Part 2 out of 6
have a son, you will let my name grow extinct, and my
guilders, which no one has ever fingered but my father,
myself, and the coiner, will have the surprise of passing to
an unknown master. And least of all, imitate the example of
your godfather, Cornelius de Witt, who has plunged into
politics, the most ungrateful of all careers, and who will
certainly come to an untimely end."
Having given utterance to this paternal advice, the worthy
Mynheer van Baerle died, to the intense grief of his son
Cornelius, who cared very little for the guilders, and very
much for his father.
Cornelius then remained alone in his large house. In vain
his godfather offered to him a place in the public service,
-- in vain did he try to give him a taste for glory, --
although Cornelius, to gratify his godfather, did embark
with De Ruyter upon "The Seven Provinces," the flagship of a
fleet of one hundred and thirty-nine sail, with which the
famous admiral set out to contend singlehanded against the
combined forces of France and England. When, guided by the
pilot Leger, he had come within musket-shot of the "Prince,"
with the Duke of York (the English king's brother) aboard,
upon which De Ruyter, his mentor, made so sharp and well
directed an attack that the Duke, perceiving that his vessel
would soon have to strike, made the best of his way aboard
the "Saint Michael"; when he had seen the "Saint Michael,"
riddled and shattered by the Dutch broadside, drift out of
the line; when he had witnessed the sinking of the "Earl of
Sandwich," and the death by fire or drowning of four hundred
sailors; when he realized that the result of all this
destruction -- after twenty ships had been blown to pieces,
three thousand men killed and five thousand injured -- was
that nothing was decided, that both sides claimed the
victory, that the fighting would soon begin again, and that
just one more name, that of Southwold Bay, had been added to
the list of battles; when he had estimated how much time is
lost simply in shutting his eyes and ears by a man who likes
to use his reflective powers even while his fellow creatures
are cannonading one another; -- Cornelius bade farewell to
De Ruyter, to the Ruart de Pulten, and to glory, kissed the
knees of the Grand Pensionary, for whom he entertained the
deepest veneration, and retired to his house at Dort, rich
in his well-earned repose, his twenty-eight years, an iron
constitution and keen perceptions, and his capital of more
than four hundred thousands of florins and income of ten
thousand, convinced that a man is always endowed by Heaven
with too much for his own happiness, and just enough to make
Consequently, and to indulge his own idea of happiness,
Cornelius began to be interested in the study of plants and
insects, collected and classified the Flora of all the Dutch
islands, arranged the whole entomology of the province, on
which he wrote a treatise, with plates drawn by his own
hands; and at last, being at a loss what to do with his
time, and especially with his money, which went on
accumulating at a most alarming rate, he took it into his
head to select for himself, from all the follies of his
country and of his age, one of the most elegant and
expensive, -- he became a tulip-fancier.
It was the time when the Dutch and the Portuguese, rivalling
each other in this branch of horticulture, had begun to
worship that flower, and to make more of a cult of it than
ever naturalists dared to make of the human race for fear of
arousing the jealousy of God.
Soon people from Dort to Mons began to talk of Mynheer van
Baerle's tulips; and his beds, pits, drying-rooms, and
drawers of bulbs were visited, as the galleries and
libraries of Alexandria were by illustrious Roman
Van Baerle began by expending his yearly revenue in laying
the groundwork of his collection, after which he broke in
upon his new guilders to bring it to perfection. His
exertions, indeed, were crowned with a most magnificent
result: he produced three new tulips, which he called the
"Jane," after his mother; the "Van Baerle," after his
father; and the "Cornelius," after his godfather; the other
names have escaped us, but the fanciers will be sure to find
them in the catalogues of the times.
In the beginning of the year 1672, Cornelius de Witt came to
Dort for three months, to live at his old family mansion;
for not only was he born in that city, but his family had
been resident there for centuries.
Cornelius, at that period, as William of Orange said, began
to enjoy the most perfect unpopularity. To his fellow
citizens, the good burghers of Dort, however, he did not
appear in the light of a criminal who deserved to be hung.
It is true, they did not particularly like his somewhat
austere republicanism, but they were proud of his valour;
and when he made his entrance into their town, the cup of
honour was offered to him, readily enough, in the name of
After having thanked his fellow citizens, Cornelius
proceeded to his old paternal house, and gave directions for
some repairs, which he wished to have executed before the
arrival of his wife and children; and thence he wended his
way to the house of his godson, who perhaps was the only
person in Dort as yet unacquainted with the presence of
Cornelius in the town.
In the same degree as Cornelius de Witt had excited the
hatred of the people by sowing those evil seeds which are
called political passions, Van Baerle had gained the
affections of his fellow citizens by completely shunning the
pursuit of politics, absorbed as he was in the peaceful
pursuit of cultivating tulips.
Van Baerle was truly beloved by his servants and labourers;
nor had he any conception that there was in this world a man
who wished ill to another.
And yet it must be said, to the disgrace of mankind, that
Cornelius van Baerle, without being aware of the fact, had a
much more ferocious, fierce, and implacable enemy than the
Grand Pensionary and his brother had among the Orange party,
who were most hostile to the devoted brothers, who had never
been sundered by the least misunderstanding during their
lives, and by their mutual devotion in the face of death
made sure the existence of their brotherly affection beyond
At the time when Cornelius van Baerle began to devote
himself to tulip-growing, expending on this hobby his yearly
revenue and the guilders of his father, there was at Dort,
living next door to him, a citizen of the name of Isaac
Boxtel who from the age when he was able to think for
himself had indulged the same fancy, and who was in
ecstasies at the mere mention of the word "tulban," which
(as we are assured by the "Floriste Francaise," the most
highly considered authority in matters relating to this
flower) is the first word in the Cingalese tongue which was
ever used to designate that masterpiece of floriculture
which is now called the tulip.
Boxtel had not the good fortune of being rich, like Van
Baerle. He had therefore, with great care and patience, and
by dint of strenuous exertions, laid out near his house at
Dort a garden fit for the culture of his cherished flower;
he had mixed the soil according to the most approved
prescriptions, and given to his hotbeds just as much heat
and fresh air as the strictest rules of horticulture exact.
Isaac knew the temperature of his frames to the twentieth
part of a degree. He knew the strength of the current of
air, and tempered it so as to adapt it to the wave of the
stems of his flowers. His productions also began to meet
with the favour of the public. They were beautiful, nay,
distinguished. Several fanciers had come to see Boxtel's
tulips. At last he had even started amongst all the
Linnaeuses and Tourneforts a tulip which bore his name, and
which, after having travelled all through France, had found
its way into Spain, and penetrated as far as Portugal; and
the King, Don Alfonso VI. -- who, being expelled from
Lisbon, had retired to the island of Terceira, where he
amused himself, not, like the great Conde, with watering his
carnations, but with growing tulips -- had, on seeing the
Boxtel tulip, exclaimed, "Not so bad, by any means!"
All at once, Cornelius van Baerle, who, after all his
learned pursuits, had been seized with the tulipomania, made
some changes in his house at Dort, which, as we have stated,
was next door to that of Boxtel. He raised a certain
building in his court-yard by a story, which shutting out
the sun, took half a degree of warmth from Boxtel's garden,
and, on the other hand, added half a degree of cold in
winter; not to mention that it cut the wind, and disturbed
all the horticultural calculations and arrangements of his
After all, this mishap appeared to Boxtel of no great
consequence. Van Baerle was but a painter, a sort of fool
who tried to reproduce and disfigure on canvas the wonders
of nature. The painter, he thought, had raised his studio by
a story to get better light, and thus far he had only been
in the right. Mynheer van Baerle was a painter, as Mynheer
Boxtel was a tulip-grower; he wanted somewhat more sun for
his paintings, and he took half a degree from his
The law was for Van Baerle, and Boxtel had to abide by it.
Besides, Isaac had made the discovery that too much sun was
injurious to tulips, and that this flower grew quicker, and
had a better colouring, with the temperate warmth of
morning, than with the powerful heat of the midday sun. He
therefore felt almost grateful to Cornelius van Baerle for
having given him a screen gratis.
Maybe this was not quite in accordance with the true state
of things in general, and of Isaac Boxtel's feelings in
particular. It is certainly astonishing what rich comfort
great minds, in the midst of momentous catastrophes, will
derive from the consolations of philosophy.
But alas! What was the agony of the unfortunate Boxtel on
seeing the windows of the new story set out with bulbs and
seedlings of tulips for the border, and tulips in pots; in
short, with everything pertaining to the pursuits of a
There were bundles of labels, cupboards, and drawers with
compartments, and wire guards for the cupboards, to allow
free access to the air whilst keeping out slugs, mice,
dormice, and rats, all of them very curious fanciers of
tulips at two thousand francs a bulb.
Boxtel was quite amazed when he saw all this apparatus, but
he was not as yet aware of the full extent of his
misfortune. Van Baerle was known to be fond of everything
that pleases the eye. He studied Nature in all her aspects
for the benefit of his paintings, which were as minutely
finished as those of Gerard Dow, his master, and of Mieris,
his friend. Was it not possible, that, having to paint the
interior of a tulip-grower's, he had collected in his new
studio all the accessories of decoration?
Yet, although thus consoling himself with illusory
suppositions, Boxtel was not able to resist the burning
curiosity which was devouring him. In the evening,
therefore, he placed a ladder against the partition wall
between their gardens, and, looking into that of his
neighbour Van Baerle, he convinced himself that the soil of
a large square bed, which had formerly been occupied by
different plants, was removed, and the ground disposed in
beds of loam mixed with river mud (a combination which is
particularly favourable to the tulip), and the whole
surrounded by a border of turf to keep the soil in its
place. Besides this, sufficient shade to temper the noonday
heat; aspect south-southwest; water in abundant supply, and
at hand; in short, every requirement to insure not only
success but also progress. There could not be a doubt that
Van Baerle had become a tulip-grower.
Boxtel at once pictured to himself this learned man, with a
capital of four hundred thousand and a yearly income of ten
thousand guilders, devoting all his intellectual and
financial resources to the cultivation of the tulip. He
foresaw his neighbour's success, and he felt such a pang at
the mere idea of this success that his hands dropped
powerless, his knees trembled, and he fell in despair from
And thus it was not for the sake of painted tulips, but for
real ones, that Van Baerle took from him half a degree of
warmth. And thus Van Baerle was to have the most admirably
fitted aspect, and, besides, a large, airy, and well
ventilated chamber where to preserve his bulbs and
seedlings; while he, Boxtel, had been obliged to give up for
this purpose his bedroom, and, lest his sleeping in the same
apartment might injure his bulbs and seedlings, had taken up
his abode in a miserable garret.
Boxtel, then, was to have next door to him a rival and
successful competitor; and his rival, instead of being some
unknown, obscure gardener, was the godson of Mynheer
Cornelius de Witt, that is to say, a celebrity.
Boxtel, as the reader may see, was not possessed of the
spirit of Porus, who, on being conquered by Alexander,
consoled himself with the celebrity of his conqueror.
And now if Van Baerle produced a new tulip, and named it the
John de Witt, after having named one the Cornelius? It was
indeed enough to choke one with rage.
Thus Boxtel, with jealous foreboding, became the prophet of
his own misfortune. And, after having made this melancholy
discovery, he passed the most wretched night imaginable.
The Hatred of a Tulip-fancier
From that moment Boxtel's interest in tulips was no longer a
stimulus to his exertions, but a deadening anxiety.
Henceforth all his thoughts ran only upon the injury which
his neighbour would cause him, and thus his favourite
occupation was changed into a constant source of misery to him.
Van Baerle, as may easily be imagined, had no sooner begun
to apply his natural ingenuity to his new fancy, than he
succeeded in growing the finest tulips. Indeed; he knew
better than any one else at Haarlem or Leyden -- the two
towns which boast the best soil and the most congenial
climate -- how to vary the colours, to modify the shape, and
to produce new species.
He belonged to that natural, humorous school who took for
their motto in the seventeenth century the aphorism uttered
by one of their number in 1653, -- "To despise flowers is to
From that premise the school of tulip-fanciers, the most
exclusive of all schools, worked out the following syllogism
in the same year: --
"To despise flowers is to offend God.
"The more beautiful the flower is, the more does one offend
God in despising it.
"The tulip is the most beautiful of all flowers.
"Therefore, he who despises the tulip offends God beyond
By reasoning of this kind, it can be seen that the four or
five thousand tulip-growers of Holland, France, and
Portugal, leaving out those of Ceylon and China and the
Indies, might, if so disposed, put the whole world under the
ban, and condemn as schismatics and heretics and deserving
of death the several hundred millions of mankind whose hopes
of salvation were not centred upon the tulip.
We cannot doubt that in such a cause Boxtel, though he was
Van Baerle's deadly foe, would have marched under the same
banner with him.
Mynheer van Baerle and his tulips, therefore, were in the
mouth of everybody; so much so, that Boxtel's name
disappeared for ever from the list of the notable
tulip-growers in Holland, and those of Dort were now
represented by Cornelius van Baerle, the modest and
Engaging, heart and soul, in his pursuits of sowing,
planting, and gathering, Van Baerle, caressed by the whole
fraternity of tulip-growers in Europe, entertained nor the
least suspicion that there was at his very door a pretender
whose throne he had usurped.
He went on in his career, and consequently in his triumphs;
and in the course of two years he covered his borders with
such marvellous productions as no mortal man, following in
the tracks of the Creator, except perhaps Shakespeare and
Rubens, have equalled in point of numbers.
And also, if Dante had wished for a new type to be added to
his characters of the Inferno, he might have chosen Boxtel
during the period of Van Baerle's successes. Whilst
Cornelius was weeding, manuring, watering his beds, whilst,
kneeling on the turf border, he analysed every vein of the
flowering tulips, and meditated on the modifications which
might be effected by crosses of colour or otherwise, Boxtel,
concealed behind a small sycamore which he had trained at
the top of the partition wall in the shape of a fan,
watched, with his eyes starting from their sockets and with
foaming mouth, every step and every gesture of his
neighbour; and whenever he thought he saw him look happy, or
descried a smile on his lips, or a flash of contentment
glistening in his eyes, he poured out towards him such a
volley of maledictions and furious threats as to make it
indeed a matter of wonder that this venomous breath of envy
and hatred did not carry a blight on the innocent flowers
which had excited it.
When the evil spirit has once taken hold of the heart of
man, it urges him on, without letting him stop. Thus Boxtel
soon was no longer content with seeing Van Baerle. He wanted
to see his flowers, too; he had the feelings of an artist,
the master-piece of a rival engrossed his interest.
He therefore bought a telescope, which enabled him to watch
as accurately as did the owner himself every progressive
development of the flower, from the moment when, in the
first year, its pale seed-leaf begins to peep from the
ground, to that glorious one, when, after five years, its
petals at last reveal the hidden treasures of its chalice.
How often had the miserable, jealous man to observe in Van
Baerle's beds tulips which dazzled him by their beauty, and
almost choked him by their perfection!
And then, after the first blush of the admiration which he
could not help feeling, he began to be tortured by the pangs
of envy, by that slow fever which creeps over the heart and
changes it into a nest of vipers, each devouring the other
and ever born anew. How often did Boxtel, in the midst of
tortures which no pen is able fully to describe, -- how
often did he feel an inclination to jump down into the
garden during the night, to destroy the plants, to tear the
bulbs with his teeth, and to sacrifice to his wrath the
owner himself, if he should venture to stand up for the
defence of his tulips!
But to kill a tulip was a horrible crime in the eyes of a
genuine tulip-fancier; as to killing a man, it would not
have mattered so very much.
Yet Van Baerle made such progress in the noble science of
growing tulips, which he seemed to master with the true
instinct of genius, that Boxtel at last was maddened to such
a degree as to think of throwing stones and sticks into the
flower-stands of his neighbour. But, remembering that he
would be sure to be found out, and that he would not only be
punished by law, but also dishonoured for ever in the face
of all the tulip-growers of Europe, he had recourse to
stratagem, and, to gratify his hatred, tried to devise a
plan by means of which he might gain his ends without being
He considered a long time, and at last his meditations were
crowned with success.
One evening he tied two cats together by their hind legs
with a string about six feet in length, and threw them from
the wall into the midst of that noble, that princely, that
royal bed, which contained not only the "Cornelius de Witt,"
but also the "Beauty of Brabant," milk-white, edged with
purple and pink, the "Marble of Rotterdam," colour of flax,
blossoms feathered red and flesh colour, the "Wonder of
Haarlem," the "Colombin obscur," and the "Columbin clair
The frightened cats, having alighted on the ground, first
tried to fly each in a different direction, until the string
by which they were tied together was tightly stretched
across the bed; then, however, feeling that they were not
able to get off, they began to pull to and fro, and to wheel
about with hideous caterwaulings, mowing down with their
string the flowers among which they were struggling, until,
after a furious strife of about a quarter of an hour, the
string broke and the combatants vanished.
Boxtel, hidden behind his sycamore, could not see anything,
as it was pitch-dark; but the piercing cries of the cats
told the whole tale, and his heart overflowing with gall now
throbbed with triumphant joy.
Boxtel was so eager to ascertain the extent of the injury,
that he remained at his post until morning to feast his eyes
on the sad state in which the two cats had left the
flower-beds of his neighbour. The mists of the morning
chilled his frame, but he did not feel the cold, the hope of
revenge keeping his blood at fever heat. The chagrin of his
rival was to pay for all the inconvenience which he incurred
At the earliest dawn the door of the white house opened, and
Van Baerle made his appearance, approaching the flower-beds
with the smile of a man who has passed the night comfortably
in his bed, and has had happy dreams.
All at once he perceived furrows and little mounds of earth
on the beds which only the evening before had been as smooth
as a mirror, all at once he perceived the symmetrical rows
of his tulips to be completely disordered, like the pikes of
a battalion in the midst of which a shell has fallen.
He ran up to them with blanched cheek.
Boxtel trembled with joy. Fifteen or twenty tulips, torn and
crushed, were lying about, some of them bent, others
completely broken and already withering, the sap oozing from
their bleeding bulbs: how gladly would Van Baerle have
redeemed that precious sap with his own blood!
But what were his surprise and his delight! what was the
disappointment of his rival! Not one of the four tulips
which the latter had meant to destroy was injured at all.
They raised proudly their noble heads above the corpses of
their slain companions. This was enough to console Van
Baerle, and enough to fan the rage of the horticultural
murderer, who tore his hair at the sight of the effects of
the crime which he had committed in vain.
Van Baerle could not imagine the cause of the mishap, which,
fortunately, was of far less consequence than it might have
been. On making inquiries, he learned that the whole night
had been disturbed by terrible caterwaulings. He besides
found traces of the cats, their footmarks and hairs left
behind on the battle-field; to guard, therefore, in future
against a similar outrage, he gave orders that henceforth
one of the under gardeners should sleep in the garden in a
sentry-box near the flower-beds.
Boxtel heard him give the order, and saw the sentry-box put
up that very day; but he deemed himself lucky in not having
been suspected, and, being more than ever incensed against
the successful horticulturist, he resolved to bide his time.
Just then the Tulip Society of Haarlem offered a prize for
the discovery (we dare not say the manufacture) of a large
black tulip without a spot of colour, a thing which had not
yet been accomplished, and was considered impossible, as at
that time there did not exist a flower of that species
approaching even to a dark nut brown. It was, therefore,
generally said that the founders of the prize might just as
well have offered two millions as a hundred thousand
guilders, since no one would be able to gain it.
The tulip-growing world, however, was thrown by it into a
state of most active commotion. Some fanciers caught at the
idea without believing it practicable, but such is the power
of imagination among florists, that although considering the
undertaking as certain to fail, all their thoughts were
engrossed by that great black tulip, which was looked upon
to be as chimerical as the black swan of Horace or the white
raven of French tradition.
Van Baerle was one of the tulip-growers who were struck with
the idea; Boxtel thought of it in the light of a
speculation. Van Baerle, as soon as the idea had once taken
root in his clear and ingenious mind, began slowly the
necessary planting and cross-breeding to reduce the tulips
which he had grown already from red to brown, and from brown
to dark brown.
By the next year he had obtained flowers of a perfect
nut-brown, and Boxtel espied them in the border, whereas he
had himself as yet only succeeded in producing the light
It might perhaps be interesting to explain to the gentle
reader the beautiful chain of theories which go to prove
that the tulip borrows its colors from the elements; perhaps
we should give him pleasure if we were to maintain and
establish that nothing is impossible for a florist who
avails himself with judgment and discretion and patience of
the sun's heat; the clear water, the juices of the earth,
and the cool breezes. But this is not a treatise upon tulips
in general; it is the story of one particular tulip which we
have undertaken to write, and to that we limit ourselves,
however alluring the subject which is so closely allied to
Boxtel, once more worsted by the superiority of his hated
rival, was now completely disgusted with tulip-growing, and,
being driven half mad, devoted himself entirely to
The house of his rival was quite open to view; a garden
exposed to the sun; cabinets with glass walls, shelves,
cupboards, boxes, and ticketed pigeon-holes, which could
easily be surveyed by the telescope. Boxtel allowed his
bulbs to rot in the pits, his seedlings to dry up in their
cases, and his tulips to wither in the borders and
henceforward occupied himself with nothing else but the
doings at Van Baerle's. He breathed through the stalks of
Van Baerle's tulips, quenched his thirst with the water he
sprinkled upon them, and feasted on the fine soft earth
which his neighbour scattered upon his cherished bulbs.
But the most curious part of the operations was not
performed in the garden.
It might be one o'clock in the morning when Van Baerle went
up to his laboratory, into the glazed cabinet whither
Boxtel's telescope had such an easy access; and here, as
soon as the lamp illuminated the walls and windows, Boxtel
saw the inventive genius of his rival at work.
He beheld him sifting his seeds, and soaking them in liquids
which were destined to modify or to deepen their colours. He
knew what Cornelius meant when heating certain grains, then
moistening them, then combining them with others by a sort
of grafting, -- a minute and marvellously delicate
manipulation, -- and when he shut up in darkness those which
were expected to furnish the black colour, exposed to the
sun or to the lamp those which were to produce red, and
placed between the endless reflections of two water-mirrors
those intended for white, the pure representation of the
This innocent magic, the fruit at the same time of
child-like musings and of manly genius -- this patient
untiring labour, of which Boxtel knew himself to be
incapable -- made him, gnawed as he was with envy, centre
all his life, all his thoughts, and all his hopes in his
For, strange to say, the love and interest of horticulture
had not deadened in Isaac his fierce envy and thirst of
revenge. Sometimes, whilst covering Van Baerle with his
telescope, he deluded himself into a belief that he was
levelling a never-failing musket at him; and then he would
seek with his finger for the trigger to fire the shot which
was to have killed his neighbour. But it is time that we
should connect with this epoch of the operations of the one,
and the espionage of the other, the visit which Cornelius de
Witt came to pay to his native town.
The Happy Man makes Acquaintance with Misfortune
Cornelius de Witt, after having attended to his family
affairs, reached the house of his godson, Cornelius van
Baerle, one evening in the month of January, 1672.
De Witt, although being very little of a horticulturist or
of an artist, went over the whole mansion, from the studio
to the green-house, inspecting everything, from the pictures
down to the tulips. He thanked his godson for having joined
him on the deck of the admiral's ship "The Seven Provinces,"
during the battle of Southwold Bay, and for having given his
name to a magnificent tulip; and whilst he thus, with the
kindness and affability of a father to a son, visited Van
Baerle's treasures, the crowd gathered with curiosity, and
even respect, before the door of the happy man.
All this hubbub excited the attention of Boxtel, who was
just taking his meal by his fireside. He inquired what it
meant, and, on being informed of the cause of all this stir,
climbed up to his post of observation, where in spite of the
cold, he took his stand, with the telescope to his eye.
This telescope had not been of great service to him since
the autumn of 1671. The tulips, like true daughters of the
East, averse to cold, do not abide in the open ground in
winter. They need the shelter of the house, the soft bed on
the shelves, and the congenial warmth of the stove. Van
Baerle, therefore, passed the whole winter in his
laboratory, in the midst of his books and pictures. He went
only rarely to the room where he kept his bulbs, unless it
were to allow some occasional rays of the sun to enter, by
opening one of the movable sashes of the glass front.
On the evening of which we are speaking, after the two
Corneliuses had visited together all the apartments of the
house, whilst a train of domestics followed their steps, De
Witt said in a low voice to Van Baerle, --
"My dear son, send these people away, and let us be alone
for some minutes."
The younger Cornelius, bowing assent, said aloud, --
"Would you now, sir, please to see my dry-room?"
The dry-room, this pantheon, this sanctum sanctorum of the
tulip-fancier, was, as Delphi of old, interdicted to the
Never had any of his servants been bold enough to set his
foot there. Cornelius admitted only the inoffensive broom of
an old Frisian housekeeper, who had been his nurse, and who
from the time when he had devoted himself to the culture of
tulips ventured no longer to put onions in his stews, for
fear of pulling to pieces and mincing the idol of her foster
At the mere mention of the dry-room, therefore, the servants
who were carrying the lights respectfully fell back.
Cornelius, taking the candlestick from the hands of the
foremost, conducted his godfather into that room, which was
no other than that very cabinet with a glass front into
which Boxtel was continually prying with his telescope.
The envious spy was watching more intently than ever.
First of all he saw the walls and windows lit up.
Then two dark figures appeared.
One of them, tall, majestic, stern, sat down near the table
on which Van Baerle had placed the taper.
In this figure, Boxtel recognised the pale features of
Cornelius de Witt, whose long hair, parted in front, fell
over his shoulders.
De Witt, after having said some few words to Cornelius, the
meaning of which the prying neighbour could not read in the
movement of his lips, took from his breast pocket a white
parcel, carefully sealed, which Boxtel, judging from the
manner in which Cornelius received it, and placed it in one
of the presses, supposed to contain papers of the greatest
His first thought was that this precious deposit enclosed
some newly imported bulbs from Bengal or Ceylon; but he soon
reflected that Cornelius de Witt was very little addicted to
tulip-growing, and that he only occupied himself with the
affairs of man, a pursuit by far less peaceful and agreeable
than that of the florist. He therefore came to the
conclusion that the parcel contained simply some papers, and
that these papers were relating to politics.
But why should papers of political import be intrusted to
Van Baerle, who not only was, but also boasted of being, an
entire stranger to the science of government, which, in his
opinion, was more occult than alchemy itself?
It was undoubtedly a deposit which Cornelius de Witt,
already threatened by the unpopularity with which his
countrymen were going to honour him, was placing in the
hands of his godson; a contrivance so much the more cleverly
devised, as it certainly was not at all likely that it
should be searched for at the house of one who had always
stood aloof from every sort of intrigue.
And, besides, if the parcel had been made up of bulbs,
Boxtel knew his neighbour too well not to expect that Van
Baerle would not have lost one moment in satisfying his
curiosity and feasting his eyes on the present which he had
But, on the contrary, Cornelius had received the parcel from
the hands of his godfather with every mark of respect, and
put it by with the same respectful manner in a drawer,
stowing it away so that it should not take up too much of
the room which was reserved to his bulbs.
The parcel thus being secreted, Cornelius de Witt got up,
pressed the hand of his godson, and turned towards the door,
Van Baerle seizing the candlestick, and lighting him on his
way down to the street, which was still crowded with people
who wished to see their great fellow citizen getting into
Boxtel had not been mistaken in his supposition. The deposit
intrusted to Van Baerle, and carefully locked up by him, was
nothing more nor less than John de Witt's correspondence
with the Marquis de Louvois, the war minister of the King of
France; only the godfather forbore giving to his godson the
least intimation concerning the political importance of the
secret, merely desiring him not to deliver the parcel to any
one but to himself, or to whomsoever he should send to claim
it in his name.
And Van Baerle, as we have seen, locked it up with his most
precious bulbs, to think no more of it, after his godfather
had left him; very unlike Boxtel, who looked upon this
parcel as a clever pilot does on the distant and scarcely
perceptible cloud which is increasing on its way and which
is fraught with a storm.
Little dreaming of the jealous hatred of his neighbour, Van
Baerle had proceeded step by step towards gaining the prize
offered by the Horticultural Society of Haarlem. He had
progressed from hazel-nut shade to that of roasted coffee,
and on the very day when the frightful events took place at
the Hague which we have related in the preceding chapters,
we find him, about one o'clock in the day, gathering from
the border the young suckers raised from tulips of the
colour of roasted coffee; and which, being expected to
flower for the first time in the spring of 1675, would
undoubtedly produce the large black tulip required by the
On the 20th of August, 1672, at one o'clock, Cornelius was
therefore in his dry-room, with his feet resting on the
foot-bar of the table, and his elbows on the cover, looking
with intense delight on three suckers which he had just
detached from the mother bulb, pure, perfect, and entire,
and from which was to grow that wonderful produce of
horticulture which would render the name of Cornelius van
Baerle for ever illustrious.
"I shall find the black tulip," said Cornelius to himself,
whilst detaching the suckers. "I shall obtain the hundred
thousand guilders offered by the Society. I shall distribute
them among the poor of Dort; and thus the hatred which every
rich man has to encounter in times of civil wars will be
soothed down, and I shall be able, without fearing any harm
either from Republicans or Orangists, to keep as heretofore
my borders in splendid condition. I need no more be afraid
lest on the day of a riot the shopkeepers of the town and
the sailors of the port should come and tear out my bulbs,
to boil them as onions for their families, as they have
sometimes quietly threatened when they happened to remember
my having paid two or three hundred guilders for one bulb.
It is therefore settled I shall give the hundred thousand
guilders of the Haarlem prize to-the poor. And yet ---- "
Here Cornelius stopped and heaved a sigh. "And yet," he
continued, "it would have been so very delightful to spend
the hundred thousand guilders on the enlargement of my
tulip-bed or even on a journey to the East, the country of
beautiful flowers. But, alas! these are no thoughts for the
present times, when muskets, standards, proclamations, and
beating of drums are the order of the day."
Van Baerle raised his eyes to heaven and sighed again. Then
turning his glance towards his bulbs, -- objects of much
greater importance to him than all those muskets, standards,
drums, and proclamations, which he conceived only to be fit
to disturb the minds of honest people, -- he said: --
"These are, indeed, beautiful bulbs; how smooth they are,
how well formed; there is that air of melancholy about them
which promises to produce a flower of the colour of ebony.
On their skin you cannot even distinguish the circulating
veins with the naked eye. Certainly, certainly, not a light
spot will disfigure the tulip which I have called into
existence. And by what name shall we call this offspring of
my sleepless nights, of my labour and my thought? Tulipa
"Yes Barlaensis: a fine name. All the tulip-fanciers -- that
is to say, all the intelligent people of Europe -- will feel
a thrill of excitement when the rumour spreads to the four
quarters of the globe: The grand black tulip is found! 'How
is it called?' the fanciers will ask. -- 'Tulipa nigra
Barlaensis!' -- 'Why Barlaensis?' -- 'After its grower, Van
Baerle,' will be the answer. -- 'And who is this Van
Baerle?' -- 'It is the same who has already produced five
new tulips: the Jane, the John de Witt, the Cornelius de
Witt, etc.' Well, that is what I call my ambition. It will
cause tears to no one. And people will talk of my Tulipa
nigra Barlaensis when perhaps my godfather, this sublime
politician, is only known from the tulip to which I have
given his name.
"Oh! these darling bulbs!
"When my tulip has flowered," Baerle continued in his
soliloquy, "and when tranquillity is restored in Holland, I
shall give to the poor only fifty thousand guilders, which,
after all, is a goodly sum for a man who is under no
obligation whatever. Then, with the remaining fifty thousand
guilders, I shall make experiments. With them I shall
succeed in imparting scent to the tulip. Ah! if I succeed in
giving it the odour of the rose or the carnation, or, what
would be still better, a completely new scent; if I restored
to this queen of flowers its natural distinctive perfume,
which she has lost in passing from her Eastern to her
European throne, and which she must have in the Indian
peninsula at Goa, Bombay, and Madras, and especially in that
island which in olden times, as is asserted, was the
terrestrial paradise, and which is called Ceylon, -- oh,
what glory! I must say, I would then rather be Cornelius van
Baerle than Alexander, Caesar, or Maximilian.
"Oh the admirable bulbs!"
Thus Cornelius indulged in the delights of contemplation,
and was carried away by the sweetest dreams.
Suddenly the bell of his cabinet was rung much more
violently than usual.
Cornelius, startled, laid his hands on his bulbs, and turned
"Who is here?" he asked.
"Sir," answered the servant, "it is a messenger from the
"A messenger from the Hague! What does he want?"
"Sir, it is Craeke."
"Craeke! the confidential servant of Mynheer John de Witt?
Good, let him wait."
"I cannot wait," said a voice in the lobby.
And at the same time forcing his way in, Craeke rushed into
This abrupt entrance was such an infringement on the
established rules of the household of Cornelius van Baerle,
that the latter, at the sight of Craeke, almost convulsively
moved his hand which covered the bulbs, so that two of them
fell on the floor, one of them rolling under a small table,
and the other into the fireplace.
"Zounds!" said Cornelius, eagerly picking up his precious
bulbs, "what's the matter?"
"The matter, sir!" said Craeke, laying a paper on the large
table, on which the third bulb was lying, -- "the matter is,
that you are requested to read this paper without losing one
And Craeke, who thought he had remarked in the streets of
Dort symptoms of a tumult similar to that which he had
witnessed before his departure from the Hague, ran off
without even looking behind him.
"All right! all right! my dear Craeke," said Cornelius,
stretching his arm under the table for the bulb; "your paper
shall be read, indeed it shall."
Then, examining the bulb which he held in the hollow of his
hand, he said: "Well, here is one of them uninjured. That
confounded Craeke! thus to rush into my dry-room; let us now
look after the other."
And without laying down the bulb which he already held,
Baerle went to the fireplace, knelt down and stirred with
the tip of his finger the ashes, which fortunately were
He at once felt the other bulb.
"Well, here it is," he said; and, looking at it with almost
fatherly affection, he exclaimed, "Uninjured as the first!"
At this very instant, and whilst Cornelius, still on his
knees, was examining his pets, the door of the dry-room was
so violently shaken, and opened in such a brusque manner,
that Cornelius felt rising in his cheeks and his ears the
glow of that evil counsellor which is called wrath.
"Now, what is it again," he demanded; "are people going mad
"Oh, sir! sir!" cried the servant, rushing into the dry-room
with a much paler face and with a much more frightened mien
than Craeke had shown.
"Well!" asked Cornelius, foreboding some mischief from the
double breach of the strict rule of his house.
"Oh, sir, fly! fly quick!" cried the servant.
"Fly! and what for?"
"Sir, the house is full of the guards of the States."
"What do they want?"
"They want you."
"To arrest you."
"Arrest me? arrest me, do you say?"
"Yes, sir, and they are headed by a magistrate."
"What's the meaning of all this?" said Van Baerle, grasping
in his hands the two bulbs, and directing his terrified
glance towards the staircase.
"They are coming up! they are coming up!" cried the servant.
"Oh, my dear child, my worthy master!" cried the old
housekeeper, who now likewise made her appearance in the
dry-room, "take your gold, your jewelry, and fly, fly!"
"But how shall I make my escape, nurse?" said Van Baerle.
"Jump out of the window."
"Twenty-five feet from the ground!"
"But you will fall on six feet of soft soil!"
"Yes, but I should fall on my tulips."
"Never mind, jump out."
Cornelius took the third bulb, approached the window and
opened it, but seeing what havoc he would necessarily cause
in his borders, and, more than this, what a height he would
have to jump, he called out, "Never!" and fell back a step.
At this moment they saw across the banister of the staircase
the points of the halberds of the soldiers rising.
The housekeeper raised her hands to heaven.
As to Cornelius van Baerle, it must be stated to his honour,
not as a man, but as a tulip-fancier, his only thought was
for his inestimable bulbs.
Looking about for a paper in which to wrap them up, he
noticed the fly-leaf from the Bible, which Craeke had laid
upon the table, took it without in his confusion remembering
whence it came, folded in it the three bulbs, secreted them
in his bosom, and waited.
At this very moment the soldiers, preceded by a magistrate,
entered the room.
"Are you Dr. Cornelius van Baerle?" demanded the magistrate
(who, although knowing the young man very well, put his
question according to the forms of justice, which gave his
proceedings a much more dignified air).
"I am that person, Master van Spennen," answered Cornelius,
politely, to his judge, "and you know it very well."
"Then give up to us the seditious papers which you secrete
in your house."
"The seditious papers!" repeated Cornelius, quite dumfounded
at the imputation.
"Now don't look astonished, if you please."
"I vow to you, Master van Spennen, "Cornelius replied, "that
I am completely at a loss to understand what you want."
"Then I shall put you in the way, Doctor," said the judge;
"give up to us the papers which the traitor Cornelius de
Witt deposited with you in the month of January last."
A sudden light came into the mind of Cornelius.
"Halloa!" said Van Spennen, "you begin now to remember,
"Indeed I do, but you spoke of seditious papers, and I have
none of that sort."
"You deny it then?"
"Certainly I do."
The magistrate turned round and took a rapid survey of the
"Where is the apartment you call your dry-room?" he asked.
"The very same where you now are, Master van Spennen."
The magistrate cast a glance at a small note at the top of
"All right," he said, like a man who is sure of his ground.
Then, turning round towards Cornelius, he continued, "Will
you give up those papers to me?"
"But I cannot, Master van Spennen; those papers do not
belong to me; they have been deposited with me as a trust,
and a trust is sacred."
"Dr. Cornelius," said the judge, "in the name of the States,
I order you to open this drawer, and to give up to me the
papers which it contains."
Saying this, the judge pointed with his finger to the third
drawer of the press, near the fireplace.
In this very drawer, indeed the papers deposited by the
Warden of the Dikes with his godson were lying; a proof that
the police had received very exact information.
"Ah! you will not," said Van Spennen, when he saw Cornelius
standing immovable and bewildered, "then I shall open the
And, pulling out the drawer to its full length, the
magistrate at first alighted on about twenty bulbs,
carefully arranged and ticketed, and then on the paper
parcel, which had remained in exactly the same state as it
was when delivered by the unfortunate Cornelius de Witt to
The magistrate broke the seals, tore off the envelope, cast
an eager glance on the first leaves which met his eye and
then exclaimed, in a terrible voice, --
"Well, justice has been rightly informed after all!"
"How," said Cornelius, "how is this?"
"Don't pretend to be ignorant, Mynheer van Baerle," answered
the magistrate. "Follow me."
"How's that! follow you?" cried the Doctor.
"Yes, sir, for in the name of the States I arrest you."
Arrests were not as yet made in the name of William of
Orange; he had not been Stadtholder long enough for that.
"Arrest me!" cried Cornelius; "but what have I done?"
"That's no affair of mine, Doctor; you will explain all that
before your judges."
"At the Hague."
Cornelius, in mute stupefaction, embraced his old nurse, who
was in a swoon; shook hands with his servants, who were
bathed in tears, and followed the magistrate, who put him in
a coach as a prisoner of state and had him driven at full
gallop to the Hague.
The incident just related was, as the reader has guessed
before this, the diabolical work of Mynheer Isaac Boxtel.
It will be remembered that, with the help of his telescope,
not even the least detail of the private meeting between
Cornelius de Witt and Van Baerle had escaped him. He had,
indeed, heard nothing, but he had seen everything, and had
rightly concluded that the papers intrusted by the Warden to
the Doctor must have been of great importance, as he saw Van
Baerle so carefully secreting the parcel in the drawer where
he used to keep his most precious bulbs.
The upshot of all this was that when Boxtel, who watched the
course of political events much more attentively than his
neighbour Cornelius was used to do, heard the news of the
brothers De Witt being arrested on a charge of high treason
against the States, he thought within his heart that very
likely he needed only to say one word, and the godson would
be arrested as well as the godfather.
Yet, full of happiness as was Boxtel's heart at the chance,
he at first shrank with horror from the idea of informing
against a man whom this information might lead to the
But there is this terrible thing in evil thoughts, that evil
minds soon grow familiar with them.
Besides this, Mynheer Isaac Boxtel encouraged himself with
the following sophism: --
"Cornelius de Witt is a bad citizen, as he is charged with
high treason, and arrested.
"I, on the contrary, am a good citizen, as I am not charged
with anything in the world, as I am as free as the air of
"If, therefore, Cornelius de Witt is a bad citizen, -- of
which there can be no doubt, as he is charged with high
treason, and arrested, -- his accomplice, Cornelius van
Baerle, is no less a bad citizen than himself.
"And, as I am a good citizen, and as it is the duty of every
good citizen to inform against the bad ones, it is my duty
to inform against Cornelius van Baerle."
Specious as this mode of reasoning might sound, it would not
perhaps have taken so complete a hold of Boxtel, nor would
he perhaps have yielded to the mere desire of vengeance
which was gnawing at his heart, had not the demon of envy
been joined with that of cupidity.
Boxtel was quite aware of the progress which Van Baerle had
made towards producing the grand black tulip.
Dr. Cornelius, notwithstanding all his modesty, had not been
able to hide from his most intimate friends that he was all
but certain to win, in the year of grace 1673, the prize of
a hundred thousand guilders offered by the Horticultural
Society of Haarlem.
It was just this certainty of Cornelius van Baerle that
caused the fever which raged in the heart of Isaac Boxtel.
If Cornelius should be arrested there would necessarily be a
great upset in his house, and during the night after his
arrest no one would think of keeping watch over the tulips
in his garden.
Now in that night Boxtel would climb over the wall and, as
he knew the position of the bulb which was to produce the
grand black tulip, he would filch it; and instead of
flowering for Cornelius, it would flower for him, Isaac; he
also, instead of Van Baerle, would have the prize of a
hundred thousand guilders, not to speak of the sublime
honour of calling the new flower Tulipa nigra Boxtellensis,
-- a result which would satisfy not only his vengeance, but
also his cupidity and his ambition.
Awake, he thought of nothing but the grand black tulip;
asleep, he dreamed of it.
At last, on the 19th of August, about two o'clock in the
afternoon, the temptation grew so strong, that Mynheer Isaac
was no longer able to resist it.
Accordingly, he wrote an anonymous information, the minute
exactness of which made up for its want of authenticity, and
posted his letter.
Never did a venomous paper, slipped into the jaws of the
bronze lions at Venice, produce a more prompt and terrible
On the same evening the letter reached the principal
magistrate, who without a moment's delay convoked his
colleagues early for the next morning. On the following
morning, therefore, they assembled, and decided on Van
Baerle's arrest, placing the order for its execution in the
hands of Master van Spennen, who, as we have seen, performed
his duty like a true Hollander, and who arrested the Doctor
at the very hour when the Orange party at the Hague were
roasting the bleeding shreds of flesh torn from the corpses
of Cornelius and John de Witt.
But, whether from a feeling of shame or from craven
weakness, Isaac Boxtel did not venture that day to point his
telescope either at the garden, or at the laboratory, or at
He knew too well what was about to happen in the house of
the poor doctor to feel any desire to look into it. He did
not even get up when his only servant -- who envied the lot
of the servants of Cornelius just as bitterly as Boxtel did
that of their master -- entered his bedroom. He said to the
"I shall not get up to-day, I am ill."
About nine o'clock he heard a great noise in the street
which made him tremble, at this moment he was paler than a
real invalid, and shook more violently than a man in the
height of fever.
His servant entered the room; Boxtel hid himself under the
"Oh, sir!" cried the servant, not without some inkling that,
whilst deploring the mishap which had befallen Van Baerle,
he was announcing agreeable news to his master, -- "oh, sir!
you do not know, then, what is happening at this moment?"
"How can I know it?" answered Boxtel, with an almost
"Well, Mynheer Boxtel, at this moment your neighbour
Cornelius van Baerle is arrested for high treason."
"Nonsense!" Boxtel muttered, with a faltering voice; "the
thing is impossible."
"Faith, sir, at any rate that's what people say; and,
besides, I have seen Judge van Spennen with the archers
entering the house."
"Well, if you have seen it with your own eyes, that's a
different case altogether."
"At all events," said the servant, "I shall go and inquire
once more. Be you quiet, sir, I shall let you know all about
Boxtel contented himself with signifying his approval of the
zeal of his servant by dumb show.
The man went out, and returned in half an hour.
"Oh, sir, all that I told you is indeed quite true."
"Mynheer van Baerle is arrested, and has been put into a
carriage, and they are driving him to the Hague."
"To the Hague!"
"Yes, to the Hague, and if what people say is true, it won't
do him much good."
"And what do they say?" Boxtel asked.
"Faith, sir, they say -- but it is not quite sure -- that by
this hour the burghers must be murdering Mynheer Cornelius
and Mynheer John de Witt."
"Oh," muttered, or rather growled Boxtel, closing his eyes
from the dreadful picture which presented itself to his
"Why, to be sure," said the servant to himself, whilst
leaving the room, "Mynheer Isaac Boxtel must be very sick
not to have jumped from his bed on hearing such good news."
And, in reality, Isaac Boxtel was very sick, like a man who
has murdered another.
But he had murdered his man with a double object; the first
was attained, the second was still to be attained.
Night closed in. It was the night which Boxtel had looked
As soon as it was dark he got up.
He then climbed into his sycamore.
He had calculated correctly; no one thought of keeping watch
over the garden; the house and the servants were all in the
He heard the clock strike -- ten, eleven, twelve.
At midnight, with a beating heart, trembling hands, and a
livid countenance, he descended from the tree, took a
ladder, leaned it against the wall, mounted it to the last
step but one, and listened.
All was perfectly quiet, not a sound broke the silence of
the night; one solitary light, that of the housekeeper, was
burning in the house.
This silence and this darkness emboldened Boxtel; he got
astride the wall, stopped for an instant, and, after having
ascertained that there was nothing to fear, he put his
ladder from his own garden into that of Cornelius, and
Then, knowing to an inch where the bulbs which were to
produce the black tulip were planted, he ran towards the
spot, following, however, the gravelled walks in order not
to be betrayed by his footprints, and, on arriving at the
precise spot, he proceeded, with the eagerness of a tiger,
to plunge his hand into the soft ground.
He found nothing, and thought he was mistaken.
In the meanwhile, the cold sweat stood on his brow.
He felt about close by it, -- nothing.
He felt about on the right, and on the left, -- nothing.
He felt about in front and at the back, -- nothing.
He was nearly mad, when at last he satisfied himself that on
that very morning the earth had been disturbed.
In fact, whilst Boxtel was lying in bed, Cornelius had gone
down to his garden, had taken up the mother bulb, and, as we
have seen, divided it into three.
Boxtel could not bring himself to leave the place. He dug up
with his hands more than ten square feet of ground.
At last no doubt remained of his misfortune. Mad with rage,
he returned to his ladder, mounted the wall, drew up the
ladder, flung it into his own garden, and jumped after it.
All at once, a last ray of hope presented itself to his
mind: the seedling bulbs might be in the dry-room; it was
therefore only requisite to make his entry there as he had
done into the garden.
There he would find them, and, moreover, it was not at all
difficult, as the sashes of the dry-room might be raised
like those of a greenhouse. Cornelius had opened them on
that morning, and no one had thought of closing them again.
Everything, therefore, depended upon whether he could
procure a ladder of sufficient length, -- one of twenty-five
feet instead of ten.
Boxtel had noticed in the street where he lived a house
which was being repaired, and against which a very tall
ladder was placed.
This ladder would do admirably, unless the workmen had taken
He ran to the house: the ladder was there. Boxtel took it,
carried it with great exertion to his garden, and with even
greater difficulty raised it against the wall of Van
Baerle's house, where it just reached to the window.
Boxtel put a lighted dark lantern into his pocket, mounted
the ladder, and slipped into the dry-room.
On reaching this sanctuary of the florist he stopped,
supporting himself against the table; his legs failed him,
his heart beat as if it would choke him. Here it was even
worse than in the garden; there Boxtel was only a
trespasser, here he was a thief.
However, he took courage again: he had not gone so far to
turn back with empty hands.
But in vain did he search the whole room, open and shut all
the drawers, even that privileged one where the parcel which
had been so fatal to Cornelius had been deposited; he found
ticketed, as in a botanical garden, the "Jane," the "John de
Witt," the hazel-nut, and the roasted-coffee coloured tulip;
but of the black tulip, or rather the seedling bulbs within
which it was still sleeping, not a trace was found.
And yet, on looking over the register of seeds and bulbs,
which Van Baerle kept in duplicate, if possible even with
greater exactitude and care than the first commercial houses
of Amsterdam their ledgers, Boxtel read these lines: --
"To-day, 20th of August, 1672, I have taken up the mother
bulb of the grand black tulip, which I have divided into
three perfect suckers."
"Oh these bulbs, these bulbs!" howled Boxtel, turning over
everything in the dry-room, "where could he have concealed
Then, suddenly striking his forehead in his frenzy, he
called out, "Oh wretch that I am! Oh thrice fool Boxtel!
Would any one be separated from his bulbs? Would any one
leave them at Dort, when one goes to the Hague? Could one
live far from one's bulbs, when they enclose the grand black
tulip? He had time to get hold of them, the scoundrel, he
has them about him, he has taken them to the Hague!"
It was like a flash of lightning which showed to Boxtel the
abyss of a uselessly committed crime.
Boxtel sank quite paralyzed on that very table, and on that
very spot where, some hours before, the unfortunate Van
Baerle had so leisurely, and with such intense delight,
contemplated his darling bulbs.
"Well, then, after all," said the envious Boxtel, -- raising
his livid face from his hands in which it had been buried --
"if he has them, he can keep them only as long as he lives,
and ---- "
The rest of this detestable thought was expressed by a
"The bulbs are at the Hague," he said, "therefore, I can no
longer live at Dort: away, then, for them, to the Hague! to
And Boxtel, without taking any notice of the treasures about
him, so entirely were his thoughts absorbed by another
inestimable treasure, let himself out by the window, glided
down the ladder, carried it back to the place whence he had
taken it, and, like a beast of prey, returned growling to
The Family Cell
It was about midnight when poor Van Baerle was locked up in
the prison of the Buytenhof.
What Rosa foresaw had come to pass. On finding the cell of
Cornelius de Witt empty, the wrath of the people ran very
high, and had Gryphus fallen into the hands of those madmen
he would certainly have had to pay with his life for the
But this fury had vented itself most fully on the two
brothers when they were overtaken by the murderers, thanks
to the precaution which William -- the man of precautions --
had taken in having the gates of the city closed.
A momentary lull had therefore set in whilst the prison was
empty, and Rosa availed herself of this favourable moment to
come forth from her hiding place, which she also induced her
father to leave.
The prison was therefore completely deserted. Why should
people remain in the jail whilst murder was going on at the
Gryphus came forth trembling behind the courageous Rosa.
They went to close the great gate, at least as well as it
would close, considering that it was half demolished. It was
easy to see that a hurricane of mighty fury had vented
itself upon it.
About four o'clock a return of the noise was heard, but of
no threatening character to Gryphus and his daughter. The
people were only dragging in the two corpses, which they
came back to gibbet at the usual place of execution.
Rosa hid herself this time also, but only that she might not
see the ghastly spectacle.
At midnight, people again knocked at the gate of the jail,
or rather at the barricade which served in its stead: it was
Cornelius van Baerle whom they were bringing.
When the jailer received this new inmate, and saw from the
warrant the name and station of his prisoner, he muttered
with his turnkey smile, --
"Godson of Cornelius de Witt! Well, young man, we have the
family cell here, and we will give it to you."
And quite enchanted with his joke, the ferocious Orangeman
took his cresset and his keys to conduct Cornelius to the
cell, which on that very morning Cornelius de Witt had left
to go into exile, or what in revolutionary times is meant
instead by those sublime philosophers who lay it down as an
axiom of high policy, "It is the dead only who do not
On the way which the despairing florist had to traverse to
reach that cell he heard nothing but the barking of a dog,
and saw nothing but the face of a young girl.
The dog rushed forth from a niche in the wall, shaking his
heavy chain, and sniffing all round Cornelius in order so
much the better to recognise him in case he should be
ordered to pounce upon him.
The young girl, whilst the prisoner was mounting the
staircase, appeared at the narrow door of her chamber, which
opened on that very flight of steps; and, holding the lamp
in her right hand, she at the same time lit up her pretty
blooming face, surrounded by a profusion of rich wavy golden
locks, whilst with her left she held her white night-dress
closely over her breast, having been roused from her first
slumber by the unexpected arrival of Van Baerle.
It would have made a fine picture, worthy of Rembrandt, the
gloomy winding stairs illuminated by the reddish glare of
the cresset of Gryphus, with his scowling jailer's
countenance at the top, the melancholy figure of Cornelius
bending over the banister to look down upon the sweet face
of Rosa, standing, as it were, in the bright frame of the
door of her chamber, with embarrassed mien at being thus
seen by a stranger.
And at the bottom, quite in the shade, where the details are
absorbed in the obscurity, the mastiff, with his eyes
glistening like carbuncles, and shaking his chain, on which
the double light from the lamp of Rosa and the lantern of
Gryphus threw a brilliant glitter.
The sublime master would, however, have been altogether
unable to render the sorrow expressed in the face of Rosa,
when she saw this pale, handsome young man slowly climbing
the stairs, and thought of the full import of the words,
which her father had just spoken, "You will have the family
This vision lasted but a moment, -- much less time than we
have taken to describe it. Gryphus then proceeded on his
way, Cornelius was forced to follow him, and five minutes
afterwards he entered his prison, of which it is unnecessary
to say more, as the reader is already acquainted with it.
Gryphus pointed with his finger to the bed on which the
martyr had suffered so much, who on that day had rendered
his soul to God. Then, taking up his cresset, he quitted the
Thus left alone, Cornelius threw himself on his bed, but he
slept not, he kept his eye fixed on the narrow window,
barred with iron, which looked on the Buytenhof; and in this
way saw from behind the trees that first pale beam of light
which morning sheds on the earth as a white mantle.
Now and then during the night horses had galloped at a smart
pace over the Buytenhof, the heavy tramp of the patrols had
resounded from the pavement, and the slow matches of the
arquebuses, flaring in the east wind, had thrown up at
intervals a sudden glare as far as to the panes of his
But when the rising sun began to gild the coping stones at
the gable ends of the houses, Cornelius, eager to know
whether there was any living creature about him, approached
the window, and cast a sad look round the circular yard
At the end of the yard a dark mass, tinted with a dingy blue
by the morning dawn, rose before him, its dark outlines
standing out in contrast to the houses already illuminated
by the pale light of early morning.
Cornelius recognised the gibbet.
On it were suspended two shapeless trunks, which indeed were
no more than bleeding skeletons.
The good people of the Hague had chopped off the flesh of
its victims, but faithfully carried the remainder to the
gibbet, to have a pretext for a double inscription written
on a huge placard, on which Cornelius; with the keen sight
of a young man of twenty-eight, was able to read the
following lines, daubed by the coarse brush of a
"Here are hanging the great rogue of the name of John de
Witt, and the little rogue Cornelius de Witt, his brother,
two enemies of the people, but great friends of the king of
Cornelius uttered a cry of horror, and in the agony of his
frantic terror knocked with his hands and feet at the door
so violently and continuously, that Gryphus, with his huge
bunch of keys in his hand, ran furiously up.
The jailer opened the door, with terrible imprecations
against the prisoner who disturbed him at an hour which
Master Gryphus was not accustomed to be aroused.
"Well, now, by my soul, he is mad, this new De Witt," he
cried, "but all those De Witts have the devil in them."
"Master, master," cried Cornelius, seizing the jailer by the
arm and dragging him towards the window, -- "master, what
have I read down there?"
"Where down there?"
"On that placard."
And, trembling, pale, and gasping for breath, he pointed to
the gibbet at the other side of the yard, with the cynical
inscription surmounting it.
Gryphus broke out into a laugh.
"Eh! eh!" he answered, "so, you have read it. Well, my good
sir, that's what people will get for corresponding with the
enemies of his Highness the Prince of Orange."
"The brothers De Witt are murdered!" Cornelius muttered,
with the cold sweat on his brow, and sank on his bed, his
arms hanging by his side, and his eyes closed.
"The brothers De Witt have been judged by the people," said
Gryphus; "you call that murdered, do you? well, I call it
And seeing that the prisoner was not only quiet, but
entirely prostrate and senseless, he rushed from the cell,
violently slamming the door, and noisily drawing the bolts.
Recovering his consciousness, Cornelius found himself alone,
and recognised the room where he was, -- "the family cell,"
as Gryphus had called it, -- as the fatal passage leading to
And as he was a philosopher, and, more than that, as he was
a Christian, he began to pray for the soul of his godfather,
then for that of the Grand Pensionary, and at last submitted
with resignation to all the sufferings which God might
ordain for him.
Then turning again to the concerns of earth, and having
satisfied himself that he was alone in his dungeon, he drew
from his breast the three bulbs of the black tulip, and
concealed them behind a block of stone, on which the
traditional water-jug of the prison was standing, in the
darkest corner of his cell.
Useless labour of so many years! such sweet hopes crushed;
his discovery was, after all, to lead to naught, just as his
own career was to be cut short. Here, in his prison, there
was not a trace of vegetation, not an atom of soil, not a
ray of sunshine.
At this thought Cornelius fell into a gloomy despair, from
which he was only aroused by an extraordinary circumstance.
What was this circumstance?
We shall inform the reader in our next chapter.
The Jailer's Daughter
On the same evening Gryphus, as he brought the prisoner his
mess, slipped on the damp flags whilst opening the door of
the cell, and fell, in the attempt to steady himself, on his
hand; but as it was turned the wrong way, he broke his arm
just above the wrist.
Cornelius rushed forward towards the jailer, but Gryphus,
who was not yet aware of the serious nature of his injury,
called out to him, --
"It is nothing: don't you stir."
He then tried to support himself on his arm, but the bone
gave way; then only he felt the pain, and uttered a cry.
When he became aware that his arm was broken, this man, so
harsh to others, fell swooning on the threshold, where he
remained motionless and cold, as if dead.
During all this time the door of the cell stood open and
Cornelius found himself almost free. But the thought never
entered his mind of profiting by this accident; he had seen
from the manner in which the arm was bent, and from the
noise it made in bending, that the bone was fractured, and
that the patient must be in great pain; and now he thought
of nothing else but of administering relief to the sufferer,
however little benevolent the man had shown himself during
their short interview.
At the noise of Gryphus's fall, and at the cry which escaped
him, a hasty step was heard on the staircase, and
immediately after a lovely apparition presented itself to
the eyes of Cornelius.
It was the beautiful young Frisian, who, seeing her father
stretched on the ground, and the prisoner bending over him,
uttered a faint cry, as in the first fright she thought
Gryphus, whose brutality she well knew, had fallen in
consequence of a struggle between him and the prisoner.
Cornelius understood what was passing in the mind of the
girl, at the very moment when the suspicion arose in her
But one moment told her the true state of the case and,
ashamed of her first thoughts, she cast her beautiful eyes,
wet with tears, on the young man, and said to him, --
"I beg your pardon, and thank you, sir; the first for what I
have thought, and the second for what you are doing."
Cornelius blushed, and said, "I am but doing my duty as a
Christian in helping my neighbour."
"Yes, and affording him your help this evening, you have
forgotten the abuse which he heaped on you this morning. Oh,
sir! this is more than humanity, -- this is indeed Christian
Cornelius cast his eyes on the beautiful girl, quite
astonished to hear from the mouth of one so humble such a
noble and feeling speech.
But he had no time to express his surprise. Gryphus
recovered from his swoon, opened his eyes, and as his
brutality was returning with his senses, he growled "That's
it, a fellow is in a hurry to bring to a prisoner his
supper, and falls and breaks his arm, and is left lying on
"Hush, my father," said Rosa, "you are unjust to this
gentleman, whom I found endeavouring to give you his aid."
"His aid?" Gryphus replied, with a doubtful air.
"It is quite true, master! I am quite ready to help you
"You!" said Gryphus, "are you a medical man?"
"It was formerly my profession."
"And so you would be able to set my arm?"
"And what would you need to do it? let us hear."
"Two splinters of wood, and some linen for a bandage."
"Do you hear, Rosa?" said Gryphus, "the prisoner is going to
set my arm, that's a saving; come, assist me to get up, I
feel as heavy as lead."
Rosa lent the sufferer her shoulder; he put his unhurt arm
around her neck, and making an effort, got on his legs,
whilst Cornelius, to save him a walk, pushed a chair towards
Gryphus sat down; then, turning towards his daughter, he
"Well, didn't you hear? go and fetch what is wanted."
Rosa went down, and immediately after returned with two
staves of a small barrel and a large roll of linen bandage.
Cornelius had made use of the intervening moments to take
off the man's coat, and to tuck up his shirt sleeve.
"Is this what you require, sir?" asked Rosa.
"Yes, mademoiselle," answered Cornelius, looking at the
things she had brought, -- "yes, that's right. Now push this
table, whilst I support the arm of your father."
Rosa pushed the table, Cornelius placed the broken arm on it
so as to make it flat, and with perfect skill set the bone,
adjusted the splinters, and fastened the bandages.
At the last touch, the jailer fainted a second time.
"Go and fetch vinegar, mademoiselle," said Cornelius; "we
will bathe his temples, and he will recover."
But, instead of acting up to the doctor's prescription,
Rosa, after having satisfied herself that her father was
still unconscious, approached Cornelius and said, --
"Service for service, sir."
"What do you mean, my pretty child?" said Cornelius.
"I mean to say, sir, that the judge who is to examine you
to-morrow has inquired to-day for the room in which you are
confined, and, on being told that you are occupying the cell
of Mynheer Cornelius de Witt, laughed in a very strange and
very disagreeable manner, which makes me fear that no good
"But," asked Cornelius, "what harm can they do to me?"
"Look at that gibbet."
"But I am not guilty," said Cornelius.
"Were they guilty whom you see down there gibbeted, mangled,
and torn to pieces?"
"That's true," said Cornelius, gravely.
"And besides," continued Rosa, "the people want to find you
guilty. But whether innocent or guilty, your trial begins
to-morrow, and the day after you will be condemned. Matters
are settled very quickly in these times."
"Well, and what do you conclude from all this?"
"I conclude that I am alone, that I am weak, that my father
is lying in a swoon, that the dog is muzzled, and that
consequently there is nothing to prevent your making your
escape. Fly, then; that's what I mean."
"What do you say?"
"I say that I was not able to save Mynheer Cornelius or
Mynheer John de Witt, and that I should like to save you.
Only be quick; there, my father is regaining his breath, one
minute more, and he will open his eyes, and it will be too
late. Do you hesitate?"
In fact, Cornelius stood immovable, looking at Rosa, yet
looking at her as if he did not hear her.
"Don't you understand me?" said the young girl, with some
"Yes, I do," said Cornelius, "but ---- "
"I will not, they would accuse you."
"Never mind," said Rosa, blushing, "never mind that."
"You are very good, my dear child," replied Cornelius, "but
"You stay, oh, sir! oh, sir! don't you understand that you
will be condemned to death, executed on the scaffold,
perhaps assassinated and torn to pieces, just like Mynheer
John and Mynheer Cornelius. For heaven's sake, don't think
of me, but fly from this place, Take care, it bears ill luck
to the De Witts!"
"Halloa!" cried the jailer, recovering his senses, "who is
talking of those rogues, those wretches, those villains, the
"Don't be angry, my good man," said Cornelius, with his
good-tempered smile, "the worst thing for a fracture is
excitement, by which the blood is heated."
Thereupon, he said in an undertone to Rosa --
"My child, I am innocent, and I shall await my trial with
tranquillity and an easy mind."
"Hush," said Rosa.
"My father must not suppose that we have been talking to
"What harm would that do?"
"What harm? He would never allow me to come here any more,"
Cornelius received this innocent confidence with a smile; he
felt as if a ray of good fortune were shining on his path.
"Now, then, what are you chattering there together about?"
said Gryphus, rising and supporting his right arm with his
"Nothing," said Rosa; "the doctor is explaining to me what
diet you are to keep."
"Diet, diet for me? Well, my fine girl, I shall put you on
"On what diet, my father?"
"Never to go to the cells of the prisoners, and, if ever you
should happen to go, to leave them as soon as possible.
Come, off with me, lead the way, and be quick."
Rosa and Cornelius exchanged glances.
That of Rosa tried to express, --
"There, you see?"
That of Cornelius said, --
"Let it be as the Lord wills."
Cornelius van Baerle's Will
Rosa had not been mistaken; the judges came on the following
day to the Buytenhof, and proceeded with the trial of
Cornelius van Baerle. The examination, however, did not last
long, it having appeared on evidence that Cornelius had kept
at his house that fatal correspondence of the brothers De
Witt with France.
He did not deny it.
The only point about which there seemed any difficulty was
whether this correspondence had been intrusted to him by his
godfather, Cornelius de Witt.
But as, since the death of those two martyrs, Van Baerle had
no longer any reason for withholding the truth, he not only
did not deny that the parcel had been delivered to him by
Cornelius de Witt himself, but he also stated all the
circumstances under which it was done.
This confession involved the godson in the crime of the
godfather; manifest complicity being considered to exist
between Cornelius de Witt and Cornelius van Baerle.
The honest doctor did not confine himself to this avowal,
but told the whole truth with regard to his own tastes,
habits, and daily life. He described his indifference to
politics, his love of study, of the fine arts, of science,
and of flowers. He explained that, since the day when
Cornelius de Witt handed to him the parcel at Dort, he
himself had never touched, nor even noticed it.
To this it was objected, that in this respect he could not
possibly be speaking the truth, since the papers had been
deposited in a press in which both his hands and his eyes
must have been engaged every day.
Cornelius answered that it was indeed so; that, however, he
never put his hand into the press but to ascertain whether
his bulbs were dry, and that he never looked into it but to
see if they were beginning to sprout.
To this again it was objected, that his pretended
indifference respecting this deposit was not to be
reasonably entertained, as he could not have received such
papers from the hand of his godfather without being made
acquainted with their important character.
He replied that his godfather Cornelius loved him too well,
and, above all, that he was too considerate a man to have
communicated to him anything of the contents of the parcel,
well knowing that such a confidence would only have caused
anxiety to him who received it.
To this it was objected that, if De Witt had wished to act
in such a way, he would have added to the parcel, in case of
accidents, a certificate setting forth that his godson was
an entire stranger to the nature of this correspondence, or
at least he would during his trial have written a letter to
him, which might be produced as his justification.