, staggering, and supporting himself on a crooked stick, came forth from the jailer's lodge; his old eyes, gray as those of a cat, were lit up by a gleam in which all his hatred was concentrated. He then began to pour forth such a torrent of disgusting imprecations against Cornelius, that the latter, addressing the officer, said, --
"I do not think it very becoming sir, that I should be thus insulted by this man, especially at a moment like this."
"Well! hear me," said the officer, laughing, "it is quite natural that this worthy fellow should bear you a grudge, -- you seem to have given it him very soundly."
"But, sir, it was only in self-defence."
"Never mind," said the Captain, shrugging his shoulders like a true philosopher, "let him talk; what does it matter to you now?"
The cold sweat stood on the brow of Cornelius at this answer, which he looked upon somewhat in the light of brutal irony, especially as coming from an officer of whom he had heard it said that he was attached to the person of the Prince.
The unfortunate tulip-fancier then felt that he had no more resources, and no more friends, and resigned himself to his fate.
"God's will be done," he muttered, bowing his head; then, turning towards the officer, who seemed complacently to wait until he had finished his meditations he asked, --
"Please, sir, tell me now, where am I to go?"
The officer pointed to a carriage, drawn by four horses, which reminded him very strongly of that which, under similar circumstances, had before attracted his attention at Buytenhof.
"Enter," said the officer.
"Ah!" muttered Cornelius to himself, "it seems they are not going to treat me to the honours of the Esplanade."
He uttered these words loud enough for the chatty guard, who was at his heels, to overhear him.
That kind soul very likely thought it his duty to give Cornelius some new information; for, approaching the door of the carriage, whilst the officer, with one foot on the step, was still giving some orders, he whispered to Van Baerle, --
"Condemned prisoners have sometimes been taken to their own town to be made an example of, and have then been executed before the door of their own house. It's all according to circumstances."
Cornelius thanked him by signs, and then said to himself, --
"Well, here is a fellow who never misses giving consolation whenever an opportunity presents itself. In truth, my friend, I'm very much obliged to you. Goodbye."
The carriage drove away.
"Ah! you villain, you brigand," roared Gryphus, clinching his fists at the victim who was escaping from his clutches, "is it not a shame that this fellow gets off without having restored my daughter to me?"
"If they take me to Dort," thought Cornelius, "I shall see, in passing my house, whether my poor borders have been much spoiled."
Chapter 30. Wherein the Reader begins to guess the Kind of Execution that was awaiting Van Baerle
The carriage rolled on during the whole day; it passed on the right of Dort, went through Rotterdam, and reached Delft. At five o'clock in the evening, at least twenty leagues had been travelled.
Cornelius addressed some questions to the officer, who was at the same time his guard and his companion; but, cautious as were his inquiries, he had the disappointment of receiving no answer.
Cornelius regretted that he had no longer by his side the chatty soldier, who would talk without being questioned.
That obliging person would undoubtedly have given him as pleasant details and exact explanations concerning this third strange part of his adventures as he had done concerning the first two.
The travellers passed the night in the carriage. On the following morning at dawn Cornelius found himself beyond Leyden, having the North Sea on his left, and the Zuyder Zee on his right.
Three hours after, he entered Haarlem.
Cornelius was not aware of what had passed at Haarlem, and we shall leave him in ignorance of it until the course of events enlightens him.
But the reader has a right to know all about it even before our hero, and therefore we shall not make him wait.
We have seen that Rosa and the tulip, like two orphan sisters, had been left by Prince William of Orange at the house of the President van Systens.
Rosa did not hear again from the Stadtholder until the evening of that day on which she had seen him face to face.
Toward evening, an officer called at Van Systen's house. He came from his Highness, with a request for Rosa to appear at the Town Hall.
There, in the large Council Room into which she was ushered, she found the Prince writing.
He was alone, with a large Frisian greyhound at his feet, which looked at him with a steady glance, as if the faithful animal were wishing to do what no man could do, -- read the thoughts of his master in his face.
William continued his writing for a moment; then, raising his eyes, and seeing Rosa standing near the door, he said, without laying down his pen, --
"Come here, my child."
Rosa advanced a few steps towards the table.
"Sit down," he said.
Rosa obeyed, for the Prince was fixing his eyes upon her, but he had scarcely turned them again to his paper when she bashfully retired to the door.
The Prince finished his letter.
During this time, the greyhound went up to Rosa, surveyed her and began to caress her.
"Ah, ah!" said William to his dog, "it's easy to see that she is a Countrywoman of yours, and that you recognise her."
Then, turning towards Rosa, and fixing on her his scrutinising, and at the same time impenetrable glance, he said, --
"Now, my child."
The Prince was scarcely twenty-three, and Rosa eighteen or twenty. He might therefore perhaps better have said, My sister.
"My child," he said, with that strangely commanding accent which chilled all those who approached him, "we are alone; let us speak together."
Rosa began to tremble, and yet there was nothing but kindness in the expression of the Prince's face.
"Monseigneur," she stammered.
"You have a father at Loewestein?"
"Yes, your Highness."
"You do not love him?"
"I do not; at least, not as a daughter ought to do, Monseigneur."
"It is not right not to love one's father, but it is right not to tell a falsehood."
Rosa cast her eyes to the ground.
"What is the reason of your not loving your father?"
"He is wicked."
"In what way does he show his wickedness?"
"He ill-treats the prisoners."
"All of them?"
"But don't you bear him a grudge for ill-treating some one in particular?"
"My father ill-treats in particular Mynheer van Baerle, who ---- "
"Who is your lover?"
Rosa started back a step.
"Whom I love, Monseigneur," she answered proudly.
"Since when?" asked the Prince.
"Since the day when I first saw him."
"And when was that?"
"The day after that on which the Grand Pensionary John and his brother Cornelius met with such an awful death."
The Prince compressed his lips, and knit his brow and his eyelids dropped so as to hide his eyes for an instant. After a momentary silence, he resumed the conversation.
"But to what can it lead to love a man who is doomed to live and die in prison?"
"It will lead, if he lives and dies in prison, to my aiding him in life and in death."
"And would you accept the lot of being the wife of a prisoner?"
"As the wife of Mynheer van Baerle, I should, under any circumstances, be the proudest and happiest woman in the world; but ---- "
"I dare not say, Monseigneur."
"There is something like hope in your tone; what do you hope?"
She raised her moist and beautiful eyes, and looked at William with a glance full of meaning, which was calculated to stir up in the recesses of his heart the clemency which was slumbering there.
"Ah, I understand you," he said.
Rosa, with a smile, clasped her hands.
"You hope in me?" said the Prince.
The Prince sealed the letter which he had just written, and summoned one of his officers, to whom he said, --
"Captain van Deken, carry this despatch to Loewestein; you will read the orders which I give to the Governor, and execute them as far as they regard you."
The officer bowed, and a few minutes afterwards the gallop of a horse was heard resounding in the vaulted archway.
"My child," continued the Prince, "the feast of the tulip will be on Sunday next, that is to say, the day after to-morrow. Make yourself smart with these five hundred guilders, as I wish that day to be a great day for you."
"How does your Highness wish me to be dressed?" faltered Rosa.
"Take the costume of a Frisian bride." said William; "it will suit you very well indeed."
Haarlem, whither, three days ago, we conducted our gentle reader, and whither we request him to follow us once more in the footsteps of the prisoner, is a pleasant city, which justly prides itself on being one of the most shady in all the Netherlands.
While other towns boast of the magnificence of their arsenals and dock-yards, and the splendour of their shops and markets, Haarlem's claims to fame rest upon her superiority to all other provincial cities in the number and beauty of her spreading elms, graceful poplars, and, more than all, upon her pleasant walks, shaded by the lovely arches of magnificent oaks, lindens, and chestnuts.
Haarlem, -- just as her neighbour, Leyden, became the centre of science, and her queen, Amsterdam, that of commerce, -- Haarlem preferred to be the agricultural, or, more strictly speaking, the horticultural metropolis.
In fact, girt about as she was, breezy and exposed to the sun's hot rays, she seemed to offer to gardeners so many more guarantees of success than other places, with their heavy sea air, and their scorching heat.
On this account all the serene souls who loved the earth and its fruits had gradually gathered together at Haarlem, just as all the nervous, uneasy spirits, whose ambition was for travel and commerce, had settled in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, and all the politicians and selfish worldlings at the Hague.
We have observed that Leyden overflowed with scholars. In like manner Haarlem was devoted to the gentle pursuits of peace, -- to music and painting, orchards and avenues, groves and parks. Haarlem went wild about flowers, and tulips received their full share of worship.
Haarlem offered prizes for tulip-growing; and this fact brings us in the most natural manner to that celebration which the city intended to hold on May 15th, 1673 in honour of the great black tulip, immaculate and perfect, which should gain for its discoverer one hundred thousand guilders!
Haarlem, having placed on exhibition its favourite, having advertised its love of flowers in general and of tulips in particular, at a period when the souls of men were filled with war and sedition, -- Haarlem, having enjoyed the exquisite pleasure of admiring the very purest ideal of tulips in full bloom, -- Haarlem, this tiny town, full of trees and of sunshine, of light and shade, had determined that the ceremony of bestowing the prize should be a fete which should live for ever in the memory of men.
So much the more reason was there, too, in her determination, in that Holland is the home of fetes; never did sluggish natures manifest more eager energy of the singing and dancing sort than those of the good republicans of the Seven Provinces when amusement was the order of the day.
Study the pictures of the two Teniers.
It is certain that sluggish folk are of all men the most earnest in tiring themselves, not when they are at work, but at play.
Thus Haarlem was thrice given over to rejoicing, for a three-fold celebration was to take place.
In the first place, the black tulip had been produced; secondly, the Prince William of Orange, as a true Hollander, had promised to be present at the ceremony of its inauguration; and, thirdly, it was a point of honour with the States to show to the French, at the conclusion of such a disastrous war as that of 1672, that the flooring of the Batavian Republic was solid enough for its people to dance on it, with the accompaniment of the cannon of their fleets.
The Horticultural Societssy of Haarlem had shown itself worthy of its fame by giving a hundred thousand guilders for the bulb of a tulip. The town, which did not wish to be outdone, voted a like sum, which was placed in the hands of that notable body to solemnise the auspicious event.
And indeed on the Sunday fixed for this ceremony there was such a stir among the people, and such an enthusiasm among the townsfolk, that even a Frenchman, who laughs at everything at all times, could not have helped admiring the character of those honest Hollanders, who were equally ready to spend their money for the construction of a man-of-war -- that is to say, for the support of national honour -- as they were to reward the growth of a new flower, destined to bloom for one day, and to serve during that day to divert the ladies, the learned, and the curious.
At the head of the notables and of the Horticultural Committee shone Mynheer van Systens, dressed in his richest habiliments.
The worthy man had done his best to imitate his favourite flower in the sombre and stern elegance of his garments; and we are bound to record, to his honour, that he had perfectly succeeded in his object.
Dark crimson velvet, dark purple silk, and jet-black cloth, with linen of dazzling whiteness, composed the festive dress of the President, who marched at the head of his Committee carrying an enormous nosegay, like that which a hundred and twenty-one years later, Monsieur de Robespierre displayed at the festival of "The Supreme Being."
There was, however, a little difference between the two; very different from the French tribune, whose heart was so full of hatred and ambitious vindictiveness, was the honest President, who carried in his bosom a heart as innocent as the flowers which he held in his hand.
Behind the Committee, who were as gay as a meadow, and as fragrant as a garden in spring, marched the learned societssies of the town, the magistrates, the military, the nobles and the boors.
The people, even among the respected republicans of the Seven Provinces, had no place assigned to them in the procession; they merely lined the streets.
This is the place for the multitude, which with true philosophic spirit, waits until the triumphal pageants have passed, to know what to say of them, and sometimes also to know what to do.
This time, however, there was no question either of the triumph of Pompey or of Caesar; neither of the defeat of Mithridates, nor of the conquest of Gaul. The procession was as placid as the passing of a flock of lambs, and as inoffensive as a flight of birds sweeping through the air.
Haarlem had no other triumphers, except its gardeners. Worshipping flowers, Haarlem idolised the florist.
In the centre of this pacific and fragrant cortege the black tulip was seen, carried on a litter, which was covered with white velvet and fringed with gold.
The handles of the litter were supported by four men, who were from time to time relieved by fresh relays, -- even as the bearers of Mother Cybele used to take turn and turn about at Rome in the ancient days, when she was brought from Etruria to the Eternal City, amid the blare of trumpets and the worship of a whole nation.
This public exhibition of the tulip was an act of adoration rendered by an entire nation, unlettered and unrefined, to the refinement and culture of its illustrious and devout leaders, whose blood had stained the foul pavement of the Buytenhof, reserving the right at a future day to inscribe the names of its victims upon the highest stone of the Dutch Pantheon.
It was arranged that the Prince Stadtholder himself should give the prize of a hundred thousand guilders, which interested the people at large, and it was thought that perhaps he would make a speech which interested more particularly his friends and enemies.
For in the most insignificant words of men of political importance their friends and their opponents always endeavour to detect, and hence think they can interpret, something of their true thoughts.
As if your true politician's hat were not a bushel under which he always hides his light!
At length the great and long-expected day -- May 15, 1673 -- arrived; and all Haarlem, swelled by her neighbours, was gathered in the beautiful tree-lined streets, determined on this occasion not to waste its applause upon military heroes, or those who had won notable victories in the field of science, but to reserve their applause for those who had overcome Nature, and had forced the inexhaustible mother to be delivered of what had theretofore been regarded as impossible, -- a completely black tulip.
Nothing however, is more fickle than such a resolution of the people. When a crowd is once in the humour to cheer, it is just the same as when it begins to hiss. It never knows when to stop.
It therefore, in the first place, cheered Van Systens and his nosegay, then the corporation, then followed a cheer for the people; and, at last, and for once with great justice, there was one for the excellent music with which the gentlemen of the town councils generously treated the assemblage at every halt.
Every eye was looking eagerly for the heroine of the festival, -- that is to say, the black tulip, -- and for its hero in the person of the one who had grown it.
In case this hero should make his appearance after the address we have seen worthy Van Systens at work on so conscientiously, he would not fail to make as much of a sensation as the Stadtholder himself.
But the interest of the day's proceedings for us is centred neither in the learned discourse of our friend Van Systens, however eloquent it might be, nor in the young dandies, resplendent in their Sunday clothes, and munching their heavy cakes; nor in the poor young peasants, gnawing smoked eels as if they were sticks of vanilla sweetmeat; neither is our interest in the lovely Dutch girls, with red cheeks and ivory bosoms; nor in the fat, round mynheers, who had never left their homes before; nor in the sallow, thin travellers from Ceylon or Java; nor in the thirsty crowds, who quenched their thirst with pickled cucumbers; -- no, so far as we are concerned, the real interest of the situation, the fascinating, dramatic interest, is not to be found here.
Our interest is in a smiling, sparkling face to be seen amid the members of the Horticultural Committee; in the person with a flower in his belt, combed and brushed, and all clad in scarlet, -- a colour which makes his black hair and yellow skin stand out in violent contrast.
This hero, radiant with rapturous joy, who had the distinguished honour of making the people forget the speech of Van Systens, and even the presence of the Stadtholder , was Isaac Boxtel, who saw, carried on his right before him, the black tulip, his pretended daughter; and on his left, in a large purse, the hundred thousand guilders in glittering gold pieces, towards which he was constantly squinting, fearful of losing sight of them for one moment.
Now and then Boxtel quickened his step to rub elbows for a moment with Van Systens. He borrowed a little importance from everybody to make a kind of false importance for himself, as he had stolen Rosa's tulip to effect his own glory, and thereby make his fortune.
Another quarter of an hour and the Prince will arrive and the procession will halt for the last time; after the tulip is placed on its throne, the Prince, yielding precedence to this rival for the popular adoration, will take a magnificently emblazoned parchment, on which is written the name of the grower; and his Highness, in a loud and audible tone, will proclaim him to be the discoverer of a wonder; that Holland, by the instrumentality of him, Boxtel, has forced Nature to produce a black flower, which shall henceforth be called Tulipa nigra Boxtellea.
From time to time, however, Boxtel withdrew his eyes for a moment from the tulip and the purse, timidly looking among the crowd, for more than anything he dreaded to descry there the pale face of the pretty Frisian girl.
She would have been a spectre spoiling the joy of the festival for him, just as Banquo's ghost did that of Macbeth.
And yet, if the truth must be told, this wretch, who had stolen what was the boast of man, and the dowry of a woman, did not consider himself as a thief. He had so intently watched this tulip, followed it so eagerly from the drawer in Cornelius's dry-room to the scaffold of the Buytenhof, and from the scaffold to the fortress of Loewestein; he had seen it bud and grow in Rosa's window, and so often warmed the air round it with his breath, that he felt as if no one had a better right to call himself its producer than he had; and any one who would now take the black tulip from him would have appeared to him as a thief.
Yet he did not perceive Rosa; his joy therefore was not spoiled.
In the centre of a circle of magnificent trees, which were decorated with garlands and inscriptions, the procession halted, amidst the sounds of lively music, and the young damsels of Haarlem made their appearance to escort the tulip to the raised seat which it was to occupy on the platform, by the side of the gilded chair of his Highness the Stadtholder .
And the proud tulip, raised on its pedestal, soon overlooked the assembled crowd of people, who clapped their hands, and made the old town of Haarlem re-echo with their tremendous cheers.
Chapter 32. A Last Request
At this solemn moment, and whilst the cheers still resounded, a carriage was driving along the road on the outskirts of the green on which the scene occurred; it pursued its way slowly, on account of the flocks of children who were pushed out of the avenue by the crowd of men and women.
This carriage, covered with dust, and creaking on its axles, the result of a long journey, enclosed the unfortunate Van Baerle, who was just beginning to get a glimpse through the open window of the scene which we have tried -- with poor success, no doubt -- to present to the eyes of the reader.
The crowd and the noise and the display of artificial and natural magnificence were as dazzling to the prisoner as a ray of light flashing suddenly into his dungeon.
Notwithstanding the little readiness which his companion had shown in answering his questions concerning his fate, he ventured once more to ask the meaning of all this bustle, which at first sight seemed to be utterly disconnected with his own affairs.
"What is all this, pray, Mynheer Lieutenant?" he asked of his conductor.
"As you may see, sir," replied the officer, "it is a feast."
"Ah, a feast," said Cornelius, in the sad tone of indifference of a man to whom no joy remains in this world.
Then, after some moments, silence, during which the carriage had proceeded a few yards, he asked once more, --
"The feast of the patron saint of Haarlem? as I see so many flowers."
"It is, indeed, a feast in which flowers play a principal part."
"Oh, the sweet scents! oh, the beautiful colours!" cried Cornelius.
"Stop, that the gentleman may see," said the officer, with that frank kindliness which is peculiar to military men, to the soldier who was acting as postilion.
"Oh, thank you, Sir, for your kindness," replied Van Baerle, in a melancholy tone; "the joy of others pains me; please spare me this pang."
"Just as you wish. Drive on! I ordered the driver to stop because I thought it would please you, as you are said to love flowers, and especially that the feast of which is celebrated to-day."
"And what flower is that?"
"The tulip!" cried Van Baerle, "is to-day the feast of tulips?"
"Yes, sir; but as this spectacle displeases you, let us drive on."
The officer was about to give the order to proceed, but Cornelius stopped him, a painful thought having struck him. He asked, with faltering voice, --
"Is the prize given to-day, sir?"
"Yes, the prize for the black tulip."
Cornelius's cheek flushed, his whole frame trembled, and the cold sweat stood on his brow.
"Alas! sir," he said, "all these good people will be as unfortunate as myself, for they will not see the solemnity which they have come to witness, or at least they will see it incompletely."
"What is it you mean to say?"
"I mean to say." replied Cornelius, throwing himself back in the carriage, "that the black tulip will not be found, except by one whom I know."
"In this case," said the officer, "the person whom you know has found it, for the thing which the whole of Haarlem is looking at at this moment is neither more nor less than the black tulip."
"The black tulip!" replied Van Baerle, thrusting half his body out of the carriage window. "Where is it? where is it?"
"Down there on the throne, -- don't you see?"
"I do see it."
"Come along, sir," said the officer. "Now we must drive off."
"Oh, have pity, have mercy, sir!" said Van Baerle, "don't take me away! Let me look once more! Is what I see down there the black tulip? Quite black? Is it possible? Oh, sir, have you seen it? It must have specks, it must be imperfect, it must only be dyed black. Ah! if I were there, I should see it at once. Let me alight, let me see it close, I beg of you."
"Are you mad, Sir? How could I allow such a thing?"
"I implore you."
"But you forget that you are a prisoner."
"It is true I am a prisoner, but I am a man of honour, and I promise you on my word that I will not run away, I will not attempt to escape, -- only let me see the flower."
"But my orders, Sir, my orders." And the officer again made the driver a sign to proceed.
Cornelius stopped him once more.
"Oh, be forbearing, be generous! my whole life depends upon your pity. Alas! perhaps it will not be much longer. You don't know, sir, what I suffer. You don't know the struggle going on in my heart and mind. For after all," Cornelius cried in despair, "if this were my tulip, if it were the one which has been stolen from Rosa! Oh, I must alight, sir! I must see the flower! You may kill me afterwards if you like, but I will see it, I must see it."
"Be quietss, unfortunate man, and come quickly back into the carriage, for here is the escort of his Highness the Stadtholder , and if the Prince observed any disturbance, or heard any noise, it would be ruin to me, as well as to you."
Van Baerle, more afraid for his companion than himself, threw himself back into the carriage, but he could only keep quietss for half a minute, and the first twenty horsemen had scarcely passed when he again leaned out of the carriage window, gesticulating imploringly towards the Stadtholder at the very moment when he passed.
William, impassible and quietss as usual, was proceeding to the green to fulfil his duty as chairman. He held in his hand the roll of parchment, which, on this festive day, had become his baton.
Seeing the man gesticulate with imploring mien, and perhaps also recognising the officer who accompanied him, his Highness ordered his carriage to stop.
In an instant his snorting steeds stood still, at a distance of about six yards from the carriage in which Van Baerle was caged.
"What is this?" the Prince asked the officer, who at the first order of the Stadtholder had jumped out of the carriage, and was respectfully approaching him.
"Monseigneur," he cried, "this is the prisoner of state whom I have fetched from Loewestein, and whom I have brought to Haarlem according to your Highness's command."
"What does he want?"
"He entreats for permission to stop here for minute."
"To see the black tulip, Monseigneur," said Van Baerle, clasping his hands, "and when I have seen it, when I have seen what I desire to know, I am quite ready to die, if die I must; but in dying I shall bless your Highness's mercy for having allowed me to witness the glorification of my work."
It was, indeed, a curious spectacle to see these two men at the windows of their several carriages; the one surrounded by his guards, and all powerful, the other a prisoner and miserable; the one going to mount a throne, the other believing himself to be on his way to the scaffold.
William, looking with his cold glance on Cornelius, listened to his anxious and urgent request.
Then addressing himself to the officer, he said, --
"Is this person the mutinous prisoner who has attempted to kill his jailer at Loewestein?"
Cornelius heaved a sigh and hung his head. His good-tempered honest face turned pale and red at the same instant. These words of the all-powerful Prince, who by some secret messenger unavailable to other mortals had already been apprised of his crime, seemed to him to forebode not only his doom, but also the refusal of his last request.
He did not try to make a struggle, or to defend himself; and he presented to the Prince the affecting spectacle of despairing innocence, like that of a child, -- a spectacle which was fully understood and felt by the great mind and the great heart of him who observed it.
"Allow the prisoner to alight, and let him see the black tulip; it is well worth being seen once."
"Thank you, Monseigneur, thank you," said Cornelius, nearly swooning with joy, and staggering on the steps of his carriage; had not the officer supported him, our poor friend would have made his thanks to his Highness prostrate on his knees with his forehead in the dust.
After having granted this permission, the Prince proceeded on his way over the green amidst the most enthusiastic acclamations.
He soon arrived at the platform, and the thunder of cannon shook the air.
Chapter 33. Conclusion
Van Baerle, led by four guards, who pushed their way through the crowd, sidled up to the black tulip, towards which his gaze was attracted with increasing interest the nearer he approached to it.
He saw it at last, that unique flower, which he was to see once and no more. He saw it at the distance of six paces, and was delighted with its perfection and gracefulness; he saw it surrounded by young and beautiful girls, who formed, as it were, a guard of honour for this queen of excellence and purity. And yet, the more he ascertained with his own eyes the perfection of the flower, the more wretched and miserable he felt. He looked all around for some one to whom he might address only one question, but his eyes everywhere met strange faces, and the attention of all was directed towards the chair of state, on which the Stadtholder had seated himself.
William rose, casting a tranquil glance over the enthusiastic crowd, and his keen eyes rested by turns on the three extremities of a triangle formed opposite to him by three persons of very different interests and feelings.
At one of the angles, Boxtel, trembling with impatience, and quite absorbed in watching the Prince, the guilders, the black tulip, and the crowd.
At the other, Cornelius, panting for breath, silent, and his attention, his eyes, his life, his heart, his love, quite concentrated on the black tulip.
And thirdly, standing on a raised step among the maidens of Haarlem, a beautiful Frisian girl, dressed in fine scarlet woollen cloth, embroidered with silver, and covered with a lace veil, which fell in rich folds from her head-dress of gold brocade; in one word, Rosa, who, faint and with swimming eyes, was leaning on the arm of one of the officers of William.
The Prince then slowly unfolded the parchment, and said, with a calm clear voice, which, although low, made itself perfectly heard amidst the respectful silence, which all at once arrested the breath of fifty thousand spectators. --
"You know what has brought us here?
"A prize of one hundred thousand guilders has been promised to whosoever should grow the black tulip.
"The black tulip has been grown; here it is before your eyes, coming up to all the conditions required by the programme of the Horticultural Societssy of Haarlem.
"The history of its production, and the name of its grower, will be inscribed in the book of honour of the city.
"Let the person approach to whom the black tulip belongs."
In pronouncing these words, the Prince, to judge of the effect they produced, surveyed with his eagle eye the three extremities of the triangle.
He saw Boxtel rushing forward. He saw Cornelius make an involuntary movement; and lastly he saw the officer who was taking care of Rosa lead, or rather push her forward towards him.
At the sight of Rosa, a double cry arose on the right and left of the Prince.
Boxtel, thunderstruck, and Cornelius, in joyful amazement, both exclaimed, --
"This tulip is yours, is it not, my child?" said the Prince.
"Yes, Monseigneur," stammered Rosa, whose striking beauty excited a general murmur of applause.
"Oh!" muttered Cornelius, "she has then belied me, when she said this flower was stolen from her. Oh! that's why she left Loewestein. Alas! am I then forgotten, betrayed by her whom I thought my best friend on earth?"
"Oh!" sighed Boxtel, "I am lost."
"This tulip," continued the Prince, "will therefore bear the name of its producer, and figure in the catalogue under the title, Tulipa nigra Rosa Barlaensis, because of the name Van Baerle, which will henceforth be the name of this damsel."
And at the same time William took Rosa's hand, and placed it in that of a young man, who rushed forth, pale and beyond himself with joy, to the foot of the throne saluting alternately the Prince and his bride; and who with a grateful look to heaven, returned his thanks to the Giver of all this happiness.
At the same moment there fell at the feet of the President van Systens another man, struck down by a very different emotion.
Boxtel, crushed by the failure of his hopes, lay senseless on the ground.
When they raised him, and examined his pulse and his heart, he was quite dead.
This incident did not much disturb the festival, as neither the Prince nor the President seemed to mind it much.
Cornelius started back in dismay, when in the thief, in the pretended Jacob, he recognised his neighbour, Isaac Boxtel, whom, in the innocence of his heart, he had not for one instant suspected of such a wicked action.
Then, to the sound of trumpets, the procession marched back without any change in its order, except that Boxtel was now dead, and that Cornelius and Rosa were walking triumphantly side by side and hand in hand.
On their arriving at the Hotel de Ville, the Prince, pointing with his finger to the purse with the hundred thousand guilders, said to Cornelius, --
"It is difficult to say by whom this money is gained, by you or by Rosa; for if you have found the black tulip, she has nursed it and brought it into flower. It would therefore be unjust to consider it as her dowry; it is the gift of the town of Haarlem to the tulip."
Cornelius wondered what the Prince was driving at. The latter continued, --
"I give to Rosa the sum of a hundred thousand guilders, which she has fairly earned, and which she can offer to you. They are the reward of her love, her courage, and her honesty. As to you, Sir -- thanks to Rosa again, who has furnished the proofs of your innocence ---- "
And, saying these words, the Prince handed to Cornelius that fly-leaf of the Bible on which was written the letter of Cornelius de Witt, and in which the third bulb had been wrapped, --
"As to you, it has come to light that you were imprisoned for a crime which you had not committed. This means, that you are not only free, but that your property will be restored to you; as the property of an innocent man cannot be confiscated. Cornelius van Baerle, you are the godson of Cornelius de Witt and the friend of his brother John. Remain worthy of the name you have received from one of them, and of the friendship you have enjoyed with the other. The two De Witts, wrongly judged and wrongly punished in a moment of popular error, were two great citizens, of whom Holland is now proud."
The Prince, after these last words, which contrary to his custom, he pronounced with a voice full of emotion, gave his hands to the lovers to kiss, whilst they were kneeling before him.
Then heaving a sigh, he said, --
"Alas! you are very happy, who, dreaming only of what perhaps is the true glory of Holland, and forms especially her true happiness, do not attempt to acquire for her anything beyond new colours of tulips."
And, casting a glance towards that point of the compass where France lay, as if he saw new clouds gathering there, he entered his carriage and drove off.
Cornelius started on the same day for Dort with Rosa, who sent her lover's old housekeeper as a messenger to her father, to apprise him of all that had taken place.
Those who, thanks to our description, have learned the character of old Gryphus, will comprehend that it was hard for him to become reconciled to his son-in-law. He had not yet forgotten the blows which he had received in that famous enCounter. To judge from the weals which he Counted, their number, he said, amounted to forty-one; but at last, in order, as he declared, not to be less generous than his Highness the Stadtholder , he consented to make his peace.
Appointed to watch over the tulips, the old man made the rudest keeper of flowers in the whole of the Seven Provinces.
It was indeed a sight to see him watching the obnoxious moths and butterflies, killing slugs, and driving away the hungry bees.
As he had heard Boxtel's story, and was furious at having been the dupe of the pretended Jacob, he destroyed the sycamore behind which the envious Isaac had spied into the garden; for the plot of ground belonging to him had been bought by Cornelius, and taken into his own garden.
Rosa, growing not only in beauty, but in wisdom also, after two years of her married life, could read and write so well that she was able to undertake by herself the education of two beautiful children which she had borne in 1674 and 1675, both in May, the month of flowers.
As a matter of course, one was a boy, the other a girl, the former being called Cornelius, the other Rosa.
Van Baerle remained faithfully attached to Rosa and to his tulips. The whole of his life was devoted to the happiness of his wife and the culture of flowers, in the latter of which occupations he was so successful that a great number of his varietssies found a place in the catalogue of Holland.
The two principal ornaments of his drawing-room were those two leaves from the Bible of Cornelius de Witt, in large golden frames; one of them containing the letter in which his godfather enjoined him to burn the correspondence of the Marquis de Louvois, and the other his own will, in which he bequeathed to Rosa his bulbs under condition that she should marry a young man of from twenty-six to twenty-eight years, who loved her and whom she loved, a condition which was scrupulously fulfilled, although, or rather because, Cornelius did not die.
And to ward off any envious attempts of another Isaac Boxtel, he wrote over his door the lines which Grotius had, on the day of his flight, scratched on the walls of his prison: --
"Sometimes one has suffered so much that he has the right never to be able to say, 'I am too happy.'"