Part 1 out of 6
The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas
A Grateful People
On the 20th of August, 1672, the city of the Hague, always
so lively, so neat, and so trim that one might believe every
day to be Sunday, with its shady park, with its tall trees,
spreading over its Gothic houses, with its canals like large
mirrors, in which its steeples and its almost Eastern
cupolas are reflected, -- the city of the Hague, the capital
of the Seven United Provinces, was swelling in all its
arteries with a black and red stream of hurried, panting,
and restless citizens, who, with their knives in their
girdles, muskets on their shoulders, or sticks in their
hands, were pushing on to the Buytenhof, a terrible prison,
the grated windows of which are still shown, where, on the
charge of attempted murder preferred against him by the
surgeon Tyckelaer, Cornelius de Witt, the brother of the
Grand Pensionary of Holland was confined.
If the history of that time, and especially that of the year
in the middle of which our narrative commences, were not
indissolubly connected with the two names just mentioned,
the few explanatory pages which we are about to add might
appear quite supererogatory; but we will, from the very
first, apprise the reader -- our old friend, to whom we are
wont on the first page to promise amusement, and with whom
we always try to keep our word as well as is in our power --
that this explanation is as indispensable to the right
understanding of our story as to that of the great event
itself on which it is based.
Cornelius de Witt, Ruart de Pulten, that is to say, warden
of the dikes, ex-burgomaster of Dort, his native town, and
member of the Assembly of the States of Holland, was
forty-nine years of age, when the Dutch people, tired of the
Republic such as John de Witt, the Grand Pensionary of
Holland, understood it, at once conceived a most violent
affection for the Stadtholderate, which had been abolished
for ever in Holland by the "Perpetual Edict" forced by John
de Witt upon the United Provinces.
As it rarely happens that public opinion, in its whimsical
flights, does not identify a principle with a man, thus the
people saw the personification of the Republic in the two
stern figures of the brothers De Witt, those Romans of
Holland, spurning to pander to the fancies of the mob, and
wedding themselves with unbending fidelity to liberty
without licentiousness, and prosperity without the waste of
superfluity; on the other hand, the Stadtholderate recalled
to the popular mind the grave and thoughtful image of the
young Prince William of Orange.
The brothers De Witt humoured Louis XIV., whose moral
influence was felt by the whole of Europe, and the pressure
of whose material power Holland had been made to feel in
that marvellous campaign on the Rhine, which, in the space
of three months, had laid the power of the United Provinces
Louis XIV. had long been the enemy of the Dutch, who
insulted or ridiculed him to their hearts' content, although
it must be said that they generally used French refugees for
the mouthpiece of their spite. Their national pride held him
up as the Mithridates of the Republic. The brothers De Witt,
therefore, had to strive against a double difficulty, --
against the force of national antipathy, and, besides,
against the feeling of weariness which is natural to all
vanquished people, when they hope that a new chief will be
able to save them from ruin and shame.
This new chief, quite ready to appear on the political
stage, and to measure himself against Louis XIV., however
gigantic the fortunes of the Grand Monarch loomed in the
future, was William, Prince of Orange, son of William II.,
and grandson, by his mother Henrietta Stuart, of Charles I.
of England. We have mentioned him before as the person by
whom the people expected to see the office of Stadtholder
This young man was, in 1672, twenty-two years of age. John
de Witt, who was his tutor, had brought him up with the view
of making him a good citizen. Loving his country better than
he did his disciple, the master had, by the Perpetual Edict,
extinguished the hope which the young Prince might have
entertained of one day becoming Stadtholder. But God laughs
at the presumption of man, who wants to raise and prostrate
the powers on earth without consulting the King above; and
the fickleness and caprice of the Dutch combined with the
terror inspired by Louis XIV., in repealing the Perpetual
Edict, and re-establishing the office of Stadtholder in
favour of William of Orange, for whom the hand of Providence
had traced out ulterior destinies on the hidden map of the
The Grand Pensionary bowed before the will of his fellow
citizens; Cornelius de Witt, however, was more obstinate,
and notwithstanding all the threats of death from the
Orangist rabble, who besieged him in his house at Dort, he
stoutly refused to sign the act by which the office of
Stadtholder was restored. Moved by the tears and entreaties
of his wife, he at last complied, only adding to his
signature the two letters V. C. (Vi Coactus), notifying
thereby that he only yielded to force.
It was a real miracle that on that day he escaped from the
doom intended for him.
John de Witt derived no advantage from his ready compliance
with the wishes of his fellow citizens. Only a few days
after, an attempt was made to stab him, in which he was
severely although not mortally wounded.
This by no means suited the views of the Orange faction. The
life of the two brothers being a constant obstacle to their
plans, they changed their tactics, and tried to obtain by
calumny what they had not been able to effect by the aid of
How rarely does it happen that, in the right moment, a great
man is found to head the execution of vast and noble
designs; and for that reason, when such a providential
concurrence of circumstances does occur, history is prompt
to record the name of the chosen one, and to hold him up to
the admiration of posterity. But when Satan interposes in
human affairs to cast a shadow upon some happy existence, or
to overthrow a kingdom, it seldom happens that he does not
find at his side some miserable tool, in whose ear he has
but to whisper a word to set him at once about his task.
The wretched tool who was at hand to be the agent of this
dastardly plot was one Tyckelaer whom we have already
mentioned, a surgeon by profession.
He lodged an information against Cornelius de Witt, setting
forth that the warden -- who, as he had shown by the letters
added to his signature, was fuming at the repeal of the
Perpetual Edict -- had, from hatred against William of
Orange, hired an assassin to deliver the new Republic of its
new Stadtholder; and he, Tyckelaer was the person thus
chosen; but that, horrified at the bare idea of the act
which he was asked to perpetrate, he had preferred rather to
reveal the crime than to commit it.
This disclosure was, indeed, well calculated to call forth a
furious outbreak among the Orange faction. The Attorney
General caused, on the 16th of August, 1672, Cornelius de
Witt to be arrested; and the noble brother of John de Witt
had, like the vilest criminal, to undergo, in one of the
apartments of the town prison, the preparatory degrees of
torture, by means of which his judges expected to force from
him the confession of his alleged plot against William of
But Cornelius was not only possessed of a great mind, but
also of a great heart. He belonged to that race of martyrs
who, indissolubly wedded to their political convictions as
their ancestors were to their faith, are able to smile on
pain: while being stretched on the rack, he recited with a
firm voice, and scanning the lines according to measure, the
first strophe of the "Justum ac tenacem" of Horace, and,
making no confession, tired not only the strength, but even
the fanaticism, of his executioners.
The judges, notwithstanding, acquitted Tyckelaer from every
charge; at the same time sentencing Cornelius to be deposed
from all his offices and dignities; to pay all the costs of
the trial; and to be banished from the soil of the Republic
This judgment against not only an innocent, but also a great
man, was indeed some gratification to the passions of the
people, to whose interests Cornelius de Witt had always
devoted himself: but, as we shall soon see, it was not
The Athenians, who indeed have left behind them a pretty
tolerable reputation for ingratitude, have in this respect
to yield precedence to the Dutch. They, at least in the case
of Aristides, contented themselves with banishing him.
John de Witt, at the first intimation of the charge brought
against his brother, had resigned his office of Grand
Pensionary. He too received a noble recompense for his
devotedness to the best interests of his country, taking
with him into the retirement of private life the hatred of a
host of enemies, and the fresh scars of wounds inflicted by
assassins, only too often the sole guerdon obtained by
honest people, who are guilty of having worked for their
country, and of having forgotten their own private
In the meanwhile William of Orange urged on the course of
events by every means in his power, eagerly waiting for the
time when the people, by whom he was idolised, should have
made of the bodies of the brothers the two steps over which
he might ascend to the chair of Stadtholder.
Thus, then, on the 20th of August, 1672, as we have already
stated in the beginning of this chapter, the whole town was
crowding towards the Buytenhof, to witness the departure of
Cornelius de Witt from prison, as he was going to exile; and
to see what traces the torture of the rack had left on the
noble frame of the man who knew his Horace so well.
Yet all this multitude was not crowding to the Buytenhof
with the innocent view of merely feasting their eyes with
the spectacle; there were many who went there to play an
active part in it, and to take upon themselves an office
which they conceived had been badly filled, -- that of the
There were, indeed, others with less hostile intentions. All
that they cared for was the spectacle, always so attractive
to the mob, whose instinctive pride is flattered by it, --
the sight of greatness hurled down into the dust.
"Has not," they would say, "this Cornelius de Witt been
locked up and broken by the rack? Shall we not see him pale,
streaming with blood, covered with shame?" And was not this
a sweet triumph for the burghers of the Hague, whose envy
even beat that of the common rabble; a triumph in which
every honest citizen and townsman might be expected to
"Moreover," hinted the Orange agitators interspersed through
the crowd, whom they hoped to manage like a sharp-edged and
at the same time crushing instrument, -- "moreover, will
there not, from the Buytenhof to the gate of the town, a
nice little opportunity present itself to throw some
handfuls of dirt, or a few stones, at this Cornelius de
Witt, who not only conferred the dignity of Stadtholder on
the Prince of Orange merely vi coactus, but who also
intended to have him assassinated?"
"Besides which," the fierce enemies of France chimed in, "if
the work were done well and bravely at the Hague, Cornelius
would certainly not be allowed to go into exile, where he
will renew his intrigues with France, and live with his big
scoundrel of a brother, John, on the gold of the Marquis de
Being in such a temper, people generally will run rather
than walk; which was the reason why the inhabitants of the
Hague were hurrying so fast towards the Buytenhof.
Honest Tyckelaer, with a heart full of spite and malice, and
with no particular plan settled in his mind, was one of the
foremost, being paraded about by the Orange party like a
hero of probity, national honour, and Christian charity.
This daring miscreant detailed, with all the embellishments
and flourishes suggested by his base mind and his ruffianly
imagination, the attempts which he pretended Cornelius de
Witt had made to corrupt him; the sums of money which were
promised, and all the diabolical stratagems planned
beforehand to smooth for him, Tyckelaer, all the
difficulties in the path of murder.
And every phase of his speech, eagerly listened to by the
populace, called forth enthusiastic cheers for the Prince of
Orange, and groans and imprecations of blind fury against
the brothers De Witt.
The mob even began to vent its rage by inveighing against
the iniquitous judges, who had allowed such a detestable
criminal as the villain Cornelius to get off so cheaply.
Some of the agitators whispered, "He will be off, he will
escape from us!"
Others replied, "A vessel is waiting for him at Schevening,
a French craft. Tyckelaer has seen her."
"Honest Tyckelaer! Hurrah for Tyckelaer!" the mob cried in
"And let us not forget," a voice exclaimed from the crowd,
"that at the same time with Cornelius his brother John, who
is as rascally a traitor as himself, will likewise make his
"And the two rogues will in France make merry with our
money, with the money for our vessels, our arsenals, and our
dockyards, which they have sold to Louis XIV."
"Well, then, don't let us allow them to depart!" advised one
of the patriots who had gained the start of the others.
"Forward to the prison, to the prison!" echoed the crowd.
Amid these cries, the citizens ran along faster and faster,
cocking their muskets, brandishing their hatchets, and
looking death and defiance in all directions.
No violence, however, had as yet been committed; and the
file of horsemen who were guarding the approaches of the
Buytenhof remained cool, unmoved, silent, much more
threatening in their impassibility than all this crowd of
burghers, with their cries, their agitation, and their
threats. The men on their horses, indeed, stood like so many
statues, under the eye of their chief, Count Tilly, the
captain of the mounted troops of the Hague, who had his
sword drawn, but held it with its point downwards, in a line
with the straps of his stirrup.
This troop, the only defence of the prison, overawed by its
firm attitude not only the disorderly riotous mass of the
populace, but also the detachment of the burgher guard,
which, being placed opposite the Buytenhof to support the
soldiers in keeping order, gave to the rioters the example
of seditious cries, shouting, --
"Hurrah for Orange! Down with the traitors!"
The presence of Tilly and his horsemen, indeed, exercised a
salutary check on these civic warriors; but by degrees they
waxed more and more angry by their own shouts, and as they
were not able to understand how any one could have courage
without showing it by cries, they attributed the silence of
the dragoons to pusillanimity, and advanced one step towards
the prison, with all the turbulent mob following in their
In this moment, Count Tilly rode forth towards them
single-handed, merely lifting his sword and contracting his
brow whilst he addressed them: --
"Well, gentlemen of the burgher guard, what are you
advancing for, and what do you wish?"
The burghers shook their muskets, repeating their cry, --
"Hurrah for Orange! Death to the traitors!"
"'Hurrah for Orange!' all well and good!" replied Tilly,
"although I certainly am more partial to happy faces than to
gloomy ones. 'Death to the traitors!' as much of it as you
like, as long as you show your wishes only by cries. But, as
to putting them to death in good earnest, I am here to
prevent that, and I shall prevent it."
Then, turning round to his men, he gave the word of command,
The troopers obeyed orders with a precision which
immediately caused the burgher guard and the people to fall
back, in a degree of confusion which excited the smile of
the cavalry officer.
"Holloa!" he exclaimed, with that bantering tone which is
peculiar to men of his profession; "be easy, gentlemen, my
soldiers will not fire a shot; but, on the other hand, you
will not advance by one step towards the prison."
"And do you know, sir, that we have muskets?" roared the
commandant of the burghers.
"I must know it, by Jove, you have made them glitter enough
before my eyes; but I beg you to observe also that we on our
side have pistols, that the pistol carries admirably to a
distance of fifty yards, and that you are only twenty-five
"Death to the traitors!" cried the exasperated burghers.
"Go along with you," growled the officer, "you always cry
the same thing over again. It is very tiresome."
With this, he took his post at the head of his troops,
whilst the tumult grew fiercer and fiercer about the
And yet the fuming crowd did not know that, at that very
moment when they were tracking the scent of one of their
victims, the other, as if hurrying to meet his fate, passed,
at a distance of not more than a hundred yards, behind the
groups of people and the dragoons, to betake himself to the
John de Witt, indeed, had alighted from his coach with his
servant, and quietly walked across the courtyard of the
Mentioning his name to the turnkey, who however knew him, he
"Good morning, Gryphus; I am coming to take away my brother,
who, as you know, is condemned to exile, and to carry him
out of the town."
Whereupon the jailer, a sort of bear, trained to lock and
unlock the gates of the prison, had greeted him and admitted
him into the building, the doors of which were immediately
Ten yards farther on, John de Witt met a lovely young girl,
of about seventeen or eighteen, dressed in the national
costume of the Frisian women, who, with pretty demureness,
dropped a curtesy to him. Chucking her under the chin, he
said to her, --
"Good morning, my good and fair Rosa; how is my brother?"
"Oh, Mynheer John!" the young girl replied, "I am not afraid
of the harm which has been done to him. That's all over
"But what is it you are afraid of?"
"I am afraid of the harm which they are going to do to him."
"Oh, yes," said De Witt, "you mean to speak of the people
down below, don't you?"
"Do you hear them?"
"They are indeed in a state of great excitement; but when
they see us perhaps they will grow calmer, as we have never
done them anything but good."
"That's unfortunately no reason, except for the contrary,"
muttered the girl, as, on an imperative sign from her
father, she withdrew.
"Indeed, child, what you say is only too true."
Then, in pursuing his way, he said to himself, --
"Here is a damsel who very likely does not know how to read,
who consequently has never read anything, and yet with one
word she has just told the whole history of the world."
And with the same calm mien, but more melancholy than he had
been on entering the prison, the Grand Pensionary proceeded
towards the cell of his brother.
The Two Brothers
As the fair Rosa, with foreboding doubt, had foretold, so it
happened. Whilst John de Witt was climbing the narrow
winding stairs which led to the prison of his brother
Cornelius, the burghers did their best to have the troop of
Tilly, which was in their way, removed.
Seeing this disposition, King Mob, who fully appreciated the
laudable intentions of his own beloved militia, shouted most
"Hurrah for the burghers!"
As to Count Tilly, who was as prudent as he was firm, he
began to parley with the burghers, under the protection of
the cocked pistols of his dragoons, explaining to the
valiant townsmen, that his order from the States commanded
him to guard the prison and its approaches with three
"Wherefore such an order? Why guard the prison?" cried the
"Stop," replied the Count, "there you at once ask me more
than I can tell you. I was told, 'Guard the prison,' and I
guard it. You, gentlemen, who are almost military men
yourselves, you are aware that an order must never be
"But this order has been given to you that the traitors may
be enabled to leave the town."
"Very possibly, as the traitors are condemned to exile,"
"But who has given this order?"
"The States, to be sure!"
"The States are traitors."
"I don't know anything about that!"
"And you are a traitor yourself!"
"Well, as to that, let us understand each other gentlemen.
Whom should I betray? The States? Why, I cannot betray them,
whilst, being in their pay, I faithfully obey their orders."
As the Count was so indisputably in the right that it was
impossible to argue against him, the mob answered only by
redoubled clamour and horrible threats, to which the Count
opposed the most perfect urbanity.
"Gentlemen," he said, "uncock your muskets, one of them may
go off by accident; and if the shot chanced to wound one of
my men, we should knock over a couple of hundreds of yours,
for which we should, indeed, be very sorry, but you even
more so; especially as such a thing is neither contemplated
by you nor by myself."
"If you did that," cried the burghers, "we should have a pop
at you, too."
"Of course you would; but suppose you killed every man Jack
of us, those whom we should have killed would not, for all
that, be less dead."
"Then leave the place to us, and you will perform the part
of a good citizen."
"First of all," said the Count, "I am not a citizen, but an
officer, which is a very different thing; and secondly, I am
not a Hollander, but a Frenchman, which is more different
still. I have to do with no one but the States, by whom I am
paid; let me see an order from them to leave the place to
you, and I shall only be too glad to wheel off in an
instant, as I am confoundedly bored here."
"Yes, yes!" cried a hundred voices; the din of which was
immediately swelled by five hundred others; "let us march to
the Town-hall; let us go and see the deputies! Come along!
"That's it," Tilly muttered between his teeth, as he saw the
most violent among the crowd turning away; "go and ask for a
meanness at the Town-hall, and you will see whether they
will grant it; go, my fine fellows, go!"
The worthy officer relied on the honour of the magistrates,
who, on their side, relied on his honour as a soldier.
"I say, Captain," the first lieutenant whispered into the
ear of the Count, "I hope the deputies will give these
madmen a flat refusal; but, after all, it would do no harm
if they would send us some reinforcement."
In the meanwhile, John de Witt, whom we left climbing the
stairs, after the conversation with the jailer Gryphus and
his daughter Rosa, had reached the door of the cell, where
on a mattress his brother Cornelius was resting, after
having undergone the preparatory degrees of the torture. The
sentence of banishment having been pronounced, there was no
occasion for inflicting the torture extraordinary.
Cornelius was stretched on his couch, with broken wrists and
crushed fingers. He had not confessed a crime of which he
was not guilty; and now, after three days of agony, he once
more breathed freely, on being informed that the judges,
from whom he had expected death, were only condemning him to
Endowed with an iron frame and a stout heart, how would he
have disappointed his enemies if they could only have seen,
in the dark cell of the Buytenhof, his pale face lit up by
the smile of the martyr, who forgets the dross of this earth
after having obtained a glimpse of the bright glory of
The warden, indeed, had already recovered his full strength,
much more owing to the force of his own strong will than to
actual aid; and he was calculating how long the formalities
of the law would still detain him in prison.
This was just at the very moment when the mingled shouts of
the burgher guard and of the mob were raging against the two
brothers, and threatening Captain Tilly, who served as a
rampart to them. This noise, which roared outside of the
walls of the prison, as the surf dashing against the rocks,
now reached the ears of the prisoner.
But, threatening as it sounded, Cornelius appeared not to
deem it worth his while to inquire after its cause; nor did
he get up to look out of the narrow grated window, which
gave access to the light and to the noise of the world
He was so absorbed in his never-ceasing pain that it had
almost become a habit with him. He felt with such delight
the bonds which connected his immortal being with his
perishable frame gradually loosening, that it seemed to him
as if his spirit, freed from the trammels of the body, were
hovering above it, like the expiring flame which rises from
the half-extinguished embers.
He also thought of his brother; and whilst the latter was
thus vividly present to his mind the door opened, and John
entered, hurrying to the bedside of the prisoner, who
stretched out his broken limbs and his hands tied up in
bandages towards that glorious brother, whom he now
excelled, not in services rendered to the country, but in
the hatred which the Dutch bore him.
John tenderly kissed his brother on the forehead, and put
his sore hands gently back on the mattress.
"Cornelius, my poor brother, you are suffering great pain,
are you not?"
"I am suffering no longer, since I see you, my brother."
"Oh, my poor dear Cornelius! I feel most wretched to see you
in such a state."
"And, indeed, I have thought more of you than of myself; and
whilst they were torturing me, I never thought of uttering a
complaint, except once, to say, 'Poor brother!' But now that
you are here, let us forget all. You are coming to take me
away, are you not?"
"I am quite healed; help me to get up, and you shall see how
I can walk."
"You will not have to walk far, as I have my coach near the
pond, behind Tilly's dragoons."
"Tilly's dragoons! What are they near the pond for?"
"Well," said the Grand Pensionary with a melancholy smile
which was habitual to him, "the gentlemen at the Town-hall
expect that the people at the Hague would like to see you
depart, and there is some apprehension of a tumult."
"Of a tumult?" replied Cornelius, fixing his eyes on his
perplexed brother; "a tumult?"
"Oh! that's what I heard just now," said the prisoner, as if
speaking to himself. Then, turning to his brother, he
"Are there many persons down before the prison."
"Yes, my brother, there are."
"But then, to come here to me ---- "
"How is it that they have allowed you to pass?"
"You know well that we are not very popular, Cornelius,"
said the Grand Pensionary, with gloomy bitterness. "I have
made my way through all sorts of bystreets and alleys."
"You hid yourself, John?"
"I wished to reach you without loss of time, and I did what
people will do in politics, or on the sea when the wind is
against them, -- I tacked."
At this moment the noise in the square below was heard to
roar with increasing fury. Tilly was parleying with the
"Well, well," said Cornelius, "you are a very skilful pilot,
John; but I doubt whether you will as safely guide your
brother out of the Buytenhof in the midst of this gale, and
through the raging surf of popular hatred, as you did the
fleet of Van Tromp past the shoals of the Scheldt to
"With the help of God, Cornelius, we'll at least try,"
answered John; "but, first of all, a word with you."
The shouts began anew.
"Hark, hark!" continued Cornelius, "how angry those people
are! Is it against you, or against me?"
"I should say it is against us both, Cornelius. I told you,
my dear brother, that the Orange party, while assailing us
with their absurd calumnies, have also made it a reproach
against us that we have negotiated with France."
"What blockheads they are!"
"But, indeed, they reproach us with it."
"And yet, if these negotiations had been successful, they
would have prevented the defeats of Rees, Orsay, Wesel, and
Rheinberg; the Rhine would not have been crossed, and
Holland might still consider herself invincible in the midst
of her marshes and canals."
"All this is quite true, my dear Cornelius, but still more
certain it is, that if at this moment our correspondence
with the Marquis de Louvois were discovered, skilful pilot
as I am, I should not be able to save the frail barque which
is to carry the brothers De Witt and their fortunes out of
Holland. That correspondence, which might prove to honest
people how dearly I love my country, and what sacrifices I
have offered to make for its liberty and glory, would be
ruin to us if it fell into the hands of the Orange party. I
hope you have burned the letters before you left Dort to
join me at the Hague."
"My dear brother," Cornelius answered, "your correspondence
with M. de Louvois affords ample proof of your having been
of late the greatest, most generous, and most able citizen
of the Seven United Provinces. I rejoice in the glory of my
country; and particularly do I rejoice in your glory, John.
I have taken good care not to burn that correspondence."
"Then we are lost, as far as this life is concerned,"
quietly said the Grand Pensionary, approaching the window.
"No, on the contrary, John, we shall at the same time save
our lives and regain our popularity."
"But what have you done with these letters?"
"I have intrusted them to the care of Cornelius van Baerle,
my godson, whom you know, and who lives at Dort."
"Poor honest Van Baerle! who knows so much, and yet thinks
of nothing but of flowers and of God who made them. You have
intrusted him with this fatal secret; it will be his ruin,
"Yes, for he will either be strong or he will be weak. If he
is strong, he will, when he hears of what has happened to
us, boast of our acquaintance; if he is weak, he will be
afraid on account of his connection with us: if he is
strong, he will betray the secret by his boldness; if he is
weak, he will allow it to be forced from him. In either case
he is lost, and so are we. Let us, therefore, fly, fly, as
long as there is still time."
Cornelius de Witt, raising himself on his couch, and
grasping the hand of his brother, who shuddered at the touch
of his linen bandages, replied, --
"Do not I know my godson? have not I been enabled to read
every thought in Van Baerle's mind, and every sentiment in
his heart? You ask whether he is strong or weak. He is
neither the one nor the other; but that is not now the
question. The principal point is, that he is sure not to
divulge the secret, for the very good reason that he does
not know it himself."
John turned round in surprise.
"You must know, my dear brother, that I have been trained in
the school of that distinguished politician John de Witt;
and I repeat to you, that Van Baerle is not aware of the
nature and importance of the deposit which I have intrusted
"Quick then," cried John, "as there is still time, let us
convey to him directions to burn the parcel."
"Through my servant Craeke, who was to have accompanied us
on horseback, and who has entered the prison with me, to
assist you downstairs."
"Consider well before having those precious documents burnt,
"I consider, above all things, that the brothers De Witt
must necessarily save their lives, to be able to save their
character. If we are dead, who will defend us? Who will have
fully understood our intentions?"
"You expect, then, that they would kill us if those papers
John, without answering, pointed with his hand to the
square, whence, at that very moment, fierce shouts and
savage yells made themselves heard.
"Yes, yes," said Cornelius, "I hear these shouts very
plainly, but what is their meaning?"
John opened the window.
"Death to the traitors!" howled the populace.
"Do you hear now, Cornelius?"
"To the traitors! that means us!" said the prisoner, raising
his eyes to heaven and shrugging his shoulders.
"Yes, it means us," repeated John.
"Where is Craeke?"
"At the door of your cell, I suppose."
"Let him enter then."
John opened the door; the faithful servant was waiting on
"Come in, Craeke, and mind well what my brother will tell
"No, John; it will not suffice to send a verbal message;
unfortunately, I shall be obliged to write."
"And why that?"
"Because Van Baerle will neither give up the parcel nor burn
it without a special command to do so."
"But will you be able to write, poor old fellow?" John
asked, with a look on the scorched and bruised hands of the
"If I had pen and ink you would soon see," said Cornelius.
"Here is a pencil, at any rate."
"Have you any paper? for they have left me nothing."
"Here, take this Bible, and tear out the fly-leaf."
"Very well, that will do."
"But your writing will be illegible."
"Just leave me alone for that," said Cornelius. "The
executioners have indeed pinched me badly enough, but my
hand will not tremble once in tracing the few lines which
And really Cornelius took the pencil and began to write,
when through the white linen bandages drops of blood oozed
out which the pressure of the fingers against the pencil
squeezed from the raw flesh.
A cold sweat stood on the brow of the Grand Pensionary.
Cornelius wrote: --
"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 20th, 1672."
John, with tears in his eyes, wiped off a drop of the noble
blood which had soiled the leaf, and, after having handed
the despatch to Craeke with a last direction, returned to
Cornelius, who seemed overcome by intense pain, and near
"Now," said he, "when honest Craeke sounds his coxswain's
whistle, it will be a signal of his being clear of the
crowd, and of his having reached the other side of the pond.
And then it will be our turn to depart."
Five minutes had not elapsed, before a long and shrill
whistle was heard through the din and noise of the square of
John gratefully raised his eyes to heaven.
"And now," said he, "let us off, Cornelius."
The Pupil of John de Witt
Whilst the clamour of the crowd in the square of Buytenhof,
which grew more and more menacing against the two brothers,
determined John de Witt to hasten the departure of his
brother Cornelius, a deputation of burghers had gone to the
Town-hall to demand the withdrawal of Tilly's horse.
It was not far from the Buytenhof to Hoogstraet (High
Street); and a stranger, who since the beginning of this
scene had watched all its incidents with intense interest,
was seen to wend his way with, or rather in the wake of, the
others towards the Town-hall, to hear as soon as possible
the current news of the hour.
This stranger was a very young man, of scarcely twenty-two
or three, with nothing about him that bespoke any great
energy. He evidently had his good reasons for not making
himself known, as he hid his face in a handkerchief of fine
Frisian linen, with which he incessantly wiped his brow or
his burning lips.
With an eye keen as that of a bird of prey, -- with a long
aquiline nose, a finely cut mouth, which he generally kept
open, or rather which was gaping like the edges of a wound,
-- this man would have presented to Lavater, if Lavater had
lived at that time, a subject for physiognomical
observations which at the first blush would not have been
very favourable to the person in question.
"What difference is there between the figure of the
conqueror and that of the pirate?" said the ancients. The
difference only between the eagle and the vulture, --
serenity or restlessness.
And indeed the sallow physiognomy, the thin and sickly body,
and the prowling ways of the stranger, were the very type of
a suspecting master, or an unquiet thief; and a police
officer would certainly have decided in favour of the latter
supposition, on account of the great care which the
mysterious person evidently took to hide himself.
He was plainly dressed, and apparently unarmed; his arm was
lean but wiry, and his hands dry, but of an aristocratic
whiteness and delicacy, and he leaned on the shoulder of an
officer, who, with his hand on his sword, had watched the
scenes in the Buytenhof with eager curiosity, very natural
in a military man, until his companion drew him away with
On arriving at the square of the Hoogstraet, the man with
the sallow face pushed the other behind an open shutter,
from which corner he himself began to survey the balcony of
At the savage yells of the mob, the window of the Town-hall
opened, and a man came forth to address the people.
"Who is that on the balcony?" asked the young man, glancing
at the orator.
"It is the Deputy Bowelt," replied the officer.
"What sort of a man is he? Do you know anything of him?"
"An honest man; at least I believe so, Monseigneur."
Hearing this character given of Bowelt, the young man showed
signs of such a strange disappointment and evident
dissatisfaction that the officer could not but remark it,
and therefore added, --
"At least people say so, Monseigneur. I cannot say anything
about it myself, as I have no personal acquaintance with
"An honest man," repeated he who was addressed as
Monseigneur; "do you mean to say that he is an honest man
(brave homme), or a brave one (homme brave)?"
"Ah, Monseigneur must excuse me; I would not presume to draw
such a fine distinction in the case of a man whom, I assure
your Highness once more, I know only by sight."
"If this Bowelt is an honest man," his Highness continued,
"he will give to the demand of these furibund petitioners a
very queer reception."
The nervous quiver of his hand, which moved on the shoulder
of his companion as the fingers of a player on the keys of a
harpsichord, betrayed his burning impatience, so ill
concealed at certain times, and particularly at that moment,
under the icy and sombre expression of his face.
The chief of the deputation of the burghers was then heard
addressing an interpellation to Mynheer Bowelt, whom he
requested to let them know where the other deputies, his
"Gentlemen," Bowelt repeated for the second time, "I assure
you that in this moment I am here alone with Mynheer
d'Asperen, and I cannot take any resolution on my own
"The order! we want the order!" cried several thousand
Mynheer Bowelt wished to speak, but his words were not
heard, and he was only seen moving his arms in all sorts of
gestures, which plainly showed that he felt his position to
be desperate. When, at last, he saw that he could not make
himself heard, he turned round towards the open window, and
called Mynheer d'Asperen.
The latter gentleman now made his appearance on the balcony,
where he was saluted with shouts even more energetic than
those with which, ten minutes before, his colleague had been
This did not prevent him from undertaking the difficult task
of haranguing the mob; but the mob preferred forcing the
guard of the States -- which, however, offered no resistance
to the sovereign people -- to listening to the speech of
"Now, then," the young man coolly remarked, whilst the crowd
was rushing into the principal gate of the Town-hall, "it
seems the question will be discussed indoors, Captain. Come
along, and let us hear the debate."
"Oh, Monseigneur! Monseigneur! take care!"
"Among these deputies there are many who have had dealings
with you, and it would be sufficient, that one of them
should recognize your Highness."
"Yes, that I might be charged with having been the
instigator of all this work, indeed, you are right," said
the young man, blushing for a moment from regret of having
betrayed so much eagerness. "From this place we shall see
them return with or without the order for the withdrawal of
the dragoons, then we may judge which is greater, Mynheer
Bowelt's honesty or his courage."
"But," replied the officer, looking with astonishment at the
personage whom he addressed as Monseigneur, "but your
Highness surely does not suppose for one instant that the
deputies will order Tilly's horse to quit their post?"
"Why not?" the young man quietly retorted.
"Because doing so would simply be signing the death warrant
of Cornelius and John de Witt."
"We shall see," his Highness replied, with the most perfect
coolness; "God alone knows what is going on within the
hearts of men."
The officer looked askance at the impassible figure of his
companion, and grew pale: he was an honest man as well as a
From the spot where they stood, his Highness and his
attendant heard the tumult and the heavy tramp of the crowd
on the staircase of the Town-hall. The noise thereupon
sounded through the windows of the hall, on the balcony of
which Mynheers Bowelt and D'Asperen had presented
themselves. These two gentlemen had retired into the
building, very likely from fear of being forced over the
balustrade by the pressure of the crowd.
After this, fluctuating shadows in tumultuous confusion were
seen flitting to and fro across the windows: the council
hall was filling.
Suddenly the noise subsided, and as suddenly again it rose
with redoubled intensity, and at last reached such a pitch
that the old building shook to the very roof.
At length, the living stream poured back through the
galleries and stairs to the arched gateway, from which it
was seen issuing like waters from a spout.
At the head of the first group, man was flying rather than
running, his face hideously distorted with satanic glee:
this man was the surgeon Tyckelaer.
"We have it! we have it!" he cried, brandishing a paper in
"They have got the order!" muttered the officer in
"Well, then," his Highness quietly remarked, "now I know
what to believe with regard to Mynheer Bowelt's honesty and
courage: he has neither the one nor the other."
Then, looking with a steady glance after the crowd which was
rushing along before him, he continued, --
"Let us now go to the Buytenhof, Captain; I expect we shall
see a very strange sight there."
The officer bowed, and, without making any reply, followed
in the steps of his master.
There was an immense crowd in the square and about the
neighbourhood of the prison. But the dragoons of Tilly still
kept it in check with the same success and with the same
It was not long before the Count heard the increasing din of
the approaching multitude, the first ranks of which rushed
on with the rapidity of a cataract.
At the same time he observed the paper, which was waving
above the surface of clenched fists and glittering arms.
"Halloa!" he said, rising in his stirrups, and touching his
lieutenant with the knob of his sword; "I really believe
those rascals have got the order."
"Dastardly ruffians they are," cried the lieutenant.
It was indeed the order, which the burgher guard received
with a roar of triumph. They immediately sallied forth, with
lowered arms and fierce shouts, to meet Count Tilly's
But the Count was not the man to allow them to approach
within an inconvenient distance.
"Stop!" he cried, "stop, and keep off from my horse, or I
shall give the word of command to advance."
"Here is the order!" a hundred insolent voices answered at
He took it in amazement, cast a rapid glance on it, and said
quite aloud, --
"Those who have signed this order are the real murderers of
Cornelius de Witt. I would rather have my two hands cut off
than have written one single letter of this infamous order."
And, pushing back with the hilt of his sword the man who
wanted to take it from him, he added, --
"Wait a minute, papers like this are of importance, and are
to be kept."
Saying this, he folded up the document, and carefully put it
in the pocket of his coat.
Then, turning round towards his troop, he gave the word of
"Tilly's dragoons, wheel to the right!"
After this, he added, in an undertone, yet loud enough for
his words to be not altogether lost to those about him, --
"And now, ye butchers, do your work!"
A savage yell, in which all the keen hatred and ferocious
triumph rife in the precincts of the prison simultaneously
burst forth, and accompanied the departure of the dragoons,
as they were quietly filing off.
The Count tarried behind, facing to the last the infuriated
populace, which advanced at the same rate as the Count
John de Witt, therefore, had by no means exaggerated the
danger, when, assisting his brother in getting up, he
hurried his departure. Cornelius, leaning on the arm of the
Ex-Grand Pensionary, descended the stairs which led to the
courtyard. At the bottom of the staircase he found little
Rosa, trembling all over.
"Oh, Mynheer John," she said, "what a misfortune!"
"What is it, my child?" asked De Witt.
"They say that they are gone to the Town-hall to fetch the
order for Tilly's horse to withdraw."
"You do not say so!" replied John. "Indeed, my dear child,
if the dragoons are off, we shall be in a very sad plight."
"I have some advice to give you," Rosa said, trembling even
more violently than before.
"Well, let us hear what you have to say, my child. Why
should not God speak by your mouth?"
"Now, then, Mynheer John, if I were in your place, I should
not go out through the main street."
"And why so, as the dragoons of Tilly are still at their
"Yes, but their order, as long as it is not revoked, enjoins
them to stop before the prison."
"Have you got an order for them to accompany you out of the
"We have not?"
"Well, then, in the very moment when you have passed the
ranks of the dragoons you will fall into the hands of the
"But the burgher guard?"
"Alas! the burgher guard are the most enraged of all."
"What are we to do, then?"
"If I were in your place, Mynheer John," the young girl
timidly continued, "I should leave by the postern, which
leads into a deserted by-lane, whilst all the people are
waiting in the High Street to see you come out by the
principal entrance. From there I should try to reach the
gate by which you intend to leave the town."
"But my brother is not able to walk," said John.
"I shall try," Cornelius said, with an expression of most
"But have you not got your carriage?" asked the girl.
"The carriage is down near the great entrance."
"Not so," she replied. "I considered your coachman to be a
faithful man, and I told him to wait for you at the
The two brothers looked first at each other, and then at
Rosa, with a glance full of the most tender gratitude.
"The question is now," said the Grand Pensionary, "whether
Gryphus will open this door for us."
"Indeed, he will do no such thing," said Rosa.
"Well, and how then?"
"I have foreseen his refusal, and just now whilst he was
talking from the window of the porter's lodge with a
dragoon, I took away the key from his bunch."
"And you have got it?"
"Here it is, Mynheer John."
"My child," said Cornelius, "I have nothing to give you in
exchange for the service you are rendering us but the Bible
which you will find in my room; it is the last gift of an
honest man; I hope it will bring you good luck."
"I thank you, Master Cornelius, it shall never leave me,"
And then, with a sigh, she said to herself, "What a pity
that I do not know how to read!"
"The shouts and cries are growing louder and louder," said
John; "there is not a moment to be lost."
"Come along, gentlemen," said the girl, who now led the two
brothers through an inner lobby to the back of the prison.
Guided by her, they descended a staircase of about a dozen
steps; traversed a small courtyard, which was surrounded by
castellated walls; and, the arched door having been opened
for them by Rosa, they emerged into a lonely street where
their carriage was ready to receive them.
"Quick, quick, my masters! do you hear them?" cried the
coachman, in a deadly fright.
Yet, after having made Cornelius get into the carriage
first, the Grand Pensionary turned round towards the girl,
to whom he said, --
"Good-bye, my child! words could never express our
gratitude. God will reward you for having saved the lives of
Rosa took the hand which John de Witt proffered to her, and
kissed it with every show of respect.
"Go! for Heaven's sake, go!" she said; "it seems they are
going to force the gate."
John de Witt hastily got in, sat himself down by the side of
his brother, and, fastening the apron of the carriage,
called out to the coachman, --
"To the Tol-Hek!"
The Tol-Hek was the iron gate leading to the harbor of
Schevening, in which a small vessel was waiting for the two
The carriage drove off with the fugitives at the full speed
of a pair of spirited Flemish horses. Rosa followed them
with her eyes until they turned the corner of the street,
upon which, closing the door after her, she went back and
threw the key into a cell.
The noise which had made Rosa suppose that the people were
forcing the prison door was indeed owing to the mob
battering against it after the square had been left by the
Solid as the gate was, and although Gryphus, to do him
justice, stoutly enough refused to open it, yet evidently it
could not resist much longer, and the jailer, growing very
pale, put to himself the question whether it would not be
better to open the door than to allow it to be forced, when
he felt some one gently pulling his coat.
He turned round and saw Rosa.
"Do you hear these madmen?" he said.
"I hear them so well, my father, that in your place ---- "
"You would open the door?"
"No, I should allow it to be forced."
"But they will kill me!"
"Yes, if they see you."
"How shall they not see me?"
"In the secret dungeon."
"But you, my child?"
"I shall get into it with you. We shall lock the door and
when they have left the prison, we shall again come forth
from our hiding place."
"Zounds, you are right, there!" cried Gryphus; "it's
surprising how much sense there is in such a little head!"
Then, as the gate began to give way amidst the triumphant
shouts of the mob, she opened a little trap-door, and said,
"Come along, come along, father."
"But our prisoners?"
"God will watch over them, and I shall watch over you."
Gryphus followed his daughter, and the trap-door closed over
his head, just as the broken gate gave admittance to the
The dungeon where Rosa had induced her father to hide
himself, and where for the present we must leave the two,
offered to them a perfectly safe retreat, being known only
to those in power, who used to place there important
prisoners of state, to guard against a rescue or a revolt.
The people rushed into the prison, with the cry --
"Death to the traitors! To the gallows with Cornelius de
Witt! Death! death!"
The young man with his hat slouched over his eyes, still
leaning on the arm of the officer, and still wiping from
time to time his brow with his handkerchief, was watching in
a corner of the Buytenhof, in the shade of the overhanging
weather-board of a closed shop, the doings of the infuriated
mob, a spectacle which seemed to draw near its catastrophe.
"Indeed," said he to the officer, "indeed, I think you were
right, Van Deken; the order which the deputies have signed
is truly the death-warrant of Master Cornelius. Do you hear
these people? They certainly bear a sad grudge to the two De
"In truth," replied the officer, "I never heard such
"They seem to have found out the cell of the man. Look,
look! is not that the window of the cell where Cornelius was
A man had seized with both hands and was shaking the iron
bars of the window in the room which Cornelius had left only
ten minutes before.
"Halloa, halloa!" the man called out, "he is gone."
"How is that? gone?" asked those of the mob who had not been
able to get into the prison, crowded as it was with the mass
"Gone, gone," repeated the man in a rage, "the bird has
"What does this man say?" asked his Highness, growing quite
"Oh, Monseigneur, he says a thing which would be very
fortunate if it should turn out true!"
"Certainly it would be fortunate if it were true," said the
young man; "unfortunately it cannot be true."
"However, look!" said the officer.
And indeed, some more faces, furious and contorted with
rage, showed themselves at the windows, crying, --
"Escaped, gone, they have helped them off!"
And the people in the street repeated, with fearful
"Escaped gone! After them, and catch them!"
"Monseigneur, it seems that Mynheer Cornelius has really
escaped," said the officer.
"Yes, from prison, perhaps, but not from the town; you will
see, Van Deken, that the poor fellow will find the gate
closed against him which he hoped to find open."
"Has an order been given to close the town gates,
"No, -- at least I do not think so; who could have given
such an order?"
"Indeed, but what makes your Highness suppose?"
"There are fatalities," Monseigneur replied, in an offhand
manner; "and the greatest men have sometimes fallen victims
to such fatalities."
At these words the officer felt his blood run cold, as
somehow or other he was convinced that the prisoner was
At this moment the roar of the multitude broke forth like
thunder, for it was now quite certain that Cornelius de Witt
was no longer in the prison.
Cornelius and John, after driving along the pond, had taken
the main street, which leads to the Tol-Hek, giving
directions to the coachman to slacken his pace, in order not
to excite any suspicion.
But when, on having proceeded half-way down that street, the
man felt that he had left the prison and death behind, and
before him there was life and liberty, he neglected every
precaution, and set his horses off at a gallop.
All at once he stopped.
"What is the matter?" asked John, putting his head out of
the coach window.
"Oh, my masters!" cried the coachman, "it is ---- "
Terror choked the voice of the honest fellow.
"Well, say what you have to say!" urged the Grand
"The gate is closed, that's what it is."
"How is this? It is not usual to close the gate by day."
John de Witt leaned out of the window, and indeed saw that
the man was right.
"Never mind, but drive on," said John, "I have with me the
order for the commutation of the punishment, the gate-keeper
will let us through."
The carriage moved along, but it was evident that the driver
was no longer urging his horses with the same degree of
Moreover, as John de Witt put his head out of the carriage
window, he was seen and recognized by a brewer, who, being
behind his companions, was just shutting his door in all
haste to join them at the Buytenhof. He uttered a cry of
surprise, and ran after two other men before him, whom he
overtook about a hundred yards farther on, and told them
what he had seen. The three men then stopped, looking after
the carriage, being however not yet quite sure as to whom it
The carriage in the meanwhile arrived at the Tol-Hek.
"Open!" cried the coachman.
"Open!" echoed the gatekeeper, from the threshold of his
lodge; "it's all very well to say 'Open!' but what am I to
do it with?"
"With the key, to be sure!" said the coachman.
"With the key! Oh, yes! but if you have not got it?"
"How is that? Have not you got the key?" asked the coachman.
"No, I haven't."
"What has become of it?"
"Well, they have taken it from me."
"Some one, I dare say, who had a mind that no one should
leave the town."
"My good man," said the Grand Pensionary, putting out his
head from the window, and risking all for gaining all; "my
good man, it is for me, John de Witt, and for my brother
Cornelius, who I am taking away into exile."
"Oh, Mynheer de Witt! I am indeed very much grieved," said
the gatekeeper, rushing towards the carriage; "but, upon my
sacred word, the key has been taken from me."
"By a pale and thin young man, of about twenty-two."
"And wherefore did you give it up to him?"
"Because he showed me an order, signed and sealed."
"By the gentlemen of the Town-hall."
"Well, then," said Cornelius calmly, "our doom seems to be
"Do you know whether the same precaution has been taken at
the other gates?"
"I do not."
"Now then," said John to the coachman, "God commands man to
do all that is in his power to preserve his life; go, and
drive to another gate."
And whilst the servant was turning round the vehicle the
Grand Pensionary said to the gatekeeper, --
"Take our thanks for your good intentions; the will must
count for the deed; you had the will to save us, and that,
in the eyes of the Lord, is as if you had succeeded in doing
"Alas!" said the gatekeeper, "do you see down there?"
"Drive at a gallop through that group," John called out to
the coachman, "and take the street on the left; it is our
The group which John alluded to had, for its nucleus, those
three men whom we left looking after the carriage, and who,
in the meanwhile, had been joined by seven or eight others.
These new-comers evidently meant mischief with regard to the
When they saw the horses galloping down upon them, they
placed themselves across the street, brandishing cudgels in
their hands, and calling out, --
The coachman, on his side, lashed his horses into increased
speed, until the coach and the men encountered.
The brothers De Witt, enclosed within the body of the
carriage, were not able to see anything; but they felt a
severe shock, occasioned by the rearing of the horses. The
whole vehicle for a moment shook and stopped; but
immediately after, passing over something round and elastic,
which seemed to be the body of a prostrate man set off again
amidst a volley of the fiercest oaths.
"Alas!" said Cornelius, "I am afraid we have hurt some one."
"Gallop! gallop!" called John.
But, notwithstanding this order, the coachman suddenly came
to a stop.
"Now, then, what is the matter again?" asked John.
"Look there!" said the coachman.
John looked. The whole mass of the populace from the
Buytenhof appeared at the extremity of the street along
which the carriage was to proceed, and its stream moved
roaring and rapid, as if lashed on by a hurricane.
"Stop and get off," said John to the coachman; "it is
useless to go any farther; we are lost!"
"Here they are! here they are!" five hundred voices were
crying at the same time.
"Yes, here they are, the traitors, the murderers, the
assassins!" answered the men who were running after the
carriage to the people who were coming to meet it. The
former carried in their arms the bruised body of one of
their companions, who, trying to seize the reins of the
horses, had been trodden down by them.
This was the object over which the two brothers had felt
their carriage pass.
The coachman stopped, but, however strongly his master urged
him, he refused to get off and save himself.
In an instant the carriage was hemmed in between those who
followed and those who met it. It rose above the mass of
moving heads like a floating island. But in another instant
it came to a dead stop. A blacksmith had with his hammer
struck down one of the horses, which fell in the traces.
At this moment, the shutter of a window opened, and
disclosed the sallow face and the dark eyes of the young
man, who with intense interest watched the scene which was
preparing. Behind him appeared the head of the officer,
almost as pale as himself.
"Good heavens, Monseigneur, what is going on there?"
whispered the officer.
"Something very terrible, to a certainty," replied the
"Don't you see, Monseigneur, they are dragging the Grand
Pensionary from the carriage, they strike him, they tear him
"Indeed, these people must certainly be prompted by a most
violent indignation," said the young marl, with the same
impassible tone which he had preserved all along.
"And here is Cornelius, whom they now likewise drag out of
the carriage, -- Cornelius, who is already quite broken and
mangled by the torture. Only look, look!"
"Indeed, it is Cornelius, and no mistake."
The officer uttered a feeble cry, and turned his head away;
the brother of the Grand Pensionary, before having set foot
on the ground, whilst still on the bottom step of the
carriage, was struck down with an iron bar which broke his
skull. He rose once more, but immediately fell again.
Some fellows then seized him by the feet, and dragged him
into the crowd, into the middle of which one might have
followed his bloody track, and he was soon closed in among
the savage yells of malignant exultation.
The young man -- a thing which would have been thought
impossible -- grew even paler than before, and his eyes were
for a moment veiled behind the lids.
The officer saw this sign of compassion, and, wishing to
avail himself of this softened tone of his feelings,
"Come, come, Monseigneur, for here they are also going to
murder the Grand Pensionary."
But the young man had already opened his eyes again.
"To be sure," he said. "These people are really implacable.
It does no one good to offend them."
"Monseigneur," said the officer, "may not one save this poor
man, who has been your Highness's instructor? If there be
any means, name it, and if I should perish in the attempt
William of Orange -- for he it was -- knit his brows in a
very forbidding manner, restrained the glance of gloomy
malice which glistened in his half-closed eye, and answered,
"Captain Van Deken, I request you to go and look after my
troops, that they may be armed for any emergency."
"But am I to leave your Highness here, alone, in the
presence of all these murderers?"
"Go, and don't you trouble yourself about me more than I do
myself," the Prince gruffly replied.
The officer started off with a speed which was much less
owing to his sense of military obedience than to his
pleasure at being relieved from the necessity of witnessing
the shocking spectacle of the murder of the other brother.
He had scarcely left the room, when John -- who, with an
almost superhuman effort, had reached the stone steps of a
house nearly opposite that where his former pupil concealed
himself -- began to stagger under the blows which were
inflicted on him from all sides, calling out, --
"My brother! where is my brother?"
One of the ruffians knocked off his hat with a blow of his
Another showed to him his bloody hands; for this fellow had
ripped open Cornelius and disembowelled him, and was now
hastening to the spot in order not to lose the opportunity
of serving the Grand Pensionary in the same manner, whilst
they were dragging the dead body of Cornelius to the gibbet.
John uttered a cry of agony and grief, and put one of his
hands before his eyes.
"Oh, you close your eyes, do you?" said one of the soldiers
of the burgher guard; "well, I shall open them for you."
And saying this he stabbed him with his pike in the face,
and the blood spurted forth.
"My brother!" cried John de Witt, trying to see through the
stream of blood which blinded him, what had become of
Cornelius; "my brother, my brother!"
"Go and run after him!" bellowed another murderer, putting
his musket to his temples and pulling the trigger.
But the gun did not go off.
The fellow then turned his musket round, and, taking it by
the barrel with both hands, struck John de Witt down with
the butt-end. John staggered and fell down at his feet, but,
raising himself with a last effort, he once more called out,
"My brother!" with a voice so full of anguish that the young
man opposite closed the shutter.
There remained little more to see; a third murderer fired a
pistol with the muzzle to his face; and this time the shot
took effect, blowing out his brains. John de Witt fell to
rise no more.
On this, every one of the miscreants, emboldened by his
fall, wanted to fire his gun at him, or strike him with
blows of the sledge-hammer, or stab him with a knife or
swords, every one wanted to draw a drop of blood from the
fallen hero, and tear off a shred from his garments.
And after having mangled, and torn, and completely stripped
the two brothers, the mob dragged their naked and bloody
bodies to an extemporised gibbet, where amateur executioners
hung them up by the feet.
Then came the most dastardly scoundrels of all, who not
having dared to strike the living flesh, cut the dead in
pieces, and then went about the town selling small slices of
the bodies of John and Cornelius at ten sous a piece.
We cannot take upon ourselves to say whether, through the
almost imperceptible chink of the shutter, the young man
witnessed the conclusion of this shocking scene; but at the
very moment when they were hanging the two martyrs on the
gibbet he passed through the terrible mob, which was too
much absorbed in the task, so grateful to its taste, to take
any notice of him, and thus he reached unobserved the
Tol-Hek, which was still closed.
"Ah! sir," said the gatekeeper, "do you bring me the key?"
"Yes, my man, here it is."
"It is most unfortunate that you did not bring me that key
only one quarter of an hour sooner," said the gatekeeper,
with a sigh.
"And why that?" asked the other.
"Because I might have opened the gate to Mynheers de Witt;
whereas, finding the gate locked, they were obliged to
retrace their steps."
"Gate! gate!" cried a voice which seemed to be that of a man
in a hurry.
The Prince, turning round, observed Captain Van Deken.
"Is that you, Captain?" he said. "You are not yet out of the
Hague? This is executing my orders very slowly."
"Monseigneur," replied the Captain, "this is the third gate
at which I have presented myself; the other two were
"Well, this good man will open this one for you; do it, my
The last words were addressed to the gatekeeper, who stood
quite thunderstruck on hearing Captain Van Deken addressing
by the title of Monseigneur this pale young man, to whom he
himself had spoken in such a familiar way.
As it were to make up for his fault, he hastened to open the
gate, which swung creaking on its hinges.
"Will Monseigneur avail himself of my horse?" asked the
"I thank you, Captain, I shall use my own steed, which is
waiting for me close at hand."
And taking from his pocket a golden whistle, such as was
generally used at that time for summoning the servants, he
sounded it with a shrill and prolonged call, on which an
equerry on horseback speedily made his appearance, leading
another horse by the bridle.
William, without touching the stirrup, vaulted into the
saddle of the led horse, and, setting his spurs into its
flanks, started off for the Leyden road. Having reached it,
he turned round and beckoned to the Captain who was far
behind, to ride by his side.
"Do you know," he then said, without stopping, "that those
rascals have killed John de Witt as well as his brother?"
"Alas! Monseigneur," the Captain answered sadly, "I should
like it much better if these two difficulties were still in
your Highness's way of becoming de facto Stadtholder of
"Certainly, it would have been better," said William, "if
what did happen had not happened. But it cannot be helped
now, and we have had nothing to do with it. Let us push on,
Captain, that we may arrive at Alphen before the message
which the States-General are sure to send to me to the
The Captain bowed, allowed the Prince to ride ahead and, for
the remainder of the journey, kept at the same respectful
distance as he had done before his Highness called him to
"How I should wish," William of Orange malignantly muttered
to himself, with a dark frown and setting the spurs to his
horse, "to see the figure which Louis will cut when he is
apprised of the manner in which his dear friends De Witt
have been served! Oh thou Sun! thou Sun! as truly as I am
called William the Silent, thou Sun, thou hadst best look to
And the young Prince, the relentless rival of the Great
King, sped away upon his fiery steed, -- this future
Stadtholder who had been but the day before very uncertainly
established in his new power, but for whom the burghers of
the Hague had built a staircase with the bodies of John and
Cornelius, two princes as noble as he in the eyes of God and man.
The Tulip-fancier and his Neighbour
Whilst the burghers of the Hague were tearing in pieces the
bodies of John and Cornelius de Witt, and whilst William of
Orange, after having made sure that his two antagonists were
really dead, was galloping over the Leyden road, followed by
Captain van Deken, whom he found a little too compassionate
to honour him any longer with his confidence, Craeke, the
faithful servant, mounted on a good horse, and little
suspecting what terrible events had taken place since his
departure, proceeded along the high road lined with trees,
until he was clear of the town and the neighbouring
Being once safe, he left his horse at a livery stable in
order not to arouse suspicion, and tranquilly continued his
journey on the canal-boats, which conveyed him by easy
stages to Dort, pursuing their way under skilful guidance by
the shortest possible routes through the windings of the
river, which held in its watery embrace so many enchanting
little islands, edged with willows and rushes, and abounding
in luxurious vegetation, whereon flocks of fat sheep browsed
in peaceful sleepiness. Craeke from afar off recognised
Dort, the smiling city, at the foot of a hill dotted with
windmills. He saw the fine red brick houses, mortared in
white lines, standing on the edge of the water, and their
balconies, open towards the river, decked out with silk
tapestry embroidered with gold flowers, the wonderful
manufacture of India and China; and near these brilliant
stuffs, large lines set to catch the voracious eels, which
are attracted towards the houses by the garbage thrown every
day from the kitchens into the river.
Craeke, standing on the deck of the boat, saw, across the
moving sails of the windmills, on the slope of the hill, the
red and pink house which was the goal of his errand. The
outlines of its roof were merging in the yellow foliage of a
curtain of poplar trees, the whole habitation having for
background a dark grove of gigantic elms. The mansion was
situated in such a way that the sun, falling on it as into a
funnel, dried up, warmed, and fertilised the mist which the
verdant screen could not prevent the river wind from
carrying there every morning and evening.
Having disembarked unobserved amid the usual bustle of the
city, Craeke at once directed his steps towards the house
which we have just described, and which -- white, trim, and
tidy, even more cleanly scoured and more carefully waxed in
the hidden corners than in the places which were exposed to
view -- enclosed a truly happy mortal.
This happy mortal, rara avis, was Dr. van Baerle, the godson
of Cornelius de Witt. He had inhabited the same house ever
since his childhood, for it was the house in which his
father and grandfather, old established princely merchants
of the princely city of Dort, were born.
Mynheer van Baerle the father had amassed in the Indian
trade three or four hundred thousand guilders, which Mynheer
van Baerle the son, at the death of his dear and worthy
parents, found still quite new, although one set of them
bore the date of coinage of 1640, and the other that of
1610, a fact which proved that they were guilders of Van
Baerle the father and of Van Baerle the grandfather; but we
will inform the reader at once that these three or four
hundred thousand guilders were only the pocket money, or
sort of purse, for Cornelius van Baerle, the hero of this
story, as his landed property in the province yielded him an
income of about ten thousand guilders a year.
When the worthy citizen, the father of Cornelius, passed
from time into eternity, three months after having buried
his wife, who seemed to have departed first to smooth for
him the path of death as she had smoothed for him the path
of life, he said to his son, as he embraced him for the last
"Eat, drink, and spend your money, if you wish to know what
life really is, for as to toiling from morn to evening on a
wooden stool, or a leathern chair, in a counting-house or a
laboratory, that certainly is not living. Your time to die
will also come; and if you are not then so fortunate as to